Tuesday, December 30, 2003

In Jim Davila’s blog on December 29 he quoted several sermons given by Muslim preachers employed by the Palestinian Authority over the last couple of years that denied that Solomon’s Temple had ever stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (quoted from a report by Memri). In one of the sermons, on September 21, 2001, Sheikh Ibrahim Madhi spoke in the Sheikh 'Ijlin Mosque in Gaza about what he considered ridiculous Jewish beliefs:

Oh beloved of Allah, who are the Jews? Regarding their belief about Allah: The Jews have said that the hand of Allah is fettered in chains; [but] it is their hand that is fettered in chains, and they are cursed for their words. According to the Jews' belief, as it is written in some of their holy books, such as the Talmud, Allah divides his time into three parts. One third of the time he weeps. Why? Because his [chosen] people are dispersed in all directions. Another third he spends playing with the whales, and the final third he spends doing nothing in particular. This is their perverted belief about Allah.


Jim found incredible the idea that these beliefs were to be found in the Talmud. In fact, however, both ideas are found in rabbinic and later Jewish literature, and were, in fact, attacked both by Karaites and by Muslims in the early middle ages as part of religious polemics between Rabbanites and Karaites and between Jews and Muslims.

What I find rather incredible is that these polemical themes have been resurrected from early medieval times and are still being used to attack Jews and Judaism. The claim that Jews believe that God’s hands are fettered is found in the Qu’ran, Sura 5:64: “The Jews say, ‘Bound are the hands of God.’ Tied be their own hands and damned may they be for saying what they say! In fact, both His hands are open wide: He spends of His bounty in any way He please.” The Qur’anic passage seems to be picking up on an idea found both in the midrashic literature and in the Hekhalot literature. Michael Fishbane has written on this idea in his article “Arm of the Lord: Biblical Myth, Rabbinic Midrash, and the Mystery of History,” pp. 271-292, in Language, Theology, and the Bible: Essays in Honour of James Barr, eds. Samuel E. Balentine and John Barton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), and my recent SBL paper dealt with this issue extensively. One place this idea is found is in 3 Enoch chapters 44 and 47, where Rabbi Ishmael sees that God’s right hand has been bound behind him since the destruction of the Temple. A similar idea is found in Lamentations Rabbah, Proem 24, where it says, “At the time that the Holy One, blessed be He, sought to destroy the Temple, He said, ‘As long as I am within it, the nations of the world will not touch it; but I will hide my eyes from it, and I swear that I will not be attached to it until the time of the End, and the enemies will enter and destroy it.’ Immediately the Holy One, blessed be He, swore by His right hand and placed it behind Him, as it is written, ‘He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy’ (Lam. 2:3). At that time the enemies entered the Temple and set it afire.” This profound meditation on the meaning of historical defeat was attacked by both Muslims and Karaites as an unforgivable example of anthropomorphism, offending their strict monotheistic sensibility.

The idea that there are three watches in which God responds to the suffering of his people is found in b. Berakhot 3b. In one version, R. Eliezer says, “the night consists of three watches, and during each and every watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion.” Another opinion, that of Rav Isaac b. Samuel in the name of Rav, is as follows: “The night is composed of three watches, and over each watch the Holy One, blessed be He, sits and roars like a lion, and says, ‘Alas for the children, on account of whose sins I destroyed My Temple, burnt My Shrine, and exiled them among the nations.’” Salmon ben Yeruhim, a tenth century Karaite writer, quoted this Midrash and attacked it along with other anthropomorphic midrashim in his Wars of the Lord. Al-Qirqisani, a 9th century Karaite writer, also attacked this idea.

It seems to me, from reading the excerpts of the sermon translated by Memri, that there must be an ongoing Muslim polemical tradition of attacks upon Judaism that has continued since the first Islamic centuries, and that this imam has used themes taken from this polemical tradition and fitted them to our day. Perhaps his audience also knows this polemical tradition, but to the eyes of contemporary Jews, who do not know these ancient midrashim and mystical works, his charges simply seem bizarre distortions of Judaism. As a scholar of ancient Judaism, I find it distressing that these polemical charges are still being used to attack Jews and some of the most profound Jewish theological responses to evil and suffering that have emerged from the Jewish religious tradition.


Monday, December 29, 2003

And here is today's Ha'aretz editorial about the shooting of unarmed Israeli, Palestinian, and foreign demonstrators protesting the separation fence on Friday, in which one Israeli protestor, a recently demobilized soldier, was severely injured -- Harsh treatment and a light finger.
I'm now visiting Israel for a few weeks, and the view looks different from here. Suddenly what seems so clear in America now turns into shades of grey. And I allow other information in that I really didn't want to think about in the U.S. For example, this article by Danny Rubinstein in Ha'aretz today, Attack on Maher shows anger at silent Arab world, which is chiefly about the Palestinian response to the attack on the Egyptian foreign minister at the Al Aqsa Mosque last week, contains this paragraph about what is happening to Palestinians at the hands of the Israel military:
Anyone who follows daily events in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and reads the Palestinian press finds it difficult to comprehend the scenes of horror. The nearly regularly-occurring photographs of bleeding babies and children in the arms of screaming mothers and of elderly people fleeing from their bombed houses in Rafah, Khan Yunis and Balata. Parents dangling their children from balconies to enable them to flee to safety. Tall buildings that have collapsed and heaps of rubble between which people try to gather their household goods. And the flood of reports and complaints of humiliations. Every day on the front pages of the Palestinian newspapers there are pictures of mass funerals and shackled young people, standing in line with their hands up, young men being led away blindfolded, or curled up on the ground with IDF soldiers standing over them, rifles at the ready.
We largely don't hear about this in the American media, even in those sources that are regularly derided as "pro-Palestinian," like the New York Times and National Public Radio, nor do we see those scenes on our television screens.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

A good Washington Post editorial yesterday on Howard Dean, Beyond the Mainstream. If only more Democratic primary voters agreed with these sentiments....

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica.com quotes from the obituary of J.B. Segal, a noted scholar of Semitic languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, in the University of London. He taught there from 1961-1979. J.B. Segal recently published the Catalogue of the Aramaic and Mandaic Incantation Bowls in the British Museum, together with an article by Erica C.D. Hunter. I have been using this volume in the last few days to do research for my paper at the Association for Jewish Studies, which is on pictorial and symbolic depictions in the incantation bowls, with comparisons to the Greek Magical Papyri and later Jewish magical manuscripts. My paper is entitled, "Demons, Characters, and Angelic Alphabets: Pictorial depictions in Jewish amulets and texts of ritual power." Here is the abstract:

The Aramaic incantation bowls, dating from the 4th-8th centuries C.E., are inscribed earthenware bowls whose purpose was to exorcise demons, cure illness, protect against evil spirits, and save one’s children from Lilith and other demons. They were used by Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, and polytheists in Sassanian Babylonia. Most studies of the Aramaic incantation bowls, found in archaeological excavations in present-day Iraq and Iran, have concentrated on the written texts and not on the pictorial depictions on the bowls. In fact, the ancient remains of the incantation bowls, metal amulets from Israel and Syria, incised gems from the eastern Mediterranean, and papyri texts of ritual power from Egypt are filled with images – of demons, of the person to be exorcised, and of weapons directed against evil forces. The images also include what the ancient texts call "characters" – letter-like figures that seem to belong to unknown alphabets. Pictures and characters also appear in the ritual power texts found in the Cairo Geniza, in medieval Hebrew manuscripts, and on Jewish amulets made up to the present day. In this paper, I will be examining the images found on the bowls and their relation to the texts of the same bowls, in comparison with images on Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek amulets and papyri from Israel and Egypt. This paper will examine the images and discuss what they mean, and how they relate to the accompanying texts. Why did those who made the bowls and other amulets find it necessary and meaningful to use pictures and characters in concert with words? Do the pictures and characters cross cultural and political boundaries, as the words of the spells so frequently do? Were they considered efficacious when used alone, or was it necessary to accompany them with words? This paper will argue that it is important to analyze the pictures along with the words in order to fully appreciate this aspect of ancient Jewish material culture.


I may not manage to do everything I planned to in this ambitious abstract, but I will definitely be speaking about the incantation bowls, both Aramaic and Mandaic.



