Monday, May 31, 2010

Israeli attack on Gaza flotilla

I spent today driving from Westport, Mass., to Ithaca, NY, so I didn't have time to blog earlier. I really don't know what to say about Israeli attack on the flotilla of ships going to Gaza and the deaths of nine people on the Marmara. I don't feel like I have enough information about what actually happened - the versions I've read have all come from official Israeli sources. I'd be interested in other journalistic accounts and versions from those on the boat itself.

Last night I went to bed worrying about what the Israel might do in response to the flotilla - and it was awful to get up this morning and see the news reports on line. I didn't imagine that ten people could be killed.

Other people are more coherent than I about it, and their main response seems to be how unwise and stupid Israel's reaction to the flotilla was:

Jeffrey Goldberg: On the Disappearance of Jewish Wisdom, Far Out at Sea

David Schraub: Gaza Aid Convoy Reportedly Attacked in International Waters

Haim Watzman: Commandos Against Demonstrators: Israel Shoots itself in the Leg Again

Kishkushim: The Marmara Incident - Preliminary Notes

Noam Sheizaf, Promised Land: Death at Sea: The Attack on the Gaza Flotilla

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Noam Chomsky - boycotter

So much for Noam Chomsky's devotion devotion to the principles of free speech and free inquiry.

The president of the Technion, Professor Peretz Lavie, recently went to Boston and "participated in an event saluting the technological achievements of the State of Israel held at the Boston Museum of Science, organized by that city's Israeli consulate and Jewish community. Included in the event was an exhibition showcasing Israel's technological achievements, particularly in the fields of communication and medical equipment, and lecturers paid tribute to the wonders of Israeli technology that have placed it at the forefront internationally in this field."

After the event, Lavie found out that Noam Chomsky had initiated a letter that was sent to the Science Museum, protesting the invitation and exhibition.
It was only the next day, as I continued on my way, did I start receiving telephone messages about a letter that had been sent to the Boston Science Museum prior to the event, at the initiative of Prof. Noam Chomsky from MIT, faculty members from two Israeli universities and other individuals. In this letter, Chomsky and his colleagues expressed a sharply worded protest against the fact that the museum was allowing the president of the Technion - "the university that prepares weapons of murder" - to deliver a lecture there. The letter went on to say that the event, which had paid tribute to Israel's tremendous contribution to world technology and science, was actually serving as a cover and camouflage for Israel's crimes against humanity.
If Noam Chomsky were truly as devoted to the principles of free speech and inquiry as he and his admirers think he is, he certainly would not have advocated barring Professor Lavie from speaking at the Boston Science Museum. Chomsky's only objection to being forbidden to enter Israel was that he was forbidden from entering. There was clearly no larger principle for him. Let's remember this the next time he pretends to follow a moral principle that he then denies to others.

And by the way, Lavie said in his article, "Despite this, I think the state authorities should have allowed the linguist Chomsky to enter the country and to speak at Birzeit. While his remarks do indeed arouse revulsion, we must fight for his right to express them. Israeli democracy is more enlightened than the democracy in whose name Prof. Chomsky tried to prevent my speech in Boston."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Noam Chomsky in Lebanon

I had originally opposed Israel's not admitting Noam Chomsky into the country in order to give a talk at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, but what he's been doing during his visit to Lebanon this week makes the Israel refusal much more understandable.

Chomsky met with Sheikh Fadlallah, the "spiritual" leader of Hezbollah, yesterday in Lebanon.

Ynet reports of Chomsky:
Jewish-American linguist Noam Chomsky met with the spiritual leader of the Shiite Muslims in Lebanon, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, on Thursday and told him that if Israel felt backed against a wall it could turn aggressive.
It is not possible to foresee what Israel will do, because if it feels besieged it could turn aggressive, Chomsky said. Israelis' actions are based on a persecution complex, meaning that aggression would not be an option again except out of a "mentality of madness" which rules many in Israel.
The picture below is of Chomsky shaking hands with Fadlallah.



Among Chomsky's other activities during his trip to Lebanon was attending the inauguration of Hezbollah's "tourist complex" in southern Lebanon.
Jewish-American scholar and activist attends to the inauguration ceremony of Hezbollah's 'Tourist Complex' in Mlita in southern Lebanon on May 21, 2010. The Hezbollah Shiite militia inaugurated a 'tourist complex' displaying its own heavy weapons and those left by Israel, to mark the 10th anniversary of Israel's pullout from south Lebanon....

As part of events marking the tenth anniversary of Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon, Hezbollah inaugurated Friday a permanent war museum, complete with war booty captured from Israeli soldiers, replicas of guerrillas in action on the battle field and in underground tunnels, and a memorial for its war dead.
Strangely enough, Jeffrey Goldberg, in a 2002 article in the New Yorker about Hezbollah, wrote that Fadlallah said to him:
Al Manar would not rule out broadcasting comments from non-Israeli Jews. “There would be one or two we would put on our shows. For example, we would like to have Noam Chomsky.”
This was not the first time Chomsky had met with leaders of Hezbollah. In 2006, he visited Lebanon for the first time, gave two lectures at the American University of Beirut, visited the Sabra and Shatilla Palestinian refugee camps, met with Walid Jumblatt and leaders of the Communist Party, as well as meeting with Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.

