A bitter smile:
The recipe for "peace" in the new year - Israel should go . . .
The Contentious Centrist
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Friday, December 29, 2006
A bitter smile:
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
At this point of the year I usually worry about time zipping past me unnoticed. People I met, barely discernible roadsigns darting by like meteors * with variably extended exposure time; events condense and expand as they keep moving towards and away from me, a Doppler-effect screech shift in tone imprinted in my memory. When I write my monthly cheques, my hand still hesitates over the 2006, even as 2007 is just 4 days away! I still remember, as a woman of twenty I thought the end of the millenium was an event far into the future. With the smug arrogance of the young, the idea that there was life, beauty, desire, longing, doubts after forty was a strange, unintelligible thought. I fully expected, by the time the millenium rolled in, to have acquired most of my knowledge and goals in life and thence coast along in some sort of tranquil, if not too exciting, an existence.
Well, here I am, at the gate of the seventh year into the third millenium, and I am still like that young woman of twenty, waiting for a sort of enlightened maturity to descend upon me and relieve me of all the torment and restlessness that come with ambition and eagerness for more: more life, more knowledge, more understanding, more skills, more love, more everything.
Here's what my favourite astrologer suggests for 2007:
In 2007, you'll need to find the power to do the half-right thing when it's impossible to do the totally right thing. To help you do that, remember this advice from Abraham Lincoln: "The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded."
Looks like I'm told that what was will be. And decisions will be a balance of factors, as they always are. I guess this could also serve as an answer to my earlier question about "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". The bad was almost wholly evil. The other two were compounds of the two. In the Ugly, the evil component was more predominant. In the Good, the good component was somewhat greater. So, by this measure, the villain with the most good in him (relatively speaking) wins the good name prize.
It is also interesting, btw, the the good and the bad were both intelligent. The ugly was an idiot.
* as the poet imagines.
Lone Star had a Clint Eastwood marathon on Christmas day. And of course "The good, the bad and the ugly" was a prime time attraction. My husband is a huge fan of this movie. Huge. Never misses an opportunity to watch it, yet again. So I sat through the first 45 minutes with him and then I commented that I really really don't get this movie. I mean, why is it called "The good, the bad and the ugly"? since all three protagonists are bad. They are all greedy, villainous, conniving criminals. A more accurate title would have been: "The bad, the worse, and the worst". Of course it doesn't quite have the same poetic appeal of its given title. But it does make an ironic case for moral relativism, doesn't it? In the land of the bad, the scoundrel who manages, despite his greed, to keep his word to other villains, is considered good.
It's the same type of relativism we find in such proverbs as:
In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is king.
Even a fool, who keeps his silence, may be considered wise.
The king's dog is king among dogs.
Man With No Name: You may run the risks, my friend, but I do the cutting. We cut down my percentage - uh, cigar? - liable to interfere with my aim.
Tuco: But if you miss you had better miss very well. Whoever double-crosses me and leaves me alive, he understands nothing about Tuco.
From: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, 1966.
PS. Interesting that in the Italian title, the ugly precedes the bad. It might indicate a certain awareness of the gradation in lack of virtue that I pointed to.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Whatever President Carter intended to achieve in his anti-Israel "humanitarian" book, it appears he miscalculated his own infallibility. Unpleasant facts keep emerging about his past interference in dubious causes, as well as the provenance of moneys donated to his centre.
Neal Sher, (a New York attorney who served as Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations and who is a former Executive Director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) writes here:
In Bartesch’s case, OSI researchers uncovered iron-clad documentary evidence of his direct, hands-on role in the Nazi genocide. Among the SS documents captured by American forces when they liberated Mauthausen was what we described as the Unnatural Death Book, a register of prisoners killed, along with the identity of the SS guard responsible for the murder.
So powerful was this evidence that, in postwar trials conducted by the U.S. military, the book served as the basis for execution or long prison sentences for many identified SS guards.
An entry on Oct. 20, 1943, registers the shooting death of Max Oschorn, a French Jewish prisoner. His murderer was also recorded: SS man Martin Bartesch. It was a most chilling document.
Bartesch’s family and “supporters,” seeking special relief, launched a campaign to discredit OSI while trying to garner political support. Indeed, OSI received numerous inquiries from members of Congress who had been approached.
After we explained the facts of the case, however, the matter inevitably was dropped; no one urged that Bartesch or his family be accorded any special treatment.
Well, there was one exception — Jimmy Carter.
In September 1987, after all of the gruesome details of the case had been made public and widely reported in the media, I received a letter sent by Bartesch’s daughter to the former president. Citing groups that had been exposed for their anti-Semitism, it was an all-out assault against OSI as unfair, “un-American” and interested only in “vengeance” against innocent family members.
It’s axiomatic that the families of every person prosecuted under the criminal or immigration laws are affected and subjected to hardship. It was obvious, I thought to myself, that no reasonable person could genuinely believe that the Bartesch case was worthy of special dispensation.
On the contrary, it would be a perversion of justice to accede to the family’s demands and grant Bartesch relief to which no one else would be entitled. Not even the staunchest and most sincere devotee to humanitarian causes could legitimately claim that an SS murderer who deceived authorities to obtain a visa and citizenship was somehow deserving of exceptional treatment.
That’s why I was so taken aback by the personal, handwritten note Jimmy Carter sent to me seeking “special consideration” for this Nazi SS murderer. There on the upper-right corner of Bartesch’s daughter’s letter was a note to me in the former president’s handwriting, and with his signature, urging that “in cases such as this, special consideration can be given to the families for humanitarian reasons.”
And this is what he tells us about some of Carter's donors:
... among the most generous contributors to the Carter Center — at least a million dollars each, according to the center’s published accountings — are Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz, best known for having offered $10 million to New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, an offer that was rejected by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the prince implied that the attacks may have been justified because of U.S. support for Israel; the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the Saudi Fund for Development; and, most interestingly, the Bin Laden Group.
Make no mistake, these are not simply benevolent donors looking for a good cause; they expect something in return. And Carter gave them exactly what they paid for: an unequivocal stamp of approval from a former, if failed, U.S. president for their decades of anti-Israel, anti-Semitic ramblings. It’s a diplomatic and public-relations dividend that likely will far exceed their investment.
Sher concludes by wondering what else besides lust lurks in the former president's heart. A relevant question.
The ever mutating virus of Jew hatred: what else will they come up with?
Palestinians deserve our pity. Because they are the victims of a callous mind-warping experiment carried out by Arab leaders, Muslim Genocidal megalomaniacs and the increasingly sanctimonious ignorami who pass for "intellectuals" these days in the media.
Here is an example of what happens to the minds of people when they are taught that they are allowed to distort history and manufacture ever greater myths to justify their pathological clinging to their perceived victimhood and the shunning of responsibility for their own violence and self-defeating choices. One has to wonder why a mother's pain over the loss of her baby has to be compared to the pain of Mary over her son's death. Isn't such pain self-evident and meriting our sympathy in its own right? One can't help but notice the cynicism of this deliberate manipulation of the Christian reader's emotions and appeal to his age-old anti Jewish prejudice. All in the service of a Palestinian cause which remains obscure and elusive even as it grows in violence and pitch.
UK newspaper: Jesus was a Palestinian
An anti-Israel article , which appeared last week in a British newspaper, the Independent, claimed Christmas was a celebration of the "birth pains of a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem" (Mary), before launching into an attack on Israel 's checkpoints in the West Bank.
According to the article, written by British columnist Johann Hari, during Christmas "a third of humanity will gather to celebrate the birth pains of a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem - but two millennia later, another mother in another glorified stable in this rubble-strewn, locked-down town is trying not to howl."
It added: "Fadia Jemal is a gap-toothed 27-year-old with a weary, watery smile. 'What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today? She would endure what I have endured,' she says."
