Here is an interview with Sir Martin Gilbert, whom I mentioned last week as the author who provided the astonishing news that T. E. Lawrence was an ardent Zionist. This is what he says about antisemitism:
Would you assess the current discourse on Israel as anti-Semitic?
Anti-Semitism certainly plays a major part. People don't like Jews. It's legitimate to dislike people. But anti-Semitism is liking Jews even less than is permissible in sane discourse.
Do you think that criticism of Israel is a way of using permissible discourse to express dislike of Jews?
When one goes to debates, such as [London Mayor Ken] Livingstone's [event last month, titled "A World Civilization or a Clash of Civilizations?" - at which he debated Middle East Forum director Daniel Pipes], the difference between legitimate criticism, based on rational arguments, and anti-Semitic criticism, not based on answerable facts, but rather on nonsense, becomes clear quite quickly.
What do you mean by "nonsense"?
The theme of the Livingstone event was multiculturalism. Its subtext was that the only intolerance one ever finds in London is that against Muslims.
Livingstone spoke very mellifluously. The only time he began to rant was when he was talking about Israel. The point he made was that Israel had no legitimacy - he even called its existence a "travesty."
When, in response, somebody asked him about the November 1947 UN vote for a Jewish state, he said: "Ah, the United Nations then was dominated and controlled by the United States, which didn't want the 100,000 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust to go to America, so it voted to establish the State of Israel to keep the Jews out."
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)
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Here is an interview with Sir Martin Gilbert, whom I mentioned last week as the author who provided the astonishing news that T. E. Lawrence was an ardent Zionist. This is what he says about antisemitism:
Monday, February 26, 2007
The question whether a book or an essay is antisemitic is sometimes hard to determine. As we have seen in the case of Mersheimer & Walt's "Israel Lobby" paper or Carter's recent book which slaps Israel with Apartheid tag. Jewish professors who provide well argued, factually grounded and historically reliable rebuttals are dismissed as "Jewish" therefore automatically suspect of trying to silence criticism of Israel. It's a well known ploy, often repeated without even an attempt to address the concerns raised by the challengers. That, in and of itself, smells badly, really badly. But nothing is more decisive on this matter when the book or the essay is being picked up by well known antisemites as desirable reading material for their constituencies. Thus we have seen David Duke linking to the M&W paper in his website and now, Louis Farrakhan urges his flock to read Carter's book, side by side with other explicitly hate literature such as
"... “The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews,” which claims that the slave trade was dominated by Jews; “The Secrets of the Federal Reserve,” which claims that the world’s banks are controlled by the Jews; and Carter’s “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which alleges that Israel has set up a de facto apartheid system for Palestinians in the West Bank.
Copies of “The Synagogue of Satan,” a book written by a Nation of Islam member which says that the world is being manipulated and corrupted by Satanic powers led by Jewish elites, were available for purchase at the event."
I guess this can serve as a rule of thumb for clinching the matter of whether something is antisemitic or not. Let's see who endorses it enthusiastically and why.
Ulrike Ackermann adds her commentary on the debate of multiculturalism kicked off by Pascal Bruckner's response to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash, and which I have been following here:
In praise of dissidence:
The sympathetic reading of Islam recalls that of
communism before 1989. At the time, the West's self-hatred and invalidation of
the accomplishments of free democracy were expressed in a generous
interpretation of communism. A similar phenomenon is to be seen in attitudes
towards Islam today, in large part thanks to its anti-capitalism and
anti-Americanism. Many Western intellectuals had reservations about eastern
European dissidents because they were only fighting for the so-called "bourgeois
liberties." Many dreamed at the time of a "third way" between capitalism and
communism. The analogy is evident in the terminology: Stalinism could be
criticised but communism was handled with kid gloves. Today, criticism of
Islamism is common sense, but criticism of Islam has to be conducted with
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Normblog poses the following question:
Questions you'd prefer not to answer
Here's something to worry about:
The Arrow is the successor to the American Patriot missile system used to shoot down Saddam's Scuds during the 1991 Gulf War. But where the Patriot attacks the incoming missile as it nears its target, the Arrow is designed to intercept a hostile missile much earlier, in the upper atmosphere.
From Israel's perspective this is a crucial advance, especially if the Iranians were to attempt to fire missiles armed with nuclear warheads. "There's no point shooting down a nuclear missile once it's over Israel - the devastation would be just the same," an Israeli military officer explained this week. "The idea is to take it out long before it hits Israel."
That would mean such a missile exploding somewhere over Iraq or Jordan, thereby potentially causing widespread devastation in those countries.It's not a case of 'innocent shields' exactly, but it raises similar issues. To save its cities, its people, may one country defend itself by transferring the potential cost of an attack by a second country to third and fourth countries? Does the second country bear the full responsibility for what happens by obliging the first one to defend itself in this way, because there is no other technically feasible method of shielding its population? Or is the responsibility for the devastation in the third and fourth countries shared by the first and second countries?
Well, it's a question of re-arranging the order of evacuation from the deck of the Titanic, isn't it? Who gets to be killed?
The answer seems obvious enough: When you navigate a ship in an area of the ocean known to be strewn with icebergs, you don't sleep on your post, or dismiss information as unlikely or implausible.
The world had better make damn sure that Iran does not get to launch a nuclear warhead at Israel.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
More depressing news:
The trial of student blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman, about whom I've written here, was concluded, as reported on "Pajama Media":
The four-year jail sentence of student blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman for the crimes of “contempt for religion” and “insulting the president” has dealt a harsh blow to the Egyptian blogosphere and free speech in the Middle East in the Internet age.
The popular blogger known as Sandmonkey reports from Cairo on Abdel Kareem’s story and the grave consequences of his case.
Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Soliman was sentenced to four years in prison yesterday in a Cairo court. He will sit in jail for three years for the crime of “contempt for religion” and one year for “insulting the president”.
For those of you who haven’t been following the case, welcome to the Middle East. They do indeed have crimes like that around here.
Almost as disturbing as the sentence was the public reaction. As the court hearing ended, the media moved to the street in front of the courthouse and started interviewing people about what they thought of the trial. With the exception of human rights activists and bloggers, the Egyptian public seemed satisfied with the verdict, if not disappointed it wasn’t longer.
Many people expressed the view that Abdel Kareem should be killed for what he wrote, and each of them shared their preferred way to kill him: stabbing, hanging, and of course, the classic beheading. One actually asked a lawyer if it was legal to now kill him, since this verdict clearly brands him as an apostate, and the Sharia punishment for an apostasy is death. People were talking about killing him in the most casual manner, as if he was no longer a human being to them.
(Via: Mick Hartley)
Friday, February 23, 2007
Stephen Pollard relays this little known story :
The "astonishing" truth, however, Gilbert went on, is that Lawrence was "a serious Zionist. He believed that the only hope for the Arabs of Palestine and the rest of the region was Jewish statehood - that if the Jews had a state here, they would provide the modernity, the 'leaven,' as he put it, with which to enable the Arabs to move into the 20th century."
I'm not perfectly surprised by this information. It makes sense, when we consider two known factors: First, That T.E. Lawrence was the cousin of Orde Charles Wingate, and that the Emir Feisal, Lawrence's good friend, looked favourably upon the Zionist project:
The McMahon Husayn correspondences were upstaged a year later by the Sykes Picot Agreement of 1916 (more). This agreement between Mark Sykes of Britain and Georges Picot of France proposed to divide Ottoman lands into zones of influence and control for France and Great Britain. The language of Sykes Picot did allow for lands to be controlled to a certain extent by Arab powers of the region, but the wording was very clear that France and Great Britain would enjoy rights that preceded issues of sovereignty in those areas. This agreement made it impossible for Great Britain to honor the terms of the McMahon Husayn correspondences.
