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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Banning the brit

I’ve been reading a lot in the past couple of days about a popularly proposed ban in San Francisco on circumcision entitled the Male Genital Mutilation Bill.  A couple of decades ago, circumcision was generally recommended by hospital physicians for what were stated as cleanliness and health reasons.  Jews and Muslims, of course, did it for religious reasons.  Anyone who, for whatever reason, chose not to circumcise was entitled to make that choice.

But the “intactivists” in that rabidly liberal paradise in northern California have decided that circumcision is torture, an act of violence against innocent children, and should be a criminal offense.  The ban’s proponents have collected more than enough signatures to put it on the upcoming ballot, and some have embraced as part of their publicity a cartoon series entitled “Foreskin Man” created by Matthew Hess, president of MGMbill.org.  The first in the series features evil hospital physicians who try to force a hot new mama-babe to give up her baby to a knife-wielding, blood-spattered ogre named Dr. Mutilator.  In the second, a sinister Jewish father goes behind his wife’s back and invites the black-hatted Monster Mohel and his haredi henchmen to come with their scissors to take back what is God’s.  At the last minute, the day is saved by buff, blond, lycra-clad superhero, Foreskin Man, who beats up the bad guys and either returns the baby to its grateful, weeping mother in the hospital or kidnaps the infant and gives it to the boy’s aunt, another intactivist, to raise as her own.

I’m all about freedom of choice and high safety and sanitation standards.  I’m also about not forcing your own choices on other people.  Children of atheists should not have to pray in public school.  Abortion should be safe, legal, and as rare as possible.  And brit milah, like kosher slaughter and alcohol (remember Prohibition?) should be legal and kept to high standards of cleanliness and ethical treatment of animals and humans.

But proponents of this bill are not about freedom of choice.  They’re about inaccuracy (comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation), unsupported claims (that uncircumcised men enjoy sex more—a claim that would be easier to prove if there were circumcised men who obtained foreskins and could compare the experience), non-science (ignoring the health benefits associated with circumcision), anti-Semitism (this ban will most universally affect Jews in the San Francisco area), and adolescent publicity and scare tactics (see the Foreskin Man comics).  As vocal as San Franciscans are about their pro-Palestinian agenda, it surprises me that they have overlooked the fact that Muslims will also be adversely affected by this ban.  Muslim boys are circumcised at age 13, in front of mixed audiences, with no anesthetic, and are expected to undergo the procedure without showing any signs of pain.  But perhaps this is just one more aspect of Arab Muslim culture Bay Area bleeding-hearts have chosen to overlook.  Will Foreskin Man #3 feature the Aryan superhero swooping in to save an adolescent Arab boy from hook-nosed, scimitar-wielding, kaffiyehed Muslim baddies?  I doubt it.

Daniel Gordis recently attacked the arrogance and bigotry of J Street and its statements about Israel.  I am here to attack the ignorance, arrogance, and bigotry of activists for “genital integrity.”  If they have information that is valuable for helping new parents make choices about whether or not to circumcise their baby boys, then by all means, get out there and disseminate it.  More (accurate) information is always better than less.  Teens should get as much accurate information as possible to help them choose when to become sexually active (and the more information they get, the more they should naturally learn about the benefits of waiting until they’re older, in committed relationships, or married).  Pregnant women should get as much helpful information as possible about abortion, including the emotional trauma that can result from getting them.  And parents who are undecided about circumcising should know the benefits that accompany circumcision as well as any (real) reasons not to circumcise.

This battle is just what America DOESN’T need: another hot-button issue.  Too often, the country seems to get wound up over the dilemma between freedom and regulation, and in circumstances like this one, freedom is interpreted to allow me to do what I want, and regulation is to make other people do what I want.  Anything that is a powerful, emotional issue gets turned into a moral issue rather than what Nichols and May would call a “real issue” and if, in the end, it prevents a small religious minority from doing what they normally do, which is usually seen as weird, fanatical, and unnecessary (including by a few renegade members of that religion), so much the better.

