About Me

Thursday, October 14, 2010

On love, loyalty, patriotism, and human nature

(The following is my guest post at Jay Adler’s blog, Sad Red Earth, which he asked me to write following a comment I left under one of his recent posts.  If you want to get more background on my post, you can read his two posts which I’m responding to (hyper links in first sentence), but you don’t need to, as I think the piece mostly stands on its own. Though I’m sometimes in disagreement with his politics, his blog is always interesting, and his observations are thoughtful and quite erudite.  His contribution to the blogosphere can’t be overstated.)
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There’s much to dissect in Jay’s “Churchill Doctrine“, as well as his follow-up, “Incoherence on Race and Culture.”
I’ll stay clear of Newt Gingrich’s completely indefensible reduction of President Obama as quoted in “The Churchill Doctrine”:
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich asks. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
Instead I’ll focus on Jay’s broader points he makes about race, culture, and determinism.  I won’t address every item, simply the broad themes in his reply I deem as worth exploring.

Jay says:
“If it does not mean anything at all that we are a nation of immigrants and not of an identifying ethnic stock, does not mean anything that we are the inheritors of a European colonizing culture and not of – among the most bitterly – colonized African cultures, does not mean anything if our President, as I dreamed in that post, might someday be the descendent of a conquered American Indian nation, and not of their conquerors, then what does anything mean?”
Let me ask:
First, it may not mean “nothing”, but it doesn’t appear as if you explain precisely what it does mean? What does “a nation of a European colonizing culture” mean?  What is its significance?  Are Americans to be divided into those descending from colonizers vs. those descending from the colonized?  Is there not, a huge distinction, in your mind, between, a protestant immigrant from England and a Jewish immigrant who escaped Poland in the 1930s?
Does one inherit the sins of his fathers? And, if so, does one also inherit the achievements of his fathers?  If so, don’t we also, as European Americans(whatever that denotes to you), also inherit the noble sacrifices of our ancestors which defeated the twin totalitarian movements in the 20th century – fascism and communism?
Why do many on the left who mock the notion of “American Exceptionalism” – the inherited mantle of the grit, determination, and unimaginable sacrifices made my so many Americans in the service of the successful battles against the totalitarian movements, her contribution to the spread of democracy around the world, and civil liberties and economic prosperity that would have seemed simply unimaginable to generations of men and women throughout history – seem so eager to accept the inherited guilt of a people who, admittedly, also colonized and enslaved?
Further, while I don’t deny that, if my father were of Kenyan background, I’d likely see Churchill much differently, let me ask: do the descendants of “colonized” African people also inherit their own ethnic/national legacy of brutality, misogyny, and oppression against one another? (You wouldn’t deny, would you, that even historically colonized people have their own history – prior to, and after, colonization?  You, further, wouldn’t deny, would you, that they possess moral agency, and can’t possibly be reduced merely to the sum of their experiences with European colonizers?  You seem, in certain passages to admirably reject the rigid categories of post-colonialism but, in others, seem to accept them – at least in your understanding of the West’s (and the America’s in particular) relationship with those previously colonized.
Post-colonial ideology, in its essence, assigns quite arbitrary, and static, moral labels – and represent s an intellectual paradigm which, in my mind, has, more than any other political dynamic, eroded support for, and confidence in, the Western world (not to mention, Israel) among progressives.
Such an ideology (what Pascal Bruckner terms “the tyranny of guilt”), which sees the world through this facile, and seemingly immutable, oppressor vs. oppressed paradigm, I fear, also has the deleterious effect of sapping the moral confidence of the U.S. – a confidence which will be desperately needed to fight the scourge of radical Islam and any subsequent totalitarian movements which may emerge.
I once read that Churchill’s greatness lie in his ability to inspire the British people to see themselves as courageous as he saw them. That is, though the British people were compromised – as all people are – with historical moral failings and human frailty, Churchill understood that he couldn’t rally a nation to defeat the existential threat posed by Nazism which was plagued by self-doubt and guilt.
I have argued elsewhere that – while, naturally, it’s okay for other nations to possess that same cockiness, that same self-assurance of its own proud legacy and achievements – it does concern me if Americans (and an American President) not only accepts that others may feel the same way, but views such views as a negation of the truth of their own exceptionalism.  (Look at it on a personal level.  I might intellectually understand that other men may be as “in love” with their wives as I am with my wife.  But, on a deep and personal level, I quite honestly can’t fathom how anyone can love anyone else as deeply as I love my wife.  My wife, Chana, is the most incredible woman I’ve ever met, and I really can’t fathom – nor do I care to understand – how I could ever possibly love another woman as much as I love Chana. This lack of curiosity isn’t ignorance, nor is it chauvinism. It’s called loyalty, and is, it seems, fundamentally consistent with human nature.)
Beyond this emotional reality – the human tendency to “discriminate” in the positive sense of the word (that is, to choose one from another) however – it is also a fundamental rational truth in the political realm that merely because every nation thinks that it is great, doesn’t mean that it is, in reality, so.  This seems to be the fundamental argument of multiculturalism – this stubborn refusal to acknowledge that not all civilizations are indeed equal.  Some have produced exceptional cultures, governments, and economies, and others have not.  Is this even debatable?
I love my wife as I love my country – not uncritically, but unconditionally – out of passion, loyalty and reason.
Finally, while Obama may have a view of Churchill (based, perhaps, on his ancestry) that isn’t in sync with mine (I have a paperweight on my desk which quotes Churchill: “never, never, never give up” as an inspiration for me personally, and for me as an Israeli, a citizen of a nation who stubbornly refuses to surrender to its enemies.), I hope you would agree that the truth or falsehood of ideas (or the merit of one’s achievements) have nothing to do with their racial, ethnic, or religious origins.  The mantra (epithet) of the “Dead White Male”  back in college – used to describe what the multi-cultural set thought was the inherent irrelevance of the Western classics (in literature, philosophy, etc.) due merely to the color or gender of the author -  has always struck me as, at the very least, ad hominem, and inherently anti-intellectual.
The notion that we are, at the core, more than sum of our racial, ethnic or religious identities; that human nature is universal; that the insights of Sophocles, Shakespeare, or Thomas Hobbes into the challenges of the human condition are as relevant to a boy with Jewish Eastern European parents growing up in Philadelphia as they are to a kid who grew up in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Illinois to a Kenyan father and a white European mother are profound and important truths.  They are, also, it seems, quintessentially classical liberal notions – and, yet, fundamental truths which many on the left seem to have tragically abandoned.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Medal Ceremony" An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionst Journey

