Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama's Unusual Adulators- the enigma

This story has just broken:

Barack Obama has resigned his 20 year membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in the aftermath of inflammatory remarks by his longtime pastor the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and more recent fiery remarks at the church by another minister.

...Comments by Wright have inflamed racial tensions and posed an unwanted problem for Obama, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, as he seeks to wrap up the nomination.

More recently, racially charged remarks from the same pulpit by another pastor, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, has kept the controversy alive and proved the latest thorn in the side of Obama.

I have been following the Obama campaign's dramatic vicissitudes for several months now. In the process, I've learned to respect and like him. He is as decent a person as he seems. As one point I likened him to Prince Hal, but I think he is probably more like that other much more famous Shakespearean prince, Hamlet. Obama and Hamlet share two defining traits: they are both deeply intellectual and irresolute. They cannot make a clear cut decision, and therefore they cannot act.

So now Obama has finally acted. And it took some outrageous performances and expressions to force him to make this decision.

I wonder if there might be found, in this Hamletic streak of his, a possible answer to the question that keeps nagging at me: why do they keep supporting him, in spite of all the renouncing and rejecting that he has done, publicly? What do they think they know, or understand about this man?If we take Sunstein's advocacy for all that it is worth, the radical factions who support Obama in spite of his declarative positions are dead wrong in their estimation of his ability to make statements he does not mean. It is a strange kind of endorsement, when the fans of a presidential hopeful are predicating their support upon the premise that their favourite candidate must be lying when he articulates positions which are contrary to their own inclinations.

Andrei S. Markovits and Jeff Weintraub have noted the same, here:

Put bluntly, the core of Obama's message would appear to be completely incompatible with the proclaimed beliefs of many of his most ardent progressive supporters... So what gives?

Three partial explanations, not mutually exclusive, strike us as plausible. First, the fact that Obama is African-American probably helps to make his appeals to American civic patriotism (along with his religious imagery) more acceptable in progressive circles than they would be coming from a white candidate. Second, some of Obama's supporters--and critics--probably assume that all this stuff is just empty campaign rhetoric that Obama doesn't really believe himself. We suspect they're wrong about that.

But the most interesting fact is that many of Obama's progressive supporters don't simply accept or tolerate his message. They are moved, thrilled, and inspired by it. As Gorski perceptively noted, this response suggests that Obama's message speaks to profound hopes, concerns, and emotions that--for good or ill--run deeper than explicit beliefs and positions. We hope so. For decades progressive politics in America has too often crippled itself by unilaterally surrendering the discourse of national community and the common good--and, with it, some of the key animating principles of active democratic citizenship... If Obama can help make these notions respectable again for self-styled progressives, that alone would be a valuable contribution.

So the bottom line is, as far as I can understand, Obama's appeal is emotional and even irrational. While his intellectual formulations are at variance with the actual beliefs of many of his admirers, it is the feelings he stirs up in them that account for their support. It is the feelings he inspires that decide, not the ideas, thoughts, policies, he advocates. Is he aware of this contradiction? Does he realize that what is being described in this article is a condition of being in love, where the emotion overpowers and mutes the capability to rationalize, compare, deliberate, decide?

More, later.

10 quotes collected on a rainy Saturday morning:

I do that sometimes. I take a vitual walk through a certain landscape, and I take away a small pebble from each location in which I happen to loiter. Mostly I walk where the scenery is pleasing to my eye, or at least, not offensive. Sometimes, quite deliberately, I leave the sun- bathed streets with their intelligent and healthy-looking passers by, and turn into a dark and somewhat mephitic alley, strewn with garbage in which unidentified slimey creepies crawl, a place where shady characters lurk. Can you guess which alley I happened to cross this morning, from among the ten quotes? I'll give you a hint: someone caracterized my curiousity about such places as follows: "Noga, you frighten me: you must have a very high, how to call it, emetic threshold, to deal with this vile crap" :-)

1. I have been reminded of the books I used to read about the Rothschild family. When other nineteenth-century banks made loans to conservative regimes or to countries at war, no one seemed to notice. But when the Rothschilds did it, the pamphleteers could scarcely control their indignation. Indeed, it would take a great many shelves to contain all the shrill anti-Rothschild polemics produced by Victorian antecedents of Hitchens and his ilk.

2. But what is funny is a person of the left objecting, as Byrnes does, to the cheek of people of the right claiming to speak for liberal values, and then mounting as a defence of the left this abject parallelism of choice: for us, liberty, fraternity and equality; for others, race, religion and tribe - 'their own paths and values', no less. And if these paths and values, let us just say, demean other people, then what? (Source)

3. The change in the health ministry domain of responsibilities is nothing short of revolutionary.

I shudder trying to imagine what kind of tasks are now under the umbrella of Hamas tourism ministry... (Source)

4. But no-one wants to think about that now. That stuff? they think. It's been done to death. It's just a lever that that obnoxious country with its obnoxious citizens are pulling so they can go about their obnoxious business. Holocaust Day is Blackmail Day, the ultimate victimisation scam. Concentration camp guards? Journalists doorstepping Ken Livingstone. Massacres, tortures and death camps? Chapman Brothers.

No, maybe it doesn't go exactly like that most of the time. In order to feel safely good about yourself you can't go quite that far. Yet. But once you get a few people feeling good about themselves in thinking this, you too might start to feel good about yourself. That's how it works. You hardly realise it.

