Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Here is a very nice analysis of Carter's new book, already the toast of such luminary outlets like "Counterpunch". Complete with extensive quotes from the book and a comparison along the lines of language, tone and inclination between the former American President's references to Israel and to Arab countries. Unfortunately, Carter treats facts as putty to be moulded according to his bias.

One wonders why a book so suffused with religious sentiments as Carter puts forth, is so enthusiastically embraced by the anti-Israeli segment in the American Left, while Bush is always jeered at for his religious faith. Maybe an excess of religiosity in politics and foreign policy is a good thing, as long as it targets Israel and sucks up to the Arabs. Come to think of it, the very same voices who like Carter's book are also the voices that see nothing outrageous in Islamic-Arab teachings that call for the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Jews.

Carter's discussion of the Israeli West Bank security barrier —— built as a last resort against years of mass murder bombers targeting Israeli civilians, and in the face of a complete and continuous Palestinian refusal to meet its Phase I Road Map obligation —— is never other than pejorative. He uses various terms —— the 'segregation wall,' the 'imprisonment wall,' the 'encircling barrier . . . imposing a system of . . . apartheid,' the 'huge dividing wall' —— that are simply Palestinian talking points, not an attempt at serious discussion. He makes no effort to describe the conditions that produced the barrier, and does not even fairly state the Israeli position regarding it.

This is not a serious book. It is poorly written, thoroughly unbalanced, factually erroneous on fundamental points —— the product of someone who went to Israel in 1973 and didn't like it then, lectured and insulted its leaders, and who obviously doesn't like it now.

Those interested in why Camp David failed should consult Dennis Ross' book; those interested in why Taba failed should consult Makovsky's article and Shlomo Ben—Ami's book; those interested in why the Road Map failed should consult Natan Sharansky and Ron Dermer's book The Case for Democracy.

As for this book, it will be of no use to those interested in a responsible discussion of the Israeli—Palestinian conflict. But it may be useful to historians pondering the perspective of a U.S. president who presided over the 1979 fall of a strategic ally in Iran and his replacement by a theocracy now pursuing nuclear weapons. At the time, Carter may have been impressed by the new leaders' deep religious convictions.


From the Evening Bulletin, another indignant criticism:

The book is such a disgrace to anyone who respects truth that he couldn't even get anyone* to write a blurb in its support. What's more, the book has no footnotes, probably because there are no credible authorities to support his positions. And the reviews, even from his supporters, have been invariably and overwhelmingly critical. You would expect Norman Finkelstein, known for harsh criticism of Israel, to be favorably inclined toward the book, which is certainly harsh criticism of Israel. But he writes that the book "is filled with errors small and large, as well as tendentious and untenable interpretations." The editor of the New Republic, Martin Peretz, labels the book a "tendentious, dishonest and stupid book." Alan Dershowitz, the eminent law professor from Harvard, writes, "Mr. Carter's book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omission that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court. Mr. Carter too is guilty of misleading the court of public opinion. A mere listing of all of Mr. Carter's mistakes and omissions would fill a volume the size of his book.

.... a liberal historian such as Douglas Brinkley, in his book on Carter, The Unfinished Presidency, documents in detail how Carter did everything in his power to help and support terrorist-in-chief Yasser Arafat. Brinkley reports Carter gave Arafat public relations advice on how to project his image for Western journalists and even wrote some of his speeches. When someone lends total support to a terrorist and has only disdain and hatred for the only democracy in the Middle East, you have to wonder about his intellectual honesty and balance."

* Surely someone like Rashid Khalidi would have been overjoyed to write a blurb? On second thoughts, maybe not. The book probably doesn't go far enough in its condemnation of Israel's existence.

Hmmm. Here is an interview Mr. Carter gave last August to the German paper Der Spiegel . His sympathies appear to be straightforward enough. To his credit, he does not even pretend to care for the fate of the kidnapped soldiers or the fact that a million Israelis were terrorised by a barrage of 2,000 katiushas from inside Lebanon. Neither his book nor his public statements attempt to conceal his indifference to the security of the people of Israel. But then Carter is an honourable man . . .

SPIEGEL: You also mentioned the hatred for the United States throughout the Arab world which has ensued as a result of the invasion of Iraq. Given this circumstance, does it come as any surprise that Washington's call for democracy in the Middle East has been discredited?
Carter: No, as a matter of fact, the concerns I exposed have gotten even worse now with the United States supporting and encouraging Israel in its unjustified attack on Lebanon.

SPIEGEL: But wasn't Israel the first to get attacked?

Carter: I don't think that Israel has any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon. What happened is that Israel is holding almost 10,000 prisoners, so when the militants in Lebanon or in Gaza take one or two soldiers, Israel looks upon this as a justification for an attack on the civilian population of Lebanon and Gaza. I do not think that's justified, no.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend the interesting, highly pertinent lectures provided by the INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS OF MONTREAL. This lecture by Prof. March at St. Mary's University in Halifax was given last week at Concordia University. My thanks to the dauntless and eloquent Mr. Beryl Wajsman for sending me the following link:

On Islam and Democracy:

"George Bernard Shaw wrote that “Liberty demands responsibility. That’s why so many dread it.” Peter March doesn’t dread it. He embraces it. When political, media and academic leaders were falling over themselves pandering to radical Islamists over the Mohammed cartoon affair, Peter March stood firm, acted boldly and spoke truth to power. He made clear that freedom of expression is indivisible. That it is the shield of the free and the staff of the just. And that no attempt at compromising this most sacred of our public trusts for the sake of appeasing the violent enemies of liberty can ever be justified.

A Professor of logic at St. Mary’s University in Halifax, March posted copies of the Mohammed cartoons on his office door as both a statement of academic freedom and a protest against those seeking to stifle even any debate on campuses on the egregiously violent Islamist reactions to their original publication. Though told by administrative officials to take them down, March persisted and all complaints against him have been dropped. March said at the time "I feel threatened by the crowds around the world shaking fists, shaking sticks, burning things down," he says. "I wish to make my stand, that here in Canada that won't wash." And just as he took a stand then, we should stand with him now. "

American Thinker has this to say about the fiasco, and the UN's role in it, called Human Rights in the Israel-Palestinian conflict:

"Therein lies the rub, the incredible rub, the impossible-to-explain-otherwise-than-as-anti-Semitism rub. The one Israeli missile that struck the Beit Hanoun apartment house was: 1) launched in justifiable self-defense; 2) reasonably produced and targeted; and 3) absolutely not intended to kill civilians. The daily Palestinian bombs, meanwhile, are 1) acts of aggressive war; 2) callously launched without any effort to aim them accurately at military targets (in fact, legal experts long ago concluded that the use of the notoriously inaccurate Qassams are ipso facto a war crime since they simply cannot be targeted); and 3) in fact meant to kill and terrorize civilians.

