Moncef Marzouki Shows His New, True, Terrible Colors
Marzzouki was once a "secularist." I thought him so, but see that I was wrong, or rather, he's revealed himself more fully now that he's running. He's a "secularist" but one willing to work with, not oppose, Rachid Ghannouchi and his sinister Ennahda party. He's no "secularist" in the line of adamant Bourguiba, or those who were always in his camp, like the formidable 88-year-old hope Beji Caid Essebsi, who were never enthusiastic about, and preferred to dampen the enthusiasm of other Tunisians for, the Jihad against Israel. If Essebsi is elected, there is at least a chance of sanity prevailing, and some foreign investment. If Marzouki does, Tunisia will suffer. Oh, women won't be hijabbed, of course, but the cancer of Israel-hatred will do its damage, and both potential investors in the West (including a considerable group of Tunisian Jews in France, some of whom have sentimental affection for Tunisia) and those Arabs who see Hamas -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- as a threat to themselves, will be much less interested in aiding Tunisia. But Marzouki may be thinking: "We'll always have Qatar." Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
Marzouki's expression of pride and delight in meeting the leader of the terrorist group Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, can be seen here.
When, in 1942, Lionel Trilling remarked, "What gods were to the ancients at war, ideas are to us," he suggested a great deal in a dozen words. Ideas were not only higher forms of existence, they, like the gods, could be invoked and brandished in one’s cause. And, like the gods, they could mess with us. In the last century, Marxism, Freudianism, alienation, symbolism, modernism, existentialism, nihilism, deconstruction, and postcolonialism enflamed the very air that bookish people breathed. To one degree or another, they lit up, as Trilling put it, "the dark and bloody crossroads where literature and politics meet."
Trilling belonged to a culture dominated by New York Intellectuals, French writers, and British critics and philosophers, most of whom had been marked by the Second World War and the charged political atmosphere of the burgeoning Cold War. Nothing seemed more crucial than weighing the importance of individual freedom against the importance of the collective good, or of deciding which books best reflected the social consciousness of an age when intellectual choices could mean life or death. And because of this overarching concern, the interpretation of poetry, fiction, history, and philosophy wasn’t just an exercise in analysis but testified to one’s moral view of the world.
"It was as if we didn’t know where we ended and books began," Anatole Broyard wrote about living in Greenwich Village around midcentury. "Books were our weather, our environment, our clothing. We didn’t simply read books; we became them." Although Broyard doesn’t specify which books, it’s a good bet that he was referring mainly to novels, for in those days to read a novel by Eliot, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Conrad, Lawrence, Mann, Kafka, Gide, Orwell, or Camus was to be reminded that ideas ruled both our emotions and our destinies.
Ideas mattered—not because they were interesting but because they had power. Hegel, at Jena, looked at Napoleon at the head of his troops and saw "an idea on horseback"; and just as Hegel mattered to Marx, so Kant had mattered to Coleridge. Indeed, ideas about man, society, and religion suffused the works of many 19th-century writers. Schopenhauer mattered to Tolstoy, and Tolstoy mattered to readers in a way that our best novelists can no longer hope to duplicate. If philosophy, in Goethe’s words, underpinned eras of great cultural accomplishment ("Epoche der forcierten Talente entsprang aus der Philosophischen"), one has to wonder which philosophical ideas inspire the current crop of artists and writers. Or is that too much to ask? Unless I am very much mistaken, the last philosopher to exert wide-ranging influence was Wittgenstein. Although Wittgenstein certainly mattered to every person interested in ideas around midcentury, in the end he was co-opted by portentous art critics of the 1970s and 80s who thought theTractatus could prop up feeble paintings and shallow conceptual installations.
Photo illustration by Andrea Levy for The Chronicle Review
That Wittgenstein could have been so casually diluted by the art world was a sign that the intellectual weather had changed—perhaps for good. A new set of ideas had begun to assert itself, one that tended to lower the temperature of those grand philosophic and aesthetic credos that for decades had captivated writers and scholars. The new precepts and axioms began their peregrinations in the 20s and 30s when language philosophers were unmooring metaphysics from philosophy, and two French historians, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, were altering approaches to historical thinking. Instead of world-historical individuals bestriding events, as Hegel and Emerson had suggested, the Annales School stipulated that unique configurations of economic, social, and geographic factors determined the customs and behaviors—indeed, the fate—of regional people. Popes and princes may have fomented wars, revolutions, and religious schisms, but subtler, more far-reaching forces were also at work, which could be extrapolated from the quantifiable data found in everything from hospital records to ships’ manifests.
