December 30, 2009

A Low, Dishonest Decade

Rod Dreher lists five changes he thinks significant in the last decade:

* The Islamic threat
* The humbling of American power
* The humbling of market capitalism
* The collapse of American conservatism
* The rise of gay marriage
* The globe is going to warm, no matter what

I came up with four more:

1. The rise of new economic powers in the former Third World: China, India, Brazil. This change is as permanent as things get in history.

 Let's hope it doesn't end in war, as did the rise of Germany.

2. The digital media explosion, with the decline of the MSM. We're just in the middle of this transition, but it's enormously significant in ways we're just beginning to understand.

3. Environmental degradation. I'm a bit skeptical on global warming, though on balance it seems to be happening, but the damage done to oceans, groundwater, forests, and arable land is undeniable.

4. The decline of fertility. Most marked in Europe and Japan, but occurring almost everywhere. Concomitantly, third world immigration to industrial countries. The trend lines may shift, making straight extrapolation disaster scenarios uncertain, but this is another change that is incomplete and whose results are uncertain.

December 24, 2009

If Your Christmas Gets Too Saccharine, Watch This

One of the few songs I know about disillusionment (as opposed simply to torch songs).

There's no redemption for us without recognizing our fallenness.

December 6, 2009

The Return of the Player

The Return of the Player The Return of the Player by Michael Tolkin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a send up of the Hollywood and associated New Rich. There are some very funny insights and scenes, but the book is not nearly so profound as the author thinks. His views, alas, are often quite tiresome.

View all my reviews >>

November 27, 2009

Och Rocks On: Thanksgiving Debate

The Ochlophobist is a Memphis blogger. He has posted a screed on Thanksgiving that is well worth reading and pondering. The latter part of the post is a good story about bullying and other antics at a Mennonite school. Well worth reading but hardly food for debate.

The former part questions Thanksgiving, among other things because it is surrounded by patrioteering mythology. Our kindergarteners dress as Pilgrims and Indians, and are told about the harmonious beginnings of our country, but not about the massacres that followed not so long after, which were also the occasion of Thanksgiving by the Puritan community. A long history followed, in which our forbears were far from blameless.

Och sees Thanksgiving as an idolatrous feast, in which we gorge ourselves on packaged foods, and celebrate our nation as if it were a god, rather than a flawed set of human institutions. Och is not a zealot, and celebrates with his family, but uncomfortably.

Och, as usual, is onto something. In our sometimes frantic efforts to weld a bunch of immigrants and their descendants, from many different ethnies and religions, into a nation, we tend to become loud, assertive, and if challenged, defensive. Perhaps we have no need constantly to beat our breasts about the crimes of our predecessors, but neither should we be oblivious to them. The ideology of American exceptionalism is indeed idolatrous, and has provided some of the rationale for foreign misadventures from the Phillipines to Iraq. We can love our country without bowing down to it as a god or fashioning a mythology to deify it.

Thanksgiving is part of a festival cycle that has grown up. We can say that it is as follows:

New Year's

American readers will be familiar with the rituals and symbols involved, and because analysis could get tedious, let's leave it at that. This cycle is no longer recognizably Christian, as its personifications (Witches, ghosts, and goblins; turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indians; Santa, Rudolph, Jimmy Stewart and Bob Cratchit; the Old Man and the Baby New Year) show. For some Christians, the Holy Family and the crêche play a minor part, but if one listens to the music in public places, it's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Chestnuts Roasting Round An Open Fire," not "Come All Ye Faithful" or "Angels We Have Heard On High." The religious expressions are frequently treated as private and if expressed in the public square, offensive.

I am not raising the spectre of the "War Against Christmas," which by now is a straw man. If there was such a war, the Christians have long since surrendered.

Ho ho ho.

Follow the money.

The "Russian Whore Test"

Like a freeway gawker looking at a crash, or a spectator at a bum-fight, I am drawn to Commentary Magazine's contentions blog, to see how degenerate neoconservatism and hasbara can become. Max Boot, usually one of the site's less-deranged bloggers, posting about the importance of Dubai, despite its financial troubles, today blew my weak mind:
But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point.
If an Islamist needed an example of not merely the West, but Western Jews, promoting the destruction of traditional culture in the Middle East, Boot has provided it.

I do not romanticize Islamic culture. There is, no doubt, plenty of sexual hanky-panky in Islamic societies, as there is in almost all. If, however, the test of an enlightened society is the presence of Russian whores and the availability of martinis in public places, the game of spreading modernity by force of arms or by largesse financed through the sale of paper to the Chinese is not worth the candle. Let them import their own damned whores.

November 13, 2009

Things Are Changing

As Netanyahu knows, there is consensus support among Israelis for his plan to ensure that the country retains defensible borders in perpetuity. This involves establishing permanent Israeli control over the Jordan Valley and the large Jewish population blocs in Judea and Samaria. In light of the well-recognized failure of the two-state solution, Hamas's takeover of Gaza and the disintegration of Fatah accompanied by the shattering of the myth of Fatah moderation,Israel should strike out on a new course and work toward the integration of Judea and Samaria, including its Palestinian population, into Israeli society. In the first instance, this will require the implementation of Israeli law in the Jordan Valley and the large settlement blocs.
--Caroline Glick

Seems like the ogress has embraced the one-state solution, albeit without the right of return, and she'd like to finesse letting all the Palestinians on the West Bank vote right away. Would she also let them travel and work throughout the country, on the same roads, dismantle the roadblocks, etc.?

I still fear the real plan is to provoke a war and carry out "transfer" (expulsion) under cover of the crisis, but perhaps she's serious.

In any case, Oslo is just about over, and apartheid will not stand.

November 9, 2009

Hofstadter Again

Paul Krugman invokes the ghost of Richard Hofstadter. Hofstadter was a Columbia historian who wrote an essay on "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."

A reaction to the perceived abused of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Hofstadter's essay was a middlebrow version of the Frankfurt School's "authoritarian personality" concept. In essence, the argument is that the people whose views one dislikes aren't mistaken or even corrupt, but crazy.

It seems that the voting cattle of the Republican Party, whom their pro-corporate leaders regularly betrayed or ignored, are taking over the ranch. Krugman, seeing rising unemployment and the retreat into the woodwork of the non-white and youthful voting cattle of the Democrats, fears the GOP will make gains in 2010, but becoming the party of no, as in California. Krugman of course ignores the fact that the Democrats in California bear a big share of the responsibility for the state's fiscal disaster.

There's not much to like about the current GOP, other than the fact that they vote "no," often a good idea. But they aren't crazy.

The accusation is vicious and unsupported, and the Dems aren't models of probity and wisdom. Krugman has a log in his eye.

November 2, 2009

We Are, Indeed, Doomed

I just finished John Derbyshire's We Are Doomed.

The style is sprightly and witticisms abound, concealing the fact that the arguments are deep and the conclusions founded in considerable erudition.

