November 27, 2013

Those that Scoff

Here in the Progressive bastion, where many like to claim superior knowledge and education, I have often informed people that discrimination against Muslims in America is small compared to discrimination against Jews. Many simply scoff. It is a matter of ignorance, falling for hype, being duped to believe that night is day.

In truth, few of these people are actually involved. They rely on what most say inside their bubble. They only see the matter intellectually. Indifference and insularity certainly play a part. Yet one may surmise that if another minority besides a Jew claimed offense or persecution they would clamor support. The intellectual approach, and the echo that resonates among themselves, prevents them from seeing that they practice a double standard, or recognizing that it has a discriminatory effect towards the Jewish minority and one and only Jewish state. Facts, presented objectively, expose the disconnect and the discrimination that results from ignorance, under the false assumption they hold that they are only being fair.

To illustrate, according to the FBI, in 2012, rather than rampant discrimination against Muslims, Jews remain the No. 1 target of anti-religious hate crimes in America. No other group comes even close. From the FBI web site, of the 1,340 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:
  • 62.4 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
  • 11.6 percent were victims of an anti-Islamic bias.
  • 7.5 percent were victims of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).
  • 6.4 percent were victims of an anti-Catholic bias.
  • 2.6 percent were victims of an anti-Protestant bias.
  • 0.9 percent were victims of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
  • 8.6 percent were victims of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion). (Based on Table 1.)
Those that scoff, and especially those that are quick to call out "Islamophobia," probably don't even know where the concept of Islamophobia was developed. An eyewitness to the creation of the word, wrote:
"This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics."
The strategy was to emulate homosexual activists who used the term "homophobia" to silence critics and exploit the weaknesses of the Western psyche that recoils at the notion of being labeled racist (though Islam is not a race). 

BEWARE OF THOSE THAT SCOFF, especially those that, among themselves, echo and share information that ignores facts like shown above which expose the underlying bigotry and discriminatory effect of their positions. There's a lot more they do not know. Yet we who are not indifferent or removed must bear the brunt of the ignorance.

November 22, 2013

Sensibilities and the "Sons of Pigs and Apes"

Yesterday, in a brief discussion with a friend, I mentioned a book called, "The sons of pigs and apes": Muslim antisemitism and the conspiracy of silence, by Neil Kressel, that I recently came across.

My friend is a progressive. Not like the ones to be found online. She is more accepting. And this is not to criticize her. It is more concerned with the way things are. About how Jews experience a disconnect when it comes to their status as an oppressed minority, more accurately the deprivation of that status, as hatred and threats to them grow out of all proportion.

After I mentioned the book, of which I had read a Kindle sample, she asked what is that, referring to the phrase "sons of pigs and apes." My conversational response was that it's what Muslims call Jews. This link to Palestinian Media Watch provides context. The belief is ingrained in Islam, past and present. Here is an example, among many, from last July:

Some say PMW disseminates propaganda. However, in 2007 Senator Hillary Clinton praised PMW for exposing child abuse, imposed by the Palestinian Authority, as above, through indoctrination that teaches them to hate Jews and Israel. Such demonization is prevalent in Palestinian society, and simple to discover if one looks.

Back to the story. Rather than acknowledgement of the utter indecency of calling EVERY Jew a son of a pig or ape, my good hearted friend admonished me for suggesting that ALL Muslims call Jews sons of pigs and apes. Did I not see that this is what a listener would conclude from my remark?

Only later did I realize her orientation was more concerned with protecting sensibilities of Muslims, generally, rather than the sensibilities and human rights of Jews, ALL Jews, to be free from these hateful, eliminationist threats, insults and behaviors based on the underlying belief by too Muslims that Jews deserve to be exterminated.

The summary of Kressel's book says:
Though it is impossible to determine precisely how many of the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims hold anti-Jewish beliefs, Kressel finds that much bigotry comes from the highest levels of religious and political leadership.
There are 14 million Jews on the planet. If only 5% of Muslims held these beliefs, that would be 60 million people. Is my perceived bigotry or bigotry of Jews the real problem here?

