Friday, November 30, 2007


The remains of Annapolis: Not a great moment for Women's power, according to this report.

Condi Rice, doing her impression of Jimmy Carter, declares she knows what it is like to be a Palestinian ...

Tzipi Livni pleads with Arab representatives at the summit to stop "treating her like a leper," questions why they refused to shake her hand.

In a gathering in which a show of Arab force is on display, both Condi and Tzipi resort to what we call in Hebrew (inspired from Yiddish), cheindalach . . . It is probably best translated as trying to curry favour, soliciting some goodwill from someone who is in a position of power, and is known to be implacably rigid and ostensibly austere. Think Nora from Ibsen's "Doll's House" and how she tries, in something near desperation, to ward off her husband Torvarld's anticipated asperity over what he considers her gross deviation from the norm, which he set.

Israel's Foreign Office published a refutation. Of course. It is too humiliating an image: The eternal Jew, hat in hand, asking for what is only decent and fair. It does not work. Rock solid hatred cannot be dented by feminine words of entreaty and sympathy.

It is clear, from the body language of Arab leaders, * that any transaction between Israel and the Arab world will be made in the spirit of enmity, not friendship. Too bad, says Tom Friedman, who has taken to much supplicantismh imself of late:

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, announced even before he got to Annapolis that there would be no handshakes with any Israelis. Too bad. A handshake alone is not going to get Israel to give back the West Bank. But a surprising gesture of humanity, like a simple handshake from a Saudi leader to an Israeli leader, would actually go a long way toward convincing Israelis that there is something new here, that it's not just about the Arabs being afraid of Iran, but that they're actually willing to coexist with Israel.

The Saudis remain true to form. They never disppoint our worst expectations.

Let me repeat this story:

When Henry Kissinger first visited the Saudi Kingdom as US secretary of state, he was received by the King who welcomed him with these words: You are welcome here, Dr. Kissinger, not as a Jew but as a human being.

To which speech Kissinger replied: Some of my best friends are human beings...


Chesler Chronicles offers a thoroughly blood curdling assessment of Annapolis:

Livni and Gillerman have just both been publicly shunned. Israeli diplomats will have to grow bionic skins in order not to suffer the effects of such interpersonally cruel behavior. But look: Israelis have been kidnapped, blown up and wounded for life by Islamist terrorists. It can always be worse but the two kinds of assaults are intimately connected. The fact that the world allows the state sponsors of terrorism to isolate and shame Israeli diplomats also allows and even encourages terrorist fanatics to continue their murderer us rampage. One breeds the other; this is the cycle of violence.

Israel’s civilian supporters have also been shunned, both behind closed doors and in public. May we all continue to bear this mistreatment with honor, patience, grace, and faith. And, as we count our blessings, let us also remember that Israel is a nuclear power whose military prowess has already proved essential in the battle against Iran and Syria—and that Saudi Arabia is also well known for refusing to extend its hand when it comes to aiding other Muslims.


Update: It is possible that Tzipi Livni may have addressed her Arab counterparts in a manner different to Timmermans' account , and more in line with what I would think is appropriate under the chilling circumstance of Arab snubbery... According to this report:

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly rose to her feet in the closed meeting room, waving her hand and declaring she would not press for a handshake.

She continued in an ironic tone: "But let us imagine what might happen if the worst possible scenario occurs and there is a handshake between an Israeli leader and an Arab leader whose country has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and that handshake is broadcast around the world. Then the extremists in the Arab countries will understand that a new era is beginning."

That is the official version from a transcript Livni released of the rare encounter on Wednesday between a senior Israeli decision-maker and representatives of Arab states who view her and her country as foes. But The Netherlands' European Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans had a more colourful version. Timmermans said Livni asked the Arab politicians present to stop treating her like a pariah and "Count Dracula's younger sister".

The encounter between Livni and her reluctant Arab peers underscores much of the fraught diplomacy at the Annapolis gathering, which was meant to stimulate dialogue. It also makes clear where the peace process will be played out during the crucial 13 months ahead: in places far from prying eyes, and with plenty of interlocutors managing the dialogue.

Publicly, Livni and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who at least had a public handshake with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas alongside US President George W. Bush, had few friends at the naval base near Washington. Anyone interested in reaching out to Israel had no desire to be seen doing so. The Arab states came to Annapolis with a united stance to disavow any perceived moves towards a warming of relations until Israel returns to the borders it held before the Six-Day War of 1967. Ignoring the Israelis, at a time when they want the world to see that attitudes towards them are changing, is a bargaining chip. It is perhaps the most powerful card the Arab world can play.

I thank Pajamas Media commenter Pierson for the reminder that reports must always be always double-checked for accuracy and veracity.


Update II: *

"During the ceremony, while the world press was watching Olmert’s speech, Barnea, who always has a sharp eye for telling detail, was watching the Saudi diplomats watch Olmert as he delivered his speech.

“All of the foreign ministers put on their headphones (for translation.) All of them, except for one, the Saudi minister, Saud Al-Faisel. His ears, underneath his red keffiyah, were left bare. And no, it wasn’t because he understood Hebrew. It was the Saudi method of demonstrating their relationship to the State of Israel. Even as the Israeli Prime Minister was greeting him and speaking of peace, they were refusing to listen. For a minute I thought I was wrong that maybe there was a technical problem. But then I saw his aide next to him – also leaving his ears demonstrably naked.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"The world would be a terrible place without you"

A-propo, David Irving, I mentioned Oliver Kamm in a comment*. Here he is again, still tangentially relevant to the Oxford Union's Freedom of Speech fest with neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers:

It's almost a relief to turn to a nutter who hasn't (so far, at least) threatened me with a libel writ. This is Marisa Lorah of California. Ms Lorah merely writes:


I'm marginally surprised to hear I'm THE WORST OFFENDER OF THEM ALL, as I've argued in print against laws restricting free speech in order to protect against offence. I've specifically opposed using the law - in Germany as much as anywhere else - as an instrument to curb Holocaust denial. But I would not claim to be able to render coherent the contents of Ms Lorah's universe.

I was struck by the sheer, boundless and unquestioning adulation expressed by the lady mentioned in Kamm's post. It reminded me directly of a caricature of this type, as depicted by Seinfeld in one of his greatest episodes: "The limo":

Cut back to 'O'Brien' and 'Murphy' in the limo.

