UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine – Emil Sandström IIA

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine – Part IIA

by

Howard Adelman

Emil Sandström

In the introduction to my study of UNSCOP, I asked whether the commission recommendation of partition into a Jewish and an Arab state had been based on a recognition of the national rights of the Jewish people to return and restore their homeland. I implied that the recommendation had not been based on a recognition of the rights of the Jewish people to national self-determination. If not, why did the committee recommend partition? Why did the commission recommend giving Jews their own state?

Dividing Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state meant war. The Arabs, including the Arab states, were clear and unequivocal – they would not allow an upstart minority led by Jews from Europe to carve out a separate state in the heartland of the Arabs. Further, they were not deterred by the United Nations. The committee had been deliberately set up to exclude states – Russia, the United States and the mandatory authority, Britain – from any direct role in the enforcement and implementation of the recommendation. The committee was to be a commission of influence and not one of enforcement, though presumably the imprimatur of the United Nations would bring some degree of authority to the recommendations. However, as shall become clear, beginning with Sandström, most committee members gradually came to the conclusion that enforcement would be required if partition were to be recommended.

As we shall see in subsequent sections, Sandström was not so naïve as to think no force would be needed to enforce a solution. In a memorandum he prepared in early August in preparation for making the final recommendation, he wrote, “who will enforce the partition scheme? The answer is that, insofar as it is accepted by Jews, the Jews themselves will look after their enforcement in their State and that for the rest of enforcement will depend on the force the United Nations will put behind the adoption of a solution.” Absent that enforcement, war was inevitable.

As Sandström concluded “Without resorting to force, it is to fear that no solution will get through.” (Memorandum by the Chairman, p. 6) In the Minutes of the First Informal Private Meeting of UNSCOP on 6 August 1947 to begin their deliberations where the views of the members were all surveyed, Sandström, in contrast to any of the other members, insisted that, “[We] must also consider possibility of enforcing the solution and the desirability of peace in Palestine.” (p. 5) He continued, “Any solution adopted will be met with rather violent reactions from both sides in the community and will have to be enforced by outside forces.” (p. 6)

In a Memorandum of the Chairman on 12 August, he reiterated, “As the main aim, I see an appeasement. I am aware that an appeasement might not come by itself, that a solution might have to be imposed by force. It is desirable that as little force as possible will have to be used in the appeasement-action and that, after this action will have come to an end, there is a fair chance of the peace being maintained.” (p. 1) Finally, in the notes used to prepare the final report (The Essential Factor in a Solution on the Palestine Question), on p. 15 on section IV “Implementation and Enforcement of a Solution,” he wrote, “Whatever the final solution it seems apparent that enforcement measures, at least for a time, will be necessary. On the basis of Articles 10 and 14 of the Charter it would seem clear that the General Assembly may properly make recommendations on such matters in connection with the final settlement of the Palestine question.”

In clause 2 of the section, he wrote, “The Crucial issue, however, is where the responsibility for enforcement will lie and where the expense involved will rest…it would probably be advisable for the Assembly to determine the size of the units required for this purpose, the states responsible for providing them, and other necessary details such as the command, and to incorporate these matters into a draft treaty which would be appended to its recommendations.” (p. 15) Sandström then went on to suggest why the creation of this international force might be extremely difficult if not impossible to achieve and fell back on the suggestion that the UK might assume responsibility for enforcement. Given the attitudes towards Britain, Sandström concluded that this would be “an extraordinarily difficult task” and we shall soon see why.

In effect, the game was over before it started since no path seemed open to an enforcement mechanism and an enforcement mechanism was viewed as absolutely necessary. In fact, the UN had proven itself to be impotent, though in 1947 there was still some hope that a UN recommendation would be effective in keeping the peace. That had been the chief goal of all international diplomatic efforts following WWII – peace based on the rule of law and not a peace enforced by might. 1948 would dash that hope even though the International Court of Justice began hearing its first dispute since the end of WWII, even though the third UNGA session adopted the Genocide Convention as well as a Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The ineffectiveness in many areas could be blamed on the outbreak of the Cold War and the absence of co-operation between the great powers, a presumed keystone for the United Nations to function. However, on the Palestine question, both superpowers supported the end of the mandate and both supported partition, though American support wavered. Can the impotence of the recommendation on partition in securing a peaceful resolution of the problem be blamed on inadequate consideration and poor reasoning of its members and not just an absence of enforcement of the recommendations?

Of the four members of the sub-committee on the constitution sub-committee, Emil Sandström and Jorge Granados, as well as Ivan Rand, were men very well acquainted with edicts from on high that carried weight through the quality of the legal and political reasoning and the authority of the institution issuing the decision. Only Dr. N. S. Blom had been involved in the actual exercise of power to implement the edicts of the Dutch imperial regime. The Jewish-Arab dispute was not an issue of power appropriate to understanding international resolutions on economic issues, for power relations failed to explain the resulting institutional recommendations once power was bracketed and surrendered as the mechanism to settle the conflict. When influence and authority both failed, the parties themselves resorted to military power to settle their conflict.

However, when the issue was referred to UNSCOP, an UNSCOP that deliberately excluded world powers (primarily the U.S. and the USSR), power from above had been surrendered as a means to settle the dispute, in part because the U.S. did not want to provide an opening for the USSR to have an influence in the Middle East. (This is particularly pertinent to the present when Russia has once again resumed its centuries-old efforts to acquire a geopolitical presence and influence in the Middle East.) Either of the major powers might have been able to settle the matter with a free hand, and certainly working together they could have, even though Britain had tied itself up in multiple knots and clearly failed to do so. Instead, the issue was referred to members of the Committee for a recommendation.

Power was bracketed because, by 1947 it was evident that the world was entering a cold war between two fundamentally incompatible economic systems with equally incompatible values. Western values were premised on the preservation of individual liberty against the encroachments of government power. In the East (loosely speaking), government coercion was the sole arbiter, not just in the use of force, but to facilitate the collectivity maximizing its economic potential. Such a conception was not viewed as the exercise of law; liberals in the West regarded this conception of law as the negation of the rule of law, for courts of law were neither independent nor impartial, but were simply instruments of the state. When all power is concentrated in the state and safeguards of individual liberty are abrogated, there is no rule of law but only the growth of tyranny. So UNSCOP was created largely on liberal premises related to the rule of law and the use of arbitration to mediate and arbitrate disputes to bring about a peaceful resolution of conflict.

In this case, that reference to the committee for this purpose failed. The intent of this paper is not to explain the failure, but the foundation for its recommendations that were presumed to be based on findings of fact, on customary international law and on the independence of the individuals on the committee. Emil Sandström , who became chair of UNSCOP, was steeped in these values aimed at using international arbitration as a solution for disputes that can result in violence and undermine international understanding and goodwill. Recommendations were to be based upon reason by men pledged to impartiality lest the alternative, war, result. But outside force was needed and it was not available.

___________________________________________________
Abdur Rahman in the Minutes of the Fourth Informal Meeting, Mr. Sandström’s Office, 8 August 1947, said that, “Partition would promote war – almost immediately – both inside and outside the state.” (p. 4) Hood said that there is, “No real evidence to suggest that partition would be easily enforced; evidence points in exactly opposite direction.” (p. 4)
Sandström was but one of a cluster of Swedish international civil servants who emerged after WWII to serve as mediators. The dispute between Thailand and Cambodia was arbitrated by a Swede. Olof Rydbeck mediated in the Western Sahara dispute, another conflict that remains unresolved seventy years later. Gunnar Jarring served as the mediator between India and Pakistan over Kashmir in 1957 and in the Middle East after the 1967 war. Of course, there was also Hammarskjöld, who, along with Mike Pearson of Canada, helped establish the original UN peacekeeping force following the crisis of 1956 and became Secretary-General of the United Nations.

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine I

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine I

by

Howard Adelman

Introduction:

After completing the latest phase of my research on the role of UNSCOP in the partition of Palestine, I started writing this article on 14 May 2016, sixty-eight years to the day, 14 May 1948, on which the British Mandate over Palestine expired, and sixty-nine years after the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was established by the United Nations on 15 May 1947. One year later, in the Tel Aviv Museum, the Jewish People’s Council approved a proclamation declaring the establishment of Israel, not simply as a state, but as the restored state of and for the Jewish people.

The Proclamation of the State of Israel read: “The land of Israel [Palestine] was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed. Here they achieved independence and created a culture of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and the restoration of it and their political (national?) freedom.”

It was a statement of national belonging, return and restoration. Further, the assertion went further and claimed that the efforts at restoration had been continuous throughout history. “Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim [(Hebrew) – immigrants coming to Eretz Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.”

This was historically remarkable. How did this happen? How did the Jewish people gain the support of the UNSCOP that recommended the partition of Palestine and the creation of two states, one state for the Jews from everywhere and another for the Arabs then living in Palestine? Had UNSCOP bought into the Zionist narrative of restoration and continuous national rights, of the right of the Jewish people to rebuild their national home, that such rights were recognized in the Balfour Declaration and reaffirmed by the League of Nations?

The declaration was linked to the Holocaust. But not in the way a contemporary observer would think. “Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland. In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom – and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.” Thus, the linkage was not because six million died and the world was and should feel guilty. The reason was a specifically Zionist one – the struggle to migrate to Eretz Israel – had been continuous and, secondly, Jews had fought as a nation in WWII against the Nazi menace.
This statement was a declaration of national rights confirmed by the resolution (181 II) of the United Nations on 29 November 1947 that permitted the inhabitants (not just the Jews) “to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. The UN recognized “the right of the Jewish people to establish their state.” Did the UN do any such thing? Did the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) that looked into the situation of the Palestine Mandate and make proposals for resolving the conflict there, base its recommendations on the national rights of the Jewish people? If not, why did the members of UNSCOP recommend the creation of a Jewish state alongside that of an Arab state in Palestine?

The resolution (181 II) passed by the United Nations General Assembly just six months earlier (29 November 1947), based on the recommendations of UNSCOP, was much more complex. First, the resolution envisioned a transition period of about four months; the creation of the Jewish and Arab states was to take place no later than 1 October 1947. Second, the plan was based, not on contiguous areas allocated to each state, but rather on three enclaves assigned to the Jewish state and three to the Arab state. A seventh enclave of Jaffa entirely within the Jewish state was to be allocated to the Arab state.

Most interesting of all, the eighth segment, Jerusalem, was, as everyone knows, to be allocated to and governed by the United Nations Trusteeship Council. If the Jewish people’s national rights in Israel had been recognized, why was the application restricted to three enclaves and not applied to all of Palestine and not even Jerusalem, for the call for return in the Jewish sacred texts was not to Palestine or Eretz Israel but to Jerusalem? And why did Recommendation XII (with two votes against and one abstention) insist that, “In the appraisal of the Palestine question, it be accepted as incontrovertible (my italics) that any solution for Palestine cannot be considered as a solution of the Jewish problem in general.”

Other than the territorial divisions, the resolution recommended an economic union, transit rights, how citizenship of the members of each of the polities was to be determined, how religious sites and minority rights were to be protected, and a transitional administration was provided to oversee the implementation of the recommendations and the assumption of UN power over Jerusalem by the United Nations Palestine Commission. That the plan read like a Rube Goldberg creation should have been no surprise since it was the product of enormous political jockeying, beginning with the make-up of UNSCOP and the proceedings within that committee. More surprising to some, however, there is no recognition of the national rights of the Jewish people to set up a state in their traditional homeland or, for that matter, the “natural” rights of the Arabs in Palestine for self-determination.

This paper does not deal with the full scale civil war that took place in the aftermath of the resolution, the rejection of the resolution by the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs on the basis that the resolution contravened the doctrine of self-determination to replace imperial edicts, the conditional acceptance by the Jewish Agency and the abandonment of the terms of the original resolution by the Special Session of the United Nations in the month preceding 14 May 1948 and the appointment of a mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, and of a Truce Commission, and certainly not on the Jewish declaration of independence and the war that ensued.

Instead, the focus of this paper is on the machinations within UNSCOP, in particular, the role of Ivan Rand of Canada, in recommending the series of compromises that made up Resolution 181 (II). This is the first in a series to explore the rationale and decision-making of UNSCOP by analyzing the thinking of each of the eleven members of UNSCOP. Though this paper does not start with the zeitgeist of the times, the emergence of a particular kind of globalization that would march forward in the next seven decades and the East-West collisions that emerged in that process, it does explore how the new state of Israel was caught in those tensions through an examination of the minds and voices of those who recommended partition.

