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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: July 2014

On Sunday, Lincoln Center Out of Doors hosted the third of five days of “New York City Honors Pete Seeger,” or Seegerfest, as the events are called. This was the festival’s main event. A concert featured artists singing songs Seeger was associated with, like “The Hammer Song,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and, of course, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The artists included old-time folkies like Judy Collins, who opened the program, Fred Hellerman of The Weavers, the popular children’s singer Dan Zanes, banjo master Tony Trischka, Tom Chapin and the Chapin sisters, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. The artists were a who’s-who of the ’60s folk revival and their current descendants.

Pete Seeger certainly deserves to be remembered. He was the father of the folk revival, the man who almost singlehandedly brought the 5-string banjo to popularity, and who furthered the careers of many people, including a young Bob Dylan. He mastered old-time ballads from Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains, African-American songs from the South and from the days of slavery, sea shanties, and just about everything else folk musicians perform.

But Seeger’s blind spots were his persistent Stalinism, his decades-long love affair with the American Communist Party, and his tendency to endorse and support almost every far-left campaign that asked him to sign on.

Significantly, his very last political act was to join those opponents of Israel who created the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which is dedicated to Israel’s demise and which blames the Jewish state for the entire Mideast’s woes.

The radical far-left politics of the day was symbolized by Seeger’s daughter, Tinya, who gave a pep talk about freeing Leonard Peltier — an American Indian activist found guilty of murdering FBI agents. She noted her father came to Peltier’s defense also. As usual, all the guilty who are politically Left are declared “political prisoners,” a term quickly extended to all American blacks who are serving prison sentences.

In an intermission interview with Lincoln Center’s TV host, singer Tom Chapin was perhaps the only artist who said that he didn’t come for the politics. He urged the TV audience to concentrate on the music. Alas, Seeger’s politics were intrinsic to his music. And more and more, his concerts became rallying grounds for the ultra-sectarian left-wing on campuses and elsewhere, whose main cause these days is hatred of Israel.

There were a few speeches from old timers who were Seeger’s friends over the years. The most prominent was 88-year-old Harry Belafonte, dapper and looking terrific for his age. He long ago lost his voice, but he spoke of how Seeger stood for human rights and peace when everyone else looked away. He praised Seeger’s act of defiance in 1952: Seeger refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, invoking the First Amendment and arguing that to ask one’s political affiliations violated his right to free speech that was guaranteed by the Constitution.

One did not need to have Seeger own up to his political beliefs before the HUAC, since everyone who knew where he stood knew he continually followed the Communist Party line, whatever it was at any moment. In an interview, Seeger actually said he had no interest in being any kind of Marxist scholar, but explained: “We trusted the Communists to know generally the right thing that we should be pushing for, whether it was peace or war.” To put it bluntly, he depended on the party’s commissars to do his thinking.

Belafonte compared Seeger to only one other artist who joined with Seeger in the movement, the noted African-American actor, baritone, football player, and lawyer Paul Robeson. Belafonte, who considers Robeson his mentor, was one of the most prominent defenders of Stalin’s reign, and for his efforts defending the Soviet tyrant, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize.

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Writing on these pages a few years ago, I called Nicholas Kristof “the worst columnist in the Sunday New York Times.” That may have been somewhat of an exaggeration, although I tried to make out a careful case for my claim. At any rate, Kristof read it, and actually tweeted my column with a sarcastic comment.

Today Mr. Kristof vies for the title once again. This time, he reveals himself to be nothing less than the Apostle of Moral Equivalence. His topic is the fighting now going on in Gaza, as the IDF is doing its best to dismantle the scores of secret tunnels by which Hamas has been hoping to get both its troops and weaponry into Israel. As for Hamas,  David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel, lays out its objective in clear and precise terms:

Its overall stated objective remains the destruction of the State of Israel. Its interim objective is ensuring that its rule in Gaza is maintained and flourishes, at maximal pain to Israel, and no matter what the cost to Gazans. As the deputy head of its political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk told Mahmoud Abbas last week in Cairo, “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?” — a reference to the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade that had so weakened the Gaza economy and thus so harmed Hamas’s standing in Gaza before this round of conflict erupted.

The fighting, then, is the result of Hamas’ decision to attack Israel on a daily basis with thousands of rockets—some of which are able to reach far into Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Bill Clinton understands this. Here reprinted in full is his candid explanation, given to an interviewer without any hesitation:

Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets into Israel. They fired one thousand and they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.

