Thursday, September 3, 2015

What to look for from the presidential candidates

Sar Shalom

As supporters of Israel, we want to know what sorts of policies the next president will adopt regarding the Middle East. However, questions to the candidates about what approach they would take if elected invariably fail to yield answers that are useful to make such an assessment. Instead, the candidates tend to make anodyne responses to such questions such as, "We have to support Israel" or "We have to support peace." Such answers provide no indication of what how that candidate would evaluate an Israeli response to a Hamas rocket campaign if elected.

There is, however, something which would give a clue to such issues. Instead of asking the candidates what their perceptions of the issue are, ask them who they turn to in order to understand the issues. For instance, someone whose understanding of human rights comes from Paul Berman will likely have a different take on whether or not Israel's response to Hamas rockets is disproportionate than someone whose understanding comes from Ken Roth. Someone whose understanding of Middle East history comes from Bernard Lewis will have a different view of the boundary between Jewish and Arab rights than someone whose understanding comes from Rashid Khalidi. Someone whose ideas of Jewish and Arab interests come from Alan Dershowitz and Khaled Abu Toameh would have a different view of what the obstacles are to a peace agreement than someone whose views come from Jeremy Ben-Ami and Hanan Ashrawi.

The reality is that once someone decides which set of figures would provide the best understanding, the decision has been made as to the frame in which to understand the issue. Once the frame has been decided, the policy to adopt, should one gain the power to implement it, has been decided as well. Is there anyone asking the candidates who fills their understanding of the region?

Oh, for G-d's sake!

Michael L.

I cannot seem to get away from this Matisyahu tune.

Think of it as an open thread.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Houseboat Summit

Michael L.

{Cross-posted at the Elder of Ziyon.}

Pow Wow A Gathering of the Tribes largeIn 1967, shortly after the Gathering of the Tribes - or the first Human Be-In - in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, Zen and counterculture philosopher Alan Watts held a "hippie summit" on his houseboat in Sausalito, just north of the city.

They called it the "Houseboat Summit."  The idea was to push momentum coming out of the "tribal" gathering in the park and plan for the future.  In attendance were Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder, along with some small percentage of the Bay Area's counterculture kids at the time.

The summit actually resulted in the splitting of what historian Terry Anderson referred to as The Movement between the political-types from places like Berkeley versus the hippie-types from places like Haight-Ashbury in SF.  It was Leary who did the most to split the movement by suggesting that the political-types were, essentially, young men with "geriatric minds."  Leary did not want politics, which he basically considered to represent outmoded and counterproductive thinking.  What he wanted was to transcend politics entirely with massive doses of lysergic acid diethylamide # 25 and then float away into the nether reaches of his own mind.

It was Ginsberg, far more than Leary, who was dedicated to strengthening the counterculture / anti-war coalition, which was the whole point of the Gathering of the Tribes to begin with.  Leary, in his arrogance and stupidity, even suggested that by the turn of the century we would see deer grazing in Times Square, Manhattan, as people left the cities and joined whatever strange, hybrid, sex-and-drug-fueled kibbutzim that the guy had in his head.

I am put to mind of Alan Watts and his "houseboat summit" due to the fact that the East Coast - Boston, specifically - recently saw its own little pro-Israel / pro-Jewish "summit" at the home of professor Richard Landes of Boston University.

Ted Belman of Israpundit fame writes about it here.

There were about ten people in attendance of whom I am familiar with four.  Belman, Landes, Melanie Phillips, and our friend Vic Rosenthal of both Abu Yehuda and the Elder of Ziyon.  My guess is that two of the four would recognize my name... maybe three.

I was very pleased to read about this meeting and I would have loved to have been there myself.

Each of these four individuals have something important to say.

Landes is a professional historian with Boston University who specializes in religious history and who has a recent book out from Oxford University Press entitled, Heaven on Earth: The Varieties of the Millennial Experience.  He is also championing the case of philosophy professor Andrew Pessin who has been harassed at Connecticut College for daring to say mean things about Hamas.  I cannot imagine why any Jew would compare Hamas to a vicious caged dog when they are better compared to vicious caged rats.  The dog is man's best friend, after all.  Hamas is nobody's best friends and screams from the hillsides for the genocide of the Jews.

Aside from his academic work, Landes is best know for maintaining the important pro-Israel Augean Stables blog.  In my opinion, the most important significance of Augean Stables is Landes' work on "Pallywood" and what he sometimes calls "lethal journalism."  Landes played a significant role in examining the Al Durah Affair in which the IDF was accused of killing children, thereby essentially justifying violence against Jews anywhere in the world.  The analyses of Landes, and others concerned with the Al Durah case have demonstrated that this kid was not killed by the IDF, but Arab-Palestinian fighters.  Nonetheless, it fueled the Second Intifada resulting in thousands of dead.