Jerry (checking his watch): I don't think we're gonna make the tip off.

Tim: You think someone's been tipped off?

George: So, um, you've read "The Big Game", have you?

Eva (fawning): Yes I've read it and I've memorized it.

George: Tell me your impressions, I would love to hear what a young woman
thinks of "The Big Game".

Eva: Well, this is sort of embarrassing, but it's changed my life. The way you
analyzed the game? The way you identify the major players? Well it left mebreathless. You're a brilliant, brilliant man.


George: ...and the Jews steal our money through their Zionist occupied
government and use the black man to bring drugs into our oppressed white
minority communities.

Jerry: You're not going to open with that, are you?

Eva: What was that you said about the myth of the Holocaust?

George: I said so many things.

Suddenly they hear a loud bang.

George: They're shooting! They're shooting!

Tim (pulling out a gun): Alright, get down!

The limo comes to a screeching halt. Tim exits the limo to look around, Eva has
fallen on top of George.

Eva. Ohhh. I'm ready to die for you.

George: That's really very nice of you, Eva. Thank you.

Eva: But of course you know I would. I would do anything for you. Anything.

When I read what the two ladies say, it is hard to distinguish who is the real thing and who is the caricature.


* Here is an opinion by Georges Szirtes , same message different tone (but then, Kamm is a banker and Szirtes is a poet), which accurately reflects my mood about the Oxford affair:

I haven't metnioned the Oxford Union fracas with Irving and Griffin, two loathsome individuals whom I would go a long way not to share a room with. In principle I am wary of the No Platform platform and would prefer to consider that the very thought of inviting them should not have popped into the organisers' tousled Oxford heads. The organisers wanted publicity and they got it. I would not want to live with that publicity though: the man who invited Irving and Griffin in for a chat would not - should not - be welcome at public events elsewhere.

Ah but that is a pipe dream, of course. Social ostracism is not always an attractive alternative to the punch in the mouth or sheer physical obstruction (- Shall we ignore that nasty Mr Hitler? - OK, let's not invite him to tea...)

On the other hand actions have consequences and the Oxford scum who invited Irving and Griffen should be held responsible in whatever way seems appropriate to whomever. They knew what they were doing.

Yada, yada... Annapolis

I like to browse the message boards and comments section in blogs. They may be anecdodal in importance but they do offer some insight.

Persuant to yada, yada, here are two responses I thought were noteworthy from the participants on the "Good Neighbours' Blog" discussing Annapolis:

First, from the Israeli Racoon:

I can tell you right now how this sham will go and how it’ll end:

There will be many photo-ops and enough dratt al-balat to tear a new hole in the ozon layer.
Israel will twist herself into a pretzel to accomodate everyone, offer everything except building concentration camps and putting all the Jews in them.

The Arabs will refuse every offer point-blank because of the missing ingredient mentioned above. Eventually, Israel will beg and suck cock enough for the Arabs to graciously accept most of what’s Israel offering - provided they have to give nothing in return. Then, due to American pressure, the Arabs will agree to say some empty words, maybe make a promise they have no intention of keeping (the words and promises will be in English - in Arabic it’ll be same old).
Then Israel will keep its side of the bargain, probably uprooting tens of thousands of Jews from their land; in the meanwhile, Israel will give the Palestinians weapons and money.

The Arab states will ignore everything they said during the conference;

The Palestinians will up their assaults on Israel, using the Israeli-gifted money and weapon to finance this. Thousands of Jews will die; hundreds of Palestinians will be killed in internal squabbling over who gets to kill the most Jews or who gets to keep the money and the weapons.

Oh, I almost forgot… if Syria can use the general Chambelainian spirit of the event to their advantage, they’ll get to kill some more Lebanese politicians and execute some more of their own dissidents.

The above prediction is based on more or less every other similar dratt al-balat meeting we had in the last, oh, 20 years or so (modified to fit the conditions of our times and the insanitity of Olmert’s Government of Worms).

And then, from the Palestinian Ramzi:

And i have reasons to believe that this is what is happening! I’m very proud of Mahmoud Abbas! I’m very happy that we finally have a functional government, a government that is doing it’s job! Their agenda is advancing quite fast, they are reforming the police, reforming the security services, reforming the economy, trying to impose law and order by using their legitimate violence…. I have reasons to believe that this time, it’s different! Without having great expectations for the peace process, i can say without any doubt that on the Palestinian level, things are different! Thank you Hamas! …The Best enemy to have is the one that auto distructs itself!

They failed because Gaza is Hell nowadays, they failed because the population in gaza is suffering and they are the only ones to blaim, they failed because annapolis took place, they failed because they are totally isolated by everyone , they failed because their ideology is not realistic, they failed because their best friends are everyone’s worst enemies, they failed because the Palestinian Authority ( that many people seem to make fun of) legislated against them ( by controlling charity organisations, by controlling mosques, by raiding their headquarters in the WB, by reaffirming the fact that the only legitimate org to represent the palestinian people is the PLO ( it’s important to note that israel has been trying to fight hamas for the last 7 years, the PA managed to control them and to totally isolate them in less than 4 months, yes, they have Gaza, but not for too long..) …… and the more we will advance with this process, the more they will Fail! I just cross my fingers that nobody topples Olmert’s government, i cross my fingers that Lieberman and Bibi will also fail, because as far as i’m concerned, they are your own terrorists and enemies…


Lieberman and Bibi as Israel's Hamas-style terrorists and enemies is a view which reflects the same instinctive lurch into irresponsible use of language and lazy analogies which characterizes much of Palestinian discourse and mythology. It was most recently evidenced in Abbas's speech at Anapolis, in which he called on the world to "put and end to [Palestinian] tragedy, to [Palestinian] holocaust that has been running for too long."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Israelis can't get excited over Annapolis.

"The Annapolis peace conference has managed to elicit a mood not normally associated with the Israeli public: indifference.

Unlike previous “peace extravaganzas” like Camp David, the Madrid Peace Conference, the various Oslo signings, average Israeli citizens haven’t been glued to their television sets and radios following their leaders’ movement and listening to the speeches and wondering how the dramatic events overseas will affect their lives. There’s no buzz.