This focus on the endemic components of society soon found its analogue in deconstruction, which elevated the social-semiotic conditions of language over the authors who modulated and teased it into literary art. Whatever the differences among the various poststructuralist schools of thought, the art of inversion, the transferring of significance from the exalted to the unappreciated, was a common feature. To read Barthes, Baudrillard, Derrida, Foucault, and Kristeva was to realize that everything that was formerly beneath our notice now required a phenomenologically informed second glance. And for theorists of a certain stripe on both sides of the Atlantic, this created a de-familiarized zone of symbols and referents whose meaning lay not below the surface of things, but out in the open. Say what you want about the French, they made us look at what was in front of our noses. Warhol’s soup can didn’t just fall out of the sky; it had begun to take shape in Paris in the 30s; Warhol simply brought the obvious to the attention of museumgoers.
Art and literature survived the onslaught of critical theory, but not without a major derailment. The banal, the ordinary, the popular became both the focus and the conduit of aesthetic expression. This may be something of an exaggeration, but it’s hard not to view the work of John Cage, Andy Warhol, and Alain Robbe-Grillet as compositions less interested in art than in the conceit that anything could be art. And while this attempt to validate the ordinary may have been in step with the intellectual tempo, it also summoned from the academy an exegesis so abstruse, so pumped up with ersatz hermeneutics that, in reality, it showcased the aesthetic void it so desperately attempted to disguise. And this absence was nothing less than the expulsion of those ideas that were formerly part of the humanistic charter to create meaning in verbal, plastic, and aural mediums.
Not that this bothered postmodern theorists whose unabashed mission was to expose Western civilization’s hidden agenda: the doctrinal attitudes and assumptions about art, sex, and race embedded in our linguistic and social codes. For many critics in the 1970s and 80s, the Enlightenment had been responsible for generating ideas about the world that were simply innocent of their own implications. Accordingly, bold new ideas were required that recognized the ideological framework of ideas in general. So Barthes gave us "The Death of the Author," and Foucault concluded that man is nothing more than an Enlightenment invention, while Paul de Man argued that insofar as language is concerned there is "in a very radical sense no such thing as the human."
All of which made for lively, unruly times in the humanities. It also made for the end of ideas as Trilling conceived them. For implicit in the idea that culture embodies physiological and psychological codes is the idea that everything can be reduced to a logocentric perspective, in which case all schools of thought become in the end variant expressions of the mind’s tendencies, and the principles they affirm become less significant than the fact that the mind is constituted to think and signify in particular ways. This may be the reason that there are no more schools of thought in the humanities as we once understood them. Obviously one can still learn about the tenets of the Frankfurt School and Prague School in courses across the country, just as one can study the works of Marxist and psychoanalytic critics (Althusser,Lacan,Deleuze,Lyotard,Marcuse,Norman O. Brown) and the deconstructionist writings of Derrida and de Man—but the frisson is gone, the intellectual energy dissipated as historical memory. Ironically, the last great surge of ideas in the humanities was essentially antihumanist. And because the academy eagerly embraced and paraded these ideas, the humanities themselves began to shrink. For when literature professors began to apply critical theory to the teaching of books they were, in effect, committing suicide by theory.
The Islamist group al-Shabaab claims responsibility for killing 28 non-Muslims on a bus in Kenya. Witnesses said the gunmen spared Muslim passengers but ordered the rest off the bus to their death.The attack happened outside the town Mandera near Kenya's border with Somalia and Ethopia, while the bus was travelling to the capital Nairobi.
Surviving passengers said a group of 10 heavily armed men boarded the bus and separated the Somali and non-Somali passengers.
Passenger Ahmed Mahat told the BBC what happened next. "The non-Somalis were ordered to read some verses of the holy Koran, and those who failed to read were ordered to lie down. One by one they were shot in the head at point blank range."
The Islamist group said it carried out the attack in retaliations for raids on mosques in the port city of Mombasa. "The Mujahideen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders, as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al Shabaab's spokesman, said in a statement.
An Israeli Mayor Takes Steps To Protect His Citizens, Wins Wide Public Support
By JOSEF FEDERMAN
JERUSALEM (AP) — The mayor of a southern Israeli city sparked a national uproar Thursday by barring Israeli Arab construction workers from jobs in local preschools, citing security concerns after a rash of attacks by Palestinian assailants elsewhere in the country.
The proposal was condemned as racist by Israeli leaders, but it reflected the tense mood in the country and deepened longstanding divisions between the nation's Jewish majority and Arab minority. An opinion poll showed solid public support for the measure.
Israel has been on edge following a wave of Palestinian attacks that has killed 11 people over the past month, including five this week in a bloody assault on a Jerusalem synagogue. Most of the attacks have occurred in Jerusalem — whose population is roughly one-third Palestinian — with deadly stabbings in Tel Aviv and the West Bank as well.
