Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Work Ethics

Sighted on Facebook, from Baku, Azerbaijan:

Japanese attitude to work:

If one can do it, I can do it. If no one can do it, I must do it.

Middle Eastern attitude to work:

Wallahi, if one can do it, let him do it. If no one can do it, ya-habibi, how can I do it?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A wretched, humble and miserable human being

Margarethe von Trotta, a German film director and a member of the New German Cinema movement, arrives in Petach-Tiqva, Israel, to make a movie. I found the article interesting on two accounts: Petach-Tiqva is the town where I was born and raised, and the movie is about Hannah Arendt's sojourn in Israel during the Eichmann trial. I may translate the article later. For now I'd just like to leave you with this quote:

הסרט מתאר את התקופה שבה ארנדט מגיעה לכאן, רואה את אייכמן בבית המשפט, ומתקשה להבין מה למעשה היא רואה מולה. כי בתחילה היא רואה לנגד עיניה מפלצת, ולאחר מכן היא רואה שניצב מולה אדם מסכן, צנוע ואומלל", מספרת פון טרוטה. "בסופו של דבר היא מחליטה שאייכמן עשה דברים מפלצתיים, אבל לא היה מפלצת בעצמו
"The film describes Arendt as she arrives [in Jerusalem], sees Eichmann in court, and finds it difficult to understand what it is she is looking at. At first she sees a monster but later realizes that what she is looking at is a wretched, humble miserable human being," says Von Trotta, "Eventually she concludes that Eichmann committed monstrous atrocities but he, himself, was not a monster".

And this is, I suppose, Margarethe von Trotta's attempt to explain Arendt's meaning of her famous phrase: "Banality of evil".

Angry Arab's Dream Sonata

Professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and (allegedly) visiting professor at UC, Berkeley, AbuKhalil, is jubilant that "The Israeli gas pipe line to Israel has been bombed nine times since the Egyptian uprising."

The prof. supports sabotage and terrorism, as long as the target is Israel.
He is, let me repeat, a prof at California State University. He actually teaches young American students about political ethics, critical thinking, reliable knowledge.

He follows this with a few questions

"What does that say about the Egyptian attitudes to Israel? What does it say about Mubarak's role? And what does it say about the doomed Zionist entity? The answers are...too obvious."

I agree. The answers are all too obvious.

Egyptian attitudes towards Israel are rooted in religious hatred and genocidal antisemitism, of the sort evidenced here:

"Egyptian cleric Sheik Tawfiq Al-Afni, at Tahrir Square, Cairo, posted on the Internet on November 18, 2011: Tawfiq Al-Afni (in interview): First of all, Islamic law is the only source for legislation. […]In addition, I would like to say to the whole world that the Prophet Muhammad prophesized that the return of Islam was inevitable. Why do they fear Islam? When Islam rules, justice, compassion, and goodness will prevail. So why do people fear Islam?

[…] I say to the people who fear Islam: Are you thieves that should fear the chopping off of hands? Are you alcohol-drinkers that you should fear being flogged?

On stage:

Sheik Osama Bin Laden is a man who waged Jihad for the sake of Allah, and we pray that Allah will unite us with him and the martyrs in Paradise. My brothers, in Islam, we say with great pride that we adhere to the Jihad for the sake of Allah…

Crowd: Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar.

Tawfiq Al-Afni: We are not waging Jihad for worldly benefits or for positions. By Allah, we have only come to pledge our allegiance to Islam. We wage Jihad for the sake of Allah and the Koran.
[…] We respond to Your call. Please turn our skulls into a ladder for your glory.

Crowd: We respond to Your call. Please turn our skulls into a ladder for your glory.

Tawfiq Al-Afni: We say to infidel America: By Allah, if you contemplate coming to Egypt, you will encounter men who love death more than you Americans love life…

Crowd: Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar.

Tawfiq Al-Afni: I say to the Jews: if you contemplate harming Egypt or its Muslim people, you will encounter men who seek death more than you seek life…

Crowd: Allah Akbar. Allah Akbar.

Man in crowd: Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is here.

Crowd: Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is here.

Man in crowd: Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is here.

Crowd: Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad is here. […]

Tawfiq Al-Afni: Oh Allah, grant us martyrdom for your sake.

Crowd: Amen.

Tawfiq Al-Afni: Say with me: [The revolution] is Islamic, Islamic…

Crowd: Islamic, Islamic…

Tawfiq Al-Afni: It is Islamic, Islamic…

Crowd: Islamic, Islamic…

Tawfiq Al-Afni: It is neither Eastern nor Western…

Crowd: Neither Eastern nor Western…

Tawfiq Al-Afni: It is neither Jewish nor American…

Crowd: Neither Jewish nor American…

Tawfiq Al-Afni: You return, oh Islam…

Crowd: You return, oh Islam…

Tawfiq Al-Afni: You will rule, oh Koran…

Crowd: You will rule, oh Koran…"

What does it say about Mubarak's role?

That he was a leader who understood the meaning of internationally-backed peace treaties and Egypt's obligations to keep its part of the bargain? That he understood that war with Israel was not going to benefit or enhance Egyptians' well being? Or, for that matter, Palestinians'?

And what does it say about the doomed Zionist entity?

That as the embittered, hate-corroded Marxist Prof. AbuKhalil fantasizes about destruction and ethnic cleansing (to put it mildly), Israel will continue to not only live, exist but also to thrive and plan for a better future, for all?

What does it all say about the Professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and (allegedly) visiting professor at UC, Berkeley?

