From outside one will always triumphantly impress theories upon the world and then fall straight into the ditch one has dug, but only from inside will one keep oneself and the world quiet and true. /FK (Contact: TBONotebooks at fastmail.fm. The Blue Octavo Notebooks welcomes mail, although we cannot guarantee a response. Your email may be posted in part on The Blue Octavo Notebooks unless otherwise requested.) Please enjoy the notebook entries, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This space is reserved. Happy New Year!
The Grand Inquisitors. On Saturday, November 8, 2003, the second day of the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s 2003 Conference, held at The Ohio State University, Free Speech Radio News interviewed several of the conference’s organizers, speakers, and attendees. These included Adam Shapiro, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement; Ora Wise, co-founder of the OSU Committee for Justice in Palestine, a member of the ISM, and one of the conference’s organizers; Vernon Bellecourt (who, after arriving late to the studio because he was reticent to go through the metal detectors set up at the Ohio Union, misidentifies the university he’s at), co-founder of the American Indian Movement; Ashanti Alston, a former member of the Black Panther Party; and numerous others. The program is two hours, and most of Wise and Shapiro’s comments come in the second half. I’ve excerpted some of the discussion (transcription is my own; I’ve cleaned up some of the “ums” and so on): Hour One; Hour Two. Shapiro notes that he was in Iraq last spring, and that he and some friends traveled around and made a film about their experiences there. The man seems well traveled, and I wonder if he pays for his ventures himself or if someone else funds them (and if so, who?). And don’t think this is any sort of objective radio journalism: The host repeatedly refers to the solidarity movement and his guests in the first person. If you can stomach things until the end of the first hour, you can listen to Alston give both his overview of non-nonviolence and one of the more breathtaking commentaries you’ve ever heard about suicide bombers. The onus for adolescent suicide bombers is on Israel, you understand, and he’s not going to condemn them or say that such acts are wrong. I’ve added some short italicized commentary, but see what you think. But first, here’s a quotation from the original Grand Inquisitor: “Do not answer, be silent. After all, what could you say? I know too well what you would say. And you have no right to add anything to what you already said once.”

Adam Shapiro: What we’ve seen over the decades, after 1967, when Israel took control over the Old City, was the physical erasure of Palestinian cultural symbols, the taking over through government expropriation of Palestinian institutions in the city so as to simply take away the markings, the spaces, that Palestinians have to represent themselves and to express themselves culturally. And I have to say, to me, being and living there, this was nothing short of what the Jews themselves suffered during Kristallnacht. And I know this sounds very inflammatory… but I think we have to understand that perhaps it may not be in Jerusalem in one day or one night, but it has been going on for decades… if you go to Jerusalem now it is very hard to find a Palestinian cultural space despite the fact that… Palestinians have lived there for ages. And we have to start acknowledging exactly what occupation is doing, exactly what this form of colonial domination is doing to the indigenous people who have lived there and who are suffering, of course, terribly. [Note: Shapiro made these comments about Kristallnacht one day before the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht.]

These sorts of deliberately inflammatory and prevaricative comments by which Shapiro and his ilk gleefully court controversy and opprobrium from their critics evidence (to me, at least) not so much any sort of intellectual and moral engagement with such matters but more so their crying need for attention and legitimation. As such, it’s difficult to justify taking them seriously. And if Shapiro is concerned with how Israel has treated Jerusalem, why not compare it with how Jordan treated the parts of Jerusalem it controlled from 1948 until 1967? As intellectually vapid as it is, this predilection for comparing Israel to the Nazis merits a brief comment, if only to point out that it shows the moral posturing and intellectual bad faith of those making the comparison. Such people make the comparisons not because they’re historically apt but because they know people, especially Jewish people, are extremely sensitive to references to the Shoah. For this reason, moral mavens like Shapiro love to compare Israel’s actions to those of the genocidal Nazi regime but not to those of, say, the Khmer Rouge, the Stalinist regime, or any other genocidal government, and not just because such comparisons between Israel and the latter would reveal both the absurdity of such references and those making them. How stunningly hypocritical that many of the same people who bewail the supposed exploitation of the Holocaust at the hands of the Zionists and others have so little hesitation in exploiting the Holocaust to demean Israel.

Question: What are some of the things that Zionists, or pro-Israeli people often say about solidarity activists and about Palestinians in general that we feel are untrue?
Professor Joseph Levine (Philosophy Professor at OSU; faculty adviser for the OSU Committee for Justice in Palestine): Well, I mean, we just have to talk about the people that are hanging out outside, shouting “Stop the hate!” and “You’re all terrorists!” … I actually recently did publish an op-ed piece in the Cleveland Jewish News specifically about this topic, and what’s amazing is there is a perception, and this perception is managed, quite cynically, that there’s some kind of essential Jew hatred that is behind, in Arab culture, in Islamic culture, among Palestinians. And I’ve been working in this movement for 21 years now, and I have not met a single person that I think is moved by anything like—I’m sorry, I did meet one [laughter]—that’s moved by anything like Jew hatred…. I’ve been to the territories, I’ve been welcomed, I always let them know I was Jewish. Anti-Semitism of the kind of traditional European sort that we’re used to, that motivated the Holocaust, is just not what’s going on. But, because of the memory of the Holocaust, and the way it’s been exploited, the Jewish leaders and Zionist leaders have been extremely successful in creating a picture that drives a kind of elemental fear in the Jewish community, and it’s the job of people like us… to break through and just say, look, you just don’t understand what’s going on, it’s about time you opened your eyes and actually listened to these people, and hear they a have a legitimate grievance.

I guess it’s just dumb luck that I’ve met more people affiliated with the solidarity movement in the last six months who were moved by something like anti-Jewish sentiment than Professor Levine has met in the last 21 years. Since I’m not the only person I know who’s encountered such sentiments among solidarity people in recent years, I suspect that Levine is wearing rather conveniently rose-colored lenses in such matters.

Question: Not that many Jews appear to be jumping on the bandwagon in Palestinian solidarity. And those that are here I think reflect a minority in the Jewish community, so I have heard from other Jewish activists, who are expressing these same sentiments. What does it take to bring someone of Jewish identity around to this particular point of view?
Ora Wise: Speaking as one of the two people here who has been named the “Jewish Jihadist,” Adam and I, that’s a recent nickname, which represents that real reactionary element of the Jewish community right now, which is that less and less Jewish voices and positions and perspectives are considered legitimate and are embraced, and this tendency towards fascism, of, you know, a fascist self-definition within the mainstream Jewish community makes it very difficult for Jews to develop some kind of clarity around this issue, some kind of genuinely, independently come to, political analysis of the Israeli Palestinian conflict…. I felt incredibly betrayed and angry when I first literally stumbled upon the occupation. I had returned to Jerusalem, where I was born, and I was living there because I loved it and it was wonderful, and then I was brought to the West Bank, where I was horrified that the barren hill that the Bedouin I was visiting had been forcibly moved to, was just like a reservation I had been taught to condemn… so making that connection between social justice issues I was taught to be devoted to as a Jew here in the United States, making that connection between those issues and the issues of the state that was claiming to act in my name was a step that is made very difficult for many Jews… because their fear is manipulated and because Zionism has become an invisible force that moves the hand of the Jewish community, so that I was raised in cultural and education institutions whose narrative of history, and the way that they defined Jewish self, was Zionist, was based around this, you know, this idea, that the entire Jewish history was always on this trajectory towards the state of Israel, and that the state of Israel is the only form of self-determination that could ever be provided to Jews. And what we need to do is combat that, that fascist cultural and religious and political construction within the Jewish community, and insist on making these distinctions.

Portnoy’s Political Complaint? One response to Wise’s derisive claims of the fascism of the Jewish community is to contrast the response to such a claim with the sorts of response one might expect to claims of fascism within, say, the Muslim community. And considering Wise was speaking on a program that featured a representative from CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) I think it can be assumed that such a claim would not be taken lightly. But the Jewish community is a safe target for this and other such sneering derision, Wise and the solidarity movement know it, and they don’t hesitate to take advantage of it accordingly, no matter how boorish and silly they subsequently sound. Indeed, if Wise is concerned with fascistic tendencies within certain communities, one wonders what she has to say about the pictures of gun toting mobs of Palestinians. It would be entertaining to hear the daughter of a rabbi similarly mock “that fascist cultural and religious and political construction” within the Palestinian communities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who so widely supported the random slaughter of innocent people at the Maxim Restaurant, although the response from certain people in question might not be as pleasant. But my guess, since gun toting Palestinian grandmothers and little kids aren’t especially politically correct targets for progressive anti-Zionists to criticize, no matter how emblematic of fascistic tendencies they may be, Wise will stick with leveling claims of fascism and other potshots at a safe target like the Jewish community. Also, I find it a bit ironic that someone who talks in such overly simplistic, encapsulating terms as “the Jewish community” considers herself qualified to talk about either it or fascism. Whatever aspects of contemporary Jewish life she finds unappealing, they’re hardly emblematic of that “community" as a whole, and they hardly constitute fascism. Her heavy-handed depiction of “the Jewish community” may be beneficial in offering herself fodder from which to establish or contrast her own identity construction, but the depiction hardly holds up well. If anything, it bonds her even more closely to the community she’s supposedly so critical of. One wonders, after all, how old Wise will be before she’s no longer promoted as the daughter of a rabbi or introduced (as she was in this program) as being Jewish herself. It seems a bit hypocritical and opportunistic that at the same time she’s slamming “the Jewish community” she and others nonetheless exploit and promote her connection to it to hail her as the daughter of a rabbi. As Wise conveniently neglects to mention who said this or when it occurred. I’d be interested to know who, if anyone, has made this claim about them. Not that someone like Wise who mudslings accusations about “fascist self-definition within the mainstream Jewish community” has much room to criticize other people for taking cheap shots or for being “reactionary.” Oh, but at least the radio host recognized this movement as a bandwagon!

Adam Shapiro: And just within the International Solidarity Movement, I can say that at least 20% of our participants, from the United States in particular, come from a Jewish background, who are practicing Jews.

20% of the International Solidarity Movement is composed of practicing Jews? I’m dubious, although I’d be curious to know how many of these practicing Jews followed Shapiro’s suggestion that they exploit the Birthright Israel program for a “free ticket,” as Shapiro called it.

