Bob Schwartz

Category: World

Netanyahu Scapegoats the Palestinians for Holocaust

The Jews killed Jesus. The Palestinians started the Holocaust. So who’s the scapegoat now?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that in the early days leading up to World War II, Hitler visited the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and it was that Palestinian leader who came up with the idea of the Final Solution:

“Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here.’ ‘So what should I do with them?’ he asked. He said, ‘Burn them.’

Historians have already weighed in heavily on how historically bogus this is, given that, among other things, Hitler published Mein Kampf three years before that meeting. The assertion has been described as “jaw-dropping”, with even friendly politicians “agog” at this dark nonsense.

Just when you thought it was the Jews who have for centuries been scurrilously blamed for every terrible thing, Netanyahu goes and turns the tables and scapegoats somebody else. Not just any somebody else. The enemy within and on the borders, the one that you could happily live without.

It appears that the very unpopular Prime Minister is trying to take lessons from Donald Trump, with whom he shares the kinship of attending Wharton. The strategy: Demonize those unwanted immigrants and/or natives. Say anything, no matter how incendiary, explosive, ridiculous or unrelated to fact about the enemies within, and people will love it. And you.

Just one glitch. Trump doesn’t lead a nation at the center of global conflict; actually he doesn’t lead any nation at all. And if America has a history of scapegoating, which it does (take your pick among religious, cultural, political and ethnic groups), it doesn’t compare in long-term viciousness to what the Jews have endured.

Starting, of course, with the big one. In fact, if you look closely at Netanyahu’s indictment, it is not that the Palestinians actually ran the death camps. They just planted the idea, whispering in the ear of an emperor, who was happy to carry out the deed. This time a German emperor, instead of Roman one.

Who’s the scapegoat now?

No Refugees in the Democratic Debate

Adding insult to their injury, Syrian refugees were missing from last week’s Democratic debate.

There were some other important issues mentioned, often presented in sound bites, but many more conspicuous by their absence. But you would think the party that considers itself the more progressive, caring, humane and globally sensitive would take the opportunity to at least mention to the 15 million viewers that we are experiencing one of the biggest humanitarian crises since the end of World War II. The same goes, maybe goes double, for the individual candidates who had the floor and could have just once brought it up.

(Note: Jim Webb did raise refugees while talking about his wife, who is a refugee from Vietnam. But that was not in the context of the current crisis.)

The explanation of this is simple and typical, though not particularly happy. Raising questions you can’t answer, or can’t answer with some vague, equivocal, pointless comment is to be avoided. Either voters will realize that you have no answer, or if you do answer from your conscience and heart, you just might lose votes. Either way, as a candidate, you’re screwed.

This isn’t a Democratic purview. When Republicans get together in their overstuffed debate scrum, there isn’t much to be said about the refugee crisis, except that it is an obvious ruse to allow Islamic terrorists to enter our country. It does seem like an elaborate scheme—displacing millions of men, women, and children just to get a chance to disrupt American stability—but you know how tricky those people can be.

And so, the next time a Democratic candidate wants to tell one of those rise from adversity stories that is a sure fire way to seem human and humane, maybe he or she can mention the shared and horrific adversity that won’t just go away—even if he or she has some magic plan to “fix” Syria (which he or she doesn’t). Maybe the next time, at the podium or on a debate stage. Those refugees will certainly still be there, in an increasing hell on earth.

Hiroshima: The Year 70 AH and I Ching Heaven

Flag of Hiroshima City

How special is the atomic bomb? So special that many nations want one, many nations have more than one, and yet despite how crazy and desperate some nations have been in the past decades, only one nation has ever used one. A hoarded treasure so dark that it is displayed and demonstrated but not deployed.

So special that it should be the zero of a standard human calendar. Just as Jews measure time from the creation of the world, Christians from the birth of Jesus, Muslims from the hijra from Mecca to Medina, we might all measure time from August 6, 1945.

The U.S. did drop atomic bombs. Twice in three days (August 6 on Hiroshima, August 9 on Nagasaki). And divided history in half, before and after. Before, things might be brutal, tens of millions might be slaughtered, but it would take superhuman effort, and would be followed by an opportunity, however arduous, to rebuild and repopulate. After, in these times, our times, there is a theoretical prospect of erasing some, most, or all of the world and its people. Not easily, but not that hard either, leaving behind a wasteland the size of a city or country or continent.