Assaf Kfoury, who helped organize his trip in 2006, wrote about Chomsky's meeting with Nasrallah:
May 11, Hizbullah headquarters, Beirut. We meet Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbullah, in a heavily fortified compound. Hizbullah has widespread popular support, with representation in the Lebanese parliament and the council of ministers, largely the result of its role in the successful resistance to the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon in the 1990's. Nevertheless, American government officials -- from Condoleezza Rice, David Welch, Elliott Abrams, Jeffrey Feltman and on down -- routinely visit other Lebanese politicians and dignitaries, never Nasrallah, and they portray Hizbullah as a band of terrorists. The value of this meeting with Noam is as much in what Nasrallah has to say as in the public recognition by a public American, admittedly the most dissident of them, of Hizbullah's role in Lebanon and the Middle East at large. Nasrallah recognizes the value of trying to break the official American embargo: He has no objection to Noam quoting him on anything he has said, and his last question to Noam is a request for advice on what Hizbullah can do to counter the pernicious propaganda in the US.

In response, Noam points out the importance of separating policies emanating from Washington from public opinion in the US, with the latter often at odds with the former. Given the nature of electoral politics today in the US, he also points out that officials in Washington are usually elected by a minority of the population and represent two parties that are virtually indistinguishable on fundamental issues, and hence the importance of reaching out to the US public ahead of policy makers who are beholden to corporate interests.

Nasrallah covers a wide range of issues in his presentation, including the arms of Hizbullah, which the US and its allies have demanded be relinquished. Nasrallah presents the issue of the arms in the context of a strategy to defend southern Lebanon which, he argues, concerns all Lebanese and not only Hizbullah. After the meeting, to the pack of journalists and TV crews waiting outside, Noam declares: "I think Nasrallah has a reasoned and persuasive argument that the arms should be in the hands of Hizbullah as a deterrent to potential aggression, and there are plenty of background reasons for that ..." Enough to feed the right-wing rumor mill for a long time to come.
Indeed. I can see why Israeli officials would think it not in Israel's interest to let Chomsky into the country, given his open support for Hezbollah, which has been building up quite an arsenal of missiles since the second Lebanon war in the summer of 2006.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Believing two impossible things before dinner

A couple of astonishing things I learned from Jeffrey Goldberg today:

1. If Jane Harman's opponent in the Democratic primary in California (36th congressional district) wins the nomination, I would be severely tempted to give money to her Republican opponent. Goldberg interviewed her opponent, Marcy Winograd, and writes, "I spoke with Winograd by telephone a few days ago. In our conversation, she said [s]he personally supports the replacement of Israel with a bi-national state; she also argued that the U.S. should engage Iran in "people-to-people" diplomacy; that aerospace companies in her district should re-orient themselves away from manufacturing weapons and to the pursuit of green technologies; and she suggested that Henry Waxman is treasonous."

Her views on Israel and Zionism:
JG: Go this Henry Waxman question. Are you for a bi-national state or are you for a two-state solution?

MW: I consider myself a realist, okay? I'm Jewish. I've labeled myself as a Jewish woman of conscience who is compelled to speak out because of the suffering in the world. I support peace, so whatever both sides can agree to, which would probably be an agreement on a mutual exchange of territory, I would fully support, because I want peace. However, and let me share this with you, I grew up in a strong Zionist family, I sang at my brother's Bar Mitzvah, I sent my daughter to Jewish pre-school, I went to Israel when I was in my 20s. That's my background, and all that being said, I know that Israel was born on land where a million Palestinians lived. For many Jews the birth of Israel is a celebration, but for the Palestinians it was the nakba, a catastrophe. There's no safety or security in barring people from their homeland. Ultimately, Jews and Palestinians need to learn to live together, just as they lived in peace for many years.

JG: Can you be a liberal and a Zionist at the same time?

MW: Well, there's a less-harmful Zionism. I don't see Zionism as liberal. Zionism categorizes Jews as a race, which makes it easier for Jews to be targeted.

JG: Zionism doesn't categorize Jews as a race, it categorizes Jews as a nation.

MW: To me, there's no safety in creating a nation predicated on either racial or ethnic supremacy.

JG: How did you come to this view?

MW: I've been torn about this for a long time, and not really wanting to look at it, which a lot of Jews probably feel, wanting to turn away from it because it's too painful. It's too tied to our identity, to our neighborhoods, to our whole orientation. My primary concern is peace. I don't feel comfortable advocating for a country based on ethnic and racial supremacy. Personally, I'm a believer in equality, one voice, one vote, Israelis and Palestinians, one voice, one vote, that's my personal position.

