Posted by Dean Rotbart
I guess it says something about my upbringing and my insular adulthood that I am only now coming to grasp just how twisted our Bizzaro world really is.
Contrary to my life’s experience predating the latest Israeli war with Hamas, I have awakened to the reality that evil is sympathetic; self-defense is terrorism; opinions - actually warped opinions, are journalism; relief organizations are intended to relieve those who do good of their reputations; civilians are okay to kill, but only if they are Jewish; all world leaders are fluent in the language of duplicity; and, perhaps most confounding, Hamas and many vocal Palestinians really do care more about exterminating Jewish lives than preserving their own.
Logic fails. How does one reason with a lunatic world?
Can someone, anyone, please explain to me Roseanne Barr or Annie Lennox, both of whom have mistaken mild celebrity for wisdom? Have my journalism colleagues at TIME lost their friggin minds?: “Can Israel Survive Its Assault on Gaza?” asked TIME’s Tim McGirk this past week, reporting from Jerusalem, where the press is free and the government freely elected.
It’s not Israel that I’m most worried about, Mr. McGirk, it’s the rest of the festering world.
If there had been printing presses in the time of Abraham, TIME no doubt would be reporting: “the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, who share the world’s hopes for moral clarity and integrity, look to Abraham and his life and bemoan the Jew’s obvious lack of virtue and decency.”
I’m not a fire and brimstone type of prognosticator, but one need not be a bible scholar to understand that once the world spins off its moral axis, as it clearly has, the suffering and destruction may start with the Jews, but won’t ever end there. How many tens of millions of non-Jews died in World War II because large segments of the world population believed Hitler would only decimate Jews?
It is not enough in 2009 for large elements of society to betray their humanity; to live hedonistic, sadistic lives; to cultivate and satisfy animalistic appetites; and to deny God and His values. These dybbuks - devils - anoint themselves guardians of “morality” and then proceed in ‘majority-rules’ mobs to enact their own depraved proclamations of who is good and what is evil.
Well, they may be able to fool CNN and TIME (truth be told, they include CNN and Time) - but just as they cannot make man-made global warming a reality because they declare it so, they cannot and will not turn Hamas into victims and Israel into Nazis.
It is an abomination that they even try.
So I write and I pray. I write not in the belief that I will break through to any of the demented with logic, but because if I don’t express my feelings I will explode in disgust and anger. And I pray. I pray because I believe, as surely as I believe that the diurnal movements of the sun and moon are beyond human control, that we’ve reached a point in our uncivilization that only the hand of Hashem can now set decency back on its proper axis.
These days, and I fear for many days ahead, the world sinks deeper into depravity. For those who read this and wonder how to proceed, I offer these few words of advice: Keep your eyes and your feet on your own moral path and when you are eventually clear of the evil that engulfs us, don’t look back.
1.11.09 at 1:05 pm | I have awakened to the reality that evil is. . .
1.6.09 at 12:26 pm | Some pro-Hamas supporters may try to disrupt. . .
12.28.08 at 11:13 am | Justice for Jonathan Pollard goes well beyond. . .
12.21.08 at 12:59 am | An Obama supporter says he is troubled by the. . .
12.17.08 at 1:05 pm | Is there an ulterior motive behind Eli Broad's. . .
12.16.08 at 10:14 pm | A class-action lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S.. . .
12.15.08 at 11:42 am | Eli & Edythe Broad have done enough for the arts.. . . (9)
1.11.09 at 1:05 pm | I have awakened to the reality that evil is. . . (8)
12.12.08 at 2:29 pm | Bernard L. Madoff may turn out to be the biggest. . . (7)
January 6, 2009 | 12:26 pm
Posted by Dean Rotbart
In my email this morning comes word that one group of pro-Hamas, pro-Jihadists supporters is encouraging aligned American Jews and others to go to synagogues on Friday night or Saturday morning and stage a protest.
“Jews especially should be doing these actions,” encourage the protest organizers. The plan is to enter shuls in groups of 3-4 “and – in dignified firm and unemotional voices – repeat “STOP THE KILLING.” The protesters plan to bring along a video camera to record the congregants’ responses.
“I see no possible legal impediment to this. The public, and certainly Jews – cannot be barred from entry to the services,” says the organizer email. “And it will be extremely hard for the synagogues to enforce exclusion.”
