October 2002 Archives

The legend of Deir Yassin


This, I guess, is my entry in the Most Hawkish and Bloody-Hungry Blog contest over at the Daily Pundit. I say that only because it seems that Deir Yassin is considered a delicate subject, even by many of Israel's most ardent supporters. The PR puppies have done a good job with this one, and they've had a long time to do it in. "Don't mess with Deir Yassin" is a warning that's pretty much heeded. I've heard rabbis mention it in sermons, shaking their heads in shame. I've seen it touted as the "exception that proves the rule" of exemplary Israeli military conduct. And Deir Yassin massacre denial is often equated with Holocaust denial as a rejection of well-documented and incontrovertible slaughter. I, of course, beg to disagree.

It can be useful, if you have the opportunity, to talk to someone who was there. I have, at great length. Yes, he was a member of the Stern Gang and yes, he had a definite reason to be biased. But he was there, and since I first sat and listened to his story some 26 years ago, I've heard and read it told pretty much the same way countless times. Just as often, I've heard a very different story. Someone is lying.

There's been a lot written about the "massacre" at Deir Yassin, but the following two accounts are a pretty good distillation of what's out there. The text in italics is an account on the website of an activist organization called Deir Yassin Remembered. It's a very thorough site and includes a whole page of testimony from survivors. The text in bold is from the Palestine Facts website, a source that I rely on a lot. It's also got testimony from survivors, some of which is included below. (Naturally, the testimonies on the two sites don't tend to match but, oddly enough, the summary accounts overlap in many respects.) Two versions, one event. You be the judge:

Early in the morning of Friday, April 9, 1948, commandos of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a village with about 750 Palestinian residents. It was several weeks before the end of the British Mandate. The village lay outside of the area that the United Nations recommended be included in a future Jewish State. Deir Yassin had a peaceful reputation and was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants. But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and one plan, kept secret until years afterwards, called for it to be destroyed and the residents evacuated to make way for a small airfield that would supply the beleaguered Jewish residents of Jerusalem.

Dir Yassin lies on a hill west of Jerusalem, eight hundred meters above sea level, and 700 meters from the Jewish neighbourhood of Givat Shaul. The Dir Yassin fortified position overlooked the westerly Jewish neighborhoods: Givat Shaul, Bet Hakerem, Yefe Nof, and the road to Bayit Vagan. The village also overlooked the section of road linking Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv. Dir Yassin served as a halfway site for forces moving up from the Arab villages of Ein Karem and Malha in the south to Kastel and Kolonia, which overlooked the main Jerusalem - Tel Aviv road.

On April 2, 1948, the Arab inhabitants of Dir Yassin began sniping at the Jewish Quarters of Bet Hakerem and Yefe Nof. According to reports by the Shai (Haganah Intelligence), fortifications were being constructed in the village and a large quantity of arms being stockpiled. Several days before the attack on Dir Yassin, the presence of foreign fighters was reported, including Iraqi soldiers and irregular forces. An Arab research study conducted at Bir Zeit University (near Ramallah) relates that the men of Dir Yassin took an active part in violent acts against Jewish targets and that many of the men of the village fought in the battle for Kastel, together with Abd-el-Kadr el-Husseini. The report also stated that trenches had been dug at the entry to the village, and that more than 100 men had been trained and equipped with rifles and Bren guns. A local guard force had been set up and 40 inhabitants guarded the village every night.

By noon over 100 people, half of them women and children, had been systematically murdered. Four commandos died at the hands of resisting Palestinians using old Mausers and muskets. Twenty-five male villagers were loaded into trucks, paraded through the Zakhron Yosef quarter in Jerusalem, and then taken to a stone quarry along the road between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin and shot to death. The remaining residents were driven to Arab East Jerusalem
On April 6, 1948, Operation Nachshon was launched by the Haganah with the aim of opening up the road to Jerusalem. The Palmach was part of this effort together with the Irgun (under Menachem Begin) and Lehi forces, their first combined operation. On Thursday, April 8, 1948 they launched the attack between 4 and 5 AM. A loudspeaker mounted on an armored car warned the Arabs and asked them to evacuate their women and children. Hundreds left, but hundreds stayed. A pitched battle ensued, and when the smoke cleared, 110 to 120 Arabs were killed, 40 Jews were seriously injured and four Jews were dead. The number killed has been confirmed even by Palestinian Arab researchers, such as Bir Zeit University professor Sharif Kanaana who puts the number no higher than 120 (although he clings to the claim of massacre). Another contemporary Arab source deflates the number killed to less than 100, stating, after a count, "that there were no more than 46 corpses". The head of the coroner unit, professor Yehoshua Arieli, testified that the number was 110.
That evening the Irgunists and the Sternists escorted a party of foreign correspondents to a house at Givat Shaul, a nearby Jewish settlement founded in 1906. Over tea and cookies they amplified the details of the operation and justified it, saying Deir Yassin had become a concentration point for Arabs, including Syrians and Iraqis, planning to attack the western suburbs of Jerusalem. They said that 25 members of the Haganah militia had reinforced the attack and claimed that an Arabic-speaking Jew had warned the villagers over a loudspeaker from an armored car. This was duly reported in The New York Times on April 10.
The massacre claim, meaning the killing of defenceless people, has long since been discredited by the Israeli government and every other historical study. The story persists because pro-Arab sources constantly repeat it, often inflating the number of dead to 250 or more. There are completely fictional accounts written about Arabs being marched to the mosque and shot against the walls, or even worse stories of torture, rape or any other shocking aspect the storyteller invents.
A final body count of 254 was reported by The New York Times on April 13, a day after they were finally buried. By then the leaders of the Haganah had distanced themselves from having participated in the attack and issued a statement denouncing the dissidents of Irgun and the Stern Gang, just as they had after the attack on the King David Hotel in July 1946. A 1987 study undertaken by Birzeit University's Center for Research and Documentation of Palestinian Society found "the numbers of those killed does not exceed 120".
Palestinian Arab eyewitnesses have recently admitted that some of their claims about Dir Yassin were deliberate fabrications. The issue of the Jerusalem Report dated April 2, 1998 describes a BBC television program in which Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's Arabic news in 1948, admits that he was told by Hussein Khalidi, a prominent Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate claims of atrocities at Dir Yassin in order to encourage Arab regimes to invade the expected Jewish state.

According to the Jerusalem Report:

Nusseibeh "describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem's Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi... 'I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,' recalled Nusseibeh. 'He said, "We must make the most of this." So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities.' "
The BBC program then shows a recent interview with Abu Mahmud, who was a Dir Yassin resident in 1948, who says:
... the villagers protested against the atrocity claims: We said, "There was no rape." [Khalidi] said, "We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews."
Khalidi was one of the originators of the "massacre" allegation in 1948. It was Khalidi's claims about Jewish atrocities in Dir Yassin that were the basis for an article in the New York Times by its correspondent, Dana Schmidt (on April 12, 1948), claiming a massacre took place. The Times article has been widely reprinted and cited as "proof" of the massacre throughout the past 50 years.

Nusseibeh, who is a member of one of Jerusalem's most prominent Arab families and presently lives in Amman, told the BBC that the fabricated atrocity stories about Dir Yassin were:

"...our biggest mistake," because "Palestinians fled in terror" and left the country in huge numbers after hearing the atrocity claims.
The Haganah leaders admitted that the massacre "disgraced the cause of Jewish fighters and dishonored Jewish arms and the Jewish flag." They played down the fact that their militia had reinforced the terrorists' attack, even though they did not participate in the barbarism and looting during the subsequent "mopping up" operations.
It has also been alleged that the Dir Yassin hoax was supported by the left-wing political party of David Ben-Gurion in order to smear the right-wing, the Irgun and its commander Menachem Begin.
It's fascinating that these narratives aren't really all that different. It's all in the spin, you see. Except, of course, for the stories of rape, murder and mayhem, such as this from a different page of the DYR website:
Were there other atrocities?

Yes. The most well observed was the parading of the prisoners in public on the afternoon of the battle. Although other atrocities are still debated, it is appears certain that looting occurred, along with robbery of individuals. Mutilation of some bodies is quite probable and there is credible evidence of sexual atrocities. Torture and terrorization of captives appears likely to have occurred as well. Obviously, the perpetrators of such actions do not admit them and only some occurred in general view. Also, the victims and their families themselves downplay these out of respect for the deceased and a traditional peasant village’s sense of community and family honor.

(But see above.) "Still debated," "quite probable," "credible evidence" (unspecified), "appears likely," "respect for the deceased. . .." This is a typical account of the "atrocities" committed in the course of this particular "massacre."

Deir Yassin, Tantura and Jenin. I promised to discuss what these three really have in common, and it's coming up. Soon.

Dear Ambassador Cowper-Coles


The overly astute among you may notice that I've been taking advantage of a little bug to catch up on the last several newsletters from Israel Insider. I encourage you to visit their website.

Recently, the British Ambassador to Israel, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as accusing Israel of having "reduced the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to two vast detention camps," among other things. This open letter to the Ambassador, written by Israel Insider publisher Reuven Koret, is worth a special trip.

In response to your remarks, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman mildly reminded you that "the British Mandate was over," referring to the days when the Britannia ruled the region. The implication was that the time for imperial arrogance had passed, but the reference to the Mandatory period may have another reference, one which you might prefer to forget, but which remains fresh and painful in the collective memories of our people.

When Jewish refugees from European concentration camps tried to find a place to call home, the British put them in detention camps in northern Israel, in Cyprus, and elsewhere. Auschwitz survivors bound for the Jewish homeland found themselves behind British barbed wire.

While acknowledging Israel's security concerns and the fact that any relaxation of travel restrictions involved a risk of a resumption of terrorism, you argued: "All recent history shows that the best way of tackling terrorism is to separate the men of evil from the population which supports them." Catholic residents of Northern Ireland no doubt appreciate the fine distinction, and British forces occupying the zone no doubt are reassured by the ease with which the distinction can be made.

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said your remarks accurately reflected the policy of the British government. Britain, he said, had "grave concerns about the economic, human rights and security situation" on the West Bank and in Gaza, and particularly strong concerns about the effect of the construction of a wall separating Palestinians from Israel.

Against walls? A capital idea, Mr. Ambassador!

As you know, the idea of a separation wall or fence is being pushed by the Israeli left as a stopgap measure to stop the unbearable flow of Palestinian bombers and killers into our town and cities. And even that is too much for you?

Well, please, set a positive example! We look forward to the tearing down of the walls surrounding British embassies and residences around the world, starting with your own.

Plenty of Israelis, no doubt, would love to come by your fenceless embassy and share their memories of British detention camps. You can also expect visits from the families of more than 600 terror fatalities in the past two years, and tens of thousands of innocent people maimed and crippled by those Palestinian "men of evil" (and women too) who cheerfully take advantage of each relaxation in the security pressure your nation and others force upon us.

And if those "men of evil" visit you in your un-walled and un-fenced embassy, I am sure that you and your guards will be able to separate them easily (and politely!) from "the population that supports them."

Healing Teddies


Here's something nice, for a change (warning: annoying pop-up ads). And here's an equally nice story about the project.

Two young Israelis are distributing teddy bears to people injured in terror attacks and to family members of those who have been killed. The bears, which serve as "special healing tools," aim to lift victims' spirits and open the road to their speedy recovery. The Healing Teddies Project has also distributed the bears to children who have undergone heart surgery in other parts of the world.

Ilana Konstantinovsky began giving away bears after her mother's death. "When my mother died of cancer two years ago, my father told me about a concept in alternative medicine where positive energies are transferred through toys that are imbued with healing powers. I thought it was a great idea, and since a teddy bear seemed to be the most like a human being, it seemed the most fitting choice," she says.

While she began giving the teddy bears to cancer patients, Ilana soon realized that the victims of Palestinian terrorism would also be ideal recipients of the healing aid. "It started with an idea to help people with difficult diseases and health conditions but since so many people were seriously hurt by the brutal terror attacks, I decided to try to ease the pain and the struggle these precious people have to face on a daily basis."

