The Zookeeper’s Wife: Reflections on Past and Present

19 Apr

 

I found “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” the 2017 film version of Diane Ackerman’s 2007 non-fiction construction of a tale of heroic resistance to Nazi brutality in Warsaw, deeply moving for several reasons. Although familiar from other films, this renewed exposure to the mentality that informed the Nazi Holocaust powerfully and sensitively rendered, especially through the medium of concrete details (e.g. smuggling Jews from the Warsaw ghetto by hiding them beneath garbage collected to feed pigs, so as elude inspecting guards; or the non-Jewish pediatrician who insisted on accompanying his Jewish students on the train carrying them to the Treblinka death camp; or the contrast between the eco-humanist tenderness toward all kinds of animals and a variety of vulnerable people of the zookeeper and his wife—the real life Żabińskis, Antonina and Jan—and the violent loutishness of the Nazi soldiers and ghetto guards).

 

The originality of the film arises from the relationship between the zookeeper couple, their love of and intimacy with animals, and their brave double undertaking to save 300 Jews from certain death as the ghetto was closed and destroyed with its inhabitants sent off to die in gas chambers as well as their loving dedication to what animals remained alive in the zoo after Nazis carted the most exotic creatures off to German zoos and killed for sport most of the rest in the manner of homicidal hunters. The fact that the story was true, reconstructed from the diary of the zookeeper’s wife, Antonina Żabiński, added moral and psychopolitical weight to the narrative. And, finally, the terrifying experience of the animals, loved by the zookeepers, desecrated by the Nazis, was very affecting, especially the impact of the bombing of the zoo during the German attack and siege of the city of Warsaw in 1939 that killed some of the wild animals and sent others scurrying in frenzied shock beyond their cages onto the zoo grounds and even into the city. Of course, any zoo, however benign the zookeepers, is a kind of prison for its totally innocent and vulnerable inhabitants, and so this experience of war was an experience of double jeopardy so far as the imprisoned animals were concerned.

 

What struck me most intensely, and prompted this reflection, was the extreme victimization of Warsaw Jews. It made me wonder at the time whether, as a Jew myself and had I been born in Warsaw an obvious target of this genocidal fury. I realized that I was spared only because I happened to be born beyond the Nazi reach. From a metaphysical perspective, this seemed a very arbitrary dividing line between a normal life and an unseemly death. Sharing this identity with the millions of victims, should I not at least respect the post-Nazi Jewish effort to achieve security and survival in the form of Israel and refrain from further criticism? Should I not withdraw from my commitments to Palestinian solidarity, and not further interfere with Israel’s efforts to find its path as a state among states? Have I any right to pass judgment?

 

I realized that this reaction was testing my political identity in fundamental ways, especially raising issues about how to connect this unexpected and strangely belated responsiveness to my ethnic reality with my more cosmopolitan wish to give priority to human and species identity, and to respond empathetically to existential suffering and vulnerability. These further musings reminded me of the present Palestinian ordeal. It led me to ask myself whether such a double vision was at all manageable.

 

In the foreground of these reflections was undoubtedly a spate of recent high visibility attacks on my person and character as joint author of a report commissioned by the UN Economic and Social Commission of West Asia (ESCWA), and released with the title “Israeli Practices Towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid.” I was smeared by Ambassador Nikki Haley, UN Watch, and by an assortment of media outlets as an anti-Semitic Israeli-basher. Although such attacks were maliciously motivated, and sufficiently far from my actual beliefs or deeds to be personally unthreatening, their repetition was bound to take its toll in terms of my public reputation. As Joseph Goebbels, and modern advertising taught the world, a lie or defamatory smear repeated often and loudly enough, especially in prominent places, will eventually gain credibility, and even the most convincing refutations will be largely ignored.

 

Recovering my moral compass, allowed me to reaffirm the hierarchy of my commitments. I do honor the memory of the Holocaust as a prime experience of unrestrained evil, forever a source of mourning and foreboding, and acknowledge that I have a certain degree of ‘survivor guilt’ having been so arbitrarily spared despite my ethnic eligibility for the gas chamber. At the same time, I refuse to defer to that past by disregarding present evil, no matter the perpetrator. The Palestinian experience of victimization is severe, prolonged, ongoing, without an end in sight. Israel’s refusal to seek a reasonable compromise is connected with expansionist territorial ambitions, a lofty sense of biblical entitlement, a defiant attitude toward international law and widely shared moral beliefs, and an uncritical militarism as the foundation of the security of the Israeli state. The persistence of the Palestinian order is one of the great moral scandals of our time, and there is no credible emancipatory future on the political horizon. As a Jew, and even more as a human being, I feel morally comfortable and politically responsible about joining with others of good will and strong faith around the world in calling upon Israel to dismantle its apartheid regime, restore the state of Israel to a condition of political legitimacy, and in the interim to endure the indignities and pressures mounted by the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaign.

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44 Responses to “The Zookeeper’s Wife: Reflections on Past and Present”

  1. Claudia April 19, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    So well said. Thank you!

  2. ray032 April 19, 2017 at 5:02 pm #

    Once again, Richard, more Power to you in living according to your personal Ideals and Principles, ‘I refuse to defer to that past by disregarding present evil, no matter the perpetrator.’

