One of THOSE conversations

My thoughts on Egypt have been modest. I have not said much about it at all. Of course my sympathies are with those who have risen up against Mubarak, but I also wonder where this will all lead – and not all the possible longer term outcomes are attractive.

But I did post a video last week.

This led to the following storm in which my toleration for cliche and bullshit took a severe battering.

  • Kevin On January 31, 2011 at 1:29 am

    This is very bad. As oppressive as Mubarak is, I suspect the new fundamentalist muslim overlords that Egypt inevitably puts in power next will outdo him.

    I hope I’m wrong.

  • Kevin On January 31, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    uh oh.

  • Neil On February 1, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Such a shame when we discover that democracy does not always equal the interests of the USA.

    The Arab world has been on holiday from history for four decades. As the number of democracies worldwide tripled and representative government flourished on every continent as never before, only one region has been in a state of suspended animation.

    Until now. The arrested development of the Arab world appears to be approaching an end.

    Spontaneous uprisings in Tunisia and now Egypt have revealed the terrible truth that the region’s dictators had been desperately trying to hide: that the people have power if they choose to exercise it, that the repression is a relic, that autocracy is no longer the norm but an aberration…

    How has the Middle East remained somehow immune to one of the great movements in world history? The two answers are oil and US support, and the two are closely intertwined…

  • Kevin On February 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Such a shame when we discover that democracy does not always equal the interests of the USA.

    Holy cow. THAT’S what you learned from that video? It takes a certain whiny hippie type of person to twist a video such as that into an excuse to bash America. I had no idea you were that type of person. And now that I DO know it, I’m sad. Thanks a lot, ya jerk :( .

  • Neil On February 1, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Permalink | Reply

    I was referring to the whole event, not just that video.

    Of course you’d expect anti-Israel rhetoric to appear among the voices in Egypt. They see the dictator Mubarak as having been kept in place with US connivance because of US Israel policy, and they aren’t wrong about that.

    That does not mean I support the destruction of Israel.

  • Kevin On February 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    “Of course you’d expect anti-Israel rhetoric to appear among the voices in Egypt.”

    And of course, such comments are acceptable to a multiculturalist who is pro-multiculturalism except when it pertains to Jews. Imagine if they were saying that about Australia, and they were in Tasmania. Would you so easily dismiss the statements? I’m growing discouraged with you, Neil.

  • Neil On February 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Having discussed the issue with Israeli friends over the years, and got more sense from them than I do from you, I stand by what I say.

  • Kevin On February 2, 2011 at 5:55 am

    Yes, I totally believe that you have Jewish friends. The most antisemitic blogger in Australia sans muslims is pals with Jews. (your statement is as idiotic as a racist claiming ‘some of my best friends are black’. You should be ashamed, and I hope you are.)

    This just in: 82% of muslims in Egypt think that removal of the clitoris should be codified into law. 84% think stoning is a good punishment for adultery. 84% believe that death is a good punishment for leaving islam.

    This is a rare case where democracy will CURTAIL freedom. I guess you’re right when you say that it will not benefit the USA, since any increase in freedom benefits America (and other free nations), and this will not accomplish that goal. But get politics out of your head! This will be disastrous for the women of Egypt. That’s a bit more important.

  • Kevin On February 2, 2011 at 6:14 am

    And so it begins. In Tunisia. Egypt’s next.

  • Neil On February 2, 2011 at 6:51 am

    To quote a colleague from Masada College, an Orthodox Jewish school I worked in, a former tank commander in the Israeli army: “If I were Palestinian I would join the PLO tomorrow.”

    So the US only cares about democracy in other countries when it suits them to do so — a.k.a, hypocrisy.

    I guess their Saudi pals understand.

    What the Islamic world needs is more Indonesias and fewer Saudi Arabias.

    How dare you accuse me of anti-Semitism! Have you been in synagogue for Yom Ha Shoah, the day of remembrance for the Holocaust? Have you met Holocaust survivors? I have.

    If you want to know what Jews may think about Israel, see Tikkun.

    Personally I think Jerusalem should be no-one’s capital, but rather an international city as was originally proposed when the UN created the state of Israel. I also think the west bank settlements and the wall have been tragic mistakes.

    I’ve been on about this often enough: 33 posts tagged Israel

    I notice this morning too comment from notorious anti-Semite Daniel Levy via fellow anti-Semite M J Rosenberg:

    Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation, one of the sharpest thinkers on all matters Middle Eastern, does not buy the idea that President Hosni Mubarak ever was a force for “stability” in the region.

