Saturday, March 11, 2006

Europe's Distortion of the Meaning of the Shoah's Memory and Its Consequences for the Jews and Israel

From an Interview with Shmuel Trigano, from Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, No. 42 1 March 2006 / 1 Adar 5766 (the original is a lengthy article, but a "must read" - unfortunately Trigano's books are only available in French) ...

  • The challenge the Shoah's memory poses to the Jews, concerns the Jewish people's legitimacy, that is, its right to exist in Europe and the Middle East. The European discourse on "the Shoah's memory" is a delusion that conceals the nonrecognition of this right.
  • There are two fundamental explanations for Europe's unwillingness to recognize the political dimension of the Jewish people and its suffering. The first has ancient Christian origins. The second is directly linked to the concept of modernity, which is incapable of accepting the identity of a collective such as the Jewish people.
  • On the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Europeans primarily remembered the Jews' victimhood. The commemorations were held in an unhealthy, sacral fashion. They abruptly followed an ongoing period of violent verbal hostility of European public opinion toward Israel and the Jewish communities. This phenomenon is significant for the European relationship to the Jews.

(Interviewed by Manfred Gerstenfeld)

...Shmuel Trigano's most recent book...refers to Europe's desire to have Israel return to its indefensible 1967 borders, understood as metaphysical borders of its sacrificial condition....Trigano discusses "the New Jewish Question," which he defines as the denial of the moral, historical, and political legitimacy of the Jewish existence as a people and therefore the negation of the state of Israel's right to sovereignty.

Trigano teaches sociology at Paris Nanterre University. In 2002 he founded L'Observatoire du Monde Juif, a research center on Jewish political life. Its publications rapidly became a prime source for understanding the position of the Jews in French society....

Europe's Distorted Matrix of Identity
...when Europe was founded, the matrix of its identity included a distorted vision of the Jews that has manifested itself over the centuries in many ways. "By now Europe has a soul that is so heavily historically loaded that it cannot change.

"I believe that the major identity crisis in Europe concerns America's overtaking it. A new 'empire,' the European Union, aspires to establish itself today in Europe. It may or may not emerge, but leads Europe into rivalry with the United States. In this process the Jews fulfill a symbolic role because they are intimately linked to European identity's own rationale while being identified with the Americans.

"Even if there will be no Jews left in Europe, there will be a Jewish question. In Poland where once millions of Jews lived and now hardly any do, this was very evident in the 1960s. There is much anti-Semitism there with almost no Jews in the country."

Trigano adds: "Europe is again dangerous for the Jews. The first years of the new century have amply demonstrated what she harbors. The Jews have become a symbolical tool for Europeans to avoid confronting as long as possible the problems posed to them by the Arab and Muslim immigration. The Middle East conflict has become a tool to mediate the complex of relationships between Europe and this immigrant population. Condemning Israel is a way for her to keep civil peace at home".

Denying Aggressors Were Muslims
"In 2001 the French Jews published a list of the numerous aggressions against them. They stated that many aggressors were Muslims. The government, instead of helping the Jews, initially accused them of being racists and tribalists.
"These accusations should have been addressed univocally against the criminal aggressors, but the Jews are the weak link in European society, which can most easily be turned into scapegoats. The French Jews were entirely powerless in confronting this. They thus become again a tool in a discourse that they have to accept passively.
"The second danger is the way in which Europe, feeling guilty, has a need to cultivate the image of the suffering Jewish victim. On the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz an entire continent came to celebrate the Jews' victimhood. This was done in an excessively sacral way, the more unhealthy because it came so abruptly after an ongoing period of violent hostility of European opinion toward Israel and the Jewish communities. It is evident that Europe adores Jews provided they are deceased. Only the dead Jewish peoplehood can be recognized. The living one is a problem."

