August 27, 2009

Americarabia

We are used to the exaggerated, scare term "Eurabia", to describe the capitulation of European culture and politics to Islam. As is often attributed to Edmund Burke, "All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing." So you can imagine how grave the danger is when apparently intelligent, open-minded academics go a stage further and actually censor publications. Appeasement and highbrow anti-Semitism have always been a European disease. But the disease has now spread to the USA. The USA and Europe are very different in so many ways, so the way a virus translates into a disease will certainly differ. But one could equally use the term "Americarabia", a danger as long as the US is dependent on Arab oil and Saudi goodwill.

Of course, I welcome any attempt to bridge gaps and overcome antipathies. I support Obama's desire to communicate. I understand the steps he takes to try to burnish his credentials as an honest broker in the Middle East, and I am not as neurotically negative as much of American and Israeli Orthodoxy are about him. But there is a huge gap between ensuring no Muslim is disadvantaged or discriminated against simply because of his or her faith, and capitulating to primitive irrational demands merely to curry favour. Just as there is a huge difference between tarring all Islam with a terrorist brush and standing up to those who insist on continuing to use it as a tool of realpolitik.

Look at the absolutely disgraceful way Libya has publicly welcomed back a mass murderer! What is it about so much of Islam that lusts after death and murder? Is this what we should be appeasing rather than condemning? And if the bomber was only a sacrifice for the State, how do we feel about a state that glorifies bombing a civilian plane? Those Jewish extremists who blew up the King David hotel were never glorified by Israel or publicly acclaimed. Neither were Americans who accidentally caused collateral civilian damage or misread coordinates.

Yale University has decided to censor a book about the Danish cartoon affair of 2005 for fear of Islamic fanatics. And then tries to justify itself. The full statement refers, in self-defense, to the number of papers in Britain and the USA who declined to publish the cartoons originally. Sadly, this is not the first example of craven capitulation to fear. Sherry Jones, an author whose novel, The Jewel of Medina, was shelved by Random House because of fears of violent reprisals, said, "I decided to take a stand for free speech and publish my books in spite of threats and violence because I wanted to make a positive difference in the world...Yale University Press's decision, like that of the executives at Random House, does the opposite...Self-censorship changes our world for the worse."

I wonder has Yale censored books about abortion because an anti-abortion fanatics have killed doctors? Or did it censor books on politics because Americans have been assassinated by political opponents?

And here's another straw in the wind. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was recently awarded to Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu, amongst others. They are both seriously flawed icons of the left. Flawed not just for their bitter opposition to Israel but for the language of contempt, insensitivity, and antipathy they use towards Israel and Jews which (as with the case of Jimmy Carter) is used by others to delegitimize--the result of which was the infamous Durban anti-Semitic hate-fest over which Mary Robinson presided and which Desmond Tutu encouraged.

Of course, any Democrat government in the US is inevitably going to counteract its Republican predecessor in any way it can, whether it is in appointing Supreme Court judges who think the way it does or honoring those whose values it identifies with. Certainly both Tutu and Robinson have been champions of a left-wing radical agenda, so their being honored was unsurprising. It is all part of the swings and roundabouts, checks and balances that all democratic countries experience.

In Britain, the likeable leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, has often said he opposes the sort of mindless tirades the sad Baroness Tonge spews out against Israel. But if he continues to allow her to remain part of his party as he does, the virus will spread. Sweden too is diseased. Not only can a left-wing newspaper reinvent the Blood Libel by claiming, with no facts, that the Israeli Army harvests organs from Palestinians, but the government springs to its defense on the grounds of free speech. Sadly, politics is concerned with power, not truth, and there are more Muslim than Jewish voters.

What worries me is when we tolerate the incursion of hate under any guise. Consider the apparently idealist and egalitarian socialist regime, the USSR, supported by so many Jews, which ended up being so anti-Semitic. This happens when anyone is demonized and "good" people do not oppose it. This is what has happened throughout the Muslim world, where opponents of autocrats are demonized. To a far lesser extent, it happens in religions where denigration and delegitimization become the favored tools of discourse (where there is any discourse).

