Monthly Archives: March 2008

Totalitarian Struggle or Individual Freedom


[I enjoy “Don’t Trip Up” and am cross-posting something here for your reading enjoyment.]

Totalitarian Struggle or Individual Freedom

By Stephen Farrington

Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Lebanon, writes in reason about the infatuation some on the left have with Hezbollah. He asks whether the supporters of Hezbollah are truly aware of what they are supporting, and whether the likes of Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein can really be described as left-wing:

But there was more here than just manipulation. The Mughniyeh affair highlights a deeper problem long obvious to those who follow Hezbollah: The party, though it is religious, autocratic, and armed to the teeth, often elicits approval from secular, liberal Westerners who otherwise share nothing of its values. This reaction, in its more extreme forms, is reflected in the way many on the far left have embraced Hezbollah’s militancy, but also that of other Islamist groups like Hamas or Islamic Jihad—thoroughly undermining their ideological principles in the process.

The primary emotion driving together the far-left and militant Islamists, but also frequently prompting secular liberals to applaud armed Islamic groups as well, is hostility toward the United States, toward Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, and, more broadly, toward what is seen as Western-dominated, capitalist-driven globalization…

This behavior comes full circle especially for the revolutionary fringe on the left, which seems invariably to find its way back to violence. In the same way that Finkelstein can compare Hezbollah admiringly to the Soviet Red Army and the communist resistance during World War II (“it was brutal, it was ruthless”), he sees in resistance a quasi-religious act that brooks no challenge, even from its likely victims. What is so odd in Finkelstein and those like him is that the universalism and humanism at the heart of the left’s view of itself has evaporated, to be replaced by categorical imperatives usually associated with the extreme right: blood; honor; solidarity; and the defense of near-hallowed land.

Blind faith in the service of total principle is what makes those like Finkelstein and Chomsky so vile. But their posturing is made possible because of the less ardent secular liberal publicists out there who surrender to the narratives that Islamists such as Hezbollah, Hamas, or others peddle to them—lending them legitimacy. That’s because modern scholarship, like liberalism itself, refuses to impose Western cultural standards on non-Westerners. Fine. But as the Mughniyeh case shows, when Islamists dominate the debate affecting them, there are plenty of fools out there dying to be tossed a bone.

Young makes an excellent point when he points out that many do not look beyond Hezbollah’s own narrative of ‘anti-imperialist struggle’ or dissect their repulsive ideology. The case against Hezbollah can be made without imposing “Western cultural standards” because it is not a question of culture. It is a question of who rules Lebanon – a democratic government and the rule of law or a violent militia bent on destroying Israel. Support for Hezbollah is support for the undemocratic rule of those living in the south, where Lebanese state control has been pushed back…

The post continues:

As Young point out, “resistance [is seen as] a quasi-religious act that brooks no challenge, even from its likely victims.” The romantic narrative of the ‘freedom fighter’ creates blinkers that mean some on the left ignore a movement’s terrorism in favour of their ‘struggle’. Just like the Comintern believed, anyone struggling against imperialism (i.e., capitalism and globalisation) is an ally – even if their ideology is nationalist or even Islamist. They are allies in the global struggle and will help rid the world of the evils of capitalism.

[read it all here]

My small critique of the post (which I provided in the comments) is viewing the Comintern’s position as:

“Anyone struggling against imperialism (i.e., capitalism and globalisation) is an ally.”

I think it was more:

Anyone who is an ally is “fighting against imperialism.”

In other words, Comintern ideology reflected the domestic and foreign policy needs and concerns of the USSR. Any nation-state in the Soviet camp was defacto “anti-imperialist” regardless of the class structure, relations of production, modes of production, or any of the other things Marx wrote about.

The revolutionary sects in the U.S. that backed any armed struggle movement as long as the people rebelling were brown and trying to overthrow capitalism were part of the third-world centered New Left rather than the working-class focused Old Left. The differences are important. At least they were among these groups at the time.

Hugo’s War: Or, the War that Never Happened


What if you declared a war and your enemies did not show up?

On March 1, Colombian military forces pursued Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas over the border into neighboring Ecuador. The operation resulted in the death of FARC deputy commander Raul Reyes and sixteen other guerillas. The killing of Reyes, part of the seven-member FARC secretariat, is arguably the most damaging blow struck by President Alvaro Uribe in his five-year campaign to crush the Marxist movement which has terrorized Colombia and the region for decades.

