Friday, June 30, 2006

Another blue revolution meeting in Vancouver

Inspired by the growing Blue Revolution movement in France to stand up for all that is good in our own Canadian nation, we met this night yet again in the Atrium of the Vancouver Public Library (the belly of the beast, sad to say) to talk present Canadian politics, ideas for the future, the crazy things Dag has eaten in his past travels throughout the world... and much more.
(thumbs up for the camel burger, thumbs down for… well I’m having a late supper so I’ll skip the other side of the scale for now)

Truepeers had much to say about yet another sad chapter of the seemingly endless World Peace Forum exercises in western humiliation and self-criticism. The various pamphlets distributed at the event spoke of the left’s ongoing thirst to derive morality from law, and not law from morality.
Leafing through the flyers, seeing testament after testament lamenting “illegal wars of occupation” makes one wonder what the left's thirst to legitimatize its victimary culture might think of the Righteous during the Second World War, breavely defying the Nazis "legal" determination to annihilate the Jews of Europe for the "crime" of being jewish. There was a case of simple citizens, farmers, shopkeepers, doctors, and others, defying the “law”, risking their personal lives as well as the lives of their own families, for the sake of friends, or often as not, total strangers. Law is not above morality, law springs from morality... unless you're set for a cruise aboard the Peace Boat.

Again we discussed the Canadian reluctance to make value judgments, to measure all ideas against each other in order to confirm which merit closer attention and which much be discarded as not fulfilling their stated objectives. (several passersby, mind you, did not seem reluctant to pass value judgments upon the uncommon honesty being exhibited at our little gathering, if their facial expressions are any indication of their inner thoughts)

As ever it is exhilirating and emboldening to meet in public and engage in sincere talk, in public. No sympathetic smiles or encouraging words from passersby this night, but we take it as an act of faith that our continuing presence, whether it is in person at the Library, or virtually in the blogosphere, will lead us closer to the answers we seek.
Success is not what will lead us to act, it is our acts which will lead us to success.
For that is the gift of faith.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Covenant Zone/Blue Scarf Meeting

Today, and every Thursday, 7-9pm in the Atrium of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library (in front of Blenz coffee). Everyone interested in our work is welcome to attend and to discuss with us pretty much anything, including how to make this site even better!

Grieving for Victims at World Peace Forum - evidence for the claim of a "hate festival" made by Harvey Enchin in the Vancouver Sun?

Monday night, I attended a session of Vancouver's World Peace Forum, with the vaguely threatening title "No Justice! No Peace!" While the incessant use of the imperative (!!) among the "peace!"-loving left deserves a post in its own right, I will turn my anthropological attention here to the speakers on the evening, in order of their appearance: 1) Miryam Rahid, Interim Director of the Middle East Program of the American Friends Service Committee - Chicago, a middle-class Palestinian-American woman who lived for five years on the West Bank, some of it during the first Intifada and who served the Palestinian side during their peace negotiations with the Israelis in 1998-2000. I assume that Rahid was invited as a replacement for the earlier-announced Mustafa Barghouti, a Fatah or PLO politician and doctor whose more famous brother, Marwan, is currently facing terrorism charges in Israel. 2) Nurit Peled-Elhanan, an education professor at Hebrew University whose daughter was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997; according to the official program, she "has turned her grief into a tireless quest for justice: the end of the Israeli occupation which she considers the root cause of her daughter's death". 3) Cindy Corrie, mother of the infamous Rachel who in the words of the program for the evening "was killed by an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer as she non-violently protested the demolition of a Palestinian home." According to the Israeli government, Rachel was accidentally killed by a bulldozer demolishing homes that were linked to a network of tunnels smuggling arms between Egypth and Gaza.

This event, held at the large downtown Vancouver St-Andrew's-Wesley Churh (the WPF's report claims a crowd of 500; I would say 250) was sponsored by a number of groups: Canada Palestine Association, Canpalnet, the Vancouver chapter of the International Solidarity Movement, Jews for a Just Peace,, Palestine Community Centre, Palestine Solidarity Group, Trade Union Committee for Justice in the Middle East, and the Wall Must Fall Campaign. I will leave it to readers to Google these organizations to discover which ones support Palestinian violence against Israel in the name of "peace" (leave a note in comments if you do!). I will only note that Rachel Corrie's ISM is indeed reported as actively supporting Palestinian terrorist violence.

The Chair for the evening was Sid Shniad, a Jewish trade union breaucrat and leftist anti-war activist, who began by denouncing what he called Israel's unilateral redefining of its borders with Palestine - i.e. building a fence or wall to protect itself from Palestinian attacks - in supposed violation of international law, a point to which our anthropological analysis will return later as the frequent appeals to "international law" clearly invoke a sacrality for people involved with this "peace" forum, a sacredness that we need explore if we are to understand where they are coming from. Shniad said many "social justice" groups such as churches and unions were addressing these issues and his naming CUPE (Ontario) for its resolution to support a boycott and divestment of/from Israel received a modest round of applause from perhaps half the audience.

(I might note at this point that on entering the church, I recognized in attendance my Member of Parliament from Burnaby-Douglas, Mr. Bill Siksay of the New Democratic Party; not being a supporter of the NDP, I sat close to Bill so I could report if he revealed sympathies by excessive anti-Zionist applause; however, his applause remained moderate throughout, though there are no doubt many friends of Israel who would consider any applause for these speakers objectionable, as I will explain below. In any case, Burnaby voters should know that Mr. Siksay wore a WPF delegate badge and they might want to consult the WPF website to get an idea of the kind of event that interests their federal representative and others in his party - Bill is a protege of former MP Svend Robinson whom Cindy Corrie thanked last night for his support in writing the US government to pressure Israel over Rachel Corrie's death.)

Sid Shneid closed his opening remarks by denouncing the "highly inflammatory" words of Vancouver Sun columnist Harvey Enchin whose June 21 article, "Let the hatefest begin", anticipated the WPF conference thus:
Vancouver is hosting a major anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-globalization, anti-capitalist conference starting Friday that will draw apologists for terrorism and champions of failed states [e.g. Cuba, Iran, Syria] from all over the world... There is noting peaceful about the message these deluded propagandists are preaching.
Then, giving specific attention to the panel under discussion here, Enchin wrote:
Israel's enemies, those who deny its right to exist, who seek to de-legitimize it at every opportunity, who infuse their hatred of Israel with antisemitism, are given an open platform at the peace forum.

Israel and Jews will be under attack at the peace forum just as they were at its precursor, the [Durban, South Africa]UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001, which devolved into a hatefest unlike anything seen since the Nazi rallies of the 1930s.

A session called What is the Relationship between Peace and Justice in Israel [aka, No Justice! No Peace!] presents two anti-Israel panelists. There is no responder from the other side; in fact, there are no supporters of Israel involved in the peace forum at all.

The first speaker is Nurit Peled, Israel's most reviled, self-loathing, anti-Israel activist. After a Palestinian suicide bomber murdered her daughter in 1997, Peled blamed her own government and has been a popular attraction on the Israel-bashing speakers' circuit worldwide ever since.

"We are all in the grip of the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the free enlightened world," she told the European Parliament, "and in the name of this freedom and enlightenment rob us of our children.

Clearly suffering from a perverse version of the Stockholm Syndrome, Peled conveniently omits mention of the culture of death that celebrates martyrdom, a glorious fate many Palestinian mothers not only wish for their children but for which they are financially rewarded.
While Enchin is certainly correct that this was a totally unbalanced panel, with no supporter of Israel and no one giving the audience the slightest idea of how one might respond to the anti-Israel resentments well aired Monday night, I do not think - judging from what i've read - that this panel reached the levels of Jew hatred witnessed at Durban. Monday's was altogether a subtle performance of a deep resentment whose object remained somewhat veiled, the source of the implied evil under discussion remaining somewhat mysterious, underdefined. I will interpret this mystery as being, in fact, all about or around the sign of the Jew, and/or the model of nationhood the Jews first brought into this world; but still, the paradoxical fact that love and hate are usually combined in some degree in our attitude to any object or entity that holds the centre of attention must be taken into account.

Was Enchin thus being "highly inflammatory"? (Sneid's accusation, like Enchin's, and those of many angry letter writers to the Vancouver Sun, were all made prior to anyone actually hearing the WPF events under dispute.) Well, quite aside from the likelihood that Enchin's intent was just that - to combust the WPF's credibility - I think he is correct to suggest that this evening was indeed something of a hate fest. But while Israel, in whole or (perhaps more often) in part, was undoubtedly an object of hate, this is not to say that it was an event filled with obvious antisemitism, or a general Judeophobia (though if the critique of Israel entails a portrayal, whether knowingly or naively, of bad Israelis in terms that remind us of what traditional antisemites consider dirty Jews to be - e.g. evil and selfish conspirators whose actions are a threat to some utopian vision of world peace - then perhaps antisemitism it is, even if the critics are wise to the charge and anticipate it by themselves criticizing, on behalf of some good Jews, the putative evil conspirators as antisemitic; this is just what I think happened last night).