    You do Speak Truth to Power, speaking the Truth that outweigh the criticisms from wherever they come. May your Good Spirit be Indestructible.

    On the subject of ‘present evil’ with Today’s events, this is what I said is on my mind in my Public FB News Feed earlier.

    For those who watched the 1st briefing by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he is now after Iran, Publicly, laying the groundwork for an attack with your acquiesce by your lack of interest as if you live in some alternate Universe as if that’s only a bad movie. It’s not. It’s Life and Death for others, over there, but on the way here if we remain unconcerned while we are amused and distracted by our smart phones while we remain dumb.

    Within 100 days, Trump has intensified military action in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, South Sudan, and only God knows wherever else kept secret from the Public, along with the CIA, Elite US Military Special forces, and other undercover, covert operations conducted overseas by the US Government to stir up shit. In addition to the rampted up military operation so far, the US is also raising the verbal tensions with Russia, North Korea and put on notice Today, Trump is coming after Iran.

    I see it as being on the road to this old vision of a TIME coming on the earth, even NOW.

    And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.(false beliefs about God in Judaism, Christianity & Islam. written some 500 years before Islam, the 3rd arm from the Jewish religious record appeared)

    For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth (the 1%, Presidents, Prime Ministers, CEOs, and other Idols of the People) and of the whole world, (the rest of Humanity) to gather them to the battle of that Great Day of God Almighty. (the war is already underway between Judaism, Christianity and Islam leading to the climax of that Great Day)
    Behold, I come as a thief. (when you least expect it)
    Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
    And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
    Revelation 16:13-16

    Armageddon was derived from Har Megiddo, located in Judea and Samaria of occupied Palestine 2000 years ago. Israel as a kingdom disappeared some 800 years before Jesus walked in that area during the occupation.

    Har Megiddo/Armageddon still exists as a physical place in this material world, but is now under the control of temporal Israel re-created from the Bible after an absence of some 2800 years. After all those years, the occupation of Judea and Samaria in Palestine is still an unresolved, violent, open wound in the Middle East and this material world.

    With increased tensions, all it takes is one unintentional mistake by one side or the other, and there may be no turning back.

    As the Title suggests, I wrote about Syria being on the way to Iran 5 years ago.
    SYRIA: A WITCH’S BREW – ON THE ROAD TO TEHRAN
    A dangerous and volatile Witch’s brew is shaping up in Syria as many competing world powers rush in to affect the outcome not necessarily in Syria’s National interest, but with an agenda in the National interests of those foreign meddling powers. The CIA, MI5, Saudi Arabia, certainly Mossad, the French, Turkey, Russia, Iran, China, Al Qeada, the Arab League and others all have a hand in stirring the pot bringing it to a boil.

    https://ray032.com/2012/02/27/syria-a-witchs-brew-on-the-road-to-tehran/

  3. Bob Gorovoi April 19, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    All without one word on the Palestinians continual incitement and religious glorification of terrorist murderers. Or that they have refused several offers of peace if it means recognising Israel as the Jewish state. Could that be an obstacle to peace?? According to Falk the problem is the Jews. Only the Jews.

    • Richard Falk April 19, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

      That is not my position. I have followed closely the interaction, and it has involved a steady shrinking of
      the territory that Israel is prepared to give up, with a steady commitment to incorporate Judea & Samaria on
      the basis of a biblical entitlement. To demand that Israel be recognized as ‘a Jewish state’ when 21% of the
      population is Palestinian is unacceptable from the perspective of human rights.

      • davel2z April 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

        The U.N. itself called for a Jewish State and for good reason. Your quibbling over percentages is discriminatory. Many other countries describe themselves in ethnic and/or religious terms and no one cares. Israel is in effect being punished by you for not expelling all its non-Jews.

        By the way, your “shrinking” comment is also off the mark. You really have developed an anti-Israel obsession and it’s causing you to say odd things.

      • ray032 April 22, 2017 at 5:38 am #

        Israel violates both the Spirit and the letter of the Balfour Declaration.

        From The British White Paper of 1939, before British Empire was converted to American Empire during WWII. Had England retained Empire, The UN may not have re-created Israel from the Bible.

        We can’t change the Past, but every Day while it’s called Today, we can change ourselves for the better.

        Israeli Arabs still face much discrimination in Israel. but maintaining armed Cantons of Democracy in the occupied territory while maintaining a 50 year Brutal Military Dictatorship for Palestinians only, depriving them of all Civil rights in the Balfour Declaration of 100 years ago, and doing much worse in practice on the ground TODAY. It corrupts the whole Israeli Democracy, exposing it as a Fraud, leading not the the Spiritual Promised Land of Peace, Security and Prosperity for all humans on the ground, it is leading to a violent, destructive hell on earth for Jews, Palestinians et al!

        You cannot be a True Democracy for one group of People, and at the same TIME maintaining a 50 YEAR Military Dictatorship over another conquered People.

        Along the same lines, The Messiah-Christ-Saviour of the World said during the occupation of Palestine 2000 years ago:
        No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. – Luke
        In Matthew, it’s MAN not SERVANT.

