Friday, May 16, 2003

Dear Israeli readers, any ideas on...
  1. ... how to smuggle Zack safely in and out of Israel for the the Pakistani-Israeli driving competition he proposes (the comments relate to to this somewhat moody post of mine)?

  2. ... how to get the eminiently readable Sha! to update his archives (don't suggest mailing him - this I have already tried...) - unless, of course, he is preparing to introduce the latest in online publishing, a paid archived content scheme?
My blogging is/was/will be light these days, fortunately, there are other bloggers ou there writing almost exactly what I think. For two samples, check out a sensible informed and a sensible egoistic posts on the current Transantlantic squabbles.
My voice of reason

Thank you, Meryl, for the kind words. I am really touched.

Frankly, I was pretty mad at both sides, which must have mollified my overall tone in a mysterious way. Under normal conditions I'd start spitting as well, but I hate to see what I consider my side in antisemitism debates present poor arguments. And no, I wasn't thinking you were looking for kudos in the Google News affair - that "claims credit" was just of of my linguistic slips, sorry.

Btw., my archives always function. I am currently busy propagating a simple discovery: they should be republished manually after new posts. All it takes are two extra clicks.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Since you were wondering, Allison --

Saudi Arabia delays U.S. team investigating Riyadh bombings:
An FBI team sent to investigate the suicide bombings on Western targets in Riyadh has been delayed in Germany as it awaits Saudi permission to enter the kingdom, leaving the U.S. still waiting to test the level of cooperation with Saudi authorities.


Sources in the American security establishment expressed fear that the delay of their arrival on the scene of the attacks will make efforts to secure witnesses more difficult.

Despite the hold-up, the White House noted that cooperation with the Saudis is good. U.S. President George W. Bush spoke by telephone with Saudi Crown Prince Amir Abdullah and received a promise for full cooperation in the investigation.


Last week, after it became clear there were fears of potential attacks in Saudi territory, the U.S. Embassy requested the Saudi authorities increase security around facilities in Riyadh in which American citizens live.

According to Robert Jordan, U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, there was no Saudi response to the American request for additional security.


Saud [Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal] said he had not received a request from the American ambassador to intensify security measures around the U.S. facilities.
Anyone surprised?

Update:To illustrate the reporting chaos:

According to three Arab reports, Sunday night's suicide attacks on US targets in Saudi Arabia killed up to 100 people
May 13, 2003 01:54 pm CET

By Zaher Barakate

A news team from the Saudi daily "Al Watan" witnessed one of the suicide attacks on American residential compounds last night in Riyadh's eastern suburbs. They reported that at least seven car-bombs exploded, beginning at 11 PM local time. The daily also disclosed that heavy gunfire followed the attacks. This corroborates the suicide-attack report and also indicates that other terrorists were on the scene to engage armed guards and police in a frontal clash. The daily reported that the death toll exceeded 20, including five Saudis. Up to 100 people are now believed to have been killed. Official Saudi government sources, however, initially placed the death toll at only 3, with forty wounded.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdelaziz, contacted by the daily, confirmed that there had been a suicide attack, although he declared that only three car-bombs had exploded. Nayef said three charred corpses which had been found were the bodies of the terrorists. He promised to issue further statements as soon as a full investigation has been carried out. Nevertheless, he blamed the attack on "foreign elements," without citing Al-Qaeda, unlike sources from the United States.

The Lebanese daily "Assafir" pointed out that last night's attack in Riyadh came less than one week after Saudi officials announced they had dismantled an Islamist terror network connected to Al-Qaeda, despite the fact that none of the 19 presumed members of the network had been arrested. The attacks also followed shortly after a communiqué, issued by a movement with close ties to bin Laden, containing threats to US interests, and just before US Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in Saudi Arabia. The attacks were directed against US-owned businesses in Riyadh, in both the oil and security sectors, as well as the residential compounds where foreign employees and their families live. The daily's foreign news correspondents reported dozens of casualties.