Part of you resents the sense of obligation anyway. It's as if you were guilty of something you had nothing to do with. Why should these people make you feel guilty? Only barbarians do the kind of things that are supposed to have happened then. You're not a barbarian. Why should you feel that you even possibly could be? Why should you be in any danger of feeling bad about yourself? That's if it happened. Or was it all fiction, a kind of post-modern paradigm? And the secret thought: Perhaps they had it coming to them anyway. Oppressors. Obnoxious people. (Source)

5. In a July 2005 speech, Ahmadinejad asked: "Is there an art more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal that the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity." (Source)

6. "When the sun came out, I could see people. I tried to talk to them, but I didn't understand what they were saying. Frantically, I started running after black people, I thought I could find someone who could speak my language."

Eventually, at a bus station, he found an Arabic speaker, who told him he was in Birmingham, England, and gave him £5 and directions to a police station. It was September 2004 – about a month since his journey had begun. (Source)

7. For amid all the doleful news, there is a hopeful tide. Opinion is turning slowly against extremism. The über-analyst Dennis Ross says that he has noted it among the Palestinians. Michael Young writes that opinion is shifting against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Peter Bergen, Paul Cruickshank and Lawrence Wright have in their different ways written about the intellectual crisis afflicting Al Qaeda. It may not happen over the next four years, but as Ross has noted, where Islamists rule, they wear out their welcome. (Source)

8. NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I guess there are two possibilities. One, I think I’m more effective than I have been in the past. I draw fairly large audiences. And I think Israel is now facing a major public relations challenge. They’re losing the moral ground. They’re losing. And that’s plain. And I can say, in my own small way, I’ve contributed to isolating Israel in public opinion.

And the second possibility is that I did spend some time in Lebanon in January, when I—where, among other things, I met with several leaders of Hezbollah, and that received fairly wide publicity, and that may have prompted the outrage or the decision. (Source)

9. I'm always slightly amused by these inane popularity polls. Anyone who knows just a bit of the history of this country knows that our forefathers thought very little of Europeans. Europeans were considered as corrupt and effeminate (little has changed in 232 years). America was by design the "anti-Europe." The fact that Europeans hate us today means we are doing something right. John Adams must be smiling in heaven*. (Source)

* As I was fortunate enough to catch the splendid HBO mini-series "John Adams", I'm in a position today to appreciate this comment more fully...

10. When Stephen Harper laid a wreath at Auschwitz, a reader calling himself baltzera objected. “I got a bad feeling about this one,” he wrote. “Getting a little too close to Americans and Jews, aren’t we folks? … I’m stuck here watching my Canada deteriorate and become another vassal of Zionist and American imperialists.” Later baltzera added: “I’m thinking of vacation next year and have to watch my spending. Which is cheaper? A day pass to Disney’s theme park or Dachau.” (Source)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jeffery Goldberg Inteviews John McCain

JM: ... Because of the rise of Islamic extremism, because of the failure of human rights and democracy in the Middle East, or whether there are a myriad of challenges we face in the Middle East, all of them severe, all of them pose a threat to the existence to the state of Israel, including and especially the Iranians, who have as a national policy the destruction of the state of Israel, something they’ve been dedicated to since before President Bush came to office.

JG: What do you think motivates Iran?

JM: Hatred. I don’t try to divine people’s motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation’s stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You’ll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions...

... Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.

.... As you know, our ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has met with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad on a couple of occasions. Those discussions, according to Ambassador Crocker, have been totally unproductive, because Iran is hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, they’re hell-bent on driving us out of Iraq, they’re hell-bent on supporting terrorist organizations, and as serious as anything to American families, they’re sending explosive devices into Iraq that are killing American soldiers.


JG: You bring up an interesting question about the Holocaust, to which you say never again. But do you have an absolute commitment to stop genocide wherever it occurs?'

JM: That has to be the fundamental goal, but it has to be tempered by the idea that you have to actually be able to do it, that you can succeed. If you fail in one of these efforts, that encourages others, and increases feelings of isolationism and protectionism in America. It’s hard to convince Americans to send young Americans into harm’s way, as it should be.


JG: A final question: Senator Obama talked about how his life was influenced by Jewish writers, Philip Roth, Leon Uris. How about you?

JM: There’s Elie Wiesel, and Victor Frankl. I think about Frankl all the time. “Man’s Search for Meaning” is one of the most profound things I’ve ever read in my life. And maybe on a little lighter note, “War and Remembrance” and “Winds of War” are my two absolute favorite books. I can tell you that one of my life’s ambitions is to meet Herman Wouk. “War and Remembrance” for me, it’s the whole thing.

Then there’s Joe Lieberman, who lives a life of his religion, and who does it in the most humble way.

JG: Not a big Philip Roth fan?

JM: No, I’m not. Leon Uris I enjoyed. Victor Frankl, that’s important. I read it before my captivity. It made me feel a lot less sorry for myself, my friend. A fundamental difference between my experience and the Holocaust was that the Vietnamese didn’t want us to die. They viewed us as a very valuable asset at the bargaining table. It was the opposite in the Holocaust, because they wanted to exterminate you. Sometimes when I felt sorry for myself, which was very frequently, I thought, “This is nothing compared to what Victor Frankl experienced.”

I mentioned Viktor Frankl in these posts in the past. Here are two important thoughts from him:

"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

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

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Restoring the world to the only true religion:

A former Saudi information minister, Muhammad Abduh Al-Yamani, explains:

It was not Islam that got rid of [ the "Judeo-Christian] religion"] . It was caused by the contamination that occurred in this religion. They changed, altered, and distorted their holy books, and Islam came to rectify this. Islam has not changed a thing in the teachings of Moses.

