Archive for August, 2014

On Quitting the Iraqi Quagmire

Posted in On Foreign Affairs, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , on August 17, 2014 by playthell

ISIS Mass Killings

The Jihadists are taking no Prisoners

 What to do about ISIS?

As the Iraqi’s struggle to form a viable government under Haider al-Abadi, who replaced a disgraced Al Maliki as Prime Minister, fanatical Muslim Jihadists in ISIS – Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – gobble up more and more of Iraqi territory in its ruthless march toward Baghdad, destroying Christian and Shia shrines and beheading “non-believers”, it is time for us to question the decisions of our policy makers.

We need to ask: What exactly is going on there?  What was the role of the US in creating this tragic mess that is destroying the nation of Iraq as it existed before the Bush invasion?   And what do we do now? This matter should be examined without regard to past ideological positions and guided by the paramount objective of formulating a policy that best serves US interest.  However, given the complexity of the situation in the Middle East identifying the best policy options is easier said than done.

Looking at the situation on the ground in Iraq from a historical perspective, one is forced to wonder if the professional historians are right when they argue unanimously that history does not repeat itself.    It certainly seems so when observing American foreign policy over the last half century.  The historical record reveals a recurring pattern of the US attempting to impose its will on the politics of other nations, especially Third World countries that are presumed to be easy pickings.

It is a record cluttered with spectacular failures – Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan and now Iraq.  In Vietnam the US picked the wrong side and the result was a multibillion dollar debacle that resulted in the deaths of over a million Vietnamese and many thousands of Americans; the poisoning of the environment in Vietnam with “Agent Orange;” a crisis in American society and thousands of walking wounded who never recovered from their service in that war.

It was such a blunder that the US abandoned the selective service draft, thereby removing the requirement for military service among the more educated and affluent youths of the nation.  This eliminated a major source of anti-war activism of the sort that wreaked havoc on the nation’s college campuses’ during the Vietnam War.

With an all-volunteer army we now have an armed force largely composed of the “have nots ” – the kids who years ago would have come out of high school and gone to work in a factory – thus there has been little protest from American youths.  US corporations that used to provide industrial jobs have become multi-national conglomerates with global interests that are beholden only to their investors, not national states. Thus they have exported their jobs overseas and decimated the US manufacturing sector because they can reap greater profits from non-unionized industrial slaves in foreign countries.  Hence for many poor working class American youths volunteering for the military appears to be their only route to advancement in life…if they survive America’s constant wars with their body and brains intact.

We have now been involved in constant wars in the Muslim world for a generation, whether backing one side in a conflict or directly waging war.  Yet our policy makers appear to have learned nothing!  Just as the decision by President Eisenhower to overthrow the constitutionally elected government of Muhammad Mossedeck in Iran by a CIA led military coup in 1953, led directly to the Islamic Revolution in Iran that the US constantly agonizes over today; the decision to overthrow Sadam Hussein and install and American backed Shia government in Iraq has led us to the ISIS crisis where Islamic Jihadists are threatening to take control of Iraq and establish an Islamic Caliphate under Sharia Law.

Self-righteous Killers
Isis beheadings II
They justify barbaric war crimes with Koranic Scripture

So what should the US government do now?   To begin with US policymakers should be made to take an oath similar to the Hippocratic Oath required of medical doctors: “First do no harm!”  That would be an auspicious start given the blunders of previous US administrations, especially the last Bush man.  It is essential that the policy makers are open minded and objective in their analysis, ideology must take a back seat.

The danger of allowing ideology to obfuscate reality is ever present and was at the root of the Invasion of Iraq by George Bush – a clueless neophyte in foreign policy matters who was hoodwinked by the cabal of advisors handpicked from the Project for a New American Century, a think tank founded by “Dirty Dick” Cheney and his ideological cronies. (See: How the Iraq War Was Hatched in a Think Tank*)

It was because of the ideological obsessions held by these advisors, which were spelled out in position papers written at PNAC, that the US attacked Iraq in the aftermath of the massive 9/11 terrorist attack carried out by the affluent sons of well to do Egyptians and Saudi Arabians, America’s closest allies in the Arab world.  Instead of examining the misbegotten US policy of arming and training Islamic militants – then known as the Afghan Mujahedeen – in terrorist tactics to be employed against the Soviet Union, out of which grew the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who later used them against us, Bush was persuaded to invade Iraq!

