Monthly Archives: January 2004

Berman Defines the Left

Paul Berman never ceases to amaze me–and I mean that with all honesty. The following passages from Dissent are beautiful in their directness and their ability to convey what myself and many others have felt when called by others “neocons”:

“And yet,” I insisted, “if good-hearted people like you would only open your left-wing eyes, you would see clearly enough that the Baath Party is very nearly a classic fascist movement, and so is the radical Islamist movement, in a somewhat different fashion-two strands of a single impulse, which happens to be Europe’s fascist and totalitarian legacy to the modern Muslim world. If only people like you would wake up, you would see that war against the radical Islamist and Baathist movements, in Afghanistan exactly as in Iraq, is war against fascism.” I grew still more heated.
“What a tragedy that you don’t see this! It’s a tragedy for the Afghanis and the Iraqis, who need more help than they are receiving. A tragedy for the genuine liberals all over the Muslim world! A tragedy for the American soldiers, the British, the Poles and every one else who has gone to Iraq lately, the nongovernmental organization volunteers and the occupying forces from abroad, who have to struggle on bitterly against the worst kind of nihilists, and have been getting damn little support or even moral solidarity from people who describe themselves as antifascists in the world’s richest and fattest neighborhoods.
“What a tragedy for the left-the worldwide left, this left of ours which, in failing to play much of a role in the antifascism of our own era, is right now committing a gigantic historic error. Not for the first time, my friend! And yet, if the left all over the world took up this particular struggle as its own, the whole nature of events in Iraq and throughout the region could be influenced in a very useful way, and Bush’s many blunders could be rectified, and the struggle could be advanced.”

Read the whole thing. Put in on your wall.

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Two Events, One Story Line

Two major yet seemingly unconnected events have touched Israel in the past 24 hours. The first, of course, is the dreadful suicide bombing in Jerusalem. The second is the exchange of prisoners between Israel and the Hizbullah.
These two events are connected by a thread not usually seen by the public at large–namely, the coordination and interplay between players in the field. This might not be on the most basic level of operations, but the coordination of ideology, intent and violence is clear. Fatah, the group who claimed responsibility for sending the Palestinian police officer to commit murder on the day that the Palestinian media announced uniformed police were to return to service, has a long history of collaboration with the Hizbullah and Iran, Hizbullah’s backer.
When most pundits focus on the conflict, they tend to focus primarily on Israel and the Palestinians. But in doing so they forget that Israel is not at conflict only with the Palestinians but with the broad majority of the Arab/Muslim world. Thus, while in the first case one sees a minority party–the Palestinians–beset by Israel, in the later case–that which is evident today–one sees the small State of Israel surrounded by hostile parties intent on doing violence upon it.
While I will not argue for Israel’s victim status, I do think that the only route to peace is by widening the scale of the process to do justice to the true state of the Middle Eastern political arena. That is why the Geneva Accords, and any other peace process that focuses only on Israel and the Palestinians, hurt Israel much more than help it.
*Final note: the headline for the AP story, “Jerusalem Bomber Kills Self, 10 Others,” is blatantly biased. The bomber was a murderer, plain and simple, and the fact that he died in the process should have nothing to do with the horror he inflicted.

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Open Letter to Spectator

I am reprinting the open letter here.
For the record, while I wouldn’t mind continuing to write for the Spec, there is a whole other story going on that must get out, and that I will continue to pursue regardless.


***please forward widely***
THIS JUST IN: SPECTATOR FIRES POLITICAL COLUMNISTS
Open Letter to the Columbia Daily Spectator and the Columbia Community
On January 19, just one day before the start of the spring 2004 semester, the staff of the Columbia Daily Spectator summarily fired nine of the paper’s thirteen acting opinion columnists: Paul Reyfman, Jennifer Thorpe, Joe Valenti, Alex Rolfe, Laura Durkay, Ariel Beery, Daniel Dorsch, Seth Anziska, and Jeffrey Stedman.
Among the “Spectator Nine” are columnists who have written for the paper for several years and others who were just beginning. One thing unites them–all were bold writers who never shied away from any controversy, campus or political, and now the Spectator staff is attempting to silence student voices and steer away from the debate that makes the op-ed page a crucial outlet of student opinion for the Columbia community.
The columnists were informed by e-mail from Editorial Page Editor Rachael King that “the Opinion page needs a major overhaul in order to make it more interesting and enjoyable.” But in reality, this was a conscious campaign to eliminate the Spectator’s most outspoken and controversial political columnists. After protests from several columnists, Rachael admitted the truth. “As for
getting rid of the political writers, you’re right, we are trying to do so,” Rachael wrote. “The major complaint about Opinion is that it is too much politics.” From whom this complaint came was unclear.
The fired columnists were given no warning that their positions were in jeopardy and the selection process was completely non-transparent. While the editor and associate editor fired many talented and experienced writers, they left space for their own personal opinion columns and are now hiring new writers.
We, the undersigned, consider these actions a reprehensible attempt to silence debate of important political issues in the pages of the Spectator. We urge all who are outraged by these actions to send letters of protest to the Columbia Daily Spectator, at opinion@columbiaspectator.com. In addition, we implore all writers to withhold opinion submissions from the Spectator until the fired columnists are reinstated in a just and open manner.
Sincerely,
Laura Durkay, fired columnist
Jennifer Thorpe, fired columnist
Ariel Beery, fired columnist
Jeffrey Stedman, fired columnist
Seth Anziska, fired columnist
Daniel Dorsch, fired columnist
Signature list in formation. To add your signature, email savethespec9@yahoo.com with your name, Columbia affiliation (if any) and Columbia Daily Spectator affiliation (if any.)

