Archive for September, 2007

Motti Lerner and historical truth

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Motti LernerRecently I wrote about Israeli Arab playwright Mohammed Bakri and his “artistic” concept of historical truth.

Apparently some Jewish Israelis have similar ideas. For example, take Motti Lerner (please):

Lerner, the grandson of one of two woman presumed to have revealed to the Turkish authorities the spying activities of Sarah Aharonson in Zichron Ya’acov in 1917, leading to her arrest, torture and eventual suicide, is a theater personage of note. He has previously staged Messianic Pangs, The Murder of Isaac – with its infamous urination scene – and Bus 300, as well as Kastner’s Trial among others…

…it was the Kastner play that attained for him a place in all Israeli law schools – and no small amount of notoriety – when the subject of “freedom of expression” is taught.

In its script, produced for Channel 2 television more than a decade ago, Lerner takes liberal license with his Hannah Szenes character and suggests she handed two Palestinian Jewish parachutists over to the Hungarian police.

The incident not only didn’t take place; it couldn’t have. Szenes was already imprisoned when the parachutists arrived in the Hungarian capital. The scene was a figment of Lerner’s imagination…


Scholarship…or rubbish?

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

By Vic Rosenthal

Recently I wrote about CSU Fresno’s developing Middle East Studies program. I suggested that it might — like many programs and academic departments of Middle East studies — have an uncomfortable slant, tending towards radical Islam and including tendentious anti-American and anti-Israel content.

Mary HusainOne of the faculty members teaching several courses and proposed courses is Mary Husain. She has taught courses in the departments of Women’s Studies and Communications in the areas of “cultural studies, gender studies, and media persuasion”. She is listed to teach proposed courses in Middle Eastern Film Criticism, Middle Eastern News Analysis, and Intercultural Communication.

Ms. Husain has recently published an article with Kevin Ayotte, called “Securing Afghan Women: Neocolonialism, Epistemic Violence, and the Rhetoric of the Veil” (NWSA Journal, Vol. 17 No. 3). Although the article is not available on the web, I have obtained a copy from the library.


Trial balloons over Jerusalem

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Another ‘logical’ plan that will not be implemented:

Israel should turn over Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of a peace deal with the moderate government of President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel’s deputy prime minister [Haim Ramon] said Friday. The comment was one of the frankest remarks to date about what Israel might be willing to relinquish in talks…

Ramon, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said keeping all of Jerusalem would endanger the city’s future as Israel’s capital and suggested that many Arab sections be turned over to Palestinian sovereignty in return for international recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods Israel has built in east Jerusalem since 1967…

“There is no partner, and there will be no partner, who will be better than Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Fayyad,” Ramon said, referring to Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who heads the Palestinian government. — AP

Where to start? First, no Palestinian or Arab leader, Abbas included, has ever even come close to agreeing that Israel has any right to stay in any part of East Jerusalem.

Second, no Palestinian or Arab leader, Abbas included, has ever come close to accepting Israeli sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Third, even if Abbas and Fayad were to agree to this, they don’t represent anybody other than themselves. If there is an agreement, Israeli concessions will be concrete and difficult to reverse, turning territory over to the Palestinians. Palestinian concessions will be on paper, ambiguous, and may evaporate with changes in leadership (not to mention the worst case, a Hamas takeover of the West Bank).

Ramon, it seems, is playing the Olmert to Olmert’s Sharon. As you may recall, the trial balloon for the disastrous Gaza disengagement was floated by Olmert, then Sharon’s Deputy Prime Minister.

There has been a great deal of speculation about agreements that may have already been made between Olmert and the Abbas/Fayad government in advance of the US-sponsored peace conference to be held in November. So far it has all been about what Israel is going to give up.

I’m pleased that Ramon is pleased about what a great partner the Fatah team is. But I think that we should keep in mind that the better a ‘partner’ it seems to us, the less influence it has among the Palestinians and in the rest of the Arab world.

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The concept of irony is inadequate to describe the UN

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Like putting Libya in charge of the planning for the Durban II anti-racism conference, or (in 2004) electing Sudan to the Human Rights Commission while it was murdering Darfur residents, the UN continues to find ways to make one spit out one’s morning coffee:

Two weeks after Israel’s alleged bombing raid in Syria, which some foreign reports said targeted North Korean nuclear material, the UN’s nuclear watchdog [the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)] elected Syria as deputy chairman of its General Conference on Monday…

The Syrian news agency SANA proudly reported the election on Tuesday, adding that Syria was also successful in including “the Israeli nuclear arsenal as an item on the agenda of the conference.” — Jerusalem Post

Here’s an honest job for the UN: condemn Hamas for committing war crimes by deliberately targeting civilian populations with rocket fire, kidnapping Gilad Shalit and refusing to allow him to meet with Red Cross representatives, etc.

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Don’t believe most of what you hear about the Mideast

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

In these days of rumors about American or Israeli plans to attack Iran, mysterious holes in the Syrian desert, and so on, we have to be especially careful to keep in mind the old saw “those who know don’t tell, and those who tell don’t know”. Nothing is more true about the Middle East. Barry Rubin discusses this phenomenon.

Mythmakers About the Middle East

By Barry Rubin

People don’t often threaten to murder me face to face. But in the spring of 2007, Alexis Debat, director of the terrorism program at the Nixon Center and consultant to ABC News, did just that.

Precisely why is not clear to me even now, but it seemed to be part of a pattern of bizarre instability that he emanated. I had never met anyone who struck me as a more obvious fabulist. Yet after thirty years of studying the Middle East it was not surprising to meet people like that. The region is full of them, even at the highest political and intellectual levels, and they are by no means absent from the field of studying that area in the West.

I met Debat at the insistence of Robert Leiken, a former Central American expert who reinvented himself quickly as an expert first on immigration and then on Islam, also at the Nixon Center. It was in the period before Leiken decided that the Muslim Brotherhood was a moderate democratic group which should be engaged by U.S. policy. You have to meet Debat, he insisted, and it was clear that this guy was his guru and a great influence on him in his new pretensions to knowing something about the Middle East. Later, it would be clear Debat played a key role in his foolish fantasy that the Muslim Brotherhood was a bunch of liberal reformers who detested violence.

At the lunch, Debat went on and on about his inside links with terrorism and its key figures, providing lots of details. Of course, no one could verify these details, which meant one was given free reign to make them up. I applied the old Arab proverb: “How do you know it is a lie? Because it is so big.” His claims were just too good to be true. And his bragging about having worked with French intelligence only added to my suspicions, since that organization is known for its tendency to, shall we say, get a little too enthusiastic in claiming fabulous inside information.

Perhaps I made my feelings a little too clear, for as we walked from the restaurant, Debat insisted on going along with me to the subway. And there on the corner of Q Street, he said: “I am a great admirer of your work. Some day I might have the great honor of killing you.”