        It has been urged that the expression “a national home for the Jewish people” offered a prospect that Palestine might in due course become a Jewish State or Commonwealth. His Majesty’s Government do not wish to contest the view, which was expressed by the Royal Commission, that the Zionist leaders at the time of the issue of the Balfour Declaration recognised that an ultimate Jewish State was not precluded by the terms of the Declaration. But, with the Royal Commission, His Majesty’s Government believe that the framers of the Mandate in which the Balfour Declaration was embodied could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country. That Palestine was not to be converted into a Jewish State might be held to be implied in the passage from the Command Paper of 1922 which reads as follows

        “Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.’ His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated …. the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE.”

        But this statement has not removed doubts, and His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State. They would indeed regard it as contrary to their obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, as well as to the assurances which have been given to the Arab people in the past, that the Arab population of Palestine should be made the subjects of a Jewish State against their will.

    • Gene Schulman April 19, 2017 at 11:57 pm #

      I can’t speak for Prof. Falk, but for me the problem is the Zionists. Only the Zionists, and the Americans who help them.

      I am the same age as Falk and lived through the same feelings during and after the Nazi holocaust. It is the Zionist holocaust against the Palestinians that make me realize that evil isn’t confined to the ‘goyem’. As Avram Burg advised, it is time to forget the holocaust and move on. Unfortunately, that is difficult to do because the Zionists won’t let us.

    • ray032 April 20, 2017 at 2:27 am #

      Is it possible that self hating Jew seeing things on the ground in Israel, Gideon Levy, is writing to you?

      Opinion A Heartfelt Apology to Haaretz Readers

      To all offended readers, I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; and the occupier and the occupied?

      Dear Orna and Moshe Gan-Zvi,

      I was saddened to read in Tuesday’s Hebrew edition of Haaretz that you’ve decided to cancel your subscription. I don’t know you, but I will miss you as readers. As someone who is partly responsible for your decision, as your article indicated, allow me to apologize. To apologize for writing the truth all these years. I should have taken into account that this truth wasn’t palatable to you, and acted accordingly.

      It was not pleasant for you to read the theory put forward by me and my fellow Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass about the occupation. You, who are active in Rotary Israel, who come from the business world, who are so proud of your children and the fact that they live in the West Bank. Your son was educated at the Eli premilitary academy, and your granddaughters proudly carry the last name Sheetrit. You, who are so pleased with yourselves and your values, with your children and your morals, don’t think you should be forced to read unpleasant truths. You simply don’t deserve it.

      Indeed, how could I have spent all these years publishing articles that even you, generously, admitted were touching, without ever, to my shame, checking how these Palestinian families ended up in their serious predicaments? Really, how did that happen? Of course it was their own fault, but I keep blaming the Israel Defense Forces – how could I? And how could Amira Hass be so one-sided and lacking in perspective that would explain how a people could prefer the elimination of another people over a democratic society? Really, how could you, Amira?

      I assume, Moshe, that if they were to lock you in a cage for years, you would continue your Rotary membership and refuse to back a struggle against your incarceration. I assume, Orna, that if foreign soldiers were to burst into your home in the middle of the night and arrest your Moshe before your eyes, kick him, force him to his knees, blindfold him, handcuff him, and beat him in front of your children who study in Eli – and then snatch him from your home for months without trial – you would be looking for some “creative leadership” for your people.

      I assume that you, who come from the business world, would lovingly accept those who confiscate your property and ban you from your own land. I’m sure it would never occur to you to struggle against those who have tortured you with such evil for so many years.

      What can we do? The Palestinians are different from you, dear Orna and Moshe. They were not born in such lofty heights as you. They are human animals, bloodthirsty, born to kill. Not all of them are as ethical as you and your children from the Eli academy. Yes, there are people who fight for their freedom. There are people who are forced to do so violently. In fact, there are almost no nations who haven’t acted this way, including the chosen people you’re proud to belong to. Not only do you belong; you are the pillar of fire that leads the camp, you’re the best, the moral elite – you, the religious Zionists.

      I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; the occupier and the occupied? Forgive me for daring to turn off your joy and pride in the land flowing with milk and Mobileye, and cherry tomatoes, too. There are so many wonderful things in this country, and Haaretz – with its “moral deterioration,” as you call it – is ruining the party. How did I not see that you don’t like to read the truth, and didn’t take this into account when I’d return from the occupied territories every week to write about what I’d seen with my own eyes?

      But now it’s too late. The call to boycott chocolate spread was too much even for you, so you’ve decided to boycott Haaretz. From now on, the only paper on your coffee table will be the weekly, right-wing Makor Rishon. They won’t write about how IDF soldiers sprayed five Palestinian car passengers with bullets three weeks ago, and I’m sure your Shabbats will be a lot more pleasant from now on.

      http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.784352

      • Richard Falk April 20, 2017 at 8:25 am #

        Thanks, Ray, for sharing this. I know Gideon Levy but we are not in regular contact. It is a suitably
        ironic and devastating response to blindly pro-Israeli commentary.

      • ray032 April 22, 2017 at 4:46 am #

        Richard, I wrote Gideon after re-posting his article, and just got this reply.

