Thursday, September 16, 2004


Falafel sales down

According to the Christian Science Monitor, "across the country, Middle Eastern restaurants saw sales drop dramatically as Americans spurned falafel and kebabs as the symbolic food of the terrorists."

That is such a bummer. Why would you stop eating Middle Eastern food? It tastes great! Here are some of the sad specifics:
In response to declining business, many restaurants changed their names so they were more ambiguous: "Iraqi Cuisine" in Los Angeles became "Middle Eastern Cuisine." In Dearborn, Mich., "Taste of Mosul" is now "Taste of Arabia."


"I think Arab people here were afraid to be seen together," says one Dearborn restaurant owner who asked to remain anonymous. "People would see a large group of Middle Eastern people, even if they were just eating dinner, and assume the worst."


"I have been in the US for 11 years now," says Salah Al-Hindawy, owner of Arabian Cuisine in Louisville, Ky. "I hate Saddam Hussein, and I was very happy when we went to war with Iraq, but still my business has suffered because people don't want to eat at an Arabic restaurant."
What a shame. Everybody should make it a point to eat more Arab and Middle Eastern food. And leave big tips.

Credit goes to the sharp eyes of the Angry Arab for catching this.


Idema case comes to a close

So "Jack" Idema and his cohorts who ran a private prison and torture chamber (just doing their part in the war on terrorism) received their prison sentences in Afghanistan yesterady. Idema and Brent Bennett were sentenced to 10 years in prison each and Edward Caraballo, who videotaped Idema and Bennett for a film he said he was making on the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, got 8 years in prison. This BBC article by Andrew North explains the chaotic trial situation, with "stand-up rows" between witnesses and defendants, translation problems, challenges as to the standards of the Afghani court system, and also the videotaped evidence of meetings and interactions between Idema and US and Afghani officials that were not allowed to be introduced in the courtroom.
The former soldier and his lawyer John Tiffany protested they never had a chance to present the evidence that would have done so - because it was taken and held by the FBI.
It seems that the US and Afghan militaries and governments are more than happy to have this over with and out of the way, with very little emphasis placed on the relationship between Idema's enterprise and government/military/intelligence types from either the US or Afghanistan. There is really very little coverage even of the verdict.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Rabbi group urges IDF to STOP avoiding harming Palestinian civilians

This is actually from last week, but I just came across it today, and it really turns my stomach (especially after reading that Ehud Olmert piece with all this "we value life, and they don't" nonsense). This is from the Voice of Israel (state-funded radio in Israel), translated from the Hebrew by FBIS.
A group of rabbis from Judaea and Samaria and the center of Israel has called on the IDF to stop making sure it avoids harming Palestinian civilians. The rabbis say there is no war in which there can be a total division between the civilian population and the army, and quote Rabbi Aqiva, who said: "Our lives come first. Our correspondent Gay Qotev reports that among the rabbis whose names attached to the call are Rabbi Hayim Druckman; Rabbi Dov Li'or, head of the Committee of Rabbis in Judaea and Samaria; and Rabbis Elyaqim Levanon of Elon More, Dudi Dudkevich of Yitzhar, and Eli'ezer Memaled of Brakha.
Ah yes, we value life alright. Just not Palestinian life. What a crock of shit.


