Images by Carlos Latuff
Images by Carlos Latuff
Obviously oil is more important than Human Rights as far as Obama is concerned
Fayadh was sentenced to the death penalty in November for “apostasy” and allegedly emitting “blasphemous statements” in some of his poetry.
The poet’s sentence has been changed to eight years in prison and 800 lashes by the general court of the city of Abha in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
Fayadh’s lawyer, Abd al-Rahman al-Laham, hailed the downgraded sentence, while maintaining that Fayadh was innocent on all charges.
Under the new sentence, Fayadh would be subjected to 16 sessions of 50 lashes each, al-Laham said.
The lawyer added that he would appeal in the coming days.
In May, the general court of Abha sentenced had Fayadh to four years in prison and 800 lashes, but the prosecution, which had called for the death sentence, had successfully appealed. The downgraded sentence effectively adds four more years in prison to the original sentence.
Fayadh has denied all charges against him, saying that another man made false accusations to the country’s religious police following a personal dispute.
Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice arrested Fayadh in January 2014 for poetry he had published in 2008.
Fayadh had previously been arrested in 2013 after a complaint was filed against him alleging that he spread “misleading ideas.” However, he had quickly been released due to lack of evidence.
In November, Human Rights Watch slammed the death sentence handed down to Fayadh, calling it “yet another indictment of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.”
According to the organization, Saudi Arabia executed 158 people in 2015, the highest number of executions in the Wahhabi kingdom in 20 years.
Images by Carlos Latuff
It’s Time for Egypt To Throw Another Shoe In The Face Of A Tyrant!
Five years ago …..
Israel is losing the ‘Propaganda War’ if this is the best they can do …
Following is the video which attempts to defame the entire left because of the actions of one individual …
“Uvda” investigating TV program exposed human rights activists working together with the Palestinian intelligence in order to murder Arab land dealers who are trying to sell land to the Jews.
This is the full report is based on “Ad Kan” investigations – an NGO that is dedicated to expose the true face of Israel’s radical “human rights” organizations and the BDS movement.
Even the infamous war criminal of an ex President claimed today that;
Israel has not done enough to “understand” the reasons behind Palestinian terror, according to former President Shimon Peres. In an interview he gave German magazine Der Spiegel before his recent heart attack, Peres sounded an apologetic note for the Arab terror against Israel.
“This terror is a revolt,” he told the magazine. “Many young people are attracted today by the totalitarianism of terror. What we have in Israel is part of this development – but at the same time it is different. There needs to be two states, but there is only one. This contributes to the fact that young Palestinians are against us. Israel often does not see the real reasons. Israel does not see this as a protest. It sees the killing.”
Israelis needed to put the Palestinian violence “into context,” Peres said, according to the magazine.
Peres also undermined Israel’s accusations that Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas bears responsibility for the terror as the person at the head of the PA’s incitement machine. “Abbas is a very courageous man,” said Peres. “I met him often and negotiated with him directly. He wants peace and he fights terror.”
The only solution, Peres said, was a true two-state solution. “I believe that Israel is in a transitional phase,” said Peres. “I do not think that we will be able to eternally avoid a diplomatic solution, which will be the two-state solution. Nothing else will do.” Netanyahu’s government has been based on trying to have it both ways, said Peres. “Netanyahu has recently proposed a kind of 1.5-state solution during his visit to the United States: a demilitarized Palestinian state, which is further controlled by the Israeli military. That is not acceptable. The whole world wants a two-state solution.”
Eventually – when Netanyahu leaves office – that is what will take place, said Peres. “Governments are not elected for eternity. They are temporary. The only eternal person is the Messiah and has not yet come.”
In defense of Israel, Peres said that Jewish extremism is a limited phenomenon. “How many people are we talking about? Very few,” he argued. “The perpetrators of the arson attack on a Palestinian family in Duma have now been apprehended and brought to justice. We combat this phenomenon.”
A new bill to be introduced in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, next week would permit the cancellation of a person’s permanent residency on grounds of “disloyalty” to Israel.
A new bill to be introduced in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, next week would permit the cancellation of a person’s permanent residency on grounds of “disloyalty” to Israel.
Last October, the prime minister’s office announced that the government had decided to revoke the residency of “terrorists,” a policy that would almost exclusively affect Palestinians living under military occupation in East Jerusalem.
When Israel occupied East Jerusalem in June 1967, formally annexing it in 1980, it decreed that Palestinians living there were “permanent residents,” as if they had moved to Israel as immigrants, rather than Israel violently imposing itself on them.
This residency status is vulnerable to revocation and requires Palestinian Jerusalemites to fulfill certain conditions to maintain it that are never applied to Jews.
Under international law, Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is null and void.
While more than 14,000 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem have had their residency revoked since 1967 – usually because they might have temporarily moved elsewhere to study, work, be closer to family or get married – none has yet lost their residency for alleged acts of “terror” or disloyalty.
