Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Former Auschwitz guard, 94, convicted as accessory to murder


LUENEBURG, Germany (AP) — A 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted Wednesday on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder and given a four-year sentence. 
Oskar Groening testified during his trial at the state court in Lueneburg, in northern Germany, that he guarded prisoners' baggage after they arrived at Auschwitz and collected money stolen from them. Prosecutors said that amounted to helping the death camp function. 
The charges against Groening related to a period between May and July 1944 when hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hungary were brought to the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in Nazi-occupied Poland. Most were immediately gassed to death. 
Unusually for trials of former Nazi camp guards, Groening has been open about his past throughout the proceedings. 
Groening said when his trial opened in April that he bears a share of the moral guilt for atrocities at the camp but that it was up to judges to determine whether he is guilty under criminal law. 
In their verdict, judges went beyond the 3 ½-year sentence prosecutors had sought. Groening's defense team had called for him to be acquitted, arguing that as far as the law is concerned he did not facilitate mass murder.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What's the "correct narrative" now for the 7/7/05 terrorist attacks in London?

Excellent essay by Howard Jacobson, in the Independent, 
“We need a counter-narrative.” How often have we heard that since 7/7? We need to tell a better story to those young British Muslims for whom bombs and beheadings hold a greater allure than anything we have to offer. Someone’s seducing them away with a narrative of lies, so we must seduce them back again with a narrative of truth.... 
The Government’s proposed hymn to British values is equally naiive. Man wakes up, kisses wife (but not in a homophobic sort of way), reads chapter of Magna Carta aloud to family, goes bareheaded to work, eats humanely killed pork sandwich, practises sundry acts of tolerance, returns home to gin and tonic, prays unfanatically to secular god, and goes to sleep thinking of the Royal Family. Indubitably, there are worse ways of getting through the tedium of existence, but as a narrative this one’s unlikely to prevail against millenarian fantasy and a plentiful supply of virgins. In a battle of facile narratives, the one with more action wins. 
But why must it be a choice, anyway, between blowing people up on buses and a docile embrace of British values to which very few Britons of any faith or temper subscribe? Extreme views can kill, but disagreement is the breath of life. Non-conformity has always been one of the great British virtues, and that includes non-conformity to things British. The terrorist isn’t a problem because he doesn’t conform; he’s a problem because he does. It’s what he conforms to that makes him dangerous.

In memory of the victims of the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks in London on 7/7/2005


From the BBC, July 7, 2015:
Services have been held to remember the "ocean of pain" caused by the London bombings, in which 52 people died and more than 700 were hurt a decade ago. 
A minute's silence was observed as survivors and relatives of the victims gathered at St Paul's Cathedral. Petals fell from the dome as the Bishop of London said the Tube and bus attacks had united a city in "agonised outcry". 
In Hyde Park, one survivor, Emma Craig, told crowds: "It may not have broken London, but it did break some of us." 
The bombing of three Tube trains and a bus - carried out by four bombers linked to al-Qaeda carrying rucksacks of explosives - was the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil. 
At just after 08:50 on 7 July 2005, three explosions took place on the Underground - 26 people died at Russell Square, six at Edgware Road and seven at Aldgate. Almost an hour later, a fourth device was set off on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, killing 13 people.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mark Dankof, antisemitic Lutheran pastor, blames Jews for same-sex marriage

According to Lutheran Minister, Mark Dankof, Jews are to blame for the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. (Why not? We're to blame for everything else, if you believe antisemites).

Pink News (UK gay paper) reported on his recent interview with Press TV (the Iranian regime's propaganda television station) about the Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage in the US: Christian minister blames the Jews for America getting equal marriage.
A Christian pastor and activist has blamed Jewish people for the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of same-sex marriage. 
Mark Dankof, a Lutheran, made the claims in an interview with Iran’s Press TV.
As well as same-sex marriage, Dankof attributed “victories for abortion on demand” to “Jewish power, money and activism.” 
“It should not be ignored that the victories for abortion on demand and LGBT rights are reflective of the disproportionate influence of Jewish power, money, and activism in the United States,” Dankof said.
From checking out Dankof on Google News, it appears that he is a regular contributor to Press TV. He thinks that the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo staff was a "false flag operation," and that the "Israel lobby controls US politics," etc. He's a buddy of David Duke, the former Klansman, Neo-Nazi, and antisemite. He is, of course, a 9-11 Truther, and frequently posts a photo of the World Trace Center towers in flame, with an Israeli flag in the upper right corner of the photo.

On one of his websites, however, he has an article called The Iran of Old (from 2002) which makes his current involvement with Press TV very strange. He writes: "The Land of Persia is presently ruled by a cadre of thugs in the guise of an Islamic Republic. The cabal of Mullahs and their trail of oppression, murder, and terror is plainly visible except to the blind by choice."

If he believes that, why is constantly being interviewed by Press TV?

On his blog (mark1marti2.wordpress.com), he has posts of his interviews with Press TV and others, interspersed with the occasional theological essay (he is a Lutheran minister). The article available at that link will also be published in a publication called "Table Talk," from the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod, a conservative Lutheran congregational organization.