Of all Israelis watching television during the afternoon’s live broadcasts of Annapolis, the total ratings of all of the channels which aired the events was the same as the audiences for the daily soaps. ..

Bring up the subject and you are in for a lot of shrugging and eye-rolling - and a rapid change of subject.

To make sure this wasn’t just happening in my own social circles, while going about my morning errands today, I decided to sound out Sagi, the owner of the corner store while I picked up my groceries. After the requisite shrug, eye-roll, and sigh, he confessed uncomfortably, “It’s not nice to say that you don’t care about what happens to the country. But we’re just tired. We’re tired of it all.”

And my reaction, so far, has reflected the mood on the Israeli street. I really don't hold my breath, nor do I exhale with ecstasy over this or that speech.

Mahmoud Abbass's speech made my eyebrow twitch, no more no less, so predictable and unoriginal it was, especially this part:

"Each one of you has his own her own personal pain, personal tragedy as a result of this conflict and as a result of the years of tragedy and occupation," said President Abbas. "These are very bitter years. Don't be depressed, don't lose confidence and hope, for the whole world today now is stretching its hand towards us in order to help us put and end to our tragedy, to our holocaust that has been running for too long."

Yada, yada, yada.. and we all know what comes next . . .

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

French Benefits:

Charlie Rose, last night, had a conversation with French minister of Foreign and European Affairs Bernard Kouchner, mainly about Annapolis but touching upon other subjects, too.

I'm wondering if, with Sarkozy at the helm, and Kouchner as first Mate, France is about to chart a new course, soon to be US's best continental friend, replacing Britain.

As Oliver Kamm notices here,

Under Brown, the government is collapsing into a black hole of mediocrity at exactly the time that a Franco-German axis of liberal internationalism is providing Europe with better leadership and the US with reliable counsel.

I wish them best of luck. I like the tenor of Kouchner's words, the dedication, the conviction that truth and justice can be forged.

And as Annapolis, here is a media roundup, courtesy of Pajamas Media. I was most amused by these two opinions:

Syrian newspaper’s lead editorial:

“Syria will be part of the consensus which aims to force Israel to follow International and Arab principles for peace, and to foil Olmert’s plan to force Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.” (Jerusalem Post)

Beirut Spring:

Seven Reasons Why Syria’s Annapolis Attendance Is Inconsequential

Unfortunately, I'm one of those who foretells doom for this summit. As long as Arab rejectionist regimes "support" the Palestinians, the Palestinians will never have the guts to cast their lot with Israel, America and the Europeans. That is to say, they will never have the courage to stand up to Arab pressure NOT to compromise.

One of the paradigm shifts necessary for Palestinians to be free, independent and successful, is to declare openly what most of them feel secretly: that with brothers like the Saudis, the Egyptians, or the Syrians, they do not need enemies. They will remain locked into their useful "black sheep" role for years to come, serving as a fig leaf for Arab rejectionism.


His Bobbiness, Bob From Brockley has generously forgiven me for the broccolian ruminations induced by his blog name. It is no more than I would expect, from a Bob. If you know a person named Jesus, you form certain expectations of that person, don't you?

I'm not sure Bob knows that there is an entire religious edifice constructed about his name.

It is the Church of the Bob.

It is the church that accepts only heretics, outsiders, true dissenters, and anyone who can think for himself. Or herself. If you are a thinker whose position subscribes on all points to a certain doctrine, you are not welcome at our church. In fact, you are considered a heretic! We are very intolerant of a person who is an all-point conformist. It is enough that when subscribing to cable television service, I have to pay for all the channels that come with the package deal, even when I only watch the movie channel. Disciplines, systems of thought, should not act, or be treated, as, quantum physics, that is, they are not indivisible entities.

I have long been a subscriber to the doctrine of the Bob. Here is why:

The Church of Bob is in favour of knowledge. The Church of Bob is in favour of intelligence [and] critical thinking.

The Church of Bob fights:

Julecifer, whose motto is: Believe me, because I sound authoritative. (Need we say more?)

How? By insisting: "Show me the evidence!"

The moral paralysis of the "fetishization of balance"

Norm has a short post about the Oxford Union kerfuffle:

Max and some wild things

A remarkable passage from Max Hastings yesterday - discussing the Oxford Union business, he writes:

Muslim extremists say worse and more dangerous things about Jews than [David] Irving ever has. We excuse and even indulge them, because of our guilt about the role of Europe and the US in creating and sustaining the state of Israel.

We excuse and even indulge them - coughed up without more ado. Then there's also the little matter of 'guilt about... creating and sustaining the state of Israel'.

So I went to Max Hastings' article, written, it would appear, as he was luxuriating in the "warm bath of Guardian decency."

And this decency produced a moral conundrum of undefeatable logic: David Irving and Nick Griffin may be hateful persons, but they are not really so heinous as to deserve to be ignored by respectable institutions. After all, what they are saying is not half as bad as "Muslim extremists say" whom "We excuse and even indulge them,".

Implicit in his words is the message that European Guilt over the Holocaust should not justify the cold-shouldering of Holocaust deniers, while guilt over "creating and sustaining the state of Israel" should rightly be translated into indulging Muslim Holocaust-deniers.

Either way, the Holocaust deniers get to have a platform from which to disemboque their venom against Jews, with the blessing of the Max Hastings. Somehow the guilt over complicity in the annihilation of a people and the guilt over midwifing the creation of a country for the remnants of that people are thus perfectly balanced and canceled out. Thus guilt over murder and guilt over birth are equalized.

The rationale that underlies this thesis is what Martin Amis calls "The fetishization of balance", without which rhetorical fallacy Hastings could not in good conscience continue to enjoy the warm soapy water of the Guardian's bathtub.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Jewish question?
The Jewish question??
The Jewish question???

Bernard Lewis has an article entitled "The Jewish question".

I thought "The Jewish question" was an antiquated, obsolete, term, no longer in use, since there is no longer a "Jewish question". The Jewish question was answered, by Zionism, modernity, enlightenment, emancipation, democracy and freedom for all.

But apparently, the Jewish question is alive and well, and is an issue, for those who refuse to accept that there is a Jewish nation

What Shakespeare intrinsically understood in the seventeen century*, is still an unsolved mystery for the likes of Nadia Abu el-Haj, Joseph Massad, and the Saudi King, to name but a few that come to mind.