In 2011, Israel did expel several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council from Jerusalem on the grounds that they belong to Hamas. It also regularly bans Palestinians from the city on grounds of “security.”
A handful of Palestinians have been threatened with revocation for breach of loyalty, but their cases are still subject to court proceedings.
In advance of a legislative meeting on 17 January, when the new bill is to be discussed, the Israeli human rights organization HaMoked has written to Yehuda Weinstein, Israel’s attorney general, to emphasize the illegality of the law.
HaMoked warned that the bill, proposed by lawmaker Oren Hazan, will not only seek to legalize the revocation of the permanent residency of those convicted of “disloyalty,” but also of their relatives and spouses.
Hazan, who admitted last year to fabricating information in an attempt to discredit a group that documents Israeli abuses against Palestinians, is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Disloyalty is not defined in Hazan’s bill, nor is it clear why Palestinians living under military occupation owe any duty of loyalty to their occupiers.
The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from forcibly transferring civilians from their homes.
In 2011, Israel approved the Citizenship Law, that allows courts to revoke the citizenship of those convicted of treason, terrorism or espionage.
However, citizenship can only be revoked in cases where the person has dual citizenship.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem with permanent residency are not citizens of Israel and often carry no other citizenship or passport.
In the meantime, Israel’s high court has refused to intervene on behalf of four Palestinians from East Jerusalem whose residency Israel is threatening to revoke.
In November, Silvan Shalom, then interior minister, notified four Palestinian young men, who are currently in Israeli custody for allegedly committing attacks, that he intends revoke their residency under the 1952 Law of Entry, which he claimed allows him to revoke the residency of individuals who “breach allegiance to the State of Israel.”
HaMoked filed a petition with the high court on behalf of the four men to challenge the revocation. Israel responded that the petition was premature since the interior ministry had not yet made a final decision regarding their cases.
The four Palestinians whose residency is in jeopardy are currently in prison awaiting trial. Two of them carry Jordanian citizenship, according to HaMoked’s court filings, while two are stateless.
Three of the Palestinians are accused of manslaughter by throwing stones at cars, allegedly causing one driver to have a heart attack and fatally crash his vehicle.
The policy of revoking the Jerusalem residency of Palestinians is as blatantly discriminatory as Israel’s practice of punitively destroying the homes of relatives of Palestinians accused of attacks. Neither revocation of residency, nor punitive demolitions are ever applied to Jewish suspects or their relatives, no matter what crimes they commit.
On 7 January, the high court ruled in favor of the state, that the men’s court challenge could not take place before the interior ministry had issued a final decision on their expulsions.
At the same time, the court acknowledged the serious implications of such a move.
“There is no doubt that the revocation of permanent residency visas of East Jerusalem residents raises constitutional and administrative issues of great weight,” the court wrote.
It remains to be seen whether these legal concerns will stand in the way of Israel’s ever harsher measures against Palestinian Jerusalemites.
As it has with the punitive demolitions, Israel’s highest court has often acted as an enabler and champion of Israel’s abuses of Palestinians rather than a check on them.
On Monday, January 18, 2016, the monthly meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels is expected to discuss and decide on next steps to be adopted by the EU on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Policy-makers in Israel are worried as they fear an expansion of European efforts to isolate Israel’s settlements
On Monday, January 18, 2016, the monthly meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels is expected to discuss and decide on next steps to be adopted by the EU on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Policy-makers in Israel are worried as they fear an expansion of European efforts to isolate Israel’s settlements.
As it discusses next steps, Europe must recognize that “the US leads” approach to resolving the conflict is doomed to never-ending failure: It affords time for the Israeli settlement enterprise to further entrench itself and makes the two-state solution increasingly impossible to achieve. It is blindingly clear – in light of two decades of failed bilateral negotiations under American auspices – that US leadership of conflict resolution efforts is pointless and counter-productive.
If Europe’s policy is to achieve two states for two peoples, it will have to pursue an independent policy position that circumvents the Americans. Moreover, the substance of European policy will have to be more consequential than policy changes to the EU Guidelines for participation in the Horizon 2020 program that exclude settlements, or requiring that Israeli settlement products be labeled while allowing their trade to continue.
European policy will have to become more punitive and assertive if it is to incentivize Israel to make meaningful concessions for peace. A study undertaken by the European Council on Foreign Relations in July 2015 shows that there is significant opportunity to further isolate Israel’s settlement project by expanding the scope of legal differentiation between Israel and the Occupied Territories in European law, to include re-examining “the integration of the European and Israeli financial sectors, the charitable status within the EU of organizations that support Israel’s settlement enterprise and the validity within the EU of legal documents issued by Israeli authorities in the Occupied Territories.”
