Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Neocons for Trump

Here's Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen giving Trump the thumbs-up for his first 100 days in office:

"Trump did something in his first 100 days that his predecessor could not bring himself to do in his entire second term: He enforced Obama's red line against Syria's use of chemical weapons. When the Assad regime apparently used a toxic nerve agent on innocent men, women and children, Trump didn't wring his hands. He acted quickly and decisively, and in so doing restored our credibility on the world stage that Obama had squandered." (Forget the critics, Mr President. Your first 100 days have been just fine, Marc Thiessen, 24/4/17)

Note the word "apparently." This is Thiessen paying lip-service to 'allegedly'. Clearly, he doesn't want you to dwell on the implications of Trump acting on Asad's apparent use of chemical weapons. He just wants you to move right along and applaud the president for acting "quickly and decisively."

All you really need to know about Marc Thiessen is revealed in his appended bio, where he's described as "a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for president George W Bush."

Macron's Israeli Mates

"Israeli politicians who have met Emmanuel Macron said Monday they are impressed with the French presidential candidate. Macron, who will face a runoff race against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen on May 7, was in Israel in September 2015 when he was economy minister and met with his counterpart, Arye Deri. 'I was very impressed by him,' Deri said... Macron met Labor leadership candidate Erel Margalit when he came to Jerusalem, which led to an invitation to Margalit to meet with Macron and French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace. Margalit, who was a high-tech entrepreneur before he entered politics, said the two have met four of five times... 'If Macron is elected, France will embark on an innovation economy and Israel will be at the center of its economic cooperation,' Margalit said... According to Margalit, Macron inquired about advancing joint Israeli-Palestinian economic projects in Bethlehem as a catalyst for building relations. Asked for Macron's view on diplomatic issues, Margalit said he 'wants the two-state solution to be a win-win for Israel'." (Emmanuel Macron's Israel ties, Gil Hoffman, jpost.com, 24/4/17)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Molan Rattles the Sabre for Israel

Vintage Jim Molan... strutting Israel's stuff on the opinion page of yesterday's Australian:

"Everything that is concerning about the Middle East could now manifest itself on the southern Lebanese border... Iran, which finances Hezbollah to at least 80% of its annual $US1 billion budget, is achieving its grand geo-strategic aims by influence, aid and proxies in the failed states of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon." (Puppet-state Lebanon a pawn for ambitious Iran)

Oh, really? If Iraq is a "failed state," who then is responsible?

Moylan, of course! As his appended bio states, "Jim Molan is a retired army officer who served as chief of operations in Iraq..."

And if Syria ever becomes a "failed state," it'll only be because the Americans, their allies, and their various jihadi proxies, will have succeeded in toppling Asad - as with Saddam and Gaddafi in Iraq and Libya respectively.

As for Lebanon, the only thing that stands in the way of it becoming an Israeli colony is the determined resistance of Hezbollah, which emerged as the spearhead of Lebanon's national resistance to Israel's 1982-2000 occupation of south Lebanon.

Let's be clear here: the only grand plan at play in the Middle East today is Israel's. The Middle East's only apartheid state, financed by its US proxy to the tune of $US3 billion plus annually, and armed to the teeth with its proxy's weapons of mass destruction, wants a balkanised Arab world over which it has undisputed hegemony.

And here's Molan, almost salivating at the prospect of Israel's next rampage in Lebanon:

"[Iran's] most reliable proxy is Hezbollah, which has had thousands fight in Syria... The skills and experience gained by Hezbollah in Syria will be brought back to Lebanon for use when Iran next wants trouble to occur... Of course Israel will not stand for this. It is poised and ready, as I saw in a recent Israeli-sponsored trip to its northern border. If Hezbollah starts something, then Israel is likely to see the Lebanese government, people and supporting infrastructure as one with Hezbollah, and all as legal targets for the best air force in the world... If Israel replies to Hezbollah provocation, it will take a decade for Lebanon to recover."

Lebanon and its people as "legal targets for the best air force in the world." Chilling.

