Saturday, July 30, 2011

Anniversary of Vél d'Hiv, Sarah's Key and French Guilt

When French journalist Catherine Nay said of Muhammad al Dura, the boy who allegedly died by IDF gunfire in a still contested incident in Gaza in 2000, "the death of Muhammad cancels, obliterates, that of the Jewish child hands up, put into play by an SS in the Warsaw Ghetto," she was really breathing a sigh of relief that the French and other Europeans were off the hook and could finally shed their guilt about the Holocaust. For every time European anti-Zionists call Palestinians the new Jews and Israelis the new Nazis it may have been because they "...will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz." 

Interior of Vél d'Hiv from Sarah's Key
So, it is a teeny, weeny bit of a miracle that, so close to the July 16th and 17th anniversary of Vél d'Hiv, the French government has signaled that, "any solution to the Middle East conflict would need to recognize Israel as the national-state for the Jewish people," considering that, so far, few of the other major European nations are willing to agree to this. Could it be a sign of recognition that earlier ambivalence towards Israel was a reflection of French guilt?

In an excellent summary of the events, Adrian Gilbert tells that , "The Vél d'Hiv roundup began in the early hours of 16 July 1942 and, over the next two days, 12,884 Jews from the Paris region, including over 4,000 children, were taken into custody. It was biggest such mass arrest in France during the second world war. Of these, 7,000 victims were packed into the Vélodrome d'Hiver, an indoor sports stadium. In increasingly desperate conditions they awaited shipment to the death camps in eastern Europe.

"What made the event so especially shocking was not just the number of children involved, but that the operation was planned and executed by French police and civil servants. After the war, the Vél d'Hiv roundup would become a symbol of French guilt and complicity in the Holocaust.
"The Vichy French government that emerged from the catastrophic defeat of 1940 was very much in thrall to its German overlord and in order to maintain even nominal sovereignty it was forced to co-operate closely with the dictates issued from Berlin. During 1942, growing pressure from Germany to deport Jews from France received an enthusiastic response from the Vichy government."

Sarah's Key, a new film based on Tatiana de Rosnay's novel is about one family caught up in the roundup, the subsequent separation of the daughter from her parents, the horrific drama of her escape from the transit camp back to Paris to rescue her brother and post war French society's silence and denial of the events. It wasn't until 1995 that the French nation officially acknowledged and apologized for its participation in the the murder of its Jews when President Chirac lamented, "These black hours will stain our history for ever...the criminal insanity of the occupiers was assisted by the French, by the French state...Breaking its word, it delivered those it protected to their executioners."

I really meant for this to be a recommendation for Sarah's Key. To be honest, I resisted reading the book and seeing 'yet another Holocaust film' but, just as the film depicts, most people in France and elsewhere have little knowledge of Vel d'Hiv nor the details of how some Parisians actively encouraged the roundup and happily seized the empty apartments left by the Jews. Considered a taboo subject until recently, the events described in Sarah's Key add further specificity to our knowledge of the Holocaust and, perhaps, what it is that drives French attitudes towards Israel.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Complexities and Contradictions of Left/Right Blame for Norway Atrocity

Jeffrey Goldberg is right to be worried about the influence of the Pamela Gellers and Robert Spensers of this world having a potentially direct effect on would-be extreme right-wing anti-Muslim terrorists. And although I deplore these two demagogues, I still think it is instructive to point to the other side of the maniacal finger pointing spectrum: the extreme left's placing blame of the Norway atrocity on the 'Zionists'.  In far-left parlance Zionist can mean anyone who is vaguely pro-West right down to intransigent Jewish settlers in the West Bank. It is most unfortunate that those of us who do not wish for the immediate demise of the state of Israel seem to have acquired a new friend in Anders Behring Breivik, but, frankly, the far-left has some very unappealing friends too, such as Mssrs. Hassan Nasrallah and Khaled Meshaal

Here are just a few random examples of how the anti-Zionist world-view works; I say random because I haven’t got all day and there are many, many other samples out in the blogosphere:

Here is Alex Kane, a 20-something pischer who blogs at Mondoweiss occasionally: An examination of Breivik's views, and his support for far-right European political movements, makes it clear that only by interrogating the nexus of Islamophobia and right-wing Zionism can one understand the political beliefs behind the terrorist attack.” (FYI, I don't link to Mondoweiss. You can find it on your own.)

And here is Ellie Merton, Chair of Waltham Forest (London) Palestine Solidarity Campaign: “As far as I can see, globally, christian far right white supremacists work hand in hand with zionist fascists, since their aims are mutually inclusive.

To add complexity, it so happens that this was the scene at the Labour
youth meeting some time before the shootings began.
And here is the lovely Gilad Atzmon (Jewish ex-Israeli, anti-Zionist jazz saxophonist who has a following in pro-Palestinian, music loving circles): I am not in a position at present firmly to point a finger at Israel, its agents or its sayanim – but assembling the information together and considering all possibilities may suggest that Anders Behring Breivik might indeed, have been a  Sabbath Goy.