Why Ivan Rand? Because, as I will illustrate, Rand was a key player who resisted partition, who helped persuade certain “eastern” representatives to support a federal solution which he, in the end, abandoned. Why? The answer, I believe, will not only throw some insight onto why Israel inherited the added problem of UN precedents without any recognition of the rights of the Jewish people to national self-determination, but will also indicate why, twenty years after UNSCOP, Canada would emerge from its hundred years of sleep and emerge from it cocoon as a leader of Western democratic values.

There is another reason. Ivan Rand was a member of one of two sub-committees set up by UNSCOP. The Working Group on Constitutional Matters, as distinct from the one on Boundaries. In addition to Ivan Rand from Canada, it had three members: Justice Emil Sandström of Sweden who served as Chair of UNSCOP, Dr. N.S. Blom from the Netherlands. and Dr. Jorge Garcǐa Granados from Guatemala. All four came from Western countries. Sir Abdul Rahman, a Muslin judge from India, Nasrollah Entezam from Iran, the two representatives of Eastern countries, were not on the sub-committee or working group. Neither was Vladimir Simic, the representative from Yugoslavia, who so adamantly opposed partition for understandable national reasons.

Why did Blom resist the recommendations of the Constitutional Working Group? Why was there so much tension between Rand and Sandström? And why and how did Garcǐa Granados play such a critical role in resolving those tensions? Next: a summary introduction to those three other members of UNSCOP, their predispositions and values.

National Identity

National Identity

by

Howard Adelman

In a very recent blog sent by Rabbi Dow Marmur, he opened with the following joke: “When a rabbi who knew both countries [Israel and the U.S.] was asked to describe the difference between Israel and America, he said: ‘In Israel they give me advice and ask me for money; in America they give me money and ask for advice.’”

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of spending three hours with a very old friend who lives in Italy. He told me a different joke. It was a philosophical rather than rabbinical play on national distinctions, but one that emphasized character rather than attitudes related to different circumstances. Various representatives of different nationalities were offered a complex lesson in philosophy, more precisely, in maieutics, that is, the philosophic method Socrates used in Plato’s dialogues to demonstrate we already possessed the knowledge that needed to be elicited. In the joke, representatives of different nationalities responded in quite different ways:

Japanese: studied and learned the lesson
American: asked how much the lesson cost
French: pretended to learn the lesson and recast it in abstruse language
Irish: said the lesson reminded him of a story and proceeded to tell it
Greek: argued about what the lesson was
British: snubbed the lesson and insisted it was irrelevant
Canadian: apologized for not grasping the meaning
Israeli: insisted that he had a better way to phrase and teach the lesson

Both jokes are twists on creating caricatures of national differences, either because of circumstances or predominant cultural patterns. More importantly, the jokes suggest that, whatever the common purpose of the lesson, our national dispositions subvert those goals. We give that universal treatise a national twist, so much so that the twist distorts the lesson so much that it loses its universal meaning.

The iconic story of the Tower of Babel – common to the holy literature of Judaism, Christianity and Islam – describes the universal wish of all mankind to reach towards the heavens, to surpass themselves. To do so, the builders adopted a global and inclusive approach to develop the skills and knowledge to accomplish that unprecedented feat. Instead of God applauding the effort, in the most popular interpretation of the story, He undermined those universal aspirations and the arrogance behind it by turning the builders into factious groups, each of which developed their own language, making them incapable of communicating with one another.

That is a reactionary interpretation of the fable which, like ISIS, insists it is literally the height of folly to have universal aspirations. If we reread the story, there is a quite opposite interpretation. For the most important condition of the inanity of building the tower was that each human group lost that most extraordinary and super-human quality, the capacity of empathy. If you do not understand and comprehend, if you do not know an Other, if one is denied this essential power of the heavens, it is not possible to surpass oneself, to evolve from self-loathing and resentment to a polity and community based on trust. Empathizing with another is not just a matter of promoting mutual understanding. It is the sine qua non for believing that you can be more than you are. This failure in recognition preceded the breakdown of the building of the tower and the scattering of peoples around the world into different self-enclosed language groups.

Socrates taught: “Know thyself.” The real lesson the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9) – and of the caricature jokes about national attitudes and dispositions – is “Know an Other.” For that is how we develop trust and faith. Faith then is not a creed, a condition for belonging to one group rather than another, but the highest aspiration that allows any creed to be transvalued to develop common goals. We worship God, not to become God, but to become something above ourselves. When the universal quest becomes a matter of turning ourselves into divine beings instead of turning towards one another to surpass ourselves, then our efforts at reconstruction and aspiration turn into megalomaniacal enterprises..

The scattering of peoples and the divisions among them were not the results of trying to aspire towards the heavens, but the failure to rise up with the tower, to grow beyond previous differences resulting in peoples being cast down to earth and swept by the winds on the plains into different territorial enclaves around which we tried to build walls rather than towers. God destroys the tower, not because we aspire to reach the heavens, but because we aspired to do so without mutual and reciprocal understanding. Towers built to trump others instead of being constructed to appreciate Others are doomed for destruction. God created nations so they could know and understand one another, not to be suspicious and distrustful.

The question then is why did they fail? Why did groups fail to understand one another? External misunderstandings begin with deep internal fissures. On the high beams of our efforts at globalization, we must learn to balance so that we can aspire to more without losing contact with those around and below us. We aspire for the highest, but can only achieve the higher by knowing what is lower and beneath, by constantly remembering where we came from. In such a context, faith is not a heirloom, a condition of being blessed, but a pinnacle of hope, a goal to be achieved. And it can only be erected on a foundation of compassion. That foundation starts with compassion for the condition of our own people.

We live in an era in which the quest for a global order wrestles with religions and nationalities seen as sources of division and misunderstanding rather than the means by which we truly develop our empathy and hone our ability to feel compassion. The issue is not overcoming perceived differences, but overcoming ourselves so we can understand and empathize with those differences. If we retire behind the fortifications of a newborn tribalism that, instead of enriching us and sending us forth into the world assured of our ability to become something more because we see what is more by understanding others, then we are doomed to look inward instead of outward, doomed to reify God as a fixed and limited entity instead of viewing God as capable of occupying all the heavens above.

No country, no religion, no ethnic group has escaped the scourge if an inward dwelling nationalism and the putrid stupefaction it breeds. The illness is pervasive. It is the same sickness which will once again render us incapable of reaching towards the heavens. The current wave of the divisive politics of resentment threatens the politics of hope and trust that Obama tried to create. Israel is another case in point. But if we sit on a high beam and revel in our moral superiority looking down and askance at those below, we lose our moral bearings. That is why parochial nationalism begins with internal condescension. That is why it is incumbent upon liberal cosmopolitans to see the links with those they might otherwise see as worthy only of contempt. The issue is our commonality rather than the differences between those who occupy lofty positions and those trying to preserve what are regarded as prejudices. The problem does not start with nationalism, but with equating nationalism and patriotism with parochialism.

Among Jews, one effluence is the division between diaspora Jews, particularly American diaspora Jews, and Israeli Jews that Rabbi Marmur discussed in his blog. As the peace process becomes ever more petrified, as Israel swings more and more to the right, more and more into an inward looking nationalism, at least as seen from the perspective of liberal Jews in both the North American diaspora and in Israel, the core of misunderstanding is reified. My friend Michael Barnett analyzed the effects of that rightward shift in Israel on diaspora Jews in America.in his recent book, The Star and the Stripes A History of the Foreign Policies of American Jews.

As we approach fifty years of occupation, Michael finds a radical divide between the nationalism and tribalism predominant in Israel versus the liberal cosmopolitan outlook dominant perspective among American Jews. As a result, we have the Bernie Sanders phenomenon in which many young Jews and old style leftist Zionist like Bernie feel themselves forced to adopt a more pro-Palestinian outlook as they become more and more alienated from the predominant Israeli sensibility. The dilemma is that the American Jews are branded as cosmopolitans, aloof from the horrible cauldron of the Middle East, while Israelis are stamped as right wing ideologues increasingly racist and oriented inwardly.

There is plenty of evidence to support the latter charge. This spring, a Pew survey showed that almost half of Israeli Jews favoured expelling Arabs from the country. Among the ultra-orthodox, the figure went as high as 71%. Among secular Israelis, those numbers went down to 36%. The contrasts were even larger when the Jews were examined as political rather than religious tribes. 87% of the left opposed “transfer.” 72% of the right favoured such a program. The centrists split down the middle. Thus, complementing the external tribal splits, and, I would argue at the root of them, we find deep fissures within each tribe and between one tribe of Israelis and the predominantly liberal cosmopolitan views present among U.S. Jews.
Israeli cosmopolitan revisionist or new historians – Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev and Benny Morris (who disclaims any membership in that sub-tribe) – obligated us all to look at the history of Zionism from a much broader and higher lens, far less chauvinistic and defensive. But instead of greater understanding of all and by all, history began being read in radically different ways. Israeli liberals and human rights groups eschewed the chauvinism and adopted an intense sense of recrimination characterizing Israelis as oppressors. Other Israelis in defence of their history insisted that they were the victims, not only of others historically, but of their own university-educated liberals. The cosmopolitan liberals as they rose higher in the Tower of Babel detached themselves more and more from a passionate attachment to the land and the Jewish people per se. The right, on the other hand, clung to that attachment with greater strength and berated those who had risen to such lofty heights for their indifference to their own.

The political divide between Jews and Others, between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, became even more exaggerated by the internal divisions. Jews in America increasingly voted, not simply indifferent to the plight of Jewish Israelis, but contemptuous of that plight. Other Jews in America identified more solidly with that plight. And the split between American and Israeli Jews was mirrored in the deep fissures with both the Jewish community in Israel and the Jewish community in the U.S. Further, liberal American Jews have become more attached to the plight of those regarded by the right as intractable enemies of Israel than to the Jews of France and Belgium who face and deal with rising anti-Semitism.

So the American Jewish community (as well as the Canadian) grows, at one and the same time, both more distant from and closer to Israel, as its parts diverge more and more from one another. Solidarity is shattered and the squabbling leads to a cessation in creative construction. Each side increasingly does not hear the other. Those Jews whose connection to synagogues and Jewish communities has declined seem more correlated with those Jews whose connection to Israel has also declined. The reverse seems also to be the case. American Jews are both more attached and more detached from Israel as they become increasingly detached from one another. So the solitude increases. More effort is put into denouncing than in understanding the Other. As a consequence, there is less rather than greater understanding of the Other by both parties, one as a result of deep prejudices that either border on or are racist and the other on a condescension towards the Other regarded primarily as victims.

If forced to choose, the fissure will become a deep and unbridgeable valley. Issues like proportionality in fighting one’s enemies, the expansion of settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), the troublemaking of Iran, bypassing any and all efforts to advance a two-state solution, became occasions for shouting matches rather than dialogue. So if Jews who ostensibly belong to the same tribe cannot speak and address one another with civility, how can either group communicate with other equally tribalized and fissured groups?

When we offer to teach the lesson of maieutics to others when we base that teaching, not on the dictum of “Know Thyself,” but on the dictum to “Know the Other.” We must also remember that knowing the Other who is oneself is a necessary prerequisite of knowing the Other who is other.

Jazz and Democracy

Jazz and Democracy

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday evening on stage at that absolutely exceptional musical venue, Koerner Hall, Marcus Roberts, after he introduced the outstanding members of his band, The Modern Jazz Generation, and his planned program of the evening celebrating New Orleans and the jazz greats from that amazing city, turned toward his piano and seemed about to play. Then he turned back to the audience. He said that, although he had blabbered on long enough and should begin playing, he wanted to ask the audience a question. Perhaps they had heard there was an election going on south of them. He wondered whether there were any supporters of Donald Trump in the audience.

To my surprise, there were a considerable number as indicated by the applause and the favourable shouts. I thought Marcus Roberts would get up and walk out. Instead he asked, “And who supports Hillary Clinton?” The applause and cheers made the response for Trump seem miniscule in comparison. Then he asked, “Who supports Bernie Sanders?” It was hard to tell who received more applause, Hillary or Bernie. In the din and chatter that followed, before he turned back to play, I thought (or imagined) he mumbled, “Well I guess I can stay for the evening and play.

