Saturday, December 31, 2005

Some Completely and Utterly Shameless Self-Promotion

Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite has been nominated for Best Overall Blog in the 2005 Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards. My sincere thanks to those of you who took the time to put my name into contention, as well as to all who have been reading this blog. The list of nominees is here, and the rules for voting in the next two rounds are here. Preliminary voting will be from January 9th - 19th. Of course, its an honor just to be nominated...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Munich Follies

A review of Munich over at Slate magazine has only heightened my apprehensions over the film and what it may represent for the American-Jewish zeitgeist. I personally cannot stand people who condemn films without having seen them, so I am withholding judgment on Munich until I have seen it, just as I have written nothing on The Passion of the Christ and likely never will, since I intend never to see it (mainly because I have no desire to see two hours of a crucifixion, probably the most vile method of execution man ever invented). However, David Edelstein’s review of the film represents one of those truly extraordinary moments of collective dissonance which requires comment.
Rapidly overtaking the "Cinema of Revenge" is the "Cinema of Revenge with a Guilty Conscience"—i.e., "My people got even and all I got was this dumb hair shirt."

What's the reason for this post-9/11, self-critical twist on the thriller genre's beloved scenarios of injury and retaliation? Maybe it's that the recent consequences of such thinking have been so catastrophic: that despite invading two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), quickly overthrowing their governments, and inflicting massive casualties on their populations, the enemy's resistance has, if anything, grown more tenacious; and that our ally Israel, among the world's most reflexively vindictive nations, hasn't managed with its instantaneous reprisals to stanch the flow of blood. At this juncture, to make the movies we always have, the ones that revel in righteous brutality, would not only be socially irresponsible. It would be delusional.
There are two things going on here. One is “delusional” as the author states, the other is morally and spiritually bankrupt. Nor, indeed, can we ignore the unmistakable wretchedness of Jewish self-hatred lurking behind these paragraphs.

The delusional is fairly obvious. For this author, there is only invasion, overthrow and the absurd rhetorical onanism represented by the phrase “inflicting massive casualties on their populations”. There is no mention of the danger of terrorism, the danger of Middle Eastern totalitarianism, the unspeakably brutal nature of the overthrown regimes, nor the obvious and unfortunately inconvenient fact that the lion’s share of the “massive casualties” suffered by the populations of Afghanistan and Iraq were, in fact, inflicted by their own governments. The enemy’s resistance (I have neither the time nor the inclination to parse Edelstein’s ridiculous usage of this term to describe people whose primary method of “resistance” appears to be “resisting” innocent and unarmed people by slaughtering them en masse) has proven so tenacious that Al Queda is now forced to rely on incompetent surrogates to carry out operations in a Europe whose security networks have not, as yet, mobilized to meet its threat. It has, furthermore, completely failed to stop the Iraqi people’s obvious desire for democracy nor their resolution to act upon it. The “resistance”, in fact, has proven to be capable of doing only one thing tenaciously, and that is murder its own co-religionists in large numbers.

I am not arguing here that the War on terror has been a complete success. I am arguing only that to engage in the type of self-flagellating and flagrantly dishonest doom-mongering at work in these paragraphs is to be not merely socially irresponsible and, yes, delusional, but to commit a fundamental violation of that amorphous thing we like to call truth, or perhaps, simple honesty.

I do not wish to engage in armchair psychology, but the description of Israel as “the world’s most reflexively vindictive nation” cannot help but appear amusing to someone who lives in a country which has spent much of the last decade making concessions to its most existential enemy. Nor can someone like myself, who has seen the results of Palestinian terror firsthand, possibly take the assertion that it has “failed to stanch the flow of blood” with any real seriousness. I remember when bombs were going off here every other day. Bombs still go off, on very great and regrettable occasion. But there can be no doubt in the mind of anyone who lives here that Israel’s military policy has been massively successful in interdicting and preventing terrorism against its citizens. The reckless distortion of facts is undoubtedly the homage delusion pays to reality.

But what we are really arguing here is that which is never mentioned, the question of Jewish self-flagellation. Because the true issue at stake is the idea of “an eye for an eye”, “ayin tachat ayin” as the Torah, untranslated, puts it. Edelstein is invoking a Christian ethos against the Jewish, and engaging in the exacting sureties familiar to anyone who has ever been openly Jewish in leftist circles. It is the brand of Uncle Tomism which we have all played from time to time. Namely, the desire to swallow whole the mythos of another and to remake it as our own. In this, we betray our own ignorance of ourselves.

I say this because Edelstein clearly does not understand the phenomenon which he terms “vindictive”, and can conceive of it only as a mythos of revenge. In fact, what we are speaking of here is not vengeance but justice. Or rather, of the role of vengeance in justice. As the great French-Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas pointed out, the concept of “an eye for an eye”, according to the Jewish commentaries, is one of compensation and thus equalization. As opposed to the Christian metaphysic, which demands forgiveness, Jewish Law conceives of violence as an act of violation and thus domination. As such, it demands a recompense, or the world is lost. Forgiveness in such a situation is simply submission. It is the acceptance of injustice. To say that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” is to miss the point and to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, to forgive one who takes the eye of another is to accept his act. To normalize it. Thus guaranteeing that the world will indeed be blind, except, of course, for the most ruthless, the most cruel, and the most opportunistic among us. Vengeance, therefore, properly undertaken, is integral to justice, and cannot be separated from it. This plays into a further commentary, from the Midrash, to the effect that the world was created three times. Once upon the principle of justice, once on the principle of mercy, and once upon both principles together. Only the third world could stand, the others instantly destroyed themselves. Thus, justice cannot exist without mercy nor mercy without justice. To sacrifice one to the other is to destroy the world. Thus, the existence, the necessity of Law, which, as we are told, is one of the pillars upon which stands the world itself. For, contrary to the ignorant attacks of its critics, the principle of an eye for an eye in fact limits the realm of reprisal. A man whose eye is taken cannot justly take the life of his attacker. The establishment of equal compensation ensures our humanity. This principle meets its limit, of course, only in the realm of murder, because against murder there can be no compensation. Therefore, vengeance is at its height in the realm of murder. It is worth noting that, while Judaism heavily regulates the death penalty, it nowhere rejects it outright, for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, even here, in the hinterlands of possible justice, for there can be no true justice for the dead, the Law does not fear to tread.

But those of us who have accepted the negation of our creeds without even knowing them do fear to tread this wasteland. We prefer instead to intone pieties about the futility of vengeance even as, in doing so, we annihilate ourselves. The results are now universally known. It is accepted as obvious, for instance, that the acceptable response to occupation is the murder of children and innocent adults. This is called “an understandable result of…” It is also accepted that to assassinate those who plan and carry out such murders is an abomination. Against this we must raise the apparently shocking assertion that forgiveness taken to its extremes goes mad, and becomes the acceptance of murder. That there is no such thing as a cycle of violence, there is, rather, the man who violates and the man who demands restitution, and that to choose submission is to already submit to the death of the world. Five hundred years of human progress has apparently brought us to an unfortunate and depressing duality. On the one side, an eye for an eye. On the other, the belief that some have earned the right to murder others. You may choose for yourself which of the two represents the delusional.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Eighth Wonder of the World

I just saw the new King Kong, and I must say I wasn't very impressed. I've posted on it over at Gefen. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Memeing It

I couldn't resist. Courtesy of Atlantic Blog.

1. My uncle once: took me for a ride in a prop plane.
2. Never in my life: have I made love to more than one woman at the same time (well, I didn't go to college in America...)
3. When I was five: I started reading.
4. High School is: the only modern institution for which failure is an existential necessity.
5. My parents are: extraordinarily bourgeois.
6. I once met: Scotty from Star Trek.
7. There's this girl I know who: can undo buttons with her teeth.
8. Once, at a bar: I was complimented on my genitalia.
9. Last night: I crashed.
10. Next time I go to church: will be the first time. Next time I go to synagogue, however, watch out…
11. When I turn my head left, I see: a stack of notebooks containing many things I should have typed up months ago.
12. When I turn my head right, I see: a series of black and white photographs I took during a trip to the Old City of Jerusalem.
13. How many days until my birthday?: not enough.
14. If I was a character written by Shakespeare I'd be: Hamlet. The readiness is all.
15. By this time next year: I hope to working on my second degree in Jerusalem.
16. A better name for me would be: none. I love my name. My last name on the other hand…
17. I have a hard time understanding: Maimonides.
18. If I ever go back to school I: will have graduated from the school I’m attending now.
19. You know I like you if: I gesticulate violently and yell in your presence.
20. If I won an award, the first person I'd thank would be: God. That's what they all do, isn't it?
21. Take my advice: never take a Jewish woman for granted.
22. My ideal breakfast is: mallawach with honey, orange juice, and Turkish coffee (Israelis will understand)
23. If you visit my hometown: run.
24. Why won't someone: produce the screenplay I wrote about Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky?
25. If you spend the night at my house: I hope you like the smell of stale cigarettes.
26. I'd stop my wedding: for nothing and no one.
27. The world could do without: You know who.
28. I'd rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: attend an American university.
29. Paper clips are more useful than: KY Jelly. Massively overrated.
30. If I do anything well, it is: the Copernican reversal.
31. And by the way: Israel’s going to win.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Some Blatant Self-Promotion, part II