In another sermon, given at the annual convention of the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod, it is clear that he believes that Christianity superseded Judaism, and he makes his argument in racial terms.
The New Testament and I Peter 2: 9-10 as a part of that corpus, explicit reject the notion that the Chosen People of God and the Kingdom of God itself, are rooted in notions of racial supremacy, racial identification, nationalism, military power, political power, or economic supremacy.  Jesus makes this clear in his debate with the Pharisees in John 8: 31-58.  Modern Christian Zionism, based in these false assumptions and in the 19th century eschatological inventions of John Nelson Darby and the Scofield Reference Bible..., has resurrected the very false teachings surrounding the Kingdom, the Covenants, Obedience, and Racial Identification that permeated the thinking of the Pharisees in John 8 and those who called for the release of Barabbas on the night of the Savior’s betrayal (Matthew 27:25). 
This is why Peter uses 2: 9-10 to reiterate what Paul says in Ephesians 1:4 when he states that “. . . He [God the Father] chose us in Him [God the Son, Jesus Christ] before the foundation of the world . . .” Peter now tells believers in Christ who are racial Gentiles who were “once not a people” that they are “now the people of God” (I Peter 2: 10).  He assures his audience that, “Once you [Gentiles] had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 
Peter now applies the terms and the concepts of Old Testament Judaism to Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ (verse 9). They are now a “Chosen People.” They are now members of a Royal Priesthood [of all believers in Jesus Christ], and are a “Holy Nation” and a “People Belonging to God.” The Apostle’s application of these terms and concepts to Gentile Christians is fraught with impending spiritual and political irony. After Peter’s death by crucifixion in A. D. 68 in Rome, it would only be two years before the Romans would visit Jerusalem in a fashion reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar in the Sixth Century B. C., and would destroy yet another Jewish Temple on Tisha B’Av (August 9th) in the year A. D. 70. The notion of National and Racial Judah as the Chosen People of God in the New Testament Era had come to a catastrophic end, never to be resurrected again (Matthew 21: 19 and Mark 11: 14).
"Racial identification" of the Pharisees? "Racial gentiles"? "Racial Judah"? These are terms I would expect to be used by a Nazi clergyman from Germany in 1933-1945, not by a man ordained in the Lutheran Church who is preaching in 2015.

In a post from 2013, Dankof refers to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) as the "synagogue of Satan" (a phrase found in the book of Revelation 1:9, 2:9-10, and 3:8-9). He writes about "Talmudic racial supremacy," and blames a "Zionist-run America" for the legalization of abortion, for homosexuality, and for an America "soaked in lawless and violence."

It appears that Dankof's antisemitism is based both on a Christian supercessionist reading of the New Testament and on racial antisemitism, mixed with his adherence to American paleoconservatism and devotion to a wide range of conspiracy theories about the 9-11 attacks, Zionists, the Rothschilds, and AIPAC.

Update: Seismic Shock reported in 2008 that Stephen Sizer had appeared on Dankof's radio show. Joe W (author of Seismic Shock) reported on Harry's Place in 2011 about Sizer's appearance on the radio show. The ADL also reports on Dankof's appearances on Press TV, in 2015.
_____________________________________________________________________________

When I searched for more information about Dankof on Google News (searching on Google.de), I found that the list of articles by or about him included this notice:
The notice at ChillingEffects.org reads:
My guess is that there is an article by or about him on a banned Neo-Nazi site, probably Stormfront.

In 2002, the government in Nordrhein-Westfalen (where Bochum is located) decided to ban access to Stormfront via any of the local ISPs, according to Online Hate Speech Regulation in the United States and Europe, p. 173.

When I try to access Stormfront directly, this is the message I get:
The content of the website is prohibited by German law.

Lock available from 12-FEB-2002
21:50:30 AZ of district government Dusseldorf
Ordnungsrechtl. Procedures for breaches of the MdStV

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I'm going to be at the Jerusalem LGBT Pride March this year!

I just discovered that the Jerusalem Pride March is happening while I'll be visiting Israel in late July-early August.

Here are the details from the הבית הפתוח (Open House):


Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance – July 30th, 2015

Where: Independence Park (Gan HaAtzma'ut) to Liberty Bell Park (Gan HaPa'amon)

When: 
5:00 – 6:00 – Assembling at Independence Park (Gan HaAtsma'ut).
6:00 – 7:30 – Marching on Agron St., Keren HaYesod St.
7:30 – 9:00 – Pride Rally in Liberty Bell Park (Gan HaPa'amon).
9:00 – concert at HaTachana Compound and parties in Jerusalem.

Route:
Independence Park (Gan HaAtsma'ut)
Agron Street.
Keren HaYesod Street.
Liberty Bell Park (Gan HaPa'amon).

Come march with us!
  
Transforming Jerusalem

This year has been an impressive milestone for the transgender community so far. Among violent acts, extreme social exclusion and institutional discrimination, year 2015 was also filled with light: President Barack Obama was the first US President to mention the transgender (and LGBT) community in his annual SOTU speech, Caitlyn Jenner – once an Olympic athlete named Bruce and now a transitioned woman has emerged, and it's hard to impossible to imagine the successful Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" without its transgender supporting actress Laverne Cox.

Transgender visibility and public awareness to their struggle have also risen throughout 2015, as gender identity and diversity have slowly paced towards mainstream media. Pride Parades all over Israel are being dedicated to the transgender struggle. The Israeli Prime Minister gave a blessing to the LGBT Community. The Israeli President declared, "The freedom from fear, violent actions and bullying belongs to every man and woman, from one gender or another, or to those challenge gender boundaries." The National Labor Court has ruled gender identity related discrimination prohibited under the Israeli Law.

The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance will speak clearly against transphobia and social exclusion of transgender people among Israeli society. We will declare our opposition to any kind of discrimination – in workplaces and public service systems. We will speak up for men, women and others on the transgender spectrum who face extreme difficulties. The March will endorse transgender visibility and gender diversity, explaining that gender is much more than "one or the other". We invite the Transgender and LGBT Community from all across Israel to Jerusalem – the Israeli capital and a symbol of diversity and coexistence under the same sky – encouraging true partnership and harmony.