JG: Eventual bi-nationalism.
Like Goldberg, I would vigorously disagree with anyone who says that Zionism is predicated on racial superiority - this is the kind of talking point beloved by the antisemites who write for Dissident Voice. Another indication of her left-wing radicalism on the topic of Israel is that she spoke at a "Friends of Sabeel" conference in Pasadena in 2008. Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal reported on this speech:
In that speech, Winograd said she not only opposes a two-state solution, she supports the end of Israel as a Jewish state “Not only do I think a two-state solution is unrealistic,” Winograd said, “but also fundamentally wrong, because it only reinforces heightened nationalism. You cannot establish a democracy in a state founded on the institutionalized superiority or exclusivity of one of [sic] religion, ethnicity or culture. I do not support the notion of an Islamic state or a Christian state any more than I support a Jewish state." Winograd went on to accuse Israel of “crimes against humanity,” “institutional racism” and “extermination.”
2. In an article entitled Human Rights Watch's Priorities, but which is mostly about Peter Beinart's article on Liberal Zionism, he cites an interesting article from Foreign Policy. According to this article, for Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the United States was the top country written about during the 1990s. James Ron and Howard Ramos reported the following on November 3, 2009 on the Foreign Policy website:
We listed each organization's top 10 "hit list" of countries reported on for the 1990s. Human Rights Watch's most written on countries were, in descending order, the United States, Turkey, Indonesia, China, Russia, India, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Sudan, Israel, and Burma. Amnesty's hit list from 1991 to 2000 was similar, including the United States, Israel, Indonesia, Turkey, China, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Britain, India, Russia, Rwanda, and Burundi (there were 11 countries because of one tie). Size seemed to matter, since large countries such as China, the United States, and India received more scrutiny than others. Policy relevance and newsworthiness also counted for something, pushing Turkey, a key NATO ally, to center stage.

Yet these lists were also notable for the countries they did not include. When we used data on poverty, repression, and conflict to identify some of the worst places on earth, we found that few of these countries were covered much by either Amnesty or Human Rights Watch.

At first, this seemed puzzling; why would the watchdogs neglect authoritarians? We asked both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, and received similar replies. In some cases, staffers said, access to human rights victims in authoritarian countries was impossible, since the country's borders were sealed or the repression was too harsh (think North Korea or Uzbekistan). In other instances, neglected countries were simply too small, poor, or unnewsworthy to inspire much media interest. With few journalists urgently demanding information about Niger, it made little sense to invest substantial reporting and advocacy resources there.

Their study doesn't cover the 2000s, but it's hard to imagine that either the United States or Israel has fallen very far in the dubious standings of these two "human rights" organizations. I find it unbelievable that the United States, which is a democratic country with a very open media, belongs at the top of the list of human rights offenders. We certainly violate human rights in a host of ways - but more than Iran? Venezuela? China? North Korea? It's ridiculous that the U.S. is at the top of the list. Guess who I'm not ever going to give any money to!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pat Buchanan, translated from the German once again

Molly Ivins' famous quip about Pat Buchanan proves to be true again: it sounded better in the original German.

While Diane Butler Bass writes a sad, elegaic, pseudo-liberal lament for upcoming lack of Protestants on the Supreme Court, Pat Buchanan comes right out with an antisemitic screed Are liberals anti-WASP?:
Indeed, of the last seven justices nominated by Democrats JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, one was black, Marshall; one was Puerto Rican, Sonia Sotomayor. The other five were Jews: Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats....
If Kagan is confirmed, the Court will consist of three Jews and six Catholics (who represent not quite a fourth of the country), but not a single Protestant, though Protestants remain half the nation and our founding faith.
If Kagan is confirmed, three of the four justices nominated by Democratic presidents will be from New York City: Kagan from the Upper West Side, Sotomayor from the Bronx, Ruth Bader Ginsburg from Brooklyn. Breyer is from San Francisco.
Is there a reason that this aging America Firster is still considered a credible source of opinions by MSNBC, the supposed liberal cable network? (This column was published on World Net Daily, Human Events, Townhall.com).

Update: Continuing on this bigoted theme, see Bishop Harry Jackson, who is an African American pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, DC, and has appeared on many right-wing talk shows, writes on Townhall.com:
"The nomination of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court should outrage evangelical Protestants." He's really angry about anti-religious movies and books (by people like Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins). "Against the backdrop of the religious mis-education of the nation, evangelical Christians must embrace (once and for all) that they must let their voices be heard in politics, the arts, and every arena of our culture. Although Catholics are well represented on the Supreme Court, there will likely be important cases that will need the insight of unbiased evangelicals to create an atmosphere for true justice." 
"Unbiased evangelicals"? Better - "bigoted evangelicals," like himself.

