Saturday, May 21, 2011

Israel Always Wants More Palestinian Land

US President Obama was considered radical, by right-wing Israeli supporters, for merely stating the obvious conditions necessary for a viable two-state solution: two countries based on the pre-1967 borders. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that the Jewish settlers in the West Bank--along with the territory they continue to steal--become incorporated into Israel. Mazal Mualem wrote in Haaretz:
After two days packed with meetings and peaking with his confrontation with President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emerged stronger within Likud and became a uniting force for the Israeli right.

Netanyahu's adamant rejection of Obama's "1967 borders" speech restored calm to the right-wing coalition he heads; even the leftmost pole of his government, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, sent him a message of support Saturday...The rightmost poles of Netanyahu's coalition government, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai and Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, saw to it that the political front remained calm.

"Israel cannot permit itself to return to the 1967 borders, which are indefensible, or to a process in which it is giving more territory to the Palestinians," Ya'alon said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon sounded a reassuring note Saturday. Like Barak, said he did not interpret the interchange between Obama and Netanyahu as a confrontation. "Obama's speech was positive for Israel, since he remained committed to Israel as a Jewish state and even demanded that the Palestinians explain the reconciliation agreement with Hamas," Ayalon said.
What Israel wants is what it has always wanted: more and more Palestinian land. Since the beginning of the so-called "Peace Process" the settlements have continued to increase. Even when the Gaza pullout occurred,the choice portions of the West Bank were being grabbed. And who are these settlers? Many are religious fanatics that believe that God gave them the land. Some ideas by settlers were inspired by Ze'ev (Vladimir)Jabotinsky (1880-1940). He is the spiritual father of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party. In 1913 he wrote an article “On Race." He stated, “We are entitled then to say that generally speaking almost every nation has a specific racial component, which is common to each individual within it. In this sense (and not, of course, in a political or juridical sense), nation and race overlap each other.” He then adds:
Let us draw for ourself the ideal “absolute nation.” It would have to posses a racial appearance of marked unique character, an appearance different from the racial nature of that nation’s neighbours. It would have to occupy from times immemorial a continuous and clearly defined piece of land; it would be highly desirable if in that area there would be no alien minorities, who would weaken national unity. It would have to maintain an original language, which is not derived from another nation…
Race relations were also inherently antagonistic in his world view and could only be resolved by one race dominating the other. Jabotinsky wrote an imaginary dialogue called Exchange of Compliments. The topic was about superior and inferior races. The colonialist mentality of Jabotinsky articulated in this work becomes more pronounced. In it is stated:
The Bushman, when he will meet a white person: ultimately, and despite everything, he will be impressed by the white man’s supremacy. Both believe in their own superiority, but in the white man’s heart it will not be impaired, while in the Bushman’s feeling it will be contested and destroyed and will finally disappear. Ultimately, the white man will rule the Bushman not only by force, but his domination will also be that of spiritual superiority.
These writings on race reflect his approach to politics and the way he interpreted Jewish colonization into Palestine. These writings also reflect the way the Israeli government operates in regards to its conflict with the Palestinians currently.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DSK and the Socialists

In my previous post on BHL and DSK, I stated that if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the champion of the French left, then I would hate to see its enemies. Like many other parties of the Left in the last thirty years, the French socialists have largely abandoned any reference to working class solidarity without a clear idea of what their mandate would be. At Counterpunch, Diana Johnstone has a brief account of the decline of the Socialist party from the election of François Mitterand to its turn to celebrity driven politics (there's a pun in there, as part of the article has to do with the 'DSK posing with a porsche' scandal). In sum, Johnstone writes,
But the real scandal for the Socialist Party is the one it does not even begin to recognize: that it was pinning its electoral hopes on a leading champion of global capitalism, the president of the IMF.  Whatever the outcome of the New York proceedings, the bursting DSK bubble marks the total degeneration of the Socialist Party in France, for reasons that have nothing to do with his sex life.
Before finishing this post, I will also mention that Counterpunch also has two articles (here and here) about Strauss-Kahn's attempts to reform the IMF, and how his fall marks the end of that tendency. Although lamenting reforms within the International Monetary Fund seems to me to concede too many premises for analysis (which risk turning the reader into somebody like BHL, who echoed the same sentiments), they are worth reading as a counterpoint. We should keep in mind, before shedding tears for DSK, that the reforms could have failed on their own without a scandal erupting, just as the French Socialist Party would/could have faced electoral difficulties without it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BHL Loves DSK 4ever

Never a man to let ethical experience get in the way of media presence, Bernard-Henri Lévy has published a defense of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I understand the whole 'innocent until proven guilty' part of law, but BHL uses the innuendo of opportunism to impeach the accusations of sexual assault against his old buddy and IMF director DSK. Instead of my usual habit of sardonic and mocking commentary, I'll let him dig his own hole.

