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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 29, 2012.
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
'Humiliating!' Anti-radicalism campaign causes outrage among German Muslims

From Russia Today and Deutche Welle  

A German ad campaign aimed at fighting Islamist radicalism has provoked an insensed response from offended Muslims. Thought up by an anti-radicalization center set up earlier this year at the behest of German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, the campaign features photos of four different Muslims, under the caption “MISSING.”

"This is our son Ahmad. We miss him, because we don't recognize him anymore. He is withdrawing more and more, becoming more radical every day. We are afraid of losing him altogether – to religious fanatics and terrorist groups," reads the text underneath the photo.

That campaign includes posters, postcards and these fake missing person notices - with four different models - three young men, and one young woman wearing a headscarf. The posters will be put up almost exclusively in the immigrant areas in Germany’s large cities, and will feature text in German, Turkish and Arabic. . . the campaign has provoked a fierce backlash from German Muslims.

"In my opinion, this is a humiliation for the Muslims who live in Berlin and Germany," Bekir Yilmaz, president of a Turkish community organization in Berlin, told Deutche Welle “It's the assumption that all Muslims could be radicalized.”

"What's dangerous about the poster campaign is that the people pictured could be a work colleagues, a friend from the sports club, or a neighbor," echoed Birol Kocaman, editor of the online magazine MiGAZIN. "They could be anyone who looks like a Muslim. They are all made subject to a general suspicion that they could be dangerous."

One of the comments at Russia Today refers to the report (mentioned here in the Jewish Press) that half the Turks living in Germany hold the hope that one day Islam will be in the majority; the commentator believes that there is indeed 'a problem brewing'.

Posted on 08/29/2012 1:18 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
BPCA protest in Manchester on Saturday 1st September

Any of our northern readers who are free on Saturday afternoon may wish to attend this;

The British Pakistani Christian Association is calling for all who care about the rights of Christians and other minorities in Pakistan, especially those in the North of the UK, to come and join our protest outside the Pakistani Consulate in Manchester on 1st September 2012 from 12 noon to 3pm. Guest speaker David Dean of Nelson, Jabber Singh from the British Sikh Council, Ranbir Singh from the Hindu Human Rights Group and Ooberfuse who will be performing their well know campaign songs...
The BPCA has called this rally after a recent spate of crimes against Christians in the last few weeks, including the now widely publicized case of Rimsha, a girl with disability - possibly Downs Syndrome - around the age of 11 or 12, who was accused of burning a book with verses from the Quran, and has been arrested for blasphemy, amidst mobs demanding she be burnt alive, mobs who also beat and tortured her family and burnt Christian homes. In addition in the last few weeks there have been a number of shootings of Christians, in one case in a land grab, as well as a gang rape and murder of a 12 year old girl on Pakistan's independence day while her parents were in hospital, and the brutal murder of a recently orphaned Christian boy whose organs appear to have been taken for organ trafficking.
Address 137 Dickenson Road, Rusholme, Manchester M14 5JB.
Nearest major railway station is Manchester Piccadilly. Ardwick station and Levenshulme station are also close by.
Posted on 08/29/2012 2:01 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
"Crippling Sanctions"

We are told that "crippling sanctions" have been imposed on the Assad regime in Syria. We are told, with ever greater fervidness, that "crippling sanctions" have been imposed by the Obama Administration on the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Sanctions that do not "cripple" are not "crippling sanctions." It is the same with Iran where, we are endlessly told, the Obama Administration, in its fourth year instead of its first year, that is much too late and much too loopholed, has "imposed crippling sanctions." But Iran, that is the Islamic Republic of Iran, is not "crippled." So the use of that phrase "crippling sanctions" is falsely comforting.

Those whose duty is to protect the people of Israel are one whit comforted by that insidiously reassuring phrase "crippling sanctions." It is a phrase that obfuscates, or even hides, a terrible reality:  the relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons by the Islamic Republic of Iran, one which will end, if the Obama Administration continues on its present disastrous course (it is not the Israeli government that is on "a disastrous course" but those who, not assuming their obligations as a great military power, are leaving it up to Israel to fend for itself, and while the Israelis, we all have allowed ourselves to believe, will somehow come through, a glance at a map, and considerations of distance and enemies all around, and an American "ally" that cannot be trusted with secrets, or be counted on to understand Islam, and thus to grasp the threat that nuclear weapons, in the hands of those who run the Islamic Republic of Iran, are akin not to nuclear weapons in the hands of the calculatiing Soviets or the Communist Chinese, but rather akin to nuclear weapons in the hands of Adolf Hitler who, had he possessed them in the last months of the war, and even knowing that the Americans also had such weapons, and would have used them to raze Nazi Germany to the ground, would not have hesitated one minute to use them. Are the fanatics in Teheran, awaiting the Twelth or Hidden Imam, who run the Islamic Republic of Iran more like those grey sober dull calculating men in the Politburo, or are they more like Adolf Hitler and his most fanatical followers?

You know the answer to that.

So the next time you read or hear the phrase "crippling sanctions" make sure you are not comforted, or that you allow others to allow themselves to believe that the sanctions now in place are "crippling." Look at the Non-Aligned Nations Summit now meeting in Teheran. Look at the military aid being extended to Syria. Does the Islamic Republic of Iran look like it has been "crippled:" by sanctions? Has the nuclear porject ever, in the twenty years since israel first started to warn about it, been slowed down by anything other than covert Israeli action? No.

And now the only thing, apparently, that will stop the regime from acquiring weapons, or from acquiring the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons, an ability that can be translated, within weeks (while the West would of course dither)into such weapons, is tiny Israel, doing what it can to set the program back, and hoping that the American government, whoever is in charge, will finally emulate the Israelis, and with much greater resources, inflict whatever damage may, in the future, be necessary to keep the Iranians from successfully restarting their most cherished project.

Posted on 08/29/2012 7:44 AM by Hugh Ftizgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Jeffrey Goldberg On Those "Holocaust-Obsessed" People

Are Jews Who Fear Iran Obsessed With the Holocaust?

Bringing up the subject of the Holocaust at a dinner party can be a downer. Genocide is an unpleasant and apparently insoluble problem, and, when Jews raise it, they run the risk of seeming parochial, even narcissistic.

Sophisticated, cosmopolitan people don’t want to be thought of as “Holocaust-obsessed,” and applying the lessons of the Holocaust to current events -- particularly those that have to do with the special concerns of Jews, and not Kurds or Tutsis or Tibetans -- is sometimes understood as a form of distasteful special-pleading. “Holocaust-obsessed” is, in fact, a new insult, one meant to sting and to bully into silence.

One person who is undeterred by the accusation is the writer Ron Rosenbaum, who has just published the most important essay I’ve read this year. Rosenbaum, the author of “Explaining Hitler,” writes in Slate that “Holocaust-obsessed,” a term that shows up with disquieting frequency in mainstream discussions of Jews and Israel, is meant to marginalize those who believe that vanquishing genocide is the most urgent issue facing humanity, and that the Holocaust holds specific lessons about the way in which Jews should understand hateful rhetoric directed against them.

“If there were an algorithm for suffering perhaps we would be able to judiciously appraise the claims that there are some among us (mostly Jewish) who are ‘holocaust obsessed,’” Rosenbaum writes. “It’s the new fashionable meme for those who don’t want to be overly troubled by the memory of the death camps and looming threats of a second holocaust. The term enables those who use it to suggest that those more concerned than they are ‘obsessed’ in an unseemly way.”

Two challenges -- one philosophical, the other political -- confront those who argue that one can be too concerned about the Holocaust and its meaning. Rosenbaum quotes the German novelist W.G. Sebald, who said of the Holocaust, “no serious person thinks of anything else,” by way of arguing that the mechanized extermination of 6 million Jews crystallizes the most acute problem confronting civilization: How do we combat the desire on the part of some groups to exterminate other groups?

For Jews, the issue Rosenbaum raises is more immediately concrete: Is it a sign of “Holocaust obsession” to be preoccupied by the violent rhetoric directed by the leaders of the Iranian regime against the 6 million Jews of Israel?

“Imagine: worry about extermination threats just because Hitler made extermination threats which he carried out,” Rosenbaum writes. “No reason to get all obsessed because another anti-Semitic leader who is seeking nuclear weapons makes similar threats, right? No reason to be troubled about the exterminationist anti-Semitic rhetoric that pervades the airwaves and the cyber realm of every other nation in the region.”

Rosenbaum’s essay refocused my attention on the largest issues raised by the Iranian regime’s apparent pursuit of nuclear weapons and its ferocious Jew-hatred. It is possible to lose the plot amid the welter of International Atomic Energy Agency reports and artfully crafted Iranian denials and intricate discussions of sanctions and endless news coverage of the relationship between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.

But what is happening here is something virtually without precedent in our allegedly enlightened age: A member-state of the United Nations, Iran, regularly threatens another member- state, Israel, with annihilation. It’s important to bear in mind a fundamental asymmetry: Israel doesn’t seek Iran’s elimination. Iran seeks Israel’s.