The Bushmen callously took this nation into a war of choice against an unoffending country – which according to established international laws that govern the relations of sovereign nations is a crime – in order to achieve the long standing ideological objective of overthrowing its leader Sadam Hussein.

This is what happens when politicized intelligence colored by ideology becomes the basis for policy making – it is the same path that led us defeat in the Jungles of South East Asia.   If Bushmen had listened to the leading scholars on the Mid-East region in the CIA and the academic community – such as Professor Juan Cole -we would have never invaded Iraq and they would have discovered that secular Arab strongmen like Sadam were the frontline resistance against the Jihadists.  If they had heeded the warning of the Arab League that an American invasion of Iraq would “open the gates of hell” history could have taken a far different, less costly and destructive course over the past decade.

For instance, what if the US and formed an alliance with Sadam against al Qaeda?  I would argue that US forces would have captured Osama within a year and two wars waged over a decade –  at a cost of four trillion dollars, untold destruction of the invaded countries, and legions of wrecked families who lost loved ones on both sides – could have been avoided.  Instead, just as in Iran and Vietnam, a misguided incompetent American policy has resulted in just the opposite of their stated objectives.

Are we going to repeat these historical blunders yet again and at even greater cost?  The alternatives before President Obama are limited and distasteful.  Hence the question before the architects of our foreign policy is which are the lesser evils?  Now that the US has abandoned Al Maliki, the Prime Minister that our actions put in power, and is now supporting Haider al-Abadi, the handpicked choice of the Iraqi President in a process that al Maliki initially protested as “unconstitutional” before resigning for the sake of national unity, the question is what now?

One thing is certain: No half-assed rag tag army commanded by a government in disarray is going to defeat ISIS, a highly disciplined force driven by religious passion, armed with state of the art American weaponry and hundreds of millions of dollars to support their mission among men for whom devotion to Allah trumps the comforts of earthly status or personal wealth.  Hence this money will be used to combat the “Great Satan” and his minions in the Muslim world.  That’s how they are managing to support an armed force that some experts on the region estimate at 50, 000 men.

This state of affairs leaves President Obama two choices: arm the Kurdish militias with the most advanced American heavy weaponry and let them fight it out with ISIS, or form an alliance with Iran and let their elite Revolutionary Guards lead the fight to crush ISIS.  In the first instance it would spell the end of the unitary Iraqi state, because the Kurds will seize their long sought independence in a separate state which a grateful US could not oppose.

The other alternative would permanently expand the power and influence of Iran in the region….a development the US has long opposed.  Furthermore an alliance with Iran, although clearly in the US national interests, would enrage Israel – who has tried their best to goad the US into a war with Iran – and thus mobilize the Israel Lobby against the President.  Once that happens it would alienate a cowardly Congress and the President’s agenda for the remainder of his Presidency will be dead in the water.

Yet the alternative to arming the Kurds or forming an alliance with Iran who, like the US, passionately oppose ISIS, is to reintroduce American troops in Iraq; a policy most Americans would vigorously oppose – since we are still withdrawing our troops from that hell hole of our making – or just stand by and watch the murderous Islamic fanatics in ISIS take over a large swath of the oil rich Middle East.

Alas, no thinking person who understands what is at stake in the Middle-East can oppose all forms of American military action, although it should be limited to air strikes and covert operations in cooperation with Iraqi government forces, especially in situations where there is eminent danger of genocide such as ISIS’ attempts to exterminate religious minorities such as the Christians.

However it is long past time for American foreign policy to be driven by an objective cost/benefit analysis based on actual US interests.   We can no longer afford to indulge ideological fantasies such as Senator John McCain is given to; a surreal vision of American military dominance of the world that would commit this nation to perpetual wars that gobble up financial and intellectual capital this nation desperately needs for our own internal development.