Responding to the unrest, the mayor of Ashkelon, Itamar Shimoni, announced that Israeli Arab laborers renovating bomb shelters in local kindergartens would be barred from their jobs. He also ordered security stepped up at construction sites where Arab laborers are employed.
He said the order was a response to the synagogue attack Tuesday, in which Palestinian assailants killed four rabbis and a Druse Arab policeman with meat cleavers and gunfire.
"Anyone who thinks this is illegal can take me to court," Shimoni said. "At this time, I prefer to be taken to court and not, God forbid, to attend the funeral of one of the children from kindergartens."
The workers in Ashkelon are Arab citizens of Israel, in contrast to the Palestinian attackers from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and it appeared unlikely the order would last for long. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called it illegal and ordered the attorney general to take action.
"We must not generalize about an entire public due to a small and violent minority," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "The vast majority of Israel's Arab citizens are law abiding and whoever breaks the law — we will take determined and vigorous action against him."
Israeli leaders proudly boast the country is the only democracy in the Middle East, and say they place great importance on protecting the civil rights of the Arab minority, a diverse group that includes Muslims, Christians, Bedouins and Druse.
But the situation for Israel's Arab citizens is complicated — particularly in the current atmosphere.
Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of 8 million, often complain of being treated as second-class citizens, and suffer from a high poverty rate, job and housing discrimination and poor public services. Many openly identify with the Palestinians, drawing accusations that they are disloyal.
In recent years, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has called on Israeli Arabs to take a loyalty oath and proposed redrawing Israel's borders under any future peace deal to place large numbers of them on the Palestinian side.
Tziona Koenig-Yair, the equal employment commissioner in Israel's Economy Ministry, said she has seen a jump in claims recently by Arab workers who say they have lost their jobs on racial grounds. She said she planned to fight the mayor of Ashkelon in court if his order is not reversed.
"We have to realize that citizens of this country who want to live here cannot be held accountable for things that are being done by extremists," she said.
In a letter to Shimoni and Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, the Arab civil rights group Adalah called the decision "arbitrary and racist" and urged it be reversed. "There is no doubt that this decision is aimed at the Arab workers because of who they are and their national affiliation," the letter said. Erdan called the order "unacceptable."
In Ashkelon, dozens of people demonstrated late Thursday in support of Shimoni. Channel 10 TV said an opinion poll found that 58 percent of the Jewish public supported the mayor, while only 32 percent opposed him. It said the poll was conducted by the Panels agency, but gave no details on how many people had been questioned or a margin of error.
Liraz Makhlouf, a mother of two young children in Ashkelon, said she supported the mayor's decision "100 percent." She insisted there was no racism behind the move, and that in the current climate of violence, such measures were needed to protect children.
"It's clear that there are good (Arabs) and bad ones, and it's clear there are more good ones than bad ones. But no one can point at them and say who is good and who is bad," she told Channel 10.
The recent unrest has been focused around Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site — the hilltop compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.
Muslim leaders fear that Israel is encroaching on the site — a charge that Netanyahu denies — and are furious over Israeli security measures that have restricted access for Muslim worshippers.
Most of the violence has been concentrated in Jerusalem, but the unrest has begun to spread beyond the city.
Earlier this month, an Israeli policeman shot and killed an Arab rioter in northern Israel, apparently as he was walking away from the officer, sparking several days of violent demonstrations. Netanyahu later suggested that protesters who denounce Israel should move to the Palestinian territories.
On Sunday, Netanyahu plans to present a "nationality" law to his Cabinet that he said is meant to solidify Israel's status as the homeland of the Jewish people.
Netanyahu said the law "will enshrine the full equality" of every citizen. But the legislation has raised fears among Arabs that it will undermine their status.
Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, an Arab advocacy group, said the new law would "deepen the discrimination we face, and the Ashkelon mayor's order is part of the incitement against the Arab community led by the prime minister himself."
He urged government leaders "to work toward calming tensions across the country, instead of fanning the flames of fear and mistrust."
In Jerusalem, Israel pressed forward with a pledge to step up the demolitions of homes belonging to families of Palestinian attackers involved in recent violence.
Israeli police handed demolition notices to the families of four attackers in east Jerusalem, including the two assailants who carried out the synagogue attack. The demolitions are expected to take place after a 48-hour appeal period.
On Wednesday, Israel demolished the east Jerusalem home of an attacker who rammed his car into a crowded train station last month, killing a baby girl and a 22-year-old woman.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities said investigators had concluded a hit-and-run accident that injured three Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Nov. 5 was an intentional attack. The driver, identified as a 23-year-old Hamas operative, turned himself into police, claiming he lost control of his car. But the Shin Bet security agency said he admitted during questioning to targeting the soldiers.
