The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on December 3, 1997 · Page 23
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 23

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Wednesday, December 3, 1997
Page 23
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THE PALM BEACH POST WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1997 21A - Swiss veil of 'neutrality' hid evil truths This Dec. 7, Japan targets baby whales It doesn't seem possible to those in my age group, but this coming Sunday will mark 56 years since that terrible morning also a Sunday when Japanese torpedo planes and bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. , Those aircraft, bearing the red rising sun, were manufactured by the huge Mitsubishi Corp. If anybody had suggested that someday I would be watching films of that attack on my own large-screen Mitsubishi TV, I would have thought him a lunatic. But more than a half-century has passed, and time, while it might not entirely heal, does tend to soften the memories. Japan is a friendly nation today, and Mitsubishi doesn't make Zeros anymore. ! But that doesn't mean that the Japanese conglomerate is all sweetness and light. Mitsubishi may not be sinking battleships these days, but it is still capable of doing great harm to the world. At a time when the world sits in judgment of the Swiss, I have once again been reminded of my own fateful encounter with them in the fall of 1942. By Leon Rubinstein My good Swiss friend Bruno recently asked me whether, since I had spent some of the war years in Switzerland, I had any claims against his government " He, of course, was referring to the so-called "dormant" accounts of the victims of Nazism who had put part or all their assets into Swiss banks when the persecutions against the Jews started in the 1930s. "No," I replied. "When my mother and I fled in 1942 from France into neutral Switzerland, we had nothing but the clothes on our back." As the world now knows, Swiss making myself two years younger in the process. Had I told him the truth, he would have sent me back into the hands of the Gestapo; the Swiss, bowing to German pressure, had refused entry to all men between the ages of 18 and 45. 1 would have joined the 30,000 Jews who were turned back at the border within feet of safety and freedom only to perish in the gas chambers. WTien news of the Jews who were refused entry to Switzerland became known, there was an outcry -by Swiss citizens, and the turning back of the refugees was temporarily halted. Shortly after my mother and I escaped France, the Germans entered the non-occupied zone. The route to Switzerland was, for all practical purposes, closed. But Switzerland benefited greatly from the Germans' bank transactions; as the transfer method of Hitler's looted gold, they paid for materials essential to the war effort. Still, 25,000 Jews found refuge and survived the war in Switzerland. At a time when the world sits in judgment of the Swiss, I feel compelled, as a survivor of the Holocaust, to offer my own thoughts. The reprehensible actions of the government at that time were criminal; its leaders showed a total lack of morality, which can neither be forgiven nor forgotten. More powerful than the politicians were the bankers, hiding behind a veil of secrecy that obscured the truth. They were driven by overwhelming greed, which lasted far beyond the war years. Yet it is equally clear that neither the government nor the bankers represented the Swiss people in those days. Most of the Swiss I met were men and women whose allegiance to their own deeply rooted democratic principles, dating back to 1291, was never in doubt. Surrounded by the forces of evil, the liberal press became the people's voice, showing great courage at a time when courage was in short supply throughout Europe. It reminded a government of its origin and principles and helped save the 25,000 from the fate of the 6 million. Leon Rubinstein, a resident of Jupiter, is a Holocaust survivor. bankers, for some 50 years, had stonewalled all inquiries into wartime accounts. Finally, they have admitted that their treatment of the heirs of Holocaust This time, the targets are the great gray whales, nature's majestic flagships of the sea. Every winter, thousands of the massive creatures leave the icy waters of Alaska and swim 4,000 miles south to die salty lagoons off Mexico's Baja Califor hi , ti - .-' ;f George McEvoy Uttry victims was not as I I w I "sensitive" as it Mr. Rubinstein could have been. After the de mise of communism, Holocaust survivors who had lived behind the Iron Curtain for more than 50 years began to clamor for the return of family assets they believed had been deposited in Swiss bank accounts. Edgar Bronfman, heir to the Seagram distillery fortune and president of the World Jewish Congress, investigated their claims and is pressing the bankers for more gold. After delaying tactics, denials and minimizing of the amounts involved, Switzerland's big three banks, along with Swiss industrialists, set aside $189 million for survivors of the Holocaust. At the 41-nation conference on Nazi gold in London this week, the Swiss are defending their fund for Holocaust survivors and appointing official historians to probe their wartime past. shelter, and the next morning his maid guided us over snowcapped mountain passes for 10 hours, then bid us farewell. After descending for several hours, we noticed a man in uniform watching us through binoculars. He was a Swiss border guard, a young man in his 20s. He approached us, asking me: "What is your year of birth?" I was prepared: "I was born on May 10, 1925." I spoke loudly enough for my mother to hear me, Thus, I have again been reminded of my own fateful encounter with