Voting on nominations is now open here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Some Blatant Self-Promotion

Any of you faithful anti-Chomskyites who may, perchance, wish to nominate and/or vote for this blog in the upcoming Jewish Israeli Blog Awards may do so starting this Monday, 12th December. All the information is here at the host blog Israelly Cool. Just plantin' seeds...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Deconstructing the Janus-Faced

Pierre Vidal-Naquet, describing Noam Chomsky’s essay in defense of his advocacy on behalf of Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson, noted that it “partakes of a rather new genre in the republic of letters.” Chomsky’s recent letter to the Guardian in regard to Emma Brockes’ critical interview with him must be included in this new genre. A genre demarcated by its extraordinary capacity for Orwellian inversion and brazen disingenuousness. It is, of course, well known that the only thing European leftists enjoy more than hating America is being flagellated for failing to hew sufficiently to the party line; indeed, it is not going too far to say that all radical leftists have at least a bit of the sado-masochist about them; and this is the only reason I can think of for the Guardian's craven capitulation to such an obviously absurd and dishonest screed. The facts of the issue at hand have been dealt with elsewhere, and I prefer to concentrate on the text itself, which is a remarkable case study in Chomskyite duplicity and obfuscation. Chomsky begins by telling us that he is, in fact, completely unconcerned by the article in question, but he is forced to respond due to his altruistic concern for humanity.
It is a nuisance, and a bit of a bore, to dwell on the topic, and I always keep away from personal attacks on me, unless asked, but in this case the matter has some more general interest, so perhaps it’s worth reviewing what most readers could not know. The general interest is that the print version reveals a very impressive effort, which obviously took careful planning and work, to construct an exercise in defamation that is a model of the genre. It’s of general interest for that reason alone...

It was evident from the electronic version that it was a scurrilous piece of journalism. That’s clear even from internal evidence. The reporter obviously had a definite agenda: to focus the defamation exercise on my denial of the Srebrenica massacre. From the character of what appeared, it is not easy to doubt that she was assigned this task. When I wouldn’t go along, she simply invented the denial, repeatedly, along with others.
I will put aside the extraordinary irony of the words "defamation" and "scurrilous" issuing from a man whose entire career constitutes little more than a single, protracted act of scurrilous defamation, since that too is a bit of a bore. I will simply concentrate on the issue at hand. At first glance what is most evident to the reader is the inherently absurd paranoia of what is being said. The Guardian is a newspaper whose ideology and political loyalties are open, well known, and unabashedly leftwing. The idea of this paper's resolutely progressive staff getting together and cooking up a plan to screw Noam Chomsky is material for satire, not an ostensibly serious polemic. Chomsky’s persecution complex is certainly remarkable, he is finding sinister plots even among his allies.

Now for the more serious, or at least the more relatively sane, charge. Chomsky is making only one real accusation here: that his interlocutor, one Emma Brockes, claimed – falsely – that he, Chomsky, denied the fact that there was a massacre in Srebrenica during the Bosnian war. From amidst the usual blizzard of invective, Chomsky invokes only a single fragment of a sentence to support this, so I will quote the ostensibly offending paragraph in full:
This is, of course, what Chomsky has been doing for the last 35 years, and his conclusions remain controversial: that practically every US president since the second world war has been guilty of war crimes; that in the overall context of Cambodian history, the Khmer Rouge weren’t as bad as everyone makes out; that during the Bosnian war the “massacre” at Srebrenica was probably overstated. (Chomsky uses quotations marks to undermine things he disagrees with and, in print at least, it can come across less as academic than as witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.)
As is plain to see, the only thing that is revealed by this quote is Chomsky’s apparent inability to recognize sarcasm; not an unusual vice among men who have grown used to worshipful adoration. Beyond that, Brockes’ irony clearly has a serious intent, that is, to point out the nature of Chomsky’s discourse; which is to say, arrogant, dismissive, and utterly indifferent to the suffering of other human beings. Her point is both well taken and no surprise to those of us who have read Chomsky’s work.

But what follows is truly extraordinary.
The printed version reveals how careful and well-planned the exercise was, and why it might serve as a model for the genre. The front-page announcement of the interview reads: “Noam Chomsky The Greatest Intellectual?” The question is answered by the following highlighted Q&A above the interview:

Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated?
A: My only regret is that I didn’t do it strongly enough.

It is set apart in large print so that it can’t be missed, and will be quoted separately (as it already has been). It also captures the essence of the agenda. The only defect is that it didn’t happen. The truthful part is that I said, and explained at length, that I regret not having strongly enough opposed the Swedish publisher’s decision to withdraw a book by Diana (not “Diane,” as the Guardian would have it) Johnstone after it was bitterly attacked in the Swedish press. As Brockes presumably knew, though I carefully explained anyway, there is one source for my involvement in this affair: an open letter that I wrote to the publisher, after editors there who objected to the decision, and journalist friends, sent me the Swedish press charges that were the basis for the rejection. In the open letter, readily available on the internet (and the only source), I went through the charges one by one, checked them against the book, and found that they all ranged from serious misrepresentation to outright fabrication. I then took – and take – the position that it is completely wrong to withdraw a book because the press charges (falsely) that it does not conform to approved doctrine. And I do regret that “I didn’t do it strongly enough,” the words Brockes managed to quote correctly. In the interview, whatever Johnstone may have said about Srebrenica never came up, and is entirely irrelevant in any event, at least to anyone with a minimal appreciation of freedom of speech.
I reproduce this passage in full because it may be one of the most fascinating pieces of double discourse ever committed to paper. It is, in fact, a confession disguised as a writ for the defense. A mea culpa in the clothes of a denunciation. It is a necessity here to repeat the substance of Brockes’ actual accusation: that Chomsky openly and publicly praised the work of people who attempted to (falsely) minimize and dismiss the Srebrenica massacre, and that he lent the weight of his reputation to their aid and defense. This is a charge to which Chomsky openly pleads guilty. And not merely openly, but proudly as well. Because there is no defense against Brockes’ charge, Chomsky does not mount one. He chooses instead to engage us in a blizzard of proofs to the effect that he never committed a wrong of which he is not accused. That is to say, he is telling us, clearly and in no uncertain terms, and with immense and unnecessary detail, that he never denied the massacre in Srebrenica. A charge which, I feel I must repeat, was never asserted in the first place.

The truth is, in other words, hiding in plain sight. Chomsky is denying Brockes’ assertion by admitting to it. He did, as he announces with outspoken pride, support people who claimed the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated, and believes, then and now, that their work is of an extraordinary nature. He announces, furthermore, that he proudly protested the withdrawal of a book which, as this article elucidates, engaged in precisely the sort of minimization and dismissal which Brockes is citing. In other words, Noam Chomsky is viciously attacking Emma Brockes while simultaneously acknowledging the truth of her accusations. Vidal-Naquet did not refer to the good professor as “Chomsky the Janus-faced” for nothing.

In the end, the noble cause of free speech (applied with discretion, of course) absolves all sins, as it did for Chomsky’s defense of Robert Faurisson as well. As Vidal-Naquet wrote on that occasion: “The principle he invokes is not what is at stake.” Nor is it at stake now, except for Emma Brockes. Those of us with “a minimal appreciation of free speech” cannot help but be reminded of Hannah Arendt’s quote regarding her attempts to confront Martin Heidegger over his collaboration with Nazism: “He constantly tried the same [tactic]: through endless comparisons and rational elucidations he relativized all particular events, for instance, now also the gas chambers…It is all really just a game.” A tragic game, of course, for some. But not for Noam Chomsky.

This slander/confession constitutes the only substantial assertion Chomsky makes regarding the substance of the interview in question, and it is relevant to note that, even to arrive at this much, one is forced to wade through an ocean of childish insults and paranoiac ravings. In fact, and this is quite telling, Chomsky’s letter says remarkably little about the content of the interview itself. He spends a great deal more time, and displays a remarkable streak of vanity, attacking his photographic representations, which appear to have caused him no end of fuming consternation.
One is a picture of me “talking to journalist John Pilger” (who isn’t shown, but let’s give the journal the benefit of the doubt of assuming he is actually in the original). The second is of me “meeting Fidel Castro.” The third, and most interesting, is a picture of me “in Laos en route to Hanoi to give a speech to the North Vietnamese.”

