Let Us Ring The Bell of Freedom of MLK

Time for some tough talk from a Rabbi.

I’m sick of hearing anti-Martin Luther King day kvetching from talking heads on radio and TV. Attempts to de-legitimize the holiday by focusing on allegations of MLK’s impropriety usually dominate the reactionary, empty-headed, mouthpieces that pass for cultural and political criticism today. I have heard some go so far as to claim that this day is illegitimate. It is legitimate to argue about what is the best way to commemorate the leading symbol of the Civil Rights struggle. It is fitting to discuss where we are today in relation to the battles of yesterday. It is time to make an accounting of the past and build for the future.

However, those cretins who seek to ignore, yeh to destroy, the legacy of MLK, and the national holiday which bears his name, are cantankerous ogres in search of legitimacy. They are venomous monsters who aim to not only destroy the good, the absolute righteousness that MLK fought for with words and deeds, but to revert America to a stratified, segregated, white-male dominated society, where women, minorities, and the disenfranchised ride in the back.

As Jews we have a moral obligation, a mitvah, to categorically reject these false-prophets which preach the hate and bigotry, whether th

ey wear a white klan outfit, or a three-piece-suit. As Jews we must utilize this day to make peace between nations, between Blacks and Jews, between natural allies, so that we can focus on the major battles of the day: ending genocides, stopping slavery in Sudan, fighting Islamic terror and ideology, providing food, shelter, and healthcare to the disenfranchised, the poor, the downtrodden.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Just Following Orders

A man is ordered to do a heinous act. Then when caught, he blames others. It is an old saga, and as I heard the defense on the Abu Ghraib Torture Case, it sent shivers down my spine. Spc. Charles Graner, who bears no regrets over the matter it appears, did the bidding of his superior officers.

How can anyone with a conscience or knowledge of right and wrong have such a defense? There are times when a person must act with his conscience, and if he knows something to be wrong, he must refuse to participate. Yes, he may pay a penalty, but the penalty is often minimal.

There was a study done by Christopher Browning, author of Ordinary men, and other historians about the killing squads of the Nazis. The infamous Eisatzgruppen that slaughtered men, women and children across Eastern Europe. Many of the men claimed that they were forced to do the work.

In a study of German documents, they found that any soldier that had refused to take part in the killing was transferred. They were not ordered on penalty of death to carry out their operations. On the contrary, those that couldn’t stomach the slaughter were placed in new companies and given more mundane work. The Nazis didn’t want moral folks on the front lines of the killing machine. They needed those who were just going to carry out the work. And of course, they catalogued their horrific crimes in documents, film, and photographs. Making the case against them easy to prosecute.

There is the famous Israeli army code called the Purity Of Arms, where a soldier has the right to refuse to carry out an order, even in war, without penalty of death. He may be imprisoned for refusing an order, but each episode will get a fair hearing. If the soldier was found to be disobeying an immoral and wrong order, they are released.

Once upon a time, if a soldier refused an order in warfare they would be summarily shot, and this holds true today in some armies. But there in Iraq, behind the walls of he prison, there was no such pressure on these soldiers. There was no ax held over their heads. The worst that could happen is they will go to jail for not listening. The penalty for this is much less that the 17 years that Graner should get for his crimes.

Now I am not advocating that we treat terrorists with five star accommodations. However, the abuse of the prisoners had nothing to do with getting them to reveal ticking-bomb type information. It was pure and sickening sadism, in the spirit of the worst offenders of modern times.

Graner, his friends, and his defense lawyers, after they loose this case, should have to sit through the hearings of the Nuremburg trial, where humanity, without hesitation, vetoed the notion that “a good soldier does the bidding of his officers.â€? If the order is evil, a soldier must refuse. Graner is not a Nazi. He tortured, performed sadistic acts, humiliated, and enjoyed his work— but did not murder them afterwards. However his defence teams’ plea leaves such a bad taste, and Graner appears so glib, saying “I feel fantastic,” to the press, that one cannot help but feel that his penalty should be so severe so as to send a clear message to the world: Graner was wrong and will pay the price.