That feeding the bonfires of hatred against Israeli Jews takes precedence for him over the improvement of Egyptians' quality of life, over the need to feed an 87 million population on the brink of mass starvation?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Comment Trail:

@ Bob's: Re: Atzmon

@ Bob's: In response to his villains of the week

@ The Big Picture: About why some gays are not included in gay solidarity

@ Our friend's in Norway: Norwegian FM Store's vulgar slanders

Israel Derangement Syndrome

We have seen it all before, in various guises. As if "Thou shalt hate, demonize and slander Israel" were the eleventh commandment. And maybe it is, for a certain malevolent cult on the Left, a cult whose discourse, for some reason, succeeds in passing itself off as legitimate by academics and other so-called pundits.

The latest outlandish example comes from City University of New York Professor Sara Schulman "who is feverishly anti-Israeli to the extent of advocating the boycott of Israeli universities based on the standard Islamist-Leftist accusation of Israeli Apartheid."

Her complaint:

"Writing in The New York Times, Schulman accuses Israel of
Pinkwashing, namely using its gay-tolerant policies as a propaganda tool to oppress Palestinians:

Last year, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that the Tel Aviv tourism board had begun a campaign of around $90 million to brand the city as “an international gay vacation destination.” The promotion, which received support from the Tourism Ministry and Israel’s overseas consulates, includes depictions of young same-sex couples and financing for pro-Israeli movie screenings at lesbian and gay film festivals in the United States….

The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life.. "

(She is probably referring to this kind of PR)


Another recent example for this derangement should be fresh in the minds of those who do not wish ill on the Jewish state. It was the notorious case of Deborah Orr's mystifying attempt to present Israel's excruciatingly painful compromise in the Gilad Shalit exchange as a sure sign of Israelis exhibiting their racial supremacy inclinations. In the October 19th 2011, article, entitled "Is an Israeli life really more important than a Palestinian's?" Orr states that the trade for one Israeli soldier in exchange for over 1000 Palestinian prisoners "acknowledges what so many Zionists believe - that the lives of the chosen are of hugely greater consequence than those of their unfortunate neighbours."


Perhaps the biggest jaw-dropper in this roster of grotesque demonizations of Israelis was a dissertation, or something, being done by Tal Nitzan, an Israeli PhD hopeful, which purports to answer the stunning question of:

Why don't Israeli soldiers rape Palestinian women?

The answer is, you guessed correctly, Israelis' racial supremacy.

So you see, for the unfathomably bored and pornographic minds of Schulman, Orr, or Tal Nitzan (and many others sharing their cultish thrall to the fanatical worship of anti-Israel hatred), any feature of Israeli society that would normally be accepted as signs of sanity and compassionate kindness, basic elements that all peaceful and free societies pursue, magically gets monstrified into its very opposite. Thus, the tolerance within Israeli society to its gay members, IDF's soldiers disciplined behaviour which excludes rape, Israeli society's profound care for its sons in captivity are not signs of a decent ethos but its very opposite.

Talk about Orwellian Doublethink:

"The keyword here is blackwhite. Like so many Newspeak words, this word has two mutually contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this."

These writers relate to Israel, in the same way the denizens of Oceania related to Emmanuel Goldstein, with a periodical spasm of supreme hatred for which source they will be hard pressed to account.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Poison Envy

Mark Twain explained anti-Semitism as "the swollen envy of pygmy minds." Apparently, he was right.

"Sign and Sight" provides the first English excerpt from historian Götz Aly's new book "Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Equality, Envy and Racial Hatred 1800 - 1933".

"In other words, the extent to which the latecomers were catching up reflected their own shortcomings in education and dexterity. These shortcomings were becoming embarrassing and could easily be concealed behind racial theory. A good example stems from the Leipzig student Curt Müller who in 1890 wrote a pamphlet on "Judaism among German students." There were two things he didn't like about his fellow students: they would do anything "to the point of self-sacrifice" for their fellow believers and that in terms of percentages there were "not nearly as many failed Jewish students as there were Germanic." And why? Müller of course had the answer. The Jews are "more hard working and assiduous – you have to give them that”, they "swot like mad at home": "like all money-loving tribes (…) the Jews eat modestly. Over a glass of beer the Jewish law student speaks about his studies far more than is necessary! He doesn't stop chattering and that impresses people. He understands rapidly but with no depth. Why should he? Like this he gets through his exams in the prescribed time, and Germany is blessed with another Jewish referendarius." Later on they earn fast money as doctors, lawyers and chemists! This is the sort of language that informs every second sentence in Müller's pamphlet, until he finally chimes in: "Stand up to the Jewish students with superiority and pride!" German racial pride fed exclusively on feelings of inferiority.

In 1922 Wilhelm Stapel published his book "Anti-Semitism" for the cultivated, middle-class Jew adversary. If it is determined, he wrote, that our own kind "is being confused to the point of discomfort by another intellectual being, then – the devil take me – I have the right to defend myself in my way, regardless how brilliant and illustrious this other mind may be." Ten years later Stapel spoke out in response to the question of why Jewish quick-wittedness was so bothersome: "There would be no anti-Semitism if the Jews were capable of keeping their mouths shut. They can do everything except keep their mouths shut." In his day this widely read popular philosopher ascribed marvellous qualities to the most inhibited German silences: "grace", "aristocratic nature", "refinement" and "depth"."

