All posts by Ed Pearl

Melancholy Odyssey Through the Folk Scene


If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song,” Llewyn Davis says, brandishing his guitar during a set at the Gaslight. That’s a pretty good definition, one that certainly applies to “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me,” the chestnut that opens “Inside Llewyn Davis,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s intoxicating ramble through Greenwich Village in 1961, before the neighborhood was annexed by New York University and Starbucks.

‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

The Coen Brothers Look Wryly at Their Films
The Coen brothers discuss nearly 30 years of making movies, including the mistakes they still make and their surprise at being mainstream, sort of.

Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Llewyn’s repertoire and some aspects of his background are borrowed from Dave Van Ronk, who loomed large on the New York folk scene in its pre-Bob Dylan hootenanny-and-autoharp phase. Oscar Isaac, who plays both Llewyn and the guitar with offhand virtuosity, is slighter of build and scowlier of mien than Van Ronk, with a fine, clear tenor singing voice. But in any case, this is not a biopic, it’s a Coen brothers movie, which is to say a brilliant magpie’s nest of surrealism, period detail and pop-culture scholarship. To put it another way, it’s a folk tale.

The story — a wobbly, circular journey to nowhere in particular and back, with stops in Chicago, Queens and the Upper West Side — is nearly as old as narrative itself. An important character is named Ulysses, whose ancient wanderings inspired “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” the Coens’ earlier venture (also in the company of the music supervisor T Bone Burnett) into American vernacular musical traditions. The loneliness and romance of the traveling life are echoed in the ballads, sea chanteys and blues reveries that Llewyn and his fellow chirpers like to sing. The lyrics palpitate with the pain of loss and leave-taking: “I’m 500 miles from my home”; “I’ve been all around this world”; “Fare thee well, my honey, fare thee well.” Llewyn, still grieving over the death of his musical partner (heard singing in the voice of Marcus Mumford), is a bit more prosaically adrift, stumbling from one friend’s couch to another, wearing out his welcome faster than his shoes.

But if Llewyn is an archetype, he is also a familiar kind of Coen antihero, the latest face in the gallery of losers, deadbeats and hapless strivers the brothers have been assembling, over 16 features, for nearly 30 years. These dudes are usually at the mercy of other people, a hostile universe and their own stupidity. Above all, they are the playthings of a pair of cruel and capricious fraternal deities whose affection for their creatures is often indistinguishable from contempt.

Unlike Barton Fink, Llewyn is a genuinely talented artist. Unlike Larry Gopnik in “A Serious Man,” he is not merely the innocent, passive victim of cosmic, domestic and professional malpractice. He is, to some extent, the author of his own fate. “You’re like King Midas’s idiot brother,” says Jean (Carey Mulligan), a fellow folk singer whose nest Llewyn has fouled, offering a precise and scatological explanation of just what she means.

The catalog of Llewyn’s lapses is extensive and fills the spectrum from casual bad manners to epic jerkiness. He makes the hostess (Robin Bartlett) cry at a dinner party in Morningside Heights, swears in front of his young nephew in Queens, heckles other acts at the Gaslight and has a habit of getting women pregnant, including Jean, who is romantically and harmonically attached to a singer named Jim (Justin Timberlake). The only misdeed that seems to trouble Llewyn’s conscience at all is letting an orange cat escape from an apartment where he’s crashing. It’s almost as if he thinks that rescuing the animal will make up for everything else he has done.

Llewyn is a fairly unpleasant guy, though the other inhabitants of his world are not much better. The nice ones — a couple of tall, affable singers (Stark Sands and Adam Driver, suggesting Tom Paxton and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott), a kindly Columbia sociologist (Ethan Phillips) and the unsuspecting Jim — serve as targets for his sarcasm. The rest are mostly a parade of grotesques, including music promoters, union officials and an imperious, drug-addicted jazzman (John Goodman) whose company Llewyn must endure on a long car trip.

(Please read the rest at the NYT link above.)

Vandana Shiva & Jane Goodall on Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis

Vandana Shiva & Jane Goodall on Serving the Earth & How Women Can Address Climate Crisis


Vandana Shiva and Jane Goodall,
Democracy Now: December 04, 2013

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to put off a debate on nuclear power that we had planned today to turn to two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I had the opportunity to sit down with them recently. It was right before the U.N. climate summit that took place in Poland, but we were in Suffern, New York, at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, an environmental leader, feminist and thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. I began by, well, going back to the beginning, with each of these remarkable women, and asking Vandana Shiva, who had just flown in from India, to talk about where she was born.

