Sunday, 11 October 2009

Goldstone: Curioser and Curioser

Goldstone: Curioser and Curioser

Richard Goldstone has given an interview to The Forward, in which he tries to back a bit away from what he has done:

Tellingly, in an interview with the Forward on October 2, Goldstone himself
acknowledged the tentative nature of his findings.
“Ours wasn’t an investigation, it was a fact-finding mission,” he said, sitting in his Midtown Manhattan office at Fordham University Law School, where he is currently
visiting faculty. “We made that clear.”
Goldstone defended the report’s reliance on eyewitness accounts, noting his mission had cross-checked those accounts against each other and sought corroboration from photos, satellite photos, contemporaneous reports, forensic evidence and the mission’s own inspections of the sites in question.
For all that gathered information, though, he said, “We had to do the best we could with the material we had. If this was a court of law, there would have been nothing proven.”
Goldstone emphasized that his conclusion that war crimes had been committed was always intended as conditional. He still hopes that independent investigations carried out by Israel and the Palestinians will use the allegations as, he said, “a useful road map.”

Sounds rather strange to me, the idea that actually, all the 575 page report is, is a useful roadmap for Israeli and Palestinian investigators to follow, as they try to figure out what it actually is they need to investigate. It's strange, first, because the report doesn't read like that; it's tone is far more strident than a diffident set of recommendations. Second, it wasn't presented in such a way, by Goldstone himself, on any of the many occasions where he has presented it or defended it. Nor is it being read that way, obviously, by anyone, whether media, diplomats or legal organizations and pundits.

It's also a strange notion indeed, that either side needs the Goldstone commission to know where it needs to look in its investiagtions - the ones Israel is having, and the ones the Palestinians aren't and won't.

The strangest part of the interview, to my mind, was this

Goldstone maintains that the burden is now on Israel to counter these
findings through its own probe.
“If I was advising Israel, I would say have open investigations,” he told the Forward. “In that way, you can put an end to this. It’s in the interest of all the people of Israel that if any of our allegations are established and if they’re criminal, there should be prosecutions. And if they’re false, that should be established. And I wouldn’t consider it in any way embarrassing if many of the allegations turn out to be disproved.”

Does the man really believe that after his report, there is any kind of Israeli investiagtion at all, that could ever balance the impact of his report? Say an Israeli investigationwas to find that his report was shot full of non-truths, inaccuracies, biased statements, and simply plain fibs: would anyone ever say to themselves: "Aha. Looks like this Goldstone group was wrong, it's a good thing the Israelis set the record right"?

I'm beginnning to wonder if perhaps Goldstone isn't simply a babe in the woods. Though even if he is, he has cause an uncommonly large amount of damage for an innocent abroad.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

The Numbers of the Jews

The Numbers of the Jews

There's a fellow in Israel who was born a Muslim Arab in Hebron, and eventually crossed the lines to become an orthodox and very right-wing Jew. There's another one whose great grandfather founded the Red Army and called himself Trotsky, and the descendant is also a far-right hothead (he used to live in Hebron, but I've lost track of him).

People have free wills, and this can lead them to some of the most peculiar places, irrespective of where they started.

But most often, it doesn't. Statistically most people more or less end up being what you'd have thought. When they don't, it's often because history intervened. The Postwar Germans don't resemble the society of their parents and grandparents; the fact so many of them do resemble each other in not resembling their gradparents, is no coincidence. Most people don't deviate all that much.

The Forward has published another rumination on the declining number of American Jews. The thesis: the Orthodox are multiplying, all the rest aren't, not at all. Surprise!

I've taken a wee bit of flak by some commenters as I've touched upon this topic in recent weeks. So here's an attempt to clarify.

Many Christian denominations have it pretty simple in the identity department. If you believe the right things, you're in; if not, you're probably out. Belonging to the right community - as in, going to the right church - is also helpful.

It's different these days with Jews. The belief part of it was never particularly important; the belonging was simple when everybody did it but then got more complicated. Roughly speaking, I'd say there are four ways to tell who's a Jew.
1. By what the antisemites say.
2. The Halachic way (traditional Jewish law). If your mother is Jewish, so are you. Interestingly, this works for children, perhaps for maternal grandchildren, but not for great grandchildren. If your mother and grandmother were not Jewish enough to marry Jewish men, the rabbis probably won't easily recognize you, either.
3. The religious way. This means living a life in which Jewish ritual plays an important and consistent role. I'm being careful, please note, and not saying it has to be orthodox ritual, though any empiric measure I can think of would indicate that orthodox ritual has greater staying power than the other forms, at least statistically. But if your form of non-orthodox ritual keeps you firmly in the fold, most other Jews won't doubt you (the Orthodox, however, will want to be certain your mother was Jewish before they marry you).
4. The cultural way. This is where I've been censured a bit, so I'll be clear about what this means. Being Jewish has always been a significant componant of an individual Jew's identity. For the past 200 years or so, it has been possible - at least theoritically - for being Jewish to be central even while not being religious. Or at any rate, it has repeatedly been tried.