Though there were a scattered few young people in the audience, mostly musicians I guessed, the overwhelming majority were long in the tooth like myself. Our teenage years were spent in an age of crooners, in an Al Jolson revival, and with doo-wap and then folk music dominating the air waves before the early rockabilly of Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis took over as rock-and-roll, Elvis Presley and the British Beatles invasion displaced jazz as the musical beat of the young. I still remember listening to Bo Didley at the Chicken Deli on the west side of Mount Pleasant below Eglinton, when rock made rhythm and blues a musical medium for fogies in their late twenties, thirties and forties.

After all, when I started university, Blackboard Jungle was playing in the movie theatres and the sound track featured Bill Haley and His Comets performing, “We’re Going to Rock Around the Clock.” I loved the movie but found it hard to listen to what I considered raucous noise. In my faulty and confused memory, I initially thought that Sidney Poitier starred as the WWII vet and frustrated and forbearing English teacher in a tough inner-city American school, but as I replayed parts of the movie in my mind, Sydney Poitier was the leader of the hard-nosed gang and Glenn Ford was the teacher. I had superimposed a movie forty years later, “To Sir, with Love” onto 1955.

Long in the tooth indeed! I decided my memory had been ruined by loud music. After all, everyone needs a scapegoat. By the time I completed graduate school and began my career teaching philosophy, I left a concert by Bob Dylan at Massey Hall at the beginning of the second half because Dylan had switched from acoustic to an electric guitar; the din gave me an instant headache. Indeed, The Times They Were a-Changing and I could not keep up to the speed.

So I attend the jazz series concerts at Koerner Hall that combine rhythm and melody. Yesterday evening, I listened to the virtuoso drumming of Jason Marsalis. He is truly a genius and makes playing percussion much more than keeping the beat. He not only has mastered all the skills, but has turned drumming into a versatile medium of self-expression as Marcus Roberts sometimes boogy-woogied and other times wildly improvised on the ivories along with all the other jazz greats, young as well as old, who join him and without exception are virtuoso performers. At times it appeared that Roberts used a device on his lap which I guessed must have been a Braille reader that perhaps reminded him of the itinerary for the evening. But that is just a guess and I could not figure out why there seemed to be a bit of confusion in transitioning from one number to another in the second half.

Rodney Jordan was brilliant as the bassist and never seemed to even glance at the music on his stand. He was both the least ostentatious and modest musician of the bunch while always seeming to respond, as if on cue, to whatever music he heard around him – until he played his own solo. Wow! In the back tier of the jazz ensemble sat the incomparable Randall Haywood playing trumpet along with Alphonso Horne. The two were absolutely brilliant. Horne plays with a lot of swagger while Haywood is both bold and retiring at one and the same time. Corey Wilcox dominated the middle tier, not simply because he is a very big man, but his tuba seems enormous and then he switches to trumpet and even the horn. What a versatile and virtuoso performer! Surprisingly, Caleb Mason on trombone almost kept up. Joe Goldberg on clarinet (and sometimes alto sax), whom Marcus Roberts introduced as a former physics major, centred the front tier. Tissa Khosla, who evidently cooks the band remarkable Indian food, played a baritone (and sometimes tenor) sax on his left (our right). Ricardo Pascal was on Goldberg’s right playing on the tenor and soprano sax.

We heard a lot of diamond-toothed Jelly Roll Morton who predated my maturing ear. (The band played “Doctor Jazz” and “The Pearls” – Roberts said that the latter had been written by Morton for a girl he fell for in Europe). Louis Armstrong also dominated in the repertoire.

I walk away from an evening of such brilliant jazz feeling inspired and blessing the luck of almost eight decades of life. How can you listen to Duke Ellington’s music without being buoyed up! Marcus Roberts said last night that jazz lies at the soul of America and is always new and renewable. I think it is the most democratic music for it allows each individual musician to play “his own horn” while working in an ensemble and playing off as well as with the others. Everyone is given a voice. That is why it is the music of equal opportunity and brashness in the face of adversity. It is also a music of stable rhythms and clarity in the sound. You can hear every note, especially from the sax players.

As yesterday proved, the old can be new again, for democracy has a built-in reverence for tradition and the rule of law, but not as a set of prison bars, but as standard setting and discipline, as a framework within which individuals can grow and thrive. Democracy is NOT populism. Democracy depends on a depth of knowledge of one’s tradition and one’s contemporary environment. If it is great jazz, it is never superficial where mouthing what first comes into your mind can be mistaken for “telling it as it is.” Jazz is not postmodernist where everything is said to be of equal value. Democracy is built on standards and a dedication to protecting and enhancing those standards and allowing each individual to realize his or her full potential.

When I return in subsequent blogs to dissecting the internal and external dynamics of so-called “democracy” in Iran, please keep this in mind. Does the democracy deliver tambour and constantly renew itself by providing a decorative interlacing dialectic between the society and the supporting columns and foundations that raise that society up as well as hold it together? Do the rhythms and counter-rhythms play off one another and with one another, or does one side of the tension turn into a disloyal opposition intent on serving as a spoiler rather than a creative counter? Is the repetition and dominant rhythm one of a military band that ensures that everyone marches to the same tune, or is the beat there to ensure a constitutional core that facilitates spontaneity and creativity? Is the conversation one of call and response or does it display deaf ears that turn away from the language of the other? Does the political system cultivate listening or deafen us to the voices of others? In other words, as the miasma bubbles up in a volcanic changing environment, do we experience flight in the face of real or imagined fears, away from freedom, or does the prospect of change and renewal inspire a move towards freedom?

I do not mean to put down the mambo and the samba, rhumba or calypso, but jazz is the soul of America, as Marcus Roberts declared, because it and it alone reveres riffing and improvisation. America par excellence is the country of discovery, of invention. Are we promoting multiplicity or insisting upon uniformity? Are we revering dynamism or stasis? Are we insisting upon strict and confining boundaries or a realm which challenges and alters those boundaries? Do we revere blackness, the revelations of the dark side, or does that just scare the bejeebies out of us? And then do we wear hoods over our heads and white robes in the elusive and eternally unsuccessful, indeed absolutely stupid pursuit of absolute purity, terrific and necessary for the lab but irrelevant to the brutal confusions and chaos of everyday life? Do we understand that democracy has far more to do with the experience of Black Americans, as much as we owe to the white founders, some of whom owned slaves, who read David Hume, John Locke and Adam Smith and were children of the Scottish enlightenment? For though jazz is about invention and improvisation, that creativity requires standards of excellence, mastery of foundations. That is why Marcus Roberts is so dedicated to the preservation and renewal of the greats who founded the jazz tradition. Are those who inspire us – Gershwin and Stravinsky, Matisse and Picasso – ones who loved jazz? Is the political music open-ended or does it lead us to a dead end? Do we build by mastering a legacy or turning that heritage into idolatry?

Is our language of discourse one about frontiers or about closed and walled-off spaces? Is it about cross-fertilization of differences or about the restrictive boundaries? I, of course, in writing about Iran, will also be writing about Canada and the U.S.

The Holiness Code

The Holiness Code – Parshah Kedoshim Leviticus 19 and 20

by

Howard Adelman

Tomorrow on shabat we read one of the most important sections of the Torah, Leviticus 19-20, or the core verses of the Holiness Code which includes verses and chapters from last week’s portion (17 and 18) as well as those from the following week. (For reference, I have included chapters 19&20 as a separate blog.) Many of the core commandments of the 613 commandments governing Jewish conduct are included in this week’s portion. Any one of them is worthy of an extended commentary. It is virtually impossible to discuss all the injunctions contained in this one reading in a single blog for they are articulated so succinctly and briefly that reading these verses is akin to unpacking a box literally stuffed to the gills with moral injunctions. I want to examine more than one, however, not to analyze a single commandment, but to offer the flavour of the Holiness Code with a view to obtaining a glimpse of what it means to be holy. I will discuss the portion under four headings as follows:

I. Sex and Speech
II. Chukat Hagoyim and Loving Strangers
III. Respect, Rebuke vs Revenge
IV. Idolatry, Israel and Holiness

I. Sex and Speech

Why start with sex when discussing holiness? Why probe all the injunctions against misuse of a servant girl by a male boss (19:20), ban adultery (20:10) especially with your brother’s wife (20:21) or incest (20:11, 12, 14, 17, 19 & 20), castigate homosexuality (20:13) and sodomy (20:15&16) almost in the same breath, and then forbid having sex with a woman while she is menstruating (20:18)? Many of these are reiterations of injunctions in chapter 18. Bans on homosexuality seem totally misplaced for most of us with a modern sensibility. Adultery is not so good, but putting someone to death for such an act seems quite disproportionate to say the least. Sodomy seems more distasteful than deserving of such a harsh reprimand and saying that a servant girl should not be put to death when abused by a superior seems to perpetuate putting the blame on the female, though easing the punishment. And why is there an injunction against sex when your female partner is menstruating?

In other words, if sexual prohibitions are at once so basic and at the same time so deformed and misplaced, how can one suggest that obeying such extreme puritanical injunctions provides a path to holiness? I do not think it does. Further, the various penalties – from death to ostracism – do not seem to comport with our contemporary views of such actions or misdeeds. One predominant interpretation is that these injunctions against certain sexual conduct, allegedly profuse among the Canaanites and Egyptians, were intended to define the Hebrews as a pure and holy people in imitation of God, what Roman Catholics designate as imatio Dei. After all, they all seem to be placed in a context of being “clean,” where cleanliness is next to Godliness. And one characteristic of God is that (s)he is disembodied, does not have sex and inherently cannot be dirty.

This is the basic paradox. Humans are embodied. They have sexual drives. God is disembodied and does not need or desire to have sex. But God gave Adam a companion, Eve, precisely because Adam was a nerd and did not even recognize he had a body and needed to love and be loved. So does God want us to have sex and propagate the species? Clearly, the answer is yes. But God also commands that boundaries be placed around sexual behaviour. The reasons to me seem obvious and they are not about imitating God where holiness in the highest realm is defined as asexual. Rather, it is very practical and down to earth.

Yesterday I heard two more stories about young couples with very young children who, contrary to everyone’s expectations, broke up and are headed towards the divorce court. The epidemic – and it is an epidemic – of divided couples and marriages has to be a major concern. Adultery was involved. One partner “fell in love” with someone else. Or in another tale from the day before, one partner felt deeply dissatisfied and unfulfilled in the marriage. I am not suggesting that couples when they discover they are incompatible should remain married. On the other hand, the marriage commitment and bond should mean much more than simply abandoning a pledge because of an attraction to another or dissatisfaction with oneself and one’s path of self-realization.

That is why the sexual injunctions need not be considered as absolute puritanical injunctions, but as basic and profound guides about how a couple can realize holiness while engaging in sex and also bearing children. In other words, if we want to understand the sexual prohibitions, it will not be because we pay attention to the literalness of the commandments, but because we pay attention to their purpose related to the pursuit of holiness. And in my understanding of the Jewish religion, it is not because we envision holiness as equivalent to puritanical behaviour or asexuality, but, guides for embodied humans, thereby recognizing embodiment and how embodied sexual beings become holy.

So how is speech related to sexuality? Because it is through speech that men and women archetypically (men and men in cases of homosexual relations) initially have intercourse with one another. Recall that the use of speech was Adam’s hang up. He thought that words were all about naming and classifying and, in imitation of God, bringing something into existence by the speech act of naming and classifying. But a speech act is only asexual as a scientific enterprise. It is thoroughly sexual as a human enterprise.

Leviticus 19 verse 11 commands that you not “deny falsely” (Bill Clinton – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman) or lie. The two injunctions are different. Bill did not precisely lie, for he meant by sexual relations intercourse not fellatio. But he did deny falsely for his assertion was completely misleading. The same verse commands that humans should also not lie. Why is truth-telling the most basic injunction in human intercourse. Because truth-telling is a requisite of trust. And trust is basic to human relations.

