Monday, May 30, 2005

And yet another excellent op-ed essay by Anne Applebaum, about Democracy Under The Veil, in the Islamic world.
Hooray for this Washington Post editorial ('American Gulag') condemning the head of Amnesty International's recent naming of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay the "gulag of our times." One does not have to admire what we have done there (or at Abu Ghraib or other U.S. detention facilities) to object to AI's false equivalence with the gulag of the Soviet Union. The Post editorial says:
But we draw the line at the use of the word "gulag" or at the implication that the United States has somehow become the modern equivalent of Stalin's Soviet Union. Guantanamo Bay is an ad hoc creation, designed to contain captured enemy combatants in wartime. Abuses there - including new evidence of desecrating the Koran - have been investigated and discussed by the FBI, the press and, to a still limited extent, the military. The Soviet gulag, by contrast, was a massive forced labor complex consisting of thousands of concentration camps and hundreds of exile villages through which more than 20 million people passed during Stalin's lifetime and whose existence was not acknowledged until after his death. Its modern equivalent is not Guantanamo Bay, but the prisons of Cuba, where Amnesty itself says a new generation of prisoners of conscience reside; or the labor camps of North Korea, which were set up on Stalinist lines; or China's laogai, the true size of which isn't even known; or, until recently, the prisons of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The convenient left-wing orthodoxy, on the other hand, regards only the U.S. embargo of Cuba as unjust, without ever considering the lack of freedom, injustice, and oppression of the Cuban regime itself.
Now, I don't care about these people at all, but I do love this headline - Paris Hilton Engaged To Paris . She is now engaged to someone named Paris Latsis.

On another note, I just returned from a fun visit to New York City over the Memorial Day weekend. I went to the Jewish Museum and saw two exhibits - on the Jewish salon women (of the 18th-20th centuries), people like Rahel Levin Varnhagen and Gertrude Stein, and one on the art of Maurice Sendak, which was really fun. The weekend also included enjoyable Shabbat meals with friends, and a barbecue yesterday with more friends. I'm now back in Ithaca, where it appears that my grass grew several inches in my absence, where the peonies are now blooming, the lettuce is big enough to eat (planted a few weeks ago), and everything looks intensely green.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Ithaca Journal devoted its entire editorial page today to responses to Sandy Wold's column two weeks ago. In their own editorial, they bravely argued for the value of free speech, invoking the names of Locke and Voltaire - but without considering the professional responsibility of a newspaper to edit articles responsibly. Sandy Wold apologized for her remarks, saying that:
Rather than defend or explain myself to my critics, I decided to listen and understand, and I was surprised to see how complacent I had become with my point of view. Reading letters that came from around the world, investigating their sources, discovering new ones, questioning my assumptions, and the assumptions of my sources, I had periodic moments of feeling duped. So I went back and studied my original sources and their sources so I could feel reaffirmed. Finally, I came across an example of a battle between Palestinians and Israelis that happened over 50 years ago. According to the media representation, the Palestinians were "massacred," and according to the Israeli source I read, the Israelis were acting in "self-defense." Apparently, the media left out the bigger picture, which was that the Israelis were being blockaded by the Palestinians and facing near starvation. Also, a Red Cross witness to the aftermath of the "massacre" only verified Palestinian gore. I believe that such series of misrepresentation, misunderstanding and media bias is common to all conflict. It is no wonder many of us feel so confused and unable to help.

I commend her for her willingness to listen to and think about the remarks people made to her - some of which were fairly hostile, judging from the Honest Reporting web site, which publicized her column to their subscribers. On the other hand, she does need to do more homework on the Arab-Israeli conflict. For example, in the quoted paragraph, what battle is she referring to? The siege of Jerusalem in 1948? And another quibble: over 50 years ago, when people referred to "Palestinians," they meant Palestinian Jews, not Palestinian Arabs. She should have used the term "Arabs." (With this comment, I'm not denying the existence of a Palestinian people today.)

The Journal also published many letters from people around the world who were outraged by Wold's comments - most of whom probably knew about her column from the story about it on the Honest Reporting web site, or perhaps from LGF.

