Monthly Archives: November 2007

Terror Attacks on Indian Courts


I meant to post something about this last week

Courthouse complexes in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were hit by a series of bombings, killing 14. Three explosions in Varanasi killed 11 lawyers. The Ganges river flows through Varanasi and Hindus revere it as one of the holiest cities in India. Two individuals were killed in Faizabad, near the town of Ayodhya, where Hindu nationalists destroyed the 16th century Babri Mosque. The mosque was built on top of a temple to the Hindu deity Ram, believed by devotees to be the avatar’s birthplace. The mosque was torn down with the intention of building a new temple to Ram in its place. This event sparked widespread Hindu-Muslim riots in 1992. Reports in the Indian press speculate that the bombs were intended to trigger similar communal violence. One person was killed in the city of Lucknow

A previously unknown group, the Indian Mujahideen, declared responsibility.

The Hindu: Uttar Pradesh bombings mark new phase of Islamist terror

Investigators believe an e-mail sent minutes after the serial court bombings in Uttar Pradesh began is a first-of-its kind manifesto for Islamist terror cells operating across India.

Issued by an until-now unknown organisation, the Indian Mujahideen, the e-mail was sent from, a purpose-generated address created on November 22, to several national television stations.

Arguing that the court bombings were carried out because the Uttar Pradesh police arrested “two innocent groups and frame[d] them in fake charges” after which “lawyer[s] of these places beaten those innocent group members,” the Indian Mujahideen mail insisted that its members “are not any foreign mujahideen nor even we have any attachment with neighbouring countries agency like ISI, LET, HUJI etc.”

Starting out with an invocation from the Quran calling on believers to fight impiety, the e-mail seeks to legitimise Islamist terrorism in India. Much of its content revolves around Hindu fundamentalist attacks on Muslims. The 1992-93 pogrom in Mumbai and the 2002 carnage in Gujarat, the e-mail states, “forced us to take strong stand against this injustice and all other wounds given by the idol worshipers of India.”

However, the e-mail concludes: “This is not the war between two communities, but this is war for civilisation. We want to empower the society from injustice, corruption etc. which is prevailing in the society nowadays. Only Islam has the power to establish a civilised society and this could be only possible in Islamic rule, which could be achieved by only one path JIHAD [sic.].”

The targeting of lawyers by the Islamists was intentional. Lawyers are increasingly expressing their unwillingness to defend terror suspects. On Friday (Nov. 30), lawyers stayed home from work in a symbolic protest against terrorism and as a gesture of solidarity with those killed and injured.

Indian Express: BJP to make UPA’s ‘soft-on-terror’ policy its poll plank

“The recent terror strikes in Uttar Pradesh have exposed the soft-on-terror policy of the UPA Government,” the party said in a resolution adopted at a meeting of the office-bearers in Delhi this morning.

“The Indian Parliament and symbols of India’s religious and cultural diversity have been attacked in the past. Centres of India’s economic growth have also been attacked. Now judicial centres are under terrorist attacks The UP attacks were symbolic of the terrorists’ ability to strike at will,” the resolution said.

The Wall Street Journal: Sadanand Dhume, India Appeases Radical Islam

Friday’s multiple bomb blasts in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh — which killed 13 people and injured about 80 — ought to give pause to those who see the world’s largest democracy as a linchpin in the war on terror. India’s leaders and diplomats seek to portray the country as a firebreak against radical Islam, or the drive to impose the medieval Arab norms enshrined in Shariah law on 21st century life. In reality, India is ill- equipped to fight this scourge.

Also see: Times of India

Andrew McCarthy: Farce, Burying the Bush Doctrine in Annapolis


[From National Review Online]

The thug Assad regime of Syria will apparently take a couple of days off from murdering Lebanese democrats and enabling the anti-American jihad in Iraq to attend this week’s Annapolis summit … or “conference,” or “meeting.” It’s difficult to say how we should describe Condoleezza Rice’s pie-in-the-sky confab. After all, the main principals — an Israeli prime minister hanging on by a thread and a Palestinian “president” whose only constituency seems to be the U.S. State Department — cannot even agree on what to call it, much less on an agenda.

I’m going with “farce.”

Buried in Annapolis will be the last shards of the Bush Doctrine, the blunt marker the president once put down to signal a do-or-die choice for jihadist nations. Are you with us, he asked, or with the terrorists?

The Assads’ answer has always been plain: They are with the terrorists. Any terrorists. Saddam Hussein, Hamas, Hezbollah and, behind it all, Iran. Shiite or Sunni, national, sub-national, or transnational — it matters not, so long as the terrorizers in question oppose the United States while working toward Israel’s demise.

Seduced by the fantasy of peace-loving Palestinians, the president and his top diplomats have made creation of a sovereign state for these blood-soaked jihadists the bedrock of our Middle East policy — thus undercutting any credibility the Bush Doctrine may have had. Remarkably, the State Department tells the New York Times that its game-plan for the farce is to commit both Israel and the Palestinians “to carry out long-postponed obligations included in the first stage of the 2003 peace plan known as the road map.” On the Palestinian side, the primary obligation was to end terrorism. That’s precisely the same promise the terror master and Palestinian founder Yasser Arafat gave to President Clinton after the first and before the second Intifada.

