Thursday, June 13, 2013

Titan is here, just as grumpy as last time

Obey a higher authority
Titan is back, grumpy and ranting as usual. You all must be totally fed up on him, but this is our world and someone has to shout, of course from the safety of an orbit around Saturn.

For starters, let us refer you to the Miriam Shlesinger Human Rights action blog. As the weeks and months go by without Miriam, we continue to realize what we have lost. She got us into the human rights struggle. Please act on behalf of people who are so much in need of support in their trials and tribulations at the hands of oppressive regimes and corporations.

Edyth Geiger 1919-2013
She was the mother of the late Miriam Shlesinger and of the late Aryeh Geiger, the founder of the Reut school in Jerusalem. Eydth founded and ran an English language library in Safed for well over thirty years. It was a unique place that enriched the lives of people in the community.  Her life was not easy, she outlived her husband and two of her four children. We shall all miss Edyth. May she rest in peace.

Proper disclosure: Edyth is responsible for the Pollyanna blog, written every other week by Titan's optimistic sister. When Titan first started ranting several years ago, Edyth asked to be removed from the circulation list because of the negativism. As a result, Titan called Pollyanna to the colors and asked her to write a blog about nice things to keep our beloved Edyth happy. Thank you Edyth for this as well.

Yoram Kaniuk 1930-2013

Yoram Kaniuk  credit New York Times
Yoram Kaniuk died this week at the age of 83. He was one of Israel's leading authors and his slashing criticism laid bare the failings and wrongdoings of the country. He was wounded in the War of Independence in 1948 and  had a difficult time starting off in life. He went to New York for a decade, returned to Israel in 1960 and wrote outside the establishment. Indeed, he was a maverick all his life. He sued the state to have the identification "Jew" removed from his ID card and won. Haaretz supplies an obituary and also eulogizes him in an editorial. There is also an obituary in the New York Times.  Kaniuk represented a generation that fought to bring Israel into existence, but lived to be bitterly disappointed by what it turned out to be. In an obituary in the Guardian he is quoted in his last blog entry: "We got trapped. We founded a state on a religion, rather than on the nation that we have nearly become. On our way we have not stopped at the hallway of civilization, and religion has stuck to us like a leech, as that's its only way to survive, and here it is. It is back. We have not become a nation."

A young man in Santa Monica CA was upset over family matters and the divorce of his parents. Reaction: Get some weapons and 1300 rounds of ammunition, shoot your father and brother while Mom is out of town, set their house afire and  then go out and kill a few more people on the streets and in the local college library before being shot by the police. Titan thinks it is about time that the sane and rational people in the US get their act together and repeal the Second Amendment. As Bob Dylan asks, "Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows That too many people have died ? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind The answer is blowin' in the wind."

The President of France, Hollande, has just told us all that the Euro crisis is over and that the eurozone will emerge strengthened by it. I hope he manages to persuade every unemployed Spanish or Greek, young or old. At times, the EU seems to bear a marked resemblence to Wonderland or the world Beyond the Looking Glass. The fiasco of the Constitution and the mad rush to expand into Eastern Europe and induct countries that were totally unprepared for democracy are a few examples, so say nothing of the fiscal mismanagement. Brendan Sims of Cambridge University, writing in the New York Times, gives us an interesting historical analysis of the EU and its unfortunate similarity to the Holy Roman Empire that ruled and misruled a good part of Europe for centuries. He also has some strong advice for the EU and its leadership. We thank Yosefa for calling this article to our attention.


Throughout human history, there have always been brave people who stood up to authority. In the case of an arbitrary despotic regime, the issues are usually clear. Antigone violated the law of Creon because she felt bound by a higher morality. In the case of a democratically elected regime, the issues are less clear. A recent editorial in Haaretz commenting on the Natan Blanc case (see our last blog) stated that laws are made by elected representatives, not by individuals.  In general, the Talmudic statement by Samuel, "the law of the kingdom, is the law"  (for readers of Hebrew) is considered binding. Nonetheless, elected majorities are not infallible and as we discussed two weeks ago in this blog in connection with the article of Prof. Eva Illouz, the public has the right and the duty to withdraw its consent from a government that makes and enforces unjust laws.

How do we withdraw consent? It appears to us that historically there have been four main means of doing so.

