Facts in the ground
No sooner have we been regaled with Nadia el-Haj's unique view of Palestinian Jewish History, than reality checks into the melee to match her bizarre theories. We are told that "Possible Remains of Second Temple Found Below Al Aqsa Mosque":
Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.
Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.
Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is "a massive seven metre-long wall."
Television said the pipework carried out by the office of Muslim religious affairs, or Waqf, is about 1.5 metres deep and about 100 metres long.
The compound, which houses both Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is located in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967 and then annexed. It is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
For Jews it as known as the Temple Mount, which they revere as the site of the King Herod's second temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. It is the holiest site in Judaism.
All that remains today is the temple's Western Wall, or Wailing wall.
Solominia provides a video of the works being carried out by the muslim WAQF, with total disregard to to the irreplaceable archeological damage done to the site.
..."The archaeological damage is many times worse," Mazar said, "in light of the fact that the ground level is only slightly above the original Temple Mount platform. And in fact, the bedrock has been uncovered in some places - meaning that earth that has been in place for many centuries, even possibly since the First Temple, has been removed."
"No other country in the world would allow such grave damage to its most precious archaeological treasures," Mazar said.
Remember this event?
"Originally, tourists in the tunnel had to trace back their steps to the entrance. A connection to the Hasmonean water system was made, but this still required tourists to eventually U-turn once they had reached the Struthion pool.
On the 24 September, 1996, the then Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, ordered that a new exit be cut through from the Struthion Pool area to the Via Dolorosa nearby. Yasser Arafat commented on the event, alleging the real aim was to make the Haram al-Sharif collapse: subsequently, riots erupted. Israel managed to stop the riots, but 70 Palestinians and 16 IDF soldiers were killed during the event."
Has anyone ever wondered why Muslims chose that very site on which to erect their "third holiest Mosque"?
Before Jerusalem came under the control of Muslims in 638, it was widely understood that al-Aqsa mosque is the same as David's sanctuary. When Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattāb (580-644) was given the key to the city by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, he signed with him a treaty that is known as the "Covenant of Omar" and he later asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to show him what Umar spelled out as "Masjid Dawood" (Mosque of David). This was called David's sanctuary or prayer niche (mihrab Dawud), in the Qur'an (38:21). David chose the site on which Solomon built his temple. It was an abandoned place and abused by the Romans and the Church at the time. The Patriarch took him to the door of the sanctuary which was almost blocked due to the trash that was placed at the door. Umar looked left and right and said: “Allah is Great, I swear by the one who holds my soul in his hand that this is the Mosque of David which the prophet of Allah described to us after his night journey.” The Caliph Umar started cleaning up the place. He asked Ka'ab al-Ahbar (كعب الأحبار), a Jewish Rabbi who had converted to Islam and came with Umar from Medina, to guide him to the place of the Rock. Umar used his cloths to remove the trash covering the Rock, and other Muslims did what Umar was doing. After cleaning up the place, Umar went to the al-Mihrab (a chamber inside the Mosque where the Imam usually stands) and started praying and reading Surat Sad from Quran.
I think someone should try to unravel the plonter of lies, myths, and unverfiable reasons as to why Al-Aksa was built where it was built, what with the claim being made now that there was no Temple on the Temple Mount and no King David of no Kingdom of Israel to lay the foundation for that temple.
The Contentious Centrist
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Friday, August 31, 2007
Facts in the ground
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Ouch... (From the aptly named Iconoclast*)
Make A List
Take thirty minutes. And write down, for each of the other "two abrahamic faiths," a list of one hundred people who now are part of the history of art, literature, science, philosophy. You may include names of those who, while they may be atheists, certainly came out of, were formed by, a civilization that can reasonably have been called Judeo-Christian and is now called, possibly a bit too optimistically, "Western civilization")
In one minute flat you should be able to write Newton and Locke and St. Augustiine and Shakespeare and Dante and Leonardo and Michelangelo and Einstein and Spinoza and Maimon...oops, time's up for me.
This link provides a list of the Five Greatest Muslims (listed as the "Five Greatest Persons" under the website's more general title "Five Greatest Muslims") of all time.
These are...the envelope, please.....yes, The Prophet Muhammad....well, no surprise there....The Prophet Abraham.....The Prophet Jesus....The Prophet Moses....and, finally, wait, I can't see the bottom of the Teleprompter...there, that's better...The Prophet Noah.
* Iconoclast (so Wiki tells us) may refer to:
A person who performs iconoclasm, destruction of a culture's religious symbols.
One who attacks cherished beliefs.
However, the sarcasm is not quite merited. For there were great Muslim and Arab thinkers who wielded great influence over Western civilization, such as:
One of the most important Moslem philosophers ever was Averroes. He wondered what one should believe when the great work of Aristotle seemed at odds with the teachings in the Koran. It would be dishonest, he believed, to ignore the logic in Aristotle's arguments. We should use and trust our God-given reason. Why then did God send prophets to reveal truths that we could discover for ourselves? Because there are different kinds of people.
Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun
(full name, Arabic: ابو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي, Abū Zayd ‘Abdu r-Raḥman bin Muḥammad bin Khaldūn al-Ḥaḍramī) (May 27, 1332 AD/732 AH – March 19, 1406 AD/808 AH), was a famous Arab Muslim polymath: a historian, historiographer, demographer, economist, philosopher, sociologist and social scientist born in present-day Tunisia. He is considered the father of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and the social sciences, and is viewed as one of the forerunners of modern economics. He is best known for his Muqaddimah (Latinized as Prolegomenon).
Birth: 1048 Death: 1131
... was a Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer who lived in Persia. His name is also given as Omar al-Khayyami.
He is best known for his poetry, and outside Iran, for the quatrains (rubaiyaas) in Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, popularized through Edward Fitzgerald's re-created translation. His substantial mathematical contributions include his Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra, which gives a geometric method for solving cubic equations by intersecting a hyperbola with a circle. He also contributed to calendar reform and may have proposed a heliocentric theory well before Copernicus.
There is a longer list, here.
However, it is impossible not to notice that these persons lived and taught during the era when Islam was ascendant in the world, between the 9th and 12th centuries. What went wrong?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
According to Aristotle, good legislators should have more respect for friendship than for justice. Thus, in true friendship lies the supreme idea of society’s perfection. Friendship is a virtue. Furthermore, says Montaigne, who has written the definitive treatise about friendship, "there is nothing to which nature seems so much to have shaped us for as to be social" .
Generosity and selflessness are the marks of true friendship. The exchange that takes place in true friendship depends on mutuality, reciprocity, and pre-supposes true equality. This is where the virtue that is friendship and the idea of justice intersect, since justice strives to restore equality.