If Europe’s influence in this conflict arena is negligible, it is because Europe has relied on the wrong leadership for too long. This tragic, historic mistake has not only cost European taxpayers billions, but has also led to a reality that is the diametric opposite of what European policy-makers intended. After 23 years, reliance on American “leadership” has led to the creation of numerous Palestinian Bantustans, surrounded by an occupying military power that continues to occupy with impunity, bankrolled by European taxpayers: The EU and its member states are by far the largest donors to the Palestinians. Israel – delighted that another party is willing to subsidize its military occupation – continues to expand and consolidate its settlement enterprise, with the support of large sections of the American public.
Historically, the US and EU have shared a common objective of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the framework of a two-state solution. However, after the repeated failure of US mediation efforts, and, more recently, the resignation of the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, a perverse reality continues to dictate that there is no peace – and no traction towards peace – any time in the near future, or possibly even within our lifetimes.
America supports occupation. Europe inadvertently subsidizes occupation. This regrettable logic is an accurate description of current reality. The US continues to advocate a hands-off, “it’s up to the two parties to decide” approach. As a result, Israel, which has all the power, has little incentive to concede, while the Palestinians, who have no power and are supposedly “protected” under international law are left to their despair.
While commentators have busied themselves picking at the rotting carcass of the so-called peace process and apportioning blame for its failure, few have dared to state the obvious: America is part of the problem, not the solution. Israeli intransigence and blatant violation of international law is fueled by its belief that, no matter what its does, the US will always insulate it from meaningful rebuke. Palestinian desperation is driven by a conviction that America’s overwhelming support to Israel makes negotiations pointless, as Israel has little incentive to concede when showered with so much money, weapons and political support.
To take but one example, in February 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal, despite the fact that 130 countries co-sponsored the resolution and it was supported by all other 14 members of the Security Council. Later that year, in May 2011, the US Congress gave Prime Minister Netanyahu 29 standing ovations as he publicly dismissed President Obama’s position that the 1967 borders should be the basis for a final territorial settlement. By contrast, Europeans have moved towards recognition of the State of Palestine. Sweden and the Vatican’s recognition are now official while parliaments in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, along with the European Parliament, have all approved recognition.
In summary, the US gives staunch support for Israel, while the EU tries to clean up the chaos inspired by Israeli excesses and US hypocrisy ad infinitum. Monday’s meeting is an opportunity to examine what the EU can do to change this reality.
It is time for Europe to roll up its sleeves, play power politics, and take on the occupier, without waiting for American leadership to produce results. If the experiences of Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and South Africa are anything to go by, an occupier or an apartheid regime will only change its ways with a nuanced combination of sanctions, international isolation and, as a last resort, military force.
The EU must rise to the occasion and demonstrate to its constituents that European money and credibility are more important than indulging in American charades of impartiality. It is clear that America has no moral or political qualms with Israel remaining an occupying force. Once Europe finally acknowledges this reality and moves on, it will find the strength and legitimacy to propose policies of its own, in line with its European neighborhood objectives, its own moral standards, and its own laws.
Image by Carlos Latuff
The US has declared one an enemy and the other an ally.
Go figure …
Former Israeli Prime Minister Olmert’s prison sentence has been reduced …. perhaps what follows might explain why. The space might be needed to soon house the Netanyahu family ;)
Netanyahu family requested that state pay for their dog’s care
The latest installment in the ongoing saga of the Netanyahus’ dog arrived on Tuesday when it was discovered that the family had requested that the state pay for Kaia’s care and food.
The request, which would have essentially meant that expenditure for the dog would have been footed by the Israeli taxpayer, was refused by the Prime Minister’s Office on the grounds that it constitutes a personal expense, rather than a state one.
Full report HERE
Meanwhile, here is how Sara tried to
make steal a few extra Shekels to feed the family ….
Image by Latuff
Sara Netanyahu To Be Questioned in Bizarre Bottle Deposit Scandal
JERUSALEM — Israel’s first lady will be questioned over suspected spending irregularities at the prime minister’s residence.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly will be questioned Thursday, despite a request by her attorney to close the investigation.
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein in February announced his recommendation of a preliminary investigation into allegations of overspending following the release of the comptroller’s report noting that expenditures at the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem “do not conform to standards of reason, proportionality, economical management and efficiency.”
Weinstein also took issue with expenditures at the family home in Caesarea.
He ordered that the probe be postponed until after last March’s national elections; the criminal investigation began in July.
Sara Netanyahu also is believed to have pocketed thousands of dollars from deposits on bottles paid for by the state.
She was sued in March 2014 by a family caregiver over claims that she was abusive and in 2010 by the family’s housekeeper for withholding wages and verbal abuse.
Nice, trustworthy family, eh?
