Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Call for Moderation and Reflection

“The highest degree of illusion comes to be the highest degree of sacredness.”  (Ludwig Feuerbach)

In Cologne, Germany on New Years Eve, some 1,000 men of ‘Arab - North African’ appearance attacked female revelers and to date well over 500 criminal complaints concerning sexual assault and in some cases, rape, have been reported.  Similar incidences may not have been as quantitatively ‘significant’ elsewhere but are known to have occurred throughout Europe.  We are losing the battle for our human rights because the assumption of universally applied responsibilities does not exist and therefore the application of equal rights is similarly trivialized.

It is only correct that we constantly debate the balance between the Big Brother state and civil rights but protection of the individual as a cultural principle has not kept up with human rights.  Thanks to the Internet, pornography, crime and terror can now be efficiently manufactured by anyone. In an age of narcissistic fulfillment personal choice and our duty to protect are no longer interdependent.  I am more concerned with peoples’ freedom to conceal and thus facilitate their personal – group vendettas, misdemeanors and indiscretions through the electronic media than I am worried about the potential for government to abuse our personal electronic information.  If you have something to be ashamed of don’t put it on record.   The communications age has been a blessing to the narcissist whether they identify as mass killers or terrorists.  Society is acclimatizing to a decremental loss in our security.  But people who are isolated from electronic communication are less likely to succeed in hurting others.  On the other side of the information paradigm the proper controls must be maintained to secure the protection of personal, benign information.

The social media have become a wickedly efficient resource for abusing and inciting violence across the globe in millions of postings and comments that are created every day.   It is as effortless to lie as it is to tell the truth and because reality and fiction are easily manipulated the electronic media are no longer, if they were ever, a vehicle for educating us towards achieving a just society.

Basic human rights can never be geographically variable, historically justified or culturally insignificant; not in the name of multiculturalism nor in the name of political correctness. According to Wikipedia, the latest human rights fad (called Intersectionality’) involves “the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination”.   If words such as ‘integrity’ and ‘ethics’ are to have any meaning at all they have to be applied in equal measure. In an open ethical system intersectionality is therefore nonsense because each part of our identity is separate and as such, it cannot be interpreted hierarchically nor can it become conditioned on someone else’s interpretation of how we should interact with the different layers of our identity.  When human rights become politicized they are no more than a battle of wills for a newer form of discrimination, domination and oppression.  Communication becomes essentially unilateral and fetishistic.

China is the global sweatshop for the Western worlds’ cheap consumer products (as well as the source of most of our counterfeit products).  Instead of crying crocodile tears for the poor foreign worker the Western World could solve its unemployment problems but it would cost each of us thousands of pounds, dollars or Euros extra, every year, by returning more expensive production to western nations from China (and elsewhere).  It would be the ethical and equitable thing to do so.  We keep quiet about Chinese human rights. We negotiate them away for our material comfort.

We should be questioning the Arab world about its treatment of women and children, minorities; its oppression of its workers; its colonial history and its slave-owning present.  We should boycott all goods made in Pakistan and not just for its sweatshops but also for its inter-generational support for terrorism.  Saudi Arabia should be an international pariah. It has provided some 100,000 million dollars in aid to Islamist institutions over the last quarter of a century and yet without its oil we would need to find a cleaner, more efficient means of meeting our energy requirements. But we keep quiet about Arab human rights violations. Left and Right negotiate away their protection for our material comfort.

Warm feelings of self-righteous anger have to be universal to be principled unless they are the product of selectively chosen, ethically fascist targeting.

We are living in an age of fear and irrationality where those who create that fear hold sway over us – see how easy it is to do nothing about North Korea even as it enslaves its own citizens and threatens nuclear annihilation against its American rival.

According to the United Nations, between March 2011 and August 2015 250,000 people were killed in the Syrian Civil War.  Other estimates place the number of dead men, women and children at 350,000.   How many deaths were there in the Arab-Israeli conflict between 1920 and 2015? Some 115,000 people died.  In 2015 Switzerland called a meeting of the Geneva Convention for only the third time in its history.  The UK, France, Germany and another 123 signatory states to the Fourth Geneva Convention assembled in order to condemn Israel.  The Fourth Geneva Convention concerns itself with the protection of civilian persons in time of war.  Israel stood alone in the dock on all three occasions.  Make sense? Of course it doesn’t.  Sudan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil are just four of the dozens of conflict nations that have produced acts of genocide since the end of World War 2. Syria is almost a side-show to what has become a tragic litany of intentionally ignored blood letting. So if Israel is not there to be periodically pilloried the UN stands for nothing other than its own corpulent, self-congratulatory but essentially meaningless existence. Under those conditions, the United Nations Organisation exists only to serve its delegates with an endless merry go-round of pork barrel political extravaganzas.  The UN is nothing save political theatre as tragic farce.  UN activities cost a few Western nations some 40,000 million dollars annually.  How else to justify doing nothing most of the time against the most heinous crimes committed in plain view unless there is an Israel to obsess about to the exclusion of everything else?

