Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From Ian:

Sohrab Ahmari: Why This Catholic Loves the Jews
For starters, it was mainly Jewish writers who dispelled the dangerous Marxist illusions of my youth and ushered me to political maturity. Were it not for Leon Kass, Arthur Koestler, Irving Kristol, and Leo Strauss, to name but a few of them, I probably would have continued to wallow in the lethal “idealism” of the very hard left. In Natan Sharansky’s gulag memoir, Fear No Evil, I discovered the link between faith in the God of the Bible and freedom, both political freedom and the more important kind: spiritual freedom. The words that sustained Sharansky through his ordeal belonged to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav: “The entire world is a narrow bridge, and the important point is not to be afraid.”

Reading those lines while picturing Sharansky in his punishment cell sent shivers of understanding down my spine. A part of me knew that Nachman was right, even though I would have insisted that I was an unbeliever at the time. And that intuition raised an uncomfortable thought: I could only cross the bridge fearlessly and avoid the abyss below if there was Someone at the other end waiting for me—a metaphysical direction and endpoint, a loving Almighty who thunders: “Be not afraid.”

I picked up that interior confidence—that no force on earth could shake me if I feared Almighty God, that no regime could compel me to abide evil if I hewed to God’s ways—from Jewish writers, some of whom weren’t even traditional believers. Initially, I was reluctant to articulate this newfound confidence in the first person, lest my mostly secular friends sneer at me. But eventually, I professed faith in the one God.

When I did, I professed faith in the Christian God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who, I believe, entered human history a little more than 2,000 years ago and made of himself the bridge across that terrifying abyss that Rabbi Nachman had written about. I concluded that the bridge is cruciform, in other words. And that, of course, is where Jews and Christians part theological ways. But in so concluding, my mind never gave in to the classical anti-Semitism that historically disfigured relations between Christians and Jews.

Rather, my attitude was one of gratitude. Gratitude for the Jewish genius of the Hebrew Bible. Gratitude for the Jewish landscape of human salvation and the Jewish men and women that peopled it, not least Jesus of Nazareth and his blessed mother. Gratitude for Jews as Christianity’s elder brothers and sisters, who nurtured faith in the true God like a “well-cultivated olive tree onto which have been grafted the wild shoots, the Gentiles,” as the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate has it. Gratitude for the depths of Jewish ethics, for the resounding Jewish “No” to pagan abominations and emperor-worship, a “No” that echoes to this day.

Thanks to Judaism, the Jewish tradition, and Jewish intellectuals, I’m a Christian believer and not a modern pagan. How could I then not love the Jewish people?
Kevin D. Williamson: Green Floyd: Roger Waters and the Great Green Chevron Scam
The slow unraveling of the case against Chevron has been eye-opening, not least for the glimpse it offers into the way money moves through the progressive activist world.

The background: Chevron was accused of inflicting horrible suffering on the people of Ecuador through mismanagement of drilling operations there, contaminating the groundwater and exposing thousands of people, mostly in nearby indigenous communities, to a stew of toxic sludge. The most obvious problem with the case was that Chevron had never drilled for oil in Ecuador; it acquired Texaco, which had done so years before, in partnership with the Ecuadoran state oil company. At the conclusion of its operations, Texaco received a formal certification from the government of Ecuador that it had cleaned up after itself (at a cost of about $40 million) and that it was released from further liability for the operations, which were continued by the state oil company. Like many state oil companies, Ecuador’s had at times been something less than scrupulous in its observance of environmental standards. Its operations are likely the source of the pollution in Ecuador.

But American lawyer Steven Donziger, an old basketball buddy of Barack Obama’s, managed to obtain a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron in an Ecuadoran court. Chevron complained that this judgment was the product of corruption, that Donziger et al. had falsified evidence, paid off allegedly neutral experts, bribed judges, and more. Chevron took those complaints to court in the United States and was successful.

Chevron wants the court to find Donziger in contempt because he “willfully and repeatedly has violated the RICO injunction, monetizing and profiting from the fraudulent Ecuadorian judgment by selling, assigning, pledging, transferring, and encumbering interests therein.” The court is considering its claims.

Roger Waters, the rock musician, has denounced Chevron for its “greed,” complaining that it is “disquietingly apparent that the rich and powerful are still much attached to the feathering of their own nests at any cost to others.” Well. Documents submitted to the court show “George R. Waters” taking two equity positions in the case, one for 0.076 percent and one for 0.025 percent, through “Fenwick,” presumably the firm of Mark Fenwick, Rogers’s manager and an heir to the Fenwick department-store chain in the United Kingdom. That would come to roughly $9.6 million of a $9.5 billion judgment. You could feather a lot of nests with that. (I was unable to contact Waters or Fenwick for comment. Rock stars are really hard to get on the phone.) If taking in a few million dollars via an investment in extortion and bribery is not greed, then what is?
Pens to Wear 'Stronger Than Hate' Patches Tonight Against the Islanders
Pittsburgh Penguins players will wear special "Stronger Than Hate" patches on their jerseys for tonight's game against the New York Islanders at PPG Paints Arena (7 p.m.).

The patches - and the accompanying jersey auction - are part of the organization's effort to support victims and families of Saturday's tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Each player will sign his jersey after the game, and the jerseys will be available for auction at treeoflife.givesmart.com.

All proceeds from the jersey auction and the Penguins other fundraising efforts, including tonight's 50/50 Raffle, will benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and a fund established by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Safety to benefit police officers wounded during the attack.

The jersey auction will start at 11 a.m. today and continue until November 13 at 12 p.m.

The Penguins will also conduct a collection of monetary donations at all three entrance gates at tonight's game. Fans may donate online at treeoflife.givesmart.com.

The Penguins Foundation also is donating $50,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and to the officers' fund.

  • Wednesday, October 31, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon
Al Watan Voice has an article about how the Communist movement was dominated by "Zionists."

Sometimes the author slips and says "Zionist Jews."

So we learn that Karl Marx was a "Zionist Jew" who came from a long line of Talmudic scholars.  (Marx was baptized at 6 and raised as a Christian.) Practically all the people behind Communism were "Zionists."

"Zionist Jews" were responsible for the murder of 66 million people in the Soviet Union from 1918-1959, we are told.

Meanwhile, an article in Iran's Al Alam says that Jews are cowardly, claiming that Israeli Jews are emigrating from Israel in droves when faced with a single rocket that lands in an open area, damaging nothing.

