Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Portrait Of A Vengeful God

There's a very offensive bit of theology winging its way around a certain segment of the Jewish right wing at the moment – that the reason for Hurricane Katrina is the US involvement in the Gaza Disengagement. In other words, the disaster we are suffering in Louisiana and Mississippi has to do with American encouragement of the peace process. The Hurricane and the attendant disaster is, apparently, all Divine payback.
On August 14, citizens in the United States, like people around the world, heard about the issuing of an order for the forced evacuation of Jews from parts of Israel’s biblical land.

For six days they watched as thousands of weeping people were pulled and carried from their homes, forced to leave their gardens, parks, communities, schools, towns and synagogues, everything they had spent decades building; banned from ever returning again. Those scenes were soon followed by pictures of bulldozers and other earth-moving machinery pulverizing the just-vacated homes into heaps of dust.

While this was taking place, a small tropical depression was forming near the Bahamas in the Atlantic Ocean. Slowly, as the air began to revolve, the nonthreatening weather system began moving in the direction of Florida.

Yesterday, we in Israel watched as American officials, including President George W. Bush, ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans and its surrounds. That small depression had turned into a frightening fiend. Now we are seeing on our television screens up to a million people being forced to leave their homes. People are weeping on camera, mourning that they are going to lose “everything we own; everything we have worked for.”

As today unfolds we are bracing to see wind and water pounding homes, whole communities, into the ground.

Is this some sort of bizarre coincidence? Not for those who believe in the God of the Bible and the immutability of His Word.

What America is about to experience is the lifting of God’s hand of protection; the implementation of His judgment on the nation most responsible for endangering the land and people of Israel.

The Bible talks about Him shaking His fist over bodies of water, and striking them.

While the “disengagement” plan was purportedly the brainchild of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the United States of America has for more than a decade been the chief sponsor and propeller of a diplomatic process that has dangerously weakened Israel in the face of an overwhelming, growing threat to annihilate her.
Rabbi Lazar Brody, a Hasidic rabbi whose writings at times I have found inspiring, takes a similar tone, though he at least had the decency to write this before the extent of the disaster became known.

For some reason that makes it seem minimally less arrogant to me. Although the fact that the well meaning Rabbi claims to understand the inner workings of God's way still seems utterly hubristic:
Katrina is hitting just as the bulldozers are completing the destruction of Gush Katif. The Talmud teaches that Hashem administers the world according to the "ATFAT" principle, in other words, "a turn for a turn" (for an elaboration of the ATFAT principle, see Chapter Six of The Trail to Tranquility). My heart tells me that there's a link between the forced expulsion of 8500 people from their blood, sweat, and tear-soaked homes in Israeli Gaza and between the nearly 850,000 people who are forced to flee from their homes in Louisiana. Sharon, at the prodding of the American government, has destroyed hallowed centers of prayer, Torah learning, and settlement in the Land of Israel. Hashem isn't wasting much time in showing His wrath. In fact, Katrina has chosen Ms. Rice's home state as a target; I humbly believe that the unfortunate people of Louisiana can blame Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice for their misfortune. This is a classic ATFAT situation: He who creates exiles in the Holy Land, will have a hundred-fold exiles in his own land.
Rabbi Brody seems to feel that the key to stopping this disaster is for President Bush and Condi to do tshuva, i.e. to repent, by ceasing to make further demands of territorial concessions from Israel.
Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice, I implore you to repent, to ask Hashem's forgiveness for destroying a flourishing part of Israel. Cancel all your demands for further territorial concessions in Israel. If by your initiative more Jews are rendered homeless, G-d forbid, I shudder to think of what could happen. Please take Katrina very seriously, for she is a no-nonsense messenger from The Almighty.
In a similar spirit to Rabbi Brody, I'm sure Osama and Zarqawi are sitting back and enjoying the fact that the flood is payback for the Iraq "occupation" and the takeover of Afghanistan. And really, the reasoning is just as likely and their certitude -- and that of the imams speaking now in their mosques denouncing the US -- just as offputting. What's to choose between one such theological construction and the other? The fact that one privileges the Jews and the other one the Arabs?

In the US, we also have some members of the illuminati from the leftist persuasion blaming the disaster on various members of the US right-wing. One of them even quotes Christian biblical texts in his heading.

This line of reasoning certainly begs the question, if this is the nature of God, why would anyone want to worship him? I certainly wouldn't want to. It's a worldview that reeks of superstition, conspiracy-mindedness and moral determinism on a very simplistic level. Worst of all it trivializes God.

All this reminds me of an incident that occurred when I lived in Jerusalem. There was a tragic school bus accident at that time and some tens of children were killed. The answer as to why this happened from a certain echelon of the religious community? The mezuzot were not kosher.

Bloghead and Orthomom are similarly unimpressed by Rabbi Brody's take on the affair.

UPDATE: Katrina Relief

The Truth Laid Bear has a partial listing of blogs participating in Katrina Relief with a listing of recommended charities. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can find contact information for the various charities.

The full listing of the flood-relief blogburst will be available tomorrow at The Truth Laid Bear and Instapundit as well as various other participating blogs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Show Some Political Courage

Given the nature of a certain dialogue the blogosphere was having amongst its selves late last week, I was very glad to notice this:
President Bush stepped up pressure on the Palestinians one day after a suicide bomb attack, urging President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday to show the "political courage" to rein in militants.

Bush called Israel's withdrawal from Gaza the first step toward creating a democracy for the Palestinians. "It took political courage to make that decision," Bush said of the withdrawal of Jewish settlers.

"And now it's going to take political courage by the Palestinians and ... Abbas to step up, reject violence, reject terrorism and build a democracy," he added during a speech in El Mirage, Arizona.

Bush's comments marked an escalation in U.S. pressure on Abbas to begin taking action against militants in response to Israel's withdrawal.

The call for action appeared to run counter to assertions by Palestinian officials in Washington that the White House understood that Abbas and his security forces would need more time to prepare for any major push to disarm the militants.
Does anyone remember a time that the Palestinians haven't urged Washington to be understanding when it comes time for them to implement their side of the peace deal?

I can't imagine, myself, that that particular argument is going to find any resonance with President Bush. He's seen too many other leaders showing political courage in other world theatres to find this attempt to stall and hedge convincing.
A senior Bush administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues, said the White House believes that Abbas already has the means to restrain the groups responsible for attacks on Israel.

"We want him to be a responsible leader. He needs to rein in the groups that want to harm the 'road map' process," the official said, referring to the U.S.-backed peace process that envisions creating a viable Palestinian state.

Abbas has said he prefers to co-opt gunmen into the Palestinian security services and political system rather than dismantle them.
Uh huh. In other words, Abbas would rather not do anything. And hope no one notices. After all, why not? This method worked beautifully the whole time Arafat was in office.

A Dose of Schaudenfreude

I don't really approve of these nanny state politically correct laws in Britain.

But since they've already been enacted...well, good:
Ken Livingstone is to face a disciplinary hearing for likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard, it was announced today.

The London Mayor is to appear before the independent Adjudication Panel for England to face allegations that he failed to treat others with respect or brought his office into disrepute, the Standards Board for England (SBE), the local government watchdog, said.

Mr Livingstone could be banned from office for five years, told to make an apology, be suspended or censured or made to undergo training if the panel decide he has breached the Greater London Authority code of conduct. The public hearing could take place in early December.

A spokesman said: "The Standards Board for England can confirm that a report of its ethical standards officer's investigation into allegations that the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, failed to treat others with respect and brought his authority into disrepute has been issued today.

"The ethical standards officer has concluded that the issue should now be considered at a hearing held by the independent Adjudication Panel for England."

The Board of Deputies of British Jews referred the matter to the watchdogs in February after a confrontation between Mr Livingstone and a reporter from London's Evening Standard at a gay and lesbian reception at City Hall.

