Saturday, December 09, 2006
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Wolfe springs to the defense, for instance, of Tony Judt, who has become the court scribe of liberal triumphalism:
Judt, who once lived in Israel and served in its military, has emerged as a strong critic of a Jewish state. Basing statehood on ethnicity or religion, he wrote in a 2003 article, is an "anachronism." The only possible future for Israel, he said in "Israel: The Alternative," published in The New York Review of Books, is as a binational state. For many Jews, such positions come close to denying Israel's right to exist…I shall make only a few specific objections to these paragraphs, but they are important ones. Firstly, to call for a binational state is not only to deny Israel’s right to exist, it is to call for an end to that existence in practical terms. The fact that Judt is considered a “liberal” despite calling for the annihilation of an entire state is rather telling, but not particularly accurate, and we do not need his defenders obfuscating the issue by attempting to relegate it to the realm of the purely theoretical. Judt objects to Zionism in theory, which is an issue for debate, but he also desires its destruction in real life, which is not. Then we are in the realm of life and death and not the amorphous wasteland of ideas. Ideas are important, but there can be an ethics of ideas. There cannot be an ethics of murder. No one has earned the right to destroy nations or peoples. As such, Judt’s cause, however much it may be couched in the language of the innocuous, is outside the realm of which Wolfe is speaking. That is, we are no longer discussing one man’s freedom of speech – a right which has hardly been repressed in any case, Judt having become more famous than he ever was since his call for Israel’s de-Judification – but rather discussing one nation’s existence or non-existence. We have moved, in other words, from words to the concrete. And the concrete has ethics utterly different from those of words. This distinction, lost on Wolfe, as it is on most Americans, being, as they are, far from Israel and far indeed from any of Israel’s immediate dangers, is typical of liberalism’s failure. It reduces the concrete to the word and thus makes sure of its failure.
Judt had been invited to speak in October on "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by a group called Network 20/20, which regularly rents the Polish Consulate in New York as the site for its events. Although the Anti-Defamation League, whose leading officials view Judt as an Israel hater, denies pressuring the consulate to cancel the talk, it acknowledges having made a call inquiring about the event. That conversation, in turn, led the Poles, who tend to be very sensitive on any issues remotely touching on anti-Semitism, to cancel Judt's talk — one hour before it was supposed to take place.
In response to the cancellation, two protest letters were sent off to the ADL's national director, Abraham H. Foxman. One, organized by Norman Birnbaum, an emeritus professor at Georgetown University Law Center, called Foxman's actions "political vigilantism" and labeled Foxman himself "an adversary of our traditions." I did not sign it. As unhappy as ADL's phone call made me, Foxman is neither a person who takes the law into his own hands, as the term vigilante implies, nor, given the ADL's commendable record of combating extremism, un-American.
It is this failure which goes to the heart of liberalism’s hatred of Zionism. Zionism proposes the concrete as an answer to the failure of words. Enough with your good will, says the Zionist, give me ground underneath my feet. This is no small thing, nor insignificant. The Weimar constitution was a model of liberalism at its most sublime and beautiful, the League of Nations a fine ideal, and the French revolution the epitome of liberal utopianism. We may go further back to Christianity’s creed of love for all, the Enlightenment’s ideology of tolerance and debate, the Marxist ideals of solidarity and equality… There is, in fact, no end to this graveyard of modernism, all of it leading, for the Jewish people, to precisely the same place: the Terror. Zionism’s success rests in the fact that it recognized earlier than any other Jewish movement an essential truth about liberalism’s professed ideals: they are completely meaningless. And that, for the Jewish people, this meaninglessness would mean destruction. For liberalism, which adores expansion, and the power that comes with expansion, this simple but undeniable critique, with Auschwitz itself as its ultimate proof, is an existential threat, as all critique is an existential threat to a universalist, and thus imperial, ideology.
It cannot be denied that there is a monstrous side to liberalism. In this, it is not alone, but the nature of this darkness is of the utmost importance. It is simply this: liberalism cannot stop its own expansion, it has no limits. As such, it cannot flinch at the inevitability of madness. When liberalism reaches its limits, it does not stop, it goes mad. We can find expression of this in Wolfe’s own autobiographical musings:
Aside from those who believe that there is no such thing as free speech, most intellectuals can be counted on to oppose efforts at censorship. In my own case, it was the Jewish environment in which I was raised that led me to value free speech and expression. Although I grew up a secular Jew - my bar mitzvah was as pro forma as they come, and after that, I have returned to synagogue only a handful of times - I was spoon-fed a version of Jewish liberalism in which we Jews were always expected to come to the defense of unpopular ideas. When American Nazis announced in 1977 their intention to march in Skokie, Ill. — a town in which one-sixth of the population was related to a Holocaust survivor - the American Civil Liberties Union defended their right to do so, and many of the leaders of and contributors to the ACLU were Jewish. I recall taking considerable pride in the ACLU's actions, not out of Jewish self-hatred, but out of pride in Jewish liberalism.There is little one can say in response to such complete abandonment of all reason, except to simply point out the obvious: liberalism has created a Jewish culture in which the highest expression of Jewish pride is the defense of those who would, and have, turned them and their children into soap and lampshades. Sometimes ideas are unpopular for very good reason. The fact that many Jews of my generation; in the shadow of the second intifada, 9/11, and Iran’s desperate attempt to emulate precisely these gentlemen in whose defense Wolfe takes so much pride, an attempt which has aroused a similarly impotent response from the doyennes of liberalism; find this brand of “Jewish liberalism” at best archaic and useless and, at worst, suicidal minstrelsy, should come as a surprise to no one.
Even more disturbingly, Wolfe freely admits to the fact that none of the so-called illiberal actions of various Jews and Jewish organizations resulted in any damage whatsoever to the objects of their criticism or any silencing of their ideas. Of course, this is of little consequence to him, as all practical effects apparently are:
Suppression, however, is not the issue; in our open society, it is close to impossible to suppress any idea. The important question deals with intentions, not consequences. In all of the cases I've mentioned, a troubling number of Jews had no intention at all of rushing to defend the rights of people with whom they disagreed, and that alone is cause for concern.Unfortunately, Wolfe’s litany of the suppressed, Juan Cole, Human Rights Watch, Walt and Mearsheamer’s anti-Israel screed, are not people with whom one simply disagrees. They are people who make charges and practice forms of intellectual violence which violate the basic dignity and pride of the Jewish people. They do so, moreover, through lies, unhinged rhetoric, unfair double standards, and, at times, as in the case of Human Rights Watch, through Orwellian distortions of language which completely devalue human life should said life belong to members of the Jewish nation. To Wolfe, of course, all of this is irrelevant. And it is important to understand why. Because if he can take pride in defending Nazis than there is indeed little he can object to in defending Juan Cole. For Wolfe, the actual agenda of these various figures and organizations is irrelevant. The only thing of any importance is that Jews continue their self-abasement in the name of liberalism, a creed whose goal is their destruction. I emphasize, liberalism seeks to destroy Judaism because it must. Because it cannot stop and will not stop. Jewish particularism, the very existence of the Jewish people as a particular nation, a particular civilization, a particular people, is an affront to liberalism’s universalist imperialism. Judaism and liberalism are opposed not because of Judaism but because of liberalism. Judaism desires to exist and to continue to exist. Liberalism desires to subsume and become everything that exists. The result of this contradiction, and if liberalism is incapable of anything, it is accepting contradiction (Judaism, on the other hand, exists in its contradictions) are fairly plain to see. The primary concern of certain of our intellectuals appears to be, not that liberalism has turned itself against the Jews, but that the Jews are insufficient collaborators in the project of their own sublimation.
