Sunday, April 3, 2011

Free Speech For Some But Not For All

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio show, Sounds of Dissent. At about 25 minutes into the show, the host, John Grebe, introduced Craig Aaron of the group Free Press. The show focused on the need to maintain "net neutrality" and industry and government efforts to undermine it.

At about 46 minutes into the broadcast, the host indicated that, in fact, there is some very limited government censorship, at least of internet speech by the terrorist group al-Qaeda. He then said (leaving out some ahs),
Free speech means nothing, if it is not defending the words from the very most repulsive, repugnant, dangerous, violent people you can imagine. Free speech means nothing if its not extended to one's own enemies, in every case, whether that its the United States or in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia.
That, to note, is the expressed view of the host, asserted in order to learn the views of his guest.

At 52 minutes into the broadcast, the show began the introduction of its next guest but first, to provide some context, turned to a discussion about the recent burning of the Koran and its leading to the killing of UN workers. Mr. Grebe noted that Afghans live under occupation and are having drones shot at them; and that, were the US in a similar situation, there would be anger in the US and who knows how extremist in the US might react.

He then noted at about minute 57, throwing consistency of viewpoint into the wastebasket, that murder occurred but would not have happened if a Christian extremist had not decided to burn the Koran; his apparent point being that crazy Christian preachers ought not to have burned the Koran but, instead, should have remained silent.

Now, the government did, in fact, implore Reverend Jones not to burn the Koran. He pretended to listen, he waited a few months and, now, did burn a Koran and it did, as predicted, lead to people being killed. Whatever the reason for the burning of a book leading to murders, it appears that those of the viewpoint held by Mr. Grebe seem not to see the inconsistency of believing that free speech should be absolute, even for enemies, but not for Americans.

I am not here to defend people who burn books. It is a repugnant thing to do. And, no doubt, religious people take the burning of religious scripture even more seriously than the burning of profane material. However, killing people for burning a book is not excused by the US occupation of Afghanistan. And, the targets of the killers were not Americans but people who were employed by the United Nations. So, more than likely, the killings were not a response to occupation anyway. And, we have no idea whether extremist were involved or whether those involved represent the viewpoint of a large segment of Afghan society.

My concern is not with the events in Afghanistan but, instead, the reaction of certain Americans such as Mr. Grebe. So, he believes that an organization dedicated to destroying the US ought not have its propaganda activities censored but that Americans who burn books ought restrain themselves. That is what passes for thinking on the radical left. Amazing!!!


The above link describing Sounds of Dissent does not function. Go to this page instead.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A New Look At Nazi Influence On The Modern Arab World

A number of interesting books have been published over the course of the last several years. They explore the influence of the Nazis and Nazism on the Arab regions. Among them are Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, by Klaus-Michael Mallmann and Martin Cüppers (translated by Krista Smith from German original, Halbmond und Hakenkreuz: Das Dritte Reich, die Araber und Palästina) and Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, by Jeffrey Herf. The two books should be read in pari materia with each other.

From Nazi Palestine: The Plans for the Extermination of the Jews in Palestine, we learn, among other things, about a previously unknown plan by the Nazis to exterminate the Jews of the pre-Israel Palestine (i.e., Yishuv) and the involvement of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammed Amin al-Husseini, in that project. In particular, the Nazis attached an extermination unit to its Afrika Korps. The plan was, akin to actions taken in some other conquered lands, to use this mobile extermination unit along with local Arabs in Palestine. The plan was foiled by the defeat of Rommel's army at El Alamein. The authors released some of their findings, most particularly regarding the above described effort to exterminate Palestine's Jews, in an article titled "Elimination of the Jewish National Home in Palestine" and the article is also a must read. The book also describes other activities taken up by Grand Mufti al-Husseini in the service of Nazism.