        RE: Spreading the Word
        From: Gidon Levy
        To: ray032ray032

        Dear Ray, I am sorry for being so brief. I am following with admiration Richard’s struggle and I am so sorry I didn’t meet him for so long.

        Please send him my best regards. Gideon

      • Richard Falk April 22, 2017 at 7:55 am #

        Thanks, Ray, for sharing this message. Could you send me Gideon’s email address
        at

        I appreciate your deep commitment to law, justice, and the relevance of spiritual/religious
        understanding.

        Richard

      • Fred Skolnik April 22, 2017 at 11:04 am #

        Is it really “devastating” to characterize Israelis as the murderers and Palestinians as the murdered when Israel is at war with brutal terrorists who blow up Israeli women and children in buses and restaurants. That is why the Palestinian “Moshes” are arrested in the middle of the night. And is the commentary on this site anything other than “blindly” anti-Israel. And does it really give you pleasure to read such heavy-handed writing?

        I do not read Gideon Levy or any of the other opinion pieces in left- or right-wing newspapers. I don’t have to. I’m not looking for incriminating evidence. I live here and know exactly what Israel’s enemies have in mind. But I have watched Gideon Levy pontificating occasionally on one talk show or another. There is nothing admirable about him, not his perpetual smirk and not the resentments that he wears on his sleeve. You can get a sense of this in his “you who are so pleased with yourselves and your values.”

        What is being quoted here does not reflect the reality of the conflict. The occupation has lasted this long because the Arabs have refused to negotiate a settlement. The occupation is oppressive because the Arabs have engaged in terrorist acts.

      • Richard Falk April 22, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

        I am approving of this comment despite reservations. You seem unable to refrain from insulting those with
        whom you disagree. I know Gideon Levy, and find him a man of courage and character who pays a price for talking
        truth to power, but you seem him typically as someone with ‘nothing admirable about him’ as well as noting his
        ‘perpetual smirk’ and ‘the resentments he wears on his sleeve.’ I have found none of these characteristics either
        in his private or public demeanor.

        As for your suggestions that nighttime arrests are carried out only against ‘brutal terrorists’ is not supported
        by numerous first-hand and NGO accounts. You live in an Israeli dream world where Palestinian suffering is self-induced
        and Israel is without blemish. No matter how much you seek to demean and discredit those who see reality more truly and compassionately, it
        will never silence the criticism.

      • Fred Skolnik April 22, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

        Why should you have reservations about my remarks about Gideon Levy given the remarks he makes about Orna and Moshe Gan Zvi? And what reservations do you have about my reply to Mr. Schulman? Once again, you are only letting my comments through when you think you have a “devastating” reply. And again, what reservations do you have about my reply to Mr. Schulman?

        Your perception of Mr. Levy differs from mine but then again you have positive impressions even of the Hamas leadership. Mr. Levy is certainly not a terrorist but he is simply seething with animosity toward the Israeli establishment. In any case, you may get your information from NGOs but I get mine from having served on active reserve duty for nearly 20 years and knowing precisely how, why and when the army makes arrests. Even logically, it should be clear to any unbiased observer that Israel has no interest in arresting innocent people or otherwise stirring up a hornet’s nest by provoking the Palestinian population in any way. You are completely blind to the manner in which Israel perceives the threat of terrorism.

      • Richard Falk April 22, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

        Sometime you should experiment–call it a thought experiment–with supposing that those who
        disagree with your interpretation of reality are in good faith. By impugning the motives of
        those who see reality differently you cut off useful dialogue, making others either belligerent
        or defensive, neither constructive. If this is too difficult, given your temperament, why not
        just try ignoring them, responding to what they have to say (the message) while ignoring the
        messenger. I am curious whether you would even try such an approach.

      • Gene Schulman April 22, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

        I don’t see any reply buttons, so I’ll just wing it and see where this one falls.

        “Why should you have reservations about my remarks about Gideon Levy given the remarks he makes about Orna and Moshe Gan Zvi? And what reservations do you have about my reply to Mr. Schulman? Once again, you are only letting my comments through when you think you have a “devastating” reply. And again, what reservations do you have about my reply to Mr. Schulman.”

        I’m curious as to just what comments Skolnik might be referring. I haven’t addressed myself to him in months, nor do I intend to. Perhaps his problem is that he HAS spent 20 years in the Israel military and has become so indoctrinated in their nazi-like mentality that he can’t think rationally. Hence his negative reactions to such thinkers as Falk and Levy, who both being in such unprejudiced observer positions can see things that the brain-washed can’t.

        I know he wouldn’t think of doing so, but I highly recommend that Skolnik read Richard Falk’s latest book; “Palestine’s Horizon: Toward a Just Peace”. Yes, it’s style is academic, but it is one of the best descriptions about the history of the Palestine/Israeli struggle I have yet to read. The final chapters about Edward Said and the hope for a solution are particularly relevant and uplifting. It may take Auden’s demand, but, yes a miracle is necessary. Especially to overcome obstacles that people like Skolnik and his ilk construct.

