Friday, March 31, 2006

Kramer cautions against embrace of Hamas

I found a good piece by Martin Kramer on Hamas. I have to admit that I was quite taken by the pronouncements of certain scholars, including my boss at the Chaim Herzog Center, Dr. Yoram Meital, about the inevitable transformation of Hamas into a local version of the Turkish Islamist parties. Kramer makes a good, realistic argument that this scenario of Hamas becoming a pragmatic movement likely to reconcile itself to Israel's existence, is very unlikely. We really have to take all its occasional conciliatory rhetoric with a grain of salt. The article, by the way, appeared in the Lebanese English-language Daily Star.

In his piece, "Only targeted sanctions might moderate Hamas" (March 29, 2006), Kramer points out that unlike other Islamist movements who have embraced more pragmatic stances (such as the Turkish welfare party), Hamas has no experience being a political opposition. They basically came into power without making any compromises. Hamas also retains its militia and was never really cracked down upon and suppressed in the way that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Turkish Islamists were.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Canadian was technical "mastermind" behind al-Qaeda plot

These guys actually sound like a bunch of amateurs. But apparently an Ottawa-based computer technician who fixed computers for the Dept. of Foreign Affairs was behind a plot to use remote-controlled airplanes to bomb London.

This emerged in testimony at a British court. The guy might be a complete liar though.

This was kind of amusing:

"When I was in Pakistan, me and Cash [Mr. Babar] talked about Immy, what's he going to do there," Mr. Khawaja wrote in one e-mail. "We have a suggestion for a one-way operation to the most high, maybe in Yahoodi land."

It was not explained who "Immy" was. But "Yahoodi" is an Arab term for Jews, and in common parlance "Yahoodi land" could refer to Israel or to the West in general.

Who WAS Immy???

Updated Election Results

I am a bit confused about this to be honest, but these changes are due to the ballots of soldiers and overseas personnel being counted later. Kadima, Likud, and Meretz all gained an extra seat. Yisrael Beitenu and Shas dropped 1, as did Ra'am-Ta'al.

Kadima: 29
Labor: 20
Shas: 12
Likud: 12
Yisrael Beitenu: 11
National Union-NRP: 9
Pensioners: 7
United Torah Judaism: 6
Meretz: 5
Ra'am-Ta'al: 3
Hadash: 3
Balad: 3
TOTAL: 120

These changes are actually not so insignificant because Kadima + Labor + Pensioners + Meretz = 61 seats. That's a majority of Zionist parties (btw, why does it matter so much? why should a future withdrawal plan have less legitimacy if part of its support comes from Arab parties?) who would support a future "disengagement" from the West Bank.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ordering a kosher meal? Think again

I just went to the travel agency to get my flight back to Canada. As usual, I requested a kosher meal, so that I don't have to eat ham and cheese. The salesperson, who was really friendly and professional, told me that there might be a problem. Well, it turns out that the problem is that when you order kosher nowadays, you are automatically put on an FBI WATCH list!

Wild stuff, no?

My first thought: someone explain the difference between halal and kosher to these fools! More seriously: this is insidious. I guess the directive was primarily targetting those suspicious halal eaters (terrible!) and kosherizers simply got caught. Well, it's screwed up that they thought to target Muslims like that. It's crazy that ANYONE should be a priori singled out like this because of their religious commitments. Isn't this grounds for a lawsuit? It's crazy that people who eat different food because of their beliefs should become targets like this. They're imposing conformity and making difference suspect. Well, screw them, I'm not eating their ham and cheese sandwiches.

Latest Results

Kadima: 28
Labor: 20
Shas: 13
Yisrael Beitenu: 12
Likud: 11
National Union-NRP: 9
Pensioners: 7
United Torah Judaism: 6
Meretz: 4
Ra'am-Ta'al: 4
Hadash: 3
Balad: 3
TOTAL: 120

Voter turnout: 63.2%

Most likely coalition?
Kadima + Labor + Shas + Pensioners = 68

Most surprising winners?
Yisrael Beitenu

Big losers?

Kadima won but it's a very right-wing Knesset, no?
There are 32 far-right seats (NRP-NU + Yisrael Beitenu + Likud), plus 19 ultra-orthos (UTJ + Shas). That's 51 seats! And these are all parties, which, in theory, opposed the disengagement.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Exit Polls

Wow, these elections are turning out quite differently from what I expected, at least if we can trust these exit polls.