1. Speaking truth to power is a way of calling attention to injustice and trying to persuade the leadership to mend its ways. This means has a long tradition, going back to the Bible. Abraham stands up to God and demands justice for the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah, Amos and Jeremiah attack the regime about corruption, idolatry and political stupidity. Judah confronts the Prime Minister of Egypt face to face over an issue of rank injustice. Elijah speaks truth to Ahab and Nathan to David. In later times,  Martin Luther  posted his ninety-five theses, which he had composed in Latin, on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, and his modern namesake, Dr. King, in a famous speech at Riverside Church, called out the Johnson administration on the Vietnam war. There is often a price to be paid, as the Pussy Riot singers discovered.

2. Whistle blowing can embarrass a regime and sometimes effect change. It too demands a price. We are now watching the trial of Bradley Manning in a US military court.

 He is a United States Army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website WikiLeaks. The trial itself is a travesty of justice.   He joins the list of heroic whistle blowers who disclose the crimes of power and are made to pay the price. Manning is reminiscent of Daniel Ellsberg who helped strengthen public opposition to the Vietnam War in 1971 by leaking secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. The documents contained evidence that the U.S. government had misled the public regarding U.S. involvement in the war. The courts threw out the prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg and refused to issue an injunction against the publication of the documents. Today Ellsberg believes that a life sentence would have been asked for in his case by the Obama administration.
Daniel Ellsberg testifies about the Pentagon Papers at a Senate subcommittee meeting on May 16, 1973. (photo: AP)
Daniel Ellsberg testifies about the Pentagon Papers at a Senate subcommittee meeting on May 16, 1973. (photo: A
Now  Ellsberg is calling for donations to defray Bradley Manning's legal expenses. We have donated and we call upon you to do so as well. Ellsberg on his Web site has an interesting discussion of the manner in which secrets, including guilty ones of the establishment are protected from exposure to the public. We recommend reading it. We quote one paragraph: "The mystique of secrecy in the universe of national security, even beyond the formal apparatus of classification and clearances, is a compelling deterrent to whistleblowing and thus to effective resistance to gravely wrongful or dangerous policies. In this realm, telling secrets appears unpatriotic, even traitorous. That reflects the general presumption–even though it is very commonly false–that the secrecy is aimed not at domestic, bureaucratic or political rivals or the American public but at foreign, powerful enemies, and that breaching it exposes the country, its people and its troops to danger."

Now we have a new case, Edward Snowden, who is on the run after leaking National Security Agency (NSA) documents on the massive surveillance of American citizens by the Obama administration. We can see the protections once afforded to the privacy of citizens being eroded and we applaud the whistle blowers who have the courage to stand up and shout.

To be fair, let us give President Obama a chance to state his case. This video is a condensation of his long speech.:

We are sorry Mr. President, we are not convinced. The fact that the content of the calls and emails collected is not recorded makes little difference. Without probable cause, this amounts to phishing. Rabbi Arthur Waskow makes a strong point in favor of protection of privacy and shows how the information gleaned by this snooping could be used in a pernicious manner. Indeed the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution requires "probable cause" for issuing a search warrant. We note that in Numbers XXIV, 5, (to be read on June 22) we see that as Balaam gazed down upon the Jewish encampment, he proclaimed, "Mah Tovu Ohalecha Yaakov --- How goodly are your tents, O Jacob!" When the rabbis of Talmud (Baba Batra 60a) read this story, they asked what was so “goodly” about the tents, and answered that the doors of the individual tents did not face each other. Thus no family could see into another family’s tent. Each household protected its own privacy and that of all the others. This is the sort of thing that Roman Emperors, despot kings and agencies that find democracy a hindrance do not like.

Below, in our local section, we discuss an Israeli whistleblower, the former soldier, Anat Kamm, who is serving a jail sentence for exposing her commanding officer as a murderous criminal. He, of course, was promoted.

3. Active civil disobedience also has a long history. What Rabbi Akiva and Thomas More have in common is their martyrdom for the sake of principles for which they stood up to Hadrian and Henry VIII respectively. When Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King disobeyed the segregation laws that had been enacted by a legally elected set of authorities in the US South, they were ready to pay the price. We have an extreme case in last week's Torah portion, Korah,(Numbers XVI 1-XVII 15), which we read in synagogue, in which Moses gives up on verbal pleading and takes action to frustrate God who is hell-bent (excuse the blasphemous metaphor) on destroying the nation by plague. Moses employs holy ritual to stop the raging Deity in His tracks.

