Saturday, November 30, 2002
On Vacation

I am finally taking a long-needed vacation after more than a year of stewing in the cauldron that is the Middle East. For the next week and a bit, me and the missus will be kicking back in warm and sunny London.

My blog entries will probably be a bit patchy for the next 8 or 9 days.

I'm not usually a scared flyer, but after the incidents yesterday I did feel a little scared when the plane took off. Once again we come up against the realization that we're fighting people who have no red lines whatsoever. The people who will take down scyscrapers or blow up packed discotheques won't think twice about bringing down a commercial flight with a rocket.

Anyway, I'll try to clear all this out of my mind.

Back in touch soon...

Wednesday, November 27, 2002
Tom Friedman's Open Letter

Yes, Friedman is doing his wacky "open letter from one world leader to another" schtick again. This time from Bush to the Islamic world.

In Defense of a Less Nuanced Approach Towards the Terrorists

At the risk of harping here, let me take one more swipe at the supposedly nuanced and intellectual approach to dealing with terrorists which says that we need to understand their grievances, but then ignores their actual grievances. Paul Marshall makes this argument, which should be obvious but apparently isn't: When the Osamas of the world say that they want to kill us because they are holy warriors and we are infidels, perhaps we should them at their word instead of looking for other reasons.

However, a lot of people are in favor of a more nuanced and sophisticated approach for dealing with terrorists. This usually acts to the benefit of the terrorists. Yesterday, the chairman of the U.S. interagency task force on terrorist financing took Europe to task for helping fund terrorist organizations. Many European governments, it appears, still fund Hamas charitable organizations.

This is a good example of sophisticated and nuanced thinking in action: We'll fund one part of your organization which delivers food, even though the rest of your organization is busy preaching hate and blowing up schoolbuses.

Except that you can't make these kinds of distinctions. Even if you're only funding the "good" part of the terrorist organization, there's no way to ensure that the money won't end up in the hands of the bus-blowing-up part. Even if you could ensure that the money went to charity work, you're still helping the organization as a whole win the support of the people. Either way, the terrorists benefit.

This is why when I hear whichever Frenchman being interviewed on the news complain about GWB being a cowboy with a simplistic worldview I think to myself "Good. A simplistic cowboy is just what we need."

Tuesday, November 26, 2002
Campus Follies

I generally don't comment about the froilicheschticken on American campuses with regards to Israel. There's too much of it going on and if I had to get upset over every manifestation of anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism I wouldn't have the energy to do anything else. However, occasionally things build up that are worth commenting on.

I got this link via Andrew Sullivan's site (which you should check out if you haven't already). Here we have the great 9/11 Mossad blood libel again that you might remember from the Amiri Baraka flap. For the record, 5 Israelis were killed that morning, plus numerous other Jews. I'm not sure why I get more upset when an UMass professor comes out with this crap than when the government newspapers in Egypt do. Probably because I expect it from the Egyptians; their definition of free speech is "free to condemn Jews."

The other piece of annoying news comes from Harvard again and concerns the on-again, off-again speaking engagement of Tom Paulin, an Irish poet who makes Amiri Baraka look like Rod McKuen. Paulin has been fairly outspoken of the deep hatred he feels for "Brooklyn Jews" living in Israeli settlements, going so far as to say they should be shot dead. Even The Guardian, Israel's most implacable foe in the British press, considers Paulin to be an out-there anti-Semite.

Harvard originally invited Paulin to speak on campus a few weeks ago, then rescinded the invitation after controversy arose. The group of professors from Harvard's English department who met and decided to re-invite Paulin no doubt did so thinking they were making a stand for free expression. It is cliched, almost banal, to point out that if Paulin had expressed the same viewpoint about blacks, gays, women, or Muslims, then the same group of professors would doubtlessly be on the front lines marching against him.

Sunday, November 24, 2002
Why the Oslo Accords Didn't Work, Part 507

According to the logic of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority was supposed to crack down on the terrorists. This way, the Israelis and Palestinians could build confidence in each other. Obviously, that didn't work. In fact we now learn that the same Palestinian police force which was supposed to fight terrorism has been building chemical labs in order to help the terrorists more conveniently blow up buses filled with schoolchildren.

Bear this in mind the next time the Saeb Erekat or the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate start boo-hooing that they can't take care of the terrorists because Israel keeps targeting their "police" force.