Friendship may be a moral asset in our life but what makes it a humanistic reservoir of good is that it is a natural instinct, a genuine flow of positive energy. Human essence tends towards social harmony, mutual solicitude and peaceful existence. It naturally abhors conflict and war and violence. To shun friendship in favour of enmity is an unnatural desire. We tag such behaviour as anti-social, a rupturing influence in the fabric of productive and prosperous life.
Which is why I am shocked whenever I encounter examples of people rejecting friendship as a vice and an immoral initiative, when faced with a project for rapprochement to overcome past enmities and reach a more normal state of relationship. As in the following example:
"Why are the Amazigh [Berber people] - or some of them, let's not generalize - launching an Amazigh-Israeli friendship association?"
The rejectionist: Yahya Abu Zakariya, Algerian writer:
"Fuad, let me make it clear that, in principle, the Amazigh, throughout the history of the Maghreb... did a great service to Islamic civilization, and contributed to it to the greatest degree. The fact that such calls are emerging from the Arab Maghreb - the calls for rapprochement with the Zionist entity, which as the entire world knows, has penetrated our territory, and taken away our security... These calls are, obviously, dubious."
"There has been a transformation among certain groups, which are saying that the Arab Maghreb has nothing to do with the Arab world, that there are no bridges connecting this region of North Africa with the Arab world, and that relations with the Zionist entity must be rebuilt. Unfortunately, such initiatives receive official blessing." [...]
"If Only the Arabs Had Believed in Friendship with the Jews All These Years, We Would Not Be Seeing Rivers Of Blood Flowing"
The advocate: Ahmed Adghrini, Secretary-General of the Moroccan Amazigh Democratic Party:
"With regard to the Jews, I don't have to tell you that their history in our region goes back to 1000 BCE. The history of the Amazigh in North Africa goes back 2,957 years. In 40 years or so, we will have 3,000 years of history behind us, throughout which the Jews lived together with us. For the Jews too, Arab identity is of no concern, just as it is of no concern to the aboriginal residents of North Africa. He was talking about the Arab period in North Africa, whereas we go back thousands of years before that."
"He used an infamous term. He said that the Amazigh are suspect. This is an ugly expression, which I ask him to retract, because it reflects badly on him more than on us. We are not suspect in our own country. He should retract all his ugly statements about the Amazigh."
"With regard to the association, you and those listening know that is has to do with friendship, which is a humanist value for the benefit of all peoples, including the Arabs. The Arabs replace friendship with enmity and war.... I am convinced that friendship is better than war. If only the Arabs had believed in friendship with the Jews all these years, we would not be seeing rivers of blood flowing, among the Arabs themselves, and between the Arabs and the Jews. Therefore, I find it objectionable that anyone - whether Arab, Amazigh, or Jewish - could have an aversion to the word 'friendship.'"[...]
Or this example (Via Mick Hatrley):
A rising Egyptian film star who plays the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein in a British Broadcasting Corporation drama faces a possible ban on performing in Egypt for acting with an Israeli in the film.
Which reminded me directly of this:
In other words, Omar Sharif is under fire for affirming religious freedom instead of anti-Semitism and dhimmitude. Even worse, from this noxious point of view, is the fact that "the actor did not deny making such remarks with regards to his grandchildren and attempt to calm the storm of Anger." A friend tried to calm the waters on his behalf: "On a different note, his good friend Egyptian actress Nadia Lutfi denied that Omar made such comments stressing that he would never say such a thing."
It is a sad commentary on the Islamic world today that such remarks would stir controversy -- just as it is sad that in Toronto a young woman received death threats for pro-Israel statements, and a neo-Nazi spoke at an Islamic conference. The anti-Semitism is so thick today that Sharif also drew controversy for defending kissing a Jew: in the same controversial interview, he said, "My philosophy is that when I go out of my room, I’m prepared to love everybody I meet, unless they’re bad. If they’re bad, I’m prepared not to love them and to dislike them independently of the fact if they’re Jewish or they’re Black or White or Christian or Muslim. It’s like when we did 'Funny Girl' during the Six Day War. A lot of the Arab press naturally said, 'This man is a traitor. He’s kissing Barbra Streisand who’s giving dollars in favor of Israel.' There was a lot of press asking, 'What do you think of this press saying that you kissed Barbra Streisand?' I said, 'Nor in my professional nor in my private life do I ask a girl her nationality or her religion before I kiss her. That has nothing to do with it.'"
Blooging on this subject are:
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Turks and the "Zionist bacteria"
The plot thickens. The ADL reversed its position on the Armenian genocide, probably unaware of the very contempt that those very Turks who applied to their help were harbouring against them. I must have been dozing off somewhere not to expect this piece of vituperation emerging from Turkish ruling classes. Thanks to Mick Hartley's vigilance and MEMRI's project, we get to hear what some Muslims say to their millions of followers in their own language:
"Do you know what the safety of Israel means? It means that they will rule the 28 countries from Morocco to Indonesia. Since all the Crusades were organized by the Zionists, and since it was our forefathers the Seljuks who stopped them, according to the Kabbala there should be no sovereign state in Anatolia. This is these people's [i.e. the Jews'] religion, their faith. You can't argue or negotiate with them. This is their religion, and it comes from the Kabbala. [...]
"Let's go back to the [Zionist] bacteria. About $22 trillion out of all the money we spend every year is paid to these racist imperialist Zionists. We, as a country, are paying $200 billion every year to the Zionists so that they can prepare their bombs, so that they can one day come and take our country. This is the world that the Zionists have built. […]
"This racist imperialist Zionism organized 19 Crusades just to reach its goals. To organize the Crusades, it used the Christians. Why is it that the Christians are helping the Jews? A rabbi goes out on the balcony and tells them, 'Oh Christians, isn't it the Messiah that you are waiting for? We too are waiting for the same Messiah.' What the rabbi is doing is taqiya,(1) of course. Then he goes into his synagogue and tells a five-year-old, 'What you heard me say outside is not true. Our Messiah is different. That Jesus is someone whom we killed. He will not come or go anywhere. I told them that to deceive them.'
"These people tell the Christians, 'You are waiting but you have no guidelines as to how to make him come. Our Tevrat tells us what to do. Let's do them together and let's bring the Messiah.' And what were those guidelines? To bring the Jews to Jerusalem, to build and secure the Greater Israel, and so on."
"It was Zionism that established the sect of Protestantism. The capitalist order of today is the religious order of Protestantism. It's because the pope rejects the concept of interest, so as not to allow the exploitation of his children. That's why the Jews decided to change the [Christian] religion, and founded Protestantism. This way they can charge interest and make everybody work for them.
