We loved walking through the street fair. So many colors, textures, and tastes.

The art was quite interesting:

The street food was greasy and fragrant:

The cold beer went perfectly with the spicy pizza

Ice cream was rich and decadent

And this little girl carrying a balloon was the symbol of innocence.

Then, at the GameStop store, this:

And I was reminded of the recent outrage over EA’s decision to release a war game where players can assume the role of Taliban terrorists and kill American soldiers.

In our local news, the young boys interviewed by the reporter said that they can’t wait to play the game. “It’s fun killing people,” they said, adding, “It’s just a game. You’re not really hurting anyone.”

The mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004 felt differently, of course. You could see the pain in her face. “War is not a game,” she said. “There are no restarts, and no do-overs.” And my heart went out to her.

War games scare me. Young boys who see war and violence as a game scare me even more. War is pain, blood, injury and death. It is young men and women losing limbs, their eye sight, their lives. It is young women and men who come back home broken, shattered, physically and emotionally. Many of them are never able to resume their normal lives. War is fear. War is ugly and brutal and gruesome.

War is like your worst nightmare, magnified. But unlike a nightmare, it is very real.

I’ve never been to war, but close family members have, and I’ve heard their stories. At least the stories they are willing to tell.

I have two daughters, so I don’t really have to face the dilemma of what to allow my kids to play and where to draw the line. I wish more parents to young boys were firmer in placing limits, but perhaps I’m being naive. After all, even if they’re not allowed to buy or play war games, they can still play at friends’ homes and parents need to pick their battles very wisely, especially with pre-teens and teens.

What do you think? How do you feel about violent video games in general, and about this one in particular?

aryan-posterToday is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The first draft of this post was titled “children of the Holocaust.” I wanted to honor the children who suffered unimaginable torture and death under the Nazi regime.

It’s been a while since I forced myself to look at photos from the Holocaust and read about its horrors.

As I was reading through awful testimonials and looking at terrible, heart wrenching photos of suffering, murder and indifference, I knew that what I really wanted to discuss here today is the racial basis to the Nazi ideology.

If we are to use this day as a day to not only remember the millions who suffered and died under the Nazi regime, but also as an opportunity to try and understand what made an evil of this magnitude possible, and to prevent it from ever happening again, we need to remember that the Holocaust happened because of racism.

The Holocaust was an extreme manifestation of racism, and Nazi racism produced murder on an unprecedented scale, but any form of racism is extremely dangerous and has the potential to lead to genocide.

Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racists believe that the value of a human being is not determined by his or her individuality, but instead by membership in a so-called “racial collective nation.”

The most coherent effort at presenting the ideological characteristics of Nazism can be found in Hitler’s autobiographical work, Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’). In his book, Hitler presents his ‘worldview,’ which after the Nazi takeover became the political-ideological basis of the new regime.

In Mein Kampf, which was basically a system of prejudices that lacked any logic, Hitler presented a racist interpretation of world history, where the Aryan race is presented as ‘creating cultures’ and the Jewish race as ‘destroying cultures’; A social-Darwinist view of life according to which the strong survive and the weak perish; A love of war, since only in war does man show his true abilities; and a belief that Germany can and should become a world power.

Hitler believed in the biological and cultural superiority of the Aryan race. It was consequently a very important part of Hitler’s ideology that the races should not be mixed. He saw the ‘purity of the blood’ a prerequisite for the coming greatness of the German people.

antisemitic-nazi-propoganda1The image is titled “Jewish Calculation,” and its caption reads, “We are Jews. We are destroying. She is fooled by the glitter. The Jewish name does not bother her.”

When the Nazis came to power they began to put this ideology into practice with the support of German scientists who believed that the human race could be improved by limiting the reproduction of people considered “inferior.” The Nazi ‘racial hygiene’ ideology was carried out systematically with great cruelty after 1933. German physicians were allowed to perform forced sterilizations of gypsies, handicapped and mentally ill individuals, and African-German. During the last six months of 1939, German physicians began to murder disabled residents of institutions throughout Germany.

Jews received a special treatment: the Nazis viewed them as a poisonous “race,” which “lived off” the other races and weakened them. They presented the Jews as a universal explanation to all of Germany’s problems and maintained that the Jews were responsible to a worldwide conspiracy to cause the downfall of the Aryan race.

This evoked “The Jewish Question,” of how to get rid of the Jews. Hitler’s answer to the Jewish Question was “The Final Solution” – the Nazi comprehensive plan to concentrate and eventually exterminate the entire Jewish population.

The Nazis conducted many experiments in an attempt to identify physical evidence of Aryan superiority and non-Aryan inferiority. Despite murdering countless non-Aryan prisoners in the course of these experiments, the Nazis were never able to find any evidence for their theories of biological racial superiority.

Sources: Auschwitz, Wikipedia, Children and the Holocaust, Nazi Racism, Holocaust Encyclopedia, The IB Holocaust Project, The Danish Center For Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Photo:Typical Nazi propaganda

Photo credit: Franco Folini

What if we could create a social system where no one is outrageously rich and no one is miserably poor?

No matter how smart or capable you were, you would not be able to accumulate more assets than a certain pre-determined amount.

No matter how bad you had it, you would always have a roof over your head, food on your table and access to basic health care.

There would still be richer and poorer people, but not the extremes that we have today.

Would you take such a deal?

I’m not asking you if such a system is POSSIBLE. This is not a discussion on why communism failed in Eastern Europe or on whether socialism is better than capitalism. I’m asking you to assume that such a system IS possible and whether you would want to live in such a world or not.

I raised this question at a recent dinner party we hosted. It’s an interesting question to ask my real-life friends, because we live in Silicon Valley, where people basically come to make a few million bucks by starting and selling, or funding, or working in high-tech companies.

My real-life friends presented two point of views:

1. Yes, of course I would want to live in such a world. It represents a just social system that preserves human dignity and prevents poverty as well as greediness.

2. No. A system like that would kill entrepreneurship. People would not have the drive to create and invent, because more often than not, that drive is NOT a drive to help the world but a personal drive to succeed.

What do you think?


Today commemorates the Nazis’ highly organized effort to rid the world of its entire Jewish population.

They managed to rid the world of most of its European Jews: six million Jews were gassed, shot or died in the ghettos and in concentration camps before the Nazis were stopped in 1945.

One would think that the lessons supposedly learned from the Holocaust would ensure that the world would not tolerate another genocide, but the latter part of the twentieth century proved that genocides were still possible and that the world was not quick to intervene and bring an end to them.

For my grandmother Miep, who is 92 years old and a Holocaust survivor, every day is Holocaust Remembrance Day. She and my late grandfather Arie were in their twenties when Holland became occupied by the Nazis. They managed to escape the Nazis for more than a year, hiding in different places, until, in their last hiding place, a neighbor turned them in.

They spent a horrible year in Tereisenstadt concentration camp, stripped of all human dignity, and separated from their daughter, my aunt, Elizabeth. Grandma lost both her parents and many other family members, almost died of typhus, and still has nightmares every single night.

The word ‘holocaust’ comes from the ancient Greek word for ‘sacrifice by fire’. In the 19th century it was used to refer to mass slaughter, especially by fire. The mass killing of Jews by Nazis was referred to as ‘this holocaust’ in the British parliament in 1943, and by the 1950s the name was widely applied. In Hebrew, we call it ‘the Shoah’, which means ‘the catastrophe’.

Sources: Helium, Peace Pledge Union