Thursday, October 03, 2002
Anti-Semitism Redux

This was going to be a little entry about the brouhaha surrounding Daniel Pipes and his Campus-Watch project. While starting to write about that, I got to thinking about anti-Semitism and how it seems to be making a comeback of late, especially among the Muslim communities in Europe.

In the states, the anti-Semitism has returned in the guise of the anti-Israelism which has become a standard feature of anti-globalism rallies. The anti-globalism folks argue that they are not anti-Semitic, merely anti-Zionist, standing up for the downtrodden Palestinians. I would argue that a) the Palestinians have themselves to blame for much of their condition and b) that the anti-Zionist element of the protest very quickly spills into outright anti-Semitism.

Take Berkeley, CA, perhaps the capitol of American enlightened progressivism. My Dad reported a feeling that he was in Nuremberg in the '30s while driving around Berkeley recently. Anti-Israel posters are everywhere. A notable one shows dead Palestinian children chopped up for food and canned "according to Jewish law" by Ariel Sharon.

This is a new variation on one of the oldest and basest forms of anti-Semitism: the "blood libel" that Jews kill Gentile children to use their blood in cooking. For centuries, this calumny was used to justify the murder of Jews in Europe and the Middle East.

There is little chance that the authors of that poster will be sent for mandatory sensitivity training. Unlike the editors of the Daily Californian, Berkeley's student paper, who were censured for printing a post-9/11 cartoon showing the terrorists waking up in Hell instead of Paradise.

Something about the double-standards involved in this brought back an issue from my past.

About 10 years ago, I worked as an editor on The Daily Texan, UT's student newspaper. The paper accepted a full-page advertisement with a lot of pseudo-historical mumbo jumbo to prove that the Holocaust never happened. We raised a red flag with the paper's advisory Board which, among other things, oversaw the advertising. There ensued two weeks of frenzied discussion over whether to run the ad or not. In the end, the ad did not run.

The Holocaust ad also generated a debate within the paper. Numerous people arguedthat there could be no limits to free speech. I, for one, saw it as less an argument about freedom of speech than freedom of advertising.

During the brouhaha, I managed to get an interview with Alan Dershowitz on the issue. Dersh argued that the ad should run, but only if the Board were willing to run similar advertisements which argued the inferiority of Blacks and women.

At the time, I didn't see this as the main point. Now I think about it there's probably something to it. Had the advertisement explained, say, how African-Americans were an inferior race, I wonder if the same free speech maximalists would have been so keen to run it. Had we done so, we would no doubt have faced a mass protest outside the building. The editors would probably have been called on the carpet.

Martin Luther King once said "When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews." The progressives who have gleefully made common cause with Islamic fundamentalists (and Skinheads, by the way) against the Jewish state probably see themselves as the champions of the oppressed versus the oppressors. I wonder how many of these dreadlocked white kids have given much thought to how their values jibe with those of their strange new bedfellows.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002
The Amiri Baraka Thing

The scandal du jour of the last couple days comes to us courtesy of Amiri Baraka. Baraka, formerly Leroi Jones, started off on the fringes of the Beat scene and later turned to radical black nationalism. He was recently appointed, curiously enough, poet laureate of New Jersey.

The poet laureate recently published a piece of post-9/11 verse called "Someone Blew Up America."

The piece is essentially a screed castigating Whitey for everything from slavery to inventing AIDS. The controversial part of the poem comes from the following lines:

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed
Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers
To stay home that day
Why did Sharon stay away?

Which repeats a conspiracy theory, widely believed in the Arab world, that all Jewish people employed at the WTC were warned ahead of time not to come to work the morning of Sept. 11. Critics have attacked these lines, pointing out that they are anti-Semitic. Clearly they are (the idea of a Jewish cabal secretly controlling society is straight out of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"), but I think that this argument misses the point. The poem is anti-White in general; the anti-Semitism seems tangential to this.

Let's say he is, but how do the conspiracy theories fit into this? (Among other items listed in the poem: Princess Di was murdered and the Rosenbergs and H.Rap Brown were framed).

