Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grief: After Mom's funeral...

Perfect deaths, imperfect deaths       Speaking of a funeral for being inspirational as a poetic tribute is rare for me. Usually, I struggle with grief, perhaps the calamity of death; often the words of a service seem to stall my mourning. It wasn’t that way with my mother’s funeral. It felt perfect as a map her spirit might follow to its reunion with my deceased father.

That’s why, as I began thinking about this piece days ago, I pictured it as a thank you to Jo Ann Howard, our para-Rabbi who created the service. Elegantly simple and direct, it served the memory of my mother well; it freed me to think of all my Mom had done to instill a love of life and a love of justice in my siblings and me.

But I didn’t write anything; I couldn’t. Although I spent hours wondering why, I felt constrained as if I’d let Mom’s passing excuse me from engaging in battles for justice in our world. While she was alive, she’d never done that.

To be sure, we disagreed; often we debated about her support for Obama. Unless we talked about Israel. Then she was more curious than argumentative. Of course, I knew why. Her married granddaughter and grandson reside in Jerusalem. Her fierce love for them always caused her to pause as if reconsidering our President’s intentions.

Last Tuesday, that discussion ended unresolved. Without reluctance, I put down my pen, sat quietly as I read of a deal supposedly brokered by John Kerry, our new Secretary of State, a deal that shocked me as had so many others, painfully similar; all had proven to be ill fated. Aghast, I wasn’t surprised to read the comments of Daniel Pipes.

Thoughts on the Release of 104 Palestinian Murderers

Israeli leaders have a long history of making lopsided trades with their Arab enemies. These include:
1985 – 1,150 prisoners for 3 captured Israelis
2000 – 450 Arab prisoners for 3 Israeli bodies and a kidnapped Israeli;
2008 – 5 Arab prisoners (including the psychopath Samir al-Kuntar) and 199 Arab bodies for 2 Israeli bodies;
2011 – 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Schalit.
I strenuously opposed these unbalanced exchanges (e.g., the Schalit one), even as I acknowledged the honorable Israeli intent not to abandon soldiers.
But there is nothing redeeming whatsoever in the exchange that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu proposed today, releasing 104 murderers as a good-will gesture to encourage the Palestinian Authority to negotiate.

Although I am oceans away from Israel, images of heart-chilling horrors returned to haunt me. Just reading the name of one of them (please see: psychopath Samir al-Kuntar) who is regarded as a Palestinian hero makes me wonder whether the world thinks that tolerating such evil beings is the price one must pay for being Jewish.

My mother would never accept that. That’s why she listened when we talked. She viewed that brutal reality as a matter of stark injustice she couldn’t ignore. But she also knew, but for my campaign, she had lost her ability to carry on her fight. With an almost reverent respect, she listened as I detailed crimes against humanity too terrible to be forgiven, too terrifying to consider pardoning.

But Israel had been forced to do that. Mom listened as I railed against each of our administrations for distorting justice and tainting the grace that meaningful pardon brings. Now there’s this:

N Y TIMES 7/28/13


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced Saturday that he had agreed to release 104 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom have served 20 years or more for attacks on Israelis, to pave the way for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Washington in the coming days…

Most troubling in that article is the admission of Prime Minister Netanyahu:

 “From time to time prime ministers are called on to make decisions that go against public opinion — when the matter is important for the country,” he wrote. He added that the decision “is painful for the bereaved families, it is painful for the entire nation, and it is also very painful for me. It collides with the incomparably important value of justice.”
But most heart-rending and appalling are the words of the survivor of the deadly acts of one of those about to be released. As you read what follows, you will probably understand my dilemma. Had my Mom been alive to see and feel my anxiety as I read this to her, she would have been shaken to think how little the world had changed in almost a century since she had been born. If she’d found the words, she may have rued that she’d left me with a legacy of powerlessness.
And tears.

