The Story of Jared Kushner’s Family

Jared Kushner’s grandmother, Rae Kushner, was born February 27th, 1923, in Novogrudok, Poland, and lost most of her family during the Holocaust. In 1982, Rae Kushner was interviewed as part of a project for the Kean University of New Jersey Holocaust Resource Center and recalled attempts by her family to flee before the German occupation.

RAE KUSHNER: But we felt the anti-Semitism before that is coming something, but we couldn’t help ourselves. The door was closed that time. You know how hard it was to get a visa to Israel to go? Young girls and boys used to sit in a kibbutz for three, four years, ’til one used to go to Palestine. To America, very hard. If you send papers, you need to wait for two, three years ’til you get a visa at that time.

INTERVIEWER: So your family, your father actually was making attempts in 1935, ’36?

RAE KUSHNER: ’36, yeah. He had a sister here in United States, my father. And we tried. We heard the times is going to be felt. But we couldn’t do nothing. Later, in 1941, beginning of 1941, Germany took over us.

Lizzy Ratner talking:

I wrote this story because—for a bunch of reasons. With the election, I began thinking about immigration. And I knew—Trump had warned—you know, immigrants were going to be targets, refugees were going to be targets.

My family was enormously lucky. We got to the United States at the end of a period of really rich immigration from Eastern Europe. It was—but it was at the very tail end. My grandfather arrived in 1920. He arrived from Bialystok, Poland, which was not a happy place to be at the time. It was the end of World War I. There were pogroms. There was hunger.

“pogroms”. Pogroms were sort of attacks on Jewish people that took place throughout Eastern Europe throughout the 19th and early 20th century, possibly before that. And so he came here in 1920. And it turned out to be an enormously fortuitous moment—he had incredible timing—because it was a moment of sort of rising xenophobia in the United States. The United States was not happy about all the refugees coming from Eastern Europe, coming from Southern Europe, and so they passed—the country passed a series of extreme anti-immigrant measures. And I’ve always thought, “My god, my family got so lucky coming here six months before one of the most severe anti-immigrant measures of that period was passed.” If they hadn’t got here in 1920, they might not have gotten to the United States. And what happened to Jews who didn’t get to the United States is that many—but not all, but many—ended up dying in the Holocaust.

So, I was sort of thinking about all of this as the election happened, and I began to wonder. Well, Jared Kushner is a very powerful person in the now Trump administration. I knew that his family, they were Holocaust survivors. And I said, “I bet there’s an immigration story,” because many Jews who came to the United States in the 1920s, and then many sort of people who survived the Holocaust and didn’t survive, had stories of attempts to getting to this country and sort of failed attempts to getting here because there were these immigration laws that really cut the borders off in 1920, ’21. So, I just did some very basic research. I did some googling, and I found this remarkable interview with Rae Kushner, who happens to be Jared Kushner’s grandmother.

And in the interview—and we just saw a clip of it, but in the interview, we hear her talking about her family’s attempts to come to the United States in the 1930s. As I said, really 1921, ’24, these two anti-immigrant measures were passed. And after that, immigration from Eastern Europe didn’t completely stop, but it became a trickle. And so you have these numerous stories of Jewish families in Eastern Europe in the 1930s who are saying, “Oh, my god, there’s anti-Semitism rising around us, and we need to get out of here.” And yet, when they tried, they found that the borders were closed. So Rae Kushner was one of them. And we hear in this clip how her family felt anti-Semitism, couldn’t get here.

RAE KUSHNER: And we go a little over three-and-a-half years. We wanted to go all over—to Africa, to Australia, to Israel. Nobody opened the door for us. Nobody wanted to take us in. Three-and-a-half years, we were waiting to get a visa. We had family in the United States. My husband had a sister. He had cousins, very fine people.

– Rae Kushner went on to question the role of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

We never can understand this. Even our good President Roosevelt, how come he kept the doors so closed to us for such a long time? How come a boat then for exodus for—at the border are returned back to be killed? This question I’ll never know, and nobody will give me the answer. And this man did live a very hard life.