The Passion Play of the Jews
Trigano explains that this is the recycling of a profound Christian motif. "Only if one identifies with the suffering of Jesus can one find salvation. Now this theme resurfaces in a contemporary attire. If a Westerner identifies with the suffering of the Shoah he can redeem himself of the Nazis' culpability. The memory of the Shoah becomes a modern version of the Passion of Christ. The victims are being reduced to dead bodies - a great similarity with Christ's corpse on the cross.
"Contemporary Jews do not have to accept the imposed role of (sacral) corpses. Unfortunately, all the Jewish institutions and much of the Jewish public are willing to play today this dangerous - both for their political condition and mental health - part. Here we face a conflict between two strategies: the memory of the Shoah as a basis for legitimizing the Jewish right to exist, and the Zionist position that founds this right on a positive, historical, and political (democratic!) basis.

"The creation of the Jewish state has shown the Europeans that the old Israel has not definitively died in the Shoah, and that the Diaspora is not eternal as a punishment for deicide. This is difficult to accept for old Europe. That makes the Israeli soldier a monster in the new Passion Play, in which the dead Jewish people takes the place of the Christ. They ask, how can the victim carry a gun?

"To fulfill Europe's moral needs and enable it to virginize itself anew through identification with Jewish victims, Europeans need to represent Israel as a refugee camp.

"When one identifies with the victim one is no longer an executioner. But if the victim no longer wants to play this role in today's society, then he must be presented as an executioner. Many Europeans consider Israelis as persecutors only because they are fed up with being victims. It has little to do with the Europeans' attitude toward the Palestinians, about whom they do not really care at all. They became the new victims to be exalted so as to cleanse European culpability. The Zionist Jews, however, do not want to fulfill the role destined for the Jewish people in the European mythology."

* * *
Prof. Shmuel Trigano is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and professor of sociology at the University of Paris-Nanterre. He is director of the College of Jewish Studies at the Alliance Israélite Universelle, editor of Pardes, a journal of Jewish studies, and author of numerous books, especially on Jewish philosophy and Jewish political thought. Trigano is also the founder of L'Observatoire du Monde Juif, a research center on Jewish political life.

Is Palestinian Statehood Still a Valid Option? -

A very good question, from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 1/3/06 by Zalman Shoval ...
  • The cornerstone of Hamas' program, its very raison-d'etre, is the destruction of Israel... no territorial compromise - no peace even if Israel were to hand over all the territories and eastern Jerusalem; at most, some sort of temporary armistice (hudna).
  • The world attaches much too great an importance to the question of whether Hamas will recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel doesn't need approval from the likes of Hamas - rather it's the other way around: Should Israel recognize, under present circumstances, the Palestinians' right to a state?
  • The fact that Hamas and its future government refuse to take upon themselves the most fundamental obligations under the "roadmap," let alone previous agreements such as Oslo, Paris, Wye, and Sharm E-Sheik, and to do away with the "right of return," dictates a reevaluation of Palestinian statehood as an American and Israeli goal.
  • An often-cited argument for Palestinian statehood is that it would solve the Palestinian refugee problem once and for all. Yet it should be clear to anyone that the future Palestinian state won't be able, economically and demographically, to absorb more than about 10-15 percent of the total refugee population, and the refugee issue will continue to be a ticking time-bomb endangering the stability of the whole Middle East.
  • Putin's invitation to Hamas to visit the Kremlin is part of the former Soviet, as well as the present Russian, government's policy to counterbalance America's dominance in the world by establishing a political base for itself in the Arab and Islamic worlds - thus Iran, thus Hamas.

Follow the link for the full article

* * *
Zalman Shoval, a member of the Board of Overseers of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as Israel's Ambassador to the United States from 1990 to 1993 and from 1998 to 2000. A veteran member of Israel's Knesset (1970-1981, 1988-1990), Ambassador Shoval was a senior aide to the late Moshe Dayan during his tenure as foreign minister in the Begin government, including during the Camp David conference. An abbreviated version of this article appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Electioneering and polling

From JPost 10/3/06 by GIL HOFFMAN...

In a Post poll taken by Smith Research after ... Thursday, Kadima fell to 34-35 seats - two seats down on last week, Likud rose half a mandate to between 17 and 18 and Labor climbed 1-2 mandates to 18. It was the fifth straight week that Kadima fell in the polls.

..."The weakening of Kadima and the strengthening of the Likud will continue the more Kadima moves to the Left," said MK Gilad Erdan, who heads the Likud's response team. "Olmert's comments show once again how irresponsible he is for being willing to give land to Hamas. No matter where he would draw the border, it will just be a starting point for negotiations that will force Israel to give up strategic areas, making peace impossible."

