Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Semitism’



Why Time Doesn’t Care About Israel

Time cover story claims decadent Israelis no longer care about peace.

As Israel launches a new round of peace talks with the Palestinians, media outlets are bending over backwards to find a new angle on the peace process. One of the most shocking comes from Time magazine, whose cover story “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” suggests that Israelis no longer see peace as a priority because the economy is strong and the country has largely been free of terror inside the green line.
(An excerpt from the story can be read on th online here. The whole story appears in the print edition and on the magazine’s iPad application.)

Polls repeatedly show that Israelis strongly support a two-state solution to the conflict. But it may, indeed, be true that Israelis have grown skeptical of any breakthroughs with the Palestinian leadership now divided between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in control of Gaza. Israelis have seen that new peace talks are usually accompanied by new terror attacks.

The Time article, written by Karl Vick, however, glosses over any legitimate reasons why Israelis may have lost interest in the details of the peace process, instead presenting Israelis as callous, insensitive, and decadently more concerned with beaches, water sports, and Tel Aviv’s cafe culture than with matters of real substance.
Vick writes:
In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.
The reference to the “blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land” is particularly telling. Vick appears to subtly reject Israel’s historic claims to the land and to imply that Israelis are at fault in the conflict, since the land really belongs to the Arabs.
The print edition’s accompanying photos reinforce Vick’s contention that Israelis are preoccupied with leisure. The images feature Israelis lying on the beach, chatting at a cafe, or sitting on park benches. The implication is obvious: Israelis don’t care about peace because they are doing fine without it.
Thus, Time distorts Israeli resilience in the face of a decade of rocket attacks and terrorism into an image of decadence.
Perhaps the real reason Israelis have become apathetic to the peace process (not peace itself, as the cover suggests), is because of the way the world quickly forgets Israel’s numerous peace moves – Ehud Barak’s offer of a state at Camp David, Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, Binyamin Netanyahu’s settlement freeze. Yet the media blames Israel for years of stalemate.
While there have been no parallel moves from the Palestinians to advance the peace process, only ever-increasing demands on Israel, Vick gives the impression that the Palestinians have been doing everything they can to make peace possible.
In the West Bank, the territory administered by Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority, technocratic Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is taking a serious stab at governance, starting by professionalizing security forces. Even before the shooting deaths of four Jewish settlers by Hamas operatives on Aug. 31, the worst such incident since March 2008, Fayyad’s security forces had arrested more than 300 Hamas supporters in dread of an attack like that.
“Jewish settlers” – not Talya and Yitzchak Imes, Kochava Even-Haim, and Avishai Shendler, not civilians, not even “Israelis” — were killed by people Time labels as “Hamas operatives” while Fayyad sat “in dread” of such activity.
If Fayyad’s dread is what demonstrates Palestinian concern for peace after one year of rejecting Israeli offers for peace talks, what does Time have to say about Palestinian leaders beyond Fayyad?
A few days before leaving for Washington, chief Palestinian negotiator looked into a camera. “Shalom to you in Israel,” he said. “I know we have disappointed you.” In a bold, not to say desperate, bid to rouse ordinary Israelis, seven senior Palestinian officials addressed themselves to Israel directly in online videos. Each clip concludes with the words “I am your partner. Are you mine?”
While some may see Erekat’s comments and the Palestinian videos as political propaganda that gives no insight into the minds of the Palestinian people, for Vick it serves as a counterpoint to Israel’s apparent apathy. Of course, he has to bend over backwards to make the point.
As a result, we have another cover story on newsstands worldwide accusing Israel of not caring about peace. What we really learn, however, is that Time magazine doesn’t care about Israel.
Please send your considered comments to letters@time.com
HonestReporting. com

Why Time Doesn’t Care About Israel

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Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
There were many odd things about my recent Havana stopover (apart from the dolphin show, which I’ll get to shortly), but one of the most unusual was Fidel Castro’s level of self-reflection. I only have limited experience with Communist autocrats (I have more experience with non-Communist autocrats) but it seemed truly striking that Castro was willing to admit that he misplayed his hand at a crucial moment in the Cuban Missile Crisis (you can read about what he said toward the end of my previous post – but he said, in so many words, that he regrets asking Khruschev to nuke the U.S.).

