Sunday, October 25, 2015

McFarland, USA, Abebe Bikila, & Josia Thugwane

A review of three stories of young people who managed to transform themselves

McFarland, USA, directed by Niki Caro
Starring Kevin Costner in the title role of Jim White

Rome 1960 by David Maraniss 2008

The man South Africa Forgot - Josia Thugwane, an article by Mike Wise & Michael Mandt for ESPN, 2015

There have been many films that portray students who have had difficult lives who achieved outstanding feats with the aid of a dedicated mentor.  We might know the general outlines of these films.  However, they portray young people who didn’t appear to have a chance of a fulfilling life, transformed, to achieve clearly inspiring feats.

McFarland, USA is one of these films.  This is the true story of how Jim White coached a Latino high school cross-country team in McFarland, California.  The team members and their families worked as farm laborers producing much of the food we eat in this country.

While the core of this story is true, Hollywood changed a number of the facts in an attempt to make the story even more compelling.

The film starts out with Jim White coaching a relatively affluent suburban high school football team.  He comes into conflict with a student who didn’t have much respect for his coach or his teammates.  This part of the story was not true, but here we see a real contrast between some attitudes in affluent suburban communities, and the reality of McFarland.

In reality, Jim White started teaching in McFarland.  He taught there for many years before organizing a cross-country team for boys and girls.  The girls’ cross-country team isn’t shown in the film. 

The students at McFarland understandably felt alienated from their studies.  They would have to work in the fields before school, as well as after school.  Their future appeared to be a life of hard labor, or time spent in the local prison.

Initially Jim White had difficulty in recruiting a team.  The parents of some of these students prohibited them from practicing with the team..  If these students practiced cross-country they wouldn’t have time to work in the fields.  This meant that the income for these families would be cut back.

A turning point of the film was when Jim White rode on a truck early one morning to aid his students in picking cabbages in the fields.  White felt that this was the most difficult work he had ever done.  He learned a new appreciation for his students.

In another scene, White asked the team members to develop their strength in climbing hills.  These hills appeared to be endless mounds, twenty to thirty feet high, covered in tarp. 

One of the team members challenged White.  He argued that these huge mounds consisted of massive quantities of almonds.  While farm workers toil to pick these almonds, consumers enjoy these delicious treats.

We see how families are broken apart because of the very nature of the lives farmworkers need to lead.  These workers need to follow the harvests.  This means being apart from families for long periods of time.

While this farm-working community lived difficult lives, there was a real sense of community.  There were fund-raising drives so the athletes might have the proper shoes and uniforms.  The community also showed its appreciation of the White family for inspiring the members of the cross-country team. 

At the state meet that was the climax to the film, Jim White gave a speech to the team where he argued that they were tougher than their opponents.  The athletes from other schools didn’t need to work in the fields before and after classes.  They had no idea of the difficult lives his team members lived.

Cross-country is a team sport where the lowest total times of a team’s first runners win a race.  One of McFarland’s runners started the race too fast and had a slower total time as a result.  Danny Diaz, who was the sixth fastest runner on the team, made up for this setback, and ran the race of his life.  He was the hero of the day.          

In another moving scene a teacher read a poem of one of the team members.  In this poem the student expressed how running helped to free his mind from the day-to-day hardships he faced.

The cross-country teams from McFarland would win nine state championships in fourteen years.  There have been other stories of long distance runners from other parts of the world that are just as compelling.

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila was used to running long distances in his homeland of Ethiopia.  In his training regiment he always ran barefoot.  He wasn’t one of Ethiopia’s best runner’s, but prior to the 1960 Rome Olympics one of the team members was injured and Bikila filled in for his spot.

Italy had colonized Ethiopia in the 1930’s and there was a bit of tension because of this history.  When Bikila lined up with the other runners for the marathon, he had no shoes.  He didn’t like the running shoes he had been given, and preferred to run barefoot.

On a road called the Appian Way, Bikila pulled away from the other runners and took a 30 second lead.  The barefoot runner from Ethiopia, who no one thought had a chance, would win the 1960 Olympic Marathon.

We might consider that thousands of years before this race a slave by the name of Spartacus led a revolt of slaves that shook the Roman Empire.  90,000 slaves would join his cause, but the rebellion was defeated.  The Romans crucified 6,000 of the slaves who took part in this revolt on a road called the Appian Way.

