Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Daniel McGowan, again

I discovered a couple of days ago that Daniel McGowan has republished his article, "What does Holocaust denial really mean?" on the "Palestine Think Tank" website. (He apparently republishes this article on a regular basis - it appeared as a letter in the Ithaca Journal a couple of years ago). Why his Holocaust-denying article is published by a supposedly pro-Palestinian site, I do not know, although upon cursory checking of the site, it appears that his is not the only anti-semitic article to appear on the site.

Another site where the same article has recently appeared is a 9/11 "truth" site, "What really happened." Earlier iterations of the article appeared on Rense.com, a right-wing anti-semitic website; CODOH, a Holocaust-denying website; and Dissident Voice, which bills itself as "a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice" (it also published McGowan's fond recollections of his visit to Ernst Zundel, the German Holocaust denier, in prison in Germany). This same journal has also published Gilad Atzmon, another anti-semitic partisan of the Palestinian cause who does that cause no favors.

The article has also been published on the website of "Deir Yassin Remembered," the organization that McGowan chairs which is dedicated to the memory of the 1948 massacre at Deir Yassin, perpetrated by members of the Stern Gang. While his devotion to keeping the memory of the massacre alive is commendable, his descent into Holocaust denial in the name of supporting Palestinians is not.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Temple Mount riots - what really happened?

Isabel Kershner, in an article in today's New York Times, reports that the visitors to the Temple Mount who aroused such violence yesterday were not in fact a group of Jews, but a French tourist group.
Palestinians had been expecting a group of religious Jews to try to enter the Temple Mount compound, according to an independent Palestinian news agency, Maan.... A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the police dispersed a crowd of about 150 Palestinian Muslims with stun grenades after they attacked the tourists, who he said were French. Disturbances then broke out in and around the Old City and elsewhere in East Jerusalem as Palestinian officials urged more Muslims to come to the holy site. At least 40 Palestinians were injured, according to Palestinian officials. Mr. Rosenfeld said that 17 police officers were injured, and that 11 Palestinians were arrested for throwing stones.
The Palestinian Authority's Information Ministry responded as if this was a deliberate attempt by Jewish settlers to enter the Temple Mount. Was it?
The Palestinian Authority’s Information Ministry issued a statement after the initial clashes on Sunday accusing the “Israeli occupation police and extremist settlers” of “breaking into the courtyard of the mosque, firing tear gas bombs and live bullets” against Palestinian worshipers.

It did not mention the French tourists, but added: “The Ministry of Information calls upon our people to gather at the mosque and to stand in the face of extremist Jewish groups.”

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, accused Israel of “deliberately escalating tensions in Jerusalem” by sending the police up to the mosque compound.
According to Kershner's report, however, there weren't live bullets, there were stun grenades. At least some police were already there on the mosque compound, as they always are during the hours when non-Muslims are permitted to visit (as I know from my own personal experience this summer). One of the Old City's police posts is right next to the Temple Mount, at the Mahkameh, and thus it's very easy for the Border Guards to get there. (See picture below)

From Jaffa Gate - Holy Sepulcher - Haram - Mt. Zion

While looking for some images on the web of the disturbances yesterday, I came across an interesting AFP photo that shows Israeli border guards deployed near the Al Aksa mosque, in the southwest corner of the Temple Mount:

91189849, AFP/Getty Images /AFP

(From Getty Images - since I haven't paid for it, the Getty Images copyright image appears on it).

The AFP caption reads:
A picture obtained on September 27, 2009 shows Israeli policemen taking position inside the grounds of the al-Aqsa mosques compound in Jerusalem. Tensions ran high after clashes erupted in Jerusalem's Old City at the Al-Aqsa, a site revered by Muslims and Jews that has been a major faultine in the Middle East conflict. Police and witnesses said the unrest erupted after a group of tourists entered the mosque compound. The visitors were probably mistaken for Jewish worshippers because a group of some 200 mostly religious and right-wing Jews had gathered in the early morning at the gate through which police allow tourists access to the holy site. AFP PHOTO/STR
So this source also says that the visitors who actually went up to the Temple Mount were not the religious Jews who had gathered earlier in the day. What happened to them, in that case? Did they go up to the Mount?

The next AFP/Getty Images photo shows Israeli border guards just outside the entrance to the Al Aksa mosque:
















Another AFP/Getty Images photo shows masked Palestinians carrying rocks and glass bottles:
















The Maan (Palestinian news agency) report is somewhat different from the New York Times in some details, but notes the inconsistency between the reports of 150 (or 15) Jews and a group of French tourists:
But there were also conflicting reports about the group spotted prior to the clashes. An Israeli police spokesman, who initially said the visitors belonged to the Jewish group, later insisted it was actually a group of French nationals that toured the compound.