"Israel’s Christmas gifts to Bethlehem this year serve towards consolidating the separation between Bethlehem and its twin city, Jerusalem; the city where Jesus was born and the city where he was resurrected"
Le Petit Prince By Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
How can we learn from children dealing with adversity? There were many images that shock us almost daily. The Palestinian child splayed on the beach in Gaza with his tiny body ripped by Israeli bullets. In 2015 it was of a Syrian child with the same pose, face down in the sand having drowned in the Mediterranean. About the same time, Palestinian children where being killed (two were burned alive) How much pain can people take? How can we think of the dictatorial leaders of countries like the very rich Arab gulf states and Egypt closing their eyes to this suffering which they help perpetuate. We can reflect on these painful episodes of man's inhumanity to fellow human beings. We can focus on the greed and the corruption and the cruelty that we face daily (five Palestinians killed here during the two days of Christmas). But I really do not want to do that any more. As this year comes to a close and a new year begins, I reflect on value of good deeds and then reflect on other living children. When Israel demolished a Palestinian home in Nablus recently in an act of collective punishment as they do routinely, good people (most of them poor) donated thousands within 24 hours for rebuilding). "Good Samaritans" are everywhere and I meet them every day. I am so grateful to them for making the lives of people around them better. Those who give of themselves and in so doing enrich themselves. It is hard to describe how motivating it is to see hundreds of good people giving to good causes that try to better the lives of fellow creatures on earth. Some challenge oppression to the point of sacrificing their lives to push for the freedom of others. Others donate to help suffering people. Some gave up their careers to work with refugees desperately clinging to life. Sometimes we can lose faith in humanity. But as a biologist, I find new adaptations and new life especially hopeful. Spring is coming earlier today in Palestine (perhaps because of the global warming). A small bird manages to survive a broken wing. A lizard regenerated its tail. A flower blossoms. A new seed sprouts. A new human birth (a miracle). One surviving child in particular gave us so much hope. Every once in a while we see a video chronicling the progress in recovery of the surviving Dawabsha child (he was severely burned, his mother, father, and younger sibling all perished in the Jewish settler arson attack). We see his grandfather able to solicit the beautiful smile and even laughter and we say: there is hope in humanity. I see a hungry child share his bread with another hungry child with a smile. I remember how one child from Aida refugee camp whose mother was killed by Israeli soldiers once told me and another adult that "Do not worry, Palestine will be free". I remember and reread the story of "The Little Prince" (Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; I have a collection of it in many languages) and I am reminded when tough times fall (and they do more and more often) that we need to tap the little child inside us. Children still have the idealism, kindness, social connection, and hope that adults seem to loose. For me personally, many people harmed me or tried to do harm to me in 2015 ranging from Israeli soldiers and settlers to deluded Palestinians. To such all I hope we all say: we do not hate you and we do forgive you. It does not mean we will stop working for justice or challenging oppression and corruption. It is actually our (positive) way of doing so. We call on you to join the ever increasing circle of people who light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. They know that doing good without expecting any return is the most enriching experience in life. Working for a bigger cause than one self is the best and most healthy way to live. It is the essence of true happiness. In this same spirit, Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michael Sabbah wrote in the Israeli paper Haaretz a meaningful message to Israeli leaders: "Israel’s Christmas gifts to Bethlehem this year serve towards consolidating the separation between Bethlehem and its twin city, Jerusalem; the city where Jesus was born and the city where he was resurrected – the essence of the Christian faith. Aside from the daily violations that the besieged Bethlehem suffers as a result of the occupation, Israel issued a military order last week announcing that it has confiscated 101 dunams of Bethlehem’s northern lands. In the same week, the Israeli government approved the expansion of the illegal settlement of Gilo - built on privately owned lands of Bethlehem - by 891 new housing units....Despite Israel’s claim that it is the only country in the Middle East where Christians prosper, the unspoken message it sends on the ground is that it has no respect whatsoever for their rights as Palestinians and for their existence in their homeland....Bethlehem is now either a symbol for peace, or war. I invite the Israeli leaders to make it a symbol for peace and for a new just approach for Palestinians. Palestinians deserve the full achievement of their inalienable rights..." "But Jesus said, Allow little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Image by Carlos Latuff
Related video (in Arabic)
Man caught on film walking naked through Mediterranean sea and crossing into Egyptian territory where he is shot by security forces.
As the Red Scare spread, about 300 workers in the entertainment industry were blacklisted.
‘Trumbo’ and the Hidden Story of the Red Scare
The post-World War II years could have shaped America into a very different country by building on the foundations the New Deal and moving more along the lines of European allies with publicly financed health care and other social protections.
Instead, reactionary forces that never made peace with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era reforms generated a new Red Scare, wildly exaggerating the threat from a small number of mild-mannered communists and leftists in Hollywood to steer the nation in a right-wing direction favored by big business.
A new movie, Trumbo, recounts one early chapter in that saga, the persecution of screenwriter Dalton Trumbo and other leftists in the movie industry who became known as the Hollywood Ten, subjected to jail and “blacklisting” for their political views.
The film tells Trumbo’s personal story as a victim of ambitious congressmen, a zealous columnist and intimidated movie executives, but also how this talented screenwriter ultimately prevailed with the help of actor Kirk Douglas and a few other Hollywood luminaries who appreciated Trumbo’s skills and saw the blacklisting as a hysterical witch hunt.