The promise is never meant and never kept because it cannot be. At the existential core of Palestinian identity is the belief that Israel — the “Zionist entity” — is an illegitimate interloper which must be purged from Muslim land. So ingrained is this conceit that, in reality, the Palestinians are not even attending the farce. The terrorist organization they knowingly and willfully elected to represent them, Hamas, is boycotting Annapolis as a waste of time, a diversion from the jihad.

[Read the article]

Paris on Fire (Again)



According to media reports, two teens on a motorbike smashed into a police car setting off yet another series of riots in the suburbs of Paris. As in 2005, youths crowded the streets throwing firebombs, rocks and other projectiles, the difference this time is the prevalence of firearms. As of this post, 82 police officers have been injured, some with lead shot and even high power assault rifles.

“Things have changed since 2005,” said Joachim Masanet, secretary general of the police wing of the UNSA trade union. “We have crossed a red line. When these kids aim their guns at police officers, they want to kill them. They are no longer afraid to shoot a policeman. We are only on the second day since the accident, and already they are shooting guns at the police.”

Some young men stood by the charred timbers of the town’s police station, laughing and surveying the damage.

Cem, 18, of Turkish origin, declined to give his name because he feared police reprisals. But he and his friend Karim, of Algerian descent, said they both had participated in rioting over the past two days.

“That’s just the beginning,” Cem said. “This is a war. There is no mercy. We want two cops dead.”

Karim added: “The police brought this on themselves. They will regret it.”

In addition to the use of firearms, another difference this time is the political leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2005 he called the rioters “scum,” but has since toned down his rhetoric. Will Sarkozy be willing to use force against the rioters? And, if so, to what extent?

When I read about these riots in Paris my first thought is “that sort of thing would never happen in the United States. The public (let alone the police) wouldn’t stand for it.” While we certainly have had our share of riots in the United States, and some not that long ago, we generally support a robust response when criminals deliberately target police with firearms.

Bernard Lewis: On the Jewish Question


[Via WSJ. Hat tip to the Contentious Centrist.]

On the Jewish Question

Bernard Lewis

Herewith some thoughts about tomorrow’s Annapolis peace conference, and the larger problem of how to approach the Israel-Palestine conflict. The first question (one might think it is obvious but apparently not) is, “What is the conflict about?” There are basically two possibilities: that it is about the size of Israel, or about its existence.

If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

[continue reading]

CAMERA Conference: Israel’s Jewish Defamers



The New York Sun‘s Alex Kirsch describes a conference in Manhattan held by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (Camera). The conference, “Israel’s Jewish Defamers,” included Cynthia Ozick on Michael Lerner, Kenneth Levin critiquing post-Zionism and Alex Safian discussing recent articles in the New York Review of Books and London Review of Books.

Here is a long excerpt:

Since September 11, 2001, the British Left, and those American intellectuals who look to it for validation, have developed a worldview in which the existence of Israel is the major obstacle preventing the return of the golden age. Without Israel, the reasoning goes, there would be no Al Qaeda terrorists in London and Madrid, no war in Iraq, no nuclear crisis in Iran. Clare Short, a former member of the British cabinet, recently suggested that because the Israel–Palestine conflict “undermines the international community’s reaction to global warming,” Israel may well be ultimately responsible for “the end of the human race.”

The irrationality of such thinking, and its clandestine debt to old tropes of Christian anti-Semitism, are obvious. Why, then, should Jewish anti-Zionists feel drawn to it? The answer, I think, is that the world of Mr. Judt’s imagination — a world “where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed” — is a dream, not just in the sense that it does not exist, but in the sense that it is something for which we rightfully yearn. A world where nations are not enemies, and where national states are no longer necessary to protect us from one another, is a genuinely liberal aspiration. It is, indeed, originally a Jewish aspiration, voiced by the prophet Isaiah: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Where Jewish anti-Zionists go wrong is not in desiring such a world, but in believing that it exists — or that it could come into being if Israel ceased to be a Jewish state. In fact, Zionism, like other national liberation movements that emerged in the 19th century, represents the adaptation of that humanitarian dream to the reality of history as we know it. Only in a Jewish nation, the Zionists believed, could Jews be assured of enjoying the human rights to which they were entitled. As Leo Pinsker wrote in 1882, in the pioneering Zionist work “Auto-Emancipation”: “The human race, and we as well, have scarcely traversed the first stage of the practice of perfect humanitarianism — if that goal is ever to be reached. Therefore we must abandon the delusive idea that we are fulfilling by our dispersion a Providential mission….”

The idea that Pinsker already recognized as delusive, however, still has the power to seduce. The notion that the Jews do not need a state because they have a universal mission — that it is possible to be a light unto the nations without being a nation — is at the heart of much contemporary Jewish anti-Zionism.

