Given the Troubling Reach of Ron Paul’s Political Shadow, Senator Rand Paul Will Deserve a Fair Hearing—But Not a Free Ride—If He Runs for President

During the 1960 presidential campaign, after Protestant Minister Norman Vincent Peal questioned the fitness of a Catholic to be elected president, Adlai Stevenson quipped: “I find St. Paul appealing, but Rev. Paul appalling.” More than half a century later, the 2016 presidential race may face a second “Pauline” moment.
When John F. Kennedy ran for president everybody knew that his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had won himself no friends in the Jewish community for his Isolationist views during his service as U.S. Ambassador to the UK in the 1930s. This was the context in which JFK made big news during the 1960 campaign. Wanting MLK’s support, the Kennedy campaign faced problems getting it—including an endorsement of Nixon by Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. on religious grounds. Then King, Jr., was arrested in Georgia, and JFK not only called Coretta personally, but exerted behind-the-scenes influence to get her husband released. MLK all but endorsed JFK, and even “Daddy King” relented.

According to Kennedy aide Harris Wofford, Kennedy told him: “Did you see what Martin’s father said? He was going to vote against me because I was a Catholic, but since I called his daughter-in-law, he will vote for me. That was a hell of a bigoted statement, wasn’t it? Imagine Martin Luther King having a bigot for a father!” Then Kennedy added that he had told the younger King “he understood and not to worry ‘because we all have fathers.’”

This story is brought to mind by recent news that former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul—and father of Kentucky and potential presidential aspirant Rand Paul—will journey to Canada, north of Niagara Falls, to deliver a September keynote at the “Fatima: The Path to Peace” conference, a “traditionalist” Catholic movement akin to actor Mel Gibson’s religious brand, noted for attacking Jews as “the perpetual enemy of Christ.”

No Joke

No Joke No Joke

“Growing up,” said my son Jacob, “ if you had told me that someone in my family would write a book about Jewish humor, I would have imagined it to be my father, or perhaps my brother, who has something of a legendary wit; certainly not my mother, who was generally regarded as the proverbial straight man in the family.” The nice things he went on to say about me at a launch for the book No Joke: Making Jewish Humor did not contradict his surprise that I should have been drawn to this subject.

I surprised myself. When I took up the study of literature in college, I was attracted by what normally appeals to adolescents—death and heartache, sex and romance, and how to navigate the shoals of life. Yiddish that I chose as my field of concentration seemed to me the most consequential branch of literature, haunted as it was by the fate of its speakers in Europe. I wrote my Masters’ thesis on a group of Yiddish prose poems about the final days of the Ghetto of Vilna. My doctoral dissertation on “the schlemiel as modern hero” addressed the same concerns for Jewish fate from a different angle. We tend to think of the schlemiel as a character in Jewish comedy, but the French aristocrat Adelbert von Chamisso, author of the original Peter Schlemihl (1814), was an exile most of his life, and his tragicomic hero sells his shadow to the devil with the same unfunny consequences as Goethe’s Faust who sells the devil his soul. The man without a shadow and the man without a country lack what “normal” people are expected to possess. The schlemiel of Yiddish folk culture is likewise a hapless person in a tragic situation.

Welcome Guest Blogger Ruth Wisse

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is pleased to announce that Dr. Ruth R. Wisse, Professor of Yiddish and Comparative Literature at Harvard University, will be joining the Brandeis Center Blog team as a guest blogger. Dr. Wisse, an experienced editor, essayist, and columnist brings to the Brandeis Blog a long…

Israel Lives in a Dangerous Neighborhood, Struggles Against Terrorism and is Engaged in a Battle for Justice at the United Nations

Over the past sixty five years, Israel has faced and continues to face momentous challenges including wars, skirmishes, rocket attacks, terrorist murderous suicide bombings and assaults on her citizens, challenges to her legal status, boycotts, threats, accusations and demonization.

In the summer of 2000, Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestine Liberation Organization met at Camp David with President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The Prime Minister offered to the Palestinians an agreement that included the establishment of the Palestinian state based on territorial borders that essentially constituted approximately 96% of the land located west of the Jordan River, known as the West Bank and included the Gaza strip on the Mediterranean.

Much to the chagrin of President Clinton and disappointment of PM Barak, Chairman Arafat did not accept the proposal and left the President and the Prime Minister essentially standing alone at Camp David.