The specifics of the attack have not been made public. However, air-power was involved and Reyes’ location inside Ecuador was determined from a satellite phone he was tricked into using. Joshua Goodman reporting for Bloomberg writes, “President Alvaro Uribe spoke to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa after the operation concluded. Correa, who has criticized cross-border incursions by Colombia’s military in the past, confirmed that combat took place on Ecuadorian soil.”

In the hours and days following the event, relations between Columbian and Ecuador deteriorated as both countries withdrew their ambassadors. Ecuador deployed 3,200 troops to the border which proceeded to capture five FARC terrorists. Yet it was the psychotic behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez which pushed this from a dispute between neighboring states to a regional war.

Chavez went off the deep end, proclaiming his solidarity with the terrorist struggle of the FARC. As the situation escalated, Chavez massed ten battalions, including tanks—approximately 9,000 troops—to the border. Uribe responded in a more measured manner, refusing to give in to Chavez’s theatrics and chest-pounding. Less than two weeks after the incident the three men shook hands. As reported in The Washington Post:

US intelligence hopes that Reyes’ death will unleash a power struggle and possible rift within Farc ranks, especially as the ageing rebel commander Manuel Marulanda is reportedly seriously ill and being cared for on an estate in Venezuela near the Colombian border.

Marulanda’s presence is believed to be a major reason that Mr Chavez moved 10,000 men and tanks to the Colombian border – to warn off Bogota from another cross-border attack.

Another senior Farc leader Ivan Rios was killed by his bodyguard on Friday, further fuelling hopes of a split in the guerrilla movement.

There are two stories related to this war that never happened. The first has to do with documents and money, a paper trail. The second has to do with Venezuelan domestic politics, the failure of the Bolivarian revolution.

In addition to killing Reyes, the raid netted three laptops. If the information contain within these computers is genuine and not a fabrication, the evidence is damning towards FARC, Chavez, and Correa. The Washington Post reports:

In the documents already discovered, the Colombians say, FARC chiefs admit to killing the sister of former President Cesar Gaviria and to planting a 2003 car bomb that killed 36 people at a club where Bogota’s upper crust gathered for squash and drinks.

Cocaine sales are discussed in other files, and a plan is floated to borrow money from Libya for the possible purchase of surface-to-air missiles, officials say. Uribe interprets several documents as indicating Chavez was planning to give the FARC $300 million.

Carlos Alberto Montaner opines in The Miami Herald:

It happens, however, that the incident between Colombia and Ecuador cannot be settled with a handshake. If Interpol determines that the three computers found in the camp of Raúl Reyes, the FARC’s second-in-command, are not a fabrication of the Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe but really belonged to the narcoterrorist comandante killed by Colombian bombs, the International Crimes Court must take up the case, investigate the events in depth and punish the guilty.

The sentiment was expressed with total authority by Diego Arria, former U.N. Security Council president and an expert in these affairs: “The fact that the president of Colombia . . . denounced the presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador as collaborators with the terrorists who are holding 700 people hostage cannot be overlooked, no matter how many handshakes or forced smiles.”

True enough. The documents found in Reyes’ computer tell of funding the FARC’s activities with Venezuelan money. No less than 300 million petrodollars.

They describe the complicity of the government of President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who assigned one of his principal ministers to be the liaison with the narcoguerrillas and offered to remove from the border any soldiers who interfered with the rebels’ work.

A missing dimension of much of the reporting has been a failure to examine what is happening inside Venezuela. Critics of Chavez note this attempt at war was conducted in hopes of increasing patriotism and the notions that the country is under attack from outside forces. For increasing numbers of Venezuelans, the failures of Chavez’s revolution are becoming apparent. Crime is increasing and Venezuela is experiencing food shortages that should be unheard of in a country with such astounding wealth. Price controls have not managed to decrease the inflation below 20%, the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Vaclav Havel: Our Stand Against Castro’s Cuba


[H/t The New York Sun]

PRAGUE — Five years ago, the European Union was on the verge of fulfilling one of the aspirations of the Velvet Revolutions that swept across Central and Eastern Europe by expanding from 15 to 25 members through the accession of several post-communist states. Yet, while the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain may have fallen into the dustbin of history, others vestiges of the Soviet era remain firmly in place. Certain areas of the world have been transformed for the better, even as others have been suspended in time to fend for themselves. One place that has not changed is Cuba, despite Fidel Castro‘s decision to retire and hand the reigns of power over to his brother Raul.