4. Violent revolutions break out when everything else has failed. They are often betrayed, but can leave lasting legacies of freedom, vid. the French Revolution. The Russian and Chinese revolutions that brought down corrupt despotic regimes replaced them with a Dictatorship of the Proletariat that in the end was no less despotic and corrupt. The leaders of the Arab Spring stood up to despots, only to see their revolution betrayed by the people they were trying to liberate.

There is no guarantee that any of the above modes of withdrawal of consent will work in the long or even the short run. Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution, not because of support for the House of Bourbon, but for fear of mob rule. Thomas Paine rebutted his arguments most effectively and Thomas Jefferson is credited (possibly incorrectly) with the statement "the price of freedom is eternal
vigilance." Paine makes the point that human rights originate in Nature, thus, rights cannot be granted via political charter, because that implies that rights are legally revocable, hence, would be privileges:
   "It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect  that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few... They...consequently are instruments of injustice ... The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other  to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise,       and the only principle on which they have a right to exist."

The real existence of an external adversary, be it a rival power or terrorist organizations that can strike anywhere provides an easy excuse for a regime to erode the freedoms of its citizens. We applaud the protesters in the US and elsewhere, the human rights NGO's that are making their voices heard and the individuals everywhere who are standing up and shouting a reverberating NO! to the powers of despotism. We wish things were as simple as Etienne de Boetie and Prof. Illouz seem to think i.e. that with withdrawal of consent, the regime falls as a house of cards. “Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed.” - See more at:

The unrest that has been going on for the last few weeks in Turkey certainly transcends anger about turning a park into a shopping mall. What we have here is a struggle for the future of a nation and a demand by secular, liberal people to put a stop to the takeover of society by extreme Islamists. It is not an easy struggle and success is by no means guaranteed. The government has means of suppression at its disposal and has not hesitated to use them. We call your attention to an analysis of the uprising by Saygun Go"kar?ksel. (Saygun Go"kar?ksel is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research focuses on the political and legal aspects of “democratic transitions” from authoritarian rule and specifically, the post-1989 ethico-political and judicial reconstructions of East European socialist experience on the basis of Communist Secret Service archives. Central to his research are themes of popular sovereignty, state formation, and political violence, concepts of truth, justice, and the public, and ethics of knowing, reconciliation, antagonism, and political life. He has taught in the Anthropology Departments of Lehman College and Queens College. His writing has appeared in Polish, Romanian, and Turkish journals.)


The UN treaty on arms trade has passed and over 60 nations have signed on already. Israel, as usual, voiced support and voted for it, but now is "looking into the details." We strongly suspect that the arms industry lobby which is mostly from the Defense Industrial complex will try to stall and prevent ratification and what is more important, incorporation of the treaty into domestic law. Many international conventions are signed, but remain dead letters because of lack of domestication. Let us hope that the international community can shame our government, although we note that Israel has not joined the ICC nor the International Convention Against Land Mines. Let us try to be hopeful about this.

Recently a judge in Israel, Nissim Yeshaya, while serving in an appeals case involving a rape victim made the statement "some girls enjoy rape"--hard to believe, but true. He is resigning all his official positions and the Court Administration will deal with it. We were shocked when Tea Party politicians in the US made light of rape and are appalled that it could surface in our midst.
Judge Nissim Yeshaya Photo: Avigail Uzi
Judge Nissim Yeshaya Photo: Avigail Uzi

We just had a case in which a bank clerk in the town of Tzur Yigal refused to open an account for an Arab citizen because "he had no attachment to the town".  What form of discrimination will be invented next? If you have an account at Bank Hapoalim, consider what you are supporting.

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” -- Albert Einstein

We are going to link you to a terrible story of evil, perpetrated by Israeli soldiers and West Bank settlers. Accompanied by a settlement security officer, IDF soldiers abused a Palestinian boy and avoided giving him proper medical attention. Yossi Gurevich tells the story in a post written for YeshDin and published on the blog +972. What are we to do about it? These soldiers are our sons and grandsons, young men educated in our schools and presumably brought up in decent families with values and principles. What can you say to a soldier who twists the broken leg of a child in order to cause pain? Please read the linked post and watch the embedded video. This is what we have become and what caused the heartache and disappointment of Yoram Kaniuk and many others.

