April 2011 Archives

Another one

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So Solomonia has now, alas, gone on hiatus.  Hopefully, it won't be for too long.

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, there are a few acknowledgments I would like to make.

When InContext's former hosting service disappeared without warning, Martin rescued what pitiful back-up I had and in combination with what I was able to recover from Google's cache, fully restored and updated my data files.  And that alone would have been enough to earn my undying gratitude.

But he then graciously allowed me to park on his domain for many months and provided encouragement while I dithered over what to do with the blog.  And that would have much more than enough.

And when I finally made the move, Martin patiently helped me get the blog up and running at this domain, and has been there for me with tips and support ever since.  And that would have been way beyond enough.

But throughout it all he has also, at Solomonia, provided in a great format and from a unique perspective so many important posts and worthy blogfodder that, well, I'll miss my daily dose a lot.

Here's wishing Martin a rewarding and fruitful time off and a speedy return.  And many thanks for all the great stuff.

Thoughts on burning stuff

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After a week of listening to and reading too many responses to Terry Jones's burning of the Koran and the murderous rampages in Afghanistan that used it as an excuse, I have a few thoughts of my own on the subject, and they don't happen to mesh with too much else that I've read or heard.

I'll start by getting this out of the way.  Although I continue to believe that Terry Jones is a certified nutcase (for any number of reasons), I simply do not find myself outraged, sickened, disgusted or even dismayed by his burning of a copy of the Koran.  I'm frankly tired of everyone prefacing their comments on the event by declaring that they are.  But, of course, it's their right to be, and to say so.  It's just that you have to wonder exactly why.

Jews, I think, would generally be offended by the burning of a Torah.  Christians, likewise, can and do take offense at the defilement of their scriptures.  When something you hold dear, something you deem sacred and worthy of great respect is treated with disdain, it's only natural to react with revulsion, even anger, maybe even rage.  The differences in the ways Jews and Christians act out their offense in today's world versus the ways Muslims do has been addressed at length and that's not where I'm going here.  Instead, I think it's relevant to take a look at the intent that, as a general rule, accompanies such acts of blasphemous vandalism, and how that intent impacts our reactions.

In popular culture, it seems de rigueur these days to demonstrate a flagrant disregard for traditional norms, and because we live in a society in which Christianity is one of the paramount recognized symbols of tradition, Christianity and its icons are habitual targets.  And so we have a plethora of disrespectful if not outright blasphemous references, caricatures and depictions of holy figures and symbols in art, literature, theater, television and film.  These are, for the most part, intended as demonstrations of the author's "liberation" from binding norms, of independence and "open-mindedness."  They are sometimes attacks on institutions and rituals and even on authority figures.  But they're rarely either calls for or simple substitutes for outright violence against the people who make up the Christian community.

Not so the burning of bibles, or of churches, or the arrests and persecutions of Christians qua Christians in Muslim countries, which manifest a very different kind of hostility toward both the religion and its practitioners.  Such acts should generate not only outrage, but serious concern, on the part of Christians and non-Christians alike.

The burning of Torahs or of synagogues, on the other hand, even in the West is much less frequently a form of cultural expression.  More often than not, it's part of an episode of vandalism that may or may not be (but usually is) directed against the Jewish religion or the Jewish people as a whole.  When it is, it also should be a matter of serious concern to the community at large.

Note that Terry Jones didn't burn (or threaten to burn, or advocate the burning of) a mosque.  Jones didn't advocate or condone violence against Muslims.  What Jones did was to hold a (not entirely un-serious) mock trial in which, I must say, he at least attempted to elucidate just what it was about the Koran that violated the norms of civilized discourse and behavior, according to his and his church's understanding of those norms.  As a consequence, he directed the destruction of a copy of a book.  A book that's supremely holy to vast numbers of people, yes, an act that was understandably highly offensive to most of those people, yes, but a book.  Not a building, not a human being. 

This is an important distinction, especially when, in the name of that book, actual buildings and actual people are being destroyed all over the world with nary a peep from the same observers who cannot even bring themselves to denounce the murders of innocents in Afghanistan without denouncing Pastor Terry Jones in the next breath.