On March 18, five years ago, Castro’s government cracked down on the Varela Project and other civil society initiatives rather than risk allowing a spark of democratic reform to spread across Cuba as it had in the former Soviet bloc. The 75 prisoners of conscience locked up were dissidents, independent journalists, leaders from civil society, and librarians, who had dared to speak the truth openly about what life is like in Cuba. Even though seven prisoners have recently been released, 52 of the 75 remain incarcerated in deplorable conditions. In general, the only reason that any of these prisoners were freed was because of how seriously their health had deteriorated.

Given how central the values of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are in Europe, we feel it is our obligation to speak out against such injustices continuing unchecked. Less than 20 years ago there were political prisoners on the E.U.’s borders who were denied the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression, lived in constant fear of being denounced, and dreamed about enjoying what Europeans in the “West” took for granted.

Cuba’s regime has remained in power, the same ways that communist governments did in the former Yugoslavia, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — the last three as part of the Soviet Union — by using propaganda, censorship, and violence to create a climate of fear. Likewise, the solidarity that was expressed by those outside of these countries helped bring about the changes.

Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has not embraced democracy and continues to repress all forms of political dissent. Today, Cuba is closer to making genuine democratic changes due to sacrifices made by dissidents and activists inspired by how other parts of the world have been transformed since the end of the Cold War.

We believe that the former communist Central and Eastern European countries are in a unique position to support the democracy movements in Cuba based on the similarities of their histories and experiences. Our intentions in pushing for democratization are based on friendship and cooperation, good will, and an understanding of the needs, expectations, and hopes of Cuban people.

We, the undersigned, believe that the E.U., as one of the driving forces in international politics, needs to speak out in unison against governments oppressing their own citizens. The E.U. should denounce human rights violations in Cuba and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. The ministers of foreign affairs from all E.U. member states should send a demarche on March 18 to their Cuban counterpart demanding their release as well.

The actions taken or not taken by the Cuban government should be used as a benchmark when the European Council reviews the E.U.’s Common Position on Cuba in June. Lastly, the E.U. should continue actively supporting peaceful democratic movements and civil society organizations in Cuba by taking advantage of the intrinsic knowledge some of its member states have about making a transition to democracy.

Five years ago the dream of several former Soviet satellites being members of the E.U. was becoming a reality. Dissidents and those committed to the spread of democracy had made this possible. The time has come for us to repay that debt by helping those in Cuba, whose dreams have already been deferred for too long.

Mr. Havel is a former president of the Czech Republic. Other authors of this article are: Ferenc Köszeg, Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania; Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuanian MEP and former president; Milan Kucan, former president of Slovenia; Mart Laar, former prime minister of Estonia; Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada; André Glucksmann, philosopher; José Ribeiro e Castro, Portuguese MEP; Edward McMillan-Scott, British member of the European Parliament; and Leszek Balcerowicz, former president of the Bank of Poland. All are European based members of the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba. © 2008 Project Syndicate.

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) Murders Former Socialist Politician in Arrasate-Mondragón



[AFP Photo]

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero blamed the Basque terrorist organization ETA (“Basque Homeland and Freedom”) for the death of former Arrasate-Mondragón councilor Isaías Carrasco. An especially brutal murder—Carrasco was shot two times in the head in front of his wife and daughter—the Spanish people have stood unified in their opposition against this act of terrorism. While the family deals with their grief, the government has stalled the Spanish general election until Sun. The Associated Press reports:

An estimated 3,000 people, crying and carrying wreaths, packed a square outside the church of St. John the Baptist in Mondragon where Carrasco was gunned down outside his apartment Friday.

The crowd clapped as the coffin was carried into the church and on its way back out. Clapping is a typical way for Spaniards to pay their respects and say goodbye at funerals.