This asymmetry is well understood by Palestinians. The Jabaliya Refugee Camp in Gaza was the scene of Palestinian celebrations earlier this week. Locals celebrated the victory of female "human shields" in thwarting an air strike against the home of murderous terrorist Wail Barud. Note the implications of this celebration: it demonstrates that Palestinians know that Israel does not seek to kill civilians wholesale. Palestinians do not believe their own propaganda about the Zionist thirst for blood -- otherwise they would not have been able to recruit those human shields. Human shields are worthless in the face of the heinous enemy Israel is supposed to be. If Israel placed "human shields" in front of Hamas, they would be mowed down."

And coming to the assistance of a failed UN and Palestinian myth-makers is none other than former American President Jimmy Carter, whose recent book is an anti-Israel screed. In an interview with Wolf Blitzer today* he was asked plainly why his version of Camp David II is so different from Bill Clinton's. Clinton puts the onus of the failure directly on Arafat. He was there. He quotes a conversation with Arafat in which he makes his judgment clear. But Clinton's word is not good enough for Carter. He just smiled and shrugged off the quote from Clinton's book. what was he suggesting, with that smile and that shrug? That Clinton is lying? That he, Carter, surely knows better? Too bad the pusilanimous Blitzer did not press the point.

So that's probably what we can expect from Carter's book to be: No matter what the records tells you, what the testimony is, what the law says, he, Carter, knows better what's what.

Alan M. Dershowitz lists here some of the many deliberate sins of omission and commision which characterize this immoral account of Israel's plight vis a vis the Palestinians. (A reminder: Palestinians are Arabs, part of the 400 million strong Pan-Arab nation which is part of the 1.4 Billion Muslims in this world. There are 13 million Jews in the world, 5.2 of whom live in Israel).

He concludes with this disturbing thoughts:

"And it’s not just the facts; it’s the tone as well. It’s obvious that Carter just doesn’t like Israel or Israelis. He lectured Golda Meir on Israeli’s “secular” nature, warning her that “Israel was punished whenever its leaders turned away from devout worship of God.” He admits that he did not like Menachem Begin. He has little good to say about any Israelis—except those few who agree with him. But he apparently got along swimmingly with the very secular Syrian mass-murderer Hafez al-Assad. He and his wife Rosalynn also had a fine time with the equally secular Yasir Arafat—a man who has the blood of hundreds of Americans and Israelis on his hands. . .

The Carter book is so biased that it inevitably raises the question of what would motivate a decent man like Jimmy Carter to write such an indecent book. Whatever Carter’s motives may be, his authorship of this ahistorical, one-sided and simplistic brief against Israel forever disqualifies him from playing any positive role in fairly resolving the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. That is a tragedy because the Carter Center, which has done much good in the world, could have been a force for peace if Jimmy Carter were as generous in spirit to the Israelis as he is to the Palestinians."

*BLITZER: But the government, the current government of Prime
Minister Olmert...
BLITZER: ... the previous government of even Sharon and before that...
CARTER: Netanyahu.
BLITZER: But -- Netanyahu, but Barak, Ehud Barak, they offered,
under the last days of the Bill Clinton administration, a deal which
would give up most of the West Bank, including parts of Jerusalem
itself. And Clinton said Arafat missed a major opportunity to resolve
this crisis right then.
CARTER: That is not quite an accurate description of it, which the...
BLITZER: Well, let me read to you what
CARTER: ... the accurate description...
BLITZER: Let me read to you what Jim -- what Bill Clinton wrote in
his book, "My Life." He was the president who as negotiating at Camp
BLITZER: ... and then at Taba, trying to resolve this. And Barak,
the prime minister...
BLITZER: ... who made some major...
CARTER: OK. Go ahead.
BLITZER: ... major concessions. He said: "Right before I left
office, Yasser Arafat thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a
great man I was. 'Mr. Chairman,' I replied, 'I am not a great man, I am
a failure and you have made me one.' Arafat's rejection of my proposal
after Ehud Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions."
CARTER: OK, well...
BLITZER: That's what the former president wrote in his book.
CARTER: All right. Well, in my book, which I think is accurate --
I hate to dispute Bill Clinton on your program because he did a great
and heroic effort there. He never made a proposal that was accepted by
Barak or Arafat.
BLITZER: Why would he write that in his book if...
CARTER: I don't know.
BLITZER: ... if he said Barak accepted it?
CARTER: I don't know...
BLITZER: And Arafat rejected it.

NogaNote: I'm puzzled by this contradiction between Clinton's and Carter's versions. It is safe to assume that Carter researched some material for his book, and that surely he read Clinton's autobiography and was well aware of Clinton's account. Why has he not made the effort, then, to reconcile Clinton's statements with his own perceptions of the truth? Why didn't he go to Clinton and ask him about the facts? He preferred to write his book, knowing full well that there was a differing record, written by another former president.

When Blitzer asked him about it, Carter just said he didn't know why Clinton made the statement he did, and that his book makes other claims. But Clinton was speaking from a position of authority as an eye witness and a present participant in the Camp David talks while Carter is merely observing from afar, selecting whom to believe and whom to disbelieve without even explaining the reasons for his selection.

This is most puzzling.


A disturbing insight into the purpose of Carter's book, here (emphasis- mine) :

Carter isn't writing for Arabs or Jews; he's aiming at American Christians, particularly the evangelicals who are among Israel's most ardent supporters.

Carter repeatedly refers to Israeli oppression of Christians, destruction of Christian holy sites and imprisonment of Bethlehem. He emphasizes Israel's secular nature in 1973 and makes dark allusions to the powerful pro-Israel lobby.

He asserts that Israel's security fence is a grotesque violation of international law but ignores its success at stopping suicide attacks; he praises Hamas for maintaining a cease-fire for two years and ignores the Qassam rockets raining on Sderot.

And he uses that buzzword, apartheid, which resonates with religious folks who fought to divest from South Africa in the 1980s. Carter hopes his book will inspire a similar grass-roots movement to undermine Israel and ruin the U.S.-Israel relationship.

