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News for Sociology of Religion--Tue Mar 4 06:31:02 EST 1997

  • A NEW STRUGGLE FOR JERUSALEM
    JERUSALEM—After announcing the decision to build a large new Jewish neighborhood in the barren hills of southeastern Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lieutenants (New York Times) (*)

  • No headline.
    Mr. LePens remarks were made in an interview last July with the authors of a forthcoming book, according to weekend news accounts. In the comments attributed to him, Mr. LePen, the leader of Frances  (*)

  • No headline.
    The New York Times said in an editorial on Monday, March 3: Fifty years after the end of World War II, Europe is awash in (New York Times) (*)

  • FILM COMMENTARY: OWNING THE ISSUE AIDS NO ONE'S CAUSE
    One of the more rancid moments in our nation's ``proud'' history of race relations occurred in January 1923, when an angry mob of whites descended on the African-American town of Rosewood, Fla.  (*)

  • `THE SUN AT MIDDAY': COLORFUL FAMILY MADE FOR MEMOIRS
    Toward the end of this affecting memoir, Gini Alhadeff writes of the ability possessed by her uncle Piero and his lover to turn ``life into anecdote, and anecdote into language, so that an (New York Times) (*)



    A NEW STRUGGLE FOR JERUSALEM

    By SERGE SCHMEMANN<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    JERUSALEM—After announcing the decision to build a large new Jewish neighborhood in the barren hills of southeastern Jerusalem,Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lieutenantslaunched an intensive public-relations campaign to portray theaction as a response to the housing needs of all Jerusalemites,Jews and Arabs—and even as a symbol of ``peaceful coexistence andharmony'' in the Holy City.

    It might have played well abroad if everyone else hadn't beentalking of the area, Har Homa, in distinctly nonpeaceful terms.

    ``Construction of a Jewish neighborhood on Jabal Abu Ghunaymwill be a form of declaration of war on Israel's part,'' warnedFeisal Husseini, the chief Palestinian representative in Jerusalem,referring to the Arabic name for the site.

    ``On this subject, it is forbidden for us to show any sign ofweakness,'' declared Israeli Industry and Trade Minister NatanSharansky. Israeli Police Minister Avigdor Kahalani proclaimed,``The struggle for Jerusalem has begun.''

    To be fair, Netanyahu might have been using the notion ofpeaceful coexistence in the sense that Jerusalem's Biblical mastersmight have meant it when they encircled the ancient city withmassive ramparts—us peacefully inside, them peacefully outside.

    Because in the minds of the Israelis who demanded theneighborhood's construction, that was the real purpose: to completea ring of Jewish neighborhoods around East Jerusalem that wouldcement the city as the ``eternal and undivided'' capital of Israel.

    Har Homa, in a vacant stretch of hills between Bethlehem andJerusalem, is a major gap in the southern part of the ring. Oncecompleted, it will join with the adjacent neighborhoods of Gilo,East Talpiot and Givat Hamatos to create a buffer of 120,000 Jewishresidents in southeastern Jerusalem, foreclosing the chance of anylinkage between the nearby Arab towns and Arab neighborhoods inEast Jerusalem.

    The basic strategy is hardly new. Within three weeks ofconquering East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israel greatly expandedJerusalem's boundaries. The man who shaped the city's developmentfor the next 27 years, Mayor Teddy Kollek, spoke of ``separatedevelopment and peaceful coexistence'' while he aggressivelyexpanded into Arab areas by building Jewish neighborhoods onexpropriated land.

    ``The supreme principle in the planning of Jerusalem is tosecure its unity,'' declared a master plan adopted under Kollek in1978.

    But if the strategy is familiar, the context is new. In thefirst decades after 1967, the Jewish expansion essentiallyconsolidated a military victory. But the peace declared in 1993established that further division of territory would occur onlythrough negotiation. Jerusalem, the toughest issue of all, was leftto the ``final status'' talks that are supposed to end by May 1999.

    Netanyahu's government insists that the 1993 agreements do notexplicitly restrict Israeli construction in areas under Israel'sjurisdiction. But there is little question that building the first2,500 of a planned 6,500 housing units in Har Homa violates thespirit of the agreement, creating ``facts on the ground'' inadvance of talks. Once built , there is virtually no chance theneighborhood will be offered as a bargaining chip.

    That is important, because a study on how Israeli Jews viewJerusalem, conducted jointly by the University of Maryland and theGutman Institute of Applied Social Studies in Jerusalem, found thatonly a small percentage of Israelis view the boundaries ofJerusalem as sacrosanct, and that 45 percent are prepared totransfer outlying areas of the city to Palestinian sovereignty.``But once a housing project is built and Jewish families move in,the overwhelming majority of Israelis regard it as an essentialpart of Jerusalem and outside the realm of negotiations,'' saidJerome M. Segal of the University of Maryland.