The conceit is the familiar one that conservatism is founded in a belief in the fallenness, or at least the imperfection of human nature, and the complexity and proneness to error inherent in social arrangements. Hence impulses to uplift frequently cause trouble, and social experiments regularly fail.

Running through diversity, foreign policy, immigration and economics, Derbyshire serves up a healthy dose of pessimism.

The one consolation, perhaps, is that when market observers are uniformly optimistic, the bubble is often about to burst, and when the bears rule, prosperity is just around the corner.

When it comes to public policy, however, fuggedabadit. The lampreys have battened on the entrails of the body politic, and will not be easily dislodged.

UPDATE: Edited to delete repetitions caused by careless copy-and-pasting.

October 24, 2009

Nanny State'll Getcha

Here's a story that creeped me out--how far surveillance by local bureaucrats has gone in Merrie Olde England.

Totalitarianism creeps in under the guise of benevolence. Beware your local gummint, the local enviro police, the school board, the zoners. It's not the hobnailed boots that'll getcha, it's the helping professions. They'll brainwash you in your childhood, therap you into conformity in your adulthood, and euthanize you when you're old.

October 3, 2009

African Conundrum

A Bolshevik whose blog I read regularly is Louis Proyect. Louis writes good review of foreign films from places such as Turkey, films we don't get to see very often. He writes interesting personal reminiscences (he grew up in what used to be called the Borscht Belt) and on anthropological topics, such as the controversies about the studies of the Yanomami and the pecadillioes of the ethnographers who studied them.

He also descends periodically into the depths of "unrepentant" Marxism, as in this piece, where he rakes Columbia B-school types over the coals for their doctrinaire free-market views about Africa.

The critique's easy enough. You can't understand modern Africa without an honest assessment of the ravages of slavery and colonialism. The colonialists built some infrastructure and to some extent, educated the predecessors of the current class of leeches who run the place. Current extractive industries, such as oil and diamonds, don't help the locals very much, and sometimes ruin things for them.

A socialist critic, though, needs to answer a few questions.

1. Since independence, many countries have been officially "socialist," without much to show for it. Why not?

2. Why have the small states of East Asia, also colonized, also ravaged by war, oppression and corruption, fared so much better than Africa?

3. Can any political and economic system develop African countries whose average IQs are in the 60s and 70s?

August 30, 2009

Health Care Realities No One Wants to Face

No blogging for many weeks. Much going on and the seduction of "Facebook."

The healthcare debate is hardly a debate. It seems full of slogans and anecdotes, and no doubt will no be freighted with Kennedy nostalgia.

There are home truths about healthcare that no one wants to face. Fundamental is that people will want more healthcare than any system can provide. If you make it free or lower the cost of any procedure, demand will increase. It is not a case of a certain number of people who need vaccines and appendectomies, and if the state provides them that ends the matter. The demand is not self-limiting.

It follows that one way or another, any system will deny health care to some people at some times. The only question is the mechanism. As it stands, the poor and improvident get the shaft. If the government takes over, some political mechanism will decide, as it did when the AIDS lobby and the dialysis lobby got vocal.

Hence the "death panel" fear mongering, although demagogic, was not completely baseless. Sooner or later, if we have a public system, the government or some delegate of the government is going to decide who gets care, much as the anonymous nurse in New Hampshire now tells your insurance carrier whether to pay for your surgery. The fear of federal death angels is not far-fetched; it's happened before, and there are few moral barriers left.

Furthermore, once healthcare is nationalized, the Nanny State will have powerful arguments for intervening in the details of our lives. Just as Nanny Bloomberg banned trans-fats in restaurants, and Nanny school districts ban high-fructose sodas in vending machines, the pressure on the government to push people to live their lives in whatever the fashion of the day considers to be healthy will increase. Perhaps we won't have TSA agents search our pockets and purses for contraband Lifesavers, or ankle bracelets to shock us if we don't do our crunches, but the Nanny State will become more intrusive.

Finally, there's the deficit thing. Bush with his wars and his tax cuts destroyed the progress the country had made toward budget balance. In his waning days he further undermined fiscal sanity with the disastrous bank bailout. Obama has toed the Goldman, Sachs line. On the one hand, neither party can preach about the fiscal effects of healthcare spending, when they've wasted so much more on wars and bailouts for the rich. On the other, the country seems to have little stomach for more deficits.

What are we to do? Raise taxes in a recession? Hope that China and the Arabs continue to buy our increasingly questionable paper? Another question with no good answer.

Prediction. Either no reform or modest reforms this year. Republicans claw back a bit in 2009 and 2010 elections. Obama runs the risk of being a one-termer. Can anyone say "President Palin"? Oh noooooo . . .

July 9, 2009

Neocons Chicken Out, Give Me My Life Back

The crazed Zionofascists at contentions have closed the blog to comments.

This decision reflects Commentary's continuity with the Trotskyism of its forbears. Once the party line is laid down, a split is inevitable, and discussion is verboten. For a while, in spite of its odious, warmongering politics and its support for every trope of Israeli propaganda (hasbara), contentions commendably allowed pretty harsh criticism of its madness. I thought it important to challenge neocon vileness at the very head of the snake. It is a great national and international danger.

My tendency to foam at the mouth at the outrageous posts and comments--genocidal, bigoted, and invariably responding to any criticism with references to Hitler, Chamberlain and 1938--required great restraint on my part, which I did not always exercise. It is to my spiritual benefit (as well as a time-saver) that comments are no longer welcome there. Perhaps the result will be more frequent blogging here, although I'm contemplating rethinking this blog.

In any case, Podmadinejad has spoken. It's the party line, period, stupid!

July 1, 2009

Gay Translators

An Arabic Army translator from Tustin who announced to the world his homosexual predilections has been recommended for discharge by an Army panel. He invited this decision by making his genital inclinations into a cause, but still, discharging him seems unwise. Arabic translators are scarce as hen's teeth.

A Facebook friend (and relative) took offense at a comment of mine on this issue (I do despise PC language and got rather too pithy for her taste, and she was afraid I might offend someone else, which I did not intend to do).

So--a few words on the whole Gay thing and the gays-in-the-military thing. We spend much too much energy on this issue. About 2% of the population is exclusively or near-exclusively homosexual, and threats to family life stem less from this quarter than from the incontinent behavior of heterosexuals and the license the culture and the law give for same. Sex is a messy business and most people (including yours truly) have a great deal of difficulty controlling their impulses and staying out of trouble, whomever they are attracted to. In short, we are all sinners, and of sinners, I am chief.

That said, homosexuality is not just another variant on the spectrum of sexual behavior. It makes very little evolutionary sense, because as a near-exclusive practice its practitioners will fail to reproduce. It is, as some Pope or other said, "disordered." It's also scary to straight young men, who have enough trouble establishing a model of manhood that is neither predatory nor effete. Nevertheless, the preference for same-sex gratification seems deeply ingrained in some people.