(Thanks to my friend Aaron for alerting me to this story)
Knesset education panel: Let Palestinian students attend Israeli universities
By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondent
The Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee on Tuesday called on Defense Minister Amir Peretz to overturn the sweeping policy of denying Palestinian students entry to study at Israeli universities.
"The impression we received from today's debate is that instead of examining the relevance of each request, since the start of the year it has become worse, even in comparison to the permits issued at the height of the intifada," said the panel chairman, MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad).
"We are not dismissing security considerations, but the sweeping policy goes against the basic right to learn and needs to be changed so that each [individual] request is examined," said the former deputy education minister.
Monday, December 25, 2006
On vanished friendships:
According to Aristotle, good legislators should have more respect for friendship than for justice. Thus, in true friendship lies the supreme idea of society’s perfection. Friendship is a virtue.
However, cautions Montagne. While mindful of the moral good that is friendship, he prefers to listen to Cicero: “Those are only to be reputed friendships that are fortified and confirmed by judgment and length of time.”
True friendships are taxed and tried, subject to many tests and bumps. They also take time. Long periods of time to get consolidated and vital.
Paul Ricoeur, in his book “Oneself as Another” explores the idea of friendship as the one relationship that holds out hope of countering the fragility and inconstancy of humankind. He catalogues three types of friendship:
Friendships motivated by utility and pleasure have their own raison d'etre, not to be dismissed or scoffed at out of hand. We all have them. And we all know they are short-lived and fickle, subject to the slightest gust of wind to knock them off track. These friendships are not life sustaining in any way. They are like candy. “But, in general, all those friendships created and nourished by pleasure, profit, public or private interest are so much the less noble and generous, and so much the less friendships, by the extent to which they mix up another cause and motive with friendship itself.” These are, Montagne tells us, acquaintances, connections, people we know, with whom we exchange some of the less important content of our minds, of our selves. "But, in the friendship I speak of, they mingle and melt into one piece, with so universal a mixture that there is left no more sign of the seam by which they were first put together. If any one should demand that I give a reason why I loved someone, I feel it could no otherwise be expressed than by the answer, “Because he was he; because I was I”.
Generosity and selflessness are the marks of true friendship. Ricoeur explains why. The exchange that takes place in true friendship depends on mutuality, reciprocity, and pre-supposes true equality. This is where the virtue that is friendship and the idea of justice intersect, since justice strives to restore equality. If we understand this essential element in friendship, aside from the natural flow of affection, then we have made some progress towards ways of augmenting justice in this world. And I speak of the justice that does not rely on legislation to keep the peace.
I will get back to this idea some time in the future. Right now I’d like to go back to the idea of friendship, which is still in the private sphere.
I’m reading Martin Amis’s book “Experience”. I only recently came to appreciate this author, who mobilizes the English language as a painter wields his paints, in range of hues, colour combinations and varying degrees of tactility. Since I’ve only just begun to ponder the man behind the words, I will not try to describe or characterize him. Except to say that I think he is a decent thinker, in the tradition of decency set by George Orwell.
The book is a memoir, mostly intended to outline a certain portrait of his father, Kingsley Amis. The book also refers a great deal to the women in his life, so love and sex form a secondary theme in this memoir. But I thought the real pivot this book turns on is friendship. Friendship with his father, with his stepmother, with his peers, with his mentors, with books and poems.
Amis has the good fortune to call some very formidable writers, friends. His friends are the authors we read today, if we are interested in words, language, culture, literature. Christopher Hitchens has a special place. If Hitchens is Amis' fraternal-friend then Saul Bellow is the paternal friend.
Amis recounts the story of a loss of friendship, one that he thought would endure forever. And having lost the friend (British author Julian Barnes), he says:
“As Christopher Hitchens learned…the sacrifice of a friendship is a terrible affront to the Sauls and Jonathans of the media (each to each an Achilles, a Patroclus). The slant they’ll always give it is that the sacrifice was, at once, utterly calculating and utterly blithe. And never regretted. Whereas in the real world, the world of experience, a vanished friendship leaves you with many doubts and question; it is an amorphous absence that haunts your present, your future and, most unwelcomely, your past. I should think this is how it is for Julian, too”.
Martin Amis' surprise at the sharpness with which this friendship was severed leads him to surmise that it cannot have been one isolated incident that brokered it. The grudge must have gone back a long time. Meaning, of course, that true friendships are not easily intimidated by one act of incompatible interests, that the asperity had been there for much longer, rendering what appeared to be a solid friendship merely a sort of a pretense at friendship. I think that was as far as he was willing to concede that he had his innermost, buried doubts about the sustainability of that particular friendship for a long time. I think I can understand, both his initial surprise with the hostility of the breakup and his reluctance to admit to himself that there was really no surprise there, that it had been anticipated.
But at least he was spared the pain that ensues when a friendship falters and dies for no apparently good reason. He knew exactly who, when and why. And this is why, I think, he can talk about his former friend with some generosity and without much rancour.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I wish you all
A Christmas Holiday full of light
A new year full of grace
A lifetime of plenty and good
And maybe even.... peace in our time!
A Princeton plasma physicist is at the beach when he discovers an ancient looking oil lantern sticking out of the sand. He rubs the sand off with a towel and a genie pops out. The genie offers to grant him one wish. The physicist retrieves a map of the world from his car an circles the Middle East and tells the genie,
'I wish you to bring peace in this region'.
After 10 long minutes of deliberation, the genie replies,
'Gee, there are lots of problems there with Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, and all those other places. This is awfully embarrassing. I've never had to do this before, but I'm just going to have to ask you for another wish. This one is just too much for me'.
Taken aback, the physicist thinks a bit and asks,
'I wish that the Princeton tokamak would achieve scientific fusion energy break-even.'
After another deliberation the genie asks,
'Could I see that map again?'
Friday, December 22, 2006
Via "Engage", here is a thorough deconstruction of the ethical shakiness of John Berger's proposed boycott on Israel. The authors, are Anthony Julius and Simon Schama.
The recent call by John Berger and others to boycott Israel is banal, gestural, and morally compromised. For those properly passionate about promoting the interests of Palestinians, there is much scope for morally uncompromised action. Edward Said, who in retrospect seems one of Israel's better enemies, understood this clearly enough, and understood also how self-defeating boycotts can be. "What have years of refusing to deal with Israel done for us?" he asked. "Nothing at all, except to weaken us and weaken our perception of our opponent."
Advocates of the boycott of Israel repeatedly invoke the boycott of South Africa. The parallel they draw between Israel and apartheid South Africa is false.
The Palestinian, Druze and other minorities in Israel are guaranteed equal rights under the basic laws. All citizens of Israel vote in elections. There are no legal restrictions on movement, employment or sexual or marital relations. The universities are integrated. Opponents of Zionism have free speech and assembly and may form political organizations. By radical contrast, South African apartheid denied non-whites the right to vote, decreed where they could live and work, made sex and marriage across the racial divide illegal, forbad opponents of the regime to express their views, banned the liberation movements and maintained segregated universities.
In any event, the relations between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank are not governed by Israeli law, but by international law. "Apartheid," as a set of discriminatory laws governing the nationals of one state, is simply not the appropriate model here.
Last, and very importantly, since the 1920s, a substantial component of the Palestinian war against the Jewish community has been terrorism, that is, the intentional harming of civilians. The second intifada consisted of nothing more than terrorism. By contrast, the South African ANC expressly repudiated attacks on civilians. As the authors of a recent study of the parallels and differences between Israel and South Africa point out, not one suicide attack was committed in the 30 year armed struggle against apartheid.
The boycott call has several unappealing characteristics.