What I would find truly refreshing is if people, including those who personally choose not to circumcise their sons, would sit back, look at the big picture, see the infantile and fanatical tactics of these “intactivists” for the alarmist deception they are, and vote the whole ridiculous issue down.  It would be a shocking show of sanity from a part of the country one rarely looks to for moderation.  Nonetheless, I challenge San Franciscans to show signs of intelligent life—or return to the mother ship where they belong.

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Last year, I committed the very great heresy of telling my father that I would discourage any of my children from attending American colleges or universities.  (This from the woman with a bachelor’s and three master’s degrees from American institutions.)  My reason at the time was the overtly hostile attitude toward Israel on many American university campuses, but on further reflection, it goes much deeper than that.  It really spreads to the American academic culture’s attitude toward the West in general.

I don’t think it’s either realistic or necessary for everyone in academia to be pro-Israel.  A country so different from America, in such an incomprehensibly hostile neighborhood, and full of such internal and external complexity, is difficult to fathom for the American mind, nurtured in safety and isolation from immediate threat.  Yet those who would advocate academic boycotts against Israel overlook the fact that Israeli academic institutions, like those outside Israel, are overwhelmingly liberal in bent, and are some of the places most critical of Israel inside this country.  Those who advocate an economic boycott would be loathe to part with their cellphones, instant messaging, computer chips, and life-saving medical advances (the latter of which are made available even to Palestinian Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza, for free).  And those who criticize Israel’s politics seem astonishingly forgiving of the violently racist, sexist, and human rights-violating policies of the other nations in this region which don’t draw nearly the same fire from the West as Israel.

No, it’s really more the abandonment of intellectual honesty, search for truth, and acceptance of complexity in favor of one-sidedness, double standards, and oversimplification in the service of political bias that has really gotten my goat about American academia.  When I was in graduate school in English, my professor had us read the late Edward Said’s theories on “Orientalism” (basically an historically bankrupt accusation of imperialism by the West in its view of the rest of the world).  I told her I failed to see how this work bore any relation to reality, much less the literary theory we were supposed to be studying.  She asked if I had a text she could substitute for this one, and I said no.  How could I possibly justify replacing one profoundly flawed text for another?  A few months later, I sat in on a social studies class at Boston Latin school in which the teacher assigned the students an essay on capital punishment.  The students were given the choice at the beginning of class of which side to take, but then the teacher launched into a 30-minute tirade about the evils of capital punishment, its racial inequality, its brutality against the innocent, and the fact that Black men are disproportionately put to death because of it.  No information or perspective was provided about the views of those who support it, and by the end of the class period, there was little doubt in the students’ minds about which side they would be expected to take in their essays.  And when I neared the end of my teacher training and was applying for teaching jobs, I was grilled by a very irritable English department at a local public high school not about my teaching methods, my mastery of English and American poetry, prose, and drama, how I might implement the department’s curriculum, or how to deal with a class of students of different levels of ability, but which non-Western texts I would be prepared to teach in my classroom.

Not long ago, I read a very interesting article by Bernie Reeves (“Can Niall Ferguson Save Civilization?”) about the current state of higher education in America.  I was surprised at how sharply it homed in on exactly what has made me uncomfortable about so much of contemporary American educational culture.  The shift from being stuffy, stodgy places where the ancients (Greek and Latin) were read, memorized, translated, and sometimes even (gulp!) critiqued, to the current climate of anti-Western, anti-classical, anti-religion, anti-American, anti-anything-that-dead-white-men-would-have-done is documented, along with the accompanying abandonment of much of what used to constitute academic rigor and discipline.

I’m not saying that the good old days (long before I was ever in college) were the gold standard by which all education should be judged.  I recently read Yankee From Olympus, a delightful biography of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in which the author, Catherine Drinker Bowen, is positively withering in her description of Harvard College’s curriculum and teaching methods during Holmes’s era, which included rote memorization, discouraged debate, and shunned modern languages, sciences, and philosophy newer than the Romans.  In contemporary education, there must be a balance between the study of where we’ve been and the possible directions we may be going.  History must not hide the flaws of the past, but must focus on motivation and intention, not just misdeeds, and English must include the acquisition of skills such as close reading, vocabulary, structure and mechanics of prose and poetry, as well as a breadth of content which reflects the history, development of ideas, and experience of the English-speaking world.  I think non-Western works should not be avoided altogether, but must be chosen carefully and taught in appropriate context at the high school level, and explored in greater breadth and depth at the college level to show students with (by then) a strong background in Western civilization the ways in which non-Western though and experience differ.