One may exhort them to chastity, but good luck. The state should be chary of intervening in these matters, so long, as the Duchess said, as they don't frighten the horses.

Notwithstanding the rantings of the homosexual lobby, however, the issue is hardly on a par with racial discrimination. The black-white divide in America is sui generis. All the other movements we have seen are essentially parasitic on the black civil rights movement, even though their issues and history are quite different. The case for official action in all other cases is much weaker. Let families and communities work these issues out. If two men want to be a maison de vieux garçons, leave them in peace. Calling this sort of thing "marriage" is a social experiment with little basis in history or reason and with unpredictable results, and offends the religious traditions of most of the world. Good enough reason for caution on that score.

Now to the military. We need Arab translators. Better to have fluent Americans than potential double agents, or do without, if we are to mess around in Arabic-speaking countries as we currently are doing. If an officer is discreet about his sex life, and otherwise honorable, let him do his job.

The phrase that concerned my relative was something to the effect that not having been in the military, I had no opinion on the issue of "queens in foxholes." The blander way of saying this is, I do not know whether the presence of homosexuals in close quarters, especially when their demeanor is most salient, would affect good order and discipline, by freaking out their comrades-in-arms. Perhaps this danger can be mitigated by the command structure; perhaps not. Young men at war, or about to be at war, often look for sexual outlets. In any event, the potential for disruption in barracks and bivouacs is the principal argument of the opponents of a change in the policy.

My impression, though, is that our military is rather good at overcoming this sort of problem. Our military will not collapse if homosexuals do serve, on the understanding they will be careful and discreet about their sexual activity. As a cause célebre, however, I leave this to the annoying Frank Rich.

June 24, 2009

Trita Parsi's Book on the US, Israel and Iran

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Fascinating, if too academic account, of the Iran-Israel-US triangle. Things are not what they seem. Both Israel and the US did business with Khomeini, and later Israel managed to scuttle a rapprochement between the US and Iran.

Although the régime in Iran is currently acting quite brutally, a strategic understanding with the US, which might well also reduce pressure on Israel, is possible.

I'd like it if more footnotes referenced sources other than newspapers, and if the geopolitical analysis were more concrete, but it's an important, revealing book.

View all my reviews.

May 15, 2009

The Worm Will Turn Here in Barackistan, But Who Cares?

The admirable Daniel Larison explains the eclipse of the GOP as follows: Of the three GOP factions he identifies, social, economic and national security conservatives, he blames the national security conservatives. The GOP in power under Bush did little or nothing for the social conservatives, and followed corporate welfare policies, not economic conservatism or libertarianism. It did, however, follow hawkish policies--war in Iraq and Afghanistan, worldwide interventionism, heavy spending on defense, and so forth. These led to its decline in popularity, the election of Obama, and the fall of the Congressional GOP.

As an aspiration, Larison’s hope that the GOP will “break with the aggressive pursuit of hegemony that has so ill-served American interests” is admirable but probably vain.

The truth is that for all the sound, fury and hatred that abounds, we have two political parties that peddle what Huey P. Long called “high populorum” and “low popahirum.” The former was taken from the bark of a tree from the top down, the latter from the bottom up. As Huey said, “The only difference I’ve found in Congress between the Republican and Democratic leadership is that one of them is skinning us from the ankle up and the other from the ear down.”

Indeed, the political boundaries that seemed to have grown wider between Reagan and Bush 43, have now been thoroughly fudged. During last Fall’s financial hysteria, Bush and the Democrats joined to promote the ill-considered and disastrous TARP bailout. Initially, the House Republicans, closer to the grass roots, resisted. After the market tanked for a few ways and major arm-twisting, they caved. We now have government control of the world’s largest insurer and its largest banks, whose profligate leaderships remain largely intact. Socialism? Well, when enterprises lose money, hell yes!

Bush’s predecessor, the “centrist” Clinton, had Robert Rubin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, and afterwards of Citigroup, as his Treasury Secretary. Bush ended up with Henry Paulson, alumnus of Goldman, Sachs. Obama, the “leftist,” has as his advisers Boy Geithner, protégé of the same crowd, and the aging boy wonder, Larry Summers, grown fat with speaking and consulting fees gobbled at the Wall Street trough.

Nevertheless, some people still think Obama is a Bolshevik and Bush a conservative paragon. Obama may be more of a statist on a few matters, and appeases different constituencies from the GOP on the sexual issues, abortion and the gay agenda. He’s more urban and bicoastal than the old white guys in the GOP, but if there are differences they are more of diction and dress than on anything fundamental.

Where does this leave the GOP? At the moment, stymied.

However, the worm will turn, as it always does. The Great Recession may be entering a phase of greater decline, but the recovery, if it comes at all, will not come soon and will not be pretty. Bonds, upon which the whole stimulus and rescue program depends, will get harder to peddle, and inflation will come out of the jungle roaring as a lion. We are still up to our necks in Af-Pak, as the pundits now call it, with no particular end in sight, and things in Iraq are touch-and-go. Zionism continues its peculiar brand of vileness, when only several sharp jerks of the chain will prevent a disastrous Israeli assault on Iran, with unpredictable and dangerous consequences.

The Democrats in Congress, meanwhile, are a sorry bunch of hacks, and that fraction of the public that follows such matters can see that for itself.

All of this suggests that peace and joy will not reign forever in Barackistan, and the GOP will have a revival, not because of its virtues, but because it’s out of power and the public wants to throw the rascals out. The dearth of talent evident at the moment is unimportant. The GOP always finds a standard-bearer somewhere--a victorious general, an eloquent over-the-hill actor, the simpering scion of a transplanted New England dynasty.

The sad part is that so far the Stupid Party has learned nothing. To shackle itself to fiscal probity after the Reagan and Bush deficits is sheer deception. There appears to be no appetite for anti-corporate populism. The party has never had much stomach for the sexual issues, riddled as it is with closet cases and serial adulterers. Patrioteering is mother’s milk to the GOP.

Thus, although the political worm will turn so long as the poor Republic persists, we can expect nothing particularly new or improved.

I wish I liked politics less. I could learn a language, read a classic, take a hike, and cultivate my garden. Each of these pursuits seems more promising than hoping someone will remake the GOP into something that might offer a bit of hope to the Republic.

