The Jazz Singer – Part II Intermarriage

The Jazz Singer: Part II On Intermarriage


Howard Adelman

I am sitting in a Jerusalem apartment writing this blog. I am here to attend the annual meeting of the Association for Israel Studies (AIS) at which I am giving a paper on Wednesday. I am also here to attend my granddaughter’s wedding on Friday at noon. She is Israeli-born, has served her time as an officer in the Israeli army and, having graduated, now teaches Jewish studies in a Jerusalem high school. She is marrying an Israeli archeologist. This is relevant to the topic of this series because her mother converted to Orthodox Judaism and her grandmother on her mother’s side was not halachically Jewish. This is relevant since most counts of Jewish intermarriage focus on losses of membership in the Jewish community rather than gains.

This is also relevant for two very different and idiosyncratic reasons. We arrived in Jerusalem yesterday and we were out last evening to have dinner with those of my immediate family who had arrived from overseas. There were eleven of us at a famous pizza restaurant in Jerusalem which serves – according to my granddaughter – the best pizza in Jerusalem. (It is called the Bardak Pizza & Beer Bar and is located at 38 Keren Hayesod in Jerusalem. I am a lover of ordinary rather than gourmet pizza so I will not be writing a review except to say all my family at the table agreed with my granddaughter. I also do not drink beer, but according to family members the gourmet beer was “to die for.”

There were two irrelevant events worth mentioning, precisely because on the surface they seem so irrelevant. The first was that I ran into Yoram Peri at the restaurant who stood up, called out my name and then assured my wife and I that we were at the right place since all the members of my family arrived even later than the time we had agreed to meet and the late time that we had arrived. Needless to say, Yoram is not a member of my family. He is, however, on the executive of AIS. Prof Yoram Peri is the Abraham S. and Jack Kay Chair in Israel Studies, and Director of the new Joseph and Alma Gildenhorn Institute for Israel Studies, the University of Maryland at College Park. He has been a political advisor to the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was the founder and former head of Chaim Herzog Institute for Media, Politics and Society and professor of Political Sociology and Communication in the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University. He was also once the editor-in-chief of the Israeli daily, Davar and is now editor of the journal on Israel Studies. He is an expert on the Israeli military as well as on how the media portrays Israel and the effects on policy.

Why am I mentioning him? For two reasons. First, because he apologized for asking to have his name deleted from my blog list. “They are too long,” he said. “If I took the time to read your blog, I would never get any of my emails read.” As psychological compensation, he did say that the ones he did read were interesting. I assured him that if I was in his position I would probably delete my email from my list as well. So, readers, no need to express any guilt for not reading my blogs or even having your name deleted from the blog list. You can always read them online at WordPress under my name. Second, Yoram is an expert in media studies and has been one of the foremost scholars that have made the academic study of the way events are portrayed in the media and popular culture as they relate to the development of perceptions, policies and practices an integral part of scholarship. This is as important to social studies – such as the portrayal of intermarriage in popular culture – as it is to political and military affairs. Hence, the importance of Professor David Weinfeld’s talk on intermarriage as portrayed in popular culture.
The second irrelevant reason why the dinner last night is of some interest is because I learned that what unites all the disparate members of my family, except myself and my wife – at least, the ones at the dinner – is that they each watch Game of Thrones. Further, they do so religiously, that is, they do so weekly, with great anticipation and as a uniting family event. And I had previously believed that my grandson – who was still at school in the Galilee – was the only one who watched the series.

What I know about the program I learned from him for we would go for long walks when we got together and he would describe episodes in great detail. Essentially, for the very few unfamiliar with the HBO series, it is a tale of murder, jealousy and the competition for power, a fantasy epic about two rival families set in the middle ages. My last blog that referred to Israel Zangwill’s play, The Melting Pot, about a meeting and love affair of a Jewish man who fled from Russia and its pogroms that killed his family and another Russian woman who also immigrated at the same time, but whose father was a perpetrator of the pogrom in which the family of the male character was killed, can be considered very tame compared to Game of Thrones.
So intermarriage is not simply a matter of Jewish survival, but about the competition of groups for continuity and the place of each in the sun. And the series depicts that conflict in terms of bloody wars and treachery as well as interpersonal loyalties. But the fact that it clearly outranks synagogue attendance, among secular, religious and expatriate Jews, is a matter of some interest. The blood and gore, psychological, sociological, political and military portrayals in the Torah evidently do not have the same power as Game of Thrones. That is why the popular cultural portrayal of intermarriage is so important.

Which brings us to The Jazz Singer. This famous American musical with famous songs, such as “Blue Skies” and “Toot, Toot Tootsie Goodbye,” was released as a film in 1927, though my notes read that Professor Weinfeld said 1928. Perhaps the discrepancy is a result of the fact that the film was only released as a full-scale talkie in 1928 as the first feature-length motion picture in which both conversations and songs were synchronized, In the 1927 version, only the singing was synchronized. In the 1928 “talkie,” Al Jolson utters those famous words in a cabaret, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet” – so prophetic in culture generally and in sociology and religion far beyond the intent of its original utterance. The story, as most older readers will know, is based loosely on the story of Al Jolson himself who stars in this twenties version that was created anew in The Jolson Story starring Larry Parks that I watched a number of times as a young boy.

The tale narrates the rise to fame and fortune of the son of a chazan, a cantor in a synagogue, in this case, an Orthodox one. Jakie Rabinovitz (Al Jolson) adopts the stage name, Jack Robin as he disregards the entreaties of his devout father and goes into the field of popular culture and, the most significant part of pop culture at the time, musical theatre. Jackie runs away from his religion, from his family and from his traditions. Jackie’s father at a Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur announces that he has no son. The father will be reconciled in a very schmaltzy climatic moment when his son fails to appear on the opening night of his show. Jackie returns to sing Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur as his father’s substitute and is reconciled with his father before the latter dies – at least in my memory.

The most relevant part of the film for our purposes is that it was an archetypal tale of American melting pot culture and intermarriage. Jackie not only enjoys enormous success in pop culture, but the path to that success was paved by a shicksa who recognizes the “tear in his voice” when she heard him sing and helps him get a role in a new follies musical. They will become lovers. After he achieves fame, his mother finally comes to see him perform through the mediation of his shicksa. Jackie sings “Mother of Mine, I Still Have You” in blackface (I thought it was “Mamie but I was uncertain and checked. “Mammie” is sung at the end of the film.) This was a nod, not simply to a vaudeville tradition, but to his own role as the wayward son, the black sheep in the family. Though Weinfeld, like most scholars, interpreted this as racist, and thought it was also a message that Jews had become white and put on black makeup only as a cover, and hence the practice was an expression of Black discrimination, I took the meaning in a quite opposite way.

Jazz was Black music. Jews pioneered in introducing jazz to a wider non-Black audience. Jazz is, as Samson Raphaelson describes it, Black prayer and the Jazz Singer is the Jewish cantor for all of America. When Jackie sings, “Mother of Mine, I Still Have You,” he is singing to Black mommas, to Jewish mommas and to white mommas. As his mother, Sarah, the prime female progenitor, says after watching the performance, “Here he belongs. If God wanted him in His house, He would have kept him there. He’s not my boy anymore—he belongs to the whole world now.” Jews and Gentiles (and, in my interpretation, Blacks and Whites) are reconciled as American Jews mature and join a cosmopolitan culture. At the same time, a Jew can also be reconciled with keeping his own traditions and exposing them to the rest of the world.

Intermarriage, which had been part of the silence, a hidden topic of “shame” for Jews during the period of silent films, had finally become a subject of discussion, of “talkies,” if not much at first, at least the beginning of a century-long debate. The issue of duplicity, of pretending to be who you were not, of wearing blackface, was ending and a period in which Jews would not have to walk around in the White world in disguise was adumbrated, even if the reality would take another four decades. This development would mean far more contact between Jews and Gentiles, far more contact, and, therefore, statistically far more intermarriage. “By the end of the twenties the 5% rate at the beginning of the century had risen to the high twenties. The message was – you assimilate and, at the same time, keep and transform your heritage as culture and religion.

Recall, that this was a time when it was believed that the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Union were primarily Jewish. Karl Marx came from a Jewish heritage. Leon Trotsky was Jewish, So were Gregory Zinoviev and Karl Radek; Béla Kun, leader of the Hungarian communist party, was Jewish. Jews were portrayed internationally as rootless cosmopolitans. But in America they were becoming cosmopolitans rooted in a new culture, that of America. Jews were no longer Shylock, the moneylender of Merchant of Venice, or the leader of a pack of thieves in Charles Dickens, but could achieve success in every field of human innovation and endeavour.

But Jews, as in Germany, were emerging into the mainstream with two different dress codes, that of the unassimilated Chasidic Jew and that of the successful lawyer, doctor, politician and even soldier. But Germany had Hitler and Heidegger. There were no equivalents on the political and intellectual side for Jews in America. Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford could not compete with Hitler and Heidegger. Assimilation offered an open road, or the broad expanse of the Mississippi, the water road that ran down the centre of America, since openness and mobility – upward, sideward and even downward – were longstanding standard tropes in American culture.

When The Jazz Singer appeared in movie houses in 1927, Bavaria had already that year lifted its ban forbidding Hitler having a public podium for his anti-Semitic rants and his rage against treaties that betrayed Germany and his calls for strong leadership. For Hitler, the root source of the danger came from immigrants and alien races and religions. But in America in 1928 audiences laughed to the antics of Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie who would take America into the new world. America was the new world incarnate.

An aside. When I was a young boy, we played with yo-yos. In family lore, my mother’s cousin invented the yo-yo when he was in prison for theft in the thirties. When he was released, he founded what was then a famous toy company, Cheerio Toys. In truth, the yo-yo is an ancient toy. A Filipino actually introduced the yo-yo to America in the twenties. The message – Jews not only grew to fame based on innovation and entrepreneurship, but some also became infamous for their misdeeds. When I was a Toronto Daily Star newspaper delivery boy, I remember one day seeing the headlines of the pile of papers dropped off one day for me to deliver. The headline read: “Yo-yo king flees Canada for Israel.” My mother’s cousin had sought sanctuary from the Canadian taxman, not because he was being persecuted by anti-Semitism, but because he was being prosecuted for income tax evasion. So assimilation brought with it the fame and fortune of Al Jolson and the infamy of my mother’s cousin. Like the yo-yo, the fate of Jews goes up but also down and in the process one can see a diverse array of tricks.