Some other notices of Buchanan's antisemitism:

Charles Johnson (of LGF) on True/Slant
Rick Ungar on True/Slant
Jason Linkins of Huffington Post
Rachel Slajda of Talking Points Memo
Maureen O'Connor of Gawker
David Weigel at the Washington Post writes:
Let's put this in context.
Buchanan has been clamoring for more whites to get Supreme Court seats for four decades, and in 1971 he wrote this in a memo to President Richard Nixon.
Italian Americans, unlike blacks, have never had a Supreme Court member — they are deeply concerned with their “criminal” image; they do not dislike the President. Give those fellows the “Jewish seat” or the “black seat” on the Court when it becomes available.
The court now has two Italian American members, so Buchanan revisits his obsession to make a tiresome argument -- that Obama is passing over theoretically qualified white candidates and that, hint hint, this provides an opening for conservatives.
"Neither Obama nominee is academically distinguished," writes Buchanan of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, both of whom graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University.
Really, it's such a thin and weakly argued column, coming from such a place of bias, that I don't forsee many smart conservatives looking to it for advice on how to oppose Kagan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan and a "Lament for American Protestantism"

Wow, I'm starting to think that President Obama is crazy like a fox - he's picked a Supreme Court nominee who drives everyone crazy! Diana Butler Bass laments the fact that if Kagan is confirmed, there will be no Protestants on the Supreme Court.
Elena Kagan will be a fine and fair justice. President Obama has made a thoughtful, considered choice. But, on this day, I am a little sad. Missing from the bench upcoming years will be someone who empathizes with the Protestant worldview in a visceral way. As religious cases multiply in an increasingly pluralistic world, I can't help but think that losing the lived memory of American Protestantism will be a loss for all of us indeed.
The little facts that a) three-quarters of all the people who have served on the Supreme Court have been Protestants; and b) there has only ever been one non-Protestant President of the United States (John F. Kennedy), make Bass's claim that having six Catholics and three Jews on the court means that the "lived memory of American Protestantism" will be lost complete nonsense.

CNN has a far saner article about how and why the court has come to have a majority of non-Protestants, despite the fact that a majority of the country is still Protestant.
Many religion scholars attribute the decline of Protestant representation on the high court to the breakdown of a mainline Protestant identity and to the absence of a strong tradition of lawyering among evangelical Protestants. "Mainline Protestantism isn't a pressure group," said [Steve] Prothero, "It's not like the National Council of Churches is lobbying Obama to get a Lutheran appointed to the Supreme Court."
And while Judaism and Catholicism have their own sets of religious laws that date back millennia, many branches of Protestant Christianity do not. For much of the last 150 years, evangelical Christianity has stressed an emotional theology of heart over head -- not a recipe for producing legal scholars with eyes fixed on the Supreme Court.
"Evangelicals have put more effort into getting elected than in getting onto the bench," said Michael Lindsay, a Rice University professor who has studied evangelical elites. "Electoral politics is more similar to the style of rallying of around revival campaign than it is to the arduous journey of producing intellectual giants that could be eligible for the Supreme Court."
One explanation of Catholics' and Jews' high court hegemony is that members of both traditions have long pursued legal degrees as a way to assimilate into a majority Protestant country. "Most American Catholic law schools were not formed to be elite institutions of lofty legal scholarship, but as a way to respond to the fact that other law schools were excluding Catholics," said Richard Garnett, a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. "It was a vehicle to get Catholics into the middle class."
"Early on, those schools admitted a lot of Jewish students who were being discriminated against," Garnett said.
Today, Catholic law schools at Georgetown University, Fordham University and Notre Dame are considered among the best in the country.
Evangelical Protestant colleges, meanwhile -- including Regent University and Liberty University, founded by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell respectively -- have had law schools only since the 1980s.
And law schools with Protestant roots, like Harvard and Yale, shed their religious identities a long time ago, part of the broader fading of a distinct mainline Protestant identity in the U.S.
Some legal and religious scholars say the dearth of qualified evangelical candidates for the Supreme Court came into sharp relief in 2005, when President George W. Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to the high court. An evangelical Christian whom the White House promoted strenuously among evangelicals, Miers had her nomination brought down largely by conservatives -- nonevangelicals, mostly -- who said she was not qualified for the position.
In the last couple of decades, however, more evangelicals have begun pursuing legal degrees, some at elite colleges. "There are now vibrant Christian fellowships at Harvard and Yale," said Lindsay. "Ten years from now, it will be entirely possible to see an evangelical Protestant on the Supreme Court."
Rachel Heflin, a senior at Patrick Henry College -- a Virginia school whose students are mostly evangelicals from homeschooling backgrounds -- said many of her friends are heading to law school next year. "When your circle of friends is comprised of aspiring lawyers, the joke is about who's going to make it to the high court first," said Heflin, an evangelical Christian who will be attending George Washington University Law School on scholarship.
Which means that a Protestant Supreme Court resurgence may not be too far off.
Ten years from now? If someone is just now attending Harvard or Yale, they're not going to be nominated as Supreme Court judges in ten years! Elena Kagan is considered young to be nominated, and she's 50.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Her Sexual Orientation Above All

Andrew Sullivan cites some homophobes (Focus on the Family, American Family Association, Americans for Truth - what an assembly of oxymoronic names!) as the reason that Elana Kagan should come out - that is, if she is a lesbian.