Have I lied? More precisely, have I lied to my partner? I have. And each time that I did it was because I was a coward and did not trust my wife to respond in the way I wanted. But that is not trust. Trust entails respect and talking to another and addressing their highest natures. It is not based on fearing reprimands and scolding. Speech in intercourse must be honest, direct and based on trust. Every time I fail to follow this understanding, I betray myself, my partner or children or friend and, mostly, fail myself. Implicitly, I “swear falsely” and profane the name of God. So healthy sex and healthy honest talk are interdependent and foundational for holiness.

II. Chukat Hagoyim and Loving Strangers

If guidelines and injunctions about physical and verbal intercourse, about how to cultivate a healthy sex life and an honest dialogue between those with whom we are intimately related, are the foundation stones for a holy life, the second level of commandments address those with whom we are least intimate – strangers, particularly strangers who do not belong to our own tribe. And we all know, or should know, that the most repeated commandment in the Torah addresses how to treat strangers and then how to treat acquaintances or neighbours.

With respect to strangers, you cannot tease or belittle them and certainly not characterize them as “rapists” and “thieves.” You shall not taunt the stranger (19:33). More than that, you are required to treat the stranger as if he were a member of your own tribe. “You shall love him as yourself for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (19:34) On the other hand, you must also reject and ostracize strangers who cavort with Moloch, Ov or Yid’oni and even put to death any who give their children to Molech.

Who is Molech? A god of the Canaanites, a god that required child sacrifice. A holy people, immigrants and refugees, sacrifice themselves for their children. Followers of Molech sacrifice their children for themselves. That is why when we are married, have children and run into trouble, as most marriages do, the primary consideration must be not to sacrifice one’s children for the pursuit of one’s own self-fulfillment or gratification of one’s own physical desires. Now it is a rarity these days to follow that injunction. God knows, I have personally failed. But that does not detract from the value of the principle. In fact, it raises the principle to a higher value.

There is an intimate connection between the dedication to raising your children and to respecting and loving strangers, for giving of yourself for your children and giving of yourself for refugees. But not all so-called refugees. Not “refugees” who victimize children, who engage in terrorism or who exploit others. But why the demonization of those who worship Ov and Yid’oni as well as Molech? (20:6) Ov is a medium who claims direct access to the divine or nether world. Yid’oni is an oracle who claims to be a spokesperson for the nether world or the divine voice. Followers of Ov and Yid’oni are as despicable as those who follow Molech, those who follow the path of using and abusing children, sacrificing children for one’s own purposes rather than sacrificing oneself for one’s children.

What connection is there between denouncing mediums and oracles and the respect and love for children? Mediums and oracles for a holy people spout vapid nonsense. One should not follow a demagogue who promises he can lead you to the Promised Land. Only the Holy One can do that. Oracles who say “trust me” and “I know how to make a deal better than anyone” are not to be trusted. And anyone who follows that oracle because that oracle has accumulated a following also becomes suspect. There is NO privileged access to the nether world or to the future. And there should be no surprise that such oracles and mediums so often scapegoat strangers. By displacing hatred onto others and using the oracular voice, they would bewitch you into trusting them instead of yourself and your inner voice, surrendering yourself for a leader who believes in strength rather than holiness, betting on charms and omens rather than evidence and behaviour over the long run that builds trust. The pursuit of holiness does not depend upon trickery, but upon a consistent effort at honesty and truthfulness and a respect for others especially if they are strangers. The devil may not be Molech, but the devil may be Ov or Yid’oni.

III. Respect, Rebuke vs Revenge

If trust is basic, enhanced through the use of honest language and intimate physical attachment to another, if loving the stranger and evading the enchantment of those who would use and abuse children for their own pleasure, those who pretend to be mediums or oracles, on the next level of building blocks for a healthy and holy home, we locate the concept of respect. It is the first window of the second story of that home. And the most basic form of respect is that accorded one’s parents. Parents are enjoined to sacrifice themselves for their children and not sacrifice their children for themselves. In turn, children are enjoined to render parents respect and honour.

But respect extends beyond the family. You must respect not oppress the other. (19:13), neither robbing no exploiting him or her. Nor shall you curse another who is physically deaf or is out of range of your voice and cannot hear you. (19:14) You shall not diss another, whether cursing another driver who cannot hear you; in so doing, you demean yourself. If you belittle and insult another, another propensity of those who scapegoat others and put themselves forward as oracles, you undercut respect both for others and for oneself. You shall not engage in favouritism (19:15) and give greater respect to the rich than the poor, for all humans must be respected (19:16), but you certainly must respect the venerable and the elderly. (19:32)

But respect is not enough. You must go deeper and evacuate your soul of hatred. Hatred eats like an acid at your soul and is a sure guarantee preventing one from becoming holy. (19:17) And if you do not express that hatred, but feel it deeply inside, it is even worse. Better to vent than stew, but venting as a relief valve can be almost as poisonous. This does not mean you do not confront and rebuke another for their failings, for their dishonesty, for their demagoguery, for their dogmatism and for their lack of respect for others. “You shall surely rebuke your fellow, but you shall not bear a sin on his account.” (19:17)

Failure to rebuke, failure to confront, failure to express when you feel hurt by the actions of another, means that the weight of their sins will be borne by you and you will be weighed down by the inability to express what you honestly think and feel. But expressing those feelings and thoughts must be done in a context of respect for the other. Finally, if you fail to rebuke, fail to confront, if you carry a grudge and build up a store of hatred within and then seek relief through revenge, that is the final straw in betraying the commandment to be honest and respect another.

IV. Idolatry, Israel and Holiness

The culmination of these failures is idolatry. Making a molten figure into an idol is simply a metaphor for worshiping a material entity as if it were holy. The best sign of idolatry is when a leader ensures his picture appears everywhere or when a leader seeks to stamp everything with his own name. Whether one worships an idol or tries to become an idol oneself, perhaps the greatest failing of our age of celebrity worship, we indicate by such behaviour that we have betrayed the pursuit of holiness.

Let me give one perhaps trivial example, the current fad of tattooing one’s body, of making “cuts in your flesh”. For “you shall not etch a tattoo on yourself.” (19:28) Why not? What harm results? Enormous harm. For etching a tattoo into one’s flesh is an effort at make a fleeting feeling of the moment permanent and failing to recognize that things of the flesh can never be permanent. It is not because the body is God’s creation, for our bodies are made of the dust of the earth. It is not because we are enjoined not to mutilate God’s handiwork, for we are commanded as Jews to circumcise a male baby when only 8 days old. Rather, tattooing is related to idolatry, to deifying what should not be regarded as worthy in an effort to get in touch with the permanent, with the eternal.

It is clear in the Torah and it is a fear at a time of celebrating the day of Israeli independence, that Israel itself can be turned into an idol, worshiped in itself as the exceptional and the holy in total disregard of the behaviour of its politicians and its people. On the other hand, God has said to his people, “You shall possess their land, and I shall give it to you to possess it a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, Who has distinguished you from the peoples.” Jews are commanded to be a holy nation, a nation that gives witness to the highest values. This does not mean that other nations cannot express that role or aspire to holiness. Quite the contrary. But it is an overriding injunction for Jews as a people.

And that is what it means to be holy. It means being both intimate and honest with one’s partner, making one’s best effort at telling the truth, especially telling the truth to power, not sacrificing the lives of children for oneself but sacrificing oneself for your children, loving the stranger as oneself but never being so naïve as to fall into the bewitchment of a Molech, a medium or an oracle, not disrespecting or insulting the other, but being willing to rebuke that other when he or she offends, not building up resentments into a hateful cauldron or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, worshiping another as an idol or trying to embed in one’s own flesh a sense of permanence for the impermanent.

That is the core of the holiness code.

The Iran Nuclear Deal and Iranian Radicals

The Iran Nuclear Deal and Iranian Radicals

by

Howard Adelman

On 5 May 2016 at noon at Massey College at the University of Toronto, Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the university, gave a talk entitled, “The Iran Deal and the End of the Iranian Revolutionary Radicalism.” The talk was not about the terms of the deal itself, upon which I have written a great deal, but rather on the far more important topic, the significance of the deal as an indicator of the current stage of the Iranian revolution and the implications on both domestic policy within Iran and on international relations.

Mohamad’s most important book has been Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (2001). In it, he described the unique historical cultural and religious heritage of Iran, in contrast to the imposition of Western imperialist influences. In the journal, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (23:1&2, 2003, Nasrin Rahimieh described the scholarship in the book as “a remarkable work of historiography and an original analysis of Iranian cultural history” by challenging the Euro-centred concept of modernity and the widespread intellectual conviction that the spirit of inquiry, rationalism and scientific discovery can be traced exclusively to the European Enlightenment. In Mohamad’s thesis, the Enlightenment itself was influenced in its development by a dialectical relationship with the East, in particular, the Middle East, which facilitated the refashioning of the cultural revolution underway in Europe and the emergence of a new conception of self epitomized by the Enlightenment.

True to that spirit of exploring the interaction of East and West, Mohamad began his lecture with the depiction of the confluence of two streams, the final stage of the Iranian revolution and America’s historical withdrawal from its self-defined role as spreading democracy to the rest of the world. On the latter, it is noteworthy that former Vice-President Dick Cheney, a prime author of the military intervention in Iraq, on Friday endorsed Donald Trump as the standard bearer of the Republican Party, the very same Trump who has repeatedly denounced that intervention as America’s biggest foreign policy mistake and who has championed an America First policy that requires America to surrender its role as policeman of the world. This is also the same presidential candidate who repeatedly knocks the Iran nuclear deal as the “worst deal ever” while revealing he knows very little about its terms.

Three months ago, as Trump campaigned in the New Hampshire primary, he was interviewed by Anderson Cooper for CNN where he put on full display his total ignorance about the contents of that agreement and his absolute lack of credentials to be the leader of the free world. Trump boasted as usual that he is “the best deal-maker ever,” “the best negotiator ever,” while revealing gross misrepresentations of the deal and the process that lead to it. As Trump mis-described the terms, he claimed that America was paying Iran $150 billion to sign the deal. In reality, the UN was lifting the sanctions that blocked Iran from using $50 billion (not $150 billion) of its own money. America had been the main initiator and the most important enforcer of the sanctions, but in no rational world could the release of Iran’s own money be described as the U.S. giving Iran that money to sign the deal. Yet this blustering braggart went on to win, or is on the verge of winning, the Republican nomination to run for President on the absolutely unique campaign of presenting himself as a victim of the “establishment” and a heroic one person saviour – victim and victor at one and the same time.

Mohamad’s thesis was precisely the opposite of Trump’s. Though Mohamad did not spell it out in his lecture, the implicit assumption of the talk (confirmed in my discussions with him afterwards) was that the deal was the best one possible for both sides, and, more importantly, was a significant step in the advancement of peace in international relations. Further, in the major thrust of his talk, the deal was critical both as a signal of and an instrument for the advance towards moderation of the Iranian regime. While I have agreed with the former conclusion, I have been sceptical about the latter claim. Mohamad’s talk forced me to reconsider that position.

In the talk, Mohamad presumed he was addressing an educated audience and took for granted that we were all familiar with the variation of theories of the stages through which revolutions pass. When I was an undergraduate, I read Crane Brinton’s 1952 revised edition of The Anatomy of a Revolution and believe it is still among my collection of books now mostly shelved in my garage. As a medical student at the time, I recall that my predominant reaction was that the book should have been called The Physiology of Revolution for it was far more of a dynamic account of stages revolutions pass through than of its structural elements. Further, it was more of a disease account, a portrait of an abnormality that societies have to go through in order to develop an immunity to political domestic violence. Mohamad referred to, but did not explicate, the fact that the dominant conception of the Iranian revolution by Iranians was an engineering rather than a medical model, implying a constructive rather than abnormal political pattern through which societies pass.

Since he did not elaborate on how the stages of a revolution conceived in engineering terms differed from those stages conceived in a medical framework, I had to fall back on the disease model as a means of understanding the intellectual foundation for his talk and when I asked two questions afterwards, I chose not to raise the question because any answer would require another lecture. In the disease model, revolutions are abnormalities in social development, but usually necessary abnormalities that societies in the process of maturation need to go through, to acquire the necessary institutions that will immunize that society from the destructive forces as inherent propensities in domestic politics.