Carrasco’s eldest daughter appealed for massive voter turnout Sunday as a way to defy ETA, which has killed more than 800 people in its decades-old battle for an independent Basque homeland.

“I call on those who want to show solidarity with my father and with our pain to vote en masse Sunday and tell the murderers that we are not going to take a single step backward,” Sandra Carrasco, 20, said after a silent vigil in memory of her father.

Carrasco, 43, served on the town council from 2003-2007 and was one of a handful of non-nationalist members in a town where pro-independence sentiment is fierce. Then, he had a bodyguard. But Carrasco failed to win re-election last year, and turned down an offer to keep the bodyguard. He was shot three times in his car as he prepared to go to his job as a clerk in a highway toll booth.

Having spent some time in Guipuzcoa and other regions of the Basque country, I have a great deal of affinity for the people and geography of Arrasate-Mondragón. The surrounding countryside with its rolling hills and oak trees is a beautiful place. Mondragón is also the location of the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC), a highly successful network of cooperatives that have received much attention for their practical application of workers self-management and industrial democracy. While far from perfect, I am not aware of any other cooperative system that has achieved the success of the MCC.

What follows is an excerpt from a much longer piece about the development of the MCC that I wrote a long, long, time ago…

One narrow escapee from the Fascists was Jose-Maria Arizmendiarrieta (1915-1976), a progressive priest, who was initially imprisoned for his wartime work as a journalist on the democratically elected Republican government’s side. During the war, Franco’s soldiers were ordered to kill journalists that had Republican, Socialist or Anarchist sympathies. Arizmendiarrieta avoided death by claiming he was a combatant, a position he longed to have, but was denied due to a childhood accident that blinded his left eye. To this day Arizmendiarrieta is revered among MCC members, especially the pioneers, who attribute to him a large measure of Mondragón’s success.[1]

After prison, Arizmendi returned to the Basque region where he had grown up to continue his educational work and get away from the Castilian stronghold of Franco’s regme. Given his interest in social problems, the new assistant curate was named counselor to the lay group Accion Catolica.[2] When he returned to Mondragón he could scarcely recognize the town that had been so battered by the war. The economy was in ruins. There was no “Marshall Plan” in sight for the inhabitants of Mondragón. In an interview Arizmendi said, “We lost the Civil War, and we became an occupied region. In the postwar period, the people of Mondragón suffered severely in the repression. I had known some of the people of Mondragón, but when I came after the war they had either died, or were in jail, or in exile.”[3]

He spent much of his time in the seminary, and as attested by the well thumbed books in his library, read Freire, Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Marcuse. However it must be stated that Arizmendi was no Marxist-Leninist or Maoist. Arizmendi in many ways was a humanist and a realist. He rejected violence and establishment politics, but always welcomed help from government or private industry. [4] His library contained very few theological texts and he was a close student of the French leftist social philosophers Jacques Maritain and Emmanuel Mounier.[5]

His original focus in Mondragón was the health and housing needs of the community, yet he soon shifted towards work and other economic issues, viewing them as key to Mondragón’s success and survival. He was not a radical or militant, rather he saw revolution as a gradual process, always in need of self-criticism and evaluation. To this end he advocated a “Third way of development equidistant from individualistic capitalism and soulless collectivism. Its center and axis is the human person in his or her social context.”[7]

Arizmendi’s leadership approach was unique. He never held a position of authority in any of the cooperatives or supporting institutions. His leadership was by example, and while always willing to act as an advisor, he was never present for any votes.

Like any leader, Arizmendi has been criticized for his views. One of the most serious accusations has been collaboration with the Franco regime. Arizmendi was no friend of Franco. He had spent time in a fascist prison, yet was willing to work with government officials who were sympathetic to the cooperative cause. When he was awarded the Medalla del Trabajo in 1965, a national medal of honor, it conveyed the message to some elements of the left that Arizmendi was a fascist. I do not share this interpretation.

