Sunday, December 21, 2014
The New Antisemitism and the Violence it Incites
This year, Europe's Jews enter Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, with a degree of apprehension I have not known in my lifetime. Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe within living memory of the Holocaust. Never again has become ever again.
Two principles of legal writing that I have learned in law school are "Is this true?" and "If this is true, why does it matter?" It is easy to document the reemergence of antisemitism in Europe; orthodox Jews in France are justifiably afraid to publicly demonstrate their faith lest they be accosted on the street and Rabbi Sacks cites a 2013 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights that revealed that nearly one third of Europe's Jews are thinking of emigrating specifically because of antisemitism (that number is 46% in France and 48% in Hungary, two of many European countries whose native populations enthusiastically participated in the Nazis' program to kill every Jew).
The next question is "Why does the reemergence of European antisemitism matter?" Rabbi Sacks explains:
Historically, as the British Tory MP Michael Gove points out, anti-Semitism has been the early warning signal of a society in danger. That is why the new anti-Semitism needs to be understood--and not only by Jews.
Anti-Semitism was always only obliquely about Jews. They were its victims but not its cause. The politics of hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. It wasn't Jews alone who suffered under Hitler and Stalin. It is hardly Jews alone who are suffering today under their successors, the radical Islamists of Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Islamic State and their fellow travelers in a seemingly endless list of new mutations.
The assault on Israel and Jews world-wide is part of a larger pattern that includes attacks on Christians and other minority faiths in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia--a religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing. Ultimately, this campaign amounts to an attack on Western democratic freedoms as a whole. If not halted now, it will be Europe itself that will be pushed back toward the Dark Ages.
Many proponents of the new antisemitism attempt to cloak their hatred beneath alleged concern for human rights. They claim that they do not hate Jews but that they merely disagree with Israel's policies. Rabbi Sacks states that no one should be fooled by such rhetoric:
Human rights matter, and they matter regardless of the victim or the perpetrator. It is the sheer disproportion of the accusations against Israel that makes Jews feel that humanitarian concern isn't the prime motive in these cases: More than half of all resolutions adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council since 2006 (when the Council was established) in criticism of a particular country have been directed at Israel. In 2013, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a total of 21 resolutions singling out Israel for censure, according to U.N. Watch, and only four resolutions to protest the actions of the rest of the world's states.
Anti-Semitism has always been, historically, the inability to make space for differences among people, which is the essential foundation of a free society. That is why the politics of hate now assaults Christians, Bahai, Yazidis and many others, including Muslims on the wrong side of the Sunni/Shia divide, as well as Jews. To fight it, we must stand together, people of all faiths and of none. The future of freedom is at stake, and it will be the defining battle of the 21st century.
The new antisemitism threatens not only Jews and not only the State of Israel but rather it threatens civilization as a whole. Israel's enemies are barbaric in thought and in deed and if they are not confronted they will wreak havoc throughout the world. Sadly, even many Jews and the State of Israel fail to recognize this truth. On November 18, two Arab terrorists entered a Jerusalem synagogue and killed five people: Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, Rabbi Arye Kupinsky, Rabbi Kalmen Levin, Rabbi Moshe Twersky and Master Sergeant Zidan Sif, a police officer who died in the line of duty while trying to protect the synagogue.
In Responding to the Slaughter, Caroline Glick describes how--in contrast to Israel's weak, ineffective policies--a strong, proud nation would deal with barbarians who butcher rabbis in a house of worship and how a strong, proud nation would respond to the cheering populace that enthusiastically praises those barbarians:
The horrible truth is that all of the anti-Jewish slaughters perpetrated by our Arab neighbors have been motivated to greater or lesser degrees by Islamic Jew-hatred. The only difference between the past hundred years and now is that today our appeasement-oriented elite is finding it harder to pretend away the obvious fact that we cannot placate our enemies.
No "provocation" by Jews drove two Jerusalem Arabs to pick up meat cleavers and a rifle and slaughter rabbis in worship like sheep and then mutilate their bodies.
No "frustration" with a "lack of progress" in the "peace process," can motivate people to run over Jewish babies or attempt to assassinate a Jewish civil rights activist.
The reason that these terrorists have decided to kill Jews is that they take offense at the fact that in Israel, Jews are free. They take offense because all their lives they have been taught that Jews should live at their mercy, or die by their sword...
With regard to the individual terrorists, the government has made much of its intention to destroy the homes of terrorists. While it sounds good, there is limited evidence of the effectiveness of this punitive measure, which is a relic of the British Mandate.
Rather than destroy their homes, Israel should adopt the US anti-narcotics policy of asset seizure.
All assets directly or indirectly tied to terrorists, including their homes and any other structure where they planned their crimes, and all remittances to them, should be seized and transferred to their victims, to do with what they will.
If Israel hands over the homes of the synagogue butchers to the 24 orphans of Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky and Rabbi Avraham Goldberg, not only will justice be served. The children's inheritance of the homes of their fathers' killers will send a clear and demoralizing message to other would-be killers.
Not only will their atrocities fail to remove the Jews from Israel. Every terrorist will contribute to the Zionist project by donating his home to the Jewish settlement enterprise...
Israel should also revoke citizenship and residency rights not only from terrorists themselves, but from those who enjoy citizenship and residency rights by dint of their relationship with the terrorists.
Wives who received Israeli residency or citizenship rights though marriage to terrorists should have their rights revoked, as should the children of the terrorists...
