Monthly Archives: November 2007

Ipsos MORI: Muslims are just like other Londoners

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[Hat tip to Don’t Trip Up]

Stephen Farrington writes:

A new Ipsos MORI poll aims to shed light on the ‘real’ views of Muslims living in London. They find, unsurprisingly, that Muslims are just like Londoners:

New data from Ipsos MORI shows the views of London’s Muslims are similar to the views of Londoners on a variety of issues. Muslims and other Londoners share similar concerns and values on issues ranging from democracy to concern about crime, and freedom of speech to pride in the local neighbourhood. For example, around three-quarters of Muslims (74%), and a similar proportion of Londoners (70%), feel proud of their local neighbourhood, and around three quarters of both groups say they identify with London (79% of Muslims and 74% of Londoners).

A majority of Londoners embrace diversity in the capital — 69% of Londoners say that multiculturalism makes the capital a better place to live, and 75% consider it important to hold regular events to celebrate the capital’s diversity. As would perhaps be expected, London’s Muslims embrace this diversity even more openly (84% of Muslims think multiculturalism improves life in the capital, and 87% note the importance of events to celebrate multiculturalism).

The similarities between Muslim Londoners and Londoners are unsurprising. Most Muslims are like anyone else, and most share the views common to most people. Hence, it is futile to try and discuss Islamic extremism by talking simply about the ‘Muslim community’. Most of the Muslim community is just like the rest of Britain, it is the extremist element within it that must be tackled.

Extremists should be treated as individuals, and the reasons why they chose terrorism should be examined. Islam, like any religion, should not be treated as a homogeneous entity. It should be viewed as a multifaceted faith, and one where most members are as British as anyone else.

[continue reading]

Halkin and Burston on the Israel-Palestine Peace Conference

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Two perspectives on the Israel-Palestine Annapolis Peace Conference, one from the left the other from the right, sharing a somewhat similar analysis but arriving at different conclusions. Both authors contend the position adopted by the Palestinian leadership—whether Fatah or Hamas—is perpetual war against the Jewish state. The maximalist Palestinian political parties, their leadership, and the individuals who vote for them, refuse to admit—to accept—a strong Jewish political presence in the region. There is simply no place for peace or reconciliation with people who hold the belief that Israel must be eliminated as a political entity and that Tel Aviv is part of Palestine. As to the different conclusions drawn, for Burston the solution is that of the center-left and Labor Zionists, a newly formed Palestinian which accepts a Jewish state next door. Halkin is not nearly as positive in his assessment, contending the West Bank will be absorbed (occupied?) by Jordan.

Here is Bradley Burston in Haaretz:

My heart goes out to the Palestinians. Not only because their entire world has become one of despair, immobility, bloodshed, disillusionment, crumbling infrastructure, crumbling history, crumbling horizons. There’s also this:

Their leaders are even worse than ours.

Imagine the most pragmatic, the most moderate, the most persuasive, the most reasonable of their representatives, preparing for the first peace summit in recent memory, by attacking the very idea that Israel should be a Jewish state.

Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, declared Monday that the Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Erekat was responding Monday to a series of strong statements by Ehud Olmert the day before, in which Olmert said “We won’t hold negotiations on our existence as a Jewish state, this is a launching point for all negotiations,” adding that “Whoever does not accept this, cannot hold any negotiations with me.”

Erekat’s response, speaking to Israel Radio, was clearer than one might have expected from a seasoned diplomat. So was the flat tone of rejection.

“No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity,” he said.

Never mind the fact that the Saudis, sponsors of a peace initiative which the Palestinians hope someday to parlay into an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, are a theocracy of such sectarian dimension that tourists are forbidden from entering the country with bibles, crucifixes, or items bearing the Star of David.

Never mind the fact that leftists the world over can live with the concept of explicitly Muslim states teaching the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other explicitly anti-Semitic texts, while arguing that the very idea of a Jewish state implies and, in fact, compels racism against non-Jews.

The bottom line is that if Palestinians want a state – an actual state, and not just a fantasy, not just trappings but actual independence – they are going to have to reconcile themselves to the idea of an overtly Jewish neighbor.