VANDANA SHIVA: I was born in a beautiful valley called Doon Valley in the Himalaya. And I took for granted that the forests and rivers I had grown with would be there forever, because they were. And then, in the early ’70s, the streams started to disappear, the forests started to disappear. That’s around the time peasant women of our area just rose and started the movement, Chipko, which means to embrace, to hug. And the movement basically was women saying we’ll put our bodies before the trees so you can’t cut them, because these trees are our mothers, they give us food, fuel, water, but more importantly, they give us soil, water and pure air. I decided—at that time I was doing my Ph.D. in the foundations of quantum theory, hidden variables and nonlocality. And I was doing it in Canada. But I made a commitment that every vacation I would come and volunteer for Chipko. And I always say I did a Ph.D. in the University of Western Ontario in quantum theory, but all my learning of ecology really came from the women of the Himalaya.

And then the problems continued, didn’t go away. And even though we managed to stop the logging in the hills because of Chipko, you know, then came globalization, and then came everything else and the GMOs and the Monsantos. So, four decades, I’ve been serving the Earth and serving people and started the Research Foundation really to—I call it the “Institute for Counter-Expertise,” because so much of what is called expertise is there to destroy the Earth, to exploit, and to reward the exploiters. And I thought knowledge is about something else.

AMY GOODMAN: And Dr. Jane Goodall?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I suppose I began loving nature when I was, I don’t know, one and a half. Apparently, I was always crawling about looking at insects and plants and things like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

JANE GOODALL: In England, born in London, moved out to Bournemouth on the coast because of World War II. And when I was 10 years old, we had very little money. When I was 10 years old, I loved—I loved books, and I used to haunt the secondhand bookshop. And I found a little book I could just afford, and I bought it, and I took it home. And I climbed up my favorite tree, and I read that book from cover to cover. And that was Tarzan of the Apes. I immediately fell in love with Tarzan. And goodness, I mean, he married the wrong Jane, didn’t he?

At any rate, I was 10 years old, and I decided I would grow up, go to Africa, live with animals and write books about them. Everybody laughed at me. How would I do that? Not only no money, Africa, the “Dark Continent,” but, you know, I was a girl. Girls didn’t do that sort of thing. I think I was amazingly blessed because of the mother I had. But for her, I doubt I would be sitting here now. So, where everybody else said to me, “Jane, dream about something you can afford; forget this nonsense about Africa,” she said, “If you really want something and you work hard and you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up, you will find a way.”

So, anyway, it’s not important. I saved up. I got to Africa. I got the opportunity to go and learn, not about any animal, but chimpanzees. I was living in my dream world, the forest in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. It was Tanganyika when I began. A beautiful—it’s beautiful, amazing rivers and waterfalls. And I was learning about these extraordinary beings so like us, helping us in a way to understand who we are.

And then I discovered at a big conference in 1986 that right across Africa chimpanzees were going. Their forest world was going. And so I began traveling around in Africa talking to whoever I could find about chimpanzee conservation and forest conservation. And then I found how the African people were suffering, about the poverty, about the disease, about the ethnic violence. And then I began to realize how so many of Africa’s problems, which were leading to the destruction of the forest, were caused by outside influences and that the evil of the old colonial era was carrying on and that some of the big multinationals were doing the same thing, were moving into Africa and other developing countries and taking the natural resources and leaving people poorer than ever. And so I began traveling around also in North America, in Europe and increasingly in Asia, and learning more and more about the harm that we have inflicted on the environment. And that’s what’s brought me into spending my life helping to protect the forest as much as we can and learning how the destruction of the forest not only is destroying the chimpanzees and other animals, but increasing climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, the motto of Democracy Now! is “the exception to the rulers,” because that’s what we have to be, holding those in power accountable. And I think, across your disciplines, that is what you do. And I was wondering how you do it, if you could give us examples of how you challenge power that you feel is damaging the Earth, and what you are doing now to change that. Vandana?

VANDANA SHIVA: You know, a lot of the power of the rulers comes from what Bacon said, the marriage of knowledge with power, a particular kind of knowledge, a very mechanistic knowledge that defined nature as dead—and, on the other side, women as passive. So, the exception to the rulers, in this case, is about resurrecting the knowledges that are about the living Earth and our tradition—and I am so touched that this evening began with the beautiful prayer and legacy of the First Nations with Janice and in the beautiful music from Melanie. To me, this is the United States of America, traditions that are totally submerged. So my commitment has been, first and foremost, to really, you know, do a resurrection of hidden knowledges and world views, which is what women bring to this discussion.

