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News for Sociology of Religion--Wed Mar 26 06:47:08 EST 1997

  • LAW': GIVING COLLABORATION A BAD NAME
    The classic, defensive statement about France's role in World War II came from President Francois Mitterrand, and it consisted of the idea that the collaborationist, pro-German regime that ruled (New York Times) (*)

  • COMMENTARY: YES, TIME, THERE IS A HEAVEN
    Time magazine, last week, asked on its cover and across nine inside pages: ``Does Heaven Exist?'' I would answer Time's editors and reporters much in the same manner, although not as eloquently,  (*)

  • No headline.
    The New York Times said in an editorial on Tuesday, March 25: The Turkish general staff in recent weeks has all but put the (New York Times) (*)

  • DID ARAFAT ABET VIOLENCE? A COMPLEX TALE
    JERUSALEM—For several days now, the Israeli government has pummeled Yasser Arafat with charges of deliberately resorting to violence and terror, depicting the Palestinian leader as a master (New York Times) (*)



    LAW': GIVING COLLABORATION A BAD NAME

    By RICHARD BERNSTEIN<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    The classic, defensive statement about France's role in WorldWar II came from President Francois Mitterrand, and it consisted ofthe idea that the collaborationist, pro-German regime that ruledFrance from 1940 to 1944 was illegal and aberrational and hadnothing to do with France today. ``The French nation was notinvolved in that, nor was the Republic,'' Mitterrand said in 1992.

    Two ambitious and important new books, Philippe Burrin's``France Under the Germans'' and Richard H. Weisberg's ``Vichy Lawand the Holocaust in France,'' bear directly on Mitterrand's visionof a France captured by an abnormal and unrepresentative wartimeregime. Burrin, a Swiss professor of international history, haswritten what is so far the most comprehensive and penetratinggeneral account of French collaboration in the war. It is anilluminating and sobering study that offers few excuses for France.Weisberg examines in great depth one aspect of French behaviorduring the Vichy period: how lawyers and the legal profession dealtwith anti- Jewish legislation enacted by Vichy.

    Weisberg, a professor of international law at Cardozo Law Schoolof Yeshiva University in New York, is even harder on the French. Hefinds that the French legal establishment cooperated with Germangoals to an extent unknown elsewhere in Europe. It was driven toits degree of cooperation, he maintains, by Catholic anti-Semitismand a French attachment to what he calls a `` `desiccatedCartesianism,' a uniquely French desire to see the elaborateinterpretation of the religious laws through to every logicalconclusion.''

    The extent and enthusiasm of French collaboration has been wellknown since the landmark 1981 study by Michael R. Marrus (who wrotea foreword to Weisberg's book) and Robert Paxton, ``Vichy Franceand the Jews.'' That book established virtually beyond doubt thatthe Vichy government, set up under the 84-year-old military heroHenri-Philippe Petain after the German victory of June 1940, wentwell beyond even what the Germans required of it in its persecutionof Jews. In all, 75,000 Jews were deported from France during thewar, most of them seized by French policemen. Only a couplethousand returned.

    Burrin, in his well-documented, deeply informed book, casts awider net than previous authors. His book is marred by anoccasional stylistic clunkiness (whether due to him or to JanetLloyd's translation from the French it is difficult to say) and byhis publisher's failure to account for the simple fact that much ofthe author's large cast of characters and his many historicalreferences will be unfamiliar to American readers. Even so,especially in the last two of its three sections, which deal withcollaboration and cooperation by French people of variousprofessions and walks of life, Burrin's is a work of greatintellectual power.

    The depth of the research in ``France Under the Germans'' issuggested by a chapter on public opinion in which Burrin studiesVichy's own efforts, through such techniques as intercepted mailand telegrams, to discern the French state of mind during theoccupation. By the first winter of occupation, Burrin concludes,``Most of the population wanted victory for England and manifestedtoward collaboration sentiments that ranged from skepticism tohostility,'' all despite an enormous German propaganda campaign topersuade the French that the occupation ``was all for their owngood.''