It is not for me to champion civilized Islam. The record of its achievements will outlast the current barbaric desire to return to the cave. But I believe we in the West owe it to Islam not only to ensure there is no discrimination in our midst, but also to ensure that moderate Islam is not silenced. Every time we give in to Mad Mulla pressure we undermine the moderates. And every time people in the West bang on about the Israel/Jewish lobby yet ignore the Arab/Islam lobbies, then we will indeed allow a creeping takeover of liberty that will start with protecting fanatical Islam and end up censoring anyone who opposes religious or political extremism.

10 Comments:

At 7:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Rabbi Rosen, I would like to see the cartoons you refer to. Would you please publish them on your blog? Thank you.

 
At 9:58 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous, please post an email address so that someone can help you out with the google link to the cartoons. Thank you.

 
At 10:33 AM , Blogger ss said...

Indeed, the cartoons are linked from Jeremy's blog. If you click on the link in the Americarabia post (on the words "Danish cartoon affair"), you will be taken to a blog post he wrote on the subject in 2006. That blog links to the Wikipedia article on the topic, which has an image of all the cartoons. The Wikipedia article also has a link to an article explaining the meaning of each cartoon.

blog post - http://www.jeremyrosen.com/blog/2006/02/freedom-to-laugh.html
Wikipedia article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons_controversy
Descriptions of the cartoons -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descriptions_of_the_Jyllands-Posten_Muhammad_cartoons

Of course, as the previous commenter has implied, a simple Google search also will turn up many images of the cartoons and articles about them.

 
At 3:39 PM , Anonymous Leila said...

As usual, I concur with your sentiments: Edmund Burke was not wrong and we must shout from the rooftops when we see wrong being done.

However, not only must we not give in to the pressures of immoderate Islam, we must ensure
that our own people are not permitted to give in
to fanaticism. Our liberty will be further eroded if
Jews of all kinds are not embraced for, divided
we shall surely fall.

 
At 2:09 PM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Leila:
I completely agree and reiterate your sentiments!!!
J

 
At 7:19 AM , Anonymous David Ford said...

I find this a very flawed piece.

You talk about Obama and appear to support him, but then go on to suggest that someone (Obama?) is "capitulating to primitive irrational demands merely to curry favour." In support of that theme you cite the welcoming by Libya of Megrahi - something Obama has deplored, Yale university deciding not to reprint the Danish cartoons - not something that Obama would have much to do with, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson - I doubt that they were awarded it because they're anti-semitic.

You say, "Those Jewish extremists who blew up the King David hotel were never glorified by Israel or publicly acclaimed." - apart from the fact that their leader, who ordered the bombing, was elected as Prime Minister and subsequently given the Nobel Peace Prize - maybe a little more substantial than a welcome home or even the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In any event, was Megrahi welcomed back as a successful terrorist or an innocent man wrongly convicted?

Sweden. You say, "Sweden too is diseased. Not only can a left-wing newspaper reinvent the Blood Libel by claiming, with no facts, that the Israeli Army harvests organs from Palestinians, but the government springs to its defense on the grounds of free speech." The facts are that a freelance Swedish journalist wrote a piece, published in a Swedish paper, making allegations that there was organ theft during Israeli military post-mortems on Palestinians killed in military actions. The Swedish government refused to comment to CNN on the article, saying that Sweden had a media that isn't controlled by the government. You have spun this into "the government springs to its defense" and "Sweden too is diseased."

You mix truth and spin - conflated to create some overall false impression.

[Post too long - to be continued]

 
At 7:19 AM , Anonymous David Ford said...

[continued]

Anyway, the main thrust of your article, that America is becoming unacceptably biased, is not supported by the content. you assert that there is a connection to their reliance on "Arab oil and Saudi goodwill". You cite only 3 instances related to America - Yale, Random House and the Medal of Freedom.

Yale and Random House are examples of the same thing - the reluctance of individuals running organisations to take actions that might cause violent reprisals. There shouldn't be the possibility of violent reprisals, and I would be very impressed with the bravery of the individuals running Yale University Press and Random House if they acted with no regard to the possible consequences (even if it means that they get their throats cut), but I don't think that it demonstrates "Appeasement and highbrow anti-Semitism" if they're scared. It demonstrates that states can't protect their citizens from violent fanatics. The fact that the 2 decisions were widely reported and the reasons stated so clearly - not that it's wrong to offend, but we're scared of the consequences - illustrates the opposite of your thesis.