Her Sexual Orientation Above All
The days are past when this could be brushed under the rug. Let's have an honest debate, can we? The way to counter prejudice is through truth - not avoidance. For the right to oppose Kagan merely because she is gay - if she is - would be one more step toward their self-destruction. By staying mum, the Obamites may be playing yet another rope-a-dope. I just cannot see how in 2010, ambiguity is an option. I mean: who would claim that John Roberts' heterosexuality is somehow private? It is a demonstrably reported fact that there would now be no Protestants on the court - just Catholics and Jews. Why is this not an invasion of privacy, if asking someone about their sexual orientation is?
But why should Elana Kagan (or anyone else for that matter) come out because of the lies and twisted sexual identities of a bunch of right-wing homophobes?

Elana Kagan's sexual orientation (or her religion) are not "above all." I believe that they are not relevant to whether she would be a good Supreme Court justice. I simply do not like Sullivan's attitude that everything about one's identity must be politicized - one's sexual orientation, one's religion.

I would have thought that a real conservative, which is what Sullivan claims to be, would be willing to accept some realm of privacy in an individual's life. He reminds me of the people I used to know when I was a student at UC Santa Cruz in the late 1970s - if you weren't sure what your sexual orientation was (especially if that uncertainty meant that you were going out with both men and women), you were condemned as giving in to the heterosexist patriarchy. Remember - the personal is political? Remember - feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice? Sullivan, in my opinion, is acting all too much like the self-righteous, holier-than-thou, anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist pseudo-radicals of the 1970s. In short, not anything like the conservative he claims to be.

And yes, my third post of the day on Andrew Sullivan. Definitely becoming an obsession.

Methinks the man doth protest too much

Perhaps I'm becoming as cranky as Marty Peretz - but I think it's time for Andrew Sullivan to examine the beam in his own eye, rather than concentrate on the mote in other people's: Something Much Darker, Ctd

And yes, I am picking on him today.

Andrew Sullivan wants to "out" Elena Kagan

I don't have a real opinion on whether President Obama should have nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court as opposed to the other realistic possibilities - I'm not an expert in this area.

But I can say one thing - I don't care what her sexual orientation is. I don't think it's relevant. I also don't think that it's relevant what her religion is.

Therefore, I find Andrew Sullivan's post, So Is She Gay? deeply offensive.

He writes:

It is no more of an empirical question than whether she is Jewish. We know she is Jewish, and it is a fact simply and rightly put in the public square. If she were to hide her Jewishness, it would seem rightly odd, bizarre, anachronistic, even arguably self-critical or self-loathing. And yet we have been told by many that she is gay ... and no one will ask directly if this is true and no one in the administration will tell us definitively.

In a word, this is preposterous - a function of liberal cowardice and conservative discomfort. It should mean nothing either way. Since the issue of this tiny minority - and the right of the huge majority to determine its rights and equality - is a live issue for the court in the next generation, and since it would be bizarre to argue that a Justice's sexual orientation will not in some way affect his or her judgment of the issue, it is only logical that this question should be clarified.
If Kagan is not interested in telling the rest of us what her sexual orientation is, I do not think it is any of our business. Sullivan is arguing that it is necessary for Kagan to out herself as gay (if she is gay) to fit his political agenda (which among other things is to get rid of DADT and approve gay marriage). I don't disagree with his political agenda (although I'm nowhere near as passionate about gay marriage as he is - ENDA is more important to me personally, since I'm single and likely to remain that way).

It's clear from Kagan's own history that she's opposed to DADT - judging from what she did as dean of Harvard Law School to oppose military recruiting at Harvard because of opposition to DADT. She only permitted military recruiting when it became clear the federal government would take away hundreds of millions of dollars from the Harvard budget if she persisted in her opposition. (And if she had persisted, I cannot imagine that the president of Harvard and the Harvard Corporation would not have insisted that she step down as dean).

