Monthly Archives: August 2005

Reflections of a Disengager

Michael Oren, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, was among the soldiers carrying out the disengagement these past weeks. He recounts:

In a few hours, I would leave my historian’s job and report for reserve service as a major in the army spokesman’s office. My feelings were, at best, ambivalent. I wanted to end Israel’s occupation of Gaza’s 1.4 million Palestinians and preserve Israel’s Jewish majority, but feared abetting the terrorists’ claim that Israel had fled under fire. I wanted the state to have borders that all Israelis could defend, but balked at returning to the indefensible pre-1967 borders. I honored my duty as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, but wondered whether I could drag other Israelis from their homes or, if they shot at me, shoot back.

Read the whole thing.


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Duty Free Hype

While this webspace is usually devoted to issues of what I would like to think deserve more, eh, importance, I felt it my moral obligation to warn those who plan on flying out of Israel: don’t believe the duty free hype. Instead of purchasing a Hebrew-letter keyboard outside the duty-free area, I was told by the salesman to buy inside at duty-free–but when I got in, I found the prices to be, well, more expensive. So consider yourselves warned. That will be the end of this public service announcement.
Other than that, the airport is amazing. Free wireless. So what if it took four years longer to complete than planned.

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I’m traveling now, looking at the rubix cube of Israel from as many angles as I can before I have to return to New York. I should be back to regular posting soon enough.
Until then, enjoy Marty Peretz’s head on attack on the New York Times coverage of the disengagement. I agree with (almost) every word.

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I have not been able to write an entry on the disengagement until now because the emotions are so fresh. My support for the disengagement has not waned–I still believe it is the necessary move, a proper and just one. It is the moral thing to do, considering the nearly half-century the Gazans have been occupied by one power or another. And yet it is very hard for me to wave the flag of disengagement while people are being dragged out of their homes, and while many in the world, such as the New York Times, do not have the dignity to lay down their ideological gauntlet and respect the pain of Israel’s decision. Such triumphalist behavior disgusts me, and should disgust anyone who values the fragility of human life.
The settlers are right in some respects: this really is a transfer. The argument is made by some that the settlers are living “illegally” and therefore their expulsion is just, but such simplistic argumentation does not take into account the history and reality of the region (Jews legally own the deeds to land in Jordan and Syria, but are bared from claiming it since selling land to Jews is punishable by death in those countries and the Palestinian Authority too; On the other hand, many Arab villages in Israel expand illegally, sometimes exponentially–and while there certainly are reasons for this, including the hardships encountered by both Arab and Jew to build in Israel, it still is technically illegal). Taking these into account, Jews should be allowed to stay on their land in Palestine just like Arabs are expected to be allowed to stay on their land in Israel. Instead, Palestine will be Judenrein.
But is this a defeat of the Zionist dream? I don’t think so. Zionism is an ideology that principally re-defines what it means to be a Jew. Historically, Zionism and the creation of Israel is on par in importance with the founding of Rabbinic Judaism and the creation of a stable Jewish diaspora presence. In the later case, Jews went from Judeans (hence the name Jew), living in a certain place according to certain codes of behavior, to Jews, living according to rabbinically rulings abstracted from those same territory-based codes. Essentially, this was a move from territory to Torah.
Zionism came to reverse this shift. And, just like rabbinic Judaism adapted the ideas from the past, Zionism too includes within it schools of thought that take more or less from Judaism and Jewish tradition.
In this regards, leaving Gaza is only another factor contributing to the formation and consolidation of this new phase in Jewish consciousness. I find hope in the trend among some of the national religious camp to re-engage with the rest of Israeli society, and hope secular Jews develop initiatives of their own. This is not a battle between Jews and Israelis–it is a first step towards a new time of Jewish identity. And, though I am pained to the depths of my soul by the pain and loss experienced by the “disengaged” former residence of the Gaza Strip, I believe good will come of it.
This is also the beginning of the most serious test the Palestinians have ever faced. It will be the first time they will ever truly be able to call themselves a national people–never before was there an independent territory called Palestine. Never before was there the chance for the Palestinians to really run a State. I agree with Zian Asali that “For the transition to succeed, it will be necessary to give Palestinians grounds to feel that the Gaza disengagement is the beginning of a process that will lead to independence and statehood.” What they do with it will be up to them, just like what the Jews will do with Israel will be up to us.

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Hey Mr. Tarbuka Man, Play a Song for Me…

Who said rock’n’roll lost its political flavor? One of the hottest music videos in the Arab-speaking world is “Oh, Mr. Arab” (scroll down on the link to #789), a track that, among other things, blames the Jews for 9/11. Transcript here.
Just to be clear, convincing the Arab world that the Jews carried out 9/11 isn’t only the calling of rock stars and demagogues. Professors are into it too.

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Truth? Who needs truth anyway…

An interesting book review in the WSJ, Truth Has Nothing to Do With It, discusses the environment of theory in the American academy.
Paragraph that spoke to me most:

If challenged, theorists often vilify their opponents as right-wingers or worse. Kwame Anthony Appiah observes that when Susan Gubar, a leading academic feminist, raised questions about the state of feminist theory she “found herself condemned, astonishingly, as a troglodyte, perhaps even a racist.” Ironically, Theory may harm the very politics it purports to defend. Noam Chomsky finds it “remarkable” that leftist intellectuals, with their attacks on rationality, “should seek to deprive oppressed people not only of the joys of understanding and insight, but also of tools of Enlightenment.” Meera Nanda laments that when postcolonialists repudiate the “objectivity” and “universalism” of science, they give “aid and comfort to Hindu chauvinists who display many symptoms of fascism.”

When there is no truth, there is only politics, and anyone who has the wrong politics is wrong, period. Hopefully, truth will prevail.
UPDATE: Ameinu, the new progressive Zionist alliance, has a great article by Jeffry V. Mallow on the results of this age of deconstruction. He writes:

There are no facts. This is the mantra of radical deconstructivism. All knowledge is relative, temporary, subjective, and ultimately political. No one has a greater claim to truth than anyone else, certainly not by virtue of birth or class, but not even by education and training. So, for example, science is no more valid a “narrative” than astrology, because science is the product of white male Europeans, and therefore its methods and conclusions are dependent on its practitioners.
This is a very brief summary of what is known in academia as the Culture Wars. But the mind set has also spread into the general society. Facts have been relegated to a lower status than theory. That is of course not entirely new. Totalitarian ideologies have always chosen theory over actual data (and murdered the data that didn’t fit). The transcripts of Stalin’s purge trials of the late 30’s explicitly dismiss the question of factual guilt or innocence as a bourgeois construction. Holocaust revisionism is another prime example of a counterfactual theory.

The last sentence of the article is key: “When theory trumps facts, deconstruction can be dangerous to your health.”

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Arabs Need to Save Sudan

The Daily Star calls on Arab governments to save Sudan:

…as African countries and the United Nations have been offering help to Sudan while it is struggles to regain stability, the Arab world has done very little.

There are too many tragedies around us in the Middle East and North Africa to allow the volatile situation in Sudan to degenerate into another regional disaster. And a little Arab work could go a long way in ensuring that a lasting peace is achieved in Sudan.

It would be nice if they stopped the genocide too.

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