Indeed what is so notable is how often the speakers and audience members felt compelled to reject the accusation of antisemitism or self-hating Jew, and to note Jewish friends, as if the accusation of antisemitism has itself become another unfair tool in the hands of that party of Jews who are indeed oppressors (according to the would-be non-antisemites). For example, this bluffing/double bluffing/triple bluffing .... fetishization of the sign of antisemitism led the most curious, unbalanced, speaker, Nurit Peled, to say that Israel was in fact the only truly antisemitic state left in existence today. So, again, when we turn to our anthropological analysis of this event we will need consider the peculiar form of sacrality constituted around this much disputed sign. The simultaneous fetishization of "world peace", "international law" and "antisemitism" is no accident.

Miryam Rashid

Rashid introduced herself as the middle-class American daughter of Palestinian parents who took her to live in the West Bank during the first Intifada so that she could know better her people and their plight. (One wonders if that is all the parents wanted.) She had in many ways the manner of a middle-class American, a university-educated woman, a competent practitioner of the academy's victimary religion; she spoke in a somewhat breathless, rapid, staccato, swinging back and forth between, on the one hand, bold authoritative statments on the nature of life in the West Bank, and on the other, setting up scenes of the horrible and brutal conflict in such a way that passionately asked for and generally received the nodding concurrence and sympathy of the predominantly female audience. "Military Occupation" she said was for her just another intellectual abstraction that people bandy about, when she lived in comfort in America; once settled on the West Bank, its horrible reality was revealed in a life-transforming manner.

We were told of how the Jewish settlers steal the Palestinians' agricultural land, leaving the younger men without work, thus encouraging them to leave and/or to suffer great humiliation at their impotence. While the Jewish settlement of Shiloh on the hill above her new home had all the water and electricity it desired, the Palestinians below received intermittent and limited supplies. Checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the West Bank were a "huge source of humiliation" and a theft of that which is most precious: time. She told of her own guns-aimed-at-her humiliation at a check point which ended with Israeli soldiers laughing at her, and decried the new Israeli wall/fence which she said does more to separate Palestinian from Palestinian than Israelis and Palestinians. Again, the claim is that Israel wants to get a proud people to leave their homes by destroying their economy and lives. Israel's claim that the fence is a last resort in self-defence is ignored. The most appropriate term for "what is happening on the ground" is "ethnic cleansing" she declared.

Rashid invoked Desmond Tutu's affirmation that Palestinians lived in an "apartheid" state. She told of soldiers throwing stones at her and her school mates in a West Bank Quaker-run school. She said the pressure of life on the West Bank, the realization that her male relatives were helpless to protect her, left her with no choice but to turn to God to ask for protection in return for a promise of goodness; thus she wore the veil for one year (given here present work with a Quaker organization, her religious affiliations might have been further clarified, but were not.)

She told us that in her work on behalf of the Palestinians she faces many accussations of antisemitism and Israel hatred, as people refuse to look at what military occupation really is. She claims that on average two Palestinians are killed every day by the Israelis. She said the goal of her opponents is to make people so afraid of the accuation of "antisemitism" that they will give up the fight. Meanwhile, international aid to the Palestinian Authority is being held back, along with taxes collected by Israel from Palestinians on their behalf, all of which is leading to collapsing medical systems and to employees of the PA going unpaid. She said Prime Minister Olmert's plan to withdraw from the West Bank is actually an annexation plan which aims to steal up to fifty percent of the West Bank. He says he will negotiate, but the outcome is in fact a foregone conclusion.

Rashid's speech ended leaving the audience no idea how Israel came to occupy the West Bank in the first place, no discussion of what are the just fruits of a war one's enemy provokes, or why there is a conflict between Arabs and Jews. It was simply taken for granted that Israel's presence, at least in the West Bank, cannot be justified. The facts that Israel's very existence is threatened by its Arab neighbors - who have been warring with Israel since the state's creation - and by a popular understanding of the Islamic faith that claims Israel as Islamic land are completely ignored, as is the impossibility for religious Muslims of sharing a state with Jews and thus being sometimes ruled by Jews in what Moslems consider Islamic land.

Thus the indubitable harshness of life under "military occupation" was not judged in the context of Israel's existential struggle, which has led many to conclude that Israel actually acts with incredible patience and restraint, but rather in the context of North American comfort. The fact that "the Palestinians" as a proto-national identity have only come into existence in response to the Jewish model of nationhood and the presence of modern Israel, is also ignored. Comparisons to violent conflicts in other parts of the world are not made so as better to judge the level of violence Israel might be justified in using in mediating a conflict of this nature. Instead, the underlying message is that the Palestinians are incontrovertibly victims, just because they are clearly the weaker party in this dispute and not themselves in any way to blame for their fates. Despite the fact that Rashid served as a Palestinian negotiator under Yasser Arafat, she made no reference to Arafat's refusal of former Israeli Prime Minister Barak's peace offer, nor to the Palestinian cult of the suicide bomber.

And indeed there was no visible or audible sign that the audience was not disposed to consider the Palestinians as indubitable victims. Each of the many times Rashid described a putative instance of Israeli violence, a woman behind me gasped in astonished sympathy. One wondered how the audience might possibly conceive the source or cause of this apparently astonishing evil; did many leave the church believing some evil conspiracy is at play in the world? Or were they satisfied with the equally question-begging claim of the next speaker that this evil is all a matter of racism and propaganda?

Nurit Peled

Peled began by noting that we are in the thirty-ninth year of the Israeli ocupation of the West Bank, for which she offers no real explanation, since she makes it very clear that she would not desire in any way to justify the conspiracy of racism and murder supposedly behind this reality. The occupation is simply portrayed as an almost unspeakable evil. Peled dedicated her words to the children being killed and to mothers "living in hell", mothers who supposedly make sandwiches when they see the Israeli bulldozers coming to destroy their homes.

Peled queried the title given to the evening's event. No Peace without Justice sounded argumentative she said. But really, she said she has no idea what "peace" or "justice" mean. She said they are just "cover words" for the worst crimes, along with other cover words like freedom, democracy, God and the good of the nation.

As if her refusal of ordinary language were a refusal of the attempt by powerful men to install an evil world order, she also said President George Bush, Prime Minister Olmert, and Canada's Stephen Harper are leaders who send soldiers to other parts of the world so that they can live in "peace" by feeling they are doing justice. And then, in a bizarre metaphor she several times invoked, as if she were in conversation with another realm, she said that only in the underground world of dead children is there peace, as only in children's culture is there the necessary non-judgmentalism towards the other.

Peled gives the impression of a woman living with a great deal of mental distress, a depression that constantly threatens to crush her, and against which she must fight in order to speak with some coherence. The audience watches her pauses, her struggles to compose herself. Her evident suffering would help draw her much applause and a standing ovation. While I thought her somewhat ill and rather deluded (as I will further explain), I also found her the most interesting speaker because she clearly anticipated the negative reaction of a man like me and didn't care, for she is in intellectual pursuit of something else, something mostly foreign to our intellectual life. She isn't trying to play a man's game and probably wouldn't give a damn about my criticisms here. Rather, she has somehow come to explore the interesting problem that human culture mediates two different kinds of relations to the human other, and the kind in which I engage is of little interest to her (not that she can fully avoid it herself). First of all, there is the relation to the external human other, the relation constituted through language and a language's always implied call to its community to bond in solidarity against external rivals. Second, there is the relationship to an internal other, rooted in female biology, though given significance through culture: the internal other that is the child first met in the womb.

Men being without an internal other to protect can and indeed must more fully engage in external rivalries, violence, and hence also the mediation of their potential violence through language (language has the paradoxical quality of allowing us simultaneously to imagine, represent, and to defer our rivalry with the external other - if, e.g., I shout "Damn the British", I am simultaneously letting off and building up steam; I am recognizing but deferring conflict). Women, however, must give relatively more attention to protecting the internal other; and Peled, having lost one of her children to external othering, has made this her mission, i.e. the protection of all women's children, a cause which wins her women's emotional applause irregardless of her many statements that will be justly seen as irrational by those who see it their duty to help order their particular community in defense against external rivals. Shamelessly, Peled couldn't give a damn about the claims men make in declaring what is necessary to protect their community and their women from others. One wonders if the more a woman's extra-rational regard for the internal other, the more she will be irrational and deluded about the external other and thus, when exchanging language, prone to irrational forms of sacrificial othering (howevermuch she professes to be for peace). For example, Peled denounces mothers who "mind infect" their children to prepare them for war.