Bernard Lewis is trying to clarify the knots, which everyone agrees will not be unraveled at Annapolis. Here are a few excerpts, but I recommend reading the entire article. It's not long:

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.

A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel.

What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by U.N. funding. ...

The reason for this ... is the need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return" of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.

There are signs of change in some Arab circles ... only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.

Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.

(Via: Solomonia)

Here are two other perspectives:

Amos Oz believes success would mean "defeating the extremists". And a rebuttal by Martin Sherman

Eric Lee has a solution, and a mighty good one, though implausible for reasons which cannot be explained . . .

(Via: Normblog)

Didn't I say, an un-tangle-able web?

All these opinions are actually expressions of hope in the face of looming disaster. I thought in the past about the concept of "hope". And I tend towards Poe's philosophy, that hope does not propel us forward at times of great crisis, but rather hinders solution, by acting like a sort of red herring, diverting us from looking and thinking and doing what can actually save us. I find myself very reluctant these days to use the verb "I hope" or the noun "hope" when I think about Israel's problems. Hope seems such a useless option when you are standing on a beach and you perceive a tsunami wave towering over the horizon . . .


* He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew.

The tragic life of conversos - II

Last week I began a series of postings about this subject.

In my query into the complexity of identity, responsibility and historical denouement I have come to be focused almost obsessively on the Jewish condition in early seventeenth century Europe. “Jewish” is a slight misnomer, since the type of Jews I am interested in, conversos, were no longer Jewish per se but rather a strange and perverted outgrowth of the Jew produced by the special history of the Jews up until that moment. That’s not to say that there were not traditional Jewish communities thriving or failing along the usual historically familiar models. Those, however, form a different branch in the study of Jewish history, which has attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of researchers over the years to do it all the justice it deserves. The kinds of Jews that interest me most intensely are those on the cusp, so to speak. Those who found themselves pulled between worlds of belief, culture, language, and ethos.

A little over two hundred years after the mass conversion of the Jews in Spain, European society had come to view and interact with the new species of identity that event had spawned. The drama of Jewish existence in the Iberian Peninsula reached its apex with the 1492 expulsion of the remaining bona fide Jews. “The Jew”, as the readily identifiable and knowable sectarian identity which needed to be erased one way or another by the Christian mainstream no longer existed. He was replaced by a suspect identity, that of the converso. The vacuum that had been left by the departure of “real” Jews had to be quickly filled by some other inimical entity. It was only natural, as in keeping with human inclination, that the replacement of the inherently suspicious would be sought among its closest relatives, in this case, the conversos. It’s impossible to miss the colossal irony that directionalizes this progress: a visible so-called “threatening” group being knowingly exchanged for an invisible “threat”, of people that have become adept at concealment and subterfuge in order to preserve and maintain some stability and decency in their own life.

To a Spaniard or Portuguese of the seventeenth century the phrase “Jews of our time” was neither an abstraction nor a euphemism. It might well apply to some of his own neighbours, even though they bore authentic Iberian Christian names and he saw them regularly at Mass in the cathedral, and the walls of their homes were adorned with the conventional pious pictures. There was no guarantee that this seemingly unimpeachable orthodoxy was not a mere façade, and that among themselves these people did not practice occult Jewish rites. For they were, after all, Christianos nuevos.. ‘New Christians”, descended of those many Jews who had been baptized in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the seventeenth century these new Christians still constituted a distinct and important class within Iberian society and in the popular mind the line between ‘new Christian” and “Jew” was often blurred”.[1]

Of course, there have been many cases in history when groups were considered persona non grata and had to lead a double life, in which the external manifestation was at odds with the private, internal beliefs. Still, the Jewish experience of the double identity is unique in the circumstances that created the necessity and the way this special identity developed eventually.

One of the consequences that ensued from the anomalous existence of the conversos was the strange intercourse between religious scepticism and religious fundamentalism. A curious melange of frantic desire for religious affirmation side by side with rejection of all religion as a regulator of our life. In the fermentation of such troubled identities, a few factors are brought to bear. In this paper I would like to compare between two historical figures whose life overlapped in more than one way, and whose very selfhoods had become directly embroiled and impacted by the singularity of the converso experience. These two were Uriel Da Costa and Baruch Spinoza. Both were conversos, both were men of letters, both lived in the Amsterdam Jewish community, both were excommunicated for their heresies against the Jewish religion.
The reason I wish to compare between the two men is in my search to understand and articulate the difference between them. Whereas the one lived a tragic existence which culminated in a violent self-immolation, the other lived an exemplary, cool-tempered life of a thinking non-conformist that culminated in an evolutionary philosophical leap into what we term today as secular modernity.

[1] Yerushalemi, Hayim Yosef, (1981) From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto, University of Washington press, Seattle and London

“it’s not violence, it’s an expression of rage.”

The tally on Sunday’s punk jihad outburst is heavy and rising.

Twenty-five policemen injured, dozens of cars burned, shops destroyed, individuals assaulted. Blind with rage, the rampaging mob found time to steal before smashing and burning. For the brother of Mushin, one of the victims, “it’s not violence, it’s an expression of rage.”

Journalists are unwelcome, often assaulted, but they are getting the story out.

According to concurrent reports, the rage broke out immediately. The police claim the motorcycle ran into their patrol car at an intersection; the enraged know better—the police car in hot pursuit of the innocent boys, Moushin and Larami, smashed into their motorcycle. Moushin’s uncle was outraged because the bodies were left lying in the fire station. But it seems that the forces that came to pick them up had to turn back because they were attacked. The boys had gone out to do a little bit of rodeo, a favorite sport in the banlieue projects. Le Parisien posted You Tube videos filmed by reckless kids.

The rest is here, on Pajamas Media

The common denominator

Holocaust deniers to speak at Oxford

Israel’s Jewish Defamers

Mearsheimer and Walt interview at the BBC

Chavez Vows Inquiry Into 200-year-old Conspiracy, Cover-up, In Bolivar "Murder"

Columbia’s Latest Embarrassment

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Comment trail:

* Engage

"And when would this - err boycott thing - be lifted? What does Israel do to be relieved of this punishment?"

Good luck trying to coax a clear answer to this question. The coyness of Deborah's earlier statement points to an aimless, hazy, luxurious kind of boycott, deliberately open-ended; something along the lines of this idea:

"... And you should, if you please,
refuse Till the conversion of the Jews."