[read the entire article]

The “New McCarthyism”


As with the Dissent article below, I did not intend on commenting on this piece from The Nation making the rounds. Mr. Cohler-Esses conjures up the by now familiar trope, a vast right-wing conspiracy is threatening to squash intellectual inquiry and political dissent in the United States, especially regarding Israel:

This is the modus operandi of the New McCarthyism. It targets a new enemy for our era: Muslims, Arabs and others in the Middle East field who are identified as stepping over an unstated line in criticizing Israel, as radical Islamists, as just plain radical or as in some way sympathetic to terrorists.

Cohler-Esses’s claim is preposterous. Supporters of Israel—including liberal or centrist supporters like myself—have been saying for quite some time that Israel, like any state, is subject to critique. What matters is the substance. Let’s be clear, anti-Zionist critics of Israel want to see the Jewish state eliminated, period. What this means for Jews depends on who you ask. For the militants of Hamas it means killing Jews. If you are a useful idiot like Tony Judt it means a single state where Jews and Palestinians will “live in a peace”. Most Jews in Israel recognize Judt’s plan for what it is, national suicide.

Articles concerning the “New McCarthyism” share one commonality, the threat from Islamist terrorism is either downplayed or portrayed as an irrational fear of “the other.” To Cohler-Esses’s credit, he falls in the first category. However, as in the past, The Nation seems unable or unwilling to admit the level of ideological (and at times material) support provided by intellectual elites to our military and political enemies. This was true during the Cold War as well. For example examine The Nation’s coverage of the Alger Hiss case and its aftermath.

Whenever I discuss the Cold War period and McCarthyism—whether in history seminars or political science courses—I tell my students that, on the one hand, McCarthy clearly ruined the lives of those who were not communists. This was absolutely wrong, criminal. At the same time, there were Soviet spies in the federal government, mainstream media and the trade unions. These were not domestic reformers but individuals in the service of a foreign totalitarian government. This was absolutely criminal as well. Many individuals on the hard right and hard left may not want to admit it, but one fact does not discount the other.

Anyone who has spent time on college campuses, let alone actually studying higher education in the United States, knows that the academy is among the remaining sectors of society where a liberal bias predominates (SeeSocial Scientists and their Politics: the Policy Views of Social Scientists,” Critical Review (2005) Vol. 17, Nos. 3-4). If Cohler-Esses is at all concerned with the stifling of debate, rather than simply reaffirming ideological dogma, he would seriously examine how Israel is presented on college campuses today. He would take the time to see who is being silenced and who is welcomed to speak. Such an effort to undermine free speech is indeed underway in the academy, only the instigators are from the left, rather than the right.


[Flyer distributed by General Union of Palestinian Students at San Francisco State University]

Happy Thanksgiving aka Turkey Day


A lot of people dislike Thanksgiving. Some are upset that the holiday has lost its religious orientation, others find the holiday distasteful for, in their minds, celebrating genocide, others dislike turkey. But me, I always enjoyed Thanksgiving, especially as a child. It’s basically an excuse to get together with family and eat till you pass out. As I grew older and left home for college I always knew that I would return home for Thanksgiving.

When I left the west coast and got married, I started to prepare Thanksgiving meals in our new home. I always knew it was a lot of work but it takes a good portion of the day to bake pumpkin pie, cook a turkey, prepare the dressing, and the rest of the side dishes. My wife assists but she’s vegetarian so the turkey, gravy, etc. are my responsibility. We always invite over friends who are unable to make it home to be with family and that sort of thing, it’s a tradition in my family, my mom calls them “strays.” Last year we had close to ten strays, this year only one so it was nice and easy and plenty of leftovers. Nothing like a turkey sandwich the next day.

To all U.S. readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

Studying Middle East Studies


[From The Columbia Current. Hat tip to Engage]

Editors’ Introduction

Before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia dominated news on and off campus, another matter of Middle East politics and academic freedom was causing controversy: the tenure status of Nadia Abu El-Haj. A member of the anthropology department at Barnard College, El-Haj was recently granted tenure by a committee of Columbia professors and administrators.

The committee’s decision was based largely on her book, Facts on the Ground: Archeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, which bills itself as “the first critical account of Israeli archaeological practice while tracing the dynamic relationships among science, colonization, nation-state building, and territorial expansion.” Though the book received some praising reviews and an award from the Middle East Studies Association, it has also drawn sharp criticism regarding its accuracy, methodology, and scholarship.

The criticism led some University alumni and professors to mount a public campaign against granting tenure to El-Haj. Of course, the tenure decision was made internally—as it should have been. But the alumni campaign raised interesting questions about the extent to which the academic process should be transparent and public. El-Haj’s case also raises questions about the boundaries between academic work and political activism; the scholarly discourse regarding Israel and the Middle East; and the role of postmodernism and post-colonialism in academic and political thinking.

To give our readers some context on these matters, The Current has invited three outside scholars to contribute essays which we hope will educate, stimulate, and provoke. The Current is not an appropriate arbiter of Professor El-Haj’s tenure merits, but it is important to examine her case and its relation to broader academic trends.

David Rosen: Searching for “Facts” on the Ground

James R. Russel: Ideology over Integrity in Academe

Jonathan Rosenbaum: Is truth Attainable?