And every time I’ve done a study, even when government and United Nations will commission it, the first thing I do is go talk to the women in the villages. So, for example, I was asked to look at the impact of mining in Doon Valley. That’s when I gave up my job and work in Bangalore and returned to Dehradun to start the foundation. And the government was writing this TOR on the ugly look of the mountains, because Indira Gandhi had commented. So I went to the women. I said, “What’s the issue with this mining?” And they said, “Water.” They said, “That limestone holds the water.” None of the scientists said it. So I rewrote the terms of reference and did the participatory analysis.

But the second thing we always do is—because it’s participatory, people know. People have knowledge. It might not be recognized by the dominant system, which I call “corporate patriarchy” now. It was “capitalist patriarchy” when Chipko happened, because the corporations weren’t such big players in our lives. They were contained by all the rules of democracy. And they’ve knocked those rules off bit by bit. The other thing I always do is build the movement simultaneously, because I don’t think you can fight these battles top to top. You just can’t. So, for every study we’ve done and every piece of research we’ve done, one, we’ve counted a paradigm. I mean, all my work on the green revolution—it was assumed the green revolution produces more—found out, no, it doesn’t. Produces more commodities, but commodities are not food. And then we build the movement. When I came to know about how intellectual property rights were being put into the World Trade Organization, I traveled the length and breadth of the country sitting and holding workshops with farmers, who then rose, and 500,000 came to the street. We’re talking about ’92, before Seattle. And we were together in Seattle, Amy. So it’s a combination of major grassroots mobilization as well as dealing with the paradigm wars.

And I think the challenge of this summit is to put forth another paradigm about how to live on the Earth—what the Earth is first, she’s not a—you know, she’s not there to be engineered, she’s not bits of dead rock; she is the living Earth that we were reminded about—and also, through that, bring forth another leadership for another world, because we don’t want leadership in that rotten world of destruction. It’s not worth it anyway. It’s not going to last too long. We want the seventh generation, cultivation of leadership for the future. And it’s interesting, the seventh generation logic that Janice talked about, that every action we take should bring to our minds the seventh generation, in India we have the same, seventh generation. That was what civilizations took care of. Uncivilized people rape the Earth for today.

AMY GOODMAN: Vandana Shiva at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Vandana is an environmental leader, feminist thinker from India, author of many books, including Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons. When we come back, more of our discussion. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report, as we continue my conversation with two remarkable women, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva. I interviewed them at the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit. Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, best known for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees and baboons; Vandana Shiva, environmental leader, author of many books, including Earth Democracy as well as Staying Alive. I asked Jane Goodall to talk about the role of women in her years of struggle to save the environment.

JANE GOODALL: Well, I think, you know, I come from this—from studying chimpanzees, right? And when you study chimpanzees, there’s a male role and female role, and they’re very different. The male is responsible for protecting the territory and the resources in the territory for his females and his young, and enlarging it if he can. It sounds familiar. It sounds human. The female is responsible for raising her young, for finding enough food to raise her young, in which she is helped by the male. And I think, I can’t help saying, as we start off this conference with the role of women, which is so very important, of a saying—and I first heard this when I was in Mexico, but I think the saying was from Ecuador. I’m not sure. But one of the indigenous people said, “In our tribe, we have a saying, that a tribe flies like the condor, and the tribal only fly true when the wings of the condor are in balance, and one wing is male and one wing is female. The tribe will fly true when the wings are in balance.”

So, as we move into this—and I wish I was here for the whole few days—but as we move into this, we have to remember we’re in a world where men are in it as well as women. And men have traditionally been put in the same role as the male chimpanzees. They’re there. They’ve been protecting the territory. You know, in the old days, they were responsible totally for the—for looking after the family, for getting the money. They were the breadwinners. They were all these things. And today, women are moving into those traditionally male roles. And I think I was say—I wasn’t saying it to you, Amy, earlier, but I’ve been fascinated by watching this change, particularly coming at it from the point of view of, you know, learning about the male and the female chimpanzee and thinking, as Louis Leakey thought, that seven million years ago there was a common ancestor, a human-like, chimpanzee-like creature, which over seven million years we developed into people, and they developed into chimpanzees, but there was this common ancestor. And so, watching as our women have moved into leadership roles, I noticed that, initially, to get into those positions, the women

Bill Maher – The US: world’s policeman or schoolyard bully?

Ash Grove List
Bill Maher – The US: world’s policeman or schoolyard bully?

From: Abie Dawjee []
Sent: Sunday, September 15, 2013 12:08 PM
The RAIN Newsletter (15-9-13)

Bill Maher : The US: world’s policeman or schoolyard bully?

Ever since 9/11, it seems America’s just been itching for a fight – and any Muslim country will do. Really, who acts like this?