Revolutions begin with failures of the old regime, more specifically, the increasing costs of maintaining the regime and carrying out its perceived responsibilities, and the decreasing ability to access the funds necessary for that task. As the regime grows more ineffectual and less able to enforce its rules, defectors come forth from the regime and an opposition arises in significant part from elements outside the normal power structure. When a regime can no longer hold the centre, when it can no longer enforce the values underpinning the regime and the order established by it, a revolt or a disaster instigating a revolt breaks out. Moderates step in to try to mollify the rebels and reassert control. They fail. The reforms they initiate are half-assed. And they are caught in a vice between reactionaries who condemn them for their weakness and selling out, and by the militants who denounce the wishy-washy half-hearted efforts. After the regime has lost its immunity to change, after the incubation period, then the revolution proper begins and the disease soon appears at fever pitch.

The radicals lead an uprising to challenge the constituted authority directly and take control of the main centres of power – the railways, the communications centres, the seats of law and of governance – precisely the key source of failure of the Easter Rising in Ireland where the revolution was delayed rather than halted in its tracks by this failure, by a focus on symbols of place rather than power. That was lucky, lucky, because of what also failed to follow – the initial successful seizure of control and The Terror as a way to deal with the domestic opposition and its foreign supporters. Instead, the British ruling regime resorted to terror, retaining power temporarily, but at the cost of its legitimacy.

Normally, terror perpetrated by the militant revolutionaries emerges like a raging fever. While a weak regime tries to extend and consolidate its power and authority, many errors are committed and the revolution is only partially successful. The radicals give rise to an equally powerful reaction as moderates either gradually or suddenly assume power over the instruments controlled by the radicals. But they too cannot regain the trust of the population and a new regime led by a charismatic and populist leader takes charge to exercise control primarily through coercive power rather than through the authority of legislated and judicially adjudicated laws and certainly not through the influence of ideas.

This standard pattern is neither a necessary nor a constant one. For example, though the British Revolution produced a Cromwell, the French a Napoleon and Russia a Stalin, the U.S. exceptionally did not yield to dictatorship. Not all revolutions need devour their children. In the U.S., this may have been because the American Revolution had a release valve – the cleansing of the figures of power of the old regime took place by means of a forced exodus as the elements of the old power structure fled to the mother country or to Canada as self-defined United Empire Loyalists. But whichever path taken, given the context and circumstances, what initially emerges is a regime of dual power – Presbyterians and the military leaders of the new modern army in Britain, Girondins and Jacobins in France, Bolsheviks versus Mensheviks in partnership with liberals in Russia. And that was certainly true in the Iranian Revolution.

Though often viewed as a reactionary regime to restore the power of the Mosque, the Iranian Revolution exemplified the pattern of extremist control in a revolution. In the very significant first phase through which it passed, the so-called men of virtue, those most fanatically dedicated and led by a small and resolute disciplinary leadership gained power in conjunction with the Revolutionary Guards. The exercise of that power was characterized by summary executions at home to expunge the regime of “vice,” and the export of the revolution to the near-abroad. If France had its Committee of Public Safety and Britain its Council of State, Iran had its Council of Experts to centralize power and authority through the use of lethal force to repress any perceived opposition. The domestic repression was combined with missionary adventurism and then went through two other stages, the seeming compromise between the clerics and the militants in a so-called period of apparent moderation and then the supposed reinvigoration of the revolution under the Terror of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian Revolution under the rule of President Hassan Rouhani is now going through the consolidation of its Thermidor, its second substantive moderating phase and convalescence from the fever of its incandescent fervour in the disease version of the stages of revolution

At the height of the feverish period of Puritanism and the revolt against the influence of the Great Satan, during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election and then fraudulent re-election in June of 2003, the third phase of the Terror began. The final evident opponents of the regime were either killed, suppressed into silence or forced into exile, like the Nobel Prize winner for human rights, Shirin Abadi. That is when Ahmadinejad announced the resumption of the Iranian nuclear program and the plans for 10 nuclear plants in total disregard of UN resolutions. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were banned and Iran declared it would no longer be bound by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Iran had passed through the first stage of the actual revolution in the first decade of the rule of Ayatollah Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini who consolidated his power in partnership with the Revolutionary Guard by expunging his communist and liberal secular allies from power in the decade until his death in 1989. He did so under the rule of Islamic law, velayat-e faqih. (Faqih is an Islamic jurist). Khomeini’s death inaugurated the second stage in the dual split between Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Khomeini’s successor as Supreme Leader, and President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the incomparable deal maker who makes Trump look like a wuss. At the same time, Iran exported its anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli fervent orthodoxy and revolutionary spirit in the bombing of the Jewish Community Centre in Argentina in 1994.

A radical dual system of rule had been incorporated into the Council of Guardians to mediate between decisions of the Majlis or parliament and the Council of Experts, charged with selecting the Supreme Leader. This proved inadequate. In 1988, constitutional reform created an Expediency Council, an administrative amalgam of clerics, scholars and intellectuals to resolve disputes between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians and ensure the efficacy of legislated rule. Although its creation seemed initially to be ineffectual as the Iranian Spring was suppressed in the tyrannical rule and consolidation of clerical power, Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi in his talk seemed to suggest, if I interpreted him correctly, that the Expediency Council saved the new revolution from the Terror instituted under Ahmadinejad and his continuation in power via a fraudulent election in 2003. That Council enabled his replacement by the consolidation or power of the moderates under Rafsanjani.

In the terror, the Revolutionary Guards had gained a monopoly and consolidated its corrupt control over entire economic sectors of the economy, arrested critics routinely and permitted prison guards to routinely flout the rule of law in the treatment of prisoners (see Michael Ledeen Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West.) The West’s reaction was primarily stimulated by the resurrection of the nuclear program rather than by the abuse of civil liberties. Utilizing gradually increased smart sanctions while avoiding a direct military confrontation, the attack against Iran’s nuclear program worked. Moderates were elected and the new regime in 2009 launched a process of reconciliation, of which the most momentous outcome was the nuclear deal. But that was made possible when Iran entered the fourth phase of its revolution and the real Shiite scholars began to reassert themselves against the pseudo and unrecognized scholarship of a third rate Khamenei as they tried to distance the clerics from the political misrule of Ahmadinejad, who tried to cover up his corrupt and inept regime with the rationale that his rule exemplified the return of the Shiite messiah. Anti-clericalism had mushroomed and hope for the preservation of the status of the clerics depended on the resumption of a widely recognized clerical scholar becoming the third Supreme Leader.

But political and economic revolutions are relatively superficial and deal with the earth’s crust and not the momentous shifts in the tectonic plates on which that crust rests – such as the Industrial Revolution and the Reproductive Revolution. In the next blog I will discuss that interaction as exemplified by developments in the Iranian Revolution as depicted, to the best of my memory, by Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Revolutionary Judaism

Parshat Acharei Leviticus 16-18: Revolutionary Judaism

by

Howard Adelman

This week’s portion of the Torah gives rise to one very major question: how can you continue to be an adherent to a religion in which the sacred text and commands as described in this week’s portion depict a sect in which forgiveness of sins and redemption are obtained through rites that read, with all the sacrificed animals on the altar and all the blood splattered around, like a Haitian voodoo religion? Further, how can one belong to a religion in this day and age when a verse in chapter 18 of Leviticus commands:

22You shall not lie down with a male, as with a woman: this is an abomination. כב וְאֶ֨ת־זָכָ֔ר לֹ֥א תִשְׁכַּ֖ב מִשְׁכְּבֵ֣י אִשָּׁ֑ה תּֽוֹעֵבָ֖ה הִֽוא:

I choose that among a series of different abominations lest one be defiled – sleeping with your neighbour’s wife, your mother or father, your father’s sister (your aunt) or his wife (your step-mother), your sister or your step-sister or your sister-in-law, your granddaughter or your adopted daughter. That prohibition against homosexuality has finally been almost totally undermined in our contemporary society in the West, and in Judaism in particular, though there is still a strong residue in some ultra-orthodox circles. A religion which makes homosexuality a matter of disgust and something deserving of hatred, which connotes disgrace and horror, and which provokes outrage and detestation, aversion and loathing, is unworthy of attachment.

So we have a choice, seemingly – accept the commandment and degrade both the person and the act, or dismiss the demand as irrelevant and recognize that homosexuals deserve recognition, respect and dignified treatment. If I dismiss the command – and I certainly do – what happens to an adherence to the religion? Let me begin to answer that question by first dealing with the first question I raised. How can I adhere to a religion which demands participation in a voodoo-like priestly cult?

Part of the answer comes from understanding the transition from a temple-centred religion to the rabbinic Judaism of the last two millennia. As Josephus wrote, in classical Judaism there was one temple for one God. When the temple was destroyed, how could the centre hold? The simple answer – it did not. Temple-centred Judaism died, but the physical destruction of the temple was merely the final blow. By the time the temple was destroyed by the Romans, the priests were widely viewed by then as a self-centred greedy group, a corrupt, hypocritical and impious lot. In the revolution against the priestly religion of the temple, both rabbinic Judaism and its kissing cousin, eventually called Christianity, emerged. However, whereas Christianity over its first four centuries remained as a chaos of clashing cults until a dominant creed emerged, Judaism consolidated itself around a set of specific rituals (some rejected by Christianity – circumcision, kosher laws of food preparation) and others assimilated into Christianity, such as keeping shabat.
In that development, the rabbinic Judaism redefined itself, amassed a unique new literature, a new culture and a new way of thinking. Judaism had undergone a successful revolution. The final consolidation took longer than Christianity because it was less necessary, but by the 6th century, the codification in the Talmud had emerged to control and police Torah interpretation while not only permitting but encouraging a wide spectrum of interpretation. But the revolution was premised on a radical transition of Judaism from a temple-centred cult into a universalist rather than a tribal religion whereby the God worshipped by Jews was not a tribal god but the God for all humanity, a revolution that may have taken place as early as the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the first temple. Practices might be particular to the Jewish people, but the fundamentals were not. Jews in the Persian exile merged the dialectical tension between their two faces of God to differentiate the Jewish religion from Zoroastrianism.

Between the destruction of the first temple and that of the second, the foundations for the birth of the new Jewish religion out of the literal ashes of the old following the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, had been put in place, but the cost was enormous – the loss of homeland, the end of the Hasmonean royal dynasty and the Sanhedrin as the supreme legislative body and Supreme Court combined. Add to those losses the rejection of Hellenic rationality but replaced by the construction of a unique Judaic historically-rooted hermeneutics veering between the predominant egalitarian, pragmatic school of Hillel and the much stricter aristocratic, elitist and absolutist school of Shammai. The latter retained the commanding authoritative tone of the destroyed ancient regime. The House of Hillel preserved the old order, held it reverentially aloft, but put it away as an impotent artefact. Idols could be preserved but not worshipped.

From the civil war among the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Zealots and the Essenes, a version of Pharisaic Judaism emerged supreme, in part by preserving, raising up and putting away the role of the Sadducees into an impotent place of nostalgia in the Judaic legacy, in part by relegating the mystic stream to the margins, and, most importantly, by totally suppressing the militaristic platform of the Zealots. Revolutions only succeed when the militancy that gave rise to those revolutions is eventually squelched and by reading back into the Torah text their own characterization of Judaism. So the House of Hillel and the House of Shammai were left simply to debate whether the revolutionaries were to be honoured by lighting one candle on the first night, two on the second night and eight on the final night of Hanukkah or to reverse the order, lighting eight on the first night and only one on the last.

All this is merely a roundabout way of saying that some parts of text have to be relegated to the background, given a formal but empty status and effectively ignored in practice. This is what happened to voodoo Judaism. And this is what is finally taking place with one of the final bastions of prohibition versus obligatory practices – the ban on homosexuality. Today is not the time and place to write about the great significance of the castration of that ban.

My teacher, Emil Fackenheim, tried to inscribe into the Jewish historical canon a new 614th commandment – Never Forget! So each year I, as many others do, reflect on the memory and significance of the Holocaust. My recent blog was my effort this year. But the Holocaust and the re-birth of a Jewish homeland together have revolutionized Judaism as much as the loss of the temple in 70 CE. The meaning of this twentieth century revolution is still cloudy and I have yet to bring my full attention to offering an attempt at clarification. But I do know that the revolution includes the full acceptance of homosexuality as a legitimate sexual practice and the establishment and preservation of Israel as a central task. The debate is now over how and no longer over whether that latter task is to be achieved.