Was the increasing rate of intermarriage a sign of going up or a sign of decline and disarray? After all, in 1927, Evelyn Waugh had published his novel, Decline and Fall. At the same time, Lady Chattterley’s Lover was being banned in Canada, the UK and the U.S. (A.A. Milne’s The House of Pooh Corner was published that same year, but its significance for Jews and the subject of intermarriage must await a blog far into the future.) Forty years later, Phillip Roth published Portnoy’s Complaint that Professor David Weinfeld in his lecture on intermarriage in pop culture pronounced as his favourite novel. That book had a very different take on Jewish-Gentile inter-ethnic sexual relations than The Jolson Story. In my next blog on intermarriage I will discuss Portnoy’s Complaint in comparison to another work forty years earlier at the same time as The Jolson Story, Abie’s Irish Rose.
But that blog may come in two weeks when I return to Toronto. In the interim, I am sure that the panels of the Association for Israeli Studies, for which I have to leave now, will provide plenty of subject matter for my blogs.

God as a Jealous Husband – Numbers 4-7

Parshat Naso: God as a Jealous Husband – Numbers 4-7


Howard Adelman

The Torah reading is very long tomorrow morning. It begins with counting the 8,580 clergy that were left out of the previous military census. Then the text shifts to what you do with individuals who are unclean, more specifically with those afflicted with tzara’at. (You wondered about the etymological origins of the Yiddish tsuris! Have I got tsuris! Have I got trouble!) Zarah is to scatter, to disperse as when the Israelites were exiled into the galut. Sārāh means suffering from an affliction as a result of adversity and distress. Zarah will be the result. Sārāh is the symptom of the affliction. When you have “a male discharge,” (a “wet dream”?), then you have both scattered your seed as well as displayed a symptom of an affliction.

But then the text gets into kinds of behaviour that can be regarded as unclean, and where evidence is presented and the alleged guilty offence is proven. This is then followed by a section which is not about proven guilt, but suspected guilt without proof. What actions should a husband take when he suspects his wife of committing adultery. He does not know; he is only suspicious. The woman under the cloud is referred to as a sotah. What immediately follows the section on suspected infidelity is a discourse on the laws governing an ascetic, a nazir, an Israelite who grows his or her hair long, foreswears wine and belongs to a community of ascetics, the precursors of the Catholic monastic orders.

My first question is why this seemingly incongruous juxtaposition of topics – a census of the clergy, a depiction of how you treat persons where liquids are seeping from the body and the body is diagnosed as unclean, procedures and punishments for people found guilty of committing a sin (fines), procedures for dealing with suspicions of infidelity, and then the laws governing ascetics. You have to admit this order of what appears to be unrelated topics, or barely related, seems totally weird. Let’s unpack the topics from the clergy census to the rules governing ascetic orders.

The text seems clear enough, at least on the surface. The conduct of the clergy count seems straightforward. The discussion of the condition of one’s skin (tzara means you are afflicted with a skin disease). Having acne means you are suffering from some kind of tzara’at. Leprosy could be another type except that leprosy is contagious. Tzara’at are not. This is important. For the question is why, if someone is not contagious, he (or she?) should be ostracized, should be banished, not only from going to worship at the tabernacle, but from the camp in the Sinai altogether.

Moses and his sister, Miriam, were both stricken with tzara’at. (Exodus 4) God cures Moses. Moses cures Miriam but still quarantines her for a week. It becomes clear in the relevant texts in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers that the symptom tzara characterized by skin rashes, swellings, loss of pigmentation, are signs that you are unclean. Hence, the association of skin conditions that give off pus with wet dreams. Only a Cohen, a priest, can diagnose the condition, reinforcing the notion that the condition is regarded as a symptom of a body afflicted with spiritual uncleanliness. All the detailed distinctions to define the condition from others are of little relevance, for the section is about the unclean and what you do with people who have the condition.

But what happens when you not only have a symptom of spiritual uncleanliness, but are found guilty of sin? Moses in Numbers chapter 5 is instructed to:
6 Tell the children of Israel: When a man or woman commits any of the sins against man to act treacherously against God, and that person is [found] guilty,
7 They shall confess the sin they committed, and make restitution for the principal amount of his guilt, add its fifth to it, and give it to the one against whom he was guilty.

You are fined, with a 20% fee going to the priest. You are not quarantined. You are not ostracized from the community. But look what happens when someone does not give off any symptoms in his or her skin of uncleanliness, is not caught in illicit behaviour and found guilty, but is only an object of suspicion. The text turns to a suspected unclean condition (adultery) where there are no manifestations on the skin. Certainly, or at the very least, it is unlikely that you will be waking up with signs that you had a wet dream. In fact, one might be suspect as an adulterer if your skin was glowing. Clothing, including bedclothes, may also show signs of tzara’at. So can your abode – presumably mold, especially black mold, may be a sign that the house is afflicted. If that is the case, why are gentile homes immune from this affliction? But that is a problem for the Talmud not the Torah. Our problem now is suspected adultery with no evidence to prove guilt.

12 Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: Should any man’s wife go astray and deal treacherously with him,
13 and a man lie with her carnally, but it was hidden from her husband’s eyes, but she was secluded [with the suspected adulterer] and there was no witness against her, and she was not seized.
14 But a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he became jealous of his wife, and she was defiled, or, a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he was jealous of his wife, and she was not defiled.

Is the problem that the man is afflicted with jealousy or the problem that the woman may or may not have committed a sin?
15 Then the man shall bring his wife to the kohen and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall neither pour oil over it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a meal offering of jealousies, a meal offering of remembrance, recalling iniquity.
16 The kohen shall bring her forth and present her before the Lord.

So it appears that the issue is getting at the truth of whether or not the wife committed adultery. The issue is not the man’s jealousy, whether warranted or not. The woman has to drink the “bitter waters.”

18 Then the kohen shall stand the woman up before the Lord and expose the [hair on the] head of the woman; he shall place into her hands the remembrance meal offering, which is a meal offering of jealousies, while the bitter curse bearing waters are in the kohen’s hand.
19 The kohen shall then place her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you and you have not gone astray to become defiled [to another] in place of your husband, then [you will] be absolved through these bitter waters which cause the curse.
20 But as for you, if you have gone astray [to another] instead of your husband and have become defiled, and another man besides your husband has lain with you…”
21The kohen shall now adjure the woman with the oath of the curse, and the kohen shall say to the woman, “May the Lord make you for a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord causes your thigh to rupture and your belly to swell.
22 For these curse bearing waters shall enter your innards, causing the belly to swell and the thigh to rupture,” and the woman shall say, “Amen, amen.”

If she drinks the bitter herbs and she is guilty of adultery, she will get both a bloated belly and a hip put out of joint. The latter reminds one of the passage from Genesis (32:25), “When the angel saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” This is what happens when neither prevails. In the case of the former, the belly is the heart of the spirit and it will swell out of all proportion as a result of drinking in bitterness.

So the order of the sections now becomes clearer. You start with the depiction of the number of priests. There is then a depiction of one function they have to perform when individuals, their clothes and their home are afflicted with symptoms. Then the fines are described for people whose guilt is proven when they commit sin. But what happens when a husband lacks any of these clues but suspects his wife of adultery? Well the Kohenim perform their voodoo and if the drink tastes bitter to the wife under suspicion, her guilt is established. Alternatively, if she is innocent, her husband’s seed will make her pregnant. And if the husband is wrong in his accusations, nothing happens to the person afflicted with jealousy. Not very appealing to any feminist worth his or her salt.

27 He shall make her drink the water, and it shall be that, if she had been defiled and was unfaithful to her husband, the curse bearing waters shall enter her to become bitter, and her belly will swell, and her thigh will rupture. The woman will be a curse among her people.
28 But if the woman had not become defiled and she is clean, she shall be exempted and bear seed.
29 This is the law of jealousies when a woman goes astray to someone other than her husband and is defiled,
The order is then:
1. The priests.
2. The evident symptoms of uncleanliness in the skin.
3. Punishment for proven acts of sin.
4. Procedures for dealing with the suspected sin of adultery.
5. Recourse to asceticism to avoid the possibilities of sin.

Other than the voodoo part, that all seems to make sense if you think the section is all about the purity of individuals, the way of dealing with sins of the flesh, evident in that flesh, proven and unproven and one preventive response. But what if the story is really a metaphorical tale of the relations between God and humans? It helps make sense of the section of the man who “suspects” infidelity but cannot prove it and there are no symptoms in the flesh After all, the Israelites are depicted as the wife of God. What if the real issue is God’s suspicion that in their hearts the Israelites have been unfaithful but God has no proof? The Israelites are not found to be making and worshipping idols.

Then it makes sense why God – who always confesses he is a jealous God but until the Greek era was not considered omniscient – is never punished for feeling jealous even when the jealousy is unjustified. God has to follow a procedure to test the faith of the Israelites. What are the bitter waters the Israelites are forced to drink? Are the Israelites really guilty of being unfaithful to their God – in which case, they will be destroyed – or is this a matter of a temporary breach between God and his people, between God and his wife who is suspected of jealousy.

Even if the Israelites – or some of them – flirted with worshipping another God, grounds for suspected adultery are present, but no proof. The proof, in fact, will be in the pudding. Will Israelites be able to multiply and flourish or will they remain barren? If the Israelites are flirting with another, then they will taste the bitter waters of exile from the land promised to them. If they are free of adultery even in their thoughts, then the water they drink will taste fresh and they will not have bitterness in their hearts and/or in their treatment. Exile then, the bitterness, is for the religious a depiction of a crisis in the marriage where there is no definitive judgement whether God’s jealousy is warranted. If the people remain faithful to their God in spite of the trials and tribulations of galut, then they will have proven that they have maintained their fidelity to God.

That is why the asceticism follows. One joins a monkish-type order of ascetics, not because you are closer to God, but as an expression of the alienation between a people and its God. It is a retreat, an escape from one’s responsibilities as a wife. It is a retreat from the obligation to flourish and multiply. It is a confession of lack of faith in one’s God and the ability of the people to be reconciled with their God. That is why the tzara’at precede the test of adultery, for you either display symptoms of sinning or you actually sin and pay a fine. But it is a sign of a lapse not of a final divorce. God carries a big stick really only when He does not know and only suspects. Otherwise, in the end, He is relatively mushy.

Like any husband who reconciles with his wife after he has an unjustified fit of jealousy.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Jewish-Gentile Intermarriage: Part I 1908 The Melting Pot

Jewish-Gentile Intermarriage:
Part I 1908 The Melting Pot


Howard Adelman

Just before my own teaching session on Shavuot that ended in the very early hours on Sunday (12 June), I went to hear Dr. David Weinfeld talk about the above topic as it is portrayed in popular American culture. Unfortunately, I could not follow the last one-third of the lecture, except in general outline, because the references were all to TV shows, none of which I had followed. But the first part on the past plays, movies, novels and musicals was very informative and insightful.

Before I get into the talk, a discussion of Liel Leibowitz’s very recent essay in Tablet is relevant. The piece is entitled, “No Matter Who Wins in November, the Jews have already lost.”

