IsraPundit

WE'VE MOVED! IsraPundit has relocated to www.israpundit.com. Click here to go there now.
News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 18, 2004

Excerpt from the "Front Page" interview with Sharansky:



FP: You are critical of those who believe that democracy is suited only for certain cultures and that it is incompatible with Islam. Do you think Islam has the keys within itself to enter modernity?

Sharansky: First, as I mentioned, we can gain some optimism from history. It is important to remember that some of the most serious thinkers once thought that democracy was not compatible with the cultures of Germany, Italy, Japan, Latin America and Russia. The great historian Toynbee questioned whether democracy could ever flourish out of the Anglo-Saxon world or as he put it, in “alien soil.”

Let’s take Japan for a moment. Truman’s advisors were very sceptical about the prospects for democracy in Japan, as were most of the “experts” of the time. And there were good reasons to be sceptical. This was a country with virtually no exposure to the West for centuries. Japan rigidly hierarchical society, and unique culture was seen as antithetical to democratic life. In fact, when the concept of rights was translated into Japan it took a compound word consisting of four characters to express it. But democracy in Japan has been a great success story. Japan is not a Western democracy. The Japanese have kept their traditions, culture and heritage, but they have joined the community of free nations.

Still, history will only get us so far. People can always argue that the “Arabs” are different -- that the sceptics may have been wrong with regard to other cultures and regions, but they will not be wrong when it comes to the Arabs and the Middle East.

And the sceptics present some weighty evidence: Twenty-two Arab countries and not a single democracy. The scenes we see on our television screens, from the celebration s that followed the 9/11 attacks to mass marches praising suicide bombers, would give even the biggest optimists pause.

But while I understand that the picture we see from the outside is very troubling, I am confident that what is really going on inside these societies is very different. Just as the 99% of Soviet citizens who supported the Soviet regime in 1985 was no indication of what the people inside the USSR really thought, the army of true believers that we think we see in the Arab world is an illusion. One only has to read the memoirs of those dissidents who have left place lake Iran and Saudi Arabia to understand that these societies are steeped in doublethink.

I have no doubt that given a real choice, the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs, like everyone else will choose a free society over a fear society. Believe me, the drug of freedom is universally potent. Once the life of doublethink and self-censorship is shed, once the brainwashing stops, once freedom is tasted, no people will ever choose to live in fear again.

More here


December 17, 2004

Good Arabs and bad Leftists




Lots of young educated Arabs LIKE George Bush! "The same ideas came up again and again: he is a strong leader, an honest man, and, most of all, a believer. Like the winning margin of American voters this year, these Middle Easterners related to Bush's sense of religious conviction and his confident steering of a nation and culture they admired... In addition, some of the most articulate students expressed intense misgivings about central Democratic electoral platforms, including gun control, limitation of the death penalty and especially abortion and gay rights. Just the word "homosexual" made many of them cringe and click their tongues in that uniquely Arab way of showing disapproval. A final piece of the puzzle fell into place when I learned that more than half of the students in my advanced class, among them a third-year medical student and daughter of a Western-based diplomat, rejected the theory of evolution. "I just can't believe that we came from monkeys," she said".




There is an excellent article here on the multiple links between the far Left and the Islamists. Such links make no logical sense at all given the way Islamic attitudes to women and to sexual licence run directly against long-cherished Leftist causes but, as usual, Leftist attitudes can only be understood psychologically rather than logically and the alliance makes great sense psychologically. Both Leftists and Islamists want to tear down existing society and put themselves in the drivers' seat instead. So at a basic level the two groups have identical aims. It is only power that Leftists really want. All the rest of what they say is just posturing -- and there could be no clearer evidence of that than the way they have abandoned the various "rights" they have always stood for by co-operating with the world's most notable opponents of such rights.

December 16, 2004

Muslim violence in India and Indonesia




There is an interesting contrast here between the way two poor countries -- India and Indonesia -- deal with Muslim violence. The terrorists mostly get a free pass in Indonesia but India prosecutes energetically. The British origins of India's legal system seem to have a lot to do with it. The author rejects the view that the minority status of Muslims in India has anything major to do with it. At over 200 million, Indian Muslims are a LARGE minority.