Finally, perhaps in an effort to explain why the pro-Hamas supporters are targeting U.S. Jews – when they always claims their beef is with Israel and Zionists, the email reads: “The Jews of America must be confronted with their clear responsibility – far more than complicity – in the mass murders, occupation, and forced starvation of the people of Palestine.”
I doubt this will happen here in Los Angeles or almost anywhere, because the organizers are better at bluster than deeds. But assuming that someone or some few do actually show up and interrupt services, I have some basic advice. Let them.
These kooks are looking for confrontation and looking to generate YouTube-worthy outrage. Their goal is really publicity and self aggrandizement.
If the Rabbi is speaking or the congregation is engaged in prayer when someone stands to protest, I would suggest that a responsible member of each congregation encourage members to finish their prayers and then be seated to “listen” to the protestors. Give them 10 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it takes to exhaust their rhetoric. Then calmly finish services.
The designated congregation member might, after an appropriate time, say to the protestors, “We’ve given you ample time to state your grievances. Now, please, allow us to resume services.”
If the protestors do not leave or allow services to continue, then, and only then, would I recommend asking security – but never members of the congregation – to step in. If at all possible, have the police arrest and remove the protestors.
At all times, keep in mind the goal of the protestors is to make Jews look aggressive and angry. Don’t be either. Don’t give them the video they so crave of seeing Jews in America acting in a fashion that is unbecoming of our people.
If it were my shul, I’d go so far as to invite them on the pulpit to make their presentation and then answer questions. I’d give them the respect they deny us.
More than being confronted by police or security, I suspect that what these protesters fear most is being confronted by the truth. Their nightmare is actually having to engage in a calm, rationale dialogue.
December 28, 2008 | 11:13 am
Posted by Dean Rotbart
A Jewish Journal reader, Daniel E. Goodman of Valley Village, contends in this week’s Letters to the Editor that the paper and I are shameful for writing about a presidential pardon for Michael R. Milken when Jonathan Pollard “is actually rotting away in jail and really does need our help.”
Goodman is correct that I used my opinion column in the current issue of The Journal to argue on behalf of Milken, without mentioning a word about Pollard. He is wrong, however, on several important points.
“Pollard deserves a write-up for a presidential pardon more than Michael Milken ever will,” Goodman argues.
But the two cases are linked and prioritizing one over the other misses their common, inextricable elements.
Both Pollard’s conviction and Milken’s involve selective punishment; both call into question the very fairness and objectivity of the U.S. justice system; both are unprecedented in the severity of their prosecution and both involve men who one can fairly argue were singled out, at least in part, for being Jewish.
If President Bush can hand out only one pardon before he leaves office, then I agree with Goodman that Pollard’s need is more pressing than Milken’s, especially given that Pollard remains incarcerated in the most squalid conditions.
But Goodman should understand there is no need for the President to make a choice between two deserving applicants. Both men deserve pardons and deserve them now.
For those who are genuinely curious, the main reason that I didn’t write a ‘Pardon Pollard’ column instead of my ‘Pardon Milken’ column is that I didn’t know what more I personally could say about the compelling case for Pollard that hasn’t already been eloquently expressed by so many others. For a solid sampling, please visit www.jonathanpollard.org. At least in the case of Milken, I have seen a positive side of him that few others have documented in the press.
My closest encounter with Pollard came in November 2006, when I had the opportunity to interview his wife, Esther, for a live Sunday night radio show I hosted on Los Angeles’ 870 KRLA called Israel This Week. I was joined in that conversation by Dr. Donald Salem, a Los Angeles Zionist who has closely tracked the Pollard case from the very beginning. Those of you who know Dr. Salem know him to be a walking encyclopedia on Israel and its enemies.
Although it has been more than two years, the show still serves as a good refresher on the Pollard case. You can hear the entire Israel This Week program by clicking on this link.
If Dr. Salem’s and my interview of Esther Pollard makes one core point, it is that justice for Jonathan goes well beyond justice for one man. It goes to the heart of America’s relationship with Israel, a key strategic ally. As Esther notes, anyone who cares deeply about Israel and its future must also become an active advocate for Pollard’s freedom.
To learn more about ways you can help free Pollard, please visit www.freepollardnow.com.