It may have been on this same road that Abebe Bikila, a Black athlete from the African nation of Ethiopia, won the marathon in the 1960 Olympics. 

Josia Thugwuane

Josia Thugwane was born in South Africa in an atmosphere ruled by a set of laws known as apartheid.  These laws meant that discrimination against the indigenous people of that part of the world was legal.  Black people living in apartheid South Africa needed to carry a passbook at all times that needed to be updated every day.  Thousands of Black people served time in prison merely because they violated the passbook laws.
Under these conditions Josia Thugwane’s parents abandoned him.  An abusive uncle raised Josia and refused to allow him to attend school.  He ran away from home and worked, for a time, as a gardener.

At this point in his life Josia thought about a saying in his native Zulu language.  “If you want to succeed, forget everything.”

One day the young Josia saw a group of men running.  Josia was wearing heavy shoes, and joined these men in their run for about nine miles.  The men were on a running team sponsored by a local coal mining company and they allowed Josia to continue running with them.

Eventually, these runners purchased running shoes for Josia.  The mining company hired Josia and he became a sweeper.

He would train running over one-hundred miles every week.  In his first marathon, he had no idea how long a marathon was.  At a certain point he wondered why this race was so long.  To the complete surprise of his teammates he came in fifth in the race.

At another time, Josia learned there was a marathon that would award the winner a considerable monetary prize.  He asked a teammate to drive him about 100 miles to the event.  This teammate barely had enough gas to make the long trip.  Josia and his friend only had enough money for food and gas to return home because he won the race.

After Josia won a marathon in Hawaii he purchased a car.  This enabled him to visit his family more frequently.  South African miners usually were only allowed to visit their families for two weeks per year.

Cars were extremely precious commodities in South Africa and Josia was the victim of an armed robbery.  The thieves shot Josia in the face and he suffered a back injury.  This was at a time just months before the Atlanta Olympics of 1996.  However, because of a thorough rehabilitation program, Josia was able to recover.      

Josia was the slowest of the four marathon runners South Africa sent to the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia.  At this point in his life Josia did not know how to read.  He didn’t feel that he represented the nation of South Africa.  He said he was running for Nelson Mandela.  Although he had never met Mandela, Josia felt that Mandela’s many years in prison, struggling against apartheid, made him like a father to the young runner.         

When the runners lined up for the marathon in the Olympics, no Black athlete from South Africa had ever won a gold medal.  South Africa has the largest deposits of gold in the world, and Black miners are the ones who take this gold out of the ground.  Josia Thugwane was ready to get some of that gold his people took out of the ground.

Atlanta, Georgia was the hometown of Dr. Martin Luther King who experienced the legal discrimination of Jim Crow segregation.  King had this to say about running: “If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk. . . if you can’t walk, crawl.  But by all means, keep moving.”   

After running for about twenty-five miles three runners entered the stadium in Atlanta.  The South Korean runner appeared to be the strongest.  Then, Josia Thugwane felt a burst of energy.  It was time to show the world that the Black people from South Africa were just a good as everyone else.  Yes, it was time to win a piece of gold his people might have taken out of the ground.  Josia Thugwane won the 1998 Olympics Marathon by three seconds.

Half a world away, there was bedlam in South Africa.  The mines were closed for the day to celebrate Josia’s victory.  Black and white South Africans rejoiced in the streets.  Upon returning to South Africa, Josia met a joyful Nelson Mandela who agreed to give him a tutor who would teach him to read.

These stories give us a glimmer of what can be accomplished.  Young people who have the most difficult lives have the ability to transform themselves and achieve greatness.  There are many other stories that have this theme.  This is one of the best reasons to change the priorities of this world so there can be more stories like the ones I reported in this review.       

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Prize – Who’s in Charge of America’s schools?

By Dale Russakoff

A review

There were many who thought that the $100 million gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark school system was like a gift from heaven.  Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize gave an analysis of how, after five years of this so-called award, there has been no improvement in education in Newark N.J.

In order to understand what happened in the Newark schools following this so-called prize, I believe we need to look at a number of facts that Russakoff failed to mention in her book.  Russakoff was a reporter for the Washington Post for 28 years, and her perspective follows the general political orientation of that paper.  In order to place these facts into perspective, I believe the following quotations are useful.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the central leader of the Russian Revolution.  In his pamphlet, State and Revolution Lenin argued that the state or government in the capitalist system consists of a “special repressive force.”  In other words, capitalist governments are designed to rob workers of the fruits of our labor by means of repression.

