These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 16, 2014.
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
On Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rami Khouri Outdoes Himself
Count all the ways Rami Khouri, Defender of the Faith (though it's a faith I don't believe he shares -- I think he's an example of that well-known phenomenon, the Arab islamochristian, who wraps himself in protective 'Uruba solidarity, and attempts to fit into a Muslim sea mainly by being plus-royaliste-que-le-roi in his hostility toward Israel) manages to misrepresent and malign Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and compare his tone with hers, in her many interviews, articles, and two books. Whose is the quiet tone of reason, and whose that hysterical tone to which, by now, devotees of www.MEMRITV.org have all grown inured?
Rami Khouri has made a fatal mistake. He's quoted Ayaan Hirsi Ali. And even though the remarks are plucked out of context, and no doubt the most uncompromisinig of her remarks, they still make sense. What he's quoted, in order, he thinks, to show her up, will have the opposite effect, will strike many readers -- especially Christians living in Lebanon and those Muslims-for-identification-purposes-only Muslims who have long agonized over what happens to minds on Islam, and especially today, as they look around the world, even in Muslim lands, must be in an agony of doubt and hidden apostasy -- as piercingly true.
Posted on 04/16/2014 9:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Let's Invite Abbas to a Seder
The Passover Seder is an occasion when Jewish people around the world remember their history. That complex past, embracing both suffering and happiness, is symbolized in the Seder service by the mixture of bitter horseradish with sweet parsley, representing spring and renewal. The collective memory is of ancient persecution, exile, pogroms, the Holocaust, perpetual anti-Semitism, present-day terrorism but also one of emancipation in democratic countries and the creation of the State of Israel. Above all, this story depicts the liberation of people 3,300 years ago from slavery and subjugation in the Egypt ruled by Pharoah to liberation, freedom, and sovereignty in a land promised to them.
The central part of the Seder is the asking and the response to four questions about the nature and significance of the festive ceremony, and the traditions observed and different foods that are eaten on the occasion. Those answers recall the struggles of Jews in their desire to be free: the coming forth from Egypt, and the struggle and rebellion against the Romans who destroyed the Second Temple. The memory of those struggles against persecution and discrimination is still echoed in the challenges today requiring the struggle against discrimination and anti-Semitism, the response to those who refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of the State of Israel or who deny or minimize the relationship to the area of the Middle East that is still disputed, and also the answer to the bigoted and biased boycotters of Israel.
At the heart of the Seder story is the escape of Jews from bondage to a life of freedom and political sovereignty. For Israel today, and for the hopes of peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, the four questions asked in the Seder can be boiled down to one: in spite of the incontestable evidence, why will Palestinians not accept the historical relationship of Jews to the area of Palestine, and why do they so strongly oppose the sovereignty and the legitimacy of the Jewish State?
The sovereignty of Israel is manifested by its political independence, by the revival of the Hebrew language in popular use as well as for religious purposes, as well as by unexpected contemporary features such as becoming skilled in military defense and security, by its accomplishments as a country of innovative high tech, with world-class great universities, and even by unexpected production of oil and gas. Yet, Palestinian leaders to this point have not only refused to accept that sovereignty and the existence of Israel in real rather than in perfunctory form, but also denied what the Seder story tells in abundance, the historic relationship of the Jewish people to the land.
As in the Seder ceremony, there is need for the story to be told again of the bonds that unite the Jewish people and tie it to the land, a bond illustrated in recent years by the ingathering into Israel of Jews from Ethiopia and India. The recital of those bonds should also be heard by members of the international community, and by those who look favorably on or advocate the fallacious Palestinian Narrative of Victimhood.
The true international understanding started with the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917. This was letter from British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild stating that the British government views “with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” This Declaration was then incorporated into both the Peace Treaty of Sèvres and the Mandate for Palestine.
The Treaty of Sèvres of August 10, 1920, establishing peace between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies of World War I, implemented the result of negotiations that had started in London and continued in the San Remo Resolution in April 1920. Article 95 of the Treaty, implementing that Resolution, laid down that a Mandatory, to be appointed, would be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally by Britain and “adopted by the other Allied Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
Based on the San Remo Resolution and on Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Mandate for Palestine, given to Britain by the League on July 24, 1922 and put into effect on September 329, 1923, was the basis for the administration of territory, an area that was formerly part of provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The preamble to the Mandate repeated the words of the Treaty of Sèvres “in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
International agreements after World War II went further. The crucial event was the UN General Assembly 181 (II) Resolution of November 29, 1947, the so-called partition resolution, passed by a vote of 33-13-10. It called for the ending of the Mandate for Palestine no later than August 1, 1948. More importantly, it called (article A, 3) for the creation of “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem.”
