Archive for February, 2014

Who’s illiterate?

Friday, February 7th, 2014
Graffiti defaces Jewish-themed mural in Los Angeles

Graffiti defaces Jewish-themed mural in Los Angeles

News item:

A mural on the south side of the Arbeter Ring/Workmen’s Circle Southern California campus at 1525 S. Robertson Blvd was defaced with graffiti that reads “Free Palestine!!!!”

The wall-sized mural [itself] –  titled, ”A shenere un besere velt,” according to the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles (a Yiddish phrase meaning, “A more beautiful and better world) – depicts cultural, biblical and historical imagery. The imagery includes a menorah, Israelites wandering in the desert, a young girl waving Israeli and American flags, and more.

What would your reaction be upon seeing it? Unfortunately, some people are still in the dark about the significance of this, and similar acts.

Robert Adler-Peckerar, executive director of the L.A.-based organization Yiddishkayt, which is a frequent collaborator with the national office and local branch of Workmen’s Circle, said the message of the graffiti reflects an ignorance about the mission of the victimized group. He described Workmen’s Circle as being historically committed to ideas of “social progress, equality, human rights, civil rights and the general pursuit of human dignity,” which includes promoting a “progressive, peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said.

“I feel like this [the graffiti] indicates something much more about thoughtlessness than about an actual commitment to a free Palestine,” Adler-Peckerar said in an interview. “And a tremendous amount of cultural illiteracy [on the vandal(s)’ part].” [my emphasis]

The director is wrong. The vandals were not ‘ignorant’ or  ‘thoughtless’. They fully understood the connection of the Palestinian Cause to the destruction of the Jewish State, and the relationship of the Jewish state to the continued existence of the Jewish people. The graffiti expresses their negation of both Zionism and the Jewish people.

The apparent belief of the director that the Palestinian Cause that the vandals espouse has anything to do with “social progress, equality, human rights, civil rights and the general pursuit of human dignity” rather than racism and a desire to commit genocide, is a good example of another kind of illiteracy — the political illiteracy which prevents ‘progressive’ Jews from reading the ugly truth in front of their faces.

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58 ‘progressive’ Jews and Neturei Karta

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014
Neturei Karta members demonstrate in favor of Jew-hating Hungarian Jobbik party, January 28, 2014

Neturei Karta members demonstrate in favor of Jew-hating Hungarian Jobbik party, January 28, 2014

I don’t argue anymore about whether extreme anti-Zionism is other than a form of Jew-hatred. It’s evident from the double standards, the imagery used, and the very special place it holds in the hearts of the self-righteous who enjoy feeling sorry for the dead Jews of the 1940s while supporting those who want to murder the still-living ones of today.

I also don’t take seriously those who say that Jews can’t be professional Jew-haters. This is refuted by a list of counterexamples as long as my arm, from Max Blumenthal to Philip Weiss. They will all say that they are only ‘critical of Israel’s policies’, but if you believe this then you probably also believe that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes.

If more examples of Jewish Jew-hatred are needed, there is a perfect one in our friends from Neturei Karta. They always insist that they are just anti-Zionist, from the purest of religious motives, but their actions show that this is not the case.

Last week, Gábor Vona of the Hungarian Jobbik party spoke at a rally in London in advance of Hungarian elections (Hungarians living abroad who have a permanent address in Hungary can vote). And among his supporters were members of Neturei Karta (who, incidentally, were seriously annoyed that the BBC at first reported that they were demonstrating against Jobbik)! There is no doubt that Jobbik is anti-Jewish in the traditional, ugly European sense. Of course they are also anti-Zionist, but the latter is clearly derivative from the former. It is not possible to be pro-Jobbik without being anti-Jewish.

Worlds away from Neturei Karta in almost every respect we have 58 affluent, progressive Jews from New York. They would never demonstrate on behalf of Jobbik, but they have no trouble bashing New York’s new, very liberal, Mayor Bill De Blasio for — imagine the chutzpah — speaking at an AIPAC event.

What seems to have particularly annoyed them was De Blasio’s statement that his door was open to AIPAC. They responded that

…the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.

I find this very revealing. AIPAC is a bête noir to Israel-haters like Weiss and Blumenthal, because it is a pro-Israel lobbying organization, and they are anti-Israel. In addition, as Jew haters, they naturally see AIPAC as a conspiracy, because Jewish conspiracies are part of traditional Jew-hatred.

But there is nothing conspiratorial about it — it works to influence the US government in support of the interests of Israel, just like the Saudi Arabian lobby, or the China lobby, or the Micronesian lobby (although, unlike these, it is supported by American citizens and not paid by the states it lobbies for).

AIPAC does not — or tries not to — have a particular ideological tilt. It promotes the positions of Israel’s government, whether it is the labor government of Rabin or Barak, or the Likud government of Netanyahu. It is neither “hard-line” nor “right-wing” as the 58 signatories on the De Blasio letter imply (would that it were).