I have always been an advocate of allowing Turkey a place in the European Union. I had the impression that secular Turkey had overcome its religious past in favour of a prosperous present. Yet Turkish insistence on keeping intact the respectability of their Ottoman past by denying their massacres of the Armenians seems incongruent with the responsibility of the modern state. Now this speech from a mentor of the current leadership helps further to explain how far Turkey has regressed in its commitment to modernity, democracy, and tolerance.
Bad days ahead for Turkish Jews. Most of my father's family live there.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Fisk, 9/11 Conspiracies and Shakespeare
Via Solominia, we get to hear the latest on Robert Fisk's imaginative journalism:
...I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in
the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where
are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have
the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania)
been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed
to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed
"research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center
Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone
I am talking about scientific issues. If it is
true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how
come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be
about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and
10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre
Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in
its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the
ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards
and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all
three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American
professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the "raver"
bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final
report on the grounds that it could be "fraudulent or deceptive"...
Oliver Kamm, who should be read by all and sundry, has this to say about Fisk:
Fisk is indeed a conspiracy theorist. He outed himself 18 months ago in a
speech in Australia. It is moderately scandalous that in the meantime he has
made no attempt to answer his own ill-informed questions by directing them to
competent researchers in engineering and aviation. Even so absurd and
discredited a figure as Michael Meacher denies that his speculations about
9/11 make him a conspiracy theorist and claims "I'm only raising questions". Yet
Fisk and Meacher "raise questions" to which definitive and comprehensive answers are wholly accessible and in the public domain. The alternative
explanation is that these answers themselves are part of an attempt to deceive
the public and divert attention from the real culprits. That type of explanation
about agency has a common and useful name. It is "conspiracy theory".
As I say in the Solomonia comments, Fisk's penchant for conspiracy theory when it comes to his hated Israel or America are well known. Here is one example of his way of pointing darkly and mysteriously to hidden conspiracies of the most nefarious kind:
"In private, he did not hide his animosity towards the
Hizbollah, whose attacks on Israeli occupation troops before their 2000 retreat
would set back his plans for Lebanon’s economic recovery. And while he tolerated
the Syrians, he had his own plans for their military departure. Was it true, as
they said in Beirut, that Hariri was the secret leader of the political
opposition to the Syrian presence? Or were his
enemies even more sinister people?
Lebanon is built on institutions that enshrine
sectarianism as a creed, in which the president must always be a Christian
Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim - like Hariri - and the speaker of
parliament a Shia Muslim. Anyone setting out to murder
Hariri would know how this could re-open all the fissures of the civil war from
1975 to 1990."
Who could he mean? Of course he behaves like some garrulous gossip from a Monty Python school: *Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more!*? I'm not saying anything but... He does not have the moral courage to openly state what he thinks except by muttering and coy innuendoes. Always leaving for himself a way of retreating.
It's ironic that Kamm invokes of conspiracy theories in Shakespeare's scholarship when describing the phenomenon that Fisk represents. I say ironic because not too long ago Fisk tried his hand at some Shakespeare scholarship himself, with rather strange conjectures. Not surprising, coming as it does from the man whose name inspired the coinage of a whole new term in the English language, he insouciantly claims that :
".. Othello ... is a Muslim in the service of Venice - close neighbour to the Ottoman empire - and is sent to Cyprus to battle the Turkish fleet."
Who knew? Othello was a Muslim!
Not a chance, says this Independant Reader, making short shrift of this allegation:
"Robert Fisk says that Othello is a Muslim. There is no evidence for this attribution.
Shakespeare does not once imply this. It is inherently implausible that a Muslim would command the Venetian fleet against the Turks or be able to marry into the Venetian patriciate. Iago, who ignored no perceived defect in his rival, calls him Moor, barbarian and black, but makes no reference to religion.
When Othello finds Cassio and Rodrigo fighting, he says, "Are we turned
Turks?... For Christian shame, put by this barbarous brawl" (Act II, scene iii).
When he encounters a Turk assaulting a Venetian, he says, "I took by the throat
the circumcised dog" (Act V, scene ii). Are these the acts or words of a
ALL SOULS COLLEGE, OXFORD UNIVERSITY
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The ADL, Jews, Turks and Armenians: The Turkish government is pressuring Israel in an effort to reverse an ADL's national director Abraham Foxman, said he made the decision after
Further to my post here, Mick Hartley has this to say:
As the Jewish Anti-Defamation League dither about the Armenian Genocide - first appeasing the Turks, then, in the face of mounting protests, changing their mind - Turkey's Prime Minister threatens to return the 'Courage to Care' award presented to him by the ADL in 2005 in honour of Turkish diplomats who played a role in saving Jews during World War II:
Speaking to journalists last night PM Erdogan answered questions about his phone
conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres and said: “I called Mr. Peres
to express our disappointment. I told him that if ADL does not make the
necessary correction, I will return the award they gave me. On one hand, they
give an award to Turkish prime minister out of appreciation, on the other hand
they declare that they recognize Armenian genocide claims. ‘If this is the case
I have no use for their award; I will give it back’.
It's hard not to fell at least some sympathy for the ADL and its national director Abraham Foxman, despite calls for his resignation. Why antagonise Israel's only ally in the region for the sake of a cause which, frankly, isn't theirs? But of course this goes beyond realpolitik:
"It is obscene for us, of all people, to quibble about definitions," one prominent California rabbi recently told the Jewish Journal.
To the ADL's credit, they've reached the right decision. No credit whatsoever, though, to the Turks:
American Jewish organization's decision to recognize Turkey's massacre of
Armenians during World War I as genocide.
A meeting between Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul and Israel's
ambassador to Ankara, Pinhas Avivi, became "shrill," according to Foreign
Ministry sources in Jerusalem. Gul expressed Ankara's "anger and disappointment"
over the matter.
On Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League announced that it recognizes the
events in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were massacred as "genocide."
discussing the matter with historians and with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
The Turkish government is pressuring Israel in an effort to reverse an
ADL's national director Abraham Foxman, said he made the decision after
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Christiane Amanpour: God's Holy Warriors Something has happened in the arena of liberalism.
Larry King showcased this programme on CNN. In his usual phlegmatic way, he tried to tease out some valid responses from his three guest panel: A Jew, a Christian and a Muslim. I found Rabbi Hier's voice the most lucid and valid. Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
"KING: Isn't the majority, then, moderate?
KING: So why don't the moderates have a bigger voice?