Therefore, the international community called for the creation of a Jewish State that came into existence on May 14, 1948. The Arab-Israel conflict resulted from the refusal of Arab leaders and governments to accept the partition resolution. This refusal was proclaimed even before the resolution. The General Secretary of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, was quoted on page 9 of the Egyptian newspaper Akhbar el-Yom of October 11, 1947 as saying, that if a Jewish state is established and a war were to occur it “would lead to a war of extermination and momentous massacre that history will record similarly to the Mongol massacre or the wars of the Crusades.” In the same fashion, the Syrian president and the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini both spoke of the eradicating of Zionism or the annihilation of Zionists.
The contrast between the two sides could not be clearer. Chaim Weizmann, the longtime Zionist leader and president of the Zionist Organization who became the first president of Israel on February 1, 1949, wrote to David Ben-Gurion on May 30, 1948 that it is “the profound desire of our people to establish relations of harmony and mutual respect with their fellow Arab citizens, with the neighboring Arab states, and with all other nations.”
The Arab leaders refused to create a Palestinian state, let alone acknowledge the international recognition of a Jewish State. They, especially the Palestinian leaders, still refuse that acknowledgment and in addition deny the significance of Jewish history. President Mahmoud Abbas, who presumably has never attended a Seder, speaks of ‘illusions and legends” that Jews use in referring to their history in Jerusalem, and of the “alleged” Jewish temple there. Palestinian spokespeople even deny the validity of the artifacts with Jewish symbols that have been found near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Why do those spokespersons persist in arguing that the claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history?
Can there possibly be a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, begun by the refusal of the Arabs to create a Palestinian state and by their wars and continual military aggression against Israeli civilians, if the distortion of Jewish history is not only kept alive but continues to be disseminated through Arab education? President Abbas should be invited to a Seder.
Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemitism, and the Middle East.
First published in the American Thinker.
Posted on 04/16/2014 7:10 AM by Michael Curtis
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Brown University's Middle East Studies, And The Language Of Nothing At All
Posted just today, the following employment ad from Brown University is the distilled expression of much that is wrong in university life. It used to be said tha tin a good poem not a word should be changed (it's not true, but it points in the direction of a truth); in this announcement from Brown, every word needs changed. Some semblance of life-- not the "life of the mind" (ridiculous phrase) but of mind -- needs to be given to what now is dead and deadening. The nothing words and the nothing understandings that lie behind these nothing words -- well, nothing will come of nothing. Write again.
Associate Director, Middle East Studies
Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Brown University is seeking an Associate Director, Middle East Studies to provide critical leadership and direction in support of programmatic initiatives, strategic growth and curricular development. Middle East Studies at Brown is in a transition period of rapid growth and the position offers an exciting opportunity for motivated and highly organized individuals to institutionalize an agenda-driven program grounded in Brown’s tradition of interdisciplinary, critical, and engaged scholarship.
- The Associate Director provides critical leadership and direction in support of programmatic initiatives, strategic growth and curricular development of Middle East Studies, including an interdisciplinary undergraduate concentration and its related research and instructional activities.
- In conjunction with the Faculty Director, the Associate Director will create, design, and oversee innovative and long-term development of the concentration, while also teaching one to two courses per year and serving as a Student Advisor.
- This position will participate in the development of outreach initiatives, including advancement and fund raising opportunities, program events, grant writing, web design, supporting visiting professors and Post-Docs, and the creation of promotional materials.
- The position of Associate Director will serve as a principle program liaison to faculty, students, and administrators across departments and offices within the University, and represent the program on University committees as appropriate.
- As the Associate Director, the incumbent will also cultivate and coordinate relations with similar programs and centers in other universities as well as with scholars and academic institutions on the national and international levels.
Posted on 04/16/2014 6:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 April 2014
Did Thatcher Leave a Legacy of Freedom?
It was Robert Louis Stevenson who said: “Man is a creature who lives not upon bread alone but principally by catchwords.” Refining our thoughts with qualifications can get tiring, so we recur to slogans to capture a reality that is almost always complex.
Alas, what should be the shorthand of thought often turns out to be the short-circuit of thought. When we think of Margaret Thatcher, for example, we think of free-market reforms—whether we are for such reforms or against them, whether we welcome or abominate them.
Is this right? Was Mrs. Thatcher’s legacy one of free markets, of laissez-faire? I am far from sure.
The question first came up when my late friend, the development economist, Peter Bauer (who was a formidable opponent of the orthodoxies of his time) said to me that he thought Mrs. Thatcher had talked a great deal but had actually done very little. In a way, he said, she had even set her own cause back because her strident language had convinced people that she had carried out her radical program, thus arousing the undying hatred of her intellectual opponents as if she had done so, while in fact she changed very little, at least as regards the fundamentals. She thus gave the ideas for which she stood a bad name without their ever having been put into practice.
This came up again recently when a think tank sent me an email circular with the title,Margaret Thatcher—A Free Market Legacy? Of course, the answer depends somewhat on what you consider a political legacy to be. Is all that happens after a politician leaves power his legacy, or only those parts of what is done that are either in accordance with or in conscious opposition to his precepts? Some reforms or changes are irreversible, others easily reversible. Does a legacy consist only of the former?