It looks like Kadima will get 31 seats. Labor, thank God, is doing much better than I anticipated: let's say 20 seats. Yisrael Beitenu, Avigdor Liberman's party, which appealed mainly to Russian immigrants, might become the third-largest party with 13 seats, while the Likud could drop to fourth place with 12 seats. Shas should get around 10 seats. The big surprise is the Pensioners' Party, which might gain 7 seats. Meretz will probably get at least 5 seats. I haven't looked at the data for the NRP-NU, United Torah, or the Arab parties yet. It looks like the low voter turnout really hurt Kadima and benefitted the Pensioners, which is partly in line with my prediction. Turnout among Arab voters is even lower; I am not sure what that means in terms of the results.

What kinds of coalitions are we looking at here? It does look like a center-left bloc will be able to form a government, but who knows what exactly will happen.

Is it possible that Olmert will renege and build a coalition with Yisrael Beitenu? Will Shas or the Ashkenazi ultras be a part of this government? If the Pensioners join the government, what will their role be?

I am really curious about GIL גימלאי ישראל לכנסת (gimla'ei yisrael la-knesset) - the Pensioners Party. The first person on the list is Eitan Rafael. They even have a Wikipedia entry but only in English! The Israeli Knesset web site (English or Hebrew version) doesn't have any additional information either. Anyway, you gotta respect those senior citizens showing people how to get off your ass and vote!

I could see Liberman staying in the opposition - in some ways, it's not so bad for him to bide his time until the next elections roll around. The Russians will keep feeling neglected by the other parties. By staying out of power, Liberman will be able to absolve himself of any responsibility for tought decisions about the economy and the security situation. Then again, he really wants a ministerial post. Let's see what happens.

the big Loser? if the exIt polls are right, we Know who that is...but i am afraid to say anything Until i see it confirmeD.

"Israeli Arabs" = Bad "Arab Jews" = Good

Here's another example of the hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty of post-colonial scholars. You will hardly find a po-coist, whether in Israel or abroad, use the term "Israeli Arabs" to describe Arabs who are citizens of Israel. The in-vogue term is "Palestinian Israelis" or "Palestinians in Israel." I know enough Arabs here in Israel to know that many indeed do not identify themselves as Israelis. It's certainly true that Arab academics tend to identify themselves as Palestinians. Other identities such as " 'Arab 48" (Arabs of 1948) is usually used by Arabs from Israel when they go abroad, especially if they meet other other Arabs and feel uncomfortable. But there are many Arabs who describe themselves as Israeli Arabs, even when they go abroad! And there's no denying that they know they're different from the Palestinians abroad and from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza! They have very different experiences, and even though they might have family ties, commercial ties (this is true also among the Bedouin), etc., a Palestinian kid in Nablus or Hebron has a very different experience from an Arab kid in the Negev or in Haifa. For crying out loud, the average Israeli Arab/Palestinian Israeli/whatever can't converse for more than five minutes without using a Hebrew word! As a high school teacher in a Bedouin school in the Negev in Israel, I know that the MOST popular affirmative response to many questions is the Hebrew word "beseder" (ok) often combined with the Arabic word "tayyib" as in "tayyib-beseeder".

That reminds me of a story told to me by an Arab friend who recalled the time he took a commuter cab (monit sherut) to Ramallah from Jerusalem. This was at a time of high tension around Netanyahu's tunnel riots and he made sure not to speak Hebrew on his cell phone. Anyway, an Arab friend of his called and they began talking and at the conclusion of the conversation, my friend slipped in the word "beseder". He was reprimanded by two stern Palestinian young women sitting behind him who scolded him for speaking Hebrew in a Palestinian Taxi. He got them back later though when they substituted English words for Arabic ones.