Ehud Olmert

Ehud Olmert has a predictably hideous op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal. I was going to go through it point by point and try to tear it apart with logic, but at times you just lose the energy to do things like that. As an equally fruitful exercise, I have decided to post it paragraph by paragraph, each one with a quote from a recent exhibit in Tel Aviv featuring testimonies by IDF soldiers who had served in Hebron. The Olmert will be indented, the Hebron testimonies will not.
One might have imagined that we Israelis, after having endured more than four years of brutal terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians, would have become immune to the horrific tragedy that unfolded in Beslan. Indeed, the televised scenes of the tiny coffins and grieving families seem far too familiar, just as the boilerplate speeches of the politicians and standard condemnations by world bodies feels like the routine drill. Yet the fact that we still find ourselves distraught, and can so readily identify with the suffering of the Russian victims, shows that the world today is divided into two distinct camps -- the first which seeks to affirm life, the second hell bent on avowing vengeance, martyrdom and death regardless of its victims.
'First week, first time at the checkpoint, at the passage between the Palestinian area and a street where only Jews can go. Those guys have to stop, there's a line, then they hand you their ID cards through the fence, you check them, and let them through. This guy with me yells: "Waqif! Stop!" The man didn't understand and took one more step. Then he yells again, "Waqif!" and the man freezes. So the soldier decided that because the guy took this one extra step he'll be detained. I said to him: "Listen, what are you doing?" He said: "No, no, don't argue, at least not in front of them. I'm not going to trust you anymore, you're not reliable." Eventually one of the patrol commanders came over, and I said: "What's the deal, how long do you want to detain him for?" He said: "You can do whatever you want, whatever you feel like doing. If you feel there's a problem with what he's done, if you feel something's wrong, even the slightest thing, you can detain him for as long as you want." And then I got it, a man who's been in Hebron a week, it has nothing to do with rank, he can do whatever he wants. There are no rules, everything is permissible.'
In 1974, as a newly elected Knesset member, I watched the terrorist assault on a school in Ma'alot as it played out along Israel's northern border. Palestinian gunmen, ironically from a PLO faction funded by the Russians, infiltrated a high school and took dozens of students hostage. Before the army could free the children, the terrorists managed to kill 26 of them. At the time, the idea that a ruthless terrorist could deliberately murder Israeli children seemed almost beyond even our belief. What sort of desperate animals, we demanded, seek to advance their political agendas by slaughtering children? Surely the international order would insist that all the culprits be hunted down and punished.
'I was ashamed of myself the day I realised that I simply enjoy the feeling of power. Not merely enjoy it, need it. And then, when someone suddenly says no to you, you say: what do you mean no? Where do you get the chutzpah from to say no to me? Forget for a moment that I think that all those Jews are mad, and I actually want peace and believe we should leave the Territories, how dare you say no to me? I am the Law! I am the Law here! Once I was at a checkpoint, a temporary one, a so-called strangulation checkpoint blocking the entrance to a village. On one side a line of cars wanting to get out, and on the other side a line of cars wanting to get in, a huge line, and suddenly you have a mighty force at the tip of your fingers. I stand there, pointing at someone, gesturing to you to do this or that, and you do this or that, the car starts, moves towards me, halts beside me. The next car follows, you signal, it stops. You start playing with them, like a computer game. You come here, you go there, like this. You barely move, you make them obey the tip of your finger. It's a mighty feeling.'
But the world voiced only silence, and business went on as usual. Israelis were forced to learn that our tragedies were always going to be personal affairs, and that there would be no united international response to terror. Indeed, the democratic states in Europe provided the first cracks in the front, insisting on maintaining relations with the PLO after Ma'alot while accepting that there were no real consequences when it comes to Arab terror.
'That morning, a fairly big group arrived in Hebron, around 15 Jews from France. They were all religious Jews. They were in a good mood, really having a great time, and I spent my entire shift following this gang of Jews around and trying to keep them from destroying the town. They just wandered around, picked up every stone they saw, and started throwing them in Arabs' windows, and overturning whatever they came across. There's no horror story here: they didn't catch some Arab and kill him or anything like that, but what bothered me is that maybe someone told them that there's a place in the world where a Jew can take all of his rage out on Arab people, and simply do anything. Come to a Palestinian town, and do whatever he wants, and the soldiers will always be there to back him up. Because that was my job, to protect them and make sure that nothing happened to them.'