When you want to insult someone, call him "Zionist"

Courtesy of our learned friend at the Norwegian blogosphere, we get to have a taste of what passes for legitimate criticism of Israeli policies vis a vis poor Palestinians at some pro-Palestinian hyper-active websites. Here is an example:

"Duccio Mallamaci When you want to insult someone or something! …
You must not say that … “Nazist “!…
You must not say that … “Fascist “!…
But you have to say that … “Zionist “!…
Because Zionism was born long before Nazism and Fascism! …
Because Zionism was the first and major master of Nazism and Fascism! …
Because Zionism has won much in worse both Nazism and Fascism, has won both in theory and in practice!"

These instructions are yielded by people who think themselves humanists, promoters of justice and universal human rights.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An Angry Arab Moment

By which I mean that it is either a superb example of Prof. AbuKhalil's cognitive dissonance* or a confirmation of my own on-going suspicion that the blogger is actually in the service of the Zionist World Conspiracy. How else can you explain this fulmination:

"Friday, November 18, 2011

Israeli injustice

"Many liberals, who feel they are a waning minority in Israel, fear that the bills will weaken the judicial checks and balances that have prevented a judicial slide into populism or religious zealotry. They particularly worry about the rise of judges such as Noam Solberg, a religious-nationalist from Alon Shvut, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, whom right-wingers want appointed to the Supreme Court. In judgments in Jerusalem’s district court, where Mr Solberg sits, a policeman was controversially acquitted of the manslaughter of an unarmed Palestinian." I hate the reference to "Israeli liberals" or "Israeli leftists". They are akin to saying: a moderate and reasonable white supremacist."

The intention is to demonstrate the levels of illiberalism and "white" supremacy in the ethos of Israeli public, you know, in the style of South Africa's Apartheid and America's Jim Crow South before the civil rights movement. It is so bad, in fact, that Abu Khalil jeers at the notion of Israelis being liberals and Leftists at all. Yet as you click on the link and begin to read the article he relies on for his "news", this is the first thing recounted:
"WHEREAS Israel’s voters have been moving to the nationalist and religious right, most of its top judges have clung to a more liberal and secular view of the world. On November 10th Salim Joubran, one of three Supreme Court judges deciding the fate of the country’s former president, Moshe Katzav, upheld his conviction for rape. Almost no Israeli batted an eyelid, even though the judge who dispatched the eighth head of the Jewish state off to jail was an Arab, from a community that now makes up one in five of Israeli citizens"
So one wonders how the point AbhKhalil is making is proven or demonstrated by this article. It is obvious that the gist of the article contradicts AbuKhalil's reading of it or his summary judgment about the impossibility of Israeli liberalism or Leftism. Surely as a learned professor who teaches political science at California State University, Stanislaus and as a visiting professor at UC, Berkeley (so he claims on his website), he would realize that this type of juxtaposition does not add up to what he is trying to push but rather undermines not only his own argument but also his credibility both as a reliable reader and reporter of "news". It's as if he deliberately acts as a witness against himself.


* "Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.[1] Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Where Life Imitates Art

I. On today's "Sign and Sight" I read this:

"Sociologist Maria Vasarhelyi calls to mind French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's comment that "tracking shots are a question of morality." This comments applies not only to filmmaking but also to the visual politics of mass media reporting. "Where and how a cameraman puts his camera and what he tells his audience about an event with his images is absolutely a question of morality. The overwhelming majority of Hungarian mass media has broken with this the most important moral imperative of their profession, by keeping quiet about, belittling or consciously distorting everything that happened at the demonstration. These media channels which deliver the news to 90 percent of the population and which stand directly or indirectly under the influence of political power, manipulated the images to prevent their audiences from gaining a proper sense of what sort of people and how many of them had come out to protest against a system they dislike."

II. Now watch this, via Harry's Place

III. The painting here is "Las Meninas" by Diego Velazquez. The painting drew Michel Foucault's attention because it was an honest artistic attempt to describe the paradoxical relationship between reality and representation.The short version of Foucault's analysis boils down to this:

"Las Meninas" is self-aware in the sense that:

1. The painter paints himself;

2. The paints his own act of painting.

3. The object of the represented painter's gaze (the subject of his painting) is the invisible authority that makes his painting possible, indeed, that authorizes all activity, including representation, in Spain: the king and queen of Spain who can be seen in the mirror behind the painter.

B. The self-awareness in "Las Meninas" reinforces the code of signs that grounds representation in 17th C. Spain. It does not put this code of representation into question.

C. More rigorously, however, one must say that the painting in fact constructs the fiction of a hidden king who stands behind all representations and authorizes them.

D. The philosopher Michel Foucault gives an excellent analysis of "Las Meninas" at the beginning of his text, The Order of Things (Les Mots et les choses)."


I'm not going to chew this for you. By now people, aware people, wakeful people, ought to know that the images we see coming from Palestinian Media rarely represent reality as it took place. There is always the decision from which second on the film a certain image will be shown to the public. Examples are plentiful, most important of which was the Al-Durra fiasco, credited with the triggering of the second murderous Intifada. There is even a term for this phenomenon "Pallywood".

But what's the point? Is anybody going to take the trouble of deliberately reducing their much cherished ignorance?

""To most of us nothing is so invisible as an unpleasant truth. Though it is held before our eyes, pushed under our noses, rammed down our throats- we know it not."(Eric Hoffer)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Countdown to the Next Gaza War

"Palestinian terrorists have traveled to Iran for training with sophisticated Russian-made antitank missiles, the Jerusalem Post reports. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acquired hundreds of longer range missiles, which can travel more than four kilometers and penetrate many types of armored Israeli vehicles.


Israeli forces discovered the full force of the Hamas' new range earlier this year, when a rocket was fired at an Israeli school bus from nearly three kilometers away. The attack killed 16-year-old student Daniel Viflic and injured the bus driver, and showed Hamas ability to hit distant targets despite difficult firing conditions.

