Friday, July 28, 2006

The French

Soothing Hard Feelings
In the interests of Franco-American amity let me correct a widespread misunderstanding.

The French are not frogs. They EAT frogs. And snails.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Proposal

to Put European Troops in south Lebanon
For a generation the Europeans have been accusing Israel of using force and occupation instead of negotiating with the Arabs, who are after all reasonable people acting from a justified sense of grievance. Certainly once the European soldiers were nice to the Arabs, the Arabs would like them. I had hoped that the Europeans would believe their own lies enough to do it.

Alas, I underestimated the hypocrisy of the Europeans. They know, and have known all along, that the Arabs are xenophobic irrational primitives whom nothing will mollify. Their insistence that Israel treat the Arabs as reasonable people with a legitmate grievance was purely cynical. They knew better all along and supported the Arabs anyway.

In any case, Israel has embarrassed them by calling their bluff. It is of dubious value since recognizing their own hypocrisy is not something the Europeans are good at. It would have been great for their troops to have been getting killed one and two at a time and the left and the press in their own countries finding ways to blame the victims for the Arab violence. I would especially like to see Belgian, French, and Scandinavian troops there and some Slavs and Muslim troops to commit the occasional rape and treachery.

Best of all, it was a European proposal in the first place.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What is Over-Reacting?

Over-reacting is what
you say when your side is completely in the wrong. Over-reacting is what you say when you have nothing to say.

The Fighting with the Muslims

is Israel's fault
The fighting with the Muslims in Russia is Russia's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in India is India's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims the Philippines is the Philippines' fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in Darfur is Darfur's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in East Timor is East Timor's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in Bali is Australia's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in Ethiopia is Ethiopia's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in Lebanon is the Maronite Lebanese' fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in New York and Washington is America's fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in England is the London subway riders' fault.
The fighting with the Muslims in Spain is the Madrid subway riders' fault.
The fighting with the Muslims outside Paris is the French car owners' fault.

Or not.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What This Is All About

Why Hezbollah Attacked
In an interesting interview, the author of "The Shi'a Revival" mentioned in passing why Hezbollah were so foolhardy as to enter Israel and kill some Israeli soldiers and kidnap others. Background it seems, is everything.

Hezbollah had become heroes among the Arabs by raising the cost of Israeli occupation of the six mile wide south Lebanon buffer zone on their border to where the security gained by it was outweighed by the cost in lives of maintaining it. When Israel withdrew, Hezbollah's prestige in Lebanon soared.

Then came the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, by Syrian intelligence forces. All Lebanon rose up and demanded the Syrian occupation of Lebanon end. The world community joined the Lebanese in pressuring Syria to withdraw, and they did.

But in the course of that political confrontation, Hezbollah publicly sided with Syria. Syria supplied their arms and money and channeled money and arms from Iran. Everyone in Lebanon rightfully saw Hezbollah as selling out the national interest in favor of their own.

The attack on Israel came as an attempt to regain the prestige they had lost by betraying their country. The destruction Hezbollah has brought upon Lebanon by their foolhardiness continues to unfold. One can hope that in addition to the physical destruction wrought upon Hezbollah by Israel will be their political destruction at the hands of the people of Lebanon.

The Gaza Evacuation

One year ago
7 August 2005
I think one should consider the purposes of the government in evacuating Gaza. This was done not by Shimon Peres but by Ariel Sharon. Peres and his ilk live in a fantasy world where, in spite of a hundred years of proof to the contrary, "If we're nice to them they'll like us". I don't think Ariel Sharon thinks that. Sharon is a general who became a politician, not the other way around.

I am hopeful that the reasons for Gaza evacuation are military and strategic. It was a constant drain on the IDF to have to fight in Gaza literally every day to defend a small number against literally millions of Arabs against whom reprisals were difficult and dangerous. Gaza was a vulnerable spot, a sore toe that could be stepped on at will by the Arabs. It created a situation in which locally the Arabs had the upper hand and were able to exploit it continuously. Without Gaza, when the system of security fences is finished the IDF should be able to defend the country in "peace" time with fewer soldiers and resources. Israel will have a smaller vulnerability to terrorist attack and, seen from the Arab side, fewer opportunities for their "operations".

I don't know if it will work, but I think that is the reasoning.

The Oslo fiasco was based on the premise that sufficient concessions would reconcile the Arabs to Israel's existence. That was pure Shimon Peres and "If we're nice to them they'll like us". It was a policy of engaging the Arabs in dialogue and negotiation. We all know how well that worked. I think Sharon knows it too.