An Ill-Timed Interfaith Gathering at Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan
Dr. Burton Visotsky speaks to Jewish Muslim panel at Jewish Theological Seminary
November 18, 2014
16 are dead in Jerusalem, four of them rabbis, the victims of a wave of Islamic anti-Semitic rampage by Arab Muslim residents. But that didn’t cause the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in Manhattan to cancel an interfaith Jewish-Muslim luncheon earlier this week that included a leader of Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA is one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the 2008 federal Dallas Holy Land Foundation trial that convicted the leaders of the Muslim charity for funneling upwards of $36 million to Hamas for following in the way of Allah, Jihad. We have learned over several years that the venerable flagship of American Conservative Judaism has been unstinting in promoting the myopia of Jewish – Muslim dialogue under the leadership of Chancellor Arnold Eisen. See our January 2012 NER article, “Dialogue with Radical Muslims is Dangerous for American Jews”.
On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 about 30 high-profile Muslim and Jewish scholars and leaders came together for a kosher-halal lunch (arugula salad, salmon with a fried potato on top, tiramisu for dessert) at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) to celebrate their work bridging the gaps between the two communities.
The violence in Israel wasn’t mentioned, specifically. But it was felt, undoubtedly.
“Our work is the work of peace, and yet, as the prophet says, ‘shalom, shalom, v’ein shalom,’ we pray for peace, we work for peace, and yet, we still don’t have peace,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at JTS.
Visotzky is short but not quite stout with a beard that’s black around his chin but begins to gray as it travels up toward his kippah-covered head.
His exuberance couldn’t be clipped by the day’s tragic beginning, and he bounced around from table to table, greeting some with ‘shalom’ and others with ‘As-salamu alaykum,’ the Arabic counterpart.
The escalating conflict in Jerusalem did not dampen Visotzky’s joy about what he feels is a momentous step in advancing Muslim-Jewish relations in the United States. Together with the Hartford Seminary and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), JTS just published “Sharing the Well: A Resource Guide For Jewish-Muslim Engagement.” The guide (available for free PDF download) is the outgrowth of a series of annual conferences titled “Judaism and Islam in America” that began in 2010 under Visotzky’s leadership.
“Sharing the Well” includes guidelines on how to begin and maintain interreligious dialogue, as well as essays on shared values between the two religions and a list of 24 Muslim-Jewish projects around the country, from a Muslim-Jewish “speed dialogue” modeled after speed dating to an interfaith Thanksgiving service. The authors hope the book inspires Jews and Muslims to reach across religious divides at a time when world events are increasingly pitting them against one another.
Having written about the dangers of Jewish Muslim Dialogue and the banal cupidity of Jewish communal leadership and in this instance the faculty of the Jewish Theological Society ( JTS )regarding this and other similar events on college campus with Jewish students threatened by Muslim Student Associations, I find this program naive and dangerous. It is no wonder that most Jews are ill informed about the underlying Qur’anic doctrine of hatred towards Christians, Jews and other unbelievers. Why Chancellor Eisen, Professor Visotzky support such dialogues is appalling, as they neither educate or inform Jewish and non-Jewish audiences of the realities of why Islamic anti-Semitism exists on college campuses and in the West generally. As Dr. Jacobs cogently argued in response to a caller on a Lisa Benson Show on the subject of Jewish Myopia Towards Islam:
The “J” Streeters and the left again want us to think that we Jews have done it to ourselves. It is our behavior that has made the Muslims hate us. That is a very empowering thought because if it’s true, if you could make yourself believe it was true, then you could change the reality. You could just simply change your behavior and the hatred would go away. Unfortunately Islam is a religion, a political and an economic system. In it there is a demand for worldwide supremacy. When Islam conquers the land, the people on the land have a choice. If they are Jews or Christians, they can choose not to be killed if they accept the status of dhimmitude.
Being a dhimmi is lower than second class status where you may not have political independence. You may not have freedom. You are subjugated. However, if you allow yourself to be subjugated and you follow their rules you can still be a Jew or a Christian. Now if you don’t, however, if you rebel against that, then the entire theological house of Islam with sword behind it comes after you and that is what happened with Israel. Israel is a rebellious dhimmi state. The Jews were never supposed to have self-rule just like the Christians. South Sudan came about as a Christian state after having defeated a Jihad against it so too the Jews.
The Jews and the Christians in the Middle East are not allowed to have self-rule. A theological Israel is a theological catastrophe for Islam. It is not a border war. If it was that, then, if it were, you could make concessions and you could make compromises with two people living in peace.
Unfortunately that’s not the case.
