Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Anti-Semitism in various guises

The past few weeks have been disappointing for those of us at Northwestern University who had hoped that Arthur Butz's most recent opportunistic attempt to get his Holocaust denial publicized would be largely ignored. To be honest, when I wrote this about three weeks ago, I was not anticipating that Butz would have such staying power in the campus news.

Why has Butz had such power? First, Northwestern's main newspaper, The Daily Northwestern made the absurd decision to solicit and publish an article by Butz. The Daily and a few students who wrote letters to the editor have been operating under the hopeless naivite that a man like Butz is equally as honest as actual Holocaust historians and that revisionistsof his stripe are unfairly persecuted for unpalatable views. On the contrary, as historian Deborah E. Lipstadt of Emerson University accounts in a column from yesterday's Daily, it has been Holocaust revisionists who have tried to persecute others for their views:
I say this with over six years of legal experience defending myself against David Irving, once the world’s leading Holocaust denier. He sued me for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier in one of my books. He waited until the book appeared in the United Kingdom where the burden of proof is on the defendant.

The Daily's decision to publish Butz seemed premised on the belief that Butz's methods for supporting his views are within the paramaters of intellectual honesty. As Professor Lipstadt explained so well, revisionists like Butz do not operate within such parameters. Witness her legal struggle with revisionist David Irving:

Rather than face any legal obstacles, Irving freely repeated his — and by extension Butz’s — arguments in court. The world press reported on them daily. No one faced any legal obstacles. No one was hauled into court except me.

I was able to mount an aggressive defense thanks to a defense fund which raised $1.75 million dollars. We hired a “Dream Team” of historians to closely examine Irving’s claims about the Holocaust. They found his work to be a “tissue of lies.”

By the end of my ten-week trial Irving was left looking like the Court Jester. He had called the judge “Mein Fuhrer,” a telling slip. When asked by Richard Rampton, my barrister, how he could say Herman Goring “goggled” at a certain exchange, when there was absolutely no evidence that Goring was even at this meeting, Irving declared: “author’s license.”

Butz is guilty of this same dishonesty:

Butz, in his column, engages in linguistic tricks. He claims that Timothy Ryback wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “there is little forensic evidence proving homicidal intent” in the ruins of Auschwitz. Butz ignores another portion of Ryback’s comment regarding Auschwitz: “these heaps of dynamited concrete and twisted steel are not only historic artifacts but among the few remnants of untainted, forensic evidence of the Holocaust.”

Why do we not enter further into “debate” with him? Because debating people who deliberately mislead is like trying to nail a blob of jelly to the wall. There is no end to the matter. If they have no fidelity to the truth how can you debate them? They just make things up as it suits them.

Professor Lipstadt's words should be heeded. Unfortunately, in today's Daily, a student columnist has picked up where Butz left off--constructing an uninformed argument that reveals this student's latent belief in age-old anti-Semitic conspiracies of Jewish cabalism and. There's no need to explicate the article itself: the main point is the deeply troubling sanctioning of anti-Semitic views by a student newspaper with a misguided understanding of free expression.


wn said...

Well, I agree with almost every point in Bowles article. The number one source of propaganda for the Iranians is that the US and Israel are occupying/colonizing Arab populations areas. Add the French and British imperialism before that, and it amounts to a hundred years of domination. In this context, the cartoon violence makes a lot of sense. The insult of Islam follows a lot of other US/Euro racist policies.

I knew someone in middle school who was already talking about joining the Israeli military. It is really bad NOT to oppose Jewish Americans from becoming Israeli nationalists and joining their army, because the job of their army is to back up their [many illegal] policies with force, ie ethnocide in Jerusalem and expanding colonies in the occupied territories. Those actions do a lot to harm the US.

Please note that Mr B did not make any claims of cabbalism. It is simply that a lot of Jews are domestically supporting irrational and illegal policies like the wall. People talk about Richard Perle/PNAC and Lieberman's support of the invasion of Iraq. There is no evidence of a "cabbal" there but the policies they have supported have been very racist.

It is clearer that the reveals an anti-Arab bias than a pro-Israel bias. However, in practice, the pro-Israel policies have been quite harmful to the Arabs/Persians. As Imus reflected upon Katrina, he didn't think there were explicitly racist policy decisions made, but that there was a general attitude that black people didn't matter very much and that they could take their time, at all levels of government. Clinton doesn't want to know how many Iraqis suffered from the sanctions, and Bush is not going to cut aid to Israel no matter how many SC resolutions they break.