That is why this policy is unilateral. I think Sharon's policy of "disengagement" is to create a strong defensive posture that can be defended with fewer soldiers and fewer casualties. It is not dependent on Arab acquiescence. (Which is what the Arabs are currently complaining about - that Israel did not arrange or negotiate the Gaza evacuation with them.) "Disengagement" contains the recognition that any policy that is in any way dependent on Arab cooperation, even if it primarily benefits the Arabs, as Oslo did, is a guaranteed failure.

I hope, though I have no way to know, that "disengagement" is an evolution of Yitzhaak Shamir's policy "For peace, you get peace." i.e. and nothing more. Shamir's premise was that the stronger party had no need to make concessions to the weaker party. The Arab response was and is, "You may be stronger but we will make you bleed." That was the significance of Arafat's remark, "The weakness of Israel is that Israelis love life but Palestinians love death." While the Arabs have access to Israelis, time and persistence are on their side because Israel has to spend
blood and resources and morale just to maintain the status quo.

Disengagement means that Arabs looking to harm Israel will no longer see the flesh and blood of young men and women of the IDF nor of Gaza settlements directly under their guns and rockets. Instead they will see miles of concrete walls and steel wire and electronic sensors, and almost no Israelis at all. The human and moral resources required to defend against them will become much less. The resources required of the Arabs to maintain the hatred and incitement will remain just as high. Indeed the political cost may go higher without the reinforcement of terrorist attacks and reprisals for them. As the society expending less resources to maintain the status quo, time will then favor Israel.

I do not know if this is Sharon's policy. I hope it is.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Grand-niece

The Funeral
A eulogy for Mary Rose Bernstein and her boyfriend Robert Conway was held in the auditorium of Evergreen High School. The auditorium seats about two hundred. Every seat was full and another fifty or so were standing in the aisles, and some in the lobby. There are not that many people in the world who would recognize my name, let alone take the time to attend my funeral. Even at her family's home there were seventy people crammed into a house that would comfortably accomodate twenty standing guests.

Usually eulogy is hyperbole for people who are, like almost everyone, ordinary. Mary Rose seems to have been magnetic and had lots and lots of friends, and gotten the attention of acquaintances in a way that few people do.

She was a junior majoring in molecular biology at UC Santa Cruz.

Mary Rose in her short life was a big success to have touched so many.

World Cup Head Butt

A Conspiracy of Silence
Amid all the amazement and "Why would he do that?" public questioning about the Zidane's attack on an Italian player which arguably cost France the World Cup, the press has ignored the 800 pound gorilla in the room with them. Zinedine Zidane is an Muslim Arab raised in Marseilles. But of course we know that could not be relevant because Arabs are not violent people and Islam is the Religion of Peace.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

My Grand-niece

Twenty Years Old

Fiery Crash Kills Two, Injures Eight In San Jose

(CBS 5 / AP / BCN) SAN JOSE Two people were burned to death and eight more were injured in a fiery multi-vehicle wreck when a speeding pickup truck launched off a freeway exit embankment and slammed into a line of stopped cars, triggering a series of explosions, authorities said.

The Ford F-150 became airborne while exiting Interstate 280 about 8:30 p.m. on Monday night, plowing into a Nissan Frontier pickup, a Mazda minivan and a Volkswagen Bug waiting side-by-side at a stoplight at 11th Street in San Jose, said Officer Steve Perea of the California Highway Patrol.

The driver then reportedly lost control of the Ford, veered left up an embankment, and overturned onto its right side.

As the Ford pickup overturned, it hit a traffic signal, Perea said. The series of impacts with the other vehicles ruptured at least one of the vehicles' gas tanks.

The cars crunched together "like an accordion," and the Nissan burst into flames, killing both occupants, a 20-year-old female driver and a 20-year-old male passenger, Perea said. The pair, both San Jose residents, were trapped inside and "tragically...succumbed to the impact and the fire," he said.

The cornor's office had yet to release the victims identities as of Tuesday afternoon.

"The house and windows were shaking," said neighbor Allen Velton, who heard the collision inside his home and witnessed the explosion. "It sounded like a war, a bomb going off. We heard one, two, three explosions."

The Ford F-150 driver, John Mayfield, 51, of Paso Robles, remained hospitalized Tuesday with burns, lacerations and moderate head injuries, Perea said. He was not arrested but investigators were looking into the cause of the crash.

Perea said it was not yet clear why Mayfield lost control of his truck. It's possible he could face charges for two counts of vehicular homicide.

The passengers of the Mazda and the Volkswagon were hospitalized with minor to moderate injuries, Perea said. In all, he said the crash sent eight people to local hospitals.

According to San Jose Fire Department Capt. Jose Tuerrero, two San Jose police officers were among those injured as the fire was being extinguished.

The two officers were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and were expected to be released soon, he said.

Though investigators initially had believed that an infant had died in the crash, those reports were found to be inaccurate a short time later, Perea said.

