And apropos, another freedom...
the freedom to choose the colours of your dress
Selma, the poet and translator from Tehran, seems dispirited in her recent post:
I wonder if you guys out there can understand the feeling …even our men here really don’t get it … the second before going out of the door every morning, you look into the mirror not asking yourself “do I look good” or “how does my hair look today” but wondering if what you are wearing is “legal” and fearing what if this manteau isn’t long enough (below knees, wearing trousers mandatory too) and if it is loose enough and if black is dark enough for them?
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)
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
And apropos, another freedom...
Last Year's Snow
There is a phrase in Hebrew which means to convey the sheer absence of interest in some old piece of information. It is "sheleg de-eshtakad", which means, literally, last year's snow.
No news is more boring or less newsworthy than last year's snow.
Commentary's Noah Pollak is rightly amused by the operatic affectation of the Agence France Presse story in which the news agency melodramatically announces:
"La ministre des Affaires étrangères israélienne Tzipi Livni, candidate à la succession d'Ehud Olmert au poste de premier ministre, a reconnu aujourd'hui publiquement avoir été un agent du Mossad, le service de renseignements israéliens."
"Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a contender to replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister, publicly acknowledged on Tuesday she had been an agent for the Mossad spy agency. "
Oopsy. That scoop was already old news when the New York Times published a sprawling cover story about Israel's Candle-in chief in July 8, 2007!
"In the army, Livni excelled, and at training school she was twice elected most-outstanding officer. Gal took part in the same training; she observed a toughness that impressed everyone. This, combined with impeccable nationalist credentials, made Livni an ideal candidate for the Mossad, which she joined in 1980 at the age of 22. “I brought her to Mossad,” Gal says. “She was very good at everything she did and only left by her own choice. She could have had a 20-year career there too. The smartness, the coolness, the speed of analysis, the straightness — these are prized qualities in Mossad.”
Livni will acknowledge only that she served in Paris. Did the Mossad experience influence her? “No, no, no,” she said, laughing uneasily. Nothing? Nothing, she insisted.
Her brother once visited her in the French capital and found her enrolled as a student in the Sorbonne, behaving in the strangest ways. “I came all the way from Lagos, where I was working in construction, and stayed for two days, and I think I saw her for one hour,” he recalls. “She would get these phone calls and say, I have to go, I have to go, and she’d rush off, and so in the end I said, O.K, I’m out of here.”
Livni wanted a more normal life. She left Mossad in 1984 and settled down in Israel. "
Yours truly, not always on the cutting edge of breaking sensational news, wrote about it here last June.
So what gives?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Omar Khadr's punishment
I've written here about Canada's most famous prisoner, Omar Khadr.
Terry Glavin, here provides a incisive explanation of the difficulty:
Vows of that sort also explain this past weekend's gatherings of anti-semites, 911 Truthers, and Taliban supporters among the Khadr family and their hangers-on. To read the press, you'd think the slogan-shouting parties were organized to protest Ottawa's lack of enthusiasm for the return of Omar Khadr to Canada - which, as the Khadrs themselves admit, is a place that serves merely as a way station, "a country of money and business," a "false civilization," and a "dirty swamp." But the demonstrations' main purpose was, as is always the case with these events, a propaganda exercise, because "you can use such incidents to educate and mobilise people" in the struggle against "Zionism" and "imperialism."
In broad terms, on the question of Omar and his return to Canada, I'm in generally agreement with these sentiments. But as for attending any rally organized by these manipulative and reactionary louts, I'd sooner put pins in my eyes.
With these proclamations in mind, it's kinda hard to take seriously the sympathetic outpourings of a Canadian woman who tells us that "The story of Omar Khadr is extremely sad." and goes on to try and extract pity for the poor young man on the pretext that he was but 16 years old, a mere child, when he threw a grenade on an American soldier, killing him. Never mind that a Canadian citizen had no business throwing a grenade on an ally soldier fighting in the same war as Canada does and against the same enemies.
I'm afraid that justice is not well-served when he spends his days in an American prison. As long as he is there, he will continue to enjoy the benefit of a doubt in the minds of people who profess their care for civil rights.
His prolonged stay in that American prison canvasses for him a wrong and perverted kind of sympathy, from which he may gain undeserved benefit, if and when he is brought before a court of law in Canada.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Report: Attitudes of Muslim students in the UK
Via: The Iconoclast
Here are a few excerpts:
The Telegraph has a more detailed précis of the report from the Centre for Social Cohesion on the attitudes of Muslim students in the UK.
A study on the attitudes of students has found that
...28 per cent said killing could be justified if the religion was under attack
...another four per cent supported killing in order to "promote and preserve" the religion.
... 53 per cent, said killing in the name of religion was never justifiable but among non-Muslim students that figure was 94 per cent.
...40 per cent ... supported [Sharia] introduction into law for Muslims in Britain,
...37 per cent opposed it.
...A third of those surveyed supported the creation of a worldwide Muslim caliphate
... 25 per cent opposed it
Half of the students said they would not be supportive of a friend who wanted to leave Islam.
... A quarter of those surveyed were members of their Islamic society – compared with six per cent for other faiths - but only a third said the societies promoted interfaith activities.
...None of the students admitted to being gay or lesbian
...25 per cent said they had little or no respect for others who were.
... When it came to wearing the hijab or headscarf, 59 per cent said it was important, with more women than men agreeing…
...A quarter of students said men and women were not equal in the eyes of Allah
Hannah Stuart, from the Centre for Social Cohesion, co-author of the report, said: "These findings are deeply alarming."
Because "Students in higher education are the future leaders of their communities yet significant numbers of them appear to hold beliefs which contravene liberal, democratic values..... These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said that there is no extremism in British universities."
But, according to...
The National Union of Students: "...This report actually undermines cohesion and the joint efforts of students, institutions and government in tackling violent extremism."