Above is a picture of the Hiroshima municipal flag, adopted by the city in 1896, almost fifty years before the weapon that destroyed and damaged so many lives. Historians still debate the effect and necessity of the Bomb in hastening the end of the war with Japan, an argument heightened when talking about the second bomb.

On this 70th anniversary, 70 After Hiroshima, let us focus on the flag.

Brief research doesn’t reveal much about the flag’s design. But students of Asian culture might see in it one of the eight I Ching trigrams, since the Chinese oracle has been widely used across Asian nations for thousands of years.

This particular trigram, composed of three unbroken lines, is Qian. When doubled it forms Hexagram 1 of the I Ching, also known as Qian. Heaven. The Creative. Sublime success.

I Ching Hexagram 1

John Minford explains in his recent translation:

Heaven above Heaven. Pure Yang. This is the first of eight Hexagrams formed by doubling a Trigram of the same Name. The word chosen for the Trigram/Hexagram Name, Qian, whatever its original meaning may have been (and there are many understandings of this), came in later times to be used more and more as a shorthand for Heaven, emblem of Yang Energy and Creativity.

The classic Wilhelm/Baynes translation notes:

The first hexagram is made up of six unbroken lines. These unbroken lines stand for the primal power, which is lightgiving, active, strong, and of the spirit. The hexagram is consistently strong in character, and since it is without weakness, its essence is power or energy. Its image is heaven. Its energy is represented as unrestricted by any fixed conditions in space and is therefore conceived of as motion. Time is regarded as the basis of this motion. Thus the hexagram includes also the power of time and the power of persisting in time, that is, duration.

The power represented by the hexagram is to be interpreted in a dual sense—in terms of its action on the universe and of its action on the world of men. In relation to the universe, the hexagram expresses the strong, creative action of the Deity. In relation to the human world, it denotes the creative action of the holy man or sage, of the ruler or leader of men, who through his power awakens and develops their higher nature.


THE CREATIVE works sublime success,
Furthering through perseverance.

We have come a long way in 70 years, and whether or not that trajectory is to everyone’s liking, here we are. That we have managed not to drop any more nuclear bombs or fire any nuclear missiles might be a miracle, or might just be a sign of self-interest in survival coming before everything else.

That we did drop those bombs was a high price to pay for learning just how much damage the “good guys” were capable of and might feel compelled to perpetrate when dire circumstances seemed to call for it. It’s a lesson in self-awareness that we are still learning, more or less studiously. It’s a lesson that the traditions try to help us with. The devil, for example, is not an arm’s length third party who bargains and cajoles. The devil is in us, and handling it is one of our missions. The I Ching is clear on the fluid dynamics of our lives and the world, knowing that we and it flow this way and that, and heaven can be hell for a while, maybe deep and for a long while, but not forever.

Islamic State: Using Arithmetic to Solve Complex Equations

Riemann - Zeta Function

We are not playing three-dimensional chess in the Middle East—partly because all of us will go crazy if we hear that clichéd term one more time.

Instead, we are using arithmetic to solve very complex equations.

The Clay Mathematics Institute offers the famous Millennium Prizes, $1,000,000 each for solving their current list of unsolved mathematical problems.

Here is description of the Riemann Hypothesis (a manuscript by Riemann of the Zeta function is pictured above):

Some numbers have the special property that they cannot be expressed as the product of two smaller numbers, e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7, etc. Such numbers are called prime numbers, and they play an important role, both in pure mathematics and its applications.

The distribution of such prime numbers among all natural numbers does not follow any regular pattern. However, the German mathematician G.F.B. Riemann (1826 – 1866) observed that the frequency of prime numbers is very closely related to the behavior of an elaborate function

ζ(s) = 1 + 1/2s + 1/3s + 1/4s + …

called the Riemann Zeta function. The Riemann hypothesis asserts that all interesting solutions of the equation

ζ(s) = 0

lie on a certain vertical straight line.

This has been checked for the first 10,000,000,000 solutions. A proof that it is true for every interesting solution would shed light on many of the mysteries surrounding the distribution of prime numbers.

Right now, in the early days of the campaign against the Islamic State, we are using arithmetic that goes something like this:

1 (U.S.) + x (number of participating nations with wildly different involvement and interests) – IS = conditional victory

The truth is much closer to complex mathematics, as complex as any we may have ever seen on the world stage. There are probably behind-the-scenes discussions that are more subtle, but here in the public we are somehow not supposed to bother our heads about that. The question of why we publicly don’t deal with it this way may be because our leaders can’t handle the truth or because they believe citizen/voters can’t handle the truth or, because of politics and wanting to be seen as doing something, a little of both.