The March will begin at the Independence Park (Gan HaAtsma'ut) and end in Liberty Bell Park (Gan HaPa'amon). We will fight for our rights and celebrate Jerusalem as the multicultural city which belongs to everyone regardless of identity, including transgender, genderqueer, bisexual, homosexual, lesbian, and Straight people. We will pay them the same respect we expect for ourselves.
We invite people of all ages, sexes and gender identities to march with us. Jerusalemites and others who live in our little piece of land in the Middle East, supporters of the Transgender and LGBT cause from Israel and all over the world – come and join us. Come to take part in the Transgender and LGBT struggle.

The Jerusalem March for Pride and Tolerance will take place for the 14th time. Come to march with your heads up, flags lifted and out of an honest will for change, because we the local Transgender and LGBT Community deserves a better Jerusalem in a better Israel.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The winding trail to legalizing same-sex marriage

I never thought this day would come. 

In the mid-1970s, when I was first coming out, it wasn't even a dream. In Massachusetts, where I was living, sex between persons of the same gender was illegal. In the words of the the relevant state statute (it's still on the books, but it's moot, since the Supreme Court voided all of the anti-sodomy laws in 2003): 
Section 34. Whoever commits the abominable and detestable crime against nature, either with mankind or with a beast, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years.
I remember going to the Boston gay pride march in June of 1977. As I recall, fewer than 20,000 people attended the march and rally. At the rally, Charley Shively, a local gay activist, got up and denounced all of the institutions that oppressed gay people, and then he burned his "Harvard diploma, his draft card, and pages from a copy of the Bible."

Alexander Cockburn reports on the rally in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era, p. 235:


I don't recall anyone talking about gay marriage at all - in fact, the atmosphere was quite different from what it is today. People wanted liberation, not just "rights," and liberation included smashing oppressive institutions like marriage. That didn't change for quite a while. 

First came commitment ceremonies. Many of my heterosexual friends got married in the 1980s - I went to a host of fun Jewish weddings, but wondered when we would be celebrating same-sex relationships. I can't remember the first one I went to, whether it was in the late 1980s or the early 1990s. They were designed to be a lesbian counterpart of the traditional Jewish wedding - some of them hewed very closely to the traditional ceremony, except for changing some of the words that didn't apply to a same sex wedding, while others were inspired by Jewish weddings (for example, using a huppah - a wedding canopy) but incorporated a lot of changes. (I still haven't been to a wedding between two men).

Simultaneous with those first ceremonies was the "lesbian baby boom," another thing that no one had anticipated. Of course, lesbians had always had children, usually because they had them from a previous heterosexual marriage, but this was something new. People had to figure out how to unite sperm and egg in new ways - one method was the turkey baster. The sperm donor (in the early years, this was often a friend of the couple) would produce the sperm and then the woman would put it into her vagina (I don't actually know if any of my friends used a turkey baster), and wait and hope for conception.

Then, sometime in the 1990s, people started talking about gay marriage. I wasn't very excited about it at first. For one thing, I was single, and it didn't seem so relevant, and for another thing, I was still inspired by the early gay liberation movement's antipathy to marriage. Anti-sodomy laws were still on the books in most states, and there were very few state-wide anti-discrimination laws (there still is no federal anti-discrimination statute that includes LGBT people). My thought was - let's deal with the anti-sodomy laws and the anti-discrimination laws, and then work on same-sex marriage. But obviously that's not how a lot of people felt, who were very energized to work on legalizing same-sex marriage.

And so we come to yesterday:


And to the rainbow flag projected onto the front of the White House. I really never imagined that!


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning"

Some quotes that particularly struck me from this article by Claudia Rankine, ‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning’.
I asked another friend what it’s like being the mother of a black son. “The condition of black life is one of mourning,” she said bluntly. For her, mourning lived in real time inside her and her son’s reality: At any moment she might lose her reason for living. 
Though the white liberal imagination likes to feel temporarily bad about black suffering, there really is no mode of empathy that can replicate the daily strain of knowing that as a black person you can be killed for simply being black: no hands in your pockets, no playing music, no sudden movements, no driving your car, no walking at night, no walking in the day, no turning onto this street, no entering this building, no standing your ground, no standing here, no standing there, no talking back, no playing with toy guns, no living while black....
But Dylann Storm Roof did not create himself from nothing. He has grown up with the rhetoric and orientation of racism.... 
He, along with the rest of us, has been living with slain black bodies....
We live in a country where Americans assimilate corpses in their daily comings and goings. Dead blacks are a part of normal life here. Dying in ship hulls, tossed into the Atlantic, hanging from trees, beaten, shot in churches, gunned down by the police or warehoused in prisons: Historically, there is no quotidian without the enslaved, chained or dead black body to gaze upon or to hear about or to position a self against....
Black Lives Matter, the movement founded by the activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, began with the premise that the incommensurable experiences of systemic racism creates an unequal playing field. The American imagination has never been able to fully recover from its white-supremacist beginnings. Consequently, our laws and attitudes have been straining against the devaluation of the black body. Despite good intentions, the associations of blackness with inarticulate, bestial criminality persist beneath the appearance of white civility....
The American tendency to normalize situations by centralizing whiteness was consciously or unconsciously demonstrated again when certain whites, like the president of Smith College, sought to alter the language of “Black Lives Matter” to “All Lives Matter.”....
The unarmed, slain black bodies in public spaces turn grief into our everyday feeling that something is wrong everywhere and all the time, even if locally things appear normal. Having coffee, walking the dog, reading the paper, taking the elevator to the office, dropping the kids off at school: All of this good life is surrounded by the ambient feeling that at any given moment, a black person is being killed in the street or in his home by the armed hatred of a fellow American....
The truth, as I see it, is that if black men and women, black boys and girls, mattered, if we were seen as living, we would not be dying simply because whites don’t like us. Our deaths inside a system of racism existed before we were born. The legacy of black bodies as property and subsequently three-fifths human continues to pollute the white imagination....
The Charleston murders alerted us to the reality that a system so steeped in anti-black racism means that on any given day it can be open season on any black person — old or young, man, woman or child. There exists no equivalent reality for white Americans. The Confederate battle flag continues to fly at South Carolina’s statehouse as a reminder of a history marked by lynched black bodies. We can distance ourselves from this fact until the next horrific killing, but we won’t be able to outrun it. History’s authority over us is not broken by maintaining a silence about its continued effects.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Why does the US not remember its history of racism and slavery?