(This is the 11th dispatch from my friend Andy, an American doctor serving in Iraq with the Air Force Reserves)
Hello.

My time in Iraq has come within the 7 day mark and today I was surprised by a medal ceremony.

We went to a place called "Heroes Highway" which is the tunnel through which the medivac (helicopter) patients are brought through when they land outside the hospital enroute to the ER. Because the troops come in on their backs they lined the top of the tunnel with a huge American flag so it is the first thing they see before are wheeled into the emergency room. When I did medivac from Kirkuk I and passed through the tunnel I was always too intent on getting the patient to the ER to notice the symbolism of "hero's highway" which is where a huge portion of those killed and wounded here have traversed.

In any event I was called "urgently" to heroes highway for a "medical emergency' and found the command staff waiting for my arrival. I was somewhat confused when Col Lawrence (blonde woman in the pictures) said "Major Lobl, you have done a great job here and we want to acknowledge the tremendous work you have done for our troops." She presented me with the Iraqi Campaign Medal and the Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal. She then said that because of my "volunteer" forward deployment to Kirkuk and because my medivac (army helicopter) combat flights were unique and "above the call of duty" the 332 Medical Group (the med side of Joint Base Balad.) had submitted my name for the Air Force Achievement Medal which was approved by the "president" and was now at my home unit awaiting my return at a ceremony to be given at my home base.

Although I am under no illusion that I have done anything close to the troops who are here longer and spend more time outside the wire (defending me as I am generally helpless if attacked) it was quite an emotional experience standing under heroes highway surrounded by my friends and the brass and receiving the medal. I felt tremendous happiness that the ceremony occurring meant my time here was coming to a close so I can go back to my beloved Pittsburgh to see friends and family. I felt some sadness that I would never in my life unite with all these awesome people at the same time. I felt some trepidation about (as a reservist) going from an environment with unique bonding over a shared experience to a decidedly non-military community where my experience here would be extremely unique.

But most specifically I felt privileged to have been able to be given the opportunity to care for our soldiers and work with some of the most selfless team players I have met in my lifetime. It really is a thrill to serve our country.

But that being the case. I'm thrilled to come home


 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My essay published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: Anti-Semitic Cartoon on Progressive Blogs

Published September 2010

The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 
 
No. 101, 1 September 2010 / 23 Elul 5770

  

Anti-Semitic Cartoons on Progressive Blogs

Adam Levick

  • Political cartoons often have more of an immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than a lengthy essay. By far the largest output of anti-Semitic cartoons nowadays comes from the Arab and Muslim world. A yet uncharted field of hate cartoons against Jews is that in progressive blogs.
  • Anti-Semitic cartoons found - and seemingly tolerated - on progressive blogs such as Daily Kos, MyDD, Mondoweiss, and Indymedia are mainly expressions of anti-Israelism, a more recent category of anti-Semitism than the religious and ethnic-nationalist versions.
  • Traditionally the core motif of anti-Semitism is that Jews represent absolute evil. The cultural notion of what that means has changed over the centuries. Nowadays absolute evil is often expressed as Jews or Israelis being Nazis. Indeed, the cartoon motif most frequently appearing on the progressive blogs is imagery equating Israel with Nazi Germany. Others reflect Jewish conspiracies, Zionists controlling the world, the blood libel, or show Jews as animals.
  • Most of the progressive blogs discussed, containing such anti-Semitic imagery cited in this essay, generally fail to remove such hateful cartoons, despite blog policies expressly prohibiting posts that contain "hateful" or "inflammatory" content.
Cartoons have to express ideas in an easy-to-understand way. Therefore they are often accessible even to people who cannot read. Cartoons are also an efficient way to transmit hate and prejudices, including anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism in cartoons has been investigated, among others, by the Belgian political scientist Jöel Kotek in his book Cartoons and Extremism.[1] Political cartoons often have a more immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than a lengthy essay.