The distance from the school in Ma'alot to the school in Beslan should be measured not in miles but in historical perspective. The seeds of terror planted by the Palestinians in 1974 has come to complete fruition in a school house in Russia 30 years on. Terror attacks like the recent ones in Madrid, Jakarta, Be'er Sheva and Bali, as well as the genocide of African Muslims by Arab Islamic extremist in Darfur should all be seen as Yasser Arafat's legacy.
'Once a little kid, a boy of about six, passed by me at my post. He said to me: "Soldier, listen, don't get annoyed, don't try and stop me, I'm going out to kill some Arabs." I look at the kid and don't quite understand exactly what I'm supposed to do. So he says: "First, I'm going to buy a popsicle at Gotnik's" - that's their grocery store - "then I'm going to kill some Arabs." I had nothing to say to him. Nothing. I went completely blank. And that's not such a simple thing, that a city, that such an experience can silence someone who was an educator, a counsellor, who believed in education, who believed in talking to people, even if their opinions were different. But I had nothing to say to a kid like that. There's nothing to say to him.'
Last week marked three years since America was viciously attacked by radicals bent on the destruction of America's cornerstone values of freedom and justice. The images of 9/11 have left a permanent mark on Americans and freedom-loving people around the world, including myself. They seek to remind us of the dire consequences of terror and reinforce the need to never again allow terror to go unabated.
'It was Friday night, and the auxiliary company, which was stationed with us in Harsina, eliminated two terrorists. Friday night dinner was, of course, a very happy affair, and the whole base was jumping. As I was leaving dinner, an armoured ambulance arrived with the terrorists' corpses, and the two terrorists' corpses were held up in a standing position by three people who were posing for photographs. Even I was shocked by this sight, I closed my eyes so as not to see and walked away. I really didn't feel like looking at terrorists' corpses.'
This week, Jewish communities everywhere will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our inauguration of the New Year. But more than merely noting another year on the Hebrew calendar, Israel's sages teach that Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of the actual birth of the world. It is interesting to understand that according to our tradition, the recorded date of the start of time is not when the Creator fashioned the Earth and stars, but rather on the fifth day of creation, when Adam and Eve were brought into being. So cherished is human life that only on the birthday of the first couple are we told that the world truly began to exist.
'When I served in Hebron, for the first time in my life I felt different about being a Jew. I can't explain it. But the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the ancestral city, it did something to me. I don't know if I was defending the State of Israel, but I was defending Jews who were part of the state, and in a city where the controversy is different from other Arab cities. It was the worshippers' route. One day, out of the blue, a group of about six Jewish women with six or seven little girls simply started running around, started kicking stalls and turning them over, and spitting on Arabs and elderly people. One of the women picked up a rock and shattered the window of a barber shop. A man comes out, and I find myself, on the one hand, trying to take the rock away from her, and on the other hand, defending her, so that they won't beat the shit out of her. So on the one hand you say to yourself, fuck it, I'm supposed to guard the Jews that are here. But these Jews don't behave with the same morality or values I was raised on. If they're capable of writing on the Arabs' doors "Arabs Out" or "Death to the Arabs," and drawing a Star of David, which to me is like a swastika when they draw it like that, then somehow the term "Jew" has changed a little for me.'
The stark moral contrast between the ushering out of this past year with images of murdered school children and our high hopes for the New Year and the future of humanity is difficult to assimilate. However, these days, the two seem to be relentlessly entwined. Countries that are determined to protect their citizens and safeguard their security now understand that they can no longer remain passive in the face of evil. The threat of terrorism no longer recognizes national borders and no country remains immune. Either democratic states will bury the terrorists and their patrons, or they will bury us.
'Once I was in Hebron, when from a gate near our post that leads to the Kasbah, and from which it is forbidden to enter or exit, came a man in his fifties or sixties with a few women and small children. You walk up to him and say in Arabic: "Stop, there's a curfew, go home." And then he starts to argue with you. And he gets bold, like he believes that he'll get through in the end. He's not trying to weasel his way through, he really believes that he's in the right. And that confuses you. You remember that actually you would like to let him pass, but you're not supposed to let him pass, and how dare he stand there in front of you . . . Finally the patrol shows up, and from an argument between two soldiers and ten people, it becomes an argument between ten soldiers and ten people, with an officer who, naturally, is less inclined to restrain himself. Weapons are cocked, aimed, not straight