Interviewer: So one of the basic principles of this dialogue is to accept that the [Jews and Christians] have a religion.

Muhammad Abduh Al-Yamani: Yes, and we respect this religion, but we say to them: “You’ve changed it, and you know that the books you have are not the divine gospel and the divine Torah. You have changed them. You yourselves admit that your books were written by priests and others who altered them. We want to bring you back to the original religion.”

The video here.

(H/T: The Iconoclast)

Lies, Videos and Facts

Honest Reporting produced a flash resource on media manipulation and complicity in promoting big lies about Israel fighting to fend off Palestinian terror:


The Jenin "Massacre"

The Gaza beach


The Gaza Siege

Egypt's culture minister: Burn their books

"if any Israeli books were found in Egyptian libraries, he would burn them"

This report:

Several diplomats familiar with the selection process for director-general of the U.N. Education Scientific and Cultural Organization said yesterday that Farouk Hosni's candidacy could now be doomed, after he told the Egyptian parliament that if any Israeli books were found in Egyptian libraries, he would burn them.

Such a statement is "couched in the language and actions of Nazi 'Minister of Culture' Josef Goebbels," the director for international relations of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Shimon Samuels, said in a letter to the current Unesco director-general, Koïchiro Matsuura of Japan. "An aspirant book-burner, who threatens to wield culture as a weapon, cannot head the intellectual arm of the United Nations."

"Where they burn books, they will also in the end burn human beings" - Heinrich Heine

The hypocrite

As witnesses not of our intentions but of our conduct,we
can be true or false, and the hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness
against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice
of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices
except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the
perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the

Hannah Arendt

Norm asks this question:

Does a nation's sovereignty allow it to destroy its own people?

The answer is, or should be:

...we already know the answer. It shouldn't allow such destruction, as a matter not only of morality but also of international law. But too often it does allow the most blatant violation of every fundamenatal principle of both morality and law. Nothing happens. The 'realists' tut tut.

But, according to the humanitarian luminary, Jimmy Carter, there is no "of course" about such issues, as he said here:

"When I'm the president of the United States," he intoned, the voice still strong, "My country will never again torture a prisoner. When I'm the president of the United States, we will never again attack another country unless our security is directly threatened. When I'm the president of the United States, human rights will be the foundation of our foreign policy."...

This comes from the same person who said this:

There is a legal definition of genocide and Darfur does not meet that legal standard... Carter, whose charitable foundation, the Carter Center, worked to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC), said: "If you read the law textbooks ... you'll see very clearly that it's not genocide and to call it genocide falsely just to exaggerate a horrible situation I don't think it helps."

The finer points of "International Law" count only when Carter seeks to mitigate for Arab dictators' crimes. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights counts for nothing in his eyes when it comes to criticizing the foreign policies of his president.

As Norm astutely reminds us, here:

If military action is ruled out 'unless our security is directly threatened', then so much for the UN Genocide Convention, and indeed so much for human rights as a foundation of US foreign policy when their mass violation doesn't impinge on 'our security'.

The hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself..

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

European Suicidalism

Now, even as El Aroud remains under constant surveillance, she is back home rallying militants on her Web site - and collecting more than $1,100 a month in government unemployment benefits...

Read about the Belgian female Jihadist, here, on the Iconoclast

He wants to talk to Iran.

But does Iran want to talk to him?

Amir Taheri, here:

Talking to Iran:

Every U.S. administration in the past 30 years, from Jimmy Carter's to George W. Bush's, has tried to engage in dialogue with Iran's leaders. They've all failed.

Ms. Rice is still waiting for Iran's mullahs to accept her invitation, even while Mr. Obama castigates her for not wanting to talk.

The Europeans invented the phrase "critical dialogue" to describe their approach to Iran. They negotiated with Tehran for more than two decades, achieving nothing.

The Arabs, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have been negotiating with the mullahs for years... with nothing to show for it.

Since 1993, the Russians have tried to achieve agreement on the status of the Caspian Sea through talks with Tehran, again without results.

The explanation:

...A nation-state wants concrete things such as demarcated borders, markets, access to natural resources, security, influence, and, of course, stability – all things that could be negotiated with other nation-states. A revolution, on the other hand, doesn't want anything in particular because it wants everything.

...the Islamic Republic as a revolutionary cause [is] bent on world conquest under the guidance of the "Hidden Imam." The following statement by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ... exposes the futility of the very talks Mr. Obama proposes: "You have nothing to say to us. We object. We do not agree to a relationship with you! We are not prepared to establish relations with powerful world devourers like you! The Iranian nation has no need of the United States, nor is the Iranian nation afraid of the United States. We . . . do not accept your behavior, your oppression and intervention in various parts of the world."

...Mr. Ahmadinejad is talking about changing the destiny of mankind, while Mr. Obama and his foreign policy experts offer spare parts for Boeings or membership in the World Trade Organization. Perhaps Mr. Obama is unaware that one of Mr. Ahmadinejad's first acts was to freeze Tehran's efforts for securing WTO membership because he regards the outfit as "a nest of conspiracies by Zionists and Americans."

Surrender to Iran?

The Islamic Republic might welcome unconditional talks, but only if the U.S. signals readiness for unconditional surrender. Talk about talking to Iran and engaging Mr. Ahmadinejad cannot hide the fact that, three decades after Khomeinist thugs raided the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, America does not understand what is really happening in Iran.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Humanitarian aid workers and United Nation peacekeepers are sexually abusing small children in several war-ravaged and food-poor countries, a leading European charity has said.