Within the Judaic, mundane-societal context, the role of the 
Sabbath Goy is to accomplish some minor tasks the Jews cannot undertake during the Sabbath. But within the Zionized reality we tragically enough live in, the Sabbath Goy kills for the Jewish state. He may even do it voluntarily.

Being an admirer of Israel, Behring Breivik does appear to have treated his fellow countrymen in the same way that the Israeli armed forces treats Palestinians.”

To get an overview of the situation, you can read: It was clear that Israel would somehow be drawn into debate on Norway attacks. To add another complication, read this: A crazy conclusion out of Norway. And read this too for the Hamas version of events: Hamas tries to tie Norway terrorist to Israel. Have a look also at this from CIF Watch: Henning Mankell and the audacity of evil.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

‪Good Night, Amy Winehouse

Taking a few minutes from my time-out to commemorate Amy Winehouse who had great taste in music and, I believe, heralded a resurgence in her generation's appreciation of the great jazz vocalists. A sad, sad waste of a life.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New York Times Fumbles Failed Flytilla Fracas Facts

Iran's Press TV website published this photo of the how the meanie Israelis
dealt with the peaceful pilgrims. A similar but more brutal scene
accompanied the NY Times article
Isabel Kershner's NY Times report on Friday's flytilla into Ben Gurion Airport made it sound as if the participants were brutally stopped from attending something on the order of a snoozy academic conference at the Hyatt Regency in LA. Or better still, as Christian pilgrims landing expectantly in the Holy Land.

Here is how she put it in the lead: “Israel prevented a gathering of foreigners here on Friday by blocking, deterring or deporting hundreds of air travelers who had been invited by Palestinian activists to fly into Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport and then travel to the West Bank for a week of “fellowship and actions.”"  

As Barry Rubin points out in his article, Kershner's lead seriously downplayed the activists' intentions. "Now if this was true, those foreigners–unless they had engaged in some violent or directly subversive action (abetting terrorists, smuggling in money)–would have arrived in the airport, walked through the terminal, and boarded buses to go to the West Bank without difficulty. Hundreds of anti-Israel activists have done so in the past. Remember, too, that this action arose directly out of the failed flotilla a few days previously, an operation backed by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood."

Here is what Rubin thinks would be a more honest lead: "Israel blocked, deterred or deported hundreds of anti-Israel activists who planned a demonstration at Ben-Gurion International airport and then to travel to the West Bank for a week of demonstrations and support activities for the Palestinians there."

I'd go further, my lead would be this: "Israel blocked, deterred or deported hundreds of anti-Israel activists who planned a simultaneous fly-in of hundreds of activists to disrupt order at Ben-Gurion International airport and then to travel to the West Bank for a week of demonstrations and delegitimization support activities." 

One of the really important facts missed by Kershner is that the organizers made specific requests of Palestinians living abroad to fly in and claim their Right of Return thereby linking this event with earlier border-busting protests that took place on "Nakba" and "Naksa" days. Watch the linked video to see precisely how initial organizer Free Gaza's 'Dr.' Paul Larudee laid it all out. Note also how he refers to 'so-called' Ben-Gurion Airport by its Israel-denying, Palestinian name of 'Lyd Airport.'

Anyway, the point is that based on what happened on the Mavi Marmara last year, Israel had every right to anticipate a serious disturbance at the airport and we should all be grateful that the Flytilla flopped. The NY Times has, as usual, seriously misrepresented the context of the event and consequently lent another hand to the delegitimizers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Flotilla Passengers As Thrill-Seeking, Post-Modern Tourists

"The post-modern tourist seeks to provoke and thus create history..."

My mom sailed to Gaza and all
I got was this lousy T-Shirt
I'd been searching for an analysis of what seemed like "compassion tourism" to describe the flotilla and flytilla mania, and found it. This essay by Dr.Evgeni Klauber, a Fullbright Scholar and Visiting Lecturer in Comparative Politics and International Relations at Tel Aviv University is brilliant. Here is an excerpt from

"For some of its Western participants, the Gaza Peace Flotilla is not just an ordinary political protest: it is an exotic and dangerous cruise that involves a heroic element. In this sense, the flotilla represents a fashionable new type of tourism – call it “post-modern tourism.”
"In the 21st century, the geography and the characteristics of tourism underwent extensive changes. Once, tourism was an activity designed to expand our experiences of time and space – it involved seeking new specific locations to be explored for a limited and specific period of time. Modern tourists sought to observe undiscovered paradises, to widen their traditional frameworks, to break away from routines.
"Post-modern tourists, by contrast, do not want to just expand their space-time frameworks: they want to experience new systems of meanings. Post-modern tourists have made their way to the detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay prison to spend a whole day in captivity; they have traveled to Gulag in Siberia to spend a week in conditions designed to make them feel the crimes of Stalin’s dark regime on “their own skins.”
"Today, post-modern tourists sign up for the exotic tour to Gaza to buy a moment of excitement and emergency that they expect Israel will provide as it resists the flotilla’s challenges its sovereignty. The experiential peak of the flotilla was supposed to be immediate: one can sign up on-line for the “overpriced” third-class cruise, and after several days of an exotic tour – the short, intensive, and high-pressure moment of meeting the Leviathan, a powerful Hobbesian sovereign which will emerge out of the sea to make order. The difference between modern and post-modern tourists is that the former try to personally experience objects that belong to history, while post-modern tourist seeks to provoke and thus create history (perhaps inspired by the 2010 flotilla)." Carry on reading here.
Postscript: Check out Eyeless to Gaza for an excellent send-up of the Flotilla enterprise.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Richard Falk's Nose Is Growing**