" (Source)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No stake in advocating for Israel

Bob from Brockley put up a new post in which he links to other blogs of interest as he simultaneously weaves in his own commentary. As anyone who frequents my place would know, I have the greatest affection and respect for Bob, in spite of the fact that our political positions may be worlds apart. This is why, when I read something like this:

One regular there is Jonathan Hoffman of the Zionist Federation, indefatigable campaigner against anti-Zionist excesses but not always the best advocate for his cause. I was interested to see a debate between Dan Sheldon, the president of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Hoffman. I have no stake in advocating for Israel, their topic, but only in combating antisemitism (a distinction that both the UJS and Zionist Federation like to blur), but I find myself agreeing with most of Sheldon’s sharp criticisms of Hoffman. Here is Jonathan’s response.
My first response is to recoil in shock. And if I'm in a particularly vulnerable mood as I am today, I actually wanted to cry. Can you imagine Bob saying he has no stake in advocating for Palestine?

And why is it, Bob, that you have "no stake in advocating for Israel"? And how easily you blame "Zionist Federation" for blurring the difference between antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred. Can you really claim, in good faith, that the hatred of Israel in which the world indulged today with sadistic relish, has nothing to do with antisemitism?

I will quote someone who should be a hero to Bob, a working class hero and an author, a non-Jew to boot, who seems to have understood exactly where the seam line runs between the hatred of Israel and classical antisemitism and the danger in the insistence of artificially separating the two:

"The Jews are a peculiar people: things permitted to other nations are forbidden to the Jews.

Other nations drive out thousands, even millions of people and there is no refugee problem. Russian did it, Poland and Czechoslovakia did it, Turkey threw out a million Greeks, and Algeria a million Frenchman. Indonesia threw out heaven knows how many Chinese-and no one says a word about refugees. But in the case of Israel the displaced Arabs have become eternal refugees.

Everyone insists that Israel must take back every single Arab. Arnold Toynbee calls the displacement of the Arabs an atrocity greater than any committed by the Nazis.

Other nations when victorious on the battlefield dictate peace terms. But when Israel is victorious it must sue for peace. Everyone expects the Jews to be the only real Christians in this world.

Other nations when they are defeated survive and recover but should Israel be defeated it would be destroyed. Had Nasser triumphed last June he would have wiped Israel off the map, and no one would have lifted a finger to save the Jews.

No commitment to the Jews by any government, including our own, is worth the paper it is written on. There is a cry of outrage all over the world when people die in Vietnam or when two Negroes are executed in Rhodesia. But when Hitler slaughtered Jews no one remonstrated with him.

The Swedes, who are ready to break of diplomatic relations with America because of what we do in Vietnam, did not let out a peep when Hitler was slaughtering Jews. They sent Hitler choice iron ore, and ball bearings, and serviced his troop trains to Norway.

The Jews are alone in the world. If Israel survives, it will be solely because of Jewish efforts. And Jewish resources. Yet at this moment Israel is our only reliable and unconditional ally. We can rely more on Israel than Israel can rely on us. And one has only to imagine what would have happened last summer had the Arabs and their Russian backers won the war to realize how vital the survival of Israel is to America and the West in general.

I have a premonition that will not leave me; as it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us. Should Israel perish the holocaust will be upon us."

For shame.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

UNESCO's latest craziness:

This cartoon, which appeared in the Israeli Leftist daily newspaper Haaretz drew some extraordinary reaction from the subject of its satire, namely, UNESCO:

"When he met with Eric Falt, UNESCO's assistant director general for external relations and public information, Ambassador Nimrod Barkan was stunned to be handed a copy of this cartoon and an official letter of protest from UNESCO's director general, Irina Bokova. Falt told Barkan the cartoon constituted incitement.

"A cartoon like this endangers the lives of unarmed diplomats, and you have an obligation to protect them," Falt said, according to an Israeli source. "We understand that there is freedom of the press in Israel, but the government must prevent attacks on UNESCO."

Barkan pointed out that the government has no control over editorial cartoons printed in the papers. "Ask yourselves what you did to make a moderate paper with a deeply internationalist bent publish such a cartoon," he suggested. "Perhaps the problem is with you."

After Barkan reported the conversation to the Foreign Ministry, it cabled back: "What exactly does UNESCO want of us - to send our fine boys to protect UNESCO's staff, or to shut down the paper? It seems your work environment is getting more and more reminiscent of 'Animal Farm.'"

Can you believe this story? I reminds me of the time when Mubarak repeatedly lodged formal complaints with Arik Sharon because an Israeli comedian, Yatzpan, was making fun of him in his stand-up routines. This is where we are today: UNESCO behaving like an Arab dictator.

Maybe this is UNESCO's top brass pay-back to those "Jews" for blocking their preferred candidate for Director-General UNESCO, back in 2009.

Who was the candidate?

"Egypt's culture minister is a top candidate to head the United Nations' main intellectual body,"

Why was his nomination frustrated?

"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."

And indeed he was not elected. And blamed it on .. who else but ... the Joos?

“America, Europe and the Jewish lobby brought down Farouk Hosni,” read a headline in an independent daily newspaper, Al Masry Al Yom. The foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, criticized “international Judaism and Western powers” in a television interview. Mr. Hosny himself helped stoke those sentiments, saying, “There was a group of the world’s Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position.”

