Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Removing Anti-Zionist Barbs from Monty Python's "Life of Brian"

Recently, I read somewhere that some rabbis were very unhappy with Monty Python's film, The Life of Brian, when it first came out. Indeed, according to the New York Times (Aug. 28, 1979; p. C8) several American rabbinical organizations, including the Rabbinical Allianceof American and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, "condemned" the film as "blasphemous," a "crime against religion," and "a vicious attack upon Judaism and the Bible ..."

Naturally, I wanted to watch the film again now that I have those special sunglasses that help me see things more clearly. Well, I can see what upset the rabbis but according to a post by Eric Verlo at Not My Tribe there's even more to the story.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of most of Verlo's post but I can say that it is true that "The Criterion edition of Monty Python's Life of Brian has some" deleted scenes and that those scenes do indeed appear to have their own deletions.

There is the scene that includes the first appearance of "Otto, the Nazirene" (pictured above). Verlo says that the first Otto scene appeared in the film's original theatrical release. I don't know if it appeared in the UK release but that doesn't seem to be the case for the US version. The Times published several articles on the controversy over the film but none of them mention Otto. In Blasphemy in the Christian world: a History, author David Nash says, "A sequence which involved a character representative of extreme forms of Zionism [that would be Otto] eventually was consigned to the cutting-room floor, in the interests of smoothing the way for the film's distribution in America." As for whether that deleted scene has been edited on the DVD release you can read Verlo's post and then watch the video below. There is definitely a jump after Otto introduces himself and that is on the DVD version, too.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010


KPLU Reports on Israeli Vets in Seattle

A local Puget Sound NPR affiliate, KPLU, has aired a fluff piece on the "Hope for Heroism" program. Check it out at " 'Hope for Heroism' Project - Israeli Soldiers Help US Vets."

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Monday, May 10, 2010


Update on Snyder v. Phelps

Right: Protesters from Illinois and Topeka line a portion of the S.W. 12th and Gage Boulevard intersection on Sunday. They were protesting the Westboro Baptist Church's picketing of soldier funerals. ANN MARIE BUSH/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL

Early last month I wrote that Harriet Robbins Ost's article is the most thorough treatment I've seen so far of the important constitutional issues in the Snyder v. Phelps Supreme Court case. Shortly after that the Marine Corps Times published "Snyder-Phelps fight has many twists, turns" by Dan Lamothe. Here's a summation of the constitutional issues from that article:
• Speech and privacy. Snyder asked the Supreme Court to review whether the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., was correct in protecting the church’s speech if it attacked a “private” figure, Snyder, concerning a private matter, the funeral. The Phelpses argued to the court that there is a “viable basis” to saying Snyder is not a private figure with regard to his son’s death because he had already granted media interviews. The church also said its protests are focused on public issues, making them protected speech.

• Speech and religion. Snyder asked the court to review whether the First Amendment, used to overturn Snyder’s initial settlement, allows the Phelpses’ freedom of speech to trump Snyder’s right to mourn his son in a private religious ceremony. The church has countered by saying its members picketed on a public street, on issues that were of public interest.

• Funeral attendees’ rights. Snyder’s lawyers say that even if the appellate court’s decision to uphold the Phelpses’ free speech was appropriate, it failed to consider that Snyder was a “captive audience” at his son’s funeral. A federal appeals court already has ruled in another case involving the church that the government is allowed to protect private citizens from unwanted communication when they cannot avoid it, Snyder points out. The Phelpses say the argument is not relevant, since the previous case focused on whether a state law banning picketing within 300 feet of a funeral was constitutional — a separate issue.
Today, the Marine Corps Times published "Former Marine protests funeral picketers" which discusses a protest against the Westboro Baptist Church on their home turf, it started last month. That's a better way to deal with Fred Phelps and his church instead of trying to set dangerous legal precedents that erode everyone's First Amendment rights. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot about the slavish fools who don't understand or don't care that freedom of expression means nothing if it is only accorded to those who don't rock the boat or offend the delicate sensibilities of the 'patriotically correct,' etc. masses.

See also: "Attorneys: First Amendment doesn't fully protect funeral protesters" by The Associated Press (26 May 2010) on the First Amendment Center web site.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010


Great Elton John BDS Parody: "B ... B … Bibi and his tanks"

HEY ELTON from John Greyson on Vimeo.

Palestinian civil society has called on Elton John to respect its boycott call and cancel his June 17th concert in Tel Aviv. If he does so, he'll be joining Santana and Gil-Scott Heron, who recently cancelled their spring concerts in Israel. This video suggests six reasons why Elton should join the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement.