Thank God Abbott's "Special Envoy for Sovereign Borders" failed in his bid to win a Senate seat for the Liberals in the 2016 election.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Je M'excuse...!

by Gideon Levy

Dear Orna & Moshe Gan-Zvi,

"I was saddened to read in Tuesday's Hebrew edition of Haaretz that you've decided to cancel your subscription. I don't know you, but I will miss you as readers. As someone who is partly responsible for your decision, as your article indicated, allow me to apologize. To apologize for writing the truth all these years. I should have taken into account that this truth wasn't palatable to you, and acted accordingly.

"It was not pleasant for you to read the theory put forward by me and my fellow Haaretz correspondent Amira Hass about the occupation. You, who are active in Rotary Israel, who come from the business world, who are so proud of your children and the fact that they live in the West Bank. Your son was educated at the Eli premilitary academy, and your granddaughters proudly carry the last name Sheetrit. You, who are so pleased with yourselves and your values, with your children and your morals, don't think you should be forced to read unpleasant truths. You simply don't deserve it.

"Indeed, how could I have spent all these years publishing articles that even you, generously, admitted were touching, without ever, to my shame, checking how these Palestinian families ended up in their serious predicaments? Really, how did this happen? Of course it was their own fault, but I keep blaming the Israel Defense Forces - how could I? And how could Amira Hass be so one-sided and lacking in perspective that would explain how a people could prefer the elimination of another people over a democratic society? Really, how could you, Amira?

"I assume, Moshe, that if they were to lock you in a cage for years, you would continue your Rotary membership and refuse to back a struggle against your incarceration. I assume, Orna, that if foreign soldiers were to burst into your home in the middle of the night and arrest your Moshe before your eyes, kick him, force him to his knees, blindfold him, handcuff him, and beat him in front of your children who study in Eli - and then snatch him from your home for months without trial - you would be looking for some 'creative leadership' for your people.

"I assume that you, who come from the business world, would lovingly accept those who confiscate your property and ban you from your own land. I'm sure it would never occur to you to struggle against those who have tortured you with such evil for so many years.

"What can we do? The Palestinians are different from you, dear Orna and Moshe. They were not born in such lofty heights as you. They are human animals, bloodthirsty, born to kill. Not all of them are as ethical as you and your children from the Eli academy. Yes, there are people who fight for their freedom. There are people who are forced to do so violently. In fact, there are almost no nations who haven't acted this way, including the chosen people you're proud to belong to. Not only do you belong; you are the pillar of fire that leads the camp, you're the best, the moral elite - you, the religious Zionists.

"I apologize for the one-sidedness. How could I not maintain a a balance between the murderer and the murdered; the thief and his victim; the occupier and the occupied? Forgive me for daring to turn off your joy and pride in the land flowing with milk and Mobileye, and cherry tomatoes, too. There are so many wonderful things in this country, and Haaretz - with its 'moral deterioration,' as you call it - is ruining the party. How did I not see that you don't like to read the truth, and didn't take this into account when I'd return from the occupied territories every week to write about what I'd seen with my own eyes?

"But now it's too late. The call to boycott chocolate spread was too much even for you, so you've decided to boycott Haaretz. From now on, the only paper on your coffee table will be the weekly, right-wing Makor Rishon. They won't write about how IDF soldiers sprayed five Palestinian car passengers with bullets three weeks ago, and I'm sure your Shabbats will be a lot more pleasant from now on." (A heartfelt apology to Haaretz readers, Haaretz, 21/4/17)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

While You Were All Distracted by Steve Bannon...

... the Trumble/Shorten crew have been supping with the devil himself this weekend. Here's what you should know about Mike Pence:

1)

"Trump is a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors. [...]