One of the delights of our youth was a hot fudge sundae topped by whipped cream speckled with chocolate, all crowned by a luscious red cherry. Alas, today we must discuss a different cherry, rotten to the core and crawling with maggots of brutality, sadism and filth of spirit. We refer to the elite military unit in the Israeli Army known as Duv'devan, Hebrew for cherry. These mighty heroes, armed to the teeth, went off to battle a most ferocious enemy, risking their sacred lives to save the State of Israel from destruction. Let us quote Gideon Levy, who described their valor and also delivered a comment on it, much better than we could.
Najela Awad
Najela Awad, who was injured by a concussion grenade. The neighbors heard an IDF officer say "There's to be no mercy in this house."

 We quote:
"On the night of May 25, these soldiers set out on yet another cross-border operation, in the West Bank Palestinian village of Budrus. Their commanders must have gathered them together for a final pre-mission briefing before sunset. Surely they were told about the dangerous terrorist whom they must capture; doubtful they heard that his teenage brother had been killed just four months earlier in a reprehensible manner - shot from close range while trying to escape, after throwing rocks at the separation barrier.

At 2 A.M. the raid began. Someone heard the commander tell his soldiers, “There’s to be no mercy in this house.”

In this house of mourning, unworthy of Duvdevan’s mercy, slept eight teenage girls and young women, their parents and their youngest brother - members of the Awad family. On the roof slept the dangerous wanted man - a waiter in the nearby village of Na’alin suspected of throwing rocks and of disorderly conduct. Such serious offenses.

What happened after that was no less than a mini-pogrom. There were dozens of soldiers and dogs. The front door was sawn, windows smashed, innumerable stun grenades thrown into the home at its occupants. The wanted man thrown down the stairs and injured badly enough to pass out. Kicks and blows to the women and girls. "

The Army version of the story, that these women and children put up a "violent resistance" that necessitated the use of stun grenades, vicious dogs, kicks and blows to the women and girls, is the usual crock of bovine excrement that we have come to expect from the lie factory known as the Army spokesman. See the video in Levy's comment. It is also no surprise that young men who have been brainwashed since kindergarten with racist propaganda and machismo are capable of such atrocities. What is amazing is the cowardice of an army armed with nuclear weapons (according to foreign sources, of course) as well as the latest in aircraft, armor, artillery and the Lord knows what, that fouls its diapers because a teenager throws a stone at a barrier. Samir Awad threatened the entire success of the Zionist movement and therefore had to be gunned down as he fled. The wanted man Abed, who also threw a stone or two, had to be hunted down with "no mercy shown" for the glory of the State of Israel as our beacon lighters say on Independence Day.

When Yishayahu Leibowitz coined the expression Judeonazi to describe Israeli soldiers, some of us may have thought it to be exaggerated. No more. In 1990, Leibowitz said, “Everything Israel has done, and I emphasize everything, in the past 23 years is either evil stupidity or stupidly evil.“ The young soldiers who obeyed their commander might be thought of charitably as stupidly evil--their commander embodies evil stupidity. It is possible to raise children in Israel who do not turn out to be monsters. Many of them become highly moral individuals and advocates of justice and human rights. The stupid and evil product is a result of neglect on the part of parents and (courageous) educators to do their duty to counteract the thundering voice of militarism and jingoist nationalism. Martin Luther King said that the triplet of evil, racism, materialism and militarism, cannot be defeated unless society reforms itself. Abraham Joshua Heschel said in the context of the Mai Lai atrocity in Vietnam "Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible." A school principal in Tel Aviv, Dr. Zeev Degani, who refused to allow military propaganda in his school in 2010, received death threats and roused the ire of the Chief of Staff. It is an ongoing struggle for the soul of a nation's youth. The good guys are losing badly.

OK, Titan has sounded off enough and maybe too much. Let us look at lighter things for a change.

What If? shows you what a real Pollyanna attitude is.


 Dilbert Cartoon for Jun/06/2013
 Dilbert Cartoon for Jun/07/2013

Of course, we all try to be as green as we can in this day and age:
 Barney & Clyde for 6/11/2013

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