They (Israel) know when Hamas attacks them that Hamas has set up a situation which politically it can’t lose, because they (Israelis) can say ‘well if I attack them back they always hide behind civilians and I’ll kill civilians, and if I don’t we’ll look like fools letting somebody shoot a thousand  rockets at us and not responding.’

In the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it’s a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state.

Somehow, Nicholas Kristof shows his readers that he does not get it. Instead, he writes, “this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.”

Let us pause to parse this paragraph. Does Hamas (not the Palestinian citizens of Gaza forced to endure their rule) have any humanity and consideration of its citizens’ needs? This is a terrorist group that has no compunction about setting up its own people to act as human shields in the hope that when Israel hits a terrorist target, these civilians will be killed and then Hamas can show grisly videos of the innocent women and children Israel has murdered. Hamas puts its rocket launchers in hospitals and elementary schools, knowing that Israel will hesitate before aiming a rocket at them. It loads weapons into ambulances, in the hope that Israel will let them by, since medical-aid vehicles are exempted from targeting. Hamas’ tactics are inhumane and repellent on principle. Israel’s tactics are a response to Hamas’ aggression.

Israel accepted the proposed peace treaty suggested by Egypt, which is supported as well by the United States. Hamas rejected it, because it wants the fighting to continue, hoping that as time passes, its objectives will be reached or at least leave them in a better place to continue fighting for their ultimate goal — the destruction of Israel — at a later time of their own choosing.

What does Nicholas Kristof say? First, he confuses two issues. He writes that “Israelis are absolutely correct that they have a right not be hit with rockets by Hamas, not to be kidnapped, not to be subjected to terrorist bombings.” True.  But in his very next sentence, he writes:

Palestinians are absolutely right they have a right to a state…a right to live in freedom rather than be relegated to second-class citizenship in their own land.

Does not Mr. Kristof comprehend that Hamas does not want a state, unless it is the entire area that is Israel totally under its complete control? Indeed, its first act upon being handed Gaza when Israel gave up its control of the area was to destroy the greenhouses that Israel left them, as well as water-purifying plants, that would have allowed them to build up their infrastructure and to function in a productive way. They want nothing that was developed by Israel, even though Israel gave Hamas the mechanism to start building a viable and peaceful area in Gaza.  Nothing will satisfy them, except gaining ground in their war to destroy the Jewish state.

So why should anyone accept Mr. Kristof’s argument that we should “put away the good vs. evil narrative…”? Anyone looking at the situation knows that this is a case of good vs. evil, if ever there was one. Let me put it boldly: Hamas is the very personification of evil. It is not the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, even with its flaws and the PA’s  half-hearted policies that contradict its expressed intent to establish two states in the region.

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Recently, Republicans have had the spotlight put on their differing visions of how to approach foreign policy in an increasingly dangerous world. It is not a new division; it has existed throughout the 20th century. This issue is critical not just for Republicans, but for the country at large.

I’m referring primarily to the recent debate over foreign policy initiated by Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Perry has been in the news due to his actions on the border crisis and his meeting with Barack Obama, a meeting which the president felt he had to attend due to flak he was receiving over his refusal to actually visit the border. Possibly as a prelude to a presidential run in 2016, Perry has now decided to challenge Rand Paul and those who agree with him over what Perry maintains are dangerous isolationist tendencies.

Writing in last Saturday’s Washington Post, the governor accused Rand Paul of wanting America to pull up the drawbridge, which would amount to “ignoring the profound threat that the group now calling itself the Islamic State poses to the United States and the world.” In both Syria and Iraq, Perry points out that “the world is confronting an even more radicalized version of Islamic extremism than al-Qaeda.”

Paul, on the other hand, maintains that Americans need a new foreign policy approach, one in which the U.S. stays out of Syria and Iraq completely, and should not even contemplate air strikes to hem in Assad’s forces, even though that intervention would not include boots on the ground. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Paul claims that he is the rightful heir to the foreign policy espoused by Ronald Reagan, and that Reagan would have adopted the same policies that he is now advocating. 

Perry finds these claims completely wrongheaded, and argues that Ronald Reagan was anything but an isolationist. Reagan saw the Soviet Union “as an existential threat to our national security and Western values,” and Perry believes it was Reagan’s engagement and tough policies that led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union. While it is true that Reagan ended the Cold War without going to war with Russia, he increased the U.S. defense budget and backed development of what the opposition called “Star Wars,” thus bleeding the Soviet system dry in their race to keep up. Reagan’s move prevented their state command economy from functioning at even a minimal level. Reagan did not just rely, as Paul writes, on “strong diplomacy and moral leadership.”