On Friday, Yediot Aharonot, an Israeli newspaper, published an impassioned open letter to Mr. Netanyahu from Abie Moses, whose pregnant wife and 5-year-old son, Tal, were fatally burned in a firebomb attack on their car in April 1987. Mr. Moses said that, faced with the likely release of their killer, Mohammad Adel Hassin Daoud, “the wounds have reopened; the memories, which we live with on a daily basis, turn into physical pain, in addition to the emotional pain of coping daily with the nightmare.”
Mr. Moses added, “In our opinion, if his release will lead to attaining of peace, let him be released outside the boundaries of Palestine, exiled and never allowed to see his family members again, just as we cannot see ours.”
…An Israeli government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said many of those who remained in Israeli jails, like the 104 now chosen for early release, had been involved in particularly gruesome acts.

                                    B.Koplen 7/28/13

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Until it's too late...

Backtrack?          At what point do you stop accepting apologies for atrocious behavior? ANSWER: When no apologies are offered.


When Jonathan Pollard, who has apologized for a ‘crime’ ordinarily punishable for a sentence of 4-8 years, remains in prison 28 years after his sentencing. President Obama has ignored his pleas for commutation for time served:   Cached
On June 16, at Hadassah's National Business Meeting in Dallas, the Hadassah National Board approved the following motion:

When Muslim Palestinians refuse to let Jews or Christians wear religious symbols based on their non-Islamic religions when they visit the Temple Mount:   Cached
“While the government ensured limited access to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif to everyone ... Non-Muslim religious symbols are not allowed to be worn on ...

When Boko Harem and Taliban continue to kill Christians. In addition, the latter, when they burn and destroy schools of girls of their faith without remorse:   Cached
The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has accused Boko Haram militants of committing crimes against humanity in Nigeria, mainly murder and persecution. The ...   Cached
[May 28, 2009] Taliban and other militant groups are forcing schools to close across Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, assassinating teachers and students and destroying ...

When John Kerry makes news for promoting release of murderers:

N Y TIMES  7/21/13    World
Secretary of State John Kerry is counting on an Israeli decision to release Palestinian prisoners as the remaining step for his promised resumption of Middle East peace talks, officials said Saturday.

When heroic 1st Lt. Michael Behenna is not allowed to present evidence is his behalf in his murder trial for having killed, in self-defense, a member of a terrorist cell in Iraq who had killed two of Behenna’s men and President Obama refuses to pardon 1st Lt. Behenna:   Cached
Making their final appeal before the justices decide whether to accept Behenna's case for review, the attorneys argued strenuously against the U.S. Justice Department ...   Cached
A year ago, syndicated columnist Diana West attended a hearing at which Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna tried (unsuccessfully) to get the military's highest court of ...

When the President of the United States inflames communities across our nation with his 35 years ago, that “could have been me” speech in an unpresidential response to the legitimate process of trial by jury. (Why didn’t he compare Trayvon Martin’s trial to O. J. Simpson’s murder trial?)   Cached
In some of his most extensive comments on U.S. race relations since entering the White House, President Obama on Friday gave a very personal perspective of ..

Finally, Helen Thomas, who died before she convincingly apologized to Israelis and Jewish people worldwide, including me:

The Jerusalem Post
Helen Thomas: Jews control White House, US Congress
By JPOST.COM STAFF      19/03/2011

In 'Playboy' interview, veteran US journalist stands behind anti-Israel comments that led to her resignation:
"I knew exactly what I was doing."

Veteran US Journalist Helen Thomas said that Jews have "total control" over the White House and US Congress, telling Playboy magazine in an interview to be published in April, "Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies."

Thomas, who covered the White House for more than six decades, was forced to resign from her position at Hearst Corp. last year, after saying in an interview that Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home to Poland, Germany and the United States."

Thomas appeared to show no regret for last year's comments, reiterating in the Playboy interview her belief that "Israelis have the right to exist-but where they were born."