Early Community Organizing

Arizmendi viewed the need to engage a sense of community through participation in a collective endeavor, no matter how insignificant it may seem. With his background in health and social services, he helped establish a medical clinic in the community. He also worked to establish an athletic field and a sports league beginning with a soccer team.[8]

When the local team went on to become champions of the Basque region, it was a cause for celebration. Most of the inhabitants of the town had been involved in some manner either in constructing the field or sponsoring the team. These early organizing activities not only provided a base for “future institution building” they also according to Don Jose Arizmendi were:

a process of mobilization, consciousness raising, and training, of theory and practice, of self-government and self-management, in which the young people, in order to face the serious problem of financing, organized raffles, festivals, and other public events. This not only facilitated the financing but also gave the youth-especially the most dynamic young people-the opportunity to learn practical lessons from experience. Simultaneously, in this process of interaction, they had the chance to build credit with the community in a broader sense. It was this youth that later on would become the protagonists of the cooperative experience. Practically, it was they who did everything, because I was the one who reserved for myself the easiest task-to think aloud. All that I did was to raise ideas and provoke the young people and nothing more. [9]

The Foundation: Cooperative Education

When Arizmendi arrived in Arrasate in 1941 he found a “company town”, where the Union Cerrejera–UC, United Steelworks–a foundry and metal-works using local iron and imported coal provided the majority of jobs. The only school in town was a holdover from the days of apprenticeship which offered places for only twelve sons of UC workers each year. He had, “been invited by the Management of the Union Cerrejera to provide religious instruction in the company’s apprenticeship program and took advantage of this opening to urge management to include boys who were unrelated to employees.”[10]

Arizmendi realized that parents wanted their children to be educated in order for them to have better economic opportunities. After the initial organization of a parents’ association and the involvement of community youth, the sponsors placed boxes on the principal street corners of Mondragon in which all citizens interested in the school could put slips of paper with their names and addresses and a statement indicating what they were prepared to contribute in money or personal services.[11] The contributors became members of an incipient organization that would organize the foundation of the entire cooperative system.

With the vision that industrial and technical education was paramount, Arizmendi and Accion Catolica started a community-run, four-year school for industrial apprentices, the Escuela Professional. The school opened in 1943, with 20 students, rising to 150 in 1952, and over 1,000 by 1963. In 1948, the Mondragon Education and Culture League (now called Hezibide Elkartea) was created, becoming a cooperative in 1964. From 1957/8 the Professional School offered specializations in mechanics, electronics, and radio engineering/industrial draughtmanship.[12]

Perhaps most impressive, given the patriarchal bent of the Catholic Church and Spanish society in general, was the focus on women’s education. While open to any vocation, particular emphasis was placed on technical fields, primarily chemistry. Between 1943 and 1988 this early educational seed blossomed into a comprehensive set of educational co-ops with approximately 45,000 students enrolled in everything from elementary schools to graduate work, often using Basque as the language of instruction.

Essentially, the schools provide both technical and socio-political training for the cooperatives. As Morrison writes:

In many ways, Mondragon’s schools were the foundations of the cooperative system; they provided both technically trained workers and the basis for today’s specialized co-ops. But the training was more than technical. It included social and ethical education that, in part, led pupils to begin the cooperative enterprises and helped guide future choices.

Ulgor and the Mondragon Pioneers

The original 12 graduates of the Escuela Professional were employed by UC, but ran into a brick wall when, with Arizmendi’s support, they sought greater worker participation in the way the company was run. Five graduates resigned and raised capital from the surrounding area to purchase a dilapidated and bankrupt factory. Most of the needed original capital (roughly $100,000, though accounts vary) was obtained from one hundred people in Mondragon, particularly from friends and associates who were members of the chiquitos, the town’s private dinner and social-drinking clubs.[13] On April 14th, Ulgor (an acronym formed from the first letters of their names: Usatorre, Larranaga, Gorronogoita, Ormachea and Ortubay.), became the first worker-owned, worker-controlled cooperative, with 24 men and two women workers.