"Palestine: Peace not Apartheid" is a poorly written, poorly argued, nonsensical little book, and it's the most dangerous weapon Israel has faced in a year full of fighting.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


On the issue of evil

In his “Inferno” Dante maps out a Hell made of nine circles, the highest, first circle is Limbo, the lowest is the ninth circle reserved for the worst sinners. Every sin is measured with a medieval precision and the sinner given his exact punishment, made of the same material of the sin specified.

When sin is thus discussed, in such laborious, rich detail, it is obvious that Dante was much concerned about the nature of evil, how it manifested itself in the human being. From the careful gradation of Hell, with its descent into ever more harsh and terrible punishment, we can deduce which sins Dante’s contemporaries considered the worst.

He reserved a special cold place for the uncommitted. Those who sit on the fence when bad things are happening all around them, and maintain their neutrality. In Dante’s Hell, those who would not shed blood or tears in life for any cause now shed them for nothing. These moral impotents are doomed to chase forever after a blank banner and feed upon worms.

His worst, hottest circles he reserves for the fraudulent, those who act against their fellow-human beings out of malice and by doing so, work at loosening the very bonds of trust that attach one human being to another, trust being the glue that keeps societies, communities, families and friends, coherent, functioning and benevolent. So in Dante’s Hell, those who gnaw at these bonds, like panderers, flatterers, hypocrites and falsifiers, are considered worthy of the choicest punishments.

Let’s take a leap from Dante’s medieval conception of what is evil and who are sinners, to a major thinker of the twentieth century, Paul Ricoeur. Ricoeur shares with Dante one or two biographical traits: They were both brought up Catholic, they are both on a quest for clarity and disambiguation when it comes to the good way in which societie sought to function, and that makes them both, inevitably, interested in outlining a possible understanding of evil and its levels of universal harmfulness.

“‘Desire is innocent”, says Ricoeur. And if desire is innocent, then evil is inscrutable. “Evil is, in the literal sense of the word, perversion, that is, a reversal of the order that requires respect for law to be placed above inclination. It is a matter of a misuse of a free choice and not of the malfeasance of desire. The propensity for evil affects the use of freedom, the capacity to act out of duty – in short, the capacity for being autonomous.”

It is interesting that there is a tacit agreement between the modern man, Ricoeur and the medieval bard about the atrociousness of the fraud. False promises are counted as hostile to the rule of universalism and to the respect of the difference between persons. “Betrayals of Friendship”, says Ricoeur, tell us a lot about the malice of the human heart. The ruse is a depraved form both irony and skilfulness, a twofold abuse of trust.”

Ricoeur places a crucial importance on the value of friendship. Friendship, for him, is a virtue, which, when tested for its ingredients, we find one important matter among them: solicitude. Solicitude is the stuff that universal human rights are made of. I’ll write some more on this subject later on. Right now, I’d like to go back to the issue of evil.

Ricoeur is adamant that evil manifests itself in upsetting the natural order. “For where the instrument of intelligence is added to brute power and evil will, mankind is powerless in its own defence”.

Think about this in terms of my previous post, and see how evil can work its way through the institutions originally set up to defy its very possibility.

Norm Geras, here, speaks of the same type of Ricoeur's evil, the"perversion, [-] a reversal of the order that requires respect for law to be placed above inclination."

At the same time, if acknowledging the 'human side' of what they do is supposed to call for some sort of moral softening of our judgement of what they do, then the answer has to be 'Nothing doing.' The Strange letter contrasts viewing the perpetrators of terrorist attacks against civilians as 'cold and heartless' with a more 'mature and constructive approach'. But one needn't care less whether they're cold and heartless, or are, rather, absolutely dripping with human warmth for their intended victims. What they do is morally appalling, and they are owed no sympathy for it from others, not even so much as an ounce.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The on-going ritualistic bowdlerization of The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is in full swing again.

Here is a resolution that condemns Israel for launching a military response to Qassam rockets lobed at its citizens within civilian areas (killing today a 57 year old woman as she crossed the street with her husband and injuring and maiming many others):

The Human Rights Council this morning opened its third special session which is looking at Israeli military incursions in Northern Gaza and the assault on Beit Hanoun, hearing speakers call for the Council to condemn the human rights violations of Palestinian people, provide Palestinians with protection and send a fact-finding mission to Beit Hanoun.United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour told the Council that she would soon be visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory where she would emphasize the obligation to protect civilians during armed confrontation, and the entitlement of all, Palestinians and Israelis alike, to live free from fear, free from want, and free from harm. Palestine said Beit Hanoun seemed today as if it had been hit by a strong earthquake. Once again, the Israeli army had unleashed its lethal power against defenceless Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun, shelling their homes while they slept and targeting and shelling again those civilians fleeing the earlier bombardments. The perpetrators of this horrendous war crime should be brought to international justice.

Israel blamed the Palestinian Authority and its Government because they did nothing to stop the brazen firing of Kassam rockets at Israeli civilian communities from within Beit Hanoun, setting the stage for an Israeli response which became inevitable.

Israel accused the Council of one-sidedness, double standards and politicized decision-making, adding that those who pushed for the special session were conspicuously ignoring tragedies in other parts of the planet.

Most speakers condemned Israel’s military operations in Northern Gaza in the past few months which had left more than 350 Palestinians dead. There were accusations that Israel was using disproportionate force and resorting to collective punishment. The attack on Beit Hanoun was strongly condemned, and many called for a high-level fact-finding mission to the town.

A number of speakers, led by the United States and Canada, expressed their concern and regret for the deaths of civilians in Beit Hanoun, but said the draft resolutions being circulated provided an unbalanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They called on the Palestinian Authority to take concrete measures to address Israel’s security concerns and eliminate attacks against Israel.

Let's contextualize this interesting spasmodic ritual. Here is Anne Bayevsky, explaining what's happening (emphasis added by the CC):

The widespread misrepresentation of the Council made its self-immolation in its first two weeks of operation even more striking. The Human Rights Council is now the U.N.’s lead human-rights body, and examples of egregious human-rights violations should not have been hard to find. In Darfur, there are three quarters of a million people beyond humanitarian reach, 2.5 million people displaced by the violence, 385,000 people in immediate risk of starvation, and over two million dead in 22 years of violence and deprivation. But it wasn’t genocide in Sudan that interested the Human Rights Council. Nor was it a billion Chinese without civil and political rights. Not 13 million women in Saudi Arabia whose lives depend on hiding from sight in public places and never being caught behind the wheel of an automobile. Not the dire human-rights conditions of 23 million people in North Korea. Not Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s incitement to genocide or his country’s legal system, which includes crucifixion, stoning and amputation.