      • ray032 April 24, 2017 at 6:36 am #

        Fred, I can only assume you are blinded to the reality Israeli terrorists, having F-16 Jet Fighters dropping phosphorous bombs, Apache helicopters, tanks and artillery that brutally bombarded an Israeli blockaded penned in area with no escape and killed thousands from the air. On a bus or from the air, God’s people are slaughtered and killed including women and children. And let’s not forget Operation Hannibal Israel implemented or an Israeli boat killing Palestinian children playing ball on a beach.

        Should the Palestinians love Jews who build and build on Palestinian land, the very Land that is the purpose of Peace Negotiations. The Palestinians on the ground see what the Zionists are doing to them even if you can’t.

      • Fred Skolnik April 24, 2017 at 9:42 am #

        Prof. Falk

        Since I am being addressed by your followers I will ask you to allow me to reply to them or remove their remarks.

      • Richard Falk April 25, 2017 at 7:40 am #

        I am asking that you address arguments substantively, and not continuously divert attention by hurtful personal
        allegations. And to suppose that your arguments are being evaded because I and others have no relevant responses
        is as arrogant as it is wrong.

        You seem not to realize that by resting your core defense of Israeli behavior on what Arabs might have done in the
        7th century is so irrelevant as to border on the absurd. Similarly, to wonder why Arabs were hostile to the imposition
        by European fiat of a state in their midst to be populated by outsiders does not seem worth discussing as it is so
        irrelevant to Israeli behavior and ambition for the last 50 years. The more surprising fact, completely unacknowledged
        by you, is that overwhelmingly in recent years, certainly since 1988, the Palestinians and wider Arab world has been
        prepared to accept the legitimacy of the Israeli state and to normalize its presence in the region, provided Israel would
        give up its encroachment on the Palestinian remnant (22% of Mandate Palestine), withdraw and coexist with Palestine on
        the basis of true equality.

      • Fred Skolnik April 24, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

        Dear ray

        You might as well start adding up the number of German civilian casualties in World War II and then wave it in the face of the Allies. When you hide behind your children to shoot at my children, someone’s children are going to get hurt. Be a hero with your own children. Don’t dare tell me how to protect mine.

      • Richard Falk April 24, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

        I decided to approve this comment, but it again pushes the limit by its unacceptable language–“Don’t
        dare tell me how to protect mine.” You persist in personal attacks, as well put forward extremist
        views that I totally disagree with, and consider irresponsibly inflammatory.

    • Beau Oolayforos April 20, 2017 at 7:20 am #

      Israel wishes to be called The Jewish State and The Middle East’s Only Democracy, simultaneously. How do you spell Hypocrisy???

  4. Kieran Kelly April 19, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Reblogged this on .

  5. ray032 April 25, 2017 at 7:12 am #

    For those with eyes open to see the spirit behind the unfolding Realities in this MATERIAL world, If I could just snap my fingers and make it all Good and Right for everybody on the Planet in an instant, I would.

    MY FAITH has me convinced the GREATER MAJORITY of all People on this Planet would do the same.

    As a Canadian, I had to hack into the signing page and register my opinion on such an important issue that will affect the whole Planet, not just Americans.
    I’m chagrined having to use a false ZIP Code to contact a Senator or House Representative.

    Americans have deluded themselves into thinking they own the world, and only American opinions will be considered. I see that as indicative of a blind arrogance that will be humbled and brought down by God so The BOOK says will happen in the Days of God’s anger. Humans are the conduit for God’s Anger or God’s Love! It cannot be both. It’s a matter of the Heart and Lifestyle choice.

    This is the petition I just signed. If that’s all we can do for the TIME BEING, do that instead of doing nothing. If People are damned for doing, and damned for not doing, do SOMETHING for God and Peoples sake.

    To all U.S. Senators and Representatives:

    We call on you to take action to ensure that no president can unilaterally launch a nuclear war.

    U.S. nuclear launch procedures have been designed for speed, not for democratic decisions. The president (or his designee) is the only person who can order the use of nuclear weapons and there are no checks or balances on that authority. As President Richard Nixon observed in 1974, “I can go back into my office and pick up the telephone and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.”

    While it should be inconceivable that any American president would conduct a nuclear first strike, President Trump’s past statements and erratic behavior make it imperative that we put checks and balances on nuclear launch authority. Only Congress can declare war, and that authority should apply to a nuclear first strike as well. Please co-sponsor H.R. 669/S. 200 to make America and the world safer by prohibiting the president from unilaterally starting a nuclear war.

    https://petitions.signforgood.com/TrumpNukes?code=PF

  6. ray032 April 25, 2017 at 9:19 am #

    Norman Finkelstein has a long piece and this is a brief excerpt:

    The 30 per cent reduction in the salaries of Palestinian Authority (PA) employees who stayed in Gaza and left their jobs following instructions from President Mahmoud Abbas and his then head of government Salam Fayyad is not only an action that can be changed or revised. It is clear that it was actually a prelude to other measures that will be stricter and more painful and will affect various services and citizens, especially that the successive reconciliation governments have so far failed to solve the problems of other employees hired by the Hamas government in Gaza to replace their colleagues who stayed home, following the orders of Abbas.