At the time, many on the left and the right argued that Reagan was wrong to treat the Soviets as adversaries, and that taking a tough stance towards them would only push them into war.  Perry’s analogy seems to apply; many who oppose serious engagement with our enemies today use the trope that a tough policy means that “the neocons want a war,” when in fact, an engaged U.S. policy would prevent a war that otherwise might indeed take place. As Perry puts it, “Paul’s brand of isolationism … would compound the threat of terrorism even further.”

Paul did not wait long to answer the governor, writing his own op-ed in the pages of Politico. Calling Perry’s arguments “a fictionalized account of my foreign policy” that mischaracterized his real views, he wondered “if he’s even really read any of my policy papers.” Paul tries to make the case that he is no isolationist, preferring the term non-interventionist to describe his views. However, the difference between the two is slippery. The pre-World War II group that was called isolationists by those wanting the U.S. to take action against Hitler also complained of the same thing. They were non-interventionists, they argued, and not isolationists, because they wanted a “Fortress America” that would make U.S. defenses impregnable.

Today, Paul says, he now supports assistance to the Iraqi government including arms and intelligence, as well as technology to hinder ISIS. He does not want U.S. aid and arms to go to Islamic rebels in Syria, who he argues are allied with ISIS. This raises the question of whether or not there are actually moderate anti-jihadist rebels in Syria who are not allied with the jihadists, whom the Obama administration argues they are trying to support. At this point, I doubt that any of these anti-Assad jihadists can become our allies, because even if there are moderates, as a whole the military units are controlled by Islamists. Rand Paul, however, does not address the question at all.

Of course, Perry also opposes sending U.S. troops back to Iraq. No one advocates that, although some do argue for a small group to protect the government and to continue the training of anti-ISIS forces. Setting up a strawman and sounding like John Kerry during the Vietnam War in his testimony before Congress, Paul asks: “How many Americans should send their sons or daughters to die for a foreign country — a nation the Iraqis won’t defend for themselves?” And to call someone an isolationist is simply a smear — “perhaps it’s time we finally retire that pejorative.”

Is it? In the current issue of the Weekly Standard, AEI visiting fellow David Adesnik dissects Ron Paul’s foreign policy reading list that is on Paul’s website. He finds that it “consists entirely of works that blame the United States for the rise of Islamic extremism while offering solutions that verge on isolationism.” He proves as well that many of Paul’s own speeches are unreservedly isolationist, and that his arguments mirror precisely the foreign policy stance of those on the far Left.

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With hundreds of rockets raining down on Israel on a daily basis, the establishment in the United States tells Israel to show “restraint,” and to work on resuming the failed peace process.

Not only did this position come from the anti-Israel editorial board of the New York Times, as could be expected, but it also came from the spokesman for the Obama administration, White House Middle East chief Philip Gordon, and finally from President Barack Obama himself. The president did his bit to urge restraint in an op-ed he wrote for Israel’s left-wing daily newspaper (where else?), Haaretz.

Let us start with the widely discussed Times editorial. The first thing to notice is the false moral equivalence the editors claim exists between the killing of the three Israeli teens, including one American teenager who had dual Israeli citizenship, and the murder of the Palestinian boy by Israeli fanatics, most likely soccer toughs, supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team known for their hostility to Arabs. Editorializing, the Times reported that “days of near silence” went by before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the killing of the Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

That story has since been taken down because it was false. Apparently the editors did not read their own reporter’s article, which had clearly stated the falsehood of the claim. CAMERA’s chief in their Jerusalem bureau, Tamar Sternthal, explains:

Netanyahu did not remain silent for days concerning the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The Israeli prime minister spoke out against the killing of Abu Khdeir from July 2, the very same day of the murder. As The Times’ own Isabel Kershner reported: “On Wednesday, after the body of the Palestinian teenager was found in the woods, the prime minister called on Israelis to obey the law, and asked investigators to quickly look into what he called ‘the abominable murder.’”

Aside from that major error, now corrected due to the diligence of CAMERA, the remainder of the editorial also revealed the Times’ perpetual bias against Israel. First, it emphasized not the widespread Israeli revulsion against the horrific crime against the Palestinian child, and the outpouring of support to the beleaguered family from Israelis, but noted that “some Israelis gave in to their worst prejudices.”

Then, it offered the usual “both sides are to blame” bromide, and stated that “each side dehumanizes the other.” It failed to cite the outpouring of joy both in Gaza and the West Bank over the murder of the three Israeli teenagers, referencing only a phrase about Hamas’ “violence” and an undocumented note of Hamas’ “hateful speech.”

