e Principles of Persuasion

The Principles of Persuasion
by
Howard Adelman

Reason (and history as I argued in my thesis) begins not with explaining events or actions, but with incongruencies, with different and incompatible ways of interpreting events. That means that in persuasion we must set up procedures to offset a confirmation bias, the propensity to simply use and even twist information to reinforce strong beliefs. And it can be a matter of life or death. I just watched part of a television show on Pearl Harbour and, in part, it dealt with the question of why the information Washington had in advance of the attack on Pearl Harbour wasn’t sent to the naval base there, if only to take precautions. One major suspicion is that there was a propensity to disbelieve such information because it contradicted previous analyses of what the Japanese in 1941 would and would not do.

One heuristic technique to get around confirmation bias is to have the two sides conduct the discussion with each party arguing the other’s position. The argument can be about a complex but still rather specific problem, such as the efficaciousness of voucher school programs on costs and results. Or it can be about whether evidence pointing to a Trump campaign-Russian link was a real problem or one concocted by the Democrats. Advice: avoid such complex or even intermediate problems and begin by sticking to ones that are reasonably easy to solve – such as massive voter fraud in the presidential election. Does the data support such a claim or refute it, or does the claim have very different meanings?

However, as soon as one tries to do this, one recognizes the merit of Gorgias’s second goal of rhetoric – but not expressed as a positive aim of acquiring power, but as a negative one of preventing being taken advantage of by the other with whom one is in discussion. Socrates was a whiz at this, pleading ignorance and then leading the other down well-trod paths to contradicting himself. This is a central problem and why, perhaps because of evolution, winning arguments and, therefore, status and power, becomes more important than reasoning together towards the best resolution of a problem.

Further, that propensity can be correlated with another – the more we have a vested interest in an issue, the more we are likely to dig in our heels and insist we are correct. The more intense one feels, the less willing one is to put one’s own views under a microscope. The following guidelines are about inverting inclinations.

Topic      Inclination         Guideline

Goal   Necessary truth     Freedom to choose
Power over others Prevent being                                                      disempowered
Explain Clear and Distinct Equivocation                         Ideas
Action/Events      Incongruencies
Standard Indubitability     Analytic truth is not
persuasion
Confirmation (Bias) Falsifiability
Conditions More we know More we know                        better off               less we can trust
Group thought      Group thought                     reinforces belief   undermines belief

I have already clarified the first four inclinations and the suggested guidelines to override them. Let me expand on the last four. Plato over the archway entrance to his academy had the slogan, “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter.” It was important for he used analogies – such as the metaphor of the divided line – to convey different degrees of conviction or knowledge. Further, the highest form of knowledge was viewed as mathematics for its conclusions were certain. This was a modern trope from Descartes onward who sought knowledge that was certain and indubitable.

As I explained in my last blog, mathematics is not a model for persuasion for it leads, not to making choices, but to only one true answer. Persuasion is intended to establish the better choice when there are at least two real options. Rhetoric is based on dialectic and not deduction and deals with the skills of persuasion on any subject of debate – excluding mathematics and pure physics. The art applies to virtually all other subjects.

Torture is not an art of persuasion but a means of intimidation which sometimes extracts knowledge, but perhaps as often or even more often merely extracts what the torturer wants to hear. Evidence given under oath or verified by science are also not part of rhetoric itself, but merely methods of providing material for the art of persuasion. External factors may be used to assess the quality of evidence offered or the integrity of the person offering the evidence based on his or her character, but these are not guidelines on how to persuade, but about the conditions that will make the art of persuasion more likely to lead to assent.

In that regard, the character of the person offering the evidence may be critical. But it is also true, as can be seen in the relationship between Trump and his followers that believers in Trump will simply disqualify evidence offered by critics who insist he is not telling the truth, and then use the criticisms to reinforce their beliefs. What is intended to falsify is inverted to become evidence to verify prior beliefs.

Therefore, contrary to what Aristotle believed, credibility may not be, and most often is not, a factor in enhancing persuasion. It may be a consequence of what we already believe rather than a condition of forming a belief. Thus, if the liberal press is considered an enemy of the people, the columnists will lack credibility in the eyes of Trump supporters whatever their stellar records as journalists and interpreters of events.  That is why cited examples, just as in the case of the character of the speaker, can be used to reinforce confirmation bias rather than undermine it. We argue by offering examples. However, we should argue by questioning the examples on offer. It is best if arguments are not used to confirm what we already believe, but as a tool to try to falsify what we think is true.

There is another very different conviction that leads us into error. Socrates believed we should start with the premise of our ignorance. René Descartes urged us to begin an inquiry by initially doubting anything that we could not immediately believe to be certain. But the process of developing false convictions is not undermined by scepticism, but reinforced by knowledge. The more knowledge we have and the more knowledge seemingly at our disposal, the less we are inclined to question what we know. We must reverse the starting point – not starting with a tabula rasa, but by acknowledging that the more we know, the less we can trust. Further, contrary to Aristotle’s belief that we should start with self-evident truths, we must start with the conviction that no proposition entailing choice is self-evident. That is a characteristic only of the analytic propositions.

Ask yourself how a toilet works. Ask yourself why sleep is beneficial. Most persons will offer an opinion and many with considerable certainty. There are a myriad of questions about day to day knowledge of working and operating something – especially if the activity in question is direct and rather simple and very familiar operations – where an assured answer will come forth which, on further inquiry, can be shown to be totally erroneous. The take away: the more we know, the more we must distrust that we know. Familiarity should breed scepticism.

Finally, the more our friends and associates agree with us, the firmer we hold to such beliefs. Hence the expression: different groups live in different bubbles and only listen to what confirms previous biases. What we must do is use groups to question, not reinforce, our beliefs and to use a network of thinking to develop sounder grounds for a conviction.

Let me end with a story. It appeared in the latest Tablet in Mark Weitzmann’s essay, “Is the Shoah Memorial in Paris Home to a Racist? The troubling case of Holocaust historian Georges Bensoussan, on trial for ‘incitement to racial hatred,’ pits French anti-racists against anti-Semites.” As will be discussed in a subsequent blog, the latter conclusion after the depiction of the case, that it “pits French racists against anti-Semites,” is a mistaken description.

The essay begins: “This is a story about permissible and impermissible ways to use words in post-terror France.” The premise of Georges’ editorial work at the Shoah Memorial in Paris was that the genocide of the Jews was a result of collective cultural history rather than an anomaly. The book that brought him to notoriety was called, Les Territoires perdus de la république. In it, principals and teachers testified that anti-Semitism, sexism and racism were rife in the banlieues of Paris among students from North African Muslim countries. Was this an exercise in Islamophobia or a revelation of a new cultural source for anti-Semitism? Jews and Muslims lined up to defend Georges, but political correctness produced a whole host of accusers. Events outstripped the debate as anti-Semitic incidents mounted in both frequency and severity.

As Georges publicly denounced this new source of atavistic anti-Semitism, quoting a source described as an Algerian sociologist to reinforce his position, he insisted that, anti-Semitism among North African Muslims “is suckled along with mother’s milk.” The expression became a plain for fierce intellectual battles and eventually for charges being laid against Georges for what we in Canada term “Islamophobia,” especially when the very sociologist he cited, Laacher, denied he had said or implied that there was any “biological” system of transferring anti-Semitism from one generation to another. Further, he resented the use of a metaphor to summarize his findings which were about the persistence of anti-Semitism passed on from parents to children by using the term “Jew” as an insult.

Let me quote from Weitzmann: “in French the same word – la langue
designates both language and the physical organ.” “Language,” Laacher told me, “is the collective component through which the individual expresses himself. It speaks us as much as we speak it. And it never speaks randomly; it is always meaningful. As we are spoken by the tongue, collective values and feelings, what we call a culture, is being passed on. Of course, this includes the passing on of negative feelings and passions such as hate.”

If the metaphor is at all accurate, then what is passed on through a mother’s milk cannot be expelled; it is part of your very being. If, however, it is part of a language code, human beings are capable of altering that code. Further, Laacher resented being called an Algerian since he was born in France and even needed a visa to do his research in Algeria. The irony was that Georges, a Jew, was born in Morocco. So Laacher filed a libel suit against Georges.

Only in France one might say, only in the land that worships clear and distinct ideas, only in the land where intellectuals are mostly wedded to a world of Truth versus Falsehood, to status in the intellectual world, to explaining events rather than puzzles, a country where indubitability is the holy grail, a country plagued by the disease of French intellectuals of confirmation bias, a country where intellectuals glory in displaying how much they know rather than the greater ignorance that accompanies greater knowledge, a country that celebrates intellectuals as stars and celebrities instead of recognizing that all good thought as well as bad is reinforced by a collective enterprise.

In other words, in the use of words, in the display of rhetoric, whether about words themselves or about wearing a headscarf, France is culturally disposed to oppositional intellectualism rather than dialogue and conversation. There are, of course, many exceptions. Emmanuel Levinas stands out as a prominent example. But the condition is deeply rooted in the French cultural fabric.

This may help explain why two scholars, who are 99% on the same side, would come to intellectual and legal blows. Or it may not. For they smoked a peace pipe over their differences, only to see the matter taken up by a Muslim institution, CCIF, the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France.

Empirical investigation may point to a totally non-intellectual and non-cultural cause of the dispute. But the controversy hopefully both takes us away from the land of Trump while revealing the destructive work of rhetoric and the tools of persuasion while, paradoxically, extolling the positive value of rhetoric. Further, it will serve to introduce two forthcoming blogs, one on Islamophobia, where I will return to the Georges versus CCIF legal dispute when the government took up CCIF’s complaint and charged Georges with “incitement to racial hatred.” I will also write a second blog on anti-Semitism to understand how rhetoric can both confound as well as clear up gross misunderstandings, and how anti-Islamophobia may possibly be connected with anti-Semitism as the League Against Anti-Semitism and Racism. France’s B’nai Brith, joined the battle, initially backing Georges, but eventually joining CCIF in the suit. Only in France!

I cannot apologize enough on behalf of all philosophers and intellectuals for how absurd the world really is.

