Fareed Zakaria: Poster Boy for Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

I haven’t posted a lot on Iran because it’s not really an area I know a great deal about. But what I can recognize is the predictable tropes of cognitive egocentrism, and that’s what this latest by Fareed Zakaria is full of. I’ve been following his program on CNN segments of which we’ll be posting soon at the new Second Draft site for comment and criticism. There, it’s hard to know what he thinks aside from how he chooses his guests — Gerges is less of an analyst than an advocate, but Zakaria doesn’t seem to notice — but in this piece he’s wearing his colors loud and clear.

Lorenz Gude, one of our regular commenters here notes:

    I found myself pretty surprised by Fareed Zakaria’s piece on Iran in Newsweek entitled “They May Not Want the Bomb.” It is an example of apologetic propaganda that reminds me of hagiographies of Stalin.

Emerging Iran

Inside a land poised between tradition and modernity

How’s that for a start. It may be somewhere between the two conceptually, but to call it poised between them is to suggest those are its two possible (and imminent) directions. On the contrary, Khoumeini’s “Islamic Republic of Iran” is a terrifying experiment in anti-modern apocalyptic Islam. To leave that out of the picture already marks Zakaria’s (or is it the Newsweek editor’s) conceptual framework as critically deficient.

How about: Inside a land hijacked by anti-modern Islamists on the painful path from tradition to modernity

By Fareed Zakaria | NEWSWEEK
Published May 23, 2009
Religion Versus Reality
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What’s the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons.

And they wouldn’t lie to us, would they? Zakaria seems to think that having nuclear weapons is like having dessert — something you can take or leave. Does he really mean this? Is this deliberate misinformation or just breathtaking naivete? As the kept woman said to the court when told that her senator lover denied having any knowledge of her, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime’s founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were “un-Islamic.” The country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that “developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam.” Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini’s statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.

Of course they could be lying. And they could be doing that for the sake of Islam. After all, the Shiites are the original practitioners of Takkiya. As the Supreme Leader Khoumeini put it:

    Should we remain truthful at the cost of defeat and danger to the Faith? People say, “don’t kill!” But the Almighty himself taught us how to kill… Shall we not kill when it is necessary for the triumph of the Faith? We say that killing is tantamount to saying a prayer when those who are harmful [to the Faith] need to be put out of the way. Deceit, trickery, conspiracy, cheating, stealing and killing are nothing but means… (Murawiec, The Mind of Jihad, p.43).

Are these statements made in English and broadcast to us, or in Pharsee and broadcast to the Iranian public. Could it just be fodder for dupes?

And then, what about this:

    Iran’s hardline spiritual leaders have issued an unprecedented new fatwa, or holy order, sanctioning the use of atomic weapons against its enemies.

    In yet another sign of Teheran’s stiffening resolve on the nuclear issue, influential Muslim clerics have for the first time questioned the theocracy’s traditional stance that Sharia law forbade the use of nuclear weapons.

    One senior mullah has now said it is “only natural” to have nuclear bombs as a “countermeasure” against other nuclear powers, thought to be a reference to America and Israel.

    The pronouncement is particularly worrying because it has come from Mohsen Gharavian, a disciple of the ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi, who is widely regarded as the cleric closest to Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Nicknamed “Professor Crocodile” because of his harsh conservatism, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi’s group opposes virtually any kind of rapprochement with the West and is believed to have influenced President Ahmadinejad’s refusal to negotiate over Iran’s nuclear programme.

    The comments, which are the first public statement by the Yazdi clerical cabal on the nuclear issue, will be seen as an attempt by the country’s religious hardliners to begin preparing a theological justification for the ownership – and if necessary the use – of atomic bombs.

Does Zakaria know about this and doesn’t think it’s relevant? Is the Daily Telegraph misreporting?

Following a civilian nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support across the world. That would make comprehensive sanctions against Iran impossible. And if Tehran’s aim is to expand its regional influence, it doesn’t need a bomb to do so. Simply having a clear “breakout” capacity—the ability to weaponize within a few months—would allow it to operate with much greater latitude and impunity in the Middle East and Central Asia.

This passage offers a full panorama of combined liberal cognitive egocentrism and appeasement rationalization. On the one hand, we’re told it’s more “beneficial” for Iran to constrain itself to the internationally acceptable civilian strategy (because they don’t have enough oil to produce heat?), as if Zakaria’s notion of “benefits” are the same as that going through the minds of the mullahs who run the show. Then he ends by saying, “okay, they may want the ‘big stick’ of nuclear weapons, but they don’t have to actually have them. They can just have all the materials they want two steps away from assembly and they can bully all they want. Fig leaf for us, full benefits for them. Everybody wins!”

Iranians aren’t suicidal. In an interview last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian regime as “a messianic, apocalyptic cult.” In fact, Iran has tended to behave in a shrewd, calculating manner, advancing its interests when possible, retreating when necessary.

This is precious. We had brilliant analysts coming up with exactly the same kind of analysis of Hitler in the 1930s. The evidence for Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic preoccupations are legion, and the idea that, while he’s not in a position to act, he doesn’t show his full commitment to those ideas in acts, but rather his “shrewd and rational” behavior now is really what he’s about, constitutes a kind of willful ignorance that we should not have to see coming from our opinion leaders so late in this particular game.

The Iranians allied with the United States and against the Taliban in 2001, assisting in the creation of the Karzai government. They worked against the United States in Iraq, where they feared the creation of a pro-U.S. puppet on their border. Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies. Iran’s ruling elite is obsessed with gathering wealth and maintaining power.

I don’t see either Ahmadinejad, nor Khameini, nor the other Mullahs into amassing great wealth, and in terms of maintaining power, the enmity of the world serves their purposes. This is more “rational economic” man.

The argument made by those—including many Israelis for coercive sanctions against Iran is that many in the regime have been squirreling away money into bank accounts in Dubai and Switzerland for their children and grandchildren. These are not actions associated with people who believe that the world is going to end soon.

One of Netanyahu’s advisers said of Iran, “Think Amalek.” The Bible says that the Amalekites were dedicated enemies of the Jewish people. In 1 Samuel 15, God says, “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Now, were the president of Iran and his advisers to have cited a religious text that gave divine sanction for the annihilation of an entire race, they would be called, well, messianic.

This is a good example of Zakaria’s questionable faith when informing his audience. The number of explicitly messianic statements from the very mouth of the President of Iran are numerous and yet, Zakaria sweeps them away with a wave of his hand. He then takes an advisor’s off-hand remark — “Think Amalek” — which is Jewish shorthand for “existential threat” and reaches for the genocidal element of the story that the advisor surely didn’t intend (no one’s talking about wiping out the Iranian people), in order to score a cheap debating point.

The rhetorical bad faith here — dismiss serious evidence, and when necessary stretch flimsy evidence as a counter-argument — in a matter as weighty as our attitude towards Iran’s desire to have nuclear weapons strikes me as a grave indictment of Zakaria’s reliability as a source of information and considered opinion. On the contrary, this is cheap manipulation in the service of a desired position regardless of the evidence.

Iran isn’t a dictatorship. It is certainly not a democracy. The regime jails opponents, closes down magazines and tolerates few challenges to its authority. But neither is it a monolithic dictatorship. It might be best described as an oligarchy, with considerable debate and dissent within the elites. Even the so-called Supreme Leader has a constituency, the Assembly of Experts, who selected him and whom he has to keep happy. Ahmadinejad is widely seen as the “mad mullah” who runs the country, but he is not the unquestioned chief executive and is actually a thorn in the side of the clerical establishment. He is a layman with no family connections to major ayatollahs—which makes him a rare figure in the ruling class. He was not initially the favored candidate of the Supreme Leader in the 2005 election. Even now the mullahs clearly dislike him, and he, in turn, does things deliberately designed to undermine their authority.

This may well be true, but by this point, I don’t trust a word Zakaria has to say about this situation in Iran. He may be right, but it’s like listening to someone who’s trying to sell you his house, describe it: he only tells you what he wants you to know. The question is, why is Zakaria working as an Iranian PR flak?

Let’s not forget that just because the ruling religious elite doesn’t like Ahmadinejad, that doesn’t mean they don’t share many of his religious sentiments. Let’s not forget that Khoumeini, the godfather of this apocalyptic mafia, was the first Islamic figure to break onto the global scene (as opposed to, say, Sayyid Qutb, whose writings were largely unknown to the West), to embrace death and murder as religious values. Here’s some of Khoumeini’s thoughts as cited in Laurent Murawiec’s The Mind of Jihad, p.43-44:

    Islam says: “Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter their armies!” Does this mean sitting back until they overcome us? Islam says: “Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword.” People cannot be made obedient except with the sword. The sword is the key to Paradise which can be opened only for Holy warriors… Does all that mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim

    Islam grew with blood… The great Prophet of Islam in one hand carried the Quran and in the other a sword; the sword for crushing the traitors and the Quran for guidance…. Islam is a religon of blood for the infidels but a religion of guidance for other people…

    War is a blessing for the world and for every nation. It is Allah himself who commands men to wage war and kill… The wars that our Prophet… waged against the infidels were divine gifts to humanity. Once we have won the war [with Iraq], we shall turn to other wars. For that would not be enough. We have to wage war until all corruption, all disobedience of Islamic law ceases [throughout the world]. The Quran commands: “War! War until victory!” A religiion without war is a crippled religion… It is war that purifies the earth… Our young fighters… know that to kill the infidels is one of the noblest missions Allah has reserved for mankind.”

Does Zakaria know anything about this? Does he think that he, and we — all we Westerners — aren’t infidels?

If he did, would he bother mentioning these ideas to his audience? Or is he just in pursuit of his goal — put people’s anxiety about Iran to rest/sleep?

Does he really think that the blandishments of the West — prosperity for the Iranian people, allowing in Western “rational” influences, the give and take of an economically dynamic society with its empowered “middle” class — will override these principles? Does he think Khoumeini’s world view is just passé, a brief and long-ago discarded summer squall of religious fanaticism that quickly ceded to Western rationality?