Perhaps I'm being unjustly suspicious of this venerable organization. Perhaps they thought that the Minister-candidate was only exercising his freedom of speech in that "quip" about burning Israeli books. And freedom of expression is a sacred right for this organization, as we have just learned.



"UNESCO has worked tirelessly to undermine Israel's cultural and historical connection to holy sites. In November 2010, the agency classified Rachel's Tomb, the third holiest site in Judaism as a mosque, Bilal bin Rabah Mosque, "an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories." A study of Palestinian Authority school textbooks in 2008, however found that the site was never referred to as such, and instead was known at the "Dome of Rachel," until 2001, when the term, Bilal bin Rabah Mosque suddenly emerged in new educational textbooks.

According to the Palestinian Minister of Tourism Khouloud Daibes Abu Dayyeh, in addition to Hebron, the Palestinians are also asking UNESCO to recognize 19 other sites in the Holy Land to be incorporated as Palestinian World Heritage Sites including Jericho and Bethlehem."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Peace is their suit ...

Via Camera:

"The golden dome [of the mosque] shines with colors of the sky, with the white of clouds, while the joyous holiday [Eid Al-Adha] is good to the residents. The light rain cleanses the steps of the foreigners [Jews] so that the feet [of Muslims] in prayer will not step on impurity." [PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 6, 2011]

"Rain cleanses Jerusalem of Jews' impurity."

Conversation in D Minor

Why "D minor"? Twofold reasoning: As in Bach's toccata and fugue in d minor, this is an example of of words not written for any meaning beyond the sounds they make. The words are recognizable, the arguments are knowable but there is no meaning behind them. They do not offer any truth that can be humanly grasped on any level. Alternately, according to the meaning in the Urban Dictionary, D-minor is the saddest of all keys. People weep instantly when they hear it.

So take your pick.

I. The following is part of a conversation with a friend who belongs to the Left, and maybe even to the far left ideology that animates some otherwise very nice and rational denizens in Montreal.

She: I explain to people that we are good friends even though you are Right Wing and I am a leftie.

I: I'm not really Right wing. I believe I want and am willing to live with the same solutions you support. It's just that I have different emotional rationale and intentional relationship to those solutions.

She: Like what?

I: Well, we both believe that the two-state- solution is the only way peace can come to Israelis and Palestinians.

She: I don't know. I heard someone talk about the One-State solution and I thought he made a lot of sense.

I: Are you serious? The one-state solution? What will happen in a one-state solution, do you think?

She: Well, the Jews will become a minority...

I: Yes, and...?

She: And what?

I: How will that minority status be achieved?

She: Well, when all Palestinians return they will have greater numbers than the Jews.

I: And?

She: And what?

I: And then what will happen?

She: I don't know what you mean.

I: What about the violence that will be done to the Jews? The genocide?

She: I'm not sure a genocide will happen

I: All right, then. Extreme violence. Do you imagine it will not happen?

She: Maybe not. Maybe the Jews will just leave.

I: Where will they go? Do you realize you are talking about a situation very like that of Jews in Nazi Europe?

She: Well, this time, I'm sure countries will take the Jews ... (voice trailing off in some uncertainty)

I; Really? You think countries in Europe and America will open their gates wide to millions of uprooted Jews from Israel?

She: I hope so.

I: What if they don't? What will happen to the Jews who will have nowhere to go?

A knot and a puzzlement. Change of topic.

My interlocutor is a Jewish woman who, though quite alienated from her origins, is now expressing an interest in Judaism and has a few times articulated a wish that she could live in Israel. Confused? So am I.

I've re-constructed this conversation because it made me realize something. I have always thought that anti-Israeli Leftists are unaware what their devout pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel prescriptions actually mean, that their hatred derives from ignorance of at least half of the big picture. That they are ignorant of, or just disbelieve what Palestinian aspirations actually are, even though these longings are expressed fully, openly and righteously in their foundational documents (like the Palestinian Charter), in their media and education, repeatedly. I thought they didn't know that the only solution, as far as Palestinians are concerned, to the conflict will be a final solution indeed. I always believed that if you could force these Leftists to confront these realities, to force them to follow their prescriptions for "peace" to the end, they will realize that what they support is no less than premeditated genocide. This conversation made me sober up. It's not ignorance. And it's not even naivete, which could be defined in certain cases as an unconscious type of malevolence disguised as a sort of universal good. It's not absence of intelligence or understanding or knowledge. What I saw was an openness and toleration of the idea that if Israel disappears, Israel disappears, and that if that entails the disappearance of a people, then too bad.

II. Here is something that relates to the above:

"Yet these threats are real — and given Jewish history, Israel might be excused for being a tad over-prudent when it comes to enemies who still openly dream of the day when Israel will no longer exist. The Holocaust is seared in Israel's collective memory-preventing another Holocaust is indeed one of Israel's raisons d'être.

The same cannot be said of Europe. Even as Europeans routinely repeat "Never Again!" in reference to the Holocaust, their solemn commitment is not to prevent another Holocaust at all costs — it is rather to prevent war at all costs. For many Europeans, Israel's insistence on its national character as the state of the Jewish people is bound to yield the same tragic results Europe experienced when it toyed with nationalism.

Israelis know what they mean when they say "Never Again!" For them, the slogan means: never again shall the Jewish people stand defenceless on the brink of annihilation, and Israelis are ready to fight if genocide knocks again at their gates. Europeans, by contrast, have repeated the "Never Again!" slogan for more than six decades, and yet they have watched indifferently over repeated genocides across the globe, from Cambodia to Rwanda, Sudan to Srebrenica, China to the Congo."