That’s my life: honoring commie-rats and the renegade who is the source of the word “pilgerize” invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule.

Turn to the Castro picture. In this case the picture, though clipped, is real. As the editors surely know, at least if those who located the picture did 2 minutes of research, the others in the picture (apart from my wife) were, like me, participants in the annual meeting of an international society of Latin American scholars, with a few others from abroad. This annual meeting happened to be in Havana. Like all others, I was in a group that met with Castro. End of second story.
I must point out, once again, that Chomsky freely admits that there is nothing in the least inaccurate or untrue in any of these photographs. Chomsky is, of course, an admirer of John Pilger, whose capacity for paranoia and invective is perhaps exceeded only by Chomsky himself; and the good professor has been publicly carrying the torch for the Castro regime for decades. For instance, an entire chapter of his bestseller 9/11 is taken up with a long rant, totally irrelevant to 9/11, denouncing American resistance to Cuban communism. But, perhaps, we can take comfort in Chomsky’s largely unspoken acknowledgement that there is, at least, something unseemly about palling around with such people. Progress, it appears, has been made.

Chomsky then turns to a long dissertation, as is his wont, on American evils in Vietnam (without, I would note, sparing a single tear for the victims of the North Vietnamese regime he supported – mass murder has never much mattered to him so long as the right people are being killed) until he arrives at this extraordinary paragraph.
The rest of the trip “to Hanoi to give a speech to the North Vietnamese” is a Guardian invention. Those who frequent ultra-right defamation sites can locate the probable source of this ingenious invention, but even that ridiculous tale goes nowhere near as far as what the Guardian editors concocted, which is a new addition to the vast literature of vilification of those who stray beyond the approved bounds.
This is, put bluntly, a conscious and deliberate lie. Chomsky’s speech on North Vietnamese radio is real and is documented here, with further commentary here, as well as in Paul Hollander’s book Political Pilgrims and in David Horowitz and Peter Collier's Destructive Generation. No doubt these qualify as "ultra-right defamation sites", as does this blog and, one imagines, anyone who dares to point out the good professor's tendency towards frequent "ingenious invention". In truth, one doesn’t know whether to be astounded by the brazenness of this falsehood or by the degree of cowardice behind it. If one must shill for totalitarianism one ought to have the courage to own up to it after the fact.

But we are used to Chomsky’s confabulations; they are nothing new, and nothing very surprising. So it is to the Guardian itself that we must direct the lion’s share of our approbation. Had the editors applied the same standards to this letter as Chomsky applies to their reporter, this falsehood alone should have been enough to render Chomsky’s entire letter suspect and unprintable. The cowardice of a man who has spent his life churning out mendacious polemics is nothing compared to the cowardice of men who ought to, and probably do, know better. But we are not finished yet.
So that’s my life: worshipping commie-rats and such terrible figures as John Pilger. Quite apart from the deceit in the captions, simply note how much effort and care it must have taken to contrive these images to frame the answer to the question on the front page.

It is an impressive piece of work, and, as I said, provides a useful model for studies of defamation exercises, or for those who practice the craft. And also, perhaps, provides a useful lesson for those who may be approached for interviews by this journal.
Indeed it does. The lesson is: never question a leftwing icon unless one is prepared to be slandered and lied about by your subject and subsequently abandoned by your editors. The truth, of course, is that there is a great deal more to Noam Chomsky’s life than worshipping commie-rats and terrible John Pilgers, although these are certainly among his major interests. There is also a lifetime of verbose mandarinism on behalf of regimes and movements dedicated to totalitarianism, terror, and mass murder; not to mention more than occasional forays into antisemitism and semi-deranged paranoiac fantasies involving, apparently, even the editors of newspapers sympathetic to Chomsky’s own politics. And, of course, we have writings such as this one, which are, in their own way, masterpieces of lying, dissembling, defamation, and bad faith. The sum total of this life, Noam Chomsky, is most likely the reason Ms. Brockes saw fit to treat you without the fawning deference to which you apparently believe yourself entitled.

So what are we left with, after the smoke and mirrors are cleared away? We are left with a tapestry of slanders, lies both small and large, and a series of deliberate misrepresentations which, taken together, could not qualify as a letter to the editor, let alone stand as the rationale for retracting an article which, while openly critical, nonetheless remains well within the bounds of journalistic ethics. So we are left, ultimately, with a successful act of suppression. With a gaggle of cowards, fanatics, and totalitarian ideologues who have together collaborated to silence a welcome and necessary attempt to expose the truth behind one of the most corrupted intellectual legacies of the last half-century. A victory, in other words, for tyranny.

A certain professor once famously said: “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.” This is, of course, a banality, and thus meaningless. The harsh truth is that the responsibility of the intellectual is to confront political evil and to expose those who embrace it. To resist and not to collaborate. Emma Brockes fulfilled that responsibility by exposing a small measure of the human cost accrued by Chomsky’s lifetime of collaboration. The question now is whether her editors will fulfill theirs by honoring her courage; a possibility which is, I fear, depressingly remote. Chomsky, for his part, may rest easy. He has succeeded, once again, in reducing the dead to a debating point.

Brockes original article, as well as Chomsky's response, can be found at Chomsky's official website.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sharon Drops the Bomb

Ariel Sharon is leaving the Likud Party.  Things over here are about to get very, very interesting.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Guardian Capitulates to Chomskyite Censorship

The Guardian has apparently given in to Chomskyite pressure and withdrawn their critical interview with the good professor. I don’t see anything in this mea culpa that would justify such an act, but the inability of an ostentatiously leftist publication to sustain such a heresy as an actual piece of journalism is hardly much of a surprise. The speed with which the partisans of free thought and inquiry resort to censorship when their sureties are challenged can be absolutely breathtaking. In my opinion, they should have printed the interview and their correction side by side and allowed Brockes a chance to respond. For the record, nothing in Brockes’ article suggested that the Srebrenica massacre was denied, only that certain partisans had claimed it was exaggerated, and that Chomsky had expressed effusive praise of their work. The Guardian appears overly eager to renounce its transgressions, even where none exist. In that context, this line has to be marvelously ironic: “Both Prof Chomsky and Ms Johnstone, who has also written to the Guardian, have made it clear that Prof Chomsky's support for Ms Johnstone, made in the form of an open letter with other signatories, related entirely to her right to freedom of speech.” He said the same thing about Robert Faurisson, and it wasn’t true then either. Free speech, apparently, absolves a multitude of sins; that is, if you’re on the right side of the Chomskyite divide.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

WFB on the Fall of France

William F. Buckley has just written, as per usual, a marvelously verbose and inscrutable commentary on the French riots.  I haven’t written on this subject yet because I wanted to see how the violence would play out, but Buckley pretty much nails the issue much better than I could.  He points out that there is something distinctly French about what is going on here:
President Chirac announced on Thursday that he would not discuss the unrest until after it had been quieted. That condition had the familiar sound of the warden who will not discuss the prisoners' demands until their havoc is done. That is the sensible course to take, but it does not automatically quiet the fervor. If the planted axiom of the protesters is that only revolution can bring progress, then the staunching of revolutionary activity is a step in the wrong direction, capitulationist, defeatist. What, on the other hand, the revolutionists lack is a program concrete enough to give them any sense of satisfactions achievable. In 1959, the objective was pretty plain: the secession of Algeria as a department of France. A hundred and seventy years before, the objective was the overthrow of the monarchy and of a ruling aristocratic class. What would satisfy the existing revolutionaries as a corporate ideal? The elimination of the automobile? If so, it being obvious that that is never going to happen, then the contrapositive needs to be considered: the revolution will be endless. That is formal logic. The French are disposed to violent protesting, as we saw in 1968.
I would differ somewhat with the esteemed Mr. Buckley.  I think radical Islam is clearly a major factor in these riots.  To call them a French intifada is not, I think, very far off the mark.  But one cannot ignore the fact that France has a long and much celebrated history of mayhem and violence.  Moreover, France is a country which is seemingly incapable of facing its history.  To hear most French tell it, French colonialism and the Algerian tragedy never occurred.  An omission made all the more interesting by the fact that the massive Muslim presence in their country as well as the metastasizing strength of the French extreme right are both direct results of the Algerian horror.  Putting that aside, France has always had a romance with endless revolutions, and with the purifying capacities of violence.  Now, however, a virulent form of theological totalitarianism has been added to the mix (before the denunciations begin, I am speaking here of radical, political Islam, and not Islam itself) with consequences which are, at the moment, unforeseeable.  What is most important here is that the claim of the capitulationists, that the riots are purely the result of socio-political dissatisfactions, cannot be sustained.  Many in France are disenfranchised, they are not all rioting.  Nor has rioting in France ever been confined to the disenfranchised (viva ’68!).  Something else, perhaps the French fantasy of an infinitely exportable French culture, perhaps the millenial fantasy of a multicultural utopia, perhaps that particularly French romance with revolution itself, has just been destroyed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Never a Dull Moment...