According to eyewitnesses cited by the Lebanese daily "An-Nahar", three batteries of bombs exploded in Riyadh's eastern suburbs, off the airport highway. The first two attacks were carried out using three car-bombs timed to explode at four-minute intervals. The third explosion destroyed four homes in an enclave of about 600 dwellings where Westerners live. Last week, Saudi police found a regular arsenal of explosives and automatic weapons inside one of the homes in this compound. According to the correspondent from "Al Arabiya" satellite television, at least 25 bodies have been found inside the "Granada" residential compound. The "Hamra" complex was also hit. Local residents reported seeing ambulances and emergency vehicles.
Beautiful: the Butterfly Alphabet
Idiotic conspiracy theory of the week

(This post has been altered - I recovered a small part of my good manners after a while)

Quoth a Canadian journalist (via Instapundit):
Salam is the scion of a senior figure from Iraq's Baathist nomenclature. He was brought up at least partly in Vienna, which is the OPEC headquarters; his father was therefore an oilman, and possibly a former head of Iraq's OPEC mission.
Let me see. There are surely a couple of thousands of Russian citizens in and around Washington, D.C., and even more Chinese. What could their sole occupation be, if one applies a similar theory?
Or perhaps Salam himself or any one of them was directly employed by Mr. Saddam's very extensive, and in places quite sophisticated, network of Soviet-modelled spy and disinformation networks -- we cannot know yet.
And so on.
What we can know, just by reading his blog, is that this Salam is up to no good. He is spreading "inside views" of the new Iraq, not only to the blogosphere, but directly among the journalists still encamped at the Meridian (formerly Palestine, formerly Meridian) hotel.
Please. Get your heads out of your browsers and the blogosphere out of your heads for a while. What on the earth can a blog like this plus a couple of chats with international journalists achieve? Everything the combined diplomatic and political forces of at least three quarters of the world's countries plus the domestic opposition within the pro-war block failed at? Just like this, a one-man conspiracy to bring down the American post-war plans for Iraq? I'm sure it would make a best-selling thriller.

Come to think of it, did someone mention freedom of expression for the liberated Iraqis?

And if you really want to know, why don't you try the simplest thing in the world first: ask?

Update: My objections to the first quoted paragraph are here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

For the record

From the new English version of "Proche Orient" - Miguel Angel Moratinos : «You are asking if Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. I refuse to answer that question.»
By Jeremy de Vidas

Miguel Angel Moratinos is, since 1996, the European Union's special representative for the Middle East peace process. Between 1984 and 1987, he was political advisor to the Spanish Embassy in Rabat before becoming adjunct director general in Madrid for North Africa (1987-1991). Later, he became general director for the Institute for the Cooperation with the Arab World (1991-1993), general director of foreign policy on North Africa and the Middle-East and finally Spanish Ambassador to Israel from June to December 1996.

Jérémy De Vidas What is the European Union's position today on Syria, notably concerning the Syrian troops stationed in Lebanon ?

Miguel Angel Moratinos I believe that the European Union has maintained an open and constructive dialogue with Syria. The Union has always demanded the implementation of the Security Council's resolutions. We know that there is an agreement between Syria and Lebanon on the troop situation, and we would like to arrive at a general agreement for the entire region. We have always insisted that Syria is a strategic partner of Europe, above all at this difficult time. We will continue to seek the best way to maintain a dialogue with them.

J. De Vidas Where is the European position on Hezbollah at now ?

M. A. Moratinos The European Union's demands are quite clear. The resistance, however it may be, must be peaceful and political. It must neither be violent nor terrorist. That is our stance. It is up to the Labanese who have seats in the Parliament to continue to represent their people. The Union will not accept a violent or militarized resistance.

J. De Vidas In a word, is Hezbollah a terrorist organization ?

M.A. Moratinos I refuse to answer that question.
Read Language Hat's short take on a new book about the Levantine culture.
"The Jewish look is so 1999"

Harry R. is insufficiently Aryan to appear on MTV - via Allison

Interesting, this difference in perception. Around my place, such incidents are not necessarily regarded as jokes. Not by everyone, to be exact. In my vocabulary, it's called racism. Its antisemitic variety, in this case.
Just seen a rather boring weblog whose author has decided to dump permalinks alltogether, since he can't be bothered with republishing the archives. The result - one long, long link-free page...

Update - Dept. of self-promotion: The blogger in question has not only found the way to this post, but also linked to it from his blog.

Monday, May 12, 2003

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Seventh Level of Hell!

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Very High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Extreme
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Very High

Take the Dante's Divine Comedy Inferno Test

Via Zack who is destined to share the accomodations with me. We'll both look up enviously to Al-Muhajabah.

I am not only Violent. I am also Fraudulent, Malicious, Treacherous, Wrathful and Gloomy and I want to live up to it --
note that several English translations of "The Divine Comedy" are availiable online at no charge.
Free/low-cost blog hosting and commenting alternatives?