No, there was only one country singled out by the U.N. Human Rights Council, and that was Israel. The Council decided that the program for the first session should focus discussion on five issues; the first one being the “human rights situation in the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.” (The rest were “support for the Abuja Peace Agreement,” and three thematic subjects.) The Council placed criticism of Israel permanently on the agenda of all future sessions. It gave only the special investigator on Israel what amounted to a permanent mandate. On its final day, the Council passed just one resolution condemning human-rights violations by any of the 192 U.N. members, and directed it at Israel. When it was all over, the Council decided to hold its first special (emergency) session within a few days — on Israel.

The numbers explain it all. There are 47 states on the Human Rights Council divided among five regional groups. Fifty-five percent are from the African and Asian regional groups. In the May election, the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) garnered a majority on both the African and Asian regional groups, thereby giving them the balance of power. Since no criterion exists for Council membership other than geography, countries like China, Cuba, Russia, and Saudi Arabia were elected without difficulty. Furthermore, 32 of the 47 new Council members are from the so-called Group of 77, and when it comes to human rights, developing nations have proven themselves a highly effective protection racket.

The math similarly explains other results. There was a second Council resolution adopted by a vote on the defamation of religions. Its aim was to stifle free speech. The same minority that voted against the Israel resolution emerged in the minority a second time. It is now clear that there are only twelve countries on the Council, or one quarter of its members who are prepared to stand together as democracies. The resolution creating the Council redistributed seats from the Commission, decreasing the proportional representation of the Western group and increasing that of the Asian group. The consequence? The resolution on defamation of religions was adopted by the 2005 Commission by 58 percent; the Council resolution on this subject was adopted by 70 percent.

I am wondering, how many more Palestinians are doomed to be killed by Israel's retaliatory attacks? And I am wondering, why are they doomed? Why isn't there one responsible Arab leader to tell them: Take your future in your own hands, stop the bad people from waging war on your backs, and on the backs of your children. Demand that they stop lying to you, defrauding you and your children from your future by making false promises to you.

I am also wondering why the august body of the UN Human Rights Commission treats the Palestinians as though they were brainless babies, incapable of making moral judgments and therefore exempt from being held up to any universally received moral standard. For how else is one to interpret the ritual of condemning Israel for defending its citizens with a reverberating silence on the role Palestinians are playing in provoking these defensive attacks?

Not for the first time has the thought occurred to me that Israel's odds of being treating fairly, squarely, and, hmm, proportionately, by any UN body are about the same as the chances for acquittal of a black man accused of raping a white woman in the US deep South during the thirties.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I spent the afternoon at the movies with my seven-year old daughter, watching a rather silly and predictable new movie about Santa Clause, hopefully the last installment in Tim Allen's Christmas trilogy. Why hopefully? Because one wonders what else can anybody squeeze from the original story. There was enough material for a movie, but three of them, repeating, stretching, the same old schtick? My daughter enjoyed the movie as she does an episode in an animated series she would see on TV, with medium attention span, medium interest and forgotten as soon as it is over.

But one cannot expect high quality all the time and there is something to be said for the whole ritual of going to the movies, getting the tickets, buying the popcorn, finding a seat, as other people, strangers, join you for two hours. It has a self-justifying charm, which makes up somewhat for a dull movie. Afterwards, we can always make fun of the movie, complain it was a waste of time and money, dissect it to pieces, whatever. And Sunday afternoons are always glum and empty, anyway.

Here is an attempt by Elias Bejjani - Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator,
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF), and Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
- to give a historical background and context to the question of Sheba'a Farms, a tiny of piece of territory which Hizzballa uses to justify its "raison d'etre" to the Lebanese people. It looks like the Lebanese are smarter than Hizzbala gives them credit for.

From all the preceding, it is clear that the Shebaa Farms question landed in year 2000 on the Lebanese in a Syrian Baathist parachute, a poisoned gift such as all the gifts the Baath offered the Lebanese. The Baath fabricated this story to maintain its occupation of Lebanon and create an anomalous situation at the Lebanese border with Israel that prevents the rise of the Lebanese State, and to keep its control of the Lebanese scene, directly through its intelligence and soldiers, and indirectly through Hezbollah, the Amal Movement and the rest of the Lebanese and Palestinian organizations that are completely in its grip. Syria was forced to leave Lebanon by the Lebanese people's "Cedars Revolution" and by the 2004 UN Resolution 1559 that was strongly supported by the international community.

Following the Israeli withdrawal of May 2000, the United Nations tasked its delegates, with Lebanese and Israeli participation, with the mission of delineating the border between Lebanon and Israel. The Blue Line was thus drawn with the stipulation that the Shebaa Farms were located inside Syrian territories. Lebanon and Syria, as well as Israel and all Arab countries recognized the Blue Line as the official border.

Lebanon's recognition was double-sided. General Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese President, sent a secret letter to the Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan without the knowledge of his Prime Minister Salim Hoss, in which he accepted the Blue Line. Yet, publicly and in the media, the matter was presented as though Lebanon refused to recognize the Blue Line before an Israeli withdrawal from the Shebaa Farms.

The Lebanese media, towing the Syrian line, then began a campaign of inciting the people in order to justify keeping weapons in the hands of Hezbollah and preventing the Lebanese Army from deploying along the border with Israel and entering the Palestinian camps, and basically prevent the Lebanese government from spreading and exercising its authority over its entire territory.

The Lebanese South was to remain a time-bomb in the hands of the Syrian and Iranian rulers under an upside-down argument that the Lebanese Army ought not to be deployed to the Lebanese border with Israel so as not protect the Israeli border! A sick and tragic logic that made Lebanon and those in its government the laughing stock of the international community.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rayyan Al-Shawaf is a writer and freelance reviewer based in Beirut, Lebanon. Here he furnishes a much needed perspective of the way things were observed and understood on the other side of the border from Israel.

Apparently, the shrill war-mongering and gorilla's triumphal chest pounding of Hezbollah in the wake of the war were just that: a lot of noise manufactured in the hope of drowning the political weakness of that organization.

In fact, their bombastic statements notwithstanding, neither Syria nor Iran lifted a finger to aid Lebanon. Indeed, even as Israel pummelled Lebanon, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had the audacity to declare that any Israeli attack on Syria would meet with a firm Iranian response. Attacking Syria crosses a red line, destroying Lebanon doesn't. Regionally, the only positive sign came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, which indirectly rebuked Hezbollah and Hamas for their 'adventurism'. Hezbollah's actions, of course, are all the more inexcusable as it had already witnessed the furious Israeli response to the Palestinian militants' operation. Pointedly, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan also declared their support for the Lebanese state imposing its authority over all of Lebanon.