In the regional archaeological museum: part of the fence from the concentration camp in Witten.
I was just thinking about how differently the United States and Germany have dealt with the memory of the traumatic past. In the United States, we still sweep under the rug many of the racist acts that have occurred since and before our country's founding. For just one example, there are very few memorials to the thousands of lynchings that occurred since the end of the Civil War. According to the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, "there were 3959 lynchings of black people in twelve Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950, which is at least 700 more lynchings in these states than previously reported." 

Bowls and cutlery that belonged to the
inmates of the concentration camp in Witten.
The twelve southern states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louis-iana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Stolpersteine in Bochum.
As the report by the EJI states, "Most Southern ter-ror lynching victims were killed on sites that remain unmarked and unrecognized. The Southern landscape is cluttered with plaques, statues, and monuments that record, celebrate, and lionize generations of American defenders of white supremacy, including public officials and private citizens who perpetrated violent crimes against black citizens during the era of racial terror. The absence of a prominent public memorial acknowledging racial terrorism is a powerful statement about our failure to value the African Americans who were killed or gravely wounded in this brutal campaign of racial violence. National commemoration of the atrocities inflicted on African Americans during decades of racial terrorism would begin building trust between the survivors of racial terrorism and the governments and legal systems that failed to protect them."

Stolpersteine in Worms



Germany, on the other hand, is full of memorials to the Holocaust. There are Stolpersteine in most German cities and towns, marking where Jews lived before the Holocaust and from where they were taken away to be killed. In Bochum, there is a memorial to the synagogue that was destroyed on November 9-10, 1938. There is a memorial in Witten, right next to Bochum, of the place where a concentration was built in the city to incarcerate forced laborers. The Bochum city archive has an exhibit right now on forced laborers. There is a memorial in the city cemetery to the forced laborers who died here. As I have previously written, the regional archaeological museum, which covers history until 1945, includes a small exhibit on the concentration camp in Witten, which anyone who visits the museum will see.

Why have we not done the same thing in the United States?

Below the fold is an excerpt from the EJI report on the continuing effects of lynching and the era of racial terrorism in the US, and demand that lynchings be recognized by the establishment of memorials.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

From Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. 

The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? 

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

The flag of treason and slavery flies high in South Carolina

The American flag and the South Caroline flag were lowered to half staff at the South Carolina statehouse today, in mourning for the nine African American people murdered yesterday by a racial terrorist.

But the Confederate battle flag, the flag of treason and slavery, remains at full staff.
Internet chatter lit up about the debate Thursday. 
“When you fly the Confederate flag in your state capital you are sanctioning this terrorism. Just FYI,” Roxane Gay said on Twitter. 
The “ubiquity of the Confederate flag in the South should be a source of shame/outrage. Not here for any lame-ass ‘history’ arguments,” said LadyHawkins, also on Twitter. 
Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down. 
State law reads, in part, the state “shall ensure that the flags authorized above shall be placed at all times as directed in this section and shall replace the flags at appropriate intervals as may be necessary due to wear.” 
The protection was added by supporters of the flag to keep it on display as an officially recognized memorial to South Carolinians who fought in the Civil War. Opponents say it defends a system that supported slavery and represents hate groups. 
In a show of respect, a brief recognition ceremony was held in the Senate chamber Thursday. The U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered from the dome. The square Confederate banner that’s in front of the building and on display at the Confederate monument was left alone.
We American white people like to think that our country is better than all the others in the world, that there is something "exceptional" about the United States. But consider: in the United States it is legal to fly the flag of treason and slavery, the flag of those who defended the inhuman system of slavery that lasted for hundreds of years. White people claim that they are defending their "heritage" when they fly it. The heritage of treason, the heritage of slavery, the heritage of the lash, the heritage of hatred, the heritage of selling children away from their parents and husbands away from their wives.

In Germany, where I am living this year, it is illegal to fly a Nazi flag or to give the Nazi salute. Public expressions of antisemitism are illegal. You can get arrested for doing these things.

Why do people still fly the Confederate flag proudly? They should be ashamed of it just as most Germans are ashamed of the Nazi flag and the crimes it stands for.

More on Rev'd Pinckney

The Rev. Clementa PinckneyThis is from the Pastor's Page of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, where Reverend Pinckney was pastor until he was murdered yesterday.

The Reverend Honorable Clementa C. Pinckney was born July 30, 1973, the son of Mr. John Pinckney and the late Theopia Stevenson Pinckney of Ridgeland, South Carolina. He was educated in the public schools of Jasper County. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Allen University with a degree in Business Administration. While there, Reverend Pinckney served as freshman class president, student body president, and senior class president.

Ebony Magazine recognized Rev. Pinckney as one of the "Top College Students in America". During his junior year, he received a Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Summer Research Fellowship in the fields of public policy and international affairs. He received a graduate fellowship to the University of South Carolina where he earned a Master's degree in public administration. He completed a Master's of Divinity from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

Rev. Pinckney answered the call to preach at the age of thirteen and received his first appointment to pastor at the age of eighteen. He has served the following charges: Young's Chapel-Irmo, The Port Royal Circuit, Mount Horr-Yonges Island, Presiding Elder of the Wateree District and Campbell Chapel, Bluffton. He serves as the pastor of historic Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina.