...."I would advise Olmert to wait for the election results," Netanyahu said at a memorial for Yosef Trumpeldor in Tel Hai. "He will find the results very interesting. All the polls indicate that the Likud is rising and Kadima is falling."

National Union-National Religious Party MK Arye Eldad also attacked Olmert, accusing him of being disconnected from reality. "Olmert is the head of a Left that is irresponsibly disregarding the rise of Hamas," Eldad said. "He should know that Israel cannot survive if it evacuates settlements in the West Bank and allows Iran to open a branch there under the guise of Hamas. Instead of admitting the blame for leaving thousands of Jews from Gush Katif homeless and jobless, they have become addicted to the illusion that we can draw our own border."

Kadima strategist Lior Chorev responded, "Netanyahu, the Likud and the extreme Right are proposing a path of endless war and living by the sword for all eternity, while Kadima proposes taking its fate into its own hands to allow Israel's citizens to live normal lives in security."

Israel can deal with Iranian nuclear threat

From Debkafile, March 9, 2006, 10:27 PM (GMT+02:00) ...

Israel’s ex-chief of staff Moshe Yaalon says Israel has a military resource for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat without an air strike

He stressed in a lecture at the US Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara that this option did not entail an air attack or call for American involvement, but could delay the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon by a decade.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Further disengagement now is not Sharon's policy

An opinion from JPost, Mar. 7, 2006 by URI DAN ...

Avi Dichter, the former Shin Bet chief, was a very effective technocrat in the war on terror. But this week, he made his first mistake as a politician running for the Knesset. Dichter announced that assuming that Kadima will form the next government, it will carry out an additional unilateral disengagement in Judea and Samaria and uproot additional settlements.

.....KADIMA PURPORTS to "follow in the footsteps of Ariel Sharon." Kadima is telling voters that it is following the course Sharon set, inspired by his vision. There is no greater insult to Sharon than these declarations, as he battles valiantly for his life in Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem for these past two months.

Sharon agreed to accept the road map because he believed that despite its many drawbacks it would serve as Israel's best international line of political defense, especially in light of the rise and strengthening of Hamas, a possibility he took into account. Only Sharon was able to build this diplomatic wall. President George W. Bush completely supported Sharon regarding the first obligation of the Palestinian Authority - if it wants to see the implementation of the road map: It must first put an end to terror in all forms and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

...From my close acquaintance with Sharon spanning over 50 years, I have no doubt that at this time he would not agree to depart a millimeter from any of the articles of the road map. His staunch ally Bush knew that; and let us hope that he will save Israel from its inexperienced politicians.

It is exactly at this time that Sharon would make sure to honor his public commitment: "There will be no further unilateral disengagements." ... when Dichter gets up and announces that he is in favor of uprooting additional settlements in Judea and Samaria in the context of another disengagement, not only is he undermining Sharon's ironclad policy, he is also making a grave tactical error vis- -vis the Palestinians. Now, more than ever, with Israel living in the shadow of a Hamas government and is fighting against it, to make a promise to uproot further settlements is tantamount to awarding Hamas a prize.

....AT A time like this, a promise of further withdrawals only encourages Hamas to intensify its extremist positions. It bolsters its supporters in Europe and the State Department, giving them the hope that additional pressure can be placed on Israel to make even more concessions.
Sharon himself repeatedly said that additional Israeli settlements would be uprooted from Judea and Samaria - but only in the context of negotiations over a final settlement, in accordance with the road map.

Dichter, of all people, who quite rightly threatened that Palestinian prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh could be eliminated if he continued on the path of terror, must understand that there is no chance whatsoever of conducting this kind of negotiation with a Hamas government.
So why is he in such a rush to offer to uproot settlements? Only in order to curry favor with voters who have been misled to believe that another unilateral withdrawal will increase our security.

The government has proved bankrupt in its inability to defend the thousands of residents of the western Negev and Ashkelon area from the daily showers of Kassam rockets. It should hardly be promising voters that it will rush to court a similar fate for Ra'anana and Kfar Saba.

