Donald Trump as a Philo-Semite – Part I: Trump and Antisemitism

Donald Trump as a Philo-Semite – Part I: Trump and Antisemitism

by

Howard Adelman

Last evening, Donald Trump may have been the one to have secretly released the first two pages of his 2005 tax returns to Rachel Maddow, host of a liberal political U.S. TV show, by mailing Trump chronicler and investigative journalist David Cay Johnston in the proverbial brown envelope with no return address his simplified Alternative Minimum Tax form. Why? Because it shows The Donald in a relatively favourable light – he evidently earned $150 million that year and paid 25% in taxes – $38 million. He had done nothing either illegal or improper. No wonder the White House quickly confirmed the accuracy of the figures while insisting that the “illegal” disclosure be investigated. “You know you are desperate for ratings when are you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.”

What a way for the master deflector and magician of all time to take the public’s eye off the scandal swirling around his head about his tweets accusing Barack Obama of taping him in the Trump Tower. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic1] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” All efforts to deflect from that insane accusation by his surrogates – he did not mean his personal phone but the campaign phones; he did not literally even mean wiretapping; he did not literally mean Barack Obama – have been laughed out of the ball park.

The release of the 2005 tax returns may be a substitute for his failed early Saturday morning tweets to distract from the investigations launched from a myriad of directions into the possibility of Trump campaigners’ collusion with Putin’s KGB government. What a chance to steer the inquiries away from the possibility that Trump is in the process of setting up the first Western kleptocracy to compete with Putin’s. What a way for the scandal of firing all the Democratic Party-appointed prosecuting attorneys in one fell swoop – that was what was unprecedented – this past Friday, including one, Preet Bharara, whom he promised could stay on in the Southern District of New York, but who turned out to be the prime investigator into white-collar criminality, including dirty money laundering, swirling around Wall Street. Of the 46 prosecuting attorneys asked to resign immediately and without notice, Bharara was the only one who refused and was fired Saturday, but that gave him an extra day. To do what? – is the question.

The two cover pages of Donald Trump’s tax returns show him earning a very large annual income, reminding Americans of what an astute businessman he is and that he may be as rich as he claims to be. He is seen to be paying a considerable tax bill, but without disclosing his charitable contributions and, more importantly, without disclosing his possible indebtedness to the Deutsche Bank which became a clearing house for laundering billions in Russian money. Unlike the mid-nineties tax return that was leaked during the campaign that showed him not only paying no taxes, but declaring a write off that could have him paying no taxes for 18 years, this so-called explosive revelation displayed Trump as having paid taxes after only ten years, not 18. But why not all the tax returns before 2008 that had already been audited? Why not the full return?

Such speculations may only be the efforts of a liberal observer trying disrespectfully to throw more mud at a president attempting to model himself on President Andrew Jackson, an authentic rather than penthouse populist as the analysis by the Republican-led Congressional Budget Office of the new Ryan health bill reveals – cover far fewer people and allegedly save the government billions. On the other hand, Jackson was the master media manipulator of his time. Jackson, like Trump, did clear the swamp, but only to replace the occupants with his own much more mendacious crew of loyalists. Jackson also was the supreme ethnic cleanser, removing millions of aboriginal people from east of the Mississippi just as Trump now aims to remove those “bad hombres” back to Mexico and to prevent the “lawless savages” who believe in Islam from entering the U.S.

So why discuss Donald Trump’s connection with antisemitism now? The issue seems so tangential. If, in fact, there has been an upsurge in antisemitic incidents since Donald Trump took the reins of power in America. All one hundred U.S. senators signed an open letter addressed to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James B. Comey demanding swift action against the upsurge in antisemitic activity. “We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities.”

Is Donald Trump in any way responsible for the upsurge or for the allegedly inadequate response? Any accusation that Donald Trump himself is antisemitic appears far-fetched. However, in the current maelstrom swirling around Trump from so many directions, a step back into what appears to be a peripheral issue re Donald Trump, though not for Jews, may be instructive.

The question of whether Donald Trump is antisemitic is easier to answer than the question of whether he bears any responsibility for the upsurge in antisemitism. First, he is clearly not guilty of antisemitism Type C, that is anti-Zionist antisemitism. He has a history of close connections with the Jewish people and Israel. In 1983, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) awarded Donald Trump the Tree of Life Award, a “humanitarian award presented to individuals for their outstanding community involvement [and] their dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship.” He was honoured in 2004 by serving as the Grand Marshall in the 2004 Israel Day Parade. He has received many other awards and acknowledgements from the Jewish community, such as the Liberty Award in 2015 from the publication, Algemeiner.

Though in the campaign for the nomination just over a year ago in Charleston, South Carolina, he insisted that he would be “a sort of neutral guy” vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has been anything but. He is unequivocally pro-Israel. Donald Trump does not know what it means to be impartial. In fact, he is the most pro-Israel president America has ever had, if pro-Israel is equated with support for the policies of the current coalition that John Kerry dubbed “the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme element.”

Trump supports a united Jerusalem. He promised to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in his presentation to the AIPAC conference when he was a candidate for the leadership of the Republican Party. “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.” He has not rejected the building of settlements across the Green Line. He was critical of Barack Obama for not using the veto to kill the UNSC Resolution this past 28 December 2016 condemning Israeli settlement activity, including the suburbs throughout Jerusalem, as illegal, the first successful UNSC resolution critical of settlements in forty years and one which declares the settlements not simply an obstacle to peace. The resolution even implied support for BDS. Donald Trump had intervened to try to sideline the vote by getting the mover of the resolution, Egypt, to withdraw as its mover one day earlier after Trump phoned Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, only to see the resolution reintroduced the next day by the other four non-permanent members of the Security Council.

Trump and Israel are linked in other ways. Instead of being critical of the “separation” wall dividing parts of the West Bank from Israel, Trump has lauded it and cited the “separation barrier” as an example of his planned wall along the border with Mexico. It would secure America against both drug smugglers and terrorists just as the separation barrier in Israel has been an effective tool for reducing terrorist attacks. He has favoured “defensible borders” rather than the green line as a reference point in peace negotiations. And he has insisted that the U.S. would support any deal arrived at between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, but “advised” the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He is an old and chummy friend of Bibi’s and once said in a video made for the 2013 Israeli elections, “You truly have a great prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu. He’s a winner, he’s highly respected, he’s highly thought of by all. Vote for Benjamin – terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.” In fact, he has said that he would go further than Bibi and not just demolish the homes of the families of terrorists, but “take out the families.”

He joined Bibi in denouncing the deal with Iran as the “worst deal ever.” Since achieving office, Trump has appointed two of his lawyers, one his bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman and a financial supporter of West Bank settlement activity, as ambassador to Israel, and another real estate lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as his special envoy to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Trump appointed Nikki Haley (née Randhawa), in spite of her call for him to release his tax returns, as the American ambassador to the UN. Haley, when she was Governor of South Carolina for six years, initiated legislation in 2016 to prevent boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) efforts in South Carolina, the first state-wide effort to do so.

No sooner was Nikki Haley appointed UN Ambassador than she excoriated the UN, justly, for its bias “in favour of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of Israel.” She moved to block the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who had an excellent reputation as an honest technocrat, from serving to lead the UN mission to Libya to stop the use of Libya as a launching pad for refugee claimants to reach Europe. Haley did not want the appointment of Fayyad to signal a willingness to recognize Palestine as a state.

Nor does Trump seem guilty of racist antisemitism Type B, since he has an observant Orthodox Jewish daughter and two gorgeous Jewish grandchildren and his son-in-law, David Kushner, is a chief political adviser. Tomorrow, I will inquire into the question of Trump‘s possible anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican and anti-Black American racism and its connection with antisemitism, but it seems absolutely clear that Trump is not a racist antisemite even though he occasionally engages in antisemitic Jewish stereotyping. The latter seems to be a problem that results from his sloppy thinking processes and terrible articulation rather than from any antisemitism.