Clinton or Trump, stinging defeat or close call, divided house or clean partisan sweep—politics will change in ways we cannot even begin to comprehend but it will spell, in nontrivial ways, the end of a more than half-a-century-long American Jewish bloom… Steven Spielberg…was wrong to believe anti-Semitism was fading…The end of Jewish America is everywhere you look. Look rightward, and you’ll see the Republican leadership trying to rationalize away what, for Jews, ought to be the non-negotiable fact that bigotry must never be tolerated, no matter its targets and no matter the circumstances…With Trump at its helm, the GOP will no longer be the Party of Lincoln or of Reagan. It will be the party of those who think that keeping the Muslims out is fine, of those who cheer on calls to disqualify a judge because of his Mexican heritage, of those who gleefully tweet illustrations of gas chambers and quips about ovens. It will be a party of Huns led by a hardhead. No decent person should join such a party, but Jews have particularly resonant reasons for staying the hell away. Look leftward, and things are hardly better. There it’s the Rise of the Planet of the Progressives…Younger Americans… are slouching toward a more perfect progressive dogma, and the political constellations they’re likely to form will almost certainly not be hospitable to Jews.

Why that depiction of the left?

Progressivism…is powered by the twin, and seemingly contradictory, engines of consolidation on the one hand and diffusion on the other: Economically, its supporters champion the regulatory powers of the federal government, while culturally they advocate increased deference to the sensitivities of marginalized individuals. For at least six decades, if not longer, American Jews have traveled more or less in the opposite direction, championing a culture of consolidation that is a necessary backdrop for blending in while supporting moderately liberal economic policies that focused on individuals, not collectives…. This instinct, this genius for assimilation, this affirmation of an all-American identity that trumps the rougher, tribal one is precisely what progressivism now heatedly rejects. (my italics)

To repeat, since WWII, American Jews have traveled in the opposite direction compared to two major trends on the liberal-left. The liberal-left has moved towards deference to and recognition of the marginalized each as specialized categories of victimhood requiring state support versus the direction of the Jews towards consolidation (what was once called assimilation). Secondly, to most observers’ surprise, the liberal left has moved towards socialism and collectivism while Jews have increasingly made an economy based on individual effort, initiative and reward their touchstone. What is the challenge then for Jews? “Clowns to the left of us, and racists to the right, we American Jews may finally awaken from our 30-year nap and learn again how to be a community that grapples fiercely with big ideas.” (Leibowitz)

It is against this large social, political and economic backdrop that I want to discuss Jewish-Gentile intermarriage and “the genius for assimilation” as expressed in critical examples drawn from pop culture.

Weinfeld began his talk with an excursion into sociology before he made his foray into popular culture. He asked the audience what they believed to be the current rate of intermarriage. He was not clear at that point, at least as I heard and understood him (not the most reliable indicator), whether he meant the U.S. or/and Canada, and whether he meant the overall rate of Jewish marriages that involved intermarried parties in which one partner was a Jew or whether he was referring to the percentage of Jews who were currently intermarrying. It turned out he was referring to both, but his exclusive references in pop culture were American creations.

The official sociological definition of the intermarriage rate is the number of Jews who marry non-Jews in any one year in relation to the number of Jews who marry Jews. It also turned out that the guesses from the audience fell into a reasonable range of error. The numbers fell on either side of the figures cited and were not far-fetched. This indicated that those in the audience, at least those bold enough to shout out an answer, had some idea of the rate of intermarriage.

I thought in my head that this opening question was intended to demonstrate that the audience lacked any detail knowledge of statistics on the high rate of Jewish-Gentile intermarriage, particularly in the United States. If that was the intention, it was misguided, and, whatever the intentions of the question, my speculation about the results was misguided. As I said, the guesses were not far off. The key reference is an American one which he cited. A 2013 Pew survey showed the current rate of intermarriage to be 58% among all Jews and 71% among non-Orthodox Jews. The overall rate of intermarriage is about 44% and rising fast.

The changes have been dramatic. In the nineteenth century exogenous marriages outside the faith were very rare. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, in the United States the intermarriage rate had risen to 5%. It was at this point that Weinfeld first dived into pop culture by referencing a 1908 play by Israel Zangwill. (He was a colleague as well as a Zionist competitor of Herzl since he was a leading voice for the Uganda option for Jewish resettlement.) The title of the play, The Melting Pot, indicated to Weinfeld that it was an American Jew that forged the most famous phrase summarizing the concept of and metaphor for assimilation in the United States, but other scholarly authorities claim he merely made the phrase popular. The play made its debut in a year when Jewish immigration to the United States had reached the outstanding figure of 150,000 to join an American population that was just over 100 million.

As Weinfeld depicted it, the play was about David Quixano, a name deliberately chosen by Zangwill to connote both an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic background, even though he supposedly fled Russia and its anti-Jewish pogroms (the 1903 Kishnev pogrom more specifically in which his whole family were killed). David immigrated to the United States. He fell in love with another Russian immigrant, Vera, non-Jewish, who, it turns out, has a father who instigated the Kishinev pogrom and led the Russians in the slaughter. As Weinfeld said, the rivalry of the Capulets and the Montagues was nothing compared to the familial tensions in The Melting Pot.

The theme of the play is about how America differs from the “old country.” America is the place to end all ethnic tensions, not exacerbate them. David was a composer and wrote a successful symphony, “The Crucible,” which memorialized this aspiration for a cosmopolitan nation in which ethnic rivalries were all dissolved. As the symphony ends, David forgives Vera’s father when the latter confesses his role. Theodore Roosevelt, a champion of European immigration to the U.S., sat in the audience when the play first opened in Washington D.C. and David proclaimed in Zangwill’s overwrought prose:

DAVID: There she lies, the great Melting Pot–listen! Can’t you hear the roaring and the bubbling? There gapes her mouth [_He points east_]–the harbour where a thousand mammoth feeders come from the ends of the world to pour in their human freight. Ah, what a stirring and a seething! Celt and Latin, Slav and Teuton, Greek and Syrian–black and yellow- [Theodore Roosevelt may have winced at this last phrase, but, in the end, he shouted, “That’s a great play, Mr. Zangwill, that’s a great play.”]
VERA: Jew and Gentile.
DAVID: Yes, East and West, and North and South, the palm and the pine, the pole and the equator, the crescent and the cross–how the great Alchemist melts and fuses them with his purging flame! Here shall they all unite to build the Republic of Man and the Kingdom of God. Ah, Vera, what is the glory of Rome and Jerusalem [my italics] where all nations and races come to worship and look back, compared with the glory of America, where all races and nations come to labour and look forward!

Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers ended up dead. Zangwill’s couple end up leaving the stage at the end to intermarry and live happily ever after. Israel Zangwill himself was intermarried.

The beginning of the shift in attitude to Jewish-Gentile intermarriage when the rate was only 5% is marked by a popular, even if very schmaltzy, play. The statistics indicate that fiction was not a reflection of reality, but a significant factor in helping develop that shift from a primarily tribal culture to a broad acceptance of assimilation and intermarriage by the end of the century. But that shift was not simply a reflection, for the popular cultural underpinning of this new assimilationist ideology was current among Jewish thinkers and teachers.

In Arthur Goren’s 1999 study, The Politics and Public Culture of American Jews (Indiana University Press), he began with a 1907 quote from Israel Friedlaender, a scholar who had only arrived in the US from Europe four years earlier. He became a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In the talk the professor gave entitled, “The Problem of Judaism in America,” he challenged the prevailing conventional wisdom that American Jewry was fragmented and intellectually impoverished. In dealing with the challenge and attractions of equality and assimilation, with the achievement of civil and political rights, he prophesied the emergence of American Jewry’s leadership in the world and an example within America. “In the great palace of American civilization we (Jews) shall occupy our own corner, which we will decorate and beautify to the best of our taste and ability, and make it not only a center of attraction for the members of our family, but also an object of admiration for all dwellers of the palace…We see a community…blending the best it possesses with the best it encounters…adding a new note to the richness of American life.”

Zangwill’s play suggests that the cultural leaders, as distinct from the community intellectual leadership, were willing to emerge from that corner and broadcast to the wider American public this contemporary Jewish ideology of assimilation, of Jewish community preservation, but a community that was not separate and apart but inclusive and pluralistic. The twentieth century would witness the victorious success of this new ideology over against the doctrine of a community that is separate, distinctive and unique. Further, as Goren wrote, “The material and cultural achievements of American Jews, and the dramatic success of some, gave credence to the American promise of reward, recognition and accepting of the deserving individual.” (p. 13)

Seven years after Zangwill’s play, Horace Kallen advanced the doctrine of a democracy of nationalities,” what later Prime Minister Joe Clark of Canada would call a “community of communities.” In his 1915 essay, “Democracy versus Melting Pot,” Kallen argued for a Canadian version of multiculturalism, not assimilation but integration, the preservation of differences because of “ethnicity.” Religious continuity was but one aspect of that ethnic desire to preserve the tribe, but through a largely secular preservation (and cultivation) of unique Jewish cultural and ethnic traits, including the Hebrew language, while participating in the overall goal of advancing the American values of tolerance and respect from others’ differences. In 1910, Hebraism, this ethnic cultural mix was what, “Israel has stood for in history, the life of the Jews, their unique achievement – not as isolated individuals, but as a well defined group.” These two options to religious separatism would compete for supremacy throughout the twentieth century, total assimilation versus group ethnic continuity. Intermarriage was an integral part in determining the result. In 1909, Judah Leon Magnes would launch the New York Kehillah as an instantiation of the idea of a “Republic of Nationalities.” His effort to create a comprehensive congress of Jews based on democratic principles failed.

All this was taking place against a background of rapid and radical social, economic and political changes. When various type of socialists – Bundists, Marxists, Social democrats, Zionists – were major communal movements vying for victory, William Zamertkin in 1907 wrote in Yiddish that self-isolation was a sickness that can and must be cured. Samuel Peskin carried that message to its logical conclusion – “amalgamation in the cosmopolitan American nation.” The American Jewish Committee, a secular rather than religious creation to represent Jews, remained conflicted in determining the outcome of these battles as it tried to play the role of mediator and cultural expressions offered a leading edge in the debate.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Enjoying your blogs…most of them, when I have some time. Helpful to learn what people are thinking and therefore what is happening and why. Having been a commodities trader there are reasons to what people do and it is the very information passed around that people make decisions on…others like you perhaps are more in the think of it and has a grasp on history.

Politics is not my stronger suit…health is. Any where I see assimilation, I question. The Inuit peoples were driven to not live their ways because of the arrogance of thinking assimilation. Now small bands of people have left the towns to live in their original ways and the seal hunt is going to come back so they can have some of their own money to create a better future.

If you have watched any Star Trek in your days, it depicts how the collective doesn’t leave room for free thinking, critical thinking.