The other paradigm, which has certainly gained currency in this decade, is to overpower Israel militarily, clearing away the foreign Zionist weeds so that a glorious, supremely non-Jewish Palestine may arise for the benefit of believing Muslims everywhere.

It’s not going to happen. The world has had its fill of the Palestinians. The Palestinians have had their chance. The Iranians would love to help them, but at this point, even their brother Muslims will not stand for it.

It’s not going to happen. The Palestinians are either going to have a state alongside a Jewish state, or that can choose to have no state at all.

[continue reading]

Hilel Halkin the New York Sun:

There is nothing intrinsically positive about any diplomatic process. Such processes work when potential points of agreement already exist and can be focused on. When they don’t exist, all the processes in the world can’t conjure them up. On the contrary, they simply create frustration, disappointment, and rancor.

And in the case of Israel and the Palestinians, such points of agreement do not exist. This is not, as international diplomacy and public opinion go on wishfully thinking, because the two sides are behaving like stubborn children who need to have some common sense cajoled or spanked into them rather than like rational adults.

It is because each side has perfectly rational interests and ambitions that are not compatible with the rational interests and ambitions of the other side. The only way to achieve an agreement between them, paradoxically, would be for one of them to start behaving irrationally.

What are Israel’s interests and ambitions? They are to emerge from the conflict as a state that is military secure; that has a safe Jewish majority that will be maintainable in the future; and that is not asked to uproot more settlers from their homes than can be politically or economically managed.

Military security means expanding the 1967 borders in key sectors and ensuring that any Palestinian state will be demilitarized. A safe Jewish majority means that no Palestinian refugee families will be readmitted to Israel. A manageable settler policy means that Israel will retain the large “settlement blocs” near and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

And what are the Palestinians’ interests and ambitions? They are to create a state for themselves that, however tiny and unsatisfactory, will in its initial stage be as large and territorially contiguous as possible; that will have half of Jerusalem as its capital; and that can dream of eventually regaining more or all of historic Palestine by pressing irredentist claims as the Arab population of Israel grows and destabilizes Israel’s demographic status quo. A maximally large and territorially contiguous state means near total Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders. A capital in Jerusalem means Israel’s yielding much of that city. An irredentist dream means standing firm on the refugee’s “right of return” while refusing to accept Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state – a definition, among other things, that includes Israel’s right to have an immigration policy that favor Jews over non-Jews.

These interests and ambitions are not mutually compatible. No amount of diplomatic “process” will make them so. Nor is it the case, as the conventional wisdom has it, that the problem in Palestinian-Israeli relations is that both peoples currently have weak governments that makes it impossible for them to compromise. Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon ran stronger governments and did not make peace either. The strength or weakness of a people’s government has nothing to do with its strategic interests.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be exactly a zero-sum game, but neither is it a potentially win-win situation. If one side wins by achieving its goals, the other side will have lost. If neither side achieves its goals, both will have lost. At this point, either’s capacity to compromise is extremely limited.

Like many conflicts in history, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not come to an end by means of a negotiated settlement. A viable Jewish state and a viable Palestinian state west of the Jordan River are not both possible.

The conflict will come to an end because the case for a viable Jewish state is the stronger of the two, the Jewish people having no other country and the Palestinians having Jordan, which will sooner or later re-unite with the 90% of the West Bank that Israel will withdraw from. How and when this will happen is impossible to predict. That it will happen is a near certainty.

[read the entire article]

Dissent: Anti-Semitism and the Left that Doesn’t Learn

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[from Dissent (Fall 2007)]

By Mitchell Cohen

A DETERMINED offensive is underway. Its target is in the Middle East, and it is an old target: the legitimacy of Israel. Hezbollah and Hamas are not the protagonists, the contested terrains are not the Galilee and southern Lebanon or southern Israel and Gaza. The means are not military. The offensive comes from within parts of the liberal and left intelligentsia in the United States and Europe. It has nothing to do with this or that negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians, and it has nothing to do with any particular Israeli policy. After all, this or that Israeli policy may be chastised, rightly or wrongly, without denying the legitimacy of the Jewish state, just as you can criticize an Israeli policy—again, rightly or wrongly—without being an anti-Semite. You can oppose all Israeli settlements in the occupied territories (as I do) and you can also recognize that Benjamin Netanyahu, not just Yasir Arafat, was responsible for undermining the Oslo peace process without being an anti-Semite or anti-Zionist. You don’t have to be an anti-Semite or anti-Zionist to think that some American Jewish organizations pander to American or Israeli right-wingers.