One example of how not to teach non-Western experience was provided by a commenter on Reeves’s article, who reported how a child came home having studied a story about a Japanese child sick from nuclear poisoning following the US bombing of Hiroshima.  The teacher, it turned out, had not explained why America had dropped the bomb, or what would have happened if they had chosen not to.  Such incidents sow the seeds of anti-Americanism by erasing all context for the nation’s actions and focusing instead on the oppression of the powerless (civilians, children, foreigners, people of color) by the brutal, powerful West (America, Europe, and later on, perhaps Israel).  For people who teach this way (many of them, according to Reeves, 1960s campus radicals who later became college professors), history is about reading heart-rending accounts of racist atrocities, the evils of religion, the sins of the powerful against the weak, and the general revision of the way things have been taught in the past, as though everything our parents and grandparents learned were lies and whitewashes of the truth.  The belief seems to be that the side of the victors (i.e. those who write history) has already been told, and it’s time to hear the other side, but the fact is that the victors’ version has been pushed aside in recent decades, and the losers’ version is all too often the only version taught.  Those who teach this way seem more interested in dividing the world between good and bad, right and wrong, celebrated and vilified, than in understanding the sometimes complex truths behind what they see.  After all, it’s harder to feel strongly about one side or another if it’s gray rather than black or white.  It can be unsettling when things in the world don’t line up according to a binary system of good and bad.  It’s s embarrassing to discover that you know less than you thought on a subject.  It’s easier to discredit the side you don’t agree with than to suspend judgment pending understanding.  Reeves writes,

Since the new radical doctrine was incubated in socialist realism, the first objective was to manufacture equality via a perverse affirmative action initiative by elevating underdeveloped nations to equal status with the world’s greatest cultures. It was sold as ‘multiculturalism,’ and, consistent with leftist screeds, hid behind the skirts of a noble outcome – ‘inclusiveness’ – i.e. it is good to study and respect all cultures rather than emphasis on the big achievers. 

In this disguise, the real dirty work was undertaken: dismantling and de-emphasizing the achievements of the western world by dramatizing its sins in order to ‘apologize’ to the victims of imperialist exploitation and racism. To enforce the new credo on campus, the ‘politically correct’ police attacked and discredited those that dared defy the party line, labeling offenders as racist, chauvinistic, homophobic, or, of course, imperialistic. In the cloister of academic freedom, free speech was extinguished.

One need look no further than the intimidation of pro-Israel students in university classrooms, Israel Apartheid Week activities, and the booing offstage of Israeli ambassador Michael Oren (himself a historian with an illustrious academic career) at UC Irvine to see the evidence for Reeves’s assessment.

It’s distressing to see so many intelligent, well-meaning people with their brains turned off.  Such people are unable to view the world the way it really is, and this leads to such far-fetched beliefs as Secretary of State Clinton’s that Bashar Assad is a reformer, that Muammar Qaddafi was a reformer (in between the Lockerbie plane bombing and the current civil war in Libya, long enough to put Libya in the chair of the UN Human Rights Council), and Israel is an apartheid state.  Reeves believes that “college graduates since the mid-80s are hopelessly clueless when it comes to comprehending current events . . .  see themselves as the cause of society’s and the world’s problems . . . and have no information or skills to frame or interpret, even as the information society serves up instantly accessible information.”  A year ago, I had an exchange with a reader following a post in which I commemorated the 90th anniversary of the San Remo Convention which established boundaries for a Jewish state to include all of what is today Israel, the West Bank, and the Kingdom of Jordan.  (Jordan and its British-fabricated monarchy was set aside for the Arabs at a later date, reneging on the internationally recognized San Remo agreement.)  This can be found in multiple histories, and the map I posted was an accurate reflection of the outcome of the conference, but the reader couldn’t accept these facts as true 1) because the map was published by the Israeli Foreign Ministry (an instrument of oppression and disinformation, it seems) and 2) the reader apparently couldn’t grasp that anyone would really offer the Jews that much territory (a fair assessment in light of Britain’s perfidy in reneging on this and all subsequent agreements with the Jews, and the world’s acceptance of Arab aggression and numerous attempts to annihilate the Jews).