    Still, Burrin concludes, there were many—about a fifth to asixth of the French population—that favored collaboration, whichmeans many millions of people. The heart of Burrin's book is hisdescription of the types of French reaction to the occupiers, fromthe ``ocean of silence'' that many French maintained toward theGermans to the forms that complicity took, both at the level of theVichy government and among private citizens. The most conspicuousof these forms was the government's slavish effort to please theGermans. Private forms included social and romantic connections,business ties, prostitution, cultural exchanges, scientificcollaboration, police work and, of course, the organization ofpro-Nazi, anti- Jewish militias only too ready to do the Nazis'dirty work.

    Along the way, Burrin finds many cases that make for sadreading, like the historian Lucien Febvre's efforts to exclude his Jewish colleague, Marc Bloch, so the historical journal they hadfounded could continue to appear.

    His overall conclusion does not tend to support the Mitterrandview of the Vichy era. The government's eagerness to placate theGermans and the willingness of private people to accept Germangoals in exchange for protection of their interests made for aremarkably high degree of compliance. Where the Jews wereconcerned, for example, Burrin concludes: ``It boiled down toacceptance of the prospect of a future in which there would be nomore Jews.''

    This in a sense is Weisberg's starting point as he lays out hisevidence that France's legal establishment made the German taskeasier by its absence of protest, its willingness to go along. Hisconclusion is simple and stark: ``The legal establishment'sresponse to statutory racism not only permitted the worst to occurbut was largely responsible for the extent of Jewish suffering.''

    Picking up from the work of Marrus and Paxton, Weisbergchronicles the facts of French anti-Semitic collaboration: namely,that the laws passed by Vichy enabling the incarceration of foreignJews living in France, barring French Jews from many occupationsand legalizing the seizure of Jewish property were enacted by Vichyvirtually without prodding from the Germans. Weisberg has done someremarkable historical sleuthing to show the work of French lawyersin, for example, writing briefs to determine whether a particularperson fit the legal definition of a Jew and could thereforelegally be imprisoned or deprived of property.

    ``No statutory language alone could produce that result,''Weisberg writes. ``Rather the low level of generalization thatlawyers managed to use in discussing the statute brought about itspervasiveness and ultimate acceptability.''

    Ultimately, both books are about the ways ordinary people canaccept the unacceptable. Burrin stresses the shock of defeat, thecertainty among the French that Germany would prevail and thedivided, dispirited nature of French society as the reasons forFrench collaboration. Weisberg is harsher, and his explanation forFrench behavior, especially his somewhat airy notion of``desiccated Cartesianism,'' is far more debatable. But debatableor not, Weisberg's argument, which directly contradicts the blandMitterrand view, is too amply supported by the facts of history tobe taken lightly.

    PUBLICATION NOTES:

    `VICHY LAW AND THE HOLOCAUST IN FRANCE'

    By Richard H. Weisberg

    447 pages. New York University Press. $45.

    `FRANCE UNDER THE GERMANS'

    Collaboration and Compromise

    By Philippe Burrin<

    Translated by Janet Lloyd. 530 pages. The New Press. $27.50.

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    COMMENTARY: YES, TIME, THERE IS A HEAVEN

    By HOWARD KLEINBERG=

    c.1997 Cox News Service

    Time magazine, last week, asked on its cover and across nineinside pages: ``Does Heaven Exist?'' I would answer Time's editorsand reporters much in the same manner, although not as eloquently,as did Francis P. Church of the New York Sun in 1897 when8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to ask if there really was aSanta Claus.

    Heaven is what you want it to be. If you believe, keep onbelieving. Don't let the clinical types wear you down.

    Heaven can be a remarkable afterlife, based on the tenets ofwhatever religion you happen to prefer, or heaven can come to youhere on Earth in the form of pleasure, rapture, gratification,accomplishment—such as the birth of a child.

    Organized religion has its drawbacks; too many wars areinitiated over religious beliefs, and there are too many avariciousproselytizers. But for the billions of serene Christians, Hindus,Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, etc., who believe in some manner of lifebeyond today's, why are they so often being asked to document thosebeliefs?

    Is it a retort to those who many derisively call Bible-thumpers,or has it got to do with provocative, opportunely timed magazinecovers?