The assault today is another matter. It is shaped largely by political attitudes and arguments that recall the worst of the twentieth-century left. It is time to get beyond them. But let me be clear: I am “left.” I still have no problem when someone describes me with the “s” word—socialist—although I don’t much care if you call me a social democrat, left-liberal, or some other proximate term. My “leftism” comes from a commitment to—and an ethos of—democratic humanism and social egalitarianism.

[continue reading]

I originally intended to not comment on this article but so many friends have emailed it to me and it is posted at more than a few blogs I frequent so I thought I’d add my two cents.

My first comment is where has Professor Cohen been the past six years (or more)? Writing about anti-Semitism on the left is all well and good but to feign surprise or pretend that this is some sort of recent phenomena is more than a little naïve. I’m making a wild assumption, but given his academic reputation I suspect Mr. Cohen is a bit older than I. He may have even experienced the wild and wooly days of the 1960s-1970s New Left firsthand. In any case, he is old enough to know that this stuff–this anti-Semitism–is nothing new. I’d argue it goes all the way back to the founding fathers of socialism: Marx, Proudhon and Bakunin but it certainly was evident in the rhetoric of the radical leftists back in the 1960s and 1970s as well. Unfortunately people who should have known better and spoken up (especially Jews) refused to do so.

Reading an article like this in Dissent in the days, weeks, even months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 would have been most welcome by this blogger. At that time I was shocked by the amount of anti-Semitic vitriol that flooded left-wing websites. In the vast majority of cases the bigots cloaked their hate in the language of anti-Zionism but it was pretty obvious to me: the left, even the libertarian left—my left—held some pretty ugly ideas about Jews and Zionists. It was around this time that I began to seriously reconsider my politics and start my move towards the center.

My second comment concerns the notion that “the left” has been hijacked by nefarious forces and “real leftists” need to reclaim it. I think it is a bit late at this point. Back in my anarchist days we faced the same problem, how to revive a historical legacy that we felt had great relevancy to the present but, at the same time, get people to abandon their notions of anarchism as being equivalent to disorder, chaos and random violence. Anarchists in the United States faced another problem, their ideas and programs were simply not popular with their sons and daughters. This is the case with socialists as well. Most people in the United States do not differentiate democratic socialism from totalitarian communism and it is incredibly difficult to convince most Americans otherwise. The sons and daughters of previous socialist movements (and moments) did not go on to be socialists themselves.

The question is why?

One answer is a shift in class composition. Historically, most anarchists in the United States were of working-class immigrant backgrounds. Paul Avrich’s Anarchist Voices does an excellent job describing these various immigrant anarchist milieus. In the U.S. today, most anarchists come from middle-class backgrounds and are not immigrants. I include left-anarchists in this assessment. In the 19th century, anarchists and anarchism used to be a presence in the organizations, debates, and actions of the working-class. That is not the case today.

Another part of this story is the degree of success immigrants could achieve in the U.S. I once heard Avrich say that the success of the American dream meant the end of anarchism or something along those lines. His basic argument was as the sons and daughters of these anarchists were able to go to college, get good jobs, and achieve success through the capitalist system, anarchism had less appeal to them than it had to their radical parents and grandparents. This was the case with most radical groups in the United States.

How Europe Can Pressure Iran

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[Hat tip to the Henry Jackson Society]

Abstract:

1. Britain finds itself in a unique position to place tremendous pressure on Iran to desist from its nuclear activities due to the central role that the City of London along with New York plays in the international financial system.

2. Realizing the leverage that the U.S. financial markets give Washington, the U.S. Treasury Department has in the last couple years been pressing Iran hard on the financial front.