In any event, Palestinians were seen throwing stones and other objects at police sent to the mosque area, reportedly hurting several. Using police batons and stun grenades, Israeli forces injured dozens during attempts to forcefully disperse the gathering crowds.

Clashes later erupted near Majlis Gate, one of the main entrances to the mosque, after police prevented worshippers from entering the area, according to witnesses. More clashes followed noon prayers near the Lions' Gate entrance to Al-Aqsa.

Israeli police closed all entrances in what they said was an effort to contain the fighting. However at one point Palestinians aged over 50 were briefly allowed to return, but the main gates toward the compound were again sealed later in the afternoon.

Hundreds of Jerusalemites and Palestinians living inside Israel arrived at the mosque compound when word of the clashes spread. They gathered outside several sealed entrances, chanting and denouncing the occupation and what they called assaults against holy places and residents in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli police prevented Islamic notables such as Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, chief of the Islamic Supreme Committee and grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, from entering the Al-Aqsa area.

Also denied access was Hatim Abdul Qader, former PA minister of Jerusalem affairs and current Fatah representative on Jerusalem. Israeli police produced an order preventing Abdul-Qadir from accessing Al-Aqsa until further notice, under the pretext that he urged demonstrators to gather at the compound.
(One wonders if it really was a pretext, or if he actually urged demonstrators to gather at Al Aksa). Below is a photo from Maan of Border Policemen gathering in the Al Aksa compound.


















The Maan report raises the question of whether the Israeli police were telling the truth (that it really was a group of French tourists) or were trying to cover up for a Jewish group going onto the Temple Mount before Yom Kippur. The original report I linked to said that the group of Jews went up with police escort. This is not usual. When tourists go to the Temple Mount, there is no special police escort.

A Ynet report from today is also confusing.
Palestinian leaders warned Israel on Sunday not to stoke tension in Jerusalem in the hope of thwarting peace talks, after clashes at a sacred site in which Palestinians and Israeli police were injured.

"At a time when (US) President (Barack) Obama is trying to bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis, and to get negotiations back on track, Israel is deliberately escalating tensions in Jerusalem," chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

"We've seen this before, and we know what the consequences are," the Palestinian minister added, in a statement that recalled the visit of then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the site in Jerusalem's Old City in 2000. Sharon's presence at al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, triggered the second Palestinian uprising and dealt the biggest setback to peace efforts in years.

The reasons behind Sunday's clash were disputed.

According to legislator Hathem Abdel Kader and other Palestinian sources, the clash erupted in the early morning when Palestinians inside the complex - sacred to both Islam and Judaism - saw a group of 15 religious Jews trying to enter. The Jews never managed to get into the complex, because several hundred Palestinians, who were on alert for such a possibility, began a loud protest. Israeli police responded with tear gas then stun grenades.

The clash occurred hours before the start of Yom Kippur, the solemn "Day of Atonement" which is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Police were on alert for violent protests in several flashpoints where Jews and Arabs live side by side.

Palestinians: No tourists were involved

Protesters threw stones, chairs and whatever they could lay hands on as riot police rushed to the scene. Video showed them trying to drive police away from the doorway of the al-Aqsa mosque, but there was no sign that police entered it. Police said 17 officers were hurt and 11 rioters arrested, and medics said 13 Palestinians were treated for injuries. There were no reports of serious injury or death.

Israeli police said it began when religious Palestinians angered by immodestly dressed tourists grew violent. Palestinians dismissed that account, saying no tourists were involved. There was no further comment from Israeli authorities, who were observing the Yom Kippur silence.

"Providing a police escort for settlers who are against peace at all costs, and whose presence is deliberately designed to provoke a reaction, are not the actions of someone who is committed to peace, but of someone who will go to extraordinary lengths to scuttle all hopes of peace," Erekat said.

He said it was "deliberately timed to coincide with the eve of the anniversary of that visit" by a government "emboldened by its ability to fend off calls for a settlement freeze."
These accounts raise a lot of questions:

1) Was there a large group of religious Jews waiting to get into the Temple Mount in the morning?
2) Or were there only 15?
3) Or was it actually a group of immodestly dressed tourists?
4) Or a group of French tourists (perhaps the same as #3)?
5) Did Palestinians react when the Jews/tourists reached the Temple Mount via the Mughrabi Gate (which is the only entrance non-Muslims can use), or did they prevent people from coming onto the mount altogether?