The journalist, Oliver Finegold, approached guests leaving the event, including the Mayor, but Mr Livingstone told the reporter after learning that he was Jewish that he was "just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it because you're paid to, aren't you?"

Mr Livingstone came under fire after refusing to apologise, despite calls from the Jewish community, concentration camp survivors and other politicians, but he refused to alter his position.
Mr. Livingstone argues it wasn't anti-semitism motivating him. Of course not. He was just being rude to a journalist. And insulting him in a way that was target specific for Jews.

Frankly I'm holding out for sensitivity training...wouldn't that be amusingly karmic.

This Plague of Destruction

For any of my readers suffering ill effects from Hurricane Katrina, my hearts goes out to you.

After the practically self congratulatory tone of the news all day yesterday of a disaster diverted, the news has turned unbelievably grim today. And its keeps getting grimmer and grimmer by the hour as the extent of the tragedies become known.

WWLTV.Com has continuing updates about the effects of Katrina.

WLOX 13 has videos available of the destruction.

Hundreds may be dead in Biloxi, Mississippi, which didn't get the same evacuation warning time as inhabitants of New Orleans, after a 30 foot storm surge came ashore. Bodies are visible, floating in the city's floodwaters.

Michelle Malkin also has several long posts with links, and points to this post at Red State that contains many suggestions as to where to donate relief funds.

Apparently, Jefferson Parish has already established Martial Law. If you live in Jefferson Parish, currently underwater, you will be allowed to visit your home next Monday with photo ID. And after that, you can't go home again for a month.

Hugh Hewitt wants to set up a day of concerted blogging for hurricane relief efforts. Glenn Reynolds suggests Thursday.

And the Anchoress emails Glenn Reynolds with a suggestion of setting up something for Hurrican Relief like the Honor System at Amazon that was established for Tsunami Relief.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Correcting the Record

Remember this? Condi's malapropos coda to the first day of the Gaza Expulsions?

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing," Ms. Rice said in an interview. But she added, "It cannot be Gaza only."

The one I recently took Rice to task for, since it was so tone deaf? My fellow blogger at Kesher Talk even proposed that Condi might have been assuming the bad cop role in a good cop/bad cop scenario along with good cop President Bush. Because otherwise her words were simply uncharacteristic.

But, surprise, surprise!

This column, we learn today thanks to the blogging efforts of Rick Richman, was a trademark NYTimes impartial news columns, of the type so recently lauded by Bill Keller.* [see below]

Only problem with it. The Times forgot to send along the special decoder ring so that we could understand the fact that the linked direct quotations cited by JOEL BRINKLEY and STEVEN R. WEISMAN, written so as to flow together and suggest one closed thought, in fact, represent a huge ellipsis in the original text of the State Department Interview.

In other words, Condi was Dowdified.

Not only were two parts of the interview linked up together artificially so to give the appearance of creating news at the expense of the Israeli effort, on a tense, stressful day. But in fact, the second thought, which was the offensive one, was a follow up question much later on in the interview where Condi first paraphrased the question of others and then implied that the eventual solution -- after the Palestinians also make a great effort -- would include more than Gaza.

But that is no news at all. And doesn't yield a sexy quotation. Not without tinkering.

Here is Condi in her own words:
QUESTION: This is a quick one. Do you think you'll go back [to the Middle East] in the fall to keep the momentum going?

SECRETARY RICE: Let's see, you know, what's required. We will have a Quartet in New York because the world comes here for the UNGA. And we'll certainly have a Quartet meeting at that time. There's a Quartet envoys meeting that's scheduled for this week and part of their job is to kind of prepare the meeting of the Quartet and I think we'll look at where we are. But by no means do I think that this is the end.

The other thing is, just to close off this question, the question has been put repeatedly to the Israelis and to us that it cannot be Gaza only and everybody says no, it cannot be Gaza only. There is, after all, even a link to the West Bank and the four settlements that are going to be dismantled in the West Bank. Everybody, I believe, understands that what we're trying to do is to create momentum toward reenergizing the roadmap and through that momentum toward the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state.
All this begs the question as to the agenda of the reporters.

Do they themselves admire Condi, and so, to admire her even more, are re-creating her in their own image? In other words, do they believe she would be an even better Condi if she mouthed the pro-forma, de rigueur NYTimes blather on Israel?

Or are they trying to alienate Condi from her base of supporters in Republican circles, to push back against her run away popularity and smarts?

Or are they simply too dumb to realize the unethical lapse they committed for anyone short of a mere propagandist?

*Even sophisticated readers of The New York Times sometimes find it hard to distinguish between news coverage and commentary in our pages. While The Times is and always will be a forum for opinion and argument as well as a source of impartial news coverage, we should make the distinction as clear as possible.
• I have asked Tom Bodkin to head a small working group of reporters and editors to devise standardized formats for news analysis and other reportorial formats that are authorized to carry voice and viewpoint. We can do more than we presently do, with rubrics and layouts and other devices, to give readers clear signals that a column is different from a news analysis is different from a critic’s notebook is different from a news story.
• We must, as the committee says, be more alert to nuances of language when writing about contentious issues.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The High Inquisitors – Early American Style

Another story I meant to link to yesterday, about the descendents of Marrano Jews in the American Southwest rediscovering their Judaism hundred of years after the New Mexican Inquisiton.
[T]he descendants of those lost in the Inquisition are alive and well and are found in the fastest-growing ethnic group in the world, the Hispanic population," Leon said. "I am sure that at least 10 percent of the worldwide Hispanic community today have Jewish ancestry from the Spanish Inquisition."

Sonya Loya, herself a crypto-Jew, said it goes beyond the Spanish Inquisition.

"Most don't know there was a Mexican Inquisition, let alone a New Mexican Inquisition," Loya said.

I've been reading and enjoying these stories for years. I love reading them. Not least because I spent three years living in Santa Fe. And can imagine very well where the High Inquisitors were housed.

The Palace of the Governors in the central plaza in town is the oldest continually occupied municipal building in the United States, built in the early 1600s.

Changing the World, One Mind at a Time

I've been meaning to link to this excellent column on Arthur Koestler in the NYSun since yesterday, celebrating the centenary of his birth.
Arthur Koestler, that one-time titan in the Cold and culture wars, was born 100 years ago this year. Those who remember him tend to think of Koestler (in more or less descending order of interest) as a high journalist of near genius; a battle-hardened and even invincible polemicist; a scientific popularizer of something well short of genius; a dubious dabbler in the occult. But that is not all. If it were, his centenary would be little more than an occasion to muse on fleeting fame. He was also a novelist, and, in "Darkness at Noon" (1940), his masterpiece about the Soviet Terror, Koestler wrote one lasting book - just one, but one is enough - that once upon a time really did help to change the world.
Koestler certainly changed my world, politically speaking.

Before I read Darkness at Noon, I was an unexceptionable milque-toast liberal, adhering to the social norm. And by the time I finished with it, I had changed into a hawk. I actually think hawk-dom is my true nature, not milque-toast liberalism. But until that point my passion for politics -- except in the realms of feminism and Israel -- had not been awoken. Koestler's narrative, with its naked truthtelling, galvanized me awake. Showed me a whole other perspective on the world. And made me seek out others that held it as well.

I don't forget, either, that a great deal of the impetus for this terror war was formed from the detritus of the Cold War. We would not now be fighting if the USSR, for incomprehensible reasons, had not decided, entirely cynically, that it was in "the interest of the good of humanity" to attack Afghanistan and bring it under its sphere of control permanently.

"Darkness at Noon" is an intellectual's masterpiece. "Reason run amuck" is its theme. Few works of art have ever shown revolution's horror, or savored its ironies, more bitterly. The book is so entangled in its own argument with evil that Koestler once received a letter from a young Frenchman, thanking him for converting him to Stalinism and its true light. "Darkness at Noon" will always be read by those struggling to understand: why? Why was half of humanity once subjected to the inhuman horrors of the police-state, trapped in the tyranny of a "rationality" that left them impoverished, terrorized, and reduced to material, moral, intellectual, and spiritual squalor - and every five or 10 years or so, mass murdered by the millions? Yes, indeed, that "rationality" is facing some mighty tough questions, one of which is why so many good and decent people had such faith in "reason run amuck."