Ilana's father, Michael, who has over twenty years of experience in the field of alternative medicine, personally works on each bear. [more....]

If that gave you a lift, you might want to avoid the comments at the bottom of the page -- especially those entitled "Will Palestinian children get these bears?"

Imminent collapse


The beginning of Ramadan is barely over a week away. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers will flock to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, if Israel permits. If Israel doesn't permit, there will be hell to pay. But the chances that the weakened Southern Wall of the Temple Mount will survive such an onslaught of visitors seem to be diminishing daily. Many will likely be killed. And then there will be hell to pay anyway.

Now it appears that the problem has spread to the Western Wall. While the new bulge is small, it's expected to grow. Without intervention by the Israeli authorities, it's likely that the Southern Wall and a portion of the Mosque will soon collapse, but the Islamic Trust (wakf) to which Israel, in its wisdom, has given virtual carte blanche on Judaism's holiest ground, will not cooperate. And this despite (or because of) the fact that it's their own indescriminate demolition work that has caused the problem.

It's amazing to me that this catastrophe is being permitted to unfold before the eyes of the entire world with barely a peep of protest. Never mind the thousands or even tens of thousands of people who may be crushed to death. Never mind the hundreds of years of Islamic art and architecture that could be lost, the thousands of years of Jewish historical and religious artifacts that would be destroyed, the demolition of the last remains of the Temple where Jesus is believed to have walked and preached. What can be said about a so-called "religious authority" that would permit such a thing to happen? And what can be said about world leaders who are content to stand by and watch? The death toll is likely to exceed those of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Bali and Moscow combined. The damage to historical, religious and archeological knowledge and research would be incalculable. And yet not a word, not a threat, not a serious admonition to those most diligent keepers of the Trust, the Islamic wakf, who refuse to allow "their holy turf" to be desecrated by the feet of infidels. Ryan James has it right.

While it seems incredible that the Waqf would risk the deaths of thousands of Muslims over what appears to be a small trifle with Israel, Mazar points out that the Waqf only "cares about Islamicizing the Temple Mount, and absolutely nothing else."

"Let's not forget, in the past five years, the Waqf has only been destroying there - their goal is to build a mosque on the entire compound," Mazar added.

The coming fall of the southern wall would ostensibly create so great an uproar against Israel in the Arab world that future Israeli governments would consider the Temple Mount off-limits to Jews for many generations to come just to avoid further conflict.

What appears clear is that the Muslim world is quite ready to allow the wall to collapse if it means the perpetuation of their absolute hegemony over the Jewish world's most holy site.

So says Stephen Schwartz on a comment thread at Little Green Footballs. I guess Bat Yeor might take issue with that statement. So is she an “Islamophobe” or simply misinformed?

Cultural anthropologist Raphael Patai, has also had quite a bit to say about this allegedly fictitious phenomenon, notably in the last book he published before his death, “Jadid al-Islam: The Jewish ‘New Muslims’ of Meshhed” (Wayne State University Press, 1998). Meshhed is a city in Iran where Jews were “relocated” in the early 19th century. Patai’s book is a testament to the struggle and survival of that Jewish community against all odds.

Following is a lengthy quote from the second chapter of the book, which describes Jewish life in that community around the time of the Allahdad (literally, "God's gift" -- the Muslim name given to the massacre, abduction and forced conversion of the surviving Jews of Meshhed by a mob in 1839).

The situation in which the Jews of Meshhed found themselves after the forced conversions of 1839 has been repeatedly described, so that quite a bit is known about it. Much less in known about the life of the Jews in Meshhed prior to the Allahdad, to which subject we now turn.

The first thing we have to keep in mind when trying to visualize the life of the Jews in Meshhed is that in Shi’i Persia in general, the Muslim attitude toward the Jews was more inimical and contemptuous than in the Sunni Muslim world. Shi’i Islam, whose major stronghold Iran has remained to this day, has always been much more intolerant of other faiths than Sunni Islam, and “other faiths” in its view quite emphatically included also the “people of the book,” Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, who were regarded with lively aversion, whose persons were considered unclean, and whose touch was avoided because it was defiling. ...

A dismal picture of the severe limitations imposed upon the Jews of Iran with the avowed purpose of humiliating them is conveyed by two surviving lists of prohibitions, one issued before the Allahdad, and the second some three decades after it, by Muslim religious authorities. The first, recorded by an anonymous chronicler who calls himself “One of the children of the ghetto,” is as follows:

1. The Jews who pay no taxes have no claim to safety.
2. A convert who returns to his Judaism is to be punished by death.
3. If Jews and Muslims have a quarrel, woe to the Jew who comes to the help of his bretheren: his punishment is death.
4. A Jew who calls upon Allah or his Prophet to help him against a Muslim will be put to death.
5. The Jews are forbidden to build prayer houses in cities where Muslims live.
6. The house of a Jew must not be higher than that of a Muslim.
7. A Jew must wear a badge on his coat, and his garb must be different from that of a Muslim.
8. When riding a donkey, a Jew must keep his two legs hanging down on one side of the animal.
9. A Jew is forbidden to purchase a horse for himself.
10. A Jew is forbidden to carry arms.
11. A Jew must walk at the very side of the street.
12. A Jewish woman must not dress like a Muslim woman: she is not allowed to wear a veil over her head.
13. The blood-price of a Jew is forty toman.
14. If a Jew converts [to Islam], all the property of his family passes to him.
A few points in this list need elucidation. Point 4 meant that Jews, who, when speaking Persian, referred to God as Allah, as did the Muslims, were not allowed to invoke the help of God when quarreling with a Muslim. On the other hand, this point can also be interpreted as showing that occasionally Jews did get involved in quarrels with Muslims, and could do so with impunity. Point 5 means that the Jews were forbidden to build new synagogues; however, they were allowed to maintain and use their old synagogues, built prior to this decree. Point 11 is a humiliating decree: the side of the street was usually full of refuse and also served as a sewer. In point 12, for a woman to appear with uncovered head (or face) was a humiliation. Point 13 sets the blood-price (the compensation to be paid to a murderer to the kin of his victim) much lower than that payable for the killing of a Muslim – another humiliation. Point 14 is intended to serve as an inducement to conversion: a Jew, by converting, could appropriate everything his relatives owned.

In 1870, a Muslim religious authority be the name of Mullah ‘Abdallah issued a decree containing further restrictions:

1. On a rainy day a Jew must not go out into the street.
2. The veil of a Jewish woman must be of two colors.
3. The Jews must wear coats of blue color.
4. A Jew must step aside to let a Muslim pass.
5. A Jew must not raise his voice when speaking to a Muslim.
6. A Jew must ask in a tremulous and submissive voice the payment of a debt by a Muslim.
7. He must not wear a matching pair of shoes.
8. He must listen to insults by a Muslim with a lowered head and without opening his mouth.
9. A Jew must wrap up thoroughly the meat he buys, lest a Muslim eye see the impurity.
10. A Jew must not dwell in a beautiful house.
11. He must not clean the furniture of his house.
12. The door of his house must be low.
13. A Jew must not take off his coat and carry it in his hands.
14. A Jew must not comb his beard.
15. He must not take walks outside the city.
16. A Jewish physician is not allowed to ride a horse.
17. If a Jew is found drunk in the street, his punishment is death.
18. A Jewish wedding must be arranged in secret and without any noise.
19. A Jew must not eat fruits, except rotten ones.
The purpose in all these prohibitions was clearly to humiliate the Jews. Similar restrictions, with the same purpose in mind, were imposed also upon the Jews of Yemen, another Shi’i Muslim country. The basis of point 1 in Mullah ‘Abdallah’s restrictions is the Shi’i Muslim view that a Jew is impure, and that impurity is transferred by wetness more than by contact between dry bodies or objects. Hence, when it rains, and the Jew’s body or clothes become wet, his impurity could be transferred to a Muslim who happens to touch him or his clothes. The intention in points 2 and 3 is to make Jewish men and women recognizable from afar. While point 6 intends to keep the Jew low, at the same time we lear that some Jews were sufficiently well-to-do to engage in the money business and make loans to Muslims. Point 14 bars a Jew from taking care of his beard, which was an important part of the Iranian male Muslim toilet. Point 15 keeps Jews from enjoying a walk outside the ciity – a favorite pastime and recreation in a Muslim city. Point 16 is interesting: since all Jews were forbidden to ride horses, the special mention of a Jewish physician as having to obey this prohibition shows that a Jewish physician, sought after also by Muslim patients, even though he occupied a privileged position, nevertheless had to obey this rule. Point 17 is related to the general Muslim prohibition of drinking alcoholic beverages: a Jew was not forbidden to take drinks, but woe to him if he offended Muslim sensitivities by appearing in the streets in an inebriated condition. From point 18, one can conclude that of all Jewish celebrations, that of a wedding was the most pompous, most public, and most noisy; hence, it was felt necessary to single it out for stringent restrictions. Point 19 is a restriction made purely for the purpose of humiliation.
Fortunately, however, Stephen Schwartz is here to tell us that none of this ever happened. It's all a huge Islamophobic conspiracy hoax. Except, of course, for those who lived through it. And those who did not.

Free Speech wins (this round) in Salt Lake City


The Church of the Latter-day Saints has decided to appeal the recent ruling of a federal circuit court panel that struck down restrictions of speech on the plaza in front of the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. This case has been in the news for quite some time now, and it’s an interesting story.

In 1999, the Salt Lake City council sold the one block strip of Main Street on which the Temple and the church administrative offices are located to the church. It appears to have been quite a busy public thoroughfare. You can find a picture of the way it used to look, along with more details, here.

The church transformed the strip into a garden plaza, complete with fountains, trees, shrubs, walkways and a reflecting pool, and they did a nice job. Here’s what it looks like today. In making the sale, the City retained an easement guaranteeing continuous public access to and through the park, but the church required that a number of restrictions would be placed on that public use. No smoking, sunbathing, music, bicycling, skateboards, speechmaking, picketing, pamphleteering, cursing or begging, no offensive, indecent, obscene, vulgar, lewd or disorderly speech, dress or conduct and no proselytizing of any religion other than the Mormon faith. A few groups, including the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, Utahns for Fairness, the Utah National Organization for Women and, of course, the ACLU, objected to some of the restrictions as violating the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The church won the first round at the Federal District Court level. But earlier this month, the ACLU won its appeal to the 10th Circuit. Now the church is appealing the ruling of the 3-judge panel to the full circuit court. The Constitutional issues are interesting, with both the ACLU and the church claiming the First Amendment is on their side. I think the ACLU has the high ground on this one. While I can understand the desire of the church to have a sort of temptation-free zone at its doorstep, the City’s easement makes the plaza public property. That means that any restrictions on speech in that space must fall within certain non-discriminatory Constitutional guidelines.

Earlier this year, before the ACLU won its appeal, several people were removed from the plaza for violating the restrictions, and two Southern Baptist protesters were arrested for handing out religious literature there. As distasteful as I personally find street corner proselytization, it’s clearly protected speech. The City at one point considered giving up the easement, which would have made the plaza the private property of the church. It appears that this solution has now been rejected. So unless the full 10th Circuit or the Supreme Court reverses the most recent ruling, they’ll have to be content with cutting back some of the restrictions while leaving those that don’t violate the Constitution in place. That should keep some lawyers busy for a while, I would think.

More lies


Last Friday, H.D.S. Greenway reviewed (sort of) Caleb Carr's "new book" in the Boston Globe. The "review" didn't show up in the Books section, though. It appeared in Greenway's old stomping grounds, the Globe editorial page.

"The Lessons of Terror: A history of warfare against civilians - why it has always failed and why it will fail again," (whew!) isn't exactly hot off the presses. It was released last January and was reviewed in the Jerusalem Post in March (in the Books section). But it obviously provides fair cover for Greenway to indulge in one of his periodic Israel-bashing sprees, so here we are.