    The reaction to the salary cuts which affected citizens who followed the decisions of the Ramallah authority – affiliated with Fatah and other PLO factions – was very big. Nearly half a million people, representing almost one-third of the population of the Gaza Strip marched in the streets. The impact of the decision also extends to other sectors as it affects the overall economic cycle, leading to a decline in purchasing power in the Strip where unemployment is at about 60 per cent, according to the UN.

    President Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal to discuss the salary decision made by the government of Rami Al-Hamdallah demonstrates that the issue is not just an administrational procedure resulting from pressures on the budget, or austerity imposed upon the PA. If this was the case, it would include the whole country and not just part of it and it should be applied to all budget items, including various expenses of the PA and the PLO.

    http://normanfinkelstein.com/2017/04/25/the-pitiful-palestinian-leadership/

    He does not cover the 2006 Palestinian election Hamas won Democratically, all external monitors certified as being Free and Fair, the Majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Assembly.

    That Democratic result was unacceptable to Israel and the US so economic sanctions were immediately placed on the territory in a communal punishment. The US and Israel told Abbas to dissolve the Palestinian Parliament and rule as a Dictator which suited him, the US and Israel.

    With Hamas getting the RESPONSIBILITY to govern in 2006, it is now an opportunity lost, but direct negotiations without preconditions between Israel and Hamas, could have created a different Palestine than exists Today. Instead, Israel and the US disavowed the results of a Democratic Election.

    I don’t doubt after that Hamas saw Israeli-American Democracy is a Fraud, and bullets, not ballots, are the only way to get their attention.

    We know Israel goes into a frenzy whenever Fatah and Hamas talk Unity and reconciliation. The last thing Israel wants to face is a United Palestinian Front. When they changed the rules for Israeli election setting a minimum percentage to be on the ballot, the target was to disenfranchise the Small Arab Parties, but the untied into 1 Party, and all the smaller Jewish Parties were eliminated from the ballot.

    For those reading between the lines, Israel is getting ready for another Gaza War. This latest Directive from Abbas, may be the deliberate provocation to get Hamas to react, so the Israelis could conduct another Final Solution murderous bombardment of the Israeli controlled Ghetto of Gaza.

  7. Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 25, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    Richard,

    The comment that follows includes criticism of you specifically. It is aimed at your words and actions, and neither addresses issues of character nor hurls accusations of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, you may find it sufficiently unpleasant to reach for the delete button, as you have done in the past.

    But please note that it responds to your post on “The Zookeepers Wife”, which is autobiographical. I’ve phrased my comment in the third person, so as to minimize the appearance of confrontation. I suppose I could have written it as an allegory: “Once upon a time there was a man who and said….” But this would be too cutesy even for the internet.

    I hope you understand and will take the time to respond in a manner that encourages conversation.

    Regards,

    Ira
    ———————————————————————————————————–

    Prof. Falk begins his post by reporting that watching a recent Holocaust-themed movie had caused him to consider whether he, a Jew who was spared the Nazi horror by accident of being born in the United States, should “not withdraw from my commitments to Palestinian solidarity, and not further interfere with Israel’s efforts to find its path as a state among states?…I realized that this reaction was testing my political identity in fundamental ways, especially raising issues about how to connect this unexpected and strangely belated responsiveness to my ethnic reality with my more cosmopolitan wish to give priority to human and species identity, and to respond empathetically to existential suffering and vulnerability.”

    I have previously criticized Prof. Falk for portraying “Jewish” identity and values in an inaccurate and unfair manner, equating them with the views of religious and political hardliners, a small minority in Israel and the Diaspora, while ignoring the millions of Israeli and Diaspora Jews who are religious and/or political liberals, most of whom support the Palestinians’ drive for independence in the context of a peaceful co-existence between an Israeli ethnocracy guaranteeing full legal rights to its non-Jewish citizens, and a independent Palestinian ethnocracy self-governed according to the norms and traditions of its citizens. But in this instance, I wish to focus not on what Prof. Falk sees as “Jewish” values, but on what he regards as “Human values.”

    He writes: “I refuse to defer to that past [Jewish suffering during the Holocaust] by disregarding present evil, no matter the perpetrator.” Most Jews share that commitment. In fact, many of us, myself included, see our suffering during the Holocaust and in countless pogroms, massacres and exiles throughout history, as a mandate to work for a world in which neither Jews nor anyone else suffer a similar fate. In this regard, public opinion polls report that a majority of Israeli Jews oppose the Occupation, as do an overwhelming majority of North American Jews and their major religious and social action organizations, a proven reality that is never reported on this blog.

    However, an existential problem with Prof. Falk’s self-definition is that a person passing moral judgments on the basis of human or universal values might be expected to apply a single yardstick in all situations, perhaps with allowances for variations in power and human and/or material resources. In sharp contradistinction to this model, Prof. Falk applies an extreme double standard, placing total blame on Israel and none on the Palestinians. This isn’t hyperbole. He did it for the six years he served as the UN’s monitor for human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, which he claims was a requirement of office which he protested (leaving unanswered the question of why he accepted a position whose requirements he found objectionable). But more telling, he continues on this tack now that his UN tenure has expired.

