Harvey, how could you?

Let’s say they put me in a  room full of chocolates and said you’re not allowed to eat any, do you think I’d succumb?  Sure I would, I’m only human.  But, that doesn’t excuse Harvey Weinstein for his apparent serial sexual philandering and misconduct.  He should, of course, know better.  He was a sexual predator.

But, in Hollywood, where the emphasis is on sex, what do you expect?  There will always be the “casting couch” mentality.  However,. that does not excuse Harvey for taking advantage of it.  Its like Bernie Madoff with money.  I’ve always wondered if a girl with real acting talent doesn’t play ball what happens to her career?   Its a great shame that human nature being what it is that men take advantage of their power over young vulnerable women. Now that he has been found out, Harvey will have to pay the price for his proclivities.  And let that be a lesson to all the other Hollywood moguls who think they are invulnerable.

Harvey Weinstein is accused of committing rape, a very serious criminal offense, and is being investigated both in the US and UK for this crime.  He has been forced out of his company and it is likely in serious financial trouble.  He has been banned from the Board of the Academy of Motion Pictures.  Was it worth it Harvey?  We’ll have to wait for the docudrama to judge for ourselves.  Harvey Weinstein should get the justice he deserves.  But, in this whole issue there is a lot of hypocrisy and self-righteous breast-beating.  That’s Hollywood for you.

 

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The Jewish Transformation

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the divergence of interests between the State of Israel and Diaspora Jews, particularly American Jews. This has crystallized around the dispute about access to the Western Wall, supposedly the holiest shrine in Judaism, the remnants of the Temple in Jerusalem, that was built over 2000 years ago.  The Government of PM Netanyahu has reneged on an agreement to allow non-Orthodox Jews access to pray at this shrine.

But, this dispute goes even deeper, because it is part of the question of what it means to be a Jew.  As I have argued before, much of the problem comes from the ambiguity of the word “Jew.”  It has three meanings, it denotes a national group, an ethnic group, and a religious group.  Failure to come to terms with these distinctions leads to much confusion.

Originally a Jew was someone from the Kingdom of Judea.  They had a distinct national identity, a unique ethnic culture and a characteristic religion, Judaism.   When their nation-state was destroyed by the Romans in 70 ce, they lost their national identity, but were kept together by the other two aspects. But, as we know, the Jews never stopped yearning for a return to their own homeland, which was a desire for a return to nationhood.

When this was accomplished after much persecution and suffering in 1948, the sovereign State of Israel was reborn.  But, Jews in the Diaspora remained an ethnic and religious minority.  The test is that there is a distinction between Jewish and Israeli Americans.  They may share values and a religion in common, but whereas Jewish Americans remain an ethnic-religious minority, Israeli Americans are a national minority, like French, Anglo and Italian Americans.  Jews still remain sui generis, their nationality remains that of their country of citizenship, not that of the sovereign Jewish State.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Exception

The Exception” is a recent movie with an interesting premise.  I did not know that Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was the German King during WWI, and who was ousted in 1918 at the end of the war as part of the Allies demands on Germany, actually continued to live in exile in Holland.  When Hitler took over as Chancellor in 1933 he continued to pay the Kaiser his civil salary.  But, when the Nazis invaded Holland, they sent an SS officer to ensure that the Kaiser was protected.  In the movie this SS officer is a sympathetic character who has suffered during the fighting on the Eastern Front, and is having doubts about the Nazis.

He encounters a pretty young new maid in the Kaiser’s household, with whom he has an affair.  Although she is Dutch, she has a dark complexion, and I immediately realized she was Jewish.  If I knew, then why didn’t the characters in the movie, including the SS officer, the Kaiser, played admirably but too sympathetically by Christopher Plummer, his wife and his Chief of Staff also have their suspicions.  It also turns out that she is a British agent sent by Winston Churchill no less.  It stretches the border of credulity to believe that the British would send a Jewish girl to contact the Kaiser, but its a movie.  I suppose in war-time, they needed someone who spoke Dutch and knew the area, etc.  OK, so if we accept that premise, then the movie is well done and entertaining.

Her mission is to contact the Kaiser and persuade him not to throw his lot in with the Nazis and then after the War the British might consider restoring him to the throne.  At the same time the Nazis appear to be offering him a possible restoration, but he would have to move to Berlin.  This is a ruse by the Nazis to take control of him, and he is warned and decides not to go.  So mission accomplished.  It so happens that the Kaiser died in 1941 and the monarchy was not restored in Germany.

What happens to the characters in the movie is engrossing, but this particular SS Officer is supposed to be “the exception” in that he is humane.  There were in fact a few documented cases of so-called humane Germans: Kurt Gerstein in the play “The Deputy” by Rolf Hochhuth was an actual SS Officer who wrote a report about the gas chambers in Auschwitz and died under mysterious circumstances; the Wehrmacht Officer Wilm Hosenfeld portrayed in the movie “The Pianist,” basically saved the life of Wadyslaw Szpilman, who was the pianist.  There may have been a few more, but they were really exceptions.

 

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.