One is tempted to simply lament such an impasse, but this will get us nowhere. We should not be seeking merely to analyze but rather to ascend. To move up from the ash heap of liberalism to something new and, perhaps, better. How such an ascension will be accomplished and what its contours and limits will be remains unclear, but its necessity is obvious. It may, in fact, find its basis in precisely the “Jewish illiberalism” that Wolfe so decries. In the ethical particularism and the specified, anti-imperialist form of freedom it embraces. The “difficult freedom” expressed in the works of Emmanuel Levinas. Without it, we may find ourselves with a “Jewish liberalism” in which liberalism has devoured the Jewish, and with it the very rights and freedoms it claims to value and defend. We may, in fact, soon have to choose between “Jewish liberalism” and difficult freedom. When this moment comes, it may be our very illiberalism that saves us from the abyss into which liberalism plunges both its victims and its priests.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Witness the following:
There is a concerted campaign to get Massad fired by a number of defenders of Israel, who are threatened by his scholarship and his support for a one-state solution. Bollinger's actions--and the findings of the investigation--give ammunition to the campaign to fire Massad. "This is a part of a nationwide campaign to chill any kind of discourse that interrupts American foreign policy, including Israel and Palestine," Nader Uthman, a teaching assistant who testified to the investigative committee on Massad's behalf, said in a radio interview. "And we're seeing this all over the country."How this translates into the overwhelming dominance of anti-Israeli sentiment among the nationwide professoriat is not mentioned, nor the fact that support for a one-state solution is, by definition, support for Israel's annihilation as a Jewish state and is, therefore, self-evidently racist and, one might even say, threatening. One could mention the fact that the same Columbia University in question played host to Edward Said, one of the most grossly fascistic intellects of the twentieth century, for decades, or that that it now has a Saudi endowed chair in his honor. But I have already said my piece on the ridiculous assertions by Israel's would be annihilators that they are constantly being silenced by an amorphous establishment (Zionist, Israeli, pro-Israel, neoconservative... every word that is not the real word, "Jew", is drafted into their service as a pesitilent and cowardly lying adjective) even as they toil happily away in the very bastions of that establishment itself. Desperate, in fact, to obfuscate the obvious: that in the post-60's world of academia they are the establishment. It is the unthinkable, that the proleteriat of knowledge I described in my last post dares to question and rebel against their platitudes when they venture into the realm of, say, antisemitism and genocide, that drives them to distraction, as rebellion does to all holders of illigitimate power, and forces them to dispatch their blackshirts in Birkenstocks like the lamentable Miss Dol to slander, lie, intimidate, obfuscate, and, if necessary, silence (yes! that precious fetish of silence!) those who dare to speak the truth.
I am no Columbia professor, but I know Nazism when I see it. Antisemitism, conspiracy theory, strong arm tactics, censorship by violence, the great lie told enough times to become true... The enemies of freedom have progressed nowhere in fifty years, even as they take the name of progress as their innoculant against the terrible possibility of thought.
Cross posted at Kesher Talk.
Alcibides' recent post on Bill Maher and Chris Matthews aroused certain emotions in me. One of them, naturally, was disgust and contempt for the self-martyrdom inherent in Matthews' obvious adoration of himself, but another was a basic sense of things I have felt for a long time: that the advent of liberalism was not so much the triumph of reason and thought as it was a shift in the structures of social and intellectual power, or rather a shift in who holds that power and why. The hierarchy that was once ecclesiastical is now intellectual, the idolatry of faith has been replaced by the idolatry of reason. A decidedly closed and sharply defined reason, and one which is not so much thought as it is property. The question for us, of course, is who claims this amorphous territory, and whether it serves any purpose other than the perpetuation of its own power.
That the media is about power ought to be obvious. Knowledge, goes the aphorism (Foucault's aphorism?) is power. Knowledge, and its dissemination, is the raison d'etre of the media. Such is openly admitted by its practitioners. Their goal, so they tell us, is to enlighten, educate and inform. Each individual, of course, has the capacity to think, and therefore the capacity to educate and inform himself. The key, therefore, for any hierarchy of information, that is, any hierarchy of knowledge, is to lay claim. The pre-liberal order placed knowledge (information) at a distance. That is, on an Aristotelian (or Maimonidean, if we prefer) plain. God, according to the philosophers of faith, is an uber-thought, an all-consciousness or over-consciousness constantly thinking itself. This places knowledge, which is power, beyond the hands of man. In theory, if not always in practice (sometimes never in practice) man was divested of knowledge and therefore of power. Opposed to this, of course, in ecclesiastical terms, was hierarchy. That is, the hierarchy of knowledge and therefore the hierarchy of power. Nonetheless, through the domination (the longest, perhaps, of any philosophy) of Aristotelianism, limits were set on the contours of this domain. As Maimonides theorized, we cannot know what God is, only what he is not. The nature of the hierarchy, at least in Judaism, is therefore negative in nature. The man who knows knows only by virtue of knowing what he does not know. A slightly comical statement, perhaps, but nonetheless essential. It points us to an essential limitation.
The advent of liberalism, with its theory of progress, and especially of progressive knowledge, shattered this barrier. Liberalism, as I have sometimes said before (and I am by no means the first) is essentially imperialistic. It respects no borders, its appetite is infinite. Liberalism consumes (thus, perhaps, it is essential to capitalism). Unlike its predecessor, liberalism exists in an essential contradiction. That is, it presumes a world which is knowable and which progressively becomes more knowable. It proposed, therefore, a world bound by laws which are understandable in human terms. This is a fundamental: liberalism parts from Aristotelianism exactly at the point where Aristotelianism limits power. Liberalism reduces God to knowledge. A knowledge which is limited, demarcated, and complete. A God which is, therefore, conquerable.
This new idolatry (and it is, ultimately, idolatrous) raised several objects of veneration. One is the question. Another is man. Man questions, and by questioning man can know. Knowledge, being finite, can also be absolute. The question, and the willingness to ask, the asking in and of itself, becomes a prayer, an invocation, and an indication of holiness. It created, in other words, a new priesthood, a new definition of the heroic. "Dare to know!" said one of the scions of the Enlightenment. He created, in so saying, a new Achilles. An Achilles whose tragedy was not his arrogance but his lack of courage. The man who knows must dare. He must, in other words, transgress in order to seize.
This new archetype negated that aspect of philosopy considered most important by its ancient practitioners. Knowing what one does not know is no longer an indication of wisdom but an indication of cowardice. To not know is impossible for the courageous. The hero-priests will not and need not accept such limitations. At this very moment, liberalism consumed God. God, who is unknowable, is valueless. Liberalism recognizes only the positive existent. If we cannot know a thing, it is nothing. Literally nothing. God is not dead, He simply is not.
What replaces God is the question. Or, rather, the questioner. The idolatry of man, we must emphasize, is a hierarchical idolatry. It specifies man and seperates him into the questioners and the non-questioners. As in any hierarchy, the essential question is not who knows but rather who rules? In the empire of liberalism, the questioner rules. The question, therefore, ceases to be a means to knowledge and becomes an expression of the will to power. It becomes access, in other words, not to knowledge but to power. And power, of course, is only power if it is power over others. Liberalism, in other words, requires ignorance. It requires non-questioners. It requires, in effect, a proleteriat of knowledge. Those who know, the hero-priests of knowledge who are defined and ordained by the question, cannot exist without those who do not question, or who are believed not to question. Liberalism reversed the ancient dichotomy. The man who knows what he does not know and, more importantly, what is unknowable, is now object. The object, that is, of power.
To return to the world of the concrete, which is the question of the media and the questioners who compose the media as we know it today, we can assert the following: the media is liberal because it composes itself according to the hierarchical structure of liberalism. It undertakes, in other words, the idolatry of the question while annihilating the possibility of an answer. As such, it is a priesthood of questioners. Those who do not ask, or who believe in the question as a means of defining the contours of their un-knowledge, that is, the extent of that which they do not know, are the congregation of supplicants. Their salvation, which can only be through knowledge, is ascertained, decided, and dispensed by this thoroughly modern priesthood. Thus, the "asking of tough questions" is the deciding factor. These questions, of course, do not seek for answers, they do not demand answers. They are, rather, indications of power. Signs, badges, vestments, signifiers of an order. An order defined by the tyranny of the question. The answer, of course, or the impossibility of an answer, has been long since annihilated.