I haven't read the book (and don't intend to) but I have read Mr. Greenway's editorial. Or semblance thereof. Greenway prefers to do his most of his sniping in this piece from the dubious shelter of Carr's delusions, seldom speaking in his own voice.

His explicit point: terrorism is self-defeating.

His implicit point: Zionism is the ultimate source of terrorism.

His evidence:

In Palestine, the mainstream Jewish armed struggle against the British was carried out by the "Haganah," a group not known for terrorist attacks against civilians. But such restraints were not observed by the Irgun and the Stern Gang, led respectively by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both of whom were considered terrorists even by many Jews. Both rose to become prime ministers of Israel.

Certainly both men believed that terror had worked for them. . ..

Carr, however, considers the terrorist activities of the Irgun and the Stern gang to have been ultimately counterproductive. He says their "murderous ways" turned the British, "once the Jews' most powerful protectors in the region," against the Jews. And once the British had gone, the extremists lost in a confrontation with the newborn government of Israel, which had never been comfortable with Jewish terror tactics against civilians. "Menachem Begin still believed that murdering civilians and hurling bombs into crowds of Arab shoppers would somehow break the Arabs' spirit and provoke sympathy for the Jews among the world community. He continued to be mistaken," according to Carr.

Not only did the Irgun and the Stern Gang not achieve their political goals - they wanted a "Greater Israel" to include both sides of the Jordan River - but the "vicious terrorism that the Irgun had bred into the Israeli character would never be removed," according to Carr. "Worst of all," he writes, "it would inspire vengeful imitation among the Palestinian Arabs." The PLO "took as one of their organizational and operational models the Irgun.... Had they not witnessed over many years the murderous efficiency of the Irgun, the Palestinians might have been tempted to choose a different path; but anger, desperation, and impatience took them down the same road, and inevitably, the results of their decisions were also similar."

His conclusion:
And there you have the tragedy of the Middle East, where revenge follows upon revenge until terror and counterterror become the only form of dialogue.
Let me count the errors. First, the British were "the Jews' most powerful protectors in the region?" In comparison to whom? Yes, factions in the British government were supportive of Jewish national aspirations, but their representatives on location were only slightly less anxious than the Arabs to see the Jews driven into the sea. The fact is that the British did next to nothing to "protect" the Jews under the Mandate, but rather elected to appease Arab unrest by imposing increasing restrictions on the immigration of Jews fleeing from Hitler. The "murderous ways" of Irgun anti-British activity began only after the British had betrayed the promise of the Balfour Declaration and thrown most of their local weight behind the Arabs. Even so, among the many reasons for Britain's decision to withdraw from the region, "Jewish terrorism" was hardly a decisive factor.

Next, Menachem Begin's alleged penchant for "murdering civilians and hurling bombs into crowds of Arab shoppers" can be dismissed as a product of Carr's overactive imagination (no doubt fueled by a steady diet of Arab propaganda). While the Irgun did perpetrate retaliatory attacks on Arab civilians in the late 1930s, Begin was still in Poland at the time (he "immigrated" in 1942). And at no time did Begin ever condone such tactics as a national policy or suggest they would "provoke sympathy for the Jews." To the contrary.

Carr's pathetic postulation of "vicious terrorism that the Irgun had bred into the Israeli character" hardly deserves a response, but its inclusion in this editorial says a lot about Greenway's true agenda. Hadn't he just pointed out that the Israeli government "had never been comfortable with Jewish terror tactics?" That discomfort has been manifest in Israel's conduct throughout the many wars launched against it, including the current conflict, often to its own tactical detriment. The true nature of the Israeli character is also evident in the continuing list of painful concessions offered over the years in the vain attempt to achieve peace with its neighbors. Hey, why let facts get in the way?

But the real kicker here is the notion that the activities of the Irgun somehow inspired the murderous rampages of Arab terrorists. As if the latter hadn't already been busily at work long before any Jewish terrorist acts were contemplated. As if Begin or Shamir ever considered hijacking airplanes. As if members of the Stern Gang ever blew themselves up in bus stations or cafes. As if they crouched by roadways with their rifles and bombs to lie in wait for school buses and mothers driving home from the grocery store. As if they taught their children to seek death and 72 virgins while spilling the innocent blood of others.

In fact, the PLO would have done well to have taken "as one of their organizational and operational models the Irgun." In that event, they would actually have foresworn terrorism the day the Oslo accords were signed instead of using the foothold they had extorted to incite and initiate yet another round of butchery.

Caleb Carr bills himself as a military historian but, as Elliot Jager points out in the Post review, Carr's bread-and-butter is fiction. That could explain a lot. H.D.S. Greenway calls himself a journalist. What's his excuse?

Next week: what Jenin, Tantura and Deir Yassin really have in common.

Shabbat Shalom.

Anti-Semitism unleashed


Ha'aretz today (well, actually tomorrow) has an article on The 'New Anti-Semitism.' Among other disturbing segments is this one, which is a chronological series of links to articles reporting anti-Semitic incidents in Europe earlier this year.

Welsh synagogue heavily damaged by vandalism

Vandals smash Jewish gravestones in Belarus cemetery

Navy officer killed when anti-Semitic sign explodes in Russia

Two lightly hurt by exploding anti-Semitic sign in Siberia

Synagogue, Holocaust memorial vandalized in Czech town

Skinheads attack son of rabbi in Moscow, break his nose

Russian woman hurt in blast while removing anti-Semitic sign

Synagogue in northern Romania vandalized, items stolen

Explosion damages Canadian synagogue in Quebec

London synagogue attacked for a second time

Arson attack on Berlin synagogue, but no damage

Security increased around Belgian synagogue after shooting

Greece slams anti-Semitic attack; Jews protest in Ukraine

Kiev central synagogue attacked; three injured

Security tightened for Paris Jewish schools after bus attack

Paris synagogue targeted in new attack

Jewish sports club attacked in Toulouse, southern France

Two Molotov cocktails thrown at synagogue outside Paris

Arsonists renew attacks on Jewish sites in France

Arsonists attack Jewish cemetery in France

Molotov cocktails hurled at Brussels synagogue

Vandals crash cars through synagogue in southeastern France

German Jewish leader 'furious' at attack in Berlin Jewish cemetery

Dreyfus statue in Paris vandalized with anti-Semitic slogans

There's also a map of attacks in North America, here.

More on Weblog Central and LGF


Charles has continued to receive tremendous support, and I suspect the glee of his detractors is subsiding. Don't miss James Taranto's excellent piece taking MSNBC to the woodshed.

But the real news is over at Weblog Central itself, where Will Femia is busy trying to backpedal himself out of a sticky and potentially costly situation. The good news: the "news or hate?" coda is gone from the description of LGF. The bad news: the "some may find its content..." language isn't.

Significantly, Femia has spent some time and effort trying to make it sound as though he's just a conduit through which opinions pass with no responsibility for what appears on his site.

The most common misconception was that I, as producer of Weblog Central and editor of the Best of Blogs list was on a personal “smear campaign” against this site. They don’t seem to understand that MSNBC.com is not my personal site for my personal agenda. As a communities producer, it is my job to explore, look at, talk about, and yes, even ask questions about the emerging community of Weblogs.
That reply is disingenuous at best. The nature of the inflammatory "questions" that Mr. Femia elected to raise in his discussion of LGF spoke volumes about his personal predisposition. Whether he intended a "smear campaign" or was simply content to be the instrument of one isn't the issue. But there's another hint here.
It did strike me as odd that so many advocates of free discussion and “balanced perspectives” would object so strongly to asking questions or even presenting the objections in the first place, but in this instance I accept some of the blame for not considering the audience better in how I phrased the question.
I'll put it politely. Bullshit. First let's pretend the nasty LGF fans are trying to stifle free discussion and then let's denigrate their ability to grasp of the subtleties of your prose. Clever. No smear campaign intended.
A few respondents objected to my notation in Friday’s post that some may find LGF offensive or racist. The reason I wrote that was because it’s true. Some HAVE found it to be so and wrote in to say so. The number of letters of support of LGF’s inclusion on the list were vastly greater than those opposed, but I can’t simply deny the existence of opposition.
Uh huh. Some may find Will Femia's explanations to be fatuous, sloppy, insincere and malodorous. I sure do. Reminds me of an old brain-twister: this statement is a lie.

Unpleasant choices


It's come to my attention (via Mike Sanders) that Josh Trevino has folded his blog. It seems that professional conflicts have snatched yet another from our midst. While Josh and I didn't exactly see eye to eye about some things, i330 has made a valuable contribution to my store of knowledge and understanding, as I know it has to many others' as well.

Best of luck in all your endeavors, Josh. You'll be missed.

A thin line


Most of you are probably following the brouhaha over the blatant defamation of the Little Green Footballs weblog that’s been posted at MSNBC’s Weblog Central. If not, what’s happened is that MSNBC posted LGF on its Best of Blog list due to popular acclaim and was subsequently “alerted” to the “fact” that the site is “controversial.” Who exactly is responsible for the “alert” seems fairly evident, but I’ll leave that to you to decide for yourself. You can find plenty of discussion and analysis about this matter here and here and here and here and. . . well, you can find it all over the blogosphere at this point. Because something smells fishy here.

If you scroll through Blog Central, you’ll find something almost totally absent. Criticism. For page after page, you can read nice things about nice bloggers, funny bloggers, interesting bloggers and informative bloggers, but there’s not a word of qualification, not a hint of caution. Until the subject of Little Green Footballs comes up. Why is that?

Well, for one reason, Charles has many more readers and much broader exposure than the vast majority of the bloggers mentioned. But that’s not it, is it? Something else is going on here, and it isn’t funny. Not when a major cable network feels it can, with impunity, post this sort of vindictive and utterly baseless nonsense.

• Little Green Footballs - A popular but controversial Warblog focusing on militant Islam and terrorism. Is this news or hate?
Or this.
This site is the focus of considerable controversy for its focus (and particularly the focus of the constituents in its comments section) on Islamic culture and dogma as the source of Islamic terror. As a popular, active, and well presented site, it is worth checking out, but some may find its content hateful or even racist.
I’ve sent my own message to MSNBC. I hope they take it to heart.
I was pretty much appalled to see the obnoxious slurs you've now posted on your website in reference to Charles Johnson's weblog. "Is this news or hate?" "...some may find its content ... racist?" Are you kidding? Have you ever visited Charles' site or are you just relying on the comments of those who are enraged that someone would dare to criticize admirers of suicide bombers and Al-Qaida terrorists? I have never seen Charles advocate violence, hatred, bigotry or discrimination in any form. Have you?

I have, BTW, seen him make an appearance on his own comment board from time to time to remonstrate with those who do.

There's a little addendum to our Constitution called the First Amendment. It allows people to voice their opinions about issues of consequence (or issues of no consequence). It also allows people (and large cable networks) to voice their opinions about other people's opinions. Knowingly false statements that damage a person's reputation, liberty or livelihood, however, are another matter entirely. I suggest that you visit Little Green Footballs personally and make sure you're completely comfortable with your "amended" characterization of that site.

Knowingly or even recklessly false statements that tend to damage a person’s reputation, liberty or livelihood are called slander (when spoken) and libel (when written). And while Charles probably qualifies as a “public figure,” making the burden of proof on the issue just a little bit tougher, MSNBC is skating close to the edge, here. The more they’re alerted to the fact that they’ve published a false accusation on their website, the harder it would be for them to claim that leaving it up didn’t represent publication (or re-publication) with actual malice. So keep those emails rolling in to bestblog@msnbc.com.



Terrorist attacks in Israel, both “successful” and thwarted, tend to get little media coverage outside of that country unless the target is particularly sympathetic (schoolchildren), the death toll substantial or some unusual drama is involved. That’s why I’m always taken aback when I actually see a list of the acts of war that Israelis live with on a constant, daily basis.