In August of this past year, there was a big furor—pardon the expression—because Donald Trump tweeted out an image sort of calling Hillary Clinton crooked, and there was sort of an image of a Jewish star and a pile of cash. And it was a moment when many people said, “You know, the Trump campaign has been supported by anti-Semites. It has been engaging with anti-Semites. Is Donald Trump anti-Semitic?” And it was after that that Jared Kushner wrote an article in the newspaper that he owns called the New York Observer_, saying, “Donald Trump is not anti-Semitic. I know what anti-Semitism is, because by grandparents suffered the worst of anti-Semitism. They were survivors of the Holocaust.” And so, that was sort of a moment that he resurrected their story, but in order to justify the man who, you know, arguably was deploying anti-Semitic motifs and who is now, of course, in the White House furthering a regime of—an anti-immigrant regime, which really does echo the anti-immigrant regime that was put in place in the 1920s that ultimately kept out Jews, like the Kushners.

I think history is really critical here. The present—you know, the present is echoing the past. And we talk about—we just heard a segment about the 1930s in Germany. But we all have our own history here that foreshadows this moment. And our own history is a history filled with strains of xenophobia and hate, which had real consequences for people. So I just want to talk for one second about sort of rhetorical parallels between the past and the present.

When I was researching the 1920s and these 1920 anti-immigrant acts that had such gruesome consequences for people, I was struck by the parallels in language. So, you had Jewish people referred to as “physically deficient,” “abnormally twisted,” “un-American,” “filthy,” “a peril to this country,” sort of a danger in all sorts of ways. Jews were conceived as both a threat to the economy, but also a threat to national security. The idea was that Jews who came from Eastern Europe, which was sort of a hotbed of Bolshevism and radicalism, would come here, turn our country red from the inside out and destroy it. We hear the same or really parallel rhetoric today being thrown against Muslims, people from Muslim countries, who are being sort of described as a threat to our society, a fifth column, Trojan horse. I mean, Donald Trump used the term “Trojan horse.” You could have heard that applied against Jews in the 1920s and the 1940s. And I think we can say, you know, horrible things happened to people. Horrible things were visited on immigrants and desperate refugees who wanted to come here.

RAE KUSHNER: Let’s hope it’s not going to happen again. But it can happen, if you don’t watch who comes up. When I came to Washington, the Nazis are going with the swastikas in front of the White House. And they’re going on free. And this scares us. This is very painful.

– the head of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS, who says, “The way we describe ourselves is that we used to resettle refugees because they were Jewish; now we resettle refugees because we are Jewish.”

it was a deeply moving comment that Mark Hetfield of HIAS said to me. And I think it captures a sentiment in part of the Jewish community, and that should really be the sentiment of everybody in this country, who was an immigrant and is now assimilated and is here, which is that, you know, there was a time when our ancestors were in desperate need, and some people responded to that need, and many people around the world didn’t. And now we have an obligation, as people who are here now, who have benefited from all the privileges of this country, to keep the doors open for other desperate people. There’s another amazing quote I just want to end with. Mark Hetfield also said, you know, “For us to come here, for us”—and he’s referring to Jewish people at this moment. “But for Jews to say, ’We’re here now. It’s OK to close the doors on other people,’ is morally reprehensible.” And I don’t think I could have ever said it better.

Jeff Sessions, in this interview you played yesterday, is celebrating the 1924 act, the Reed-Johnson Act—or, the Johnson-Reed Act, which closed the border for Jews and, I need to also emphasize, for millions of people from other parts of the world, too. It wasn’t just Jews., but we know the sort of consequences were catastrophic for Jews. But it’s terrifying to me that Jeff Sessions is celebrating this act that we now know and regard—you know, it’s universally regarded as xenophobic and destructive and baseless and a terrible mark on this country’s history.

Lizzy Ratner
senior editor at The Nation. Her latest article is titled “Nobody Wanted to Take Us In: The Story of Jared Kushner’s Family, and Mine.”

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The economic impact of colonialism

The immense economic inequality we observe in the world today didn’t happen overnight, or even in the past century. It is the path-dependent outcome of a multitude of historical processes, one of the most important of which has been European colonialism. Retracing our steps 500 years, or back to the verge of this colonial project, we see little inequality and small differences between poor and rich countries (perhaps a factor of four). Now the differences are a factor of more than 40, if we compare the richest to the poorest countries in the world. What role did colonialism play in this?