And I don't know what dream world Sullivan's been living in. Does he think that Kagan could have reached her current position of solicitor general if she had not presented herself with ambiguity? (I don't mean that Obama wouldn't have nominated her, but that the trajectory of her career would probably not have occurred the way it did if she had been completely out, so that she wouldn't have been in the situation to be nominated for solicitor general). We have not yet reached the stage where being completely out is possible in all situations. I wish it were true, but it is not. For Kagan not to talk about her sexual orientation is not a matter of cowardice - it is a matter of prudence.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mark Falcon Lesses - medical research

My grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses, was a doctor who did research in a number of areas of medicine. I discovered, through the miracle of the internet, that it's possible to find several of his articles. Here are some links:

1927, Archives of Internal Medicine, Glycolysis in Normal and in Leukemic Blood

1928, JAMA, The Vegetarian Diet (a letter to the editor)
THE VEGETARIAN DIET
To the Editor: In a recent editorial you conclude that "optimal nutrition of human beings cannot be obtained with purely vegetarian diets," on the basis of experimental feeding of such diets to rats. May I note two important exceptions to this conclusion?

1. With regard to human beings, Hindhede demonstrated clearly in his lecture given at the Third Race Betterment Conference held at Battle Creek, Mich., in January, that optimal nutrition of human beings can be secured on such a simple regimen as potatoes and vegetable margarine even if continued for several years. Furthermore, he presented valuable evidence to show that children of the school age may grow and be in proper nutrition with vegetables as the only source of protein. Hindhede has worked solely with man rather than with the rat and perhaps that is why we disregard his work.

2. The second point has to do with feeding of a vegetarian diet to a rat. The failure of a rat to grow optimally on such a diet may mean either (a) that the diet is adequate but that the rat has not eaten enough of it to grow properly—Lusk has pointed out that, ceteris paribus, growth proceeds proportionally to ingested calories—or (b) that the diet is inadequate although the rat has eaten enough calories.

The rejection in part or in whole of a thoroughly adequate diet by a rat is not uncommon ; the rat demands "flavor" in the food just as do we. In The Journal, Nov. 19, 1927, p. 1770, Cogwill presents striking evidence of the adequacy of a cereal diet for the rat from the standpoint of growth and nutrition. One of the diets, which yielded 93 per cent of if s calories in the form of cereals, also contained 3 per cent of liver and gave excellent growth and nutrition. It is true that a small amount of animal protein was thereby included, but the effect of such a small amount probably lay more in the "flavor" it lent to the diet rather than to any other significant contribution. Rats do prefer diets containing even small amounts of liver or beef protein, especially the former. In other words, vegetable diets or any other diet will fail with rats if they do not happen to like it well enough to ingest the proper calories. We should not confuse the flavor of a diet with its nutritional adequacy.
Mark Falcon-Lesses, M.D., Department of Nutrition, University Hospital, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
1930, Journal of Nutrition - The Cause of the Laxative Action of Bran

1930, JAMA, The Menace of the Meat Diet (a letter to the editor)
THE MENACE OF THE MEAT DIET
To the Editor:

In a recent editorial (Is a Meat Diet a Menace? The Journal, September 20, p. 866) you conclude by inference that a meat diet will not injure the kidneys and cite the observations at the Russell Sage Institute of Pathology on two arctic explorers as experimental support for your views. So far as I can see, the only conclusion properly deducible from these observations is that an average intake of meat protein of from 100 to 140 Gm. daily for one year causes no detectable kidney damage. What might happen after two or more years on such a diet remains unknown.

The experiment of Newburgh, Falcon-Lesses and Johnston (Am. J. M. Sc. 179:305 [March] 1930), in which evidence of kidney damage in man was obtained on a diet containing 330 Gm. of meat protein per diem in less than six months, indicates that renal injury may be caused by diets sufficiently high in meat protein. Further, Newburgh and his co-workers (Newburgh and Curtis: Arch. Int. Med. 42:801 [Dec] 1928) have succeeded in producing chronic nephritis in laboratory animals by high meat diets.

However, it remains to be determined (1) whether the animal nephritis produced by meat protein is pathologically analogous to chronic nephritis in man, (2) whether human beings ordinarily, or even occasionally, eat enough meat protein to cause chronic nephritis, and (3) whether the meat consumption of patients with chronic nephritis has been at such levels as might cause nephropathy. Meat protein might cause chronic nephritis and yet not be the usual etiologic agent because not ingested at appropriate levels.

In contrast to the studies of Thomas and Heinbecker, who found no unusual incidence of kidney disease among Eskimos, must be placed the investigations of Hindhede, who finds that chronic nephritis is most common in people who eat much animal food.

The entire problem, I believe, should be kept sub judice until the foregoing questions are more fully answered.