    And when Palestinian violations are too prominent to be ignored, he becomes an apologist for Palestinian extremists, primarily Hamas. He characterizes affirmations in the Hamas Charter as being no more than “vague aspirations” although they are very specific and genocidal. Moreover, he assures us that Hamas doesn’t really mean what it says in its Manifesto, as he was told by unnamed Hamas operatives. And when Hamas leader Khaled Meishal delivered a speech laced with genocidal threats several years ago—demanding that loyal Palestinians not only kill the Jews, but to kill the adults slowly so that they can watch their children die—Prof. Falk explained that Meishal was speaking from the emotion of that die.

    Does it seem unreasonable to expect that someone claiming to wear the cloak of universal human values would denounce human rights violations “no matter the perpetrator, as Prof. Falk put it ? Perhaps he will explain to us why, in his case, that expectation is relegated to irrelevancy.

    • ray032 April 26, 2017 at 7:31 am #

      Ira, how do you balance this, “I have previously criticized Prof. Falk for portraying “Jewish” identity and values in an inaccurate and unfair manner, equating them with the views of religious and political hardliners, a small minority in Israel”

      with this?

      “In this regard, public opinion polls report that a majority of Israeli Jews oppose the Occupation,”

      The settlers are the extremely religious Jewish “minority” who has high jacked the reigns of Democracy for ‘Jewish identity and values.’ They have control of government in Israel by your own comment.

    • Gene Schulman April 26, 2017 at 9:16 am #

      What unadulterated horse s–t! This smear is so out of bounds that a response would only dignify it. It’s not worth the time to point out all the lies and twistings of fact. I’m not the one to be giving Richard advice, but if I were he, this would have been deleted immediately. Shame, shame!

    • Richard Falk April 26, 2017 at 10:07 am #

      Ira:

      Until you distinguish between the oppressor and the oppressed we have nothing to say to one another. You continue
      to ignore this vital aspect of my understanding of the current situation of the two peoples. It is not that the Palestinians
      are without fault or that Hamas is to be trusted, it is a matter of finding the path to peace and away from oppression. To
      dwell on my shortcomings, however satisfying it may be for you, is still a version of attacking the messenger and evading
      (or distorting) the message. Yes, there are ‘double standards’ but these are congruent with the gross inequality of the two
      sets of circumstances. By the way, you may be disappointed to hear that Hamas has apparently revised its Charter in ways that
      retreat from its former objectionable content. It has been convenient for Netanyahu’s Israel to keep Hamas locked into a terrorist
      box..I wish you would listen to what I am saying rather than heeding what you wish to hear me saying, and thus responding to
      a position that I would never myself support.

      • ray032 April 27, 2017 at 6:16 am #

        Richard, the Cold-War term ‘brainwashing’ is used by the West as much if not more than they accuse Russia of doing.

        Netantahu and his like minded supporters have brainwashed Israelis to see Gaza like this, and in my view, that’s a crime against Humanity!

        “Wars are not always begun by shots. They are often begun by action and the action which really created the state of war in an acute sense was the imposition of the blockade. To try to murder somebody by strangulation is just as much attempted murder as if you tried to murder him by a shot, and therefore the act of strangulation was the first violent, physical act which had its part in the sequence.
        Abba Eban, Israeali Foreign Minister, June 14, 1967

        No if, doubts, or buts about it. Israel is enforcing a slow strangulation of all the people of Gaza.

      • Fred Skolnik April 27, 2017 at 8:16 am #

        Dear ray

        As I’ve mentioned before, a blockade in a time of peace is a casus belli. A blockade in time of war is legal.

      • Rabbi Ira Youdovin April 27, 2017 at 8:29 am #

        Richard,

        I do know the difference between the oppressor and the oppressed, and take your alleging that I don’t as a personal slur. Indeed, in my previous comment asserting that a single standard be used in judging both sides to the conflict, I added that allowances must be made to take account of disparities in power, as well as in material and human resources.

        You use this approach and find that the disparity is so great as to justify a radically binary approach in constructing your narrative. As your judgment, and mine, are subjective, you’re correct that there’s no point in our trying the discuss the issue.

        But that’s not the major difference separating us. That would be your insistence that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved if Israel remains a Jewish ethnocracy while I maintain that it can be if Israel fulfills its commitments to being a Jewish democracy made in its Declaration of Independence and reflected in its Basic Laws, and if the Palestinians overcome powerful forces in their own camp that, until now, advocate destroying Israel.

        Whatever gave you the idea that i’m disappointed to learn that Hamas appears to be moving in the direction of revising its Charter? I’ve been saying all along that a key to resolving the conflict is Hamas’ willingness to abandon its stated rejection of recognizing Israel (as demanded in UN resolutions 242 and 338) and reconciling with Fatah and PLO so that the Palestinians will have a single unified and reliable voice speaking on their behalf in negotiations toward a just and sustainable peace that satisfies the legitimate aspirations of all parties to the conflict. No, the current Israeli government would not likely be a constructive participant. But Israel is a parliamentary democracy and polls strongly indicate that a government that fails to respond positively to the emergence of what diplomats call a “horizon” will quickly fall.

        Regards,

        Ira

  8. Fred Skolnik April 26, 2017 at 11:09 am #

    What is your path to peace then? You’ve never made it explicitly clear, in practicable terms. I have give you Israel’s likely opening positions. What is your response? What is your path?