And what if he’s wrong? (Does that even occur to him?)

Iran might be ready to deal. We can’t know if a deal is possible since we’ve never tried to negotiate one, not directly.

And the failure of all the indirect attempts is not a significant factor to consider?

While the regime appears united in its belief that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program—a position with broad popular support—some leaders seem sensitive to the costs of the current approach. It is conceivable that these “moderates” would appreciate the potential benefits of limiting their nuclear program, including trade, technology and recognition by the United States.

This would all make sense, and would have been as true in 1979 when Iran broke every “rational” rule in the books as it is now. It is entirely conceivable that there are quite a few Iranians who want this. It’s also possible that they can’t be in a position of influence because those for whom such considerations represent intolerable concessions to a pro-Western sentiment that threatens the very foundations of Islam, have no scruples using any means to stay in power.

The Iranians insist they must be able to enrich uranium on their own soil. One proposal is for this to take place in Iran but only under the control of an international consortium. It’s not a perfect solution because the Iranians could—if they were very creative and dedicated—cheat. But neither is it perfect from the Iranian point of view because it would effectively mean a permanent inspections regime in their country. But both sides might get enough of what they consider crucial for it to work. Why not try this before launching the next Mideast war?

This would be a much better piece if, instead of just making light of the concerns of those who think Iranian nuclear weapons would be a disaster, he spent some time analyzing why the “negotiating” angle had, so far, not worked, and what kinds of elements we should use to make it work. But that would actually mean Zakaria had to think seriously about what’s going on, rather than fill the page with his supremely self-confident liberal projections. Who but a war monger could disagree with that?

Gude notes:

    I think this important because Zakaria is obviously being a stalking horse of Obama’s policy of engagement. I presume you have read both Barry Rubin’s analysis of the recent Obama Netanyahu news conference and Caroline Glick’s rather more gloomy view. Naturally, Zakaria’s article tends me to incline more to Glick’s view.

79 Responses to Fareed Zakaria: Poster Boy for Liberal Cognitive Egocentrism

  1. JD says:

    If the program was only for non-bomb purposes,

    why do they bar the IAEA from inspecting nuclear facilities?

    BTW, does any one know if Zakaria went to Yale Univ.? He’s got their lockjaw way of speaking, lower jaw almost frozen.

  2. JD says:

    Stylisticly, it’s liberal-left apologetics towards Marxism. I don’t hear it much any more these days, for example, Hugo Chavez has not gotten much of it. The exception, of course, is apologizing for Palestinian actions.

    “Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies.”

    And the fact that the response in 2006 was devastating to Hizbollah had nothing to do with that. I guess that’s what he thinks.

    “While the regime appears united in its belief that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program…some leaders seem sensitive to the costs of the current approach.”

    Of course. Because those “some leaders” comprehend that nuclear power is stupid for a country that has so much natural gas and oil. Sooo, maybe the reason so much money is being spent is not for the goal of overly expensive electricity??

    “Ahmadinejad is widely seen as the “mad mullah” who runs the country, but he is not the unquestioned chief executive and is actually a thorn in the side of the clerical establishment.”

    Not at the beginning. His personality defects weren’t so obvious in the beginning. But he was the establishment’s boy.

    “He is a layman with no family connections to major ayatollahs—which makes him a rare figure in the ruling class.”

    So what? They chose him. They wanted a radical figure to fit in with their attempts to reinvigorate the passions of the early revolution, including hating Israel and foreign affairs policies to try to obtain the title of leader of the muslim world. Arrogant and stupid, but that’s what they believe, that was an obsession of Khomeini.

    Here’s the trickiest one:

    “He was not initially the favored candidate of the Supreme Leader in the 2005 election.”

    Zakaria is a snake here. A-jad was the choice of the establishment. He was the choice of Khameini too. Apparently, not at first, but before the election he was Khameini’s boy.

    For Zakaria to say the truth, A-jad turned out to be a big mouthed embarassment and that is the reason for the disfavor, would undermine his bs insinuation that the establishment did not and does not support his policies in general.

  3. 4infidels says:

    What makes Zakaria dangerous is that Obama considers him a wise man when it comes to foreign policy.

    It has become more evident over the years that Zakaria is nothing more than a Muslim apologist dressed up in Western clothing. In tone and temperament, he is an Ivy Leaguer of the citizen-of-the-world variety. What I don’t know for sure about him is whether he believes what he writes. Or is he trying to cover his embarrassment by the way so many his fellow Muslims act? Zakaria has a need to make it seem like most Muslims are reasonable, while the others are provoked, have political grievances or misunderstand their religion.

    Zakaria gives a sympathetic and uncritical ear to Chas Freeman on his TV show which turned into an easy opportunity for Freeman to present his anti-Israel and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories. He ask softball questions to Arab politicians while putting the screws to their Israeli counterparts. He distorts Israeli history (forced expulsion of most refugees) and politics (calling Kadima a “right-wing” party in his article on the Israeli elections). He is the smiling and polished, yet creepy face of the jihad against America and Israel whether he believes the nonsense his spews or not. While some brave voices attempt to educate the West regarding the threat from Islamic jihad, Zakaria is doing his best to keep us in the dark.

  4. Michelle Schatzman says:

    It’s not a perfect solution because the Iranians could—if they were very creative and dedicated—cheat.

    It is plain that the Iranians are cheating; otherwise, why do they refuse IAEA inspections? Conclusion : they are very creative and dedicated. But who denies this?

    btw, I got convinced quite a few years ago that the Iranians were developing a military nuclear program, for the following reaon. There is a big international competition, called “International Mathematical Olympiads” (IMO), taking place every year. In order to rank well in this competition, you need to find young mathematical talent, and to train the candidates.

    The results can be found here:

    http://www.imo-official.org/results.aspx

    Russia and China share usually the first two ranks, with USA just behind. Some communist or former communist countries rank well. For instance, Romania, Vietnam, Bulgaria. Japan and Korea are quite good. There is an outsider : Iran.

    What the heck is Iran doing here? There is no big mathematical tradition in Iran, as there is in Russia or the USA. China is constructing its mathematical school, and getting better everyday. But not much is coming out of Iran, in terms of mathematical publications. So, this very good presence of Iran in the IMO means that the iranian education system teaches enought mathematics to select excellent mathematical talent. But why would they need so much mathematical talent? They are educating lots of smart engineers. One needs good engineers with a strong mathematical education to make nuclear weapons.

    OK, (1) maybe Iran is selecting mathematical talent, because mathematical talent looks good in the international arena. (2) Or maybe, doing maths is just like playing chesse : it is great fun and it is competitive. (3) Maybe they do not have enough money for research in physics, so they are doing poor man’s physics, which is math.

    I cannot exclude the fun part and the international prestige part. But explanation 3 is silly : this is a high school level competition, and therefore the relative cost of physics and math is irrelevant.

    I cannot exclude that some Iranians have learnt mathematics in Russia (or Soviet Union, some time ago) and got hooked on the mathematical olympiad glamour.

    I do not know about this possibility. I know some Iranian mathematicians indeed – but they all left Iran and they got most or all of their university education outside of Iran.

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Is it really necessary to take Newsweek or Time, for that matter, seriously? Zakarya comes out of Newsweek. That should stamp him as unreliable right off.

  6. Eliyahu says:

    actually, newsweek and time do have to be taken seriously but only because they are influential on public opinion. You can rely on them being misleading or deceitful, etc. Zakarya seems to fit in there. “Critically deficient” is a nice way to put it.

  7. Rich Rostrom says:

    RL: I don’t see either Ahmadinejad, nor Khameini, nor the other Mullahs into amassing great wealth

    One reason Ahmedinejad was elected was that he was not a grafter like his opponent Rafsanjani, both an Ayatollah and the richest man in Iran. The greed of the Islamist clergy is notorious: when a driver in a Mercedes or other luxury zooms recklessly through crowds of pedestrians, the usual outcry is “f—ing mullah!”

    The Revolutionary Guard is up to its neck in kickbacks, bribes, and sweetheart deals.

    A comparison with Nazi Germany is perhaps appropriate for once: many of the top Nazis were big-time grafters – Goering being the worst. And these men were, in general, less enthusiastic about rushing into apocalyptic wars. But none of them could resist Hitler’s will.

    There is no Hitler in Iran – that is, no uncontested ruler who could push the country into a dangerous war. I think the fat cats would block that.

    The two threats from nuclear Iran are:

    Massive terrorist and subversive operations against neighboring countries, conducted with impunity behind a nuclear shield. For instance, suppose Hezbollah gained control of Lebanon, and signed a defense pact with Iran. Iranian forces deploy in Lebanon, the siege of Galilee resumes, and any threat of Israeli invasion is countered with threat of nuclear response. Reckless, but not apocalyptic. The fat cats are still violently anti-Israel, and would go along with this.

    Provision of a “deniable” nuclear weapon to terrorists for use against Israel or the U.S. Even more reckless, but still short of apocalypse. The fat cats might go along with it, depending on how “patriotic “they feel, how persuasive the advocate is, and whether they think the deniability will work.

  8. Jonathan Levy says:

    I remember seeing an excellent comic in Ha’aretz a year or two ago:

    Ahmedinejad is working on building a nuclear missile, and turns to the camera, saying “Oh, it’s just for Holocaust Research purposes, that’s all”.

  9. nelson says:

    There is only one relevant question to ask about Zakaria: is he a fool or a rascal?

    If he actually believes what he says, he’s a fool.

    On the other hand, he may be among the growing number of pundits who think that there’s just one obstacle in the way of reaching a comprehensive agreement with militant Islam: Israel. Once they deliver Czechoslovakia, sorry, I mean Israel to Iran and the Arabs, there will be no more points of attrition between the US/West and Islam. But since this cannot (yet) be said openly, the best thing to do is to downplay the actual dangers and their urgency.

    Though this would make him a rascal, he’d still be a fool for thinking that Islam’s ambitions stop at Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Does he believe in this or does he rather think that living under Sharia can be a pleasant and fulfilling experience?