I know, such a small number of words that cannot begin to describe my thoughts but it will do.

Dr. Steven Greer shares it quite nicely. I am all for full disclosure, free energy and no more man provoked wars for power and greed.

Differences and further separation blown to the wind…time will heal and needed laws and rules to keep it on track.

Have a good day!

Donald Trump – Prescript

Donald Trump – Prescript


Howard Adelman

Tom Friedman, a leading columnist at the New York Times, has suggested the Republicans should have gone into bankruptcy protection instead of allowing Donald Trump to succeed in his unfriendly takeover of the party. For the GOP had become morally bankrupt. It had allowed Tea Party extremists to dictate a non-engagement in the politics of dialogue and compromise in favour of political blackmail and extremist rhetoric. Existing representatives who did not toe the extremist line were attacked mercilessly in primaries.

The Republican Party had become a movement intolerant of dissent and differences, whether the issue was gun control, climate change or the nuclear deal with Iran. It is now reaping what it has sown. This was a direct challenge to Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, who declared that Donald Trump is “not going to change the Republican Party” or “the basic philosophy of the party.” Ironically, he may have been correct because the GOP no longer seems to have a basic philosophy.

It once did. It was a party that stood for fiscal conservatism, that is, only spend what you take in from taxes and try to reduce the tax burden, But Ronald Reagan destroyed that trademark, though the principle continued to persist rhetorically. Conservatives, especially Ronald Reagan, were committed to Pax Americana and America as the leading policeman of the world, George W. Bush practiced the principle in excess and destroyed the brand. Trump has buried that principle for he believes in bludgeoning allies and not just retreating from alliances, in making deals and toadying up to tyrants in a world sewn together by money rather than trust and relationships that promote security and world order. Conservatives were committed to limited government and emphasized individual liberty; Donald Trump has demonstrated that he respects might and bullying not rights and respect. Further, he has openly advocated spying and reporting on neighbours you regard with suspicion. If people do not do this, they should be penalized.

The GOP was committed to moral conservativism, upholding traditional values and reinforcing the centrality of the family as the core of Republican virtues. Narcissism is not a conservative virtue. Competing for boasting rights is not a conservative virtue. Donald Trump with his irreverence for any establishment, with his shatter gun attacks on individuals, with his appeals to fear rather than any sense of honour or dignity, with his malicious malignancy, is in the process of incinerating this last foundation of Republican conservatism. Donald Trump is the dancing champion of all champions, a Muhammad Ali, but of mendacity rather than courage and truth.

Now fiscal and traditional conservatives have a hard time grasping and even supporting Donald Trump as their presumptive candidate, someone who attacks both free trade and minorities with his populist ethnic nationalism – or really, anti-ethnic nationalism – while promoting a foreign policy that, at one and the same time, lauds a strengthened America but agrees with President Obama that America should abandon its role as the world’s policeman as he encourages nations in troubled areas to assume responsibility for their own self-defence. Together, Donald Trump and Barack Obama have destroyed the vision of Pax Americana that has governed American foreign policy for the last sixty years. Obama preaches the policy cautiously. Trump does so recklessly, but even then few notable Republicans – Mitt Romney and David Johnson, an Iowa state senator – can be counted among the few exceptions to show the emperor has no clothes.

But the largest acts of self-destruction have come in domestic policy as a blowback from President Bush’s invasion of Iraq as a response to the 9/11 Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on American soil. A news item published by Arutz Sheva this morning ( was headlined, “Canadian PM ignores Islamic identity of Orlando shooter.” It began, “Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an official statement condemning the ‘mass shooting’ in Orlando, but avoided mentioning the fact that the terrorist was a devout Muslim who apparently had ties to terrorist organizations.” Of course, it is not a fact that Omar Mateen was a devout Muslim, though he did attend his local mosque fairly regularly. Interviews with friends and acquaintances on CNN indicated that, in many senses, he did not seem to be devout at all. Further, it is also not a fact that he had ties to terrorist organizations, even though he declared his loyalty to ISIS and ISIS took responsibility for the slaughter. The Orlando investigation thus far suggests that there is, “No clear evidence that he was directed externally.” Early indications point in the direction that he was a lone wolf, perhaps inspired by radical Islam, but a definitive answer will await the full investigation.

Trudeau called the attack a “domestic terror attack targeting the LGBTQ community.” It was domestic in two senses. The attack took place on American soil rather than overseas. The attacker was born in the U.S. By avoiding the reference to Islam (both Trudeau and Obama), these leaders want to avoid the equation of terrorism with Islam and reinforce the view that the vast majority of Muslims are law abiding citizens. Their message also has a foreign policy dimension. They both recognize that both Muslim moderates and Muslim dissidents who aspire to achieve democracy and rights for millions of Muslims offer the best defence against Islamic extremists. Dissidents and moderates only desire to practice their faith without being threatened by non-Muslims who would paint the whole community with an extremist brush. The same members of the Muslim community do not want to be led down the pathway of destruction of both their community and fellow-citizens by bowing before the dictates of Muslim fanatics.

Even though I do not avoid the phrase, “Islamic radicals,” I understand why a political leader might do so, particularly when one candidate for the presidency of the United States blatantly justifies keeping all Muslims out of the United States because some are terrorists and, even more, insists that Omar Mateen was foreign-born in spite of the widespread news already out that he was born in New York. He also promotes neighbour surveillance of Muslims. As Michael Oren, a current Kulanu member of the Knesset and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., has said, the LGBTQ club massacre will be used to strengthen and reinforce Donald Trump’s anti-Islam message even though the LGBTQ movement and Muslim organizations were allies in fighting bigotry and hatred in Orlando.

Yet Trump used his twitter postings to reinforce the threat of Islamic immigration because it could permit Islamic terrorists to get into the U.S. In doing so, he attracts the support of leftists like George Galloway in Britain, who calls Trump a monster but declares Hillary Clinton to be the bigger monster. Trump also attracts rightists like Donald Duke in the U.S., who is less ambivalent than Galloway in his praise. Both Galloway and Duke, like Trump, are strong supporters of the big lie and the politics of fear.

When Begin and Shamir (both future Prime Minsters) were very active terrorists in attacking the British in Palestine in 1947, how would you feel if international news organizations referred to those events as acts of “Jewish terrorism”? And some did describe them that way at the time. Shamir’s men even killed the Swedish Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN-appointed mediator, on the grounds that they believed (erroneously as it turned out) that he was a British spy. Begin and Shamir they were right-wing terrorists who happened to be Jewish, not Jewish terrorists.

The question of equating a larger group as a whole (Muslims, Arabs, Jews) with terrorism because of the actions of a few became acute for me in a discussion I had Sunday morning with a very old friend when I attended a Bat Mitzvah on Shavuot. She (this old friend) responded to a remark made by my beginning an attack on Trump’s position. It quickly became apparent that this individual might be a strong Trump supporter. She certainly seemed sympathetic to his plan to ban entry to the U.S. of Muslims and expressed her deep worry that Muslims, who have been brought up and taught to hate Jews according to her, would pose a dire threat over the long run to the Jewish community in the future. Even if most members of the Muslim community were not terrorists themselves, she might admit, it seemed that she was also sympathetic to Trump’s actions and strategy of reinforcing fear.

Trump claimed that, although many people thought the Orlando mass murderer was freaky, “They knew that something like this would happen. The Muslim community does not report these people.” The immigration of Muslim refugees into the US is described by Trump as the “all-time Trojan horse.” Trump blasted local Muslim leaders for not exposing “bad apples” with inclinations towards radicalism. “They don’t report these people,” said Trump during an interview on Fox News. “The people know who the bad apples are, where the bad seeds are. And they don’t report them.”

The fact is that the FBI investigated Omar Mateen at least twice and, given current U.S. law, could not even prevent him acquiring an assault rifle. This simple fact was a matter of indifference to Trump. He still supports current gun legislation and, instead, would take away the rights of law-abiding Muslims and Muslim foreigners. Trump insisted, “Believe me, the community recognizes the people that have the potential to explode.” Why anyone would believe Donald Trump given his record of serial lying is almost beyond understanding. The evidence thus far indicates that a few acquaintances did recognize Mateen’s explosive and angry personality, but never linked that with potential terrorism. Perhaps more data will come out in the investigation that might alter this initial judgement, but so far the investigation offers no evidence to support Donald Trump’s claims.

The only fact that seems absolutely clear is that even before the victims of America’s worst mass shooting have been buried, a war has broken out over how to understand and narrate what happened. The act was an expression of Muslim radicals. The other camp, “The attack seemed to be an attack by a deranged individual who happened to be Muslim and referred to radical Islamicists to justify his actions. He certainly seemed to have harboured a long-standing antipathy towards the gay community. And it is not clear whether or not he was possibly at war with his own repressed homosexual proclivities.

After all, there have been radical Islamic-inspired attacks, such as the slaughter in San Bernardino last December in which two radicalized Muslims murdered 14 civilians. On the other hand, of the 155 mass shootings in America this year alone, the overwhelming number have been killings by a lone gunman with easy access to automatic weapons and with no connections to Islam. But somehow the shooting in Orlando is claimed as falling into a totally separate category from the attack on school children in Newton, Connecticut. Or the attack by a white racist, Dylan Root, on a Black southern church, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, a young white racist who, coincidentally was arraigned yesterday.

Most observers agree that the attack served the Trump campaign, reinforcing his narrative in spite of it being based on outright lies. At the very least, it took the heat away from Trump because of his outlandish criticisms of a judge of Mexican heritage, Gonzalo Curiel, who was in charge of a trial of fraud, breach of contract, negligent representation and bad faith of the now defunct Trump University, all of which charges could be directed at Donald Trump himself. Was Trump going on the attack to deflect possible deeper criticism of his shenanigans? There was virtually no chance that the judge could or would be removed.

Rasmea Odeh is a Palestinian being tried for immigration fraud because she had not included in her application for immigration that she had been charged with terrorism and spent time in an Israeli jail. She tried to get Paul Berman, the Jewish judge assigned to her case, removed because of presumed bias. Of course, on the principle of judicial independence and the principle of impartiality he was not. Nor will Curiel be removed. In Donald Trump’s logic, no judge of any background or any ethnicity or any decent belief should be able to try him given his shotgun approach to those who disagree with him. Any judge who belonged to a group could be accused of bias against him given that his attacks have been so wide. A woman judge, on his logic, could not try him. Certainly no Hispanic judge could. If he goes on with his political campaign founded on insult, he could make himself immune to any prosecution – which may have been his forlorn hope all along.

Thomas Friedman had written that, “Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education – an ethically challenged enterprise that enriches and perpetuates itself by shedding all pretense of standing for real principles, or a truly relevant value perspective, and instead plays on the ignorance and fears of the public.” The Republican party’s mess of incoherent policies bear no relationship to “where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century.” As such, Donald Trump is the appropriate standard bearer.

