Monthly Archives: March 2006

The French Are Angry ….

The French are angry at the foreign media coverage of the riots. Here’s why:

PARIS Even Christine Lagarde, France’s trade minister, has received phone calls from concerned friends in Chicago and Washington to check whether she was safe.
As scenes of vandalism and violence in central Paris flicker across television screens abroad and major newspapers speak of riots and anarchy in France, people here are grumbling that the media coverage of three weeks of mass protests against a labor law – especially in the English-language press – has unjustly distorted France’s image.

A week before she embarks on a four- city trip to the United States with the ambition of countering the negative images, Lagarde complained Wednesday that media coverage had been “excessive.” “We’re meeting with the French community and with investors and are trying to explain that despite the fact that they see people on the street all the time and nothing else, it’s not every day and it’s not the whole of France,” she told reporters Wednesday.

Defense Minister Michèle Alliot- Marie put it more starkly: “We’re not in Baghdad,” she said in a statement to the International Herald Tribune.

“Some foreign columnists amplify and exaggerate the situation in France, just as they did during the unrest in the suburbs,” she said, referring to three weeks of rioting last autumn in immigrant suburbs outside France’s big cities.

French sociologist Erwan Lecouer explains the reasons behind the “outrage.”

One explanation, sociologists say, for the widespread French incomprehension and outrage at seeing the violence so widely covered in some countries is that they themselves have long become accustomed to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and violence in suburban housing projects across the country.

During the rioting, the toll of burned vehicles topped 1,400 on one night; when the number dropped to 90, the police declared the situation back to normal.

“The French have got a bit used to this phenomenon,” said Erwan Lecoeur, research director at the Observatory for Public Debate, which analyzes the impact of media coverage on society.

“Our Anglo-Saxon friends love showing that things are going badly here and the reaction on CNN is emblematic of that,” he said. But he added that it was “hypocritical” of the French to complain about coverage when French TV was also airing plenty of violent images.

Pragmatic Israel?

Israel novelist Amos Oz writes about the rise of what he calls a “pragmatic Israel”:

In Tuesday’s vote, most Israelis – for the first time since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 – indicated their readiness to give up 90% of the occupied territories, including sections of Jerusalem. Their readiness – not their happiness. What they held for years to be unthinkable, even suicidal, for Israel, they have now sadly endorsed.

The reasons are probably not the left’s ethical preachings, but several harsh slaps of reality: violent uprisings in the occupied territories; a sense of international isolation; and the realisation that the demographic balance might change in favour of the Palestinians. There may be an even deeper reason: Israelis have gradually changed their priorities, from territorial appetites to materialistic-hedonistic appetites, from militancy to pragmatism, from selfish nationalism to interdependence …

It is not unthinkable that a deal between the pragmatic Israeli and Arab governments can be reached – and then brought before the Palestinians for a referendum. Considering the fact that no more than 41% of the Palestinian voters actually endorsed Hamas, and that most still tell surveys they are ready for a two-state solution, there is a good chance that an agreement could be adopted by a Palestinian majority.

Anti-Zionism as Cultural AIDS and its Cure: Reflections on France VII

Anti-Zionism as Cultural AIDS and its Cure: Reflections on France VII (Conclusion)

How do you tell very smart people some (what to you seem) obvious things that they cannot seem to see? If it were just an intellectual argument – like the year 1000 – I can deplore the results, but it’s not life-threatening. The ship of historiographical consensus may have sunk long ago, but ultimately… does it really matter? Isn’t what medievalists do pretty irrelevant to what’s going on today?

But here, if what I think I perceive is 70% accurate, the French, the Europeans really are picking up their heads from the sand, and looking out like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming train.

How does one explain a dangerous situation to someone in denial. How do you wake up the driver who’s fallen asleep at the wheel on icy mountain roads is such as way as to wake her quickly enough, but without panicking him. How does France wake up before she careens off the mountainside, last overheard repeating in his sleep the received wisdom that the Roman Empire never really fell.

Were France to careen off the edge, I for one cannot contemplate that with equanimity. That would constitute a tragedy too great too great to contemplate no matter how unpleasantly self-destructive the French behave. France is part of our heritage and part of our inspiration. Granted, that which so inspired from France is now in short supply. But even at the most “rational” dimensions of positive-sum thinking, France’s health is the interest of cultures of freedom. It’s fall – which would almost certainly bring about the fall of other, many European countries with similar problems?

To borrow a metaphor from the Muslims, France is in the heart of “realm of freedom”, and her loss would be a catastrophe for the culture of freedom we have fought so hard over the last millennium to establish. I personally have deep personal ties to France (the French, especially the Parisians, are an aquired taste), but any sane person cannot contemplate France’s fall with pleasure. To think otherwise is to indulge the desire to take vengeance on France, to get French Derangement Syndrome, to wish ill on them even at our own costs.

Doubts: Can I be Right and all these People Wrong?