The actions set forth above: asset seizure, revenue seizure and citizenship/residency abrogation for terrorists and their dependents are steps that Israel can take today, despite the hostile international climate.
There is an authentic Jewish response to barbaric terrorism and it is the response that any thinking, feeling person would advocate: total war. In the wake of the Jerusalem synagogue massacre, Rabbi Mordechai Tzion described why total war is just and essential:
I remember a joke--although it is certainly not a times for jokes--from Meir Uziel, a comedian and grandson of former Chief Rabbi Ha-Rav Ben Tzion Uziel: In the competition for Ms. Ethical among the 200 nations of the world, we always come in last place, since we are the only ones who show up! We must certainly be ethical, but to our brothers, not the enemy.
During the Second World War, the Allied powers destroyed neighborhood after neighborhood in Berlin, because everyone understood that there was no other way to wage war. Did King Hussein of Jordan deal with Black September with child gloves? No, he killed 17,000 Palestinians and ended his Intifada once and for all. President Assad killed 21,000 Palestinians in one month when there was an uprising in Syria. And when Hamas wanted to take over Gaza, they killed many, many people. This is the language they speak and understand. This is how we must deal with them.
I remember that a terrorist once attacked a woman in Neveh Dekalim. She lay down on the baby carriage to protect her baby, and he stabbed her fifteen times in the back. By some miracle, someone came and shot him and saved her. Later, an unethical reporter interviewed the rescuer on the radio and asked: "How do you feel after killing a person?" He responded: "The thing which I killed was not a person." I remembered this and quoted it various times. I once met someone and I said "shalom." He said: "You don't know me but you quoted me. I am the person who killed that thing which was not a person." I said: "Yashar Koach--Way to go. Your actions followed what the Rambam says in Moreh Nevuchim (vol. 1 #7)." The Rambam discusses the "demons" mentioned in the Gemara. He says that a "demon" looks like a person on the outside, but is a wild animal on the inside. It is more dangerous than a wild animal in that it has intellect. People periodically ask me: Is the theory that we came from animals true? I answer: "I do not know. I was not there. The question, however, does not bother me. What bothers me is whether we have left being animals."
Michael Freund also understands that the time and place for diplomacy/concessions by Israel toward her barbaric enemies has long passed:
Armed with guns, knives and a meat cleaver, our “partners in peace” shot, slashed and stabbed their victims, leaving pools of blood and horror in their wake, before being eliminated by the police.
It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable deed.
This act of Palestinian brutality was so heinous that even Israelis hardened by decades of terror responded with disbelief. Indeed, anyone still thinking of giving the Palestinians a state should take a long, hard look at the disturbing photos of the synagogue slaughter that are circulating online.
In one such picture, a Jewish man lies dead on the synagogue floor, wrapped in his tallit and tefillin and surrounded by blood stains, evoking scenes reminiscent of the days when the Cossacks massacred our people. It is a startling and distressing testimony to the savagery of our foes, to the bestial depths of inhumanity to which the Palestinians are willing to descend in their war against the Jewish state.
After all, what kind of human being wakes up in the morning, grabs a few weapons, and then walks into a house of prayer intent on maiming and murdering innocent people? Guns were not sufficient for these savages. They employed axes and knives, which are far more intimate and bloody weapons, the kind that require physical contact with the victim rather than the less personal act of pulling a trigger.
If it is possible for a person to strip away the Divine image with which he was created, then the Palestinian terrorists who perpetrated this attack have surely succeeded in doing so.
Frankly, I am tired of the meaningless mantras and barren babble of many of our politicians. The time for tough talk is over. Now is the time for tough action, for measures that will change the course of events and punish those behind this evil deed.
For God's sake, Jerusalem, Israel's capital, is under attack. Stabbings, stonings, premeditated vehicular attacks, rioting on the Temple Mount and now an assault on a synagogue.
The only way to stop this spiral of violence from spinning further out of control is to go to the source, to the root of the problem.
Simply put, it is time to topple the Palestinian Authority (PA ) and declare to the world once and for all: there will never be a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
We must be careful not just to focus on one terrorist attack or even the entire war to destroy first Israel and then Western civilization. It is important to remember and honor the men who were massacred. Zidan Sif bravely fought against the terrorists until they killed him. The four rabbis who were killed were scholars, gentle men of peace; they left behind 24 orphans. The following is reprinted from of the November 21, 2014 newsletter of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim/Jerusalem Chai:
A Plea from the Families of the Kedoshim Murdered this past week by Arab Terrorists
The widows and orphans of the four Rabbis who were murdered by Arab terrorists this past Tuesday in Yerushalayim issued a letter calling for national solidarity and unity.
The Jewish people have always wanted to live in peace with their Arab and Muslim brethren. Through hard work, sacrifice, ingenuity and toughness, the Jewish people have created an oasis literally (in terms of making the desert bloom) and figuratively; as Israeli UN Ambassador Prosor recently noted, "Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, less than half a percent are truly free--and they are all citizens of Israel. Israeli Arabs are some of the most educated Arabs in the world. They are our leading physicians and surgeons, they are elected to our parliament, and they serve as judges on our Supreme Court. Millions of men and women in the Middle East would welcome these opportunities and freedom."