Al Ahram published a letter from Dr. Ali Bayoumi of Zagazig University saying that Israel was implementing Protocol 15 of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Gaza.

The Protocols are accepted as fact in many Arabic articles.

This is only in the past couple of days.

The issue of endemic Arab and Muslim antisemitism is Kryptonite to Western media, who want to always paint Muslims and Arabs in the best possible light to avoid accusations of "Islamophobia." So the real threats to Jews are downplayed in order to appease the very Muslims who want to kill them.





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I Boycott Jerusalem Elections, Then Complain The City Ignores Me

By Alhaf Suwij, East Jerusalem resident
Arab manRas-a-Amud, Jerusalem, October 31 - Maintaining one's ideological principles is important. Me, I adhere to my people's official position that participating in the holy city's municipal elections normalizes occupation, and therefore all Palestinians must refrain from voting. But that will not stop me from criticizing the city government for disregarding the desires or expectations I thus refused to express.
Al-Quds has been an Islamic city since its conquest in the early eight century CE, and control of it cannot be relinquished - which means control by n non-Islamic entity must never be granted legitimacy. My peers and I will on principle never dignify the Zionist occupation of even a centimeter of this holy ground by setting foot in a Zionist-run polling place. And I will also enlist NGOs, a pliant media, and international bodies in railing against the city's elected government for neglecting the needs of the Arab residents who could have cast a vote for representatives to fight for them on the city council, but refused to do so.
It is a matter of integrity. I cannot in good conscience condone non-Islamic control of Jerusalem, and I cannot in good conscience abandon the Palestinian sense of entitlement that characterizes our behavior on the world stage. I might not engage in the political life of this city, but by thunder, am I going to lambaste those who do for failing to do the job I refuse to do.
The international media, of course, make it easy. They echo, even amplify, the assumption that we deserve to be served by the municipality as we wish, and paint our refusal to participate in the city's political administration as a noble position. Even some Israelis side with us on both points. Why should we change anything, then, if we get such sympathetic treatment in the public arena?
The icing on the cake, though, is when these NGOs and media people point to the inadequate services in Arab areas of the city - emergency medical services, firefighting, electrical infrastructure, sewage, plumbing, road maintenance, or what have you - and when the city or whoever does send people, those personnel get attacked because they're Jewish, or because they're acting on behalf of the illegitimate Jewish administration of the city. It's poetic in a way I find difficult to articulate.
In this week's municipal elections there were some residents of our neighborhoods who did participate, and one even ran for office. That cannot be allowed to continue! Getting our needs met by others without our having to take responsibility is an inseparable part of the Palestinian way of life. Any attempt to alter that constitutes an attempt to undermine our very culture and identity.




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From Ian:

The West Must Stop Fetishizing Palestinian Extremists
He is bare-chested, muscular and not unattractive. A Palestinian flag blazes in one hand, a slingshot is strained taut in the other. All around him is smoke and press photographers. Aed Abu Amro, a 20-year-old Gazan, is rioting on the boundary between the Hamas-run statelet and Israel's southern frontier. Amro, who was snapped mid-rampage on Monday, has stirred that morbid romanticism which draws Western progressives to the Palestinians.

Newsweek gushed of "the now-iconic photo." The New Zealand Herald told its readers the image had "drawn comparisons with the iconic French Revolution painting, 'Liberty Leading the People,' by Eugene Delacroix." There is scarcely an anti-Israel agitator who has not tweeted, Facebooked or Instagrammed the picture. Depictions of heroic resistance rewrite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a romantic epic in which righteous victims are ennobled by their oppression at the hands of inhuman tormentors.

Amro is the new Ahed Tamimi, the 17-year-old Palestinian jailed for eight months for assaulting Israeli soldiers. In a series of interviews with Tunisian media this month, she said: "We should always be slapping soldiers, wherever they may be, regardless of whether they did anything or not....We, as a generation, will fight for the liberation of Palestine in its entirety."

Tamimi will fight for the destruction of the world's only Jewish state, which is located, for those who still inhabit the fact-based community, on land to which Jews are indigenous, in which they alone have ever been sovereign, from which they were expelled, to which they returned, and upon which a rival Palestinian nationality so defined has staked a claim to nationhood for little more than a century and to statehood for around half that time.

Westerners have little time and even less comprehension for Palestinians who seek comity and compromise, who acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people, who recognize Israel's legitimate security needs and who spurn the self-harming violence of their fellow Palestinians. The peacemakers exist but they do not capture the imagination of remote revolutionaries. They are the wrong kind of Palestinians.

Instead, Aed Abu Amro will be the face of Palestine and Tamimi its voice. The Palestinians will go on being pin-ups and go on being stateless.

Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz: Is UNRWA damaging the Palestinians?
Shmuel Rosner chats with Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz, the writers of the book “The War for the Palestinian Right of Return”, about the Palestinian refugees, the right of return and the existence of UNRWA.

Einat Wilf is a writer and a politician who served as a member of the Knesset for Independence and the Labor Party.

Adi Schwartz is a journalist and academic. A former staff writer for Haaretz, he currently works as a freelance journalist for Israeli and international newspapers and magazines. (h/t Elder of Lobby)


  • Wednesday, October 31, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon




David Letterman visited Donald Trump in 1986, in what may have been Trump's first appearance on the show.



When Letterman visits Trump's office, there is a shot of the wall where Trump places various awards he had received.

Most prominent is the "Etz Chaim" award from some Jewish organization.



The words mean "Tree of Life."

I also remember during a season of The Apprentice, there were two religious Jews in the competition. When one of them was on a team that lost one week, one of his teammates tried to get him "fired" by pointing out that he didn't do much of the work on Saturday (the contestants would participate in meetings and such but wouldn't violate any Sabbath prohibitions.)

Trump's disdainful reaction was that he would never fire someone for adhering to his religious principles.

There is plenty to criticize Donald Trump about, including his not being forceful enough against white supremacists who openly praise him. But he is no antisemite, nor does he tolerate antisemitism. To politicize Pittsburgh into another reason to bash Trump as a tacit Jew-hater is disgusting.

No matter what The Forward says.

There is nothing wrong with analyzing why antisemitism exists in America. There is something very wrong about jumping to unwarranted conclusions.

Mourn and remember the dead. Don't use them as a prop to push your political agenda. Don't congratulate yourself for attending an anti-Trump rally and pretend that somehow you have done something about the problem.

The problem isn't Trump - it is antisemitism. It is real. It exists on the right and on the left, it exists in some streams of Christianity and Islam, it exists among atheists and the fervent believers, it can be found among the educated as well as the ignorant. White people and people of color can be and are antisemites.

