Leftist Misrepresentation of Israel

Many years ago I read books by liberal Jewish writers, such as Arthur Koestler (“The Thirteenth Tribe“), Philip Roth (“Goodbye Columbus“), Norman Mailer (“The Human Stain“) and many others.  They were all more or less left-wing ideologues who represented a widely held view that there are two kinds of Jew, the intellectual leftist diaspora Jew, who is always against persecution of minorities, and the tough aggressive Israeli Jew, who is always fighting the poor Palestinian Arabs.  To put the difference into one word, the diaspora Jew was good, while the Israeli Jew was bad.

It seems to me that unfortunately the Jewish diaspora has swallowed this falsification hook, line and sinker.  It is about as true as most anti-Semitic caricatures. For example, “all Jews are rich,” this was a canard that I particularly resented, since my family were dirt poor and when I was growing up in the East End of London, we sometimes didn’t have enough to eat;  or “all Jews are Communists,”  many Jews in Eastern Europe were Communists, but most Jews who were small business owners were certainly not; or “Jews are not athletic,” what about the many Jews who were prohibited from representing Germany in the 1938 Olympics, or Mark Spitz, who won 10 Gold swimming medals, and Aly Raisman, female American gymnast.

If you look at Israel’s representation in intellectual pursuits, any Jew should be proud. For example, Israel is the leading country in the world (including the USA) in the area of cyber security.  This doesn’t come about by accident, but results from many years of Israeli/Jewish focus on computer technology, mathematical analysis and software development.  Also, Israel for its size has won many more Nobel Prizes than predicted based on population alone (just as for Jews generally), for example, Ciechanover, Hershko, Aumann, Schechtman, and in literature we have Amos Oz and David Grossman (both notably leftist).

So to summarize, this distinction between diaspora and Israeli Jews based on left-wing ideology is nothing more than a fiction.  But, I for one am very glad that Israel does have many tough Jews who are prepared to fight for their rights, as well as being able to discuss it intelligently.

A Peaceful Religion?

One of the biggest issues of debate in the West is “is Islam a peaceful religion?” as many of our leaders have told us it is.  Now this is not a question about Muslims per se, we know there are certainly millions of nice, pleasant, peaceful Muslims.  But, the question is not about the individuals, but rather about the belief system itself.  And if Islam is not a “peaceful religion” that is a serious problem for Western civilization and those who have to protect the lives of their citizens in Western countries.  

The Arab Muslim world is in meltdown.  There are currently civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and all the major Sunni Muslim states have cut off ties with Qatar, as well as the more familiar Sunni-Shia schism that goes back to the origins of Islam.  The social fabric of Islam has broken down.  In so many of these countries there were dictators, and this comes from the fact that in Islam there is no distinction between religious and the secular power.  From the beginning there was one leader, Mohammed and he led both the religion and the army and controlled the state.  This was continued in the various Muslim empires that developed (Ummayad, Abbassid, Fatimid and Turkish).  All of them had Caliphs that controlled both state and religion, there was no separation of the two as in Western Christian civilization, that led eventually to a complete separation as in the USA.

If we judge by the degree of violence related to where-ever Islam exists, we can see an arc of war that stretches form Nigeria in the west thru Africa (N. Africa, and Somalia) thru to the Philippines in the east.  Case in point, the uprising of Muslims in the southern island of Mindanao, which is largely inhabited by Muslims.  There has been an on-going war there for generations due to the Muslim attempt to secede from the Philippines to form their own Muslim state.  Three days ago the Muslim militias (including Abu Sayyaf) invaded the town of Marawi, causing ca. 50,000 Muslims to flee.  The fighting has barely concluded, with the Philippine Army retaking the town.    

Now it may be that the extremists, militants and armed elements are a minority within each Muslim country or ethnic minority, but the fact is that where-ever there is Islam there is an armed uprising that seeks to destroy the current government and take it over in the name of Islam.  We can trace this tendency to two causes:

  • Jihad.  It is incumbent on every Muslim to carry out jihad or holy war to fight for Islam to be dominant in the governance of the State where he/she lives.  This would result in the imposition of Muslim Sharia law, that requires everyone in the State to follow the Muslim religion, infidels and heretics would either convert or be murdered.
  • Modern Political Islam.  This was initiated in 1928 when Hassan al Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, in order to reassert Muslim control of power in Muslim/Arab countries.  It included a hatred for the West and all it stood for (democracy, liberalism, secularism) that was considered to have infiltrated and influenced Muslim society.  In order to remove this influence and return Islamic society to its original form such groups as Hamas, al Qaeda and ISIS wage ferocious wars of destruction.  