The Arab terrorists who entered that synagogue with hate in their hearts and murder on their minds did not kill the so-called "peace process." That "peace process" never existed in the first place. Judaism is a religion of peace and the rabbis who were massacred were men of peace but none of that matters to Israel's enemies, who will not rest until every non-Muslim is subjugated or killed. This brings us full circle to the beginning of this article: Jew-hatred is the early warning signal of a society in danger; the world's reaction (or, sadly, non-reaction) to the Arab/Islamic world's systematic effort to destroy the Jewish State and to massacre individual Jews is a sorry reflection on the current state of the world.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Garry Kasparov Implores the West to Stop Vladimir Putin Before it is Too Late
Kasparov then cuts through all of the rhetoric emanating from so-called leaders who are in fact afraid to take a meaningful stand:
This vocabulary of cowardice emanating from Berlin and Washington today is as disgraceful as the black-is-white propaganda produced by Putin's regime, and even more dangerous. Moscow's smoke screens are hardly necessary in the face of so much willful blindness. Putin's lies are obvious and expected. European leaders and the White House are even more eager than the Kremlin to pretend this conflict is local and so requires nothing more than vague promises from a very safe distance. As George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay on language right before starting work on his novel 1984 (surely not a coincidence): "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." The Western rhetoric of appeasement creates a self-reinforcing loop of mental and moral corruption. Speaking the truth now would mean confessing to many months of lies, just as it took years for Western leaders to finally admit Putin didn't belong in the G-7 club of industrialized democracies...
The U.S., Canada and even Europe have responded to Putin's aggression, it is true, but always a few moves behind, always after the deterrent potential of each action had passed. Strong sanctions and a clear demonstration of support for Ukrainian territorial integrity (as I recommended at the time) would have had real impact when Putin moved on Crimea in February and March. A sign that there would be real consequences would have split his elites as they pondered the loss of their coveted assets in New York City and London...
As one of the pioneers of the analogy I feel the irony in how it has quickly gone from scandal to cliché to compare Putin to Hitler, for better and for worse. Certainly Putin's arrogance and language remind us more and more of Hitler's, as does how well he has been rewarded for them. For this he can thank the overabundance of Chamberlains in the halls of power today--and there is no Churchill in sight."
Kasparov's ominous conclusion foreshadows what will happen next if President Obama and other Western heads of state do not display much more resolve in the face of Putin's aggression:
As always when it comes to stopping dictators, with every delay the price goes up. Western leaders have protested over the potential costs of action [in] Ukraine at every turn only to be faced with the well-established historical fact that the real costs of inaction are always higher. Now the only options left are risky and difficult, and yet they must be tried. The best reason for acting to stop Putin today is brutally simple: it will only get harder tomorrow.
Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Why is Media Coverage of Israel Disproportionate and Distorted?
While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility--in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession--my profession--here in Israel.
The world is full of big countries with big problems. There are major wars, huge refugee crises and heartbreaking humanitarian disasters that are largely ignored because the mainstream media is obsessively focused on not just covering Israel but portraying Israel in a negative light. Friedman learned about this process firsthand:
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP--the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.
The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives--that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.
News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.
While there is a laser focus on Israel, Friedman notes that the depravity and depredations of Hamas are ignored:
There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail--that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll--because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)
But if critics imagine that journalists are clamoring to cover Hamas and are stymied by thugs and threats, it is generally not so. There are many low-risk ways to report Hamas actions, if the will is there: under bylines from Israel, under no byline, by citing Israeli sources. Reporters are resourceful when they want to be.
The fact is that Hamas intimidation is largely beside the point because the actions of Palestinians are beside the point: Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story. In addition, reporters are under deadline and often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both. Reporters don’t need Hamas enforcers to shoo them away from facts that muddy the simple story they have been sent to tell.
It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players--a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.
Why should you care that the mainstream media slanders Israel, panders to Hamas and feels free to distort the truth in order to advance a particular political ideology? In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be." The price of the media's war against Israel is not paid just by Israelis but also by all of the downtrodden people of the world who are crying out in despair for someone to tell their stories.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Eyeless, Clueless and Senseless in Gaza
The Jewish people in general and Israel in particular are the canaries in the world coal mine. Most of the world found it easy to dismiss Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party during the 1930s when Hitler's rhetoric and actions focused on demonizing and dehumanizing Jews. By the time the world realized the full extent of Hitler's evil and the true nature of his goals, Hitler had plunged the world into war--a war that the Nazis nearly won.
Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is fighting for her very survival, battling against a well-trained and well-equipped Hamas terrorist organization that is funded and supported by Iran. Iran's cold-blooded attempt to destroy Israel foreshadows the fate in store for the United States and other Western democracies if those countries do not rally behind Israel. It is important to understand the historical dimensions and future implications of Israel's war against Hamas.