Children like this 15-year-old girl have suffered abuse at the hands of some UN soldiers and aid workers.

Children as young as 6 have been forced to have sex with aid workers and peacekeepers in return for food and money, Save the Children UK said in a report released Tuesday.
After interviewing hundreds of children, the charity said it found instances of rape, child prostitution, pornography, indecent sexual assault and trafficking of children for sex.

"It is hard to imagine a more grotesque abuse of authority or flagrant violation of children's rights," said Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children UK. Watch a report on the abuse »

In the report, "No One To Turn To" a 15-year-old girl from Haiti told researchers: "My friends and I were walking by the National Palace one evening when we encountered a couple of humanitarian men. The men called us over and showed us their penises.

"They offered us 100 Haitian gourdes ($2.80) and some chocolate if we would suck them. I said, 'No,' but some of the girls did it and got the money."

Save the Children says that almost as shocking as the abuse itself is the "chronic under-reporting" of the abuses. It believes that thousands more children around the world could be suffering in silence.

The full report here

How is it possible that these things are taking place even sporadically, never mind in these proportions?

Is Obama's slip showing, after all?

Mr Brzezinski said “it’s not unique to the Jewish community – but there is a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community”, referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. “They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel.”

... the question remains why Obama has had a retinue of advisors (both formal and not) like Brzezinski, McPeak, and Malley who hold views so antithetical to Obama’s supposedly unassailable record and views on Israel.

Indeed. It's the question I keep asking myself and have not yet had a satisfactory answer.

This commenter nails it:

Brzezinsk’s comments explaining the mistaken views of Jews (false consciousness) remind me very much of Obama’s comments about why working class whites don’t support his policies (clinging to guns and bibles). In other words, here we have two traditionally Democratic constituencies that have serious problems with Obama’s policies, and rather than engage in a reasonable self-critique of those policies, Obama’s team puts these groups on the psychiatric couch to figure what’s wrong their consciousness.

The question I would have is why Obama’s people don’t put themselves on the couch and ask what form of false consciousness they are displaying by supporting their stated policies. Trotskyites of old used to talk about something known as “left wing infantilism.”

Amusing and bemusing:
Some links that may be of interest

Norm Finkelstein denied entry to Israel: Engage Solomonia

Obama's body man: "He knows that “the boss,” as he calls Mr. Obama, likes MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew — Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. He keeps a supply of both on hand. " (H/T: Josh)

Carter's commitments: Normblog: "If military action is ruled out 'unless our security is directly threatened', then so much for the UN Genocide Convention, and indeed so much for human rights as a foundation of US foreign policy when their mass violation doesn't impinge on 'our security'. "
The wonderful Fouad Ajami: "Mr. Bush, after all, may have smashed their structural entitlements. But he has, Mr. Ajami maintains, created in its place one that all can tolerate: the Arab world's first inclusive, democratic government. Not democratic in the Canadian mold, but a kind of pluralist government that rests on all the three big communities of Iraq: the Sunnis, the Shia and the Kurds" Mr. Ajami says. Significantly, it is unbeholden to Muslim clerics. And if it can hold, and Mr. Ajami believes it will, it may finally deliver the Middle East its best shot yet at the modernism of which he and so many other Arab intellectuals of his generation have long been dreaming."

"Sen. John McCain broke today with President Bush's new policy on North Korea, co-authoring an opinion article with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in which he called for a return to Bush's original demand of a complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament of North Korea's nuclear programs".

This has to be right.. I share the views of Christopher Hitchens, in a recent open letter to the President:

It would be pardonable, perhaps, Mr. President, if a slightly dishonorable concession on the human-rights front did in fact lead to a verifiable gain in disarmament and regional security. But by the very same token, it would be unforgivable if a further cynical stalling and postponement of non-proliferation were to be accompanied by an extension of the hellish regime of Kim Jong Il, and of the wretchedness and misery of North Korean life, not a day of which any of us could hope to endure. Your administration can still hope to be remembered for insisting that North Korea cannot be just a little bit nuclear, or partially or incompletely disarmed, as well as for stating boldly that Korea cannot long continue half slave and half free.

And this stranger than fiction phenomenon:

Director and actor Sydney Pollack dies at 73

Here is a short biography.

I saw most of the films he made or produced. A particularly lingering impression was left by Tootsie (1982), a film he directed and Eyes Wide Shut (1999), in which he appeared as Victor Ziegler, a decadent, corrupt, and slightly menacing rich man.

I liked most of his movies. He could tell a good story and acquaint us with some interesting, well-rendered characters.

If there were a special prayer for those talented artists who have generously given us the happiness and pleasure that comes from watching a good movie or a work of art or reading a thoughtful book, he would certainly deserve it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hamas Schmuckarter

In his address to the Guardian's Hay-on-Wye literary festival on the border between England and Wales, Jimmy Carter, the meddlesome ex-president extraordinaire, made some comments while discussing Iran’s nuclear program. Following a recent trip to the Middle East, where he met and exchanged hot kisses with members of Hamas, Carter says Israel has 150 nuclear weapons.

"The U.S. has more than 12,000 nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union (Russia) has about the same, Great Britain and France have several hundred, and Israel has 150 or more,”

According to this source, it was unclear whether Carter was citing those estimates, offering his own independent assessment or drawing on US intelligence he would have had access to as president.