Then in 1917 came the Balfour Declaration, which in no uncertain terms pledged the British Government's support for the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Palestine. At the time of this declaration, the Jewish resettlement of Palestine had been well underway but there were still only some 80,000 to 100,000 Jews out of a population of some 780,000 persons. In spite of this, the Zionist movement addressed the Paris Peace Conference outlining their proposals for a Jewish state in the land of Palestine. That same year, Zionist leader Dr. Chaim Weizmann met with the son of Sherif Husayn (Hussein) of Mecca in Aqaba and together they signed a document which pledged Arab support for the Balfour Declaration in exchange for support in establishing independent Arab states in Syria and Iraq.
From a letter by Emir Feisal to Felix Frankfurter, March 3, 1919.
"I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of civilised peoples of the world."
Antisemites' Cognitive Dissonance:
As per Karl Pfeifer's article posted here, some interesting comments follow:
"I suppose everyone has noticed the graffiti: 'Viva Palestina Libre', and 'Judios Go Home' -presumably to 'Palestina'. The paradoxical nature of antisemitism and certain strains of Venezuelan anti-Zionism. "
"Chavez has also met with Nasrallah and has expressed his support for Hezbollah. The Argentian government believes that Hezbollah is behind the bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center. This is all very worrying and is completely ignored by the left."
"Yeah - "Jews go home", "Viva Palestine" - where were they expecting the Jews to "go home" to? Reminds me of what Amos Oz said a few years back - that in the early 20th century, the rallying cry among European anti-Semites was "Jews go to Palestine", whereas now it's "Jews get out of Palestine". According to some people, Jews don't seem to "belong" anywhere."
"Evan, it really happened in 1967 when Arab students demonstrated in Budapest and shouted in the street "Jews out of Palestine". Some old Non-Jewish members of the communist party went to Kádár and told him, in 1939 the arrow cross people shouted "Jews to Palestine" now Arabs shout "Jews out of Palestine". Kádár gave order and all Arab demonstrations against Israel were banned from the streets. They could only protest in places closed to the general Hungarian public."
This sort of cognitive dissonance between one demand and its direct opposite is not only typical of the confusion of antisemitic thinking. I remember someone advocating Israel's legitimacy and right for security while at the same breath maintaining that Britain (or the Europeans) should apologize to the Palestinians for the creation of Israel.
Something about Jews, and Israel, a Jewish state, causes people's logical compass to get all screwed up.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Stuart Sim, here , joins the debate about multiculturalism.
In this post here, I quoted the following:
"Ghalioun points out, "There is a kind of undeclared, practical alliance between the political dictatorship and the dictatorship of the religious authority"
And here and here is the most recent example of how this alliance works:
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- An Egyptian blogger was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday in Egypt's first prosecution of a blogger.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, had pleaded innocent to all charges, and human rights groups had called for his release.
Nabil, who used the blogger name Kareem Amer, had sharply criticized Al-Azhar on his Web log, calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of suppressing free thought. He also often criticized Mubarak's regime on the blog.
In one post, he said Al-Azhar University "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is not place for differences in this life."
He was a vocal critic of conservative Muslims and in other posts described Mubarak's regime as a "symbol of dictatorship."
Harry's Place also has a post on Kareem.
Karl Pfeifer writes about official antisemitism in Venezuela:
Commenting on the September visit to Caracas by Iranian fanatic president Ahmadinejad, Freddy Pressner, head of the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, expressed outrage, citing the Iranian leader's open denial of the Holocaust and his statements about erasing Israel from the face of planet. Chavez's bloc with Iran is making Venezuelan Jews worry about their own security for the first time.
Sammy Eppel, a Caracas-based columnist, addressed the deepening antisemitism in Venezuela in his presentation at a recent conference, in Budapest, of the Tel Aviv University-based Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism. In his lecture, he revealed that he had found no fewer than 195 examples of antisemitic content in the official and pro-government media in a 65-day period ending on 31 August 2006
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
This is a funny on broccoli . I remember George Bush père confessing to a guilty aversion of broccoli. What has this green, innocent, wholesome vegetable done to deserve such an outpour of scorn, I wonder?
In a recent effective speech in New Hampshire, Newt Gingrich warns about the "genuine Danger of Terrorism" . He says:
The third thing I want to talk about very briefly is
the genuine danger of terrorism, in particular terrorists using weapons of mass
destruction and weapons of mass murder, nuclear and biological weapons. And I
want to suggest to you that right now we should be impaneling people to look
seriously at a level of supervision that we would never dream of if it weren't
for the scale of threat.
Let me give you two examples. When the British this
summer arrested people who were planning to blow up ten airliners in one day,
they arrested a couple who were going to use their six month old baby in order
to hide the bomb as baby milk.
Now, if I come to you tonight and say that there
are people on the planet who hate you, and they are 15-25 year old males who are
willing to die as long as they get to kill you, I've simply described the
warrior culture which has been true historically for 6 or 7 thousand
But, if I come to you and say that there is a couple that hates you so
much that they will kill their six month old baby in order to kill you, I am
describing a level of ferocity, and a level of savagery beyond anything we have
tried to deal with.
Gingrich chooses to illustrate his thesis about the potential he senses in today's Islamist terrorism by focussing on the horror of suicide bombing. This reminds me directly of Martin Amis's "The age of horrorism"
" Suicide-mass murder is astonishingly alien, so alien, in fact, that Western opinion has been unable to formulate a rational response to it. A rational response would be something like an unvarying factory siren of unanimous disgust. But we haven't managed that. What we have managed, on the whole, is a murmur of dissonant evasion. Paul Berman's best chapter, in Terror and Liberalism, is mildly entitled 'Wishful Thinking' - and Berman is in general a mild-mannered man. But this is a very tough and persistent analysis of our extraordinary uncertainty. It is impossible to read it without cold fascination and a consciousness of disgrace. I felt disgrace, during its early pages, because I had done it too, and in print, early on. Contemplating intense violence, you very rationally ask yourself, what are the reasons for this? And compassionately frowning newscasters are still asking that same question. It is time to move on. We are not dealing in reasons because we are not dealing in reason.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Nassralah is depressed, according to Yoni the blogger. Here is a second opinion.
I remember to visit Yoni's blog about one a week or so. I am not a great fan because his opinions are too harsh too often. For example, while I share his grave concern about the quality of Israel's leadership, I can't stand characterizations of this type here:
"So Olmert leaves office and Israel has elections and we have a new Prime
Minister wo is part of the gang of cowards, scum and traitors and are in the
Knesset, what have we solved?"