If my rather masculine sense of Peled's delusion stems from my sense of her unreal understanding of the threat from the Arab other that Israel faces, she wants to reject outright our "racist" understanding of the other in giving priority to the relationship of mother and child. However, this distinction quickly becomes obscured as Peled cannot but simultaneously engage with both kinds of other. The nature of language and logic demands it. She says that the only "we" that she would be a part of is the "we" that supposedly unites all victims, and especially the child victims in their underground world, more of whom wear kaffiyeh than kippah she declares. But in order to make this righteous declaration, she must demonize the supposed victimizers, especially men with political power. Peled then also denounces mothers who "send their children to kill" or mothers who raise their children in the occupied territories. Peled often speaks of the "mind infection" of children by adults in order to explain how children can grow up, enter the army, and become "monsters in uniform" killing children. While this is putting altogether too much blame on mothers - in violent contexts, young people, especially boys, will join gangs and kill regardless of their mothers' feelings (I am sure many of the child soldiers in Africa, for example, are not coached by their mothers to become soldiers) - what is interesting is Peled's vain attempt (is she crazy or lost in some brilliant creative struggle?) to leave altogether the world in which the other is defined as external, in favor of some mystical relationship forged with the child and the underworld of dead, murdered, children.

The fact that mothers need not "mind infect" their children for them to become soldiers, but need only initiate them into the communal world of language and thus expose them to the kind of othering that is an integral part of the world of language, is a logical point Peled perhaps cannot honestly address without first choosing to become truly mad or sane. Her own complicity in the business of othering - her dependence on a victimary religion and her consequent demonizing of the supposed victimizers - was not something anyone challenged her on. If it crossed anyone's mind to do so, they surely decided against it because this was not a forum in which rational, responsible discussions about our accountability in such matters could be pursued. Most in attendance seemed to be in search of that elusive guarantee that their very being was in accordance with "world peace!"

Anyway, the more vile part of Peled's performance was yet to come. Implying that she has conducted a study of Israeli school textbooks, she argued that there are only racist images of Palestinians or Arabs in Israeli textbooks, which apparently call a whole nation (i.e. Palestinians) a problem to be solved. She then - and this is the vile part - inevitably made the comparison to the Nazis' attitude towards the Jews: a problem to be solved. Of course, if the comparison were apt, there would be no Palestinians today. After all, the Nazi final solution killed on average about a million Jews per year (and many others besides) and the Israelis, according to Rashid, hardly an independent observer, kill about 700 Palestinians a year in what looks to me to be much more a continually-cooled defensive war than a concerted campaign of "ethnic cleansing". But if it were the latter, Israel's opponents, when pulling out the Nazi metaphor, could at least admit that the Israelis are rather incompetent.

But knowing how charged the Nazi metaphor is, Peled, the most intellectually ambitious of the speakers, went on to note how "racist" Israelis can be to immigrant Jews from overseas and towards Orthodox religious Jews. She also noted how during the recent Israeli elections one often heard jokes about Arabs having sex with goats. This leads her to conclude that Israel is a "fascist state" where mothers send their children to be "chips in the blood market". Indeed, she went on to declare Israel the last antisemitic state in the world today. I guess she doesn't monitor the endless torrent of unimaginative antisemitism (old conspiratorial ideas largely imported from Europe) in the state media of her Arab neighbors, not to mention the Hamas Charter. In the question period, she said Jews from Arab countries report having good relations with Arabs. This is so much at odds with the reports of Jewish and Christian dhimmitude that I hear about, and the fact that there has been over the last century a great Jewish exodus from the Arab world, that one begins to think Peled is unusually deluded. Israel, she says, has a psychological need for the Arabs to be "the Nazis", another Egypt against which a Jewish nation can define itself; but she says the Arabs have never done much to deserve the label, which may be true, though it is in good part her own provocative labelling, I imagine.

Again, this line of argument left the history of Arab wars against Israel an unexplained mystery. She said, to perhaps the biggest applause of the night, that many Jews think they are being loyal and dutiful in defending Israel; but in fact they are really the enemies of the (peaceful) Jews and Israelis. Clearly, figuring out who are the real Jews and who the real Nazis is very much the concern of these people.

Peled concluded her talk by going into her family history, explaining how the men had turned from being noted soldiers to peace warriors, once they had seen the pointlessness of the military approach. She received a large round of applause for her motto that the death of a child entails the death of the whole world, applause that was perhaps only exceeded by the above-noted statement or the later claim, made in the question period, that we don't teach our children to say no to authority, as we should since authority does not deserve respect.

This last claim received hoots of approval, suggesting to me that the mostly middle-aged audience were hard-core romantics still justifying their youthful rebellions against authority. Of course, simply teaching children to disrespect authority as a general principle is a sure recipe to make them marginal losers in society. Perhaps the peace movement is composed of such marginals trying righteously to justify their having dropped out of an inevitably somewhat violent form of society (inevitable since there is no such thing as a world or society without conflicts and at leat temporary losers).

It seems to me that "World Peace!" is a religious and utopian idea promoted by the therapeutic classes, an idea that can have no stable reference in this world of fallen humans with their constantly mimicing and competing desires. An outright refusal of authority and its means of imposing order, or a refusal of the need at times to take sides, is a refusal of this world and its realities.

Cindy Corrie

Corrie, the last to speak is perhaps the most famous and least interesting of the speakers, so I will say least about her. She declared herself humbled by the testimony of the previous speakers and then talked of other stories of woe she is hearing from Palestinian immigrants to America, the kind of people and stories that were never known to her until her daughter Rachel opened this world to her. Cindy has also met many Jews and come to learn that there is not a monolithic Jewish or Israeli opinion but rather a diversity of Jewish opinion. This, I took to mean, is that she has learned that not all Jews are oppressive.

Her daughter had been born into privilege and could have had a comfortable life, but in taking an interest in local Washington State history, Rachel had come to identify with the strength and heroism of the pioneer Euro-American settlers. Rachel ventured out to explore the local Washington landscape in order, literally, to walk in the settlers' footsteps. Cindy said this with no mention that the American settlers had displaced the aboriginal native-American settlers; Cindy was apparently focussed on making another point, one with which I sympathize: that the pioneers of the American nation can serve as a model of courage, as they did for Rachel.

Then came the familiar, to many, story of Cindy going off to college and getting involved with pro-Palestinian activists, which in turn led her to Palestine and her death by the Israeli-American (built by Caterpillar Corp.) bulldozer. Cindy or Rachel's claim to victim status naturally depends on the Israelis being to blame for the latter's death, a point that is apparently not fully obvious to even this kind of sympathetic audience, since most of the talk was concerned with Cindy's struggle to get the US government to pressure Israel to reveal the "truth" about Rachel's death, a struggle that is failing, supposedly due to the US refusal seriously to challenge its friend Israel. (It appears she has been told just this by a high official in the US State Department, someone perhaps wanting to throw the grieving a mother a bone, or perhaps revealing his real sympathies.)

Cindy made no mention of the Israeli claim that Rachel was actually trying to cover entrances to tunnels used to smuggle arms and terrorists. Cindy only argued that most of the home destruction that the Israelis carry out in the occupied territories is not about punishing terrorists but is rather done in enforcing a building permit system that is designed to keep down the population of the territories. It is "just a land grab" in support of an "apartheid wall".

Cindy spoke of Rachel's Jewish colleagues in the International Solidarity Movement, people trying to "save the soul" of Israel. But since the wall makes a two-state solution impossible, or so Cindy says, this salvation of the Jews depends on all of us building up the international pressure to force Israel to back down and negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians. Again, the long history of PLO Chairman Arafat sabotaging peace negotiations with Israel, the lack of good faith on the Palestinian side, was not mentioned.

Corrie concluded by plugging the new play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie", which was apparently put together under the leadership of the British actor, Alan Rickman, who was moved when Rachel's emails from Gaza were published in the Guardian newspaper. Cindy spoke more than once about Rachel being a writer and asked, isn't it wonderful that we can now go and listen to her words, the words of Rachel the playwright? Cindy comes across as a woman who has found peace in a sentimental form of feminized Christianity. Thanks to Alan Rickman, Rachel is now resurrected, her status as victim put beyond doubt.

Anthropological Conclusions

We have noted that various forms of sacrality are at stake in Vancouver's World Peace Forum: the combined and constant invocations of international law, (anti)antisemitism, victimhood, and "world peace". Perhaps these can all be summed up by a question I was posed recently: why the sacrality of the Palsetinians? Why, it is often asked, of all the brutal conflicts in the world does the Israeli-Arab conflict receive so much attention - especially from those who speak of international law, world peace, etc. - when other far more brutal conflicts are largely ignored by the world's media and activists? A million or two can die in a single brutal war in Africa and go largely unreported; but every killing in Palestine is headline news.

Similarly, many today are infatuated with applying the Nazi-Jew metaphor to condemn social inequalities and to make irrefutable claims on victimhood. But they are not so infatuated with the higher death toll that states in the name of Communism rung from the bodies of "their own people." We are keen to denounce or deny antisemitism, or see its analogue everywhere, but it is still socially acceptable in many circles to be anti-bourgeois, even though anti-bourgeois ideologies have killed many tens of millions, recently.