III. I believe Hannah Arendt provides a very cogent insight into the issue raised in the highlighted quote above concerning the issue of nationalism from “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (p.3) here it is

One of the hasty explanations has been the identification of anti-Semitism with rampant nationalism and its xenophobic outburst. Unfortunately, the fact is that modern anti-Semitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined, and reached its climax at the exact moment when the European system of nation-states and its precarious balance of power crashed.

It has already been noticed that the Nazis were not simple nationalists. Their nationalist propaganda was directed toward their fellow- travellers and not their convinced members; the latter, on the contrary, were never allowed to lose sight of a consistently supranational approach to politics. Nazi “nationalism” had more than one aspect in common with the recent nationalistic propaganda in the Soviet Union, which is also used only to feed the prejudices of the masses. The Nazis had a genuine and never revoked contempt for the narrowness of nationalism, the provincialism of the nation-state, and they repeated time and again that their movement, international in scope like the Bolshevik movement, was more important to them than any state which would necessarily be bound to specific territory. And not only the Nazis, but fifty years of anti-Semitic history stand as evidence against the identification of anti-Semitism with nationalism. The first anti-Semitic parties in the last decades of the nineteenth century were also among the first that banded together internationally. From the very beginning, they called international congresses and were concerned with a coordination of international, or at least inter-European, activities.”

IV. Via Normblog: Albert Camus and the Jews:

"[W]hen the authoritarian regime of Vichy passed a salvo of anti-Semitic laws in 1940, most Frenchmen and -women did not blink. One of the few who did blink - in fact, doubled over in shock and revulsion - was Camus. Working for the newspaper Paris-Soir, Camus was stunned when his Jewish colleagues were fired. In a letter to his wife Francine Faure - a native of the city of Oran, Algeria, who was very close to the local Jewish community - Camus said that he could not continue to work at the paper; any job at all in Algeria, even one on a farm, would be preferable...

At the same time, he began to reach out to Jewish friends. To one, Irène Djian, he denounced these "despicable" laws and reassured her: "This wind cannot last if each and every one of us calmly affirmed that the wind smells rotten."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Comments Trail:

@ Engage

@ The Big Picture

@ Simply Jews about the obligatory Jew

@ TNR: Sarkozy 's Netanyahu slur, UNESCO's jaw dropping complaint and other sweets like that




Monday, November 07, 2011

Hitchens, Amis, McEwan

CH : "A lot of friendships absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language."

Ian McEwan: “If Hitchens didn’t exist, we wouldn’t be able to invent him.”

Martin Amis: "My friendship with the Hitch has always been perfectly cloudless. It is a love whose month is ever May. " ( The Independent, January 15, 2007.)

Ben Gurion: An Anecdote

By sheer coincidence, I read today two pieces whose subject was the first prime minister of Israel .

This is one:

"In his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications), Pappé reported that in a 1937 letter to his son, David Ben-Gurion wrote the following: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

It's a damning quote and is featured prominently in With God on Our Side. But it does not appear in any of the sources Pappé cites.

In his book, Pappé provided two references for this quote. The first reference is the July 12, 1937 entry of Ben-Gurion's diary. The second is page 220 of the August-September 1937 issue of New Judea, a newsletter published by the World Zionist Organization.

CAMERA provided electronic copies of both of these sources – neither of which include the quote attributed to Ben-Gurion – to Speakman earlier this week.

In response Speakman issued a press release that states in part:

… this quote cannot be found in the original sources of Ben Gurion's diary and therefore cannot be verified as authentic. While references to this quote exist, we could not find it in its original form. In an effort to be transparent and accurate, the producers have decided to take the extra step of removing it from future printings of "With God On Our Side." We apologize for this change.

The quote attributed to Ben-Gurion also appears in a 2006 article published in The Journal of Palestine Studies. In this article, Pappé provides another source for the quote. He states it appears on pages 167-168 of Charles D. Smith's Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Boston and New York: Beford/St. Martin's Press, 2004.

The quote does not appear here, either."

This is the other:

"[S]ome of Mr. Peres's personal reminiscences of Ben-Gurion and his entourage are delightful. One tells how, in 1956, Ben-Gurion, with Mr. Peres present as his aide, met secretly with French prime minister Guy Mollet and his generals to plan the joint Israeli-French-British attack on Egypt after Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal. "They were plainly eager to get to know their prospective ally," Mr. Peres relates, and Mollet encouraged Ben-Gurion to open the discussion:

Ben-Gurion took his time. He thought deeply, and then looked up. Mr. Prime Minister, he said, I would like you to explain to me when you in France stopped teaching Latin and went over to French. An argument over French linguistics developed from there, and . . . the whole evening went to hell.

A voracious autodidact always looking for useful information, Ben-Gurion may have been wondering whether there was a parallel worth pursuing with modern Hebrew. Any politician who would rather discuss the development of spoken vernaculars than an attack on Suez is indeed worthy of every bit of admiration that Mr. Peres has for him."

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Jewish Curses

I was looking for something else and stumbled upon this, a reminder from @Bob's blog:

May God call the tune, and may your enemies play the music.
May you lose your faith and marry a pious woman.
May all your teeth fall out except one which will remain for a toothache.
May you grow like an onion with your head in the ground and your feet in the air.
May you have a good long sleep and may your dreams only be of your troubles.
May you be the proof that man can endure anything.
May your wife eat Matzos in bed, and may you roll in the crumbs.
"You should speak so beautifully that only the cats understand you!"