Guardian/UK Saturday 14 September 2013

New rule: 12 years after 9/11, and amidst yet another debate on whether to bomb yet another Muslim country, America must stop asking the question, “Why do they hate us?” Forget the debate on Syria, we need a debate on why we’re always debating whether to bomb someone. Because we’re starting to look not so much like the world’s policeman, but more like George Zimmerman: itching to use force and then pretending it’s because we had no choice.

Now, I’m against chemical weapons, and I don’t care who knows it. And there’s no doubt a guy like Bashar al-Assad deserves to get blown up: using toxic chemicals on unsuspecting civilians is purely and profoundly evil.

But enough about Monsanto. When it comes to Syria, I do understand the appeal of putting the world on notice that if you use poison gas, the United States of America will personally fu*k you up: we will seek out the counsel and support of the entire family of nations, and then, no matter what they say, we will go ahead and fu*k you up.

But however valid that argument may be, it is, I believe, outweighed by the fact that we have to stop bombing Muslim countries if we ever want to feel safe from terrorism in our own. The Chemical Weapons Convention is important, but to the jihadi in the street, it just looks like we’re always looking for a new reason to bomb them. We keep calling this part of the world a tinderbox – and we keep lighting fires there.

Even worse, bombing seems to be our answer for everything.

Since 1945, when Jesus granted America air superiority, we’ve bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Bosnia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen. And Yemen only because the tenth one was free.

How did we inherit this moral obligation to bring justice to the world via death from above? Are we Zeus? It doesn’t make any sense. Our schools are crumbling, and we want to teach everyone else a lesson?

And look, like I said, I’m no fan of Assad. And I say that openly: I don’t care if it costs me jobs in Hollywood. I think he’s the worst kind of sociopath – the kind who commits unspeakable acts, but who looks like a menswear salesman.

I’m just pointing out that in recent years, our foreign policy debates look like the Facebook page of a loner who shot up a McDonald’s. We’re the only country in the world that muses out loud about who we might bomb next:

“Iran, yeah we might bomb you … thinking about it … maybe, depends on my mood.”

We did this with Iraq after 9/11, even though they had nothing to do with 9/11. We do it with Iran every day. And now, it’s Syria’s turn. We’re like a schoolyard bully who’s got every kid in the class nervous they’re going to be next – and I don’t know if anyone should have that power. Can you imagine going to work and sitting at the lunch table in front of ten people and saying:

“Hey, you think we should … kill Bob? It would send a message to Steve.”

Who acts like this?

People in other countries don’t talk like this. Probably because, if they did, we’d bomb them. Is there no self-awareness about how arrogant it looks to sit around politely pondering who needs a good bombing?

And,we’re the only nation – as we have seen in this Syrian fiasco – who threatens to drop bombs on you while telling you we don’t want to get involved!

“We’re just bombing, please, don’t get up – no boots on the ground, just a little light bombing, we’ll be out of your hair in a week.”

I remember being on the Howard Stern show 12 years ago this week, right after 9/11, and Howard said that, in retaliation for 9/11, America should bomb a Muslim country, any Muslim country, it didn’t matter which one. And yet somehow, I was the one on trial for talking crazy.

And I thought to myself, really? Bomb any Muslim country – that’s the policy? Get a map of the Middle East and just throw a dart at it?

Well, apparently George W Bush was listening that day because that’s exactly what we did.

Avnery: Why Israel is Furious

Ed’s Daily Digest
Avnery: Why Israel is Furious

The Only Good War is a War Avoided
Why Israel is Furious

Counterpunch September 13-15, 2013

Here is another Jewish joke: A hungry young Jew sees an announcement outside a local circus: anyone who climbs to the top of a 50 meter pole and jumps onto a tarpaulin below will win a prize of a thousand rubles.

Out of desperation he goes in, climbs the pole and shudders looking down.

“Jump! Jump!” the ringmaster shouts.

“Jumping is out of the question!” the Jew shouts back. “But how do I get down again?”

That’s how Barack Obama was feeling, a moment before the Russians provided the means.

The trouble with war is that it has two sides.

You prepare a war meticulously. You have a perfect plan. Future generals will study it in their academies. But once you make the first move, everything goes awry. Because the other side has a mind of its own and does not behave the way you expect.

A good example was provided exactly 40 years ago today (by the Hebrew calendar) with the Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israel. According to our planning, they shouldn’t and they couldn’t have done so. No way. They knew that our forces were superior and their defeat inevitable.

The chief of army intelligence, the man responsible for the overall evaluation of all intelligence gathered, coined the famous phrase: “low probability”. So, while hundreds of items indicated that an attack was imminent, the government of Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan still managed to be surprised when the Egyptians crossed the Suez Canal and the Syrians advanced down to the Sea of Galilee.