Jimmy Carter Update, here too: If former President Jimmy Carter was a university _______________ Where did former president Carter get the comparison between the racial segregation in his country and the South African apartheid regime? The answer lies in the funding for the Carter Center. As it emerges from an article published by lawyer and law professor Alan Dershowitz from the United States, the Center receives generous contributions from Arab rulers. Israel is the victim of anti-Israelism, which is nothing more than a camouflage for anti-Semitism and a refusal to recognize the historical link between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and the right of the Jewish People to self-determination. Carter’s allies are Iranian president Ahmadinejad and the Palestinian terror organizations, which are not interested in the solution which Israel is interested in—two states for two peoples—but for the destruction of Israel. __________ And sure enough, ... les fleurs du mal... Beryl Wajsman on a Week of Infamy Overlapping this display of expedient hypocrisy that has sadly become the defining feature of EU response to international Islamist butchery, were the Israel Apartheid Week manifestations of the usual collection of Islamo-Fascist gauleiters from the Arab world and their fellow-travellers in academic and diplomatic circles in the west. These events sought to portray Israel as an apartheid-era South Africa in relation to its Arab citizens. They took place in eight cities from Oxford to New York to Montreal. More here
professor engaged in scholarly research, he’d be laughed off campus. Carter
apparently doesn’t have enough faith in his own work to defend it.
In making the speaking tour rounds to promote his book,
Carter has insisted on carefully controlled situations, with little or no
opportunity for critics to confront him on the book’s conclusions. That led 11
faculty members at Emory University to suggest formally that when Carter appears
there this week, he should not be permitted to escape without engaging in
debate..... unless he agrees to answer the critics, he should not expect his
conclusions to be accepted.
If former President Jimmy Carter was a university
Where did former president Carter get the comparison between the racial segregation in his country and the South African apartheid regime? The answer lies in the funding for the Carter Center. As it emerges from an article published by lawyer and law professor Alan Dershowitz from the United States, the Center receives generous contributions from Arab rulers.
Israel is the victim of anti-Israelism, which is nothing more than a camouflage for anti-Semitism and a refusal to recognize the historical link between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and the right of the Jewish People to self-determination. Carter’s allies are Iranian president Ahmadinejad and the Palestinian terror organizations, which are not interested in the solution which Israel is interested in—two states for two peoples—but for the destruction of Israel.
And sure enough, ... les fleurs du mal...
Beryl Wajsman on a Week of Infamy
Overlapping this display of expedient hypocrisy that has sadly become the defining feature of EU response to international Islamist butchery, were the Israel Apartheid Week manifestations of the usual collection of Islamo-Fascist gauleiters from the Arab world and their fellow-travellers in academic and diplomatic circles in the west. These events sought to portray Israel as an apartheid-era South Africa in relation to its Arab citizens. They took place in eight cities from Oxford to New York to Montreal.
I've collected a few memorable quotes encountered on the Internet that appeal to me either as examples of splendid cleverness and incisiveness or examples of galactically stupid pointlessness. Let the reader be the judge which is which.
There are fair-weather friends and foul-weather friends,
but the strangest friends of all are those who display
their commitment to you only when they publicly criticise you.
It’s as annoying as an incomplete simile.
I went late this afternoon also and again was reminded that I am for shooting mothers and their children who ride around in those huge carriages. Jesus. Children should not be allowed in stores, parents should leave them strapped in their big SUVs where they can't get in my way.
Poster in a discussion group
Poster A: ..nor did I mention a democracy gene which I .. do believe .. is generally inherent in man as it is in many other animals. I guess another thing you know nothing about is animals. Why am I not surprised?
Poster B: I don't know. But my lack of knowledge makes me even more interested to hear your theories about animal democracy. So, any time you're ready . . .
Poster C: Well, it happens in cartoons.
Overheard on a discussion in the (since defunct) Charlie Rose Message Board
More of the same, later.
THE USES AND ABUSES OF MULTICULTURALISM Amartya Sen
One of the central issues concerns how human beings are
seen. Should they be categorized in terms of inherited traditions, particularly
the inherited religion, of the community in which they happen to have been born,
taking that unchosen identity to have automatic priority over other affiliations
involving politics, profession, class, gender, language, literature, social
involvements, and many other connections? Or should they be understood as
persons with many affiliations and associations, whose relative priorities they
must themselves choose (taking the responsibility that comes with reasoned
choice)? Also, should we assess the fairness of multiculturalism primarily by
the extent to which people from different cultural backgrounds are "left alone,"
or by the extent to which their ability to make reasoned choices is positively
supported by the social opportunities of education and participation in civil
society? There is no way of escaping these rather foundational questions if
multiculturalism is to be fairly assessed.
.... "having entrusted her historical appreciation to Chomsky she can come
up with dogmatic assertions such as: "The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was
a cold, calculated experiment carried out to demonstrate America's power. At the
time, President Truman described it as 'the greatest thing in history'." The
origin of Ms Roy's statement is probably Chomsky's own assertion 40 years ago in
a debate in the New York Review of Books that "the bombing of Nagasaki, in particular, was history's most abominable experiment", but at least Chomsky appears to have become warier of this claim. In his 1996 book of interviews (one of so very many books of this type) Class Warfare, he states (emphasis added): "My impression is that the Nagasaki bomb was basically an experiment.... Somebody ought to check this out, I'm not certain."
..."Truman did, by the way, say to the officer who handed him news of the
Hiroshima bombing: "Captain Graham, this is the greatest thing in history." It
doesn't appear to have occurred to Arundhati Roy that "greatest thing" in this
context might have meant "most awesome event" rather than "that's simply
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Hearts and minds: Why the USA is admired in Eastern European countries while it is scorned in Arab lands:
Al Hayat 28.01.2007 (Lebanon)
A special supplement addresses the relationship between the Arab World and the USA. The Syrian dissident Yassin al-Haj Saleh asks why the USA enjoys such a good reputation in Eastern Europe while it is finds no sympathy in Arab countries. "While the USA supported the liberals in Eastern Europe against the Soviet camp, it supported the conservative and radical Islamic groups in the Middle East. Thus the USA helped to promote the 'terror', the combating of which in a five year American war has cost the Arab World more than everyone else. While the Cold War was drawing to an end in the late 1980s, the security, political, and ideological 'regimes' of this era lived on in our part of the world until September 2001. It was then replaced by nearly imperialistic politics. It is not insignificant that the new American policies in the Middle East revolve around the war against terror with all the military and security priorities that this implies, whereas in its policies on Asia and Europe, the USA makes globalisation the central focus."
An unholy alliance:
In an excerpt from his book "What's Left?" Observer columnist Nick Cohen asks why the Left is willing to support a fascist regime as long as its anti-Western. For example, Saddam Hussein. His regime demonised the European Left for as long as the West supported it – and now that the war has ended? "I waited for a majority of the liberal Left to offer qualified support for a new Iraq, and I kept on waiting, because it never happened - not just in Britain, but also in the United States, in Europe, in India, in South America, in South Africa ... in every part of the world where there was a recognisable liberal Left. They didn't think again when thousands of Iraqis were slaughtered by 'insurgents' from the Baath party, which wanted to re-establish the dictatorship, and from al-Qaeda, which wanted a godly global empire to repress the rights of democrats, the independent-minded, women and homosexuals. They didn't think again when Iraqis defied the death threats and went to vote on new constitutions and governments. Eventually, I grew tired of waiting for a change that was never going to come and resolved to find out what had happened to a Left whose benevolence I had taken for granted."
In the justapposition between Haj Saleh's and Nick Cohen's respective puzzlements, lies a potential for an answer and a recovery of the benevolent Left whose demise Cohen laments.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The suffocation and fear that totalitarianism imposes on the creative mind are well known and recorded, from the various criminal regimes that came and went during the twentieth century. Ghalioun was interviewed on Al-Jazeera television
Arab Writers' Union - a racist body of state-enslaved intellectuals...