    On the contrary, according to Levy’s latest piece in Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel “Mubarak’s heavy-handed security and intelligence apparatus probably created more terrorists than it intercepted.”

    Nor does Levy believe that Mubarak helped advance peace…

    Then there’s that anti-Semite evangelical Christian Jim Wallis:

    It’s time to be a little more honest about Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak is a dictator, and has run a brutal and corrupt police state for three decades. Why did it take thousands of Egyptians pouring into the street to get the U.S. media to say that? Or to get the U.S. government to admit that there might be a problem there? How many times have there been reports on Egypt’s tyrannical government’s behavior and systematic violation of human rights over the last 30 years? Why has the U.S government provided more aid to Egypt’s repressive regime to any other country except Israel? Why don’t many Americans even know that? And why have American presidents and Secretaries of State consistently wrapped their arms around Hosni Mubarak and never bothered to mention his regime’s brutal repression? Smiling at joint press events in Cairo and Washington never created any problems — until now…

    Clearly there are plenty of people in the USA not captive to the Right Wing Groupthink on Israel. Why don’t you break out of your cave and see what they say, Kevin? This is not to deny the outcome of recent events may well be challenging.

  • Kevin On February 2, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I’m not buying it. Just a few weeks ago your knowledge of Israel was that it was just a bunch of different types of Jews. No one with even a single Jewish friend would believe such tripe.

    I also get that because the left suffers from groupthink as taught by their masters in the media, you are trying to project the same thing upon us. It’s not going to work, but I won’t be offended if you keep trying it. It’s pretty humorous, actually.

    “So the US only cares about democracy in other countries when it suits them to do so — a.k.a, hypocrisy.”

    I don’t see it that way. The US government only cares about the US government. That may be skeevy, but it’s not hypocritical.

    Anyway, I’m freezing to death atm. Global warming is going to turn us all into ice cubes up here, so debate and discussion is not my top priority right now. Hope you Aussies are doing well! Create some CO2 for me please. Thanks in advance!

  • Neil On February 2, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Just a few weeks ago…. [Just a few weeks ago your knowledge of Israel was that it was just a bunch of different types of Jews.]

    What the hell are you raving about? See that badge? That’s where I was working over 20 years ago. Many of the staff were Israeli. The school flew the Israeli and Australian flags. We sang the Israeli national anthem. We talked to one another.

    It was also the only place I’ve ever worked where I had to sign a document before getting a job there saying I would oppose racism and raise environmental issues in my classes wherever possible.

    They were fervent multiculturalists and Orthodox Jews. They were supporters of multiculturalism because that enabled their school to exist here. They had a range of views from “the only good Arab is a dead Arab” through to the woman I quoted. Yes, the tank commander was a woman.

    Surrounded by Israelis and Jews*. I am back row left.

    I think I know more about Israel than you do. The people I met were generally wonderful, but conflicted too as when they were not Israelis they were South African Jews — and yes they did have a sneaking suspicion that Israel was looking more and more like South Africa under apartheid and sadly the past twenty years have only made this more so.

    Much more recently at SBHS my colleague Betsy — whose mother-in-law survived Dr Mengele — and I often used to discuss Israel. Betsy’s sister-in-law was one of the Israelis evacuated from Gaza before the occupied territory was handed back. Betsy went to Israel whenever she could. She though the Israeli government in the past decade or two had been really bad for the country.

    Not just Betsy. Try reading Haaretz instead of whatever right-wing source you usually use. Expose yourself to Combatants for Peace, just one of many attempts to see the Israel question differently. Americans would do themselves and the world a real favour by endorsing the best rather than the worst in Israel. Obama has tried to, perhaps, but it still isn’t enough.

    Supporting dictators who did favours to them has been a bad feature of US foreign policy for decades. No wonder half the world sees their professions about democracy and human rights as more than a bit hypocritical.

    Who, aside from my own reading and my own conscience, is my master, Kevin?

    * Israelis and Jews: not all Israelis like to be called Jews, as they regard that as a religious identification. A couple of people in the photo were Israeli atheists or agnostics. Of course many of the people in the photo are Jews (Australian or South African) but not Israelis. Many of the Israelis were employed to boost the school’s Hebrew and Jewish Studies programs, being native Hebrew speakers. Perhaps 10% of the staff were neither Israeli nor Jewish — this included me.

