Monthly Archives: January 2003

Report: Iraqi spies in

Report: Iraqi spies in U.S.

This report by the daily news brings up some interesting questions:
“Iraq sent spies from Canada to New York and Washington this month to snoop and stir up anti-war demonstrations, according to a government report . . . . The Iraqi Embassy in Ottawa sent operatives to New York and Washington with instructions to ‘intensify spying activities and to carry out anti-U.S. demonstrations to stop a war against Iraq,’ the report said. The report said the Iraqis were willing to spend ‘large sums’ to back the effort.”
Althought I think it’s ridiculous to insinuate that the anti-War movement is Sadaam’s propaganda–let’s admit it, there are very justifiable reasons for opposing this war–what is disturbing about this report is that if Sadaam can get people into the country to do political work, think what he can do with people carrying viruses.
The more time we give him–whether we agree with the war or not–we should recognize it gives him more time to carry out a pre-emptive attack against us.

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US Protects Saudis, Not Israel

US Protects Saudis, Not Israel

Maureen Dowd has, in today’s article The Empire Strikes First, continued to perpetuate the myth that the war on Iraq is being fought for Israel.
“After removing the super-rat, Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. Libby and their fellow hawk Richard Perle can turn his country into a laboratory for democracy in the Arab world creating a domino effect to give Israel more security.”
It is important to note that Iraq has not been first on Israel’s mind since Osiraq, and, if anything, a weak regime such as Sadaam’s actually aided Israeli security.
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait has and always will be Sadaam’s major targets of interest. If the US is going to war for anyone it is for those Oil-giants.
So, contrary to Dowd’s assertion, the war on Iraq is against Israel’s interests, and the only reason Israel is pushing the US to start the war is to get it over with.

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Statistics The following statisics

Statistics

The following statisics were published by the Daily Alert Felix Frisch (Yediot Ahronot) and speak for themselves:


    3/4 of Israelis Killed in 2002 were Civilians –
    436 Israelis were killed in 2002, compared with 198 in 2001.
    76% of Israelis killed in 2002 were civilians.

Among the Palestinians,

    45% were civilians
    55% were fighters;
    95% men and only 5% women – disproving claims that the IDF fires indiscriminately.
    151 Palestinians, 15% of the total, were killed by other Palestinians, in suicide attacks, or in work accidents.

*The data comes from an updated report of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

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Two Things to Note on Iraq

Although I have always considered myself a liberal, and, for most of my life, I even thought of myself as a staunch Marxist, I could never understand the Liberal/Marxist bias against Israel.
How could they, I would ask myself, grant the right of self-determination to some–the Palestinians–but not to others–the Jews in Israel. Their moral calculus, which justified the deliberate murder of innocents when they were Jews but not the (for the most part) accidental deaths of Palestinians, seemed to have roots in another belief, what I now see as anti-Semitism.
But what I now think I understand is that the moral calculus of the self-declared guardians of the liberal tradition is based upon the actions of the great powers alone, and has nothing to do with the peoples involved. They, to paraphrase a friend and mentor Paul (Shaul) Croitoroo, are guided by their unbearable guilt to support any cause that convincingly paints itself as the underdog. This guide-by-guilt ideology is very pertinent to the Iraqi issue.
Take two letters that recently went out over the Columbia Student Solidarity Network (CSSN). The first, by Lailan Sandra Huen, gives the following justification as to why we should oppose the war:
Why Stopping the War on Iraq is Critical: Stopping Bush’s war on Iraq is important for many reasons–to stop Bush from murdering innocent people of color, to defeat the dangerous policy of “pre-emptive” wars, to make it harder for Israel to follow through on its threats to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous people, etc..For our movement, it’s also important because if we can impose a defeat on Bush on this front, it will help us defeat Bush on all fronts in the “War on Terrorism.” With Bush politically weakened, it will be far easier to end the detentions and deportations, to roll back the PATRIOT Act, to shift money away from the military and into public services, to make it much harder for Bush to unilaterally overthrow other governments across the Third World.” [emphasis added]
Just two quick comments:
1. Since when has Israel been making threats to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its indigenous people? I am unaware of any such plans. Seems to me that, as Martin Kramer pointed out, the hard-left has a tendency for condeming Israel in advance.
2. Doesn’t Ms. Huen realize that those same Third-World governments she is trying to protect from the big-bad democracy are tyrannies, which brutally suppress their own people? I am sure Ms. Huen knows this–then why is she advocating their defense?
***
On the other hand, however, I was very happy to see the following missive also on CSSN:
“The “Save The People Of Iraq” campaign has started to gain some media attention: http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/europe/01/22/sprj.irq.said.otsc/index.html Please keep sending us your signatures, also tell your family and friends about it. It is only YOU who can make it succeed. Save the People of Iraq Campaign
“We, the undersigned Iraqis, urge the Security Council, when it meets to discuss Hans Blix’s 27th January report, not to leave the Iraqi people in Saddam’s hands but to agree on taking any means necessary to rid Iraq of Saddam’s regime and to help install a genuine democracy. To sign this petition please reply to this email stating your name and city of residence. The “Save The People Of Iraq” campaign was launched by the Iraqi Prospect Organization on Wednesday the 22nd of January.”
Maybe there is some hope of a debate over the freedoms of the Iraqi people.