For the past several weeks, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has undertaken to issue a weekly “compliance report” on palestinian efforts to satisfy the various prerequisites for statehood that President Bush outlined in his June 24, 2002, speech. You can find the latest report here.

I’ve compiled the ZOA statistics for ongoing terrorist activity during the month of October (so far) below, culminating in yesterday's suicide bus bombing. Imagine.

October 1: Shooting attack on an Israeli Army outpost near Nevei Dekalim ... Attack on Israeli motorists near Hebron; one wounded ... A terrorist planning a suicide bombing was arrested in Shechem (Nablus) ... Bombs discovered and dismantled near the greenhouses in the village of Morag.

October 2: A "mega-attack" was foiled when bombs planted at a gas station on the way to Beit She'an were discovered and dismantled ... Firebomb attack on an Israeli motorist on the Jerusalem-Shilo highway.

October 3: Shooting attack on Israeli workers in northwest Samaria; one wounded ... Four terrorists intercepted on their way to an attack in Har Adar, west of Jerusalem ... Five mortar attacks on a Jewish community in central Gaza ... Firebomb attack on an Israeli motorist near Beitar in Gush Etzion ...Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Jenin.

October 4: Bomb attack on an Israeli Army vehicle near Kfar Aza, just east of the Gaza Strip ... Attacks on Israeli motorists near Yakir Junction ... Attack on Israeli policemen near the Western Wall ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers near Shechem (Nablus); one wounded.

October 5: Mortar fired at an Israeli factory in Gush Katif ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in southern Gaza.

October 6: Shooting and bomb attack on Israeli soldiers and Border Policemen in Jenin ... Shooting and bomb attack on Israeli soldiers and Border Policemen in Shechem (Nablus) ... Shooting attack on Israeli Army post near Neve Dekalim ... Shooting attack on Israeli workers near Neve Dekalim ... Attack on a Jewish encampment near Maale Levonah ... Attacks on Israeli motorists near Halhoul ... Mortar attack on a Jewish neighborhood in Gush Katif ... Terrorist with a bomb captured in Khan Yunis.

October 7: ... Shooting attack on an Israeli motorist in northern Samaria ... Attack on Israeli motorists near Ofra ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Khan Yunis.

October 8: Shooting attack on Israeli motorists near Yatta, southeast of Hebron; one killed, three wounded ... Shooting attack on Jewish homes in the Admot Ishai (Tel Romeida) neighborhood of the Hebron Jewish community ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army position near the Israeli-Egyptian border; two wounded.

October 9: Three terrorists intercepted while trying to infiltrate the town of Morag, in southern Gush Katif ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army outpost near Gadid ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army position near the Israeli-Egyptian border ... Shooting attack at Israelis near Neve Dekalim ... Shooting attack on Israeli troops near Rafiach.

October 10: Suicide bombing in Ramat Gan; one dead, 11 wounded ... Shooting in Neve Dekalim, at a bus stop in front of the Israeli Army's Division Command Headquarters ... Kassam missile fired at an Israeli community in the Negev.

October 11: Suicide bomber intercepted near the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv.

October 12: Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

October 13: Terrorists intercepted trying to infiltrate the town of Moshav Yevul, in the western Negev ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza; two wounded ... Mortar fired at a Jewish home in Gaza ... Bomb attack on an Israeli tank in Shechem (Nablus) ... Shooting attack on a Border Guard patrol near Jenin ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army force in the Jordan Valley ... Shooting attack on an Israeli army outpost near Neve Dekalim.

October 14: Shooting attack on an Israeli Army outpost in Gaza ... Grenade attack on an Israeli Army outpost in Gaza ... Three mortar attacks on Jewish communities in Gaza ... Bomb attack on the road leading to Alfei Menashe, east of Kfar Saba ... Terror intercepted on his way to carry out an attack in the Netanya region.

October 15: Two terrorists planning a large-scale attack in the Samaria region were intercepted ... Bombs were discovered planted in the road near Netzarim ... Bomb attack at the Mechir Ha'Adishut junction south of Kalkilya ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Gaza ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army outpost in Gush Katif ... Terrorist intercepted while preparing a firebomb attack against Israeli soldiers in Tulkarm ... Shooting attack on children playing outside their homes in Beit El.

October 16: Terrorists intercepted on their way to attack the town of Morag.

October 17: Shooting attack on an Israeli car in the Jordan Valley ... Bomb-and-shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Jenin ... Terrorist intercepted as he was placing a bomb near the Girit Outpost in Gaza ... Two terrorists intercepted on their way to attack in Jerusalem ... Shooting attack on the Israeli Army outpost in Tarmit ... ... Bomb-and-shooting attack against Israeli soldiers in Jenin.

October 18: Seven mortar rocket attacks on Jewish communities in Gaza ... Bomb discovered and dismantled near Kalkilya ...Firebomb attack on an Israeli police vehicle in northern Jerusalem ... Bomb-and-shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in northern Gaza; two soldiers wounded ... Anti-tank rockets and shooting attack on Israeli soldiers along the Israel-Egypt border.

October 19: Three Kassam rockets fired at an Israeli Army outpost in northern Gaza ... Bomb planted near Kibbutz Mefalsim, east of northern Gaza ... Shooting attack on Israeli soldiers stationed along the Egyptian border.

October 20: Rocket discovered and dismantled in a neighborhood in the Negev city of Sderot ... Shooting attack on an Israeli Army unit in Gush Katif ... Shooting attacks on Israeli soldiers in Gaza ... Bomb discovered and dismantled on the Israeli-Egyptian border ... Two terrorists intercepted on their way to carry out an attack near Kfar Darom ... Mortar rocket fired at a Jewish community in northern Gaza last night ... Bomb-and-shooting attack on Israeli soldiers in Shechem (Nablus); four wounded.

October 21: Car-bomb attack on a bus in northern Israel; 13 dead, 57 wounded.

Paying attention


With all that's going on these days between the threat of a homicidal maniac in the D.C. area, terrorist attacks in Israel and Indonesia, nukes in North Korea and the impending confrontation with Iraq, it's hard to keep an eye on Afghanistan. Should we? The liberation of that country is being touted as a model for the good things that might await the people of Iraq if we succeed in ridding them of the cancer that is their "President." But how's the ratio of forward and backward steps doing over in the former domain of the Taliban?

Ampersand linked to (among other things) this article from CBS News a few weeks ago. It's about the "reinstatement" of the "vice and virtue police." I didn't think much of it at first, but then I started checking around. It turns out that the "vice and virtue police" never really left.

In the months after the fall of the Taliban, US-supported moderates came to prominence, but conservatives exerted their influence and gained a majority of Cabinet seats during the grand assembly, or loya jirga, in June. Which camp prevails in the future will determine not only the country's leadership and its willingness to cooperate with the US-led military campaign, but also the face of Afghan society and perhaps even the pace of economic development.

''The future of Afghanistan, its rivalries and power struggles, will be between these two camps,'' said Omar Samad, the Foreign Ministry spokesman who was trained in the United States and France. ''The main question is whether it's going to be confined within the bounds of the constitution and the law, or is it going to deteriorate into armed conflict. ''

In one example of the tug-of-war, Karzai never abolished the Vice and Virtue Ministry that was emblematic of the Taliban's puritanism, although he tried to keep its existence quiet. The whips the ministry's police used to lash men who cut their beards and women whose ankles showed under their burkas sit in the office collecting dust, but employees remain on the payroll.

The ministry was downgraded to a department, the status it had when it was established by the mujahideen government in 1992. Karzai renamed it the Department of Islamic Teaching after the Western media learned of it in August. He has not given orders to the Islamic police, but he has not fired them either, for fear rivals could discredit him as a Western liberal.

It's starting to sound like the newfound freedoms in that part of the world, such as they are, may be short-lived unless someone manages to turn the spotlight back over there. While we clearly have our hands full elsewhere, a laissez-faire approach appears unlikely to succeed against powerful forces dragging Afghanistan backwards.
The rifts reflect the political and social realities facing Karzai as he tries to modernize the country. Men are no longer dragged to mosques, women can attend school and work, and music and television are no longer illegal. But traditional values remain a strong current in Afghan society.

Caught between conservatives and progressives, Karzai is playing both sides of the fence, his critics say, espousing the agenda of moderates but only halfheartedly. Had he appealed to the public for support in abolishing the Vice and Virtue Ministry or showing female singers on television, many believe he would have prevailed. But after surviving an assassination attempt Sept. 5 that some Afghans suspect was orchestrated by rivals in the government, observers say Karzai doesn't want to alienate conservative members of his coalition.

Afghan leaders toppled in the last century, from the progressive kings Amanullah Khan and Mohammad Zahir Shah to Dr. Najibullah, all were discredited by rivals for being too liberal or aligned with foreign interests.

Karzai recently appointed conservative Pashtun governors once loyal to the Taliban and the brutal former prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in Logar, Paktika, and Zabul provinces ''because he is so alone that whoever offers him support, he endorses,'' complained a moderate Pashtun politician who was sidelined when the Northern Alliance rose to power. He asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.

And it gets scarier. According to CNN, the V&V department has wised up to the PR angle and now has women doing the job for them.
In the new Afghanistan, women are now being trained to carry the message of Islamic law and to report whenever it is transgressed.

It is Afghanistan's unique brand of women's liberation.

"A woman has great responsibility in Islamic society," one Afghan woman tells CNN.

"She has to lead her children towards Islam and obey the orders of her husband. She is responsible for the education of her children, but also should not leave the house or talk to strangers without her husband's permission," she says.

"We will encourage that."

It's clear, the emphasis of the new vice and virtue department is on a much softer approach towards enforcing Islamic law.

A soft stick is still a stick. Is it our job to convince Afghan women that they want to wear mini-skirts and go to work? Absolutely not. But it would appear that a lot of them already do want these things, and we've held out a promise to them. The question is whether we'll have the fortitude and the focus to follow through.



This week’s parasha, or Torah portion, to be read in the synagogue on Shabbat, is called “Lech-Lecha.” It’s usually translated “get thee out” or “go forth,” and it describes a profoundly pivotal period in the history of the Jewish people. I’m going to dwell on it at some length here, because I believe that the influence of this narrative on the consciousness of the Jewish people through the centuries is extremely relevant to the events unfolding in the Middle East today.

The portion begins at Genesis 12:1, with God telling Abram (as Abraham was then called) to leave his native land and his family and travel to the land of Caanan. In this new land, Abram is promised, he will become the father of a great new nation.

So Abram does as he’s told. But soon after he arrives in Caanan, he’s forced to leave again as a result of a famine. Abram travels to Egypt, where his wife, Sarai, attracts the eye of Pharoah. Abram must pretend to be her brother to avoid being killed as an obstacle to Pharoah’s desires. But all turns out well, as a plague prevents Pharoah from following through. Ultimately, the famine ends, the truth is revealed, and Abram and Sarai are permitted to return to their new home.

At this point, Abram and his nephew, Lot, decide to separate their households. Lot takes up residence in Sodom (another story entirely) and Abram moves to near Hebron, where God makes the following promise:

Lift up now your eyes and look from the place where you are, north and south and east and west; for all the land that you see, to you will I give it, and to your seed for ever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall your seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for to you will I give it.
(Gen. 13:14-17)
Abram soon becomes embroiled in a local war when his nephew is taken as part of the spoils. He miraculously vanquishes the invading armies and wins the admiration and blessing of the King of Salem (Jeru-salem), Melchizedek (“righteous king”), another portent of things to come.

Abram continues to receive promises from God about his posterity, toward which he becomes increasingly skeptical as he grows older and remains childless. Finally, in a dream, Abram is told of the future descent of the Jews into Egypt, their enslavement there and their ultimate liberation to return to the land he has been promised. And the boundaries of that land are described in rather generous terms.

Unto your seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.
(Gen. 15:18)
After this, Abram conceives a child with his wife’s servant, an Egyptian woman named Hagar. The child is called Ishmael. And thirteen years later, when Abram is ninety-nine years old, God once again appears to him, affirms the covenant in all its details and commands him to memorialize it in his flesh and the flesh of every man in his “household” through the act of circumcision. Abram’s name is now changed to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah and God promises him another son, this time by his wife. The child's name will be Issac, and it is through him that the covenant will be honored.