Forget the false message disseminated by perhaps the most successful propaganda campaign in world history; there is no such thing as a Palestinian Arab people and there has never been an Arab country named Palestine or indeed any independent Arab country where the State of Israel now exists. The Roman Empire, after subduing the Judean Revolt nearly 2000 years ago, renamed Judea "Syria Palestina" and renamed Jerusalem "Aelia Capitolina." The former term, shortened to "Palestine," refers to the geographical areas known in modern times as the State of Israel, Jordan, Gaza and Judea/Samaria. It cannot be emphasized enough that Palestine is a geographical term; it does not refer to a nation nor is there such a thing as a Palestinian language or a distinct Palestinian culture. After the Roman Conquest, various empires conquered Palestine but no one established an independent country there. Jews prayed for and dreamed about reestablishing a Jewish State in their ancestral homeland but this did not become a practical idea until the 1800s, after the birth of modern nationalist movements. The Jewish modern nationalist movement, Zionism, turned the ancient Jewish dream into a reality as Jewish people who lived in Palestine, plus Jews who returned home to Palestine after fleeing persecution in Europe, built up Palestine from a desolate and sparsely inhabited wasteland into a place where the desert bloomed. That in turn attracted Arab immigration to Palestine from throughout the region. During the early 20th century there were various nascent Arab nationalist movements but there was no such thing as a Palestinian national movement (other than the Jewish Palestinian national movement); indeed, before the founding of the modern State of Israel, the terms "Palestine" and "Palestinians" almost exclusively referred to Jewish organizations and Jews: the major Jewish newspaper in pre-state Israel was the Palestine Post (now known as the Jerusalem Post) and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was founded as the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.
The term Palestine was not understood to mean a separate Arab nation until an anti-Israel propaganda campaign transmogrified the meaning of that word after the founding of the modern State of Israel. Indeed, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964 in Cairo as an Egyptian puppet at a time when Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria and Egypt controlled Gaza. The PLO, sponsored at that time by the Soviet Union and other totalitarian countries, was not trying to "liberate" land from Israel, because the land that the PLO was supposedly trying to "liberate" was at that time under Arab control; the PLO was founded to destabilize and destroy Israel as part of the Soviet Union's Mideast designs during the Cold War. The PLO never represented the interests of an underdog, oppressed people; the PLO has always been a well-funded tool of various totalitarian regimes and the PLO's goals have always focused on destroying Israel, not on "liberation."
During Israel's War of Independence, several hundred thousand Arabs fled from Israel, exhorted by Arab military leaders to temporarily evacuate in order to make way for the planned massacre of Israel's Jewish residents. These Arabs expected to triumphantly return to a land with no Jews but instead Israel defeated the combined armies of her Arab neighbors. In most wars, the losing side is responsible for resettling its refugees or else a de facto population exchange occurs (few people talk about the fact that, at the same time that hundreds of thousands of Arabs voluntarily left Israel, hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from Arab countries, with most of those Jews fleeing to Israel). Not only did the Arab countries refuse to resettle their Arab brethren who they had exhorted to leave Israel but the so-called Palestinian Arabs are the only group in the world that has an entire UN organization devoted exclusively to their particular concerns: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). All other refugee crises in the world are dealt with by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. At the end of 2012, the UNHCR listed listed 45.2 million displaced people worldwide, the largest such number since 1994. The biggest single displaced person crisis in the world is focused in Pakistan, a result of decades of war, tyranny and instability in that region. The disproportionate attention paid to a fictional Palestinian nation and a real--but eminently solvable--Arab refugee problem not only does injustice to both Israel and the refugees in question (who have been exploited as political pawns by Israel's enemies for decades) but it also hinders efforts to solve other more severe refugee crises.
It is bad enough that there is an entire UN organization focusing on refugees of a fictional nation, people who share a common language, culture and religion with most of the other Arab countries in the Mideast and who should have been accepted by those countries decades ago, much like Israel welcomed Jewish refugees from Arab countries--but what really makes the UNRWA completely disgusting is that the UNRWA is complicit in war crimes committed against Israel. Three times in the past month, Hamas rockets have been found at UNRWA facilities. The first time that rockets were discovered in a UNRWA facility during the current conflict, the UNRWA handed over the rockets to Hamas, a flagrant violation of the UNRWA's purported neutrality. Michael Curtis makes a strong case that Hamas should be indicted for war crimes:
In its behavior towards Israel, Hamas is guilty of both crimes against humanity and war crimes according to Article 7(1) of the Rome Statute, which applies to murder and extermination. Hamas is guilty of a government policy in which those two crimes are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Its actions are more than isolated inhumane acts and constitute a consistent pattern of behavior. The stated aim of Hamas is not simply to harm Israeli civilians, but rather a policy of genocide, the killing of Jews, and the elimination of the State of Israel. Hamas has really only one grievance: the existence of Israel.
Article 8(2)(b) of the Rome Statute deals with the war crime of using protected persons as shields. Hamas has been guilty on numerous occasions of this crime--the intention to shield a military objective from attack or shield, favor, or impede military operations. The major war crime of Hamas is to use children for this purpose. Golda Meir, in her straightforward manner, once commented, "We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us." In contrast, Hamas has stated that preserving the capacity to bomb civilians in Israel is more valued than the loss of Palestinian children.
Those children have been used not only as human shields to protect the terrorists. They have also been used for actions such as being messengers and couriers for the terrorists, for digging tunnels into Israel, and for smuggling. Hamas has used them for military activities, including throwing grenades and rocks, and even for suicide bomber missions. Schools and kindergartens have been used to store missiles and mortars and as launching sites, in the same way as hospitals, mosques, and public places have been used. The sad reality is that Gaza children do not dream of becoming rocket scientists; they dream of firing rockets and becoming holy martyrs.
There is ample evidence to present to the International Criminal Court, including the outspoken statement of the U.N. secretary-general, the discovery that tunnels used for aggression are located under hospitals and private property, and the videos of Hamas actions. One video clearly shows rockets being fired next to civilian buildings. Another shows a demonstration of human shields as civilians were forced to gather on top of the home of a known Hamas terrorist to prevent an attack by Israel. Ban Ki-moon has spoken of the need to address the "root causes" of instability in Gaza. A case brought against Hamas before the International Criminal Court would find that the basis of instability in Gaza is the crimes against humanity and the war crimes committed by Hamas.