Did the massacre in Orlando serve to stem the outflow of Conservatives who could no longer stomach the idea of voting for someone so antithetical to both the value of truth and the U.S. constitutional provisions protecting human rights, to a candidate so utterly ignorant of foreign policy and so racist in his mentality? House Speaker Paul Ryan, a presumptive supporter of Trump, admitted as much although Trump may perhaps not be racist in his practices. Nevertheless, his proposals to erect walls to protect America are so impractical that they could only be offered as metaphors for stirring up fear. For Trump, in the aftermath of Orlando, there was no sympathy expressed for the victims, only news that he had been supposedly prescient while insisting that it did not matter whether he was right. The incident “proved” the need to make America strong again. The leaps in illogic are impossible to fathom.

There is no reason to separate Omar Mateen’s motives and determine whether his actions were propelled by Islamic extremism or by hatred of gays. (His father: Omer’s rage was excited when he observed two men kissing – he would have observed many given his frequent visits to the Pulse Club. In either case, it does not matter whether the prime motive was radical Islam and/or his attraction/revulsion toward the gay community. The reality is that there is no need to choose between the two motives since ISIS throws suspected gays off rooftops.

It was very noticeable that Hillary Clinton called Mateen’s crime a “terror” attack and not a hate crime as she tacks right to cut off Donald Trump, just as she tacked left to cut off Bernie Sanders and, thereby, added weight to the distrust directed at her.

Donald Trump now claims he is the only candidate trying to protect gays and that he is the best friend gays could ever have because he is committed to protecting them as Americans. Almost all gays seem not to have taken this bait and continue to recognize that any attack on any minority is a threat to them. First the Muslims. Then Mexicans. Then gays. And then once again Jews? The failure to recognize the latter is an important part of my distress at my old friend’s sympathy for Trump’s Muslim exclusionary rhetoric at the Bat Mitzvah.

Of course, the real fear is of any minority being attacked and maligned because of the behaviour of some. This does not mean that the behaviour of the small number of mass murderers that are Islamic has no connection with Islam any more than the claim that Begin’s and Shamir’s acts had nothing to do with Judaism or Jews as an ethnic group. Of course they did. So do the slaughters of radical Islamicists. But a whole community should not be singled out because of the acts of a few. With the many ethnic slurs, Trump attacked the new Islamic mayor of London, who, coincidentally, happens to be a friend and supporter of the British Jewish community. Canada’s best current mayor, Naheed Nenshi in Calgary, could be Trump’s next target.

In the pre-WWI period, when there were very large numbers of Jewish immigrants, President Theodore Roosevelt welcomed them with open arms. One hundred years later, the Twenty-First Century began with so much optimism. The era quickly went down the wrong path with the Iraq War and with the near collapse of the American economy. America tried to reverse consolidating that misguided route. However, as the candidate for the Republican Party assaults the fundamental values of pluralism and immigration, of democracy and the rule of law, of free trade and America’s responsibility to and for the global world, one does not so much fear extremist Muslims as fear for America.

With the help of Alex Zisman

great post


t’s also worth recalling that the Russian pogroms that sent those thousands of Jews to Teddy Roosevelt and Clifford Sifton’s arms were justified by Tsarist authorities as retaliations against “Jewish terrorists” who happened to be anarchists after the assassination of Alexander II. One of the accomplices, Gesya Gelfman, was born in a Jewish home. True. The rest were self-identified atheists (as was Gelfman). That did not stop the wanton anti-Semitism.

Then, when Jewish self-defense organizations started to pop up, Alexander III unleashed three years of sustained assault, especially in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Jewish leaders in Berlin, London, and Paris were slow to speak out — for fear that they would draw out more anti-Semitism in the Pale and at home. Eventually they did speak. But it took time, and what they said was often muted.

Things got even worse in 1903 — with the same cycle: blame Jews as terrorists so you can rape, slaughter, and remove them. When they try to defend themselves, mow them down. In public, before shooting squads if at all possible.

October 17, 1905, Tsar’s Nicholas II “Manifesto” unleashed even more reprisals, especially where Jews worked in factories and ports, as the government used the promises to reform as cover to restore order with a mailed fist.

At a Bat Mitzvah, this history should be told.


Dear Howard I read your article very carefully. I recently spent some time in the USA and took part in many Current events discussions. I have never seen the United States so divided. Whether we like it or not, every attack in the US gives Trump another Million Voters. During the few month I spent there, I noticed a definite change from a huge lead by Hillary to almost even. The real problem —the American public has to choose the lesser of two evils. I was asked to speak several times and people asked why are you as a Canadian interested in the US elections. My answer? Whoever Sits in The White house is not only The president of the United States, but should also be the Leader of the Free World. This has not been the case. Leaders cannot lead from behind. That is one of the reasons why TRUMP is now so popular. Every new attack on the USA will help Trump and almost make it certain, like it or not, that Trump will be President of The United States. My best wishes


Everything Howard says I can agree with and we have heard political analysts who have said the same thing…at times in more detail of Trump’s quotes and Hillary’s change of tactics. But when I come to the last line…”fear for America”, I feel a sense of rejecting that notion. In the darkest of times, war, civil war and untold challenges to civil rights and a great Depression, there have been those who spelled doom and gloom that America could never recover or even survive. True, there are people…Americans….who doubted before and doubt again the survival of the principles that founded America, that the experiment was or is coming to be over in failure, that collapse was and is imminent. And that “fear for America” seems justified to be considered as real. I totally disagree.

This country has an inherent will to survive. A stubborn, illogical sense not to surrender. A steadfast faith with no evidence to make it so that faith in the unique, complicated system, and faith in the founders who still live in the ideas and principles, will endure. That this optimism I state here can see its darkest days, true, but there will always be the faith that it will survive and prosper and inherently lead the world as a light in the dark…not for countries but for mankind to be free. So we must fight enemies from abroad and fight enemies from within over and over again and again….as if to redefine and prove it again and again…to prove the idea of America.

All this optimism….all this blind faith….all this intangible stand for the right against the wrong….is built into the fiber of this country. And so we will win. If ISIS attacks again and again…we will find a way to win. If Trump is elected and in his insanity works to unravel the character of this country…we will find a way to restore and have it be right again. And to win is to shut the door on threats. To win is to discover ourselves and like to establish a course, a foundation…to debate again the meaning of this idea…this country called America.

So the last line of Howard’s dissertation…..should not be fear, but a path to rebirth that is inevitable.

Robert and Wendell

Bernie Sanders Postscript

Bernie Sanders Postscript


Howard Adelman

Who wouldda thunk it! Stated in proper English, this has been the reaction of the vast majority of commentators and observers that I have read or spoken to over the primary season. At the beginning, I viewed both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as candidates that had virtually no chance of becoming the nominee of their respective parties. The question was whether they could make a credible showing and why each entered in the first place. For Trump, it appeared to be his insatiable desire for publicity. For Sanders, it appeared to be a chance to forward his agenda, especially when the competition against the expected presumptive Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, left a significant opening.

Obama had proven that a candidate could win without major financial support or a reliance on major donors. Crowd funding offered an alternative method for raising considerable funds. Further, Obama had also shown that “star” quality counts – as Justin Trudeau also showed in Canada. The star quality can be varied, but its presence could enormously boost one’s campaign. And it could be constructed. Hillary never succeeded in doing so. Both Bernie and Donald did.

Who would have known that when Bernie debuted as a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 2015 that he would develop star quality? He announced his candidacy on 30 April. During his fifteen months of campaigning, he grew from a stumbling and somewhat awkward candidate to one that at his peak employed 1,000 paid staff and tens of thousands of volunteers as he attracted larger and larger crowds with enormous energy and conviction that allowed him to break fundraising records. Bernie’s star quality compared to Donald Trump’s was the more unusual.

Like Donald, Bernie appealed to nostalgia. A different imagined past that Donald’s, but a constructed past nevertheless. No portraits of anti-war protesters. No pictures of Southern governors setting dogs on black human rights workers. By the time Bernie’s ads began to appear for the Iowa caucus on 1 February when he was nine months into his campaign, the message had become clear and unequivocal. As he denounced the big banks, as he railed against the 1% in boring repetition, as he called for a Canadian-style universal health care plan and free university education, the core emotional appeal was not socialism but the small town innocence of an earlier and more rural America.

His video on 1 February 2016 told the story. An American flag on the side of a shed in snow-covered presumably Vermont. A pale yellow general store in small town America. A port with red painted fishing vessels. A daughter hugging her mother in a park and smiling – no generation gap here. A woman feeding her cows from a pail and then a shot of a male farmer inspecting his cows in old-fashioned barns – no large scale industrial farming here. But though rural and small town, the appeal is not restricted to there even if founded on such images.

The video includes a picture of a large city, of two young people at work on computers, then a girl with a wool cap, long brown hair and a scarf at what looks like a modern coffee shop with an “authentic” older feel and look. A couple at a work station and another with a child of about one and a half – woman with scruffy hair and man with scruffy beard – sitting at a dining room table that could date back to the fifties. A bearded grandfather walking in the snow with a ten-year-old girl in gloves and an open blue jacket against a backdrop of what could be 1960s suburbia – she is presumably his granddaughter.

Then back to the farm – haying in this case – then a small two outdoor dancing event with a sign “Bernie for President” in background and a man with a beard and old fashion white summer hat and his partner with a peak cap in the foreground. Again, wherever the video was taken, the feeling is for small town America. And thus far, the images have all been of whites. One would not know that a significant very large minority of Americans were black and Hispanic. Then young teenagers with very serious looks foreground with two girls, with long brown straight hair, no make-up, one with her arm around her companion and the other holding her hand, both looking very serious and almost worried.

Then Bernie finally with his smile and white hair as an impersonation of Larry Davis before Larry Davis impersonated him, greeting voters – again all white – on a field of grass. Then worried workers and a crowd of youth holding up Bernie Sander’s signs – “WE LOVE BERNIE.” Then a row of girls, led by one that could be of possible Filipino descent the first non-white after over half the video had passed. The girls were high fiving a row of older folk going the other way – this is a movement in which young and old have joined hands even as they travel in different directions towards the future – or, at the very least, clapped hands.