Rev. Pinckney was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of twenty-three. In 2000, he was elected to the State Senate at the age of twenty-seven. He is one of the youngest persons and the youngest African-American in South Carolina to be elected to the State Legislature. He represents Jasper, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, and Hampton Counties. His committee assignments include Senate Finance, Banking and Insurance, Transportation, Medical Affairs and Corrections and Penology. Washington Post columnist, David Broder, called Rev. Pinckney a "political spirit lifter for surprisingly not becoming cynical about politics."

Rev. Pinckney has served in other capacities in the state to include a college trustee and corporate board member. In May 2010, he delivered the Commencement Address for the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

He and his wife Jennifer have two children - Eliana and Malana.

Rev'd Pinckney on the Murder of Walter Scott

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney speaks at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C., 
June 3, 2014. 

Senator Clementa Pinckney on Walter Scott:
One of the victims of Wednesday's horrific shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was state Senator Clementa Pinckney, the church's pastor. Much has already been written about Pinckney's dedication to public service from a young age, and his rich life in the church. My colleagues are updating a full list of the nine victims as more information becomes available. In the meantime, here's another memorable moment from Pinckney's leadership in the South Carolina Senate. 
Back in May, the senator delivered this stirring (and now haunting) call to action following the death of Walter Scott—the unarmed black man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in North Charleston, just six miles north of where Pinckney and others were murdered. Here's Pinckney on the Senate floor, rallying support for the adoption of police body cameras. 
Transcript:
Today, the nation looks at South Carolina and is looking at us to see if we will rise to be the body, and to be the state that we really say that we are. Over this past week, many of us have seen on the television, have read in newspapers, and have seen all the reports about Walter Scott, who, in my words, was murdered in North Charleston. It has really created a real heartache and a yearning for justice for people, not just in the African American community, but for all people, and not just in the Charleston area, or even in South Carolina, but across our country. 
...But the next week, Thomas was there, Jesus walked in, he said, "I won't believe until I see the nails. I won't believe until I can put my hand in your side." And it was only when he was able to do that, he said, "I believe, my Lord and my God." 
Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, when we first heard on the television, that a police officer had gunned down an unarmed African American in North Charleston by the name of Walter Scott, there were some who said, "Wow. The national story has come home to South Carolina." But there were many who said, "There is no way that a police officer would ever shoot somebody in the back 6, 7, 8, times." 
But like Thomas, when we were able to see the video, and we were able to see the gun shots, and when we saw him fall to the ground, and when we saw the police officer come and handcuff him on the ground, without even trying to resuscitate him, without even seeing if he was really alive, without calling an ambulance, without calling for help, and to see him die face down in the ground as if he were gunned down like game, I believe we all were like Thomas, and said, "I believe." 
...We have a great opportunity to allow sunshine into this process. It is my hope that as South Carolina senators, that we will stand up for what is best and good about our state and really adopt this legislation and find a way to have body cameras in South Carolina. Our hearts go out to the Scott family, and our hearts go out to the Slager family, because the Lord teaches us to love all, and we pray that over time, that justice be done.

KKK, "League of the South," "Council of Conservative Citizens" all active in South Carolina

And for those who will, inevitably, claim the murderer of nine Black people yesterday was "mentally ill" and "not a terrorist," some reality about hate groups in South Carolina:

South Carolina is home to at least 19 known hate groups
South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flies on statehouse grounds, is a hotbed for racist hate groups....

Authorities have not so far named any hate groups in connection. But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are at least 19 known hate groups in the state, including two factions of the Ku Klux Klan and four white nationalist groups, NBC News reports. More than a dozen of the groups are based in racial hatred specifically.

Of the state’s six neo-Confederate groups, South Carolina is home to two branches of League of the South. They believe the South should secede and be run by whites, according to the SPLC’s website
The white separatist group Council of Conservative Citizens, opposed to racial integration, also operates in South Carolina, NBC News reports. Kyle Rogers, leader of that group, was quoted by the Post Courier in 2012 as saying that American blacks “are the most privileged members of their race” that “benefit greatly from the generosity of American whites, as they always have.” 
Last July, residents in the South Carolina city of Seneca awoke to find bags of candy containing notes asking them to join the KKK, according to the Associated Press
Violence from “far right” extremists is one of the top threats singled out by law enforcement agencies polled by the New York Times last year. Pointing that out was so politically fraught that Daryl Johnson, an expert in right wing terrorist groups left the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 after it dissolved his team, Wired reports.
“There’ve been no hearings about the rising white supremacist threat, but there’s been a long list of attacks over the last few years,” he told Wired. “But they still hold hearings about Muslim extremism. It’s out of balance.”
As I have repeatedly said about terrorism committed by jihadis - we need to look at the ideology that motivates people like this murderer to act. Whether or not he was "mentally ill," why did he choose to go to this particular church to kill people? This was not a random killing. It was targeted to hurt and kill African Americans.

#Charleston Massacre

I am so tired of waking up in the morning to the awful news that another evil man has committed mass murder in the United States. I am so tired of waking up to hear that another white person has murdered black people or other people of color in the United States. These are the names of the nine African-American people who were murdered last night at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, because they were African-American.
  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, a library branch manager
  • Susie Jackson, 87
  • Ethel Lance, 70
  • The Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
  • The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, the church’s pastor and a state senator
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26
  • The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74, who died at the hospital after the shooting
  • The Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45
  • Myra Thompson, 59
More on some of the victims:
Sen. Pinckney and Sanders were both alumni of Allen University. The university was founded soon after the American Civil War on the basis of the AME church. 
Sanders was a 2014 graduate of the Division of Business Administration. 
Rev. Sharonda Singleton was a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School in South Carolina. 
Hurd was a 31-year employee of the Charleston County Public Library. 
Thompson was a longtime member of the church and was teaching Bible study when she was killed. Her husband, Rev. Anthony Thompson, is one of the bishop's clergy members. 
Witnesses say the gunman stood up and declared he was there "to shoot black people." Another survivor told Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of Pinckney, that the shooter said, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
I'm not interested in knowing about the murderer. We spend too much talking about the perpetrators. Let's talk about the victims - the people we all lost today. Photos and some information about four of the victims of the #CharlestonMassacre.