Trump is also very clearly not an anti-Jewish antisemite, first because he does not seem to be imbued with any Christian values, including its negative history of Christian persecution of Jews. Nor is he an Enlightenment antisemite like Voltaire since he possesses even fewer traces of Enlightenment values, especially of tolerance, than of Christian values. Besides he is reason-challenged. Is he an antisemite in the original Type A along the lines depicted in the Book of Esther charging Jews with  suffering from dual loyalty and adhering to a set of rules at odds with the American government? Since no one in my memory or studies has been more at odds with the rules of political discourse in the U.S., that would certainly be like the pot calling the kettle black. Further, there seems virtually nothing in common between him and Haman. Donald Trump would never play second fiddle to King Ahasuerus.

But perhaps there are some similarities between himself and King Ahasuerus. For the latter allowed antisemitism to flourish under his watch and seemed oblivious. I will wait until tomorrow’s blog to explore this question when I try to discern the connection between Donald Trump and the upsurge of antisemitic incidents.

Granados and Blom – UNSCOP

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine III

by

Howard Adelman

Dr. Jorge García Granados (Guatemala) versus Dr. N. S. Blom (Netherlands)

What a contrast Jorge García Granados from Guatemala was to Emil Sandström. The differences are unequivocally clear in Granados’ statement of his views at the first informal meeting of UNSCOP in Sandström’s office on 6 August 1947. Instead of starting with the rule of law and, in particular, international law as a first principle, he began with the assertion that, “The core of the problem (is) not legal, but human.” As a humanitarian nineteenth century liberal, rather than one steeped in the rule of law, constitutions were constructs, necessary constructs but not based on natural law. They were responses to both objective problems and fundamental conceptions learned by experience about how societies work best.

García Granados’ views were liberal (in the nineteenth century Latin American sense of one who both espoused these ideals and identified himself as a liberal). He was a “unanimist” who adhered to the predominant 19th century Hispanic American constitutionalism based on an integrative, state-building, model which requires a cohesive ruling bloc rooted in popular support. Liberalism of this variety entailed both liberation from colonial rule (negative freedom) and an ideology of nation building based on a unified elite leadership backed by the people (positive freedom). García Granados was not interested in theory; he focused on what was practicable and implementable in response to the problems faced while deeply informed by the presuppositions allegedly based on experience that he brought to the table.

Though not antithetical to federalism per se, a bi-national state or a federal state with two nations making it up could never achieve this ideal. Liberal Latin Americans supported constitutionalism and a political authority rooted in that constitution with elected representatives and full protection of freedom of the press. They were against authoritarianism and the centralization of power even as they recognized the need for a united leadership elite. But it had to be backed by the grassroots in contrast to the belief of Latin American conservatives. Liberty could and should be combined with order and progress and not with reaction and authoritarianism, propensities he identified with the Arabs in contrast to the Jews. So, on the one hand, a society rooted in dogma and governed by force exhibited the spirit of reaction. A society rooted simply in populism or popular sovereignty flirted with anarchy and chaos. Instead, García Granados celebrated individual liberty and self government by the people and for the people, but led by an enlightened and coherent leadership.

For García Granados, the outcome of UNSCOP was clear. The Jews had to have a land of their own. He came out of the gate as a clear and unapologetic spokesperson for the Zionist cause sympathetic to both the Labour Zionists and the Revisionists because both, he believed, upheld the liberal ideals he upheld. Different approaches to economic organization did not fracture his perception of a more fundamental unity. García Granados was, “Impressed by [the] spirit and work of Jews and their desire for a homeland.” “Jews in Palestine,” he asserted, “developed a new psychology – less desire for material gain than is character[istic] of Jews in foreign countries.” García Granados was the forerunner of those abroad who lauded Israel when it was an idealist country rooted deeply in the kibbutz image, but perhaps also with those who turned against Israel when it became a country like any other, governed by its own interests and facilitating possessive individualism rather than a collectivist ideal.

Ironically, he was at heart a philo anti-Semite if one can accept such a contradiction. The Zionists represented the “new Jew” in contrast to the acquisitive Jews who lived in foreign countries. In his liberal racism, Granados compared Arabs unfavourably to Jews and he would insist throughout that if there were to be a cantonal approach and parity between Arabs and Jews, there should be “no mixing of racial groups.” The Jews were simply superior in their historical development. Though the one on the committee most sympathetic to the Zionist position, he never mentioned the Holocaust. The precedent was the Balfour Declaration endorsed by the League of Nations in 1922 when the international community determined that Jews needed a land of their own from which they could not be expelled.

His positions can be summarized as follows:
• Contradictorily to the idealism and surrender of acquiring money as a goal, he lauded Jews for being richer than Arabs;
• They were also more cultured;
• He insisted that the Arabs would not and could not ensure Jewish rights and cited as evidence the Farhud, the pogrom in Iraq in 1941 (June 1-2) when, immediately following the British victory in the Anglo-Iraqi War, Arab riots targeted Jews and Jewish establishments on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot killing 180 Jews and wounding over 1,000 others. Jewish commercial establishments were burned to the ground and 900 Jewish homes were destroyed; this was the precedent that Jews faced if they had to live under the rule of Arabs;
• Jews also needed their own country to solve the DP problem since they had no other place to go throughout the world because of the prevalence of anti-Semitism as evidenced in Britain given the very recent riots there and the attacks against the Jews (This was a theme that influenced every member, even those who opposed partition.)
• Further, like the other members, he was antithetical to British imperial interests; in the name of those interests, Britain, contrary to the Balfour Declaration and its international endorsement, had failed to ensure that Palestine had become a safe haven for Jews everywhere; the British were colonialists who treated both Jews and Arabs as inferiors and the spate of terrorism was blamed, not on the implacable positions of the two sides, but on Britain;
• It was very clear that García Granados would be adamantly opposed to Britain playing any role in the enforcement of a UN recommendation;
• García Granados (along with Professor Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat) fully accepted the Revisionist Zionist position and insisted that there was never an Arab state in Palestine nor could he ever accept an Arab state there (He should have remembered the dictum, “Never say never,” though he was willing to consider a single bi-national state rather than partition, but from a Revisionist Zionist rather than cosmopolitan liberal perspective.)

Dr. N.S. Blom was a different person altogether. Though initially he only adopted a negative stance rejecting the assignment of Palestine exclusively to either the Jews or the Arabs, it was not at all clear whether he supported a bilateral state, a federal state, cantonization or partition. When he finally submitted his own memorandum on a solution, he had become completely convinced that, whatever conclusion was adopted, any solution would have to be imposed and enforced. (Memorandum, 12 August 1947) So the key determination was not an ideal solution, or one based on the principle of self-determination, but, given that the antithetical positions the two sides had taken were intractable and unreconcilable, an imposed solution from outside was required. Blom, unlike others, focused not on a solution, but on the requisite steps for implementing a solution.

Like all the others on the committee, he supported an end to the Mandate if only for the reason that, unlike Sandström, he envisioned no legal continuity between the granting of the Mandate and the current state. Hence, there was no agency to assume international responsibility and, with the dissolution of the Mandates Commission, there was no longer a system of international accountability established by the Council of the League of Nations. Unlike Ralph Bunche, Blom argued that the new International Trusteeship system was neither the automatic nor natural successor to the Mandates Commission, though he would support its use as the only institutional arrangement realistically available.

There existed a conundrum. The only party with the proper legal and enforcement mechanisms for resolving the Palestine issue was Britain. But Britain was no longer capable of implementing whatever solution was recommended. Further, the key and central question – and again on this issue he was consistent with the other members of the committee, though he articulated it clearest – “The formulation of a final solution will depend in large measure on what the decision is to be as regards Jewish immigration into Palestine.” (p. 3) The core issue was not individual liberty or legal continuity whether of a natural law or a constructivist constitution. The key issue was immigration.

Three choices were available: 1) no further immigration; 2) limited immigration; 3) entirely free immigration. So the question of Jewish self-determination was inextricably linked to the question of immigration. Further, in his perception, “in the minds of many Jews the problem of the Jews in the D.P. camps and the plight of the distressed Jews in Eastern Europe is by far the most urgent.” (pp. 3-4) For Blom, this conviction had been enhanced by Zionist propaganda and by the public relations emphasizing the intolerable conditions in the camps and brought to a zenith of international public attention by the refugee ships.