Human Rights are a geographically variable commodity because we live in a political world.  Our politicians and academics, our journalists and our charity workers, our bureaucrats and our social activists are human beings.  They are prejudiced, racist, and guided by ego.  We give them credit for altruism when their endeavors are inevitably driven by power and greed.  What frightens them most are controls that limit their freedom and if limiting ours helps them to keep theirs, they will embrace populism, incitement and selective censorship to do so.

The only thing protecting us from them is that we do not keep quiet when we feel threatened by their excesses. But we are losing that fight too because it is easy to be selective about what is important to us while ignoring the ever spreading injustice that results from equalities unequal application.

Cologne was not a New Years Eve aberration. It was a symptom of our accelerating decline.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Dickensian BBC

It began with a preview of the new BBC television blockbuster drama series starting just after Christmas. 'Dickensian' is a mashup of Dickens most popular works.  In the preview, Fagin is a stereotypically sinister, snarling Jew with a prominently worn Mizrachi Jewish skull cap.  Fagin is shown in profile to cinematically disturbing effect.

At a time of heightened fear of terrorism the press does its best to ignore antisemitism even though in every country that statistics are kept, antisemitism is of considerably greater prevalence than Islamaphobia. 

Christmas is a time that is supposed to represent good-will to all men (and I assume women as well).  Until recently most orthodox Jews ignored Christmas, even as a secular festival, because of its negative history.  That history was one where Jews experienced fear due to incitement by the Christian clergy and persecution based upon the accusation of deicide.   Modern Israel not surprisingly, ignores this period of the year except in the distribution of free pine trees to any Christian families wishing to celebrate the festival.  It makes the deception and incitement by Western news outlets (our modern priesthood) all the more telling.

If we set aside the egos and prejudices of journalism's finest sons and daughters then that is our first issue.  It is a naive belief that journalism is meant to inform rather than what it really is; a platform for the expression of biases; a vehicle for conveying editorial prejudice.  And Jews have a particular interest in the chimera of honesty that is the practice of journalism because it is the Jews who are always the first to suffer its deceptions.

Our problem is that Jews are not meant to be normal people with normal fears, desires and anxieties. We are constantly being enjoined to learn from our history as if only we are expected to respect those who disrespect us, and exercise restraint at every provocation. But we have always been told to turn the other cheek (so that we would make an easier target). The definition that UK society refuses to acknowledge is this: Antisemitism is the expectation that Jews will respond to every action against them in a way that demonstrates a unique tolerance, a tolerance that is expected of no one else. It is the reaction to that failure of expectation that self justifies the bigot’s antisemitism.

So my complaint is that Jews in the Jewish Diaspora and in Israel are held to a standard expected of no one else and no other nation.  The hallmark of the modern antisemite is not his or her naked aggression or the intimidation that is part of their natural demeanor towards us.  It is the displeasure, the rarely concealed contempt that is displayed whenever we and only we do not listen to the “instructions” or “advice” given to us, most often unsolicited, by journalists, lecturers, professors and politicians alike.

It is truly an act of deception or naivete to believe that the visual media either informs or educates to a neutral agenda. Repetition is the essence of the propagandists’ art and visual stimulation, the most effective means of imprinting an idea, good or bad into our sub-conscious.

For example, on December 26th a popular BBC soap opera “Eastenders” had a story line around a Nativity play. In the play a boy states “Yes we can stay in this inn because Islam welcomes all faiths.”  Islam emerged a distance of 1,300 kilometers (as the crow flies) from Israel and did not begin until 600 years after the biblical story. The remark, aside from its fundamental inaccuracy implies that Mary and Joseph were excluded from the inn on religious grounds.  This is also not part of the biblical story. Just to round off this antisemitic fantasy defilement, at this time of the year apologists for Palestinian terror often endow Jesus, Mary and Joseph with a faux Palestinian identity. The reality is that Palestinians, as Arabs, would have assaulted and perhaps murdered any Jews not traveling in convoy, for that lawlessness and thuggery is also the history of Arab (Palestinian) conduct towards non-Muslims over the centuries of their habitation in the Holy Land.

When I was growing up I had never seen a person who was not white except for those people I watched on TV and they were mostly gangsters.  I did not know how I would react to my first encounter with someone who was “different”.  But I was thankfully brought up to believe in the essential equality of everyone so I passed the test.  I do not believe that film makers are unaware of the impact their film making has on people.  When dealing with reality based fiction they cater to our need for the reassurance of familiarity and not to jar us from the sense of comforting complacency that most of us prefer to inhabit in our everyday lives.

There are some reinforcing memes best abandoned to the antechambers of history, for the study of relics of past abomination by scholars and antiquarians.  The Merchant of Venice and the various Passion Plays are two of these negatively reinforcing and culturally ugly literary events. So is Oliver Twist. No matter how the literary crowd try to sugar coat them, with their antiquity or by their authors’ pedigree the characters portrayed also deliver a message, of reinforcing and repulsive stereotype.  The damage prejudiced portrayal causes can not be justified, not in an era when even associating Islam with terrorism is regarded as secular blasphemy; not when politicians, social commentators and national media outlets make every effort to disassociate us from fearing the Muslims in our midst, to protect Muslims from any negative association that the expression of Muslim extremism may generate.

