Articles which have caught my interest. Mostly Israel stuff and other nubbins from the ongoing holy war.
Thursday, November 14, 2002
Anti-Americanism: At Home and Abroad
Two articles which examine the anti-Americanism which has become common currency in a lot of international discourse.
Barry Rubin's piece in Foreign Affairs on The Real Roots of Arab Anti-Americanism takes a pretty commonsense view of the subject. It is a rebuke to those still looking for the "root causes" in hopes that we can somehow fix them and thus make the world like America more.
This, of course, is a highly naive hope and is based on the faulty assumption that anti-American hatred in the Arab world is based on rational considerations of America's actions. In reality, Arab anti-Americanism is influenced less by what America actually does in the Middle East than by what the various Arab dictatorships tell their people (and by an unsettling dose of anti-Semitism) than by anything America does or doesn't do.
Arab governments -- which we must remember are all either dictatorial monarchies, dictatorial theocracies, or dictatorial military or quasi-military regimes -- have long used the United States (as well as Israel, and especially America's support of Israel) as a convenient whipping boy. By focusing the people's anger at an external enemy, they keep the stagnant situation in their countries from boiling over. As a result, America gets no credit for anything it tries to do to help the Middle East.
Roger Kimball's article takes this idea further. Kimball analyzes the causes of anti-Americanism, and the way that the intellectual anti-Americanism of the West influences the violent anti-Americanism outside the West.
The anti-Americanism that we see on the "Arab Street" and elsewhere outside the West has to do with what he calls a "failure of nerve." The American Empire, as it were, is in the same place the British Empire was after the war. It has lost its belief in its own legitimacy. The anti-Americanism of the Chomskyites is one (albeit marginal) symptom of this lack of will. A more serious component is a failure to act when attacked -- the primary failing of Clinton-era foreign policy.
Like it or not, this side of the world understands force better than it understands anything else. When the US is attacked in Somalia, Tanzania, or Yemen and does nothing more than half-heartedly fire off a few rockets, it convinces the nuts that America is a big paper tiger. As a result, they hit bigger targets like the WTC.
What Kimball advocates is a return to muscular intervention, the kind GWB advocates for Iraq. This is much more called for than trying to find ways of getting people to like you. Because, in the end, nothing you do will make them like you. You can, however, make them respect you.
If the Iraq situation is handled successfully and the Tikriti thugocracy is replaced by something less odious, he argues, it will help restore America's prestige and do a lot to reduce the level of anti-Americanism abroad.
More Reasons to Love Berkeley
This story just about straddles the border between funny and sad. It's natural for kids to take their political cues from their parents. And the parents have the complete right to pass on their political views to their children.
But why is it necessary to indoctrinate 5- and 6-year-olds? I object when the Palestinians indoctrinate their children to aspire to killing Jews. I object to the Settlers indoctrinating their children to hate the Palestinians. And I object to parents trotting their children who couldn't name the leaders of the United States or Iraq to protest at anti-war rallies.
Celia, age 6, who could not spell her hyphenated last name, told the crowd President Bush “wants to make war because he wants oil.”
Shouldn't these kids be out doing something more suitable for children?
Turns out the Sirhan Sirhan wanted for the murders at Kibbutz Metzer is not actually related to that other Sirhan Sirhan. It sounded too good to be true.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
For sheer entertainment value, last night's televised debate between the three candidates for Labor Party chief beat the Likud gabfest hands-down. Or at least the fifteen minutes of the debate that I saw. It was one of those great spectacles of political immolation, as all three candidates ended up the losers.
They went after each other with gusto, managing to kill any residual sympathy I might still have for them and the Labor Party. Ben-Eliezer acted like a thug; Mitzna came off as condescending and brittle; and Haim Ramon was all over the place, foaming at the mouth without letting you forget that he is an unctuous creep.
I think the best summation of the debate comes from Jpost's Calev Ben David:
The evening ended with Mishal bringing on Candid Camera host Yigal Shilon, who presented home-movie footage of a cat running in fear from an unnaturally aggressive turtle. It says something about Labor's current condition that even this ludicrously inappropriate segment didn't seem nearly as embarrassing as the 50-minute debate that preceded it.
The Likud Convention
Campaign 2003 officially kicked off last night with dicker-fests from Likud and Labor, both of whom will be choosing a party head in the next three weeks.
The Likud held a party convention to finalize the date for their primaries (Nov. 28). The event, however, was the first confronation between the two candidates to lead the Likud, in this case the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. Both men gave their stump speeches: Sharon about the need for unity and to stay the course, Bibi about the need to expel Arafat as a precondition to doing anything about the Palestinian problem.
Bibi had everything in place: He wore a sharp suit; he smiled his trademark crooked smile; his speech was filled with brimstone and fire. And yet, something wasn't there. As a commentator put it this morning, "The magician waved his hands, but the magic didn't come."
Netanyahu's people say that the race between him and Sharon will be close. I suspect that after last night's performance, the members of the Likud Central Committee, who will which of the two will lead the party, will balk at removing a sitting Prime Minister, especially a popular one like Sharon.
A Suspect in the Metzer Killings
The IDF is currently looking for Sirhan Sirhan, suspecting him of the murders at Metzer earlier this week. This Sirhan Sirhan is a distant relative of the Sirhan Sirhan who murdered Robert Kennedy. If the suspicions turn out to be true, then it'll be a weird coincidence if nothing else.
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
Targeted Assassinations: US-style vs. Israel-style
Or, why the State Department is not calling for the US Armed Forces to show restraint in Yemen.
And we're off. Next stop, Nablus and Tul Karm which are about to get the Jenin treatment following the massacre at Kibbutz Metzer: a lockdown of the area and prolonged operations involving house-to-house operations looking for wanted men and ammunition dumps. Unfortunately, this is what it takes to try and live a reasonably secure existence on this side of the Green Line.
I think a majority of Israelis understand this. Arik Sharon certainly does, which is one of the reasons he remains popular despite the deterioration of life around here. Haaretz, editorialist Yoel Marcus, however, doesn't seem to get it which is why he still doesn't understand why Sharon is so popular.
Monday, November 11, 2002
The Latest Attrocity
A Palestinian infiltrated a kibbutz last night and murdered five people. Among them were a mother and her two sons, aged 4 and 5, whom the Palestinian shot point blank.
If you want to know why my worldview has become so mean and Hobbesian, look no further than this incident. What kind of sick nationalistic, religious, or victimistic thinking is necessary to rationalize in your own mind the execution of a woman and two children cowering before you?
What kind of soul-deadening takes place among the thousands in Ramallah and Gaza who will doubtlessly celebrate the news of this latest horrorshow?
And how are you supposed to make peace with people like this?
Sunday, November 10, 2002
Gore Vidal: Certified Lunatic
If I had the time and inclination (I have neither) I could probably do some research to track in detail the development of Gore Vidal from outre establishment critic to certifiably nutty conspiracy theorist. That way we could put in context Vidal's latest ravings in the London Observer about how President Bush engineered the 9/11 attacks.
Luckilly, we have Ron Rosenbaum to do the job for us, and to tie Vidal's lunatic screed into the long tradition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
Pipes on Jihad
Daniel Pipes stirs up some more controversy by accusing the Middle Eastern Studies establishment of whitewashing the meaning of jihad. He argues that they bend over backwards in an attempt to prove that the term means anything other than the definition most of us know: the armed stuggle of Islam against the infidels. As a former MES student I can attest that this trend is fairly widespread and runs parallel to the contentions in academia throughout the '90s and beyond that violent radical Islam is a nonexistent bogeyman made up by the West.
Pipes goes into a fair amount of historial detail about the various uses of jihad. If I may be permitted to summarize:
The original and classical usage of the jihad refers to an obligation of Muslims to expand the area of Muslim rule (dar al-Islam) until it takes over those areas ruled by infidels (dar al-harb). The ultimate goal is that the whole world should become dar al-Islam.
In the past century, the word has gained two additional meanings, one radical one moderate. The radical definition expands the concept of jihad to include the struggle against Muslim rulers who are not sufficiently religious. The moderate definition of jihad -- and this is the one MES academics and other apologists for terrorism like to use -- is one of an internal struggle for self improvement.
However, when Bin Laden declares a jihad against the United States or Arafat calls for a jihad of a million martyrs to free Jerusalem, they aren't talking about organizing a sit-in. Even if they were, the suicide bombers and airplane hijackers who take up their call to arms understand jihad to be what it is: a holy war.
The politically correct definition of "jihad" does exist. However, it's not the definition most Muslims seem to understand. The type of truth-blurring we see around this issue mainly helps add to the cognitive dissonance stirred up between the repeated declarations that Islam is a "religion of peace" and the bombings, murders, and hostage-taking undertaken in the name of Allah.
Election 2003: Images vs. Reality
The good folks at Haaretz really, really hate Ariel Sharon. And to their great dismay, he is still relatively popular with the voting public. How is it that after two years when everything around here seems to be going down the toilet quickly, people are unwilling to blame the big guy in the PM's chair?
Nehemiah Stressler, a generally entertaining journalist who normally covers the economy, proposes one answer. What we have is a conflict of image versus reality. In the imagined world Sharon is doing all he can to provide security (even though he occasionally provokes the terrorists more than he has to), Shas is doing everything in their power to help the downtrodden (even though they are responsible for the government ministries which have been screwing the downtrodden lately), and Labor is still the same elitist bunch of Ashkenazim responsible for all the problems in the country (even though they have mostly been out of power for the last 25 years).
I'll buy a lot of it, although I'm not convinced that Arik's position as Mr. Security is too cut off from the truth. If Sharon has a major flaw, it is his increasingly clear devotion to the settlement movement at all costs. However, he scares the Palestinians and projects a sense of immobility. This, unfortunately, is what we need if we ever want to convince the crazies next door to consign their maximum leader to the dustbin of history.
The shootout which led to the death of terrorist leader Iyad Sawalhe in Jenin this weekend is a good example of why a lot of people have faith in Sharon. After the imbroglio in that city's Casbah last spring, the easiest thing would have been to pull the IDF out of Jenin instead of continuing operations there. Certainly this is the tack the three candidates for Labor Party chairman would have done.
Sharon, however, decided to keep up the pressure in Jenin and continue to prosecute the terrorists inside Jenin. For the moment, it looks like the right decision. The editorial columnists are conivinced that this election will be decided on economic instead of security matters. I disagree with them. This election will be exactly like the last one. Arafat is the deciding factor and I suspect the decision will go in Sharon's favor.