In our research with Simon Johnson we have shown that colonialism has shaped modern inequality in several fundamental, but heterogeneous, ways. In Europe the discovery of the Americas and the emergence of a mass colonial project, first in the Americas, and then, subsequently, in Asia and Africa, potentially helped to spur institutional and economic development, thus setting in motion some of the prerequisites for what was to become the industrial revolution (Acemoglu et al. 2005). But the way this worked was conditional on institutional differences within Europe. In places like Britain, where an early struggle against the monarchy had given parliament and society the upper hand, the discovery of the Americas led to the further empowerment of mercantile and industrial groups, who were able to benefit from the new economic opportunities that the Americas, and soon Asia, presented and to push for improved political and economic institutions. The consequence was economic growth. In other places, such as Spain, where the initial political institutions and balance of power were different, the outcome was different. The monarchy dominated society, trade and economic opportunities, and in consequence, political institutions became weaker and the economy declined. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto,

“The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie.”

It did, but only in some circumstances. In others it led to a retardation of the bourgeoisie. In consequence colonialism drove economic development in some parts of Europe and retarded it in others.

Colonialism did not, however, merely impact the development of those societies that did the colonising. Most obviously, it also affected the societies that were colonised. In our research (Acemoglu et al. 2001, 2002) we showed that this, again, had heterogeneous effects. This is because colonialism ended up creating very distinct sorts of societies in different places. In particular, colonialism left very different institutional legacies in different parts of the world, with profoundly divergent consequences for economic development. The reason for this is not that the various European powers transplanted different sorts of institutions – so that North America succeeded due to an inheritance of British institutions, while Latin America failed because of its Spanish institutions. In fact, the evidence suggests that the intentions and strategies of distinct colonial powers were very similar (Acemoglu and Robinson 2012). The outcomes were very different because of variation in initial conditions in the colonies. For example, in Latin America, where there were dense populations of indigenous people, a colonial society could be created based on the exploitation of these people. In North America where no such populations existed, such a society was infeasible, even though the first British settlers tried to set it up. In response, early North American society went in a completely different direction: early colonising ventures, such as the Virginia Company, needed to attract Europeans and stop them running off into the open frontier and they needed to incentivise them to work and invest. The institutions that did this, such as political rights and access to land, were radically different even from the institutions in the colonising country. When British colonisers found Latin-American-like circumstances, for example in South Africa, Kenya or Zimbabwe, they were perfectly capable of and interested in setting up what we have called ‘extractive institutions’, based on the control of and the extraction of rents from indigenous peoples. In Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) we argue that extractive institutions, which strip the vast mass of the population of incentives or opportunities, are associated with poverty. It is also not a coincidence that such African societies are today as unequal as Latin American countries.

It wasn’t just the density of indigenous peoples that mattered for the type of society that formed. As we showed in Acemoglu et al. (2001), the disease environment facing potential European settlers was also important. Something that encouraged the colonisation of North America was the relatively benign disease environment that facilitated the strategy of creating institutions to guarantee European migration. Something that encouraged the creation of extractive institutions in West Africa was the fact that it was the ‘white man’s graveyard’, discouraging the creation of the type of ‘inclusive economic institutions’ which encouraged the settlement and development of North America. These inclusive institutions, in contrast to extractive institutions, did create incentives and opportunities for the vast mass of people.

Our focus on the disease environment as a source of variation in colonial societies was not because we considered this to be the only or even the main source of variation in the nature of such societies. It was for a particular scientific reason: we argued that the historical factors that influenced the disease environment for Europeans and therefore their propensity to migrate to a particular colony are not themselves a significant source of variation in economic development today. More technically, this meant that historical measures of European settler mortality could be used as an instrumental variable to estimate the causal effect of economic institutions on economic development (as measured by income per-capita). The main challenge to this approach is that factors which influenced European mortality historically may be persistent and can influence income today, perhaps via effects on health or contemporary life expectancy. There are several reasons why this is not likely to be true however. First, our measures of European mortality in the colonies are from 200 or so years ago, before the founding of modern medicine or the understanding of tropical diseases. Second, they are measures of mortality faced by Europeans with no immunity to tropical diseases, which is something very different from the mortality faced by indigenous people today, which is presumably what is relevant for current economic development in these countries. Just to check, we also showed that our results are robust to the controlling econometrically of various modern measures of health, such as malaria risk and life expectancy.