In "Hamas has win-win tactic," UK colonel tells ‘Post,’ UK Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp tells Seth J. Frantzman, "I have thirty years of experience in exactly this type of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, where the tactics were similar. I find a great deal of media reporting outside of Israel is grossly distorted and doesn't comprehend the reality of what’s happening."
Kemp argues that Israel has persevered very well despite being at a "natural disadvantage" in the media and international spotlight, saying that "Hamas used this tactic of human shields. It is win-win for them. The first win is if they can stop the IDF from attacking a target, whether it is a headquarters or ammunition point. Equally, if the IDF does attack the target and there are civilian casualties, they also win, because it means they scored a propaganda victory."
In meetings with pilots, soldiers and naval personnel, he related stories where they had frequently refrained from attacking targets where civilian casualties might have resulted.
Although the perception is that the IDF is harming civilians, he argues that many armies actually look to Israel to learn how the country minimizes casualties while fighting in an urban environment.
"I don't know of any method used in this kind of scenario to [further] reduce civilian casualties. When [US President Barack] Obama and [British Prime Minister David] Cameron say that [there is], then they should [say] how to," he said.
He sees international criticism of Israel's actions as encouraging terrorists to copy the Hamas strategy of using human shields and undermining Israel's ability to defeat the group.
It is not difficult to ascertain both the historical truth about Israel and the truth about Israel's current war with Hamas, but that does not stop the mainstream media from covering these issues mendaciously. In Why Do People Hate Israel?, Dennis Prager declares that there are only two possible reasons that this is the only time in history that "in a war between a free state and a police state, the free state was deemed the aggressor. That’s because it never happened before Israel and its enemies." Prager explains the reasons for this "moral anomaly":
One is the nearly worldwide embrace of leftist thought and values. According to this way of thinking, Westerners are almost always wrong when they fight Third World countries or groups; and the weaker party, especially if non-Western, is almost always deemed the victim when fighting a stronger, especially Western, group or country. Leftism has replaced “good and evil” with “rich and poor,” “strong and weak,” and “Western (or white) and non-Western (or non-white).” Israel is rich, strong and Western; the Palestinians are poor, weak and non-Western.
The only other possible explanation is that Israel is Jewish.
There is no other rational explanation because the fixation with, and the hatred of, Israel are not rational. Israel is a particularly decent country. It is tiny--about the size of New Jersey and smaller than El Salvador; and while there are more than 50 Muslim countries, there is only one Jewish one. She should be admired and supported, not hated to the extent that there are dozens of countries whose populations would like to see Israel annihilated--again, a unique phenomenon. No other country in the world is targeted for extermination.
As hard as it is for modern, rational and irreligious people to accept, Israel’s Jewishness is a primary reason for the hatred of it.
Isi Liebler spoke truth to power in Candidly Speaking: Obama is abandoning Israel:
The Western media’s sympathy for Hamas, inciting hatred against Israel by its excessive display of gruesome images of dead children, was completely out of context. That Israel possesses the firepower to level Gaza, if it intended to do so, was ignored. Rarely did it acknowledge that Israel had accepted cease-fires which Hamas had rejected. Or that Israel maintained a flow of humanitarian aid, electricity and water to Gaza and that terrorist casualties were treated in Israeli hospitals. In fact, Israel even established a field hospital for the sole purpose of treating Gazan civilians.
The media behaved unconscionably in failing to highlight the fact that most of the civilian casualties in Gaza were incurred because Hamas had ordered women and children to ignore Israeli early warnings to evacuate, obliging them to act as human shields at rocket launching sites and command posts. Schools, hospitals, mosques, and UNRWA headquarters were used to stockpile armaments and launch missiles. By this behavior, Hamas is responsible for every civilian casualty, and is unquestionably guilty of war crimes.
As (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu stated, "Israel employs missile defense to protect its citizens; Hamas uses its civilians to protect missiles."
Whereas no army in history has ever gone to the extremes of the IDF to minimize civilian casualties, the obscene UN Human Rights Commission, dominated by dictatorships and rogue states, has launched an investigation of what it has already defined as "Israeli war crimes." In what is clearly intended to be a repeat of the notorious Goldstone Commission, there is not even the pretense of objectivity and no call to investigate Hamas.
Caroline Glick bluntly explained why Hamas violated the August 1 ceasefire:
Hamas acted as it did, because it thinks it can get away with it. And Hamas thinks that it can get away with it because Hamas is convinced that it will win this war.
And as long as Hamas is convinced that it will win this war, it will continue to attack, no matter what its situation is on the ground in Gaza. It will continue to attack Israel no matter what Israel does.
As a consequence, there is no way for Israel to disengage. There can never be a ceasefire with Hamas for as long as Hamas is convinced that it will win this war.
To understand why Hamas is convinced that it will win, it is necessary to understand first why Hamas is fighting in the first place.
Hamas went to war with one goal, to reopen Gaza to the world.
Hamas is fighting to open Gaza’s border with Egypt, to end Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza coast, and to reinstate its lines of finance.
Today Hamas’s leadership, snug in their multi-million dollar villas in Qatar and well-equipped bunkers under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City are that they will achieve their goal. They will win.