If you listen to Dr. Lauren Erdreich, research associate at Princeton's Transregional Research Institute, though, you'd never be the wiser of all these subtleties. Who cares about subtlety, when you have a political statement to make? Here's Erdreich defending her centre's preference of the term "Palestinians in Israel" over "Israeli Arabs":

The usage of the term [Palestinians in Israel] grew out of a postcolonial approach to the social study of the area of Israel/Palestine, which takes into account the legacies of colonization (Turkish, British, and Israeli) in shaping the social and political life of this indigenous population as well as of other indigenous and immigrant populations (such as Mizrahi Jews). One of these legacies is the categorization of minorities: Palestinians in the state after 1948 were referred to as “Israeli Arabs” in order to distinguish them from their brethren outside of the state, despite any social, economic, political, religious, or familial ties they might share. The use of the term “Palestinian” or “ Palestine” was even forbidden in Arab sector schools until after Oslo. Similarly, Jewish immigrants from Arab lands were termed “mizrahim” (easterners) and never referred to as “Arab Jews,” despite the cultural, linguistic, and historic ties they shared with other Arab populations. In both terms we can see how the State tried to set boundaries around groups and determine where these groups would fit in and how they would identify with the State. It did not always work however, and so today we still see Palestinian Israelis feeling a dual and complex identification both with the State and with Palestinians, (as well as Mizrahi Jews feeling both part of the State and forcefully estranged from their “Arab” traditions).

The term “Palestinian Israelis” is then intended as a rejection of coercive state attempts to deny this community its heritage and identification, as well as a reflection of the community’s experience of duality in identifying as citizens of a state that often discriminates against them and their brethren.

Hold it, Lauren, calling Jews from Arab countries "Arab Jews" is not a denial of the identification of many of those people? Does the fact that Jews of Moroccan or Yemenite origin speak/spoke Arabic and shared some of the same customs as other Moroccans and Yemenis automatically make them Arab Jews? Was the identification "Arab Jew" even meaningful in societies where most people still identified primarily in religious terms? And what about their own desire to identify themselves as Israelis or even as mizrahim? Lauren, if your Palestinian Israelis are not Israeli Arabs, even though Arab academics express themselves better in Hebrew than Arabic and even though they are steeped in Israeli culture, then why do Yemenite Jews become "Arab Jews" in your dictionary?

BTW, most mizrahim, and I'm not afraid to use that term, don't express anger about being estranged from "Arab" traditions. Usually, they frame it in terms of having been estranged from their JEWISH traditions by the ashkenazi elite.

"Palestine" = Good "Eretz Yisra'el" = Bad

Post-colonial academics really piss me off sometimes. On the one hand, they have no problem deconstructing the hell out of Zionist national myths. That's perfectly fine by me and I have no problem if they do so rigorously and in an interesting manner. But how is it that they never critically examine Palestinian nationalist narratives, which assign to the name "Palestine" a constancy throughout history that is simply misleading? Why is it acceptable to make references to an entity called Palestine in histories dealing with the 19th century? Why is the name "Palestine" constantly invoked in anachronistic ways, without even a footnote accounting for its use? I do not wish to deny, as some might, that the name فلسطين (Filastin) only became identified with the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as a result of the British Mandate. I'm aware that even though, in the 19th century, the northern, central and southern parts of this area belonged to different Ottoman vilayat (Damascus and later Beirut) and one sanjak (Jerusalem), there was, especially among Christians, a tendency to identify the area as one territorial entity. However, I do not think that there is a whole lot of evidence to suggest that the name فلسطين was as common as the appelation, الارض المقدسة (al-ard al-muqaddasa - the holy land = which can be translated literally into Hebrew as הארץ המקודשת ha-eretz ha-mequdeshet) in the 19th century.

How is it then that Middle Eastern studies scholars can get away with using Palestine so freely, while anyone who uses the term Eretz Yisrael faces censure? Why is Palestine considered more academic and more acceptable? It is certainly not less loaded, especially when used anachronistically.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

US WZO Congress Elections Results

While we are on the topic of elections, American Jews recently elected 145 delegates to represent them in the 35th Zionist Congress - "The Congress of the Jewish People." Voting was done online with registration running from July 1, 2005 to February 15, 2006. Overall, more than 85,000 registered to vote, of whom 88% cast ballots.

I think it's interesting to observe the clear victory of left-of-center and left-wing parties in these elections. See information on the parties and their lists.

Here are the results:

ARZA (Reform) 55
Baltimore Zionist District 1
Dor Zion 2
Green Zionist Alliance 2
Hatikva (Meretz and other left-wing parties) 5
Herut, NA 2
Jewish Reconstructionist 2
Likud 3
Mercaz (Conservative Movement) 32
Religious Zionist Slate 35
Russian American Jews for Israel 1
Zionist Organization of America 5

Total 145

Election Predictions #2

This new poll in Ha'aretz has led me to revise my figures for Shinui and Hetz (no seats??). There is also the Pensioners' Party (one of those narrow interest parties to which I referred below but did not mention by name). Here's my new prediction. I am still predicting more votes for Kadima than Ha'aretz. I think that Kadima is most likely to benefit from last-minute decisions by undecided voters because they are the party in power. Notice also the changes in the Arab parties' seats, and my revision of the NRP-National Union prediction (initial one was way too low).