By Some Estimat ISIS is 50, 000 strong!
 images (2) Isis ISIS mILITANTS iii
The Consequences of the Bush/Cheney Invasion of Iraq

 

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Playthell G. Benjamin
On the Road
August 17th 2014

 

 

Get On Up!

Posted in Film Criticism, Movie Reviews, Music Reviews with tags , , on August 12, 2014 by playthell

Boseman Chadwick-james-brown-get-on-up-movie (1)

Chadwick Boseman Rocks his Role as the Inimitable James Brown

 

The James Brown Story Comes to the Silver Screen

In her insightful magisterial study “The Daemonic Genius of Richard Wright,” Professor Margret Walker says of the great Afro-American novelist “Richard Wright came straight out of hell;” the same can be said of James Brown, an iconic figure in American popular music.  Browns life story is both an epic tale about the triumph of the human spirit through the agency of art and a representative anecdote for American civilization – which that peerless interpreter of American culture Albert Murray defines as “any story of steerage to boardroom” or the rags to riches tales of Horaito Alger. It is a story of tragedy and triumph that allows us to look into the life, loves and art of one of the unique American public figures of the 20th century.

The elements of a great movie are a good story, a well written script, imaginative sets and costumes that capture the milieu – i.e. spirit of the time and place – a good musical score, thoughtful creative directing and great acting.  This film has them all…an embarrassment of riches.   While Shakespeare’s observation that “the play is the thing,” is true enough, it takes actors to transform those words from inanimate symbols scrawled on paper into living breathing believable characters.  Through their agency the words become flesh…in a god-like act.

I have never seen anyone do it better than Chadwick Boseman.  As I watched him bring the larger than life character of James Brown to life, I conjured up the voice of Sir Lawrence Olivier, who is thought by many to be the most accomplished actor of the 20th century, warning young thespians who aspire to greatness as actors: “Acting is a noble profession but an actor should never be caught doing it.”  Boseman must have taken Sir Lawrence’s words to heart and placed it at the center of his art because after a few minutes I completely forgot that he was not James Brown!   He was every bit as convincing in the role as Jamie Fox was as Ray Charles….and he won the Oscar for his performance….jes sayin.

It was a strange experience for me because I witnessed James Brown’s entire career.   I first saw him perform in 1956, when he was enjoying his first hit record “Pleas, Please. Please.”   He was the headliner at the “Two Spot,” the premiere black night club in Jacksonville Florida. All of the great Jazz, Blues and Rhythm and Blues acts performed there.  People came from all around, not just Jacksonville, but the surrounding towns and counties, such as St. John’s County where I lived in the ancient city of St. Augustine.  Some party people even drove down from Augusta Georgia, James Brown’s home town to check out the show.

Please, Please, Please was burning up the airwaves on WOBS, the radio station serving the large Afro-American communities in the Jacksonville area.  Their star D.J Johnny Shaw “The Devil’s Son in Law,” played it constantly.  We had listened to the record on the radio and everybody was running to the nearest record store to buy it.  So me and my boys were very excited to see this guy James Brown perform live.  Never having seen him we were totally unprepared for the spectacle we witnessed.  I was actually too young to even be in the club, but since I was singing with a R&B group that was performing on the Sunday Afternoon Matinee I was allowed to enter this magic temple where great music was made.

The Sunday Matinee at the TWO Spot was a talent contest between competing singing groups in the area.  It was like a scene in Robert Townsend’s great movie homage to the golden age of live R&B performance “The Five Heartbeats.”  The place was packed with pretty girls out to “let the good times roll,” a frame of mind immortalized by Brown’s New Orleans contemporaries Shirley and Lee on their hit record “Come on Baby Let the Good Times Roll.”

All of the five members of my group, “The Dewdrops,” could croon their asses off; we were members of the Murray High Glee Club, directed by my Aunt Marie, and we sang everything from J. Rosamond Johnson and Harry T. Burleigh’s arrangements of the “Negro Spirituals” – that marvelous body of sacred music produced by Black American slaves – to Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s B Minor Mass.  Hence when “Bubba Duck” Jackson, a ruggedly handsome football player with a high falsetto tenor voice, fell to his knees while singing  “This is Dedicated to the One I Love” – a Hank Ballad and the Midnighters  hit – with tears rolling down his cheeks, the girls went crazy!  But that was just the dress rehearsal.