Najem Wali, an Iraqi writer who lives in Berlin, explains:
About a month ago, the Arab Writers Union held a general
meeting in Cairo. Representatives of subdivisions from all Arab countries
attended, with the exception of Iraq. This is nothing new for Iraqi writers;
they also missed the conferences in Damascus in 2004 and Algiers in 2005. What
is new is that the president of the Egyptian writer's union, previously known in
his capacity as secretary to Naguib Mahfouz, explained to journalists before the conference that all subdivisions of the union had been invited with the exception of "the union that was created by the Iraqi government following the occupation." This union was suspected of maintaining relations "with the Zionist enemy."
Maybe the president of the Egyptian union, already known to be destined to become the president of the umbrella organisation, simply wanted to spare the Iraqis the arduous trip to Cairo so that they wouldn't be subjected to the indignity of being thrown out of their hotel (Arabian hospitality!), as happened in 2005 in Algiers – although the three conferences were financed by the Arab League, to which the currently "occupied" Iraq is proud to belong.
Anyone who seriously believes that the Iraqi delegation was excluded for the reasons named by the president will be chastened to learn that all Arab writers unions, including the Egyptian, are financed and overseen by the politicians of their respective countries. The accusation of collaboration with the "Zionist enemy" is an invention of the Arabic racist lexicon, a chewing gum term for local, supposedly "revolutionary" consumption and for official professional promotion.
French-Syrian Burhan Ghalioun is another Arab author who dares speak "truth to power", as described here:
suggesting why things might even be worse. It is to Al-Jazeera's credit that it
let him appear and say these things - though, ironically, the same station is a
prime example of the problem he exposed. What is new, Ghalioun explained, is the
growing control of radical Islamist clerics over the media.
Arab societies," he explained, "are
held hostage by two authorities." One is "political dictatorship - arrogant
dictators, who are inhuman in their oppression of liberties, and in their
crushing and humiliation of the individual." The other are the opposition
clerics "who tyrannize Arab public opinion nowadays."
Ghalioun points out, "There is a kind of undeclared, practical alliance between the political dictatorship and the dictatorship of the religious authority"
Ghalioun was interviewed on Al-Jazeera television
Found this refreshing outlook from Iranian intellectuals about the Holocaust Denial conference:
"Iranian intelligentsia in diaspora unite against revisionism"
On the same blog, I also found this review concerning President Carter's glorious past which too many people on the Indecent Left like to ignore today. Like the subject of the article, they prefer to simply remove from history any fact that does not sit well, or cannot be made to conform with their less-than-hidden agenda...
It kind of makes the whole inshalata triply ironic, since Carter's latest book about "Palestine's Apartheid" really hints at the same mindset that produced the Holocaust Denial conference. Ahmadinejad, in his student days, was a mover and shaker of the American Hostage Crisis in Tehran when Carter was the American president. Today, Carter's revisionism is joined by the brainchild of the now President of Iran, who happens to be the same man, in what ultimately amounts to an assault on Israel's legitimacy . See what I mean about the ironies of history? Isn't it simply wonderful to observe such unlikely rivals reunite, and where, if not around and about Jews? They both share the same insouciant, endearing smile, the utter faith in their respective Gods, the absolute conviction that they are just right, as though by decree! And those who will challenge and rebutt their ridiculous claims are just out to silence free debate and genuine freedom of speech!
The proximity of the recent onslaughts on Israel and by-association, Jews, has been noted by others, as in here, here and here.
" But Sharia law and western democracy are certainly
incompatible. There is no way to talk away this incompatibility by vague
reference to multiculturalism."
The debate between Multiculturalism and Enlightenment continues. Yes, it seems to have come to this, Multiculturlaism effectively representing Muslims' concerns in the Western world while Enlightenment is increasingly regarded as a fundamentalism no less dangerous that any other type.
Lars Gustaffson :
The idea is obviously that western rationality is a set of dogmas, in no way different from other dogmatic outlooks and demands on the world. Under the dubious pretext of multiculturalism, we are supposed to be obliged to treat all dogmas, all possible authoritarian political and moral demands with equal respect.
This is of course impossible. Not only because the concept of "culture" is an extremely fuzzy one. At the core is the confusion between dogma and rationality, between Buckley's infallible beliefs and infallible arguments.
Religious creeds and scientific rationality, which is the basis of Western democracy are simply not in competition. There is no Christian or Muslim approach to, say, biochemistry. Religions are obviously not based on empirical observation, measurement, logical inference and deduction.
But more important; the demands of all "cultures" are not compatible. Of course monotheists, atheists and polytheists should (in the ideal case) be able to live peacefully side by side. But Sharia law and western democracy, orthodox biblical family law which demands capital punishment for gay relations and modern family law – which in most progressive countries permits between persons of same gender – are certainly incompatible. There is no way to talk away this incompatibility by vague reference to multiculturalism.
And from Ophelia Benson:
Buruma notes that he says different things in different contexts, then talks to Scott Appleby, who tried to get Ramadan to Notre Dame.
He is accused of being Janus-faced. Well, of course he
presents different faces to different audiences. He is trying to bridge a divide
and bring together people of diverse backgrounds and worldviews. He considers
the opening he finds in his audience. Ramadan is in that sense a
Okay. Fair point. He is trying to bridge a divide; he is a politician. Okay; but then that does tell us that what he says and writes is not necessarily entirely reliable. It's as well to be aware of that.
Just as Marxists claim a universal validity for their
political ideology, Ramadan says he believes that religious principles, as
revealed in the Koran, are universal. It was as a universalist that Ramadan
promoted the right of Muslim women to wear the veil at French schools. “Rights
are rights,” he said, “and to demand them is a right.”
How about the right of Muslim women to be confined to the house, forbidden to drive, forbidden to travel without the permission of a male relative? Is it as a universalist that Ramadan promotes those rights? How about the right to be stoned to death for adultery? Or, to put it another way, how about the right of people to reject the 'universal' religious principles 'as revealed in the Koran'? Does he take that to be a right?
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Dante's catalogue of horrors in the "Inferno" "pales in comparison" to a new collection of stories by Tadeusz Borowski , an Polish Auschwitz susvivor who put an end to his life six years after liberation. The stories are told in a morally-neutral manner, bereft of both empathy or an attempt to affect the reader.
Arno Lustiger, Borowski's Auschwitz comrade No. A 5592, reviews the book in a somewhat similar attempt to keep it free of sentiment or judgement:
Every day, the Kapos played football on a pitch surrounded by flowers within sight of the unloading ramp where Jews were constantly arriving by train. Borowski, who played in goal, writes: "I walked back with the ball and passed it to the corner. Between two corners, three thousand people had been gassed behind my back."
To see his fiancee more often, he had himself assigned to the roofing unit, whose members were able to move freely within the whole of the camp, including the women's section. Tadeusz Borowski and Maria Rundo saw each other every day, often even able to be alone together. As a roofer, he also worked in the section of the camp known as "Canada" where articles taken from murdered Jews were kept, including clothes, jewellery, and other valuables, including 7.7 tons of human hair. Here he had contact with the prisoners who belonged to the Sonderkommandos or Special Units, whose horrific tasks included moving the dead from the gas chambers to the ovens of the crematoria. He enjoyed privileges which normal, insignificant inmates could not even dream of.
This review joins a list of enquiries I've been meditating upon for a long time now. On what it meant, how possible it was, to maintain a moral infrastructure in the brutally shrunken universe of Auschwitz, which was stripped of morally-viable choices. What is the function of hope in such a universe?