"Pence has claimed that he wants to 'economically isolate' Iran rather than engage in a military attack. But should Israel decide to conduct pre-emptive strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, he said in 2010, 'if the world knows nothing else, let the world know this: that America will stand with Israel.' He supported a failed legislative effort to make it U.S. policy 'to use all means necessary to confront and eliminate nuclear threats posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, including the use of military force.' Both in rhetoric and policy, Pence has compared 'radical Islam' to the 'evil empire of the Soviet Union' and said that he and Trump will 'name the enemy' and 'marshal the resources of our nation and our allies to hunt them down and destroy them before they threaten us'." (Mike Pence will be the most powerful Christian supremacist in US history, Jeremy Scahill, theintercept.com, 16/11/16)

2)

"While one might expect Jewish leaders to keep their distance from a popular Christian pastor with extremist views such as these, [John] Hagee has been closely embraced by Israeli governments (Netanyahu is a fixture at CUFI [Christians United for Israel] conventions), Jewish American politicians (Former Senator Joseph Lieberman has referred to Hagee as a modern-day Moses) and prominent American Jewish leaders (Elie Weisel once called Hagee 'my pastor.')

"CUFI's Jewish Executive Director, David Brog, clearly serves to give cover to Christian Zionists, painting them as 'mainstream' and not nearly as scary as their beliefs would indicate. Following the outcome of the recent election, however, Brog seems to smell blood in the water; he recently announced CUFI's plans to get 'a little more aggressive' in pushing its policies with the Trump administration, where it has clout and connections, particularly with evangelical Vice President Mike Pence.

"To put it mildly, Jews should be among the least of those who would seek to find common cause with one such as Mike Pence. In an extremely important piece for the Intercept, last November, reporter Jeremy Scahill convincingly argued that Pence is 'the most powerful Christian supremacist in US history,' concluding: 'The implications of a Pence vice presidency are vast. Pence combines the most horrid aspects of Dick Cheney's worldview with a belief that Tim LaHaye's Left Behind novels are not fiction, but an omniscient crystal ball.'

"It should not come as a surprise that the Pence family's last trip to Israel was funded by, you guessed it, John Hagee. Pence, who was then the governor of Indiana, took the time to meet with Netanyahu during his visit. Now connect those dots to Pence's meeting with the Israeli prime minister during his recent visit to DC. Both Pence and Netanyahu later commented that they met to discuss, among other things, the creation of a 'mechanism' that would help the White House and Israel better coordinate construction in the settlements on the West Bank." (Apocalyptic extremism: no longer a laughing matter, Rabbi Brant Rosen, rabbibrant.com, 27/2/17)

See also Trump & Pence had a Jewish connection before a political one - and it's steeped in the Holocaust (mondoweiss.net, 24/4/17)

Bernard Lewis Demolishes Piers Akerman

How erudite is Piers Akerman! All of history is lodged in the man's noble cranium! One cannot but be humbled by the depth of his scholarship:

"Alexandria had housed the greatest library in the ancient world before it was burnt by the Romans in pre-Christian days. Historians say the fire may have spread accidentally from ships in the harbour. The library was rebuilt and the city retained its reputation as one of the most cosmopolitan seats of civilisation in the world. Egypt became a Christian nation, not through invasion, but through persuasion. That changed with the Arab invasion 600 years after St Mark's arrival. In 642AD, Caliph Omar promptly ordered the burning of the papyrus books and records in the rebuilt library. It is held that he told a general: 'If those books are in agreement with the Koran, we have no need of them, and if these are opposed to the Koran, destroy them. The destruction of knowledge, beauty and culture was deliberate - as deliberate as the most recent destruction of the ancient monuments and temples in Palmyra in Syria by ISIS and the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan." (Christianity attacked at holiest celebration, Sunday Telegraph, 16/4/17)

Oh, wait:

"From Professor Hugh Lloyd-Jones's review of Luciano Canfora's book on the library of Alexandria [NYR, June 14], one learns, with astonishment, that the author, and perhaps even to some degree the reviewer, are still disposed to lend credence to the story of how the great library of Alexandria was destroyed by the Arabs after their conquest of the city in 641 AD, by order of the Caliph 'Umar.