With the help of Alex Zisman

Donald Trump and Hitler: Part II

Donald Trump and Hitler: Part II

by

Howard Adelman

I had already written a reply to an email from a reader of my blog in Miami asking for my take on the comparison of Donald Trump to Hitler before I wrote Part I. My reader cited Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s piece on the Hitler-Trump comparison and he personally thought that the Rabbi was dead-on in his criticism of various Hitler-Trump comparisons in a 7 March op-ed in The Jerusalem Post. Shmuley Boteach, a Lubavitcher orthodox rabbi with an amazing proficiency for self-advertisement and self-promotion that makes Norman Mailer’s Advertisements for Myself look like the product of an amateur, is the author of such best sellers as Kosher Sex, Kosher Jesus and Kosher Lust.  Just this past week in the Canadian Jewish News (10 March 2016, p. 50), he enjoyed a full page Q&A session, but nothing to do with his criticisms of comparing Trump to Hitler.

In criticizing those who compare Trump to Hitler, who is Shmuley taking on? There are a plethora of candidates, but he specifically cited Louis C.K. and Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live, Colin Jost, Weekend Update’s co-host, and Bill Maher on his late show. C.K. wrote, “the guy is Hitler… Hitler was just some hilarious and refreshing dude with a weird comb over who would say anything at all… [Trump’s] an insane bigot. He is dangerous.” The Daily News wrote a story on “SNL takes on Donald Trump’s racist supporters and endorsements; comparing front-runner’s campaign to Nazi Germany.” President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico compared Trump’s pursuit of office to Mussolini and Hitler: that’s “how Mussolini got in, that’s how Hitler got in.” I could not find where The Daily News had on its front cover, “Trump is Hitler” as Shmuley claimed. Further, Shmuley insisted, correctly, that the others “made comparisons between Trump and Hitler, but after running through the episodes, I could not find anywhere where they simply equated Trump with Hitler.

C.K. came closest, but it is clear from the context that he was claiming that Trump was Hitler with respect to his disregard of the truth. In the op-ed piece, Shmuley argued that the comparisons of Donald Trump and Hitler were “disgusting” and “vile.” They were “an affront to decency, the Jewish community, the victims of the Holocaust and to Trump himself.” Describing something said about and not by Trump as “an affront to decency” alone has to wake any reader from his somnolent state since Donald Trump is currently hailed generally as the greatest assault on decency by a public political figure in the United States. Does comparing Trump to Hitler trivialize the genocide of the Jews as Shmuley claims? Recall that Shmuley himself was forced to apologize when he claimed that, “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide.” He criticized Susan as “destructive of the fabric of the relationship” between the U.S. and Israel.

In none of the pieces cited could I find any hint of a suggestion of any trivialization of the Holocaust. Of course, Trump is not Hitler. Of course, there is no comparison between Trump and Hitler’s anti-Semitic quest to exterminate the Jews. No one suggested any such comparison. Absolutely no one I read had even hinted that Donald Trump is “a Republican presidential candidate… running for office to perpetrate genocide.” Shmuley seems to have the same propensity as Donald Trump to play fast and loose with facts and citations. When comparing Trump to Hitler, there never, as much as I have read or seen, been any comparison between Hitler exterminating the Jews and Trump’s desire to exterminate anyone. And what has the whole problem of comparing Trump with Hitler have to do with falsely charging Israel with “genocide” when it counters the missiles Hamas aims at Israel with rockets of its own?

It is also irrelevant that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is an orthodox Jew and that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Judaism or that Donald Trump has orthodox Jewish grandchildren.  Whether or not the comparison between Donald Trump and Hitler is either valid or valuable, these assertions disqualify Shmuley as a reasonable critic of such comparisons. There is a fundamental rule in comparison, and in analogical argument more generally. Analogy may be the weakest form of argument, but when it is well done, it can be both funny and enlightening. But it must obey one simple rule. Comparisons should not be general.

Shmuley claimed that, “Comparing Trump to Hitler trivializes world war, genocide, the one-and-a-half million children gassed by the monster, and is a vulgar attack on the good citizens of the United States who are being accused of getting behind a murderer. Try telling someone who lived through the concentration camps and lost their entire family to the Nazis that Trump is Hitler.” But no one that I read or heard ever said, “Trump is Hitler.” Instead, as is appropriate in analogical argument, they compared specific traits or sets of traits. And this is precisely what valid comparisons are about.

Shmuley not only does not understand the nature of analogical argument, not only denies both the veracity, utility and value of those specific comparisons, but attributes qualities to Trump, like a great many others, that Donald Trump does not seem to possess. For example, Shmuley credits Trump with “straight talk”. Trump’s speeches are direct. They are plainly spoken. But they lack the one essential character of straight talk – honesty.

Examine Donald Trump’s speech when he announced his candidacy. Are any of these accurate about the most powerful and richest state in the world today? “Our country is in serious trouble.” What is the source of that trouble? Is it that there is a growing gap between stagnating middle class incomes and the dramatic increase in the incomes of the rich? Is it because America has not been quick enough off the mark in reversing the trend to despoiling this planet? Is it because there are still far too many Americans, even with Obamacare, who do not have adequate health insurance? None of these. “We don’t have victories any more.” That does sound like something Hitler might have said.

However, the closest comparison between Hitler and Trump is the reverence for a strong leader and the assertion that he was the only candidate for that strong leadership. Trump when he announced he was running to be the Republican candidate for the American presidency said, “Now, our country needs – our country needs a truly great leader, and we need a truly great leader now. We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal.”

And who are the military leaders he admires. The ones who flouted civilian authority over the military. “[W]ithin our military, I will find the General Patton or I will find General MacArthur, I will find the right guy. I will find the guy that’s going to take that military and make it really work. Nobody, nobody will be pushing us around.” The Donald does not appeal based on his detailed knowledge of the issues, but on an appeal to the guts and the fears of Americans. “Trust me. I’ll get the job done. I’ll take care of you. I’ll negotiate the great deals that will protect Americans unlike the vacuous existing leaders in the Republican party and the dead end that they have led the membership into.”

After he cancelled his Chicago rally on Friday, he told Don Lemon of CNN, echoing Senator Marco Rubio, that, “No one understands immigration better than I do.” Trump said, “No one understands protests better than I do. I have had protesters at my construction sites. I have had protesters at my… Believe me, no one, and I mean no one, understands protesters better than I do.” Is that why he corralled and kicked out of his rallies any protester who dared to raise a sign? Is that why he cancelled the Chicago rally because 400 or so protesters turned up at is rally, too many to manhandle without causing a riot?

 

Trump in his hyperbolic mode of speech called America a loser in everything it did over the last seven years. There were no victories. Trump would ensure that the U.S. would have a record of victories when he became President. If Trump was referring to an absence of diplomatic victories, the Iran nuclear deal was a victory. On the military front, the war against ISIS in Iraq will be over in another year. In economic terms, Trump declares that, “China kills us, beats us all the time.” But China via the trade deal became the third biggest market for American exports. Further, America has exported high-priced services to China, services that have grown by about a third each year over the previous one. The excess trade in services dwarfs the China’s surplus trade in material goods. American investors have reaped enormous profits from their investments in China. America has exported high-value added items while it imports disproportionately low-valued merchandise. Yet Donald Trump declares that China “is our enemy” while he declares he loves China, but insists their leaders have outsmarted Americans in “how to make a deal.” The reality is that the American Congress and the U.S. President, given their deep divisions, have not been able to protect those negatively affected by the new globalized trade system.

Trump is so clearly totally ignorant of international political and economic affairs as when he declares that China is solidifying its economic and political influence in Iraq from which the U.S. has withdrawn. Quite aside from the fact that the U.S. is still very much politically and militarily active in Iraq, what Chinese scholar of contemporary Chinese foreign affairs would declare China to be active in Iraq? China does have important investments in Iraq, particularly in the oil sector. Beijing has a very watchful eye to ensure its oil wells largely in the south remain outside ISIS areas of control. China, after all, was the largest importer of Iraqi crude oil, 22% of all Iraqi exports (India was next at 19%.) Virtually all of this production where Chinese oil companies conduct business is still distant from the conflict zones, but China has been very wary. However, wariness does not entail China becoming active in Iraq.

China’s only significant presence in Iraq’s eruption of terrorism has been the discovery that one Chinese citizen joined ISIS. Ironically, China generally agrees with Trump that the U.S. became bogged down in a terrible quagmire in Iraq and China has stayed away to allow the U.S. to be eaten away by the seeds of destruction that it sowed. The only relevant point of all this, insofar as Donald Trump is concerned, is that he has absolutely no compass to discriminate between the truth and outright falsity. In that respect, he is directly comparable to Hitler. For Trump, “If I say it, it is true,” except if I say the very opposite the next day

Trump is the champion of the attacks on lies, obfuscation and cover-ups. Though I strongly disagree with his proposed policies, particularly the same attacks he makes against free trade as Bernie Sanders, the difference is that Trump insists he is a free trader. “Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people, but we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart. And we have people that are controlled by special interests.” I applaud the fact that just as Trump has set the standard for dishonesty, Bernie Sanders has set a standard for honesty and challenging mendacity even though I disagree with his attacks on free trade while I agree with his criticisms that those details did not protect or retrain the workers affected.

Trump is a nativist protectionist and harks back to a mercantilist international economic order. He has politicized economic and trade issues in his advocacy of protectionism and making a better deal. Instead of arguing for enhanced trade in goods, capital transfers, technology and services, Trump shouts slogans – “get a better deal!” At least Bernie Sanders as an unqualified anti- free trader is consistent. The reality is that neither Trump nor Sanders really believes in a multilateral trading system. Trump believes in walls and containment, confrontation rather than cooperation, rivalries rather than partnerships.

Trump declares that China’s currency manipulation and other trade practices have crippled the ability of the U.S. and other countries to compete worldwide. He calls China a “big abuser” for keeping its currency artificially low and making it impossible for America to compete.  But the yuan has increased significantly in value in relation to the American dollar over the last decade, though, more recently, the yuan has fallen in value relative to the American dollar as the Chinese market slowed and the Chinese government has not adequately intervened to stimulate the economy. “They’re devaluing their currency to a level that you wouldn’t believe. It makes it impossible for our companies to compete, impossible. They’re killing us.” “Our leaders are not smart. Our leaders are being laughed at in China.”