May 11, 2009

More on Zionism

Sinner that I am, and easily provoked, too, I have been back on contentions. A commenter challenged me thus:
The enemies of Israel and of the Jews lie shamelessly about them. To “grumpy old man”: It is the Muslims (and maybe some Christians) who want to destroy Israel and the Jews. The war against the Jews in Eretz Yisroel was started by Haj Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who organized attacks on Jews in 1921, before there was the modern state of Israel. The objections Muslims have to Israel is religious, that it is a Jewish state; the objection that some Christians, like Edward Said, have is that they are Greek Orthodox, a very anti-semitic church, or that they are buttering up to the Arabs.
I drafted a reply, and then decided not to post it there, where the response most often is to call me a Nazi or a wanker. Instead, I'll post it here:
Your facts are partly correct, but you are fundamentally in error. From the beginning, most of the Arabs in what became the Palestine Mandate opposed the entry of any large number of Jewish colons [settlers], knowing that they claimed the land and sought to build their state there. This enterprise could not be accomplished without the dispossession of most of the then inhabitants, as Jabotinsky, his vision uncorrupted by socialist dreaming, well understood. This claim was religiously specious in Christian and Mulsim terms, and indeed in terms of the Judaism of the era, and so regarded by the observant. In secular terms, Zionism was a typical colonial enterprise, and the yishuv [the Jewish community in Palestine before independence], pieds noirs ["black feet," the French, Spanish and Italian settlers in French Algeria, now gone] who did not believe in the Trinity. Like all such enterprises, Zionism involved courage and resourcefulness in the face of adversity and injustice to those who were there before.

Would most of the Arabs still like to see the Jewish state gone? Probably, having lost several wars, their homes and villages. No doubt this attitude are unforgiving, and perhaps unrealistic, but what else do you expect?

However flawed their rationale, the Israeli Jews won the important wars, and created a nation that for most is the only home they know. Moreover, as many Jews were pushed from Arab lands and Arabs from Palestine. A population exchange happened and will not be undone.

One dreams that the two nations could somehow live together quietly, whether as separate ethnic groups in one nation or as separate nations. Pessimism in this regard is warranted. It is likely that like the last religiously-inspired European interlopers, the Israelis will disappear in the next 50 to 10 years. Even now, emigration exceeds immigration, and taking quality into account, exceeds it all the more.

Meanwhile, Israel becomes ever more thuggish and degraded, the strategic reasons for the US to subsidize, arm and protect Israel become ever more attentuated, and as American Jews disaffiliate and intermarry, the political reasons for the old US policy are also weakened.

The militant supporters of Israel in this country nevertheless advocate interventions and stances that are not in our national interest. The "special relationship" draws us into an interminable conflict, and implicates us in more and more criminal acts. All of this gets transmogrified, in their propaganda, into a moral and ideological struggle.

Why should we be drawn into a conflict because some fascist Brooklynite wants to live in the "Holy Land" and proceeds to build a mini-Massapequa in some poor Arab's olive grove? It makes no practical or moral sense.

The Boots Are Always On the Staircase

There was a time that the central story of the Jews, commemorated in ritual and prayer, was God's freeing of the Hebrew slaves of Egypt, let by the prophet Moses, followed by wandering in the desert and the reception of the Law. The Passover Seder, the last ritual retained by secularizing Jews such as my own family, commemorated and discussed this.

No more. To be sure, observant and semi-observant Jews still have Passover Seders, and the Sabbath is a remembrance both of Creation and of the Exodus.

A new story, however, has replaced the Exodus in public discourse. Although the Nazi murder of the Jews was not given much prominence immediately after World War II, more recently, it has come to be central in Jewish discourse and in discourse about the Jews. Thus we have a National Holocaust Museum, but no national museum of Jewish culture or history.

When one dissents from the Likud-Zionist line, the enforcers invoke the genocide. This thread from Commentary's blog, contentions is a good example. With rhythmic regularity, the Holocaust is invoked to condemn the critic:
"From German: “put paid” == Die Endlösung == “Final Solution”."

"Judaize - how shocking. Can’t go around Judaizing places.
Julius Streicher wouldn’t approve."

Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life demonstrates the political agendas behind the increasing prominence of the Holocaust in American public discourse. Norman Finkelstein is considerably more radical and less measured in his account, but presents valuable information nonetheless.

Not only has the mass murder gained prominence over the Exodus, it has provided the basis for a revision of Jewish history. This history is now presented as simply an endless martyrdom. The Jew is not a scholar, a merchant, a middleman, an intellectual--simply a victim.

Increasingly, Zionists and other professional Jews describe Jewish present, not in terms of rescue from oppression, but as one in which the boots of some new SS are always on the staircase. The Reform Jewish rabbi Emil Fackenheim argued that a new commandment to the Jews was to not give posthumous victories to Hitler. Fackenheim was a Zionist who ultimately left Canada for Israel.

These are tendentious misreadings of the Jewish past and the present. Jews are not the only people to suffer from war and massacre, and they were not always poor; indeed, at many times, as a middleman caste, they did rather well for themselves. A cousin of mine went to Poland, and found the apartment where his father had lived as a boy. My liberal cousin was a bit disappointed to find the place comfortably bourgeois. As it turns out, an unsympathetic stepmother was the cause for his father's emigration, not so much oppression and not poverty.

As for the perpetual "boots on the staircase" theme, it lives on for two reasons.

First, it is politically useful. Benjamin Netanyahu calls the narrow pre-1967 waist of Israel an "Auschwitz border," not merely a strategic problem. Iran's Ahmadinejad, in spite of the fact that Iran is home to the largest remaining Jewish community in the Near East, represented in Parliament, is invariably compared to Hitler.

Second, many Jews have responded to this propaganda, and family history, by adopting the Holocaust story as the Jewish story.

Hence, when I point out that to the refrain about the Arabs wanting to throw the Jews in the sea, must be added the fact that the Jews of Jaffa, among others, really did take to the sea when they fled the Zionists, I am not merely reciting an inconvenient or unreliable claim, not merely dissenting from Zionist orthodoxy, I am said to be advocating a "Final Solution" and emulating Julius Streicher, editor of the antisemitic propaganda paper, Der Stürmer.

Factually, this is nonsense, but it's effective with many committed and older-generation Jews, far more so than arguing about what really happened or whether the US "special relationship" with Israel is in the national interest.

The shift in stories (nowadays called 'narratives' to sound more impressive) is also a response to the rapid abandonment of things Jewish by recent generations of Jews in America, with the exception of the 10% minority that remains traditional. Trading the parting of the Red Sea for the death camps, however, won't bring back the backsliders. The Lord delivering slaves from Egypt with a mighty hand can be inspirational. Thugs slaughtering one's relatives cannot be, not for any length of time.

April 5, 2009

Song of the Week

The Banks are Made of Marble
A Song by Les Rice©Stormking Music 1950

I've traveled round this country
From shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw.

I saw the weary farmer
Plowing sod and loam
l heard the auction hammer
A knocking down his home

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for

l saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore
l heard the bosses saying
Got no work for you no more

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for

I saw the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin
Got no coal to heat the shack

But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for

I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
l prayed we'd get together
And together make a stand

Final Chorus
Then we'd own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we'd share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for

Yeah, I know, it's a Bolshevik song. But somehow it resonates.