Then another video of a farmer in a field gathering up left over hay by hand as a very young boy in a blue parka carrying a little black lamb strides in the foreground and the scene is followed by three generations of farmers. One might be led to believe we were living in 1960 before there was an enormous growth in productivity on farms and there were still fears that we would run out of arable land, before the tremendous growth in national let alone international markets for farm produce, and before the rising influence of consumers on agricultural production. Bernie’s economic policies are more nostalgic American than socialist, harking back to a time before the structure of farms and farms households had so radically changed, harking back to a time when the institutions farmers hated most were banks as they secretly cheered as Bonnie and Clyde robbed those banks. Bernie may have verbally been calling for “revolution,” but it was a revolution in the classical rather than the modern sense, a revolving back to what once was rather than a brand new utopian future.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, more than half of Americans lived on farms and farms employed about half the work force. Fifty years later, mechanization had come to farming as had large scale specialization. But you would never know that by watching a Bernie video. The leisure is there but not the industrialization and specialization. There is no mention of the radical increase in productivity in the latter half of the century that made the improvements in the first half look like tinkering. Farming counts for a very small percent of the GDP of America and fewer and fewer Americans live on farms as urbanites create farms in the cities, esteem local foods, and crowd organic food markets on weekends.

In Israel, Bernie worked on a kibbutz. He has no love for Israel as a start-up nation that files even more patents per year than America with thirty times the population, and, next to Israel, America is the leader in innovation. At the end of the sixties, only 4% of Americans were employed in agriculture compared to 41% in 1900. At the end of the sixties, agriculture only constituted 2.3% of America’s GDP. But you would have no clue that this was the case watching a Bernie video. Nor the fact that the vast majority of the very small number of farmers have jobs off the farm.

In the video, you then see Bernie again glad handing a very large crowd of young people. Then the slogan two-thirds of the way through the video – “They’ve all come to look for America.” The message is clear. America, the America we knew, has been lost. America is at heart rural and small town. America is clean cut. American youth and older people are united. And they all love “the Bern.” Most significantly, America is at heart white. But it is the song that accompanies the video that is most telling, the Simon and Garfunkel 1968 hit, “America”. “And we walked off to look for America.” What could be more nostalgic than a time when young lovers could hitchhike from Saginaw, Michigan to Pittsburgh, a song which echoes an earlier great Simon and Garfunkel hit, “Homeward Bound.”

That in a nutshell was Bernie’s message. Not, “We want to make America strong again,” but we want to take America back to the sixties when there was purity, hope and love in the air and America smelled of hay and goat’s milk as young lovers travel across a newly-paved America supposedly headed into a future, but which has taken them into the present. The message is clear. America went astray when it became involved in the Vietnam War, when it left its roots, when it travelled towards a globalized and a multicultural village.

This does not mean that Bernie is a bigot and racist like the Donald. Not at all. But he is clearly nostalgic for an earlier, a simpler, a purer, a cleaner, America. For he was a Jewish boy who left Brooklyn for Vermont. Most of all, the song resonates with clear harmony even as the boy sings as his lover, Kathy, sleeps beside him on the grass, “I’m empty and I’m aching and I don’t know why.” In the sixties, in Bernie’s version, life was full of angst, foreboding as one counts cars on the New Jersey turnpike. In Bernie’s world, there is no rejoicing that the New Left led and won the campaign against the testing of nuclear weapons, only a sense of impending loss and a desire to recover what America once had, before America had started to decay and its broken spirit robbed youth of their hopes and their faith in humanity.

We had a visitor arrive at our house yesterday evening. He had come from LA to become the director of photography on my youngest son’s first feature which goes into production this weekend. I asked him about the primary in California the day before. He said he was still a Canadian and could not vote, but that he and all his friends were Bernie supporters. Would they vote for Hillary? None of them were diehards, he replied. They loved Bernie, but all of them would vote for Hillary. They may be nostalgic, but they are far from stupid.

Wall Street does not just stand for big money and corruption. It is now an icon for when and how America went wrong, when it sold its soul to the big financiers and money manipulators as inequality increased and the infrastructure of America that had been built crumbled. A month after the Iowa caucus, Bernie charged back to his birthplace, New York, but not Brooklyn, but Manhattan, and not Harlem but Wall Street. He went directly into the home of the hedge funds and called for jailing bankers and breaking up the large financial institutions. This was a Wall Street created by Hollywood. Bernie insisted that “financial fraud became not only the norm but in many ways the new business model.” This was as big a lie as Donald Trump ever told.

Though I am not intimidated by banks as Stephen Leacock was, and though I do not love them as Hillary is portrayed as doing, they are not the devil incarnate. I studied the situation of the 2008 financial crisis and published on it. Bill Clinton, in surrendering to the right and reducing the regulatory controls on banks – an initiative that Canada did not follow – opened up the path to small boiler operations and other financial schemers. They used even a few of the larger bank’s greed for larger and larger profits regardless of risk. This activity brought on the crisis, even if the opening for the fraud could be traced back to an algorithm created by a graduate student from Canada’s Waterloo University in 1999.

Bernie was not after the New York vote. He was after the votes of youth who face insecurity, who enter life burdened with debt from their education, who face urban life when the price of homes has gone into the stratosphere relative to earnings. He was after the votes of small-towners who have always suspected the city, but especially New York. He was not after the votes of one out of every nine New Yorkers employed by the financial sector or anyone else related to the industry that pays $12.5 billion in state taxes to New York State.

Bernie was not after the voters who trace their intellectual descent to Alexander Hamilton, a father of the American constitution and grandfather of the American Federal Reserve. In the 1931 film, Alexander Hamilton, George Arliss, who wrote the drama on which the film was based, plays this illegitimate child who would become one of America’s greatest political leaders. Hamilton grew up in the West Indies among Blacks and attended a Jewish school because he was a bastard denied entry to the Protestant school on that account. It was he who undermined his enemies, including his blackmailer, Mr. Reynolds, who tried to exploit his sexual peccadilloes with Mrs. Reynolds; Hamilton confessed. By confessing and telling all to an American public, he set a precedent for an American public that has fed off public confessions by public figures ever since. But most of all, Hamilton loved cities and despised the hypocrisy of rural romanticism, particularly that of Thomas Jefferson (a sleazebag in the film). He loved the marriage of capital, innovation and industry that was responsible for America’s greatness.

Hamilton is buried only a block away from the New York Stock exchange and Bernie came to New York to bury his prodigy. Bernie was not looking for support from an electorate that chose Michael Bloomberg as its mayor, an entrepreneur who became a billionaire by developing monopoly control on information, particularly financial information without which the security industry would collapse. Bernie, like Aaron Burr in 1804, came to New York to challenge the heirs of Hamilton to a duel and to slay the financier dragon.

He fought like a lion but he failed. In California’s primary on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton won 55.8% of the vote and 260 delegates compared to Bernie’s 43.2% and 206 delegates. When I went to bed at 3:00 a.m., Hillary had been leading 60:40 with about 40% of the vote counted. Bernie in his speech predicted that the difference would narrow and he was correct. But not enough that Hillary would not end up with enough delegates to crown her as the presumptive Democratic candidate compared to Bernie’s without counting superdelegates. Nate Cohn and Toni Monkovic’s dialogue (“Superdelegates Sink Bernie Sanders, Will He Sink Them?”) in Monday’s New York Times was just nonsense. Yet the rumours continue that the system was rigged because the superdelegates had declared early, were not selected by the people and overwhelmingly supported Hillary. California’s primary smacked Bernie down hard.

It is true that Hillary did not earn enough elected delegates to put her over the top. She won 2,203 to Bernie’s 1,826 and she needed 2,383 delegates. Can anyone argue that in an open election she would not also have won a majority of superdelegates since she only needed 180 of the 622 superdelegates to win. She won 574 to Bernie’s 48. The significance – experienced Democrats have much more faith in Hillary than in Bernie, both to win the election for the Democrats and to be a better president. Further, the reality is that she has won 55% of the elected delegates. The rumours matching Donald Trump’s of an election system designed to beat outsiders like Bernie and Donald is just a load of crock and part of the paranoia of modern politics where widespread acceptance of conspiracies abound.

The popular vote tells the real story. Bernie won only 42% of the Democratic voters but he received a higher percentage of delegates because he won in small caucus states, based on much lower voting, where there were caucuses rather than votes cast by the Democratic members or, in open states, by Democrats and independents. His romantic nostalgia worked with them. Hillary was the choice of the people and of the party.

But the reality is that Bernie did far better than expected. Further, he shifted Hillary’s campaign significantly to the left where she too now espouses a minimum wage of $15, lower costs for higher education, universal health care, the reinvigoration of the American economy, more safeguards against the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing that famous artery in New York City. Hillary has, however, never gone against expanded free trade as both Donald and Bernie have, and has never renounced humanitarian intervention abroad even as Obama proved to be more cautious about that prospect than she has been. Bernie, like Donald Trump, regards all foreign involvement as a misuse of American resources and firepower.

When Bernie made his speech late in the evening on California time, everyone waited eagerly to see if he would concede defeat and rally behind Hillary Clinton. Hillary had earlier held out a hand of reconciliation to him and certainly in her policy statements has swung in his direction. But Bernie insisted not only that he would continue as a candidate not only through the Washington, D.C. primary but to the convention in Philadelphia in July since, theoretically, the superdelegates were not committed until they voted. More importantly, he was the leader of a movement and wanted his people to have a significant role on the committees defining policy. Any hopes that he would concede before Philadelphia were misplaced. Bernie and his supporters will continue raging against “the dying of the light” even though most are young millennials.

However, the public imagery is bad, worse for Bernie than for Hillary. He comes across as an old grouch or as driven even more by the politics of resentment than was suspected heretofore. Like Donald, Bernie, though he certainly did not disparage, he virtually ignored Black and Hispanic voters as targeted groups, appealing to them only as common members of a class. When Hillary really targeted identity politics herself in her post-California victory speech, it was as a feminist as she used Bernie’s appeal to nostalgia by referring to the beginning of the women’s movement in America in the nineteenth century, the fact that her mother was born when the constitution was amended to give women the vote, and to her personal wish that her mother had been here at the pinnacle of her achievements thus far when the most important glass ceiling in America had been broken. But it was ultimately a tale of progress using nostalgia as a literary device.

Most of the talk by Clinton supporters has been about giving Bernie time to adjust to his loss, believing, I think erroneously, that he will fold right after the Washington, D.C. primary. But he won’t. He does not need to regain his bearings. He never lost them. And he should not. For he leads a movement of which the quest as the presidential standard bearer was just the leading edge to a campaign rooted in nostalgia that was much more substantial. Further, now 18-33 year olds believe they can influence Washington policy. That is his primary objective and he believes there is plenty of time for Democrats to beat Trump.

With the help of Alex Zisman




Howard Adelman

Where does this analysis of the process by which the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) arrived at the recommendation that Palestine be divided into a Jewish state and an Arab state leave us? The conclusions fall into a number of headings. The first and most important deals with historical myth and fact. The very widespread belief that the creation of Israel was supported by non-Jews because of guilt over the Holocaust proves to be a myth. If the proceedings of the UNSCOP offer any clue, and I believe they offer a very core and central piece of evidence, there is absolutely no support for this belief. It can and should be relegated to the ash heap of academic history as a total myth. Of course, it would be of great historical interest to trace the origins and consolidation of that myth as a critical part of interpreting the story of Israel. But that is a job for another time and another person.