Donald Trump is also a hypocrite. One of his Trump Towers was heavily financed by Chinese investors in a cash for visas scheme. Hitler may have demonized Jews, but Trump demonizes Mexicans, Muslims (immigrants in general and even women), and, as in the above example, the Chinese. The target for demonization may be different, but the practice of demonization and blaming others and the weakness of one’s own leaders in response for all problems is both a Trump and a Hitler trait. It is not as if the disrespect for truth has not become an integral element to American political life, but since McCarthy I know of no other political leader who has brought political discourse deeper into the gutter.

Derrick Peavy from Atlanta believes that Trump may very well become president, and may also have done the best job of pinning the tail on the donkey. We have not been watching debates in the Republican race, with the possible exception of this past Thursday, that have been anything else than examples of competitive sports and entertainment.

The audience and the entire country all know that you’re not in a debate. They all know that you are standing behind one podium and there is a monkey behind the other podium.  You are the only one who doesn’t know it. And so you start talking, and the moderator asks Trump (the monkey) for his reply. And the monkey looks around, makes a few noises, then reaches back behind his back, shits in his hand and throws it in your face. The audience is roaring and eating this schtick up. And you stand there shocked. You’re simply stunned and thinking of a comeback, but the audience is eating it up. You see, they didn’t show up for a debate.  You are the only one who showed up for a debate.  And any time you reply or say anything, the monkey just shits in his hand and throws it in your face again.  And the joke is on YOU!

That’s what Hitler did. He threw shit around and degraded both public discourse and respect for the truth though he generally avoided vulgar language. He just celebrated vulgar violent behaviour. The one thing Trump has been correct on is that the plutocrats in the Republican Party have sold Americans a bill of goods. Trump himself has bought into some of it – climate change is a hoax, the Second Amendment must be absolute so everyone can buy a gun – but he has thrown a spanner in the works by exposing the power of special interests, by disagreeing with the Republican dogma of damning Planned Parenthood as the epitome of evil, and insisting that Obamacare must be universalized instead of selling out to the insurance and drug companies – shades of Bernie Sanders.

Why did Trump not immediately separate himself from David Duke and the racist neo-Nazis in the U.S.? Why did he initially plead ignorance, blame his ear piece and finally offer such an avuncular statement disavowing that racist support? The answer is not that he is a racist, but that he lacks any sensitivity to racism. Further, he may even know that many of his supporters have been deeply upset and resentful that a Black man captured the presidency. And serious discourse is suborned to populist celebrity culture. Bernie Sanders has the same populist appeal, but for opposite reasons. He insists that the top 1% not be forgiven for the devastation they have wrought on the American economy, that Bill Clinton introduced by cancelling the controls and regulations of the banking sector.

The absolute prerequisites for good governance are honesty and integrity, accepting real responsibility and not blaming others, and accountability and verifiability. Donald Trump is severely challenged on all these grounds – as was Hitler. Without the gyroscope of truth, the Big Lie becomes the standard, the bigger the better. And so begins the moral degradation of a great republic. When it is fueled by ultra-nationalism – make America great again – and by xenophobia, we have the beginnings of a great tragedy. The irony is that history has turned on itself and the middle class worker has become the bastion of the neo-fascism in both Europe and America while ideological anti-Semites in the guise of anti-Zionism have become the foundation of the radical left. Who would have thought that fascism and eventually socialism when they were driven into their graves, the latter, even in its various non-communist guises, would be resurrected in such monstrous and perverse emanations. The new black beast for both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is both globalization and mobility, because the direction of the latter is viewed only as downward and the expansion of the former is viewed as exclusively at the cost of the native-born.

Accompanying the whole process, we have witnessed the vulgarization of public space. Angela Merkel is called a “whore”. Donald Trump boasts of the size of his penis. The authenticity of citizenship of Barack Obama has long been questioned by Trump; he was at the centre of the “birther” movement. He is the political leader closest to Marine Le Pen in France and Viktor Orban in Hungary, promoting nativism at the cost of multiculturalism. It is no surprise that Donald Trump claims he can get along with Putin.

Last Wednesday evening in the Florida debate between Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both were asked by the co-moderator, Karen Tumulty, whether Donald Trump was a racist. Clinton said she had called Trump out. “Basta!” (In Spanish, “Stop”, that’s enough.”) “You don’t make America great, by getting rid of everything that made America great,” she continued, leaving it up to the American public to decide. Bernie Sanders came closer to an explicit answer when he cited Trump’s leadership in the birther movement and the demand that Barack Obama produce his birth certificate (which Obama actually already had). Sanders added, “Nobody has ever asked me for my birth certificate; maybe it has something to do with the colour of my skin.” But Bernie could have gone beyond Trump’s insults of Mexicans, Muslims and Black Americans by citing Trump’s own answers, though perhaps he did not because it is difficult to find confirmation from more than one source for many of them:

  • when a New Mexico mob attacked a family of illegal immigrants, Trump assured Americans that when the wall went up (and Mexico paid for it) there would no longer be a reason to attack
  • though some Mexicans he assumed are good people, Mexicans migrating to America have lots of problems; they bring drugs; they are rapists
  • make the real [my italics] America really great again
  • when mosques were burned across America, he insisted tempers would cool when a temporary freeze went into effect banning Muslim entry into the U.S or travel between states without a special permit
  • the sporadic violence in Alabama between white supremacists and African Americans was just “a legit argument”
  • he called reporters liars when they brought to his attention anti-Jewish signs being held aloft at his rallies beside anti-Muslim signs.
  • he had nothing to say when ultra-orthodox Hasidim were insulted and driven out of one of his rallies near Albany
  • to a meeting of Jewish businessmen, he began with a vulgar joke and stereotype – ‘I am in the right neighbourhood because I know how to make a deal’
  • Louis Farrakhan, the Black Muslim anti-Semite – Jews belong to the Synagogue of Satan – and leader of the Nation of Islam, praised Trump for telling Jews that, “I don’t want your money’.”
  • After days, “OK, I disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan; are you satisfied?” .

There was no need for equivocation. Donald Trump is a racist even if he has grandchildren who are Jewish. He practices the politics of resentment and appeals to emotional despair rather than any real vision. In that respect, he is directly akin to Hitler. This is not the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy (Godwin’s law) and Trump is not a pussycat compared to the neo-fascists in Europe. He is just an American version of an Erdoğan or a Putin. So while it is quite correct to compare Trump to Hitler is specific respects, it might be wise to heed the advice of the German historian and authority on Hitler, Thomas Weber: “First and foremost, it (the comparison) is a distraction. The problem is that the moment someone brings up Hitler in a political discussion, in a way it’s the end of the political discussion, because then it turns into a discussion over the comparison rather than substance. That said, to answer your question, on a tactical level there are great similarities between the early rise of Hitler and Trump. But we should not forget that beyond the tactical level there are huge differences and that ultimately the danger that Trump poses is rather different from the threat posed by Hitler.”

Weber went on to write:

Both (Hitler and Trump) present themselves as anti-politicians with a great degree of tactical flexibility, whose rhetoric is to fix America and to fix Germany. Both basically say that if we go on the way we are, America or Germany will not survive in the form that we know it. So there is a similarity in the rhetoric, also in the early anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and I am not talking here about the 1930s and 1940s, but the kind of anti-Jewish rhetoric of post-World War I Munich where there were demands to drive Eastern European Jews out of Germany. Here, there are great similarities. Another similarity would be that precisely because of their tactical flexibility, both Trump and Hitler are difficult to make sense of, as a result of which they become a kind of canvas on which people can draw their own image of Trump and Hitler, both positively and negatively.

And what are the differences?

The modes of politics of Hitler and Trump are fundamentally different. For Hitler, every compromise that was not a tactical compromise was a rotten compromise. So in that sense he defied the rules of politics. For Trump, ultimately a compromise is what you do… So I think in that sense the similarity lies more in the rhetoric than in the substance.

It is also important to bear in mind that the Trump we know very much represents everything Hitler hated about America –  this kind of billionaire who had made his money, not from something productive, but from either finance or gambling. What we often forget is that, for the early Hitler, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism were as important as anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism. So in that sense there is also a major difference between the two.

The biggest difference – which takes me back to my point why the Hitler comparison may distract from the real danger that Trump poses – is that Trump is ultimately a demagogue and a populist. He will say whatever it takes to get elected and then to stay in power. In the most positive scenario, this would mean that once in power he may not be the type of President we like, but he would ultimately turn into something moderate. The reason why I don’t think this is going to happen is that Trump, by being a populist and a demagogue, is destroying the very fabric upon which American politics operates. And that is an extremely dangerous game…

My point is, Trump isn’t Hitler, but things won’t be fine. In Hitler, you have someone who is destroying the rules of the game in order to replace them with either no rules at all or right-wing/fascist rules of survival of the fittest. In the case of Trump, it is more of a reckless, tactical game, where Trump is outwardly using the rules of reality TV shows in order to destroy the existing rules of American politics. The real danger is that Trump would apply the rules of reality TV to international affairs once he was President and by so doing destroy the international system and make an already volatile world far more dangerous.

May God bless America.

 

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Who is God? Parshot Shemot: Ch. 1-5 Exodus

Who Is God? Parshot Shemot: Ch. 1-5 of Exodus

by

Howard Adelman

We are now in a new book, the second book of the five books of the Torah. In Hebrew, its name is “Names,” but in English it is called “Exodus” even thought the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, including the set up of the story, only takes up 15 of 40 chapters. Some think that only the first verse of chapter 1 deals with “Names,” so “Names” is an even less appropriate title for the whole book. I suggest that Sh’mot or Shemot as the name of the second book is appropriate because it is about the Israelite God making a name for Himself in the wider world of politics. What happens within the story may be the redemption (Ramban – Rabbi Moses ben Nachman Gerondi or Nachmanides) of the Israelites in the various meanings of that term, but I will attend to the other side of that redemption, the redeemer who is credited with bringing it about, namely God.

The first verse seems to be merely a repetition of what was told in the previous book, in particular in Parshat Vayidash. But not quite, for this is the story read backwards, not as prophecy but as what takes place after the names of the children of Israel (of Jacob) were long gone and had been aufgehobt (from the German verb aufheben), that is when they had been taken out, put away and raised into the stars of heaven above. The names of the leaders of the twelve tribes have become just memories.