* The Drink Soaked Trots

* Bob From Brockley (Whenever I mention Bob's blog I have to resist the urge to write: Bob of Broccoli, may the gods, and Bob, forgive me)

Rowan Williams on good and bad imperialism

* Terry Glavin: Chavez Vows Inquiry Into 200-year-old Conspiracy, Cover-up, In Bolivar "Murder"

* From Tehran with Love (a micro-mini symposium on the translation of poetry)

Almost forgot about this blog:

* The Sojourner Truth Here is the comment which I submitted yesterday but has not yet been posted:

Quote “Fascism is a revolutionary form of right-wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist control of the state while defending class exploitation.”

Can I please get a translation into comprehensible language? When I encounter this kind of overwrought formulation my usual gullible nature springs to alert mode: What is the speaker trying to hide here? What’s “a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth”?

I also wonder at Mike that he finds it necessary to condemn the Israeli Jewish woman who courageously braved the "we are all Hamas and Hizballa “ crowd when she “presumed" "to define the acceptable limits of Palestinian resistance. "

My own knowledge is that Palestinians believe there are no acceptable limits to their "resistance", a term, which is a euphemism for an ideology and praxis of killing systematically, Israeli citizens, preferably kids, and women of childbearing age. Strange that of all the people you mention and quote in your exposition, you single out the "Jewish Israeli woman" for opprobrium.

And this, in the context of a presentation purporting to discuss how you, noble Rococo leftists, plan to fight "Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and Fascism".

Laughable, really.

"..Down at the bus station
Shark grins and sandpaper conversation
..They are predators moving in their endless days
..Never going to bring them freedom from their pain
..Wild shadows, acid verbs"
(From Bruce Cockburn's song: "Loner")

The Two Kingdoms (or: Birds of a feather?)

Tangentially relevant to my comments about eager handshakers and handshake refusers:


"I'm not hiding any secret about the Saudi position. We were reluctant until today. And if not for the Arab consensus we felt today, we would not have decided to go," he said.

Asked if he would shake the hand of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, he said: "We're not ready to be part of a theatrical performance . . . We're not going there to shake anyone's hand or to demonstrate feelings we don't have."

This reminded me of another recently-published refusal to extend any good will towards the Jewish state. I recently read here that a hoped for visit by Prince Charles to Israel was deemed unfeasible, as follows:

"...Alderton wrote: "Safe to assume there is no chance of this visit ever actually happening.."


Because "Acceptance would make it hard to avoid the many ways in which Israel would want (Charles) to help burnish its international image."

Contrast this unnecessarily acerbic cold-shoulder with this handshake:

Gordon Brown and his "friend" King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia shook hands yesterday outside No 10 Downing Street.

And you may see what kind of picture emerges.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

To shake or not to shake?

In a prelude to peace, Western audiences need to brace themselves for the sights of some of the peace-loving gestures in store for us from the Annapolis Summit, if this is any example to go by:

Bahrain's "Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa... launched the offensive in parliament after one MP said he should wash his hands with water six times and then rub them with sand after shaking hands with his Israeli counterpart Tzipora "Tzipi" Livni."

So out of curiosity, I googled the terms "Muslims" "shake hands" "Jews", and here is a sampling of what I found:

* He recounted one incident in particular when four African American converts made their declarations at his mosque but only a few members came over to shake their hands. “It was the most lackluster, depressing sight...No one seemed thrilled that Islam had gained four new adherents in a single day in that mosque.” The following week, a white American embraced Islam and the whole mosque erupted in joy. “Islam teaches that we are all equal in the sight of God. How can immigrants explain this? What Islam are they practicing?”

* Police said Sunday that a Muslim woman officer had refused to shake hands with London's police chief during a graduation ceremony last month due to her religious beliefs, fanning a debate in Britain over the assimilation of Muslims into society. (Here and here)

* Islamic Etiquette

Imam al-Baqir (a.s) said: “When two believers hiding from each other because of a quarrel meet, they should shake hands.”

.. the reward of the one who holds on tothe hand shake is greater than that of the one who let go.”

.. Shake each other’s hands for it eliminates ill will.”

.. he Messenger-s.a.w- never shook hands with anyone and withdrew his hand first.”

..Imam Áli (a.s) said: “Shake hands with, and smile and show joy to your fellow Moslems when you meet them; this way your sins will be abolished before you disperse.”

* Saudi TV examines public attitudes toward Jews

Interviewer: 'Would you, as a human being, be willing to shake hands with a Jew?'

Respondent 1:

"Of course I wouldn't be willing to shake hands with a Jew, for religious reasons and because of what is happening now in Palestine, and for many reasons that don't allow me to shake a Jew's hand."

Respondent 2:

"No. Because the Jews are eternal enemies. The murderous Jews violate all agreements. I can't shake hands with someone who I know is full of hatred towards me."

Respondent 3:

"No, the Jew is an enemy. How can I shake my enemy's hand?
Interviewer: "Would you refuse to shake hands with a Jew?"

Respondent 4:

"Of course, so I wouldn't have to consider amputating my hand afterwards."

Interviewer: 'If a child asks you 'Who are the Jews,' what would you answer?'

Respondent 5:

"The enemies of Allah and His Prophet."

Respondent 6:

"The Jew is the occupier of our lands."

Respondent 7:

"The murderers of prophets. Our eternal enemies, of course."

Respondent 2:

"The murderers of prophets, that's it."

Respondent 8:

"Allah's wrath is upon them, as the Koran says. Allah's wrath is upon them and they all stray from the path of righteousness. They are the filthiest people on the face of this earth because they care only about themselves - not the Christians, not the Muslims, nor any other religion. "The solution is clear, not only to me but to everyone. If only [the Muslims] declared Jihad, we would see who stays home. We have a few countries. There is one country with a population of over 60-70 million people. If we let them only march, with no weapons even, they would completely trample the Jews, they would turn them into rotten carcasses under their feet. There is another country that donated money, saying, 'I am behind you, I'll support you with weapons, just wage [Jihad].' "But the cowardice inside us, deep within our hearts, was instilled by the Arab leaders, may Allah forgive them. They breast-fed us with it from the day we were born to this very day it has grown with us."