The reason “homegrown” Muslim terrorists wreak havoc and murder in their home countries is due to these two influences, spread by Islamic preachers in Mosques and through the internet via web-sites and videos.  Such avenues have hardly been touched by the Western powers-that-be due to concern for freedom of expression and individual rights.  These considerations must be overcome in order that the threat of jihadi Islam be defeated.

It is believed by Muslims that the world is divided into two regions, Dar al Harb, the region of war (or Dar al Kufr, the region of infidels) and Dar al Islam, the region of Islam (or Dar al Salam, the region of peace).  Looked at rationally, the opposite is in fact true, the region of Islam is the most war-torn violent region in the world, while the West is largely a region of peace (apart from Muslim terrorism and domestic violence).  The West does not seek to attack Muslim regions, only in response and in defense against attacks initiated by Muslim terrorists. So there is something fundamentally wrong and perverse about the Muslim religion and it needs fixing if the Muslim world is to enter the 21st century.  But, it is not our job to fix it, it is theirs.


Can one be a Feminist and an Islamist?

The answer to the question posed in the title is clearly a resounding “No!”  One cannot be a feminist and an Islamist, since an Islamist by definition supports the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic) Law, and Sharia Law requires that women be treated as property, the chattel of their owners, their parents or husbands.  On the other hand, Linda Sarsour, a Muslim BDS activist, has recently become infamous for making the statement that “one cannot be a feminist and a Zionist.”  This is utter nonsense, completely contrary to the truth and is pure propaganda.

The early Zionists were egalitarian and treated women the same as men, which led to many problems in relation to the Muslim Arabs.  One of the reasons they rioted against the Zionists in Palestine and fought them at every turn was because they were bringing ideas of female emancipation, Western ideas, into the backward and primitive Middle East.  This is still one of the main reasons the Islamic State and other Islamists oppose the West, because they resent the influence of western values into their backward view of women, they fear losing control of their own women (including inflicting female genital mutilation).  So exactly the opposite is true, one certainly can be a Zionist and a feminist , but one cannot be a feminist and an Islamist.

You have only to come to Israel and see women working in every aspect of life.  There are women pilots in the IDF and women officers train men in every area of the IDF, and women also go into combat.  And what about Golda Meir, former PM of Israel, and what about the women who are currently Ministers in Netanyahu’s Government, e.g. Miri Regev who is Minister of Culture and Sports and Ayelet Shaked who is Minister of Justice.

This statement of Sarsour is so divorced from reality that one cannot imagine anyone with any knowledge of the Middle East accepting it at face value.  Yet, because Sarsour was one of the organizers of the Women’s March on Washington (against the election of President Trump) NY Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has praised her as a worthy feminist.  What hypocrisy.  Sarsour must be challenged on her erroneous and biased statements and should be exposed for what she is, another lying anti-Semitic Muslim.

The Art of Scandinavia

I watched the series on BBC (originally on Channel 4, but this was on BBC World News) by Andrew Graham-Dickson entitled “The Art of Scandinavia,” and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it. 

The first episode entitled “The Dark Night of the Soul” explores the often truly depressing art that comes out of a country like Norway that is dark for over half the year.  Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” could not have been produced in almost any other country or climate.  But, Munch (1863-1944) was depressed for good reason, he had witnessed the death of his favorite sister when he was a child, and seemingly never got over it.   There are several other Norwegian artists, such as Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857), and Peder Balke (1804-1887), who painted the cold, unpopulated north, with dramatic mountain scenery with snow and ice, very atmospheric, but very desolate.

Henryk Ibsen (1828-1906) was one of the greatest dramatists, whose thrust was to dissect out Norways’s social conventions, sometimes in ways that were considered scandalous at the time.  Yet, from our point of view they were very modern, touching themes of adultery, rape, and aberrant behavior.  He represented the clear-eyed way in which Scandinavians have of skewering themselves and their society.

The second episode about Denmark was very interesting.  I did not realize previously the catastrophic effect of the defeat of 1864 by Prussia on Danish history and the Danish psychology.   He ended by saying that Denmark was the “ugly duckling” that needed to think of itself as a swan.  Very symbolic.  But, the trouble with that excellent analogy is that Hans Christian Andersen wrote it in 1844 (I looked it up) twenty years before the historic defeat.  But, it is not chance that Denmark passed from an Empire to Legoland, the littlest country in Europe.

The third episode “Democratic by design,” features Sweden.  Around the turn of the 20th century Sweden was like most other countries in Europe, with its bourgeoisie and Victoriana, only with more angst.  Strindberg (1849-1912) revolutionized the theater as an experience,   His palette knife paintings of the Swedish sea represented well his turbulent soul.  But, then came the Social Democrats, who really believed that everyone should be equal, but without a revolution.  

