Obama: ‘Terror Is No Match for Freedom’

A pen rests next to a message written by President Barack Obama in a condolences book during a visit to the French Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A pen rests next to a message written by President Barack Obama in a condolences book during a visit to the French Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Charlie Hebdo magazine’s offices in Paris, upon returning to the Washington, D.C. last evening on Marine One, President Obama walked not to the White House but rather to his motorcade to go to the French Embassy.

The French ambassador, Gerard Araudq, escorted the President into the embassy to sign the condolence book:

On behalf of all Americans, I extend our deepest sympathy and solidarity to the people of France following the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. As allies across the centuries, we stand united with our French brothers to ensure that justice is done and our way of life is defended. We go forward together knowing that terror is no match for freedom and ideals we stand for — ideals that light the world.

Vive la France!

[Read more…]

Terrorists Murder 12 in Response to Muhammad Cartoons

Three Muslim terrorists killed 12 people and injured 11 others in the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which has published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, in the most deadly terrorist attack in France in many years.

Charlie Hebdo had received numerous death threats in recent years, and their offices were fire-bombed in November 2011. The magazine was under police protection since then.

The terrorists shouted “Allah huwa acbar,” “God is the greatest,” adding, “We have exacted vengeance for the prophet Mohammad,” as they fled the scene of the crime.

The victims included:

  • Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, known under the pen name “Charb”;
  • Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Georges Wolinski, 80 years old, who was with Charlie Hebdo since it was published monthly in 1960 under the name Hara-Kiri;

    This is the last cartoon Wolinski drew for Paris Match.

    This is the last cartoon Wolinski drew for Paris Match.

  • Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Jean Cabut, known under the pen name “Cabu,” another of the paper’s founders whose work was central to Charlie Hebdo’s participation in the 2006 Mohammed cartoon controversy, and whose son, the French singer Emmanuel “Mano” Cabut, died in 2010;
  • Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Verlhac, known under the pen name “Tignous.” an active member of Cartooning for Peace and Clowns Without Borders;
  • French Economist Bernard Maris, known as “Tonton Bernard” (Uncle Bernard) to the readers of Charlie Hebdo;
  • Michel Renaud, who was visiting Charlie Hebdo to organize a cultural event, “Carnet de Voyage,” in central France to honor Jean Cabut;
  • police officer Franck Brinsolaro, member of the special protection service and part of Charb’s protection team;
  • police officer Ahmed Merabet;
  • Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Honoré;
  • Charlie Hebdo copy editor Moustapha Ourrad; and
  • Charlie Hebdo janitor Frédéric Boisseau.

According to DEBKA, the French police have identified two of the gunmen:

Two of the three gunmen on the loose after murdering 12 people at the French satirical magazine Wednesday have been identified as Paris-born brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, French nationals of Algerian origin aged 34 and 32. Cherif was part of an Iraqi jihadi network dismantled in Paris and sentenced to three years in prison on terror charges in May 2008. The two returned from Syria in summer. The third terrorist, Hamyd Mourad, 18, is of no fixed abode or known nationality. Last year, he reportedly was enrolled in a lycée in Charleville-Mezières around 50 miles from the Champagne capital of Reims, northeastern France.

This is one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that the ISIS terrorists thought justified murder. Translation: Mohammed overwhelmed by religious fundamentalists. "It is tough being loved by idiots."

This is one of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons that the ISIS terrorists thought justified murder. Translation: Mohammed overwhelmed by religious fundamentalists. “It is tough being loved by idiots.”

Anti-Semites Rape Woman, Rob Couple in France

Three armed men reportedly shouted anti-Semitic insults when they raped a Jewish woman, ransacked her and her husband’s house in the eastern Paris suburb of Creteil, and withdrew money from the couple’s bank accounts.

405px-Creteil_prefecture

Creteil, France.

The attackers reportedly demanded to know where the couple hid the money that they supposedly had, because they were Jewish. Police arrested two suspects and charged a third in this case.

B’nai B’rith International said that anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in Europe, and especially in France. The organization said its members are “horrified over the suspected anti-Semitic attack” and commend the police “for acting swiftly”:

This attack points to, once again, the need for European governmental and law enforcement officials to engage in proactive efforts to counter what has become an alarming spike in wanton attacks on Jews. We hope that those guilty of this heinous crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I am Nothing without Them: Holocaust Olympics Solidarity Tattoo

Today is the Jewish festival of Tu b’Av, which after Tisha b’Av, brings the message that we can overcome trauma, live again and find. First, we have to love ourselves and have inner strength and conviction we merit existence and support. The photos chosen for this article show an expression of love, remembrance and resistance. I never thought a tattoo could bring me to tears again after seeing number tattoos on Shoah survivors. But these photos are powerful, too, because they are about resistance.