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WA VA Director Collaborates with "Jewish Extremists" in Pairing US & Israeli Vets

In his latest update, John Lee, Director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, reports: "Several months ago I was contacted by Rabbi Chaim Levine, President of an organization known as Hope for Heroism." He continues: "This year Hope for Heroism will bring a group of injured Israeli Soldiers to the Seattle area to participate in a series of events with disabled U.S. Soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. A picnic is being held on May 11 where the two groups will participate in several activities ..."

Late last month, Seattle journalist Larry Johnson and the Seattle PostGlobe both published an open letter from Veterans for Peace, Greater Seattle, Chapter 92 to wounded Israeli veterans participating in Hope for Heroism's planned visit to Seattle this month. Seattle Veterans for Peace were alerted to the program by a January 20, 2010, blog post on the Seattle PI web site. The post is entitled "Wounded Soldiers Helping Wounded Soldiers" and starts out: "Peace. Bravery. Hope."

It reports Hope for Heroism is "a non-profit organization created and run by wounded soldiers from Israel's elite Duvdevan Unit (Special Forces) to help other wounded soldiers." The post touts the success of Hope for Heroism's peer mentoring program: "When each soldier is assigned a mentor to guide them through their recovery, the recently wounded see that their steps through recovery can lead to a positive future - as many of the mentors have and will continue to go on to be diplomats and entrepreneurs that Israel needs." The obvious goal of "Hope for Heroism" is to make sure these wounded soldiers don't ever seriously question what they have done and the price they have paid. The goal is that they keep the faith with the violent ideology of Zionism, i.e. Jewish supremacism in Palestine.

Just how peaceful and brave can these wounded Israeli soldiers be? Are they heroes? Do heroes kill Lebanese, Palestinian, and other civilians in droves "for the safety of the Jewish people." What hope is there for wounded veterans in a program that justifies crimes done in the name of a racist, apartheid state? According to, "Targeting to Kill: Israel's Undercover Units," a 1992 report by the Palestine Human Rights information Center, Duvdevan was one of two undercover units formed in 1988 by then-Prime Minister and current Labor Party chief and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak "to infiltrate and disable or eliminate Palestinian activists in the West Bank and Gaza" during the First Intifada. Some of these killings were also documented in Al-Haq's 2001 briefing "Wilful Killing: The Assassination of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by the Israeli Security Forces." And, indeed, evidence suggests that Duvdevan troops are, among other things, assassins, volunteers in Israeli "death squads". They also participated in the 2002 arrest of Palestinian parliamentarian Marwan Barghouti in Ramallah.

The video below shows just one example of some of these "brave" soldiers in action. Released by the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, it details the 2006 killing of 'Itaf Zalat by Duvdevan soldiers in her West Bank home.

The above mentioned Chaim Levine is the Executive Director of Living Judaism, a local branch of Aish haTorah. He grew up in the US but exercised his 'birth right' to move to occupied Palestine (Israel). Levine's wife, Techiya Levine is the Co-Executive Director. She also grew up in the US but moved to occupied Palestine. They're both also personally affiliated with Aish haTorah, which is a militantly Zionist religious organization that, among other things, co-sponsors Hasbara fellowships with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Aish haTorah is also linked with the infamous "Obsession" video and possibly indirectly with the torture of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison. In "The Jewish Extremists Behind 'Obsession' " the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, no raging anti-Zionist, described Aish haTorah as "just about the most fundamentalist movement in Judaism today."

So, one wonders why the director of the Washington State VA is working with "Jewish extremists" to "help" rehabilitate wounded Israeli troops and link them up with wounded American vets. Isn't already bad enough that the American vets were wounded in US wars fought in no small part for Israel?

See also:

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Saturday, May 08, 2010


Quotable: "Protest that endures ..."

Much protest is naive; it expects quick, visible improvement and despairs and gives up when such improvement does not come. Protesters who hold out for longer have perhaps understood that success is not the proper goal. If protest depended on success, there would be little protest of any durability or significance. History simply affords too little evidence that anyone's individual protest is of any use. Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.

Source: Attributed to "A Poem of Difficult Hope" in What Are People For? by Wendell Berry.

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Quotable: Property & People

There is no better place to see the priority that this system establishes of property over people than in court.

Source: Martín Espada as quoted in "Songs for América" by Adam Hyla in Real Change, May 5, 2010.

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