They believed a transformation of society should come about by sweeping away luxury and unnecessary frippery and making everything democratic, a movement called functionalism.  Thus came about Swedish design, beauty in simplicity, at an affordable price.  People should not live in separate houses, but in warehouses designed for the masses, with large windows (to get as much light in as possible), and interchangeable furniture and even down to the functional simplicity of the cutlery.  This all ended logically with Ikea, the commercial exploitation of affordable functional design.

But, then there was a reaction.  The Social Democrats were defeated, and the literature of Sweden took a decidedly unexpected turn, to brutal crime novels, a revelation of the unpleasant underbelly of Social Democracy, but often written by extreme Marxists. Here the novels of Stieg Larsen (‘The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest“) are representative. Yes, the Swedes wanted to welcome the new immigrants from Africa and Syria, but no they would not actually treat them as equals.  A quick detour back to Strindberg.  

Counting Coup

It was the practice of the warriors of the Plains Indians (or indigenous peoples) of North America to “count coup.” This consisted of warriors when in battle to actually approach the enemy and physically touch them, even fight with them hand-to-hand, and then withdraw unharmed.  Each incident of this was recorded in stories after the event and so the number of times a coup was attained was counted.  The warriors carried a coup stick and each incident was notched on this stick.  Each time a warrior managed a coup they would receive a feather to wear, so the braver a warrior, the greater the number of feathers. Hence the word “brave” to describe an Indian warrior.  If they were injured in carrying out a coup attempt the feather would be colored red.  If they were a very brave warrior and became a Chief they could wear a feather headdress.

This practice or tradition was an unfortunate factor in the interaction of the Indians with the “white man,” because the white men came with guns that killed from afar.  This killing at a distance was considered ignoble by the braves in their culture, and so they considered the white man cowardly.  Of course, eventually the Indians were forced to adopt the use of guns, as well as bows and arrows, in order to survive.  A similar attitude pervades the interaction of the Japanese with the West, where reliance on the sword among the samurai was paramount.

In a humorous way I count coup with my wife, every time I approach her, especially when she is mad, and I touch the tip of her nose, that is considered a brave act.  I have managed to do this many times, although not without sustaining personal injury.  Needless to say I do not wear feathers, but I do carry the scars of these brave acts. Nevertheless, one might consider the passing of this brave act by the Indians as a loss.  How noble to count coup rather than actually killing the enemy, although the Indians did in fact kill each other with great zeal, which helps explain why there were relatively few of them throughout the North American continent.

Movie Reviews

I happen to be fortunate to have viewed a number of recent movies in the past few weeks. Here is my opinion of them:

  1. The Accountant: This movie was the most engrossing, starring Ben Affleck as a person with Asperger’s Syndrome with the highly unlikely combination of advanced math skills and extreme fighting capability.  He is the accountant for many criminal enterprises.  Yet he eventually helps to bring down one of the really bad guys, but also keeps ahead of the law.
  2. The Girl on the Train: An interesting complex interaction of several women with severe personal problems, which is both interesting yet confusing.  Why are two of the women blondes who look very much alike, how can someone on a train passing at speed manage to see so much action in close up?  Not very believable.
  3. Arrival.  The problem, with any movie about the arrival of extraterrestrials (aliens) on earth is that eventually you have to show them.  Having them look like octopi, but with seven arms/legs and living in a dense fog is somewhat hokey.  How they manage to communicate is novel, a bit like blowing smoke rings.  But having only one interpreter and having everything depend on one mistake is ridiculous.
  4. Hacksaw Ridge:  This is an excellent movie based on the true story  of Desmond Doss who volunteered for service in WWII, yet because he was a Seventh Day Adventist he refused to touch a gun.  After he received the expected opposition from the Army and his fellow soldiers, he distinguished himself as a combat medic by saving ca. 75 wounded soldiers after the battle on Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa and was the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor.  The gory battle sequences are not for the faint-hearted.
  5. Jack Reacher, never go back:  Another in a long line of indestructible tough guys, after James Bond, Steven Seagal, Charles Bronson, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and a host of others,  Jack Reacher, played by Tom Cruise, is too tough to be believed.  He falls off tall buildings, gets up and beats up the bad guys.  Some people enjoy this.
  6. Manchester by the Sea: Although the acting is excellent, the pervasive sense of depression, for good reasons, makes this a real downer.
  7. Sully:  The incredible true story of Captain Sullenberger who ditched his plane in the Hudson river, saved all his passengers and became a hero.  After a critical investigation he was exonerated.
  8. Deepwater Horizon:  The true story of the explosion and huge oil rupture that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico and cost BP Oil billions of dollars.  The “hero” is played admirably by Mark Wahlberg.
  9. Hell or High Water: An intriguing bank robbery story from East Texas, desolate and fly-blown, where the bad guys are really good guys and it has a sort of happy ending.
  10. Snowden: Excellent movie about the Wikileaks leaker, where moral ambiguity abounds.  Was he a good guy for leaking the truth or a bad guy for leaking secrets?
  11. Hidden Figures: A truly significant movie that shows how three Black women made important contributions to the US space program in the 1960s.
  12. Elle: Typical French film, erotic and pretentious.  Why would a woman allow herself to be raped three times by the same man?   Who would want to rape her?
  13. La La Land: Would like to be a musical, but without the talent; intensely shallow.
  14. Fences: An acting tour de force by Denzel Washington (he should have won the Oscar) and Viola Davis (she did).  A very theatrical movie.
  15. Moonlight: Incredibly slow movie about uninteresting monosyllabic people.  How this could have won the Oscar for best picture beats me.  Even “La La Land” was better, and most of those movies above were much better.