3. The British government should complement the activities of the U.S. Treasury in actively discouraging financial institutions from conducting business with Iran. This could take the form of a joint US-UK outreach effort that would threaten to cut off from the NY and London financial markets companies that persist in their business dealings with Iran. It would be beneficial to include other European countries in this endeavor to increase the potential for desirable results.

[read the report]

Ancient Buddha Destroyed in Pakistan

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[From Project Syndicate, hat tip to MCD]

By Vishakha Desai

NEW YORK — The world watched in horror when Taliban forces destroyed the monumental Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001. Political and cultural leaders from around the globe condemned the attacks. Offers of help poured in. Everyone asked: will the world be ready next time? Alas, the answer is a resounding “no.”

In northwest Pakistan’s Swat valley armed Islamist militants recently attacked one of the oldest and most important sculptures of Buddhist art. Dating from around the beginning of the Christian era, and carved into a 130-foot-high rock, the seated image of the Buddha was second in importance in South Asia only to the Bamiyan Buddhas.

This, moreover, was the second attack in less than a month. Murtaza Razvi of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper has pointed out that the image that was attacked was not in a remote area. In fact, it was next to the central road that runs through the valley.

Despite repeated requests by Pakistani archeologists to the local authorities to protect the seated Buddha and other sites, especially after the first attack, no action was taken. In fact, militants were able to carry out their work – drilling holes in the rock, filling them with explosives, and detonating them – in broad daylight.

They did this not once, but twice. The first time, the image escaped heavy damage because of the militants’ incompetence. The second time, they were more successful, destroying not only the sculpture’s face, but also its shoulders and feet. As if that were not enough, there are now reports of a third attack.

[continue reading]

Is Ron Paul the Republican Ralph Nader?

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I hear Nader is considering running. Is a Nader-Paul ticket in the works? If Buchanan and Nader were able to work together I see nothing preventing Nader and Paul allying against the evil forces of “corporatism.”

[From the New York Sun]

Ron Paul could be the Ralph Nader of 2008. Only this time, a third-party candidacy could hurt the Republicans, not the Democrats.

For now, Mr. Paul’s campaign is dismissing talk of a run as anything other than a Republican, and the candidate himself is focused on the primaries. “Ron’s committed to running for the Republican nomination or nothing,” a spokesman for Mr. Paul, Jesse Benton, said. Mr. Paul, who ran as a Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988, said the same to the Wall Street Journal last month. Nevertheless, the relative success the Texas congressman is having on the campaign trail has political observers envisioning how a Paul third-party candidacy would shake out.

The possibility of a candidacy by Mr. Paul on the Libertarian ticket began being discussed in earnest after last month’s Republican debate in Michigan, when Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked him if he promised to back the Republican nominee. “Not right now I don’t,” he said, adding, “Not unless they’re willing to end the war and bring our troops home, not unless they’re willing to look at excessive spending.” In an election that pitted, say, Mayor Giuliani against Senator Clinton, at whom the anti-war movement has bristled, Mr. Paul might find a rationale for a candidacy. And given Mr. Paul’s strong fund-raising numbers during the third quarter of 2007, his campaign having garnered $5.2 million and possessing $5.4 million of cash on hand, he has outperformed expectations.

“Would he hurt the Republicans? The answer is yes. Could he hurt them somewhat in the Deep South?” a Democratic strategist, Hank Sheinkopf, said. “Could he do to them what Ralph Nader did to the Democrats in 2000? The answer is yes.”

Mr. Paul’s presence is currently making itself felt on the Internet, where he is raising almost 80% of his money, and on the ground in New Hampshire, where his sign-holding supporters are a frequent sight on the campaign trail. In New Hampshire, Mr. Paul’s campaign has distributed a direct mail piece and produced radio and television ads giving informed Republicans the sense that he may finish as high as third place in the Granite State, which Patrick Buchanan won in 1996 with a somewhat similar, though not identical, angry outsider message.

[continue reading]

John Podhoretz writes on this topic here. He is much kinder to Paul and the Paulistas than I was in previous posts. I disagree with Podhoretz that much of Paul’s support is coming from the loony-left. Instead, the Paulistas are an amalgam of paranoid populists, loony Libertarians, isolationist nativists, and a hodgepodge of conspiracy theorists ranging from anti-Federal Reserve “sound money” types to 9-11 “truthers.” A big tent, for sure. But will it hold together? I suspect not. Especially after his supporters realize how pitiful Paul’s support is in the real world, i.e. off the Internet. However, if the Paulistas somehow convince a sizable chunk of the social conservative movement to support Paul, they could emerge as a force to be reckoned with. Without their support, Paul will likely continue to poll single digits nationally.