If you want to fight it, look for the strain that is in the group you identify with and fight it there. Don't sit back and pretend that it is only a problem with your political opponents. If you think that, you are fooling yourself - and you are part of the problem.

(h/t Eric)





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  • Wednesday, October 31, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon
Yesterday I pointed out that antisemitic hate crimes may have soared far more than the 57% increase in antisemitic incidents that the ADL reported on for 2017.

We won't know whether my analysis is true until the FBI releases its hate crimes report for 2017.

But right now there are lots of pundits who are linking Trump with the 2017 increase in incidents. One prominent example:





This is a classic example of a "questionable cause logical fallacy," known as "cum hoc ergo propter hoc." Just because Trump is president during a rise in reported antisemitic incidents does not mean that he is the cause of such a rise.

As my analysis showed, the biggest increase of antisemitic hate crimes came from a huge increase in vandalism. But the number of assaults against Jews - the most serious category the ADL tracks - went up dramatically when Obama was in office and has gone down significantly since Trump has been president.


Using the "logic" that we have been seeing since the Pittsburgh massacre, we can conclude that Obama was responsible for the huge increase in assaults against Jews in the US - if we were to make up a reason, perhaps as he tried to push the Iran deal and conservative Jews were against it.

Taking that same "logic" further, Trump must be responsible for the dramatic decrease in assaults against Jews in 2017.

These arguments are obviously absurd. But they are just as absurd as the arguments that are being accepted by the mainstream media, taking it as a given that the increase in less-violent crimes in 2017 is Trump's fault.

The president can influence behavior, of course. But so can the news media, TV shows, hit songs and YouTube stars. Drawing conclusions based on limited information is simply wrong, and it is shameful that so many people who should know better have fallen for one of the most well known logical fallacies - correlation does not imply causation.

(I tweeted this last night.)




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  • Wednesday, October 31, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon


The Gaza Ministry of Health issued a statement about the critical shortage of  immunosuppressant  and other drugs in Gaza, jeopardizing the health and life of hundreds of patients who have had successful kidney transplants.

Without those drugs, the patients may have to return to going on dialysis, their new kidneys becoming useless.

There are 333 kidney transplant patients in Gaza, and hundreds more with renal failure who need medicines desperately.

While the Gaza Health Ministry did not place any blame for the lack of medicines, the Palestinian Authority has been limiting medicines to Gaza for over 18 months.

The ministry appealed to international organizations to help fill the shortfall.

Israel does not have any restrictions on medicines to Gaza. Nevertheless, the UK-based pan-Arab news site Al Araby (The New Arab in English) blames Israel anyway, falsely blaming the "blockade" on the lack of medicines.

Apparently, pressuring the PA is not considered productive. The fact that Abbas is so eager to put his people's lives at risk barely ranks as an issue in the West.

If he is willing to have his own people die for the sake of his political goals, why does anyone seriously think he can be trusted when he claims he wants peace with Israel?



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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

From Ian:

Ben Shapiro: How to Fight Anti-Semitism
Understanding the particular nature of anti-Semitism requires fighting it wherever it exists. Believing that anti-Semitism is merely a symptom of generalized bigotry, by contrast, allows the parsing of anti-Semitism — and its sublimation into broader political conversations regarding hierarchies of power and privilege.

Take, for example, the anti-Semitic murder of Jews in Israel. The first theory of anti-Semitism suggests that such murder is the byproduct of radical Islamic anti-Semitism — and that such anti-Semitism isn’t driven by socioeconomic concerns, but by hatred of Jews. The death of a Jew in Pittsburgh at the hands of a white supremacist is driven by the same basic issues as the death of a Jew in Jerusalem at the hands of a member of Hamas.

The second theory of anti-Semitism suggests that such murder isn’t actually about Jewishness per se. In fact, such murder may be completely different than the anti-Semitic murder of a Jew in Pittsburgh. The solution, therefore, isn’t fighting anti-Semitism, but catering to its underlying causes. The first theory leads to a policy of staunch opposition to Palestinian terrorism and Iranian Jew-hatred; the second policy leads to a policy of appeasement and diplomacy with Palestinian terrorism and Iranian Jew-hatred.

The same logic holds true of anti-Semitism in Europe. The first theory suggests that such anti-Semitism is part of an age-old hatred of the Jewish people; the second theory suggests that anti-Semitism is merely a byproduct of Israeli policy.

To properly understand America, and to properly fight anti-Semitism, we must understand that the first theory of anti-Semitism is correct; the second is wrong.

The second theory actually feeds anti-Semitism: If hatred of Jews isn’t special, then why are Jews constantly in the headlines? It must be their outsized power and influence, brought about by structural inequities. Where fighting anti-Semitism conflicts with fighting other forms of bigotry, fighting anti-Semitism takes a back seat.
Comments

The first theory recognizes the amazing nature of America: a country founded on religious freedom, and on tolerance. We’ve strayed from that mission all too often — but the Jews are a success story.

Furthermore, the first theory recognizes that anti-Semitism is something different — and that it ought to be treated as such. That doesn’t mean that the interests of Jews ought to take precedence over those of other groups, of course — that would be ethnocentric and idiotic. But it does mean that Jew-hatred can’t be curbed by generalized progressive policy prescriptions. It must be fought at every turn.

Making Pittsburgh shooting about Trump diminishes problem of anti-Semitism
Even before we knew many details about the horrific slaughter of 11 Jews on Saturday morning in Pittsburgh, critics were rushing to make the shooting about President Trump — in some cases, going to the lengths of blaming pro-Israel Jews who support Trump.

Now, there’s plenty to criticize in Trump’s rhetoric — something I have consistently done since I condemned Mitt Romney in 2012 for accepting his endorsement and that I continued to do through the 2016 election and into his presidency. But by trying to turn this attack into a referendum on Trump and his supporters, critics are only diminishing the much broader problem of anti-Semitism and ensuring that it gets swept under the rug. The sense one gets from reading a lot of media coverage is somehow, if we could just throw out Trump and his enablers, suddenly the problem will go away.

The reality is that anti-Semitism is an evil that has been with us for thousands of years and, despite the great blessings of freedom and religious liberty enjoyed by Jews here, it existed in America long before Trump entered the political scene. If we only talk about anti-Semitism within the limited context of Trump, we will fail to understand and combat it.

