Monthly Archives: November 2002

Poetic Justice?

Poetic Justice?
“[Americans] should be shot dead…I feel nothing but hatred for them” said Professor Tom Paulin of Columbia University, to Egypt’s Al-Haram Weekly, in April 2002. Or did he say “[Chinese] should be shot dead…”? Or could it be “[Spaniards] should be shot dead…”?
It doesn’t matter whom he was talking about, since calling for the execution of any human being is wrong. But for journalistic integrity it should be noted that the group Paulin put in the brackets were Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers. It also does not matter that the comment came as “part of a more nuanced argument regarding British and European politics” as noted by the Spectator. It does not change the fact that Paulin, a teacher at a university of higher learning, called for the murder of human beings –and, although we may not support the actions of the settlers or the policy of settlement in general, they are after all human beings. His comments, therefore, weren’t anti-Israel, and to call them anti-Israel is to dehumanize the targets.
Why is it acceptable to the academic community that Paulin singled out Brooklyn-born Jews and not Americans who ravaged Native American lands? A similar charge could be leveled at the Chinese, who have settled Tibet, or the Spaniards who have forcefully denied the Basques independence–but no one would dare. Professor James Shapiro, who –vocally defended Paulin– according to the Spectator, would certainly not have defended him had he called for the shooting of Americans, Chinese or Spaniards.
Paulin then went on to justify suicide bombings, albeit modifying his remark by saying that he “think[s] — though — that it is better to resort to conventional guerrilla warfare. I think attacks on civilians in fact boost morale.” Would he also justify the suicide bombing of 9/11 as, in his own words, an “expression of deep injustice and tragedy?”
It is safe to say that Paulin would not have supported 9/11, but his remarks lead me to question whether he would have supported the airplane hijackings carried out by terrorist groups in the 1960s and 70s. This is important since we should recognize that 9/11 was not a one-time phenomenon. Airplane hijackings were pioneered and popularized in the ’60s by the PFLP — the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — a member organization of the Palestine Liberation Organization, that now runs the Palestinian Authority. It is no coincidence that the American intelligence community first suspected the PFLP after 9/11, only later tying the attack to Al-Qaeda. The terrible tragedy that we experienced in September was only a continuation of the strategy popularized by the PLO and legitimized by those who, like Paulin, expressed their sympathy with the terrorist groups.
This is not a matter of Paulin’s “first amendment rights” as some would allege. I would die to protect Paulin’s right to express himself however he wants, but that does not mean that I or the University must actively support his incitement by paying his wages and granting him the title of professor. It certainly does not mean that the University should give him a soapbox upon which he can spread hatred. The idea that principles of the First Amendment and Academic Freedom protect a professors’ right to say anything, while retaining their position, is dangerously amiss. The University as an institution does not exist for professors but for students –it is an institution of education, not a think-tank.
A student’s right to a balanced and hate-free education outweighs the professors’ right to spread his/her ideology in the classroom. The University should offer the students an education that is enlightening and free of hate, so that the students will be able to make their own conclusions based on facts, not demagoguery. Professors should be held to a higher standard because they influence the minds of the next generation. There is no question that divergent views should be expressed, and controversy should be welcomed as intellectual stimulus. But there is a fine line between expressing a divergent view and spreading hatred by justifying the murder of innocents.
Sadly, Tom Paulin is not the only professor at Columbia who has crossed this line. There is no shortage of students who could tell horror stories about other professors at this University use their position to spread half-truths to propagate their particular ideology. These lies create an environment hostile to those students who truly desire to learn the point of view of the other side. Why do we have professors at this University who advocate hatred and murder, and why does it seem that we are acquiring more of them by the day? The University should make clear that it does not tolerate those who have no tolerance.
We the students should demand that the University stop sponsoring hatred. We should make it clear that the academic responsibility to provide an environment conducive to learning outweighs the “academic freedom” that these professors claim, and that no one has the right to call for the shooting of other human beings. President Bollinger and the Columbia administration should take action to further protect the students of this University from the preaching of hatred in the classroom by making efforts to free the University from these advocates of murder, and by providing a forum for students to raise their concerns. As Sarah Monroe, president of the student union at Balliol College, Oxford wrote: “Such public advocation of violence against particular ethnic or political groups is not acceptable and the university should not pussy-foot around saying so.”