The BBC more than most international media behemoths understands this.  Its’ sensitivity ensures that even Muslim mass murderers are never portrayed as villains. It does its best to inoculate Islamists from being forced to confront their inhumanity. The BBC’s discomfort with terms such as “Islamic State” and any other term that ties the Muslim faith to crimes of violence or hate crimes proves that the BBC has internalised at least some historical lessons.

To rationalise a narrowly focused bigotry in a world that is experiencing ethnic and religious conflict on a global scale and to dismiss the criticism of that bigotry because it is done in homage to art is an unacceptable rationalisation for continued prejudice and hate.

The latest BBC drama series about Charles Dickens was previewed on Breakfast BBC’s news program and from the start it was clear that it was not meant for us to feel sympathy for anyone of Jewish background.  The BBC is at war with Israel, both individual and nation. Its methods are subtle but that does not detract from its purpose. If you are Jewish but do not heed the “advice” of Britain’s elite you are the enemy.  The Jews have always been Britain’s enemies.  The BBC is at war with most of us, Jews and Israeli’s.  It is always happy to implant seeds of hate via a new program or via its latest headline. Isn’t it time the Board of Deputies of British Jews or the Jewish Leadership Council (for the British, Jewish community) and the government of the State of Israel took this threat with all seriousness?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Yossi Sarid, Israel and the Death of Civility

There are many people within the settlement enterprise, on the right of Israeli politics and within the religious community who have celebrated the death of Yossi Sarid.

This is in spite of an inconvenient truth, expressed by people of an allegedly religious disposition that the Second Temple was overthrown because of "sinat chinum" (hatred between people).   And yet, this is what they are guilty of.  Did not God say of the Egyptians when they were drowning in the Red Sea, that the angels should not sing because they, the Egyptians were also, his (her) children?  They respond with Psalms 139:21: "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee?” (JPS Tanach 1917) It is used by the settler movement and those people opposed to the Left to justify their own particular hatred, particularly of people like Yossi Sarid.

The problem is that we can all pick and choose texts from holy script.  One of the most negatively impacting issues that Jews have faced throughout the last 1,800 years of history is that our religious competitors interpreted their own religious texts to justify every atrocity they committed in the name of their faith.  They have used it to justify slavery and in the Muslim world still do, to this day. Do we really want to be like them?

The reason the Jewish people have survived for 4,000 years is that we do change, nothing is sacrosanct. We have always wrestled with angels, we have always argued with God. The Golden Mean is a principle concept in Judaism. By choosing the nastier bits of ancient texts we embellish that which is hateful and disfigure that which is beautiful.  

I know that Sarid could be a total ass - the left wing equivalent of the extreme right is the same unbridled hatred of the person with whom they disagree.  Sarid’s eloquence was far too often vile in its expression of passionate disregard for his enemy’s feelings and the target was inevitably those communities of Jews who did not believe as he did it.

That was unforgivable arrogance - the kind of single-minded disregard for feelings that seems to be the salient affliction of modern western society’s most passionate believers.  And here is the issue that afflicts Israel, Europe and the English speaking world.  People whose beliefs are most passionate, often, have very limited if any knowledge outside of the narrow discourse to which they offer their undiluted support, body and soul. Once they sign up to a particular stream of consciousness, all else is discarded.  It helps to explain why it is nearly impossible to engage in debate or even discussion with pro-Palestinian supporters, radical leftists and religious bigots.  Facts that are not consonant with their belief system are brushed aside, often with a violent urgency that intimidates their interlocutor, and they think they are being moral.  It is meant to be thus. Intimidation and violence are key tools in the suppression of debate.  When a particular belief system is so exclusive that it cannot possibly win an argument on its own merits, debate must be occluded at all costs.   And an essential element of this way of thinking is violent speech.

Yossi Sarid is dead, may he rest in peace. I could not agree with his politics because his beliefs excluded a display of compassion for any Israeli’s with whom he disagreed. He understood the anger and frustration Arabs felt but like far too many of his colleagues on the Left, he ignored the base prejudice and antisemitism that was rooted in Arab society.  His secular mindset viewed the Arabs as victims of history and Jews (with whom he was incapable of identifying) as oppressors.  History is rarely that simple and in the Near-East absolutely, it is not.  The most charitable view of that same history is that both Arab and non-Arab are victims of history.  But there are so many historical narratives that to choose only one is to be blind to the past and to dismiss a holistic approach to history is to celebrate ignorance over knowledge.  And that is unforgivably crass.  

The history of the Land of Israel is the history of the Near-East itself. It encompasses an Arab, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Ottoman as well as secular narrative that has impacted every corner of the Globe.   To define oneself by only focusing on a narrow point in history or a single narrative is to reject the enlightenment.

Just as our enemies attempt to exclude us from any legitimate rendering of history, the Left has almost completely lost the attention of Israeli Jewish society.  It has failed to capture our allegiance because it ignores our own legitimate story and refuses to challenge either the bigotry of our enemies or the lies of our ‘friends’.  There is a desperate need for social activism and compassionate engagement in Israeli society but the left cannot re-engage the attention, the trust or the sympathies of the Israeli public in any significant numbers while it is seen to be understanding towards those ideologies and those people whose most heartfelt desire is not to live in peace with us but to destroy our society and to kill us all.