Like us, the ladies were there to see “James Brown and the Famous Flames.”   After the talent contest was done, with us coming in second in a very tough competition, the Master of Ceremonies announced “It’s star time at the Two Spot!   Hereee’s James Brown and the Famous Flames!”  The audience exploded in applause and began to move to the groove of the band as we waited for the man of the moment to emerge from the wings.  Suddenly this ebony black guy in a white tuxedo with tails strolled onstage followed by a group of back ground singers dressed in black pants. White shirts, black tuxedo jackets with purple satin lapels and bow ties  closely followed.  He opened with his arrangement of a Louis Jordan hit from an earlier period “Cladonia!”

From the outset his dancing was a marvel, although we recognized that at root it was his improvisations on the “Mashed Potatoes’” and the “Camel Walk” two popular Afro-American vernacular dances au courant at the time, but when James added his unique moves they became something different and something more.  It was love at first sight, I fell for the James Brown sound completely, as did my peers, and it is a love that has lasted a lifetime.  It was an enchanting evening in a magical place, the Two Spot dance hall and supper club in Jacksonville Florida, where great musical performances was common fare, because most white clubs and concert halls wouldn’t book black artists.  They preferred the corny white artists who “covered’ their records with saccharine corny versions aimed at white America – ala Pat Boone’s cover of Little Richard’s rousing Rhythm& Blues hit “Tutti Fruti.”

The James Brown Show on Screen

James Brown_Get_on_Up_film_

It was like seeing James Resurrected

This movie captures the essence of those magic moments in American popular music and more. The writers, John-Henry and Jez Butterworth, capture all of this in their well written script and the actors bring it convincingly to life under the able direction of Tate Taylor.   Alas, despite the artistic success of this film, the fact that these major creative functions were all performed by whites and blacks were reduced to the artistic equivalent of ventriloquist dummies whose movements and speech echo the words and ideas of whites, raises some serious questions about the ongoing phenomenon of Euro-American creative artists appropriating Afro-American cultural ingredients and epic tales that define major black historical figures.  What, the thoughtful observer is compelled to ask, does this tell us about the persistence of rampant racism and cultural imperialism in the movie industry.

The broadly learned and insightful Afro-American cultural historian and critic Harold Cruse discussed this issue in depth a half century ago in his masterwork “The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual.” But considering the fact that Tate Taylor also directed “The Help” – a hit film about black maids working for racist whites in the apartheid south of the first half of the  20th century – and the recent hit biopic on the life of Jackie Robinson was also written, produced  and directed by whites it’s time to take up the subject of the Afro-American creative artists in the cultural arena again.  However neither time nor space affords us the opportunity to do justice to this this critical issue here; that subject will be addressed in a future essay devoted to this topic.

Chadwick Boseman proves that he is not only a great actor, but a hell of a singer and dancer too!  James Brown is the most influential dancer/singer in a genre in which dance is central to the performance.  Every major dancer in Rhythm and Blues i.e. “Soul” music since the 1950’s has been influenced by James Brown.   Some of James Brown’s R&B contemporaries – Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Bo Diddly, Chuck Berry,   et al – had their own moves.

The Delta blues man Muddy Waters was also a great dancer, and Cab Calloway – who was from the preceding generation, taught them all.  But James Brown is by far the most influential dancer in the Rhythm and blues tradition.  Michael Jackson, Prince, MC Hammer and even the Filipino star Bruno Mars are all extentions of the spectatular artistry of James Brown.  And Brown himself belongs to a long tradition of Afro-American vernacular dance.  For insance it is easy to see how he was influenced by the great Song and dance man Cab Calloway, who also fronted a dynamic band.

Cab Calloway

Cab Calloway
The Grand Daddy of them All!

One need only look at such great dancers as Prince, Michael Jackson, Morris Day, MC Hammer, Chris Brown, et al to recognize the indelible influence of James Brown. In Fact MC Hammer made a video calling Michael Jackson out for not giving props to the “God Father” of dance in the R&B idiom.