Since the FBI started keeping data in 1996 and through 2016 (the most recent year for which statistics were available and the year prior to Trump’s presidency), there were 19,023 anti-Jewish hate crimes recorded. That represented about two-thirds of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. — a shocking statistic considering that Jews only make up about 2 percent of the population. Those crimes occurred under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

It’s common for Jews to navigate armed guards, police, and metal detectors when going to worship at synagogues, drop their children off at Jewish daycare centers, or attend activities at local Jewish community centers.
Caroline Glick: 'Left-Wing Jews' Blaming Trump for Pittsburgh 'Are Dishonoring the Dead'
Breitbart News’s Caroline Glick said left-wing Jews blaming President Donald Trump for inciting Saturday’s mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue are “dishonoring the dead” and “dishonoring the cause of fighting anti-Semitism.” She offered her remarks in a Monday interview with Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Daily.

Glick said, “It would’ve been good if the Jewish community in the United States and the national leadership, instead of pronouncing these milquetoast things that we all need to be more civil in our tone, would say, ‘No, we have to be less civil to anti-Semites. We have to be less civil to people who want to annihilate the Jewish people [and] the Jewish state.'”

Glick added, “But what we’re finding, particularly among left-wing Jews is that they’re using it to attack the administration and trying to conflate the Nazi who committed this massacre with President Trump. Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth.”

Glick noted an article published at the Atlantic by Franklin Foer, a Jewish writer accusing Trump of inciting anti-Semitism. Foer also called for the shunning of other Jews supporting Trump:

In Donald Trump’s abhorrence for globalism and in his inability to smack down David Duke, it was easy to hear the ominous chords of history, to see how he was activating dormant hatreds with his conspiratorial tropes.

Any strategy for enhancing the security of American Jewry should involve shunning Trump’s Jewish enablers. Their money should be refused, their presence in synagogues not welcome. They have placed their community in danger.


The hardest part of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life massacre, for those of us with roots in Squirrel Hill, was waiting for the names. In Israel, we’re resigned to the idea that we must wait for the inevitable roll call of victims after every terror attack. And even though the wait seems interminable we know that it’s about the need to inform the families first before releasing the information to the press. You don’t want to find out the worst possible news by reading about it online or hearing it on TV, God forbid.
But the lack of information creates a terrible anxiety for those who know they might be touched by tragedy—it’s just that they just don’t know it yet.
And here was my idyllic childhood neighborhood, splashed all over the news. Though I left Pittsburgh at 18 to live in Israel, that anxiety was not lessened by time or proximity. I obsessed, went from website to website, watching the live coverage and footage for hours, shocked to see streets as familiar to me as my own face in the mainstream media, no matter where I turned. Every major outlet was covering this story.
It’s not like I’m from a place that everyone’s heard of, a big, busy city like Boston or LA. When people ask where I’m from, and I tell them, their expectant faces go blank. They literally have nothing to say. They don’t know anyone from Pittsburgh. They’ve never heard of someone from Pittsburgh. The most they usually manage is a bland and meaningless, “Aha,” or “Very nice.”
I took a screenshot of the Google map at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with its marker showing the location of Tree of Life. I added a small red circle to show where the home I grew up in was situated relative to the synagogue. I wanted to show my family members. “Look how close I lived to what has happened!”
Distance from Tree of Life to my childhood home 

I needed to make them feel just how personal this was.
As if they didn’t know.
Actually, it was my soldier son who saw the news first and called us before we’d even said Havdalah. He was worried that my brother, his uncle, might be among the victims. At least on that score, I was able to reassure him. My brother is orthodox. He wouldn’t have been there on that terrible day.
But what my kids couldn’t possibly take in was what Squirrel Hill means to me, what it symbolizes in my heart. It’s the place where you could walk at night without fear, and leave the side door unlocked. It’s the old fashioned soda fountain at Mr. Frye’s drugstore on the corner of Northumberland and my street, Asbury Place, where you could get a chocolate phosphate or a cherry coke, way into the 70s.
We didn’t actually buy our drugs at that drugstore, there were cheaper places for that. But we all bought our penny candy there. My mom would give me a penny and I would press my nose to the glass, to make that agonizing, all important choice. Usually, I would buy a vanilla Tootsie Roll or perhaps dots, those pastel candies you scraped off the paper with your teeth. Occasionally, I even bought one of those wax bottles filled with sweet liquid. But best of all was Turkish Taffy, preferably banana flavor. You’d slam it on the sidewalk outside the drugstore, still in its wrapper, in order to break the rock hard candy into manageable pieces. Then you’d share the sweet shards with your friends, and play on the monkey bars, which is what we called the heavy copper guard rails next to the steps that led from the raised Northumberland shopping area to the sidewalk below.
Perhaps those double bars were meant to keep people from falling off and getting hurt, but to us, they were an entire playground in and of themselves, though they were only about 4 feet high and 6 feet long. We’d wrap ourselves around them and swing in all kinds of creative ways. All the while gorging ourselves on candy.
When we got bored with swinging on the monkey bars, we’d go across the street to the combination police and fire station and chat with the firemen, who in nice weather, would sit outside. They knew our names, which is why every time I walked by, one of them would break into song, “I dream of Jeannie with the light bro-own hair.”
My hair was blond, but my middle name was Jean. That was close enough.
The policemen, if we begged long enough and hard enough, would consent to lock us up in one of the three holding cells. That was the best of times. We’d bang on the bars with a tin cup and beg to be released, wanting to stay in as long as we possibly could. And between the fire station and the residential section of the street was this shady little alleyway where we could seek respite from the summer sun or hide during hide and go seek.
Sometimes, we’d go visit the little Italian shoemaker. He didn’t speak English very well, but he always smiled at us. One time my mom brought in a pair of Ferragamo shoes to be repaired and his eyes lit up with delight. In halting English, he told my mother that he had worked in the Ferragamo factory in Italy, it was there he’d learned his craft. He was so happy, caressing the leather of those shoes, looking back on his youth. He could fix shoes in any state of disrepair. He was a magician.
And then there was Zuckerman’s, the little mom and pop store. My mom could send me down the street to buy things. I’d collect the items, wait my turn and when old Mrs. Zuckerman rang up my bill, I’d nonchalantly say, “Charge it.”
After Mrs. Zuckerman died, her son opened a children’s shoe store inside of Newman’s, a children’s clothing shop on Forbes Ave. It turned out that all along, he’d dreamed of having a children’s shoe store. And Mr. Zuckerman was the best children’s shoe salesman ever! He just blossomed in that store. It made us so happy to see him that way.
Back on Asbury Place, there were trees on the street that I loved to peel, the bark coming off in such pleasing segments. There were cracks in the sidewalk where I liked to dig with a stick. I liked to find potato bugs and watch them curl and unfurl, or at night, in summer, to hold a lightning bug in my hand, and see it flash so quietly, by magic.
If the delights of Asbury Place failed to interest, there was always Ferree Street, which was a brick-paved street that ran straight into my home. I loved the moment when my mom drove up Ferree, and hesitated at the rise, where our home became suddenly visible with its red brick siding and gated staircase, painted white. Only then would we begin the slow descent to the bottom of the street and pull into the driveway of our home. It was like a breathless royal entrance. As if we approached a palace with a moat.