I would like to think that Reeves’s article (like many on the American Thinker site) is alarmist and an overreaction.  While I don’t necessarily share his belief that current anti-Western thinking in American academia is the result of Soviet-era, KGB-implemented “active measures,” my own experience—as well as what I continue to read in the press about America—seems to support his bleak prognosis.  (And I’m not even counting here the kind of talkbacks one reads at the end of online articles.)  It can be discouraging to someone who enters college hoping at last to gain a handle on the world and its workings to discover that it’s far more complicated and slippery than he or she had ever imagined.  But what’s the alternative?

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One of the highlights of having relations visiting us in Israel is having the excuse to go out and be tourists.  We live here, we know how blessed we are to live so close to so many amazing historical and archeological sites, yet as it does for most people, life usually gets in the way.

When my parents were here for a couple of weeks, I emailed work to say I was unavailable, and took my parents to the Sorek Caves, the Herodion, the Israel Museum, Mahanei Yehuda (the Jerusalem outdoor market) and the City of David.

The City of David had a particularly glaring moment in the sun a few months ago, when Lesley Stahl brought her  “60 Minutes” crew to do a spot on it for the show.  My blog post of that event highlights some of the more absurd things she said, being much more interested in the sensational political angle (real or imagined) of the site than what it had uncovered.  So after lots of hoopla, none of it substantial (except in the minds of those making it), I was glad at last to tour the site.

Back in 1997, when the Cap’n and I were in our salad days, we used to get shopped and cooked for Shabbat by Thursday night so we could go out Friday morning and see something new.  One Friday morning, we took a walking tour with Ziontours in the Old City of Mount Zion and Silwan, which took us as far as the stairs leading down to the gate which opens to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a man-made tunnel dug to allow water to flow to the ancient, First Temple-era city of Jerusalem to enable it to hold out against siege.  Our guide at that time told us that it was believed that King David’s palace lay in ruins under the hill we passed on our right when descending to the gate, but that excavation had barely begun at the time.

Fast forward 14 years, and it’s a major archeological park with excavated ruins of what is believed to be either the Palace of Zion (the Jebusite palace where David probably initially took up residence while building his own palace farther up the hill) or David’s palace itself; a structurally intact private home located near the palace owned by one Achiel which represents the design of hillside homes of the day; seals which belonged to officials in the court of David who are mentioned in the Bible; excavated tunnels used first by Jebusites and later expanded by Israelites as part of their water collection and retrieval system; part of the Siloam Pool which was used as a communal mikvah; and part of an excavated road which is believed to lead from the Siloam Pool up to the Temple Mount.  The excavation site is across the Kidron Valley from an area that is currently crowded with Arab homes, but at one time was a Jewish burial ground (being part of the Mount of Olives, which is still the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world), and at one time housed Yemenite Jews who were driven out during the Arab riots of the 1930s.  (Check out the City of David’s website here.)  A 3-D film precedes the guided walking tour through the site, signage is fair (though one gets much more from the experience with a human tour guide), and on a sunny day, the lovely landscaping of the site is breathtaking.  Pottery shards date the site to well within David’s time, and among the odds and ends of implements uncovered in the dig was a lice comb.  (Some things never change.)