In the case of Britain and Mrs. Thatcher, I prefer to speak of her effect rather than her legacy. It seems to me that she subdued the political power of the unions, but that that power would have declined anyway—as it has done in France even without a Thatcher figure to lead the charge. That said, she handled the coal miners with skill and determination. After she defeated the Miners’ Union, no other union would lightly take her government on. And so far, at least, British unions have not recovered their extra-constitutional role as the fourth, and seemingly most powerful, branch of government. Even Peter Bauer acknowledged this as an achievement.
But did Mrs. Thatcher roll back the state, as it was her intention and indeed vocation to do? Here I think the answer must decisively be no. That is, at least if the question is about her long-term effect. It is true that she managed to reduce the public sector’s proportion of the Gross Domestic Product somewhat during her term in office. But 30 years after she entered office, it was higher than when she entered it. In 1979 it was 44.6 per cent; in 2009, 47.7 per cent. Her long-term effect (if 30 years counts as the long-term) on the size of the state was nil, despite her reputation as a prudent or even savage cutter of public services.
She did nothing to reduce dependence on the state as a source of primary income. On the contrary, during her period in office, spending on social security increased rather than decreased. (This was largely because unemployment rose so high; it was ethically, socially, and politically impossible to drive down the income of the unemployed to the value of their labor to employers, which in many cases would probably have been negative.) Government spending having declined as a proportion of GDP, social security increased proportionately even more. Mrs. Thatcher did not, because she could not, effect any fundamental change in the model of the welfare state. That model, in democracies at least, has a one-way ratchet.
Mrs Thatcher was loved and hated not so much because she changed things, but because she said she wanted to. Wilfred Owen notwithstanding, men always fight for flags because symbols are more powerful in their minds than reality.
Such measures as GDP are very crude when it comes to estimating the effect on a society of a politician of Mrs. Thatcher’s stature. Still, my impression is that her effect, where it was long-lasting, was predominantly negative.
Mrs. Thatcher gave the impression of being an economic determinist—a mirror-image Marxist if you will. Whether she really was in the inner fastnesses of her mind is beside the point. In politics, what people think you are is often more important than what you are. She gave the impression that if the economy were fixed, everything else desirable would follow as the night the day, and that the way to fix it was to let everyone follow his own narrow economic interest.
To be sure, it was very necessary in Britain at the time to try to undo the effect of many years of intellectual propaganda against all forms of commerce, which the intelligentsia then thought was intrinsically besmirching in a way that public service funded by taxation was not. The utopia peddled by the intellectuals was of a society in which everybody and everything was subsidized. (The ultimate source of the subsidies, of course, was of no interest or concern.)
Margaret Thatcher was, in effect, the Guizot of 20th century Britain: enrichissez vous was her message to the British people. Unfortunately, it was not only the people in the genuinely commercial sector who heard the message. Those in the public sector did, too. This sector never became small; and Mrs Thatcher, not able to reduce it, thought to tame it by introducing scientific management into it.
She believed in scientific management as scientologists believe in L. Ron Hubbard. Unfortunately, this meant that enichissez vous quickly became the watchword of the public administration, whose senior bureaucrats successfully argued that, as managers of vast enterprises such as public hospitals, which were now to be run as businesses, they could arrogate to themselves every perquisite enjoyed by the captains of industry and the kings of commerce. The result has been that employment in the public sector is more lucrative than in the private, and much less risky. There are many towns in Britain in which the middle class is composed almost solely of so-called public servants.
The supposedly scientific management that Mrs. Thatcher introduced into the public sector had, ironically enough, a strong Soviet flavor to it, complete with bogus benchmarks easily reached by means of organized lying and falsification, as well as the universal employment of a langue de bois all its own. As a professor in Bristol put it when the government suddenly introduced a new term, clinical governance, into its circulars without explaining what it meant: “clinical governance is a term untranslatable into any other language, including English.” The Iron Lady, the most anti-Soviet of all recent British Prime Ministers, immeasurably advanced the cause of Sovietism, regrettably, in her own country.
Her successor-but-one, Anthony Blair, with the cunning of the natural born swindler, seized his chance and created a loyal, corrupt, self-seeking nomenklatura class that remains extremely influential and easily able to outwit the blancmange-like David Cameron, who in any case so easily moulds himself to any shape going.
I concede, of course, that any historical interpretation is open to dispute and revision. Moreover, to blame a figure for not having done the impossible is not to damage her reputation in the slightest. There is (thank goodness) a limit to what one person can do in countries such as the United Kingdom. I liked Mrs. Thatcher personally and she was head and shoulders above the other political figures of her time. But that only shows that politics are the shadow on the cave wall.
First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.
Posted on 04/16/2014 5:43 AM by Theodore Dalrymple