"Why shouldn't I say it? I knew exactly what I was doing-I was going for broke. I had reached the point of no return. You finally get fed up," Thomas said.

Thomas denied claims that she was anti-Jewish. "I think they're wonderful people.  They had to have the most depth.  They were leaders in civil rights.  They've always had the heart for others but not for Arabs, for some reason.  I'm not anti-Jewish; I'm anti-Zionist."

She explained her comment that Jews should go back to Poland and Germany meant "they should stay where they are because they're not being persecuted-not since World War II...If they were, we sure would hear about it." Thomas added that Jews "carry on the victimization. American people do not know that the Israeli lobbyists have intimidated them into believing that every Jew is a persecuted victim forever-while they are victimizing Palestinians."

When asked whether she believed there was a secret Jewish conspiracy at work in the US, Thomas stated that it is "not a secret. It's very open...Everybody is in the pocket of the Israeli lobbies, which are funded by wealthy supporters, including those from Hollywood. Same thing with the financial markets. There's total control."

                                                                        B.Koplen 7/21/13

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Getting to know a Boston mobster...

How I knew Whitey Bulger    “He would call, just to talk, would visit us,” said the author. She’d admitted that compiling a book about Whitey Bulger hadn’t been her idea, not one she’d ever expected to write.

I listened intently; the man she described was darkly appealing, a bad guy James Bond. From what she said, it was just as obvious was that he was brilliant, a masterful technician of murder. When I learned that his brother was President of the Massachusetts Senate, I wasn’t surprised. ['Whitey' Bulger, the Alcatraz-hardened king of the Boston ...
BOSTON — Whitey Bulger was considered for many years to be the Jimmy Cagney of the Boston underworld — an Alcatraz-hardened ex-bank robber, brother of...]

As we listened to the author, a woman who appeared to be living a comfortable life with her husband in the Boston area, I wondered how she felt about being so near Bulger for so long. She told us she drained him for details, small things like the color of his shirt, the newspapers he might have read. Once her book was done, she told us that she found it difficult to forget him, wasn’t sure how she could sever the ties with him that appeared to have changed from author to subject into a relationship that almost became a friendship.

To Bulger, it seemed, she was someone he could trust to be who she said she was. She was not a threat, nor a danger. As an ex mobster and informant, Bulger knew lots of people who might have dastardly reasons for wanted to see him.

I remember asking her about the remnants of her work with him; were the horrors she was told about impossible to forget? Because I was hearing them second hand, I knew they wouldn’t bother me. But I also knew that, as attentive to detail as she was, she had noted how his face changed as he described the final blows to his victim’s head or the gunshot to the heart or the stabbing when that was necessary.
What about lingering images of the disposal of bodies and gore?

She spoke with some concern about those matters, about how they seemed stuck in her mind. Indeed, I might have imagined that she shivered at their recall. At last, she said, thoughtfully, that she didn’t want to write about anyone like Whitey ever again.

Writers probably say that about many topics they tackle, not just those that are gruesome. I know I do. Even so, ideas do recycle in different ways, appear less unappetizing when time provides less daunting perspectives.

That’s why I checked Barnes and Noble for books on Bulger. I wanted to find hers, hoped to see she’d relented and had written a follow-up, especially since Bulger’s diaries or journals had been discovered. I had to wonder whether she’d been the one who’d encouraged him to store his bloodstained memories that way.

But I didn’t have any luck. Instead, I saw 25 books listed; only one was written by a woman. I don’t think she was the author I had heard. Could it be that, like the Bulger witness who was recently found dead, that my mystery author has disappeared too. [Bulger Witness Found Dead - ABC News Whitey Bulger's weapons and stash. Rakes comes from a storied South Boston family. ... FLDS Escapee Builds New Life Outside Warren Jeffs' Control.]

Please believe me, I’m trying to find out. At times, not knowing can be just as troublesome as first hand knowledge. So my search goes on...

                                    B.Koplen  7/20/13