So maybe I am exaggerating all this. Maybe I’ve gone too far, projecting my millennial “readings” on France, as I did on Y2K. Pretty soon, I’ll be predicting that by 2010, as a century earlier, France will have it’s first execution of Jews on charges of plotting against the one true religion. Ridiculous. Shake it out of your head. As someone noted on the Medieval List:

You know, it is probably a good idea not to get to caught up in the phenomena one is supposed to be studying. I shall now be unable to sleep for trying to retrieve a half-forgotten quotation about scholars getting infected by the madness they were describing.

And yet… and yet… the dynamics sure look familiar.

A French friend, a medievalist, writes back from cheery Provence…

Next time you come, you must come here and don’t spend all your time with those northern intellectuals. We had a good laugh as we read you.

Didn’t Sidonius Apollinarus write from somewhere near there in the late 5th century, enjoying the good life?

The Jews, Europe’s First Dhimmis

Maybe if my amused friend’s note had at least addressed the “Jewish question” a bit, I’d have been more reassured.

But no. French gentiles are, with few exceptions, extraordinarily uninterested in what Jews have to say. Since 2000, an extraordinary turn has increasingly imposed itself in French public discourse. The Jew cannot testify. His evidence, as Jewish, is systematically discounted, consistently denied on charges of “communautarisme” [partisanship]. The 21st-century Jew is France’s (Europe’s?) first Dhimmi. And that is not because he is the least and most miserable of the minorities in France, but because he is at once the most vulnerable and, in civil society, the most dangerous. In a society that prizes freedom, tolerance and self-criticism, Jews will rise to prominence. And for those, like the demopaths and the hate-mongerers who despise and fear freedom, the Jews are the ones whose discourse one must silence. Historically speaking, war mongers first knock off the Jews, and societies that let them do this end up either at war with their neighbors (Nazis) or with themselves (medieval and Spanish inquisition).

Ask anyone who defends Israel to the slightest degree, and they will report, as did RM in an email of March 21:

En effet la diabolisation d’Israel a atteint un tel degré que le simple fait de défendre ce pays suscite presque immédiatement un soupcon : êtes-vous juif ? non je ne suis pas juif … ah mais alors pourquoi vouloir défendre l’indéfendable.
[In fact, the demonization of Israel has reached such a degree that the simple fact that you defend that country almost immediately raises the suspicion, “are you a Jew.” “Uh, no.” “So why do you want to defend the undefendable.”]

This experience has happened to many. When I first met one of the French consuls in Boston, I told him about this problem. He responded, “well, given the evidence, it’s not hard to understand why someone would oppose Israel. Why are you surprised?”

Okay, it’s a “reasonable” argument. But unanimity? No one independent enough to look with reasonable dispassion and come up with a reading that says, “the Palestinians exaggerate at best, and given the circumstances, the Israelis are behaving more decently than most nations — certainly than Arab nations would given the nature of the attack and the disparity in power? No one?

“When the fishes all swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead,” noted Pierre-André Taguieff, one of those righteous gentiles who denounces the Judeophobia of the French (and gets accused by Tariq Ramadan of being Jewish as a result.

Or, “when all the intellos face the same direction it’s because a culture of honor and shame has invaded academic life, and no one dares stand opposed to the public consensus. Of course, in the long run that gives you naked kings. And the real question now is, can we afford that?

In the coming showdown, it’s going to be a question of freedom vs. dominion. Can we have sufficient respect for the other that freedom is possible? Or will we allow a thugocracy to take-over, alpha males and their ideologues imposing a new reign of dominion of one man on another, of intimidation, of mutual suspicion, a new dark age every bit as bitter as the early medieval, and late Carolingian, whatever we hear about thriving markets and flourishing towns.

Selling out the Jews at a time like this seems crazy. They are masters in positive-sum. They adopt rapidly to the rules of civil society, become professionals, give passionate commitment to the ideals that democracies cherish, even to the point of endangering fellow Jews. Here are agents of tolerant modernity, people with a very high threshhold to violence (Warsaw ghetto uprising only came in April 1943) who can help spread a culture of civility, where otherness, even opposition, is easier to acknowledge, and things turn rapidly from violence to discourse. No wonder, when a typical Frenchmen looks at public figures — professionals, media folk, talking heads — he thinks France is 20% Jewish.

And when these people tell you that your growing Arab minority is making life intolerant for you, when they appeal to your judges, policemen, journalists and intellectuals to come to their aid, you tell them, “I don’t believe your testimony… and anyway, you can’t blame them, look at what your doing to their brethren in the “Occupied Territories.” Does that make sense? Either practically or morally? Is any intellectual culture that can look at the Arab-Israeli conflict and come out so decisively and pervasively anti-Zionist fair? Everyone swims in the same direction?

Counsel of Evil: Mearsheimer and Walt’s French Foreign Policy

I have, in my series of essays on France, argued that the French attitude towards Israel is self destructive, that it opens the door to Eurabia’s deadly embrace, that it punishes friends and rewards enemies. This, of course is not uniquely French, it buzzes through Europe at high energy levels. People, especially people on the left, have passionately negative attitudes towards Israel: Israel Derangement Syndrome.