Of course, before going forward, I had to clearly concede that I did not intend to suggest that ALL Muslims hated Jews. That should have been a given in the scheme of things. But the main point was lost, that Muslims do call Jews the sons of pigs and apes. With rare exception, ONLY Muslims do this.

There is nothing bigoted about presenting this fact based truth, not to mention the virtually complete silence of the Muslim community to confront it. It is not just Muslims, however. The Kressel summary also says:
[M]any in the West refuse to recognize this issue. The growing epidemic of hate has been largely ignored, misunderstood, or downplayed, Kressel reveals, because of apathy, ignorance, confusion, bigotry, ideology, purported pragmatism, and misguided multiculturalism. Those who value human rights ignore antisemitism at their own risk, he cautions, noting that no antisemitic regime or movement has ever been otherwise reasonable or progressive. 
This is what matters, at least to me. To say that "the sons of pigs and apes" is what Muslims (and only Muslims) call Jews (which is accurate), does not imply that ALL Muslims are equally guilty. To raise the implication actually diverts from what matters, which is the express bigotry toward Jews simply for not being Muslim, and the ignorance and indifference of too many among us.

Though not the intention of my friend, the same cannot be said for others, including activists that proclaim the right to define social justice. Diversion becomes a tactic to shut down discussion. In this case it diverted from the very first question asked about the insidious phrase itself, and perhaps lost was an opportunity to become more enlightened about reality that will likely continue to be obscured so long as communication is between those that agree among themselves.

November 15, 2013

Comment on ObamaCare Critics and Supporters

NOTE: The following is a comment made in response to an essay about Obama's "fix" to change the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as ObamaCare. It seems the solution may make the health care game more chaotic and expensive. It illustrates yet again the ad hoc way the Administration appears to govern, too often for political reasons. We were promised that such a cynical approach would not be adopted, but it seems to be a norm.

Not a fan of Obama, though demonization of him is not productive, any more than when it is directed at others. Guess that is the price of the internet.

The health system was and is broken. If Obama's way, a cynical political sellout rather than an attempt to fix the matter, is wrongheaded, then how does the country address the matter in a way that addresses the problems of the uninsured and underinsured? Maybe the critics should present the parameters of an alternative plan that would replace the ACA, one where market excesses are taken into consideration, rather than neglected. Perhaps the time has come.

The incompetence crystallized by Obamacare is not new, but it is now apparent. It is a testament to the belief that theories are reality. Ironically, the proponents often have no experience besides living in their theoretical bubbles. Implementation is not important so long as the theory is applied. When the theories pursue "social justice" over knowledge, trouble invariably grows.

Perhaps the chaos often imposed by the theorists is intentional, a deceptive and manipulative means to bring about a "transformation" that many of them seek. That would be even more insidious because of the suffering caused, from which they are largely insulated and will not feel or experience.

November 14, 2013

FWIW: Obama Caught with Pants Down

More accurately, he seems to acknowledge that others increasingly are taking notice.

His press conference today providing administrative fixes to the Obamacare debacle was a breath of fresh air in terms of candor. Perhaps we have seen the last of the hubris? Considering the hit to his credibility he has taken, candor and transparency pave the road to political recovery for himself, Democrats, and the nation.

From the beginning he has acted as if he knows better than anyone when he did not. In the real word there is no such thing as 11th dimensional chess. This condescending and elitist type of attitude has tended to gravitate down to far too many supporters and political allies that turn dismissive and intolerant and even worse to dissenting points of view and those that dare speak. Often, they are oblivious to how little they actually know of the issues, other than what they among themselves agree is the righteous path.

Policies may be great in theory, but do they work in reality? Assuming they will work, is it wise to put faith in people, whose only experience is theoretical and gained in academia or the public sector, to be competent in applying the theories? In other words, aside from the matter of Obama's candor and ability to admit mistakes, is he even a competent administrator? Did those that questioned if he was ready to lead have a point?

Or perhaps Obama is primarily a politician that practices cynical politics while he decries the cynicism, someone more adept at campaigning than governing, at sowing diversion and division rather than unity, which keeps many people from realizing that his pants may be down?

There are other instances where application of theory has fallen short, domestically and internationally, or where the image created does not match the reality. But today, even if the administrative solution may only complicate the mess and leave an impression of a captain now on a rudderless ship, it was nice to see Obama having a reality check.