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Dreams of a Debate

[As published in the Columbia Spectator on Jan. 21, 2003]

Dreams of a Debate

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” has special significance when it comes into play in the Middle East. The use of the visual medium to convey messages continues to be common practice in the Middle East: Arab dictators have their faces plastered throughout the streets of their capitals, and Muslim fundamentalists use the backdrop of the Dome of the Rock to convey their historic claim. This affinity for the visual medium, however, is not limited to the region. This week, Columbia University’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures has submitted its own visual interpretation of the Middle East, and it is, not surprisingly, one devoid of Israel.
As complicated as the situation in the Middle East is, it has become rather clear to all parties involved that, eventually, there will have to be two states for the two peoples. This mutual recognition of rights is imperative for any peace to exist. But before each of the sides can recognize the other’s right to the land, they must understand the other’s story.
With that in mind, I was shocked to see a map resembling the British Mandate of Palestine on the posters of the Palestinian Film Festival, which will be held at Columbia this weekend. The map was painted in deep red and labeled Palestine in place of Israel. With white doves flying along the top of the map and no mention of the State of Israel, this vision of the Middle East endorsed by Columbia’s MEALAC Department seems to suggest that there will only be peace once Israel ceases to exist.
The problem lies not with the fact that MEALAC is sponsoring this festival, entitled “Dreams of a Nation,” but rather in the fact that MEALAC, a department that should educate and present all the sides and ideologies of the cultures of the Middle East and Asia, has consistently focused on the Palestinian side of the issue, not legitimately addressing the Israeli-Zionist narrative. When quickly scanning the work and ideological leaning of the MEALAC faculty, one sees a clear and unabashed bias most recently reflected in this film festival but also evident in the fact that nearly the entire department signed the divestment petition, along with, among others, most of the Anthropology department.
This bias is not limited to MEALAC alone: the African Institute sponsored a two-day conference entitled “An African Conversation on Israel and Palestine” in September–surprising in light of the fact that millions are being massacred in the Sudan, and famines and AIDS continue to claim untold lives across the continent. Instead of focusing on these genocides, famines, and epidemics, the Institute, led by Mahmood Mamdani, devoted two days of its time, energy, and capital to making a comparison between South Africa and Israel–an analogy President Bollinger found “both grotesque and offensive.”
But this bias gets worse. One example is the game being played by our Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs, Lisa Anderson. As pointed out by Martin Kramer, a noted expert and critic of the Middle East, on MartinKramer.org, Anderson, who also serves as the president of the national Middle East Studies Association (MESA), openly flaunts her organization’s own resolution that calls “on institutions in Middle East Studies to make regular disclosure of the sources of funding for their programs.” Anderson, it turns out, led a successful private campaign to raise approximately $4 million for the creation of the Edward Said Chair and an endowment. Anderson has not disclosed the donors’ names. This refusal, as Kramer notes, leads some to “assume the worst: Palestine’s cause has its share of unsavory advocates, and when they don’t come forward, there is usually a good reason.” Along with the millions of Saudi petrodollars flowing to the United States to fund their public relations campaign, millions continue to flow into the pockets of terrorist cells around the world. It is actually quite embarrassing that Columbia University, one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world, has legitimized and institutionalized such a clear and apparent bias, thereby entrenching the sides of the conflict, instead of searching for ways to compromise and diffuse it.
As for the blood-red map of “Palestine,” think what would happen if the tables were turned. It is safe to say that there would be outrage if MEALAC was a bastion of ultra right-wing Zionism and advertised a festival with a blue and white map of Israel encompassing both banks of the Jordan River. If the tables were turned, there would be a public outcry for the University to recruit faculty with diverse views; but as it is, these departments are only buttressing their ideological viewpoint–and they are doing so at full steam.
All that said, I will be among those people purchasing the festival pass for the Palestinian Film Festival, not because I agree with the views that will be presented but precisely because I might disagree with them. I feel it is my responsibility as someone who has taken a side on the conflict to know what the other side feels in order to enable me to look for a common ground. I only wish the same were true for the departments of our University.