at him, but at his legs. "Get the hell out of here, enough talk!" I was standing closest to him, about a metre or two. He was all dressed up, wearing a suit and a kaffiyeh, he looked really respectable. And I was standing there with my weapon, close to my chest, trying to defend myself, protect myself. I was afraid that he was going to try something. And the atmosphere was charged, more than usual. Then he sticks out his chest, and both his fists are tightly closed. My finger moves to the safety catch, and then I see his eyes are filled with tears, and he says something in Arabic, turns around, and goes. And his clan follows him. I'm not exactly sure why this incident is engraved in my memory out of all the times I told people to scram when there was a curfew, but there was something so noble about him, and I felt like the scum of the earth. Like, what am I doing here?'
Although human-rights groups are quick to point out infringements of civil liberties as security services, law-enforcement agencies and armies around the globe engage the terrorists, they have no answers or words of consolation for the victims and their families. Indeed, those innocents maimed and killed also once had rights that were violated and can never be restored. In the balance of things, the temporary difficulties caused by fences, administrative detentions and interrogation techniques pale in the face of a tragedy like Beslan. It is easy to isolate and paint lifesaving government policies as "draconian." But the larger peril cannot be ignored.
'Our job was to stop the Palestinians at the checkpoint and tell them they can't pass this way any more. Maybe a month ago they could, but now they can't. On the other hand there were all these old ladies who had to pass to get to their homes, so we'd point in the direction of the opening through which they could go without us noticing. It was an absurd situation. Our officers also knew about this opening. They told us about it. Nobody really cared about it. It made us wonder what we were doing at the checkpoint. Why was it forbidden to pass? It was really a form of collective punishment. You're not allowed to pass because you're not allowed to pass. If you want to commit a terrorist attack, turn right there and then left.'
As outlaw regimes such as Iran and North Korea race to acquire nuclear arms, the terrorist danger escalates. The camp of nations that chooses to hold life sacred must actively engage and disarm the camp of terrorist regimes and organizations at all costs. In Israel, we have learned that you can either fight the perpetrators in their cities and villages or you can turn your own streets and schools into a war zone. Pre-emptive operations can be utilized effectively in pinpoint strikes against terrorists and can incapacitate their leadership.
'Whenever we feel like it, we choose a house on the map, we go on in. "Jaysh, jaysh, iftah al bab" - "army, army, open the door" - and they open the door. We move all the men into one room, all the women into another, and place them under guard. The rest of the unit does whatever they please, except destroy equipment - it goes without saying - and there's no helping yourself to anything: we have to cause as little harm to the people as possible, as little physical damage as possible. If I try to imagine the reverse situation: if they had entered my home, not a police force with a warrant, but a unit of soldiers, if they had burst into my home, shoved my mother and little sister into my bedroom, and forced my father and my younger brother and me into the living-room, pointing their guns at us, laughing, smiling, and we didn't always understand what the soldiers were saying while they emptied the drawers and searched through the things. Oops it fell, broken - all kinds of photos, of my grandmother and grandfather, all kinds of sentimental things that you wouldn't want anyone else to see. There is no justification for this. If there is a suspicion that a terrorist has entered a house, so be it. But just to enter a home, any home: here I've chosen one, look what fun. We go in, we check it out, we cause a bit of injustice, we've asserted our military presence and then we move on.'
All those concerned with the freedom and survival of humanity must join in this struggle against the terrorists. Indeed, we must act to eradicate these organizations and never permit them to threaten us again. On this Jewish New Year, we are commemorating the birthday of humanity. We are also painfully reminded of the forces of destruction. Let us work to ensure humanity's survival -- and let us not fail.
'There's a very clear and powerful connection between how much time you serve in the Territories and how fucked in the head you get. If someone is in the Territories half a year, he's a beginner, they don't allow him into the interesting places, he does guard-duty, all he does is just grow more and more bitter, angry. The more shit he eats, from the Jews and the Arabs and the army and the state, they call that numbness but I don't, because serving in the Territories isn't about numbness, it's a high, a sort of negative high: you're always tired, you're always hungry, you always have to go to the bathroom, you're always scared to die, you're always eager to catch that terrorist. It's a life without rest. Even when you sleep, you don't sleep well. I don't remember even once sleeping well in Hebron. It's simply an experience that no human being should have. It fucks with your head. It's the experience of a hunted animal, a hunting animal, of an animal, whatever.'