Thus, just as colonialism had heterogeneous effects on development within Europe, promoting it in places like Britain, but retarding it in Spain, so it also had very heterogeneous effects in the colonies. In some places, like North America, it created societies with far more inclusive institutions than in the colonising country itself and planted the seeds for the immense current prosperity of the region. In others, such as Latin America, Africa or South Asia, it created extractive institutions that led to very poor long-run development outcomes.

The fact that colonialism had positive effects on development in some contexts does not mean that it did not have devastating negative effects on indigenous populations and society. It did.

That colonialism in the early modern and modern periods had heterogeneous effects is made plausible by many other pieces of evidence. For example, Putnam (1994) proposed that it was the Norman conquest of the South of Italy that created the lack of ‘social capital’ in the region, the dearth of associational life that led to a society that lacked trust or the ability to cooperate. Yet the Normans also colonised England and that led to a society which gave birth to the industrial revolution. Thus Norman colonisation had heterogeneous effects too.

Colonialism mattered for development because it shaped the institutions of different societies. But many other things influenced these too, and, at least in the early modern and modern period, there were quite a few places that managed to avoid colonialism. These include China, Iran, Japan, Nepal and Thailand, amongst others, and there is a great deal of variation in development outcomes within these countries, not to mention the great variation within Europe itself. This raises the question of how important, quantitatively, European colonialism was, compared to other factors. Acemoglu et al. (2001) calculate that, according to their estimates, differences in economic institutions account for about two-thirds of the differences in income per-capita in the world. At the same time, Acemoglu et al. (2002) show that, on their own, historical settler mortality and indigenous population density in 1500 explain around 30% of the variation in economic institutions in the world today. If historical urbanisation in 1500, which can also explain variation in the nature of colonial societies, is added, this increases to over 50% of the variation. If this is right, then a third of income inequality in the world today can be explained by the varying impact of European colonialism on different societies. A big deal.

That colonialism shaped the historical institutions of colonies might be obviously plausible. For example, we know that, in Peru of the 1570s, the Spanish Viceroy Francisco de Toledo set up a huge system of forced labour to mine the silver of Potosí. But this system, the Potosí mita, was abolished in the 1820s, when Peru and Bolivia became independent. To claim that such an institution, or, more broadly, the institutions created by colonial powers all over the world, influence development today, is to make a claim about how colonialism influenced the political economy of these societies in a way which led these institutions to either directly persist, or to leave a path dependent legacy. The coerced labour of indigenous peoples lasted directly up until at least the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, when the system known as pongueaje was abolished. More generally, Acemoglu and Robinson (2012, Chapters 11 and 12) and Dell (2010) discuss many mechanisms via which this could have taken place.

Finally, it is worth observing that our empirical findings have important implications for alterative theories of comparative development. Some argue that geographical differences are dominant in explaining long-run patterns of development. In contradistinction, we showed that once the role of institutions is accounted for, geographical factors are not correlated with development outcomes. The fact that, for instance, there is a correlation between latitude and geography, is not indicative of a causal relationship. It is simply driven by the fact that European colonialism created a pattern of institutions that is correlated with latitude. Once this is controlled for, geographical variables play no causal role. Others argue that cultural differences are paramount in driving development. We found no role at all for cultural differences measured in several ways. First, the religious composition of different populations. Second, as we have emphasised, the identity of the colonial power. Third, the fraction of the population of a country of European descent. It is true, of course, that the United States and Canada filled up with Europeans, but in our argument this was an outcome of the fact that they had good institutions. It is not the numerical dominance of people of European descent today that drives development.

— source By Daron Acemoglu, James Robinson

7,000 underground gas bubbles poised to ‘explode’ in Arctic

Scientists have discovered as many as 7,000 gas-filled ‘bubbles’ expected to explode in Actic regions of Siberia after an exercise involving field expeditions and satellite surveillance, TASS reported. The region has seen several recent examples of sudden ‘craters’ or funnels forming from pingos after what scientists believe are caused by eruptions from methane gas released by the thawing of permafrost which is triggered by climate change.