The Communists' death toll is seen as the tragic and unintended corruption of a worthy dream, while the Nazis' toll is condemned for being, from the start, a frank and undisguised project of racist resentment. Similarly, much of the violence around the world today is written-off as an unplanned human tragedy, the fruit of human stupidity, greed, lust, misunderstanding, etc., while it is the Israel-Palestine conflict that draws the attention of those who would like to claim, "here is the true inheritance of the Nazi legacy of a frank project to shape the course of world history around a project of racial or religious hate."

It is not sufficient to explain the sacrality of the Palestinians by saying that Israel, being a western country, preoccupies western interest and westerners' sense of responsibility to hold their own to a high standard of accountability. Israel is not simply a focus of our loving concern that our own act well in this world; it also attracts a great amount of resentment on behalf of putative victims of Nazi-like behaviour. I believe that what is resented in the Jews/Israel is ultimately that of which they are the world's first and most enduring model: nationhood and the refusal of a people entirely to give up their particular and compact sense of nationhood to join some more inclusive faith, a more liberal, global, unity.

Nationhood entails not just a pact in defense of one's own - something every pre-national tribe already had. What distinguishes a nation from a tribe or ethnicity is that a national culture makes a claim on universal truth in a way that is accesible to anyone, whether a member of the group or not, and yet it is a claim on the universal that could only have emerged from a particular purchase in a particular people's historical experience. For example, anyone can read French literature, not just to understand the French, but to understand how the self-understanding of the French historical experience can be a means of grasping universal human truths. But while we don't have to be French to appreciate the insights of French national culture, only those who fully participate in a tribal ritual order can really imagine or "know" the worldview of a highly ritualized society. The world of a primitive tribal society is a world of doors closed to outsiders as the tribe does not attempt to speak to a universal humanity, and so does not yet distinguish its particular experience in terms accessible to a global community of knowledge. Yet all tribes can become nations - and perhaps most who survive today have become nations to some degree - once they find a way to show the world how their particular experience has value in a global cultural exchange.

But in becoming a nation (as the Palestinians are struggling at present to do) all tribes-cum-nations will sooner or later become aware of the tribe/nation that made this transition first: i.e. the Jews who first discovered or invented monotheism in order not just to champion their God as the greatest or truest God (what other tribes in the age of Moses already did) but rather to say, look, this - the revelations into the divine that are recorded in our holy book - is what God has shown us he is. He is what he is, everywhere and for everyone, though he has a special relationship with us, the people who first discovered/were given a way to define God's universality. In becoming the first nation to thus combine their particular historical experience with an open conversation into universal truth, the Jews became a target for those who later entered the game and resented the fact that the Jews were there first and claiming a special relationship with God.

Many later nations would also claim a special relationship with God (e.g. Canadians sing, "God keep our land, glorious and free, O' Canada we stand on guard for thee") but the religion (or secularism) of the later nations could never combine the particular and universal in the same way as Judaism. A Christian, or Muslim (or secular) nation shares its faith with many other nations because monotheism can only be discovered for the first time once and so only one nation can claim a special relationship to this firstness.

It is this memory of firstness, what the Jews have and what others cannot have, that is at the root of antisemitic resentment. In situations where Jews are living in a Gentile and religious nation, the question will be raised, why can't the Jews give up their sense of having a special faith, or being a peculiar people, and just join our faith? Do they think their religion is better than ours?! Alternatively, if the situation is one of Jews having their own nation in a world where other leading nations are becoming secular and multicultural, the question will be raised, why must they remain predominantly Jewish in their nation? can't they follow the more inclusive faith of multiculturalism like the rest of us!? Do they think their kind of compact "racist" nation is better!? Do they think like Nazis or what?!

Thus if Israel is to remain Israel the Jewish state, it must answer these resentful questions by making a claim on universal human truth. For example, Israel's defenders may claim that culturally compact nations are superior agents of global order than are postnational multicultual conglomerations - a claim that many today do not want to accept. But what if it is indeed true and that in reality, in contrast to many peoples' hopes and dreams, a truly "inter-national" order is best served by people living in more or less compact nations that do not try to overcome their particular identities in some more "inclusive" entity (because the universal can only be approached from within a particular tradition, and the attempt to discount the particular in favor of some utopian multicultural unity will actually end up being a recipe for a return to tribalism and the loss of a sense of universal truth). I believe there will always be conflict in this world, and that it is best mediated by having a vision of humanity that comes from admitting to the unendlessness of this fact of conflict, and not hoping it away. Among other things, this entails having nations stand up for their own particular self-interest, negotiating with others from whom they may demand a certain level of moral behaviour in the interest of encouraging reciprocity between nations.

But there are those - shocked by the evident military and economic superiority of Israel in comparison with its neighbours - who would deny the possibility of such reciprocity by demonizing the one nation as Nazi-like, beyond the ken of reciprocity. And, doing this, they allow the supposed victims of the Nazi-like state to appear beyond criticism (anything the victims do to defeat Nazis, perhaps even encouraging a supporter to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel, must be justifiable - they're dealing with Nazis after all). Such I believe is evil, what the anti-Israel and victim-baiting religion of "world peace" is doing.

If there are people, like the leadership of much of the Arab and Muslim world, who refuse to recognize the compact nation of Israel... because they claim Israel is on "Muslim land"; or because it is a state in which Jews are rulers and Muslims subjects; or simply becaue it is a compact nation and not part of some greater political unit atttempting to transcend national self-interest; or because Israel is a state that defended itself in wars and, as a precondition for ceasing full-scale hostilities, occupied some of the land of its enemies in order to create a defensive buffer... then there are world leaders who are refusing a certain kind of moral reciprocity with Israel. The refusal to recognize any basis for reciprocity is the act of the pathologically resentful, and the debate thus becomes a question of whether one's resentments are justifiable, or rather irrational and pathological. Similarly, we must also ask, if one's neighbor is refusing any basis for reciprocity - in the name of his Nazi-like victimization - do we have a right to try and force it on him? - say by assassinating his leaders every time he sends a bomb into our country, in an attempt to force on him the most basic logic of tit for tat? Or, do we have a right to build a wall between us so as to protect ourselves from his resentful refusal to recognize our right to exist?

Now I know of course that the Palestinians' supporters say it is Israel who is refusing reciprocity. I believe the historical facts on the whole betray this argument, though it is not the point of this post to lay out the evidence presented by both sides. What I am presently analyzing in my study is all the literature I picked up at the World Peace Forum, literature that makes a great deal of "international law" that Israel, an arrogant nation, has supposedly broken. So much of this literature seems to assume the existence of an "international community" that can somehow transcend and supercede the sovereign authority of particular self-ruling national identities. And yet, I can see no basis in reality for this assumption. Real political sovereignty can only rest with self-interested tribes, nations or empires; and so international law can only exist as long as these political units see it in their interest to agree to uphold such law or to impose it on others by force. For one institution somewhere to declare an "international law" without the means to enforce it on other parties, is meaningless.

But it is just such futility and unreality - in the dreams of those who would transcend a world of conflict by demanding everyone recognize the supremacy of "international law", when common agreement or force is not forthcoming to back it up - that is the source of so much anti-Israel resentment, resentment of the nation that values its firstness among nations and whose hard realities and whose imposition on the Arabs of a hard logic of tit for tat, remind us of the realities of this fallen world. Of course, some are not reminded of reality but only see Israel, and the kind of national firstness it represents, as the greatest obstacle to a world of peace.

Why can't we just break out of the cold and often brutal logic of tit for tat, many will ask? Why can't we just all love one another and get along? Why can't we just humble nations that claim historical firstness, or that, like the USA, arrogantly seek to be first among equals in the re-ordering of the world today? Why can't everyone just be equals under international law, as defined by the UN, an institution which many will defend as a legitimate body because they so desperately want to believe in a one world order, eventhough the UN has an atrocious track record in resolving conflicts and protecting the weak and is largely composed of representatives from countries that are not very free and democratic and who bend less to the claims of any global unity and more to the realities of the need to defend their own self-interest. And self-interest for many means encouraging the worldwide phenomenon of antisemitism, blaming the Jews for problems, bonding one's own people in resentment of the firstness of Israel and America, and making alliances with the Arabs who have the oil and with the many Muslim nations who are politically so much more important than tiny Israel.

But the obsession with antisemitism today is not simply an obsession with Jewish firstness in the construction of nationhood, but also with the people whose undoubted, unquestionable victimization in the Holocaust provides the model for the completely inequitous "Nazi/Jew" asymmetry, the model of an unacceptable difference that is foundational to postmodern victimary politics. It is the model that allows people today to denounce every asymmetry, however pragmatically fair or understandable it may actually be, and thus advance their own righteous claims as beyond question.

The Jews' status as exemplary victims - something few Jews' embrace- has come to be deeply resented by those who think it is a status used in the self-interest of the Jewish nation. The fact that the Israelis' treatment of the Palestinians is in no way akin to the Nazis' treatment of the Jews does not stop the resentful from resenting, given the power of victim status today. While Iraelis would mostly like the Palestinians to grow up to be a responsible nation that can defend its own interests without engaging in a pathological hatred of its neighbor, countless "peace" activists declare the Palestinians to be like victims of the Nazis, helpless before evil. This provides license, in western eyes, for the irrational, self-destructive violence of the Palestinians, which complements the license for unending violence against an occupier of supposedly Muslim lands that is provided by the Islamic idea of Jihad.

