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We Are 1

A Family of the ...

 A Blog on the Parallels Between Refugees Now

and During World War II
 

WeAre1: Using the Jewish Vote

Earlier this month, Trump asked Netanyahu to block visits to Israel of two Muslim congresswomen. The following week, he said, "Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." Then he quoted on Twitter a conservative radio host who claimed that Trump is the greatest president in the history of the world for Jews and for Israel.

 

A few days later, Trump doubled down with this clarification about exactly to whom Jewish Democrats are disloyal: "You vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Jewish people, and you're being very disloyal to Israel," he told reporters, "and only weak people would say anything other than that." Regarding his rabid trade war with China, Trump claimed he is "the chosen one" because no one else has had the courage to raise tariffs. I suppose he wanted to send a subliminal message that he identifies with "the chosen people." 


Trump's comments and actions are attempts to use not only Jews, but also right-wing Evangelicals who support Israel, for political gain. (These evangelicals believe that Israeli Jews will war with their neighbors and that the ensuing Armageddon will trigger Christ's Second Coming.) It's about votes, not peace in the Middle East.


Obviously, Trump is trying to turn the Jewish vote Republican. The Jewish vote has been overwhelmingly Democratic for decades and he does not understand why. According to Demenico Montanaro and Tamara Keith of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, Israel is not the determinative factor for most Jews and many do not agree with Republicans' approach to Israel. "Jewish people who vote Democratic care about what Democrats care about—social justice, health care, climate change, the welfare of immigrants and more," say Domenico and Keith. Moreover, Since 1968, Jewish voters have voted on average 71% for Democrats.


Trump is also using Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. In his clumsy attempt to attack them, he also went after Jewish voters. He could have condemned the boycott of Israel that the congresswomen support, and questioned, why, given all the countries worthy of boycotting, these congresswomen and others focus on Israel?


Why do they not boycott Syria for its Civil War, which is responsible for displacing 11 million of its citizens, 5 million of whom have fled the country? And the 371,222 to 570,000 dead members of opposition activist groups? Or how about Myanmar, for murdering 43,000 Rohingya, detaining 135,000 in camps, and for causing 730,000 to flee to Pakistan in 2018? What about China's Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom have been held for 10 years in detention centers in the province of Xingiang?


Besides the treatment of Palestinians, the congresswomen say they object to generous aid the United States gives Israel––the largest to any nation, at $3.8 billion annually. In mid-August, Omar said, "Denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally," and hinted that Congress should consider that when allotting aid to Israel every year.


I would accept Omar and Tlaib's objections, had they not also questioned Jewish loyalty. Tlaib said supporters of an anti-boycott of Israel bill "forgot what country they represent."

 

We're getting that age-old anti-Semitic trope from both sides.


Of course, Hitler spread the myth in 1933 that Germany lost World War I because it had been stabbed in the back by Jews, even though more than 100,000 of them served in the German army. He did so to unify the German-speaking people. Feeling deprived and abused by the restrictions imposed upon them after World War I, they needed scapegoats, just like White Supremacists here do today.


But I say no one is all that pure, and what's so terrible about several loyalties anyway? Human beings are multifaceted creatures and one would hope that we can handle multiple ideas and allegiances simultaneously. But if people really believe we are that limited and must run on one-track fealty, why does no one accuse Tlaib, whose parents are Palestinian immigrants, of dual loyalty? Or all Catholics, because they follow the decree of the pope. (When JFK ran in 1960, people worried that the pope would call the shots.)


Another question that should be addressed is, why the boycott now? Israel has received large sums of aid from the U.S. for years and the Palestinian-Israel conflict is as old as Israel. Quoting Stratfor and the Pew Research Center, a recent Congressional Research Service report, "U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel," makes the reason quite clear. U.S. voters who are young, religiously-unaffiliated, American Muslims, and liberal appear to hold more critical views of the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians. "As a result, American public attitudes toward Israel's government are growing more polarized," the report said, "In April 2019, the Pew Research Center released survey results indicating that 'by nearly two-to-one (61% to 32%), Republicans have a favorable view of Israel's government. By contrast, two-thirds of Democrats view Israel's government unfavorably, while just 26% have a favorable opinion.'" Although, that could really be a referendum specifically on Netanyahu's leadership.


So the fight is partially about grabbing those younger, more malleable voters. But the cost is that both Trump and the so-called "progressives" are undermining heretofore bipartisan support for Israel.


Again, that does not go deep enough. Follow the money. What does Israel use all those donated dollars for? For its military. The rationale for the aid is that Israel must rely on better equipment and training to compensate for being much smaller in population size and geographically (there is no room for an army to retreat) than its adversaries. According to the Congressional Research Report, U.S. aid has helped transform Israel's armed forces into one of the most technologically sophisticated in the world. Today it is a top supplier in arms, exporting missile defense systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, cyber security products, radar, and electronic communication systems. It is dependent on us for fighter jets, but we have purchased protection systems for tanks, helmets for F 35 fighter pilots, and an electronic fence along our border with Mexico. The U.S. benefits, using Israel as a research laboratory.


It's complicated. And there are double standards. What if everyone recognized each other as fellow human beings? Right now, though, we are all at the mercy of the military industrial complex. It shouts louder than human rights.
 