Steven Weiss at Protocols asks why the organized Jewish community in the U.S. and France is not objecting to the proposed French ban on wearing articles of clothing or adornment that indicate religious affiliation in public schools (yarmulkes, large crosses, or head-scarves). I think he's right. I'm definitely against the oppression of women (if only for my own personal interest), but I also think that if women wish to wear head-scarves, they should be able to.

As he says, "If I'll be allowed to read into that, it seems they're against religious symbols as an oppression of women -- but crosses, and yarmulkes are definitely not symbols of oppression, and while you could argue that headscarves are, you could also argue that they aren't -- it seems an appropriate moderate religious position to consent to, short of a burka or a chador. "

And what about married Jewish women who cover their hair with sheytels (wigs), scarves, or hats? Or who wear modest clothing from neck to ankles? Does this mean that married Jewish women teachers will also have to uncover their hair if they are teaching at French public schools?

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Jim Davila at PaleoJudaica has a very good fisking of anti-gay arguments made by David Klinghoffer about gay marriage. He exposes Klinghoffer's shoddy argumentation in a detailed way. Well worth reading.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Time Magazine Europe, in this article, Seven Days Of Hatred , recounts the many and various kinds of hate crimes committed on the European continent -- especially against Jews, Roma, gay people, and Muslims (via Andrew Sullivan).

In the last few days I have read an article about prominent feminists in France who have called for banning the veil (hijab) in French schools and universities, on the basis that it furthers the oppression of women in Islam. I wonder what they are thinking. Do they really imagine this will free Muslim women? Instead it will make it further impossible for Muslim women to contemplate being both Muslim and modern, or Muslim and feminist. If the state officially opposes women wearing hijab, it makes the state seem anti-Muslim, and it makes wearing hijab seem like an action that strikes a blow for Islam.

It seems to me that we have here a contemporary example of the 19th century French "civilizing mission," in which Jews and other colonized peoples (especially in the French North African colonies) must conform to what the metropolis considers to be "civilized" in order to attain a modicum of acceptance. When the French Assembly was debating whether to emancipate the Jews of France just after the Revolution, one formulation put forward was to give all rights to the Jews as individuals, but none to the Jews as a group -- in other words, for Jews really to receive equal treatment as French citizens, they had to lose all signs of a distinctive Jewish religious and especially ethnic identity.

And this is why I still support the U.S. war to overthrow Saddam Hussein and the Baathists in Iraq -- Survey: Saddam Killed 61,000 in Baghdad.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Larry Derfner has written a very troubling article in today's Jerusalem Post -- The wages of denial.

The problem is that the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israel has no effect on Jews at all.

This is not a failure of the Israeli or Jewish heart. A nation at war doesn't feel for the losses of the other side – maybe for a particular individual, a child whose face they've seen and whose story they've learned, but not for the enemy in general.

IN FACT, I credit Israelis for having much more human decency than their enemy – they may be indifferent to the news of the deaths of Palestinian innocents, but at least you won't find crowds of them dancing and cheering. But while I don't expect Palestinian suffering to touch Jewish hearts, I do expect it to at least register in Jewish minds. If we want to think wisely about Israel and the Jewish people, about where we stand and where we're going, one of the things we must keep uppermost in our minds is that Israel is inflicting mammoth suffering on 3.3 million Palestinians.

But of course we don't. Instead, Jews have developed an amazingly efficient denial mechanism that automatically prevents any word or picture that shows what we're doing to the Palestinians from ever getting into our brains. Our minds are open to receive and store information only about what the Arabs are doing to us.

We've willed ourselves into ignorance of our surroundings, so that when bombs go off and Jews get killed, in Israel and elsewhere, we can't understand it as anything other than incorrigible, eternal Jew-hatred that has no connection whatsoever to what Israel is doing in the territories – because we've blanked our minds on what Israel is doing in the territories. Therefore, when our military and intelligence leaders tell us there is a connection between what we do to the Arabs and what they do to us, it's a huge shock.

Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon says we're being so harsh on the Palestinian population that they may never stop hating us, and we don't understand.

Were we being harsh?

What are these four ex-Shin Bet chiefs talking about? "Once and for all we have to admit that there is another side, and that they have feelings and they suffer, and that we are treating them in a disgraceful manner."

Yes, that's the only word I have for it. Disgraceful, says Avraham Shalom.

"To this day I don't understand why a tank that's driving on the streets of Ramallah also has to crush the cars parked on the sides," says Ya'acov Peri.


He continues with these painfully sharp remarks:

We don't see it, but everybody else in the world does, above all the Muslims. It's true that plenty of them hate all Jews no matter what we do – but why did this wave of Muslim violence against Diaspora Jews begin exactly when the intifada made its debut on the nightly news?

Just because those Muslims are anti-Semites doesn't mean that Israel isn't treating the Palestinians disgracefully, and anybody who doesn't see the connection between that disgraceful treatment and the savage actions of anti-Semites – whether in Jerusalem, Istanbul or Paris – is unconscious.

But unconscious is what we Jews have decided to become.


I think he is correct. It is so easy when one is suffering at the hands of another to be oblivious to the suffering that one is inflicting on that same other. When I first saw the photographs of the separation fence going almost entirely around Qalqilyah, on the West Bank, I was shocked.

I was once in Qalqilyah, over ten years ago, during the first intifada. Soldiers on the main road to the city wouldn't let us in, so we drove a short way from there and walked through the orchards surrounding the city until we got into it. You can't do that now. Now the only way to enter the city is to go through the checkpoint. I imagine that the farmers who live in the city are now entirely cut off from their orchards and fields.

I understand why Israelis want to build the fence/wall -- in the belief or hope that it will stop suicide bombers. But I think it will provide only the illusion of security, and make it even easier to ignore what Israelis are doing to Palestinians.

This is not to excuse anti-semitism, as I think I have made clear many times in this blog. I don't believe that anti-semitism is the Jews' "fault" -- I think, on the contrary, that anti-semitism is like a virus, and that when the body politic is weakened, it can flare up again. The conflict (let's be honest -- the war) between Israelis and Palestinians is real -- it's not a figment of the anti-semitic imagination, and real wars engender real hatreds. Let's just say that war makes it possible for many different viruses of hatred to flourish.

When I heard this morning about the bombings in Turkey, I was very disheartened. I can only imagine how the people of Istanbul feel now that their city has been devastated by two massive bombings within a week. But it did make me realize one thing. It is very easy as a Jew to fall into the illusion that we are uniquely singled out for attacks -- but it's not true. Thus I don't think there is a one-to-one relationship between Israeli actions against Palestinians and attacks upon Jews outside of Israel. On September 11, Al-Qaeda struck at power centers in the United States -- not at Israel. Jews and Israel are one target of Al-Qaeda -- but only within a complex web of associations that they make between the U.S., Europe, Israel, Arab regimes, etc.


Here is an article on a cool archaeological find in Jerusalem -- an inscription on the misnamed "Absalom's Tomb" -- Scholars Discover Parts of New Testament. Texts from the New Testament referring to figures known from the New Testament were engraved on the tomb by 4th century Christian visitors.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Another good British editorial on the Istanbul bombings and the blame-Israel response: The liberalism of fools.


What has happened to the liberal media in Europe that the slaughter of innocent worshippers and the desecration of ancient synagogues in Istanbul should evoke implicit criticism, not of the perpetrators, but of Turkey's ally Israel? Since the last attack on an Istanbul synagogue in 1986 by Palestinian terrorists led by Saddam's late protégé Abu Nidal, a great deal has changed. Then, the condemnation of the killers was universal and unconditional. Now, each new atrocity against Jews is greeted by new attempts at justification or relativisation. When Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir expounded his anti-Semitic conspiracy theory at a recent gathering of Islamic leaders, all 57 present applauded. Western responses were muted. As the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, said yesterday: "Radicals are preaching hate and nobody is protesting."

Nor is the new anti-Semitism limited to the Muslim world. On Saturday, a Jewish school near Paris was burnt down. So common have such attacks become in France that Le Monde did not even consider this incident worth reporting yesterday, but President Chirac appears to have woken up to the danger - late in the day. A poll sponsored by the European Commission finds that Israel is now considered by EU citizens to be the greatest threat to world peace. A liberal consensus is emerging that holds Israel responsible for the resurgence of anti-Semitism. To blame the victim is to exonerate the perpetrator. The carnage in Turkey should be a warning to Europe.