    It was this imperative that prompted a powerful group ofNetanyahu's conservative colleagues to lean on the prime ministerto prove his commitment to Jerusalem by building Har Homa, and tothreaten to bring down the Government if he failed.

    With new territorial concessions to the Palestinians looming,Netanyahu told Americans and Palestinians privately that he had to``fill his right-wing tank'' on Har Homa if he was to keep on thepeace route.

    The battle for Jerusalem has always been a battle that Israelhas waged alone, since even the United States has not recognizedthe city as Israel's capital, and most Western governments cling toan old notion of ``internationalizing'' Jerusalem and its holysites. The idea derives from the notion that the competition forJerusalem is rooted in the competing claims of three major faiths _Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    Indeed, it is the holy sites that have shaped Jerusalem and havebeen responsible for copious volumes of blood shed there over theages, most recently in violence last fall over the extension of anarchaeological tunnel along the Temple Mount.

    Yet the irony of the current struggle is that the religioussites may actually be the least contentious of the issues facingIsraelis and Palestinians. Since 1967, Israel has maintained astatus quo in which each major faith administers its holy siteswith a minimum of interference, and all Israeli governments havepledged to keep the balance intact in the future. The problem nowis that what the Jews call ``Yerushalaim'' and the Palestinianscall ``Al Quds'' has become a symbol of national struggle andpride.

    That promises a tough and bitter struggle, but at least itleaves the definition of Jerusalem a bit more flexible. If theIsraelis settle Har Homa and proclaim it part of Yerushalaim, thereis no reason why sometime in the future the Palestinians will notbe able to designate some outlying villages as Al Quds.

    That, indeed, is an idea Kollek proposed; moderate politicianson both the Israeli and Palestinian sides still talk about it as aformula that one day could bring peace.

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    c.1997 International Herald Tribune<

    Mr. LePens remarks were made in an interview last July with theauthors of a forthcoming book, according to weekend news accounts.In the comments attributed to him, Mr. LePen, the leader of FrancesNational Front party, said that Mr. Chiracs hostility to him was sostrong that it could only be explained by the grip of international Jewish organizations that had provided the French president withenormous sums and exceptional political support. <<

    Mr. LePen was quoted as saying that Jewish groups had controlover Mr. Chirac, a Gaullist, and were forcing him to shun anyalliance with the National Front, even if it meant depriving theGaullists and other conservative parties of the margin they neededto defeat Frances Socialists.<<

    Mr. Chirac did not respond directly to the claim in a previouslyschedule meeting Sunday with leaders of Frances Jewishorganizations. But he did strongly defend his governmentscontroversial new laws to control illegal immigration, implyingthat they are designed to cut ground from beneath Mr. Le Pens feet.< On Monday, opposition Socialist leaders called on Mr. Chirac tosue Mr. LePen, but conservative leaders, including Simone Veil, theformer health minister, defended Mr. Chiracs policy of keeping thepresidency aloof from unsubstantiated allegations. Newspapereditorials and Jewish leaders supported that approach.<<

    Mr. Chirac was speaking Sunday at a commemoration of Napoleonsdecision in 1806 to recognize French Jews as full citziens. Heextolled Jewish assimilation as an example of Frances human wealthand cited his own action in recognizing the nations responsibilityin wartime persecution of the Jews as proof of his commitment tofighting racism.<<

    The LePen remarks contained no substantiation, but they had notbeen denied and are similar to allegations about Jewish plots thatappear frequently in National Front publications. LeMonde newspapernoted the officials Bnai Brith, a prominent Jewish fraternalorganization, had said publicly in 1986 that French politicalleaders had given assurances that they would not make politicalalliances with Mr. LePen.<<

    The timing of Mr. LePens remarks was accidental, but theycoincided with the political battle in France over immigration, anissue that Mr. LePen has made a centerpiece of his campaignsagainst Arabs and Moslems in France.<<

    Tacitly acknowledging the inroads Mr. LePen has made with thistheme, Mr. Chirac on Sunday warned critics that it was dangerouswishful thinking to ignore a national mood in which resentmentagainst illegal immigrants, if left unattended, would fuel racismand threaten Frances ability to assimilate legal immigrants. <<

    Let us not play into the hands of those who exploituncertainties about the future, urge us to turn inwards, fuel ourfears of each other and incite hatred, Mr. Chirac said. <

    <

    Mr. Chiracs hostility to Mr. LePen has been consistent. As aresult, Mr. LePen said in the forthcoming book, France could neverhave a government reflecting the countrys conservative character.Instead, he said, a Jewish conspiracy had prevented parties likehis own from sharing power.<<

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    By TINA ROSENBERG<

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service<

    The New York Times said in an editorial on Monday, March 3:

    Fifty years after the end of World War II, Europe is awash ininformation that nations which considered themselves neutral oreven victims of the Nazis actually profited from the Holocaust.They trafficked in gold, strategic minerals, art and real estate.Newly opened archives reveal that others knew of the slaughter ofJews and stayed silent. The test for these countries today is notwhat they did then, but what they will do now to uncover the truthand to compensate the victims.