Further, as the Israelites multiplied and flourished in Egypt, as a Pharaoh came to rule over Egypt “who knew not Joseph,” who did not remember what Joseph had done to make not only Egypt prosperous, but the Pharaoh personally rich using the new economic model that saved the farmers from totally losing all their land at the same time as the plan cut Pharaoh in for 20% of their profits. The new positive sum game of macroeconomic policy was now taken for granted and no credit was given to Joseph. There was no longer a memory of why the Israelites had it so good.

So Pharaoh played the anti-Semitic card, pointing out the fact that the Israelites had not merged totally with the Egyptians and remained a distinct people, that they had grown numerous creating a theoretical demographic problem, and that they allegedly could serve as a fifth column. The theoretical prospect of double loyalty and, even more so, triple loyalty, that is where loyalty to a third foreign and enemy power became stronger than the loyalty of the Israelites to Egypt became a possible prospect. There was no evidence for any of these fears, but that is the classic nature of anti-Semitism.

The Pharaoh’s response: subject the Israelites to hard labour and when that proved insufficient, order the midwives to abort their male children, and when that was subverted by the compassion of those same midwives, order the military forces of Egypt to actually murder male Israelite infants.  Suddenly – though it may have taken three-and-a-half centuries – the Israelites had gone from the top of the pile, from a golden age, into a persecuted minority. Would redemption come from a member of the tribe of Judah assigned the task of military and political leadership of the Israelites?

That was not to be at this time. In Chapter 2 we are told the story of the new leader of the Israelites, of Moses, who came not from the loins of Judah, but was a child on both sides of Levite parents. Recall that Levi was the son, who, like Simeon, had demonstrated a total absence of compassion. Yet the messenger of redemption would come from the  House of Levi, but not as an inheritor of his forefather’s beastly and rash and cruel behaviour, but, via the compassion of women, the midwives who would not abort him, his mother, who would not see him dashed to death, a sister who conceived the plot to save him by sending the infant in a woven basket to where the daughters of the Pharaoh were bathing, to the compassion of the Pharaoh’s daughter, and to Miriam’s compassionate plan to have her own mother serve as nursemaid to the adopted son of the princess. The Israelite continuity is once again saved through the guile of Israelite women.

Moses is not born as a warrior. He is not political. He is neither an orator or poet as their forefather had prophesied for the House of Naphtali. Nor is he an observer and upholder of the law as had been prophesied for Judah’s heirs. But he developed into a man of extraordinary compassion at total odds to his forefather. Though his rash action in murdering the Egyptian taskmaster who was mistreating two Israelites seemed similar, that action was not driven by cruelty as had the behaviour of his forefather Levi, but by compassion for those who were being beaten. But there were two Israelite witnesses who did not observe what drove Moses to murder. They only saw the murder and feared the consequences, especially on themselves. They snitched.

Moses was forced to flee to the land of Midian where, again through his compassion, helped the daughter of the Midian priest Jethro, Zipporah, from male harassment. He was given Zipporah’s hand in marriage. They had a son, Gershom, born as a stranger in a strange land. Zipporah too will prove to be both compassionate and courageous, circumcising her son and throwing his foreskin at the feet of thugs who stood in their way when returning to Egypt. The prospect of Moses, raised in a royal household, possessing the rashness of his forefather, but with none of the cruelty, the prospect of this man content seemingly to live out his life as a shepherd living neither among Egyptians nor Israelites, emerging as the instrument to save the Israelite from the oppressive hand of the Pharaoh, seemed remote indeed.

Chapter 3 tells the story of how the turnaround took place, not by the initiative of Moses, but by the God of Israel. God, having forgotten his covenant with the Israelites just as Pharaoh had forgotten about the contributions of the Israelites to the power of the Pharaoh and the economic prosperity of the land, suddenly and inexplicably remembered the covenant he made and appears to this shepherd tending his sheep in Horeb, a holy mountain, and appears via an angel in a burning bush not consumed by fire. When Moses turns aside from the apparition, God announces, “Hineni,” Here am I. I am here for you, as the cantor in synagogue pronounces when he reads the cantor’s prayer. I am fully present. I hear the woes of the people of Israel. God recognizes the suffering of the Israelites and renews his promise to deliver the people to the land of milk and honey though Moses who is to be His messenger.

And that is when God names himself. I AM. Moses as God’s messenger must tell the childen of Israel that, “I AM sent me unto you.” Ch. 3, verse 14 reads:

יד  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה; וַיֹּאמֶר, כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶהְיֶה, שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם..

God is Aleichem, אֲלֵיכֶם. elohé avotechém sh’lacháni alechém.

The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you

So Moses receives his instructions, how to practice magic before the people turning a rod into a serpent and back again into a rod, how to turn his hand leprous, how to turn water into blood. But magic is insufficient. Moses is tongue-tied. He is neither able to put words together effectively nor communicate those words. So Aaron his brother is appointed as spokesman. (Nothing is said about how Aaron survived the Pharaoh’s decree to kill all the Israelite male children, but Aaron may have been born before Pharaoh issued the decree about getting rid of the male Israelite children.)

Moses now recognizes God and acknowledges the role he has to play. But can he play that role? Only if the people recognize that Moses is speaking on behalf of God. But how can they come to that recognition, especially given that Moses seems to be a poor replica of a warrior king?  But who is this God who is to be recognized? Who is: I AM that I AM”? Well, He is not simply, “I Am.” He is I who shall be he I who I shall be.” God is revelation. God is He who reveals himself over time. He is He who proves to be through his actions, through the fulfilment of His promises. He is not just the God who says hineni, here I am. And what is becoming cannot be depicted as that which is. The proof will be in the pudding. Revelation will come through deeds.

UNHRC Report 2014 Gaza War.II.The Commissioners

The UNHRC Report on the 2014 Gaza War

Part II: The Commissioners

by

Howard Adelman

In my last blog, I wrote, “Who investigates, how they investigate and the intellectual frame they use to conduct that investigation will determine, in large part, the outcome.” In that blog I also indicated that the intellectual frame of any commission set up by the UNHRC, quite aside from whether it followed standards of objectivity and impartiality, would be one which endorsed the universal sovereignty of human rights over all other international norms. That this frame would govern the examination of the conduct of the belligerents in the 2014 Gaza War. However, the degree of impartiality and objectivity of the commissioners themselves will certainly be important.

My friend Bill Schabas has been the first one named to head the commission. The fact that he had already pronounced himself on finding Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and had insisted that his dream would have been to see Prime Minister Netanyahu in the dock before the International Criminal Court, did not seem to deter the UNHRC from making the appointment or Bill from accepting it. I personally wrote Bill and then spoke to him to ask him to recuse himself. I was far from the only one. There were a plethora of human rights experts worldwide that gave the same advice. These included Aryeh Neier, founding director of Human Rights Watch and another friend of Bill’s (Bill and Aryeh both lecture at the Paris School of International Affairs), Mordechai Kremnitzer who works with the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, and Joseph Weiler, President of the European University Institute in Florence, who holds the European Union Jean Monnet Chair at New York University School of Law and is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law. There were many others.

The appointment seemed to indicate an even worse outcome than the Goldstone Report. Bill insisted that he could maintain his objectivity in spite of his previous pronouncements, and that added to my concern rather than alleviating it. However, when it was revealed that Bill had accepted a small consultancy retainer with the PLO in 2012 to offer a legal opinion, that did him in. He was forced to resign, but only after he had run the inquiry for over six months.

A fellow commissioner, an American jurist, took over. Mary McGowan Davis became chair. Davis had been a member of the 2010 Committee of Independent Experts that was in charge of reviewing whether and how Israel (and the Palestinians) had behaved in response to the Goldstone recommendations. Israel was required to investigate about 400 suspected incidents of breaches of humanitarian law. In the conclusions of her inquiry, Davis criticized Israel for not opening investigations into those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead as called for by the Goldstone Report. She criticized Hamas for not investigating the launching of mortars and rockets into Israel. She criticized Israel again for taking too long in conducting its investigations while acknowledging the enormous scale and challenge to Israel to completing its work. She did commend Israel for the resources and the effort devoted to the task. The results of her committee’s work evidently were a key factor that influenced Richard Goldstone to withdraw his claim that Israel deliberately targeted civilians, though that only meant he was now anathema to both Israel and the supporters of the UNHRC which allowed the report to stand.

Davis’ modestly claimed that her responsibilities as chair of the post-Goldstone commission work were simply to implement the mandate of the Committee to “monitor and assess the investigations by both sides and to report back to the Human Rights Council.” It was not to make recommendations about what should be done with the findings. However, she did express the belief that if her committee embraced the principles of an impartial and fair investigation, that in itself would push forward the notion of a peace agreement based on transparency, accountability and justice. To that end, she insisted, the committee had to be seen to be delivering justice, especially by the victims on both sides. This perspective in itself was a considerable contrast to the evident partiality of Bill Schabas on the substantive issues of the conflict.  On the other hand, if she had already accepted to serve beside Bill on the Commission of Inquiry and had not insisted that Bill recuse himself as a condition for her taking up her post, one is forced to question how strongly she upholds the principle that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.

Davis honed her legal skills in a tough jurisdiction as a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. She had risen to become an Acting New York Supreme Court Justice. If I were even a half-decent journalist and not an ersatz one, I would have been able to find out why she had not been made a full member of the New York Supreme Court, why she retired from that position when she was clearly relatively young and full of energy. I would at lease have been able to analyze her judgements or her earlier role as a federal prosecutor. But I am not a journalist, let alone a good one, so I have no new information even on her beginnings as a defender of human rights. Because of my own previous work, I did know that she had been a consultant to the International Criminal tribunal in Rwanda, but I have no clue on how she performed except that she had also served to mentor criminal defense lawyers appearing before that court. That in itself is some measure of respect for her impartiality and her commitment to due process. Nevertheless, I was still bothered by her willingness to sit on a commission subordinate to Bill who should have unequivocally recused himself long before the issue of his consultancy emerged, especially important because Bill ran the inquiry for so many months before he resigned and Davis took over for the final almost 5 months.