First, it has no stated objectives, other than a vaguely expressed hope for a "just peace." This is a phrase without ascertainable content. Do the boycotters wish for a single state, in which Jews will be an embattled minority? If they do, let them frankly say so, and openly champion the cause of the anti-Semitic Hamas. (A PA minister recently told students at Gaza University, "the conflict with the Jews is a religious, existential struggle and is not a conflict over borders"). Or do the boycotters wish for a two-state solution? If they do, they endorse the views of a majority of Israelis and, according to most polling, Palestinians too - and the boycotters thereby expose the absurdity of their call for a boycott. One does not boycott the efforts of majorities in each community as they struggle for peace.
Second, it is one-eyed. It complains of violations of the Lebanon ceasefire by Israel but says nothing of the cause of that war nor the violations of the Gaza ceasefire by Palestinian terrorists, who continue to fire their rockets into Israel's villages, deliberately targeting civilians. It says nothing about the kidnapped soldiers. It ignores the Israeli children murdered by suicide bombers. It puts in quotation marks "Israel's legitimate right of self-defence," as if to deny that right. It is utterly ahistorical. It casts the Palestinians as pure victims, the Israelis as pure aggressors. The very language it uses when addressing Israeli casualties is obfuscatory. "Ten Palestinians are killed," they write, "for every Israeli death." And from what is it that these Israelis have died?
Third, though the call purports to affirm universal, human rights values, it is incapable of explaining why it seeks a boycott of Israel, alone among the nations of the world. It says nothing about the abuses and human rights breaches inflicted on Israel's citizens. It says nothing about the egregious human rights abuses committed elsewhere in the world (Darfur, Chechnya, and many other places). The boycotters are incapable of generalising the principles that govern their call. They cannot - they will not - universalise it. They will not, that is, apply it to every other nation that acts in a comparable manner to Israel - let alone, to those many nations that behave far worse than Israel. A boycott would thus punish disproportionately; it would make pariahs of the citizens of one state alone in the entire world.
Fourth, in its own trivial way, by putting up barriers between Israelis and Palestinians it weakens the prospects for peace. Paul Frosh, in a posting on the admirable Engage website, has listed many examples of co-operation between Israeli and Palestinian institutions. It is also worth recalling that Terje Larsen, a Norwegian social scientist, facilitated the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, signed following secret talks between Israeli academics and senior PLO officials. Larsen is just the kind of person exhorted by the boycotters to have no dealings with Israel.
Last, it has a creepy desire to demonstrate its pro-Jewish credentials - especially in support of its most defamatory allegations and implications. A Primo Levi quotation insinuates that most obscene of anti-Israel tropes, that relates Zionists to Nazis; a reference to "the Jewish Ronnie Kasrils" supports the apartheid analogy. What possible relevance, we ask, is Kasrils' religion of birth to his stance on Israel? Ethnicity is not a criterion of competence in moral judgment. In any event, history is full of examples of Jews who have made common cause with anti-semites.
This is not the first boycott call directed at Jews.
On April 1, 1933, a week after he came to power, Hitler ordered a boycott of Jewish shops, banks, offices and department stores. In 1945, barely 12 years later, the Arab League initiated a boycott of Jewish Palestinian businesses. One year later, the ban was extended to prohibit contact with "anything Jewish" (as the Palestine Post reported, quoting a League announcement). This economic warfare continues to the present day. Of course, while self-declared enemies of the Jews imposed the 1933 and 1945 boycotts, the 2006 boycotters are anxious to demonstrate that they have Jewish support.
But this does not free this latest boycott of the taint of anti-semitism. Indeed, the boycotters' language is drawn, as if irresistibly, toward anti-semitic formulations. As one supporter put it, "Let [Israel's] citizens feel the rejection from Europe." Well, Europe's "rejection" has been experienced once before - lethally - by many Israeli Jews, and many more of their immediate forebears. In the very week when the President of Iran hosted a conference promoting Holocaust denial and once again anticipated with pleasure the end of Israel (events which apparently escape the notice of our boycotters), we do not shrink from the conclusion that any boycott of Israel is reprehensibly deaf to those practices of stigmatization and exclusion that characterized anti-semitism's offence against Jews for two millennia.
The Palestinian cause, still less the cause of peace, is not served by promoting discrimination against Jews. It is indecent to call for the shunning of the Jewish state.
I think it is hardly a secret that those who insist in likening the Israel-Palestinian situation to apartheid and push up this metaphor with tough gestures like this proposed boycott, are not aiming at a two-state solution or justice for all. It's a way of thrusting the bi-national state through the back door, so to speak, without actually having to say so, explicitly. These people do not care that Israel is a state of democractic law and order to all its citizens. They don't want to hear about the difference between Israeli-Arab citizens and Palestinians from the occupied territories. If anything, they wish to erase that line, in order to create the impression that Israel is not battling against the threats posed by outside enemies.
Of course, if they come out and speak explicitly of the bi-national solution, they are de facto preaching for the dissolution of the Jewish state and making common cause with Hamas.
So this proposed boycott is the kind of public gesture that derives from an adamant refusal to deal with the actual realities of the conflict. If such a boycott were to yield its logical fruit, it would be an evil fruit, of destruction, genocide, expulsion.
Michael Walzer, in his book “Thick and Thin”, posits the existence of two moral languages, one based on minimalism, the other on density. The complex, dense, language, “thick”, is embedded in local conditions and circumstances. The abstract, minimalist, “thin”, morality, by contrast, is a universal principle, based on some noble, abstract notions of justice. Thin is local, national. Thick is global.
This boycott is formulated within the school of “Thinness”. It looks at the situation from the wrong side of the proverbial telescope. Which is why it can speak of universal justice, which appeals to the better instincts in humanity. It’s suffused with sentimentality, that heady, sweet wine that numbs us to the consequences of indulging our simple inclinations. Robespierre was a sentimentalist, whose great pity for the suffering French masses produced, unerringly and in the ripeness of time, the reign of terror, whose motto was, Hanna Arendt tells us: “pour l’amour l'Humanité, soyez inhumain”. Indeed.
The “thick” language that contextualizes the problems faced by Israel as it tries to contain terrorism against its citizens is totally missing from the rationale of this initiative. It’s as though there is an a-priori agreement, or acceptance, that Israel is doomed to be dissolved and any obstacles it puts on the way to its own annihilation is just an unnecessary, gratuitous cruelty towards the Palestinians, its rightful inheritors.
So, to take off on Robespierre’s dictum, for the love of the Palestinians, we must be inhuman to the Israelis. That’s the “thick” message emanating from Berger’s boycott.
In too many cases, the two moral languages proposed by Walzer are incommensurable with each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. And this incongruity between the message perceived from afar and the reality that spawned such a message is the moral defect in this proposed boycott.
It aims at achieving the very opposite of peace and justice.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
I'm still working on my piece about hypocrites and fawning popinjays. I got a little distracted by all this Iranian ruckus about denying the Holocaust and other such trivial matters.
What is it about scavengers that is so repellent? After all, they do serve a hygienic purpose, don't they? But it's a powerful metaphor, one that sticks in the mind.
My own disgust is directed towards the kind of human scavenger one recalls from Zorba the Greek, in which the toothless old hags from Crete converge upon Bubulina's house as she is lying on her deathbed. Not yet dead, and fully aware of what's happening, she sees them steal into her bedroom, finger the bed linen, pretend that they have come to lament her passing while rapaciously eyeing her finery. Eventually, they no longer have the patience to await her death. So they strip the place clean of every object, barely leaving her the bed she is lying on.
A cinematic metaphor that I wish I could erase from my mind. Even as I try to dig up some seeds of pity in my heart for those old biddies. After all, they were the product of years of ignorance, that sucked all the milk of humankindness from their bones, leaving them dessicated, brittle, inured to propriety and basic decency.