In contrast, the Arabs fear immigration as a bridgehead to Jewish dominance in the Near East. “If the Arabs are to have the decisive influence in the independent state, all immigration of Jews will be immediately prohibited.” (p. 4) So the best solution would be an alternative locale for resettling the refugees. The issue is one of power – either Jewish dominance and free immigration or Arab dominance and no immigration. Controlled immigration could not be an answer since there was no authority available to exercise that control.

That is why Blom contended that the decision on immigration had to precede the decision on any outcome to the Palestinian issue. Further, the Catch-22 was that a transitional period was absolutely a requisite for implementing any solution. On the other hand, any transitional period imagined would only aggravate the situation. Except possibly under two conditions – if it were of very limited duration and if it were accompanied by very specific and definitive solution. So Blom opted for Ralph Bunche’s preference for a Trusteeship agreement. Further, he argued that, “no Trusteeship agreement for Palestine could be effected unless it met the approval of the United Kingdom Government.”

One cannot help calling out, “Whoa! I thought you said the mandate was no longer workable. How come you are effectively arguing for the continuation of the mandate under the different rubric of a trusteeship?” The answer in his dialectical reasoning was that this was the least worst option once one agreed that the issue was not the solution per se but the mode of implementation and enforcement. Further, in order for the state to be able to enforce any solution, cooperation with one of the communities was a prerequisite. What Blom envisioned was the continuation of the mandate as a trusteeship under the auspices of Britain and enforced by the British army, but paid for by the U.N. The Arabs would be the community relied upon to support this outcome since Jewish immigration would be banned. As for the substantive “final solution,” Blom at that point envisioned a federal state as the least worst option.

What becomes clear in reading Blom’s interjections and his position is that, on the committee, he was clearly the most pro-British, though even he recognized the need to end the mandate. Further, he seemed to be the only one sympathetic to Ralph Bunche’s advocacy of having a Trusteeship arrangement to succeed the mandate. Further, in advocating the federal position, he never clarified how that dealt with what he considered the central issue – that of open, closed or limited and controlled immigration. However, given what he said, he seemed to envision a federal state dominated by Arabs who made up two-thirds of the population and they would impose a freeze on immigration. The British could impose their authority with the cooperation of the Arab community. He never explicitly stated this position as his final solution given that any pro-British stand in the context of a committee antithetical to Britain would isolate him from having any influence. However, Blom as an Indonesian Dutch civil servant had been grateful to Britain’s Lord Killearn who had facilitated negotiations between Netherlands and Indonesian nationalists to arrive at the Linggadjati Agreement on 15 November 1946.

So the puzzle with Blom is why he voted for partition and a separate Jewish and Arab state in the end. That puzzle is only cleared up by reading the files in the Dutch archives rather than the documents of the UNSCOP committee. For like John Douglas Lloyd Hood of Australia, and unlike all of the other members of the committee, both Blom and Hood were under the thumbs of their foreign ministers. They were not, as was supposed to be the case, independent members of the committee. Both were civil servants rather than independent judges or diplomats. This does not mean they were united in their views. After all, even when Blom voted in support of partition against all evidence of his previous assertions, he confessed incomprehension that Hood would, in the end, abstain and would denounce that vote as “not greatly appreciated” and “incomprehensible.”

But wasn’t Blom’s vote even more incomprehensible? After all, he supported a federal state dominated by the Arabs with immigration denied to Jews. However, the most important thing to know about Blom was that he had spent his career as a civil servant in the imperial rule of Netherlands over Indonesia. Like Hood, he had opposed the rest of the committee when they became upset at the British decision to hang the three Israeli “terrorists.” He had opposed visiting the D.P camps in Europe. The Dutch delegation even opposed the right of the Jewish Agency to make representations before UNSCOP or the right even to speak in the General Assembly lest it “set a precedent” for other non-state actors. When their position on the Jewish Agency was defeated at the UN, they worked to restrict the range of matters on which the Jewish Agency could speak. They also seemed to identify the Jewish “penetration” of Palestine with communist infiltration. (Minutes, Dutch delegation, 3 May 1947) Given these attitudes, how did he come to support the majority position of UNSCOP?

On 25 March 1947, the Linggadjati Agreement was implemented to provide for a cessation of military hostilities in Indonesia. The United States of Indonesia, consisting of the Republic of Indonesia (Java, Madura, Sumatra) and Borneo, was to be established. However, two weeks after UNSCOP had been formed and just over two weeks before the committee was scheduled to arrive in Palestine, the agreement met an impasse. On 8 June 1947, the Indonesian government rejected Dutch proposals for a cessation of hostilities. In Indonesia, fighting broke out between the Dutch government and the indigenous population of Java and Sumatra on 20 July 1947 after a final rejection by Indonesia took effect on 16 July 1947 and negotiations ended on 19 July in spite of the intervention of the U.S. The Dutch would need all the support they could get at the UN when, on 30 July, Australia brought the issue before the UN Security Council. Holland declared this to be interference in its domestic jurisdiction. As a result, Hood and Blom, in spite of or because of similar civil servant styles and subservience to their ministries, were not able to collaborate.

Blom had unequivocal instructions from the Dutch foreign office to avoid alienating the Arabs as the Dutch needed their support in the UN to retain a degree of control in Indonesia, especially after Dr. Sukarno formed the Liga Muslimin (Muslim League) to support the Arab-Asian group in the United Nations. Blum was not to take any position opposed to Arab countries. The Arab League had previously passed a resolution on 18 November 1946 recognizing Indonesian independence, but it had not yet given its support for the resort once again to violence in opposing Dutch imperialism. Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam on behalf of the Arab League had supported independence of the Arab states – Egypt on 11 June 1947 and Syria on 2 July 1947.

The clear and explicit turning point for the Dutch position in relation to the Arab League, particularly on the issue of Palestine, came to an end when the Arab League openly supported Sukarno and the Indonesian nationalists in their fight with the Netherlands just two weeks before UNSCOP voted among the various options available. Blom, contrary to his previous position, was instructed to vote for partition rather than against partition.

This was critical, as we shall see. For instead of a tie vote of 2 to 2 on the sub-committee dealing with the constitution, its recommendation would eventually be unanimous in support of partition. To understand why, we now have to turn to explore the position of Ivan Rand of Canada.

Why the Tories are winning the Jewish vote

Why the Tories are winning the Jewish vote

by

Howard Adelman

According to exit polls, a plurality of Canadian Jews – 52% – voted Conservative in the 2011 federal election. Will Jewish Canadians continue to support Harper in the 2015 elections in even increased numbers, even when polls indicate that his national support has been hovering around 30%?

In post-Word War Two Canada, Jews were very divided in their political loyalties. Gradually, voting patterns coalesced mostly behind the Liberals. Joe Clark’s stumbling initiative to move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem in 1979 and Brian Mulroney’s strong support for Israel never affected voting patterns significantly.

In October 2000, cracks in the Jewish community’s traditional support for the Liberals appeared after Canada voted for UN Human Right Council Resolution 1322, which condemned Israel’s “excessive use of force” against the Palestinians. This was but one of ten resolutions that Canada supported critical of Israel. Irwin Cotler openly chastised members of his own government.

If Liberal stands left the door ajar for losing Jewish votes, politicians on the right began to push it wide open. Stockwell Day, as head of the Canadian Alliance Party, began to make inroads among Jewish voters. Stephen Harper continued the trend. Just before the Alliance and Conservative parties merged in 2004, Harper gave a speech to Civitas, an organization dedicated to promoting individualism and social order; Harper emphasized family, crime, self-defence and a principled stand in foreign policy to attract support from ethnic groups and religious denominations. He has been unstinting in his appeal to Jews and in his support of Israel.

Ahead of the 2006 federal election, the Harper government adopted a number of very prominent positions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that favoured the Israeli government. Canada became the first Western country to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authority. Harper unequivocally defended Israel’s reprisals in Lebanon after Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, even though Israel’s massive 34-day attack killed more than a thousand Lebanese and displaced a million more. Canada evacuated 50,000 of its citizens in Lebanon at the time. When eight members of a Montreal Canadian-Lebanese family were among the casualties, Harper defended Israeli military actions as “measured.”