What is the connection between these momentous steps? That intellectual task remains. In the interim, I am re-working my thoughts about revolution that I began with my superficial probe into the Irish Revolution in my review of Revolution and its emphasis with connecting that revolution to feminism. In the next blog I will write about the Iranian revolution following the excellent lecture I heard yesterday by U. of T. Professor Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a Professor of History and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations on, “The Iran Deal and the End of the Iranian Revolutionary Radicalism,” assuming I can recall the lecture in three days time since I did not take notes. I will follow that with a piece on our Visual Revolution by reviewing an excellent documentary that I saw late yesterday evening on the previously unknown artist, Vivian Maier, appropriately entitled, Finding Vivian Maier. I then intend to get back my explorations of the analogy between the historical upheavals of the last century or two and plate tectonics as a theoretical probe.
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Yom Hashoah – Contemporary Anti-Semitism

Yom Hashoah – Contemporary Anti-Semitism

by

Howard Adelman

Today is Yom Hashoah, the day to commemorate the Holocaust and the six million Jews murdered. Over seventy years ago, WWII ended and the world became aware of the worst genocide in human history, that deliberate mass murder, mostly, but not only, by Nazi forces especially tasked to carry out the operation even when the activities undermined the Germen war effort.

Anti-Semitism was endemic in the United States and Canada at the time, but it never approached the genocidal version of Nazi Germany. In my youth, I was made acutely aware of anti-Semitism as an integral part of everyday life. There were streets to avoid in the route to my mother’s cousin’s huge Passover seder. I risked being beaten because I was a Jew if I took the wrong route. When I attended university, there were fraternities that did not accept Jews and a separate medical fraternity for Jews and others. I was in the medical class of ’61 and the Jewish medical students, who constituted 25% of the class, though Jews made up less than 3% of the Ontario population, knew that at that time they would not get appointments to what was then called The Toronto General Hospital though after the war, Jewish doctors were granted privileges at THG..

However, in 1961 Dr. Charles Hollenberg, a 1955 graduate of the University of Manitoba Medical School and in Internal Medicine at McGill University, moved from being a very young professor at McGill, a university with a much older and longer tradition of tolerance towards Jews, to Toronto to become the first Jewish appointment at the Toronto General. By 1970, this outstanding medical scientist had become Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at Toronto General. In ten years, for Jews in Toronto, the world had been turned upside down. When I started university in 1955, Nathan Phillips had become the first Jewish mayor of the City of Toronto. The politics of my home city would never again be under the control of the Protestant Orange Order. By 1961, Mt. Sinai Hospital would no longer be the only place to acquire a medical specialty in Toronto.

Anti-Jewish sentiments were polite. In the thirties, my mother worked at the Toronto Club. Her employers never knew that she was Jewish and she deliberately made sure that they did not know. The Granite Club openly did not accept Jews as members and I refused to attend the wedding of a fellow member of the executive of the University of Toronto Student Council because she was getting married in the Granite Club. Yet, my wife’s grandfather, a truly dear and terrific man, had been a member of the Granite Club and of the Orange Order all his adult life.

But the world was rapidly changing. Ezekiel Hart, though elected to the legislature of Lower Canada at the beginning of the nineteenth century, could not take his seat because he would not take an oath that he was a member “of the faith of a Christian.” But the discrimination for over one hundred and fifty years of life in Canada was not just religious; it was racial. We are now all aware that the Canadian government had the worst record of resettling Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, not only because Prime Minister Mackenzie King believed that Jewish immigrants would pollute the Canadian bloodstream, but, in the words of the Deputy Minister of Immigration, Frederick Blair, even the intake of one Jew would be one too many. “None Is Too Many,” was the slogan for denying Jews entry as we now all know.

The world was, however, changing. Whereas, Harold Innis, a great Canadian political economist, could campaign against the appointment of a new applicant to the department because he was Jewish, whereas in my history course I would read Godwin Smith and Abbé Lionel Groulx and never learn of their rabid anti-Semitism, when I studied T.S. Eliot in English Literature and wrote about the connection between his loquacious anti-Semitism, his theory of literary criticism and his poetic style, I could receive an A+. In Canada, anti-Semitism had not just been the prerogative of extremist right-wing nationalists, but permeated the intellectual, professional and political establishment. However, when I was in graduate school, Louis Rasminsky’s signature would appear on every Canadian dollar bill as he served as the Governor of the Bank of Canada from 1961 to 1973. The times they were a’changing.

Are they changing once again? B’nai Brith in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, reported this year that, although those incidents fell into the expected range of 1,200 per year, the numbers held relatively constant because, although anti-Jewish vandalism declined in Canada in general, it had gone up by 30% in Quebec. And anti-Semitism was now unequivocally associated in most cases with expressions of anti-Israel attitudes. Had anti-Zionism become the predominant form and expression of the new anti-Semitism?

In the university where I taught for 37 years, in the latest series of incidents, a controversy arose over an anti-Israel mural hanging in the Student Centre. B’nai Brith Canada wrote President Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri expressing its disappointment that his promise to combat bigotry on campus and the growing alienation of Jewish students was totally undermined when half the members appointed to an inclusion committee to advise on the matter were either supporters of BDS or vocal critics of Israel.

How can that be? In the United States, the main challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nominee as president was openly a Jew from Brooklyn. On the Republican side, Donald Trump not only has, but boasted that he has a daughter who converted to Judaism and is a practitioner of modern Jewish Orthodoxy. Jews pervade the professional, political and intellectual establishment in both countries. But incidents keep re-occurring reminding us all, not only that anti-Semitism is not dead, but in its association with anti-Israel stances, is often much more virulent. Of course, one can be critical of Israel and even be anti-Zionist and object to the Jewish people having a right of self-determination without being anti-Semitic. But listening to Israel’s critics often suggests otherwise.

Three months ago, at Vassar College, Jasbir K. Puar, an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, gave a lecture entitled, “Inhumanist Biopolitics: How Palestine Matters.” Her lecture was defended in the name of academic freedom as well as by the right to free speech, According to Mark G. Yudof and Ken Waltzer, who obtained a transcript of the talk, though Puar had requested that no one record the talk, she claimed that Israel had used dead Palestinians from the Gaza War to mine “for organs for scientific research.” She accused Jews of deliberately starving Palestinians to stunt their growth. Puar received widespread support, sometimes based on suspicions about Israeli activities and at other times simply in defence of academic freedom. Evidently, it was quite intellectually kosher to speculate on the possibility that Israel practiced “weaponized eugenics.” But why not defend such a brazen anti-Semitic lecture? If the research indeed does reflect serious scholarship and the highest academic standards, there is a right to express and publish one’s views no matter how controversial.

Why not indeed? Because, research exists within a context. Given that context, it is triply important to ensure that those standards are observed, that the research can be replicated and that the claims can be tested. But Puar threatened to sue anyone who publicly recorded or repeated her claims, inherently breaching academic standards. It is not as if she has not published on the topic and has not already advertised her forthcoming book– see the outline of her third book entitled, Inhumanist Biopolitics: The Prehensive Occupation of Palestine. When someone is a known advocate for the BDS movement, a known critic of the existence of Israel, it is incumbent on academics upholding standards of scholarship to ensure that scholarly conclusions are not merely expressions of political and personal bias. However, in a postmodernist age, it is much more difficult to uphold such objective scholarly standards.

The charge has been widely made that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Britain’s former chief rabbi, the very esteemed Lord Jonathan Sacks, has not only made such a charge, but cites the exodus of Jews from Britain and continental Europe as a response. Almost half of the Jewish citizens of France and Britain experienced at least one anti-Semitic incident last year. Anti-Semitism has been compared to a virus that mutates into new forms in the desire to get around established defences. Is political anti-Zionism largely a new form of racial anti-Semitism and the religious anti-Semitism of the last two millennia? Just as religious anti-Semitism in the Middle Ages was defended by the highest esteemed source, the Church, just as racial anti-Semitism used science to back up its charges and give them legitimacy, do the rights to free speech and academic freedom now provide a new solid foundation for justifying political anti-Semitism? So Israeli soldiers are described as the new Nazis and Palestinians in the theology of victimization have become the Jews.

Britain has allegedly become a centre for the expression of this new political anti-Semitism. The Islamic Tarbiyah Academy in Dewsbury, which teaches 140 primary age children in after-school classes and offers a full-time program for over-16s, lists the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as reading material on its curriculum. The extreme fundamentalist, Mufti Zubair Dudha, teaches his students that Islam is under attack in a modern religious war with Jews behind the campaign. Dewsbury has developed a reputation as a breeder of extreme terrorism. This small town gave birth to one of the 2005 attackers against the London transit system. The youngest suicide bomber and youngest convicted terrorist in Britain both came from Dewsbury.

The problem in Britain, unlike in France, goes well beyond the extremist stream of Muslim political life. Naseem Shah, a Labour member of parliament from Bradford, and Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London and member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, were both suspended from the party for their anti-Semitic remarks. Shah had advocated the relocation of Israel to the U.S. Livingstone defended Naseem Shah by claiming that Hitler had been a Zionist. So it is not simply a matter of Jews becoming paranoid and equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism; two prominent Labour officials in Britain had identified with a campaign, not simply for Palestinian self-determination, not even just for the elimination of Israel and the denial of the right to self-determination, but ethnic and religious cleansing by relocating Jews away from the Middle East, including those who could trace their families back two thousand years in the Middle East and in Israel in particular. The Oxford University Labour Club was forced to suspend some council members and activists for similar reasons. The National Union of Students President, Malia Bouattia, accused the international media of being “Zionist-led” and openly advocated violence against Israel.

Racism permeates British political life to this day. Boris Johnson, the Conservative current mayor of London, dismissed Barack Obama’s support for Britain remaining in the EU by claiming that this “part-Kenyan” president was displaying a traditional anti-British bias and an ancestral dislike of Britain by former African colonies. But the animus of anti-Zionism that has unequivocally crossed over into outright anti-Semitism seems to have infiltrated left wing politics in Britain quite deeply. As in all cases, it is not simply the outspoken views of the few that are the problem, but the dismissal of critics and the tolerance of such outrages by the many. Mehdi Hasan, a British political journalist who happens to be Muslim, has insisted that such expressions of anti-Semitism not only frequently emerge in his community, but are not confronted. They are even tolerated by the majority. “It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace.”

As identity versus cosmopolitan ideas had once come to the fore in politics where the rights of some are defended in terms of universal rights, in the new era, the victimization of some are brought to the fore because of their special victimization and the shared responsibility of the majority to redress those particular historical sources of victimization. History would have to be corrected even at the cost of making another group pay the costs. Further, the rhetoric of anti-capitalism easily gets intermingled into this antipathy as the bankers in the world are held responsible for growing inequalities and once again identified with Jews.

Anti-Semitism, unfortunately has once again arisen from a relatively short sleep and become a significant part of international politics, not always but most frequently associated with attacks against Israel. Gideon Behar of Israel’s Foreign Ministry has outlined in briefings Israel’s determination to lead the efforts to fight anti-Semitism around the world as an integral part of Israeli foreign policy. On the 80th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials and the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg laws which used the mask of justice to disguise gross injustice and set off the trajectory that would lead to the Holocaust, it is well to remember how the mask of one cause can be used to deliver a deep and venomous hatred wrapped in an ostensibly merely controversial political package.

Colm Tóibín on the 1916 Irish Easter Uprising

Colm Tóibín on the 1916 Irish Easter Uprising

by

Howard Adelman

Colm Tóibín wrote a very interesting and insightful piece on the 1916 Irish Easter uprising for the London Review of Books titled, “After I am hanged my portrait will be interesting.” The reference http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n07/colm-toibin/after-i-am-hanged-my-portrait-will-be-interesting was sent to me by one of my readers in response to my blog on the mini-series “Rebellion;” I opened the response and read the Tóibín article yesterday evening.