The scavenger, I think, is the ultimate hypocrite. Just an idea. I'll be working to elaborate upon it.
AYAAN HIRSI ALI, here, on: "Why they deny the Holocaust":
With great conviction, my half-sister cried: "It's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed."
She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.
Later, as a teenager in Kenya, when Saudi and other Persian Gulf philanthropy reached us, I remember that the building of mosques and donations to hospitals and the poor went hand in hand with the cursing of Jews. Jews were said to be responsible for the deaths of babies and for epidemics such as AIDS, and they were believed to be the cause of wars. They were greedy and would do absolutely anything to kill us Muslims. If we ever wanted to know peace and stability, and if we didn't want to be wiped out, we would have to destroy the Jews. For those of us who were not in a position to take up arms against them, it was enough for us to cup our hands, raise our eyes heavenward and pray to Allah to destroy them.
Western leaders today who say they are shocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conference this week denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny. We simply do not know it ever happened because we were never informed of it.
What's striking about Ahmadinejad's conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?
Could the answer be as simple as it is horrifying: For generations, the leaders of these so-called Muslim countries have been spoon-feeding their populations a constant diet of propaganda similar to the one that generations of Germans (and other Europeans) were fed — that Jews are vermin and should be dealt with as such? In Europe, the logical conclusion was the Holocaust. If Ahmadinejad has his way, he shall not want for compliant Muslims ready to act on his wish.
(Via: Mick Hartley)
With friends like this... Carter's book fiasco continues:
Allan Dershowitz, an intrepid defender of Israel and historical truth, does not mince words when he lashes out at President Carter's inglorious attempt to foist his animus and bias upon Israel's history and reality. Frankly, I was hoping that I'd read the last of anything that could be said about P. Carter's moral and intellectual failure (a somewhat redundant adjectival duo, since intellectual should, as per definition, contain the moral dimension). But alas, now I find out that:
.. Carter .. has accepted money and an award from Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan , saying in 2001: "This award has special significance for me because it is named for my personal friend, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan." This is the same Zayed, the long-time ruler of the United Arab Emirates, whose $2.5 million gift to the Harvard Divinity School was returned in 2004 due to Zayed's rampant Jew-hatred. Zayed's personal foundation, the Zayed Center, claims that it was Zionists, rather than Nazis, who "were the people who killed the Jews in Europe" during the Holocaust. It has held lectures on the blood libel and conspiracy theories about Jews and America perpetrating Sept. 11. Carter's acceptance of money from this biased group casts real doubt on his objectivity and creates an obvious conflict of interest.
A man claiming that "Zionists, rather than Nazis, "were the people who killed the Jews in Europe" during the Holocaust." is embraced by Carter as a "personal friend"? Is this possible? I've watched Carter speak on television interviews. I did not think he showed any sign that his mind is any less lucid than usual. Yet here he is, defending an indefensible book, full of lies, conjectures and hostility while claiming it purports to promote "debate"! I mean, isn't the contradiction between what he claims and what he has produced so glaringly incongruous that he should have, by now, addressed some of the criticisms levelled at him? Defended his ideas, his facts? So far he has dodged every attempt to answer directly to the specific questions asked by his puzzled interviewers. If this is his book, based on firm knowledge and irrefutable official records, why doesn't he stand behind what he has written, defang the accusations of distorting history and playing dangerous games of favouritism?
So instead of answering to the legitimate points of his detractors, he resorts to the dishonourable tactics of rhetorical fallacies: he claims Dershowitz is ignorant of Middle east history without actually citing one example of such ignorance, he claims his book his castigated because the media is controlled by Jews. Instead of defending his book by producing valid, sustainable arguments and facts, he exploits the intellectual or emotional weaknesses of his audiences, or the natural respect interviewers show to a former world leader such as himself. By conjuring Jewish conspiracies or belittling the standing of a respected Harvard Law proffessor, he is clearly floundering.
Which begs the question I posed before: Did he write his book or was it dictated to him?
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
In the brutal nights we used to dream
Dense violent dreams,
Dreamed with soul and body:
To return; to eat; to tell the story.
Until the dawn command
Sounded brief, low
And the heart cracked in the breast.
Now we have found our homes again,
Our bellies are full,
We're through telling the story.
Soon we'll hear again
The strange command:
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Of Bans and Boycotts:
John Berger, an author with an impressive bio, calls for a "a world-wide cultural boycott against the Israeli state." Even though he avows that "No boycott, in our sense of the term, should be directed against an individual, a people, or a nation as such.", this principle is waivable when it comes to Israel: "Today I am supporting a world-wide appeal to teachers, intellectuals and artists to join the cultural boycott of the state of Israel".
Hmm. I sense a cognitive dissonance here, trying to straddle both sides of an ethical divide, unsuccessfully. I call this a fine example of hypocrisy.
Here's one reaction to this ethically inconsistent proposal:
It is also surprising to see Elia Suleiman, the Palestinian film-maker, on the list of "cultural boycotters" since his first films were funded by the institute he is now boycotting. The Israeli cinema fund has always been an enthusiastic backer of new Palestinian voices, giving them money to make films that often contain severe criticism of the Israeli state and its right to exist. This is because the Israeli film industry is composed of people who care for Palestinians and want to help them. Establishing this boycott will weaken the Israelis who fight for the Palestinian cause, and will weaken the chances for peace.
And all this is unfolding on the very day when we hear about a very concerted effort by "The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, as well as the heads of six of Israel's seven universities, and the education minister, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and Knesset members" to demand "the elimination of the blanket ban" on Palestinian students studying in Israeli universities.
The democratic hygiene known as checks and balances seems to be functioning well in the state of Israel. The principle of academic freedom is not merely a mask that covers up a multitude of ignoble motivations. Action follows principle. Not the other way around.
Here's another academic ban:
Nearly 40 European and North American research institutes will suspend contacts with a leading Iranian think tank that helped organize last week's conference in Tehran of Holocaust deniers, a Paris-based researcher said Saturday. The institutes, from Warsaw to Washington and beyond, have agreed to suspend ongoing programs with the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies, or IPIS, according to a statement issued by Francois Heisbourg, who organized the boycott.
As mollifying as this punitive boycott may be to my livid outrage with the Conference sponsored by this Iranian institution, I do agree with the commentator to this article when he says:
"Ooops! What's sauce for the goose, etc. By definition, the idea of a boycott is, or should be, anathema to all who post here and, broadly, accept the Engage mission statement. What was said, for the most part, in Teheran was thoroughly objectionable.
BUT...turning our backs is not the answer. Sweet though it was to see Irving go to prison, it was even sweeter to see him lose his court case against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books. In prison, he becomes a martyr. Boycotted, these people similarly become martyrs."
Instead of being shunned, academics from this institution must be invited to international conferences where they will have to confront an onus of scholarship, scholars and evidence. How long will they be able to sustain these anti-historical positions, this disowning of knowledge, when faced with the burden of proof? These so-called scholars must be challenged and be made to face the emptiness of their allegations.
Monday, December 18, 2006
The road to Tehran is not travelled only by fanatic crazies. Along for the ride others have joined, in at least parts of the way, to demonize the Jews and to nazify the Israeli people, all in the name of "criticism of Israel". Jimmy Carter*, a well meaning but morally incompetent author, has also injected some fuel into Ahmadinejad's bandwagon, when he recently published a book that depicted Israel in the ugliest possible manner. UN Human rights commissioner Mme Louise Arbour, without the slightest misstep, put in her share into the wholesale villification of Israel, even after she herself was witness to the deadly consequences of Hamas terrorism. The Human Rights Council in Geneva has yet to show some interest in looking at the real grievous violations of human rights happening in the world, instead of focusing exclusively on Israel's never ending conflict with the Palestinians. I just thought I'd mention these few passive accomplices of Ahmadinrejad's campaign. They bear part of the onus for the monstrosity we saw unfolding in Tehran last week.