Ora Wise: I think it’s really important that we don’t essentialize ourselves, right, and that just as we were saying that Israel was never any more moral or noble than any other nation-state or colonial project, right, that, you know, these claims that Israel’s army is somehow a humane army, you know, or that this nation-state is somehow the only nation-state on earth that has, is like, you know, this, has this moral integrity, and isn’t, you know, supported by exploitation and domination, just as we’re countering that we have to be careful in our solidarity activism to not essentialize ourselves as Jews and say, well, we’re inherently ethical or moral human beings, right, that this tradition, just as many other traditions in history, embodies very repressive elements and periods, and very progressive ones, and so it’s just important that we not allow, um, because I grew up in a progressive identified, in a self-identified Jewish household that didn’t extend its concept of social justice to include Palestinians, and I think as long as Jews continue to delude themselves that, you know, that they come from some kind of, like, inherently more moral or noble, like, position then, you know, we’re not gong to be able to put a crack in that façade, and have people actually facing the reality of the power and privilege of Israel.

How fortunate the Jewish community is to have someone as morally clairvoyant and wise as Ora Wise to, like, tell them, like, how delusional they are, you know? Incidentally, if Wise can think of any other country that, equipped with similar munitions and capability, would not have immediately retaliated upon being attacked by 39 missiles, I might give some credence to her claim that Israel is no more noble or moral and its army no more humane than any other nation-state. Until then, the simple facts of reality are stacked against her. Also, seeing as how it was Wise herself who, according to this article, told an audience that Israeli soldiers opened fire at people who’d come to the aid of Rachel Corrie, she might want to be careful about who she claims is deluding themselves, lest people begin to consider her as a bit of an expert on the subject. (For more about Ora Wise and the International Solidarity Movement, see TBON entry for Thursday, November 13, 2003, and other earlier entries.)

Incidentally, Wise’s references to the concept of social justice that didn’t include Palestinians and her line about “Israel was never any more noble or moral than any other colonial project or nation-state” are hardly original and certainly nothing she formulated on the spot. She’s been saying the same things for a while now, and she expresses nearly identical tropes in her poem “Underbelly,” from which the latter line (“Israel was never any more moral or noble than any other nation-state or colonial project,”) is in fact taken almost verbatim (in “Underbelly, the line is “Israel was never any more noble or moral than any other colonial project or nation-state”). One wonders how much of Wise’s presentations and comments are based on any sort of original or immediate reflection, or if they’re based, as appears to be the case here, primarily on her repeating the same clichéd one-liners she’s been parroting for months. Having read Wise’s piece before hearing her on the program, it was almost comically déjà vu to listen to her regurgitating the same tropes all over again (and there’s nothing like replacing discourse with repetitious, tendentious slogans to prove one’s anarchist and anti-fascist free thinking credentials). No doubt we’ll be hearing about Wise’s shock and awe towards her family and Hebrew school teachers for a while longer, most likely with the requisite observations about nation-states, colonial projects, morality, and so on. Granted, it’s all fairly boorish and predictable after awhile, but nobody ever accused ISM activists of being original.

The Grand Inquisitor: "But finally the foolish children will understand that although they are rebels, they are feeble rebels, who cannot endure their own rebellion. Pouring out their foolish tears, they will finally acknowledge that he who created them rebels no doubt intended to laugh at them."

For what it’s worth, I suggest that people like Wise take Ashanti Alston’s comments very seriously: Your [anti-Zionist] allies today may not be your allies tomorrow. And to that I would add: They might not even be your allies today, no matter how happy they are to see you in the media, chirping away about Zionism and the Jewish community.

Monday, December 29, 2003

A letter from El Absi in Arab News claims that removing Ariel Sharon from power would bring peace to the region (this, despite the fact that the glorious Palestinian Intifada was launched while Sharon was, uh, not in power). The letter includes such breathless proclamations as this:

He has refused to make peace with the Palestinians on different pretexts, and has killed and maimed thousands of them, made thousands of others homeless and in return exposed Jews to perpetual threats from Palestinians. Sharon has brazenly defied all international opinion on the Palestinian issue. He deserves to be tried for all the crimes he committed. The removal of a single man would bring peace to the region.

Interesting, and in case you missed it the first time, Arab News has included the letter on today’s letter page not once but twice, not once but twice.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

By the way, to the person who emailed The Blue Octavo Notebooks to accuse TBON of cherry picking two of yesterday’s links from a website called Little Green Footballs (as if that’s any sort of response to the commentary on them): The MEMRI report and the news of Iran rejecting Israeli assistance were posted at TBON at 6:11 am EST; they were posted at LGF at 4:08 pm PST and 8:30 am PST, respectively. Do the mathematics. Sheesh.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

MEMRI has posted a report of Palestinian Authority sermons from 2000-2003:

Each Khatib (preacher) is a paid employee of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The sermons are broadcast live every Friday at noon from mosques under control of the PA and are shown on PA television. Part I of this report includes the common themes of the sermons, such as: calls for the destruction of the U.S., the perceived American Crusader war against Islam, honoring Shahids and the rewards of the martyrs, educating children to martyrdom, and antisemitism, including calls for the killing of Jews. Part II includes Palestinian leaders being questioned by Western journalists about the content of the sermons, and is followed by Part III, the transcripts of the Friday sermons.

One of my favorite comments in the report is in Part II, and comes not from a Muslim preacher but from famed Palestinian commentator Hanan Ashrawi. In an interview, she claims that the Palestinian Authority has no control over its own television network and that the P.A. exercises “no censorship or control.” Oho, indeed. When confronted with an example of this rabidly anti-Semitic hate speech, during which the speaker exhorts people to kill Jews, Ashrawi appears more concerned with how the reporter obtained the footage than with what was actually communicated in it. As always, one wonder if even Ashrawi herself believes her own drivel.

There’s a lot of stuff here, most of it despicable, so please be forewarned. After reading it, I was reminded of something that Beate Klarsfeld said in October, 2002, during a talk at Hebrew Union College:

It is abnormal that in France it is never remembered that until 1967 Jordan, which controlled the West Bank, never proposed even a simply autonomy to the Palestinians. They were Jordanian citizens—that is all. No right to speak, no right to claim, no university… They were only allowed to hate Israel.

It is abnormal that the fact that Arafat and his negotiators rae deying the existing of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalm does not raise an eyebrow in the French intelligentsia.

It is abnormal that France and Europe don’t want to understand how hard it is for a democracy to have to negotiate with dictators who do not wish the good and the happiness of their people but are looking to further their own power. And such power can only be maintained by the hate of Israel. [....]

It is abnormal that France and Europe do not condemn clearly and vigorously the campaign of hate against the Jewish people present everywhere in the Arab states. This is an anti-Semitism of the Middle Ages: “the Jews drink the blood of Arab babies”; an antisemitism of the 1930s: “The Jews control the world”; and a neo-Nazi antisemitism: “The Shoah is an invention of the Jewish people”; not taking into account rumors presented as fact: “The Jews destroyed the Twin Towers.”

It is abnormal that this learning of hate, present also in Palestinian school books, in financed by the European Union.

Abnormal indeed, but on it goes. This continued broadcasting of anti-Israel and anti-Jew hate speech is a direct violation of the PA’s obligations under the Oslo Accords, in which Arafat and the PA agreed to refrain from incitement against Israel and to take measures to prevent others from engaging in it. The fact that the PA continues to disseminate this hateful garbage proves yet again that they have willfully ignored what they themselves agreed to ten years ago (and this is but one of myriad PA violations of the Oslo Accords). This willful failure to make anything other than negligible efforts in this area makes one suspicious of claims that Arafat and his government are indeed doing anything to prepare the Palestinian people to live peacefully next to Israel.

Would you like to live within, at most, a few dozen miles of a country where the government-controlled media regularly broadcasts calls for people to murder you and people like you? This is the prospect confronting people in Israel. It’s easy for people whose country is bordered by Canada and Mexico to complain about Israel’s actions vis-à-vis Palestinian nationalism, but their attitudes might be different without their geographic security, to say the least. If you think Israel’s security wall is bad, imagine how America would respond to a few hundred cross-border terrorist attacks from Mexico. Or ask Pancho Villa.

Such hate speech as detailed in the MEMRI report surely constitutes an injustice of sorts, if only to good taste and the sensibilities of those who don’t approve of bigoted hate speech. As such, I look forward to hearing outcries against these and other sorts of Palestinian hate speech from those who claim to be oh-so concerned about justice in Palestine. Perhaps the International Solidarity Movement might stage a protest outside one of the mosques where such hate speech originates. Or do concerns for justice in Palestine not extend beyond attacking Israel’s security fence?

Oh, one thing I’ve always wondered about these sermons: If a Jew converts to Islam, does he remain a descendant of pigs and apes? Just wondering.

In other news, Iran doesn’t let the horrific deaths of 20,000 people (and counting) get in the way of a little inane and wholly counterproductive Israel bashing: “Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, a spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry, said Saturday that Iran would accept aid from all countries of the world, aside from Israel…. ‘The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations with the exception of the Zionist regime [Israel],’ Khanjani said.” Boy, what can you say in response in that?

And Egypt’s Al-Ahram is (surprise!) chock full of bluster this week. Check out Azmi “Little-h holocaust” Bishara’s predictably rank smear of American Jewish liberals (they’ve allied themselves with… wait for it!… the Neo-Cons. Eek!). And for someone like Bishara to be complaining about someone like Alan Dershowitz for putatively inflammatory and offensive rhetoric is more than a bit rich, to say the least. “The death of the liberal Jew,” indeed. Ibrahim “Arabs are Semite’s, Too!” Nafie moans about Israel’s nukes— it’s sooo bloody unfair, boo-hoo-hoo, and “Israel must be designated as the region's only remaining rogue state”—and Columbia’s Joseph Massad gets oh-so hoity-toity and offended over the Geneva Accords. And, not surprisingly, the letters to the editor would seem to indicate that many of the paper’s readers were less than pleased with Al-Ahram’s recent round table discussion with the American ambassador. Another delightful letter to the editor includes the following gems of insight:

Here are some fact (sic) about President Saddam Hussein's capture. For his credit, he did not hide in another country but stayed with his people for almost one year; news of his capture was timed to last for a few days in the media, and was timed for Sunday talk shows; Bush ran and hid after the destruction of two buildings planned by Zionists and executed by misled Muslims; now Iraqi resistance will gain power -- Saddam is 68 (sic) years old and irrelevant.