Colm began by referring to Henry James’ depiction of his ancestral tribe in his novel, The Princess Casamassima in a letter to a Bostonian friend. Ireland “seems to me an example of a country more emancipated from every bond, not only of despotism but of ordinary law, than any so-called civilised country was before – a country revelling in odious forms of irresponsibility & licence. And surely, how can one speak of the Irish as a ‘great people’? I see no greatness, nor any kind of superiority in them, & they seem to me an inferior and 3rd rate race, whose virtues are of the cheapest and shallowest order, while their vices are peculiarly cowardly and ferocious. They have been abominably treated in the past – but their wrongs appear, to me, in our time, to have occupied the conscience of England only too much to the exclusion of other things.”

In my blog, I had referred to the clash between two camps, the realist (Jimmy Mahon, the socialist leader of the Irish Citizens Army played by Brian Gleeson) and the romantic (Patrick Pearse, the poet orator and leader of the rebellion played by Marcus Lamb), the two polar opposites within the rebellious ranks. However, I totally missed the allusion of this premise in the series to Henry James’ thesis that it was only when the two polar opposites joined forces, that the action could begin and the rebellion take off. James in his preface in the novel wrote of his own romantic hero, Hyacinth Robinson, that the action could only take place when he became “‘most acquainted with destiny in the form of a lively inward revolution.’ For any action to take place, the novel needs another force, which emerges as the more determined and unconflicted figure of Paul Muniment, who is all outwardness, decisiveness and manliness, with politics that are focused, thought-out, physical, set against Robinson’s ambiguous sexual and social presence. But drama in the novel can only occur when Hyacinth’s bookishness, his soul and his soft feeling, have been lured into the orbit of cold steel and hard strategy. The novel’s energy is released when these opposites cease to move against each other, or cease even to run in tandem, but merge, to become aspects of a single burning emotion.”

Colm via James and his novel provides the historical background and context missing in the series, such as the role of Millbank Prison by the Thames that held the Fenian rebels who had initiated the raids from post-bellum America into Canada from 1866 to 1871. The Fenian Brotherhood’s attacks on British army forts and customs posts in Canada, all ending in failure, within Upper Canada and subsequently Ontario, strengthened the Orange Order (still the dominant force in my home province when I was a kid). Those raids from the modern founders of terrorism helped lead to Confederation in 1867, the same year that Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. For if the realists brought discipline and organization, the romantics brought a desire for and an expertise in notoriety and theatricality.

The “Revolution” series did bring out the radical rhetoric that made death and dying for a cause a romantic aspiration in the face of those who had white milk in their arteries and veins instead of red blood. The ruthlessness of the rebels, the dramatization of conspiratorial action, was present early on, but not the guile. So in 1885 the Fenians blew up half of Westminster and the Tower in London using Alfred Nobel’s wicked invention. But it would be the disciplined, focused, selfless and implacable Irish-American, Thomas J. Clarke, who had set up an elaborate bomb factory in Birmingham, and was caught, charged with treason and conspiracy, who would make the difference. He initiated the conspiratorial web from his prison cell in Millbank that set off the 1916 Irish Easter Rising. It was from that prison cell that he wrote his archetypal prison memoir and its depiction of the horrific conditions and the combined stupidity and lack of compassion of the British, and contrasted that with the camaraderie and courage of the prisoners in subverting their jailers. That memoir directly lead to the creation of Amnesty International that would campaign for the release of the prisoners, with the unintended consequence of allowing the rebels to return to Ireland to engage in much more effective Irish revolutionary activity.

Henry James had referred to Ireland as an “accursed isle, “where literature, art, conversation, and society had all been murdered in the name of an ardent nationalism.” In 1907, Joseph Conrad wrote and published the thriller The Secret Agent that would outsell Heart of Darkness. According to Colm Tóibín, Sir Robert Anderson, the police commissioner who had played such an important role in his insistence on treating the rebels as felons rather than political prisoners, as the British army general does in the five part series, published Sidelights on the Home Rule Movement, which inspired Joseph Conrad’s treatise on terrorism. But in Conrad’s foreword to the 1920 edition, he claimed it was the “Greenwich Bomb Outrage” of February 1894 that had inspired him. But it could have been both. When Martial Bourdin blew himself up in Greenwich Park accidentally with his own terrorist bomb (I witnessed the same type of event in Jerusalem in 1978 when a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up outside my classroom window when I was teaching a class on Hegel at Hebrew University), Conrad called this incident “a blood-stained inanity of so fatuous a kind that it was impossible to fathom its origin by any reasonable or even unreasonable process of thought.” But it is precisely such irrational acts of theatricality, when combined with disciplined political calculation, that, according to Henry James, sets off revolutions.

Responsibility for the planning of the rising was given by Patrick Pearse to Tom Clarke (the tobacconist played by Lalor Roddy in the series) who was killed by the firing squad on the first day of the executions (3 May 1916) alongside Pearse himself, and Séan Mac Diamada, also known as Séan Macdermott, played by Sean Fox, who was killed by the firing squad on the final day of the executions on 12 May 1916. None of these leaders during WWI came within a shadow’s breath of the charismatic and clever, audacious and super-intelligent nineteenth century Irish firebrand, Charles Stewart Parnell. But in the series, the combination of characters, together with an obtuse British leadership, provide the spark that would lead to both a failure in the battle for Dublin by the rebels and a victory by their successors in the war for independence. There is no hint in the series that I recall, and hence the criticisms of lack of context, that both Patrick Pearse and James Joyce, in the footsteps of their fathers, revered Parnell.

Colm fills it in. “The clash between the two (Joyce and Pearse) over ideas of language and cultural identity would make its way into the encounter between Gabriel Conroy and Miss Ivors in Joyce’s ‘The Dead’.” For Joyce deplored the romanticism of the Irish nationalists, particularly the cultural nationalists like William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory. The clash between the cosmopolitans and the nationalists ripples through Joyce’s Artist as a Young Man where Stephen Dedalus is denounced by an ideologue who romanticizes dying as a hero for a nationalistic cause. James Joyce, on the other hand, revered “the reality of experience” and “the uncreated conscience” rather than the romanticism of a dream – make Ireland, or America, great again. Romantic longings appeal to a reified Irish (or American) essence.

Colm also brings out information that I never knew and that is entirely ignored and even contradicted in the series. Pearse liked talking (and sleeping) with young boys. Colm quotes his 1909 poem, “Little Lad of Tricks.”

Little lad of the tricks
Full well I know
That you have been in mischief:
Confess your fault truly.
I forgive you, child
Of the soft red mouth:
I will not condemn anyone
For a sin not understood.
Raise your comely head
Till I kiss your mouth:
If either of us is the better of that
I am the better of it.
There is a fragrance in your kiss
That I have not found yet
In the kisses of women
Or in the honey of their bodies.

Though a reactionary of old age pensions and a strong opponent of Irish emigration, Pearse revered women and did not denigrate their role, as Pearse does in the series. Pearse promoted women for the board of the National University of Ireland. Mercurial, solitary and protean, Pearse evolved into a leading revolutionary who, narcissistically, fell in love with this new emerging messianic and somewhat reckless image of himself as having transformed from a dreamer to a man of action. And he was propelled by a dream of martyrdom rather than victory. When his portrait was requested for a pamphlet, Pearse wrote, “I think a portrait of Emmet would be better (as well as handsomer) on the cover. After I am hanged my portrait will be interesting, but not before.” This evolutionary development from romantic poet and political orator to romantic rebel and political martyr was understandably also ignored by the series.

Colm also displays his intimate knowledge of the inner workings and political struggles of the Irish independence movement and portrays how a rag tag group of rebels divided among Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, the Gaelic Athletic Association and Redmond’s National Volunteers transformed itself into a divided but effective revolutionary force, which eventually wins, more because of the stupidity of the British command structure than the discipline, organization and wisdom of the revolutionaries whose 1916 Easter rising was such a tremendous failure as a military operation, but such a successful advertisement for rebellion in the face of British obstinacy and perfidy.

Colm and the series both fill in the divisions between the archbishop of Dublin, William Walsh (Barry McGovern) – protection of the church must be our first priority – and the need to identify with the people – the position of the archbishop’s secretary portrayed as Monsignor Mulcahy (Gus McDonagh) rather than Father Michael Curran, but I found this identification somewhat confusing in the series. It was also not clear to me, as Colm points out, that Pearse’s reading of the proclamation in front of the Post Office was met by a small and uninspired crowd. Though that was how it was portrayed in the movie, I thought that this was the product of series budget shortfall rather than a mimetic version of what actually took place.

Colm also makes clear that the choices of properties to occupy ignored seats of power in favour of symbolic locations, and the choice of the centre of the main shopping area and close to Dublin’s north side slums, led to a large number of civilian casualties, unintentionally or otherwise, when combined with the British use of artillery and large guns clearly in breach of the norms of just war. This barrage that killed a large number of civilians took place in spite of the fact that 200,000 Irishmen were serving in the front lines in Europe and the lives of their relatives would be sacrificed to British indifference to Irish lives. This is conveyed in one dramatic moment with the death of the Irish fusilier’s young boy.

Colm reminds us that the rebellion had cultural as well as political consequences. I remember as an undergraduate reading Sean O’Casey’s 1925 comic portrayal, The Plough and the Stars which captured the rhetorical romanticism of the revolt – I never read or saw the earlier Shadow of a Gunman. The scene of the looter with “a new hat on her head, a fox fur around her neck over her shawl, three umbrellas under her right arm, and a box of biscuits under her left” has a variation in the series, but without O’Casey’s depiction of her comic relish in her acquisitions.

Colm should be read in juxtaposition to the series, for he supplies context and richness, though he largely ignores the feminist message of the series. That context is important the morning after a rhetorical clown with stock phrases like, “We – no I – will make America great again,” is repeated for the umpteenth time by the now presumptive Republican presidential candidate. The advertisement for myself rings out once again like one of those barker ads, but without the promise that, “I will refund your money.” Men in coal mines will be proud once again to work as miners – environmental consequences be damned. Just as Trump won against the prognostications of virtually all the pundits, he could beat Hillary. She is vulnerable. The appeal to ignorance is powerful.

God bless America. Who else will if Donald Trump wins?

Rebellion: A Review

Rebellion: A Review

by

Howard Adelman

Two hundred years ago, Britain defeated Napoleon and the British Empire dominated the nineteenth century. One hundred years ago, that empire began to unravel. The Easter rebellion broke out in Ireland. Britain squashed the rebels in the ensuing battle, but lost the war; by 1922 Ireland, dependent on Britain for over seven centuries, had won its independence. Brits did not know how to translate the ruthlessness of war into the forgiveness of victory. Almost exactly one hundred years ago today, the highly decorated British General, Sir John Grenfell Maxwell, ordered the trial and execution of hundreds of rebels. Great Britain lost, no longer simply the struggle for home rule, but the war for Irish independence. Two years later, with American help, Britain won the war against the Germans. Then lost that peace as well. John Maynard Keynes (The Economic Consequences of the Peace) rightly predicted that the Versailles Treaty would lead to financial collapse and chaos, a position echoed and elaborated upon in a broader canvas by the great Canadian historian, Margaret Macmillan, in Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World. I suggest the adumbration of that disaster was foreshadowed by how the British handled, or mishandled, the Irish rebellion.

Yesterday evening in a single marathon session on Netflix, we watched all five episodes of the special series commemorating the Easter rising in 1916 called, appropriately, Rebellion. Written by Colin Teevan and directed by Aku Louhimies, a Finn, the series was not well received by many critics. Major criticisms focused on historical inaccuracies and viewed the series as a family soap opera against the background of the Easter rebellion. Ed Power dubbed the series as “more damp squib than explosive triumph.” Pat Stacey of the Irish Independent called the dialogue “egregiously stilted” and dubbed the direction “flat.” As well as muddling events, Maureen Ryan for Variety described the series as lacking “a sense of excitement and momentum” as well as failing to provide a historical context for the events. Most of the characters never acquire “a modicum of compelling depth or complexity.”

I think these writers have misplaced their criticisms because they misread the film as being primarily about a political rebellion by the Irish against the British when it is really about a feminist rebellion against both the paternalistic patronizing British as well as the condescending attitudes of the leadership of the Irish rebellion. It is about a battle lost by women in the short run not won (eventually) by political rebels.

