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Quick Takes: Whither the Democratic Socialists of America?

by Ralph Seliger   BACK IN 1982, I witnessed the merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC — usually pronounced “dee-sock”) with the New American Movement to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Nearly ten years before, DSOC had split from the Social Democrats USA (SD), itself the main remnant of the old […]

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Lebanese Filmmaker Rises above BDS

by Ralph Seliger Discussed in this essay: The Insult, a drama by filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, 2017, 112 minutes.   AT THE CENTER of The Insult, directed and co-written by Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, are the enduring passions and grievances from the civil war that consumed his homeland from 1975 until 1990, killing an estimated 150,000 and […]

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Quick Takes: America is NOT So Great

by Ralph Seliger   IT FRUSTRATES me when politicians, including Democrats, feel obliged to intone how the U.S. is the “greatest country in the world.” The one notable exception on the 2016 campaign trail was Bernie Sanders, who looked toward Western social democracies — explicitly mentioning Denmark but clearly implying most countries in Western and Central […]

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Quick Takes: On Jerusalem, Trump Plays to His Base . . .

WHILE THREATENING PEACE AND UNDERMINING ZIONISM by Ralph Seliger   THE PRESIDENT’S DECISION to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is a typical Trump move, pleasing his strongest supporters while doing nothing concretely positive. He’s winning kudos from Evangelical Christians and hard-right Zionists, including, most importantly, Sheldon Adelson, who backed his presidential campaign to the tune […]

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Quick Takes: Obama’s Wrong Turn on Syria

by Ralph Seliger   HELL ON EARTH: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, a new documentary by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested (broadcasted on the National Geographic Channel and available for purchase via YouTube), has reinforced my view that Obama was wrong to suddenly reverse his initial 2013 decision to lead a […]

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Quick Takes: ‘Zionism’ Has Won — Time to Move On

by Ralph Seliger   LIEL LEIBOVITZ, the most frequent contributor to the high-toned online mag Tablet, is very talented as a writer but maddeningly superficial as a thinker. Emotionally seduced by rightwing Zionist arguments, he tends to see things in black and white. In a recent piece, he claims that the left-Zionist Meretz party is […]

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Quick Takes: Holocaust Memorials Without Jews

by Ralph Seliger   REMEMBER THAT Jew-less statement from the Trump White House on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, dated January 27, 2017? Its actual wording wasn’t terrible: It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the […]

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A Solution: End the Korean War

by Ralph Seliger   THIS U.S.-NORTH KOREA crisis is threatening to blow up, literally, as never before. There’s no question that North Korea is governed by a dangerous and odious regime. And regardless of whether North Korea has a hydrogen bomb (a claim now widely believed), we know it has (or will shortly have) missiles with the […]

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Jews and the History of “Whiteness”

by Ralph Seliger This links to a Portside re-post of a Forward piece by Rebecca Pierce, a Jewish African-American who is a leader in the Black Lives Matter movement. Pierce correctly argues that the claim that Gal Gadot, the Israeli star of Wonder Woman, is not white is silly and perhaps even insulting — but I am troubled […]

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How Russian Intervention was Decisive in Electing Trump

by Ralph Seliger THAT MEETING of Donald Junior, Kushner, and Manafort with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Clinton goes to the cusp of violating the law — even if it resulted in nothing. Why so? Because there’s a federal law that prohibits receiving or even seeking help from a foreign source in any U.S. election. […]

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Golda’s Missed Opportunities for Peace

by Ralph Seliger AS WE commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Israel’s remarkable military victory in the Six Day War, June 5-10 of 1967, we note with a heavy heart that it also marks the beginning of Israel’s occupation over a non-Jewish population that neither welcomed nor accepts this situation. Still, Israel’s triumph over numerically superior […]

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How Obama and Hillary Clinton Failed as Politicians

by Ralph Seliger COMPARED TO REPUBLICANS, Democrats are shockingly bad at “doing politics.” (See this December 14 New York Times op-ed, “Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans,” by Dahlia Lithwick and David S. Cohen.) For example, why isn’t the public being reminded ad nauseam of Hillary Clinton’s three-million-vote lead over Trump? With the exception […]

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Jew-Hatred: Its Rise, Fall, and Resurgence

by Ralph Seliger ANTISEMITISM, the world’s oldest, ongoing hatred, morphed from its earliest days in ancient times as a theological prejudice, with the ascendency of the Christian faith to the status of state religion of the Roman Empire, to the racist doctrines of rightwing 19th- and 20th-century European nationalists. (I prefer the British spelling of […]

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An Egalitarian Democracy in Syria?

by Ralph Seliger Discussed in this essay: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State, by Meredith Tax. Bellevue Literary Press, 2016, 336 pages. EVENTS IN DISTANT LANDS sometimes elicit the hopes, and then disillusionment, of progressive minds — e.g., the Soviet Union at its inception in the early 1920s, the anarchist workers movement in […]

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Jewish Ghosts in Poland

by Ralph Seliger POLAND IS HAUNTED by the Holocaust and the very charged history of Polish-Jewish relations. This is metaphorically dramatized in Demon, a modern-day adaptation of the dybbuk legend, made famous in a variety of literary and dramatic versions (most notably in Sh. An-ski’s oft-produced Yiddish play, The Dybbuk), in which a dead person’s […]

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Did Stalin’s Death Save Soviet Jews?