One can hope this will spread and gravitate to his supporters, not only when it comes to implementation of policies on other matters, but in political discourse itself.

July 14, 2013

Honor and Compromise in Middle East Leadership

Cross-posted at Israel Thrives

This is a more a referral than a real post, to an informative article I read at Gatestone by Harold Rhode, entitled Honor and Compromise in Middle East Leadership.

Rhodes helps provide insight into the Islamic mind and the behavior of Middle East leaders in governing, exercising power and dealing with other states. It is sobering, to say the least, but information that is necessary to know for anyone that cares to make intelligent decisions with regard to that world and to help stem its violence and aggression.

Some excerpts:
In the Middle East, leaders almost never admit that they made mistakes: doing so would bring shame (in Arabic/Turkish/ and Persian - 'Ayib/Ayyip/Ayb) on them. Shame in the Middle East is about what others say about you -- not what you think of yourself. While to some extent this is true in Western culture, in general Westerners are more susceptible to feelings of guilt, rather than shame. The Western concept of compromise -- each side conceding certain points to the other side in order to come to an agreement -- does not exist in the Middle East. What is paramount is preserving one's honor (in Arabic: sharaf or karama). People will go to any lengths to avoid shame; they are prepared to go to jail, risk death, and even kill family members (usually females) to uphold what they perceive as their honor and that of their family. The consequences of dishonor are always permanent and always collective, often extending to the entire family and even the entire clan.
Westerners often succumb to "mirror-imaging" -- assuming that "all people are alike, so whatever they say resembles what we say" -- and assume that, as in the West, names of political parties in the Middle East reflect some sort of ideology. In reality, the ideologies for which parties supposedly stand are apparently mostly nothing more than words that the leader presumably hopes will enable him to justify his control over his people. Prime Minister Erdoğan and his clique, for example, belong to the AKP Party -- Turkish initials for the "Justice and Development Party," a name he my have chosen because it sounded positive, but which has little, if anything, to do with Erdoğan's subsequent actions: re-Islamizing the Turkish government and Turkish society. Egypt's deposed President Morsi's political party, the "Freedom and Justice Party," also seems to have a name chosen simply because it sounded good. How can anyone oppose "freedom" and "justice?" But millions of Egyptians, as we are now witnessing, evidently thought it insufficiently concerned with either freedom or justice.

Morsi was actually doomed from the start. He was faced with an impossible economic situation: an Egypt totally dependent on foreign subsidies, and having to import 55% of its food and much of its fuel. The military, who have in some way been ruling Egypt for almost 5,000 years, understood that if they had they taken over, they would have been blamed for Egypt's economic and political failures during the past year and a half. Instead, they allowed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood [MB] to rule and thereby take the blame for Egypt's impossible situation. Moreover, the Egyptian people also saw for themselves that the MB's view of the world could not work. The organization's motto, "Islam is the Solution," proved wanting, to say the least -- exactly as the military assumed would happen.

Other Middle Eastern leaders find or have found themselves in the same position as Morsi. Saddam Hussein in Iraq, for instance, faced with American orders, also could not back down either during the Kuwait war or the US liberation of Iraq. Unable, culturally, to compromise, Saddam had no choice other than to back himself into a corner and suffer defeat. An honorable defeat evidently seemed preferable to a dishonorable "success" -- one in which Saddam's honor might have appeared, to his citizens and fellow Arabs and Muslims, compromised.

The same holds true for the Palestinian Authority's current leader, Abu Mazen, to whom, later, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert offered an even better deal than had been offered to Arafat. Condolezza Rice, like President Clinton, also look on in amazement at Mahmoud Abbas's reaction. (For more on Rice's views on Abbas, see her book No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington)

The same condition continues to hold true today. Why Secretary of State Kerry and the Obama administration believe they can persuade Abbas sign an agreement guaranteeing Israel's right to exist in any form is astonishing. These leaders can lead only so long as they are not perceived as a shamed sell-out and traitor.
I also suggest two other articles he wrote last year: Can Muslims Reopen the Gates of Ijtihad? and Existential Questions Facing the Muslim World.

