Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Leo Strauss on Assimilation

I really like this quote from Leo Strauss z"l on assimilation:

Assimilation proved to require internal enslavement as the price for external freedom. Or, to put it somewhat differently, assimilationism seemed to land the Jews into the bog of philistinism - of shallow satisfaction with the most unsatisfactory present - a most inglorious end for a people which had been led out of the house of bondage into the desert with careful avoidance of the land of the Philistines. To quote the words of the Torah (Exodus 13,17): When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though it was near. It is always near.
Progress or Return? Jewish Philosophy and Modernity, Essays in Modern Jewish Thought

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh Chomsky, enough!

Noam Chomsky says
any people, even knowing little about the matter, were revolted by the savage cruelty and cowardice of the IDF, brutally attacking defenseless people locked in a cage.
Cowardice. Don't make me laugh! What would he call Hamas fighters hiding in hospitals and firing rockets from press buildings?

At least he does admit that most of those revolted by Israel's "savage cruelty" in Gaza, were also those knowing little about the matter.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

An interview with Khaled Abu Toameh

There's a fascinating interview with Khaled Abu Toameh over at Michael J. Totten's blog. An excerpt:

Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations: What about the Israeli expectation that with these attacks they will have established deterrence against Hamas? Do you think that's true?

Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes. Yes. Look. The West Bank was quiet during the attack in Gaza. Now, I was talking to many people. You know what they were saying? And this is the funny part. “You know what?” they said. “The Jews have gone mad. This is not the time to mess around with them.” And, you know, when you hear this from the man on the street, it really does create deterrence. I would rather see deterrence created in another way, but there is this perception on the Arab street today that the Jews have gone crazy, there are no more red lines, nothing, they don't care, and we should be careful. So in that sense, yes, there is some kind of deterrence, for the short term at least.

Before this war, four days before the war, I interviewed a number of Hamas guys. I published it in the Jerusalem Post. And the headline was Hamas Mocks Israel's Nonresponse to Qassam Attacks. What were they saying, the Hamas leaders? Basically that the Jews are cowards.

They think Israel ran away from Lebanon, that Hezbollah defeated them. They thought the Jews were scared and would not come into Gaza. They were really confident that Israel wouldn't fight back. Really. They were. They thought at most that Israel would send a few tanks into open fields just to calm Israeli public opinion. So the response really caught them by surprise, especially the first day.

So yes, there is this perception today in the Arab world that our neighbor has gone mad.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Robert Fisk and the Israeli "Genocide"

Robert Fisk is accused of consistently trivializing Palestinian suffering by pointing out that queues at check points in the West Bank are not the same thing as queues at the selection ramp at Auschwitz.
I was especially taking exception to a Palestinian blog now going the rounds which shows a queue of Palestinian women at one of Israel's outrageous roadblocks and a (slightly) cropped picture of the Auschwitz selection ramp, the same platform upon which Leon Greenman was separated from his young wife and child more than 60 years ago. The picture of the Palestinian women is based on a lie; they are not queuing to be exterminated. Racist, inhumane and, sometimes deadly – Palestinian women have died at these infernal checkpoints – but they are not queuing to be murdered.
I've written to Robert Fisk twice, both times to complain.

The first time I suggested that he was too scared (living in Lebanon) to condemn Hezbollah's initiation of a war that brought disaster again to the country. The second time I asked him to start paying attention to Israeli, and not just Palestinian outrage.

He didn't respond.

Robert Fisk is not a friend of Israel - his articles are totally biased. They reserves their most bitter condemnations for Arab suffering caused by Israel, and use a totally different language and tone to describe Arab suffering caused by Arabs.

But I will also say this: Robert Fisk knows what genocide is and what it isn't. And he has stood firm in distancing himself from those who use the term to describe Israel's wars.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Israel Beitenu's rise to power

What to make of Israel Beitenu's rise to power in this last election?

Their most controversial election platform was the suggestion that all Israeli citizen's, Arabs should take a loyalty test. In their own words:
Israel Beiteinu does not ask Israeli-Arabs to renounce their Arab identity. However, it does ask that they recognize this country as a Jewish state. If they wish to live here as citizens with full rights and benefits, they must contribute to its success and not apply their efforts toward its destruction.
Jonathan Freedland didn't like it, and asked several members of the party
if they could name a single democracy anywhere that had removed citizenship from those who already had it. I asked what they would make of demanding that, say, British Jews, swear an oath of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country on pain of losing their right to vote.
They are interesting questions - but not entirely fair.

For starters, there a plenty of cases of discrimination against ethnic minorities who reside in a society which their home country is at war with. Japanese farmers in America had their land confiscated in WW2, loyal or not. Is it far fetched to say that Germans demonstrating proudly in support of the Third Reich during the blitz would have got treated any better in Britain? I doubt it. And to be honest, I don't think I would have a problem being asked to display some form of loyalty to Britain as a Christian country, so long as my rights (including religious rights as a Jew) remained secure. Asking the Jews to display loyalty on pain of losing their right to vote would be be justified if the Jews were out there offending most British people's sensibilities during times of war.

Do these examples mean discrimination is OK? Of course not. But an article asking Israel "to take a long look at itself" should at least have made the point that after 60 years of living as an ethnic minority in Israel, the country's Arabs are becoming increasingly radicalized. It is no secret that when Israeli Arabs voice open support for enemies of Israel, they are perceived by most Israeli Jews as a fifth column. His article doesn't mention that.

