Saturday, June 04, 2005

sharon by water030

sharon by water030
Originally uploaded by sm1raphael.


Originally uploaded by sm1raphael.

Some pull with zest and others let go.

go to

What is a Jew? My Opinion.

The recent disclosure that W. Mark Felt , a high level FBI man, is the Watergate era mystery person known as “Deep Throat” who revealed Nixon’s secrets has raised some complex issues that are not being discussed about anti-Semitism and Jewish identity. When Woodward and Bernstein were on CNN’s Larry King Live the other night, I thought I heard Carl Bernstein say Felt was Jewish or thought to be Jewish even though he was of Irish background and then I heard Woodward say after stammering a bit that he was not Jewish because he had no religious affiliation.

I can say truthfully that although I identify as Jewish I am not religious. I think most Americans equate being Jewish with being religious or thinking in terms of someone putting Jewish down when asked religious affiliation. I tend to define my Jewishness in more of an ethnic sense as I grew up in Jewish neighborhood and had two parents who identified as Jewish. Neither parent was religious or attended a temple. It follows then that for some, heritage can also help to define whether someone is Jewish or not. Obviously it was the name Mark Felt (sounds Jewish) and the way Felt appeared to look and perhaps, act, to Haldeman that made Haldeman jump to the conclusion that Felt was Jewish, a common way of stereotyping a person. I suspect someone is this or that identity and that person fits a certain perception that many people have about “those people” bottom-line that person is who I think she or he is.

What I find interesting is that Woodward automatically assumes Felt is not Jewish because he did not have a religious affiliation and that Bernstein was not so quick to throw out the assertion (I am assuming Carl Bernstein is Jewish, here we go again) . I have no idea if Felt comes from a Jewish background or not but I do know that many Jews seeking professional employment at high levels in government and work in other sectors of society that traditionally banned Jews just stopped identifying as Jewish and since these individuals were not religious , it became fairly easy to become invisible and simply merge with the general population like some African American who could pass for white did in larger numbers than many might think. (read Adrian, Piper, “Passing for White”, Transition, 58))

Felt is most likely not Jewish as Woodward proclaimed. But again Woodward’s definition of who might be Jewish may differ from someone else’s definition. But if he is or his parents were, think what it must have been like to be Jewish working under people like Richard Nixon and his peers who is heard on the Watergate tapes talking with Haldeman, below.

Nixon: "You know what I’d do with him, the bastard? Well that’s all I want to hear about it."
Haldeman: "I think he wants to be in the top spot."
Nixon: "That’s a hell of a way for him to get to the top. ... Is he Catholic?"
Haldeman: "Jewish."
Nixon: "Christ, put a Jew in there?"
(,” Nixon Horrified That a Jew could be in the FBI” Thursday, June 2, 2005 1:37 p.m. EDT)

When Jewish people disappear into the invisible fog of Christian humanity the children seldom know and usually the spouse does not know either. Remember Madeline Albright stating unequivocably she did not know her parentage was Jewish until relatives from abroad lifted the long held cover which was not her generation’s doing. In the end, one has to ask what is Jewish? I know people who say their parents were Jewish when asked their identity. It is certainly clear to me that Orthodox Rabbis and many other religious Jews do not consider someone Jewish unless they practice their religion. But for so many of us who are not observant, being Jewish is not that exclusive. It is more a cultural experience and something passed down from one generation to another.

Once that link is broken only a ghost of Jewishness remains or in some cases nothing at all. The easiest way to pass from Jewishness is to join a religious Christian denomination. I think most people who want to hide their Jewish identity become a member of a Christian denomination or at least get their children to change their religious affiliation by encouraging them to attend Church. The fact that Felt did not do this and maintains no religious affiliation makes it even more suspicious that he is not Jewish but in the end who knows? After all, “What is a Jew?”

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld: Wordsmith and War Criminal?

There is something about Donald Rumsfeld that I find truly scary. He doesn’t just answer questions, he tends to do soliloquies on them. He can even sound poetic about the most somber of topics which is duly noted in Slate Magazine
titled The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld : Recent works by the Secretary of Defense which you can read at

At Rumsfeld's most recent news conference (June 1, 2005) , he spent most of the time criticizing and responding to the assertions made by Amnesty International, a highly respected human rights organization, which purportedly compared Guantanamo Bay’s Military Prison to a Gulag which Rumsfeld easily sliced and diced to pieces since it really is not an apt comparison given the gulags affected millions of people and Guantanamo holds not more than 500 + prisoners at any one time. He also talked about how American soldiers are good people who have brought freedom to millions of people around the world implying a few bad apples don't add up to anything tantamount to evil, my words not his.

Rumsfeld easily uses clever wordplay to avoid dealing with essentially problematic situations like the fact he agreed to enforce the new policy within the Bush administration that lifted the rules of the Geneva Convention from application to prisoners captured in Afghanistan or Iraq and considered to be part of Al Quaida’s terrorist network, although it
has recently come to light that some of mostly Arab detainees may have actually been bought and sold by ethnic groups and Pakistanis who received rewards the Dept. of Defense advertised for information or better yet the direct handing over of individuals labeled to be “terrorists” or potential “terrorists” who have been kidnapped for the money and not because they are even suspected of having done anything at all.

Obviously these prisoners are supposed to be interrogated by US military and screened but by the time this all happens what have these individuals been put through and how many ever really are released? There is also the issue of turning suspects over to be imprisoned in countries that approve of extreme torture tactics for the very purpose mentioned here torture. Whatever the truth is on this score, Rumsfeld has not exercised much interest in protecting anyone basic human rights. He is too busy defending his sloppy procedures and practices. There is also the sad cases of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib Prison and also abuse conducted in other U.S. military run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan that almost cost Rumsfeld his job. But as we know Bush let him lay low for a while and now he is back talking his way through every minefield he meets never mincing his words and without conscience.

It is amazing to me that the media and particularly the reporters who interview Rumsfeld seem to buy into his wordplay and games. It is true the reporters do often ask questions which bring up problems but they are rarely voiced with any real urgency or deep concern.and there is little follow up to his answers. The next reporter just goes to something else, another topic. There seems to be the expectation that any question thrown Rumsfeld will be explained and sometimes it even appears the reporters are waiting for Rumsfeld to entertain them with some of his quixotic even more inane responses. Rumsfeld soliloquies will go down in history as the word rantings of a war criminal and I hope used in classes to show students how easily intelligent people who know how to use words can fend off the worst kind of accusations and criticisms, even war crimes.