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash speculated that Carter's irresponsible comments could potentially be used by Iran to push its nuclear development. Farkash further speculated that Carter's shooting off his mouth was mainly a consequence of his hurt feeling, since during his latest visit to the region, he was summarily ignored by the political establishment.

Big surprise, that this morally illiterate man with his mega-ego, vacuous smile, and fanatic religiosity would be unable to contain his bile, even at the price of endangering the security of Israel's 6 million Jews.

Earlier today he called on members of the European Union to break the embargo of the Gaza Strip, which he called "one of the greatest human rights crimes on Earth." When asked whether president Bush should face prosecution for war crimes. he suggested that Bush whould "live a peaceful "productive life - in our country." Sands... understood that as "clear confirmation" that while Bush would face no challenge in his own country, "what happened outside the country was another matter entirely."

As I said, here, Carter is a religious fanatic on a mission from God, whose view of Biblical prophecies and the role of Jews is of a piece with Pastor Hagee's. The two men are equivalent in their Jesus-inspired fantasies about Jews, with one distinction: Hagee is not seeking to harm the Jews of Israel. He is rather their friend. Carter is increasingly and visibly becoming their enemy. And while Hagee's friendship cannot protect the Jews, Carter's hatred can actually harm them.

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.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aid to Africa

Something I read here caught my eye:

It is indeed possible that a leader who fails in one area does significant and appropriate things in other areas. For example, Bush has a very impressive record of offering aid to Africa – much more impressive than that of his popular predecessor.

I've never heard about it, not in mainstream media and certainly not in the alternative press. So I decided to check it out myself and it turns out that yes, indeed "Bush Has Quietly Tripled Aid to Africa".

...The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world's most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 -- to nearly $9 billion.

... because Bush has received little support from African American voters, he has little obvious political incentive for his interest.

...But attacking African poverty has become a growing priority of some of the religious groups at the core of Bush's political base, and some lawmakers credit them with stoking the president's interest in the subject.

"The evangelical community raised the awareness of HIV and AIDS to the president," said Rep. Donald M. Payne (N.J.), the top-ranking Democrat on the House International Relations subcommittee on Africa. "When the Bush administration came in, HIV and AIDS were not an overwhelming priority. Now we have seen a total metamorphosis."

..."I think [increasing aid to Africa] will be one of the things the president is most proud of when he leaves office," Gerson said. "It doesn't fit the preconception, the caricature that the president somehow has a preference for using the blunt instruments of force in international affairs when in fact on a variety of topics, the president has been a root-cause thinker in an unexpected way."

I wonder how many in the African-American community are even remotely aware of these policies. If the words of the most recent self-anointed spokesperson for the Black African American church, Reverend Wright, are to be believed, not too many know that. It's one of those inconvenient facts that may throw his otherwise beautifully seamless victimhood narrative into serious disarray, etc, etc.

A pack of Jew-lovers

Ali Abunimah is Electronic Intifada co-founder. Here he talks to Amy Goodman about the presidential candidates:

A pre-note:

What's the meaning of "pack"?

* a group of people or things: a pack of fools; a pack of lies.
* a group of certain animals of the same kind, esp. predatory ones: a pack of wolves.

Here is what he says about Obama. Please note the barely concealed verbal violence of the way he describes the presidential nominees:

... they have all gone out of their way to express full support for what Israel is doing. Barack Obama is not distinguished from the rest of the pack, except by for how far he has moved to try to appease AIPAC and pro-Israel movements.

I remember, Amy -- I knew Barack Obama for many years as my state senator -- when he used to attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time. I remember personally introducing him onstage in 1999, when we had a major community fundraiser for the community center in Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. And that's just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation. And just yesterday, he apparently sent a letter to Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador at the UN, to urge the US not to allow any resolution to pass criticizing Israel and saying how Israel was forced to impose this barbaric medieval siege on [Gaza].

About Clinton:

...we saw Hillary Clinton, the moment her political ambitions became pronounced, shift. You'll remember, when she spoke in the 1990s in favor of a Palestinian state, since then she has become one of the most anti-Palestinian hawks. For example, a couple of years ago, she went and staged a photo opportunity in an Israeli settlement by the apartheid wall and talked about how the wall was necessary. This wall, of course, which has been condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, which has ordered Israel to tear it down, Hillary Clinton went and stood in front of it and endorsed it.

John McCain

... talks like a maverick on other issues, but on this one he has gone out of his way to offer full support for Israel.

Implicit in Abunimah's complaints is the convinction that all presidential candidates are actually corrupt, no better than beasts of prey, posturing for the sake of the Jewish vote. He expresses the classical victim syndrome, of whining and eschewing all responsibility for any agency in the Palestinian choices for their own misery.

He should be reading with extra care Bradley Burston's letter to Palestinians in order to get an idea as to a much stronger "why" Obama, Clinton, McCain are not fiercer champions of the Palestinian cause:

Worse, perhaps, is the way in which you took deadly aim at the concept of land for peace, and destroyed it, perhaps for all time. Your artful justifications of using Gaza settlement ruins for Qassam launchers wash with no one. You have justified every last claim and prediction of the Israeli right. You have lost immeasurable international support. You are looked upon abroad as Polarized to the heart, paralyzed by internal strife, and unable to arrive at, abide by, or implement decisions.

True, Israel was once isolated, stigmatized, universally condemned, boycotted. But your actions, and those of Bin Laden and Iran, have effectively welcomed Israel into the good graces of a range of countries which have begun to think twice about you. And have ceased to care about you. No country in the world - Israel included - has cried wolf more often in the past than you have. Now, when your distress is truly worse than ever, the cry has fallen on deaf - or hostile - ears.

