Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Sign of Desperation

Many Israeli's are feeling more and more isolated. And in fact many of them are isolated: isolated from reality and from mainstream western thinking.

And it can only be seen as a sign of desperation, of isolation, and of narcissism when an Israeli university affiliated think tank, The Begin-Sadat Center For Strategic Studies, publishes this peon to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In part, it reads:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Canadian Prime Minister has emerged as a modern Abraham, a prophetic voice of principle in a world that is in danger of losing its conscience about Jews and Israel.
Our Biblical patriarch Abraham pleaded with God to rescind the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, arguing that the virtues of just a few righteous people could suffice to save that world.
At this point I thought that perhaps they were implicitly casting Israel in the role of Sodom and Gommorah, and that Harper was arguing that since not all Israelis were settlers, chauvinists, and militarists, Israel deserved to be spared the wrath of the nations. But of course that is not their point at all. The article continues:
In our modern world, that righteous person – whose voice of conscience, critique and courage may be the saving grace – is surely Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
In his speech before a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism in Ottawa last week, Harper sounded the clearest and most courageous call of this century against modern anti-Semitism and hatred of the Jewish state. In fact, Harper’s entire political career has been punctuated by steadfast support for Israel and the Jewish People, with clarity of vision and intensity unparalleled in recent times.
We, like many other Israelis bewildered by the growing intensity of hatred against Jews, were comforted by Harper’s remarks. His bold words give us hope that there are indeed many decent people, some of them in positions of power, who will not bow to demonization, Orwellian twisting of history and language, and pure evil. It is reassuring to hear loudly from such righteous gentiles. Harper deserves our gratitude for still believing in true humanism and the redemption of mankind.
... The morally bankrupt UN and a plethora of additional international forums single out democratic Israel for imagined and exaggerated human rights abuses, ... Major human rights organizations have joined the anti-Israeli chorus, shocking us even more. But Harper is adamant in pointing out this perverse behavior ... helping us here in Israel to maintain our sanity and belief in the goodness of man.
... Judge Goldstone and much of the international community want to neuter Israel to the point that it can’t defend itself. His committee and its many pernicious international legal collaborators seek to restrain, inhibit, fetter and otherwise prevent Israel’s defense forces from defending itself ... Not the Right Honorable Stephen Harper. He has consistently backed Israel’s defensive actions against Palestinian and other terrorists, and stood up to the French, the Russians and others in international fora at the most critical moments. Over the past three years, Harper’s Canada stood alone in defense of Israel – eight times casting the only “no” vote against unfair
condemnations of Israel – during votes at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Harper speaks of the “persistence of the Jewish homeland as a sign of hope…,” as a symbol of “our faith in humanity’s future, in the power of good over evil.”
... Mr. Harper ... has emerged as the finest global spokesman for a more virtuous world. Thank you, Prime Minister Harper, for not despairing of the world nor abandoning us.
Suffice it to say that Stephen Harper is not considered a fine global spokesman by anyone else in the world. Canada recently lost (for the first time ever) its bid for a seat on the U.N. Security Council. In Canada itself, Harper has never won a majority of the votes (he is Prime Minister only because the opposition is divided) and his current standing in the polls is about 35%. Within his own Conservative Party he is considered an autocrat, silencing or forcing out all who challenge him or begin to garner too much attention to themselves. He is a Christian conservative and plays to the social conservatives more than the fiscal conservatives. Despite Harpers considerable effort to woo Canada's Jewish voters, most of them still vote for his more liberal opponents.

That this is the man on whom the Begin-Sadat Center hangs the "hope of the world" is a sign of both how out-of-touch and how paranoid/desperate many of Israel's right leaning intellectual class have become.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ars Gratis Artis

Good music knows no borders. And one of the things I liked a lot when I lived in Israel was learning to appreciate Mizrachi (eastern) music. It is something I haven't gotten to hear too often since I left.

One would think that Israeli music with Arabic influence might be a bridge between Jews and Arabs. In fact I'm not so sure. But nevertheless here are two such songs by the incredible Israeli singer Zehava Ben.

The song featured above is in Arabic, and is a cover of a classic hit by the great Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum. I found links to it on Lebanese and Pakistani web sites, as well as Israeli ones.

The song featured below is in Hebrew, but the Arabic influence is obvious.