In a world of total moral collapse, Primo Levi said there was a small minority who mustered extraordinary courage to uphold human values (Michael Curtis on “If this is a man”).

The problem is that we speak in terms of carefully chosen absolutes that exclude anyone who fails to think exactly as we do.   Our world is descending into another Dark Ages because of our selective intolerance.  Celebrating the death of an Israeli patriot is part of that disease that infects our Western society.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The BBC and the refugees. Why they deliberately misreported a story.

Is the BBC biased against Israel and Jews in general?  Does its continuous inconsistency of approach in matters pertaining to the State of Israel amount to antisemitism? Do the ideological blinkers worn by the BBC’s journalists and editorial staff prevent it from carrying out the terms and conditions of its license (which is currently up for renewal)?

Let’s see.  On the 13th of November Nathan Graf, a forty year old male was repeatedly stabbed after leaving a kosher restaurant, in Milan, Italy. Being ultra-orthodox he was identifiably Jewish.  And he allegedly holds Israeli citizenship (although from the original Italian news reports there was no mention of nationality except for the Afghan antecedents of the victims’ father). According to news reports, several young Israeli students heard Nathan Graf and came to his aid at which point the attacker who “appeared to be Arab” fled with two accomplices.  There was no evidence that the attack was inspired by ongoing violence against Jews in Israel.

The BBC news reporter stated that the victim was Israeli and that the attack occurred during a time of multiple attacks in Israel.  The BBC journalist then stated that Arabs view Jews as supporting Israel.

The BBC is a secular organization and it rejects the idea that nations can identify by religion, unless that is, the country is Muslim, in which case it is OK, even when its Islamic religious particularism is viciously prejudicial. This makes the BBC journalists assumption that the victim who was attacked, was attacked because he was Israeli, unmerited on the face of it.  Unless Nathan Graf was carrying a sign stating “I am an Israeli” then the statement by the BBC reporter was conjecture, more bluntly, it was at best unprofessional speculation and at worse, a conspiracy to conceal the truth.

The second statement by the BBC journalist (the Arab view on Jews) was equally bizarre, as well as religiously bigoted.   It hovered on the line between journalistic license and incitement to terror.

In Islam, Jews, like Christians, are ‘protected minorities.’  This means that for as long as they do as they are told and live within the limits defined theologically by the Islamic ‘faithful’ then they enjoy the protection of their Muslim hosts (that theory does not however, stand up to the practice of movements such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State). This concept is called the Dhimmi.  While it is said to be inappropriate in an era of democracy and national entities, it is not the understanding of fundamentalists who view the application of Dhimmi status as timeless. Forty percent of the worlds Muslims are fundamentalists.  This means they view the Koran as absolute truth; that religious texts are understood to be literal, not figurative, neither time barred nor time diminished.  A significant percentage of the remaining sixty percent of the world’s Muslims are sympathetic to the ideas expressed in their faith.  One of those unfortunate ideas is that any nation, group or individual that violates the eternal contract (of Dhimmitude) between Islam and the infidel nation forfeits all rights, including that of life itself.

Many Arabs therefore consign Jews to that religious category of excommunication, which places them outside of humanity.  Comparisons with far-right, genocidal ideologies (of the 20th Century) could be made.  Even if the BBC rejects religion, at least religion as practiced in the Western World, the attack on a person who was unambiguously identifiable as a religious Jew was a fundamental assault on Western Society. 

Unless that is, the BBC is justifying random attacks on Jews by virtue of Arab theological attitudes towards the infidel, in this case people of Jewish faith.  If that is the case then the BBC has crossed a line.  It now openly advocates for the murder of Jews and justifies this behavior because of its radical political bias… direct contravention of its operating license.

This attack and the subsequent atrocities that were carried out in France (the following day) raises questions about the wisdom of opening our borders to Arab refugees for whom unadulterated hatred of everything we in the Western World stand for is a matter of cultural identity.

Not everyone behaves like this, but far too many do.

In February 2015 Islamic State declared its intention of flooding Western Europe (within six months) with 500,000 of its followers (or 50,000 as the number appeared in later Western reporting).  This seems strange given the reported ruling by IS that they were opposed to any Muslim fleeing a Muslim land for any country that is Dar al-Harb (governed by infidel, unclean) because to so flee would be a religious abomination.  Nevertheless, in one case, it is known that a dozen Christians were murdered by other refugees traveling on the same refugee boat because those Christians committed the unforgivable crime of praying to the wrong god.

The attack on Nathan Graf is being portrayed as politically inspired because of the minefield of ethical issues it raises if it is not.   The BBC is complicit if not the leader of this pack of vultures for whom ethical considerations are an inconvenient barrier to the ongoing war against Israel.

We should set aside the over-riding principle of welcoming the asylum seeker. The attack on Nathan Graf, the Belgian murders in 2014, French mass killings in early 2015 and latterly, the French attacks that also took place on November 13, raise serious ethical questions about the continued admittance of refugees whose beliefs are fundamentally incompatible with those of our own societies. Incompatibility, violent opposition to integration and the intelligence services being overwhelmed by an Islamic State fifth column are the minimum considerations that must now be given to any further refugee absorption in Europe or elsewhere.