HATHOUT: Because they are screaming in the bathroom that's locked. How many reporters like you will call on me to say what I say? How many times did I appear -- no, I can tell you, you are with the stretch of imagination, the second one.
KING: There are more moderates than anything else, aren't there?
HATHOUT: Because they are screaming in the bathroom that's locked. How many reporters like you will call on me to say what I say? How many times did I appear -- no, I can tell you, you are with the stretch of imagination, the second one.
KING: There are more moderates than anything else, aren't there?
AMANPOUR: Of course there are. Even in the Middle East, in many of the countries we've been to say that is the case, that people are actually moving away from this extremism and that, you know, it is a more moderate reality than an extremist reality.
But the key point is that the extremists, those who are fundamentally committed, are much more energized and therefore much more active and much more politically successful. That's the reality, and that's the question I was trying to ask. In fact, all of you, how do those majorities who would prefer to see peaceful co-existence, whether it be in Judaism, whether it be in Islam or in Christianity, how do they get their voices heard, and how do they act within the framework of the political dynamic that they find themselves in?
ING: Rabbi Hier?
HIER: First let me say one thing. We can't have gatekeepers. One of the greatest tragedies, I think, that prevents moderation is when you'll excuse me for the comment is that when you have a gatekeeper -- nobody knows what's in God's mind. He doesn't have a cell number. Or if he does, it's not connected, and nobody has spoken to him personally. Nobody can say, who's going to be admitted in heaven and who's not going to be admitted. Judaism believes that it ought to be based on deeds, not dogmas."
Solomonia's post, here
Roger L. Simon, here
Phyllis Chesler, here
I'm not sure I agree with Chesler's biting indictment of Christiane Amanpour's affiliations. Amanpour was a good friend* of the fabled Oriana Fallaci who considered her some sort of a kindred spirit. It's hard to reconcile that friendship with Amanpour's craven depiction of the jihadists in this programme.
I also found her behaviour as an interviewer in the segment about Muslim Religious Warriors distinctly odd and unprofessional. She was simpering at her interviewees when they were declaring their absolutist beliefs in their own rightness, wagging her finger coyly at one who explicitly made a misogynistic comment. Altogether, she conveyed an attitude of being ill-at-ease and toadying in what should have been a much more consistent and insistent attempt at confronting them with their own murderous ideologies. The difference in the way she handled herself with these Mullahs and the way she confronted the other (Jewish and Christian) "Warriors" in the two other segments was quite astonishing for a journalist of her experience. Quite frankly, in the Muslim segment, her behaviour resembled that of a weak, abused person trying to curry favour with a bully while pretending to act confidently.
Here is a review of Amanpour's personal documentary ''Revolutionary Journey'' (2000).
Here is her interview with Charlie Rose (02/24/2000) about "Revolutionary Journey", in which she asserts with much confidence that Iran will become a more "normal" society, with liberal press and moderated religiosity.
Hmm. This certitude hardly points to perspicacious judgment or great political acumen in the speaker, considering how Iran has radicalized its stranglehold over the population and its policies vis-a-vis the West (Ahmadinejad's dark shaddow leers ironically at these rosy conjectures).
This comment was placed on Charlie Rose's website, in response to "Revolutionary Journey":
Dear Christian:We have a few points to bring to your attention and the attention of the world. You do not know IRAN. You know those who approach you. Mullah Khatami is a Mullah, part of the establishment. He prolonged the misery of people by promises and promises for the survival of this REGIME. Khatami was the MARKETING segment of the establishment. Khamenei is an Akhond, not recognized by the grand Ayatolahs or people. THIS REGIME IS IMPOSED ON PEOPLE. People are ashamed of the so-called barbaric revolution of 1979. They wish to wake up of this nightmare and be back in the good old Time of pre-1979. We are living in the darkest history of the Persian History. The so-called Cultural , educational, artistic CONTACT between US and Iran YOU TALK ABOUT Is CONTROLLED, SHAPED AND ARRANGED by the I.R. REGIME and THE REGIME's members are the participants. DEAR Christian: Ordinary IRANIANS are struggling to Make ends meet. They do not have time, money, energy or even interest about politics! SANCTIONS SHOULD BE DIRECTED AT REGIME, NOT PEOPLE. Last, but not least, it takes far more than just sitting in an office in US'or UK, having a beatiful face, a couple of degrees from University, and interview a few members of the ESTABLISHMENT to talk about true states of Affairs in Iran. How many years you have lived in Iran in the last 27 years? Most probably not much, if any! Just take a look at the following Video smuggled from Current Iran TO SEE THE TRUE IRAN AND IRANIANS . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2ZvMKcR5C4 Thanks. Iran Khanoom.
I fear Christiane Amanpour has been swept along the current wave of "new" liberalism which Oliver Kamm, here, describes as "unilateral liberalism":
Positions that were once commonplace or even axiomatic are now heterodox. There
is, for example, a particularly corrosive notion common among liberals, and most
particularly egalitarian liberals, that respect for the views of others is a
keystone of a civilised society. By this logic, Sir Salman Rushdie is a
provocative figure for unpardonably affronting the deepest convictions of people
throughout the developing world. The principles of secularism and free
expression are the victim.
To state that there is nothing wrong with mocking
the sense of the sacred held by Muslims or the adherents of any other religion
is to invite the bogus charge of Islamophobia. To say that Tony Blair was an
important reforming prime minister and a powerful influence for good at home and
abroad is to inspire derision (bring it on).
The phenomenon Anthony identifies is not liberalism
but what the Irish polymath and statesman Conor Cruise O'Brien once termed
unilateral liberalism. It exhibits, said O'Brien, an acute sensitivity to
threats to liberty arising from the actions of democratic states, combined with
a curiously phlegmatic attitude to threats to liberty from the enemies of those
states. These days, it is not only in the remediable flaws of western societies
that unilateral liberals identify oppression but also in their highest
Something has happened in the arena of liberalism.
I find it ironic that Jimmy Carter is deferred to as a cool-headed voice in a programme about religious fanaticism.
Here's Hitchens on same:
"Here is a man who, in his latest book on the
Israel-Palestine crisis, has found the elusive key to the problem. The mistake
of Israel, he tells us (and tells us that he told the Israeli leadership) is to
have moved away from God and the prophets and toward secularism. If you ever
feel like a good laugh, just tell yourself that things would improve if only the
Israeli government would be more Orthodox. Jimmy Carter will then turn his
vacantly pious glare on you, as if to say that you just don't understand what it
is to have a personal savior."
"Chirac didn't do this. Last week as you know he was here on a formal visit.
