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Two Judges enter History; One leaves with Integrity


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Mid-century, two much admired Judges were asked by authorial tribunals to preside over an investigation integral to the'honor and integrity' of the society from which they were selected.
 
Earl Warren, was a governor of California, VP nominee of the Republican party, and an acclaimed Supreme Court Justice who engineered a unanimous decision of the Court, ending segregation in America's public schools. As Chief Justice, he swore in JFK as President in 1961, and roughly 1000 days later, he was asked to Chair a Commission that would investigate his asssaination. 
 
The WarrenCommission - as it was called - produced a report that neglected to call important witnesses, never considered any other possibility than the accused and dead, Oswald; agreed to keep millions of pages of information secret for 75 years, made autopsy photos unavailable to those asked to come to a conclusion; accepted a re-written autopsy report and, provided the single bullet theory to explain JFK's death. He admitted that one would likely not find out the truth "in their lifetime." Time, and the work of independent researchers (Breach of Trust, 2005) has shown his report to be inadequate on many levels and, more importantly, dishonest. 
 
Benjamin Helavi was one of the earliest Jews appointed a Judge by the British during their Mandate in Palestine. Subsequently he would oversee  the trial of Eichmann In 1954-5, he was called upon to oversee a case pitting the Establishment against a loner.
 
I have recently read Ben Hecht's sensational coverage of the 1954-5 Katsner trial in Israel, titled Perfidy (1961).  No wonder it was "repressed" in discussions; it went against the main stream reporting of what actually happened at this trial which caused such an internal crisis that Eichmann was pursued, tried and executed within 6 years of this trial. I had read Hannah Arendt's book on Eichmann and all of the stupid criticisms of her use of  the phrase banality of evil, but this trial preceeded the Eichmann trial; this trial exposed the unspeakable and involved leading political and party leaders during formative years of creating the State of Israel, a mere 6 years previous.
 
Hecht, wrote an autobiography A Child of the Century, which became part of the canon for drama students and co-wrote one of America's finest plays-- The Front Page.  He covers this trial with razor sharp writing developed  as one of the great Chicago news reporters. He describes how the "leading figures'" at the time -- the ones with all the Honors and Heads of all the Agencies - viciously tried to smear a 72 year old Hungarian journalist for saying that there was a collaboration between certain Zionists and certain Nazis. And in particular, this journalist said that the great Savior of the 1362 Hungarian Jews -saved on a train - had half the train full of people from his City along with his family; and that he helped Eichmann's partner Becher, to escape the death penalty at Nuremberg; and that he also kept quiet about what he knew - that 12,000 Jews a DAY were being sent to death. The doomed souls were never told; they were even reassured by Mr Katsner, that they were going to a safe place.
 
He wasn't the only one who knew of course, and for that reason, the State of Israel, not Katsner himself, brought suit for "libeling" this civil servant. The story is gripping and it explains a lot about what was never discussed -- there was a deference paid to England's demands for a limited number of Jews in their Mandated Palestine, and there was no reasonable justification to upset the creation of a State because some Hungarian Jews were bargained away. Dr Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel was born in Russia and emigrated to London and "magically became British" as Hecht suggests, and preferred being grateful to the British even if they didn't want too many or "the wrong kind of Jews" to arrive in Palestine.
 
Ever hear of the Altalena? It was the Irgun ship, which pulled into port, in June 1948, a month after the declaration of independence announced by Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion had assured the British that he would destroy the Irgun and arrange an Israel suitable to the British. The ship contained 5000 rifles, a million rounds of ammunition, 9 tanks and 50 anti-tank guns  as well as medical equipment, and 920 volunteers. All were betrayed by Ben-Gurion and Jewish soldiers fired rifles and cannon on the sitting duck till it sunk. Twenty were killed, half while floating in the water. Afterwards, Ben-Gurion announced to the world: "Blessed be the cannon that blew up the ship. It should be enshrined in the Third Temple of the Jews." This is the same Ben-Gurion that 15 years years later, resigned office rather than co-operate with JFK's non-proliferation policy.
 
 Betrayal is a theme of Hecht's book. The SS didn't want another Warsaw Uprising with Poles fighting to the death while outnumbered. In Hungary, they needed the transfer done without disruption or chaos. They arranged that by working with insiders like Kastner -  who headed the Jewish Agency which raised charitable donations to help "the saved." Kastner was supported by "Prime Minister Mosche Sharett, Mapai leader David Ben-Gurion, Attorney General Chaim Cohen and all the other renowned chieftains" as Hecht wrote.
 
An unspeakable strategy involved the master race's "idealists" and the chosen people's "idealists" - they would assist each other while pursuing related goals.  
 
The esteemed Judge Benjamin Halevi,  faced all the powers and all the abuse and was called a "traitor" by the same people that dumped on Garrison or dismissed Lane. He had the whole establishment against him. But Judge Halevi never wavered, never gave in; he dug and dug and demanded that the  unspeakable be acknowledged. The book Perfidy is hard to put down; it races to it's conclusion while providing  the context needed. It also highlights a few brave and honorable people, also unsung in history books.
 
  Unlike Earl Warren in 1964 (or Richard Goldstone in 2011),  Halevi, in 1955, kept his integrity. His reading in court of his decision to hold Kastner accountable took 14 hours to deliver.
 
  When Judge Haveli left center stage and walked into history, he had his head held high.

 
 
 
 
 
 
Edited by Robert Harper
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