Quite a bit of important activity for just a few pages of biblical text, where time often moves at an erratic pace. But in this account we find the seeds of the rest of the story. And there’s a lot to think about here. In these five chapters, God appears to Abraham no less than five separate times. On four of these occasions, God promises to make of him a great nation and on four of them God promises him the land. The culmination of these promises appears in the last chapter, which consists almost entirely of a conversation between Abraham and God.

And I will establish my covenant between Me and you and your seed after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your seed after you. And I will give to you and to you seed after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Caanan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
(Gen. 17:7-8)
Throughout the parasha, the promise, which is a simple declaration at first, becomes increasing woven into a mutually binding covenant. The land and the people are inextricably bound to God in a complicated relationship that’s finally sealed in a most dramatic and irrevocable act.
This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your seed after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.
(Gen. 17:10)
Looking at this from a modern-day perspective, it almost seems as if Abraham was backed into a bit of a corner here. He’s induced to leave his home by a naked promise, he uproots himself from comfort and safety and literally becomes a new person with a new name in a new and strange country, and along the way he learns that there are strings attached to the original offer. Even so, he’s 100 years old before he sees the first tangible manifestation of the promise. A single son, Issac, through whom the covenant will be realized. (And, as we know, he’ll later be asked to sacrifice this son in the ultimate test of his devotion to God.) And what of his first son, Ishmael, also dear to him, through which a separate nation will come? At this point in the story, it’s already clear that the relationship between the sons of Ishmael and the sons of Issac will be stormy.
And the angel of the Lord said to [Hagar]: Behold, you are with child, and shall bear a so, and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction. And he shall be a wild ass of a man: his hand shall be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the face of all his bretheren
(Gen. 16:11-12)
It’s important to keep in mind that this narrative was set in its present form (more or less) several centuries before Mohammed was born. And that for almost 2000 years after the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews continued to read it in their synagogues every year around this time without any intention or interest in acting on their own to reclaim their land. The text itself, in fact, seems to encourage an acceptance of God’s judgment of exile until He finds us worthy to bring home Himself, and there are Jews today who refuse to acknowledge the State of Israel for this reason.

But, to most of the rest of us, the birth of the State of Israel is the manifestation of the promise. Regardless of whether you read Lech-Lecha literally or as a national origin narrative cast in the spiritual language of its time, this promise has been the center of Jewish life from its inception. And throughout the years of the Diaspora, Jews read this story in times of joy and times of sorrow, times of comfort and times of want, and held on to the hope that someday, somehow, the promise would be kept. We would be able to go home, to our land, to the one place on this planet where we truly belong.

Abraham had to wait until he was eighty-six before he had a child, and until he was ninety-nine before he had a child by his wife, but when the time finally came, he took matters into his own hands, so to speak and, with some Help, created a miracle or two. After waiting 2,000 years, the Jewish People have followed his lead. Again.

Shabbat Shalom.

No surprise?


I sort of expected the blogosphere to be all over this one

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- The Vatican will not approve an agreement reached by U.S. bishops on how to deal with priests accused of pedophilia because of conflicts with canon law, sources said Thursday.
Still, I would have at least expected a mention from Mark Shea, but he's busy today trying to shut down "defund" Planned Parenthood. Because they are morally corrupting our children, you see. The priests who molest those children, however, deserve the full protection of cannon law.
The Vatican objected to the resolution's lack of an appeal process, as required by canon law, its elimination of a statute of limitations and the provision requiring that accusations be turned over to police immediately.
Actually, it now appears that the inital story I heard earlier today was based on "sources" and the actual letter setting forth Vatican policy won't be made public until tomorrow. And The Christian Science Monitor has an entirely different story to report. Or so the headline would make it seem.



Ira Einhorn was convicted of first degree murder. It took the jury a whole two hours to reach the verdict.

Electronic Intifada chimes in again


A few weeks ago I was pouting because the Electronic Intifada dropped a comment about their rather original Jenin "massacre" spin to Moira Breen but not to me. Well, this past weekend (when I was too busy with pleasant things to get too distracted by it), I got a little note from Nigel Perry. Here's a full, complete and utterly unedited copy of our exchange:

Nigel's note:

At http://incontext.blogspot.com/ you claim that our letter to the Economist asserts "that the palestinians [sic] never claimed there was a "massacre" at Jenin". No it doesn't. Read it again. Here's the letter: http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article568.shtml

The focus is the fact that there is no direct quote of the 500 number from a Palestinian official, not on whether Palestinians used the word 'massacre'. The point we made was that no Palestinian official said '500 were massacred at Jenin'.

In other words, it's a case of Chinese whispers, which happens in the media all the time. It was important to correct this instance not because we were trying to say that "Israel made it all up" but because this red herring point has been used by the Israel lobby -- as it has been by you -- to divert attention away from what *did* happen at Jenin, a point that is abundantly clear in all our writing about this topic.

The esoteric debate about whether there was a "massacre" or not is irrelevant in light of the fact that Israel's own media printed testimony from a bulldozer driver that says he knowingly drove bulldozers on top of occupied homes and that every human rights organization which looked into it concluded that there was evidence that "war crimes" had happened at Jenin.

If you're going to contest things we say, that's all good. However, it is generally considered impolite to put words in other people's mouths and then complain about their narrative.

Nigel Parry

My reply:

Nice try. I've read the letter. Both the version that was printed in the Economist and the version you claim you originally sent to the Economist. I believe the letter speaks for itself. That's why I republished it.

Lynn B.

His response:

Your use of the phrase "nice try" suggests we're trying to backtrack or change what we said since the Economist letter.

I suppose it's completely irrelevant to your ongoing mouth stuffing escapades that a whole month before the Economist letter we were arguing exactly what you claim we're backtracking from: http://electronicIntifada.net/v2/article499.shtml

The beauty of it all is that -- yes -- our letter really does speak for itself.

Your hostile and dismissive attitude suggests you don't really care about the facts of the matter. Fine. Your website title suggested the opposite. My mistake.

Nigel Parry

"Mouth stuffing escapades?" Wow! Is this guy keeping track of my eating habits? Anyway, I've gone back over Mr. Parry's links, just in case I missed something the first several times around, and I must repeat what I said the last time I wrote about this. You'd think these guys would want to slink away and stop calling attention to this almost (but not quite) comical farce. Their buddies got caught in a lie, they tried to weasel their way out of it in the lamest and most disingenuous possible way, they got called on it and now they insist on advertising their ineptitude.

Well, okay, I'm happy to help, but there's only so much I can add to the evidence I've already posted here. Except to call Mr. Parry's attention to the fact that I didn't and wouldn't accuse him of backtracking. His consistent backstop has been and apparently remains that Saeb Erekat never claimed in so many words that 500 palestinians were killed at Jenin and that no palestinian official ever referred to the Israeli incursion into the Jenin refugee camp as a "massacre" until Shimon Peres said it first.

To which I say, so what? Even if (and I still don't buy this "if") the Israeli foreign minister (who incidentally had his own axe to grind) "said it first," the fact remains that palestinian officials, including Erekat, immediately picked up the "massacre" ball and ran with it ad nauseum. It was a lie. Moreover, the lie was deliberately used by the palestinians and their supporters in a huge media blitz, the express goal of which was to win world sympathy and demonize Israel by convincing as many people as possible that the lie was the truth. They failed. The fact that Mr. Abunimah and Mr. Parry were already trying to whitewash this fraud before the U.N. Report came out is irrelevant. They knew that there was no possibility of substantiating the false accusations that had been made. They were simply doing damage control.

Mr. Parry has taken me, Ha'aretz and the Economist to task for distorting his words. Somehow, it seems, all of us got the impression that he was asserting that the palestinians never claimed there was a "massacre." Not true, he insists. He was only claiming that the words "500 killed at Jenin" were never uttered. Is this the sole point of the endless letters, emails, blog comments and Electronic Intifada articles such as this one to which Mr. Parry directed me and which was published on no less than ten different pro-palestinian websites around the internet (ain't Google great)? In this article, Ali Abunimah appears to be arguing as follows: 1) In an interview with CNN anchor Jim Clancy on April 10, 2002, Mr. Erekat said that "numbers of killed could reach 500 since the Israeli offensive began," 2) Then CNN's Bill Hemmer, "apparently in reference to Erekat's earlier appearance," erroneously reported that Erekat had said "Palestinians have lost now 500 people between the battles in Jenin and Nablus," 3) this erroneous report was picked up by the Jerusalem Post, which reported that Erekat had claimed 500 dead at Jenin alone, 4) there is no evidence that Erekat or any other palestinian official ever made such a claim so 5) (and here's the quantum leap) this specific accusation, of 500 dead, was seized upon by the Israelis so as to divert the world's attention from the um, massacre war crimes at Jenin. Do I have it right now, Nigel? You fully acknowledge that the palestinians falsely accused Israel at every opportunity of perpetrating a "massacre" at Jenin, but you absolutely, positively refute that they included the number 500 in that false accusation?

You know, I think I might be willing to call that a meeting of the minds if it weren't for this transcript from an interview that Mr. Erekat gave to Bill Hemmer on April 15, 2002, in which he makes the following curious statement -- verbatim:

Look, Bill, I told you yesterday, if the number of Palestinians who were killed in that refugee camp is as small as they say, I'm willing to come to Jenin and say we made a mistake. But when Sharon tonight says it's not dozens, but it's not 500, what is it, 400, 300? What is it? And the point is about the civilians. Where are the civilians in this refugee camp? Is there a refugee camp left?
So my question is, when Erekat asks "[if] it's not 500, what is it?" what "500" is he referring to? And what exactly is the "mistake" he's willing to come to Jenin to admit "if the number of Palestinians who were killed in that refugee camp is as small as they say?"

Fact is, the U.N. report (and every other report) clearly established that the number was, in fact, "as small as they say." So I'm waiting for Mr. Erekat to make that appearance at Jenin and maybe to bring Mr. Parry and Mr. Abunimah with him. But I'm not holding my breath.

Party politics


Stefan Sharkansky has a must-read (which he hammers home here) for those of us who are inclined to prefer a Democratic majority in Congress to balance the Republican administration in the White House. There are still a heck of a lot of important issues on which I would prefer not to give Bush carte blanche. I'm still a registered Democrat and I keep hoping "my" party will come its senses. But the hope is growing dimmer by the day and Stefan points out one of the potential costs of "balance."

Anti-Semitism on campus -- it's out there


In the course of the ongoing debate on the relationship between
anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Barry at Amptoons has linked to this press release about an ADL “survey” from last spring. In particular, the ADL found:

Campus faculty and students are the least anti-Semitic among Americans. Anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses is virtually non-existent. Only 3% of undergraduates, and 5% of faculty fall into the most anti-Semitic category. Fully 74% of undergraduates, and 79% of faculty, are prejudice free.
In light of the rabid eruptions of anti-Semitism on college campuses across North America in the last several months, I found this result intriguing, to say the least. So I took a look at the actual survey itself, which can be found here (in PDF). The data on campus attitudes, it turns out, came from two separate surveys taken of 800 college students and 500 faculty members, respectively. The students were interviewed between April 26th and May 3rd; the faculty between May 1st and May 31st. In other words, this survey took place immediately following the increase in terror attacks in Israel and the height of the Israeli military response to those attacks.