December 21, 2008 | 12:59 am
Posted by Dean Rotbart
On December 10th, I posted an email received from T.F., a Jewish Journal reader, who took me to the woodshed for my November 12th opinion article expressing dismay over the Jewish vote for Barack Obama.
I challenged T.F. to defend his comments and promised that if he did, I’d post his defense here. Which is exactly what I’m now doing. What follows, unedited, is his most recent email to me. I’ve taken the liberty to italicize my original email and to boldface his response, so it is easier to follow. I also am using his initials, rather than his full name.
It’s taken me a while, but here is what you asked for.
I once venerated all Holocaust survivors. My father was one, as you likely know. Yet I realize that those who survived the Shoah are really no different than the rest of us - they come in all shapes and political/intellectual persuasions. How novel to categorize Holocaust survivors based on your spurious, ideologically grounded filtering process, quite amusing. What next, will you assign a rating based on the camps we were in, you know, like 5 stars for Auschwitz and Treblinka, 4 stars for Bergen Belsen, etc.? So the fact that someone who witnessed and personally experienced the German Holocaust is unable to recognize the gathering clouds of the Islamic Global Holocaust is not as surprising to me as I once imagined it would be. That’s an assumption that because they do not agree with you, they fail to recognize the threats against the US and Israel; it’s not a failure to recognize this threat but the issue of the appropriate response that is required.
Your dislike of President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Sarah Palin, et. al. does not make the case for Barack Obama. Did you vote for Obama because you admire him and his associations and his track record or simply because you dislike conservative Republicans and believe anyone—even a Palestinian apologist, is better? This is a typical statement by a right wing conservative! Yes, I very much abhor the ideology represented by the Cheney, Limbaugh, Hannety, Coulter crowd, and I did partly vote for Obama because of my disrespect for McCain after caving in to the Religious right and the neo-cons, especially, after he let himself be talked into putting Sarah Palin on the ticket. If you really believe that, if the situation were to present itself to have her assume the Presidency, she was really qualified, then I am afraid that we really do not have a basis for dialogue.
I will ask you to make your case for President Obama. Tell me, in your view, how he will do better than Bush/Cheney to keep America safe from terrorism? How will he force Iran to back down from its active plans to destroy Israel? How will he prevent an all out Islamic assault against the West? Hint: Charm and logic doesn’t work very well on those willing to cut the throat of Daniel Pearl and other such innocents. Nor does appeasement. This is not a hard challenge. How has the Bush/Cheney administration pushed Iran from its plans to destroy Israel and cease its nuclear path? I believe that it’s just the opposite. First, as evil as he was, the neo-cons removed Hussein as one of the potential obstacles to Iran’s taking a major role in the region. Second, the Bushies have so weakened this country’s reputation and stature that they have become impotent on the world stage. The days of running this country like a John Wayne movie are over. It’s not only the economy that is global, it’s the diplomatic structure, evidenced by the infantile rhetoric displayed after the Russian invasion of Georgia. Bring ‘em on tough talk from Cheney, and a quick trip to Tablisi. To which the Russian Foreign minister responded with a diplomatic “Middle finger” and “who are you to lecture us”?! The US will not keep Israel safe from Iran and it’s lunatic President. It will be Israel that will keep itself safe, (if they ever get some real leadership and stop re-cycling the same people as candidates for Prime Minister), based on the knowledge that if Iran does attempt anything other than Bush like bluster, they will be the ones wiped off the map, before Israel.
I will ask you, what has the invasion of Iraq accomplished besides bloodshed and our lost reputation, along with the re-establishment of Al Quaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where the war against terror, which you folks so vociferously invoke, should have been waged. I will probably not live to see the final history of the Bush Cheney debacle, but I predict that it will be judged as the most inept, incompetent, mandacious administration in the history of the US. Steeped in misguided ideology, trading on fear and cronyism, (Remember Brownie, Harriet Meier, Alberto Gonzales, Rummy, the Unitary Executive etc.?), with little accomplishment but a battered constitution and a damaged world reputation. Yes, I would rather take a chance on Obama, than risk the chance of continuing the current administration’s bankrupt policies. But, I do hope that you and your right wing friends continue to beat the drum about Palistinian apologists, terrorist alliances, etc. It will assist the moderate conservatives, and those scary Liberals, to continue getting elected, by the demographics that you continue to ignore. It took a while, but people have finally become informaed about the neo-con’s divisive plarforms and slimy tactics, like the Terry Schiavo theatrics; I assume you remember that bit of theater, with Bill Frist diagnosing her medical situation via television and telephone and the calling into session Congress. Finally, after many years, the Lee Atwater, Karl Rove driven Willie Horton and the Swift Boater ploys have been uncovered for the sleaze that they were, and will no longer work. But, hey, keep at it!