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WeAre1: Gun Control in Weimar Germany and its Influence Today

Mannlicher M1895 rifle, which used a straight-pull action bolt. It was nicknamed the Ruck-Zu(rü)ck, German slang for "back and forth."
A Mannlicher M1895 rifle, which used a straight-pull action bolt. It was nicknamed the Ruck-Zu(rü)ck, German slang for "back and forth."

Like many Americans last weekend, I was horrified and overwhelmed by the simultaneous massacres in Dayton, OH and El Paso, TX. After a few days, though, in keeping with the purpose of this blog, I began to consider parallels with World War II. I googled gun control during the Third Reich. Up popped a book on just that. Written by attorney Stephan P. Halbrook, Guns in the Third Reich: Disarming Jews and 'Enemies of the State,' traces the history of gun registration beginning with Weimar Germany.


Fearing civil war, the Weimar government tried to control violence between the Communists and Nazis. In 1919, after repressing a Communist uprising, the government banned firearms and ordered citizens to surrender them and ammunition, as Halbrook writes. The penalty for not complying: five years in prison and a fine. The next year, the Law on the Disarmament of the People was implemented by house-to-house firearms searches and confiscations.


The government enacted a new firearms law in 1928 that relaxed the previous one, allowing citizens to own guns and carry ammunition if they obtained licenses. Authorities had the power to grant these permits or not. The law also regulated the manufacture and sale of firearms.


Three years later, the government authorized the states within Germany to require gun registration and to confiscate weapons. By 1932, the gun industry was facing collapse, so the government lifted some regulations.


When in 1933 the Nazis came to power, Hitler used the gun registration records to identify and disarm political opponents. That meant mainly Jews. In late 1935, a Gestapo directive stated that "as a rule, we have to assume that firearms in the hands of the Jews represent a considerable danger for the German people." Three years later, Hitler signed a new gun control act that further loosened restrictions, especially for Nazi Party members. Jews, however, were ordered to surrender their weapons to "render them defenseless so that their ill-gotten property could be redistributed as an entitlement to the German people," writes Halbrook. Weeks before Kristallnacht, to foil any opposition the Nazis revoked Jews' gun licenses and searched their homes for weapons.


Halbrook is a pro-gun, Second Amendment attorney who has won three cases he argued before the Supreme Court. He also serves as outside counsel to the National Rifle Association. The Independent Institute, a libertarian think-tank where Halbrook is a research fellow, published his book a year after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Shortly after that attack, Senate Republicans refused to pass a modest, bipartisan bill to expand background checks. In response, President Obama signed 23 executive actions intended to reduce gun violence. Several were designed to buttress the federal background check system by requiring federal agencies to share relevant data.


Halbrook has said that only law-abiding people obeyed Weimar's gun control laws and that the government warned that lists of gun owners could fall into the hands of radicals. Exactly that occurred when the Nazis came to power, he notes. The NRA has been at the forefront of this historical argument since the late 1960s, according to Professor of Law Bernard E. Harcourt. NRA past president Charlton Heston and current president Wayne LaPierre have emphasized a connection between gun registration and the Holocaust. Heston: "Any of the monsters of history—such as Hitler and Stalin––confiscated privately held firearms as their first act." LaPierre: "A people disarmed is a people in danger."


In 1938, Jewish Berliners relinquished 1,700 firearms. Is the NRA trying to tell me that if my great-grandfather Heinrich Finkelstein had owned a gun and refused to obey that new law, he would not have been in danger? That armed, he could have resisted the coming onslaught? That he would not have been on some list? That he would not have had to flee Germany in 1940? I mean, despite having weapons the French Army was unable to defend France.


These statements and other arguments for the right to bear arms and against registration have lost sight of the type of arms the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment. They stated that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Muskets were the weapons of the day. In Weimar Germany, the concern was bolt-action rifles and revolvers. The Founders could not have fathomed citizens using on one another assault weapons with easily reloadable magazines. Furthermore, they linked the right to bear arms to a military unit. They said nothing about individual ownership of arms for personal defense, as historian Saul Cornell has noted.


It is a distortion of history to suggest that the Nazis' use of gun control and abuse of gun registries to destroy the Jews are reasons to prevent gun control here. Yet many White Supremacists here today believe that extremist groups want to infringe their Second Amendment rights to disarm and destroy them. One Amazon reviewer of Halbrook's book warned that the Marxist/Socialists "will not rest, and when they finally get a majority in favor of stripping up [sic] of our arms, the time for revolution will be upon us. The Marxist Democrats lust for a disarmed public, and they will not rest until it happens."


But White Supremacists are the very radicals of which most law-abiding Americans are wary. They, themselves, are associated with fascism. At gun shows, you are far more likely to see a swastika and other Nazi paraphernalia, says Harcourt, than at the anti-gun Million Mom March on the Washington Mall.


On the second anniversary of Charlottesville, has anyone rioted shouting "White Supremacists will not replace us?" The parents of the dead children of Sandy Hook do not seek to suppress all gun owners. Congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh are unlikely to burst into gun owners' homes in search of arms and, upon finding them, jail the owners. Nor are worshippers of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were shot and killed in 2015. And the relatives of murdered people of color in El Paso and Dayton…need I go on?


It's obvious that White Supremacists are not the victims here.
 

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