My mother and I posing before my piano recital in front of our home at 1523 Asbury Place.
The children of Asbury and Ferree were natural playmates and companions. The two streets were the boundaries of our friendships, for the most part. We played stickball, and put on shows. Played in each other homes.
Children from Asbury Place pose together on Ferree Street. Front row left, the author, right Miles Kirshner, back row from left, the author's sister Margery Haber, Bruce Landman, Jonnie Daniels (photo credit: Howie Daniels--he snapped this with his Brownie!)
This was my neighborhood, a place where during the High Holidays, everyone got dressed in their nice clothes and walked to shul. We’d see each other and notice what we were wearing. We got Hershey bars on Simchas Torah, and left the shul during Yizkor, when we’d find all sorts of secret corridors inside Beth Shalom Synagogue, a place where my parents had met and married, where my mom, as a little girl took dance classes in the basement from Gene Kelly, his imperious mom holding out her hand for each child’s nickel every week.
It was a hardship for my grandmother, during the Depression, to come up with the money for those lessons, but miracle of miracles, a year of lessons with Gene cured my mom, who started out bow-legged and ended up with legs to envy. It was no surprise to anyone that Gene went to Hollywood and became famous.
My parents on their wedding day, in front of my grandparents' house on Alderson Street, in Squirrel Hill.
This was my neighborhood, and the names of the people in that neighborhood were a part of my consciousness, going way back. And now I was waiting to hear which of those wonderful people, woven into the very fabric of my being, had been brutally murdered, just for being Jews in shul.
And when the dreaded names were announced at last, there it was, the person whose name I knew. Rose Mallinger, 97. Rose Mallinger of Ferree Street, a contemporary of my mother, whose children, now grown, had played stickball in the street with my brother.
The knowledge brought no relief. A gunman had taken actual aim at an inoffensive senior, stealing what was left of her life and those of ten other harmless, blameless people (including brothers with intellectual disabilities). In so doing, Robert Bowers, may his name and memory be erased, had not just committed murder, targeting some of the weakest sectors of society, he’d violated the very sanctity of a neighborhood, where Jews had been happy, had always felt right at home.
People are always kind and careful in the aftermath, reaching out with notes or messages. They’d never really thought about Pittsburgh before. But they saw this was huge and painful.
I can’t take you back to my childhood with me, to the streets where I played, where Rose Mallinger, seeing it was getting dark outside, would call to her children to come inside, it’s getting late. All I can do is rehash the memories before you, and mourn the end of an era.

The Jews of Squirrel Hill were safe for 100 years. And then, one day, they were not.



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From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Jordan's King Abdullah -- Weak, Untrustworthy, and Irreplaceable
It is an open secret, seldom discussed, that the regime of King Abdullah II of Jordan is extraordinarily weak.

He is viewed in the U.S. as a close ally, whose counsel is sought by senior officials and foreign policy practitioners. But more than an ally, Abdullah is a dependent. Without the U.S. — and to a similar degree, without Israel — the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan would not long survive.

The weakness of the Kingdom has two sources. First, Jordan is poor. It lacks natural resources, and due to the regime’s failure to liberalize the economy or reform the legal system in order to cultivate economic growth and productivity, there are few opportunities for private advancement. The average Jordanian lives in poverty. Per capita income in Jordan is $3,238 per year.

The second source of the Kingdom’s weakness is the unpopularity of the regime. The Hashemites are Beduins. They were installed as monarchs of the area by the British in the aftermath of World War I. The vast majority of the population is Palestinian, not Beduin. The Palestinian majority in Jordan is systematically discriminated against by the regime. That regime-based discrimination has escalated steeply in recent years. Palestinians have been ejected from the military and denied the right to work in various professions.

The Hashemite regime is based on an alliance it built with the other Beduin tribes east of the Jordan River. But the bonds between the Hashemites and the other Beduin tribes have been steadily eroding. Over the past year, the Beduin have been leading mass, countrywide protests against the regime. They demand the transformation of the monarchy from an effective dictatorship, where Abdullah controls all aspects of the government, into a constitutional monarchy along the lines of the British monarchy. Several of the tribes are allied with Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda.

The weakness of the Kingdom of Jordan is the cause of King Abdullah’s abrupt announcement on Sunday that Jordan is canceling two annexes of the 1994 peace treaty it signed with Israel. The annexes in question set the terms for Israel’s 25-year lease of lands along the border with Jordan, at the Tzofar enclave in the Arava desert in Israel’s south, and at the so-called Isle of Peace at Naharayim, adjacent to the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel.

No disguising Abbas' anti-Semitism
One can feign understanding for Abbas' ability to ‎defraud the Israeli Left, and even for his resolve ‎to keep paying terrorists' stipends, but one cannot ‎accept the malevolence of a Holocaust denier like ‎Abbas when he tries to belittle the Jewish tragedy ‎by repeatedly enlisting the number "6 million" to ‎inflate his bogus claim of refugees. Arabs who fled Israel during its 1948 War of Independence numbered, at most, around 700,000.