One sees it also in the USA, with the Mearsheimer-Walt paper.

This second-rate job by highly placed academics on the “American Israel Lobby,” essentially argues for a French foreign policy towards the Arab world. The council of Eurabia, quite as morally vapid as any banal evil, counsels the obvious: our interests lie with an alliance with the Arabs and their petrol dollars, and Israel, while useful during the Cold War, now holds us down in the pursuit of our national interest.

The authors document what they call “unstinting support” of Israel, and then ask what could justify such support?

This extraordinary generosity might be understandable if Israel were a vital strategic asset or if there were a compelling moral case for US backing. But neither explanation is convincing. One might argue that Israel was an asset during the Cold War. By serving as America’s proxy after 1967, it helped contain Soviet expansion in the region and inflicted humiliating defeats on Soviet clients like Egypt and Syria. It occasionally helped protect other US allies (like King Hussein of Jordan) and its military prowess forced Moscow to spend more on backing its own client states. It also provided useful intelligence about Soviet capabilities.

Backing Israel was not cheap, however, and it complicated America’s relations with the Arab world. For example, the decision to give $2.2 billion in emergency military aid during the October War triggered an Opec oil embargo that inflicted considerable damage on Western economies. For all that, Israel’s armed forces were not in a position to protect US interests in the region. The US could not, for example, rely on Israel when the Iranian Revolution in 1979 raised concerns about the security of oil supplies, and had to create its own Rapid Deployment Force instead.

It is a work of admirable Eurabian logic, which suggests that the Jews are an impediment to the more “rational” alliance with the Arab world. Indeed, they argue, Israel is a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states.

The lack of understanding imbedded in such thinking suggest an impressive moral obtuseness. The layers of “othering” the Israelis – we have nothing but calculated ties between us – and “saming” the Muslims — an alliance with them is as good as an alliance with the Israelis — necessary to come to their conclusions, suggest a cultural illiteracy that only a post-Saïdian world could produce.

The terrorist organisations that threaten Israel do not threaten the United States, except when it intervenes against them (as in Lebanon in 1982). Moreover, Palestinian terrorism is not random violence directed against Israel or ‘the West’; it is largely a response to Israel’s prolonged campaign to colonise the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This logic replicates perfectly the logic of both European appeasement of the Nazis in the 1930s (give them Czechoslovakia and they’ll be satisfied), and the al Durah alliance that has worked so brilliantly for the French over the last half-decade. We sell out Israel and our Jews, dedicated allies and participants in our democracies, to pacify nations and people who despise and fear us, and will turn on us whenever we displease them, as in the Danish Cartoon affair. An alliance with them is as good as one with the Jews.

After all, they only hate the Jews and not us; indeed they only hate us because we support the Jews. And if we turn on the Jews, they will appreciate and respect us for selling out our friends and embracing our enemies.

The big difference between the USA and Europe, is that here we still have a sufficiently independent and lively intellectual community, that the piece, with all its shoddy scholarship and infantile logic, gets a thorough critique, even from people who are not known for their pro-Israel attitudes. In Europe, this kind of stuff dominates public discourse.

As Pierre-André Taguieff puts it, “When all the fishes swim in the same direction, it’s because they’re dead.”

Dreaming of Aztlán …

Michelle Malkin writes about a “racism whitewash” during the immigration protests in Los Angeles:

… Well, this weekend, militant racism from another protected minority group was on full display. But you wouldn’t know it from press accounts that whitewashed or buried the protesters’ virulent anti-American hatred.

An estimated 500,000 to 2 million people, untold numbers of them here illegally, took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest strict immigration enforcement and demand blanket amnesty for border violators, visa overstayers, deportation fugitives, immigration document fraud artists and other lawbreakers. Mexican flags and signs advocating ethnic separatism and supremacy filled the landscape. Demonstrators gleefully defaced posters of President Bush and urged supporters to “Stop the Nazis!” Los Angeles talk show host Tammy Bruce reported that protesters burned American flags and waved placards of the North American continent with America crossed out.

Bet you didn’t see that on television.

One of the largest, boldest banners visible from aerial shots of the rally read: “THIS IS STOLEN LAND.” Others blared: “CHICANO POWER” and “BROWN IS BEAUTIFUL.” (Can you imagine the uproar if someone had come to the rally holding up a sign reading “WHITE IS BEAUTIFUL”?) Thugs with masked faces flashed gang signs on the steps of L.A.’s City Hall. Students walked out of classrooms all across Southern California chanting, “Latinos, stand up!” Young people raised their fists in defiance, clothed in T-shirts bearing radical leftist guerrilla Che Guevara’s face and Aztlan emblems.

Aztlan is a long-held notion among Mexico’s intellectual elite and political class, which asserts that the American Southwest rightly belongs to Mexico. Advocates believe the reclamation (or reconquista) of Aztlan will occur through sheer demographic force. If the rallies across the country are any indication, reconquista is already complete. Lest you think these ideas are moldy-oldy 1960s leftovers that no one subscribes to today, listen to Sandra Molina, 16, a junior from L.A.’s Downtown Magnet High School, who complained to the supportive Los Angeles Times: “This is unjust. This land used to belong to us and now they’re trying to kick us out.” Nor are these sovereignty-obliterating grievances confined to the wacky West Coast. In Milwaukee, Wis., marchers carried signs that read: “If you think I’m ‘illegal’ because I’m a Mexican[,] learn the true history because I’m in my HOMELAND.”

