By James S. Kor
With this writing, I give voice to a good man, long since dead, while adding to and emphasizing the validity of a lesson about justice he taught me. For if enough determined Americans can now envision the terrible consequences being triggered in the Middle East, his voice should, by some means, be made to matter. Otherwise, apathy, ignorance, and/or ill-informed opinions will again amount to the invitation for such consequences.
Leonard “Lenny” Szego was a Hungarian Jew born in 1918. He had a heart as big as the world despite having lost relatives in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. For four years in the 1960s, I and 3 siblings were blessed with him as a father figure in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lenny quickly adopted us in his heart and saw to our wellbeing, which included a stable, love-filled household and him actively contributing to our education. For instance, when a sister and I were selected as top of our grade levels for IQ surveys, done by Stanford University, Lenny was more proud of us than our own deadbeat father who’d not paid child support nor been a positive presence in our lives.
It was 1968 when Lenny’s mother came to visit, all the way from New York. Part of why I remember the events so vividly is because of when she visited. It was during Passover so, for his mother, Lenny made sure the rituals were observed, including his preparation of the Seder meal (the only one in my life). After the meal, he made sure that us kids were included in the conversation between him and his mother.
Here is what I remember and why recent events have caused their words to come to life over half a century later:
Part of the talk included sadness and I remember being touched as I saw Lenny’s mother weeping over the ones their family, and all Jews, had lost during the Holocaust. But they also spoke with what I interpreted as shame over the behavior of the U.S. government. Specifically, they did not agree with America’s government having hesitated so long before joining the fight against Hitler and his Nazis. Lenny told us the truth: our politicians had known of very bad things being done to Jews in Europe yet had consciously chosen to allow them, and all European nations, to endure at least a couple years of the Holocaust’s horrors. Lenny’s mother was particularly disgusted that it had taken the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to, basically, force our government to act. Also memorable was Lenny’s description of thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing to America to escape their horrible fate, only to be turned away, refused asylum. In retrospect, I still harbor disbelief over how officials, purportedly representing all Americans, could have done such.
A second part of the conversation included talk about it being the twentieth anniversary of Israel being born as a nation. This is the part I think matters most now; I remember Lenny and his mother both being glad about there being a homeland for all Jews. However, there was a very distinct cautiousness qualifying their optimism about its future. I would even call it a worry and it was expressed, with much conviction, by Lenny’s mother. She was not in agreement with force having been used to displace Palestinians and she spoke with certainty saying that much fairer and more sensible compromises had been ignored. In support of her beliefs, she cited the Torah, God’s promises being selfishly misconstrued, and also that Palestinians had had an established presence in the region for thousands of years. Both she and Lenny believed that the lack of fair provisions for Palestinians meant two big things:
1) An abuse of power by men that amounted to a betrayal of and selfish twisting of what had been written and promised;
2) Unless fair, sensible remedy was brought to bear] there would forever be violence. Note: Seventy-five years after force was, in fact, used to displace Palestinians our Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, stated that they “must not be forcibly displaced.”
Today, I have no question that Lenny and his mother had good hearts, the right sense of justice, and profound foresight that should have been/be shared so that a still-existing majority of good people may embrace its worth and unite for action. Therefore I must add that I do not agree, even remotely, with our President implied having endorsed carte blanche to Israel. Such has never been appropriate but most particularly not while Israeli bombs have been raining down upon and mass-murdering thousands of Palestinians. It takes much more courage to stand up to your friends when they’re in the wrong, than to your enemies. Biden’s lack of courage has, thus, been recorded for history, yet again.
[see attached footnote for another good example of Joe Biden’s cowardice that continues to perpetuate widespread injustice 27+ years after the fact]
WHO IS TO BLAME?
(1) American politicians between 1933 and late 1941 were guilty of failure to act when they could and should have. Their “NEUTRALITY ACT OF 1939” was tantamount to them putting on the shoes of Pontius Pilate and, in the name of all Americans, washing their hands of the fate of millions. It was the cowardly act of acquiescence to what the Nazis were doing and their subsequent LEND/LEASE program no more than an impotent afterthought. The failure of America’s leaders, then, made America complicit in the harm and it generated a sense of guilt for our nation that exists TO THIS DAY. Moreover, good people can take an honest look at damning contrasts the world has been witness to: our senators, U.S. Representatives and presidents have lied to us and led us into at least two dubious and costly wars for reasons that pale in comparison to those that justified going to war when it was initiated against our friends and the millions of powerless victims targeted by Hitler and his Nazis. As examples I cite Vietnam and Iraq.
(2) Generations of U.S. politicians since are also blameworthy because they have over-compensated, overcorrected for mistake #1 through blind loyalty, blank checks, and state-of-the-art killing machinery for Israel. Done in the names of all of us, makes every American complicit in any and all wrongs done to and perpetuated upon Palestinians, by Israel, for the past 75 years. How so? Go look up the legal definition of the word “acquiescence” in Black’s Law Dictionary. When the majority rules in a democracy, and the majority expressly, or tacitly, approves of the sins and failures of its corrupt, cowardly politicians, that majority owns the ensuing wrong, harm, and all its consequences. Still feel like voting for these people; Democrats and Republicans?
(3) Every United Nations that has existed also wears an inescapable straightjacket of blame. Figure out why like 2+2=4, ok?