Unfortunate that is for the sixteen killed in Jerusalem because of Islamic anti-Semitic hate, especially the four rabbis z”l and the valiant Israeli Druze police officer who shot and killed the two Arab Muslim cousins, who entered the Kehillat Yaakov synagogue at 7:00AM in Har Nof on Monday, November 17, 2014. The two Arab Muslim killers, equipped with guns and knives and a meat cleaver to commit their butchery, disrupted the morning minyan prayers leaving behind them the charnel of dead and wounded in the blood splattered scene. We wonder if Dr. Visotzky asked the assemblage of Jewish and high profile Muslim leaders to rise for the traditional mourners’ prayer for the rabbis and the Druze police officer who lost their lives?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s robust words to Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Australia were welcome, appropriate and should be supported by all Canadians. They complemented the similarly forthright position taken by the G20 summit host, Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Unfortunately, Russia has never in its history paid the slightest attention to any cautionary note from anyone except someone sufficiently strong, militarily or economically, to deter it. The czars and the communist leaders who followed them paid some attention to the strongest German, French, British and Turkish leaders. In current memory, the Kremlin listened rather impatiently to Mao Tse-tung and Deng Xiaoping, and to almost all American presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Bill Clinton.
When our prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King wrote to Stalin, professing continuation of the war-time alliance despite startling evidence of vast Soviet espionage unearthed in the Gouzenko Affair in Ottawa in 1945, he received no reply. (King considered Gouzenko “a manly patriot” who had been won over from communism “by Canadian democracy,” not unreasonable assessments.) Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson, men of proven diplomatic aptitudes, never got a rise from Stalin, who by the late Forties was like a reclusive crocodile straddling Europe and Asia, or from his successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev. Neither did John Diefenbaker when he angrily reproached Khrushchev at the United Nations for the illegal Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. Pierre Trudeau was no more successful with Khrushchev’s successor Leonid I. Brezhnev on several bilateral issues, although he claimed to believe (wrongly) that Churchill and Roosevelt had ceded Eastern Europe to Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta conferences. Trudeau also facilitated Cuban intervention in the Angolan Civil War as Soviet mercenaries by giving them transit landing rights in Newfoundland, and he publicly referred to heroic Soviet human rights activists Andrei Sakharov and Anatoly Sharansky as “hooligans.”
Russia became a great power under Peter the Great (czar from 1689-1725) when he consolidated Russia’s hold on Ukraine, pushed the Turks southwards, expanded across Asia and founded St. Petersburg as “a window on the West;” beginning the struggle that continues to this day between the Western emulators and the nativists. The latter faction are the reactionary upholders of Holy Mother Russia’s isolationist exceptionalism, much romanticized in Russian literature and familiar to any reader of Tolstoy or Solzhenitsyn. This current of opinion and psychology has been largely hijacked by Putin.
Since the apotheosis of the brilliant American strategy of containment of the Soviet Union and of international communism, pursued assiduously by 10 American presidents (five of each party), with the abandonment of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of the Soviet Union, after the brief, bibulous, near-anarchy of Western emulator Boris Yeltsin, Putin has been playing to great Russian nationalism by mischief-making in almost every corner of the world. Putin has perversely assisted Iran in attaining a nuclear military capacity, and has aided other terrorism-promoting states, especially Syria, although Russia has itself been a victim of Islamist extremism, even in Moscow itself. Putin has played a seminal role in promoting the present impasse in the Middle East, as Stephen Harper has rightly denounced. The beleaguered and blood-stained Syrian leader Bashir Assad is the puppet of the Iranians and the Russians, but is mortally opposed by the Turks, Saudis, and Egyptians.
Those powers are supporting both the moderate reformers and the Islamist opponents of the secularist Assad, but also oppose the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) ultra-extremists, who are at (professedly holy) war with everyone. Islamic State arose from the wreckage of (to take an expression from Balkan politics of a century ago) “the ungrateful volcano” of post-American Iraq. Syria has become the chief recruiting ground for the ISIS and Turkey will not assist in the repulse of ISIS unless the United States resumes its former determination to be rid of Assad. Readers will recall prolonged official American waffling on that subject, from Hillary Clinton’s infamous description of Assad as “a reformer,” to Barack Obama’s complacent decree that Assad “must go,” to his imposition of the violated “red line” when Assad poison-gassed his own citizens, to his abdication to the Congress of the president’s right as commander-in-chief to enforce the red line by military retaliation, to fumbling the matter in anticipation of defeat in the Congress to the ubiquitous Slavonic sorcerer Putin.
While this fiasco has been wrought by former president Jimmy Carter’s complicity in the eviction of the pro-American government of the Shah of Iran and by Europe’s haughty straight-arming of the pro-Western Kemalist leadership of Turkey for decades, Russia has been the chief recent troublemaker. The absurdity of the present affray is highlighted by the fact that after 35 years of U.S. demonizing of the loopy theocrats in Tehran, and after all the threats of “crippling sanctions” and air attack being an “option on the table,” Iran is now a quasi-ally of the U.S. against ISIS.