Stop The Occupation of Euskara and Why Killing Jews is Fair Game

Spain manages to catch and convict nearly all the accomplices of the horrific bombings in Madrid. They manage to sweep the floor with Basque terrorists that have killed over 800 people in their efforts to get a Basque Homeland. This raises for me two fundamental, existential issues.

1) Why is it that the US, the superpower of world dominion, with the most sophisticated intelligence, cannot apprehend, and convict terrorists effectively? Even the sweeping Patriot act has not hastened the real-time apprehension of evildoers.
2) And why isn’t the Basque struggle for independence—for liberation from the evil occupation— the darling of the world? Why aren’t their leaders fêted and bathed in the glow that poured upon the evil Arafat, patron of death and deception? Is it because ETA kills Spaniards and the PLO kill Jews?

Without getting into the meat of Basque-dom, let it be known that the Basques have occupied more or less the same geographic area since the Romans, experienced political and national freedoms, and exhibit many characteristics of being a nation. While being today Catholic, thanks to forced conversion, they retain distinct ethnicity. They have peaceful arbiters of national determination, who proceed through legal grounds to achieve independence, and they have terrorists, among the most daring in the world, scaring the pants off the Spaniards. So in other words, they meet all the criteria that should qualify them for at least autonomy, and yet Spain makes this nearly impossible.

Lets juxtapose this with the Arab struggle for “freedom and self-liberationâ€? to achieve a homeland in what is known as Israel. Arabs have shared the land with Jews since they became Muslim about 1300 years ago. Long after the last Roman legion left town. There was never and local autonomous Arab political entity. The land was always controlled during their sojourn by regional empires. They rejected offers of independence and co-existence, instead focusing their cultural and religious fervor on the decimation of their enemies. Rather than being a distinct ethnic group, they are a modern concoction composed of nomadic peoples, and immigrants from the entire mid-east, Mediterranean region. They have the same language as people stretching across over a dozen countries, the same religion (save the small Christian population). They have waged a campaign of terror and destruction against the Jewish minority ever since Muslim dominion ended with the defeat of the Sultan’s Ottoman Empire. I guess the one thing that the Basques and the Arabs have in common is that they practice religion that was basically forced upon them, usurping indigenous religious icons and holy-places.

I have left many crucial variables out of this comparison. Life is complex and so are theses conflicts. However as a student of conflict (this is what I have studied since 1989) I am mystified how one struggle has become chic and the other marginal, one demanding of international action, UN resolutions, and boycotts, while the other simmers in obscurity, languishes in the halls of the EU, and has no international backers, not even the Pope.

The answer is that killing Jews is a legitimate practice, when the Jew is in the way. But when the person in the way is a fellow European, a fellow Christian, then we are outraged. In other words, terror works against Jews because the Jews’ death is a byproduct of our own supposed rejection of the Christianity and Islam. That the death of the Jew is at the hands of the murderous thugs, is just happenstance. The salient point is that the Jewish death is expected, no worse, inevitable. Where as when Europeans are killed at the hands of mountain-dwelling freedom fighters, the worlds is aghast.’

I will answer the first question in my next post.

The German Nazis were part of the plan to wipe out the Basques. Through coordination with fascist Franco, in the Spanish Civil War. On April 26, 1937, German planes bombed Guernica, the traditional Biscayne capital, the spiritual center of Basque life. It was like bombing Jerusalem or the Vatican. Much of the city was destroyed and a great deal of Basque history was erased.

Living Up To Our Potential – Life After The Tsunami

Amidst tragedy and devastation there are stories that glow with hope and optimism. The outpouring of aid is the greatest ever. More countries are helping more people than ever before, cutting across political, religious and social boundaries. While I have been lodged in despair, adrift in articles about the tsunami, and the victims, I have turned a corner to find the good, the pearls, the good. We can never replace what was lost, that which perishes can never be restored. Yet, we must seek the good, the brave, the task of the survivors, all of us, and how we respond. The test is upon us, not on those who meta watery death. The test is upon us to live up to the potential, the unbridled human potential for good.