Even the Guardian (U.K.) is finally getting it about rising anti-semitism: Our dulled nerve. As they ask, after recounting the recent bombings in Istanbul and the arson of a Jewish school in Paris over the weekend:

Why is the liberal left not sufficiently concerned about the growth of anti-semitism? On this year's anti-war march in Paris, Jewish peace activists were beaten up by other demonstrators. There were less dramatic confrontations on London's million-strong march. It did not matter to the attackers that Jewish writers and activists have been vocal against the Iraq war. Nor did the attackers care that many criticise the current Israeli government's policies towards the Palestinians. Their victims were targets just because they are Jews.

Even the police are now being more proactive in pursuing people spreading virulent anti-semitic literature or inciting religious hatred. Could not the liberal left, which in an earlier era vigilantly sought to protect Jews from prejudice and bigotry, rediscover its old values?


Honestly, I think the liberal left doesn't want to touch this issue because they've bought into the anti-semitic myth that all Jews=Israel and that supporting Jews against anti-semites=supporting the Sharon government. I remember an incident that happened to me in 1981, right after Israel bombed the Osirak reactor in Iraq (thank God!). I was talking to a friend -- who knew that I was Jewish but who had no idea what my politics about Israel were (I'm not sure I really had formulated them very clearly at that point), who launched into an attack on me because of what the Israeli government had done. As if I were the Israeli ambassador or at least an Israeli citizen. For him, Jew=Israeli, and thus I was fair game for his criticism. In other respects his politics were quite radical and I'm sure he would have asserted that he was anti-racist. But when it came to Israel he had a big blind spot, and coupled with his large dose of ignorance about Jews, it ended up with his attacking me for Israeli policies and actions.


Monday, November 17, 2003

Well, as I suspected when hearing about the simultaneous car bombs yesterday, Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for attacks. Part of the statement from an Al-Qaeda spokesman reads: "The attacks against Jews and America will follow. Let America and Israel cry for their dead from today and the destruction that they will suffer."


Saturday, November 15, 2003

It seems likely that Al-Qaida has struck again -- Car Bombs at Istanbul Synagogues Kill 17. One of the synagogues is called "Neve Shalom" -- oasis of peace. They were attacked during Shabbat services -- including a bar mitzvah at one of the synagogues.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

It appears that an exhibit of anti-abortion posters that compare abortion to lynchings of black men and to the Holocaust is traveling around U.S. campuses. We had the so-called Genocide Awareness Project come to Ithaca College a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of Students for Life. Protocols noticed this trend also. Randall Terry, the head of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, also came to speak.

This event followed soon after another group's use of the Holocaust to further its own agenda on the Cornell campus -- PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) brought an exhibit called "Holocaust on Your Plate," which compared slaughterhouses and factory farms to Nazi concentration camps.

As a wise student commentary noted in the Ithacan, the Ithaca College student newspaper,

George Bush is not Adolf Hitler, meat eaters are not Nazis and aborted fetuses are not Holocaust victims. Nevertheless, activists across the political spectrum bring Third Reich rhetoric and symbolism into completely unrelated debates to evoke emotion and prove the gravity of their causes. . . .

All these Nazi analogies are undoubtedly problematic. They allow our already weak sense of historical understanding to disintegrate further until the Holocaust is reduced to a simple icon of evil. Furthermore, they muddle our collective ability to grapple with the complexities of current issues. Activists, in shoddy attempts at conveying the gravity of their causes, appropriate and exploit this historical imagery, thereby reducing the horrible and complex atrocities of events like the Holocaust to mere symbolism.

Interestingly, the “Genocide Awareness Project” advocates threw a few additional historical images into their display. Furthering the emotionality of their cause, they compared aborted fetuses to Ku Klux Klan victims and Planned Parenthood to al-Qaida. Like the Holocaust analogies, these comparisons effectively reduced complex historical events to symbols, manipulating them into support for an anti-abortion effort.

While these ridiculous analogies were effective in creating a stir, they weren’t exactly successful in sparking thoughtful discussion about abortion and reproductive rights. In fact, more people seem to be discussing the group’s approach and their free speech rights than their pro-life ideology.

Perhaps, though, thoughtful discussion wasn’t really the objective. Like the other advocates trying to push their opinions, the Students for Life resorted to Nazi imagery for its shock value. They did manage to raise eyebrows, but they failed to raise awareness of the complex issues involved in both abortion and the Holocaust.


The author is absolutely correct that such misuses of the memory of the Holocaust make it into an "icon of evil" and make us lose all sense of the historical specificity of the complex web of events that we place under the title "Holocaust."

I guess I haven't been here for quite a while -- I've been pretty busy, doing research for my Society of Biblical Literature paper (the conference is in two weeks), and reading for the course I'll be teaching with another professor next semester, on Biblical Interpretation in Judaism and Christianity.

This is the abstract of the paper I'm writing:

Divine Weeping and God’s Right Arm: A vision of eschatological sorrow in Sefer Hekhalot (3 Enoch)

In Sefer Hekhalot (3 Enoch), Metatron, the Prince of the divine Presence, reveals to Rabbi Ishmael the secrets of the heavenly world, the fate of the human soul before birth and after death, and the course of ultimate redemption and the coming of the Messiah. 3 Enoch explicitly describes how each person will be judged after his death. The souls of the righteous will fly above the Throne of Glory in the presence of God. The souls of the wicked go down to Sheol to be punished with rods of burning coal. The souls of the intermediate are purged with suffering and then join the souls of the righteous. One important task of the “fathers of the world” (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and the other righteous souls is to intercede on behalf of the suffering people of Israel on earth. They ask God why he has not saved his people and why his right hand, by which he stretched out the heavens, is still set behind him? As part of his heavenly journey, Rabbi Ishmael is shown the vision of God’s right hand, “which has been banished behind him because of the destruction of the Temple.” In a striking image, the five fingers of God’s hand weep in sorrow and five tears fall into the Great Sea and make the whole world quake. The souls of the righteous beseech God’s hand three times a day with the prayer, “Awake! Awake! Clothe yourself in strength, arm of the Lord” (Isa. 51:9). Only when God realizes that there are no righteous on earth will he deliver his right hand and bring the final redemption.

In this paper I will explore several themes that emerge from Sefer Hekhalot: the role of the righteous dead in protesting God’s judgment, and their ritual cry to awaken God’s arm; the hypostasis of God’s strength in the figure of his right arm set behind him, and of his sorrow in the image of the weeping fingers of his right hand; and the theurgical intertwining of the fate of the people of Israel and God’s strength. This paper will explore the ways in which Sefer Hekhalot transforms theological conceptions found in earlier midrashic and talmudic literature (for example, Lamentations Rabbah proem 24, b. Hag. 5b), and proves a crucial means of transmission to the later kabbalistic and Hasidic traditions.


Today I have been enjoying a beautiful clear late fall day, raking leaves (an abundance has fallen on my lawn) and harvesting the last of the Swiss chard, which is beginning to droop. We've had a pretty hard frost the last couple of nights and it just killed the tomato plants and the dahlias.

And the lunar eclipse last night was beautiful. I didn't watch the whole thing, but I did catch the moon when most of it was in shadow -- of course, I could still see that part, but dimly. There were many stars revealed when the moon grew dark. Later on in the night, when the moon had returned, it whitened the sky so that I could see very few stars. And for once we could see it here, in usually cloudy Ithaca.


Sunday, October 26, 2003

Another piece of good (baseball) news -- Marlins Win World Series. I wanted a Red Sox vs. Cubs series, but at least the Yankees lost....
The New York Times reports that Many Iraqis Find They Like Life Without Hussein. It gives me hope that despite the many mistakes the U.S. has made in Iraq since the end of the war, despite what seems to have been our poor planning on what to do afterwards, that eventually we will help create a much better situation for the people of Iraq.

More on International ANSWER and the International Action Center. This is a letter about a U.S. committee that formed to protest the "disgraceful show-trial of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia."

And the IAC site also includes a fawning press release about the wonders of North Korea.

Curious about the Workers World Party -- here's information from their newspaper. Prominently displayed toward the bottom of the opening page are links to both ANSWER and the IAC.