April 4, 2009

April 2, 2009

Separated at Birth Redivivus

Lula Paul Krugman

Strange New World

I was never a Krugman fan. TARP blew up the right/left distinction, though.

March 23, 2009

Timmy's Folly

After six months and two administrations, it appears that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has come up with a bank rescue plan that rather resembles the one that Bush's Treasury Secretar Paulson proposed and then abandoned.

Rather than reorganize zombie and failed banks, the Feds will subsidize the purchase of "toxic" assets by investors, presumably hedge funds and sovereign funds. The Feds will insure them against downside risk.

The fundamental problem remains the same. If the assets are sold at current market value, providing another buyer will do the banks no good. If the assets are set above market value, the taxpayers are rewarding the banks for betting on the wrong horses. Of course, it's conceivable that these assets will turn out to be worth more than the current market price, but then, so might that swampland in Florida and that bridge over the East River.

I have said to my liberal sister, but not written here, that TARP, proposed by George Bush, puts the final nail in the liberal/conservative distinction as it has been understood in this country. If Bush was prepared to nationalize AIG and run a huge deficit for this purpose and to bail out the banks, the traditional notion that the GOP resisted government interference in the economy and deficit spending had become non-operational. The same for resistance to the expansion of executive power. Thus I feel justified in linking to Paul Krugman's piece today, in which he announces his "despair" over this plan:
The likely cost to taxpayers aside, there’s something strange going on here. By my count, this is the third time Obama administration officials have floated a scheme that is essentially a rehash of the Paulson plan, each time adding a new set of bells and whistles and claiming that they’re doing something completely different. This is starting to look obsessive.

But the real problem with this plan is that it won’t work. Yes, troubled assets may be somewhat undervalued. But the fact is that financial executives literally bet their banks on the belief that there was no housing bubble, and the related belief that unprecedented levels of household debt were no problem. They lost that bet. And no amount of financial hocus-pocus — for that is what the Geithner plan amounts to — will change that fact.

You might say, why not try the plan and see what happens? One answer is that time is wasting: every month that we fail to come to grips with the economic crisis another 600,000 jobs are lost.

Even more important, however, is the way Mr. Obama is squandering his credibility. If this plan fails — as it almost surely will — it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to persuade Congress to come up with more funds to do what he should have done in the first place.
I never thought I'd be agreeing with this man, but he's right. Put the zombie banks out of their misery rather than throw good money after bad.

As an anthropologist, I think you have to look at the real connections between people, not just at economic theory. What links Robert Rubin (Clinton's Treasury Secreary), Paulson, and Obama gurus Geithner and Summers, are personal ties of patrons and clients over time. The institutional link is Goldman, Sachs. In short, the same inmates are running the asylum, whether "D" or "R" is after their name.

Obama, of course, can't fire Geithner because he has no Plan B and losing Geithner so soon would discredit Obama.

In short, we are stuck.

March 11, 2009

Baa, baa, baa

The blogsophere has been lit up with the controversy over the abortive appointment of Ambassador Charles Freeman to assist the Director of National Intelligence in preparing estimates for the President.

Freeman, apparently, worked for a Middle East think tank funded partly by Saudi money (as opposed to those funded by Zionist money), and was insufficiently on board with the new-Cold-War -with-China meme of the neocons, having pointed out that the Tienanmen Square débacle could have been avoided if the problem had been addressed before tanks were needed. Freeman had also questioned Sacred Cow No. 1, the "special relationship" with Israel.

This was not a policymaking position, but a reporting position, where a critical approach is precisely what's needed, as opposed to a sheeplike adherence to conventional wisdom.

Well, baa, baa, baa! Steve Rosen, accused spy and ex-AIPAC staffer, and co-thinkers in the shrill Zionist bunker, began to kick up a fuss, a call was made to Rahm Emanuel (the President's chief of staff and son of an Irgunist, that is to say, a Zionist terrorist), and after the foofaraw ran on for a few days, Freeman was induced to withdraw.

The neocons at contentions are all high-fiving, while simultaneously accusing anyone who points out that there is an Israel lobby of antisemitism, or, if they suspect you're Jewish, "self-hatred." They are gabbling about "human rights" (something that doesn't bother the Israelis when they're peddling arms, in Beijing among other places) and "democracy" (synonym in Israel for "dysfunction" and not-to-be-mentioned in Palestine, where Hamas was chosen in a free election).

I have broken my rule and posted a few times at contentions, but have concluded I must stop. Anger is destructive generally, as is my political anger in particular, and my gorge rises at the arrogance and hypocrisy of these people. If you want to be a Zionist, go to Israel and take your chances. Keep the U.S. out of it, and considering that ethnic cleansing, land and water theft, and the semi-starvation of Gaza are ongoing, get off your high horse.

The continuing power of the Zionists as a veto group on their issues, and as political contributors even after Madoff, is a reality, and a danger to the Republic.

February 11, 2009

Snobbish, but Funny

Not safe for work, either.

Dog Bites Man Dept.

Pedestrian Is Struck, Then Dragged 17 Miles
By AL BAKER and KAREN ZRAICK 32 minutes ago

A pedestrian was hit by an S.U.V. in Queens, then struck by a van and dragged into Brooklyn. He is dead.

From the February 11, 2009 New York Times website.

January 27, 2009

On the Abuse of the Dead

Even our dead are not safe. They have been called up, disturbed, dredged from their mass graves and forced to testify against their fellow human beings in pain, to confess a hatred that was alien to them and to offer themselves up as justification for a new cycle of suffering in Palestine. Their ghosts have been enlisted to help displace fellow Jews from Arab homelands, and to bequeath to them that same alien hatred, conscripting those of us descending from Arab lands to become enemies of our own memory and past.

--International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

HT: Philip Weiss

January 25, 2009

Strange New Respect List, Take 1

Juan Cole
Robert Fisk
Barack H. Obama

Candidate Member

Frank Rich

I Never Thought I'd Say Anything Good About Frank Rich

I generally refer to the man as "the insufferable Frank Rich." I despise his smug, self-satisfied East Coast liberal snobbery and his obsession with homosexuality.

However, this week he is right. He points to the sober tone of Pres. Obama's inaugural speech and the severity of the crisis we face. Rich says it's wrong to blame our woes simply upon the incompetence or misguided policies of W. Rather, our problems are deep in our culture and require a collective rethinking.
This debt-ridden national binge of greed and irresponsibility washed over our culture not just through the Marie Antoinette antics of a Schwarzman and a Thain but in mass forms of conspicuous consumption and entertainment. Cable networks like Bravo, A&E, TLC and HGTV produced an avalanche of creepy programming catering to the decade’s housing bubble alone — an orgiastic genre that might be called Subprime Pornography. Some of the series — “Flip This House,” “Flip That House,” “Sell This House,” “My House Is Worth What?” — still play on even as more and more house owners are being flipped into destitute homelessness.

