Sunday 30 December 2007

Three whom God should not have created: Persians, Jews and flies, by Khairallah Tulfah

A year ago, on 30 December 2006, Iraki dictator Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging in Bagdad after being convicted of crimes against humanity.

During Saddam Hussein's regime his maternal uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, an ex-army officier, wrote a racist and anti-Semitic tract entitled "Three whom God should not have created: Persians, Jews and flies". Jews were described as a "mixture of dirt and the leftovers of diverse people". Under Saddam's dictatorship, Tulfah's writings were widely distributed in Irak, namely in schools.

Thursday 27 December 2007

European Coalition for Israel: concern over lack of religious freedom in Palestinian controlled territories

The European Coalition for Israel calls the European Union leaders' attention to the plight of Christians in Palestinian controlled areas:
"In a letter to the two leaders of the European Union the Coalition points out that "according to international human rights law everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion". These fundamental rights were codified in the new EU Reform treaty which was signed in Lisbon earlier in December. In the new treaty the European Union commits to affirming and promoting human rights and fundamental freedom in their relations and cooperation with non-EU countries. The Palestinian Authority receives annually over 500 million euro in funding from the European Union and is the single largest recipient of EU aid.
This Christmas the European Coalition for Israel wishes to draw attention to the fact that the Christian communities living in the Palestinian controlled territories in the West Bank and Gaza are likely to dissipate completely within the next 15 years as a result of increasing Muslim persecution and maltreatment. According to a report by scholar Justus Weiner from Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Christians are streaming out of the Palestinian Authority controlled areas, including some of the holiest sites of Christendom.
"Christians comprised 85 percent of the population of Bethlehem in 1948; today their numbers have dwindled to 12 percent", concludes Weiner* in his report. Elsewhere in the Palestinian territories only about 3.000 Christian, mostly Greek Orthodox, live in the Hamas run Gaza Strip, out of a strongly conservative Muslim population of 1.4 million.
In a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on November 15, 2007 the deputies expressed concern over "a number of serious events which compromise the existence of Christian communities" and mentions specifically the Palestinian controlled territories."
*Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society, by Justus Reid Weiner (JCPA, 2005)
report is "dedicated to the memory of a courageous man, Ahmad El-Achwal, a Palestinian convert to Christianity. El-Achwal was a married father of eight who lived in the Askar Refugee Camp. Despite repeated harsh treatment at the hands of the Palestinian Authority including imprisonment, severe beatings, arson, intimidation and torture, El-Achwal clung to his religious beliefs and even ran an informal church in his house. El-Achwal was murdered on January 21, 2004, at the entrance to his residence."

Monday 24 December 2007

Europe is not impressed by Walt and Mearsheimer: the Continental divide

A review of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by Eric Frey focuses on the issue of anti-semitism which was raised much more frequently in Europe than in the U.S. Frey believes that around third of Europeans are still "susceptible to covert antisemitic propaganda, and some of them will see their views confirmed by two respected American political scientists. But the rest will not be impressed".

"Mearsheimer and Walt’s book is not about Israel. It is about American politics, specifically about the allegedly nefarious role played by a mostly Jewish circle of people and organizations in the politics of a predominantly Christian nation. The charge that Jews manipulate non-Jews to further their own interests is so much part of antisemitic lore here in Europe that discussing such a thesis almost immediately requires addressing the issue of antisemitism.
That is what happened to Mearsheimer and Walt. In what seemed to be every interview and panel discussion, they were forced to address the charge that they were themselves antisemites, or at least giving ammunition to antisemites. In the interview I conducted with them in Vienna for my newspaper, Der Standard, the two authors themselves constantly returned to the theme of antisemitism, sounding defensive and at times snivelling.
They repeated their argument that their book was not about Jews, but about the workings of political lobbies in American politics. But that argument will ring false in New York, let alone in places like Austria and Germany where the obsession with Jewish power has a long and terrible history.
While there are plenty of people who will use the book to reaffirm their belief that, to quote Mel Gibson, “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” mainstream readers of political non-fiction will at least be concerned that they might be seen as antisemites if they identify too closely with Mearsheimer and Walt’s thesis.
Even when it came to the issue of the Iraq war, the academics’ Jewish spin has tended to dampen the impact of their message in Europe. There is a near consensus here on the view that the Bush administration’s decision to go to war was at a minimum foolish and perhaps even criminal, and that the neoconservatives are largely to blame for that decision. But once you equate that group with the Israel Lobby, as Mearsheimer and Walt have done, the Iraq war gets tied up with the darkest sides of Europe’s own history. …
Perhaps a third of the European public is susceptible to covert antisemitic propaganda, and some of them will see their views confirmed by two respected American political scientists. But the rest will not be impressed."