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Norm Geras, the Obi Wan of the Internet, has this post in which he quietly points to the new low to which the British paper "The Guardian" has sunk in this editorial:
When a presumptive US presidential candidate arrives in Jerusalem, he willingly dons a jacket designed by Israeli tailors. He is compelled to call the country a miracle, to visit the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem and to link the memory of the 6 million Jews who died in Europe to Israeli victims of Palestinian violence today. It was no accident that at Yad Vashem Barack Obama met the policeman who stopped the rampage of a Palestinian bulldozer driver that injured 16 Israelis on Monday.
Holding his only press conference yesterday in the southern town of Sderot, which has taken the brunt of rocket attacks from Gaza, also sent a signal. The current foreign minister and possible future prime minister Tzipi Livni spelled it out, as both stood in front of mounds of spent rocket casings: this is what happens when Israel withdraws from territories.
Is there anything wrong with a visitor to Israel paying his respects at Yad Vashem to the memory of several million dead? Granting that there are specificities separating the 'Israeli victims of Palestinian violence' from those who perished during the Holocaust, is there not also a link of a kind in that in both cases we are talking of innocents, people deliberately killed not for anything they'd done but because of the general population group they belonged to?
But notice something else in the general presentation here: though Obama dons the jacket 'willingly', it seems that he is 'compelled' to do the things he does - to say miracle, visit Yad Vashem, make the lamented link. Really? We are to believe, for example, that he would not have gone to Yad Vashem just on his own steam? How does the Guardian know this? We are to believe that the Israelis have a way of getting visiting politicians to do what they otherwise mightn't? Being Jews, they'll have the knack for that, I suppose.
There is a deliberate sneer hidden in full sight in the description of Obama, the coolest guy on the planet, acknowledging in action and word the validity of Jewish angst, the least cool sentiment on earth.
The sneer accomplishes two things:
First, an assumed nudge/wink camaraderie between the editorial writer and Obama. The writer is supposedly perched on Obama's shoulder and knows what he really feels. It's all a show, and Obama is presumed to secretly roll his eyes as he heroically munches on the proverbial gefiltefish.
The second is yet another attempt to silence the voice of the past and its relevance, for better or for worse, to what is happening in Israel today. A sneer is not a criticism, nor is it a fact or a moral argument. It is a cacophonous noise, a charivari, a tool of mocking and shaming people into silence. And why would the Guardian writer wish to browbeat Jews into silence about their memory of the Holocaust? If only the world just forgot that the Holocaust ever happened...
Friday, July 25, 2008
Another story about Muslim demands for being compensated for hurt feelings and discrimination,
Via: The Iconoclast
DEARBORN -- Two Muslim women say that a McDonald's restaurant refused to hire them, and insulted them during job interviews because they wear traditional Islamic dress.
Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn sued McDonald's, the owner of the local franchise and its unidentified manager in Wayne County Circuit Court on Thursday. Their representative said they are considering filing civil rights complaints with the federal and state governments.
"I applied for the McDonald's position maybe two weeks ago and he simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there," Pugh said.
"When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims," she said.
I was wondering about the choice to apply for a job at McDonald's which serves not only non-halal beef meat but also bacon. After all, there was this issue of delicate religious sensibilities being offended not too long ago by the idea of touching pork products:
Some Muslim cashiers had declined to scan products such as bacon because doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. They would ask other cashiers to ring up such purchases, or some customers scanned the items themselves.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Like flat champagne
Some of my readers may wonder why I am not following Obama' travels and expressing my opinion about them with my usual panache. After all, he was in Israel, met with Palestinians, spoke in front of Berliners, etc. I expected to have a lot of opportunity for ironic observation. But to tell you truth, I'm no longer fascinated, thrilled or intrigued by Senator Obama. I think I more or less get the measure of the man and there is nothing interesting I can say about him anymore. He's like a glass of champagne from which all the fizz is gone. The colour is still nice, the liquid still cool to the taste but... you only drink it if you are awfully thirsty and there is no cold juice, or beer, in sight.
Maybe the media non-stop adulation has overloaded on the sugar. When I follow an American cake recipe, I always have to cut the sugar by at least 40% or the cake comes out sickeningly sweet and practically uneatable.
To quote Jane Austen, "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked" and Obama's promising allure has now faded steadily as -- again in Austen's words-- "an affectation and a sameness" seem to be his main qualities these days, which "disgust and weary."
There may be some significance to the fact that I've gone from speaking of Obama in heroic dramatic terms to cake and drink metaphors.
Later update from CR blog:
"Vast screens relayed his face to a flotilla of mobiles and cameras. Speaker stacks saturated the air with his voice. A hall of LCD mirrors stood between his flesh and mine; image cannibalising image, echo breeding echo. Obama’s rhetoric, too, was a hymn to superficiality. Pledges to halt poverty, discrimination and climate change replaced concrete policies with a glass pyramid of promises.
Obama’s truisms rang with the hollow comedy of Patrick Bateman’s pseudo-moralistic spiel against domestic violence and AIDS. Like Bateman in American Psycho, Obama lives as a construct; a referent; the crown prince untarnished by power. "
Laterer update: (Alert: mega- embarrassment ahead)
Obama in a German gym, what a man!
Shortly after half past four and he actually arrives! Barack Obama is wearing a grey t-shirt, black tracksuit bottoms – and a great smile!
"Hi, how’s it going?“ asks Obama in his deep voice. My heart beats...
Obama (with toned arms and a strong back) puts on his headphones.... He hums quietly. Then he jumps on a fitness bike. He pushes three times on the pedals – but then can’t be bothered with it.
He goes and picks up a pair of 16 kilo weights and starts curling them with his left and right arms, 30 repetitions on each side. Then, amazingly, he picks up the 32 kilo weights! Very slowly he lifts them, first 10 curls with his right, then 10 with his left. He breathes deeply in and out and takes a sip of water from his 0,5 litre Evian bottle.
Shortly before five o’clock Obama comes over and sits directly next to my cross-trainer on the mat. First he does 10 sit-ups, then stretches. Then he looks at his watch and says to his bodyguard: “It’s time, let’s go.” Quickly I ask: “Mr. Obama, could I take a photo?”. “Of course!” he answers, before asking my name and coming over to stand next to me.
“My name’s Judith” I reply. “I’m Barack Obama, nice to meet you!” he says, and puts his arm across my shoulder. I put my arm around his hip – wow, he didn’t even sweat! WHAT A MAN!