Many Palestinians and Lebanese, on the other hand, have become prisoners of their own anti-Israel rhetoric. For too long, they have chosen to coddle ideologically extreme and recklessly violent organisations like Hamas and Hezbollah, in deference to that sacred cow called 'resistance'. Now, they are finding it difficult to change. Indeed, the Palestinian and Lebanese governments failed to condemn the militants' attacks, despite the fact that both occurred in Israel proper, not the occupied West Bank or Shebaa Farms.

Yet in Lebanon, dissent is beginning to be voiced. Even politicians, such as maverick Druze MP Walid Junblatt, are openly questioning Hezbollah's motives. While this certainly augurs well for the future, it cannot ameliorate the current situation. Israel made good on its promise to 'turn back the clock in Lebanon by 20 years', while Hezbollah seems poised to hijack the Lebanese state for the next 20 years, meaning that Lebanon as a country has already lost. The only remaining hope is that those who truly care about Lebanon will eventually succeed in radically altering the dominant political culture, so that the 'resistance' is no longer enveloped in a halo of immunity, and the Lebanese can finally discuss it freely and critically.

Friday, November 10, 2006


A clash of moral systems: The case of Shylock and the Venetians:

A fallacy is a component of an argument which is demonstrably flawed in its logic or form, thus rendering the argument invalid.

Untranslatability is a term borrowed from Translation theory, meaning that no translation between languages is ever possible because each language is a closed, self-referential culturally bound, hermetic system.

In Shakespeare’s play, the Merchant of Venice, we are presented by two seemingly mutually-exclusive ethical systems: Judaism, as represented by Shylock, and Christianity as represented by the Venetians.

Literary critics claim that the real tug of war in this play is between Jewish legalism and Christian notions of merciful justice.

Antonio, the titular Merchant of Venice, and Shylock, the money lender, are two men, who would have been great partners in later times. But their relationship progresses against an uncompromising religious, social and cultural backdrop. Antonio is an insider, Christian, friend of the aristocracy, secure in his social acceptance. Shylock is a Jew, a pariah outsider in a hostile environment, tolerated because he has money and is of some use. He can only rely on the law and his money to protect him. The clash between the two comes to a head in a trial scene, where a standoff between the two evolves from a transactional dispute to a struggle between competing systems of morality.

The play is bracketed between two very famous speeches: Shylock’s “hath not a Jew” and Portia’s “Quality of mercy”. Shylock invokes a universal code for negotiating human rights between others. In this, Shylock attempts to pre-empt the brutality of his later confrontation with Antonio by appealing to the latter’s decency and compassion.

Portia explains in very beautiful terms that legalistic application of the law is not a humanistic type of justice which serves society’s good. “Mercy seasons Justice” she says, meaning that the quality of mercy makes the process of justice a matter of negotiating between human beings, makes it relevant to what it means to be a responsible person in a society.

The two speeches encapsulate the ideas that formed the basis for the universal charter for human rights: Shylock demands dignity of the individual, his basic right to the integrity of his body, his feelings, his right to make a living, his right to be enraged by insults and injustice. He speaks for the victim, the pariah, the other. Portia speaks for mainstream society when she claims that justice is only relevant when tempered with mercy. Justice without mercy feels too much like revenge, vengeance. Justice with mercy takes into account that we are all human and therefore fallible.

But what actually unfolds in the play is the very opposite.

Here's a grim prediction from George Jonas, which I tend to share to some extent. I'm by no means an expert on political constituencies in Canada but I do talk to people and encounter astounding, willful ignorance and an eagerness to condemn Israeli actions, as though it were the undisputable birthright of Arabs to kill Israelis but Israelis, by virue of being Jewish, are not allowed to respond in defence (there is some perversion of reason in expecting Jews to tolerate violence and hatred directed at them, which defies all rationale). So I don't know about how Jews will vote in the next elections but I do know that Jonas is right on when he says the following, here:

The burden breaking the poor beast’s back is all the bicycle-riding vegetarians in the progressive-liberal-socialist axis of moral relativism who have been gradually toggling their anti-Zionism toward plain, old-fashioned anti-Semitism.

Let me take some of this back. Not all vegetarians ride bicycles; not all bicycle-riding vegetarians are anti-Semitic, and certainly not all anti-Semites are vegetarian. (No cracks about Hitler’s own dietary habits, thank you.) But whatever they eat or ride, too many in the progressive-liberal-socialist camp are appeasers and apologists for terror.

On July 12 this summer, Hezbollah, an Iranian- and Syrian-backed terrorist organization operating in southern Lebanon, launched an unprovoked attack into Israeli territory. In the first 48 hours, more than 500 Katyushas and mortar shells were fired into the northern part of Israel. Initially they killed two civilians and wounded hundreds more, including many women and children.

There’s no country on Earth that wouldn’t react to an assault of this kind with military measures. Whether a thrust like Hezbollah’s should or shouldn’t go unpunished, it obviously can’t go unparried, and the only way to parry rocket and artillery thrusts is to destroy the batteries and launch pads from which they’re fired.

Which is what Israel did at Qana, killing in the process a number of civilians, including children. Mr. Ignatieff isn’t wrong in saying that Qana was a war crime, only in that it was a war crime committed by the Jewish state. As a “professor of the laws of war” (his own description), Mr. Ignatieff is likely to know that the war crime was perpetrated by those who set up rocket launchers in the Lebanese town, using private homes with families residing inside as human shields. That he would nevertheless lay the blame at Israel’s door shows the moral bankruptcy of the centre-left in general, and Canada’s Liberals in particular. It also shows that a lofty professor of international law can also accommodate a lowly opportunist of domestic politics in his soul.

So what else is new?

The issue of proportionality may be new. It’s smuggled into the moral debate by terrorists and their left-lib apologists to escape the consequences of their misdeeds. First they fire mortars and Katyusha rockets at Israeli civilians, then plead proportionality — a bizarre demand in any but a sporting contest. If taken literally, it would call for modern armies to scrap their missiles and smart bombs and fight with nothing except weapons and tactics available to the Taliban.


"It also shows that a lofty professor of international law can also accommodate a lowly opportunist of domestic politics in his soul."

This sears my heart in anguish. I did so hope that Michael Ignatieff would be a modern-age philosopher-king, a morally upright intellectual leader of practical wisdom, who will not cave in to intimidation and numbers.