    Switzerland was not the only supposedly neutral nation thatserved as banker and supplier to the Nazis. Swedish bankers alsotook billions of dollars of gold from the Nazis without inquiringabout its origins, and the government allowed German soldiers topass through Swedish territory. Portuguese officials recentlydisclosed that neutral Portugal acquired stolen gold by sellingtungsten to the Germans, and later secretly sold the gold in Asia.According to declassified documents, Spain acquired $138 million inNazi gold and kept almost all of it after the war. Poland and theNetherlands are also investigating what happened to the wealth oftheir own victims, while France and Austria are learning that arttreasures in national museums were looted or bought at bargainprices from Jews.

    More shocking, perhaps, than the looting is the evidence thatBritain knew in 1941 that the Nazis were systematicallyexterminating Jews in the Soviet Union. Yet London said and didnothing.

    None of this should be very surprising. It is useful to recallthat the U.S. government, while waging all-out war, took few stepsto deal directly with the extermination of European Jews. It failedto bomb the death chambers at Auschwitz even as it carried outbombings 5 miles away. It took as refugees only a small proportionof the Jews that it had promised to take. It did not drop leafletsor send radio broadcasts to the ghettos warning Jews of what lay atthe other end of the train tracks.

    President Roosevelt was likely reluctant to divert soldiers andweapons from the effort to defeat the Nazis. Nor, apparently, didhe want to risk identifying the war as a `` Jewish'' cause during atime when America was a good deal more anti-Semitic andanti-immigrant than today.

    America's role in the war encompassed both shameful neglect ofthe Jews and a heroic war effort. The same complexities apply toother nations now discovering their complicity. Two Swedish bankersaccused of taking looted gold and making large loans to a Germancompany without collateral are the uncles of Raoul Wallenberg. Hewas the diplomat who saved thousands of Jews in Budapest withSwedish safe-conduct passes. He was arrested by the Soviets anddied in prison.

    The rather banal lesson of the new revelations is thatinstitutions such as banks and governments will often do the wrongthing unless closely watched. News of the past should not, however,be a reason for condemnations of Sweden or Switzerland today. Whatis a proper basis for judgment is how the governments and citizensof these countries are reacting to the news now. Are they coveringup the accusations and continuing to profit from their behavior _in effect, still collaborating? Or are they assuming theirresponsibility by embracing full investigations and recompense?

    Few countries deal honestly with their past. American textbooksabout World War II long neglected to publicize the government'sfailure to save Jews. The French are only now challenging popularmyths that celebrated the French resistance while minimizing Frenchcollaboration with the Nazis.

    The nation that treated its past guilt most seriously after thewar was probably West Germany. It paid 85 billion marks incompensation and reparations and beginning in the late 1950s triedthousands of its citizens for killing Jews. Germany's effortsremain imperfect. Most of those tried received absurdly lightsentences and large numbers of victims never got payments. FewGermans spoke of the Nazi era until a generation passed, but nowthey speak of it constantly. Given the scope of the crimes, this isas it should be. But such introspection is a rare thing, and worththe attention of other nations suddenly discovering that their ownrecords are less than pure.

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    FILM COMMENTARY: OWNING THE ISSUE AIDS NO ONE'S CAUSE

    By ELEANOR RINGEL=

    c. 1997 Cox News Service

    One of the more rancid moments in our nation's ``proud'' historyof race relations occurred in January 1923, when an angry mob ofwhites descended on the African-American town of Rosewood, Fla.Stirred up by a white woman's false accusation that a black man hadbeaten and raped her (shades of Susan Smith), they annihilated theplace and killed at least six residents.<

    Seventy-one years later, in 1994, the state of Floridaapologized for abandoning its own citizens and offered $2.1 millionin reparations.<

    In 1997, the story of the Rosewood massacre finally made it tomovie theaters. The ``historic'' aspect of ``Rosewood'' the motionpicture is that, unlike other recent Hollywood forays into raciallycharged material (``Ghosts of Mississippi,'' ``MississippiBurning''), it was directed by an African-American—JohnSingleton, an Oscar nominee at the tender age of 23 for ``Boyz Nthe Hood.''<