I was wary on other grounds. After all, Davis had agreed previously and again this time to work under UNHRC auspices in spite of its record of a totally deformed focus on Israel in disregard of any reasonable standard of impartiality. She had said nothing about why the UNHRC had failed to launch an investigation into Hamas for reigning missiles and rockets against civilian targets in Israel and only launched an investigation once Israel once again invaded Gaza. Further, she had been congratulatory to the Palestinian Authority for cooperating with her 2010 investigation. This stood in contrast to Israel’s non-cooperation. Israel had only just initiated its self-examination. She ignored the views of Melanie Khanna, who served under Hilary Clinton, and who presented the American view that the UNHRC had an overwhelming record of a disproportionate focus on Israel and that Israel had at least demonstrated an ability to engage in self-scrutiny. Contrast this to the PA, which, while it offered full cooperation with Davis’ previous investigation, had shown no record of promptness or ability at critical self-scrutiny. Contrast this with Hamas, which also did not cooperate with Davis’ investigations and certainly never publicly investigated its own conduct.

Beyond these obvious considerations, there is the dilemma of the role of such reports, even as that of the Davis investigation into compliance. This certainly was true even with the Goldstone recommendations. After all, reports are useful tools of propaganda by all those states, ostensibly in favour of transparent impartial justice but, oblivious to those standards in the behaviour of their own states. Further, these Arab and Muslim countries   were exclusively interested only in those aspects of her investigation that focused on Israel as the culpable party. Even Amnesty International seemed to see its task as demonstrating impartiality, not by carefully weighing the faults and shortcomings of the respective parties, but ensuring that AI condemned Hamas and Israel equally. How does one operate within such a partial context of both the international community and the UNHRC more specifically? Davis has chosen to try to advance the cause of impartiality from within the auspices of the UNHRC while Israel is committed to non-cooperation with a body that has an almost perfect track record of bias.

All of this is beside the much deeper bias of the intellectual framework of the imperial sovereignty of human rights in contrast with the view of overlapping as well as competing international norms of human rights versus humanitarian law. Is Israel better off boycotting the whole proceedings or should Israel have chosen to cooperate with the investigation in spite of the record of biases of the organization under which it was operating? Did the second (originally third) commissioner tilt the balance towards greater impartiality or towards reinforcing the inherited biases of the UNHRC?

Doudou Diène (Senegal) earned his first degree in philosophy from Senegal’s Concours Général from which he graduated with the top prize. (As a philosopher, I am already predisposed, at least initially, to a favourable attitude towards him.) Diène holds a law degree from the University of Caen (France), a doctorate in public law from the University of Paris, and a diploma in political science from the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris. After a long career at UNESCO, including two years as UNESCO’s Deputy Assistant Director-General for External Relations and subsequently as Acting Director of the Bureau of Public Information, he served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance for six years from 2002 to 2008. From 2011 to 2014, he served as the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire. The fact that he worked for 6 years for the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, the predecessor to the UNHRC, does not work in his favour. Further, there is no evidence from his background that he had any expertise in international humanitarian law however much an expert he was on intercultural and interreligious cultural dialogue. One might expect him to be fair-minded and impartial, while not expecting him to think outside the imperial role of human rights.

The report itself should prove to be very interesting reading.

Expliaiing the new Anti-Zionism/Anti-Semitism

Explaining the New Anti-Semitism/Anti-Zionism

by

Howard Adelman

Introduction

In part 1 I have included my son Jeremy’s response to my blog on “The New Anti-Semitism?” as he wrote it. In part 2, I repeat what he wrote but broken down into ten points and then include my responses to each point. In part 3, the most important, I convert the comments and responses into an argument and thesis explaining the phenomenon. Because there is a lot of repetition, if you do not require the repetition for comprehension, I advise you to skip reading the first two sections and simply jump to the third. However, if you need repetition for comprehension and/or if you are interested in one of the methods I use, you might be interested in following the process through.

Part 1: Jeremy’s Response (unedited)

I like this piece a lot.  There’s a feeling in the air (speaking historiographically) that the trentes glorieuses (1945-75) — or Since 1980, we’ve seen slower growth, more social exclusion, rising inequality, and fundamentalisms of all sorts the Mad Magazine Moment — look pretty good in retrospect: economic growth, social inclusion, pluralism, and the spread to democracy even in places that seemed allergic to it.  Jews were, one might say, were big beneficiaries.  Anti-Semitism waned, but so did other forms of bigotry

A paradox of globalization is that it has yielded more multi-cultural societies yet less social mobility. (Though, it’s worth saying, there is a lot of variation — Canada is remarkable for being so inclusive and having high rates of social mobility; the data comparing Canada to the US is really illuminating.  See Miles Corak’s work: http://milescorak.com/).  We are so befuddled because we live in worlds that are more and more mixed and yet display more and more friction.  And when the economy is not spreading the pie, the frictions rise. .  .  (The jury on democracy, paradoxically, came out in favor — though in the last 15 years we’ve seen backsliding on that front, too).

One effect (some might say the cause) of the wearing out of the social fabric that buoyed the tolerance and inclusion of the trentes glorieuses is the validation of one kind of argument about personal identity — that it is under threat, which justifies lashing out against what are perceived to be hostile forces.  My friend Dan Rodgers’ book, The Age of Fracture, is brilliant on this dissolution of the concept of “society.”

Increasingly, personal identities under threat need Safety Zones.  Maybe this is a phenomenon that’s restricted to American universities, which are increasingly seen as institutions that should defend Safety Zones.  But as one of my students, a Jew, noted in my seminar this semester after our discussion of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, he felt that the kind of open talk we’d just had about compassion (in this case, we were debating whether Arendt lacked compassion), was really rare.  I was surprised.  Asked to explain, he told the rest of the class that he felt that students and professors shied away from talking about social tensions.  Classes in engineering were, in a sense, danger-free zones.  History had become perilous.

Something to consider: what’s the difference between renewed anti-Semitism and the more general rise in intolerance in which perceived slights or “micro-aggressions” are taken as hostile acts directed at others for their group traits?  In the eyes of some, Israel’s right to exist should be rescinded because it is a state — they claim — committed to exclusion.  That’s not so new.  The new twist is that now, people who defend that kind of state’s right to exist belong to the camp of micro-aggressors.  To defend Israel’s right to exist is an act of aggression.  The argument goes beyond Israel, though last summer’s war made it a lightning rod.  Universities across the US are under assault as institutions for defending free speech and open inquiry that shut down the Safety Zones.  The president of Princeton was publicly heckled by students at a service in which he tried to defend pluralism and encounters; he was condoning racism.

I think the question addresses your query about continuity vs discontinuity.  Is the new anti-Semitism new, or old?  I tend to think it’s new, and part of a Zeitgeist about the status of arguments about victimhood, its causes and its remedies.  During the Mad Magazine Moment, the view was that social policies and public institutions (including the creation of nation-states to support them, like Israel or Ghana) should act as vehicles for inclusion.  Now, those policies and institutions are treated as the threat because inclusion is seen to undermine the recognition of victims of “aggression.”

What I don’t know is whether this is a peculiarly American phenomenon.  From what I can tell, it’s not.  The French, too, are getting tied in knots over inclusion vs recognition.

Part 2: Breaking the Response into Points and Comments in CAPITALS

  1. The Mad Magazine Moment — looks pretty good in retrospect: economic growth, social inclusion, pluralism, and the spread to democracy even in places that seemed allergic to it.  Jews were, one might say, big beneficiaries.  Anti-Semitism waned, but so did other forms of bigotry;

YES

  1. A paradox of globalization is that it has yielded more multi-cultural societies yet less social mobility. (Though, it’s worth saying, there is a lot of variation — Canada is remarkable for being so inclusive andhaving high rates of social mobility; the data comparing Canada to the US is really illuminating.  See Miles Corak’s work: http://milescorak.com/).  We are so befuddled because we live in worlds that are more and more mixed and yet display more and more friction.  And when the economy is not spreading the pie, the frictions rise. .  .  (The jury on democracy, paradoxically, came out in favor — though in the last 15 years we’ve seen backsliding on that front, too).

YES

  1. One effect (some might say the cause) of the wearing out of the social fabric that buoyed the tolerance and inclusion of the trentes glorieusesis the validation of one kind of argument about personal identity — that it is under threat, which justifies lashing out against what are perceived to be hostile forces.  My friend Dan Rodgers’ book, The Age of Fracture, is brilliant on this dissolution of the concept of “society.”

VERY INTERESTING. I WILL READ THE BOOK. DOES HE EXPLAIN WHY QUESTIONS ABOUT PERSONAL IDENTITY TRUMP OTHER ISSUES? WHY BLAME CERTAIN INSTITUTIONS AND PRACTICES AS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THREAT TO IDENTITY?

  1. Increasingly, personal identities under threat need Safety Zones. American universities, which are increasingly seen as institutions, should defend Safety Zones.  One of my students, a Jew, felt that students and professors shied away from talking about social tensions.  Classes in engineering were, in a sense, danger-free zones.  History had become perilous.

WHY ARE THE SOCIAL SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES DEPICTED AS PART OF THE THREAT RATHER THAN SAFETY ZONES?

  1. Something to consider: what’s the difference between renewed anti-Semitism and the more general rise in intolerance in which perceived slights or “micro-aggressions” are taken as hostile acts directed at others for their group traits?

WHY DO MICRO-AGGRESSORS TARGET OTHERS FOR THEIR GROUP TRAITS AS THE SOURCE OF THREAT? WHY, IN PARTICULAR, FOCUS ON JEWS?

  1. In the eyes of some, Israel’s right to exist should be rescinded because it is a state — they claim — committed to exclusion.  That’s not so new.  The new twist is that now, people who attack [my emendation], Israel’s right to exist belong to the camp of micro-aggressors.  To defend Israel’s right to exist is perceived as an act of aggression.

I NEED TO THINK MORE ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MICRO-AGGRESSORS AND THE ATTACK ON JEWS AND ISRAEL.

  1. Universities across the US are under assault as institutions for defending free speech and open inquiry that shut down the Safety Zones.  The president of Princeton was publicly heckled by students at a service in which he tried to defend pluralism and encounters; he was accused of condoning racism.

I NEED TO THINK ABOUT THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MICRO-AGGRESSION AND UNIVERSITIES AS A TARGET.

  1. Is the new anti-Semitism new, or old?  I tend to think it’s new, and part of a Zeitgeist about the status of arguments about victimhood, its causes and its remedies.

