A few years ago, I wrote several posts in which I offered critiques of feminism. I return to this topic in today’s post by turning my attention to Naomi Wolf, perhaps one of the best-known contemporary feminists. In 1991, Ms. Wolf’s The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women was published and went on to become a bestseller. In my 2007 book The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption, I included the following quote from her book, as a means of succinctly capturing its central premise (pp. 10-11):
“We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women’s advancement: the beauty myth. It is the modern version of a social reflex that has been in force since the Industrial Revolution. As women released themselves from the feminine mystique of domesticity, the beauty myth took over its lost ground, expanding as it waned to carry on its work of social control.
“The contemporary backlash is so violent because the ideology of beauty is the last one remaining of the old feminine ideologies that still has the power to control those women whom second wave feminism would have otherwise made relatively uncontrollable: It has grown stronger to take over the work of social coercion that myths about motherhood, domesticity, chastity, and passivity, no longer can manage. It is seeking right now to undo psychologically and covertly all the good things that feminism did for women materially and overtly.”
This is an extraordinary claim that deserves to be read on multiple occasions. Apparently, the premium that men place on female beauty is part and parcel of a coordinated political and patriarchal form of oppression. One has to assume that the beauty premium as evidenced in the Bible (e.g., the story of King David and Bathsheba) or in Ancient Greek mythology, is a manifestation of the same nefarious forces.
Let’s fast-forward to a 2008 article that Ms. Wolf wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald titled “Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality.” She writes:
“Indeed, many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the headscarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualising Western gaze.
“I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a headscarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed; but, as I moved about the market—the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me—I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.”
Not to be outdone by Ms. Wolf, in 2009 the Australian writer Helen Razer wrote an article in the same journal titled “At least women in burqas are not judged on their looks.” How liberating! In a recent speech, the famed feminist Germaine Greer displayed greater ire for the bikini than for the burqa.
Wolf, Razer, and Greer are hardly the only Western women to have hailed veils (and related accoutrements) as being “liberating.” A central mantra of feminism is that the so-called male gaze constitutes a form of assault. Accordingly, any dress code that negates such “patriarchal oppression” can be liberating. Western media images (and more generally the capitalist patriarchal system) are apparently key peddlers in the sexist subjugation of women. On the other hand, veils can at times be construed as liberating since some women freely choose to wear these. Wow.
I will leave it to the readers to decide whether the great majority of women who live in countries where such “liberating” dress codes are ubiquitous, do so by choice or by coercion (e.g., Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen). I will also leave it to the readers to determine whether the plight (including personal freedoms) of women originating from such societies is generally better than that of women in the West. For readers who might be unsure, the 2010 Gender Gap report (see page 8 and 9 for the country rankings) commissioned by the World Economic Forum might prove helpful.
Cultural relativism coupled with cultural self-loathing lead to a broken moral compass. Individuals who are truly committed to the betterment of women’s lives recognize the differential subjugation of women that is implicit in various clothing accoutrements. In a world of limited time and resources, the so-called beauty myth (and bikinis) is not where Western feminists should be spending their efforts.
In anticipation of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research’s upcoming Sunday, 6 November 2011 International Conference, “Combatting the Delegitimation of Israel,” this week’s Daily Briefings will focus on the global effort to demonize the lone democracy in the Middle East. The series will provide insight into the pervasive, “soft war” being waged against the Jewish State—in the media, in Europe, at the UN, on and off North American campuses, and in Israel itself. It will also convey relevant ways of combatting, and ultimately defeating, this dangerous propaganda campaign.
Highlighting each Briefing will be a selection of articles written by participants in CIJR’s International Conference. A video of the Conference will be posted on CIJR’s website, www.isranet.org. (For registration information call  486-5544 or write Yvonne@isranet.org.)
WHAT GILAD SHALIT TELLS US ABOUT THE RESPECT FOR LIFE
IN EUROPE, ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
Telegraph, October 21, 2011
One of the supreme ironies among the European moral stances has to do with their discourse on the death penalty. It is a standard trope of European contempt for the USA that it still has a death penalty, a sign of its cowboy nature and its retardation in the moral progress of nations.
And yet when that same Europe turns its gaze on the Middle East, the country they have the most contempt for is the only country in the entire region to reject capital punishment, and they have the most admiration for a “country” that among a widespread political culture that extensively uses torture and execution for the maintenance of public order, shows perhaps the most contempt for the lives of its own peoples and its enemies.
Normally, this would not be even worth mentioning. Most people would just roll their eyes while others complain about Zionist imperialists trying to divert attention from their oppression of the Palestinians. But if you want to understand the “hostage-for-prisoner-exchange” that just took place in Israel and the Western media’s coverage of the event, then you need to pay attention to the issue.
Israel first outlawed the death penalty in 1954, thus reversing the Mandate Law, which, in most other instances, Israel took over from the British. They based themselves both on rabbinic precedent (concerns for both respecting the image of God in man and the unattainable burden of proof) and modern liberal sentiment. In doing so, they became the first modern Western democracy to ban the death penalty, followed a decade later by Britain (1965), Sweden (1972), Canada (1976) and France (1981).
Note that Israel passed this law five years after the creation of a polity dedicated to equality before the law for all its citizens, a move that earned them the ferocious hostility of their neighbors in the Arab Muslim world. Normally, when countries attempt these egalitarian revolutions and find themselves surrounded by hostile enemies, they have, by year five, descended into mass executions of their own citizens (French Revolution in their fourth year, Russians, Chinese, Cambodians, almost immediately). Israel, on the other hand, outlawed the death penalty even for Arab terrorists who were captured while killing Israeli civilians. Israel has only executed one person, Adolph Eichmann, held responsible for the extermination of millions of Jews during the Holocaust.…
Palestine, on the other hand, represents almost the polar opposite. This is a place in which killing daughters and wives and homosexuals for shaming the family with (even suspected and loosely interpreted) inappropriate sexual behavior is a regular feature of society, where “collaborators” are summarily executed, where official statistics for executions put the PA at a rate of formal, legal execution that cedes only to China, Iran, N Korea, Yemen and Libya.
The trade of over a thousand Palestinians for one Israeli highlights the radical differences between the cultures. As Hizbullah’s [leader] Nasrullah put it after a prison exchange in 2004: “We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”
If a European, concerned about the nature of the aggressive Islam that has begun to crop up in his cities, citing for example Sharia zones, wanted to understand the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict, he might spend a moment visiting the sites of Palestinian anti-Zionists, where this profoundly perverse culture teems. But of course, that would be politically incorrect. To spend any time pointing out the problems here constitutes the highest level of politically incorrect Islamophobia.
So instead of helping Europeans understand what’s at stake, most of the media and the NGO community have spun this story as one of violations of human rights on “both sides” with a heavy focus on Israeli misdeeds. The prisoners were considered “equal” and Israel primarily held accountable by the Geneva Convention for the treatment of enemy combatants when, in reality, the only one protected under these conditions was Shalit, a uniformed soldier kidnapped on his own soil in non-combat situation, and the thousand Palestinian prisoners where convicted in a court, primarily of crimes related to terror attacks on civilians.
Thus, The New York Times’s Robert Mackee could speak glibly about the “joy of parents on both sides” at the return of prisoners, and the UN could voice its concern that the prisoners Israel released might be subject to illegal forced transfer: “Returning people to places other than their habitual places of residence is in contradiction to international humanitarian law.” The UN’s concern for the full exercise of free will by convicted mass murderers illustrates the problem. Humanitarian discourse has been turned on its head to protect the ugliest players in this particular game…all the while implying that Israel, in its haste to get its own soldier back, trampled their rights and violated humanitarian law. Not surprisingly this led Ban Ki Moon to a moment of moral vertigo where he denounced the violation of everyone’s rights.…
In acquiescing with a narrative in which hatred and murder are considered legitimate expressions of “resistance” to “occupation,” Western human rights activists—including many journalists—have degraded humanitarian language at the same time as they have allowed into the public sphere a discourse of genocidal hatred. They have excluded any sympathy for Israelis who defend themselves from the onslaught they have shut out from their and their audiences’ consciousness.
It may seem cost-free to Westerners, but it’s not. In misreading the nature of the threat Israel faces, in adopting a degraded language of human rights to protect the greatest enemies of human rights on the planet, in adopting a corrupted advocacy journalism that masquerades as empirically accurate, they embrace all the kinds of techniques that put them in danger when faced with the same enemy.
(Richard Landes, an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Boston University,
is presenting a paper at CIJR’s November 6th Montreal International Conference.)
THE UN’S INDIFFERENCE TO DEAD JEWS
FrontPage, October 31, 2011
The “international community” is always quick to blame Israel for any reprisals it takes against Palestinian terrorists. Accusations of “collective punishment,” “disproportionate force,” and “extrajudicial targeted assassinations” are regularly hurled at Israel from the chambers of the dysfunctional Human Rights Council and other United Nations bodies, including the UN Security Council. Yet when Israel seeks even the mildest of rebukes from the Security Council for continued rocket attacks launched against Israeli civilians from Hamas-controlled Gaza, it is met with stone-faced silence.
Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor has just sent yet another letter dated October 29, 2011 to the Security Council calling “attention to a very serious escalation of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.” On that very day, wrote Ambassador Prosor, major cities throughout southern Israel were bombarded with a barrage of dozens of rockets and mortars launched from the Gaza Strip. These attacks killed one Israeli civilian and injured a number of others.…
“The scenes coming out of Southern Israel today should shock and appall the international community and all decent people,” wrote the Israeli ambassador. “There is no question that the terrorists who carried out these attacks intended to deliberately target innocent civilians.”
Ambassador Prosor’s latest letter came just two days after he had sent a letter to the Security Council complaining of rocket attacks that had been launched from Gaza on October 26th, which struck near Ashdod. The letter fell on deaf ears, which is the most likely fate of his most current letter as well.
“Two days ago, I wrote to the Security Council and expressed my Government’s concern about the escalating violence emanating from Gaza, alerting the international community about the dangerous potential for civilian casualties,” Ambassador Prosor reminded the Council in his October 29th letter. “The Council did not utter a single word of condemnation. Today one Israeli civilian was murdered and others lay injured in hospitals this evening as a result of the escalating rocket fire—and we still only hear silence from the Security Council.”
Indeed, as Ambassador Prosor pointed out, the Security Council has failed to take any steps to ensure compliance with the provisions of Security Council Resolution 1860, passed on January 9, 2009, that called for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to “illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition.…”
At a time when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to convince the Security Council that he represents a government worthy of becoming a member state of the United Nations, he remains silent as terrorist attacks continue to be launched from a Palestinian territory he is utterly incapable of controlling.…
Before the Security Council proceeds to a final decision on the Palestinians’ application for UN member state status, it should respond affirmatively to Israeli Ambassador Prosor’s plea to “act with a common purpose against the escalating violence flowing from Gaza” and to condemn continued Palestinian terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians. Ambassador Prosor has put the Security Council and the Palestinians on notice. There will be “serious consequences for continued rocket fire,” he said. “Israel has exercised and will continue to exercise its right to self-defense, as appropriate, and will take all necessary measures to protect its citizens.”
If the Security Council puts its head in the sand as expected, it will bear full responsibility for the consequences.
A HISTORY OF ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK
National Post, March 3, 2011
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)…is a Canadian invention. The first event was held at the University of Toronto in 2005. The following year, it included Montreal and Oxford. In 2007, it grew to eight cities; in 2008, to 24 cities; in 2009, to 38 cities; last year, to over 40 cities. This year, IAW [was] held in over 55 cities worldwide.
While the event is new, the ideology at the heart of IAW is not. The accusation that Zionism is racist and imperialist by nature is as old as Israel. The Soviet Union was a leading proponent of this conception of Zionism; and it drew on the long history of leftist antisemitism, identifying Jewish nationalism and capitalist imperialism with Judaism and the Jewish bourgeoisie.
Within a year of Israel’s establishment, Stalin began to see Zionism as a serious threat to the Soviet Union. Zionism was perceived to be working in tandem with American imperialism, both in the Middle East and as a conspiracy inside the U.S.S.R.. From 1949 until his death in 1953, Stalin engaged in a full assault on the Jews of the Soviet Union, who were then considered “bourgeois nationalists” and a Zionist fifth column. Following the Six-Day-War in 1967, Soviet anti-Zionist rhetoric regularly used Nazi analogies, accusing Israel of behaving like Hitler.…
In his most recent history of anti-Semitism, entitled A Lethal Obsession, Robert Wistrich illustrates how the Soviet strategy to isolate and delegitimize Zionism precipitated UN Resolution 3379 in 1975, which stated that “Zionism is a form of racism and racist discrimination.” Two years earlier, UN Resolution 3151 had condemned “the unholy alliance between South African racism and Zionism.”
UN Resolution 3379 was annulled in 1991, the same year that the Soviet Union collapsed, but its echoes were heard again at Durban I, the World Conference Against Racism, held in 2001 under UN auspices. Charged with discussing a number of controversial subjects including slavery and reparations, much of the conference was dedicated to the so-called racist crimes of Zionism. Iran and Syria inserted six references to Zionism as a form of racism into the draft documents produced before the official conference (which were eventually removed). The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion was distributed to delegates by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of South Africa.
Four years after Durban I, in 2005, Israeli Apartheid Week was born in Toronto. That July, 170 Palestinian civil-society organizations released an official call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (better known as BDS) against Israel. The document clearly stated that the call was modelled on the example of the South African struggle against Apartheid.…
This is the model chosen by pro-Palestinian activists today to dismantle so-called “Zionist racism” in the Middle East. By framing Israel as a racist apartheid state, BDS is presented as an entirely appropriate and morally correct plan of action. If Israel can be characterized as the new South Africa, it will have fewer and fewer supporters.…
As with the original anti-apartheid movement, the goal of IAW is explicitly political. And yet the rhetoric of IAW is left open enough to incorporate: (1) critics of Israel who still support a two-state solution; (2) those who support the dismantling of the current Jewish State and its replacement with a single (highly theoretical) secular democratic state; and (3) those who support the destruction of Israel by any means necessary. All three camps are included amongst supporters of IAW and the BDS campaign, and therefore the lines are often blurred between harsh criticism of the state of Israel, outright condemnation of its continued existence, and calls for its eradication. This is a serious problem, and one that appears to be designed quite consciously by IAW and the BDS movement.…
What we need, in response, is high-quality academic programming on university campuses that both unpacks and counters Israel Apartheid propaganda, and that actually engages with the difficult reality of the conflict. I would suggest that it is fundamentally irresponsible to allow IAW and its supporters to re-define Zionism as a racist form of European colonialism when in actual fact it is an emancipatory movement for Jewish self-determination—one that developed a new urgency and legitimacy with the wholesale systematic annihilation of Jewish Europe by a real form of racist European imperialism, better known as National Socialism.
(Catherine Chatterley, founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA), will be presenting a paper in Montreal at CIJR’s November 6th International Conference.)
GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
Dr. Yasser Dasmabebi
FrontPage, October 26, 2011
I have come to realize just how difficult it may be to decipher news about the Middle East, Islam, Israel, the Arab World, and all these powerful and explosive issues of our times for those who rely on such media stalwarts as The New York Times, The Washington Post, theLos Angeles Times, the major television networks, cable news, etc. for their information. For example, how is a person to ascertain whether the slayer of a family is a terrorist or a militant or a gunman or an assailant or an activist or a freedom-fighter?
So, purely as a public service, I have organized the following glossary of the most pertinent terms and expressions, as typically used in the above-mentioned news sources. I hope,insha’allah, the reader will find it helpful to unravel the Gordian Knot of language that is today’s (and yesterday’s and tomorrow’s) Middle East!
Aggression: Killing people who are trying to kill you.
Al Qaeda: the terrorist group that, according to American security sources, embodies the world-wide Islamist movement, and that is either “significantly degraded” or is still “extremely dangerous,” depending on which government official is doing the talking.
Apartheid: The political/social system of the one and only country in the Middle East that integrates Jews, Beduins, Arabs, whites, blacks, Muslems, Ethiopians, Russians, Christians, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Bahai, et al.
“Apes & Pigs”: See “Jew” below.
Arab Emir: Military dictator.
Arab King: Military dictator.
Arab President: Military dictator.
Arab Prime Minister: Military dictator.
Arab Spring: Replacement of one dictatorship with another, with the help of Western money and media cheerleading.
Arab Street: Enraged mobs chanting and screaming their hatred, determined to annihilate Israel and the Jews. They can often be seen burning American and Israeli flags, passing out candies and firing guns into the air in response to successful murders of Westerners (closely related to):
Arab Humiliation: The pervasive feeling on the Arab street generated by their failure to annihilate Israel and the Jews in several wars. Many opinion-makers, Middle East experts and op-ed writers argue that Arab humiliation is at the root of the Middle East conflict; i.e., “If only the Jews would let themselves be destroyed, the Arab street would feel better about themselves, and then there would be peace.”
Ayatola: Persian dictator. Spiritual leader of that faith that desires to ignite nuclear holocaust in order to bring about the arrival of the Mahdi. (See “Mahdi” below.)
Bias: An expression of support for the existence of Israel.
Caliphate: The unification of lands ruled in the name of Islam, ruled by a Caliph. (See “Arab King,” “Arab President,” etc. above.)
Compromise: To give something palpable, such as land, in return for a promise not to keep on trying to annihilate you.
Developing Country: A country that is not developing.
Disproportionate Response: Winning.
Diversity: The condition in which all cultures are viewed as equally and inherently virtuous, except for the culture of the West, which is viewed as evil by virtue of imperialism, colonialism and endemic racism (see “Racist” below).
Emergency Laws: The law.
Father of the Palestinian People: An Egyptian man, raised by his uncle, Hitler’s buddy, and one of the world’s most successful kleptocrats. (See “PLO” below.)
Fatwa: A pronouncement of a mullah that sanctions murder, but only of disagreeable people, like inadequately covered women, Salman Rushdie, etc.
Female Genital Mutilation: That ritual of which Western feminist organizations seem, by virtue of their silence, to approve.
Hamas: The democratically elected government of Gaza whose founding charter calls for genocide.
Hezbollah:The democratic group whose purpose is saving Lebanon from Israeli aggression, and whose founding charter calls for genocide.
History: Having nothing whatsoever to do with what has actually happened, but rather being what has come to be called “narrative,” i.e., “storytelling.” For one example, allusions to the “Ancient Nation of Palestine;” and for another, almost all the Muslem accomplishments President Obama enumerated in his momentous Cairo speech (also see “Rewriting History” below).
Holocaust: That genocide that did not happen, but that the Jews orchestrated in order to steal Arab land, and that of which the Jewish presence in Palestine is worse than.
Honor Killings: The cultural imperative to murder one’s daughter/sister/niece for humiliating male members…(see “Shariah” below).
Human Rights: The credo by which murder committed by a person from a country which used to be called “Third World” (now considered racist terminology) is good (see “Resistance” below); retaliatory killing by a person who is either from a developed country, a white person or most especially a Jew, is bad (see “Agression” above).
Human Shields: Integral part of Hamas & Hezbollah military strategy.
Islamic Republic: Military dictatorship.
Israel: Occupied territory (see “Zionist Entity” below).
Israeli Prime Minister: Hawkish, right-winger, hard-liner.
Jerusalem: City holy to Islam in which the Jews have no history.
Jew: The source of all decadence and evil in the world; descendent of apes and pigs.…
[For a continuation of this text please see On Topics below—Ed.]
JACOB GLATSTEIN’S PROPHECY
Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2011
It isn’t every day that one has the opportunity to read a literary masterpiece. But a literary masterpiece that doubles as a work of prophecy? Such books have been rare since the death of Isaiah—which is why this new English edition of The Glatstein Chronicles deserves not only praise but its own cantillation. Largely set in a Jewish sanatorium-resort in 1934 Poland, The Glatstein Chronicles is easy to label as a Jewish Magic Mountain. But Thomas Mann’s novel about the decline of European civilization as dramatized at a sanatorium-resort was published in 1925, after the ravages of World War I made his characters’ prewar lives poetically moot. The Glatstein Chronicles might have been that book, had it been written in 1946. Instead, this devastating kaleidoscopic vision of doom for Jewish Europe first appeared in print in…1934. Jacob Glatstein was no mere poet, but a Yiddish prophet. And now American Jews can rediscover what prophecy really means.
Like most prophets, Glatstein at first resisted the call. Born in Lublin in 1896, he escaped Poland’s painfully circumscribed opportunities by convincing his parents to send him to America at age 17—where his one American uncle couldn’t even leave his sweatshop job to meet him at the dock. Bright enough (and fluent enough in English) to enroll in New York University Law School, and also bright enough to voluntarily drop out, Glatstein at 24 made a conscious decision to live his literary life in Yiddish. His early poetry is phenomenal, world-class modernist verse that catapulted Yiddish into the worlds of Eliot and Joyce and beyond. Almost untranslatable because of his punning and layering of nearly every word (in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and Polish) and his clever references to both Yiddish highbrow and children’s culture (all, by 2011, requiring extensive footnotes), Glatstein’s first three published books of poetry are works of genius by a writer stretching his wings in a Jewish world that felt too small for his talents.
But in time Glatstein saw that these brilliant tours de force could be no more than brilliant, and the growing crisis in Europe made him see the pitiful aspect of writing Yiddish verse modeled on the language games of Anglo-American poets. Like claiming today that his novel is a “Jewish Magic Mountain,” this kind of work suggests that Jewish literature is a pale imitation of “world literature,” rather than the generator of world literature’s most fundamental themes. Without anti-Semitism, this assumption would be merely pathetic. But when one considers the active degrading of Jewish culture within the most lauded realms of Western civilization, the idea that Jewish literature ought to mirror its non-Jewish counterpart becomes worse than base. After violent pogroms in Poland in 1938, Glatstein in New York wrote his most famous poem, “Good Night, World,” which bids a sarcastic farewell to the supposed glories of Western civilization, insisting to the non-Jewish world that “Not you, but I slam the gate,” as the poet rejects Western culture for a stunted Judaism that at least opposes the wider world’s moral hypocrisy:
Good night, world. I’ll give you a parting gift
Of all my liberators.
Take your Jesusmarxes, choke on their courage.
Croak on a drop of our baptized blood…
From Wagner’s idol-music to wordless melody, to humming.
I kiss you, cankered Jewish life.
It weeps in me, the joy of coming home.
In The Glatstein Chronicles, the poet literally comes home. Composed as two novellas here combined in one English volume, The Glatstein Chronicles is a work in the great 200-year-old tradition of Jewish autobiographical novels—including masterpieces ranging from S.Y. Agnon’s A Guest for the Night (also about a Jewish man visiting his hometown in 1930s Poland) to Saul Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March. But it surpasses even those, because its majesty derives from the author’s reimagining of the Hebrew Bible’s recurrent motifs of personal and national betrayal—and from his astonishing power of genuine prophecy. Of the dozens of thematically interlocked layers that this book offers its readers, many of which have been richly mined by scholars, it is its prophecy that resonates loudest of all in 2011. Reading this work today, one cannot help continuously flipping back to editor Ruth R. Wisse’s insightful introduction to check the book’s publication history, incredulous. The second novella first appeared in 1940, though it was likely composed long before that. The first was already serialized in 1934.
The novel’s putative story is that of an unnamed narrator whose biography matches Glatstein’s exactly (the Yiddish titles included the narrator’s name, “Yash,” a diminutive for Jacob), and who after 20 years in America is called back to Poland to attend his mother’s death. The book’s first half, “Homeward Bound” (in Yiddish, Ven Yash is geforn, “When Yash Set Out”), follows the narrator’s Atlantic crossing and his journey through Europe, focusing on his encounters with the cosmopolitan Jews and non-Jews whom he meets on the way. Its second half, “Homecoming at Twilight” (in Yiddish, Ven Yash iz gekumen, “When Yash Arrived”), takes place at a Jewish sanatorium-resort in southern Poland where the narrator stays after his mother’s death—and where his fellow residents from all walks of Polish Jewish life share their stories and ultimately die. We never meet the narrator’s dying mother, who was supposedly the purpose of his journey; nor does he even mention her, except in a few flashbacks to his childhood and negotiations over her burial, which are written to resemble the biblical Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah. Instead, we are left with the impression that the dying mother to whom he has come to bid farewell is Jewish Poland itself. And this is where the book crosses the line from travelogue to prophecy.
The narrator’s prophetic visions begin on the Atlantic crossing. During the voyage, word arrives of the “Night of Long Knives,” Hitler’s first violent purge of his Nazi rivals. Seeking others who share his panic, the narrator tests out the news on his fellow passengers—and finds that the ship is divided, as Europe soon would be, between Jews and non-Jews:
“I realized that to the Gentiles, Hitler meant something altogether different than he did to me. My non-Jewish fellow passengers…regarded Hitler as merely Germany’s dictator. To me, to 600,000 German Jews, and indeed to all the 17 million Jews worldwide, Hitler was the embodiment of the dreaded historical hatemonger, latest in a long line of persecutors that stretched from Haman…wielding a bloody pen that was writing a dreadful new chapter of Jewish history.”
These discussions remain theoretical until the ship docks in Europe—and the narrator must travel to Poland through Germany, via trains packed with Hitler youth.
In Poland, it becomes clear that anti-Semitic fury has already begun to take its toll on Jewish youth. Young people train for professions that will not admit them, and then fall back on flimsy businesses that barely survive ongoing boycotts, causing “love to die among them” as even romance falls prey to the practicalities of their artificially-induced poverty. They endure this poverty on a knife’s edge. At first, the narrator’s intimations of mortality are subtle or atmospheric, taking the form of dreams involving “a vague fear of impending destruction,” or an observation that “It was the end of August, and these men were probably the first to become aware, in the midst of summer pleasures, that winter was on the way.”
But as he meets more and more desperate Jews who try to stuff his suitcases with messages begging for help from their American relatives, the narrator’s intimations of doom give way to a stunning clarity. On nearly every page of this magnificent novel, one finds astonishing remarks like these from Polish Jews in 1934:
“The fact is that a real war is being waged against us, a war of attrition.… There’s no escaping it: all the countries have imposed a siege.… Believe me, the Poles are much cleverer than Hitler. They don’t rant and rave, they just pass over our bodies with a steamroller and drive us right into the ground.… Formerly you could escape by emigrating. Today our people are staring death in the eyes.”
Nor is this intended to be figurative, as conversations like the following make abundantly clear:
“It started with Pharaoh who bathed in the blood of Jewish children. Why, oh why, why do we deserve this, Mr. Steinman? What do they have against us, Mr. Steinman?”
“Ah, you’re raising fundamental questions,” Steinman said. He had become grave. “You want to go to the root of things. Well, I’ll tell you: they want to destroy us, nothing less. Yes, to destroy us. For instance, take me—I am a patriotic Pole. And yet they’d destroy me too. They want to exterminate us, purely and simply. Yes, exterminate us.”
The “Haman” dimension of current events is hauntingly evoked near the book’s conclusion, when the narrator visits Kazimierz. A picturesque resort beloved by artists, Kazimierz is a town with a Jewish-Polish myth attached to it. Its ruined castle was once occupied by King Casimir the Great, a real 14th-century Polish monarch who, according to legend, had a Jewish lover named Esther who lived in the castle as his queen. The story was imagined variously in Polish and Yiddish sources as abduction or seduction, but among Polish Jews it usually evoked a sense of Polish-Jewish interdependency and belonging, echoing the biblical Book of Esther with its irresistible Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish king—with the queen placed in the palace for the Jews’ eventual rescue.
The narrator goes to Kazimierz almost by accident, when a driver appears at the hotel with the mistaken information that he has planned a day trip there. Another guest, in love with the town, decides to go and invites the narrator along, explaining: “You see, it’s fate. A man has to visit Kazimierz sooner or later, so what difference does it make when you go?” With its echo of the appointment in Samarra, “visiting Kazimierz” becomes a metaphor for the destiny of Polish Jews: everyone believes in this myth of Gentile-Jewish romance at some point, just as the poet Glatstein once did, until the myth is revealed to be a picturesque ruin—or worse.
Once in Kazimierz, the narrator climbs up to the ruined castle with his traveling companion, who caresses its stones and describes it as holy, suggesting the ruins of the ancient Temple:
For what has really gone on here in Kazimierz? I think I can help you to understand. The Jew had his own poor world, and the Gentile led his own separate life. We always walked as far as the city gates, beyond which death lies—a great cemetery full of ancestors. In other words, walk no farther than the gates and turn right back, for you can see only too clearly what lies in store. The grave. But the people created a legend in defiance of the limitations of this life.
This legend claims to be a Purim story, but in Glatstein’s prophetic vision, it is really a story about Tisha b’Av—and Jewish Poland is the latest holy temple on the verge of destruction. Returning from Kazimierz, the narrator considers this “dark omen.” Alluding to a Spanish novel about a wounded Casanova, he reflects: “All of us…would very soon arrive at winter with a hand shot off. That would be the hand which, I had vowed, I would let wither if I forgot you, and you, and everything that had ever imprinted itself on my eyes and mind.”
Reading The Glatstein Chronicles is itself an act of mourning, and the editor and translators must have endured this grief all the more acutely. The translation is rendered magnificently, and Wisse and the translators (Maier Deshell and the late Norbert Guterman) have taken great pains to produce the illusion that we are reading this masterpiece as the author wrote it. Terms that would have felt natural to 20th-century Yiddish speakers have been subtly explained within the text; more complex cultural references are explicated in unobtrusive endnotes.
But the reader familiar with the original cannot but mourn—not only for the doomed community captured within its pages, but also for the world of readers lost with it. The book offers its readers endless unspoken references to once-famous works of Yiddish literature, like I. L. Peretz’s “At Night in the Old Marketplace,” a surrealist play set among the living dead (at one point the novel is subsumed by a surrealist play), as well as brilliant portraits of real figures who once illuminated the Jewish world: the Hebrew poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik, the German historian Heinrich Graetz, the Yiddish playwright Jacob Gordin, and even a sanatorium resident modeled on Peretz himself. One misses, painfully, the world that once existed where every reader of this novel would have known these references as household names.
Unfortunately, The Glatstein Chronicles is unlikely to find a wide audience among American readers, even American Jewish ones. Americans are taught to seek in literature the satisfaction of our own hunger for action and unambiguous resolutions—neither of which are on offer here. In a contemporary review of Glatstein’s book, Isaac Bashevis Singer, whose popularity came largely from fulfilling American literary expectations, complained that “Jules Verne would not have wasted ten lines on a journey so bereft of adventure or romance.” He was certainly right, but the observation does more harm to the critic than to the author. For the patient reader open to other possibilities, The Glatstein Chronicles does progress—in a symphonic rather than a linear fashion—toward important revelations. And time has only added new layers of power to its prose.
Now that the prophesied destruction has come to pass, the few moments where Glatstein’s prophecies fail him have an even more terrible poignancy. “It occurred to me,” Glatstein’s narrator muses as he arrives in Europe, “that in twenty-five years such travelers returning to pay respects to the graves of forefathers will have disappeared.… Should their children ever think of visiting Soviet Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, they would go as one might visit Paris, Switzerland, or Italy.… There will be tourists, but no one going home to see a dying mother or father, or to mourn dead parents.”
In 1934, even the prophet Glatstein could not imagine that American Jews would someday go as tourists to Poland exclusively to mourn.
But Glatstein’s Poland is not only a place of mourning. It also has an eerie consoling power. In the sanatorium, where “you never know whether you’re talking to a mental case,” the narrator’s prescience is amplified by the haunting symbolism of the hotel guests. In one scene, the narrator comes across the hotel’s proprietor standing watch in the hallway at the witching hour:
“You aren’t asleep yet?” I stammered, vaguely frightened.
“I can’t sleep until my last guest has turned in,” he said. “I’m responsible for the lot of you, you know. That’s the kind of job it is.”
Reading these lines, one thinks of the translators of Yiddish in the 21st century—and of the editor Ruth R. Wisse, who has brought this and many other Yiddish masterpieces to new generations of readers and students. The second novella’s opening line, spoken by one of the central figures at the hotel, is “Even from the gutter will I sing praises to Thee, O Lord, even from the gutter.” Seventy years after Glatstein’s devastating prophecy came true, the consoling miracle is that these volumes still sing.
(Dara Horn is the award-winning author of three novels,
the most recent of which is All Other Nights [Norton].)
L'optimisme mal placé d'Obama,
concernant le Moyen-Orient
National Review Online, 25 octobre 2011
Version originale anglaise: Obama's Misplaced Mideast Optimism
Adaptation française: Anne-Marie Delcambre de Champvert
Commentant avec assurance l'exécution du vieux dictateur de la Libye, Barack Obama a déclaré que «la mort de Muammar al-Kadhafi a montré que notre rôle dans la protection du peuple libyen, et dans l'aide à se libérer d'un tyran, était la bonne chose à faire.» A propos de sa propre décision de retirer toutes les troupes américaines d'Irak d'ici deux mois, Obama a affirmé que «En Irak, nous avons réussi dans notre stratégie pour mettre fin à la guerre.» Il a ensuite tiré des conclusions triomphalistes de ces développements, se vantant qu'ils montrent que «la marée de la guerre se retire» et que «nous avons de nouveau le leadership américain dans le monde.»
C'est tellement commode: comme Obama n'a pas aimé que les politiques nationales (en particulier concernant les soins de santé et l'emploi) fassent baisser sa popularité, il revendique maintenant les succès de politique étrangère. Les attachés de presse du parti démocrate vantent ses réalisations internationales: «Les terroristes et les dictateurs», dit-on, «privés d'opposition parlementaire, n'ont pas de défense efficace contre Barack Obama.»
Mais le Moyen-Orient enseigne à être prudent; beaucoup de choses vont probablement aller mal en Libye et en Irak. Obama, je le prédis, se repentira de ses vantardises irréfléchies.
En Libye, il est difficile de savoir qui sortira en position dominante au sein du Conseil national de transition pour tenter de gouverner le pays. Deux figures représentent les alternatives probables. Mahmoud Jibril (né en 1952, aussi connu comme étant Mahmoud Gebril ElWarfally) a servi comme Premier ministre par intérim du Conseil National de Transition. Il a obtenu un doctorat (PhD) en sciences politiques de l'Université de Pittsburgh, où il a enseigné la planification stratégique. Il a publié dix livres, y compris le livre à succès Imagerie et idéologie dans la politique américaine envers la Libye, 1969-1982, et a fondé une société éponyme* [*de son nom] de formation professionnelle et de consultation en management
En revanche, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj (né en 1966), chef militaire de Tripoli, s'est rendu en Afghanistan en 1988 pour combattre les Soviétiques, a servi comme chef du Groupe libyen de lutte islamique, a été arrêté en 2004 par la CIA qui l'a remis à Kadhafi, lequel l'a emprisonné jusqu'en 2010.
Les différences entre les deux pourraient difficilement être plus grandes: un dirigeant libyen qui a occupé un poste universitaire prestigieux aux États-Unis tandis que l'autre prétend avoir été torturé par la CIA. L'un veut intégrer la Libye dans un ordre guidé par l'Occident, l'autre rêve d'un califat restauré.
En même temps que Belhaj déclarait sa loyauté envers le CNC sous [la direction de] Jibril, il résistait également à ses efforts pour prendre le contrôle des unités militaires. Comme Patrick J. McDonnel du Los Angeles Times l'exprime avec tact et délicatesse, «Savoir comment fonctionnera exactement la relation entre les dirigeants civils et les différentes unités militaires demeure encore inexpliqué.» Plus troublant encore, le fait que Jibril ait annoncé sa démission dimanche, juste comme le président du CNT a appelé à une constitution «basée sur notre religion islamique.» Si la Libye vire vers les islamistes, Obama se languira de Kadhafi.
En Irak, la déclaration d'Obama concernant la cessation de la guerre rappelle le discours amplement ridiculisé de Bush, discours «Mission accomplie» du 1er mai 2003, quand il avait prématurément annoncé que «Dans la bataille de l'Irak, les États-Unis et nos alliés l'ont emporté», juste quand la vraie guerre venait à peine de commencer. Avec un retrait des forces américaines maintenant, Téhéran peut sérieusement commencer à prendre le contrôle du pays et le transformer en une satrapie (l'ancien mot persan pour une forme de gouvernement subordonnée).
En dépit des avertissements américains, Téhéran interfère déjà dans la politique de l'Irak, commandite des milices, soutient le terrorisme, et a envoyé ses propres forces dans le pays – et il se prépare à faire plus. Comme Max Boot l'écrit, le retrait des troupes américaines signifie que les «risques d'un échec catastrophique en Irak aujourd'hui augmentent sensiblement. La Force Qods iranienne doit être en train de se lécher ses babines, car nous quittons maintenant l'Irak, étant dans le fond sans défense contre ses machinations.» Bagdad tente d'apaiser les menaces iraniennes ; par exemple, son chef de cabinet a proposé une organisation de sécurité régionale avec Téhéran.
Si les efforts iraniens réussissent rapidement, ils pourraient causer des dommages importants aux perspectives électorales d'Obama d'ici un an. «Qui a perdu l'Irak?» pourrait devenir un puissant cri de guerre républicain. Le fait qu'Obama ait déclaré que les efforts américains pour stabiliser l'Irak étaient un «échec complet», déjà en 2007, le met en position d'endosser la responsabilité pour cet échec même.
Même si l'Irak résiste jusqu'aux élections américaines en 2012, je prédis que dans 5-10 ans les efforts américains en Irak (et, de même, en Afghanistan), avec toutes ces dépenses et vies humaines perdues, n'auront abouti à rien. Lorsque les futurs analystes chercheront ce qui n'avait pas marché, ils pourraient bien concentrer leur attention sur les déclarations paumées d'Obama.
Comme Belhaj va probablement l'emporter sur Jibril, il en sera ainsi de l'Iran sur l'Irak. Si cela arrive, Obama et les démocrates vont regretter l’excès de confiance à courte vue d'aujourd'hui
l'incroyable aveuglement occidental
upjf.org, 27 Octobre 2011
Décidément, les démocraties occidentales souffrent d’une cécité doublé d’amnésie historique répétitive et d’autant plus inquiétante. Ce qui n’est pas étonnant, vu le triste niveau de nos élites politiques actuelles, mais ceci ne peut pas nous laisser indifférents car il s’agit simplement de l’avenir de notre civilisation. A d’autres époques, malgré la même cécité des pouvoirs (voir les années 1930) il y avait quelques rares personnalités politiques et surtout des intellectuels et journalistes clairvoyants pour tirer la sonnette d’alarme, pour alerter l’opinion publique sur les dangers à venir.
Depuis le début de l’année 2011 et l’irruption des révoltes dans plusieurs pays arabes, nous assistons à un spectacle ahurissant de louanges presque unanimes sur l’arrivée certaine et immédiate de la démocratie dans l’ensemble des pays arabes, déclarations dithyrambiques de la majorité des journalistes et politiques.
Regardons la réalité qui commence à se concrétiser peu à peu. Si le monde arabe n’est pas un monde monolithique, chaque pays ayant des particularités spécifiques, un socle commun les réunit: une forte imprégnation de la religion dans la vie de tous les jours, religion qui ne reconnait pas une séparation entre le spirituel et le temporel, même plus, pour une partie des mouvements s’y référant, il s’agit d’une idéologie basée sur la suprématie d’un mode de vie archaïque, dicté par le Coran et les Hadiths (recueil de la vie et des préceptes du Prophète). Il s’agit des mouvements wahhabites-salafistes et surtout de l’idéologie des Frères Musulmans.
Or, le monde libre connaissait bien (ou aurait dû connaitre) les leçons du passé: la révolution iranienne et l’arrivée au pouvoir du Hamas à Gaza. Si la deuxième est explicable par le haut degré de corruption du laïque Fatah, il est intéressant d’analyser succinctement la révolution iranienne; elle fut le résultat d’une coalition des forces hostiles au Chah, comprenant les islamistes mais aussi des fortes composantes laïques comme les nationalistes, les communistes et autres, d’essence démocratique. Quel fut le résultat? Les islamistes purs et durs, suivant l’exemple bolchévique (quelle ironie de l’histoire!) ont éliminé politiquement tous les autres, condamnés à la disparition pure et simple. Mais, même si on prend en compte un oubli total, nos dirigeants auraient mieux de faire attention à une définition importante et prémonitoire de ces révoltes: «Un mouvement de libération islamique». Voici comment le guide suprême iranien, l’ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a qualifié en février dernier l’essor du Printemps arabe et il sait de quoi il parle…
Aujourd’hui, pour le monde arabe, les choses commencent à prendre des voies similaires, bien que pas identiques. Si en Tunisie et Égypte, la révolte populaire fut initiée et menée au début par des jeunes instruits, généralement sans aucune tendance religieuse, les islamistes ont rapidement pris le train en marche; il s’agit des Frères Musulmans en Égypte et de l’Ennahda en Tunisie. Or, les forces islamistes dans ces pays, sont partout les mieux organisées, financées (car bénéficiant d’une manne financière provenant de l’Arabie Saoudite et des pays du Golfe) leurs permettant la création des réseaux d’aides sociales et caritatives, des écoles coraniques avec des prédicateurs et des militants embrigadés, bien formés et souvent même armés.
A ce jour, nous ne connaissons pas encore les résultats définitifs des élections tunisiennes, mais Ennahda parait avoir une large majorité relative, ce qui les obligerait de diriger en coalition avec deux partis de gauche, alliance contre nature. Quelle serait la force de ces partis laïques, de création récente, sans une base militante, sans des programmes cohérents et surtout sans des ressources financière capable de faire la balance avec les islamistes? La politique prudente d’Ennahda, avec des attitudes lénifiantes et capables d’endormir autant le monde occidental que les gens inquiets devant leur succès, est une stratégie gagnante. Or, la réalité socio-économique de la Tunisie, sans ressources propres, avec un chômage qui ne pourra que s’aggraver, leur permettra d’agir assez rapidement pour prendre le pouvoir seul, jetant l’opprobre sue les autres partis, et instaurer la dictature islamique.
En Égypte, l’armée toujours au pouvoir, essaie de tergiverser, de gagner du temps, mais une alliance avec les Frères Musulmans parait se profiler à l’horizon. Donc on pourrait prévoir une nouvelle dictature islamo-militaire. Ce que nous constatons déjà, comme partout ailleurs, les boucs émissaires sont les chrétiens coptes qui sont encore plus les victimes désignées.
La Libye, avec la déclaration du dirigeant du CNT concernant l’application de la charia comme base de la future constitution n’est pas une surprise : dans un pays tribal, éclaté, le seul plus petit dénominateur commun c’est la religion, même sous l’expression la plus rétrograde.
En Syrie, nous regardons le spectacle sanguinaire qui oppose le clan Assad et ses alliés aux forces sunnites et kurde qui essaient de prendre leur revanche; quel sera le vainqueur, il est encore trop tôt pour le connaitre, mais à mon avis le temps est compté pour Assad et consorts. Et la conséquence immédiate sera le massacre ou l’exil des chrétiens syriaques, allié des alaouites du clan Assad. Bis repetita des scénarios connus: le génocide arménien par les turcs «progressistes» en 1915, le massacre des chrétiens en Irak tout récemment, la disparition progressive des chrétiens de tout le Moyen Orient, terre originelle du christianisme…
Ce qui est le plus difficile imaginable, c’est l’ignorance doublé d’un angélisme béat de soi-disant spécialistes de l’islam et de certains dirigeants politiques.
Un seul exemple, un «islamologue» surgi de nulle part, M. Mathieu Guidère, qui fait des déclarations d’une niaiserie et d’une méconnaissance du monde musulman qui dépassent l’entendement. Dans une interview au Figaro, il soutient que «Dans le monde musulman, tous les États, à l’exception de la Tunisie, font référence à la charia» oubliant la Turquie kémaliste (qui malheureusement, tend inexorablement vers un islamisme, soft pour l’instant).
Ignorant ou menteur, il soutient que la polygamie est légale dans tous les pays musulmans sauf la Tunisie (totalement faux) mais qu’elle n’est pas pratiquée par manque de moyen à part les pays du Golfe. Demandez aux Maliens, Sénégalais et d’autres pays d’Afrique dont nous avons même importé en France des familles polygames! Et ce n’est pas fini: d’après notre islamologue auto-désigné, «une situation à l’iranienne est impossible en Tunisie, un État sunnite, qui n’admet donc pas le leadership des religieux sur le politique» C’est le comble, l’Arabie Saoudite ne fait pas partie du monde sunnite, M. Guidère?
Je cite la déclaration majeure de Mathieu Guidère, qui fera date dans l’histoire des plus grandes inepties: «Ainsi, la Libye prend le chemin d’une démocratie musulmane», cité dans un article de l’hebdomadaire Le Point.
Heureusement que des gens qui ne se prétends «spécialistes islamologues» mais des simples citoyens tunisiens ont une vision plus claire et perspicace e la situation: d’après l’internaute tunisienne Latifa, le parti Ennahda utilise la religion «comme une arme pour détruire la civilisation laïque et progressiste de la Tunisie mais aussi et surtout pour affaiblir ‘la femme tunisienne’».
Revenant à la mainmise islamiste sur les pays du pourtour méditerranéen, on ne peut pas éviter de regarder et analyser la réalité de leurs répercutions sur notre continent et particulièrement pour la France. Mais ceci fera l’objet d’un article prochain
Après le printemps, l'hiver
Martineau.blogue.canoe.ca, 27 Octobre 2011
Décidément, le printemps arabe n’a pas duré longtemps.
Non seulement les frères musulmans ne cessent de gagner du terrain en Égypte, mais les barbus ont remporté les élections en Tunisie et la Lybie sera assujettie à la loi islamique.
C’est ce qu’on appelle changer quatre trente sous pour une piastre…
DES RADICAUX MODÉRÉS
Que disaient nos experts en politique internationale, déjà?
Ah oui: « Nous assistons à une révolution post-islamiste… » (Le Monde)
Bravo pour la justesse de votre analyse, les amis! Votre clairvoyance passera à l’histoire. Si vous continuez comme ça, on va vous transférer à la météo…
La meilleure de la semaine est la déclaration du parti islamiste tunisien, le Ennahdha. «Ne craignez rien, nous sommes des modérés…», a dit leur leader.
C’est comme je vous disais: «N’ayez pas peur, je suis un homophobe modéré», ou «Bonne nouvelle, le nouveau chef du KKK est un raciste modéré. Il veut juste fouetter les Noirs au lieu de les pendre…»
Ça vous réconforterait?
«Islamiste modéré» est un oxymore (deux mots qui se contredisent), au même titre que «cigarettes légères» ou «Ontario nightlife».
Ça n’existe tout simplement pas.
Un islamiste est une personne qui manipule l’Islam à des fins politiques. En quoi cela peut-il être une bonne nouvelle?
Ce qui s’est passé en Tunisie pose une question épineuse: devrait-on permettre à des formations anti-démocratiques de prendre part à des élections démocratiques?
N’est-ce pas un non-sens?
C’est comme si on permettait à un athée de briguer la direction d’une organisation islamiste!
«L’islamisme permettra de stabiliser ces pays, a dit un expert. C’est ennuyant, mais c’est un passage obligé si on veut finir par instaurer la démocratie dans cette région du monde …»
Aurait-on dit ça du nazisme dans les années 40?
Un simple soldat
Josephfacal.org, 25 Octobre 2011
Je veux vous parler d’une affaire qui n’a pas été creusée comme elle aurait dû l’être. Vous allez hurler, mais j’ai l’habitude.
La semaine dernière, le gouvernement israélien a accepté de libérer près de 1000 prisonniers palestiniens en échange du soldat Gilad Shalit, détenu par le Hamas depuis cinq ans.
À la radio, j’écoutais le porte-parole du Hamas se réjouir de cette victoire de la «fermeté» affichée par son mouvement. Nous avons, disait-il, obtenu satisfaction sur «tous les points». Son ton était strictement militant, militaire, implacable, tranchant comme une lame de rasoir.
Pour lui, c’était un troc, un marché avantageux. On déplace des pions sur un échiquier pour améliorer sa position. Il n’y avait strictement aucune considération humanitaire ou morale dans son propos.
Du côté israélien, certains ont trouvé que l’État hébreu payait cher pour ramener Shalit à la maison: 1000 contre un! On libère des gens qui ont du sang civil sur les mains en échange d’un simple soldat, devenu certes un symbole, mais sans la moindre importance stratégique sur le terrain.
Au cœur de la position israélienne, il y avait cependant un principe moral en jeu, en même temps qu’un élément de doctrine militaire.
Toute vie humaine, même la plus humble, a une valeur précieuse. Le prix pour la sauver ne se mesure donc pas strictement en termes tactiques. L’armée, elle, n’oublie jamais un des siens derrière les lignes ennemies tant qu’il y a un espoir de le ramener.
D’un côté, on met des AK-47 dans les mains d’enfants de huit ans et on envoie des jeunes filles se faire exploser au milieu d’une foule. De l’autre, on se cramponne à l’idée que la vie de l’un des nôtres, même modeste, est précieuse.
Certes, toutes les guerres sont atroces et tous les camps commettent des «bavures». Et d’un point de vue militaire, la vie d’un ennemi vaut moins que celle de l’un des nôtres.
Mais il y a ici, entre les deux belligérants, clairement exposée, une différence morale, éthique, philosophique, qui porte sur la conception même de ce qu’est un être humain. La vie humaine n’a pas la même valeur dans les deux camps.
J’ai songé spontanément au magnifique film de Steven Spielberg Saving Private Ryan. Après le débarquement en Normandie, en 1944, l’armée américaine envoie un commando en zone hostile pour trouver et ramener le jeune soldat Ryan. Il n’a aucune importance stratégique, mais sa mère a déjà perdu trois de ses quatre fils. On y va par humanité, pas par calcul politico-militaire.
Ne changeons pas de sujet ici. La question n’est pas de savoir si le peuple palestinien a droit à son pays ou si on a le droit de critiquer Israël: oui et oui. Les familles palestiniennes étaient sans doute aussi heureuses de retrouver les leurs que la famille de Shalit.
Il s’agit seulement de voir et d’admettre qu’entre le Hamas et Israël, entre l’islamisme radical et cette démocratie certes imparfaite, il y a une différence fondamentale de valeurs: pas seulement sur le prix d’une vie, mais plus largement, sur la liberté d’expression, sur l’égalité des sexes, sur la place du droit, sur la protection des minorités, sur la démocratie, etc.
Malgré ses défauts, Israël est un morceau de notre civilisation.
Les islamistes sont parmi nous
blogues.canoe.ca/ericduhaime, 23 Octobre 2011
La récente publication de l’essai Les soldats d’Allah à l’assaut de l’Occident par Djemila Benhabib soulève les passions. L’auteure prévient les Québécois contre l’Islam politique, à qui notre multiculturalisme servirait de cheval de Troie. La Québécoise d’origine algérienne accuse aussi Québec solidaire et le Fédération des femmes du Québec de s’acoquiner avec cette mouvance islamiste.
La gauche n’apprécie évidemment pas la critique. Plutôt que de se demander s’ils ne jouent pas effectivement le rôle «d’idiots utiles», ces bienpensants attaquent sauvagement Madame Benhabib, la qualifiant «d’hystérique», de «Jeanne d’Arc» ou «d’alarmiste».
TÊTE DANS LE SABLE
Selon cette go-gauche, la menace ou le danger de l’islamisme ne serait que fiction ou fabulation chez-nous. Le chroniqueur Patrick Lagacé écrit même: «je ne perçois pas d’islamisation galopante ici, maintenant.» Son collègue Marc Cassivi ajoute que l’opinion de Benhabib est à prendre avec une bonne poignée de sel dans le contexte québécois.»
Avant d’écrire de telles inepties, est-ce que ces gens consultent de temps à autre les médias dans lesquels ils ont le privilège de travailler?
PENDANT CE TEMPS
Uniquement au cours des derniers jours, voici une courte liste non exhaustive d’évènements survenus «ici, maintenant»:
– Mardi et mercredi, à Québec, l’Assemblée nationale adopte deux motions pour s’opposer à la tenue à Montréal d’une conférence de l’Islamic Education and Research Academy en raison des propos misogynes, antisémites et homophobes des conférenciers invités;
– Jeudi s’ouvrait, au Palais de Justice de Montréal, le procès de Mouna Diab, militante musulmane bien connue notamment parce qu’elle faisait partie de la délégation des huit femmes voilées dépêchées à Hérouxville pendant la crise des accommodements raisonnables pour montrer un visage «modéré». Madame Diab est présentement accusée de trafic d’armes d’assaut vers le Liban;
– Jeudi, au Palais de justice de Kingston, s’ouvrait le procès d’une famille montréalaise d’origine afghane, les Shafia, accusée d’un crime d’honneur s’étant soldé par la mort de trois jeunes filles et de leur mère;
– Vendredi matin, dans l’émission Franchement Martineau, un téléspectatrice, Aïcha, appelle en ondes pour manifester sa sympathie à la lapidation des femmes et des hommes adultères, défendre le port du voile pour les fillettes de quatre ans, tout en justifiant les pires châtiments contre les homosexuels;
– Vendredi soir, la conférence islamiste, originellement prévue à l’Université Concordia, se tenait à la mosquée al Rawdah, administrée par la Muslim Association of Canada qui se revendique de l’idéologie totalitaire des Frères musulmans. Plus de 150 musulmans ou convertis y participèrent.
Combien de conférences islamistes, de musulmanes «modérées» arrêtées pour trafic d’armes, de néo-québécoises sympathiques à la lapidation ou de barbares crimes d’honneur commis avant que nos «idiots utiles» de la gauche se réveillent et réalisent qu’on doit prendre la menace islamiste en terre québécoise au sérieux? Faut-il attendre un acte terroriste majeur?
Heureusement qu’on a des Djemila Benhabib pour informer et conscientiser les Québécois. Malheureusement, il semble qu’il faudra encore plus d’horreurs pour ouvrir les yeux d’une certaine élite aveuglée par son idéologie complaisante. Une vraie amitié envers la communauté musulmane du Québec appelle pourtant à condamner ses courants les plus extrémistes
ISLAMISTS TRIUMPH IN TUNISIA
FrontPage, October 25, 2011
The “Arab Spring,” the regional upheaval that swept Tunisia, Egypt and Libya over the past year, was supposed to mark the beginning of a new, more democratic Arab world. But if this week’s election results from Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, are any guide, the transition from entrenched autocracy to pluralistic democracy is by no means assured.
The first free election in Tunisia’s history brought to power an Islamist party, Nahda, that may yet jeopardize the country’s newly gained freedoms. Banned under President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator who brutally suppressed Islamist movements during his 23-year rule, Nahda won a new lease on life following Ali’s ouster last January. Now it has won an election. Early voting returns suggested that Nahda could have garnered as much as 50 percent of the vote, and the party was running first in every single voting district. Not entirely unforeseen, the success of Tunisia’s largest and best-organized Islamist party nevertheless raises worrying questions about whether a country that for years had been one of the most modern and secular in the Arab world will remain that way when Islamists have access to power.
There is ample reason for worry. Nahda’s founder, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, has repeatedly sought to put a friendly face on the party’s agenda, insisting that it would respect Tunisia’s secular tradition, including the rights of women to education and employment and the right to reject Islamic garb like headscarves. But that did not prevent Ghannouchi from trying to stir up voter support in the run-up to the election by appealing to more religiously conservative elements in the electorate. At one election rally, he instructed the audience that “God wants you to vote for the party that will protect your faith.” That party, of course, was Nahda.
In addition to a tendency to go off script, critics note that the party, a descendent of the Muslim Brotherhood, has a documented record of radicalism and violence that belies its moderate message. Exiled members of Nahda in France, for instance, have joined the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, a group that sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood; some of Nahda’s rank-and-file would like to see it adopt the Brotherhood as a model. As Ghannouchi himself has acknowledged, moreover, the party counts among its base fundamentalist Salafists who hope to overturn Tunisia’s secular traditions. Ghannouchi has insisted that this is a small minority within the party, but a radical party seeking mainstream respectability might be expected to say exactly that.
Fears that Nahda is talking a double game on moderation were amplified in a troubling outbreak of violence last week. On Friday, hundreds of Islamists rallied in protest against the television screening of “Persepolis,” an animated film about an Iranian girl living during the Iranian Revolution. Because the film showed God as a cartoon, protestors denounced it as an offense to Islam. Chanting, “Your god has been insulted, come out and defend him!” a petrol-bomb armed mob tried to burn down the house of the television station’s owner, who was forced to flee with his wife and children. Given its presumed moderation, Nahda might have been expected unequivocally to condemn the attacks. But despite expressing its opposition to the violence, Nahda appeared to side with the protestors, as it insisted that the film itself was a provocation.… As a demonstration of Nahda’s commitment to pluralism and non-violence, it was unconvincing at best.
The questions surrounding Nahda underscore the political uncertainty to which the Arab Spring has given way. Despite hopeful early pronouncements that the ouster of Arab autocrats would mean a better future for the countries they ruled, little supporting evidence has emerged. In Egypt, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that has seemed to be the most bolstered by Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. In Libya, there are indications that Islamist rebels, having taken their vengeance on Moammar Qaddafi, will become the country’s new power brokers. With its election this week, Tunisia too has joined the club of countries where Islamism is a political force on the rise.…
Tunisians are right to worry that the rights they hold dear could be rolled back by an Islamist government. For years, the country distinguished itself as one of the most tolerant in the Arab world. Just a few years ago, visitors to the capital of Tunis could see female police officers patrol the streets, and dine in restaurants where Israeli tourists were warmly welcomed. It would be a great tragedy for this North African nation if its first-ever democratic election led to a break with that tolerant tradition, and an Arab Spring intended to sow the seeds of freedom instead gave way to an Islamist winter that crushed it.
WELCOME TO THE ISLAMIST MIDDLE EAST
AND IT’S NOT GOING TO BE MODERATE
Pajamas Media, October 25, 2011
Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:
First, to describe the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster—I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century—is an understatement. Second, the dominant analysis used by the media, academia, and the talking heads on television has proven dangerously wrong. This includes the ideas that revolutionary Islamism doesn’t exist, cannot be talked about, is not a threat, and that extreme radicals are really moderates.
I won’t review all the evidence here, but it amounts to a retreat for moderates, allies of the West, and American interests coupled with an advance for revolutionary Islamists.
On the morning of July 23, 1952, the Middle East entered a new era. The Free Officers Movement took over Egypt and there followed more than a half-century of war, anti-Western hysteria, terrorism, repression, social stagnation, and the basic Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse type stuff in the Middle East. That was the Era of Arab Nationalism.
On February 11, or October 23, or November 28, 2011, the Middle East entered a new era. Whether you date it to the fall of Mubarak, the Tunisian election, or the [upcoming] Egyptian election, what do you think is going to happen in the next half-century in the region? This is now—I call it officially—the Era of Revolutionary Islamism.
There is a great deal that will ensure the Islamists aren’t triumphant in the end, but there’s nothing that can stop them now from being dominant ideologically in the region and politically in the majority of countries between Tunisia and Iran, probably Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan.
As early as the 1980s these trends were visible but the outcome was not inevitable. There were four key elements in this victory for the Islamists.
First, the long, failed reign of Arab nationalist regimes went on in a downward spiral of increasingly less effective demagoguery, losing wars, and poor economic development performance as a demographic explosion took place. Yet as late as 2000 the prospects for the Islamists looked poor. Almost a quarter-century after Iran’s revolution, they had not taken over in any other country except remote Afghanistan.