Planned by Zionists?! O.K., who let the cat out of the bag? Well, thank goodness we have progressive media outlets like Al-Ahram, the semi-official daily of the supposedly most moderate Arab regime, to keep classic anti-Semitic, er, anti-Zionist tropes alive and kicking. Ah, Al-Ahram. But I find the paper’s indignant articles about the Egyptian Foreign Minister being assaulted by Palestinians somewhat lacking: I mean, Al-Ahram never gets this upset when self-detonating Palestinians murder innocent Israelis, but when Palestinians assault an Egyptian they’re suddenly all hot and bothered. Ho hum.

Update: A report from the Associated Press notes that an Egyptian paper has slammed Arafat for the attack on Egypt’s Foreign Minister at the Temple Mount:

"It is now time to adopt a new attitude toward the Palestinian Authority, to tell them 'No' a thousand times, as we are not so naive as they think," Ibrahim Saada wrote in an editorial of Akhbar Elyom on Saturday. [….]

In words addressed to Arafat, Saada said: "Your excellency, the sole spokesman of the Palestinian people, we are fed up with your repetition that any Palestinian act against Egypt, or any Palestinian act - verbal or physical - against an Egyptian official, should be blamed on a trivial, small and banned group."

The editorial went on to recall several occasions when Arafat's policies have been directly opposed to those of Egypt, such as after the country signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Saada said that after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, "his excellency the Palestinian president was the first among those who rejoiced, clapped and danced."

Rejoicing and clapping at the brutal assassination of a Noble Peace Prize Laureate is certainly odd behavior for, uh, a future Noble Peace Prize Laureate. This article is notable, I guess, but as I noted above it would be nice to see the Egyptian media getting even half this worked up over, say, Palestinian suicide bombers murdering people. Of course, the article also manages to blame Israel for the attack, despite television footage showing Israeli policemen shielding Maher from the mob, at great risk to themselves, and the fact that both President Mubarak and FM Maher called Israeli Prime Minister Sharon to thank him for Israel’s aid in the matter. So it goes.

Friday, December 26, 2003

I received yet another grammatically garbled email today from the ISM detailing their latest act of creative nonviolence:

At one PM in the afternoon the group of approximately two-hundred (sic) non-violent protestors marched through the streets of Mas-Ha and approached the gate in the security fence which borders the village. Upon arrival, Israeli and International activists began physically dismantling the locking mechanism in order to open the gate in a symbolic act of defiance against Israeli apartheid policies. The Apartheid Wall (Security Seperation (sic) Fence) in Mas-Ha lies several kilometers within the internationally accepted Palestinan (sic) borders, in effect illegally annexing large quantities of agricultural land.

So, in a symbolic act of creative nonviolence the ISM and their comrades literally and physically attacked an Israeli security fence. Yet when Israeli troops similarly exercised creative nonviolence, that is, by firing in the general direction of the people attacking the security fence, the ISM is shocked, shocked! Go figure.

According to Haaretz, there were only half the number of demonstrators as claimed by the ISM, and “Video footage of the incident broadcast on Channel Two television showed Israeli demonstrators on the Palestinian side of the fence violently shaking it, with some trying to cut the fence with wire cutters.” Creative nonviolence in action!

Update: Ariel Sharon: Dickhead? Arab News began using a new cartoonist a few weeks back. As you might expect, he has a peculiar fixation on the Prime Minister of Israel, and today’s cartoon is no exception. Kinda weird. (24-hour time sensitive link, btw; it’ll be replaced by another cartoon tomorrow.)

Thursday, December 25, 2003

This is how valiant Palestinian freedom fighting activists from resistance groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine wish the world a Merry Christmas. I was going to post something humorous about forgetting that today was Christmas, something I manage to do every year, it seems. This is an oversight that inflicts no small degree of disorientation and confusion after I go out to run an errand, and this afternoon was no exception. But I’m just not in the mood for it now.

As numerous news articles and coverage have noted, this is the first Palestinian suicide bombing in almost three months, but anyone with half a clue knows that it hasn’t been for any lack of attempts. Too often the absence of “successful” self-detonating Palestinian assaults is somehow taken as evidence that no such attacks were launched, but during this most recent putative “lull” in suicide bombings Israel prevented a barrage of suicide bombings, including 22 suicide bombing attempts and 13 other planned attacks. When one adds all the many failed and prevented suicide assaults of years to the already large number of successful ones, one gets an even more chilling feeling for this widely popular element of Palestinian liberation. Indeed, 75% of Palestinians supported the most recent suicide bombing prior to today’s (an attack in a restaurant that killed 21 people). One wonders how high their degree of support for today’s murders (four and counting) will be.

Not surprisingly, the ISM wasted little time after this latest Palestinian terror attack before sending out their latest email alert, this one about their various upcoming protests against Israel’s “Apartheid Wall.” Real classy, as always.

Speaking of annual Christmas occurrences, guess who ruined yet another Christmas in Bethlehem? "This is part of their attempts, which are bound to fail, to deal a blow to the morale of the Palestinian people," said Yasser Arafat. So basically even he admits that the “desperate and humiliated” explanation for Palestinian suicide bombings is nonsense. Go figure.

Update: Not to be outdone by the ISM, Elias A. Rashmawi of the National Steering Committee of the ANSWER Coalition, as blood still lays on the ground in Tel Aviv, has sent out an email about how “the people of the United States, inclusive of all and barring none, have an historic duty and a collective responsibility” to, among other things, “stop all forms of economic, political, and military support for the State of Israel, and, instead, support the rights of Palestinians for liberty, self-determination, and the full right to return.” Gee, and I was just about to make yet another contribution to Israel's Magen David Adom. I think I'll make this one larger than usual, thank you very much. Indeed, “Ending the ongoing foreign occupation of Iraq and stopping the destruction and exile heaped on the Palestinian people are inextricable dual tasks that require a reformation of our vision towards the world and us as a people of a variable mosaic.” Gosh, how quaint.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

If you’re interested, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) recently posted some “Frequently Asked Questions” at their website, www.palsolidarity.org. The official answers to these questions will probably be composed in prose even more purple than the questions’ current font. But since the ISM still hasn’t gotten around to posting their own answers, I’ve made a quick stab at ISM-speak to predict what their oh-so principled responses will be. After they update, we can see how well I did. So, dig:

What is ISM's position on suicide bombings? Well, if you have to ask, you’ll never really understand. But basically: The ISM abhors suicide bombings and all forms of terrorism, including Israeli state terrorism, which is itself a primary cause of the suicide bombings and has in fact claimed far more lives over the years than self-detonating Palestinians. We recognize the Palestinians’ right to armed struggle, but we ourselves much prefer creative nonviolent measures, such as our recent creatively nonviolent, armed attack against the Apartheid Wall, or efforts of ISM activists to creatively stall Israeli soldiers until people can show up to hurl rocks (or perhaps worse) at them. As we note in our mission statement, the Palestinian response to the brutal and illegal Occupation over the years, notwithstanding the myriad histories of Palestinian terrorist groups like the PLO and other such historical realities, has been “mostly peaceful protests, demonstrations, and appeals to Israeli courts.” That’s right: Mostly peaceful protests, the occasional terrorist attack notwithstanding. But terrorism is terrorism, whether it’s spontaneously combusting Palestinians or the Israeli efforts to stop them (and other similarly minded people) via oppressive measures such as curfews, checkpoints, and other humiliations and inconveniences of the Occupation. Although the effects of suicide bombings are indeed terrible, on both the Israeli and Palestinian populations (for it is the latter that must bear the full brunt of the repercussions of such acts, after all, in the form of reprisal attacks and so on), the effects of the Occupation are full worse, and it is the Occupation that breeds the despair and humiliation that engenders suicide bombings. Indeed, if there were no Occupation there would be little if any terrorism, so we must look at the real root cause of suicide bombings and other Palestinian terrorism—that is, the decades old illegal and brutal Occupation of Palestine—and place blame accordingly. Never mind, of course, that other people have lived through far worse than the Palestinians have without resorting to a campaign of suicide terrorism against civilian targets, a campaign that is unprecedented in the history of humanity. We acknowledge that never before have self-detonating human bombs been launched against civilian targets (Japanese Kamikazim and the suicide bombers of the Tamil Tiger at least had the decency to restrict themselves primarily or entirely to political or military figures). To be sure, this isn’t much of a contribution to humanity, yet so terrible is the plight of the oppressed Palestinians, who have had to endure an Occupation of unprecedented scope and scale (did we mention that it’s brutal and illegal, too?) that they have had little choice but to resort to such measures of self-sacrifice. And it’s hardly the fault of the Palestinians that in this monumentally unequal struggle that their weapons so often include only their own bodies, albeit with some explosives, some nails, and some rat poison attached. Such barbarity and its widespread support is symptomatic not of Palestinian society but of the despair and desperation bred by the illegal and brutal Occupation of Palestine. Indeed, as a banner that used to be displayed on our website proclaimed, “It’s the Occupation, Stupid!”

Does ISM protect terrorists? Horrors, no! Well, not deliberately, at least. But please keep in mind that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is another man’s activist, and, as was so eloquently stated in the diktats of the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s most recent annual conference, “As an international solidarity movement it is not our place to dictate the strategies or tactics adopted by the Palestinian people in their struggle for liberation.” Also, just because ISM activists have been known to protect the homes of recently killed-in-action Palestinian terrorists, er, fighters (one of our activists even moved in with the resistance fighter’s family, despite the fact that their son was killed while attempting to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in the dead of night), this should in no way be taken as offing protection for their terrorist kin, even if such measures offer consolation or reassurance to potential suicide terrorists. After all, knowing that foreigners like us might protect their families after their own deaths must offer them no small degree of comfort as they set out to murder innocent people. Also, despite the fact that terrorists have been known to make a social encounter with us prior to setting out to slaughter as many Israeli civilians as possible, and that at least one terrorist somehow ended up hiding in one of our offices, we do not support the terrorist actions of such people. It’s not our fault such folks somehow ended up with us. After all, it’s not the dog poop’s fault that flies are attracted to it, y’know? And slogans like “Palestine Will Be Free From the River to the Sea” are totally radical and revolutionary, even if genocidal terrorist groups like Hamas use them, too. And as we mentioned above, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, so, in the words of ISM activist Rachel Corrie (whose murder at the hands of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) we are so-NOT milking for publicity, despite her picture being plastered all over our website), “try to imagine, please, the courage it requires to do what these young fighters do, knowing that the odds are against escape and that, every time they do succeed in evading death, the odds against a further survival are shortened. Even if the operation is a success the price is always high.” Granted, the price is even higher for the Israelis they may have maimed or murdered, but please, imagine the courage!