Solving the problem is worth much more than a million dollars. But solving it will take more than simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. There was a time when the world was like that, susceptible to those simple solutions. But those days and that world are gone. Our leaders don’t have to be able to attempt a solution to the Riemann Hypothesis. But they do have to recognize when grade school, old school strategies—when simple arithmetic—will no longer work.

The Ukrainian Favor

Ukrainian Contingent Ends Iraq Mission

Commander of the Ukrainian contingent in Diwaniya presents a certificate and gift to
a member of the Qadisiya Province Iraqi Police, during an end of mission ceremony
at Camp Echo, Dec. 9, 2008.

“Are you asking as a friend or calling in a chit? A friend would not ask me to do this.”
“A friend just won’t hold it against you if you don’t.”
Adapted from Suits, USA Network

In 2008, Ukrainian troops officially left the U.S.-instigated Iraq War. Since 2003, 5,000 Ukrainian troops had served there (the third largest contingent in the multinational force) and 18 soldiers had died. No service or sacrifice can be minimized, even if these numbers pale in comparison to the American investment. Ukraine answered the call with honor and valor, as it had in other international conflicts, presumably because there are principles at stake, including the principle that modern internationalism means a commitment to mutual trust and support.

At the ceremony marking the end of the Ukrainian mission, Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, deputy commanding general for operations, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said:

We know that violence is at its lowest level in five years, and the Iraqi Security Forces, partnering with Coalition forces, will take the lead in defending their country. And soon, the Iraqi people will vote in the future of their country in the provincial elections. These changes were not brought about naturally, but were instead brought about by the dedication and the hard work of the men and women from the nations such as yours. You helped create the Iraqi Security Force and instilled in them a solid foundation of skills essential to the future security and prosperity of Iraq.

To Iraq’s benefit, and through Ukraine’s efforts, you have helped ensure a higher quality of life for the people of Iraq. Ukraine forces made contributions that enabled all Coalition partners to be successful here, but it has not been without cost. A precious 18 Ukrainian Soldiers have died here.

Ukraine is asking for help from anyone to hold their country together. Under the circumstances, that is going to be difficult and may not be possible.

Are they asking as a friend or calling in a chit? If we don’t provide adequate or effective help, will they hold it against us? Should they?

Afghanistan Loves Russia

Hamid Karzai - Congress

Karzai and Putin sitting in a tree

In 1979, Russia invaded Afghanistan. The U.S. supported the insurgents who eventually chased Russia out of Afghanistan. In 1989, Russia left Afghanistan.

In 2001, al-Queda attacked the U.S on September 11. That same year, the U.S. sent troops to Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power and to eliminate their safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

In 2004, Hamid Karzai was elected President of Afghanistan. That image above shows him addressing a joint session of Congress on June 15, 2004, with Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert applauding.

In 2011, the U.S. found and killed Osama bin Laden. Plans were made to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, but not before thousands of U.S. and other allied troops died, in the longest war in U.S. history.

In 2013, negotiations began with President Karzai for an agreement that would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in a support role after withdrawal. President Karzai, not wanting to appear to be in friendly partnership with the U.S., has so far failed to reach such an agreement.

Today, President Karzai announced that he supports the Russian position in Crimea, putting him in the same league as Syria, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela. We still have troops in Afghanistan. The troops who died on behalf of President Karzai are still dead. The Afghans who died at the hands of the Russians are still dead. There are no reports yet about whether Dick Cheney or Dennis Hastert are still applauding.

There are no words to make sense of this. So instead, here is the Afghan flag, along with an explanation of the flag from the ever-authoritative CIA Factbook. Note especially the part about the Afghan flag having more changes in it than any other national flag in the 20th century. As always, a funny old world.

Afghanistan Flag

Three equal vertical bands of black (hoist side), red, and green, with the national emblem in white centered on the red band and slightly overlapping the other two bands; the center of the emblem features a mosque with pulpit and flags on either side, below the mosque are numerals for the solar year 1298 (1919 in the Gregorian calendar, the year of Afghan independence from the UK); this central image is circled by a border consisting of sheaves of wheat on the left and right, in the upper-center is an Arabic inscription of the Shahada (Muslim creed) below which are rays of the rising sun over the Takbir (Arabic expression meaning “God is great”), and at bottom center is a scroll bearing the name Afghanistan; black signifies the past, red is for the blood shed for independence, and green can represent either hope for the future, agricultural prosperity, or Islam Afghanistan had more changes to its national flag in the 20th century than any other country; the colors black, red, and green appeared on most of them.