    Where have all the real liberals, democrats, antifascists, antitotalitarians, anticlericalists, all the children of modernity, of Kant and of the Enlightenment gone?

    Think, for instance, of a city like Prague. It was already a most pleasant place to live in at Mozart’s time. It was a pretty, modern, open and exciting town between the wars. Then, suddenly, from 1938 and for the next 61 years, it became one version of hell on earth.

    Buenos Aires too was a great place to live in until the arrival o Peron: it never recovered. Things can change very quickly for the worse. Who, say, in 1916 Petrograd could imagine what kind of place it would become a mere four years later? How many days it took for Phnom Penh to turn, from a rather regular city, into a deadly wasteland?

    And what about Teheran? How did all those socialists, communists, leftists, secularist revolutionaries, all those emancipated urban women who helped depose the Shah in 1979 felt a year or two later? How many of them are still alive? How many died peacefully in bed?

    Stability is the most dangerous illusion of all. What I fear about Israel is the possibility that most Israelis do ignore that, for 61 years now, they have been living in extraordinary times and conditions. Maybe they think that their situation is the rule rather than the exception. The same, by the way, applies, in more or less the same period, to the Western Europeans. They really seem to believe that, in their part of the world, peace and prosperity are the perpetual rule.

    And the Americans had succeeded in convincing themselves that 911 was the exception of the exceptions. I hope they’re right, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  10. 4infidels says:

    Is it really necessary to take Newsweek or Time, for that matter, seriously? Zakarya comes out of Newsweek. That should stamp him as unreliable right off.

    It matters for two reasons:

    1) The President takes seriously what Zakaria has to say.

    2) Many influential members of the media take seriously what Zakaria has to say.

  11. You can always rely on Fareed Zakaria to pull the Islamic wool over your eyes and ears… Fareed Zakaria writes like a snake slithers. Zakaria, the son of an Islamic scholar, is an enemy agent who engages in obfuscation, deflection and taqiyya. He made it his business to sow doubt, to put you back to sleep, to tell you there is nothing to worry about, and if we just “learn to live with terrorism” everything will be just swell. It is laughable that such a guy is perceived as being somehow “liberal”- Zakaria is an Islamo agit prop who lies and denies the ultimate goal of the ummah Islamiyah, which defines itself as “The Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers) must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

    Why is it so difficult to understand? Why is it so difficult to accept the fact that Obama, a born Muslim who tends toward Marxism, is a fan of Zakaria and reads his books, finds himself in agreement with Zakaria, which means both men are totally opposed to the US constitution and will do everything to distroy America?

  12. Cynic says:

    Though this would make him a rascal, he’d still be a fool for thinking that Islam’s ambitions stop at Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Does he believe in this or does he rather think that living under Sharia can be a pleasant and fulfilling experience?

    Maybe he is for now just a closet Muslim just waiting to come out and is doing everything for the cause (is he a Muslim or not? Certainly his names Fareed, Rafiq are well used in the Arab world).
    Is he using his supposed Hindi? roots to market Islam in a sort of similar manner but opposite resultwise that people supposedly Jewish are used to attack Jews and Zionists?
    Is there some term that can be applied to describing this behaviour; you know something akin to “Demopathy”?

  13. oao says:

    zakaria was hired precisely to write this sort of thing by a publication going out of business who thought that such “unconventional” writings would save its ass.

    aside from his islamic background he speaks to those who are in denial about the dangers of islam because if they
    brought them to the conscious they would be lost for a solution. so it is soothing to believe that iran is just like us, that they don’t have to do anything like fight for survival, that everything is OK, that it’s all our fault and if we just repent and dump israel, everything will be ok. that includes alibama.

    given alibama’s knowledge and ability to reason, is there any wonder that he considers zakaria a wise man?
    i would be very surprised if he didn’t.

    to reiterate: the islamists don’t have to lift a finger, the west is systematically self-destructive.

  14. nelson says:

    Were it not for Arafat’s second Intifada, Israel would be in dire straits by now, in an undefensible, untenable, irreversible position. Oslo was the rope with which Israel was supposed to hang itself, and it was doing quite a good job at commiting suicide. Arafat’s and the Palestinian’s impatience saved Israel — for the time being.

    Maybe the one thing that will give the West some more time is exactly the Muslims’ impatience and their tendency to overplay their hand.

    Nevertheless, Obama and his ideologues and pundits are already getting ready for the eventuality. They know that something awful may happen in the near future and, thus, they are already begining to preemptively lay the blame for whatever happens next on the Bush administration. Today’s Frank Rich column in the NYT says this quite clearly. It’s called “Who is to Blame for the Next Attack?” Sweet.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/opinion/31rich.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

  15. nelson says:

    For some time now, 50 years or so, the Western elites have been weakening democracy and strenghtening themselves. Western Europe’s the place where this process started earlier and where it is more advanced.

    During the three years I lived in France I saw how weak, almost irrelevant, the lesgislative branch of government had become there, and that whatever power it still had was concentrated in the hands of party bosses and of a party aristocracy. Most Frenchmen barely knew the names of the representatives they voted for, but they knew pretty well who the most powerfull unelected administrative bureaucratas were.

    Those laws that are still made in France (and not in Brussels)are usually given their final shape and true meaning by an activist judiciary. (And anyway the have to conform to the laws passed in Brussels.)

    The career bureaucrats, the union aristocracy and the judiciary associated with the highest levels of the executive were (are) the real centres of power there. This power is seldom influenced by the voters. I don’t know whether there’s a Frecnh equivalent fro “accountability. That’s one of the reasons why, when they want something to happen, they usually take to the streets.

    Though far from being a dictatorship in any recognizable sense of the term, France is also a much less representative democracy than it was, say, half a century ago. I like to call this kind o government the Neo Enlightened Despotism.

    That’s how things work in most Western European nations and that’s also definitely the way things work in Brussels, where all the power taken from individual nations and their voters is being transferred to.

    Not long ago, the US seemed to be real representative democracy’s last best hope on Earth. It was the only serious counterweight to the Neo Enlighened Despotic model. And, suddenly, one single election seems, as far as I can tell, to have radically changed the country’s direction.

    OK: Obama wasn’t really elected by a regular electoral campaign which lasted less than one year. He was elected by eight long and uninterrupted years of vicious propaganda. Since Bush’s first election, what the liberals, leftists, the media, the press, important segments of the administration and bureaucracy themselves and so on have been doing wasn’t restricted to the demonization either of Bush, his government or the Republicans.

    Now we can see that what was being slowly eroded was American exceptionalism — all that contributed to keep the US different from the EU, all that helped preserve it as the only significant old-style democracy in the planet. Obama’s victory can also be portrayed as the victory of what Rumsfeld called old Europe (actually, the new Europe with its capital in Brussels)over the US.

    What happened, I think, is much worse than if America had only been turned into a rich banana republic. In terms of international politics, the average banana republic, whether Latin American or African, usually knows how to play the system and the rules for its own benefit.

    France, for instance, acts in such a way: it is, at the very same time, able to pass tough laws in Brussels and to allow for exceptions the only beneficiary of which is France itself. On the other hand, law-abiding countries like England, who are used to play by the rules, seldom write them, but always respect them, in particular those that are harmful to their national self-interest.

    That’s exactly how, under Obama, the US will act in the international arena, in places like the UN. It will continue paying much more than its share to keep the UN alive, it will have zero influence when it comes to writing down the rules, but it will blindly follow them, giving, in the meantime, legitimacy to such institutions and its worst members. With Obama, the Americans have a government that, though thoroughly cynical itself, will do its very best to delegitimize and banish any kind of skepticism among its citizens.

    Old style, that is, true democracy seems to be out: its energies have probably been exausted fighting totalitarianism in WW2 and the Cold War, and, by basically voting itself out of existence in the US, it showed itself unable to defend its constituency and followers.

    If that’s true, then which is the next, less bad alternative? Which available system can best defend us from the barbarians at the gates and protect at least some of our remaining freedoms?

  16. oao says:

    nelson,

    couldn’t have put it better myself. and i’m glad you did it and not i, coz i would be called a pessimist.

    there is one inconsistency i would like to correct: if indeed democracy exhausted itself from ww2 on, then the alibama election has taken much more than 8 months to develop. it’s the logical conclusion of a process that has had occurred before: there were democracies in the old world e.g. greece, rome and they collapsed too. it was not the barbarians who killed rome. it went from democracy to dictatorship and decay, another example of democracy not surviving in the long run. and if you study it carefully, the similarity to the US is uncanny.

    i never accepted the illusion that there is progress TO democracy, just the opposite. and there no exceptions in history.

  17. Sophia says:

    Well this is a cheerful discussion thread.

    Not that I am any less pessimistic you understand:(

  18. oao says:

    it’s not pessimistic, but realistic.

    btw, he’s a supreme irony for a speech supposed to appease muslims:

    Airlift of 3,000 Secret Servicemen to Cairo to secure Obama speech to Muslims
    http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=6101

  19. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Nelson, if I may object to your view of history, I am pretty sure that democracy n France was *not* better fifty years ago than it is today.

    I was a child, but I remember the newspapers with blank columns, because they were censored re. the Algeria war.

    I certainly remember, somewhat later, the bombings by the OAS (Organisation de l’armée secrète) and the little girl Delphine Renard, who was almost blinded due to collateral damage. The OAS was a terrorist organization, which opposed independence for Algeria.

    I remember the “Manifeste des 121″, an appeal to civil and military disobedience, signed by 121 intellectuals, as a demonstration of opposition to a colonial war. The mathematician and Fields medalist Laurent Schwartz signed it, and lost his job in the École Polytechnique, which is a military school.

    I do not remember the large number of killings performed by the Algerian independentist party FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), because this was hidden by the kind of press my parents were reading. But I read later about it. They would kill (1) french people in Algeria who were performing a colonial rôle (2) random french people (3) their own partisans, if they were accused of treason (4) their rivals in the inependentist movement (5) french military (6) Algerian people who would not pay the revolutionary tax.