Anyone ever heard of Bloggedup, Mobynuke and 22blog?
Salam Pax produces for the first time a witness to his, Salam's, existence with a full name and verifiable occupation.
Administrative note: the posts on this page have been written and "posted" over the weekend, but "published" just now. Blogger doesn't permit date reformatting, alas, so don't be surprised if this page looks so different from half an hour ago.
The sweetest revenge

Read Allison's translation of a Hebrew article describing the reopening of "Mike's Place".
Miranda the rude observes a flame war

(Note: the following has been written about 15 hours ago, and has been hanging around in my computer getting checked for typos. 15 hours are a long time in a heated blogosphere debate, but I don't have time to keep up with the latest developments. My opinions stand as they are.)

I have made the mistake of not resisting the temptation to post several comments (the corresponding post) regarding the never-ending discussion set off by Aziz Poonawalla's bright pronouncements on the Israeli "genetic bomb" and currently revolving around the issue of whether the forcibly retired blogger Diana Moon is advocating the genocide of all Muslims. [See Update II at the end of the post.]

Now, children, a clean fight is always more honourable than a dirty one, and this applies to all participators.

To begin with, there are no hard criteria for antisemitism. If Diana Moon, a Jew, perceives the motivation behind Aziz Poonawalla's ignorant pursuit of the subject as antisemitic, she has every right in the world to voice her discomfort. In the same way, if Aziz Poonawalla, a Muslim, perceives Diana Moon's negative attitude towards him as resulting from her "anti-muslimism" (the expression is new to me, borrowed from the same post by Aziz), he has every right in the world to state it. Whatever "anti-muslimism" may be, it is, like any other bias, ultimately for the victim to judge.

There are many more illogical assumptions involved. Diana's attempt to apply conclusions drawn from Aziz' statements alone to all Muslims is obviously flawed. Aziz is under no greater obligation to prove that "moderate Muslims" are good and noble people lest Diana would think poorly of them than any Jew to display his or her rejection of Jewish extremist violence against Palestinians on demand. Indeed, as a Jew enjoying the European debate on the subject in real life, I often respond to such turns of conversation with a large part of my expletive vocabulary. The fact that the total numbers of Jewish and Muslim extremists are wildly disproportionate doesn't change the quality of the debating tactic as such. On the other had, it might have been logical to write that Aziz himself doesn't live up to his claims of "moderation" -- provided he ever made them, which I don't know.

The discussion obtained the quality of a Woody Allen family drama the moment a conservative blogger previously unknown to me, Tacitus, jumped in with a somewhat chaotic post accusing Diana of nothing less than "mentally subscribing to a dialectic wherein Muslims must be exterminated". And with this Flame War II was ablaze in full glory.

When I read such sentences, my first reflex is to grab a reference work to guard myself against linguistic pitfalls:

1. The art or practice of arriving at the truth by the exchange of logical arguments.

2a. The process especially associated with Hegel of arriving at the truth by stating a thesis, developing a contradictory antithesis, and combining and resolving them into a coherent synthesis.

b. Hegel's critical method for the investigation of this process.

3a. The Marxian process of change through the conflict of opposing forces, whereby a given contradiction is characterized by a primary and a secondary aspect, the secondary succumbing to the primary, which is then transformed into an aspect of a new contradiction. Often used in the plural with a singular or plural verb.

b. The Marxian critique of this process.

4. dialectics (used with a sing. verb) A method of argument or exposition that systematically weighs contradictory facts or ideas with a view to the resolution of their real or apparent contradictions.

5. The contradiction between two conflicting forces viewed as the determining factor in their continuing interaction.

Tacitus (does the blogosphere also host a Cicero and a Seneca?), I decided, must have had something approaching version 4 in mind. "Viewpoint" (or similar) instead of "dialectic" would have probably done better, since both Diana and Charles Johnson (mentioned on the same breath) were voicing their immediate impressions (a.k.a. gut feelings) rather than performing complicated mental acrobatics ("systematically weighting", etc.).

Should my position be unclear so far, Diana has made not the most intelligent of her statements. Yet, she was questioning attitudes, not advocating a course of action.