These are not just questions about security.  Not least among the questions we should be asking is: Given the blind prejudice of news organizations such as the BBC, are they capable of reporting the news with any fealty to the untarnished truth? If the answer is no, then the BBC has outlived its service mandate.

Update:   It is 18:00 on the 14th of November.  The lead French prosecutor, in a live press conference announced that one terrorist was identified as a Syrian passport holder, registered as a refugee on his arrival in Greece in October 2015. A second terrorist has been identified as Belgian.  He had been known to the intelligence community for his terrorist associations since 2010.  Belgium with its strong antisemitic associations has more of its citizens fighting for Islamic State than any other European country (as a percentage of its overall population). The weapons used in the Charlie Hebdo atrocity were purchased in Brussels and according to the internet site “Politico” it is suspected that three of the terrorists in the latest attacks in France came from Belgium.   

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Jerusalem, Identity and why the Filthy Feet Slur cannot go unchallenged

Identity is our sense of self and it provides us with continuity and comfort in our everyday lives. It is our belief system as well as the physical and psychological familiarity with which we approach everything.  A self-defined identity is an inalienable human right.  The active right to a separate identity is denied by fascists and dictatorships, particularly within the global Muslim community.

The war being waged internationally against Israel and its supporters is largely focused on the denial of a Jewish right to a self-defined identity. That, on its own merits makes it antisemitic.  Part of this war of ideas is an attempt to justify a Palestinians right of full return and thus, the elimination of the stain on Arab honor of a separate non-Arab national group regaining independence from the Arab conqueror of old.

In my previous blog (Benjamin Netanyahu and the failure of Leadership) I tried to explain the failures within Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, primarily in the area of identity.  Identity is of pivotal importance if we want to create a healthy society.  It governs our self-image.  We grow, according to the attributes that we collect along our life’s journey.  Our sense of comforting familiarity provides the continuity we mostly crave in our everyday life.  So while different facets define us, in their overlapping layers they create us in terms of personal, group and national identity.

Your religion is your heritage, or your faith, or both these things.  Because it is central to the identity of most people it is a deeply personal and highly sensitive area of identification. No-one has the right to define who is a Jew, or by the same logic, no-one can tell me that yearning for either a spiritual or a physical Jerusalem is at best misplaced or at worse, geographically invalidated because of some theologically Supersessionist, racist ideology.

No-one has the right to attempt to delegitimize my history by relocating it or by deciding that only a non-Jew has the right to define for Jews, the location of their biblical temple.  It is however, a common tactic of Palestinians and their widening circle of supporters throughout the world.

We can argue and scream over the top of each other without ever truly listening to what the other person says.  Legitimacy, accuracy, validity - theological arguments are endowed with emotion but they do not come to us endowed with verifiable facts.  So in the final analysis, all historical debate is meaningless when it comes to discussing issues of faith because faith is belief; it is not based on physical evidence.  It follows on from this that if there are red lines, no single faith can define them for everyone else otherwise all religious dogma is open to debate on its authenticity, irrespective of time-line.

Religion, defined as cultural or ritual, is part of our identity, whether it is in opposition to religious ritual or defined by it.  It makes arguments against legitimacy put forward by Jews themselves, Presbyterian Churches, Muslims, and ‘progressives’ wholly illegitimate, by virtue of their prototypical, prejudiced reasoning.

In a secular state, national identity is limited by its secular borders.  In Israel the ultra-orthodox establishment defines who is a Jew.  That is contrary to the health of the secular nation.  The US Presbyterian Assembly (the largest Presbyterian denomination in the U.S.) declared when it signed the hateful Kairos Palestine document that Judaism was superseded.  To logically extend this argument, Judaism is not a legitimate faith – which means that Jewish faith communities are likewise illegitimate.  The intent was to identify any Jewish aspirations for living in the Land of Israel as wholly insupportable.  But its global genocidal potential can not have been missed by Israel’s enemies.  In both of these cases organized communities arrogated to themselves the right to deny others an identity of their choosing; a human right they denied to no other community.

The Arab world view is based on an exclusive Arab identity. As Lee Smith explains in his book ‘The Strong Horse: Power, Politics and the Clash of Arab Civilizations,’ “Arab nationalism is secular in the sense that it does not derive its political legitimacy from divine revelation, but it is an absolutism nevertheless.” Absolutism thrives because the Arab nation is unencumbered by Western concepts of free will and the will of the people. There are no physical borders to define it. Arab exceptionalism has no noble message for humanity.  The nation’s task is to fulfill Arab destiny; it is colonialism through conquest and morality has no place in the methodology to be employed.   As an identity it thrives on subjugation.

Edward Said delighted in the idea that Islam was something all ‘Arab’ people shared.  It meant that secular Arab nationalism could be embraced by non-Muslims if they recognized the supremacy of Islam.  The logical follow through that derived from this was to disempower minority faith and non-Arab ethnic communities throughout the Arab world, justifying their often institutionalized and inhered inferior status. 