Israel's "friend"




Tom Barrett: "I have long believed that the United Nations is the most dangerous organization on our planet. The corruption that has been revealed there over the last few years has only reinforced my opinion. Now it is becoming apparent that the rampant corruption at the UN starts at the very top. More than any thing, the UN is a savagely anti-United States propaganda outlet. It is made up primarily of nations that hate or are jealous of the US..... "


December 15, 2004

THE FASCIST AMERICAN LEFT



(Article by Cinnamon Stillwell)

San Francisco State University has been in the spotlight lately, and the picture that has emerged is not a flattering one. Following last month's nationwide elections, members of the SFSU chapter of the College Republicans were confronted by an angry mob simply for setting up a table and handing out political literature. Members of the International Socialist Organization, the General Union of Palestinian Students and others surrounded the Republican students, shouting at them to "get out" of SFSU.

After trying to provoke the Republican students, four Middle Eastern women claimed that they had been the victims of racism and physical aggression. Although the exact details are still being disputed by the various parties, police reports and eyewitness accounts appear to back up the College Republicans. It seems that free political expression is no longer welcome at SFSU, at least not if one is espousing unpopular views.

A question arises: How did such a threatening environment become associated with a campus located in one of the most liberal and tolerant cities in the nation? The truth is that SFSU has a reputation for intolerance that goes back at least 10 years. In this case, Republican students, clearly a minority at SFSU, were the targets. But in the past, such animosity was directed mostly at Jewish students or those seen as supporting Israel. Jews at SFSU have been spat on, called names and physically attacked, as well as censured by the administration for defending themselves, even as their attackers went unpunished.

The case of Tatiana Menaker, a Russian Jewish emigré and former SFSU student, is an example of the latter indignity. After committing the "crime" of responding verbally to another student's anti-Semitic epithets during a 2002 rally, she found herself persecuted by the administration.

Pulled into a kangaroo court, threatened with expulsion and ordered by the university to perform 40 hours of community service (but specifically not for a Jewish organization), Menaker was later exonerated after seeking legal assistance from the Students for Academic Freedom and the local Jewish Community Relations Council. But the damage was done.

During my time as a student at SFSU (Class of 1996), I was given a preview of things to come. In 1994, the Student Union Governing Board commissioned a mural to honor the late Black Muslim revolutionary Malcolm X. Designed by members of the Pan Afrikan Student Union and painted by artist Senay Dennis (known also as Refa-1), the finished product was problematic, to say the least. Along with an image of Malcolm X, the not-so-subtle symbols of Stars of David juxtaposed with dollar signs, skulls and crossbones, and the words "African blood," had been painted. Despite the obvious allusion to anti-Semitic blood libels of old, Pan Afrikan Student Union members claimed the symbols represented Malcolm X's alleged opposition to Israel, not to Jews, as if that was some comfort.

Predictably, Jewish students were outraged, as were others truly interested in promoting tolerance on campus. African-American English Professor Lois Lyles made her opposition known by trying to paint "Stop Fascism" on the wall next to the mural. After attempting to paint over the mural on several occasions, only to find the cover-up paint removed by protesters, the administration was forced to take more permanent action. And, on May 26, 1994, under the guard of police in riot gear, the mural was sandblasted, only to be replaced with the kinder, gentler version seen on campus today.

Being Jewish, I was shaken by the incident, but, not yet well versed in the growing anti-Semitism in America's universities, I chalked it up to fringe politics and moved on. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of what would become a familiar scenario at SFSU and beyond. As the Anti-Defamation League puts it, "On campuses across the country, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has led to demonstrations and activism by pro-Palestinian groups fueled by hatred of Israel and Jews."

Of course, some will automatically object to the characterization of anti-Zionist or anti-Israel sentiment as anti-Semitism. This is a popular refrain among those who are the principal offenders these days. Indeed, sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference between the sort of conspiracy-theory-driven rhetoric emanating from the Arab media and the language of many self-described "progressives" in the West. Both use terms such as apartheid, racism and, worst of all, Nazism to characterize Israel's policies toward Palestinians. Yet none of them accurately describe the tiny country that has been fighting for its existence since its inception, and to misuse such loaded terms devalues them of meaning.