Mallmann and Cüppers present a sad chapter in the relationship between Jew and Arabs, with the then leader of Palestine's Arabs, al-Husseini, not merely working to preclude the Yishuv from establishing a nation in historic Palestine but, due to his extraordinary hatred of Jews, working hand in glove with the Nazis to rid the world of Jews. Discussing Mallmann and Cüppers's findings, French author Bernard-Henri Lévy writes in his interesting book, Left in Dark Times:
First, that Arab anti-Semitism [i.e. of the Grand Mufti] was not, as is always said, a circumstantial anti-Semitism, mainly linked to English support for the nascent Israeli state, which the Arabs therefore saw as a colonial creation: Germany, says the Grand Mufti in a statement the authors discovered, is "the only country in the world that has not merely fought the Jews at home but have declared war on the entirety of world Jewry; in this war against world Jewry, the Arabs feel profoundly connected to Germany"—one could hardly put it better!
Jeffrey Herf explores an important aspect of the Nazis efforts to influence the Arabs. He uncovered a large trove comprising transcripts made of Arab language broadcasts from Nazi Germany into the Arab world, broadcasts intended to undermine British rule by associating British policy with the Jews. Jews were accused of manipulating and controlling Britain (and America) to destroy the Arabs. The broadcasts implored Arabs to rise up and destroy the Jews. This broadcast project was directed by, among others, the very same Grand Mufti, Al-Husseini. Herf also show al-Husseini's reception at the end of World War Two, when he returned to the Middle East. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna proclaimed his devotion to al-Husseini's cause - the very cause of the Nazis. Herf quotes al-Banna proclaiming to the Arab League (and this is quoted from a paper delivered by Professor Herf just prior to the release of his book and, I believe, the quote also appears in his book):
The lion [i.e. Muhammed Amin al-Husseini] is at least free and he will roam the Arabian jungle to clear it of the wolves... Yes, this hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism, with the help of Hitler and Germany. Germany and Hitler are gone, but Amin Al-Husseini will continue the struggle... God entrusted him with a mission and he must succeed...The Lord Almighty did not preserve Amin for nothing. There must be a divine purpose behind the preservation of the life of this man, namely the defeat of Zionism. Amin!  March on! God is with you! We are behind you! We are willing to sacrifice our necks for the cause. To death! Forward March.
 With the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, its historic association with Nazism is truly frightening. We find evidence of this will to genocide even in modern day Palestinian Arab politics. In particular, the Hamas Covenant proclaims:
Moreover, if the links have been distant from each other and if obstacles, placed by those who are the lackeys of Zionism in the way of the fighters obstructed the continuation of the struggle, the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realisation of Allah's promise, no matter how long that should take. The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said:

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).
The above quoted Hadith (i.e. traditions) in the Hamas Covenant - and Hamas claims to be the Palestinian chapter of the Brotherhood - to kill the Jews is, historically, associated with Islamic eschatology. Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood have, however, re-worked tradition to create a modern day political project. Hence, we have a religious sanction to commit genocide; and this is truly frightening.

It is hoped that opinion makers and politicians will take greater notice of this genocidal political project, a project sanctioned by religion. However, given the attitude shown about the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in the recent uprisings in Egypt, you should not hold your breadth expecting the realization of this ominous connection anytime soon.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


I am opposed to racism. I oppose racists. To paraphrase Nietzsche, I am having all the racists shot - well, metaphorically, that is.

How do we distinguish racists and racist talk from non-racists and non-racist talk? I think the answer is that we often cannot do so; at least not based on snap judgments about individual comments. Most racists will deny their racism. Most racism is promoted in disguised forms.

There is a current ideology that can be seen making the rounds, which seeks to silence political opponents by labeling them "racist." A good example, from current events, is what has been said about Martin Peretz, editor emeritus of The New Republic. Peretz has been known to express himself using pointed expression that others find offensive. Sometimes, his readers may well be correct to be offended; not always, though. And I'm not here to defend Mr. Peretz; I do note, however, the ease with which offense is found regarding what he writes.

My view is that offense can sometimes be found - and I am not talking now only about Mr. Peretz - where none is intended and where those offended, even those sincerely offended, allow their supposed moral objections to block out factual discourse. Sometimes, comments which seem racist are, on reflection, generalized comments, comments where the speaker or writer does not include a disclaimer reading something like this: "Not every person in the class of people to which my words apply are accurately labeled or described by my words."

You will note that, in the above link to Mr. Peretz's apology, he did not apologize for writing: "Frankly, Muslim life is cheap, especially for Muslims." He explains that he made "a statement of fact, not value." And, he wrote:
Every week brings more and more gruesome evidence of this, in the the Middle East and Central Asia and elsewhere. The idea that in remarking upon the cheapening of Muslim lives I was calling for the cheapening of Muslim lives, as some have suggested, is preposterous. There is no hatred in my heart; there is deep anxiety about the dangers of Islamism, and anger at the refusal of certain politicians and commentators to adequately grasp those dangers, but there is no hatred, none. In these unusually inflamed days, I am glad to say so clearly.
Can actual facts be racist? I think the answer is, "It depends." It depends on what we do with facts. For example, we can observe that students of Asian ethnic origin tend to outperform some other groups on standardized tests. That, in my view is a neutral comment. However, if we take the view that Asians cannot be trusted because they are too smart, we probably have a bigoted comment. The speaker may well be a racist, at least if the comment is representative of his or her thinking.