    The seasonal timing usually works this way: At Christmas time,several news magazines try to trace ``the real Jesus,'' quotingscientists and Biblical scholars on the pros and cons of whether ornot Jesus was the son of God, or even lived.

    At Passover, Moses's existence—and, with it, the parting ofthe Red Sea—come into journalistic and scientific question. Andnow, at Easter, at the time when the Bible says Jesus rose toHeaven, the question of whether or not there is a Heaven gets thespotlight of scrutiny.

    Jesus's deity never comes into question in August, or Moses's inJanuary; the marketable timing isn't right then.

    I am more a secularist than a religious person. Despite that, Ido associate with an organized religion because I believe that thatreligion's set of standards by which to govern life are relevant.

    I am hardly the fundamentalist, more the Reformist.

    But cannot the literal believers be left to believe?

    Perhaps the magazine editors tired of reprinting verbatim fromthe Testaments and from the Koran and, in seeking new ways torecognize the religious season, seized on opportunities to questiontheir actuality.

    You won't find me observing the orthodoxy of Judaism, or thefundamentalist properties of Christianity or Islam, but I respectthem nevertheless—provided none are attempting to foist thosebeliefs on me against my will, or making bombs in the name of somegod.

    The recent issue of Time went to great length to survey peopleas to whether or not they believed in a Heaven, and as to whetherthey believed in angels, harps, halos and the like.

    The response, to me, was predictable. They do, in overwhelmingnumbers. Many secularists, agnostics and atheists would say thatthat documents an ignorant following of superstition. Maybe so, butat least the devout believe in something and are comforted by it.

    The naysayers forget that when it comes to crunch time, as theold G.I. homily goes, you'll find a believer in every foxhole.

    Yes, Time, there is a Heaven. To paraphrase Francis P. Church's100-year-old response to little Virginia: ``Heaven exists ascertainly love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know thatthey abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.''

    (Howard Kleinberg, a former editor of the Miami News, is acolumnist for Cox Newspapers. His e-mail address ishkmiami(at)aol.com.)

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    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    The New York Times said in an editorial on Tuesday, March 25:

    The Turkish general staff in recent weeks has all but put thecountry's Islamic-led government on notice that the military willseize power if Turkey continues to drift away from its secularpolitical traditions. While the generals' defense of secularismappeals to many Americans, the United States should recognize thatanother period of military rule in Turkey would do more harm thangood. Washington needs to make clear that it favors civiliangovernance and would be obliged to distance itself from anymilitary-dominated regime.

    Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan's Welfare Party, representingone-fifth of the electorate, has rashly challenged the rigidlysecular ground rules decreed by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founderof modern Turkey seven decades ago. The party's initiatives, suchas relaxing restrictions on religious displays in public places,have made many secular Turks uneasy. These policies haveparticularly alarmed the military, which Turkey's Constitutionentrusts with defending the the secular system. In response,Turkey's generals have warned the government that it mustaggressively enforce secular laws, including some that have longbeen ignored.

    In a country where the generals have staged three coups since1960, the threat of military rule must be taken seriously. Thoseconcerned with defending secularism ought to consider thecontribution those coups have made to shaping the unappealingpolitical choices Turkey now confronts. The secular parties favoredby the military have failed to establish deep popular roots. Theyare increasingly perceived as aloof from the problems of ordinaryTurks and consumed by personal vendettas and corruption. Incontrast, Erbakan's Welfare Party has increased its base of supportby providing relatively clean and effective municipal government inmany of Turkey's largest cities.

    The Welfare Party now rules in coalition with the True PathParty, led by Tansu Ciller, a former prime minister who representssome of the least attractive features of the old secular politicalorder. After worrisome early overtures toward Iran and Libya, thecoalition has pursued pragmatic foreign policies, including closemilitary cooperation with Israel and the United States. Butinternally it has been a tense alliance, with each side looking forchances to shove the other aside.

    A military intervention would presumably evict Welfare frompower in favor of True Path or its secular rival, the MotherlandParty. While this might look superficially reassuring toWashington, it would in many ways make matters worse.

