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Mukasey Betrays Fundamental Jewish Tenets


By Sherwood Ross

Mukasey Refusal To Comment On Waterboarding Termed Betrayal Of Fundamental Jewish Tenets

A prominent Jewish-American legal scholar said Michael Mukasey's claim during his Senate confirmation hearing for Attorney-General that he did not know if waterboarding is torture is a betrayal of Judaism's fundamental tenets affirming "basic human values."

Noting Mukasey attended an Orthodox Jewish prep school, legal scholar Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, wrote: "He belongs to a people that often has been viciously persecuted for 1,500 or 2,000 years. Long before Hitler there was the Spanish Inquisition ---which used waterboarding, and may even have invented it."
Considering Mukasey's background and growing up in the 1940s and 1950s "when the human (and humane) attitudes of the general Jewish community favored social justice, Michael Mukasey nevertheless does not know if waterboarding is torture?" Velvel asked on his blog, "Velvel on National Affairs."

"He (Mukasey) cannot bring himself to say that a technique used in a Spanish war against his own people, a technique considered torture for 500 years, is torture? I just cannot understand how someone who comes out of Mukasey's background can say what he has been saying."

"I cannot grasp it even if one were to say Mukasey has acted out of ambition to become Attorney General," Velvel continued. "It seems to like a desertion of the most basic human values that a Jewish guy from New York City, and from a religious prep school no less, must have been exposed to all the time."

Velvel, who is Jewish, writes Mukasey's stance is part of the turn of American Jews to embrace conservatism and the parallel turn of so many Americans of all faiths "to accept torture as just one of those things." At the same time, Velvel said, he found positive values he believed were held by the children of European Jewish immigrants were also the values of other cultures, such as "Protestant rural America of the 1800s and well into the mid 20th century, of the working class of all racial and ethnic groups, of Scandinavian American Midwest culture, of much Asian American culture, and others."

"I am speaking here," Velvel goes on to say, "of values such as hard work, modesty, honesty and a sense of fairness to others. The only group, as it were, that one might think gravely lacking in such attributes is, sad to say, the group which controls America today: the white collar class in business, the professions and government."

"The overall subject has in recent years been sensitive," Velvel wrote on his blog December 14th, "because so many of the neocons who brought us the Iraq war were Jewish." He continued, "The men at the very top weren't, "Bush II, (Richard) Cheney, (Donald) Rumsfeld. But several people just below, or with influence, were: (Paul) Wolfowitz, (Douglas) Feith, (Elliott) Abrams, (Richard) Perle, William Kristol."

The Senate last month confirmed Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales, by a vote of 53-40 after a debate that swirled around Mukasey's denial of knowledge that waterboarding is a form of torture.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D.-Nev.), said after the confirmation, "This is not a new debate, nor an unsettled question. Judge Mukasey doesn't need a classified briefing from the Bush White House to answer this question."

NOTE: Velvel is Dean and Cofounder of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover. The school is purposefully dedicated to providing a quality, affordable legal education to students from minority and immigrant groups as well as from families of modest means. Further information or to arrange for interviews with Dean Velvel, please contact Sherwood Ross.

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(Sherwood Ross is a free-lance writer and public relations consultant and Director of Anti-War News Service. He was host of a radio talk show in Washington, D.C., reported for the Chicago Daily News and worked as a regular columnist for several wire services. Reach him at sherwoodr1_AT_yahoo.com)

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