    I remember how in 1961 (or was it 1962 ?) a demonstration ended with 8 people dead, and one who died a few days later. Their burial was an absolutely massive affair. Maybe one million people in the street. This was led by the communists, but I also remember how I discovered in my late teens that the communists had decided very late that the independentist fight had to be supported.

    I remember how France was an incredibly puritan society, how it still had separate school systems for boys and girls, at least in the large cities and the most prestigious schools.

    I remember how some girl schools would forbid their pupils from wearing trousers ever. If it was freezing, they would have to put a skirt on top of the trousers.

    I remember how France had only one state TV channel and most radio stations were state stations.

    I remember how in May 1968, the private radio stations, which were broadcasting from neighboring Luxemburg or Monaco made a fantastic business out of saying a bit more truth.

    I could rant on and on and on. But the main memory is that France was poor. I guess that in the sixties, only a very tiny minority had indoor plumbing in the apartments or houses. They would go to common toilets on the landing in the cities, or have an outhouse in the countryside. And I’d have heaps more about the subject. Rememberign the first fridge, the first record player, the first water heater in the kitchen (before that, cleaning the dishes started with filling the kettle and giving it a boil). And this was a family of intellectuals with high university degrees and good jobs.

    Was France more democratic at that time? It is dubious. Does France now cheat at the European level, defending tough laws with exception for itself? Doubtless. Does the UK have more respect for European law? Yes, but the UK wants only an economical union, it definitely rejects the perspective of a political union.

    I am afraid that the legislative branch of the government was deliberately made weak by Charles de Gaulle himself, as a way to curb in the activity of political parties, which he deeply despised. For your information, de Gaulle came back to power in 1958, and his new constitution was approved by popular vote in September 1958 (heck, my parents had to cut short a few days from vacation in the then lovely Chamonix valley, so as to vote against the new constitution. The sky was raining all it could on the day of departure, the mountains were mourning, what a vivid memory!)

    Nelson, you were in France during three years, but I bet you weren’t in France fifty years ago, or you would have known all thst.

  20. Chaim says:

    check out this short little masterpiece:

    THE UN HYPOCRITES COUNCIL
    http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/warpedmirror/entry/the_un_hypocrites_council_posted

  21. oao says:

    michelle,

    it seems not just nelson’s and mine history need to be corrected. there are other quite wise people who are realists rather than pessimists. here’s one:

    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KF02Ak05.html

    check out his last sentence.

  22. nelson says:

    Michelle,

    I’ll answer in more detail as soon as possible. In what concerns daily life in France throughout the 50s and 60s, well, even if I’d been there, I’d still would have been a child then. But I know enough about it not only through reading, but thanks to Hungarian relatives who moved to France in 1956 — intellectuals as well. According to them, Budapest still was in many ways a much more modern town then Paris at that time.

    Let’s go directly to the point. The Algerian war wasn’t only a matter of colonialism vs. anticolonialism (I don’t think this formula works anymore). De Gaulle, who was given power exactly to defeat the FLN, turned against his backers. Why? Maybe because, having seen the result of a deeply divided France in the 1930s, he didn’t want that experience repeated.

    Thus, even having defeated the terrorists militarily in Algeria, he gave power over to them, allowing both a terrible bloodbath and the ethnic cleansing of the country. He gave legitimacy to Arab/Muslims terror tactics and we have been living with these ever since.

    De Gaulle wanted to get rid of the Algerian problem once and for all, but, instead of a million “colons” in Algeria, there now 5 million (or more) unassimilated Beurs in mainland France. And Algeria, which could have been a viable multi-ethnic country if France had forced a peaceful and orderly transition, giving power over not to terrorists, but to some kind of civil society, became a hell-hole. Just take a look at the ongoing civil war between the military dictatorship and the Islamists there.

    With all due respect, De Gaulle made the same mistake that many succesfull generals made before and after him: he fought an earlier war: his mind was in the 30s, not the 60s. And he also came up, at that time, with the crazy idea of forming a Mediterranean, Franco-Arab bloc to strenghten France as an alternative to the bipolar American-Soviet world. We’re still paying for this too.

  23. oao says:

    michelle,

    http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/06/023697.php

    somewhere in there is evidence of collapse of education and, indeed, of america

  24. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Nelson, thanks for the answer. I have no way of comparing Budapest and Paris in 1956, and I am afraid that such a comparison might be ludicrous, considering the difference of political regimes.

    In any case, my point was that the low position of the legislative branch of government in France was due to de Gaulle, and not to a recent evolution and not to the power of whatever aristocracy. I simply do not buy the discourse stating that things were politically better in France 50 years ago. Between poverty and state owned information, it was not a wonderful place to live in, unless you had good american dollars to pay the bills.

    Regarding Algeria : my guess is that it was too late already on October 31st, 1954 – the war started on November 1st. The reason is that civic equality had been denied to the muslims. They had voting rights, but they would vote in a separate college from the other inhabitants of Algeria. There were considerable differences between public services for the muslims and for the regular french. There were few schools in the villages. If you read french, I can only recommand the writings of the late Germaine Tillion. She was an ethonologist, who had worked on a mountain tribe called Chaoui. later, she reported about the “clochardisation” (transformation into bums) of the muslim population in Algeria.

    It is plain that the FLN was a bunch of totalitarian thugs, who thought that there would be no room for non muslims in independent Algeria. We, in France, have long been afraid to say quietly that FLN was a prototype of islamist terrorism. But if you read present publications on the history of Algeria, you can read it. It is not widely accepted, but it is no more taboo. In this respect, the word of the Jews from Algeria played a fundamental rôle, since they were exactly as indigenous to Algeria as the Muslims.

    I believe that it is important to mark the difference between Israel re. Palestine and France re. Algeria, because lots of (more or less) well intended people tend to compare the situations : this comparison is simply foolish.

    But, in order to refute the comparison, one must be aware of the commonalities. One commonality is the dream : “viable multi-ethnic country if France had forced a peaceful and orderly transition, giving power over not to terrorists, but to some kind of civil society”.

    There could not. I am pretty sure of that, not because I was of age to think politically at the time, but because the FLN simply did not want any place for non muslims. At some point, they had an internal debate, they even addressed the population before independence, calling for reconciliation. But the thugs got the upper hand – or maybe they always had the upper hand, since they had done so much of internal weeding of traitors and rivals. Moreover, it is questionable whether the FLN and the successive dictators who held power really wanted a functioning state, or just wanted power for themselves. They certainly did not obtain a functioning state. Since I have lots and lots of friends and colleagues coming from Algeria, I have also lots and lots of stories of wasting natural resources and human resources – not to speak of the atrocious civil war of the nineties.

    With hindsight, there was zero chance that France could ever force a peaceful transition. Remember that France got a military victory, but at a painful human cost.

    Torture happened, and the people who made it happen were french officers. Some got disgusted, because they came fro the university of french resistance of free french forces, and they thought that they had not fought the nazis in order to use electricity on the bodies of their enemies. These courageous people were a small minority. The fact that they were only a small minority was probably a big factor for destroying whatever good opinion the French might have had of the army and military solutions.

    But the atmosphere was all for decolonization, and eventually, France folded under pressure from its own public opinion and from its international allies, including the USA.

    Last observation : it is not true that there are 5 million unassimilated beurs in France. The figure for muslims is about 3 millions, according to studies by Michèle Tribalat, a demographer. The muslim population in France includes people from other north african countries and people from subsaharian Africa. The age structure of this population is quite different from the age structure of the general population : there are many more young people. Therefore, it is going to increase much faster than the general population. I would not claim that they all fall into the unassimilated slot. In any case, the point is not “unassimilated”, the point is “definitely refusing assimilation”, which is much, much worse, een if it concerns maybe only one million out of the three.

  25. Michelle Schatzman says:

    oao, the utter lack of respect for history in America has been known for as long as I have heard and remembered stories about America in my family. Probably back in the sixties. Just take any silly frenchman who travels there for the first time in his life. He will come back with large reapings of stories reporting the deep american ignorance of history and geography, and a large progress in his own self-esteem. You can certainly scour the web and find all sorts of disgraceful facts, which will reinforce your observation.

    I’d be interested more to know whether there has been a significant evolution in this respect. Such as things getting really, really worse, with hard facts to substantiate the claims.

    I’d also be interested to know your analysis of the reason why the US have been such a big success for such along time, while the US citizens were not exactly always well educated, and did not possess much culture.

    This contrast is fascinating to my eyes.

  26. oao says:

    the crazy idea of forming a Mediterranean, Franco-Arab bloc to strenghten France as an alternative to the bipolar American-Soviet world. We’re still paying for this too.

    and sarkozy has just revived the idea. in the alibama era it might have worked, excet france is no longer either.

  27. oao says:

    oao, the utter lack of respect for history in America has been known for as long as I have heard and remembered stories about America in my family.

    no argument from me. if you believe you’re an exception to history, why bother?

    however it is MUCH worse now. americans dk even their own history. it all begins and starts with every individual. and that includes alibama.

  28. noah says:

    RL, Thank you for posting this. I read the article this weekend, and was really disturbed by his reasoning.

    “Earlier this year, during the Gaza war, Israel warned Hizbullah not to launch rockets against it, and there is much evidence that Iran played a role in reining in their proxies.”

    Olmert has been saying that Israel’s deterrence is back, evidenced by Hezbollah’s failure to open a second front. Although its also entirely possible that Iran is engaging in its “shrewd, rational” behavior and prefered not to unleash its clear proxy, which would result in more Iranian attention.

  29. oao says:

    and I am afraid that such a comparison might be ludicrous, considering the difference of political regimes.

    not too ludicrous.

    there were differences among the so-called communist states. hungary, yugoslavia, czechoslovkia and poland were relatively the most liberal, which is why they westernized themselves so fast. romania, bulgaria and albania were the most totalitarian and they are, like russia, oligarchic and corrupt.

  30. oao says:

    One commonality is the dream : “viable multi-ethnic country if France had forced a peaceful and orderly transition, giving power over not to terrorists, but to some kind of civil society”.

    freance was a colonial power, there to exploit. once they started to have problems holding on to it, they just wanted to get out with least amount of losses. perhaps they would have preferred a democratic multi-ethnic algeria on their way out, but to say that was their dream is quite far-fetched. colonial powers cared not much about the natives, even when they arrogantly convinced themselves they were benign.

  31. oao says:

    I would not claim that they all fall into the unassimilated slot.

    as far as i can tell, it’s the old generation that’s sort of assimilated. most of the youth is not.

    but even if some were assimilated, they won’t count, because as we well know in muslim society it’s the radicals that count and will drive the community.

  32. oao says:

    He will come back with large reapings of stories reporting the deep american ignorance of history and geography, and a large progress in his own self-esteem.

    even though this is correct, i tend not to use the french as a source for assessing other cultures.

    it’s more than just inflated self-esteem. it’s self-centered–there is very little else. not to mention that the self-esteem correlates negatively to knowledge and ability to reason.

  33. oao says:

    I’d be interested more to know whether there has been a significant evolution in this respect. Such as things getting really, really worse, with hard facts to substantiate the claims.

    well, i went through 2 graduate schools for 9 years in the 70s and 80s and i can tell you that when i compare to what i see in academia these days, the deterioration is substantial, both in terms of faculty and graduate product. and recently my wife went thru a master in epidemiology in a university which does not deserve to exist.

    I’d also be interested to know your analysis of the reason why the US have been such a big success for such along time, while the US citizens were not exactly always well educated, and did not possess much culture.

    a big success in some aspects, not in all. in any case, some of it has to do with its natural riches, its relative isolation and freedom. its competition with the soviet block also kept it on its toes. but once the bloc fell, it would become smug and deteriorate. not in small part in accordance to its own ideology: when you are the single dominant power, and lack competition, decadence is very likely.

    rome was also an exception, but it ultimately fell, and not to its superiors. it just takes a long time.

  34. AT says:

    Michelle … Iran *has* had a history of strong mathematics. The reason it does not publish as much is largely due to the political entanglements of the universities.

    I also reject your statement that “US citizens were not exactly always well educated, and did not possess much culture.” Though it is true that the high school system does not sufficiently challenge most students, Americans do make up for this deficiency during college years, competing handily with all other nationalities, in my experience.

    As for culture … well, that’s for bacteria.

  35. Lorenz Gude says:

    Thank you RL for taking the time to go over Zakaria’s article. You drew out specifically many of the things I felt in passing. I have found Zakaria worth listening to in the past. For example on Charlie Rose in early 2008 discussing his book The Post American World he discussed how London had been able to take over from NY as the leading world financial center because NY was too busy trying to make deals for its own benefit in Washington. Based on what we have learned since about how the financial bubble was created I’d say he was onto something. I certainly don’t always agree with him, but I had some some trust in his intellectual honesty. The Iran article finished that. His Wikipedia article is interesting. Yes he grew up Muslim, and he did go to Yale. He also supported Reagan but moved to the left in the 90s and sees himself now more as a centrist. Perhaps his position on Iran is explained by his South Asian Muslim background combined with a strongly LCE Ivy League view of Iran. Very like Obama as others have pointed out. The president seems to have recognized some things he didn’t during the campaign – like the problems with illegal combatants. I can’t help but think there would be some cognitive dissonance between what people like Zakiria are telling him and what the intelligence community are saying about Iran. When the crisis comes the first thing I will be looking for in Obama’s reaction will be the extent to which LCE is determining his reaction.

  36. oao says:

    Americans do make up for this deficiency during college years, competing handily with all other nationalities, in my experience.

    no, they don’t. because what they need to get in school is not taught at any level certainly not now.

    they are not educated, they are schooled. big difference.

  37. oao says:

    When the crisis comes the first thing I will be looking for in Obama’s reaction will be the extent to which LCE is determining his reaction.

    what is likely is that he will not admit it’s a crisis, just as he did with NK. he’s not about solving problems, but about make believe he solved them or pretend they are not problems. he’s all about alibama, talk and image, period. he has never really DONE anything in his life except talk. that’s why he must pick up the ideas of others as he does not have none of his own. but to do that you gotta know whom to choose and as his team demonstrates he is not even good at that.

    the best profile i’ve seen is this one and it is a MUST READ:

    There is no “there” in Obama’s address. Instead, there are nods in so many directions that the compass needle spins. Oxymorons abound because Obama is struggling to hold together so many disparate elements that their incompatibility pops to the surface now and again. We fear at every moment that he will fly apart like the inventor Coppelius’ dancing doll of E T A Hoffman’s story.
    President Oxybarama
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/KA22Aa01.html

    All manipulation and no character was my verdict on Obama, but that might not be the worst outcome.
    What Obama knows, America forgot
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KA13Ak01.html

    I have never met the man, but I have interviewed a fair sampling of his supporters, and conclude that Obama learned the power to cloud men’s minds, like the Shadow on the old radio show. Apart from ambition, there is no “there” there. There are as many Obamas as there are interlocutors. He is a hollow man, I concluded, a Third World anthropologist studying us with engaged curiosity but complete emotional detachment. In this respect he is unpredictable. I predict that he will do nothing much at all.
    Absolute power gets blamed absolutely
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KA21Dj08.html

  38. Cynic says:

    Heh!
    I was a child, but I remember the newspapers with blank columns, because they were censored re. the Algeria war.
    ……………….
    The reason is that civic equality had been denied to the muslims. They had voting rights, but they would vote in a separate college from the other inhabitants of Algeria. There were considerable differences between public services for the muslims and for the regular french. There were few schools in the villages.

    And the world condemned South Africa for its policies.

    Michelle,
    Reading your posts I can see just how hypocritical the world was and continues to be, when I compare the same behaviour countries demonstrated but the differing responses from the so-called civilized world.
    So today it is just deja vu?

    I backpacked around France part of 76 and was surprised at how less advanced it appeared than I was led to believe from all the political rhetoric.
    Amazing that that sh***y little country is to all intents and purposes, considering the laws governing the various countries, far more liberal and democratic than France or Britain.

  39. Cynic says:

    There could not. I am pretty sure of that, not because I was of age to think politically at the time, but because the FLN simply did not want any place for non muslims.

    Seems that even today people in the West have not learned anything about Islam.
    They expect it to change after some 1400 years of prosecuting its “faith/politics” on all and sundry in its path, to conform to the kumbaya moment.

  40. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    I’d also be interested to know your analysis of the reason why the US have been such a big success for such along time, while the US citizens were not exactly always well educated, and did not possess much culture.

    Take into consideration the driving force in people to succeed given the freedom to do so.
    Many different groups/cultures arrived freed of the civil and religious chains tying them down and set to work building initially for themselves but with the effect of success spilling over for others to take advantage of.
    I suppose the Constitution initially played a large part in limiting the meddling of government in the private sector and gave the ordinary citizen a stake in the well being of the country.
    Now it seems that Alibama is intent on dismantling that.

  41. Michelle Schatzman says:

    AT, you write

    Michelle … Iran *has* had a history of strong mathematics. The reason it does not publish as much is largely due to the political entanglements of the universities.

    I’m not aware of any strong iranian mathematician in Iran – I am definitely excluding the ones who were born in Iran, but got their PhD outside of the country. But I may be ignorant. Can you give me names?

  42. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Cynic,

    so you backpacked in France in 1976, and you drew some conclusions. Where did you backpack, and how long?

    If you had backpacked in my corner of the woods (sorry, Paris suburbs), you’d have seen me pushing a pram, with a small baby trying to get out, already at the age of seven months. I was already a mathematician, holding a research position, and if I look at the proportion of females holding research positions or teaching positions in science at that time, definitely France was much, much, much more advanced than the US. And I mean females who got there according to the laws of the system and not due to affirmative action, or whatever prop has been invented in order to please some lobby.

    Of course, if I had backpacked in well, Appalachia, I would probably not be able to draw conclusions about New-York City, or Atlanta.

    I acknowledge that this comes from obsessional-compulsive love for precision. Oh well… ;-)

  43. oao says:

    Many different groups/cultures arrived freed of the civil and religious chains tying them down and set to work building initially for themselves but with the effect of success spilling over for others to take advantage of.

    yes, but there were also the minor problems of the natives and the slaves, the rubber barons and the corporation which now, helped by a corrupt govt, have brought the country down.

  44. oao says:

    a lot of the bad things in france are hidden, not in the open. the french are much more sophisticated than the yanks when it comes to that.

  45. nelson says:

    Maybe one day I’ll write down my experiences in/about France. And I can say France up to a point, because my time there wasn’t limited to Paris: I spent long periods in Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and elsewhere, and travelled a lot all around the country, visiting places quite outside the usual tourist routes, places where one can see decayed and dirty villages, small towns resembling Southern Italy and so on.

    I had also been visiting France every 2/3 years since my teens in the late 70s. Besides, I wasn’t anti-French at all: Paris used to be my own personal paradise and I knew a large part of it better than I know my hometown. One thing I did regularly, for instance, was to drive around Paris between midnight and dawn, when there’s no traffic, to get to know it better.

    Anyway, it took me over a year living continuously there (and mingling not only with intellectuals, but all kind of people) to get a kind of feeling of the whole thing. It’s not before such a time span that one begins to see the unpleasant face of daily life there: the ridiculously small living places, the shrinking, powerless and moneyless middleclass that simply doesn’t have the disposable income to go to the restaurants where the US tourists go, the time wasted on paperwork trying to cheat the omnipresent state out of a couple of your Euros, the doctors who, after barely listening to you for 15 minutes (without even touching you,) won’t ask expensive exams but will rather prescribe you tons of tax deductible drugs, the stinking subway you’re forced to use because the government decided that only millionaires should be able to drive around in their own cars, the lack of air-conditioning in summers much hotter than any I went through in my tropical country, the self-censored press and the lack of serious cricism of the country’s policies (“if you dislike France, what are you doing here, why don’t you move to the US?”) and so on.

    When it comes to history or even geography, most of the Frenchmen don’t know much more than what they have been taught at school. The majority of the young I met, though they could almost do it for free, had never been, say, in Amsterdam, Florence, Madrid. It took me the fingers of one hand to count the grown-ups who had travelled to, for instance, Prague, Budapest, Cracow, even Vienna. Bilingualism seemed to be a pretty rare thing, mostly limited to the businessmen and to some intellectuals and, of course, limited to the English language.

    Unlike most Frenchmen, who talk about multiculturalism, but don’t have a single immigrant in their social circle, I talked a lot to immigrants. The easiest to approach were the Lebanese, because they consider my country a kind of second homeland to them. But I made a point of talking regularly to the Maghrebins too.

    The main complain of those who owned convenience stores, for instance, was that the system would not allow them to develop further, to climb the social ladder. They were willing to work more in order to earn more, but that wasn’t allowed at all. There’s also an invisible immigrant community there, the Portuguese, over a million strong. The first generation owns garages and does a lot of small jobs. What did they complain about? That their kids and grandchildren, born and raised in France as Frenchmen, still weren’t accepted as such in the country.

    One last observation for Michelle. I hope you’re right about the number of “immigrants” in France. But I’d say there’s a very strong reason for them to keep the French state out of their “cités”: whoever controls a place’s border, controls its demographics. That is: since not even the police have access to the immigrant-majority neighbourhoods and suburbs, who can actually know what their population is and, most importantly, how many illegal immigrants live there?

    Those places became, in short, sanctuaries for a foreign population that’s wainting to reach a critical mass. And let’s not forget that they don’t have to be a majority. In a country that can be paralised by, say, the Parisian subway workers, a compact bloc of something nearing 10% of the voters can wield decisive power. If that bloc is controlled by a few highly motivated and very ideological radicals, the disorganized rest of the population will have to negotiate with these as one negotiates with the commanders of an occupying army. And why would these guys act any differently from the way the FLN acted half a century ago in Algeria? It worked then, didn’t it?

  46. oao says:

    btw, the notion of exceptionalism of the US when it comes to anti-semitism is also a huge delusion.

    what we are witnessing today at kos, huffington and in the alibama administration is clear evidence of that. and it’s even more convincing that blacks, of all people, lead on that.

    you just watch the rapid growth of that.

  47. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Oao, a lot of bad things are concealed in France. Good things too. I live in a town, which is famous for hiding its riches. A standard situation of the old houses here is having a vaulted street entrance, with beautiful arches, and the place is so dirty that you cannot even appreciate the beauty of the architecture. Maybe the staircase smells, but the apartements are beautiful eighteenth or seventeenth century jewels.

    I already praised catholic hypocrisy. My town is very, very catholic. And very, very hypocritical. I adjusted. Just a matter of understanding the codes.

  48. nelson says:

    oao,

    about anti-semitism, I’d also like to know what RL thinks.

    Sometimes I tend to think that all kinds of anti-semitism are nothing more than variations on a perpetual theme and that there are just differences of degree.

    On the other hand, first of all for its potential victims, nuances are usuful and they frequently can mean the difference between life and death. Is, for instance, the anti-semitism of the Hungarian professional middle-class the same as that of the Ukrainian or Romanian peasantry? What were, at the time of the Dreyfuss affair, the similarities and differences between French, British and Russian anti-semitism?

    We know, for instance, that, during WW2, there were some countries where anti-semitism was relatively mild: Denmark, Italy, Albania, Bulgaria. Now, they were and are as different from each other as European countries can be: Germanic, Latin-Mediterranean, isolated Balkanic and Southern Slavic; Protestant, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox. What did they have in common and what made them different, say, from Croatia, France, Romania, Poland, Holland etc.?

    As far as I can tell, the answer might be: very small Jewish populations. In Italy Jews were less than 0,1% of the total population, and the same applied to Denmark, where there lived less than 5.000 Jews. In contrast, Poland’s Jewry was almost 10% of the total population and Hungary’s Jews were something around 6 or 7% of the total (and maybe 20% in Budapest).

    Thus, yes, there is, or rather, there are anti-semitisms in the US. But what are its main kinds, which are more or less virulent, which groups, social classes, regional populations, which gender and age groups display what kind of anti-semitism? Where and among whom is it growing or shrinking (if it is)? Who is promoting and financing which kinds, where, how and among whom?

    The same questions can be asked about each European country. I’d say that anyone who has been absent, travelling elsewhere in our galaxy during the last 20 years, were he/she to come back today, would find it rather amazing to know how much more open, agressive and widespread anti-semitism is in Britain than in France.

    The intensity of contemporary Greek anti-semitism would also be enigmatic to him/her, wouldn’t it? Besides there being almost no Jews left in their country, Greeks, after all, have been in the frontline of the fight against Jihadi expansionism for the last thousand years or so. Then, why exactly the most popular Greek composer has also been the author of the Palestinian anthem? Why would modern Greeks, who openly dislike Muslims, identify with the Palestinians rather than with Israel?

  49. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Greeks : this is an easy question, for once. The Ottoman empire used to play the different people and communities one against the other. Since the Greeks saw, or thought, or believed that the Jews were better off than themselves, they had to fight the Jews. Since the Arabs were colonized by the Ottomans, the Greeks could ally with the Arabs, according to the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

    Besides, the formation of modern Greece is a story which lasts about a century, from 1821-1830 (the war of independence) to 1913 (the last Balkanic war), and even 1923, when Bulgaria ceded western Thrace. The bulk of greek Jews were living in the Salonika area. The successive governments of Greece imposed an implicitly antisemitic policy. Migration and assimilation, plus the providential 1917 fire transformed Salonika from a city with a jewish majority, into a city with a Greek majority.

    The greek orthodox church has a solid antisemitic fame. Much worse than the polish catholic church, it seems…

    Factor in the civil war in Greece, post-1945, and the strong communist influence, which is still alive today, and I guess that the answer is clear.

  50. nelson says:

    Serbia’s history vis-à-vis the Ottomans wasn’t much different, but the Serbs were/are generally much less anti-semitic.

  51. Ray in Seattle says:

    Nelson said, Sometimes I tend to think that all kinds of anti-semitism are nothing more than variations on a perpetual theme and that there are just differences of degree.

    Kind of like varieties of wine?

    Actually I agree with the many degrees and nuances. In one antisemite though, their antisemitism can wax and wane with the circumstances. It’s an honor / shame thing after all, an act of humiliation of another person meant to elevate the actor. Therefore, much depends on whether there are others are around who might appreciate the humiliation of Jews, as to whether the act is performed and how forcefully – or perhaps even postponed for a better audience.

    But also, there are differences in the nature of antisemitic motivation inside. There are certainly several non-conscious beliefs providing the necessary emotions both pro and con that come into play. It’s only necessary for the pro forces to be sufficiently larger. And these can each wax and wane with the circumstances as much as with the presence of an appreciative or critical audience.

    I think these forces account for the national differences you mention. There are group beliefs that provide the same kinds of emotional forces – known as culture. I bet if you think about it you could probably identify and describe some of those from your travels.

  52. oao says:

    if the greeks have become currently anti-semitic, then the size of the minority is not a significant factor, right?

    whatever the differences or nuances, there seems to be one common underlying factor: scapegoating, which usually spikes in crisis. the current one is global and pretty bad. scapegoating is a highly attractive option.

    furthermore, the difference in kind and intensity disappear quite fast, just like the speed with which a “moderate” muslim can become a jihadi.

  53. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    I cannot remember the names (you ask too much of me after all these years) of the suburbs I walked through in Paris but ate a croque-monsieur :-) bought in what appeared to be a “blue-collar” neighbourhood.
    What disappointed me was the the standard of hygiene and cleanliness when compared to a part of Africa and the Middle East after all we were taught about the culture etc., at school.
    I made my way down to Marseilles and then crossed into Spain where at the central train station in Madrid the croissants were far better that the fare offered at Gare Du Nord in Paris. :-(
    After all that I had been led to believe about French cooking; let down like that – my wife still teases me today about my disappointment.
    Unfortunately today the possibility of me savouring gastronomic delights is limited.
    Surprisingly Portugal, even in its financially decrepit state at the time, was to offer me the most delightfully tasty meals in Europe.

    E.G.,
    I had a truly delicious plate of roast beef in Greenwich backed up with a cople of pints of Guinness :-)

  54. Cynic says:

    Nelson,

    The intensity of contemporary Greek anti-semitism would also be enigmatic to him/her, wouldn’t it? Besides there being almost no Jews left in their country, Greeks, after all, have been in the frontline of the fight against Jihadi expansionism for the last thousand years or so. Then, why exactly the most popular Greek composer has also been the author of the Palestinian anthem? Why would modern Greeks, who openly dislike Muslims, identify with the Palestinians rather than with Israel?

    One would have to look at the political bent of those people which seems to be extreme left.

    The Israelis love Greek music and one can hear their music daily on several radio stations:
    Glykeria attacked for ‘collaborating with Zionists’

    Glykeria is extremely popular in Israel. She performs in the Jewish state and sings in the Hebrew language on a regular basis.

  55. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Hygiene and cleanliness in 1976 in France. Let me not be cynic, but I do remember the story of the four nice american women who got a nice meal in Avignon in the ’70′s, with lots of rosé wine. They were sick after the meal and blamed the hygiene and the cleanliness.

    OK, that was just for the fun of saying bad things on citizens of other countries and their little faults.

    Maybe things looked bad to you in 1976, Cynic, but they looked wonderful to me, since I had known incredible filthiness just a few years before.

    You know what? I guess you did not like the state of the toilets, and your judgment was certainly correct. And maybe they did not clean the tables well enough in the restaurants.

    Another tale : I had a great friend in the sixties, starting from sixth grade, who managed to track me down at the end of the nineties, and she has even more precise memories than me. She would be sent to camp in summer. That was a camp organized by the city of Paris. They would shower once a week, but they were weighed at the beginning and at the end of camp, and they certainly got excellent food, and lots of it, the aim being to have the kids put weight on.

    I want to camps organized by an association linked by the ministry of education. They did not weigh us as much and we showered more…

    What is interesting is that I sent my daughter to a Bne Akiva camp in Britain in 1988, and she came back having had lots of fun, being married through the gift of a coca-cola can ring (less than a pruta, so everything was OK), and not showering more than my friend from the sixties.

    :-) :-) :-)

    Seems that human beings survive better the lack of shower than the lack of food. On the other hand, if you talk to a doctor in france, they can tell you that though muslims can dress quite shabbily, they do have a better body hygiene than the random non muslim french.

    Once in a while, I can praise Islam : washing on a regular basis is definitely a very good principle.

  56. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Oh, Cynic, I forgot: how come you bought food in a place that did not look clean? Even in 1976, you did have a choice in France between places which looked clean and places which did not. Coming to think of it, if a place does not look clean, it probably isn’t. If a place looks clean, well, maybe it is. Maybe…

    Still now, there are some issues in french restaurants. My son worked for several summers as a cook, and, my, did he have atrocious stories, even in clean looking places! Listening to him, I felt so glad to be not only a dim zionist but also a prejudiced superstitious jew in bad health, who has from time to time a silly medical diet, such as low residue. Eating out then is not much of an option : either it is not kosher, or it is not clean, and even if it is clean and kosher, it has fibers…

    :-) :-) :-)

  57. Eliyahu says:

    Michelle, in fact, Jews were in Algeria, indeed all of the “Maghreb,” long before the Arabs/Muslims. Jews were there more than 2000 years ago. This brings me to the mistake made by the French Jews and their leadership [like the previous leader of CRIF, that silly "gauchiste" whose name I forget, maybe Theo something]. French Jews in places like Sarcelles [and other banlieues] mostly come from North Africa and have suffered most of the persecution from Arabs and other Muslims [the chief murderer of Ilan Halimi was from the Ivory coast; he was not Arab].

    The Jewish leaders in France should have stressed that when the Jews were in the Maghreb, before the French conquest of 1830; they were oppressed, exploited, persecuted as dhimmis and as Jews in particular, as Jews were actually persecuted/oppressed worse than other dhimmis in Muslim society. Further, the French Jewish press and leaders should have stressed how Islam teaches the persecution of non-Muslims. For instance, Norman Stillman reports that when visiting Morocco with his wife who had been born there, he was stoned. Stoned very casually, almost as an afterthought or almost without thinking, by a Muslim child who had been taught that that is how to treat dhimmis. So the harassment that French Jews have experienced since September 2000 is a resumption of the traditional treatment of Jews by Maghrebi Muslims. It was a very bad mistake of French Jewish leaders not to point out these truths. Of course, many French Jewish intellectuals, including some born in the Maghreb, compulsively see Jews, including themselves, as part of the White European world historically oppressing poor, innocent Muslims/Arabs, forgetting that they were in North Africa long before the Arab conquest, after which they were regularly oppressed by Muslims, etc.

  58. Eliyahu says:

    oao, obama seems to me a guy who may not know who he really is. He is not of American Black background and does not have a family history of enslavement in America or the West Indies. What may have shaped him more is the background that he has in common with Treasury Sec’y Geithner. Obama’s mother worked for the Ford Foundation in Asia, especially Pakistan, if I’m not mistaken [whichever country is not so important]. Geithner’s father worked for the Ford Fndtn mainly in
    China from what I’ve read. So there may be a common outlook and other bonds between them because of that. Geithner is a pretty good bs artist as I note from articles that I read today in the Washington Post and Wash. Times. He was quoted in the WP as claiming that China had confidence in the American economy and the dollar and trust in his economic management whereas the Chinese press was saying that they were worried over the loss in value of their investment in US treasury bonds, etc. So here the Chinese blatantly contradicted his deceitful happy talk.

    Likewise, Obama had his minions like Rahm Emanuel and hilary and others claiming that the “moderate” Arabs would not support an Israeli strike on Iran or any harsh measures to stop the Iranian nuke program, unless Israel did what Washington wanted in re “settlements,” “natural growth” of “settlements,” a two-state solution, etc. Then the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council issued a statement gainsaying what the Washington bs artists were saying. One article written by an Arab for the AP said that Arab leaders were expressing concern over an Iranian bomb in much the same terms as Israel was. This of course is heresy in Washington. But in both cases we see misrepresentation of what foreign officials say, of their true positions.

    http://ziontruth.blogspot.com/2009/05/miracle-of-miracles-arab-states-like.html

    It looks obama and company WANT Iran to have the Bomb. If so, they are truly dangerous. Of course, not only on this issue.

  59. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Eliyahu, once in a while, I am upset about some comments. Instead of qualifying the tone of your #62, which I greatly disliked, I am going to respond quietly and with arguments.

    One cannot really claim that “the jews” were in the Maghreb before “the arabs”, for a couple of simple reasons

    (1) ethnically, a large part of “the jews” from Maghreb are the same as “the arabs” : the arab conquest in the seventh century and beyond came upon people who lived there and imposed the domination of islam over other religions, with part of the population adopting the new religion. In the case of Maghreb, the arab conquerors arrived into a mainly christian and jewish population, which was partially romanized. The ethnicity was probably berber, though I am sure a serious ethnologist would contradict me, because situation was infinitely more complex. The christian population disappeared through conversion and/or massacre at the time of the Almohads. Islamization led to arabization, and the jews from Maghreb learnt arabic, since it was an important communication language.

    Part of the jewish population of Maghreb are descendants of the megorashim from Spain, either directly of through Italy, as in Tunisia. Therefore, two or three generatins ago, many Jews from the Maghreb would speak haketya, which is one version of judeo-spanish.

    On this historical basis, claiming that “the jews” were there before “the arabs” seems a vast oversimplification. I stated, and stand on it, that “the jews” were largely as autochtonous as “the arabs”, or rather “the muslims”.

    (2) On the CRIF and Theo Klein, and whatever policy, good or bad, french jewish leaders made. Being an (almost) old grand mother with a good memory, I may easily testify about the state of the french jewish community before 1962 and the displacement of the jews form Algeria into the metropolis. The french jewish community was very sad, very poor in knowledge and jewish education. There was an institution, which played an enormous rôle, and disappeared just before I came of age : that was the Gilbert Bloch school in Orsay, which educated a number of jewish leaders. Among those leaders, many made alya just after 1967. They might have transmitted a moderate and educated (mainly) ashkenazi judaism, a french version of modern orthodoxy. But they just left. The wave of algerian Jews (and also Jews for Morocco and Tunisia) spawned a newly religous movement, and I have seen an incredible quickening of what was an almost dead community in the fifties and early sixties. But lots of what made french judaism idiosyncratic has been lost. Most of present day religious judaism in France is utterly superstititious, and learning has more to do with scholastics than with getting doubts and autonomous thinking into your head.

    I am not very much interested in CRIF, which pretends to be representative, but is in fact a federation of associations, with not much going between top and bottom. It is the old system of court Jews, in a republican framework. Theo Klein was silly, but I can’t say that Roger Cukierman was better.

    The heart of the matter is that the Jews from Algeria became french in 1870, by a collective act giving them citizenship. The muslims from Algeria had also the right to become citizens, but for them to do that they had to renounce muslim personal status. They also had to face a large number of administrative obstacles. It was a colonial situation, and the muslims were not meant to become citizens. The collective naturalization of the Jews from Algeria instilled the thought that they “were” french. In the sense of being part of the nation and equal members of it. But this did not preclude pogroms in the thirties, performed by christians against jews.

    Your claim that the jews in the suburbs were treated by the muslims as dhimmis is an analogy, which does not stand in my eyes. It relies on the assumption that the muslims have power in those suburbs where they coexist. They have some mob power or street power. They do not have political power, which is a condition under which one can talk of dhimmi.

    Living in France, I can observe that what happens is somewhat different : the part of the jewish community which identifies as jews tends to isolate itself from mainstream France. For safety reasons, two thirds of jewish children go to parochial school, either jewish or catholic. The state school system did not succeed in keeping jewish children safe and immune from antisemitic persecution by muslim children, and this is a really tragic failure.

    The part of the jewish community which identifies itself little with judaism is assimilating, as fast as possible, to avoid whatever they believe they can avoid by doing so.

    You can consider that it was an illusion to pretend that the Jews in France were part of the national community and that they should have stressed how oppressed they had been under muslim rule. Such a position would have been impossible for historical reasons. First, the substrate of Franco-judaism involves a very strong patriotic attachment to the french revolution and emancipation in 1791. Second, the algerian jews were also emancipated by France in 1870. The period of 1940-1944 is a terrible memory for french jews, not only because of tha nazi crimes, but because they were disenfranchized : antisemitic laws in Vichy France, plus denaturalization of the Jews of Algeria, who were reduced to indigenous status at that time.

    Personnally, and as long as I am living in France, as a french citizen and a citizen of no other country, I am not willing to emphasize my community membership in a way that would be detrimental to my citizenship. I am quite unhappy that “the Jews” can be seen these days as some kind of strange foreigners, who have problems with another kind of strange foreigners, namely more recent immigrants. I am not big on genealogy, and I’d rather not go into matters of yichus.

    So Theo Klein and other presidents of CRIF did rather stupid things, and next, what do we do? Lament the errors of the past, or learn from them and do something better? Come walk in my shoes, Elyahu, OK?

  60. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    Oh, Cynic, I forgot: how come you bought food in a place that did not look clean?

    Being a stranger and not knowing the customs it is initially difficult finding one’s whereabouts.
    I was used to another place where one would drink the water out of the tap and not imagine that in Paris it would not be safe.

  61. Eliyahu says:

    Michelle, there were sizable Jewish communities in Roman North Africa before the Arab invasion. Daniel Sibony, whom you surely know of, reported that Sibony was a known family name in Roman Mauretania 2000 years ago. And he believed his family went back to those earlier Sibonys. So there is a continuity.

    There were two massive migrations of Arabs into the Maghreb a few centuries after the Arab conquest. These were the migrations of the Bani Hilal and the Bani Sulaym tribes. Yes, I’m aware that there were conversions by Jews and Berbers to Islam. But not by Arabs to Judaism [forbidden by Islam], although some pre-Arab conquest conversion of Berbers to Judaism is possible and has been claimed by some authorities.

    On the other hand, DNA studies show a basic similarity in modal DNA between various Jewish groups, including Ashkenazim and North African Jews, albeit there is also some similarity to modal DNA of Arabs. The term modal is used because neither Jews nor Arabs are pure groups.

    My point about Theo Klein and the CRIF [which now takes a different line than before] was that they were not defending the French Jews properly by using true and effective arguments in their defense while the attacks were going on. The North African Jews were obviously dhimmis before the French conquest. I am saying that the attitudes of the Muslim mobs in the banlieues towards Jews are the same as traditional attitudes towards dhimmis and kuffar, Jews in particular. I believe that Muslims/Arabs are typically bigoted people, although not all are that way of course. The bigotry is another continuity. By the way, I have read Paul Giniewski’s article on the post-September 2000 persecution of Jews in France, first published in Le Lien.

  62. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Come on, Cynic, the tap water is safe in Paris, and I never drank antyhing else! Born there in 1949, lived there until 1986…

  63. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Michelle, there were sizable Jewish communities in Roman North Africa before the Arab invasion.

    Did I deny that, Eliyahu? I wrote:

    In the case of Maghreb, the arab conquerors arrived into a mainly christian and jewish population, which was partially romanized.

    OK, I will assume that I wrote a too long post and that you were tired and you skimmed it…

    Dhimmi, kuffar : these are different categories. One who is not a muslim is a kuffar. Arguing that the attitudes of non integrated muslims in France re. Jews is the same as the traditional muslim attitude towards dhimmis is anachronical, since in that part of North Africa colonized by France, the dhimmi status stopped existing at least a century ago. Therefore, there is no human memory in these populations of what a dhimmi is. A kuffar is what some (or all ?) muslim predicators call the christians and the jews, no doubt.

    I try to be efficient in my thought. I do not see the point of making up false comparisons. The situation is complicated enough. Let’s not muddy the pool of knowledge.

    And by the way, Eliyahu, do you have some intuition of why I disliked your #62?

  64. Cynic says:

    Come on, Cynic, the tap water is safe in Paris, and I never drank antyhing else!

    So then it was a marketing ploy to get people to drink bottled water? :-)

  65. Cynic says:

    since in that part of North Africa colonized by France, the dhimmi status stopped existing at least a century ago.

    Isn’t that because under the French Sharia stopped operating in civil discourse?
    Islam was alive and well, although confined to the mosques, as the aftermath of Ben Bella showed.

  66. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Cynic, yeeeeees, it was a marketing plot! But not the one you think. The idea was to discourage people to dring cheap wine and replace it by expensive water.

    :-D

  67. Michelle Schatzman says:

    typo : drink cheap wine!

    l’chayim!!!!!!!

  68. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Under the french, sharia operated only at the level of individual status. Muslims could be polygamist in Algeria under french domination. If they wanted to hold french citizenship, they had to renounce this possiblity. I do not know about inheritance.

    Morocco and Tunisia were protectorates, which means that they were not directly administered by France. So all the distinct religious groups had a personal status. But jizya and all the dhimmi apparatus were a thing of the past. I am not sure of when exactly this status disappeared. This is a good historical question. I’ll have to check.

    This does not mean that hate or scorn disappeared at the same time, and I am always infinitely wary of those who praise the century old harmony between jews and muslims. Someone made an interesting comparison (but I can’t remember who) : the horseman is in harmony with the horse, but the horse may disagree with this point of view.

  69. Eliyahu says:

    yes, Michelle, I know that kaffir and dhimmi are different. The point is not that dhimmi status existed in Algeria after the French conquest. The point is that the Muslim religious teachers continued to teach that it was the right way to organize society. Or they resumed such teaching after independence. They believed and taught that Jews [and Christians] ought to be dhimmis. Now, there has never been a reform of Islam which eliminated the validity of dhimma and jihad for Islam. If the average Algerian Muslim doesn’t know that the Muslims had the upper hand over Jews in that country before 1830, then the imams know and likely remind their flocks. by the way, in the Ottoman empire, much of dhimma –but not all– was eliminated or suspended or put under a “moratorium” as Tariq Ramadan might say in the late 19th century. But the Ottoman Muslims continued to believe that they had superior rights over those of dhimmis. This is accepted by historians. Recall that the Armenian massacres began in the 19th century after the jizya was lifted about 1863. The Ottoman Muslims as a group never accepted the equalization of the communities [millets].

    Mention of Ben Bella reminds me that he once said that Israel had to be destroyed or else the whole Muslim world would collapse. That is, if they could not destroy Israel, their societies would implode –apparently from the shame at not being able to defeat the Jews, the most despised of all kufar. Indeed, in Arab society, Jews were treated worse than Christian dhimmis. Christians too, as in Jerusalem, looked down on Jews and could take out their frustration at the humiliations of the dhimma on the Jews [no less an authority on everything than Karl Marx reported this. Marx was paraphrasing the book by Cesar Famin on the rivalry of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches].

    If edward said were still around, that matter of Arabic-speaking Christians too harassing Jews should be brought up to him. This urge to humiliate Jews [or have them in an inferior social status] is, I believe, a strong motive among Arab nationalists today, including “secularists” and Christians, although it may not be found often in their statements to the West.

    If anybody has the original Ben Bella quote [probably in French], then I would appreciate seeing it.

    Michelle, I really can’t be sure why you didn’t like my comment #62. Maybe you think that I should not comment about a situation of which I am not part, and about which you presume that I know little. You can tell me why, if you like.

  70. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Eliyahu, you can comment about anything you like. Each of us has small regions of competence and large regions of incompetence. The tone of your #62 upset me, because I felt it was somewhat patronizing. I just reread your post, and realize that you probably did not read the thread up to #27, where I posted this :

    In this respect, the word of the Jews from Algeria played a fundamental rôle, since they were exactly as indigenous to Algeria as the Muslims.

    So, when I read you #62 (12:39 am, June 4th), I thought that you were trying to teach me what I had very clearly written in #27, (3:10 pm, June 1).

    Beside that, and though I love fiction, uchronias and good story telling, I am deeply unhappy when someone comes up after the fact and from outside and tells me what should have been done, a long time ago. I tend to answer “yes dear, you are right, we fucked up” and to add, “and now?”. And probably include something like «b’tachles?».

    I can easily beat my chest and say before the community “I fucked up, we fucked up”. I remember that there is a day, in the fall, for doing that. In any case, the chest-beating will be justified, because we all fuck up.

    I am interested here in two things

    1. understanding the fuck-ups

    2. doing better in the future.

    I am pretty sure that most regular posters here share this point of view.

    My conclusion is that #62 may have been written on one of your bad days, and I hope that you will have lots of good days.

  71. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    Someone made an interesting comparison (but I can’t remember who) : the horseman is in harmony with the horse, but the horse may disagree with this point of view.

    If you’ll excuse my extrapolating but it seems that Walter Laqueur made a similar point

    How much of this is genuinely believed? How candid can one (should one) be?

    and mentioned that taquiya and kitman (religious norms for Muslims; which have become staples in the secular aspects of daily life that I have observed) which should enter into the realm of analysis.

  72. Eliyahu says:

    Michelle, we should be friends. And I respect you very much and enjoy reading your comments.

    However, in regard to your italicized statement from #27, I was responding precisely to it. My point, perhaps expressed awkwardly, was that the Jews are much MORE indigenous to Algeria than the Arabs/Muslims who did not reach there until their 7th century conquest.

  73. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Eliyahu,

    so, let us be friends, and June 4th may have been a bad day for me too.

    :-)

    I hear your point about ethnicity in Algeria, but I disagree. The number of “Arabs” was very low at the time of the conquest, just enough to get power over land owned by Byzantium, and I’d bet that the new power may have been felt as more palatable than the old one. I do not know how long it took for what is now Algeria to be islamicized or arabized, and I’d need more specialized history than what I have at home or is available electronically on the web, on a french sunday. But it probably took several centuries, and if islamicization had only left some jewish islands by 1830, arabization was not and is not complete, even nowadays, in Algeria.

    Here, we get to a more philosophical and historiographical debate. What does “Arab” mean in a country, such as Algeria, with a Berber ethnic substrate, a berber language still alive in parts of the land, and a history of invasions, which is as rich as that of France? It cannot mean genealogy or ethnicity, since the number of Arabians, Arabs from Arabia, was so small, relatively to the indigenous population.

    So it could mean arabization. But, in 1830, the Jews from Algeria spoke (judeo-)arabic or spanish, and often both. They could have been considered as Arabs, but the ottoman system of the millet considered them as Jews.

    I must admit that I am stuck in a maze of contradictory definitions! So as to avoid the risk of anachronism, the pitfalls of biological ethnicity and some rather awkward distinctions, I state now that (as a group of humans) the Jews in Algeria were exactly as autochtonous as the Muslims. Moreover, in terms of religion, judaism existed in Algeria before the arrival of islam.

    This way of saying things avoids all the difficulties with “nation”, “people”, and so on. Being brought up on a largely marxist-leninist soup, I also know that Uncle Joe Dzhugashvili, aka Stalin was the big specialist of nationalities. Therefore, I am always wary of the possible manipulation of these words. I’ve had too much of the soup, and I’ve grown very sensitive tastebuds to this particular flavor.

  74. Eliyahu says:

    Michelle, please look up the migrations/invasions in North Africa of the Beni Hilal and the Beni Sulaym. [these names are likely spelled several ways in various authorities]. These were huge migrations of a million people each, more or less.

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