Sunday, February 22, 2015

Arm Yourselves . . .

I find a fair amount to object to in Liel Leibovitz's new piece in — "It’s Time for Europe’s Jews To Arm Themselves." — —
where he's a senior editor.

He writes: "Given the inability of European governments to deal with the populations of radical Islamists they have nurtured, and who have been further radicalized by the civil war in Syria and the siren song of ISIS, it is irresponsible to pretend that things are going to get better for Europe’s Jews anytime soon."

He's probably right with regard to his dim forecast about things not getting "better for Europe’s Jews anytime soon." It bothers me, though, that he didn't so much as allude to Israel's treatment of West Bank Palestinians as one reason, maybe the least crazy, for anti-Jewish feeling in various precincts of Paris, and elsewhere.

If Israel were to cease settlement and find some way to honor Palestinian claims for a state of their own, would that negate the threat to Jewish life in Brussels or Paris? Deep question, but not one I want to entertain right now.

I'd rather cut to what I like about the Leibovitz piece.

If you don't espouse mass emigration  — Aliyah — to Israel, and you find it comical to expect Netanyahu to defend you — Israeli fighter jets over your neighborhood for example —  what to do, what do?

Leibovitz argues that Europe’s Jews must learn to defend themselves. They must, though he doesn't put it this way, try to remember or reconstruct everything about securing safety and survival Jews hoped Israel would do for them.

Israel hasn't. Israel is not going to. It never will.

Leibovitz argues European Jews should start arming themselves.

Why not?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Multiple choice:

Multiple choice question:

Why don't Obama and others call Islamist terrorism by a name — some name, pick one, there are many available  — that connects the violence to the religion and doesn't try so hard for a disconnect, a firewall, as it were, between them?

A) They don't want to be Islamophobes, don't want to fuel hatred of Muslims. This is laudable Enlightenment stuff, for sure.

B) They may not know any better. The article in the current Atlantic Monthly

leaves no doubt that there is in fact a connection between ISIS style terror and a reading of Islamic tradition that centers on the reconstruction of a caliphate. Is this all Islam, all Muslims? Of course not. But it is some. Is it the majority? Again — yawn —  not. But this would not be the first time in history that a disciplined and violent religiously and/or ideologically inspired minority makes all the awful difference.

C) They don't want to point the finger at Islam because they are defensive about their own religious traditions, as in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism — yes, even Buddhism! — and Hinduism.

They don't want to take religion on, don't want to offend Popes, rabbis, gurus, imams, ayatollahs. They don't want even to entertain the thought that the split between religious and secular behavior and values might be absolutely fundamental.

What if it is?

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Caliphate

Everyone should read Graeme Wood's piece in the new Atlantic: "What ISIS Really Wants".

Wood  shows that ISIS is an unquestionably authentic — if utterly murderous — reading of Islam. He also, should there be doubt about it, makes it clear that ISIS does not speak for all of Islam.

Baruch Hashem.

As I read the piece, the first I know of to stress the importance of the caliphate to Islam and its centrality for ISIS, the following analogy occurred to me. Just as there are whole chunks of Islamic observance that remain latent without a caliphate, so too are there whole aspects of Talmudic Judaism that remain latent without a Temple, a high priest etc..

It's just an analogy, terribly imperfect. And, to be absolutely clear, there's nothing in Jewish life, even at its worst, comparable to ISIS. For one thing, Jews have lived in and helped shape the secular world for too long for Third Temple fanatics to gain the same kind of traction that ISIS has achieved among so many Sunni Muslims, Allah be screwed.

And there is nothing I know of in Talmudic Judaism so hot for slaughter as there is in the variant of Islam rearing its head in the form of ISIS. Were a Third Temple to arise in twenty-first century  Jerusalem it would of course provoke mass killing between Israel and the entire Muslim world, probably involving global nuclear Armageddon. But putting that detail aside, there is nothing intrinsic to Third Temple Judaism a la the Talmud that ordains beheadings etc. a la ISIS. A Third Temple would be bad news for animals — the sheep, goats, chickens lining up to be sacrificed — but not necessarily, say, for Bedouins, at least no worse than they now endure.

The Graeme Wood piece demonstrates beyond doubt that ISIS can't be fully explained or explained away by reference to America's invasion of Iraq, disastrous as that was; tribal differences among Arabs dating back to the 6th century; national differences abetted or deriving from colonialism.

Wood shows that a key force behind ISIS is religious belief per se, fanatic belief, may Christ have mercy on our souls.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Amiri Baraka & his sick anti-Semitism

I had been looking forward to reading Claudia Rankine’s most recent book of poetry, “Citizen,” having heard her read from and discuss her work on NPR, but now, as I try to absorb her review of Amiri Baraka’s ‘S O S’ (NY Times Book Review 2/15/15), a posthumous collection of Baraka's work, I look forward to her poems less, if at all. I know that's my loss, there clearly being, from my brief exposure to it, intelligence, depth and subtlety to her work. My sense is these are poems we need. But all of that is challenged, if not necessarily negated, by her uncritical applause for the works of Amiri Baraka.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Russia Invades Egypt . . .

As you may have heard, Russia is invading Egypt. This is  not because there are masses of Russian-speaking Egyptians who want to be integrated back into Mother Russia, as Putin claims is the case in the Ukraine. No, it is simply because when visiting Cairo, Putin had to endure this astounding rendition of the Russian national anthem:

This is the first ever casus belli that can be attributed to orchestral mangling, intentional or not.

Of course, Russia has the symphonic resources to reduce the Egyptian national anthem, whatever the heck that may be at this time, to chicken cackling and cat yowling.

But Putin being Putin, naturally he prefers tanks.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Conspiracy Theory

Following are thoughts culled by the NY Times (in "Whodunit? In Obsessed Nation, Question Becomes Who Didn’t", 2/8/15) re the nefarious murder of Alberto Nisman in Argentina, the day before Nisman, state prosecutor, was about to charge Argentina's president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner for involvement in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aries Jewish community center which killed 86 people and injured hundreds.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Diasporist Part 2: Come Bibi Come!

I've changed my line about Netanyahu invading Congress in March, to fuse with Republicans and try to bully Obama. Now I'm all for it. What with everyone from Abe Foxman in the United States to Butthead's — oops Bibi's — domestic opposition coming out against this venture it gets better and better.

Might even make him and his right wing coalition lose the Israeli election in March.

Come Bibi come.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bibi Stay Home!

So where's the demonstration by American Jews for whom Israel's right to exist is utterly inarguable but who also completely oppose Netanyahu appearing before Congress to mind-meld with the militaristic wing of the Republican Party (is there another?) to overrule Obama's efforts to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Triangle Offense

Let me start here:,14309/

Pretty funny, huh? Got me laughing.