Monthly Archives: August 2013

David S. Landes, May his memory be a blessing

This last Saturday afternoon, August 17, 2013, my father, David Landes died in Haverford PA. The following is a brief obit to which I will add when I have more time.

He was the beloved husband of Sonia T. Landes, who died on April 12, 2013, after 69 years of marriage.

He was the father of Jane Landes Foster, Richard Allen Landes and Alison Landes Fiekowsky, grandfather of eight and great-grandfather of nine.

Sylvia Landes (née Silberman) gave birth to David on April 29, 1924. Harry Landes was her husband, and he immigrated to New York from Husi, Romania in 1904.

David and Sonia met and fell almost instantaneously in love in Seagate, New York when they were 14 and 15 years old. They married when they were 19 years of age and were inseparable forever thereafter.

David had a childhood hobby of decryption (a passion ignited by a reading of Poe’s “Gold Bug”), and therefore served in the Signal Corp. of the U.S.Army in World War II, decrypting Japanese messages. He become a Second Lieutenant with a field promotion in May 1944, the highest army rank in the Landes family until his granddaughter Aliza became a captain in the IDF.

Professionally, he served as a Junior Fellow at Harvard University, then at Columbia. His work focused on entrepreneurship and economic development. Asked to write the section of the Cambridge Economic History on the Industrial Revolution, that morphed in the 1960s into his first major work, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present, his definitive study of the Industrial Revolution in Europe.

He began teaching at Columbia University, and after a year at the Center for the Study of Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, he went to UC Berkeley. He came to Harvard University in 1964 where he remained throughout his subsequent career, retiring in 1997, as the Coolidge Professor of History and Professor of Economics, bridging the disciplines of history and economics.

In the late 1960s and 70s he became an astute and avid watch collector, known to makers and devotees of watches and time keeping. That passion led to the writing of his most innovative work, Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World (1983).

In a sense, his entire oeuvre was dedicated to answering the question “why the West?” (or more specifically, how is it that the West generated a culture of economic development that most other cultures have difficulty imitating?) His students and family would joke that his course on economic history was unofficially entitled “The West and the Rest.” 

He was, accordingly, admired and denounced for being a Eurocentric historian, a perspective increasingly considered not politically correct, even as the evidence for the uniqueness of the West continued (and continues) to pile up.

His Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and Some are so Poor (1998) embodies his approach to the importance of culture in contributing to either economic development or poverty.

He served as Chairman of American Professors for Peace in the Middle East in the 1970s. He was devoted to Judaism, the Jewish people and the land of Israel, a legacy continued by his descendants.

He was an avid squash player, coming in second in the B-Class of the West Coast championship in 1963, and, after coming to Harvard, prided himself on his cunning in challenging and sometimes beating the top four members of the Harvard Squash Team.

His children are sitting shiva in Philadelphia at the Fiekowsky house on 438 Ballytore Road, Wynnewood, PA 19096 from Tuesday through Thursday, August 20-22, and at Richard’s house on Thursday at 8 Priscilla Road in Brighton, MA until Monday morning August 22-26. Donations may be made in his name to Harvard Hillel.

Pallywood in Egypt: What does this tell us about what “they” think of “us”?

First consider the following photograph:

behind the factory 1

This was taken at Netzarim Junction on September 30, 2000. The day that Al Durah was shot on film by Talal Abu Rahma. The picture was made public by AP. I use it in lectures to introduce Pallywood.

The closer you look, the less the picture makes sense. Who are these people and what are they doing? Running from what? Ducking from what? Fire? From where? What kind? And why aren’t the people behind them ducking or running?

And what happens when you realize that the building in the upper left shields this entire area from Israeli fire which could only come from their position behind that building, and which they never left that day?

001-netzarim up diagonal include twin

 

The scene we’re looking at takes place along the road to the bottom left. The building we see in the background is labeled in Hebrew in red (“the factory”), and the Israeli position is behind it, labeled in blue (Magan 3).

In other words, the entire scene is staged, and all these figures are playing for the camera. Indeed, one might phrase it that they are reacting to camera fire.

Now none of that really makes sense to us in the West. When I show this to audiences, people try hard to read the picture as real, not staged. It can’t be that an entire street full of people are involved in such stuff. (James Fallows fall back on al Durah being staged is that it couldn’t happen without someone leaking the story, as if Palestinian culture were identical to ours in these matters of dissent.)

It’s precisely our desire not to believe that Palestinians or Arabs would be so blatantly deceptive that makes us so gullible to a major element of their cogwar against us, namely the manipulation of the (inexcusably) credulous Western news media to create sympathy among the (excusably, if stupidly) empathic Western public, eager to side with the (perceived) underdog.

So now we have serious, comic evidence of Pallywood at work in the Morsi camp in Egypt.

And here’s more of the same, although (a tiny bit) less obvious, from Syria.

What does this tell us about what they think of us, that such patent fakes could conceivably move Western public opinion (note the English signs), and, say, help convince the US government that it should cut off aid to Egypt in reprisal for the behavior of the current ruling group?

That we’re stupid? Unquestionably. The sad thing is, they may well be right. After all, our policy-makers seem to have their major offices on rekaB Street.

Terrorist chic en France, de l’exposition du Jeu de Paume, à Al Durah, à Mohamed Merah

Terrorist chic en France, de l’exposition du Jeu de Paume, à Al Durah, à Mohamed Merah

Une nouvelle exposition controversée célèbre les meurtriers de masse et élève la propagande de guerre au niveau de grand art.

Richard Landes – 30 juillet 2013

Traduction d’Isabelle Sfez

Pour consulter liens hyperliens, consultez l’article originale.

Cet été le musée national français du Jeu de Paume, en son temps célèbre pour ses accrochages de peinture impressionniste, héberge une étonnante exposition de photographies, Phantom House. Le travail d’une femme bédouine israélienne, Ahlam Shibli, rassemblant une série éclectique de photos qui dépeignent un certain nombre de groupes différents, dont les maisons ne sont pas les leurs, ou qui n’en ont pas – des gens qui “vivent sous oppression”.  Il s’agit de Bédouins “trackers” (pisteurs, traqueurs) qui s’enrôlent dans l’armée israélienne, de “palestiniens” vivant en Galilée et en Jordanie, d’enfants polonais dans des orphelinats, de militants LGBT du Moyen-Orient vivant dans des pays occidentaux, de français de Corrèze pendant l’occupation nazie, et, de loin les plus élaborés des séries de clichés, les familles de “martyrs” qui “résistèrent” à “l’occupation”, debout avec les photos, les affiches et les tombes de leurs proches “disparus”.

L’exposition a suscité une controverse prévisible. Ces prétendus “martyrs”, qui ont “pris le contrôle de leur propre mort”, objets d’une ardente dévotion par leur famille, sont en fait des meurtriers de masse qui se sont tués eux-mêmes dans le but d’assassiner le plus possible d’enfants, de femmes, de civils.

Comme la plupart des récits palestiniens, ces photos ne laissent aucune place à “l’autre”, exceptée celle de l’oppresseur colonial sans visage. Pour une femme juive, mécène du musée, l’expérience fut horrible. En regardant ces photos de “martyrs”, elle a reconnu ceux qui avaient fait exploser des restaurants, des bus, des marchés qui ont été choisis comme cible justement pour la présence d’enfants dans ces lieux.

Les réactions de protestations outrées affluèrent. La réponse du musée fut d’afficher un avis soulignant que cette exposition n’était pas de la propagande, et, à propos de l’artiste, précisant qu’elle n’était “pas une militante, qu’elle ne jugeait pas”.

Evidemment, tout cela est absurde. Si ce n’est pas de la propagande (comme la fameuse pipe qui n’en est pas une), c’est une exposition qui présente avec bienveillance des photos de propagande. L’artiste émet assurément des jugements, en présentant ses cousins bédouins qui servent dans l’armée israélienne, comme pathétiquement vendus à un régime colonial (ils apparaissent étonnement confortables et bien dans leur peau sur les photos), elle émaille son exposition de victimes françaises de l’occupation nazie, commentant la façon dont ils se retournèrent après la Libération et devinrent des oppresseurs coloniaux en Indochine et en Algérie. La parfaite admiration pour la “résistance à l’occupation” des Palestiniens, calquée sur celle de la résistance aux nazis, joue sur un thème commun, grotesque, de propagande palestinienne – que les israéliens sont les nouveaux nazis et les palestiniens les nouveaux juifs.

American Vanity and Ambition Plays the Fool in Middle East Political Culture

I’ve posted some items on the upcoming “negotiations.” Here I just want to draw your attention to three recent analyses on key American players in this charade of negotiations: Kerry and Indyk, both of whom consider messing with the only relatively stable situation in the Middle East an extremely short-sighted career “win.” Talk about making others pay for your fifteen minutes of fame.

Indyk: Noah Pollak, “What does Martin Indyk Believe

Between 2006 and 2009, no relevant facts on the ground in the Middle East had changed: Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons, Bashar al-Assad was still the dictator of Syria, and Hezbollah was still entrenched in Lebanon. Only one fact had changed, and it was a Washington fact: Barack Obama had become the president, and he had made “engagement” with Syria a pillar of his Middle East policy. Indyk dutifully discarded his previous objections to the idea.

Give him his due: His shameless positioning and audacious reversals have been successful where they were intended to count – not in making “the cause of peace his life mission,” as Kerry said about him yesterday, but in advancing his career. Step one was showing his loyalty to Obama after betting on the wrong candidate in 2008; step two was burnishing his image as a tough-minded veteran of the Middle East who understands why things went wrong in Obama’s first term and can be counted on to get it right in his second term. On the substance, it’s been an awful, tawdry display. But as a matter of Washington careerism, Indyk’s press conference yesterday, where he was introduced and praised by the secretary of state, is inarguable proof of success.

Kerry: Lee Smith, “Requiem for the Peace Process

The peace process has entered its mannerist phase—it is nothing but a series of empty elegant formalisms. Does Martin Indyk, Kerry’s newly named Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, really need to add a sequel to his memoirs of the peace process, Innocent Abroad—Again?