Mark Falcon-Lesses, M.D., Boston.
1938, JAMA - Bezedrine Sulfate (a letter to the editor). The first paragraph is:
To the Editor:—

No one who has the advance of medicine and the safety of the public at heart can fail to agree with the main tenets of the editorial which appeared in THE JOURNAL March 19 entitled "Benzedrine Sulfate—A Warning." No powerful drug should be sold over the counter, nor should it for any purpose whatsoever be self administered. This reproach does not apply, of course, merely to benzedrine sulfate but to the wide and indiscriminate use of bromides, barbiturates and even the apparently innocuous vitamins.
1955, Diseases of the Thyroid Gland (written by Samuel L. Gargill and my grandfather, Mark Falcon Lesses, who was an instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the blood bank at Beth Israel Hospital); it was published by Oxford University Press. The review in the Archives of Internal Medicine 46 (1957) is very complimentary:
Drs. Gargill and Lesses have drawn from their clinical experiences over the past 25 years in order to present this comprehensive and well arranged text which encompasses three important eras in thyroid disease....
1965, JAMA - Transfusion Complications

In the April 11, 1938 edition of Life magazine, he had a letter published:
Botticelli's Young Man

Sirs,

The "limpid flexibility" of the fingers in Botticelli's Portrait of a Young Man, reproduced in your issue of March 21, is much more obviously due to the arthritis which the subject of the portrait suffered from rather than to playing the lute. Very characteristic is the spindle-shaped deformity of the middle joints of the fingers. I happen to have a copy of the portrait myself and have had many physicians comment on the arthritic deformity of the hand of this young man.

• Doctors are given to less romantic theories than artists. Neither can speak with certainty in this case. -- ED.
An article on antidepressants in A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (by Edward A. Shorter, Oxford University Press published in 2005) cites a work by my grandfather on the use of amphetamines for the treatment of obesity:
The amphetamines started to become drugs of abuse when they were widely prescribed for obesity; an article in 1938 by Mark Falcon Lesses (1903- ), a research associate at Boston State Hospital, and Abraham Myerson (1881-1948), director of research at the hospital, on "Benzedrine Sulfate as Aid in the Treatment of Obesity" in the New England Journal of Medicine launched this rather fateful evolution.
I haven't been able to find this article on line, but there is a New York Times article from 1938 on this research.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Are you a "righteous Jew" or a "New Afrikaner"?

John Mearsheimer's talk yesterday at the Jerusalem Fund, The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners does make one good point: that if a Palestinian state is not created alongside Israel, increasingly the "one-state" solution will occur of its own accord, leaving Palestinians in the West Bank totally disenfranchised. This is why I support two states, and oppose the current right-wing Israeli government, which seems to be totally unwilling to recognize reality and work towards the creation of the Palestinian state. As Mearsheimer says, if a Palestinian state is not created, then the Zionist dream of a Jewish state is dead as well. These are harsh words but I do not object to this part of his talk.

I do object, however, to the antisemitic part of his talk, the part where he has decided to take the gloves off and put the Jews of America on trial.
American Jews who care deeply about Israel can be divided into three broad categories. The first two are what I call “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners,” which are clearly definable groups that think about Israel and where it is headed in fundamentally different ways. The third and largest group is comprised of those Jews who care a lot about Israel, but do not have clear-cut views on how to think about Greater Israel and apartheid. Let us call this group the “great ambivalent middle.”

Righteous Jews have a powerful attachment to core liberal values. They believe that individual rights matter greatly and that they are universal, which means they apply equally to Jews and Palestinians. They could never support an apartheid Israel. They also understand that the Palestinians paid an enormous price to make it possible to create Israel in 1948. Moreover, they recognize the pain and suffering that Israel has inflicted on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories since 1967. Finally, most righteous Jews believe that the Palestinians deserve a viable state of their own, just as the Jews deserve their own state. In essence, they believe that self-determination applies to Palestinians as well as Jews, and that the two-state solution is the best way to achieve that end. Some righteous Jews, however, favor a democratic bi-national state over the two-state solution.

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.
I guess by Mearsheimer's reasoning I might qualify as a "righteous Jew," since I support a two-state solution. But who is it that Mearsheimer qualifies as "righteous Jews"? Almost all of the individuals he names are anti-Zionists (e.g., Chomsky, Falk, Finkelstein, Judt, Klein, Roy, and Weiss). Some of them (like Finkelstein and Weiss) traffic in anti-Jewish stereotypes (when William Safire, the New York Times columnist, died, Weiss engaged in the most bizarre attacks on the press, saying that not mentioning Safire's Zionist convictions in his obituaries was as a result of "Jewish power" over the press). Chomsky has defended Holocaust deniers like Robert Faurisson, and has a disgraceful record of whitewashing the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Why would I regard these people as "righteous"? I certainly don't want to be in their company. I do not think that other American Jews should follow them.
On the other side we have the new Afrikaners, who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state. These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. This is not to say that the new Afrikaners think that apartheid is an attractive or desirable political system, because I am sure that many of them do not. Surely some of them favor a two-state solution and some of them probably have a serious commitment to liberal values. The key point, however, is that they have an even deeper commitment to supporting Israel unreservedly. The new Afrikaners will of course try to come up with clever arguments to convince themselves and others that Israel is really not an apartheid state, and that those who say it is are anti-Semites. We are all familiar with this strategy.