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Defending the Idea of a Hate Free University

Defending the Idea of a Hate Free University in Troubled Times

Provost Cole just doesn’t get it. In his “Defending the Idea of the University in Troubled Times,” published by the Record in the December 18th, Cole does defends the idea of the untouchable professor instead of the idea of a balanced education. Provost Cole twists the debate surrounding the incitement to murder issued by Tom Paulin in Al-Ahram into one on the idea of debate itself, and concerns himself more with history than with the true charge of educators, the future. In doing so, Provost Cole shows that he missed the point: in no way do the people that call for Columbia University to discredit and disavow Tom Paulin want to suppress debate. I cannot agree more with Provost Cole when he said: “the growth of knowledge is better served through the clash of ideas than through the blind acceptance of dominant ideologies and the silencing of criticism.” But even debate has rules.
Tom Paulin did not debate. He called for murder. And I am not accusing him of it: he admits it himself in a published interview. To say, as does Provost Cole, that Paulin has been accused “of strong and hurtful speech about Middle East politics” is like saying, and I borrow Paulin’s own analogical language, that Hitler has been only accused of genocide.
On the other-hand, Provost Cole brings Rashid Khalidi into the fray, who, as far as I know, only expressed his opinion. Khalidi is a notable scholar on the Middle East, who I personally disagree with, and who should have been invalidated by a speech he gave in June. But he has never incited to murder, and so Cole’s grouping of Khalidi with Paulin is an insult to Khalidi because Khalidi only expresses his opinion.
Tom Paulin did not only express his opinion. It cannot be overstated that he called for murder flat-out and publicly. He also justified another form of murder: the target of innocents through suicide bombing.
Justifying suicide bombing as a tactic for gaining political ground is not only an opinion: as Alan Dershowitz carefully points out, it is such justifications that have made terrorism the first recourse instead of the proven non-violent strategies of Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. Instead of being the unthinkable, terrorism has become the resort of any and every political group that feels as if its target audience is “just not listening.”
The link to the attacks of September 11th is clear and unmistakable. The militants that carried out the attack were not poor, impoverished, uneducated peoples who did not know better or committed the attacks out of desperation; they were highly trained, highly motivated, comfortably compensated, highly disciplined political beings that calculated and executed a monstrous attack out of the knowledge that people like Tom Paulin will apologize for them and justify their actions as an act of desperation, or, in his own words on suicide bombings, as “an expression of deep injustice and tragedy.” It seems that truth lies in the product, Provost Cole, and the product is thousands of bereaved families and a terrorized world.
I would hope that Provost Cole does not think that suicide bombings are a legitimate way to voice an opinion, but the fact of the matter is that he did defend Paulin publicly in a University publication–although his letter has since mysteriously disappeared from the Record’s online database. He defended Paulin in saying that he has a right to his opinion. But Paulin did not just offer his opinion. He offered in his Al-Ahram interview, as well as throughout his poetry, the justification for murder. Paulin puts it very clearly: “they should be shot.” In this particular case he is talking about “Brooklyn-born Jewish settlers.”
What Provost Cole does not get is that these Jewish settlers are not aliens–although, after the demonization undertaken by the media, it is hard to blame him. There are a number of students at Columbia that are from Brooklyn, are Jews, and have lived in the West Bank. Does that mean that “they should be shot”? If one would be shot tomorrow morning, on the steps of Low Library, would Provost Cole still protect Paulin and the other professors in this University that have legitimated murder in their statements?
And I would say exactly the same thing if Paulin would have said that Chinese, Spaniards or Americans “should be shot.” Or Blacks, Hispanics or Homosexuals. The University as an institution should be an open forum–until someone calls for murder. Provost Cole can rest assure that if the “tables were to turn” as he says, I would not want it any other way.
We should remember that Germany, except for approximately 26 years of its modern history, was the safest country for Jews, and one of the most liberal and progressive country in Europe. That is what the phrase “Never Forget” means–that we should never forget that the evil face of humankind can show itself anywhere, even where we feel most at home. It is too bad that Provost Cole is ending his illustrious career at Columbia by defending those who advocate murder. I hope that President Bollinger will have the vision–both forward, but more importantly backward–to deal with both him and Paulin appropriately. It is time for Columbia to be hate free and academically honest, and uphold the student’s right to a hate free environment.
As for the future, it seems that the students need representatives that will be able to hear their complaints about the spread of hatred and incitement in the classroom. Taking from Amherst’s example, we should have “Diversity Senators” that will allow members of minority groups to give light to cases of hatred and bias–cases that will be spoken for by representatives of those minority groups and, if the professor is deemed to have had spread undue bias or incitement, investigated. It is time professors truly “bear in mind the special obligations arising from their position in the academic community,” in the words of the Faculty Handbook, and it is the job of both the students and the administration to hold them to their responsibilities. Education is based on tolerance–but tolerance ends when incitement to murder begins.

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Blair Wasn’t All Wrong

I have just returned from a ten-day trip to Israel, and will write about the political situation once the jet-lag wares off, but I felt it important to make a correction to a post I wrote about Tony Blair: I know understand that Tony Blair was absolutely justified in meeting with Bashar Asad, and, taking into account the information I have been able to garner, hope he continues with his work in the Middle East.
I was mistaken in saying that Democratic leaders should not meet with the leaders of terrorism-supporting states. Such communication is necessary to wear away the wall of blood between our civilizations, and to provide intelligence information to continue to thwart terrorist attacks.
Those Democratic leaders, however, must make it very clear to their population that they do not legitimize tyranny nor terrorism. That PM Blair did not do, and I hope he will not fear Syrian sensitivities and tell the truth to his constituency in the future.

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