An interesting critique by an anti-war activist of the alliance between International Answer and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ, who together organized today's anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. He points out that ANSWER's parent group is the International Action Center, sponsored by the Worker's World Party, which supports North Korea and denies that Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslavia attempted genocide against Bosnian & Kosovar Muslims. Some information about ANSWER:
The dirty open secret on the American left--universally, but rarely openly, acknowledged--is that ANSWER is led at its core by an outfit called the International Action Center (IAC), which is itself a front group for the reactionary and Stalin-nostalgist Workers World Party. What nobody wants to say out loud is clearly evident: IAC and Workers World support genocide.

IAC's frontman, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, is a founding member of the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, and IAC routinely dismissed accounts of the atrocities against Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians as imperialist "lies." Even now, IAC supports Milosevic almost without reservation, portraying him as a defender of socialism. During the worst of the Bosnia bloodshed, IAC4s Clark travelled to Bosnia to meet with Serb strongman Radovan Karadzic (now indicted on war crimes charges) and offer his support.

Workers World also supported Deng Xiaoping in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, portraying the protesters as "counter-revolutionaries."

In 1991, Workers World split the movement aganst Desert Storm by refusing to condemn Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. In the ensuing years, Clark and IAC dismissed human rights allegations against Saddam as more imperialist propaganda.

Workers World Party--whose cadre such as Brian Becker are ANSWER's most visible spokespersons--is a vigorous apologist of mass murder.
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Click here for International ANSWER. Among many other things on this web page (their opening page is much too big and takes forever to load, by the way -- they need a better webmaster), they have a report on the Palestine Solidarity conference that was recently held at Rutgers. Among other things, the "Palestine Solidarity Movement" affirms that (as "Principle of Unity #5) that: "As a solidarity movement, it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation." Hmm, I guess that means that suicide bombings aimed at the massacre of civilians is morally justified by the anti-imperialist struggle....


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

A good critique of Krugman's op-ed as well as more information about Mahathir's anti-semitic career (and anti-democratic rule in Malaysia).



A good critique by Andrew Sullivan of Paul Krugman's column today in the New York Times on Mahathir's anti-semitism. I was very puzzled by the same passage from Krugman.

Not long ago Washington was talking about Malaysia as an important partner in the war on terror. Now Mr. Mahathir thinks that to cover his domestic flank, he must insert hateful words into a speech mainly about Muslim reform. That tells you, more accurately than any poll, just how strong the rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia has become. Thanks to its war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon, Washington has squandered post-9/11 sympathy and brought relations with the Muslim world to a new low.


I don't think that Mahathir needs George Bush or Ariel Sharon as an excuse for his anti-semitism (since he's been making anti-semitic statements and doing anti-semitic things for decades, including banning the showing of Schindler's List in Malaysia). I find it peculiar that Krugman seems to be claiming that Mahathir needed an external provocation to "insert" anti-semitism into a speech.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

An interesting survey of world reactions to Mahathir's speech in the Washington Post -- Anti-Semitism or Political Correctness?. Among the most interesting is an excerpt from the commentary of Marwan Bishara, a Palestinian columnist for the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon.

Lumping all Muslims and all Jews as politically uniform is misleading at best. In the U.S., for example, Jewish voices critical of American foreign policy are louder than most others. And in Israel, an increasing number of Israeli Jews oppose their country's occupation and support the Palestinian right of self-determination. Mahathir's statement can only undermine the efforts of those Jews who do not find themselves represented by the government of Israel and damage the just struggle of the Palestinians people.



An excellent opinion piece from the Washington Post on Mahathir's speech and its reception -- Return to Wannsee (washingtonpost.com). He says:
....But what ails part of the Islamic, especially Arab, world, is both anti-Semitism, which is rampant and state-tolerated, and the sort of thinking that underlies it. The belief that Jews have some sort of mystical powers -- that they are smarter and, of course, more diabolical than others -- provides the Islamic world with a handy explanation of why more than 1 billion Muslims cannot seem to cope with little Israel. But what corrupts and enfeebles large parts of the Islamic world is not Jews in either New York or Tel Aviv but its own self-serving and inept leadership -- in other words, some of the very people who stood and cheered the speech.

Sadly, throughout the Islamic world, anti-Zionism has been corrupted into anti-Semitism. Saudi clerics preach that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make their Passover matzos. That classic forgery, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," can be found throughout the Arab world. The tenets of traditional European anti-Semitism have been adopted in the Islamic world -- the globalization of crackpot conspiracy theories. Governments either look the other way or offer support.

Finally, Bush Tells Malaysian Leader That Comments on Jews Were Wrong. This article explains why he hesitated to say anything immediately after Mahathir's speech. A strange story, in my opinion. Condoleeza Rice also said, that "everyone thinks the comments were hateful; they are outrageous," and that Mr. Bush regarded them as "reprehensible." She added, "I don't think they are emblematic of the Muslim world." I hope they are not emblematic of the Muslim world, but they may in fact be emblematic of much of the undemocratic "leadership" of the Muslim world, since as the article says, "Mr. Mahathir's speech on Thursday received a standing ovation from Muslim leaders of many nations, including Saudi Arabia, who were attending the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim group." And the president seems to have a strange concern not to embarass Mahathir, as a White House spokesman says, "Clearly, we had to respond," a White House official said today. "But the president wanted to do it in a quiet way, without further public embarrassment for Mahathir." Seems to me that Mahathir took care of his own public embarrassment last week.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Leon Wieseltier's excoriation of Tony Judt's new-fangled one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, What is Not to be Done, is a treasure. Read it all.
In this article, Anti-Semitism: The blood motif, Amnon Rubenstein of Ha'aretz discusses the European roots of Muslim anti-semitism. He says: "The blood motif [the blood libel] originally had no Muslim parallel. The Jews are an inferior subject people but they are not different bodily from Muslims, who are also circumcised. The Damascus libel [of 1840] was therefore imported to the Muslim east from Christian Europe. This process is occurring even more strongly in our own time. 'The Protocols,' [of the Elders of Zion] for example, are an import from Czarist Russia."

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The Times hasn't seen fit to print an article, but they did denounce Mahathir's speech in this editorial, Islamic Anti-Semitism.
It is hard to know what is more alarming — a toxic statement of hatred of Jews by the Malaysian prime minister at an Islamic summit meeting this week or the unanimous applause it engendered from the kings, presidents and emirs in the audience. The words uttered by the prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, in a speech to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference on Thursday were sadly familiar: Jews, he asserted, may be few in number, but they seek to run the world....

When Israeli officials noted that such talk brought Hitler to mind, the assembled leaders were mystified. Yemen's foreign minister said he agreed entirely with his Malaysian colleague, adding, "Israelis and Jews control most of the economy and the media in the world." The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Maher, called the speech "a very, very wise assessment." Even the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, said the speech was "very correct."...

Sympathy for the Muslims' plight must not be confused with the acceptance of racism. Most Muslims have indeed been shoddily treated — by their own leaders, who gather at feckless summit meetings instead of offering their people what they most need: human rights, education and democracy.

The European Union was asked to include a condemnation of Mr. Mahathir's speech in its statement yesterday ending its own summit. It chose not to, adding a worry that displays of anti-Semitism are being met with inexcusable nonchalance.


And what a big surprise that the Europeans aren't taking anti-semitism seriously -- when have they ever?

Friday, October 17, 2003

As Andrew Sullivan and LGF report, EU fumbles over response to Malaysian PM's remarks against Jews . Apparently the French Prime Minister, Jacques Chirac, objected to the EU condemning Mahathir's anti-Jewish remarks, saying that it was not appropriate to do so at an EU summit. The British, on the other hand, called in the Malaysian ambassador and issued a stiff protest. The statement that Chirac, as well as the Greek Prime Minister, objected to read as follows: "His unacceptable comments hinder all our efforts to further interethnic and religious harmony, and have no place in a decent world. Such false and anti-Semitic remarks are as offensive to Muslims as they are to others." Why is Chirac doing this? Because he thinks it will endear France to Muslim leaders? Or is this a sop to the Muslims of France -- instead of truly accepting them as fellow-citizens, throwing them an anti-semitic bone, turning their frustrations with French society against the Jews?

Under this title, Malaysian Calls on Muslims to Resist Jewish Influence, the Washington Post reports on the Malaysian prime minister's remarks yesterday against "the enemy" (i.e., the Jews). What is the Post's problem? Do they simply not recognize blatant anti-semitism when they see it? Or are they trying to gloss it over because a Muslim leader uttered these remarks, not a member of the Aryan Nations?