Take another example from famed historian Benny Morris. He was interviewed by Ari Shavit, of Haaretz. In the interview, Morris is quoted as saying:
Revenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture. Therefore, the people we are fighting and the society that sends them have no moral inhibitions. If it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them. If it is able, it will also commit genocide.
Is that a racist comment? It might be, I suppose. It might not be. If, in fact, Arab culture is tribal, asserting that it is the case states a fact. Thomas Friedman of The New York Times thinks that Arab culture is tribal; not everywhere, to be sure, but there are, as he notes, a great many tribes. And, tribal cultures do, as has often been observed, consider those outside the tribe less valuable. And, on top of that, we have at least one important Arab religious leader who seems to advocate genocide. For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi appeared on Al-Jazeera TV on January 9, 2009. According to the MEMRI translation, al-Qaradawi said:
Oh Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people of Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, and You annihilated the people of 'Aad with a fierce, icy gale, and You destroyed the Pharaoh and his soldiers — oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.
These are not kind words; and Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a minor figure either. He is said to have an audience of as many as 40 million people who listen to his show. He is, moreover, considered a leading thinker among Islamists. So, his comments are important. I should add, others have expressed similar thoughts. Google it if you doubt me.

So, knowing these facts, is the quoted Morris comment racist? I doubt it.

Why would people claim that what Morris said is racist? I can imagine many reasons, among them: that they are ignorant of the asserted facts or that they have political (or other) reasons to cover up such expression. There is one other possibility. There are many who hold the view that non-racists do not tread into such territory; so a person who speaks so impolitely must be a racist. They object to such statements as racist without caring whether the thoughts expressed are true.

In our society, this manner of thinking tends to be exploited by those who have political reasons to cover up certain facts. This, in a nutshell, is the ideology I noted at the top of this article; the ideology which is making the rounds, seeking to silence political opponents by labeling them "racist." Such people call their viewpoint "anti-racism." This viewpoint finds favor particularly in academic circles.

I think this ideology is a great danger to society. Once a person is labeled a "racist," his or her facts and ideas no longer needed to be grappled with; instead, the "racist" is shunned and his facts and ideas ignored.

There is a real cost to this way of thinking. For example, we did not learn over the course of the last several years - maybe decades - that discontent, much less some seemingly liberal discontent, within Arab society was simmering and about to explode. Apart from noting that Islamists played too large a role in Arab society, it has been, by and large, off limits to explore the societies from which this discontent springs. Instead, the non-racist view has, at least up to now, been that, somehow, Arab discontent is all our fault or all Israel's fault. Maybe we and Israelis have some fault but, quite obviously given the explosive rebellions occurring all over the Arab regions, the major problems confronting Arab societies are nearly all mostly home grown. So, anti-racism in practice is very harmful, assuming we want to learn anything about Arab societies.

[Note: It should be added, Arab governments, Islamic organizations, the oil industry, political groups on the Left and on the Right have all certainly played a role in covering over the problems within Arab societies. Nonetheless, to see seemingly smart academics, students and newspaper writers labeling as "racist" critical, yet factual, discussions about Arab societies, Islam, minorities in the Arab regions, etc., etc. is truly disconcerting.]

One last word, since many people may be offended (and, of course, I am assuming that maybe someone, someday will read my blog) by what I have written. I believe strongly in civil rights and human rights and believe that they are both positive, attractive ideologies. By contrast, I believe that anti-racism is a negative, destructive ideology which, all told, has been a disaster. My objection to "anti-racism" should not be confused with acceptance of racism. It should also not be considered as an objection coming from the "right." Rather, I believe in positive ideologies, not tearing people down, which is the norm among "anti-racists."

Welcome to my blog!

Please read and enjoy my new blog. I look forward to discourse with my readers on a variety of topics.

I have noticed that many blogs include or even consist of the blogger's first impressions. That is not my way. I think first impressions are usually wrong; rather, what matters are thoughts well considered and examined. My blog will normally be dedicated to topics regarding which enough time has lapsed to think through at least some of the implications of the topics.

I look forward to reading your comments in reply.