But let's just say, for the sake of argument, that people who indulge in such hateful speech have legitimate criticisms of Zionism. At what point does political opposition to Zionism become an excuse for discrimination? According to the pro-Israel advocacy group Stand with Us, Jewish students at SFSU have been "denied positions in student government because they were 'Zionists,'" and "funding was denied to Hillel events because it was [a] 'Zionist' [group]." These injustices occurred in addition to charges of anti-Zionist sentiment on the part of some SFSU professors, despite the potential for intimidating Jewish students.

The flyers hung all over campus in April 2002 displaying a Palestinian baby on a soup-can label and the words "Palestinian Children Meat, slaughtered according to Jewish rites under American license" hardly constitute legitimate criticism. Then there was a "Peace in the Middle East" rally, organized by the SFSU Hillel chapter on May 7, 2002. This seemingly innocuous event was beset by pro-Palestinian protesters bellowing such enlightened statements as "Zionists off the campus now," "Go back to Germany, where they knew how to deal with you" and "Hitler should have finished the job." In fact, the counterprotesters became so frenzied that Jewish students had to be escorted off campus under guard by San Francisco Police Department personnel. Is such blatant bigotry considered acceptable behavior when its targets are the "dreaded" Zionists?

Even SFSU President Robert Corrigan seems unable to comprehend the true root of the problem. A statement by him about the issue, "It is not animus towards Jews, but there are strong anti-Zionist feelings on this campus," demonstrates a worrisome blind spot. And Sheldon Axler, dean of the SFSU College of Science, described slogans such as "Down with Zionism" and "Israel is a terrorist state" as "legitimate political expression." Anti-Zionism has indeed achieved a level of acceptance at SFSU and at universities throughout America and western Europe.

Never mind the fact that to be "anti-Zionist" is to oppose the existence of Israel. What else besides anti-Semitism explains the single-minded obsession with a country the size of New Jersey? Israel's alleged human rights offenses are given disproportionate attention, even as countless other nations commit crimes more heinous than anything seen in the Middle East's only democracy. Equality for women, gay rights, democratic institutions, tolerance of various religions and ethnicities are ignored in favor of the misguided view that Israel is the root of all evil in the world.

Increasingly, the myth that if the Middle East conflict were solved (i.e., if Israel were to cease to exist as a Jewish state), Islamic terrorism would come to a halt has made its way into many liberal and some conservative circles -- Pat Buchanan and other isolationists come to mind. But the fact is that Jews were hated before they had a state, and now they're hated for having a state. The very persecution that led Jews to flee Europe after World War II and help rebuild the nation of Israel is now directed at them for having survived the Holocaust. The insistence that Israel stop defending itself against Islamic terrorism also reeks of hypocrisy. Could it be that the very reason people despise Israel so much is because it's a Jewish state? No other explanation holds up under examination.

As for SFSU, it remains to be seen whether the administration will exorcise the cancer of extremism on campus or allow it to fester. While pontificating about "free speech," Corrigan and the SFSU administration continue to underestimate the growing radicalism in their own backyard. As a result, what began with attacks on Jewish students has now spread outward to any students who don't share the liberal politics of the majority.

As we have seen throughout history, Jews are the canary in the coal mine. Those who dismiss their persecution often become targets themselves down the line. Until this reality hits home, SFSU's legacy of intolerance is likely to continue.


Source


December 14, 2004

RACE, RACISM AND STEREOTYPING




An issue of abiding interest to all Jews


AMERICA'S MOST OFFENSIVE FOUR-LETTER WORD

There is no doubt that the most offensive four-letter word in America today is "race". I gather that my occasional mentioning of it greatly limits the readership of much that I write. It is my contention, however, that it is mainly the Left that keep it that way -- by going ballistic every time that the word is mentioned. Absurd though it is, the convention that the Left have forced onto American society by their torrents of abuse is that anyone who mentions the word "race" is a "racist". And "racist" is in fact the most potent term of abuse that there is in most of the world today.