When piercing the motivation of sanctimonious ‎Holocaust deniers and examining their arguments ‎against Israel one always circles back to their ‎anti-Semitism. Some boycott "only" the "occupation"; ‎some disguise their desire to destroy us with their ‎‎"profound concern" for the Palestinians; some ‎boycott Israel out of "concern for its fate"; and ‎some "only target Zionists, not Jews."‎

But getting to the core of the multilayered facade ‎of these "lovers of Zion" is akin to pulling apart a ‎matryoshka doll, whose hollow core houses wooden ‎dolls of decreasing size. It is only in the very ‎last piece that the truth – pure anti-Semitism – ‎lies. ‎

The matryoshka doll principle also applies to the ‎mudslinging between the Israeli Right and Left. ‎Beyond the Left's grudges and false claims about ‎political failures and corruption, the heart of the ‎matter – the smallest doll, if you will – is the ‎Left's regret that time and again it cannot regain ‎the reins of power. ‎

And last but by all means not least: The Pittsburgh ‎synagogue shooting demonstrated that Jews are being ‎killed simply for being Jews. A gunman does not stop ‎to check if one is a BDS supporter, a virulent ‎critic of Israel in the U.N., a New Israel Fund ‎lobbyist or merely a naive ideologue. Your death may ‎be banal, just because you are a Jew.‎
Mahmoud Abbas: We Will Continue to Pay The Families Of Martyrs, Prisoners, And The Wounded
Speaking at a PLO Central Council meeting, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinian government will continue to pay salaries to the families of martyrs, prisoners, and wounded Palestinians, even if salaries are subtracted from Palestinian money held by Israel. He said that the families are sacred, and stated: "Even if we only have one cent left, it should go to them and not to the living." Abbas also denied the claim that there are only 40,000 Palestinian refugees left, and said that today there are six million Palestinian refugees. Abbas' remarks aired on Palestine TV on October 28, 2018.


  • Tuesday, October 30, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon

Reports indicate that Mahmoud Abba has dissolved the Palestinian Legislative Council.

This was anticipated, as Al Monitor reported last week:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is moving toward dissolving the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in a legally questionable step. The amended Palestinian Basic Law of 2003 does not grant the president or any official Palestinian committee the power to dissolve the PLC.

Abbas’ move would remove any remaining authority and power Hamas has in the PLC, where it won the majority of seats in the last parliamentary elections in 2006. Such a move would further deepen the Palestinian division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Fatah’s Revolutionary Council led by Abbas issued a statement Oct. 14 after the council had been convening over three consecutive days in Ramallah. In the statement, the Revolutionary Council called on the PLO's Palestinian Central Council (PCC), which is also led by Abbas, to dissolve the PLC and prepare for general elections in the Palestinian territories within a year.

The PLC acts as a parliament that is elected during general elections. It is considered one of the institutions of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The PCC is one of the PLO’s institutions that was behind the decision to create the PA in 1993. The PCC is in charge of monitoring the PLO’s Executive Committee that is responsible for implementing the decision of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). The PNC is considered the parliament of the PLO. The PCC also follows up on the work of PLO institutions and submits its resolutions to the Executive Committee for implementation. The PCC members are chosen during elections among the PNC members.

The Basic Law and its 2003 amendments does not grant the PCC or any other party or person the right to dissolve the PLC. Article 113 of the law states, “The Palestinian Legislative Council may not be dissolved or its work hindered during a state of emergency, nor shall the provisions of this title be suspended.”
The JCPA adds:
As a matter of fact, as far as Ramallah is concerned, this body has already finished its life. It has not convened since Hamas captured Gaza, and Fatah “rogue” delegates are arrested despite the fact that they are immune from arrest.

Abbas seeks to terminate the council formally to avoid legal claims by Hamas’ “speaker,” Aziz Dweik, that he is the rightful successor to Mahmoud Abbas in an interim period. Fatah will not let that happen at all costs.
Many of the delegates didn't even show up at this week's "important" PLO Central Committee meeting, which can't do anything without Abbas' support anyway.

The idea that Abbas is anything other than a dictator is a joke.

Palestine Today gives another reason Abbas wants to dissolve the PLC: Hamas complained to the UN that Abbas should not give a speech representing all Palestinians in September, because the PLC is headed by Hamas. Abbas wants revenge.








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  • Tuesday, October 30, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon
A lot of reports about the Pittsburgh massacre are noting that the ADL reported an increase in antisemitic incidents of 57% in 2017 compared to 2016.

Josh Nathan-Kazis, a Forward writer, suggests that these dramatic numbers are overstated in terms of how dramatic they sound. Here is his Twitter thread.

I'm seeing a lot of folks using the ADL's figure of a 57% rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 to frame the Pittsburgh massacre.
I've noted on here in the past that that 57% figure can be misunderstood.

For one, much of the increase in the ADL's figures is due to the actions of one lone Israeli teenager.


 To my eye, this is the most important paragraph of the ADL report on anti-Semitic incidents that's been so widely cited this week.

I've also written here that the ADL's count of anti-Semitic incidents includes individual instances of elementary school bullying, which is useful to know when thinking about what these numbers mean.

The 57% number seems to provide hard data to back up this feeling that anti-Semitism is rising in the U.S. But the differences the ADL actually measured seem really easy to overstate.

A difference of a hundred or so anti-Semitic emails or instances of small-scale vandalism that happen to come to the attention of the ADL in a country the size of the U.S. doesn't seem very meaningful to me.

Saying that yesterday's massacre happened amid a 57% rise in anti-Semitic incidents paints a really dramatic picture of rising peril faced by Jews in the U.S., and I'm not sure it's a picture the ADL study can necessarily support.

Nathan-Kazis is cherry picking his statistics to make the ADL report seem like it is overstuffed with the false Jewish community center threats and minor cases of harassment, making the 57% figure exaggerated.

He is getting it exactly wrong.

The difference between the ADL report and the FBI Hate Crimes statistics is that the FBI only includes actual crimes, while the ADL counts "incidents" which is a much broader category.

The FBI 2017 Hate Crimes report has not yet been released, so we cannot know the new numbers, but when you include only crimes in the ADL report, things are much worse than they were in 2016.

Here's where the 57% number comes from, and the breakdown into types of incidents.


Assault and vandalism are definitely hate crimes, while harassment (which the hoax threats fall under) may or may not be hate crimes.

If we exclude the harassment category, the number of hate crimes that the ADL reports soared from 546 to 971, an increase of 78%, significantly more than the 57% being reported!

Nathan-Kazis is far more guilty of choosing which statistics to highlight than the ADL is. He is trying to downplay the very statistics that show the opposite of what he is implying.

The cynic in me thinks that Nathan-Kazis is upset over not noticing that - because if he did he could have written an article blaming Trump for the huge leap in antisemitism that he was trying to downplay.







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  • Tuesday, October 30, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon
The "progressives" have been using Pittsburgh as a means to divide Jews, and it is disgusting.

One of the people that they despise, Naftali Bennett, the leader of Israel's Jewish Home party and Israel's Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs,  gave a speech Sunday at a vigil for the victims, and it was more unifying than any of the articles and social media posts I've seen from the "progressive" crowd.



Of course,  Haaretz and The Forward didn't highlight the moving parts of his speech that talked about the commonalities of all Jews. Instead, they claimed that he tries to tie the shootings to Palestinians.