PERCEIVED VICTIMHOOD CONVERTS TO VICTIMIZING JEWS AND ISRAEL

  1. During the Mad Magazine Moment, the view was that social policies and public institutions (including the creation of nation-states to support them, like Israel or Ghana) should act as vehicles for inclusion.  Now, those policies and institutions are treated as the threat because inclusion is seen to undermine the recognition of victims of “aggression.”

UNIVERSITIES ARE TARGETED AS THREAT BECAUSE THEY PLACE THE HIGHEST VALUE ON RIGHTS, ON KNOWLEDGE, ON TRUTH, ON CONSISTENCY, ON CORRESPONDENCE WITH FACTS, NAMELY VALUES CONNECTED WITH THE IMPERSONAL AND UNIVERSAL VERSUS THE PERSONAL AND PARTICULAR RELATED TO IDENTITY. THE CLAIM FOR UNIVERSALITY IS PERCEIVED AS A CLOAK USED TO COVER A PERSONAL IDENTITY, HENCE, UNIVERSALITY AND THE IMPERSONAL ARE REGARDED AS MAGIC TRICKS AND ILLUSIONS AT ODDS WITH THE EXPRESSION OF AN AUTHENTIC PERSONAL IDENTITY.

  1. Is this is a peculiarly American phenomenon?  From what I can tell, it’s not.   Frhttp://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Alfred+E.+Newman%27s+face&id=39FF790EBC02341069AA65EFFFD81AD7BA51FB39&FORM=IQFRBA The French, too, are getting tied in knots over inclusion vs recognition.

A UNIVERSAL PHENOMENON WITH DIFFERENT EXPRESSIONS IN DIFFEENT COUNTRIES. IN FRANCE WITH THE STATE IDEOLOGY EQUATED WITH SECULARIZATION, THE STATE IS A THREAT TO PERSONAL IDENTITY EXPRESSED THROUGH CLOTHING THAT CHALLENGES THE SECULAR FAITH IN LAÏICITÉ.

Reflections and Considerations

  1. The Mad Magazine Moment epitomized by the character of Mad Magazine which satirized the fetishizing of differences, either as positives or negatives. Perceived differences were seen to be both contingent and particular rather than eternal and universal (racism). Hence, the waning of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and the heyday of the university as a social service station as an authentic universalist foundation committed to the resolution of social ills. But the contradictions were obvious. Look at Alfred E. Newman, the mascot of the magazine.

His eyes are misaligned so that what he sees is disjointed and at odds rather than synthesized into a coherent picture. He has a gap-toothed smile, a broad nose and cauliflower protruding ears intended to catch every nuance which only makes him grin even more at the incongruencies and disjunctures. His bulbous cheeks and tussled red hair convey at once a healthy skepticism and bemusement. The sign that he wears – “What me worry?” – satirizes the exaggerated self-confidence self-satisfaction and faith in progress and blindness to the contradictions of this new triumphalist liberal faith.

  1. Globalization, which was supposed to be the extension of that faith to take in the entire world, ends up enhancing and expanding differences instead of reducing inequalities.
  2. Therefore, what was seen as the solution for identity problems gets blamed as the cause of those problems.
  3. The social sciences and humanities are the weak link in this vision of the university as borders between disciplines dissolve, and as a belief in a classic body of knowledge necessary for professional practice disintegrates and is reconceived as an agent of repression rather than a permit for freedom. The belief in a singular methodology for a discipline fractures and disintegrates so that, in the extreme, in the postmodern moment, there is neither method nor subject matter nor discipline.
  4. Jews are particularly targeted because they, specifically those Jews who have not discarded their group identity into the ash heap of history, remain affiliated instead of restless and rebellious, because they have retained a group identity but claim to be and occupy many of the pinnacles of the old universal institutional order and its faith in objectivity and universality. How can you be consistent and coherent if you carry your particularity up with you to the pinnacle of the ivory tower? The Jewish utopians who have abandoned their particularity fail to recognize that their selectivity, the passion and venom behind their denunciations of such contradictory behaviour, reveals in a much starker light their own internal contradictions between passion now emerging as visceral hate and an insistence that they embody the pure and true universalism. The utopian Jewish liberal cannot stand the pragmatic Jewish liberal who both recognizes and lives with his internal contradictions. Alfred E. Newman sits on the side amused and bemused by the spectacle of Jews with all their peculiarities best exhibited in the claims of each side that each sub-entity has captured the holy grail of universalism.
  5. The state of Israel emerges from its early socialist illusions to become the poster boy of globalized capitalism as the Start-Up Nation par excellence while exhibiting the bad temper of a society which is both very inclusionist and very exclusionist, allowing its enemies dedicated to destroying the state to not only vote but sit in Parliament at the same time as they are treated as second class citizens, allowing and encouraging that minority to achieve the highest ranks in the professions while exhibiting the historical deep-seated belief that the goyim cannot be trusted. That distrust becomes objectified into micro-aggressors who act out their extreme distrust of a leadership in the most powerful state and its closest satrap but determinately individual state. Hence, the BDS movement emerges as an alliance of micro-aggressors rooted in the politics of resentment and universalist utopian Jews, for they are united in their hatred of the group that seems to be able to live with those contradictions in a relatively healthy way.
  6. So these critics denounce the university for failing to defend universality as their mobs viciously attack and sling verbal arrows in the name of universal human rights to defend the particular rights of Palestinians of self-determination at the expense of the Jewish self-determination and do their best to undermine the university as a safety zone for civility, discourse and debate and set up a program of academic exclusion rather than inclusion, of shouting down speakers they dislike in the name of the rights of others.
  7. That is how self-perceived victims convert into victimizers.
  8. The resentment is heightened by the recognition that Jews were the first and benefited most from the university values of a faith in knowledge, a belief in truth, an adherence to coherence and consistency, and a reverence for facts. They have also been among the most successful examples of the use of particular self-determination to foster and enhance these universal values.
  9. France is an interesting perversion of that success as the repository of the rights of man that turns that faith into a secular religion that makes it illegal to emphasize and express particularities of religion yet treats its own citizens from a particularistic background in a most demeaning manner.

The New Anti-Semitism: An Introduction

The New Anti-Semitism? An Introduction

by

Howard Adelman

Last night at the Israel Studies Association, Irwin Cotler gave the keynote speech. The title was, “Israel, Human Rights, Global Anti-Semitism.” At dinner afterwards, I asked Irwin whether he thought characterizing the global anti-Zionism that has been raging at least for the last decade as anti-Semitism was the most appropriate way to categorize what has been taking place. To my surprise, one of the foremost proponents of that categorization said that he had raised that question for himself often, but continued to believe it was, but not without the inquiry and the question being a worthy one.

We could only probe the surface over a dinner in which there were many distractions – other people at the table I wanted to talk to: Dr. Richard Deckelbaum of Columbia University, an old friend, who was scheduled to give a talk today on the llnk between health services and advancing the dialogue between peoples and the peace process; Itzhak Galnoor who was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the Israel Studies Association for his phenomenal scholarship on both governance and government in Israel as well as on laughter; Howard Liebman who for twelve years was Irwin’s administrator-in-chief in Ottawa and had just started a new job working on international affairs for the Mayor of Montreal; and Ariella, Irwin’s wife, with whom I had to catch up on so much of the personal affairs of the Cotlers. And this was just at our table. There were so many friends and colleagues at other tables. You can see why we did not get very far into our probe. I promised Irwin that I would write my next blog on the topic to see if we could advance the inquiry.

One does not have to be a scholar to grasp the issue. It permeates the atmosphere and ordinary table talk when Jews gather and discuss the news stories in the media. I grew up in Canada in the golden age of Jewry in North America. I was born in the year when None Is Too Many was a dominant policy of my government and a ship loaded with Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime was not allowed to land on Canadian shores. I grew up on stories of anti-Semitism that inflicted itself upon the lives of my parents.

My mother worked at the Toronto Club, but could only do so because her maiden name was Duviner and she did not look or sound like a Jew and had to hide that she was a Jew to keep her job. Anti-Semitism was an integral part of the casual conversation at the club and she listened to it very day. I went to university to study medicine because Jews could feel freer as an independent professional than as an employee of a large corporation. I was in the Class of ’61 in Medical School and the major teaching hospital in Toronto only appointed its first Jewish physician on staff in 1960. Fraternities, legal and accounting firms were all strictly divided between Jewish and non-Jewish ones, and the Jewish ones included blacks and Chinese.

It does not sound like a golden age, but it was one. For it was the period during which all those inherited anti-Semitic tropes were breaking down. Jews after WWII constituted the highest percentage of the Canadian population they had ever achieved before and would for the foreseeable future. Though Jews constituted at most 3% of the Jewish population of Canada, they were perceived in many surveys as making up 25% of the city of Toronto’s population because of their emerging prominence in Canadian cultural, business and professional life. Wayne and Schuster were Canada’s foremost comedians. Nathan Philips would become the first Jewish mayor of Toronto. Jews were in parliament and in the cabinet of government. The signature of Louis Rasminsky, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, was on all our one, two (yes, there once was a two dollar bill in Canada), five, ten and twenty dollar bills.

Not one of my teachers at high school was Jewish, though the population of the school consisted of 95% Jews. So the anti-Semitism was still present and permeated the society, but its tide was clearly receding. Further, as we told ourselves, the prejudice only made us work harder to prove we were worthy of respect. This has been and continues to be a common experience of new immigrant cohorts. The receded anti-Semitism allowed us to sharpen our wry humorous appreciation of the world and our love of its culture.

We were, of course, immensely assisted by what was taking place south of the border. I grew up loving Al Jolson as did most of America. America was being remade in the utopian dreams of Jews as Jewish songwriters dominated Tin Pan Alley and gave America so many of its most patriotic songs – “God Bless America” (Irving Berlin) for one. As in the U.S., Jews were the lead wave in the transformation of our society into a multicultural one. And Jews went into law and Bora Laskin rose to become Chief Justice as the rule of law rather than of men emerged as the predominate mode of governance in our country. I grew up when Orthodox Jewry was the norm rather than the exception, at least in our neighbourhood, but where we wore that orthodoxy like our T-shirts and learned in our teenage years that it could be taken off and thrown into the washing machine for a good cleansing.