I find it hard to imagine that even if this were a group of religious Jews, that they had come there specifically at the behest of the Netanyahu government to cause trouble before Yom Kippur. I think that if Netanyahu wants to cause trouble about the Temple Mount, he will do something similar to what he did in 1996 (when the Kotel tunnel was opened at its northern end at the Via Dolorosa, sparking riots in which 80 people died) - that is, act openly, not in a hidden fashion. Groups of religious Jews do now go up to the Temple Mount, in defiance of the ban imposed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate on Jews' entering the site. They do this on their own, however, not at the government's urging. I hope this gets untangled, since the Temple Mount is such a flashpoint that even the mistaken belief that this was planned by the Netanyahu government could lead to much worse clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli government than have already happened yesterday and today.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dancing on Yom Kippur

Gershom Gorenberg has a wonderful article at South Jerusalem on Yom Kippur: Hiya Judge: On Dancing Yom Kippur. He writes about the difference in the melancholy melodies sung at an Ashkenazi Yom Kippur service versus the joyous melodies at a Sephardi service that he experienced in Bangkok years ago. He hazards a guess as to why this ethnic difference exists:
Anyway, I mentioned this story a week or so ago to a friend learned in Jewish history. “That’s the difference between people whose neighbors opposed their existence and people who were accepted as – even if second class – members of society.”

I wouldn’t want to attribute all the differences in Ashkenazi and Sephardi culture to the gap between how Christian Europe and the Muslim Middle East related to Jews. But I’d guess that it is one key reason. As I noted last year in an article on anti-gentile prayers that worked their way into Jewish liturgy and that should be removed:

Hebrew University historian Israel Yuval says that traditional liturgical attacks “are always against Christianity,” and are found in Ashkenazi prayers, not Sephardi ones. The rage reflects theological battles with Christianity, which claimed the Bible as its own and argued that Jews suffered in exile because God had ended the covenant with them. The Jewish response was a stress on “vengeful redemption”—looking forward to a conclusion of history in which the power relations were reversed, the Christians destroyed.

While there were ups and downs in Jewish-gentile relations in both the Christian and the Islamic worlds, Jewish liturgy itself bears testimony that Jews felt that their lives were far more precarious among the Christians. Recently, in the midst of contemporary nonsense about the “Clash of Civilizations,” some rightwing Jews have made a habit of arguing that things were as bad or worse for Jews among the Muslims. The psychological record of the prayerbook says otherwise.

May you have a joyous Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur

To my Jewish readers - have an easy fast and g'mar hatimah tovah (may you be sealed for a good life).

This Associated Press story on Yom Kippur in Israel is a good account of the meaning of the day for Israeli Jews, religious and non-religious: Israel shuts down for Day of Atonement amid fears.

A group of about 15 Jews went up to the Temple Mount today, under police guard, during the time that non-Muslims are permitted to go there. Their group was met with stone-throwing and a riot ensued in which the police threw stun grenades at the Palestinian rioters. Twelve policemen and fifteen rioters were injured.

I hope that this is not a harbinger of worse trouble. It's hard to forget that one of the proximate causes of the second intifada was Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount on September 28, 2000. (See this account from the Jewish Virtual Library on the second intifada - see that Sharon's visit was certainly not the only cause).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Farouk Hosny - the Jews are to blame

Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian culture minister who was not chosen to be the head of UNESCO, blames Jews for UNESCO loss. He said that "European countries and the world's Jews" wanted him to lose. Another statement from him: "There are a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position,"

Nothing like being convicted out of your own mouth of anti-semitism.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hitchens on Jimmy Carter

The latest absurdities to emerge from Jimmy Carter's big, smug mouth - Christopher Hitchens (article of May 21, 2007).

It's always pleasant to read a literate takedown of Jimmy Carter, who is one of my least favorite former living presidents. I learned something new and startling from this article - apparently Eugene McCarthy voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 rather than for the sitting president of his own party. McCarthy said: "Mr. Carter quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had."

Hitchens' case against Carter: "It was because, whether in Afghanistan, Iran, or Iraq—still the source of so many of our woes—the Carter administration could not tell a friend from an enemy. His combination of naivete and cynicism—from open-mouthed shock at Leonid Brezhnev's occupation of Afghanistan to underhanded support for Saddam in his unsleeping campaign of megalomania—had terrible consequences that are with us still. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that every administration since has had to deal with the chaotic legacy of Carter's mind-boggling cowardice and incompetence." I hadn't realized that Carter had supported Saddam Hussein also. He joins the illustrious company of Donald Rumsfield in misestimating Saddam.