Of course not everyone can justify the cult of suicide bombers that now recruits children into its ranks. The horror of such violence drives a woman like Nurit Peled into rhetorical gymnastics in an attempt both to decry all those who kill children, and to denounce aggressive Israeli actions conducted in the name (and reality) of self-defense. Recognizing that he who claims the other is antisemitic, is in fact saying that the other is irrationally resentful of one's firstness (it's irrational because someone has to make the first move to bring about any new idea or order, or humanity would not progress; progress thus requires asymmetries in human relationships, a denial of a perfect or original equality), Peled turns the tables and says that Israel itself is antisemitic. She thus goes beyond those who merely claim they are not antisemitic in criticizing Israel (even as they portray Israelis as Nazis, i.e. all-powerful Jews - which is just what conspiratorial antisemites have always alleged Jews to be).

To the Utopians of the western left - those who have not yet been held to account and made to take responsibility for their promotion of resentments in the name of the victim - the Israeli-Palestinain conflict is something nasty that just won't go way. What halts the progress of "world peace" is this "shitty little" western nation that has yet to give up its old-fashioned ideas of nationhood and join the new multicultural order. The fact that this new multicultural "order" is actually bringing about a collapse of social purpose and morality around the western world, especially in Europe where traditional nationhood and democracy is eroded and people are increasingly ruled by unaccountable extra-national bureaucracies, is a fact not yet registered with the Utopians. The idea that in their self-righteous appeal to a victimary religion they are actually undermining the realistic and responsible basis for inter-national order is beyond their conception. They are for "peace!" and against brutality, so how can they be wrong? But those who would make absolute victims of the west's others, so as to erode the others' responsibilties to share equally in mediating conflict even when they are the weaker party, are doing evil. And since they are acting primarily from resentment, and not love, I say that Harvey Enchin is basically right: from what I have seen and read, the World Peace Forum is at least a resentment fest, if not a hate fest. Yet hate is a perfectly fair description for many of the peoples' attitudes towards the state of Israel, the only serious democracy in the Middle East where the rule of law is supreme.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

a visit to North Korea

A fascinating glimpse of North Korea, courtesy of a visiting russian web designer.
(HT to the french blog bafweb, France's answer to the Drudge Report)

I'm hoping that some of the delegates to the World Peace Forum we chatted with Saturday, can take the time to follow the link and go through these several pages of photos. Will they ask themselves how their landmines lapdance and nuclear abolition chants could possibly be of help to the poor people trapped behind electrified fences, with an iron fist at their throats?

The translator comments that the fences surrounding the beaches are all electrified, to keep anyone from leaving the country from that direction.

Downtown Pyongyang, North Korea's capital city.
"The whole Pyongyang is like this, when he asked the guide about the old houses the guide said that old people didn't want to move out in the new ones and like it that way."What part of North Korea is this photo from, WPF delegates? Kanggye? Hamhung, maybe? Could it be Kaesong?
It's actually from Seoul, South Korea, a city "occupied" by the United States of America.
Of the two Koreas, WPF delegates, which nation's citizens are the one living in the kind of "peace" you have in mind?

More thoughts on World Peace Forum

I discussed our Vancouver Covenant Zone protest at the World Peace Forum in my (John's) second comment here, to which Adam of the GABlog gave an interesting response.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Protesting the World Peace Forum

This morning Vancouver saw a different kind of Peace Protest than it's been accustomed to: a modest stand for realistic peace, protesting the standard Utopian peace protestors.

Utopia–seeking delegates attending the morning presentations of the World Peace Forum at Vancouver’s prestigious Orpheum Theater will hopefully have been tainted by second thoughts for their dogmatic belief system, courtesy of three simple souls daring to think differenly from them, and to say so in the street, in public, with signs.

Dag, Truepeers and your humble correspondant planted ourselves outside the World Peace Forum’s venue this morning, carrying signs with various slogans, and had quite a memorable time engaging curious (and not so curious) delegates in dialogue that ranged from pleasant to antagonistic. The most offensive was probably the guy who hit my sign. Then in descending order: slurs and insults, sneering condescension, sympathy for our supposed mental retardation… the real dialogue ended up being with people who were genuinely curious about how we could be apostates to their utopian religion, and politely asked legitimate questions to which they patiently listened to our point of view. If any of you are reading this, thank you for your civil debate; we may agree to disagree, but I certainly respect the courtesy you granted my perspective, and I hope I matched it as I listened to yours.

The looks of amazement we got from so many of the delegates suggest how rarely they must actually encounter alternative points of view challenging their agenda. Growing up in Canada, we've had more than enough occasions to get used to hearing their view passed off as *the* view, but seemingly they've never heard ours, so we must come across as mysterious aliens from another planet. I can sympathize with their puzzlement, for I find myself as completely baffled by the world view that they painted for me, as they likely were by my recounting of current events as I see them.

Trying to encapsulate three hours of experiences like this morning's, into a tight little blog post is daunting. I'm going to tackle it in two posts, this one in more stream of consciousness fashion, then hopefully find the time to write a second one seeing the day from a more detached perspective.

First, meeting the various delegates. The three of us engaged in a series of dialogues with Israel-hating jews, business-hating wealthy suburbanites, anti-american americans, and a certain lady whom I shall always remember for sincerely describing to us how the New York Times is a terribly Right-Wing media outlet. She also went on to confess to having killed “one million Vietnamese”, and I-can’t-remember-how-many Iraqis. “America killed them, in my name, so I killed them”, was her heartfelt explanation.

When Dag offered her our blog address to read, she stopped him in mid-sentence to honestly admit she wasn't interested in reading anything we might have to say. Yet we are the ones who are "close-minded", you see.

This was the first time I had ever done any protesting or picketing of any kind. Even during my (short-lived, thank goodness) rite of passage as an anti-american Canadian, I never did anything like I did this morning. No wonder the left do these things so frequently, it is definitely an exhilarating experience. In retrospect, I realize I wasn’t prepared to engage in such basic debate and dialogue as was required. I’m not in practice anymore at explaining why Bush isn’t evil, for instance, that caught me a bit off-guard, and so I regret I may have fluffed my response once or twice.

What made the morning so fascinating, however, was the number of average people just passing by on the street on their way about town, who read my “God Bless America” sign, stopped to thank me, and explained why they agreed with me. Their simple eloquence, mixed with gratitude for my sign's bold yet simple statement, really made my day; and unlike the activist delegates quick to brandish their “peace studies” university degrees as their rationale for their point of view, the pro-US Canadians passing by on the street managed to briefly phrase the common sense of the common man in a way that has truly inspired me. What a thrill it can be to meet like-minded people sometimes. Just one of the approving smiles I got from these fellow citizens more than made up for having to wake up at 5:00 AM on a Saturday morning to talk to so many grumpy people wearing name tags.

Looking back, it was interesting how those talking to us expected us to be in absolute lock-step in our philosophy, chanting mono-syllabic verses just like in the usual left-wing protests nowadays, whereas in reality we were all there for somewhat different reasons. We are three distinct individuals, with sometimes radically different beliefs on certain issues, yet we can readily come together around a common cause and find a way to negociate through each other’s differing points of view, to act in united ways towards shared objectives. (hm, kind of reminds me a country I know...) We seemed to be encountering people who were more used to protestors incapable of holding a range of motivations and belief systems, and it probably led to quite a bit of confusion. (I noticed a particularly confused expression on one delegate’s face as he read my “God Bless America” sign while listening to Dag’s atheistic justification for intervention in the Middle East.)
It was genuine fun seeing how surprised the peace activists were by Truepeer's articulateness, I don' t think they were expecting that degree of intellectual firepower from "conservatives". Many would start off talking to us as if we were children; one sentence from Truepeers would usually put an end to that kind of tone.

Final thought for now... a comment echoing in my memory comes from the start of our morning, as a loudly sarcastic peace activist established her math skills by revealing that there were only three of us, compared to "four thousand" of them, as if that in itself should disqualify our existence. So symbolic of the left: undisguised contempt for the value of the individual, despite all the rhetoric of valuing "diversity".
Madam, sometimes it only takes three people to make a difference.
Sometimes it just takes one person.
You should try it sometime.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blue Revolution meeting notes and urgent news on lip-service people

Choice. Action. Resolution. Isn't this what the civilized world is waiting for? What keeps more citizens from taking control of their own lives and blaspheming that they should have a say in their destinies?

Every week we meet at the Vancouver Public Library to review the choices that present themselves before us. What needs doing? What can be done?

This week's main topic centered around the disgraceful presence in our city of some abomination called the "World Peace Forum".

Corrupting our language is the least of the left's sins, and calling the objectives of this organization "peace" is par for the course these days.

Some of the events include presentations on a "Global Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons" (a panel discussion to be chaired by Mayor Derek Corrigan, of Burnaby, B.C., no less!), "Climate Change" and the Landmines Treaty.