Kadima: 38
Labor: 17
Likud: 14
Shas: 12
National Religious Party-National Union (Elon): 11
Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman): 7
Meretz-Yahad: 6
United Torah Judaism: 6
Balad (Bishara): 4
Hadash (Barake): 2
United Arab List: 2
Pensioners' Party: 1

Time for some elections predictions

There are 120 seats up for grabs on Tuesday, March 28. How many will each party get, and what kind of coalition will form the government? What will the voter turnout be?

I am usually terrible at this but here is my first prediction, which I will probably revise tomorrow:

Kadima: 38
Labor: 16
Likud: 14
Shas: 10
Yisrael Beitenu (Avigdor Liberman): 8
Meretz-Yahad: 6
United Torah Judaism: 6
Balad (Bishara): 6
Shinui (Levintal): 6
Hetz (Poraz): 4
National Religious Party-National Union (Elon): 4
Hadash (Barake): 1
United Arab List: 1

I've left out Herut (Kleiner), the National Jewish Front (Marzel), the Greens, the Green Leaf Party, and a number of other small parties. Maybe one or two of these parties will pick up a seat each. In the case of the right-wing parties, those seats would come at the expense of Yisrael Beitenu and the National Religious Party-National Union list.

If the Green Leaf Party wins a seat, it would not be as much at the expense of left-wing parties - that seat will have been won due to a higher than anticipated voter turnout among young people who would not have voted for any of the established parties.

By the way, we may be surprised by some other very small party gaining a seat. There are a number of such parties representing extremely narrow interests who may draw on a disillusioned, apathetic electorate. This will become more likely if the weather is good on elections day.

Hamas Appeals to Israeli Voters

What effect, if any, do you think this last-minute appeal by Hamas to Israeli voters will have? Although Haniyeh said that
the intention of the leading Kadima Party of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to withdraw from parts of the West Bank without agreement from the Palestinians is unacceptable
and added that
The problem is with Olmert, with Kadima. He said he will not have any contacts with the Palestinian government. He announced a position. The problem is not with us,
I have a sense that this might actually help Kadima. It's definitely more helpful to the party than Abu Mazen telling Israelis to vote for Olmert. My reasoning is that any appearance of moderation on the part of Hamas is likely to boost either Kadima or Labor votes at the expense of the Likud. That is, if anyone is actually listening.

The Israeli Elections - Some Bedouin Commentary

More and more people seem to be saying that Kadima might not win the Israeli elections after all. There does seem to be a downward trend, even in the polls. Olmert himself is said to be concerned that many potential Kadima voters are complacent and won't go to the polls on the election day on Tuesday, March 28. I think it's even expected to rain, so that certainly won't help in getting people voting. Likud voters, on the other hand, are said to be more ideological, more hard core, so that they'll vote no matter what. I think the same might be true for Labour in these elections... Let's hope so.

The reason that I decided to raise the issue of the elections today, aside from the fact that they are coming up, is an interesting little bit of political analysis that I got from my cab driver today. I was on my way back to Beer Sheva from my part-time job as an English teacher in the Bedouin village of Kseife and was waiting near Tsomet Shoqet to catch the bus back home, when I saw the familiar sight of a חפר (pronounced "khapper"; Hebrew slang for an illegit. Taxi - basically, in the Negev, we're usually talking about a Bedouin dude with a Mercedes or an old GM Transit van who doesn't have any official permission to be offering public transit, takes cash and usually caters to Bedouin who want to get from their village to Beer Sheva or back). Cabbies, khapperim or not are of course known for their tendency to volunteer political commentary, so I wasn't surprised to hear him say "mark my words, write this down, these elections are going to be a big surprise." This guy was confident that the next government would be formed by Amir Peretz and Netanyahu (!) who he said would each serve a two-year rotation as Prime Ministers (rotations are really popular in the Bedouin sector: in the Bedouin town of Rahat, there's never just one mayor, they always agree on a rotation in the end). According to Mr. Cab Driver, Kadima is going down, mainly because poor people are going to vote Labour and ideological right-wingers will go vote Netanyahu, no matter what.