…in this country.  Socialist Amir Peretz has just taken the leadership of the Labor Party away from perennial loser/darling of the international community Shimon Peres.  Just about anything could happen now, from early elections to a collapse of the unity government, to a broader rightwing coalition.  This may come as a surprise, but I’m not nearly as bothered by this as one might think.  Peretz is a bread and butter socialist, he’s concerned with economic and social equality, but he isn’t a psychopathic peacenik or a pie in the sky one-worlder, although at times he can sound like one.  Folks like Yossi Beilin and Avraham Burg are far more disturbing in terms of security and the peace process.  Fortunately, Burg is out of politics and Beilin is ensconced in Meretz, a leftist wingnut party permanently stuck at around ten Knesset seats.  Now, the prospect of Meretz being part of a leftwing coalition is problematic, but we’re a long way from that.  As for Peretz himself, I do think he would be a disaster for Israel’s economy, but even if he managed to gain the Prime Ministership (which I doubt) he wouldn’t have a wide enough coalition to radically change the country’s economic direction.

The most interesting thing about this is the fact that Peretz is a Sephardi Jew.  This is the first time – with the exception of the short tenure of Benjamin Ben-Eliezer – that the quintessential party of the Ashkenazi elite has had a Sephardi chairman.  Moreover, Peretz is openly the man of “second Israel”, the Israel of the development towns and the poorer sectors of the economy, who have traditionally been Likud voters.  It remains to be seen if Peretz can get second Israel to vote for him, but if he can, it will be a sea change of immense proportions in the makeup and constituency of Israel’s oldest party.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Welcome Anomaly

The longstanding mainstream media tradition of publishing worshipful adorations of Noam Chomsky instead of actual articles and interviews appears to have been broken with the publication of this extraordinary article in – of all places – Britain’s left wing newspaper The Guardian.  Emma Brockes seems to have written herself into history by proving herself the first reporter with enough intelligence and integrity to actually practice real journalism when writing about the good professor and his wretched blubberings.  There’s too much good stuff here to reproduce more than a highlight, but this exchange is absolutely classic:
As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it?

"No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work."

How, I wonder, can journalism be wrong and still outstanding?

"Look," says Chomsky, "there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old-fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think something they reported was false, is outrageous."

They didn't "think" it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law.

But Chomsky insists that "LM was probably correct" and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. "It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong." It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. "And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers."

Eh? Not everyone who disagrees with him is a "fanatic", I say. These are serious, trustworthy people.

"Like who?"

"Like my colleague, Ed Vulliamy."

Vulliamy's reporting for the Guardian from the war in Bosnia won him the international reporter of the year award in 1993 and 1994. He was present when the ITN footage of the Bosnian Serb concentration camp was filmed and supported their case against LM magazine.

"Ed Vulliamy is a very good journalist, but he happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true."

But Karadic's number two herself [Biljana Plavsic] pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity.

"Well, she certainly did. But if you want critical work on the party line, General Lewis MacKenzie who was the Canadian general in charge, has written that most of the stories were complete nonsense."

And so it goes on, Chomsky fairly vibrating with anger at Vulliamy and co's "tantrums" over his questioning of their account of the war. I suggest that if they are having tantrums it's because they have contact with the survivors of Srebrenica and witness the impact of the downplaying of their experiences. He fairly explodes. "That's such a western European position. We are used to having our jackboot on people's necks, so we don't see our victims. I've seen them: go to Laos, go to Haiti, go to El Salvador. You'll see people who are really suffering brutally. This does not give us the right to lie about that suffering." Which is, I imagine, why ITN went to court in the first place.
When all else fails, fall back on sanctimonious name calling.  What a genius.  What an extraordinary mind.  This infantile hypocrite, ladies and gentlemen, is the intellectual conscience of the west.  Kudos to Ms. Brockes and the Guardian for defying a long, shameful tradition and publically exposing the legend as the lie he actually is.

Chomsky Hits Ha'aretz

Well, I thought that the BBC declaring Chomsky the most important intellectual alive was little more than another declaration of the BBC's ideological psychopathology. Apparently, I was wrong. Its gotten Chomsky a five page interview in today's "Musaf" section of Ha'aretz, Israel's most respected and least popular daily newspaper. Ha'aretz is pretty reliably liberal, but "Musaf" is well known for going off the leftwing deep end on a regular basis. The interview doesn't disappoint. Yet another worshipful, kid-gloves, thoroughly ignorant love-fest with the good professor. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the web yet, either in Hebrew or English, but I wrote a letter to the editor that I posted on my Hebrew blog. So, for those of you who read the holy tongue, enjoy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Shocker Out of Iran

Apparently, the president of Iran has come out and said what we all knew he was thinking in the first place. For some reason, Ha’aretz has not considered this worthy of English translation, but for those who read Hebrew, here’s the article. Roughly translated, the esteemed president said: “Israel is a humiliating stain that must be erased off the map. There is no doubt that the new wave of attacks in Palestine will soon erase this stain from the face of the Islamic world.” This charming fellow made his statement before a group of “conservative” (as Ha’aretz puts it) students at a meeting in Tehran entitled “A World Without Zionism” at which the students repeatedly shouted “Death to Israel” and “Death to Americans”. So, the next time someone says we’re paranoid…

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hobsbawm Exalts the Exile

Eric Hobsbawm, whose continued and quite conscious refusal to acknowledge the horrendous toll taken by communism in the twentieth century must mark him as one of the most corrupted intellectuals of our time, has chosen to sound off in praise of the Jewish Diaspora in the London Review of Books. Hobsbawm’s argument is not particularly original, others of his political bent have made the same argument for a century, namely, that exile is both good for the Jews and – perhaps more importantly – good for the world.
The paradox of the era since 1945 is that the greatest tragedy in Jewish history has had two utterly different consequences. On the one hand, it has concentrated a substantial minority of the global Jewish population in one nation-state: Israel, which was itself once upon a time a product of Jewish emancipation and of the passion to enter the same world as the rest of humanity. It has shrunk the diaspora, dramatically so in the Islamic regions. On the other hand, in most parts of the world it has been followed by an era of almost unlimited public acceptance of Jews, by the virtual disappearance of the anti-semitism and discrimination of my youth, and by unparalleled and unprecedented Jewish achievement in the fields of culture, intellect and public affairs. There is no historic precedent for the triumph of the Aufklärung in the post-Holocaust diaspora. Nevertheless, there are those who wish to withdraw from it into the old segregation of religious ultra-Orthodoxy and the new segregation of a separate ethnic-genetic state-community. If they were to succeed I do not think it will be good either for the Jews or for the world.
Now, I don’t think there is any likelihood of the Jews withdrawing from the world anytime soon. In fact, the very existence of Israel as a modern nation-state demands that the Jews engage themselves in the affairs of the non-Jewish world. Nor do I put much confidence in Hobsbawm’s historiography, since he claims that the Diaspora has “shrunk” in the Islamic world without mentioning that this was the result of a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing for which the Jews of those countries have yet to be compensated. As for the “unlimited public acceptance of Jews” and the “disappearance of anti-Semitism”, this is simply a ridiculous assertion. Antisemitism is at a historically unprecedented level in the Islamic world and swiftly metastasizing in Europe. The only country where antisemitism has not substantially risen over the last few years – with the exception of extreme leftist circles – is the United States, a country for which Hobsbawm has expressed little sympathy over the years.

Hobsbawm’s dislike for the facts of history – odd for a historian – is less telling than the fact that, as even a cursory reading of this article reveals, he is not writing what he says he is writing. That is, Hobsbawm is not writing in praise of Diaspora, but rather in praise of assimilation. He is not writing about the achievements of Judaism in exile, but rather about the achievements accrued by the cessation of Jewish identity. Hobsbawm openly admits that he is interested only in the final two hundred years of the Diaspora – from the Empancipation to the Holocaust – and barely mentions the two thousand years of exile that preceded the end of the 18th century. He dismisses the Talmud and its attendant commentaries – the greatest accomplishment of the Diaspora, and a thoroughly unique cultural and religious achievement – does not mention the Kabbalah at all, ignores Maimonides – who was an Einstein before Einstein but who also, unfortunately in Hobsbawm’s eyes, did not abandon his faith in order to engage the outside world – and damns with faint praise the history of Halachic and exegetical thought which constitutes the lion’s share of Diaspora cultural and literary achievement. Nor does he mention the flowering of Hebrew poetry in the aftermath of the exile from Spain, nor the Hasidic movement. Even more interesting, he makes no mention at all of certain inconvenient phenomena of the period he is praising. There is scant mention of the development of Yiddish literature, the revival of Hebrew, or the development of Jewish sectarianism and modern Orthodoxy. Out of an extraordinary plethora of cultural and religious labor, created by the simultaneous embrace and rejection of modernism that typified the Jewish world of the 19th and 20th centuries, Hobsbawm is interested only in the cosmopolitan, secular, assimilated achievements of the post-Emancipatory Jews of Western and Central Europe, who constituted both a minority of the Jewish world and a very specific cultural-regional phenomenon.