Some will say a so-called privileged white Western Orientalist is disqualified from speaking at all on these subjects. To many of them, we may only scrutinize ourselves, and until we are perfect we have no right to criticize or speak about others or how they may have acted, no matter how badly, because merely to do so is bigoted or racist. Hogwash! This mindset is simplistic and shuts down inquiry or discussion of issues not to its own liking. Besides, it's dangerous to ignore that which seems obvious from everyday events.

John Stuart Mill said: "He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that." For those that wish to be truly informed, it is necessary to read and consider those like Rhodes, agree with him or not.

June 11, 2013

Required viewing for any Jew (and Non-Jew)

When the message is more is clearly more important than the messenger, it deserves to be heard.

Of course, I agree with this message, even if I might not agree with everything that Caroline Glick says. Too many use the argument that to agree with a person on an issue means you adopt every view of that person. It is not only a silly, over-simplistic argument to make, but it is wrong to impugn one by association in this way. 

Those who summarily dismiss Glick and others like her as bigots are mistaken. They cannot discern the difference between aggression and the response to aggression. Or so it seems to me. Sometimes I question their intentions.

Enough of me. Listen to her, and the message that all Jews should digest.

March 10, 2013

"Phobias" and beating down critics into silence

I left my first comment at Mondoweiss today, about a claim that the messaging of the non-profit, pro-Israel StandWithUs "verges on Islamophobia." The example provided is a fact sheet on the Muslim Brotherhood.

StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and antisemitism that often distorts the issues. It helps those who want to educate their own local campuses and communities. It believes knowledge of the facts will correct common prejudices about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and will promote discussions and policies that can help promote peace in the Middle East.

According to Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a former radical Islamist present when it was first coined, the term "Islamophobia" is "nothing more than a thought-terminating cliche conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics," to silence criticism of political Islam, to portray Muslims as victims. Those that met at the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Northern Virginia decided to emulate the homosexual activists who used the term "homophobia" to silence critics. See this for more.

Looking at the Mondoweiss site, it is hard to find anything that does not condemn Israel. There is no balance. I suppose information that is pro-Israel would be seen as Zionist propaganda, lies, or even "Islamophobic." So how does one refute this obsession to demonize Israel, and fairly show what Israelis and Jews confront? Perhaps from a source that cannot be labeled as a mouthpiece, one might see that the threat is not at all irrational, but squarely in the scope of reasonable discourse.

What follows, courtesy of Palestinian Media Watch, is a video from NRK, the Norwegian state-owned station. NRK found that Norway gives the Palestinian Authority about 300 million kroner ($52,628,700) a year, and directly correlated that funding to the PA’s incitement of hatred and glorification of terror.

According to the NRK narrator:
[Palestinian] children grow up learning that Jews are 'Satan with a tail'... Adults hear that Jews are evil and not to be trusted. It is perhaps not surprising that the [Palestinian] hatred is growing.
Talk about "phobia!"

PMW senior analyst Nan Jacques Zilberdik, interviewed in the NRK report, on the importance of publicizing PMW documentation in Norway:
What we [PMW] report is definitely the general [PA] message. We don't provide just a few examples that we have chosen to make it look extreme. I think that Norwegian and other leaders will be surprised to hear what the Palestinian leaders, with whom they talk about peace, say in Arabic.

Yes, people are surprised sometimes to discover what is missing from their knowledge. Thankfully, Norway may be ready to become more balanced when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and perhaps even to do what is right, to stop funding incitement to hate and indirectly funding terrorists in jail for crimes, including multiple murders.

The main point of this post, however, is to communicate that not only pro-Israel activists and "apologists" or "Islamophobes" identify the issue of Jew hatred that adds a malicious and even genocidal fuel to the Palestinian and Islamic cause. No serious person would call the NRK Islamophobic for showing what actually does and will continue to exist, whether we care to see it or not.

March 9, 2013

SodaStream: Walking the Walk

I wish I could treat this subject in greater detail, but something is better than nothing, especially if information is worth knowing in helping to form judgments.