The late George Novack was a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party and a Marxist philosopher.  In his book Democracy and Revolution Novack argued that the United States is a “plutocracy dressed in democratic disguise.”  A plutocracy is a country ruled by the wealthy.

Malcolm X was well aware of the horrendous discrimination against Black people in the Jim Crow southern states.  At that time, Jim Crow meant that discrimination was the law.  However, Malcolm also understood that the discrimination in the northern states was also horrendous.  He argued to, “Stop talking about the South.  If you’re south of Canada, you’re in the South.

What do these quotations have to do with Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize?

Savage Inequalities

Jonathan Kozol wrote a book titled Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools.  In his book Kozol documents the gross inequalities of education in this country.  A look at the reality of education in the state of New Jersey underscores many of Kozol’s conclusions.

First, I will say that I attended Newark public schools for twelve years.  For eight years I went to Maple Avenue School in the Weequahic section located on the southern tip of the city.  Then, I attended Arts High located in the center of the city between the former housing projects and the commercial center of the city.

While in high school, I had the opportunity of visiting Livingston high, located about 30 minutes from Newark.  I was immediately struck by the contrast between Livingston and Arts High.  From what I recall, there was a road of about 100 yards surrounded by grass and trees leading up to the school.  On the school campus, there were tennis courts, a swimming pool, a football field, as well as a baseball field.  There were and are several suburban public high schools on the outskirts of Newark that have similar facilities. 

At that time, Arts High didn’t even have a full sized gymnasium.  The school was old and in need of repair.  There didn’t appear to be grass or trees anywhere around the school.  At Arts High the large majority of the students were Black, while at Livingston High the large majority were Caucasian.

Dale Russakoff reported that a lawsuit titled Abbott v. Burke aimed at correcting this gross inequality.  The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the state government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to begin to correct this inequality. 

We should keep in mind that in other states there continues to be this gross inequality.  Yet, state governments have ordered massive cutbacks in inner-city schools.  In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania per-student funding is about $10,000 per year.  When we cross the street on City Line Avenue, we enter the Lower Merion School District where per-student funding is over $20,000 per year.

Russakoff also reported that this massive increase in funding failed to improve the educational system in Newark.  A state sponsored study of Newark schools underscored this conclusion with the following quotation.  “Evidence shows that the longer children remain in the Newark public schools, the less likely they are to succeed.”

In order to begin to understand the reasons for this horrendous state of affairs in the most affluent nation in the world, we need to look at a bit of history. 

A history of class struggle in the United States

After the Second World War there was a massive strike wave in the United States.  Corporations experienced windfall profits during the war, but had no intention of sharing those profits with the soldiers who were returning home.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike.  Corporations responded to these strikes by granting concessions to workers.

Following this strike wave the civil rights movement erupted.  At that time Black people had no citizenship rights in this country.  The mobilizations against legalized discrimination could not be stopped.  As a result, the government outlawed Jim Crow segregation.

Corporations did not like these developments.  Corporate officers are routinely driven to cut costs using any means at their disposal.

So, as a result of the improving standard of living for working people, corporations made massive investments to move their factories to nations where wages were a small fraction of what they are in this country.  Instead of advancing a system of legal discrimination against Blacks, millions of immigrants came to the United States.

Every immigrant understands that if he or she attempts to organize to improve their standard of living, they are risking deportation.  Presidents Bush and Obama have been deporting immigrants at a rate of about 1,000 for every day they have been in office.  No one can control the color of the skin we are born with.  No one can control the place where we are born.  The United States government routinely discriminates against people for reasons that are beyond our control.

These developments transformed the United States from a manufacturing centered nation into a service economy where Wal-Mart is the largest corporation.  The government has also worked to re-segregate this country by supporting super-highways and suburban shopping malls.  These efforts, as well as a continuation of discriminatory practices, has separated many predominantly Caucasian suburban communities from the predominantly Black and Latino inner cities.

This process, as well as the near complete surrender of union officials, has changed the political climate in this country.  In the past, working people understood that the way to advance our standard of living was to support union battles against employers.  Today a predominant idea is that a college education is the ticket to a better life.  Millions of people have graduated from college and moved to suburban communities, or the elite sections of the inner cities.

We might keep in mind a quotation from the late educator and leader W.E.B. DuBois.  DuBois argued that, “Education is not about teaching men to become carpenters, but to teach carpenters to become men.”  In other words, education is about enriching one’s life, not a means to climbing up a so-called social ladder.   