After that, prominent Jewish Liberals began to join the Conservatives, including Robert Lantos, Heather Reisman, Gerald Schwartz, and other Jewish Liberal plutocrats. While Michael Ignatieff, then leader of the Liberal Party, accused Israel of war crimes, under Harper, Canada was the first country to withdraw from Durban II in January of 2008. At the beginning of 2009, Harper’s government was the lone dissenter on the UN Human Rights Committee’s criticisms of Israel. As a result, Canada lost its bid for a seat on the Security Council.

In June of this year, I had dinner with Irwin Cotler. He had originally been elected in Mount Royal with 92% of the vote. In the 2011 election, he told me that a majority of Jews in the riding voted for his Tory opponent. He only managed to be re-elected with overwhelming support from the non-Jewish community. He was not running again. If he had chosen to do so, he predicted he would have been defeated. However, he strongly believed that the Liberal candidate, Anthony Housefather, would win. Current polls seem to support that belief.

In 2015, Mount Royal is awash in Robert Libman-Stephen Harper signs. Libman may possibly be on the verge of overturning 75 years of support for the Liberal Party in that riding but that now seems unlikely since Anthony Housefather is such a popular candidate running for the Liberals. .Jews in Canada live in a country much more dedicated to hyphenated integration than melting pot assimilation. Seventy-four percent of Jewish Canadians have visited Israel — twice the ratio of Americans. For most Jews in Canada, Israel is the wedge issue, far more important than it is for Jews in the U.S. The strong and sincere rhetorical support for Israel by Stephen Harper, even when there are no deliverables, has resulted in a tectonic shift in Jewish Canadian voting patterns likely to increase in 2015 even as much of the rest of the Canadian population is moving in the opposite direction.

Are Canadian Jews Lemmings?

by

Howard Adelman

Though most responses to my last screed against Harper were positive, one of my favourite readers replied simply, “I am not a lemming!”

Below, is my answer.

You are not small. You are not thick-tailed and you certainly are not a rodent. There is, however, the possibility that you are a lemming who joins a movement unthinkingly, but that choice would not result in a headlong rush to destruction without a proper consideration of the consequences.  There is also the possibility that you may claim the choice is a result of careful thought and deliberation. Again, as a further alternative, you may believe that your conclusion results, not because of ignoring the evidence or from faulty logic, but from using a different moral scale.

The Jewish shift to Harper may have had some rationale before he achieved a majority because of the performances and commitment of the opposition with respect to Israel. When combined with the absence of sufficient evidence of the consequences when Harper led a minority government, his tremendous rhetorical support for Israel may have so tipped the moral scales of evaluation, especially when the world generally appeared to have isolated Israel. But after the last four years?

As I see it, there are actually six logical possibilities to account for the continuing shift in Jewish support for Harper even after the evidence for forsaking any other alternative to Harper is taken into consideration.

Process of Decision Positive Consequences Negative Consequences
Careful thought Not a rush to destruction

A

A headlong rush to destruction

D

Moral imbalance Not a rush to destruction

B

A headlong rush to destruction

E

Unthinking Not a rush to destruction

C

A headlong rush to destruction

F

Support for Harper may be a result of deliberative thought in the belief that, whatever the evidence urging non-support, the consequences will not be destruction and those consequences are not as bad as the consequences of supporting any alternative, especially when the matter of Israel is given disproportionate weight. This is alternative A above. Alternative D is an empty category because careful thought and a headlong rush to destruction are incompatible.

A second and third possibility: a different scale is being used to weigh various alternatives. In this option, enormous weight is given to support for Israel. (Options B&E) On this issue, there is a real debate over whether unstinting support for the current government in Israel contributes or subtracts from the possibility of Israel’s destruction. My own view is that it contributes to the possibility of that destruction, but the weighting is difficult and inconclusive at this time. However, the host of measures leading to the diminishing of Canadian future prospects is so overwhelming. On any reasonable moral scale, it is very difficult to see how Harper’s unqualified support for Israel, especially when there are absolutely no deliverables, could possibly outweigh the array of other negative considerations.

The fourth and fifth possibilities are that the choice could be unthinking, but the path may or may not lead to destruction. Here there is a point. The path may lead to further diminution of Canada’s future; characterizing the outcome as destruction may be hyperbolic. Even though using the reference to lemmings suggests a mass parade over a cliff ending in drowning, blind and unthinking following a Pied Piper may not have that catastrophic result. But the individual is still a lemming in either case.

So let us take the two alternatives of utilizing a different moral scale that gives a disproportionate weight to the effects on Israel. Set aside my argument that, in spite of and, possibly, because of Harper’s cheerleading for Israel, this has been bad not good for Israel. If that disproportionate weighting is so great that virtually all consequences for Canada are diminished, does that not risk a backlash against Jews in Canada for making Israel so important that most Canadian Jews are willing to risk Canada’s future? Does it not risk the possibility that an alternative government to Harper’s conservatives will diminish its support for Israel in response to that Jewish voting pattern?

The only other alternative is the possibility that the Jewish vote has shifted so significantly towards Harper because it is the result of deliberative thought, in spite of the myriad of Harper’s bad policies and practices, just because, rhetorically, he is the most passionate defender of Israel. I prefer to be generous and think it is the result of unthinking, both because I know that all my Jewish friends who are voting Tory are, to a person, very intelligent and considerate human beings, and, secondly, as I have argued, any reasoned consideration of the evidence and logic could not result in a vote for the Harper government. So my only conclusion must be that their behaviour is unthinking because I refuse to insult the intelligence of my closest friends. Better unthinking than stupid thinking I say. Otherwise, if you support Harper because you have thought the matter through, then I have to attribute that support to an inability to reason adequately, to bad reasoning, rather than any lack of thought altogether.

Hence, my conclusion that many of my closest friends may be behaving like lemmings.

Canada, Israel and Syrian Refugees

Yesterday I took a drive with one of my sons through Forest Hill Village, one of two older and very prosperous areas in the City of Toronto near downtown, generally characterized as upper middle class. In fact, many of its denizens are lower upper class. We were delivering flowers lest our orthodox friends be faced with allowing the flowers to die if we brought them once Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year Holiday, started. The predominant Halachic interpretation of Talmudic Law forbids such action on Rosh Hashanah lest the flowers not be in full bloom and the individual putting the flowers in the water be guilty of participating in “planting” on a day on which work was prohibited.

Forest Hill was awash in blue signs for the Conservative candidate. Though I do not live in Forest Hill, Forest Hill is part of St. Paul’s riding where I live. In the May 2011 election, Carolyn Bennett won the riding handily with 39.92% of the vote when the Liberals across Canada won only 18.91% of the vote and were decimated. Marnie MacDougall, the executive assistant to Conservative MP Mark Adler who represents the heavily Jewish riding of Thornhill, is running for the Conservatives in a riding in which Conservatives won 32.42% of the vote in the last election whereas the Conservatives across the country received 39.62% of the vote. (The NDP, even when it became the official opposition and won 30.62% of the vote across Canada, won only 22.63% of the vote in St. Paul’s.) Even though the NDP candidate this time is Noah Richler with a well-recognized name, the NDP is considered to have very little chance of winning in this riding, especially in an election where many left of centre voters are voting strategically and will vote for the party best able to oust Stephen Harper.

Though the riding has traditionally been Liberal, in the May 1979 election Ron Atkey defeated John Roberts for the Liberals and became the Conservative representative for St. Paul’s riding with 44.1% of the vote compared to 41.3% for the Conservatives. In the February 1980 elections, Roberts retook the riding with 45.3% compared to Atkey’s 39.5%. However, in the almost 10 months when the Conservatives were in power and when Ron was the representative, he was the Immigration Minister who led the charge to admit 50,000 Indochinese refugees into Canada by the end of 1980. (The Liberals, when they won subsequently, increased the intake of refugees to 60,000; in 1979, the Tories and the Liberals competed for which party was the best humanitarian.)