Zionists were a distinct minority – only Ricky Rappaport, the second best student in our class, planned to make Aliyah. The best student was Judy Ochs, Rabbi Ochs’ definitively orthodox daughter. I sat in the front seat of my row given my name, and was the only one who was passionately and ideologically dedicated to being a non-ideologue. Behind me sat a communist, then a Bundist, then a Liberal and then a Conservative – all of whom went on to become physicians. Debating politics provided our life blood, next to reading Mad Magazine. Only slowly did the domination of Israel become the pervading force in Jewish life. I was perhaps the last convert, holding out until the Six Day War for my rebirth. As much as we gradually began to accept Israel as a predominant part of our identity, anti-Semitism as a fearful trope receded at the same time as the Eichmann trial at the beginning of the sixties brought the Holocaust into our intellectual lives and even more into our deepest fears.

So we became part of the avant-garde of the sixties generation, campaigning against nuclear testing and then for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. Just as Canadian nationalism was beginning to grow, we were at the same time being acculturated into a world dominated by America. We, however, were the new Jews, born in a world destined to be free of anti-Semitism, a generation not to be determined by others that we were Jewish, but a generation that could choose whether or not to be Jewish. So we read Phillip Roth, Saul Bellow and Mordechai Richler, Commentary and soon the new New York Review of Books.

Israel became integral parts of our lives and our experience. Even if were anti-Zionists, we trembled at the possible extinction of Israel prior to the Six Day War and exulted at the Israeli military triumph. Many of us quietly or more actively became born-again lovers of Zion. None of us had ever been subjected to the venomous and splenetic anti-Semitic treatment of two students at UCLA and Stanford about who we had read but whose stories became integrated into academic discourse at my session yesterday on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Those to Jewish women had been questioned about whether, as Jews, they were capable of being free of the Zionist virus when they applied for positions in student government.

In a recent study in the U.S., 54% of students reported experiencing anti-Semitism on campus. That anti-Semitism was integrally linked with anti-Zionism. But was that anti-Zionism, agreed in characterizing the ideology of the Iranian regime as both virulently anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, best characterized as a new form of anti-Semitism? I greeted the negotiations of the Obama regime to deprive Iran of its potential nuclear arsenal as a beneficial course of action. Others, even more passionately, argued that President Obama had a deep visceral hatred for Benjamin Netanyahu and that the Obama regime was selling Israel down the river for an eventual future of extinction at the hands of a nuclear armed Iran determined to wipe the state of Israel off the map. That was a sign of a deep-seated but unacknowledged new form of anti-Semitism.

Jews as Jews, whether in California or a Jewish supermarket in Paris, were being targeted, sometimes even being murdered, and Israel as a state was clearly being targeted by a large number of states for discriminatory treatment. The anti-Semitism and the anti-Zionism were clearly linked. But was or should the new virulent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism be conflated so that anti-Zionism is dubbed the new anti-Semitism? There is a suggestion that President Obama who refuses to call the new terrorists Muslim, has, perhaps unintentionally without malice aforethought, engaged in characterizing organized Jewish opposition and that of the Prime Minister of Israel to his new Iranian opening as raising the question of Jewish dual loyalty. Has the old hatred mutated into a new form that it even permeates the views of the President who may not recognize that he has been infected and is a carrier of this equivalent of an Ebola virus? When I chastise Netanyahu and his approach, who has a legitimate existential fear driving him in his approach, as hysterical and misrepresenting the case, have I fallen back into my pre-1967 mindset and lost my love for Zion? Am I on the edge of being infected with this new anti-Semitic virus?

Ironically, even Barack Obama in his interview with Jeffrey Goldberg very recently explicitly and clearly articulated the view that the new anti-Zionism was a mutated form of the old anti-Semitism. Pope Francis agreed. In his interview with Portugese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cynerman, he opined that the refusal to recognize and support Israel as a state among the states of the world and as the expression of the Jewish right of self-determination was an expression of anti-Semitism. Is the view that Israel does not have the right to exist best characterized as a new form of anti-Semitism? Irwin thinks it does. Barack Obama and Pope Francis agree.

In my next blog in this series I will question both the utility and the cogency of such an equation, not to provide a counter-claim, but to raise some central issues about the equation. The core of the justification is that if countries and movements want to eliminate Israel as a polity in the Middle East, and many of these target Jews elsewhere at the very least as fifth columnists and as worthy targets as well, this is anti-Semitism and a form of racism that is doubly guilty because it is blind to the fact that Jews come in all sorts of stripes and colours, from Ethiopian to Indian and Chinese Jews, and still want to identify in a way equivalent to racism.

Obama accused the new virulence as “implicitly equating anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism,” Some have attacked Obama for saying that the convergence of the two categories itself bordered on the new form of anti-Semitism because he said the connection was only implicit when it has been explicitly explicit. I will describe Irwin’s argument that he presented last evening in tomorrow’s blog – it will force me to keep my memory intact for another 24 hours – and I will begin with a closer examination of both Obama’s and Pope Francis’ views.

he Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

The Iranian Involvement in Blowing Up the Jewish Centre in Buenos Aries

Part III: The Washington-Jerusalem-Buenos Aries-Tehran Quadrangle

by

Howard Adelman

This week, Iran marked the anniversary of its 11 February 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. Massive rallies, especially in Tehran, were held. As usual, and in spite of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and secret cooperation in the fight against Islamic State, the rallies were accompanied by anti-American displays as well as the customary anti-Israel chants and banners. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing the crowds, promised to “spare no effort” to protect the Islamic Republic’s rights as it negotiates. “The sanctions have not forced Iran to enter the talks, but the impracticality of the all-out pressures on Iran and the significant advancements in Iran’s peaceful nuclear program made the United States come to the negotiation table.” That is the way the narrative runs in the topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland world of Iran.

The 1979 change was more of a coup than a revolution with a group of religious fascists succeeding a more secular clique of secular fascists, though, in contrast to his father, Reza Shah Pahlavi, Shah Pahlavi, the son, was Western-oriented and not a Germanophile. Reza Shah Pahlavi seized power in 1925 in what was then called Persia. When Adolph Hitler seized power in 1933 in Germany, the Shah was obsessed with Hitler’s concept of racial purity and an Aryan master race. In 1935, Pahlavi changed the name of the country to Iran, in Farsi, Land of Aryans, to emphasize the connection between Nazi Germany and the Indo-Persian lineage. When war began in 1939, the mufti of Jerusalem served as middle man to trade Iranian oil while organizing active Islamic participation in the murder of Jews in the Mideast and Eastern Europe, mostly Croatia. Hitler, in turn, supported a Pan-Arab state and Arab rule over Palestine.

If Buenos Aries was a centre of Nazi activities in the Americas during WWII, Tehran served the same role in the Middle East as it teemed with Gestapo agents planning the 1941 pro-Nazi coup in Baghdad as the German ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Fritz Gobba, supported both anti-British and anti-Semitic Iraqi movements and organizations. On 31 March 1940, the pro-Nazi, Rashid Ali al-Gaylani from the party of National Brotherhood, became Prime Minister of Iraq. In July, with a letter of introduction from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, then living in Tehran, Gaylani sent his justice minister to meet with Franz von Papen in Greece and win support from Nazi Germany. However, the regent, Emir Abdul Ilah, who stood in for Ghazi’s four-year-old son, King Faisal II since Ghazi’s accidental death in 1939, removed him from office at the end of January 1941. Two months later, one year after he had assumed his role of PM, on 1 April 1941, Gaylani overthrew the regent.

Gaylani instigated a siege of the British Habbaniya airbase. The siege was fought off by British Air Vice-Marshal H.G. Smart and the Iraqi revolt was put down with British reinforcements from India, the 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, and troops under the leadership of Brigadier J.J. Kingstone with a mixture of regular troops, Jordanian forces led by Lieutenant-General Sir John Bagot Glubb, better known as Glubb Pasha, and a Jewish volunteer corps from Palestine after this odd military aggregation raced across 600 m of desert to reach Iran. When the latter reinforcements arrived on 30 May, Gaylani fled to Tehran. There, he was hosted by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

On Friday 30 May, an imam, Jani al-Gaylani, roused the worshippers with a firebrand anti-British and anti-Semitic sermon. By Saturday, the mobs that had formed saw they could make no headway against the armed forces of the British. Red hands were painted on Jewish homes and shops. On Sunday 1 June 1941, a Nazi-inspired pogrom in Baghdad, The Farhud, targeted the city’s Jewish minority with the mob screaming, “Cutal al yehud,” “slaughter the Jews.” Why the British ambassador, Kinahan Cornwallis, ordered the British troops to stand down, contrary to an explicit order from Winston Churchill to secure the city, has never been adequately explained. In the ensuing two days of rioting, 180 Jews were killed and many hundreds wounded. The death toll would have been much higher if Muslim friends and neighbours had not stepped forward to either protect or hide Jews. 900 Jewish homes were burned to the ground and many Jewish-owned shops were looted and trashed. Finally, later in the day, on 2 June, Baghdad police backed by British troops dispersed the rioters, killing about 400 in the process.

The anti-Semitism that Hitler had successfully helped export to Iraq persisted however. It made life unbearable for the Jewish community after WWII. There were frequent arrests on false charges of spying and public hangings of prominent Jews – that of Shafiq Ades, a prominent Jewish businessman in Basra being the most notable. Though the coup had failed, the anti-Semitism had continued and expanded underground. By 1950, almost all of the 150,000 Jews of Iraq, a 2500-year-old community, left, mostly for Israel after having been forced to abandon all their property. They constituted the militant base of the Likud party in Israel.

After the failed Iraq coup, the mufti of Jerusalem in his venomous anti-Semitism broadcasts from Tehran openly advocated cutting off all oil supplies from Iran to Britain. In October 1941, British, Russian and other Allied forces invaded Iran, deposed the pro-Nazi Shah and replaced him with his Western-oriented son, Mohammad Reza. The mufti skipped off to Berlin from where he continued to rant against Jews and advocate a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic alliance with the Nazi regime and a Middle East purified of Jews. In the bazaars of Tehran’s markets, merchants could no longer celebrate Adolph Hitler, but Iranian volunteers continued to be recruited to serve in the Waffen SS divisions in Bosnia and Croatia.