The Islamic theological underpinnings of this philosophy creates fault lines between Muslim and non-Muslim national entities.  The religious or ‘secular’ Arab national will has no geographical limits.  Israeli self determination and any other legitimate Jewish aspirations are an unacceptable challenge to Arab hegemony.  According to Arab religious theology and Arab secular dogma Jewish identity is narrowly permissible but only through renunciation of an identifiable, tangible homeland which also eviscerates the spiritual.  Christians, Kurds and every other minority are similarly, ruthlessly offered limited, conditional acceptance.

Jerusalem has relevance to a Jewish identity because it is mentioned in the Jewish bible as well as in countless Jewish prayers.  There is good reason it is not mentioned in the Koran.  Arab identity defines Mecca and Medina as being central to Islamic faith however the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in twentieth century Egypt.  It focused attention towards Jerusalem in order to shift the regional centre of political power away from the Arabian Peninsular.

If identity is what defines us then arguments over rights take on extra significance for people who express an affiliation for secular institutions because the physical borders of their state constrains them.  It makes the arguments about Jerusalem crucial on almost every level of consciousness, at least for Jews and to a lesser but still important extent, for Christians.

Religion is faith not fact. Those people, organizations or nations trying to take away our rights by rewriting our ‘history’ or by denying us our religious heritage have no right to do so.  Informing us that ‘Jerusalem’ is unconnected to us is part of the propaganda war persistently waged against us.  It is an assault on our right to define our own identity.

Those people that therefore try to deny me my rights are guilty of cultural ethnic cleansing. The incessant incitement is incitement to cultural genocide, which precedes the physical act.  We should demand that the world acknowledges this fact and highlight the corruption of our enemies at every opportunity but instead our silence is interpreted as acceptance of a hateful Muslim narrative that denies us our past, rewrites our history and conditions our existence on subservience.

Crucially, at a time in human history when we should all be enjoying unparalleled intellectual and social freedom, that conditional approval has growing Western acceptance.  That prejudice represents the strongest argument for anti-Zionism being quintessentially antisemitism.

Jewish Israel must be able to assert its rights in its own homeland without threat of denigration, denial or delegitimization (all of which was beautifully summed up by Abu Mazen’s pithy little quote about filthy Jewish feet having no right to step out onto the Temple Mount).

If Israel decides to create a formal constitution the first statement of principles should declare that Israel is the original homeland of the Jewish nation and this fact is our inalienable right. It is part of our identity.

A homeland shared with others means that Israel’s minorities must be able to share in the benefits of participation in the Israeli journey.  If Jerusalem is central to Palestinian-Muslim identity it is recent but no less valid than the centrality of Jerusalem to Jewish identity, with one exception:  There is no fork in the road leading away from the belligerent denial of my nations past, towards a benevolent future.  History must be our teacher.  Delegitimization precedes extermination. De-escalation starts with rhetorical de-escalation, on both sides; within government and outside it.

Those who do not accept the legitimacy of our identity do not want peace.  They must be marginalized. Only then will we successfully muzzle the antisemitic racist, President Mahmoud Abbas and his ilk.  Only then will peace be possible.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Benjamin Netanyahu and the Failure of Leadership

It has been a busy few months for Benjamin Netanyahu.  He has had to contend with calls from Hamas for a third intifada and antisemitic incitement from our alleged “peace-partner” Mahmoud Abbas.  Waves of terrorism and violence have spread across Israel as armed Arabs threw rocks (the size of building bricks) and brandished knives; he has had his authority questioned and his handling of Muslim incitement and violence on the Temple Mount challenged across the Israeli political spectrum. 45 stabbing attacks in the last month have resulted in more than 100 Israelis being wounded, and 10 murdered.  Muslim children as young as thirteen years of age have viciously attacked identifiably Jewish children in this latest escalation of antisemitic violence. Bibi’s reputation as a man who can deliver on security lies in tatters.  His reputation as a prime-minister who can bring prosperity to all Israel is based on the memory of his time as Minister for Finance from 2003-2005, during the government of Ariel Sharon.  Since then, the average Israeli has not prospered. In fact, the average Israeli has suffered consistent, annual reductions in his standard of living.  It is five years since major gas deposits were discovered in Israeli territory and still he dithers over exploiting those energy deposits.

His Wikipedia entry describes him as being born to secular Jewish parents. His problem is that his identity is based on history but not on an understanding of what drives people to maintain and nourish a healthy identity (more about that later).

On the event that marked the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of “those among us that challenge our democracy” and yet, he has done nothing during his tenure to strengthen Israeli identity or to lesson the incitement of the Muslim and greater Arab world against Israeli identity or Israel itself.  During his tenure as Prime Minister we have all witnessed the growth of the international antisemitic Left and the progress of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement as it progresses, relentlessly, into the mainstream of Western Thought.

In a New York Times article, Pankaj Mishra opined that “the new can emerge only within a tradition”.  Israel is a ‘newish’ secular society swimming in a sea of religious superstition, cant and, biased history which is weighted towards Arab conquerors and their descendants.  If the current reality fails to be consonant with past narratives then it is ignored or worse, attacked.