Someone ought to help Diana find a decent new employer. The poor soul was forced to publish a guest post on someone else's ugly-named blog. While her response to the "genocidal dialectic" theory is quite adequate, her insistence on Aziz' inherent "Muslimness" as the main factor behind all of his writings on Israel and Jews in general is questionable, to put it mildly. In my perception, all of Aziz' non-religious posts (the ones I've read) could have been just as well written by the WASPishest of all "Counterpunch", "Zmag" & Co. fans. If I didn't know it, I wouldn't have ever guessed his background. He sounds exactly like thousands of others. "Indigenous" extremist Muslim rhetoric rings completely differently.

Now, I am a poor judge of the nuances of American public discourse. In my, mostly the germano- and francophone, part of the world, I don't buy the notion of antisemitism as a fundamentalist Muslim import contamining our free societies otherwise innoncent of this sentiment since 1945. What does happen is that immigrants often try to find common ground with native majorities by copying and reinforcing the already existing prejudices towards third parties. Nothing unites better than a common enemy. Thus, many Eastern Europeans "know" practically on arrival what a burden Africans are for a clean and civilized country, non-Muslim Asians "know" how terrible is it to have to deal with Muslims, Turks are horrifed at the unrest caused by Kurds on European streets, they "knew" these troublemakers all along, and so on. Unsurprisingly, pseudo-Third World anti-Jewish prejudice sells beautifully among European natives -- on the line of nature's unspoiled children speaking out what we would never dare to ("we" do it, but never mind) -- the way the original, rather frightening, rhetorics never would. (There are also other factors involved, but I don't want to throw this post too much off track.)

This is not what I think of Aziz' personal motivations. Obviously, I don't know the exact American social context, therefore I withhold my judgement on this. This is what I think when I see immigrants with a similar background in Europe reproduce impeccably Western constructs on issues related to Jews.

I never shared the delight over the famous "lanat upon the hirabists" post, much lauded as a principled statement against attacks on Israeli civilians throughout the blogosphere. On one hand, I rely completely on Aziz' personal theological differentiation between "harabah" and "jihad" (I cannot follow Charles Johnson's objections on this - why should non-Muslims cling to interpretations of Islamic terminology by certain groups of Muslims alone? Even at the time of the Inquisition, not all Christians agreed upon the notion of torture and executions for "holy purposes" as the non plus ultra of applied Christian love, did they? Or is it too easy to get used to the term "jihad" as a general pejorative?). On the other, the mention of Mohammed al-Dura, whose -- doubtlessly tragic -- death has been blown up to a permanent fixture of hate propaganda against Israel, gives the entire text a dubious ring.

But again, there is nothing specifically Muslim about this sleight of hand as such. The scheme "bad, bad bombers -- poor, poor, Palestinians" is, in fact, a familiar cozy Western one.

Being human, Aziz probably couldn't resist repaying Diana with the same coin. If his political views are supposed to result solely from his Muslimness, then Diana's are a consequence of her -- what did you think? no, not the J-word, "but because she is an Israeli partisan, and thus sees all Muslims through lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which she equates to "The Jewish-Muslim Conflict"." Here, the same argumentation as above applies to a certain degree as well: much of Diana's statements on Muslims could -- again, I'm going mostly by my region -- have just as well come from a non-Jew without any particular sympathy towards Israel arguing against Muslim immigration. More likely from someone influenced by 9/11.

There is in such debates a genuine imbalance concerning historic realities. The mass extermination of Jews by non-Jews did take place within recent memory, a mass extermination of Muslims by non-Muslims didn't. While there is ample documentation of rhetoric leading directly to the former, statements about the latter are a pure conjecture, tasteless to the point of insanity (can anyone seriously picture the U.S., for all the shortcomings of the current administration, perform a genocide against Muslims?) at that.