Well, then, what's to be said about all this?

Seems like there needs to be a narrowing of the gap between the hostile Arab Muslim position of the handshake, and the Israeli-Jewish fervid position of extending their Israeli-Jewish hands to almost anyone who would shake it. Arabs should be more like Israelis. Israelis should learn some ... restraint from the Arabs. So once again, I searched the Internet for some useful counsel, and indeed found two respective suggestions:

The first, I would direct to the Arabs:

"A human being's** first responsibility is to shake hands with himself.” (Henri Winkler)

The second I would urge the Israeli leaders to observe, with some discrimination:

I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.
(Lee Iacoca)


** This seems like a good opportunity to retell a story I once read about Henry Kissinger.

When he first visited the Saudi Kingdom as US secretary of state, he was received by the King who welcomed him with these words: You are welcome here, Dr. Kissinger, not as a Jew but as a human being. To which speech Kissinger replied: Some of my best friends are human beings...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The new Freedom of Speech Warriors

Alan Dershowitz, in fine form:

At Harvard, hard-left radicals, led by Professor J. Lorand Matory ’82, claim that they are being muzzled. At last week’s Faculty meeting, Matory alleged that critics of Israel like him “tremble in fear” when they express their views at Harvard.

...At Columbia University, on the other hand, a group of professors—who are generally in sync with their extremist colleagues at Harvard—are complaining that Columbia’s President, Lee C. Bollinger, has too much freedom of speech when it comes to the Middle East. . . They also want to muzzle students, alumni, and other “outsiders,” who have legitimate complaints about the Middle East Studies Department, which has become a wholly owned subsidiary of radical Islam.

... The hypocrisy is rather easy to spot if you’ve been around long enough to remember when it was leaders of the radical left, led by MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who were trying to intrude on the tenure process for political reasons.... when Chomsky campaigned to prevent Columbia from granting a tenured position to Henry Kissinger.

What I don’t remember (because it didn’t happen) are any complaints by these born-again freedom of speech phonies when Summers, as a mere professor, was prevented from making a speech to the University of California Board of Regents this September...

... Nor do I remember... the hard left at Columbia protesting when the University provost defended an anti-Israel professor who was caught by a camera throwing a rock at an Israeli guardhouse. Nor do I remember ... Professor Matory complaining when Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was prevented from speaking at Concordia University by a hard-left anti-Israel crowd of violent censors...

I, and many other genuine civil libertarians, have long histories of defending the free speech rights of those we most despise. I supported the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, Ill forty years ago. I opposed the cancellation of a speech by Tom Paulin, who advocated the murder of Israelis. I defended, pro bono, a virulently anti-Israel Stanford professor who was fired for inciting violence. I opposed Harvard’s attempt to prevent students from flying the Palestinian flag to commemorate the death of mass-murderer Yasser Arafat.

... Freedom of speech to criticize Israel and the U.S. is alive and well at Harvard and most other universities. Matory need not “tremble in fear” of anything except his pernicious opinions being rebutted in the marketplace of ideas.

A comment:

Dershowitz is slightly mistaken about Ehud Barak. It was Benjamin Netanyahu who was prevented from speaking at Concordia by a raging mob who perpetrated what amounted to a mini pogrom. Barak's speech was cancelled by the university, in perfect response to the violence that had prevented Netanyahu's speech two years earlier.

Here is a relatively low key account:

It was there, on September 9, 2002, that pandemonium broke lose. Benyamin Netanyahu, a former Prime Minister of Israel, was scheduled to speak to an eager crowd of his fans and opponents alike. A considerable portion of the Palestinian community in Montreal however, had something to say about this, and decided to use violence to express their distaste at Mr. Netanyahu's presence. Property damage and riot police were commonplace for a few hours and the talk was eventually cancelled.

Although no one was seriously injured in those few dark hours, there was one casualty: free speech. Because Mr. Netanyahu was prevented from speaking, one side of an extremely contentious issue was not heard and freedom of speech, a fundamental characteristic of freedom-loving Canadian society, was struck a critical blow.

The New Controversy

Flash forward two years to the present day and a similar problem is once again staring down Concordia University. Earlier this year, the Jewish students' association Hillel proposed to bring Ehud Barak, another former Israeli Prime Minister, to speak at the university. Their proposal was decisively rejected.

This may seem to some like yet another affront to Canada's good friend, freedom of speech, but the university claims that the decision to refuse Barak is a result of security issues, not political motivations.

"The university's primary responsibility is the safety of its staff, students and its faculty, and its neighbors in the surrounding area," said Chris Mota, Coordinator of Media Relations and Special Events at Concordia. "For every speaker that comes through here, a risk assessment is done, it goes through the Montreal Police and the RCMP, and it was recommended to us that we do not host Mr. Barak on campus."

Although her previous answer appears to be impenetrable, Mota did not mention the fact that Michale Tarazi, the legal advisor for Yassir Arafat's radical group--the Palestinian Liberation Organization--was allowed to speak on campus on October 20 of this year.

A Double Standard?

I was a student at Concordia at the time. I had decided not to go to the campus that day because I knew there would be trouble. I had seen the bulletin boards and every wall and fence in the proximity of the university building, which is located at downtown Montreal, papered with posters with inflammatory messages. And I was there the morning after, to see the shattered windows and pile of broken furniture at the Hall building lobby. The Jewish students were shell-shocked by this event.

Here is a documentary about the event (45 minutes):

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

The real "fleurs du mal" this event sprouted reached beyond the shock of the initial violence and the university's response. The "received wisdom" on campus in the aftermath of the riots was that the Jewish students were to blame for this paroxysm of sheer hatred, because inviting Netanyahu was a provocation which the pro-Palestinian lobbyists could not be expected to withstand . . .

This distortion of cause and effect, of common sense, seems to be of the same flavour and essence as the argument advanced by Matory in the Dershowitz piece above: That no matter how badly behaved the pro-Palestinian crowd is, how unreasonable, biased, and shrill their response, how hyperbolic the violence, it is the Jews, the Israel advocates who are to blame for any emergence of friction and discord. It is total lack of self-awareness, an absence of critical thinking when it comes to application of universally-acknowledged principles.