I do not drink soda, except once in a while, but want to give a shout out to SodaStream, Israel’s successful home soda device company. Some want to shut it down (I hope no environmentalists) because its products are made in an “illegal settlement” and it harms local Arabs. Here is what one such opponent, Code Pink, says:
[T]here is nothing friendly about the destruction of Palestinian life, land and water resources! SodaStream is an Israeli corporation that produces all of its carbonation devices in an illegal settlement in the West Bank. All Israeli settlements exist in direct contravention to international law!
But are these allegations true?

Here is a video about SodaStream I saw at the Step Up for Israel blog. Watch it and decide for yourself if this is a bad company or not, or perhaps one that should be admired.

If this causes a shift in perception, follow it. See where it takes you. So much is shielded from view. Is there more the Code Pinks are not saying because they don't want you to know?

February 22, 2013

Esther Schapira..."You Go Girl!"

Esther Schapira is a German journalist and filmmaker, the current politics and society editor for German public broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk. She has produced two award-winning documentaries, Three bullets and a dead child in 2002, about the "death" of Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza in 2000, and The day Theo van Gogh was murdered in 2007, about the real murder in 2004 of Dutch filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, which won her a Prix Europa award. She produced a second documentary about the death of al-Dura, The Child, the Death, and the Truth in 2009.

Last month, Schapira gave expert testimony in the legal battle between Charles Enderlin and Phillipe Karsenty over al-Dura fraud. Her testimony is described:
Esther Schapira, producer for the German public network ARD, and author of two documentary films on the al-Dura case, went to Israel in 2001 to get the story-behind-the-story of soldiers who shot a child and a father who couldn’t protect his son. But due diligence led her to question the authenticity of the news report. Though France 2 and ARD are both members of a pan-European group, Charles Enderlin was aggressive and uncooperative. He refused her request to see the master tape of Talal’s film, saying he would only show it if there was a court order. He threatened to sue her if she claimed the report was falsified. “I was shocked,” said Schapira. “For a journalist, every question is open to question.” She calmly expanded on her reasons for concluding that it is highly unlikely that Israeli soldiers killed Mohamed al-Dura, but “didn’t want to accuse anyone of lying or fabrication, I didn’t have the smoking gun”.
If interested, there is more about al-Dura here and here and in the following clip. It is Pallywood at its finest, if only it was not so tragic in its consequences, for both Jews and Arabs.

Anyway, Ms. Schapira has unloaded on Charles Enderlin in a open letter. Read it and rejoice that there are still journalists on the planet that actually care about presenting facts and trusting consumers to make their own opinions and conclusions.

A couple of excerpts:
It may sound silly to you, but as a journalist I feel personally insulted by your behavior because it is a disgrace for our profession. As journalists we have the duty to find out the truth and tell it. We are not part of any campaign. We are eyewitnesses and we tell our audience what we have seen, what we heard, and what we found out. We ask critical questions and we insist on getting answers. We act according to our best belief — or at least we should. And when we get criticised, when people question our work, when they have doubts and even when they attack us in an unfair way, we have to deal with that by giving more and better and more convincing answers, by presenting more facts.
After more then ten years and after two documentaries I have completed during that time, after so much research, all I know for sure is that there is no proof that Mohammed Al-Dura is dead. We simply don’t know what happened to him after your cameraman Talal Abu Rahme filmed him. Let’s hope that he is still alive. That would be the best, of course, first and foremost for him. He might have survived, he might be 23 years old now, he might be a member of the Facebook generation and he might even have taken part in the Arab Spring in Egypt. Who knows? We do know, however, that the story is very different from the way you told it. We know that this false story killed people because it became a major tool of propaganda and was used as a justification for murder, as in the slaughter of Daniel Pearl.
And I know you are a liar. If you lie on purpose, or if you tell a lie because you are a bad journalist and don’t know the truth, it doesn’t matter. The result is the same. You tell lies and I want your audience to know this as well, and I am going to prove this.
This is why after all this time I have changed my mind, and why, after our new encounter, when once again you called me a “militant journalist,” I decided to write this open letter to you. No worry, I am not going to tell once more why your story on Mohammed Al-Dura is wrong. This was what I did in my documentaries, and for good reason, you and your company didn’t sue me as “Charles big mouth” had threatened he would after the second film had aired. No, quite simply, I’ll talk about the passage in your book where you write about me. I could take nearly every sentence and show how wrong you are, what a cheap mixture of insinuations, generalizations, and false statements it is, but it is not worth the effort. Instead I’ll take a few examples that speak for the rest.
 As I said: "You Go Girl!" Thank you, Esther Schapira!