Words from the Man of Peace

In several end of the year Israeli newspaper interviews, Ariel Sharon admitted that he had no plans to follow the road map and that Israel may move to kill or exile Yasir Arafat. In Ma'ariv, Sharon stated:
"We operated against Ahmed Yassin and Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi when we thought the time was suitable. On the matter of Arafat we'll operate in the same way, when we find the convenient and suitable time. One needs to find the time and to do what has to be done."
In Yediot Ahronot, Sharon said that after "disengaging" from Gaza, there would probably be a "long period when nothing else happens." Of course by nothing else, Sharon means that nothing else productive will happen. Surely the settlement construction will continue, as will the construction of the wall, as will operations and incursions inside Palestinian cities and towns. Also from this interview, Sharon specifically denied those who hoped that the Gaza disengagement might fit somehow within the road map, in effect marking a first step toward removal of settlements and easing of the occupation of the West Bank.
"[Former Labor PM candidate Amram] Mitzna suggested something different, to start the Netzarim evacuation and to continue dismantling settlements, based on the road map," Mr Sharon said. "This would have brought Israel to a most difficult situation. I didn't agree to this. Today, we are also not following the road map. I am not ready for this."

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Sharon's comments had confirmed Palestinian fears that the disengagement plan was a ploy to cement Israel's control over large areas of the West Bank.


"I think that those who saw the Gaza disengagement as an opportunity, because they counted that it would be part of the road map, should really understand that their good intentions are one thing and that Sharon's good intentions are another," Mr Erekat told the Associated Press.
It is really quite frustrating to have a situation in the United States where nobody dares to say a word against Sharon, even in the face of such counterproductive (and frankly, when it comes to Arafat, inciteful) statements. Bush, of course, because he couldn't care less about resolving the situation. He's got his own problems in Iraq and probably doesn't feel too sorry for a few more dead Arabs. Kerry, of course, because he wants to "play it safe" in the run-up to the election. Also, the fact that everybody with half a brain knew that Sharon had no intention of ceding any parts of the West Bank means that Sharon is simply stating openly what many assumed to be true in the first place. The combination of all these things will mean hardly a blip in the American media, in American politics, or in America's approval ratings throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


For all the other history majors out there

It's frustrating to have to turn to the foreign press to ever get any kind of historical context for world events. Still, it's worth it, as this fascinating article, Anarchist Outrages, by Rick Coolsaet from Le Monde Diplomatique illustrates. I am not sure if you need a subscription to read this article or not, but just in case you do, I have reproduced it below:
TERRORISM is ancient, found in every age, every continent, every religion. So why the current obsession with security, the suspicion that a monstrous hidden enemy is behind every attack in the world? History has had many eras when terrorism and fear were rife in events much like those of today.

On 24 June 1894 an Italian anarchist, Sante Jeronimo Caserio, assassinated the French president, Marie-François Sadi Carnot, the culmination of a series of anarchist attacks in France and elsewhere. The international community felt threatened by this.

The Russian Prince Kropotkin (1) had called for violent action, "propaganda through deeds", at the International Revolutionary Congress in London in 1881. And the first symbolic acts of violence had in fact been committed a few years earlier, with the assassinations of William I of Prussia, the King of Spain and the King of Italy. (There were seven attempts on Queen Victoria’s life during her reign.)

But the 1890s were different. It was the decade of the bomb: dynamite was the new weapon and kings, presidents, ministers and official buildings were the targets. In France, the attacks began in 1892. The French terrorist Ravachol (2), who was celebrated in folksong and legend, became the living symbol of hatred and resistance, according to historian Barbara Tuchman (3). Many intellectuals and young people from wealthy families flirted with violence.

That attacks had been launched in several countries at the same time encouraged the idea that a powerful anarchist Black International organisation was at work. Agitation was rife in Russia, and the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 and other acts of a band of revolutionaries, Narodnaya Volya (the Will of the People), inspired anarchists throughout Europe.

Even the United States did not escape. The president, William McKinley, was assassinated by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, in September 1901 during a period of social unrest. The US authorities and public were convinced that the country faced an international threat.

It is difficult to realise over a century later the extent to which the world was haunted by the spectre of international terrorism. Paris lived in fear of further attacks. The ruling classes could not understand the reasons for the hatred and each act of violence increased their fear of revolt from below. Workers were seen as potential criminals and anarchists as mad dogs to be destroyed at all costs. President McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, described terrorism as a "crime against the human race" and in some countries armies were put on the alert.

The assassination of President Carnot of France in 1894 prompted governments and police forces to take action. The first proposal for international cooperation came from Italy, which was regarded as the seedbed of international terrorism and was therefore anxious to restore its tarnished reputation. Italians had been implicated in a number of attempts on heads of state and Italian immigrants had a bad name across Europe. Their large communities, regularly swelled by an influx of seasonal workers, were widely resented.

The International Anti-Anarchist Conference opened in Rome on 24 November 1898, with strict controls on all roads leading to the Palazzo Corsini. The 21 participating states decided unanimously that anarchism should not be regarded as a bona fide political doctrine and that attacks by self-proclaimed anarchists were extraditable criminal offences. But this strong expression of international unity had few real results. Police cooperation was intensified but governments retained their right to extradite foreign anarchists as they pleased.