The anecdotal evidence in the column cited above is yet another illustration of the probability that the cultural way works for a generation or two, but not much longer. Jews lucky enough to live in lands where the antisemites don't care (because they're gone, or because they fixiate on Israelis, not local Jews), who see no problem with marrying non-Jews, and who aren't religious, won't have Jewish grandchildren. Except in Israel.

Israel is the one place where being culturally Jewish may be statistically feasable. The language spoken by the Israelis is the Jewish language, the public holidays are the Jewish holidays, and the war with the neighbors has significant elements of rejection of things Jewish, so it fits the first catagory. Not to mention that most marriages will be between Jews, obviously.

So yes, I'm saying clearly what some of you have taken exception to: if you want to stay Jewish abroad your best bet is to be orthodox. If you don't want to think about being Jewish overmuchly while remaining strongly Jewish, you need to be in Israel.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

Global Warming and Rational Discourse

Global Warming and Rational Discourse

The BBC (the BBC!) has an article titled "What Happened to Global Warming".

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998. But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.
So what on Earth is going on?

The answer is that no-one really knows what's going on, as the article admits. Some say this, others say that, and many of them aren't troubled by any doubts. Which is about what you'd expect when dealing with complex matters such as predicting the course of human history or economic trends, next week's weather or the winner of a horse race, the box office success of a movie or the destiny of the globe. Forecasting has always been tricky, expecially forecasting the future, as they say.

Which doesn't mean one shouldn't try, nor that there's no possible benefit in trying. Yet a modicum of modesty usually won't hurt, either. Even the things we're really convinced of, really really convinced, either will or won't prove true; most likely, something quite unforseen will happen.

Before you lambast me for being a reactionary Neanderthal, allow me to repeat what I've said on this matter in the past. Pouring chemicals into the atmosphere is a bad idea for what it does, even if it isn't cooking the poor polar bears. Doing something about it should be by inventing better ways, not wagging fingers. If it's cheaper and more convenient not to pollute, no-one will.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

Powder Keg With Lid Firmly Shut?

Powder Keg With Lid Firmly Shut?

As recently as Friday, October 9th, 2009, the expectation at Haaretz was that we were on the brink of a significant conflagration. This was accompanied bythe usual admonitions that unless we made peace immediately, or at least stopped all settlement activity, disbanded some outposts, and various other such actions, things would go from dire to more dire.

That was then. On Friday the mass demonstrations we'd been warned about didn't happen, and whatever violence there was was mostly defused. As Avi Issacharoff reports

The protests by Palestinians on Friday were not enough even to appear to be
pathetic copies of the demonstrations during the first days of the two
intifadas, in December 1987 and late September 2000. The extraordinary
incitement by the Islamic Movement's northern branch, Hamas, various Muslim
leaders throughout the Arab world and Al Jazeera failed to rally the masses.
They had stressed the need to "defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque" against the Jews. The
clashes with Israeli security forces that supposedly could have spread to the
rest of the territories began, as expected, in the areas around Jerusalem. But
sound management of the security forces' response and complete apathy on the
part of the Palestinian public brought an end to the demonstrations. Despite
calls to engulf the area in flames, there were hardly any injuries and no ripple
effect throughout the West Bank.

Being smug is always a bad idea. The beneficial calm we've been enjoying this summer - Israelis, West Bankers, and even Gazans, really could explode before tomorrow morning, or next Wednesday at 4:12pm. It isn't Norway, this part of the world. But for the moment, more good things are happening than bad ones, and we should take note, be thankful, and seek to continue doing the things that enabled this lull.

Or at least, recongnize what they were and are.
Originally posted by Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations

RubinReports: And speaking of Nobel prizes--you're not going to believe this

And speaking of Nobel prizes--you're not going to believe this

Tom Gross is reporting that the left-wing Guardian in the UK, still the newspaper of choice for British intellectuals, KGB-style, published as a sidebar to Barack Obama winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, The what they claimed was “every peace prize winner ever.” BUT they took off the list all three Israelis who have won the peace prize: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

Following outrage in Britain, mainly in more conservative media, the Guardian put in these names, without ever addressing what it had--obviously deliberately--done.

Leaving aside the obvious aspects here of anti-Israel bias, what is both shocking and revealing is the attitude of media institutions like the Guardian (you can compile your own list) that it is acceptable to distort the news consciously because of one's own political views.