But the ADL’s conclusions are based on the answers to eleven specific questions that they believe reveal the presence of anti-Semitism. I would suggest right off the bat that these particular questions, even if answered honestly, would indicate anti-Semitism only in the narrowest, most classical sense. But the fact is that there is no way that otherwise liberal, left-wing, progressive students and faculty members would respond positively to such questions no matter who they were asked about. And here we arrive at one of the very trickiest nubs of this whole debate. It’s clear to me that those neo-leftists leading today’s anti-war, anti-globalization, anti-Israel campaigns who are in fact anti-Semites simply can’t express their anti-Semitism in classical terms. Such views create the worst kind of cognitive dissonance for them. Classical anti-Semitism is so politically incorrect and out-of-synch with the self-image that most neo-leftists have of themselves that they are compelled to find another way of expressing their feelings that “fits” their personae. And anti-Zionism seems to fit quite nicely.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on polls, but I have a number of problems with this one. Primarily, I don’t believe that the questions asked reveal anything about the population to whom they were addressed except that they don’t feel comfortable with classic anti-Semitic statements. The ADL says this is the first time they’ve done a separate study of college campuses, but they used the same old index. It doesn’t work.

Here are the eleven questions that constitute the ADL's "anti-Semitism index."

1) Jews stick together more than other Americans.
2) Jews always like to be at the head of things.
3) Jews are more loyal to Israel than America.
4) Jews have too much power in the U.S. today.
5) Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street.
6) Jews have too much power in the business world.
7) Jews have a lot of irritating faults.
8) Jews are more willing than others to use shady practices to get what they want.
9) Jewish businesspeople are so shrewd that others don't have a fair chance at competition.
10) Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind.
11) Jews are [not] just as honest as other businesspeople.
This sort of self-indicting poll, phrased as it is in the language of classical bigotry, isn't going to ferret out anti-Semitic or racist attitudes among those who choose not to display them. This is especially true in the context of the "new" anti-Semitism growing in the academic community today, which is coming not from the classic right but from the neo-left.

To the extent they're of any value, the rosy survey results actually highlight the nature of the problem rather than indicate it doesn’t exist. Compare and contrast the survey findings with those on this page of the ADL website, which indicate quite an alarming trend. While students and faculty are reporting their own anti-Semitic sentiments to be negligible, incidents of violence against Jews, hate speech, Holocaust denial and, yes, anti-Zionist propaganda are proliferating on campus as never before.

This is part of the problem with teaching people how to talk the talk but not how to walk the walk. When bigotry and intolerance are forced underground, they don’t go away. They just pop up somewhere else and, usually, the new incarnation is even uglier and more virulent than the old.

Ok, "feminazis"


I've been spending some time thinking about and browsing the use of the term "feminazi." And I've come to the conclusion that Barry has half a point. For two reasons. First, I found a quote from Rush Limbaugh's book where he actually says this.

... I prefer to call the most obnoxious feminists what they really are: feminazis. The term describes any female who is intolerant of any point of view that challenges militant feminism. I often use it to describe women who are obsessed with perpetuating a modern-day holocaust: abortion.
So I was wrong. It would appear that Rush Limbaugh actually does accuse feminists (or, to be more precise, pro-choice individuals of any stripe) of perpetrating a holocaust, which should not, I guess, surprise me too much.

Second, I found an interesting though ponderous paper called "From Sex-Vixens to Senators - Representation in Nazi Porn and the Discourse of the American Right Wing" by Barb Serfozo and Henry Farrell that has an interesting slant on Rush's use of this term. Here's a sample.

The image of the feminazi owes much to Ilsa and her sisters. The term feminazi is what Lewis Carroll called a "portmanteau word": it quite literally conflates feminism and Nazism together, without any regard to historical reality (National Socialism sought to confine women pretty well entirely to the private sphere). "Feminazism" has no basis in historical images of fascism: it instead draws its power from images of the domineering blonde, blue-eyed Nazi bitch, that were introduced into popular culture through the vector of pornography. This is evidenced by attacks made on Hillary Clinton by Limbaugh and others, which harp on her physical appearance and depict her as an icy, power-obsessed blonde feminazi, who has pretended to have domestic concerns when it was politically expedient, but is in reality defined by an overwhelming lust for power.
One could easily conclude that the use of the word "Nazi" is intended to conjure up the same sort of archetypal nightmare image for a modern feminist as it is for a modern Jew. So to that extent, I think Barry has it right. I did ignore the origins of the term and they are, indeed, more than odious.

Fortunately or unfortunately, though, depending on your point of view, the term "feminazi" was so catchy and so absurd that it quickly got co-opted by a lot of people whose intentions are considerably more benign than Mr. Limbaugh's. With quiet deliberation, the malice originally intended has been diluted. I think that's why you don't see people getting too upset these days over the offhand use of the term (and the variations on the theme to which Armed Liberal referred in his post last week). And I think that may be a good thing.

As for the notion that Jews should be extra-sensitive to the use of this term because many feminists are Jewish, I think we're stretched way out on a limb, there. But I am more or less saved from responding further at this moment by the clock and two very important houseguests (my Dad and his wife) who are here for the weekend and with whom I'm about to go and share a quiet Shabbat dinner. Somehow, I suspect that Barry and I will be continuing this dialogue.

Shabbat Shalom.

More thoughts on anti-Semitism **(revised)**


Barry has posted a response to some of the points Armed Liberal and I were trying to make in the ongoing anti-Semitism = anti-Zionism debate. It appears that Barry and I see some of the issues involved here from such totally different perspectives that it’s hard to have a coherent dialogue about them, but I do believe it’s worth the effort.

I agree that the “feminazi” thing is a distraction, but now Barry’s injected an interesting twist. Is the term “feminazi” anti-Semitic? The short answer is no, but I’ll have to get back to that in another post.

Right now I want to deal with my apparent failure to explain why the divestment campaign is anti-Semitic. I thought I covered that here.

. . . any campaign that disproportionately singles out one group or entity for criticism or attack reflects a bias on the part of its participants and tends to encourage more of the same (can you say "ethnic profiling?).
Since that wasn’t clear, let me put a finer point on it. No matter how “brutal” you believe the act of establishing settlements on one’s ancestral homeland may be, no matter how “oppressive” the confiscation of olive groves and barren fields may seem, and whether or not you perceive the establishment of checkpoints to prevent the movement of would-be mass murderers as “collective punishment,” there are many more egregious violations of human rights going on all over the globe. Many of them are taking place in Arab and Muslim countries. But there is only one country being singled out for “divestment.” It’s not Syria and it’s not China and it’s not North Korea. The mass murder, rape and slave trade in Sudan evokes not a word or a whimper. One country. That happens to be the Jewish State. Now when Jews are singled out for "criticism" that's intended to result in economic, pollitical and ultimately physical damage, that's anti-Semitism.

But Barry seems to believe that it’s only "conservatives" who understand the connection between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. I’ll conclude with a well-worn quote from that famous right-wing extremist, Dr. Martin Luther King (who Barry presumably doesn’t know of):


The MLK quote has been removed from this post. An alert reader who noticed a discussion about this essay in the comments at Little Green Footballs has gently brought to my attention that the essay is most likely a hoax. Until and unless I find evidence to the contrary, I'd like to nip the proliferation of this probable forgery in the bud. You'll find some background here.

What amazes me is how widely this story has spread and how many very thorough and reliable sources have published it. Oh, and Barry, I'll have an order of fries with that crow.

Careful what you wish for


Today on Fox News, Neil Cavuto was interviewing palestinian representative to the U.N., Nasser Al-Kidwa, on the "massacre" at Khan Younis (Al-Kidwa did use that word, and he said it was only one of many). In the course of the interview, Cavuto suggested that the IDF action at Khan Younis was similar to a terrorist suicide bombing. Because, you know, "innocent civilians" get killed in both cases. And..., the moment we've all been waiting for..., Al-Kidwa disagreed.

It's not what you think (actually, if you're reading this blog, it probably is what you think). The Israeli operations, said Al-Kidwa, are much worse, a much more outrageous violation of human rights. After all, suicide bombings are the acts of individuals and are always, always condemned completely by the P.A. (Neil said he hadn't heard that yet, but Al-Kidwa assured him he just wasn't listening hard enough.) The Israeli actions, on the other hand, are state-sponsored. They have the approval of the government and represent a Policy.

So there you go. At long last, the palestinians are no longer trying to assert a moral equivalence between Israeli "incursions" and suicide bombings. We can all breathe a really deep sigh.

By the way, I still haven't heard one Israeli explanation of this incident at Khan Younis that I find responsive to the concerns being raised by that ever-alert "international community." From all accounts I've heard so far, I'm not feeling too pleased or proud over what happened yesterday. Feel free to enlighten me. Please.

Liberté, egalité, absurdité


From today's Ha'aretz:

French survey: Israel is number two threat to world peace, just after Iraq

By Yair Sheleg, Ha'aretz Correspondent

Israel was ranked number two, just after Iraq, on a list of countries that threaten world peace, according to a recent survey conducted by French newspapers. Syria, Iran and Libya also appear on the list, albeit after Israel. The survey was conducted jointly by five local dailies in northwest France, which have a combined readership of about 175,000.

The list includes a total of 15 countries. Following Iraq and Israel were Afghanistan, the United States, Palestine, Iran, Pakistan, Algiers and Libya in that order. Syria appears number 12 on the list.

A similar survey carried out a year ago ranked Israel "only" number four on the list of countries that threaten world peace.

"There is no doubt that distortions in the French media influence the survey," Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior said in reponse to the list. "Even if there is a legitimate criticism of Israel, in many cases we see a distortion of reality in the French media, which explains the absurd results of the survey. In any event, we do not apologize for our existence."

Proof positive that the French have lost it completely.

And, by the way, mes chers amis, "Palestine" is not a "country." Morons.

Odd vibes


Moe Freedman has posted about a "counter-conference" that's being organized at the University of Michigan in opposition to the "Divestment Conference" scheduled there for October 13. It's (the "counter-conference," that is) being sponsored by the Hasbara Fellowships of Aish HaTorah and the ZOA. Good idea. But Debbie Schlussel and John Loftus? There are plenty of spokespeople with solid credentials who could have been recruited for this event. Schlussel and Loftus may each have forgotten more about the Middle East than most people will ever know but they both tend to go off the deep end and they’re both, ummm, just a little bizarre. On the other hand, maybe it’s not such a bad approach. Fight fire with fire?

Give and take


Armed Liberal has a great entry in the anti-Semitism debate that Barry's promised to respond to. And Barry didn't find my arguments persuasive. I didn't think he would. I generally don't expect to influence people who have already made up their minds.

For the record, though, I also don't intend to "preach." I just express my opinion and hope others will continue to do the same, whether or not they agree with me. Sometimes tact and even civility give way to emotion. I do try to watch that. Oh, and (so far, anyway) nothing I've seen over at Amptoons has given me the impression that Barry's "looney left." That was a general reference and wasn't intended to apply to him. Hey, he reads Kim Stanley Robinson. We obviously have some common ground somewhere.

Response to Esther, continued


Okay, it’s technically tomorrow. I promised to argue some things, and I hopefully will. But this post is going to concentrate on one paragraph of Esther Kaplan’s essay that, when I was reading it, really dragged me to a grinding halt. I have enough to say about this one paragraph to fill an entire post, and I very well may do just that.

Kaplan has focused intensely on the issue of what she considers to be the exaggerated and detrimental mutual identification of Israel and world Jewry. It’s clear that she, personally, isn’t so comfortable being included in that identification. Fair enough. But in that vein, she asserts:

This identification between Jews and Israel is reinforced by Israeli leaders and by most of the major Jewish organizations in the United States. At the height of Israeli incursions into the West Bank this spring, Sharon called the troop actions “a battle for the survival of the Jewish people.”[fn]
Yes, and there’s a reason for this, which Ms. Kaplan seems conveniently to have either forgotten or overlooked. While Jews come from many different places that we call home, there is only one Jewish homeland, which is Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel. It has always been and always will be our homeland, whether or not Jews continue to live there (as they always have) and whether or not Jews continue to rule there (which for many centuries they did not). Today, it’s once again a sovereign nation to which we can return if we choose, in which our laws and customs are the norm, in which our calendar and our holidays govern the daily rhythm of life. There’s no other place like that on earth, nor will there ever be. And there’s no other place on earth where Jews have the right and the responsibility to defend themselves. That’s what Ariel Sharon means when he says that the defense of Israel is a battle for the survival of the Jewish people. We have no other defender or protector, other than by the whim and caprice of others. And we’ve seen all too often the consequences of relying on such whims and caprices.