The Stupidity of Humankind

I received a link to the video below in the mail a day or two ago, and put aside the 40 minutes to watch it. I hope whoever reads this will do the same.

Step Up for Israel, in my mind, is where it's at! It is an initiative of, an organization committed to teaching and inspiring people of all ages about Judaism and Israel. It is a grassroots Israel education campaign created to promote broad awareness of the growing anti-Israel movement on college campuses in North America, especially as too many young Jews feel disconnected from their heritage and lack a solid understanding of Israel, its history, and its challenges.

On many campuses, anti-Israel rhetoric and anti-Jewish sentiment are becoming accepted and some faculty indoctrinate and intimidate students in the classroom, as administrators look the other way. Through innovative educational methods, SUFI seeks to energize communities and individuals to confront and combat these harmful actions.

Much of the media also seeks to delegitimize the state of Israel. There is power in knowing what’s out there and to spread the word. The fact is that Israel is committed to improving the world through its innovative ideas, technologies, and its humanitarian aid and relief efforts around the globe. Israel values freedom, human rights and cultural diversity, and has the only western democracy in the Middle East. Arabs that live in Israel have a better quality of life than in any Arab state.

The video, Israel Inside: How A Small Nation Makes A Big Difference, is narrated by bestselling author and acclaimed former Harvard lecturer, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, and showcases Israel’s unique relationship with the rest of the world.

The contributions of Israel are incredible, especially if one considers the obstacles it has overcome, and which remain. Imagine if the stupidity of humankind could cease, and Israel was freed to use it resources as it wishes, rather than as it must. Some of the greatest beneficiaries would be the Arabs, but we would all be better off.

SUFI tells us:
All of us are responsible for the future of Israel and the Jewish people. If we don’t take a stand and become personally involved today, we will deny future generations the opportunity to understand their role in Israel’s history, and to be part of Israel’s future.
Enjoy the video. It may even bring a tear to your eye. Then, spread the word!

February 15, 2013

Ignorance of the Well-Intentioned

The following video, entitled "HAMAS," popped up on my radar not so very long ago, thanks to StandWithUs. It was made after the defensive action by Israel in November, 2012, to stop the rockets indiscriminately shot from Gaza at Israel's civilians, a war crime expressly forbidden by the Geneva Convention and Protocols.  

The video reverberated with me for several reasons. As one who follows current events, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict, and observes discussion and comments on the internet and in gatherings of well-intentioned people, it is striking to recognize how much is grounded in ignorance. This does not mean that these people are ignorant per se, but that the information possessed about history and facts is fragmented, skewed and inaccurate. This leads them to adopt positions that are suspect and may not conform to their underlying principles.

For many, it is hard to see because in their circles, like most circles, people seek out the conventional views they agree with and generally hear little of what differs, or they dismiss what differs without ever listening. One need only look at Washington, DC to see where it is leading us. It's something called the Mutz paradox and it should be a lesson to all that deliberative democracy needs diversity of opinion to work best.

I hope you watch the video, especially if you are a progressive that supports human rights for ALL peoples and individuals. Perhaps the questions asked in the video will sound familiar. Will the answers reveal anything? Just how much do you really know about the conflict, the events, the players and their intentions?

In morality and law, is confronting aggression the same as engaging in it? Is it so hard to make the distinction?

Are calls for genocide illegal? Who are the victims of these calls? Are they entitled to support and even protection? Imagine if someone wanted to exterminate you and your loved ones and so many just shrugged it off as the Hatfields and McCoys.

The bottom line is that there actually is a difference, but for too many it just does not matter, due to ignorance that permits a bias to form, one which seems to blur the ability to discern which side of the human rights debate one is on.

February 13, 2013

New NGO Confronts Leader of Human Rights Watch, So Can You!