This may well mean American toleration of Iran becoming a “threshold” nuclear power, and that may entrain an Israeli air strike on Iran’s nuclear program, with whole-hearted Turkish and Arab approval. There remains a chance that Saudi Arabia’s reduction of the oil price could cause the Iranians to come to their arithmetical senses and stall their nuclear program, but unintended consequences have fallen like confetti, from the latest problems with the Keystone XL pipeline because of pricing scenarios, to Putin’s comparative restraint in Ukraine, neither of which was of the least interest to the petro-nomads of the House of Saud. The disintegration of Iraq has already virtually created an independent Kurdistan, which is agitating Turkey’s 20 million Kurds.
The Euro-fantasy of influencing the Middle East is over, and the ineffectuality or failure of American efforts in the region, since the first Gulf War — which at least ejected Saddam from Kuwait, had an exit strategy, and ended quickly and without heavy casualties — and the almost mindless cynicism of Putin, may leave it to the countries and factions, sects and tribes in situ to sort it out, even if it is a sun-drenched version of the Thirty Years War. Bismarck warned against the great powers becoming involved in the quarrels of the Balkan “sheep-stealers;” he was ignored and the hecatomb of The First World War followed. The same advice applies to the Middle East now. The U.S. should leave completely, apart from advancing its allies full anti-missile defences, which it partially withheld in Eastern Europe as part of the fatuous “reset” of relations with Russia, and not come back until it has rediscovered its “containment” era genius for foreign and strategic policy.
A positive thought: It emerges from the newly produced research on the origins of the First World War a century ago that the British, French, Germans and Austro-Hungarians were all convinced in 1914 that Russia was the rising power in Europe and Asia and was putting up such economic growth rates and technological advances that it was thought to be rivalled only by the United States as the land of the future. That is why several of those countries thought a war might not be a bad idea, before the Russians became impossible to contain. So it may not be entirely true that, horrible though it was, the First World War had no purpose, and that the communist victory in Russia was one of its most baleful consequences. The triumph of the Bolsheviks may have spared the West a greater, if somewhat less barbarous Russian challenge. Communism liquidated 20 million Soviet civilians, enabled the Second World War with the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then took over 90% of the casualties in subduing Nazi Germany, while Germany, France, Italy and Japan became prosperous democratic allies of the English-speaking countries. And then the U.S.S.R. fragmented, almost bloodlessly.
Harper is right to call Putin the thug that he is, but perhaps we should be even more grateful than we have been to those who served in the First World War for the fact that Putin’s despotism misgoverns fewer than half the people of the empires ruled by the Romanovs and the Supreme Soviet.
LONDON — Across Pakistan, the black standard of the Islamic State has been popping up all over.
From urban slums to Taliban strongholds, the militant group’s logo and name have appeared in graffiti, posters and pamphlets. Last month, a cluster of militant commanders declared their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State.
Such is the influence of the Islamic State’s steamroller success in Iraq and Syria that, even thousands of miles away, security officials and militant networks are having to reckon with the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Its victories have energized battle-weary militants in Pakistan. The ISIS brand offers them potent advantages, analysts say — an aid to fund-raising and recruiting, a possible advantage over rival factions and, most powerfully, a new template for waging jihad.
The ISIS cause became openly divisive in October when a group of six commanders led by Sheikh Maqbool, a former Taliban spokesman, openly pledged loyalty to the Islamic State. “A large number of mujahedeen are with us,” said Abu Zar Khurassani, a senior figure in the breakaway faction. “Soon we will decide on how to help the Islamic State.”
A taxi driver and his three friends have been sentenced for a total of 68 years over the rape of a drunk passenger. Tamseel Virk, 42, Najim U-Saeed, 31, Wakar Akhtar, 21, and Azad Raja, 38, were each handed 17 year jail terms for the 'despicable' attack on the vulnerable woman in Bradford, Yorkshire.
A judge heard how taxi driver Virk picked up the intoxicated victim after she had been out celebrating a friend's birthday in Leeds. When she came round, she found Raja was having sex with her - while Akhtar told her he had already had sex with her.
Virk, U-Saeed and Raja were sentenced at Bradford Crown Court. Akhtar was also sentenced but is currently on the run - and is believed to have fled the country after giving evidence, the court heard.
His Honour Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told the court that the victim had been enjoying herself earlier in the evening of May 25. But she ended up 'coming to her senses on a park bench in another city being raped'. Describing the victim's experience as a nightmare, he told the three men in the dock: 'This was totally despicable, it was utterly callous, it was a degree of inhuman behaviour hard, even for one such as myself inured to evil, to understand.'
During the two-week trial, in which the men denied conspiracy to rape, the court heard that the teacher had been drunk when she left the party without her bag and was seen at Leeds train station.