I enjoyed watching most of these movies, but if you don’t like them there are plenty more to chose from.

Nostalgic Jewish Songs

Batya Fonda gave another of her excellent concerts at Temple Beth Israel in Netanya, this time with the theme “Home,” including songs in Yiddish and Ladino that specifically mention places where Jews settled and considered their home.  Batya sang in her beautiful soprano voice and also played recordings and videos while projecting the words in Yiddish or Ladino with English translations.

Many of these songs commemorate the idea of the shtetl, which could mean a village or town of even a district of a city where the Jews lived, but more specifically “shtetele” meant the locale where you lived.  Jews in the Diaspora, despite the persecution and estrangement, were nostalgic for the places where they had lived, sometimes for centuries. Examples of such songs with place names are:

  • Belz, was a center of Hassidim in western Ukraine near the Polish border. The song “Mein shtetele Belz” is nostalgic for the place and the life the Jews lived there.  The town was predominantly Jewish and was decimated by the Nazis in 1941, ca. 150 Jews were burned alive in the Great Synagogue, now commemorated by a plaque.  The Belzer Hassidic sect survived and have rebuilt their Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.
  • Warsaw, was a great city that had many Jewish neighborhoods.  One was on Krochmalna Street, commemorated in song, which was famous as a poor but intensely Jewish area, where the father of Issac Bashevis Singer held his Rabbinic Court, featured in his first novel, “In My Father’s Court.”
  • Roumania: The song “Roumania” is perhaps one of the most famous and popular Yiddish songs.  It idealizes Roumania as a beautiful and pleasant country and shows that at least for a while Jews were able to live there and were nostalgic for it.
  • Vilna, was known as “The Jerusalem of the North” for being a center of Jewish learning and it was commemorated in song. The Lithuanians massacred the Jews of Vilna in the forest of Ponar in 1941, and bragged to the Nazis that they had made their country the first Judenfrei in Europe.
  • Bialystok, was a large city with a large Jewish population, the song “Bialystok meyn hame” was well-known in the 1930’s.
  • Crimea, also known as Dzankoye, the Jews who settled on collective farms in Soviet Russia and formed a Jewish community there, which was decimated later by Stalin.
  • Sarajevo.  There are many nostalgic songs composed in Ladino by Sephardim who were exiled from Spain over 500 years ago.  Flory Jagoda who lives in Washingotn DC has recorded many of them, including songs about her birthplace Sarajevo in Bosnia that had a Sephardic Jewish community.
  • Salonika, was also a center of Sephardic Jews who spoke Ladino and Greek.  They were almost totally wiped out by the Nazis.
  • Odessa, had a large Jewish community and Isaac Babel wrote stories about them, including the Jewish gangsters.  The song “Odessa” in Yiddish is well-known.
  • Vytshepl, or in English Whitechapel, was the center of the Yiddish (Ashkenazi) settlement in London, England and there was a Yiddish song composed about it. I grew up near there and it did not seem so pleasant to me.
  • Birobidzhan, was a false homeland for Yiddish-speaking Jews that Stalin concocted on the remote Russian border with China. There were never more than 17,000 Jews there, yet some Yiddish songs were composed about this “homeland.”
  • Moizesville, was a completely Jewish town established in Argentina in the late nineteenth century by Baron Hirsch for Yiddish-speaking Jews and it flourished and songs were composed about it. But, now it has very few Jews remaining.

Batya played “Over the Rainbow” from the “Wizard of Oz” composed in 1939 with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, two Jews writing at a particularly poignant time. Batya’s research was detailed and impressive and you can find an amazing collection of Jewish folksongs on her website at http://www.jewishfolksongs.com/en/about .