In other words, what Lesley Stahl and her crew missed by focusing on politics is the most intensively excavated archeological site in Israel (and perhaps the world), as well as the most important archeological find in Israeli history.  What has been uncovered there confirms that much of what is recorded in the Bible is based on historical fact (with new things being uncovered as the dig progresses), and that Jews have had a continuous presence in Jerusalem for over 3000 years, including sovereignty over it predating that of any other claimants.  These findings are accepted by all major, mainstream archeologists and undercut efforts by Arabs to dismiss claims of Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem, so perhaps it’s no wonder that Lesley Stahl glossed over them in favor of listening to whinging Arabs instead.  (She also glossed over the fact that she and her camera crew were attacked by Arabs the minute they stepped out of their cars to film at the site and had to call City of David security to assist them.)  The fact that neighborhood leaders of both Jewish and Arab residents have complained in recent months about the rabble-rousers from outside the neighborhood entering it to cause problems and try to make it into a flashpoint is testament to the fact that the City of David is a barely-noticed example of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem.  Had she wanted to, Stahl could have made her piece about the fact that Jews and Arabs live together in harmony near this remarkable archeological site.  She could even have focused on the site itself, and what it has uncovered.  Instead, she chose to air, alongside her interviews with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the site’s excavation head, and an angry Arab, the Pallywood video that hit YouTube a few months ago of a Jewish man and his son being stoned in their car in a meticulously choreographed and filmed incident which was intended to show how ruthless and evil Jews are when beset by innocent Arab children frustrated by the Occupation.  Her choice of angle, in other words, abandoned intellectual curiosity, science, history, human ingenuity, the thrill of discovery, and journalistic integrity, in favor of joining the ranks of the angry rabble.

But no amount of fact-fudging or petty politicking could change the fact that as I walked through both the wondrous ruins and the small, but stunningly beautiful street of Jewish homes and lovingly tended gardens, much of the sadness, anger, and angst I had been feeling for the previous few weeks melted away, and I was able for a morning to reconnect with our indisputably ancient Jewish roots in this land.  Regardless of what Lesley Stahl, the Western press, envious Arabs, or international “peace activists” may say, we have been here for countless generations, and will be here for countless more.

Ruins of private dwellings, City of David

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It seems that history was made recently at the United Nations.  No, China was not kicked off the Human Rights Council (though, inexplicably, Libya was).  And no, Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has not been disinvited from his annual anti-Semitic tirade and raspberry-blowing fest.  And no new canapés have been introduced at UN receptions.

The history I refer to is the recent screening of the Julian Schnabel film “Miral” at the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN is not the usual venue for a feature film to debut.  That’s because it’s a policy-making body, and not Sundance, Cannes, or Toronto.  And while it seems that documentaries (i.e. based on fact) are occasionally screened, feature films (i.e. based on fiction, imagination, or anecdote) are not.

And as feature films go, this one would not seem the likeliest to be chosen.  It was panned by English and Italian critics who found it shallow, stilted, and just another hackneyed vehicle for demonizing of Israel.  Focusing as it does on a young Palestinian Arab girl who grows up in an orphanage, becomes a teacher in a refugee camp, and falls in love with a terrorist, it would not seem to be the most dispassionate tale one could imagine.

I’m not taking issue with a Jewish producer making a movie about a book he enjoyed by an Arab woman he’s romantically involved with.  I’m not even taking issue with the fact that it may or may not be bald-faced Palestinian propaganda.  Such a film, whether or not it has merit, should be allowed to be screened in appropriate venues and judged on its own merits.  I also support the rights of people who claim it is Palestinian propaganda to protest its screening, expose any lies in the film, and to call it a dog of a film if that’s what it is.

But what I do take issue with is the UN as an appropriate venue for this kind of film.  Films that are intended to educate, report facts, enlighten, and provide historical background, are all worthy of being screened to a body which should concern itself with reality rather than imagination.  On the other hand, films that are attempts to appeal to emotions, reinforce (dubious) conventional wisdom, or provide catharsis for the viewer, are inappropriate to be shown at the UN.

GA president Joseph Deiss was reported to like the film “and thought it could contribute to a useful and interesting discussion on a topic that has gone on for so long.”  This is revealing on a number of points.  First, the desire to spark discussion on a topic which has been discussed and discussed until the discussants are blue in the mouth seems to me more like beating a dead horse than contributing to any solutions.  And the fact that the issue “has gone on for so long” is also telling.  The UN itself, through the UNRWA, has administered the very refugee camps that are featured in the film, places where in reality, extremism, violence, and hatred of Jews fester and are indoctrinated into generations of young Arabs.  The UN itself has done more than any other body to prolong this conflict by perpetuating the refugee camps instead of doing what they were set up to do, which is to resettle the refugees and enable them to build whole lives for themselves.  Over 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands descended on Israel in the 1940s and 1950s, and sixty years (and no UN aid) later, they are fully integrated in Israeli society.  The UN High Commissioner on Refugees has operated many large-scale refugee resettlement programs, enabling an estimated 50 million refugees to restart their lives.  Yet under the UNRWA (created specially to administer the Palestinian Arab refugees), between 520,000 and 800,000 Arab refugees from the Arab-Israeli conflict have not been resettled in over 60 years, even on an annual operating budget of well over $500 million (source).  If anything, showing a film like this should embarrass the UN, and the discussion it sparks should be one which questions the UN mandate itself.