More after the jump.
We are called by to holy resistance in the Torah, to act as the midwives did when they refused to follow a murderous edict of Pharaoh to murder the male Israelite infants. And so you can see a wonderful example of resistance, love and memory in this article’s accompany photos, on the arm of swimmer Fabien Gilot of the French team at this year’s Olympics. The tattoo began as a tribute to his grandmother’s Jewish husband, Max Goldschmidt, an Auschwitz survivor and a huge influence on his life.

Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat also engaged in an important act of resistance in the face of the refusal of the Olympic Committee to offer a main event memorial to the members of the Israeli Olympic team who were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Bavaria, in southern West Germany.

The Palestinian Olympic Committee called the idea of such a memorial “racism”!?

Here’s what JTA reported:

The head of the Palestinian Olympic Committee called the campaign to hold a minute of silence for the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics “racism.”

In a letter written to International Olympic Committee head Jacques Rogge, Jibril Rajoub wrote that “Sports are a bridge for love, communication and the spreading of peace between nations and should not be used for divisiveness and the spread of racism,” according to the Times of Israel, citing the media watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch.

Rogge has declined numerous requests to hold the minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the London Games on Friday. He held a minute of silence in memory of the athletes at a small ceremony in the Olympic Village on Monday.

In my humble opinion, the Palestinians are shooting themselves in the foot with such objections. I am an advocate for the Palestinians to experience the opportunity to try for ethical nationhood in a land of their own, just as Israel now has this opportunity. This behavior in their name and also by the Olympic Committee is brings dishonor to their cause. I was so sad to read it.

I’ve always adhered to the Jewish tradition that the body is the instrument on which the soul plays life for God and they we aren’t to add any cosmetic holes or engravings to it. But these images remind me of what the midwifes in denying Pharaoh’s edict in the Exodus story, this is an example of a kind of resistance to terror and we can all contemplate it, and then find our own particular creative manifestation of holy resistance.

Another wonderful example on this matter is found in the transcript of a radio interview with Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat at the beginning of the week:

Despite all the appeals from parliaments and heads of state, including Obama, Romney and Clinton, the heads of the International Olympic Committee decided not to honor this request to stand for a minute’s silence during the opening ceremony. Therefore, I think it is fitting that I make this protest in the name of the State of Israel. I did it by standing in the section of the sports ministers. I stood up, I bowed my head. I wore a black band on my left arm, which was very noticeable. It was aimed at precisely when [IOC President Jacques] Rogge was speaking.

It was very crowded in the gallery, and anyone who wanted to come over to me and say he was supportive – it was extremely difficult for him to get to me. Even so, there were a very few around me who did express support. We mentioned the massacre of the 11. The terrible massacre that took place. Yesterday the Syrian delegation marched here, and no one uttered a peep. Nothing. People are being slaughtered by the regime and no one voices so much as a chirp in protest. It’s business as usual for the world, like nothing happened. So everything here is sheer hypocrisy.

Because it is Shabbat here, and I don’t want to desecrate the Sabbath in an event of this kind, and it is also Tisha B’Av, I walked during the morning to the only place that is walking distance here, which is the swimming complex. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in making it to the finals, more’s the pity. Tomorrow night I am already returning to Israel, and I will return here again for the commemoration of the 11, which will be held at the [Israeli] Embassy on August 6.

Shabbat, Tisha b’Av and resistance. That is pure Jewish chutzpah klapei shamaya — holy and healthy courageous audacity, the Jewish way. No one was blown up, tortured or defamed, this was resistance done honorably in the face of Olympic Committee decision against remembering murdered Olympic athletes. Add your voice, every way you can. One day may we all treat each other with kindness and all live under their own fig tree on a square of land to call their own.