Falling Asleep in the Skid: Reflections on France Part VI

The earlier segments of this essay can be found at Paris Notes, Spring 2006.

Falling Asleep in the Skid: The Spell of Language.

So for all the movement, the wheels still skid, the resistance to waking up is still strong, the paralysis in action still powerful.

On my last night in Paris, I go out with a couple of my friends from when I went to Ecole Normale Supérieure back in the early 70’s. One is Jewish, the other not. The Gaulois is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and good-hearted people I know… himself from an immigrant (father from Italy), and a sterling example of what the French “melting pot” is capable of producing, including honest patriotism. He is neither anti-American, nor as far as I know, hostile to Israel (although that’s not a topic we’ve discussed at length).

He is also open to thinking about Judaism without a zero-sum agenda, and hence, strongly aware of what Jews have contributed to French (and more broadly modern) culture, especially over the last two generations, since the Holocaust. He talks enthusiastically about “believing without belief,” a kind of zen, or post-modern religiosity which he thought might offer a way to re-infuse disenchanted moderns with religious nourishment, a phenomenon he finds particularly strong among Jews. He has no problem eating dinner in a kosher restaurant, and doesn’t make nervous jokes about being taken for a Mossad agent.

I try to talk to him about the danger I see the French in (as I have at some point in every other conversation we’ve had since 2003). He’s not interested. Our Jewish normalien friend, knows the people at the table next to us, two couples in their sixties. He introduces us to them and we exchange pleasantries. Without rehearsal, I ask them what their impression of the current situation (no need to specify). One works in a public school, and responds as if on cue:

The Jews are leaving, especially the young. In the suburbs it’s become intolerable; even in the cities, in comfortable neighborhoods it’s very difficult. The expression “sale juif” [dirty Jew] is common in public, in the market places. People even call Chinese “sale juif” to insult them. The non-Jews don’t know what’s going on and don’t seem to care.

My friend’s response to this news:

There is no anti-Semitism in France. Look at the demonstrations for Ilan Halimi. [My Jewish friends tell me that aside from the politicians, the crowd was almost entirely Jewish.] The problem with the banlieu [suburbs] is a matter of socio-economic disparities, not a culture-clash. The Danes never should have published the cartoons: No good can come from gratuitously offending another religious sensibility. We need to open ourselves up, not shut down communication.

I try to respond and he cuts me off.

I can’t take the discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The situation is too complicated, too difficult. And both sides grind you up in their handmills — moulinette bleu, moulinette rouge — it’s exhausting.

I don’t have the heart to disagree with so many statements. He looks tired. I let it slide. We speak of meeting other people at our next encounter. We shall see.

You’re Still The One I Love …

Gallup shows that Americans have significantly higher sympathy for the Israelis than the Palestinians in the Middle East.

Gallup has asked Americans, “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” 27 times since 1988. The exact percentages of responses to the question have varied over time, but in all instances the Israelis have generated more sympathy than the Palestinians … The highest level of sympathy for the Israelis (64%) came in 1991 during the first Persian Gulf War. The lowest was in 1988 and at two points in 1996 and 1997, when just 37% and 38%, respectively, favored the Israelis …

Particularly Republicans:

Republicans are much more sympathetic toward Israelis than are independents or Democrats.
Seventy-two percent of Republicans say they sympathize with the Israelis, while 11% sympathize with the Palestinians. This compares with 47% of Democrats who sympathize more with the Israelis and 20% who sympathize more with the Palestinians. Among independents, 49% sympathize more with the Israelis and 16% with the Palestinians. It’s clear that while independents and Democrats are significantly less likely to side with the Israelis than are Republicans, they are at the same time not more likely to side with the Palestinians. Independents and Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to have no opinion, or to indicate that they do not favor one side or the other in the Middle East.
Conservatives are more sympathetic toward the Israelis than are moderates or liberals. Two in three conservatives sympathize with the Israelis. This sentiment is lower among moderates (52%) and liberals (43%).

Au cœur d’une bande du “9-3”, le plaisir de la violence

The pleasure of violence in the current riots. This is what got the Vandals their reputation and gave us the term vandalism. Note the way that parts of the subway increasingly become lost territories.