And the reason why is no mystery. Hitler's appalling application of the racial hygeine theories that were common among the Leftists of his day have made all good people super-anxious not to have anything to do with such horrors. But because a particularly nasty socialist once used the idea of race to inflict horrors does not mean that there is anything wrong with the concept of race. Atomic bombs are horrible too but the horribleness of the idea of atomic bombs does not make the reality of such bombs go away. Putting it another way, one does not have to want to persecute other races in order to recognize that they exist.

I have always been quite unhesitating in saying that races do exist and that there are differences between them -- and it is my view that anyone who says otherwise is deliberately blind. There is even good evidence from the geneticists saying so but I do not expect that sort of evidence to be influential with people who cannot even believe what their senses tell them every day.

I am sure that the kneejerk brigade have stopped reading this by now so I presume that I am now talking to those who are capable of acknowledging that there are races and that race can make a difference. The important question now, then, is what USE does the concept have? And my answer to that is: "Not a lot". As a conservative I believe in the primacy of the individual so I believe that each person should as far as possible be treated on his/her individual merits, regardless of whether he/she is black, white or brindle.

Unfortunately, however, as in Hitler's day, the Left do not do that. They do not treat people as individuals and they do discriminate against people on the basis not only of their race but even on the basis of their skin colour. I refer of course to "affirmative action". They practice racial discrimination without using the word "race" -- generally preferring the term "minorities" instead, which is about as big a distortion as claiming that homosexuals are "gay". Sad homosexuals are apparently not allowed and the minority that suffers most official discrimination against them in America today is undoubtedly white middle class males. Such confusion of speech makes intelligent discussion difficult so I am going to call leftists what they are: Racists. And I am going to call the categories that they use "races" too. If I try to use the deliberately confused terms that Leftists use in this matter, I run the risk of falling into the sort of confused thinking that they display -- the sort of confused thinking that denies that race exists and then proceeds to base vast policies on it.

The racial category that American Leftists most focus on is of course blacks of African ultimate origin. And by constant repetition over the last 50 years or so they seem to have persuaded lots of white Americans that they should feel guilty about the problems that such blacks tend to have. White feelings of guilt about blacks appear to have been fairly uncommon before World War II. And the principal point I am aiming at for the moment is that whites should NOT feel guilty. I am not responsible for what my ancestors did nor is anybody else. We can only deal with the situation as we have it today and the plain fact is that American blacks are the luckiest of their race in the world today. If people of African ancestry in America have problems, their problems are as nothing compared to the problems of Africans in Africa. Although it was not done with benevolent intentions, the transportation of African slaves into America was in fact the best thing that anybody has ever done for Africans. The descendants of the slaves are infinitely richer and better off in a whole host of ways than are the descendants of those Africans who were not enslaved. And at least one prominent black American has acknowledged that. See also here.

So my point is that if we must use the Leftist practice of basing policy on race, the logic would be that American blacks owe whites something, and not vice versa. The guilt about blacks that many American whites appear to feel is, in other words, a giant Leftist con job. That they have managed to make people feel guilty about something that they also claim does not exist is an abiding wonder, however. If Leftists really did treat people as individuals regardless of their race, neither the guilt nor the affirmative action policies based on it would be possible.


STEREOTYPING

Around 15 years ago, I went to the library at the University of Queensland and looked up their PsycLIT CD-ROM. The CD was published by the American Psychological Association and indexes what has been published in all the world's academic psychology journals. I entered the search terms "racism" and "ethnocentrism" and looked at the authorship of the stream of articles that came out. There was one author who had published far more than any other -- accounting for about a fifth of the articles concerned. So, by normal academic conventions, that author would clearly be the world's leading authority on the psychology of racism. I am that author. See here

No doubt the situation has changed considerably since then. I neither know nor care nor does anybody else. My research generally arrived at conclusions uncongenial to Leftists so has always been thoroughly ignored by my fellow academics and I have therefore long since stopped doing any of it. I mention the matter only to establish that I do know the subject exceptionally well and am not talking through my hat in what I am about to say. And what I am about to say I have set out in more academic terms, complete with references, here and here.