"It is hope that makes people walk apathetically into the gas chamber, makes them shrink back from uprising ... Hope that tears apart family bonds, makes mothers reject their children, makes women sell themselves for a piece of bread and turns men into killers. Hope makes them fight for each day of life, for maybe the next day will bring liberation ... We did not learn to renounce hope, and that is why we died in the gas."
Hope, says Borowski, in Auschwitz translated directly into corruption of proper feeling and reason.
I was thinking about the concept of hope when reading A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM by Edgar Allan Poe . Poe in his oeuvre tried to grapple with imaginary moments of sheer terror as Dante did in his "Inferno". And seems to have accepted that the way to redemption, any sort of redemption, is only through ""Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" or "Abandon all hope, you who enter here" .
Viktor Frankl , also a susrvivor of the death camps, seems to have come face to face with the inverse universe Borowski narrates for our benefit. He saw morality turned inside out, like some obscene creature which nature did not intend, and still he could say this:
We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Borrowski, in fact, did not survive Auschwitz.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I stumbled upon this article today. It speaks to the strange phenomenon which I and others have noted about the chosen way of German liberals to expiate for the guilt of their crushing past.
All the while, the debate on the Middle East, conducted by few major
voices, was accompanied by the bass tone of the German past, impossible to
ignore. But like a broken record, it's stuck on "Never again Auschwitz" – widely
acknowledged to be an empty phrase that can be filled with anything at all.
Leftist German pacifists, who have designed their lives to be the anti-thesis of
their Nazi fathers' or grandfathers', demonstrate (as in Berlin in July) "side
by side" with Arabs yelling "death to the Jews"! But nobody sees a scandal * in
How come Germans "pacifists" are trying to unroll the damage their past had inflicted on the Jewish people by joining and supporting so whole-heartedly and mindlessly their enemies? Isn't there a barely subconscious desire here, that if only Jews were shown to be as ruthless and brutal as Nazis, then the guilt over their genocide might be alleviated? Isn't it an attempt to cancel out the guilt by posing the Jews as morally mutant as their annihilators and therefore ignorable? And how do they deal with the affection Hizzbulla and Hamas demonstrate for Hitler? How does that fact sit in with Germans' acceptance of the evil that Nazism was?
How can't they see the parallel between Haj Amin Al-Husseini's friendship with Hitler, predicated upon their common desire to see Jews disappear, and their own friendship with the ideological offspring of Husseini, predicated on a desire to see the Jewish state disappear?
There is a danse macabre taking place. Poor poor Germans, collapsing under the weight of all that guilt. They really cannot forgive the Jews for the Holocaust.
* Scandal: 1581, "discredit caused by irreligious conduct," from M.Fr. scandale, from L.L. scandalum "cause for offense, stumbling block, temptation," from Gk. skandalon "stumbling block," originally "trap with a springing device," from PIE *skand- "jump" (see scan; cf. also slander). Attested from c.1225, but the modern word is a reborrowing. Meaning "malicious gossip" is from 1596; sense of "person whose conduct is a disgrace" is from 1634. Scandalize (1489) originally meant "make a public scandal of;" sense of "shock by doing something improper" first recorded 1647. Scandal sheet "sensational newspaper" is from 1939.
Sorry to break the lovey mood with this report, intercepted here:
"A member of the Egyptian Parliament from President Hosni Mubarak's ruling
party said Monday that nothing short of a nuclear bomb would "work" with Israel.
"That cursed Israel is trying to destroy Al-Aksa Mosque," Mohamed
el-Katatny of Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) told the Egyptian
Parliament, adding "nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that
wipes it out of existence."
The harsh statement was uttered during a heated discussion of Israel's
renovation of the Mughrabi walkway near the Temple Mount. Egyptian
parliamentarians claimed that Israel was destroying the Al-Aksa Mosque.
Looks like some Arabs are pining for Iranian moral leadership.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Aspects of Love II
If You Forget Me
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon,
at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.
If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me
at the shore of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.
if each day,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Bernard Lewis tries to make historical sense here:
...the breakup of the Soviet Union ended an era. We are back to the
struggle inside and outside Islam for control of the world. Israel isn’t the
Sunni establishment’s main worry.
...The struggle is always the Muslims against the rest. The aim is to bring
Islam to the rest of humanity. It is the duty of the Muslims; the Christians are
the second player in the “game”.
There is an ongoing battle between the two religions. In the seventh century, the Muslims managed to conquer parts of France and Spain. The second successful attempt was during the Ottoman Empire, and reached the gates of Vienna. Now we are witnessing a third attempt in the hope that this time they will have greater success. Studying Muslim articles, we can see that the battle has already begun.
There are battles over who will lead this struggle. The Saudi-Wahabi
version is represented by Bin Laden, another version is the Shiite version which
began with the first Iranian Revolution and this is the second which is taking
The second important change at the end of the Napoleonic era was an
increase in inner conflict in the region, which sometimes occurred within the
Arab world. Today the struggle is assuming more traditional characteristics as a
struggle between Sunni and Shia. Some say that the difference between them is
like the differences between Catholics and Protestants. But when I ask them “In
Islam, which are the Catholics and which are the Protestants” there is no answer
to the question so the definition is meaningless.
The differences are significant, especially today when Shia rebirth is
taking place. There is overuse of the word “revolution” in the Middle East. You
practically have to declare yourself a revolutionary to get legitimacy. However,
the Iranian one was real like the Russian and French ones, and its impact, which
went far beyond the borders of Iran, are still being felt. The second stage,
which is now taking place, is also having effect far beyond Iran’s borders, and
therefore is a real threat to the west and the Sunni establishment.
And tangentially related is this article:
It is precisely this suicidal outlook that distinguishes the Iranian nuclear weapons program from those of all other countries and makes it uniquely dangerous. As long ago as 1980, Khomeini put it this way: "We do not worship Iran, we worship Allah. For patriotism is another name for paganism. I say let this land [Iran] burn. I say let this land go up in smoke, provided Islam emerges triumphant in the rest of the world."
Anyone inclined to dismiss the significance of such statements might want to consider the proclamation made by Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who stands even higher in the Iranian hierarchy than Ahmadinejad. A few months ago, on November 16, 2006, Rahimian explained: "The Jew"--not the Zionist, note, but the Jew--"is the most obstinate enemy of the devout. And the main war will determine the destiny of mankind. . . . The reappearance of the Twelfth Imam will lead to a war between Israel and the Shia." The country that has been the first to make Holocaust denial a principle of its foreign policy is likewise the first openly to threaten another U.N. member state with, not invasion or annexation, but annihilation.
Yet it's all confusing. Why, if Iran wishes Israel ill, does it deny the Holocaust rather than applaud it? Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial has been especially well received in the Arab world, where it has won praise from Hezbollah, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Yet in the Arab world, Hitler is admired not for building highways or conquering Paris, but for murdering Jews. How can Holocaust denial be most prevalent in a region where admiration for Hitler remains widespread? To unlock this paradox it is necessary to examine the anti-Semitic mind.
Aspects of Love I:
It's Valentine's week, again, a time I like to ruminate on the nature of love, all types of love (Eros, Philia, Agape). But the most irresistible, of course, is that love we attribute to Eros, amores perros as the Spanish tells us, or l'amour fou, its French counterpart. That complex of attraction, pain and desire that we so willingly inflict upon ourselves.