This is false. Bennett said that the antisemitism that prompts the rockets is the same as the one that prompted the murderer. Antisemitism does not have a rationale, and when one gives it a rationale, one is giving the criminals an excuse for their actions. Anyone who thinks that Hamas rockets have any purpose outside of terrorizing Jews is not a serious person.

It is not the "settler leader" Bennett who wants to see Jewish unity disintegrate. It is his opponents.

(h/t Yoel)



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Monday, October 29, 2018

  • Monday, October 29, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon


Times of Israel reports:

A top Palestinian body on Monday passed a motion urging Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to suspend all agreements with Israel and revoke recognition of the Jewish state until Israel formally recognizes a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines.

We recognize the right to resist the occupation in all methods that comply with international law,” the Palestinian Central Council, a Palestine Liberation Organization decision-making body, said in its decision.

The body, convening in Ramallah, said Palestinians should end “all forms” of security coordination with Israel and nullify several financial agreements that it said were being “ignored” by Jerusalem.
The vote is not binding, and a final decision rests with Abbas. Previous votes by the council in January 2018 and in 2015 to suspend security coordination with Israel were not implemented.
 In recent years, Abbas has threatened multiple times to nix agreements between the Palestinians and Israel, but he has not moved to do away with them.
The PA president said last week, however, that his Ramallah-based government would not be able sidestep the decisions the Central Council makes at its upcoming meeting, calling the PLO body “the highest Palestinian authority.”

Let's look at the bolded text.

A typical Western reporter and diplomat will interpret that as saying that the peace loving PLO, which has promised to eschew violence in 1993, is saying that it will continue to only support
"non-violent resistance."

But Palestinian leaders and their Western apologists actually claim that Palestinian terror is allowed under international law.

The Fatah Platform of 2009 says this explicitly:

Fatah launched armed struggle, and other methods of legitimate resistance to liberate the homeland. Such a right is recognized by international law as long as the occupation of our land remains.

[T]he Palestinian people’s right to practice armed resistance against the military occupation of their land remains a constant right confirmed by international law and international legality.
Right to Resist:Fatah adheres to the right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation by all legitimate means, including the right to use armed struggle. Such a right is guaranteed by international law as long as the occupation, settlement, and the denial of our inalienable rights continue.

Western pundits need to stop interpreting their words according to their own wishful thinking. Interpret them according to the Palestinian leaders' own thinking.

In this case the same people who run Fatah run the PLO.

It is clear that the PLO is now saying, officially, that terrorism is an option that they embrace.

But if you don't believe me, I invite any reporter to ask any Palestinian official whether they believe that armed struggle is their right under international law. Once you get past the hemming and hawing and their reluctant admission (after all, Richard Falk backs them up saying it is their right)  ask them if this includes attacking civilians in Israel.

Then ask them if it includes attacking Israeli officials abroad.

Then ask them if if includes attacking Zionists in, say, Pittsburgh.

This is what journalists are supposed to do.





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From Ian:

John Podhoretz: What I learned as an American Jew after the Pittsburgh synagogue attack
On this day of all days it needs to be said: America has been a blessing for the Jewish people unlike any other blessing given any other people in the history of the world.

One crime — or 29 separate crimes, committed at the same time by a monster in human form — cannot be allowed to overshadow this extraordinary fact.

My own gratitude to America is actually greater today than it was yesterday because of the outpouring of grief and rage and common humanity we have witnessed in the response to the horror in Pittsburgh.

The philo-Semitic response to this unspeakable act of anti-Semitism reveals how American Jews are anchored in America in a way that Jews who live anywhere else outside of Israel are not anchored to the lands in which they reside or have ever resided.

We are Americans. And we are Jews. And there is no contradiction between the two. When people talk freely and foolishly and noxiously about America as having been built on racism, there is one simple answer to their libel: George Washington’s letter to a synagogue in Newport, written in August 1790.

“The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy — a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship,” Washington wrote. “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

That final phrase, taken from the prophet Micah, was violated in the most obscene way on Saturday. But the story of America is a story of a country that has indeed served as vine and fig tree for the world’s most beleaguered peoples.

America has allowed us to sit in safety. America has allowed us to flourish due to its “enlarged and liberal policy” that assumes all human beings have inalienable rights.

The Misguided Rabbis of Twitter
Calls to excommunicate pro-Trump Jews are not simply wrong. They’re poison.
As Shabbat ended in Los Angeles, a city where in 1999 there was a terror attack against a Jewish Community Center, I saw this from another reporter whose work I have always esteemed very highly, Julia Ioffe: “And a word to my fellow American Jews: This President makes this possible. Here. Where you live. I hope the embassy move over there, where you don’t live was worth it.”

The calculation here, I suppose, is that people voted for Trump to get an embassy move and their vote proxy murdered other Jews. How careful should one be, should a distinguished reporter be, when accusing others of such enormities, even indirectly? How do people think this message will fall on the ears of those who fled from Iran, to be told that they are in fact guilty in the death of Pittsburgh’s Jews?

Or — even more shamefully — on the ears of Judah Samet. Mr. Samet, a Holocaust survivor, escaped death by 4 minutes because he was a little late to shul. He is also a strong supporter of Trump. Frank, Julia: Would you stand before this 80-year-old man, not in a tweet or online piece, but face to face, and tell him he is responsible for the death of his friends, the people with whom he prays each Shabbat? Would you bar him from the shul where he almost died, again, at the hands of Jew haters? Really? And that would make us the righteous ones?

There is much that smart journalists and observers like these folks say that I agree must be said: Yes, we must be vigilant and aware and ready to spot and combat the virus of hatred. Yes, we must call out public voices, from the President on down, who speak in ways we believe endangers or radicalizes the population. But my congregants are not the ones who are dangerous, and manipulating responsibility to turn Jews into perpetrators is ethically appalling — and communally toxic. We can only be a Jewish people when we don’t excommunicate each other — for religious reasons or political reasons or cultural reasons. Everyone is welcome to pray in my synagogue, right or left, no matter how much I as Rabbi may object to your views. Because we do not pray as Democrats or Republicans, but as Jews. Now let us tear our clothes and mourn the dead.
Women's March Holds 'Vigil' To Oppose Anti-Semitism — Led By Linda Sarsour
The Women's March, whose leaders have openly embraced anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, tried to lead the "resistance" in opposition to President Donald Trump in the wake of the Pennsylvania synagogue shooting Sunday, holding a "vigil" outside the White House to protest anti-Semitism.