Glick notes that the UNRWA is at best powerless and ineffectual and at worst actively collaborating with Hamas, who she rightly calls "a genocidal terrorist organization dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish people and our state as a first step towards Islamic world domination":
During this war--and in previous Hamas campaigns against Israel--we have seen Hamas use UNWRA schools as missile storage sites and missile launching pads. This week three soldiers were killed trying to seal a tunnel whose entry shaft was located in an UNWRA clinic booby trapped with over a ton of explosives built into one of the walls.
At a minimum, this tells us that UNWRA is subservient to Hamas. All UNWRA installations and personnel are controlled by Hamas. As a result, UNWRA is a subsidiary--willing or unwilling--of Hamas and all funds to UNWRA must be suspended until Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza.
Again, the central point is that for as long as Hamas exercises control over Gaza, everyone in Gaza and every entity operating in Gaza is controlled by Hamas. All assistance to Gaza assists Hamas and communicates the message that Hamas will win the war.
Israel's enemies often cite the casualty disparity in the current war, noting that Israel has suffered far fewer deaths and injuries than her enemies--but, as indicated by the Golda Meir quote cited above, the reason for this is that Israel's enemies hate the Jews more than they value their own lives. Furthermore, Israel's effectiveness at minimizing her own casualties should not be held against her. The important point to remember is that Hamas is a state-sponsored terrorist organization whose sworn goal is to destroy Israel, a peaceful and democratic country. According to a July 25, 2014 article published by YNetnews, if Israel had not dealt with Hamas' underground network of tunnels now then the Jewish State would soon have been confronted with a massacre on the scale of the 9/11 attacks:
Hamas had been preparing a murderous massive assault on Israeli civilian targets during the upcoming Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashanah--this according to anonymous sources in the Israeli security services cited by the Israeli daily Maariv.
Hamas had been planning a surprise attack where 200 fighters would have been dispatched through the dozens of tunnels dug by Hamas under the border from Gaza to Israel. The terror organization aimed to seize kibbutzim and other communities while killing and kidnapping Israeli civilians.
In total, thousands of Hamas terrorists would have been swarming across Israel, wearing IDF uniforms, which would have further complicated an Israeli response. Reports further indicate that Hezbollah may have planned to join the attack as well, opening another front in the north.
The source stressed that the current unplanned war with Hamas inadvertently thwarted a catastrophic event on an apocalyptic magnitude such as the Yom Kippur War, which would have ‘brought the State of Israel to its knees.’ The destruction of these tunnels takes away from Hamas a strategic weapon it has been working on and investing in heavily for years according to the source.
Each tunnel has arteries, veins, offshoots as well as offshoots of offshoots designed in intricate and complex arrangements. As one Israeli spokesman said, "There are two Gazas, one above ground and one below ground: an underground terrorist city."
The materials used by Hamas to manufacture these tunnels of death were ostensibly imported for civilian construction and could have been used to build hospitals, schools and homes. Keep that in mind the next time you hear anti-Israel commentators spewing nonsense about Israel's responsibility for Arab living conditions in Gaza.
Despite the vicious attacks launched against Israel--both physical and psychological--Zionism is a great success story, as noted in Michael Oren's In Defense of Zionism:
Elsewhere in the world, indigenous languages are dying out, forests are being decimated, and the populations of industrialized nations are plummeting. Yet Zionism revived the Hebrew language, which is now more widely spoken than Danish and Finnish and will soon surpass Swedish. Zionist organizations planted hundreds of forests, enabling the land of Israel to enter the 21st century with more trees than it had at the end of the 19th. And the family values that Zionism fostered have produced the fastest natural growth rate in the modernized world and history's largest Jewish community. The average secular couple in Israel has at least three children, each a reaffirmation of confidence in Zionism's future.
Indeed, by just about any international criteria, Israel is not only successful but flourishing. The population is annually rated among the happiest, healthiest and most educated in the world. Life expectancy in Israel, reflecting its superb universal health-care system, significantly exceeds America's and that of most European countries. Unemployment is low, the economy robust. A global leader in innovation, Israel is home to R&D centers of some 300 high-tech companies, including Apple, Intel and Motorola. The beaches are teeming, the rock music is awesome, and the food is off the Zagat charts.
The democratic ideals integral to Zionist thought have withstood pressures that have precipitated coups and revolutions in numerous other nations. Today, Israel is one of the few states—along with Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S.—that has never known a second of nondemocratic governance.
These accomplishments would be sufficiently astonishing if attained in North America or Northern Europe. But Zionism has prospered in the supremely inhospitable—indeed, lethal—environment of the Middle East. Two hours' drive east of the bustling nightclubs of Tel Aviv—less than the distance between New York and Philadelphia—is Jordan, home to more than a half million refugees from Syria's civil war. Traveling north from Tel Aviv for four hours would bring that driver to war-ravaged Damascus or, heading east, to the carnage in western Iraq. Turning south, in the time it takes to reach San Francisco from Los Angeles, the traveler would find himself in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
In a region reeling with ethnic strife and religious bloodshed, Zionism has engendered a multiethnic, multiracial and religiously diverse society. Arabs serve in the Israel Defense Forces, in the Knesset and on the Supreme Court. While Christian communities of the Middle East are steadily eradicated, Israel's continues to grow. Israeli Arab Christians are, in fact, on average better educated and more affluent than Israeli Jews.