I wonder if these would qualify as "Zionist Art" now being promoted by the Israeli Ministry of Culture (see previous posting.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Zionist Art

According to Haaretz, Israeli Minister of Culture and Sport has announced a new award for "Zionist Arts"
So now Israel not only has an official religion but also an official ideology and art. (Loyalty oaths to the Zionist State no doubt coming soon.)
Imagine, by way of comparison, if the U.S. government instituted prizes for "Capitalist Arts". Wasn't this tried already with "Socialist Art" in the Soviet Union and with [name withheld] art in a certain 1930's central European country?
When the state starts supporting certain art and suppressing others, its bad for art and bad for the state. And when art becomes overtly polemical it usually becomes bad art. (OK! "Guernica" is an obvious exception.)
On the other hand, it is often historically interesting ...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

"What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate"

According to the Jerusalem Post (of all places!) President Obama blames poor communications for the Democrats recent election rout.
In the wake of this week's Midterm elections in the United States, President Barack Obama acknowledged that he has not been able to successfully promote his economic-rescue message to anxious Americans.

In an interview with CBS television, Obama said that he has not blamed his policies for the loss, but rather a lack of communication with the American people. The US president said that he has "stopped paying attention" to the leadership style he displayed during his run for the presidency.

He also said he recognizes now that "leadership is not just legislation," and that "it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand."

"And I think that," Obama continued, "we haven't always been successful at that."
Well duh !

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thoughts on the U.S. Election

I am sure much more has and will be written on yesterday's U.S. election by people smarter and more knowledgeable than I. But nevertheless here are a few short observations.

1. Money Talks: The Republic gains can be ascribed to many things. But one of them, and certainly not the least, is the unprecedented flow of big money, often from anonymous sources, to right wing candidates and in support of right wing issues. This is largely as a result of the terrible U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which overturns nearly a century of campaign finance reform and allows corporations to contribute unlimited funds in support of "issues" advertising right up to election day. As I wrote when this decision was first made, it is a game changer with long term consequences. I wrote at the time that if the Democratically controlled Congress did not do something to nullify the effects of this court decision, and do it before the elections just completed, they would never get a chance to do so again. The results of this massive infusion of unauditable corporate cash into the American political system, would give right wing candidates control of Congress for years to come. I fear I was correct.

And, as if to add insult to injury in this regard, one of the Democratic Senators to fall last night, was Russ Feingold - one of the authors of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Act, the very law overturned in the Citizens United case.

2. Age Matters: According to CNN, exit polls indicated a strong showing for the Tea Party among seniors, with 47 percent of those 65 and older saying they support the Tea Party, while only 26 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 said they it. CNN also notes that 25% of the voters in this election were 65 years or older! (When they make up only 15% of the voting age population.) So unless the younger voters can be enticed to vote in larger numbers - as they did for Obama in 2008 - the left is in for many more years of election defeats.

An interesting point to consider in this regard is, "do people's politics change as they age, or do they keep their basic political orientation." If the former assumption is true then the future is even more bleak for progressives then it is today, as the "baby boomer" demographic bulge is just now moving in to the "seniors" bracket. If the second assumption is true we may see seniors slowly become more liberal over the next few years, with a real shift to the left coming in about 25 years, when todays under 40's - progressive by a wide margin, hit 65. But then again, if they retain their political inactivity along with their progressive values, then this may not matter at all.

3. Is it good for the Jews? No! If its bad for America and bad for the world (and it is,) then, by definition, its bad for the Jews.

And among the many new Republicans elected, not one Jew! * (Though there were several new Black and Latino Republicans elected.) Eric Cantor remains the only Republican Jew in Congress. This, as opposed to the approximately two dozen or so Jews among Democrats on Capitol Hill. The number of Jews in Congress will drop as a result of this election, with Russ Feingold being the most prominent Jew to go down, though the number of Jews in the Senate will likely stay the same - at 13 - as Richard Blumenthal won an open Senate seat in Connecticut. (As of this writing the incumbent Michael Bennett is leading in Colorado, but the race is still considered to close to call.)

And despite what Likud supporter's in Israel might think, this is not necessarily good for the Israeli right wing. Congress was and remains pro Israel. Foreign policy is largely the prerogative of the President, and there is no predicting how the election might affect Obama's mood and policy's on the Middle East. On the one hand he may feel that with so many other troubles, he doesn't need the headache and domestic opposition that will come with pushing aggressively for a peace deal, or reaching out to Arabs and Muslims. On the other hand, frustrated on the domestic front, he may decide to devote more energy to foreign affairs, where he has a relatively free hand.

4. Will Obama be a one term President? Read points 1 and 2 above! On the other hand, the last time the President's party lost so badly in midterm elections was in 1946 - and Truman went on to be re-elected in '48! Similarly, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Clinton all came back to win after significant midterm losses. It will all probably depend on the economy. And if you know where that's going to be in two years, please let me know.

(*) I just read that there may be 2nd Republican Jews in Congress. Congresswoman-elect Nan Hayworth of New York, is married to a Jew, and calls herself a Jew, though it seems she never converted. If the Jews can count Democrat Micheal Bennet as Jewish - he defines his religion as "unaffiliated", though his mother is Jewish - than why not Ms. Hayworth?

Deconstruct this, please!

Someone deconstruct this, please !

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