In Israel, you can ask people what they're voting. It's not the least bit sensitive, although Arabs voting Balad or whatever might sometimes be reluctant to volunteer that information. I was going to ask the driver, but he pre-empted me by saying that he doesn't care about politics (Israeli Arab code for: I don't care about the Palestinian issue) and just wants someone in power who will improve the economy and general living conditions. I've been hearing that line quite frequently in Kseife (although many Bedouin just say that they aren't going to vote for anyone because the government doesn't "care about us"), so I figured this was another Bedouin Kadima or Labour voter. But curiousity got the better of me and I finally pressed the question: "So who are you voting for?"

It turns out that Bedouins also vote SHAS. Yup, that's right. My Bedouin cab driver was voting SHAS "because they care about poor people and because they'll raise the family allowances for large families." It's not the first time I've heard about Arabs voting Shas (Abu Ghosh apparently also supports them), but I didn't know this extended all the way to the Negev.

You learn something new every day.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Joseph Massad on the Lobby Canard

I view Joseph Massad as a symbol of the double-standards in place in Middle Eastern Studies departments. The man has constructed what amounts to a theology on Israel, Israeli society and Zionism, apparently with little knowledge of Hebrew and very little inside understanding of Israel. How this guy has the balls to preach about such complex matters as Israeli ethnic-relations is beyond me. I guess what matters most for Massad and his ilk is their grand theory or whatever cause they're fighting for.

Having said all that, I have to admit that I was almost pleasantly surprised by Massad's latest piece in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly. Massad sees past the ludicrous obsession of the western left and the Arab world with the Jewish Lobby and sets the record straight: America backs Israel because it is in its own "evil" interest to do so, not because of some omnipotent evil Jewish Lobby that prevents the good "real" Americans from doing what is right. Massad even points out that America spends far more on its American bases in the Arab world and in the rest of the world than it contributes in aid to Israel. He even attacks American State Department Arabists, whom he accuses of using the spectre of the "Jewish Lobby" as a lame excuse to their Arab dictator friends. There's lots more in the article, and it definitely deserves to be read. Here's an excerpt:

Joseph Massad, "Blaming the Lobby," Al-Ahram Weekly 23 - 29 March 2006, Issue No. 787.


"AIPAC is indeed powerful insofar as it pushes for policies that accord with US interests and that are resonant with the reigning US imperial ideology. The power of the pro-Israel lobby, whether in Congress or on campuses among university administrators, or policy-makers is not based solely on their organisational skills or ideological uniformity. In no small measure, anti-Semitic attitudes in Congress (and among university administrators) play a role in believing the lobby's (and its enemies') exaggerated claims about its actual power, resulting in their towing the line. But even if this were true, one could argue, it would not matter whether the lobby has real or imagined power. For as long as Congress and policy-makers (and university administrators) believe it does, it will remain effective and powerful. I of course concede this point.

What then would have been different in US policy in the Middle East absent Israel and its powerful lobby? The answer in short is: the details and intensity but not the direction, content, or impact of such policies. Is the pro- Israel lobby extremely powerful in the United States? As someone who has been facing the full brunt of their power for the last three years through their formidable influence on my own university and their attempts to get me fired, I answer with a resounding yes. Are they primarily responsible for US policies towards the Palestinians and the Arab world? Absolutely not. The United States is opposed in the Arab world as elsewhere because it has pursued and continues to pursue policies that are inimical to the interests of most people in these countries and are only beneficial to its own interests and to the minority regimes in the region that serve those interests, including Israel. Absent these policies, and not the pro-Israel lobby which supports them, the United States should expect a change in its standing among Arabs. Short of that, the United States will have to continue its policies in the region that have wreaked, and continue to wreak, havoc on the majority of Arabs and not expect that the Arab people will like it in return."

Friday, March 24, 2006

A New Book: Academic Freedom after 9/11

Look at these complainers. They're finally being taken to task for the hateful stuff they've been writing, and now they want to claim immunity from criticism. I am over-stating the case a bit, and I do feel some concern about attempts to stifle controversial views, but the po-co crowd is not exactly a great role model. Look who is quoted as endorsing the book, too.