The judge said: 'On that day, as was her right, she enjoyed at the birthday party a number of drinks. That is part, gentlemen, of our culture.'
At some point she had got in a taxi to travel to wherever she was staying but had got out again in a confused state - possibly regarding getting her bag back. It was then, the court heard, that Vick saw her and 'accosted her and secured her in the presence of the cab' according to the judge.
Vick then drove the confused woman from Leeds, West Yorkshire, to Bradford, 11 miles away - and to a destination she had not asked for.
During the journey, the court heard, there were 15 phone calls made between Vick and the other defendants.
'This was four men putting into place an operation to do that which the jury have found,' said Judge Durham Hall, adding that their victim was a young vulnerable woman.
After meeting at a park in Bradford the court heard Akhtar had invited his uncle Raja to 'join in the fun'. Their victim came to in the early hours of the May 26 being held and being raped by a man. During the trial, the court heard that U-Saeed then turned up 'too late physically to join in the rape that he had set up'.
A 19-year-old man has been arrested by police on suspicion of preparing for acts of terrorism. He was detained by West Midlands Police officers as he stepped off a flight from Jordan at Heathrow Airport.
The arrest took place at around 3pm on Thursday . . . the West Midlands counter terrorism unit said the man was from Coventry.
The statement added: "He is currently in custody in the West Midlands area. The arrest was pre-planned and intelligence led.The suspect did not pose any risk to the flight."
Unilateral Amnesty Scheme Could Impact the Most Vulnerable Americans
From the Center for Immigration Studies:
WASHINGTON, DC (November 21, 2014) — President Obama's executive amnesty announced this week may well come at the expense of the most vulnerable and poorest American workers. Once given work authorization, illegal immigrants are likely to compete with Americans for better-paying jobs that are now generally off-limits because they require background checks and valid Social Security numbers. Such jobs include: security guards, screeners, janitors, grounds keepers and clerks employed in the public sector, as well as most jobs associated with interstate transport and delivery.
The president does not seem to have given any consideration to the abysmal employment picture for less-educated Americans, people who will now face increased competition for the dwindling number of relatively well-paying jobs that are available to them.
The employment situation in the 3rd Quarter of 2014:
Only 45 percent of adult American citizens (native-born and naturalized), age 18 to 65, without a high school education are working.
Only 65 percent of citizens, age 18 to 65, with just a high school education are working.
For less-educated U.S.-born blacks the situation is even worse. Only 32 percent, age 18 to 65, without a high school education are working, as are only 56 percent with only a high school education.
All of the above figures represent a dramatic deterioration from historical averages. None of these groups have come close to getting back to the share of those working in 2007.
In total there were nearly 27 million adult American citizens, age 18 to 65, with no more than high school education not working in the third quarter of 2014.
All of the above data comes from the public use files of the Current Population Survey collected by the government in the third quarter of 2014. The survey is the source of unemployment and labor market statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Long-standing — but weak — public support for the ideal of immigration crashed this summer, when a wave of 130,000 migrants from Central America crossed into Texas, [Pat] Caddell said.
“We’ve had a sea change in attitudes on immigration that is stunning in the last three or four months,” he said.
The wave “became the reality of ‘Let’s be nice to everyone,’” which has been the public’s traditional attitude toward immigrants, he said. But the wave ensured that Americans “talked to each other and said ‘Oh my God, this is insane,’” Caddell said.
After the wave of migrants, Americans aren’t focused on what’s fair to immigrants, said Conway. ”Now people are asking ‘What’s fair to the rest of us? What’s fair to the high school or college student who is looking for a job? What is fair to the guy who can’t find employment? What’s fair to the business owners?” she said. Many business owners are disadvantaged when their rivals hire low-wage illegals.
The shift has been missed by most pollsters because they won’t push past respondents’ polite comments about immigrants to discover their real strongly held attitudes, Conway and Caddell said.
At least one person has died in the Kenyan city of Mombasa after police clashed with protesters who tried to enter a closed-off mosque. Police were forced to fire in the air and lob teargas to eject the group of youths who forced their way into Masjid Swafaa mosque in Kisauni for prayers.
A police raid on Swafaa mosque on Wednesday resulted in a grenade, petrol bombs and other weapons being found.A city-wide crackdown on groups allegedly linked to the Somali militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, began earlier this week.
Others closed are Masjid Shuhadaa, Sakina and Minah mosques where firearms and explosive materials were seized. More police officers have been deployed to patrol Mombasa streets following reports of a planned demonstration later on Friday over the mosque raids.
Synagogue Murders: Jordanian Parliament Observes A Moment Of Silence
A reading of the Fatiha from the Qur'an, with every member of the Jordanian Parliament standing, palms out, to honor the memory of those Muslim Arabs who died that day, performing, with guns and meat cleavers, their acts of derring-do.