If the UN wants to make peace in the Middle East, it needs to stop perpetuating the conflict through its own neglect and bloated, protectionist bureaucracy.  If it wants to make peace, it needs to stop fomenting the political divisions that are so entrenched in its own structure (the automatic majority comes to mind).  If it wants to fix this problem and get it off its desk (which seems to be a high priority throughout the West), it would do well to look at what really exists here, and not at the “art” of a scruffy Jewish American who shows up to premieres in his pajamas and hobnobs with celebrity “activists” and self-promoting Hollywood executives.

I read recently that Canadian journalist Robert Fulford is credited with saying that conspiracy theories are “history for stupid people.”  Looking at the behavior of the UN General Assembly these days, it seems that Hollywood feature films are history for international diplomats.

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The other day, Carl posted a short rant on his blog, IsraelMatzav, on the lack of widespread support among US Jewry of America’s veto of the “settlements are illegal” resolution vote at the UN.

One of Carl’s readers, a self-avowed Renewal Jew, commented that the Renewal movement’s spiritual leader, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, is not expected to state an opinion on the subject.  This person asserted that it is alienating to shul-goers (especially those not politically active) to hear about politics from the bima, and it got me thinking.

On the one hand, I like to feel like Israel is really the People United we like to think it is.  And it’s nice to feel like there is support for Israel and its interests expressed by Jews abroad, especially on issues which challenge Israel’s very existence, as those at the UN seem increasingly to do these days.

But then I think some more.  Not all American Jews feel connected to the State of Israel.  For many, just being Jewish is challenge enough when faced with the pull of non-Jewish culture and the ease of assimilation.  And about a third of younger American Jews said in a poll in the last couple of years that the loss of Israel (presumably through a second Holocaust) would not be a particularly emotional event for them.  It’s a lot to ask Jews who don’t feel connected to Israel at all to take an interest in the protection of the settlement enterprise, something that not all Israelis support, and which most people outside Israel don’t understand, much less give their backing.

And Carl’s Renewal reader also said something that resonated with me: there is nothing more irritating than hearing a rabbi rail from the bima about politics.  It took me back to my mid-teens, when we lived in a small town in California that had one Reform synagogue and a rabbi with an abrasive personality.  We rarely went to synagogue, and when we did, the rabbi would greet my family at the door with the comment, “Well, hello, strangers!”  If that wasn’t bad enough, he spent every Friday night ranting about the PLO (this was 1982 and he had a lot to say), to the point that I began to wonder if Hashem hadn’t made a covenant with the PLO rather than the Jews, and whether the rabbi actually knew any Torah at all.  At a time when I was desperate to learn something about Judaism and trying to figure out who I was as a Jew, my rabbi (the only Jewish authority I’d clapped eyes on in years) was no help.  He taught me no Torah at shul, and he taught me no Torah at the teen class he taught on Wednesday nights that my parents forced me to attend.  When I finally found out that only the Reform movement accepted me as Jewish, I was not encouraged.  (By the way, I have met more learned Reform rabbis since then, but this was a poor start to my acquaintance with Reform Judaism.)

So while I understand Carl’s discouragement at a lack of American support (which Israelis feel increasingly these days as the peace process seems to disappear over the horizon and is replaced by initiatives to invalidate Israel’s existence), I also understand why American Jews weren’t queuing up to protest the latest vote on the threadbare theme of “settlements are the Antichrist.”

Besides, a source of consolation for me in all this was that, unlike the current Secretary of State (who calls the settlements “illegitimate” and expansion of the settlements “illegal”), America’s Yidn didn’t take to the streets to support the Arab-backed resolution.