A letter that I wrote also appeared in the print version of the newspaper, but for some reason doesn't seem to have made it onto the electronic version. This is the text:
I am writing in response to Sandy Wold’s article, “Mothers can make healing a priority,” published on Saturday, May 7, 2005. I identify as a “Zionist Jew,” and ally myself with the Jews who established the state of Israel, whom Sandy Wold condemns as having “occupied Palestinian land in the name of God and victimhood.” I’m not sure exactly where to start in response to her poorly thought-out and inflammatory remarks. The Zionist movement, which fought to establish first a Jewish homeland in Palestine and then an independent state, was founded in the late 1800s, long before the Holocaust. The founders of the state were predominantly secular Jews who wanted to establish a place where Jews could find refuge from anti-semitism in Europe and build their own modern Jewish culture. Far from “getting stuck in the victim role,” as Wold accuses “Zionist Jews” of having done, the Zionist movement very actively tried to solve the problems of Jewish life through the creation of their own national movement – a nationalist movement very akin to the Palestinian national movement, which in parallel to Zionism has the aim of creating a Palestinian state.

Wold also accuses Israel of “terrorist attacks and slaughter of the Palestinians” and says that anyone who criticizes Israel is “guilt-inflicted for the Holocaust without any regard for Palestinian suffering.” This statement minimalizes the suffering that Jews went through in the Holocaust and completely avoids mentioning the Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. Is it only Palestinians who suffer in the ongoing conflict? What of the many terrorist attacks inflicted upon Israeli civilians by Palestinian suicide bombers from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades?

Wold seems to have taken sides in the ongoing conflict, squarely on the side of the Palestinians – but does this really advance the “self-healing” agenda that she argues for in her article? Isn’t it time for both Israelis and Palestinians (and their supporters in the United States) to recognize the complexity of the situation and admit that there is right in the claims, and the historical memory, of both sides? In my view, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip should end, making it possible for a viable Palestinian state to be founded alongside Israel. This would not salve all wounds, but it would make a new beginning possible, where both peoples would suffer less than they have in the past, and perhaps begin the long process of reconciliation with each other.

My letter was also the only one written by someone living in Ithaca, who would read it in its paper form, rather than learning about it from an internet source. I'm disappointed that other people in Ithaca didn't feel motivated, or capable, of writing a response to her, but I am glad they published mine (and thus far I've only gotten positive responses to it).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In re the Newsweek story (now retracted) about a Koran being put into a toilet at Guantanomo Bay, the Washington Post reports that Desecration of Koran Had Been Reported Before. Perhaps Newsweek got the wrong story from their particular source, but it does seem to have corroboration from many other sources. Is such behavior a matter of policy - i.e., was it decided upon specifically in order to break the spirit of the detainees there? Or is this a by-product of the type of behavior we see at the U.S. Airforce Academy - evangelical Christian cadets, chaplains, and school administration harassing Jews and other, non-evangelical Christians by insulting them and saying that they "will burn in the fires of hell." Or perhaps a combination - they disrespect every other religion than their own, and decide specifically because of this disrespect to mistreat the inmates in this particular way? In either case, this is disgusting. Is this what we're coming to?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Haaretz reports that 5 Jews arrested for planning to attack the Temple Mount. Four of the men charged apparently were plotting to launch an anti-tank missile at the Temple Mount, while the other one was detained "over an alleged plan to fly a model aircraft fitted with a camera over the Mount and over Arab population areas as a provocation." All five men were released from detention. The intention seems to have been to provoke a renewed intifada and stall the planned disengagement from Gaza.

This is very scary - what I don't understand is why these people were released from detention. Surely, if they had been Palestinians threatening Jews, they would not be "freed with limitations," and not face charges "on the grounds that they had been unable to implement their plan and had decided not to carry it out." Doesn't that suggest that they might try to figure out some other way to implement their plans. The police and Shin Bet also said "there was not enough evidence to charge them." When has that stopped the police and Shin Bet when it comes to Palestinian threats to Israeli security?

The reactions by two right-wing MKs also strike me as very peculiar responses to the arrests:
In response to the reports, MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said, "This is a clear attempt to stain a loyal and law-abiding community struggling justly and fairly for its values."