Here is a more forgiving analysis, pointing, nevertheless, to the same poisonous mindset described above:
Yet simply because opposition to Zionism ideologically or Israel politically isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic, it doesn’t therefore follow that being anti-Zionist or anti-Israel are morally acceptable positions. There are more than six million Israelis who presumably wish to live in a sovereign country called Israel. Are their wishes irrelevant? Are their national rights conditional on their behavior–or rather, perceptions of their behavior–and if so, should such conditionality apply to all countries? It also should be obvious that simply because opposition to Zionism does not automatically make one guilty of anti-Semitism, neither does it automatically acquit one of it.
Such nuances, however, seem to go unnoticed by some of Israel’s more elevated critics. Michel Rocard said in 2004 that the creation of the Jewish state was a historic mistake, and that Israel was “an entity that continues to pose a threat to its neighbors until today.” Mr. Rocard is the former Prime Minister of France, an “entity” that itself posed a threat to its neighbors for the better part of its history.
Alternatively, Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, whose paper on “The Israel Lobby” is now being turned into a book, have complained that “anyone who criticises Israel’s actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle Eastern policy . . . stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-semite.” Maybe. But earlier this week, former Klansman David Duke took the opportunity to tell CNN that he does not hate Jews but merely opposes Israel and Israel’s influence in U.S. politics. He even cited Messrs. Walt and Mearsheimer in his defense. Would they exonerate him of being an anti-Semite?
In fact, anti-Zionism has become for many anti-Semites a cloak of political convenience. But anti-Zionism has also become an ideological vehicle for an anti-Semitism that increasingly feels no need for disguise. In January 2002, the New Statesman magazine had a cover story on “The Kosher Conspiracy.” For art, they had a gold Star of David pointed like a blade at the Union Jack. This wasn’t anti-Zionism. It was anti-Zionism matured into unflinching anti-Semitism. And it was featured on the cover of Britain’s premiere magazine of “progressive” thought.
The scholar Gregory Stanton has observed that genocides happen in eight stages, beginning with classification, symbolization and dehumanization, and ending in extermination and denial. What has happened in Tehran–denial–may seem to have turned that order on its head. It hasn’t. The road to Tehran is a well-traveled one, and among those who denounce it now are some who have already walked some part of it.
* Here's a look at the irony of ironies, for those who insist on remaining deaf, blind and dumb to historical realities and their ominous reverberations in today's world:
On November 4, 1979, 400 Khomeini followers, armed with sticks and chains, broke down the door of the American embassy in Tehran, stormed the compound, and took hostage all the Americans on the grounds. It was in fact these hostage-takers who in 1979 would pose for the cameras next to a poster with a caricature of then American President Jimmy Carter and the slogan "America cannot do a damn thing." Khomeini did not release his prisoners until January 1981. Could America really "not do a damn thing"?
This is the key question raised by Mark Bowden's gripping account of the hostage crisis in his new book Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War With Militant Islam. The "guests" in question obviously were no guests. Not only were the Americans robbed of their liberty, but they were subjected to mock executions and beatings. Hardly any of them believed that they would get out of the compound alive. But in this "first battle," the battle was never really joined either. Bowden's account clearly reveals the helplessness of the Carter administration: The more assiduously President Carter sought compromise, the more contemptuously he was mocked by Khomeini.
Even as the dark cloud gathers around Israel (with the repeated obscene attacks against Jews, Jewish history, Israel's rights to exist in peace) some tremulous rays of light do appear from unexpected quarters. Here is some light in the ominous darkness:
Mustafa was invited to give an interview to the Arab news network after she announced the establishment of the new association. During the interview, which was held about a week ago and is brought to you by Ynet courtesy of MEMRI – The Middle East Media Research Institute, she was asked to defend her controversial stance.
"Do you have an official mandate or a mandate from the people to establish an Israeli-Sudanese fellowship association, or is this your private initiative?" She was asked.
"I don’t need a mandate to discuss my private beliefs, and those of part of the Sudanese people. Why do I need a mandate to establish a fellowship association with part of the Israeli people which believes in fellowship?" She asked, expressing her surprise over the question.
"We were able to meet good people of the Israeli people and I am here to say clearly all traditions and stereotypes I heard about Jews and Israelis were erroneous," she said.
"Today there is a Sudanese exiles in Israel who are being protected, and this while we were massacred in Cairo, assassinated in Iraq or expelled from Jordan," she added.
And what about Arabs? "Over the years that passed since we joined the Arab League and won our independence the Arabs failed to give us the feeling that we are Arabs. They always they had an attitude towards the Sudanese people based on stereotypes," she charged.
"The Arabs are involved in what is happening in Sudan in favor of the tyrant regimes … and I don't want to remind you of the disappearance of thousands of members of the opposition in Cairo and the assassinations," she said.
She also criticized the Palestinians: "The Palestinian people shouldn't forget that we, the Sudanese people, opened our doors for them in the days of Sabra and Shatila. The Palestinians should not forget that Jaafar Numeiri (a Sudanese dictator that ruled from 1969 to 1985) burst out during Black September to save Yasser Arafat. Unfortunately this is not taken into account by the Palestinian public and people, who treat the Sudanese people in the most terrible, racist and persecutory manner, only because they are a black people."
She blamed the Arab media of fanning racist attitudes towards the Sudanese, citing that black actors always play the role of waiters, chauffeurs and goalkeepers in Egyptian movies.
'I plan to visit Israel'
Mustafa told al-Arabiya's internet Web site that the setting up of the friendship union was a response to the Arabs' disregard of the crisis in the Darfur region, and to end Sudan's "unfounded enmity towards Israel."
She said that some 20 Sudanese intellectuals joined the union within the first few days of its existence and hinted that anonymous Sudanese politicians intend on pushing their government for normalization with Israel.
She said she intends on visiting Israel in the future.
She revealed plans to approach Israel with the possibility of opening union offices in the Holy Land.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
I just received this alert which readers of this blog may find useful:
"INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS OF MONTREAL
INSTITUT DES AFFAIRES PUBLIQUES DE MONTRÉAL
1470 rue Peel, édifice Hermés, tour B, bureau 210, Montréal, Qc, H3A 1T1
Tomorrow night “60 Minutes” is running “Hitler’s Secret Archive”. It’s really the clearest response to Iran’s Holocaust denial conference, if one is necessary. The show looks at the Arolsen Archives. The CBS memo to the Association of Holocaust Organizations is reproduced below. It is important that you all watch it and I thought you might be interested in the fact that we covered this story in a lead article by former U.S. State Department official Peter W. Landé in a recent issue of BARRICADES, the Institute’s journal (see further below). Landé’s work was critical in opening up the archives. There are back copies available for anyone who is interested.
So let's see what conclusions and resolutions were drawn at the Conference for the Denial of the Holocaust at Tehran:
On December 14, 2006 the Iranian news agency IRNA reported, in English, that participants in the Iranian Holocaust Denial conference, dubbed "Holocaust: A Global Vision," had announced the establishment of a "world foundation for Holocaust studies" and unanimously appointed Presidential Advisor Mohammad-Ali Ramin as its secretary-general.
According to IRNA, Ramin said that "one of the plans of the foundation is to assign a committee to find out the truth about the holocaust [sic], and noted that its main office will be in Tehran, and that it "will eventually be transferred to Berlin, once proper grounds are prepared."
Ali Ramin was the subject of a June 15, 2006 Special Dispatch by MEMRI based on a June 9, 2006 article in the reformist online daily Rooz. It reported that during a visit with students at GilanUniversity in Rasht, Iran, Mohammad-Ali Ramin had discussed historical accusations against the Jews and questioned the Holocaust.