On the church where they were killed: http://www.thenation.com/blog/210313/charlestons-mother-emanuel-church-has-stared-down-racist-violence-200-years

Mother Emanuel Church
Charles Blow on the massacre:



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Methodist Church missionary calls for boycott of Holocaust events

Good article on Elder Of Ziyon about a Methodist missionary, who spent over a decade in Israel and Palestine, who calls for boycott of Holocaust events. Her name is Janet Lahr Lewis, and she is the new "Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle East" for the United Methodist Church. She wrote in a recent article:
Don't participate in Holocaust Remembrance Day without participating in Al Nakba Remembrance Day. Don't visit a Holocaust museum until there is one built to remember the other holocausts in the world: the on-going Palestinian holocaust, the Rwandan, the Native American, the Cambodian, the Armenian ... You could be waiting a long time!
She wants people to remember the Nakba, but illogically calls for people not to honor the memory of the Jews and others killed by the Nazis. Her "pro-Palestinian" advocacy thus consists of antisemitism. It's ignorant, too - there is a Native American museum on the mall in Washington, which covers the history of Native peoples, including genocide, as well as being a truly magnificent museum of Native American culture and art. It is well worth visiting on its own.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum has an new exhibition on the Cambodian genocide - Cambodia 1975-1979. In addition, there are many memorials to the genocide in Cambodia itself. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, in Britain, also covers the genocide in Cambodia, as well as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. In Rwanda, there are also memorials to the genocide, including an important one in Kigali. There are also many memorials to the Armenian genocide around the world, both in Armenia itself and in countries of the Armenian diaspora, including one in Watertown, Massachusetts, close to where I grew up in Cambridge. There is a significant Armenian population in Watertown, and the memorial was put up in 1965.


Clearly, Ms.Lewis is abysmally ignorant of how the many peoples who have been subjected to genocide have remembered their own suffering. She is ignorant as well of museums and institutions that remember the Holocaust among the other instances of genocide and mass murder. It's rather appalling that the Methodist church thinks of her as an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Accusations of "dual loyalty" against Jews: Bernie Sanders on the Diane Rehm show (with update)

According to surveys by the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), about 30% of the American public believes that Jews are more loyal to Israel than they are to the United State. This is a figure that has not budged in several decades of polling. The ADL have done surveys of  "Anti-Semitic Propensities" since 1964, and in surveys from 1964, 1992, 1998, 2002, and 2005, 2009, 2011, between 30-35% of the respondents agreed with the statement that Jews are "More loyal to Israel than America." A report from 2011 (pdf) shows that "Since 1964, 30 percent of Americans have consistently believed that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America, despite the changing makeup of the US population."  When the ADL did a world survey, using the same questions, in 2014, they found that "The most widely accepted anti-Semitic stereotype worldwide is: 'Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country/the countries they live in.'" Of those surveyed around the world, 41% believed this statement to be "probably true." This was the most widely accepted stereotype in Western Europe (45%) and the Americas (38%).

I think this is the appropriate framework within which to understand the question that Diane Rehm asked Senator Bernie Sanders this morning on her radio show. In the middle of the interview ((Diane Rehm interviews Bernie Sanders), she asked about the statement that he had dual Israeli-American citizenship.

The report is from the Jewish Journal:
On a Wednesday morning broadcast, longtime NPR host Diane Rehm interviewed presidential candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and asked the Jewish self-described socialist some strange questions when it came to his connection with Israel.
Here’s the relevant exchange, which begins at about the 24-minute mark if you want to listen for yourself:

Diane Rehm: Senator, you have dual citizenship with Israel. 
Bernie Sanders: Well, no I do not have dual citizenship with Israel. I'm an American. I don't know where that question came from. I am an American citizen, and I have visited Israel on a couple of occasions. No, I'm an American citizen, period. 
Rehm: I understand from a list we have gotten that you were on that list. 
Sanders: No. 
Rehm: Forgive me if that is— 
Sanders: That's some of the nonsense that goes on in the internet. But that is absolutely not true. 
Rehm: Interesting. Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable? 
Sanders: I honestly don't know but I have read that on the internet. You know, my dad came to this country from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket. He loved this country. I am, you know, I got offended a little bit by that comment, and I know it's been on the internet. I am obviously an American citizen and I do not have any dual citizenship.
Right after this, the interview returns to Planet Earth. Rehm asks him about whether he supports a two-state solution. He answers by saying that the Palestinian people "deserve a state of their own" and that "Israel needs to live in security without terrorist attacks." He also reveals (no surprise) that he's not a fan of Netanyahu, and that he thinks that President Obama is doing the best he can in a difficult situation.

I'm trying to remember if anyone in the news media ever interviewed Joe Lieberman, either when he was running for vice president on the ticket with Al Gore, or when he was running for the Democratic nomination for president, and either assumed or asked him if he had Israeli citizenship. I don't remember this happening, and I'm sure that I would have noticed. The assumption that Bernie Sanders had dual citizenship is an example of the suspicion that Jews are not really full American citizens, that we have dual loyalty to the US and to our Jewish identity or the state of Israel.