    The boss once wished us non-Jews Merry Christmas at Easter. Still, it’s the thought that counts. ;)

Sadly so many conversations on this topic go this way, but often even worse.

Trouble is there have been so many paradoxes here all down the line.

Just two:

  1. “A home for Jews in Palestine” (Balfour Declaration) was never the same as “a state for Jews instead of Palestine” – the de facto situation.
  2. Increasingly the state of Israel has had a choice between being a democracy with all citizens having equal rights and equal power whatever their ethnic and religious background OR a state essentially for Jews only. Unfortunately the pull and push has led down the second path.  Those  on both sides prepared to embrace democracy have seen their voices drowned out by dogmatists and extremists.

11 thoughts on “One of THOSE conversations

  1. Sorry I haven’t been available to comment. We’ve had some serious global warming this week. It’s caused our temps to plummet to levels not seen since 1920. Two pvc pipes burst, causing half of my garden and a good portion of my driveway to be an ice slick. If global warming keeps up, I’m pretty sure we’re all going to freeze to death. Who knew global warming could cause such cold winters? Anyway, the cold summers it causes are nice.

    Sadly, thanks to AGW’s magical ability to defy thermodynamics and make things cold, there will be no sugar-snap peas this spring :(. I know that some of you don’t believe in AGW for this specific reason, but for those who don’t understand thermodynamics, it’s totally believable that its laws can be defied. Ah, well.

    I’ll deal withe the ‘antisemite’ slur in a second.

  2. Your sense of relevance leaves much to be desired, but I guess a hobbyhorse is a hobbyhorse,even if this one is very easily put down.

    We will soon be paying amazing prices for bananas and most vegetables.

  3. It was wrong of me to procclaim that you are antisemitic. I apologize. I still believe that you are nastily antisemitic, but the evidence is mostly circumstantial*, and that’s not enough to lay such a disgusting claim. I mean, at least you haven’t yelled ‘allahu ackbar, salami lickem, death to Jews’ yet. So you’re at least less antisemitic as 20% of the followers of islam. Hey, I give credit where credit is due.

    *like when you blamed Israel for Hamas or Hezbollah attacking it, or cried out for proportional warfare (easily the stupidest idea a lefty has ever come up with – an idea that can only maximize casualties) or when you claimed that Israel was just a bunch of different types of Jews, ignoring the fact that 25% of Israelis are not Jewish.

    PS – For the record, if you were indeed not antisemitic, I would have expected my comments to have little effect upon you. You know, like how I always brush you off when you claim that my anti-islam beliefs are racist. I mean, if someone is totally off-base in their accusations, why bother rebutting?

    But you rebutted. Wrote a whole post about it, in fact. I’m just pointing that out. Maybe a little soul-searching is in order? Just sayin’.

    This global warming cold snap has kind of #%^$ed up my work schedule, so I can’t comment much for a possibly long time. It makes me sad because I enjoy our massive disagreements.

  4. If I am in any way antisemitic then the Pope is a Muslim. I am less antisemitic than the New Testament is. If you want to find where antisemitism starts search the word “Jews” in any searchable New Testament. Fortunately most Christians know this and have adapted their interpretations of the faith accordingly.

    Second, criticism about the current regime in Israel is not antisemitism. If it were then there would be a hell of a lot of antisemitic Israelis and Jews.

    For example — from Britain’s Channel Four News:

    This whole issue is one you need to revisit in the interests of truth and objectivity.

    Read my post Is objectivity about Israel and Palestine possible? and then stop again teaching your grannie to suck eggs.

    If that seems arrogant than I guess I can forgive myself after over fifty years of friendship with individual Jews from my schoolmates at SBHS onwards, some of whom are strident critics of Israel today, and thrashing it out for year after year in the past 23 years.

    What more can you add? Nothing, I suspect. I certainly don’t want to be caught up in another potentially endless spiral of comment.

  5. Neil, I believe that you believe that global warming can make the world colder. You don’t have to prove that to me. I’m merely laughing at you for believing such silly propaganda. But don’t feel bad. When I was a kid, I thought that ‘epitome’ was pronounced ‘epitoam’. I used it out loud in the sixth-grade once, to my chagrin.