Some time before, I had warned the Knesset that the Egyptians were going to start a war. No one took any notice. I was no prophet. I had just returned from a peace conference with Arab delegates, and a very highly-placed Egyptian former colonel told me that Anwar al-Sadat would attack, if Israel did not accept his secret peace proposals and withdraw from Sinai. “But you can’t win!” I protested, “He won’t attack in order to win, but in order to get the frozen situation moving again,” he responded.

Since then, the phrase “low probability” has had an ominous ring in Israeli ears. No one ever used it. But during the last two weeks, it has made a sudden comeback.
Incredible as it sounds, it was given new life by our army command. Eager to have the Americans attack Syria, and faced with a run on gas masks in Israel, they announced that there was a very low probability that Bashar al-Assad would retaliate by attacking Israel.

He wouldn’t dare, of course. How could he? His army is bogged down in fighting with the rebels. It is inferior to our army anyhow, and after two years of civil war it is even weaker than usual. So it would be madness on his part to provoke us. Absolutely. Very, very low probability.

Or is it?

It certainly would be, if Assad’s mind worked like that of an Israeli general. But Assad is not an Israeli general. He is the Syrian dictator, and his mind might work quite differently.

What about the following scenario:

The Americans attack Syria with missiles and bombs, with the intention of underlining the Red Line. Just a short, limited, action.

Assad declares Israel responsible and launches his missiles against Tel Aviv and Dimona.

Israel retaliates with a heavy attack on Syrian installations.

Assad declares that the civil war is over and calls upon all Syrians, and the entire Arab and Muslim world, to unite behind him to defend holy Arab land against the common Zionist enemy, the oppressor of the Palestinian brothers.

The Americans will rush to the defense of Israel and – – –

Low probability? My foot–

Therefore, I was as relieved as Obama himself when the Russians helped him to climb down the pole. Wow!

What will happen now to the chemical weapons? I don’t really care very much. I thought from the beginning that the hysteria about them was vastly overblown. Assad is quite capable of committing all the atrocities he wants without poison gas.

It should be remembered why his father produced this gas in the first place. He believed that Israel was developing nuclear weapons. Not being able to aspire to such expensive and technically advanced devices himself, he settled for much cheaper chemical and biological weapons as a deterrent. According to a secret 1982 CIA report, Israel was producing such weapons itself.

So now we are in for a long process of negotiations, mutual recriminations, inspections, transfers of materials, and so on. Good for many months, if not years.

In the meantime, no American intervention. No regional war. Just the usual mutual bloodletting in Syria.

Israel is furious. Obama is a wimp. A coward. How dare he listen to American public opinion? Who will ever believe him again?

After this red line was crossed, who will believe in the much broader line Obama has drawn in the sands of Iran?

Frankly, nobody. But not because of Syria.

There is absolutely no similarity between the situation in Syria and in Iran. Even if the “limited” action had led to a bigger operation, as was quite possible, it would still have been a small war with little effect on American national interests. A war with Iran is a very different matter.

As I have written many times before, a war with Iran would immediately lead to the closure of the Strait of Hormuz, a world-wide oil crisis, a global economic catastrophe with unimaginable consequences.

I repeat: there will be no American – and no Israeli – attack on Iran. Period.

Actually, Obama comes out of this crisis rather well.

His hesitation, which evoked so much contempt in Israel, does him credit. It is right to hesitate instead of rushing into war. In war, people get killed. Even a surgical strike can kill very many people. In laundered military language, it’s called “collateral damage”.

We should know. Years ago, Israel started a tiny little operation in Lebanon and unintentionally killed a lot of people in a UN refugee camp.

Also, Obama did use military force the way it should be used: not for fighting, if fighting can be avoided, but for giving weight to diplomatic pressure. The Russians would not have moved, and Assad would not have bent to their pressure, if there had not been the credible threat of an American military strike. Even Obama’s decision to ask for congressional approval was right in this context. It provided the breathing space which made the Russian initiative possible.

Yes, the Russians are back in the Great Game. They will also play a role in the coming confrontation with Iran. They are just too big to ignore. And Vladimir Putin is too shrewd a player to allow himself be shoved aside.

For viewers with a literary bent, the interplay between Obama and Putin is fascinating – such different characters, such different motivations. Like the sword-wielding and the trident-wielding gladiators in the ancient Roman arena.

And the UN is back again, too. The good old UN, so inefficient, so weak, but so necessary in situations like these. God bless them.

