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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Purim and The Highway of Death

I remember when this happened. A thoroughly brainwashed conservative republican patriot, I applauded the action reasoning that the invaders got what they deserved. I was blinded to the fact that the invaders (GHW Bush having signaled Saddam Hussein the US would not oppose his retaking Kuwait) had given up and were returning to their own land. Hundreds, if not thousands, of fleeing Iraqi's were trapped and being killed like fish being shot in a barrel. Why did it happen? Purim!!!

The Highway of Death | Fig Trees and Vineyards

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Below is an article I wrote four years ago that explored the alignment between the Jewish holiday of Purim and some horrendous acts of violence, including the so-called “Highway of Death” massacre that closed out the first Iraq war in 1991. The article was posted in three parts. Below is the first part, with links to parts 2 and 3 at the bottom.
The Highway of Death
By Richard Edmondson
It was one of the closing episodes of the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq. On the night of February 26-27, exactly 19 years ago, an Iraqi convoy, consisting of both military and civilian vehicles, found itself fleeing along a lonely desert highway leading from Kuwait up to Basra in the southern part of Iraq. Though an Iraqi scud missile attack in which U.S. military personnel were killed had occurred as late as February 25, the war nonetheless was pretty much over at this point. The “liberation” of Kuwait, its ostensible objective, had been secured. But in the middle of the night, the retreating convoy came under heavy attack by U.S. aircraft. At least one American pilot described it as like “shooting fish in a barrel”—and the incident came to be known as the “Highway of Death.” The day following, on February 28, President George Bush Sr. declared Kuwait to be liberated and called a halt to hostilities.
These events coincided with the Jewish holiday of Purim—which taken by itself might not seem remarkable. But when you factor in other episodes over the years, wars, massacres, and assassinations, all occurring on or around this same Jewish feast day, a curious pattern seems to emerge. It is this I’ll try to explore in posts over the next few days.
On March 5, 1991—less than a week after the carnage on the Iraqi highway—the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution paying tribute to an Orthodox rabbi by the name of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who at the time was approaching his 89th birthday. Schneerson was the highly respected, by some revered, leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement, a group of Hasidic Jews which had its origin in the Russian town of Lyubavichi in the late 1700s, and which today has grown into a worldwide movement. It was a Chabad house, among other targets, which came under attack by terrorists in Mumbai, India in November of 2008.
Though he seems to have held some controversial racial views, Schneerson—referred to in both formal and informal discourse as “the Lubavitcher Rebbe”—is today believed by some Jews to have been the messiah. The measure honoring him was designated House Joint Resolution 104, and its March 5 passage in the House was followed by approval from the Senate two days later. The text reads:
Whereas Congress recognizes the historical tradition of ethical values and principles which are the basis of civilized society and upon which our great Nation was founded;
Whereas these ethical values and principles have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization, when they were known as the Seven Noahide Laws;
Whereas without these ethical values and principles the edifice of civilization stands in serious peril of returning to chaos;
Whereas society is profoundly concerned with the recent weakening of these principles that has resulted in crises that beleaguer and threaten the fabric of civilized society;
Whereas the justified preoccupation with these crises must not let the citizens of this Nation lose sight of their responsibility to transmit these historical ethical values from our distinguished past to the generations of the future;
Whereas the Lubavitch movement has fostered and promoted these ethical values and principles throughout the world;
Whereas Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Lubavitch movement, is universally respected and revered and his eighty-ninth birthday falls on March 26, 1991;
Whereas in tribute to this great spiritual leader, ‘the rebbe’, this, his ninetieth year will be seen as one of ‘education and giving’, the year in which we turn to education and charity to return the world to the moral and ethical values contained in the Seven Noahide Laws; and
Whereas this will be reflected in an international scroll of honor signed by the President of the United States and other heads of state: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that March 26, 1991, the start of the ninetieth year of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, leader of the worldwide Lubavitch movement, is designated as ‘Education Day, U.S.A.’ The President is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the people of the United States to observe such day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
That Congress would pass a resolution expounding upon “ethical values and principles” so soon after the attack of February 26-27—an attack which some observers were already alleging constituted a war crime—is typical of the sort of hypocrisy that routinely floats out of Washington. Nothing new there. More remarkable is the extent to which the resolution underscored the pervasive influence of the Israeli lobby in Congress. In the House, it was sponsored by Illinois Republican Robert H. Michel, with 225 cosponsors signing on, including California Representative Leon Panetta, who today heads the CIA. Perhaps remarkable also is the congressional action’s temporal conjunction to the Highway of Death and the Purim holiday, as if somehow the events were intended to have been linked together, although it should be noted that this was not the first time Schneerson had been honored by Congress. The practice of proclaiming his birthday as “Education Day” appears in fact to have been an annual tradition going back as far as 1983According to Wikipedia, the tributes piled up even higher upon his death in 1994.
After Schneerson’s death, a bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives—sponsored by Congressman Chuck Schumer and cosponsored by John Lewis, Newt Gingrich, and Jerry Lewis, as well as 220 other Congressmen—to posthumously bestow on Schneerson the Congressional Gold Medal. On November 2, 1994 the bill passed both Houses by unanimous consent, honoring Schneerson for his “outstanding and enduring contributions toward world education, morality, and acts of charity.
Bill Clinton even got in on the act, proclaiming “the Rebbe” (rebbe is Yiddish for “rabbi”) to have achieved “eminence as a moral leader for our country” and going on to praise him for expanding his educational, social, and medical programs “all across the globe.”