Au cœur d’une bande du “9-3”, le plaisir de la violence
LE MONDE | 24.03.06 | 13h15 • Mis à jour le 24.03.06 | 15h19

Jusque-là, ils étaient restés relativement calmes. La cinquantaine de jeunes avaient bien chahuté un peu dans le métro, tiré une sonnette d’alarme, dépouillé un adolescent de son lecteur MP3. Entre eux, ils en étaient encore aux blagues adolescentes – concours de pets et boules puantes. Tout a subitement changé à l’arrivée place d’Italie, où commençait la manifestation anti-contrat première embauche (CPE) du jeudi 23 mars. En un instant, la bande, que Le Monde a suivi de Bobigny jusqu’à l’esplanade des Invalides, terme du défilé, s’est transformée en une meute, remontant le cortège pour terroriser les manifestants.
Il faudrait pouvoir décrire minute par minute la violence inouïe de ces jeunes – une quarantaine de garçons et une dizaine de filles, nettement plus calmes – venus principalement de Bobigny et de Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis) : les claques distribuées au hasard alors qu’ils courent le long du cortège ; les petits groupes de cinq ou six personnes qui se jettent sur un lycéen, le font tomber et le rouent de coups ; les jeunes filles tabassées à coups de pied ; les “balayettes”, dont ils sont si fiers, qui renversent leurs victimes ; les pierres jetées aux policiers ; les portables volés, les appareils photo arrachés. On les suit et on voit leurs sourires, on les entend se raconter leurs performances : “T’as vu ce que je lui ai mis !” Au moins une quinzaine d’agressions ont ainsi été commises en une heure par le groupe.

Des barbarismes à la barbarie

Article in Le Monde, sent by a French correspondant, on the verbal violence that has come to invade public discourse in France today. Unusual that Le Monde would publish it.

Point de vue
Des barbarismes à la barbarie, par Barbara Lefebvre
LE MONDE | 07.03.06 | 13h51 • Mis à jour le 07.03.06 | 13h51

Les tortionnaires d’Ilan Halimi, meneurs, rabatteuses, conseillers, exécutants, tous sont de jeunes Français d’origines diverses. Ils ont un point commun : s’être connus à l’école. Alors tournons-nous vers cette école de la République, lieu de transmission culturelle pour les uns, mais aussi terreau de la haine verbale pour tant d’autres.

La violence verbale est le lot quotidien des acteurs du monde éducatif, et notamment dans ce coeur fondamental de la sédimentation identitaire, le collège, où l’adolescent bataille avec la délicate question de l’intégration au groupe. C’est là que se forgent ces langages meurtriers, cette barbarie verbale du quotidien qui conduit certains – et pas les plus fragiles, au contraire – au passage à l’acte. Il faut vivre au quotidien ces laboratoires de la haine de l’Autre que sont devenus beaucoup de nos établissements scolaires – qu’il s’agisse de ZEP ou d’écoles de centre-ville. Pour que soient abolies les barrières morales empêchant le passage à l’acte meurtrier, il faut déshumaniser l’Autre. Cela commence par les mots. Ce langage de rejet et de haine est radical, il ne fait pas dans la nuance, il est ce “noyau de condensation redoutable où de furieuses énergies s’accumulent” (Jean-Pierre Faye).

La fille est une “pute”, une “salope”, une “tas-pé”. Certains de ceux qui s’expriment de la sorte au quotidien sont des adolescents amateurs de films pornos et de chanteurs aux textes “engagés” d’une exquise poésie ; les mêmes prétendent par ailleurs veiller au respect de leur mère et soeurs. Un jour, un des leurs va plus loin en s’adressant à une adulte, son enseignante enceinte à qui il déclare “j’vais te lécher le… ça va te faire descendre ton enfant”. Celui qui, en octobre 2002, a brûlé vive Sohane dans un local à poubelles parce qu’elle avait osé dire “non” a été applaudi par ses supporteurs lors de la reconstitution. Barbarismes et barbarie se rejoignent : les mots ont participé à réduire l’humain à une chose. Le jeune collégien qui découvre la différence de son identité sexuelle ne joue pas le jeu de la violence machiste adolescente, préfère la compagnie des filles à celle de ses congénères masculins, c’est le “pédé” harcelé, stigmatisé. Un jour de février 2004, Sébastien Nouchet est vitriolé au bas de son immeuble car les homosexuels sont des sous-hommes.

What Is It About The Palestinians?

Here’s a good question from the Letters to the Editor section of the Jerusalem Post:

What is it about the Palestinians?

Sir, – Accounts of the recent violence in Jericho, which spread to Ramallah, listed an astonishing number of foreigners, international NGOs and welfare organizations working in the Gaza Strip and West bank. They included UN workers, French medical workers, Canadian aid workers, American professors, an organization called AMIDEAST, a private American aid organization, and there may be many more. They are willing not only to devote their skills, but also to risk their lives: Witness the kidnappings, threats and violence aimed at these good souls, who were forced to flee in fear – like the TIPH [Temporary International Presence in the City of Hebron] force sent to Hebron to defend Palestinians bodies against the supposedly vindictive Israelis.

What is it about the Palestinian condition and society that so inspires do-gooders and liberals worldwide? And is their selfless commitment reserved for the Palestinians only? Dare we assume that these good people are also in the hellhole that is Darfur, for instance, caring for traumatized, raped and abused women and tormented children; running schools and clinics for this displaced and helpless community? Are all the wonderful, caring and idealistic young EU people, who protect the Palestinians with their very bodies, also caring for the suffering, hopeless millions of Africa? If not, why not? What is it about the Palestinians?