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UN Head’s Resignation Over Israel Apartheid Report

Earlier today, Dr. Rima Khalaf, Director of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), resigned from her post following pressure from the US and Israel over a report issued this week by ESCWA documenting Israel’s apartheid policies towards the Palestinian people and encouraging support for the grassroots boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights and freedom. Dr. Khalaf explained her decision stating: “I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report. The crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people and in Lebanon amount to war crimes against humanity,” she said.

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America Should Look in the Mirror

Esteban Santiago, the Ft. Lauderdale airport shooter, is an Iraq war veteran. Prior to executing five innocent people and wounding seven, he told the FBI that voices were telling him to watch ISIS videos. Although clearly exhibiting the possible symptoms of a thought disorder, the authorities were not able to connect him with mental health treatment.

Santiago was able to obtain a gun legally, bring it to the airport, and check it in his bag. Because some states allow guns everywhere including schools, shopping malls, and even airports, no one read the red flags that would have stopped the horror that changed too many lives forever.

Although violence is committed by a tiny percentage of those with mental illness, Santiago had military training in the use of guns. He’d confessed to having thoughts of violence when he went to those who might have been able to stop him. But he was not stopped. The powerful gun lobby has ensured that the right to bear arms be interpreted in ways far beyond any safe limit in our modern and complex society.

Santiago’s participation in the war in Iraq may have exacerbated or contributed to his mental illness. He might have been struggling with the moral injury of being in an unjustified war or dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – or both. We don’t really know. But many who have used the shooting to bolster their arguments about terrorism fail to see that some of our soldiers have been damaged by our continued wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere. We deny the moral injury of a young man raised on American values and the good life thrown into a killing machine requiring the search for “terrorists” while killing many innocent Iraqis. Although some are able to live with the facts of what we euphemistically call “collateral damage,” killing civilians torment others.

Some believe that Saddam Hussein was a thug, and the United States saved the people of Iraq from his rule. But afterwards, we killed and wounded over a million Iraqis and left a power vacuum filled by ethnic strife, and later, ISIS. Others bought the lie about the reason for the invasion and claimed that Iraq was involved in 9/11, even though Iraq had no connection to 9/11. The latest data indicates that approximately 20 veterans commit suicide each day. There are nearly two million veterans from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but most are from Iraq. The most recent data show that veterans represent 18 percent of all the suicides for 2014, though veterans represent about 9 percent of the population.

Thirteen years after invading Iraq, the consensus is that the invasion was an error. Whether the error was intentional or not, Iraq suffered more than a quarter of a million dead, a million wounded, and the destruction of infrastructure, education, economy and medical services. If this were murder, the culprit (and in this case the president of the United States) would be convicted either of murder if it was premeditated or manslaughter if it were not. Many around the world have called it a war crime.

Unfortunately, no president admits to the culpability of our government in committing the crime of invading a country under false pretenses. Certainly President George W. Bush is responsible for the invasion, but he neither admitted to the fact that the invasion of Iraq was in error nor apologized for the invasion to the people of Iraq. The same holds true for President Obama during his eight-year term. On the contrary, President Obama justified the war early in his term and in his farewell speech. (Of course, the call was for us to fix what we had broken, an entirely different matter.)

America is trying to wash the sin of the invasion in 2003 by fighting along with the Iraqi military to defeat ISIS and regain Iraq’s sovereignty. Fighting ISIS is a noble cause, since ISIS is one of the most vicious enemies of Iraq and America. If the United States acknowledgement that American’s involvement in defeating ISIS and regaining Iraq’s sovereignty is in part an absolution for our sins, I will accept this recognition in lieu of an apology.

Finally, when the media and our politicians accepted the lies about the Iraq invasion, it paved the way for Donald Trump to lie on a regular basis and win the presidency.

This compromising of moral values during the Iraq War had a direct impact on Iraq lives and American lives. Iraqis continue to suffer the consequences in a country still recovering from that war and dealing with the ravages of ISIS. U.S. veterans continue to suffer the consequences of their experiences in the war zones. And there has been collateral damage at home as well, as the case of Esteban Santiago sadly demonstrates.

Before wielding power in the world, America should look in the mirror to see what we have done to other nations as well as our own.

— source By Adil Shamoo