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Christmas: Banksy, Bethlehem and bigotry

There is a timely piece in The Times by Michael Gove about what has become "a feature of seasonal journalism", i.e. pro-Palestinian militancy in the run-up to Christmas.

"Eggnog lattes on sale at Starbucks? Feature-length M&S commercials? There’s one invariable sign that Christmas is almost upon us - a story about how Bethlehem is suffering at the hands of wicked Israel.
It has become almost as much a feature of seasonal journalism as stories about how Nativity plays are being subverted and commentaries on how commercialism is snuffing out the true meaning of the festival.
This year we’ve already had our first exercise in demonising Israel for its treatment of Bethlehem with the graffiti artist Banksy enjoying extensive coverage for his trip to decorate the security barrier near the town with his work. The message of Banksy’s work and the coverage it has generated is the same: oppressive Israel has snuffed the life out of the town where the Prince of Peace was born. Herod’s spirit lives on, even as the spirit of Christmas is struggling to survive.
The truth is very different. The parlous position of Palestinian Christians, indeed the difficult position of most Christians across the Arab world, is a consequence not of Israeli aggression but of growing Islamist influence. Israel goes out of its way to honour sites and traditions sacred to other faiths while the radicals who are driving Palestinian politics seek to create an Islamist state in which other faiths, if they survive at all, do so with the explicit subject status of dhimmis. But when it comes to Israel’s position in these matters it’s still a case of O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see them lie."

Monday 17 December 2007

Palestine: over 100 human rights NGOs, less than 10 in the agricultural sector

Georges Malbrunot, the French journalist who was kidnapped in Irak, writing today in Le Figaro on the subject of aid given to the Palestinians quotes an expert: "Over one hundred Human Rights and Environmental Protection NGOs have been created, whereas there are less than 10 NGOs working in the key agricultural sector".

The figures are amazing: over 100 dealing with rights - human and environmental rights - and less than 10% with agriculture - add the billions poured in in aid, and one gets the picture: Palestinians are being encouraged to be dependent and irresponsible. For Malbrunot, the usual culprits are Israel and the US (Europe is powerless). Maen Eraka, a Palestian, explained that, although international aid has increased by 300%, Palestinians' net income went down by 10% - this sorry state of affairs is due to Israeli occupation! Israeli occupation in Gaza?

Malbrunot concludes that Israel is only too happy for Europe to pay, but does not want Europeans at the negotiating table...

Friday 14 December 2007

Thinking World Historically, by Rick Richman

This is a piece by Rick Richman from Jewish Current Issues:

"... what is happening in Iraq -- the attempt to create representative government in the heart of the Arab world -- is a potentially world-historical event, the latest chapter in what David Gelernter has termed the "fourth great Western religion:" "Americanism:"

From the 17th century through John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Americans kept talking about their country as if it were the biblical Israel and they were the chosen people. . . .
Freedom, equality, democracy: the Declaration held these truths to be self-evident, but "self-evident" they were certainly not. Otherwise, America would hardly have been the first nation in history to be built on this foundation. Deriving all three from the Bible, theologians of Americanism understood these doctrines not as philosophical ideas but as the word of God.
Hence the fervor and passion with which Americans believe their creed. Americans, virtually alone in the world, insist that freedom, equality, and democracy are right not only for France and Spain but for Afghanistan and Iraq.

George W. Bush is only the latest in a long line of American presidents -- including Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan -- who considered Americans "an almost chosen people" (in Lincoln’s phrase), living in a country whose beginning in 1776 "really had its beginning in Hebrew times" (in Truman’s phrase), that is a "shining city upon a hill" (in Reagan’s phrase) and stands ready to "bear any burden and oppose any foe" to insure the survival of liberty (in Kennedy’s phrase).
All five presidents (three Republicans, two Democrats) thought America had a world-historical mission. None of them was a realist."