(“10 foreigners kidnapped in Gaza Strip. Gunmen threaten attacks against Israel, US, UK,” March 15.)


On a Lighter Note …

Hugo Chavez vowed to defeat any US invasion with bows and arrows. From Reuters:

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez on Sunday said he would have a nasty welcome waiting for U.S. forces he insists are preparing to invade his country — arrows laced with Indian poison.

The left-wing former soldier, who has ordered his military to train civilian reserves for a guerrilla war, including the use of bows and arrows, often accuses Washington of planning to invade to control Venezuela’s vast oil reserves …

With an audience of ministers, army officers and local officials chuckling, Chavez remarked on how he would target U.S. soldiers with arrows covered with curare, an Amazon Indian poison made from plants.

“I am going to practice with a bow and arrow. If we have to put a few arrows into any invading gringo, then you’ll be done in 30 seconds, my dear gringo,” Chavez said pointing to his neck during his regular Sunday television broadcast.

No Jewish Lobby

David Gergen, writing in the Daily News, replies to the “Harvard paper.”

Not only are these charges wildly at variance with what I have personally witnessed in the Oval Office, but they also impugn the unstinting service to America’s national security by public figures like Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk and many others.

As a Christian, let me add that it is also wrong and unfair to call into question the loyalty of millions of American Jews who have faithfully supported Israel while also working tirelessly and generously to advance America’s cause, both at home and abroad. They should be praised, not pilloried.

To be sure, pro-Israeli groups in this country, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, push hard to gain the support of U.S. political leaders. AIPAC is officially registered as a lobbying group, but that does not mean that its members are engaging in something sinister.

It is just not true that the Israel “Lobby” has captured U.S. policy toward the Middle East. As David McCullough writes, Harry Truman recognized Israel in 1948 out of humanitarian concerns and in spite of pressure from Jewish groups, not because of it. Since then, 10 straight American Presidents have befriended Israel – not because they were under pressure but because they believed America had made a commitment to Israel’s survival, just as we have to other threatened outposts of freedom like Berlin, South Korea and Taiwan.

Over the course of four tours in the White House, I never once saw a decision in the Oval Office to tilt U.S. foreign policy in favor of Israel at the expense of America’s interest.

Moreover, history shows many instances when our Presidents have sharply opposed the Israeli government. I was there when Ronald Reagan, a great friend of Israel, was so repelled by pictures of victims in Lebanon that he insisted the Israelis call off their assault on Beirut (they did).

Lieberman’s Plan (Part 2)

Legal experts have told the Jerusalem Post that it is illegal to strip Israeli Arabs of citizenship as part of a population and territorial swap with the Palestinian Authority to demographically ensure a Jewish majority.

Even right-wing attorney Yossi Fuchs, of the Legal Forum for the State of Israel and a member of the Likud central committee, who supports reducing the number of Arab citizens, said that taking away a person’s citizenship runs counter to Israeli and international law.

“The state can decide that the Triangle area, populated mostly by Israeli Arabs, is no longer part of Israel. But it cannot revoke the citizenship of the people living there,” he said. “The people [Israeli Arab citizens] who remain there will still be Israeli citizens.”

International law professor Natan Lerner from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya called the plan “perverse.” He added, “You cannot play with human beings as if they are ping pong balls.”

Attorney Hadas Tagari, who formerly worked for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel argued that it was so difficult to revoke a person’s citizenship that the High Court of Justice has upheld the citizenship rights of Yigal Amir, who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, even though he committed a crime against the state.

But Suzie Navot, who teaches parliamentary and constitutional law at the College of Management in Rishon Lezion, said the issue of legality wasn’t so clear cut.

Since no such law exists by which citizenship can be lost due to a land transfer, it’s hard to determine its legality, she said. If such a plan was the will of the government, then a procedure would be created to try and implement it. The government could pass a bill to such effect in the Knesset, she said. The bill’s legality would then be ruled upon by the High Court of Justice, she added. While a number of legal experts believe the court would reject it, Israel Beiteinu’s legal adviser, Ramat Gan attorney Yoav Many, said the court’s will is not so clear.

And here’s the answer to my previous question: what if the Israeli Arabs don’t want to be part of a palestinian state?

Lieberman’s plan calls for Israel to retain heavily populated Jewish blocs in the the West Bank in exchange for giving the Palestinian Authority high density Israeli Arab ones within sovereign Israel, such as the Galilee “Triangle” and its Wadi Ara valley, which includes cities like Umm el-Fahm, Taiba and Baka al-Gharbiyeh. Israeli Arabs who continue living in those areas would become Palestinian citizens, said Many. They would keep their homes and their jobs, he added.

“We are not talking about population transfer,” he said. But those who wanted to retain their Israeli citizenship would have to move within Israel’s borders and sign a pledge of allegiance to a Zionist state, Many said.