Finally, I'm tired about the fanatics like Andrea Mitchell talking about how dangerous Iran is. Why would not the balance of terror operate equally well in the Middle East as it has in Europe/Asia? Why would not the possession by Iran of nuclear weapons be an element in pacifying the Middle East rather than the reverse? The only answer offered is that the Iranian government is not sufficiently "rational" to abstain from using the bomb. But this is clearly racist nonsense. The present Iranian regime is at least as politically sophisticated as the Bush regime, and is a lot less vocally militarist.

Elaine said...

The number one source of propaganda for the Iranians is that the US and Israel are occupying/colonizing Arab populations areas.

You have one thing right here. This is propoganda. The leaders of Arab nations are distracting their impoverished populace by blaming Israel for all of their woes. It is these leaders, and not Israel or the U.S., who should be called out for their fomenting of terrorism.

Israel is in no way acting as a colonizer. A colonizing power seeks to acquires some financial benefit or to build an empire. Israel has done neither. It willingly withdrew from the oil-rich Sinai Peninsula to make a peace agreement with Egypt in 1979. When it has acquired land, it has been in response to offensives by one of its Arab neighbors.

Israel showed itself throughout the 1990s as remarkably willing to negotiate in goodwill with a terrorist, Yassir Arafat. When Ehud Barak and Arafat had a comprehensive peace deal at hand, Arafat walked out. Since then, the Palestinian authority deployed a campaign of terror against Israel, and thus Israel had to move into the Gaza Strip and West Bank to set up outposts to defend itself from terrorist attacks.

Unlike the United States, Israel has been remarkably good at defending against terror by targeting the source of the attacks, but despite being an incredibly small country, it occupies a big space in global debates. Why? Because Arab leaders need someone to blame, and Israel is an excellent choice. Did you know that in 1970, the King of Jordan had Palestinians massacred who wanted to claim land there? Innocent civilians were killed then, but no one mentions that.

Everything you have said is based on an incorrect understanding of Israel, and that is probably why you so thoroughly agree with Bowles. Some of the responses to his column on the Daily Website as well as a letter one of my friends wrote that will hopefully get published are much more illuminating than Bowles's tripe.

Elaine said...

P.S. Calling Israel's policies "racist" is both incendiary and baseless.

wn said...

You seem to be unaware that Israel allowed [promoted] settlers to colonize the occupied territories aggressively all the way up to the present. Even though Sharon removed the small number Israeli colonists from Gaza, many of them are resettling in the West Bank, which is nicer real estate [and also does not belong to Israel].

Israel has no legal basis for occupying those lands in the first place, because the UN banned the annexation of territory through war. Also, the colonists have been stealing and destroying Palestinian property to make their homesteads. That is precisely the definition of colonialism. The Arabs Palestinians are denied Israeli passports [racism] and they live under illegal military occupation [racism].

The only other active colonial situations are Tibet and Western Sahara.

wn said...

Your use of the 1970 Black September incident is mostly irrelevant. Your argument seems to be that other countries treat the Palestinians like shit without legal rights, so why focus on Israel?

The difference is that Palestinians don't have any claim to citizenship in Jordan because they originated from Israel or the occupied territories. You omit that the 1970 situation occured in the context of a hot civil war when the Palestinians refugees tried to overthrow the Jordanian government. That revolutionary situation wouldn't have occured if the Palestinian territories had not been under military occupation.

However the main error in your argument is that Israel is obligated to stay in the West Bank [and East Jerusalem] "to set up outposts to defend itself from terrorist attacks." If that were true, then they wouldn't be so intent on the colonizing aspect. You can look at this chart of the settler population in the occupied territories. Note also the quotation at the top of the article: "The settlements have been declared illegal under international law by the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice...."

If you look at the comprehensive negotiations you mentioned, you will find that Israel would have kept 20% of the West Bank. This is why most non-US people share the blame for the failure of the talks.

Elaine said...

My point in bringing up Black September is that other neighboring countries have not even tried to integrate the Palestinian population as Israel has. When the PLO tried to gain control of Jordan, which is the land in the Arab part of the post WWII-Declaration's partition, King Hussein sent his army to kill the terrorists, resulting in the death of thousands.