But what the movie fails to explain is how the scars from the Red Scare permanently changed America, making it a place of fearful conformity with a relatively narrow band of acceptable political thought. The era killed off a vibrant Left that could have challenged the Right’s hostility to government social programs fulfilling the constitutional mandate to “provide for the … general Welfare.”
Yet, as a tale of one man’s struggle against a fearsome combination of government pressure and industry complicity to control his freedom of thought, Trumbo is a worthy – and even rare – historical drama.
An Exceptional Talent
Dalton Trumbo was one of the most colorful, fascinating and prolific writers that the Hollywood film colony ever produced. Trumbo wrote, or co-wrote, well over 50 produced screenplays. In addition, he wrote numerous plays, novels and non-fiction books. Some of his most famous scripts were A Bill of Divorcement, A Guy Named Joe and Kitty Foyle.
Unfortunately for Trumbo, he was never allowed to walk up on stage to receive an Academy Award. Not because he did not win any. He actually won two: one for The Brave One and one for Roman Holiday. But at the time he won those Oscars — in the 1950s — he was on what became known as the Hollywood blacklist.
This was an unofficial assemblage of the names of persons working in the motion picture industry who were not allowed to be employed by any of the major studios or television networks. Therefore, when Trumbo won those two awards, his Oscars were given to people who either did not actually exist or who worked as a “front” for Trumbo.
A “front” was someone who had an acceptable name to the studios and who was deemed employable. This person did either little or no work on the completed script, but was allowed a percentage of the fees accrued for the screenplay. Trumbo was finally given his Oscar for The Brave One in 1975, the year before he died. It was not until 2011 that his name was restored to prints of Roman Holiday.
Trumbo was born in Colorado in 1905. He began writing in high school for his local newspaper. When he attended college at the University of Colorado, he worked as a reporter for the Boulder Daily Camera. After working for a number of years at a bakery and after years of having his stories and novels rejected, he finally began to have some success when his essays were accepted in some major magazines. He then became a script reader for Warner Brothers.
From about 1937 to 1947, Dalton Trumbo was one of the highest-paid writers in Hollywood. Some sources state that he was the highest paid writer in the film colony. Trumbo had two qualities that producers craved: he was versatile and he was fast. He could write in a variety of film genres, from comedy to fantasy to personal drama to the epic structure. And since he was a workaholic, he could produce completed screenplays and rewrites at a rate that was exceptional.
Actor Kirk Douglas was astonished at how fast Trumbo wrote the script for Spartacus. In Douglas’s book, I am Spartacus, the actor said Trumbo worked at least twice as fast as any writer with whom he worked. Those qualities, plus a gift for finding a story arc and creating credible characters and dialogue, helped Trumbo ascend to the highest peak of Hollywood success before the age of 40.
Trumbo’s career all but collapsed when he ran headlong into the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). This infamous committee first became prominent under Texas Congressman Martin Dies in 1938 when it was initially supposed to investigate Nazi espionage in America. But since it was largely composed of Republicans and conservative Democrats (like Dies), it quickly turned to inquiring into one of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, the Federal Theater Project. (Robert F. Vaughn, Only Victims, p. 36)
The Federal Theater Project was a part of the Works Progress Administration, which became the largest single employment program of the New Deal. The Federal Theater Project was meant to employ out-of-work actors, directors and stage managers in federally funded stage productions; both in New York and several regional outlets.
It was a smashing success in that it produced nearly 1,000 plays in four years. These were seen by hundreds of thousands of spectators. Some of the plays were directed by Orson Welles and have become legendary in stage history, e.g., The Cradle Will Rock.
HUAC did not like the spectacular success of this program. Dies once said that the WPA was the greatest boon the communists ever had in the United States. (ibid) Dies called several people to testify about supposed communist influences in certain productions. The committee was so unsophisticated in its understanding that it criticized the director of the project for going to Russia to see new experimental plays by theater innovators like Konstantin Stanislavsky. (ibid, p. 61)
Congressman Joe Starnes famously asked project director Hallie Flanigan if playwright Christopher Marlowe was a communist, though Marlowe had died in 1593. Yet, these clownish blunderings became popular with newspapers and magazines. And, at first, HUAC gained a large amount of public support. Dies unsuccessfully called for the resignation of New Deal officers such as Harry Hopkins and Harold Ickes. (ibid, p. 70). But Dies did kill the Federal Theater Project.
After World War II, HUAC became a standing committee and – under new chairman Parnell Thomas – the panel decided to hold hearings into the Hollywood film industry. The committee investigators, led by Harry Stripling, assembled dossiers which were largely created from information delivered by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. HUAC then held open hearings, calling a series of prominent players in the entertainment field.