Reading the above I thought to myself, this simply couldn't be true. But it is. Someone did actually write this description which could have been lifted from some breathless Harlequin romance and published it in a serious newspaper, not a satirical rag.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Via: The Iconoclast
Al-Jazeera celebrates the child murderer
Ben Cohen meditates:
All of this led me back to the pages of Iraqi intellectual Kanan Makiya’s book Cruelty and Silence, a masterly exploration of the failure of Arab intellectuals to confront the bestial cruelties which inflict their region (and by no means an apologia for Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories, as some of Makiya’s more deceitful detractors have tried to make out.)
Towards the end of the book, Makiya asks a question which many people would have been asking themselves yesterday; is there “an Arab uniqueness, or a ‘national’ Arab pathology where violence and cruelty are concerned?” Doubtless there are those who will answer in the affirmative for all the wrong - essentially racist - reasons.
Makiya offers us a compelling alternative to the crude slander that Arab cruelty is somehow genetic. “In the Middle East,” he writes, “violence has tended to be ideologized and to fill public space.” Ideas are important and those who formulate and carry them - the intelligentsia - have a special responsibility as a consequence. Makiya’s essential point, first made in 1993 but resonant today, is that Arab intellectuals are guilty of a “glaring collective failure…to evolve a language of rights and democracy to supplement the language of nationalism…Words like ‘freedom’, ‘democracy,’ ‘justice,’ ‘human dignity,’ and ‘human rights’ have lost all meaning in the hands of the same intellectuals who go on and on about Western hypocrisy.”
What is needed, Makiya continues, is a “new self-critical discourse…one that is rooted in a thoroughgoing insistence upon the inviolable sanctity of human life and the subordination of everything else to this criterion.” Without this, Arabs will continue to impose cruelty and intolerance “…against their fellow Arabs, or against Kurds and other national minorities of the Middle East.” What we have witnessed in Iraq over the last several years, and what we witnessed in Lebanon yesterday, bears witness to this remark, just as it underlines the bankruptcy of an explanation which blames Israel and the west - Makiya argues persuasively that anti-Zionism is an integral component of the silence which surrounds cruelty in the Arab world - for everything.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
New York: Islam on the subway
This new initiative which aims at making Islamic values and ideas more congenial to New York subway passengers:
A Brooklyn imam who has been linked to various terror plots to destroy landmarks is targeting New York City passengers in 1,000 subway cars with a new campaign to draw people into Islam.
The promotion video opens with a Quran passage stating, "Invite them to the way of your lord with wisdom and fair preaching."
Imam Wahhaj opens the video saying 4.9 million people ride New York City subways daily.
"That's a lot of people," he said. "I want you to think about those 4.9 million people. Imagine them seeing the name of Muhammad. Imagine them seeing the word Islam. Imagine them seeing the word hijab [modest dress]."
Simple black and white ads designed to immediately capture passenger attention state "Q: Prophet Muhammad?" or "Q: Islam?" or "Q: Head Scarf." The answer to all questions is "A: You deserve to know."
Well, I'm not sure if this should make for exhilarating reading in the morning, as one commutes back and forth. Speaking for myself only, I'd much rather be entertained on my metro or bus rides by colourful posters advertising the next performance of "Les grand ballets de Montreal", or Formula One weekend event, or jokes, or ....
Seattle: Poetry on buses
Since 1992, Poetry on Buses has been inspiring residents of King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish Counties to write and reflect on a theme as a community. (Metro online)
When you go to work n the morning, would you rather read this:
If I Were a Bus
If I were a bus I’d go to the rainbow sparkly store,
I’d go to aquarium sparkly land
I’d go to a castle
I’d go to rainbow sparklyland New York
I’d go all over the world
I’d go to Oochworm town
If I were a bus I’d go everywhere
Tapping on my laptop keyboard,
I look outside the window
to find a child bundled in a maroon coat
pointing her finger upwards
at a red-crested pileated woodpecker
tapping its beak into the willow tree
behind the bicyclist
holding a steady foot on the pedal
at the stop light.
"In the black background, the following dark gray words are barely visible: Terrorism, peace, fundamentalism, Abraham, Jesus, Moses, Shariah, submission, peace, paradise, afterlife, monotheism, charity, guidance, repentance, Allahu Akbar [God is great], Assalamu Alaykum [Peace be upon you], 5x day, faith, belief, morals, worship, misunderstood religion, Prophet Muhammad, Allah, no pope and 1,500,000,000 followers."
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Pew News IQ Quiz
Take the quiz to determine the level of your savviness in US and its world politics.
I'm not an American but I took the test and it seems I did much better the average American:
This chart and the charts by gender, education, and age show your percentile rank. The percentile rank shows the percentage of the public who scored below you on the quiz. By definition, the average person scored at the 50th percentile (half of the public did worse, half did better). You scored better than 76% of the general public on the quiz.
Not too bad. I know I failed in the questions about who chairs what committee in the American political system and economics. I knew the question about the number of American dead in Iraq. But then I would pay attention to this number; being an Israeli I have a heightened awareness of the human toll in wars.
Better than a "glittering, Doris Day-Rock Hudson extravaganza"
The beginning of the week I read on George Szirtez' blog this breathless paean of the new ABBA musical movie "Mamma Mia". I just managed to suffer the flamboyant review to its end out of my genuine respect for GS. But for all the critic's expostulations, I ended up feeling much like the blogger: sceptical, untempted.
Then later in the week came Norm Geras's genial report, urging "take a chance".
So I did. How bad could it be? And anyway, what else was there for me and husband to do on a Saturday night? Blog?
The theatre was packed with youngish middle aged persons, giddy with some sort of notalgic excitement. It was quite contagious. At the end people were cheering and clapping, smiling. From opening moment to its end, it was a lovable, happy film.
I read some of the withering reviews of the film. I wouldn't give them a second's consideration. Anyone who cannot respond to this silly gorgeous and exuberant movie in kind is just an old fuddy-duddy, a stick in the mud, a wet blanket, a refuser of festivities, a party pooper.