Now this gets me excited.

Back in October, 2009, Robert Bernstein, the founder of Human Rights Watch (HRW), took the NGO to task for being Lost in the Mideast, saying, with respect to its activities:
Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields. These groups are supported by the government of Iran, which has openly declared its intention not just to destroy Israel but to murder Jews everywhere. This incitement to genocide is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism.
Bernstein called this "low hanging fruit" because he knew that Israel, an open society, received plenty of scrutiny from a powerful civil society within, and an independent judiciary, whereas the primary mission of HRW, successor to Helsinki Watch, was to address closed states where the worst of violations occurred in total secret, like in the gulags of the Soviet Union. Bernstein thereafter founded an NGO called Advancing Human Rights, which  is composed of and Anyone reading should, at minimum, regularly check out these links.

Fast forward to the present.

The Centre for Secular Space (CSS) is another rather new NGO, composed of experienced human rights activists and Middle Eastern liberals and women of color who had worked in concert for years in struggles for women’s human rights and against fundamentalism. It's head is Gita Sahgal, former head of Amnesty International’s gender unit, suspended in 2010 after she publicly expressed concerns about AI’s close relationship with Cageprisoners, a defense group for prisoners in Guantanamo which some consider a pro-salafi-jihadi organization.

Using a feminist analysis CSS addresses gaps in understanding the relationship between terrorism, fundamentalism and peace and security. It believes secularism and universality are key to strengthening civil society and building democracy because gender, religious minority, and sexual rights become issues when human rights are limited by religion, culture, or political expediency. CSS exposes threats by fundamentalist groups and takes note when human rights and other organizations fail to uphold their own standards on gender and discrimination.

CSS has just  published its first book: Double Bind: The Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left, and Universal Human Rights, written by its American director, Meredith Tax, a novelist, historian, and essayist, and activist in the US feminist movement since the late sixties. Double Bind, using Cagepersons as an example:
shows how to distinguish between organizations that stand for universal and inseparable human rights, and those that use the language of human rights for other purposes. It discusses “five wrong ideas about the Muslim Right”: that it is anti-imperialist; that “defence of Muslim lands” is comparable to national liberation struggles; that the problem is “Islamphobia”; that terrorism is justified by revolutionary necessity; and that any feminist who criticises the Muslim Right is an Orientalist ally of US imperialism. 
CSS, in other words, is not a bunch of right-wing Christian bigots who hate all Muslims, the catch all label thrown about when to silence people that speak out against radical Islam or multicultural relativism and violations of human rights.

So what has this to do with Human Rights Watch?

CSS has sponsored An Open Letter to Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch
Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

Western governments are engaged already; if support for autocrats was their Plan A, the Muslim Brotherhood has long been their Plan B. The CIA’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood goes back to the 1950s and was revived under the Bush administration, while support for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat e Islaami has been crucial to the “soft counter-terror” strategy of the British state. Have you heard the phrases “non-violent extremism” or “moderate Islamism?” This language is deployed to sanitize movements that may have substituted elections for bombs as a way of achieving power but still remain committed to systematic discrimination.

Like you, we support calls to dismantle the security state and to promote the rule of law. But we do not see that one set of autocratic structures should be replaced by another which claims divine sanction. And while the overthrow of repressive governments was a victory and free elections are, in principle, a step towards democracy, shouldn’t the leader of a prominent human rights organization be supporting popular calls to prevent backlash and safeguard fundamental rights? In other words, rather than advocating strategic support for parties who may use elections to halt the call for continuing change and attack basic rights, shouldn’t you support the voices for both liberty and equality that are arguing that the revolutions must continue?

Throughout your essay, you focus only on the traditional political aspects of the human rights agenda. You say, for instance, that “the Arab upheavals were inspired by a vision of freedom, a desire for a voice in one’s destiny, and a quest for governments that are accountable to the public rather than captured by a ruling elite.” While this is true as far as it goes, it completely leaves out the role that economic and social demands played in the uprisings. You seem able to hear only the voices of the right wing—the Islamist politicians— and not the voices of the people who initiated and sustained these revolutions: the unemployed and the poor of Tunisia, seeking ways to survive; the thousands of Egyptian women who mobilized against the security forces who tore off their clothes and subjected them to the sexual assaults known as “virginity tests.” These assaults are a form of state torture, usually a central issue to human rights organizations, yet you overlook them because they happen to women.

