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February 19, 2014

Museum Of Jewish Heritage In NY Bans Discussion of Truman’s Recognition of Israel: Too Controversial!

It is almost laughable. The organized Jewish community, which claims to
be worried about young Jews defecting in droves, just cannot help itself
from doing things that drive Jews (not just young ones) away. Between
supporting Netanyahu, advocating for war with Iran and maintaining the
occupation, and keeping silent as Israel evolves into a theocracy, it
also is in the business of preventing debate on all these things and

The latest is this. Phil Weiss reports that the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York has banned an appearance by New Republic journalist, John Judis, who has written a book
challenging the conventional wisdom about why President Truman
recognized Israel. The book argues that Truman recognized Israel in 1948
not because he was a fervent Zionist but because it was May of an
election year, he was trailing in the polls and he was heavily lobbied
by Zionists to do so. Shocking, right. Who would think that politics
would enter into a decision like that?

The museum (a museum, for heaven’s sake) has decided that this kind of
talk will not be permitted in its historically sacred halls. After
scheduling a talk by Judis, it cancelled it. (Obviously, after heavy
pressure from its donors who, like most organizational donors, are great
scholars who own many books).

Weiss asked the museum’s official spokesperson why the event was
cancelled. She said (this is not a joke):  “I looked into the situation
and here is our comment: We were interested in the book. We considered
it, but were concerned that the controversy would overshadow the
content. Therefore, we decided not to move forward with the event.”

The controversy? What controversy. The book is brand new and has barely
been reviewed yet. The spokesperson means that some donor called and
complained or, worse, the museum anticipates that some donor will

This is a museum banning historical discussion.

Of course, we are all accustomed to bans on free discussion at Jewish
venues. Peter Beinart ended up giving talks at local delicatessens and
the like because the censors kept him out of synagogues and Jewish
centers,  His book became a huge seller and a major force anyway. But
still. It’s the principle.

The organized Jewish community has lost its mind. Pretty soon, any
institution under any kind of Jewish auspices will have to abide by
speech limits set by the Jewish 1%. The 92nd Street Y already
does. (It will not allow any Palestinian to speak unless balanced by a
Jew). Brandeis wouldn’t permit President Carter to speak without a
simultaneous rebuttal by Dershowitz. Pretty soon, Mount Sinai hospital
will check what books patients are sneaking into their sick rooms.

Here is the craziest irony. Most of the censors are liberals. They
welcome discussions on U.S. racism, imperialism, unjust wars and the
like. They love panel discussions criticizing U.S. indifference to the
Holocaust. In fact, I never heard of a Jewish institution banning a
discussion on any matter relating to the United States because it is

But Israel!  Oh Lord no. Because the government of the State of Israel,
its policies and its official history is our Holy of Holies. Okay, I
shouldn’t say “our” because there is no “our” anymore. By “our” I mean
the millionaires and billionaires who run the community.

No wonder the organized community is going down the tubes. Soon we will
need a museum just to remind us what it was. And that is probably a good


Egypt’s On Its Way Back to Autocracy (And Is Cheered On By Nearly Everyone)

Rogue Geopolitics

The biggest and most populous Arab country just voted to slip back to autocracy.  From the chaotic maw the people yearn for a Caesar.  If they keep on yearning, they will get him.

The actual constitution looks harmless enough – except for one massive oversight, where the military continues to remain above reproach and outside civilian control.  The door is open for a democracy not all that different from Turkey a few years back – one that will function only as long as the military allows it.  The dust is finally settling in Egypt; with thousands of Muslim Brothers dead or imprisoned, the struggle over the future of the country is apparently firmly in the hands of the military.

And it seems just about everyone minus the Muslim Brotherhood is pleased.

What’s been learned from all this, and where’s Egypt likely going?  Sounds like fun to me.


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Palestine 1896

A film footage of Palestine in 1896 was recently published online thanks to Lobster Films. It shows Palestinians of all faiths – Christians, Jews and Muslims – living side by side, and praying side by side. I transcribed the narration below.

15 years later, the cinema is taking its first steps. Cameramen employed by the Lumiere Brothers filming in Jerusalem’s station, provide the first moving pictures taken in Palestine. From now on, the camera’s a recording eye and what it records is this: A society much like that of Cairo, Damascus, or Beirut, in an Arab city much like any other.

By the end of the 19th century, Palestine has 500,000 inhabitants, of whom 30,000 live in Jerusalem. A veiled woman, a Sunni Muslim, one of the majority. An orthodox Jew. He too turns away from the camera. Here we have an Armenian pope. Each of the Christian denominations has its church here in the holy city. The holy places of the three religions are scattered across a few hundred square meters. The Great Mosque is close to Christ’s tomb. Further along at the foot of the wailing wall, a Jew is reciting a prayer. He is wearing a Turkish tarboush, and although he prays in Hebrew his everyday language is Arabic. Jews form half the population of Jerusalem, but in the country as a whole they make up less than 5% of the total. Christians account for 10% and Muslims 85%. All of them are subjects of the Sultan of Constantinople. There are no frontiers in the Ottoman Empire. There are administrative divisions in which, in this immense territory, Palestine occupies a mere 27,000 square kilometers, made up of three small districts, in the south of the province of Damascus. 

According to the Electronic Intifada’s Jalal Abukhater, the film was recovered in Paris, February 2007.

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