    Washington's goal is to keep Turkey oriented to the West,including NATO, to which it belongs, and the European Union, whichit has long hoped to join. But the powerful Turkish army,militantly nationalistic and prone to wholesale human rightsabuses, is itself a major obstacle to closer Turkish integrationwith Europe. Army leaders have resisted compromise with Greece overTurkey's 20-year occupation of northern Cyprus and have managedTurkey's brutal suppression of the Kurds.

    Pushing aside Islamic politicians like Erbakan who are willingto play by democratic rules would probably radicalize Turkish Islamic politics. It would also send the wrong message to thesecular parties, which need to overcome their petty rivalries andrebuild popular support.

    Turkey's location at the crossroads of Europe, the Mideast andCentral Asia—and its huge army, the largest among NATO's Europeanmembers—make it a pivotal factor in American foreign policy.Washington would understandably prefer a solidly secularistgovernment. But for practical as well as principled reasons theUnited States should support democratic solutions to Turkey'sproblems rather than those imposed by force.

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    DID ARAFAT ABET VIOLENCE? A COMPLEX TALE

    By SERGE SCHMEMANN<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    JERUSALEM—For several days now, the Israeli government haspummeled Yasser Arafat with charges of deliberately resorting toviolence and terror, depicting the Palestinian leader as a mastermanipulator capable of loosing bloodshed at will to achieve hispolitical ends.

    But diplomats, Palestinians and Israelis familiar withPalestinian affairs paint a far more complex picture of Arafat'sdealings with the Palestinian streets and with the Islamicmilitants to whom he stands accused of giving a ``green light'' torenew terror attacks.

    In their view, many of the actions that Israelis depict as adeliberate encouragement to the militants, such as releasingdetainees, are in fact part of Arafat's strategy to co-optopponents in the areas he controls and to split them off fromoutside radicals.

    And what the Israelis describe as a ``green light'' for terrorderives as much from the frustration and fury of the averagePalestinian over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies asanything Arafat might have said or done.

    In any case, Israeli investigators have yet to determine whosent Musa Ghneimat to set off a bomb in Tel Aviv last Friday. Ananonymous caller said it was the work of the military wing ofHamas, the largest Islamic movement among Palestinians, and Hamashailed the action. But the organization has not issued itstrademark statement taking responsibility.

    The intensive media blitz from Netanyahu and Israeli securitychiefs portrays Arafat as having tacitly sanctioned the revival ofviolence earlier this month, and contends that his PalestinianAuthority has orchestrated the rock-throwing riots that haveerupted in each of the past six days in Bethlehem and Hebron.

    The Israelis further charge that over the past eight months,Arafat has released many of the Palestinian militants rounded upafter last year's spate of suicide bombings, enlarging the ranks ofpotential terrorists.

    The Palestinians have denied all the charges and have accusedNetanyahu of trying to deflect responsibility for the current waveof violence from his recent decisions to build more Jewish housingin East Jerusalem. Israelis, though, have always perceived suicidebombings as actions too savage to be explained as a reaction to anyIsraeli policy, however provocative.

    Whatever the level of Arafat's direct responsibility, there islittle doubt that he was furious with Netanyahu's decision to goahead with the housing and to order a withdrawal in the West Bankthat the Palestinians saw as insultingly small. Diplomats close toArafat said he concluded there was no purpose in continuing tonegotiate with Netanyahu, and he severed all contacts.

    It was also clear that public outbursts would rouse the streets,especially after Israeli security services warned that the start ofbulldozing on the contested site would be a signal for violence.

    Arafat's consistent strategy in his dealings with militants hasbeen a combination of brute force and offers of cooperation—notunlike the tactics the Israelis used for years with thePalestinians.

    Danny Rubinstein, a veteran Israeli writer about Palestinianaffairs for the Haaretz newspaper, said, though, that it is not inArafat's interest to encourage street terror, because of the damageit does to his standing with Israel, the United States and theworld and because it undermines his authority.