I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.
So even someone who supports a two-state solution can be called a "New Afrikaner" because he or she does not meet Mearsheimer's qualifications for being a good Jew? I do not like some of the people he names - Morton Klein in particular, who is extremely right-wing, or Hoenlein, who does his level best to pull the Conference of Presidents to the right as much as he can. But Foxman? Harris? Peretz? And how does he know what would they would think or do if Israel did "cross the line" into apartheid? He doesn't know. But because these people do not agree with him on Israel, he is willing to smear them as "New Afrikaners."
The key to determining whether the lobby can protect apartheid Israel over the long run is whether the great ambivalent middle sides with the new Afrikaners or the righteous Jews. The new Afrikaners have to win that fight decisively for Greater Israel to survive as a racist state.

There is no question that the present balance of power favors the new Afrikaners. When push comes to shove on issues relating to Israel, the hardliners invariably get most of those American Jews who care a lot about Israel to side with them. The righteous Jews, on the other hand, hold considerably less sway with the great ambivalent middle, at least at this point in time. This situation is due in good part to the fact that most American Jews – especially the elders in the community – have little understanding of how far down the apartheid road Israel has travelled and where it is ultimately headed. They think that the two-state solution is still a viable option and that Israel remains committed to allowing the Palestinians to have their own state. These false beliefs allow them to act as if there is little danger of Israel becoming South Africa, which makes it easy for them to side with the new Afrikaners.

This situation, however, is unsustainable over time. Once it is widely recognized that the two-state solution is dead and Greater Israel is a reality, the righteous Jews will have two choices: support apartheid or work to help create a democratic bi-national state. I believe that almost all of them will opt for the latter option, in large part because of their deep-seated commitment to liberal values, which renders any apartheid state abhorrent to them. Of course, the new Afrikaners will fiercely defend apartheid Israel, because their commitment to Israel is so unconditional that it overrides any commitment they might have to liberal values.
Mearsheimer's "righteous Jews," have in part, already made the choice he taxes them with - some of them already support the one-state solution (Chomsky, Finkelstein, Roy, and Weiss). All of the ones he names (not J-Street) already fiercely oppose Israel and its right to exist. What Mearsheimer labels "righteous" in a Jew is the willingness to see the state of Israel dismantled. He is living in a dream world if he thinks that a democratic bi-national state can be created under these conditions. And of course, missing entirely from Mearsheimer's supposedly "realist" viewpoint is any reference to the violence that Palestinians have inflicted upon Israelis. Hamas has disappeared from his world. The Palestinian-nationalist fantasy that a Jewish Temple never stood in Jerusalem doesn't exist.
The critical question, however, is: what will happen to those Jews who comprise the great ambivalent middle once it is clear to them that Israel is a full-fledged apartheid state and that facts on the ground have made a two state solution impossible? Will they side with the new Afrikaners and defend apartheid Israel, or will they ally with the righteous Jews and call for making Greater Israel a true democracy? Or will they sit silently on the sidelines?

I believe that most of the Jews in the great ambivalent middle will not defend apartheid Israel but will either keep quiet or side with the righteous Jews against the new Afrikaners, who will become increasingly marginalized over time. And once that happens, the lobby will be unable to provide cover for Israel’s racist policies toward the Palestinians in the way it has in the past.
Again, if the "righteous Jews" are represented by the figures he names (again, not J-Street, which is "pro-peace" and "pro-Israel"), I cannot imagine that the bulk of American Jewry will follow them. Most American Jews have enough decent self-respect not to follow the twisted ways of the so-called righteous Jews whom he names.

What Mearsheimer has done in this speech is to create a standard by which American Jews will be judged to be "good" Jews or "bad" Jews. In this, he follows in the dishonorable steps of Charles Lindbergh in September, 1941, when he made an antisemitic speech for America First which ruined his reputation. See this contemporaneous report by Time Magazine:
Hitler showed how attacks on the Jews can be used as a prime device for promoting discord, inciting bitterness, destroying tolerance and ultimately overthrowing the basic principles of civil liberties and personal freedom. Last week, continuing to divide the nation, Hero Lindbergh attacked the Jews as being one of the "three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war.'' The other two groups: the British and the Roosevelt Administration.
It is no news that Jews heartily dislike Hitler and would gladly see him frazzled. They would be less than human if they did not. Hero Lindbergh, piously declaring that "no person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany," offered U.S. Jews advice: they should suppress their natural opinion. He added: "The Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it [war] ... for they will be among the first to feel its consequences." The plain implication was that the Jews will be blamed for war if it comes and will be persecuted because of it when opportunity arises. If this was not a threat it was the next thing to it.
Next to blaming the Jews for a war (especially if lost), the most effective anti-Jew talk is to accuse Jews of having more than their share of wealth and influence. Hero Lindbergh did not accuse the Jews of financial and industrial dominance. That charge, as he may have learned from his late father-in-law, Morgan Partner Dwight Morrow, is too easily disproved. But Lindbergh did accuse the Jews of undue success in other fields: "Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our Government."