Archive for February, 2014

Sandra Korn’s academic totalitarianism

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

I’ve often said that the best thing about Hamas is that they say what they think. None of the two-faced English vs. Arabic stuff we get from the ‘moderate’ PLO. They say they want to kill us, because they mean it.

So for the same reason, I enjoyed the Harvard Crimson piece by Sandra Y. L. Korn, “The Doctrine of Academic Freedom.” Korn is not ashamed to put forth the idea that academic freedom should be limited when it conflicts with the political prejudices of the “university community”:

If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Instead, I would like to propose a more rigorous standard: one of “academic justice.” When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.

And how does it “ensure” this? She provides examples, such as disruption of classes “with a bullhorn and leaflets” and the academic boycott of Israeli institutions. The irony in advocating coercive action to oppose research or speech that she and her peers consider politically incorrect is palpable, especially since the bullhorns and boycotts are reminiscent of the SA tactics of the 1930s.

While she understands that the purpose of academic freedom is to see to it that research is not “restricted by the political whims of the moment,” she apparently fails to grasp that the reason for this is that political whims are just that — whims. During Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Chinese students took the lead in what Ms Korn must (at least, we hope she must) admit were terrible injustices. Their views were doubtless shared by most of the “university community,” but so what?

The principle of academic freedom does not require, as Ms Korn’s “academic justice” does, an omniscient and perfectly good community to decide which ideas may be discussed and which not. It says in effect “don’t suppress any ideas, let them compete on their merits,” because we are not smart enough to decide a priori (Korn thinks she and her friends are).

The fact that she chooses a boycott of Israeli universities as an example of a just limitation of academic freedom is a perfect example of the defect in her approach, because as a matter of fact, the ‘oppression’ of the ‘Palestinians’ is at bottom a whopper of a lie intended to cover up the desire of the Arabs to eliminate the state of Israel, and even in many cases to perpetrate a genocide of the Jewish population (viz., Hamas Covenant), something I am sure Korn would disapprove of.

Probably all of Ms Korn’s friends agree that only a right-wing Zionist nut would believe that. Maybe this is because the only voices that they hear are those of, er, left-wing anti-Zionist nuts. Academic freedom is intended to allow all (scholarly) points of view to be heard, in order to help us avoid precisely this situation.

Korn’s “academic justice” is more like academic totalitarianism!

This seems blindingly obvious to me, who did not go to Harvard (but like Ms Korn, did study the history of science, in which I learned about politically incorrect scholars like Galileo Galilei). So why doesn’t she get it?

Her bio indicates that she is “a joint history of science and studies of women, gender and sexuality concentrator.” And there could be the explanation: perhaps whatever she learned in her History of Science classes was overwhelmed by the main lesson taught in gender and ethnic studies, which is that there is no such thing as objective truth, there are only the political consequences of belief.

To illustrate, consider the example that opens her essay:

In July 1971, Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein penned an article for Atlantic Monthly titled “I.Q.” in which he endorsed the theories of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, who had claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race. Herrnstein further argued that because intelligence was hereditary, social programs intended to establish a more egalitarian society were futile—he wrote that “social standing [is] based to some extent on inherited differences among people.”

SDS then got out their bullhorns, to Ms Korn’s great approval. But does she approve of trying to stifle Herrnstein because she believes that his research was bad (how would she be able to tell if he were drowned out by the bullhorns)? Or is it enough for her that she believes that it “promotes or justifies oppression?” Does she also reject the theory of evolution on the grounds that it can be used to support social Darwinist policies that she (justifiably) dislikes?

I began by mentioning Hamas, and I should apologize to Ms Korn for comparing her to them, even in respect to their honesty. I’m sure she has never fired a rocket at a civilian population in her life. But there is something else that she shares with Hamas, which is a belief in ideology above all.

That is about as pernicious an idea as you can get.

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Palestinian autonomy: an idea whose time has come

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Yesterday, I wrote a post advocating that Israel recognize the failure of the process leading to a sovereign Palestinian state, and unilaterally treat the Palestinian Authority as an autonomous, but less than fully sovereign, entity. There would be a Palestinian government, legal system and economy; but ‘Palestine’ would be demilitarized. Israel would continue to control its borders and airspace, and would retain the ability to enter Palestinian territory to take action in response to terrorism.

I argued that this unilateral step would be justified under the provision of the UN Charter that permits states to act in self-defense. Can anyone deny that PLO actions and stated intentions represent a threat to Israel’s existence?

