FTA: Once the state gets into the business of conferring monopoly power on its favorite wards, the level of discretion it exercises becomes subject to powerful political influences.
That has been, is, and will be a problem in any political organization, whether it's a monarchy, dictatorship, republic, or fraternal organization. It is not a modern problem.
What do you tell soldiers who are risking their lives on Middle East battlefields about the people they are fighting for and against simultaneously? That's a tough task. And now we have a fascinating picture of how it's done.
"Arab Cultural Awareness" is a 73-page text by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence. It's easy to make fun of some things in it. Yet how can one briefly explain a complex, different society riddled with exceptions to soldiers who have other concerns, little knowledge, and no experience with it?
Remember, we're talking about a text whose first section is, "Where is the Arab World?" followed by "What is an Arab?" I think they did a conscientious and honorable job, avoiding prejudice without generally creating a fantasy image, and doing a reasonable job of explaining Islam and social customs.
But here's what makes this text especially interesting to me: It was published in January 2006, after September 11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan made this information vital but before hard-core "Political Correctness" set in to freeze American brains. I'm certain this book couldn't be written today because it is too honest.
What is an Arab warrior? A man from a culture that considers themselves tone great warriors yet prize sneak hit and run tactics and sneaky stuff. A man from a culture whose greatest warrior (Saladin) was actually a Kurd.
Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement are on the defensive.
Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement are on the defensive. A surprisingly candid interview on video with anti-Israel guru Norman Finkelstein at the beginning of last month has sparked a flurry of soul-searching on far-left websites such as +972 and Mondoweiss and among left-wing ideologues such as M.J. Rosenberg, senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network, and Haaretz columnist Bradley Burston.
In the video, which went viral first on YouTube and later, after being removed to contain damage to BDS, on Vimeo, Finkelstein declared BDS to be a failure.
Though BDS activists tout the movement's many successes, in reality "it's a cult where the guru says 'We have all these victories' and everyone nods their head," he said.
Finkelstein went on to explain why BDS has failed so miserably. The movement's duplicity and disingenuousness in hiding the fact that a large part of its membership "wants to eliminate Israel" made it impossible for BDS to reach a broad public.
Finkelstein's comments have resulted in a reevaluation of the entire BDS movement on the Left. And it comes at a particularly opportune time as BDS activists on campuses around the world mark Israel Apartheid Week.
For instance, an article titled "Boycotting Israel means denying its right to exist" that first appeared last Wednesday on the +972 blog has generated a lively debate. In their zeal to attack author Noam Weiner, an Israeli doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan Law School, critics have in the process proved Weiner -- and Finkelstein -- right. In trying to support BDS, many ended up expressing their support for Israel's demise as a Jewish state by championing the "right of return" for millions of Palestinians and their offspring, who were forced or chose to leave Israel after the War of Independence.
Meanwhile, "moderates" such as Rosenberg have tried to differentiate between BDS against Israel as a whole and a BDS campaign that focuses solely on the West Bank. Meretz, a self-proclaimed Zionist political party, makes such as distinction. And for many Jewish organizations in the US one can support a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria and still remain within the "big tent" of Jewish consensus.
But even this more "moderate" form of BDS is problematic.
Modern economies are highly complex. How directly does a company have to be involved in the development of Judea and Samaria to justify a boycott against it? Would paying taxes constitute support for the "occupation?" How about firms run by people who serve reserve duty? Any attempts to direct a boycott at Judea and Samaria inevitably result in a boycott against Israel.
More substantively, a boycott, even one supposedly directed only at the settlements, ignores the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It ignores Palestinian incitement to violence, which goes on to this day. It ignores the broad support among Palestinians for Hamas and other terrorist groups that aspire to destroy Israel, even with pre-1967 lines. A BDS campaign, even one that only targets "occupation," strengthens the most radical elements within Palestinian society by refraining from placing at least some of the blame for the conflict on Palestinian shoulders.
And as blogger Jon Haber, creator of the Divest This! website, has pointed out, BDS activity tends to undermine the basic values of organizations that use it. When, for instance, the British National Union of Journalists is asked to join BDS, it members are expected to suspend their journalistic objectivity to single out Israel for censure.
University professors are asked to disregard the notion of academic freedom to use their positions to silence Israeli colleagues. Businesses and co-ops are asked to forgo their right to pursue the best products at the lowest prices to punish the Jewish state. And mainline Protestant churchgoers are asked to compromise their religious faith, as if God Himself were aligned with the BDS movement.
Finkelstein's candid interview has sparked an important reassessment of the entire BDS movement. Let us hope that the soul-searching raging on the Left leads to more honesty and less of the duplicity and disingenuousness that has characterized the BDS movement to date.
Actually, I very much disbelieve that this process is actually happenening in the BDS movement: it is predominantly populated by leftists and "liberals" whose capacity for honest self-assessment and self-criticsm is practically nonexistent. "Soul-searching" is a pose they take on to head-fake conservatives, not something they are capable of doing when it comes to certain subjects. The conservative mental maps have regions marked "unknown", while the liberal mental maps have regions marked "Here be dragons!"
And yah, I thought it was referring to Bush Derangement Syndrome myself.
Bashar is still far short of what his father Hafez achieved thirty years ago this month in Hama; but he is making valiant efforts to catch up. It is sobering to think that Rabin almost gave up the Golan Heights to Syria.
Thirty years ago this month, the decades-long conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Syrian Army reached its climax. The city of Hama, the third-largest city in Syria, had long been a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood which, as Sunnis, had historically regarded the Alawites as heretics, little better than Jews or Christians.
When the Alawite Hafez al-Assad took control of Syria in 1970 and his Alawite cronies instituted a brutal dictatorship, the Sunni majority was viciously repressed, and the Muslim Brotherhood -- the only organisation that dared to challenge Alawite tyranny -- became the heroes of the general population.