Wednesday 12 December 2007

"Anti-Semitism, just like any other form of prejudice, cannot breathe the air of truth", Bernard Harrison

Extracts from an article in Jewish Exponent by Bernard Harrison author of The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism, Jews, Israel and Liberal Opionion

“Plenty of Jews, and others, have protested against the current climate of demonization not merely of Israel, but also of the large majority of Jews and others who support Israel.
But furious denial is the usual response to any suggestion that there is anything anti-Semitic either about grotesquely hyperbolic defamation of Israel ("a Nazi state," "the apartheid wall"), or about attacks on the "Israel lobby" that patently revive and reanimate the hoary myth of Jewish conspiracy.
Denial is buttressed by the claim that these accusations of anti-Semitism are themselves evidence of a Jewish conspiracy to silence critics of Israel and close down debate on the Middle East. That charge, of course, reanimates another traditional anti-Semitic theme - that of the Jew who whines about his sufferings less because he is really injured than because he hopes to draw some hidden advantage from complaining.
That, however, is beside the point. The point, as ever in the diagnosis of prejudice, concerns not disrespect but truth. How, in reality, could accusations of anti-Semitism hope to stem the tide of defamation now running so strongly, let alone "close down debate"?
What factual basis, if any, supports accusations that Israel is a "Nazi state" or that Israelis are planning - or executing - a Nazi-style genocide against Palestinians?
Anti-Semitism, just like any other form of prejudice, cannot breathe the air of truth. It thrives on luridly colored falsehood.”
H/T: Engage

Sunday 9 December 2007

Darfur: Will the peacekeepers find them before the Janjaweed do?

Luxembourg boys school: physics or incitement to hatred?

Pupils at the Lycée de Garçons in Luxembourg were given a physics problem to solve (after protests, it was removed from the school website and young stone-thrower Mohamed was replaced by a golf player ...).

"Mohamed lives in Gaza. He is a Palestinian child and is throwing stones at the occupying Israelis. He wants to hit a soldier who is sitting on the top of a tank 60 metres away. ...
3. The child throws the stone at a speed of 20 metres/second. How long does it take for the soldier - from the moment he realises the stone has been thrown - to dodge ?
4. A second soldier, crouching on the ground, reacts by shooting once at the child with his rifle. The bullet leaves the rifle at a horizontal speed of 500 metres/second. How long does it take for the bullet to hit Mahomed?"

Saturday 8 December 2007

Kosta Plevris: Hitler could have rid Europe of the Jews but did not

The trial of Kostas Plevris, a Greek lawyer, neo-Nazi militant and author of Jews: The Whole Truth, and of the far-right newspaper Eleftheros Cosmos, on charges of breaking the anti-racism law, has opened in Athens on 3 December. Mr. Plevris stands accused of publishing anti-Semitic material and of "inciting actions that could provoke discrimination, hatred and violence against persons and groups of persons, solely because of their racial and ethnic origins". Here are some quotes from his book:

Adolf Hitler: The tragic leader of the German Third Reich is certainly the most impressive leadership figure of the modern age… Human history will blame Adolf Hitler for the following: 1. He could have rid Europe of the Jews, but did not; 2. He did not use the special chemical weapons, which only Germany possessed, to gain a victory... Because of the defeat of Germany then, the White Race and Europe are at risk now… The day will come when Europeans will either dominate or be destroyed. Either way they will acknowledge that Hitler was right... (p. 881)
Heinrich Himmler: Chief in Command of the SS… facts and arguments verify the high moral standing of the Man who, despite the fact that in one day he could have issued the order for all Jews to be put to death, chose to expel them from Europe so as to rid the continent of the White Race of the non-European Semites …. The SS, in particular the combatant SS (Waffen SS,) were the knights in armor of the modern age, indomitable fighting men from every country in Europe, who sacrificed their lives for the ideal of a New Order for civilized peoples. Unfortunately for the human race, they were defeated… They were all fine examples of faith, discipline and fighting skill, serving the ideals of National Socialism. Their bearing reflected the greatness of their character so only the very best of the Aryan Race were included in the ranks of the SS…. (p. 869)
Joseph Goebbels: One of the brightest minds of the century. A philosopher and fighter with a deep understanding of mass psychology, on every battlefield he vanquished Jewish Bolshevism and headed his country's all out war. (p. 885)
Hitler was blamed for something that did not actually take place. Later the history of humanity will blame him for not ridding Europe of the Jews, though he could have … My dear Jews, I do not ask you to suffer all the things that your holy books tell you that we should suffer from you… You are criminals because that is what your religion has taught you to be. You are murderers because crime is instilled in you from an early age. Therefore we others have the right to deal with you. And that is what we will do. (p. 852)
ZYKLON B, so extensively publicized as the gas used to put Jews to death in the special gas chambers (which have not been found) was merely a poisonous gas used to fumigate the concentration camps…everything else [said about it] is fiction produced for the purposes ofpropaganda. (p. 1008)
The SS divisions fought with unparalleled heroism. (p. 853)
In 1945 the White Race suffered the greatest catastrophe in its history. Hitlerian Germany's epic struggle for dominance by Aryans ended without a victory. (p. 869)