Regime apologists will note that Iranian leaders talk about the elimination not of “Israel” -- a word they generally refuse to utter -- but of the “Zionist regime,” which, to the naive and the cynical, implies the replacement of one government with another. This is a pernicious euphemism. Without the “Zionist regime” -- which is to say, the democratically elected government of Israel, its armed forces and security services, and the courts and structures of state -- the Jews who survived the onslaught that “dismantled” their government would face immediate dispossession, and perhaps much worse.

Rosenbaum, an expert on Hitlerian euphemism, told me that one difference between Nazi rhetoric and that of the Iranian regime is that the Iranians’ words are blunter, especially when compared with pre-Kristallnacht Nazi language. Rosenbaum notes, in particular, the Iranian reliance on epidemiological metaphor when describing Israel: This year, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Israel is “a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off.” [this had been pointed out many years before, and repeatedly, by others who unaccountably do not get enough attention  -- the metaphor is not Iranian, but was first used, repeateldy, and is still used, by Muslim Arabs, along with the metaphor of "Israel as a dagger in the heart of the Arab world" which must be entirely removed]

Which returns us to Rosenbaum’s central question: Is it obsessive for a group of people who not long ago saw a third of their number slaughtered to worry when the leaders of Iran call Israel a cancerous tumor? Or is it the natural and appropriate response of a people who, conditioned by history, choose to err on the side of caution?

Posted on 08/29/2012 8:05 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Caucasus suicide bomber named as Russian widow
(Reuters) - An ethnic Russian woman, who was both wife and widow of Islamist militants, was named on Wednesday as the suicide bomber who killed a moderate Muslim cleric in the North Caucasus just as President Vladimir Putin was pleading for national unity.

Tuesday's assassination of Said Atsayev, 74, a prominent Sufi sheikh in the troubled province of Dagestan who had spoken out against violent Islam, heightened tensions which Putin, visiting another Muslim region, had been trying to calm.

Police said Aminat Kurbanova (picture here) had posed as a pilgrim to the cleric's home and detonated an explosive belt packed with nails and ball bearings, killing Atsayev, herself and six others, including an 11-year-old boy visiting with his parents.

A security source said the woman, aged either 29 or 30, was born with the ethnic Russian family name Saprykina but converted to Islam and was married to an Islamist militant. Two previous husbands, also militants, had been killed, the source added.

Posted on 08/29/2012 8:09 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Judith Butler, A Symptom Of The Age's Disease

From the Jerusalem Post:

German Jewish leader: Rescind Israel hater's prize


General Secretary of Germany's Jewish community demands that Frankfurt rescind Adorno prize from BDS-supporter Judith Butler.

Judith Butler. Photo: Wikipedia
BERLIN – The city of Frankfurt’s decision to award the Adorno prize to an American professor who supports a comprehensive cultural and academic boycott of the Jewish state prompted Stephen J. Kramer, the general secretary of Germany’s Jewish community, on Sunday to demand that Frankfurt not honor Dr. Judith Butler. Kramer told The Jerusalem Post , “It is a systemic failure.

Only a curatorium that lacks the moral firmness necessary for its task could separate Butler’s contribution to philosophy from her moral depravity. A person who allies herself with deadly enemies of the Jewish state, considers Hezbollah and Hamas legitimate social movements and part of the global left, and would strangle Israel with a boycott does not deserve this honor.”

Dr. Judith Butler, a professor in the rhetoric and comparative literature departments at the University of California, Berkeley, who has embraced boycott, sanctions and divestment groups targeting Israel, is slated to receive the Adorno prize on September 11.

Butler flatly rejected, via email to the Post, that she endorsed Hamas and Hezbollah. When asked specifically by the Post about her position toward the two anti-Israel terror groups, she declined to comment.

Kramer, from the 105,000- member German Jewish council, said it was not only “shocking” but “sad” that Frankfurt is to honor Butler.

“She is a well-known hater of Israel,” and to award her a prize named after a philosopher who was forced to emigrate because of his Jewish background cannot be viewed as a mistake, said Kramer.

Frankfurt has a history of honoring anti-Israel academics. In 2010, the city honored Alfred Grosser, a French academic who equated Israel with Nazi Germany. Israel’s Embassy in Berlin slammed Grosser and the city of Frankfurt for the ceremony at the time.

Kramer said the fact that Butler “is Jewish makes her worthy of a study of the psychology of self-hatred but in no way as a laureate of the Adorno prize whose name is now stained.”

Theodor Adorno (1903-1969) was a German Jewish social philosopher who taught in post-Holocaust Frankfurt. He wrote about contemporary anti-Semitism, and resisted in his writings German leftist students who attacked and sought to delegitimize Israel after the Six Day War.

In her email statement to the Post, Butler wrote that “I am a scholar who gained an introduction to philosophy through Jewish thought, and I understand myself as defending and continuing a Jewish ethical tradition that includes figures such as Martin Buber and Hannah Arendt. It is simply untrue that I am anti-Semitic or self-hating.

Indeed, I have been alarmed by the number of Jews who, dismayed by Israeli politics, seek to disavow their Jewishness. I am not one of those.”

In response to Post emails and telephone queries on Monday, the new mayor of Frankfurt, Peter Feldmann, declined to comment. Felix Semmelroth, a representative from Frankfurt’s culture and science agency wrote the Post on Monday that Judith Butler will be honored “as an outstanding philosopher and literature professor, especially her contributions to the relationship between identity and body and gender research, as well as moral philosophy.” He also noted that she has made contributions to the study of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

The Adorno prize, which comes with a 50,000 Euro award, recognizes excellence in the disciplines of philosophy, music, theater and film, and is presented every three years.

A prominent US gay activist and writer, Jayson Littman, who has written articles about gay rights for the Post and Haaretz, told the Post, “I am saddened that a respected-academic like Judith Butler is working to turn the hatred of Israel into a queer value, and certainly hope that in honor of Theodor Adorno, she turns down the award.”

Butler earned global attention as a groundbreaking scholar in the field of gender studies in the 1990’s. Though not trained as a Mideast academic, she has increasingly turned her attention to Israel.

Posted on 08/29/2012 9:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
An Introduction To The Prose Of Judith Butler

From the Wikipedia article on Judith Butler:

In 1998, Dennis Dutton's journal Philosophy and Literature gave Butler First Prize in its "Bad Writing Competition," which claims to "celebrate bad writing from the most stylistically lamentable passages found in scholarly books and articles."[44] Butler's 94 word long sentence, published in the journal Diacritics, for which she received the award was:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

Dutton discontinued the contest after being criticized for its apparently hostile spirit. Butler responded to Dutton's criticism, with a letter to the London Review of Books  and an op-ed piece for The New York Times. She argued that writing clearly can make the author too reliant on common sense and as such make language lose its potential to "shape the world" and shake up the status quo. Stanley Kurtz, in turn, argued against Butler's op-ed in a letter to the New York Times titled, "Bad Writing Has No Defense." Stephen K. Roney also responded that "many—indeed, most—generally recognized “great thinkers” have been clear and lucid in their writing [...] Is Butler claiming to be deeper than all of them?"

Posted on 08/29/2012 9:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Judith Butler, Who Encapsulates The Worst In American Academic Life

Judith Butler (born 24 February 1956) is an American post-structuralist philosopher who has contributed to the fields of feminism, queer theory, political philosophy, and ethics.

  • Gender is not something that one is, it is something one does, an act… a "doing" rather than a "being".
  • There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; that identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results.
    • "Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity" (1990)
  • Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.
    • "Imitation and Gender Insubordination" in Inside/Out (1991) edited by Diana Fuss
  • Indeed it may be only by risking the incoherence of identity that connection is possible.
    • Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (1993)
  • Perhaps the promise of phallus is always dissatisfying in some way.
    • "The Lesbian Phallus and the Morphological Imaginary" (1993), later published in The Judith Butler Reader (2004) edited by Sarah Salih with Judith Butler
  • The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.
    • "Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time" (1997), which received first place in the Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest
  • There was a brief moment after 9/11 when Colin Powell said “we should not rush to satisfy the desire for revenge.” It was a great moment, an extraordinary moment, because what he was actually asking people to do was to stay with a sense of grief, mournfulness, and vulnerability.
    • Interview with Judith Butler. in: The Believer. May 2003
  • I am much more open about categories of gender, and my feminism has been about women's safety from violence, increased literacy, decreased poverty and more equality. I was never against the category of men.
    • Judith Butler "As a Jew, I was taught it was ethically imperative to speak up" in Haaretz. February 24, 2010
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:28 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Judith Butler On Jews, Israel, Hamas And Hezbollah

In a later 2004 article, "Jews and the Bi-National Vision," published in Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, Butler attributes this vision to the writings of Martin Buber.On September 7, 2006, Butler participated in a faculty-organized teach-in at the University of California, Berkeley, against the 2006 Lebanon WarButler has expressed support for the 2005 BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, saying that one "can only go to an Israeli institution, or an Israeli cultural event, in order to use the occasion to call attention to the brutality and injustice of the occupation and to articulate an opposition to it." .

According to Butler "Understanding Hamas/Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left, is extremely important."
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Judith Butler, In All The Glory Of Her Gobbledygook And Tinsel-Glittering Prizes

From Wikipedia:

Publications (incomplete)

Selected honors and awards

Posted on 08/29/2012 9:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Christopher Hitchens On Judith Butler's Impenetrable And Worthless Prose
From The New York Times
May 22, 2005

Transgressing the Boundaries

A professor at the Ecole Normale Superieure is popularly supposed to have said: ''I agree that it works in practice. But how can we be certain that it will work in theory?'' In the course of the past few years, sections of the literary academy have had to endure a good deal of ridicule, arising from this simple jest. The proceedings of the Modern Language Association, in particular, have furnished regular gag material (gag in the sense of the guffaw, rather than the less common puke reflex) for solemn papers on ''Genital Mutilation and Early Jane Austen: Privileging the Text in the World of Hampshire Feudalism.'' (I paraphrase only slightly.) The study of literature as a tradition, let alone as a ''canon,'' has in many places been deposed by an emphasis on deconstruction, postmodernism and the nouveau roman. The concept of authorship itself has come under scornful scrutiny, with the production of ''texts'' viewed more as a matter of social construct than as the work of autonomous individuals. Not surprisingly, the related notions of objective truth or value-free inquiry are also sternly disputed; even denied.

A new language or ''discourse'' is often considered necessary for this pursuit, and has been supplied in part by Foucault and Derrida. So arcane and abstruse is the vernacular involved that my colleague James Miller, dean of the graduate faculty at the New School, wrote a celebrated essay inquiring ''Is Bad Writing Necessary?'' He took up the claim made by Judith Butler that ''linguistic transparency'' is really a deception, fettering critical possibilities and inhibiting those who wish ''to think the world more radically.'' Butler agrees with Theodor Adorno, who argued in his ''Minima Moralia'' and elsewhere that ''plain words'' are the building blocks of consensus and authority, compelling people in effect to employ notions that have been preconceived for and imposed upon them. In the opposite corner is the linguist Noam Chomsky, who tends to agree with George Orwell that honest language is a weapon against obfuscation and propaganda.

The effusively respectful entry for Judith Butler in ''The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism'' reads, in part:

''Drawing widely from Nietzsche, Michel Foucault on discursive formation, J. L. Austin and Jacques Derrida on speech act theory and iterability . . . Louis Althusser on interpellation . . . Jacques Lacan on subjective foreclosure and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's work on queer performativity, Butler fashions a notion of performative identity that 'must be understood not as a singular or deliberate ''act,'' but, rather, as the reiterative and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects that it names.' ''

Thanks to this notion of performativity, Butler has been able to contest a misinterpretation of Nietzsche's work on the difference between ''being'' and ''doing.'' To quote from a section discussing her book ''Bodies That Matter'':

''If she were arguing that gender simply was a kind of theatrical performance, 'that could mean that I thought that one woke in the morning, perused the closet or some more open space for the gender of choice, donned that gender for the day, and then restored the garment to its place at night.' But as Butler makes clear time and time again throughout her work, 'the reduction of performativity to performance . . . would be a mistake.' ''

So the dancer and the dance are not the same after all. But does one really require a new language or theory to disprove the claim -- made by whom, incidentally? -- that gender is a mere role, or only a costume for that role?

Wondering how the opposite case might be summarized by the editors, I turned to Orwell and found that he isn't even mentioned in the index. Nor, for that matter, is A. J. Ayer or Ernest Gellner. Perhaps the editors (Michael Groden and Martin Kreiswirth, who teach English at the University of Western Ontario, and Imre Szeman, who teaches English at McMaster University) assume that everybody has already assimilated ''Politics and the English Language'' or ''Language, Truth and Logic'' or that great critique of J. L. Austin and Oxford linguistic philosophy, ''Words and Things.'' But then, they grant a servile entry to the exploded figure of Raymond Williams, wrongly credited as the pioneer of cultural studies. Or perhaps they imagine that the argument began with Butler? Chomsky does receive an entry of his own as well as some mentions under other headings, and he is sternly reminded, by one Nigel Love, that he ''has nothing to say about genuinely innovative uses of language -- creativity that consists in going beyond what is generated by the rules -- ultimately, perhaps, because radical innovation calls into question the fundamental structuralist tenets of the enterprise.''

Adorno once remarked (this was also in ''Minima Moralia'') that a film of true aesthetic value could be made, and be in full conformity and compliance with all the rules of the Hays Office, as long as there was no Hays Office. That was, if you like, an ironic and paradoxical appreciation of the transgressive. However, Adorno did not mean that there were no rules or that they were made only to be broken, and what is true of celluloid and entertainment may be even more true of the language that we must (if it really is a language and not a jargon) speak in common.

One might vulgarly suspect, of those who wish, for whatever reason, that they could write like Judith Butler, that their aspiration to a superior and less intelligible tongue has something elitist about it. Yet one can state with confidence that the editors and contributors to this volume consider themselves to be subversives of the most audacious kind. Class, race and gender, and the yearnings of all ethnic and sexual minorities, are virtually assumed to be inherent in the agenda. The sections on Marxism are representatively dull and respectful (and ideologically pure, too, since the name of Leon Trotsky is barely mentioned and not mentioned at all in the entry on the ''New York intellectuals'' who wrote and operated in his orbit). Add to the omission list, then, the author of ''Literature and Revolution'' and, with Andre Breton, of ''Toward a Revolutionary Art.''

I decided to look up another author with whose work I have some acquaintance, and with whom I had actually met. Here is a typical passage from the discussion of Louis Althusser, a true son of the Ecole Normale and for many years a guru to the theoreticians:

''In fact, in a manner that is nonreductive, Althusser asserts that art, theology, literature and family life are determined according to their own relatively autonomous laws of production, which are not governed by or identical to the laws of production in the ordinary sense of goods and commodities.''

As with Butler's elaborate denial of the concept of gender as a uniform, one wonders why it should take a dialectical materialist so long to conclude that some crucial elements of the ''superstructure'' of society are not solely determined by its economic base. How much tautology, in other words, can one bear?

Respectful mention is made of Althusser's reputation-making books, ''Pour Marx'' and ''Lire le 'Capital.' '' Of the publication of these, as he wrote in his own memoir, ''The Future Lasts Forever,'' their author wrote: ''I became obsessed with the terrifying thought that these texts would expose me completely to the public at large as I really was, namely a trickster and a deceiver and nothing more, a philosopher who knew nothing about the history of philosophy or about Marx.'' By 1980, Althusser had been exposed as the utter fraud he later confessed himself to be, and furthermore confined in a mental institution for, among other things, the strangling of his wife. No mention of his memoir and no hint of his recantation appears in this ''Guide.''

The use of the word ''assert'' in the excerpt about Althusser is a rare example of plain speech and may possess an irony unintended by its authors, Julian Holland and Gary Wihl. Althusser was renowned, even at the height of his fame, for ignoring the difference between asserting something and establishing it. But in the entry for St. Augustine, the same euphemistic and emollient prose is employed, in discussing a father of the church, as is used to discuss a 20th-century pseudo-intellectual:

''Augustine stresses that the knowledge of nonsensible realities is always problematic and approximate at best, though he argues that the human predicament of unknowing will be overcome in the next life, where the saved can encounter God/Truth 'face to face.' ''

Surely ''he asserts'' would have been better in this instance than ''he argues.'' We are speaking, after all, of someone who is credited here with the foundation of ''medieval semiology.'' And how about this, also from the entry about the celebrated bishop of Hippo? ''After his conversion he redirected his rhetorical skills and flair for debate toward the challenges of biblical exegesis and toward the eradication of rival interpretations of Scripture and Christian practice, views that he tended to construe as heretical.''

Good old ''eradication.'' You can't beat it. A ''guide'' that cloaks both Christian and Communist dogma in such facile language can, one supposes, at least have a claim to be evenhanded.

Words continue to lose their anchorage in meaning as one turns the pages. '' 'The question of gender is a question of language.' This statement is Barbara Johnson's . . . and her succinct formulation of the relationship between gender and language does much to characterize the approach of a group of feminists who draw upon the discourses of poststructuralism.'' What, apart from its brevity, is ''succinct'' about an assertion -- not at all a formulation -- that asserts both too much and too little and that proves nothing? If it is indeed true that such a remark characterizes a school of thought, then so much the worse.

Sometimes an unconscious humor infects the leaden pages: ''The sometimes formidable challenge of Spivak's work as a whole derives partly from the effortless and eclectic way that she draws on discourses as diverse as. . . .'' Hold it right there. Does the mercurial Prof. Gayatri Spivak really want to be depicted as ''sometimes'' formidable? And isn't ''effortless'' a bit backhanded? The three words ''as a whole'' are a sheer waste of text. ''Eclectic,'' however, seems more or less right.