For thirty-eight years, during the second Pahlavi monarchy, Iranian Jews enjoyed a virtual golden age in Iran. Not only did they enjoy an unprecedented level of cultural and religious autonomy but they prospered economically as well. But when the worship of Cyrus the Great was traded in for Mohammed and puritanical adherence to Islamic values and dogmas, there was no need for Jews to be affected by this anymore than Christian reversion to fundamentalism need target Jews. Theoretically, the turn could go either way.

Not in Iran. Jews had benefitted greatly under the Shah and had been protected by him. Further, they had been leading voices in the embrace of modernism to which Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was much more opposed than to Jews per se. Jews were also leading figures in the culture of America in the eighties. In conspiratorial world views, some force had to be behind what Khomeini regarded as the diabolical turn in the world. The explanation was to be found in the confluence of a fundamental metaphysical construction of the world rooted in Persian Zoroastrianism going well back before Cyrus the Great where the world was governed by two opposed forces, Spenta Mainyu (progressive mentality) and Angra Mainyu (destructive mentality) under one God (Ahura Mazda, Illuminating Wisdom). Filtered through selective Shia Islamic beliefs and the Nazi heritage of anti-Semitism, Zionism was stamped as the Angra Mainyu, the evil force that had seeped into human minds. Within this Manichean world view, credit for the focus on Zionism and anti-Semitism can not only go to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, but also the success of Zionism in the Middle East so that even Egypt embraced Israel in a peace agreement in 1979. Zionism became the Leviathan behind all the “horrific” changes in the world.

This is how Khomeini opens his book Al-Hukumah Al-Islamiyyah (Islamic Governance) that he wrote while he was still in exile in Paris. “Since its inception, the Islamic movement has been afflicted with the Jews ‘who’ established anti-Islamic propaganda and joined in various stratagems, and as you can see, this activity continues down to our present day.” The Jews of the Banú Qurayza were exterminated by the Prophet Muhammad because they corrupted Islam. Unlike the anti-Semitism of Nazism, the Jews were not genetically evil. If kept in their place, as the 25,000 Jews who remained in Iran were, they were not a problem. As long as the Jews and the Chief Rabbi of Iran, then Yedidia Shofet, recognized this, as long as Zionism did not contaminate the Iranian Jewish community, Jews could be tolerated. But if Islam allows itself to be infected and weakened by the Jewish Zionist virus, Iran and Islam will be destroyed.

How do you keep from being infected? By Shia purity, by avoiding contact with the impurity of unbelievers, by making sure that both your body and your mind are not contaminated. Don’t buy food from infidels. Don’t read books by unbelievers. Don’t allow Jews to rise above their inherent inferior status. In other words, do not allow the prime source of impurity, chizhaye napak, infect your souls, the virulent infection exemplified by the Bahá’i who were ruthlessly persecuted in Iran almost immediately upon Khomeini’s return. Even more despicable were the Christians, though, for Khomeini, almost nothing could be worse than the disease of Zionism and infected Muslims like the Bahá’i.

Within ten years, by 1989, anti-Semitism in this form of anti-Zionism had become commonplace. “For their transgression, cursed were the unbelievers of the Children of Israel.” And the military and intelligence services were ordered to develop a combat strategy both to prevent the infection from spreading and to destroy the disease to make sure not only that Iran remain immune from the infection, but to protect all other Muslims. For Khomeini was a modern globalist. Khaybar was the Jewish oasis besieged and conquered by the Prophet. Khaybar became the archetype of victory over the Iraqi Sunnis in the Iran-Iraq war and, subsequently, the basis for combating worldwide Zionism in all its forms as evidenced by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion widely available in Iran.

Clearly, the struggle with Israel was not just a struggle between two emerging nationalities, one Jewish and one Palestinian. Nor was it a dispute over territory and settlements in the West Bank. It was a Manichean dispute between Good (Shi’ite Islam as interpreted by Ayatollah Khomeini) and Jews and Zionism. The very survival of Islam was at stake. The struggle against Zionism was an existential struggle.

It is in that context that the work on nuclear plants and the bombing of both the Israeli embassy and the Jewish community centre must be understood within the first fifteen years of the 1979 revolution. What do we believe we know about Iran’s involvement in the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aries in 1992 and the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aries in 1994?

  • Iranian intelligence planned both operations
  • The Iranian Supreme Council for National Security approved both plans
  • The plans of both operations followed the same trajectory
  • The plans were developed by Iran’s VEVAK, known as Vijeh, intelligence agency
  • The plans for the 1994 bombing were approved in August 1993 by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council with the Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the chair
  • Others in attendance included President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-1997), Ali Fallahian, Minister of Intelligence, Muhamed Hijazi, intelligence and security adviser to Khamenei, and Ali Akbar Velayati, Foreign Minister.

Rafsanjani was the de facto commander-in-chief of the Iranian military during the Iraq-Iran War and thought to be the richest person in Iran. He has a reputation as a pragmatic centrist and is often portrayed as a softie, but since he was in charge of the assassination in Europe of the regime’s opponents as well as domestic dissidents and Bahá’is, since he refused to lift Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, this is a very questionable presumption. More to the point, for our purposes, Rafsanjani strongly supported Iran’s nuclear program while insisting it was only for peaceful purposes, which, in part, helped him earn a reputation within Iran as the only Iranian with both the guile and clout to negotiate a deal with the West acceptable to Iran. Rafsanjani was very careful with his words and is often quoted about Jews as saying, “We have no problems with Jews and highly respect Judaism as a holy religion,” but that was fully consistent with Khomeini’s version of anti-Semitism.

The other members of the Iranian clique that decided to bomb the Israeli embassy and the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries were of the same ilk. Ali Fallahian presented himself as an economic reform candidate, advocated ending the uranium enrichment program and was in favour of outreach to the West – the latter prospect having a particular inducement for him since he was wanted by Interpol for the AMIA bombing, by the German justice system for the murder of four Kurdish-Iranian opposition leaders, including Sadegh Sharafkandi, in the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, and by the Swiss courts which -indicted him for sending his agents to Geneva to assassinate Kazem Rajavi. Within Iran, he was the organizer of the 1998 “Chain Murders” allegedly by Saeed Emami, a deputy minister of intelligence. Saeed, widely rumoured to be Jewish, which might partly explain his role as an early Iranian Holocaust denier. He was indicted as a co-conspirator in the AMIA bombings. Arrested for the 1998 Chain Massacres; in prison, Emami purportedly tried to commit suicide on 16 June 1999 and died three days later. I believe, like many others assassinated by the Iranian intelligence service, he himself was murdered because he knew too much.

Hasin Baro, a member of Hezbollah, implemented the bombing of AMIA. Much of the information comes from Mossad, Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former VEVAK agent, from Interpol, from the investigations and charges of German and Swiss departments of justice, and mostly from the Argentinian investigations. Recently, the pattern was repeated in Uruguay where 32-year-old Iranian diplomat Ahmed Sabatgold left Uruguay because the Uruguayan intelligence services had evidence that he was involved in plans to blow up a building housing Israel’s new embassy in Montevideo. These boys were more akin to Mafia mobsters than religious clerics.

Why was AMIA targeted? For two reasons. First, in revenge for Argentina reneging on the Iran-Argentina dealings over Argentinian nuclear expertise and supplies. Secondly, because, for both the Argentinian and Iranian intelligence services, Jews were expendable.

Enough is known about Argentinian-Iranian nuclear negotiations to offer a reasonable portrait of motivation. Argentina did not have nuclear weapons. But it had a covert nuclear weapons program as well as an overt peaceful one. Argentina had refused to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and did not sign the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America (the Tlatelolco Treaty). From 1983 until the early 1990s, Argentina also had missile development underway, the Cóndor II program.

However, all of this became moot when Argentina and Brazil negotiated a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and on 24 March 1993, ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco. What to do with all the expertise, equipment and end enriched uranium? The nuclear program, which had been supposedly mothballed with the return of democracy on 10 December 1983, was not the only one that was being scrapped. Under U.S. pressure, President Menem had also cancelled the Cóndor 2 missile program.

The Military Intelligence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, VEVAK, which, because of the shared roots of both the Iranian and Argentinian intelligence programs in anti-Semitism, came shopping. Just as Juan Perón had run a two-track program, favouring and protecting Nazis while, at the same time granting Jews full rights as citizens, the two track program now became vertical rather than horizontal, with a subterranean negotiations over nuclear and missile technology and an overt renunciation of nuclear weapons. While President Raúl Alfonsin put the missile and nuclear weapons programs on a shelf, it also became a commodity to trade with Iran for oil and cash, the cash intended to line the pockets of the negotiators, including Carlos Saúl Menem who had been elected President in 1989. The once covert nuclear program and the recently cancelled missile program had become a covert trading package even though Menem had appointed many Jews to his cabinet and released the files about Argentina’s coddling of Nazis under Juan Perón. Nevertheless, if there was a personal profit to be made, nuclear and missile knowledge and materials were offered up to the Khomeini regime. Only the mechanisms for transfers remained to be worked out.

But Menem undercut his own intelligence negotiations with Iran and cancelled the deal. Why is uncertain. Fear of U.S. retaliation, the threat to make the bribes he received public? I do not know. What we do know is that Iran was furious at Argentina for cancelling the covert oil and cash deal for knowledge and materials. It is not known if this rage was also motivated because Menem had already benefited with the deposit of his bribes in Menem’s bank account in Switzerland. Whether or not suggested to Iran as expendable targets by Argentinian intelligence agents, the plot first to bomb the Israeli embassy followed with a bombing of the Jewish community centre was hatched. To what degree the Argentinian intelligence service or some of its agents were involved, is not known, at least not by me. What is known is that Iran was surprised at the reaction to the AMIA bombing since Iranian intelligence knew that the vast majority of Argentinians held the belief that Jews were only interested in money and half of Argentinians believed Jews used the Holocaust to promote their own advantage.

3,000 of the 15,000 to 30,000 disappeared had been Jews even though Jews only made up one per cent of the Argentinian population. Soon more Jews as well as non-Jews would be sacrificed on the twin pillars of aborted international diplomacy and anti-Semitism, both compounded by corruption. Nisman’s later revelations of Iranian-Argentinian arrangements to cancel the inquiry onto the bombings in return for oil seemed to be of the same ilk.

Sunday: The Washington Corn