Israel began its national life by declaring itself as a redeemed state by and for the Jewish people and accomplished by the dedication, labour and sacrifices of those people. Israel was not brought into being because of a series of reports culminating in that of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) or the resolution in November 1947 in support of partition. However, UNSCOP’s majority recommendation for partition and the United Nations General Assembly majority vote endorsing that recommendation did add a considerable measure of legitimacy to the Israeli declaration of independence, but it was not the reason Israel came into being. Further, even in the reasoning behind legitimating this outcome, few believed that the outcome was just and justified because it would be the realization of a dream of self-determination of the Jewish people. The much more important factor was where to settle the 250,000 Jewish refugees in Europe in 1947 when very few states indicated any willingness to resettle the refugees in any significant numbers.

A second set of conclusions entail explaining historical events in general and in explaining this precise event in particular. I wrote my PhD thesis on historical explanation. There were two predominant theories in contention. The positivist thesis, the foremost proponent of which was Carl Hempel, argued that events were explained when we enunciated all the relevant historical laws and all the specific kinds of particular events that would allow us to predict the occurrence of the event as a definitive or, at the very least, probable outcome. A rational explanation was akin to a scientific explanation and was valid when it retrospectively facilitated prediction.

Opposed to this positivist account was an idealistic one, led by Bill Dray when I was a graduate student. That thesis argued that one explained an event when one could re-enact the internal thinking of individual historical agents so that, instead of propositions such as Hempel proposed – If C1, C2, C3…Cn (the classes of historical conditions) and L1, L2, L3…Ln (the presumptive laws of history) then (probably) E, where the event, E was the class of events into which the specific event being explained fell. The idealist model, in contrast argued that, “If C1, C2, C3…Cn (the specific conditions as perceived by the agent) and P1, P2, P3…Pn (the general norms held by the agent) then the thing to do would be A (the action in question, in this case, vote for and recommend the partition of Palestine).

If the positivist account in which scientific modelling was imposed on all thought now seems so ludicrous and irrelevant, one wonders why it was taken so seriously seventy years ago. Certainly, no scholarly historian has been shown to undertake his work in conforming to such a model. Further, theoretically, there is no way he could since history has never been about predictability but more often about unpredictability until positivism began to rage across the intellectual stage in the nineteenth century and scholars tried their hand at devising large scale historical laws.

The idealist explanation gained much more traction because it had a much better pedigree when discussing an actual historian’s work. Certainly one of the intellectual devices used by historians was a re-enactment of the thinking process of an agent involved in making a significant historical decision. However, as useful as this device is in understanding one person’s decision-making in some circumstances, it is useless in most actual cases. Even in the cases cited as illustrations, my thesis argued that the model and the actual case were incongruent. Further, what is most often being explained is the result of collective decision making an action rather than the decisions of an individual. In addition, as I have argued in this case, most of the processes of thinking and drawing conclusions are a mixture of deliberation, pre-fixed ideologies, current and recent experience, dialogue with others and chance circumstances and external pressures. The latter may be limited when a committee is truly set up to be independent.

The most important reason why the above models are totally inadequate is that historians do not explain events or actions or decisions so much as events, decisions and actions are used to explain conundrums or puzzles about history. And one of the duties of a historian is to discover those puzzles. In the case of the UNSCOP recommendation, I argued that the puzzle was why UNSCOP recommended partition when the initial alignments as discovered and documented by historical research indicated that such an outcome was quite unlikely.

In this case, key factors that came into play were not allowed for in either the positivist or the idealist model of historical explanation. Chance is perhaps the most important. The outcome could not have been and should not have been expected because who knew that, during most of these proceedings, John Hood of Australia and Dr. N.S. Blom of the Netherlands were toadies of the foreign affairs departments or the foreign ministers of their respective states rather than independent-thinking contributors to the work of the committee. More importantly, until the last three weeks of the deliberations, both were instructed to oppose partition. The first ended up abstaining because his Foreign Minister did not realize his ambitions for which he needed the support of the Arab states and the second reversed himself and supported partition when, in August, the Arab League came out and openly supported the Indonesian nationalists in their fight against the Netherlands.

However, the role of serendipity is not the only factor to challenge the models held in such high esteem seventy years ago – at least by philosophers though not so much by most historians who recognized that what they did had very little to do with the models put forth by philosophers at that time. Ideology is critical. That is the predispositions with which decision makers and deliberators bring with them to the table are extremely important. Well, perhaps some might argue, this fits in with the idealist model where general principles held by an individual are taken into account in a calculation. But there is no indication that any of the deliberators held that the principles they believed in governed universally even if they were disposed to believe that this should be the case. They may have believed that the principles they held should be universal, but nowhere is there any evidence that they argued that those principles should govern, though perhaps Dr. Jorge García Granados of Guatemala) came closest.

In fact, in examining the deliberations one comes to the conclusion – accepted implicitly by most historians and political scientists – that in the deliberations, as well as in the expectation of each of the parties, there was a belief that a practical solution had to take into account the incompatibility of the principles in contention. The process was a matter of negotiations and not deductive decision making, whether from descriptive or prescriptive laws.

That is why a person like Ivan Rand looms so large in understanding the proceedings of UNSCOP. Sandström may have quietly looked down on him as unprincipled given his shape-shifting during the discussions. Ralph Bunche may have regarded him as an opinionated verbose loudmouth and blowhard. However, Ivan Rand emerges as the key individual seeking compromise and, thereby, was perfectly positioned to write the draft of the majority recommendation. In the process, he was critically influential in shifting two of the eleven members from supporting a single state dominated by Arabs to a federal solution (the minority report) and shifting one of the delegates to support partition because the draft made room for that representative’s primary concern with the role of Christianity in Jerusalem.

Beyond the serendipity of exogenous factors, the ideological differences and dispositions of the members of the committee, the process of compromise involved and the role of a mediating entrepreneur, there was also the most fundamental split of all in the committee, the one between the East and the West, and, more specifically, between Muslims on the committee and others.

There are also implications for more substantive matters. One is Jerusalem. When one knows that the recommendation to internationalize Jerusalem and make it an independent state arose primarily from the need to win over one member to the partition side, when you add to that the total ineffectiveness of the UN in taking over the governance of the city after the mandate ended, when one notes that in all cases, the city has been governed by those that took it by force, how can one expect it to be divided again by a peace treaty, in spite of my idealist expectations that, in the name of peace and recognition of the position of the East Jerusalem Arabs, I personally would be willing to divide the city.

My desires are a matter of indifference to historiography. It is precisely such an expectation that is as unrealistic as Martin Buber’s hope for a bi-national state was at the time. When you add to that the current fact that Jerusalem is now Israel’s largest city (of course, Greater Tel Aviv is larger, but not Tel Aviv per se), and that 350,000 Jews live in what was once Jordanian governed territory, it is totally unrealistic to expect Jerusalem to be placed partially under Palestinian sovereignty, whatever my hopes might be, and whatever the desires of those unwilling to fight for a different result.

Though requiring much more stretch, the same might be said about the West Bank or Judea and Samaria, at least of the densely populated Jewish parts of those areas. A trade of land was once a realistic prospect, but since Yasser Arafat walked away from the compromise proposal post-Oslo, as each year passes, the prospect of surrendering the Jewish populated parts of the West Bank even for land to be given to an independent Palestinian state grows more remote and more unlikely. This is a major reason for the shrinkage of the peace camp and the left in Israel. In the process, the role of the revisionists is now being read in a new light by historians, just as the hagiography on Israeli history had to be rewritten as a result of the work of the new historians beginning thirty years ago.

Truth has often been said to be a silent casualty of war but there may be an even larger more valid generalization. Hopes projected onto polities by dreams of peace may be an even greater casualty when war is found to be the main determiner of the actual outcomes in deep-seated conflicts, a conclusion that is diametrically at odds with my role as a peacenik my entire adult life.

This set of blogs has been an inquiry into why UNSCOP made a recommendation for partition, admittedly shortened by a focus on only one of the two sub-committees supplemented by references not documented in the series. It is clear that a very few members of UNSCOP did agree with the Zionist narrative of restoration and self-determination and a few others referred to this as one argument favouring partition, but one is convinced in reading the discussions that, although this was a factor, this was not a major consideration in their thinking. Further, there was never a majority of the members who supported this position even though, in the final analysis, 7 of the 11 members voted to recommend partition.

What is unequivocally clear is that in no one’s minds was the occurrence of the Holocaust and certainly not guilt over it offered as a reason. The most common reason for sympathy to the Zionist cause, even among the three members who supported the minority report advocating a federation, was the plight of the 250,000 Jewish refugees still remaining in Europe and the fact that no country wanted to resettle them in any significant numbers. There was also admiration by many members of the committee for the accomplishments of the Zionists in agriculture, education, science and commerce. There was a parallel distaste for the working conditions of Arab employees, including the employment of children, when committee members visited a cigarette manufacturing business. The failure of the Arabs to fully cooperate with the committee did not help. But what united the committee was the conclusion that the Mandate had to end, and end sooner rather than later, even by an Anglophile like Dr. Blom.

This was no partition like any other peaceful partition one can recognize – Norway from Sweden or Slovakia from Czechoslovakia. It had far greater similarities with the breakup way of Pakistan from India and of Yugoslavia where there were some areas of concentration of ethnic groups, but many other areas of overlap. In Palestine, the same situation existed and, hence, the recommended division into eight segments. Further, the partition recommendation for Palestine involved religion in a unique way – three religions were recognized as contenders for control of the eighth segment – the recommended assignation of Jerusalem to international control to settle the irreconcilable positions of the different sides was unique to this conflict. This meant that good-will diplomatic efforts could come up with a Goldberg contraption, but the facts on the ground, and the willingness of people to fight for what they believed in, counted rather more than any determination as a result of decisions resulting from rational deliberations.

Ivan Rand UNSCOP – continued

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine IVB


Howard Adelman

Ivan Rand

Why did Ivan Rand shift from pushing a federal solution to supporting partition and when did he make that shift? In his 12 August 1947 memorandum to the UNSCOP committee, he began with that lofty and flowery language that so turned off Ralph Bunche and which Emil Sandström could just barely tolerate.

Palestine is a land which, because of the religious conceptions and social sentiments to which its culture has given rise through nearly three thousand years, the hundreds of millions of adherents to the three great monotheistic religions whose spiritual interests are localized in its scenes and historical events, and the centuries of contest over its possession, is set apart irrevocably from the rest of the world, and recognition of the fact ought to be formally declared by the nations. It is the uniqueness of the land as well as that of the Jewish people and their relation to it, that in large measure justifies the Balfour declaration and the Mandate of 1922.