I think you are investing too much faith in the United Nations' resolutions on Israel. The UN is as you know an organization made up of member nations, many of them irrationally hostile towards Israel. At World Conference Against Racism in 1980s, Israel was singled-out for trading with South Africa when multiple nations were engaged in discreet bilateral trade with the apartheid-run country. If we are to believe the UN, Zionism was a racist creed (until they finally revoked that politically-motivated resolution in 1991).

Throughout the 1990s, Israel, under the inspiring leadership of Yitzhak Rabin, made enormous strides to give Palestinians control of the land which the PLO claimed. In 1995, Israel completed withdrawal from several cities in the West Bank. In 1997, Israel withdrew from Hebron. Benjamin Netanyahu even signed the Oslo II agreement in 1998, and Israel unilaterally withdrew from Southern Lebanon in 2000. You are incorrect about the West Bank: Barak offered 100% of the Gaza Strip and 93% of the West Bank (the final solution offered 95% of the W. Bank) and a divided Jerusalem. In 2001, Israel offered 98% of the W. Bank which was rejected. The reason Yasser Arafat gave for rejecting such a landmark treaty in its entirety was because it did not offer a solution to the refugee problem. As any negotiator knows, to reject something that wasn't on the table in the first place and unilaterally shut down negotiations as Arafat did is not the intentions of someone with a genuine desire to achieve peace.

Indeed, Arafat was both a terrorist and an extremely corrupt ruler who spent foreign aid on personal items like nice cars. A legitimate Palestinian state was anethama to him. Israel's conditions for peace have been an end to terror and economic and legal reforms of the Palestinian authority. The latter would have clearly threatened Arafat's corrupt rule.

In the early part of the 2000s, near-daily suicide bombings were perpetrated in Israel. This is why Israel took military action in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip where the terrorist activity was headquartered. Not too long after, Israel reached a deal with the Palestinians to turn over the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem to their security forces in return that those forces would stop the terrorist violence. Israel continues to the best of its ability to try to relocate settlers from the Palestinian-claimed territories. To say that Israel has "colonizing" intentions here is to totally and completely misunderstand the word. It's too bad that a bright person like you has been bought in on the inaccuracies that are pereptuated about Israel, but as they are so prevalent, I guess I can't blame you.

Elaine said...

Finally, I'll address the fundamentals here:

Your argument is premised on the belief that a state of Israel came in to occupy territory that was not their's. This couldn't be further from the truth. Though Jews were forced into exile by the Romans, Jewish life in Israel flourished again in the 9th Century and on, with the settlement of many large Jewish communities within the territory that is today the State of Israel. Legally, of course, Israel has been legitimized by the Balfour Delcaration, the League of Nations Mandate, the UN partitions resolution that I mentioned earlier, and Israel's admission to the UN in 1949.

On the contrary, no independent Arab or Palestinian state has ever existed in the land that is known as Palestine, a name that the Romans applied to the southern portion of the West Bank in the 2nd Century CE to try to minimize Jewish identity with the region. Before the aformentioned 1947 partition, Palestinian Arabs had no self-conceived separate identity. There was simply no Palestinian political identity.

So, if you want to play the game of who settled the land of Israel first, the Jewish population clearly wins, though Israel has never played that game, nor should they. The main objective to Israel is establishing peace and ending terrorism. The claim that Israel is a colonizer or occupier is merely a way to justify horrific terrorist attacks perpetrated against Israeli civilians.

wn said...

Your claims against me don't relate to my argument. Especially If you look at what I wrote, I never made the claim that "a state of Israel came in to occupy territory that was not theirs" or that the Palestinians settled first. I imagine that the combination of reading it quickly and the complicated variety of demarcation lines could confuse a reader about that, but the argument is only about the expansion of Israel, primarily the territory taken in 1967. That is why I frequently refer to the "occupied territories" and the West Bank, which is the biggest piece.

Regarding the UN resolutions on Israel, please observe that I only mention the SC resolutions, which the US has veto over, not the UN GA declarations about Zionism, which are irrelevant to my argument anyway because I never said Israel doesn't have a right to exist. The only thing I said about that early period before 1950 was that the European powers were acting imperialistically [when they restructured the Ottoman territory for their own interests].

"The claim that Israel is a colonizer or occupier is merely a way to justify horrific terrorist attacks perpetrated against Israeli civilians." I never said that the attacks against civilians were justified--my whole point was that we shouldn't give them a blank check when they keep settling occupied land illegally [under the 4th Geneva Convention rules and Security Council resolutions] AND in violation of their own agreements with the Palestinians to quit expanding settlements. The US is constantly threatening to cut off Palestinian aid when a Palestinian breaks the law or when the Palestinians elect the wrong legislators, but when Israel as a state break the law, the White House puts out a statement but never reduces money or military supplies.