The way you ignore social and economic rights is of a piece with your neglect of women, sexual rights, and religious minorities. Your vision is still rooted in the period before the Vienna Conference and the great advances it made in holding non-state actors accountable and seeing women’s rights as human rights. Your essay makes it all too clear that while the researchers, campaigners, and country specialists who are the arms and legs and body of Human Rights Watch may defend the rights of women, minorities, and the poor, the head of their organization is mainly interested in relations between states.

Association Tunisiene des Femmes Démocrates
Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)
Centre for Secular Space (CSS), global
Ligue due Droit International des Femmes (LDIF), France
Marea, Italy
Muslim Women's Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka
Nijera Kori, Bangladesh
One Law for All, UK
Organisation Against Women's Discrimination in Iran, UK
Secularism Is a Women’s Issue (SIAWI), global
Southall Black Sisters, UK
Women's Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR), global
Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), global
Žene U Crnom, Women in Black, Belgrade

Individuals (organizations listed for identification purposes only):

Dorothy Aken'Ova, Exercutive Director, INCRESE, Nigeria
Ahlem Belhadj, Présidente, Association tunisiene des femmes démocrates
Codou Bop, Coordinator, Research Group on Women and the Law, Senegal
Ariane Brunet, Co-Founder, Urgent Action Fund, Canada
Lalia Ducos, WICUR-Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Laura Giudetti, Marea, Italy
Asma Guenifi, President, Ni Putes Ni Soumises, France
Lilian Halls-French, Co-President, Initiative Féministe Européenne pour Une Autre Europe (IFE-EFI)
Anissa Helie, Assistant Professor, John Jay College, US
Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Alia Hogben, Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh
Khushi Kabir, Nijera Kori, Bangladesh
Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh
Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics
Maryam Namazie, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now; Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, UK
Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)
Annie Sugier, Ligue due Droit International des Femmes (LDIF), France
Meredith Tax, Centre for Secular Space, USA
Faizun Zackariya, Cofounder, Muslim Women's Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka
Afiya Zia, Journalist, Pakistan

Please go and sign the petition that goes with this letter at:

It is the least one can do.

A short word on Progressives and Jew Hatred

Cross-posted at Israel Thrives

This was a comment, but I decided to post it here instead, with respect to the discourse I often experience with people who define themselves as progressives. Most are not Jewish, and they are incredibly unaware of what affects Jews, or how it relates to them.

Generally, they are far removed from the fray, educated, often living in echo chambers of the like-minded, and too in a frenzy to lay the blame for the wrongs of the world on Republicans, who they ridicule and dismiss despite their ideas, as if they have no relevance in the conversation, despite that they comprise almost half the population. Many progressives love to hate corporations and imperialism, too, even as they reap the rewards. For example, I always smile when I hear Morgan Freeman pitching for Bank of America.

I digress. This site is concerned with Israel and Jews. What confuses me is that progressives, sometimes Jewish progressives, say they are well aware of Jew hatred. Are they as aware as they proclaim? What do they propose to do about it? How should one address Jew hatred in general? Not just from the Arabs, who have spread it across the Muslim world, but the Europeans with their sordid history.

Like Israel's right to self-defense, progressives seem to take Jew hatred for granted, they have it factored into their theoretical analyses. In other words, as an object for lip service. Do they offer real solutions directed at the actors? Or are they quick to criticize in most harsh terms people (often those who were persecuted first hand or apostates) with the gumption to point out both the growth of Jew hatred worldwide (which is not hating all Muslims), or that too many progressives are silent or even complicit. The fact is that too many do look away, or are ignorant, or fail to see that silence and indifference matter.

Not trying the Mufti at Nuremberg was a huge mistake, by not putting the same stamp on Islamic Jew hatred as was placed on the Nazis. Both are genocidal. Given this character of the belief, I do not see how anyhow with knowledge could claim to be a liberal and supporter of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not accept this truth as the point of departure upon which actors and actions are based.