BUT WHAT about Syria? What about the ongoing massacre, a.k.a. civil war? Will it go on forever? Can this crisis be turned around into a solution?
I think that it is possible.

Now that the US and Russia are not at loggerheads, and Iran is speaking with a much more reasonable voice (Thank you for your Rosh Hashana greetings) we might perhaps cautiously, very cautiously, think about a solution.

I can, for example, imagine a joint American-Russian initiative along the following lines:

Syria will be reorganized as a federal state, similar to Bosnia or Switzerland.

It will be composed of confessional cantons along existing lines: Sunni, Alawi, Kurdish, Druze etc.

Instead of the all-powerful president, there will be a collective or rotating presidency. That will solve the personal problem of Assad.

This is a solution everybody can live with. I don’t see any other that can be adopted without much bloodshed. I don’t think that one can go back to the status quo ante. The alternative to this solution is endless bloodshed and the breaking up of the state.

If anything like this solution is adopted, this crisis may yet bear valuable fruit.

Showing once again that the only good war is a war avoided.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
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Nice to see a somewhat balanced Israeli viewpoint.

There are others; not all agree with the official line, or lobbyists in America.


Many, if you include many who have left and increasingly, many, if not most, who already live here.

LA Metro Sep. 17 2013 — AMASSMAG

Alice Walker matters here

glad and grateful to have received this from Mitchel Cohen
From: AlanTo the Recon Havarah/ Congregation, and other Jews and friends i know whom i think/hope are interested.
From  Alan Haber, Eliyahu

Since Spring I have been in France with Odile, learning and doing “permaculture,”  cleaning an old house, and having some distance from the immediate urgencies of the moment and movement.  Here now already at full moon into Elul’s time to search my heart and draw as close as i can to the breath of life,  i am anticipating being back in Ann Arbor in time again for Yom Kippur.

In this month of reflection and preparation, i have been compelled to examine again, and now to share again, my anguish and lament concerning myself as a Jew,  and as a human being, 77 years old,  not dead yet, and still an activist for justice and peace. And strange as it sometimes seems, i feel  i have obligations as a Levite son of a father, ha-Levi, and a mother, the daughter of a Kohen, agnostic and atheist though they respectively were.

Last year at Yom Kippur, in our Havarah afternoon discussion period, i posted and hosted a conversation on Israel, titled, “Israel,  the ecstasy and the agony: Is Israel a Jewish state?”  It seemed to me, on that holy day, probing the deepest questions, a spirited engagement would ensue.  Yet, everyone, but one, of the entire congregation and assembly exercised their free choice to go elsewhere.

The questions i raised involved how can our communal service be so silent, and our congregation so inactive,  relatively speaking, about the transgressions of Jewish law, ethics and morality that are tragically commonplace in the State of Israel, which proclaims itself a “Jewish State,”  representing the Jewish people, of which we each are, with varying degrees of identification.

I speak of such imperatives as:  Do not injure the fruit trees even in times of war; Do not covet your neighbor’s house nor anything that is your neighbor’s; Do not steal; Do not kill;  Do not move your neighbor’s boundary post, it is a great sin; Be good to the stranger, remembering we were strangers in a strange land;  One law for ourselves and those with whom we live; Do not bear false witness; Make restitution for that which you injure; Do not oppress, etc.  These laws have been transgressed since the beginning of Israel, and are today.  The impending dispossession of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the expropriation law uprooting 40 Bedouin villages, involuntarily relocating 30,000+ individuals  and confiscating 270 square miles of settled land, and the new development plans over the ruins of historic Lifta can serve as current reminders, as well as the tens of thousands of trees destroyed and homes demolished. This is not all right with me.

What i could call a rabbinic sophist might say, for instance, as i was once told, “Yes, but!   There might be a terrorist hiding behind that olive tree, so compelled by a higher law, to protect life, we must destroy the tree.”  i am not a scholar, but this is not the Torah i read, and have through its cycles, on and off,  for the last 40 years.   There is no excuse to make that right.

As a Jewish carpenter, I make arks for the Torah, to give Torah love and honor,  I helped make the reading table for our congregation, so Torah can be opened and read, and unrolled and rerolled without being torn or warped.  Warped readings and readings which are rote, empty letters, without comprehension, and without application, offend the soul. They do mine.

The Torah words cry out to me, do they not to you?   Are they not “close before our eyes,” as Avram Burg said when he was in Ann Arbor last year and shared his book  of a title like that,  giving contemporary reflections on each parsha?

My friend Yusif, a Palestinian brother and soul mate, has sometimes said, as i like to quote, “De Nile is not only a River in Egypt”.