At least the Post reported on his speech. A search of the New York Times web site for today reveals references only to wire service reports and nothing in the print edition.
Protests of Mahathir's speech from Europe and the U.S., but a standing ovation from the Muslim leaders present, including "Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri." Statements from Karzai and the Egyptian and Yemenite foreign ministers saw no anti-semitism.

"This was a pep talk to the Muslim countries for them to work hard and look to the future," Maher [the Egyptian Foreign Minister] said. "But as soon as you have any criticism of Israel, then there are people who are very eager to rush to condemnation, without comprehending what it's all about."


Apparently Israel=the entire Jewish people, according to the Egyptian prime minister. And this from one of the leaders of a supposedly moderate Muslim country.

A fairly decent report on Mahathir by CNN's Wolf Blitzer -- Malaysian leader stirs controversy at Islamic summit opening - Oct. 16, 2003. This report points out that President Bush is due to meet with him on his trip to Asia next week.
And, on Al-Jazeera, this interesting report on Mahathir's speech. It elides the difference between "the Jews" and the state of Israel (as Mahathir himself does), but adds some useful information about him, for example his condemnation of suicide bombers last year -- Muslims urged to use brains not brawn. Their report also points out that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who is also attending the conference, "has waged a brutal war against Muslim Chechnya."
And now, the EU slams Mahathir comments as anti-Semitic.
U.S. and Italy condemn Mahathir for 'anti-Semitic' speech.
Well, the Australians are denouncing Mahathir.
An Israeli perspective on the American League pennant race -- All-nighters for Red Sox nation in Israel.

According to this AP story on Mahathir's speech, Malaysian Urges Muslims to Unite Vs. Jews, even U.S. allies like Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan (whom the U.S. installed in power) speak highly about his speech and do not even mention, much less denounce, his anti-semitism. Two quotes:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said it was "a shrewd and very deep assessment.''

"It is great to hear Prime Minister Mahathir speak so eloquently on the problems of the ummah (Muslim world) and ways to remedy them,'' added Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "His speech was an eye-opener to a lot of us and that is what the Islamic world should do.''


Mahathir is the incoming chairman of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (I got the name wrong in my previous post) and apparently such a farrago of Nazi anti-semitic lies does not disqualify him from the chairmanship. I would personally prefer to think that his views do not represent the 1.3 billion Muslims in this world. Considering that the Muslim "leaders" who heard his speech are for the most part ruling by undemocratic means (e.g., Mubarak of Egypt, the royal family of Saudi Arabia), that may be true -- but who is speaking out against this nonsense in the Muslim world (or elsewhere as well)?

There are times when the blogosphere really does issue a wake-up call to something that has been ignored or glossed over in other media. I first heard about this on Protocols and LGF.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Muhammad Mahathir, in a speech to the Organization of Islamic Countries, which is meeting this week in Malaysia, blamed the Jewish people for the troubles of the Muslim world, calling us "the enemy" and delivering the following gems taken straight from the playbook of paranoid anti-semitism:

There is a feeling of hopelessness among the Muslim countries and their people. They feel that they can do nothing right. They believe that things can only get worse. The Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews. They will forever be poor, backward and weak. Some believe, as I have said, this is the Will of Allah, that the proper state of the Muslims is to be poor and oppressed in this world.

But is it true that we should do and can do nothing for ourselves? Is it true that 1.3 billion people can exert no power to save themselves from the humiliation and oppression inflicted upon them by a much smaller enemy? Can they only lash back blindly in anger? Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?

It cannot be that there is no other way. 1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategise and then to counter attack. As Muslims we must seek guidance from the Al-Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. Surely the 23 years' struggle of the Prophet can provide us with some guidance as to what we can and should do. . . .

It is surety time that we pause to think. But will this be wasting time? For well over half a century we have fought over Palestine. What have we achieved? Nothing. We are worse off than before. If we had paused to think then we could have devised a plan, a strategy that can win us final victory. Pausing and thinking calmly is not a waste of time. We have a need to make a strategic retreat and to calmly assess our situation.

We are actually very strong. 1.3 billion people cannot be simply wiped out. The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. . . .

But the defence of the ummah, the counter attack need not start only after we have put our houses in order. Even today we have sufficient assets to deploy against our detractors. It remains for us to identify them and to work out how to make use of them to stop the carnage caused by the enemy. This is entirely possible if we stop to think, to plan, to strategise and to take the first few critical steps. Even these few steps can yield positive results....

The enemy will probably welcome these proposals and we will conclude that the promoters are working for the enemy. But think. We are up against a people who think. They survived 2000 years of pogroms not by hitting back, but by thinking. They invented and successfully promoted Socialism, Communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these they have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power. We cannot fight them through brawn alone. We must use our brains also.

Of late because of their power and their apparent success they have become arrogant. And arrogant people, like angry people will make mistakes, will forget to think.


Emphases are mine. Those who still think that Nazi anti-semitism died in 1945 are living in a dream world. The Anti-Defamation League has called on the leaders of civilized nations to denounce this speech. Let's see if "civilized" nations now recognize how vile these sentiments are--I will be very curious to see if any of the European countries denounce his speech or even notice it.




Thursday, October 16, 2003

Another synagogue found in the Golan Heights is going to be put back together next summer with the help of a giant crane, as Ha'aretz reports in Slowly but surely, ancient Golan synagogue rises again. Apparently, 25 ancient synagogues have been found on the Golan. This one was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 C.E. In Katzrin, also on the Golan, another ancient synagogue was found and has been partially reconstructed, along with other buildings in the same ancient Jewish village -- a very cool site to visit if you're going to Israel (and don't have political problems with visiting the Golan Heights).

Sunday, October 12, 2003

I just recently discovered this blog, Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall (I can't remember which blog referred me to it). It's a good counter to all the right-wing blogs that I read and has been making some good points about the outing of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent. His analysis seems better to me than what Andrew Sullivan has been saying recently on this topic.

While cruising through LGF today, I found a link to a speech David Kay made (Statement on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq Survey Group) on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At this point, it seems that they have found information on the development of biological weapons, some hints to the continued development of chemical weapons (though no actual chemical weapons themselves), evidence on continuing development of missiles past the permitted range (150 km), and evidence of a continuing desire by Saddam to develop nuclear weapons.

Some excerpts (emphasis mine):

....We have not yet found stocks of weapons, but we are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapon stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone. We are actively engaged in searching for such weapons based on information being supplied to us by Iraqis. . . .

What have we found and what have we not found in the first 3 months of our work?

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admissions of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN. Let me just give you a few examples of these concealment efforts, some of which I will elaborate on later:

* A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.

* A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN.

* Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home, one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.

* New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.

* Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS).

* A line of UAVs not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of  500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.

* Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited SCUD variant missiles, a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001 and that cooperating Iraqi scientists have said they were told to conceal from the UN.

* Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km - well beyond the 150 km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed Iraq to threaten targets through out the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.

* Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology related to 1,300 km range ballistic missiles --probably the No Dong -- 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles, and other prohibited military equipment. . . .

With regard to biological warfare activities, which has been one of our two initial areas of focus, ISG teams are uncovering significant information - including research and development of BW-applicable organisms, the involvement of Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) in possible BW activities, and deliberate concealment activities. All of this suggests Iraq after 1996 further compartmentalized its program and focused on maintaining smaller, covert capabilities that could be activated quickly to surge the production of BW agents.

Debriefings of IIS officials and site visits have begun to unravel a clandestine network of laboratories and facilities within the security service apparatus. This network was never declared to the UN and was previously unknown. We are still working on determining the extent to which this network was tied to large-scale military efforts or BW terror weapons, but this clandestine capability was suitable for preserving BW expertise, BW capable facilities and continuing R&D - all key elements for maintaining a capability for resuming BW production. The IIS also played a prominent role in sponsoring students for overseas graduate studies in the biological sciences, according to Iraqi scientists and IIS sources, providing an important avenue for furthering BW-applicable research. This was the only area of graduate work that the IIS appeared to sponsor.

Discussions with Iraqi scientists uncovered agent R&D work that paired overt work with nonpathogenic organisms serving as surrogates for prohibited investigation with pathogenic agents. Examples include: B. Thurengiensis (Bt) with B. anthracis (anthrax), and medicinal plants with ricin. In a similar vein, two key former BW scientists, confirmed that Iraq under the guise of legitimate activity developed refinements of processes and products relevant to BW agents. The scientists discussed the development of improved, simplified fermentation and spray drying capabilities for the simulant Bt that would have been directly applicable to anthrax, and one scientist confirmed that the production line for Bt could be switched to produce anthrax in one week if the seed stock were available.