The French, as it happens, once evolved an expression for this sort of prose: la langue de bois, the wooden tongue, in which nothing useful or enlightening can be said, but in which various excuses for the arbitrary and the dishonest can be offered. ''The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism'' is a pointer to the abysmal state of mind that prevails in so many of our universities. In another unconsciously funny entry, on the Kenyan Marxist Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Nicholas Brown appears to praise his subject for a postcolonial essay entitled ''On the Abolition of the English Department.'' Like the other contributors to this shabby volume, Brown ought to be more careful of what he endorses. The prospect of such an abolition, at least in the United States, becomes more appetizing by the minute.
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:58 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: If I Only Had A Brain (Ray Bolger)

Watch, and listen, here.

Qaere: Is Judith Butler more like the Scarecrow, or like the Wizard of Oz, only needing the curtain to be pulled back?

Posted on 08/29/2012 10:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Once To Every Man And Nation: Between Butler And Barzun, It's A War To The Death

Here, in black, is Judith Butler:

The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power.

And here, in white, is Jacques Barzun:

Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred.

If it were possible to talk to the unborn, one could never explain to them how it feels to be alive, for life is washed in the speechless real.

Idealism springs from deep feelings, but feelings are nothing without the formulated idea that keeps them whole.

A man who has both feet planted firmly in the air can be safely called a liberal as opposed to the conservative, who has both feet firmly planted in his mouth.

It seems a long time since the morning mail could be called correspondence.

Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.

In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day's work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.

Art distills sensation and embodies it with enhanced meaning in a memorable form - or else it is not art.

Great cultural changes begin in affectation and end in routine.

Except among those whose education has been in the minimalist style, it is understood that hasty moral judgments about the past are a form of injustice.
“Convince yourself that you are working in clay, not marble, on paper not eternal bronze: Let that first sentence be as stupid as it wishes.”
“You never step in the same river of thought twice, because neither you nor it are the same.”
“Let us face a pluralistic world in which there are no universal churches, no single remedy for all diseases, no one way to teach or write or sing, no magic diet, no world poets, and no chosen races, but only the wretched and wonderfully diversified human race.”
“no subject of study is more important than reading…all other intellectual powers depend on it.”
“The book, like the bicycle, is a perfect form.”
“Except among those whose education has been in the minimalist style, it is understood that hasty moral judgments about people in the past are a form of injustice.”
“To delve into history entails, besides the grievance of hard work, the danger that in the depths one may lose one’s scapegoats.”

“The French call mot juste the word that exactly fits. Why is this word so hard to find? The reasons are many. First, we don't always know what we mean and are too lazy too find out.”
“We hear them continually on TV: hence they occur first when it is our turn to talk. In this regard, talk may be said to be the enemy of writing. If you observe yourself when on the point of writing that the word rising spontaneously to your mind is not the hard, clear words of a lover of plain speech, but this mush of counterfeits and cliches.”
“Simple English is no one’s mother tongue. It has to be worked for.”
“Since it is seldom clear whether intellectual activity denotes a superior mode of being or a vital deficiency, opinion swings between considering intellect a privilege and seeing it as a handicap”
“If civilization has risen from the Stone Age, it can rise again from the Wastepaper Age.”
“The root difficulty in all cases was the state of being blind and deaf to words-- not seeing the words for the prose. Being adults, they had forgotten what every child understands, which is giving and taking a meaning is not automatic and inevitable”
“The mind tends to run along the groove of one's intention and overlook the actual expression.”
“We are thus led to ask what the writer looks for and how he trains himself to look for it. The answer is: he makes himself habitually aware of words, positively self conscience of them about them, careful to follow what they might say and not to jump to what they might mean.”

Posted on 08/29/2012 10:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Hezbollah Tattered And Torn

From The New York Times:

August 28, 2012

Can Hezbollah Survive the Fall of Assad?

BEIRUT, Lebanon

THE Syrian government has tried many times to transfer its crisis to Lebanon, but it has failed to cause a real explosion that would lead to another Lebanese civil war. It has, however, succeeded in inciting small outbreaks of violence that have pushed the country to the verge of a breakdown for the past 17 months.

Clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between Sunnis and Alawites have intensified in recent days — but this time the Lebanese Army intervened to stop the fighting.

Something fundamental has changed: the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, long Syria’s powerful proxy in Lebanon, has become a wounded beast. And it is walking a very thin line between protecting its assets and aiding a crumbling regime next door.

It seems that the Lebanese Army has finally received political cover, mainly from President Michel Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Mikati, to confront Hezbollah and its allies and to put an end to the violence. On Sunday, 18 armed men from a family with links to Hezbollah were arrested by the Lebanese Army. Two trucks and a warehouse full of weaponry were confiscated.

This arrest is politically significant. It means that the Lebanese prime minister and president are no longer willing to jeopardize stability in Lebanon by giving Hezbollah full cover, as they have usually done since June 2011, when a Hezbollah-dominated government came to power. Indeed, Syria is losing sway in Lebanon, and Hezbollah no longer exercises the same level of control over state institutions as it once did.

Today, Hezbollah is regarded by the Arab street as an ally of a dictator who is killing his people. Losing regional popularity is one thing, but losing its constituency at home is something Hezbollah cannot tolerate. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2013, and Hezbollah prefers not to take any risks. It will do whatever it takes to maintain its control in Lebanon. So will Iran. Iran is doing its utmost to prolong Mr. Assad’s rule in Syria, and it would likely do much more to hang on to Lebanon. Tehran can’t afford to lose both.

The erosion of Hezbollah’s control started with the arrest on Aug. 9 of Bashar al-Assad’s friend and adviser, the former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha, in connection with a seizure of explosives that were to be used in northern Lebanon. Lebanese authorities jointly charged him and the Damascus-based Syrian national security chief, Gen. Ali Mamluk, with plotting “terrorist attacks” and the assassination of political and religious figures in Lebanon.

While none of Syria’s allies in Lebanon spoke in defense of Mr. Samaha, a reaction came from the street a few days later. A Shiite family whose son was abducted in Syria began a wave of random kidnappings of Syrians; rioters blocked the road to the Beirut airport; dozens of Syrians were abducted, and their shops were vandalized.

The political storm that followed Mr. Samaha’s arrest subsided immediately. Hezbollah did not comment on the arrest, but in a speech following the events, its chief, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, told the public that he and his party were incapable of controlling the street, hinting at more chaos to come.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government, which is still dominated by Hezbollah, has failed to address several basic domestic issues like public services and security. Many communities, including Shiites in the south and in Beirut’s southern suburbs, have taken to the streets in the past few months to protest increasing power outages.

Mr. Assad may not yet realize that he is a dead man walking, but Hezbollah does. That does not mean, however, that the party will change its stance on Syria as the Palestinian militant group Hamas has done. If it did, it would lose its supply lines from Iran. So Hezbollah’s main objective is to avoid a full explosion before the parliamentary elections. After all, an election victory would allow Hezbollah to maintain its political control over Lebanon democratically, without having to resort to arms. Tehran would also prefer to avoid any war that would force Hezbollah to get involved — namely, a war with Israel. That could lead to the party’s losing both its weapons and its supporters.

Hezbollah has an interest in keeping the violence at a simmer for the moment, but the longer Mr. Assad stays, the greater the risk that sectarian tensions will boil over in Lebanon. [and that, for the non-Muslims of the world, is a good thing]
Posted on 08/29/2012 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
A Musical Interlude: Once To Every Man And Nation
Listen here.
Posted on 08/29/2012 10:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Library Of America (Re-Posting)
Will there be a Library of America volume devoted to Jacques Barzun? A question for study and discussion.
Meanwhile, here's a re-posting of something put up on Dec. 3, 2006:
Library of America:   À chacun son goût

Okay, if no one takes my proffered bait*, then I will.  

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Or has he been done already, either by himself (Judge Posner, no doubt, presiding) or possibly in some legal omnium-gatherum volume along with Learned Hand and Brandeis and Jackson and Roscoe Pound and even a little bit of Scott on Trusts and Wigmore on Evidence and John Chipman Gray on Real Property  (Restrains on the Alienation of) and...well, the whole Langdell line. 

John Chipman Gray -- no, sorry, here though not above I mean John Jay Chapman. It's the perennial problem of those doubles. You know how it is when you get older. You're always confusing Marie Boroff with Max Beloff, and Alexandre Koyre with Alexandre Kojeve, and even -- but this won't happen for a few years yet -- Jean Seznec with Jean Starobinski. It just happens. Nothing to be done but grin and bear it. Anyway, as I was saying -- John Jay Chapman.

And did they do Nathanael West yet? I can't remember. If not, then now's the time.

Historians: not individual volumes, perhaps, but a 19th century sampler with Fiske and Bancroft and Hay, and then an accompanying 20th-century volume, with Beard and Becker and Parrington and Perry Miller and Morgan and Handlin and Bailyn and.. well, just a bit of each.

Ambrose Bierce -- does he rate a volume? Or should he be included in a volume on 19th century humorists of the sub-Twain (just below the Mississippi steamer's Plimsoll line) variety, along with less known figures, including Bill Nye in the West and James Russell Lowell's dialect (Yawcob Strauss) verse, and others who need to be memorialized. Or has that too been done?

Famous environmentalists if they too don't have separate volumes: John Muir to Aldo Leopold to Rachel Carson right up to the grim present, where everything has come true, and with a vengeance.

Letters by those whose chief claim is their correspondence with the great. Think of all those large houses, from Oyster Bay to Kennebunkport, that  contain the two-volumed "Letters of Walter Hines Page" and also those of Colonel House to Woodrow Wilson, or if the libraries were continuously stocked, then the Holmes-Laski Letters (those more likely to be found on Martha's Vineyard than in Maine). Why not collect the best, and put them together in companion volumes of Eighteenth Century, Nineteenth Century, and Twentieth Century Epistolary Prose?

Medicine: a similar collection of major papers up to about 1920, when the literature may become too technical. Start with Benjamin Rush on smallpox and go on to a description of the first use of ether by Morton at what is now called the  Ether Dome at the Mass. General, then right up to the quinine-treated malaria at the Panama Canal. Lots of doctors and doctor's wives will buy it, and specialized courses in "Science Writing" are all the rage in "Writing Across the Curriculum Courses" from metallic MIT to the greenswards of Berkeley.

That's enough for now. Time for a walk. It's not going to stay warm much longer, you know. Then again, perhaps it's going to stay much warmer, much much longer. But just for today, please,  read New English Review, trust in God, and take short views.

*A bait on purpose laid to make the taker mad.

Posted on 08/29/2012 10:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
That Famous MESA NOSTRA Contest

The prose of Judith Butler naturally put me in mind of others -- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Gayatri Spivak, and others of that ilk -- and that made me remember, fondly, the MESA Nostra Contest and the prose passage put up for contestants to identify.

So I've decided to re-post it. If you feel like entering the contest, do so -- but don't peek, don't try to find out the author by googling around. That would never do.,

Sunday, 5 December 2010

MESA Nostra is the professional organization in which, in order to become a uomo d'onore, or a donna d'onore for that matter, no kneecaps need be broken, no nightclubs broken up, no trucks hijacked, no girls put on the streets, no cocaine contraband prescribed by "los medicos" of Medellin be distributed. No, there are only two requirements to become a Made Man in MESA Nostra. The first is easy: you must view the entire Middle East through ideological blinkers, in which Islam scarcely matters, and in which, whatever happens, Jihad-conquest and dhimmitude will be ignored, so that contemporary expressions of millennium-old doctrines, attitudes, impulses will be interpreted without the slightest reference to those doctrines, attitudes, impulses.

That is content.

There is also form.

What would Shakespeare have been like had he not forced himself to squeeze his dramatic verse into the Elizabethan doublet of iambic pentameter? Or Spenser, without the Spenserian stanza? It is not only writers in Elizabethan England who found such constraints productive. How impressive that 20th century French writer who managed to produce a novel without using the letter "e," or that other one who composed a series of works based on a single device: the beginning and the final sentences of whatever he wrote were phonetically identical, though semantically wildly different, and he assigned himself the writerly task of beating a plausible path through the overgrown jungle of language, a path that led ineluctably from that first sentence to the same-sounding, but different-meaning, last sentence.

Many of those in MESA Nostra may not realize it, but they are akin to Shakespeare and Spenser, Georges Perec and Raymond Roussel. For them it is not a question of verse-forms, or lipograms, or homophonic puns. Their self-imposed constraint consists in limiting their scholarly lexicon to fewer than fifty nouns, and two-dozen verbs. They harness these exhausted nouns, these over-worked verbs, and put them to work, no matter the subject. No matter the subject.

Thus the prose produced by one member of MESA Nostra will sound remarkably like that of another. Here we mean the enthusiastic, full-throated members of MESA Nostra, those whose interests do not stray very far from "Iraq" and "Palestine" and "colonialism" and "empire," and the obvious ring-changing variants: "occupied Iraq/Palestine," "Iraqi/Palestinian people," "Israeli colonialism," "American empire." Many members of MESA Nostra membership have a deep and abiding personal and professional interest in these matters, as they do in little else. They can do no other.

But a few members of MESA Nostra are members-in-name-only, who remain different in mental makeup, and distant from the bureaucratic intrigues, the political tendentiousness, the anti-American,anti-Israel, anti-Western themes and variations. These "non-member" members do not write about the "construction of Palestinian identity" nor the "(de)construction of Israeli identity." Rather, they write about "The Methods of the Muhaddithin," or "Ephraim of Edessa," or "Xavier de Planhol and Agricultural Desolation in the Berber Heartland," or "Yemeni Jews as Chattel Slaves" or "The Destruction of the Coptic Churches of Upper Egypt," or "Schacht, Jeffery, Gottheil: Three Masters of Morningside Heights" or "Arabic but not Quran'ic: The Evidence of Numismatics" or "Twelver-Shi'ism in Mevlevistan" or "Ibn Battuta, the Rihla, and the Destruction of Hindustan" or "Why There Was No Arab Copernicus or Vesalius: An Inquiry" or "Aisha and Marriage in the Islamic Republic of Iran" or "Quran'ic Memorization and Comparative I.Q. Levels in Post-Independence India" or "Sir William Jones and the Re-Discovery of India" or "The Role of Hadrami Traders in the Muslim Conquest of the East Indies" or "The Story of Thomas Pellow" or "Indo-Persian Miniatures of Jihad-Conquest in the British Museum Collections: A Catalogue Raisonee" or "Table-Talk of a Mesopotamian Judge: A Critical Edition" or "Book-Binding at the Abbasid Court" or "The Role of Hungarian Converts in Ottoman History" or "The War Within Islam: Universalist Claims, Arab Supremacist Doctrine" or "The Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya and Pacta Sunt Servanda: Muhammad and Grotius on the Law of War and Peace" or ... made these up just now to give you -- and some future doctoral candidates --  an idea. But these are not the people whom we have in mind when we discuss MESA Nostra at JihadWatch. We are talking about the other kind.

And it was with that other kind in mind - the card-carrying careerists, the blurb-and-reference swappers, the runners-for-office, the risers-high, the much-interviewed, the solemn dispensers of wisdom to the unwary, the True Believers - that we created the MESA Nostra Contest.

The contest is simple. Below is a single paragraph, itself consisting of a single sentence, transparently written in Mesanostran. Contestants are asked to identify the author.

"In conclusion, I feel that this work of analysis, by focusing on the implications of the phallic hegemony of Wehrmacht-helmeted Israeli troops and their supporters throughout the American empire, both equally unappeasable in their demonstrable need for "the Other," does what in a quasi-heuristic sense it was intended to do, as it manages to break away from all Eurocentric approaches to discourses of postcolonial subalternity, or even of meta-alterity, and comes so subversively close in its disjunctive interrogation of the counter- or, more exactly, anti-mimesis which is inherently essential to Mesopotamian or indeed to Cairene, Abbasid, Jordanian or Palestinian thought for, as a native of (Amman, Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Islamabad, Ramallah, Teheran, etc. - choose one) and hence a non-European, I am of necessity self-assigned to that category of people best placed to perform such a mission of interrogating all postcolonialist as well as narrativised specificity, but of equal necessity, not as one obviously intent on de-undermining or rather meta-determining the poststructuralist or post-postmodern universalism, with its customary relativised discourse analysis which seldom lends itself to anticipatory prolepsis, but on the other hand my critique is quite meta-consciously deeply para-rooted within, as well as up-rooted out of, and obviously from, Western thought with its inalienably alien constructions of meta-identity and hypersexuality, which necessarily give rise to post-essentialism which, in a larger sense, serves merely to violate all the strategic critiques of hegemonic historiographical constructions of essences, whether of the Orient or of scholars who deny the self-referentiality of all postcolonialist essentializing."

The prize for the first correct entry emailed to [email protected] will  be a nicely framed copy of Professor Hamid Dabashi's celebrated Poem in Prose to Edward Said, which you may read now by googling "Hamid Dabashi" and "Edward Said." For many, that will be prize enough.

Posted on 08/29/2012 10:59 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
An Egyptian Scholar Starts To Ponder
From AlAhram Online:
The tragedy of books in Egypt
Khaled Fahmy, 9 Aug 2012
Looking at Egypt, historian Khaled Fahmy affords a harrowing insight into the status of that most indispensable of commodities: the book

In recent weeks I encountered two incidents that made me feel extremely sorrowful about the situation of books, reading, and indeed culture, in Egypt.

The first happened in New York City, and requires a brief background

For the past few years, I have been working on a book that tackles the social and cultural history of Egypt during the 19th century. The book includes two chapters on the history of medicine. The first is about the history of Kasr Al-Aini medical school and public hospital, founded in 1827; the second deals with the history of public health in the country at large.

One of the central questions I pose in these two chapters regards how Egyptian society perceived modern medicine, and in particular those procedures that, at first glance, may be seen as offensive to religious beliefs and social traditions, such as dissection, vaccination and post-mortem examinations, especially of women’s bodies.

In order to answer these questions, I spent years conducting research in the Egyptian National Archives (Dar al-Wahta’iq). There I uncovered scores of fascinating original documents that shed light on the reaction of average Egyptians to such novel practices and institutions as vaccination against smallpox, modern hospitals, government clinics and the elaborate measures to collect and update vital statistics.

What I had greater trouble learning about, though, was the stance of physicians themselves to these new practices.

It is well known that the first batch of students to enter the Kasr Al-Aini Medical School had earlier been educated in Al-Azhar and therefore had considerable knowledge of shari‘a and fiqh (dogma), so I was keen to learn what they thought of the modern medicine that they were now learning in their new school.

However, the Egyptian National Archives, as rich as it is in information about patients frequenting Kasr Al-Aini, is paradoxically not that informative about that hospital’s teachers and doctors. I therefore decided to move to the adjoining building, the National Library (Dar al-Kotob), for books that these doctors might have published.

Here I was aided by researchers such as Aida Nosseir who had compiled bibliographies of the first books published by the famous Boulaq Press, Egypt's oldest print-house. Amazingly, about one third of Boulaq’s publications in its first thirty years of its existence were medical titles.

Most of these medical books were translated from French by Kasr Al-Aini’s earliest graduates, those same students who had earlier studied in Al-Azhar. Some were not transaltions but authored books originally written in Arabic. Examples of the latter are Rawdat Al Nagah al-kobra fil ‘amaleyat al soghra(Wide Path to Success in Minor Surgery), written by Mohamed Ali Al-Bakly in 1843, andBahgat Al Ru'asa fi amrad al nisaa'(Pleasures of the Professors in Gynecology) by Hassan Al-Rashidi.

Both authors were among the most notable physicians of the 19th century. The first was deputy head of the Kasr Al-Aini Medical School, the second chief at the Civilian Hospital in Azbakeya.

Having compiled a list of 30 such books, I was very keen finally to sit down and read them in the National Library. However, my hopes were very quickly dashed as the National Library is, to put it gently, a total mess. Readers’ services are unheard of, catalogs are designed to misguide and confuse readers, and staff feel offended if approached for help and advice.

Worse still, I was able to find only a few of the books I was looking for. The majority of the titles I had been dreaming of consulting were simply not there. When I inquired from the “librarians” (I feel obliged to use quotation marks so as not to offend this venerable profession), I was met with bemused looks of people who could not understand why an apparently sane person could possibly be interested in consulting such out-of-date medical books. Soon the answers came back, as curt as they were infuriating: ‘In restoration’. ‘Miss-shelved’. ‘Missing’.

This all happened years ago. Since then, I have lost all hope of ever finding these books in the National Library, and satisfied myself with the gems of archival, non-published material I had found in the National Archives.

Then to my utter surprise, I came across these books in New York!! Two weeks ago, I went to Bobst Library of New York University to check some citations. As anyone who had been to Bobst knows, Philip Johnson apparently designed the building for no other reason than to induce vertigo to its users. Throughout my years of working in Bobst, I would avoid the harrowing experience of gazing down its massive, space-wasting light shaft and would head straight down to the basement. There, and to my extreme joy, I found out that Bobst has 89 of Boulaq’s earliest medical books on microfiche.

Having experienced how these amazing Egyptian books were missing from Egypt’s national library, I became intrigued to find out how a microfiche copy of them ended up in a university library in New York City, and one that is not among the largest or oldest, and certainly not the most beautiful university libraries in the US.

A small notation mentioned at the head of each fiche gave me a clue: the paper originals from which these fiches were copied are housed in the library of the University of London, and specifically of SOAS, the School of Oriental and African Studied. The question remained, though, for why was the University of London interested in acquiring 19th-century Arabic medical books that had been translated from French?

The plot thickened. The collection of fiches were not only of medical books, but covered many other subjects, including an Arabic translation of an Italian manual on how to dye silk, the first book ever to be published in Boulaq (1823). The latest book in the collection was a book on mathematics published in 1850.

Why was the University of London library interested in acquiring this eclectic collection of Boulaq publications? And if they were keen on preserving the earliest publications of this pioneering press, something that the Egyptian National Library apparently was not as keen on doing, why did they stop acquiring these books in 1850 despite the fact that Boulaq is still in operation?

I had a hunch that the answer to this question lies in an event that took place the following year, namely, the inauguration of the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, a.k.a. the Crystal Palace Exhibition held in Hyde Park in London in 1851.

As is well known, this was the first in a series of World’s Fair exhibitions that were subsequently held in such cities as Paris, Chicago and Vienna. The 1851 London Exhibition, besides being the first of these impressive fairs, was specifically designed to celebrate industry and technology. Organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, it was meant to reflect the new belief that industry and technology have the answers to all humanity’s dreams. The huge Crystal Palace that was especially constructed out of iron and glass was meant to demonstrate man’s triumph over nature.

Less known, perhaps, is the fact that Egypt participated in this exhibition. Also less known is that the Egyptian pavilion was as large as that of Turkey, even though Egypt was still, technically and legally, only a mere province within the Ottoman Empire.

Browsing through the catalogue of the exhibition, scanned and available online via Google, I found a detailed description of the artefacts sent by Egypt, a list that showed the level of science and technology reached in Egypt at that time.

Among the 391 pieces on show were an “Egyptian plough,” “Mint-water from Rosetta,” “Narguilé, or water-pipe,” “Cap of fellah in brown beaver” and “Refined Sugar from Ibrahim Pasha refineries’. In the midst of this amazing Borgesian list of exhibits stands item no. 248 which simply states: “One hundred and sixty-five volumes of works in Turkish, Arabic and Persian, published at Boulac.”

This, then, must be the reason behind these books’ presence at the University of London’s Library. Most likely when the Egyptian delegation, which, as the Catalogue tells us, was headed by a certain Captain Abdel Hamid from Alexandria, returned to Egypt, they left behind these books which most likely were then donated to the University of London.

What I found most amazing about this story is that back in 1851 when the officials in Egypt decided to join the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations, they thought that 165 books that had recently been published in Boulaq deserved to be among the exhibits in this fair. And looking at the very humble nature of the other aretefacts, these books most probably occupied pride of place in the Egyptian pavilion.

And there was something to brag about. The collection of modern medical books translated into Arabic only few years after they had been published in French, showed an awareness of state-of-the-art medical literature, as well as the ability to produce elegant books in a clear script, fine paper, and impressive leather binding.

When one delves into these books, as I did to my utter joy in the basement of Bobst, one finds another source of amazement. For one thing, the rhyming introductions penned by the Arab editors and translators (some were Syrian, while others were Tunisian, in addition to many Egyptians) showed an acute awareness of the huge volume of the Arabic-Islamic medieval medical lore and an extreme comfort in building on it when translating modern medical literature. For another, one can easily sense the deep sense of self-confidence and pride at the accomplishments of both the Kasr Al-Aini Medical School and the Boulaq Press. For what is clearly stated in one book after the other was referring to this huge project of publication was not about “borrowing form the ‘Other’” or “Catching up with the West”, as we are wont to say nowadays, but as resurrecting, phoenix-like, an art which used to thrive in Egypt, but which had long since perished.

After days of tracking the story of these books and many more days actually reading them, a deep despondency descended on me. For here I am, sitting at a library in New York City, reading medical books that had been printed in Cairo after failing to find them back home. And while the University of London Library saw that it will have served its purpose as an institution of learning if it microfiched these books and thus made them available to a wider readership, our libraries are still informed by a philosophy of hoarding knowledge, at best, and losing books, at worst, including books that are considered rare publications by any account.

And then I found myself dealing with the second incident to which I referred at the beginning of this article. At around the same time I was basking in the pleasure, at long last, of having found these rare books, I was informed that a textbook I had requested to use for one of my courses at the American University in Cairo (AUC) has been banned by the national “Office of Censoring Publications”.

The book in question, A History of the Modern Middle East, is considered among the best textbooks on the subject, and one that has been used numerous times before at AUC. On investigating the matter further, we were told that the Office of Censoring Publications (and yes, post-Revolution Egypt still has an office with that title) objected to a number of maps in the book. Specifically, a couple of maps putting Halayeb and Sahlateen on the other side of the Egyptian-Sudanese borders were deemed wrong and offensive. But the Office of Censoring Publications was eventually gracious enough to propose manually correcting the offensive maps. Only then will the book be un-banned.

Thinking about these two incidents, I couldn’t help but compare our conditions in 1851 and in 2012.

During the mid-19th century we were truly a civilized nation, for we approached science with a spirit of free inquiry, not stopping twice to think about its provenance and not bothering about questions of authenticity, national identity or national security.

By contrast, now after our universities and libraries had failed even to preserve the books we had once translated and published, and after squandering our scientific achievements, we have been forced to seek our own scientific productions abroad.

Then, and to add insult to injury, we handed over the responsibility for protecting national security to employees at a censoring authority that has the chutzpah of naming itself the Office of Censoring Publications, and who prove with their mediocrity their utter ignorance of anything to do with knowledge, science or scholarly research.

My despondency, nay, fury, does not stem from the harm I know has been caused to free speech or academic freedom by those in charge of our national security. I too am concerned by our national security. But my fury arises from the deep conviction that national security is never achieved by banning books -- it is achieved, rather, by disseminating them.
Posted on 08/29/2012 12:14 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Islamists hack South London hospital website.

From the local south London paper the News Shopper, and the BBC

SOUTH London Healthcare Trust's website was attacked by hackers overnight. The attack meant the website was out of action for several hours although it is now back up and running.

While down, the name on the site read Group HP-Hack and displayed images of the Syrian civil war. The trust, currently in administration, runs Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Farnborough's Pru, Orpington Hospital and Queen Mary's in Sidcup.

A trust spokesman said:"We are sorry for any inconvenience to patients and visitors during the short period overnight that the website was out of action. This hacking group appears to target websites at random, and there is no reason why the SLHT site was targeted. We are investigating how this has happened."

The trust, which serves more than a million people in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, said the security of its IT systems had not been compromised. The website said "hacked!!" in red letters and featured an Arabic inscription with a sword on a black background.

The BBC Arabic Service said the inscription was the shahada, the one-line declaration of faith which needs to be said by those converting to Islam.

The inscription and sword on a black background are similar to an insignia known to be used by some Islamic extremist groups, the BBC Arabic Service added.

The website is now back online. 

Posted on 08/29/2012 12:40 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Armenians No Longer Safe In Aleppo

From Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

August 29, 2012

Aleppo No Longer A Safe Haven For Syrian-Born Armenians

By Naira Bulghadaryan, Daisy Sindelar
Gevorg Payasian's father, Asatur, was just 15 years old when he was forced to flee his home in the ancient city of Ayntap in what is now southeastern Turkey.

His entire family had been killed by Ottoman troops in what many historians now term the Armenian genocide, the mass slaughter and deportation of Anatolia's ethnic Armenians between 1915 and 1922.

Alone, he set out on foot, walking about 130 kilometers before reaching a haven in the Syrian city of Aleppo. Unbeknownst to him, his 9-year-old sister, Nektar, had somehow survived the massacre and was making the same journey.

Asatur went on to reunite with his sister in Aleppo. He went to school, started a family, and built a successful horse-breeding business from scratch.
But his son Gevorg, now a 69-year-old businessman specializing in radio equipment, believes even as he praised Syria's "merciful embrace" of his people, his father never recovered from the trauma of seeing his home and family destroyed:

​​"My father always remembered his ancestral home in Ayntap," he says. "He would tell me about how he fled from the Turks and reached Syria. The Turks had killed his parents and relatives. My father and his sister were the only survivors in their family."

Nearly a century later, it is the son who is fleeing -- leaving the city that offered his father safe harbor as the bloody 17-month battle between government loyalists and opposition rebels settles over Aleppo.

Rich History, Uncertain Future

Hundreds of Aleppans have been injured and dozens killed in the recent weeks of fighting in Syria's largest city, with government jets bombarding residential buildings and rebels waging a street-level war for control.

Tens of thousands of residents have evacuated the city in a desperate bid to escape the violence, including up to 3,000 Armenians, who have decamped for Lebanon and Armenia, leaving behind a rich history and a highly uncertain future.

Even before the World War One-era massacres, Armenians had made a home in Aleppo for centuries. The Forty Martyrs Cathedral, a 15th-century Apostolic church, is one of the oldest functioning churches in the Armenian diaspora, and the Armenian presence in the city is believed to reach back as far as the 1st century B.C.

But it was the Turkish slaughter and deportation of Armenians in the early 20th century that laid the foundation for the city's contemporary Armenian community.

PHOTO GALLERY: Aleppo's Armenian Community
Thousands of Armenians poured into Aleppo, desperate to escape the wrath of the Ottoman troops.

Settling in orphanages or large refugee camps on the outskirts of the city, the Armenians battled starvation and disease early on.

But according to Keith David Watenpaugh, a Middle East historian at the University of California at Davis, the population steadily rallied. Within the course of a generation, it had launched businesses and opened hospitals, libraries, and cultural centers,

"Over that period of time, the Armenians went from being penniless refugees, a population made up mostly of women and children survivors, to very much a middle class," he says. "[They were] involved in all sorts of forms of trade, education, medicine, dentistry, and also more traditional Armenian professions like carpets and jewelry making and so on. So they've transformed Aleppo, and they've been transformed by Aleppo."

Integrated And Prosperous

At its peak, Aleppo's Armenian population was believed to comprise as many as 220,000 people.

The community enjoyed broad cultural autonomy, with organizations like the Armenian General Benevolent Union and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation supporting Armenian-language schools, theaters, and sports clubs.

Even as a Christian minority in a Muslim-dominated city, Armenians have become an essential part of Aleppo's multicultural and commercially minded population, which includes Kurds, Circassians, and Arab Christians, as well as the country's majority Sunni Muslims.

"Part of what has made Aleppo prosperous is the diversity of its communities," Watenpaugh says. "Aleppans have an incredible sense of openness to the rest of the world."

And although Syrian Armenians have been forbidden from forming political parties or reaching the upper echelons of government, they are far from a ghetto community -- not assimilated, perhaps, but definitely integrated. Nearly all young Armenians speak fluent Arabic; many study in Arabic-language universities or serve in the Syrian military.

Since the 1970s, Aleppo Armenians have also enjoyed benevolent ties with the ruling regime. As members of the minority Alawite sect, both Hafez al-Assad and his son, current President Bashar al-Assad, actively courted the country's ethnic minorities to shore up their support base in the face of Sunni opposition.

That partnership resulted in years of relative security for Syrian Armenians. But Simon Payaslian, an Aleppo-born professor of Armenian history and literature at Boston University, suggests the association may prove toxic if and when the Assad regime falls.

"The Armenian community became very closely identified with the Assad government, just like a number of other minority groups [who] were cooperating with Assad's regime," he says. "Now the problem is once the Assad regime falls apart, and the opposition begins to consolidate power, they may begin to physically attack the Armenian community, just as a revenge factor."

Intensifying Violence

Aleppo's Armenian districts remain, for now, largely unaffected by the fighting in the city. Armenia's diaspora minister, Hranush Hakobian this week said neighborhoods such as Azize and Suleimanyeh remained under government control after briefly being seized by Syrian rebels on August 20.

But the intensifying violence has alarmed many Armenians, many of whom had already begun to feel unnerved by the slow drain of Egyptian Copts and other fellow Christian minorities away from the Middle East as the region comes under a growing Islamist influence.

A lot of Aleppan Armenians still remember the fallout of the 1982 Hama massacre, when members of the Muslim Brotherhood, incensed by the mass slaughter of Sunni Muslims at the order of Hafez al-Assad, randomly attacked Armenian schoolchildren on the street.

Watching the steady advance of the current conflict, Payasian was fearful that Armenians would once again be the target of a Sunni backlash.

"Bashar al-Assad is friendly," he says. "It was thanks to him that we were free and had a good life among various ethnic and religious groups. If it weren't for Assad, the Muslim [Islamists] would have treated Armenians badly. That's why many Armenians have left Aleppo."

In April, Payasian and his wife, Helen, locked the door to their comfortable, two-room apartment in the Nor Geghi district and left for Armenia with their daughter. Their two sons had already preceded them.

The Payasians are now settled in a well-lit but spartan apartment in central Yerevan. The transition has been rocky -- Gevorg has been unable to find work and the family is living off the earnings of one of their sons, who has found work in a pizzeria. The situation has gotten so dire that 61-year-old Helen, who suffers from diabetes, has even considered looking for work after years as a homemaker back in Syria.

Culturally, there are differences as well. Syrian Armenians speak Western Armenian, a dialect distinct from the Eastern Armenian spoken by people raised in Armenia proper. Their customary Middle Eastern cuisine has been replaced by more Russian-accented local fare.

Steady Exodus

The Payasians took only the barest essentials when they left Aleppo, a sign they hoped to soon return. But four months after their escape, they say they are likely to remain in Armenia for good, even though it means leaving behind the graves of Asatur, Nektar, and other family members who owed their survival to the city.

"We were happy there," Payasian says. "But the situation has changed."

Watenpaugh, who lived and studied in Aleppo in the 1990s, doubts even the ravages of the current conflict will be enough to persuade the Armenian community to abandon the city anytime soon. But over the next quarter-century, he predicts the population will slowly evaporate, driven away by an atmosphere that is no longer so welcoming to minorities or Christians.

In a war that has already left some 20,000 dead and send hundreds of thousands more fleeing Syria's borders to safety, the demise of Aleppo's historic Armenian community may seem a minor consequence.

But looking at the steady exodus of minorities from neighboring countries like Lebanon and Iraq, Watenpaugh maintains that the trend has the power to shape regional politics for generations to come -- just as the Armenian genocide did before it.