In the 2015 election, once again the Tories are in a position to win the riding even though the Tories are running at only 30% in support across the nation. The reasons are simple. St. Paul’s is a riding with a significant portion of Jews; however, that proportion is only about 14%. The majority of Jews during Harper’s rule have increasingly shifted to the Tories in line with their income, but primarily because of Harper’s unequivocal support for Israel and, more particularly, for the Netanyahu government. Even more Jews seem to have shifted to the Tories when voter shifts elsewhere have gone in the opposite direction across the country. The second major reason is that the NDP, which is the leading party in national polls to this date, is running a credible candidate with a name with national recognition who is not a token, but is running to win on a hoped for NDP tide. With little experience, we do not know how many of the voters in this riding will vote strategically. The shrinking of the riding boundary on its eastern border is not expected to effect the distribution of the vote significantly.

The litmus test for most Jews in casting their ballots, based on a small sample, seems to be Israel. Given their past experience, even though most Jews are sympathetic to refugees generally, the Jewish community has been very slow off the mark in its support for the Syrian refugees. Generally they are following the Tory message line. There is a security threat from these refugees, even though Canadian policy is directed at taking threatened minorities from the area, a code for large numbers of Christians. Whereas the Liberal Party and many leading figures are calling for the admission of tens of thousands of government-assisted Syrian refugees by the end of 2016 – Rick Hillier, a former head of the armed services, has called for the admission of 25,000 through a military airlift by the end of this year), the Tories, in contrast, are pledged to take in only 20,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees over four years.

When the numbers are broken down between Iraqis and Syrians, when government assisted refugees are disaggregated from the total Canada will be assisting, the number for 2016 is only 2,500 for 2016. Thus, even if Canada recalibrates and accelerates its intake, a Tory government is unlikely to bring in 5,000 Syrian government-assisted refugees next year.

Yet Jews continue to shift their support to the Conservatives. This is in spite of the fact that even Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition in Israel, has called on the Israeli government to do much more for the Syrian refugees. This is in spite of the fact that the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted an estimated 2,000 Syrians into hospitals in Israel, though they must return when they have recuperated. Israel has also set up a field hospital in the Golan Heights that treats many more Syrian refugees. Nevertheless, Netanyahu will not permit some Syrian refugees to settle even in the West Bank as called for by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and also in spite of the fact that many Syrian refugees are Druze, part of the 500,000 Druzim and their descendents made into internally displaced people by Israel’s capture of the Golan Heights in 1967.

With all these qualifications, Israel is still doing more than the current Canadian government. Harper promised to raise humanitarian aid to Syrian refugee camps to up to $100 million dollars to match charitable funds raised in Canada to improve the situation in the camps just when refugees are leaving the camps in droves heading for Europe and at the same time as the Canadian government promises to help Syrian minorities.

Harper insists that the focus should be, probably in order of priority, on:

  • fighting ISIS which now controls almost 50% of Syrian refugee territory
  • continue training Western-supported rebels against the Assad regime, – a platform on which the Liberals agree – even though they only control 5% of the territory, and many of them, though no nearly as extremist as ISIS, are still facing accusations of participating in the religious cleansing of Christians who traditionally were protected by Assad
  • emphasize giving humanitarian aid to the refugees in camps
  • select for intake into Canada persecuted minorities who have not been registered by UNHCR, and, therefore, not processed as refugees, who have taken refugee in urban slums throughout the Middle East

Harper has not provided the significant increase in Canadian visa officers necessary to put even this extremely modest support for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in practice. Even the right-wing anti-Muslim Dutch parliamentarian, Geert Wilders, has acceded to the call to admit more Syrian refugees into Europe on the proviso that they be required to sign an anti-Sharia declaration in which the pledge to give priority to Dutch law over Sharia law and that they both repudiate all passages in the Koran that mandate spreading the religion by the sword and for treating other religions as inferior.

Jews have shifted their support to Harper because he has been the strongest supporter of the Netanyahu regime internationally, even though that support is rhetorical only and has not been and will not be translatable into any deliverables on the world stage. Canadian influence on the rest of the world has shrunk considerably even as we worked mainly on the margins rather than on central issues such as the economy and defence. For we have joined the worst laggards and surrendered our leadership in the world in refugee policy and can no longer play the leadership role in gaveling talks on Palestinian refugees as we once did.

However, the fact that Canadian influence has been reduced to irrelevance on both the Israeli and the refugee issues, the fact is that Harper should be voted out of power on a myriad of issues, including, as samples, the following:

  • the decimation of the public service and the reduction of civil servants to servants of the Prime Minister and his policies rather than of the Canadian people with an independent capacity to influence public policy and ensure that any policy decisions made can be carried out with competence
  • the decimation of independent scientific research by scientists in the employ of the Canadian government
  • the elimination of Canada as the paradigm for training civil servants in the rest of the world on the compilation of relevant and important statistical data so that Statistics Canada has been reduced to a shadow of its former self
  • the reduction of support for aboriginal education of its youth from 78% of what the rest of the students in Canada receive to less than 72%, even though Stephen Harper offered a formal apology to our first nations for Canadian treatment of aboriginal peoples in the past
  • the failure of the Conservative government to balance its budget even once even when the economy was booming in the last few years
  • allowing Canada to slip into recession this year
  • poor support for veterans
  • the mess continued of the Liberal precedent of an inability to properly procure needed equipment for Canadian military forces
  • the introduction of Bill C-51 that may have included some measures to increase the security measures to protect Canadians, but in many areas unnecessarily included many provisions that threaten to infringe on Canadian rights and freedoms
  • the disrespect for the Supreme Court of Canada
  • the disrespect for Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and losing court case after court case as the government introduced policy after policy in blatant disregard of the provisions of the charter
  • the diminution of Canadian democracy as the Prime Minister aggregated more and more powers to the office of the Prime Minister and would introduce omnibus bills in parliament that significantly reduced the time available to explore and understand complex issues and ensure these issues received adequate consideration by Parliamentarians.

The list could go on and on. Yet Jews, who traditionally would be critical of Harper and may still be for many of the government’s failures, increasingly vote for Harper based on Harper’s rhetorical support for Israel. Even though that support is just for the Netanyahu government and not Israel per se, even though that support should be balanced against a host of other failures, more and more Canadian Jews seem to be shifting their support for Harper against trends the other way in Canada. This support will cost Israel and the Canadian Jewish community greatly if most Jews are perceived as virtually automatons who can be led like lemmings with just one tune on the flute of a Pied Piper.

It is sad.

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.

Dancing Arabs

Dancing Arabs

by

Howard Adelman

[I will wrap up my series on Indochinese refugees tomorrow morning, but this morning I just had to write a review of the movie I saw yesterday.]

In the 1986 or 1987 when I first met the late Ralph (Rafi) Amram, a pedagogue and educationalist from Israel, and listened to his idea of founding “the best residential school in the world” in Jerusalem which would take in the most promising mathematical and musical talent in the country, I thought that this heavy-set man, a bit younger than myself at the time, was both “mad” in the good sense and the most enthusiastic enthusiast for a cause that I had ever met. He was then heading the Society for Excellence through Education and was determined to found what I believe was then called and continues to be known as (its title in the movie under review) The Israel Arts and Science Academy but formally as The Israel Academy of Arts, Sciences and the Humanities. He would soon convince the Asher family of Chicago to back his dream and was traveling across North America raising funds for the school.

From the first, Rafi was determined to found a school that would not be an educational institution for an elite of nerds cut off from society, but would build into its curriculum a requirement that each student dedicate a number of hours per week back to the community (I recall it as being 10 hours, but it may have only been 4 hours per week and the figure became exaggerated through my faulty memory), but which certainly compares very favourably to the 20 hours during all of high school for students in Ontario. From most of the students I have known going through this community program in Canada, the 20 hour requirement did not infuse the students with a sense of an obligation, indeed an eagerness, to give back to the community, but, rather, a sense of how can I skip over this hurdle with the least hassle possible. In contrast, the program of the Academy would be and has been different in the sense that dedication to contributing to the community and to the principle of mending the world (in Hebrew, tikkun olam) would be and has been part of the core curriculum.

Thus, community service was to be one of the four core principles on which the school was built in addition to a major stress on mathematics and music, and would also include a solid ethical foundation, the fostering of independent and critical thinking, and, most of all, a sense of curiosity and exploration to emphasize learning as a lifelong voyage of discovery. The physical facility would be specifically designed with that in mind to provide places all around the school for students to interact in informal settings.