The largest output of anti-Semitic cartoons nowadays comes from the Arab and Muslim world. Outside it one also finds a significant number of anti-Semitic cartoons in many countries. In Europe, for instance, over the past decade such imagery has been particularly strong in countries such as Norway and Greece.[2]

A yet uncharted field of hate cartoons against Jews is that in progressive blogs. They are mainly expressions of anti-Israelism, a more recent category of anti-Semitism than the religious and ethnic-nationalist versions. Traditionally the core motif of anti-Semitism is that Jews represent absolute evil. The cultural notion of what that means has changed over the centuries. In current times absolute evil is often expressed as Jews or Israelis being Nazis. This charge is usually identified with the virulent anti-Semitic cartoons on right-wing extremist sites and in Arab media. This motif, however, is also the main one found in anti-Semitic cartoons on progressive blogs.

Also the three major submotifs of anti-Semitism are expressed in cartoons on progressive blogs. The first one is that Jews lust for power. In progressive blogs this is manifested mainly as caricatures on Jewish conspiracies and Zionists controlling the world. The second major anti-Semitic submotif is that Jews lust for blood, and progressive blogs include cartoons accusing Jews of infanticide. The third anti-Semitic submotif, namely, that Jews are inferior beings, is expressed on these blogs in cartoons showing Jews as animals.

The cartoonist most frequently appearing on the progressive blogs analyzed here is Carlos Latuff. He is an extreme left-wing political activist who won second place in the notorious Iranian Holocaust Cartoon Competition. Latuff is one of the more prolific anti-Semitic cartoonists on the web, with a staggering amount of work dedicated to advancing explicitly anti-Semitic political imagery.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"Third Country Nationals" An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionst Journey (Pt. 10)

(This is the 10th dispatch from my friend Andy, an American doctor serving in Iraq with the Air Force Reserves)

Hello!

A part of this war (actually a phenomenon throughout the A.O.R) is the tremendous work done by third country nationals. 

This is a term used for people who work on the base ( for the us military) but are not from either Iraq or the allied countries. They are usually from developing countries and are hired by the contractors (Haliburton, KBR, multiple Turkish companies) to come here and do jobs that keep the base running. The do Laundry, cook the food, work at all the shops and restaurants, cut hair, pump gas, clean everything from the hospitals to bathrooms, maintain the rooms, provide internal base security ,work at the gyms, swimming pools and movie theaters, base exchange, drive the buses around base, etc.

They are mainly from countries that speak some English like India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Philippines or have specific skills like the soldiers from Sierra Leone, Honduras, Columbia and Uganda.

In many ways these folks lives are much tougher then ours. They live in (for us) cramped conditions, work (SOMETIMES) longer hours and have significantly less amenities. There salaries are a fraction of ours although the countries from which they come have a significantly lower cost of living. The also typically stay here for years in order to make money for their families.

While here they are subject to the same risks as the rest of as as missiles lobbed at our base do not discriminate between a Nepali and an American.

They deal with being here because they are making much more money then they could at home and spend almost no money here.

There is a slight tension between the military and the contractors as they hypothetically could be a security risk. The thought is somebody could either offer them a lot of money or threaten their family back home (or a combination) in order to induce them to participate in an attack on the base. There are very strict rules about individual friendships between our troops and third county nationals.

Still, the combination of intercultural gatherings and ethnic food is too much for me to pass up so I organized a dinner with a group of air force medical folks (Americans), TCN employees (mainly south Asians) and TCN management (Turkish) at a large Turkish contracting firm.

Essentially a Pakistani guy named Jay who cleans our section of the hospital was telling me about the food in his camp. I asked him to meet the boss  (Turkish) who came over to meet me at which point I told them I would bring the desert if they would provide the food. They said it would be an "honor" so I gathered 10 of my friends and we went to dinner.

The food was absolutely awesome!

Turkish salad and fish, Indian chicken,lamb rice and bread, and soft drinks. I brought an American desert--cinnabons!

We had an absolutely wonderful time!!!

The funny thing (if you can say "funny") is that as the US army has largely returned to the bases the folks who lob up the rockets have more room to maneuver. So we sat outside eating and talking while my radio periodically crackled about attacks on different parts of the base..but nobody seemed the slightest bit concerned. So our group of Hindus, Muslims, Jews (at least one) and Christians would not be deterred from our dinner together by remnants of Al Qaeda (or whomever was behind firing the rockets.)..so score one victory for intercultural (including Muslim)brotherhood over Islamic extremism!

It was nice to eat food outside our dining hall and learn about these folks who serve alongside us here in Iraq!

I gave my obligatory Pitt shirts to our hosts as we departed! 