Today an article appeared by Yossi Ben Aharon, former Director-General of the office of PM Yitzhak Shamir, which makes almost exactly the same suggestion. Ben Aharon writes,

Let’s assume that once a sovereign “Palestine” is formed its government strikes a “friendship treaty” with Iran or North Korea, and a few hundred “experts” visit it to consult on issues such as training the “national guard” or the formulation of an intelligence system; or that the Palestinian government would be willing to take in a few thousand refugees and with the U.N.’s assistance, houses them in refugee camps set up within view of Jerusalem or Petach Tikva; or that the Shin Bet security agency realizes that a few hundred jihadis have found their way to these refugee camps and have set up terror cells; or that Palestine holds general elections and Hamas wins and sets up a government in Ramallah. There are endless plausible scenarios. What will Israel do? Invade Palestine? Demand U.N. Security Council action? Ask the U.S. for help?

As a sovereign state, Palestine would enjoy immunity under international law and by the grace of the U.N. Any unilateral steps taken against it would be in gross violation of international law and Israel would be faced with censures and boycotts as a result, as well as Security Council sanctions. Anyone who thinks that the Security Council would notice that it was the Palestinian state which violated the peace deal and therefore should also be sanctioned is sorely mistaken. …

As fate would have it, both the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and late Prime Minister Menachem Begin indicated — each in his own time and words — that the only possible solution is an autonomous Palestinian regime under an Israeli umbrella. The Palestinian Authority is already autonomous. All that is lacking now is to formally set it as such, leaving it with opportunities for improvement — if and when its credibility, and with it calm and security, proves solid.

It is time for Israel to stop being blown about by the winds from Washington and Europe, to take its own security into its own hands, and to unilaterally end the phony ‘peace process’. There already is a ‘Palestine’, which can succeed or fail as an autonomous entity, depending on its inhabitants’ ability to create a functional government and a viable economy (and they would get a great deal of help in this enterprise).

They have what they need to create ‘Palestine’. All they lack — and of course, everything that the present Palestinian leadership wants — are the tools to express the overwhelming hatred that characterizes all aspects of their culture, and destroy the state of Israel. Why give this to them?

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No solution? Then keep the status quo.

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Here is an example of a popular phenomenon that is hard to understand. Isi Liebler wrote:

Diaspora Jewish support for Israel cannot be based exclusively on the intransigence and evil of Abbas and the PA. Instead, it must articulate a broad, unifying, positive, strategic policy around which pro-Israel activists can build their cases. It should reaffirm its support of a two-state solution that reflects the desire of the vast majority of Israelis to end Israeli rule over the Arab population. It should support the retention of the major settlement blocs, as enunciated in President George W. Bush’s letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. It should state explicitly that in the regional scorpions’ den in which it exists, Israel will not compromise on defensible borders or security and should demand that its neighbors recognize its sovereignty as a Jewish nation. [my emphasis]

Liebler is a Zionist and well-informed. And yet, he appears not to know (or ignores) the fact that Israel does not “rule over the Arab population.” More than 90% (I’ve seen figures as high as 97%) of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria are “ruled over” by the Palestinian Authority (PA). And I won’t even discuss the lunatic idea that is popular on the Left that Gaza is ‘occupied’!

True, the PA doesn’t control its airspace or its borders. And Israeli security forces sometimes do penetrate PA areas in order to arrest terrorists who have perpetrated attacks against Israelis or are preparing such attacks. The PA is not allowed to have the tanks, antiaircraft weapons, or for that matter, chemical and nuclear weapons that they would so much like to have. But this is the minimum that is required for Israel’s self-preservation.

What seems to be going on here is that Liebler still can’t shake the illusion that a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria will improve Israel’s strategic position in any way.

He would probably say that European threats and American encouragement of said threats are dangerous. He’s right about that, but they are not as dangerous as the consequences of accepting the indefensible borders, with or without high-tech pretend solutions, that any two-state plan that creates a sovereign Arab state in the territories entails.

It should also be obvious that the demands from the Arabs and from Europe (which is working itself into an anti-Jewish lather lately) will not abate until Israel has been rendered entirely defenseless.

I have proposed, as an ideal solution, that Israel annex all of Judea and Samaria and induce members of violent organizations like those comprising the PLO to leave (by compensation or, if necessary, coercion). But if that is politically impossible, then the status quo — which essentially means the maintenance of an autonomous Palestinian entity with less than full sovereignty — is acceptable.