For example, there is no doubt that Jerusalem is central to Jewish history, Jewish racial memory and Jewish religious thought (as well as having significance for Christianity). Jerusalem is mentioned over 600 times in the Tanach, the Jewish bible, and it is referenced in countless Jewish prayers.  Not even once is it referred to in the Koran. When Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen, President for Life of the Palestinian Authority tells us to keep our filthy (Jewish) feet off the Temple Mount, that is more than just incitement to violence, it is antisemitism. When he falsely accuses Israel of “executing” a thirteen year old Muslim boy who is being treated in an Israeli hospital, (having been disarmed after he stabbed a thirteen year old Israeli riding on his bicycle, eleven times) that is also incitement but also the kind of lie that travels around the world in a few hours even when Israel later, proves otherwise by showing the wannabe child murderer comfortably propped up in an Israeli hospital bed, surrounded by more food than he can possibly eat.

National identity is about history and culture; it is about ritual and comfort, what we refer to as our values. In the case of Israel those values encompass Jewish and democratic principles as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence.  Because Bibi Netanyahu and most of Israel’s politicians are secular and Jewish we have today a crisis of identity because instead of being universal as most of those founding principles are we have sectarian identity politics preached in opposition to the spirit of the founding declaration. The Arabs who want to be Israeli are attacked by the fascist Left as well as by fellow Arabs who have nothing of equal substance to offer the Jewish citizens of Israel because their identity is specific to being Arab.  Bibi and his ilk are so alienated from their shared identity they are incapable of arguing for an Israel that unites all of its citizens: Jew, Christian, Muslim, Israeli and Arab. 

In “Israelism, Arab Scholarship on Israel, a critical assessment” Hassan Barari refers to the “inevitability syndrome” where Israel is and can never be acceptable and will eventually ‘disappear.’  He declares Israel to be an outpost of Western imperialism although Arab imperialism is never mentioned.  He says: “three ideological currents have produced dominant discourses. The pan-Arabist, the Marxist and the Islamic discourses have provided the overriding framework that conditions much of the understanding and interpretation of Israel.”  Israel with its intellectually active past and present has nevertheless left the scholarly debate on identity to the activist enemies of peace and co-existence.

The Zionist vision of one nation for all of the people, irrespective of race, religion or color has been abandoned to the hysterics who fear adulteration of ideology, political power base and religious purpose.  Histrionics and humbug are part of the debate on both sides of the identity debate. As Israel’s second longest serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu could be expected to present some kind of vision for a unified nation that leaves the extremists on the periphery of society instead of allowing them to take center stage.

As shown by Hassan Barari’s academic examination of Arab attitudes towards Israel, Arab literature and its communications are wholly ethnocentrically mono-cultural and mono-racial in outlook.  The secular Arab and Islamic world does not and cannot accept a multi-ethnic state unless it is its own Arab empowered version of one; one in which we are all victims of their ongoing and comprehensive, cultural and ethno-religious colonization.  What is at issue is the destruction of Jewishly identifiable history, its physical presence obliterated and its religious significance extirpated from cultural memory by constant denial at home and abroad.

When Abbas spits out his epithetic “filthy Jewish feet” he is simply expressing Arab ideas about the other.  Surely, drawing attention to the disgusting rhetoric of Palestinians and Islamists (along with age-old antecedents in Arab thought) is something we can work with in order to unify the nation.  Surely, we can use this hate to highlight the basic corruption of anti-Zionism in Western thought. Israel is a country in which all of its citizens, minorities as well as the Jewish majority may live within its borders, in peace.  There is no other place like Israel in the Near East or in the Muslim World. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Refugee Tragedy and the next Global Conflict

David Milliband, writing in the Evening Standard on the 4th September 2015 related how, in 1940, his father and grand father fled Belgium to Britain and were “accepted” into the country as refugees. In 1945 his grand father returned to Belgium to find his wife and daughter, both of whom had spent the war years in hiding. He applied with them to immigrate to Britain and was turned down because the Home Secretary said he could not sanction “a flood”.  David Millibands’ interpretation of this event – defining the difference between an immigrant (seeking a better life) and a refugee (fleeing persecution) missed the point entirely. Britain then as now, was antisemitic.

The horrifying revelations around the Shoah made no difference to the hardhearted and bigoted ruling classes, especially, under the Labour Government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee and Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin.  Britain’s Foreign Office (Department of State) and its administrative classes were relentlessly antisemitic and unfailingly pro-Arab.  The Balfour Declaration in 1917 was the twentieth century’s one exception that made the rule. 

The historical reality is that Britain allowed a paltry number of Jewish refugees into the United Kingdom before World War 2 and they all had to have homes to go to so that there would be no burden upon the state.  Britain’s ruling classes made sure that those people who were accepted into Britain were the “right kind of Jews” – they were middle class, intelligent and Western educated and yet the hostility of officialdom remained steadfast.

His analysis of the migrant crisis today is also flawed by his ideological myopia.  So, he refuses to acknowledge either the political antecedents to the current crisis and the historical failures that have left Western nations unprepared for the latest crisis.  Those people trying to flee conflict and the economic migrants that seek a better life have both had their funds plundered by people traffickers and criminal gangs.  But that is only part of the problem that we refuse to acknowledge because to do so would involve, by necessity, a change in international immigration policy and a muscular and wholly unwelcome military response to ongoing international crises.

David Milliband’s selective analysis of the causes behind regional instability – those causes that created the current refugee crisis in Europe - is distressing because without honest debate around those sources of conflict, instability can only grow and create with it, ever escalating disruption and dislocation.  Without addressing the causes of the current crisis the probability of global conflict can only increase.