Thursday, August 26, 2010

"Mental Health in the Army" An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 9)

Hello.

I am now safely back at Balad Air base and am back to my usual schedule which means I work 4 days shifts followed by 7 night shifts after which I will leave for another part of Iraq on a short term basis. Either to the green zone to do some work with a navy officer who is training Iraqi Special forces,a base called talil near Baghdad to train army medics, or just do some c-130 missions to pick up patients throughout Iraq.

As mentioned before I wanted to briefly write about mental health issues in the army as I have written about a suicide and a suicide attempt and have evacuated a very large amount of soldiers to Germany for mental health issues.

The facts are the following: The army has gone from having a suicide rate lower then the general population to having a suicide rate that is HIGHER than the general population. As casualties fall here mental health issues are on the rise. The army knows this is a problem and recently finished a very large intensive study about suicide and mental health in the army. They know it is a problem and are desperately trying to make a dent. Their findings (if you Google army suicide study you can read about it yourself) essentially placed the blame on support services and the higher level enlisted and officer corps for not being sufficiently attentive. But the study did not really talk about WHy this is happening. In my conversations with psychologists, enlisted, the medical community and the patients themselves I have gathered my own opinions.

Let me begin by saying the army has done a wonderful job here. They have born the brunt of the fight and have been responsible for really defeating the insurgents as a force that could fight and hold territory. The insurgents still cause frequent death and destruction but it is always via suicide bombings and roadside bombs and is extremely scattered. They do not threaten the political or social system like they did back in 2007-08..Additionally the vast majority of army troops seem to be in excellent mental health. Still, a growing number have very dire mental health issues. It seems important to understand the reason.

(1) Prolonged deployments-Where the AF deploys for 90 to 180 days the Army deployments are always for 12 to 15 months and occur very frequently. In a cumulative fashion these deployments cause family stress and difficulties with relationships. The Army understands this fact and has shortened tours from 15 months to 12 months and are trying to decrease further to 9 months.

(2)Lower operational tempo in Iraq-Paradoxically the changing war in Iraq has led to challenges from a mental health perspective. In the past Iraq was a very "hot" war. Soldiers were outside the wire (base) every day being shot at, knocking down door and going directly after the insurgents. These kind of operations were intense, made time go quickly, did not leave time for brooding about personal issue and helped the soldiers develop a strong feeling of camaraderie. The situation now is different in that they are mainly supporting the Iraqi army, going on patrols for months and months without enemy contact and doing 'busy work" at the base. Many soldiers report a lack of fulfillment in this job as well as large ammount of time to focus on problems at home. Also with the decreased sense of camaraderie (which came from being in combat together) relationships among the troops tend to fray. This increases the risk of mental health issues

(3) PTSD-some soldiers have underlying PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) that is made worse by being back in Iraq. When they were in combat the PTSD sensations of being on the edge and being hyper alert was actually in some way beneficial. but with decreased combat but being back in Iraq their sensations are triggered in a more peaceful environment. This is obviously very stressful for those affected

(4)"YOUNG" Army-It is seems to me that a large portion of the young soldiers with mental health issues would not have been deployed 3 or 4 years ago. The army faced a need for more troops at a time when the war here was going poorly and the us economy was good. As a result some soldiers enlisted who may have not been allowed to enlist in prior years. The included some troops with prior histories of mental illness who (in retrospect) may have been more prone to have problems.

Again, the army is heavily engaged in reversing this problem. We have briefings constantly about mental health and suicide as well as pamphlets throughout the base and commercials around the clock on armed forces network. They have policies in place for all soldiers to meet with counselors and also to be confined to the home base upon return to be observed and meet with mental health teams.

On a lighter side..I have included some pictures of me being given a tour of an F-16 ("VIPER") by one of the pilots and a picture of us filming a commercial for the university of Pittsburgh to be played before the game on 11sept.

Thanks,

PS-almost 70% done!!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Guardian's Jewish Defamers of Israel, and A Letter To My Teenage Nephew