(4) Every Israeli government that has existed is/has been responsible. Lenny and his mother prayed and conveyed their hope that no government made up of good Jewish citizens would allow other human beings to continue suffering without fair remedy. They said that courage, human decency, and proper adherence to their Jewish faith would not allow that 1968 status quo to remain against Palestinians. Nevertheless, the world witnesses what it does today due to an abysmal lack of those requisite qualities.
(5) Hamas and whoever provided support for what was done 10/7/23. I qualify this saying what is reality: prolonged injustice with no remedy and with all peaceable means of protest being made impossible, or futile, builds up a pressure such as that by prolonged, incremental movement of tectonic plates. That pressure grows in intensity to the point where the most radical, violent voices are then amplified. A threshold is reached and we get the equivalent of “a big one” (earthquake). Those voices? They should NEVER have had a platform of prolonged, unremedied injustice to stand on. Again, 2+2=4, ok? Those who deny justice are the real danger and threat.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
After that Passover meal in 1968 Lenny and his mother ended the discussion by evoking the wisdom and goodness of King Solomon. Take the matter of seconds required to read 1 KINGS 3:9-12. Then listen to your hearts as you feel the terrible truth; we have no such leaders involved, today. Matters not what race, gender, age, social status or political party you “think” you agree with, you’ve been and continue to be misled and misrepresented by both Republican and Democrat politicians. None of the following goals, promised within our Constitution’s PREAMBLE, are of adequate concern for today’s selfish, incompetent, dishonest politicians: [genuine] “justice”, “domestic tranquility”, [our] “common defense”, “the general welfare” [of the People], nor the true “blessings of liberty.” No one should be so foolish as to doubt that the last thing they want is a People uniting, as one, to solve our big worries; i.e. mass shootings, the ripping apart of America, loss of stature in the world, the epidemics of wrongful convictions and abuse of power within the criminal justice system. No, in fact, they are guilty of robbing the People of power. By purposely striving to pull people to “the Right” or to “the Left,” they have prevented and are preventing us from moving in the most important directions; forward and upwards as a People and nation. Thus each citizen is betrayed. The phony oaths they swear are betrayed. The very motto of the U.S. government is betrayed: e pluribus unum; out of many, one.
For Lenny and his mother, and for good people everywhere, I pray I am doing at least a fair job of passing on what was instilled within me 55 years ago. I believe this is, almost uniquely, a time in which wise, counterintuitive thinking will be most appropriate. I think it is also the perfect time for every single American, REGARDLESS OF DISTINCTIONS, to be part of a King Solomon-like solution. Something similar to the post-World War II Marshall Plan needs to be demanded by a fully united majority of Americans, then prioritized on an emergency basis for a newborn; the nation of Palestine.
Like Lenny and his mother, there are good Jews in Israel, and throughout their diaspora, who believe that the plight of Palestinians requires fair remedy. The unrelenting DEMAND from a majority of good people is all that is necessary. For they will have the wisdom to see the need for, and the goodness to follow through with, fair compromise. Indeed, it is logical that such a fair, even generous resolution, will quickly deflate the rage against injustice that has been allowed to accumulate and fester for generations. But for certain, such a wise, good, merciful course will also amount to the dismantling of the platforms exploited by those hate-filled voices to gain support for their terrorist actions.
I state my belief that history loudly beckons with a reveille call all Americans should heed. Such a course with people rising up, together as one, will make for a safer, better world. It can be brought about by brave, good Americans laying down their differences to yank their utterly shameless government up by the scruff of its crooked neck and FORCING it to work. Furthermore, this can and should be the much-needed vitamin shot to reinvigorate the real power of American citizens. Let the children learn a grand lesson as they stand witness to your collective courage, sense of fairplay, and spirit of united cooperation. Let the force of good (God) in the universe prevail.
To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.
Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act.
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: that is the whole law; the rest is commentary.
-Hillel, (celebrated Jewish scholar) (30 B.C.-10 A.D.)
FOOTNOTE: For decades prior to 1996 the infamous racist, “Dixiecrat”, Strom Thurmond tried to have extreme restrictions placed on “The Great Writ” of habeas corpus (origins in the Magna Carta, 1215) He and fellow racists had the agenda that such purported “reforms” adversely impact disproportionately upon people of color. Those so-called “reforms” were deviously injected into the ANTITERRORISM EFFECTIVE DEATH PENALTY ACT of 1996. Several Senators refused to sacrifice their honor or integrity and voted against the Act. Then Senator Joe Biden said this of the “reforms”:
“…the habeas corpus provisions…will do nothing to prevent terrorism… under this provision of the law we are now changing, which I think is inadvisable to change…”
Senator Biden, Congressional Record, SENATE, S3475, 4/17/96
Biden lacked the courage and integrity to vote his conscience, helped enact those unconstitutional reforms, and was thanked in the very first sentence with Strom Thurmond after the AEDPA was passed. As such, he is directly responsible for tens of thousands of wrongful convictions, mostly victimizing people of color, as was intended from the start. Now that he is President he has refused suggestions that he create and empower a commission to look for those most likely to be wrongfully convicted; i.e. the cases in which a state reviewing court judge/justice voted to grant relief; the cases in which a prisoner won one or more CERTIFICATES OF APPEALABILITY in a federal court.