Jose Ortega y Gasset, “Meditations on Don Quixote” on the strong emotions that shape us:
“Love.. binds us to things, even if only temporarily. If we ask ourselves what
new character an object acquires when it is approached with love, what we feel
when we love a woman, when we love science, when we love our country, the first
thing we shall find is this: what we say we love appears to us as something
indispensable. The beloved object is, for the moment, indispensable. That is to
say, we cannot live without it; we cannot accept an existence in which we should
be bereft of the beloved object, for we consider it part of ourselves. There is,
therefore, in love an extension of the individuality, which absorbs other things
into it, which united them to us. … Love is a divine architect who, according to
Plato.. came down to the world ‘so that everything in the universe might be
Here are two of the greatest love scenes recorded in English Literature, from my two absolutely favourite novels:
Pride and Prejudice:
Darcy's most vehement declaration of love followed by Lizzy's mighty slap...
"In vain have I struggled…"
And a different couple altogether, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester
"It's my spirit that addresses your spirit..."
This is an older version with a much too pretty Sussanah York as Jane. I thought the music was the best feature of this version.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Israel as an undesirable fact
Tony Judt is quoted in this piece in today's Observer as saying he has never denied Israel's right to exist.
Strictly, this is accurate, at least for all I know. But Judt nonetheless obscures the meaning of what he has argued. Here's his disclaimer:
'I've never said Israel doesn't have a right to exist. I'm not actually sure that anyone in what we would call the respectable political mainstream ever has.'.....'The issue is not whether Israel has a right to exist,' Judt says plainly, 'Israel does exist. It exists just like Belgium or Kuwait or any other country which was invented at some point in the past and is now a fact. The question is what kind of a state Israel should be. That's all.'
Note that Judt's emphasis on the fact of Israel's existence is not to the point. Bob might recognize as a fact the union between his daughter and the ne'er-do-well she's shacked up with, yet not accept it as being a legitimate one - like a marriage - because he believes that this could only have come with his permission, which he hasn't given, and be properly effected in a church, which never happened. In the same way, it's possible to acknowledge the fact of Israel's existence without accepting its right to exist - a viewpoint that I haven't had to invent.
Tony Judt may not have denied Israel's right to exist, but what he has done is to propose that Israel is an anachronism, and that we should 'think the unthinkable' about it: this being that there may be 'no place in the world today for a "Jewish state"', and that the resolution of the problems in the region lies, instead, in 'a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians'. What he recommends, therefore, is that even if it has a right to exist, Israel should not avail itself of that right, but should set it aside by dissolving itself into a wider binational entity. Unlike France or Germany or Sweden etc. - see Michael Walzer's riposte (scroll down) - Israel should forego the right of statehood. It's not accurate, therefore, for Judt to say:
The question is what kind of a state Israel should be. That's all.It isn't all. What he here obscures is that he has put in question the desirability of Israel's future existence as a (majority) Jewish state. A binational state of Jews and Arabs would no longer be just another form of Israel. That's playing with words.
Michael Waltzer takes issue (a bit dated but hardly outdated):
Tony Judt believes that it is a hopeless task to persuade Israeli Jews to remove 200,000 of their fellows from the West Bank and Gaza. So he wants to persuade them instead, all five million of them, to give up political sovereignty and remove themselves from the society of states. The craziness of the proposal is matched, of course, by everyone else's craziness when it comes to Israel/Palestine, but it does have its own peculiar features. Here is a state with the strongest army in the region, with a nuclear arsenal, a flourishing economy that provides (despite today's hard times) a Euro-American standard of living, and the only democratic political system in the whole of the Middle East. And Judt proposes to make it disappear. It is a nineteenth-century nation-state, and the nation-state is, as we all know, an anachronism: away with it!
Ridding the world of the nation-state is an interesting, if not a new, idea. But why start with Israel? Why not start with France—which is, after all, the original nation-state? The French led the way into this parochial political structure that, in violation of all the tenets of advanced opinion, privileges a particular people, history, and language. Let them lead the way out. Or the Germans, or the Swedes, or the Bulgarians, or the Japanese, all of whom have enjoyed those "privileges" much longer than the Jews.
But the real problem with Judt's proposal is not that it unfairly focuses on a single nation-state. Israel is, after all, an occupying power, at war with another people. The real problem is that Judt's proposal would simply replace one nation-state with another. In the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, there will, within a decade or so, be a Palestinian majority. And a Palestinian majority will, sooner or later, make a Palestinian state. This is the explicit goal of Palestinian nationalists, and the recent history of the movement hardly suggests that they have given it up. They would ask the same question I have asked: If the nation-state is to be abolished, why should we go first? (And they would think it no more than marginally better to go second.)
Judt, of course, has another goal in mind. He wants a state in which Jews and Arabs will simply be individual citizens, just like Americans—though with this important difference: that their security and political rights will have to be "guaranteed by international forces." If military power rules in Israel/Palestine, the rights of the Arabs will have to be guaranteed; if numbers rule, the rights of the Jews will have to be guaranteed. Judt must be thinking of some other set of international forces than the ones we know in the world today, which have failed so tragically to guarantee even the minimal safety of Bosnians, Rwandans, Timorese, Sudanese, and—well, it is a long list. What political leader, what political intellectual, in his right mind would entrust the fate of people he cared about to "international forces"?
The truth is that the Jews would rapidly depart from Judt's imaginary post-national state, since its creation (Judt tells us nothing about the creative process) would represent a definitive defeat for Zionism. Or, better, those who were able would depart, and the rest would find themselves a very vulnerable minority in a Palestinian nation-state that would doubtless have (as Judt writes of Israel) "more in common with...post-Habsburg Romania than [its leaders] might care to acknowledge." But I suspect that Romania would be an upscale reference.
So what is the alternative? It seems obvious to me: two anachronistic states are better than one. Judt says that this was "once a possible and just solution." He can't really believe this, given his view of nation-states, but it is kind of him to tell us that the solution preferred by most Israelis and most Palestinians would once have been all right with him. In fact this solution is still both possible and just: two states divided by the 1967 lines, with two privileged peoples, two privileged languages, two privileged histories, two laws of return—the whole anachronistic thing.
The difficulties are as great as Judt suggests—greater, in fact, since he focuses on the policies of the far-right Israeli government and has little to say about Palestinian nationalism or Islamic radicalism. These are the enemies of the historic compromise that seemed so close in 1993 and again in 2000. The greatest threat to the future of Israel as a Jewish state comes from the government of Israel, and the greatest threat to Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza comes from the PLO. Israelis who oppose the settler movement have been greatly weakened by the terrorist attacks; Palestinians who want to co-exist with Israel have been greatly weakened by the steady expansion of the settlements. But all this just sets the dimensions of our political task. Judt's fantasy is escapist, but it offers no practical escape from the work of repressing the terrorist organizations and withdrawing from the Occupied Territories.
Every opinion poll shows that a majority of Israelis and Palestinians want the two- state solution. The US government is formally committed to it; so are the Europeans. There is still time to enforce it. And afterward, when the French, Germans, Swedes, Bulgarians, and Japanese begin to worry about their anachronistic politics, Jews and Palestinians will be able to join them.
Michael WalzerProfessor of Social Science
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, New Jersey
I've been wondering about this statement:
"Tony Judt is quoted in this piece in today's Observer as saying he has never denied Israel's right to exist."
Apart from the single-minded callousness of such an assertion (he does not say he does not deny Syria's, or Jordan or Belgium's right to exist, only Israel), could one discern the beginning of a certain, feeble, ignominious attempt at back-pedaling?