The chairman of the National Union Knesset faction, Zvi Hendel, accused the Shin Bet of planting an agent provocateur, as it had done with Avishai Raviv prior to the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Does Uriel really think that planning to lob an anti-tank missile at the Temple Mount is part of a "just struggle"? And what does Hendel mean by accusing the Shin Bet of planting an agent provocateur. Who is the provocateur in this case?

I certainly hope the Shin Bet is keeping an eye on these men and their associates!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Via DovBear, a despicable article by Pat Buchanan on Was World War II worth it? Apparently we (and the Brits) should have let Germany and the Soviet Union carve up eastern Europe between them - and as a bonus get rid of all those pesky Jews! Appeasement, 60 years on. And this man is still considered a serious person to listen to?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Association for Jewish Studies today sent out a message to all its members protesting the British Association of University Teachers' boycott of Haifa and Bar Ilan Universities in Israel. This is the text:

The American Academy of Jewish Research, the oldest body of North American scholars of Jewish studies, and the Association for Jewish Studies, the learned society of academic Jewish studies, condemn the British Association of University Teachers’ decision to boycott two Israeli universities for their alleged complicity in governmental policies and their purported discrimination against a faculty member on political grounds. The boycott is an egregious assault on academic freedom and a woeful misreading of the role of Israeli academics and the Israeli university. Academics have an obligation to support the free exchange of ideas and to participate in international dialogue, not to shun and restrain them. Israeli universities are an important source of the robust discussion and critical evaluation of governmental policy that characterize Israeli society. It is indeed, ironic, and offensive, that in a world where many governments muzzle their faculties, and academic freedom is rare, the AUT should focus solely on Israeli universities, which have maintained academic freedom and diverse student and faculty communities under difficult circumstances. It is also distressing that in a world where, sadly, war and the killing of civilians are far too common only one country is singled out for ostracism.

The AUT has been ill-served by leaders who pushed through the motion without proper investigation of the “facts” on which the decision was purportedly based, and without open debate within the Association itself. Academics should govern ourselves according to the standards of fairness and free discussion we expect from the larger society.

We stand in solidarity with our fellow Israeli academics. We also welcome the criticism of the AUT decision by many British university administrators and by the Times of London as well as the planned reconsideration of the boycott by the AUT. We are confident that the AUT’s declaration of a boycott will be understood internationally to reflect less upon the reality of Israeli universities than upon the politicization of certain leaders of the British academic community. We call on academics throughout the world to refrain from participating in international conferences from which Israeli scholars have been banned.