Howsbawm is, in short, praising the benefits of becoming a gentile is all but name. Now, this may or may not be good for the world, but it is certainly not good for the Jews, for the simple reason that it involves the death of one’s self as a Jew in favor of an amorphous and – in my opinion – non-existent universalist identity. Hobsbawm is a man who has dedicated his life to the most extremist forms of universalism, and his studied inability to regard anything which steps out of that realm as being of any value whatsoever is quite telling. He seems to see nothing problematic in the phenomenon of assimilation, and to regard the pain of otherness and the loss of self as being of little consequence so long as it continues to produce great mathematicians and socialist intellectuals. Nor does he deal in any real way with the historical cataclysm which destroyed the appeal of assimilation in many Jewish eyes, the disaster which convinced many that there can be no universalism without the particular. He waxes rhapsodic, for instance, on the achievements of the German-Jewish assimilates, and then mentions the Holocaust which annihilated them without a single comment on the obvious irony inherent; he is too busy scurrying off to the next marvelous example of universalist triumph.

Hobsbawm seems unable to entertain the notion that the dichotomy he is posing is one which disproves the very point he is trying to make. Because if the Jew cannot engage the world as a Jew, it is not a problem with the Jew but a problem with the world. The Jewish experience of modernity – which Judaism, I believe, had a hand in creating – has proved that the only way for the Jew to engage the world effectively is not as a masked exile, pretending to be just like everyone else, but as what he is. Proudly and openly, and without apologetics. Zionism and modern Orthodoxy, among other phenomena, have proved this possible, and the vagaries of history have proved Hobsbawm to be terribly, catastrophically mistaken. They have proven that the embrace of Diaspora is nothing more or less than the embrace of death, the adoration of self-murder. It is a willful re-enslavement, a return to the wilderness.

Hypocrisy Exposed

There’s a great interview up at NRO with Peter Schweizer, who wrote the article exposing Chomsky’s epic hypocrisy that I quoted in the previous post.  He’s written a book on he subject, and not only on Chomsky.  Here’s the best quote in the interview:
LOPEZ: What's the funniest story you learned while compiling the book?

SCHWEIZER: It has to be one about Michael Moore. In his books Michael Moore goes on and on about the fact that Americans are racist because they live in white neighborhoods. It's an example of latent segregationist attitudes in his mind. When I checked the demographics on Michael Moore's residence I burst out laughing. Michael Moore lives in a town of 2,500 in Michigan. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is not a single black person in the entire town.
One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The J.D. Rockefeller of Hypocrisy

Tech Central Station has a terrific article up exposing the Good Professor’s utterly redolent hypocrisy and selfishness when it comes to capitalism and private property. Not only does the author give us an estimate of the Professor’s net worth (an astounding two million dollars) but also exposes Chomsky’s massive investments in tax-dodging trusts, corporate stocks, and high return investments in companies whose practices he claims to despise. Apparently, the best defense the self-anointed genius of the century can muster is: “Should I go live in a cabin in Montana?” The answer of course, is simple: if you expect people to take you seriously, yes. Especially interesting is the author’s insight into the fact that this faux-anarchist is, in fact, a talented capitalist entrepreneur who has reaped enormous benefits from American traditions of private property.
Chomsky is rich precisely because he has been such an enormously successful capitalist. Despite the anti-profit rhetoric, like any other corporate capitalist he has turned himself into a brand name…

Chomsky's business works something like this. He gives speeches on college campuses around the country at $12,000 a pop, often dozens of times a year.

Can't go and hear him in person? No problem: you can go online and download clips from earlier speeches-for a fee. You can hear Chomsky talk for one minute about "Property Rights"; it will cost you seventy-nine cents. You can also by a CD with clips from previous speeches for $12.99… It would not be advisable to download the audio from one of his speeches without paying the fee, warns his record company, Alternative Tentacles. (Did Andrei Sakharov have a licensing agreement with a record company?) And when it comes to his articles, you'd better keep your hands off. Go to the official Noam Chomsky website and the warning is clear: "Material on this site is copyrighted by Noam Chomsky and/or Noam Chomsky and his collaborators. No material on this site may be reprinted or posted on other web sites without written permission." However, the website does give you the opportunity to "sublicense" the material if you are interested…

But books are Chomsky's mainstay, and on the international market he has become a publishing phenomenon. The Chomsky brand means instant sales.

As publicist Dana O'Hare of Pluto Press explains: "All we have to do is put Chomsky's name on a book and it sells out immediately!"

Putting his name on a book should not be confused with writing a book, because his most recent volumes are mainly transcriptions of speeches, or interviews that he has conducted over the years, put between covers and sold to the general public. You might call it multi-level marketing for radicals. Chomsky has admitted as much: "If you look at the things I write -- articles for Z Magazine, or books for South End Press, or whatever -- they are mostly based on talks and meetings and that kind of thing. But I'm kind of a parasite. I mean, I'm living off the activism of others. I'm happy to do it." (emphasis mine, Benjamin – honesty at last!)

Chomsky's marketing efforts shortly after September 11 give new meaning to the term "war profiteer." In the days after the tragedy, he raised his speaking fee from $9,000 to $12,000 because he was suddenly in greater demand. He also cashed in by producing another instant book. Seven Stories Press, a small publisher, pulled together interviews conducted via email that Chomsky gave in the three weeks following the attack on the Twin Towers and rushed the book to press… The book made the bestseller list in the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. It is safe to assume that he netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from this book alone.

Over the years, Chomsky has been particularly critical of private property rights, which he considers simply a tool of the rich, of no benefit to ordinary people. "When property rights are granted to power and privilege, it can be expected to be harmful to most," Chomsky wrote on a discussion board for the Washington Post. Intellectual property rights are equally despicable…But when it comes to Chomsky's own published work, this advocate of open intellectual property suddenly becomes very selfish.
None of this is particularly surprising, and it merely serves to solidify my conviction that Chomsky is (to use the phrase bestowed by Albert Camus on the French communists) the judge-penitent par excellence, because the judge-penitent believes he has the right to simultaneously sin and to judge the sinner. The judge-penitent is one who weeps over the crimes of his brethren even as he absolves himself and condemns all others. Chomsky has spent his life trying to destroy the American system of capitalist democracy, but considers himself exempt from any guilt accrued by his own ruthless and highly effective exploitation of the very system he claims is a crime. He revels in the very riches he has accumulated through posing as a defender of the poor and an enemy of capitalist exploitation. This is hypocrisy on an epic scale and it may well stand as Noam Chomsky’s only truly extraordinary accomplishment. Noam Chomsky, the J.D. Rockefeller of hypocrisy, the most titanic charlatan the United States has ever produced.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Portrait of the ADL in Denial

This report from the ADL on antisemitic conspiracy theories involving 9/11 is certainly welcome, but it also serves to underline one the biggest problems with mainstream Jewish organizations in America.  While the report does an excellent job exposing antisemitism on the extreme Right and in the Muslim world, it says almost nothing about antisemitism on the political Left.  Except for a brief mention of Amiri Baraka (and he deserves more than a brief mention, him and Louis Farrakhan are probably the most openly ferocious antisemites in America today) there is not a single word about antisemitism on the Left.  Considering that the likes of Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader have quite publicly voiced antisemitic conspiracy theories regarding 9/11 and the War on Terror, this is simply an inexcusable admission.  It may be that the ADL is afraid of offending its liberal base, but I don’t think that can be an excuse.  Nader, for one, is far more respected and mainstream than any of the antisemites mentioned in the ADL report, and its high time he had his feet held to the fire.  Antisemitism will continue to be a serious problem in America until organizations like the ADL get up the courage to direct their fire into their own backyard, and not merely where it is easy and comfortable for them to do so.    

Another Cinema Post

I just posted a brief piece over at Gefen on The Godfather Part III, which I think is overdue for a reappraisal.  Enjoy.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"You Will Bow Down Before Me, Jor-El!"