A colleague of mine who visited the Guardian office described the atmosphere there as "more like a campus radical group than a serious daily newspaper." When I tell younger people that it wasn't so long ago that journalists took professional standards seriously and honestly tried--and if they didn't succeed they came far closer to it than today--to be fair and balanced.

Yet this Guardian syndrome also applies to other institutions, like the UN and its recent Goldstone report, and large elements in academia.

Many years ago, I wrote a scholarly article around the question: Did Communist professors in the United States indoctrinate their classes in the 1930s and 1940s. After copious research, I could hardly find a single such case. Perhaps they were afraid of losing their jobs, but they also truly believed in professional ethics that forbade such behavior.

One would think that somebody would be fired at the Guardian for such behavior for one of two reasons: either the editors are genuinely and sincerely embarrassed or they fear the destruction of their reputation due to the outrage of their readers as well as the censure of their colleagues elsewhere.

What is truly disturbing is not that they are indifferent to the first consideration but rather that they know they need not worry about the second one.

A veteran American journalist, genuinely puzzled, just asked me how I explain this kind of thing. My answer is this:

First there is their attitude: News is the servant of their ideology. They have a right to lie or change the facts or report selectively if it furthers their goals or fits their ideology. Since they think their cause is so just and good, they can justify such behavior. But the scientific method, pragmatism, and Enlightenment values--on which Western civilization is based--show that one's search for truth should be paramount, not bending everything to serve a Truth one claims to have already.

Second is their ideology which is uniformly radical left--not liberal. But of course if they were responsible on the first point the second would matter far less.

Third, they know they can get away with it, that there is no professional body that will denounce them, colleagues will not criticize them too much (though to be fair it should be pointed out that some were horrified by such blatant misbehavior), and their own readership--conditioned by such methods or agreeing with their viewpooint--will shout, "Shame!" and cancel their subscriptions.

Finally, Israel is only the tip of the problem. They know they will be cheered for endlessly bashing Israel but they've been doing the same thing with Anti-Americanism (at least to January 20 last) and on many other issues. Sometimes the difference is that supporters of Israel will stand up and complain energetically where other groups that are bashed lack organization, are indifferent, or are weaker.

RubinReports: And speaking of Nobel prizes--you're not going to believe this

RubinReports: As Obama Advisor Courts Radical Islamists by Agreeing with Them; Obama Administration Cuts Off Funds to Human Rights’ Monitoring Group

As Obama Advisor Courts Radical Islamists by Agreeing with Them; Obama Administration Cuts Off Funds to Human Rights’ Monitoring Group

By Barry Rubin

“It has been reliably reported that Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani, a 37-year-old Iranian, was sentenced to death on Monday.” There are three things that make this sentence of great significance.

First, Zamani is the first Iranian sentenced to death by the regime for demonstrating against the Islamist government’s stealing of the June 12 election. There are, however, a lot more people still to be tried, probably after being tortured. Zamani was charged with waging war against God, insulting what is holy, propaganda activity against the Islamic regime, actions against national security and illegally exiting Iran.

Zamani’s testimony is going to be used against a lot of those currently held prisoner because, probably after being tortured himself, he made wild claims in court about his being an agent of the shah who had been groomed by U.S and Israeli intelligence to sow confusion.

This is also important because at the moment the United States is engaging Iran that regime is stirring up hysteria about American subversive plots on which all internal opposition is blamed. Among many other things the Iranian government is doing, this is not the behavior of rulers who are moving toward making a deal with the United States and its allies.

Second, how do I know about this? Because the death sentence was publicized by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), located in New Haven, Connecticut. Now, however, the U.S. State Department has cut off funding for this center. Why? Because the Obama Administration is engaging Iran, not viewing it as an enemy or even as a repressive, aggressive dictatorship.

Third, the U.S. government has not seriously protested and certainly not taken any action regarding the trials, the election-stealing, the appointment of a wanted terrorist as minister of defense, the promotion of a key man in hiding Iran’s nuclear program to head of the Basij, the concealment of a huge nuclear enrichment facility, and dozens of other actions of the Iranian regime.

The reason is the Obama Administration’s philosophy, which misunderstands the nature of international affairs. It believes that you can either engage or put on pressure, not both. Yes, I know that there are meetings going on behind the scenes and constant reassurance from the administration that it is working on sanctions. But this is so low-key and deliberately designed not to scare Iran as to be ineffective for anything except persuading those dissatisfied with the policy to be patient.

So here’s the combination of what we see: defunding those who monitor human rights in Iran, ignoring the regime’s extreme repression, and engaging it in a way that for all practical purposes can be called uncritically. (Yes, I know that there are some State Department statements at press conferences expressing formal concern but this is the minimum the administration can get away with to assuage domestic critics.)