I do not recall Rafi ever dreaming of the school having a sports and physical fitness program, but it does now, but one oriented to personal health and well-being rather than competitive team sports. It also has a visual arts and phenomenal science program. Though Rafi’s dream was to provide a model that would feed into the rest of education in Israel, I do not believe he imagined, at least as he articulated his vision to me, the extensive way in which the school has developed its outreach and enrichment programs to other schools around the country, or that it would serve to provide curricular hubs for schools around the world dedicated to achieving excellence.

Can you imagine a high school that would offer this June the Annual Albert Einstein Memorial Lecture on a topic such as, “Can the Navier-Stokes Equation Blow Up in Finite Time?” by Prof. Terence Tao, the Fields Medalist for 2006? Last year, the school held a collaborative symposium on, “Big Data and the Future of Research in the Digital Age,” between the Israel Young Academy and the German Young Academy.

In Rafi’s vision, the school would be operated on a systematic program of measuring progress, providing feedback to both teachers and students on their development to encourage excellence as the only standard so that students as well as teachers become the means for initiating change and improvements. Student selection would be based on merit alone, but the school would be committed to providing the best education for young students of high school age from every community in Israel, Jewish and Arab, secular and religious, students coming from development towns with poor schooling and students coming from the best primary schools in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Although students would be selected on the basis of merit alone, with a significant outreach, the school would be a residential school offering its young students enough financial aid as needed to assure the pupils could attend the school without placing an immediate financial burden on their families.

The excellence and range of the school is reflected in its Board of Directors. As a signal of both excellence and the balance between recognition of public service, research and business donors, the current Board of the school includes luminaries from government — Moshe Arad, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, and Dan Meridor, a Likudnik and Cabinet Minister whom I met in 1982 and gave me an introduction to the head of the IDF in order to get permission to enter Lebanon and study the people displaced by the Israeli invasion, Ayala Procaccia, a former Israeli Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. The academic world is represented by David Harman, former president of Hebrew University, Zehev Tadmor from the US-Israel Science & Technology Foundation, Hanoch Gutfreund, a physicist and author of The Road to Relativity. Businessmen include Nissim Bar–El, a high-tech and security expert, Ze’ev Drori, an Israeli-born American technology entrepreneur, and Eran Shir, co-founder and CTO of Dapper, one of the most prominent angel investors in Israel. Last, but in the cliché not least, the academic and social activist, Nava Ben-Zvi who serves as chair of the Board and who is the first recipient of the University of Florida’s Global Leadership Award for her scholarship and work on behalf of disadvantaged women.

I became involved with the school in two ways. First, Rafi invited me along with seven internationally-known philosophers from around the world, to spend a week in Oxford University around Sir Isaiah Berlin designing the humanities curriculum for the school. For though the school was destined to be renowned for its music and mathematics program, Rafi wanted the school also to have the best humanities program.  Many of the group invited, such as Avishai Margalit, who had been a colleague at Hebrew University when I was a Lady Davis visiting professor there in 1977-78, who won the 2007 one million dollar Emet Prize for Philosophy, and is now at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, were former students of Isaiah Berlin. I, and for that matter, Avishai’s late wife, Edna, also a colleague at Hebrew University, had not been Isaiah’s students. The Marxist expert and theorist (Karl Marx’s Theory of History), Professor Jerry Cohen, originally from Montreal and McGill, at the time Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford, but subsequently the Quain Professor of Jurisprudence at University College, London, and, more importantly, the best stand-up comic I have ever met, kept us in stitches with superb imitations of Isaiah’s mannerisms and unique way of speaking English. I still have a framed picture of the nine of us on my shelf; unfortunately, five of the nine, including Rafi, the first one to die, Gerry and Edna have passed away.

I do not know to what extent the school adheres to the original humanities curriculum that we drew up at the time, but hopefully what we prepared was a direction and a standard and not a set of vice grips. When I looked on line this morning, the humanities curriculum was still based on a great books program emphasizing primary sources that would make most universities envious. It still had the requirement of mastery of a second language and the insistence that students write a dissertation before graduating.

My second involvement came when I produced and hosted the television program, Israel Today, and we made one program in Israel focused on the school, its physical and pedagogical architecture and specifically, the inclusion of Arabs and Jews in the same school — as well as the superb educational program offered. The school which got off the ground in 1990 and at which Sayed Kashua, the author of both the novel and the screenplay of the film under review, must have been an early student. When we did the program, the school had by then been operating for fifteen years. I write this because the Academy is as important as most of the supporting characters in the movie.

My son, Jeremy, worked for a year on Kibbutz Gesher. Gesher in Hebrew means bridge. One anagram of the word, regesh, means emotion and sensitivity. The most important virtue of the school, in addition to fostering intellectual and artistic excellence, is its emphasis on both regesh and gesher, serving as a bridge between different worlds. In the film, A Borrowed Identity, the movie with the original title of Dancing Arabs under which it is being promoted in Toronto, a movie directed by the Israeli-Arab director, Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) and financed by The Israel Film Fund, The Jerusalem Film & TV Fund and the Israel Lottery Council for Culture & Arts, Eyad is an Israeli-Palestinian from the small Arab town of Tira. (The town scenes were actually shot in Kafr Qasim; I recognized the town for we had once had a program for Israel Today set there.) Eyad is the central protagonist, though to adumbrate the course of the movie, Naomi, played again with terrific panache by Danielle Kitsis, his eventual Jewish girlfriend at the school, teases him for allowing the Jewish students to call him Ayid, a Jewish Israeli name with the ironic meaning in the diaspora of a yid. In both the semi-autobiographical novel and the screenplay, Eyad is a both a brilliant mathematician as well as a very sensitive and affectionate child well before he earns a scholarship to The Academy which is portrayed as fostering and reinforcing both that intellect and sensitivity.

In one scene after Eyad has clearly been at the school for a few years, reluctantly when the teacher insists, he offers an in-depth stellar critique of the portrayal of Arabs in the novels of most of the greats of Israeli literature, including the famous very progressive advocate of peace, Amos Oz. The analysis took less than two minutes. The segment is amazing, but even more amazing is the reaction of his fellow Jewish students who acknowledge Eyad’s performance as itself amazing. Though the students laugh inappropriately when he first arrives at the school, for his mis-pronunciation of Hebrew, always substituting “B” for “P” as Israel Arabs tend to do, and which is used earlier as the key clue Eyad unravels to allow his family to win a local TV quiz contest in his home village when he was a young child, the expression of discrimination and intolerance is characteristic of youth and extremely mild. The school is actually portrayed as the epitome of tolerance – except when it comes to a love affair between a Jewish girl and an Arab.

Razi Gabareen, who plays Eyad as a young boy, and Tawfeek Barhom, who plays him as a young man, are both terrific in their parts and totally convincing that they are playing the same person who becomes even more introspective as he matures, though always retaining a delightful sense of humour and a wry smile.  The movie is not primarily about a brilliant scientist who happens to have a personal and emotional life, but almost entirely about that emotional life. It is a love story, a tale of strained love between the boy and his father, Salah, again played superbly by Ali Suliman. Salah both pushes Eyad to accepting the scholarship to the best school in Israel and towards realizing his father’s dream when he attended Hebrew University, for his career was aborted when he was charged with being a “terrorist” and was and certainly remained an anti-Israeli activist. The father clearly hates Israel and hoped Saddam Hussein would kill the Jews with his missiles in the opening of the Iraqi War, at the same time as he recognizes the achievements of Israeli schools and academia.

The movie is a love story between Eyad and his parents, and between Eyad’s father and mother. She is devoted to her supportive husband, but proves herself the real subversive when the father tries to transmit his radical ideology to his children. Her rich inner and outer life is only hinted at. Even more slighted is the affection between Eyad and his two older brothers. It is a story of Eyad’s deepest love for his grandmother for whom he is clearly the favourite child. And it would be almost impossible not to adore him with his combination of intellectual brilliance and sensitivity, his compassion and concern for others, yet his dispassionate view of both the excesses of both his own Arab world and the Israeli world of anti-Arab haters. This attitude permeates the film and is not restricted to the scene when he is insulted at a bus stop by a group of Israeli Jewish teenagers, but in one scene there is the equivalent of an anti-Semitic sticker, but one directed at Arabs, on the side of a telephone booth.