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BATTLE OF THE BULGE

[I took this from HonestReporting]
“BATTLE OF THE BULGE”
* * *
This past week has seen tragic attacks at the Hebron holy site, and against innocent men, women and children on a Jerusalem bus.
A new potential eruption is brewing in Jerusalem, and we want HonestReporting members to be prepared before anything happens.
For the third time in the past six years, Muslim authorities appear to be setting up a Temple Mount controversy as a pretense for violence against Israel. This time, however, it could come at the expense of the lives of thousands of Ramadan worshippers.
As has been reported internationally during the past several months, Israeli archeologists have identified a 35-foot wide bulge near the southern end of the retaining walls of the Temple Mount. First noticed about two years ago, a political firestorm has erupted concerning whether the bulge actually is there, and who has the right and authority to make repairs.
Genuine concern exists among archeologists concerning the structural integrity of the Temple Mount, and its ability to withstand the weight of the tens of thousands of worshippers currently congregating there for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“There’s no doubt that it will collapse before long,” Dr. Eilat Mazar, a Hebrew university archaeologist, said recently in The Guardian. “The question is by how much, and whether it will bring down other structures nearby, including the Al Aqsa mosque.”
Of additional concern is the political position of the Waqf — the Muslim authority given responsibility to maintain the Temple Mount area — and their threats that if a collapse occurs, Israel will be directly to blame.
Adnan Husseini, director of the Waqf, was interviewed in Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. He said: “This is something that we are able to fix, but Israelis want to use this to create more tension in the atmosphere…Their real agenda is to take over the place.”
“The Israeli government will be responsible if there are lives lost,” he said.
Sounds all too familiar.
Similar refrains resonated at the onset of violence in September 2000 when Arabs rationalized their violence (since proved to be pre-meditated) on the visit of Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount.
Four years earlier, Arab rioting broke out against the backdrop of the completion of an Israeli archeological tunnel running along the outside base of the western retaining wall. This tunnel never breached the Temple Mount itself, and sits hundreds of yards away from the Al Aqsa mosque — actually pointing in the opposite direction.
Nevertheless, Arab riots erupted based on claims that the tunnel was an Israeli attempt to undermine the Muslim mosques.
* * *
The current damage to the southern retaining wall and subsequent bulge is attributed to a construction project started by the Waqf in 1999 to open a large mosque in a vault known as Solomon’s Stables. In the process, some key structural supports were removed. Additionally, the laying of paving stones for the mosque may have created a drainage problem that has contributed to the bulge.
There is another concern. An Israeli archeology committee claims that the Islamic authority is trying to eradicate archeological evidence that a Jewish Temple ever stood on the site, and that tons of priceless archeological relics have been hauled off and/or thrown away.
“This is one of the most serious archeological crimes ever committed in this country,” Gabriel Barkai told Newsweek.
* * *
In the event of a collapse during this year’s Ramadan or afterward, HonestReporting members should be keenly aware of the background facts, in order to analyze the accuracy of reporting.
For the better part of 1,000 years, the Jewish Temple stood on the Mount, a huge, rectangular mountain-top courtyard closed in by four supporting walls. The most sanctified section of the Temple (the Holy of Holies) rested nearly perpendicular to the middle section of the western retaining wall of the mountain. The current Western Wall plaza sits adjacent to this section facing the outside of the retaining wall.
A little more than 1,930 years ago, the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. The courtyard lay virtually barren until the Muslim conquest almost 600 years later and the subsequent construction of the Al Aqsa mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock.
Fast forward to the summer of 1967 and the Six Day War. Israel retook the Old City of Jerusalem — Temple Mount included — from the Jordanians who had exiled the Jews and assumed exclusive control 19 years earlier in Israel’s War of Independence. In 1967, the Israelis, eager to restore the status quo and to show respect for Muslim holy sites, ceded political authority over the Temple Mount to the Waqf, thus beginning a tenuous relationship culminating with these current events.
A temporary compromise in “the battle of the bulge” was reached last month, allowing a team of Jordanian engineers to inspect the wall and take samples back to Amman.
As Gabriel Barkai told the Los Angeles Times: “I’m not a prophet. I can’t say exactly when, but there is no question that it will collapse. All you need is a big group to congregate up there for the equilibrium to start shifting. It’s a matter of time.”
Daniel Pipes says: “This disaster would lead at least to wide-scale fighting in Jerusalem and a heated international crisis. If things really went wrong, it could precipitate a wave of violence in Europe and a full-blown Arab-Israeli war. [Or] it could unleash an end-of-days messianism in three monotheistic religions, with unforeseeable
consequences.”
Newsweek has termed this “The Armageddon Wall.” Stay tuned.