We should also keep in mind that the goal of corporations is to derive profits by cutting costs.  This is the primary reason why the overall standard of living has deteriorated in this country over the past forty years.  This overall deterioration has hit the least affluent section of the population the hardest.

We might add to this situation the fact that the tax system in this country is, in effect, backwards.  Working people create all the wealth that exists in the world.  Yet, capitalist politicians work to tax working people, while giving enormous tax incentives to those who live in opulence.  Zuckerberg’s $100 million dollar so-called contribution to Newark was, no doubt, tax deductible.

Understanding this history we can see why Russakoff reported in her book that, “Zuckerberg had made it clear that he wanted to use half of his gift­­–$50 million­–to win a game–changing teachers’ contract.”  What was one of Zuckerberg’s goals in a new teachers’ contract?  “Abolish seniority as a factor in all personnel decisions and incentivize the removal of poor performers.”

First, it is useful to understand that seniority is one of the cornerstones of the union movement.  Employers have an economic incentive to fire workers who have years of seniority and replace them with younger employees who have lower salaries.  This is why unions have made the issue of seniority a central priority.  Without seniority workers have no job security.

We might also keep in mind that the plan to improve Newark schools,was, according to Russakoff, a complete failure.  Therefore according to Zuckerberg’s logic, Governor Christie, Senator Booker, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg need to be fired from their positions. 

In a moment of clarity, Governor Christie made the following statement after the announcement of Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift.  Christie went to Livingston High that I mentioned earlier in this review.  Christie argued that, “I don’t think I’d be governor if I went to school in Newark.”

This quotation might begin to explain why Governor Christie only received about six percent of the vote in Newark.  Government officials routinely promote the mythology that they represent all of the people, while their actions demonstrate they are merely servants of the affluent.  This quotation of Christie’s shows how even after his so-called commitment to improving education in Newark, he also supports the entitlements of the predominantly Caucasian suburban communities. 

Surviving the reality of Newark, New Jersey

The story of the Newark Schools System isn’t the so-called failure rate of the students.  The real story is how the people of Newark manage to survive against unbelievable odds in the most affluent nation in the world.

I’m talking about parents who manage to hold down horrendous jobs where they might need to spend hours on public transportation going to and from work.  I’m talking about the need to also rely on public transport to go food shopping.  I’m talking about landlords who charge exorbitant rents for substandard apartments.  Because of the deteriorating standard of living, millions of jobs have been eliminated and work is much more difficult to obtain.

We see this problem illustrated in Jeff Hobbs book titled, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace – A brilliant young man who left Newark for the Ivy League.  Robert Peace’s mother was a dietary worker in the Newark area.  She managed to get Robert into a private high school in Newark, the Saint Benedicts Academy.  Peace won a highly unusual award–a full scholarship to attend Yale University.  At Yale Peace achieved academic excellence even when he took some of the most difficult courses.  He completed his studies and received a degree. 

When he returned to the Newark area, for a time, he was unable to get a job, even with his Yale degree.  He sold marijuana and died as a result of murder.  His story illustrates how many young people have resorted to selling drugs because they are unable to find employment.  When we see stories like that of Robert Peace it is easy to understand why some teachers become discouraged.

In 1967 there was a rebellion in Newark.  While the civil rights movement had forced the government to outlaw Jim Crow, the discriminatory conditions in the northern states continued.  The issue that ignited the community was police brutality. 

Former New Jersey Richard J. Hughes, in effect, ordered the National Guard to carry out a pogrom in Newark.  A pogrom is an organized massacre of an ethnic group.  The National Guard murdered about 21 people in Newark in 1967.  All but two of these murders were of Black people.

The people of Newark were not able to overthrow the government in this country during the rebellion that spread to hundreds of cities in this country.  However, the Cuban people did manage to put in place a workers government as a result of the revolution of 1959 on that island.  The revolutionary government had a completely different view of education.

The educational system in revolutionary Cuba

Before the revolution, Cuba was a place where about 500,000 workers toiled in the sugar industry where they only had work for three months of the year.  These conditions caused massive prostitution, poverty, and police repression.  The pre-revolutionary government murdered about 20,000 Cubans.
I recommend Theodore MacDonald’s book, Making A New People – Education in revolutionary Cuba to anyone interested in the issue of education.  This book documents how Cuba mobilized 50,000 people to eliminate illiteracy on the island during the first years after the revolution.  This literacy program, unlike the so-called Prize to Newark schools, was entirely successful.