Contempt of Congress
The first panel consisted of “friendly witnesses” who essentially agreed with the committee’s judgments and aims – that Hollywood was filled with communist agents who were assembling works of propaganda in order to weaken the foundations of American life. Then, HUAC called “unfriendly witnesses” who did not agree with these judgments, refused to cooperate with the committee and were then indicted for contempt of Congress.
The “friendly witnesses” included three heads of major studios: Jack Warner, Louis B. Mayer and Walt Disney, all extremely powerful, wealthy and politically connected. Warner volunteered the names of suspected communists, e.g. writers Alvah Bessie, Howard Koch and Ring Lardner Jr. (Vaughn, p. 81)
Disney testified that a strike his studio endured a year before was caused by communist infiltration of trade unions, and he named union leader Herbert K. Sorrell as a communist agent. Disney also named an animator at his studio, David Hilberman, as a communist. (ibid, p. 85)
Mayer testified that HUAC should write legislation that would regulate the employment of communists in private industry.
With Republicans in control of the committee, it enlisted novelist Ayn Rand as a witness who watched the film Song of Russia and evaluated whether or not it was propaganda. Rand declared that since the film did not depict normal life in Russia as a gulag, it was propaganda.
As author Victor Navasky has written, the parading of these friendly witnesses was little more than the scaffolding for a sideshow. Famous actors such as Robert Taylor, Adolphe Menjou, Robert Montgomery, Gary Cooper and Ronald Reagan joined the studio executives. (Reagan continued defending HUAC into the 1970s even after it was formally disbanded.)
There was a tactical aim in all of this. By presenting these witnesses first and urging them to deliver speeches and name suspected subversives, the 10 “unfriendly witnesses” who followed were set up in the public eye as being antagonistic toward the earlier star-spangled cavalcade.
Trumbo was in this second group. He had been a member of the Communist Party from about 1943, an isolationist and anti-war, an attitude conveyed by his famous novel Johnny Got His Gun, published in 1939. In the rapidly ascending spiral of Cold War demagoguery, these qualities made him a perfect target of HUAC and one of its ambitious young members, Richard Nixon.
Pleading the First
Trumbo and his group of fellow writers – Albert Maltz, Ring Lardner Jr., Lester Cole, Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, John H. Lawson, Sam Ornitz, Adrian Scott and Edward Dmytryk (who was a writer-director) – decided to do battle with HUAC. They knew that the question the committee would ask was, if they were now or had ever been a member of the Communist Party, which would not be officially outlawed until 1954.
But the witnesses knew that if they admitted this, the next question would be: Who else do you know who is or was a member? Or the committee would ask, did you attend any meetings, and if so who did you see there?
Since they had already seen what men like Mayer, Warner and Disney did in getting rid of suspected leftists, the witnesses knew that not only would their careers be endangered but anyone else they named would be put at risk.
Therefore, Trumbo and other witnesses decided not to plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination but instead refused to directly answer the committee’s questions, citing their First Amendment rights of choice and privacy. For their stance, Trumbo and nine other witnesses, who became known as the Hollywood Ten, were prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
Their main attorney, Bartley Crum advised them that the Supreme Court would not uphold such a conviction. But after Trumbo was convicted in the lower court, the Supreme Court refused to hear his case. Trumbo went to prison for about 11 months in Ashland, Kentucky.
Besides prison terms, the Hollywood Ten case led to a blacklist by movie executives who “deplored the action of the 10 Hollywood men who have been cited for contempt by the House of Representatives.” All business ties and contracts with them were “suspended without compensation” and none would be re-employed until they were acquitted or purged themselves of contempt and declared under oath he is not a communist.
As the Red Scare spread, about 300 workers in the entertainment industry were blacklisted. Some, like actor Philip Loeb, were pushed to the edge. As Douglas notes in his book, Loeb could not care for his emotionally troubled son and committed suicide, a particularly painful experience for Douglas who knew Loeb when they were both up-and-coming actors in New York.
Eking Out a Living
When Trumbo emerged from prison, he first moved to Mexico for a couple of years. He tried to eke out a living writing scripts, but the man who once commanded $75,000 per screenplay could make only a fraction of that sum. So, he moved back to Los Angeles where he lived in a small house in Highland Park. For the next several years, he employed phony names and hired fronts to produce his scripts, even when he was dealing with small, independent production companies like the King Brothers.
Even though Trumbo was making much less money and working much harder and longer, he could not claim credit for his work. As Jay Roach’s Trumbo shows, this put a tremendous strain on Trumbo’s home life.
Beyond the movie executives, other powerful Hollywood figures piled on the Hollywood Ten and went after their support group, the Committee for the First Amendment. Actor John Wayne and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper formed the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservations of American Ideals.
When a performer or writer wanted to recant and purge himself, he got in contact with this group. As Reagan said in an interview for the film Hollywood on Trial, they would tell this person that the Alliance really could not help you unless you decided to help yourself. Once the person did so, he would get permission from studio executives to work again.
Roach’s film shows actor Edward G. Robinson, who had supported Trumbo with monetary contributions and didn’t work for a year, going through this penance under the approving eye of Wayne.