When Rabin first agreed to Oslo, his conception seems to have been that the Palestinian entity would be demilitarized and with certain limitations on its sovereignty (border control, airspace, etc.). The PA, which Oslo conceived as a temporary device on the way to a permanent solution, seems to have morphed into precisely this.

The Israeli government has responded to the pressure — Kerry’s mission is just the latest manifestation of this pressure — in an ambiguous way. Various members of the cabinet, as Liebler notes, say different things. The official position seems to favor a “two-state solution” with reservations. The reservations change from day to day.

Here is what the government could say in order to normalize the status quo (speaking in one voice if possible):

Insofar as negotiations with the PA have failed — the PA has refused to recognize our sovereignty and right to self-determination — we consider the ‘peace process’ that began with the Oslo accord to be officially ended.

We consider the PA the ruler of the Arab population of Areas A and B, and Hamas (a hostile entity with whom we are in a state of war) as the ruler of the Gaza strip. We view these areas as autonomous.

We will continue to discuss issues such as environmental concerns and water with the PA to the extent that it wishes to do so. But acts of war will be responded to as such.

We also announce that we will continue to unilaterally impose control of borders and airspace, etc. We will interdict weapons shipments to the PA and will take whatever unilateral action necessary to stop terrorism emanating from these areas. All of these actions are based on our right of self-defense, as enunciated in the UN Charter. The US, the EU and others do not have the right to interfere with Israel’s exercise of this right.

This would be combined with the application of Israeli law to Area C, and a continued emphasis on Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Other areas of ambiguity that should be clarified are the question of sovereignty on the Temple Mount (it belongs to Israel), and the tolerance for ‘misdemeanor terrorism‘ in Jerusalem and Judea/Samaria (it should be dealt with harshly).

Is this the ideal solution? No. Is it a better solution than continuing to participate in an inherently contradictory ‘peace process’? Absolutely.

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Banana syndrome at the URJ

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
Israel's Knesset. The parliament of a banana republic?

Israel’s Knesset. The parliament of a banana republic?

Last week, MK David Rotem created a fuss here with his remarks:

Reform leaders in the U.S. are calling for the removal of MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beytenu) from the leadership of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, after he said that Reform Judaism wasn’t really “Jewish,” but a “different religion.”

Later, he explained that he hadn’t said that Reform Jews weren’t Jews, which wasn’t the point anyway. And finally he issued an apology:

My intention was that I have deep differences with the Reform movement about practical matters related to Judaism. At the same time, considering that we are all Jews and members of the same religion, we need to solve these differences in discussions and conversations around the table. I apologize to anyone who may have been hurt.

I am not going to become involved in the discussion of whether Reform Judaism is “another religion” from traditional Judaism. Obviously there is a point when a ‘denomination’ becomes a different religion. Many people, myself included, think that “Messianic Judaism” is more a form of Christianity than a form of Judaism. It has been argued that Chabad — or some factions thereof — have gone too far in their adulation of their Rebbe. I am really not going to get involved in this.

What I do want to discuss is the increasing pressure on Israel from liberal American Jews in regard to the place of Judaism, in all of its forms, in Israel.

The New Israel Fund, a US-based group (which, by the way, I regard as anti-Zionist and pernicious), has long funded Israeli organizations promoting “religious pluralism,” which means equal treatment of various forms of Judaism, equal roles for women in every aspect of Judaism, the elimination of the Orthodox Rabbinate’s control of family law, etc.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) — massive in the US, small in Israel — has pushed for full recognition of non-Orthodox conversions in matters of marriage and divorce, as well as state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis (a limited victory was recently obtained in Israel’s Supreme Court). The head of the URJ, Rabbi Richard (Rick) Jacobs (more here), was a member of the NIF Board of Directors and chair of its Pluralism committee until taking the reins at the URJ.

Yesterday I received an email from the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) — an organization that, needless to say, does not explicitly define itself as engaged in religious politics — mentioning that its “Global Planning Table” (GPT) would develop several initiatives, including this:

Civil Society: a third initiative, still being refined, which will most likely relate to religious diversity and civil marriage in Israel. The task force has hired a consultant in Israel to make recommendations on how the GPT could achieve impact in this area.

What I want to say about all this is not that their goals are necessarily wrong. I can certainly tell you from personal experience that immigrant Jews can have a very difficult time establishing their Jewishness before the Rabbinate in the event that they want to be married in Israel. This is a huge problem for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, where WWII and Soviet anti-Jewish attitudes caused Jewish records to be lost.