Even more striking was something he said at lunch on the day of our first meeting. We were seated around a smallish table; Castro, his wife, Dalia, his son; Antonio; Randy Alonso, a major figure in the government-run media; and Julia Sweig, the friend I brought with me to make sure, among other things, that I didn’t say anything too stupid (Julia is a leading Latin American scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations). I initially was mainly interested in watching Fidel eat – it was a combination of digestive problems that conspired to nearly kill him, and so I thought I would do a bit of gastrointestinal Kremlinology and keep a careful eye on what he took in (for the record, he ingested small amounts of fish and salad, and quite a bit of bread dipped in olive oil, as well as a glass of red wine). But during the generally lighthearted conversation (we had just spent three hours talking about Iran and the Middle East), I asked him if he believed the Cuban model was still something worth exporting.

“The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore,” he said.

This struck me as the mother of all Emily Litella moments. Did the leader of the Revolution just say, in essence, “Never mind”?

I asked Julia to interpret this stunning statement for me. She said, “He wasn’t rejecting the ideas of the Revolution. I took it to be an acknowledgment that under ‘the Cuban model’ the state has much too big a role in the economic life of the country.”

Julia pointed out that one effect of such a sentiment might be to create space for his brother, Raul, who is now president, to enact the necessary reforms in the face of what will surely be push-back from orthodox communists within the Party and the bureaucracy. Raul Castro is already loosening the state’s hold on the economy. He recently announced, in fact, that small businesses can now operate and that foreign investors could now buy Cuban real estate. (The joke of this new announcement, of course, is that Americans are not allowed to invest in Cuba, not because of Cuban policy, but because of American policy. In other words, Cuba is beginning to adopt the sort of economic ideas that America has long-demanded it adopt, but Americans are not allowed to participate in this free-market experiment because of our government’s hypocritical and stupidly self-defeating embargo policy. We’ll regret this, of course, when Cubans partner with Europeans and Brazilians to buy up all the best hotels).

But I digress. Toward the end of this long, relaxed lunch, Fidel proved to us that he was truly semi-retired. The next day was Monday, when maximum leaders are expected to be busy single-handedly managing their economies, throwing dissidents into prison, and the like. But Fidel’s calendar was open. He asked us, “Would you like to go the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. (This happened a number of times during my visit). “The dolphin show?”

“The dolphins are very intelligent animals,” Castro said.

I noted that we had a meeting scheduled for the next morning, with Adela Dworin, the president of Cuba’s Jewish community.

“Bring her,” Fidel said.

Someone at the table mentioned that the aquarium was closed on Mondays. Fidel said, “It will be open tomorrow.”

And so it was.

Late the next morning, after collecting Adela at the synagogue, we met Fidel on the steps of the dolphin house. He kissed Dworin, not incidentally in front of the cameras (another message for Ahmadinejad, perhaps). We went together into a large, blue-lit room that faces a massive, glass-enclosed dolphin tank. Fidel explained, at length, that the Havana Aquarium’s dolphin show was the best dolphin show in the world, “completely unique,” in fact, because it is an underwater show. Three human divers enter the water, without breathing equipment, and perform intricate acrobatics with the dolphins. “Do you like dolphins?” Fidel asked me.

“I like dolphins a lot,” I said.

Fidel called over Guillermo Garcia, the director of the aquarium (every employee of the aquarium, of course, showed up for work — “voluntarily,” I was told) and told him to sit with us.

“Goldberg,” Fidel said, “ask him questions about dolphins.”

“What kind of questions?” I asked.

“You’re a journalist, ask good questions,” he said, and then interrupted himself. “He doesn’t know much about dolphins anyway,” he said, pointing to Garcia. He’s actually a nuclear physicist.”

“You are?” I asked.

“Yes,” Garcia said, somewhat apologetically.

“Why are you running the aquarium?” I asked.

“We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!” Fidel said, and then cracked-up laughing.

“In Cuba, we would only use nuclear power for peaceful means,” Garcia said, earnestly.

“I didn’t think I was in Iran,” I answered.

Fidel pointed to the small rug under the special swivel chair his bodyguards bring along for him.

“It’s Persian!” he said, and laughed again. Then he said, “Goldberg, ask your questions about dolphins.”

Now on the spot, I turned to Garcia and asked, “How much do the dolphins weigh?”

They weigh between 100 and 150 kilograms, he said.

“How do you train the dolphins to do what they do?” I asked.

“That’s a good question,” Fidel said.

Garcia called over one of the aquarium’s veterinarians to help answer the question. Her name was Celia. A few minutes later, Antonio Castro told me her last name: Guevara.