The following are excerpts from the Rooz article: 
"Throughout History, This Religious Group [i.e. the Jews] has Inflicted the Most Damage on the Human Race"
"On a visit to Gilan University, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin said to a group of students in the town of Rasht: 'We Iranians are definitely not, and never have been, nationalistic, and we are not against any ethnic [group]. We certainly do not worship race, nor [are we] against any race, and we nave never perpetrated genocide. This is why Islam, which appeared and advanced [the notion of] equality among nations and among peoples, greatly appealed to us Iranians. We have accepted the [principle] of equality among nations since the days of the Achaemenids.  Antisemitism, therefore, has no place in our Iranian [culture]. I myself honestly fight for just treatment of Judaism. Ten years ago, [when] I first brought up the issue of the Holocaust in this country, my intention was to defend the Jews…
"'But among the Jews there have always been those who killed God’s prophets and who opposed justice and righteousness. Throughout history, this religious group has inflicted the most damage on the human race, while some groups within it engaged in plotting against other nations and ethnic groups to cause cruelty, malice and wickedness.
"'Historically, there are many accusations against the Jews. For example, it was said that they were the source for such deadly diseases as the plague and typhus. This is because the Jews are very filthy people. For a time people also said that they poisoned water wells belonging to Christians and thus killed them,' Ramin said.
"Ramin also pointed that powerful people also concocted other plots to mislead public opinion around the world. 'When the Islamic Revolution of Iran succeeded and attracted many people around the world, including Christians, the AIDS epidemic came about, and fear again overtook the world. After the September 11 attacks, the deadly epidemic broke out, which was destroyed when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. On the eve of the invasion of Iran, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) illness broke out, but disappeared after the invasion,' he said."
"Nobody Asks How a Bird Infected with the Flu Could Fly From Australia to Siberia"
"Ramin also claimed that the spread of avian flu was a conspiracy plot cause[d] by the failure of America, Israel and Britain in the Middle East. Ramin pointed out that, to cover up and hide their failures, these countries have spread the news about the bird flu and thus preoccupied and distracted public opinion for some 5 to 6 months. 'Nobody asks how a bird infected with the flu could fly from Australia to Siberia,' he said, adding that even the Iranian minister of health had claimed to have stopped the disease at Iran’s borders. He claimed the holocaust story and bird flu rumors are interrelated. He stated that the killing of millions of chickens was intended to control the price and amount [of] chicken in the market."
"In Order to Deny the Germans the Ability to Increase Their Power, the British and Americans Present Them as a Human-Burning Nation"
"While acknowledging not knowing the source of these events around the world, Ramin said, 'I only know that Jews have been accused of such conspiracies and sabotage throughout history and have not performed well.' Repeating the president’s claims about the Holocaust, he presented four theories that can be brought in support of these claims:
"The first theory is that, in order to deny the Germans the ability to increase their power, 'the British and Americans present them as a human-burning nation.'
"The second theory is that the Americans and the British have cooked up this story along with the Zionists, so as to create the state of Israel in the middle of the Islamic world and thus control the Islamic world using the pretext of the Holocaust, while also getting rid of the Jews from Europe…
"The third hypothesis relates to the traditional animosity between Christians and Jews. 'The U.S. and Britain, with the cooperation of France, Russia and Germany, and because of their Christian leanings and animosity towards the Jews, initiated the idea of the Holocaust after the Second World War in order to scare off the Jews and send them to what is now Israel in order to get rid of them in Europe and America,' he said. He further said that the movement that created Israel is in fact against the Jews.
"The fourth theory relates to covering up the crimes of the U.S. and Britain. Ramin claimed that Britain killed some 100 million Red Indians in the last 300 years, and the U.S. leveled Hiroshima - which, he said, were the real Holocausts...
"Ramin added that the aim of the Holocaust conspiracy was to facilitate the establishment of the state of Israel, which would, in turn, provoke the Muslims to rise up, confront the Jews, and massacre them. 'This [conspiracy],' he said, 'conducted by Europe and America, would lead to the total annihilation of global Jewry." Ramin added that 'as a religious Muslim, who believes in the equality of all nations, he must alert [people] to the fact that the state of Israel was established as the result of a conspiracy against the Jews...'"
"The Resolution of the Holocaust Issue Will End in the Destruction of Israel"
"Ramin claimed that the Holocaust was the main reason why Palestine was occupied, while Israel was the main cause of crises and catastrophe in the Middle East. 'So long as Israel exists in the region,' he said, 'there will never be peace and security in the Middle East. So the resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel.'
"Turning to President Ahmadinejad’s comments on the Holocaust, Ramin said that he criticized the president for making those comments. 'We do not know whether the Holocaust happened or not and so must find out in order to defend the injured party. My suggestion to him,' he said, 'was to set up an investigative committee on this to collect the supporting documents...
"He added that 'before [President] Ahmadinejad placed the issue of the Holocaust [on the global agenda], they [i.e. the West] were always the prosecutors, while we [Muslims] were always [in the position of] the accused. But now Ahmadinejad has enabled us to [take the position of] prosecutors, and challenge the West.
"Ramin also stated that 'many still fail to realize that Iran [now] has an unprecedented and extraordinary opportunity. Raising the issue of the Holocaust will give us a opportunity of global [proportions] to defend the rights of an oppressed nation - [either] the Germans or the Jews - and I hope that lecturers, intellectuals, students and all the Iranian citizens will be aware of this opportunity for change."
I think Ahmdinejad fancies himself as the new Hitler. He is obviously infatuated with Germany.
He sent a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel , in which he referrd to the the common roots of German and Iranian peoples and asked for her cooperation in dealing with Zionism. Merkel herself noted this:
"In February, Merkel compared Ahmadinejad’s statements and stance to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power when he and his Nazi party began threatening to exterminate European Jewry.
“Remember that in 1933 many people said it was just rhetoric,” Merkel said.
And here Nial Ferguson explains why we are not to ignore such demagoguery as mere sabre
We have been here before, and it wasn't pretty. When an elected president expresses skepticism about the Holocaust and threatens to wipe the state of Israel from the map, it is not hyperbole to draw comparisons with that most disastrous of demagogues, Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler, Ahmadinejad knows that anti-Semitism is one of the aces in the demagogue's deck, a tried-and-true means of inspiring hatred and suspicion of others -- and of staying in power himself. Hitler also frequently expressed his contempt for the United States, which he dismissed as "a decayed country," racially and culturally inferior to Germany -- and, of course, ruled by Jews. Read Ahmadinejad's latest letter to "the American people," released last week, for a reprise of that theme.
And today, the conditions for truly dangerous demagogues to emerge are almost ideal.
The classic breeding grounds for demagogy are war and revolution. It is no coincidence that Ahmadinejad is a veteran of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and the war between Iran and Iraq. In a new mood of "realism," the United States would now like Iran to help prevent its neighbor Iraq from collapsing into civil war. Fat chance. Ahmadinejad is bidding for Iranian hegemony in the Middle East. The last thing he needs is to be seen bailing out the Great Satan.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Rondi Adamson, Brussels Journal, speaks of the Candian prof. Shiraz Dossa, of Nova Scotia, who addressed a paper to the Conference of Holocaust Denial in Tehran, while denying that he knew what the conference was about. Adamson sums up the paradox of Canadian niceness at-any-price and propensity for appeasement:
Dossa is free to hold his views. I would not have it any other way. But what is deeply troubling is not only that a Canadian has attended this monstrosity -- this not even thinly veiled festival of racism and pitiful excuse for "scholarship" -- but that there has been virtually no press in Canada about that fact. Deniers, revisers or trivializers, all those who attend the abomination in Tehran shame themselves and their countries. Yet, at the time of this writing, only a handful of conservative Canadian blogs have mentioned Dossa. Where is the media attention? Where is the outrage?