Meanwhile, a small event virtually ignored in the United States shows how what once would have become a major scandal is now brushed aside.

The Egyptian-born Dina Mogahed, a White House advisor on the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, appeared on a television show in Britain to praise Islamic Sharia law. She said the Western view of Sharia is "oversimplified" and, "The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with Sharia compliance.”

The sophistication of her thought can be shown by the fact that Mogahed contradicted her own statement. According to the Daily Telegraph, she:

“Admitted that even many Muslims associated Sharia with `maximum criminal punishments’ and `laws that... to many people seem unequal to women,’ but added: `Part of the reason that there is this perception of Sharia is because Sharia is not well understood and Islam as a faith is not well understood.’"

In other words, most Muslims also misunderstand Islam, too.

The equally big problem is that she was appearing on a London-based television program of the Hizb ut Tahrir party, a revolutionary group that is viciously antisemitic and seeks to overthrow every moderate regime in Muslim-majority countries in order to create a caliphate ruling under Sharia law.

A Sharia law, I might add, that Mogahed either thinks they either do or don’t understand properly. If she thinks they misunderstand it, however, she certainly didn’t say so on the program.

In a recent previous program, members of the group attacked all existing Western law as merely “man-made,” condemned the Western system as a “lethal cocktail of liberty and capitalism,” and said women (presumably including Mogahed) should not be permitted to hold any important jobs in government.

This is standard Islamist ideology, but why is a White House advisor validating it by her appearance, failing to contradict such ideas, and in some ways even agreeing with the same basic approach?

Presumably, this is what nowadays passes for moderate Muslims.

(Oh by the way, at almost the exact moment the show with Mogahed was being made, Hizb ut Tahrir was leading violent riots in east Jerusalem over a false claim that Jews were assaulting holy places on the Temple Mount.)

During the broadcast, she described her White House role as "to convey... to the President and other public officials what it is Muslims want."

The problem here is that--based on her interview and statements elsewhere--she apparently thinks that most Muslims want Sharia law to apply at least over themselves in the United States. That's pretty shocking.

Clearly, the problem is that in defining “Muslims” she is not backing those few who are courageously advocating a moderate, reformed Islam but those who hold radical Islamist views. She might mean that most Muslims don't correctly understand their own religion because, for example, they believe that any Muslim who wants to change religions should be killed. But Mogahed is certainly not campaigning against these interpretations.

Under any previous criteria, Mogahed should resign right now. But she won’t and no one will ask her to do so.
Finally, it is always important to have a sense of what passes for accurate information in the Arabic-speaking world and the level of rationality on which its elites operate. In an interview on al-Jazira television, October 6, Fadil al-Janabi, former head of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, was interviewed from his safe haven in Damascus.

Might not Western governments like the chance to question Janabi on what he knows about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program? Well, they can’t, you see, because he is being protected by the Syrian dictatorship.

Might not his extradition or availability for interview be a condition for engagement and other benefits given to Syria?

Alas, we live in an era in which democratic countries are just supposed to make concessions to radical terrorist-sponsoring dictatorships. (When I read that sentence I said to myself: Surely that should be toned down and is too polemical. But on consideration it seems completely accurate.)

There is a story, still unconfirmed, that the European Union is about to sign a very beneficial economic deal with Syria without any agreement on the part of Damascus regarding human rights, the sponsorship of terrorism, or anything else in that regard.

Janabi repeated several times his contention that the United States and Israel murdered 1,500 Iraqi scientists. The interviewer noted in passing that this seemed “a rather large number,” but Janabi responded it was an underestimate.

Being challenged to deal with facts seriously, confusing ideology with reality, and simply making up whoppers is all too common in the Arabic-speaking world, as no one knows better than frustrated Arab liberals. One reason for this is that the region lacks the strong Enlightenment heritage and institutions that are supposed to rein in such craziness—free newspapers, open-minded universities, for example—that exist (used to exist?) in the West.

Thus, when the UN Goldstone Commission goes to Gaza and interviews Hamas officials and Gazans living under their rule (either supporting the regime or intimidated by it), all sorts of lies about Israel’s behavior during the Gaza war is made up. The UN Commission then collates it, prints it up, and the next thing you know Libya and other such regimes are posing as champions of human rights setting the international agenda.

Meanwhile, the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center loses its U.S. government funding. Guess we’ll have to depend for our information about what’s going on in the Middle East on Libya, Dina Mogahed, Hamas, and Hizb ut Tahrir.

RubinReports: As Obama Advisor Courts Radical Islamists by Agreeing with Them; Obama Administration Cuts Off Funds to Human Rights’ Monitoring Group

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video

Israel Matzav: Overnight music video






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