It is a canard that goes back to the earliest years of Enlightenment and Emancipation, when the demand was made that for Jews to become equal citizens of European states, they had to lose entirely their Jewish distinctiveness and assimilate into European culture and society. When most Jews refused to do this, arguing that it was possible to be a loyal citizen of a state without ceasing to be a Jew, many people did not accept this. Jews were accused of forming a "state within a state" by the German philosopher J. G. Fichte. He feared that they could "undermine" the German nation. He wrote that Jews could only be granted civil rights, if it was possible "to cut off all their heads in one night, and to set new ones on their shoulders, which should contain not a single Jewish idea." (Quotations from the Wikipedia article on Fichte - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Gottlieb_Fichte).

So where did Diane get this weird idea? What "list" does she have? Is it as mythical as the "list" of American communists that Joe McCarthy waved around and claimed that they worked for the US government?

Jared Sichel, the author of the Jewish Journal article, writes further:
A cursory search on Google of “Bernie Sanders Israeli citizenship” shows that his name comes up in the comments section of the “We are all Vittorio Arrigoni” Facebook page. Arrigoni was an Italian pro-Palestinian activist who was kidnapped and murdered by non-Hamas Islamists in Gaza in April 2011. In the comments section of the Facebook page, on May 2 a user posted a list of senators and representatives who “have both Israel and U.S. citizenships.” Sanders is on the list. No source is given because the list is a total fabrication, not to mention created by an anti-Semite and anti-Zionist, which is given away by the fact that it says “Jewish Lobby”, “#israelwarcrime”, “AIPAC: Buying Congress one seat at a time”, “Rothschild”, and features an American flag with a Star of David replacing the 50 stars. 
If this is in fact the “list” that Rehm was referring to, it’s a remarkable feat of shoddy and lazy journalism.
TPM also has a short article on the interview: Diane Rehm Presses Sanders on Whether He's US-Israel Dual Citizen, and Josh Marshall has a good take on it:
Where did this come from? Today on the Diane Rehm Show, Rehm pressed Sen. Bernie Sanders on whether or not he is a US-Israeli dual citizen. He's not. After pressing the point and having him deny it, she shifted gears to "Are there members of Congress who do have dual citizenship or is that part of the fable?"

A lot of things that are offensive or maybe shocking are ... well, not really that shocking because look who the person is. Think of this as the Gohmert Principle. But this ... yes, I'm genuinely shocked. What was Rehm thinking? Saying she found it on "a list we have gotten" hardly inspires a lot of confidence. 
What particularly struck me about the back and forth is this: Rehm asks her question. Sanders denies it. She presses again. He denies it. At this point, maybe you figure she just got put in a really awkward position by an idiot researcher (though that's dubious because even a half-educated person would recognize the incendiary nature of the question), so she might say, well, I'm sorry we oblivious had some bad information there. But she doesn't. She asks about whether there are other members of Congress with dual citizenship. 
Bizarre.
The idea that Bernie Sanders has dual citizenship definitely comes from the world of antisemitic conspiracy theories. I just Googled his name and "dual citizenship" and came up with several websites. This one, from a website named "Co-Creating our Future on Planet Earth" posted several links to someone named Michael Ruark, who has lots of lists of supposed "dual citizens." He claims to have done his own "research," His criterion for someone being a dual citizen of Israel appears to be that that person is Jewish. His list includes all the Jewish members of the Obama administration, past and present and all the Jewish members of the House and Senate (that is, if they are all Jewish - I wouldn't depend on him for accuracy there either),

My guess is that a staffer for the Diane Rehm show came upon this list on an antisemitic site on the internet, did not recognize that it was an antisemitic site, printed it off, and handed it to her as part of the background information for her interview with Sanders. See below for update.

An article (entitled "Why It's Important for Us to Know: Dual Citizens in Congress) from that highly dubious website, Counterpunch, claims that when Jews visit Israel, they can automatically be granted Israeli citizenship and receive an Israeli identification number. The author, L. Michael Hager, writes:
The recent experience of Lenny Lapon, a Jewish American citizen from Massachusetts, shows how automatic the conferral of Israeli citizenship can be. As Lapon described it when he publically renounced that citizenship last July, his flight to Israel in October 2010 resulted in the award of Israeli citizenship and an Israeli identification number. Thus it is likely that Jewish members of Congress became Israeli citizens if and when they visited Israel. We don’t yet know if this was the case for any or all of the visiting Jewish Members. Nor do we know if any such member has renounced Israeli citizenship.
I can say from personal experience that merely being a Jew who flies to Israel will not get you Israeli citizenship. It's necessary to apply for Israeli citizenship, and part of the process is proving that one is Jewish.

The source of Hager's claim that Lenny Lapon spontaneously received Israeli citizenship when he flew to Israel comes from an article that Lapon published in Mondoweiss, about renouncing his Israeli citizenship. He writes: "On October 19, 2010 my plane landed in Israel and instantaneously I was awarded Israeli citizenship with identification card # 012706735, solely because I am Jewish." My guess is that Lapon went to Israel with the intention to make aliyah, that he had filled out the requisite paperwork and had been accepted to gain citizenship beforehand, and that he received his ID number and citizenship once he arrived at Ben Gurion airport. Hager read Lapon's article without knowing that he must have been approved for Israeli citizenship before he arrived, after having applied for it, probably with the mental assumption that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the US.

The questions I'm left with are- why did Diane Rehm think this was an appropriate or relevant question to ask? What would she have asked Sanders if he had said that he also had Israeli citizenship? Where was her question leading?