What Kind of War Are We Fighting, and Can We Win It?

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This month’s Commentary asks a variety of individuals affiliated with the neoconservative camp the following questions:

1. Do you accept the term “World War IV,” or the idea behind it, as an apt characterization of the West’s battle with Islamic extremism, and do you, like Norman Podhoretz, see Iraq as a crucial early theater in that conflict?

2. Six years after 9/11, how would you assess our progress? What would you like to see happen next?

3. On the specific issue of the spread of democracy—a linchpin of the Bush Doctrine and a point of acute controversy between foreign-policy realists and neoconservatives—do you agree or disagree with Podhoretz that “democratization represents the best and perhaps even the only way to defeat Islamofascism and the terrorism it uses as its main weapon against us”?

4. Turning to the political climate at home, do you think the Bush Doctrine has a chance of surviving the elections of 2008, and if so in what form?

Click on a name to read their response or follow the link above to read the entire symposium:

Fouad Ajami
John R. Bolton
Max Boot
Reuel Marc Gerecht
Victor Davis Hanson
Daniel Henninger
Martin Kramer
William Kristol
Andrew C. McCarthy
David Pryce-Jones
Claudia Rosett
Amir Taheri
Ruth Wedgwood
James Q. Wilson
R. James Woolsey

Fieldtrip to the International Center for Photography

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I took my students to the International Center for Photography in Manhattan this morning to have a look at the Robert Capa exhibition “This is War! Robert Capa at Work.”

With vintage prints, contact sheets, caption sheets, handwritten observations, personal letters and original magazine layouts, the stories are brought to life and give us a look at how Capa worked. The Falling Soldier, 1936; The Battle of Rio Segre, 1938; and Refugees from Barcelona, 1939, trace his reportage of The Spanish Civil War. China, 1938, document his six-month stay during the Sino-Japanese War. D-Day, 1944, and the Liberation of Leipzig, 1945, present his photographs of World War II.

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[American soldier killed by German snipers]

We discussed the Spanish Civil War, including political cleavages in the Republican camp and the internecine rivalries between socialists, anarchists and communists.

Upstairs there are two other exhibitions. One includes some fantastic shots taken by Gerda Taro.

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[Spanish militiawoman by Gerda Taro]

There is also a nice selection of posters and other propaganda.

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Downstairs, in an alcove, one finds the work of Spanish photographer Francesc Torres. Torres documented a dig of a mass grave in Spain in a project titled “Dark is the Room Where we Sleep.”

In 2004, Barcelona-based artist Francesc Torres joined forces with a forensic anthropology team as they uncovered the mass grave. Torres photographed the work of forensics team, as well as the participation of local townspeople who became involved in the project. Torres has created an installation of black-and-white photographs from this documentation that poignantly and forcefully examines the relationships between war, violence, memory, and photography.

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There are photos of the skeletons in the dirt and the artifacts that have not rotted away. One photo focuses on the hands of a dead man, a wedding ring around his boney finger. Other photos displayed the living relatives of the victims, wives, sons, daughters. In the years immediately after Franco’s death, many Spaniards preferred to ignore the painful past in order to move forward. They are slowly beginning to excavate these historical memories and address what happened in the past. As with any civil war, this conflict not only split the country around ideological concerns, it divided cities, towns, villages and families. And these divisions are not relegated to the past. The pope recently beatified close to 500 priests, nuns and monks killed during the conflict (follow the link for a post on this topic by Martin in the Margins).

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While my interest was focused on the Spanish Civil War, my students were visibly more interested in the photos Capa took in China (many of my students are Chinese Americans) while working as part of a crew for the film “The 400 Million.” One the most heartbreaking images is captioned “Young boy killed while trying to protect his chicken and rabbit.” One can’t help but think “why?” when you see this sort of thing.