“You’re Che’s daughter?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And you’re a dolphin veterinarian?”

“I take care of all the inhabitants of the aquarium,” she said.

“Che liked animals very much,” Antonio Castro said.

It was time for the show to start. The lights dimmed, and the divers entered the water. Without describing it overly much, I will say that once again, and to my surprise, I found myself agreeing with Fidel: The aquarium in Havana puts on a fantastic dolphin show, the best I’ve ever seen, and as the father of three children, I’ve seen a lot of dolphin shows. I will also say this: I’ve never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.

In the next installment, I will deal with such issues as the American embargo, the status of religion in Cuba, the plight of political dissidents, and economic reform. For now, I leave you with this image from our day at the aquarium (I’m in the low chair; Che’s daughter is behind me, with the short, blondish hair; Fidel is the guy who looks like Fidel if Fidel shopped at L.L. Bean):

fidel and goldberg.jpg

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-cuban-model-doesnt-even-work-for-us-anymore/62602/

Fidel: ‘Cuban Model Doesn’t Even Work For Us Anymore’ – International – The Atlantic

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Fidel to Ahmadinejad: ‘Stop Slandering the Jews’

By Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic
(This is Part I of a report on my recent visit to Havana. I hope to post Part II tomorrow. And I also hope to be publishing a more comprehensive article about this subject in a forthcoming print edition of The Atlantic.)
A couple of weeks ago, while I was on vacation, my cell phone rang; it was Jorge Bolanos, the head of the Cuban Interest Section (we of course don’t have diplomatic relations with Cuba) in Washington. “I have a message for you from Fidel,” he said. This made me sit up straight. “He has read your Atlantic article about Iran and Israel. He invites you to Havana on Sunday to discuss the article.” I am always eager, of course, to interact with readers of The Atlantic, so I called a friend at the Council on Foreign Relations, Julia Sweig, who is a preeminent expert on Cuba and Latin America: “Road trip,” I said.

I quickly departed the People’s Republic of Martha’s Vineyard for Fidel’s more tropical socialist island paradise. Despite the self-defeating American ban on travel to Cuba, both Julia and I, as journalists and researchers, qualified for a State Department exemption. The charter flight from Miami was bursting with Cuban-Americans carrying flat-screen televisions and computers for their technologically-bereft families. Fifty minutes after take-off, we arrived at the mostly-empty Jose Marti International Airport. Fidel’s people met us on the tarmac (despite giving up his formal role as commandante en jefe after falling ill several years ago, Fidel still has many people). We were soon deposited at a “protocol house” in a government compound whose architecture reminded me of the gated communities of Boca Raton. The only other guest in this vast enclosure was the president of Guinea-Bissau.

I was aware that Castro had become preoccupied with the threat of a military confrontation in the Middle East between Iran and the U.S. (and Israel, the country he calls its Middle East “gendarme”). Since emerging from his medically induced, four-year purdah early this summer (various gastrointestinal maladies had combined to nearly kill him), the 84-year-old Castro has spoken mainly about the catastrophic threat of what he sees as an inevitable war.

I was curious to know why he saw conflict as unavoidable, and I wondered, of course, if personal experience – the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 that nearly caused the annihilation of most of humanity – informed his belief that a conflict between America and Iran would escalate into nuclear war.  I was even more curious, however, to get a glimpse of the great man. Few people had seen him since he fell ill in 2006, and the state of his health has been a subject of much speculation. There were questions, too, about the role he plays now in governing Cuba; he formally handed off power to his younger brother, Raul, two years ago, but it was not clear how many strings Fidel still pulled.

The morning after our arrival in Havana, Julia and I were driven to a nearby convention center, and escorted upstairs, to a large and spare office. A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.

We shook hands, and he greeted Julia warmly; they have known each other for more than twenty years. Fidel lowered himself gently into his seat, and we began a conversation that would continue, in fits and starts, for three days. His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor. When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question – has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God? – he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.” (This is funnier if you are, like me, an ex-self-defined socialist.) At another point, he showed us a series of recent photographs taken of him, one of which portrayed him with a fierce expression. “This was how my face looked when I was angry with Khruschev,” he said. 

