Saturday, March 20, 2010

Racial Slurs Hurled at Democratic Congressmen

Three Democratic Representatives, John Lewis (D-GA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), all are reporting that anti-health care protesters have hurled the n-word at them as they walked towards Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has been met with anti-gay slurs such as "faggot" and "homo" as he walked on the Hill.

UPDATE: Republican leaders (but not all Republican Congressmen) have strongly denounced the slurs. Good.

Hey, It Worked

Ha'aretz reports that Netanyahu has bowed to American demands in the wake of the Jerusalem construction flap, freezing settlement construction, easing restrictions in Gaza, and releasing Fatah prisoners.

So, good work, USA. Now it's time to get folks back to the table. No more excuses.

Friday, March 19, 2010

What If They All Went Away....

KJH is right, this is ironic:
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken a harsh position against undocumented Armenian workers in Turkey, threatening to expel thousands amid tensions over allegations that Armenians were victims of “genocide” during the last days of the Ottoman Empire.

Resolutions passed recently in the United States and Sweden to brand the World War I killings as “genocide” undermine peace efforts with Armenia, Erdoğan said during his visit to London, according to excerpts from an interview with the BBC Turkish service published on the BBC Web site late Tuesday.
Referring to about 100,000 undocumented Armenians working in Turkey that Ankara has so far tolerated, Erdoğan said: “So what will I do tomorrow? If necessary, I will tell them ‘come on, back to your country’… I’m not obliged to keep them in my country. Those actions [on genocide resolutions] unfortunately have a negative impact on our sincere attitudes,” Agence France-Presse quoted him as saying.

The context, as noted, is the recent resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide as a genocide. You can read my latest commentary on the matter here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA and a Roundup of Other Things

I love the NCAA tournament. And I particularly love the first few rounds, with a billion games going on at once and buzzer beaters and upsets by nobody-seeds you couldn't find on a map. And then there's the fun of making fun of my Georgetown alumni. Unfortunately, this year I took pity on her and the Hoyas going to the Final Four. That turned out great -- teach me to be nice to Liz.

* * *

A retired US general has blamed the Srebrenica massacre on Holland allowing gays in the military. That's because this general is a prejudiced dick, with views that have no basis in fact, history, or logic.

Bibi Netanyahu has apparently listed off concessions Israel is ready to make after its serious diplomatic faux-pas that has strained US-Israeli (not to mention Israeli-Palestinian) relations. Essentially, it would freeze, though not cancel, the offending housing announcement, as well as release more Palestinian prisoners and reduce checkpoints in the West Bank -- even possibly expand the amount of West Bank territory under PA control.

Jon Chait quite properly eviscerates Juan Cole's attack on "people like Jeffrey Goldberg", and the general presumption of ascribing to any remotely pro-Israel figure sets of views that they don't hold. This is yet another example of the maddening vagueness that often typifies discussions about who believes what regarding Israel and Palestine.

It's a shame we don't do more racial profiling -- we might have been even less likely to catch this guy.

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) becomes the second "no-to-yes" switch on the health care vote (after Dennis Kucinich).

Don't blog on controversial topics you know absolutely nothing about, unless you're indifferent to spreading malicious and false insinuations.

Gaza Rocket Kills Thai Farm Worker

A rocket launched from the Gaza strip has killed a 30 year old Thai farm worker in Southern Israel. The rocket was reportedly launched by a small Islamist off-shoot which views Hamas as being too moderate; the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade also claimed responsibility. Hamas, though not claiming responsibility itself (both of the above groups are its rivals), unsurprisingly blamed Israel for the attack, citing "the recent escalation against our people and our holy places." The latter refers to unfounded allegations that the Israelis are planning to take over the Temple Mount.

Ultimately, the decision to fire rockets lies in the hands of those who light the fuse. They're the ones who have the power to make the rocket fire stop, or perhaps the political entity that controls the region (which would be Hamas), and the buck stops with them. That being said, it remains unclear to me the grounds for believing that the continued blockade of Gaza is likely to have any impact on such terrorist attacks.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What a Strange Hypothetical

DougJ poses the following thought experiment:
Suppose there was a small country in Africa that was deemed vital to American political interests for whatever reasons. Suppose furthermore that it was constantly at war with its non-African neighbors, for whatever reason (maybe the country’s fault to some extent, maybe not). Suppose that African-American families owned the Washington Post, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal and that the heads of the editorial boards of two of the papers were African-American and that the editorial pages of these newspapers consistently expressed support for this small African country, more or less whatever it did (for the sake of accuracy, let’s say the Times was a bit more critical than the others). Suppose further that Ebony and Jet (now owned by an aging Harvard adjunct and someone from Australia) devoted a large part of each issue to describing anyone who criticized this small African country as racist (EDIT: or as a “self-hating African-American”).

People would eventually start to laugh at the “racism” charges, right?