Let’s remember that anti-American, anti-Jewish hatred was not born during the Bush administration. The terror attacks on 9/11 were plotted and prepared during Bill Clinton’s watch. If Al Gore were President in September 2001, we would still have been hit. Yes, we would have still been hit. And, we may be hit again, and all the cosmetic chazerai like taking off an 80 year old’s shoes at LAX and hoisting multi colored warnings like weather balloons will not deter it. Nor will keeping hundreds of people, guilty or not, at Guantanamo, which has become the US symbol for treachary and hypocrasy. But, maybe, just maybe, if the Decider and Condi had listened to Richard Clark and actually acted on the clear warnings in August, 01, we might have been able to prevent or limit 9/11. You are right, anti-American, and anti- Israel hatred did not start during the Bush administration, nor did anti-semitism, which will be with us as long as a single Jew walks the earth, but at no time in this country’s history has the US’s stature been at the depths that it has reached during the Bush/Cheney years. At least Obama recognizes that in this intertwined global architecture, one can not go it alone and the Bush Doctorin, (which I hope Sarah has been briefed on by now), of unillateralism and pre-emptive war is not a winning strategy.
So, I ask, what will President Obama do differently? He can only be better. At least he is smart and can string a cogent sentence together, you know, not like: “The question of education is :‘Is our children learning’”?. And, maybe Obama, since his administration will not be single issue focused on terrorism, which Bush, et.al. have beaten to death since 9/11, will actually tackle ways to stop sending upwards of $700 billion to our close friends and allies the Saudis, Venezuela, etc. for our addiction to oil, which Bush so eloquently addressed in his last State of the Union speech, and which turned into yet another soundbite with no follow up except the hackneyed attempt to drill in ANWAR, which, if it does have a sizeable oil deposit will not see the light of day for a decade, while we keep pumping money to those who are just as anxious to see the demise of Israel but are more astute than to rant about it like the schmuck in Iran. And, by the way, if the US had actually faced up to developing alternatives to oil during the Decider’s reign, as well as Clinton’s, Bush I’s, Carter’s, etc., perhaps Iran would not nearly be as far along in developing its nuclear capability because their economy, which is already in shambles with high inflation and unemployment approaching 25%, would have been in an even deeper hole because oil, which is their only significant asset, would not have reached $150/barrel. That would have had a much bigger impact on Ahmadinejad than invading Iraq and letting him use oil money to assis Al Quida, Hamas and Hezbola! Talk about a risk to Israel.
Is the Reverend Wright-loving, Khalidi-praising, Ayers-neighborly, Resco-friendly, anti-War Obama good for America and the world just because he is not George Bush? Yes, the anti-war Obama may be very good for the US. And, yes, I have a problem with Reverend Wright and the Khalidi association, whatever that might be. The Ayers and Rezko issue do not particularly bother me at all. Any one in politics, or for that matter at a significant organizational level in a company will occasionally find themselves meeting, and associating with, people with whom they would not socialize on a voluntary basis. Let me cite a personal example, which could be used against me were I to run for political office: As an executive for a very large firm, I had several occasions to attend meetings at the California Club and the Jonathan Club, knowing that they had had strict exclusionary policies toward Jews, African Americans, Asians, et.al. I attended and probaly rubbed elbows with social racists; not doing so would have jeopardized my job, which I was not willing to do. I understand that this is not anything like the Rev. Wright issue, on the other hand, I could easily be accused of knowingly consorting with anti-semites at a racist organization.
How do you explain away those Obama associations, which in the case of Reverend Wright date back 20 hate-filled years? Or, perhaps, you agree that America is due for some comeuppance? The US has gotten its comeuppance in the world’s derision as a result of the actions of this administration, and, as I noted above, this does concern me, just not enough to not vote for Obama. I will take my chances with the Wright/Obama association over having the potential for Sarah Palin assuming the Presidency from a disabled or deceased McCain, or for either one of them picking the next several Supreme Court Justices.