This essay was published at CiF Watch, and cross-posted at Augean Stables, and Solomonia.
CiF’s Jewish Israel defamers
When joining the team here at CiF Watch, and attempting to understand why Jewish writers for the Guardian are often among the most vociferous in expressing their contempt for Israel, and so willing to demonize the state’s Jewish supporters, I had to get up to speed on the term Theobald Jew.”
I soon learned that:
According to the Benedictine monk Thomas of Monmouth in his The Life and Miracles of St. William of Norwich (1173), it was an apostate Jew, a certain Theobald, who, swore that Jews had killed twelve-year old William, a tanner’s apprentice, to fulfill their “Passover blood ritual” in the fateful year of 1144—the first recorded such episode in a long line of murderous defamations.
The CiF contributors I refer to include Naomi Klein, Neve Gordon, Richard Silverstein, Antony Lerman, Seth Freedman, Tony Greenstein, among others. These Jewish writers don’t merely critique Israeli policy, but routinely engage in hyperbole, vitriol, and gross distortions. Their rhetoric is often spewed with hate towards the Jewish state, all but ignoring the behavior of her enemies - the terrorist and reactionary movements who openly seek her annihilation. Such commentators often infer that the democratic Jewish state (the most progressive nation, by far, in the region) is almost always in the wrong, is usually motivated by a hideous malevolence, and represents a national movement which they, as Jews, are ashamed to be associated with.
Freedman, for instance, has suggested that Israel is a theocracy – one which is on moral par with Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Gordon has on several occasions accused Israel of ethnic cleansing - once advancing such an ugly calumny in the radical anti-Zionist magazine, Counterpunch. Tony Greensteinhas ardently defended the ugly comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany, typically advanced by extremists. Richard Silverstein has called the behavior of Israelis serving in the IDF subhuman“, and has defended Hamas from “charges” that they are an extremist movement. Naomi Klein actually accused Israel of being so cruel and sadistic as to “bury children alive in their homes.”
While, for the Guardian, employing the services of Theobald Jews serves to inoculate them from charges of anti-Semitism, such Jewish writers, in return, receive the progressive and universalist credentials they so eagerly seek.
The Misnomer of the “Self-Hating Jew”
To be fair, I always found the term “self-hating Jew” to be at best misleading, at worst a complete misnomer. First, because we typically have no way of knowing these writers‘ inner-thoughts. But, more importantly, I never thought that it was an apt description of the anti-Zionist Jews I’ve met over the years. If anything, most seem to possess a belief that they are indeed “better Jews” for being hyper-critical of Israel, opposing their own community, and rejecting the very idea of a Jewish nation-state.
Many seem singularly focused on being seen as a “progressive”. And, as the progressive movement has moved further and further away from identification with Israel – and, to some degree, further away from identification with Jews as such – the need to be seen as progressive (“righteous”) in the eyes of others, has taken precedence over the seemingly parochial desire to identify with, and defend, their own community.
I have thought long and hard about the phenomenon of Jews who oppose their own community, have read and written about it, and there appears to be four dynamics worth exploring:
1. Moral Vanity
I was particularly inspired by Anthony Julius’s long two-part essay published at the American Jewish Committee site, Z Word. The piece was called Jewish anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity. (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2). Julius also rejects the notion of such Jews as being “self-hating”. Instead he refers to them as moralisers who continually desire affirmation from the non-Jewish world as to their righteousness.
The moraliser makes judgments on others, and profits by so doing; he puts himself on the right side of the fence. Moralising provides the moraliser with recognition of his own existence and confirmation of his own value. A moraliser has a good conscience and is satisfied by his own self-righteousness . He is not a self-hater; he is enfolded in self-admiration. He is in step with the best opinion.
2. The Temptation of Innocence
Ruth Wisse, in her book “Jews and Power“, identified the tendency of some Jews to vociferously oppose their own community as a dynamic which she, in part, attributes to a Jewish uneasiness with the projection political power and a tendency to almost fetishize the Jews’ history of powerlessness. Wisse concludes that Jews who endured, or know the history of, the powerlessness of exile are in danger of mistaking it for a requirement of Jewish life or, worse, for a Jewish ideal. This puerile desire not to be corrupted by the complexities, and occasional compromises, necessitated by possessing moral agency is described by Pascal Bruckner as “The Temptation of Innocence.”
3. Jewish Fear: Assimilation and Altruism as an Inoculation from Harm
More recently, Barry Rubin, director of the GLORIA Center (Global Research on International Affairs), in an illuminating and penetrating piece, entitledExplaining Jewish Political Behavior“, said:
"[historically] Jews were attacked for allegedly having too much power, even when they had little or none, the emphasis was on being eager to make concessions, not to gain victories through threat or pressure.
…How would this strategy try to succeed? By proving Jews were good citizens, by showing they were unselfish and sought nothing for themselves, by demonstrating their willingness to dissolve the bonds and customs of their own community…and by showing that being nice to them would benefit everyone or almost everyone. In other words, altruism was a central element in the strategy