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20,000 Barrels of Oil

Have you ever thought how much it cost the perpetrators to carry out the attacks of September 11th? While the media at the time estimated the entire operation at $500,000, I think it is more useful to look at it in the following way: the operational costs of September 11th cost approximately 20,000 barrels of oil. Oil production, its subsequent purchase, and the later funding of terrorist groups by its revenues have all come together into the cycle of violence that is threatening our very existence.
Seems too great a logical leap? When you work through the chain of production it makes sense: for all intents and purposes, it is generally accepted that the attackers were funded by money coming Middle Eastern countries. Since the major source of revenue for most of the countries in the Middle East is oil, profit from oil sales is basically the only way they could have gotten the money. Department of Energy statistics, for example, show how 95% of Libya’s hard currency earnings are from it’s oil production, while oil makes up 90-95% of Saudi exports, and 50-55% of Syrian exports.
Oil, therefore, has become a threat to both to our personal and national security. Our reliance on oil degrades the quality of our air and water, and leads to global-warming and the subsequent flooding of coastal areas. It also concentrates undue power in the hands of the tyrannical rulers of the oil-producing countries, who use its profits to influence the world through the financing of terrorist attacks and incitement of hatred.
Oil allows Saudi Arabia, with its 1.5 million barrels-a-day of production, to openly finance the Pakistani development of nuclear weapons. Their virtual hegemony of the oil market protects them from the West, who turns a blind eye to their transgressions and human rights violations, which allows them to make themselves a de-facto nuclear power through imminent proliferation. The world will certainly not be a safer place once a terrorism-supporting regime, a regime who spawned 90% of the 9/11 murderers, gets its hands on nuclear weapons.
Our oil addiction has become so intense we have forgotten that the use of oil as an energy source is rather new in the context of world history. The oil industry began as an illumination business in the 1840s, and the United States was among the greatest oil producers for close to a century. It is only in the 1920s and 30s that oil was found in the Middle East. Even our commonly held notions of oil as a staple of transportation are skewed: we forget that along with the first gas-guzzling car came Thomas Edison’s electric car–it even had its own specially designed filling stations. Funny how the electric car was a reality in the 1890s but not the 1990s, and how the computer technology has nearly doubled every 18 months while we are still using the same old internal-combustion engines, granted with a change here or there. There is no doubt that the electric cars and other hybrid technologies would not be more developed if the government or the auto-industry adequately invested in them.
The example of the internal combustion engine shows how under informed we are, and how backward our government is when it comes to energy policy: MIT’s Technology Review reported this month that automobile manufacturers have lowered their miles-per-gallon average in the past few years–instead of raising it–to around 24mpg. These already existing technologies, if implemented, would raise the average to 40 miles-per-gallon–nearly 40% higher than what we get today. Again: these technologies already exist, and were developed mainly by Universities. So what is keeping them from being implemented, and why isn’t more money being poured into research? Why did congress vote down legislation to raise car mileage this year? It might have something to do with the fact that the current administration’s staff is largely composed of the former-heads of energy companies, such as Enron and Halliburton, and the amount of funding the political parties receive from the oil and auto industries.
It is important to put everything into perspective: American consumers purchased those same 20,000 barrels of oil in part because they drive cars that use century old technology, made by automakers who do not care enough to make it more efficient even when that technology is right under their nose, and a government that does not have the guts to stand up to industry for the good of its people.
This disproportionate importance of oil is true not only for the automobile market: throughout the world we depend on oil to be the primary source of our energy, and, since it is perceived as relatively inexpensive, there are no real steps being taken to convert to alternative energy sources. But what we do not pay for in dollars we pay for in lives; 9/11 has made that very clear.
We do not have to lend a hand to this self-destructive system. The academic community, as an institution responsible for teaching the future generation of leaders, and for the betterment of all humankind, should make it our primary priority to provide an answer to the real cost of oil. As an institution that experienced the trauma of 9/11 first hand, we should know how dire the situation already is. We should do everything in our power to break the cycle of violence, and to do so we should commit ourselves to the study of alternative energy and its integration into society.