James Brown
james_20brown_2012
The God Father of Soul!
 Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson II
His moves mesmerized the world!

Prince!

 Prince-in-concert

 Openly Acknowledges that he based his act on James Brown’s Model

MC Hammer

Hammer II

They couldn’t touch this!!!!!

Filipino Sensation Bruno Mars

Bruno-Mars-Performs-Super-Bowl-Halftime-Show-Photos

All are Artistic Extensions of James Brown!

It is no mystery why Afro-Americans have created every popular dance craze in the US.  The ever insightful Albert Murray attributes this to the “tendency of Africans to turn all movement into dance like elegance.”  Growing up in Georgia, and spending his early boyhood in the backwoods where he was immersed in the black folk culture that retained elements of West African culture, James attended a sanctified “Holy Roller” church, and witnessed the power of music to move people…and the way the dancing preacher – a fairly common figure in black fundamentalist churches – used music, chants and movement to hypnotize his followers.

The movie captures all of this in a powerful vignette, and affords us an insider’s view of the origins of James Brown’s performance style.  It is no wonder that Albert Murray would observe that a James Brown performance created the emotional power of a great revivalist preacher in his seminal text on Afro-American music “Stomping the Blues.”  Like Little Richard, Sam Coke, Ray Charles, et al, James began singing in the Afro-American church – an institution that has produced more great original American musicians than Julliard.  Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, who revolutionized western instrumental music, as well as the grand operatic divas Leontine Price, Jessie Norman, Kathleen Battle, et al  and legions of musicians in all genres were products of the black church.

But James Brown remained close to his musical roots, the black southern country churches and those unlettered preachers the black bard and 20th century Renaissance Man James Weldon celebrates in his epic poems “God’s Trombones.”   Of these untutored sable clerics who claimed to be called to the pulpit by God almighty himself, Johnson said “The old time southern Negro preacher had all the devices of eloquence at his command.”  James Brown converted that eloquence into music.  In him we see the evidence of Zora Neale Hurston’s claim that black folk religion is for “people who love magnificence and can’t get enough of it.”

This however, was not the church of the formally educated black middle class, of whose church services the ‘Poet Laureate of Harlem” and peerless observer of Afro-American life and culture Langston Hughes says was the result of a decision to “Let’s be boring like the Nords” in his path-breaking essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.”  James Brown, a country boy molded in the hell of America’s racist apartheid South, kept it real and relied on the power of his folk roots for the source of his artistic inspiration.  And he brought the funk like nobody else; any R&B or Rap artist who does not understand this is faking the funk!

The movie explores all of this and more, as it takes us into aspects of James Brown’s life that are not well known to many of his fans…this writer included.  With Browns’ longtime musical colleague and personal friend Bobby Bird as a historical consultant we get intimate details of Brown’s life that we could not have gotten from any other source.  And no doubt this is because of the guiding hand of Mick Jagger in the project. A rock music legend that saw James Brown perform live during a tour of the US and never forgot it – in fact he includes the scene in the movie – Jagger understands the intricacies of keeping a band on point and ready to perform on the road.

Thus we are afforded a view of the problems of a touring band that usually never meet the public eye.  We get to see what a strict task master Brown was, docking the musicians pay for every infraction, sometimes seeming petty and ego-maniacal, but the result was one of the tightest bands in the history of the Rock and Roll era. That’s why they were able to respond dramatically to every gesture of his body the way they did. Or go directly to the bridge when he called for it.  We all enjoyed watching him cue the band with words or body movements….but we never understood the hard work required to achieve such precision in performance.

However the greatest revelation about the life of James Brown that I experienced is his relationship with his parents and how he was raised.  Dirt poor and stuck in the back woods, reliant upon a brutal father whose meager pay working as a laborer in the pulp wood industry was routinely squandered on whisky and gambling, who was ignorant, and a mother who confused and abused, James had to figure things out for himself while yet a child.  His mother, tired of poverty and abuse, ran away and became a whore, and when his daddy joined the army to escape his miserable dead end existence in the racist backwoods of Georgia, James was left to live with his aunt, who was the madam of a thriving whore house.