Personally, I find Jones's little production to bear more similarity to some of the deliberately provocative street theater in which Western religions are often mocked and ridiculed (with utter impunity) than to the vicious religious attacks on persons and property for which most of the world only occasionally seems to summon up sufficient revulsion to be noticed.  I think we need to get our priorities straight.

Shabbat Shalom.

Peres and Obama

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Two peas in a pod.

Or pod people.  Totally oblivious to the disastrous actual real world implications of their futile attempts to translate their utopian fantasies into actual results. 

As if there wasn't enough evidence strewn in both of their wakes already.

Olive Tree: Seriously broken

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In the past few days, new and disturbing information has come to light about the activities of The Olive Tree Initiative at the University of California Irvine.  Touted by the University as evidence of a climate of tolerance and understanding at UCI, the Initiative has previously been exposed as a mere "fig leaf" intended to obfuscate the true tolerance that abounds on that campus - tolerance for antisemitism, intimidation and bigotry toward Jewish students.

Now, in a letter recently obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, it emerges that the Olive Tree Project arranged for students on a UCI sponsored trip to Israel in 2009 to meet in secret with a leader of Hamas and then instructed the students to lie about it.  As Front Page reports:

letter that can be viewed at www.ha-Emet.com records officials from the Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFOC) expressing distress to the chancellor of UCI, Michael Drake, over student participation in an unauthorized meeting with a prominent Hamas figure, Aziz Duwaik, in September of 2009. Students were participants in the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a part of the university's Difficult Dialogues II program, which conducts trips to Israel and the West Bank for students to learn about the conflict in that region. Notably, OTI programing, associations, and student membership often overlap with other student organizations such as Hillel. Among other reasons, the released letter states that OTI participants were instructed not to tell anyone about the meeting to "avoid being detained...reentering Israel from the West Bank or being held at the airport before leaving the country" -- this should give a clear idea about how serious such a meeting would be to Israeli and US officials. The JFOC's letter requested that the university conduct an investigation into the incident and that disciplinary action be taken.
The severity of this breach of trust really cannot be overstated.  This meeting was not part of the planned agenda.  Neither the authorities in Israel nor the parents of the students nor the Jewish Federation of Orange County (which helps to sponsor such OTI trips through its Rose Project) were apprised of or consented to such a meeting.  Hamas has in the past resorted to the kidnapping of American journalists as well as Israeli soldiers.  Questions of legality, morality and plain common sense aside, such a meeting could have ended in disaster.

Eighteen months have passed since the JFOC's letter requesting an investigation and disciplinary action, but none has been forthcoming.  On Friday, the Zionist Organization of America forwarded letters (disseminated by email, so far not available online) to the Chancellor of UCI and to the CEO of the OC Federation and the co-chairs of the Rose Project demanding that action be taken.  To date, the response of the administration has been defensive and absurd ("Cathy Lawhon, spokeswoman for UCI, said meeting with people of many different points of view is consistent with (Olive Tree's) mission.' ").  Hopefully, increasing pressure in the coming days will produce a more appropriate, if belated, response.

Muslim rage

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Being determined not to let a whole month go by without making an appearance here, I will just refer to this post anyone (if there is anyone) who happens to stop by and hasn't already read Solomonia's concise analysis of today's riots in Afghanistan.

Actually, they weren't "angered by" Terry Jones' Koran burning, they were stirred up by someone with something to gain by inciting them. I'm still waiting for a similar story of Israeli Jews coming out of Shabbat services and doing damage to UN personnel, but we all know the mere thought is ridiculous. They at least have a reason to be angry with the UN. What's the UN ever done to Afghanistan other than try to provide services? Barbaric.
Yes, that sums it up well.  Note that the most of the media, even Ynet, fail to catch this nuance.  Terry Jones, certified nut-case, kept his Koran burning plans sufficiently quiet this time that the event (appropriately) received almost no media coverage in this country.  I'm unable to find reports of so much as a protest here, either before or after the fact.  No hint of the public condemnations widely shared by prominent members of both the American Muslim and non-Muslim communities when Jones announced a similar stunt last year on September 11.  And yet it was a hot enough issue in Mazar-i-Sharif to provoke the killing of at least 20 [update: 7] UN workers?  As Sol says, not without the deliberate incitement of someone with an agenda.

This part, Ynet got exactly right: "Muslim rage leads to murder."

It almost always does.

Shabbat Shalom.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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