They happen to dislike Israel’s present government, but recent polls show that support for Netanyahu’s party among Israeli voters, who live there and have to deal with the consequences of their government’s behavior, is stronger than ever.

Earth to 58 ‘progressive’ Jews: it’s called ‘democracy’. You are for that, no?

The truth is that the 58 object to AIPAC because they object to an independent sovereign Jewish state, which is what AIPAC is for. Interestingly, that is also what Neturei Karta is opposed to.

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Barry Rubin, scholar and friend

Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Barry Rubin, ז"ל

Barry Rubin, ז”ל

This is not a post that I wanted to write, though I knew it was coming. Barry Rubin died last night, aged 64. You can find an obituary here. I and many others will miss Barry, both as a notable scholar of the Middle East and a personal friend.

Barry had at least 18 books to his credit — most of them serious scholarly works. He also wrote hundreds, probably thousands, of scholarly and popular articles, blogs, etc. He edited journals, administered institutes, and spoke in venues around the world. His scholarly writing was nevertheless clear and approachable, even entertaining, without academic jargon. Sometimes he introduced his articles with quotations from popular movies and music, or Shakespeare’s plays.

Unlike many ‘authorities’ on the Middle East, his predictions were usually accurate. He knew the players, and had visited many of the countries. He had correspondents throughout the world. It bothered him that so many important people in government and academia who dealt with the region did not know the most basic facts about it (he used the word ‘idiots’).

Another thing that made him unhappy was the politicization of his field of Middle Eastern Studies. He remarked that when he was a student, he had teachers that strongly disagreed with his pro-Israel politics, but never allowed that to affect their evaluation of his work. Today, he thought, that would not be the case. And today, someone like Barry, despite his qualifications, would have a hard time being hired in a Middle East Studies department.

Barry’s approach was always fact-based analysis. He never fit his conclusions to an ideology, and he could be quite critical of Israel’s policies when he felt that was appropriate. He did not dislike Arabs or Muslims, and had many Arab friends. He did dislike ideologues and they disliked him. Those who cared about the truth respected him.

He continued to work to the end of his life — a decision that he made after being diagnosed with aggressive lung cancer (he did not smoke) 18 months ago, and initially given only a few months to live. Despite his enormous output, he always had time and patience to answer questions from friends and students.

Some months ago, I emailed him a question. “I’m having trouble typing,” he responded. “I’ll call you.” And he did.

I enjoyed talking to Barry about lots of things, not just the Middle East. I first met him in person some years ago when I invited him to speak in Fresno. When I asked about his travel from Los Angeles, he told me that he preferred the train. “I like trains,” he said. I discovered that we shared an interest in railroads, and later was impressed by an elaborately detailed model of the Baltimore area in his Tel Aviv apartment. When did he find time to build this? Who knows?

His untimely death is a great loss for his family and friends, of course, but it is also a loss to scholarship and to the pursuit of truth.

Update [5 Feb 1433 PST]: I wrote that Barry Rubin had at least 18 books and probably thousands of articles to his credit. What an underestimate! An authoritative obituary on his site tells us that he “authored and edited close to 100 books–three of which will be published posthumously–and tens of thousands of articles.”

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Remembrance of meetings past

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

News item:

Top officials from the United Nations, United States, Russia and European Union will meet on Saturday [February 1] to discuss how they can help U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s drive for a Middle East peace deal, the EU said on Friday. …

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would chair the meeting with Kerry, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Quartet envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister.

I have always disliked the idea of the ‘Quartet’, basically a gang of bullies who conspire to find ways to force the Jews out of the territories, something that in the foreign offices of Europe and the US State Department seems to have a higher priority than any other geopolitical issue — I won’t list them; you know about Syria, South Sudan, etc.

These representatives of powerful nations and international organizations quite unashamedly apply the principles that ‘might makes right’, ‘international law is whatever gives us an advantage’, and ‘historical fact is anything we want it to be’. Then they try to wreck the tiny Jewish state because their lunatic idea of ‘justice’ demands yet another vicious Arab (possibly Islamist) dictatorship in its place. And (with the exception of the US) these are mostly the same perps that have brutalized the Jews for centuries. It will be chaired by the woman who can commemorate the Holocaust without mentioning Jews.

Speaking of justice, where is the justice in such a conspiracy, a meeting at which decisions are taken to force a small state, uninvited to the meeting, to give up territory to a vicious aggressor (the ‘Palestinians’, after all, are just a proxy for the rest of the Arab and Muslim world)?

Does this sound like something that happened to another small nation before, with many of the same players?

It does — which is why, in the words of the great Paul Harvey, I want to tell you the Rest of the Story:

The Quartet met today, in Munich, Germany.

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