Here is an article I found, by Thomas M. Sipos on The False and Lazy Charge of Hypocrisy. I don't know who Sipos is, what his politics are, but I liked his definition of hypocrisy. It is clear and simple, and easily testable:

What is hypocrisy?

Rather than look to a dictionary, I've applied a Socratic method, considering the word's usage and implications in varied situations, and I've concluded that "hypocrisy" comprises Four Elements, all necessary for a person to be guilty as charged.

A hypocrite is someone who: (1) advocates a standard, (2) publicly applies that standard to himself (3) fails to meet that standard, and (4) hides or denies his failure.

All Four Elements are required,

So let's see if this applies to the freedom of speech warriors:

1. Advocates a standard:

“this Faculty commits itself to fostering civil dialogue in which people with a broad range of perspectives feel safe and are encouraged to express their reasoned and evidence-based ideas.”

Please note that the motion is done in the spirit of universality.

2. Publicly applies that standard to himself: Well, that is self evident. A person who submits a motion is assumed to be endorsing that motion.

3. Fails to meet the standard: I think Dershowitz furnishes a few examples in which the submitter of the motion has failed to meet his own standard. The silence on the anti-Bollinger campaign, for one. And the more insidious oniony silence about Laurence Summer's muzzling.

4. Hides or denies this failure.

"Professor Matory writes: "My aim here is not to preach but to insist upon my right, and others', to a conversation full of respect and free of intimidation, one that presumes no monopolies on suffering, "

In his submitted motion, Matory defined his aim as his right to full freedom of speech.

In the quote from him above, he produces a nuanced change in his demand. It's no longer the right for freedom of speech but a right for "conversation full of respect". I'm not sure that anyone has an inalienable right to being respected. But that's beside the point. The connivance in Matory's demand is in his defining that a "conversation full of respect" is "one that presumes no monopoly on suffering". If I follow Matory's argument to its logical conclusion, then, any conversation which does not, a-priory, accepts his premise that no one has a monopoly on suffering, is deemed unrespectful, and therefore, is an infringement of freedom of speech. It is easy to understand why Matory feels he is being "muzzled" when his terms for a respectful, free conversation are thus defined.

I'm reminded of a conversation we once had on the now defunct Charlie Rose BB. Bear with me for the tedious details:

A person who has just lost her dog was taking to task another poster, for making a flippant comment about dogs. All her friends (of the same political stripes) flocked to her, consoling her, and castigating the aforementioned delinquent for unusual, inhumane cruelty. End of story.

Some time later, another poster revealed that he was in deep grief over his father's death. One of the comforters in the first story hastened to offer her condolences. In the same paragraph, this Job's comforter told the grieving son to notice how decent she was, that she offered her solicitude. Unlike the other posters, who did not offer their condolences to that other poster who had suffered so much because she had lost her little dog and someone made fun of dogs.

Why am I telling you this story? Because it illustrates the absurdity of Matory's stipulation that a respectful conversation presumes no monopoly over suffering. If we follow his principle, then the suffering over a loss of a dog and the suffering over the loss of father, are objectively equivalent.

What we see, in we closely follow Matory's reasoning, is a devolution of the right of freedom of speech, to a (newly invented) "right" for respectful conversation to a definition of respectful conversation as one that presumes no monopoly over suffering. In fact, he agrees with Dershowitz that his (Matory's) conception of freedom of speech is only applicable in the context of his own particularist choosing.

For the umpteenth time on this blog, I will quote in this connection, Michael Ignatieff:

“Global human rights consciousness, moreover, does not necessarily imply that the groups defending human rights actually believe the same things. Many ... espouse the universalist language of human rights but actually use it to defend highly particularist causes: the rights of particular national groups or minorities or classes or persons… The problem is that particularism conflicts with universalism at the point at which one’s commitment to a group leads one to countenance human rights violations towards another group.”

(Ignatieff, Michael, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry, 2001 p. 9)

When I first read Hannah Arendt's thoughts about hypocrisy, I was not quite sure what to make of it. But as I became more experienced in the way people posit themselves vis-a-vis their principles and the praxis of these principles, her words became frighteningly lucid:

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.


For a different critique of Matory's claims, you can go here and scroll down to jacksondyer's comment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Peace Conference which nobody believes in

New Centrist blogs about the upcoming Annapolis Peace Conference:

Two perspectives on the Israel-Palestine Annapolis Peace Conference, one from the left the other from the right, sharing a somewhat similar analysis but arriving at different conclusions. Both authors contend the position adopted by the Palestinian leadership—whether Fatah or Hamas—is perpetual war against the Jewish state. The maximalist Palestinian political parties, their leadership, and the individuals who vote for them, refuse to admit—to accept—a strong Jewish political presence in the region. There is simply no place for peace or reconciliation with people who hold the belief that Israel must be eliminated as a political entity and that Tel Aviv is part of Palestine. As to the different conclusions drawn, for Burston the solution is that of the center-left and Labor Zionists, a newly formed Palestinian which accepts a Jewish state next door. Halkin is not nearly as positive in his assessment, contending the West Bank will be absorbed (occupied?) by Jordan.

Read the rest of it, here.

The tragic life of Conversos

The converso experience was a uniquely Iberian historical phenomenon, whose consequences and final resolution are yet to be decisively defined. Religion permeated every nook and cranny of Spanish medieval life. Jews were its most natural victims, at the epicenter of religious fervor. In this kind of atmosphere, never safe and always seething with anti-Jewish animus, Jews became increasingly exhausted and demoralized, both spiritually and pragmatically, leading to the mass conversion of the Jews between 1391 and 1492. Amid the murderous mass rioting of 1391 tens of thousands of Jews who faced militant priests and direct threats to their life and property, opted for conversion. The next stage was the establishment of the Inquisition in1482, with its specific mandate to excise from the Church the heretic conversos who were still secretly engaged in Judaizing. Ten years later, the final episode in this drama saw the edict of expulsion of the remaining Jews from Spain, a measure that was calculated at severing once and for all any ties between Judaism and the vulnerable New Christians. The expulsion of the Jews was a traumatic event that sent shockwaves throughout European Jewry as well as Christendom. The toll of that disastrous century came to this: a third of the entire Iberian Jewish population were exterminated in riots, another third accepted Christianity, and the last third, the remaining Jews, were expelled in 1492.