It appears that Tony Blair agrees with Martin Amis's prognosis:

Prime Minister Tony Blair warned Friday that Britain faces a generation of struggle against terrorism, after the head of domestic spy agency MI5 revealed that 30 plots have been uncovered.

He also called on all sides including Muslims to denounce extremists who try to "warp and pervert the minds, particularly of younger people."

Blair said that MI5 chief Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller was "absolutely right" to insist that the threat was long-term.

"I've been saying for several years that this terrorist threat is very real, it's been building up over a long period of time," Blair told reporters after talks with New Zealand counterpart Helen Clark at 10 Downing Street.

"This is a threat that has grown up over a generation.
"I think she (Manningham-Buller) is absolutely right in saying that it will last a generation."
The threat, which Blair said was a global problem, should be tackled through toughened security laws and countering the terrorists' message, he suggested.

"It can only be combatted, in the end, not just by proper measures on security -- and we are looking again at how we strengthen our terrorism laws, we need to make sure that that's the case.

"But in addition to that, that we take on and combat the poisonous propaganda of those people that warp and pervert the minds, particularly of younger people.

"The values that we have and hold dear in this country -- that are about democracy, tolerance, liberty and respect for people of other faiths -- are the values that will defeat those values of hatred and division and sectarianism.

"It's a very long and deep struggle this, here and right round the world, but we've got to stand up and be counted for what we believe in," he said, echoing the words of Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in a speech urging British Muslims to defend moderation Thursday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I recently added to my original "mission statement" a short quote from Ortega Y Gasset that says:

"Civilization is not 'just there,' it is not self-supporting. It is artificial...if you .. are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done."

Nearly eight decades after Gasset predicted Europe's self-consuming suicidal angst, Martin Amis makes similar points vis-a-vis our present days calamities:

You've written that Western ideology is to blame for weakening the West in the war on terror. How?

Because moral relativism is so far advanced that we don't believe we can be right about anything. It just hasn't been accepted in the consciousness of the West that we have a fight with irrationality on our hands. Everyone's casting about, saying, "Why are they doing this?" And gooey-eyed newscasters on CNN say, "Why? Why this anger?" Paul Berman, the author of "Terror and Liberalism," calls this tendency "rationalist naïveté." [Terrorists] rejected reason. This is what Hitler did, and it's what Lenin did. They want to believe anything is possible, and they're not constrained by the laws of logic. This, plus the death-cult element, gives any movement a huge surge of energy.

But the West goes on. I'm talking about a certain strata of opinion that is dying for American failure in Iraq because they hate George Bush. They're dying for failure, but they're also attributing reason to the enemy, saying, "What terrible historic wrongs have we committed to bring this down on ourselves?" And they haven't made the leap to seeing that it isn't a matter of reason. It's a psychopathology. Their war is against God's enemies and it's meant to last for eternity, and how rational an undertaking is that? Yet people won't make that leap because it feels racist to them.

Where do you draw the line between Islam and Islamism?

Violence. Any violence against civilians is absolutely intolerable. [And] there is a huge moral difference between trying to kill civilians and trying not to kill civilians. When an American soldier kills an Iraqi civilian on purpose, he faces the death penalty. There's no equivalent mechanism among the enemy. [They have] celebrations throughout the land when a good number of civilians have been killed.

Are there any parallels to be drawn between your new novel, "House of Meetings," which takes place in Soviet slave camps, and the issues you have explored in Islamism?

Terror as a tactic [or] as a policy is the same everywhere and in all times, and it always has to do with desperate insecurity about your legitimacy. It's a hysterical response to historical reality. And it's always self-defeating. Nothing achieved by terror ever lasts.

Recently, I discovered Beryl Wajsman, The Last Angry Man, who tells it like it is. In a recent conversation I had with him he said to me something like this: When you grow up poor and Jewish, you need a big mouth, by way of explanation. I envy him, because when he is angry, he is at his most eloquent and knowledgeable, while I get all flustered and mute. It's the difference between a disciplined mind and well-stocked intellect, and an eclectic thinker, I think. And anyway, it's too late for me to do anything about it, except acquire more eclecticism.

Anyway, I thought I would post an article from the current issue of Barricades, co-written by Beryl P. Wajsman and Nathalie Elgrably: "Quebec and a question of values":

"They made a desert and called it peace"
~ Julius Caesar, "Commentaries on the War in Gaul"

Recently, Montreal witnessed a demonstration for peace for Lebanon and Palestine. As usual, Israel was not mentioned. We guess it is not entitled to peace.

As usual the media focused on Lebanese flags, not the sea of Hezbollah flags. We guess Israel, and all freedom-loving Canadians, are supposed to ignore these fifth-columnists within our midst whose mouths dripped all afternoon with words of nullification and interposition against the free world.

As usual, the media played up the numbers game stumbling over one another as with the RDI (French CBC) anchor who said 15,000 attended while the RDI reporter on the ground said 3,000-4,000. We guess we have to accept the disinformation that has spun like a whirlwind around this Mid-East conflict from CNN correspondent Nic Robertson's confession of faked reports from Beirut due to Hezbollah threats, to the blind acceptance of Hezbollah's accusation that Israel killed 60 people at Qana when the building that killed the victims collapsed eight hours after the Israeli bombing raid ended.

Too many have become too immune to these double standards. Somehow Israeli blood is cheap even though this conflict was started by a rain of Hezbollah rockets and kidnappings aided by the complicity of a Lebanese government that has refused to undertake its responsibility under UN resolution 1559 adopted six years ago that obliged it to disarm Hezbollah and take control of south Lebanon.

But the most dangerous immunity that Quebecers have succumbed to has been to the question of values.
Oh how often "values" were mentioned during the comments by the nest of night-crawling moral hypocrites and political opportunists who organized this rally! And what strange bedfellows they were. Liberal MP Dénis Coderre, detested by organized labour, standing with the FTQ. Coderre, the "staunch" federalist, suddenly finding common cause with Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe and Parti Québecois leader André Boisclair. Trade-unionists who remained neutral in the last provincial election suddenly shoulder-to-shoulder with the PQ again. And the PQ, furious at the creation of Québec Solidaire, sharing the stage with its leader Françoise David. What a sight!

Now let's see... What values could have brought all of them together...

Hezbollah fighters use people as human shields forcing them at gunpoint to stay in war zones; forcing them upon pain of death to store machine guns and rockets in their homes, schools and hospitals and forcing them with destruction of their property if they refuse to put up with Katyusha emplacements. Israel gives advance notice of attacks; rains leaflets on the Lebanese to leave dangerous areas and instructs its soldiers not to attack until after they have taken a hit from Hezbollah, all to preserve not only its own citizens' lives and liberties but those of its enemies as well. Quebec sacrificed more sons and daughters, as a proportion of population, for the defense and expansion of freedom in both World Wars than any other part of North America. Clearly Hezbollah's values are more in line with Quebec's. Right?

