Monday, May 26, 2014

Killing “Oslo” and Validating Arab Anti-Jewish Racism. By Michael Lumish.

Killing “Oslo” and Validating Arab Anti-Jewish Racism. By Michael Lumish. Elder of Ziyon, May 25, 2014.


Barack Obama killed the Oslo Accords and validated Arab anti-Jewish racism from the very beginning of his administration.

He did so directly out of the gate in 2009 by demanding a total “freeze” on the building of Jewish homes in Judea thus laying the framework for Palestinian-Arab rejection for any possible conclusion of hostilities. While it is obviously true that previous American administrations opposed “settlement activity” it was only the Obama administration that turned “settlement freeze” into a precondition for ending the ongoing violence against the Jewish people in that part of the world.

The general mood among western progressives toward the Jewish State of Israel, it must be understood, is hateful. This is not universal among western leftists, but it does constitute the overall mood, which is one of generalized and organized contempt.

The ideological backdrop toward the State of Israel, and thus in some measure toward the Jewish people, more generally, within the western progressive-left is negative. Obviously not all western progressives consider the Jewish State of Israel to be some militaristic horror, but the general mood among leftists toward Israel is one of disdain because they see the country as the foremost example of racist, imperialist, colonialist, apartheid, militarist, racist, badness.

Within the western progressive-left Jews are an object of pity when we are being slaughtered in great numbers, but an object of disdain when we dare to stand up for ourselves.

I do not see how anyone could draw a much different conclusion, given the fact that the primary forms of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism in the west today derive from the progressive-left. While there is obviously some lingering old-style, knuckle-dragging anti-Jewish racism among a diminishing and aging minority on the right, there is full-blown hatred coming at the Jewish people from mainstream venues within the western progressive-left. These venues include major media outlets such as the Guardian, the BBC, and the New York Times which regularly portray Israel as an aggressor state, while almost entirely giving a pass to blood-curdling Arab-Muslim expressions of genocidal Jew Hatred coming from the mosques in the Middle East.

Somehow, against all reason, calling for the murder of Jews by Muslims is considered just another day, but if Jews build housing for themselves in Judea that is considered a holy atrocity by westerners.

The fact of the matter – and I intend to beat this drum until I drive it into sufficient skulls – is that my political movement has betrayed women in the Middle East, betrayed Gay people in the Middle East, and betrayed all non-Muslims in that part of the world through failing to speak out against Arab-Muslim Supremacism, which is the movement for political Islam.  Christianity, in fact, is being decimated in the land where that religion originated.

Given the fact that I come out of the left I find it terribly sad that the movement, as a whole, is either too cowardly or too intellectually bankrupt to stand up for persecuted minorities in inconvenient parts of the world.

My essential premise is that the western left is a political and ideological movement torn by its own internal contradictions. On the one hand, the movement champions universal human rights as a matter of conscience. It is a fundamental part of western political thought since the Enlightenment that all people, everywhere, should have essential basic freedoms due to the fact that we have essential basic rights. These include the right to a free exchange of ideas as articulated in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. They also include habeas corpus, the freedom from imprisonment without a fair trial. The freedom to pursue one’s own economic advancement. The freedom to be safe within one’s own domicile from government intrusion without warrant. And the freedom, as such things are interpreted today, to live without government imposed sanctions according to one’s ethnicity or gender or sexual orientation.

I, you should know, am a hard-line left-wing radical, because I actually believe in the concept of universal human rights. I am a partisan for universal human rights. I believe that, in fact, the left is nothing without a firm commitment to universal human rights. The problem is that universal human rights are entirely incompatible with the multicultural ideal which represents the other pillar of western progressivism as a political movement.

It is precisely because of that unspoken, unacknowledged tension between these two pillars of progressive-left thinking that the movement has become torn and incoherent. It is incoherent because it cannot stand up for its own alleged values. The reason that it cannot stand up for its own alleged values is because those values are in ideological conflict with one another.

And it is within this ideological conflict and backdrop that the Obama administration betrayal of the Jewish people needs to be understood. Barack Obama comes out of an ideological tradition, derived from scholars such as Rashid Khalidi and the late Edward Said who are, themselves, indebted to post-colonial and post-structuralist theory, that views Israel as within the nineteenth-century western imperial tradition.

It is because Obama views Israel within this intellectual lens that he considers it to be a western “colonialist” state and therefore opposes additional “settlement construction” on “Palestinian” land.

And it is for that reason that he demanded a freeze on Jewish construction in Judea upon taking office.

The bottom line is that Barak Obama is advancing the cause of Jew Hatred throughout the world by accepting the “Palestinian narrative” of total victim-hood and thereby insisting that Jews are guilty of the persecution of the a subsection of the Arab majority and should, for good measure, be allowed to live in some places, but not others.

Until the Jewish left grasps the fact that its own political movement has betrayed its own people, we cannot move forward to greener political pastures.  I do not know that we need to embrace the political right, but we must understand the betrayal of the Jewish people by the progressive-left and we must understand that the Obama administration played a significant role in that betrayal when it advanced the idea of “total settlement freeze” for the Jews, but not for others, as somehow reasonable.

The general anti-Jewish/anti-Israel backdrop within the western progressive-left provides the ideological space out of which the Obama administration operates viz-a-viz Israel.  It is because well-meaning, but naive, progressive-left Jews support the administration’s view of Israel as the aggressor that the Obama administration can treat the small Jewish minority in the Middle East in a contemptuous fashion.

Until we come to accept that the Jews in the Middle East were decimated not only by the Romans, but also by the Muslims, can we even begin to understand our own history.

Efraim Karsh, in the very first page of the very first chapter of Palestine Betrayed tells us this:
At the time of the Muslim occupation of Palestine in the seventh century, the country’s Jewish population ranged in the hundreds of thousands at the very least; by the 1880s Palestine’s Jewish community had been reduced to about 24,000, or some 5 percent of the total population.
(Efram Karsh, Palestine Betrayed, Yale University Press, 2010, pg. 8.)

Here is a question: How did this happen?

Was it a typhoon that simply swept away 95 percent of the Jewish population of the Middle East or was there, perhaps, other, more human factors, involved?

I am guessing the latter.

Why the Liberal Arts Matter. By Fareed Zakaria.

Why the liberal arts matter. By Fareed Zakaria. Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN, May 24, 2014.


It’s graduation season in the United States, which means the season of commencements speeches – a time for canned jokes and wise words. This year I was asked to do the honors at Sarah Lawrence in New York, a quintessential liberal arts college. So I thought it was worth talking about the idea of a liberal arts education – which is under serious attack these days.

The governors of Texas, Florida and North Carolina have all announced that they do not intended to spend taxpayer money subsidizing the liberal arts. Florida’s Governor, Rick Scott, asks, “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” Even President Obama recently urged students to keep in mind that a technical training could be more valuable than a degree in art history.

I can well understand the concerns about liberal arts because I grew up in India in the 1960s and ’70s. A technical training was seen as the key to a good career. If you were bright, you studied science, so that’s what I did.

But when I got to America for college, I quickly saw the immense power of a liberal education. For me, the most important use of it is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college, I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough.

I realized coming from India, I was pretty good at taking tests, at regurgitating stuff I had memorized, but not so good at expressing my own ideas. Now I know I’m supposed to say that a liberal education teaches you to think but thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my “thoughts” are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.

Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and it brings clarity and order to your ideas. If you think this has no use, ask Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.

Bezos insists that his senior executives write memos – often as long as six printed pages. And he begins senior management meetings with a period of quiet time – sometimes as long as 30 minutes – while everyone reads the memos and makes notes on them.

Whatever you do in life, the ability to write clearly, cleanly and, I would add, quickly, will prove to be an invaluable skill.

The second great advantage of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to speak and speak your mind. One of the other contrasts that struck me between school in India and college in America was that an important part of my grade was talking. My professors were going to judge me on the process of thinking through the subject matter and presenting my analysis and conclusions – out loud. Speaking clearly and concisely is a big advantage in life.

The final strength of a liberal education is that it teaches you how to learn – to read in a variety of subjects, find data, analyze information. Whatever job you take, I guarantee that the specific stuff you will have learned at college, whatever it is, will prove mostly irrelevant or quickly irrelevant. Even if you learned to code but did it a few years ago, before the world of apps, you would have to learn to code anew. And given the pace of change that is transforming industries and professions these days, you will need that skill of learning and retooling all the time.

These are liberal education’s strengths and they will help you as you move through your working life. Of course, if you want professional success, you will have to put in the hours, be focused and disciplined, work well with others, and get lucky. But that would be true for anyone, even engineers.

Anyway, that is a piece of the graduation talk I gave at Sarah Lawrence College on Friday. You can watch the whole thing – which has much more – online here.