Wanting everybody to live happily ever after is, certainly, a worthy objective. It is the means to that end, with which sensible people part company with the World Peace Forum.

Surprisingly, one participant at the related World Urban Forum, also taking place this week, does seem worth courting, as he urges the slum dwellers of the world to unite:

.....Jockin Arputham challenged delegates to join the slum-dwellers movement that is saving its own members.

"We will no more be taking it lying down. You are trying to design our lives. We are not going to quietly sit and say, 'Look at us and try to decide the way we should be living,' " said Arputham, a tiny man who has received awards for 30 years of work in his own slum neighbourhood and others to improve services, education and housing.

"That is why we decided we will no more take the help of these kind of lip-service people."
Arputham urged governments and non-profit groups to get behind what slum dwellers are doing instead of just having conferences, which he said appear to be designed mainly to keep the poverty-conference industry going.

"What are all these words? Two hundred conferences, 600 documents, 700 seminars," he mocked, provoking laughter among the 2,000-some people in the ballroom at the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre. "While you are doing this, our people are poorer and multiplying a hundredfold."

Every week, we gather at the Vancouver Public Library to echo M. Arputham's lament against the left: we will not let those that do not have our best interests at heart, decide for us the way in which we must live. We will participate in that choice, by taking the actions we deem will result in the kind of nation we wish to be living in.
We were there again tonight, and will return again next Thursday night.

Where will you be?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Can blogs save Europe?

One of the hopes we have for Covenant Zone is to seek ways of harnessing the potential of the internet to affect public debates on the important issues of the day.
The 2004 US elections as well as the recent Canadian national election offered us tantalizing previews of what awaits us in future electoral campaigns, across the globe, as alternative streams of information serve to reveal a fourth dimension to the three-dimensional world we’d grown accustomed to: a new dimension of interactivity and communication.

A new study being discussed in European media this week, suggests that the effects of this revolution may take some time to spread from North America to Europe, as More than one European in three knows nothing about computers:

[translated from a Belgian french media website; any corrections or precisions to my translation are welcomed and appreciated]

June 20, 2006
More than one European in three knows nothing about computers

In 2005, 37% of Europeans between 16 and 74 years of age did not have any basic understanding of computers, according to statistics delivered Tuesday by Eurostat, the european office for statistics.

This unawareness is more noteworthy in women (39%) than with men (34%). The proportion of people who know nothing about computers, however, differs greatly from country to country, varying from 65% in Greece to 59% in Italy to 10% in Denmark or almost 11% in Switzerland...

Unsurprisingly, it is older persons who know the least about computers (65% of Europeans from ages 55 to 74). Within the 25 to 54 age-group, 29% of Europeans have no basic understanding of computers whatsoever, against 17% who possess a weak level of competence, and 29% [having] a medium level. Only 25% command a high level of understanding.

10% of Europeans from 16 to 24 years of age absolutely do not know how to use a computer, a number particularly high in Hungary (34%), in Greece (32%) and in Italy (28%). The study also shows that 39% of unemployed people in the EU have no computer knowledge whatsoever, more than the average for the european population as a whole.

This is a startling and distressing study, if accurate. With little chance of having their voices heard or their worldview reflected in their national media, pro-western Europeans should be turning to the internet and to blogs in particular, as alternative opportunities for communication. (I admit I am jumping to the conclusion that computer illiteracy = little to no internet access, but it seems a safe assumption to my mind.)

Does the paucity of computer literacy grant a minority of people more power, or less, I wonder? "In the Country Of The Blind, The One-Eyed Man is King", said H.G. Wells in an amusing short story, where a mountaineer stumbles upon an isolated community of blind people, but finds that his sight is an ability that it is inconceivable to the blind tribesmen he attempts to rule, thereby giving him no advantage whatsoever, and he finds himself treated not as the village tyrant but as the village idiot. Anyone who has ever had a conversation with someone who forms their opinion on current events through suckling at the teat of the CBC can imagine what this study of european computer-savviness means for political discourse on that continent; how can one win converts to a conservative, pro-west cause when one is using a different set of facts than one's opponent?

Reason and the Philistines

Yes but, yes but, yes but....

The great shame of some of our own is that they are philistines. I had two encounters last day with men from opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, one a mindless Communist raging on about Bush and the oil companies, another from a brilliant fool who is extremely lucky I didn't meet him face-to-face. In the case of both reason is not a possible alternative action to outright force. Neither is capable of grasping the fine details of thought from person to person, regardless of the level of intellect they work from. Both philistines need the lesson taught from the blows of a hammer. That is good reason. Violence is good. Beating people to the ground and smashing their bones is a nice thing under the curcumstances. It halts their behaviour and teaches them valuable lessons. If they're caught in time it might prevent them from being killed outright. Sometimes it's too late and the right thing is to kill anyway. See below.

There was an awful inevitability to what happened to those two American soldiers.

Did anyone believe for one moment that they would be treated with respect according to the Geneva Convention?

Only the fact that these fanatics have been on the run prevented a more spectacular staging of their deaths.

This brutal murder brings revulsion but not surprise.

This is the routine evil of those worse than beasts.

This is the routine evil that beheaded Daniel Pearl, and Nick Berg; that left Van Gogh dead on a street in Holland.

This is the routine evil that still wraps itself in the garb of a religion while leaving young students bound and shot beside their bus and innocent women and children blown to bits in the market place.

The routine evil that draws comfort from the ignorant maunderings of a Murtha or a Sheehan; that somehow escapes the diligent moral radar of Human Rights Watch.

The routine evil that finds shelter in partisan "talking points" about the war and the shameless babble of armchair thumbsuckers about "reciprocity" with Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

The routine evil of men with a vision of a world of subjugated women and mindless children, ignorant of all but blood and suicide and revenge.

This is the routine evil that dreams of cyanide gas in subways and thirsts for a nuclear weapon.

This is the routine evil that some still think can be embraced into civility, "brought into government," tamed away from its loathsome imperatives.

This is the routine evil that will not be ignored and must be exterminated.

Ralph Kinney Bennett is a TCS contributing editor.

Our own are our problem. The savages of Islam are mere proxies. Our own make them possible. Our own make them possible and our own destruction inevitable. Our reasonable option is to attack our own with zeal and force.

We meet at the Vancouver Public Library each Thursday evening to discuss our future as citizens and residents of our nations and how we might transform those nations into civil lands. We meet in the atrium. Break out of your routine. We invite you to join us. Come from 7-9:00 pm.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Covenant Zone Welcomes the new GABlog

Much of the inspiration for my approach to the Covenant Zone comes from a now sadly discontinued blog. I am very glad to hear that the blogger in question has found a new home at the GABlog. He has taken the name "Scenic Politics" (until he can think of something better he writes - which is what I thought when, attempting paradox, I became "truepeers"... and now I feel a little prim and stuck). Scenic's first post (he is "adam" in comments) appears here. Let me say a word or two about our common interest - originary thinking - hopefully better to introduce what Scenic/adam is saying about politics today. (See also here and here.)

Originary thinking is a way of hypothesizing how human language, and hence human beings as a self-conscious species, could have first emerged in this world. Our hypothesis is that this emergence of consciousness would have required that the first humans become humans by their collectively inventing (i.e. someone mysteriously discovering and then somehow sharing with the others) a way to signify, as sacred, the centre or focus of what could become a memorable and re-presentable communal, i.e. human, scene. Unlike the animal pecking order - where one-on-one relationships of dominance and submission are iterated to construct a group hierarchy in which the alpha animal need not address the pack as a whole (thus the pack's origins and history cannot be imagined in communal myths or rituals) but need only be concerned with his immediate rivals and potential mates - the creation of a specifically human scene would have ordered all of the newly human beings in a new way, according to the ways of culture and not simply of nature. (By the way, this is not to imply that our primate cousins have nothing remotely cultural about them, but only that, unlike humans, they have not had the need to leap fully into a world defined by culture as a basis for both social order and freedom.)

The new human community would have been first constituted as periphery around a sacred centre, a human periphery alienated from the centrality that everyone desired - and a sense of alienation would always remain a fundamental quality of human being. The new community took its first steps by exchanging its first sign of language around the central thing or place made sacred or untouchable by this same sign. In other words, the exchange of language emerged as a way to defer conflict over something, maybe meat, that everyone wanted to get their hands on at a moment of disorder when the pecking order was breaking down. Once the first people could all equally share in language, then they could develop new ways of dividing up and exchanging things - on the model of shared language - moving beyond the pecking order to develop a new kind of economy and society.

While this hypothetical original scene would not determine the form or content of all the countless human scenes that have followed it in a historical process of re-discovering and re-presenting the human, all the scenes that have followed share in what is minimal, original, or universal to all human scenes. I believe the goal of our blogging friend, Scenic Politics, is to better understand what is necessary to bring any such scene into existence, the better for us to renew the religious and the political scenes in which we presently take part. (The political scene, as a seculized form of the religious, is of especial interest to our friend.)