The austerity of Obama’s Inaugural Address seemed a tonal corrective to the glitz and the glut. The speech was, as my friend Jack Viertel, a theater producer, put it, “stoic, stern, crafted in slabs of granite, a slimmed-down sinewy thing entirely evolved away from the kind of Pre-Raphaelite style of his earlier oration.” Some of the same critics who once accused Obama of sounding too much like a wimpy purveyor of Kumbaya now faulted him for not rebooting those golden oldies of the campaign trail as he took his oath. But he is no longer campaigning, and the moment for stadium cheers has passed.
I can't quarrel with the man.

One good column does not earn Rich a place on my Strange New Respect list. But for once the man staggered into the truth.

January 23, 2009

Goodbye, contentions

For some time now, I have regularly read contentions, the group blog of the odious neocon journal, Commentary. I have also commented regularly, challenging the policies and worldviews advocated there, especially support for Israel, which has become a criminal state, whose original creation is now in question.

I've decided, now, to give up contentions. I'm also done with the zionofascist Caroline Glick.

Since the Gaza "operation," aka war crimes, I have found myself beside myself with rage whenever i open the page there. The rationalizations and the reality behind them are so odious, that I find myself descending into anger. I spend a lot of energy censoring myself.

We are taught to eschew anger. If my anger accomplished something other than annoying the regulars on the site, I might feel differently. It makes no more sense to comment on contentions than to do so on Stormfront or Vanguard.

But if I convince no one, lower myself, interfere with my spiritual progress, it's time to move on. Something positive would be better.

January 21, 2009

Koi Polloi

I sometimes post on Goodreads, which I recommend if you're bookish or like people who are.

Some ladies concluded that the fear of death being less than seductive, Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" might be poetical, but to them was unappealing. One thing led to another, and I dropped the following into the tank:

Had we but tank enough, and slime,
This koi-ness, lady, were no crime.
We would swim ‘round and think which way
To flit, and pass our long love's day;
Thou in the filter’s flow
Shouldst sweet flakes find; I in the glow
Of the heater would eat grain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
To be gefilted for the Jews.
My algaeical love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy tail-fins gaze;
Two hundred to adore each gill,
But thirty thousand for my fill;
An age at least to every fin,
And the last age should your heart I’d win.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's drift net fishers hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
The fish-knives of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall one day be filetted,
And in some fish store rudely billeted,
And then you’re gone; a corn-meal batter,
Your streamlined form shall flatter,
Or your lithe form shall one day fill,
Some suburbanite’s new grill.
The grave is fine for poet’s flesh,
But fishes seldom there do rest.

Now therefore, while multicolored scales
Sit on thy back, some bright, some pale,
And while we indulge our feeding frenzy,
With energy that bards must envy,
Now let us batten while we may
On food men sprinkle every day,
Rather at once it all devour,
Be fattened by its nutrients’ power,
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
Leave your caviar with rough strife,
And I’ll swim by and give it life.
I know we cannot make our sun
Stand still, but they say the two-legs have more fun.

January 20, 2009

I Won't Ever Be Able to Read Tom Friedman Again With a Straight Face

Sliced, diced, and salted. Here.

The graphs are to die for.

Friedman does write for the Times, once home to Abe ("I'm writing as bad as I can") Rosenthal.

I’ve been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about—in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn’t make them up even if you were trying—and when you tried to actually picture the “illustrative” figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.

Remember Friedman’s take on Bush’s Iraq policy? “It’s OK to throw out your steering wheel,” he wrote, “as long as you remember you’re driving without one.” Picture that for a minute. Or how about Friedman’s analysis of America’s foreign policy outlook last May:

The first rule of holes is when you’re in one, stop digging.When you’re in three, bring a lot of shovels.”

First of all, how can any single person be in three holes at once? Secondly, what the fuck is he talking about? If you’re supposed to stop digging when you’re in one hole, why should you dig more in three? How does that even begin to make sense? It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder if the editors over at the New York Times editorial page spend their afternoons dropping acid or drinking rubbing alcohol. Sending a line like that into print is the journalism equivalent of a security guard at a nuke plant waving a pair of mullahs in explosive vests through the front gate. It should never, ever happen.

* * * *

So, yes, Friedman is suddenly an environmentalist of sorts.

What the fuck else is he going to be? All the other ideas he spent the last ten years humping have been blown to hell. Color me unimpressed that he scrounged one more thing to sell out of the smoldering, discredited wreck that should be his career; that he had the good sense to quickly reinvent himself before angry Gods remembered to dash his brains out with a lightning bolt. But better late than never, I suppose. Or as Friedman might say, “Better two cell phones than a fish in your zipper.”
HT: Rod Dreher.

January 18, 2009

The NY Times Story on Dr. Abul Aish


Pray for this man, if you're the praying kind.

January 17, 2009


This is Dr. Aboul Aish, three of whose daughters were killed and two injured by Israeli tank fire. No doubt the shell was American.

See two posts down for an Israeli television account, including this man's wail of pain, the most nerve-shattering sound I've ever heard.

Over a thousand are dead, many more wounded, and still more bereaved. Yet by the accident it was broadcast on Israeli television, this man's story is iconic, like the naked Vietnamese girl's, or the Afghan girl with the piercing blue eyes. He stands for all of Gaza.

Enough lies. Enough sanctimony. Enough killing.

Lord, have mercy.

Fisk on Nazi Analogies

My admiration for Robert Fisk is growing. Here's his piece on WWII analogies and their misuse in the context of Israeli-Arab confrontation. Excerpt:
I have long raged against any comparisons with the Second World War – whether of the Arafat-is-Hitler variety once deployed by Menachem Begin or of the anti-war-demonstrators-are-1930s-appeasers, most recently used by George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara. And pro-Palestinian marchers should think twice before they start waffling about genocide when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem once shook Hitler's hand and said – in Berlin on 2 November 1943, to be precise – "The Germans know how to get rid of the Jews... They have definitely solved the Jewish problem." The Grand Mufti, it need hardly be added, was a Palestinian. He lies today in a shabby grave about two miles from my Beirut home.

No, the real reason why "Gaza-Genocide" is a dangerous parallel is because it is not true. Gaza's one and a half million refugees are treated outrageously enough, but they are not being herded into gas chambers or forced on death marches. That the Israeli army is a rabble is not in question – though I was amused to read one of Newsweek's regular correspondents calling it "splendid" last week – but that does not mean they are all war criminals. The issue, surely, is that war crimes do appear to have been committed in Gaza. Firing at UN schools is a criminal act. It breaks every International Red Cross protocol. There is no excuse for the killing of so many women and children.

January 16, 2009

Watch and Weep

Israel has not allowed the press into Gaza while it conducts its "operation." Israeli TV ran this report, in which a Gazan doctor, three of whose children were killed in an Israeli tank strike, speaks via cell phone to an Israeli TV station.