"This story first became known to Western scholarship in 1663, when Edward Pococke, the Laudian Professor of Arabic at Oxford, published an edition of the Arabic text, with Latin translation, of part of the History of the Dynasties of the Syrian-Christian author Barhebraeus, otherwise known as Ibn al-'Ibri. According to this story, 'Amr ibn al-'As, the commander of the Arab conquerors, was inclined to accept the pleas of John the Grammarian and spare the library, but the Caliph decreed otherwise: 'If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.' The books in the library, the story continues, were accordingly distributed among the four thousand bathhouses of the city, and used to heat the furnaces, which they kept going for almost six months.

"As early as 1713, Father Eusebe Renaudot, the distinguished French Orientalist, cast doubt on this story, remarking, in his History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria published in that year, that it 'had something untrustworthy about it.' Edward Gibbon, never one to miss a good story, relates it with gusto, and then proceeds: 'For my own part, I am strongly tempted to deny both the fact and the consequences.' To explain this denial, Gibbon gives the two principal arguments against authenticity - that the story first appears some six hundred years after the action which it purports to describe, and that such action is in any case contrary to what we know of the teachings and practice of the Muslims.

"Since then, a succession of other Western scholars have analyzed and demolished the story - Alfred J. Butler in 1902, Victor Chauvin in 1911, Paul Casanova and Eugenio Griffini, independently, in 1923. Some have attacked the internal improbabilities of the story. A large proportion of books of that time would have been written on vellum, which does not burn. To keep that many bathhouse furnaces going for that length of time, a library of at least 14 million books would have been required. John the Grammarian who, according to the Barhebraeus story, pleaded with 'Amr for his library, is believed to have lived and died in the previous century. There is good evidence that the library itself was destroyed long before the Arabs arrived in Egypt. The 14th century historian Ibn Khaldun tells an almost identical story concerning the destruction of a library in Persia, also by order of the Caliph 'Umar, thus demonstrating its folkloric character. By far the strongest argument against the story, however, is the slight and late evidence. Barhebraeus, the principal source used by Western historians, lived from 1226 to 1289. He had only two predecessors, from one of whom he simply copied the story and both preceded him by no more than a few decades. The earliest source is a Baghdadi physician called 'Abd al-Latif, who was in Egypt in 1203, and in a brief account of his journey refers in passing to 'the library which 'Amr ibn al-'As burnt with the permission of 'Umar.' An Egyptian scholar, Ibn al-Qifti, wrote a history of learned men in about 1227, and includes a biography of John the Grammarian in the course of which he tells the story on which the legend is based. His narrative ends: 'I was told the number of bathhouses that existed at that time, but I have forgotten it. It is said that they were heated for six months. Listen to this story and wonder!' Barhebraeus merely followed the text of Ibn al-Qifti, omitting his final observation on the number of baths. The number is provided by other Arabic sources, in quite different contexts.

"To accept the story of the Arab destruction of the library of Alexandria, one must explain how it is that so dramatic an event was unmentioned and unnoticed not only in the rich historical literature of medieval Islam, but even in the literatures of the Coptic and other Christian churches, of the Byzantines, of the Jews, or anyone else who might have thought the destruction of a great library worthy of comment. That the story still survives, and is repeated, despite all these objections, is testimony to the enduring power of a myth.

"Myths come into existence to answer a question or to serve a purpose, and one may wonder what purpose was served by this myth. An answer sometimes given, and certainly in accord with a currently popular school of epistemology, would see the story as anti-Islamic propaganda, designed by hostile elements to blacken the good name of Islam by showing the revered Caliph 'Umar as a destroyer of libraries. But this explanation is as absurd as the myth itself. The original sources of the story are Muslim, the only exception being Barhebraeus, who copied it from a Muslim author. Not the creation, but the demolition of the myth was the achievement of European scholarship, which from the 18th century to the present day has rejected the story as false and absurd, and thus exonerated the Caliph 'Umar and the early Muslims from this libel.