Thus Scenic Politics begins his post by reflecting on the universal sense of alienation from the sacred centre that constitutes one key element of our common or original humanity. While we are all alienated to some degree, many political actors today (mis)interpret this reality in order to reduce all human relationships to a terminology of victims (of central authority) and putative victimizers (those deemed `privileged', i.e. closer to the centre than the rest of us). Scenic Politics asks us to throw off this way of thinking, namely "white guilt", and to renew our love and respect for the centre without which we would have no human community, no politics, no exchange, and no way to represent and renew our nations:
Within the originary configuration, we are all located on the margin, sharing our love and resentment toward the center. The effect of the history of de-ritualization, grounded in the Judaic and then Christian revelations, with its unremitting resentment toward the “Big Man” who seizes the ritual center has, in modern democracy, accentuated the resentment at the expense of the love. There is a kind of “center” in contemporary politics, regulated (or perhaps fantasized) by insipid, inoffensive figures like David Gergen and David Broder, or, really, anyone in possession of the latest polling results. And doesn’t every political figure want to be there? The problem, of course, is that such a center is a mirage: sitting down with two dozen polls, and choosing all of those positions claiming majority support will yield nothing but incoherence; and any attempt to put such a “center” into practice will see it instantly evaporate. As with the second term Bill Clinton’s focus on “initiatives” like school uniforms, you hedge more and more, do less and less, and hope nothing real ever happens. But some real things have happened since then.

The prevalence of white guilt as our de facto governing philosophy aggravates this situation. For white guilt, the center is the source of pollution, not sacrality; sacrality is to be found in defending the victims of the center; and the most exemplary victims of the center are precisely those driven to extremes by the extreme violence of the center. It is in confronting white guilt that we will discover what we really need: a genuine resentment on behalf of the center. For white guilt, the center is guilty until proven innocent; and, moreover, the standard of proof is so high that it can never be met: ultimately the center’s very centrality is what is most incriminating. The fact that we can’t prove all we “know” about the center is itself the most irrefutable proof of the center’s insidious and pervasive power.
A genuine resentment on behalf of the center! That strikes me as a pretty damned good summary of what we are trying lovingly to build here at Covenant Zone! Read the whole thing...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

How Does a Nation Die?

Mark Steyn, reviewing Melanie Phillips' Londonistan, raises this question in some reflections on Canadian reactions to the recent arrest of the 17 Jihadists in Toronto:
The other day, listening to an interview on America's National Public Radio with the mayor of Toronto, I was laughing so much I drove off the road. David Miller warmed up with a bit of boilerplate Islamoschmoozing: "You know, in Islam, if you kill one person, you kill everybody. It's a very peaceful religion. And they're as shocked as Torontonians are. And . . ."

Renee Montagne, the anchorette, instantly spotted the ghastly breach of PC etiquette and leapt in: "Well, they sort of are Torontonians," she pointed out.

"Sorry," gulped the mayor, hastily re-smothering Muslims within the great diversity quilt. "They're shocked as every Torontonian is . . ."

Thereafter, Ms. Montagne expressed bafflement that these allegedly alleged fellows would have wanted to commit a terrorist atrocity in what was, compared to the Great Satan next door, "a very open society, very liberal immigration policy, very good social services."

Mayor Miller agreed: "More than half of the people who live in Toronto, including myself, were not born in Canada. And I think that's why Canada works."

"Although it didn't work in this case," Ms. Montagne pointed out, somewhat maliciously.

"Well, we don't expect these kinds of occurrences, exactly because of our public services, because of diversity," blah, blah. Insofar as there's any relation between jihadists and "good social services," the latter seem to attract the former -- at least in the sense that Ahmed Ressam, Zac Moussaoui, the shoe-bomber, the tube bombers, etc., were all products of the Euro-Canadian welfare system. But go ahead, pretend that these guys were upset about insufficient "social services," that they wanted to behead Stephen Harper to highlight the fact that wait times for the beheaded at the Toronto General are now up to 18 months, and they don't always reattach the right head. It's easy to scoff that a chap who can be bothered blowing up the Canadian Parliament must be insane, but, if you were a jihadist sitting in the cave back in the Hindu Kush listening to Renee Montagne and David Miller, wouldn't you conclude that they're the ones who are nuts?
Melanie Phillips makes a point that applies to Britain, Canada and beyond: "With few exceptions, politicians, Whitehall officials, senior police and intelligence officers and academic experts have failed to grasp that the problem to be confronted is not just the assembly of bombs and poison factories but what is going on inside people's heads that drives them to such acts." These are not Pushtun yak herders straight off the boat blowing up trains and buses. They're young men, most of whom were born and all of whom were bred in London, Toronto and other Western cities. And offered the nullity of a contemporary multicultural identity they looked elsewhere -- and found the jihad.
One final thought: Miss Phillips is one of Britain's best-known newspaper columnists. She appears constantly on national TV and radio. No publisher has lost money on her. Yet Londonistan wound up being published first in New York, and its subsequent appearance in Britain is thanks not to Little, Brown (who published her last big book) but to a small independent imprint called Gibson Square. I don't know Miss Phillips's agent, but it's hard not to suspect that glamorous literary London decided it would prefer to keep a safe distance from this incendiary subject.

That's how nations die -- not by war or conquest, but by a thousand trivial concessions, until one day you wake up and you don't need to sign a formal instrument of surrender because you did it piecemeal. How many Muslims in Toronto sympathize with the aims of those arrested last week? Maybe we could use a book on the subject. But which Canadian house would publish it? And would the faint-hearts at Indigo-Chapters carry it?
So Toronto is blessed with a mayor who mimics former Prime Minister Paul Martin in declaring Canada a country of immigrants that has no particular or normative culture and that only works because the elites are happy to deny the existence of the common national culture, with deep roots in this country, in their self-serving and anti-democratic war to pit immigrant voters against the ostensibly reactionary (i.e. too white) normative culture of Canada. This is the same mayor who talks tough every time some young gang "of colour" fire off their guns, but who has no ideas about how to address the cultural morass that makes it impossible to seriously discuss such violence and identify the cultural and social failures in certain communities that engender it. Our politicians all think the road to respect for universal human rights and knowledge of universal values is through some nihilist, self-denying, embrace of "multiculturalism". They are simply too poorly educated to know the paradox that one can only approach or know the universal through first having a solid grounding in a particular historical tradition. To deny Canadians such a tradition of their own is to sentence them to a decadence into some kind of pre-universal, polytheistic world view, where hysterical sacrificial rituals will prevail.

But the mayor is indeed a fair representative of many like minds in Toronto. Not talking about certain things (like the basis for true(r) knowledge of human realities) is the civic pasttime. Today, we hear news of some PC hysteria at Ryerson University. The school, after having decided to award the noted biomedical ethicist, Margaret Somerville, with an honourary degree, went into crisis mode when they later discovered that Prof. Somerville is not a supporter of same-sex "marriage" (her position on this question was known to me and I am only a moderate reader of newspapers). Cries came from all over to rescind the award. Homophobia they charged. (I always thought the charge of homophobia imputed an irrational denial of one's own homosexual desires, and would not apply to a reasoned opinion on the proper nature of marriage, but this is evidently not so in Toronto the good.) The university awards comittee met again and declared that if they had known about Somerville's questionable position, they probably would not have given the award, but now they are stuck... since they have to grudgingly admit Somerville a right to her opinion.

And this from an institution that calls itself a university and that wanted to award a learned woman for her work which has little to do with the same-sex "marriage" debate, an award that is now tarnished, and thus may not be accepted. It seems that if you hold one un-pc position, you are persona non grata, your right, nay responsibility, to freely speak your mind be damned.

It is such denial of free speech in the face of various pc denials of reality, such as the incompatibility of traditional Canadian freedoms with much of the historically-documented realities of Islam and Jihad, that could end up killing a lot of people, not to mention our national culture. Once again (and a little less jokingly each time) I raise the question, if Canada is to survive must it first separate from Toronto?

Friday, June 16, 2006


This week, the National Post has published a series of essays on the question of how the approach to multiculturalism, that has recently become a fundamental part of the Canadian identity, can survive its encounter with Jihadist violence. Since this is a theme this blog will regularly explore, I commend these essays to you, with the note that the writers chosen by the National Post have little to offer by way of a solution, or vision of a renewed Canadian Covenant, to replace the variety of multiculturalism they have come to denounce. Thus our task here is evident. I have only read the four of the five essays that do not require a subscription to the Post. I recommend especially the Tuesday essay by Gordon Nickel, for its lucid account of the question of whether Islam is usually and reasonably interpreted by its followers as compelling violence in the name of Jihad. The other essays by Robert Fulford, George Jonas, and Melanie Phillips are more focussed on the question of multiculturalism policy. All four essays encourage dicussion, which I am happy to engage in comments here. Here are the links:
Robert Fulford; Gordon Nickel; Wednesday essay by subscription only; George Jonas; Melanie

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Media forgets to report implied threat of al-Sistani to Canada

Thanks to a heads up from Jihad Watch (see also here), I've been reading news reports on yesterday's announcement of a fatwa in Montreal. In the words of the CBC:
Iraq's top Shia cleric sent a message Wednesday to Muslims in Western nations, urging them to obey the laws of the countries in which they live.