I do not understand Hebrew or Arabic, but the pain in the man's voice says it all. This is a medical doctor, who speaks fluent Hebrew and apparently worked in Israel at one time, and gave intereviews to Israel TV, and calls the newsman by his first name, wailing like a wounded animal.

Reuters reports:
Channel 10 correspondent Shlomi Eldar, who said he had planned a live on-air interview with Aboul Aish on Friday evening, produced a mobile phone in the studio, letting viewers here the voice of Aboul Aish: "My God, my girls, Shlomi," he said. "Can't anybody get to us, please?"

Eldar told his audience: "They have killed his family".

He said three of Aboul Aish's children were killed and two were seriously wounded. Building up the sense of drama, cameras followed him as left the studio, saying he would try to help arrange for their transfer for treatment, and safety, in Israel.

Surviving members of the family were later shown being transferred to Israeli ambulances and taken out of Gaza. Aid agencies have complained that Israel has not done enough to help Gaza's hospitals and allow the transfer of some wounded people.

Aboul Aish's brother was also wounded and Eldar said two of his brother's children had also been killed in the incident.

The Israeli army said troops fired on Aboul Aish's house because a sniper had fired on soldiers from the building.

Aboul Aish responded: "All that was ever fired out of our house was love, hugs and acts of peace, nothing else, ever."
In the name of God, stop this, now!

HT: The strange but indispensible Philip Weiss.

We Need a Hero

Capt. Sullenberger. Handsome fellow, too.


European diplomats, UN officials and a senior PA official all said Thursday that as of last Friday night it was clear to almost everyone that the U.S., like the other 14 Security Council members, would vote for the softened resolution. They said Rice had promised as much to her European colleagues.

In Jerusalem, however, officials went to sleep thinking the Americans had only agreed to support a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire. At 1 A.M., final confirmation came from New York: The U.S. had promised that no cease-fire resolution would be brought to a vote any time soon. An hour and a half later, however, it became clear that not only was the Security Council due to vote on a cease-fire resolution at any minute, but Rice had ordered America's UN ambassador to support it. Olmert promptly telephoned U.S. President George Bush to complain about Rice's behavior and demand that he restrain her. What Bush said to Rice remains unknown. What is known, however, is that the U.S. suddenly changed its vote from "yes" to "abstain."

The whole story would have ended well had Olmert behaved like a responsible adult and restrained his own impulses. Even his close associates admit that he would have done better to skip the public boasting about how he persuaded Bush to overrule Rice. Quite aside from the fact that this embarrassed the U.S. administration, Olmert's associates understand all too well that this story merely provides fresh ammunition to those who claim the Jews are the ones who really control America.
--Akiva Eldar, in Ha'aretz.

January 15, 2009

All Hail

The US Airways pilot, crew, and the sailors and captains of the rescue vessels.

Social discipline and courage aren't dead.

January 14, 2009

Deconstructing the Tijuana Analogy

This article does a fine job of debunking the analogy between Tijuana-San Diego and Gaza-Israel.

January 11, 2009

Pretty Cogent

A London Times letter by predominantly British lawyers and such, on Gaza, courtesy of Prof. Cole:

This letter of attorneys and academics appeared in the Times of London on Sunday. I suggest that all bloggers who agree with it just reprint it so that it is everywhere in the blogosphere. It is a succinct and cogent refutation of the reigning right-Zionist talking points that have dominated American media reporting on this atrocity.

"January 11, 2009
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza is not self-defence – it’s a war crime

ISRAEL has sought to justify its military attacks on Gaza by stating that it amounts to an act of “self-defence” as recognised by Article 51, United Nations Charter. We categorically reject this contention.

The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas deplorable as they are, do not, in terms of scale and effect amount to an armed attack entitling Israel to rely on self-defence. Under international law self-defence is an act of last resort and is subject to the customary rules of proportionality and necessity.

The killing of almost 800 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and more than 3,000 injuries, accompanied by the destruction of schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings, which Israel has a responsibility to protect under the Fourth Geneva Convention, is not commensurate to the deaths caused by Hamas rocket fire.

For 18 months Israel had imposed an unlawful blockade on the coastal strip that brought Gazan society to the brink of collapse. In the three years after Israel’s redeployment from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. And yet in 2005-8, according to the UN, the Israeli army killed about 1,250 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. Throughout this time the Gaza Strip remained occupied territory under international law because Israel maintained effective control over it.

Israel’s actions amount to aggression, not self-defence, not least because its assault on Gaza was unnecessary. Israel could have agreed to renew the truce with Hamas. Instead it killed 225 Palestinians on the first day of its attack. As things stand, its invasion and bombardment of Gaza amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5m inhabitants contrary to international humanitarian and human rights law. In addition, the blockade of humanitarian relief, the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and preventing access to basic necessities such as food and fuel, are prima facie war crimes.

We condemn the firing of rockets by Hamas into Israel and suicide bombings which are also contrary to international humanitarian law and are war crimes. Israel has a right to take reasonable and proportionate means to protect its civilian population from such attacks. However, the manner and scale of its operations in Gaza amount to an act of aggression and is contrary to international law, notwithstanding the rocket attacks by Hamas.

Ian Brownlie QC, Blackstone Chambers

Mark Muller QC, Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales

Michael Mansfield QC and Joel Bennathan QC, Tooks Chambers

Sir Geoffrey Bindman, University College, London

Professor Richard Falk, Princeton University

Professor M Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University, Chicago

Professor Christine Chinkin, LSE

Professor John B Quigley, Ohio State University

Professor Iain Scobbie and Victor Kattan, School of Oriental and African Studies

Professor Vera Gowlland-Debbas, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Professor Said Mahmoudi, Stockholm University

Professor Max du Plessis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban

Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck College

Professor Joshua Castellino, Middlesex University

Professor Thomas Skouteris and Professor Michael Kagan, American University of Cairo

Professor Javaid Rehman, Brunel University

Daniel Machover, Chairman, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Dr Phoebe Okawa, Queen Mary University

John Strawson, University of East London

Dr Nisrine Abiad, British Institute of International and Comparative Law

Dr Michael Kearney, University of York

Dr Shane Darcy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Dr Michelle Burgis, University of St Andrews

Dr Niaz Shah, University of Hull

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyer

Prof Michael Lynk, The University of Western Ontario

Steve Kamlish QC and Michael Topolski QC, Tooks Chambers

A Video the IDF Didn't Want Israelis to See

HT: Juan Cole.

January 10, 2009

When Does the Statute of Limitations Run on the Theft of a Country?

Zionism teaches that the Jews were entitled to a state in Israel because they were dispossessed in AD 70. Sometimes they add there has been a continuous Jewish presence since AD 70, consisting mostly in a handful of pious Jews. The Arab refugees are not entitled to return, say the Zionists, even though they left in 1948. After all, they (or their allies in the Arab states) started a war and lost, then lost again and again.