When we look at the conditions these black women endured in the South – oppressed on the basis of race, gender and class – who among us is righteous enough to cast the first stone of condemnation….not I.  They played the bad hand they were dealt as best they could, and some of them aspired to better things for the youths than were available to them.   This was especially true of James’ aunt who ran the cat house.  She told him that he had something special, that one day the whole world would know his name and that he would be fabulously wealthy.  Raised by kind hearted hos James got a look at life that was raw like Sushi.

All of these factors contributed to the personality formation of the man the world came to know as the God Father of Soul.  He was a man who understood that everything good that had happened to him in life was because of his talent as a performer.  And life became very good indeed; luxury jets, fine cars and mansions of many rooms were all his – as well as an endless bevy of black, brown and beige beauties.  No doubt he could have had his pick from a multitude of snow queens, but he stayed with the sistas.   Yet his childhood memories of seeing his mother turning tricks with soldiers, and all the whores he grew up around, made him more than a tad puritanical about the women in his life.  It also made him abusive.

Some of the most dramatic moments in the film involve James and his wife – played by the voluptuous brown beauty Jill Scott – a type A female who stood her ground….what the folks in Georgia used to call a “Tushie.”  When he slaps her down in one scene it is shocking to behold: but then, James Brown, like all of us, is a product of his socialization – or lack thereof.  Hence it should come as no surprise that he was relentless and ruthless with is band members in his quest for fame and fortune, and a unapologetic patriarch with his women, or that he showered them with expensive gifts and took good care of his children.

‘Thick Fine” Jill Scott and Chad Boseman

chadwick-boseman-jill-scott-get-on-up

Sizzle on Screen as James Brown and Wife

We can see the seeds of all these adult traits being forged in his personality by virtue of his experiences as a boy.   This film captures it all:  the glamour, the tragedy, the good times and bad, the pathos and bathos of Afro-American culture…and most of all the marvelous music!   According to the director, Boseman pulled this amazing performance off with only two months of preparation.  “We got the go ahead from Universal around the end of August. Chad Boseman had September and October to become James Brown—the dancer, the singer, and played him as a 17-year-old all the way to a 63-year-old. I literally can’t understand how he did it.” Taylor recalls.   The resulting product of all this hard work and generous talent is a cinematic tour de force:  Bravo!

 

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See Video Clips Below

Double click to see “James Brown and the “Famous Flames” 

 http://youtu.be/5_jqhXNF98A

This concert was at the height of his prowess in 1964
Click to see: James Browns Greatest Moves

http://youtu.be/Ek9-HGHT1Pk

Where James got his Inspiration

http://youtu.be/E_Qi_MbaOyk

Cab Calloway: Grandfather of Soul!
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James Brown honored by the President at Kennedy Center

http://youtu.be/V1CPN-nc1To

Playthell G. Benjamin                                                     

Soul Brother #1

On the Road
August 11, 2014

Is Anti-Zionism Anti-Semitism?

Posted in Is Anti-Zionism Anti-semitism?, On Foreign Affairs, On Israel, On War and Peace in the Mid East! with tags , , , on August 6, 2014 by playthell
Anti-Zionist Neturei_Karta_Jewish_group_protest_against_Israel (1)
Deeply Religious Hasidic Jews Protest Zionism

 Abe Foxman says yes….Others Jews Say No

More and more these days one hears Jews of many political and religious views complain of a experiencing a growing hostility toward them as a result of the policies of the Israeli government.  One has only to witness the random attacks on Jews by Arabs on the streets of Paris recently to recognize why they feel that this the most dangerous threat faced by all Jews everywhere. This sad state of affairs results from the fact that so many people are convinced  Zionism and Judaism are synonymous, that they are one and the same.  But as Rabbi’s and Judaic scholars point out: “Judaism is thousands of years old, while Zionism is barely a hundred!”