The same goes for present-day threat assessment. The notion of danger on a large scale emanating from Jews is paranoid. (In the most recent "Western" case, involving the "Jewish influence" on the British and American governments, one can, among other things, question whether the "Washington hawks" are really helping Israel.) The large-scale threat to Jews Diana writes about
There are a couple of dozen Islamic polities in which Jew-hatred is a big business. Every species of rage on earth -- political, social, sexual, you name it -- is being processed into a potent brand of paranoid frenzy in the Muslim world. The object of this paranoid ideation is Jews and Israel. It's not a small, negligible feature of otherwise admirable societies. This stuff is big business. It is recycled in mosques, sold in tapes, and taken for granted as truth. And it's not a function of poverty or colonialism, because Muslim immigrants have taken it with them to the places to which they've emigrated in large enough numbers to create communities. I have a friend who was raised a Muslim. He no longer believes, but he occasionally goes to mosque to satisfy the in-laws. He tells me that anti-Semitism and paranoia about Israel are very intense in his own family and “the Jews” are a regular topic of conversation in the mosque.
is real and I most certainly perceive the mindset Diana describes in correct detail as a source of mortal danger for my people, everywhere in the world. In terms of relative numbers (an interesting occupation for a leisurely moment is to make a rough estimate of how many people out there believe that the world would be a better place without Jews, divide it through the number of living Jews -- I doubt any other ethnic or religious group could even remotely compete with us regarding the range of the results -- and then forget it as quickly as possible), the physical potential for massive attacks on Jews by extremist Muslims is there. Just ask the European* security establishment, not known for its Zionist sympathies and unlikely to see anything through the lens of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its Jewish interpretation. Visiting some of our more exposed synagogues feels like entering a high-security prison these days. Guess why.

This is not to deny the existence of street-level racism directed against Muslim immigrants in the West, with its clear potential for a much higher incidence of lynch justice than the one we have witnessed so far -- a situation that calls for efficient security measures by the authorities. [See Update I at the end of the post.] If this is the "anti-muslimism" in question --
The point of Tacitus' comment is that her [Diana's] words, aimed at Muslims, create an atmosphere (see LGF) that facilitates anti-muslimism.
-- well, "mass extermination" is something else, and I honestly wish Aziz and his religious brethren not to find out what it feels like in real life. Don't paint the devil on the wall, a German proverb says.

Another peculiarity is the disparate evaluation of statements from both sides in terms of conceivable practical consequences. Diana comes under fire not just because of the content of her remarks, but mostly because of their potential negative real-world consequences in the given social context. Yet -- doesn't this apply the other way round as well? Where is the concern about the potential of -- as freedom of the speech goes, legitimate -- criticism of Israel to unleash antisemitism under equally real-world conditions? (The latter scenario has been already amply observed in France over the last years where Muslim youths have happily stated on numerous occassions that it was the mainstream French TV reporting on "the suffering of the Palestinian people" in loving detail that motivated them to antisemitic violence.) Could an overdose of Israel-bashing, however legitimate in theory, fortify the illusion of legitimacy and public acceptance of antisemitism in its most murderous forms in the minds of paranoiacs and thus become one day the match that ignites the explosion? Has a single critic of Israel ever given thought to that, just for a second?

This scenario is a pure conjecture on my part, mostly for the sake of restoring conceptual symmetry.

Last, the Internet Jewish Cabal (short: IJC) as represented by the lawful proprietress of this weblog affirms its profound respect for the right of all bloggers to make fools of themselves over every subject conceivable as guaranteed by the American Constitution and other relevant documents. At the same time, the IJC reserves the right to voice its opinion where and when it sees fit. Specifically, it is much more interesting to read voluminous texts when they contain either a unique personal angle or well-researched information originating from other sources than superficial impersonal potpourris of what has already been said and written countless times before.

To sum it up, a number of bloggers and commenters have made poorly thought-out statements on explosive subjects. I'd be happy to see my corner of the blogosphere return to its regular schedule. As far as I am concerned, the main part of the current debate -- on persons -- is closed. Other debates -- on the relation of traditional religious teachings to the present-day social realities of many Muslim countries and expat communities, the role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Western political discourse, the relation of words to actions, the role of Muslim minorities in Western countries, etc. -- are worth being pursued in a serious manner.


* "European" as in Continental "Old Europe". I hope I'll find the time to write about The Continent vs. Britain (vs. the States before 9/11) in more detail.


[posted at 5/14/2003 8:55:40 PM:]

Update I: This post has received more attention than I expected, causing me to re-read it. I am not a careful writer, so there is one point (surely more than one, but I'll leave it at that) that needs to be expanded. I have written above:
This is not to deny the existence of street-level racism directed against Muslim immigrants in the West, with its clear potential for a much higher incidence of lynch justice than the one we have witnessed so far -- a situation that calls for efficient security measures by the authorities.
The situation certainly calls for addressing anti-Muslim bias and incitement on the communicational level as well. The same applies for any other negative -isms.

Update II: For proper background - read the comments by Randall Parker and the ensuing discussion on "Gene Expression".