It was a visit scheduled some time before, not an ad hoc visit. He saw the ruins of the Tower, he learned that the number of dead is incalculable, nay inadmissible, but he didn't give weight to this. During his interview on CNN my friend Christiana Amanpour asked him four times in what manner and to what extent he intended to align himself against this Jihad, and four times Chriac avoided giving an answer. He slithered away like an eel. You wanted to shout at him: "Monsieur le President! Do you remember the debarkation at Normandy? Do you know how many Americans died there to drive the Nazis out of France?"
Friday, August 24, 2007
Two videos from Palestine: The following is a clip produced by the Hamas Al-Aqsa TV, styled after the Lion King, in which Fatah members are depicted as rats, while Hamas is portrayed as a lion.
To the list of Israeli atrocities, here comes this film of an Israeli policewoman hitting two Palestinian kids. The incident is decribed as "yet further proof that Israel’s 543 permanent and 610 ’flying’ checkpoints "are sites of systematic torture and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians", according to veteran human rights activist, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi.
Since the incident is hardly the stuff of the horror associated with the term "systematic torture", Dr. Barghoutti adds some colour and garishness by helpfully guiding the viewer to regard it as worse than it is in conjoining it to a much harsher kind of beating in another incident:
"Dr. Barghouthi said the beatings were reminiscent of the physical assault of 18-year old university student Mohammad Jabali by Israeli soldiers near the notorious Huwwara checkpoint in Nablus on 18 March 2007. Four Israeli soldiers punched and kicked Jabali in the face, head and genitals, causing bleeding and a blood clot in his right testicle. Jabali was forced to undergo surgery and to have part of the testicle removed.".
While I certainly reject that any policeperson should lose her cool and raise her hand on anybody, whatever insults or provocations are hurled her way (short of violent threats which does not seem to be the case here), I confess that I can't feel too exercised about this incident. Especially since it seems like a scripted set up. A little complete story told, with a beginning: donkey card with three youths riding away from camera, turning a corner; a middle (altercation between policeoman and two of the boys); and an end: Policewoman walking away, donkey cart turning around, riding past camera, boys staring at camera, grinning.
BTW, the footage provided for the more severe incident shows actually three soldiers and only one that is doing to beating, hardly fitting the description given by dr. Barghouti. I always wonder why the need to beef up the evidence with hyperbolic, and untrue, descriptions in order to make a point about Israeli brutality at checkpoints. Maybe because the purveyors of these truths feel that there is not enough flesh in the actual incidents to warrant the dominant status granted to Israel in such august bodies as the UN "Human Rights" Council in Geneva?
Caption: "A message to the criminal gangs in the occupied West Bank"
Voice of Muhammad Dahlan: "Snipers or no snipers – move back, and let
Hamas shoot me." "Charge, with the blessing of Allah."
Rat sprays graffiti on wall: The guard of buffoons was here."
Caption: "If you repeat [the crime], we shall repeat [the punishment]"
Caption: Produced by the animated films division, Al-Aqsa
The following is a clip produced by the Hamas Al-Aqsa TV, styled after the Lion King, in which Fatah members are depicted as rats, while Hamas is portrayed as a lion.
When I saw this video fed to Palestinian children, all I could say was: Poor Remi.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
More on: Armenian Genocide and the Jews
Isn't it a rather crude title? I deliberately made it so, in order to emphasize the coarseness of the debate in the recent melee.
The New Centrist assembled an interesting post about the recent storm concerning some Jewish organizations, Armenian genocide and the pending USA Congress resolution recognizing the historical validity of this event.
Bob provides a little known context to this history in the comments sections, which deserves to be repeated here:
As a very minor footnote, one of the first people to champion the Armenian cause was the great maverick Jewish nationalist Israel Zangwill, who said that in the face of the Armenian suffering, Jewry must take off its crown of thorns, i.e. that Armenian suffering outweighed even that of the Jewish people. And, as another very minor footnote, the man who gave us the word “genocide”, was the Jewish Raphael Lemkin, who took the Armenian massacre as his model.
The New Centrist and The Contentious Centrist are not related. Though both are self-styled as "centrists", the one is newly arrived at the center and the other is contentious in her centrism.
Centrism, as I see it, does not mean straddling a fence in an attempt to appease and please both sides of it. Centrism means that one has liberated herself from any allegiance to either thesis or anti-thesis. Centrism means independent thinking relying on moral clarity and principled support for universal human rights, verifiable history and truth.
For Dante told us, with the knowledge of one who went to Hell and came back with a report, what fate awaits those who straddle fences, the appeasers who remain silent when injustice masquerades as universality, when defamers and maligners are coddled and indulged:
All of these made a tumult whose presence
Whirled darkly through the timeless air like grains
Of sand in permanent turbulence.
And I, seeking to ease my brain's
Horror, said, " Master, what am I listening to?
Who are these people so defeated by their pains?"
And he to me: " The dismal souls who
Suffer this condition had lives neither odious
Nor commendable; having embraced neither of the two,
They mingle now with that chorus
Of cowardly, self–serving angels who were
Neither faithful to God nor rebellious.
To preserve its beauty heaven kicked them down here,
While deep Hell refused to take them,
Lest they be scapegoats for the wicked there."
"Master," I asked, "what is their problem
That they moan so grievously?"
He answered: " Lament is forever their anthem.
With no hope of death, their lives are so piteously
Blind and full of degradation
That they leer at every other fate enviously.
In the world they receive no mention;
Mercy and justice show them no regard:
We too will pass them by with little attention."
And I, who glanced at them, saw a whirling standard
Which streaked ahead with a velocity
Nothing seemed able to retard.
Behind it a queue seemed to stretch to infinity,
So that I could hardly imagine
How death had undone such a quantity.
When I'd surveyed several of those in line
I recognized that cowardly creature
Who, chosen for greatness, opted to decline.
At once I was absolutely sure
These were the loathesome cowards neither
God nor his enemies could endure.
These naked wretches, who had never
Been truly alive...
(Dante's Inferno, Canto III)
Solomonia posted this today : I’ve written several columns criticizing Amnesty
International. Last week, Hassan Bility, a Liberian ex-dissident who Amnesty
helped free from prison, wrote to contradict me (“Human rights matter in
Africa,” Aug. 10). He’s right to appreciate their help. Pressuring regimes over
jailed dissidents is an Amnesty hallmark. Hundreds are free because of its noble
efforts. But agitation for select political prisoners does not negate Amnesty’s
flawed agenda, which actually damages the cause of human rights.