After the Expulsion of the Jews

There is a tendency among Jewish historians to fit the countless levels of Jewish awareness within the converso communities into neatly circumscribed categories. Accordingly, Jose Faur is one author who divides them into four classes: Those who wanted to be Christians, those who wanted to be Jewish, those who wanted to be both, and those who wanted to be neither. David Gitlitz is more circumspect in his assessments but still feels compelled to organize the converso experience into a belief system, in which three levels of Judaizing can be discerned. On the first level, an explicit contrast with Christian belief is asserted, such as: The Christian God is plural, our god is singular, or, Christian prayer needs the intervention of a saint, our prayer to God is unmediated. On this level, conversos define their special identity by contrasting it to what they know about Christianity, a sort of Jewish identity by default. On the second level, conversos exhibit a partially assimilated Christian theology while maintaining a Jewish “flavor”. Thus, they accept the mediation of saints in their intercourse with God but they turn to “Jewish” saints for this purpose. A significant shift is indicated in the erosion of the concept of communal salvation to be replaced by the Christian model of personal salvation. However, personal salvation will not come through a belief in Jesus but through a belief in Moses or in Mosaic Law. On the third level, we meet the more aggressively Judaizing conversos who rejected Christian beliefs and practices. Incredibly enough, according to Gitlitz, belonging to this group was a majority of Conversos, some of whom went well beyond mere non-acceptance. They wanted to remain Jewish at all costs, and felt a deep abhorrence for anything Christian. These conversos felt part of the Jewish Diaspora and hoped for their eventual reintegration into Jewish society.

In his book “The Marranos of Spain”, Benzion Netanyahu deals with the converso crisis in far less charitable terms than the other Jewish historians mentioned here. His very choice in naming them by the pejorative term assigned to them by their persecutors suggests to me an inflexible attitude. While most Jewish historians accepted the premise that most of the Marranos were essentially Jews, Netanyahu maintains, “the overwhelming majority of the Marranos were detached from Judaism, or… more clearly, were Christians.” Consequently, he argues that the obsessive interest of the inquisition in Marranos was based on fiction rather than hard proof and was motivated by racial hatred and political concerns. Even conceding the existence of three groups of Marranos: the outright converts, the crypto-Jews and the repentants, in all three cases he sees “no future in marranism and no return from it”. Marranism led to complete assimilation of the converts, and there was no question of a “semi Jewish” identity being played out in that historical theatre.

A finer distinction is suggested by Levine-Melamed whose view I share, that the complexity of the problems faced by conversos cannot be readily fitted into models. “There could be no single, set response” to the predicament of the New Christians, says Levine-Melamed. While some converts considered relocation and a return to their Jewish way of life, others preferred to adapt to their new realities. Yet others welcomed the new options, which their new faith opened up for them and sought to get into public office, enter the universities or join the military. Some tried and succeeded in entering monasteries and the clergy. Many, however, found it impossible to break away from either their homeland or their traditional faith.

The precision of such classifications as Faur and Gitlitz propose, or the implacability of Netanyahu’s approach fail to consider the fluidity and mutability of human identity. Levine-Melamed displays a more realistic perception of the difficulties overwhelming the conversos. In my opinion, we should look at the converso condition as a continuum, with total retention of Jewish identity on one end and total religious, economic and social integration on the other. Depending on circumstances and personal inclinations, people would find themselves traveling back and forth along this continuum, some making small movements, others making considerable shifts. I would also make a subjective suggestion that we should hold back making any extra- temporal moral judgment of the phenomenon (the way Netanyahu, notwithstanding his impressive erudition, seems unable to resist).

With the creation of mass converso communities, an unforeseen, more complicated problem emerged. Converso groups found themselves isolated and labeled in new ways. No longer part of the Jewish community, as yet rejected by the Christian majority, they formed a group unto their own. Many New Christians continued to live together and to interact on a daily basis. Their continued association with their former brethren posed mortal dangers for them, while some attempts to be integrated into the Christian mainstream were simply intolerable to many Christians. A distinction between Old and New Christians took hold in the language and minds of contemporary Spaniards, based, according to Faur who echoes Benzion Netanyahu’s thesis, on ethnic exclusion. Conversos were suspect by virtue of their Jewish origins. Even someone baptized at birth and brought up as a Christian was included in the new criteria for discrimination. Purity of blood (Limpieza de sangre) became the chief prerequisite for holding public service or to assuming other civic duties. These restrictions were later expanded with the aim of excluding New Christians from intellectual, spiritual, political and economic life.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Quotes, sighted on the Internet:

Telling the difference...

But whenever I criticise any reactionary religious practice, I am at once accused myself of "insulting a billion Muslims". And it's not hard to find Islamist websites that boast of a demographic conquest to come, for the votaries of the prophet. So, which is it to be? Who is supposed to dissociate what, and from whom? This is going to take all our cultural and political intelligence and, indeed, our "sensitivity". But I'm afraid the faithful will have to get used to the idea that I, too, can be "offended" and that I, too, have deep and unalterable convictions. And it is much worse than pointless, in the face of genuine worry about the spread of real bigotry and awful violence, to try to pin the accusation of prejudice on those who are honestly attempting to ventilate the question, and to clarify it.

Closet antisemites?

And, of course, he trots out the lie that anyone who criticises Israeli behaviour is labelled antisemitic. I'll tell him what does veer towards antisemtism - making up the lie that anyone who criticises Israel is attacked as an antisemite. (Stephen Pollard)

Left and Right

Calling a leftist with a boot-on-someone's-face fetish "right wing" isn't going to make him rightwing for the sake of a genuine progressive's comfort. There have always been lefties, righties and even "moderates") with issues with Jews and a love for sending anyone they don't like into a gulag or unmarked grave. I only score points between people who are for liberty, rights and freedom, and those who aren't. For me that's all that matters anymore. And to a T, the antisemites on the left and right are always in the latter category, it's an almost infallible first cut. (Bill, an Engage commenter)

Words from Tehran

poor poor, poor words
butchered so bad
lucky, lucky, lucky words
pampered so well

Guilty of a Phalusy

British Boycotted Academic's inspired Camus quote:

"an ethic of sticking up for your friends, of valuing courage and fair-play

believing that people

try to confuse us with convoluted moral systems to suit their own agendas

when we

may do better to look to the simple morality of the football field than to politicians and philosophers"