Your whole security argument is without merit. You discuss the last 15 years in response to choices Israel made 40 years ago. Recall the chart linked above that showed there were 0 Jews in the non-Israeli Palestinian territories in 1966. After they won the war, there was no state-led military threat to Israel, and no need for a large buffer zone. That's when they started colonizing. Of course, they had to post military to protect the colonists. Now the Palestinians were living under occupation, humiliated constantly by checkpoint rituals. Innocent people suffer waiting to get through checkpoints to hospitals. None of that would have been a problem if they hadn't carved up the territories to give their own people fortified settlements. It doesn't matter what Israel intended before the war in 1967, what matters is the law they broke in settling the territories [4th Geneva Convention].

You also mention how despicable the terrorism in the 1990s was. The military wouldn't have had to take action where the terrorist activity was headquartered because if they hadn't been so effective at settling, they could have built a security fence and been done with it. Now, because of their own arrogance, they have created a mess of cutoff enclaves that restrict Palestinian freedom to move around in the territories [based on racial profiling]. They are worsening the terrorism problem much like the US in Iraq.

"Israel is in no way acting as a colonizer. A colonizing power seeks to acquires some financial benefit or to build an empire." It doesn't matter what their intentions were before the war. Their armies marched in, and the locals were scared off. Then they didn't go home--they stayed to protect settlers as they build houses and farms. I don't know how that is not colonialism. This part of your argument would only make sense if they settlements were somehow legal and helping to combat the threat of terrorism, instead of being completely illegal and making terrorism FAR WORSE.

Elaine said...

Your claims against me don't relate to my argument. Especially If you look at what I wrote, I never made the claim that "a state of Israel came in to occupy territory that was not theirs"
By suggesting that Israel is a colonizing power, you invite the question of whose land is whose. I know you don't think you are because you are supporting yourself with Security Counsel Resolutions, but such resolutions must be premised on that Palestinians had a claim to the land in the first place. They didn't. There had not even been such thing as a Palestinian people until the mid twentieth century.
The difference is that Palestinians don't have any claim to citizenship in Jordan because they originated from Israel or the occupied territories.
Not true. The Palestinians came to be known as such by being a people disavowed by other Arabs around them like the Jordanians. This is why I brought up Black September. During that time, the Paletinian Arabs were seeking to overtake a region that had been designated by the UN partitions mandate as the Arab partition. King Hussein wanted them out, and he got them out through gruesome methods.

I understand that you are focusing on the settlement issue, as I may have not understood earlier, which is a contentious issue within the Israeli government and population. For one, Israel has already ejected settlers from the Gaza region as you mentioned. I imagine they will try to eject them from the West Bank region. Also, since you originally invited this whole line of discussion in expressing your agreement to Bowles's article, I will point out that Bowles was not asking Jews to disavow the settlements but rather the premise for the whole state of Israel. Doesn't it make sense then that I should view your argument in light of this? I think so.

Fundamentally though, what I think is so dismaying about all our discussion is why should anyone have to be ejected from land? I am ultimately a believer in letting someone live where they are living and letting bygones be bygones. I am turned off by this belief that only a certain people can inhabit certain regions, that something about having Israelis living in Gaza is ruinous for Palestinians. Before the intifadahs, Palestinians and Israelis could peacefully co-exist. America is an example of a nation where thousands of nationalities can co-exist in (relative) peace. What is so off-putting about anti-Semitism in the Middle East is that it is premised on obliteraing Israel. Israel is the only democratic state in that region, and one that has done a pretty good job--given constant security threats--of fostering an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence. That it is not out to play the traditional game of power politics should be indicative of this.

Also, to say that the settlements are making terrorism far worse is unproven. Terrorism against Israel has been relatively constant no matter what the government does. After Barak and Arafat were set to make an historic peace, the second intifadah was launched. For Israel, it's damned if they do, damned if they don't. You are falling into the same trap that many people fall into of trying to find one root cause of terrorism. There isn't one except sometimes to never give up. Extremists are historically prone to not accepting anything less than their own dominance. Personally, I'd like to see a Palestinian state as soon as possible. It's a lot easier to blame a country like Israel for your problems when you're not in power.