Is ISM doing anything to protect Israeli civilians? Of course! In helping end the decades old illegal Occupation of Palestine we help reduce and eliminate the causes of Palestinian resistance, which has occasionally manifested itself as unpleasant actions towards Israeli civilians. By helping reduce both the need for Palestinian resistance and the causes (humiliation, despair, etc.) behind its more unpleasant manifestations (Zionists would call it terrorism), and hence its subsequent (albeit occasional) unfortunate effects (dead children at shopping malls, for example) we thus help protect Israeli civilians who might have otherwise found themselves occupying the wrong pizza parlor or public bus at the wrong time. Please keep in mind, though, that many Israeli civilians are in fact military reservists, and the status of settlers as civilians is problematic at best. Some settlers even carry guns, you know! Also, the reason “We don't usually recommend people ride Israeli busses!” (a little chuckle from elsewhere on our webpage, tee hee!) with Israeli civilians is not because we are fully aware that by doing so we would be placing ourselves on the front lines of Palestinian terrorism, er, resistance, and thus putting our lives at actual risk, but because riding Israeli buses would be like, you know, totally offering support and stuff to the Israeli economy. We’d much rather take our chances with the Israeli government, as unlike self-detonating Palestinian activists they at least take measures to protect civilians like us, regardless of how obnoxious we are or how much extra danger our disruptive actions place Israelis into, rather than (like self-detonating Palestinian resistance fighters) trying to kill as many people as they can, willy-nilly and regardless of nationality or religion. Plus, the IOF are quite likely the most restrained and moral army in the world, and the fact that they haven’t started mass deportations (or worse) of ISM activists, as would have any other military in the world by now, is testament to their restraint. We take full advantage of such restraint, of course, and are quite thankful for it, even if we don’t know it. Also, although we don’t suggest taking advantage of Israeli buses, taking advantage of programs like Birthright Israel is no problemo. Just ask our co-founder, Adam “Free Ticket” Shapiro. It’s all about risin’ up, dawg, and stickin’ it to the (Zionist) man!

Why Palestine when there are so many other areas of conflict in the world? Why, indeed. Quite simply: Because Palestinians are the largest and oldest refugee group in the world; Israel is a brutal, anachronistic, colonial, Apartheid state established upon the racist tenets of Zionism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine’s indigenous population; Israel has had more United Nations resolutions passed against it than any other country, including Apartheid South Africa, Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Libya, resolutions which Israel inevitably flaunts or ignores (indeed, that Israel has had more Security Council Resolutions passed against it than all other countries combined is used by some people, especially Zionist, as evidence of some sort of alleged anti-Israeli bias on the part of the U.N.; in fact, this preponderance of resolutions merely shows how awful Israel actually is);and Israel receives the unfair and unequal support of the US, the most powerful country in the world. Indeed, per our mission statement, “Under the protection of its powerful ally and benefactor, the United States, Israelhas (sic) been able to continue the occupation, build illegal settlements, deny the most basic of human rights, and pursue policies aimed at removing all Palestinians from their homeland.” (Please don’t ask us what all these “policies aimed at removing all Palestinians from their homeland “ are, because you won’t get an intelligent response. Oh, and Israeli tanks are made in America, and Arabs are Semites, too, by the way.) Such unfair support, from the world’s most powerful country, no less, not to mention the pro-Zionist slant of so much of the media, necessitates that someone stand up for and raise awareness of the Palestinians, who have lived under the illegal Israeli Occupation for decades and who have been unfairly portrayed and victimized as both terrorists and the aggressors in the conflict. Indeed, despite numerous public opinion polls that have indicated overwhelming Palestinian support for measures like suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, “the vast majority of Palestinians,” again per our mission statement, “are peaceful, and want only for the Israelis to treat them with justice and respect, and to live in peace with them as neighbours.” And really, who hasn’t wanted their neighbors to be blown up while they were, say, dining at a restaurant? Granted, there are many other areas of conflict in the world, including other places where Palestinians are oppressed (in Lebanon, for example, they are excluded from most jobs and services), but who the hell in their right minds would go somewhere like Lebanon or Syria or Jordan to oppose the government and support Palestinian refugees there? Have you seen how dissent gets treated in Syria? Ever seen Palestinian refugees hurling rocks or Molotov cocktails at Jordanian or Syrian soldiers? Ever heard of Hama? Black September? Hello? We’ll stick with the nefarious IOF, thank you very much! Indeed, since Arab countries (all except Jordan, in fact), none of whom even remotely resemble a democracy, generally refuse to offer citizenship to Palestinians as a group, and Arab countries like Libya and Kuwait have expelled tens of thousands of Palestinians in recent years, we thus direct our actions not against Arab countries, of which there are so many to choose, but against Israel, a democratic country that has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees over the years, and the only country to ever offer Palestinians a state. No, this isn’t a double standard, trust us.

Also, to point out that much of historic Palestine is now an Arab country called Jordan (and, no, we’re not going to those parts of Palestine to stand in solidarity with Palestinians there, either, and not just because Jordanian holding centers probably wouldn’t supply vegetarian meals to our activists, as Israel has been know to do—just ask Abe “Motherf*cking Smash Mouth” Greenhouse) or that the West Bank did not become an eponymous geographic entity until 1948, is to risk engaging in a Zionist hermeneutics of engagement, not to mention Orientalist historicism and other paradigms of colonialist discourse, and we’d really prefer not to. Granted, we’re not sure what some of those words mean, but Hanan Ashrawi is always talking about such things, and she’s always right.

Also, as far as standing in active and vocal solidarity with the plight of, say, the gay and lesbian populations of Palestine, not to mention Palestinian women and girls who have been victimized by honor killings and the like, or openly protesting the widespread indoctrination (child abuse, that is) of Palestinian children with militaristic fanaticism and hate (schools and sports teams named after terrorists, for example): Well, such demonstrations would do little if anything to create bad publicity for Israel, and thus don’t really serve our purposes. After all, gay rights activism and other forms of solidarity with gay Palestinians and other such segments of Palestinian society might offend certain Palestinians, especially those of the “activist” bent. Ever seen a gay Fatah or Hamas member? Neither have we. So when it comes to chanting slogans of solidarity in the face of Palestinian homophobes or the IOF, we’ll take the latter! We’ll rise up in open and loud solidarity with gay Palestinians (not to mention Palestinian females who have been murdered and maimed and otherwise victimized by the patriarchy of Palestinian society) as soon as there’s a Palestinian state. Seriously. And anyway, Palestinian gays and lesbians can find refuge in Apartheid Israel, just as the Egyptian Foreign Minister did the other day after being attacked by Palestinians.

Is ISM affiliated with any political party? We are internationals of good will from across the world, and as such our group affiliation is one of solidarity with oppressed people everywhere, especially indigenous peoples living under colonial oppression. Be that as it may, our training packet dictates that “ISM activists will be in contact with local activists and leadership in every community where we will be active.” One doesn’t have to be affiliated with a political party or terrorist organization to attend the same rallies as terrorist groups, though, and should ISM activists attend, and even participate in, rallies or other “spirited demonstrations” that feature racist terrorist groups like Fatah, Hamas, and PFLP, their attendance should not be taken as support for such racist terrorist groups any more so than should someone’s attendance and participation at rallies that featured Neo-Nazis or the Klu Klux Klan indicate his or her support for those racist terrorist groups. And please don’t ask ISM activists who are self-proclaimed Anarchists why they support Palestinian nationalism despite Anarchism being opposed to statism and state structures. Such questions just make their brains hurt, and you won’t get an intelligent reply. Plus, we’re confident that they’ll protest the existence of Palestinian statehood just as soon as it happens. ISM activists aren’t witless hypocrites, after all.

If the ISM ever get around to posting their own answers, I suspect those of The Blue Octavo Notebooks might actually be quite a bit better, not to mention more informative. But so it goes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Shoe! Shoe! Er, shoo, shoo: Nothing to see, move along, and if this isn’t Israel’s fault we’ll just say it is anyway. Imshin, another superb Israeli blogger and a long time daily read, has further details (with links to more information and commentary from Incontext and Israellycool regarding a violent incident yesterday at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, atop the Temple Mount, during which Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher was affectionately attacked by Palestinians. This isn’t the first time a pre-arranged visit of a politician to the Temple Mount was greeted with violence, nor is it the first time an Arab leader has been the target of Palestinian violence at the site because of alleged moderation towards Israel. It’s not exactly déjà vu all over again, but Palestinian violence atop the Temple Mount isn’t exactly unprecedented. Just ask anybody who's had to dodge bricks and other projectile hurled from above while they were visiting the Western Wall, to cite but one example. (Not that people being periodically pelted while praying at, say, the holiest site of Islam or Christianity wouldn't garner a similar near absence of media coverage or international outrage, of course.)

But can you imagine what the response would have been if, say, this had been a mob of incensed Jews attacking a visiting foreign dignitary at one of the world’s holiest sites? Quite likely we’d have been deluged with handwringing commentary and consternation about how such violence—gasp, at a religious site, no less!—epitomizes the failure of Zionism, and is the embodiment of Israeli aggression and violence, and exemplifies once again the political and moral deterioration of Israel, and is symptomatic of the extremist Jewish violence that defines the racist Apartheid state, and yadda yadda yippie-ki-yay. Why, Saeb "Killing Fields" Erekat certainly would have been beside himself. Yet I imagine this latest incident of Palestinian violence at a religious site will fade from the media’s radar rather quickly, just as have other such incidents of Palestinian mob violence. After all, it’s not like they opened fire on the Foreign Minister as he was leaving the site or trashed the place, as Palestinians have done at another site of religious significance.

Orwell Alert, courtesy of Agence Française de Presse? To wit: The Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation erupted in September 2000 after a controversial visit to the mosque compound by Sharon who was then Israel's opposition leader. I’m not sure if it’s accurate to say that Sharon visited the mosque compound…hmmm.

In other news: Secularism is a disease, and guess where accusing someone of it can get you not only sued but sentenced to 60 lashes? (Hint: Not the genocidal, racist, Apartheid state that is a threat to world peace). Did someone say divestment? I didn’t think so.

Orwell Alert, courtesy of AP? Until somebody comes up with the name of this company that has required thousands of Chinese workers to sign a contract promising not to have sex with Israelis or try to convert them, I’m inclined to agree with Meryl that it’s bogus. So: Anybody got a name? This is either a hoax or exceptionally vague reporting. Weird.
Vellar Fricatives in the Chizzay! Or: Would you like some Chutzpah with your Choffee? So: Before I forget, I’d like to wish everyone out there—Chasadim, Charedi, and Chomskyites alike— A CHAPPY CHANUKAH!!! Er, a Xappy Xanukah. That is, a Happy Hanukah! Whatever. Anyway, I came across this Dancing Dreidels Menorah a few weeks back (at a substantially reduced price, even), and got it for my Mom. Such the good son, eh? Dancing dreidels kick tuchus. (Apologies to Luke Haim.)

Monday, December 22, 2003

Ribbity Frog, one of my favorite Israeli bloggers, has just posted again. I wonder if the Japanese woman who approached him and the rest of the Frog Family is a Moonie? Apparently there’s a conference going on in Israel of international political and religious leaders, sponsored by something called the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IIFWP). Catchy name, but the organization was founded in 1999 by Moonie-extraordinaire Korean-American evangelist Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the movement’s founder and spiritual leader. I first heard about this at an international festival a few weeks back, where I was approached by two very nice women who told me about this same conference. I wasn’t sure what to think about it, as something just didn’t seem right about the whole thing. I appreciate irenic gestures, of course, but a deluge of Moonies and other assorted types upon Jerusalem seems a bit peculiar. But who knows? Good to hear that the former President of Indonesia has come out against suicide bombings, though.

In other news, Arab News (operated by our allies, the Saudis) offers these words of, uh, wisdom from Adil Salahi, who has this to say:

Muslims throughout the world, scholars and laymen, support the just cause of Palestine and condemn the Israeli aggression that has been going on for more than 70 years [TBON note: Huh?]. Yet Muslims are under extreme pressure from outside powers to curb the resistance to such aggression. Even the Palestinian Authority is required to disown the armed struggle.

And this:

I cannot understand how a Muslim could justify boarding a plane, intending to kill all its passengers by flying it into a building used by thousands of civilians. This is simply terrorism and cannot be justified under Islamic law. The operations launched against Israeli occupation are totally different. They are undertaken against occupiers who have turned the local people, Muslims and Christians, from their homes and lands, desecrated mosques and terrorized the population into leaving their land. To resist Israel by all means available to us is justified under divine and human law. It is indeed Israel and its supporters that are engaged in a gigantic and continuous act of terrorism.

Charming, eh? I suspect Salahil has a rather tweaked comprehension of both divine and human law, not to mention the concept of terrorism, but at least he doesn’t oppose (well, in some cases, at least) marriage with Jews.

I hate to devote more words to the International Solidarity Movement, but I've just read an article about some of its members exploiting the Birthright Israel program as a way to get themselves, free of charge, over to Israel. This merits a response, however much I hate to stain The Blue Octavo Notebooks with further mention of the ISM. Better to keep the light on, though, so we know what they’re up to and where they’re scurrying around.

Anyway, remember Abe Greenhouse, a member of the ISM and a publicity-seeking goon from Rutgers who, while in Jerusalem last fall, not only snuck and lied his way into a restricted media area in the immediate aftermath of a nearby suicide bombing but later desecrated the Western Wall by inserting a profanity-laden message into it? Upon returning to New Jersey, Greenhouse unjustly extended his undeserved 15 seconds of "fame" by assaulting Natan Sharansky, Israel’s Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and a man who spent a decade in Soviet jails (including a Siberian gulag), by smashing a pie in the former Soviet refusenik’s face at a Rutgers University function. After the widespread coverage of the latter incident, this (Jewish, as you’ve probably heard, since he made a big deal out of it after assaulting Sharansky) member of the ISM appears to have largely dropped out of sight from the media, perhaps because he realized what an ass he was making of himself with such intellectually mind-numbing stunts. (Note: That a particular ISM member, be it Greenhouse, Ora Wise, or Adam Shapiro, is Jewish is generally guaranteed to be mentioned in any self-serving publicity about the person’s ISM “activism,” in part because it’s a propaganda bonanza for the ISM to have such Jewish activists, no matter how obnoxious, deluded, and/or silly they might be, since it gives them a Jewish figure to hold up to the media in response to claims that their movement is in anyway prejudiced against Jews or is otherwise anti-Semitic. But as I’ve pointed out before, having a Jewish person in a particular movement in no way subtracts from the vapidity or repugnance embodied in that group’s activities, nor does having a Jewish person mouth inane or otherwise execrable rhetoric, be it about Israel or anything else, afford the rhetoric any less discredit.)

Not surprisingly, despite his obnoxious behavior in regards to Israel and to Sharansky, an individual with more moral stature than Greenhouse could ever dream, Greenhouse had no problem taking advantage of a free Birthright Israel trip to get himself to Israel. Birthright Israel is “a unique partnership between the people of Israel through their government, local Jewish communities (through the United Jewish Communities, Keren Hayesod and The Jewish Agency for Israel), and leading Jewish philanthropists” that “provides a gift of first time, peer group, educational trips to Israel for Jewish young adults ages 18 to 26.” Contrary to what I was told last summer by an ISM activist, it’s not called “Birthplace Israel,” nor or is it free to any Jew who wants a free trip to Israel: If you’re not 18 to 26, or if you are but have already been to Israel, you don’t qualify. Listening to this person lament “Birthplace Israel,” by which any Jewish person is, ahem, entitled to a free trip to Israel is one of my more priceless, albeit typical, ISM memories. Typical, of course, in that it made me wonder whether these people are so stupid as to actually believe this and the other similarly minded stupidities they and their ilk retch up (Israeli soldiers shot at people coming to Rachel Corrie’s aid, for example: See TBON entry of 11.13.03), or if they’re simply so intellectually twisted and dishonest (or brainwashed, perhaps?) that they have no problem yowling about such fantasies and inanities. Birthplace Israel, indeed, but I digress. Unfortunately, this program has been taken advantage of by a handful of people like Greenhouse, who use their free trips as a way to get into Israel, and quite cheaply and conveniently at that. After arriving in Israel free-of-charge and then enjoying a free ten-day tour of the country, these people then engage in ISM activities and other actions that, needless to say, are contrary to the spirit and goodwill that brought them to Israel.

All this is thoroughly dishonest and a crass abuse of other people’s philanthropy, of course, but as ISM cofounder Adam Shapiro explained to students at last month’s Palestine Solidarity Movement, “It's a free ticket.” Indeed it is, and that the cofounder of ISM would encourage young functionaries to exploit it for ISM benefit and other such purposes is further evidence of the intellectual cravenness and dishonesty that he and his movement so often embody.

But as the above article notes, officials at Birthright Israel are aware that some folks may try to take advantage of the program, and they’ve begun to take precautions to prevent any further such abuses. It’s a troubling phenomenon, to be sure, despite the fact that “ISM supporters on birthright would constitute a tiny fraction of the 50,000 people who have taken the tour.” Indeed, the five ISM people whom Shapiro claims to know who supposedly entered Israel under the aegis of Birthplace, er, Birthright Israel, would constitute a whopping one one-hundredth of one percent of all the people who’ve participated in the program. Granted, any claims regarding entry into Israel, when spouted by the cofounder of a group that encourages people to lie their way into Israel, must be taken with grains of salt. But 0.01% isn’t much of a statistic, as tasteless as the individual cases like Greenhouse’s and Shapiro’s five unnamed comrades may be. That “Thousands of birthright graduates have returned for another trip to Israel, hundreds are serving in the IDF, or learning in universities and other institutions in Israel” is a far more interesting and notable fact. That ISM members would take advantage of the goodwill of other people and of various philanthropic organizations is callous and contemptible, but it’s hardly surprising given the ISM’s already-established track record of deceit, self-publicity, and other obnoxious behavior.

If anything, this latest obnoxious and duplicitous behavior on the part of the ISM, in the larger picture, works to their disadvantage, as it reveals them yet again as a gang of immature, dishonest, self-righteous provocateurs. Sneaking into Israel under false auspices, be it through a Birthright trip or other such means, may be fun and exciting and, like, totally revolutionary, man, not to mention a radically empowering (or something) way to stick it to the Zionist Man and subvert Capitalism (after all, being honest and paying one’s own way is sooooo bourgeoisie, dawg; better to trick somebody else into doing it for you); but such subterfuge and tawdriness pretty much disqualifies the person in question from being taken seriously. There is a thin line between radicalism and juvenile delinquency, somebody once said, and this and other such boorish, loutish behavior from the ISM proves once again that, despite all their talk and self-righteous blather, they prefer to stay as close as possible to the latter side of the line, if they ever manage to cross it at all. After all, it’s far, far safer to antagonize a country like Israel, a country that will take efforts to ensure the rights and safety even of people like ISM functionaries who not only sneak into the country under false premises but who then assist in actions that endanger Israelis, rather than playing such games with countries like, say, North Korea or Iran or Syria.

That these ISM people chose to go to Israel, under false pretenses or not, rather than various Arab countries where Palestinians are oppressed (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, etc.) concedes the various asinine points they try to make about how awful and nefarious Israel is. After all, can one imagine Adam Shapiro and his ilk sneaking into Syria to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians there, in defiance of the Syrian government and its military? Can you imagine ISM activists annoying and trying to obstruct Syrian soldiers the same way they do Israeli soldiers, or attacking and defacing Syrian military structures? Indeed not, and not least because the Syrian regime has little tolerance for obnoxious foreigners or anyone else who meddles in its affairs. The same could be said for Jordan, Egypt, etc. The ISM knows full well that Israel is the only country in the region, and probably the world, that would let them get away with such obnoxious behavior, as Israel has done for years now, and the ISM’s continued presence in Israel and in Israeli courts and in the territories belies all their execrable claims about the so-called genocidal racist Apartheid state. If the ISM had any sense of decency they’d thank Israel for affording them such a highly visible playground, which comes thanks in large part to Israel’s freedom of the press (another feature you can’t find in Syria or other nearby countries), on which to display their pretensions to radicalism. It’s far better and far safer to stick with Israel, a country that respects and protects human rights, and the ISM knows it full well.

The ISM’s taking advantage of the Birthright Israel program is something that might have really annoyed me a few months ago. But, in my book, they jumped the shark quite a while back. Such execrable behavior on their part has been predictable for a long time, and there’s little reason to waste any emotional energy getting upset about it. The appropriate people know about it (and not just because Shapiro mouthed off to the media about ISM people abusing the Birthright Program—smooth move, slickster!) and are taking appropriate measures. In the mean time, Shapiro and the ISM have disgraced and discredited themselves for the umpteenth time. One wonders if anybody, including ISM members themselves, takes the group even halfway seriously anymore.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I’ve read quite a bit in the last few days about the Geneva Accords, the recent European-sponsored secret, unofficial negotiations led by Israeli and Palestinian figures, none of whom appear to have any official status within their respective governments. The main Israeli representative, Yossi Beilin, was voted out of office; his Palestinian counterpart, Yasir Abed Rabbo, a former head of the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Information, is retired. Other Israeli figures involved had been similarly rejected for public office, while their Palestinian counterparts included members of such dubious groups as Fatah and Tanzim. Rabbo, the leading Palestinian figure, was himself a founding member (in 1968) of the terrorist group the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a gang of so-called Marxist freedom fighters whose subsequent activities included massacring over twenty Israeli school children (in a 1974 terrorist attack at Ma’alot) and planting bombs on Israeli buses. To his credit, Rabbo broke with the group, albeit 23 years later. Be that as it may, the plan was signed to much fanfare (and predictable Israel bashing) in Geneva, and despite (or perhaps in spite of) its unofficial, nonbinding status it has elicited much discussion, especially in Israel, where the text of the 47-page document was mailed to two million homes.

Much of the commentary, both for and against the agreement, struck me as a bit frivolous, and perhaps the most trenchant comments were those of the Daily Show’s John Stewart, especially his concluding remark that “As long as phony statesmen get together to negotiate pretend agreements, this fake news show will be there to cover it.” Ouch.

To be sure, some of the commentary was indeed well reasoned and rational, and I would like to read David Grossman’s introduction to the agreement, as his commentary is always thoughtful and exceptionally honest (although I don’t always agree with him). This article, by Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren, lays out a fairly devastating critique of the accords, as does this public statement against “the so-called Geneva Accord,” sponsored by a group of so-called intellectuals and political “activists,” many of whom are associated with the Stalinist group ANSWER. The original sponsors of the latter document include Elias Rashmawi, of the National Steering Committee of International ANSWER; and Zahi Damuni, co-founder of Al-Awda. Signatories of the statement include Columbia University’s Joseph Massad, whose petulant rants about the racist settler racist Apartheid racist colony racist Jewish (and did I mention racist, racist, and racist?) racist state known as Israel, for all the ocular rotational injuries such rants surely cause, might as well have been written by the Eyeball Rolling Injuries Medical Association or the Over-Stressed Gag Reflex Rehabilitation Center.

The former article, regardless of whether one agrees with the authors’ opinions, is rational and factual. The latter, predictably enough, is a tendentious screed filled with inanities, half-truths, misrepresentations, and out-and-out lies. Indeed, among other Orwellian inanities included in “The Reality of the ‘Geneva Accord’” is the stunning revelation that "West Jerusalem" (in quotes, of course) was conquered and ethnically cleansed in 1948. One can only imagine how the authors would describe the contemporaneous developments on the other side of Jerusalem. To call such gibberish revisionist, Orwellian garbage would be an insult to revisionist, Orwellian garbage. Anyone who subscribes to such drivel, especially someone who fancies himself an academic or an intellectual, makes himself frightfully difficult, if not impossible, to be take seriously in such proclaimed fields of endeavor.

I notice that the statement has been included on the webpage for the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP). This comes as little surprise, of course, as the IAP is a group whose primary function appears to be be disseminating the most vile and bilious rhetoric concerning Jews and Israel. To cite but a few examples, their webpage (so vomitous in its contempt for all things factual that I shall refrain from further staining The Blue Octavo Notebooks with another link to it) includes all the usual mind-numbing garbage about Jews and Khazars and Semites; Israel and Zionism being “anti-Semitic”; Israel being a Neo-Nazi state; Zionists being “God’s Lying People”; that “the Zionists have been trying to destroy Masjid al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock for the last 50 years by digging underground tunnels beneath the sites to weaken its foundation causing it to collapse”; and so on and so forth, ad nauseam, ad Zonam Crepusculi, et cetera. And these are just a few random samplings of the disgusting, hateful garbage with which the IAP pollutes the world. The IAP’s website even includes a non-existent interview between Ariel Sharon and Amos Oz. Oz has never interviewed Sharon, of course, not that such facts, or any facts, are of any importance to the likes of the IAP.

Update: It’s been a week since Arab News published Tariq A. Al-Maeena’s article “No Season for Thanks,” about a nine-year-old Palestinian boy being shot in the head by the Israeli army on the day before Thanksgiving (see previous TBON entries). Although Arab News published several fawning letters in response to Al-Maeena’s gripping screed, they didn’t see fit to publish any letters (mine, for example), much less a retraction, that pointed out that the incident detailed in the article never happened. As has been pointed out, the boy was shot in the head not by Israeli troops but by his own brother. Nor, of course, did the author deign to respond to an email asking him about the fictional incident upon which he based his article. But who needs facts when we’ve got Arab News? In the meantime, of course, Arab News has seen fit to print letters such as that from Chris Lauren (12.18), who points out that not only is Israel a “terrorist nation” but that the problem “seems to be that most of the media in the US is either owned or controlled by Jews, therefore we only get Israeli version of the story.”

Well, repeat a Big Lie enough times, as they say, whether it’s about a boy being shot in the head by Israel (on the day before Thanksgiving, no less!) or Jews controlling the American media (or most of it), and Arab News, published by our allies the Saudis, is sure to print it.

Update: MEMRI has linked to the same Arab News article that was discussed in The Blue Octavo Notebooks on Thursday. Reading such sentiments (minus the drivel about Hitler and Nero) in the Saudi media is refreshing, of course, but so is breathing fresh air.

Update: According to an email I received from one of the original endorsers of the above public statement opposing the Geneva Accord, it has now garnered over a thousand endorsements. But I notice the signers include Mona Baker, of St. Jerome Publishing Ltd, who last year dismissed two scholars from an “academic” journal she publishes because they were Israeli. Ah, dismiss people simply because they’re from France or Pakistan or Botswana, and you get labeled (quite rightly) a prejudiced jerk, and worse; but if you dismiss them simply because they’re from Israel, well, then you’re simply being politically chic and fightin’ the power, dawg. Quite frankly, I’d be embarrassed to have my mind on any petition with her name on it, but I guess there’s no accounting for taste. Other signatories include Yoav Bar, a computer programmer from somewhere called “Haifa, Palestine” (eh?); and at least one “Ripublican Committeeman.” Ho hum.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Arab News Profiles in Courage: Hitler and Nero? Or: The Royal Refuge of Scoundrels and Other Contradictions of the Heart. The capture of Saddam Hussein seems to have momentarily jolted Arab News and opened up an actual perspective of rationality on the editorials page. But, as always, like a journalistic jouissance of the absurd, the Arab News abyss of the abysmal looms beneath such seemingly evenhanded rhetoric. This interesting enough piece in Arab News, “Give Them a Chance,” contains the following commentary:

Dictators and murderers are a breed apart. The lucky ones die in office. The majority live to suffer the humiliation and anger of their victims and those who survived them…. The Shah, Bokassa, Idi Amin, Ceausescu, Sese Seko of Zaire, Hitler, Mussolini, the Soviet apparatus, and last but not least, Saddam, the son of Hussein. The most notable of this lot were the most courageous: Nero and Hitler. At least Nero had the courage to fall on his sword and lament that Rome was losing a “great artist.” I wonder who is next.

Hmmmm, Idi Amin, you say? Funny to see that fellow’s name popping up in Saudi Arabia’s state-controlled press. After all, if Amin was such a terrible tyrant (and I’m not arguing that he wasn’t) then why, pray tell, would our dear friends the Saudis allow such a savage thug, along with his entourage, to live out not just his last days but the last ten years of his life in comfort and luxury in their royal kingdom? Amin even received medical treatment at the Saudis’ best medical institutions, including the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. Surely the kingdom would not allow the cretinous likes of Amin to live comfortably in their royal realm! Er, never mind. Did the author of this piece, Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rasheed, write anything in protest of his royal government harboring such a murderous cretin during the ten years Amin lived in the kingdom? Just wondering. And I hope the good doctor, by badmouthing a long time guest of the kingdom, a guest to whom the Saudi government was so hospitable and welcoming for so many years, hasn’t set himself up for censure (or worse) by those in the royal family who might not appreciate their (late) special guest being described in such negative terms.

(Ah, but one wonders, as we so often must with our Saudi allies, about various things. Indeed, had Hitler not killed himself—sorry, not courageously killed himself—would the Saudi royal family of 1945 have offered this genocidal war criminal the same sorts of hospitality the Saudi royal family later extended to Amin, another genocidal war criminal? After all, if the Saudis saw fit to take in a sometimes-cannibal, mass-murdering thug like Amin, a thug who had involved himself in terrorism against Jews (not to mention his own country), why not a vegetarian, mass murdering thug like Hitler? At the least, the kingdom’s proclivity for Judenrein policies would have appealed to Hitler, and he would have even come with references from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Give them a chance…)

Other than the remark about Nero and Hitler, this is one of the more cogent and rational commentaries I've read in the Arab News. Were the editors asleep at the wheel, or is the author merely a token voice for such occasional thoughts? I notice that the author is a regular contributor to the paper, and that they’ve censored him in the past. Go figure.

In other news, Saddam Hussein was a novelist, and a piss-poor one at that. His last delusional pseudo-epic is entitled “Be Gone Teddy Bears!” er, “Be Gone Demons!” and you’ll never guess who the arch-villain is. Would you believe an immortal, fat Jew whose presence runs throughout time? Eeek!

Monday, December 15, 2003

Speaking of blue (octavo?) notebooks: There are two Hebrew translations of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit: The “regular” (professional) translation by Moshe Hanoomi, and the Pilots’ Translation. The latter translation was a group effort undertaken by ten Israeli air force pilots and corpsmen in the early 1970s, and was carried out while they were prisoners-of-war in Egypt. The ten men were held in a single prison cell, and their collaborative translation of Tolkien’s masterpiece was but one cooperative, social (kibbutznik, even) activity by which they helped each other cope during their shared captivity. “We had this vision of a...society in which everybody had the same rights and privileges,” one of the pilots recalls. “We had classes; those who knew something taught it to the others: English, mathematics, engineering, Arabic, sewing.” After reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy together (they had obtained tattered copies via the Red Cross), the pilots were able to obtain a copy of The Hobbit. This they set about translating into Hebrew. A few years after the pilots were released in a prisoner exchange, their translation was published, becoming the first Hebrew edition of Bilbo Baggins’s tale of “There and Back Again.” Today, the pilots’ translation remains a popular item in Israel, and customers have to specify which translation they would prefer.

The Hobbit is an amazing story of fantasy; its translation into Hebrew is an amazing story of fact. As Tolkien had a keen interest in Hebrew and other Semitic languages, I suspect he would have had a keen affinity for this unique translation, and not just because his novels had served as a lifeline for a group of Israeli P.O.W.s in a rather desperate situation. I first learned of this notable and highly original translation of Tolkien’s magisterial prequel a while back, but I didn’t know much about the specific circumstances surrounding its genesis or its translators, other than that it had been a group effort by Israeli P.O.W.s during the War of Attrition. The following article, which I came across at a friend’s house and from which the above quotation is taken, is in the latest Hadassah Magazine. It offers some nice information about some of the people who crafted The Hebrew Hobbit. Check it out, elfim. (If the link doesn’t take you straight to the article, click on “current issue” and then “The Hebrew Hobbit.”)

Friday, December 12, 2003

Say: Could the nine-year-old boy who was shot and killed the day before Thanksgiving by the Israeli army, as mentioned in this emotion-bludgeoning Arab News piece, possibly be the same nine-year-old boy who was shot and killed the same day not by Israeli troops but by his own brother?(See below for more details.) Just wondering, because I can’t find anything about any other nine-year-old Palestinian boy being shot that day.
Lions and Tigers and Khazars and Semites, Oh My!

Not content with dishing up the usual lame and perverted pseudo-definition of anti-Semitism—you know, the predictable semantic/linguistic logrolling about anti-Semitism signifying not just Jews but non-Jewish Arabs (because they’re Semites, too, y'know, even though the term “anti-Semitism” has nothing to do being a Semite or not)—Egypt’s semi-official Al-Ahram Weekly, in the December 4-10 edition, now stoops to publishing a letter from Dick Meyers, who gushes "80 per cent of Zionists are not Semites, but Khazars, whose ancestors never set foot on this once holy land.” Oho, indeed. Presumably, the darling who wrote this drivel is making the same mistake bemoaned elsewhere on the same letters page—that is, conflating Zionists with Jews—but what can you expect from someone who advocates one of David Duke’s favorite fantasies (that is, the Khazar “theory” of Ashkenazi Jews, by which European Jews are descendants not of Jews but of tribal Khazars from Eastern Europe) in a letter to the editor? You can expect just such a repugnant letter to be published in the leading newspaper of the most moderate Arab country. Imagine the sorts of slimy pontifications Egypt’s state-controlled press would be disseminating about Jews (and others) if they weren’t so moderate and didn’t have a peace treaty with Israel.

Meyers’s paean to the Khazars of yore is but one of several supportive letters penned in response to an absurd essay wittily entitled “Israel’s Anti-Semitism” and written by Ibrahim Nafie, one of Egypt’s foremost journalists. Among other Orwellian inanities offered in yet another predictable piece of Al-Ahram dreck, Nafie proclaims that anti-Semitism “refers to remarks or acts targeting the ethnic group termed Semites, which comprises both Jews and Arabs” and, as such, Israel is guilty of anti-Semitism (!) because it “practices in word and deed some of the cruelest forms of anti-Semitism against the Arabs.” That this and other such Orwellian bile is retched up by a five-time chairman of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate and the current chairman of the board at Al-Ahram, Egypt’s leading (and semi-official) newspaper, to be spread across the country and across the Internet for domestic and international consumption, speaks tellingly as to the state of Egypt’s (state-controlled) journalistic standards, not to mention what passes for state-sanctioned intellectual discourse there. If this is the sort of pseudo-intellectual garbage that the Egyptian government allows for publication in English, imagine what they’re keeping under wraps.

Unfortunately, when it comes to maligning Israel such pseudo-semantic contortions and perversions are practically de rigueur in many circles. The predilection for spuriously applying terms like Apartheid, Genocide, Ethnic Cleansing, and so on in regards to Israel is but one example of this. As such, it came as little surprise that when Vernon Bellecourt, one of the speakers at last month’s Palestine Solidarity Conference at OSU, made the obligatory “Arabs are Semites, too” proclamation in reference to anti-Semitism his asinine comment was greeted with approving snickers and giggles. One might think a member of the American Indian Movement would be somewhat more sensitive to such misleading semantic contortions, but whatever. Maybe he’d been reading too much Al-Ahram, or worse.

I hate to get down in the gutter with people who disseminate such drivel, but anyone who seriously believes that anti-Semitism is some sort of umbrella term relating to Semites in general (that is, based on the “logic” of: “anti”= against, “Semites”=any Semites, Jewish or not) is going to have a bloody unpleasant time with the myriad of terms like antibiotic (anti=against, biotic=of or having to do with life or living organisms; a mode of living: so antibiotics are against life, i.e. poisons, not medicines (kudos to a friend of TBON for sharing this example) or explaining why we drive on a parkway but park on a driveway or grasping why a “freedom fighter” fights for freedom but a “fire fighter” fights against fire. Following the delightful quasi-logic by which the term anti-Semite somehow refers to all Semites, then someone who opposes “the Democratic Party” also opposes the Democratic Party, regardless of which country—India or the United States, say—that particular Democratic Party is in. But such are the intellectual pitfalls to which redefining anti-Semitism quickly lead, and from there it’s just a short jump to defining cats and dogs as the same things, since both species have four legs, two eyes, etc. Indeed, by the quasi-linguistic hijinks by which anti-Semitism is forged into a term that refers to non-Jews, then god only knows how the same doyens of definitional daffiness define terms like antilogarithm or anti-Zionism. After all, if anti-Semitism refers to all Semites, then anti-Zionism refers to all Zionism, right? (Warning: The next time you hear someone explain that he’s merely anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic, since Arabs are, like, Semites, too, man, exercise extreme caution should you ask him what he has against the latter Zionism. Although the logic is exactly the same, such folks tend to hate it when their creative logic self-scores on them, and should there be a resultant brain explosion it will be all your fault.)

That the school of semiotics to which Nafie and his ilk belong displays a pathetic lack of epistemological commitment and credibility goes without saying, but one wonders if such unctuous linguistic empiricism is an issue for them when it can’t be garnished to distort and distract from issues of bigotry against Jews. Harping on semiotic ambiguities is generally a fools’ game, of course, and those who play it with anti-Semitism might keep in mind that it can be played with other terms quite a bit more effectively, and not just because actually facts are employed. Discussing linguistic redundancies such as “Arabs are Semites, too” might cease to be enjoyable if somebody starts pointing out the semiotic roots and history of terms like, say, Palestine (a geographic entity but never a country, and never controlled wholly or even in part by Arabs until the 20th century) or Palestinian (a term previously used to refer to Jews). Not that intellectual consistency was ever of any priority when it comes to belittling Jews and/or Israel, of course, but so it goes.

Anyway, the term "anti-Semitism" was coined in 1879 and refers only to attitudes, actions, etc. toward Jews, regardless of whether Jews or anyone else are Semites. One can analyze and discuss anti-Semitism in all its different forms (political, religious, etc.) and manifestations (harassment, blood libel, violence, murder, etc.) and degrees (“polite” anti-Semitism, state or church sanctioned oppression, genocide, etc.) and justifications (racism, religion, etc.) and archetypes (the Jew as: Christ-killer, socialist, capitalist, communist, Bolshevik, materialist, infidel, refusing to assimilate, assimilating too well, denigrated for not having a state, denigrated for having a state, embodiment of modernity, embodiment of anti-modernity, etc.) and so on by which anti-Semites and anti-Semitism have manifested themselves over the ages. But unless the hostility in question, regardless of era or extent, was directed within the context of a Jewish target, it’s not anti-Semitism. Hostility towards Semites can be anti-Semitism, but only if the Semites in question are Jewish. "[T]o use pejoratives against Arabs is also anti-Semitic," preaches Gary Brune, in another similarly minded (or mindless) Al-Ahram letter, "as this definition (sic) includes both. Thus, when some speak ill of Iraqis, they also make anti- Semitic comments." Ba-dump-sphhhh, but seriously folks. Indeed, but only if the Semites or Iraqis are Jewish, Gary. In attempting to redefine the word, such partisans in effect endeavor to dilute the meaning and experience of anti-Semitism, not least by trying to force the word to absorb various contexts for which it was never intended. Perhaps the only positive aspect of such semantic shallowness and linguistic claptrap is that it shows how disinterested in, and possibly incapable of, intelligent discourse those who engage in such pseudo-intellectualism actually are. One would sooner waste time arguing with a hollow earth advocate than with someone—be it Edward Said, Ibrahim Nafie, the International Solidarity Movement, Gary Brune, or anyone else—who has so righteously and conveniently decided, contrary to elementary linguistic principles, philological history, and good taste, that anti-Semitism refers to Semites in general, not just Jews, and that this redefined, fake version of “anti-Semitism” should be emphasized when anti-Semitism is mentioned.

Anti-Semitism was coined by the German racist Wilhelm Marr in his best-selling pamphlet “The Victory of Judaism over Germanism,” first published in February, 1879. Marr’s pamphlet offered little that was new in terms of the racialist (and usually anti-Semitic) discourse that had been popular in Germany for some time, but its inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric helped make Marr’s screed a best seller. Indeed, by the end of the year, it had been republished in at least twelve editions, and it was not to be the last anti-Semitic best seller. In coining the term anti-Semitism, Marr hoped to afford anti-Jewish and anti-Judaism bigotry with a more scientific and respectable veneer, as the term would reflect not only the bigotry’s religious context but its putative scientific and ethnographic contexts. Anti-Semitism, it was hoped, would assist in making such moral and political attitudes (not to mention those who espoused them) more palatable and attractive to those who saw Jews primarily as a religious concern. Part of the reason for this, as Robert Wistrich notes in Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, is that

Religious hostility in late nineteenth-century Europe was regarded by many intellectuals as something medieval, obscurantist and backward. There was clearly a need to establish a new paradigm for anti-Jewishness which sounded more neutral, objective, ‘scientific’ and in keeping with the liberal, enlightened Zeitgeist…. Antisemitism which grounded itself in racial and ethnic feelings provided a way around the problem. By focusing attention on allegedly permanent, unchanging characteristics of the Jews as a social and national group… the antisemites hoped to delegitimise Jewish equality.

The term never meant hatred of “Semites” in general, much less the “ethnic group termed Semites,” as Nafie others of his ilk would have us believe.

Edward Flannery, in the introduction to the first edition of The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Anti-Semitism, writes of the term “anti-Semitism”:

First used in 1879 to signify a racial antipathy toward Jews, it has since become idiomatic and includes anti-Jewish hatred of any kind and of all eras. Misnomer though it is, we bow to universal usage and accept it in the wider sense, taking care withal to distinguish it from anti-Jewish or anti-Judaic manifestations that are not anti-Semitic because they carry no animosity toward Jews as person. The dividing line between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, however, is a fine one, as they are often intermingled. The distinguishing mark of all anti-Semitism is, of course, hatred, however mild or concealed.

In fact, the difference between anti-Jewish or anti-Judaic manifestations and anti-Semitism is usually merely academic in nature, if even that. Debating the lexigraphic technicalities of a term like anti-Semitism, no matter how much certain folks might want to, serves little purpose other than to distract from the actual meaning and the reality it represents.

The term Semite, in fact, although deriving from the biblical figure Shem, originally referred not to people but to a grouping of languages that included Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, Babylonian, and Hebrew. Like the newly popularized pseudo-scientific term “Aryan” (or “Indo-European”) which Marr and others seized upon, it was a linguistic term, not a sociological one (much less a counterpoint to “Semitic”), and its adoption for pseudo-scientific racialist dogma was part and parcel of that cretinous but widespread project. Indeed, it is but a small jump from people like Marr coining a term like anti-Semitism so as to justify their bigotry on quasi-racial grounds to people like Nafie conveniently re-defining the same term, again on quasi-racial grounds, so as to pervert its meaning.

“We don’t oppose Jews because they’re normal people practicing a different religion,” one can almost imagine Marr saying. “Au contraire, we are enlightened. We oppose them because they’re abnormal people practicing a different religion, and we’ve got the anthropological, sociological, linguistic, and political proof to prove it. It’s got nothing to do with religion, man!” Today, of course, this supplementation of anti-Judaism into anti-Semitism (by which anti-Jew sentiment is justified via a term not merely religious in scope, but supposedly scientific and rational) is often similar to the supplementation of anti-Semitism into the convenient euphemism of anti-Zionism. “I’m not anti-Semitic, I’m anti-Zionist!” goes the hip, enlightened refrain. Perhaps, but the claim is often less than fully convincing, especially in light of the rhetoric which tends to accompany it. (And I’ve yet to see a remotely intelligent daffynition, er, definition of anti-Zionism, but that’s another story.)

Anti-Semitism, like many terms, can be seen as a misnomer of sorts, as has been noted, but only at a purely linguistic (and often juvenile) level of fixation. This is true of thousands of other terms, of course, and it’s one of the realities of languages. Indeed, basketball is not played with baskets; football is not always football; hotdogs aren’t dogs and often aren’t even hot; the Internet is not a net; and on and on. One wonders if folks like Nafie and Bellecourt are afflicted with similar convulsions of linguistic schizophrenia by these and other such terms, or if the condition is only triggered by mention of the term that denotes hostility towards Jews.

Jerry Seinfield, commenting on a dentist who had converted to Judaism so he could indulge in Jew jokes without being accused of anti-Semitism, said this subterfuge offended him not so much as a Jew but as a comedian. Similarly, when people try to subvert and pervert the meaning of anti-Semitism, be it by witless pronouncements that Arabs are Semites, or other equally vapid gambits, not least so the term can be wielded against Jews, one is offended not only as a Jew but as a cognitive being.

To their credit (as negligible as it may be at this point), in the December 4-10 edition Al-Ahram has published another article on the topic of anti-Semitism, this time by Azmi Bishara This subsequent article makes a few good points—including a statement that anti-Semitism doesn’t encompass Arabs just because theyre Semites, and shouldn’t be used as such—but it’s riddled with errors and misrepresentations, often of the self-excusing sort (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were common in Arab countries before 1967, for example: The King of Saudi Arabia was a fan, and Egyptian soldiers carried pocket editions of the Protocols with them during the Six Day War). This devolves into a misleading account of Islamic anti-Semitism, or the lack thereof (anti-Semitism is a European product and not present in Islamic culture, of course, despite, say, the less than pleasant expulsion of Jews from places like Medina, various Koranic denigrations of Jews, the restrictive and often repressive practice of Dhimmitude to which Jews often had to submit in Muslim lands, and so on). Bishara goes on to discount 1500 years or so of pre-modern anti-Semitism—anti-Semitism is a European invention, you understand, so “Zionist historians” (ah, Zionist historians!) who evidence anti-Semitism in Greek and Roman times are off key and off kilter (apparently Bishara would have little use for the types of books I cite above)—and offers an exceptionally rose-colored and truncated account of the French parliament granting Jews citizenship in 1791.

And, really, what’s with the scare quotes around “Ashkenazi? Bishara wraps things up with the usual garbage about how anti-Semitism in Arab countries is in fact Israel’s fault, as such anti-Semitism is but a response to Israel’s actions. Indeed, Holocaust denial in Arab countries was in some cases merely a response to Zionists exploiting the Holocaust. Ho hum, whatever. And speaking of minimizing the Holocaust, why is it that Bishara cannot even bring himself to capitalize it?

Incidentally, the prevalence of Holocaust denial in places where Israel/Nazi comparisons are so often invoked always struck me as a charming albeit decrepit sort of cognitive dissonance. If one is trying to criticize Israel, shouldn't the two be mutually exclusive? That is, if evil Israel treats the Palestinians the same way the evil Nazis treated Jews, but if the Nazis' purported treatment of the Jews is just a big hoax or wild exaggeration to garner Zionist sympathies, then obviously Israel isn't doing anything out of sorts to the Palestinians.... Another self-contradicting dichotomy common among such advocates is the support for Osama's striking a blow against America on 9-11, an attack which was planned and carried out, as everyone knows, by the Jews: Ergo, Osama is Jewish, and thus (as the logic goes) not an anti-Semite because he’s a Semite, too, and a Jewish one at that, but I digress.

From there, it’s on to the predictable blather about how pro-Israel organizations and activists, not to mention Israel itself, supposedly make rampant and unjust accusations of anti-Semitism in a widespread campaign to silence criticism of Israel. Regarding Israel, Bishara pulls no punches: “Israel has been systematic in its attempt to portray any criticism of Israel or Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism, sufficiently so to have propagated a climate of intellectual terror.” These are popular tropes, as we all know, yet it seems the more people complain about all this alleged and unfair “anti-Semite” name-calling the more overblown if not mythical it all becomes. Such people doth protest too much, one suspects. After all, where are all these people and organizations smearing as anti-Semites anyone who criticizes Israel? I’ve never seen anyone called anti-Semitic by Israel or anyone else simply for criticizing Israel, and I probably follow such matters more than the average person. It’s not infrequently that we hear self-righteous critics of Israel whining about criticism of Israel being nefariously labeled as anti-Semitism, but nobody seems able to document the phenomenon, as widespread and ongoing as it supposedly is. In fact, public discourse and the media don’t seem the slightest bit lacking as far as scrutiny, and very often negative scrutiny, of Israel goes, especially in outlets like Al-Ahram.

And “climate of intellectual terror”? Oh boy! Granted, as the former chair of the Philosophy Department at Bir Zeit University, Bishara probably knows about a climate of terror, but really now.

One could go on at length addressing the errors and misrepresentations in Bishara’s piece, but it grows late and the task begins to border on the absurd. Indeed, do the recent “scattered fragments of imported anti-Semitism” to the Arab world include the 30-part Egyptian miniseries based partly on “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” or was that more of a homegrown anti-Semitism, as alien to the Arab world as it would be? Such anti-Semitism has been documented in Arab countries for decades, and after so many years it’s difficult to take seriously claims that it’s (still) some sort of foreign import from Europe or somewhere.

That Al-Ahram seems incapable of addressing anti-Semitism in anything other than self-exculpatory fashion, which not only fails to address the prevalence and utilization of anti-Semitism in much of the Arab world but also preemptively belittles claims of anti-Semitism, belies the nature of such articles. And the fact that they had to draft (import?) an Israeli politician instead of an actual Egyptian to write such a piece speaks volumes as well. (Bishara, incidentally, is an interesting figure to see in an Egyptian newspaper, for if an Egyptian politician—or a politician in any Arab country, for that matter—had the sort of record of criticizing and disparaging his country as Bishara has against Israel, even when he’s not addressing an audience that includes members of assorted terrorist organizations (Hamas and PFLP-GC, for example) and other militant anti-Israel groups, well, that politician probably wouldn’t be penning editorials in the foreign press, to say the least, assuming he was still alive and able to pen anything.) By the final paragraph it becomes clear that Bishara’s underlying purpose is not so much to discuss the effects of anti-Semitism in any productive or insightful manner but, quite the contrary, to accuse Israel of racism and of trying to take advantage of anti-Semitism. This is little different from the dreck pandered by Nafie in the first article.

It’s nice that Bishara comes out against frivolous re-definitions of anti-Semitism and the like, not that this is saying much (indeed, it’s a bar set so low an ant could step over it, which makes one wonder why so many people like Nafie and Bellecourt crack their foreheads on it). But much of his conclusion (Zionists nefariously and systematically exploit anti-Semitism, not least to cover up their own dastardly racism, and so on) is little different and hardly less boorish than Nafie's. After reading Nafie’s article, and having read Al-Ahram for a while, reading a limpid, self-serving article like Bishara’s is like eating Ramen Noodles: A rare occurrence, to be sure, and kind of nice for a few minutes; but not especially wholesome or satisfying, and it leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth. One looks elsewhere for truthful sustenance.

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