the Swiss authorities in the fall of 1942. When the deportations started in the non-occupied zone of France, my father was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. He did not return. My mother and I managed to escape the German dragnet. After a perilous six-week journey, we reached the village of Abondance-la-Chapelle, near the Swiss border. The local priest offered us food and New York liberalism isn't dead - just high on fighting crime E.J. Dionne Jr. nia. 1 saw mem once, wmmm passing off Big Sur, and it's a sight I'll never forget. Within weeks of the whales' arrival at Baja, the sheltered lagoons are teeming with 1-ton newborns. It's a natural maternity ward for the great gray mothers. The waters are so warm, the infants do not lose precious body heat. The high salinity buoys them up and allows them to nurse more easily. Mitsubishi threatens last nursery There used to be three such lagoon nurseries, but because of human encroachment, only one Laguna San Ignacio remains. Now, according to the private Natural Resources Defense Council, that last lagoon is in danger of disappearing, if Mitsubishi and its Mexican allies get their way. ! The Japanese corporation has formed a partnership with the Mexican Ministry of Trade to build the world's largest salt factory right next to Laguna San Ignacio. They plan to create giant evaporation ponds, 116 square miles of them, to transform the seawater into 7 million tons of salt every year. Under the plan, according to the NRDC, gigantic diesel engines will pump 6,000 gallons of water out of the lagoon every second, drastically altering the salinity so important to the newborn whales. In addition, a mile-long concrete pier will be constructed directly across the whales' migration path. Japanese supertankers will be able to dock at the pier, spewing pollution and risking ruinous oil spills. The reason behind this assault on some of nature's most marvelous creations is pretty much the same as the reason for the attack on Pearl Harbor power. In this case, the power will come from money. Salt from the lagoon will be sold throughout the world for use in making PVC plastics, chemicals, chlorine gas and other products. And if the great gray whales are made extinct in the process, Mitsubishi and the Mexican Trade Ministry don't seem overly concerned. Japanese weigh their potential profits , They did cooperate in turning out an "Environmental Impact Assessment," but out of 465 pages, only 23 lines were devoted to the gray whale population. Nor did the assessment cite any scientific studies carried out in the lagoon. The NRDC is organizing a protest movement, utilizing ads, mailings and the Internet to generate economic pressure and consumer outrage against Mitsubishi. Whether that will work is open to question. The Japanese conglomerate will weigh its potential salt profits against what it stands to lose from angry American consumers. ' ' Meanwhile, I sit back on the couch and flick on my Mitsubishi television. It's a fine set, extremely well made. The History Channel, my favorite, is on, and the old newsreels are startlingly clear. As the planes with the red "meatball" on the fuselage dip and swerve over Battleship Row and release their lethal luggage, the explosions that rock the Arizona, the Oklahoma and the other great ships still make me cringe. 1 And I can't help but wonder: Just how much has Mitsubishi really changed? George McEvoy is a columnist for The Palm Beach Post. NEW YORK It's a wonderful town. Rudy's up, crime is down and liberalism is in a hole in the ground. So, yeah, Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani won very big because the crime rate has dropped through the floor and many New Yorkers appreciate that. Does that mean liberalism is dead, too? ; It depends on what kind you're talking about. If you mean a liberalism that says talking about crime is facist, ignores private-sector economic development, insists public parks belong to homeless people and assumes government has limitless resources, you're $afe to say liberalism is dead. 1 But that parody of liberalism died long ago, and it may have died first in New York City. For nearly a quarter-century, New York has been governed by centrists or (briefly) a liberal who had to behave like a centrist. i In 1973, New Yorkers elected Abe Beame, a gentle machine politician who was supposed to be a relief from the go-go liberal years of John V. Lindsay. Mayor Beame ran into a big fiscal crisis and was replaced in 1977 by Ed Koch. Mr. Koch called himself "a liberal with sanity," which was his way of saying he wasn't jiny kind of liberal that Mayor Lindsay would recognize. Mayor Koch was reelected twice, and, though a Democrat, he won once with the endorsement of the Republican Party. good Americans who work around the clock, fought for more money for big cities and won endorsements from big labor unions. In the last election, his Democratic opponent, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, was more critical of municipal unions than he was. You could make the case that Mayor Giuliani is either a '50s liberal or a '90s liberal whose views on gay rights and abortion are a bow to '60s liberalism. Or you could say that he defies classification. Not surprisingly, one person who feels the meaning of Mayor Giuliani's reelection has been misinterpreted is Ms. Messinger. She says that the post-election commentary has been a story of "ideological stick figures 10 feet high being slain." She argues that calling Mayor Giuliani a conservative requires a "sui generis definition" resting solely on the fact that he's "tough on crime." Ms. Messinger, whose past is that of a thoroughly liberal politician from Manhattan's thoroughly liberal West Side, sounded otherwise