There is much to be said about the excellent work that Belman is doing over at Israpundit, but the powerful and concise message that sits on the top of his page is exceedingly worthy of discussion.  It reads quite simply, "THERE IS NO DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION."

Belman is probably correct and it took me quite a number of years - all through the Oslo process - to come to something approaching that conclusion.  Well-meaning, left-leaning, liberal Jews want a two-state solution, as did I.  Unfortunately, the two-state solution is absolutely dependent upon Arab agreement.  For at least 80 solid years the Arab peoples have told us very clearly that they will not accept a Jewish state on any part of historically Jewish land for any reason whatsoever.

There must come a point when we accept the fact that "no means no."  Belman got there a few years before I did.

I have to tell you, I love Melanie Phillips not only because I agree with her on Israel - if not global warming - but I admire her audacity.  I like Phillips for much the same reason that I appreciate Caroline Glick.  The woman has guts and calls it like she sees it.  In books like Londonistan, Phillips rings the alarm bell ("alarum bell?") about the consequences of massive Arab and North African migrations into Europe.  Sometimes people despise her as a "racist" for such sentiments, but there simply is no question that the changing demographics in Europe are altering European culture in a way that directly clashes with western Enlightenment values.  That is not her fault.  Melanie is just delivering the news.

One of Phillips' main points, as Belman notes in his piece, is that the Israeli government has got to get out there and make its case.  Belman writes:
She divides her time between London and Jerusalem and is a highly regarded journalist. She expressed her pet peeve about the Israeli government which is AWOL when it comes to public diplomacy. She said she has tried talking with government officials who she said don’t have a clue about what’s going on out there and who are unwilling to do something about it.

Vic started writing the exceedingly interesting Abu Yehuda blog after he made aliyah from California and thereby gave up his exceedingly interesting Fresno Zionism blog.  Vic was practically a neighbor, given that Fresno is not really that far from the Bay Area, and I am pleased to say that I played a significant role in bringing him over to the Elder of Ziyon where he now publishes a weekly column.

One idea that Vic and I have in common is opposition to "politically correct" discourse when that discourse stands in the way of the truth and thereby stands in the way of the well-being of the Jewish people.  As he writes:
PC is all about making rules about things that cannot be said, and punishing transgressions. But it is not ideologically neutral. It supports universalist, cultural relativist, and multiculturalist ideologies, and insists that a subjective sense of ‘injury’ can be the arbiter of legitimate discourse, rather than ideals of truth or logic. It provides a way to bypass the ideal of free speech and to shut down speech that is uncomfortable.

Alan Watts and his hippie-counterculture "houseboat summit" went nowhere.  By the middle of the 1970s the western counterculture was dying, if not dead, and when Reagan came into office as president in January of 1981, he stomped the life out of what was left of it.  By the time that I got to the University of Connecticut in the early 1980s the counterculture was over with.  Students had become more interested in business than in bullshit and no one believed that LSD represented a pathway to a better life or a more "spiritual" existence.

{Or, almost no one, anyway.}

What Landes, Belman, Phillips, Rosenthal, and the rest of those sitting around that table did is different precisely because they are not counterculturalists.  These are not hippies.  These are people with their feet firmly grounded on planet Earth.  I can say that with terrific confidence because I read each of them on a regular basis.

What is needed is for Richard Landes or Melanie Phillips, or whoever has the most pull, to turn this into an annual event and to expand on it.

I want to be there next year.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Arlene from Israel: More Light, in the Midst of Darkness

Michael L.

Our friend Shirlee of Jews Down Under has published a piece by Arlene from Israel entitled, More Light, in the Midst of Darkness.

Here is the opening:
We here in Israel we speak a good deal these days about a world arrayed against us – a world ready to do business with Iran for self-serving reasons.  In doing my writing, I have been remiss in not mentioning Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minster Steven Harper (pictured below).  Israel has no better friend in the world.  What is more, Harper has come out against both Iran and Islamic State – refusing to lift sanction against the former, and sending troops against the latter.
 I recommend that you guys give this a read.

The Iran deal emphatically must be opposed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Radio Interview

Michael L.

world radio day 2013Michael Burd of mighty J-AIR out of Melbourne, Australia, interviewed me early this month on his radio show Nothing Left.  We talked for about half an hour concerning American Jewry's relationship with Israel.  This was prior to the Trump Surge or the Sanders' Challenge and my assumption was that we were looking at another likely Clinton-Bush race for the presidency.

In any case, I can be heard on episode 67 that aired yesterday, August 25.  Also interviewed during this episode, I am proud to say, is Isi Liebler and political scientist, Emanuelle Ottolenghi, so I am in very fine company, indeed.

My segment begins at about the thirty minute mark.

It would not have happened were it not for Shirlee of Jews Down Under fame.