These same Zionists doe not advocate that the Anglo-Saxons return to the mainland, the Magyars to Central Asia, the Cherokees to Georgia and Tennessee, and certainly not the Arabs to Sicily, Spain, and Portugal.

Question: Is there a right of conquest? If so, the Israelis may be able to claim the benefit of it, but must abandon their ancestral claim to a right to return to a land where they were twice soundly defeated in AD 70 and AD 135 or so.

If there is no right of conquest, and conquering and expelling another people is a crime, when does the statute of limitations run, such that undoing the wrong is no longer an option? If it's less than 1800 years, the Zionist claim to possess the land as of right goes by the boards. But then, when does the Palestinian right of redress expire?

If Jews have a religious right to the land, it must have been revealed by a new-fangled prophet no one has ever heard of, because no sect of religious Jews, 150 years ago, had heard of such a thing, and Reform or Orthodox, Jews until recently rejected the notion. It took a bunch of atheists to invent it. In short, it is a recent fabrication with little religious credibility, notwithstanding the "religious Zionist" thugs of Hebron.

January 7, 2009

Yet More Strange New Respect

Yes, Israelis deserve security. Twenty Israelis dead in 10 years around Gaza is a grim figure indeed. But 600 Palestinians dead in just over a week, thousands over the years since 1948 – when the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassin helped to kick-start the flight of Palestinians from that part of Palestine that was to become Israel – is on a quite different scale. This recalls not a normal Middle East bloodletting but an atrocity on the level of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. And of course, when an Arab bestirs himself with unrestrained fury and takes out his incendiary, blind anger on the West, we will say it has nothing to do with us. Why do they hate us, we will ask? But let us not say we do not know the answer.
Who said this? Robert Fisk, of all people.

I've adopted the net neologism "to Fisk," as here.

I've begun to read the man, a British reporter who lives in Lebanon and knows that country well. He's compassionate, passionate, and if he has a bias, it's against atrocity. He has few illusions about any of the players.

But then, even at my advanced age, this Gaza misadventure has opened my eyes, and is rapidly destroying whatever residual respect and affection I had for Israel.

Read, as the saying goes, the whole thing.

January 6, 2009

January 5, 2009

A Norwegian Doctor Tells It Like He Sees It

This story is from CBS, not Al Jazeera.

The truth will out.

A Desert Called Peace

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium; atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

Translation: To ravage, to slaughter, to usurp under false titles, they call empire; and where they make a desert, they call it peace.

Above: American phosphorous bombs falling on Gaza.

January 2, 2009

It's Not the Holy Land, It's Chinatown

The bombing of Gaza continues unabated, the dead in their hundreds and the wounded in their thousands, the hospitals already decimated unable to cope. To the American press, this seems of little consequence. These people are, after all, sand niggers who don't look at death the way we do.

If one adopts a short-range perspective, the crude utterances and indiscriminate rocketing of Hamas justified a response by Israel. No sovereign power, after, all, can tolerate such things, even if largely ineffective. That the bombing campaign, like the starvation campaign that preceded it, is likely to prove as useless as it is deadly, could be merely a tactical deficiency.

I have argued that its military and civilian successes, and the exile of Jews from much of the Arab world, make the existence of Israel a fait accompli, whether one likes the place or finds it quite unpleasant, as I did forty odd years ago.

A short-range perspective is not enough, however. If this were so, battles would not rage between the Palestinians and Jews over such questions as whether the old Temple ever existed in Jerusalem.

One Zionist claim is that Jews have rights to the land because it was theirs—up to 70 AD, when their revolt against Rome proved a failure. To the “it once was ours” claim is usually added a quasi-religious justification. Then of course there is the rationale that Israel is needed as a refuge against persecution.

It is true that the land was Jewish before, even if Gaza and Ashkelon were Philistine. The notion that we are going to return the heirs of long-defeated ethnic groups to their former territory is quixotic and ridiculous. If the Palestinians lost several wars and need to adapt to that, and the Sudeten Germans and Smyrna Greeks can lament but not undo their expulsions, why is the Jewish War of AD 70 something different?

The answer given by the atheist Zionist movement is that Israel is the Biblically Promised Land. Sometimes they will add a claim that Jews always lived there.

This claim is, of course, a modern fabrication. Christians, at least before the current dispensationalist fad, have always viewed Judaism as a false religion, and the Christian church as the true heir of the Biblical covenants. Although ADL types lambaste this as “supersessionism,” it is perfectly good Chrisian theology.

Both Talmudic Judaism and early Christianity had to cope, among other things, with the collapse of the Temple cult after the Jewish War. Fulfillment of the Law required pilgrimages and support of the vast abattoir that was the Temple. When the Temple was destroyed a second time, the Law--these practices-- became impossible to fulfill any longer.

Talmudic Judaism was invented to preserve Jewish identity under conditions of exile. Talmudic Judaism did not share the assumptions of modern Zionism. It taught that exile (galut or galus) was a spiritual consequence of Jewish sins, and redemption would come only with the arrival of the Messiah, seen as an earthly king rather than God made flesh in the Christian manner. Christianity generally taught that the Jews (the descendants of those who did not become Christian) would be converted in the fullness of time. There is no traditional Christian support for the view that Jews had any religious claim on the land. To the extent there is any such support, it arose in late Anglo-American nonconformist Protestant circles.

Paradoxically, however, the secularists and atheists who founded the Zionist movement looked to what is now Israel as the Jewish homeland—because it was the historic home of the Jews looked at as a nation, and because it was “promised” to the heirs of Abraham and Jacob.

This attitude was consistent with the European imperialist notion that wogs begin at Calais, and it was perfectly acceptable for the “civilized” to dispossess the “natives” whenever that was convenient. The Zionists, of course, started late, when these imperialist notions had begun to collapse.

Virtually from the beginning of Zionist settlement, it stimulated Arab hostility. Zionists like to point to this history as reflecting badly upon the Arabs, but what would one expect? Strangers come to your country, buying up land, gabbling about creating a state of their own, and refusing event to hire Arab labor.

All the rest flows naturally from this contradiction. Israel's creation always depended upon the dispossession of the Arabs, and it soon became clear that this dispossession would have to be done by force. The rest is history.

In short, at the root of all the violence is the simple fact is that the Arabs lived on the land and the Jews decided to take it from them. (Zionism also destroyed centuries-old Jewish communities around the world, but that's another story for another day).

In the film “The Battle of Algiers,” the French military officer points out that if you want to keep a French Algeria, you must countenance the brutal tactics then followed. In the same way, the starvation and slaughter in Gaza stem ultimately and almost inevitably from the Zionist claim to the land, supportable, if at all, by right of conquest. The ultimate Zionists, then, are not the “beautiful souls” of the crazy Israeli left, but men like Moshe Feiglin and Avigdor Lieberman, uncompromising, ideological, and brutal.