    • Gene Schulman April 27, 2017 at 9:38 am #

      A few suggestions:

      1. Declare that Israel is not an exclusively Jewish state.

      2. Invite all Palestinians, no matter their religion, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, to live and reside wherever they choose and share civic institutions, schools, etc.

      3. Give all residents equal rights and citizenship in one state shared by all.

      That’s just for starters. These are clear, practical terms. Unfortunately, those who hold power now would never agree to share it with anyone other than their co-religion. Alas.

      • Fred Skolnik April 27, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

        That is of course not the path to peace since Israel will not consent to its extinction as a sovereign Jewish national state just as the Palestinians would not consent to the annexation of the West Bank and its incorporaion into Israel. The path to peace will have to satisfy the national aspirations of both sides in two separate states. Nothing else is practicable and therefore nothing else has value other than in a purely declarative sense.

      • Richard Falk April 28, 2017 at 7:47 am #

        One side dominates the other side, and constantly expands the scale and nature of encroachment. A casual
        glance at maps at intervals since the establishment of Israel vividly demonstrates this reality. To treat
        the two sides as symmetrical in any sense is to distort the situation. Beyond this, the present Israeli leadership
        seems much oriented toward pleasing the settlers than finding a political compromise with the Palestinians, As well,
        despite the fact that Israel’s overall security situation has improved, its demands actually increase–military presence
        in the Jordan Valley, control of borders, demand that PA recognize Israel ‘as a Jewish state.’ I agree that there
        are obstacles on the Palestinian side even if the diplomatic disparities are taken into account, especially the absence
        of unified and fully credible leadership.

    • ray032 April 27, 2017 at 9:44 am #

      Israel’s only position is to build, build, build and conduct idle talks while taking more and more Palestinian Land that is the purpose of Peace Talks to begin with. And expect the Palestinians just to shut up and take the abuse and humiliation. Israel has no other opening position. It’s Israelis only position. Take it lying down or endless war and bloodshed will continue. .

      • Fred Skolnik April 28, 2017 at 2:27 am #

        Almost all building is within the boundaries of existing settlements, so what difference does it make. No one expects the Palestinians to shut up. Israel expects them to negotiate a settlement within parameters that are clear to everyone and in actual fact require very little of the Palestinians other than relinquishing the idea of destroying the State of Israel with all this entails..

  9. Fred Skolnik April 28, 2017 at 2:52 am #

    By the way, Prof. Falk, I don’t really see how labeling Israel “the oppressor” is going to further the peace process. Wouldn’t it be wiser to focus constructively on areas of contention taking into account the points of view of both sides? Wouldn’t that be more constructive than apportioning blame? For example, you might focus on the problem of Jerusalem, which will require an imaginative solution to satisfy both sides. It seems to me that such proposals, brought to the attention of both sides, would contribute a good deal more to peace than establishing Israel’s guilt. Wouldn’t you agree?

    • Gene Schulman April 28, 2017 at 9:05 am #

      Israel’s guilt has long been established, by the UN and general consensus. The problem is how to bring it to justice. So long as it is aligned with and protected by the world’s greatest power who shares that guilt, we will not see justice for either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

      It is time for a serious paradigm shift, the seeds of which may be being sown by the nascent BDS movement.

      • Fred Skolnik April 28, 2017 at 11:00 am #

        You are suggesting a path that in reality will guarantee another 50 years of occupation. Israel is not going to disappear and the Palestinians are not going to get a state until they negotiate an end to the conflict. All the rest is rhetoric.

      • ray032 April 29, 2017 at 8:08 am #

        Fred, it is Israel that has been conducting the “idle rhetoric” for the last 50 years. Israel isn’t even close to declaring ‘Final borders’ and blames the powerless Palestinians for the idle talk.

        It is a ‘”False Deceitful Peace” Israel offers, along the same lines the Jewish Tribal Patriarchs did to the indigenous People seeing the ‘Promised Land” for the 1st time so long ago recorded in the Torah, Geesis 34.

        They showed themselves to be murderous thieves. and that’s from the Jewish record of their own ‘Chosen People’ Ancestors. As if men can prevent God from choosing other people living TODAY!

      • Fred Skolnik April 29, 2017 at 10:47 am #

        And by the way, apropos the BDS people, the fact that they are calling for a boycott of Israel while continuing to enjoy the benefits of Israeli technology and medical research should tell you something about their character. These include your computer, your mobile phone, voice mail, email, ebooks, Facebook, antiviruses, the Internet and vital medications and treatments for almost every major disease. They are like people demonstrating on a streetcorner to boycott a local drugstore and then sneaking around to the back after hours to stock up on medical supplies. God help us if anyone is counting on these overprivileged hypocrites to bring justice to the Middle East.

      • Richard Falk April 29, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

        There is no requirement of moral purity to support a BDS boycott, which is intended
        to be an expression of opposition to Israeli unlawful conduct, especially in the settlements.
        It is a campaign of solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for their rights, it
        is not a claim that by joining that struggle I must pass a test of moral purity as administered
        by someone convincing of the righteousness of the state of Israel.

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