The cooperators realized that the key to manufacturing was patent rights and secured Spanish patents for a paraffin lamp and space heating stove. Soon Ulgor was designing its own stoves. It bought an existing foundry and casting shop to free itself from outside suppliers. In 1965, these shops were hived off to become part of the Ederlan co-op, and began manufacturing a line of electrical equipment under a foreign license. By then, Ulgor had built a new factory to produce butane cookers under the brand name Fagor.[14]

Ulgor’s early success provided the capital resources necessary to launch similar cooperative efforts in Mondragon and nearby towns in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These included Arrasate in Mondragon, which began by producing lawnmower parts (and would eventually become one of Spain’s leading machine manufacturers); Comet, a steel foundry formed from two existing capitalist firms in Guipuzcoa (later to become Ederlan, meaning “good work”); Funcor, a foundry in Vizcaya; Ochandiano Talleres, a manufacturer of food handling equipment; Tolsan, a foundry in Vizcaya; and a retail co-op store, the first of what would become the Eroski chain.[15]

[1] Mike Long, “The Mondragon Cooperatives: A Model for Our Times?”, Libertarian Labor Review: Anarchosyndicalist Ideas and Discussion, Number 19, Winter 1996, p.23.

[2] RoyMorrison, We Build the Road As We Travel: Mondragon, A Cooperative Social System. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1992, p. 46.

[3] Kathleen and William Whyte, Making Mondragon: The Growth and Dynamics of The Worker Cooperative Complex. Ithaca: Industrial and Labor Relations Press (Cornell University), 1989, p. 226.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. p. 231

[6] ibid.

[7] Whyte and Whyte p.777, p.253.

[8] ibid Page. 29

[9] ibid. p. 226-227.

[10] Whyte and Whyte p. 29.

[11] ibid. p.30.

[12] Long, p.23.

[13] Morisson p. 47.

[14] Morrison p. 48.

[15] Robert Oakeshott, The Case for Worker Co-ops. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978, p.175.



Terrorist Murders Eight Students, Wounds 11 at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem


A Palestinian terrorist armed with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle killed eight rabbinical students at Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on Thursday (March 6, 2008). The yeshiva, located in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood near the entrance to Jerusalem, is home to several hundred students, most aged 18-30. The yeshiva students had recently returned from praying at the Kotel and were preparing for a party in celebration of Adar II, which begins on Friday evening.

The attack occurred in the library and study hall which were packed with students at the time. The terrorist was killed by an IDF officer but only after he murdered: Segev Peniel Avihail, 15, of Neve Daniel; Neria Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzhak Eldar, 16, of Shilo; Yehonadav Haim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kokhav Hashahar; Yohai Lifshitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Doron Tronoh Meherete, 26, of Ashdod Avraham David Moses, 16, of Efrat; Ro’i Roth, 18, of Elkana.

Read more here, here, and here.

Stephen Pollard (h/t The Contentious Centrist) criticizes the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen for suggesting that Mercaz Harav Yeshiva was targeted for its role as the leading Hardal (national-religious) yeshiva in Israel. Pollard contents that Bowen’s comments amount to “excuse and justification” of the murderous acts. Given Bowen’s anti-Zionist political perspective, it is understandable Mr. Pollard would come to this conclusion.

Tim Rutten opining in the Los Angeles Times (“Self-Defense vs. Slaughter”) agrees the yeshiva was likely targeted for being a bastion of the Hardal movement. However, he criticizes the tendency of Western elites and journalists like Bowen who draw moral equivalencies between the actions of the IDF and terrorists. Here is a long excerpt:

There is every reason to suspect, moreover, that this particular religious school was more than a target of opportunity. Mercaz Harav is Israel’s leading “Hardal” seminary, the Harvard of a movement that blends strictly Orthodox Judaism with a militant and messianic religious Zionism. Its graduates are the theorists and the shock troops among West Bank settlers. Its adherents also are the segment of Israeli popular opinion most inclined to demand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert — who they regard as a quisling — suspend talks with the Palestinians.

As Amir Mizroch wrote Friday in the Jerusalem Post: “While defense establishment officials sitting in the Kiriya military headquarters in Tel Aviv ponder the diplomatic-security implications of last night’s attack, a totally different analysis will be taking place this weekend around Shabbat dinner tables across Jerusalem and most West Bank settlements. … Together with the grief and sorrow, there is going to be a lot of angry talk about good and evil, about a religious war over the Holy Land. … The fact that the attack was carried out in the way it was — live fire, chasing down the students and shooting them at point-blank range, as well as confirming the kills — and not by a suicide bombing, will add to the sense of brutality, of the narrative of good versus evil.”