A very large body of information has been developed through debriefings, site visits, and exploitation of captured Iraqi documents that confirms that Iraq concealed equipment and materials from UN inspectors when they returned in 2002. One noteworthy example is a collection of reference strains that ought to have been declared to the UN. Among them was a vial of live C. botulinum Okra B. from which a biological agent can be produced. This discovery - hidden in the home of a BW scientist - illustrates the point I made earlier about the difficulty of locating small stocks of material that can be used to covertly surge production of deadly weapons. The scientist who concealed the vials containing this agent  has identified a large cache of agents that he was asked, but refused, to conceal. ISG is actively searching for this second cache....

Multiple sources with varied access and reliability have told ISG that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW program after 1991. Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced - if not entirely destroyed - during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections. We are carefully examining dual-use, commercial chemical facilities to determine whether these were used or planned as alternative production sites.

We have also acquired information related to Iraq's CW doctrine and Iraq's war plans for OIF, but we have not yet found evidence to confirm pre-war reporting that Iraqi military units were prepared to use CW against Coalition forces. Our efforts to collect and exploit intelligence on Iraq's chemical weapons program have thus far yielded little reliable information on post-1991 CW stocks and CW agent production, although we continue to receive and follow leads related to such stocks. We have multiple reports that Iraq retained CW munitions made prior to 1991, possibly including mustard - a long-lasting chemical agent - but we have to date been unable to locate any such munitions....

With regard to Iraq's nuclear program, the testimony we have obtained from Iraqi scientists and senior government officials should clear up any doubts about whether Saddam still wanted to obtain nuclear weapons. They have told ISG that Saddam Husayn remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons. These officials assert that Saddam would have resumed nuclear weapons development at some future point. Some indicated a resumption after Iraq was free of sanctions. At least one senior Iraqi official believed that by 2000 Saddam had run out of patience with waiting for sanctions to end and wanted to restart the nuclear program. The Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) beginning around 1999 expanded its laboratories and research activities and increased its overall funding levels. This expansion may have been in initial preparation for renewed nuclear weapons research, although documentary evidence of this has not been found, and this is the subject of continuing investigation by ISG....

With regard to delivery systems, the ISG team has discovered sufficient evidence to date to conclude that the Iraqi regime was committed to delivery system improvements that would have, if OIF had not occurred, dramatically breached UN restrictions placed on Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War.

Detainees and co-operative sources indicate that beginning in 2000 Saddam ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400km and up to 1000km and that measures to conceal these projects from UNMOVIC were initiated in late-2002, ahead of the arrival of inspectors. Work was also underway for a clustered engine liquid propellant missile, and it appears the work had progressed to a point to support initial prototype production of some parts and assemblies. According to a cooperating senior detainee, Saddam concluded that the proposals from both the liquid-propellant and solid-propellant missile design centers would take too long. For instance, the liquid-propellant missile project team forecast first delivery in six years. Saddam countered in 2000 that he wanted the missile designed and built inside of six months. On the other hand several sources contend that Saddam's range requirements for the missiles grew from 400-500km in 2000 to 600-1000km in 2002.

ISG has gathered testimony from missile designers at Al Kindi State Company that Iraq has reinitiated work on converting SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missiles into ballistic missiles with a range goal of about 250km. Engineering work was reportedly underway in early 2003, despite the presence of UNMOVIC. This program was not declared to the UN. ISG is presently seeking additional confirmation and details on this project. A second cooperative source has stated that the program actually began in 2001, but that it received added impetus in the run-up to OIF, and that missiles from this project were transferred to a facility north of Baghdad. This source also provided documentary evidence of instructions to convert SA-2s into surface-to-surface missiles.

ISG has obtained testimony from both detainees and cooperative sources that indicate that proscribed-range solid-propellant missile design studies were initiated, or already underway, at the time when work on the clustered liquid-propellant missile designs began.  The motor diameter was to be 800 to 1000mm, i.e. much greater than the 500-mm Ababil-100. The range goals cited for this system vary from over 400km up to 1000km, depending on the source and the payload mass.

A cooperative source, involved in the 2001-2002 deliberations on the long-range solid propellant project, provided ISG with a set of concept designs for a launcher designed to accommodate a 1m diameter by 9m length missile. The limited detail in the drawings suggest there was some way to go before launcher fabrication. The source believes that these drawings would not have been requested until the missile progress was relatively advanced, normally beyond the design state. The drawing are in CAD format, with files dated 09/01/02.

While we have obtained enough information to make us confident that this design effort was underway, we are not yet confident which accounts of the timeline and project progress are accurate and are now seeking to better understand this program and its actual progress at the time of OIF.

One cooperative source has said that he suspected that the new large-diameter solid-propellant missile was intended to have a CW-filled warhead, but no detainee has admitted any actual knowledge of plans for unconventional warheads for any current or planned ballistic missile. The suspicion expressed by the one source about a CW warhead was based on his assessment of the unavailability of nuclear warheads and potential survivability problems of biological warfare agent in ballistic missile warheads. This is an area of great interest and we are seeking additional information on warhead designs....

I have covered a lot of ground today, much of it highly technical. Although we are resisting drawing conclusions in this first interim report, a number of things have become clearer already as a result of our investigation, among them:

1. Saddam, at least as judged by those scientists and other insiders who worked in his military-industrial programs, had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Even those senior officials we have interviewed who claim no direct knowledge of any on-going prohibited activities readily acknowledge that Saddam intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.

2. In the delivery systems area there were already well advanced, but undeclared, on-going activities that, if OIF had not intervened, would have resulted in the production of missiles with ranges at least up to 1000 km, well in excess of the UN permitted range of 150 km. These missile activities were supported by a serious clandestine procurement program about which we have much still to learn.

3. In the chemical and biological weapons area we have confidence that there were at a minimum clandestine on-going research and development activities that were embedded in the Iraqi Intelligence Service. While we have much yet to learn about the exact work programs and capabilities of these activities, it is already apparent that these undeclared activities would have at a minimum facilitated chemical and biological weapons activities and provided a technically trained cadre.


Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A cool new find in Albania -- Fifth-century synagogue found in Albania.

Impressive remains of a synagogue dating from the fifth or sixth century CE have been revealed in the Albanian coastal city of Saranda, opposite the Greek island of Corfu. Initial excavations at the site were conducted some 20 years ago when Albania was under tight Communist rule.

The synagogue has come to light as the result of an invitation from the Archeology Institute of the Albanian Academy of Sciences, asking the Hebrew University Institute of Archeology to participate in a joint excavation and study project at the site. Working in the past few weeks have been professors Ehud Netzer and Gideon Foerster of the Hebrew University, together with Albanian archeologists Kosta Lako and Etleva Nalbani.

The synagogue underwent various periods of use, including its conversion into a church. Particularly noteworthy among the finds are two mosaic pavements. One features at its center a seven-branched menora flanked by an etrog and a shofar, symbols associated with the Jewish holidays. The other mosaic pavement, in the center section, contains a number of representations, including a variety of animals, trees, symbols alluding to biblical lore, and the facade of a structure resembling a temple (perhaps a Torah ark). Other mosaic pavements at the site preceded the building of the synagogue.


In my Jews in the Ancient and Medieval World course, we spent yesterday looking at slides of ancient synagogues, including many that had just the features found in this synagogue also on their mosaic floors. I wonder if there might be a zodiac with Helios also found there, as there has been at Beth Alpha, Hammat Tiberias, and other sites in Israel.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Well, at least one piece of good news -- the Red Sox will be in the playoffs (washingtonpost.com). Of course, they will be playing the Yankees, so their chance of reaching the World Series is slim. . . but still one can hope.

A good article by David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Report, on Toughing It Out in Israel:
We Israelis cannot end this conflict by ourselves. Even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sends helicopters to attack the endless ranks of "most wanted" intifada kingpins, and now even widens our retaliatory action to Syria, the bombers keep coming. Yet if we withdraw our settlers and soldiers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip without an accord, our enemies will perceive it as capitulation. They will not lay down their arms and embrace us.