As for “incursions into the West Bank," what exactly does that mean? The “West Bank” is “occupied territory,” right? “Occupied” by Israel. How do you make “incursions” into territory you’re already allegedly “occupying?” I guess maybe the way you do it is that you withdraw completely from that territory and hand it over to someone else based on the promise that they’ll prevent people there from coming over to your place to murder you. So when they don’t keep that promise and you have to go back there to do it yourself, you’ve made “incursions.” See? I get it.

Here at home, ADL’s Abe Foxman, is fond of saying “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, period,”[fn] while the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations push a hawkish pro-Israel politics on Capitol Hill that is out of step with the propeace American Jewish majority—despite the fact that the conference claims to represent the entire American Jewish community.[fn]
Mr. Foxman is “fond” of saying that only because it’s true, and Mr. Foxman, unlike many of the other individuals that Ms. Kaplan chooses to quote, is “fond” of telling the truth. But what exactly is it that Ms. Kaplan is trying to say here? What exactly is the “propeace American Jewish majority?” It’s a given that the majority of American Jews want peace in the Middle East. The same is true of Israeli Jews, and no one has sacrificed more in the attempt to reach peace than they have. But Ms. Kaplan’s claim that Jewish community leaders who pursue “hawkish pro-Israel politics” are “out of step” with this majority is ludicrous. Quite simply, the majority of American Jews support the right of Israel’s democratically elected government to defend her citizens and her existence as it sees fit, even if they aren’t always comfortable with the result. It’s Ms. Kaplan who’s “out of step” here.
In any case it needs to be said: Though identification with Israel is at least as intense for many Jews as identification with Palestine is for many Arabs, not all Israelis and diasporic [sic] Jews support the occupation or Sharon’s escalating brutality.
Well, it obviously needs to be said by Esther Kaplan, but the reasons are unclear. First of all, didn’t she mean to say, “…identification with Israel is at least as intense for many Jews as identification with Palestine is for many Palestinians…”? As I said before, the Jews have one country and that country is Israel. The Arabs, on the other hand, have twenty-two, and then there’s the hoped for twenty-third Arab state that would be called “Palestine.” It strikes me as extremely odd that Ms. Kaplan would refer to those people who “identify” with “Palestine” as “Arabs.”

But maybe it was an ideological slip. It’s my belief (though clearly not hers) that there is in fact a pan-Arab “identification with Palestine” for the simple reason that it’s always been the intention of the Arab world to replace Israel with that entity and thus remove the ultimate offense of a non-Arab (and especially Jewish) nation from their midst. That’s because, you see, they aren’t racist. And then there’s this. Although it’s most certainly true that not all Jews support what Ms. Kaplan and her self-defined “propeace” crowd are fond of calling “occupation” and “brutality” (as opposed to simple and restrained self-defense), it appears that there are pitifully few Arabs who are willing to express equivalent reservations about suicide bombings and the cold blooded murder of 5-year-olds in their beds. Now that’s what needs to be said.

To be continued . . .

The 'sphere is humming


I don't know about you but it seems to me as if something's about to burst loose in a big way. Of course, I've had that feeling before, and little has come of it. Are we going to war? Well, maybe, but that's not it. Plots are playing out, options are narrowing, it just seems as if something's going to happen. Maybe good, maybe not. I just don't know.

Silent Running has joined the face-life crowd, and I must say their new look is both stunning and revealing. The content is just as racy as ever. Be there.

Stefan Sharkansky has a run of posts that all demand serious attention. And Imshin has a post on a new Israeli Arab movement and its potential consquences from her own unique perspective that simply shouldn't be missed.

The next installment (which, truth to tell, was actually the first installment) of my reaction to Esther Kaplan's PublicEye piece will be up tomorrow. I almost promise.

Ari Weiss


A few weeks ago, the Jerusalem Post carried a story about a young soldier whose mother sent him (and his whole unit) a very special care package. Last Monday, he was killed by palestinian gunmen in Nablus. Both stories are here.

From The Jerusalem Post.

"The last time I spoke to you, three hours before you were killed, we talked for a few minutes. I said, 'I need to go and I will call you back.'
Never in my life have I regretted anything more than those words."

--Eli Weiss said at the funeral of his older brother Ari Yehoshua..... .

May his memory be a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom

On to Esther


As I was saying, Meryl suggested that I might have a few words to say about this article. Naturally, I do. I have many words, and they probably won’t all fit here. We’ll see.

Esther Kaplan published this essay, called “Antisemitism [sic] After September 11th,” in the Summer 2002 issue of Public Eye Magazine. The magazine is a mouthpiece of Political Research Associates, a “progressive” community organization. On September 19, 2001, PRA issued this statement, urging “caution” in the aftermath of 9/11. Some excerpts:

For all of our 20 years we have been justifiably critical of the behavior of the United States internationally, and we emphasize in this time of crisis the need for the country and the administration to be introspective and to reflect on US foreign policy.

PRA's job at this moment is to analyze the role of the political Right Wing in the Bush administration's response to the attacks. As the approval rating of George W. Bush rises and with it the chorus of nationalistic pro-American rhetoric, we fear blanket support for the administration's actions. We join progressive and peace-loving people around the world in calling for the response to be within the bounds of human rights and international law. We are concerned that in several areas, the aftermath of the attacks will turn this country even further to the right:

. . . . President Bush has appointed a number of men to his administration who are veterans of previous US international wars, both overt and covert, and whose roles in those conflicts were morally questionable. We are concerned that the urgency of this moment will discourage a thorough review of who is conducting the response to these attacks.

With that context and the title of her essay in mind, one might have expected to find a discussion here of the relationship between the terrorist attack on America and the increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric and incidents thereafter. One does, but the discussion is short because Ms. Kaplan concludes early on that, in fact, anti-Semitic activity did not increase (but in fact decreased) in the aftermath of 9/11. Rather, the global increase in anti-Semitism began as a consequence of something quite different.
But there is a critical component in the outbreak of anti-Jewish violence documented in “Les Antifeujs,” as well as in the incidents documented in a similar, global report from the Israel-based Stephen Roth Institute: both tie the upsurge in hate crimes against Jews not to the events of September 11th, but to a date a year earlier —the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada, and Israel’s brutal response.
That last clause, “Israel’s brutal response” hints at what’s to come. While deploring anti-Semitism in all its manifestations, Ms. Kaplan advises us that it is, indeed, our fault. No punches are pulled here. She tells it like it is. We are guilty of bringing these woes down upon our own heads and here are the reasons.

First and foremost, Jews are guilty of over-identification with Israel and Israel, in turn, is guilty of overplaying its identification with Jews, to our detriment. This scenario plays out as follows: Israel is brutal, its victims and their sympathizers justifiably react to this brutality by attacking Israel; Israel says it represents world Jewry; world Jewry agrees; those attacking Israel understandably expand their attacks to world Jewry.

Next, Zionism is responsible for depriving the Arab populace of interaction with Jews and thus of having the opportunity to see our good side. The only Jews they see now are “Israeli soldiers on the evening news.”

“Mohammed Fadel, a member of the post-9/11 New York City-based organization, Muslims Against Terrorism, and a specialist in Islamic law, says that Egyptians of his father’s generation had Jewish neighbors, colleagues, and schoolmates, and there were Jews in prominent positions in the government—but that’s no longer the case. One of the unintended consequences of Zionism,” Fadel argues, “is that you no longer have a social presence of Jews in the Arab world. And without any kind of reality check in society to limit the tendency of people to view their enemies in the worst possible way, it’s not hard to understand how antisemitic rhetoric can grow and spread.”
Ms. Kaplan doesn’t say whether she believes that all of those Egyptian (and Iraqi, Iranian, Mocorran, etc.) Jews just voluntarily picked up and left their wonderful lives on a whim or whether they were encouraged or in fact expelled as a result of the natural outrage that the very existence of a Jewish State provoked among their Arab neighbors. The evidence proves the latter, of course, but does it really matter? The point is, Zionism is the culprit.

Finally, Israel and its supporters have abused the memory of the Holocaust to justify their own evil deeds. The use of Nazi rhetoric against us is the logical, though unfortunate, result of this abuse.

With Israel using the Holocaust to justify its military aggressions, the temptation has clearly become strong, within the movement against the occupation, to take that moral authority away. . . . “It is precisely because anti-Semitism is used and abused by the likes of Sharon,” writes Naomi Klein, “that the fight against it must be reclaimed.”
Ms. Kaplan concludes by helpfully providing the Jewish community with advice in the form of two “critical challenges” we must meet. It’s unclear what the goal of these challenges might be. First, we must “reject the fear-mongering of pro-Israeli sectors,” emphasize the distinction between “Jews everywhere” and Israel and forcefully challenge “truly” anti-Semitic actions and statements (that sounds like three already, but who’s counting). Second, we must feel and acknowledge the pain that Israel is inflicting on the palestinians, we must deplore the “intensity of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim violence” in the U.S. since 9/11 and we must take solace in the solidarity shown us by Muslims in Europe and here at home (see, we did finally get back to 9/11, sort of). Whew!

Kaplan’s reference to “truly” anti-Semitic acts and statements brings us back to the crux of the argument that I tried to address yesterday. We don’t get a clue as to where she draws the line, but this quote from a “significant leader in the French Jewish community” is illuminating.

When a political solution for the Middle East conflict can be found, and a viable Palestinian state coexists with Israel, then we shall see that the Muslim community in no way cherishes the anti- Semitic hatred that characterized the Fascist movement in France and Europe before 1950.
Is that a fact? According to Ms. Kaplan, “an end to the occupation” can be expected to bring an end to the current surge of anti-Semitism. If not, she consoles, then at least the nature of the attacks on Jews will become “abundantly clear.” Now that gives me a lot of comfort, because we all know that the Muslim community cherished no anti-Semitic hatred prior to Israel’s “occupation” of the territories it won in the Six-Day-War. Before that, we all got along splendidly. Of course this doesn’t jibe too well with her assertion that the very existence of Israel created so much rage back in 1948 that the Arab nations were forced to expel the vast majority of their Jewish populations. In order to reconcile that, you see, we have to acknowledge that the “occupation” that needs to end is the occupation by Jews of one single solitary square inch of territory in the Middle East. That, unfortunately, is the name of the game, and nothing in this essay even begins to suggest otherwise.

But that’s to be expected. Ms. Kaplan has selected a wide variety of “progressive,” anti-Zionist and anti-globalization spokespeople to support her thesis and there’s unlikely to be one among them who would shed many tears if Israel ceased to exist tomorrow. I was particularly impressed, though, by Ms. Kaplan’s choice of Ali Abunimah as her Arab liaison. Mr. Abunimah, who is described as “vice-president of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network,” comes off in her piece as a champion of the “sounder voices in the Arab and Muslim communities.”

What Ms. Kaplan neglects to mention is Mr. Abunimah’s principal role at an outfit called “Electronic Intifada.” I’ve mentioned this organization before, most recently here and here in connection with Mr. Abunimah’s letter to The Economist in which he tried to assert that the palestinians never claimed there was a “massacre” at Jenin and that news reports to the contrary were part of an Israeli plot intended to damage Arab credibility. So much for “sounder voices.”

Speaking of voices, I hear a small one whispering that this is all fine and good but that I have yet to refute Ms. Kaplan’s point. It’s hard to argue that the vast majority of Jews have tried to distance themselves from Israel or that Israel has tried to distance itself from us. It’s equally hard to refute the accusation that Israelis at times “have wrapped themselves in the language of the Holocaust.” Since Kaplan is starting from the premise that these are bad things, her argument more or less makes itself.