The Times’ editors, of course, ignored a great deal more. Sternthal adds:

While readers are treated to four specific examples of Israelis succumbing to their worst prejudices, The Times does not identify even one single case of recent Palestinian incitement, of which there is no shortage. Palestinians celebrated the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaar and Naphtali Frankel with a social media campaign called “The Three Shalits” which went viral; hateful cartoons in a Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper and on the Fatah Facebook page; and the distribution of sweets in Gaza. In recent days, Fatah, headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, warned Israelis to prepare body bags and declared: “We wish for the blood to become rivers.”

Finally, the editorial in the Times was lambasted with irony by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer:

The New York Times gives numerous examples of hate rhetoric on the margins of Israeli society — rhetoric that has been strongly condemned and rejected by Israel’s political leaders. The New York Times writes Palestinians have also been guilty of hate speech, but neglects to mention that Palestinian incitement is government backed, that Palestinian Authority leaders hail terrorists as heroes, name public squares after them and teach schoolchildren to emulate them. For daily dose of government-backed Palestinian incitement, check out – Palestinian Media Watch. No summer interns in the New York Times research department this year?

While the Obama administration and its State Department continually posits Abbas as a partner for peace — indeed the best one Israel has had in decades who can be worked with as a partner — Fatah, the West Bank organization to which Abbas belongs, continually reiterates its unity with Hamas in Gaza in the fight to destroy Israel. As for Hamas, the group which naïve peaceniks believe can also be negotiated with, the IDF posted on its website Hamas’ reiterated goals. In clearly stated speeches, its leadership emphasizes its desire to fight until Israel is destroyed.

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Those of you who have already seen Dinesh D’Souza’s America, or are planning to see it on this July 4th weekend, might know that a theme running throughout the film is the distorted and far left “history” of the late Howard Zinn, whose A People’s History of the United States has become a vehicle by which the Left has reached hundreds of thousands of American students with its message that the story of America is that of oppression. While many critics of D’Souza’s film have disparaged him for taking on Zinn’s narrative, which they believe is true, his film is the perfect antidote to the Zinn anti-American narrative. I’m proud to have contributed my input in an interview that appears in the movie.

I have been a critic of Zinn for decades, and perhaps of all that I have written about him, this old column I wrote for PJ Media sums up my critique of his method of writing history. I agree with the honest left-wing historian Michael Kazin, who writes that Zinn was a propagandist,  not a historian, who measured “individuals according to his own rigid standard of how they should have thought and acted.”  Zinn never mentions those who came here and succeeded—immigrants who built businesses and trade unions, women who were both suffragists and in favor of temperance and opposed to abortion, African-Americans who supported the doctrine of improvement favored by Booker T. Washington, and not only the militant path espoused by W.E.B. DuBois. To Zinn, there is only one kind of rebel, and all complexity goes out the window.

Zinn never mentions conservatism, which is obviously a disagreeable thing he would rather forget, or Christianity, a force that motivated much of the reforms Zinn favors. On foreign policy, Zinn’s entire history is one of a catalog of American imperialism’s  onward march of oppression at home and power abroad. It is not surprising that Zinn treats WW II in the same way, since in Zinn’s eyes, as Michael Kazin writes, the war is brought down to its “meanest components:profits for military industries, racism toward the Japanese, and the senseless destruction of enemy cities.” Even during World  War II,  America to Zinn was as immoral as the nations it was fighting.

D’Souza’s arguments in his film, discredited by leftist reviewers in the most scathing terms possible, reveals their own ignorance of history. As in the past, they have responded by branding all those who disagree with them (including D’Souza) reactionary, far-Right zealots, know-nothings, and virtually any such similar charge they can come up with. This too is not new. Indeed, before Zinn’s TV special The People Speak was aired,  his admirers criticized in advance anyone who dared challenge Zinn with the same labels. At that time, Nation magazine writer Dave Zirin wrote in the Huffington Post that to criticize Zinn puts you in the ranks of “the lunatic Right,” and is similar to “Nazi book-burning.”

Now, on this July 4th, The Zinn Education Project and the Huffington Post have greeted their readers with their own Zinnian tribute to the meaning of this day, written by a former high school teacher, Bill Bigelow.

Starting with a brief screed against fireworks on the holiday, he quickly progresses to his main point: “There is something profoundly inappropriate about blowing off fireworks at a time when the United States is waging war with real fireworks around the world.” Bigelow goes on to give us the statistics about drone attacks. Whatever one thinks of these, he seems unconcerned or perhaps even unaware of the very real threat facing our nation from Islamic terrorists, viewing July 4th celebrations as nothing more than “part of a propaganda campaign that inures us…to current and future wars half a world away.”