Hezbollah, with the backing of Syria and Iran, opposes pluralistic secular democracy in Lebanon and seeks to impose a theocratic tyranny. Israel is an open democracy with Muslim parliamentarians, judges and diplomats and Quebec turned it's back on state faith 45 years ago with "La révolution tranquille" that ended "le noirceur" and gave full emancipation to all minorities in 1837, twenty years before England. Clearly Hezbollah is more reflective of Quebec. Right?

Hezbollah opposes trade unionism. Israel and Quebec are the world's, yes the world's, most unionized jurisdictions outside of the remaining communist countries. Obviously Hezbollah is closer to Quebec on this one too. Right?

Hezbollah opposes gay rights and equal status for women. Israel has a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, just like Montreal, and women serve equally in all areas from the army on up. So let's see….Hezbollah or Israel….hmmmmmm?

Well maybe it's the question of "proportional response" that bothers Quebecers? But then we have to remember that at the time of the FLQ crisis in 1970 Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa specifically asked then Prime Minister Trudeau to impose the War Measures Act, send the army into Montreal and suspend civil liberties after six mailbox bombs went off and British Trade Commissioner James Cross was kidnapped and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was killed. Bourassa called the actions of some twenty, that's right twenty, FLQ cell members an "insurrection". No rain of hundreds of rockets. No daily killings of civilians. No bombardment of cities. No 2000 deaths from terrorist attacks. Was his response "proportional"? Yet he got re-elected three years later with a majority.

We could go on but we think you get the point. It's none of this. This rally got the support of so much of Quebec's political and labor elite because of a transparently base, cynical and unprincipled grab for votes and union memberships after a simple calculation pitting Quebec's 250,000 Muslims versus its 90,000 Jews. Denis Coderre won his seat largely through Muslim votes; the FTQ's organizing drives have stagnated for ten years; and the BQ/PQ/QS "progressives" needs every bit of help they can get because of their internal fratricide. Ward politics at its bottom-feeding worst.

The rest you can read here

Monday, November 06, 2006

NogaNote III:

I'm still on the subject of silence.

Anne Carson

Epitaph: Evil (from her 2000 collection Men in the Off Hours)

To get the sound take everything that is not the sound drop it
Down a well, listen.
Then drop the sound.
Listen to the difference

Does anyone understand this poem?

What is "everything that is not the sound"? Silence?

And when you listen to silence, you hear .. what? Nothing. More silence.

Then you drop the "sound".

What makes sounds? The words that are (supposed to be) attached to silences, and things that make noise, and thus communicate what they are, inform, alert, explain, express, emote.

You listen to the "difference".

The difference between silence and sound, shatters. Is this why the poem is an "epitaph" to evil? Evil, which the difference, the gap, the incongruity, between silence and sound; evil that is predicated upon the difference between silence and sound, between neutrality (keeping silent) and engagement (speaking up).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NogaNote II:

A friend offered me these two poems by RM Rilke, sensing that I would be moved by them.


Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
to make every hour holy.
I am too small in the world, and yet not tiny enough
just to stand before you like a thing,
dark and shrewd.
I want my will, and I want to be with my will
as it moves towards deed;
and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
when something is approaching,
I want to be with those who are wise
or else alone.

I want always to be a mirror that reflects your whole being,
and never to be too blind or too old
to hold your heavy, swaying image.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere do I want to remain folded,
because where I am bent and folded, there I am lie.
And I want my meaning
true for you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I studied
closely for a long, long time,
like a word I finally understood,
like the pitcher of water I use every day ,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the deadliest storm of all.

I've been experiencing with increasing intensity lately, this fear of remaining "folded". At first reading, I sensed two currents running in close parallel. One is the need to remain fully alive and fully receptive to the beauty and terror that challenge and form our being. The second is what comes from keeping oneself sentient like that: keeping up with one's will.

As always, between the "will" and the "deed" there is an unbridgeable gap, an erotic void. Deed always lags behind the will, even as it wants to overcome it, or at least keep abreast of it. Or maybe the "will'' per se, is that force that traverses the void?

It reminds me of the following passage I wrote in one of my papers some time ago, exploring the essence and demands of personal responsibility.

Viktor Frankel says,

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lays our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."

The awareness of that space, that split second before we respond to a certain stimulus, this is where the nexus of responsibility is located. The stimulus is in the past, already, as we traverse the space towards our response, we can choose: we can turn back and rage at the past, the indissoluble, unchangeable past, or look ahead towards the future which our decisions, our choice how to respond, will directly affect. That is the moment of response that will determine how we grasp our responsibly in life. Good choices are premised on an ability to comprehend (meaning both contain and understand) the unique past, which has formed our present angst.

Between the two Rilke poems, there is an affinity. One appears to be a door into the other, expounding, explaining, describing, what it is means to be “longing”:


Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

This is, if anything, description of "longing":

I want my will, and I want to be with my will
as it moves towards deed;
and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
when something is approaching,
I want to be with those who are wise
or else alone.

Silence is the condition of longing, of the perpetual journey of the will towards the deed. But, like the speaker in the poem, we want an affirmation, a friend, who will:

"always to be a mirror that reflects [our] whole being ".

A friend can only reflect ourselves back to us by speaking, by breaking the silence. But sometimes friends join their silence to the silence of our longing.

NoagNote I:

"Silence is golden", says a friend of mine.

But I say that in our beleaguered everyday life, when we await affirmation and acknowledgement for our concerns and wishes, silence is definitely not golden. It often feels almost like a betrayal. Not the betrayal of so-so friends (which is somewhat always expected, lurking in the wings) but the abandonment by a kindred spirit, a friend who had somehow drilled through the barriers you so laboriously erected around yourself and inveigled itself into your very heart and soul. You are left feeling like you have been slapped.. by silence.

In the art of poetry, silence is usually a fraction of a void, an emptiness, a pause, between words that sound and resound. And for some poets, the silence can only be contrasted by a great scream of emotion or anguish or joy.

Lorca was such a poet.

None understand better the meaning of the cry ("el grito") -- the scream, the howl, that is punctuated by short, stylized silences -- than the Spaniards, with their Flamenco, their duende, and the immensity of feeling they funnel through their poetry and music.