Theodore MacDonald gives the following explanation for why he believes the Cuban literacy program succeeded, while literacy programs in other nations are doomed to failure.

“A school system is not independent of society, but faithfully reflects the values of the dominant classes and interests in that society.  If people are slightly alienated from one another and have been conditioned to focus more on personal fulfillment than on social good, they are easily manipulated consumers.  When the schooling system puts them into competition with one another, a superficial observer would say that the system is thus reflecting ‘what people want.’  It is not, of course, but is reflecting what people have been encouraged to think of themselves.  One does not have to be particularly astute to realize what social classes benefit from such a degenerative view of human nature.

“Thus to speak of reforming the educational system to any serious degree is nonsense.  To change its values independently would be to bring into conflict with the society which gave it birth in order to transmit and perpetuate its values.  One such set of values is the system of social relationships––exploitative vs. altruistic, competitive vs. co-operative, individual vs. social etc.  Reform from within would be like promoting a Quaker school in Nazi Germany.”

What have been the results of the Cuban educational system 56 years after the revolution?  While Cuba continues to be an underdeveloped nation, the educational system is one of the ingredients that has transformed the island. 

Today Cuba has twice the number of doctors per-capita as the United States.  While the Cuban population is 100% Latino and about 40% Black, infant mortality is much lower in every part of Cuba than it is in the inner cities of this country.  The percentage of people who have HIV/AIDS is about one-sixth of that percentage in this country.

When we look at the immense difference between the Cuban and U.S. educational systems, there are some inescapable conclusions.  Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize proves conclusively that the educational system in this country will not be reformed.  56 years after the Cuban Revolution, we can see clearly that it is indeed possible to transform education into an instrument that benefits all of society.

James Loewen wrote a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything your American History textbook got wrong.  In his book, Loewen documents how the history textbooks in this country are filled with falsifications.  The way to improve a lie is to tell a better lie.  Informing students of the truth requires that education needs to be completely transformed.  This is the lesson of both the Cuban revolution, as well as the book The Prize.         

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Blue Between Sky and Water

By Susan Abulhawa

Bloomsbury 2015

A review and an historical background

The story of the Israeli repression of the Palestinian people is one of the most frequently reported stories in the mainstream capitalist press.  In the beginning of the 20th century about 90% of the land of what is now Israel was the home of Palestinians.  Today, as a result of a series of wars, the Israeli government considers this same land as a homeland for Jewish people.

In the early 1990s Israel came to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority where Israel recognized partial Palestinian control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  Many issues concerning the fate of the Palestinians were left to be resolved.

The government in Tel Aviv responded to these accords with a series of wars against Palestinians.  They built numerous Israeli settlements in the West Bank that were in clear violation of international law.  They built a wall on land they had agreed was to be Palestinian.  This wall makes it more difficult for Palestinians to enter Israel.  Recently, the Israeli government voted to allow their prison authorities to force-feed Palestinian prisoners who are on a hunger strike.  This is another violation of International law.

The Blue Between Sky and Water

However, we usually don’t see how these horror stories affect Palestinians in their day-to-day lives.  Susan Abulhawa has introduced many of us to the Palestinian people in her two books, Mornings in Jenin, and her new book The Blue Between Sky and Water.

Her new book begins in the Palestinian town of Beit Daras.  Here we see how a Palestinian family lives in an agricultural community. 

Then, we see how an Israeli army invades Beit Daras.  There is an armed resistance, but the highly mechanized Israeli forces overwhelm the inhabitants of this town and they are forced to leave their homes.  Then, there is a forced march to their new settlement in the Gaza Strip.

A striking aspect to this book is how the characters manage to reconstruct their lives after facing the most horrendous obstacles.  Reading this book, I questioned how people have the capacity to continue to live after their loosing their homes, their livelihoods, and seeing the murder of their loved ones.  Yet, this is the life story of Palestinians who live in the world today.

Then, we see the character of Nur Valdez.  Nur’s grandfather was born and raised in Palestine and moved to North Carolina.  There, he and his wife had a son who fathered Nur with her mother who’s family came from Spain.

Because of a combination of circumstances Nur winds up in a series of foster homes.  Throughout all of this, she recalls the fond memories of her grandfather.  Eventually, she becomes a therapist, learns the Arabic language, and travels to the Gaza Strip.

