Bomb them with art

Today’s Ynet has an article about the first non-Islamic art exhibit in Iran since the 1979 revolution.

It seems someone in the regime has understood that some steam needs to be released – via art, among other things. The country’s museums, including the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, have displayed only Islamic art which supports the spirit of the regime and doesn’t expose too much of the West’s creative riches.

Imagine all that great stuff – Giacometti, Picasso, Pollock – locked away in a museum basement for thirty-odd years, presumably in favor of showing the enticing calligraphy and dizzying pattern repetitions of “acceptable” Islamic art. Come to think of it, it’s not all that different from Pollock, Warhol or Frank Stella. Go figure.


Black or White? The Dershowitz-Phillips Debate Over Obama

I love the fact that Melanie Phillips can come down on Alan Dershowitz, who has written a trilogy of books in outright support of Israel, for his support of Barack Obama. I applaud Phillips for her steadfastness in defending Israel and Jews from bigotry, and Dershowitz wrote as much in his blog for JPost. His point, I think, was that support of Israel should be bipartisan. Which is why I smile when my more conservative friends ask how I can vote Democtratic and still support Israel. As if one position naturally informed the other.

They don’t, unless we think support of the Jewish state goes hand in hand with social issues like abortion, separation of church and state, minority rights, immigration, scientific research, the economy, etc…conservatives and liberals are split on most of these issues, which do not regard support for Israel in the least. Obama, for his part, hasn’t deviated from previous American policy very much at all. The Bush administration, too, was dedicated (in theory, at least) to the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, as is the Netanyahu government and, yes…even the Sharon government. Tzipi Livni, who actually won more votes than Bibi, is outspoken on the issue.

Israel pulled out of Gaza when George W. Bush was in the White House and Ariel Sharon in the Knesset. Would this today not be labeled “suicidal” by Melanie Phillips? That an eventual Palestinian state should pose no threat to Israel is a position shared by all of them, Obama included. He cannot and will not say, “Let the Jordanians take them in and give historic, biblical Judea to the settlers.”

Is this what Phillips advocates? Dershowitz, in his book The Case for Peace, lays out a point by point peace plan. Has Phillips ever proposed a viable solution to a problem that will not go away until it is resolved? What exactly does all this fiery criticism of Obama’s supposed ransoming of Israel come to? His “roots” on the hard left? Or is he the de facto President Chomsky? What was it about the Bush administration that people think was so much more friendly to the Jewish people and their only country than the current one? Is it that Bush is perceived as having been “tough” on Islamists-Iran-the Palestinians? The man who lost no opportunity to proclaim that “Islam is a religion of peace?” Why was he not the “dhimmi in the White House?”  The Bush years solved nothing. They did nothing to curb the Iranian threat in its infancy, knowing that could be left to the incoming administration.

The Bush years were not the golden years of American-Israeli relations any more than Muslim Spain was a golden age for convivencia. We should stop lionizing George W. Bush just because Obama’s middle name is Hussein.

Support for the State of Israel is a moral position that should have nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, Christian, Jewish or Muslim, religious or atheist, black or white, male or female. It is a moral issue just as women’s rights are a moral issue, just as racism and bigotry are moral issues. It should, as Dershowitz wrote, be a bipartisan issue. There is no other way.

In the Quagmire With Jeff and Mike

Today I’m linking to Michael Totten’s interview with Jeffrey Goldberg called The Real Quagmire In the Middle East. Not only is this a conversation between two intelligent, well-informed journalists about the problems that obsess some of us, it is also remarkably free of hate-speech, proving once and for all that it is still possible to have a reasonable discussion about Israel and its enemies without falling headfirst down the rabbit-hole of loshn hora.

Here’s a choice excerpt to whet your whistle with:

Goldberg: I imagine that if this situation gets more dire, America will say to the Iranians, secretly, in no uncertain terms, that “if you do anything to Israel, we will destroy you.” That just seems prudent to do. “Go ahead and have your dreams and desires, but don’t even think about transferring your nuclear technology to attack Israel in some way, because we will wipe you out.”

Bring the Iranian ambassador to the Strategic Air Command and show him all the missiles that are pointing at Iran. “This one is going to go here, and this one is going to go there. You’re wiped out. You’re finished. You’re done. You are exterminated.”

It wouldn’t really matter, though, because the Israelis would already be dead.

Totten: They can retaliate themselves anyway. They have nuclear weapons in submarines out in the Mediterranean.

Goldberg: Jews are floating around in the Persian Gulf with nuclear weapons in German subs that are aimed at the new Hitler. If you step away from your personal feelings about it, it’s just fascinating.

Most fascinating indeed.

Torture, Back With a Vengeance

The debate rages. Last night we went out for Mexican food. We arrived in the middle of a conversation inspired by this article in Slate Salon. Oops. The gist of the article is this:

“No torture today, no torture tomorrow, no torture ever.”