The Manichaean view that Mizroch is describing excludes compromise, just as a faux moral equivalency — in which atrocities committed by Palestinian terrorists against teens and other civilians are viewed as no worse than deaths caused by the Israeli military fighting back in the country’s defense — makes a mockery of justice. Both compromise and justice are preconditions of real peace.

These days, American policymakers also need to struggle as never before not to fall into a false even-handedness when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most of Western Europe’s policy and intellectual elite has slipped from sympathy for the Palestinian cause to anti-Zionism and, from there, into new modes of objective anti-Semitism. International organizations, across the board, are little better. Thursday, the U.N. Security Council couldn’t even muster a condemnation of the yeshiva atrocities because Libya insisted that it also denounce as co-evil the Israeli military’s recent defensive incursions into Gaza.

Democratiya: Spring 2008 and New Book



12 / Spring 2008

Editor’s Page

Letters to the Editor

The Editors
Simon Cottee
David Zarnett
David Miliband
Michael Weiss
Juliet O’Keefe
Donna Robinson Divine
Zora Hesová
Rayyan Al-Shawaf
Barry Rubin
Matthew Omolesky
Jeffrey Herf
Evan Daniel
Thomas Hale
SSG Johnny Meyer
Tom Kahn
Robin Simcox

Interview with Gina Khan / Muslim Women vs. Islamism


This book collects together a fascinating series of rich conversations about the dilemmas of progressive foreign policy after 9/11. (Interviews with Paul Berman, Ladan Boroumand, Jean Bethke Elshtain, David Held, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Mary Kaldor, Kanan Makiya, Joshua Muravchik, Martin Shaw, Anne-Marie Slaughter)

‘The Democratiya Interviews do more to re-establish and invigorate a coherent concept of democratic internationalism than any single volume in recent memory. This book is both a breath of fresh air and an act of democratic solidarity.’

‘Alan Johnson has edited an important and engaging volume of interviews with intellectuals and journalists who play leading roles in today’s debates on global politics. At a time when political argument is so riddled by cliched venom, every reflective person on the left who is concerned about the dangerous state of our world should read this collection and think very hard about the different arguments made in it.’
Mitchell Cohen, CO-EDITOR, DISSENT

‘The principles Democratiya develops with such flair are the best route out of the swamp in which too many liberal-minded people have been stuck for too long.’

‘Democratiya has emerged as the leading voice of a new kind of moral politics grounded in the resolve to stand firm against new threats to freedom and democracy in the 21st century. If you are looking for original thinking on the left, this outstanding collection is the place to find it. Prepare to be provoked and challenged.’

Many of the most intractable issues in world politics are conflicts rather than merely problems. There are few prospects of resolving them definitively, but there are better and worse ways of managing them. The Democratiya interviews are an invaluable guide to the principles underlying a rational approach to those conflicts. The analyses are taut, critical thinking of a high order. The interpretations are diverse and unvaryingly thought-provoking.
Oliver Kamm, The Times columnist and author of Antitotaliarianism

‘Democratiya has made an essential contribution to defending our common democratic values of solidarity with those struggling for liberty around the world. In the battle of ideas we require deep intellectual analysis and the sort of moral clarity that Democratiya provides.’

‘Democratiya has become, by my lights, the liveliest and most stimulating new intellectual journal on political themes in the English-speaking world—certainly the liveliest new thing to appear on the English-speaking left in a good long time.’

TWO WAYS TO BUY GLOBAL POLITICS AFTER 9/11: THE DEMOCRATIYA INTERVIEWS (Edited by Alan Johnson, Preface by Michael Walzer, Foreign Policy Centre / Democratiya, 320 pages)

1. ONLINE. Please make a £11.95 donation per copy to Democratiya using the Pay Pal button below. (£9.95, plus postage and packaging) Be sure to give your full postal adress.

2. Or send a £11.95 / $25 cheque made payable to ‘The Foreign Policy Centre’ at The Foreign Policy Centre (Book Orders) 23-28 Penn Street, London, N1 5DL. Make clear you are ordering ‘Global Politics After 9/11’ and with your full postal address.


The links (above) should be fixed. I did not realize Democratiya changed from a .com to .org

Israel: News from the Southern Front


[There used to be an InfoLiveTv link here but they do not allow video embedding.]