    See? We each have our abilities. Mine’s not English. Your’s is not science. And never the two betwain shall meeth… Hmm. Something like that. English is not my good.

    As Goethe once said, “Cry havoc! And let’s get over this AGW thing.”

    • When the scientific world decides there is a better hypothesis than global warming, I will “get over it”. So far no reputable scientific organisation has gone anywhere near that.

      There has been no scientific evidence thus far submitted in a peer-reviewed environment that casts significant doubt on global warming. You know that is true, and I can already see your reply. So don’t bother.

      See Science as Falsification by Karl Popper, just in case you’ve forgotten Scientific Method 101.

      Your science is in this case driven by your ideological commitments, a fact we established in comments here long ago. Most of your comments on the subject, and every site on it you have ever referred to, exhibits a minimum of five of the ten “standards” I set out in How to pick a climate site that’s not worth reading — and sometimes they even score 10/10!

  6. On Antisemitism:


    A paper presented at the International Conference

    Antisemitism in the Contemporary World

    Monash University, Melbourne

    6 – 7 February 2005


    Vivienne Porzsolt


    …Jewish attachment to Israel is not in itself a problem, but I am saying the nature of that attachment must change. It must stop being based on fantasy and fear and find a genuine connection with the reality of Israel, our own humanity and that of the Palestinians.

    A child, growing to adulthood, must emerge from primary
    psychological attachment to a parent to stand on her own two feet. This process does not sever the relationship but transforms it. In a similar way, Jewish Diaspora
    attachment to Israel needs to evolve into a healthy independence free to be honest and straight-talking. If Diaspora communities adopted this approach, they might become a force for peace, justice and security for Palestinians and Jews.

    If we allow ourselves and our consciences to be silenced by the fear of the charge of antisemitism, we in fact contribute to its growth. Our fears create what we most fear. Sigmund Freud, was once asked by a woman at a lecture, ‘Is a person responsible for his dreams?’ Freud replied, ‘Well, if the dreamer isn’t, who is?’ The nightmare is ours – all the efforts to project the nightmare on to the goyim, the Palestinians and all,
    merely prolong it. Living out the Holocaust nightmare as if it were real and present sure gives Hitler a posthumous victory.

  7. “If I am in any way antisemitic than the Pope is a Muslim.”

    I guess it will spiral. Mostly because you used ‘than’ in that sentence. GOD that annoys me. Not just because of the poor grammar. It makes no sense.

    “If I have not controlled everything Neil has said and done since the day he was born then the Pope is a Muslim.”

    What do either of those quotes mean? Nothing. Sure, mine is grammatically correct, they’re equally worthless.

    I’m serious, I can’t chat anymore. Have a good night!

  8. See Rabbi Arthur Waskow on Egypt.

    …In mid-April, Jews will celebrate the Passover, when their stories teach that Pharaoh fell and Miriam led the people in songs of jubilation. Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday, Black Friday, and Easter Sunday, when their stories tell them that a courageous few faced Caesar, and that life, renewed and resurrected, transcended death and torture.

    Can these celebrations leap off the pages of prayer books to become sparks of change? Where, three months from now, could bands of the disemployed celebrate by reentering their work places and demand to be paid for their work? — laid-off firefighters reentering the fire houses, laid-off teachers creating Freedom Schools like those in Mississippi in 1964 to teach the truth and end the stupor of their students, laid-off nurses demanding that the wars end and the money be rechanneled so hospitals can serve the sick instead of warehousing the overflowing supply of brain-injured veterans.

    Where, in the week before Palm Sunday and Passover, could multi-religious folk picket the banks that are funding Old King Coal, that Lethal Old Soul, and demand that the investment money be rechanneled to wind and solar power instead?

    What spark of bold intelligence, like Rosa Parks’ refusal in Montgomery, will against all expectations, light the fire of love against the flames of destruction and the darkness of despair?

    Uprisings, whether in ancient or in modern Egypt, are not fulfilled by overthrowing pharaohs. There needs to be a “Sinai” and perhaps many years of troubled experiment and exploration in the wilderness — a working out of new forms of community.

    In our world, that community must be broader and deeper than we have ever known. It must take seriously that YHWH Echad, the Breath of Life, is one: that a coal plant belching CO2 in Pennsylvania creates a drought and fires in Russia that create a dearth of wheat and bread in Egypt that fills Tahrir Square and scares a president in Washington.
    Cast off the stupor. Create community.


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