In the early 1990s, I discovered that slavery still
exists in Sudan and Mauritania. I also discovered that Amnesty (and Human Rights
Watch) had detailed reports on this slave trade yet had launched no substantial
campaign to rescue blacks owned by Arab masters.
Slaves are prisoners too. In 1995, I went to Amnesty’s national convention and launched a drive to add slavery to Amnesty’s mandate. A majority was persuaded and a resolution was forwarded to the international office in London – which in turn asked for more time to “study the issue” and then did nothing for more than a
If Africans were being enslaved in Germany or Norway, we all know Amnesty would launch a massive emancipation campaign. But for blacks in Arab North Africa, the best Amnesty could do was an occasional report.
How could Amnesty abandon hundreds of thousands of black slaves, and why does it focus disproportionately on Western governments?
Three core reasons:
I’ve written several columns criticizing Amnesty
Michael Ignatieff, in his book “Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry” looks at the depreciation of the term “human rights”:
“Global human rights consciousness, moreover, does not
necessarily imply that the groups defending human rights actually believe the
same things. Many of these NGO’s 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
Ignatieff is claiming here that a noble term which was supposed to uphold an ideal of universal justice, the kind that safeguards the equity and inviolability of all human beings, has been devalued by the likes of Amnesty and HRW to the point where it is nearly worthless. The cynicism of politicizing an ethical principle can only lead to legitimized exceptionalism, which means quite simply discrimination. And the crime of discrimination in the case cited by Charles Jacobs is two-edged: Discriminating against the victims of the neglected causes for whom no redress is available through their own systems of justice, and discriminating against those Amnesty does choose to shame disproportionately in its reports.
I no longer take these organizations to work for human rights, but only for selective groups within the human race deemed worthy of helping. Hassan Bility's successful deliverance from jail can always be flaunted by these organizations by way of deflecting criticism from their profound partisanship. But for each Bility, there are thousands of men and women languishing in jails for crimes they have never committed, for transgressing some social taboo like adultery or homosexuality. There are young girls whose genitals are mutilated, there are "honour" killings sanctioned by governments, etc etc . We all know what the list is.
Amnesty's concentration on the West's human rights abuses objectively promotes human rights abuses in other countries. This is elementary logic. The organization has only a limited amount of resources, which it chooses to invest in scrutinizing the least abusive and most transparent administrations. If they are not working relentlessly to relieve the misery and suffering of the truly oppressed, they are effectively against them.
Why do they choose these priorities? Maybe because it is so much easier, and much more comfortable to work in a Western country with running water, uninterrupted supply of electiricity, law and order, and zero-risk for endangering self?
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tolerating the Intolerant
A group of Quebec intellectuals has penned an open letter, and is circulating a petition, demanding that the Islamic Congress of Canada withdraw its invitation to Yvonne Ridley to speak in Canada. Ridley is a founder of, and frequent candidate for, Britain’s Respect Party. Respect draws its support from fundamentalist Muslims and some of the most egregious apologists for international terror like MP George Galloway who was disgraced by his close ties to the Saddam Hussein regime.
Many of the signatories of this letter wrote a similar one last fall, after the Hezbollah Rally in Montreal, calling on Quebec society to open its eyes and recognize the real enemy within and without. To realize that politically correct moral relativism is nothing but bankrupt political equivalency masking nothing less than cowardice and betraying our public discourse to tolerating those that are most intolerant.
Tenure, Creationism and Galileo:
It appears to me that el Haj’s type of scholarship wishes to reverse scientific scholarship for a politically self-indulgent Palestinian narrative. In her book "Facts on the Ground" she actually aims at re-instating her own private case of “the earth is the center of the universe” thinking. I say, in the name of academic freedom, and for the sake of preserving sacredly intact that tenure-decision process, she ought to be allowed to teach these anti-historical histories to a bunch of ignorant students who will then carry this information within them as though it were gospel truth.
Likewise, maybe “creationism” should be given its full rights to be regarded as science within Physics.
Alternatively, maybe the university should have the courage to admit that her book is a work of fiction and maybe offer her a seat in the Depratment of English Literature, where she will fit in more snugly. It was, after all, Edward Said, a professor of English Literature, who started this fashion of denying Jewish history when he wrote his book about Moses and Freud, in which he made a psychoanalytical historical analysis "proving" that the Jews were really Egyptians. He tried to erase the millennial identity of an entire people and she is trying to complement his project by subverting archeological finds, facts on and in the ground, into manufactured myths.
Here is a nice bit of restrained criticism of Said's book from Richard H. Armstrong:
Right at the outset, then, Said's deployment of Freud's rather patchy historical argument seems a violation of his own championing of good historical research as a method of humanistic understanding. The moral tone he takes in confronting Israelis with the "carefully maintained opening out of Jewish identity towards its non-Jewish back ground" rings rather hollow, since Freud's "careful maintenance" could easily be dismissed as an elaborate fantasy, or even an obsessive projection. Hence, a hostile Jewish reviewer, like The New Republic's Leon Wieseltier, can make short work of refuting Said's central gesture of marshalling Moses as a kind of counter-history with which to shame the Israelis (or, as Wieseltier takes it rather personally, all Jews).
And here is one commenter's opinion of el-Haj's "scholarship":
She conjoins the extremism of Rejectionist Palestinian activism with the intellectual slop that characterizes so much of academic “postmodernism”. I note with some asperity that she marshalls, on behalf of her dubious assertion of the unreality of Jewish history, the stock phrases and double-talk that originates in postmodernist, social constructivist “sociology of scientific knowledge”, borrowing the idle nonsense of such tainted sages as Bloor and Latour in order to claim that there is no such thing as objectivity or science, that all such claims are traces of political power plays, and that therefore, one may publish away, endlessly, without any attempt to consult hard evidence or to face up to its implications. (Norman Levitt )
And here is a good advice:
I think that the state of Israel is strong and legitimate enough to be able to survive and thrive after her writings, and the attacks to her only fuel those who are looking for excuses to attack Israel. Jeremiah Haber is right, let the tenure process in peace and concentrate in produce scholarship refuting her strange findings. ( F. Barrio )
To rephrase Aryeh Neier's statement, in the 1979 case of Neo-Nazis's right to march in Skokie, Illinois: Keeping a few ideologically-corrupt professors off the campus will serve Israel and Jews poorly if it means that the freedoms to write, publish or teach are thereby weakened.