Three Moments of Horror: Kaddish, Kaddish, Kaddish

— by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

  • For Trayvon Martin, murdered February 26 in Sanford, Florida;
  • For Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his sons, Gabriel and Arieh, and Miriam Monsonego, murdered March 19 at Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse, France;
    Master Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten, murdered March 11 in Toulouse, France; and
    Corporal Abel Chennouf and Private Mohamed Legouad, murdered March  15 in Montauban, France; and
  • For the families murdered in March 11 in Balandi and Alkozai, Afghanistan:
    • Mohamed Dawood son of Abdullah,
    • Khudaydad son of Mohamed Juma,
    • Nazar Mohamed,
    • Payendo,
    • Robeena,
    • Shatarina daughter of Sultan Mohamed,
    • Zahra daughter of Abdul Hamid,
    • Nazia daughter of Dost Mohamed,
    • Masooma, Farida, Palwasha, Nabia, Esmatullah daughters of Mohamed Wazir,
    • Faizullah son of Mohamed Wazir,
    • Essa Mohamed son of Mohamed Hussain, and
    • Akhtar Mohamed son of Murrad Ali

— we grieve and we try to learn how to prevent such killings in the future.

After the jump, an English version of the Mourners’ Kaddish in Time of War and Violence; then, my thoughts on the causes and the meanings of these deaths.  I urge that in synagogues, churches, and mosques, memorial prayers be said this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for all those killed in these three moments of horror.
Mourner’s Kaddish in Time for War & Violence

Yit’gadal v’yit’kadash shmei rabbah: May Your Great Name, through our own expanding awareness and our fuller action, lift You and us to become still higher and more holy.

For Your Great Name weaves together all the names of all the beings in the universe, among them our own names, and among them those who have touched our lives deeply though we can no longer touch them —(Cong: Amein)

Throughout the world that You have offered us, a world of majestic peaceful order that gives life through time and through eternity — And let’s say, Amein

So may the Great Name be blessed, through every Mystery and Mastery of every universe.

May Your Name be blessed and celebrated, Its beauty honored and raised high, may It be lifted and carried, may Its radiance be praised in all Its Holiness —  Blessed be!

Even though we cannot give You enough blessing, enough song, enough praise, enough consolation to match what we wish to lay before you —

And though we know that today there is no way to console You when among us some who bear Your Image in our being are killing others who bear Your Image in our being —

Still we beseech that from the unity of Your Great Name flow a great and joyful harmony and life for all of us.   (Cong: Amein)

You who make harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make harmony within ourselves, among ourselves —  and shalom, salaam, solh, peace for all the children of Abraham — those from the family of Abraham & Sarah through Isaac and those from the family of Abraham & Hagar through Ishmael — and for all who dwell upon this planet. (Cong: Amein)

Killing Jews, Killing Muslims, Killing Blacks

Three recent incidents:

  • A Frenchman kills a Jewish family and several French soldiers (some of them Muslims) who had served the French government’s interests by using violence against Muslim societies.
  • An American soldier kills several Muslim families in  Afghanistan, the second Muslim country in which he has been ordered into four tours of violence.
  • An armed Euro-American kills an unarmed African-American for looking suspicious inside a gated community in Florida.

Three utterly different news items? Merely, as a Secretary of Defense once euphemistically said, “Stuff happens”? Just dots, no connections?

I don’t think so. For one thing, I think all three killers were operating within a framework of what seemed like legitimate violence. Even though there was widespread condemnation of their acts, afterwards. Afterwards.

Beforehand?

The Florida killer was operating under a basic American cultural “rule” (once felt by almost all white Americans, then by a majority, and still by a large proportion of them): The lives of black folk are far less valuable than the lives of white folk.

The Florida killer said he felt fearful. And Fear in a white person is far more urgent to end than Life in a black person is important to save.

Why did he feel afraid? Because the domination of other human beings, the willingness to enslave one class of them, lynch them, segregate them, impoverish them, imprison them, can only be undergirded by coming to believe that this class of them are dangerous. The oppression — which benefits the oppressor – precedes and gives rise to the Fear.

You can overcome fear by connecting, communing, with the people you fear. (But then how can you keep the benefits you get by oppressing them?) Or you can overcome fear by being willing to suffer and die for a principle. Or you can overcome fear by being willing to kill.  

In France, a marginalized  Frenchman put meaning in his life by enlisting in a one-man army. An army to avenge all the killings of Muslims by the French and Israeli armies. Anyone wearing a French uniform, and anyone wearing not only an Israeli uniform but the “uniform” of Orthodox Judaism, was dangerous. Even their tiny children.

