Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Snapshots of the Holy Land

Hamas announces candidates for parliament speaker, faction chair:
Hamas announced Wednesday that it intends to appoint Abed al-Aziz Duaik to head the new Palestinian parliament.

Duaik is considered one of the most senior members of the organization in the West Bank and a member of the movement's more pragmatic wing.

Earlier Wednesday, the group announced that Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas member in Gaza and one of its leading radicals, would serve as the Hamas faction chairman in the new parliament.

Zahar had been considered a contender for the prime minister's job, and Wednesday's appointment meant he was no longer in the running.

Hamas sources said they expect the group to soon announce that the most senior Hamas man in Gaza and No. 1 on the party's parliamentary list, Ismail Haniyeh, will serve as prime minister.

These moves give the impression that the organization is appointing its more moderate members to the important positions, and giving hardliners like al-Zahar more peripheral roles.

Hamas Video: We will drink the blood of the Jews:
The Hamas website this week presented the parting video messages of two Hamas suicide terrorists. One message was for Jews, whose blood Hamas promises to drink until Jews "leave the Muslim countries," and the second to a mother, as she helps dress her son for battle prior to his suicide terror mission.

Each terrorist had a separate message for Jews. This [sic] first said,

"My message to the loathed Jews is that there is no god but Allah, we will chase you everywhere! We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. We will not leave you alone until we have quenched our thirst with your blood, and our children's thirst with your blood. We will not leave until you leave the Muslim countries."

The second terrorist said the following:

"In the name of Allah, we will destroy you, blow you up, take revenge against you, [and] purify the land of you, pigs that have defiled our country... This operation is revenge against the sons of monkeys and pigs."

One of the terrorists saw his death as a wedding with the Maidens of Paradise:

"I dedicate this wedding [i.e. death for Allah] to all of those who have chosen Allah as their goal, the Quran as their constitution and the Prophet [Muhammad] as their role model. Jihad is the only way to liberate Palestine - all of Palestine - from the impurity of the Jews."

The message to one of the terrorist's mother was instruction for her to be joyous over his death and his "wedding" with the "Maidens of Paradise."

"My dear mother, you who have cared for me, today I sacrifice my life to be your intercessor [on Judgment Day]. O my love and soul, wipe your tears, don't be saddened. In the name of Allah, I've achieve all that I've aspired. Don't let me see you sad on my wedding day with the Maidens of Paradise. So be happy and not sad, because in the name of Allah, after death is merciful Allah's paradise."

Included in the clip is the farewell scene between the mother and terrorist son while she helps him don his military vest. In the background one can hear the lyrics, "My dear mother, don't cry over us."

El Al Airlines installs anti-missile systems on passenger aircrafts:
El Al Israel Airlines has installed anti-missiles systems on its passenger aircraft, completing an overhaul launched after a 2002 attempt to shoot down a plane, security sources said on Wednesday.

They said the "Flight Guard", an Israeli-made system costing around $1 million per unit, was operational on the entire El Al fleet. It was not immediately clear if this applied to five planes leased by El Al as well as its own 29 aircraft.

El Al, Israel's national carrier and largest airline, declined to comment, saying it did not discuss security issues.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Hamshahri's Cartoon Jihad

The Iranian establishment rag Hamshahri has released its call for cartoon jihad.
As usual, freedom of expression is used to serve as an excuse for westerners to attack sanctities of the Muslims in blatant disregard for moral principles and respect for opinions of others. The attack comes despite the fact that it is an unforgiven crime in the West to debate and critique many issues including the domineering system, looting and crimes perpetrated by the US and Israel as well as alleged historical events like the Holocaust.

Many thinkers express doubt about the accuracy of the Holocaust. However even expressing doubt in this regard entails prosecution.

In the wake of the publication of the profane cartoons in several European newspapers, Hamshahri is going to measure the sanctity of freedom of expression among the westerners. Thus, it is co-sponsoring with the Caricature House a competition on the Holocaust.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Politicized Ignorance

Sol of Solomonia draws attention to this post by David Bernstein of the The Volokh Conspiracy. Bernstein writes about a review of Spielberg's Munich by Edward Said's most earnest epigone, Columbia professor Joseph Massad. The rhetorical device around which the review turns is an analogy between Munich and Exodus, the 1960 Otto Preminger film based on Leon Uris's novel of the same name. The novel is a fictional treatment of the founding of Israel that includes a dramatization of the ordeal faced by Jewish Holocaust survivors on the ship Exodus 1947, who were fleeing European Displaced Persons camps to settle in Palestine.

Here is Massad's take on this event in post-Holocaust Jewish history:

Exodus was the major cinematic achievement of the Zionist movement. The film popularized the Zionist cause and remains inspirational to young American and European Zionists. The film was most effective in staging the determination and desperation of the Zionist leadership, which was depicted as having no choice but to conquer Palestine and make it the Jewish State.

Others have pointed out Massad's intellectual limitations, not the least of which is the violence (see POSTSCRIPT) he does to language. And surely the thesis he develops -- that like Exodus, "Munich is already having the same impact on American audiences and is playing the same role as Exodus did in legitimizing Israeli policies and the Zionist project" -- will strike any reasonable person who's seen the film as a blinkered reading. But Bernstein refers to the Massad piece as "lunatic", which isn't quite right, as it implies Massad is inured to reality.

The truth is that both the Uris novel and the movie can be accused of distilling and embellishing Zionist history in that era. So in this narrow sense, Massad, in pursuing the tack that these fictionalizations amount to propaganda, is not "lunatic". Instead, where I believe he fails, both analytically and morally, is in his utter lack of concern for the Jewish historical narrative. To reduce this short but brutal chapter of Jewish history to a mere furtherance of "the Zionist project" is criminal. Such an extreme brand of myopia is troubling in an Ivy League Middle East Studies professor.

I'm no Martin Kramer, but most of what I learn about Middle East Studies reaffirms a suspicion of mine. That is: in the wake of Edward Said, the discipline, beyond being thoroughly politicized, is in itself a political statement about the relationship of Jews to the Middle East.

Consider the stars today of Middle East Studies -- people like Massad and Juan Cole. They (at least putatively) have a general knowledge of the region, they have their areas of cultural specialization, and they are of course steeped in postcolonial, that is Saidian, theoretics. You also have the sundry scholars of Islam. But is there any one of them whose area of cultural specialization is Jews? Any one who is a scholar of Judaism? A historian of Israel, or even a fluent Hebrew speaker? Any one who learned the Bernard Lewis/Chatham House ouevre before rejecting it?

Clearly then, for the Saidian set of Middle East scholars, a political statement about the relationship of Jews to the Middle East is being made: that there is no relationship between the two besides that of Zionist-colonial depredation. Jews are mere interlopers, fanged colonists, European bagmen, even Nazis. They are not -- cannot -- be indiginous to the region, and worthy of study themselves.

It is therefore not "lunacy", or merely sub-par scholarship and political indoctrination, that results in pablum like Massad's review, but a studied disengagement from anything authentically Jewish. It is, in short, politicized ignorance.

Addendum: This post is an adapted expansion of comments I made on Solomonia. Bernstein seems to have come across those original comments, and in an update to his post, quoted me at length. In preparing this post, I took Bernstein's editorial suggestions and added "A historian of Israel, or even a fluent Hebrew speaker?" to my series of rhetorical questions in the antepenultimate paragraph.