This conflation is especially troubling to anti-Zionist Jews and others who oppose the policies of the Israeli government.   Although you wouldn’t know it from watching the major media….such oppositional Jews are everywhere.  Yet they are seldom seen or heard, fostering the impression that Jews are in lockstep regarding Israeli government policies, and this belief is fostering hatred toward all Jews.  This is true even in a city like New York, a center of world Jewish power.

In an article titled “Convergence of Hate,” published in the July 31 edition of The Jewish Daily Forward, Jane Eisner, a liberal middle class Jew living on the affluent Upper West Side of Manhattan was shocked to discover anti-Jewish graffiti scrawled on her sidewalk.

Since the letters were written in white chalk and were upside down from where I stood, it took a moment to decipher their meaning, and another moment to get over the shock.  This was on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the epicenter of the liberal American shtetl, a place so ubiquitously Jewish that even the smallest grocery store posts Friday night candle-lighting times each week. So to see even this mildly anti-Israel graffiti was a surprise. For the first time since we moved to the neighborhood a couple of years ago, we felt uncomfortable, targeted, as people who care about Israel and as Jews.”

Mrs. Eisner tells us that she and her husband wondered “whether that scrawled sidewalk sentiment was a legitimate criticism of American policy or rank anti-Zionism. And when does anti-Zionism bleed into simple hatred of Jews?”   That’s a good question, because to the extent that this happens it is largely due to the fact that these people believe that the policies of the Israeli government reflects the religious beliefs of the Jewish faith held by all Jews.  How did they get this mistaken idea?  Ironically the main purveyors of the idea that Judaism and Zionism represent a single world view, and are thus inseparable, has been the major media and the leaders of pro-Israel Jewish Organizations in the US.  Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League heads the list.

However there is a growing legion of anti-Zionist Jewish secular intellectuals, Rabbi’s and theologians who vehemently disagree with this view on secular and sacred Grounds.  These increasingly vocal opponents of Israeli government policies overwhelmingly believe that those supporters of Israel who conflate Judaism and Zionism employ this strategy in order to silence opponents of Israel by dishonestly accusing them of being anti-Semitic – “a Jew hater.”  And while it has worked very well in silencing criticism of Israel among the Goyim, it has proved useless when the critics are Jewish.  Hence the defenders of Israel coined a special term for them: “Self-Hating Jews.”

But that’s not the worst of it.  The Jewish establishment, led by Abraham Foxman and the ADL, has attacked them in myriad ways.  I have heard stories from Jewish academics and Journalists about the trials and tribulations they have suffered at the hands of pro-Zionist organizations – including getting them fired from their jobs and even murder.   As was the case with the prolific Jewish theologian Dr. Mark Ellis, and the great investigative journalist Robert I. Freedman.  However, because the Zionist claims are based on Scripture, let us begin this discussion of anti-Zionist Jews with the critique of Orthodox Rabbi’s.

Anti-Zionist religious Jews are ridiculed and threatened in America, beaten down on the streets in Israel by the police and soldiers, even imprisoned when they demonstrate for peace with the Palestinians.  One of the reasons that the Israeli government considers these Orthodox Jews so dangerous is that they reject the Zionist master narrative for Israel’s raison d’etre, especially the claim that Jews were the constant victims of violent oppression when they lived in Muslim countries before the establishment of Israel.

The Rabbi’s Visit Iran
Anti- Zionist Rabbi's meet Ayatollah
 And were warmly received by the Ayatollah!

These anti-Zionist Jews say the Zionist claim is a lie calculated to manufacture hostility toward the Arabs among their powerful Christian benefactors, and represents a historical slander against the very people among whom they found refuge over the centuries of fleeing oppression and death in Europe.  To demonstrate their point Rabbi Israel Dovid Weiss visited Iran and met both the Ayatollah and Prime Minister Ahmadinejad.

In a January 15, 2007 article in the New York Times – “New York Rabbi Finds Friends in Iraq and Enemies at Home” – we are told that In a March 2006 broadcast on Iran’s IRIB radio, the official government station, Rabbi Weiss  declared that “it is a dangerous deviation to pretend that the Iranian president is anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic. He is extremely friendly and he understands the difference between the Zionists and the Jews who do not embrace the state of Israel… We don’t look at him as an enemy.”