Shortly thereafter, in late September 2000, the Palestinian uprising known as the Second Intifada commenced, bringing with it murderous suicide bombings and other attacks inside Israel, targeting busses, shopping centers, hotels, restaurants, University cafeterias and attacking people in their homes and in the streets.

In response, in order to protect her people, the Israeli government commenced construction of a terrorism prevention security fence, parts of which include concrete barriers akin to what we know as Jersey walls on our expressways, although portions are quite high and obtrusive in order to provide safety to vehicles and persons below.

This terrorism prevention security fence is called by some a “wall”; and was the centerpiece of a request of the UN General Assembly referring to the International Court of Justice a legal question worded as follows:

What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?

Alice Walker Got What She Deserves

Bravo to the University of Michigan for disinviting Alice Walker – and shame on Walker for reportedly spreading false rumors about Michigan’s reasons for doing so.  The University of Michigan recently withdrew a speaking invitation to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, who is now known not only for her literary work but also for her virulent anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism.  Walker says that the university was pressured to do so, but the university denies it.

Walker and her agent are spreading an apparently false rumor, which some news outlets continue to disseminate, to the effect that Michigan had disinvited her because of pressure from rich donors.  Calling this a “censorship by purse strings,” Walker and her agent insinuate that her disinvitation was brought on by supposedly inappropriate influence by wealthy Jews.  This charge seems to have traction with some media and internet sources, because it resonates with long-held beliefs about Jewish wealth, influence, and control of major instituitons.  

Germany Should Act Against Those Who Invoke “Free Speech” to Destroy Its Still-Fragile Democracy

The recent “New York Times’” headline—“Wiesenthal Center Calls for Closing of German Magazine It Says Glorifies Nazism”—reflects what may an ominous divergence in German and American attitudes toward Nazism.

As recently as the 1960’s when “Hogan’s Heroes” was a hit television sitcom, “comic Nazis”—inept and even innocuous—were in vogue. The reason may have been that American (and English) audiences were still not ready for portrayals of unvarnished World War II horrors. It’s probably no coincidence that “comic Nazis” disappeared from popular culture in tandem with the rise of realistic discourse about and dramatization of the Holocaust, really beginning with 1977’s television series of that name that aired the same year the Simon Wiesenthal Center was founded.

The situation is very different is modern, reunified Germany where portrayals of “normal”—indeed, “normative” Nazis—even bathed in a patriotic, heroic glow have grown rather than declined over the past two decades.

At the same time German schools were integrating realistic treatments of Nazi enormities in their curricula, German culture at the elite level was hosting a school of historical Revisionists with a very different agenda. This was so the so-called “Historikerstreit” (historians’ quarrel”) in which historians like Ernst Nolte changed positions to argue that Nazism should be viewed, not so much as an aberration but as an integral part of the history of German nationalism, and the Hitler’s labor and death camps were essentially a wartime adaptation of the harshness of Stalin’s gulags.

Joel Siegal Explains Anti-Bullying Litigation

LDB Legal Advisor and San Francisco civil rights litigator Joel Siegal has posted an informative article on his blog which discusses the use of courts to eliminate bullying in the school.  Siegal is counsel to Jessica Felber in her campus anti-Semitism case against the University of California at Berkeley.  With attorney Neal Sher, he filed a…

Who’s Right About the European Extreme Right?

Historian James Mayfield offers a provocative, contrarian view of Europe’s extreme Right in “Explaining the Rapid Rise of the Xenophobic Right in Contemporary Europe” in the journal, “GeoCurrents” (July 22).

It’s not that he likes the Right. It’s that he questions the popular view that right-wing European extremism is a uniform, continent-wide phenomenon that can be explained by a simple set of electoral, ideological, historical, or “ethnic” generalizations. Where others see right-wing extremism growing out of a European history of fascism, authoritarianism, racism, anti-Semitism, and hyper-nationalism, Mayfied sees the rightist voters as a diverse lot including “traditionalists, pro-Europeanists, Euroskeptics, democrats, nationalists, racialists, neo-Nazis, and even Greens.”

SPME Fellowships Available

Our friends at Scholars for Peace in the Middle East are announcing fellowships to enable junior scholars to deliver papers at academic conferences.  In addition to providing useful information on Israel and the Middle East, SPME has also historically been interested in campus anti-Semitism and academic freedom.  These issues are, of course, central to our concerns at the Louis D. Brandeis Center as well.  Details follow the jump.