The fatwa, a non-binding directive, was delivered at a Montreal news conference of prominent Shia Muslims on behalf of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

"Muslims have undertaken to obey the laws of the country of their residence and thus they must be faithful to that undertaking," the statement read.

It condemned all acts of violence and encouraged imams to keep a watchful eye on what's going on inside their mosques.
However, in none of the English-language reports have I found what was reported by Radio Canada and noted by Robert Spencer:
Jihad Watch reader Marc has alerted me to a qualifying phrase that pops up in this French-language story about the fatwa:

L'ayatollah Al-Sistani ordonne aux musulmans canadiens de respecter les lois en vigueur dans leur pays d'accueil, « dans la mesure où les valeurs religieuses ne sont pas bafouées ».

That is, "The Ayatollah Al-Sistani orders Muslims of Canada to respect the laws of their host country, 'insofar as religious values are not ridiculed.'"

And if they are?
So here we have a scene in which all the major English-Canadian news organizations have reported on this story in glowing terms - Moslems are promising peace - all the while declining to note the underlying message of the street thug - "keep out of my way and you're cool; dis me and watch out!" - or to remind the clerics involved that criticism of religion is a fundamental and nation-defining right in Canada, and that asking us to restrain from its practice is itself a form of blasphemy in our books. (See also the CBC in-depth report; the Montreal Gazette; the Canadian Press; CTV news; and the Globe and Mail.)

At least the Globe and Mail has the conscience to report:
But Sheik Ali Sbeiti, imam at the Muslim Community Centre of Montreal, also cautioned that Canada has to realize that its foreign policies, including its commitment of troops in Afghanistan, have repercussions at home.

"Canada is shifting its policy to become more pro-American on international issues," he said in an interview. "This creates a kind of tension."

"Canada is involved in Afghanistan, and not as peacekeepers. Muslims would feel that Canada is in a country whose soldiers are fighting fellow Muslims.

"Every time Canada takes action in the international field, you have to consider that is has 800,000 Muslims in Canada watching."
So once again we are told that if a free and democratic country chooses a policy that the Umma (the worldwide "community" of Muslims) doesn't like, then watch out, there will be "tensions" at home. If we are so evil as to show sympathy with the Americans, watch out. This line of thought calls to mind our post from April, Canada and the Umma, where we reported on the new policy in the Department of Foreign Affairs, under which Canada sees fit to develop its foreign policy through consultation with representatives of the Umma in Canada, as if Moslems as a group were not simply a fact of our religious life, but also of our political life. The new policy, in viewing Muslims in Canada as a political lobby, might well entail erosion of our commitment to a world order that has been defined in terms of an international system whose legitimate political actors are primarily nations and states, and much less religions. That we might not support the Afghan state against the Taliban, because it offends some self-appointed representative of "Canadian Moslems" who figures a Canadian soldier killing devout Moslems is sacrilegious - somehow more evil, and less necessary, than other forms of war that our democratically-elected government justifies - should be an outrageous idea in this country. That such talk is in the air at present suggests we need do more work to get the Harper government to commit to breaking off conversations over foreign affairs with so-called representatives of the "Muslims in Canada". (Muslims who can speak to our relationships with nations and states should have a role, but not as representatives of the Umma.) Our interest and declared policy is in an international order of secular nation states, and we should consult with people accordingly; Muslim one worlders should have no voice in our councils, unless such imperialists may serve us in facilitating necessary conversations with unavoidable political actors whose politics we hope to marginalize.

One might note in concluding that the CBC report ends by quoting Tarek Fatah, the Toronto media's favorite liberal Muslim, the leader of an organization that proclaims anyone who identifies as a Muslim is a Muslim (whatever beliefs they may hold) and that also professes belief in the separation of church and state, even as it identifies as a Muslim organization which, when not criticizing Canada's febrile Imams, spends a lot of its time condemning America and Israel:
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said it's encouraging that clerics would promote obedience to the rule of law, but disappointing that the message needs to come through a fatwa.

"It's so medieval to be thinking … religious dictates should govern how we live our lives," said Fatah.

He said he doesn't doubt the group's sincerity, but that Canadian Muslims shouldn't be governed from overseas.

"He should not be telling me how to behave," said Fatah, who said al-Sistani has issued earlier fatwas saying gays and lesbians should be killed.
So there you have it: whether you listen to the religious or the secular Muslims, you are sure to see the line between religion and politics blurred, precisely because the line that we enjoy in secular nations that have emerged from the Judeo-Christian tradition does not exist in Islam. In this situation, surely Canada should make it clear that Muslims advocating Jihadist violence will be imprisoned or deported, and we should be paying little attention to fatwas that are inherently (if only the MSM would report the truth) anti-secular and supremacist in nature. Similarly, we should pay little attention to voices that are primarily identifying as "Muslim" and yet are all about politics and not about developing private and personal religious faith. Whatever the confused promises of "multiculturalism", we cannot be all things to all people. We either separate organized religion and state, or we do not.

Ideally, our government should be paying about as much attention to Muslim clerics as it pays to the ministers of the United Church of Canada. The fact that we presently pay much more attention to the imams suggests that we recognize Islamic integration (or lack thereof) in the west is a problem that must be discussed (even if we have yet to throw off the pc blinkers to discuss it properly); however, it may also be the case that we are making a mistake akin to over-indulging and giving too much attention to a problem youth who is acting out, having not yet been fully initiated into society, and who is refusing to play fully by Canadian rules. If so, perhaps tough love will serve better than endless therapy: we should make very clear that the law will be upheld and otherwise pay a religious group minimal political attention.

Found at last: a devout and moderate Public Muslim?

We need to do more research on this guy:
"Multiculturalism takes away our complete undivided loyalties to this country," explains [Dr. Mahfooz] Kanwar, a criminologist, and professor of sociology at Mount Royal College in Calgary.

"Multiculturalism has been bad for unity in Canada. It ghettoizes people, makes them believe, wrongly, that isolating themselves and not adapting to their new society is OK. It is not," says Kanwar, a devout Muslim.
Kanwar also rejected the idea put forward on Thursday by members of Ontario's Muslim community who said Muslim youth are becoming radicalized because they are "marginalized" in Canadian society.

"They marginalize themselves," he said. "I came to Canada in 1966. I did not speak a word of English. I worked hard, furthered my education. No Canadian marginalized me ever. I don't see any country in the world better than Canada."
But what of Canadian society on the whole, which is expected to tolerate the wives, mothers and daughters of these accused terrorists wearing complete face masks all the time in public since they wear burqas that reveal only their eyes? Kanwar said covering one's face in Canada should be illegal.

"I'm sick and tired of political correctness," said Kanwar from his Calgary home.

"When I talk to other immigrants who complain about Canada I say, 'if you hate this country, why don't you go back to hell where you came from?' I tell them, 'nobody begged you to come here and no one will stop you if you want to go. So, go to hell and get the hell out of here.'"

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Covenant Zone/Blue Scarf Meeting

Every Thursday, 7-9 pm, in the atrium of the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library (in front of Blenz coffee). Join us, have fun chatting about the new conservatism, and help make this blog into something...

"the resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel"

Not to put too fine a point on it. This from Iranian Presidential advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin in conference with Iranian university students.
"'Historically, there are many accusations against the Jews. For example, it was said that they were the source for such deadly disease as the plague and typhus. This is because the Jews are very filthy people. For a time people also said that they poisoned water wells belonging to Christians and thus killed them,' Ramin said.
"While acknowledging not knowing the source of these events around the world, Ramin said, 'I only know that Jews have been accused of such conspiracies and sabotage throughout history and have not performed well.'
"Claiming that the Holocaust was the principal reason why Palestine was occupied while Israel was the main cause of crises and catastrophe in the Middle East. 'So long as Israel exists in the region there will never be peace and security in the Middle East,' he said adding, 'So the resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel.'...
Who knows what is lost in the MEMRI translation, but perhaps what this noodlehead implies in that last paragraph is that the Palestinian situation is part of the Holocaust, that the Jews are the new Nazis, and thus they must be wiped out. While this is not perhaps the most evident meaning, why must there be a "resolution" of the Holocaust issue? Is it to justify the resentments that have been encouraged by the promoters of the postcolonial "white guilt" and victimary thinking that have spread from the west around the world in the wake of World War II (the promoters who have made every asymmetrical relationship into a question of Nazis and Jews)? What kind of people need a solution to the historical failures of those who pursue final solutions? Why do the kind of losers who like to cry "Bushitler" think that their resentment will be overcome if only they can, just once, win big? Why don't they know that the human condition and history will in any event continue and the spiritually rotten will remain losers, resentful like the rest of us, and still in need of more Jews to blame? Where does such religious naivete come from?