The fine words were not acted upon because they were overtaken by events. By the 20th century, anarchism was already declining in most countries. The Black International, originally thought of as an elusive organisation with an aura of revolutionary power, was a myth and existed only in the imagination of the police and the press. Some terrorists did travel widely, some groups kept in contact and the acts of some inspired others. But there was no international network, no conspiracy and no plot. There was no central command, only individuals, acting independently in small cells, linked only by their hatred of the status quo under which large sections of society were marginalised.

Everything seemed in a state of flux. With the rapid increase in world trade and travel and technological change, it was possible for the first time in history to speak of a world market in which goods, services, capital and people moved freely. But what the French called the Belle Epoque was not a golden age for everyone. The chosen few prospered but most were untouched by the unprecedented growth in wealth and had no say in politics. Those in power regarded the working class as dangerous. Workers were despised and feared, confined to ghettos and marginalised in society.

The anarchist threat acquired mythic proportions. Barbara Tuchman describes it as a symptom of a sick society in which the working class was only seeking to play a full part. Assassins argued that they had taken up arms in a legitimate fight for justice; that their acts were merely self-defence for an oppressed and marginalised section of society. Terrorist cells claimed to be the vanguard of a stateless proletariat, although some people did realised they were only tiny and isolated groups. Prince Kropotkin once confided to Enrico Malatesta (4) that he feared they were the only two people in the world who believed that revolution was imminent.

The terrorists in fact represented nobody but themselves. Anarchism was never a coherent philosophical position or a political movement. Most anarchists were against violence. Those who did take action were often loners and the cells that planned the attacks resembled disorganised quasi-religious sects. But, as one action followed another, people began to imagine that anarchism was a powerful international machine and so it attracted more members. There was always some fanatic ready to take up the torch on behalf of the oppressed.

Anarchist violence died out around 1900. Leaders like Prince Kropotkin realised that terrorism did not produce change and that the strategy might be counter-productive. The anarchists claimed to act on behalf of the working class but the gap between anarchists and workers widened with every attack. Terrorism did not weaken the state but it did strengthen the powers of the police, the army and the government.

Also, importantly, the working class began to have another way to express its aspirations. Between 1895 and 1914 many anarchists turned to the labour movement and trade unions. Socialism offered workers personal dignity, a sense of identity and a full place in society. They no longer felt isolated and at war with society. The lawful and constitutional route proved to be a more effective way of winning political and social rights and bringing about economic improvements.

Terrorism continued to flare up sporadically in states on the borders of Europe. In Russia, Spain and the Balkans, attacks continued until the first world war. The system in those states encouraged a sense of overwhelming social and political exclusion, while constant repression left the working class no alternative but violence.

Muslims are often regarded now with the same mixture of fear and contempt as workers were in the 19th century. And the jihadi terrorist has the same feelings about America as his anarchist predecessor had about the bourgeoisie: he sees it as the epitome of arrogance and power. Osama bin Laden is a 21st century Ravachol, a living symbol of hatred and resistance for his followers, a bogeyman for the police and intelligence services. Today’s jihadis resemble yesterday’s anarchists: in reality, a myriad of tiny groups; in their own eyes, a vanguard rallying the oppressed masses (5). Saudi Arabia has now taken the role of Italy while 11 September 2001 is the modern version of 24 June 1894, a wake-up call to the international community.

The reasons for the rise of terrorism now and anarchism then are the same. Muslims worldwide are united by a sense of unease and crisis. The Arab world seems to be more bitter, more cynical and less creative than it was in the 1980s. There is a growing sense of solidarity with other Muslims, a feeling that Islam itself is in danger. This is fertile ground for a fanatical minority.

Osama bin Laden led the way with his famous fatwa declaration in1996: "The walls of oppression and humiliation cannot be demolished except in a rain of bullets." The similarities with anarchism are striking. Violence will probably be the undoing of jihadi terrorism, like anarchism before it, but terrorism will stop sooner if the Arab and Muslim worlds are offered an alternative hope to ease their sense of exclusion.