I blogged about the situation in Sderot a few days ago. Since then the rocket attacks from Gaza have increased. AFP reports:

The violence in and around Gaza sharply escalated early on Wednesday when an Israeli air raid killed five Hamas militants and Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets, one of which killed a civilian in southern Israel…The clashes peaked on Saturday when Israel sent a regiment of ground troops into the northern town of Jabaliya in an operation dubbed “Hot Winter” that killed 77 Palestinians in two days.

Various media outlets report over 110 Palestinians killed at this time, including 90 militants terrorists. Two Israeli soldiers were also killed and one Israeli civilian was murdered in a rocket attack.

The operation included coordinated air bombardment by planes and unmanned drones as well ground attacks by armored, engineering and infantry units. However, after a short period of heavy assault the ground forces abruptly pulled out. The Jerusalem Post notes:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, meanwhile, told the cabinet that the current round of fighting was “unavoidable” and must be seen as part of efforts to create a “different equation” in the South.

OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin expanded on this and provided the ministers with an overall assessment of what Hamas was trying to do by increasing its rocket fire, saying that the organization’s decision to bombard Israeli communities was connected to its own strategic situation.

Having been in power now for more than two years, Hamas was dissatisfied with its overall situation and decided that it needed to take dramatic action to reshuffle the deck, Yadlin said.

“Hamas is not pleased with the current situation,” Yadlin was quoted as telling the cabinet. He ticked off a number of factors working against the Islamist group: the Quartet conditions for talking to Hamas have remained in place for two years; very few countries are willing to speak to them; a diplomatic process is under way with the Palestinian Authority; and the Annapolis process runs contrary to the organization’s overall strategy.

“All those pressures – diplomatic, economic and military – brought Hamas in the last two months to the conclusion that its situation is unbearable, and they need to break the siege and create a new military balance against Israel,” Yadlin said.

He added that Israel’s killing of a “high-quality” terrorist cell on Wednesday, made up of operatives who had trained in Syria, Lebanon and Iran, was also a severe blow to the Islamist organization.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is on her way to Israel to push the Annapolis Peace Plan while Hamas militants declared victory at a celebratory demonstration in Gaza City. Given the facts on the ground I don’t see how the process is going to move forward.

U.S.S. New York



[USS New York, A.P. Photo]

Associated Press: The USS New York, an amphibious assault ship built with scrap steel from the ruins of the World Trade Center, was christened Saturday as a source of strength and inspiration for the nation.

Thousands of people, including friends and families of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, gathered near the hulking gray ship, trimmed in red, white and blue banners.

The bow stem, which contains 7.5 tons of steel from the site, bore a shield with two gray bars to symbolize the twin towers and a banner over that declaring “Never Forget,” a slogan among New Yorkers.

“May God bless this ship and all who sail on her,” Dotty England said before smashing a bottle of champagne against it, producing a loud thump to go with the spurting liquid and flying streamers.

Story after story of lives lost in, and touched by, the attacks peppered the ceremony, held under the blazing sun and broadcast on large screens. It all brought back painful memories for New York Police Lt. Matt Murphy. But the reason for his being here, though, was a source of pride, he said.

“I tell you, it’s a fantastic day. Sometimes you think you’re over something,” he said, his eyes welling up as he looked off toward the ship, “and then you realize you’re not completely.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, husband to Dotty, told the crowd that ship names provide a legacy, and that for their crews they serve as a source of strength and inspiration.

Mission: USS New York is the fifth amphibious transport dock of the San Antonio class. The ship will be used to transport and land Marines, their equipment and supplies, by embarked air cushion or conventional landing craft and Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles amphibious assault vehicles, augmented by helicopters or vertical take off and landing aircraft. USS New York will support amphibious assault, special operations, or expeditionary warfare missions throughout the first half of the 21st Century.

Name: The ship was named New York after the state and incorporates in its construction steel salvaged from the World Trade Centers. “We’re very proud that the twisted steel from the WTC towers will soon be used to forge an even stronger national defense,” New York Gov. George Pataki spoke in 2002. “The USS New York will soon be defending freedom and combating terrorism around the globe, while also ensuring that the world never forgets the evil attacks of September 11 and the courage and strength New Yorkers showed.” This will be the seventh U.S. ship named New York.

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Associated Press