A piece of Israeliana:

Alexander Penn

was an Israeli poet, a flamboyant, even self-destructive, personality. Wikipedia provides a rather decent entry about his life:

"Penn was a contemporary of Israeli poets Avraham Shlonsky and Natan Alterman. He left romantic love poems, conformist and non-conformist patriotic poems, political poems and well-known songs.

But most of his fame seemed to derive from his Bohemian lifestyle. He contracted diabetes before the age of 30, but did not stop smoking and drinking large quantities of alcohol, and saw himself as someone who can overcome the weaknesses of the body in defiance of medical science. His cruel attitude toward women did not prevent many of them from falling in love with the talented and handsome poet. His romance with communism, on the other hand, led to his ostracism. To the end, he was upset that Alterman, who wrote "The Seventh Column," a weekly column of political verse in the now-defunct Labor Party newspaper Davar, was identified as the father of the genre in Hebrew poetry, while he, Penn, had had a similar column in Davar even before Alterman."

However, it neglects to add the fact that, though a married man with two kids, he pursued Hanna Rovina, the first dame of the Hebrew theatre, who bore him a child out of wedlock, something that was most unusual for the times. She was also 18 years older than him. The daughter, Ilana Rovina, became an actress and singer in her own right, though she never reached any big star status. In a television documentary I saw about her many years ago she confessed that she had never spoken to her father even though of course she knew who he was and used to see him regularly in the Bohemian circles in which she grew up. Here is what an article in Haaretz says:

"When Rovina says "my mother," one can feel in the room the tremulous voice of the great diva that seems to emerge from a color portrait that hangs in her living room. There is no doubt that the mother is still present in the life of her daughter and still rules with a high hand. Hanna Rovina was born in a small town near Minsk, in Belarus... In any event, she was a rebellious girl who was fascinated by the Haskalah (enlightenment) movement and by the relative freedom given to women. She studied in a college for kindergarten teachers in Warsaw, which was headed by Yehiel Halperin, the father of the Canaanite poet and ideologue, Yonatan Ratosh."
(When I was in the Hebrew University studying translation, Ratosh's brother, Uzzi Ornan, also a "Cannanite" was one of my professors).
One of Alexander Penn's most famous poems, "Vidui" (Confession), was set to music and became a staple in the pantheon of Israeli songs, performed by many artists in any time. Here is Ilana Rovina singing her father's song. Gila Almagor, another great dame of the Israeli theatre, has a different interpretation for the song. It is an intensely painful dramatic monologue about love and death, about abuse and violence, seen from the point of view of the woman who seems to glory in her power over her lover, even when she is the victim of his rage and she has no faith in him.

An article in Haaretz describes Penn's first marriage:

The first year of their marriage was magical. At the end of it their daughter Zerubavela was born and the couple moved from Tel Aviv to Rehovot. Penn barely managed to support his small family by giving boxing lessons; he began to drink and quite often beat his wife. During that same period he met Shlonsky, the first one to support him in his literary career in Palestine. A short time later he met Alterman. He was also very close to Bialik, whose poetry he read often. [-]

Bella, who had a little girl and a baby, could not work much, whereas Penn, who translated plays for the theater and wrote songs, did not bring home money and preferred to spend time at Sheikh Abrek (near Tivon in the Lower Galilee) with the legendary guard Alexander Zaid. Penn admired Zaid, whose mother was a Russian Subotnik, and Halperin claims that the myth of being a non-Jew began with Penn after the meeting with Zaid. There Penn wrote several songs. He wrote his famous song "Adama admati" (Land, My Land) for the third anniversary of the murder of his friend Zaid, who was shot by an Arab assailant in 1938.

It's a long poem and I will translate only a snippet, hastily:

My plain coat, a lamppost, on a bridge

An autumn night, on my cold lips the rain

That’s how you saw me first, remember?

And I knew then with the certainty of two and two

That bread and water I would be for you

And like to bread and water you will always return


Yes, it was no good, it was gloriously bad

But remember our meeting that night of nights

If it happened again let it not be any different

The same wretched and indignant love

In that tattered coat and that pathetic rosebud

In that plainest of dresses

If it happened again let it not be any different

Let it be so, just so, word for word ...

One has to wonder what motivated this poem. Was it a sense of guilt and an attempt at reducing his shame, by imagining his first wife's suffering was somewhat pathologically self-inflicted, even longed for?

Political Activism:

Penn was an avowed Communist who apparently could not make up his mind whether he was a Zionist or a bona fide anti-Zionist Bolshevik. Here is what the Haaretz article says:

A clash between him and the party leadership developed prior to the publication of his first book of poetry in Hebrew, "Le'orekh Haderekh" (Along the Road) in 1956. The heads of Maki, the Israel Communist Party, were opposed to the inclusion of poems of a Zionist-nationalist nature, such as "Adama admati." Penn fought the censors inside the party and the boycott imposed on him outside the party. Because of the boycott he was unable to find any non-Communist to write the foreword to the book. In the end, for lack of choice, he asked Michael Harsegor, a member of Maki at the time, to write it. When he finished editing the book Penn was so ill that he was hospitalized for several months. In March 1957, about a year later than scheduled, the book was published.

In 1959 Penn was invited to the writers' conference in Moscow and took his daughter Sinilga along. It was an exciting visit. He met with his sisters. He met Mayakovsky's sister. He met twice with then-prime minister Nikita Khrushchev. His poems were published in the Soviet Union during his visit, but the KGB did not stop following him and he became well aware of the atmosphere of repression.

In the conference in which he participated the Russian Jewish poet Boris Pasternak and his book "Dr. Zhivago," which had been smuggled to the West and published there, were condemned. Pasternak, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, was then under house arrest in his summer home. Penn asked for Pasternak's address and his request was refused. He found a way and reached his home and when he returned from there, said his daughter, he looked like "a man who had aged 20 years," and he cursed in Russian: "Damn them, let them burn." He was so angry that when he was honored with a bottle of cognac he didn't even touch it.

In spite of that, upon his return from his visit to Russia, Penn remained a devout Communist. During the split in the Israeli Party in 1965 he remained in Maki along with most of its Jewish members, but in July 1967 he asked to resign from the party.

After his death a surprise awaited his acquaintances. In his will Penn gave instructions that he wanted a Jewish funeral, that he didn't want eulogies, and that he didn't want the Communist Party to take over the event and appropriate it. He instructed that Kaddish be said over him and asked that his body be interred among his fellow writers, and if possible next to the grave of poet Avigdor Hameiri.

So, remained a devout Communist, in spite of what he had seen and heard in Soviet Russia. Not for him the Orwellian awakening from an illusion and the necessary heavy ethical legwork that had to be gone through. And whatever criticism he harbored in his heart for the politics he had adhered to, he chose it be heard only after he died.

Furthermore, he who disavowed Zionism and attachment to the land of Israel was an Israeli poet. He chose to write his poetry and polemics in the new/old language, the language that was given a second birth due to the Zionist dream and its implementation. He also composed one of the most patriotic love poems for the land, Adama Admati: A land my land, merciful till death, a mighty wind roiled your ruins, I have wooed you in blood, that was red and fell silent...


I am designing a course on Hebrew literature in the twentieth century and I have a few months to assemble the material. As I go about it, I am sure to find some interesting tidbits like this one which I will post here.

Comments Trail and Murti-Bing pill

Mearsheimer endorsing Atzmon

Politics and the Israeli author

Norway, Israel and the Jews

Incognito @ Harry's Place


Anyone who follows this blog would notice that the volume of my writing and participation in conversations in the various blogs and message boards I've been visiting regularly for the last few years has shrunk considerably. There are all sorts of reasons for that, not least is my on-going angst about some in my family. But a great deal of my malaise is due to the feeling that more recently I've been running up against a wall of indifference at best and hostility as a rule when Israel's continued existence is discussed, what appears to be an instinctual aversion to facts and to the idea that Israeli Jews can be and are warriors who will not be easily defeated or demoralized out of their right to self-determination in every respect of this term.

I've been reading Czeslaw Milosz "The Captive Mind". He speaks of those who used to be the Eastern Block 's intellectuals but what he says resonates with the kind of attitudes I encounter at the very heart of the West. For what could be more "West" than Canada, with its great naivete, ignorance, and good nature, the bedrock of multiculturalism gone amok?

Milosz begins The Captive Mind with a discussion of the novel Insatiability by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz.

In the first chapter, "The Pill of Murti-Bing" Milosz is describing Witkiewicz's 1932 little-known novel titled INSATIABILITY in which a vision of yet another dystopia is being offered:.

Witkiewicz's heroes are unhappy in that they have no faith and no sense of meaning in their work. This atmosphere of decay and senselessness extends throughout the entire country. And at that moment, a great number of hawkers appear in the cities peddling Murti-Bing pills. Murti-Bing was a Mongolian philosopher who had succeeded in producing an organic means of transporting a "philosophy of life." This Murti-Bing "philosophy of life," which constituted the strength of the Sino-Mongolian army, was contained in pills in an extremely condensed form. A man who used these pills changed completely. He became serene and happy. [...] A man who swallowed Murti-Bing pills became impervious to any metaphysical concerns. The excesses into which art falls when people vainly seek in form the wherewithal to appease their spiritual hunger were but outmoded stupidities for him.

Milosz sees in the intellectuals who have been enthralled to Communism as Witkiewicz's Murti-Bing addicts. Milosz is indeed mostly concerned with the effects of Communism and let's not forget that his book was written in 1951 and under the pressure of events and systems which are now considered obsolete. But his main contention remains intact and if intellectuals today cannot be coerced by the state to become compliant, they are still suffering from the same human disease, the inexorable need to conform to ideas and ideologies that are fashionable and popular within the circles they inhabit. Those would be academia and media.

Milosz writes:

The epilogue, in a few words: the outbreak of the war led to a meeting of the armies of the West with those of the East. In the decisive moment, just before the great battle, the leader of the western army surrendered to the enemy; and in exchange, though with great honours, he was beheaded.The eastern occupied the country and the new life, that of murti-Bingism, began. The heroes of the novel, once tormented by philosophical "insatiety" now entered the service of the new society. Instead of the dissonant music of former days, they composed marches and odes. Instead of painting abstractions as before, they turned out socially useful pictures. But since they could not rid themselves completely of their former personalities, they became schizophrenics.

This schizophrenia I encounter today, every time I attend or lead group discussions, or engage in discussions in the blogosphere. People express great concern for human rights, for the abiding poverty in the world, for avoiding a repetition of the twentieth century human catastrophe known as the Shoah. And yet, in the same breath they jeer at Jewish life in Israel, they expect Israelis to sit back and absorb murders and destruction, they have little patience with any real talk about the Holocaust. I don't know how to deal with it. I watch the tsunami of hatred gaining energy and legitimation among people who couldn't be nicer. These nice, soft spoken people who, when any mention of Israel is made, their faces twitch and grimace, their hostility barely contained in contemptuous shrieks of sanctimonious outrage.

This is not well said. I'm still struggling to find the words by which to express and articulate my dread, my deep pessimism. What if human beings really cannot learn from the past?