“Denial,”  like the Shadow,  can cloud people’s minds so they cannot see.  (For those who remember the old weekly radio detective serial called “The Shadow,” who had the strange ability “to cloud men’s minds so they could not see him.”)

Why is it so many seem not to see? And why are those who seem to see, so ineffective, and, dare i say, timid,  in action? Even me?

Of course, there are many other things to look at and do, and other urgencies and agonies of the world.  There is family to tend, service here at home, children’s needs and daily life, climate change, poverty and the homeless, sickness to nurse and our own communities to maintain.  And Israel is so far away, and what can we do anyhow?  And there is also the fear and disquiet of what might  be seen, if the eyes opened and really looked.  And as i discovered, once one sees, one cannot then, “un-see.”

Still, all that said (and true), I like to point to that pesky, not so little, Fifth Commandment:  “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long on the land”  Elsewhere it says, “Do not uncover their nakedness.”   Basically, we are enjoined:  Do not make trouble in the family.

But what if there is trouble already?  What if our fathers and our mothers, speaking now of the fathers and mothers of Israel, were not all so honorable?  What if, metaphorically, the nakedness of their deeds needs to be uncovered?  What if they and their deeds have become as graven images to which we are called to bow down?  What if, indeed, our jealous God is, even now, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,”  which, of course are the generations of us, and will be of the children of now.

Is it not the higher honor to uncover the deeds of the past,  to look, indeed with love, and to summon the goodness of a thousand generations, and seek to know and understand.  And most centrally, do we not need to correct?  for the thief to give back? for the injurer to compensate? for true witness to be told? for the imprisoned to be released?

Do i know?  Hardly.  Such is my lament.  In the mission of my namesake, Eliyahu, i would “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the elders, lest there come the great and terrible day of the Lord.”   Without a turning of hearts there seems no hope.  The fathers of our Israel are mostly long dead, the children of now seem to live  mostly in the shadows of denial.   i have been part of many high efforts of “tikkum olam” for years now, with the most wonderful people, and yet, the sickness has gotten worse, not healed, and the breakage more broken, not repaired.  I do not know what to do, but i think we have to go back to basics, recalibrate, as they say, our moral compass and measures of reality.  We need, as a community, to get out of the river and look around.

In this view, i suggest, and recommend, and even plead, as an opening of the eyes, in this month of Elul and over the High Holy Days, to read, and reflect and discuss the Story of Zionism.  Zionism is the political movement responsible for the creation of Israel and guides ,to this day, its policies.  The Z word has been mostly exempt from critical conversation in polite Jewish society, and elsewhere too.  I have been called (and treated by some) “persona non-grata” for venturing on these waters.  Recently I was sent a very researched historical paper on   “The History of US-Israeli Relations,” which i . . . read . . . and i found it most illuminating.  I  consider it a proper action to share this writing.

I hope you each read it, and will each forward it as widely as you can to your friends to encourage their reading, and to promote discussion also.  It has a rare depth and breadth, and shows the situation in Israel as  intimately connected with the situation in America.  We are all involved, not far away.  It is from “If Americans Knew,” written by Alison Weir.  It is fairly long, requiring attention.  It  will, i believe,  be eye opening for many:  13 pages, nearly 400 paragraphs, 16,000+ words, with 277 documenting footnotes and references adding 16 more pages, 15,000 more words and 600 more paragraphs.  This is serious, worthy of Elul and Yom Kippur.

This story is not the whole story.  No one rendering can be.  This is a story embedded in a collective trauma and post traumatic stress disorder.  i am now in a little village near the city of Chalon sur Saone in France.  There is a  memorial plaque in the Chalon railway station, witnessing the more than 11,000 individual Jewish people from this small Burgundy area of France who were deported from that station between August and October 1942, in 17 separate “shipments” to Nazi concentration and death camps, one small part of the collective trauma.  i was 11 and 12 years old in Germany in 1948, when my father was Advisor on Jewish Affairs to the Supreme Allied Command, responsible for the survivors and displaced persons and their camps, when the State of Israel was being founded.  From my father’s, and later my own experience, i can testify to accuracy of the accounts about the DPs in this narrative.  I have followed elements of this story through my years as “peace activist.”  There are parts i did not know.  History cannot be undone, but without being understood, it repeats itself.  There is a reservoir of inconvenient truths that feeds the River of Denial . . .