The accident closed the 11th Street off-ramp on Monday night. Road crews on Tuesday were still working to clear away debris remnants from the crash.

(© 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Scenic Route

I don't know about the "It was a splinter group we can't control" dodge. They used it for years under Arafat, until in 1993 they decided briefly to appear to deal, then suddenly they could control the splinter groups. It became clear after a while that the "splinter groups" were being created ad hoc for each terrorist operation to shield the PLO. It was a political ploy to provide a fig leaf for the PLO, now for the PA and Hamas, to continue to receive UN and EU money.

You are however quite right about the Palestinians being unable to even agree to tolerate the existence of Israel, let alone surrender to her. I fear the only solution, until they collectively have a change of heart, is for them to live behind walls away from other people and to be kept away from weapons and sharp objects. The walls are being built and the IDF is currently doing what it can to prevent the use of sharp objects. Gaza is a mental asylum for the pathologically xenophobic and assaultive.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Los Angeles

According to the chart here
the median house price in Los Angeles reached $200,000 at the end of 2003 and is now at $593,000. In two and a half years. Unlike the Zillow estimates for individual houses, the medians are real and exact because they are based on sales. Bubble?


Of Foul Play
The world contains drugs which can do very complicated things like make a good baseball player into the best player of all time, and still remain undetectable. What are the chances that there are drugs that could achieve the much simpler task of making Ken Lay dead and remain undetectable?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Danish Cartoons

And Harper's Monthly
I have just read the article you sent me by Art Spiegelman. Thank you for sending it. I think Spiegelman illustrates the contradictions and follies that liberals seem doomed to fall into in trying to deal with Muslims and the reactions to Muslims. The basic liberal stance always seems to be "Let's not be so patriotically insistent on the rightness of our side. Let's give a sympathetic hearing to the other side. They have a case and a point of view, and we should be making concessions to them. Let's be open-minded and try to see how this problem is also our fault."

In the past this point of view led the liberals into some really atrocious, indeed criminal, follies. Within our time horizon, it was the British left (Liberal still meant and means something else there) which felt that way about the understandable resentment the Germans felt about their defeat in World War One and the onerous terms the Allies had imposed on them at Versailles. So they were more than just sympathetic, they were openly supportive of Hitler and the Nazis. It was not until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War that a split developed within both British and French Lefts. The split came when the Communists in both countries took a clear anti-Fascist position, literally on orders from Moscow. Orwell writes about this in "Homage to Catalonia", which is a wonderful book on a number of levels. Even when the war and the blitz came, the British Left shut up out of prudence, but never recanted. The French Left, having subverted French rearmament, found themselves under German occupation.

Similarly when the Cold War came the American liberals were consistently conciliatory toward Communism and the Soviet Bloc, both at home and abroad. For example it has become a fixed truth that Joe McCarthy was an opportunist oppressor and a wackjob, which may well have been true. But it has never been answered whether he was nevertheless right that there was a coterie of Communists in the State Department. There is both some direct evidence and a lot of indirect evidence that there were.

Liberals sneered at the Truman Doctrine as "imperialism". It became a given that anti-Communism and democracy were opposites. As late as the presidency of Jimmy Carter, liberals were conciliating the Soviet Union in spite of it being a senescent police state. When popular anti-Communist movements sprang up in every Communist country, the Berlin Wall fell, and finally the Soviet Union itself dissolved, largely from public disgust with it and all its works, the liberals prudently shut up but did not recant.

The Muslims are an even harder sell for the left and liberals like Spiegelman. Spiegelman in the Harper's article you sent me is witty and affable and self-deprecating and concedes a bit in order to ingratiate himself and appear reasonable. But his case is clear. It is the Danish editors' fault that the Muslims rioted and boycotted and threatened and denounced and fatwa'ed and generally made fools of themselves in response to the Danish cartoons. After various goings and comings, the thrust of the article is the assignment of a given number of bombs to each of the cartoons. In the end he finds the problem to have been the cartoons, rather than the response to them. He refers sympathetically to the "double bind of the Danish Muslims in first being insulted by the cartoons and then told they didn't understand Western freedom of speech." Poor them.

He also misses no opportunity to characterize everyone less sympathetic to Islam than he is as "right wing" or "national front".

Spiegelman, like all liberal Muslim sympathizers, finds himself stuck with the thinnest of thin arguments. They have to find ways to defend undisguised intolerance and bigotry, oppression of women, gratuitous violence, terrorism, social narcissism, and rejection of secular values including democracy and personal freedom. But, like Spiegelman, they are undeterred. Evasion and smearing opponents may not be much of an argument but they are all Spiegelman's got, so that is what he uses.

