Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama's scary adulators *

This videoclip is circulating:

We’re gonna spread happiness
We’re gonna spread freedom
Obama’s gonna change it
Obama’s gonna lead ‘em

We’re gonna change it
And rearrange it
We’re gonna change the world.

Now’s the moment, lift each voice to sing
Sing with all your heart!
For our children, for our families,
Nations all joined as one.
Sing for joy and sing abundant peace,
Courage, justice, hope!
Sing together, hold each precious hand,
Lifting each other up;
Sing for vision, sing for unity,
Lifting our hearts to Sing!

Yes we can
Lift each other up
In peace, in love, in hope
Change! Change!

I tell you, it's quite disconcerting to watch it. It brought immediately to mind that section in the movie Cabaret:

Tomorrow Belongs to Me

The sun on the meadow is summery warm
The stag in the forest runs free
But gathered together to greet the storm
Tomorrow belongs to me

The branch on the linden is leafy and green
The Rhine gives its gold to the sea (Gold to the sea)
But somewhere a glory awaits unseen
Tomorrow belongs to me

Now Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your children have waited to see
The morning will come
When the world is mine
Tomorrow belongs to me

The babe in his cradle is closing his eyes
The blossom embraces the bee
But soon says the whisper, arise, arise
Tomorrow belongs to me.

It seems someone else got the same memory flash...

Children, taught to sing devotionally for a political leader? Not a good idea.

* Heh!

Mossad Dames

Helen Mirren is slated to play "... a former Mossad agent in a Hollywood remake of the Israeli film Ha-Hov (The Debt). In the original movie, directed by Assaf Bernstein based on a screenplay he co-wrote with Ido Rosenblum, the role was played by Israeli actress Gila Almagor. The Hollywood version will be directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), who has said, "Helen Mirren is the perfect choice for the central role - a national celebrity and retired Mossad agent, a formidable and dignified woman grappling with years of emotional disappointment, suddenly confronted by a powerful and unexpected choice."

Is Mirren Jewish? I leave the solution to this riddle to the usual verifiers. In their own good time, I daresay they will come around to analyzing the question according to their given criteria.

Until then, we'll just have to bide our time and bite our nails.

Gila Almagor, whose role Mirren will reprise, is a brunette, a well known Israel actress who played Avner's mother in Steven Spielberg's Munich.
And speaking of formidable ex-Mossad dames, have you heard about her?
She has been erroneously referred to as a political dove. She is by no means a Lefty, as some on the Right have tried to paint her. She is firmly and realistically planted within the Israeli mainstream, and her positions reflect that mindset (definitely not suicidal...).

Beware the Jewess

(or "Shana Tova", Guardian style)

Martin in the Margins has blogged about this piece by Guardianista Barbara Ellen in which she asks, with all due incredulity:

"But what on earth was [Paul McCartney] up to with that gig in Tel Aviv?

The only worse kind of atrocity by McCartney would be: "What next - an appearance in bin Laden's next cave video."?

See? Performing to a bunch of Israelis in Tel Aviv is just one step up from entertaining Bin Laden...

In her desperation to figure out what could possibly cause such moral blindness in the British icon, she alights... surprisingly enough, on the first Jew that she can lay her eyes on in his vicinity. Or rather, a more lethal combination... a Jewess:

"Now he has a Jewish girlfriend, the glamorous Nancy Shevell, he's suddenly playing concerts in Israel and 'finding out for myself what the situation is'."?

This whole swollen up carbuncle of a story can only make sense to an antisemitic reader. As anyone with some common sense and moderate knowledge would have to see that Ellen's free associations, which she probably takes to be cute witticisms, tell us more about her own demons than they do about McCartney or Israel.

According to Sartre, antisemitism is not an idea as we usually understand this word to mean. It is not an opinion based upon factual and rational information and understanding, compiled and dispassionately measured against other sets of facts and arguments.

"It is first of all a passion...a deep passion... Some men are suddenly struck with impotence if they learn from the woman with whom they are making love that she is a Jewess. It is an involvement of the mind, but one so deep-seated and complex that it extends to the physio-logical realm, as happens in cases of hysteria."

In Love+Marriage=Death: And Other Essays on Representing Difference, by Sander L. Gilman - 1998

"Non Jewish men are at risk when they are exposed to Jewish women. This, the association of Sarah Bernhardt and the Salome legend is fixed as the history of the Jewess as sexual seductress. She is as dangerous as she is seductive - she is the essential belle Juive".

Well, then, it is encouraging to know that Barbara Ellen is not blazing any new trails here. She just regurgitates old stereotypes and xenophobic hysteria. That she can do so on the pages of the Guardian is also an old cliche by now.

Addendum: Upon closer scrutiny, Shevell is not only Jewish, but also an American, a New Yorker, and an heiress. She is also 47 years old who looks like Carrie, from Sex and the City. Such a multitude of sins might begin to explain, perchance justify, Ellen's hysterical ramblings.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Faulty Math

Mick Hartley provides some much needed levity: Quoting Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, as he was speaking on Al-Aqsa TV, Mick takes out the red correcting pen but soon runs into more comprehension trouble:

...Presumably he means, killing a Jew is the same as killing 30 million infidels.

You can imagine the Hamas maths class: "If 15 million Jews are equivalent to 4.5 billion infidels in their corruption and their struggle against the religion of Islam, then killing a single Jew is the same as killing how many infidels?"

I make it 300 using the US billion (a thousand million) and 300,000 using the UK billion (a million million), so unless there's a special Islamic billion of 100 million million (which is, I suppose, entirely possible) then he's miscalculated. Which is maybe why he went into politics rather than pursuing an academic career.

I am wondering what may have brought up this attempt to cook the demographic books, so to speak. No doubt some Arabs may have wondered out loud why Muslims are so mortally afraid of the Jews, considering that there are only 15 Million Jews in the world and 1.5 Billion Muslims. So here comes Mr. Hammad and actually provides a solution: They may look 15 million but in fact they are 4.5 billion! The genius of simplicity.

Gunned Down

Terry Glavin, who is active on the Afghanistan-Canada front, keeps us informed about what is happening over there. The news are often dire. His latest is no different:

Women's rights activist Malalai Kakar, a lieutenant-colonel in the Kandahar Police Force, head of the crimes against women unit, is dead. The mother of six was gunned down in front of her home as she left for work this morning.

Who is responsible for this act?

A spokesman for the extremist Taliban movement, which targets government officials as part of a growing insurgency, said that the assassins were from his group. (Source)

Not too long ago, Terry Glavin had a discussion about Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. Many Canadians want Canadian troops out of Afghanistan, substituting such important presence with "robust diplomatic engagements" with the Taliban.

TG provides some context from which to assess realistically these proposals:

Long before the NDP stumbled upon the idea of "robust diplomatic engagements" with the Taliban and their ilk, the strategy had been tried, and had been proved a total calamity. As soon as Hamid Karzai was elected president, he tried to revive the truce-talk approach and began offering talks with the Taliban leadership. Last September, he went so far as to offer to share power with the Taliban. The Taliban made it explicitly clear then, and have continued to make it clear ever since, that they aren't interested in negotiating at all. They are interested in imposing an opium-financed, 7th century, death-cult theocracy upon the Afghan people, in defiance of the entire world.

The UN tried negotiations, too, relentlessly and to absolutely no avail, from 1994 to 2001. The result was hell on earth for the Afghan people, with truces that never lasted, tens of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, and eventually a couple of famous buildings in New York destroyed with all the innocents in them.

The NDP says we should try this again. And bring our troops home again, too. To maintain these delusions, it is also necessary to abdicate yourself from reality so much that you have to pretend that the hard work required to achieve the objectives of the UN-brokered, 60-nation Afghanistan Compact, and the necessary work of keeping Canada's promises to the Afghan people, and living up to Canada's UN commitments in Afghanistan, is all merely fighting in "George Bush's war." Or, in Savoie's version, Donald Rumsfeld's war.

Malalai's assassination is just another example for the convenient delusion that taliban can be a party for political engagement. If one was needed at this point.

Update: More here about this exceptional woman

Update II: The fighting women of Afghanistan (This piece in the Guardian needs some feedback which I may do later on. I'm a bit fed up now)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stephen Fry - almost American

(H/T: Normblog)

I was so nearly an American. It was that close.... I was 10 when my mother made me a present of this momentous information. The very second she did so, Steve was born.

[-] I have often felt a hot flare of shame inside me when I listen to my fellow Britons casually jeering at the perceived depth of American ignorance, American crassness, American isolationism, American materialism, American lack of irony and American vulgarity. Aside from the sheer rudeness of such open and unapologetic mockery, it seems to me to reveal very little about America and a great deal about the rather feeble need of some Britons to feel superior. All right, they seem to be saying, we no longer have an empire, power, prestige or respect in the world, but we do have "taste" and "subtlety" and "broad general knowledge", unlike those poor Yanks.

What silly, self-deluding rubbish! What dreadfully small-minded stupidity! Such Britons hug themselves with the thought that they are more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than Americans...

Sophistication is not a moral quality, nor is it a criterion by which one would choose one's friends. Why do we like people? Because they are knowledgeable, cosmopolitan and sophisticated? No, because they are charming, kind, considerate, exciting to be with, amusing… there is a long list, but knowing what the capital of Kazakhstan is will not be on it.

Read it all, here.

Stephen Fry, let me remind you, is Oscar Wilde. He is also a liberated asajew who earlier this year signed a public letter in which he joined other prominent British Jews (like Harold Pinter), upon the occasion of Israel's 60th birthday:

We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state founded on terrorism, massacres and the dispossession of another people from their land. We cannot celebrate the birthday of a state that even now engages in ethnic cleansing, that violates international law, that is inflicting a monstrous collective punishment on the civilian population of Gaza and that continues to deny to Palestinians their human rights and national aspirations.

One assumes that he does not suffer any "hot flare of shame inside him" when he listens to his fellow Britons' unapologetic demonization of Israel and Zionist Jews.

It's very nice of Reginald Jeeves to speak for maligned Americans. It's a big step forward from the rest of the anti-American crowds that populate the sceptered isle. One wonders, though, when and if a similar bout of courage will take hold of Fry's public conscience with regards to the damage he and his ilk inflict upon their fellow British Jews who, unlike him, are not embarrassed to be Zionists and defend Israel's right to self-defence.

It has come to this...

In accordance with the law of reciprocal action, for every action there is always opposed an equal reaction. As Euro-Muslims mount their pressure on established European mores, customs and values to accomodate and regularize Islamic dictates and values, the backlash from clueless and edgy Euros is predictably mounting in response:

"...a woman who tried to enter a BNP bank branch and was refused on account of her headscarf."

Why clueless? Because they get so nervous seeing any veil, that they cannot even follow correctly their own rule:

"The sign outside (see source link) doesn't mention removing a headscarf, but rather removing anything which covers the face and not the hair."

It's a frightening situation.

Shana Tova שנה טובה

Tomorrow is Erev Rosh Hashana, the Hebrew New Year's Eve. We are entering year 5769. Tishrei is the month of the high holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot, Simchat Torah). The preceding month, Elul, is the month leading up to this dense holiday season which centers around forgiveness and renewal. During the month of Elul it is customary to start each day very early by saying "Selihot", asking God for forgiveness.

My grandfather used to keep up with this custom almost until his death. He was a Sephardic Jew, faithful but pretty laid back about his religion. A Maimonides Jew. He was a story teller, with a comedian's temper. He could mesmerize us with the stories of his salad days in Turkey, for example, his encounter with an enticing deviless who once waited for him on the bridge as he walked to the synagogue to say Selihot... He was a good looking man and I was not surprised that a very beautiful Lilith in a white dress, her very long black hair draped over her shoulder, tried to lure him to the evil side...

He also had a very melodious voice, often leading the prayer in the synagogue; I heard from him this sephardic version of
Adon Haselihot.

Tomorrow evening we will celebrate the new year with the usual accouterments: apples, honey, a festive dinner, wine, blessings, gifts and wishes.

I have made more than my usual efforts with this holiday dinner which will include grilled fish, coq au vin, rice with pine nuts and raisins, the mandatory spinach dish, an apple meringue cake. I'll be making my own challa ring, with honey and amaretto.

Shanah Tova to all my friends, new and old, some of whom may be virtual but feel real. Happy 5769!

This is a guest post by my occasional contributor Mano:

A letter of advice to Presidential Hopefuls McCain and Obama

Many of us watched the Obama-McCain first debate on Friday, September 26th. And I believe that most of us had a feeling that none of the candidates achieved a real knockout. In this letter I want to give the candidates a little advice.

This first debate between the two final contenders was mainly on foreign policy. But as Jim Lehrer indicated in the opening note, the economy and foreign policy are tightly linked. I totally agree. But I also know that neither of you is an expert in economy or energy. I expected McCain, with his experience and expertise in foreign policy, to show better strategic savvy. But instead of strategy what I heard was a collection of tactics at best. Even the tactics were sometimes obscure.

So here’s how I would start if I were either McCain and Obama at this point in our modern history, and from a view of 30,000 foot height - after all, you two are running for the president of the most powerful country on earth. But since you’re talking to the average person, you must be very clear, straightforward and use simple terms.

America has certain strengths to be proud of. It is a solid democracy, it has a free economy, it has technological leadership in many fields and it has a set of very strong and important values.

The US economy, foreign policy and energy policy are tightly linked to each other. The US cannot be strong outside if it is weak inside. The dependency on foreign energy sources, oftentimes controlled by unpredictable dictators (Putin, Chavez, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Ahmadinejad and alike), punches a big hole in the American shield. Unfortunately, the current administration was not wise enough to foresee what was coming, and now we have a huge problem we need to fix. So this is my strategy:

1. Resolve America’s energy problem towards independence. The problem cannot be resolved overnight, and the solution is not homogeneous. We need to provide a relatively short term solution, while starting (or rather continuing) with the longer term solution.

2. We all like to see now green energy, green cars, etc., but unfortunately the technology is not yet available. Therefore, in the short term we should mitigate the risk by off-shore drilling and nuclear energy.

3. In parallel, we should pour billions of dollars as incentives to develop alternative energy technologies. That is to say, hydrogen-powered vehicles, wind and solar energies, to name a few.

4. Alternative sources of energy, as mentioned above, are abundant on earth. The availability of alternative energy sources is not the problem, but the storage of the energy is the real problem. Energy generated by wind or the sun have to be consumed real-time, or they are lost by being converted to heat. Presently, there is no good way to store massive amounts of useful energy (e.g. electricity) economically and efficiently. So we need to pour billions in the development of technologies to efficiently store electricity and hydrogen. Then we can largely use sources such as wind and solar power.

5. In the meantime, ask Americans to conserve energy, and create Federal programs in this direction. For instance, provide an incentive to buyers of fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids. The incentive will be across the country in the form of tax exemption, tax rebate or alike.

6. If we’re successful in developing the above, America will achieve energy independence and lead the world in the next technology boom. This will benefit us in many ways. We’ll export these technologies and our economy will grow. Jobs will be created and America will become stronger from inside. We’ll reduce our debt and have sufficient funds to support national health care and other social initiatives.

7. We’ll lead the world in green energy and show the way to reduction of carbon emissions.

8. Alternative energy technologies, our internal strength and independence from oil imported from rogue countries and leaders, will make us stronger outside, and will significantly weaken the petro countries. We’ll be able to shape our foreign policy more easily and efficiently. Then we can shift from the use of power on the ground to the use of deterrence. We’ll be able to more easily mitigate adversaries such as world terrorism.

This is the kind of vision I expect from the next president of the US and the primary leader of the world. The rest is details.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman: 1925 - 2008
It's hard to believe that Ari Ben-Canaan he is no longer with us.

A loving father, faithful husband, World War II veteran and philanthropist who gave away a vast fortune, being one of the all-time great screen legends was only part of who Paul Newman was. It‘s the rare circumstance where after their passing we mourn the loss of the man more than the star.

Paul Newman was 83.
He left a legacy of so many memorable roles, that deepened our understanding of human frailty, but for me, it was his role as Frank Galvin, in "The Verdict" which marked his greatness: a shuffling, stooped-shouldered, bitter, failing lawyer struggling to defeat his own apathy to bring justice.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Concentration Camp Gaza

In a follow up to Lauren Booth's intelligent comments to those media which would be interested in anything she said, here are a few more photos of the shocking state of the near-humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Reported Sightings of Antisemitismus this week

> Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the heads of UN member states:

"The dignity, integrity and rights of the European and American people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner."

> Toronto won't allow comparing Ahmadinejad to Hitler:

Marty Peretz reports:

The Toronto City Council has banned an exhibit comparing the anti-Jewish rhetoric of Adolf Hitler with the anti-Jewish (and anti-Israel) rhetoric of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I don't exactly know what was in the exhibition. But this prohibition seems to me to be prima facie both disgusting and dangerous. "Disgusting" because it puts up Toronto itself as a barrier to discussion of one of the crucial issues of our time, which is the tie between fascism and Islamofascism. "Dangerous" because it shows how fragile is the right to free expression even in free societies such as Toronto.

Is anyone surprised? Does anyone but a few Jewish organizations raise the alarm? Don't be ridiculous. In Canada, whose government did less than other Western countries to help Jewish refugees between 1933 and 1948?

"The authors point at Frederick Charles Blair, the head of immigration in the Mackenzie King administration for actively limiting Jewish immigration from the top. They also claim Blair had the full support of Mackenzie King, prime minister during the war, Canada's high commissioner to Britain Vincent Massey and both Anglophone and Francophone elites in general.
The title is based on an anecdote given in the book. In early 1945, an unidentified immigration agent was asked how many Jews would be allowed in Canada after the war. He replied "None is too many".

> Winnipeg-area Liberal candidate Leslie Hughes- an antisemitic truther?

Winnipeg-area Liberal candidate Leslie Hughes was forced to explain why she wrote about conspiracy theories alleging the U.S. government was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and that Israeli businesses had advance warning to vacate the premises.

The remarks surfaced a day after she joined Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion in a major public outreach to Canada's Jewish community.

“I find any interpretation of my journalism as anti-Semitic personally offensive and I heartily apologize for that perception,” she said in a statement released late Thursday. (here)

Her bizarre apology nicely disemboweled by Terry Glavin, here .

I keep wondering why mediocre, verbally-incontinent politicians take such a dim view of voters' intelligence and ability to connect words to their meanings.

So what is it to be: Money? Or your life?

I've more or less fallen in love with this movie "A Good Year" which has been around for two years but has only just been noticed by me. It's a rather smart-ass, hard-nosed romantic comedy mostly about wine.

The story commutes between two geographical locations, Provence's laid back life style, and the London’s main financial district with its shark ethics and heartless money-making demi-gods.

The movie's greatest appeal is in its succinct depiction of some very memorable minor characters. For example, here is Gemma, the embodiment of the efficient secretary:

Gemma: Max Skinner's phone?
Kimberly: Hi, it's Kimberly. Is Max there?
Gemma: Just one moment. [to Max]
Gemma: It's Kimberly? [Max does the "cut off" sign]
Gemma: Sorry Kimberly, Max isn't here right now.
Kimberly: Where is he?
Gemma: Max and his fiancée are at their wedding rehearsal today. [Max gives Gemma the thumbs up]
Kimberly: Their what?
Gemma: Would you like to leave a message?
Kimberly: No I wouldn't!

Or Uncle Henry:

You'll come to see that a man learns nothing from winning. The act of losing, however, can elicit great wisdom. Not least of which is, uh... how much more enjoyable it is to win. It's inevitable to lose now and again. The trick is not to make a habit of it.

The repartee is often wry and hard-nosed, charming, as in the following examples:

Max Skinner: [points to his shirt] Fred Perry.
Francis Duflot: [points to his cap] René Lacoste.

Max Skinner: Joan of Arc?
Fanny Chenal: Oh. Jacques Cousteau.

Francis Duflot: Francis Duflot, vigneron.
Christie Roberts: Christie Roberts, illegitimate daughter.

The music is so integral to the Provencal ethos that it gets lodged in your head, woos you completely. Samba and sentimental waltz pace the rhythm.

And that is my musical break for this Friday.

Normblog's Friday routine features a very special blogger:

Normblog Profile 262

Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to interview Ahmadinejad

The other night, Larry King interviewed a perpetually smiling, slimy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As usual, Larry, when interviewing great antisemites, is in much awe of them and this was no exception.

Additionally, of course, Larry King is not terribly knowledgeable about Mahmoud (whatever he knows he seems to get from Christian Amanpour whom I used to admire until I saw her simpering self-ingratiating performance in Iran, when she was interviewing Mullahs for her program "God's Muslim warriors" or something). Anyway, the interview, far from being illuminating, as Larry proudly proclaimed at the end of the hour, left much to be desired. Mahmoud could not be prevailed upon to answer even one question directly and honestly nor was he challenged even once by the cowed Larry. He is who he is, a slippery eel with a flat type on intelligence. But I expect more from interviewers, to at least attempt to show up the discrepancy between honesty and truth, and what passes for honesty and truth with such a man.

Here are a few of the questions that Larry should have asked the grinning clown, courtesy of
the Iconoclast:

1) You have exhibited great solicitude for those local Arabs -- a subset of the Arab people -- whom you call the "Palestinians." Could you tell us if you have equal solicitude for those local Arabs -- a subset of the Arab people -- who live in the southwestern part of Iran, in Khuzistan, one of the main oil-producing regions, and who have repeatedly been suppressed, in ways far more violent than the Israelis have ever used, by Iranian forces? Would you be willing to give Khuzistan -- to give the "Khuzistanian people of Khuzistan" -- their independence? Why not?

2) The Ayatollah Khomeini was a learned Shi'a theologian. That, after all, is why he managed to obtain the rank of "Ayatollah." When he came to power, virtually his first official act was to change the marriageable age of girls in Iran to nine. He did that, of course, because Aisha, little Aisha, was nine years old when Muhammad, or as you insist upon calling him, the Prophet Muhammad, not only married her but had sexual intercourse with her. And Muhammad (or as you call him, the Prophet Muhammad) is for Muslims uswa hasana, the Model of Conduct, al-insan al-kamil, the Perfect Man. Whatever he did or said, as recorded in the Hadith, is there for Muslims to study, and to model themselves upon. His life, the Sirat al-Rasul, is full of events that show Muhammad as that Perfect Man, to be emulated in all things, and in all places, and at all times.

So tell us: do you think the marriageable age of girls should indeed be lowered to nine years because that was little Aisha's age when she was married? And do you think that not only in Iran but all over the Muslim lands, or among Muslims wherever they are to be found, even if they live in what is still the Bilad al-Kufr, the Lands of the Infidels, that is the right age?

3) Iran -- Persia -- is a country that, when the Arabs came bearing Islam as their "gift," had existed for thousands of years. Persian culture was at a much higher level than that of the desert Arabs. Yet the Arabs attempted to islamize Iran, and the Persians. Had they had their way, Iranians might now be speaking Arabic, as so many of the peoples -- in the Middle East and North Africa --now speak Arabic, and think of themselves, as a deliberate and cultivated result, as "Arabs." But Iran was different. In Iran, so Iranians tell me, it was Firdowsi's Shahnameh, the history of the kings of Persia, written in Farsi, that helped to resist the Arab linguistic and cultural imperialism that, for example, the Berbers had such trouble resisting in North Africa, or the Aramaic-speaking peoples of Shams, Syria. And the higher literary culture of Persia, reflected as well in Hafiz, Sa'adi, and the one best known in the West, Omar Khayyam, was mirrored by a higher scientific culture so that most of the advances made within Islamic high civilization, and claimed by the Arabs, were in fact often the work of Persians.

Would you care to comment on how Persia, that is Iran, and on the means by which it successfully resisted arabization, and what you would advise other non-Arab Muslim peoples, such as the Berbers or those in Indonesia, to do in order to prevent such arabization?

4) There was a historic link between Persians and Jews established long before the arrival of Islam, when the Jews lived in their own country, known to them as Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Persian Empire seemed to be the mightiest in the world. Then came Islam, and according to Islam, we understand, no Infidel nation-state should exist anywhere. And that, we take it, is the basis for your opposition to Israel: it is an non-Muslim or Infidel nation-state, smack in the middle of Dar al-Islam. And that of course, to many Muslims, is intolerable.

Would you agree that that is the reason for the opposition, expressed by you and many other members of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to Israel? And would you agree further that those Iranians who are less fervent or fanatical in their faith, are pari passu less hostile to Israel, and that was obvious during the time of the Shah, and is obvious today, if one looks a little deeper?

And since the entire world belongs to Allah, and to those who follow him and his message, as relayed by the person you call the Prophet Muhammad, isn’t Israel merely a specific case, or one might say victim, of a general Muslim attitude? In the end, can Muslims allow any lands to remain without Islam, and without Islam in the end coming rightfully to dominate?

In your replies, refrain from having recourse to Taqiyya and Tu Quoque.

Here is something to cheer you up.

Here is another.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The tolerance of Islamic Regimes

"16. Further, harmony is often the result of fear: but such harmony is insecure. 
Further, fear arises from infirmity of spirit, and moreover belongs not to the 
exercise of reason: the same is true of compassion, though this latter seems
to bear a certain resemblance to piety." (Spinoza, Ethics)

I've been wondering about this quote by Slavoj Zizek, which I found here:

Regarding Islam, we should look at history. In fact, I think it is very interesting in this regard to look at ex-Yugoslavia. Why was Sarajevo and Bosnia the place of violent conflict? Because it was ethnically the most mixed republic of ex-Yugoslavia. Why? Because it was Muslim-dominated, and historically they were definitely the most tolerant. We Slovenes, on the other hand, and the Croats, both Catholics, threw them out several hundred years ago.

This proves that there is nothing inherently intolerant about Islam. We must rather ask why this terrorist aspect of Islam arises now. The tension between tolerance and fundamentalist violence is within a civilisation.

I was thinking that if we take into consideration what we know about Islamic regulations concerning minorities, this observation that "historically [Muslin rulers] were definitely the most tolerant"
makes some sense.

There was not an ongoing state of perpetual agitation and attrition of minorities and therefore violent confrontations and pogroms were relatively less common than in Christendom. Which led to a sense of harmony. But what kind of harmony and at what cost?

Minority members knew who they were, in relation to the dominant majority, that they were legally bound by a set of laws and rules which dictated to them every nuance of their obligations, conduct and rights relative to the Muslim owners of the land. When your own inferiority is inscribed into law, and when you know that any breach of it may entail painful judgments, and maybe death, you are not likely to walk with your head held high when you pass your Muslim neighbour in the street. Nor are you likely to pursue justice in court when your Muslim partner cheated you, since by law, your testimony counted for half the value of your adversary's. When a system is slated against you, legally, you adjust your ways and expectations and forgive a multitude of insults, slurs and crimes committed against you. It is an excellently efficient way to maintain the "tolerance" of a bellicose majority.

Hugh Fitzgerald explains how the kind of tolerance, suggested by the oft repeated Koranic injunction: "There is compulsion in religion" really worked:

"... the observable behavior of Muslims over 1350 years. What have Muslims done, when they have conquered, by force or otherwise, non-Muslim lands and peoples? They offer three possibilities: death, conversion, and, at least to those who can be classified as ahl al-kitab or "people of the book," permanent status as dhimmis, with a host of political, economic, and social disabilities which together added up to lives of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity, at times relieved -- but only at times -- by the occasional mollitude of a particular Muslim ruler. A slim reed on which to base one's happiness. And so, over time, many non-Muslims, in order to avoid this condition of degradation, humiliation, and physical insecurity, converted to Islam. "

My father grew up in Turkey, a secular Muslim country. Turkey is known for its tolerance towards Jews and Christians. Over the years he visited his native land many times. Turkish Jews speak Ladino amongst themselves. When he was out in the street walking with his brother, he was admonished to speak only in Turkish, and in a low voice, so as not to attract attention to his "Jewish" accent.

He was shocked when I told him about a friend of mine, a Turk, who had converted to Judaism. "We used to have good relations with the muslim neighbours" he told me "they always respected my father and showed us great hospitality. But this is unheard of. It would never have been tolerated".

Jewish Turkish woman I recently met told me that as she was growing up, her parents had forced her to speak only Turkish at home, so that their Ladino-Jewish accent would not expose them as Jews in school.

These anecdotes, such as they are, only re-enforce my understanding of what constituted the livable reality of that "most tolerant" Muslim rule that Zizek admires in the quote above. Fear, intimidation, violence to your identity, when your private sphere is porous and totally dependant on the whims of a religiously volatile majority.

It also tells me that Zizek often does not quite know what he is talking about.

The double standard

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is urging the FEC to investigate whether the Clarion Fund, a shadowy non-profit organization that distributed DVDs containing “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” is really a front for an Israel-based group seeking to help Sen. John McCain win the U.S. presidential election. (No information about a board of directors, staff or even a physical address is offered on the fund’s website.) Source

I'm sure CAIR is very sincere in their concern for foreign initiatives trying to influence another country's elections. You may remember the great dust they kicked up in 2004 when British citizens tried to influence American voters to vote against George Bush, or when Gaza Palestinian students undertook to campaign on behalf of Barack Obama, or when Bill Clinton sent his most trusted political consultant, James Carville, to plot and promote a strategy for Ehud Barak's election victory in 1999.

Whether CAIR's charges are legitimate or not, it is important to note the double standard at play here: Jews are not supposed to promote their interests, and when they do, the conspiratorial charge is flashed out, in no time.

Ahmadinejad's media make-over

What he actually said:

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed "a few bullying powers" for creating the world's problems and said the "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road."

At the United Nations, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said countries are turning their backs on "bullying powers."

"The Security Council, "cannot do anything, and sometimes under pressure from a few bullying powers, even paves the way for supporting these Zionist murders."

How it was reported by CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour:

"Ahmadinejad's comments were some of the most conciliatory he had made to the United States."

Go figure...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Edward Said's Orientalism - for dummies

Here is an innovative rendition in rant style by the poet George Szirtez, of the famous theory that gave birth to the more recent concept of Middle East Studies (succinctly put: if you are not on the right side of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, you need not apply to study or teach at M-E Studies. This is a longer explanation):

The Other is a bit like the Sublime used to be (the whale used to be Sublime once), but enjoys a higher moral status because a person who regards another as The Other is invariably prejudiced and ill-intentioned. Otherness is a kind of imperial projection or projectile. Savages are the Other. Natives are the Other. The Other is the other end of the gun. But the real Other, that is when it is at home, not being any trouble to anyone and not being The Other, is a deeply decent, highly civilised being.

In fact the Other is quite clearly nobler, cleverer, wiser, more courageous, and in every way better than you are, you swine.

The above is mostly Edward Said in porridge version. Porridge in: porridge out. You're not listening!

In gender terms The Other is woman (if you are a man). This does not mean, on the other (not Other) hand, that man is an Other if you are a woman. It's the moral shtick again. Is that clear, pigface?

The swollen envy of pygmy minds

This news was brought to our attention by none other the vigilant BBA:

The periodical of Tel Aviv University’s law faculty, Theoretical Inquiries in Law, has been ranked first among all law periodicals published outside the US by Washington and Lee University. The university considers more than 200 periodicals published in England, Canada, Australia, the European Union and other countries.

Why is this important?

As BBA says:

... it's satisfying to note that the review process considered over 200 periodicals published outside the US, including a good number submitted from Boycotting Britannia, and that this relatively young Israeli journal should lead the pack.

Boycott that, you noodles!

I share her/his feeling about the "envy and resentment" motivation. It was Mark Twain who defined antisemitism as: "the swollen envy of pygmy minds – meanness, injustice"

Monday, September 22, 2008

The sad life of Ranya, 15 year old Iraqi girl

Her father kidnapped by the militias in Abu Saida.

The brother used to provide for them, until the police took him.

She got married at the age of 14, against her will, to a man 12 years older than her.

She does not remember what the explosives belt looked like. Umm fatima, introduced by the husband as his cousin, strapped it on her. Before she put it on me, she gave Ranya a can of peach juice and some bread. After she drank the peach juice and ate the bread, she saw double.

Ranya does know if her husband knew she was putting on the belt, but he was in the same house. When she put on the belt and went out, he was present.

Her mother, Umm Ranya, is accused of being an Emir in Al-Qaeda. Some women said she recruited them and drew up plans for them:

Interviewer: If you met Muhammad, her husband, who was behind all this, how would react to him?

Ranya's mother: I would say: Hang him!

Interviewer: That would be your response?

Ranya's mother: Yes. I would say: Hang him. Don't let him breathe another hour.

Interviewer: You came here for the interrogation...

Ranya's mother: If he really did it...

Interviewer: What do you mean "if"?

Ranya's mother: He didn't strap the belt on her, but if he was responsible...

Interviewer: So you doubt your daughter's account of the events?

Ranya's mother: I don't know. She didn't say that her husband knew about this. She said her husband was in another room when they strapped the belt on her.

Her coat was too short, so she was arrested

A tale of Iran,

Everyone familiar with the situation in Iran had tried to change my mind when I decided to spend a few months there this fall. "It's become bad, people prefer to stay home rather than go out because they keep bothering everyone," the argument usually went. I had dismissed this as exaggeration.


The officers who dealt with me seemed, more than anything, to be simply doing a job they were being paid for. Still, I too now prefer to stay home as much as possible, not convinced that, right now, Iran is mine as much as anyone else's.

(Via: Selma): …I don’t have much to say these days. I don’t dare say the things I want to say these days. I don’t feel safe …I never did…

The New York Sun published what Sarah Palin would have said had she not been disinvited from the rally in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to protest the appearance of President Ahmadinejad of Iran. Here is one excerpt:

Tomorrow, Ahmadinejad will come to New York. On our soil, he will exercise the right of freedom of speech — a right he denies his own people. He will share his hateful agenda with the world. Our task is to focus the world on what can be done to stop him.

Too bad she won't get to deliver this loud and clear message to an indifferent world, which can hardly bestir itself on behalf of oppressed Iranian women, Iranian bloggers, or anybody, if they are not suffering Palestinians....

Her speech would have the appropriate antidote for this shame.

Human rights abuses you won't get to hear about

(since there is no way to connect them to Israel or Jewish perfidy)

Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem, the well-known Saudi lawyer, was awarded earlier this year the International Human Rights Lawyer Award from the American Bar Association, but sadly he could not receive the award in person because he is not allowed to travel outside the country.

This week, al-Lahem has received another honor, winning the 2008 Human Rights Defender award from Human Rights Watch (HRW). The international organization called the Saudi government to immediately lift the ban on foreign travel for al-Lahem so that he can attend the award ceremonies in London, Paris, and Geneva this November. (From: Saudi Jeans)

Saudi Arabia’s top judiciary official has issued a religious decree saying it is permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV networks that broadcast immoral content. The 79-year-old Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan said Thursday that satellite channels cause the “deviance of thousands of people.” (Source: SJ)

And this.

I wonder if Juan Cole monitors SJ blog and castigates it for rewarding dissenters and aspiring for liberal reform in the kingdom...

British humanitarian clown-in-chief:

I. There is a relief:

Lauren Booth, the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair, left the Gaza Strip on Saturday nearly a month after sailing in to protest an Israeli blockade of the territory.

"Lauren Booth was able to leave Gaza today through the Rafah crossing with Egypt," Jamal al-Khodari, the head of the Popular Committee to Break the Siege, told AFP. Other activists close to Booth confirmed she had left.

The crossing -- the only gateway to Gaza not controlled by Israel -- was opened Saturday to allow 1,500 Gazans, mostly Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca, to leave the impoverished territory of 1.5 million people.

Booth had arrived in Gaza on August 23 with 43 other activists in two small fishing boats in a demonstration intended to highlight Israel's blockade of the territory, which has been ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement since June 2007.

Since Hamas seized power, Israel has sealed Gaza off from all but vital humanitarian goods and severely restricted movement in and out.

II. The lies:

By now, people who have followed even cursorily this story would know that this account contains a number of lies.

By BILL DIENST, the ship's doctor's own article , the aim of the initiative was to provide :

... a sealift in order to open Gaza to unrestricted international access... to ... bring much-needed supplies. ...urgent medical care...

Considering the boats ended up bringing, instead of "urgent medical care" supplies, 200 hearing aids and 5000 balloons, it would appear that Dienst was simply lying, a common practice when your aim is demonising a people or a country.

And the piteously-worded appeal to man's better instincts by describing how "Gaza stands on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe [because] Israel .... denies the vast majority of the population access to .... basic necessities. " has been fully disproved by Booth's being photographed shopping happily at a Gaza grocery store apparently in much dire need of a greater variety of breakfast cereal brands...

III. Context;

Ironically enough, on the day that Booth managed to escape from her ill-fitting "humanitarian" mission, this news broke out, to very little media attention:

Two Palestinians suffocated inside a tunnel used by smugglers under the border between the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and Egypt on Sunday, local medics said.

Several Palestinians have died in similar incidents in recent months in the tunnels, which are used to smuggle arms, fuel and other supplies into Gaza.

What kind of urgent humanitarian relief goods are those tunnels used for?

Dozens of tunnels run under the Gaza-Egypt border. Smugglers of fuel, weapons, drugs and other contraband have become increasingly daring since Israel and Egypt closed their borders with Gaza last year, following the violent Hamas takeover of the territory.

That is, if you needed another proof of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

IV: Comparative analysis

I suggest a look at what a real siege looks like:

The Arabs also cut off the water pipe to Jerusalem. Convoys of armoured vehicles which carried supply to the Jewish population were repeatedly attacked on the road to Jerusalem, inflicting heavy casualties and bringing the Jewish residents to the brink of starvation.

Here is an eye witness report about Passover under siege was like:

The mayor of Jerusalem, Dov Yosef, had instituted a draconic rationing program that was to save the city. For Passover, however, there was a special ration. For families the ration was: 2 lbs. of potatoes, ½ lb of fish, 4 lb. of matzo, 1 ½ oz. dried fruit, ½ lb. meat, and ½ lb. of matzo flour. Foreign students were allocated one egg each, a welcome addition to their diet. This made it possible to celebrate Passover with a "feast."

V: A humanitarian fallacy:

According to this report:

The Israeli move was dubbed by international human rights groups as “collective punishment”.

Frankly, considering all of the above;

considering Booth's obscene analogies of Gaza to a "concentration camp" worse than Darfur;

considering that Booth herself is an active member of such "human rights groups",

do we really give much credence to what these groups dub or call or report on anything?

They seem to have a moral compass that goes completely crazy when Israel is even remotely in the vicinity of any story.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Why are Germans so nuts about Obama?

The short answer could be: because if they root for a non-white candidate, they cannot be themselves racists, right? Even if there has never been an analogous-to-Obama European candidate

I speculated to myself as to why that is so.

There is something weird about a nation which lies so far away from the US, and that gets all worked up about what they consider to be progress in the American republic. This German nation cheers crazily for the Black presidential hopeful. Why? I don't think it is because they regard Obama as a product of the finest American traditions and practices (which he is). There is something Freudian going on, a sort of displacement. While Germans cannot bring themselves to elect even a Turkish-German mayor, they support Obama with a passion that defies rationality.

In the Sign and Sight fueilletons,

"Mely Kiyak finds the frenzied enthusiasm for Barack Obama deeply hypocritical in a country where he wouldn't stand a chance of becoming Bundeskanzler. "If participation means that immigrants should be politically integrated, then this country should be ashamed of the state of its political hierarchies. Because politicians of Turkish origin are making a huge effort and are spending a considerable part of their energy in fighting their way up electoral lists within their own parties. Not even half a percent of German-Turks have their own mandate. And with citizenship conditions growing more difficult by the year, they have to hear that they must speak primarily to German voters. Has anyone ever heard of a Turkish mayor? Why don't we have a single minister-president with an immigration background. Why not in federal states like North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Würtemberg or Bavaria which have the largest immigrant populations?"

Is it a case of hypocrisy? I'm not perfectly sure this charge applies. Hypocritical people are usually sly and esoteric about their double positions. They do not declare it from the rooftops, like the Germans do. It will be a case of hypocrisy if, in case Obama does not get elected, they will collectively pronounce the reason for that to be racism...

I think the reason has more to do with a defence mechanism.

In trying to understand how dreams work the way they do, Freud found displacement to have a dominant role in the work of dream. What displacement does is to shift the accent, symbolically, in a dream, from the main thing which causes great anxiety to a secondary body, less threatening to one's self-love or sense of well being. For example, there is the displaced aggression. If one is injured during the day and anger build up, the dream will reciprocate the aggression not on the direct source of danger, but on to the safer, less threatening object.

Germans are fearful of their own racism. They may even acknowledge that their attitude towards their minorities is basically bigoted and xenophobic. But their fear of their minorities is too powerful to overcome by simply ridding themselves of this disease. So they need to reassure themselves that they are not racists in order to maintain a semblance of morality and decency. How can they reconcile their fear of their own racism and their fear of their Turkish and other minorities? By supporting a black candidate for the presidency. And this is where the displacement mechanism kicks in. For they support such a candidate not in their own country. They support him in another country, which they do not like, which they look down on, and which is mostly white, Christian and Western, like them, and like them, has itself a history of atrocious racism.

So the US, in the Germans' nightmarish dreams, serves as that secondary object in Freud's dream.

It comes down to this: A black candidate, a member of a historically oppressed minority, for the highest office in a country, is very desirable, the very epitome of universal justice and enlightenment. We support such a candidate with every liberal fibre and instinct in our progressive culture, so long as it is not in our country or even our continent ...

Islamophobia or Islamization?

Football and Ramadan

...Muslim football teams have asked for matches to be suspended during Ramadan because their players cannot take part due to fasting. This would involve scrapping over 50 games to accommodate these teams who will be unable to play for a month......

What will inevitably happen is that the football season will have to be modified to suit Muslim players.

Now, we all know that most football matches take place on Saturday. Jewish players, therefore, make a choice between religion (they cannot play on their Sabbath) or football. Unfortunately, the same question now faces these Muslim players...

But it is never so simple and rational, is it, when it is the Rligion of Peace involved, right?

An example of how this works, via the Iconoclast:

BARNSLEY'S Mounir El Haimour is set to stay on the bench for today's game against Southampton because his performances have dipped during Ramadan...

Manager Simon Davey believes the absence of a normal diet before games had affected the 27-year-old over the last couple of weeks and he was subsequently dropped for the midweek defeat by Cardiff City.... " I have to go out and find 16 players who can rise to the top and put in a performance to turn our results around. There is a fine line between success and failure in this division and, at the moment, we are on the wrong side. It is not good enough and it is not acceptable,"

Barnsley won their first point of the season yesterday afternoon with a nil-nil draw at Southampton. . . . an angry fan wrote on an Islamic website: “The attitude of his manager is what we’ve come to expect from non-believers. He should be warned of the dangers of insulting Islam.’’

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Looking good, Sarah!

George Jonas is the Hungarian born Canadian journalist and writer who wrote the book on which Stephen Spielberg based his movie "Munich".

His articles appear in the National Post and this last one has got some of wry comments about current affairs cutting through a lot of bullshit:

Is Western-style democracy a good system? This isn’t the question. The question is, what will it lead to in an Eastern-style culture? What is it leading to in a Western-style culture, for that matter?

Americans are going to the polls in seven weeks; Canadians in four. The world would probably muddle on no matter who took Ottawa — though Canada might face tough times. Washington is another story.

Sarah Palin leading the free world requires a leap of faith I can’t muster — until I consider the alternative. Joe Biden? Governor Palin at least offers the possibility of a pleasant surprise. John McCain is John McCain — what you see is what you get, like it or not. I don’t much like it but prefer it to Jimmy Carter. Jimmy isn’t running, you say? Look again. There’s Jimmy repackaged as Barack Obama. The 2008 model comes in more fashionable hues, but packs no Zbigniew Brzezinski. Jimmy was feeble enough with Zbigniew as security advisor; imagine Jimmy without.

Sarah! You’re looking good. Stick around.

I wish I could articulate my inner turmoil regarding these issues with remotely equal clarity and pizazz.

Religious Insults: Two weights two measures

How come no one heard about this insult to Jewish holy scriptures? Would you like to imagine the hue and cry that would follow a similar gesture against the Quran by Jews?

Jewish worshippers returning to Hebron's Cave of the Patriarchs after Muslims were given exclusive access to the holy site at the weekend reported that the cabinet containing their Torah scrolls had been urinated on.

One Jewish resident of Hebron told Israel National News that he and several other men had to move the cabinet to another part of the room because of the strong smell of urine in the area where it is usually positioned.

Additionally, green Hamas flags were found placed in the windows that mark the burial sites of Abraham, Isaac, Sara, Rebecca and Leah.

The Cave of the Patriarchs is split into Jewish and Muslim sections, as both groups revere Abraham.

Several times a year, the holy site is given over to one or the other group exclusively to mark special holy days. Muslims were given exclusive access to the Cave of the Patriarchs on Friday to mark their holy month of Ramadan.

Another Jewish resident of Hebron said that some damage to Jewish religious articles or the Jewish side of the site is found every time the Muslims take over.

The heart wrenching pathos of Alice Walker

Reading this description by Alice Walker on Comment is Free (where else?):

"Fidel, tall, haggard, his clothes hanging more loosely than usual from his gaunt frame, walked soberly along, surrounded by thousands of likewise downhearted, fearful people: he, like them, waving a tiny red, white and blue Cuban flag. This photograph made me weep; not only because I love Fidel and the Cuban people, but also because I was envious".

I asked, why, Alice? Why were you envious?

"However poor the Cubans might be [she answered] , I realised, they cared about each other and they had a leader who loved them. A leader who loved them. Imagine.... I want a leader who can love us..."

Unlike "The present administration and too many others before [ which] have shown the most clear and unapologetic hatred for the American people." continues Walker,

"... in my lifetime, it was only the Kennedys, in national leadership, who seemed even to know what compassion meant; certainly John, and then Bobby, were unafraid to grow an informed and open heart. (After he left the White House, President Carter blossomed into a sheltering tree of peace, quite admirably.) "

She goes on to describe, with great Dickensian pathos, the destitution of the American people, the neglect of their health, the groaning weight of taxes from which they suffer. France under Louis XVI seems little better by comparison...

Predictably there follows vicious portraits of McCain and Palin, who are incapable of offering the suffering American multitudes the sheltering love for which she so longs.

Absent is the name of the chosen one. Probably we are supposed to fill that gap by our own intellectual efforts. I'm assuming that even Alice Walker's mythological narratives could not stretch to offering her preferred alternative of a leader with a straight face. It's kind of hard to promote someone who spent his last twenty years under the mental tutelage of a pastor who preached "God damn America" and whose wife openly declared that she had never before (her husband became a presidential hopeful) been proud of America, as exactly a leader who loves Americans.

But I might be attributing to her more ironical awareness than her article seems to warrant.

Just in case you, the dim reader, might miss her point, by the omission of the specific name of the chosen one, she helps us by inserting a telling phrase:

"Maybe with the realisation that we, the people, are truly the leaders, and that we are the ones we have been waiting for."

As usual, I note that it is the most feverish supporters of Obama who do him the greatest harm.
BTW, here is a very personal account by Rebecca Walker, Alice's daughter, which may shed light over her visceral dislike for Palin:
There was always food in the fridge and she did all the things my mother didn't, such as attending their school events, taking endless photos and telling her children at every opportunity how wonderful they were.

My mother was the polar opposite. She never came to a single school event, she didn't buy me any clothes, she didn't even help me buy my first bra - a friend was paid to go shopping with me. If I needed help with homework I asked my boyfriend's mother.
(H/T: Mick)

If you are a supporter of Obama but feel nauseated by Walker's heart breaking plea to follow him (he might even emulate il presidente), because he will love you best, here is an antidote, a splash of ice water, by Larry David's endorsement of same:

Larry David:

He [Obama], with the ice in his veins, who doesn't panic when he's losing or get too giddy when he's winning, who's as comfortable in his own skin as she's uncomfortable in hers.

With MEMRI around, keeping up appearances is no longer viable

The following is a collection of opinions from Kuwaiti writers in which they welcome the initiative of MEMRi to bring to world some taste of the kind of opinions and knowledge their society is exposed to:

"'Europeans [also] usually smell bad, because they do not wash until it is absolutely necessary. They do not clean themselves properly after urinating, nor do they wipe the filth off [themselves]. Whoever mingles with them notices this characteristic. If Allah had not given them a cold climate, the stench would have been overwhelming, driving away the birds and withering the vegetation. For real cleanliness means nothing to them... "

"Kuwait, unfortunately, is no different from many places in the West who deal with xenophobia, except Westerners call them neo-Nazis, and we call them religious extremists."

"…We can perhaps turn to a Friday sermon made by a Palestinian sheikh, whereby he claims, 'With the establishment of the State of Israel, the entire Islamic nation was lost, because Israel is like cancer that spreads through the body of the Islamic nation. This is because the Jews are viruses that spread like AIDS, which the entire world suffers from.' This is only an excerpt of the sort of rhetoric that is not unfamiliar in our part of the world, and is a rhetoric that only proves our inherent weakness and lack of self-esteem."

"When we place our very own miseries in the hands of others... we put our problems in the hand of foreigners because as such we can allow ourselves to do nothing about it for whatever reason we wish to ascribe to such act."

"We need to reform our respective countries; we need to stop externalizing our troubles, and to take a deeper look at our malaises, noting that we will not be able to fix them in a year or two.
"If we start a process of self-examination, in the near future, we would be able to start bringing forward solutions…"

What is MEMRI:

"The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) explores the Middle East through the region's media. MEMRI bridges the language gap which exists between the West and the Middle East, providing timely translations of Arabic, Persian,Turkish, Urdu-Pashtu media, as well as original analysis of political, ideological, intellectual, social, cultural, and religious trends in the Middle East.

Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501 (c)3 organization. MEMRI's headquarters is located in Washington, DC with branch offices in London, Tokyo, Rome, Baghdad, Shanghai, and Jerusalem. MEMRI research is translated to English, German, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese."

A few Leftist activists try to paint MEMRi as a Zionist neo-con instrument, or worse, by their own standards. For example, Juan Cole, the apologist for Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel off the map of the world (never happened, according to Cole). Here is how he portrays MEMRI;

* I continue to maintain that MEMRI is selective and biased against the Arab press, and that it highlights pieces that cast Arabs, especially committed Muslims, in a negative light. That it also rewards secular Arabs for being secularists is entirely beside the point (and this is the function of the "reform" site). On more than one occasion I have seen, say, a bigoted Arabic article translated by MEMRI and when I went to the source on the Web, found that it was on the same op-ed page with other, moderate articles arguing for tolerance. These latter were not translated.

* I did not allege that MEMRI or Col. Carmon are "affiliated" with the Likud Party. What I said was that MEMRI functions as a PR campaign for Likud Party goals. Col. Carmon and Meyrav Wurmser, who run MEMRI, were both die-hard opponents of the Oslo peace process, and so ipso facto were identified with the Likud rejectionists on that central issue.

Blogger Unplugged Mike asks here:

MEMRI is not "in the business of providing the Arab world with good public relations, which monarchical ambassadors with good English who school at Georgetown and Harvard, along with European leaders like Jacques Chirac and Western Arabist professors like Mr. Cole who dominate Middle Eastern studies in the US and Europe, are quite adept at doing. They do indeed spend time translating what people like Mr. Cole do not, the daily barrage of antisemitic filth that appears in the Arab presses. Mr. Cole seems to believe that this practice is unjustified because it does not include the moderate voices, but he fails to ask the obvious question, which is: Why aren't any of the pro-Arab organizations and academics he is constantly boosting doing what MEMRI is doing in addition to providing their take on the Arab world? Why are accusations of rampant antisemitism in the Arab world met with accusations toward Israel first rather than condemnation first?

And why isn't Mr. Cole thankful that MEMRI provides progressive Arab voices from the Arab media to an extent that few others do?"

It is heartening to read that Arab journalists and intellectuals, as manifested in the MEMRI excerpts above, are beginning to show greater awareness, courage and self-agency in facing squarely the ills of their own societies. They seem to have outgrown the infantile inclination of their societies to place the blame for all of their own problems on everybody but their own choices. They have reached an intellectual maturity which asserts that to discuss their shortcomings openly is the best way of beginning to drain the venomous puss of backwardness and irrationality. In order to face up to these paralyzing doctrines, apparently some people need first to learn how to be embarrassed about them. Cultures that are more concerned with keeping up appearances rather than deal with substance are doomed to continued darkness and ignorance.