The answer seems not  so much any particular political “peace” formula negotiated among contending powers:  2 states, 1 democratic secular state guaranteeing minority rights, 2 sectarian states and 1 civil state, confederations and cantons, this border or that, this land swap or that.  More, it seems to me, and very appropriate to this season for we Jews,  what we need actually is a “turning and returning” to the basic laws and morality and ethics of the Torah.  If israel, we, and our elders and our communities had properly practiced basic Jewish law, (such as referenced above) we would not have the troubles of now.   When we pray, “Return to the One,” consider what that might really mean.  To return to the one:  To become law abiding?  Are we not called upon:   to commit ourselves in the year ahead, and likewise, for Israel, the state of our people, to become law-abiding?

In the global village, there is  no necessary contradiction between the basic lines of Jewish Law and international law and its conventions.
“Living together” requires human recognition of the others around us.   We would do well to add a big dose of generosity, for a change, and sharing, especially water, and imagining a coming Jubilee to set things more right.  Needed as well is enough humility to allow apologies.  “I don’t care” is not a Jewish option.

Notable is the recent film, “Gatekeepers,” featuring the last many heads of Israeli Secret Service, confessing their lawless pursuit of “terrorism” and the enemy, admitting it was a wrong policy for all these years.  Even the doers of the deeds call for change.

Long ingrained and unexamined patterns require a social reconstruction, in Israel, and in America too.  Freedom requires justice and equality for everyone.  Trauma recovery is part of the peacemaking, in which all question, and everyone has to have their place at the peace table …  and also on the doctor’s couch, in the music halls and artists studios.  Whatever the “political agreement,” there is no quick fix.  Without doubt “truth and reconciliation” needs to be in the mix, also  “unlearning racism” for more than a few on every side, and a better teaching of history recognizing the multiple narratives, so everyone’s story is told.

I hope this  “If Americans Knew” writing might, also, add perspective to the recent  (in our own local Ann Arbor community) “Dis-Invitation” to Alice Walker, a world-esteemed writer and citizen.  Alice Walker had been previously invited and had accepted to “Keynote” the Jubilee Anniversary Celebration of a major local institution, The University of Michigan Center for the Education of Women.  Then she was Dis-invited.   Why? because (before it was denied), a major money donor threatened withdrawal of funds, if this celebrity woman was allowed to speak:  Why? — because of her critical views on Israeli politics and advocacy for Palestine.  Perhaps it was all a bad misunderstanding and sloppy protocol, having nothing to do with middle east opinions, which was not at all her topic.  But after reading this article, one might come to believe otherwise, denials notwithstanding.

Our Shabbat and Holiday services regularly repeat in the Prayer for Healing:  “…Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing….”  Courage is required.  Israel now, for all its wonders,  beauties, and achievements, sadly, is not a blessing to the Palestinians, nor to its own poor, or to its neighbors or to the United States, it is far from a “Nation of Priests.”  Jewish Community officialdom, from the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, on down, would keep us in the shadows of denial.  It is an act of courage to open the eyes; and  more so, to say what you see.  Help is needed.

The article ends with a quote from George Orwell:  ” ‘Who controls the past, controls the future.  Who controls the present controls the past.’ [277]   Perhaps by rediscovering the past, we’ll gain control of the present, and save the future.”

i would be gratified, and challenged, to hear comments and replies.  i would welcome another Yom Kippur discussion on “Israel:  the ecstasy and the agony, Is Israel a Jewish State?” Perhaps a different title would better express what needs to be discussed.  I hope, this year,  more than one person would desire to participate.

L’Shanah Tova.

alan haber, eliyahu

The History of US-Israel Relations
Against Our Better Judgment 

The hidden history of how the United States was used to create Israel

[ photo omitted of Louis Brandeis, Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise, founding secretary of the American Federation of Zionists, and Nathan Straus, co-owner of Macy’s ]

by Alison Weir
April 18, 2013
Alison Weir is Executive Director If Americans Knew and President of the Council for the National Interest. She is available to give presentations on this topic and can be reached at contact@

Th[e above link is to] an uncorrected proof of an upcoming book; in addition to finalizing footnotes, additional information is still being added.  We feel the information is so important that we are distributing this version ahead of time.



Dear Ed,

I am full of admiration for all you accomplish and want
to thank you for taking time for a personal note
but also wonder if you read far enough to see the (what I — an agnostic, but raised in
association with a a series of Christian denominations– would call) Talmudic adroitness
with which Alan Haber argues his case for Alice Walker?
also:  isn’t it BECAUSE he himself is devout, that — again, as I would have thought —
his request to religious Jews (according to him, for a Jew to say “who cares” is
impermissible), to read the advance distribution of a book by Alison Weir (!) would
have all the more meaning and impact ?
warm good wishes

The History of US-Israel Relations

Against Our Better Judgment 

The hidden history of how the United States was used to create Israel

his appeal to Center for Education of Women at his university, to reconsider its denial of Alice Walker: