The Indigenous Tribes of Israel: Barbara Kay, National Post, June 28, 2016— Two stories this week turn on a misunderstanding of the word “indigenous.” On June 21, Conservative MP Jason Kenney tweeted: “On Aboriginal Day we honour those who first settled in Canada, and their generations of descendants.” The word “settled” whistled up the identity police. One twitterer responded: “Oh puleeze. Calling Indigenous (Peoples) settlers? Yeah right, 20,000 year old settlers … Canada is how old?
Radical Islam was Brexit's Elephant in the Room: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, June 29, 2016— The beauty of an uprising like the Brexit vote is that it makes the political and media elites who govern our lives look like fools. Brexit was no Haitian, Cuban or French Revolution, nor was it the Great Indian “Mutiny” of 1857. But it did demonstrate the power of the working class over elites, who showed they were cut off from reality.
The Master Historian of the Middle East: Martin Kramer, Mosaic Magazine, June 27 2016— It is gratifying that my essay in Mosaic should have prompted such moving tributes to Bernard Lewis from Robert Irwin, Itamar Rabinovich, Eric Ormsby, and Amir Taheri: distinguished scholars and writers whose friendships with him span many decades. And they are but a few of the many admirers who would have eagerly answered Mosaic’s call.
Shlomo Riskin Review of “Religion and Power”: Shlomo Riskin, Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2016— At a time of alarming nuclear tests, terrorism, and starving, half-naked refugees seeking safety, Jonathan Sacks, the distinguished theologian and former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has written an ecumenical—yet deeply Jewish—and timely tour de force about religion and violence.
Lest We Forget: Battle of the Somme Begins, July 1, 1916:
The four-month Battle of the Somme was fought from 1 July to 18 November 1916. Allied commanders sought to relieve pressure on the French defenders of Verdun to the south by inflicting heavy losses on German forces farther north and drawing German reserves into the battle. The Somme was a costly stalemate that led to harsh criticism of Allied commanders, especially Haig, and German determination to avoid similar casualties by altering their defensive systems. In the fighting of 1917, improved Allied assault tactics would face deeper, more sophisticated German defences. (For full article, click the following link)
On Topic Links
After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry: Seth M. Siegel, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2016
Canada Chastises Palestinian President for Accusing Israel of Poisoning Well Water: Lee Berthiaume, National Post, June 28, 2016
‘Come to Canada’: Ontario Looks to Woo, Learn From Israelis: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, June 7, 2016
A testimony to Canada’s Human Rights Superstar: Barbara Kay, National Post, May 30, 2016
Canada's PM: We'll Continue to Stand With Israel: Dalit Halevi, Arutz Sheva, May 31, 2016
National Post, June 28, 2016
Two stories this week turn on a misunderstanding of the word “indigenous.” On June 21, Conservative MP Jason Kenney tweeted: “On Aboriginal Day we honour those who first settled in Canada, and their generations of descendants.” The word “settled” whistled up the identity police. One twitterer responded: “Oh puleeze. Calling Indigenous (Peoples) settlers? Yeah right, 20,000 year old settlers … Canada is how old?” Another: “What profound unease with losing settler colonial privilege looks like: @jkenney trolls Indigenous people.”
Bewildered, Kenney replied: “I don’t follow. The ancestors of our aboriginal people were the first to come to North America. Not really a point of contention.” Well, not a point of contention if actual history is your thing, but certainly contentious if non-factual identity “narrative” is.
Indigenous rights is a hot international theme. But many people are unclear on the concept, assuming, for example, that the word applies only to the first people ever to inhabit what comes to be sacred space, or that only non-whites can be indigenous peoples.
Which brings us to the second story: a Green party faction lobbying to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, calling, shamefully, for withdrawal of charity status from the Jewish National Fund. (Shamefully, for the JNF is one of the “greenest” organizations on the planet, and its land not only legally acquired, but usually at hugely inflated cost.)
The anti-Kenney tweeters’ moral panic over “settlers” is absurd. Indigenous peoples aren’t so called because they have a protozoic relationship to hallowed ground. Whether or not aboriginals’ ancestors were here for 100,000 years or 10,000 or 1,000 is not the basis for indigenous status.
The working definition of “indigenous people” was developed by anthropologist José R. Martinez-Cobo, former special rapporteur of the Sub-commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for the United Nations (thanks to researcher Ryan Bellerose for bringing him to my attention).
According to Martinez-Cobo, indigenous communities, peoples and nations demonstrate a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that evolved on their territories. Though non-dominant and a numeric minority, they consider themselves distinct from the societies that now prevail on their lands. They are determined to inhabit and transmit their territories to future generations, while maintaining their ethnic identity, cultural patterns, social institutions and sometimes even legal systems.
Some significant factors in identifying indigenous peoples are: continuous occupation of ancestral lands, common religion or tribal system emphasizing spiritual ties to the land, common language, and genetically common ancestry – i.e., “blood quantum” – a charged trope, but a factor in assigning legal authenticity nonetheless.
So BDS supporters, who accept the premise that the Palestinians are indigenous and oppressed by white colonialists have it backward. It is the (non-white) Mizrachi Jews in continuous habitation in Israel from time immemorial who were oppressed under a series of imperial regimes, up to and including the British Mandate.
Thus its purest irony that Idle No More, comprising those who meet all UN-approved specifications for indigeneity themselves, have offered full-throated support to Palestinians, whom they perceive as brothers-in-arms against colonial oppressors. In fact, it is the Jews who meet internationally endorsed measures of authentic indigeneity, while the Palestinians (a people literally 60 years old) do not.
Palestinians are ethnically Arab and (mostly) Muslim by religion. Islam’s connection to Jerusalem is one of conquest, not Qur’anic ties; Arabic is indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula, not Israel; no specifically Palestinian culture existed before the 1960s; and it was the Arabs, following the Romans, who occupied land sacred to Jews, not the other way around. Most significantly, the great majority of the Arab population inhabiting what became the state of Israel in 1948 were comparative newcomers to the area.
This latter fact and the historical case for Jewish indigeneity were settled in Joan Peters’ magisterial 1984 tome, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine. A liberal, Peters began her research as an investigation into the plight of Arab refugees, but the “whole fabric of historical presuppositions unraveled upon close inspection.”
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Toronto Sun, June 9, 2016
The beauty of an uprising like the Brexit vote is that it makes the political and media elites who govern our lives look like fools. Brexit was no Haitian, Cuban or French Revolution, nor was it the Great Indian “Mutiny” of 1857. But it did demonstrate the power of the working class over elites, who showed they were cut off from reality.
The three main political parties of Britain endorsed the UK remaining in the European Union. They were backed by big business. Two hundred of Great Britain’s top business leaders called on the public to vote to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, labour leaders representing 52 of the country's largest trade unions, threw their lot in with the elites.
Leading up to the June 23 vote, virtually every pollster and pundit predicted the UK would vote to “remain” within the EU. Thus the “leave” victory was a shock for the political and media elites. Appeals by 23 British Nobel Prize winners and 300 academics fell on deaf ears as the UK’s previously side-lined working class voted to raise the “Gates of Vienna” and stop their country from being swamped by refugees, camped on the other side of the English Channel in France.
The so-called, riff-raff that the leftist Labour Party had taken for granted as it appeased ethnic voters, came out to exercise their rights and took the elites by surprise.
The veteran leftist, author and filmmaker Tariq Ali labelled the EU as “Cuckoo Land”, saying Britain was better off without it. The Latin American TV network TeleSur quoted Ali branding the recent EU refugee deal with Turkey as “squalid”. In the once-thriving mining town of Barnsley, where 70% of the population voted to leave the European Union, one middle-aged man summed it up as he spoke to Britain’s ITV network: “It’s to stop the Muslims from coming into this country. Simple as that.”
Few others dared to be so explicit. But neither before nor after the Brexit vote has the political and media elite dared to discuss the elephant in the room – radical Islam. The fear of being labelled racist may silence many for now. But in the future there will be an ultra right-wing backlash in which innocent Muslims may well suffer.
I remember the fallout when former British foreign secretary Jack Straw in 2006 asked one of his constituents to remove her burka while speaking to him. He was accused of “thinly veiled racism” and his fate gave the elites one of many cues to tiptoe around such issues.
But trust ordinary Britons to be appalled at how their country was being reshaped to accommodate medieval values, not imported by Muslim immigrants, but entrenched in the values their British-born children were being taught at school.
The UK is not alone. From India to Myanmar; France to the Central African Republic, ordinary people are angry at Islamism. As as a result, innocent Muslims suffer while their radical leaders gloat at this “proof” of their predictions that the “kuffar”, non-Muslims, are enemies of Islam. If Muslim leaders do not acknowledge the flaunting of radical Islam on the streets and in the workplaces of Europe’s cities, then Brexit is just the beginning. Is blocking off streets in Paris and Delhi for Friday prayers the best way for Muslims to display our faith? It’s time to take stock, but is anyone listening?
Mosaic Magazine, June 27, 2016
It is gratifying that my essay in Mosaic should have prompted such moving tributes to Bernard Lewis from Robert Irwin, Itamar Rabinovich, Eric Ormsby, and Amir Taheri: distinguished scholars and writers whose friendships with him span many decades. And they are but a few of the many admirers who would have eagerly answered Mosaic’s call.
This is all the more remarkable given that Lewis’s own contemporaries are gone. If Bernard is so beloved today by so many, it is because he readily assumed the role of a mentor to the young. I was a case in point, having first enrolled in Bernard’s class at Princeton as a twenty-two-year-old graduate student. He was then sixty, almost two full generations older, but within a month he had set me up with an assistantship, giving me a key to his office at the Institute for Advanced Study and tasking me with cataloguing incoming scholarly offprints. There, working after hours and on weekends, I would sit at his desk, marveling at the sheer volume and variety of the incoming mail and catching glimpses of the correspondence of a scholar with a global reputation.
Every few weeks, Bernard would invite me to lunch at the Institute, followed by a vigorous walk in its surrounding woods. Then would come the high point. Choosing a shelf in his massive library, he would go through it one book at a time, estimating each tome’s significance to scholarship, sharing some lore (or was it gossip?) about its author, and parsing the dedication. I recall his taking up a book by Maxime Rodinson, the French former Communist and scholar of Islam whose political opinions were polar opposites to his. Rodinson had inscribed a warm and affectionate dedication. “He’s a scoundrel,” Bernard said with a twinkle in his eye. “But I like him.”
Such gifts of precious time were hardly mine alone. Over the years, I heard many similar stories from other students, dispelling any illusion that I was especially privileged. (Still, less than two years after we met, he traveled from Princeton to Washington to attend my wedding, and in a fluent Hebrew hand signed the wedding contract as a witness.) His generosity to students and younger scholars assured him a devoted personal following over the course of several generations.
It is fitting that Robert Irwin’s was the first response to my essay. Irwin studied under Bernard at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, at a time when that school enjoyed a reputation as the mecca of scholarship on the Middle East and Islam. Irwin’s Dangerous Knowledge, a brilliant account of the history of Orientalism, offers an erudite and thorough validation of Bernard’s own defense of the great scholarly tradition of Orientalism against ignorant defamers, of whom Edward Said was the slickest.
Irwin confirms my judgment that Bernard proved singularly prescient when it came to the “return of Islam,” although he believes that the record of Middle East experts in predicting outcomes isn’t particularly distinguished—and that in any case prediction isn’t part of a historian’s job description.
About this, I think Bernard would agree—up to a point. In his memoirs, he explained his view of what a historian could contribute to prognostication:
I don’t think the historian can reasonably be expected to predict the future but there are certain things that the historian can and should do. He can discern trends. He can look at what has been happening and what is happening and see change developing. From this he can formulate, I will not say predictions, but possibilities, alternative possibilities, things that may happen, things that may go this way or that way, in evolving interactions.
This is precisely what Lewis did in his 1976 Commentary article, “The Return of Islam,” which was not so much a prediction as a projection of a discerned trend. Moreover, it was a trend that Bernard had identified even earlier when he insisted that the victory of secular nationalism over Islamic identity might not be as total as some observers believed. Consider, for example, this passage from The Middle East and the West, published in 1964 at the crest of Nasserism and pan-Arab nationalism, and at the lowest ebb of the Muslim Brotherhood:
In recent years, these militant religious organizations appear to have lost ground, and in many countries they have been outlawed or restricted. There can be little doubt, however, that they continue to work in secret, or that they respond to the mood and desires of a great many people among the submerged classes in Islamic society. Even the governments, however modern and secular, have often found it useful or expedient to take account of Islamic sentiments and loyalities…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jewish Review of Books, Summer 2016
At a time of alarming nuclear tests, terrorism, and starving, half-naked refugees seeking safety, Jonathan Sacks, the distinguished theologian and former chief rabbi of Great Britain, has written an ecumenical — yet deeply Jewish — and timely tour de force about religion and violence. Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence draws upon history, theology, psychology, evolutionary theory, and, perhaps above all, close readings of biblical texts to argue that the God of Abraham — that is to say the God not only of Judaism, but of Christianity and Islam — is, properly understood, a God of life, not death; of love, not hate; of peace, not war; and of compassion, not cruelty. Which is not to say that Sacks denies that people have attempted to justify violence in God’s name.
In contrast to Hannah Arendt’s famous description of the “banality” of Nazi perpetrators of the Holocaust, Sacks calls violence in the name of a sacred cause “altruistic evil.” He elaborates: By this I do not mean the kind of behaviour that people argue over: abortion, for instance, or assisted suicide. Nor do I mean issues like the highly complex question of civilian casualties in asymmetric warfare. I mean evil of the kind that we all recognize as such. Killing the weak, the innocent, the very young and old is evil. Indiscriminate murder by terrorist attack or suicide bombing is evil. Murdering people because of their religion or race or nationality is evil [. . .] There are acts so alien to our concept of humanity that they cannot be justified on the grounds that they were the means to a great, noble or holy end.
Of course, as Sacks notes, such evil has often been committed in the name of secular causes; indeed one might say that this is the story of the 20th century. But he is no simple apologist for religion either, and his argument has several steps. In the first place, he acknowledges that religions — even his own — can and have been used to dehumanize, demonize, and scapegoat others in justification of such evil.
Indeed, as he writes (the italics are his), “The first religious act, Cain and Abel’s offerings to God, leads directly to the first murder.” And yet, he argues, the true intention of the biblical accounts of apparent divine favoritism and sibling rivalry, from Cain and Abel to Jacob and Esau and beyond, was not to suggest that Divine favor was a zero-sum game, but rather the opposite: a scriptural admonition not to commit violence in the name of God.
Judaism and Christianity have, according to Sacks, historically evolved away from justifying “altruistic evil,” as they learned to thrive without the power of the state. In the Jewish case, this happened with the destruction of the Second Temple and the rabbinic accommodation to powerlessness and diaspora (a point to which I shall return); with Christianity he sees this as having happened in the wake of the early modern wars of religion:
More gradually, but also more extensively, Western Christianity had to learn what Jews had been forced to discover in antiquity: how to survive without power [. . .] [This] suggests two hypotheses. First, no religion relinquishes power voluntarily. Second, it does so only when the adherents of a faith find themselves fighting, not the adherents of another religion, but their own fellow believers [. . .] You do not learn to disbelieve in power when you are fighting an enemy, even when you lose. You do when, with a shock of recognition, you find yourself using it against the members of your own people, your own broadly defined creed.
It is this process of internecine violence leading to religious moderation that Sacks, who is in the end an optimistic thinker, sees happening within Islam now. As he notes, “The primary victims of Islamist violence are Muslims themselves, across the dividing lines of Sunni and Shia, modernist and neo-traditionalist, moderate against radical,” and so on. One terrible instance Sacks cites is of a Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which 141 people were massacred, 132 of them children.
It is clear, however, that Sacks does not think that the problem of religious violence has been solved once and for all by Islam’s older Abrahamic siblings. Sacks adduces at least three reasons that religious violence remains a problem for all of us. First, and most generally, Sacks argues (and I agree) that if the 17th century was the dawn of the age of secularization, the 21st century will be one of desecularization…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
After Fleeing the Nazis, a Legacy That Won’t Run Dry: Seth M. Siegel, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2016— How does one overcome almost unimaginable horror and trauma? For Holocaust survivors Howard and Lottie Marcus, the healing came, in part, from the hope that they could help to provide refuge for other Jews who might find themselves at risk. But after restarting their broken lives in America, this modest couple could never have imagined that they would end up giving what is likely the largest single charitable gift in Israel’s history—$400 million—to be announced June 24.
Canada Chastises Palestinian President for Accusing Israel of Poisoning Well Water: Lee Berthiaume, National Post, June 28, 2016— Canada has lodged a formal complaint with the Palestinian Authority over what it says were “baseless” accusations against Israel by President Mahmoud Abbas. The move came after Abbas alleged in a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels last week that Israeli rabbis had plotted to murder Palestinians by poisoning their wells — a claim that was quickly proven false.
‘Come to Canada’: Ontario Looks to Woo, Learn From Israelis: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, June 7, 2016— When people think of cutting-edge cities, where innovation and new businesses thrive, they generally think of San Francisco, of Boston, Tel Aviv or London. Not many think of Toronto. In the world of high-tech, Canada has an image problem, and it’s turning to Israel — the self-described start-up nation — for help.
A testimony to Canada’s Human Rights Superstar: Barbara Kay, National Post, May 30, 2016— Is there a Nobel Peace Prize in the near future for former Liberal Justice Minister and human-rights luminary Irwin Cotler? There will be if fellow human-rights superstar Alan Dershowitz has his way. Cotler and Dershowitz are Canada’s two most recognizable names in human rights advocacy. Both are so articulate and passionate about their work that people often confuse them. In fact, recently in Israel, when a woman approached Cotler and expressed sympathy for his experience battling a false allegation of sexual misbehavior, and Cotler explained that she was confusing him with Dershowitz, she retorted, “Cotler. Dershowitz. What’s the difference?”
Canada's PM: We'll Continue to Stand With Israel: Dalit Halevi, Arutz Sheva, May 31, 2016— Despite the hot weather, tens of thousands of supporters of Israel participated in the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s 46th annual Walk for Israel, which took place on Sunday. Before the walk began, a letter sent by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the participants and expressing the government’s support for Israel was read.