"But if the myth was created and disseminated by Muslims and not by their enemies, what could possibly have been their motive? The answer is almost certainly provided in a comment of Paul Casanova. Since the earliest occurrence of the story is in an illusion at the beginning of the 13th century, it must have become current in the late 12th century - that is to say, in the time of the great Muslim hero Saladin, famous not only for his victories over the Crusaders, but also - and in a Muslim context perhaps more importantly - for having extinguished the heretical Fatimid caliphate in Cairo, which, with its Isma'ili doctrines, had for centuries threatened the unity of Islam. 'Abd al-Latif was an admirer of Saladin, whom he went to visit in Jerusalem. Ibn al-Qifti's father was a follower of Saladin, who appointed him Qadi in the newly conquered city.

"One of Saladin's first tasks after the restoration of Sunnism in Cairo was to break up the Fatimid collections and treasures and sell their contents at public auction. These included a very considerable library, presumably full of heretical Isma'ili books. The break-up of a library, even one containing heretical books, might well have evoked disapproval in a civilized, literate society. The myth provided an obvious justification. According to this interpretation, the message of the myth was not that the Caliph 'Umar was a barbarian because he destroyed a library, but that destroying a library could be justified, because the revered Caliph 'Umar had approved of it. Thus once again, as on so many occasions, the early heroes of Islam were mobilized by later Muslim tradition to give posthumous sanction to actions and policies of which they had never heard and which they would probably not have condoned.

"It is surely time that the Caliph 'Umar and 'Amr ibn al-'As were finally acquitted of this charge which their admirers and later their detractors conspired to bring against them." (Bernard Lewis, letter in response to The Vanished Library by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, The New York Review of Books, 27/9/90)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Wikipedia's Wild Goose Chase

A cautionary tale...

On April 20, The Australian featured, on its front page, a feel-good story on Yazidi refugees now settled in the NSW town of Wagga Wagga - Yazidi survivors ring in new year, new life (Simon Benson).

An information box titled 'The Yazidis' accompanied the story. Under the sub-heading 'Religion', were these words: "Yazidism, combining elements of Islam, Christianity and Judaism."

Intrigued at the reference to Judaism, I thought, What's this, another lost tribe?

So I started digging. First port of call: Wikipedia. Under 'Yazidis', I read as follows: "The Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious community or an ethno-religious group indigenous to northern Mesopotamia who are strictly endogamous. Their religion, Yazidism is linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions and combines aspects of Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism. [27][28][29][30][31]"

These words, I concluded, would seem to have been the source for The Australian's "combining elements of Islam, Christianity and Judaism."

Next port of call: Wikipedia's footnotes - 27-31.

27 took me to a book called The Ethnically Diverse City, which, on the face of it, had everything to do with urban planning, not Yazidis.

28 took me to a mere heading, Yezidism in Europe... and that was it.

29 took me to The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion & Social Justice. No reference to Yazidis! Still, I persevered, and googled the book online.This is all it had to say on Yazidi religion: "The Yazidi Kurds have been tied to the 'sevener' sect [of Shi'ism], but also represent an ancient heterodox religious sect linked to Zoroastrianism and Sufism." (p 404)

30 took me to a Guardian backgrounder Background: The Yezidi by Fred Attewill & agencies, which claimed that "Their religion, whose origins are shrouded in eastern prehistory, is highly syncretic... It combines elements of Zoroastrian, Manichean, Jewish, Nestorian Christian and Islamic faith." Jewish! Eureka! So I looked up Fred. Was he, perhaps, an authority on obscure Middle Eastern faiths? Alas, no, merely an editor at Agence France-Presse.

31 took me to Who, What, Why: Who are the Yazidis? which said merely that they "revere both the Bible and Koran," that their faith is "linked to Zoroastrianism," and that they "share many elements with Christianity and Islam."

Burning questions:

1) Seriously, would you trust Wikipedia as far as you could throw it?
2) Who slipped "Judaism" into the Wikipedia entry, and why?
3) Where did Fred get his "Jewish" from?

See my last post on Wikipedia, Wikipedia Warning (11/3/17)