Monday, September 13, 2004


The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

Ok, so I have been reading over parts of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute's (JPPPI) 2004 report, Between Thriving and Decline: The Jewish People 2004 [pdf file]. This is a side project of the Jewish Agency for Israel, with Dennis Ross at the helm. What disturbs me quite a bit about this report is it's stated aim to erase the distinctions between Israel as a state and the Jewish people worldwide as a group. Here are a few excerpts that I just couldn't stomach.
These efforts are imperative not only because of the inherent importance of Israel as a Jewish state, and the increasingly growing proportion of the Jewish people living there, but also because—unthinkable as it may be—if Israel should fall, the survival of the Jewish people is doubtful.
Five policy directions illustrate the need for firm decisions and action [two of which are]:
· Aliyah is not just a traditional Jewish commandment and Zionist value, but also continues to be an existential necessity. Therefore, even Jewish communities that are not in danger, especially the U.S., should be encouraged to participate in a pan-Jewish Mega Project that involves a large-scale movement to Israel. In addition, new modes of part-time residency in Israel should be developed, and steps should be taken to prevent any possible rifts in the communities from which aliyah takes place.
· Money that is given to Israel by Jews should be spent on ensuring the long-term future of the Jewish people rather than meeting current needs.
It is, first and foremost, Israel’s duty to take more seriously the ideal of being the core state of the Jewish people. This not only involves greater efforts in strengthening Jewish communities worldwide, but also means that during the decision-making process, the overall impact of any policy on Diaspora communities, and on the future of the Jewish people as a whole, should be seriously taken into account.
It may now be time to further institutionalize the value of Israel’s ambition to be the democratic state of the Jewish people as a whole, and not only of its citizens. To begin with, Israel should grant a formal consultative status to a global Jewish body—based on existing organizations such as the Jewish Agency and the World Jewish Congress—that would be involved in any Israeli decision-making processes that bear relevance to the Jewish people and their future.
It seems problematic to me to put the immediate needs and situations of millions of people, both Israeli citizens and Jews around the world, secondary to some vague notion of "Jewish survival." And I don't know about anybody else, but I find the inclusion of the term "pan-Jewish Mega Project" very disturbing. Not only does it play directly into the paranoias of classic anti-semitism, but who the hell wants to be part of some weird "Mega Project"? Put off your own needs and desires for the good of the Mega Project! No, thank you!


Palestinian Schoolbooks

Akiva Eldar has an article about Palestinian schoolbooks in Ha'aretz (Reading, Writing - and Propaganda) that is worth reading considering, as Eldar points out: "The books the children carried in the schoolbags are not only material on history and civics, mathematics and computers; in recent years those books have become hot merchandise in the propaganda war against the Palestinian Authority." Eldar probes into the reports issued each year by the Israeli Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry on Palestinian schoolbooks, as well as studies on the books undertaken by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP). The general findings seem to be that, although the Israeli reports continue to stress "incitement" and "vilification" in the Palestinian schoolbooks and tried to cut off funding for the books from the World Bank and EU donor nations, there have actually been marked improvements in the books produced by the PA.
"Quotations attributed by earlier CMIP reports to the Palestinian textbooks," says a Middle East Working Group of the EU, "are not found in the new PA schoolbooks funded by some EU member states; some were traced to the old Egyptian and Jordanian textbooks that they are replacing, ... and others [were] not traced at all." Moreover, the EU study finds that many of the quotations "have been found to be often badly translated or quoted out of context, thus suggesting an anti-Jewish bias or incitement that the books do not contain ... New textbooks, though not perfect, are free of inciteful content ... constituting a valuable contribution to the education of young Palestinians."
Indeed, while the Egyptian and Jordanian books continue to present the most problems, Israel actively seeks to end funding of Palestinian books.
Prof. Nathan Brown, from George Washington University, a former adviser to the U.S. Agency for International Development, noted an odd phenomenon in his study of the Palestinian curriculum (November 2001). He found that even though the PA's National Education books for grades 1-6 were "devoid of any anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli material," Israel "allowed the offensive Jordanian books to be used in the East Jerusalem schools but barred the innocuous PA-authored books, probably fearful that use of the PA books would be an implicit recognition of sovereignty."
It seems to me that Israel is losing more than it gains with these political ploys. While the most detrimental education that Palestinian children get about Israel is from checkpoints, armed settlers, home demolitions, and IDF incursions, the textbook issue is not inconsequential. Israel (as well as the Palestinian Authority, the donor nations, the World Bank, etc.) should be most interested in providing books free of "incitement" and "vilification", not using the schoolbook issue as a means of vilification itself.

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