He might have overcome his fear of these “dangerous” people by connecting, communing with them, trying to affirm his own humanity so that they would be more likely to affirm his. Or he might have overcome his fear by risking suffering and even death,  directly and nonviolently challenging the governments he saw as dangerous and frightening.  Or he could overcome his fear by killing.

And the third killer, an American soldier. He had been taught, not only in the brain but with every muscle and blood vessel in his body, that his job, and more than that his moral task, his sworn duty, is to kill Iraqis and Afghans. And certainly he fears them. They have damaged his brain, distorted his life.

He could have transcended his fear by trying to connect, to commune, with the Afghans he feared, whom he had been ordered to kill. If his officers had prevented his doing that, he could have transcended his fear by putting his freedom, maybe even his life, on the line by nonviolently challenging them. Saying the fourth tour of duty was too much. Laying down his machine-gun. Demanding to be discharged, to be able to make love with his wife and parent his children.  

Or he could transcend his fear by killing.

No wonder the Army that had taught him to kill brought him home after he killed, lest he be tried by the Afghans whose community he had shattered. After all, that same Army has time after time killed civilians, murdered wedding parties, broken the brains and bones of children — claiming all the while these dead were merely “collateral damage.” That same Army has taught such fear and hatred of Islam that its soldiers could piss on the bodies of dead human beings because they were Muslim, they could casually burn the book that to Muslims is the very Word of God.

So one soldier went beyond the Army’s expectations. If they were honest, they might give him a medal. Not the Medal of Honor, not the Medal of Courage, but the Medal of Fear Transcended.

In every one of our traditions, religious and secular, there are streaks of blood. In the Torah, proclaiming genocide against the Midianites.  In the Gospels, pouring contempt upon the Jews. In the Quran, calling not only for the inner jihad, the struggle against arrogance and idolatry, but on occasion for jihads of blood against some communities. In the Declaration of Independence, with its denunciation of “the merciless lndian savages'” who were the indigenous peoples of this land.

Let us not turn our rage, our fear, and then our violence against those “others” who have such bloody streaks amidst their wisdom, while pretending there are no such streaks amidst our own.

Let us instead remember that these streaks are only streaks in the many fabrics woven of connection and community, woven of a “decent respect to the opinions of Humankind.”   A fabric woven by all human cultures and by all the life-forms of our planet. A fabric of fringes, where every thing we call our “own” as if we own it came into being only through the Interbreathing of all life.

Shalom, salaam, solh &nmdash; Peace!  Healing! Wholeness!

Testimony From A Jewish Mother In Toulouse, France


Rabbi Jonathan Sandler with his sons Arieh and Gabriel, and Miriam Monsonego were killed by a gunman at Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse.


Mayor of Toulouse Pierre Cohen (R), surrounded by the municipal council, observe a minute of silence at Capitole’s place in Toulouse March 20, 2012.

— by Patricia Salama

This afternoon at 2:30, my tears started to flow as I left my son’s high school, Ozar Hatorah in Toulouse. Everyone around me was weeping as we followed the two black hearses in the funeral procession out of Ozar Hatorah’s courtyard. Inside the hearses were four wooden caskets. I had never seen such small coffins. You cannot imagine what it feels like to see the casket of a three-year old child adorned with the Star of David. They will be buried tomorrow in Jerusalem.

Over the last five years my son David attended this school. I was used to taking him there each morning at 8 o’clock and seeing the smaller children lined up in front of the high school/middle school to await the shuttle bus for Gan Rachi elementary and preschool. The only security measure: No parking in front of the high school. After all, the city of Toulouse is calm; we were confident; and we had no sense of danger. Of course, over the last few years, anti-Semitic incidents became more frequent than I remember from my youth, but we did not think much of it. My children would simply pocket their kippah when they left school and blend in.

Yesterday morning at 9 o’clock, my world changed.  David calls me on his cell phone in a state of panic. His friends have alerted him. A madman has opened fire at Ozar Hatorah, Rabbi Sandler and his children are dead and two people are injured: the granddaughter of the principal Rabbi Monsonego, and my son David’s good friend Brian.

Later in the morning, we learn about the death of the innocent little seven-year old Myriam Monsonego. Brian should make it through G-d willing.

Our Community gathered yesterday afternoon at the Great Synagogue of Toulouse. The large crowd recited kaddish and recited Psalms. I was happy to see the French Minister of the Interior (Claude Guéant), along with the Mayor of Toulouse (Pierre Cohen) and leaders of other religious communities in France. In our sorrow, we were not alone. A minute of silence was observed this morning in all of the schools across France.