    The specific charge leveled by Netanyahu and the chiefs of thearmy is that Arafat released a Hamas leader after meeting withopposition figures on March 9. At this meeting, where the Israelidecision on the scope of its withdrawal was discussed, thepolitical leader of Hamas in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, demanded that thePalestinian Authority release all remaining Hamas detainees,diplomats said.

    ``At the March 9 meeting Arafat was passive and didn't react,''one diplomat said. ``Then evidently after the meeting he decided torelease Ibrahim Maqadmeh as a gesture to Hamas. Only Maqadmeh. Sodid he give the green light to Hamas? We don't have anyconfirmation that he did.''

    Israelis contend that the release of Maqadmeh, who is regardedby Israel as the head of a secret organization within Hamas, gavethe Islamic opposition the distinct sense that it had been given asanction to renew violence.

    On the day of the bombing in Tel Aviv, Maqadmeh made a stirringspeech at a Hamas rally declaring that only ``holy warriors whocarry bombs on their body and blow up the enemies of God will stopthe bulldozers.'' Soon after, a warrant was issued for hisrearrest, but he reportedly has yet to be caught.

    Following Friday's attack, Arafat took no known action againstHamas and left on a weeklong tour abroad, signaling that he had nointerest in calming the storm.

    In the view of diplomats and Israelis familiar with thePalestinian areas, to presume that Arafat willed the riots and theTel Aviv attack is to misunderstand the depth of anger thatPalestinians feel over Netanyahu's policies.

    Palestinian leaders have complained bitterly that Netanyahuclaims to be helpless before every demand of his right-wingbackers, and then requires the Palestinians to passively accept thedecisions, however much they object and however damaging it is toArafat's authority.

    ``Judging from the mood in the West Bank, it is safe to say itwasn't Arafat who gave the Hamas a green light, but the broadpublic in the West Bank and Gaza, which urged Hamas to takeaction,'' Rubinstein wrote.

    A Western diplomat who regularly meets with Arafat said,``Basically, he's repeatedly told me he's trying to splinter thegroups.''

    Arafat's strategy broke down in February 1996 when Hamas andIslamic Jihad terrorists launched four suicide bombers againstIsrael. Under intense Israeli and U.S. pressure, Arafat rounded upabout 1,000 radicals and opponents and closed down Hamasoperations.

    But as relations with Netanyahu deteriorated, Arafat beganreleasing some of the detainees. Though Israeli right-wingers haveraged at the releases, the Israeli government has at timessupported Arafat's efforts to co-opt the opposition.

    Over the past week, however, Netanyahu and his lieutenants havecharged that the detainees released include 120 on a list of 200men that Israel specifically asked the Palestinians not to release.

    U.S. officials said they have warned Arafat many times thatreleasing such men sends a dangerous signal. But the officials saidthat Israel has issued at least four lists, each with a differentnumber and different names. They said the Palestinians offered togo over the list with the Israelis, but got no response.

    A check of some names provided by Israel suggested that not allthe Israeli information was accurate.

    Several men described by Israel as dangerous members of IslamicJihad were described by the Palestinians as political leaders ofthe organization, who operated openly and were released becausethey posed no known danger.

    Israel points to reports that one man lost several fingersmaking a bomb after his release. The Palestinians said he remainedin detention and was wounded working on a bomb the authoritiesfound in his home and ordered him to dismantle.

    Most Israelis understood the peace with Arafat to carry aPalestinian agreement to stop all violence. In this context eventhe most obscure signal from Arafat was enough to make him anaccomplice in Israeli eyes.

    ``Friday's attack was the first one since Oslo on which fullblame without question can be placed on Arafat,'' wrote NahumBarnea, a columnist in Yediot Ahronot who has criticized Netanyahu.

    That suggested that Netanyahu had succeeded, at least at home,in turning blame from himself to Arafat. But this carries dangersof its own.

    Both Israeli and Western officials warned that another terrorattack was a real possibility. According to some reports, thedanger comes from some Islamic Jihad guerrillas who had infiltratedIsrael, so it was dubious that Arafat had any way to give them agreen or red light.

    And having convinced his people that Arafat sanctioned terror,Netanyahu would find it hard after a new attack to avoid a harshretaliation. That could raise the confrontation to a new level.

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