I guess I'm going to have to drop my pretensions and admit that Superman is one of my favorite movies. So, needless to say, I think this is hilarious. I wonder what Terence Stamp thinks about the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

שנה טובה לכולם

A good and sweet new year to all of you out there in anti-Chomskyland.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I Think We Now Know...

Exactly who is watching the BBC.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Forward Gets Its Hands Bloody

The formerly Yiddish newspaper, The Forward, which is now little more than a self-renewing epitaph for the Jewish Left, has noticed the fact that many of the groups involved in the self-described anti-war movement are more than a little problematic.
For many Jewish activists the main problem with the coalition Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or Answer, is the organization's fiercely anti-Israel stance. But for some observers and activists, there is a more fundamental question: whether the decision of liberal groups to work with Answer — an organization that represents the most extreme-left elements remaining in America — will stifle the anti-war cause's efforts to transform itself into a mass movement.
This is, unfortunately, fairly typical of the Jewish Left. As though wanting to annihilate Israel were not enough, they feel the need to treat us to a wholly ridiculous treatise on why an openly anti-semitic, anti-democratic, and anti-American organization may be slightly problematic for the anti-war movement as whole. Being existentially bad for the Jewish people is apparently of little consequence.
It's a question that clearly has troubled the left. Leaders of United for Peace and Justice, a more moderate coalition that has been focusing narrowly on the issue of the Iraq war, have taken part in demonstrations with Answer before. But they agonized for months about whether to join Answer for the September 24 rally and march. And, in recent months, they have criticized Answer's tactics.

In a May press release, the national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, Leslie Cagan, wrote that "while professing to desire unity, Answer and the IAC have repeatedly misrepresented the positions of, attacked, and attempted to isolate and split UFPJ and other antiwar groups, even when we were supposedly in alliances."

Still, Cagan's organization eventually opted for cosponsoring the march, explaining its decision as a way to avoid disunity and draw the largest possible number of people to one protest.
Only the Forward could describe UFPJ and its necro-communist leader as "moderate". I suppose in the circles the Forward's writers travel they might be. In relation to the the American mainstream the anti-war movement apparently wants to attract UFPJ is as far out as ANSWER is, and no less odiously treasonous. Albeit inadvertantly, this may point to the real problem. Namely, that the anti-war movement is not merely plagued by a single out of the mainstream oraganization, but rather represents an entire ethos that is outdated, irrelevent, and altogether odious to the majority of Americans, whether they think the Iraq War was a good idea or not.
It seems to be a conclusion some people on the left are coming to, despite their reservations about Answer's politics. The growing opposition to the war in Iraq, along with Cindy Sheehan's more populist protest this summer, might have made Answer's role less of a liability. Though Answer still might be getting the permits for marches and planting speakers at rallies, there is little question that the overwhelming majority of people going to demonstrations do so because they want to publicly oppose the war, not support fringe causes.
I don't know what the overwhelming majority of the people going to demonstrations think. I do think that people who go to demonstrations, especially those who go to demonstrations regularly, are inherently non-mainstream. Mainstream people have kids and jobs and don't have the time or inclination to go to demonstrations for anything. They are politically involved through that forgotten institution known as elections. Of course, this is not something the anti-war movement is interested in, since if they tried for political power throgh the ballot box - i.e. by democratic means rather than mob politics - they are well aware of the fact that they will lose. If the anti-war movement were mainstream it would work through the political process, and not try for influence through street theater and media manipulation.

As for Cindy Sheehan, I don't doubt that her grief is real, but the idea that she was representative of anything other than the media's desperate fascination with the aesthetic of 1968 is wholly ridiculous. She struck me as a woman who was firmly convinced of her anti-American, antisemitic, Chomskyite politics long before her son was killed and her use of his name and memory - despite the fact that he quite clearly disagreed with the cause she advocates, and gave his life in the service of its opposite - seemed to me, to put it delicately, more than a little disturbing. To my mind, the Cindy Sheehan phenomenon speaks less of the growing popularity of the anti-war movement and more of the Left's obsession with image, aesthetics, and sentiment over debate, democracy, and the difficult questions of war and peace.
"Most of the media and most people have the good sense to understand that people who oppose the war are not these Stalinist androids," said Erc Alterman, who writes a column for The Nation.

The anti-war movement needs to stomach Answer's antics and extremism, Alterman said, just "like the people who really wanted to go to war are stuck with the Bush administration."
Maybe, but I think it is clear to any thinking person that those involved in the anti-war movement are people who have no problem lying down with Stalinist androids when it suits them. The point Alterman is making, it seems to me, is roughly equivalent to a conservative pundit declaring that folks like me need to "stomach" the leadership of neo-Nazi groups or the Ku Klux Klan in order to achieve a higher political good. If these are the friends the anti-war movement needs to succeed than they don't deserve to succeed. I've always thought Alterman was a distinctly untalented hack with a nasty tendency to engage in apologia for anti-semitism and anti-Americanism when it suits him, this does nothing to dissuade me from that conviction.

But Alterman's willful blindness - or worse, depending on how you look at it - points to a deeper problem on the Jewish Left and on the Left in general. It is a problem personified in the anti-war movement and in this article as well. Namely, an inability or unwillingness to recognize poltiical evil when it is sitting right in front of your face. In the name of an amorphous - and therefore useless - unity, the Jewish Left is willing to lay down with supporters of terrorists dedicated to killing Jews and annihilating the Jewish state, and the anti-war Left in general is willing to lie down with totalitarians and anti-democratic demagogues. What we need from the Forward, if it is going to be more than an epitaph for a dying creed, is not apologia but denunciation. We need the Jewish Left to learn the real lesson of 1968 - that the man who lies down with murderers will eventually have blood on his own hands. At the moment that seems to be, unfortunately, far too much to ask for.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Blogging My Way Out of Poverty

As you may have noticed, I've decided to see if AdSense can aid a poor student like me in making some money off of his various internet musings. If any of you don't like the presence of ads or think they interfere with the blog, please feel free to email me and let me know how you feel about it.

Incidentally, I've been very busy with signing up for courses, friends getting married, and various other things; but I hope to return to regular posting in the very near future.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I've posted a series of short thoughts on Judaism and Jewish history over at Gefen. I'm planning to update it over time. For those interested, enjoy.

I'm Fine

There was a bombing this morning at the central bus station in Beersheva. Apparently, two security guards were badly wounded and about a dozen people lightly injured. It could have been a lot worse. For anyone worried, I and my friends are fine, thank God.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I just saw the most extraordinary thing on television last night. A family was being evicted in Neve Dekalim. The children were resisting and the parents were trying to convince them to leave quietly. Finally the kids were dragged out except for a teenage son who stood in the center of the living room with a guitar strapped across his shoulders. He wasn't resisting, he was crying. An officer came up to him and between sobs the kid said: "I have a request. Kill me." The officer put his arms around him and said: "Come on. We'll go out together. The two of us. Alone." And the kid went with him. Both of them were crying. I'm not sure I've ever seen a more heroic or compassionate act between two people. God bless them both.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Orange Star and the Sanctification of Blasphemy

I wrote this essay a few months ago, when the anti-disengagement activists were wearing orange stars in imitation of the stars the Jews of Europe were forced to wear by the Nazis. I think it explains more or less where I stand on this deeply painful subject, and I post it as I watch the disengagement beginning before my eyes. It is, perhaps, a little dated, but I leave it as I wrote it.

“When the colonized kills the colonizer he kills both the oppressor and the oppressed.”
- Jean-Paul Sartre

“[N]o one is disturbed by the criminal act that Ariel Sharon seeks to commit…: the brutal deportation of Jews from their inheritance and their homes - most of whom are already the third generation on the land - men, women, and children, against their will, solely because they are Jews. This will be accompanied by the razing of their homes, the elimination of their lives' undertaking, the destruction of scores of synagogues, ritual baths, kindergartens, libraries, and schools; the disinterment of dozens of bodies from the cemeteries - many of them, the victims of Arab terror. And the trauma of ethnic cleansing will be followed by the ultimate crime: the handing over of all the Judenrein territory to the Arab enemy, territory that is the inheritance of our forefathers, that they were given by G-d, and that no Jew is permitted to give away.”
- Nadia Matar, disengagement opponent, comparing the disengagement authority to the Judenrat

The most dangerous threat to any political movement, whether towards reaction or liberation, is the sanctification of violence. From “Viva la muerte!”, the cry of the Spanish fascists, to the admonition of Bin Laden’s minions that their secret weapon is the mere fact that they love death and we love life; the sanctification of the gun and the bomb is what leads inevitably to the terrors of the concentration camp, the firing squad, and the suicide bomber. It would seem to be a historical truism that the transformation of violence into a holy act constitutes the embrace of death above all other principles. In effect, it is nothing less than the inversion of the will to life represented by the organized political movement of liberation or change into the will to destruction, and thus the harbinger of totalitarianism and the collapse of a political culture into collective insanity.