Castro opened our initial meeting by telling me that he read the recent Atlantic article carefully, and that it confirmed his view that Israel and America were moving precipitously and gratuitously toward confrontation with Iran. This interpretation was not surprising, of course: Castro is the grandfather of global anti-Americanism, and he has been a severe critic of Israel. His message to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, he said, was simple: Israel will only have security if it gives up its nuclear arsenal, and the rest of the world’s nuclear powers will only have security if they, too, give up their weapons. Global and simultaneous nuclear disarmament is, of course, a worthy goal, but it is not, in the short term, realistic. 

Castro’s message to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, was not so abstract, however. Over the course of this first, five-hour discussion, Castro repeatedly returned to his excoriation of anti-Semitism. He criticized Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and explained why the Iranian government would better serve the cause of peace by acknowledging the “unique” history of anti-Semitism and trying to understand why Israelis fear for their existence.

 
He began this discussion by describing his own, first encounters with anti-Semitism, as a small boy. “I remember when I was a boy – a long time ago – when I was five or six years old and I lived in the countryside,” he said, “and I remember Good Friday. What was the atmosphere a child breathed? `Be quiet, God is dead.’ God died every year between Thursday and Saturday of Holy Week, and it made a profound impression on everyone. What happened? They would say, `The Jews killed God.’ They blamed the Jews for killing God! Do you realize this?”

He went on, “Well, I didn’t know what a Jew was. I knew of a bird that was a called a ‘Jew,’ and so for me the Jews were those birds.  These birds had big noses. I don’t even know why they were called that. That’s what I remember. This is how ignorant the entire population was.”

He said the Iranian government should understand the consequences of theological anti-Semitism. “This went on for maybe two thousand years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” The Iranian government should understand that the Jews “were expelled from their land, persecuted and mistreated all over the world, as the ones who killed God. In my judgment here’s what happened to them: Reverse selection. What’s reverse selection? Over 2,000 years they were subjected to terrible persecution and then to the pogroms. One might have assumed that they would have disappeared; I think their culture and religion kept them together as a nation.” He continued: “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” I asked him if he would tell Ahmadinejad what he was telling me. “I am saying this so you can communicate it,” he answered.

Castro went on to analyze the conflict between Israel and Iran. He said he understood Iranian fears of Israeli-American aggression and he added that, in his view, American sanctions and Israeli threats will not dissuade the Iranian leadership from pursuing nuclear weapons. “This problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down in the face of threats. That’s my opinion,” he said. He then noted that, unlike Cuba, Iran is a “profoundly religious country,” and he said that religious leaders are less apt to compromise. He noted that even secular Cuba has resisted various American demands over the past 50 years.

We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro’s fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. “The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated,” he said. “Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war.” I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. “That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense,” Castro wrote at the time.

I asked him, “At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?” He answered: “After I’ve seen what I’ve seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn’t worth it all.”

I was surprised to hear Castro express such doubts about his own behavior in the missile crisis – and I was, I admit, also surprised to hear him express such sympathy for Jews, and for Israel’s right to exist (which he endorsed unequivocally). 

After this first meeting, I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro’s invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. “Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him,” she said. “Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he’s really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn’t expect to have. And he’s revisiting history, and revisiting his own history.”

There is a great deal more to report from this conversation, and from subsequent conversations, which I will do in posts to follow. But I will begin the next post on this subject by describing one of the stranger days I have experienced, a day which began with a simple question from Fidel: “Would you like to go to the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?”

This article available online at:
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/09/fidel-to-ahmadinejad-stop-slandering-the-jews/62566/

Copyright © 2010 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All Rights Reserved
Fidel to Ahmadinejad: ‘Stop Slandering the Jews’ – International – The Atlantic



Jewish World Review April 13, 2010 / 29 Nissan 5770
A Dangerous Silence
By Ed Koch

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I weep as I witness outrageous verbal attacks on Israel. What makes these verbal assaults and distortions all the more painful is that they are being orchestrated by President Obama.