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I followed with half a brain the brewing storm over a group of anti-Israel activists who call themselves Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (awareness? of what?) who wanted to place “advertisements” on the sides of Seattle buses accusing Israel of war crimes.  The ads were to show Arab children looking at a demolished building and the legend, “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work,” and help spread the world about the aggressive, disproportionate policies of Israel’s government, coinciding with the second anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.

I recently saw that a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that states that Seattle and the King County Metro bus service have decided NOT to allow the libelous posters to be placed on the side of 12 public buses.  This is largely in response to a mobilized counter-campaign by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, a pro-Israel group, which planned to take out ads on other Seattle buses showing victims of Arab bus attacks during the Palestinian Terror War (aka the Second Intifada) and the words, “Palestinian War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars At Work.”  Pictures of children and adults in Sderot and Negev kibbutzim running to shelters to escape missiles launched from Gaza were also slated for possible “advertisement.”

Seattle’s decision to ban all new non-commercial advertisements on the sides of public buses is not only wise, it’s necessary.  To allow a public service provider to get embroiled in the controversies surrounding the Middle East, and all the vitriol and ignorance that seems to accompany it, would at best be, as they feared, “disruptive” and at worst open a new forum for the insanity and stupidity that passes for public debate and discourse on the subject.

It’s also proof positive that an aggressive counter-attack against the forces of idiocy works.  If someone threatens to “expose” Israel’s “war crimes” (which have never been substantiated, proven, or otherwise dealt with in an official manner outside the court of public opinion), all pro-Israel people need to do is mobilize and offer a tit-for-tat exposure of Palestinian Arab violence.  (Canada also recently saw a counter-BSD event in Montreal with a pro-Israel “buy-cott”).  It’s a nuisance to have to deal with these stupid little attacks on Israel, but the more we care enough to make a few phone calls, donate a few dollars, and threaten to stir up the pot a little more, the less traction these nitwits who call themselves “activists” will have in getting their message out.

Well done, Seattle.

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I’ve laid off politics for a while because frankly, it’s exhausting enough to live in a place where politics is served with your cornflakes at breakfast without writing about it all the time.

But I really can’t be silent about the recent dust raised over Israel’s naming of national heritage sites in the country for the purposes of preservation and renovation.

It started with Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem (Nablus), where Arabs accused the Jews of “fabricating” their connection to the site (you can thank Hanan Ashrawi for that little nugget) and after Arabs rioted there in 2000, then-PM Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to abandon it.  It was subsequently handed over to Palestinian police who, despite their commitment to protect the site, stood by and watched while it was ransacked and burned by an Arab mob.  After thousands of years of being venerated as Joseph’s burial place (including by Arab geographers), the PA suddenly claimed that the tomb is not that of Joseph the Jew, but of some Muslim named Joseph, serving as their excuse for making it into a mosque.  I don’t believe such ridiculous claims and I suspect, given the fact that these Arabs had no difficulty reducing the place to rubble, they don’t either.

Next we move on to the Cave of the Patriarchs.  Located in Hevron, this site is the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah (none of whom Muslims can claim any connection with except possibly Abraham, according to tradition).  As a result of the Wye River Accords, the site has been divided, giving the Muslim Waqf control over 80% of the site and limiting the access of Jews to the tombs of Isaac and Rebecca to ten days a year.  To acknowledge the Cave of the Patriarchs as the second holiest site in Judaism, PM Binyamin Netanyahu officially added it to the list of national heritage sites.  This declaration has met with outrage from the UN, Arab governments, and the United States (which I have noticed are becoming increasingly indistinguishable from one another in their policies and attitudes), and UNESCO has called for this site to be removed from Israel’s list of national holy sites.

If the world wants to deny the Jews any connection to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, what of Rachel’s Tomb?  Well, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, so the little minds have been hard at work cooking up a cock-and-bull story about Rachel’s Tomb.  Here it is: As of 1996, the tomb, which has always has been acknowledged as Rachel’s burial place by everyone who has been here (British, Turks, Arabs, Jews), was renamed by Palestinian Arab spin doctors the Mosque of Bilal Ibn Rabah, after an Ethiopian slave in Mohammed’s household who was killed in the wars in Syria and is buried in Damascus.  Not only are Arabs reduced to making up stories to try to lay claim to Jewish holy sites in the Jewish State, they’re declaring a “holy war” to back up those new claims.