The Long 20th Century

In his review of Fukuyama’s new book Paul Berman reflects about the power of “murderous ideologies” comparing Islamism with Fascism and Nazism:

A more grandiose rhetoric draws our attention, at least, to the danger of gigantic massacres. And a more grandiose rhetoric might lead us to think about ideological questions. Why are so many people eager to join the jihadi elite? They are eager for ideological reasons, exactly as in the case of fascists and other totalitarians of the past. These people will be defeated only when their ideologies begin to seem exhausted, which means that any struggle against them has to be, above all, a battle of ideas — a campaign to persuade entire mass movements around the world to abandon their present doctrines in favor of more liberal ones. Or so it seems to me. Fukuyama acknowledges that the terrorist ideology of today, as he describes it, “owes a great deal to Western ideas in addition to Islam” and appeals to the same kind of people who, in earlier times, might have been drawn to Communism or fascism. Even so, for all the marvelous fecundity of his political imagination, he has very little to say about this ideology and the war of ideas. I wonder why …

And yet, what dominated the 20th century, what drowned the century in oceans of blood, was precisely the free play of ideas and ideologies, which could never be relegated entirely to the workings of sociology, economics, psychology or any of the other categories of social science. In my view, we are seeing the continuing strength of 20th-century-style ideologies right now — the ideologies that have motivated Baathists and the more radical Islamists to slaughter millions of their fellow Muslims in the last 25 years, together with a few thousand people who were not Muslims.

Fukuyama is always worth reading, and his new book contains ideas that I hope the non-neoconservatives of America will adopt. But neither his old arguments nor his new ones offer much insight into this, the most important problem of all — the problem of murderous ideologies and how to combat them.

Iraq and Al Qaeda: Where Is The Mainstream Media?

Forty-eight thousand boxes containing thousands upon thousands of documents from the Saddam Hussein regime are slowly revealing a relationship between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. This link has been reported by bloggers and a few magazines but … where is the Mainstream Media when we need it? Here’s another article:

A handwritten dossier dated Aug. 17, 2002, confirms an operational cell of al-Qaeda inside Iraq and identifies its key member as Ahmed Fadil Nizal Al Khalaylah—also known as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the current leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Saddam’s regime, from the document, seems little concerned about the terrorist’s presence—even though tolerating known terrorists violated UN resolutions—and less surprised, perhaps with reason. Another memo, dated Sept. 15, 2001, and from Afghanistan, notes a relationship between al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Baghdad, and a Dec. 1, 2001, memo reports on “the status of rumors” of 3,000 Fedayeen Saddam from Anbar Province who were dispatched “in an unofficial capacity to Afghanistan and have joined the mujahidin to fight with and aid them in defeating the American Zionist Imperialist attack.”

Those admissions are news only to those who believe the U.S. invasion is responsible for the Iraq/al-Qaeda convergence. Documents already publicized by WORLD show Saddam’s regime providing terrorist training and financial support against U.S. forces in Somalia after the Gulf War, and in Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, and elsewhere.

In 2002, when Kurdish forces captured 16 al-Qaeda men crossing the border from Iran, the Kurds convinced only three publications (The New Yorker, The Christian Science Monitor, and WORLD) to send reporters to investigate their stories and failed to persuade the CIA to interview the detainees. One of them, Iraqi Haqi Ismail, was trained in Afghan camps, he told WORLD, after he was recruited by “a man named Ahmed Fadil Khalaylah,” likely the then-unknown Zarqawi.

More terror links are surfacing elsewhere. Iraqi documents obtained by The Weekly Standard this month show Saddam supporting Abu Sayyaf, the Philippine al-Qaeda affiliate, and its leaders consulting in Manila with Iraqi diplomats during the 2002 kidnapping of U.S. missionaries Martin and Gracie Burnham.

These and other disclosures, made earlier, could help U.S. forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even now, admits Jamal Ware, spokesman for House Intelligence Committee chairman Hoekstra, “We have no idea what’s in these boxes.” Whether so many files contain actionable intelligence on Mr. Zarqawi, other terrorists, or on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction will remain a mystery until more pages are cleared and released. “Historically the public would never have a chance to see this information. You would need a security clearance,” said Mr. Ware. But you don’t need a security clearance, according to Mr. Tierney, to read the lessons leading up to the Iraq war.

“Once you go to war, fight the war. It should not be something you want to manage for the next three decades,” he said. “When you look at the documents and translations of meetings, you see that the UN template on conflict management does not work. It leads to a pit of all kinds of complicity. It’s like giving your enemies the tape to bind you with.”

Conversion? Don’t try it!

Here’s an update on the story of the Muslim covert who faces death in Afghanistan:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) – President Hamid Karzai has personally intervened in the case of an Afghan man facing execution for converting to Christianity, a top official said, amid fierce criticism in the West. Karzai was consulting with various government organisations to resolve the matter as soon as possible, the senior government official said on condition of anonymity. “The president is personally working to resolve it peacefully. There is a way out of it,” he said on Saturday. “I believe it’ll take one or two days.” Another senior official said late Friday that the convert, 41-year-old Abdul Rahman, was likely to be released from jail soon. He said the matter would be discussed at a top-level meeting Saturday. Rahman was arrested under Islamic Sharia law about two weeks ago after his parents went to the authorities, reportedly following a family dispute. Sharia law, on which the Afghan constitution is partly based, rules that a Muslim who converts away from Islam should be put to death. Afghanistan’s Supreme Court said this week it was trying to find a “good solution”, including persuading Rahman to revert to Islam. It has also said Rahman may be psychologically unfit to stand trial, which analysts have said would provide the government with a face-saving solution.

