instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Father’s Day Execution Anniversary

June 19th, the day my parents were executed, fell on Father’s Day this year. Perhaps that’s ironic because for the first time in many years, rather than holding an event to honor them both, this year, my focus is on building the campaign to exonerate my mother, Ethel.

Some supporters of efforts to reopen my parents’ case and the Rosenberg Fund for Children have expressed concern that by singling out Ethel, we’ve neglected the injustice done to my father. Exonerating my father is more complicated. Morton Sobell’s admission in 2008 that he and Julius provided military industrial information to the Soviet Union, coupled with other evidence, prevents us from claiming his innocence. Still, he was executed for stealing the secret of the atomic bomb, a crime he did not commit, and the trial testimony necessary to convict him was false.

The Exonerate Ethel Campaign emphasizes that “the Rosenbergs” were two separate people. After their arrests, however, they acted in concert. While Julius spied and Ethel did not, they both refused to falsely confess to acts they did not commit and implicate others.

Julius grew up during the great depression on Manhattan’s impoverished Lower East Side. He joined the Communist Party after witnessing its efforts to alleviate suffering in his neighborhood. He saw the rise of fascism in Europe and admired the young men who volunteered to fight Franco’s Nazi-supported army in Spain. When World War II erupted, he determined to help the Soviet Union defeat what he called “the Hitler beast.” Bad eyesight kept him out of the armed forces, so he organized several young scientists and engineers to share cutting edge military-industrial information with the USSR.

By 1950, when the government arrested him, Russia, our WW II ally, had become our enemy. In order to avoid confronting more powerful atomic scientists who had shared atomic information with their Russian counter-parts, Justice Department attorneys and FBI agents conspired to transform my passionately idealistic father, whose goal was to help the Soviet Union defend itself, into a master atomic spy. Next, they arrested Ethel, even though they knew she was not a spy, and involved the Judge in their conspiracy. With Judge Kaufman’s connivance, they used the death penalty to attempt to coerce my parents to confess to a crime they did not commit and to rat out the friends Julius had recruited.

Facing death, Julius and Ethel agreed that they would never bow to the government’s demands or betray their comrades. Even though both believed that helping to defeat Hitler was essential, they thought Ethel was insulated from Julius’ illegal activities. If he were imprisoned, they expected that she could stay home with their children.

They never considered that Julius might face execution, or that the government would develop a diabolical plan to arrest and hold Ethel hostage to the death penalty. I don’t know this, but I expect and believe what happened to Ethel was my father’s greatest regret.

My father’s day gift to Julius is working on the campaign to exonerate Ethel. It is what he would have wanted.  Read More 
4 Comments
Post a comment

Trumpophobia?

I’m not as worried about the possibility of a Trump Presidency as many of my friends.

This could be because I tend to look on the bright side. Often, my initial reaction to bad news is to think that it can’t be that bad. But this is about more than denial.

I don’t take the possibility of armed Trumpomaniacs patroling the streets lightly. I had family members killed in the holocaust. Roy Cohn, one of the principal engineers of my parents’ frame-up and execution, was Trump’s mentor. I understand the danger of his potential Supreme Court appointments and his racist, misogynist policies. I know a Trump victory could hurt a lot of people and would never advocate voting for him.

But I’m more concerned with the underlying anti-Trump message. Supporting the “lesser evil,” because we can’t live with a Trump victory, is a tacit admission that the status quo is tolerable. It isn’t. While Trump could be deadly for more of us domestically, our current system already is toxic for hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and is in the process of destroying the productive capacity of the planet. Both Trump’s and Clinton’s environmental policies would be disastrous for most of the world’s population.

A willingness to vote for the status quo because Trump is worse is also a subtle form of cognitive dissonance. It is a refusal to acknowledge, or to act on the knowledge, that we are about to run out of time and so must make climate change the number one priority. Instead of confronting a longer-term, but qualitatively deadier, environmental impact, some progressives propose we vote for Clinton, a candidate whose policies make that end result more likely, in order to avoid the more immediate sociopolitical threat of Trump. I admit this is not an easy choice, but choosing the latter over the former could be our worst mistake.

Some progressive people say it isn’t that bad. We can adjust capitalism to make it greener, a new technological breakthrough will save us or a mass movement could push a Clinton Presidency to change course. Clinton’s history of support for war, global, neo-liberal corporate control, and the fossil fuel industry, indicates the last is extremely unlikely. Science suggests that four or eight more years of Obama-style energy policies, plus incremental greening, will not save us. Capitalism, with its grow or die imperative, is not sustainable.

Other progressives reject capitalism, but insist there is no viable alternative. That’s admitting defeat. We might not succeed, but if radical change is needed, then, by definition, we must step outside of the current political framework to bring it about. We must take to heart Naomi Klein’s brilliant insight that everything has changed and act on it.

Our civilization, even our survival as a species, is at stake. Like so many who have researched this issue, I live every day with that understanding. My fear of Trump pales in comparison.  Read More 
9 Comments
Post a comment