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Gil links to the weblog of an 18-year-old Israeli who has, according to a posts from May the 7th and the 8th brought "Google news" to drop "Indymedia" from its sources -- with a single e-mail to "Google". What followed were tons of hate mail from "Indymedia" fans, unsurprisingly. Now, if "Only in Israel"'s author would get his or her permalinks to function...

The question of how a rag-tag semi-anonymous project like the "Indymedia" did ever find its way into what is supposed to be a database of news reports by professional media institutions in the first place remains open.

Update: OnlyInIsrael points out in the comments that Google must have received many e-mails of the same kind.

Update II: Meryl Yourish claims credit as well. Good work, everyone.
Here is a simple proposal: anyone offering comprehensive ideas on the long-term solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should spend at least half a year riding Israeli buses daily.
Uriah International

I prefer to spam on other people's blogs rather than write on my own these days, it looks. Maybe it was the storm that spent a day and a half deciding whether or not to pay us a visit. Imagine a medium-sized city sandwiched in between hills to prevent air circulation whose entire population can choose between choking, splitting headaches or both.

Whatever. It was a useful exercise.

Jonathan the Head Heeb as usual, my victim of choice (1, 2) since my return. Some of the following I have already written in the comments to his second "Uriah" post. Inspired by the news about the Israeli Interior Minister granting citizenship to "non-Jewish soldiers, he voices a somewhat peculiar claim:

But shouldn't the Arabs who serve in the Israeli army receive the same accolade? For them, of course, the problem is not citizenship - they already have that. Their difficulty is social rather than legal - that even those who fight for Israel aren't regarded as co-nationals by a significant fraction of the Israeli population. Arabs who serve in the IDF, however, have cast their lot with Israel and joined the Zionist enterprise every bit as much as the ten paratroopers honored by Poraz. If a Uriah who is Russian can be accepted as a member of the tribe, so should a Uriah who is Bedouin or Druze.

The soldiers in question are indeed all of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union, according to this article (in Russian, scroll down to "Avraam Poraz: Roditeli soldat poluchat..."). Contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily mean that they are Russians, whether by ethnicity or native language, nor that they are baptized Russian Orthodox Christians.

Permit me to digress.

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the world's Jewry, after the fall of the Soviet Union it turned out that the Soviet Jews' self-definition (I h-a-t-e the term "identity") was, while doubtlessly there, often a vague one in terms the rest of the world, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, could be comfortable with. More of a specific way of thinking, usually of speaking and writing as well, of an approach, than of keeping up anything resembling an immediately recognizable tradition, however superficially. The type of Soviet Jew I'm writing about would have never seriously regarded Judaism as an obligation that could or should be in any way permitted to interfere with his very own ideas of how to live his life. (One may argue, as some do, that this individualitity is already shaped by divine forces... Naturally, I use "he" as a shorthand for both sexes here.) If he is a Jew, than acting Jewish is what he does, period. In real life, this is much less of a sacrilege than it may sound to some, rather a practical extension of the wise notion that "Sabbath is there for you, not you for the Sabbath". By the same token, Jews are not donkeys whose main task is to transport unadulterated Judaism on their shoulders for the coming generations to continue the endless march, but rather the practice of Judaism is there to enhance Jewish lives to the degree every Jew is free to decide upon.

To someone like this the question what is Jewish about him is a Radio Armenia joke. There is no about him. He is Jewish. Every word he says is Jewish. His hair is Jewish. Demanding from him to present evidence of his Jewishness is to him like asking for additional proofs of the fact that he has a digestive system. Questions? How dare Rabbi XYZ ask any? Who gave him the right? How do you explain to your fellow humans that you are exactly what you are and nothing else? And, after all, everyone can learn a couple of Hebrew prayers by heart. Thank your stars for the faded wisps of paper on which it stands that your maternal granny was Jewish, something they, these black-clad weirdos and whoever listens to them call Jewish.

If he is a Jew and get along well with his spouse, the spouse is Jewish. If he brings children up, the children are Jewish. A synagogue can be only as Jewish as he feels at home there.

If there is yet no suitable model to explain his personality, then it is because the combined resources of rabbinical thought have been wasted for lesser challenges. Not his fault, is it?

Only in a place like the SU was could such attitudes go unchallenged. Non-Jews didn't declare themselves Jews just for the sake of it. The external pressure was sufficient to drive away unfriendly intruders. And - there was no fashion for dandified Judaism as an exotic intellectual exercise.