Paula E. Hyman
American Association for Jewish Research

Sara R. Horowitz
Association for Jewish Studies

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) also issued a condemnation of the AUT's boycott.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Interestingly enough, LGF has now linked to Sandy Wold's article in Saturday's Ithaca Journal - A Mother's Day Antisemitic Rant.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My local newspaper published several articles today for Mother's Day. One, titled Mothers can make healing a priority, by Sandy Wold, launched into a vicious attack on Israel in the middle of discussing how to heal oneself from anger and hatred. The author makes an analogy between her own psychological struggles and war and fascism:
As I enter the fourth year of my healing focus, I now understand war on yet a deeper level. During a recent emotional storm, I saw myself revisiting an old wounded pattern of victimization and fought back with self-righteousness. I then felt the rage of fascism pass through me, which eventually dissipated and turned into squalls. The sun came out, and there was peace. (For some people this sequence can take years or a lifetime; I can do it now in just a few days.) And, finally, in the stillness, I was able to see beyond the illusion and the victim pattern I was playing out. From this place, I found clarity and self respect and was able to find a heart-centered solution to my problem.
What war and fascism have to do with the author's own personal struggles is not clear to me from this paragraph. It does seem, however, that she is very self-satisfied about her own psychological development - "I can do it now in just a few days," as opposed to those poor slobs whose "sequence can take years or a lifetime." It does seem like she's concerned about something she calls the "victim role" - and projects her concept onto the political level. She continues in a far more noxious vein:
Most people get stuck in the victim role, however. On the global scale, for example, Zionist Jews in Israel have occupied Palestinian land in the name of God and victimhood. If anyone criticizes Israel for their terrorist attacks and slaughter of the Palestinians, they are immediately labeled "anti-Semitic" and guilt-inflicted for the Holocaust without any regard for Palestinian suffering. In response, the United States and United Nations fall into a co-dependent behavior of acquiescence and collusion.
I'm not sure where to begin to criticize this. It strikes me as very odd that in the middle of an article about self-healing, she suddenly launches into an attack on Israel, and one that minimalizes the suffering that Jews went through at the hands of the Nazis. For her, Palestinian suffering trumps Jewish suffering - as if one has to make a choice between them! For her, it's Israel that is guilty of terrorism, not Palestinian suicide bombers from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. What of all the Israeli civilians killed by terrorist bombers? Is it only Palestinians who can really suffer? She also evinces no knowledge of the history of Israel or how and why it was established as a Jewish state in 1948. If she did, she would know that the founders of the state were predominantly secular Jews, and that the Zionist movement had been trying since the 1880s to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine - long before the Holocaust. (And she would also know that not all the Jews living in Israel now, or then, are or were Zionists - and that most of them arrived because they were fleeing a Europe that had tried to exterminate them or Arab countries that kicked them out after the establishment of Israel). Why did she drop this anti-Semitic paragraph into her article on self-healing? What is self-healing about that? (And her argument is anti-Semitic even though she tries to inoculate herself against such a charge).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I just read a beautiful post on Rachel Barenblat's blog on doing taharah - the ritual of preparing the dead for burial. One paragraph particularly struck me: on how the body was lovingly dressed in simple white garments, which eventually left it "a bundled white human-shaped figure: no features, no distinguishing marks, only legs and arms, a torso and a head, a small still white figure." I thought back to the movie on the concentration camps I saw earlier tonight - which depicted the bodies of the dead simply thrown naked into a pit without care or dignity. What a contrast to Rachel's calm, focused description of how the body of a person should be treated when the soul is no longer there.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tonight I watched the Frontline program - Memory of the Camps, containing footage of the Nazi concentration camps in Germany and Austria, filmed soon after liberation. It was put together right after the war but not shown until 1985 by PBS. It is very chilling. It was made apparently to show to German civilians, to demonstrate to them what they and their government were responsible for doing. Some of the footage shows German civilians being shown through the camps, seeing the emaciated survivors, and the bodies of the dead; most it seemed watched stoicly but some began to weep. At Buchenwald German civilians see lampshades made of human skin and tattoos taken from prisoners' skin and tanned, one of the many stomach-turning scenes in the film. As of Thursday (which is Holocaust Remembrance Day), it will be possible to view the film online through the PBS web site. It has very graphic footage - don't have your children watch it!

It made me think of how Darfur will be memorialized if we do not succeed in stopping the genocide. I have recently seen, both on television (the Lehrer Report) and in the New York Times really unrealistically sunny reports on the possibility of peace coming to Darfur. The Lehrer Report piece underestimated the number already dead in Darfur. And tonight on the BBC news shown on our local PBS station after the Frontline show, there was a brief article about the Darfur children's pictures (which I already wrote about below) and how they might be used in the prosecutions at the International Criminal Court. The BBC reporter said that "100,000" have already been killed. Why are programs like this continuing to underestimate the number of the dead? Even Amy Goodman's show on Democracy Now (broadcast today), which discussed the disgusting ties between the American CIA and the Sudan Government's Mukhabarat (secret police/intelligence) underestimated the number of deaths. If the numbers are consistently underestimated like this, it leads to people of good will thinking that it's not such a big deal what's happening in Darfur, makes it easier to turn the page and ignore what's going on. These news reports should be using Eric Reeves' figures - almost 400,000 have died thus far, both of direct murder and from hunger and illness.

This coming week, the Darfur Action Group at Cornell will be showing documentaries on Darfur and having a panel discussion. If you're in the Ithaca area, please come!


"Documenting Darfur" Film Forum
Featuring the best video documentary and alternative media work about the ongoing genocide in the western Sudanese region of Darfur

May 9, 10 + 11 @ 5:00 pm
McGraw 165

ALSO: 11 May 2005 @ 8 pm (MG 165)
Distinguished professors will take part in a Panel Discussion about the documentaries and the ongoing crisis in Darfur


For more information contact