For me, the situation today recalls what occurred when the Roman emperor Vespasian launched a military campaign against the Jewish nation and its ancient capital of Jerusalem. Ultimately, Masada, a rock plateau in the Judean desert became the last refuge of the Jewish people against the Roman onslaught. I have been to Jerusalem and Masada. From the top of Masada, you can still see the remains of the Roman fortifications and garrisons, and the stones and earth of the Roman siege ramp that was used to reach Masada. The Jews of Masada committed suicide rather than let themselves be taken captive by the Romans.
In Rome itself, I have seen the Arch of Titus with the sculpture showing enslaved Jews and the treasures of the Jewish Temple of Solomon with the Menorah, the symbol of the Jewish state, being carted away as booty during the sacking of Jerusalem.
Oh, you may say, that is a far fetched analogy. Please hear me out.
The most recent sacking of the old city of Jerusalem — its Jewish quarter — took place under the Jordanians in 1948 in the first war between the Jews and the Arabs, with at least five Muslim states — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — seeking to destroy the Jewish state. At that time, Jordan conquered East Jerusalem and the West Bank and expelled every Jew living in the Jewish quarter of the old city, destroying every building, including the synagogues in the old quarter and expelling from every part of Judea and Samaria every Jew living there so that for the first time in thousands of years, the old walled city of Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank were “Judenrein” — a term used by the Nazis to indicate the forced removal or murder of all Jews.
Jews had lived for centuries in Hebron, the city where Abraham, the first Jew, pitched his tent and where he now lies buried, it is believed, in a tomb with his wife, Sarah, as well as other ancient Jewish patriarchs and matriarchs. I have visited that tomb and at the time asked an Israeli soldier guarding it — so that it was open to all pilgrims, Christians, Muslims and Jews — “where is the seventh step leading to the tomb of Abraham and Sarah,” which was the furthest entry for Jews when the Muslims were the authority controlling the holy place? He replied, “When we retook and reunited the whole city of Jerusalem and conquered the West Bank in 1967, we removed the steps, so now everyone can enter,” whereas when Muslims were in charge of the tomb, no Jew could enter it. And I did.
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I am not a religious person. I am comfortable in a synagogue, but generally attend only twice a year, on the high holidays. When I entered the tomb of Abraham and Sarah, as I recall, I felt connected with my past and the traditions of my people. One is a Jew first by birth and then by religion. Those who leave their religion, remain Jews forever by virtue of their birth. If they don’t think so, let them ask their neighbors, who will remind them. I recall the words of the columnist Robert Novak, who was for most of his life hostile to the Jewish state of Israel in an interview with a reporter stating that while he had converted to Catholicism, he was still a cultural Jew. I remain with pride a Jew both by religion and culture.
My support for the Jewish state has been long and steadfast. Never have I thought that I would leave the U.S. to go and live in Israel. My loyalty and love is first to the U.S. which has given me, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants, so much. But, I have also long been cognizant of the fact that every night when I went to sleep in peace and safety, there were Jewish communities around the world in danger. And there was one country, Israel, that would give them sanctuary and would send its soldiers to fight for them and deliver them from evil, as Israel did at Entebbe in 1976.
I weep today because my president, Barack Obama, in a few weeks has changed the relationship between the U.S. and Israel from that of closest of allies to one in which there is an absence of trust on both sides. The contrast between how the president and his administration deals with Israel and how it has decided to deal with the Karzai administration in Afghanistan is striking.
The Karzai administration, which operates a corrupt and opium-producing state, refuses to change its corrupt ways — the president’s own brother is believed by many to run the drug traffic taking place in Afghanistan — and shows the utmost contempt for the U.S. is being hailed by the Obama administration as an ally and publicly treated with dignity. Karzai recently even threatened to join the Taliban if we don’t stop making demands on him. Nevertheless, Karzai is receiving a gracious thank-you letter from President Obama. The New York Times of April 10th reported, “…that Mr. Obama had sent Mr. Karzai a thank-you note expressing gratitude to the Afghan leader for dinner in Kabul. ‘It was a respectful letter,’ General Jones said.”
On the other hand, our closest ally — the one with the special relationship with the U.S., has been demeaned and slandered, held responsible by the administration for our problems in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. The plan I suspect is to so weaken the resolve of the Jewish state and its leaders that it will be much easier to impose on Israel an American plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leaving Israel’s needs for security and defensible borders in the lurch.
I believe President Obama’s policy is to create a whole new relationship with the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and Iraq as a counter to Iran — The Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Muslim world which we are now prepared to see in possession of a nuclear weapon. If throwing Israel under the bus is needed to accomplish this alliance, so be it.
I am shocked by the lack of outrage on the part of Israel’s most ardent supporters. The members of AIPAC, the chief pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington, gave Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a standing ovation after she had carried out the instructions of President Obama and, in a 43-minute telephone call, angrily hectored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Members of Congress in both the House and Senate have made pitifully weak statements against Obama’s mistreatment of Israel, if they made any at all. The Democratic members, in particular, are weak. They are simply afraid to criticize President Obama.
What bothers me most of all is the shameful silence and lack of action by community leaders — Jew and Christian. Where are they? If this were a civil rights matter, the Jews would be in the mall in Washington protesting with and on behalf of our fellow American citizens. I asked one prominent Jewish leader why no one is preparing a march on Washington similar to the one in 1963 at which I was present and Martin Luther King’s memorable speech was given? His reply was “Fifty people might come.” Remember the 1930s? Few stood up. They were silent. Remember the most insightful statement of one of our greatest teachers, Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
We have indeed stood up for everyone else. When will we stand up for our brothers and sisters living in the Jewish state of Israel?
If Obama is seeking to build a siege ramp around Israel, the Jews of modern Israel will not commit suicide. They are willing to negotiate a settlement with the Palestinians, but they will not allow themselves to be bullied into following self-destructive policies.