Venerable actors, trailing great careers and dramatic roles behind them have come together to create this romp. The humour is basic, bubbly and actually funny. I did not cringe even once. Not even at the sight of Stellan Skarsgård's sturdy buns... Once you enter the spirit of this souffle, this tiramisu, if you cringe you forfeit your right to take even a bite of it...
Remember the scene in "My Best friend's wedding", when an entire family sitting down to a wedding rehearsal dinner join together in the song "I say a little prayer for you"? Did you feel that was simply the best part, the heart, the very motor of that movie, because it was so well entered into, in spirit and friendship, and acted, bad voices and all? Well, if you loved that scene, you will love "Mamma Mia".
Don't walk. Run to see it. Once you have seen Meryl Streep gyrating suggestively to music and Pierce Brosnan singing, in his raspy James Bond voice "we are not too old for sex", you will forgive yourself for any awkward slip of the tongue or stupid behaviour you ever indulged in. Better, you will take pride in it...
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Word of the day:
I borrowed today's word from a website which specializes in providing meanings and examples to words. The website was brought to my attention by Ami Isseroff's blogpost.
The word is:
It means, according to this online dictionary: "Offensive, insulting, causing ill-will; "
The dictionary helpfully provides two examples of usage:
"Miss Givens is an invidious presence that creates far too much tension in the office."
"Before Civil Rights legislation of the 60s and 70s, the US was home to many invidious laws discriminating against minority groups."
I believe I get the meaning. Here is my example:
It is my perception that the website "Yourdictionary.com" is an invidious website vulgarly skewed against Jews and Jewish history.
You won't find the malign bias in the definitions provided for such words as "occupation" or "holocaust", but you will find them among the examples of usage provided. As in the case of "holocaust", the most fitting example the redactors of this dictionary could find, making the connection between "Jewish" and "Holocaust" was:
Nazi: Finally, I emphatically believe that the Nazi holocaust should be studied.
"Jewish: Zionists relentless attempts for world domination may lead to a new Jewish holocaust"
Ponder upon the unifying thought that underlies both these examples and you'll understand why this website is invidious to Jews and Jewish history..
Letter to Barack Obama
" from an anxious Israeli to the presidential candidate on the eve of his visit to Jerusalem."
... Issues that have worried some Americans about your background have scarcely been noted here. The whispering campaign labeling you a Muslim wasn't taken seriously by mainstream Israelis. Nor are we fazed by your middle name: Half of Israel's Jewish population has origins in Muslim cultures. Despite black-Jewish tensions in America, your color evokes little concern here; Israel rescued tens of thousands of African Jews and turned their arrival into a national celebration. Even Rev. Wright didn't cause much of a stir, maybe because we're used to being embarrassed by our own religious leaders.
....The unthinkable has already happened: missiles on Haifa and Ashkelon, exploding buses in Jerusalem, hundreds of thousands of Israelis transformed into temporary refugees. During the first Gulf War in 1991, when Tel Aviv was hit with Scud missiles, residents fled to the Galilee. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the Galilee was hit with Katyushas, residents fled to Tel Aviv. In the next war, there will be nowhere to flee: The entire country is now within missile range of Iran and its terrorist proxies.
.... I am convinced that you regard a nuclear Iran as an intolerable threat.... And you've made the convincing argument that you could summon international goodwill far better than the current administration. No nation would be more relieved by an effective sanctions campaign than Israel. We know what the consequences are likely to be of an attack on Iran--retalitory missiles on Tel Aviv, terrorism against Jewish communities abroad, rising anti-semitism blaming the Jews for an increase in oil prices.
... For many years, Israelis denied the right of the Palestinians to define themselves as a nation, considering Palestinian nationalism an invention by the Arab world to undermine Israel. We experienced our conceptual breakthrough in the 1990s. Now it's the Palestinians' turn. .... we too are the underdog: Israel may be Goliath to the Palestinian David, but we are David to the Arab world's (and Iran's) Goliath. We cannot empower the Palestinians while fearing our consequent diminishment.
.... As you go through the requisite visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and the President's House, the Israeli public will be hoping to hear, beyond affirmations of your commitment to Israeli security, that America under President Obama will understand what maintaining that security involves. We hope that you will insist on a peace based on acceptance of the permanent legitimacy of a Jewish state, and on a Middle East free of the apocalyptic terror of a nuclear Iran. We, too, need the hope that you have promised America.
It's a good and honest letter, hardly likely, though, to make a ripple in Obama's complacent consciousness. To quote one rather stereotypical Obama fan: who cares what Israelis think...
In Samir Kuntar's mind:
Norm has a comment today:
...there is, in any case, a telling remark from Kuntar himself that may help others to decide what kind of a man he is. ... it is clear that killing civilians wasn't something that troubled him. He knew before embarking on the operation that led to the killing of Danny and Einat Haran that he and those he was with would be killing civilians; they saw every Israeli civilian as a 'soldier'. They admired those responsible for the attack on Ma'alot in 1974, when 21 Israeli children were killed. So much is, by now, merely par for the course. But Kuntar reveals a special sensibility in this passage, which does figure in the Guardian version:
Smadar [Einat's mother]... could not understand that it wasn't personal. I didn't come [from] Lebanon with a note that said 'Haran family.' I came as part of a conflict in which I was convinced I had to participate. I did what I did for my people, for my country. If I sit in jail for a hundred years, I will never change my opinions. This is what I believe.
(In the full version Kuntar adds, for good measure, that he didn't steal or break into a car.) The mother of the dead child does not understand; she takes it personally. And Kuntar cannot understand that.
Does the callous banality of the speaker's defence against the mother of the four year old Einat whose head he crushed with the butt of his rifle against a rock, does it remind you of someone else's defence?
''I was obedient to the leadership of the German state, because we were told and believed that Germany had enemies intent on destroying it,'' Eichmann wrote in another passage. ''The enemy's determination to destroy us, despite the madness of our own leadership at the time, weighed on my conscience.'' (Source)
Eichmann"s "cliché-ridden language produced on the stand, as it had evidently done in his official life, a kind of macabre comedy. Clichés, stock phrases, adherence to conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality"
"the fearsome, word-and-thought-denying banality of evil." (Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem)
And like Eichmann, who could not understand how he was being held personally responsible for his role in engineering the Holocaust, a point that Arendt highlights in her book, so does Kuntar is incapable of comprehending the evil enormity of what he had done to one mother's family.