In Nur’s story we see the contrast between her life in the United States and her life in Gaza.  In the United States she manages to get an education, she has a place to live, a car, and even the right to travel.  However, after the death of her grandfather, those who were supposed to care for her treated her with indifference and abuse.

In Gaza, Nur found a family that had few material comforts, but welcomed her as one of their own.  This family was a part of the community of the Gaza Strip that appeared to be aware of everything that happened in their world.

Here we see how the drive for material comforts in this country often compromises our values for family and community.  In the Gaza Strip, there are few opportunities for material comfort, so family and community become immensely important.  Clearly these are generalizations, however anyone who lives in this country understands that material concerns are a large part of our lives.


Reading this story, I asked myself a basic question.  Susan Abulhawa wrote a wonderful book, but she doesn’t ask the basic question: Why is this happening?  Why would Jewish people, who saw or experienced the Nazi holocaust commit horrendous crimes against Palestinians?  The rest of this review will give an historical background that will attempt to answer this question.

The Trail of Tears

The original home of the people who are known as the Cherokee was in what is now the state of Georgia.  The Cherokee had supported the thirteen colonies in the revolution that created the United States.  As a reward, the government promised the Cherokee that they could live in their homeland of what is now Georgia. 

Then, in 1830 the U.S. government adopted the Indian Removal Act.  This law required all of the first nations of this country located east of the Mississippi River to move to the Indian Territory in what is now the state of Oklahoma.

The Cherokee appealed this law to the Supreme Court that ruled in their favor.  President Andrew Jackson, who’s portrait is on the $20 bill, ignored the Supreme Court ruling and forced the Cherokee off land they might have lived on for thousands of years. 

The Cherokee forced march to Oklahoma is known as the Trail of Tears.  About 2,000 Cherokee lost their lives in this forced march.

The Seminole were another of the first nations who experienced the effects of the Indian Removal Act.  Many of the Seminole had fled to the Spanish Territory in Florida escaping from invading settlers.  Escaped Black slaves also joined the Seminoles.

Some of the Seminoles refused to leave their homeland and went to war against the U.S. army.  The army may have lost about 1,500 soldiers in this war and were unable to defeat the Seminoles.  As a result, the Seminoles who remained in Florida became known as the unconquered ones.

The reason for these forced dislocations and war was clear.  In its early years, the primary income of the United States came from the theft of Indian lands and the cultivation of cotton by slave labor.  When we think of the enormous amount of wealth in this country, we need to consider that these were the two root sources of that wealth.

Rabbi Joachim Prinz and the beginnings of Zionism

In 1965 I had my Bar Mitzvah.  This is the Jewish ceremony that celebrates the thirteenth Birthday.  This is when, in the Jewish religion, a boy becomes a man.  This religious ceremony was officiated by the late Rabbi Joachim Prinz.

In 1963 Rabbi Prinz represented the American Jewish Congress at the Civil Rights March in Washington D.C. protesting against Jim Crow segregation.  He was a friend of Martin Luther King and was one of those who marched at the head of the demonstration.

He wrote an autobiography titled: Joachim Prinz Rebellious Rabbi – and autobiography – the German and early American years edited by Michael A. Meyer.

Prinz was born and raised as a Jew in Germany.  From an early age he became a Zionist and believed that Jewish people needed a homeland in, what was then Palestine.  In his early years, the Zionists represented only a tiny minority of the Jewish people.

While there was discrimination against Jews, most Jews lived relatively comfortable lives in Germany before the rise of the Nazis.  Why would anyone want to move their family to a foreign country and start all over again unless this was absolutely necessary?  Even the Rabbi who was Prinz’ mentor was strongly opposed to Zionism.

Prinz was of the opinion that Jews did not belong in Germany.  However, he also stated that he found the Jewish religious services to be boring.  He attended several services by the Seven Day Adventists who were largely working class and welcomed him to their services.  When he was older, Prinz became a Rabbi in Berlin and considered that city to be the most civilized in the world.

The Zionist movement started in the 19th century as a response to the pogroms against Jews in Eastern Europe.  During those years European powers were in the business of colonizing the world.

Mike Davis wrote a book titled Late Victorian Holocausts where he documented how literally tens of millions of people starved to death in China, India, and Brazil as a result of British imperialism.  This horror story signaled the beginnings of a separation between the developed and underdeveloped areas of the world.