The award of the Medal of Freedom to the former President of Ireland and Archbishop Tutu would only be taken as an example of America's move towards anti-semitism by someone who views every act through a judeocentric lens. Both of these people have credentials that have nothing to do with their views on Judaism or Israel and, whether one admires them or not, I do not believe that they were selected in order to appease the Muslim world.

Your other examples - Libya, the Lib Dems, Sweden and the USSR - don't seem to me to support your thesis at all. What have they got to do with America?

So which of your arguments support the proposition that the US is becoming like Europe in its attitude to Jews and Arabs? None.

I accept that there is much anti-semitism in the World. I accept that there is appeasement of Muslims both because of national relationships with Muslim states and because of Muslim voting blocks within various states. I accept that many individuals who would show no fear when it comes to insulting Christianity or Judaism, would be far more circumspect with Islam. I do not accept that America, as a whole, or its institutions have yet gone the way of Europe.

 
At 11:35 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

David Ford:
My piece was predicated on the overwhelming delegitimization of Israel in European social and intellectual discourse where whatever wrongs Israel may be guilty of are emphasized to the point where there is no balance, no relativism, no reciprocity. Everything is all Israel's fault or America's, and no one else's (let alone those who perpetuate hatred and block concessions, and you'd think from much of the press that that only applied to Jewish Settlers).

Any attempt to present a balance is shouted down, dissenters are abused, and as we saw at Durban and at UN forums on Human Rights, Israel is selected above all others and all else for irrational, vindictive abuse. Part of this is of course Islam and political. But an equal partner is the Left, that would rather side with any enemy of Israel even to the point of allying themselves with those who reject many Left Wing nostra.

Because political power in Europe requires inner-city votes, predominantly Muslim and Left Wing, the alliances necessary for power mean that Muslim anti-feminist, anti-gay ideology is ignored. In forging an immoral alliance of convenience, Left-Wing governments pay benefits to multi-wife families and ignore suppression of women and forced marriages because that will not win power. But siding with congenital haters of Israel will.

Trades Unions are in the forefront of calling for a boycott of Israel, but nowhere else in the world today. The media is notoriously one-sided and because, as with the BBC, it is often dominant thanks to state support, it overshadows dissenting views. I mentioned the European cases to emphasize how slow delegitimization, allowing a discourse of contempt, ignoring pressure, giving in to the threat of violence, slowly erodes freedom and objectivity. It has happened in Europe and it is probably too late to roll it back.

I argue a similar process is taking hold in the USA and it is spurred on by both political and academic blindness and a reluctance to confront the examples of delegitimization that are growing in the USA. Take Carter accusing Israel of Apartheid. Whatever Israel may be doing wrong it cannot be compared to Apartheid where discrimination was legally imposed and enforced on ALL blacks. Not when there are Arab members of the Knesset and Ministers in a single political system and where Arab citizens can vote in elections and hold equal civil rights that can be appealed to the Supreme Court. But Carter says it and it is now adopted universally by the Left in America.

Similarly, if Obama honors those whose discourse is offensive, disparaging, and dishonest about Israel, then he too becomes a partner in the disease spreading.

Or where the Israel Lobby is condemned and exaggerated but no such publicity is given either to Arab Lobbies or to the fact that anti-Israel Jewish lobbies get Arab financial support.

If American publishers, companies, or institutions restrict themselves for fear of violence coming from primitive sources, this is capitulation. And my argument is that the USA is indeed in danger, particularly under the Democrats, of going down that path.

Fortunately, America is NOT Europe. There are other currents and checks and balances. But unless one starts by pointing out the beginning of a trend, it may take hold and be harder to counteract later on.

Jeremy

 
At 6:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is still a recognisable qualitative difference between America and the UK but the difference is narrowing and somebody has to point it out before the two are indistinguishable. If the changes go unnoticed before long America's serious literary journals will carry blatantly anti-Semitic articles, its academics will call for bans against their Israeli counterparts and the supposedly intelligent left wing press will report in such a biased manner that nothing they write can be believed. That's what the UK has. When we objected to these things we were told we were crying wolf, exaggerating or guilty of paranoia. They're part of the fabric now and it's left to America to point the finger as though America were immune. It's not.

 
At 7:55 PM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Anonymous:
Precisely!
J

 

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