It's as if Quntar's "level of self-awareness... is less than zero. It is as if the very act of self-examination were something unmanly or profane: something unrighteous, in a word." (Source)
He seeks to diminish the onus of his evil deeds by appealing to a higher authority whose values are absolutely not to be doubted. Setting out to kill one particular child, with a name and an address, that would have been murder. But killing some anonymous Jewish toddler, which luck had thrown across his path? He is not answerable to the mother of that child.
And as though wanting to reassure his audience that he was indeed a law-abiding man, he is intent on emphasizing that he did not steal a car. That would have been a crime he could not commit.
Friday, July 18, 2008
UN Soldiers in salute to Hizzballa
They are saluting, of course, the Lebanese flag. But they are also saluting the remains of terrorists returning to Lebanon from Israel following the recent “swap” between Israel and the terrorist group, Hezbollah.
Notice what else they are saluting: The giant photograph on the truck bearing the terrorists’ remains is that of recently assassinated Imad Mughniyeh, the infamous Hezbollah-butcher who was responsible for blowing up the American Embassy and the U.S. Marine barracks (also a French paratrooper barracks) in Beirut in 1983 , and then torturing and murdering an unarmed American sailor in 1985. Beyond those attacks and over the years, Mughniyeh directed a series of lesser-reported kidnappings and murders against Americans and others.
This is worth repeating:
They are saluting, of course, the Lebanese flag. But they are also saluting the remains of terrorists returning to Lebanon from Israel following the recent “swap” between Israel and the terrorist group, Hezbollah.
The UN soldiers do not differentiate between Lebanon, and Hezbollah terrorists. And rightly so. After the events of the past week, the Lebanese government will find it impossible to dissociate itself from Hezbollah. They have now tied the knot and consummated the marriage.
Three prisoners, two child-terrorists
and one righteous resister:
For whom the bells toll?
"The opposite of religious belief is not atheism or secularism or humanism.
It is not an 'ism'. It is independence of mind - that's all." (Martin Amis)
Kurdish teacher and trade unionist is sentenced to death by the Iranian Revolutionary Court, for "enmity against God" and membership in the Kurdish Workers’ Party.
Kamangar himself released a short message from prison saying, “This verdict has been communicated to me, and prison and judgment enforcement officials have asked me to write a letter requesting forgiveness. The problem is that I have not committed any crime to ask for forgiveness.”
I was reminded of another prisoner held in jail for the crime of terrorism: Omar Khadr.
MICHAEL DEN TANDT writes today:
You can set aside much of what has been written and said about young Khadr, now 21, since the release of videos showing him sobbing in his prison cell at Guantanamo Bay. Forget, for example, the broad appeal to public sympathy.
Here's what we cannot set aside, though. Khadr was taken into U.S. custody in July of 2002, after a firefight at a compound in a village in eastern Afghanistan. He is accused of having thrown a grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces trooper, Christopher Speer.
This was a military action, in a situation that's as close to a battlefield as you are likely to get in an asymmetrical, urban war.
That's true, except that Khadr was a Canadian subject. Canada was a US ally, and Canadian troops were fighting alongside American troops. The alliance is such that the two allies defend each other against a common enemy. The scene of the crime may indeed have been as Den Tant defines it, but that hardly takes down a notch the severity of Khadr's crime. It's a crime of murder and treason.
Furthermore, Den Tant, says:
And there's this: Khadr may be a hardened would-be terrorist today, after years of incarceration. But he was a child at the time of the firefight. That matters.
His father was an Islamist zealot and it appears his parents fed him hatred and extremism with mother's milk.... As a boy he played with Osama Bin Laden's children. Condemn the parents. Condemn the man, if as an adult he embraces hatred and violence. But a child coached by his elders to commit violent acts is nevertheless a child.
The claim here is made that a 16-year old committing murder is "a child". And more to the point, a child whose parents are to blame for his murderousness.
Couldn't help remembering the other 16-year old child in the news these days: Samir Kuntar,
who was also a mere 16-year old when "he acted as all the Arab terrorists acted -- the terrorists of the PLO, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah -- when they attack Israelis. He behaved like a mad dog, that is, and he killed first a policeman, and then took a man, Danny Haran, and Haran's four-year-old daughter, to a beach at Netanya, where Kuntar first shot Haran in front of his four-year-old daughter, and then smashed in her head. "
When cases involve singularly odious crimes, the law allows the prosecution of underage defendants as adults. Some crimes so defy our most basic grid of morals and right thinking, that the age of the perpetrator is completely irrelevant. Also, I do not accept that a 16 year old is a "child" except under the strictly legal definition. We do not usually speak of teenagers as "children". There is a reason for that. They are no longer children, mentally or rationally. They are persons who can be reasoned with, who fully understand when they do wrong. If they can be trusted to drive a car, they can be expected to know that murder is wrong.
Still, I think Den Tant persuaded me that Khadr ought to be extradited to Canada. Not because he was a "child", nor because there is any mitigation in the fact that he killed an American in battle. But because there are enough grounds to try him for crimes of treason* and murder in a bona-fide Canadian Military Court and achieve some measure of justice. Khadr's continuing as the US government's guest in Gitmo, thereby accumulating pity-points as an Indecent left's martyr, is not a punishment but a reward. He should be made to stand trial and be properly punished for what he did.
So please don't let me hear the pleadings of a child being unjustifiably persecuted by the evil Americans. We know what a "child" reared on a diet of pure hatred can do. He should not be allowed to live free of consequences and be a menace to the people, cultures and systems he was taught to hate.
I'm quite puzzled by the disproportionate news coverage and sympathy going to this "child-terrorist". I do hope I will not see fellow Canadians emulating the Lebanese example of welcoming back this wretched criminal as a hero. Though after "we are all Hizballa" rallies of two years ago, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it happening.