I await your answers. You’ve gottem, you bet’cha; wink wink!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hannukah!
December 17, 2008 | 1:05 pm
Posted by Dean Rotbart
The New York Times is reporting today that some at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art “have grown wary” of philanthropist Eli Broad and his possibly less-than-generous effort to provide financial support to ailing MOCA.
In an Op-Ed article published last month in the Los Angeles Times, Broad, who along with his wife Edythe are the subject of my Monday ‘The Memo’ this week, promised to donate an additional $30 million to MOCA, if others would also pledge big bucks.
NYT reporter Edward Wyatt notes that the Broad’s offer is for $15 million in fresh funds for MOCA’s dwindling endowment and another $15 million to help cover operations and exhibits over the next five years.
Yet Wyatt reports that some wary MOCA board members say Broad’s terms “put him in the position to control the museum or its collections if the museum is not able to complete its fund-raising efforts.”
Kind of like a stealth hostile takeover.
The Times reported that The Broad Art Foundation issued a statement saying it will back any solution to MOCA’s fiscal crisis if the plan achieves five goals: “maintains MOCA’s independence, keeps MOCA headquartered on Grand Avenue, continues MOCA’s world-class exhibition program, preserves its collection for view by the broadest public, and provides financial assurances that would provide the institution with long-term financial health.”
Such a five-part solution is easy to envision. It is spelled B-R-O-A-D.
One item in the Times article that Eli and Edythe are not likely to reprint in their press clippings is Wyatt’s assertion that MOCA’s collection “is widely considered to be of greater depth and quality than Mr. Broad’s.”
No wonder Eli is willing to fork over $30 million to have a shot at controlling the entire MOCA collection, too.
What a charitable guy!
December 16, 2008 | 10:14 pm
Posted by Dean RotbartThe race by plaintiffs' attorneys to sign up victims of the Bernard L. Madoff investment fraud is off and running.
December 15, 2008 | 11:42 am
Posted by Dean RotbartDate: December 15, 2008
December 12, 2008 | 2:29 pm
Posted by Dean Rotbart
The victims of Bernard L. Madoff’s massive Wall Street swindle – perhaps as much as $50 billion, will include many Jewish non-profits that have been large beneficiaries of Madoff’s contributions.
The epicenter of pain may well be Yeshiva University, where Madoff sat on the Board of Trustees and was chairman of the Sy Syms School of Business. (YU says he has resigned all postiions with the college.)
I contacted YU this morning to discuss the matter and received back this terse statement from Hedy Shulman, director of media relations:
“We are shocked at this revelation. Our lawyers and accounts [sic] are investigating all aspects of his relationship to the university. We reserve our comments until we complete our investigation.”
Madoff has also been a large supporter of Gift of Life, which matches bone marrow donors and has saved hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives. Madoff and his wife Ruth, were honored for their support not long ago at a Gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt in New York attended by more than 700 guests. Master of Ceremonies was Tony Award winning actor, Ron Rifkin.
If government allegations against Madoff are accurate, he may well turn out to be the biggest fraud in the history of Wall Street, which has had its share of big schemers. Those looking to blame America’s economic crisis on the Jews – and yes there are some – will now have a poster boy for their crusade.
At the moment, there are so many important, unanswered questions. Among them: Did Madoff, who is also a major Democratic fundraiser, use ill-gotten gains to fuel his charitable giving? Hard to image that he did not.
Will any of his victims be able to recover donated funds? Sadly, it seems unlikely that most of those who trusted Madoff with their retirement savings and family estates will ever be made whole. The hard question is should YU and other charities ‘refund’ Madoff’s donations?
How many of Madoff’s clients are Jewish is unclear, perhaps never to be known. No doubt, however, many of his clients were also members of the tribe.
An early read of the financial press also suggests that some non-profits, including YU, may have invested part of their endowments directly or indirectly with Madoff’s firm.
The Jewish world has only just begun to sense the enormity of Madoff’s mischief. The worst is still to come.
p.s. Yeshiva University has already made a mess of its handling of this public relations crisis. I will be writing about it in The Memo next week. Take a look at this blogger who has documented YU’s effort to sandblast Madoff off its websites.