Not crass political considerations and the perceived need of the British for Jewish support during WWI. This doctrine of Jewish exceptionalism was ignored by the committee as much as it appealed to García Granados, and to some extent, Enrique Rödriguez Fabregat, because Rand was still on the federal state bandwagon. Even at that late date, he still opposed partition. Nor was anyone persuaded by his bastardization of history since, for centuries, other than for the holy places, no one gave a damn about the backwater of Palestine, except rhetorically, including the vast majority of Jews.

The overt appeal to García Salazar was even more explicit in the second paragraph when he insisted that Palestine be deemed a Holy Land and not a land for the self-realization of both Arab and Jewish national aspirations. Hence the provision for a continuing, indeed an eternal, role for the UN in the governance of Palestine. This was to be balanced by a second corollary – “unity and integrity of the economic and social life of the Commonwealth of Palestine.” (para. 3) Rand remained adamantly opposed to partition even when worded in most delicate and lofty language. “I would be disposed to modify the objective of statehood to that of a province in a Palestinian state and with alternate representation in the UNO (a new novel tweak versus the earlier totally impractical proposal of dual membership by a single state) by Jew and Arab rather than agree to partition.” (para. 5, p. 2, my italics)

His new federal proposal entailed three rather than two states – an Arab, a Jewish and a State of Jerusalem (read Christian since that group would arbitrate between the Jews and Arabs). Rand then proceeded to outline the basic structure of the different states rooted in individual rights and democratic processes. Except that the federation took away those democratic processes both for Arabs and Jews in controlling the economy and immigration. Land, in contrast to previous proposals, would be controlled by each national province of the federated commonwealth, but differences, particularly constitutional differences, would be adjudicated by a World Court. What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away.

Instead of a population transfer, in paragraph 21, Rand recommended that Jews in the Arab states be entitled to sell their land to the state and receive fair compensation, but only when and if an Arab in the Jewish state did precisely the same thing. In other words, induced rather than forced transfer. Finally, again contrary to his previous position, each provincial entity would have its own army, but authorized only to maintain internal order. More shocking, Rand now advocated that Britain be entitled to continue housing troops in the areas. As one reads clause after clause, and recognizing the positions of the two contending parties at the time, one cannot help conclude, as both Bunche and Sandström did, but for very different reasons, that all of this verbiage was “pie in the sky,” though it indicated how watered down his idea of a federal state had become.

It was clear from the comments on Rand’s proposal that the weaknesses were readily apparent. Palestinian exceptionalism was questioned, as was the subordination of politics to religious interests. Self-governance and the “eternal role of the UN in the governance of Palestine” seemed totally contradictory to the principle of self-determination. Statements like the characterization of Jews as “parasitical and unwilling to engage in practical drudgery” were rejected, not as anti-Semitic, but as too broad a generalization. Making the International Court of Justice the final arbiter of disputes instead of the Supreme Court was perceived as impractical. How would the distinction between a home guard and a standing army be maintained? The various contradictions in the paper were pointed out, as was the impossibility of having three sovereign states in a single territory and then subsuming those sovereign states under a higher international authority. Independence was granted but then taken away. None of the comments explicitly stated that the scheme was hair-brained but, instead, politely suggested it was useful if only in clarifying choices.

Three days later, Rand had shifted away from a federal solution altogether and on 15 August indicated that he supported partition with social and economic collaboration. As he articulated his support for partition on 27 August, “My objection to the federal scheme is that it puts the ultimate power in relation to broad fields of legislation in the Arab minority (sic! – he corrected himself and subsequently said majority) throughout Palestine.” He now regarded as absurd any proposal to give control over Jewish immigration to the Arabs. The federal scheme was now viewed as a confederation scheme with “very serious disadvantages.” Further, the federal scheme required two to tango; partition required only one community to cooperate to get the ball rolling.

There is a suggestion that a letter received by the UNSCOP Committee from the Delegation of Refugees in Switzerland indicating that 2,000 of the 6,000 Jewish refugees there wanted to go to Palestine was influential in this shift, especially given his radical change on the refugee issue. I, however, could not find any support for this other than the coincidence of dates. Clearly the issue of immigration exercised a great deal of time of the committee. Clearly the initial refusal of UNSCOP to visit the refugee camps in Cyprus and its subsequent affirmative decision to permit members to visit the DP camps in Europe seemed to be important to the committee members. In fact, the debates on the refugee issue merely reflected prior dispositions of the members. If they were sympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the needs of Jewish refugees, the issue of the visits and the report on that visit reinforced prior views. Members of the committee like García Salazar, Rahman and Entezam, who were at heart unsympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the refugee issue, stood by their guns.

Ivan Rand was an exception. Initially, unsympathetic to a guarantee of Jewish immigration, he became a strong supporter. Just as he initially argued against the committee becoming involved in such issues as the sentence of the captured Jews to death by the British Mandate military authorities, he reversed himself and later supported visiting the DP camps in Europe. Did he change because of what he saw and experienced or did he adapt to ensure he served as the compromise figure who could mediate between the various positions? Though I cannot be definitive based on the documents that I read, I have concluded that it was the latter.

For example, in the 24 June 1947 meeting of the committee discussing where the matter of intervening in the British military arrest and condemnation of the Jewish jail breakers, he played the role of an individual deeply steeped in a very cautionary approach. “The Committee ought to proceed judiciously in its actions towards both parties to the controversy and towards the administration of Palestine.” (p. 6, Minutes) The Committee should only act on universal principles and, like Rahman, he urged that it not be swayed by sentiment. By playing both sides of the fence – endorsing humanitarianism as a universal principle but discounting sentiment as a basis for influencing decisions – he managed to be elected onto the committee to look into the matter further.

This seemed to be his mode of operation. Using it, he managed to move Entezam and Rahman from a position favouring a unitary state with Arab control to a federal state with shared power. But, in the end, as described above, he supported “political division and economic unity.” (Rand Memorandum on Partition) His solution was self-determination of each group but with an integrated economy, the core of the recommendation of the UNSCOP Committee which he in the end drafted. Land was no longer to be controlled by a central government but by each of the partitioned states. Ditto with immigration.

While performing as the continuing juggler and seemingly shifting positions with the wind, he would suddenly fly into flowery rhetoric, which added to the impressions of both Bunche and Sandström that Rand was a legal slut dressed in the bold colours of cosmic views.

In the larger view here are the sole remaining representatives of the Semitic race. [He was referring to both Arabs and Jews.] They are in the land in which that race was cradled. There are no fundamental incompatibilities between them. The scheme satisfies the deepest aspirations of both, independence. There s a considerable body of opinion in both groups which seeks the course of cooperation. Despite, then, the drawback of the Arab minority [sic! – a repeated Freudian slip], the setting is one from which, with good will and a spirit of cooperation, may arise a rebirth in historical surroundings of the genius of both people. The massive contribution made throughout the centuries by them in religious and ethical conceptions, in philosophy, and in the entire intellectual sphere, should excite among the leaders a mutual respect and a pride in their common origin.

Ivan Rand was no Abe Lincoln. As I read his flowery prose I can see Emil Sandström thinking to himself, “What a crock!” and even hear Ralph Bunche not so cautiously muttering the same sentiment. But simply to characterize Ivan Rand as a political maneuverer amongst the shoals of international diplomacy does not do him justice.

Just reflect. The committee starts out with García Granados and Enrique Entezam openly for partition, Sandström quietly so, and Lisicky a surprise convert given that he came from a unified state with two different nationalities – Czechs and Slovaks. But partition needed at least six supporters not four. Ralph Bunche, though having no vote but a great deal of influence given the wide respect with which he was held, adamantly but very diplomatically opposed partition. It would of necessity lead to war. Rahman and Entezam opposed any Jewish self-determination, Simic favoured a federation. Hood and Blom began not wanting to antagonize the Arabs, García Salazar was disposed against Jewish self-determination, but willing to compromise and support a federal solution as long as Christians were given power in Jerusalem at the very least. Given these facts, a bookie would have given odds that a federal scheme would win the day.

But partition did win. Further, those who supported a unitary state under Arab control were reduced to zero. Those who supported a federal state were reduced to three. Partition won by seven votes. Hood abstained. Rand, in spite of his flowery overwrought and excessive verbiage, in spite of his shifting positions, or perhaps because of them, played a major role in moving the centre of gravity of the committee, first away from support for a unitary state, and then, in spite of his initial position and perhaps because he took that position, away from a federal state. Partition won against any foreseeable odds.

Of course, a clear role was played by happenstance. Hood moved to abstention and Blom moved to support partition, but not because of what they experienced but because of what they were ordered, given the occurrence of extraneous factors. But moving García Salazar into the partition camp required some doing and Rand can be given the most credit for accomplishing that task, even, if his prime motive was not principle but the desire to be the mover and the shaker behind the final solution, whatever it was.

What does that have to teach us about the process? That luck is king! Certainly, the timing of the Arab League alliance with Sukarno was not anticipated, and to the extent it was, who expected it to influence the final support of the committee for partition. The ambitions of the Australian Foreign Minister had not been taken into account in the committee’s deliberations, but when he did not get Arab support for the Presidency of the General Assembly, Hood received his instructions to forget about not alienating the Arabs and to abstain. (Eventually Evett, when he cast the first vote for partition in the General Assembly became a hero for Zionists.)
What is the lesson of all this and how did it effect whether Israel was born in a Western birthing process of democracy, individual rights and the rule of law? Did Israel then move to an Eastern position as the right became preeminent and conservatism and religion emerged as the prominent influences for most Israelis?

I would argue that this was not the case. For respect for the rule of law, liberty and democracy may have been the bathwater in which the baby was received, but the process of delivery was a result of luck combined with wily and pragmatic manipulation. And this has been the main characteristic of Israel. Ben Gurion preached principles but acted on the basis of getting the best deal you can get under the circumstances. Begin, the principled politician who wanted a unified state under Jewish control, while directly and absolutely opposing any transfer of Arabs, did not stand on principle and gave away the Sinai in return for peace.

Rabin, though convinced the PLO just consisted of terrorists, entered into the Oslo agreement. Sharon did the same with Gaza. Even Netanyahu, with all his wiles, openly endorsing the two state solution but doing almost nothing to advance it, is at heart a pragmatist, perhaps Israel’s most unprincipled and manipulative one. Last year, Netanyahu ardently argued that signing the accord with Iran was by far the greatest danger to Israel. Has anyone heard Netanyahu pipe up on the matter this year when the Israeli intelligence services and armed forces have determined that Israel is better off with the deal than without it?

And it is pragmatism, not the adherence to fundamental principles, that delivered the state of Israel and has sustained it ever since. Ivan Rand played a significant role in both ensuring that outcome and defining the ruling ethos of the Israeli state, rooted in Western values, most importantly, pragmatism.