Perhaps Canadians need to get their humanitarian values in the correct order of priority. A lot more emphasis and sympathy should go to Kamangar, who is about to be executed for being a Kurdish unionist and a religious agnostic. The most basic human right is the right to life, and it certainly comes before any civil right, including the right to a fair trial.
And relevant to my point here is this post by The New Centrist:
כל מי שנעשה רחמן במקום אכזרי סוף שנעשה אכזרי במקום רחמן
All who are made to be compassionate in the place of the cruel
In the end are made to be cruel in the place of the compassionate
Qohelet Raba, 7:16 [Thanks to Rishon Rishon for the translation.]
The more colloquial version is, “If you are kind to the cruel, you will end up being cruel to the kind.” I’ve been thinking about the relation of this statement to public policy, from schools to welfare to jurisprudence and prisons. Is our society kind to the cruel? Think about it…
* Treason in Canadian Law
Section 46 of the Criminal Code of Canada has two degrees of treason, called "high treason" and "treason." However both of these belong to the historical category of high treason, as opposed to petty treason which does not exist in Canadian law. Section 46 reads as follows:
(1) Every one commits high treason who, in Canada,
(a) kills or attempts to kill Her Majesty, or does her any bodily harm tending to death or destruction, maims or wounds her, or imprisons or restrains her;
(b) levies war against Canada or does any act preparatory thereto; or
(c) assists an enemy at war with Canada, or any armed forces against whom Canadian Forces are engaged in hostilities, whether or not a state of war exists between Canada and the country whose forces they are.
(2) Every one commits treason who, in Canada,
(a) uses force or violence for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Canada or a province;
(b) without lawful authority, communicates or makes available to an agent of a state other than Canada, military or scientific information or any sketch, plan, model, article, note or document of a military or scientific character that he knows or ought to know may be used by that state for a purpose prejudicial to the safety or defence of Canada;
(c) conspires with any person to commit high treason or to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a);
(d) forms an intention to do anything that is high treason or that is mentioned in paragraph (a) and manifests that intention by an overt act; or
(e) conspires with any person to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) or forms an intention to do anything mentioned in paragraph (b) and manifests that intention by an overt act."
It is also illegal for a Canadian citizen to do any of the above outside Canada.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing. Albert Einstein:
Israel receives two coffins
"The families of the two soldiers had clung to the hope that they were still alive, despite the assumption by Israeli officials that they did not survive the July 12, 2006 kidnap. A Lebanese newspaper affiliated to Hezbollah reported Tuesday that one of the two had been killed in the attack, but did not specify which, or give details of the condition of the second soldier. "
Cries of horror sounded at the Regev and Goldwasser homes Wednesday, as family members witnessed the TV broadcast of the prisoner exchange, in which the coffins of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were shown being turned over to the Red Cross.
.... As for the fact the as part of the prisoner exchange deal, Israel will have to set Samir Kuntar free, Goldwasser said that "it's important to me that the Lebanese people understand what they've sacrificed and for what.
"They've lost some 800 men and their entire economy (in the Second Lebanon War) and for what? For someone who killed a four-year-old? Can someone like that be called a hero?
Three Things You Have To Know About Samir Kuntar, And One Other Thing
And there is one more thing you need to know. But it’s not about Samir Kuntar, though Samir Kuntar comes into it. You should know the present government of Israel, the government of Ehud Olmert, is this very day, Wednesday, July 16, 2008, giving freedom to the smiling unrepentent Samir Kuntar, alive and well and about to be feted all over Lebanon as a hero, in exchange for the corpses of two murdered Israeli university students, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who were captured alive while doing their annual reserve duty.
Snoopy of Simply Jews sees a silver lining:
As for Samir Kuntar, who will become a most celebrated hero in Lebanon after crushing a Jewish baby's skull against a rock: even in the pain we all feel because of the necessity to release him, there is a silver lining. Look at the people who celebrate release of one of the most inhuman murderers and learn. Look at the sweets being handed around to the crowds in Gaza, at Lebanese president and prime minister receiving the monster, at Shiites and others lining the roads on the way to the vermin's family house, at Palestinian president Abu Mazen congratulating the "hero's" family. Look, learn and remember.
And how could we forget the chief sleazebag pulling the ropes from the bunker, the "mastermind" who became so adept in torturing the minds and the souls of the people he hates? A person who accumulated so much "good will" of so many Israelis should be worried about his future indeed. Where there is a will, there is a way, Nasrallah. Sleep badly.
Solomonia: Tries to comprehend the evil. Without success.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Amnesty's Strange Approach to Human Rights Violations
(Posted by TALLRITE BLOG)
So why does Amnesty Ireland, in celebrating the UN Declaration of Human Rights, choose to remain silent when there is such a fecund reservoir of the world's monstrous human rights violators from whom to choose? Why pick on little Guantanamo where there may be or may not be some violations, but in any case not even a thousand inmates have ever enjoyed its hospitality, of whom none have been killed? In fact, as this photomontage shows, this is part of global Amnesty campaign.
We all know the answer, of course. The monstrous violators are given a free pass because they are anti-democratic, not white and - especially - not Americans. Like any spoiled teenager, Amnesty loves to be seen as brave by rebelling against a strong and (mostly though not always) righteous adult, safe in the knowledge that this will have no adverse consequences. But its juvenile antics do nothing to better the lives of the many millions who truly suffer from egregious human rights abuses.
This is somewhat related to a conversation at Bob's blog, kicked off by an article about anti-Gypsyism in Italy.
Cairo to Damascus
Solomonia is posting a new series that:
" will feature selections from Carlson's 1951 work, Cairo to Damascus, in which Carlson travels the Middle East during Israel's War of Independence. I'm certain many will find the reminders we unearth from this work of great interest. From the Preface:
I have written this book with the hope that it will bring both Arabs and Jews into truer focus for the reader; that it will help reveal what they are and what they are not, what may be expected of them and what is impossible. I pray that these ancient Semitic peoples will reconcile their differences, that Palestine refugees who, in the main, left their homes because Arab leaders urged them to do so--expecting a short war and a quick victory--will be resettled. The only alternative to peace is disaster for Arab, Jew, and Christian, for none may hope to prosper alone. Together they may ultimately build a prosperous and democratic Middle East. To remain apart, at dagger's point, means only that Communism and anarchy can be the ultimate victors.