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Letter to NYTimes

[A letter sent to the New York Times regarding the article by Matthew Purdy “On Issue of Israel, Campuses Can’t Tell Left From Right”]
Matthew Purdy’s “On Issue of Israel, Campuses Can’t Tell Left From Right” (Nov 17th) is what could be considered the perfect example of biased reporting.
The reporter, Matthew Purdy, shows the anti-divestment people as conflicted, unsure of their beliefs–making the reader question why, if their beliefs were true, would they be so ambiguous.
On the other hand the anti-Israel activists, most of which he made sure to point out were Jews, were portrayed as ‘enlightened’ and ‘devoid of Israeli myths.’
As a left-wing Jew, who actively strove to make peace in the Middle East through founding and directing a peace project, I can wholeheartedly say that I have no qualms about supporting Israel. Since Americans were so absolutely willing to undergo checkpoints when a sniper is on the loose, they should understand Israel’s need to protect it’s people when scores of snipers and human-guided bombs threaten every minute of every day.
The New York Times should be ashamed of itself for allowing Matthew Purdy to write such a biased piece of propaganda, and should think of hiring a more professional reporter in his place.

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Free Press?

[I took this from: Honest Reporting]
“FREE PRESS?”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF – Reporters Sans Frontiers) has published its first worldwide “Press Freedom Index,” with some surprising results:
Israel was ranked #92, behind the Palestinian Authority (82) and Lebanon (56). It’s hard to believe that democratic Israel – with parliamentary dissent, legal due process, and a system of check and balances — deserves a worse ranking than the PA thugocracy or Syrian-occupied Lebanon.
As an example of how disingenuous these rankings are, journalist Raghida Degham was recently prosecuted in a Lebanese military court merely for participating in a Washington, DC panel discussion at which an Israeli official was present. Yet Lebanon comes in at #56 on the RSF report, against Israel’s #92.
As for the Palestinian Authority, even the RSF report touches on its record of violent abuse — including murder, intimidation, and confiscation of equipment — of foreign and local journalists. RSF writes:
“The political weakening of the Palestinian Authority means it has made few assaults on press freedom. However, Islamic fundamentalist position media have been closed, several attempts made to intimidate and attack local and foreign journalists, and many subjects remain taboo. The aim is to convey a united image of the Palestinian people and to conceal aspects such a demonstrations of support for attacks on Israel.”
Further, the RSF report goes out of its way to single out Ariel Sharon as a press “predator,” worse than the likes of Iran’s Ali Khamenei, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Libya’s Gaddafi and more.
Read the report at:
http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=4116
Comments to:
presse@rsf.org

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Interesting Fact

Just picked up an interesting fact today:
Irish poet Tom Paulin, who is teaching this semester at Columbia University was quoted in April in the Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly, saying American Jewish settlers should be “shot dead.” “I think they are Nazis, racists, I feel nothing but hatred for them.” In his poem “Killed in the Crossfire,” he writes of “another little Palestinian boy in trainers jeans and a white teeshirt” killed by the “Zionist SS.”
See the article online
Isn’t that nice that Columbia University respects all views, and ensures that all people have a chance to speak up?
I wonder if he also believes that Israeli children should be shot by people who enter their homes during the dinner hour, or whether Israeli shoppers should be blown to bits at the supermarket?