    Which brings up the question: Must black-themed material behandled by African-American filmmakers? In the case of both``Mississippi'' movies, the white directors—Rob Reiner for``Ghosts'' and Alan Parker for ``Burning''—were criticized fortelling their stories via white protagonists. Ditto Sir RichardAttenborough, whose ``Cry Freedom'' focused more on a crusadingnewspaper editor, played by Kevin Kline, than on South Africanactivist Steve Biko, played by Denzel Washington.<

    But are things that simple? That, um, black and white? ShouldAfrican-American directors be limited to African-American subjects?Do you have to be Jewish to direct anything that touches on theHolocaust or issues of anti-Semitism? Why didn't a woman direct``Thelma & Louise'' or the upcoming ``Citizen Ruth''?<

    I don't know if there is a simple answer. Or any answer.Recently, Matthew Bernstein, a film professor at Emory University,and I introduced a series of films on Jewish identity co- sponsoredby The Temple and the American Jewish Committee. A few weeks ago,the movie was ``Homicide,'' written and directed by David Mamet.After my opening remarks, as I headed to my seat, a woman in theaudience called out, ``Is Mamet Jewish?'' I almost wanted to say,``Does it matter?'' (he is), but I also knew that, somehow, on someinchoate level, it did matter. At least for this particular movie.Just as it somehow matters that Steven Spielberg directed``Schindler's List.''<

    It also matters that Spielberg directed—or, as many said atthe time, misdirected—``The Color Purple,'' a movie largelyconcerned with issues of race, female empowerment and sexualorientation. A lot of critics made the case that, as a straightwhite Jewish male, he just didn't ``get'' Alice Walker's book.<

    It is truly a double- edged sword. There are things that ``we''_ we being anyone of a certain race, color, creed, gender,religious upbringing, regional identity, sexual orientation,whatever—get that ``they''—they being anyone not of that race,color, creed, etc.—don't.<

    After much hair-tearing and head- scratching, my feeling is thatidentity and affinity matter, but they cannot absolutely dictate adirector's choices as to what material to tackle. To paraphrase theRev. Martin Luther King Jr., the content of their talent, not thecolor of their skin (or sexuality, religion, etc.) is ultimatelywhat matters most. Let's say someone was going to do a remake of``The Diary of Anne Frank.'' Further, let's say the choice ofdirector was between Jerry Lewis, who is Jewish, and Julie Dash(``Daughters of the Dust''), who is not. Who would you choose?<

    Perhaps the late director William Wyler, a master moviemakerresponsible for such diverse films as ``Wuthering Heights,'' ``Mrs.Miniver,'' ``Roman Holiday,'' ``The Best Years of Our Lives'' and``Funny Girl,'' had the best take on all this. After his 1959 film``Ben-Hur'' won a record-breaking 11 Oscars, he famously joked,``It took a Jew to make a really good movie about Christ.''<

    Would anyone have preferred Ed Wood?<

    (Eleanor Ringel writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)< .

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    `THE SUN AT MIDDAY': COLORFUL FAMILY MADE FOR MEMOIRS

    By MICHIKO KAKUTANI=

    c.1997 N.Y. Times News Service=

    Toward the end of this affecting memoir, Gini Alhadeff writes ofthe ability possessed by her uncle Piero and his lover to turn``life into anecdote, and anecdote into language, so that anexpression we used at any time among ourselves, once remembered,could recall precisely the atmosphere of all that had surroundedit.''

    Ms. Alhadeff shares a similar storytelling gift, and in ``TheSun at Midday,'' she uses it to conjure up the lives of her familymembers and the far-flung homes they came to inhabit in the courseof a century, from the palatial house she grew up in in Egypt (itsgarden has since been replaced by three apartment buildings and amosque) to the two-room apartment she now rents in Manhattan. It isa story of dislocation and exile, a story of one woman's search forher past in the interstices of familial memory.

    The author, fluent in half a dozen languages, was born inAlexandria and has lived in Cairo, Khartoum, Tokyo, London andChianti, as well as New York City. She describes herself as a kindof cultural Zelig. ``I was sent to Florence and became Italian,''she writes, ``to England and became English, to New York and becamea New Yorker, if not an American. I am the worst of the chameleons:I have swallowed several ethnic identities whole and no single onelords it over the others.''

    ``I sometimes find it hard to distinguish between identity andmimicry,'' she goes on. ``At this rate, it is easy to see that ourorigins will soon have become invisible.''