It is important, at this point, to admit to the obvious: hierarchies are inevitable. Human beings organize themselves into structures. These structures are the architectures that makes us human. We cannot escape them without destroying ourselves. Moreover, all hierarchies seek to expand their power. The will to expand and the rebellion against this expansion are endlessly repeatable and are likely to remain so. The question (I am aware of the irony of the word) before us is: does this structure, this hierarchy, serve the good?
I follow Emmanuel Levinas to the good. The good he signified by the ethical relationship. The self facing the other which apprehends the other, face to face, and realizes his ethical responsibility to the other. This recognition, an elementary recognition, based upon the sight of the other and the standing back, the recognition (not necessarily acceptance, acceptance too can be violence) of the otherness of the other, the recognition of the essential space between, is, in itself, the good.
Against this recognition of an ethical Being, an ethical method of Being, liberalism, and its priesthood, whether political or media, cannot stand. Knowledge as power demands knowledge of the other, of the object of power, and therefore the conquest of the other. Liberalism turns the question to a means of oppression. A weapon of subsumation and not recognition. Recognition does not imply knowledge in the liberal sense. Liberalism percieves knowledge as reduction, as breakdown, as the object broken into its constituent parts and therefore devoured. Liberalism cannot serve the good because it cannot know the good. It is incapable of recognition. Mr. Matthews, in his lamentable genuflection before himself, is merely stating a banality born of the essential nihilism at the heart of liberalism's consumption of itself. The question as weapon, as it must, eventually turns (happily) against the one who wields it. Liberalism as a hierarchy of knowledge, cannot, in fact, actually know. To know demands the recognition of the unknown and the unknowable; just as the other, the one who faces us, is essentially unknowable. The "tough question" as it is invoked, is nothing more than a narcississtic adoration of oneself as ejudicator, as a force, as power. The value of the question, and therefore the good; which can only be the recognition of the true question, which is the face of the other before us and its unanswerability, which is the fact that we can know only what it isn't; is assassinated by liberalism, and with it, of course, the good.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
At a news conference after his spirited address to the United Nations on Wednesday, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela expressed one regret: not having met that icon of the American left, the linguist Noam Chomsky, before his death...[Chavez] urged Americans to read one of Mr. Chomsky’s books instead of watching Superman and Batman movies, which he said “make people stupid.”One could, of course, say that making people stupid is not nearly as evil as making people stupid while convincing them they are, in fact, extremely intelligent and well informed, which is generally the most common effect of reading Chomsky's books. But I digress, since I find it interesting that the Times would refer to a clearly psychotic statement as "spirited". One doubts they grant the same indulgences to the rantings of say, Pat Buchanan or David Duke. Hitler must have been "spirited" too when he made all those marvelous Nuremburg addresses. No amount of insidious propaganda and leftist conspiracy mongering is, apparently, enough to shock the Times. Which is probably why they can print quotes like this with straight face:
Mr. Chomsky said that he would not choose to use the same harsh oratory, but added that the Venezuelan leader was simply expressing the views of many in the world.This is, of course, describing the man who referred to the Reagan Administration as "Washington sadists", claimed that every American president since World War II could be hanged as a war criminal, that Vietnam-era America was in need of de-Nazification, and that the Jews are a "privileged people" who exploit the issue of antisemitism in order to gain total control over the United States. This, of course, only scratches the surface of the seemingly endless parade of slanderous, violent, insulting, and self-evidently racist statements Chomsky has applied to anyone and everything unwilling to acknowledge his genius. Indeed, in regards to harsh oratory, we should regard Chomsky as the guru and Chavez the dutiful pupil. If the Times had bothered to do any research into Chomsky's previous statements they would know that. Or, perhaps, it is simply a case of what they wish their readers to know and, more importantly, what they wish them not to know.
This would seem to explain the total erasure of such inconveniant facts as Chomsky's defense of Holocaust Denial, his support for the communist governments of Cuba and North Vietnam, including their brutal oppression of their own people, his whitewash of the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the lifelong plethora of lies and evasions he has employed to dismiss or justify these atrocities. As the Times quotes:
“We should look at ourselves through our own eyes and not other people’s eyes,” [Chomsky] said.This maxim explains a very great deal. It explains how Chomsky can continue his ridiculous charade of moral rectitude in the face of a half-century's worth of blood on his hands, as well as his pathetic and venal assaults on the country which has made him rich and famous as well as, most importantly, allowing him to retain the wealth which lets him live in such rarified confines as Lexington Massachusetts where, as he notes, "I continue to work and write."
At least we can take comfort that Chomsky's unrelenting support for the most murderous and oppressive of political leaders has now been resurrected as farce. If the blubbering clown that is Hugo Chavez is the best fan Chomsky can come up with these days, we all have reason to hope.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
A national commission of inquiry, if and when it is established, will examine why sandwiches and food rations did not reach the soldiers in Lebanon, where did the water supplies go, and who decided to attack Bint Jbeil in broad daylight.This is an ancient argument. It is at least as old as Plato's Republic and has not changed much over the millenia. It is the simple argument that democracy tends towards the lowest common denominator and, ultimately, rule of the mob. A rule that destroys the talented and the explemplary and rewards demagogury, corruption, and "the rule of the mediocre". I'm not sure what Haber is suggesting here, perhaps a return to the de facto one party rule of Israel's pre-1977 Labor governments, something which would likely not produce the results he desires. One of the many reasons for Labor's ultimate fall was the rise of mediocre and untalented party hacks as a result of Labor's domination, a phenomenon which many believed contributed to Israel's failures in the Yom Kippur War. However, Haber has indirectly hit on something important. It is, I think, less a political than a cultural/economic issue. The problem is not Israeli democracy but Israeli globalization. Israel is probably one of the most globalized economies and cultures in the world. There is little or no opposition to globalization in Israel and, to a great degree, the Israeli fetish for acceptance by the international community has become synonymous with globalized capitalism. This is a quite understandable product of the desire to throw off the seige mentality that formed older generations of Israeli culture and embrace the wider world. I am not an anti-globalist per se, but there have clearly been major and, in some cases, negative cultural developments as a result of it. Haber describes them quite well.
These are important questions that call for real answers, but they will not explain a far more profound process that the Israeli society has undergone, whose first symptom - and it is only the first - was presently revealed in the war in Lebanon.
We are democratic, are we not? Hence we have sanctified the "popular culture" for years. We rejoiced when the "people" finally made it to the top.
Questions such as, "Are we a democracy?" or "If democracy is the rule of the people and its choice, why not let the 'people' rule?" were answered in Bint Jbail, Ita al-Sha'ab, the military sections of our cemeteries, civil cemeteries, and packed bomb-shelters. The rule of the mediocre brought us where we are today.
We know: this is arrogant, condescending, uptown writing, but as God is our witness - it is not so. Many condescending snobs could be classified as "popular," and all we can do is cry over the lowly who made it to top, and over those who died, and those who are yet to die.
For many years, for an entire generation, we cultivated and sanctified the rule of the mediocre and the nation of hedonists that lagged behind it. No one (almost) bothered to look back. They were all looking forward, at the governing seat and mainly at the wallet, seeking to make money, lots of money, in the shortest possible time, as long as we can, as long as the party is in power.This is not an inaccurate critique, though it is conciously couched in hysterical rhetoric. The cult of money has certainly made great strides in Israel, and while this has had positive effects, such as making Israel's economy one of the world's most energetic, it has nonetheless had an egregious effect on many aspects of Israeli culture. There is no doubt that there is a hedonistic aspect to Israeli culture which is at odds with Israel's precarious military and political surroundings. Moreover, the replacement of Zionist ideals with the ideals of global capitalism is immensely problematic. For better or worse, Zionism is not a materialist ideology. No one came to the Land of Israel to make money. A system which reduces everything down to its relative monetary value is a threat to Zionism as much as it is a threat to any other non-materialist ideology. It is often surprising how many of Israel's most intensly Zionist leaders, Benjamin Netanyahu springs most immediately to mind, do not understand this problem. Zionism and global capitalism will always be at odds. There is, for instance, no discernable reason for Hebrew to be our national language if the only determinative value is economic growth. Hebrew is essential to Zionism, but it has no value whatsoever in a purely materialist culture. Even more threatening, what is the point of serving in the army or even maintaining an army, at great expense to the economy, in the name of protecting a Jewish state whose Jewish character is totally irrelevent to its economic potential? Put simply, there is none. This is, perhaps, the meeting point of "post-Zionism" and globalization, and it is not unthinkable to see post-Zionism, despite its ostensibly leftist pedigree, as an essential step in Israel's renunciation of Zionism in the name of globalized mediocrity. When McDonald's becomes more recognizable than Herzl's photograph, we are in trouble. One does not have to be a socialist to understand this.
Ultimately, we are facing another in a long line of conflicts between the particularism of Judaism and the universalist values with which this particularism must constantly contend. In the past, Judaism has always managed to maintain a dynamic paradox between its particularism and the universal. Nonetheless, this paradox cannot be effected if the conflict remains unacknowledged and unspoken. Haber, perhaps inadvertantly, has hit on a real problem. To begin to speak of it openly and honestly, and across ideological lines, is essential.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Israel is often thought of, in the West, as an unhinged fanatically right-wing country, like the U.S. on speed. Israel is far more ‘European,’ though, than it is ‘American.’ If Israel were not constantly under fire and constantly embroiled in conflict with eliminationist enemies, Israel would resemble a Jewish France or even Sweden of the Levant. The country was founded by democratic Labor Party socialists, and only rather recently has become more capitalist and complex.This is not entirely true. Israel has been on the capitalist road since the 1970s, mainly because the socialist model proved incapable of sustaining itself. Israel faced a series of economic crises up to the middle 1980s, when substantial economic liberalization was finally undertaken on a mass scale. Israel's economy, despite its precarious political surroundings, has outdone most of the nations of the European Union over the past two decades. In the abscense of the conflict, I think Israel would be more likely to resemble the likes of Qatar or Dubai - explosively growing economies of the Middle East - than any nation in Europe, with the exception, perhaps, of post-Troubles Ireland.
“Amichai is speaking in the context of Israel,” Yehuda said, “and I can understand that. My feeling goes beyond the spirit of Israeli society only. I see organizations like Hezbollah as a threat to humanity in the same manner, for me, as the settler movement is also a threat. Where you have a nationalism that hooks up with a religious idea, I see only trouble. I’m not willing to discriminate between Jews and Arabs on this score. Not at all.”This is problematic on two scores, and I say this as a critic of the settler movement. Firstly, Zionism in general is certainly nationalism hooked up with religous ideas or archetypes. Even leftist, Kibbutz movement Zionism clearly takes its sanctification of the land and its ideas of social justice from aspects of the Jewish religion. Secondly, there is an essential and absolute difference between Hezbollah and the settler movement, or even the more extreme religious-national movements such as Kahanism. Namely, Judaism and Zionism are not universalist creeds. Islam and Islamic radicalism are. That is, even at their most extreme, Jewish religious radicals want only the Land of Israel. Islamic radicalism, on the other hand, desires the world. Jewish religious extremism is, in my view, far more dangerous to other Jews than it is to members of other religions and peoples. Judaism's destructive forces tend to be turned inward, against itself. Jihad, on the other hand, is directed both inward and outward, and is thus far more dangerous and, potentially, destructive.
“When there was the Yom Kippur War and the Israeli army was attacked on two fronts we felt that by serving in the army we’re defending our country. But when the intifada broke out and there was the question of masses of Arab women and children throwing stones – that was the war of the rocks – we felt that by serving and trying to oppress the justified anger of the Palestinians from trying to achieve self-determination, that made it much much harder to go into reserve duty. It made us more committed to try to leave both Lebanon and the Occupied Territories. The main goal of the peace movement was to get out of Lebanon and to get out of the Occupied Territories. I was very very active in the struggle to leave Lebanon. I served in Lebanon twice.”This paragraph points to a particular blindness which has been part and parcel of the Israeli peace movement for many years. Namely, the tendency towards moral absolutism and the concomitant negation of any contrary views as fundamentally immoral. For instance, whether the anger of the Palestinians is justified or not, one must consider the fact that one of the primary motivations of the Palestinian's desire for self-determination is the desire to determine themselves upon the destruction of Israel; or, at the very least, the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state. In the same way, to leave Lebanon is one thing, to leave it in a manner which will not weaken Israel and its detterance capacity is quite another. The Israeli peace movement has never seemed able to understand these contradictions. Thus, perhaps, its tendency to take to the streets rather than the Knesset. The street erases distinctions and emphasizes the reptilian mind of the amorphous mass, for which slogans are solutions and righteous anger an acceptable replacement for the truncated possibilities of political reality.
“In 1967 Israel just blew it,” Yehuda said. “Ben Gurion said to get rid of those territories. No good is going to come out of it. People were overwhelmed with the victory. I don’t think Israel had a choice. Then we ended up with the territories. Nobody forced us to hold onto that and to start a settlement movement there.”Ben-Gurion was ambivalent regarding the territories. He certainly thought that they should be returned, but only in exchange for a viable peace agreement, and he assumed this would be made with Jordan and Egypt, not with a Palestinian nationalist movement predicated on the rejection of Zionism. Moreover, he was totally opposed to the division of Jerusalem, something which I believe most of the Israeli peace movement supports. I also don't think Israel "blew it" in 1967. The issue of the territories, in my view, has to be understood within a shifting historical context. In the 60s and 70s, the territories, in my view, served as something like Jabotinsky's "Iron Wall", a military bulwark against Arab agression. This was, after all, an era in which Israel did not have peace with any Arab countries and was under constant terrorist attack and diplomatically isolated due to the apartheid policies against her in the United Nations. In my opinion, the retention of the terroritories has outlived that role and is now more a threat to Israel's existence as a Jewish state than a safeguarding of it.
“You guys,” I said “think the recent invasion of Lebanon was a mistake?”This isn't entirely true. As far as I can tell from basic observaton, the general feeling here is not that the invasion was a mistake, but rather that it was badly executed and the military-political leadership missed an excellent opportunity to deal Hezbollah a serious military blow. The frustration here is immense, but it is not with the concept of invading Lebanon; rather it is with the Olmert government'a failure of leadership.
They both laughed.
“I think that if you ask most Israelis today in retrospect,” Amichai said, “looking at the results after the month, a large majority thinks it was a mistake.”
“What do you think Israel should have done instead at the beginning?” I said.I agree that the military-political leadership was unprepared for the war. However, I think the general population was well ahead of the leadership and was prepared for the war and also for casualties. I agree that Israel has been weakened by the government's failure and there will be a next round, however, no member of the peace movement has the right to stand aside and claim from a distance that Israel suffers from hubris. If anything, it was the hubris of the peace movement, believing we could leave Lebanon in a pathetic fashion, without an agreement and without the hope of international enforcement, wash our hands of the whole situation and not face serious problems down the road. This is one of the more offensive aspects of the Israeli left in general - you can see it most clearly in their reaction to the failure of Oslo - they tend to make irresponsible and moralistic demands and then, when they are enacted, absolve themselves of all responsibility for the results. I think this is one of the reasons that the peace movement has never managed to gain traction among the majority of Israelis, they are simply refuse to be held accountable for their mistakes. Perhaps this is another reason the movement prefers the streets to the ballot box.
“Knowing Hezbollah,” Yehuda said, “there would have been ample opportunities to launch a strike. If the army would have been better prepared, and if the civilian population would have been prepared. What were these people thinking? What were the circumstances that led people into this kind of train of thought that they thought they could get away with this kind of activity being so ill-prepared. Some kind of hubris that goes way beyond, I mean, this is, from my point of view, this whole war and the results thereof have weakened Israel a great deal. And it almost certainly dictates a second round.”
“I think my criticism of the Israeli government from the very beginning of leaving the Occupied Territories…was not trying to strengthen the moderates. If Israel would have made gestures of support to Abu Mazen and tried to strengthen the moderate wing and engage with him and give the Gaza Strip back to him rather than not have any negotiations with him, I mean, I cannot understand the logic of that. I mean, they strengthened the radicals who have the glory of kicking the Israelis out of the Gaza Strip. Or out of Southern Lebanon. That’s a stupid way of going about it.”Again, we see that the peace movement bases itself on an essential contradiction. On the one hand, strengthen the moderates. On the other hand, strike back, which weakens the moderates. This is not to mention the fact that any moderate strengthened by Israel is immediately going to be seen as a sell out in the pocket of the Israelis. And again, we see the abdication of responsibility. To a great degree, Hezbollah got the "glory" of kicking Israel out because of the peace movement's constant assertion that the occupation of Southern Lebanon was fundamentally immoral and had to be ended whatever the political consequences. The same in regards to Hamas and Gaza. This is not a reflection on the rectitude of these withdrawals, but one does have a right to demand some recognition of obvious consequences from those who presume to deal seriously with politics and war. It is easy to critique. It is much harder to admit to consequences. I supported the Gaza withdrawal. I believe this withdrawal did embolden both Hamas and Hezbollah and - in the short term - damaged Israel's detterance. There is nothing particularly difficult in admitting to the consequences of one's positions. However, there is something immensely dangerous in the hermetic tendencies of those who cannot, and will not, admit any such thing. Until the Israel peace movement can come down from the dream palace of infallibility it has built for itself, it will continue to be isolated in the impotence of the streets and the comfort of facile sureties.
“But if the moderates are strengthened,” I said, “the radicals haven’t gone anywhere. They still have their Kassem rockets. What do you do with these guys? I mean, you can’t just take rocket hits.”
“No,” Amichai said. “You can’t. You have to strike back. You have to strike back.”
Sunday, August 20, 2006
No one here thinks this is over and no one here thinks that the war reached a satisfactory ending. Personally, I feel we were very badly led. Olmert announced goals which he did not have the political will to accomplish. The army relied far too heavily on air power at the beginning of the war and did not move quickly enough to use ground forces. When the army did use ground forces, it did so piecemeal and not in force. More than anything else, the war went on far too long. It should have been finished with overwhelming force and as quickly as possible. This did not happen because of Israel's "Lebanon syndrome", the fear of reinacting the war of 1982 and subsequent occupation. This led to the situation in which Olmert declared military goals which he could not achieve without a massive ground invasion. As a result, he shifted his strategy to a political one. In the end, he accepted a cease fire which is unlikely to hold and has given Hezbollah time to rearm. It also places a UNIFIL force in control of the south which may or may not deal with Hezbollah effectively. If they do, Olmert can claim some kind of a victory. If they do not, and this is the most likely scenario, Olmert will have to face total military and political failure and, of course, another war.
In my opinion, the political leadership is running behind the general sentiment of the Israeli people. The general population was prepared for a major war, including a ground invasion. The leadership miscalculated by believing the opposite: that the Israeli people wanted an effective response that did not include a major ground invasion. In the end, this led to the war being long and costly without achieving any major strategic objectives. The government ended up with the worst of both worlds.
Of course, some diplomatic ground has been gained. Hezbollah has taken the lion's share of the blame for the violence and the "international community" (a dubious collective at best) has taken some measure of responsibility for enforcing its own resolutions regarding the disarmament of Hezbollah. These are all just words, however, and it is likely that Israel will soon have to act, rather than talk, in order to safeguard its national security. I think it is very likely that, when the dust settles, it will likely be a new and more rightwing government which undertakes this task.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Monday, July 31, 2006
Let us speak of Britain. A country which I admire and to which I am related by blood. A country which once ran the greatest empire in the world. Which invented the term "administrative massacre". Which annihilated villages and killed numerous civilians quelling rebellions from Ireland to Iraq to India. Which gave Ireland the Black and Tans, who responded to IRA terror by massacring civilians in a football stadium. Which has, in other words, acted exactly had Israel has in the past, and worse.
The British Independent , for example, published an editorial by Robert Fisk under the title: "How can we stand by and allow this to go on?"
"You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the 'pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime," Fisk said.
"Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbullah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about 'Muslim terror' threatening 'western civilization' as if the Hizbullah had killed all these poor people," he added.
Another British newspaper, the Guardian , also published an editorial titled: "How can 'terrorism' be condemned while war crimes go without rebuke?"
"Washington's partners in this hypocritical war on terror are given free rein to wreak their own brutal, illegal violence. As if we didn't know it already, the conflict in Lebanon shows that truth and war don't mix. All
parties to the tragedy of the Middle East resort to disinformation and historical falsification to bolster their case, but rarely has an attempt to rewrite the past occurred so soon after the fact.
"Israeli ministers and their supporters have justified the bombardment of Lebanon as 'a matter of survival.' Total war has been declared on Israel, so Israel is entitled to use the methods of total war in self-defense. This would be reasonable if it were true, but it isn't. It's completely false.
"The conflict was triggered by a Hizbullah operation in which two Israeli soldiers were captured and three killed. Let's be frank, this wasn't exactly the Tet offensive. It certainly didn't justify Israel's ferocious onslaught against the very fabric of Lebanese society. Yes, the rocket attacks on Haifa are an appalling crime, but they followed rather than preceded Israel's decision to escalate the fighting."
And let us talk of other nations. Of France, for instance, whose actions in the Algerian War make Israeli tactics look like the innocuous play of children. Which responded to the horrendous threat of a Greenpeace protest to its nuclear tests by dispatching its secret service assassins to sink a boat and kill innocent people. Of Germany, we shall not speak. It is not necessary. Perhaps we should mention Russia or China, but that too is unnecessary. Even the history of the United States, lest we forget, has its dark passages.
Or perhaps we should speak of the Arab street, which showed no compunctions about such slaughters as the Munich atrocity, the murder of schoolchildren at Maalot, the hijacking of uncountable airplanes, the suicide bombings of thousands of civilians, a plethora of unprovoked wars whose only cause was genocide.
The outrage of judge-penitents, who condemn the other while exonerating themselves, is an issue beyond sorrow and regret for unnecessary dead. It is an arrestation of truth. The truth that war is random and terrible, and that innocent people die. And that the mere fact of death, and the dealing in death, is not, in and of itself, an indication of absolute moral purity, or corruption. A fact which, in their apologetics for terror and condemnation of Israel's resistance to it, they have themselves silently accepted, and have silently chosen who and what they will exonerate. And who and what they will condemn.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Most of the anti-Semitism comes from racism and most of the racism I have experienced has come from the far right, not the left.The first statement betrays only Drobney's total ignorance of the history and development of antisemitism. The second, however, may or may not be actually true (liberals have a remarkable capacity to ignore political evil in their own camp) but it is very telling. Because I, a generation or more younger than Drobney, have had the exact opposite experience. All the racism I have experienced has come from the far left. And not only the far left. A liberal preacher at Boston University, a Unitarian church member, an anti-war activist, a professor of political science, all liberals or leftists, all made unmistakably antisemitic statements to me personally. What I have witnessed vicariously, through the media and my own studies, is equally absolute. Every single one of the public figures and movements I have witnessed making antisemitic statements are from the left. The only right wing antisemitism I have encountered has been from brain-impaired skinheads and the occasional statement by David Duke. I did not and do not consider these an active threat to my existence. Liberal and leftist antisemitism, on the other hand, howls at us from organizations and institutions which are prominent, effective, well-financed and influential. The rabbis said that in every generation our enemies rise again to attempt our destruction. They were right. But they should also have mentioned that quite often they wear new and very different masks.
Monday, July 24, 2006
So my conclusion is that the bloggers who violently hate Israel and see it in black and white terms are not really liberals. They may even be anti-Semites, but they are not representative of the liberal community that was so active in achieving racial and ethnic equality. It is a contradiction for a true liberal to be an anti-Semite. Furthermore, I would not put it past the right wing to flood the liberal blogs with hateful criticisms of Israel to advance a perception that liberals are anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. And I see Karl Rove's fingerprints all over this.To use layman's terms: bullshit. Antisemitism is not only representative of the "liberal community," it is the essence of liberalism itself. Liberalism is a bid for power first, and an ideology second. Its advocacy of racial and ethnic equality is, in fact, an expression of the imperialism inherent in liberal universalism. Liberalism must expand, its ambitions are total. Its desire is not, in fact, to make all peoples equal, but to make all peoples liberal. Its desire is not to equalize, but to conquer. When peoples are not liberal, they must be destroyed. This is not confined to antisemitism. Witness the brutal and inhuman racism directed at black and Hispanic conservatives. But in the case of the Jews, we have an absolute rejectionism.
The reason is that liberalism must seek to annihilate the Jews because the very fact of Jewish existence is, in the end, a rejection of the metaphysical totalitarianism at the heart of liberalism. Judaism is particular, rooted in place, uncompromising in its pride and its belief in its unique and divinely connected existence. This is called Chosenness. I am at best an agnostic, but I do not deny Chosenness. It is a fact of history. Albert Camus wrote that "a mission exists for any human group which knows how to derive pride and fecundity from its labors and its sufferings." He was speaking of the working class. He could easily be speaking of the Jewish people. This too is Chosenness. In the eyes of liberalism, this is not only offensive, but an existential threat.
This principle was summed up by the avatars of the French revolution, who proclaimed that the glorious new order of reason would grant everything to the Jew as a citizen and nothing to the Jews as a people. In other words, for the Jew who is not a Jew, everything. For the Jew who is a Jew, who willfully embraces the ephemeral architectures that make him a Jew, nothing. The reason is obvious. It is rooted in the essentially destructive nature of liberalism. Liberalism is based on the rejection of all connections or values beyond the material. We are all human beings, we are all flesh and blood, and this is our only legitimate value. The architectures of the past which make us human are demolished by liberalism, and those who hold to them are considered enemies of the one true faith. Thus, liberalism becomes an inquisition dedicated to the reduction of man to the biological. The medieval Inquisition named its justification the immortal soul. Liberalism calls it equality. It is still, ultimately, only another name for the will to power. And the destruction of those who would stand in the way of its absolute consummation.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Saturday, July 22, 2006
At any rate, even Chomsky can't seem to bring himself to defend Hezbollah with any passion. His embrace of its leaders just a short time ago seems to have lost its charm. Who knew? Of course, he does manage to blame it all on Israel.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah. Well, he's correct that hundreds of rockets have been fired, and naturally that has to be stopped. But he didn't mention, or maybe at least in this comment, that the rockets were fired after the heavy Israeli attacks against Lebanon, which killed -- well, latest reports, maybe 60 or so people and destroyed a lot of infrastructure. As always, things have precedents, and you have to decide which was the inciting event. In my view, the inciting event in the present case, events, are those that I mentioned -- the constant intense repression; plenty of abductions; plenty of atrocities in Gaza; the steady takeover of the West Bank, which, in effect, if it continues, is just the murder of a nation, the end of Palestine; the abduction on June 24 of the two Gaza civilians; and then the reaction to the abduction of Corporal Shalit. And there's a difference, incidentally, between abduction of civilians and abduction of soldiers. Even international humanitarian law makes that distinction.Not a word, of course, about the Kassams which have been fired on a daily basis from Gaza into Israeli towns, such as Sderot, where one of my best friends lives. Nor the fact that these missiles have been fired for years without a significant Israeli response. Nor the fact that the very presence of Hezbollah on the northern border is a violation of international law and UN Resolution 1559, which has yet to be enforced. International law, it seems, is only of interest to Chomsky when it serves his purposes. Chomsky's breezy dismissal of Iranian involvement in this, despite the use of Iranian missiles by Hezbollah, is hardly surprising. The good professor, as I have noted below, seems determined to allow Iran the time to develop nuclear weapons whatever the cost. Chomsky's denials regarding the Iran-Syra connection are especially fascinating, since this connection is common knowledge in Lebanon and the Arab world at large. The only groups, in fact, who are bothering to deny it are Iran, Syria, and the Western left. Chomsky appears to abrogate to himself the right to engage in pro-Arab propaganda even when it is not pro-Arab, that is, even when the Arab states themselves reject it. No one, it appears, who murders Israelis or Americans can possibly be guilty of anything.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what that distinction is?
NOAM CHOMSKY: If there's a conflict going on, aside physical war, not in a military conflict going on, abduction -- if soldiers are captured, they are to be treated humanely. But it is not a crime at the level of capture of civilians and bringing them across the border into your own country. That's a serious crime.
And that's the one that's not reported. And, in fact, remember that -- I mean, I don't have to tell you that there are constant attacks going on in Gaza, which is basically a prison, huge prison, under constant attack all the time: economic strangulation, military attack, assassinations, and so on. In comparison with that, abduction of a soldier, whatever one thinks about it, doesn't rank high in the scale of atrocities.
One must assume that Chomsky is citing the instance of kidnapping civilians to refer to Israel's Hezbollah prisoners. This is apparently, the crime "that's not reported", due no doubt to the extraordinary powers of the Zionist conspiracy. Of course, if Hezbollah's war against Israel is legitimate, as Chomsky claims, then those are prisoners of war and not kidnapped civilians. If Hezbollah's war is not legitimate, than Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and, again, Israel's taking of prisoners is legitimate. To Chomsky, of course, the taking of Hezbollah prisoners is illigitimate because it was done by Israel. When adhering to racist double standards one really ought to have the courage to admit to it and not hide behind facile and cowardly pretensions to a hypocritical universalism.
Chomsky is, of course, correct that abducting civilians is different from abducting soldiers. Abducting soldiers is a casus belli, a case for war. To acknowledge this, "whatever one thinks about it", would, of course, demand that Chomsky acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel's military operations. Including those undertaken before the missile attacks. Attacks which are, since they deliberately target civilians, also a blatant violation of international law. Instead, we must be satisfied, it appears, that, like mass murder on the part of leftist regimes, Chomsky considers abducting soldiers to be "not high on the list of atrocities."
Still, it is telling that despite Chomsky's recent hugs and kisses with the Hezbollah leadership, he spends most of his time talking about Gaza. An issue which is, to say the least, not of great significance at the moment. Perhaps even political evil's foremost apologist has, for the moment, run out of excuses for terrorism and mass murder. Give him some time.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The clashes occurred as the IDF significantly expanded its ground operations in southern Lebanon on Thursday, sending in thousands of troops. Air assaults against Hezbollah targets also continued throughout the day.And we didn't get Nasrallah yesterday. Here's the proof, courtesy of LGF.
Kofi Annan really needs to return that Nobel Peace Prize. Its becoming embarrassing for all involved.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
From an unnamed Arab ruler:How accurate any of these are, I don't know. But according to foreign ministry officials quoted in the article they are not surprising or unusual. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.
"I support your actions in Lebanon felt the need to inform you at this hour. You must continue to the end. Many in the Arab world support you." (Literally: "Many sources in the Arab world clasp fingers with you.")
"Continue your military attacks until you erase Hezbollah."
"You will do a great good to Lebanon and to the entire region if you assassinate Nasrallah."
"All who define themselves as moderate clasp hands with you."
"Only Israel has the courage to stand against this man [Nasrallah]."
Without mentioning Hezbollah by name Saudi Arabia blamed certain “elements” inside Lebanon for the violence with Israel and said “it is necessary to make a distinction between legitimate resistance and uncalculated adventures adopted by certain elements within Lebanon without the knowledge of legal Lebanese authorities.” While reiterating its support for Palestinian and Lebanese resistance against Israeli occupation, Saudi Arabia has clearly said it is against irresponsible adventures undertaken by certain elements in the region without consulting the legal authorities putting all Arab nations at risk. The Kingdom has also said “these elements must take responsibility for their irresponsible actions and they alone should end the crisis created by them.”From the Arab Times of all places. Is it possible that the "Arab street" is finally getting tired of its dream of wiping us out? Or is this simply the natural schizophrenia of war?
This angry response from Saudi Arabia has politically isolated Hezbollah and Hamas besides holding them responsible for their actions. This attitude of Saudi Arabia, which has been doing all it can to protect the Arab world from Israeli aggression, is enough to unmask the adventurers, who have violated the rights of their own countries and tried put their people under the guardianship of foreign countries like Iran and Syria. A battle between supporters and opponents of these adventurers has begun, starting from Palestine to Tehran passing through Syria and Lebanon. This war was inevitable as the Lebanese government couldn’t bring Hezbollah within its authority and make it work for the interests of Lebanon. Similarly leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has been unable to rein in the Hamas Movement.
Unfortunately we must admit that in such a war the only way to get rid of “these irregular phenomena” is what Israel is doing. The operations of Israel in Gaza and Lebanon are in the interest of people of Arab countries and the international community.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
The greatest mistake Israel could make at the moment is to forget that Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now. Israel fights Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south, but its most formidable enemy is history itself.This is, of course, a mythology which has, at times, been echoed on the Israeli left and among the "New Historians", such as Benny Morris. It is, nonetheless, wholly racist and rather obviously so.
The mythology states, in effect, that there is no history but Arab history. There is no history but Muslim history. Zionism (and Zionism is what he is talking about here) is an alien force. A bizarre, demiurgical act of violence against the natural development of human events. I must emphasize the artificiality of this mythos. History is not natural. That is, the very idea of history as a natural development, operating under reasonable and autonomous rules, is itself a human creation. It is the Kantian a priori we require to understand the chaotic reality of events. As soon as this architecture of thought takes on the aspect of divinity, and this is what Cohen grants to it, it becomes a weapon, and not a means of knowledge.
What Cohen has accepted is a history as a weapon. A mythos as a weapon. This architecture denies Zionism because it must. Because if history is Arab, or history is Muslim, then history cannot also be Jewish. That is, there cannot be a history of the Jewish people or a Jewish people which acts within history and upon which history acts. This denial ends in the exile of Zionism. In an apartheid history which creates a metaphysical ghetto whose doors are locked upon the Jewish people. We are made unnatural, alien, and perverse. A mistake.
I know what Zionism is. It is difficult to express and even more difficult to explain. I leave it to better writers than myself. Over half a century ago German-Jewish intellectual Walter Benjamin, on the eve of his suicide in the face of inevitable Nazi capture, wrote the following:
A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.This storm is also Jewish history. And the Angel's desire, the desire to awaken the dead, to make whole the catastrophe, this is Zionism. It is the structure of catastrophe formed by these ever mounting debris which makes our history, which demands a reckoning with those who would deny us. Who would return us to the ghettos of history. It is this denial, this rape of history in the name of history, which finds its expression in the mythology which Mr. Cohen has so lamentably chosen to accept.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
So far none of the Hebrew media is reporting this. I'm inclined to think its false.
Apparently there was a brief incursion today but no major ground forces were deployed.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, let me take you back to a warm summer's day in Beirut 32 years ago -- exactly this very significant day for you and your people -- the 14th of July, 1974. I want to describe the scene to you and to my Lebanese colleague. Cafes and bars bustling with young people, beaches filled with happy holiday-makers -- the Switzerland of the Middle East.
How different this scene is from the one on Beirut streets today, 32 years later. But this difference did not start this week or last year. The difference started only one year after the scene I just described, in 1975, when the Lebanese began their long dissent into oppression, depression and terror. This is a country that has been held hostage for more than 32 years by tyrants from the north and terrorists in the south, a country whose fun-loving, business-minded entrepreneurial and liberal population has been tormented by decades of oppression, sectarian strife, fundamentalist violence, religious conflict, Syrian control, political assassinations, terror, and full- fledged civil war...
In May 2000, Israel took the painful and politically difficult decision to fully withdraw from southern Lebanon, having been compelled a few years earlier to establish a security zone there in order to prevent terrorist attacks and rocket-shelling from Lebanon into Israeli towns and villages. This council acknowledged Israel's complete withdrawal from southern Lebanon and its full compliance with Security Council Resolution 425 in a presidential statement on June 18th, 2000.
This was Lebanon's moment of truth. Would its government look inward and free its people from the stranglehold of terror, or would it allow its territory to become a base from which Hezbollah terrorists would launch attacks against Israeli civilians.
Tragically, Mr. President, the Lebanese government chose the latter.
The Lebanese government got a second chance after the partial implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which resulted in the withdrawal of most Syrian forces from Lebanese territory. Again, this council and the entire world were waiting to see how Lebanon would respond to this historic opportunity. Yet again, unfortunately, the Lebanese government chose to succumb to terror rather than vanquish it, to let its southern region be occupied by terrorism rather than disarm it, and to relinquish control over its country rather than exercise its full sovereignty.
Seldom before has the description of a people as never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity been so apt. Lebanon sadly did not heed the demands of the international community and did not obey the repeated resolutions of this aghast council. Today, sadly, the Lebanese people are burying the costs of this inaction and ineptitude.
Mr. President, two days ago Hezbollah terrorists, operating with impunity in southern Lebanon, unleashed a sudden and unprovoked attack into Israeli territory. Scores of Katyusha rockets rained down on Israeli towns and villages, causing many civilian casualties. In the midst of this horrific assault, Hezbollah terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing a number of soldiers and kidnapping two more, who were taken deep into the terrorist stronghold of southern Lebanon. Israel had no choice but to react, as would indeed any other responsible, democratic government.
Having shown unparalleled restraint for six years while bearing the brunt of countless attacks, Israel had to respond to this absolutely unprovoked assault, whose scale and depth was unprecedented in recent years.
Let me emphasize this indisputable fact -- Israel's actions were in direct response to an act of war from Lebanon. Although Israel holds the government of Lebanon responsible, it is concentrating its response carefully, mainly on Hezbollah strongholds, positions and infrastructure.
The hundreds of Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon in the last few days demonstrate the magnitude of the immense arsenal of rockets and weapons that Hezbollah has amassed over the last few years, a danger we have repeatedly warned against. Many of the long-range missiles that have hit Israeli towns, including Nahariya, Safed, Rosh Pina, and the port city of Haifa, were launched from private homes, with families residing inside, where a special room was designated as a launching pad, with a family playing host to the missile. This is yet another example of the cynical and brutal way the Hezbollah organization uses civilians as human shields, with complete disregard for human life.
Mr. President, over the last 48 hours, more than 500 Katyushas and mortar shells were fired into the northern part of Israel, killing two civilians and wounding hundreds more, among them women and children. Israeli civilians and eight soldiers have been killed, hundreds have been wounded.
It is very important for the international community to understand that while Hezbollah executes this vicious terrorism, it is merely the finger on the bloodstained, long-reaching arms of Syria and Iran. Hezbollah, together with Hamas, Syria and Iran, comprise the world's new and ominous axis of terror, an infamous club -- infamous club, the entry fee to which is the blood of innocents and the terrorizing of the entire world.
Membership to this club requires an unfathomable capacity for evil. The president of Iran has repeatedly denied the Holocaust, while gleefully preparing the next one. Many of the long-range missiles fired into Israel in recent days were Iranian missiles, made by the same regime that is now trying to possess nuclear weapons, the same region that is funding Hezbollah to the sum of $100 million a year.
Do we dare to ask ourselves how many families in Lebanon today are being prepared to house dirty bombs and other weapons of mass destruction courtesy of Iran?
Syria, another member of this club, is a well-known protector and financier of terrorist organizations, playing host to them in its capital, Damascus. The Syrian government, which still regards Lebanon as "southern Syria," works ceaselessly to undermine all efforts towards a peaceful future in the region.
Lebanon is today occupied by terror, whether in the south, where it is directed at Israel, or in Beirut, where it kills opponents of Syria and former prime ministers. The real occupying power in Lebanon is terror, terror instigated by Hezbollah, but initiated, funded and perpetrated by Syria and Iran.
The Lebanese government, having missed so many chances in the past, at such a horrendous cost to its people, today has another chance to free itself from the stranglehold of terror, another chance, Mr. President, to release itself from the evil control of Syria and the deadly influence of Iran, and deploy its forces in the south, exercising its sovereignty over a free Lebanon.
Mr. President, there are words that speak far louder and clearer than anything I can voice today. These are voices of Lebanese -- brave, patriotic Lebanese parliamentarians and ministers who, just over the last two days, have cried out to all of us from the brink of the abyss in their beloved country. Let me quote some of these courageous statements to you.
The words of Lebanon's communications minister, Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, only yesterday saying that -- and I quote -- "Damascus gives the orders, Iran supplies the equipment, Israel reacts, and Lebanon is the victim."
Or the words of Alias Attala (sp), a Lebanese politician representing the majority of its parliamentary members, and I quote, "We welcome any Arab and international support, but strongly oppose any enforced involvement of Lebanon by regional players' considerations" -- a reference to Syria and Iran -- "that are not within the interests of the Lebanese people, for the sole attempt to achieve opportunistic benefits at the expense of the Lebanese people. The Syrian regime indulges itself in teaching Lebanon and Palestine lessons according to its own interests through these peoples. Why do those who always protect their regime express understanding of its reasons and preferences and do not express any understanding of Lebanon's reasons and preferences?"
Or the words of an unnamed Lebanese minister who said, again only yesterday, and I quote, "The Hezbollah has not only kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, it has taken the whole of Lebanon hostage," end quote.
Mr. President, with your permission I would like to make a personal appeal to my esteemed Lebanese colleague.
Your Excellency, you know deep down that if you could you would add your own brave voice to those voices of your brave compatriots and colleagues. You know deep in your heart that if you could you would be sitting here right next to me right now because you know that we are doing the right thing, and that if we succeed, Lebanon will be the beneficiary. And I believe that most members around this table, as well as many in this chamber, including our neighbors, realize this reality.
Mr. President, this council and the international community have a duty today to help the Lebanese people achieve the goal of a free, prosperous, democratic Lebanon. The sad and tormented life of this war-torn land has today entered another sad chapter in its history. It is up to every one of us to help right this chapter to ensure that this opportunity is seized not only for the benefit of the Lebanese and Israeli people, but for the sake of generations to come.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Friday, July 14, 2006
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
A near-meltdown seems to be imminent over Iran and its nuclear programmes.Chomsky, of course, loathes Henry Kissinger as only a Jewish antisemite can loathe another Jew; especially when said Jew manages to be successful in precisely the arena in which the antisemite has the most unjustified and yet vociferous pretensions to expertise. We are bound to point out the rather obsequious obvious: Namely, that anyone in their right mind wishes an allied state to be stronger than an enemy state. And that, moreover, to ensure such a situation is the sworn duty of any Secretery of State. Chomsky, as ought to be clear, desires America's enemies to be stronger than its friends, since such an imbalance holds out the possibility of America's destruction. But, as with all courageous intellectuals who speak truth to power, he lacks the courage to say that openly. This refusal to acknowledge blatent implications extends to the most salient of Chomsky's denials: the nature of the Iranian regime.
Before 1979, when the Shah was in power, Washington strongly supported these programmes. Today the standard claim is that Iran has no need for nuclear power, and therefore must be pursuing a secret weapons programme.
Thirty years ago, however, when Kissinger was secretary of state for President Gerald Ford, he held that "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran’s economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals". Last year Dafna Linzer of the Washington Post asked Kissinger about his reversal of opinion. Kissinger responded with his usual engaging frankness: "They were an allied country."
Iranians are surely not as willing as the West to discard history to the rubbish heap. They know that the United States, along with its allies, has been tormenting Iranians for more than 50 years, ever since a US-UK military coup overthrew the parliamentary government and installed the Shah, who ruled with an iron hand until a popular uprising expelled him in 1979.There was, of course, an undeniable popular uprising against the Shah. There was also a coup d'etat on the part of a theocratic minority that destroyed all collaborators in the uprising excepting itself and installed a totalitarian Islamist government. Chomsky rather desperately erases this essential event. In fact, Chomsky spends a total of seventeen paragraphs explicating his stentorian opinions on the Iran nuclear crisis without mentioning even once the nature of the Iranian regime. This is an omission of convenience, no doubt, but it is so immense in its implications that omission becomes a meaningless evasion: it is, in fact, a despicable and extraordinary lie. It is an essential lie, however, as it allows Chomsky to evade, for instance, the series of protests which have intensified over the past several years against the Iranian regime. All brutally put down by its theocratic rulers and completely ignored by self-styled guardians of human rights such as Noam Chomsky. But its true meaning is as a granting of indulgences to what inevitably follows.
There are ways to mitigate and probably end these crises. The first is to call off the very credible US and Israeli threats that virtually urge Iran to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrent. A second step would be to join the rest of the world in accepting a verifiable Fissban treaty, as well as ElBaradei’s proposal, or something similar.It is, of course, pointless to mention that it is not Israel which has threatened Iran but quite the opposite. Indeed, violating every principle of Chomsky's precious international law (which is, for Chomsky, merely a tool of his own hypocrisy) Iran has threatened Israel with genocide. Chomsky generally claims to disapprove of genocide, although we must grant that he shown himself remarkably sanguine on the subject so long as the correct ethnic/religious/political group is being slaughtered. We all, apparently, have our little contradictions. Nonetheless, this deliberate ommission clearly does not strengthen his case. In fact, it rather ungenerously points to its absurdity. A man with a good case to make does not need to engage in lies in order to justify it. Chomsky, as per usual, admits the paucity of his opinions by way of the method by which he justifies them. Such is the cost of an engaging lack of frankness.
Nor are we prone to granting much credence to Chomsky's other proposals. He claims, for instance, that negotiations will be sufficient to allieviate the crisis. This ignores, of course, the apocalyptic nature of Iran's ruling ideology, as well as the precedents of history. Chomsky's legendery genius has apparently failed to appreciate the example, for instance, of North Korea, which made several "good faith" agreements regarding its nuclear program only to announce (as any anti-Chomskyite could have predicted) that they had violated them all and produced nuclear weapons. At which point, of course, there was nothing anyone could do about it short of nuclear war. This is, apparently, and despite his claimed horror of nuclear apocalypse, of little concern to Chomsky. The capacity for Armageddon appears to be of little consequence to Chomsky so long as it is in the correct hands. In the hands, that is to say, of those who are enemies of the United States and are therefore prone to attempting to use said capacity against the America Chomsky loathes. Or the Israel Chomsky loathes. The two countries are, in any event, almost interchangeable in Chomsky's mind.
What all this blubbering points us to, however, is a true intention. What Chomsky wants for Iran is not a peaceful solution (because he obviously knows, judging by his deliberate omission of it, that the nature of Iran's regime precludes the possibility of a peaceful solution) but time. Which is, of course, precisely what Iran is playing for. Chomsky wants talks without threat of sanction and agreements with no possibility of enforcement. Without the credible threat of military consequences, such would be the conditions of any talks or agreements. What this amounts to, in other words, in the case of Iran is several more years in which to develop its nuclear program. Chomsky is either a fool (which he may well be) or he knows this already. If the latter is true, then we may assume that Chomsky's role is not that of observer but that of collaborator. What he desires is, essentially, to do everything possible to insure that nuclear powers hostile to the United States and Israel, governed by regimes mad enough to make use of said nuclear power, will come into existence with as little harassment as possible. Hegemony or survival indeed.