The recent decision by the radical wing of the settler movement to adopt the orange star of David as their symbol, with their concomitant use of terms such as “Judenrein” to describe the impending evacuation of Gush Katif, thus reawakening yet again the beasts of our recent history; is not merely maddening and offensive, but carries within it the seeds of just such a sanctification, and if Zionism is to be saved from the fate of the twentieth century’s other ideologies, then we must be prepared to look this act squarely in the eye, and not merely to recoil from its insult or its offense to reason.

The donning of the star has been frighteningly misinterpreted even by some of its most ambivalent critics, who view it – they believe with a measure of generosity – as a half-insane and half-frivolous act of people driven mad by religious fanaticism; others – who no doubt believe themselves less generous – have simply dismissed it as the provocation of a gaggle of psychotics ignorant of history and unfeeling towards the sensibilities of their brethren. While all of this may be tangentially true, to understand both the promise and the threat of the orange star, we must first accept that it is not a mad act, that those who don the star do not merely believe in the message it bears but embrace also the inner logic of the act itself; and it is here, in this interior mechanism, in these hinterlands of the ideological mind, that we must begin; it is our challenge and our charge to do so, and to take such minds with the utmost seriousness.

I wish to state before continuing that what I am writing is not applicable to the settlement movement in its entirety, and certainly not to the majority of individual settlers. I must say this if only in deference to friendship, and to my many fellow students who are children of the settlement enterprise and do not deserve to be colluded with the radical few of whom I am about to speak. This point is of the utmost importance, because it is clear that we are contending here with a revolutionary vanguard of sorts, with a radical minority. Nonetheless, this minority must be spoken of with appropriate gravity, since in moments of dislocation and violence; moments such as those we may well soon be facing as the evacuation goes forward; it is this very vanguard, one which cherishes upheaval and believes violence holy, which inevitably seizes the day.

So what are they telling us in all their terrifying earnestness, these star bearers, these priests of the charnel house? Firstly, they are declaring themselves; and second, they are declaring us, and by us I mean the many millions of us who did not don the star, and find ourselves repulsed by the measure of the act itself. Of themselves, the star bearers are speaking of innocence, and not merely that; they are anointing themselves, anointing themselves in the name of our only Holy Innocents, drawing the six million unto themselves, and thus positing a dreadful equation. Because if they are declaring themselves innocent at the first, and innocent not merely in act but in essence, since it is the mere presence of the star on one’s breast that declares this purity; then at the second they are declaring us guilty, and this is a charge that cannot be left unanswered, since among the six million, only the slaughtered wore the star, and only the slaughterer went naked to his bloody business.

It is clear that this charge bears with it the very essence of this vanguard which has appointed itself our prosecutor: its apocalyptic surety. For what is being evoked here, and there can be no mistake about this, is Hitler; and in the post-modern age, Hitler is merely another word for Satan; in fact, he is the only Satan universally acknowledged by our godless world. And in evoking Satan, the orange star also declares us among his ranks, if only by the pure fact that we do not wear it. Thus an image takes shape of the end of days, and of the roles to which we have been assigned: the Holy Innocents adrift in a sea of Hitlers, five billion and more perhaps; and the final battle of Gog and Magog is merged with the image of the eternal tyrant and the eternal slaughterer into a single visage; one which bears not merely the face of the whole world which is against us, but our face as well.

There is terror here, and we are mistaken if we take it lightly. Beneath the vanguard’s shallow protestations of strength and its vulgar fetishization of Israel’s military prowess there is a horrendous, existential fear, and it is this fear which bears them forth into the exile of unreason. It is the terror of a second slaughter, of a new extermination; the unthinkable knowledge that somehow, someway, it is all happening again. Once again, Jews are dying, governments are uncaring, the world is indifferent, and their own comrades in death – all of us who cannot see the impending apocalypse – are lost in the comfortable decadence of assimilation and collaboration; and, beyond it all, Bialik’s slaughterer is sharpening his blade, and perhaps, this time, the throne of the Almighty will indeed be ripped from its moorings and hurled to the earth and the world, at last, declared bereft of justice.

And there is another, even deeper catalyst behind the apocalyptic mythos of the orange star, deeper even, perhaps, than fear; it is the desire to raise the tyrant again from the dead, and at last grant him the reckoning he cheated, the desire to expel at last the demons of all those lambs who went silently to the slaughter, and to prove for all the world that the Jew, and not his slaughterer, holds the hands of Fate. We see it in the teenagers in knit kippas toting machine guns on the hilltops; in the Kahanist’s cry of “never again!” which really means “again!”, “rise again monster, that I may slay you as my grandfathers could not!”

Which brings us, finally, to the sanctification of violence; for there can be no mistaking that what is being declared by the orange star is a holy war, a battle to the death between those who don the star, and thus render themselves innocent, and those who do not, and thus join the ranks of the guilty. And the death at the end of this battle, in its apocalyptic essence, is not merely the death of a man or of a movement, but of the world entire. It is here that the vanguard; and not merely our vanguard, but all the vanguards of history; finds its darkness, and its will to destruction. It is where Baruch Goldstein found his M16 and where Yigal Amir found his pistol, and it is here that we must make our stand; because any society or movement which wishes to steer itself clear of the ash heap of history must, at some point, declare that there is no such thing as a holy war, much less holy murder; and in the hands of our vanguardists this sanctification of destruction and the star which declares it can be nothing more or less than the negation of us all; because to call a Jew a Nazi is to destroy him, and thus, through this singular act of holy violence, blasphemy itself becomes sanctified.

We must acknowledge that we who did not wear the star are not innocent in this regard. It was the Left, after all, which coined the reprehensible term “Judeo-Nazi”, and it was the archly secular Ben-Gurion who called first Jabotinsky and then Begin by the name of Hitler. But with the exception of Professor Leibowitz’s odious provocation, which unfortunately excites even our own judge-penitents, as Camus might have called them, with its erotic violence, all these transgressions were directed merely against the singular personage at hand; whereas the orange star indicts all of us who do not wear it, and thus negates us, sanctifies our own murder, names us all the agents of the sons of darkness, in the name of love plots our murder, and thus cedes to Hitler his final victory, by making him over again in our own image, and it is against this blasphemy that we must set ourselves.

We must grant them their points, however, in doing so. There is no doubt that decadence is afoot amongst our elite; that corruption and ossification of ideals threaten our democracy; that the seemingly unstoppable tide of globalization which is engulfing Israel is a threat to Zionism as it is a threat to any non-materialist ideology; that the world does indeed have much to answer for, as it admonishes us in the name of millions of judge-penitents even as human bombs tear our children’s limbs asunder and desecrate our streets. Yes, we must even acknowledge that their (and our) fear and rage are, in some measure, justified a thousandfold, and that history and man are indeed, in their own measure, without justice. That the revolt against the indifference of both history and man is indeed a right inalienable; and that we do not accept the self-negating assertion of our own judge-penitents that, through some trick of divine irony, this right is to be denied only to our own people. And we must acknowledge that there is nobility in their dream, because it is, to a great extent, our dream as well, a dream of love, and strength, and rebirth; and that we differ from them only that we see an unavoidable choice before us between a truncated dream and the abyss, and we must choose the truncation, because only the madman chooses the abyss.

And in this abyss shines the orange star, for what it tells us above all is that there is no hope; that the despair of the gun is our only defense against a world of Nazis. It is this mythology of the sacred martyr and the sacred murderer become one that we must reject; and we reject it in declaring our intentions to its wearers: that we are asking them to move, and not to die; that we are not decadent post-Zionists but merely awake to the fact that their enterprise is rendering Zionism impossible and sending us on a path that can end only in apartheid or the sea. To give up one’s home is, in some measure, to overturn one’s world; and to give up one’s dream even worse perhaps, and we must acknowledge the depth of this debt. Above all, we must make our stand with love; because they are, after all, ours, and we theirs; however much they may offend or despise us, and we them.