“…A key element of the assimilationist doctrine has been to deny there was a [Jewish] collective communal interest, and to avoid making collective demands.
Rubin, who, it should be noted, fleshes out his argument more fully in his book, Assimilation and Its Discontents, continues:
large parts of the Jewish elite are proud to stand aloof from their own people and deem it virtuous to abandon it and reject any notion of communal interests (including Israel and religion). Indeed, they think they can best prove their credentials by championing the causes of other groups even–sometimes especially–those in conflict with Jewish interests.
…The elite Jew’s emphasis is often to escape identification with the community, proving he is a cosmopolitan with a universalist identity, being the first to demand the dissolution of any community loyalty and viewing the embodiment of Jewish peoplehood—Israel—as an impediment to those goals. While antisemites charge that all or almost all Jews in positions of power pursue a distinctively Jewish interest, the exact opposite is the truth. This explains how left-wing Jews extol multiculturalism and self-determination for other peoples even as they hold the exact opposite attitude toward their own people, whom they are determined to show are not their own people.
…many Jews, particularly in elite positions, are eager to prove their credentials by criticizing their own people or Israel.
4. The Adversarial Jew: Skepticism and relativism disguised as reasoned political thought
I think there’s one last dynamic at play – an insight I came upon as a result of an email exchange I had with my 16-year-old nephew recently.
He reached out to me to seek my advice on this phase he was going through.It seems that he’s going through an early “existential crisis” of sorts – a frame of mind (I warmly noted to him) that most don’t arrive at until college. He mentioned that, lately, he’s been questioning everything – every social convention, everything he’s ever been told, and wondering whether the wisdom, mores, and customs he‘s been brought up by his parents to believe in and abide by are indeed worthy. He said that, since this struggle, he wasn’t misbehaving, but had resigned himself to merely “going through the motions” – but wasn’t really buying into what he always believed to be true. He wanted to know what I thought.
In my reply, I assured him that what he’s going through is perfectly normal, and was a sign that he possessess a vibrant, active, and healthy mind – and, that, indeed, such existential crises were the inspiration for great works of poetry, literature, and philosophy through the ages. I said that I also went through a similar mental orientation - that I, during the first couple years ofcollege, questioned everything ever taught to me by my parents and my community. I even looked down on the adults in my life, and their seemingly conventional thinking. In my arrogance, I said, I believed that I saw things they didn’t see…had arrived at answers to questions that had perplexed not only my a parents and relatives, but the most brilliant minds in my time and in generations past.
However, I also told him that I eventually learned to have a bit of humility about it all, and eventually realized that I didn’t know much about life, at that early stage in my life, at all. And, that my parents, the older I got (and as my adolescence receded) seemed to become wiser and wiser with each passing year – in what I increasingly identified as their decency, sobriety, and plain common sense.
So, I asked my nephew if he would at least try to avoid the audacity of imagining that he alone possessed the wisdom and insight that has eluded his community – the Rabbis, sages, political, and community leaders – in his generation and though the ages. I asked that he not assume that because his father claims that something is true, that the opposite must indeed be what’s actually correct. I asked that he be patient and assured him that, with time and experience, he’ll eventually not be so quick to question the intentions of those who guide him. I expressed confidence that he will come to see that a healthy skepticism about “conventional thinking” is indeed normal, but that he’ll eventually understand that such thoughts need not devolve into a knee-jerk rejection of all the traditions and values of those who have come before him and have guided generations of Jews through often dark and harrowing times.
Julius, in his Z Word essay, dissected the potential moral pathos of many such renegade Jews:
He holds that the truth is to be arrived at by inverting the “us = good” and “other = bad” binarism. He finds virtue in opposing his own community; he takes the other point of view. He writes counter-histories of his own people. It is not enough for him to disagree, or even refute; he must expose the worst bad faith, the most ignoble motives, the grossest crimes. He must discredit.
My nephew is a smart, decent, and level-headed young man. And, I have no doubt that he’ll maintain his bearings during this intellectual “crisis” and not allow himself to surrender to hubris, nor develop a malevolence towards the family and community that has supported, nurtured, and guided him through the complexities of everyday life – those who love him dearly and have tried with all their heart to provide a path to protect him from the maddeningly complicated world he lives in.
It’s a simple lesson perhaps, but a vital one. And, its wisdom that many of the Jews who write for the Guardian, quite shamefully, don’t even meagerly possess.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deheisheh Refugee Camp, Revisited: "My enemy, enemy of the sun, I will not compromise and I will resist till the last pulse in my veins”