Always worthwhile to re-acquaint ourselves with historical events from people who were involved in them to some degree and who act as true witnesses. History as it is promulgated today being so misshapen and so eagerly believed... Restoring the facts is a moral duty.
Of murderers, torturers and other rabid dogs
Samir Kuntar to be freed from Israeli jail
The Hebrew poet Haim Nachman Bialik once wrote in a poem "that even the devil himself is at a loss to invent the revenge for the murder of a small child...."
At times like these I regret not having faith in God, so that I could pray to Him and demand that this man will be given a punishment only a God can mete out...
"By these acts the defendants reached an all-time moral low... an unparalleled satanic act... the punishments we are about to impose on the defendants cannot begin to match the brutality of their actions..."
Let him live a life of perpetual flight and fear...
Bradley Burstyn tries to find words...
Few innocent people have been tortured like the loved ones of the people murdered by Samir Kuntar, the Palestine Liberation Front monster convicted of a crime so brutal that even the designation terrorist is too good for him.
This week, the loved ones will know that Kuntar will be feted to a hero's welcome staged by Hezbollah, whose claims to being a religious organization, stain the word religious with a level of sadism that is astonishing, reaching new levels with every gloat by the torture master who calls himself a spiritual leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
But that will be only one aspect of the glee with which Hezbollah will likely take explicit pride and claim exultant victory.
Not satisfied with keeping the families of kidnapped IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in the dark for two years as to their fate, a Lebanese report which appears to have been leaked by Hezbollah two days before the prisoner swap, stated that one of the soldiers had survived the kidnapping attack, but that the other was surely dead.
Then, to torture the families further, the report refrained from revealing which of the two had been killed, or whether the other was still alive.
And another attempt to make sense of this pathological evil here: Psychotic with hatred
Let's remember that this is the kind of "resistance" the perverse Norman Finkelstein exhorted to continue its actions in the noble aim of defeating Israel...
Once again, a cartoon kerfuffle
Althouse has got it just right:
Instead of responding stonily with "I have no response to that" Obama "could have laughed". It would reinforce the impression, and reassure everyone, that not only does he have a sense of humour, but that it has succeeded in surviving the campaign fatigue, Hillary Clinton and Reverend Wright. Instead, he opted for the stoically aggrieved tone. Disappointing, in view of his record.
Althouse also had it just right in referencing Seinfeld's view of the New Yorker Cartoon. I wonder if Obama digs Seinfeld.
On CNN' AC360, a panel of sanctimonious verbalizers (even David Gergen, who can usually be counted upon to keep a level-head on his shoulders) all joined the chorus of denouncers and renouncers... Some comments were not satire, and that I found worrisome... They all seem to have a very low opinion of the average American IQ. I'll try to find the link to the relevant segment later on.
Later: still no luck with CNN.
Monday, July 14, 2008
"There are no rats in Oran"
Alan Johnson explains why we cannot afford not to take Iran's threats against Israel seriouisly:
Martin Woollacott also seems to think the plague vanished from temperate countries long ago. He writes that Iran will cut a deal "after a long and reassuring period, free from the threats that have helped to create the present crisis". His argument is faulty on two grounds. First, Israel does not "threaten" Iran. Israel seeks to defend itself against Iran, which threatens Israel with annihilation. The present crisis is not the result of any "threats against Iran" but of the dash for a nuclear capability by a regime that says Israel is a "black and filthy microbe", a "cancerous tumour", a "disgraceful stain", and a "stinking corpse" that is "heading towards annihilation". Second, the regime in Tehran is not a normal regime. It has not responded to the reassurances of the international community which have been issued by the bucketload. It is a revolutionary theocracy that seeks regional hegemony and which exports eliminationist antisemitism throughout the region. It organises Holocaust denial conferences. It funds and trains terrorist organisations.
This is not the scenario Albert Camus was imagining in his fable "The Plague" but as I said elsewhere, history never appears in the same garb twice. The lessons from history should factor in the likelihood that people like Stephen Walt or Juan Cole -- who appear qualified to make judgments of historical moment -- are at the very least mistaken, if not disingenuous, when they reassuringly tell us: "There are no rats in Oran". As well as our irresistible inclination to believe them...
Some of the comments to Johnson's article are well worth the reading, for their seamless continuation of Ahmadinjad's type of language, thinking and aspiration.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
History lesson: Swiss antisemitism
Jewish history in Switzerland reads pretty much like any other of their history in any other European country (with the possible exceptions of Holland, Denmark and maybe Italy). Blood libels, defamation, special markings, restrictions to money-lending as the only way of making a living, heavy taxation, ghettoizing, expulsions, etc etc.
Prior to and during the Second World War, Switzerland gave refuge to about 23,000 Jewish refugees although the government decided that Switzerland would serve only as a country of transit. These Jews were protected during the Holocaust due to Swiss neutrality. The Jewish refugees, however, did not receive the financial support from the government that non-Jewish refugees received. Many more Jews were prevented from entering, effectively shutting the border. The Swiss government persuaded Germany to stamp "J" on the passport of Jews, making it easier to refuse Jewish refugees. The end of the war had delivered many thousands of Jews into the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. In 1942, the Swiss police issued a regulation that denied refugee status to "refugees only on racial grounds, e.g., Jews." By the end of the war, less then 25,000 Jews were permitted to take refuge. Most of the refugees left Switzerland at the end of the war. More then 30,000 Jews were turned away according to a 25-volume study on Switzerland's role during World War II completed in 2002.
In the past few years, Switzerland has had to owe up to its behavior during the Holocaust. In 1996, Swiss President Kastar Villiger formally apologized to world Jewry for their 1938 accord with the Nazis and its wartime actions against the Jews. At the same time, however, he downplayed economic cooperation between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. It transpired that numerous documents relating to Jewish property in Swiss banks disappeared during the 1940s and 1950s and there was significant pressure in the 1990s and early-21st century to rectify and compensate Holocaust victims and their heirs who were denied their assets in Swiss banks.