I don't like Lieberman's politics. I despise the way he responds to Arab politicians and I don't feel proud to see him as a leader here. But as a Likud voting friend of mine recently pointed out, Lieberman is only saying what most Israelis want to hear. Haim Watzman puts it well:
The great majority of people who voted for Lieberman are not ideologues. They voted him not because of his political philosophy, but because he knows how to appeal to their most basic fears. Lieberman’s voters are scared stiff—they fear war and terror, they fear Muslims and Arabs, and they have felt horribly insecure under a government that has talked a lot about peace agreements but which has actually led the country into two wars.
and he continues
The best friends of totalitarianism, whether of the right or the left, are fear and instability. When people fear for their lives and don’t know whether they’ll have a job tomorrow, they grasp at what straws they can, and a glib populist can exploit them.
I do think Lieberman is a glib populist. He is, as Freedland points out, a Moldovan immigrant telling a native Palestinian what to do. I also think a sizeable portion of Israeli Jews (including myself) would refuse to take the oath, on grounds that it is the wrong way to deal with the problem. There has always been an unspoken understanding for Arab feelings towards the Jewish State - that's why Israeli Arabs are not required to serve in the army or perform national service when they reach 18, like Israeli Jews are. But these last few years have seen an increasingly emboldened Israeli Arab electorate behave in increasingly threatening manner towards Israeli Jews. Israel Beitenu is the unfortunate response.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Seven Jewish Children

Caryl Churchill's new play expresses outrage at Israel's recent actions in Gaza. The play centers around the lies children growing up in Israel in the last 60 years have been told by their parents. A few excerpts:

Tell her we won

Tell her her brother’s a hero

Tell her how the tanks rolled in

Tell her how big their armies are

Tell her we turned them back

Tell her we’re fighters

Tell her we’ve got new land

Tell her it’s our water, we have the right

Tell her it’s not the water for their fields

Don’t tell her not to look at the bulldozer

Don’t tell her it was knocking the house down

Tell her it’s a building site


Tell her the Hamas fighters have been killed

Tell her they’re terrorists

Tell her they’re filth


Tell her we killed the babies by mistake

Don’t tell her anything about the army

So I was about to get angry.

Then I read this gem from Jonathan Hoffman at Harry's Place:

If you should meet Caryl Churchill (maybe at meetings of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign where she is a Patron) please tell her that she has written a play which reinforces false stereotypes and demonises Israelis. Tell her there is a vibrant press in Israel where all opinions can be found and freely expressed. Tell her that Israelis are not the heartless, murderous triumphalists that she portrays. Tell her that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif but nevertheless continuing to provide Gazans with electricity, water, and goods. Tell her how workers at the power plant in Ashdod risked injury or even death from the rockets which were being fired from Gaza — the place where they were supplying electricity. Tell her that Israeli parents tell their children the truth and therefore do not teach them that Palestinians are subhuman and to be hated. Tell her that it’s antisemitic to use the phrase “chosen people” to imply that Jews believe they are superior to non-Jews (tell her the phrase involves responsibilities as well as blessings).

But the trouble is, she probably knows all that.

So tell her then that there’s a nice job waiting for her at PressTV.

Truth discovered and Truth inherited

From the Chief Rabbi:
wisdom is the truth we discover, by reason, observation and experience. Torah is the truth we inherit. Revealed at Sinai, it has been handed on from generation to generation. Wisdom teaches us facts; Torah teaches us laws. Wisdom tells us how the world is; Torah tells us how it ought to be.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Likud, bro

I only noticed towards the end of this election campaign that the Likud party has been marketing itself as Ha Likud-Achi, which loosely translates as "the Likud, bro" (achi in Hebrew means brother). I've been torn between Meimad-Greens and the Likud, leaning towards the Meimad-Greens, but when I saw that "achi" stuck on the end of the name of the party that Menachem Begin once led, I felt put off.

Discussing a party's marketing techniques isn't as shallow as one might think. We choose our leaders because we feel they represent us, and we want to feel proud of them. Call me an arrogant Ashkenazi, but I don't like being called achi by people I don't know. I don't care if its my taxi driver, shopkeeper or dentist, I'm not your brother when I'm paying you or voting for you.

OK so my friend (and one follower of this blog) Avram is going to lay into me for this, so for the record, he can call me achi. (If he wants to now).

In voting Meimad-Greens, I am hoping that those issues that come up in the next few years, (which I may not even be aware of), will be considered by people I feel I identify with. Rabbi Melchior has "marketed" a Judaism I like. It's tolerant, ethics based, and closer to the world view I have than the other religious parties. I hope it was worth giving him my vote.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Meimad-Green party

I've been trying to understand what exactly Rabbi Melchior's party will be standing for in this upcoming election in Israel. I found this:

The Meimad-Green party is the only party that has a deep and clear integration of Judaism, social-democratic priorities and ecological responsibility. Until today, we are used to seeing Judaism as something that divides and separates the political map. The Green Movement-Meimad turns Judaism into a unifying element, a foundation on which to build a society with social and ecological responsibility. A party like this in Knesset will support the growing movement of Judaism and social justice, will represent the movement in Knesset, and will eventually replace the ideological vacuum represented by the larger parties.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Light and Dark

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided between the light and the darkness

God can divide between
The light and the dark seen
And be above both

But man must choose
To win or to lose
And be only one

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Here we go (again)

An armed group vandalized Caracas' oldest synagogue, shattering religious objects and spray-painting walls with the words 'Jews, get out.'