Update: Diane Rehm has now apologized, and said that "she had read that Sanders was a dual citizen in a Facebook comment but that she's happy to help put 'this rumor to rest.'"
"On today's show I made a mistake. Rather than asking Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders whether he had dual U.S./Israeli citizenship, as I had read in a comment on Facebook, I stated it as fact. He corrected me, saying he did not know where the question came from. I apologized immediately," Rehm said. "I want to apologize as well to all our listeners for having made an erroneous statement. I am sorry for the mistake. However, I am glad to play a role in putting this rumor to rest."
I was too eager to blame the clueless staffer - it turns out that Rehm herself was the one who didn't know what antisemitism was when it was staring her in the face.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

In the Forest of History

Yesterday, I visited the LWL-Museum für Archäologie (Westphalian State Museum of Archeology) in Herne (not far from Bochum). The oldest finds are from about 250,000 years ago, the most recent from 1945. It is set up in a unique way - the permanent exhibition is below ground, as if it were an archaeological excavation. Many of the finds are displayed as they would have appeared when the archaeologists first discovered them. I found the museum rather disturbing at several points, and especially at the end.

As you walk in, you first encounter the "Forest of History" - a number of enormous tree trunks, set up as if they were a wood, that were discovered under water or in gravel pits in this region. They are between 5,000-14,000 years old, and were preserved in the water.


You then wend your way along a path through the museum, traveling chronologically from the distant past until 1945.

In the beginning of the museum there are many many stone tools, if you're interested in seeing their development and the different kinds of stone tools.

Many of the exhibits are taken from excavated graves, and thus include many grave goods - everyday or luxurious objects that were placed into the grave. The museum covers the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and includes a couple of dioramas of small agricultural settlements.

Model of an ancient agricultural settlement.
Model of another agricultural community, from the first millennium BCE.
Other finds, from between the sixth and the fourth millennium BCE, included a large variety of earthenware pots, some plain, some decorated.

Sixth millennium pots. The large pot in the middle has some interesting incised designs.
Fourth millennium pots.
The exhibits showed the transition from solely earthenware vessels to bronze and then iron objects. Bronze itself could not be manufactured in this area, because of the lack of copper and tin. Bronze was imported and was then worked on by local metalworkers.
Bronze knives and other objects, from between 2800-700 BCE, also grave goods.
A large bronze beaker, probably acquired through trade.
Apparently, before the Romans came and even for several hundred years after that, most people lived in isolated family farms, not even in small villages. The museum presented one example of a small settlement with bigger houses, where quite a number of families lived. The image below is a photograph of one of those reconstructed houses.


One of the most interesting pieces of historical information that I learned was that while the Romans tried to conquer the whole of Germany, they were unable to. Roman settlement had begun to the west of the Rhine, for example with the establishment of what is now known as the city of Cologne. When they tried to go east of the Rhine, the Roman legions were defeated in 9 CE in the "Battle of the Teutoberg Forest." After several more years of bitter fighting, the Romans decided to stay west of the Rhine, meaning that Bochum (which is east of the Rhine) was part of the area that did not become part of the Roman empire. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Roman history outside of what is now Israel, so I had had the image in my head that the Roman legions were always victorious (since they put down at least three Jewish revolts - in 66-73, 115-117, and 132-135). The Germanic tribes, however, were better organized and much stronger than the Jewish rebels, so they were able to keep the Romans west of the Rhine.

But this did not mean that there was no contact with Rome. The museum catalog says, "All the same the Germanic tribes must have still had contacts with the Romans since in every Germanic settlement archaeologists find goods from the Roman Empire" (Das Museum, 2004, p. 43).

The region east of the Rhine came under the rule of Charlemagne in the eighth century, and he brought Christianity to the tribes in the east. As the catalog says, "At the end of the 8th century Charlemagne, king of the Franks, integrated the region of present-day Westphalia into his kingdom and had the inhabitants converted to Christianity." In the museum, to mark this event, one walks into a small room containing a "forest" of upright spears, and hears sounds of battle, including people's anguished cries, signifying the battles between Charlemagne and the Saxons.

The path then brings one into the Middle Ages, feudal manors, the building of castles, and then to the European voyages of discovery and the Renaissance. Much less space is devoted to these events than to the Roman and early Christian periods.

What came next was very disconcerting. The path leads one abruptly into the mid-20th century, and then you see several posts from the fence of a concentration camp that was established in Witten in 1944, as well as items from prisoners in the camp - identity disks, plates, and cutlery used by the prisoners. (Witten is a town right next to Bochum).
The camp housed prisoners who worked in local factories. About 750 prisoners were originally brought there from Buchenwald (the Witten camp belonged to the larger system of camps affiliated with Buchenwald), but many died due to ill-treatment, starvation, illness, unheated buildings, and inadequate clothing.


                                                         

On the left are the bowls, a pitcher, and cutlery.








To the right are the prisoners' identity tags.

I did some online research about the camp, and my next post will provide more information about the camp. There is now a memorial in Witten, in the location of the camp, and I'd like to visit there soon.


The final part of the path passes by items discovered in the rubble from Allied bombing of this part of
Germany. After the war, the bombed out sections of towns were rebuilt, which meant that the bomb rubble was covered by subsequent building. To right, in the glass case, are metal stamps used to make ration cards.

The museum was not what I was expecting. I thought it would be a more conventional museum, with exhibits in glass cases with explanations next to them. Instead, it was much more experiential. There were different sounds throughout the room. As you first walked in, through the ancient trees, you could hear the sound of lightning. Next to the cases filled with stone tools, there was the persistent sound of tapping. Leaving the small room the upright spears, in the doorway, a voice was reciting the Nicene Creed in German. In the enclosed "tent" with religious objects, there was the sound of church music and chanting. At the end, there were sounds of bombing.

This museum did not leave me with the feeling that history was safely in the past, and that when I left the museum I left the history behind, locked up in the building. No, history followed me out of the building, it came with me - the agricultural settlements in the woods, the battle in the forest between the Roman legions and the Germanic fighters, Charlemagne's armies converting people to Christianity, the Allied bombing and the inmates of the local concentration camp. It's all still here.