Academic Freedom after September 11

Are the attacks on academic freedom after 9/11 a passing storm, or do they represent a structural shift that undermines one of the pillars of democratic societies? This book brings together some of this nation's leading scholars to analyze the challenges to academic freedom posed by post-9/11 political interventions and the market-driven commercialization of knowledge, examining these issues in light of the major transformations in the system of higher education since the Second World War, including conflicting interpretations of what constitutes academic freedom.

Are Mearsheimer and Walt winning the debate?

I think it is too early to tell, but a glance at the comments posted on Daniel Drezner's blog reveals that enough people are buying Mearsheimer and Walt's explicit and implicit claims that

a) America has been pursuing a foreign policy contrary to its real interests because of the powerful pro-Israel lobby, and

b) their efforts to reveal the truth will be undermined by those same forces using whatever means necessary.

I was a bit puzzled by some of those posters on Drezner's site who argued that accusing the study of being antisemitic was "ad hominem" and somehow illegitimate.

I have to commend these guys though. They could have long pulled a Chomsky or Finkelstein, as many Jewish critics of Israel like to do. I call it the Jesus-complex - naive visions of peace and justice, a refusal to go to bat for one's people, and excessive compassion for one's enemies...all this finally leads the erstwhile messiah/critic to the delusion that the Jews are going to stage another crucifixion of him/her. That's not exactly what M&W are about. They're a bit too "realist" for that.

David Horowitz on the State of Academia

I also wanted to post this review of a new book by Horowitz that Elena sent me. It's somewhat related to this Mearsheimer + Walt meshugas. It tackles some of the perverse orthodoxies that have taken over many academic institutions.

I will restrict myself to a very small excerpt. Perhaps some of the things in the article are exaggerated, but I've had the following confirmed by a friend of mine here who works on the Armenian genocide under the direction of a professor who was one of those unsuccessful applicants to the Michigan position. That professor also confirmed the Berkeley story.

Having said all this, I recognize that Horowitz is a little crazy and that he has his own agenda. So for now, I am not willing to completely endorse this book.

The body of Horowitz's book is a kind of rogues' gallery. As a professor of Armenian studies, I've met over my lifetime hundreds of survivors of the Armenian Genocide and have read scores of testimonies in Armenian and other languages. I've also traveled to Eastern Anatolia and spoken with Turkish and Kurdish farmers who spoke freely of the massacres. Often the ruins of Armenian villages and even quarters of whole cities are untouched. So I note with appreciation the inclusion of Hamid Algar, a professor of Persian and Islamic studies (and, for the record, a superb scholar) who in 1998 spat on members of the Armenian Student Association at UC Berkeley. He is quoted as having said to them: "It was not a genocide, but I wish it were, you lying pigs... You stupid Armenians, you deserve to be massacred!"

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Harvard Distances itself from the Study

Looks like more and more people are speaking out against this study. Of course all this will only convince the antisemites and the authors of the study that the Zionist Lobby continues to successfully suppress the truth. It's a giant conspiracy.

Harvard to remove official seal from anti-AIPAC 'working paper'

Eldar Praises Mearsheimer and Walt Study

This was from a piece by Akiva Eldar:

Two professors, one from Harvard, the other from the University of Chicago, recently released a study that reflects growing repugnance with Israel. The study argues that Israel is a burden on the United States and that the pro-Israel policy which the Jewish lobby and Israel's friends among the Christian right have forced upon the administration blatantly contradicts the strategic interests of the superpower, as well as those of Israel.

America's partners in the Quartet - the European Union, the UN and Russia - are also showing signs of fatigue. If Israel prefers to deal with Hamas by itself, why should the Europeans maintain supervisors at the Rafah border crossing? After Israeli soldiers have forced Palestinian men to strip at the Jericho jail, it is a shame to risk the lives of American and British jailers. Members of the special multinational force have also had it with being the punching bag of the Hebron settlers, on the one hand, and of Palestinian punks, on the other.

If Israel wants to unilaterally disengage from territories in the West Bank, it must take into account that this is liable to cause disengagement from the international community, as well. The day is not far off when the world will tell us: If you want to turn the Gaza Strip into a state of the Muslim Brotherhood - have a nice time. If you want to starve Palestinian children - then you pay the price for the humanitarian disaster. You've decided to disengage unilaterally from the West Bank? Don't come to us when Al-Qaida opens a branch in Ramallah. To put it concisely: "We are fed up with you."

I think I probably support some of the same ends as Eldar, but I am disgusted that he feels compelled to endorse this study without any regard for the larger context or for the concerns of American and world Jewry. Notice also how he highlights their institutional affiliations.

The bit about the Jericho jail is pure demagogery.

Finally, I am left wondering what exactly the international community has done to inspire Israel's confidence - when was the last time they did anything to make Israeli citizens safer? But I digress. The main point here is the uncritical acceptance of that study. It goes hand-in-hand with some on the Israeli left who think that reports of antisemitism in Europe are exaggerated. It's just annoying when people who are so concerned with advancing the cause of universal justice feel compelled to dissociate themselves from the narrower, "parochial" cause of fighting antisemitism and helping other Jews out. I guess they're just following in the footsteps of great humanitarians like Rosa Luxemburg: "Why do you come with your particular Jewish sorrows? ... I have no separate corner in my heart for the ghetto: I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears," (1916).

Le Monde's Israel Correspondent and his two Centimes

The first Le Monde article about the Harvard study just gave a synopsis of the main claims made by the authors of the study. Turns out that Le Monde's Jerusalem correspondent also wrote a little piece. From the reporter Gilles Paris's first lines, in which he cites a Yedi'ot Ahronot article that compared the study to the Protocols, I thought that this would be a typical supercilious European piece about 'hysterical, paranoid, and backward Jews crying wolf.' To his credit, however, the reporter does follow up those obligatory first lines with a fairly good description of how the Israeli press received the study. Ha'aretz predictably interpreted the study as a clarion call to Israeli governments to desist from unilateralism. The Yedi'ot piece by Gidi Taub (I didn't read the original, only the Le Monde description) seemed to suggest that a new generation of Jewish leaders who came of age in the era of Vietnam protests was poised to take over the Jewish "Lobby" and that this would affect the line pursued by it. I don't think this is true, actually, although I'm no expert. From what I know, a lot of Jewish organizations are already headed by baby-boomers.

I especially liked the article's concluding paragraph, though. It's actually a real punch-line whose significance will probably be lost on many of the people who read the paper and might not even have been intended. Responding to the Ha'aretz editorial, which asserted that this study is a "warning signal" for Israel, Gilles Paris writes:

"A la vérité, il ne s'agit pas du premier. Après la reprise en mars des ventes d'armements israéliens à la Chine, les Etats-Unis, estimant que leurs intérêts étaient menacés, avaient vivement réagi."
(my ad-hoc translation: In truth, this is not the first [warning signal]. After the renewal in March of Israeli arms sales to China, the US, believing that its interests were being endangered, responded vigorously.)

In other words, when Israel does something that REALLY harms American interests, the US reacts. That should be a no-brainer, especially for self-professed foreign-policy realists like the authors of the study, but the fact is that it took me by surprise to see it in this piece.

For Gilles Paris's article in Le Monde:

La presse israélienne y voit un "signal d'alarme"LE MONDE 23.03.06

An Early Response in Ha'aretz

In Ha'aretz, Daniel Levy writes:

In the words of the simplistic Harvard study authors, "the Lobby's influence has been bad for Israel ... has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities ... that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists ... using American power to achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help advance the broader goals of fighting extremism and promoting democracy in the Middle East." And please, this is not about appeasement, it's about smart, if difficult, policy choices that also address Israeli needs and security

Ruth Wisse's response

The original study by Mearsheimer and Walt.

Ruth Wisse comes out fighting. She compares the study to the infamous antisemitic tract by Wilhelm Marr. Is she right? I think she's not far off, although I could have done without the populist dose. Still, that's not a bad way to fight this propaganda - there is some truth to it.

What is Kishkushim?

Kishkushim was founded on March 24, 2006 by Amos. It features reporting and analysis on Israel, the Middle East, and the Jewish world. The Hebrew name of this blog literally means "scribblings" or "nonsense," which expressed the founders' irritation at some current academic writing and media reporting about Israel and the Middle East. The Arabic name of the blog is kharbataat which has the same meaning as the Hebrew title. Since the blog's inception, J., Carmia, Noah K, and Noah S. have joined the team of contributors.

Carmia resides in Haifa, from where she documented the effects of Hizbullah's missile attacks on the city during the war in the summer of 2006. The two Noahs, friends of the founders, both live in the Bay Area. J., who officially retired from blogging on April 24, 2007, is based in Canada, where he returned in 2006 after a 3-year stay in southern Israel. Amos resides in Berkeley, California.