Sunday, October 21, 2012

What do you mean "us", Rep. Harman?

On NPR today, Guy Raz asks Stephen Walt, Richard Perle, and Jane Harman, "What can the next president realistically do on the Israel-Palestine front? What do you think they can do and should do?" Former Rep. Harman's response, beginning at time 7:25 on the recording (my emphasis added):
I think there's an urgency to resolving this problem. I think there's an urgency for Israel, there's an urgency for Palestine, there's an urgency for us, and frankly, as the clock ticks, the ability to protect Israel as a Jewish state declines because of the huge youth bulge in the Arab populations. It's unsustainable. And I have been disappointed, frankly, in our administration, and in the governments of both sides in the region in not making this a higher priority. ... Israel's survival as a Jewish state is very dicey if this doesn't happen.
I thought the official line is that America protects Israel because Israel is a democracy. If demographic changes in Israel are expected to lead to its citizens choosing democratically to end its status as a Jewish state, why should Americans try to stop that?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Scholars for Peace in the Middle East"

The president of an organization called Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has written a message to members on the occasion of the new academic year:
Despite the significant, and often deadly, developments now sweeping across the Middle East, many in academia have not given up on their fixation with the Palestinian cause,
Yes, isn't that too bad. We agree that these academics really ought to give up their fixation with the Palestinian cause, just as you and I have.
and with the seeming endless energy they will expend in continuing to demonize, delegitimize, and slander Israel, and Zionism, in their attempt to help elevate and defend the Palestinian cause.
OK, maybe I was mistaken above; this appears to be a hint that there's a better way to elevate and defend the Palestinian cause. Let's read on to find what that might be:
This special supplement to the Faculty Forum, produced to examine the recent controversy over Berkeley's Judith Butler (and her suitability to be the recipient of the Adorno Prize), demonstrates clearly some of the tactics in the cognitive war against Israel on campuses.
We need no reminder, of course, that Scholars for Peace in the Middle East stand for cognitive peace with Israel. Now come some more details about this controversy over Judith Butler:
Butler has been criticized, among other things, for seemingly embracing Hamas and Hezbollah, as two particularly troublesome examples, and for giving them credibility as part of a populist, anti-imperialist movement of which she, and many of her like-minded anti-Zionists, see themselves as being a part. So while Butler and her like-minded professors and students on campuses would ordinarily have no ideological kinship with the misogynistic, homophobic, totalitarian, theocratic culture of radical Islam, they have managed to cobble together what some observers have called an "unholy alliance," in which even jihadists and academics share in a common enmity for American values, military strength, imperialism and, of course, America's key democratic ally in the Middle East, Israel.
Got that? Judith Butler has been criticized for seemingly doing something, as part of an alliance of what some observers have called a particular label. Remember that this message is being sent to college professors; what kind of message is the writer intending to convey by using the passive voice and avoiding stating whether or not the criticism is justified? In my experience, college professors hate it when term papers use this kind of language, but perhaps Professor Cravatts is showing off his savvy in "advertising, integrated marketing communications, consumer behavior, opinion writing, magazine publishing, editing, public relations, ..."
On campuses, that anti-Western, anti-Israel sentiment has manifested itself in Israel Apartheid Week events, calls for academic boycotts against Israeli scholars and universities, divestment from university portfolios of companies supplying material to Israel's military, and academic panels, symposia, and conferences which regularly devolve into one-sided, politicized events with the single purpose of demonizing the Jewish state and advancing the Palestinian's march to self-determination.
Yes, and in case we didn't get the memo, advancing the Palestinian's march to self-determination is a bad thing!

This all sounds a lot like the 1980s, when there were calls for academic boycotts against South African scholars and universities, divestment from university portfolios of companies supplying material to South Africa's military, and academic panels, symposia, and conferences which regularly devolved into one-sided, politicized events with the single purpose of demonizing the white state and advancing non-white South Africans' march to self-determination. And (wink, wink) look how that turned out!

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East was founded precisely to confront this dilution of scholarship and academic integrity, and not only in relation to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We seek an honest assessment of developments — political, cultural, economic, and social — across the entire region, moving beyond the current academic obsession with Israel to help insure that an honest, and useful, debate about the changing face of the Middle East can take place.
SPME is an American-based organization but has some chapters in other countries. There is one chapter in the Middle East, which (after reading the above) you might be surprised to learn is in Israel. The board of directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East has 21 members, three of whom are based in the Middle East — all three of them in Israel. What are the odds of that? As with some of the statements in Prof. Cravatts' message, this might even be seen as a sign that SPME joins in this academic obsession with Israel.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Those voice votes at the DNC

At this week's Democratic National Convention, chairman Antonio Villaraigosa asked three times for voice votes on an amendment to the party platform to add references to God and to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Were there more ayes or noes? I used Audacity to look at the waveforms. The height (amplitude) of a waveform indicates how loud it is. Click on each one to get a better view.

First vote:

Second vote:

Third vote:

By my reckoning, after staring at these and checking the vertical alignment of the "aye" and "no" sections of each waveform, I'd say that the noes barely win the first vote, and the others are too close to call.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How times have changed

By some coincidence, just yesterday I was reading this article about the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann in 1961:

In a democracy like Israel, individuals, however horrible the crimes of which they are accused are entitled to a fair trial.

In 2007, when this was written, it wasn't true of Israel, and it's not true of the United States either.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

When did Russian replace Arabic as an official language of Israel?

According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the official languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. So why does the website of Israel in the Gardens in San Francisco have text in English, Hebrew, and ... Russian?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Joe Wilson, where were you?

Well, the real Joe Wilson was at his feet with the rest of them, but others have listed ample opportunities for some Congressman to do what Rep. Wilson did in 2009. It took someone in the gallery to do it.