Putin’s Moldovan Invasion v. Dynasty’s Moldavian Massacre

Dynasty Royal Wedding
A cliffhanger is a cliffhanger. Russia may be about to invade its neighbor Moldova, based on troop buildup along the border. Almost thirty years ago, on May 15, 1985, the ABC series Dynasty ended Season 5 by leaving the world hanging, as terrorists invaded and shot up the royal wedding of Prince Michael of Moldavia and Amanda Carrington.

(Note: To clarify the Moldavia/Moldova confusion. Moldavia is a traditional region that now straddles the nations of Romania and Moldova. The language of Moldova is Romanian, and the Romanian name for Moldavia is Moldova. The producers of Dynasty may or may not have been aware of this, or that Moldova was at the time a part of the Soviet empire, or much else geographic. Dynasty was not a documentary or reality series. “Prince Michael of Moldavia” just sounded so cool and romantic, as was the fake country.)

Who would survive this now infamous Moldavian Massacre (you can watch it here)? Viewers of Dynasty, then #1 in the ratings, would have to wait all summer to find out. Meanwhile, that season-ending episode reportedly attracted 60 million viewers.

Will Putin invade Moldova, claiming that just as with Crimea, Moldovans are pleading to join up with their Russian friend and neighbor (and former ruler)? How will the world respond? How will Putin respond to that? That’s a real cliffhanger. And even though Putin seems to be playing a part in a costume epic, in which he is the royal hero, a sort of Putin’s Dynasty, this is no television series. Perhaps Czar Vladimir of Russia will wake up and see that.

Anschluss 1938

History doesn’t have to be analogical, though that is often tempting. Instead, it can just be generally informative, not predictive about how particular parties may act and should react, but just as lessons in the variety of global experience.

In March 1938—the anniversary just passed last week—Hitler annexed Austria, an event now known as the Anschluss. Here, for general information, and not necessarily for comparison, are excerpts from the BBC Bitesize site:

Hitler wanted all German-speaking nations in Europe to be a part of Germany. To this end, he had designs on re-uniting Germany with his native homeland, Austria. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, however, Germany and Austria were forbidden to be unified.

Hitler also wanted control of the largely German-speaking area within Czechoslovakia, called the Sudetenland. Importantly, Austria shared a border with this area.

In an attempt to realise his goals, Hitler was determined to destabilise Austria and undermine its independence. His ultimate goal was anschluss (union) with Austria…

The new Austrian Chancellor, Schuschnigg tried to preserve the country from German invasion by trying not to give Hitler an excuse for aggression. He tried to co-operate with Hitler as much as possible…

Hitler ordered Austrian Nazis to create as much trouble and destruction as possible in order to put pressure on Schuschnigg. If Hitler could claim that Austrian law and order had broken down he could justify marching German troops into Vienna to restore peace – despite the fact that he was responsible for the chaos in the first place.

Four days in March

Wednesday 9th March 1938

On the 9 March 1938, in a desperate act, Schuschnigg announced a referendum whereby the Austrian people would decide for themselves if they wanted to be a part of Hitler’s Germany. Hitler was furious. If the Austrians voted against joining Germany his excuse for invasion would be ruined.

Thursday 10th March 1938

Hitler told his generals to prepare for the invasion of Austria. He ordered Schuschnigg to call off the referendum. Knowing he would receive no help from Italy, and that France and Britain would not interfere in Hitler’s plans, Schuschnigg conceded. He called off the referendum and resigned.

The Nazi Austrian Interior Minister, Seyss-Inquart, was ordered by Hitler to ask for German help in restoring order in Austria.

Friday 11th March 1938

Hitler reassured Czechoslovakia that they had nothing to fear.

Saturday 12th March 1938

German troops marched into Austria unopposed. Hitler now had control of Austria. A month later, Hitler held a rigged referendum. The results showed that the Austrian people approved of German control of their country.