Gaza land operation inevitable

From JPost Mar. 8, 2006 By YAAKOV KATZ ...

Acknowledging the IDF's failure to eradicate the firing of Kassam rockets into Israel, senior IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that Israel would have no choice but to launch a massive ground operation into the Gaza Strip in the near future.

... while officers said artillery fire on launch sites, as well as the targeted assassinations of key terror figures, did deter attacks to some degree, it was "only a matter of time" before the IDF would need to reenter Gaza which it left this past summer under the disengagement plan.... "The exact timing depends on the developments and when we will be fed up with the rocket attacks." ...(the) forecast backed up former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon's call last month to "escalate military action against the Kassam launchers, even if it means entering the Gaza Strip."

.... Northern Gaza was completely sealed off with an electrical fence following disengagement and in some parts - opposite Netiv Ha'asara - with a ninemeter cement wall. Since the IDF's withdrawal, not a single suicide bomber has succeeded in infiltrating into Israel from the Strip.

..."Gaza is sealed," one officer said. "There is no such thing, however, as 100 percent, but we are fairly confident that terrorists will not succeed in infiltrating into Israel from here." Hamas, he revealed, was no longer involved in Kassam attacks, which were now mostly carried out by Islamic Jihad or other smaller terror groups. But even so, the rocket attacks were directed mostly at the Rutenberg power plant on the outskirts of Ashkelon - a strategic site the rockets have yet to directly hit.

....Meanwhile, OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy said Israel made "super-human efforts" to prevent the loss of innocent lives during military operations. On Monday, three bystanders were killed alongside two Islamic Jihad terrorists in an IAF missile strike in Gaza City. "We are doing everything we can possibly think of to prevent innocent people from being harmed, but this is a war and nothing is certain," he said during a lecture at a conference on air power at Tel Aviv University.

....The IDF said it planned to investigate but that preemptive operations would continue. "We haven't always been able to prevent harming bystanders, but we must remember that in 2005 one civilian was harmed for every 28 terrorists we hit," Shkedy said.

Comptroller slams State's treatment of evacuees

From Ynetnews 8/3/06 ...

Seven months after disengagement, Judge Micha Lindesntrauss issues harsh report on State's failed treatment of families evacuated from Gaza; says government was not prepared for evacuation due to ongoing foot-dragging

... "Severe failures have been found in the preparation of the different bodies to absorb the evacuees, which both harmed the way they were handled and caused unnecessary suffering in a process that was in any case extremely emotionally charged and painful," Lindenstrauss said in the report.

"The failures in preparation, in budgetary allocations, in the recruitment of essential manpower for the Disengagement Authority and in the absorption of the evacuees in the local authorities were not caused, mostly, by lack of suitable laws and procedures, but by foot-dragging in the activities of the responsible bodies," he added.

The report discussed both the activities of the Disengagement Authority headed by Yonatan Bassi and the local authorities' preparation to absorb the evacuees. The state comptroller said that in spite of the significant uncertainty around the disengagement's implementation and the lack of cooperation on the part of the settlers and their leaders, there was no excuse for the inadequate preparation ahead of the plan by the State's institutions, headed by the Prime Minister's Office, the Finance Ministry and the Disengagement

"The Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office's foot-dragging shows that the prime minister and finance minister did not instruct the employees as required. Also the senior managers, including the Prime Minister's Office Director-General, the civil service commissioner and the budget director, did not act with the required urgency," Lindenstrauss charged in the report.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Oxfam's Dark Side

From TCS Daily - Oxfam's Dark Side 6/3/06 by Alan Oxley, former Chairman of the GATT, the predecessor of the World Trade Organization....

Like Bono, Oxfam has discovered there is pop fame in the aid business. The political chic this gives Oxfam is invaluable. ...Oxfam's pop trick is "Cold Play"... lead singer, Chris Martin, is new generation pop glamour. He is married to Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow. He has marked himself as an anti-globalization rebel by attacking the shareholders in the recording company which made him very rich, calling them "greedy". Oxfam is his charity of choice. It gets plugs from the stage at Cold Play concerts worldwide and free entrée on global tours to sign up people to its anti-globalization "Make Trade Fair" campaign.