But wait—there’s more!  According to a recent statement by a PA official, the Western Wall is not Jewish!  That’s right.  A PA-backed “study” shows that the Western Wall is NOT part of the Temple Mount, but an integral part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque (which is not contiguous with the wall, but never mind the facts).  This study claims that “the Temple Mount never stood in the area,” that the Western Wall is Waqf property and belongs to an Algerian-Moroccan Muslim family, that none of the stones in the current Temple Mount wall date from the time of King Solomon, and that the path next to the Wall was never a public road, but was established for Muslim use to access the mosques on the Mount.  The author of the “study” states, “No one has the right to claim ownership over it or change its features or original character. Also, no one has the right to agree with the occupation state’s racist and oppressive measures against history and holy sites.”  Which measures are those?  The ones that comply with the version of history accepted by educated, sane, objective, politically disinterested historians?  Or the ones that seek to explore through archeology the area’s use and workings in ancient times?  Or perhaps the ones that say that Jews have a right to live freely in their own land rather than be voted out of existence by a bunch of ragtag Muslim zealots bent on grabbing this land for themselves any way they can get it?  Anyone who makes the absurdly false claims these PA nutjobs are making, or believes them (as it’s only a matter of time before the UN and America will) is buying a story that says that the Dome of the Rock (dating from 691 CE) and the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the most recent building dating from 1035) have always been there, were built on bare ground (presumably under the personal direction of Mohammed), and on land the Jews never occupied.  Riiiiiiigggghhhhht.

I believe in freedom of speech.  I believe that people have the right to believe whatever they wish, and to speak about it freely.  If, despite Columbus’s successful voyage, satellite pictures, and man’s visit to the moon, someone wants to claim that the earth is flat, that’s their right.  If someone thinks the moon is made of cheese, let them.  (And don’t forget to bring me back some next time you go.)  If someone wants to cook up conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination, about UFOs, or about Hitler’s brain being kept alive in Paraguay, be my guest.  But just as people have the right to claim anything they like, it is the right of the rest of us to ridicule them, refute them, or simply ignore them.  In fact, it is the obligation of every responsible citizen (and more so those in positions of influence and decision-making) to examine the facts and ask questions rather than simply believe a tall tale because he or she doesn’t know any better.  To allow ignorance, conventional wisdom, and politics to play a role in policy-making at an international level is to delegitimize the very policy-making body to which they belong.  Given how the UN has behaved for the past several decades, how its conduct and voting record has gotten less and less rational, and now how UNESCO is rewriting history in the Jewish State, it is actually the UN that is being delegitimized.  (How long, after all, will it be before the UN building in New York itself gets voted an ancient Muslim holy site, is given an phony Arabic name and converted into a mosque?)  As far as I can see, the UN is the greatest purveyor of incitement, disinformation, political intrigue, and outright lies in the world, and as such, the greatest threat to world peace.

What are the takeaway messages to be gleaned from all this insanity?

  • The only people worse at history than Arabs are lazy Westerners.
  • Ignorant Christians are as dangerous as zealous Muslims.
  • If a Muslim says it, it must be true (contrary facts notwithstanding).
  • Israel has no holy sites.  Anything that has been claimed by them for thousands of years and is supported by texts (holy and secular), archeology, and tradition, becomes instantly invalid once Arabs come up with a story claiming that those sites are sacred to Muslims.
  • If we want to return places to their “original” names, then Nablus should be universally known as Shechem, London should be Londinium, New York should be New Amsterdam, Iraq should be Babylon, and Mecca should be Terok Nor.
  • Arab vandalism of Jewish planting on state lands has led to several clashes in the Gush.  Four settlers were shot dead by an Arab at point-blank range last August.  There have been several stonings of Jewish cars by Arabs on the road near the northern entrance to Efrat.  An Arab attempted to stab hitchhikers near the Gush Junction the other day.  Arabs have launched a full campaign to delegitimize the spiritual connection of Jews to this land.   And the West is buying it all, hook, line and sinker.

It’s time to push back, people.

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