by Ralph Seliger JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN impressively combines his career as an author with eight books to his credit (written, co-authored or edited) with thirty-seven years as an Amnesty International staffer currently overseeing branch activities in New York, New Jersey and New England. He’s published biographies of Leon Trotsky, Ilya Ehrenburg and Adolf Hitler, plus books […]

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Tikkun, the Movie

by Ralph Seliger Reviewed in this essay: Tikkun, a new film by Avishai Sivan. TIKKUN is a well-made, well-acted film that’s difficult to watch — at times painfully so. It is not about the kind of social change that the kabbalistic term, tikkun olam, has come to mean in Jewish liberal circles. Instead, the film […]

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The Rightwing Bugaboo: Political Correctness

by Ralph Seliger DONALD TRUMP’S demagogic populist candidacy has included bombastic attacks on “Political Correctness” (PC). This concept has had resonance for at least twenty-five years, mostly as a convenient punching bag for Republican politicians and right-leaning commentators — their easy substitute for actually confronting issues. But is “Political Correctness” just a rightwing slur, or […]

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Auschwitz, In Focus and Out

by Ralph Seliger Reviewed in this essay: Son of Saul, a film by László Nemes. Sony Pictures Classics, 2015, 107 minutes. VIEWERS OF THE OPENING SCENE of Son of Saul, Hungary’s contender for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category, see blurry images that make many think there’s a technical problem. But once […]

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Yitzhak Rabin: The Indispensable Man?

by Ralph Seliger DURING THE SPRING OF 2014, I finally visited the Yitzhak Rabin Center, near the Tel Aviv University campus. In the words of the Jewish Virtual Library: “the museum combines state-of-the-art technology with multimedia presentations, visual images and artifacts, incorporating close to 200 short documentary films and over 1,500 still photographs obtained from […]

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How Germany’s Post-Holocaust Redemption Began

by Ralph Seliger Reviewed in this essay: Labyrinth of Lies, a film by Giulio Ricciarelli, written by Elisabeth Bartel and Giulio Ricciarelli. Sony Pictures Classics, 2014, 124 minutes. AT THE DRAMATIC CORE of Labyrinth of Lies — Germany’s nominee for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film — is a young West German prosecutor, […]

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In Support of Military Intervention to Protect Human Rights

Preventing Slaughter When Possible by Ralph Seliger From the Spring 2015 issue of Jewish Currents MY PARENTS, Polish-Jewish refugees, made their way to the United States, almost miraculously, in June, 1941. My father’s widowed mother, two sisters, a brother, and all their children were murdered as Nazi forces advanced into Soviet-occupied Galicia. We have evidence […]

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What Went Wrong? What Now?

by Ralph Seliger NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, Israeli pollsters utterly failed to predict the result. Even the exit polls, with voters  surveyed after voting, got it wrong this year — reminiscent of Binyamin Netanyahu’s first electoral triumph in 1996, when exit polls predicted a narrow victory for Shimon Peres. I attended an illuminating discourse […]

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The Other Zionist Election: The One for Americans

by Ralph Seliger THE ORGANIZATION FOUNDED IN 1897 by Theodor Herzl to establish a modern Jewish state still exists. It’s called the World Zionist Organization, and it’s guided by resolutions of the World Zionist Congress, which convenes at four-year intervals. In the United States, there is an election going on at this very moment, with […]

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How Obama and the Democrats Have Failed Us

Anticipating an Electoral Debacle by Ralph Seliger ALTHOUGH I VOTED in the New York State primary for Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, I later campaigned for Barack Obama’s election and shared the hopes of countless millions (if not billions) around the world for his success. Along with most, I’ve been disappointed. […]

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Philosophical Posturing on Israel and Palestine

by Ralph Seliger From the Autumn, 2013 issue of Jewish Currents Discussed in this essay: The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine by Ariella Azoulay & Adi Ophir, Stanford University Press, 2013, 328 pages. IT’S EASY TO DESPAIR OF A SOLUTION TO THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT. Any sensitive observer is properly outraged by human rights […]

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Saving Lives in Syria: Diplomacy Is Not Enough

Viewpoint by Ralph Seliger A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS ARE UNDERSTANDABLY WAR-WEARY, and all of us are wary of presidential overreach in conducting war. Vietnam is still the most glaring example of this usurpation of Congress’s Constitutional prerogative to declare war, but it’s happened a number of times since, as we know. And most of us […]

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Two More of the Six Million Live — in Art and Film

by Ralph Seliger SUNDAY, APRIL 7TH, MARKS HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY. This solemn day is commemorated annually by Jews around the world, recalling that from June 1941 until the end of the Second World War in Europe in May 1945, one-third of the world’s Jewish population perished in a systematic campaign of annihilation. This indelible fact […]

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Two States Are Still Better Than One

by Ralph Seliger THERE’S NO QUESTION that the vision of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is under increased attack from the left, after years of opposition and stonewalling from the right. A new volume of essays, After Zionism: One State For Israel and Palestine (edited by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor and published […]

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The Palestine Resolution and the Plight of Refugees

by Ralph Seliger IT’S MADDENING THAT THE UNITED NATIONS has again become a battleground between Arab and Jewish claims in what was the British Palestinian Mandate, rather than an instrument for ending the conflict. The original General Assembly Resolution 181, passed in November 1947, sought to resolve the issue by calling for Jewish and Arab […]

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