The second thing that hit me upon reading this, which I'm putting first because it's a shorter thought, is the idea that it is particularly suspicious when Black people say things are racist, or Jews say something is anti-Semitic. Doug puts a lot of weight on this, and it is hard to see why -- presumably, if the hypothetical racism allegations regarding this country are so misguided, they should be considered suspect regardless of who was promoting them. I'm not sure what else to take from Doug's hypothetical except that he subscribes wholeheartedly to Professor Bell's rules of racial standing. Or perhaps I should respond with "suppose there was a community widely dominated by non-Jews, that greets every claim that something is anti-Semitic (and some claims that say nothing of the sort) with dismissal and derision. People would eventually start to laugh at the notion that they care about anti-Semitism at all, right?" (The answer, of course, is "wrong").

But what immediately struck me as weird here was this notion that people don't laugh at racism charges in America right now. It's not like we live in an America where, any time someone makes an allegation of racism, everyone immediately takes it seriously and demands accountability from the wrongdoer. Much the opposite -- the standard operating procedure for a significant swath of the American population (including one major political party) is to simply allege the folks are playing the "race card", make jokes about political correctness run amok, and whine about how nobody can say anything that isn't pre-screened for approval by Al Sharpton without being called a racist (cue eyeroll).

What does this tell us? Two things. First, that "ism" charges are considered laughable based on conduct that doesn't even approach Doug's hypothetical. Second, if one asks the purveyors of the "race card card" why they do so, they won't answer "because racism isn't a bad thing". They'll tell you a story very similar to Doug's -- about how the charge of racism has been diluted to non-existence by overuse, how it's important to preserve for "true, serious" cases, how they're merely reacting to aggressive thought-policing by the gatekeepers of acceptable racial discourse.

In other words, the narrative of why racism became laughable is a tale of majoritarian speakers telling themselves a highly distorted story of how "racism" is used as a weapon, so they can justify dismissing it out of hand. Or laugh at it.

One way of exaggerating the prominence of an "ism" charge is to presume that anytime a member of the minority group opposes your position, they are implicitly accusing you of racism/anti-semitism. As Doug laments, "I’ve had it with the fact that every time someone says something that opposes the Israeli far-right that person is labeled as an anti-Semite (EDIT: I forgot about the ones who are labeled self-hating Jews.)"

But if one canvasses the reaction of prominent Jewish organizations, one notices the anti-Semitism charge is pretty absent -- rather mysterious, given its presumed ubiquity. To be sure, many groups are now asking the Obama administration to defuse tensions after having expressed its condemnation. And they might be wrong. But if one looks at those statements -- AIPAC, CPMAJO (no permalink), and the American Jewish Committee -- neither the word, nor anything insinuating it, is present. Indeed, as I noted, a top official at the AJC wrote a furious post in the scandal's aftermath accusing Israel of "taking the US for granted". Those editorials Doug alludes to? Here's the Washington Post, maybe your ctrl-f for anti-Semitism works better than mine. The NYT editorial board hasn't issued a piece on the controversy, but Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd have, both backing tough action towards Israel. Jeffrey Goldberg called Secretary of State Clinton's chew out "smart and necessary". Even Abe Foxman, the particular villain of Doug's play, was clear that he viewed some American reaction to the Israeli move as entirely appropriate and understandable. And that doesn't even get into J Street.

The fundamental premise behind Doug's story -- of anti-Semitism accusations being pervasive and pervasively abused -- is simply wrong. Not only are important players in the Jewish pro-Israel community openly backing the Obama administration, but even those more circumspect simply haven't been accusing anybody of anti-Semitism. So enough with the victimology, already.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Revenge of the Bigelow Memo

An intrusion upon seclusion case is going up to the Supreme Court. Maybe the University of Chicago Law class of 2011 can jointly write an amicus brief, taking advantage of our extensive (and well-remembered!) knowledge of the subject.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Beautiful Letdown

Finished with exams; kind of beat. I'm traveling home Wednesday, then coming back here over the weekend. We'll see when I get my blogging mojo back.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

No True Egyptian

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny is an interesting fellow. He had run to be chief of UNESCO, but ran into trouble after he had been reported as saying he wished to burn any Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries. He recanted that stance, but was rejected anyway, after which he blamed a global Jewish conspiracy for his defeat.

One of the things I observed was most distressing at the time was Hosny's conflation of "Jew" and "Israeli", as when, for example, he declared his opposition to building a museum of Egyptian Jewish heritage so long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ongoing. Recently, we saw another example of this two-step, regarding the financing of restoration of Jewish synagogues in Cairo. Hosny declared, accurately, that these locations were as much a part of Egyptian culture as any Church or Mosque. So, good. Except that now, the Egyptian government has nixed a re-dedication ceremony, citing "Israeli aggression" against Palestinian protesters (it isn't clear, to be sure, if Hosny had any role in that decision).

Again, if Egyptian Jews are Egyptian, then it's not altogether clear what Israel's actions have to do with the rights of the Egyptian Jewish community. Unfortunately, the actions of the Egyptian government make it clear that it doesn't consider its country's Jews to be true citizens, but essentially representatives of a foreign power, and valid pawns in its diplomatic proceedings.