    The story of Ms. Alhadeff's family is a tale of multipleidentities and metamorphosis—and in a sense, the Jewish diaspora.Ms. Alhadeff's family on both her mother's and father's sides wereSephardic Jews who lived in Andalusia until the Inquisition. Fromthere, her father's ancestors moved to Rhodes, where their businessflourished: Salomon Alhadeff Fils, family legend has it, was at onetime ``the main commercial and banking firm in the Middle East,''controlling 90 percent of the Rhodes economy, the export of cotton,sesame and figs.

    Rhodes was then an Italian colony, and when Mussolini's raciallaws were passed in 1938, the family relocated to Alexandria, whereMs. Alhadeff's father met and married her mother, herself thedescendant of a distinguished family that had built (and lost) afortune in cotton.

    The couple converted to Catholicism soon after having theirfirst son, a decision no doubt shaped in part by the Nazis'internment of one of Alhadeff's brothers. By the '60s, the familywas living in Tokyo and Ms. Alhadeff was sent to a Catholic girlsschool and taught to sing ``Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.'' Shesays she had no idea she was Jewish until she was nearly 20 andarrived in New York.

    Ms. Alhadeff does not relate these events in a straightforwardmanner but reveals them bit by bit through an oblique, fragmentednarrative that loops backward and forward in time, doubling back onitself like a serpentine maze. Because the resulting book is sowillfully elliptical, because there are so many aunts and unclesand great-grandparents, the reader frequently wishes that a familytree had been provided with the book to offer a cursory guidelineto the author's myriad ancestors and their peregrinations.

    Still, Ms. Alhadeff's portraits of her relatives are remarkablyvivid, drawn with both the emotional insight of a novelist and ajournalist's unforgiving eye.

    But while she does not flinch from disclosing painful secrets ofher own—including a longtime adulterous affair and the abortionof a fetus with Down syndrome—there is a dignity and reserve toher revelations, a refusal to court self-pity that makes this bookfeel more like a Chekhovian rumination than one of thoseconfessional inventories so popular in America today.

    In the course of the book, Ms. Alhadeff introduces us to hercousin Pierre, who converted to Catholicism and became a priest: apriest who learned to shoot with William Burroughs and who playedfootsie with Robert Mapplethorpe, a priest who ``drops names theway certain women put on too many jewels.'' We also meet UncleAldo's wife, Mariuccia Mandelli, who founded the fashion houseKrizia in the '50s, built a business empire and acquired an islandin the Caribbean.

    There's Uncle Nissim, who spent a year in Auschwitz andBuchenwald and passed himself off as a Frenchman of Russiandescent. There's Aunt Rachel, who calls Uncle Nissim—now agynecologist in Queens—seven or eight times a day to discuss hermedical complaints. And finally there's her grandmother's sister,Nelly—a ``woman whose bookshelves were lined with read and rereadoriginal editions of Corneille, Moliere, Racine''—who moved inwith the Alhadeffs and devoted herself to the care and maintenanceof their underwear and socks.

    Like Andre Aciman's stunning memoir ``Out of Egypt'' (1994),which also chronicled the life and exile of a well-to-doAlexandrian family, ``The Sun at Midday'' evokes a world of luxuryand ease in pre-Nasser Egypt. ``Everyone went to Europe in thesummer and sent their cooks to the Cordon Bleu in Paris,'' Ms.Alhadeff's cousin Pierre recalls.

    Women spent their days shopping and getting fitted for newgowns; at night, they adorned themselves with jewels and furs to goto dinner. Each year, Ms. Alhadeff's maternal grandparents tookfriends and relatives by boat from Alexandria to Venice and back,holidays that often lasted three months.

    That Alexandrian world of wealth and privilege, however, came toan abrupt end. After the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, growinganti-Semitism and the nationalization of more and more businessesforced Ms. Alhadeff's family to pack their bags once again. Hergrandfather's cotton business went bankrupt, and he spent the last20 years of his life dependent on a son-in-law and grandsons. Asfor the rest of the family, it dispersed to England, Italy and theUnited States.

    Later, the 45-year marriage of Ms. Alhadeff's parents also cameto a close when her father left home for a younger woman. In somerespects, however, Ms. Alhadeff says their marriage isn't reallyover: ``They had three children—that is all that history willrecord: genetic continuity, and so, memory.''

    Memory, in this case, that has been articulated and preserved inan eloquently observed book that recreates, if not recaptures, theelusive past.

    PUBLICATION NOTES:

    `THE SUN AT MIDDAY'

    Tales of a Mediterranean Family

    By Gini Alhadeff

    226 pages. Pantheon Books. $23.

    <

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