The infamous J-stamp and Swiss complicity in Nazi crimes (here)
Swiss officials were involved, when Germany introduced a new stamp (a red J) to mark passports of Jews.
Switzerland did reject between 20,000 to 25,000 Jewish refugees at the border, even after the government (not necessarily the population) was informed, that the Nazis would not only send them to labour camps but rather murder them systematically.
Swiss diplomats in Germany and occupied territories did not enough to defend the rights of Swiss citizens living there, especially if these Swiss citizens were Jews.
The main responsibility for the shortcomings lies with the government, the administration and to a lesser extent with the right wing majority of the parliament, supporting the hard line of the government.
There was also widespread fear among the population, that refugees would aggravate the shortage on food (see rationing and "cultivation battle"). These feelings were not based on sober statistics, however: the total of rejected refugees would have increased the total population by only 0.6 %!
On the other hand, there were many people in Switzerland supporting refugees on a personal level, giving money to non-government organizations like the "Christlicher
Friedensdienst" [Christian Peace Service], and supporting petitions in favour of refugees. A few individuals even helped refugees to cross the border at times the administration had given orders to reject any new refugees. Some of these people were caught and sentenced to jail - only recently between 1990 and 2003 they were rehabilitated by the parliament and/or courts.
The Discriminating "Jew Stamp"
From 1933 to 1938 the German Nazi regime introduced several measures discriminating Jews. The restrictions taken in 1938 were especially severe, so that many Jews considered to leave Germany. The Swiss authorities wanted to restrict immigration and discussed ways to do so with the Germans. Finally Germany decided to mark passports of Jews with a stamp ("J") in October 1938. There is a broad controversy (also on internet) about who is responsible for this discriminating idea. These are the really important facts: The Swiss authorities wanted to know, whether a person trying to enter Switzerland was of Jewish origin or not, and they didn't want to find out themselves - much like the U.S. administration is nowadays interested, whether a person flying from Europe to the U.S.A. is of Arab origin or not, and forces carriers to deliver personal informations about passengers (see reports in the European press in March and again in December 2003). Today's Swiss government acknowledges that Switzerland had it's share in the affair with the J-stamp and publicly apologized on 8th March 1995 - knowing that there is no excuse for collaboration with regimes like the Nazis.
(see answer of the Swiss government to a parliamentary interpellation: Antwort des Bundesrates auf die parlamentarische Anfrage 98.3447 von Ständerat Maximilian Reimann vom 7. 10. 1998). Nothing remains to be added to this official statement.
That's a pretty shameful history, and one that has not materially changed in more recent years:
Disgust over rising Swiss anti- Semitism has cast a shadow over the much-publicized release of names on dormant bank accounts from the Nazi era.
"Keep your money," Israel Singer, the secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress, told the Swiss in a pique of sarcasm during a news conference Wednesday. "The lists published today are not important if the 18,000-member Jewish minority of this country should suffer from anti-Semitism."
Singer continued: "We know that the Jewish people in [Switzerland] are again afraid. If this is the price of our efforts to bring justice to the Holocaust victims, I feel shame for the Swiss people."
Elan Steinberg, the WJC's executive director, emphasized that Singer was not really telling the Swiss to keep the Jewish money -- he was telling them to stop anti-Semitism.
"They have to fight anti-Semitism and turn over the money," Steinberg said from his New York office.
"The Swiss government is responsible for the safety of the Swiss Jewish community," he continued, adding that Swiss Jews "will not be held hostage for this money."
..."It is not money alone that we have come for, it is the issue of moral restitution."
That was in 1998.
A survey in Switzerland suggests that anti-semitism remains deeply rooted in the country. It indicates that 16% of Swiss people are fundamentally anti-semitic, while 60% have anti-semitic sympathies. The US and Swiss Jewish organisations behind the survey say it shows the wave of anti-semitism that hit Switzerland in 1998 over the return of dormant bank accounts to Holocaust survivors has not died down.
And more recently:
In a poll of 540 Jews conducted by the Swiss Jewish weekly Tachles in early September 2003, 58 percent said the situation in Switzerland had worsened for the country’s Jews, 40 percent saw no change and 2 percent claimed an improvement. In the German-speaking part, the first figure was 66 percent and in the Romansh Canton, 49 percent. Personally heard antisemitic remarks rose from 11 percent in 1997 to 18 percent in 2002. Eighty-four percent noted hostility in the press toward Israel, 74 percent on TV and 56 percent on radio.
As a result of the deterioration of the Swiss attitude toward Israel and toward Jews in general, the Jewish community has adopted a higher profile, responding more often and more strongly. For example, Swiss Jews conducted a media campaign to denounce the biased coverage of the events in Jenin (see ASW 2001/2), writing dozens of letters to editors questioning journalistic ethics, buying advertising space in newspapers to have their opinion heard, and meeting with editors-in-chief and reporters to discuss concrete examples of ethical and professional breaches in published stories. In April 2002 over 200 students of the Jewish Students Association in Zurich demonstrated against increasing manifestations of racism and antisemitism in Europe.
At the annual meeting of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, the president, Alfred Donath, accused Switzerland of indirectly funding Palestinian textbooks with anti-Zionist and antisemitic content. He was immediately attacked by the press and the public, and received scores of hate mail and threats. Swiss radio tried to investigate the issue further, but was unable to clarify the final destination of Swiss humanitarian aid to the Palestinians through UNRWA.
History, they say, repeats itself. Not quite. History works her way in subterfuge and its main figures reappear in different and new guises. So we are misled to believe that it's not the same, what happened cannot happen again. Yet it does happen, again and again.
In a Hebrew play I just finished reading, one of the characters, a person bent under a load of Holocaust-survivor guilt, tells a young Israeli: If three quarters of humanity were to be wiped out by some evil, the remaining quarter will somehow make excuses for it, make peace with that event and continue in its perfidious evil ways as though nothing happened.
(H/T to H, whose misrepresentation (or ignorance) of history prompted this timely reminder)