I also did not vote for Carter. I was living in Seattle in the fall of 1980, and had temporarily turned into a Republican in order to vote for John Anderson in the Republican caucuses. When election day came, I didn't vote for Reagan, or Carter, or Anderson (who I think was running as a third party candidate), but for another third party candidate, Barry Commoner. Carter demonstrated how little concern he had for his own party when he conceded before the polls had closed on the west coast, thus reducing the incentive of Democratic voters to go to the polls and vote for Democrats in other races.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nuke agency says Iran can make bomb

The AP is reporting something very alarming about Iran's nuclear capability: Nuke agency says Iran can make bomb.
VIENNA — Experts at the world's top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.

The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency's leaders share Washington's views on Iran's weapon-making capabilities.

It appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.

The document says Iran has "sufficient information" to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system.

Why is this report being withheld? Isn't this vital information that should be publicized? Why is the IAEA protecting Iran?

I don't want the Israelis to attack Iran's nuclear program. Pretending that Iran doesn't yet have the ability to produce a nuclear weapon is unlikely to prevent Israel from acting, since it makes it seem that the IAEA is deliberately lying instead of taking Israel's concern seriously.

Later: the IAEA denies the report (Reuters).
VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog said Thursday it had no proof that Iran has or once had a covert atomic bomb program, dismissing a news report that it had concluded Iran was on its way to producing nuclear weapons.

In a statement, the International Atomic Energy Agency reaffirmed IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei's September 9 warning that allegations the agency was sitting on undeniable evidence of Iranian bomb work were "politically motivated and baseless."

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons program in Iran," the statement said.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Is Lockerbie bomber really dying of prostate cancer?

This is something I've wondered about the release of the man convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, whether his medical condition was really as dire as it was presented in order to support his "compassionate release". The Telegraph reports: Doctors urged by Libyans to draw 'helpful' conclusions about Lockerbie bomber life expectancy.

Among those killed by the explosion and crash of the plane were 35 students from Syracuse University, four from Colgate University, and two from SUNY Oswego - all colleges in upstate New York within a couple of hours drive from Ithaca, where I live.

The mother of one of the victims from Syracuse, responded to the release in this way:
Janine Boulanger, the Shrewsbury mother of Nicole Elise Boulanger, a 21-year-old student who was killed in the bombing, said she was disappointed but not surprised.

She said her daughter, who was a musical theater major at Syracuse University, had been studying on scholarship in London. She was coming home after completing all of her requirements in seven semesters when she was killed, her mother said.

“These individuals died in foreign countries, without their families there, and we, as it was, had to accept this very low sentence,” she said.

“And now, not to carry it out?” she said. “You soon lose faith.”

The mother of another one of the Syracuse University student victims said:
But Susan Cohen, whose only child Theodora, 20, was one of 35 Syracuse University students on Pan Am flight 103, said any suggestion of freedom on compassionate grounds was "vile".

Speaking from her home in New Jersey, she added: "It just shows that the power of oil money counts for more than justice. There have been so many attempts to let him off. It has to do with money and power and giving Gaddafi what he wants. My feelings, as a victim, apparently count for nothing."

The father of one of the students from Colgate University said on hearing of the news of the release:
A former Macungie man who lost his 21-year-old son in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 called the release of the only man convicted in the attack ''perverted justice.''....

Scott Saunders, a dean's list senior at Colgate University, was returning home from studying in London when a bomb destroyed the plane in the air, killing all 259 passengers and crew and 11 residents of the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. Many of the 189 Americans on board the flight were college students wrapping up studies in Europe....

''This dominated the morning news, and it's a searing pain, I can tell you, to have to relive this, to have to see someone who has been found guilty of the crime is going to be liberated,'' Saunders said. ''But nothing in this thing surprises me anymore. I'm not surprised. I'm certainly discouraged. It isn't the first searing pain and it will not be the last.''

Scott, a 1985 Emmaus High School graduate, was majoring in English and history and had planned to enter law school or become a journalist.

The victims' families received multimillion-dollar settlements from Libya, which the elder Saunders has called ''blood money.'' He donated some of it, set aside some for his other son, Greg, and used more to augment scholarship funds in Scott's memory.

Saunders said some victims' families believe other nations -- perhaps Iran or Syria -- were behind the bombing and that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi only took responsibility in an effort to rehabilitate his reputation in the West.