To those who call me an alarmist, I reply that I’ll be happy to apologize if I am proven wrong. But those who stand silently by and watch the Obama administration abandon Israel, to whom will they apologize?


April 11, 2010

Artists Embellish Walls With Political Visions

CARACAS, Venezuela — Of all the murals and graffiti that adorn this anarchic city’s trash-strewn center, one creation by the street artist Carlos Zerpa fills him with special pride: a stenciled reinterpretation of Caravaggio’s “David with the Head of Goliath,” in which a warrior grasps the severed head of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mr. Zerpa, 26, a slightly built painter sporting a few days of stubble, shrugged at the possibility that American visitors to Caracas — or Mrs. Clinton for that matter — might find the mural offensive. “It’s a metaphor for an empire that is being defeated,” he said nonchalantly in an interview. “My critics can take it or leave it, but I remain loyal to my ideas.”
So does the government, which supports Mr. Zerpa’s creations and the work of many other street artists, and is increasingly making them a central element of its promotion of a state ideology. Government-financed brigades of graffiti artists and muralists are blanketing this city’s walls with politicized images, ranging from crude, graffiti-tagged slogans to bold, colorful works of graphic art.
The more overtly political images tend to glamorize President Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution, and his demonization of Washington is a favorite subject.
One stencil painting near the Plaza Bolívar in the old center depicts a smiling President Obama in a Santa Claus outfit distributing missiles labeled with the words Afghanistan and Iraq. Another painting lambastes the government of Colombia, Washington’s top ally in the region, by showing a knife thrust into a map of Colombia by a cherubic right-wing Colombian politician.
Some of these images were painted near billboards advertising American products like Heinz ketchup or Pepsi (the United States remains Venezuela’s top trading partner). The billboards themselves stand above traffic-snarled streets that go almost completely dark at night because of electricity shortages.
Once darkness falls, soaring numbers of murders and kidnappings make many districts a no man’s land. Not even once-esteemed public works of art are safe, with aerosol-equipped taggers carrying out a visual assault on sculptures by renowned artists like Gego and Jesús Soto.
Street artists here, who largely differentiate themselves from the city’s hordes of graffiti taggers, say the slow-burning chaos that increasingly characterizes Caracas makes it an ideal place for them to ply their trade.
“There’s a great deal of freedom here to do what we want,” said Yaneth Rivas, 27, a member of the same street-art brigade as Mr. Zerpa, called the Communications Liberation Army. Her work, mainly posters placed at bus stops, is more nuanced than Mr. Zerpa’s. She explores, for instance, the polarization of Venezuelan society in one image showing two policemen from different districts of Caracas pointing guns at each other.
Their groups, together with other street-art brigades, were created over the past year or so by the Ministry of Communes. Some groups remain part of the ministry, like Guerrilla Communications, which offers graffiti and stencil workshops around the city.
Others, like Communications Liberation Army, operate somewhat autonomously but still get material like spray paint from the government.
“These groups share the objective of reclaiming public space and turning it into a kind of street periodical that can be constantly renewed and painted over to get their message out,” said Sujatha Fernandes, a sociologist at Queens College in New York who has written a book on urban social movements in Venezuela.
Not everyone putting up images on walls here draws support from the government. Saúl Guerrero, a stencil painter who ranks among the city’s most prolific street artists, has painted dozens of melancholic portraits of people around the eastern districts of Caracas, signing them with the nom-de-plume “Ergo.”
Mr. Guerrero, 29, an anthropologist and aid worker who spends part of the year in Africa, opted to forego sharp political statements for simple portraits, often of young Africans or of worn-out faces that reflect a life of destitution. He painted dozens of them on walls and telephone boxes in Chacao, a relatively prosperous municipality here.
“I wanted to get away from the European-looking faces that dominate advertising in Venezuela in an attempt to trigger people into thinking about the reality of the place we live,” Mr. Guerrero said.
But his work, which does not toe the party line, has provoked a backlash among some supporters of Mr. Chávez.
After his full name appeared in a Caracas culture magazine, some progovernment graffiti taggers identified Mr. Guerrero as Jewish (mistakenly, it turned out) and began directing anti-Semitic slurs against him in online forums.
Some scribbled swastikas on his street paintings, reviving concerns of anti-Semitism here. Last year, after a Sephardic synagogue was desecrated by vandals, senior officials insinuated that Jews were responsible. Officials later arrested 11 people, including seven police officers, in connection with the episode.
Mr. Guerrero said the defilement of his work was unfortunate, especially since it stemmed from polarization that he was hoping to assuage. But he also said he expected others to paint over work he viewed as ephemeral.
“I would have preferred for someone to have colored parts of my work, making it 300 times better, but that doesn’t always happen,” he said.
Other street artists here said that they also expected their work to disappear into the chaos of Caracas.
Ms. Rivas, for instance, reacted almost with indifference when she learned that someone had recently pasted campaign posters on top of a multicolored poster at a bus stop that had taken her weeks to design and commented on the ideological tug-of-war on Venezuelan television.
“We’re not looking for immortality with our work,” she said. “Our gallery is the street, and that means we have to hope our images spur passers-by to think a little before they disappear.”