If Jewishness is where and what the individual Jew is then there is little problem marrying non-Jews as long as one gets along with them on personal level. The non-Jewish spouse would be typically assimilated into a kind of secular Jewishness. And - in country that has witnessed plenty of bloody antisemitic campaigns, any non-Jew throwing his or her lot in with a Jew accepted a considerable burden, an additional selection factor in such marriages. I submit that most non-Jewish spouses of Jews from the former Soviet Union have no less a claim to Jewish solidarity than IDF servicemen of Arab descent.

All of this has so far been anathema to the larger parts of the Jewish establishment, which continues to insist on a formalistic approach intended to preserve a praehistoric notion of "Jewish purity" - the costs to real-world Jews be damned.

The former Soviet Union was a relatively liberal society with regard to the sacred instituion of marriage in its own rather eccentric manner. While unregistered unions were deemed officially unacceptable (an unmarried couple couldn't as much as rent a common hotel room), divorces were easy, and, in many social circles, illegitimate children were not much of a stigma. Children of divorced couples remained almost exclusively with their mothers, the fathers often maintaining little to none contact. The result is a high number of families where the actual father is not the biological and/or the legal one.

This accounts for children without a drop of Jewish blood in them growing up as impeccable Jews, as far as the type of Jewishness described above goes, under the influence of their Jewish stepfathers. If they were young enough, they were permitted to enter Israel as children of their stepfathers' non-Jewish wives, but they were granted only residence permits, not citizenship. The only way to improve their status in the eyes of the Jewish officialdom is for their mothers to undergo the torturous process* of Orthodox conversion. Few do it, for obvious reasons. (As an aside, some conversion candidates are reported to be more welcome than others.* Please note that this is not intended to belittle serious convertites to Judaism or Orthodox Jewry as such. What I find disgusting is the very wordly abuse of power under the guise of spirituality.)

Of course, there are other scenarios, such as missing papers, but this is the one I mostly hear about. There are plenty of similar cases in (or rather, crying beneath the unkind walls of) the Diaspora communities as well.

Admirable as the Poraz decision is, there is one aspect I find disturbing. What about young people with the same background unfit for army service for health reasons?

To return to the actual subject, what surprises me most in the statement quoted above is that
even those [Arabs] who fight for Israel aren't regarded as co-nationals by a significant fraction of the Israeli population

Israeli citizenship as such doesn't heighten the acceptance among those who stick to religious criteria, and, to judge by attitudes I can observe around my place as well, Mr. Poraz is not exactly such people's hero. Indeed, the fact that Israel grants citizenship to non-Jews if often used as an argument not only against the Aliyah but also against any kind of support for the country. On the other hand, within the mindset I have described above any individual who genuinely "casts his lot with Israel and joins the Zionist enterprise" (as opposed to earning a living the best way he can in a country he would much rather prefer to disappear together with its Jewish population, not an uncommon attitude either, I'm told) would be regarded as Jewish if he himself does. Thus, I doubt that there are many that are willing to accept the "Russians", but not the "Arabs". (To judge by certain specimen of the Israeli left and their Diaspora supporters, it is often the other way round, and viciously so.)

In fact, we are speaking about a serious friction within the entire Jewish world, which is not merely about Arabs in Israel. There are far too many Jewish dignitaries around claiming the right to determine other Jews' lives down to the tiniest detail. The attempts to isolate them from narrowly defined non-Jews are just one of the many negative side effects.

I would be very grateful for any factual corrections, especially from readers living in Israel.


* Jerusalem Report's links exist in a state of permanent erratic oscillation: the title of the first article is Up Front: An Arduous Journey and that of the second one Hirsh Goodman: Zap -- You’re Jewish (in the "Columnists" section)
Where are the human shields?

Imagine the reaction if Jews were doing this:
According to reports reaching the West Bank and Gaza from Baghdad, the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime brought another blow to Palestinians living in Iraq. Most of the Palestinians in Iraq are concentrated in Baghdad, with many refugee families from 1948. According to the reports, their Iraqi neighbors are now harassing Palestinian Baghdadis.

Some 250 Palestinians reached one of the refugee centers in Iraq last week, saying they had been evicted from their homes. Rasmiya Hijazi told a reporter from a news agency that as Baghdad fell to the Americans, her landlord told her she had 24 hours to leave her apartment. "Saddam Hussein helped and protected you. He's gone. So you have to get out," Hijazi reported the landlord as saying. She is now living in a tent.