David Milliband refers to “decades-old wars in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo” as well as in Afghanistan and Syria-Iraq without offering explanation, background or any suggestions for how to stop them.  He refers to “the wider phenomenon of regional instability, the proxy wars causing chaos in Yemen” without mentioning who is the paymaster for that regional instability (it is the Islamic Republic of Iran).  He states that Syria’s middle-classes are ‘fleeing,’ but he fails to join the dots to connect the collapse of the middle-classes with the failure of the state and its consequent future inability to be rebuilt as a stable entity.

When failed nations reassert their independence (in whatever form they eventually take), stability is reliant on the people being in place to lead.  But the core of their communities will probably remain in Europe, enriching European society. This is in spite of the fact that a recent survey disclosed a significant percentage of refugees and migrants, and their second generation descendants are not only disengaged from their host society but also financially dependent on those societies, to maintain their relatively comfortable European lifestyle.

There are lessons to be learned from history. When in 1947-48 the Arab leadership of what was then known as Palestine fled to their gated mansions in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus, Amman and Cairo the Arab peasantry that remained behind were left beleaguered, largely without leadership and therefore, without guidance.   They were vulnerable to the depredation, malice and greed of local and foreign Muslim gangs who fled to ‘safety,’ once the lethality of the fighting with the Jews of Palestine began to seriously impact the profitability of their enterprise.  Worse was the definition uniquely appropriated to Arab refugees from that conflict; unique in all the history of human conflict, it provided them with a status that could never be resolved.   Despair, false hope and superpower machinations even then undermined regional stability because it would not encourage resettlement.

The Arab refugees from Palestine became victims of their own leaders’ propaganda when the wealthier classes, the local Arab leadership and those racially or religiously intolerant of any future that involved living under Jewish control fled to the neighboring Muslim lands.

The Muslim world, unlike its Western rival, has rarely, if ever, been forced to confront the racism within its society. Its religious bigotry is instead, worn as a badge of honor. There is enormous resentment feeding Muslim interaction with minorities through those dreamed of Muslim empires.  This is the reason that Muslims are so welcoming of vile and murderous organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State (Daesh), al-Qaeda and all of their affiliates.

It is not their fundamentalism that is bereft of morality (although this could be argued is contributing to the outcome) but the inevitable conclusion of extremist thinking that is encouraged by so many of their ideological and functional leadership.  That conclusion is perpetual warfare waged against everyone who cannot prove that they too are “true believers” and of course in that two-word honorific is the root of all suffering.

It is this inhumanity that is demonstrated throughout the Muslim world, every day.  In the United Kingdom between April and June 2015 one thousand cases of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) were reportedly carried out. And it is illegal in the UK so what would have happened if Britain made FGM legal?  A video also recently surfaced of a father in the Arab world proudly handing his daughter over to a Sharia court for execution by stoning. Her crime was disobedience.

There is a refugee crisis in Europe but one of its main causes, the one David Milliband refuses to be drawn into acknowledging, is the moral blight that has penetrated every section of the Muslim world.

The refugee crisis cannot be solved while we continue to rejoice in our multicultural diversity because all it means is that we are too cowardly to take a stand against barbarism. And a selective stand against injustice is no more than a cynically toadying acknowledgment of our international impotence, a grotesquely judicious application of morality.

If Turkey is unwilling to exercise control over its borders it should be expelled from NATO and allied forces gathered to collect immigrants and refugees and relocate them to a neutral zone in a failed state, to be administered by Europeans (and who-ever else is willing to assist in the task).

It is the only realistic way to:
a)      protect vulnerable people from exploitation
b)      to process large numbers of refugees
c)      to return economic migrants to their country of origin

If Syria cannot be saved it should be re-divided, with appropriate border adjustments to foster stability.  Kurdish self-determination should be granted and separate self-governing cantons established for the Alawites, Shia, Sunni, Christian and Druze minorities, all within the former Syria. At a time in the future the cantonization of Syria will lead to a united nation, perhaps based on the Swiss model.  But for now the toxic ethnic and religious conflicts crisscrossing the former Syria defile any national aspirations that its competing war-lords may have harbored.

To rebuild Arab and the greater global Muslim society, to contribute in a way that meaningfully addresses local concerns and provides wise leadership at all levels of society requires people, many of whom have fled to foreign lands, to return and rebuild the nation.  If that leadership is comfortably domiciled in Europe that rebuilding will be delayed by decades if not longer. Current estimates place the end to the Syrian conflict and a return to ‘normality’ at twenty years into the future.

The flight of the Arab masses from Syria, Iraq and Lebanon are a positive outcome for their regional rivals in Turkey, Iran and even, in Egypt and not just because it debases two Arab, formerly military heavyweights. Unless the world’s superpowers and European nations are willing to radically change their geo-strategic thinking on how to conduct a stabilization strategy within the Near–East that conflict will spill over into Europe and not just Europe but the nations that are on the periphery of the Near-East (Pakistan, [India], Asia and Russia).

It is this failure of imagination that could create the instability that unintentionally leads to the next global conflict.