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Monday, November 23, 2015

Time to Pull the Fire Alarm: It's Happening Here

As I said in a recent Facebook post, the fire alarm has been pulled far too often about the return of "fascism," as George Orwell noted already in 1946. Originally a left-wing reflex, encouraged by Soviet propaganda that applied the label indiscriminately to America and virtually all non-Communist regimes, movements and public figures, this irresponsible habit has spread to the Right in the age of the Internet. It is a staple of anti-Israel propaganda, the temptation of affixing Hitler's visage to his victims being too much for anti-Semites to resist.

But when Donald Trump, currently the front-runner for the presidential nomination of America's great, historic Republican Party, calls for rounding up and deporting millions of Hispanic residents of this nation, and his popularity soars; when he says he would "consider" monitoring all members of the Muslim religious minority and tracking them in a giant database, and his campaign grows stronger; when he demands the police use torture on suspects; when he tells Big Lie after Big Lie, Josef Goebbels style, and no amount of exposure of such falsehoods as "thousands" of New Jersey Muslims cheering about 9/11 weakens him; when he eggs on enormous mobs of his supporters to "rough up" protesters, and the mobs hasten to do his will; then the use of the term "fascism" is not only warranted, it is mandatory.

Donald Trump is not a joke anymore. His hairpiece is no more ridiculous than that other fellow's mustache. It Can't Happen Here? It is happening here.

Speak out now. Tomorrow it will be too late.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

An Open Letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Dear Governor Hogan,

As an American and a Maryland resident, I am disgusted that you have jumped on the demagogic bandwagon to bar Syrian refugees fleeing war and massacre in their home country. Of course such refugees should and will be screened before admission to the United States to try to ensure that there are among them no Islamist terrorists--the very barbarians they are running from.

As it happens, I am a strong critic of President Obama's foreign policy--his seemingly unbreakable habit of appeasing our enemies and alienating our friends--and specifically his worse than useless policy of meaningless pinprick strikes against the so-called Islamic State. But this must not be confused with the urgent humanitarian need to admit refugees from that unfolding disaster. The impulse to shut the gates in their faces is just as short-sighted and disgraceful as when America's "Golden Door" was closed to those trying to flee the Nazi Holocaust. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Four Observations About the Paris Massacre

  1. Behold the twenty-first century:
    • A crowd of people enjoying the "music" of a band known as "Eagles of Death Metal" is slaughtered by a band of fanatics wielding death-dealing metal.
    • A man who lost his wife to these roving gangs of murderers boasts on Facebook that he is incapable of hating them or even being angry at them, but they are barred from the "paradise of free love" he lives in; and this piece of dubious wisdom is "shared" by the anonymous networked hordes.
    A culture of hedonistic nihilism is clashing with a culture of sadistic nihilism; or in plain language, people who believe in nothing but pleasure face death at the hands of those who believe in nothing but inflicting pain.

  2. Terrorism has been a permanent feature of life in modern societies both free and unfree since its invention at the end of the nineteenth century by anarchists and Balkan nationalists. These two strands of indiscriminate murder, the one driven by supposed transcendent idealism and the other by purported specific grievance, have strengthened and expanded to this day, with the Americans adding a third type of killer: the true, pure nihilist driven by nothing but a naked desire for immortal personal infamy.

    Each new generation brings innovations in both technique and depravity--leftist and Palestinian air piracy in the 1960's and 1970's; Lebanese Hezbollah’s suicide truck bombs in the 1980's; the "suicide belt" of strap-on bombs used to terrify further by making the killer's body itself into a murder weapon, introduced by Palestinian and Tamil terrorists in the 1990's; the American “school shootings” starting in that same period; the large-scale slaughters by Al-Qaeda in the 2000's; and the boastful brutalism of the current period's "Islamic State."

    Such is what the philosopher of history Berel Lang calls "the progress of evil." But a tossed-off insight in Kurt Vonnegut's 1986 novel Galapagos unites these varied and evolving strands of sadistic gore: terrorism is "a branch of show business."

  3. Many observers have correctly pointed out the glaring contrast between the worldwide obsession with the Paris massacres and the far lesser attention paid to the mass murder of hundreds of Russian airline passengers and the dozens of lives destroyed in Beirut immediately before. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of dead in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and God alone knows where else.

    Of course it is true, as one Lebanese pointed out, that the West cares not at all for Arab lives. Not incidentally, this is true of Palestinian lives as well, unless those lives are lost in the war against the Jewish state. There have been exactly zero protest marches in Western cities against the terrible things happening to Palestinians in Syria, as against the endless rage about what the Jews are doing to the Palestinians who live under their rule in the West Bank and Jerusalem, whether the stories are true, wildly exaggerated, or completely invented.

    Whoever makes up what Thomas Jefferson optimistically called "a candid world" should note that European and American media and elite opinion holds Israeli lives in no higher regard than Arab lives. Only white, Christian-descended American and Western Europeans are viewed as fully human. Israel is a nation built on a Western template, an enormously successful society by every standard supposedly held dear by the self-regarding heirs of the Enlightenment; but it will never, ever inspire anything but envy, hatred and contempt from most of these worthies.

  4. The French "retaliation," dropping a handful of bombs on a few empty buildings in Raqqa, Syria (and even that only with the help of the Americans) confirms the intuition of the so-called masterminds of the "Islamic State": the West has no stomach for a real fight. What they overlook is that, as with all things human, this can and will change; but it is unbearable to think about what fearful atrocity will make the difference.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Would There Be Peace If Yitzhak Rabin Had Lived?

This is a very complicated and fraught issue. I was absolutely devoted to the great Israeli military leader and later Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the path he was pursuing when I lived in Israel from 1991 to 1997. I had just completed my first stint of guard duty in the Israeli Army when the news broke twenty years ago today that he had been murdered by an Israeli Jewish assassin, and I was devastated. My return to the U.S. two years later was in part due to my disillusionment that Benjamin Netanyahu, who had demagogued it up against Rabin, could have been elected prime minister six months later. It was as if the assassin had succeeded in killing the chances for peace.
I still see Rabin as a great and bold and visionary leader, but I no longer believe that there would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians if only he had lived. In fact, Netanyahu probably would have beaten Rabin in the 1996 Israeli elections, as he in fact beat Rabin's successor Shimon Peres, because of the devastating Palestinian suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians, and Arafat's mendacity and double dealing. I have no more sympathy now with the Israeli right wing and the Jewish settler movement than I did twenty years ago, but I can recognize reality when I see it, and the reality is that they, in the so-called "national camp," were right that a peace with the PLO was no peace; and we, in the so called "peace camp," were captives of a dangerous illusion.