Pupils at six small Muslim private schools in east London are at risk of extremist views and radicalisation, says Ofsted's chief inspector. Sir Michael Wilshaw said the pupils' "physical and educational welfare is at serious risk" following a series of emergency inspections.He said all the schools focused too heavily on Islamic teachings.
The independent schools are Mazahirul Uloom School, Ebrahim Academy, East London Islamic School, London East Academy, Al-Mizan School and Jamiatul Ummah School. In each case, inspectors declared the schools failing, or identified areas where the schools had failed to meet independent school standards.
“The physical condition of all six schools’ accommodation was found to be unacceptable. Three of the schools are sited within mosques. In all three, access to the school was insecure because it was shared with the mosque. In another, the school shared an entrance with a café, giving members of the public open access to the school...Four of the schools were dirty and poorly maintained, with electrical sockets and switches hanging off walls in one, and broken furniture and rubbish in stairwells in another. "
At one school, inspectors found pupils did not know the difference between sharia and British law... (Pupils) were unable to tell inspectors which laws they should follow and which were more important. . . Mazahirul Uloom, a small secondary boys' school that professes to teach the National Curriculum and Islamic Sciences, faces the most criticism. . . the curriculum "focused solely" on Islamic themes.
Pupils here believed it was wrong to learn about other religions, were not taught art, music or drama and pupils had a "narrow view" of women in society. Some students told inspectors: "Women stay at home and clean and look after the children. They cook and pray and wait for us to come back from school with homework."
The report also said there were no systems in place to check suitability of external speakers and that children were not safe because staff recruitment checks were not rigorous enough.
Ebrahim Academy, a secondary boys' school with 97 pupils, was also found to offer too narrow a curriculum. Ofsted said students were not prepared for life in modern Britain.
The London East Academy, a 150-pupil boys' secondary, was not providing enough opportunities for students to learn about other faiths and most of the books in the the school's library were Arabic.
An emergency inspection of the 185-pupil boys' secondary Jammiatul Ummah found good opportunities to study and practise the Islamic faith but pupils were not provided with a broad and balanced curriculum. The report said: "The narrowness of the curriculum means that students' spiritual, moral, social and cultural education, in particular their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance, is underdeveloped."
Sir John Cass Foundation and Red Coat School in Stepney, east London, (A Church of England School with more than 80% Muslim pupils) had excellent results, including outstanding progress in English and maths, the education regulator reported. It added, however, that it was an inadequate school and placed it in special measures because of the behaviour and safety of pupils.
“Arrangements for vetting visiting speakers and monitoring the activities of student groups are not robust enough to ensure that students are kept safe. The school’s approach to the use of playgrounds and common rooms has resulted in the separation of boys and girls when they are out of lessons. The governing body is not demonstrating sufficient capacity to bring about improvements.
The school’s leadership has not responded with sufficient urgency or decisiveness to concerns brought to their attention by the police in 2013-14.This concern related to social media sites bearing the name of a school sixth form society and containing links to individuals associated with extremist activity. . .These sites include links to individuals associated with extremist views and actions. They also include messages to discourage students from attending school events, such as a fundraising karaoke evening, because the activities do not adhere to a particular religious viewpoint.
"One posting states that any sixth form students who attended a ‘leavers’ party’ and engaged in ‘free-mixing’ or ‘listening to music’ would face ‘severe consequences later’. A further uploaded video included a speaker who mocked perceived ‘feminine’ behaviour in men.”
Tower Hamlets’ education director Robert McCulloch-Graham has admitted to the East London Advertiser that Sir John Cass, which comes under Town Hall control, was “not robust enough” in tackling concerns about safeguarding pupils after the school’s sixthform Islamic Society was found to have Facebook links with extremist preachers.
But the authority has little powers over the six privately-run Muslim faith schools in the East End that have also been inspected by Ofted over the ‘fundamentalist links’ issue.
A Town Hall spokesman said: “We have no jurisdiction whatsoever as a local education authority over teaching and standards at independent faith schools. We do have responsibility for safeguarding children, but our powers limit us to offering training and advice to schools. We have repeatedly offered this assistance to independent schools locally—but cannot compel them to accept.”
"Between Us And You There Is Animosity And Hatred Forever"
Muslims of the Islamic State make a video in which they threaten attacks in France, relying on perfectely orthodox Islamic teachings in expressing their hatred of the French until such time as they submit to Allah.
"The mystic chords of memory" and "the better angels of our nature" are phrases that have entered the language. But I wonder, of those who use those phrases, especially the second, how many know the full speech in which these phrases first appeared.
Here it is, not the celebrated Second but the seldom-quoted-in-full First Inaugural.