We cannot impose peace on a people who have been so misled by their leader, Yasir Arafat, who returned from Camp David to assert, falsely, that Israel had refused viable Palestinian independence. Affected since by antiterrorism measures like border closings, mass detentions and missile strikes, most Palestinians have become even more hostile. And Mr. Arafat — who condemns the suicide bombings in English while, in Arabic, he asks for "a million martyrs" — will resist any new effort at engineering tranquillity.

But Israelis can do more to reach out to Palestinians over the heads of this manipulative leadership. Statehood for the Palestinians is not only in their interest, it is crucial to our own. Unless Israel can separate from the 3.5 million Palestinians, it cannot remain democratic and predominantly Jewish. And so we need to use every possible forum to underline our commitment to co-existence.

Our leaders must stress that Israel will make no concessions until Palestinian leaders condemn terrorism, jail perpetrators and educate for reconciliation. But they must also make clear that if such a Palestinian leadership emerges, Israel will rush to join it at the peace table. And they must reinforce the rhetoric with proof — by stopping expansion of the settlements and building the terrorist-thwarting "security barrier" along the Israel-West Bank border rather than inside the West Bank.

This is no quick fix. Indeed, there is no quick fix. But every day more Israelis and Palestinians succumb to the dead-end notion that our enemies are fundamentally different from ourselves, delightedly sacrificing their children for the cause. Such dehumanization shames and undermines us. We need our government to emphasize our desire for peace as relentlessly as it demands an end to terrorism. We must try to end the hopelessness, to persuade the mothers of Gaza that their children have something to live for — and, in the process, give ourselves the chance of something better to live for, too.



Gilad Kariv, of the Israel Religious Action Center of the Movement for Progressive Judaism, speaks very movingly, in an article in today's Ha'aretz about Kol Nidre, war and freeing the enslaved. First he comments on the purpose of the Kol Nidre prayer itself and the heshbon ha-nefesh -- self-examination -- that we must engage in:

How many times do we put down others in order to feel stronger ourselves? How many times do we suppress our uniqueness so that no one can say we are not part of the crowd? How often do we take a certain position because it is fashionable, because everyone thinks that way, because we are afraid of what others will say?

All the vows we have taken in the desire to find favor in the eyes of others, all the promises we have made that we never intended to keep, all the conventional behavior we adhere to although we know it harms us and those around us - all these are the focus of the Kol Nidre prayer today.

When I was sitting in synagogue today, one of the events that I thought about was the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, which began on October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur. I was in synagogue then also, attending the Harvard Hillel services in Memorial Church in Harvard Yard. When the terrible news that the war had broken out came to Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold, he announced it to all of us that Israel had been attacked.

Gilad Kariv continues:

For 30 years, ever since the day when a shrill siren echoed all over Israel, the ancient holy day has been associated with a terrible war that left over 3,000 Israeli families broken and hollow. This Yom Kippur, as the scars carved into the flesh of Israeli society stand out with jagged intensity because of the round number of years gone by, it is hard to ignore the profound analogy between the tragedy of Aaron, the bereaved father [of Nadav and Avihu, who died when they offered "strange fire" before God], and the tragedy of the families whose sons did not return from the battlefields of the Golan Heights and the wilderness of Sinai.

In the same way that Nadav and Avihu were guilty of the sin of hubris, in the same way that complacency became their undoing, so Israel in its younger days learned, through the most excruciating means, the heavy price paid for smugness, for becoming inebriated with power and victory. In the six years that followed the six days, Israeli society preferred to close its eyes, to wallow in its glorious past, to lose its fear of the future. The catastrophe, as we all know, was waiting around the corner.

There is a wonderful Hasidic saying attributed to Reb Simha Bunem of Przysucha: A person should always carry two notes in his pocket - one with the words: "For my sake alone was the world created," and another with the words: "I am but dust and ashes." More than any other day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is meant to remind us to slip that second note into our pockets. Have we learned our lesson?

Yom Kippur ends with the blowing of the shofar. Unlike Rosh Hashanah, where the blowing of the shofar is an explicit commandment from the Torah, the shofar blast at the close of the fast is merely a custom. It takes us back to the days when the Israelites celebrated the Jubilee. The sounding of the shofar was the signal to release the slaves and allow them to live their lives in freedom and dignity. It was the signal to "straighten out the social curve," as the Bible commands us to do every fifty years.

Over the years, the shofar-blowing at the close of Yom Kippur lost its original meaning. The loss of Jewish independence turned the sound of the shofar into a symbol of hope and longing for religious and political redemption. The wish "Next year in Jerusalem" was added for the same reason. From a religious symbol meant to remind us of our duty to free those in bondage and restore their dignity, the blowing of the shofar has become a symbol of self-liberation and restoring national pride.

After 50 years of Jewish statehood, the time has come to bring back the original significance of the shofar blowing on Yom Kippur. Israel has become a state of bondage and subjugation, a state that deprives some of its inhabitants of their liberty and self-respect. In a country that hunts down people in the city streets, where modern-day slave traders rake in money and escape without penalty thanks to their wealth and connections - in a country like this, the blast of the shofar should be shaking the door-posts.

In a country where the government oppresses foreign workers and blames them for its economic and social ills with one hand, and helps parties with vested interests get rich from the sweat of foreign brows with the other, the sound of the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur should be toppling walls of indifference.

If you go to the synagogue this Yom Kippur, take a good look at the worshipers sitting in the pews, praying so devoutly. Which one is the contractor who locks his workers up in shipping containers at night? Which one is the employer who withholds his workers' pay in the knowledge that they cannot complain? Which one is the young man invited to a bachelor party who takes along a tormented girl, released for a few hours from her prison cell to line the pockets of her torturers through the exploitation of her body? And who are the ones who keep silent, who turn a blind eye, who look on with indifference - if not us?

To all this, the Prophet Isaiah has already said: "Hear the world of the Lord, you chieftains of Sodom; Give ear to our God's instruction, you folk of Gomorrah! That you come to appear before Me - who asked that of you? Trample My courts no more. Your new moons and fixed seasons, fill Me with loathing; They are become a burden to Me, I cannot endure them. Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained with crime" (Isaiah 1:10-15).

Upon hearing the shofar blown at the end of Yom Kippur, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav used to say that he could already hear the synagogue beadle waking up members of the congregation for the Selihot [penitential] services the following year. Hopefully, in the course of this new year, we will succeed in eliminating at least a few of the reasons for beating our breast next year.


And I would add, not only foreign workers suffer in Israel today, although they are among the most helpless of those that suffer. The poor of all communities suffer, as the government declares that there is no hunger in Israel. Single mothers and others dependent upon government stipends suffer when their supplements are slashed again and again to balance the budget -- while at the same time the government spends billions on supporting the settlements, building bypass roads, building new housing in the settlements, and constructing the separation fence that will only ensure that in the future there will be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


Sunday, October 05, 2003

The victims of yesterday's suicide bombing in Haifa were young and old, families, and both Jews and Arabs. The suicide bombers don't care who they kill. While claiming to fight for the Palestinian cause, they indiscriminately kill Arabs as well as Jews.

Just a note on my previous post -- I'm not making a connection between the suicide bombing and the construction of the separation fence. The bomber came from Islamic Jihad, which does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and calls for its destruction. I don't believe that any amount of Israeli moderation would convince them otherwise. But I also do not believe that innocent Palestinian civilians should be punished (by the building of the separation fence) for the terror actions of Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Tanzim, and the Al Aksa Brigades.


Another suicide bombing, this time in Haifa

Another suicide bombing, this time in Haifa earlier today - 19 people killed, including "three children, a baby girl, three members of the same family and four Israeli Arabs." Will this ever end? The Ha'aretz editorial, entitled "Awful Days" (a pun, because these are the "awe-filled days" between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur -- the "Yamim Noraim" in both cases) calls for "With the help of the international community, led by U.S. President George Bush, they [Israel and the Palestinian Authority) must fulfill the obligations they assumed with the road map and remove the religious extremists and those thirsty for blood. The blood of the victims of the bombings and [Israeli] assassinations cry out to them - enough is enough!" A sane and moderate call that will probably be ignored by both sides.

Uzi Benziman, also in today's Ha'aretz, predicts a dismal future if both peoples refuse to recognize each other's legitimate rights.
The lesson to be drawn from the last three years is that the two sides refuse to relinquish the original sources of the dispute - the Palestinians are unwilling to give Israel unconditional recognition of its right to exist; Israel refuses to abandon its conquest, and it continues to expand the settlements while it negotiates with the Palestinians about a peace settlement.