...Your celebration of terror has alienated many of your closest friends. You did this. You. No one else. You have convinced exactly those Israelis who were willing to trade the West Bank for peace, that this would be a literally fatal error.

...Last month, as if to remove the remainder of doubt, the veteran Palestinian Authority Representative in Lebanon.. told a Lebanese television station, "Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine."

AMNON RUBINSTEIN also on The Jerusalem Post, further explains why Palestinians are no longer as warmly supported as they used to be just a few years ago:

Such is the Hamas policy: not only an endless blood-letting war against the Zionist entity, but also a readiness to lose their hold over Gaza as part of this war. This signifies a readiness not only to sacrifice the lives of men, women and children, but also a readiness to sacrifice the very regime they established not long ago through a violent coup. In other words, it is a process of political suicide writ large: The shahid is not only the individual, but the regime itself.

Suicide in the struggle against Israel has acquired a degree of legitimacy the West cannot even fathom.

This unpalatable conclusion must be confronted. On the one hand, it should drive us to increase our efforts to reach some sort of modus vivendi with the PLO to decrease the impact of the fanatics (despite the fact that any such compromise will be rejected by Iran and its cohorts); while on the other hand, Israel, as well as the West, should be prepared for a long, irrational and costly war, unlike any other fought in the past.

And here is some further illumination from an unexpected quarter

Friday, May 23, 2008

Waiting for God

As a supplement to this post, here is Bradley Burston in an article in Haaretz, about Palestinian suicidal policies:

I understand, says Burston,

why you long ago came to believe that time was on your
side. I understand the many factors, demographic, cultural, historic,
geo-political, which have served to reinforce that belief, the strong conviction
that Palestinian statehood was inevitable, inalienable - in every sense, a
matter of time.

I understand why you have come to believe that
the state of Israel is merely the latest in a long series of fleeting colonial
episodes, that its roots are elsewhere, its strength is illusory, its endurance
eroded, its spirit broken, its future dim.

I understand that you believe you can wait these people
out, wear them down, outfight them and out-believe them and out-populate them
and, in the end, take them over.

I understand that you believe that rockets and
mortars from the north, south, east, and, eventually, west, can depopulate and
peel back and obliterate the borders of pre-1967 Israel until there will be no
need to agree to a Jewish state on those borders, no need to compromise on
refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, no need to talk, no need for self-scrutiny and
reconsideration, no need to bend...

The post-modern West gave Palestinian a pass, and encouraged them to give themselves a pass,

In accepting and amplifying your contentions as to Israel's acts of wrongdoing, we chose not to hold you accountable for your own, or to explain them away as a function of occupation...

But, Burston reminds them, Palestinians had better understand that

The Jews are an indigenous people here, no less than you.

The Jews have every right to have a nation here, no less than you.

The Jews are stubborn and proud and fundamentally fierce as hell, no less than you.

And urges them to disown those leaders who tell them that

it is more important to eliminate the Jewish state than it is to create a Palestinian one.

But holds very little hope that this will happen:

...would you rather that I simply shut up? Just the rantings
of another untrustworthy Jew? Still want to believe you did everything right?
Still want to believe that your few friends remaining in the Western left are
more than just powerless cranks? Still want to believe that if you hold out long
enough, everything will come your way?

Israeli Jews can wait, too.

And while they wait, they do this, while Palestinians listen to this.

Israel and Microsoft - a happily married couple


"the mainstream press in the United States marked the 60th
anniversary of the independence of Israel by riveting on what the society has
not accomplished with its own Arabs and the Arabs in the neighboring

the chief executive officer of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer,

"it focused on what Israel has made of itself as a center of the technological revolution of today and tomorrow.. "

As mesmerizing as the wealth of many Arab societies is, says Marty Peretz here,

"these riches are not much shared either within these societies and certainly not across borders."

And it is doubtful whether

"Arab culture will anytime soon be infused with the ethos of curiosity and intellectual daring that is commonplace in the the U.S., in parts of Europe and, as the most recent welcome guests have observed, certainly in Israel."

Al Gore was also here this week for longer, among other reasons to lecture and to participate in a conference on technology and the environment. He, too, understands the Zionist purpose of creating a scientifically sound society.

The other mad priest

Ami Isseroff has the exact right measure of this outrage:

..."in the 1990s, Pastor Hagee said the following:

Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew who at the turn of the 19th century said, this land is our land, God wants us to live there. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said ‘I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel.’ So few went that Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust.“Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says — Jeremiah writing — ‘They shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and from the holes of the rocks,’ meaning there’s no place to hide. And that might be offensive to some people but don’t let your heart be offended. I didn’t write it, Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.

.... Hagee's remarks also included anti-Semitism. Hagee also said that "Jews are spiritually dead." Darn right, if we had any spunk, we would've tarred and feathered him. There is really a limit to the accommodation of alien views. Anti-Semitism can flourish even among well meaning people if Jews do not draw any lines and insist on elementary respect.


Zionists should extend the hand of friendship to anyone who offers it. But the Zionist movement must remain the province of Zionists and Jews, led by committed Jewish Zionists who share our fundamental values and who represent the Jewish people. We cannot and should not put ourselves in the unfortunate position of being responsible for the views of supporters who have a totally different value system, or of being vulnerable to the damage that can by caused by their sometimes eccentric, ill considered or obnoxious views. We have enough trouble defending our own different viewpoints.