Some Hollywood Ten defendants, like director Edward Dmytryk, could not handle the pressures and made arrangements with the powers that be to recant and name names. As result, actress Lee Grant was added to the blacklist while the rehabilitated Dmytryk went on to direct films, including The Caine Mutiny, shot in 1954 at the high tide of the blacklist.
As the film shows, however, there were some brave souls who finally cracked the blacklist.
When Kirk Douglas came to Hollywood in 1945, he was hired to work on a film called The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. There was a strike going on, the one which Disney referred to in his testimony before HUAC. The striking union, largely representing set dressers, had asked the Screen Actor’s Guild to honor their picket line.
Under the influence of Guild leaders — such as George Murphy, Ronald Reagan and George Montgomery — SAG refused to do so. But the writer and the director of Douglas’s film, respectively Robert Rossen and Lewis Milestone, did support the strikers. They would not cross the picket line. Fearing a lockout, producer Hal Wallis had the actor sleep in his dressing room.
As Douglas related in his book, two years later, both Milestone and Rossen were called before HUAC. Milestone escaped to France. Rossen admitted membership in the Communist Party. Both men were blacklisted.
Another Douglas friend and colleague, Carl Foreman, producer of the film High Noon, was called to testify but fled to England. Foreman was targeted because some took High Noon as an allegory for what HUAC was doing to America.
A Disgusted Douglas
All this shocked Douglas, who knew that none of these men posed any threat to the security of the United States. He realized how absurd the practices of the HUAC actually were.
For instance, the committee called baseball player Jackie Robinson to testify against actor Paul Robeson, but Robinson could offer little or no information about the actor. Douglas concluded that the only reason Robinson was called was because, like Robeson, he was a famous African-American.
Douglas was also distressed by the fact that six of the Hollywood Ten were Jewish as was he and as were many of the executives who capitulated so completely before HUAC. Douglas could not understand why people of the Jewish faith, who fully understood the price and pain of being persecuted, would go along with the HUAC circus, led by a clown like Thomas.
As Douglas wrote and as the film shows, much of this stemmed from fear. Men such as Warner, Mayer and Harry Cohn were “terrified their great power would be taken away from them if their loyalty to America was called into question.”
Roach’s film shows a scene with columnist Hedda Hopper going into Mayer’s office, calling him a kike, and threatening to vilify him in her columns unless he cooperated with the committee.
But Douglas rejected such pressure, agreeing with actor Fredric March who said: “They’re after more than Hollywood. This reaches into every American city and town.”
Ironically, HUAC’s aggressive witch hunt against leftists in Hollywood contributed, indirectly, to the undoing of Trumbo’s isolation. In 1950, author Howard Fast was called before HUAC and grilled about his colleagues in a group opposing Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco. When Fast refused to answer, he also was imprisoned.
In prison, Fast used the library to research the life of Spartacus, a slave who turned gladiator and finally became a rebel leader against Imperial Rome. After getting released from prison, Fast wrote a historical novel about the man who almost undid the Roman Empire.
But Fast’s life was not the same as it had been before. He was banned from speaking on college campuses. He was under surveillance by the FBI. And he was denied a passport, which deprived him of his right to do research on Spartacus in Europe.
When Fast finished his book, he tried to sell it to his old publisher, Little, Brown and Company, but was turned down after the FBI visited the publisher. Six other publishing houses also turned it down. With no other alternative, Fast published it himself. In four months, it sold 48,000 copies with Fast and his wife shipping out copies from their basement.
By the 1950s, Kirk Douglas had built a very successful career as an actor. He also despised the fact that MGM made him sign a loyalty oath to play painter Vincent Van Gogh in Lust for Life. So, Douglas created his own production company with partner Ed Lewis, who dropped off a copy of Fast’s Spartacus on Douglas’s desk.
Douglas loved the book and decided to produce the film (and star in it). Fast insisted on writing the first draft of the script but it was quite poor, prompting Douglas to enlist Trumbo to do the re-write. But Douglas told Universal Studio chiefs Ed Muhl and Lew Wasserman that Lewis was writing the script.
About halfway through the film’s production, Trumbo stopped working, complaining that he had written about 250,000 words on the project so far and did not want to do that much work if his name was not on the film.
Douglas drove to Trumbo’s house and told him that when the film was finished, he would insist that Trumbo get screen credit, which is what Douglas wanted to do all along. Douglas invited Trumbo to a meeting at the Universal commissary with himself and director Stanley Kubrick, something Trumbo had not done for almost 13 years.
After columnist Hedda Hopper exposed the fact that Trumbo was secretly writing Spartacus, producer-director Otto Preminger approached Trumbo to write a movie from the Leon Uris book Exodus. Preminger announced this in the movie trade papers, joining Douglas in helping Trumbo crack the blacklist.