Nor do I forget that the KGB was Arafat's ideological tutor, the bureau which forged an identity for him, only to revel later on in the aptitude of their protégé.

The two prongs of this terror war -- one trained and sponsored by the KGB and the other part of it forged to fight against the USSR, and then turning its ire, now loose, against the West.

Previous post on this subject: Announcement

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Gazing Beyond Gaza

Mark Steyn has another must read column up on Gaza today:
It was my National Review colleague David Frum who came up with the clearest assessment to date of the Israeli strategy: “Could it be that Sharon is calling the bluff of Western governments and the Arab states? By creating the very Palestinian state that those governments and those states pretend to want but actually dread Sharon is forcing them to end their pretense and acknowledge the truth."
Could be. Although I'm sure the world will still find a way to blame whatever happens on Israel. As they say, read the whole thing.

According to Debka:
Israel’s Supreme Court issued injunction forbidding demolition of Gush Katif synagogues in Gaza Strip , to open negotiations with Palestinian Authority over their preservation.
In plain English, um, why the hell would they do that? Have they learned nothing from the tea history? [Er, sorry for that tea remark. Inapropos Angel reference.]

What do you all think about this? Better to destroy the synagogues with those Caterpillars which so focus the ire of the disinvestors? And have the memory of Jews destroying synagogues preserved in memorium on digital files that can easily be exploited in the future against Israel and Jews? One can imagine the arguments already: After all, they destroy their own synagogues themselves when it suits them, so it's not so bad when we do it...] Or leave them to become Palestinian pissoirs? If not immediately, then whenever foreign policy between Israel and Palestine becomes the least bit fraught.

Neither alternative is good, but I think, of the two, destruction is the least bad.

Debka is also reporting that the Al Qaeda terror team responsible for lobbing those missiles at the US Navy warships, time to coincide with the Gaza Disengagement, has been rolled up by the Jordanians, with the help of the US Navy's hidden video-cameras, a policy enacted after the Cole bombing. And that a Syrian based in Amman with his entire family was the head of this particular terror team. A Syrian, huh. Now that's a shocker.

Update: Captain Ed links to an AP article that goes into more detail than Debka about the identities of the men in the Jordanian terrorist team and their methods. He points out that even minimal analysis of their sloppy methods, including their unwillingness to martyr themselves in this case, reveals the damaging attrition rate Zarqawi is experiencing in his Iraq campaign. And its lack of overall success. Of course the latter is not the impression that the majority of the news media leaves us with each day. Although note that in his comment section, Captain Ed is being accused of drawing a hasty conclusion based on only one piece of data.

In other news, the NYSun is reporting that several congress people have gotten off their asses, even at the end of summer, to send chiding remarks and letters demanding answers to the UNDP, recently responsible for directly funding Palestinian propaganda. One imagines that those UN types must believe it's so much more worthwhile to feed the suicide bombing culture directly, rather than the large percentage of children in Gaza actually suffering from malnourishment according to UN figures.

As to whether anything will come of the efforts of Senator Schumer, Rep. Anthony Weiner, Rep. Eliot Engel, all three Democrats from NY and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican from Florida, besides a lot of tut-tutting back and forth and the continuation with the corrupt status quo, who knows. One hopes, of course, that in time Bolton will begin to have a salubrious effect on this tainted body. [Is that too naïve?] But only time will tell.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Bureaucracy As Usual

It's dispiriting to hear just how the Israeli bureaucracy is treating civilians forced to move from Gaza, even the people who cooperated and agreed to leave before the deadline. I keep coming across stories about how nothing at all suitable by way of living arrangements has been prepared for the evacuees moving with their children from settled homes. Here's one example from the Jerusalem Post:
Sigal Barda's family resided in Elei Sinai for 15 years. Her husband is a policeman, which tipped the scales for her decision to cooperate with the Disengagement Authority and thereby also spare her three children the scars of forcible expulsion.

However, the housing Sigal was promised in Kibbutz Or Haner isn't ready. The family was instead sent to a hotel in Ashkelon, where the Bardas arrived exhausted and emotionally drained. Yet there was literally no room at the inn. They were told to find other accommodations.

Worse still for Sigal, as she told The Jerusalem Post yesterday, was being made to feel as though she's seeking to rob the state coffers. Bassi's assessors haggled over every single detail of her claim, including declining to take into account the size of her Elei Sinai balconies, so as to award less compensation.

The content of the house was going into containers for which the state demanded she shell out NIS 7,000 or have it deducted from her compensation. It did her little good to note she hadn't initiated her eviction. Eventually she bargained down the price.

This is not an honorable way for a state to conduct its affairs.
Israeli bureaucrats have been treating citizens and non-citizens like this for years. In this situation, when they have done so little to provide help for the very people they are supposed to be helping, and are hostile and aggressive about the entire situation, making - for no reason at all - a horrendous personal situation worse.

These bureaucrats act like this all the time, in mini sadistic displays of power. I have my own personal, but far more trivial, experience with this. Once, on a trip from Turkey to Israel, I was carrying several rugs I had bought for myself to take home to the US because I wanted to enjoy them and inadvertently – really by mistake – walked through the nothing to declare line for tourists. The customs guy in charge utterly humiliated me, threw all my goods on the floor and went through everything ruthlessly. They took away my rugs, charged me a ton in customs fees before I could get them back before leaving and also made me pay to rent the space they held the rugs in while they were holding them hostage.

All this was a deeply unpleasant reintroduction to Israel as a tourist after a few years away, when I was so looking forward to spending time there again. You know that positive, warm uplifting feeling you get before you arrive -- well all of it went squash on the spot. I spoke to a lawyer there at length at one point about this situation, to see if I could do anything to reduce the charges. He told me that it's a racket for them, just a way of securing revenue since tourists make these inadvertent mistakes all the time – a fact they're well aware of.

After all, had I been trying to smuggle in those rugs, I hardly would have been carrying them in a huge bag that held only them.

Foreign journalists often complain about similar things. And one can't help but realize that all these little bureaucratic hassles do inform the image of Israel they are going to promote in their newspapers. An image that is resoundingly negative in the world press. Why make it worse just to feed the sadistic urges of some bureaucrats.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Apparently We Weren't The Only Ones Who Found Condi Tone Deaf

Last Wednesday, the first day of forcible expulsions from Gaza, I suggested that Condi's tone in a speech that day stating that Gaza was just the beginning of the Israeli withdrawals was rather aggressive and tone deaf.
I usually like Condoleeza Rice. But I've got to say, on a day like today, day 4 of the Disengagement, and before the Palestinians have done the first thing to rein in the terrorism that is quite likely to erupt in the wake of the Jewish departure from Gaza, this strikes me as extremely tone deaf.

"Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing,'' she said, but added, "It cannot be Gaza only.''
Looks like we weren't the only ones who thought so. According to Debka:
In notes to US president Bush and Israeli PM Sharon over the weekend, the king [of Jordan] warned that any further steps, including Israeli withdrawals from West Bank territory, would be deemed violations of the 1995 Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty - if coordinated only with Washington and the Palestinians. He stressed Jordan would not put up with a Israel-Palestinian settlement that failed to address Jordan’s sovereignty, its interests in the Jordan river basin and the border crossings and in shared strategic issues, such as security and water resources.
DEBKAfile adds: the Jordanian warning was prompted by deep concern over the side-effects of the expulsion of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Amman fears their ripple effect next door to the kingdom on the West Bank. In particular -

1. The king was disconcerted by the words of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice last week, when she said: Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing, but it cannot be Gaza only. This is taken in Amman to mean that Washington will squeeze Israel hard to pursue further withdrawals in favor of the Palestinians while leaving Jordan out of the picture.
Debka is also reporting that Sharon gave a speech today to the Gaza Strip evacuation troops in which he stated that further disengagement will only take place after Palestinians have fully eradicated terrorism. Some more detail of his speech here in the Jerusalem Post.

Bully for Sharon. I hope it proves true.

David's Kingdom

Another refutation of the approach of Al-Quds University archeologist Hani Nur el_Din's response to the possible finding of David's Palace.
As Al-Quds University archeologist Hani Nur el-Din put it to The New York Times, not only Mazar's work, but all of biblical archeology was but an effort by Israeli archeologists "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context."

Now first of all, one wonders what actually is wrong with seeking physical evidence for a textual echo; if that is not a legitimate intellectual endeavor, what is? Indeed, if anyone in this bizarre corner of our conflict is abusing science it is Prof. Nur el-Din, who rather than debate prefers to discredit an entire discipline whose findings threaten his political outlook.

Following in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat's memorable insistence at Camp David, that there never were Jewish temples where the rest of the world agrees they stood, Nur el-Din now says that biblical archeologists "have a button and they want to make a suit out of it."

Just what is so threatening about a finding like Mazar's is obvious. If science validates the texts about the Davidic kingdom's size, might and sway, then Israel can boast a claim to this land in general, and to its historic capital in particular, that Palestinian nationalism cannot match, at least chronologically.
More on this topic here and here.

Asa_El goes onto explain the importance of David theologically to the Jews.

Martin Peretz also weighs into the fray with some political perspective on the situation.

I suppose what the Arabs are also thinking of are future implications. From their point of view -- the future division of Jerusalem. Because no one is going to want to include land in a division that was once David's palace.

Sharp Like A Blade

Ann Althouse points out this passage in an article on the educational influences of John Roberts:
"There was a 'Boy Named Sue' quality to being a libertarian or conservative at Harvard," said Mr. Norquist, referring to the Johnny Cash song and Shel Silverstein poem ("Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,/ My fist got hard and my wits got keen.") Conservatives at Harvard, he suggested, learned to be "tougher than anyone else." Unlike students on the left, he said, they were constantly being challenged.
I'd say that was fairly true for many self-identifying, articulate conservatives who received their higher education in liberal academic institutions in the US. Since you were always the opposition party, if you stated your opinion, there was always the likelihood of having to debate – or fend off, as it were – several people at once. While the group think liberal positions were largely considered as the status quo, that everyone accepted.

This hardening, though, was exhausting in its way. And there was always the chance that it might have social repercussions as well. So there were definitely times in graduate school I chickened out of confronting the status quo position of my colleagues. Or I softened the tone in order to advance the ideas in the first place – ideas which they weren't likely to hear taken seriously by other colleagues at that point.

In the end, it was a useful part of my education. That feeling of intellectual otherness that taught you to sharpen your arguments.

Other posts on this topic: Announcement

Ah, Equal At Last! Arab Women in Gaza Have the Honor to Compete with Men... the Jihad.
Hamas revealed over the weekend that dozens of women in the Gaza Strip have joined its armed wing, Izzaddin Kassam, and were preparing to carry out attacks on Israel.

Pictures posted on the Hamas-affiliated Palestine Information Center Web site showed masked women, dressed in military fatigues and armed with Kalashnikov rifles and pistols, receiving training at a secret location in the Gaza Strip.

According to Hamas, the women were being trained in planting roadside bombs, firing rockets and mortars and infiltrating Jewish settlements.

"Jihad has been imposed on all Muslims, males and females alike," one of the women explained. "This is particularly true in Palestine, and here we are obeying the call for jihad. We have the honor to compete with men in the jihad."
Sounds a bit like that troop of Iranian Female police cadets. Only those women had to train and fight wearing modified full cover.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

How Much Do You Know about Gaza?

Unfortunately, not as much as I should. Sheesh, only 5/9. [hides head]
Serves me right, I suppose, for never having gone to visit when I had the chance in my more radical past. Radical as in more religious, not leftist. And now, alas, I never will. Those beaches look gorgeous.

Press here to take the quiz.

A Little, Um, Tone Deaf?

I usually like Condoleeza Rice. But I've got to say, on a day like today, day 4 of the Disengagement, and before the Palestinians have done the first thing to rein in the terrorism that is quite likely to erupt in the wake of the Jewish departure from Gaza, this strikes me as extremely tone deaf.
``Everyone empathizes with what the Israelis are facing,'' she said, but added, ``It cannot be Gaza only.''

Rice insisted that soon after the pullout is complete Israel must take additional steps, including loosening travel restrictions in the West Bank and withdrawing from more Palestinian cities, the newspaper said.

Israeli officials have said they will not make further concessions unless the Palestinian Authority begins dismantling and disarming Palestinian militant groups, the article said.
Good for those anonymous Israeli officials. And I hope they don't. Unlike Oslo, this time around, let's insist on reciprocity and the PA actually living up to their agreements.

False, yes, but potent!

James Lileks had an absolutely must-read-screed last week against those disinvestin' Presbyterians.
The companies the church wishes to pressure include Caterpillar, which makes bulldozers purchased by the Israelis for the sole purpose of knocking down innocent homes of gentle lamb herders, and Motorola, which among other things sells night-vision goggles that give the Israeli Defense Forces an unfair advantage over people who want to smuggle in bombs to encourage the social-justice dialogue.

The church will probably get around to boycotting Cuisinart, if the imams suggest that Jews use Cuisinart products to grind up Gentile bones for Passover pastries. Of course it's not true, literally, but in the culture of the occupation and resistance, we must understand these things as potent metaphors. False, yes, but potent!
As they say, read the whole thing!

Previous posts on Protestant Disinvestment:

1)That Mote is Really Annoying Me
2)Anglican Angels

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

No Synagogue Left Behind

The Israeli Supreme Court is still considering the fate of the various synagogues being left behind in the Disengagement from Gaza – whether they should be destroyed – and by whom, Israelis or Arabs – or moved, brick by brick from Gaza to Israel proper.

Meanwhile, some of these arguments for keeping them in place have to be seen to be believed:
The petition, prepared by Atty. Gilad Korinaldi, maintained that Israel had violated international charters that guarantee freedom of religion and respect for religious sensibilities. He said it would be better if Arabs would destroy the buildings, and not Jews - and that perhaps the PA Arabs could be trusted not to vandalize or desecrate them.
Um, I ask rhetorically, has this guy heard about what the Wakf is doing to the Temple Mount, the most important physical monument in Jewish history? Or what happened at Joseph's tomb in Nablus/Shechem? Or the fact that Rachel's Tomb has been at times under bombardment and has been fortified to withstand attack with its own army post?

At least there is a judge on the panel who realizes just how disastrous that suggestion would turn out.
Judge Dorit Beinish responded that "life experience" teaches that the Arabs could not be trusted in this connection.
Unfortunately for us and our holy places.

In case you thought...

...that female circumcision was largely restricted to Africa, think again.

A German aid group finds the first solid proof of the practice, thought to be prevalent in the Middle East.

They're estimating 60% of the women in parts of Kurdish Iraq have been inflicted with the procedure. Not the urban centers but the rural areas.

The phenomenon has been so hard to document, however, because the practice is veiled in secrecy. And while some attitudes are beginning to change, this is slow. And meanwhile there is extreme social pressure and hounding.

Women are still thought to be promiscuous if they are uncircumcised, some people here say.

"They say the food an uncircumcised woman cooks is unclean," says Shirin Ali, "and that a circumcised girl has more affection for her family."

WADI workers said that four months ago in a village just north of Hasira, a newly married - and uncircumcised - woman was so badly treated by her in-laws that she performed the operation on herself.

Hero Umar, the social worker, nonetheless thinks attitudes are slowly beginning to change.

"Most imams are cooperative," she notes. "The biggest obstacle remaining is the older generation of women."

Which, unfortunately for us, is a far better reason than either Cindy Sheehan or the recent electoral gender gaps to be annoyed at other members of the female sex.

Quick! Give That Woman Some Prozac

Cindy Sheehan pronounces:

"The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush," Sheehan began. After calling for Bush's impeachment and making a demand that Bush send his "two little party-animal girls" to war, she makes this nuanced assessment:

"What they're saying, too, is like, it's OK for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. ... It's OK for Israel to occupy Palestine, ... for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it's not OK for Syria to be in Lebanon. They're a bunch of (expletive) hypocrites."
Finally, an explanation of why the leftists are so depressed about everything.

Because who wouldn't be psychotically depressed if this is what and how they thought?

And, as Lileks points out, it's a cyclical trend which is going to prove self-fulfilling.

The hard left in America needs to realize a bald, cruel fact: Anyone who sees no moral distinction between Israel and the mullahs of Iran, or sees the U.S. attempt to set up a constitutional republic in Iraq as equivalent to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, suffers from incurable moral cretinism. The more the fervent anti-war base embraces these ideas, the more they ensure that no one will trust the left with national security. Ever.
But it is so much more fun and dramatically fulfilling to feel the pain of defeat...

[Hat tip: Instapundit]

Meanwhile, my co-blogger at Kesher Talk links to Andrea Harris' post at Spleenville about Cindy Sheehan. Harris is fed up with women who excuse Cindy Sheehan everything while mouthing platitudes about how no one can criticize her who hasn't stood in her shoes.

I dunno. I got much more fed up with women during past election seasons, when the MSM was always regaling us with tales of the gender gap and how the majority of women usually went left. Snort. Thank God that demographic changed a great deal during the last election.

In Which I Reveal I am Voldemort

Uh oh.

Turns out I am:

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz

by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

Mahahahaheh! And I thought I sounded too soft!

On the other hand, that means hordes of young men at Guantanamo worship me.

So not all bad. Right. Right?

And, hey, purple matches my site -- a whole hell of a lot better than green, in any case.

Previous Posts on Harry Potter: Celebrating What We Have in Common

Watching Enabled

Interesting and informative Video of Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Schaffer describing his participation in Able Danger.

The man comes off quite impressively.

Worth noting, the video appears on CBS, The Early Show, which goes to show that the story is finally generating interest in the MSM.

For whatever meager trifle that may be worth.

Previous Posts on this topic:

Defending America From The Truth

Of What Ifs and Isolationists

Friday, August 12, 2005

Defending America From The Truth

There's been much talk of Able Danger in the last week -- the report that Mohammed Atta and 3 other 9/11 terrorists came to the attention of elite military intelligence. But, because of the legal Wall, erected by Janet Reno and Jamie Gorelick, that blocked intelligence on terrorists from being shared with law enforcement, no one in law enforcement was able to act on that information.

The question in the last few days is why did the 9/11 Commission not report on Able Danger? As it turns out, they were twice briefed on it. And suspicion is beginning to fall on the composition of the Comission itself, since Jamie Gorelick, responsible for the creation of the Wall, was also, herself, a Commissioner.

Deborah Orin, writing in the NYPost, points out:
Gorelick's defenders might argue that hindsight is 20-20. But that excuse doesn't work in this case, because she was warned way back then — when the see-no-evil wall was created.

That warning came right from the front line in the War on Terror — from Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who headed up key terror probes like the prosecutions for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

White — herself a Clinton appointee — wrote directly to Reno that the wall was a big mistake.

"It is hard to be totally comfortable with instructions to the FBI prohibiting contact with the United States Attorney's Offices when such prohibitions are not legally required," White wrote on June 13, 1995.

"The most effective way to combat terrorism is with as few labels and walls as possible so that wherever permissible, the right and left hands are communicating."

That memo surfaced during the 9/11 hearings. But The Post has learned that White was so upset that she bitterly protested with another memo — a scathing one — after Reno and Gorelick refused to tear down the wall.

With eerie foresight, White warned that the Reno-Gorelick wall hindered law enforcement and could cost lives, according to sources familiar with the memo — which is still secret.
Last year, the Commission made a very big deal out of the fact that it was not going to blame either the Clinton Administration or the Bush Administration for the intelligence failures that led to 9/11. Because that would politicize the process.

If this fact had been known, there would have been no way to stop blame from being laid since this whole intelligence debacle, from start to finish, took place during the Clinton Administration. So, in other words, in order to keep the process from becoming politicized, they withheld the truth, thus defeating their entire purpose for existence.

I'm just speculating here on the hard negotiations that would have gone on in order to suppress this information -- because it would not have damaged the hawks.

At the Corner, John Podhoretz points out another reason the Commission may have suppressed its information about the Able Danger report.
The 9/11 Commission staff did hear about intelligence-gathering efforts that hit pay dirt on the whereabouts of Mohammed Atta -- in 1999 -- and deliberately chose to omit word of those efforts.

And why? Because to do so might upset the timeline the Commission had established on Atta.

And why is that significant? Because the Mohammed Atta timeline established by the Commission pointedly insisted Atta did not meet with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague.

And why is that significant? Because debunking the Atta-Iraq connection was of vital importance to Democrats, who had become focused almost obsessively on the preposterous notion that there was no relation whatever between Al Qaeda and Iraq -- that Al Qaeda and Iraq might even have been enemies.
He thinks this is going to be the biggest story of the summer.

Gee and I thought that was Natalee Holloway.

For an article that gives an excellent presentation of the situation to date, see: Atta Report Hints Solons May Have Acted Too Quickly, which includes this tidbit:
Most privacy advocates appear to be unmoved by the news that data mining could have helped the government find the September 11 hijackers in advance.

"It actually does not cause us to rethink this," a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, Timothy Sparapani, said. "The American public's most sensitive personally identifiable information should not be subjected to this kind of experiment unless and until we have some kind of confidence that society is going to get some kind of tangible benefit out of it."

However, Mr. Sparapani said the failure to act on the information that was developed does merit investigation. "The problem is nobody conveyed it to anyone who could do anything about it. It says to me enormous structural divisions in the intelligence community need to be overcome," he said.
UPDATE: At the Corner, Andy McCarthy has a must-read series of inquiries speculating on a connection between Sandy Berger's activities in, ahem, innocently misappropriating classified documents from the archive and the Timeline of the 9/11 Commission.

It all comes down to What did they know about Able Danger and when did they know it. Was this omission and the subsequent document grab all Democrat about ass-covering at a time when political sensitivities, with the emphasis on the war on terror were very high, just before the 2004 election?

Previous Posts on this issue: Of What Ifs and Isolationists

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Leftist Kumbayayas

The New York Sun has just started a blog, at which their editorial, Cindy Sheehan's Crowd, can be read.

In it, Ira Stoll, the Vice President and Managing Editor, [who has authored all the pieces on it thus far] exposes the the extremist views propounded by some of the anti-war movements backing Sheehan, a group made up of the following: GSFP, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out and the Crawford Peace House.
Well, the Crawford Peace House Web site helpfully includes a photo depicting the entire state of Israel as "Palestine" and it carries a link to a report that when Prime Minister Sharon visited Crawford, the "peace house" greeted him with an "800-foot-long banner containing all of the United Nations resolutions that Israel is in violation of." The Crawford Peace House site also features a photo of Eugene Bird, who has suggested that Israeli intelligence was responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out all have representatives on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, the big anti-war umbrella group. (They share that distinction with the Communist Party, USA). United for Peace and Justice organized the big march during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, at which a New York Sun poll of 253 of the protesters found that fully 67% of those surveyed said they agreed with the statement "Iraqi attacks on American troops occupying Iraq are legitimate resistance." In other words, Ms. Sheehan's "coalition" includes a lot of people who think the people who killed her son were justified....

The news that Congressman Conyers and Congresswoman Waters are involved fits with the rest of the picture. Mr. Conyers was the host of a Democratic "hearing" in June on the Iraq war that his fellow Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, protested was a forum for "people motivated by anti-Semitic or anti-Israel animus." And Ms. Waters is still best known for having endorsed the conspiracy theory that the CIA caused the crack epidemic in American cities.
This rather bizarre belief of Ms. Waters, by the bye, seems an excellent example of the theory aired below. The genuine far leftist view underlying so much of what they spew is that the military and intelligence arms of our government is willfully harming its citizens. Puts responsibility on the sinister intelligence services, and removes it from the people at fault. A worldview, I note, that is more in keeping in its conspiratorial tone with today's Middle East or the authoritarian European 19th century rather than what is normative in America today.

Meanwhile, according to Drudge, some members of Sheehan's family are urging her to desist in her crusade. It's clear enough, anyway, that her extremist views are not the views of her son, who chose to volunteer for the army.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Of What Ifs and Isolatists

Fascinating new interview with Christopher Hitchens available here.

I do disagree to some extent with his answer here:
Q - If there was a Democratic president on 9/11, would there have been a difference of opinion in the American left about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Not from people like Michael Moore (the American film director and strong critic of President Bush), who makes a perfectly good brownshirt [fascist]. Or Noam Chomsky. No, it would not. To them it would have been further proof that the ruling class just has two faces and one party. But I think, in the mainstream of the democratic and Republican parties, you would have seen an exact switch. Richard Holbrooke’s position (Holbrooke was Clinton's UN Ambassador and is a leading Democratic foreign policy thinker) would be Dick Cheney’s position. The ones in the middle would have just done a switch, finding arguments to support or criticize the war. In fact, I remember that people in the Clinton administration spoke of an inevitable confrontation coming with Saddam. They dropped this idea only because it was a Republican president. That is simply disgraceful. It is likewise disgraceful how many Republicans ran as isolationists against [former Vice-President] Al Gore in the 2000 elections. The only people who come out of this whole affair well are an odd fusion of the old left – the small pro regime change left – and some of the people known as neoconservatives who have a commitment to liberal democracy. Many of the neocons have Marxist backgrounds and believe in ideas and principles and have worked with both parties in power.
In point of fact, I knew many conservatives who were annoyed with President Clinton for not providing a more robust defense against both Al Qaeda and Iraq during his Presidency. I expect more conservatives would have attempted to blame the Democratic administration for the multiple foreign policy failures that resulted in 9/11, and with far more justice than than that directed at Republicans by Democrats in my mind since the Clintonian refusal to respond to multiple aggressions was exactly what triggered their comparatively greater terror attack on 9/11.

Moreover, as is once more in the news, Clinton responded to the terrorist threat with a law enforcement approach that created a wall between our intelligence services and our criminal investigative services, which paid excessive deference to the rights of visitors -- even when their actions were highly suspicious -- and, in doing so, paid insufficient attention to the safety of citizens. This, despite the fact that there were ample warnings from intelligence chatter that America would soon be facing terrorism at home. How the ACLU and its entire subculture, must have loved that legalistic wall holding in check the intelligence services so that they didn't encroach onto the rights of the people, even when the people so protected were tourists dreaming of terrorism!

This whole approach derives from the ingrained leftist disdain for the military and the intelligence services popularized in the wake of Vietnam and the Cold War. Because it seeks a separation of law enforcement from intelligence that neuters both, believing all the while that the controlling influences of the various intelligence services are as likely to be an enemy of the people as is an external terrorist threat.

Really, this kind of notion is just the effluvia of leftist ideology. While this attitude made perfect sense under the authoritarian European regimes of the 19th century and the early 20th century, it no longer fits the worldview of many in the West these days.

No doubt the left would riposte that this is naive on our part. And as proof for their argument they would point to their belief that the War on Terror is only a subterfuge, a pretext to generate widescale the Politics of Fear for the purpose of wresting rights from the hands of gullible American citizens.

Obviously in some situations, relying on government agencies to rein in their own power would be self-delusional and criminnally shortsighted. In this case, against this form of international terrorism, their entire construction of the problem as a Wag the Dog scenario betrays the unseriousness of their approach. Meanwhile, I wonder if the people who espouse the leftist view are at all conscious of the historical derivation of their own paranoia in this regard and what a relic of the old world, and old worldviews, it is.

Still, coming back to our original subject, I think if it had come to war after 9/11 with a Democrat administration, there would have been great conservative support. People were mad as hell after Clinton refrained from responding to the bombing of the Cole, though he now has some half-fangled excuse worked out for himself about how he would only have been accused of interfering in the 2000 election if he had. Bollocks. That's precisely the nature of the job as Commander in Chief, a part of the job his nature made him less suitable to fulfill than Bush.

Although I have no doubt if 9/11 had happened under a Democratic administration that the Pat Buchanan/The American Conservative wing of the party - the isolationist response - would certainly have proved more popular than it is now. But I don't believe the realignment would have been proportionate to the way it exists now, with the current, signal lack of support for the war among democrats.

But, man, the idea of entrusting our security to a President Gore -- still scary as all hell!

Hat Tip on the Hitchen's piece: Harry's Place

Head's Up to Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute for his excellent opening gambits in parsing the messy Able Danger affair.

Favorite TV Shows

My 10 Favorite TV Shows:

Gakked from around the Blogosphere.

Currently, the top three are pretty much a 3 way tie even though I only saw the 7 episodes of The Inside that were recently broadcast. That was shaping up to be an amazing show, however. Definitely obsessive-making.

  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer
  • Angel
  • The Inside
  • Firefly
  • (current) Battlestar Galactica
  • Chancer
  • Touching Evil (UK Version)
  • Wonderfalls

  • Veronica Mars

Okay, there are only 9 that I can think of at the minute. I'm a little shaky on the Veronica Mars though. It definitely depends on what happens this year as to whether that one stays on the list. That one's definitely down at the bottom.

Heh! Notice the overwhelming and consistent Joss Whedon, Tim Minear theme! Although, these days, I may actually prefer Tim Minear to Joss Whedon.

In any case, before those two, I never bothered to do things like find out the name of Creators and Showrunners. So have no clue who created Chancer or Touching Evil. But, hello, that is what IMDB is for. Hold on a second. Okay, the directors of Chancer are Alan Grint and Laurence Moody. Grint sound like a good Potterverse name, come to think of it. But the page doesn't mention whether they created the show or not.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Celebrating What We Have in Common

Turns out the prisoners at Guantanamo like Harry Potter as much as I do. Although they seem to like Agatha Christie a whole more. Well I liked her, too, when I was 10 and 11.
Harry Potter has bewitched detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where tales of the young wizard and mysteries by Agatha Christie top the list of most popular books, a prison librarian said on Tuesday...

[T]he popularity of the best-selling Harry Potter books, which recount the adventures of a boy wizard as he triumphs over the powers of evil, was matched only by the prisoners' passion for Agatha Christie, some of whose murder mysteries are set in the Middle East.

We have Harry Potter in four languages, English, French, Farsi and Russian. We have it on order in Arabic. We do not have books 5 and 6 in the series, at this time. We have had several detainees read the series," [a civilian contractor who works at the prison] said in a written response to questions from Reuters.

"One prisoner has requested the movies," she said.
It's not really surprising, though. They're all enamoured of a little boy wizard fighting evil. Evidently, that's how they project themselves in their own minds. Boys, turning into men, fighting Western evil and decadence against the odds, ready to die in the cause. That's the Utopian aspect of the extremist Wahhabist vision shining through.

In comparison, my reasons for liking Harry Potter turn out to be a little less literal.

So why is it that they like Agatha Christie? Just boredom?

It's an interesting factoid though that the Army won't provide these prisoners with Koran's containing commentaries lest the Army end up in a situation where they have to provide Wahhabist commentary. So, the men get just the plain unvarnished text. It's a lot less lethal in that form, evidently.

[Hat Tip: LGF]

UPDATE: Soccer Dad points out that Guantanamo even has its own version of dementors in the form of very depressing UN human rights investigators that lurk about the place.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I've begun joint blogging at Kesher Talk.

All that means is that a number of the posts I put up here can also be found there, limited primarily to The War on Islamism and Jewish Issues. Posts on topics outside of these – heh! there haven't been many lately – will only appear here.

Although one thing: I included an introduction at Kesher Talk that I never cross posted here. So it is about time I posted a relevant version of it here.

I consider myself to be a neo-conservative hawk. The moment when I broke definitively from liberalism came soon after I graduated from college, during the Cold War, upon completing Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler. In conjunction with the jolt of understanding that book delivered, I began to read the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. Those editorials simply seemed to describe reality better, in my opinion, than the same events looked at through the filter of the NYTimes which then, as now, preferred to accept blinders and boundaries imposed by mainstream leftist ideology.

It was a different era, though. Being newly on the right then, as a NY Jew, without access to all the multiple sources of information that the internet currently puts at our disposal, had its stresses and shortcomings. On the other hand, it also meant I paid more attention to the nuances of the assumptions that the NYTimes was making in its columns and op eds. And that I noticed how the information was being framed. And where I sharply diverged from their conclusions.

So it was this, rather than a series of events culminating in the terrorist explosions in 9/11, that accounted for my turn to the right. Up until that point, I had not been particularly political, except when it came to feminism, where I was very active. But this evolution meant I heard about neo-conservatives, for one, years before this term became the familiar butt of the left it now is. And it is among that cadre that I generally place myself as far as foreign policy.

I'm extremely happy that this administration has rid itself, as an animating principle, of that moribund old notion in real politik, whereby every dictator, no matter how corrupt, as long as he was stable, would be considered acceptable in order to maintain the all valuable status quo. While I believe that the turn from this policy is sincere, it is also true that in reality implementing the new foreign policy will run into bumps and crevasses along the road.

Unlayering History

A series of fascinating archaeological digs are currently going on in Israel, each one of them, as it turns out, central to the religious history of Jews.

For one, remains of 10th century monumental architecture have been located in the area of the city of David in Jerusalem. The archaeologist, Eilat Mazar, believes she may have uncovered a section of David's palace. Other archaeologists speculate that it may be a section of the Fortress of Zion, originally conquered by David from the Jebusites.

In either case, the find is important because so little archaeological evidence from that time exists, fueling speculation among some revisionist thinkers that the Bible's historical narrative is unreliable. And that David's kingdom was little more than that belonging to a typical tribal chieftain. If this find, indeed, shows some monumental architecture, that will alter the shape of the exchange for some time to come.

Among some Palestinians, such as Hani Nur el-Din, professor of archaeology at Al Quds University and his colleagues, the notion of historical revisionism takes on a more extreme form, as they claim that:
[B]iblical archaeology [is] an effort by Israelis "to fit historical evidence into a biblical context." [Professor Nur el-Din] added: "The link between the historical evidence and the biblical narration, written much later, is largely missing. There's a kind of fiction about the 10th century. They try to link whatever they find to the biblical narration. They have a button, and they want to make a suit out of it."
In other words, like all good imperialists [thank you Edward Said for that unending plaint] biblical archaeologists are doing no more than forcing their narrative of history onto the scraps of data that are dug up in order to resurrect a foundation that, perhaps, was never there.

However, the Bible is one of the few historical records we have of this time. Moreover, it is a record that has impacted history to a considerable extent – that's an immovable fact. Obviously the notion of accurate history in the early biblical period differs entirely from our own. By our definition, the Bible is not attempting to preserve or represent the minutiae of accurate history. And indeed, in the larger philosophical sense, the accurate notion of history may not even be possible.
As historical knowledge is claimed to be privileged, I feel entitled (as I would not otherwise feel) to make the point that there is a twofold antinomy in the very notion of an historical fact. For, ex hypothesi, an historical fact is what really took place, but where did anything take place? Each episode in a revolution or a war resolves itself into a multitude of individual psychic movements. Each of these movements is the translation of unconscious development, and these resolve themselves into cerebral, hormonal or nervous phenomena, which themselves have reference to the physical or chemical order. Consequently, historical facts are no more given than any other. It is the historian, or the agent of history, who constitutes them by abstraction and as though under the threat of an infinite regress.

Claude Lévi-Strauss -- The Savage Mind

Okay, those are the philosophical perimeters of the discussion.

In reality, one of the finds uncovered so far is a seal, shown here, with the name of an official - Yehukal son of Shelemyahu son of Shevi - mentioned in in the Book of Jeremiah, which goes to show that by the late Seventh and Sixth century BCE, some of the minutiae detailed by the bible is borne out in physical remains.

[Edward Cook attempts to elucidate what we know of Yehukal son of Shelemyahu here. And one of his commenters, Robert Deutsch, suggests that the paleography on the inscription might point to an earlier date, late 8th, or the first half of the 7th century BC instead of late 7th or early 6th.]

Jim Davila thinks Professor Nur el-Din's criticism, above, is fair, though he, too, notes that he "look[s] forward to Professor Nur el-Din's condemnation of the Palestinian Authority's false claims that there never were Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount."

I, too, can't help reflect how self serving this kind of verbiage is at a time when the archaeological remains of the Second Temple – the actual, physical remains of the religious foundations of a people – are literally being disappeared into garbage heaps by a gleeful Waqf, the Muslim religious authority that controls the Temple Mount. No doubt, the Waqf, like Arafat, doesn't believe the historical artifacts they are destroying have any worth, since the Temple never existed. And true enough, if you get rid of the evidence, it is inescapable that soon there will be no evidence to prove the contrary position.

I remain clueless as to why neither the Sharon Government, nor the Israeli Antiquities Authority, are protesting this outrage more thoroughly. In fact, I suported Sharon for Prime Minister largely because I felt sure that his Government would weigh in more muscularly than Ehud Barak's to prevent the archaeological destruction of the Temple from continuing to take place. Which, in retrospect, appears colosally naive.

In Tiberias, ruins of a first century marble floor have been recovered.
Excavators believe these remains were part of the palace of Herod Antipas, the son of the founder of Tiberias, Herod the Great.

The excavations focused on the city's basilica complex, believed to be the seat of the Sanhedrin – the ancient Jewish religious authority.
That is, the Sanhedrin would have used this as its seat during the late second and third century, beginning decades after the Bar Kochba revolt. Discussions that appear in the Jerusalem Talmud may have taken place in this Sanhedrin originally.

It's also nicely symbolic that a pefectly preserved water cistern has been found under the courtyard of the Sanhedrin, since traditionally there is an association of Torah with water.

And a street paved with basalt stones has also been recovered in Tiberias. This is of special interest to me, because I think the checked basalt and limestone street uncovered in Beit She'an is dramatic and beautiful.


Finally, we come to notice of the excavation of Tel Yavneh, the seat of the Sanhedrin immediately after the Destruction of the Second Temple, in the late first century and very early second century CE. Known as Jamnia during Roman Times. This is a dig still in its infancy, the last important, unexcavated Tel on the coastal plane of Israel. Which, um, tells you a whole lot, just by that fact, about the residual existent conflicts between the religious and the archaeologists.

Actually, last time I was in Israel, I assumed Yavneh would have been dug up already and tried to find it, despite the fact that it was nowhere to be seen on my map. Instead, after getting stuck in traffic at rush hour in downtown Yavneh, annoying in my first day in years in a car with stick shift – I ended up driving my rented car into some extremely restricted area on the coast, where the soldiers were not amused to find me looking for the Yavneh Archaeological Park. So I'm extremely glad that when I make my next trip, there will be a lot more to see.

UPDATE: The Anchoress points out the extremely weird anomaly of reading a post about the possible discovery of David's palace, only to be told that wealthy neo-conservative Jews funded and supported the dig.

What? Does the NYTimes writer think evil conservative funding will taint the dig? Make the archaeologist in charge less dependable because God forbid, she may be a conservative, too! And thus suspect! Or is this a scoop to show that the link between neo-conservatives and Zionists has finally been unearthed.