Sightings of Spine: Reflections on France Part V

[For the earlier posts in this series, see Paris Notes, Spring 2006.]

So are the French waking up? And if so, are they like someone who’s fallen asleep at the wheel and wake up after they’ve smacked into the central median strip only to watch the car careening across the highway into a boulder on the other side?

The analogy is poor, since the social process is happening too slowly for sustained paralysis without something inhibiting a sane response. Unquestionably, the events of the last several months have sobered the French. Traditionally left-wing papers print things that they never would have said before, much as the murder of Theo van Gogh untied the tongues of Dutch observers in an otherwise PC-smothered discourse. Daniel Leconte, a notably courageous journalist where the al Durah affair is concerned, wrote a very strong denunciation of Islamism in Libération congratulating Charlie Hebdo on its courage in printing the cartoons.

Is it enough? Will it last? Or, as in the past, when the MSM briefly caught on, will they sink back into the old patterns of denial and silence?

Having affirmed that the victory over terrorism would come through more democracy, in the name of what twisted logic should we now say that we should renounce here what many democrats and intellectuals would supposedly like to see flourish over there? What desertion of our post this must seem in the eyes of those, Lebanese, who have payed with their lives for having said “The Arab tragedy” (Le Malheur Arab) was above all the responsability of their own elites?

In other words, how will self-criticism ever “take” over there, where the honor hungry alpha male elites control the media, if we won’t even hold the line here, where supposedly the battle for freedom of the press has already been won?

Harvard says: Leave Me Out Of This!

Remember the Harvard paper by two academics denouncing the “Jewish lobby” in the US? (read here) Well, here’s an interesting update:

WASHINGTON – Harvard University has decided to remove its logo from a study that denounces the pro-Israel lobby’s impact on American foreign policy, in order to distance itself from the study’s conclusions.

The university also appended a more strongly worded disclaimer to the study, stating that it reflects the views of its authors only. The former disclaimer said merely that the study “does not necessarily” reflect the university’s views.

The controversial study, published this week, was authored by Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago. It charged that American foreign policy has been subordinated to Israeli interests and accused the pro-Israel lobby of responsibility for America’s invasion of Iraq.

Maybe its authors will blame this on the Jewish lobby ….

Lieberman’s Plan

From Ynetnews:

(VIDEO) A diplomatic plan that would see Israel retain West Bank settlements while handing over Arab-Israeli towns to the Palestinian Authority enjoys international support, Israel Our Home Chairman Avigdor Lieberman told Ynetnews in a special interview Thursday.

“I think we have support for this idea in the international community,” Lieberman said, making note of a recent opinion piece by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. “Now it depends only on us, what we will decide.” … Lieberman’s plan, which would see Israel’s borders redrawn in a way that leaves such towns as Umm al-Fahem outside the country, has been slammed by critics as a thinly veiled attempt to remove Israel’s Arab citizens. Yet the right-wing leader insisted his initiative is viable and pointed to similar solutions elsewhere. “You can take for example Cyprus, or the solution that happened in Yugoslavia,” he said, making note of other cases in history where borders were redrawn.

There is a good question to this plan though: what if Israel’s Arab citizens don’t want to?

The Politics of Gratitude and Resentment: Reflections on France IV

[For earlier parts of this essay, see France Notes, Spring 2006.]

On the trip to Normandy, at the entrance to Bayeux, there’s a Place Dwight D. Eisenhower, with a statue of Ike along the circumference and some potted plants. Nothing suggests that it serves as anything but the slightly ornate middle of a traffic circle. No visitors, no special cross walks, no cut flowers.

We visit Omaha Beach. It’s a cold day. No one is there. A couple of signs one in both English and French, one only in English, inform the visitor briefly of what happened. Very matter of fact. This is not a major site for visiting, and to the extent that it is, it seems to be an American place. I walk along the shore, imagining the invasion, the 2500 dead in the first hours… American, English, Canadian soldiers on this Longest Day. And my mind scurries back to how the French dealt with the Nazis in the 1930s, how they folded in days in 1940 and the vast majority either collaborated or stood by for most of the war, how in the aftermath of that war, after having their ass saved by the Anglophone world, they proceeded to insist on holding on to their colonial empire in Indochina and Algeria, having “force de frappe,” conducting a visibly and often abrasively independent foreign policy, all for the sake of la gloire française.

There’s a military cemetery nearby where over 7000 American soldiers are buried. It is a barren place. One other couple shares the area with us in a light morning rain. The memorial was established in July 1956 – 12 years after their deaths, by Americans. (A French association does exist, but one does not get a sense of vitality.) The inscription above the memorial reads: