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.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Here's a lovely cartoon from Arab News. Because, y'know, terrorist operations in the Arab world are, like, almost always linked to an Israeli connection, especialy when that connection is symbolized by a hook-nosed, black hatted Jew. Cute. And don't miss Al Ahram's latest (perhaps we should just start saying "weekly") Israel/Swastika juxtaposition: The scary Sharon Swastikadozer. The dripping blood is always a nice touch, but surely Ossama could have squeezed in more than just a dozen Swastikas. Here's another, ahem, dialectical image of sorts from Al Ahram, courtesy of Fathi: Out of the American fire and into the Zionist frying pan!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

It's Pat! Bigot extraordinaire Patrick Buchanan has an essay in today’s Arab News. Why am I not surprised to see a creep like Buchanan raving away in Arab News? Anyway, in his screed, Buchanan attempts to address, in his always entertaining and charming way, the question “What Does America Offer the World?” According to Buchanan, far less than we did fifty years ago.

The president notwithstanding, Americans no longer agree on what is moral truth. For as someone said a few years back, there is a cultural war going on in this country, a religious war. It is about who we are, what we believe and what we stand for as a people.

What some of us view as the moral descent of a great and Godly republic into imperial decadence, neocons see as their big chance to rule the world. In Georgia recently, the president declared to great applause: “I can’t tell you how proud I am of our commitment to values. ... That commitment to values is going to be an integral part of our foreign policy as we move forward. These aren’t American values, these are universal values. Values that speak universal truths.”

But what universal values is he talking about? If he intends to impose the values of MTV America on the Muslim world in the name of a “world democratic revolution,” he will provoke and incite a war of civilizations America cannot win because Americans do not want to fight it. This may be the neocons’ war. It is not our war.

When Bush speaks of freedom as God’s gift to humanity, does he mean the First Amendment freedom of Larry Flynt to produce pornography and of Salman Rushdie to publish The Satanic Verses, a book considered blasphemous to the Islamic faith? If the Islamic world rejects this notion of freedom, why is it our duty to change their thinking? Why are they wrong? When the president speaks of freedom, does he mean the First Amendment prohibition against our children reading the Bible and being taught the Ten Commandments in school?

If the president wishes to fight a moral crusade, he should know the enemy is inside the gates. The great moral and cultural threats to our civilization come not from outside America, but from within. We have met the enemy, and he is us. The war for the soul of America is not going to be lost or won in Fallujah. Unfortunately, Pagan America of 2004 has far less to offer the world in cultural fare than did Christian America of 1954. Many of the movies, books, magazines, TV shows, videos and much of the music we export to the world are as poisonous as the narcotics the Royal Navy forced on the Chinese people in the Opium Wars.

A society that accepts the killing of a third of its babies as women’s “emancipation,” that considers homosexual marriage to be social progress, that hands out contraceptives to 13-year-old girls at junior high ought to be seeking out a confessional — better yet, an exorcist — rather than striding into a pulpit like Elmer Gantry to lecture mankind on the superiority of “American values.”

Ahem. Well, he does have a way with words. Nice references to Pogo and Sinclair Lewis, too. But Buchanan seems to be advocating a Christian-Taliban version of the USA, which sounds frightfully unappealing. Of course, I thought The Satanic Verses was quite a fine book, so what do I know?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

One of the more charming aspects of the so-called “One State” scenario—that is, that Israel should annex the territories and extend citizenship to millions of Palestinians, few of whom regard Israel in any sort of positive light—besides the fact that it’s completely unfeasible is that it’s often advocated by folks who wouldn’t have to live with its immediate repercussions. Indeed, according to a recent poll by OneVoice, 76% of Israelis and Palestinians are against the idea.

NEW YORK - Expressing views that may go unnoticed amid the headline-grabbing violence in the Mideast, 76 percent of Israelis and Palestinians favor a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, according to a poll of people on both sides.

That finding was offered Tuesday by leaders of OneVoice, a privately funded group that aims to promote peace in the Mideast. While preliminary, they said, the survey suggests that giving ordinary citizens an "active role" might help end the region's 60-year cycle of bloodshed.

Meeting with reporters in New York, the group's founder-president, Daniel Lubetzky, and Mideast regional director, Mohammad Darawshe, said their ultimate aim was to survey a quarter-million people, to show there is a "silent majority" on each side that favors mutual agreement instead of violence and extremism.

"Every Palestinian and Israeli says they are for peace, but the people have not been held accountable for their beliefs," said Lubetzky. "What's happening now is that 40,000 people stood up and said this is what they want."

The “One State” scenario is, at best, an intellectually disingenuous position—an immodest proposal, if you will, similar to calling for a “One State” solution for India/Pakistan or the former Yugoslavia—whose implementation, rather than bringing peace, would imperil millions of people. The fact that this is a popular topic of discussion amongst various academics and journalists despite obvious contingencies of reality—not least the fact that a large majority of the people in question reject the notion—is reminiscent of George Orwell’s observation that some ideas are so dumb that only an intellectual could believe them.

A modest proposal, as the saying goes, and a less unfeasible “One State” solution would be for Israel, Egypt, and Jordan to return to the 1949 armistice areas. Jordan and Egypt would annex the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, with minor adjustments for security considerations. There would be one state—Israel—but rather than millions of Arabs being absorbed into it they would instead be integrated into two countries both of which, unlike the Zionist entity, are primarily Arab and Muslim. These border adjustments, as agreed to by the three countries in question, would be in accordance with United Nations Security Resolution 242, which the U.N. and other parties hold as the basis for a Middle East settlement.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Matt Moss, of Los Angeles, in a letter in today’s always charming Arab News wants us to know that:

I believe that the Palestinians should be allowed to return to their homeland. It seems to me that the Zionists are the ones who are really pushing the “statehood” agenda — yes, with the help of the US taxpayers’ dollars.

The problem is the Zionists permeated the US government before the Arab-Israeli War, which is why you see the US always siding with Israel. I wish this would stop too.
I must also add most Americans don’t realize the amount of Jewish control in this country and how “anti-Arab” it has become. I don’t remember hearing all these “anti-Arab” views in the news when I was a kid. It seems to me the US government is controlled by foreign entities such as Israel which would explain the bias.

Ah, but he must add, you understand. Thanks, Matt!

The World’s Greatest Terrorists Are The Bicycle Riders And The Jews. Or, “Norm!” Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi sent me back an email regarding his column “Introducing Israel to Democracy.” This is the first time I’ve received any sort of response from the author of an Arab News piece, and I appreciate Dr. Batarfi getting back to me. His email wasn’t a specific response to me, though, but rather a collection of readers’ “early responses” that he was sending to a list of undisclosed recipients. There were four responses in agreement with his position; seven responses in disagreement. Several of the responses were quite interesting and thoughtful. Dr. “Stormin’” Norman D. Manwarner sent his positive response to Arab News, and they published it. Among other pearls of wisdom, Dr. Manwarner wants us to know that:

President George Bush needs to read the article “Introducing Israel to Democracy” not only to introduce democracy in Israel but to fight terrorism. The world’s greatest terrorists are the Jews.

The whole world is a witness to their evil and inhumane treatment of the helpless Palestinian people, young and old, men and women alike.

Gee, thanks, doc! I wonder what sort of “doctor” Dr. Manwarner is.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi, whose essays are usually a breath of fresh air in comparison to the usual drivel in Arab News, offers a rather disappointing piece this week. He suggests that Israel not only adopt the American Constitution but that it absorb several million Palestinians from both within and without the territories.

And yes, I advocate the return of Arab refugees to their homes. If twelve million Jews can claim the right of return to lands they left four thousands years ago, it makes more sense for four million Palestinians to claim the same right to homes and farms that still exist, land they left over the last five decades.

But no, I don’t support the two-state solution. The place is too small and integrated to be sliced into two entities. Instead, I would call for a united, democratic and secular country.

It shouldn’t be Jewish, Muslim or Christian, but a multi-cultural state, where all are given equal rights and responsibility — just like the United States of America.

In fact, I would choose the American Constitution, as is, for the new state, where democracy rules, there’s freedom for everyone, the law is above all, and secularism is sacred.

Well, if you say so. Anyway, here’s an email I sent to the good doctor:

Dr. Batarfi,

I generally enjoy your columns, not least because they offer a breath of fresh air in comparison to the stridency and silliness that so often characterizes Arab News.

But your most recent column is lacking.

To wit: Considering both the paucity of democracy in Arab countries (and within the Palestinian Authority) and the general disdain with which so much of the Arab world appears to hold the United States, what makes you think that the majority Arab population of your hypothetical “united, democratic and secular country” would uphold democracy and democratic standards, especially as based on the Constitution of “The Great Satan” a.k.a. the United States?

How likely do you think it is, Dr. Batarfi, that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, and other such groups, and their followers would be interested in adopting and adhering to the American Constitution? Assuming, for the sake of argument, that it was legal to gamble in Saudi Arabia, how much would you be willing to wager that such parties would indeed accept secular laws that are based on the American Constitution? Please keep in mind that the American Constitution’s explicit call for separation of church and state precludes your hypothetical one-state from adopting any sort of Islamic or Sharia-based law. As such, certain folks in Gaza, among other places, might be less than amused with your notion that they become citizens of a state—Israel, no less—that is based not only on secular laws but on the American Constitution. But perhaps you could convince them otherwise (and hopefully they wouldn’t kill the Saudi messenger of American laws and secularism).

After all, Dr. Batarfi, all it takes in your scenario is for millions of Palestinians to become not just citizens of Israel—a country many of them don’t particularly like—but adherents of the American Constitution. What percentage of them, pray tell, do you think will say “Yes” to upholding and preserving the precepts of secularism and the American Constitution?

Yet based on any number of historical realities, including the fact that Jewish populations have never fared particularly well in countries with Arab majorities and that such countries have less than stellar records in terms of democracy, your proposal for yet another state in the Middle East in which Jews are a minority is, at best, devoid of any realistic or pragmatic feasibility. Certainly a truly democratic Arab state that extends full rights and citizenship to a Jewish minority would be a sight to behold, but unfortunately the track records of such states, like the states themselves, are nonexistent.

I realize that your essays are subject to the whims of the Saudi government, although I do look forward to a similar article calling for, say, secular democracy in the kingdom. Surely what’s good for a Jewish state is good for an Islamic one, yes? And what better Islamic state to demonstrate the willingness of its majority Arab and Muslim population to adhere to standards of democracy as put forth in the American Constitution than Saudi Arabia, the Islamic state par excellence? Indeed, unlike your proposed “one state” entity, a democratically transmogrified Saudi Arabia would not even need to concern itself with either a sizable population of Jewish citizens or several million new citizens. Indeed, perhaps Saudi Arabia might demonstrate to Israel how easy it is to absorb a sizable population of non-citizens by extending full Saudi citizenship to the kingdom's myriad ranks of guest workers.

I would like to assume that your latest column is merely a sop to your government’s sensibilities and certainly not the product of any serious rumination or introspection on your part. It’s certainly sub-par work, to say the least.

Incidentally, your erroneous comments about “four million Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes in the last fifty years” and “twelve million Jews can claim the right of return to lands they left four thousands years ago,” if they are not typos, betray what can only charitably be called an ignorance of both history and arithmetic.

Also, just out of curiosity, in what field are you a “Dr.”?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Best regards.

As I’ve never received a response from an Arab News columnist, I’m not really expecting anything from the doctor.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Chomp chomp chomp. Here’s a disgusting cartoon reprinted in Al-Ahram that I almost missed. Notice the descending order of the predatory food chain: Magen David, United States, United Nations, etc. Charming. The rest of Al-Ahram is chockfull of the usual buggo idiocy and paranoid nonsense about Israel and Zionism. But, lo, hiding for their lives amidst the letters-to-the-editor are not one but two examples of that endangered and rarely sighted Al-Ahram species, the almost mythical “Intelligent Comment about Israel.”

Too absorbed
Sir-- I took a look at Al-Ahram Weekly , and it felt like I was reading the Israeli newspaper Haaretz . So many stories about the Palestinians and Israel; most of the rest dealt with Iraq.

With a population many times larger than that of the Palestinians and Israelis combined, one would think that Egypt itself would be able to generate more front-page local news stories.
Berel Dov Lerner
Kibbutz Sheluhot

Home focus
As a child of Egyptian Jewish parents, I follow news from our former home with interest. I notice that almost all of your articles are about Israel.

It seems to me that your obsession with Israel is unhealthy. Israel is not the cause of all your problems, and conflict with Israel has not solved any of them.

The chance of a brighter future for Egypt lies inside the country, not across its Eastern border.
Olivier Harari
Cambridge, MA

Well, comparing Haaretz, whatever its faults, to Al-Ahram is certainly a cheap shot against the former, and “obsession” may be a bit of an understatement here, but, gracious goodness, well said. But perhaps this was just an editorial slip-up.

Sarah Whalen, one of the resident geniuses over at Arab News, has this to say about the savage beheading of Nick Berg:

When arrested, Berg was carrying a laptop, cash, his Israel-stamped passport, a Qur’an, and “anti-Semitic literature” in Arabic — a language that Berg could neither read, nor write, nor speak.

Were these books for Berg’s erudition? Or for planting at the scene of some catastrophe, as the Mossad is sometimes accused of doing by anti-Zionist groups to falsely implicate Muslims?

When released, Berg spurned US consular officials’ offers of money, plane ticket, and official airport escort. One cryptically remarked: Berg “didn’t want us. He said, ‘You don’t understand these people like I do. You’re here for a reason and so am I.’”

What reason? Dead men don’t talk. But their friends do. Berg’s friends said Iraqi authorities suspected he was “an Israeli spy.”

According to TIME magazine, Berg was rumored to work “for a telecom firm with ties to Israel.”

How involved is Israel in Iraq?

Answer first questions first, before avenging Berg.

Imagine, indeed. But let’s look at that Time magazine quote:

By the time he was picked up by Iraqi police at a Mosul checkpoint in March, rumors circulated among his associates that Berg, who was Jewish, was working for a telecom firm with ties to Israel, according to a security contractor in Iraq.

So it’s not so much according to TIME magazine, Sarah, but according to a single unnamed contractor. Keep trying, darling.

Oh, and notice Sarah’s charming characterization of Berg as “a neocon ‘believer.’” Whatever that’s supposed to mean, I’m sure it will come as news to his father.

This week’s charming cartoon courtesy of Al-Ahram.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The always progressive Arab News, run by our allies, the always progressive Saudi kingdom, in the latest bid to show us how progressive they are has published a charming batch of “anti-Zionist” letters. Today’s semi-literate offerings include not one but two rants from the always entertaining Ed Friedemann, who is under the mistaken impression that Israel uses American Abrams tanks. Here’s another delightful missive that isn’t the slightest bit bigoted:

United States of Israel

Don’t think that anything going on with the Palestinians or the rest of the Middle East is accidental. Quite the contrary. You’ve seen the free hand Sharon has to deny Palestinians a state of their own or a return to their homeland. You’ve heard America’s declaration that it will bring the United States of America’s brand of freedom everywhere throughout the Middle East whether anybody wants it or not. You’ve seen the level of “respect” that America demonstrates for Palestinians, Iraqis or any other native people of the Middle East. America has now even proposed giving all Iraqis a share of their oil rights, a procedure all too reminiscent of the mineral rights revenue we give our Native Indians as we keep them living in the squalor of their reservations.

Don’t close your eyes now or you might miss it as you become a member of the United States. Oh, not part of the USA but the USI — the United States of Israel. Hope you like baseball, apple pie and bagel dogs.
Mario Caldarone • United States published 19 May 2004

How quaint, if not very original or intelligent.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I suppose there’s nothing more admirable than trying to exploit the Olympics for one’s own sanctimonious sense of entitlement and political self-righteousness.

Former world-class javelin thrower Sofia Sakorafa of Greece arrived in Ramallah on Sunday, hoping to represent the Palestinians at the Olympic Games in Athens this summer.

Sakorafa, 47, told reporters that she hopes to represent the Palestinian team in an expression of solidarity for their plight as people living under Israeli occupation.

"I feel that by standing beside the Palestinian flag at the Olympic games I would be achieving my life dream to be a struggler for freedom, equality, and independence," said Sakorafa, claiming that she has obtained Palestinian citizenship.

Of course, this would hardly be the first time somebody has selfishly exploited the Olympics to make a statement against Israel on behalf of Palestinians.

Say What?! Or, “Every time he opens his mouth, he subtracts from the sum of human knowledge.” Adel Al-Jubeir, foreign policy advisor and official spokesliar for Saudi Royal Prince “95 P’Cent” Abdullah was interviewed on May 13, 2004 on CNN's “Wolf Blitzer Reports.” Blitzer asked Al-Jubeir about the royal dude’s comments that “Zionist hands were behind” recent terrorist attacks in the Saudi Kingdom. Al-Jubeir, in a breathless display of rhetorical squid ink and mendacity, along with a dose of self-pity and victimization, explains that not only is there no reason to apologize for his boss’s asinine comment but that it was, like, totally taken out of context and misinterpreted, y’know? Well, gosh.

BLITZER: He was accusing Zionists of that most recent terror attack in Riyadh. On the basis of what?
AL-JUBEIR: I believe, Wolf, if you look at the context of it, the point that he was trying to make is that there are people in the United States who have been very harsh when it comes to Saudi Arabia, have called for regime change in Saudi Arabia, have called for the dismemberment of Saudi Arabia, and whose -- the objectives that they have called for are the same objectives as those shared by the terrorists.
Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi state. Osama bin Laden wants to destroy the Saudi government. And so you should understand these comments in that context, that those who are most critical of Saudi Arabia in a very hostile way in the United States, as well as in Israel, share the same objective as Osama bin Laden and those who committed these acts.
BLITZER: You're saying that people in Israel want to see Saudi Arabia destroyed?
AL-JUBEIR: No, I'm saying there are some people. We have books that have been published about Saudi Arabia, have been called the "Hatred's Kingdom." There have been calls by some for regime change in Saudi Arabia, for putting Saudi Arabia on the axis of evil. It's really that kind of attitude that is shared by Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: Is the crown prince, who's the effective leader of Saudi Arabia, equating al Qaeda with Zionists?
AL-JUBEIR: That's not what he was trying to say here. What he was trying to say is that the objectives of those people who have been most harsh toward Saudi Arabia are the same as the objectives of Osama bin Laden. It doesn't mean that they committed this crime.
BLITZER: Because we listened closely to that tape and we had several Arab linguists listen precisely. And what he clearly said was that he believes 95 percent -- not 100 percent, but 95 percent -- that the people who undertook this most recent terror attack in Saudi Arabia was not al Qaeda, but were Zionists.
AL-JUBEIR: That they were behind them when somebody calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, as we have a number of people here in the United States when people call for dismemberment of Saudi Arabia. You'll recall the infamous briefing before the Defense Policy Board where the analyst made the case that we should take Saudi out of Arabia. That is not much different from the mind-set of Osama bin Laden, which wants to also replace the Saudi government and install instead a Taliban-like regime. When you say behind them, it means supporting them intellectually. That doesn't mean financially. It doesn't mean that they put them up to it. It just means that they share the same objective.
BLITZER: Because U.S. officials clearly say that the most recent terror attack in Riyadh and all the other ones were the work of al Qaeda.
AL-JUBEIR: We agree.
BLITZER: You agree?
AL-JUBEIR: So have we. Our Interior Ministry issued a statement to that effect. The person who was the ringleader of the attack is a known person, a dissident. He was on -- on our list of -- sorry -- terrorists. He was on the list of most wanted individuals in Saudi Arabia. His picture was plastered all over the country.
BLITZER: Do you want to issue any sort of apology for the comments of your boss, the Crown Prince Abdullah?
AL-JUBEIR: Why apology? I was explaining it to you. There's no apology necessary.
BLITZER: Because of the impression that he left that for that most recent terror attack he was blaming Zionists.
AL-JUBEIR: Because, Wolf, what happens with Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, after 9/11 is anything that Saudi Arabia does or says is perceived with a lot of criticism. It's sort of, we are guilty until proven innocent. It should be the other way around. And so nobody cuts us any slack. And every little thing is exaggerated. Every little thing is inflated. I can look at statements by American officials. I can look at statements by officials of other countries that are outrageous and that have not solicited apologies from them or from anyone else. But when it comes to us, we're always the ones who have to apologize. I don't see a reason to do this here.

It’s all soooooo bloody unfair, eh, Adel?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Palestinian Blood Is Not Cheap. In their latest semi-literate email, the International Solidarity Movement sends out a sniveling jeremiad that is notable in any number of ways other than just being even more grammatically garbled than usual. To say the least, it’s always interesting when a “non-violent” organization sends out a message that openly endorses violence and that characterizes members of a genocidal terrorist organization like Hamas as some sort of “resistance.” A darling, albeit apparently insipid and sanctimonious ISM partisan named “Adwan” taps into the craven depths of his literary and moral reserves to hack out an Orwellian email replete with blubbering like this:

The operation was going normally like all the invasions which happened in the past. The occupation army started moving after midnight. At the beginning of the invasion many houses were destroyed, four Palestinians were killed and about 40 others got injured . It was a normal operation for the occupation forces until one of their APCs was blown up by the Palestinian resistance .

After the APC was blown up, Gaza city came under the lights of the media because of the six soldiers who were killed inside the APC. Before that no one mentioned anything about what was going on in Gaza except for the local media .

Why do they consider the Israeli blood as holy blood while the Palestinians blood is cheap?

Didn't they take the direction to invade Gaza which is a Palestinian land, and don't we all have the right to defend ourselves?

As with every invasion, the reason behind the occupation forces' killing of the Palestinians people was the search for tunnels or workshops where the resistance manufactures weapons, they say. But, like every time, they found nothing. They kill us in the name of ensuring the security of Israelis, and all the world keeps silence when Palestinians die in such invasions, but when we try to defend ourselves and say to the world our blood isn't cheap we become terrorists and murderers .

Who is the murderer? The civilian who was sleeping when the tanks stopped under his window and woke him up, or the person who drives that tank and kills our people in the name of looking for tunnels and weapons?

Since the beginning of this Intefada the occupation forces are keeping tens of bodies of Palestinian martyrs and they don't allow their families to bury them.

Why do they have the right to keep our martyrs' bodies and bury them in secret graves?

Don't we have the right to take our martyrs' bodies back if we got the chance?

Why now they are talking about negotiations with the Red Cross?

I would simply remind Herr Doctor Professor Adwan that if Palestinians had taken measures to prevent weapon-smuggling tunnels and the like, measures that they agreed to years ago but did next to nothing, if anything, to live up to, then the IDF wouldn’t need to be in Gaza doing the job for them. You see, Adwan, if you and your neighbor make an agreement that you’re going to clean up the reeking piles of excrement in your living room that have been smelling up both his home and yours for years, not to mention endangering both your residents; and then ten years later not only have you done next to nothing, if anything, to do so but, in fact, the nasty mess and the piles of excrement have only become larger, more numerous, and more stench ridden, then, gee, you can’t exactly claim (honestly, at least) to be “resisting” your nefarious neighbor when he comes in to do the job for you. Terrorism and terrorists aren’t much different: When somebody else comes in to take care of such matters after years of watching you prove yourself either incompetent, unable, and/or obviously unwilling to do so, you can’t really claim that blowing them up and then flaunting their body parts is some sort of “resistance.”

Oh, and perhaps the most famous example of Israelis burying Palestinians in secret graves was the oh-so awful (albeit non-existent) massacre in Jenin.

Adwan concludes his bloody martyr-missive thusly:

Palestinians wants peace, and they don't want any one to die, but if there must be some people who must die, they don't want to be the only people to die.

So, basically, Adwan is telling us that Palestinians don’t want anyone else to die, even though they obviously do since “they don't want to be the only people to die.” Remember, folks: The ISM is a nonviolent group; so don’t let the fact that they disseminate this sort of garbage—from someone who wants Israelis to die and who characterizes Hamas thugs ambushing Israelis and flaunting the remains of their bodies as “resistance”—make you suspect otherwise.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Hebrew: Like, Totally An Inherently Oppressive Language And Stuff. Or: Toilet Paper, Bickering Activists, And Other Discontents. I picked up a magazine called New Voices the other day. It contained some interesting enough articles, including an “Israel Correspondence” written by Chaya Rubin and entitled “Coffee for Nazee: Uniting Against the Separation Fence at Camp Mas’ha.” Rubin recounts some of her experiences working with Palestinian, Israeli, and other activists at a “protest camp” outside the village of Mas’ha, in the West Bank. Rubin’s account offers a few interesting insights into the mindsets (or, perhaps, lack thereof) of some of the protesters. Many of these protesters, especially those from the International Solidarity Movement, come across as breathtakingly insufferable, in terms of both their putative ideologies and intelligence.

Gush Shalom had donated a cell phone to the camp, to be passed among the protesters. Whoever had the cell phone was responsible for making sure Israelis were at the camp at all times. That at least was the theory. The only problem was the anarchists.

Proclaiming themselves to be primarily animal rights activists, members of the Israeli anarchist group Ma’avak Echad (One Struggle) refuse to define their organization as an organization, or a movement, or anything else for that matter. Their mission is vague: to fight the institutionalized forces of oppression in Israeli society. But they do have guts. Members of Ma’avak Echad can be consistently relied upon to show up at protests in parts of the occupied territories where more respectable lefties fear to tread. It’s just that when they get there, they tend to infuriate everyone else.

At the camp, the anarchists were reluctant to take the cell phone when it was their turn because they didn’t want to tell people what to do. The concept of an obligation ran counter to their ideology. Since they wouldn’t tell anyone to come, there would be times when no one came, forcing the Palestinians to drag sulky activists in to the occupied territories at 11 o’clock at night, just so they could stand watch for a few hours and then go to work in the morning.

Problems like this were meant to be addressed at our biweekly organizational meetings…. We sat on mattresses on the ground, and took turns serving as the meeting’s designated facilitator. Each group of activists—Israelis, the Palestinians, and the internationals—elected two representatives to speak on their behalf. Decisions were to be made by consensus.

Despite the best of intentions, the meetings would invariably spiral out of control. The anarchists, of course, rejected all attempts to structure and coordinate our activities. But it was the personalities of all the organizations and their members, and their deep differences over what the camp should be and do, that were the real source of chaos.

Should we simply try and get more activists to come to the camp and work together? Was building alliances and mutual understanding our ultimate goal? Or should we be raising hell and attracting media attention? Were we trying to stop the wall or just help the farmers of Mas’ha? Should we confront the construction crews directly, stand in front of bulldozers like Rachel Corrie, try to get arrested? Or would that just hurt our cause?

The first fights would usually break out between the Israelis. The mostly middle-aged, upper-middle-class immigrants from Europe and North America who made up the ranks of Ta’ayush and Gush Shalom would clash with the younger, more radical activists of Kvish Sh’hora (Black Laundry)—a queer anti-occupation organization that protests mostly within Israel, linking the issues of queer rights and military occupation through outrageous street theater and provocative slogans like “Transgender not transfer” and “Limor Livnat [a right-wing Israeli politician], go down on me.” Then the members of each Israeli group would start bickering with each other.

Next, the international activists—Europeans and Americans from the International Solidarity Movement and the International Women’s Peace Service—would antagonize all the Israelis by scolding them for not deferring to the Palestinians. Israel, the internationals insisted, drummed the idea that Palestinians were inferior into all its children’s heads. It was the responsibility of the Israeli activists then to reverse those years of immoral socialization by letting the Palestinians speak first, yielding to their arguments, and never, under any circumstances, raising their voices.

Naturally, this led the Israelis to start shouting at the internationals, who couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that raised voices are simply an indispensable part of Israeli communication—a cultural imperative and nothing personal. Truly angry now, the Israelis would scream at the internationals for being so sanctimonious and self-righteous, and the internationals would scream right back, denouncing the Hebrew language as inherently oppressive. Finally, the Israelis would give up and go back to fighting with each other.

Despite all this not-so solidarity-esque infighting, squabbling, and sulking, the protesters were able to come to agreement on at least one matter, this one pertaining to a convenient utilization of Jewish women:

To protect ourselves from religious settlers—whom we feared might simply come to attack us—we hit on a system of placing non-virgin female Jews closest to the camp’s perimeter. Religious Jews would stay away from “impure” Jewish women, went our thinking, and so who better to guard us?

Such thinking. Interestingly enough, while hilltop encampments in the West Bank are often bewailed as nefarious violations of the Geneva Conventions, this particular campsite seems not to have bothered any Anti-Occupation activists. But the protest camp was apparently fairly sparse: Three tents, a campfire, a volleyball court, no showers, and a hole in the ground for a toilet. “On most days,” Rubin recounts, “there was toilet paper—but the environmental rights activists that came to the camp wouldn’t use it.” No kidding.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Here’s an interesting news item I came across in the May 7 issue of The Forward:

While Arab U.N. delegates rail against Israel using the most caustic of terms, secret peace talks are going on between Arab heads of state and the Israeli government. The Arab rulers, who fear their citizens will react angrily to negotiations with Israel, continue to say publicly that they will recognize Israel’s right to exist. Behind the scenes, however, the same rulers have proposed a nine-point plan, the first of which is a symbolic repatriation of roughly 700,000 Arab refugees, which the rulers of the Arab countries do not want, especially since it is evident that the U.N. will not continue to fund them forever.

As familiar and relevant as this may be, the news is from The Forward’s “Looking Back” section: This news was reported fifty years ago. Today, of course, certain things remain the same, if not more so. Indeed, Arab U.N. delegates and other folks are still railing against Israel in the most caustic of terms; and the 700,000 Arab refugees, whom the myriad Arab countries did not want to rescue then or now (in contrast to the single Jewish state, which rescued hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees), have today become several million classified refugees. And this was at a time when there was not a single Israeli—soldier or settler—in the West Bank and Gaza, areas that had been made effectively Judenrein a few years earlier and that were now being illegally occupied by, respectively, Jordan and Egypt. But it seems safe to say that any worries or fears or trepidations one might have had that the U.N. was not going to fund Arab refugees (along with the refugees’ future children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.) into eternity were most certainly misplaced.

Oh, my, my, my. Check out Al-Ahram’s latest Swastika cartoon. The blood dripping bayonet is always a nice touch, as is the Magen David camouflage. Charming paper. Charming government.

As usual, some very interesting letters in Al-Ahram , including this one:

Vile torture
As an American, I am deeply ashamed of the vile tortures committed against Iraqi prisoners.

Please understand that we are sickened by these crimes and do not condone them in any way.

Jonathan Edelstein
New York, NY

Well said, as always, HH. Of course, Al-Ahram also prints its usual array of ugly comments about Israel and Jews, including trenchant commentary like this:

Kill'em and take it
Now this obese Sharon is my kind of guy, he's a known embezzler, liar and murderer. If we're going to have a billion-dollar-a-day war, let it be in support of the likes of this guy.

The Israelis have certainly gone out of their way to prove what valuable allies they are. It's been nothing but one deception after another, and just look at the wonderful history of the Jews. Not so much as 10 years has passed in the last 2,000 years that they have not been at the centre of some major upheaval. Naturally, it has always been the other guy's fault. And naturally, if you fault a Jew you're guilty of anti-Semitism.

So let us just leave the Arabs with a no-win situation; that's the way to have peace and stop the bombing. We all know that the Israelis are sincere, caring and peace loving. Plus, they have tonnes of natural resources, so who needs these other oil producing countries. And besides, if OPEC doesn't sell us their oil, we'll just kill them and take it.

Bob Miller
Oakland Park, FL

Nice work, Bob! And then there’s this garbage, courtesy of Las Vegas’s Joseph Hammond:

Sir-- It seems to me that one point that is overlooked is that Israel needs to keep the war going, so that it can continue to receive free monies from the USA. This is one reason that every time a solution begins to become exposed Israel launches attacks against Palestinian leadership. By doing so they can continue to scream that they are about to be forced into the sea, and demand more free military equipment and foreign aid which is channeled into more land stealing settlements. Israel needs the war to continue because if the US ever pulls the plug on the failed socialist economy of Israel, Israel will be forced to make peace with her neighbours which also means the establishment of a Palestinian state (something Israel swears it will never allow -- making them sound a bit like the Nazi soundtrack).

Most US citizens are kept in the dark about the amount of free monies the Israel state steals from their taxes (while schools and other programmes for US citizens go unfunded). Few know that Israel is the number one receiver of foreign aid, and few are reminded about Israeli transgressions against the US including attacking the USS Liberty in 1967, the proposed selling of AWAC's technology to Communist China or the turning of US citizens into spies for Israel (the Pollards). If they knew, they would think twice about supporting Israel (and as the Israeli leadership has been quoted as saying "...the Jews control the media in America and America knows it..." (sic)).

Israel needs war like plants need sunshine. Without the sun plants will not grow; without the war continuing Israel cannot grow.

Without facts folks like Joseph Hammond can still get published in Al-Ahram. And without people like Joseph Hammond, asinine pseudo-commentary about Israel might be less entertaining, but probably no less stupid and counterfactual.

Monday, May 10, 2004

An interesting enough article in the Cairo Times, about the economic potential of Egypt’s natural gas industry, begins with this anecdote:

Moses was in a bad way. His people were getting fed up with desert living and fed up with his leadership. He needed a break. Just then, he came upon a burning bush that couldn’t be extinguished and he told his followers it was a sign from God. The rest, for better or worse, is history.

Hmmm. But didn’t the burning bush appear to Moses prior to the wandering in the desert? Y’know, when the Jews were slaves in, um, Egypt.

It’s nice to hear that there’s another form of natural gas in Egypt besides the noxious fumes spewed forth by the country’s media.

Speaking of Egypt, Dr. Mohammad T. AL-Rasheed, a columnist and occasional breath of fresh air for Arab News, recently had this to say about Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser:

We still look fondly on the memory of Egypt’s Nasser simply because he knew how to yap loudly. The man was a failure by any measure you chose to apply. He was a dictator, filled the prisons with dissenters, led the Arabs into the most disastrous war in their history in 1967, introduced socialism without understanding a word about its concepts, and died shouting.

Interestingly enough, when the article appeared in Arab News, it was worded slightly differently:

We still look fondly upon the memory of Egypt’s Nasser simply because he knew how to talk loudly. He was an authoritarian, led the Arabs into the most disastrous war in their history in 1967 and introduced socialism without understanding its concepts.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

DWF (Driving While Female), Backseat Violations. Or: If You Can’t Blame the Jews, Blame the Women. I am not making the following up, nor is it from The Onion. Seriously.

It is of course true that women do not drive in the Kingdom but the great majority of drivers here take their orders from women. And it is also true that once a woman is seated in her car, she begins issuing contradictory orders which she demands the driver carry out. Just think of the sheer number of foreign drivers in the streets of Riyadh — no exact numbers are available — from early morning until late at night and you can begin to see the magnitude of the problem.
It is a drama in which women play the leading role. It starts each morning with fleets of chauffeur-driver cars clogging the streets, blocking the way in front of schools, offices, hospitals and other public places. It all depends on the woman’s general mood and it is how she behaves once she is in the car that determines whether things will be all right that day or whether all will end in disaster.

If the driver finds that the woman in the back seat is in a bad mood, he braces himself for trouble. Such behavior definitely impacts upon the poor man who, knowing he cannot answer back, usually resorts to the only thing he can do — stepping hard on the accelerator. In some cases, a driver may express his anger in words, threatening to quit if the humiliation continues. The result in both cases is, if not catastrophic, often unfortunate.

Our streets swarm with drivers, both wise and ignorant of basic safety rules. Many of these are controlled and directed by women. The people responsible for traffic awareness campaigns should turn their attention to this matter. They should move to educate women on how to drive safely while in the back seat.

Nor am I making this up:

WAJH, 10 May 2004 — A judge in Al-Wajh in the north of the Kingdom has sentenced two young Saudis to jail and lashes. The young men had misused a cell phone camera, Al-Madinah reported.

The judge sentenced one young man to 30 lashes for photographing a girl on the street. Another young man was sentenced to 40 lashes for inciting the first one to take the picture. The judge said this would be a lesson to those who are guilty of unacceptable behavior.

The lashings will, of course, be carried out in public. Get yer popcorn here!

Israel and Zionism: Proud Sponsors of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. Or, More Royal Retching. Saudi Arabia’s Interior Minister Prince Naif appears to be, like Crown Prince “95% Sure” Abdullah, not only a bigot but a delusional one at that. On Friday Prince Naif declared that Saudi Arabia is, like, totally "in a state of war with terrorism." Well, if you say so, royal dude. Of course, the darling fellow also

denied a conflict between his account of who was behind the Yanbu killing spree and that of Crown Prince Abdullah, deputy premier and commander of the National Guard.

Speaking to top military and civilian officials in Jeddah last Saturday when four terrorists went on a shooting spree in Yanbu killing five Westerners and a National Guard officer, the crown prince said he believed Zionists were behind most terrorist attacks in the Kingdom. But in a press statement after the attack, Prince Naif blamed Al-Qaeda.

“I don’t see any contradiction in the two statements, because Al-Qaeda is backed by Israel and Zionism,” he said.

Ho boy. So there you have it, folks: When the Interior Minister or the Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard of Saudi Arabia talk about fighting terrorists, keep in mind that they might just be talking about fighting Zionists.

Another unfortunate consequence of the torture scandal emerging from Iraq is that these comments have received little coverage, if any. Lucky for us, though, the Saudis are our allies. But with friends like this…

Saturday, May 08, 2004

A Naughty Boy and a Naughty Girl. Or, Saudis Gone Wild, Real Wild. DWF (Driving While Female) accident in Qaseem; FCAM (Fashion Crime at the Mall in Riyadh. Luckily the Fashion Police, er, The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Winston Smith Special Victims Unit) were able to quickly arrest the deviant and administer swift public humiliation.
They Hate Israel, Too. Or, “F*cking Jews”: Genuine anti-Semitic feelings or just normal street talk? Anti-Semitism, er, anti-Zionism in the Netherlands has gotten to the point where Remembrance Day observations have been disrupted by violence and by thugs chanting “Hamas, Hamas, pump the Jews full of gas.” Needless to say, Dutch authorities have been, uh, falling over themselves to address such issues.

Dutch politicians and social policy experts are gradually coming round to the view that this problem needs to be taken seriously. So far, however, their efforts at tackling it have been disappointing, to say the least. Perhaps their intransigence has something to do with the fact that it isn't their old b te noir, the extreme Right, that is behind this latest outburst of anti-Semitic violence. For as the Amsterdam-based Center for Information and Documentation on Israel (CIDI) has pointed out, the new anti-Semitism is overwhelmingly an Arab immigrant phenomenon. And even in post-Pim Fortuyn Dutch society, where anti-Islamism is now a mainstream political sentiment, accusing Arabs of anti-Jewish racist crimes is still a major taboo.

INSTEAD OF naming, shaming, and punishing the perpetrators of these crimes, the Dutch political class prefers to "gain a deeper understanding of the motives of the criminals." The Amsterdam Social Services Commissioner Ahmed Aboutaleb thinks he has found this root cause of Arab anger: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Basing his argument on the old maxim that if a Jew gets harassed it must be because he's done something wrong, Aboutaleb claims that Arab immigrant youths "sometimes develop anti-Semitic feelings because they (or their parents) strongly sympathize with the Palestinian cause." He also urges people to make the distinction between "normal street talk" and real anti-Semitism which, according to him, is a much rarer phenomenon.

No wonder, then, that the Dutch police don't know what to do with the case of the Turkish immigrant rapper zg r Korkmaz and his group NAG (Nieuwe Allochtone Generatie - New Immigrant Generation). In his song "F***ing Jews," Korkmaz warns the "f***ing Jews" that immigrants are "comin' to kill" them. After CIDI's director Ronnie Naftaniel filed a complaint against him, Korkmaz reported to his local police station. But the police, who probably couldn't decide whether these lyrics were an expression of genuine anti-Semitic feelings or just normal street talk, sent him away without even charging him. "I don't understand," Korkmaz said. "I was here to make a statement because I feel CIDI is right. My lyrics were completely over the top." Instead of singing "kill all Jews," he would have preferred to have sung "kill the Jews that are in Israel's government and are responsible for the slaughter of Palestinian babies."

Korkmaz's song is a hit among Arab immigrant schoolchildren. He is obviously an idiot, but he was on to something when, in the course of complaining about being "unfairly singled out" by CIDI, he observed that "Holland is full of Jew-haters, and the Internet is full of songs like mine."

Something is indeed rotten in the land of Anne Frank. I Hate Israel, Kill the F*cking Jews. Somebody should start a talent show called Antisemitic Idol.

In other news, Robert Fisk informs us that the picture of a hooded Iraqi with wires attached to his hands is “ an iconic portrait, every bit as memorable as the picture of the second aircraft flying into the World Trade Centre.” Iconic is likely the right word, as one can’t help but notice that certain parties are practically worshipping it. One always hates to question Fisk’s, ahem, understated brilliance, but might I suggest that for a lot of folks—especially those whose loved ones were killed or maimed when the second aircraft was flown into the WTC—Fisk’s putative “iconic portrait” is less memorable? Just a wee bit, perhaps?

Friday, May 07, 2004

He Hates Israel, Too. Or, Write Us A Song Tonight, Well, We’re All In The Mood For An Anti-Semitic, er, Anti-Zionist Melody. From Egypt Today — The Magazine of Egypt: Shaaban Abdel Rahim, the Egyptian singer whose hits include such charming ditties as “I Hate Israel,” doesn’t actually write his own lyrics. The pop star is illiterate, you see, and so Islam Khalil, an Arabic teacher at an elementary school, has been penning lyrics for him since 1991. Khalil offers some interesting observations about working with an illiterate pop star who “doesn’t know how to think” (it’s tough) and about Egyptian popular culture (anybody could have sung “I Hate Israel” and it would have been a success).
“Actually,” adds Khalil with the painful bluntness that is the trademark of his lyrics, “had I known that song would be so successful, I definitely wouldn’t have written it for Shaaban. But anyway, in the end it’s all in the words — no matter who sings them.”

Judging by some fans’ reactions to Shaaban’s music, Khalil may be spot-on in his assertion. “Shaaban says things that no one else dares too, even though we all feel them,” says Khalid Abdallah, a security guard in Nasr City. “That’s really the only thing he has going for him.”

That American lawmakers have openly condemned Khalil’s lyrics as anti-Semitic only heightens Shaaban’s appeal, many say.

Khalil took this daring streak to new heights in Shaaban’s latest release. In the song “Ya Amm Arabi” — “Uncle Arab” — not only does he forcefully criticize the US and Israel (calling them “thugs”), he also mounts a scathing indictment of the Arabs’ collective failure to respond properly to the “Busharon” threat.

“Our situation needs an Arab nation/ Hey Arabs, d’you plan on making a move?/ A flood is coming your way, and you’re unaware,” he writes.

I wonder if there’s a video. Anyway, I suspect this is one pop star who’s not going to be visiting the Kabbalah Centre anytime soon. So it goes.

Speaking of less than politically correct lyrics, don’t make fun of the mustache, girly man.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I see John R. Bradley, late of Arab News, has his own webpage and an article in the latest Al-Ahram. He continues to paint a rather troubling portrait of the Saudi regime:

It was the third major attack on foreigners in the country. Saudi authorities have responded by saying they will crush terrorists. More than 50 died and hundreds were injured last year when Western-style compounds in Riyadh were bombed by Al-Qa'eda operatives. One of the attackers killed in the Yanbu violence was Abdullah Saud Abu Nayan Al-Sobaie -- No.10 on a list of the kingdom's 26 most-wanted terrorists. Jamal Khashoggi, adviser to the Saudi ambassador in London, said the gunmen were two brothers and their two uncles, all members of a local family.

This may be the first instance of militants having successfully attacked an oil installation, but there has long been evidence that terrorists have infiltrated the ranks of Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company. US intelligence alerted officials in the summer of 2002 that they had intercepted conversations about sabotage among company employees. As a result, Al- Qa'eda sympathisers who tried to blow up Ras Tanura oil terminal were arrested.

Al-Qa'eda has also infiltrated Saudi Arabia's military and security forces at the highest level, including those entrusted with the protection of Western residential compounds, American intelligence officials said after last year's 12 May Riyadh bombings. Worryingly, Yanbu residents said it took more than 90 minutes from the time they sounded the alert for security forces to finally engage the militants. The gunmen also fired on a McDonald's outlet and threw a pipe bomb at an international school.

"I think this attack signals a change in tactics. The civil war is now on in Saudi Arabia, that's for sure," prominent Saudi columnist Mohamed T Al-Rasheed told the Weekly.

I guess these folks didn’t get the message from the Saudi Crown Prince that Zionists were behind the attack.

She’s, Like, Totally a Nobel Prize Winner, or Something. I just re-read James Zogby’s column from the other day and noticed his reference to “Mary Robinson (the Nobel Prize winner).” I was unaware Robinson had won the Nobel Prize, so I checked the Nobel e-Museum to see when and why she had been awarded the honor. ‘Sfunny, but the only Robinson that turned up was Sir Robert Robinson, who won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1947. Gosh, I dunno…

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Or, Anti-Semitism: It’s Not Just for Jews Anymore, Royal Redux. Or, How Many Semites Might a Royal Semite Smite If a Royal Semite Could Smite Semites? Today's Arab News continues the pseudo-intellectual blathering about anti-Semitism with a bilious article by the always charming Fahda Bint Saud , the chairperson of Al-Faisaliah Welfare Society, who just happens to be a royal princess and a daughter of King Fahd. In addition to the usual idiocy about Arabs and Semites, the princess also pukes up the old canard about Jews and Khazars.

Jews constitute no more than 10 percent of the world Semites. The overwhelming majority of Semites are Arabs. Furthermore, most Jews today could not trace their ancestry back to the holy land and, therefore, are not true Semites at all. Ninety percent of the world’s Jews are descended from converts to Judaism, mostly the Khazars in what once was southern USSR….. In fact, it is the Zionists who have been anti-Semites starting from the holy land of Palestine and ending with a worldwide movement against Muslims and Arabs who form 90 percent of the Semites.

She must really like that ninety percent figure. I mean, 90 percent. The darling princess also manages to toss in some garbage about 9/11 (it was to the benefit of the Zionists, sob) and concludes with this magnificently trenchant commentary:

Moreover, Saudi kings can hardly be accused of being anti-Semites. They can’t be against themselves and their people.

Saudi kings were raised by their father King Abdul Aziz to be experienced regional politicians and to fight injustice wherever it may be. And they are paying a price for this. The stability of this country is being undermined by inimical forces as confirmed by Crown Prince Abdullah after the Yanbu bombings.

And we all know who these “inimical forces” are, eh? And as far as the Saudi Kings fighting injustice wherever it might be… well, maybe they should start at home.

It’s articles like this that make me wonder if Arab News has been infiltrated by a crack team of Zionist comedians who have subverted the publication into an anti-Saudi version of The Onion. How else to explain such laughable drivel?

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

“Flunking Remedial Linguistics. Or, Anti-Semitism: It’s Not Just for Jews Anymore, Redux. James Zogby attempts to address anti-Semitism and immediately disgraces himself by twisting the word’s meaning. Anti-Semitism refers not just to prejudice against Jews, you understand, but also against Muslims and Arabs. Zogby pontificates thusly:

There are, in fact, two anti-Semitisms. One has historically found expression in the hatred and vilification of the Jewish people; the other has manifested itself in the equally odious hatred and vilification of Arabs and Muslims.

As I’ve explained before, this is Orwellian drivel. And so it’s hardly surprising that Arab News offers Zogby a forum for such pseudo-intellectual nonsense.

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that Zogby’s new “definition” of anti-Semitism is correct, the above sentence is nonetheless highly problematic. To suggest that “hatred and vilification of Arabs and Muslims” is somehow equal to anti-Semitism, and that “Historically, the animus of anti-Semitism directed against both Arabs and Jews has been the same” ignores the fact that, unlike anti-Semitism (that is, the real anti-Semitism, not Zogby’s phony re-definition of it), such “hatred and vilification” and “animus,” as odious as they are, have never facilitated the extermination of one-third the world’s Arab population (to cite but one example). Yet Zogby would have us believe that somehow the animus against Jews and the animus against Arabs and Muslims have historically been the same.

In a breathless display of hypocrisy, Zogby complains that “there are some in the West who want to stretch the definition of anti-Semitism in an effort to silence legitimate political criticism of the policies in the State of Israel.” Zogby, of course, is so much better than these (conveniently unnamed) folks because he not only stretches the definition but completely changes it. My, such sterling intellectualism.

As I’ve noted previously, in attempting to redefine the word, folks like Zogby 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 this 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, and James Zogby—who has so righteously and conveniently decided, contrary to elementary linguistic principles, philological history, and good taste, that anti-Semitism refers to non-Jewish Arabs and Muslims, not just Jews, and that this redefined, fake version of “anti-Semitism” should be discussed when anti-Semitism is mentioned.

I’ve addressed this sort of linguistic decrepitude before (on December 12), so I’ll repost and revise some of what I’ve already written. To wit: I hate to get down in the gutter with people—like Zogby, for example—who disseminate such pseudo-intellectual nonsense, but anyone who seriously believes that anti-Semitism is some sort of umbrella term that relates to Semites—or “Semitic civilizations” in general (that is, based on the “logic” of: “anti”= against, “Semites”=any Semites, Jewish or not), and thus somehow includes Arabs and Muslims, 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 non-Jewish Arabs and Muslims are, like Jews, regarded as objects of anti-Semitism, 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 employed by Zogby and his ilk to forge anti-Semitism 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, totally Semites, too, man, exercise 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 (wannabe) school of semiotics to which Zogby 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 degrading a of anti-Semitism or belittling Jews and/or Israel, of course, but so it goes.

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—regardless of whether they’re Arabs or Muslims or anything else—can be anti-Semitism, but only if the Semites in question happen to be Jewish. "[T]o use pejoratives against Arabs is also anti-Semitic," blathered someone named Gary Brune, in a similarly minded (or mindless) comment in Al-Ahram a few months back, "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, Gary (and James), but only if the Semites or Iraqis are Jewish. Apparently Zogby flunked out of the same school of linguistic revisionism.

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. Bigotry towards Muslims and Arabs exists, to be sure, but labeling it anti-Semitism pollutes the issue further. Perhaps somebody like Zogby might think up a new term for it rather than distorting another one. But that would require an iota of intelligence...

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. Yet it’s a small jump from intellectual thugs like Marr coining a term like anti-Semitism so as to justify their bigotry on quasi-racial grounds to people like Zogby conveniently re-defining the same term so as to pervert its meaning. One wonders if folks like Zogby are afflicted with similar convulsions of linguistic schizophrenia by other words, 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 that non-Jewish Arabs, and even Muslims, are “historic victims” of anti-Semitic bigotry, 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.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

“We are not really interested in Jewish people.” Or, Shindler’s List: Too Biased and One-Sided for Malaysia. Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, wants us to know that not only is he not anti-Jew or anti-Israel but that he even has some Jewish friends. How reassuring. In an interview last month with Guy Sharett of Channel 10 TV Israel, he explained why Shindler’s List was not allowed to be shown in his country:

Because it is biased. It shows only one side of the story. I don't believe that what Hitler did was right at all. We condemn it. I used to feel very strongly about what happened to the Jews in the past but you cannot use that as an excuse to attack other people or to kill other people, or that people should not criticise Israel simply because of the Holocaust.

The good doctor makes no apologies for his previous comments about Jews, and when asked if there is there such a thing as a Jewish conspiracy he offers this weasely answer:

Well, we would not blame everything that goes wrong with the Muslim world on the Jews, but there are some, not very many of them, who apparently have a way of directing the very small number of Jewish people in a way that has given them tremendous influence over the world.

Oh. So apparently it’s safe to blame the Jews for some things that go wrong in the Muslim world, just not everything. Charming fellow. Somebody get him a Nobel Peace Prize, already.

No, Not That Ashanti, the Other Ashanti. Or, What Was Your Least Favorite Movie In 1979? I found Fisk’s latest column, which I mentioned yesterday, posted over at CounterPunch. Fisk doesn’t disappoint, and dishes up a screed chock full of hysterical, almost paranoid, hyperbole:

Add to that the poisonous, racial dribble of a hundred Hollywood movies that depict Arabs as dirty, lecherous, untrustworthy and violent people -- and soldiers are addicted to movies -- and it's not difficult to see how some British scumbag will urinate into the face of a hooded man, how some American sadist will stand a hooded Iraqi on a box with wires tied to his hands.

The sexual sadism -- the bobby--sox girl soldier who points at a man's genitals, the mock orgy in Abu Ghraib prison, the British rifle in the prisoner's mouth -- might be a crazed attempt to balance all those lies about the Arab world, about the desert warrior's potency, the harem, polygamy. Even today, we still show the revolting Ashanti on our television stations, a feature film about the kidnapping of the wife of an English doctor by Arab slave--traders, which depicts Arabs as almost exclusively child--molesters, rapists, murderers, liars and thieves. It stars -- heaven spare us --Michael Caine, Omar Sharif and Peter Ustinov and was made partly in Israel.

Indeed, we now depict Arabs in our films as the Nazis once depicted Jews. But Arabs are fair game. Potential terrorists to a man -- and a woman -- they must be softened up, "prepared", humiliated, beaten, tortured. The Israelis use torture in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem.

Odd, how of all the countries in the Middle East Fisk consistently singles out Israel. And the only thing more heinous, I suppose, than a bad movie—that is, a flick Fisk fancied foul—is a 25-years-old bad “feature film” that was (horror of horrors!!!) made partly in Israel. Heaven spare us, indeed!

Fisk concludes with the obligatory Hitler/Holocaust reference, which is particularly gratuitous coming from the same darling who not only puked up false accusations of Israeli mass murders (and mass graves!) in Jenin, but now defends those accusations. “Sheer callousness” and “poisonous, racial dribble,” anyone? Anyway, this latest column reminds me of all the similarly outraged protestations Fisk has penned over the years decrying the maiming and torture of Israeli soldiers at the hands of Arabs. Er, never mind.

The movie Ashanti seems to be a favorite bane of Fisk’s delicate multicultural sensitivity. I notice his earlier references to the film are fairly similar to the comment above, replete with the comment about Israel. Writing in 1999, he had this to say:

Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the former US ambassador Edward Djerejian, the Arab editor Khaled al-Maeena, Rabbi Neuberger and sundry diplomats and journalists will spend three days discussing the ever-more-dangerous "Islamo-phobia" currently infecting our reporting and vision of the Muslim world - especially the Middle East. [TBON editor’s note: One can only imagine what Saudi Prince “The Zionists did it!” Abdullah and the editor of Arab News could have possibly contributed to a discussion about phobias and stereotypes, except perhaps their own charming expertise in such matters.]

They will have a lot to talk about. For the portrayal of Arab Muslims over the past 30 years - in our cartoons and films as well as words - has reached Nazi-like proportions. Greedy, hook-nosed, vicious, violent, rapacious, turbaned or "kaffiyehed" Iranians and Arabs have replaced the cartoon Jews of Voelkischer Beobachter or Der Ewige Jude.

I had just arrived in the Middle Fast, more than 20 years ago, when I first saw, on television, the movie Ashanti. It starred Omar Sharif and Roger Moore and portrayed Arabs as slave-traders, murderers, child-molesters and sadists. The film was, said the credits, partly made on location in Israel.

I was stunned. [TBON editor’s note: No kidding.] No wonder so many reports spoke of Arabs as "terrorists". No wonder so many editorials referred to "terrorist animals". [TBON editor’s note: No wonder, indeed.] And the more films I watched, the more cartoons I saw, the more editorials I read, the more our fear of the despicable, fearful, alien Muslim seemed to be spreading. If the Nazis could portray the Jews as sub-humans who threatened Western "civilization" and "culture" so could we portray Muslims as sinister, evil, over-breeding and worthy of destruction.

This strikes me as hyperbole. The American media, for example, is not (and was not, in 1999) regularly portraying Arab Muslims in “Nazi-like proportions.” I wonder if, say, falsely accusing Israeli soldiers of murdering hundreds of Palestinians in Jenin falls into a similar category of sinister mischaracterization and phobia. But perhaps Israelis are exempt from Fisk’s oh-so principled considerations of accuracy and stereotypes.

Fisk bewailed the same movie again in 2003:

Now I know the Beirut argument on all this. If the Americans are so hot on racism, why don't they suppress the cruel sterotypes (sic) of Arabs portrayed by Hollywood? Why do they still show Ashanti, a potboiler about the Arab slave trade that portrays Arabs much as The Protocols portray Jews: as venal, child-molesting murderers? (We shall forget that the Lebanese-born actor Omar Sharif acts in this vile movie.) Why does the US government permit American newspapers to cartoon Arabs as hook-nosed murderers, much as Jews were depicted in Der Sturmer ?

What newspapers was Fisk reading? Regarding Ashanti: I dunno, but I don’t recall this movie being shown anywhere. I wonder if Blockbuster even has it. Incidentally, “the Lebanese-born actor Omar Sharif” was born in Egypt

How delightfully progressive that Fisk is “always careful about accusing Arabs of anti-Semitism. They are themselves a Semitic race.” Not that one’s race has anything to do with one being antisemitic or not, of course, but “You can see how the semantics break down,” or something. Perhaps Fisk will exercise a similar caution the next time he rails about the mass killings and mass graves in Jenin.

Swastikas in Herrlisheim. 127 graves were desecrated in a Jewish cemetery in eastern France.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Only 95 Percent Sure, Eh?According to Arab News, Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia’s deputy premier and commander of the National Guard, had this to say yesterday about recent terrorist attacks in Yanbu:

“We are 95 percent sure, if not 100 percent, that foreign hands are behind these events,” the crown prince told a group of princes, ministers and senior officials who came to meet him.
“We will track down this deviant group, no matter how long it takes,” he said in an apparent reference to Al-Qaeda sympathizers. The Kingdom has intensified its campaign to stamp out terrorism.

“Your country is targeted and you know who is behind all this. ... Regrettably, they have deceived some of our sons,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Prince Abdullah as saying.

“They have fallen into their (trap) and the latest such incident took place in Yanbu where they killed seven people including five expatriates, a National Guard officer and a policeman and wounded 25 others,” he said.

Reuters offer a slightly different version of the royal dude’s comments:

But Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah said "Zionists' hands" were behind Saturday's attacks.

"Saudi Arabia is being targeted by Zionists...we are 95 percent sure that Zionists' hands were behind what happened," he said.

I’m thinking Zionists, myself.

Don’t Know Much About Geography? According to Robert “hundreds of corpses in Jenin but I never called it a massacre” Fisk, “Those American soldiers in Saddam's old prison at Abu Ghraib, those young British squaddies in Basra came - as soldiers often come - from towns and cities where race hatred has a home: Tennessee and Lancashire.” Um, Tennessee ain’t a town or a city, y’know. And this, from the same mocking maven who in his previous column was whining about “the Malaprops of American English.” Anyway, I look forward to reading the rest of Fisk’s latest screed.

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