"If Aleppo loses its Armenians, if it loses its Arabic-speaking Christians," he says. "Aleppo will lose its vibrancy, and will also lose a lot of its ability to interact on a commercial basis with the rest of the world. If Aleppo can't survive as a multicultural city, I really worry about the rest of the region, in terms of issues of tolerance, human rights, and the ability of different kinds of people to live side by side and prosper." [as happened in Egypt when Nasser seized the property, and kicked out, Jews, Greeks, Armenians,  Italians, and others]
Posted on 08/29/2012 5:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Muslims Now Murdering Armenians In Aleppo
Armenia | Diaspora

Free Army in Zamalka district of Damascus Shot a Family for bBeing Armenian Christians. ShamTimes

Free Army in Zamalka district of Damascus Shot a Family for being Armenian Christians. ShamTimes

In Zamalka district of Damascus the grouping called “Liua Islam” realized genocide against the family of the Armenian community, their three children and husband's sister. This was reported by the Syrian news agency, ShamTimes.

The media reports that they were shot in front of the people in the street for being Armenian Christians. The local residents confirmed that the victims were representatives of the Armenian community. The militants said they are killing them as the family is against God.

According to Sham Times, then the criminals placed bombs in several buildings of the district, and urged people to leave, threatening to detonate them.
According to the information provided by one of Syrian-Armenians to "First News and Analyses", mostly Christians live in the district, and Liua Islam" criminals are against them.
Posted on 08/29/2012 5:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
A Musical Interlude: My Kinda Love (Ed Kirkeby Orch.)
Listen here.
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Rabbi Attacked In Berlin And His 6-Year-Old Daughter Threatened With Death

From Gates Of Vienna:

August 29, 2012

“Youths” Beat Rabbi in Berlin

A rabbi and his daughter have been attacked and threatened on the street in Berlin. As is generally the case in Modern Multicultural Europe, the assailants were not National Socialists, but “presumably of Arab origin”.

Many thanks to Hermes for the translation from Die Welt:

Youths beat Rabbi in Berlin

A rabbi was beaten and insulted by youngsters in the heart of Berlin. His little daughter was threatened with death, presumably by youngsters of Arab origin. The state security (office) investigates.

A rabbi from the Jewish community in Berlin-Schöneberg was attacked by four youngsters and insulted by anti-Semitic insults, all this in the presence of his little daughter. On Tuesday the 53-year-old rabbi was walking evening in Becker Street with his 6-year-old daughter when, according to information given by the police, youngsters of presumably Arab origin attacked him, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

This case sparked horror. The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit (SPD — German Socialist Part) labeled this as “cowardly attack”. The European Jewish Congress also stepped with a reminder of the attack against the Jewish school in Toulouse in March. On that occasion, an Islamist killed seven people.

Because the rabbi was wearing a traditional Jewish head cover (kippa), the youngsters asked him whether he was a Jew, and after this, they suddenly blocked the way of the father and his daughter, and injured him with multiple blows to the head. The youngsters insulted the victim and his faith, and also threatened his little daughter with death. All this happened on Tuesday at about 6:20 p.m.

Wowereit and Henkel are shocked

After this, the perpetrators escaped towards Ruben Street. The injured rabbi received outpatient treatment in a hospital. The State Security Police have initiated an investigation.
The mayor of Berlin expressed his shock at this case. The aggression was an attack against the peaceful coexistence of people in the capital. “Berlin is a metropolis open to the world in which we do not tolerate intolerance, xenophobia and anti-Semitism,” the mayor insisted.

The police will do everything in order to find and detain the perpetrators. The Minister of Interior Affairs of Berlin, Frank Henkel (CDU — German Christian Democratic Party) added that “This kind of act will be mercilessly prosecuted by the security forces.” No one should be afraid to profess his own religion.

The Jewish Democratic Forum complains about a problem of “massive” anti-Semitism

According to the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA), the rabbi was one of the first ones to be ordained in Germany after the Holocaust. The 53-year-old rabbi has been engaged for years in the dialogue with Muslims and Christians, and he said he had previously been insulted by anti-Semitic provocations in the open street. “This incident also shows how important the prevention of violence and the work of education is, which is absolutely essential to deepen,” said Lala Süsskind, the president of the JFDA.

The president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Moshe Kantor, complained that after the case of Toulouse it has still not been recognized that there is a “massive problem” in Europe. Any future anti-Semitic attack would increase the insecurity of the Jewish community.

The Paris-based EJC represents democratically-elected Jewish communities in Europe. Kantor announced a high-level meeting of representatives from European Jews and Muslims in the next week. He hopes that on this occasion there will be a common condemnation of violent acts.
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
The Ramadan Tally And Toll In Iraq

From AlAhram Online:

Attacks in Iraq killed 409 people in Ramadan: AFP tally
AFP, Monday 20 Aug 2012
Violence in Iraq kills at least 409 and wounds 795 during the holy month of Ramadan; AFP tally

Bombings and shootings in Iraq killed at least 409 people and wounded 975 during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, according to an AFP tally based on security and medical officials.

The month saw a number of deadly days, including July 23, when 113 people were killed and 259 wounded in a wave of attacks across the country, and August 16, when 82 were killed and 270 wounded.

Ramadan, when observant Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex during the day, began on July 21 and ended for Iraqi Sunnis and some Shiites after sundown on August 18, and the rest the next night.

But violence often rises during the holy month in Iraq because, "radicalised terrorists are often more intent on conducting these (suicide attacks) during the holy month of Ramadan because it is a period associated with martyrdom and self-sacrifice," said John Drake, a security analyst with AKE Group.

Violence in Iraq is down from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common.

Official figures put the number of people killed in July at 325, the highest monthly death toll in almost two years.
Posted on 08/29/2012 9:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
In Syria The Kurds Plan To Take Back The Land Given To Arabs

From The Miami Herald:

When Assad falls, Kurds in Syria say they'll take back lands given to Arabs

August 29, 2012

Sattam Sheikhmous still farms wheat on what's left of his grandfather's land, shrunk from more than 32,000 acres to less than 5,000 by the Syrian government in 1966.

"They said it was a socialist policy, but we believe it was political," said Sheikhmous, now in his 60s, referring to the government confiscation of land that began when Syria joined with Egypt, then ruled by Gamal Abdel Nasser, to form the United Arab Republic in 1958.

The land confiscation took place across the country. But in the predominantly Kurdish province of Hasaka, in Syria's northeast corner, the resettlement of Arabs from another part of the country in the 1970s created ethnic tensions that could manifest themselves violently when the Syrian government fully relinquishes control of the area, now seen by many as only a matter of time.

"We have to ask them to give us our land back. If they don't, we have to do whatever we need to do," said Sheikhmous. "It's not just our land, it's Kurdish land. If they don't leave peacefully, we will use weapons."

With Syria convulsed by a civil war that shows no signs of ending soon, the country's Kurdish region, fast against Turkey and Iraq, is surprisingly peaceful, thanks to a maneuver by the government of President Bashar Assad, who first granted the Kurds greater rights last year, then surrendered security to a Kurdish militia this summer. While anti-Assad demonstrations still take place here, there is none of the kind of fighting that has erupted in other parts of Syria.

But the history of relations between Syria's Kurdish and Arab ethnic groups suggests that peace may be short-lived, especially if Assad falls and a successor government clashes with Kurds over long-held grievances. The confiscated Kurdish areas contain both rich agricultural land and oil, and neither will be easy for Kurds to take control of.

Farming remains one of the largest sectors of the Syrian economy, and while Syria's oil wealth is considered inconsequential compared with its eastern neighbor Iraq, it is a significant source of income for the country.

"Petroleum was part of the reason they did this," said Abdel Samad Daoud, who has written a book about the land confiscations and the attempts to Arabize Kurdish areas of Syria.

Working as an agricultural engineer in a government office in Qamishli, the largest city in Hasaka province, gave Daoud access to documents that detailed the confiscations. He obtained others by bribing government officials.

"I decided to write the book in 1985," Daoud said. "It took a very long time because I had to work in secret. It took a very long time."

In 2003, he published the book under a pseudonym. After the anti-Assad uprising began last year, he republished it using his own name.

"From this point until you reach the Turkish border, they took all of the land from its owners. About 90 percent was given to the gumar," Daoud said, using the Syrian term for a group of Arabs whose land was submerged by a dam on the Euphrates River in 1974. The area he was indicating started at the village of Hatmia, about 10 miles south of the Turkish border. About 350 villages lost land, he said.

The Syrian government's effort to change the Kurdish identity had started well before that - in 1962, the government began actively changing the names of Kurdish cities and villages to Arabic ones, residents of Hasaka province said.

But it was the arrival of the gumar - with their descendants, they now number about 100,000 - that grates most here. Local anti-government activists said there were rumors the government had armed the gumar since the beginning of the anti-Assad rebellion and that in recent months, gumar villages had obtained more weapons in preparation for any Kurdish attempt to take back land.

It was considered too dangerous for a journalist in Syria illegally to attempt to talk to gumar families, many of whom support Assad.

One Kurdish anti-government activist in Qatanieh, a city with a mixed population of Arabs and Kurds, as well as gumar villages on its outskirts, offered a bleak prediction. "Both Kurds and the gumar have been hurt," the activist said. "The gumar must be given compensation. But after the regime falls, I expect it will be violent."

Posted on 08/29/2012 10:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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