Evidently, the article, at least, wants to plant an inclination towards suspicion in the minds of its readers.

Or maybe the writer is just clueless is about how archaeological funding for digs is arranged.

Maybe the archaeologist in charge is just thrilled to get funding and doesn't inquire too closely whether the funder is liberal or conservative. Would this issue of funding been less sinister if a fabulously wealthy liberal had arranged it?

Never Say!

So the London terrorists were caught bilking the British out of £500,000 in welfare benefits?

What can I say but: Snort. Yeah, that was bound to happen.

It's been widespread among the hawkish blogosphere for quite a while that British Islamist extremists were intentionally pursuing a policy of receiving welfare payments, even as they worked against the state to which that they had emigrated. It's probably even written up as a required item in The Al Qaeda Instruction Manual for Jihadist emigrants to Britain and other Western Countries ripe for Conquest.

I certainly hope that after this, the British get wise and start cracking down on this scheme...

Okay, that comes off prima-donna-ish and with a bit of a superior, I-told-you-so air, but it would be nice to believe our chief ally in this war was watching its own back.

Unfortunately, when I read interviews like the following, which took place on Fox news, 7/29/05, I kind of doubt that:
JOHN LOFTUS [terrorism expert and a former prosecutor for the Justice Department]: Aswat [the terrorist picked up in Zambia] is believed to be the mastermind of all the bombings in London.

JERRICK [moderator]: On 7/7 and 7/21, this is the guy we think.

LOFTUS: This is the guy, and what's really embarrassing is that the entire British police are out chasing him, and one wing of the British government, MI6 or the British Secret Service, has been hiding him. And this has been a real source of contention between the CIA, the Justice Department, and Britain.

JERRICK: MI6 has been hiding him. Are you saying that he has been working for them?

LOFTUS: Oh I'm not saying it. This is what the Muslim sheik said in an interview in a British newspaper back in 2001.

JERRICK: So he's a double agent, or was?

LOFTUS: He's a double agent.

JERRICK: So he's working for the Brits to try to give them information about Al-Qaeda, but in reality he's still an Al-Qaeda

LOFTUS: Yeah. The CIA and the Israelis all accused MI 6 of letting all these terrorists live in London not because they're getting Al-Qaeda information, but for appeasement. It was one of those you leave us alone, we leave you alone kind of things.
As they say, read the whole thing.

[Hat Tip on the article about welfare fraud: LGF]

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

That Mote is Really Annoying Me!

It appears to be a meme.

Some of you will recall that when the AUT recently boycotted the evil Jews Zionists, one of the ways that they used to achieve a majority vote was by not letting any Jews speak to the opposite point of view before the vote took place.

Well it looks like the Disciples of Christ just borrowed that tried and true method. While sitting safe and whole thousands of miles away from any direct terrorist threat, their Assembly has joined the United Church of Christ and the Anglican Church in calling for Israel to dismantle its safety wall, erected to prevent more terrorist bombs from exploding, killing actual people and maiming the survivors for life.

Moreover, they took this vote after denying the privilege of speaking to a representative of the Wiesenthal Center, which had specifically arranged to send Tzippi Cohen, a survivor of the Cafe Hillel bombing, to speak to them before they voted.

What was that again about casting the first stone?

Or criticizing the mote that is in thy brother's eye while ignoring the beam in thine own?

Oh, but that would require a muscular approach to observing the Church's teaching oneself and possibly the exercise of some self restraint -- and moral indignation is so much more fun, especially when exercised at someone else's expense!

Previous posts on the subject:
Finally, Good News from Israel on that absurd AUT Boycott
Anglican Angels

A Sad Note In Update

Steven Vincent, whose work I quoted below, was proven too prescient in his analysis of the religious authoritarianism and lawlessness permeating the culture of Basra's police forces.

Sadly, he was murdered yesterday. Kidnapped off the street, along with his translator, and shot three through the chest until dead. His translator, a woman, Nour Weidi, who was shot four times, remains alive. Suspicion falls on members the Iraqi police forces of the region.

The point Steven Vincent highlighted in that article was that the British were doing nothing to head off the growing lawlessness and religious fervor in the Coalition sponsored police forces. Vincent highlighted that a large majority of the men in the new forces were taken from the same segment of uneducated and underemployed men as those that currently "swell" the ranks of our old friend, Moktada al-Sadr. And that the loyalty they maintain is as much to their Mosques as to the State. And that it is often members of the police who are responsible for targeted assassinations of former Bathists.

In response, the British, who are responsible for security in that sector, were more or less looking the other way. In the name of multiculturalism and through fear of the charge of imperialism being thrown at them, they were doing nothing to retrain these men to understand democratic principles, or to inculcate a notion of an independent police force.

The situation, Vincent pointed out, looked like a disaster waiting to happen. Tragically the disaster has struck at him first.

In his NYTimes article, Vincent quoted an unnamed police source:
An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of 'death car': a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment," he wrote.
Early reports indicate that Mr. Vincent and his translator were kidnapped by five gunmen driving a police car.

One wonders whether this will now shock the British political sensibility awake. Or whether their laissez-faire attitude in this regard will continue in the same ostrich-like way as they return to sleep.

On a personal note I'm sad that Mr. Vincent has been murdered just as I discovered his incisive analysis and the excellent work he was doing in Basra. Like Daniel Pearl, it looks like Steven Vincent was getting too close to uncovering -- and hence revealing to the world -- the state of the festering, religious network which currently operates in Basra. And that those in charge decided he was too much of a threat to allow him to live.

Daniel Pearl's murderers are now all in jail or dead, I believe. One can only hope the same happens with Mr. Vincent's executioners.

I want to thank Clive Davis, whose blog first referred me to Vincent's recent piece in the NYTimes and to his blog. I only wish I had discovered Vincent's writings earlier.

Rest In Peace

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

In Plain English

For a truly mind blogging example of George Galloway ranting about his true opinions to Arab audiences, go here and watch this video, provided by Memri. This is not a translation, this is Galloway, speaking in plain, plain English. Among his many choice comments:
Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and too corrupt to do anything about it.
So glad this guy is in the House of Commons in Britain.

And on a related note:

Say you're strolling through Edinburgh during the festival and hoping to enjoy a spot of anti-imperialism to go along with your dose of anti-semitism. Then this is the right place for you:
The Birmingham Repetory Theatre Company Presents


A witty and provocative new play about multicultural life, commissioned by the Festival from the Scottish playwright Shan Khan.

There was a place, where The Christians and The Muslims existed in relative peace. Everyone was more or less happy, except for The Jews - who were few and had to be thankful to their Christian Overlords, for the little space they were accorded.

Then one day more Jews came, and it soon became apparent to them that they'd need their own space. So they got their own space - but at The Muslims' expense. The Muslims of course are fuming. The Jews feel they're perfectly within their rights. And The Christians are trying to take a back-seat and let the other two share the blame. This place is a multi-faith Prayer Room in a British college.
Don't you love the subtlety on display here. If you think really hard, a light dawns and you realize, Prayer Room! Why that's a metaphor for Israel!

Uh huh. And what's the message this show generates?

Could it be?

Why yes it is!
Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and too corrupt to do anything about it.
Isn't it lovely to observe how well Galloway represents the views of his constituents!

You know, the line at which there is a consensus that something is anti-semitic is currently so fluid in Britain that I actually wonder what ordinary British people think when they see things like this, if anything at all. Among the ones who aren't all rah, rah, rah, rain death and hell down upon those Zionists!, is their response to this blasé and unexceptionable? Or does it provoke something sharper?

Hangings In Iran

Here's a petition some of you may be interestined in signing and spreading around more widely, concerning the Iranian national policy of hanging gay teenagers.

As far as I understand the matter, these people are offered a choice between sex change operation, legal under Iranian religious law, or death.

This is a heinous matter which must be stopped.

[Hat tip: Normblog]