These views of Schneerson held by the Washington Beltway crowd seem to be sharply at variance with a picture presented by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky in the bookJewish Fundamentalism in Israel (published in 1999 by Pluto Press). Shahak and Mezvinsky quote extensively from Gatherings of Conversations, a collection of the Rebbe’s talks given to followers and published in book form in Israel in 1965. Here Schneerson shares his thoughts on, among other things, abortion. Strangely, in the Rebbe’s view, whether the practice of abortion should be “punished” or not depended on the racial or ethnic origin of the fetus (Schneerson uses the word “embryo”), as well as that of the doctor performing the procedure.
As has been explained, an embryo is called a human being, because it has both body and soul. Thus, the difference between a Jewish and a non-Jewish embryo can be understood. There is also a difference in the bodies. The body of a Jewish embryo is on a higher level than is the body of a non-Jew.
In the above passage, Shahak and Mezvinsky are quoting directly from Schneerson’s words as presented in the book Gatherings of Conversations. In the rather lengthy passage they supply, Schneerson three times uses the phrase “Let us differentiate.” What he means by this, is that in abortion—as presumably in all other matters of life—it is necessary at all times to differentiate between Jews and non-Jews.
The difference between a non-Jewish person stems from the common expression: “Let us differentiate.” Thus, we do not have a case of profound change in which a person is merely on a superior level. Rather, we have a case of “let us differentiate” between totally different species.
In other words, Jews and non-Jews are not merely of a different race or ethnicity from one another; they comprise two entirely different species, with the Jewish species being altogether higher than the non-Jewish. Furthermore, one must “differentiate” not only between the bodies of Jews and non-Jews, but also between souls, for, in Schneerson’s view, “a non-Jewish soul comes from the three satanic spheres, while the Jewish soul stems from holiness.” Given this, you would probably surmise the Lubavitcher Rebbe might find the aborting of non-Jewish embryos acceptable—but you would be wrong. Abortion of any kind, he felt, should be forbidden, certainly upon Jewish fetuses, but also upon Gentile ones (although if it’s  Jewish doctor performing the abortion, no punishment should be meted out).
Why should a non-Jew be punished if he kills even a non-Jewish embryo while a Jew should not be punished even if he kills a Jewish embryo? The answer can be understood by [considering] the general difference between Jews and non-Jews: a Jew was not created as a means for some other purpose; he himself is the purpose, since the substance of all [divine] emanations was created only to serve the Jews. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” [Genesis 1:1] means that [the heavens and the earth] were created for the sake of the Jews, who are called the “beginning”…The important things are the Jews, because they do not exist for any [other] aim; they themselves are [the divine] aim.” (Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, p. 60, additions in brackets supplied by Shahak and Mezvinsky).
The non-Jewish species was put here to serve the Jewish one, in Schneerson’s view. Thus a non-Jewish doctor should be put to death for performing an abortion—even if the fetus itself is a non-Jew.
A non-Jew’s entire reality is only vanity. It is written, “And the strangers shall stand and feed our flocks” [Isaiah 61:5]. The entire creation [of a non-Jew] exists only for the sake of the Jews. Because of this a non-Jew should be punished with death if he kills an embryo, while a Jew, whose existence is most important, should not be punished with death because of something subsidiary.
One must ask the question at this point: are young Americans—presently sacrificing lives, limbs, and sanity in Iraq—fulfilling the purpose Schneerson had in mind for Goy embryos? And will they be fulfilling the same purpose if they are dispatched into Iran next—dispatched by a Congress under domination of the Israeli lobby and a president who has appointed Zionists with demonstrably dual loyalties to key positions in his administration?
It is probably a safe bet that not all members of Congress were aware of the views held by Schneerson when they voted. Yet it would be naive to assume none were. As previously mentioned, the book Gatherings of Conversations, the collection of Schneerson’s talks, was published in 1965, while the Lubavitcher Rebbe lived on to the year 1994. In those ensuing 29 years he had plenty of time to change these views. Did he? This is a question Shahak and Mezvinsky comment upon—and answer in the negative.
During the subsequent three decades of his life until his death, Rabbi Schneerson remained consistent; he did not change any of the opinions. What Rabbi Schneerson taught either was or immediately became official Lubovitch, Hassidic belief. (Jewish Fundamentalism, p. 59).
The Highway of Death left more than a mile of twisted wreckage and charred, mutilated corpses. The tactic employed by the military was to bomb first the front and rear of the convoy, leaving everyone else caught in the middle. The online Urban Dictionary describes the affair in these terms:
One of the most horrible war crimes committed in the latter part of the 20th Century. During February 26-27, 1991, of the first Gulf War, the United States strafed and bombed the living shit out of over 2000 Iraqi vehicles, and killed TENS OF THOUSANDS of fleeing Iraqi soldiers and civilians on this Kuwaiti highway, peacefully and voluntarily leaving Kuwait in compliance with UN Resolution 660. And we wonder why everyone hates the United States. (Caps not added.)
corresponding entry on Wikipedia puts it in less picaresque tones, leaving out the part about the UN resolution and offering no opinion on the body count—but otherwise the gist is much the same. However, if one wants to get a true feel for what happened, here is a video from YouTube. (Warning: Not for the Squeamish.)
Purim this year falls on Sunday, February 28. In part 2 of this series, I hope to give some background on this holiday—or you may find out for yourself its significance by going to the Old Testament book of Esther—as well as offer some possible motives for the second U.S. invasion of Iraq, motives which have not received much attention or been widely commented on in the past. Most Americans are wholly unaware of the fact that this holiday on the Jewish calendar has a strange, slightly weird alignment to both U.S. wars in Iraq. While Iraq War #1, initiated in 1991 by George Bush Sr., ended on Purim, Iraq War # 2, launched twelve years later by his son, George Bush Jr., actually began on Purim.
For further reading:
Israel Shahak, Norton Mezvinsky, Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Pluto Press, new edition, 2004
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