Back in July I posted an essay, on this blog, about a personal tour I was given of the Palestinian Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, called Deheisheh. In the post, I noted both the hospitality of our host, and others we met on the tour, as well as the disturbing messages, throughout the community, often displayed on public buildings, promoting violence and hate. Well, due to a show aired on Israeli TV alleging that other educational institutions at Deheisheh promoted such messages, Haaretz wrote a story about the issue - which was then picked up by the blogger, Elder of Ziyon. Since I took photos at the camp, I was able to provide Elder with an image which at least confirmed that such messages were certainly part of the Deheisheh landscape. 

So, here's my blog post at CiF Watch on the incident.

The indispensable Elder of Zyionbrought to our attention to a story in Haaretz concerning a show aired by the Israel Broadcasting Authority which was deeply critical of UNRWA activit ies in refugee camps

UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency), it should be noted, was established by United Nations General Assembly 1949 as a temporary measure to carry out direct relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees. Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of their funding comes from the EU.

Research by NGO Monitor has demonstrated that such funds are often used for nefarious purposes:
UNRWA schools and other facilities are often used to teach hatred and encourage incitement; the evidence demonstrates that UNRWA staff allowed terror related activities in its camps.

The Haaretz story reported:

The United Nations’ relief agency for Palestinian refugees, lashed out Tuesday at the Israel Broadcasting Authority for airing what it called a dishonest portrayal of the organization on Saturday in “Ro’im Olam” on Channel 1 television. 
Right-wing journalist David Bedein's "For the Nakba", UNRWA said, contains numerous inaccuracies about its operations in Palestinian refugee camps and educational institutions. It depicts large graffiti that lionize Palestinian suicide bombers and includes an interview with Palestinian children who profess a desire to become "martyrs."
…Bedein [said] Palestinian kids…study the materials from the textbooks at a young age, and the mural of the suicide bomber was seen at the entrance of the UNRWA school at the Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem. 
…Prior to the airing of the show on Channel One, UNRWA’s [Christopher] Gunness wrote that, “UNRWA schools do not contain murals of suicide bombers.” 

Elder then presented evidence which contradicts the denials by Gunness about UNRWA concerning the “Nakba” narrative by linking to an official UNWRA newsletter which indeed promotes the “Nakba.”

Elder does note, however, that he has no way to verify whether the specific institutions in question, at Deheisheh, contain such murals, nor whether the charges concerning school textbooks are indeed accurate. I, also, don’t have any specific information on the educational institution in question.

However, last year, I was taken on a personal tour of Deheisheh and took this picture at this UNWRA sponsored community center, near the entrance of the camp.






It should be noted that the community center where this very large mural appears, depicting a Palestinian who’s about to throw an explosive device, was filled with Palestinian children on the day I visited.

Perhaps Chris Gunness should visit such places before launching into expressions of outrage in response to future reports on UNRWA funds being used for incitement against Israel.

Per Elder of Ziyon, here’s an English translation of the Arab writing on the mural:

“My enemy, enemy of the sun, I will not compromise and I will resist till the last pulse in my veins”

Monday, August 9, 2010

To remind my fellow immigrants what we are doing, why we are doing it, and that we are neither the first nor the last

"Shall I compose an idyll of the Land of Israel for him? And the other one said, That I leave to the poets and the tourists and I ask you all, are you the only ones sufering? Aren't there people here who came before us, and if we tell all the troubles that befell them, time would run out. They came to a wilderness, a place of harsh malaria, and gangs of highwaymen, and harsh laws and evil governors. If they built themselves houses, the king's oficials came and destroyed them. If they sowed, their neighbors came and threw their beasts on the grain. If they drove them out, they went to cry to the government that the Jews attacked them....
"But they didn't despair and they endured all the troubles and they maintained the Yishuv through their suering and turned the deserts of the Land of Israel into homes and vineyards and fields. And as he mentioned their sufering, he told of their heroism....Thus they sat and told tales about afflictions and tales about heroism,....It is small our Land, and how great are its troubles. And since they were tell about the settlements, they told about their founders. And as they were telling, they were amazed at themselves that they hadn't noticed the hoerism of those founders before now.
"How Isaac loved that hour when he sat in the Land of Israel in the presence of laborers of the Land of Israel who were telling of the building of the Land o Israel. The Land of Israel was acquired with sufering, and he who loves the Land of Israel and lovingly accepts her suffering, is privileged to see her being built."
Shai Agnon, Only Yesterday, completed in 1943, published first in 1945.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Extraction Training" An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 8)

(This is the 8th dispatch from my friend Andy, an American doctor serving in Iraq with the Air Force Reserves)
Hello. Today we had training with the Army, but I hope I'll be leaving before I have to use what I've learned. It is called "extraction training" used when a patient has to be extracted from a "hot" (under fire) LZ (landing zone). The training took place in our customary 120-130 degree heat - while wearing full battle regalia.
As the team medic, I had to be comfortable (or more comfortable) functioning in this enviroment. First we were given a 30 minute lecture explaining the differences between trauma response in the military vs. the civilian side. The first point reieterted over and over was to supress enemy fire before caring for the patient.They showed footage from early in the Iraq campaign of a well meaning medic going out to help a fallen comrade and subsequently being shot. The main emphasis was to stop the bleeding using either local pressure or a tournequiet, starting an IV quickly if pulses were decreased (signalling decreased BP) and attending to the airway last as, reportedly, hemorrhage is the cause of 90% of battle deaths.
After the lecture they brought us outside and had our team of 4 leave the helicopter..go to a hot landing zone..supress enemy fire and care for our patient. We had to make sure not to be so focused on the patient that we forgot about what was going on around us. Also if we were attacked, and the patient could not move on his own, we were to (against our better instincts as physicians) leave the patient until the enemy was "supressed" or, at least, out of the area.
I felt like a poorly prepared extra in a war movie while I was stalking through the LZ with my M-16 Rifle..which I had only touched once on a deployment with the Marines, while in the nation of Chad. But the army guys were taking this very seriously and having us walk in staggered formation with 360 degree coverage.
When we identified the patient we first had to win the firefight (they were firing blanks from rifles and, frankly, I HAD NO CLEAR SENSE OF WHERE THE FIRING WAS COMING FROM) and then manuuver the team to the patient.
With the heat, the army guys (who have fought in two wars) instructing us, and sporadic blanks in the distance, it was as close a sensation to a real firefight as I ever want to have. The patient had a right leg amputation for which we applied a tournequit, he than lost his pulse - for which I started an IV (a real IV-these guys are tough). And, after abandoning the patient while under attack (as instrcuted) we dragged him to the waiting chopper.
I frankly felt hapless as a soldier but the army guys were very charitable in saying that I hit the ground quick under fire and abandoned my patinet as required. They kindly said I should probably shoot my weapon every now and again "just to help the team and keep the enemy honest". They were very impressed with my effeciency in starting an IV in the field quickly on the first try. After that we had an opportunity to teach the army folks some basic theory about drugs, management of low blood pressure and respiatory failure.
These guys absolutely love their job. They also speak glowingly of their wives and little kids but are away from them way too long. While some of those serving here in the Army have serious mental health issues (as noted before..which I will address), the vast majority of troops I have met absolutely LOVE their jobs..despite the sacrifice.
It was somewhat touching that these hardened warriors were spending so much time (and taking seriously) teaching me how to function in their environment - and, in a very respectful fashion. They were great teachers. Its yet another experience I will simply never forget.
Andy