There was just one problem: it was led by noted supporter of anti-Semite Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan (and likely anti-Semite, herself), Linda Sarsour.

"Today we are turning our grief to action with @jewishaction," the Women's March tweeted, "to send a clear message that these anti-semitic and xenophobic attacks can never happen again."

Notice the conflagration of terms, associating "anti-Semitism" with "xenophobia" in an effort to connect violence explicitly against the Jewish people with a broader campaign against opponents of unfettered immigration because it'll become important later.

The Women's March followed that tweet up, though, with a photo of Linda Sarsour addressing the crowd — unironically.

Jewish Action is the same organization that today called on President Trump to stay away from any memorial for victims of the Pittsburgh shooting until he denounced white supremacy.

Sarsour and fellow Women's March leaders Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez are, of course, friends with arguably the nation's foremost anti-Semite, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who regularly delivers anti-Jewish messages from the pulpit of his mosque in Chicago, and just last week referred to Jews as "termites" who require extermination.


  • Monday, October 29, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon

From Tehran Times:

Jamal Wakim, professor of History and International Relations at Lebanese University, has said that the Zionist regime of Israel has the strategic objective of gaining control over the Strait of Hormuz.

“After Al Saud’s failure to normalize Israeli-Arabic relations, the Zionists have found Oman Sultanate and the country’s Sultan [Qaboos bin Said al Said] suitable options to reach their strategic objectives such as normalizing relations with Arabs and ruling over Strait of Hormuz,” he told ILNA in an interview published on Sunday.

He noted that Israel seeks to use Oman as a tool to threaten Iran’s interests.
Oman indeed controls the Arab part of the Strait. I don't think the Arabs love Israel enough to outsource their security and strategic positions to Israel.

Not yet, anyway.  But if Iran keeps doing what it is doing, it might happen pretty soon!




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Outrage, Reason and Art
When a horrific attack like the one that took place in Pittsburgh this weekend occurs, especially when your own community is the target of murderous hate, first instincts turn towards comforting the afflicted coupled with feelings of outrage. Analysis, at such a time, can seem almost in bad taste.
Fortunately, comforting the afflicted comes naturally to our people (and, by “our people” I mean Jews, Americans, and all decent human beings), and one needs no guidance on whether or not to feel outrage when bodies are still being counted. But if we want to understand what happened, with the goal of preventing it from happening again, some attempt to determine what the hell is going on is required before default explanations begin to kick in.
The Tree of Life Synagogue is obviously not the only vulnerable target to suffer homicidal gun violence in recent years with school shootings dominating the news alongside attacks on other targets chosen largely for high concentrations of members of a particular group (students, Jews, blacks, or victims chosen at random) that have neither the means to shoot back, nor the expectation that returning fire was their responsibility.
When the dust settles, arguments will largely turn on traditional causal explanations for these sorts of mass killings with many fingering the wide availability guns while others asking us to focus on the shooter as an incarnation of evil or a victim of mental illness.
Both explanations are reasonable, given that these murders are committed with something (guns, usually powerful ones) by someone (a killer who is only comprehensible as someone whose moral and mental makeup makes him different from the rest of us). But each fails to explain why these sorts of mass killings are happening so frequently now versus some other time in the past.
Starting with firearms, shooters have always outgunned the kinds of the communities subject to attacks, such as public schools and houses of worship, going back to the days of the one-room schoolhouse and blunderbuss. This doesn’t mean that the availability of modern, powerful weapons doesn’t increase the lethality of such attacks, but it does raise the question of why schoolrooms and other vulnerable locations have not been shot up, even with less merciless firearms, for centuries. Unless one wants to claim that increases in firepower cause increases in frequency of shooters targeting the innocent, there must be some other explanation as to why so many of these kinds of mass murders are being committed at this point in history.
Mental illness, including the need to spot and treat the mentally ill (or at least get them off the street) before their affliction can lead to butchery is often brought up as a retort to the “guns are responsible” explanation. Since focusing our attention on the person who committed a crime is just as intuitive as a focus on the tools he used to commit it, there is a logic to trying to get into the head of a killer, even if we are not ready to excuse the anti-Semitic hate that motivated this weekend’s shooter as resulting from a mental disease beyond the trigger-puller’s control.
Once again, however, we need to ask ourselves if some new forms of mental illness have emerged in recent years that have as their symptom the transformation of people into school and synagogue shooters. Mental illness, after all, has been with us far longer than guns which leaves us asking the same questions as before: why this form of violence, and why now?
I had the opportunity to think about this earlier this year when a murder spree slightly less close to home (the Parkland School shooting) took place right around the same time I sat through Steven Sondheim’s most challenging musical Assassins.
The play is built around a fantasy scenario in which presidential assassins (Booth, Oswald, Leon Czolgosz who killed President McKinley, Charles Guiteau who shot Garfield) and wannabes (such as Reagan’s attempted assassin John Hinkely as well as Squeaky Fromme and Sara Jane Moore who failed to plug Gerald Ford) are hanging out together in some unexplained netherworld, waiting for the moment to commit their crimes and experience the consequences before returning to ongoing dialog (set to music) with their fellow assassins.
The question permeating the script is why a group from different backgrounds and living in different eras all came to the same conclusion: that shooting the President of the United States was a reasonable course of action.
“I will be remembered!” shouts Charles Guiteau, just before he falls through the gallows after his successful assassination of Garfield, and many other lines of dialog point to these murderous acts as providing a purpose or point to the lives of men and women who would otherwise die forgotten losers. In other words, their murderous acts were motivated by an existential desire to have their lives mean something, anything, regardless of the cost to them, their victim, and the nation.
When reason fails to provide explanations to the inexplicable, art can sometimes fill the void. In the case of Sondheim’s Assassins, the answer to “Why now?” might come down to living in a society and age when everyone desperately wants to be noticed, remembered, admired, even for acts of heinous brutality. As we grow to more and more measure our self-worth in hits and Likes, or compare ourselves to the famous and infamous and perceive ourselves as wanting, well “why not shoot a President?” (as a narrator in Assassins asks) or someone else?
These thoughts should in no way be perceived as an attempt to divert attention from gun violence and the fight against its causes, or the need to ensure the deranged and hateful are locked away or put underground (or at least disarmed). But they do point to a factor we should be considering before retreating to our usual corners to debate what to do next, namely, what is it about the world today that makes mass murder seem a reasonable answer to the question “Who am I?”






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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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