Under Darkness

Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-203456 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #: 1121
Rows of bodies of dead inmates fill the yard of Lager Nordhausen, a Gestapo concentration camp. This photo shows less than half of the bodies of the several hundred inmates who died of starvation or were shot by Gestapo men. Germany, April 12, 1945. Myers. (U.S. Army)

By konigludwig

They came without warning late one night in 1943 and took 7 year-old Rebekkah Dunst and her parents from their home. The next day my mother cried and cried. Her older brothers too. Rebekkah had been my mother’s best friend. My grandmother wept bitterly for the Dunst family. They had been close neighbors, good friends, kind, decent and gentle people. They had done nothing wrong. Nothing.

My mother and her brothers were warned by my grandmother not to be seen crying for the Dunst family in public. In Nazi Germany, to show empathy for Jews, foreigners, the disabled, homosexuals, or anyone else who didn’t represent the Nazi ideal of an ethnically pure and glorious Greater Germany revealed a moral weakness that was not to be tolerated nor excused. The slightest sign of nonconformity was dangerous. Germans were afraid. Everyone was afraid. Not just Jews.

My grandfather was a soldier in the German Wehrmacht. His family had lived in Germany since 1482. But that did not stop the Gestapo from ransacking my grandmother’s house, a German soldier’s home, on several occasions. My uncles were in the Hitler youth but that did not matter either.

They were looking for letters from my grandfather’s brother and sister, who had emigrated to Brazil when the Nazis first came to power in Germany. Even possessing a simple letter from someone whose loyalty to the Third Reich was suspect could be a death warrant.

And so here we are again. We have failed to learn the lessons of history. We have elected a president openly supported by Nazis and White Supremacists–a man who has refused to disavow their support–and who now finalizes plans to “relocate” millions of Hispanic immigrants and to forcibly register millions of Muslim-Americans. Suddenly, the American Right is no longer preoccupied with our constitutional guarantee of Freedom of Religion nor their abstract fears of imagined government concentration camps.

The majority of Germans didn’t vote for Hitler. But now, like then, a great nation has lost its moral compass, and the long established relations of the civilized world have been suddenly swept in a single night into an abyss of pure darkness.

Ⓒ 2016 by konigludwig

What I Saw Last Friday in Hebron

Palestinians asked American Jews to join them in a ‘Freedom Summer.’ The result was extraordinary.

Peace activists clean around Palestinian houses as Israeli army soldiers stand guard in Tal Rumaida, Hebron, West Bank, July 15, 2016. Credit: Mussa Qawasma, Reuters
Peace activists clean around Palestinian houses as Israeli army soldiers stand guard in Tal Rumaida, Hebron, West Bank, July 15, 2016. Credit: Mussa Qawasma, Reuters

By Peter Beinart

Jawad Abu Aisha owns a cluttered yard in H2, the sector of Hebron that falls under direct Israeli control. He’d like to turn it into a cinema. Many local Palestinians — lacking recreational opportunities — would like to help him. But Abu Aisha says that Jewish settlers, and the Israeli military, prevent him from developing the space. In a democracy, if your neighbors impede construction on your property, you can appeal to local authorities. But for Palestinians in Hebron, Israel is not a democracy. They can’t vote for its government. They live under military law. So when settlers disrupt Palestinian construction on privately owned Palestinian land — as part of their effort to make Palestinian life in H2 so unbearable that Palestinians leave — the army and police do their bidding. The army and police, after all, are accountable to Israeli citizens. And in Hebron, as throughout the West Bank, Jewish settlers are citizens. Palestinians are subjects.

I saw this firsthand last Friday when I left a family vacation in Israel to join 52 Jewish activists, mostly from the Diaspora, on a trip to Hebron organized by the Center for Jewish Nonviolence and the anti-occupation collective, All That’s Left. We came at the request of a group called Youth Against Settlements. It’s burly, charismatic leader, a student of Gandhi and Martin Luther King named Issa Amro, asked Diaspora Jews to come and help clear Abu Aisha’s yard. He didn’t need American Jewish muscle. He needed American Jewish privilege, the privilege that gives American Jews protection from the Israeli state. Issa hoped that privilege would buy his group a few hours of uninterrupted yard work. He also hoped it would bring them publicity.

Think of Issa as a Palestinian Robert Moses. By 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had been working for years to register African Americans in Mississippi to vote. But local whites brutalized them, often aided by the police. So Moses recruited northern white kids to come south for “Freedom Summer.” He hoped the media would follow, and that once white Americans saw segregation’s true face, they’d push their politicians to support civil rights. Among the more than 1,000 activists who heeded Moses’ call were Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, college students from New York whose murder, alongside African American James Chaney, has become American Jewish legend.

I’ll never know what it felt like to be in Mississippi in 1964. But last Friday, watching dozens of twenty-something American Jewish kids (and a few older activists) haul junk in Abu Aisha’s yard in Hebron, I felt an unusual sensation: hope.