I hope they find this madman. He had already killed three soldiers in Toulouse and Montauban before attacking Ozar Hatorah. The police are everyone. May G-d protect us.

Although Brian is no longer in critical condition, remember to say a mishaberach for “Aaron Bryan Bijaoui ben Esther Touil”! Brian is still in a Toulouse hospital seriously wounded. He is the 17-year old teen who stood in front of a 3-year old kid to protect him as the madman was shooting everyone.

Attack At Ozar Hatorah School In Toulouse, France

— by Rabbi Avi Shafran

The murderous attack on the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, France this morning is a tragedy that rightly tears the hearts of Jews and people of good will everywhere. More than a tragedy, though, it is an expression of evil, of the Jew-hatred that masquerades as many things but in its essence remains wickedness alone.

Agudath Israel of America joins in the mourning for our four brothers murdered in cold blood today, a teacher and his two children, and an 8-year old child. And we pray for the wounded 17-year-old’s full and quick recovery.

We also call upon the French authorities to leave no stone unturned in the search for the perpetrators of this repulsive act. Evil left to fester will only spread.

A Lesson in Sustainability from the Makers of Notre Dame

— Dr. Daniel E. Loeb

My writing has been scarce recently because of a family vacation to France for my niece’s Bat Mitzvah. However, an important lesson occurred to me yesterday while cruising down the Seine on a charming bateau mouche.

First, I was reminded that the Cathedral Notre Dame took nearly 200 years to construct (1163-1345 CE). Building such an enormous edifice without modern technology is a monument to the dedication and vision of the people and the church at that time.  Bishop de Sully devoted most of his life and his wealth to a project whose fruition he would never witness. However, the logic of time inspired people to attain immortality by devoting themselves to works of timeless grandeur.

Today, consumers demand immediate satisfaction for their desires. CEOs look no further than the balance sheet on their next quarterly report. And politicians are concerned only with the upcoming election (as well as the quarter-to-quarter fundraising battle and the daily poll tracking numbers associated with it).

More after the jump.
Conservationists warn that the world may already have hit peak oil production, but business interests counter that this problem may still be 30 or 40 years out.  They conclude that we do not have to worry about it. How short-sighted is that? Even if we had enough oil to cope with exponentially growing consumption over the next 200 years, then what? How egotistical would it be for us to conclude that we do not have to prepare for a post-fossil fuel economy.

Those who have faith in the invisible hand as conceived by Adam Smith are doomed to waste our resources and our environment with little concern for future generations. In my article, Every Economic Cloud Has A Silver Lining, I explained how narrow-minded profit maximization leads us to destroy resources unless their sustainable yield is superior to the interest rate. How foolish is it for us to tie fate of our planet’s bounty to the interest rates set by Central Banks!

It is taken as axiomatic that the economy is suffering if our consumption does not increase 5% year upon year. Yet who truly believes that our current level of consumer demand is sustainable? Where will our planet be in 200 years?

Upon returning to the port, we saw the iconic Eiffel Tower and learned that Gustav Eiffel only had a permit for the tower to stand for 20 years. The tower had been built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World’s Fair celebrating the centennial of the French Revolution), and it was intended to be demolished around the turn of the century.  However, those plans were set aside and the building stood as the tallest man-made structure in the world until 1930 when the Chrysler Building was built in New York City. Today, the Eiffel Tower still dominates the Paris skyline. Such a feat in our era of planned negligence is unheard of. Who today would bother designing a structure capable of weathering the elements for over 120 years when he only had a 20-year permit!

According to Annie Leonard:

What percentage of total material flow through our system is still in product or in use six months after being sold in North America? 50 percent? 20 percent? NO. One percent.
One! In other words, 99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport-99 percent of the stuff we run through this
system is trashed within 6 months. Now how can we run a planet with that rate of waste.


Tinkerers and pot-menders are long gone as simple devices make way for more complicated appliances which are no longer designed to be repaired and replaced, but rather to be thrown out and replaced. Replacement is an accomplishment for those who venerate the GDP, but an eye-sore and a health hazard for those concerned by our environment.

Alliance Francaise Announces Bastille Day Event on Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anne Ewers, President and CEO of Kimmel Center, to be Honored

–by Bonnie Squires

Parlez-vous Francais?  If so, then you will want to be part of the fabulous Alliance Francaise de Philadelphie annual Bastille Day Celebration on Thursday, July 14, at 6:30 PM at the Independence Seaport Museum on Columbus Boulevard in Philadelphia.