When all is said and done, it really comes down to the kind of education this institution offers. It's Columbia's choice whether it grants the coveted prize of tenure to an academic who supplements what amounts to hate speech for genuine historical inquiry. And as choices go, they come with consequences for which real people will bear responsibility. This may be a very unsatisfactory state of affairs as far as defamed Israeli archeologists are concerned, for it does not redress the lies and distortions that impeached their own integrity and the integrity of the entire Jewish people. Still, this is the price we pay for living in a democracy.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
Denying the Armenian genocide (Via: Normblog)
It is doubtful that many people are persuaded by the Turks and their lobbyists. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recognizes the Armenian genocide, as does the Reform Jewish movement, as, one assumes, do most Jewish leaders, at least privately — perhaps even the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and B’nai B’rith International. Yet the leaders of these organizations have steadfastly refused to endorse a bill currently before Congress that would formally acknowledge the fact of the Armenian genocide.
How can that be? Why do they shy away from using the word “genocide” to describe the tragedy of the Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey?
The answer is unsettling. It has nothing to do with history or truth; it has everything to do with the strategic interests of Israel, as also, to a lesser degree, of the United States.
Personally, I'm quite fed up with kowtowing to any authoritarian regime's whims and eccentricities. Turkey is a big kid already and should be able to face up to atrocities committed by Turks when Turkey was still an empire. This includes not only the Armenian genocide but also the various massacres and expulsions committed under the Ottomans against Palestinian Jews . The Greeks also have some grievances of their own, not that the Greeks are clean from any counter-massacres of Muslims under the Ottomans.
But it's Turkey we are speaking of here. Turkey that in spite of maintaing a very profitable relationship with Israel, has never stood by Israel when it is besmirched by Arab ambassadors at the UN. Or has never failed to join its 'Yea' to any resolution condemning Israel for acting in its self-defence.
Now they are seeking to use Jewish influence in the Congress to block this acknowledgement of a historical atrocity. And the Jewish organizations that help them pretend that they can't smell the stench of this humongous hypocricy. Why do they agree to do this dirty work for the Turks?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Nothing is more democratic than logic...
Solomonia has posted rather externsively (here) on the latest kerfuffle * at American academia concerning the allocation of tenure to alleged anthropologist Nadia Abu El Haj. The opposition to this entitlement focuses on a book she wrote about how Israeli archeologists invented Jewish history in historic Palestine that was never there. Many scholars took her up on her claims and debunked her theory one leg at a time until it no longer has any no leg to stand on. Still, the university is considering tenure to a professor who uses her cathedra as a pulpit to teach/indoctrinate falsehoods to young students. If she is a gifted teacher, she can work magic on these young and receptive minds.
I'm confused about the meaning of "academic freedom" when it pops up in cases like these. Does academic freedom imply freedom from any constraints, any basic standards and indebtedness to factually sustainable theories? Or does it mean freedom to create alternative narratives to history and pass them off to unsuspecting students as valid and worthwhile? Isn't the university at all concerned about the possibility that its graduates would be let into world with ideas of truth and accountability forever crippled by the kind of scholarship el-Haj advances?
There seems to be a struggle between two rights here, or rather a right and an ethical principle: the right to academic freedom and the principle of academic truth. Which prevails, or should prevail, when it comes to a question of tenure, the right to teach lies and distortions of history or the principle of academic truth that opposes the teaching of lies and distortions?
All of which, for some reason, put me in mind of something I read a long time ago about Jewish scholars:
A Jew, on the other hand, in keeping with the business circles and the past of his people, is least of all used to being believed. Consider Jewish scholars in this light: All of them have a high regard for logic, that is for compelling agreement by force of reason; they know, with that they are bound to win even where they encounter race and class prejudices and when one does not like to believe them. For nothing is more democratic than logic; it is no respecter of persons and makes no distinction between crooked and straight noses
(Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 348)
If fiction and post-modernistic "narratives" are now going to be given the mantle of respectability and legitimacy in academia, then the first casualty of such a decision will be logic, with democracy a close second. Depressing, isn't it?
* kerfuffle, contrary to received opinion, and in spite of its "crooked grin" sounding enunciation, is not a Yiddish expression. It's from the Scottish language:
ker·fuf·fle Pronunciation: k&r-'f&-f&l Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of carfuffle, from Scots car- (probably from Scottish Gaelic cearr wrong, awkward) + fuffle to become disheveled chiefly British : DISTURBANCE, FUSS
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
A delightful fairy tale, a post-modernist interpretation of very old themes, such as the quest for youth and beauty, the meaning of love, evil contxtualized, etc, all served with great humour and a light hand. The story of Tristan who loves Victoria and seeks to gain her hand by traveling to the end of the world (which happens to lie very conveniently beyond the village "wall") in order to find her a falling star. Once breaching the wall, Tristan has to deal with all sorts of magical beings, of the evil and ugly kind (Michelle Pfeiffer as an ugly witch is quite superb) and the bright and glittering type (Claire Danes of "Shopgirl"). In some way it is the anti Harry Potter since there are no good witches in this tale. It's fun to watch, the story rolls quite smoothly, no hidden darkness anywhere: the evil is pretty explicit and ostentatious, and quite beatable, for all the greed and spells that serve it. It would, however, have been just another cute summer movie, as tasty and as easily forgotable as a slice of tiramisu, if it weren't for Robert De Niro as the piratical Captain Shakespeare. Not since his role as Al Capone in "The Untouchables" has he bitten with such gusto into the role of the villain (with a twist, in this case). Frankly, the movie is worth watching if for no other reason than to see Captain Shakespeare worry about his reputation and prance about in drag.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Of Boycotts and Exceptionalism (by Shalom Lappin)
Just as there is no point in arguing with racists, creationists, Holocaust deniers, or advocates of other irrational views in a manner that lends credence to their case, it makes no sense to engage boycotters in endless debate. One works at bringing the noxious and unreasonable nature of their enterprise into full view. One seeks to constrain their influence on public policy through effective political and legal action.... it is necessary to devise effective strategies for attacking the underlying exceptionalist assumptions that are driving the boycott, and much else. These assumptions are eroding the standards of rational discussion and liberal values in the public domain in Britain. The significance of such a collapse of liberal values extends well beyond the boycott and related issues.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
From the blog Dissecting Leftism: Who said it?
"Why should the German be interested in the liberation of the Jew, if the Jew is not interested in the liberation of the German?... We recognize in Judaism, therefore, a general anti-social element of the present time... In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.... Indeed, in North America, the practical domination of Judaism over the Christian world has achieved as its unambiguous and normal expression that the preaching of the Gospel itself and the Christian ministry have become articles of trade... Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist".
Who said that? Hitler? No. It was Karl Marx. See also here and here and here.The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Here are a few inks that may be of interest:
Pajamas Media reports:
Watching the Islamists on the 'net: MEMRI has launched an Islamist Website Monitor Project.