Charlie Gasparino reports that senior executives inside Goldman are in a panic over its image, trying to hire a “brand manager”-and even blaming a prejudice against the firm’s Jewish chiefs.

Goldman Execs Blame Anti-Semitism
by Charlie Gasparino
August 20, 2009 | 11:31pm

Charlie Gasparino reports that senior executives inside Goldman are in a panic over its image, trying to hire a “brand manager”—and even blaming a prejudice against the firm’s Jewish chiefs.

How worried are Goldman Sachs executives about their ability to manage the coming media tsunami when bonus season comes around?
Paranoia might not be too strong a word to describe the mind-set. People inside Goldman tell me that some senior executives say they believe the onslaught of negative stories detailing Goldman’s manifold ties to upper levels of government, charges that it somehow fraudulently profited from the subprime crisis, and now the press about the firm’s record earnings is so out of proportion to reality that the coverage contains an element of anti-Semitism—subtly playing off the racist myth of a conspiracy of Jewish bankers controlling the world for their own benefit. (Goldman was founded by a Jewish immigrant, and after years of being run by Gentiles Jon Corzine and Hank Paulson, is once again run by a Jew, Lloyd Blankfein.)
“Blankfein is scared to death about what might happen when the bonus numbers hit,” one executive says.
Blankfein, I am told, isn’t paranoid but really concerned about being placed in an untenable position for any CEO who needs to retain talent. If he doesn’t pay his people, many will simply jump ship to other firms—including private-equity firms—that will. If he does, he faces endless negative coverage about how Goldman is making its partners rich at the expense of taxpayers who bailed out the firm last year.
This quandary has resulted in some very serious discussions at Goldman to attempt to spin the bonus issue in the best possible (or least damaging) way. The Daily Beast has learned that Goldman is considering “a menu” of options: One possibility is to pay the vast majority of the bonus in stock. On Wall Street, executives receive a combination of stock and cash, with the cash portion comprising 65 percent of the total bonus. Goldman may just flip that around.
Another option, according to people close to the matter, is for Goldman to pay much smaller bonuses and just hand out larger salaries, meaning there won’t be a massive media event that occurs every year once all the bonuses, including Blankfein’s—which hit nearly $70 million for 2007, just months before Goldman’s bailout—are announced.
A third option, these people say, is for Goldman to forgo bonuses for the most part and just buy its stock in the open market. Because most of its executives have large pieces of their net worth tied up in shares of Goldman, the wealth effect would be bigger and less sensational than paying all those huge bonus packages at the end of the year.
Blankfein, of course, has a good reason to be worried. Brand and image is more important now than ever before, and the CEO’s internal research shows that Goldman is taking a beating like never before. Some of the criticism of Goldman is of course, absurd, like it committed securities fraud simply by shorting the housing market back in 2007.
Some of it isn’t: that the firm is now embracing the same type of risk that led to its near implosion back in 2008.
It almost doesn’t matter—it’s all starting to stick, and Goldman has suddenly replaced Citigroup, Merrill, and even Lehman as the leading culprit of Wall Street greed and abuse committed during the financial crisis. In the good old days, Goldman could just ignore the chattering class, make a lot of money, and tell the rest of the world to screw off.
No longer. The firm, like the rest of the former bastion of capitalism known as Wall Street, is protected by the federal government as a commercial bank. Goldman was bailed out with the rest of the financial system late last year, and while government bureaucrats don’t run Goldman like they run Citigroup, they are watching the firm like never before. And one thing government bureaucrats don’t like is bad publicity, even if it’s in fringe media publications.