What bothers me are two things:

First, most American liberal Jews really don’t have a clue about either Israeli life or the complexities of Israeli politics — in which these issues are deeply entangled. They don’t understand how the changes they are proposing will affect Israeli Jews, nor are they aware of possible unintended political consequences.

Second, it is really none of their business. They are not affected by actions that might be taken in Israel as a result of their pressure. If they move to Israel where it might matter for them, then they can vote for Israeli politicians that reflect their point of view.

This is not different in kind from the pressure that is exerted on Israel, via the European funding of left-wing organizations, to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians. It is not the Europeans that will become the targets of terrorist rockets from Judea and Samaria after an IDF withdrawal!

Back to Rotem:

Both the Reform Movement in Israel and the URJ [in America] condemned Rotem’s statements and asked Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to punish him. The leadership of the Conservative movement and Anti-Defamation League also chimed in.

I’m sorry, perhaps this is just the way the particular reporter is describing it, but isn’t there something inappropriate about Americans demanding that a member of Israel’s Knesset be removed from his post to punish him for insulting them? Can you imagine an Israeli organization calling on the US Speaker of the House to take away the committee chairmanship of a member of Congress?

Israel is an independent sovereign state, and it should not be treated as a banana republic — not by President Obama, not by the Europeans, and not by the URJ.

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A reasonable alternative

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Sometimes the truth is difficult. Sometimes you shrink from drawing the conclusions that fact and logic demand. I too have been guilty of this. It’s time to apply logic to the facts and draw the appropriate conclusion.

I’ve written a lot about the Oslo delusion — that territorial concessions to the Arabs will bring peace. Most Israelis understand that it is a delusion (unfortunately, many pro-Israel Americans still believe in it). Nevertheless, territorial compromise — the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria — is now the official position of the ‘right-wing’ government of Israel.

There is no doubt that the strategic and social repercussions of ceding most (or even much) of Judea, Samaria and Eastern Jerusalem would destroy the Jewish state. I’m not going to go into detail about why this is so, because I’ve done it countless times before in these pages.

Thanks to American pressure, this could come about in the near future. So what’s the matter with Israel’s leadership? Why is it seemingly going along — or at most, temporizing? Why isn’t Israel firmly rejecting the idea of a hostile Arab state gnawing at its belly? Martin Sherman thinks, and I agree, that it is because those opposed to the destructive non-solution proposed by the Left and the US have offered no reasonable alternative.

Some have suggested annexing part of the territories (Area C). While this would avoid removing more than 100,000 Jews from their homes, it would not solve the security problems inherent in having hostile Arabs close to Israel’s population centers, and would necessitate impossibly complicated borders.

Others have argued that the demographic impact of annexing all of Judea and Samaria would not be as great as the Left suggests, and that a Jewish majority could be maintained (Arab population estimates are wildly exaggerated, the Jewish birthrate is high, etc.).

Unfortunately, even if the Arab population of Israel were increased only from 20% to 30%, it would be massively destabilizing. This is a very hostile population, including a large number of members of terror organizations. Israel would either need to become a police state to protect itself, or be torn apart by an unprecedented amount of terrorism.

The survival of the state requires at least two things: control of the strategic areas of Judea/Samaria (pretty much all the area), and a population that is primarily Jewish and does not contain hostile elements.

In other words, a reasonable alternative will have to involve Arabs moving, not Jews.

It doesn’t have to be all the Arabs. Unlike them, we don’t require an ethnically pure state to live in. But we also don’t have to live alongside creatures committed to violence, as the members of the PLO and Hamas are.

We can hear the screaming of the Left, the Europeans, the academic community and of course the Muslim world all the way over here. How dare we suggest that Arabs might be displaced (of course, the idea that a ‘solution’ involves expelling every last Jew so ‘Palestine’ can be free of contamination is perfectly reasonable to them)!

This is the essence of what is needed for peace and the continued existence of the Jewish state: possession of Judea and Samaria and expulsion of Arabs who are not prepared to live peacefully alongside Jews in their state. Yes, this solution is harder than signing an instrument of surrender. It will certainly bring down boycotts and sanctions on Israel.

But its objective, unlike that of Kerry’s imposed ‘solution’, is the preservation of the Jewish State of Israel. Accept that, and all the rest is implementation.

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