Saunders doesn't subscribe to that theory but he is certain the truth behind the bombing hasn't fully emerged, and may not for many years. He is also sure that the West's oil interests in Libya were likely the deciding factor in releasing al-Megrahi, an intelligence official.
So much for "reconciliation" with Libya. Michael Totten's reporting from Libya gives the information we need to know about "The Land of the Brother Leader". See his article about the Megrahi release also - Qaddafi Can Celebrate His Filthy Regime Without Us.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Auf Wiedersehen, Pat Buchanan

Ten years ago Jacob Weisberg wrote an illuminating article about Pat Buchanan - Auf Wiedersehen, Pat - which presents much evidence about Buchanan's anti-semitic, Nazi-defending worldview then.

He writes:
Buchanan is a kind of fascist fellow traveler, who dabbles in an anachronistic style of populist demagoguery that points to cosmopolitan Jews, and to a lesser extent nonwhite immigrants, as the source of the country's problems....

The fuss about Buchanan first started in 1990 when he blamed Jewish neoconservatives of dragging the country toward the Gulf War. In a similar vein in his 1996 campaign, Buchanan would hint that Jews were to blame for much else, sarcastically enunciating the name of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when complaining about the Supreme Court. Or he would attack "New York bankers," often singling out the firm of "Goldman Sachs" (but never Bear Stearns or Salomon Smith Barney). Or he might complain about the globalist economic policies of Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan--not those of Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Clinton. In Buchanan's neo-1930s protectionism and isolationism, it isn't hard to hear the echoes of the radio priest Father Coughlin, who associated Jewish bankers with rapacious capitalism....

His new book, A Republic Not an Empire, makes his complaints against the Jews more explicit than ever. A brief for isolationism, the book includes a pocket history of "Jewish Influence" in U.S. foreign policy from 1917 to the present. Buchanan, who blamed Jews for dragging America into the Gulf War, thinks they also pushed us into World War II--mistakenly! His words echo those of Charles Lindburgh, a leader of the America First Committee, who Buchanan thinks was unfairly labeled an anti-Semite for warning the country about Jewish influence in Hollywood and the media. Buchanan, whose campaign Web site sports an "America First" logo, echoes Lindbergh when he decries "the growing domination of U.S. foreign policy by ethnic groups and media elites able to focus public attention and incite public hysteria." Instead of agitating for entry into a specific war, he thinks these "ethnic groups" and the "media elites" (read Jews) are pushing us toward general policies of interventionism and internationalism.
I hadn't realized how accurate it was to accuse him of being an America-Firster. I wonder if Philip Roth was thinking of Pat Buchanan when he was writing his book, The Plot Against America.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

September 1, 1939

I should be grading map exercises, but instead I've been reading blogs, and like other people, have found George Orwell's entries in his diaries (now being posted daily on the Orwell Diaries website) very poignant. For September 1, 1939, the day that Germany invaded Poland, he wrote:
Invasion of Poland began this morning. Warsaw bombed. General mobilization proclaimed in England, ditto in France plus martial law. [Radio]
Foreign & General
1. Hitler’s terms to Poland boil down to return of Danzig & plebiscite in the corridor, to be held 1 year hence & based on 1918 census. There is some hanky panky about time the terms were presented, & as they were to be answered by night of 30.8.39,[1] H.[2] claims that they are already refused. Daily Telegraph [a]
2. Naval reservists and rest of army and R.A.F. reservists called up. Evacuation of children etc. begins today, involving 3m. people & expected to take 3 days. [Radio; undated]
3. Russo-German pact ratified. Russian armed forces to be further increased. Voroshilov’s speech taken as meaning that Russo-German alliance is not contemplated. Daily Express [b]
4. Berlin report states Russian military mission is expected to arrive there shortly. Daily Telegraph [a]
The site includes PDFs of the newspaper articles he refers to in the diary.

This is a good counter to Pat Buchanan's retrograde America-First anti-semitism, most recently expressed in a column published on his website and others, which contends that "Hitler did not want a war with Poland." The only possible response to this comment, it seems to me, is "why the hell did he invade Poland then?!" Why does MSNBC retain him as a commentator? How much more blatant does his anti-semitism and pro-Nazism have to get before they decide that he's more of a liability than a draw?

Update: see this good TPM article on Buchanan. Commenter jeffgee reminded us of Molly Ivins' stellar line describing Buchanan's speech at the '92 GOP convention: it "sounded better in the original German."

And here's a good takedown of Buchanan by Orac.

This is the stanza of W.H. Auden's poem about the beginning of the war that I find the most moving:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
And again, today was a beautiful early September day - not a cloud in the sky, warm but not too warm, the sky a beautiful blue as it was on that Tuesday eight years ago in New York City and Washington.