I felt hope because American Jewish Millennials are different. My generation, which came of age in the 1990s, didn’t build a single organization that challenged the American Jewish establishment on Israel. That’s partly because, during the Oslo era, we thought American, Israeli and Palestinian leaders would create a two-state solution on their own. But it’s also because the 1990s were a lost decade for the American activist left, an “ice age,” in Cornel West’s words.

Haaretz

Why Merav Michaeli Is Upbeat About the Israeli Left

 Photograph via flickr
Photograph via flickr

Merav Michaeli, the Israeli journalist and women’s rights activist-turned-Knesset member for the Labor Party, is a sign of hope for a progressive future in Israel. Last Tuesday, she tried to convince an exclusive crowd of worried Jewish leftists gathered in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that there was hope for the upcoming elections and for the future of a democratic Israel. The talk was sponsored by the progressive Zionist organization Ameinu, and also included journalists, professors, high-ranking members of the New Israel Fund and Encounter, along with representatives from Hillel, Habonim Dror, and others. What followed was a passionate, sometimes heated, and surprisingly optimistic discussion of the future of the Jewish State and the role American Jews can play.

*The first question asked was about the nationality bill, the controversial proposed law to officially declare Israel the “Nation-State of the Jewish People.” This question proved an easy one—since there is no Knesset, there will be no nationality bill. When there is a new Knesset, its makeup will likely be so different that it won’t even be proposed again.

*On the coming elections slated for March 17: Though the mood in the room suggested I was not alone in hearing virtually nothing but terrifying predictions of a rout by the right and another term for Netanyahu, if not a first term for the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party’s Naftali Bennett, she was hopeful. For the first time in a long time, she said, there was actually a good chance a center-left coalition headed by her Labor Party will take power, meaning Labor leader Isaac Herzog and not Bibi Netanyahu would be Prime Minister. “The feeling towards Netanyahu right now, there is so much grudge and hatred, people are sick of him. His approval ratings are very, very low,” she said.

To capitalize on this, Labor is busy forming a center-left bloc of parties that will include the recently-fired former justice minister Tzipi Livni and former defense secretary and chief of staff Shaul Mofaz to give Herzog an additional vote of confidence among the public. Though the political climate in Israel is notoriously quick to change, polls show that if the election were held today, this coalition would win the majority of votes. The goal, she said, is to create, “One address for people who want to restore a more democratic Israel, one that works towards narrowing gaps in society.”

Read more at The Jewish Daily Forward

U.S. Religious Leaders Embrace Cause of Immigrant Children

Father Jack Barker of St. Martha’s Catholic Church in Murrieta, Calif., spoke at a vigil.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

By Michael Paulson in The New York Times

After protesters shouting “Go home” turned back busloads of immigrant mothers and children in Murrieta, Calif., a furious Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, sat down at his notepad and drafted a blog post detailing his shame at the episode, writing, “It was un-American; it was unbiblical; it was inhumane.”

When the governor of Iowa, Terry E. Branstad, said he did not want the migrants in his state, declaring, “We can’t accept every child in the world who has problems,” clergy members in Des Moines held a prayer vigil at a United Methodist Church to demonstrate their desire to make room for the refugees.

The United States’ response to the arrival of tens of thousands of migrant children, many of them fleeing violence and exploitation in Central America, has been symbolized by an angry pushback from citizens and local officials who have channeled their outrage over illegal immigration into opposition to proposed shelter sites. But around the nation, an array of religious leaders are trying to mobilize support for the children, saying the nation can and should welcome them.

Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist Convention leader, recently took other officials to visit children at Texas detention centers. Credit Jennifer Whitney for The New York Times

“We’re talking about whether we’re going to stand at the border and tell children who are fleeing a burning building to go back inside,” said Rabbi Asher Knight of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, who said leaders of more than 100 faith organizations in his city had met last week to discuss how to help. He said that in his own congregation, some were comparing the flow of immigrant children to the Kindertransport, a rescue mission in the late 1930s that sent Jewish children from Nazi Germany to Britain for safekeeping.

“The question for us is: How do we want to be remembered, as yelling and screaming to go back, or as using the teachings of our traditions to have compassion and love and grace for the lives of God’s children?” Rabbi Knight said.

The backlash to the backlash is broad, from Unitarian Universalists and Quakers to evangelical Protestants. Among the most agitated are Catholic bishops, who have long allied with Republican politicians against abortion and same-sex marriage, and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, whose adherents tend to lean right.

“This is a crisis, and not simply a political crisis, but a moral one,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. On Tuesday, Mr. Moore led a delegation of Southern Baptist officials to visit refugee children at detention centers in San Antonio and McAllen, Tex. In an interview after the visit, Mr. Moore said that “the anger directed toward vulnerable children is deplorable and disgusting” and added: “The first thing is to make sure we understand these are not issues, these are persons. These children are made in the image of God, and we ought to respond to them with compassion, not with fear.”

Read more at The New York Times