Then, second, the September 11 attacks revitalized the movement. Osama bin Laden lies moldering in the sea, but his movement goes marching on. But while bin Laden lacked strategic flexibility, other Islamists were more effective.
And so, third, from Turkey came the idea of what might be called “stealth Islamism”: just pretend to be moderate and the suckers will buy it. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood guru, also contributed here: bin Laden is a fool, he said in effect, of course we should run in elections. We’ll win.
Reinforcing this, and fourth, came the idea of adapting Western rhetoric and public relations methods. After decades of bragging about how they would conquer and murder all their enemies, nothing changed in Arabic. In English, however, they spoke about being pitiable victims of imperialism, Zionism, Western racism, and so on. A key pioneer here was Edward Said, a man who hated the Islamists. They proved to be his best students.
And finally, there were disastrous Western policies and misconceptions, with the presidency of Barack Obama being the crowning catastrophe. For whatever reason, the Obama administration has empowered America’s enemies and the new oppressors of the local people. Appeasement is one thing; giving those who hate you most a boost into power goes far beyond that.
To summarize, I will merely say: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. Six countries or entities [that] have come—or are likely to come—under Islamist rule. Each is different, but in all but the case of Turkey (where the administration ignored State Department reporting and has continually honored and excused an Islamist regime) and the Gaza Strip (where the administration helped entrench Hamas’s rule by forcing Israel to slash sanctions) they happened almost completely on Obama’s watch. Turkey and the Gaza Strip have become far worse on Obama’s watch.
The seventh, Syria, might merely remain under a repressive, pro-Iran, anti-American regime. And while there is a chance for a moderate democratic revolution, the White House is supporting the Islamists. If the State Department hadn’t revolted and the Saudis acted decisively, Bahrain would probably have been added to the above list.
There is no way to conceal this situation in October 2011, although it has been largely hidden, lied about, and misunderstood until this moment. Even now, the nonsense continues. The article you are reading at this moment probably could not have been published in a single mass media newspaper. Libya’s new regime calls for Sharia to be “the main” source of law. That is what the Muslim Brotherhood has been seeking in Egypt for decades. Yet we are being told that this isn’t really so bad after all.
The title of the Washington Post’s editorial, “Tunisia again points the way for Arab democracy,” can be considered merely ironic. It certainly points the way—toward Islamist dictatorship. And then there are the New York Times and BBC headlines on the Tunisian elections telling us it is a victory for “moderate Islamists.”
They aren’t moderate. They’re just pretending to be. And you who fall for it aren’t Middle East experts, competent policymakers, or serious journalists. You’re just pretending to be.
I’m putting those headlines in my file alongside Moderate Islamists Take Power in Iran; Moderate Islamists Take Power in the Gaza Strip, Moderate Islamists Take Power in Lebanon; and Moderate Islamists Take Power in Turkey.
Without taking any position on climate issues, let me put it this way: Why are people frantic about the possibility that the earth’s temperature might rise slightly in 50 years but see no problem in hundreds of millions of people and vast amounts of wealth and resources becoming totally controlled by people who think like those who carried out the September 11 attacks?
And that brings us to the Tunisian elections. In the words of the song “New York, New York,” if the Islamists in Tunisia can be “top of the list, king of the hill” in Tunisia, they can say, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
Next stop, Egypt.
FROM ARAB SPRING TO ISLAMIST WINTER
The Washington Times, October 25, 2011
When the Arab Spring uprisings broke out earlier this year, many foreign-policy experts were alarmed that the revolts took the White House by surprise and concerned by the Obama administration’s lackadaisical response. Washington adopted a hands-off policy toward the sweeping political changes, arguing that the people of the region should be free to chart their own destiny. “There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity,” President Obama said in May. In his typically weak manner, he also cautioned that, “we must proceed with a sense of humility.”
Consequently, the humble U.S. administration abrogated any strong leadership role in guiding the change that was under way. Muslim extremists realized they were being presented with an opportunity to assume power and began that process. Obama administration cheerleaders watched unconcerned from the sidelines, maintaining either that radical takeovers would not happen, would not matter or would be a positive outcome. The idea that Islamists would not come to power is quickly being disposed of.
In Tunisia, the once-banned Ennahda or Renaissance Party, which promotes Shariah-based rule, won the plurality of the vote in Sunday’s elections to the new Constituent Assembly. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, which earlier had said it would stay out of electoral politics, is favored to dominate the parliamentary and presidential races scheduled for the coming months. In Libya, National Transitional Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil repaid NATO’s support for his revolution by declaring, “Any law that violates Shariah is null and void legally,” reintroducing polygamy and banning interest payments in banks. The State Department lamely wrote this off to “Islamic-based democracies wrestl[ing] with the issue of establishing rule of law within an appropriate cultural context.” The proper U.S. response would have been to strongly denounce these moves and threaten to withhold all of the approximately $30 billion in frozen Libyan government assets in the United States.
The rise of the Islamists constitutes a major step backward for modernization and progress. Arab women are seeing their rights reduced, reversed or destroyed. Middle-class businessmen will find it more difficult to interact with the global economy. Religious minorities, primarily Christians, are being subjected to increasing violence and intimidation. When Foggy Bottom simply natters about “cultural contexts,” the signal to the extremists is “full steam ahead.”
There is no strategic upside in any of this change for the United States. The new post-authoritarian Islamist governments will have no particular affinity for America or its values. Regional partners, particularly Saudi Arabia, are alarmed that the Obama administration was so willing to throw longtime allies like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak under the bus. The Israelis are watching as more than 30 years of carefully constructed and rigorously maintained stability are being washed away. Meanwhile, those governments Washington would like to see fall, in Syria and Iran, are persisting. The Arab Spring is rapidly turning into an Islamist Winter.
DEMOCRACY IN TUNISIA
Jerusalem Post, October 25, 2011
In his 1991 book The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, political scientist Samuel Huntington argued that Tunisia was a prime candidate for democracy.… The country’s impressive economic growth, educated middle class, high rate of female literacy, strong sense of a unified national identity, non-politicized military, and relatively active civil culture of labor unions and Bar association seemed to position the Maghreb country particularly well for a democratic system of government.
Huntington’s assessment now seems to have been vindicated.
Starting December of last year, Tunisia became the first Arab country to rebel against and then overthrow its autocratic leadership, without any significant outside intervention. In the process, Tunisia’s masses set in motion the Arab Spring. Grassroots uprisings that took the world by surprise swept through Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria.
On Sunday, Tunisia became the very first of the Arab Spring nations to hold a free, democratic election. Yet, while voting was remarkably well organized and turnout was exceedingly high, the victory of the Islamist Ennahda, or “Renaissance” party, which garnered a plurality of about 40 percent, according to preliminary vote tallies, is a worrying sign.
If Islamists have succeeded in Tunisia, a country widely considered to be the most secularized and democracy-inclined Arab country, the prospects for Egypt and Libya, both preparing for their own elections, are far from promising.…
Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s head, said in an interview with Al Jazeera after returning to Tunisia from exile that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party was closest to Ennahda’s in its outlook. Though he was attempting to point to Ennahda’s relatively moderate political approach, Ghannushi’s analogy was hardly comforting.
Turkey regularly represses the press and intimidates secular military and business figures at home, while forming an anti-Western axis in the region with the likes of Iran and Egypt’s up-and-coming Islamists.
Ghannouchi is also rabidly anti-Israel. Following the end of the Gaza War in January 2009, for instance, Ghannouchi praised Allah who “routed the Zionist Jews,” and labeled the Israeli withdrawal/disengagement from Gaza in 2005 as “the first step in the complete victory of all of Palestine and the holy places of the Muslims.”
Living under former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s autocratic regime was undoubtedly unpleasant for most Tunisians. The man was regularly reelected, sometimes getting more than 90 percent of the vote—a sure sign that human beings’ natural propensity for dissent had been either bypassed by ballot fraud or repressed by intimidation. Security forces regularly patrolled Internet cafes and other supposed hotbeds of sedition. The reason cited for the state’s intrusive policing was the need to counter Islamic extremists.…
Ben Ali’s regime was not all bad, however. When the ancient synagogue on Djerba Island was truck-bombed by al-Qaida in April 2002, for instance, the government rushed to express solidarity and to rebuild.
It has been two decades since Huntington accurately assessed Tunisia’s potential for developing a democratic regime. His prediction has come true. It would be a tragedy and a sober lesson about the dangers of democracy if the very democratic process envisioned for Tunisia by Huntington ended up bringing to power an Islamist political party that will use its democratic mandate to roll back the positive reforms implemented under Ben Ali’s autocratic regime.