Apparently, though, Immigration Canada managed to muster up outrage about Shoebat. Shoebat is a former terrorist and supporter of Jihad who now tries to educate the West about the dangers of terrorism and the very real threats we all face. (Interestingly, he has spoken out against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Holocaust denial obsession.) He was invited to speak by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Ottawa and Montreal, and though he has previously been permitted entry into Canada, for some reason -- not yet explained -- he was turned away.
As a libertarian, I would not prevent someone from saying what they believe -- as long as they do not expect me, or other taxpayers, to fund them. But the contrast is difficult to miss. Dossa's trip to Tehran is paid for by Iranian taxpayers. Dossa, and other Western invitees, receive dinners and nights in luxurious hotels (and I suspect, speaking fees). Courageous Iranian students -- taxpayers all -- stand up to Mad Mahmoud, risking their safety. Meanwhile, Canadian authorities prevent Shoebat from attending and speaking at privately funded events in a free country. And barely any fuss is made.
Canadians, who pride themselves on being tolerant and multicultural, should ask themselves whether diversity means we tolerate the intolerant. Must it mean dhimmitude?
How can anyone who is due to present a paper at a conference not know what the conference is about or who other invitees are? And can the university administration claim to be so utterly surprised by one of their faculty attending such a conference? Surely, if Dossa teaches courses, he would have had to ask for leave and submit a reason for the request. Someone would have had to know that he was heading to a conference about the Holocaust in Tehran. Some further checkup would have been in order. Yet all academics concerned seem to have been caught with their pants down, innocently unaware of what the conference was about, etc etc.
This person participates in Holocaust denial, even if he himself denies that he denies it. He was not in Tehran to confront the slander and to set the record straight. He was there to promote his own anti-American anti-Israel agenda, propelled upon the waves of hatred that issued from the conference. It does not look like he cares much that the Holocaust is denied. I want to know, what kind of history and principles does he teach his students? Has he written any books that are used as texts by other teachers? Are there any basic standards for verifiable truth whatsoever expected from a prof at a Canadian university? Does anybody in Canadian academia even care that history is being re-written, misrepresented, and revised even as events are unfolding?
Why am I not so shocked and surprised by the whole sordid story? In a country where a massive rally calling itself a "peace" rally, took place last August chanting "We are all Hizzbala", why should we be surprised that a Canadian prof will take this missive and its popular appeal to its logical next step?
What's the difference between loudly proclaiming support for a genocidal terrorist organization with a track record, and presenting a paper at a conference hosted by the very same authority that finances and directs Hizzbala? The connections are there. The complicity of the Indecent Left and their lackeys, such as HRW, and the Hamas-appeasing Louise Arbour, in these perversions of history can hardly be ignored any longer.
Well, there is something symbolically appropriate in the proximity between the Iranian Conference for the Denial of the Holocaust and the beginning of Hanuka חנוכה .
Hanuka is a Jewish, non-Biblical holiday which commemorates the victory of Jewish warriors against the evil king of Syria, who had connived to wipe out Jewish culture and religion from the small country of Judea, in the second century BCE.
The idea of evil tidings concerning the Hebrew people in their homeland is part of the national psyche. Moses chose to lead his liberated Hebrew brethern to a territory which is right on the crossroad between continents and cultures. The Jewish people whose religion and ethos evolved in that territory, learned to live with the reality of that precarious existence, always negotiating among greater powers and scoring small victories that allow them to live to see yet another century. By the skin of their teeth. Maybe this resignation accounts as to why, when I speak to my friends and family in Israel, they never even mention the new menace that's brewing in the north in some medieval people's apocalyptic minds. Instead, they want to know whether I could get Hanuka candles this year.
It is customary to eat potato pancakes (latkes) and Sufganiot (jelly doughnuts, Israeli-style). I usually make my own version of these delicacies, using Panetone dough with some rum and raisins included. I've never tasted my sufganiot, mindful of my waistline. but I've been told by those who ate them that they were very good indeed. I think it's the rum. I use dark Jamaican rum. By the time I'm done with the sufganiot, I can no longer stand the smell of frying in my kitchen. So I make potatoe latke-shaped patties and cook them in the oven.
So we lit the first candle this evening. And we placed the lit hannukia in the window.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Oliver Kamm provides some much needed clarity as to why Iran's Holocaust Denial conference is not merely offensive but a crime against historical truth :
What is wrong with the Iranian conference is thus not that it's offensive, but that it's a fraudulent gathering designed to generate hatred through lies. It's an offence not against our feelings but against truth and against history. The problem with the puppet-President of Iran is not only (or at all) that he is ill-mannered: it is that he's a bigot, a racist and a messianic crank. The proper task for Western diplomacy is to say so.
Kamm's simple explanation stands in apposition to the Guardian's explanation which seems to accept the premise that denying the Holocaust is offensive (to Jews) the way the Danish Mohammed cartoons were offensive to Muslims. It appears that the Guardian regards this conference as Muslim retaliation to being insulted, admittedly they say, a misguided retaliation, rooted, so they claim, in Ahmadinejad's "misunderstanding of how western democracies function".
As Kamm point out, the Guardian rates this event as an "unpleasant episode", which downgrades it considerably from the perversion of norm, common sense, knowledge and truth that it is.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Harry's Place, here, gathered some useful information about the fiasco that took place in Iran. It was gratifying to learn that Canada was represented by "one Shiraz Dossa, a political science professor at Nova Scotia's St. Francis Xavier University, who was shocked, shocked, to discover the true nature of the conference." I'm sure he done Canuks proud. One wonders what he teaches the maleable minds of Nova Scotia's brightest young
I wonder if the UNGA will convene a special session to condemn this ugly spectacle and Ahmadinejad's continued threats. Is the UN willing to sit by and watch history being violently bowdlerized and subverted? After all, its own credibility and legitimacy are on the line: Wasn't the shock of the Holocaust the direct force for the composition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
The answer is self-evident. This noble document, as I have noted before, serves as the weapon of choice for the UN and its various agencies, with which to beat, with meticulous selectivity and villainy, on Israel. No doubt the majority of the decent members of the GA will consider this conference as doing their work for them.
As far as I see it, it is nothing but a more malignant outgrowth of the 2001 Durban conference. A logical derivative from the conference that celebrated antisemitism.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Iran students denounce Holocaust denial
"One student activist said that the protest was against the “shameful” Holocaust conference and the “fact that many activists have not been allowed to attend university”. The conference “has brought to our country Nazis and racists from around the world”, he added.
Mr Ahmadinejad responded by saying: “Everyone should know that Ahmadinejad is prepared to be burnt in the path of true freedom, independence and justice”, according to an Iranian students’ news agency. He accused the protesters of being “Americanised”.
Monday, December 11, 2006
IRAN’S HOLOCAUST DENIAL CONFERENCE CONVENING TODAY
PLEASE ACT NOW
As you read this, the Iranian regime is gathering 70 Holocaust revisionists from 30 countries to participate in a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran entitled, “The Holocaust: A World Prospect.” This development comes after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claims that the Holocaust was ‘a myth’ and the sponsoring of an international Holocaust cartoon contest in Tehran earlier this year.
Such lies cannot go unchallenged.
We therefore ask you to join the Wiesenthal Center’s petition to United Nations Secretary-General-designate Ban Ki-moon urging him to step up the UN’s commitment to fight against the desecration of the memory of the Holocaust and to honor the words of Secretary-General Kofi Annan when he stated at a Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration in January of 2006, “Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever, and by whomever they are made."