The invitation to Pastor John Hagee to speak at the gala AIPAC convention was a divisive lapse in judgment. It held within it the potential for disaster, and that potential has come to fruition.

Hagee's strange fulminations remind me of another religious fanatic on a mission from God, Jimmy Carter, whose view of Biblical prophecies and the role of Jews is no less repellent than Hagee's. The two men are equivalent in their Jesus-inspired fantasies about Jews:

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.

Where they part ways is in their respective roles: the one is a religious cleric, the other a politician. Politicians endorsed by clerics can discard easily the burden of meddling priests, such as Hagee and Wright. Carter, a politician himself, can no more disown the religious mullah in him than he can disown his role in facilitating the regime of the Ayatollahs. He is actually a very good example of why mixing religion and politics is a bad idea.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"The Situation"

I. JC is a newly- added (but not addled) Elder to Simply Jews. I have read some of his contributions and found his voice fresh (no disambiguation here), friendly and funny. I confess that I don't quite get all of the nuggets concealed in his words, but I do get some of them some of the time. So, with Casaubon-like hubris, I tell myself that with due practice and diligence, after reading enough of his writings I may yet find the key to his mythologies...

Here is one story written by JC in which he tries, with some admirable success, to describe what Israel is like. This is the "piece de resistance":

Now I have seen some surreal things in my life but this was just plain weird. On one side was a car load of Arab kids blasting out some very load Arabic dance music and on the other side was a woman using a breast pump. In the middle, eyes straight forward and looking very bewildered was Mr Hire Car. In front of him, just to add some variety was a large trailer with some sort of tank on the back, the canon facing Mr Hire Car’s windshield.

But I suppose that just about sums up the madness of the ‘matzav’.

"Matzav" to the uninitiated in Israeli jargon is a euphemistic, catch-all term designating what is known outside Israel as The I/P conflict, the occupation, Qassams landing in Sderot, Ahmadinejad's daily prophecies of doom for Israel, the price of oil, etc etc. It means quite simply: (the) "situation" and it's been in service ever since I can remember. I'm looking forward to the time when the Hebrew language will no longer need this word in its present meaning and "Matzav" will shrink back to what it is supposed to be: a word for situation like any other word for situation in any other language: ситуация κατάσταση situación situação situazione, etc etc you get the point.

II. And on a more sombre note, here is - not an unrelated - story about an exiled Iraqi writer, Najem Wali, who travelled to Israel in 2007 and what he discovered:

... Since the declaration of the state of Israel on May 14 1948, Israel has been the official enemy number one for the Arab states.

But even as a child I found the rhetoric didn't add up. How could this somehow "all-powerful" country so successfully "let the Arab nations sink into lethargy", as the official speeches would have us believe? And why, at the same time, were they so confident that the "small state of Zionist gangs" would inevitably "disappear from the map"? I never found a convincing answer. Nor did I ever make the connection between the "Jew question" and the "Palestine question", between the victims of the Holocaust and the victims of Israel's foundation.

... Why do our leaders fear this truth? They are scared that their countrymen would recognise that the only link between the standstill and devastation of Arab societies and the Arab-Israeli conflict is this: peace with Israel would bring an end to the opium high with which Arab leaders keep their nations in a state of inertia. This is the cause of the problems for which Israel is being blamed.

... Israel has not overturned democracy even under the pressure of war. But the citizens in Arab countries are worth nothing to their leaders.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

British MP making a public address in Amman, Jordan

(H/T Mick Hartley)

Here is a transcript for the full speech:

Jerusalem is in the hands of foreigners – why? Baghdad is in the hands of foreigners – why? The Arab League wants to meet to discuss the presence of a few hundred Lebanese gunmen in Hamra Street and on the Kornish in Beirut, whilst one million gunmen from Brooklyn NY, London, Paris, and Moscow have occupied Palestinian land for 60 years. They want to discuss Hamra Street, when Al-Aqsa, from which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, ascended to heaven, is in the hands of a foreign army – and they want to discuss Hamra Street?


"President Abd Al-Nasser, one of the greatest men of the 20th century*... President Abd Al-Nasser and Saddam Hussein will live in history long after these dogs, are forgotten. "

Saddam Hussein's greatness in still very much alive in recent memory. It's the other greatest 20th century leader that needs a bit of dusting:

Gamal abdul Nasser:

In a 1964 interview, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser said that "No one, not even the simplest man in our country, takes seriously the lie about six million murdered Jews."

(Source: Interview with the Deutsche (Soldaten und-) National-Zeitung [Munich], May 1, 1964, p. 3. Also, quoted in part in: Robert S. Wistrich, Hitler's Apocalypse [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1986], p. 188.)


* Reminiscent of another antisemite and Hitler-admirer more recently applauded as one of the greatest figure of the twentieth century:

"when God puts you [Jews] in the ovens—it's forever!"

This is from the person described by Reverend Wright as one of the most important voices in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The two types of freedoms

are imperiled in Iran's blogosphere.

Selma is yearning for both kinds of freedom:

-the freedom to write in her blog whatever she wants to write about

-the freedom from government intimidation and interference:

Iranian authorities have blocked access to several websites and blogs of women's rights advocates and journalists critical of the government, a press report said on Tuesday.

The move follows a new directive sent out by a committee tasked with identifying illegal websites to
Internet service providers, the reformist Etemad Melli newspaper said without giving a source.

"There seems to be a tougher approach this time as some sites and weblogs belonging to women's rights and human rights campaigners, writers critical of the government and well-known journalists" have been singled out, it said.