That’s why Goldman has been looking for months for the right person to fill the job of “brand manager.” It’s the reason senior executives at the firm meet almost daily on how to repair the firm’s image. It’s the reason Blankfein “looks like shit,” according to one Wall Street CEO who considers himself a friend of the Goldman CEO and who says Blankfein has “become obsessed with the firm’s image problems.” And it’s the reason Goldman is weighing a menu of options that could soften what senior executives believe will be an onslaught of negative media attacks when the firm doles out bonuses to its best people at the end of the year.
“Blankfein is scared to death about what might happen when the bonus numbers hit,” one executive says.
Of course, there might not be any bonus money to hand out. The markets could implode over the next two months. The Fed could stop subsidizing Wall Street’s risk-taking and revoke Goldman’s charter as a commercial bank, meaning it is no longer Too Big to Fail and will have to pay more to finance trades and roll the dice in the bond markets. Goldman also could try to corner the market of drug stocks, betting President Obama’s health-care plan will fail, and guess what, the American people suddenly change their mind and embrace socialism and learn to love “the public option,” making Goldman’s trade an even worse bet than subprime debt back in 2007.
But barring any of this, Goldman will have a piggy bank of more than $11 billion to dole out in bonuses at year’s end, not exactly what most businesses would consider a problem, unless, of course, you’re Goldman and you’ve undergone the longest media-induced proctology exam in the firm’s long and storied history.
Spokesman Lucas Van Praag declined to discuss the specifics of the “menu” of options the bank is considering, but he said any stock-buyback program won’t be tied to bonuses.
What was interesting about Van Praag’s “denial” was that he won’t deny Goldman is weighing some large stock buyback. “I can’t comment on that,” he said before adding that analysts had been calling on the firm to do a stock buyback for some time.
One thing is certain: Goldman’s top executives might be getting much richer at the end of this year, but the firm’s reputation is sinking and may well sink further.
Consider this: Goldman produced record earnings in the second quarter, and if it just cranks out mediocre profits for the remaining two, Blankfein would be on course to receive a bonus of $50 million or more, according to people inside the firm.
This after Goldman was rescued from extinction (this is where I agree with the conspiracy theorists) nearly a year ago, when the financial crisis became most acute, with a $10 billion capital injection from the federal government, not to mention the tens of billions of dollars that flowed right to Goldman’s bottom line when the federal government bailed out AIG and honored all those insurance contracts Goldman held on its own portfolio of risky debt.
Of course, the flacks at Goldman would tell you that Goldman was among the first to repay its loan, and amazingly, they continue to spin that the firm wasn’t really bailed out when the Feds bailed out AIG. (Their rationale is too nonsensical to explain; trust me on this one, they’re full of shit.) Where they’re less full of shit on is the difficulties they face in dealing repairing the firm’s image.
The normally tight-lipped Van Praag put it this way: “We are obviously cognizant of the environment and the atmosphere that we’re operating in, but we also recognize that we have to pay our people to keep the firm competitive, which poses some issues for us.”
Van Praag also concedes that the recent attacks on the firm have hit home, particularly for Blankfein, after The New York Timesreported that former Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman CEO) Hank Paulson spoke to Blankfein far more than any other CEO during the height of the financial crisis last year, suggesting that Goldman received preferential treatment. “Is Lloyd worried about our image? Nobody likes negative publicity. It’s unpleasant,” the spokesman says.
Charles Gasparino is CNBC’s On-Air Editor and appears as a daily member of CNBC’s ensemble. He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and a frequent contributor to the New York Post, Forbes, and other publications. His book about the financial crisis, The Sellout, is scheduled to be published later in 2009.





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