Friday, February 09, 2007
That was a bit premature.
Irshad Manji takes on Jimmy Carter's thesis:
Modern Israel is a far cry from old South Africa
Here are some choice paragraphs:
Which is why Carter's new book disappoints so many of us who champion co-existence. Entitled Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the book argues that Israel's conduct towards Palestinians mimics South Africa's long-time demonisation of blacks. Of course, certain Israeli politicians have spewed venom at Palestinians, as have some Arab leaders towards Jews, but Israel is far more complex - and diverse - than slogans about the occupation would suggest. In a state practising apartheid, would Arab Muslim legislators wield veto power over anything? At only 20per cent of the population, would Arabs even be eligible for election if they squirmed under the thumb of apartheid? Would an apartheid state extend voting rights to women and thepoor in local elections, which Israel didfor the first time in the history of Palestinian Arabs?
Above all, would media debate the most basic building blocks of the nation? Would a Hebrew newspaper in an apartheid state run an article by an Arab Israeli about why the Zionist adventure has been a total failure? Would it run that article on Israel's independence day? Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East, a press so free that it can demonstrably abuse its liberties and keep on rolling? To this day, the East Jerusalem daily Al-Quds hasn't retracted an anti-Israel letter supposedly penned by Nelson Mandela but proven to have been written by an Arab living in The Netherlands.
I disagree: some people still need to be told that Arab "freedoms" don't compare to those of Israel. The people who need reminding are those who now push the South Africa analogy a step further by equating Israel with Nazi Germany. To them, Zionists are committing hate crimes under the totalitarian nightmare that they dub "Zio-Nazism" (like neo-Nazism).
And so on and so forth. Manji's principled thinking and disciplined passion are always illuminating. I like the cool heat she projects in her words. Clearly she cares deeply for her beliefs but she is always en guard against sentimentality or dogma.
But will Pres. Carter pay the slightest heed? He will say that she never mentions the "apartheid wall". Maybe that she, too, came under the powerful silencing machine of the Jewish Lobby.
"Would an apartheid state ensure conditions for the freest Arabic press in the Middle East, a press so free that it can demonstrably abuse its liberties and keep on rolling? " (I. Manji, above)
To illustrate that Tibi's words do not merely express the solidarity of the "Arabs of the Interior", as the Israeli Arabs are called in Palestinian discourse, Tibi detailed the activities which he supports:
"Our struggle will continue until the liberation of the land. Al-Quds [is] the capital of Palestine". Tibi thrice shouted the last sentence as his master Arafat had commanded. The crowd responded to him with the rhetoric which his mentor, Abu-Amar had bequeathed - "Millions of shahid-martyrs are marching to Jerusalem".
This of course is not the first time that Tibi and other Arab Members of Knesset have openly identified themselves with a war against Israel. Knesset Member Tibi achieved stardom in identifying with Hezbollah and against Israel during the last war in Lebanon, and even visited Lebanon once hostilities ceased. However beyond support for terror there is a clear allusion that in the eyes of the Arab Members of Knesset, Palestine does not end with the Green line, and neither does the occupation.
There is a campaign going on trying to shut down criticism of Carter's book, so far not too successfully:
Amazon.com has refused to bow to pressure to remove a critical review of Jimmy Carter’s book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" from its Web site, but that hasn’t stopped activists from claiming a victory in the struggle against Israel.
Amazon added an interview with Carter above the critical review, which New Yorker correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg wrote for the Washington Post.
Henry Norr, a fiercely anti-Israel technology journalist from Berkeley, Calif., celebrated the addition of the Carter interview as a victory for his boycott campaign. He had launched a petition demanding that Amazon remove the Goldberg review because it was "unabashedly hostile to Carter’s viewpoint."
What I find interesting is the argument provided for the demand to remove Goldberg's review, that it was "unabashedly hostile to Carter’s viewpoint". As though Carter's viewpoint is so sacred and authoritative that an open challenge to it borders on the blasphemous. I'm sure Carter, well known for his devout religiosity, would agree.
Here's Goldberg's review:
Jimmy Carter tells a strange and revealing story near the beginning of his latest book, the sensationally titled Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. It is a story that suggests that the former president's hostility to Israel is, to borrow a term, faith-based.
On his first visit to the Jewish state in the early 1970s, Carter, who was then still the governor of Georgia, met with Prime Minister Golda Meir, who asked Carter to share his observations about his visit. Such a mistake she never made.
"With some hesitation," Carter writes, "I said that I had long taught lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures and that a common historical pattern was that Israel was punished whenever the leaders turned away from devout worship of God. I asked if she was concerned about the secular nature of her Labor government."
Jews, in my experience, tend to become peevish when Christians, their traditional persecutors, lecture them on morality, and Carter reports that Meir was taken aback by his "temerity." He is, of course, paying himself a compliment. Temerity is mandatory when you are doing God's work, and Carter makes it clear in this polemical book that, in excoriating Israel for its sins -- and he blames Israel almost entirely for perpetuating the hundred-year war between Arab and Jew -- he is on a mission from God.
Carter's interest in the Middle East is longstanding, of course; he brokered the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, and he has been rightly praised for doing so. But other aspects of his record are more bothersome. Carter, not unlike God, has long been disproportionately interested in the sins of the Chosen People. He is famously a partisan of the Palestinians, and in recent months he has offered a notably benign view of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that took power in the Palestinian territories after winning a January round of parliamentary elections.
There are differences, however, between Carter's understanding of Jewish sin and God's. God, according to the Jewish Bible, tends to forgive the Jews their sins. And God, unlike Carter, does not manufacture sins to hang around the necks of Jews when no sins have actually been committed.
This is a cynical book, its cynicism embedded in its bait-and-switch title. Much of the book consists of an argument against the barrier that Israel is building to separate Israelis from the Palestinians on the West Bank. The "imprisonment wall" is an early symptom of Israel's descent into apartheid, according to Carter. But late in the book, he concedes that "the driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa -- not racism, but the acquisition of land."
In other words, Carter's title notwithstanding, Israel is not actually an apartheid state. True, some Israeli leaders have used the security fence as cover for a land-grab, but Carter does not acknowledge the actual raison d'etre for the fence: to prevent the murder of Jews. The security barrier is a desperate, deeply imperfect and, God willing, temporary attempt to stop Palestinian suicide bombers from detonating themselves amid crowds of Israeli civilians. And it works; many recent attempts to infiltrate bombers into Israel have failed, thanks to the barrier.
The murder of Israelis, however, plays little role in Carter's understanding of the conflict. He writes of one Hamas bombing campaign: "Unfortunately for the peace process, Palestinian terrorists carried out two lethal suicide bombings in March 1996." That spree of bombings -- four, actually -- was unfortunate for the peace process, to be sure. It was also unfortunate for the several dozen civilians killed in these attacks. But Israeli deaths seem to be an abstraction for Carter; only the peace process is real, and the peace process would succeed, he claims, if not for Israeli intransigence.
Here is Carter's anti-historical understanding of the conflict. He writes:
"There are two interrelated obstacles to permanent peace in the Middle East:
"1. Some Israelis believe they have the right to confiscate and colonize Palestinian land and try to justify the sustained subjugation and persecution of increasingly hopeless and aggravated Palestinians; and
"2. Some Palestinians react by honoring suicide bombers as martyrs to be rewarded in heaven and consider the killing of Israelis as victories."