Monday 3 December 2007

"From Superman to the Rabbi's Cat", an exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Art and History, Paris

Article by Jeffrey T. Iverson in TIME Magazine
"In Search of Superman's Inner Jew
The debate has raged for decades: is he Jewish, Methodist, Kryptonian Raoist? But finally, it's been settled: Superman is definitely... a non-Aryan Protestant. The complex origins of many a comic book character are deconstructed at the engaging and erudite exhibit, "From Superman to the Rabbi's Cat" - through Jan. 27 at the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris - which explores the impact of the Jewish experience on the evolution of the comic strip and graphic novel. …
And it is in that committed comic-book aficionado spirit that "From Superman to the Rabbi's Cat" presents some 230 American and European works dating back to 1890, including the 1940 strip How Superman Would End the War. "I'd like to land a strictly non-Aryan sock on your jaw," grumbles the Man of Steel as he drags Adolf Hitler off to be tried for crimes against humanity. For the late comic-book artist Will Eisner, the Jewish people, faced with the rise of fascism, "needed a hero who could protect us against an almost invincible force." Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman in 1938 was only the first and - like Bob Kane's Batman in 1939, Jack Kirby's Captain America in 1940 and many more that followed - he was created by sons of Jewish immigrants living in New York.
Like their characters, many of these artists took on dual identities, says author and comic book historian Didier Pasamonik, a consultant on the exhibit: "There was a kind of diffused anti-Semitism at the time, and it was better to use a good American commercial name to reach the wider public." Even as Robert Kahn had become Bob Kane and Jacob Kurtzberg worked as Jack Kirby, their superheroes reflected some of the identity they were masking, evoking Jewish concepts such as tikkun olam (repairing the world through social action) and legends such as the Golem of Prague, the medieval superhero of Jewish folklore who was conjured from clay by a rabbi to defend his community when it was under threat.
Years later, some comic superheroes would actually be identified as Jews, like Auschwitz survivor Magneto and - the Golem myth incarnate - Ben Grimm (The Thing) of the Fantastic Four. But despite the rumors, the Man of Steel is no Supermensch, says Pasamonik. "Superman is not Jewish," he says. "When Superman gets married it's not at the synagogue!" Pasamonik has not missed the heavy dose of Jewish culture Siegel and Shuster instilled in their character: baby Superman's passage through space in a cradle-like vessel and subsequent adoption "is the story of Moses," he says, adding that El of Superman's given name Kal-El is a Hebrew word for God. But with a Methodist upbringing and extra-terrestrial origins, Superman, says Pasamonik, is best described simply as a "non-Aryan" hero.
And why not? Non-Aryan describes most of the southern and eastern European and Asian immigrants that crossed the oceans with the Siegels, Shusters, Kahns and Kurtzbergs in the late 19th and early 20th century. For the Pulitzer-prize- winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer, World War II-era superheroes embodied the American dream shared by the countless foreigners. "It wasn't Krypton that Superman came from; it was the planet Minsk or Lodz or Vilna or Warsaw," wrote Feiffer in his essay The Minsk Theory of Krypton. "Superman was the ultimate assimilationist fantasy."
After World War II, the comic book genre became an unlikely vehicle for civic protest and consolidation of memory. "The hour of immigrant assimilation gave way to the fight for minorities and civil rights," explains Pasamonik. Harvey Kurtzman used the medium to tackle racial segregation, the Cold War and McCarthyism in his satirical MAD magazine. In 1955, when popular awareness of the Holocaust was scant, Bernard Krigstein and Al Feldstein caused a shock by revisiting the concentration camps with the seminal graphic story Master Race. During the '60s and '70s the genre opened up to the banal and biographical, with Pekar and Crumb's darkly humorous American Splendor and Eisner's landmark graphic novel, A Contract with God.
"Eisner brought an absolutely revolutionary dimension to the graphic novel, which was to make it an instrument of memory," says Pasamonik. Finally, with a nod toward Edmond-François Calvo's 1944 La Bête est Morte (The Beast is Dead) - which uses animals to tell the story of World War II - Art Spiegelman brought the graphic novel worldwide recognition by winning a Pulitzer prize in 1992 for his Holocaust saga, Maus. Eisner and Spiegelman's heirs now litter the globe, from Frenchman Joann Sfar (The Rabbi's Cat) to Iranian Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis). "From Superman to the Rabbi's Cat" pays homage to these artists, inviting the viewer to consider the subtexts at work even in comic books about men in tights."

Sunday 2 December 2007

We who live beneath a sky still streaked with the smoke of crematoriums..., François Mauriac

"We who live beneath a sky still streaked with the smoke of crematoriums have paid a high price to find out that evil is really evil."

François Mauriac (1885-1970), French novelist, essayist, literary critic and journalist

Israel and American politics: moving beyond Professors Mearsheimer and Walt and President Jimmy Carter

From the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East website:
"Mark Lichbach, Professor, Comparative Politics Chair of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland and Alan Zuckerman, Professor of Political Science at Brown University will convene a formal conference this summer of invited distinguished scholars to formally academically critique the work of Walt and Mearsheimer, Jimmy Carter and others which have gained so much attention recently.
In spring 2005, two well known political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, of the University of Chicago and Harvard University respectively, wrote a much discussed essay about the "Israel Lobby" and American foreign policy. Suddenly, the rumors of the power of American Jews were brought from the fringes of American politics into the faculty club, or rather the pages of The London Review of Books. In September 2007 Professors Mearsheimer and Walt published their book, The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, to a continuing storm of controversy. In winter 2006, former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. In defending his book in major news outlets, Carter repeatedly fell back on canards about the power of the Jews to influence political dialogue and public policies in America. The storm over President Carter’s book also continues.
This conference and an edited volume is thus a response to an American embarrassment. Historians and political scientists have known for decades that the far right and the far left thrive on crackpot conspiracy theories of American society and politics. Among the most enduring of these fantasies is that American Jews, whose six million members comprise two percent of the American population, exert disproportionate control over the nation’s foreign and domestic policies. Before the Second World War and the Holocaust, such ideas were respectable enough to be found in country clubs and corporate offices. But it has been many decades since professors at distinguished universities and former Presidents of the United States have lent credence to ideas that had been the stock in trade of modern anti-Semitism. At their core lay the notion that the Jews, few in number yet possessed of much intelligence and no morality, ran affairs of state behind the scenes to the detriment of the vast non-Jewish majority. Whether the "Israeli Lobby" is responsible for the current war in Iraq and a future war with Iran is now debated on PBS, with the national director of the Anti-Defamation League serving as a witness for the defense. ...
We would ask them to address questions such as the following:
1. When and why did the United States conclude that the survival of the state of Israel is in the vital national interest of the United States? In view of the hostility of the Arab and Islamic world to the Jewish state, and in view of the presence of vast amounts of oil in the Arab states, how, when and why did American foreign policy make the defense of Israel a priority? When, how and why did some American diplomats and military leaders change their views on this issue?
2. Why did the United States go to war in Iraq and what, if anything, did that have to do with American support for Israel? Who were the key decision makers and what did the decision process look like? What role did "Jewish neo-conservatives" play in these decisions? As the war did not proceed as key decision makers hoped and expected it would, when and in what form did the focus on "Jewish neo-conservatives" and the "Israel Lobby" emerge?
4. What role does public opinion, the mass media, and elections play in deciding American foreign policy toward the Middle East? And who or what moves opinions, media, and elections? 5. How does the Congress and the executive branch, particularly the State Department and the Department of Defense, influence U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East? And who or what influences these decision-makers? How important is the "Israel lobby" compared to these other influences?
6. What is the connection between the lobbying efforts of American Jewish organizations, most famously but not only the American Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC, and the formation of American foreign policy? What arguments have supporters of Israel made to politicians and why have these arguments struck a responsive chord? How do the lobbying efforts of supporters of Israel compare to efforts of other ethnic or religious groups or interest groups (African Americans, Irish, or, for that matter, non-ethnic lobbies such as big oil, the auto industry, high-tech) in general?
7. With respect to the Middle East, has the financial and corporate worlds - including Big Oil - taken sides? And which side on which issues have they taken?
8. What have Israel’s foreign policy priorities been in recent years and what do they have, if anything, to do with the war in Iraq? What were Israeli leaders saying about Iraq and Iran before and after 9/11?
9. What is the connection between American support for Israel and the rise of the terrorism of Islamic radicalism-Bin Laden’s declaration of war of 1998; bombings in Africa; 9/11; and general spread of anti-Americanism in the Middle East and Europe? What is the connection between anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism? Why did anger at Israel grow as international terrorism became more destructive, frequent and vile?
10. Regardless of the authors’ intent, does the Mearsheimer/Walt and Carter statements stand in a longer tradition of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic analysis? If yes, why and if not, why not?"