Which really sounds great. I mean, who wants to be tortured?

But there is a philosophical debate about this. Some people, even some reasonable liberal people, are able to conceive of worst-case scenarios in which torture as a last resort might plausibly be an option. Not that it should ever be used lightly, mind you. But, philosophically (this means “in theory”), a case might be made. Of course, another case can be made that “theory” never actually translates into “reality”, and that to open the door to torture on a limited basis would only be a Pandora’s box, letting out all the demons we’ve entombed there since the Middle Ages.

I won’t bore you with my opinion. I don’t even think a perfect, logical answer exists to this question. The greater problem is one of violence, and whether it is ever justifiable. Some say no, some yes, and the world hasn’t stopped spinning yet. A perfectly non-violent world is a utopian pipe dream, which doesn’t mean it isn’t an enticing one. It simply remains inconceiveable. The only answer that history has bequeathed on us are laws that at least regulate the use of violence–and which are of course broken with impunity every day all over the world. So what have we learned? Bupkes.

Meanwhile, Roxana Saberi langishes in an Iranian prison. Perhaps she is being tortured. I wonder what people are dicussing in restaurants in downtown Teheran tonight.

Recognizing Israel

I’m already tired of quoting Ahmadinejad. He always says the same things. Ynet has two articles worthy of more attention than anything I could post. The first, by Sever Plocker, concerns lawfare and caused me to lose a bit of sleep last night:

The peace-seeking Iran pledges to accept the majority decision in the above-mentioned referendum. Therefore, this is not about nuclear sabre-rattling or a declaration of war on the Zionists, but rather, a just and democratic solution that will be achieved peacefully and with international consensus.

If, as result of the referendum, the Jewish state will be abolished, the Jews would not be threatened with extermination or a second “Holocaust.” They will be allowed to integrate into the great Palestinian state as a religious element with recognized civil rights, even beyond the rights given to Iranian Jews. The Muslims, as opposed to the Nazis, will do everything to protect the Jewish minority to be left in Palestine in the wake of the referendum results’ implementation.

All that is left is to change the UN’s voting procedures: The four billion people residing in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America are the majority, and they deserve to be recognized as such. Iran will serve as their mouthpiece; that is, Ahmadinejad’s mouth.

Well, my allergies caused me to lose sleep. Still, this is a disturbing hypothesis.

The second article is by Yoel Meltzer, and is a wake-up call telling us that the Two State Solution is, by now, a mere relic of wishful thinking:

Please explain to them that it is nearly 100% certain that a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria will eventually bring missiles to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Equally important, make it clear to them that this is a prediction based upon Middle Eastern reality and not some sort of “scare tactic” or “right-wing analysis.”

In addition, please remind them that suicide, in any shape or size, is forbidden in Judaism and therefore national suicide, which will be the result of a two-state solution, is clearly forbidden.

The only answer, as far as I can see, is widespread Arab-Muslim recognition of Israel. This childish,counterproductive intransigence, above and beyond all other “obstacles to peace”, is the true root of the conflict. I wish I had a t-shirt that read:

IF YOU CARE ABOUT PALESTINE

RECOGNIZE ISRAEL!

 

 

Zio-Nazi?

Because not everyone who might stumble upon this blog reads Israeli papers, and most of the people I know haven’t been  following the Durban 2 circus in Geneva, I’m linking to this video which I saw in Haaretz.

On the sidelines of the Durban II conference in Geneva on Tuesday, a member of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s entourage accosted Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel and began screaming “Zio-Nazi” at the Holocaust survivor.


You can actually see Ahmadinejad walking by if you watch closely. Of course, we’re chumps for taking these thugs seriously, right?

“Racist! Racist!”

Empty seat at Durban 2
Empty seat at Durban 2

Things aren’t going so well after day one up in Geneva. Clowns were arrested, Ahmadinejad called Israel all sorts of bad things and was called a racist himself (but only by the clowns, mind you). There was apparently a move by the already diffident EU delegates to walk out on the Conference once his rant got underway. It isn’t clear from today’s papers whether France and England are there for day two or not. There was a “severe” condemnation from Sarkozy. The Vatican is staying put.

There was soft condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s words, but apparently the UN cannot allow itself to say anything that might be misconstrued as an opinion. They “condemned” Ahmadinejad’s choice of words, though he didn’t apparently pronounce the name “Israel.” Perhaps this means he was speaking of another country when he called it a “racist government” in the Middle East. Maybe he meant Syria, or Lebanon? Maybe he was being self-referential, post-modern, over our heads by talking about himself?

Anyway, the big news from Geneva is that there is no big news. Day one went just as most of us thought it would. Navi Pillay just doesn’t get it:

“A boycott isn’t the best response.”

Apparently this was the extent of her emotion at the hijacking of her Conference by a fanatical head of state who happens to be the world’s most visible Holocaust denier and potential genocidal maniac. Perhaps we should go back and take a look at Jeffrey Goldberg’s painstakingly compiled dossier of Ahmadinejad’s money quotes on Israel.

It’s business as usual at Durban 2.

Who Takes Iran Seriously? Or Caryl Churchill?

Jeffery Goldberg does.

And he’s done the dirty work for you by compiling a long list of money quotes by the Iranian President about Isra…ahem, the Zionist Entity.

For instance, he said this in December, 2006:

“I want to tell [Western counties] that just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and does not exist anymore, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out and humanity will be free.”

The Soviet Union? Just compare Israel to any worst-regime-in-history in an all-out effort at character assassination. This is anti-Zionism 101.

And Goldberg gets my vote for the most perceptive critic of Caryl Churchill, as well:

“I think that people like Caryl Churchill have a kind of gross, sometimes pornographic interest in proving Jewish immorality. It makes them feel better. I believe that. It makes them feel less immoral if they can prove that Jews are immoral too — that the ultimate victims are just like everybody else. Or worse than everybody else!”

We should all be paying attention to him.

Moral Blindness and the Perfect Weapon

A quote from Paul Berman:

“The anti-war Socialists wanted to understand their enemies and not just dismiss them–wanted to seek out whatever was comprehensible, the points on which everyone could agree. And so, listening to the Nazis make their wildest speeches, the anti-war Socialists, in a thoughtful mood, asked themselves: what is anti-Semitism, anyway? Does every single criticism of the Jews reflect the superstition of the Middle Ages? Surely it ought to be possible to criticize the Jews without being vilified as anti-Semites.” (Terror and Liberalism)

Of course, this meant underestimating Hitler and Nazism by assuming they clung to the same bedrock faith in human reason as the French Socialists. They wanted to give the Nazis a chance to be evaluated on equal footing, but the Nazis didn’t much care for an enlightened forum in which to test the strength of their ideas. They rest is history.

Not long after Berman published his book, which attempted to explain the roots of the Sept. 11, 2001 terroist attacks (and our general inability to comprehend their meaning), Sam Harris published a book called The End of Faith. In many ways, Harris built upon Berman’s thesis–and added a by-now-famous critique of religious faith that has made him as lionized by some as he is despised by others. Nestled in the pages of Harris’s book is a chapter called “Perfect Weapons and the Ethics of ‘Collateral Damage'”, which hasn’t received as much attention as it perhaps deserves. The crux of the argument is as follows:

“We need only imagine how any of our recent conflicts would have looked if we had possessed perfect weapons–weapons that allowed us to either temporarily impair or kill a particular person, or group, at any distance, without harming others or their property. What would we do with such technology?”

Of course, the temptation is to map out a mental chalkboard of conflicts, applying Harris’s perfect weapon hypothesis: how would the current war in Iraq look? The Iraq-Iran conflict? The recent IDF incursion in Gaza? The Second Intifada? Iran’s overtures to genocide and overarching support for suicide terrorism?

It’s a fun mental exercise. As Harris puts it, “A moment’s thought reveals that a person’s use of such a weapon would offer a perfect window onto the soul of his ethics.”

This could go on for a long while, so I’ll get to the point. Operation Cast Lead is long over. Recontruction in Gaza, including smuggling of weapons and construction of tunnels to Egypt, goes on unabated, except when Israel sends a few missiles in retaliation for the continuing rocket attacks. Caryl Churchill has written her Sophoclean dirge for the (Palestinian) victims that some have accused of the worst anti-Jewish stereotyping. Others call it a masterpiece. The victims are being counted, most of which (surprise, surprise) are Hamas men. But the world can’t wait to blame Israel for every single death in the recent conflict. After all, it was Israel that chose to retaliate with such force, unleashing the umpteenth episode of brutality against a starved, helpless population reduced to launching inexact, homemade rockets as their only recourse to dignity (now that suicide bombing has been more or less stalled, at least temporarily).

So, in this moment of relative calm and reflection, maybe we should be asking ourselves just what the IDF would have done in Gaza had it had perfect weapons. And Hamas? We should hold them both up to the same moral standard, or none at all.

Ins and Outs of Wonkdom

Here is a revealing article from today’s Jerusalem Post about the dangers of being a wonk. What’s a wonk, you ask? Roughly, a wonk is someone whoargues that Teheran’s attendance (at the Hague) signals its underlying pragmatism – and that this pragmatism could be torpedoed by obsessing over Iranian threats to destroy Israel.”

Let’s hope Obama doesn’t get carried away with optimism when dealing with these gangsters. It could be lethal, and not just for Israel.