The Zionists believed that they could make a deal with the British to aid them in their colonization efforts of the Middle East.  In 1917 this idea became a reality with the signing of the Balfour Declaration.  This document gave a section of Palestine to the Jewish people.  Up until the First World War, Turkey ruled much of the Middle East and the British used the Balfour Declaration as a lever against Turkey. 

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was the central leader of the Russian Revolution.  He argued for a completely different political course from the Zionists.  Lenin argued that working people and farmers needed to ally ourselves with the colonized people of the world against those who hold power in the capitalist nations.  In his pamphlet, The State and Revolution, Lenin argued that the capitalist state is a “special repressive force” designed to rob working people of the fruits of our labor.                         

After the First World War most German people were thrown into a state of poverty.  The German Socialist and Communist parties could have taken power away from capitalists, but they didn’t.  Instead the fascist German National Socialist Party was formed and received massive financial support from capitalists.

When the Nazis won the German election by a minority vote in 1932, all democratic rights in Germany vanished.  Adolf Hitler used the Jewish people as a scapegoat for the problems of Germany.  German Jews lost their jobs and their businesses.  With all political opposition crushed, Hitler was able to cut the salaries of German workers in half.

Again, we see how capitalist support to the fascists was all about money.  By cutting the wages of German workers in half, Hitler created an economic environment that was conducive to capitalist investment.  Hitler protected the affluent while he created a nightmare for German workers.  

Rabbi Prinz remained in Germany from 1932 to 1937.  During those years opposition to the Nazis in Germany was almost impossible.  So, he supported the Zionist strategy of Jewish emigration to Palestine. 

During those years Jewish people around the world organized a boycott of Germany in opposition to the Nazis.  Many Zionists opposed this boycott because it compromised the Zionist deal with the Nazis for support of Jewish emigration to Palestine.

In fact, Joachim Prinz acknowledged that he had a friend in the Gestapo, (The secret police of the Nazis) who liked the Zionist idea of Jewish emigration.  This Gestapo agent, in effect, saved Prinz’ life by organizing his deportation from Germany in 1937.  By 1938 all Jews in Germany were sent to concentration camps.

Prinz could have emigrated to Palestine, the nation he felt would be the homeland for the Jewish people.  However, he, like most Jews, decided to emigrate to the United States.

In Susan Abulhawa’s books she wrote about the terrorist campaign of the Zionists designed to rob Palestinains of their homeland.  The terrorist organizations were called the Irgun and the Stern Gang.  In many ways, these organizations used similar tactics as the Ku Klux Klan in the United States.

Joachim Prinz opposed the terrorism of these organizations and favored a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.  However, he was also a lifelong supporter of the state of Israel and the government of that country has shown no intentions of serious negotiations with the Palestinians.

Why does the nation of Israel exist today?

The nation of Israel exists today because of massive financial and military support of the United States government.  In this country, no corporation will have even one dime’s worth of profit without a continuous supply of oil.  Without oil, workers wouldn’t be able to go to their jobs and corporations wouldn’t be able to deliver their commodities.

Israel is located in the middle of the region that has the largest supplies of oil on this planet.  Since 1948, most of the political officials of this region have been pushed aside.  However, the state of Israel continues to exist.  Oil from this region continues to allow the capitalist world to function.  However, most of the 200 million or more Arabic and Persian people who live in this region live in poverty.

The apartheid state of South Africa was also created in 1948.  While there were clear differences between South Africa and Israel, there were also many similarities.  Both South Africa and Israel had and have a system of legalized discrimination.  Both nations segregated the native inhabitants onto impoverished reservations.  Both nations utilized horrendous repressive measures to preserve their rule.  But the apartheid laws of South Africa were pushed aside in the early 1990s and Nelson Mandela became the President of that country.

The nation of Israel is becoming more and more isolated every year.  The cause of Palestinian liberation is winning more and more support.  While there clearly are racist attitudes against Palestinians in Israel, there is also a growing understanding that only when Palestinians are fully liberated will there be any chance of peace in the Middle East.

My opinion is that Lenin was right when he argued that the capitalist state is a “special repressive force.”  Ultimately this means that working people from all over the world have a common interest.  An injury to one is an injury to all.  I view the West Bank and Gaza Strip as neighborhoods where working people live.  An international movement pushed aside the apartheid government.  Sooner or later the state of Israel will become a homeland for everyone who lives in that region.