Reflections on the Jews in France

The Jews have been both central and instrumental to the polarization of French society. The 20th Century started with the Dreyfus affair. Dreyfus was a Jewish army officer who was falsely accused of espionage for Germany. Even though it was realized that the charge was not only not supported by evidence but untrue, the army went ahead with the court martial rather than face the embarrassment of withdrawing the charge. Dreyfus was sent to Devil's Island in Guiana for life. Like Watergate the case began to unravel and in the end Dreyfus was exonerated. In the course of it the novelist Emile Zola wrote "J'Accuse" which implicated everyone in power up to and including the premier.

It was a crisis for France and a trauma for the Jews. It split France into two factions, the Dreyfusards and the anti-Dreyfusards. The issues between them were by no means limited to Dreyfus. The Dreyfusards stood for liberalism, tolerance, freedoms of speech and press, separation of church and state, and so on. The anti-Dreyfusards were the right, the peasants, the army, the church and the religious, the upper classes. The divisions either created or revealed by the Dreyfus affair persisted for generations. For example, Accion Francaise, the French fascist party, specifically arose from the anti-Dreyfusards.

In 1936 the Popular Front, a collection of leftist parties, won the elections and elected the head of the Socialist Party, Leon Blum, Premier. Under the Third Republic the Premier had far more power than now under the Fifth Republic and was much more like the British Prime Minister. Reactionary anti-Semitic anti-Dreyfusard military officers like Petain were aghast that a Jew should rule France. It is not polite to mention that DeGaulle sat on the same general staff as Petain and his opinions were almost certainly no different. One should not mention that fact to anyone of French nationality under any circumstances, no matter how friendly or well-disposed.

When the Vichy regime was established under Nazi oversight, anti-Dreyfusards like Petain saw it as an opportunity to get even for the slights and indignities they had suffered under Dreyfusard rule, and having had progressive Dreyfusard policies shoved down their throats for a generation. Because of the conglomerate origin of the anti-Dreyfusards, anti-Semitism was a unifying policy for the right. Vichy consistently cooperated with the Nazis in arresting and deporting Jews to German death camps.

The French Jews were the most assimilated in Europe in 1900. They believed that anti-Semitism was a waning relic of the middle ages like feudalism, superstition, religious fanaticism, serfdom, ignorance, and illiteracy. This was not mindless reactionary Tsarist Russia which had only just freed its serfs, but liberal enlightened republican France. If widespread anti-Semitism appeared here, a century after the Revolution of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, then the "waning medieval relic" theory was wrong. If Jews were not safe in France, where could they be safe?

Among the journalists sent to cover the Dreyfus affair was a young Viennese Jew named Theodore Herzl. In reaction to what he saw in France (and also in Vienna) he wrote a book called "Die Judenstaat". It is generally regarded as the founding document of the Zionist movement. Israel was founded not only because the Jews were not safe in Russia and Poland, but also because they were not safe in France.

The shock of Jews being arrested and turned over to the Nazis by French police acting on orders of the French government has never gone away. There is a plaque on every elementary school in Paris commemorating the arrest and deportation of Jewish children by French police acting on behalf of the French state. Those plaques started being put up in 2004, sixty years after the fact. That delay is significant in that it shows not only the resistance of the French to acknowledging what they did, but also to their delaying until no one could be held to account for it. The plaques give a Gallic shrug to accountability.

Under the Fourth Republic, which had a large Dreyfusard influence, relations between France and Israel were excellent. Both countries had suffered under the Nazis and after 1954 both were at war with the Arabs, the French in Algeria, the Jews on all fronts. The famous victory in the Six Day War of 1967 was won with French-built Mirage fighter planes.

Then came DeGaulle and the Fifth Republic. DeGaulle made anti-semitic remarks in public (the infamous "stiff-necked domineering people" remark) and began a rapprochement with both the Arabs and the Soviets. Israel turned to the United States for both support and arms. The Gaullists have continued that policy to this day.

I do not know enough about France to say whether the Dreyfusard - Anti-Dreyfusard dichotomy could be said to still exist as more than a metaphor. But there is certainly no moment of discontinuity when one could say it died. The legacy of DeGaulle in the ruling Gaullist parties certainly suggests that it is not gone.

My impression is that few French Jews live outside big cities, particularly Paris. French Jews are even less observant than American Jews but are somewhat less assimilated. Those who are observant are more observant than their American counterparts. There is substantially no French equivalent of the American Reform and Conservative movements. What little there is consists of American ex-pats and their French spouses. It is my impression that many or even most of the small pret-a-porter distributors on rue Saint Denis and around Place de la Republique and rue du Temple are owned by Jews. None of the big haute couture places in the Seventh seem to be.

I should add that when I was in Paris in 1977 I was told that the overt anti-semitism encountered by French Jews came not from the Arabs but from the French. Whether that is still true I do not know.