In psychology, a "stereotype" is the word used to refer to a belief that someone has about a particular group of people. A common stereotype would be the belief that blacks are lazy. Stereotypes are therefore in general greatly condemned. The grounds for condemning them are twofold: 1). It is argued that no group has distinct characteristics; and 2). That even if a majority of a group has some characteristic, not all members of the group will have so it is pernicious to judge the individual by the group to which he belongs.

The first claim is simply silly. Of course groups have common characteristics. Most people of African ancestry have dark skin, for instance. Even if there are some or even many exceptions to the rule, the rule still exists. To say that no rule may have any exceptions would exclude most rules we use in life. The second claim is of course correct. To say that a person has a characteristic that he does not is plainly foolish and unjust and any public policy (such as the Jim Crow laws or "affirmative action") that assumes characteristics in an individual because of some group to which he belongs is also therefore foolish and unjust. The United Nations charter says that each person should be treated according to his/her individual merits and that is probably the most uncontroversial pronouncement the UN has ever made. Whether people act on it, however, is another matter.

So there are intellectually compelling reasons why public policy should not take group membership into account. Enquiries can always be made about the characteristics of the individual who might be affected by a policy instead of assuming the characteristics of the individual from some group to which he/she might belong. If a policy is designed to help poor people, for instance, enquiries should be made about the income and assets of each individual concerned before they are helped rather than assuming that because he/she is a member of a generally poor group (such as blacks) he/she should automatically be helped.

Private life, however, is another matter. In private life we very often HAVE to deal with people on the basis of very imperfect knowledge about them. A landlord deciding on whether or not to let his property to someone, for instance, will often know very little about the prospective tenant. He will of course ask for references etc but as crooks often have the best references, that will not get him far. So he will necessarily use very imperfect rules in deciding what to do. If, for instance, he has had repeated bad experiences with (say) Korean tenants, he may well decide not to accept a particular prospective tenant who is Korean. He will undoubtedly make some mistakes in doing so but he will probably make fewer mistakes that way than if he had used no rules at all. But clearly, what he has done is "stereotyped" Koreans as bad tenants. So what is quite improper in public policy may be perfectly proper in a limited-information, day-to-day environment. Circumstances alter cases and to say that stereotyping is ALWAYS undesirable is in fact to stereotype stereotyping.

So the rational conclusion from realities such as those mentioned out above is that consideration of group membership should be outlawed in public policy but allowed in private life. Needless to say, Leftists advocate the exact reverse of that.

MORAL?

"But what about the moral dimension?" someone will no doubt want to ask at this stage. Leftists advocate the policies they do to redress wrongs. Should not such wrongs be addressed?

My reply is that governments do not have to be racist to redress wrongs. If there is a desire to provide accomodation for unpopular tenants, for instance, the government could acquire housing suitable for renting out to such people (which is what many governments already do) and that should be the end of the matter. The government will realize that tenants unacceptable to private landlords are probably going to be costly for the government to accomodate but if their voters vote for that, so be it. There will be no need for government to enquire about the race of any of the tenants concerned nor will there be any need to prevent private property-owners from making such enquiries.

Similarly with education: If the government is concerned at the poor secondary school attainments of some people, the answer is not to pretend that those attainment are adequate but rather to offer extra courses -- summer schools, remedial courses or whole years of education -- to such people. Once again, no enquiry about the race of the low-achievers should be needed. And it appears that something like that is now beginning to happen. See here.


December 13, 2004

Jews DID resist the Nazis




Although there is a widespread myth that Jews in the Holocaust were passive, they were actually more active than any other conquered people. In 1942-43, Jews constituted half of all the partisans in Poland. Overall, about thirty thousand Jewish partisans fought in Eastern Europe. There were armed revolts in over forty different ghettos, mostly in Eastern Poland.

In other parts of Europe, Jews likewise joined the resistance at much higher rates than the rest of the population. Unlike in Eastern Europe, though, Jews were generally able to participate as individuals in the national resistance, rather than having to fight in separate units. For example, in France, Jews amounted to than one percent of French population, but comprised about 15-20 percent of the French Resistance.