The violent conflict stems from these obstinate starting positions. As though to offset the grueling experience the Israeli public suffers after each terror attack, the Palestinians provide evidence about the grim results of preventive anti-terror actions and assassinations carried out by Israel. This balance of atrocities does not exempt Israel from its obligation to change the course on which it has deviated since the 1967 Six Day War.

Seen from the historical point of view, the occupation of the territories is a justifiable result of Arab aggression and attacks on the state of Israel. The 1948 Independence War and the 1967 Six Day War expressed the Arab peoples' refusal to recognize the Jewish people's right to establish a sovereign state on a small piece of territory in its historic homeland.

In retrospect, it appears that the use made by the state of Israel of its military success in 1967 has transmogrified, and become a threat to its own existence. Territories which Israel occupied and settled present a demographic threat, a security danger, an economic burden and a diplomatic problem. The effects of the occupation have maddened decision making processes undertaken by the leadership, scrambled public ethics in the country, and distorted values held by a number of constituencies in the state.

The occupation is a circumstance which must be brought to an end so as to preserve the state's moral fiber, and its capacity to survive. Should Israel's control in the territories persist, processes that cause the two sides to clash will intensify, and this fighting will eventually exhaust resources needed by both.

The recent decision reached by the government regarding the construction and placement of the separation fence reflects its hasty, imprudent thinking. What was once a legitimate defense measure that emerged as a result of murderous terror attacks like the one in Haifa yesterday, has become a lever for land-grabbing.

The government is wrong to believe that its sophistic explanations will dupe the world, and that the Palestinians will placidly accept the suffering caused by the places chosen for the fence to stand on.

The separation fence is designed to eliminate prospects for a viable Palestinian state. For this reason, settler leaders have accepted it with equanimity. Under the design endorsed by the government, the fence will create a South African reality whose result is easily predicted.
For a time I thought that the separation fence was making the best of a bad bargain - since negotiations were going nowhere, at least build a fence that would give Israelis more physical safety. But with the way that the Sharon government is using the fence to annex further West Bank land, and in particular the way it is being used to cut off Palestinian cities (for example, Kalkilya, which is now surrounded either by a wall or by a fence, and which can only be entered through one entrance, an Israeli checkpoint), I think that it is further driving Israel down a hellish path.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Spent the last two days going to Rosh Hashanah services -- today was a treat, because we got to hear the shofar blowing (omitted yesterday because it was Shabbat). I would have liked to hear more of that call to "wake up! examine your life!" Some spiritual moments during the musaf service, especially during the Unetanneh Tokef and Kedushah. It's hard to focus and pay attention to the words -- so easy to get distracted by thinking about one's neighbors in the adjacent seats, about the rabbi, about the class I have to teach tomorrow, about the impression one makes on others....all the minutiae of life.

A sermon yesterday on new grandchildren, today on changes and newness -- interesting to hear what "traditions" people get used to and resent having changed. My synagogue a couple of years ago adopted the new Conservative prayerbook (an updated version of Sim Shalom) -- finally changing from the Silverman siddur. Of course, the Silverman itself contained some remarkable changes from the traditional liturgy, such as the elimination of mention of animal sacrifices and the prayers to reinstitute the Temple service in Jerusalem -- but we got used to those changes long ago, and now what exercises people is trying some gender-equity in the English translations....

Friday, September 26, 2003

Rosh Hashanah begins tomorrow night -- the new year of 5764 (since the creation of the world, according to the Jewish reckoning). Gershon Baskin, the director of IPCRI (Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information) sent these New Year's wishes:
To all of us and all of you we wish that this New Year coming before us is better than the one closing.
May this year be the year when we all come to our senses, when logic overcomes emotions of hatred and revenge
When we all understand that no violence is acceptable or tolerable
When we decide that we have had enough
When we all rise and stand up to say "no more!"
When we make peace a reality
When we decide to make it happen
When we no longer sit on the sidelines and just complain
When our hearts, minds, and actions rally for justice
When we can answer the question "how are you?" with a direct answer and with no reservations
That is the year we hope for.
Happy New Year and Peace to us all.


I'm listening right now to a special program on NPR for the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur), and they are discussing the meaning of forgiveness and of repenting of one's evil deeds.

What is repentance?

Rabbi Kalonymous Kalmish Shapira, in his Esh Kodesh, the record of his homilies from 1939-1942, which he gave to his Hasidim in the Warsaw Ghetto before his death at the hands of the Nazis, has this to say about repentance (teshuvah):
When a person repents only of a sin, whether it was committed, God forbid, in thought, in word, or in deed, he still finds himself back in the state he occupied before he committed the sin, when he was not engaged upon any great spiritual journey. So what if he is merely relieved of this particular sin? The chief principle of repentance, however, is "Return, O Israel, to God your Lord." Lest you think that contrition for your sins is all you need, the prophet cautions that the repentance must continue all the way, until you reach God, ". . . for in your sin have you stumbled." Only then will you be completely elevated, in holiness, in purity, and worship of God.


(from the English translation of J. Hershy Worch, Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1939-1942, edited by Deborah Miller [Jason Aronson, 2000]).

Shanah Tovah -- a good and sweet New Year.

Monday, September 22, 2003

An incredibly mealy-mouthed defense of the Washington Post's refusal to call Hamas a "terrorist organization" or to call its suicide bombings "terrorist acts." Apparently Al Qaeda can be called a terrorist group, but Hamas, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel and tries to enact that destruction by murdering children, is not a terrorist organization. The thing that really gets to me about this article is its incredibly smug assumption of superior judgement. The Post's ombudsman says:
Making a general point, The Post guidance also says that "terrorism is real and identifiable, and we can identify it when that is appropriate." When it comes to the Middle East news report, however, that word is mostly used when describing one side's assessment of the other, and usually not in the descriptive voice of a reporter.

So apparently we are to wait for the Post to "identify" terrorism "when that is appropriate." Is only the Post (and other newspapers who refuse to call Hamas suicide bomb attacks "terrorism") authorized to decide that something is appropriately called terrorism? So reporters write or report only "descriptively"? They never write evaluatively, even in a strictly news story? Only when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....

They attempt to justify the way they refer to Hamas in this way:
Critical readers also attempt to equate the U.S. battle against al Qaeda with the Israeli battle against Hamas. There are, however, differences. Hamas conducts terrorism but also has territorial ambitions, is a nationalist movement and conducts some social work. As far as we know, al Qaeda exists only as a terrorist network. It is composed of radicals from several Islamic countries. The Palestinian resistance is indigenous. Al Qaeda launched a devastating surprise attack on the United States. Israelis and Palestinians have been at war for a long time. Palestinians have been resisting a substantial and, to Palestinians, humiliating, Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza since they were seized in the 1967 war. That resistance has now bred suicide bombers. These are terrorist acts, not to be condoned. But the contexts of the struggle against al Qaeda and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are different. News organizations should not back away from the word terrorism when it is the proper term. But as a rule, strong, descriptive, factual reporting is better than labels.

So even by their own admission, suicide bombings are terrorist acts -- then why don't they label them as such in their news reports, and call their perpetrators "terrorists" rather than "militants" or "activists"? (My idea of an activist is someone who organizes for a particular political point of view -- not a murderer!). Even the European Union is prepared at this point to call the political wing of Hamas a terrorist movement! I have often been tempted to write on this issue but have refrained from doing so because it seemed like a minor point, in the face of real news about people dying from terrorist attacks, but this editorial piece is so outrageous I feel that I must write something.

I write not as a partisan of "Greater Israel" or a supporter of the settlement enterprise, but as a supporter of a two-state solution and opponent of the separation wall/fence now being built by Israel. I do not think that Israeli soldiers humiliating people at checkpoints and cooping Palestinians up in their towns and cities is the way to make peace. I believe that it is possible to make peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the sooner the better, or we will end up with the results decried by both Thomas Friedman and Avraham Burg in recent editorial comments. My political beliefs are probably best described (with some modifications) by the founding principles of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom (although I think that they are still overly mealy-mouthed in their denunciation of Palestinian terrorism). However, whatever my opinions on what the solution to the conflict should be, I think that it is essential to call things by their correct names -- and Hamas and Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations, regardless of any salutary social work they might engage in, and suicide bombings are terrorist acts, regardless of what the Washington Post thinks they are.