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Iraq and Israel

It seems that “minister appointed by the U.S.-handpicked Iraqi Interim Governing Council (IGC) said Sunday, January 25, his “country” was ready to sell electricity to Israel,” according to Islam Online. Is this report solid? It doesn’t even matter. The very fact that Interim Electricity Minister Aiham al-Samarrai said that “it was necessary to change the old mindset that banned dealing with them (Israel). It is a democratic world,” is amazing.
The fact is that the new Iraq has no basis for ire against Israel. Israel is the one country that continually opposed Saddam, who pulled the nuclear rug from underneath his feet–which would have insured the survival of his regime for generations–and is the one country in the region that can serve as its springboard to modernity. Also, in regards to the Palestinians, one must only remember that Saddam spent money supporting suicide bombers instead of feeding his own people, to understand the anger directed against the Palestinians.
It is in the benefit of both countries to begin trade in earnest, and open formal relations. I just hope the rest of the Iraqis concur.

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Benny Morris and Enlightenment

An interesting thing happened to Benny Morris over the past couple of years, and that thing is nicely summarized in two excellent articles in Haaretz. The first is a profile of Prof. Morris by Ari Shavit, and the next is Morris’ own reply to the responses his interview drew.
To summarize, I’ll offer this quote (but you really should read through the two articles if you can):

The war being waged against us since September 2000 is three-dimensional: On one level, which is the one highlighted by Palestinian spokespersons, a struggle is being waged for liberation from Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; on the second level, the Palestinians – according to spokesmen for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah militants – are waging a war to eradicate the Zionist state and to restore their “rights” over all of Palestine; on the third level, the Palestinians’ struggle is part of the global struggle being waged by jihadist Islam against the “Western Satan,” with Israel being a vulnerable extension of Western culture in our region.
For jihadist Islam, Israel represents the embodiment of all the values it abhors – democracy and freedom, openness, tolerance and pluralism, individualism and secularism, criticality (including the value of expressing self-criticism, which is absent from their culture), women’s rights, liberalism and progress, sexual freedom – while the proponents of jihad aspire to return to the days in which the sword of Islam ruled from India to the Atlantic Ocean and minorities quaked under its shadow. These jihadists – and the societies that support them and dispatch them – who rejoice in the streets whenever a building is brought crashing down upon hundreds or thousands of occupants or a bus is reduced to a smoldering hulk, deserve the name “barbarians.” It’s unfortunate that many in the West and in the extreme Israeli left prefer to ignore the second and third dimensions and to view the Palestinian struggle solely through the prism of the first dimension, resistance to occupation.

The rest is a very interesting opinion on how Israel must separate from the Palestinians, how “ethnic cleansing” might not be politically correct but it sure does work, and how Israel is in a fight for survival, and that one cannot expect conduct in war to be exemplary.

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Delegating in Davos

Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Marwan Muasher, has come out and said that which has needed to be said for quite some time: instead of constantly delegating responsibility to others, Arab states need to take responsibility to the poison in their midst and oppose suicide bombings.
It’s a good start.

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Spectator Firing

The details are becoming clearer by the day, and more and more troubling when I connect the dots with what happened in the previous semesters, and it converges with a story whose scope by far surpasses this “Columngate” incident. But none of that at the moment.
What I can say is that, unless serious changes will be made in the Spectator, this scandal might get Columbia the most press since De Genova.
Then, hopefully, Pres. Bollinger and the Alumni will no longer remain silent, and Columbia might return to being a fair and open institution.

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