Saturday, July 31, 2010

"My First Chopper Mission": An American doctor, and personal friend, serving in Iraq guest blogs at Adam's Zionist Journey (Pt. 7)

Hello from F.O.B (Forward Operating Base Warrior) at a location in Iraq.

I arrived here 17 July at 0500 after a flight that left Balad at 0400. I was welcomed by Major G. - a Nurse Anesthesiologist - gave me a quick briefing about the base. The base is quite small and is predominantly US Army. They actually have no dedicated airplanes..only helicopters from the 1st Air Calvary Division.

The base is nestled into the southern part of a city which is a fairly large city that is a mix of Kurds, Turks and Arabs..somewhat volatile with ethnic tensions high because of a electoral standoff here - I dont know if you guys are follwing Iraqi politics..but it is incredible they actually have (democratic) "politics" here, after [so many] years of dictatorship in the region.

Like most of Iraq - despite the tensions - violence levels are still way down. Although scattered incidents (both against ordinary Iraqi citizens and us/iraqi troops) still occur.

I found thast my mian goal here is to fly Medivac missions. Aerovac is an airplanes..Medivacs are (Army) helicopters.

The reason to fly in a Medivac (as opposed to a Aerovac) is that its quicker. If sombody in the vicinity of this F.O.B is critically ill a C-130 would have to arrive from another location and would take a minimum of 3 hours to fly here and pick the patient up for transport to a Hospital. A helicoipter which is based here takes about 40 minutes to get the patient to the location.

The Medical Corps here is pretty thin..we have a emergecny medicine doc, internal medicine, general surgery and myself. They have an OR and basic labs and imaging. If a patient is sick they need basic stabilization here and then trasnport to Balad.

Having no rotary wing (helicopter) experience my first job was to go to the 1st Calvary and get a short lession from the Medivac team. (picture 3). I met the pilots, crew chief (folks in charge of aircraft maintenance and the back of the aircraft during flight) as well as the medics. They taught me where to sit, how to manuver, my job in the aircraft (aside from medical care it is watching out the back of the aircraft for other aircraft, wires, "Safire" (surface to air fire), etc. I also saw the wall featuring all the aircrew who had been killed in action in Iraq. Unlike the fixed wings aircraft, rotary aircraft had been shot down (fortunately, though, not in the past 2 years!)

I was hoping to have time to digest my new job but on 18 July (new city, day #2) my first mission began when a army solidier with a testicular torsion came to the ER. That is a potential emergency when you get decreased blood flow to the testicle. It is very painful. I put the drugs I would need on my vest (Morphine, Slaine, nausea drugs ) and a heart and oxygen monitor and oxygen with the patient and the patient was taken out to the waiting chopper

(I snapped a picture of myself and the flight medic while the patient was being loaded.)

The helicopter ride was pretty intense as unlike an airplane you feel every move the helicopter makes and cannot communicate due to the noise. I did have a wire that allowed me to hear and speak with the aircrew but not the patient. I basically communicated via thumbs up and thumbs down signs. The patients oxygen levels started to drop (due to shallow ventilations from the morphine and the fact that the cabin is not pressurized and oxygen levels are lower high in the sky). But this was correctred with more oxygen.

Because we are a medivac aircraft and cannot carry weapons we had an excort helicopter gunship the entire flight. It was reassuring to see them on the left. (pic #5). The pilots were in constant conversation about recent atacks and discussed what areas to avoid (populated centers, hill tops).

When we landed at our destination to refuel and drop off the patient I met the person manning the large caliber weapon on the helicopter gunship. It was a 22 year old woman! (1st picture below the text). I am always amazed in the military how so much responsibility is sucsessfully handled by such young people. Both of our pilots were mid 20's and the medic as 23 while the crew chief was 27. Over the hum of the rotars I had a brief conversation with this 22 year old woman who was defending my helicopter round-trip. She was from a small town in New York and wanted to eventually be a nurse. When I asked her why she did not want to be a doctor she said "I want to care for people, sir"..and with that bid me farewell and went back to protect us with her machine gun!

We dropped off the patient to the folks in the ER and then flew back.

I'll send more emails later.

Andy






















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