Also, why the Uncle Tom attacks on Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell?

And, while we're at it, why does New Jersey even need a poet laureate?

The governor of New Jersey wants strip the title from Baraka. However, neither the governor nor anyone else has the authority to do that. Baraka gets to hold the job for two years come hell or high water.

Personally, I'm not in favor of trying to kick Baraka out. As a poem "Somebody Blew Up America" reads like third-rate hip hop. The content is ugly and stupid and offensive. However, most people seem to have recognized it as ugly and stupid and offensive, which is what makes democracy great.

Presumably the tribunal which annointed Baraka read his other stuff and knew what they were getting into. Once Baraka's tenure ends, I'd like to nominate Jay-Z to replace him.

Update: Baraka refuses to apologize or resign, which seems to indicate that the poem accurately represents his feelings rather than an attempt to wind America up.

Monday, September 30, 2002
Two Years

Sometime during the first week of October, 2000 I was talking to my father-in-law about the riots that had sprung up in the Territories few days before. I told him that the mess would soon blow, just as it had during the violence in 1996.

How wrong I was.

This thing -- Intifada? War? We still haven't agreed on a name for it -- has been raging on for 24 months. We've seen the levels of cruelty and evil that this conflict can sink to. We've learned the limits of our ability to fight this thing (mainly the international political constraints) and how these limits have expanded over time.

The Palestinian economy has been reduced to ashes; the Israeli economy has taken a whomping of its own. One Israeli Prime Minister lost his job over the conflict, while the world's worst Nobel Peace Prize Laureate continues to preside over a terror campaign from his rapidly shrinking digs in Ramallah.

Over 650 Israelis and 1500 Palestinians have been killed and we see no clear signs of a resolution.

The last two years have been some of the worst this country has ever seen. The security situation has gone back half a century, to the days of the fedayeen raids. And this after a decade when it seemed that a new era was upon us, an era of peace and prosperity.

At a certain point, you become numb to a lot of it. Earlier this year, the bombings came so often that you didn't have a chance to internalize one before the next one (or two, or three) came around the bend. These days, I can barely get my hackles up at the latest moronic declaration from some European or U.N. functionary or another.

My politics have moved rightwards, as have those of a lot of Israelis who supported the Oslo process for years, only to realize that it was based on shaky assumptions. The dreams of a New Middle East have been replaced by a hawkish worldview. I feel now that nothing particularly good can come out of the primitives who inhabit most of this region. Force talks. The rest walks.

The worst part of it, I think, is that my capacity for empathy has been drained as a result of the last two years. I certainly have no empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians. They are the authors of most of their own misery. Had Arafat accepted the terms laid out at Camp David in the Summer of 2000, or at least come up with a counteroffer instead of a terrorist war, our idiot neighbors would have already had a functioning state.

But, after I get done dealing with the wounds inflicted on us by the neighbors, I don't have the energy left to care about anybody else.

I wonder where we'll be this time next year. And end to the conflict? Probably not for two or three generations, what with the mutual hatred generated in the last 24 months. Some kind of manageable modus vivendi? Possibly.

Sunday, September 29, 2002
Our Friends, British TV

I'm glad to see that the Jewish community of the UK is together enough to protest the kind of Israel coverage that the British TV channels seem to produce on a regular basis.

The Gerald Kaufman documentary mentioned in the article aired a couple of weeks ago on BBC World, which we get here on cable and satellite. I caught about 10 minutes of it (it was mistakenly listed as part of a series on railway journeys; I was curious what Israel has to offer by way of interesting train travel) before wanting to throw something at the television set.

The BBC's (an the British media's in general) anti-Israel bias is well-known, and the article points out the structural and factual problems with the recent spate of documentaries. What it fails to capture is Kaufman's smug, snide tone and his obnoxious faux-humanist high-mindedness which crosses over to rank antisemitism of the worst kind.

And people wonder why Fox News is doing so well over here.