But I’ll argue that far from distancing themselves from each other, Jews and Israel actually need to increase their mutual identification if we’re to weather this storm. I’ll argue that such identification has no bearing on the ability or inclination of Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel and that, in fact, some of the harshest criticism (as opposed to rabid attack) comes from those who feel most identified with Israel, both on the left and on the right. I'll argue that Zionism, far from being the cause of anti-Semitism, was in large part a reaction to it and represented the last best hope of survival for the Jews living in many Arab countries. And I’ll argue that most of those Israelis who have “wrapped themselves in the language of the Holocaust” do so because their deepest reservoirs of pain, grief, despair and loss are still rooted in that event and that experience, and because when they feel threatened they find themselves back there again, in a horror none of us who didn’t share it can begin to comprehend.

But I’ll have to argue all that (and probably more) another day. I’m out of juice for now.

A lengthy preamble


One of those great debates is heating up again, and it’s already getting ugly. This time it’s “Does anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism?” and, like most great debates, it’s not new. The latest round seems to have been sparked by Larry Summers’ recent speech at Harvard, to which many on the left took great exception. Mr. Summers pointed out that the trend that’s been spreading like a bad rash on college campuses of singling out Israel, among all the nations of the world, for condemnation, academic boycott and divestiture represents anti-Semitism in its “effect,” if not in its “intent.” Mr. Summers tried to suggest that any campaign that disproportionately singles out one group or entity for criticism or attack reflects a bias on the part of its participants and tends to encourage more of the same (can you say "ethnic profiling?).

Not to be deterred, the campaign’s sponsors make noises about their right to free speech and continue fabricating comparisons to South Africa and Nazi Germany to bolster their arguments. These loathsome comparisons, as intended, push enough of the right buttons that they’re getting some traction. I’m going to have to leave it to someone else or at least another day to address even a few of the many, many reasons why these comparisons have no basis in reality, but it doesn’t really matter. The anti-Semites have found a useful drum and they’re going to keep beating it even though its message is patently false.

Cathy Young published this excellent op-ed in the Boston Globe, which has been widely linked and widely acclaimed by the anti-anti-Semites among us. In it, she tries to explain to those who didn’t get it the first several dozen times around why legitimate criticism of Israel is not the same thing as inflammatory, disingenuous rhetoric aimed at justifying the dismantling of the Jewish State and the re-dispersion of the Jewish People. But judging by responses like this, she’s preaching to the choir because the other side just can’t hear her.

This apparently overwhelming need to rally to the defense of what truly is blatant anti-Semitism on the part of many on the left is what’s so frightening about this entire exercise. Why is their hatred of Israel and their demonization of its leaders so important to them that they’ll seize on every lie, every fabrication, each and every misrepresentation as if it were their last morsel of sustenance? And this is no less true of Jewish anti-Semites, by the way, than of others. In fact, much of the most virulently anti-Zionist propaganda I’ve heard comes from Jewish sources. So when, at Meryl’s suggestion, I browsed on over to read Barry’s post and immediately noticed a positive reference to Tikkun (and, worse yet, to Kim Chernin’s nonsensical “ Seven Pillars of Jewish Denial”), I knew this was going to be a long day.

I really do want to move on to Esther Kaplan and will do so momentarily, but first a few comments on what’s up at Amptoons. Barry asks this question.

Ms. Young, who is best known as an anti-feminist writer, must realize "feminazi" is a common term among her fellow travelers; so why hasn't she called them on it? Why is calling Ariel Sharon a nazi anti-Semitic, but calling Gloria Steinem a nazi not worth objecting to?
I’d like to believe that he’s just pulling our leg a little with this one, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. Okay, true or false: Nazi is to Jew as Nazi is to feminist? I don’t think so. Did the Nazi Party ever declare the extermination of women to be its primary goal? Did Hitler endanger his global war effort and the safety of his people for the sake of murdering a few more feminists? That would be a no. Making comparisons between feminists and Nazis is odious, yes, but no one that I know of has ever accused feminists of “crimes against humanity,” or of “perpetrating a Holocaust.” That’s because, with the notable exception of Ann Coulter, most of the right tries to refrain from that particular sort of sanctimonious overblown mendacious hyperbole in its arguments. You know, it’s a sad day when I find myself on this side of the political divide. The loony lefties are pushing me, I swear, right into the path of an oncoming freight train. And I have plenty of company.

But I digress. It’s hard to avoid because there are so many tempting sidetracks popping up here at every turn. Like where Barry accuses Young and Larry Summers of “silenc[ing] legitimate criticism of Israel.” Again, can he be serious? Who has been silenced? Certainly not the rioting mob at Concordia University in Montreal last month, or the relatively peaceful anti-Israel demonstrators at Netanyahu’s speech in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. Certainly not Tikkun or Rabbis for Human Rights and certainly not CAIR or the Electronic Intifada. Not that I necessarily consider these to be sources of “legitimate criticism,” but let’s get real. No one is being silenced here.

I don’t think Barry’s claim that “Young's critique assumes the word "Judaism" refers only to the religion” requires much discussion. He just needs to read the paragraph he quoted again. Carefully. Especially this part:

But it's naive at best to reduce anti-Semitism to anti-Judaism. Hitler viewed Jews as a race, not members of a religion. Anti- Semitism in the Soviet Union, where Jews were almost universally nonobservant and culturally assimilated, also focused on Jewishness as ethnicity.
But I do have to take serious issue with this accusation:
The damage is that by conflating real anti-Semites with non-anti-Semitic activists like Hurst, Young makes the term "anti-Semitic" meaningless. Whether she knows it or not, she's part of a growing effort to destroy the English word for "discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group," replacing it with a word that means "liberal criticism of Israel, regardless of if it says anything against Jews."
Just because some anti-Semites are able to pretty themselves up enough to fool some of the people some of the time, doesn’t mean that we should ignore their anti-Semitism. Moreover, giving people like John Hurst the benefit of the doubt and assuming that perhaps they don’t realize that the effect, if not the intent, of their position is anti-Semitic, it behooves us to point this out to them -- as often and as forcefully as necessary.

Well, I’ve digressed entirely too much, it seems, to get to Ms. Kaplan in this post. I’ll have to do that a bit later, hopefully today (but probably tomorrow). In the meantime, though, I’ll try to make one last point here on the detour. I really don’t think it’s useful to keep a tally of which side of the political spectrum is doing a better job of bashing anti-Semites. Nor do I see any evidence that Cathy Young or anyone else is using the issue of anti-Semitism to "score partisan points." The fact is that the moderate left (which is where Barry has placed himself) and the moderate right seem to be equally embarrassed by the traditional anti-Semites at their extremes and equally unabashed by the presence of those on their nearer fringe (Pat Buchanan and Jesse Jackson come to mind). But this debate is about the latent anti-Semitism of those who will stretch to believe a lie against Israel but resolutely ignore every accurate accusation against her enemies, and this particular type of anti-Semitism is a phenomenon of the left.

Once upon a time, at least in this country, the left was largely associated with the values of tolerance, equality and mutual respect. For many, those values now seem to be taking a back seat to a new agenda that's as biased, narrow-minded and judgmental as the agenda of the old right used to be. That's precisely why many of us who have spent much of our lives in leftist trenches are now poking our heads out to see if there might be a better alternative elsewhere.

Michigan "Divestment Conference"


From Moe Freedman at Occam's Toothbrush:

On October 12-14 the University of Michigan will be the host of the "National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement" which they are calling a "Divestment Conference" The speakers throughout the three day event include Sami Al-Arian, Hussein Ibish, Adam Shapiro, and the rest of the usual suspects. The conference, though it will surely contain much anti-semitic hate speech, is sponsored by many organizations that like to call themselves "moderates" (like Zogby's American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee). A friend of mine has put together a page on his site that is devoted to info about the conference and includes dossiers on some of the speakers pasts. I will be part of whatever demonstrations the local students are putting together (I understand there are a few being planned), and I'll report back afterwards.
Thanks, Moe. Please do.

Talk about spin


I just found this headline from the September 9 Montreal Muslim News:

That's honest and accurate reporting for you. Well, at least half of it is.

Protest time again


They're gearing up for Bibi's speech tonight in my original home town. Plenty of police will be on hand, even though the protesters are promising to be "peaceful." Trust them? I don't think so.

Per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

Among the groups whose members plan to protest are Zi and the Progressive Student Alliance at Carnegie Mellon University, the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, the Campus Coalition for Peace and Justice, the Arab Student Organization at CMU, the Muslim Student Association at the University of Pittsburgh, the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the International Socialist Organization.
Oh, and
There are no plans for a counterdemonstration, said David Shtulman of the American Jewish Committee's Pittsburgh branch.
Why not? Oh, right. It wouldn't be nice to confuse all those people who'll be watching this on the 11 o'clock news with more than one point of view.

Here's a website where you can view a photo of an adorable but obviously oppressed [palestinian?] child and download fliers to hand out at the rally explaining to Pittsburghers how their tax dollars pay for the slaughter of innocent people.

UPDATE: There may not have been a "counterdemonstration," but there was a pro-Israel rally in Market Square. My mom went and said there was no trouble. She also says that preliminary reports she heard indicate the protesters basically didn't show. She heard 25 people. But a police officer at the rally told her they had the situation very well covered, just in case.

Later: 200 pro-pal demonstrators showed up, along with a "suspicious package," bomb squad called, false alarm; vs. 350 people at the pro-Israel rally, peaceful, candles.

Blog makeovers


It suddenly seems that a lot of our colleagues are changing their look. If you haven't been by lately, check out the cool new fashions at Cut on the Bias, Cold Fury and Amish Tech Support, along with some way cool commentary of course and, well, the usual other stuff.

Jerusalem, Israel


No news, right? Something we write on letters to friends and relatives, refer to in conversations and publications. A given. But not according to the U.S. State Department. Officially, the United States has never recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel or as any part of Israel, for that matter. That's why the U.S. passports issued to my nieces and nephews list their place of birth as Jerusalem. Period. No country. Stateless by half.

But "new" (in the works for quite some time) legislation is now, finally, on its way to President Bush's desk that would change all that.

Tucked into an $8.6 billion bill authorizing State Department programs for next year, are provisions on the status of Jerusalem including a clause that says a US citizen born in Jerusalem could choose to have Israel listed on their passport as their country of birth. There is also a clause calling on the president once again to immediately begin the process of relocating the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The US refuses to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, fearing it would prejudge final status negotiations with the Palestinians, who also want part of Jerusalem for a future capital of a Palestinian state.

The bill also says that the US Consulate in Jerusalem, which currently answers directly back to the State Department in Washington, will come under direct supervision of the US ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Good news? Some say, "not so fast."
Sources say the Bush administration believes Congress´ stance on this issue obstructs the White House´s freedom in setting foreign policy, and that it can basically ignore the provisions.

Instead of vetoing the legislation or seeking a compromise, however, the administration is expected to simply ignore the provisions.

Mary Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, said the constitution grants the president discretion on foreign policy matters, which would allow him to ignore the provisions in the authorization act with near impunity.

On the other hand, the President could follow the advice of the Arab American Institute which, of course, is urging a veto.
James Zogby, AAI President commented, “If made into law, H.R. 1646 will further inflame and deepen resentment among Arabs and Arab countries towards the United States. While the administration works to strengthen our relations throughout the region, a few members in Congress, use stealth tactics, pass legislation that was not considered fully by either house. This is not the way to make policy where so many vital US interests are at stake.”
"...of the people, by the people, for the people..."? The clearly expressed will of our elected representatives notwithstanding, it looks like Americans born in Jerusalem are going to remain half-"stateless" for quite some time to come.

UPDATE: No veto. Bush signed the bill yesterday. Palestinians unhappy.

But, as predicted,

Bush himself insisted that "U.S. policy regarding Jerusalem has not changed" as he signed the bill on Monday said he would treat the clauses as a recommendation rather than an order.

As an order, Bush said, they would "impermissibly interfere with the president's constitutional authority to conduct the nation's foreign affairs."

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