recently when she criticized Mayor Giuliani for courting budget deficits and for a "really incredible accommodation to labor." Ms. Messinger had three big issues. One was that under Mayor Giuliani, New York City's public schools have continued to deteriorate. The second was that New York's economy has not kept up with the national economy unemployment in New York has been about double the national average. The third was police brutality. Police brutality was a tough sell in a city overjoyed about dropping crime rates. But Ms. Messinger did score big in black neighborhoods, where both crime and police abuses are seen as problems. She also carried the Hispanic vote, though less overwhelmingly. Where nonwhites are a majority, Ms. Messinger won. These are neighborhoods where kids go to public schools and where unemployment is not an abstract question. But Ms. Messinger has a word of caution for fel- I Mayor Koch lost a primary m 1989 to David Din-kins, an African-American who was, indeed, a liberal. But Mayor Dinkins spent most of his term cutting city budgets to deal with another fiscal crisis and em-WWpH on a nolicinc stratecv verv similar to the one New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani low Democrats: The education issue isn't as easy a sell as they'd like to think, especially in big cities where Democrats are often blamed (with reason) for past school failures. Among voters, she says, "the disbelief that this is something we can do anything about is fierce." Many big ideological messages have been drawn from Mayor Giuliani's reelection. Most ignore the city's recent electoral history and Mayor Giuliani's deference to an electorate that is overwhelmingly Democratic. Here's a simpler explanation: When one candidate emphasizes crime and the other talks about schools and jobs, you know the voters are in a back-to-basics mood. liberals, conservatives and those who call themselves neither might usefully pay attention. B EJ. Dionne Jr. is a political columnist for The Washington Post. that Mayor Giuliani rode to national fame after beat ing Mr. Dinkins in 1993. Qn Mavnr Giuliani's rppWrinn was not a break uHth thp nast Tt renresented continuity. And what of Mayor Giuliani? Well, he's for legal abortion and gay fights and endorsed President cunton s crime dui nd supported Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, in his unsuccessful 1994 reelection race against Republican Gov. George r ataki. Mayor Giuliani defended illegal immigrants as If you work the spotlight tonight, I'll respect you in the morning Stephanie Brush "What?" he asked. "What did I do?" At which point, three women rushed up out of the audience, gushing, "You were wonderful. Though we could hear you better than we could see you." "You know what I owe you?" Derek bellowed at his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend, ignoring the other women. "Nothing." That's what you're paying me, stupid. Remember?" she screamed back. Which means we'll be running an ad for a "qualified light person" in tomorrow morning's paper. And what are we paying? Urn, does anyone out there have a friend? B Stephanie Brush is a syndicated humor columnist. ) t capable of doing for exactly three nights. Opening night, Suzanne snowed up four minutes before the performance, her eyes red and tear-filled. The show proceeded in a fairly professional fashion, except for one odd detail: Every time Derek appeared on stage, the spotlight leaped away from him like a Mexican jumping bean on Ritalin supplements. After the show, Derek stepped off stage, true to form, fuming: "Su-zanne! I need my spot-light." "Oh, really?" Suzanne screamed. "Well, why don't you ask Debbie to give you your spotlight, you pig?" "You had to pull this during opening week, didn't you, Derek?" I said under my breath. j Enter Olivia, age 19 a reasonably competent pupil-of-the-keyboard, willing to perform for "chump change." Also, the handsome star of the show, Derek, agreed to flirt with her in regular increments. As for lighting, the star of the show, Derek, made a dramatic announcement: "I have a friend who'd be willing to do that for nothing." "You mean a girl-friend, Derek," I said, knowing his reputation with females. "You mean SUZANNE, don't you? Suzanne showed up at the first dress rehearsal and did a masterful job of operating the spotlight. "Derek," I said to him. "You treat that girl right. HEAR?" This was something that Detek was - Everyone knows the "Ten Biggest Lies" by now the list that includes The check is in the mail," "I love you more than my wife" and "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." ! Here's one I would like to add: "Hey! I've got a friend who would do that for tiothing." J: For years, I was a sucker for "I've got a friend who would do that for nothing," even though it always sounded too good to be true. Example: For nearly six months, I avoided taking my '83 Subaru to a proper mechanic because my ex-roommate had a friend who would "fix Subarus for nothing" even though this friend never seemed to have a working phone number. ; V But I am digressing from the actual subject of this column, which is (what else?) Christmas. At the moment, as many of you know, I am in the throes of performing in a local Christmas entertainment extravaganza being mounted at a resort hotel near my home. Around the week of Thanksgiving, the bad news began trickling down to us: The show we'd be mounting would be a musical. And yet, the budget failed to include the hiring of any ... musicians. The idea of humming fairly loudly, in unison, was eventually abandoned. We all sat around one rainy afternoon and passed around the desultory query, "Does anyone know a piano player?" V

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