Eyeless in Gaza, Clueless in India: Why We Shouldn't Care refutes the idea that India (and other non-Western countries) should reflexively vote against Israel in international forums like the UN:
At its root, the problem is the Arab refusal to grant Israel the very right to exist, and their insistence that Israel and Jews must vacate the land. This stand does not allow for any compromise, and causes all the bloodshed and violence. Clearly, Israel is the aggrieved party on this front.
It is also easy to forget what caused the current round of bloodletting. It was the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers by the militant Palestinian group Hamas. They could have anticipated that this would lead to harsh Israeli reprisals (that is Israel’s habit); and, in fact, they probably did. They wanted large civilian casualties in Gaza as a stick to beat Israel with, and presumably a means to generate more jihadis against Israel.
Moreover, it is evident that Hamas intended to cause as many civilian casualties as possible. To this end, they hid rocket batteries in civilian areas, using civilians as a human shield and daring the Israelis to shoot back; which the Israelis did, in the interest of protecting Israeli civilians.
That article's author, Rajeev Srinivasan, is not impressed by the anti-Israel, pro-Arab propaganda that is so popular in the West. Although he does not acknowledge that a distinct Palestinian nationality is a myth, he recognizes that the refugees who are called "Palestinians" could have and should have been resettled by their Arab brethren a long time ago:
The entire issue of Palestinian victimhood is a travesty in that Palestinians, traditionally the best-educated of the Arabs, could easily have been absorbed into the empty and rich oil kingdoms of West Asia without much trouble. Indeed, much of the original Palestine is now in the kingdom of Jordan (which admittedly doesn’t have any oil, but is fairly peaceful, as the Alawite monarchs keep a leash on Palestinians). If the Saudis, Qataris, Kuwaitis, et al had wanted to emancipate the Palestinians, they could have resettled them in their own countries and helped them to prosper.
Incidentally, that is exactly what has been expected of Kashmiri Pandits ethnically cleansed from Jammu and Kashmir. It is assumed that over time they will get absorbed into Indian territory where they are living in refugee camps--despite noises being made about sending them back, Muslim militants and even the government of J&K suggest that it may be difficult for the Pandits to return. So why is there some sacrosanct right to return only for Palestinians?
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Tyler Perry Follows His Personal Vision
If someone presented Tyler Perry's life story to a Hollywood studio as a script with the names changed, it would be rejected as ludicrously implausible. Perry, the son of an alcoholic carpenter from New Orleans, was sexually abused by two different neighbors and he twice attempted suicide in his early teens. When he was 22, an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show about the therapeutic value of writing inspired him to draft a play titled I Know I've Been Changed. Perry spent his life savings at the time--$12,000--to stage the play. "It ran for four days," Perry told Empire's Dorian Lynskey. "I expected 1200 and 30 came." Perry clarified that the attendance was not even 30 per showing: "Thirty, that's it. Over the whole thing."
Perry worked dozens of different jobs before he was able to support himself via his theater work. Finally, in 1998 he again staged I Know I've Been Changed but this time he used a converted church as the venue instead of a theater. The tremendous success that ensued proved that he had connected with an audience yearning to hear stories of hope and redemption. Perry believed in his vision even when times were rough: "Every time I wanted to give up I could see it in my mind--I could see it being successful. And I knew this was the God voice in my mind. I knew it was God because there's not one person I can look back on and say helped me get to this place. Not one."
Perry honed his skills by staging roughly 300 shows a year on the Chitlin' Circuit from 1998-2005. In 2005, he produced his first movie, Diary of a Mad Blackwoman. He has since produced more than a dozen movies that have grossed more than $500 million. The popularity of Perry's work results from the combination of humor and inspiration that Perry conveys to the audience. Lynskey comments, "Christianity is part of the moral furniture of his movies, but the message stems more from the church of Oprah: do the right thing, respect yourself and others, follow your dreams, etc."
Perry often dresses in drag in his movies and his brand of slapstick comedy is not universally appreciated. Spike Lee sniped that Perry's depictions of black characters are similar to the "coonery and buffoonery" displayed decades ago in old Hollywood movies. Perry said to Lynskey, "I'm speaking to the masses in a way they understand and not speaking down to them and not saying, 'You're a coon or a buffoon because you enjoy this.' That's insulting on so many levels."
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh
The Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh is a small book that contains a large amount of insight. One of the main ideas is that it is very important to be actively engaged in whatever one is doing at a particular moment, as opposed to worrying about the future or fretting about the past. Hanh explains:
It is of no use to sit in a peaceful forest if our mind is lost in the city. When we live with a child or a friend, their freshness and warmth can relax us. But if our heart is not with them, their precious presence is neglected, and they no longer exist. We must be aware of them to appreciate their value, to allow them to be our happiness. If through carelessness and forgetfulness we become dissatisfied with them, and begin asking too much of them or reprimanding them, we will lose them. Only after they are gone will we realize their preciousness and feel regret. But once they are gone, all of our regrets are in vain.
Hanh's writing style can seem almost childishly simple but do not be misled; his way of thinking and his way of living are pure and profound:
Have a look at the apple tree in your yard. Look at it with complete attention. It is truly a miracle. If you notice it, you will take good care of it, and you too are part of its miraculousness. Even after you have cared for it for only a week, its leaves are already greener and shinier. It is exactly the same with the people who are around you. Under the influence of awareness, you become more attentive, understanding, and loving, and your presence not only nourishes you and makes you lovelier, it enhances them as well. Our entire society can be changed by one person's peaceful presence.
Hanh explains that peacefulness should not be confused with passivity and/or weakness:
Understanding and compassion are very powerful sources of energy. They are the opposite of stupidity and passivity. If you think that compassion is passive, weak, or cowardly, then you don't know what real understanding or compassion is. If you think that compassionate people do not resist and challenge injustice, you are wrong. They are warriors, heroes, and heroines who have gained many victories...
Human beings are not our enemy. Our enemy is not the other person. Our enemy is the violence, ignorance, and injustice in us and in the other person. When we are armed with compassion and understanding, we fight not against other people, but against the tendency to invade, to dominate, and to exploit. We don't want to kill others, but we will not let them dominate and exploit us or other people. You have to protect yourself. You are not stupid. You are very intelligent and you have insight. Being compassionate does not mean allowing other people to do violence to themselves or to you. Being compassionate means being intelligent. Nonviolent action that springs from love can only be intelligent action.
John Wooden urged his players to "never mistake activity with achievement." It is tempting to think that every situation, encounter and confrontation demands immediate action/activity but often the best response is to stay calm and look at things in a larger context before making any bold statements or moves. Instantly lashing out in response to every real and perceived injustice can provoke other people to lash out in return. The best chess players excel at what I call "the art of doing nothing while accomplishing something," meaning that they subtly and relentlessly improve their positions very patiently without taking unnecessary risks; it is difficult to do this in chess and even more difficult to do this in life but mastery of this quiet approach leads to many victories.
Labels: Thich Nhat Hanh
Friday, March 21, 2014
Douglas Hofstadter's Lonely Quest to Create Artificial Intelligence that is Truly Intelligent
Somers begins by noting that Hofstadter, whose book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize and is considered to be, in Somers' words, the "bible of artificial intelligence," is not impressed by Watson, Deep Blue or other highly publicized supercomputers; Hofstadter views Watson and Deep Blue as nothing more than very sophisticated calculators: they are not intelligent, nor do they provide any insight about the nature of intelligence.
Hofstadter wanted to ask: Why conquer a task if there's no insight to be had from the victory? "Okay," he says, "Deep Blue plays very good chess--so what? Does that tell you something about how we play chess? No. Does it tell you about how Kasparov envisions, understands a chessboard?" A brand of AI that didn't try to answer such questions--however impressive it might have been--was, in Hofstadter's mind, a diversion. He distanced himself from the field almost as soon as he became a part of it. "To me, as a fledgling AI person," he says, "it was self-evident that I did not want to get involved in that trickery. It was obvious: I don't want to be involved in passing off some fancy program's behavior for intelligence when I know that it has nothing to do with intelligence. And I don't know why more people aren't that way."
Dave Ferrucci, who led the IBM team that built Watson, explained his mindset to Somers:
"I have mixed feelings about this," Ferrucci told me when I put the question to him last year. "There's a limited number of things you can do as an individual, and I think when you dedicate your life to something, you've got to ask yourself the question: To what end? And I think at some point I asked myself that question, and what it came out to was, I'm fascinated by how the human mind works, it would be fantastic to understand cognition, I love to read books on it, I love to get a grip on it"--he called Hofstadter's work inspiring--"but where am I going to go with it? Really what I want to do is build computer systems that do something. And I don't think the short path to that is theories of cognition."
Not long after Hofstadter wrote GEB, he went his own way, avoiding contact with other artificial intelligence researchers: "There's no communication between me and these people," he told Somers. "None. Zero. I don't want to talk to colleagues that I find very, very intransigent and hard to convince of anything. You know, I call them colleagues, but they're almost not colleagues--we can't speak to each other.”
Hofstadter and the graduate students under his guidance conduct their own independent experiments. Somers describes the fruits of their labors as "almost ostentatiously impractical. Because they operate in tiny, seemingly childish 'microdomains.' Because there is no task they perform better than a human." Hofstadter is not trying to build a computer that can beat World Champion Magnus Carlsen at chess; he is trying to understand a much more fundamental question: how does Carlsen think when he plays chess and how can one program a machine to think that way, to truly display intelligence as opposed to brute force calculation?
Hofstadter lives a life of the mind and there is a wonderful purity to his vision: Life is short, so pursue the truth as you see it without worrying about what the mainstream scientific community thinks. That approach would not work for everyone but a genius who has tremendous confidence in his ideas can do wonderful things. Somers concludes:
Hofstadter never much wanted to fight, and the double-edged sword of his career, if there is one, is that he never really had to. He won the Pulitzer Prize when he was 35, and instantly became valuable property to his university. He was awarded tenure. He didn't have to submit articles to journals; he didn't have to have them reviewed, or reply to reviews. He had a publisher, Basic Books, that would underwrite anything he sent them.
Stuart Russell puts it bluntly. "Academia is not an environment where you just sit in your bath and have ideas and expect everyone to run around getting excited. It's possible that in 50 years' time we'll say, 'We really should have listened more to Doug Hofstadter.' But it's incumbent on every scientist to at least think about what is needed to get people to understand the ideas."
"Ars longa, vita brevis," Hofstadter likes to say. "I just figure that life is short. I work, I don't try to publicize. I don't try to fight."
There's an analogy he made for me once. Einstein, he said, had come up with the light-quantum hypothesis in 1905. But nobody accepted it until 1923. "Not a soul," Hofstadter says. "Einstein was completely alone in his belief in the existence of light as particles--for 18 years.
"That must have been very lonely."
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