And even if you don’t speak French but love French food and French wine, then the Alliance Francaise Bastille Day Celebration is the place you want to be on July 14!!

Diana Regan, president of the Alliance Francaise, announced that Anne Ewers, the President and CEO of the Kimmel Center, will be honored with the inaugural Ambassador of the Arts Award, to recognize her leadership of this spring’s three-week Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, focusing on France.

Nancy Gabel, vice president of the Alliance Francaise, and chair of the Bastille Day committee, said there will be a cocktail reception, a buffet dinner, music and dancing under the stars, fabulous silent auction items, including round-trip tickets to Paris, and exciting raffle prizes.

Sponsors include St. Gobain Corporation, Arkema Inc.,  Lillet, Trois Petits Cochons, and Delta KLM Air France Alitalia.

More after the jump.

Members of the Honorary Committee include Senator Bob Casey, Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, Congressman Patrick Meehan, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Leslie Anne Miller, Esq. and Richard Worley, Lynne and Harold Honickman, Rep. Jim Roebuck, and Georges Perrier.

For information and reservations see www.afphila.com, or call the Alliance Francaise at 215-735-5283.  

French Railways and the Holocaust

During World War II, the French National Railway Corporation (SNCF) transported nearly 77,000 Jews from France to Nazi camps in filthy, crowded boxcars. The SNCF has claimed they were operating under the orders of the occupying German forces.

However, the SNCF did not protest against the deportations during the war, nor did they show any sort of regret in the aftermath of the war. Indeed, the SNCF continued to bill the government for payment overdue on these “services”.

However, California Bill AB 619 will force the SNCF to disclose their activities during World War II if they wish win a contract with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The SNCF has promised to fully comply with the bill and continues to pursue a bid on this 800-mile line with a projected cost in excess of $43 billion.

 
right

The French national railway promised Wednesday to disclose its role in transporting Nazi victims to World War II death camps if California passes a bill that requires companies seeking state business to reveal any involvement in the camps.

“It’s our intention to fully comply with the bill,” said Peter Kelly, an attorney for SNCF, which is working on a bid to win a contract with the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The bill by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, would require companies that want to help build or operate California’s $45 billion high-speed rail system to reveal whether they transported victims to work, concentration, prisoner of war or extermination camps.

As part of their bid, companies would have to provide records of their involvement and whether they took remedial steps for their action or paid restitution to victims. (Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/… )

Two Republican assembly men oppose this bill:

The bill is not entirely without critics, among them are two Republican assemblymen.

Bill Berryhill (Ceres) said California had no business penalizing companies for actions taken under different leadership in an earlier era.

“It’s crazy, just as it would be crazy to judge me on slavery when I had nothing to do with it,” Berryhill told the Sacramento Bee.

A second assemblyman, Roger Niello (Fair Oaks) warned the assembly that it was embarking on a slippery moral slope.

For instance, it raises the question of whether American railroad companies should be punished for transporting U.S. citizens of Japanese descent to World War II internment camps, he said. (http://www.jewishjournal.com/community/article/bill_aims_to_expose_railroads_nazi_ties_20100706/ )

In the past the SNCF has resisted taking responsibility for these transports. In 2006, a member of the European Parliment Alain Lipietz sued the SNCF for transporting member of his family to the Drancy deportation camp. The administrative court of Toulouse found the SNCF guilty of crimes against humanity and fined them 64,000 Euros. Despite the SNCF’s claims, the court found that the SNCF

“made no attempt to negotiate with the Germans authority for the liberation of the detainees, even though such an attempt could have be fruitful since the interested parties had false baptism certificates (with the exception of Mr. X)….

The SNCF never objected or protested making these transports and systematically billed them as “3rd class transportation services” for the Interior Ministry, and continued to demand payment for these services even after the liberation.

For this purpose, the SNCF used wagons normally used only to transport animals or merchandise. SNCF workers locked the people being transported into these wagons without water, food or the minimal necessities of hygiene although there was no constraint on them to do so. (http://martinwinckler.com/article.php3?id_article=813 )

The SNCF successfully appealed arguing that it was acting under the terms of the 1940 armistice with Germany and that the Deutsche Reichsbahn oversaw major facilities and operations.