Internet providers in Iran have in recent years been told to block access to hundreds of political, human rights and women's sites and weblogs for expressing dissent or deemed to be pornographic and anti-Islamic.

Anti Americanism

Stephen Pollard wears a pair of stars and stripes cufflinks as a personal tribute to "the nation leading the fight against barbarism" and makes a point:

On countless occasions I have been sneered at, sworn at and, twice, spat at...

Not being American, for me this is simply useful in seeing how common such prejudice is...

It's not that usual to hear people give voice to their anti-semitic or anti-black bigotry. But in my experience, there is one prejudice which is now entirely acceptabl: anti-Americanism.

And British fedupness with themselves:

According to this:

Hard evidence of radical population replacement in Britain from The Telegraph:

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) will release figures showing that more than 200,000 Britons emigrated during 2006. That will take the total number who left the country between 1997 and 2006 to 1.97 million.

Another 1.58 million foreign nationals resident in Britain left during the same period.

However, 3.9 million foreigners arrived over the decade, including more than 500,000 in 2006.

So 200,000 native British leave the country and 500,000 foreigners move in every year

Norm-Wan and Tony Judt:

'The force can have strong influence on the weak minded"

Norm of Normblog explains, patiently and gently, why Tony Judt is not a brave dissenter, when he claims that:

"... conscious of the cultural prohibition unique to America, whereby "all Jews are silenced by the requirement to be supportive of Israel, and all non-Jews are silenced by the fear of being thought antisemitic"; the result is that "there is no conversation on the subject".

No, says Norm. No one is silenced in the US for speaking against Israel and her supporters. To be silenced means that one might be "keel-hauled, given a sound thrashing or subjected to some other reasonably severe and unwelcome penalty" for expressing such unfavourable views.

There are many examples of people who do speak out and the only harm coming to them is the vigorous criticism and rebuttals of of their positions: "Tony Judt, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Kushner, Daniel Boyarin, Judith Butler, George Soros, Joel Kovel, Howard Zinn, Lenni Brenner, Michael Walzer, Mitchell Cohen, Leonard Fein ...Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, Alexander Cockburn, Justin Raimondo, Pat Buchanan, Juan Cole, and how many more."

"..All Judt really means is that in the US there is more opinion favourable to Israel than there is in some of the countries of Europe. "

Norm here gives speculative due where due is merited: "if there were a prohibition, those like Tony Judt who defy it would, of course, be very brave individuals."

But there isn't, so they are not.

Norm's surgical knife is nothing if not razor sharp when he attempts to remove the malignant tissue:

"1/ Judt is a historian who knows something of the history of Europe and what it means for a set of views really to be prohibited.

2/ Just think how much better a place the US would be if it resembled the comments threads at Comment is Free."

"Comment is free", for those unfamiliar with it, is the Guardian's blog, which brings to mind the pirate city of Mos Eisley, described by Obi Wan as "a wretched hive of scum and villainy." The comments section is the cantina where we actually get to meet the Mos Eisley crowds: weak minds, fractional knowledge, and a strangely unselfconscious type of intense antisemitic hostility, masquerading as "criticism of Israel".

Examples of what passes for "criticism of israeL" on a recent "Comment is Free" post:


Al-Nakba is an ONGOING catastrophe. And in fact - it is a DOUBLE NAKBA...
Israel is a CRIMINAL STATE - and only its citizens can steer it away from the abyss of total moral corruption.

It's interesting how only the deaths of Israelis are remembered - But the recent deaths of Hundreds of Women and children starving to death earlier this year in the Israeli enforced famine in Gaza is completely ignored or fully 'justified'. I'm sure that its fine for Israel to justify the deaths of hundreds of people in the face of their poor victim dozens.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Comment trail for Monday:


YES the Shoah, BUT the Nakba

More essential analysis from Norm:

Seumas Milne ... gives us the pure form of a contemporary leftist trope....

To add to trad left, rococo left, leftover left, indecent left, idiot left, etc: the regrettable left.)

My Comment: "the regrettable left" That's Norm Geras, master of the gentle rebuke and understatement!

Simply Jews: About Numbers and extreme politesse...

My comment: 42

This change in a number signifying some esoteric cosmic and cabalistic knowledge reminded me of a short-short story I once read on Normblog:

Constant (by Mark Whitaker)

Under a moonlit sky he says, 'My love for you is as constant as the North Star.'

She shrugs. 'You're only saying that because you heard it in a song.

''No I'm not. Look at it, it's beautiful. Always there. Something you can rely on.

''It looks a bit flickery to me.

''Oh come on, you know what I mean.

''I think so: that your love is like a ball of hot air that's going to evaporate in a few million years.

''Isn't a few million years enough for you?

''Well it's not very constant.

''OK then. I'll be as constant as... pi.

''You old romantic.

''I tried the stars but they weren't enough, remember?

''Anyway, pi keeps changing.

''Don't be ridiculous!

''It does. It was in the paper last week. The Germans keep adding bits on to the end of it.

''They're not adding bits. It's not changing. It's fundamental! It's the basis of everything.

''So you say.

''So everyone says!

''I don't.

''No, but that's because you...

''I what? I'm not clever enough?

''Stop tricking me like that. Look, why is this so difficult? I'm only trying to tell you I love you.

''Well maybe you should stick to things we both understand.

''OK then, like what?

''What's wrong with just being constant? Full stop. Nothing's as constant as that.

''Right. I'll be constant. Full stop.

''Me too. Come here. I love you, Robert.

''I love you, Constance. But you're a pain in the arse at times."