Mick Hartley: Nature Says Women Are Human Beings, Men Have Made Religion To Deny It
Normblog expostulates about readers' choice of best love story ever. I agree. Wuthering Heights has never had that appeal to me as a love story. More of an unhealthy pathology. I'l'l explain someday. Now anyone who knows me even slightly would be aware of my eternal devotion to Jane Austen but I still think that the best love story ever written is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. For exactly the reasons that feminists and other pre- and post- modernist critics castigated Bronte: that it is the ultimate female fantasy. It's true enough about the fantasy - women like to love bad boys and nurture a secret desire to tame a wild, wandering man "a loner, with a loner's point of view" (as Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn sweetly moans into into his intoxicated prey's ear). And here's the ultimate heroine, plain Jane, small, insignificant and poor who brings the mighty Rochester to his knees. By just being herself. It's a story that plays to our senses and our intellect. It's really quite the most perfect love story.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Raul Hildberg's Legacy is in the precision and obsessive attention to beaurocratic traditions and train timetables as a methodology for accounting a Holocaust. This clinical approach to the story of a successful genocide relies on two factors to tell itslef: The distance of victims, and the grey anonymity of the procedures. A Kafkaesque tale of horrors.
Hilberg understood that murdering a swathe of the population consisting of several millions of people scattered over an entire continent required not a group of demoniacal sadists but an army of bureaucrats on the staff of administrative bodies, registrars to control identification, police for segregation, railway officials for transport and paramilitary organisations to whom groups of victims would eventually be assigned for the actual business of extermination. And so to begin with, Hilberg did not study the memoirs of the few survivors, but turned his attentions to the copious amounts of material on the perpetrators. Hilberg famously interpretated a piece of writing which is familiar to everyone: the train timetable. Here the word Jew never once appears, only an ominous 'L' which signalised that the transport carriages that were so tightly packed on the outward journey would be 'leer' or empty on returning. This 'L' contains the precise amount of explicitness allowed - and guaranteed - by the bureaucratic form of expression.
In his film, Amen, Costa-Gavras uses trains to illustrate the efficiency and anonymity of the entire Holocaust project. As the protagonist travels to and from various destinations in Europe, he constantly sees trains riding the tracks, towards the East - full, back from the East - empty. . We never see people on those trains. But we guess, after a while, that the long lines of cattle cars with iron-barred doors carry people in one direction and other lines of cattle cars with open doors means they had disgorged their passengers, and now go back, empty, doors wide open. The repetition of this pattern becomes clear as the movie progresses in fugue and crescendo, and the pace of the exchange of sighted trains, between fully-loaded and empty is accelarated.
I wonder if Costa-Gavras read Hildberg's book and was struck by the power of the image, which creeps upon one's attention whether they like it or not. The question that leaps to mind once it realizes what is happening with these trains, is how people could observe them and not ask the necessary questions. Why such lack of curiosity? The human mind thrives on curiosity. What then disabled the function of human curiosity in Europe of the Holocaust years?
The Suburban Editorial: A Dangerous naiveté...
Of Canada's less glorious histories and more current toadies:
"They have been characterized by a national provincialism devoid of principle or purpose other than a fear of engagement.
In recent decades its contours have been decided by an almost knee-jerk anti-Americanism and ambivalence towards any allies of the United States.
They are the policies of those riddled by a self-doubt fuelled by a jealousy of others’ self-belief...
In his diaries, Mackenzie King made it clear that he was more concerned with the political fallout in Quebec over conscription than by any threat from Adolf Hitler.
His private and public words often demonstrated the worst manifestations of appeasement in his failure to condemn the Nazi menace. His immigration policy of “none is too many” regarding Jews fleeing Europe has gone down in the annals of infamy. "
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Summer goes well with bar-b-ques and Sangria. Here is an authentic recipe for the best sangria to ensure that your guests will never want to go home. I got it from my Spanish teacher who is a bona fide Spaniard (she enunciates the “s” as “th”):
One bottle of cheap red wine
One orange, washed and sliced
One Lemon, washed, sliced
1-2 cinnamon stick(s)4-5 tablespoons of liqueur (such as Grand Marnier, or Triple sec, or just brandy, Rum is not recommended in this case)
3 tablespoons of sugar
a bottle of some fizzy drink, chilled (7-up, or Sprite, or Orange soda. I use Fresca)
Place all ingerdients (except last one) in a very large jug. Refrigerate. When it’s time to serve, pour the chilled fizzy into wine mixture, stir a bit. Serve.
A word of caution: This drink feels very innocent to the palate but it packs quite a charge. Be sure to monitor your intake, especially if you plan on driving soon after.
BTW, you can experiment with other fruits, like sliced appled, cherries, grapes (cut in half).
Sunday, August 05, 2007
As per my post quoting Sartre on antisemitism, here are some more thoughts:
I think Sartre's novelty is the acknowledgement that Antisemitism is not a disease that Jews can cure. Their very existence is a contributing factor to its persistence. Those who aren't Jewish or antisemites ought to be able to recognize and deal with it.
But I've noticed that those who are not antisemites tend to keep their silence when people like them (I mean of similar ethnic identity and political affinities) utter unforgivable antisemitic statements. They tend to be forgiving about these lapses, make excuses, as though it was not really meant, as though it was somehow provoked. When they can't excuse, they ignore and continue their friendship with the antisemite as though no harm was done to the fabric of good humanity, or to Jews. If they are particularly fond of that antisemite, then they somehow manage to rationalize the whole thing, stand it on its head. The antisemite is then presented as a victim, persecuted, poor thing, by constant reminders of his vile statements.
This denouement, which I witnessed on a few occasions, is an ironic travesty of Sartre's insight, in which the friends of antisemites bring to their defense too much of the passion and the perseverance their critics (Jews) use to try and expose them for what they are.
By some fluke, Normblog has posted this short-short story today in which the following paragraph appears, describing the phenomenon of the "friend":
"His friends encourage him. If not openly, they always listen politely, and comment on his grasp, or if they never comment on his grasp at least they never contradict him. Or at least not openly, or if they do disagree openly they never take the battle seriously. Never back themselves up or keep the argument going. Never really take part, to be honest."
Saturday, August 04, 2007
A beautiful summer day today, Saturday, August 4.
I sat in my garden
under the Maple tree,
sipping a beautifully coloured
peach schnaps, orange and
and listened to Gershwin's Summertime.
Again and again.
It all happened.
But not in this cluster, or order.
Not in this harmonious way.
But this is how I wish to remember today.
And another Summertime
And Summer wine