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Lessons for Israel From America’s Civil War in Coping With Treason
Posted By Steven Plaut On March 27, 2014 @ 12:41 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 87 Comments
Israel is currently under a worldwide assault, one whose foundations are anti-Semitism. The campaign of demonization and delegitimizing has many forms, including the economic warfare of the “Boycott, Divest, Sanctions” movement or BDS. The goal of the campaign is the annihilation of Israel and its population, and victory for the movement of Arab terrorism and Islamofascism.
It is impossible to understand fully this assault against Israel and the Jews without an appreciation of the role of Israeli leftwing traitors, collaborating with anti-Israel Arab nationalists. From the beginning, the initiatives calling for worldwide boycotts of Israel have come from a small group of disloyal radical leftist Israelis, many of them holding tenured positions at Israeli universities. These lead the calls for boycotts against their own country and their own employers. They provide a figleaf of respectability for anti-Semites around the world who can claim that even “progressive” Israelis are endorsing their campaign to boycott Israel and Israeli institutions. The disloyal tenured radicals are also the inventors of the canard that Israel is an apartheid regime. They are the moral equivalents of Vichy French and other European collaborators with Nazi Germany during World War II. Their aim is to provide legitimacy, aid and comfort to the enemies of their own country.
The belligerence of the Israeli Radical Left is not restricted to endorsements of BDS. Radical Leftists in Israel have led campaigns for mutiny and insurrection among soldiers designed to persuade Israelis to refuse to serve in the military. The Radical Left wants to impose its political agenda on the country undemocratically, by conditioning army service on the adoption of its own political agenda. (Some rightwing groups have also called upon Israelis to refuse to serve in the military unless their own political agenda is adopted.) In some cases, the radical Leftists have openly endorsed terrorism and violence. In almost all cases the Radical Left opposes freedom of speech for non-leftists.
The Israeli government has always coddled the disloyal radicals and excused their behavior as protected speech. But as the world campaign of anti-Semitic aggression against Israel escalates, it is increasingly clear that something must be done about the treason involving Israeli radical leftists. Simply stated, Israelis who call for BDS warfare against Israel should have their own property seized, sequestered, and confiscated by the state.
Too radical, you say? Undemocratic? Well, think again. The effective means by which Israel can deal with its own Fifth Column may be learned from the history of another great democracy – the United States – in coping with disloyalty. It is time for Israel to deal with sedition the same way that Abraham Lincoln and the Union did.
Shortly after the American Civil War broke out, both the Union and the Confederacy passed confiscation laws that seized the property of those living in the territories of the enemy belligerent. Penalties for disloyalty were not restricted to seizure of property. The Confederacy’s law was called the Sequestration Law and, if anything, went even further than the Confiscation Act of the Union.
The Confiscation Bill S151 of 1862, which replaced a weaker similar American law from 1861 (passed right after the first Battle of Bull Run), was largely the initiative of Lyman Trumbull. He was a Republican Senator from Illinois and chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. He was from a middle class family that traced its origin back to the earliest settlers in New England, and he was a descendent of the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. After studying law, he settled in the Illinois western wilderness, and forged early close personal ties with Abraham Lincoln. He built a reputation as a highly skilled and intelligent state legislator, and was a moderate on the controversial issues of the day, including abolition. He first served as a representative in the state legislature of the pro-South Democrat Party, but later joined Lincoln in the newly-created Republican Party, where he was disliked by the more radical members of the party due to his moderation.
Trumball’s confiscation law authorized the permanent seizure of all property of anyone involved in treason against the Union, including notably anyone considered to be offering “aid and comfort” to the enemies of the United States. The property in question could be located either in the North or the South, and could be seized without due process. There would be no compensation whatsoever for any property confiscated. The message was: endorse the enemy of your country and forfeit your property!
“Property” included lands, business assets, securities and bank accounts. The law allowed for seizure of assets left as bequests by northerners to family members living in the south. Where a person was considered to be disloyal but his heirs were not, the government would seize dominion over the property as a “life estate,” one lasting as long as that person himself lived, to revert later to his heirs after his death. Conservative legislators who were concerned with due process and uncomfortable with the constitutional implications of complete seizure of property without trial found the idea of seizing a life estate in rebel property to be entirely acceptable. The Act’s orders for seizure of property were made more popular when it explicitly included slaves as “property” that could be seized without trial and without compensation (and freed) by the forces of the United States.
Trumbull was subject to much criticism by more radical politicians for not going further in confiscating the property of supporters of the Confederacy. For example, his bill did not allow wholesale seizure of property of slave owners in the “border states” that had not seceded from the Union, and provided for compensation when any property would be seized from people in those areas. Trumbull was the leading advocate of the doctrine of “dual sovereignty,” which held that those supporting the Confederacy retained certain rights and privileges of citizenship, but at the same time they could be treated in some ways as enemy belligerents. In his words, “We may treat them as traitors and we may treat them as enemies, and we have the right of both belligerent and sovereign so far as they are concerned.”
The Confiscation Acts at the time were considered quite moderate and restrained because of American experience and policies during the War of Independence. During that War, a significant portion of the population was “Loyalist” and supporting Great Britain against American independence. Every one of the original thirteen colonies that were to form the United States confiscated the property of “Loyalists” without trial, and in many cases the Loyalists themselves were expelled en masse from the territories of the United States. Disloyalty had been regarded as legal grounds for seizure of property under English law going as far back as 1351.
In some areas American confiscation began as early as 1775. In November of 1777 the Continental Congress recommended that all colonies seize all property of Loyalists without compensation and sell it at auction. Among the most enthusiastic supporters of this wholesale confiscation were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Large swaths of land were confiscated in New York and it is estimated that 11% of the property in Boston was seized. “Loyalists” opposed to Independence were considered to have forfeited all rights of protection for their property. After the war ended, no compensation was made to previous owners of “Loyalist” property, with limited exceptions in Vermont and Massachusetts.
Later chapters in American history also saw rigorous measures taken against manifestations of disloyalty. These ranged from the banning of the pro-Nazi German American Bund in 1941 to the wholesale internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. Ethnic Germans and Italians in the United States were also interned, although in fewer numbers. Before that, the Sedition Act of 1918 (repealed in 1920) implemented a wide range of penalties for disloyalty, including imprisonment up to 20 years. Public figures opposing service in the military and promoting refusal to serve were jailed for sedition, including Eugene V. Debs, leader of the Socialist Party of America.
The lessons for Israel from all this are clear. Radical leftist Israelis, including tenured traitors, who endorse BDS economic warfare against their own country, should be forced to pay a price for their disloyalty and sedition. Those Israelis who are endeavoring to cause economic and financial harm to their own country because of their animosity towards it should suffer harm to their own economic interests. Those who attempt to undermine the willingness of citizens to serve in the military should be subject to personal sanctions, whether they be from the Left or Right.
Most important of all, it is high time that Israel gets serious about dealing with treason and sedition.
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