This is a convoluted way of blaming the victim:
I do not know—but, on the other hand, it would be nice to know, and without delay—how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York’s grand hotels of sending a “cleaning brigade” of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet.
And this is a red herring:
I hold it against all those who complacently accept the account of this other young woman, this one French, who pretends to have been the victim of the same kind of attempted rape, who has shut up for eight years but, sensing the golden opportunity, whips out her old dossier and comes to flog it on television.
Apparently these techniques are worth it, because BHL is worried about the political fallout:
The French left that, if Strauss-Kahn were really out of the arena, would lose its champion.
If this is true, and DSK is the champion of the left, I'd hate to see its enemies.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The "Civilized" West vs. the "Uncivilized" Arabs

It is very easy for Westerns to look at the carnage in Libya, the slaughter in Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen as distinctly Arab proclivities. What about Islamic terror against Christians recently enacted in Egypt? Putting the violent legacy of colonialism, military invasions, occupations, and imperialism aside, Europeans and Americans must not forget the barbarism we have enacted on ourselves. World War I and World War II somehow are viewed as mere aberrations of lost-soul aristocrats or non-human men such as Hitler and Stalin. The horrors of these wars can not be simply explained away to a few individuals. We must see that all humans can embark on heartless campaigns of carnage. It serves us well to take note of some poets responses to these events. Maurice Nadeau points of in The History of Surrealism(1965) that after WWI many surrealists became disillusioned with Western civilization:
They had fought in it by obligation and under constraint.They emerged from it disgusted.; henceforth they wanted nothing in common with civilization that had lost its justification, and their radical nihilism extended not only to art but to all it's manifestations.
André Breton,poet and one of the founders of surrealism, commented sixteen years after the Armistice:
I say that what the surrealist attitude initially shared with Lautréamont and Rimbaud and what definitively linked our destiny to theirs was the DEFEATISM of war.(45)
To illustrate by way of example episodes that lead to this cynicism,we must not forget the infamous 1916 Battle of the Somme that resulted in the death of nearly 60,000 British troops in one day.

I am posting two poems read on Youtube. The first is a reading from W.H. Auden's "SEPTEMBER 1, 1939" and the second is "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen.

DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Why I am not a New Atheist

I'm much more of an 'old' atheist, committed to social justice and to thinking about religion dialectically (as an institution that can at different times reinforce or challenge the inequalities of social relations). I've often complained that the  new atheists lack both of these commitments, broadly aligning themselves with Western imperialism, neoliberalism, and a patronizing dismissal of religion that reaches a fever pitch when it comes to discussing Islam. 

Concerning Richard Dawkins, Lenin's Tomb has (screen) captured how the latter position opens a number of problems that they can't resolve--but about which feel compelled to 'raise' questions:

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Socialist Tour of Père-Lachaise

The only really touristy thing that my wife and I have done in Paris so far is a visit to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise (the rest of you can take the virtual visit here). Just so that my street cred isn't damaged, I want to make it clear that I did not go to visit Jim Morrison's grave. We did, however, take a non-sectarian socialist tour of the cemetery.

Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881)
Saint-Simon (1760-1825)

Nestor Makhno (1889-1934)

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) with, unfortunately, graffitti

A Memorial for the Communards (some of whom were shot at this wall)

 Paul Lafargue (1842-1911) and Laura Lafargue (née Marx, 1845-1911)

Paul Éluard (1895-1952)

Adrien Lejeune, the last communard (1847-1942)

Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961)

And I feel that we can't leave out a few non-socialists:

Théodore Géricault (1791-1824), with a reproduction of The Raft of Medusa

And, finally, Richard Wright (1908-1960)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

When Zbigniew Brzezinski and His Friends Loved Osama bin Laden

It is Mother's Day. Mothers are important. We should never forget our good mothers and we should not forget our history. What history? As I watched my fellow Americans dance in the streets over the death of Osama bin Laden several days ago I thought about the many ironies over the past few decades. My mother used to read me Romans 12: 19 from the New Testament. It reads:
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord (NIV).
I've become a little lost in figuring out how this fits into the Christianity of some of these dancing Americans. Another question is the role the US has had in the past with the people and nations we now invade and kill. I'll print some excerpts from Le Nouvel Observateur (France),Jan 15-21, 1998 of an interview with former United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter,Zbigniew Brzezinski(1977 to 1981):
Q: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs ["From the Shadows"], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

Q: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Q: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Q: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Q: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

Do most Americans recall this? They should go ask their mothers if they do. And who is that former CIA Robert Gates guy mentioned by Brzezinski in the beginning of the interview? His name sounds familiar.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Links and News from Paris

Although I don't want to get into the routine of starting posts with apologies about not blogging more frequently, here are a few autobiographically related thoughts and links:
  • I should be writing more frequently now that the fog of jet lag has dissipated, but I'm also working on my keynote address for a conference, entitled "Dialectical Models: Reading Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit after Schelling's Philosophy of Art." I updated the title a bit to reflect the theme of the conference, which is "In the Aftermath of German Idealism." If you just happen to be in Germany, and more specifically Wuppertal, from May 12-14, I recommend attending. The schedule, which looks very strong, is available here (scroll down to find the PDF).
  • I also noticed that New APPS has an interview, by John Protevi, of François Raffoul. Although it's not mentioned, he used to teach at CSU Stanislaus (over a decade ago, while I was an undergraduate there--to be clear, I didn't expect that this parenthetical part would be mentioned). I can't say I knew him very well, but I took his course on responsibility and action (Heidegger, Sartre, Lévinas) while I was in my fourth year. It was an impressive course, even if he couldn't convince me to keep reading Lévinas. On an unrelated note: I heard that he used to do the reverse commute to CSUS; while most commuters drive from the Central Valley to the Bay Area, he apparently used to drive from Berkeley to Turlock when he had to teach.