As to the American Revolution, he argues that it was the regular common folk who protested the British actions, which to the Zinn school is all that counts. The importance of the intellectual work done by the Founding Fathers in writing the Declaration of Independence is played down, and said to be derivative. He quotes from an article on the Zinn group’s website titled “Re-examining the Revolution” by Ray Raphael, who writes : “’The body of the people’ made decisions and the people decided that the old regime must fall.” The struggling people, in other words, on their own, created America, not the would-be “Great Men,” as he calls them. And for good measure, he reminds us that these same people “burned Iroquois villages…to deny food to Indians.” He is referring here to the campaign waged by Major General John Sullivan in 1779.

In America, D’Souza makes the point when talking to Ward Churchill that it is incorrect to say that America from the start committed genocide against the Native Americans; genocide, he points out, is the purposeful policy of destroying an entire people because of who they are, as Hitler did to the Jews of Europe. To prove that it is indeed guilty of genocide, Bigelow quotes a letter from George Washington to Sullivan of May 31, 1779, in which Washington writes that his expedition “is to be directed against hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians with their associates and adherents. The immediate object is their total destruction and devastation and the capture of as many persons of every age and sex as possible.”

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964: 1000-plus white volunteers went South to Mississippi to help local African-American citizens register to vote, a right they had largely been prevented from executing since the post-Civil War era of Reconstruction. PBS recently aired a major documentary on the effort; the summer indeed is worthy of remembrance.

There is, however, one major myth about Freedom Summer that has stuck and which has been repeated many times. The myth comes from two quarters: the American left, and the proponents of black nationalism that emerged soon after the Freedom Summer, promulgated by the late Stokely Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture), who first developed the rallying cry of “black power.”

This past Sunday, the New York Times allowed its op-ed pages to be taken over by one of these mythmakers: Professor Peniel E. Joseph, who leads a “Center for the Study of Race and Democracy” at Tufts University and who authored a recent biography of the black radical leader titled Stokely: A Life. According to Dr. Joseph, the fracturing of the civil rights movement after Freedom Summer took place because the white liberals in the movement eventually sold the blacks out by refusing to confront “racism on a national scale.”

They did this by supposedly hampering black activists from creating a non-segregated independent party that could gain recognition and replace the all-white Democratic Party Mississippi delegation at the coming Democratic National Convention. That group, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), was led by former sharecropper and local black activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who — in a dramatic TV appearance before the Democratic Convention’s Credentials Committee — told her own story of deprivation and suffering that black people like herself were experiencing in the deep South in that time.

As Joseph and others argue, white liberals — led by Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota — thwarted the MDFP’s demands, proposing a compromise that did not entail disqualifying the all-white Democratic Party delegation from Mississippi, and instead offering them only two at-large convention seats. The MDFP rejected this offer, despite it having been accepted by Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s counsel and civil rights activist Joe Rauh, civil rights leader and organizer of the March on Washington Bayard Rustin, and UAW chief Walter Reuther. The consequences, writes Joseph, were that black civil rights activists led by SNNC’s Stokely Carmichael soured on white liberals and turned against interracial political alliances.

In a short time, whites were pushed out of what had been the interracial SNNC. Instead, Carmichael and his followers adopted the position of creating a new black power movement that sought black freedom through all-black political parties, and by resorting to a strategy associated later with the Nation of Islam’s (NOA) New York City leader, Malcolm X, who called for obtaining freedom “by any means necessary.”

They rejected Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy of adherence to both interracial coalitions and non-violence, and their action marked the start of a new black radicalism, epitomized by both the NOA and the all-black revolutionary group founded in San Francisco, the Black Panther Party (BPP) led by Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, and Eldridge Cleaver.

That, to Professor Joseph, is “Freedom Summer’s most enduring legacy.” It is obvious that Professor Joseph believes that is a good thing.

Professor Joseph ignores the horrendous legacy of black radicalism, that of the birth of identification by the black leftists and black nationalists with the worst repressive Marxist and theocratic third-world regimes — Carmichael, for example, loved both Qaddafi’s Libya and Fidel Castro’s Cuba. He also ignores the thuggery and murderous activity of the BPP, and the anti-Americanism of Malcolm X that he persisted in holding even after he left the NOA and stopped viewing white people as “white devils.”

But it is Professor Joseph’s claim that white liberals sold out the blacks at the 1964 Democratic Convention held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is especially mistaken.

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