Note: Czechoslovakia indeed had something to fear. That same year, Germany invaded the German-speaking Czech region, the Sudetenland, and ultimately conquered the entire nation. It was that invasion that prompted the intervention of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who tried to “make peace” with Hitler at the infamous Munich conference.

In 1968, exactly thirty years later, the Prague Spring of political and cultural liberalization led to an invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. Fortunately, the spirit of that spring was never fully crushed, and inspired a flowering of sometimes secret creativity and rebellion.

Ukraine: What’s Happening on the Weak Side?

The weak side in basketball does not suggest weakness. It is the part of the court away from the ball. This doesn’t mean that the players there are weak or that the action there is unimportant. On the best teams, there can be almost as much happening on the weak side as there is on the strong side. Players may be running around, positioning themselves to take advantage, either by scoring or by taking away the ball. On the lesser teams, weak side players sometimes seem to drift aimlessly, or just stand around, depending on someone else to somehow work it out. If you don’t have the ball, what else is there to do?

We know exactly where the ball is in the current Ukraine crisis. And we know exactly who has the ball. The question is what the players on the weak side are doing. Are there plays carefully diagramed by the coach, practiced for just such a situation? Is there a player away from the ball, away from the basket, just waiting to heroically steal and drive all the way down court? Or are the weak side players drifting, trying to remember plays they once learned or improvise new ones?

The shot clock is running.

Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice

Beyond Anger
The crisis in Ukraine is deepening, and with that lots of thought, opinion, and calls for action. It may seem like the wrong time for self-awareness and contemplation. Enough talk. This is a Nike world, so let’s just do it.

Whether it is about the Russian invasion of Ukraine or about unfairness in our own nation, our desire for justice and aversion to injustice is a good thing. But it can be so powerful and overwhelming that we easily get lost. It isn’t that we shouldn’t act decisively; it’s that in our zeal, we can be confused or overly certain about what the right decision is.

Last summer, in the face of terrible killings in India that had profound implications for Buddhist communities, Shambhala Publications published a free book you can get, Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice.

The publisher explains:

In July 2013, multiple bombs exploded in Bodh Gaya, India, in and around the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In response, Shambhala Publications offers this free eBook consisting of excerpts from some of our books from a variety of Buddhist traditions that encapsulate values of love and nonviolence, which we can all practice ourselves.

You may not be a Buddhist, or care about Buddhist philosophy. You may or may not be angry about what is going on around the world, or about what some people say about how to solve the problems. You may believe that you have a better way, and you may be right. It’s just that no matter what, a different perspective can always be helpful.

In a section of the book called Conflict Resolution: Anger Is the Problem, The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje talks about Global Conflicts, Global Solutions:

When bigger and more powerful nations step in to offer guidance to other nations, many of the same principles apply as when individuals intervene to resolve interpersonal conflicts. A sincere motivation is absolutely key, and on top of that, the intervention must be done with sensitivity and skill.

In this small world we live in, nations coexist interdependently. The actions of one country affect others deeply. Countries with more power have the potential to influence others more. I believe that with this power comes a great deal of responsibility, and that includes the responsibility not to exercise one’s power over others in pursuit of the private interests of one’s own nation….

Before you approve the actions proposed, you should be confident that they are in the best interest not only of your country, but of the world as a whole. To be a responsible, conscious citizen, it is important that you think for yourself, and take universal peace, stability, and well-being into account. Use your discernment and take a stand that serves the whole world, not just one corner of it.

Even when we are sure that the motivation to contribute positively to the well-being of the world is sincere, we also have to scrutinize the means used to pursue that aim. For example, in the name of bringing freedom to other countries, weapons are produced and wars are waged. As powerful countries themselves expand their arsenals and wage more war, the peace and stability of their own country and of the world are both placed at risk.

Again, a pure motivation needs to be applied with wisdom. I feel very strongly that war and fighting are not an effective means to bring about peace or prosperity, stability or freedom. I am certain that history will demonstrate war to be ineffective and counterproductive in the long run.

I have met many people from powerful countries who are deeply unhappy with how their leaders wield their power internationally. This seems especially common when people have failed in their efforts to urge the decision makers to pursue a more compassionate and skillful course. Some of these people become angry at their own governments. In other cases, people direct their anger at the governments of other countries.

If you find yourself angry at any government, please recollect how harmful anger is to yourself and others, and steady yourself with a firm resolve. Make an unwavering commitment to yourself that you will not allow your mind to become perturbed. Be immovable—unshakable from a peaceful state of mind.