The only female rebellious leader, Countess Constance Markievicz (Camille O’Sullivan), the military commander of the battalion that occupied the Royal College of Surgeon’s Building as a base from which to capture Stephen’s Green, is only given the tiniest part, and then only to portray her (accurately) primarily as a leading suffragette and campaigner for the rights of women, but also as a cold-hearted killer who sets off the rebellion by killing an unarmed guard who refuses to open the gates to Dublin Castle. It would have helped the film to know that, although she, like the other male leaders, was convicted and sentenced to death, she was not executed, but went on to serve in the Irish Parliament as the only woman in Eamon de Valera’s cabinet. She was there to witness de Valera suppress women’s rights just as much or possibly more so than Ireland’s imperial predecessors.

The real leads in the series are all women. May Lacey, played by Sarah Greene, Frances O’Flaherty (Ruth Bradley) and, most importantly, Elizabeth Butler (Charlie Murphy). May works at Dublin Castle, the headquarters for the British administration in Ireland. She is the secretary of Charles Hammond, the British Chief Secretary as well as her lover who gets her pregnant, much to the consternation of Hammond’s beautiful wife, Vanessa (Perdita Weeks) who suddenly arrives from Britain just as the rebellion is starting. May is not a separatist, but gets involved in and compromised by the rebellion when Hammond’s wife arrives and Charles shunts her to the sidelines. May steals a secret document, a key element in the advance of the plot, for it is the paper that purportedly fingers all the leaders of Sinn Fein. The Gaelic League and the other Irish-centred organizations.

Frances is a teacher at Patrick Pearse’s St. Edna’s School, a Gaelic and English private school that plays such a prominent part in the series. She is a front line fighter. In comparison, Elizabeth Butler, a daughter of a prominent and wealthy Anglo-Irish banking family, is both an ardent feminist as well as a hard-line exponent of the Irish independence cause. At the very beginning of the rebellion, she becomes a runner in her wedding dress, and, just when the wedding ceremony is about to begin, she abandons her betrothed, Stephen Duffy Lyons (Paul Reid), who happens to be a British officer. She joins the rebellion and the true and hidden love of her life, the rebel socialist leader, Jimmy Mahon (Brian Gleeson), one of the few leaders of the rebellion who is a realist rather than a romantic poetic visionary. Elizabeth is a medical student and leading member of Countess Constance Markievicz’s battalion. All three of the above female roles are fictional to the best of my knowledge.

So is the important role of Ingrid Webster (Sophie Robinson), who arrives from Belfast just as the rebellion begins and, refuses to return as ordered by her fiancé, George Wilson (Andrew Simpson), who as a barrister is conscripted by the army to lead the prosecution of the rebels that will reveal itself to be a legal farce. Ingrid ignores his orders and learns to be a nurse of those wounded in the uprising. Another important character is the feisty mother of Elizabeth, a proto-feminist, Dolly Butler (Michelle Fairley), who is anything but a doll, though she is certainly stately and ladylike in her dress and attitudes. Gradually, she comes out of herself to reveal the independent streak inherited by her daughter. Another powerful minor character, Peggy Mahon (Lydia McGuinness), is Jimmy’s sister-in-law, the brother of her husband, Arthur Mahon (Barry Ward), a British fusilier who needs the position in the army to support his family. As expected, he has a falling out with his rebel-leader brother. But the real source of their eventual separation is perhaps the most moving part of the series, but I will not be a spoiler. I will claim, though, that the award for acting excellence in the series should go to his long-suffering wife, Peggy.

So the drama does not take place primarily in the political and military battles. They serve only as background. The interpersonal and intrapersonal struggles, mainly but not exclusively, of the women, provide the foreground. That seems to be why many of the critics put the series down and depict it as a soap opera. But it is far more than that. For the series puts the women at the home front as the centre of war and conflict, and not the men doing most of the fighting.

Look at how the major leaders of the rebellion are portrayed. Of three of the co-founders of the Irish Volunteers. Patrick Pearse (Marcus Lamb), the Irish teacher, orator, poet, barrister and primary author of the proclamation of independence, as well as teacher of Gaelic and founder of St. Edna’s School, is the only one that has a prominent, though minor, part in the series. Thomas MacDonagh the gregarious poet and Gaelic champion, who was a co-founder of the Irish Volunteers and led the 2nd battalion Dublin Brigade in the battle or Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, does not even appear. Thomas (Tom) Clarke (Lalor Roddy), with a thirty-year history of bombing British locations and serving many years in British jails, who was charged with the military planning of the rebellion, does make a very brief appearance. All three were executed by a firing squad after being found guilty of treason in a secret military trial. Yet as much time is spent revealing his condescension towards women as on his role as a leader of the rebellion.

The rebel military commander and head of the Irish Citizen Army – as distinct from the volunteers – James Connolly (Brian McCardie), who, like Pearse, had a significant role in the series, was killed by a firing squad while sitting in a chair on the final day of the executions while suffering gangrene in his shattered ankle. His death in particular led to a dramatic shift in public opinion. From largely opposing the rebels, the Irish masses began to hold them up as Irish heroes. But the political background of his differences and disputes with Pearse are left vague at best.

On the other hand, there are two outright villains – the Dublin head of detectives and the British general leading the repression of the uprising. The latter, General Maxwell, arrived in Dublin on 28 April 1916, the day before the battle against the Irish Republicans was won. He declared martial law, and, contrary to his performances in the Boer War, in particular as Military Governor of Pretoria, in Ireland he was directly responsible for the execution by firing squad of fifteen rebel leaders, with the first execution taking place one hundred years and one day ago on 3 May 2016. But he does not appear in the film.

Steve Wall, playing Detective Coleman, does appear in every one of the five episodes, but he is never more than a one-dimensional hard-headed and hard-hearted cop. In contrast, whatever their shortcomings in the treatment of women, the leaders of the rebellion are likeable romantic visionaries. In his November 1913 article, before he was supposedly committed to militancy, Pearse in a very ironic article in retrospect entitled, “The Coming Revolution,” wrote,

“As to what your work as an Irish Nationalist is to be, I cannot conjecture; I know what mine is to be, and would have you know yours and buckle yourselves to it. And it may be (nay, it is) that your and mine will lead us to a common meeting-place, and that on a certain day we shall stand together, with many more beside us, ready for a greater adventure than any of us has yet had, a trial and a triumph to be endured and achieved in common.”

Home Rule was insufficient, even though the British Parliament had passed such a bill but suspended its implementation until after the war. But we are not told that fact in the series if my memory is correct. I would very much like readers to check if they watch the series, for I only saw it once. I believe viewers were not informed adequately of any of the following:
• That 54% of those killed (270) were civilians; we see many bodies of what look like civilians, but the series only alludes to this fact or the background just war principles behind the ethical dilemmas in fighting wars in crowded urban settings
• 40% of the civilian casualties were children under the age of sixteen and only two of them served the rebels as message runners, something depicted in the movie but without any ethical context
• The British army and constabulary suffered twice as many casualties as the rebels, but we neither know this fact and we are certainly not given any explanation why from the series. For example, there is no depiction of the stupid frontal assaults on the rebels holding the Mount Street Bridge over the Grand Canal, a direct repetition of the blunders in fighting in France. As a result, there were only four volunteer casualties, but at a cost of many British Foresters dead and wounded (two thirds of British casualties took place in the Mount Street Bridge battle) when the British could have used another route across the canal and attacked the rebels both from the rear and the front
• Most British military casualties and all constabulary casualties were Irish
• The difference between the political home rule party and the militants fighting for independence is alluded to, but not explained, unnecessary for the Irish home audience probably, but certainly crucial for non-Irish viewers if the story of the rebellion is being accurately portrayed
• There is no exposure of the cultural aspect of the war versus the political and military ones, except for the effort to make Gaelic at least survive as a living language; W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory are not in the series, though we anticipated their presence from what we all learned if we ever took an English course at university
• The difference between the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish volunteers is not explicated and is confusing
• The differences between the civilian and military British leadership is certainly part of the fore-story, but it comes across as a muddle
• As in Canada, especially in Quebec, mandatory conscription was a source for strengthening the rebel cause; it is alluded to but not elaborated upon in the series
• The series suggest that the rebels were not guilty of treason but framed themselves to become martyrs when the historical evidence overwhelmingly points to the militants’ plans and efforts to collaborate with the Germans; the series does bring out that a German shipment of arms, including (20,000 rifles, a million rounds of ammunition as well as a great deal of explosives), was intercepted just before the rebellion broke out, but the German captain scuttled the ship before it was captured
• A small part of the problem was that the rebels failed to guide the ship to land; they failed to show up
• We are told, however, that the Brits did not want to reveal that they knew about the shipment lest the Germans learn that the British had broken their codes, just as they would do so again with Enigma in WW II
• No clarity is offered to the differences between the Irish political and military rebel leadership, though there are a few hints that would go over almost any viewer’s head watching the series
• It is never made clear in the series that the document, the Castle Document purloined by May when she was Hammond’s private secretary and mistress, was one that she had likely been “allowed” to steal since it was a forged document by the British military to gain the support of Irish moderates and allow the British army to round up leaders of the Irish Volunteers, Sinn Féin and the Gaelic League
• Nor is it made clear, though this is hinted at, that the rebels knew the document was forged, but went along with assuming it was real to rally more Irish to their cause, but the series never makes clear either the British or the rebel strategy behind the use of the document
• Nor are we told anything about the treachery among the Irish rebellious leaders, such as between Eoin MacNeill, the expert on Gaelic and Irish nationalist, and the seven-man military council
• We do learn that the order for the uprising was countermanded because the rebels would not have sufficient arms for the volunteers expected to join them; defeat would almost be certain
• The impression given is that the rebellion went ahead, but largely only in Dublin, and only by some of the militants in the romantic notion that the battle was for hearts and minds first of all, not for territory and freedom from British rule, so defeat was expected, but it was viewed as a better choice than prison without even a fight
• Though the fight very early appears futile in military terms, especially if we had learned that the rebels had failed to capture the two main railway stations and the port, and becomes even more futile when far fewer volunteers join the uprising than expected, the series takes the position that this was the result of contradictory orders from different quarters and a romantic vision of the way the rebellion would succeed, plus the failure of the rebels to recognize that the British would bring in large number of reinforcements that would certainly doom the rebel cause
• The defensive nature of the rebellion, the effort to last at least three days to earn international recognition, in particular, the signal battle at the Dublin Post Office, the reading by Pearse of the proclamation and the failed battle at Dublin Castle, were all well portrayed, but with little suspense or excitement since everyone knew, the rebels, the British and the viewers, that defeat was inevitable
• Dublin City Hall used as a base to lay siege to Dublin Castle, was a very weakly defended position, and was sometimes alluded to, but, for film economy in telling the story, such sites were mostly not portrayed
• The confusion of the British response at the beginning was communicated
• There is no explanation for the spate of looting, except suggesting that mob behaviour takes over when the looting took place only because the British ordered the police constabulary back to quarters; there were strict orders by the rebels not to kill the police who were, in any case, both Irish and unarmed
• Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Viscount Wimborne, Baron Ashby St. Ledgers, a grandson of John Spencer Churchill and cousin of Winston Churchill, is portrayed as the dumb contradictory incompetent that I believe he was
• The conflict between Hammond, the Under Secretary, and Wimborne, is depicted with reasonable accuracy, though the TV series makes no reference to the fact that Wimborne was held not to have had any responsibility for the uprising by a Commission of Inquiry, even though the series portrays him as stubbornly unwilling to act on the basis of army intelligence to head off the rebels
• I do not know why the series did not portray the use of artillery on ships that was so responsible for destroying central Dublin, killing many uninvolved civilians and alienating the Irish
• It was not clear whether the main battle depicted was the British assault on the Mendicity Institute, but I believe it was that battle.

There are many more historical instances that would make, and do make, historians apoplectic. But, for me, these are just an indication that the rebellion was not the primary story, but the background to a domestic drama about the fight for equality by women and the indifference of rebels in history as well as establishment political leaders to pay heed to the emergence of women as individuals. Further, the battle for Irish independence and the stupidity of the way the British handled the crisis offered part of an explanation of why, over the next thirty years or so, the British lost its empire.

As I wrote, this is not primarily a political or military series, but a domestic series between men and women over gender rights. Some critics think that this makes the series a light melodrama. I regard the series as a very well produced and directed drama against the background of a rebellion. Alter you experience a gestalt, you may want to watch and appreciate the series.