After Douglas and Preminger made their announcements, singer/actor Frank Sinatra also decided to employ a blacklisted writer, Albert Maltz, except Sinatra wanted to make this into a big event. But Trumbo advised Douglas to tell Sinatra to drop his crusade, since it would probably hurt Sen. John Kennedy in his presidential race against former HUAC member Richard Nixon. Joseph Kennedy, the candidate’s father, also advised Sinatra not to go that route.
A President Weighs In
But after Kennedy got elected in 1960, he and longtime friend, Paul Fay, attended a public screening of Spartacus. The American Legion was picketing and Kennedy could have asked for a private screening of the film. Wasserman and Muhl would have been glad to oblige.
But on the advice of his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President made the deliberate public appearance.
Roach closes the film with a nice strophe. Hopper is in her living room watching television when a segment depicting Kennedy’s attendance at the film comes on the screen. The camera rotates around her face slowly, as she begins to realize that her reign of terror is now ending.
The scene dissolves to black. Out of the darkness, we see Trumbo in the wings about to go on stage in 1970 to collect his Laurel Award, the annual distinguished career award given out by the Writers’ Guild of America. Eloquently, Trumbo addresses the issue of the whole blacklist period and the film closes.
Director Jay Roach began his career in comedy, directing Michael Myers in the Austin Powers films. He also directed the Robert DeNiro comedy Meet the Parents before going to the small screen to direct works closer to his heart. For HBO, he directed the political dramas Recount about the Republican heist of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, and Game Change about Sen. John McCain’s decision to pick Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate in 2008.
Roach has now made Trumbo, a political drama for the large screen. Overall, he does fairly well. Dalton Trumbo did several interviews that were captured on film and can be seen by almost anyone. Actor Bryan Cranston has obviously watched them at length as he does a nice job portraying Trumbo’s feisty character.
The English actress Helen Mirren plays Hedda Hopper. From the first time I saw Mirren in The Long Good Friday, I was struck by her intelligence, subtlety and technical proficiency. She furthers that tradition here with a nicely understated performance. In an easy part, John Goodman is strong and vivid as low-budget producer John King.
Roach likes to begin a scene low key and then build it to a powerful explosion or aria. For example, he does this with Goodman wielding a baseball bat at a representative of the producers’ alliance sent to intimidate him from employing blacklisted writers.
The one disappointment in the cast is Diane Lane as Trumbo’s wife Cleo. Either she could not find the center of her character, or Roach could not help her. It’s a completely blasé performance in a major role.
A Bigger Picture
In my opinion, some of the film’s shortcomings originate in the script by John McNamara. The film tries to make the opening of Spartacus into a crowning historical moment, which is not true. Because of the power of Douglas, Wasserman and Muhl, this achievement ended the blacklist for Trumbo but not for many others who did not have that kind of torque behind them. For them, it lingered on into the mid-1960s.
Another problem with the script is that it misses the core motivation for HUAC and the careers of some of its members, like Dies, Thomas and Nixon. For political reasons, they bitterly resented the scope and the goals of Roosevelt’s New Deal. They did not want government to be the solution to the Great Depression. So, they decided to poison the New Deal’s legacy with the taint of communism.
To a degree, they were successful. HUAC managed to drastically limit the American political spectrum by attacking, smearing, prosecuting and demonizing any political orientation left of the Democratic Party.
HUAC, Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare tilted the politics of the country decidedly to the right, meaning that – unlike many European industrialized countries – there is no serious left-leaning American political party.
Though HUAC Chairman Thomas went to prison on fraud charges, Sen. Joe McCarthy took up the anti-communist cause, expanding the Red Scare into the U.S. government and other aspects of American life. As with HUAC, FBI Director Hoover supplied information to McCarthy.
When Robert Kennedy became Attorney General, he looked at the information that Hoover had. There were maybe 50,000 members of the Communist Party in the United States and many of them were FBI informants. In other words, there was no real communist threat to fear. It was more a creation of men like Hoover who recognized that an exaggerated fear of communism was an effective weapon for gaining political advantage and personal power.
It was this subterranean agenda that the American public was never made to understand. Therefore the consequences went unabated.
Even today, prominent right-wingers decry government programs to create jobs or alleviate suffering – including President Barack Obama’s private-insurance-based health care program – as “socialism” or “communism.”
The value of scaring the American people has not been lost. Today, we live with another excessive threat, the War on Terror, which has led to the Patriot Act, torture, drone strikes and racial profiling.
The ability of Americans to resist these current excesses is crippled by the failure of politicians, the courts and the media to stop the Red Scare that started in Hollywood in 1947.
Trumbo is a decent enough picture. And Roach should be praised for his good intentions in filming it. There are few directors and producers making politically relevant films in America today.
But in my opinion, this subject would have been better served if Roach had made a mini-series on the subject. That would have given him the opportunity to depict a much wider American canvas and a much larger subject.
Dalton Trumbo was part of an epic struggle. In the end, he personally won, but the country lost.
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