"Not unlike the guitar, in fact, the voice of the cantaor is considered an instrument of the cry, the cry that dares to break the silence, just as the hands are an instrument to break the stillness, and the feet. "

The Cry

The ellipse of a cry
echoes from mountain
to mountain.

From the olive trees
a black rainbow
veils the blue night.


Like the bow of a viola
the cry vibrates long strings
of wind.

(Translated by Ralph Angel)

Friday, November 03, 2006

We were discussing the issue of evil in my discussion group, triggered by Dante's "Purgatory", in which he tries to ponder, among other things, what evil was, how it translates to the politics and conventions of a mainstream thinking, how it is enabled. The discussion veered, naturally, to the most recent incarnation of evil known to man: the Holocaust, with the usual moral and intellectual helplessness that accompany such attempts. In no time a leap was made into our own era and examples offered for today's evil: Abu Ghraib and, please don't gasp, Israel's war on Hizzbala in Lebanon. Somehow, from the successful industrialization of genocide planned and executed by the Nazis against the Jewish people, severing at least one third of its body, somehow a plausible link was made to a group of a few aberrant American soldiers torturing Iraqi detainees and more astoundingly, a "present day" example suggested, with all the sanctimonious equanimity of the pseudo-Leftist mind, in Israel's retaliation to an unprovoked, unjustified attack upon its soldiers, its citizens, its land.

It's no coincidence that such connections are made, naturally, easily, in Montreal, which saw a "peace" rally this summer whose banners screamed with frightening zeal, reminiscent of that other dark time in modern history, when Jews became the target of universal hatred: "we are all Hizzbala".

Here * is Beryl Wajman's description of a similar incident with similar echoes of this conversation I've just reported:

Then came the zinger. She asked me if I was a Jew. I snapped back “I’m a Canadian. And a democrat. I don’t define myself by religion. Are you a Catholic?” I demanded to know what possible reason she had for this question, and why I am so often asked my religion only by Francophone reporters. Defensively, she replied it was for “context”. I asked what “context”? Her answer was symptomatic of the social sickness that has made so many fey and feckless and too many so intolerant. She said that the “peace” marchers had groups such as the Canadian Islamic Congress participating and sponsoring. I asked “So what?” We were there as free citizens. That was our title. That was our tie.

But she persisted. It was as if she could not understand that people can act out of individual initiative and character without the benediction of any group. Her face exhibited a recoil of bitter resentment bordering on rage. It was as if I had mouthed a blasphemy so heinous as to make me an enemy of the people. She tried once again and I said that there were three Jews out of a dozen in this group. Does that make it a Jewish conspiracy? “No,” I said, “we were not tied to any Jewish organization, but the very fact that you ask shows that you have the age-old prejudice that considers so many outsiders, particularly Jews, as ‘les autres’ – the others.”

Openly flustered and upset she then abruptly terminated the interview and accused me of pre-judging her. She quickly disconnected her tape recorder from the microphone and stuffed them both into her purse while reaching for her umbrella that I had been holding over her. In a hurry to cross the street, she turned from me but I persisted in reminding her of one thing. The fact that she – a journalist – a member of a profession that should prize individualism and independence, could not accept that people can act without regard to any collectivity was part of a disease destroying our society. So much has been surrendered to statocratic collectivist consensus that even freedom of thought, action and assembly are suspect. And, sadly, the age-old spectres of the “Jew” as outsider, of the “Jewish conspiracy”, still rear its ugly head.

I reminded her of what a Francophone Senator once told me. That the real “two solitudes” in Quebec were not between anglophones and francophones but between those francophones that were the heirs of Papineau and Lafontaine, Laurier and Trudeau, and those francophones who were the heirs of the era of “le grande noirceur”, Abbé Groulx and Adrien Arcand. I told her to reflect on whose heir she was. I reminded her that Quebecers still had much to learn from yesterday’s leaders not from today’s. That if “sang et langue” – blood and language – were still the litmus tests of legitimacy, then Laurier’s boast of a pluralist Quebec where, “It has been my great pride to be excommunicated by Roman priests and condemned by Protestant parsons,” was betrayed.

With a half-sneer and a toss of her head that almost sent her earphones flying, she marched off.

Maybe the good people who jump so easily ---from Nazis feeding Jews to the gas chambers to Israel attacking Hizbolla's Katiusha launching pads aimed at killing Jews-- and make these easy comparisons, do not know any better? And why is that, when all they need is just look, see, and observe facts and evidence?

Who Are Hezbollah? And what do they want?

*If anyone reading this is at a loss to understand the title of Mr. Wajsman's article, here is the reference:

“Anti-Semitism is the swollen meanness, injustice and envy of pygmy minds.” Mark Twain



Beryl P. Wajsman

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Had to delete this post. Apparently, it's not allowed to translate and post a poem without permission from the author. which is what I did here.

When Michael Ignatieff made his unfortunate comments about Israel's "war crimes" in Qana, Lebanon, I sent him an email letter which I quoted here in full on October 13, 2006.

A day later, I added another post in which I acknowledged Mr. Ignatieff's more judicious and responsible correction on his earlier gaff. Enough to earn me the wrath of a poster in my attached message board calling me a jellyfish for doing so.

Todate I got no response from either the honorable Mr. Ignatieff or even some recognition from some minor staff member, that my grave concerns about the direction Mr. Ignatieff seems to take gained the least bit of attention from that entourage with its aspirations for political power. instead, I got a letter from the Liberal Party of Canada asking me for a donation for a party I had just protested against for its unjust criticism of Israel's actions, unchecked, unverified.

Apparently, my only importance to the letter readers of Ignatieff's head office lies in the potential to get a $25 donation from me. What does it mean? Will my complaint be more deserving of a response after I have to donated some money? What conclusion am I supposed to draw from this coincidence?

I could not help but make a tangential connection to what Beryl Wajsman says here about math, numbers and cynical calculations and their place in shaping the moral horizon of a the Canadian Liberal political party:

"Well, one could be forgiven for asking if he himself hadn't done some homework ­ in math. Principles be damned when numbers are at stake. Seven hundred thousand Muslims in Canada. Only 350,000 Jews. And a good number of those Muslims who live in Montreal (where the leadership convention will be held) happen to live in and around Mr. Coderre's riding. No, couldn't be. I'm adding 2+2 and getting five. Right? Wrong!"

Misrepresentations, distortions, mistakes, blood excuses and numbers appear to have been introduced into what should have been a pristine moral clarity of the "The Party of None is Too Many".

For shame, Mr. Ignatieff! I did so believe in what you have been writing in your books!