Oxfam has successfully parlayed its pop glam into political influence. It conscripted Tony Blair to endorse its campaign to shift the blame for economic disaster in many poor countries, particularly in Africa, from corruption and callous incompetence of its leaders, to the failure of rich countries to provide aid. Blair ran Oxfam's lines at the G8 Summit last year – i.e. pressing for more aid, a soft line on free trade, and debt forgiveness. Last year Oxfam turned over around US $300 million, the biggest earner being its British parent.

Running alongside Oxfam's programs to reduce poverty, its soft side, there is a hard political side -- "advocacy" programs. This is NGO code for political activism. They are not commercially important to Oxfam's soft side programs, but motivate its more hard core workers and are evidence of a deep anti-private sector (even anti-growth) sentiment in the Organization.

The core of Oxfam's political platform is human rights. It aims to "empower" people in poor countries. This sounds good, but it is high risk. It requires Oxfam to take sides and can lead it into unacceptable company. ...The Institute of Public Affairs in Australia has revealed that Oxfam has supported radical groups in both Palestine and Indonesia.

The global mining industry is a special target for Oxfam's advocacy program. ... Mining has significant local impact and offers good opportunities to play up environmental effects and local discontent. Oxfam's pitch is that it does not oppose mining, just the effects of mining. But it has no problem working with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth who do oppose mining; the latter have a strong record of fomenting discontent in Third World countries. All collaborate in campaigns to block financing of mining projects in developing countries by the World Bank and other development finance institutions.

Oxfam has created an additional niche for itself. It claims to be the world's global "Mining Ombudsman". Oxfam in Australia provides the "Ombudsman" and presumably appropriated the concept from Australian practice where Ombudsmen are established in law to provide neutral hearings to any party aggrieved by government administration. ...

...Oxfam has a third string in its bow, not only activist and grievance board, it is also in the business of facilitation. It offers to help mining companies (to deal with local community groups) ...securing funding from the companies concerned (not the community groups, they usually don't have any) to fund this activity.

What a tangled web that is and sure enough Oxfam snared itself. It put its multi-functional capacity on show at the Tintaya copper mine, the third largest in Peru. Tintaya generates significant benefits to Peru. From the time it was developed by Magma, a US company, Oxfam US had hounded the company about the consequential environmental and social impact of its operations. BHP Billiton, one of the world's biggest mining companies, based in Australia, took over the mine when it purchased Magma. Oxfam Australia offered itself to the company as the party able to manage and broker the complaints by local groups about the mine. It was after all the global "Mining Ombudsman".

An expensive (to the company) process of consultation was established. Commissions of enquiry into complaints about environmental damage, social impacts, sustainability and abuse of human rights were established. By Oxfam's own accounts, the complaints against the company (fostered by its US counterpart) were found baseless or insignificant.

But Oxfam were unable to deliver peace. Other local groups, not within Oxfam's range of influence), raised fresh complaints about the mine and sought unreasonable payments from the company (such a increasing the US$1.5 million dollar contribution to the local community to US$20 million). Oxfam peevishly grumbled in its reports that these groups were undermining the process of consultation it had established .

Oxfam was not in a strong position to complain. You can't be both Ombudsman and activist. When entirely new complaints were produced by locals (not connected with the Oxfam process) about a new tailings dam, Oxfam gave them currency. The supporter of empowerment found itself in conflict with its commercial role as mediator and its self-appointed role as Ombudsman.
Oxfam got itself in this mess because of the political values that drive Oxfam's advocacy activities. They are antagonistic to the private sector, urge global regulation of trade in commodities, and oppose intellectual property rights. Consistent with the political methodology of the old European left from where these values come, the operating principle is that the ends justify the means. In other words, anything goes.

The best we can hope from this is that Oxfam's remarkable capacity to mobilize public opinion and money might come to be regarded by its managers and funders as more important than the political ideology which drives the organization's darker activities. And, with luck, they might even spare a thought for the development benefit to poor countries like Peru of big private sector projects like Tintaya.

But this will only occur when those who contribute to Oxfam are no longer dazzled by the glam or amused by the radical cool and hypocritical chic of Chris Martin's anti-business ranting.