Secretary General Annan has also stated, “The United Nations was founded as a reaction to the horrors of World War II.” But, this conference mocks the very founding principles of the United Nations and ridicules the General Assembly resolution designating January 27th as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
Simultaneous to the Tehran hate-fest, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is convening ‘Witness To The Truth,’ a three-city videoconference in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, bringing together Holocaust survivors whose first hand accounts of the horrors of the Nazis' Final Solution will expose and debunk the deniers.
The Iranian regime, which has threatened genocide against the Jewish State, is using Holocaust denial as Statecraft. Its ultimate goal is to demonize the Jewish people, her history, values and faith. We dare not be silent
Please use this link to sign the petition now - these threats cannot be left unchallenged. And after signing the petition, please use the forward-to-a-friend function to send this important message to your friends and family today.
NogaNote: On Hypocrites and other fawning popinjays
What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. - Hannah Arendt
The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that's also a hypocrite!
A man who moralises is usually a hypocrite, and a woman who moralises is invariably plain. - Oscar Wilde
I'm warming up for writing a piece on hypocrisy. I am kind of puzzled and even intrigued by hypocrites. They appear quite tenacious, holding on to their hollow shells (which make a lot of noise when banged from the inside) especially when they are found out and exposed. Which means that they really have no shame. Which is, in my opinion, a moral defect. I think this is what lies at the heart of Hannah Arendt's judgment of the sin of hypocrisy.
Arendt, as befits her secular personality, calls it a vice. For Dante, it is a sin.
Dante reserved one of the deepest, vilest circles in hell for the hypocrite, whom he considered the person who does most harm to society. Montaigne agrees with him.
More on that, later.
Here's an excerpt from interview with Al-Jazeera Editor-in-chief (!), done by Pierre Heumann, who is "the Middle East correspondent of the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche. His interview with Ahmed Sheikh originally appeared in German in Die Weltwoche on Nov. 23, issue 47/06."
(Via: Harry's Place)
"How do you see the future of this region in which news of wars, dictators and poverty predominates?
The future here looks very bleak.
Can you explain what you mean by that?
By bleak I mean something like "dark." I've advised my thirty year old son, who lives in Jordan, that he should leave the region. Just this morning I spoke with him about it. He has a son and we spoke about his son's education. I'd like my grandson to go to a trilingual private school. The public schools are bad. He should learn English, German, and French -- Spanish would also be important. But the private schools are very expensive. That's why I told my son to emigrate to the West for the sake of my grandson.
You sound bitter.
Yes, I am.
At whom are you angry?
It's not only the lack of democracy in the region that makes me worried. I don't understand why we don't develop as quickly and dynamically as the rest of the world. We have to face the challenge and say: enough is enough! When a President can stay in power for 25 years, like in Egypt, and he is not in a position to implement reforms, we have a problem. Either the man has to change or he has to be replaced. But the society is not dynamic enough to bring about such a change in a peaceful and constructive fashion.Why not?In many Arab states, the middle class is disappearing. The rich get richer and the poor get still poorer. Look at the schools in Jordan, Egypt or Morocco: You have up to 70 youngsters crammed together in a single classroom. How can a teacher do his job in such circumstances? The public hospitals are also in a hopeless condition. These are just examples. They show how hopeless the situation is for us in the Middle East.
Who is responsible for the situation?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most important reasons why these crises and problems continue to simmer. The day when Israel was founded created the basis for our problems. The West should finally come to understand this. Everything would be much calmer if the Palestinians were given their rights.
Do you mean to say that if Israel did not exist, there would suddenly be democracy in Egypt, that the schools in Morocco would be better, that the public clinics in Jordan would function better?
I think so.
Can you please explain to me what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has to do with these problems?
The Palestinian cause is central for Arab thinking.
In the end, is it a matter of feelings of self-esteem?
Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego. The Palestinian problem is in the genes of every Arab. The West's problem is that it does not understand this."
Let's recapitulate: The existence of a vibrant, economically and technologically successful Jewish democracy in the region causes Arabs to feel pathologically inferior and inadequate. So all 350 million of them neglect their civil commitments, their projects for individual freedom and advancement, the basic education of their children, the economic viability that will reduce poverty in their countries.
"The West's problem is that it does not understand this."
Makes perfect sense.
Just as this does:
"Mr. Sheikh, as the Editor in Chief of Al-Jazeera, you are one of the most important opinion-makers in the Arab world. What do you call suicide bombers?
For what is happening in Palestine, we never use the expression "suicide bombing."
What do you call it then?
In English, I would describe it as "bombings."
And in Arabic?
Literally translated, we would speak of "commando attacks." In our culture, it is precisely not suicide.
But instead a praiseworthy act?
When the country is occupied and the people are being killed by the enemy, everyone must take action, even if he sacrifices himself in so doing.
Even if in so doing he kills innocent civilians?
That is not a Palestinian problem, but a problem of the Israelis."
These gems of wisdom and incisive analyses are not a parody. They are straightforward speech. And the speaker of these words is someone who cares about his grandson's education, who wants him to learn three, four languages. He is one of the top intellectuals in the Arab world.
Fouad Ajami wrote about this pathology. Here's Martin Kramer's review:
It was Ajami's earlier book, The Arab Predicament (1981), that finally broke the spell of The Arab Awakening. In it, Ajami probed the discontent that spread with the failure of the nationalist project following Arab independence and the debacle of 1967. It was a harsh indictment of the post-colonial Arab condition — a condition that has continued to deteriorate, necessitating another regression report. This new book draws its title from the claim by T.E. Lawrence that he had acted in Arabia to give the Arabs "the foundations on which to build an inspired dream palace of their national thoughts." If the dream has become a nightmare, and the palace a prison, who must accept responsibility? For Ajami, this has never even been a question: It was not the Lawrences, the well-intentioned or malicious foreigners, but the Arabs themselves who put bars upon the windows of their "dream palace," and posted executioners in the gardens.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Elazar Bogomilsky, a Lubavitcher rabbi probably overcome with Hannuka cheer, must have felt neglected and forlorn when he noticed the nine sizable Christmas trees adorning Sea-Tac airport, while not a hint was there anywhere of the Jewish festival of lights about to start next week.
I must say, having just come back from downtown Montreal, I can't help but sympathize. I took my daughter to see a play and then we went on a tour of the famous Christmas decorations that are put up for the holiday season, namely the Ogilvy Christmas Window display , and Place Montréal Trust’s gigantic, five-storey tall Christmas tree. Nowhere in sight was there even a suggestion of awareness of the Hannuka holiday. It made my daughter sad. It made me impatient to get on the Metro and go back home. There is just so much of Christmas cheer one can absorb with good grace on a Sunday afternoon.
I'm afraid Jewish holidays are not much of a concern in this province. A Metro transit station is named after l'Abbé Lionel Groulx, one of the fathers of Quebec nationalist movement who was also a Hitler sympathizer and an active antisemite. A nation that honours a man with such a record can hardly be expected to be sensitive to the cultural needs of its Jewish minority.
So it's thoroughly refreshing to read about this Seattle melee. The rabbi, it says here:
"who last month asked that a menorah be displayed, said he was "appalled" by the Port's reaction to what he believed to be a simple request. There are public menorah lightings at the White House and cities across the Northwest, he said. Next week, Gov. Christine Gregoire will help light a menorah under the Capitol Dome in Olympia."
Yes, I would say that the Port's reaction was quite pigheaded, hardly in line with the benign spirit of Christmas. Noone suggested the sight of the lit up trees was offensive. But by removing them, the Port's administration was acting as though that was the motivation underlying the request to put up the Menorah, thereby all but smearing the good rabbi's intentions.
Should they reconsider their decision, (as they indeed should), I'd suggest they install, next to the Menorah, the aluminum pole, ("very high strength-to-weight ratio") of Festivus for all those rest of us who are heartily fed up with religious quarrels, sanctimonious secularistas, and the relentless onslaught of holiday shopping.