The love story continues when he is a teenager and attends the Academy, but leaves behind the humour and the intimacy when he lived with his family in Tira. That sensitivity and compassion emerges not so much in the school as when he gives his hours dedicated to community service to taking care of and being a companion to a young Jewish boy with muscular dystrophy. After a rough initial start, they not only become the best of friends, but Yonatan, played by Michael Moshonov, introduces Eyad to the world of popular music and to a very black and wicked sense of humour. Yonatan also teaches Eyad that dissing and put downs can be forms of a self-critical and ironic teasing form of humour. The tale is also the love story of Yonaton’s single mother, Edna, played by the exquisitely beautiful Yaēel Abecassis, a secular Jew and a lawyer, for Eyad becomes like a second son, though a few of my friends who attended the movie with me yesterday thought there was a strong note of sexuality suggested in the relationship. I did not.

In school, the central love of his life (and reciprocally for her) is a bubbly outgoing and clearly also very intelligent Jewish classmate, Naomi. However, although this Romeo and Juliet love story forms the central plot, the real theme of the movie is not primarily about love but about shape-shifting, about how identity is changed by context, by challenges and by introspection and by a series of small decisions. The motif of an identity shift is at the core of the movie against the volatile background of Jewish-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab relations in the Middle East. Eyad’s shifts in identity from a son of a fiery Arab nationalist (in the novel, the grandfather was killed fighting Jews in the War of Independence) of whom he is very proud but also blissfully ignorant – there is a hilarious scene when a Jewish Israeli is hosted in Eyad’s home as an exercise in coexistence and mutual understanding  – to someone who learns to speak Hebrew like a Jewish Israeli, to someone who passes as a Jewish Israeli to earn more money as a waiter rather than as a dishwasher in the back kitchen, to – I will not say anything more.

The film has many flaws, including the absence of any other friends or family of Yonatan and his mother Edna that becomes glaring at the highly implausible film ending. The flaws that bothered me, however, were petty and irrelevant. Why was he the only Arab shown in a school which exerts enormous efforts to enrol Arab students? I never saw one of the students wearing a kippa – one of my friends assured me he saw one – when the school also tries to enrol religious Jews. Nevertheless, though far from the greatest film, it is an excellent one and well worth seeing.

Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

Monitoring and Verifying the JPA in a Duplicitous Environment

by

Howard Adelman

I have lost track of the number of times that I have been asked why I tied Argentina into the “discussions” between Israel and the U.S. and the negotiations between Iran and the U.S. over the nuclear issue. The parallelism in the roots of anti-Semitism in both Argentina and Iran seemed a stretch. The evidence for Iran bombing the Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aries in 1994 seemed a long time ago and, further, did not appear to have any connection with nuclear materials, even if the bombing constituted an argument for Iran’s determined, venomous and lethal manner of conducting foreign policy. Though the possibility that Iran was planning a similar attack last year in Montevideo, Uruguay certainly raised a red flag, it seemed to reflect on Iran’s overseas intelligence agency that would target civilians and not its nuclear policy. Two days ago, the diplomatic connection was made. Argentina formally asked the U.S. to include the issue of the 1994 bombing within the nuclear negotiations. I could say that I anticipated this connection, but I did not.

As I am prone to say, FAT CHANCE! Argentine courts may have accused a group of Iranians of planning the attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre that killed 85 people, and Iran’s intelligence service may even have had a hand in the murder of Alberto Nisman, but why would that instigate Argentina’s Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, to send a letter to John Kerry to make a request made previously. “I am asking you again that the AMIA issue be included in the negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

The answer I think is simple, since Argentina does not really expect the Obama administration, given the importance this administration has placed on the negotiations with Iran, to actually push to have that item on the agenda when no provision was made for adding new agenda items under negotiation in the Joint Plan of Action (JPA) agreed to by Iran. President Cristina Férnandez and Héctor Timerman very badly need to divert the focus on them brought about because they have been accused of conspiring with Iran to whitewash the crime in order to clinch a grains-for-oil deal. This is not about electioneering since Férnandez is constitutionally barred from running in October for a third consecutive term. This is also not just about their historical legacy. Both do not want to be accused let alone tried for a criminal conspiracy.

But why make such an obviously fruitless effort? As Jen Psaki diplomatically replied on behalf of the U.S. State Department, she was unaware of any plans to raise the AMIA issue in the negotiations. Because Férnandez and Timerman believe that Mossad, and, perhaps, even the CIA, are behind the effort to shift the focus of anger for the unresolved AMIA bombing on them by delivering to Alberto Nisman allegedly incriminating evidence that there had been such a deal. I suspect, and I only suspect for I have absolutely no evidence for it, that Férnandez and Timerman both believe that Iran was behind Nisman’s killing. Finding Iran responsible is not the problem for them. But if that investigation leads back to connecting them to a deal with Iran to shift the investigation to the side because of an oil-for-grain deal, that would be a very serious problem subjecting both to being charged for criminal conspiracy to hide a crime, even if they were never proven guilty of that charge.

However, this blog is not intended to be a whodunit. It is more of an inquiry into what is really going on and a whydunit. Shifting now back to the substance of the negotiations is necessary, but I will try to tie all loose ends together, and well before the June deadline for doing this in the nuclear negotiations. Before I undertake the comparison, Machiavellian diplomacy requires that a person talk out of two sides of his/her face at one and the same time. My analysis in my last blog suggested that the pro-Iranian thrust of the preamble of JPA might have been deliberate in order to allow Iran to be boxed in tighter than otherwise might be the case by the substantive clauses. Those specific regulations are about performance rather than intentions, but unless viewed through the lenses of possible malevolent intent, then the only assessment will be of the performance relative to the term of agreement and not to the issue of the test itself which, in the end, is intended to examine intent and ensure behaviour conforms to that intent. But that latter issue must in turn be placed within a more general context.

The current Iran regime has been conducting a pro-Jewish (definitely not pro-Zionist) public relations campaign to offset the widespread image of the Iran power-brokers as uniformly anti-Semitic. Mair Javendafar, a Jew originally from Iran who teaches Contemporary Iranian Politics in Israel, documented that offensive in a recent article in Al-Monitor entitled, “Rouhani accommodates Iran’s Jewish students.”

President Hassan Rouhani as of 4 February made what had been an emerging practice official – Jewish students no longer are required to attend school on Shabat, a decree that resurrected a practice initiated right after the 1979 revolution but did not last. A year ago, Rouhani’s government donated $400,000 to the Jewish charity hospital. In December, he also unveiled a memorial to Jewish soldiers who died in the Iraq-Iran war. As well as attending such memorials, Ali Younesi, Rouhani’s special assistant, visits synagogues and other Jewish institutions. In the meanwhile, a second Holocaust denial cartoon exhibition is being organized in Tehran, so President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s heritage is still alive and well. After all, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called the Holocaust a hoax. All this is for a population that now numbers less than 9,000. In 1979, when Iran severed relations with Israel, the Jewish population there totaled 80,000, mostly in Tehran. So what is the relationship between these recent pro-Jewish initiatives, Iran’s virulent anti-Israeli stance and the nuclear negotiations?

A similar dual track process is visible in Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu. When Netanyahu addressed the UN in September, Obama had a private discussion with Netanyahu over their differences, but only after Obama went through a barrage of denials that he was snubbing Netanyahu and refusing to meet with him. The Israeli press reported that the White House had turned down a request for a meeting while the White House issued a statement that no request had been made. One brouhaha follows another, and each one ending in an affirmation from the White House that American ties with Israel are deep and abiding.

In one case, the head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, was reported as even opposing additional sanctions against Iran. However, in a 19 January meeting, Pardo absolutely denied that he had said any such thing. Quite the contrary. He insisted that the sanctions had been very effective and were the key instruments that brought Iran to the negotiating table. Further, Pardo agreed with a carrot and stick approach to negotiating with Iran rather than a confrontational posture based on absolute demands. Pardo’s criticism was about the absence of a sufficiently large stick in pressuring Iran. That stick, he insisted, should include stopping the talks and resuming under better parameters. He reinforced Kissinger’s critique that the parameters of the talks were flawed. What I wanted to emphasize here is the continuing disinformation war surrounding the negotiations. Thus, normally astute reporters, such as David Ignatius of the Washington Post, is used as a conduit to get out the message that the Obama White House had decided to cut out the Israelis from any briefing on the negotiations, and then, subsequently, the White House denies there was any truth to the story. This exercise in simulation diplomatic warfare is part of the fog of diplomatic war.