UN Watch has the whole story and timeline for how Richard Falk posted the cartoon (detail above), then denied posting it, then deleted it, then apologized for "unintentionally" posting it. You see, he would "never, ever" do anything as awful as conflating hatred of Israel with the hatred of Jews. Never. So egregious is Falk's behavior that the US has endorsed calls to fire Falk from his UN Rapporteur for Palestine position which was recently extended for another three years. But you can't get rid of the guy:

"UN Watch salutes the US government for echoing our call for Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council’s expert on Palestine, to be fired.  The US statement speaks of registering a protest with the UN. Only the 47-nation council can remove him, however, and the majority of that body has always embraced Falk. These 47 could have fired him in March, after Falk was castigated for his 9/11 conspiracies by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Instead, they reportedly renewed his mandate for another three years, without objection.  Besides, the council doesn’t meet until September.
"So who can take real action here? Clearly not Mr. Ban. On the contrary, Falk has attack him with impunity, recently posting a blog about the “Shameless Secretary-General.” No one in the UN human rights system objected, not even the NGOs."  More here
** I hope Mr. Falk isn't offended by my homing in on his schnozz. Any anti-Semitic implications were sincerely unintended. I was actually thinking of Pinocchio.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"We Just Came to Visit Palestine": Flytilla's Famous Last Words? Update

OK, this is really pissing me off. Tomorrow, about 600 flytistas ('peace' activists who get sea sick) are planning to descend upon -- Fly-In to -- Ben Gurion Airport in a number of planes from various European airports in order to, depending on whatever rationale you read, protest the Gaza blockade, highlight the Right of Return for 'refugees', or just plain announce to immigration officials their desire to visit 'Palestine.' Naturally, critics of Israel are mocking the security preparations being organized as 'over-reaction' and hysteria.

According to Lihi Rothschild, an organizer of a demo planned to welcome the flyer-inners,  "The only act of protest that these people plan to carry out is to say 'we came to visit Palestine,' but the state of Israel is preparing for it as if it were a declaration of war." Let's hope these are not going to be famous last words.

Yet, for anyone who remembers last year’s original flotilla to ‘break’ the Gaza blockade, there was a bunch of so-called humanitarians whose stated intention was to become martyrs. They were the ones who welcomed Israeli commandos onto the Mavi Marmara armed and ready for a bloody fight. Who can predict the havoc that even one hot-headed Jew-hater could cause upon arrival at Ben-Gurion?

Just imagine how American security services would treat the arrival of a wave of self-identified, say, anti-war protesters into, say, JFK or O’Hare. And just imagine how American travelers would react to any airport disturbance, much less the possibility of violence.Can we really see Homeland Security just standing by? 

When Naomi Klein added her approval for the boycott campaign a few years ago she gave this very telling reason for picking on Israel when there are so many other humanitarian crises in the world:

“Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

I submit that similar reasons apply to the multiplying assaults on Israel’s legitimacy: flotillas, flytillas, boycotts, etc., are only attempted because Israel is so small and existentially vulnerable.
Update: Elder of Ziyon has an excellent summary of the Flo/Flytilla's accomplishments this week, and Daphne Anson links to a video showing that -- contrary to my worries -- all the disturbances generated at airports occurred on the European end. So, well done Israel, well done, for your non-violent resistance to this week's delegitimization assault.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

World Media's Obsession with Flotilla: The Numbers are Disproportionate

The very expensive Audacity of Hope flotistas. 
There's plenty of good stuff in the blogosphere about the latest shenanigans of the flotistas and their fatuous fans, so I thought I'd just mention a funny/peculiar detail that caught my eye when perusing the Nation article by Joseph Dana, an anti-Zionist, Israeli-American journalist: "Standing in front of more than seventy (70) journalists from around the world, the thirty-five (35) passengers (of the Audacity of Hope) called on the Greek government to allow their boat to sail." Reporters outnumber passengers by 2 to 1? I think it's the most salient fact in his report and speaks to the world's obsession with Israel.  And like the circus audience secretly hoping to see the flying trapeze plunge to the ground, international media is morbidly anticipating bloodshed in order to rationalize their buy-in to this story. Or are Middle East correspondents so under-employed because they can't get into Libya and Syria to report on actual news, as opposed to this virtual news?

Another number that tells a bigger story is the $370,000 that the Audacious Hopefuls fundraised for their journey to deliver those desperately needed letters of support to Hamas' captives in Gaza. That's over $10,000 per participant that gullible donors* gave to this group of self-seekers. You know how the world is always accusing Israel of dis-proportionality? How does this stack up on balance? Well, I hope their accommodations are proportionately luxurious considering they are going to be land-locked for a bit longer than expected.

* Assuming the boat was funded by individuals (as opposed to more sinister entities.)