In Greece too, Jews were disproportionately involved in the resistance. In Thessaly, a Jewish partisan unit in the mountains was led by the septuagenarian Rabbi Moshe Pesah, who carried his own rifle. The Athenian Jew Jacques Costis led the team which demolished the Gorgopotamos Bridge, thereby breaking the link between the mainland and Peloponnesian Peninsula, and interfering with the delivery of supplies to Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

One of the great centers of resistance was Vilna, Lithuania, which before the Nazi conquest had been an outstanding center of Jewish learning, compared by some to Jerusalem. Plans for resistance began in January 1942. The Jews’ only weapons were smuggled in from nearby German arms factories where the Jews performed slave labor. Hopeful of liberation by the Russian army, many of the Vilna Jews did not support the partisans. Partisan resistance postponed by three weeks the German plans to transport all the inhabitants of the Vilna ghetto to death camps, but the deportation of 40,000 Jews was accomplished by the end of September 1943.

A young poet named Abba Kovner led the resistance movement known as the Avengers in the woods around Vilna. His lieutenants, and bedmates, were teenage girls, Vitka Kempner and Ruzka Korczak. The Avengers were the first partisans in Nazi Europe to blow up a German train. Towards the end of the war, the Avengers shepherded huge numbers of Jews to Palestine, in violation of the British blockade.

Before the war, Ruzka had belonged to left-wing Zionist youth group called “The Young Guard” (HaShomer HaTza’ir) which trained Jews in self-defense, and taught the older boys how to shoot. Abba was not religious, but he was a fervent Zionist, loving to read the Bible stories of Jewish warriors, and aiming to emulate the Jewish Bible heroes.

In the Vilna Ghetto, it was Abba Kovner who first saw that the tightening of the Nazi oppression was not just a temporary imposition by a local German official; it was a step towards the total destruction of the Jews. The only way out, he argued, was “Revolt and armed defense. This is the only way which promises any dignity for our people.” Other Jews countered that revolt was hopeless because the Germans were so strong, and that collective reprisals by the Germans would just lead to more Jewish deaths. Ruzka Korczak retorted that the stories of Jewish heroism could not remain only “a part of our ancient history. They must be part of our real life as well.” The next generation of Jews must have something to admire. “How good will they be if their entire history is one of slaughter and extermination? We cannot allow that. It must also have heroic struggles, self-defense, war, even death with honor.”

Vilna was typical, in that the young people were usually the ones who wanted to fight, and the elders usually counseled against causing trouble. Most of the partisan leaders and fighters were young. Niuta Teitelbaum was a beautiful 24-year-old Jewish Polish woman who looked like she was sixteen. Known as “Little Wanda with the Braids,” she was an expert smuggler of people and weapons, and instructed women’s partisan cells. Her units blew up trains, artillery emplacements, and other German targets.

Once, wearing traditional Polish clothing and a kerchief on her hair, she talked her way past a series of Gestapo guards, whispering that she was going to see the SS commander on “private business.” Alone with the commander in his office, she drew a revolver, shot him dead, and calmly left the building.

More here

December 12, 2004

GERMAN GUILT AT WORK



It obviously makes feel them better to think that the Jews are a nasty lot too

Six decades after the mass extermination of six million Jews in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany, more than 50 percent of Germans believe that Israel's present-day treatment of the Palestinians is similar to what the Nazis did to the Jews during World War II, a German survey released this weekend shows. 51 percent of respondents said that there is not much of a difference between what Israel is doing to the Palestinians today and what the Nazis did to the Jews during the Holocaust, compared to 49% who disagreed with such a comparison, according to the poll carried out by Germany's University of Bielefeld.

The survey also found that 68 percent of Germans believe that Israel is waging a "war of extermination" against the Palestinians, while some 32% disagreed with such a statement.

In a first reaction, the chairman of Yad Vashem's directorate Avner Shalev said Tuesday that the poll's results, which he termed "very worrisome," were indicative of a long-suppressed felling of anti-Semitism among the mainstream "so-called liberals" population which now, under the coating of anti-Israeli criticism, are becoming legitimate again. He added that the poll's results, which he said any objective person would repudiate, are also the result of the release of pent-up feelings of guilt built up from the Holocaust.

More here