We know the following. Before negotiations even opened on the basis of the JPA in November 2013, Obama and Netanyahu were at loggerheads over the Iran negotiations. America’s goal was to extend the breakout period for construction of a nuclear weapon to at least one year, not, as many Republican critics contend, that this had been a change in policy from the original goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons altogether – a goal few viewed as achievable without bringing down the regime. Israel’s goal was to end the ability of Iran to produce nuclear weapons ever. Henry Kissinger in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee cited the UNSC resolution “to deny Iran the capability to develop a military option.” True, but hardly revealing since the issue was how best to operationalize that goal, by instituting inspections and oversights and extending Iran’s breakout period for a year or by insisting that Iran’s nuclear program in its entirely be dismantled, a goal which the JPA explicitly rejected as unrealizable. Does one opt for conflict prevention which would require a much higher level of confrontation, or conflict management at a much lower level of engagement?

In January, in a phone call between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama had asked Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower while negotiators explored whether Iran would agree to a deal that limited centrifuges and stockpiles in order to extend the breakout period for Iran to at least a year. Netanyahu responded to the American negotiating position that a year wasn’t enough; he repeated Israel’s hardline insistence that Iran should not be allowed any centrifuges or enrichment. There had been two additional differences in the background. As already mentioned, Obama seemed willing to permit Iran to become a regional power and even recently endorsed such a proposition. That possibility made Israel (and Saudi Arabia) apoplectic. Israel wanted to reign in and, hopefully, eliminate Iran’s ability to send missiles to Israel; the JPA made no reference to missiles. In addition, Kissinger criticized the two developments as leading to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East so that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt would be pressured to begin a process of developing a capability for making nuclear weapons.

The implication that this week’s simulated exercise in diplomatic warfare arose because Netanyahu had released information about the American goal of a one-year breakout period, is nonsense. Anyone who did any reading on the matter knew this and has known this for at least a year. (See my previous two blogs on the progress of the negotiations.) One did not need Netanyahu to learn about this. The White House in January had not only asked, but urged Netanyahu to hold his diplomatic firepower when Israeli intelligence had concluded that a deal was now possible and even imminent. Netanyahu determined to scuttle the deal. While the negotiations had been continuing previously and success was not imminent – rather failure seemed in the offing – Netanyahu had held most of his fire. That phase was over. Netanyahu and his Republican allies in Congress were explicitly out to kibosh the agreement before it was too late. The issue was not over the specifics – whether Iran would be allowed to retain 6,500 or 7,000 centrifuges, but over the deal itself.

To repeat. The issue is that the deal now seems not only possible but imminent. For allowing Iran to retain its centrifuges that would allow it in a year to upgrade its uranium to weapons grade, had all along been unacceptable to Netanyahu, let alone the absence of any limits on Iranian missile development. Piled on these old schisms is now a new one. The White House now seems determined to lift sanctions without Congressional approval if it gets the deal it wants rather than face certain defeat by presenting the deal negotiated to the Senate for ratification.

The issue is even larger. The Iranian religious regime is opposed to liberalism and Western values, but has fully embraced its technology, except when the electronic revolution threatens its system of corruption and authoritarianism, its repression of rights and freedoms. Any deal agreed to now will strengthen Iran’s preservation of its Manichean world view which has focused on Zionism as the fundamental source of all evil, the Small Satan for which America, the Great Satan, is its major tool. This stance, if it is the governing one, will, in the end, sabotage the Iranian government’s current genuine efforts in engagement with the outside world even if the intentions of the current Iranian government are really just to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. As the critics of the negotiations chime, if you believe that, then you believe pigs can fly.

There is one final contextual issue – the timing of sanctions. Iran is currently in a terrible position economically and very sensitive to external pressure given both the low price of oil and the internal weaknesses of a kleptocratic economy of rent seekers where many of the large firms are in the hands of Iranian extremists who use those businesses both to fund their political agendas as well as for personal gain. Just this week, Iran’s Central Task Force to Combat the Smuggling of Commodities and Currency pointed to corruption as a key factor behind Iran’s high inflation and high unemployment rate. Smuggling is used not only to get around sanctions, not only to feed personal greed, but to feed a dissident apolitical underground interested in cigarettes, cell phones, cosmetics, music, dance, films, alcohol and drugs. So there is a weird interdependency between the religious puritans and the secular cultural dissidents in the dependency of both on smuggling totaling over $25 billion.

How has Iran behaved since the JPA was agreed to in November 2013? For the process of negotiations, the practices of providing transparency and rules for ensuring that transparency must be assessed in order to weigh one way or another for anyone who sees a rationale in both perspectives to decide which of the alternative strategies to follow.

The JPA provided that Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures:

  • From the existing uranium enriched to 20%, Iran could retain half as working stock of 20% oxide for fabrication of fuel for the TRR while the remaining 20% UF6 had to be diluted to no more than 5%
  • There had to be no reconversion line
  • Iran must confirm that it will not enrich uranium over 5% during the six months
  • Iran must not make any further advances of its activities at the Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant1, Fordow2, or the Arak reactor3, designated by the IAEA as IR-40
  • When the line for conversion of UF6 enriched up to 5% to UO2 is ready, Iran has to convert that to oxide UF6 newly enriched up to 5% during the 6 month period
  • No new locations for enrichment are to be developed
  • Iran will continue safeguarded R&D practices, including enrichment R&D practices, as provided in the operational schedule of the conversion plant declared to the IAEA
  • No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing
  • There will be enhanced monitoring.

In addition to the above undertakings, provision was made for specified information to be provided to the IAEA, including information on Iran’s plans for nuclear facilities, a description of each building on each nuclear site, a description of the scale of operations for each location engaged in specified nuclear activities, information on uranium mines and mills, and information on source material. This information would be provided within three months of November 2013.

Iran was also required to submit an updated and completed Design Information Questionnaire for the purposes of conducting a building inspection (a DIQ) for the reactor at Arak (IR-40) to the IAEA. Iran had to agree to conform to an IAEA Safeguards Standards for IR-40. When inspectors are not present at a facility, Iran had to allow daily IAEA inspector access for DIQ verification, Interim Inventory Verification (IIV), Physical Inventory Verification (PIV), and unannounced inspections, for the purpose of access to offline surveillance records at Fordow and Natanz. IAEA has to have access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities; and uranium mines and mills.

Five other measures for assessing Iran’s intentions and performance were put in place:

1 During the 6 months, for centrifuges that have been installed but not currently enriching uranium, Iran will not feed UF6 into them.

  1. Any replacements of centrifuges will be of the same type.
  2. At Fordow:
  • there will be no further enrichment over 5% at 4 cascades now enriching uranium
  • enrichment capacity will not be increased
  • Iran will not feed UF6 into the other 12 non-operative state cascades
  • There will be no further interconnections made between cascades
  • Any replacements of existing centrifuges will be of centrifuges of the same type.
    1. At Arak, for 6 months, Iran will not:
  • commission the reactor
  • transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site
  • will not test additional fuel
  • will not produce more fuel for the reactor
  • will not install remaining components.
    1. Iran’s centrifuge production during the 6 months will be dedicated to replacing damaged machines.

Without yet assessing whether Iran complied with any or all of these provisions, it is clear that these are about halting a process underway of producing military-grade nuclear fuel whatever the protestations of Iran about its commitment to exclusive peaceful use of nuclear energy. Further, it is also clear that that these were interim steps to assess sincerity by Iran and to provide a foundation for further transparency and monitoring Iranian compliance. Finally, it is also clear that the negotiations are not about eliminating Iran’s nuclear program altogether.

How did Iran perform in the first six months? What quid pro quo in lifting sanctions did the West undertake and put into effect?

Tomorrow: The First Six Months of Compliance with the JPA