In other words, Palestinian violence is simply an understandable reaction to the building of Israeli settlements. The settlement movement has been a tragedy, of course. Settlements, and the expansionist ideology they represent, have done great damage to the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state; many Palestinians, and many Israelis, have died on the altar of settlement. The good news is that the people of Israel have fallen out of love with the settlers, who themselves now know that they have no future. After all, when Ariel Sharon abandoned the settlement dream -- as the former prime minister did when he forcibly removed some 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip during Israel's unilateral pullout in July 2005 -- even the most myopic among the settlement movement's leaders came to understand that the end is near.
Carter does not recognize the fact that Israel, tired of the burdens of occupation, also dearly wants to give up the bulk of its West Bank settlements (the current prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was elected on exactly this platform) because to do so would fatally undermine the thesis of his book. Palestine Peace Not Apartheid is being marketed as a work of history, but an honest book would, when assessing the reasons why the conflict festers, blame not only the settlements but also take substantial note of the fact that the Arabs who surround Israel have launched numerous wars against it, all meant to snuff it out of existence.
Why is Carter so hard on Israeli settlements and so easy on Arab aggression and Palestinian terror? Because a specific agenda appears to be at work here. Carter seems to mean for this book to convince American evangelicals to reconsider their support for Israel. Evangelical Christians have become bedrock supporters of Israel lately, and Carter marshals many arguments, most of them specious, to scare them out of their position. Hence the Golda Meir story, seemingly meant to show that Israel is not the God-fearing nation that religious Christians believe it to be. And then there are the accusations, unsupported by actual evidence, that Israel persecutes its Christian citizens. On his fateful first visit to Israel, Carter takes a tour of the Galilee and writes, "It was especially interesting to visit with some of the few surviving Samaritans, who complained to us that their holy sites and culture were not being respected by Israeli authorities -- the same complaint heard by Jesus and his disciples almost two thousand years earlier."
There are, of course, no references to "Israeli authorities" in the Christian Bible. Only a man who sees Israel as a lineal descendant of the Pharisees could write such a sentence. But then again, the security fence itself is a crime against Christianity, according to Carter; it "ravages many places along its devious route that are important to Christians." He goes on, "In addition to enclosing Bethlehem in one of its most notable intrusions, an especially heartbreaking division is on the southern slope of the Mount of Olives, a favorite place for Jesus and his disciples." One gets the impression that Carter believes that Israelis -- in their deviousness -- somehow mean to keep Jesus from fulfilling the demands of His ministry.
There is another approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, of course -- one perfected by another Southern Baptist who became a Democratic president. Bill Clinton's Middle East achievements are enormous, especially when considering the particular difficulties posed by his primary Arab interlocutor. Jimmy Carter was blessed with Anwar al-Sadat as a partner for peace; Bill Clinton was cursed with Yasser Arafat. In his one-sided explication of the 1990s peace process, Carter systematically downplays Clinton's efforts to bring a conclusion to the conflict, with a secure Israel and an independent Palestine living side by side, and repeatedly defends the indefensible Arafat. Carter doesn't dare include Clinton's own recollections of his efforts at the abortive Camp David summit in 2000 because to do so would be to acknowledge that the then-Israeli prime minister, the flawed but courageous Ehud Barak, did, in fact, try to bring about a lasting peace -- and that Arafat balked.
In a short chapter on the Clinton years, Carter blames the Israelis for the failures at Camp David. But I put more stock in the views of the president who was there than in those of the president who wasn't. "On the ninth day, I gave Arafat my best shot again," Clinton writes in My Life. "Again he said no. Israel had gone much further than he had, and he wouldn't even embrace their moves as the basis for future negotiations." Clinton applied himself heroically over the next six months to extract even better offers from Israel, all of which Arafat wouldn't accept. "I still didn't believe Arafat would make such a colossal mistake," Clinton remembers, with regret. According to Carter, however, Arafat made no mistakes. The failure was Israel's -- and by extension, Clinton's.
Carter succeeded at his Camp David summit in 1978, while Clinton failed at his in 2000. But Clinton's achievement was in some ways greater because he did something no American president has done before (or since): He won the trust of both the Palestinians and the Israelis. He could do this because he seemed to believe that neither side was wholly villainous nor wholly innocent. He saw the Israeli-Palestinian crisis for what it is: a tragic collision between right and right, a story of two peoples who both deserved his sympathy. In other words, he took the Christian approach to making peace.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I thought I'd post the entire article here:
Dealing with the new anti-Semitism
Warren Kinsella in Ottawa,
Published: Thursday, February 08, 2007
In Chris Hedges' new book, American Fascists, there is a passage that recalls the challenge facing the hundreds of Jews gathered in frigid, frozen Ottawa this week.
Quoting Italian medievalist Umberto Eco, the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer observes that fascists have a continual need to "feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies." Anti-Semites insinuate that Jews are powerful out of proportion to their numbers, running Hollywood, the news media and successive U.S. administrations. Since 9/11 in particular, these propagandists have insisted that loud, pushy Jews use this power to ram a destructive foreign policy agenda down the West's throat.
For many Jews gathered at the annual meeting of the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA) in Ottawa this week, the antipathy they often feel does not originate with copies of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, slipped under their hotel room doors at night. It comes, they allege, from the news media. The Canadian news media, even.
As they gathered in corridors and meeting rooms overlooking the skaters on the Rideau Canal, Jews expressed their concern that news coverage and editorial comment is increasingly hostile to Israel -- especially in the wake of the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Is it true? Certainly, among many delegates, there were familiar and specific complaints about the treatment Israel receives at the hands of the CBC, and some commentators at the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail. Following speeches Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant and I delivered to delegates about the Internet and blogging, we heard this message over and over.
The names of Israel's friends in the news media, meanwhile, were equally familiar: isolated voices at the Globe, Toronto Star and CBC in the form of Marcus Gee, Rosie Di Manno and Rex Murphy --plus pretty much everyone at CanWest and the National Post. All are considered to be stalwarts of Israel.
Why does any of it matter, one might ask. Why are Jews so preoccupied with what the news media has to say?
Because Canadians depend heavily on the media for news about developments abroad. There is no other news topic that is more susceptible to manipulation -- and, therefore, so acutely in need of fairness and balance. Too much is at stake to tolerate sloppiness or bland expressions of prejudice.
A prediction: As the immediacy and the magnitude of the Iranian threat becomes more apparent, Canadians will recognize that Israel -- alone in the region -- is a bulwark against Tehran's plans for a nuclear weapons program. Canadians will recognize that Israel's interests and Canada's are congruent: democracy, tolerance, multiculturalism. The Canadian media will reach this conclusion, too.
That day will not be long in coming. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leader Stephane Dion concluded stirring pro-Israel speeches in Ottawa on Tuesday night -- and following clear articulations of support by the NDP and Bloc Quebecois leaders, by the way -- a disturbing reminder arrived on dozens of Black Berries in the cavernous hall where CIJA gathered.
"An Iranian government-sponsored body set up to probe the veracity of the Holocaust," began the wire story, "has challenged Europe to hand over documents about the mass slaughter of Jews in World War II."
The Beast of fascism is awake, once again, and now makes its foul lair in Tehran. It is incumbent on all of us (the media included) to pay closer attention, and be prepared for its next move -- slouching, as it does, toward its goal of attempting another Final Solution.
- Warren Kinsella blogs for the Post and atwww.warrenkinsella.com.
Engage here posted an article about the rising levels of antisemitism in Quebec.