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Breaking the Zero Sum Game

[the following is the speech by Ariel Beery at the Columbia University Committee on Socially Responsible Investment hearing on Nov. 13th, 2002]
Breaking the Zero-Sum Game of the Middle East
Divestment in Israel will do nothing to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians. The Divestment petition is not even relevant in an age post-Oslo, when even the symbol of the Israeli Right wing, PM Ariel Sharon, says openly that there will be a Palestinian State.
I must admit, however, that I understand where the signers of the petition are coming from–and I say this as someone who experienced a terrorist attack first-hand. I understand that the situation seems hopeless, and that the violence seems relentless, and that this sense of powerlessness can lead to irrational action.
But emotions do not make a good argument, and, although the Palestinians have very justifiable feelings, it should be made clear that divestment would only work to entrench the Israeli public and leadership, and will only continue the zero-sum game of hatred and violence that will only serve the extremists on both sides. Columbia University, as an institution, should not allow emotions to hide the truth.
The truth is that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is part of a larger problem of tyranny and hatred in the Middle East. One cannot focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without taking into account the history of the Arabs and Israel, the wars they have fought in the past, and the cross-border financing of hatred and terror, exemplified by the Saudi Telethon to raise money to finance the families of suicide bombers, and the Egyptian broadcasting of the Jewish-conspiracy classic “Elders of Zion” during Ramadan. One should also take into account the Peace Process that has existed for the past decade, and the numerous attempts at negotiations by Israel reaching as far back as 1948 and including the far-reaching concessions offered by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David II.
We also cannot focus on the Israeli-Palestinian problem without remembering that some of the most repressive regimes in the world are in the Middle East and are not Israel. The atrocities taking place this very moment in Sudan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia, to say the least, are incomprehensible, and, without belittling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, have all claimed hundreds and thousands of times more lives.
We should make it very clear to the signers of the petition that we understand their position, while divestment is not the answer. We too, all of us, want to see the end of human suffering. We should work towards putting an end to these repressive regimes, and their policies of terrorist and hatred, which are all financed by our very own petrodollars. In order for us to work together to break free from this cycle of blame and violence, we should strive towards changing the game played with human lives across the world.
Columbia University should lead by example and encouragement to free the world from this tyranny by freeing itself from its oil addiction, and by working towards energy sufficiency. Columbia University, the original home of the Manhattan Project, should heed Thomas Friedman’s call to start a new Manhattan Project, to work against the oppression in the Middle East and deal with the greatest threat to civilization currently facing us: the emergence of trans-national actors with a global agenda based on hatred and destruction.
These trans-national actors, who have struck and continue to strike around the world, be it in New York, Bali or Tel Aviv, are backed by the massive wealth that is a direct product of our dependence on Oil as our primary energy source. This wealth has also enabled tyrannical regimes around the world, and specifically in the Middle East and Africa, to carry out horrendous repression and genocidal acts. Without this oil wealth, these countries would not be able to do either. It is our responsibility, as consumers of a product that does so much harm to so many people, to stop purchasing it.
And, although I mention only in passing the serious and somewhat irreversible damage our dependence on Oil has caused and continues to cause our environment, it does not take away from the issue’s importance.
I call the Columbia University Committee on Socially Responsible Investment to recommend to the Trustees of Columbia University to withdraw the University’s investments from oil companies and oil related products, and reinvest them in this quest for energy-independence.
I call the Columbia University Trustees to form an advisory committee to research the University’s stake in oil and oil related products, and to provide recommendations on the optimal way the University will be able to reinvest in the alternative energy sector. The two stocks Columbia should immediately transfer funds from are Exxon Mobile Corp. of which we own 121,298 shares worth, as of June 30th, 2002, 4,963,514.16, and Nissan Mobile Corp. with 25,000 shares worth, as of June 30th, 2002, 173,118.64.
I call the Columbia Trustees to reinvest some of this money into the University’s newly created Earth Institute, and to charge the Earth Institute and our Engineering School to focus on the advancement of alternative energy sources. I call the Columbia Trustees to enable this committee to work with the University’s administration to formulate a strategy for energy self-sufficiency, harnessing the energy of renewable natural resources–including the wind and water surrounding Columbia–to meet its energy needs.
This might have seemed but a dream in the past, but, with the advance of alternative energy sources such as Gorlov Helical Turbine and wave-harnessing power generators developed in England, it is very possible that Columbia could lead the way as a non-oil consuming Institution.
Socially responsible investment in the energy sector is our responsibility as educated members of society. We should address the injustices done by our dependence on oil, and do the right thing for all of humanity by taking the mantel of leadership. As all of humanity stands at this historical gateway between the old and new worlds, we should be the ones to take the first step to make a difference for our children and our children’s children.

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