In this, we must be clear of the ground on which we stand. It may be that when the Jew kills a Gentile he is killing both oppressor and oppressed, both the Nazi and his victim, but this can never be a sacred act, only a shameful but necessary profanity, as for the Maccabeans who did battle on the Sabbath. I am not advocating pacifism in saying this. I accept that one must sometimes kill to save one’s home from the arsonist’s torch, and I accept that someday I may have to kill to defend the home we have built here; but I will never accept that depressing a trigger redeems my soul, let alone the world, nor that God himself bears forth the bullets that tear flesh and destroy life. That is the domain of the Goldsteins and the Amirs, of Kahanists and Hamasniks and, yes, even Bin Laden himself; and it is territory only for the man who wishes not only to destroy the world but to destroy himself as well. This we must reject, for it is a sword which inevitably turns and slays the man who wields it. The only means of this rejection is a single, unyielding truth: that when a Jew kills a Jew, or calls him by the name of Hitler; whether to destroy my brother or negate him, whether by word or by cloth; that he commits anything other than an unspeakable blasphemy, and invites forth nothing less than another horban, another scorching of the earth, another galut, another exile, another fall of man.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Finkielkraut's Lament

French-Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut has penned an extraordinary article on the origins of humanist antisemitism and its condemnation of Israel. I wouldn't presume to summarize or quote; simply read.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Ninth of Av

Today is Tisha B'Av, the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple at the hands of the Roman empire in 70 AD. The Temple and its fate are bound inextricably to the city of Jerusalem, so I offer this essay; appropriate or not, I do not know; to mark the occasion.

I know that a city exists whose name is Jerusalem. It is a city made of old stones and new stones, perched atop a series of ascending hills which look down on a valley leading out into the unknown lands over which a Jew may not traverse in safety. The city's skies are blue and its summer sun a deceptively harsh white orb. People live within its walls. They work, pray, die, sicken, embrace, make love, and do such banal things as buy milk and cereal at corner kiosks and American-style chain stores. They are ordinary and extraordinary, confident and listless, sad and ecstatic; much like in any other city.

It is a city which posits extremes of shape and dimension. Its vistas of hills and valleys give way to tightly cramped streets and decaying slums. It has verdant, blooming corners and plazas of steel and concrete which stun the eye with the monochromatic violence of any industrial wasteland. It is a city which lives its moments as cities do.

There is another Jerusalem; one which I have traversed only in glimpses and dreams. It is an amorphous cipher, a riddle without an answer, a labyrinth of twisting walls and vertiginous descents. This is the Jerusalem of two thousand years of numinous fantasias. It has whispered to prophets, madmen, apocalyptics, conquerers, mystics and messiahs. Its streets have swallowed oceans of blood. The Jerusalem of the Maccabbees, Bar-Cochba, of Vespasian's legions, of Sallah Al-Din and the Crusading knights; the city of massacres and the sword; the city in which the Temple of my people was consumed by the flames of an empire against which they had hurled the last full measure of their messianic hopes and transcendant rage.

Neither of these two cities escapes the other. Below the stones, sidewalks, porticos, stairwells and shopping malls of the Jerusalem of banality beats the ominous heart of the other city. This city has always drawn and terrified me. In my dreams it is a sleeping princess, waiting to be a awakened with a kiss; or a demon with obsidian eyes waiting to burst forth and swallow the city and its sojourners whole. It is a beloved's melody and a siren song. One feels it coursing beneath one's feet when one stands among the stones and sky; like the heart of a leviathan pumping black blood through its titantic veins.

I have never once thought of this Jerusalem as masculine. Some cities, like London and Berlin, appear to display a male character to the beholder; but Jerusalem, like Paris, is utterly feminine. She sleeps, and she awakens when she chooses. Once, standing on the ramparts of the Old City, upon the ruins of my people's Temple, she spoke to me. A great procession of conquerers spread out before me over the valley; their weapons shining in the setting sun. King David, Saladin, the Knights Templers, the Ottoman sultans and General Allenby; all those who had held the princess in their grip and then passed into shadows. David's son had written from these ramparts that all was vanity; and he was wise enough to have his reasons. We are all but jesters upon her stage. No man conquers this city, no man divides it. No man violates her chastity; or can resist her entreaties. She will choose her lovers, and use them as she will; and so will conquerers fall, terrors beset the afflicted, and happiness come to the annointed and to victorious kings; but no man decides. The city will decide, in her own good time. She will decide who will rule for his sojourn, and then pass on, devoured by the stones.

I have known Jerusalem as a city of love and a city of fear. She is beautiful, but I fear the blood that pulses beneath the gray stones. She requires no pleas, no prayers, no entreaties, no adorations; she will decide.

I am speaking here, perhaps, of amorphous things; of retrograde superstitions and crude invocations to shadowy ghosts and translucent spirits; but I can merely write of what I have seen. No man can look upon Jerusalem and fully retain his reason; and to stand within its walls is to be at constant war between ecstatic derangement and the calculating mind of the modern. No wonder so many lost souls haunt her streets, no wonder so many madmen lurk its alleys and traverse its shadows. I am speaking here of elementary forces, of primal movements, of something sensed as one senses the movement of the wind upon the hairs of one's arm. Man has lost the moment these things were set in motion, so ancient are its origins. It stirs the primitive memory, the indivisible core which some men name God and others call History. I do not know its name, and I do not seek it. Each man who dies within the walls is a testimony to their frivolous quest; to grasp at that which cannot be held. Jerusalem proves the vanity of man; and yet we return to her. To the princess and the demon whore, to the beauteous monster. She fears nothing; and all who love her must also fear her, as one fears the impossible eternity; and all she loves, she loves as a luminous queen adores her subjects; as a God might love his creation.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

New Gefen Post

A brief note on the Netanyahu resignation, for those interested. Enjoy.

Friday, August 05, 2005

At A Loss for Words

This, I admit, I did not expect. I was afraid of the Prime Minister being shot (God forbid), I was afraid of shooting between settlers and police, I was afraid of civil war; I did not think that Arabs would be the target of extremist opponents of disengagement. In retrospect, of course, the possibility should have been obvious. I have written many times of the danger inherent in those who turn their sureities into a sanctification of violence; this is merely another in a long line of atrocities committed by those who have followed an ideological path which can only end in murder. This was an act of nihilism in the name of faith, and I don't care whether such things are done in the name of Chomsky or the name of Kahane; they are a threat to humanity itself. Those who engage in an idolatry of violence are all faces of the same evil; the sanctification of murder itself. I often find myself at a loss for words in the face of such acts of violence, and this is no exception; so I will only say that I hope and pray it will not happen again, b'ezrat hashem, insh allah.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

שנאת חינם : Infinite Hatred

Its difficult for me to write about what's going on at the borders of Gaza right now. I have my own opinions on disengagement; but that is not what I wish to comment on here, because the civil discord emerging around this issue speaks to me of some of the darkest forces at work in Jewish history and some of the issues which pain me on the most personal of levels. To see Jews attacking, hating, or even killing other Jews (which has not yet happened, thank God, but may well be a possibility before all this is over) is to witness what I consider an abomination; an assault against the rightful workings of the world. We have enough people out there who want to slit our throats without wasting our time, energy, and talents slitting our own. I do not say this merely in relation to any particular political position; both right and left are guilty of rhetorical and even physical violence against their opponents. Altalena or the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, they are both expressions of the same horrendous phenomenon; Israeli writer Amos Oz spoke to it when he said that the Jewish people may be the world's foremost experts in self-destruction. One cannot watch the pictures coming out of the demonstration in Kfar Maimon, or see the image of settler leaders calling Ariel Sharon a dictator without conjuring up a terrible memory: that in the Great Revolt against Rome more Jews were killed by other Jews than by the Roman legions. It can be said that this was a long time ago; but for us, the destruction of the Temple was yesterday, and the Exodus from bondage both today and tomorrow. The Jewish people lives with its history more immediately than perhaps any other people on earth; it exists for us as the most primal and ferocious energy, both for good and for ill; and the forces unleashed yesterday may be unleashed tomorrow with results which can be glorious or terrible to contemplate. I can say only this: I am afraid, afraid for our country and afraid for our people; we have enemies enough without including ourselves in their ranks. The great rabbis were once asked why the Temple was destroyed, they replied: "because of sinat chinam"; infinite hatred, unbridled hatred. And they meant hatred between Jews. I hope all of us remember that in the coming days and weeks; it may save us all from a nightmare none of us desire or even desire to contemplate.

Friday, July 08, 2005

O England: model to thy inward greatness
Like little body with a mighty heart
-William Shakespeare, Henry V
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

For London

I hate writing these things, and I've had to write more than a few of them. My mother is English and I was raised with a great deal of English culture; so the attack on London is as personal for me as any attack on America or Israel. I can only send my love and my prayers to the people of England; and express my hope that the monsters who committed this atrocity will pay for their despicable crimes. England has withstood worse than this, and I have faith that the quiet strength England has displayed in the past will manifest itself again. On this black day, I can think only of the words of a writer infinitly superior to myself, so I leave the testament to him.

Thus far, with rough and all unable pen
Our bending author hath pursu'd the story
In little room confining mighty men
Mangling by starts the full course of their glory
Small time: but in that small most greatly lived
This Star of England
-William Shakespeare, Henry V