Rabbi and Ahmadinejad

anti-Zionist jews-iran

 Jew and Persian Embrace

Rabbi Weiss, along with what he insists are hundreds of thousands of religious Jews around the world view the state of Israel as a sacrilege, a violation of the will of God.  There is no shame in their game regarding the matter and they put their position bluntly and without apology, convinced that it is they that are doing the will of God and are the true peacemakers.  Their argument against Israel is that is that the Torah expressly states that the New Israel can only be established by the Messiah upon his return.  And that the Torah expressly forbids men from trying to “hasten” the end times by human agency.

They also claim that the Zionist founders of Israel were not religious but political men, Jewish nationalists with imperial ambitions, swine eaters and wine drinkers, who dispossessed the Palestinian people of their land by naked aggression.  Hence they contend that the Zionists “high-jacked” Judaism and its symbols for a nefarious political scheme that they believe sully the moral principles of Judaism. And for this they have called for the death of the Zionist state of Israel; even embarking on a mission to meet with Muslim leaders to personally talk with them and state their position: Zionism is the enemy of Judiasm.  This belief is what compelled the Rabbi’s to visit Iran.

When he attended “The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust” in Iran, Rabbi Weiss’ many enemies accused him of being in league with holocaust deniers.  But, alas, we have the record of the Rabbi’s speech to the gathering.  He said in part:

Now maybe I can say that at the discussion of the holocaust, I may be the representative, the voice of the people who died in the holocaust because my grandparents died there. They were killed in Auschwitz. My parents were from Hungary. My father escaped and his parents remained. He wasn’t able to get them out of Hungary and they died in Auschwitz as were other relatives and all the communities that they knew. So to say that they didn’t die, to me you cannot say that. I am the living remnant of the people who died in the holocaust and I am here, I believe sent by God, to humbly say, simply to speak to the people here and say, ‘You should know that the Jewish people died, and do not try to say that it did not happen. They did die!’ There are people throughout the Jewish communities, still alive in their seventies and eighties and every one of them will tell you their stories. It is something which you can not refute, but that being said, it doesn’t mean that the holocaust is a tool to use to oppress other people”

Rabbi Weiss went on to elaborate on the last point regarding the tendency of the Zionists to invoke the memory of the holocaust in order to evoke feelings of guilt and use it to raise political support and money for their nationalist cause.  He explicitly rejects this tactic “

The Zionists use the Holocaust issue to their benefit. We, Jews who perished in the Holocaust, do not use it to advance our interests. We stress that there are hundreds of thousands Jews around the world who identify with our opposition to the Zionist ideology and who feel that Zionism is not Jewish, but a political agenda…What we want is not a withdrawal to the ’67 borders, but to everything included in it, so the country can go back to the Palestinians and we could live with them.”

The Orthodox Rabbis also take the position that the Zionist militarists in Israel  are the real danger to peace in the Middle-East not Iran…and they have said so in massive demonstrations!  This is a grave blow to the Israeli narrative, which casts Iran as the war mongers, despite the fact that they have engaged in all manner of aggressions against Iran including sabotague and assasssination of Iranian scientists.  As a consequence of taking this position Rabbi Weiss, along with his followers in the Neutari Karta and the Satmar Hassidim, have been denied service at Kosher stores in New York, had his Synagogue picketed, and threatened with bodily harm on the streets.  But the Rabbi and his followers are like the apocryphal trees planted by the “rivers of waters” They shall not be moved!

Hassidim Protests hostility toward Iran

Anti-zionist Jews demostrate against Iran

A Very Courageous Act in New York!
 Anti-Zionist Jews Protest Israeli atrocities in Gaza
Anti-Zionist Jews support Arabs of Gaza 
Doing their religeous duty
Click to witness Anti-Zionist protest at Israeli Embassy
http://youtu.be/Jl0xkgBKNro
Double Click for Rabbi Dovid Weiss’s views on Zionism
 http://youtu.be/JHj5aH4Mox8
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Playthell G. Benjamin
August 5, 2014