Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 24, 2007

This Land Is My Land!

Today, Reuters reports that Chinese authorities in central Shaanxi province have detained three peasants who led a campaign to reclaim land. The three were among six farmers who signed an open letter, purportedly on behalf of 70,000 others. “We reject the previous form of collective ownership,” the letter states. “It cannot guarantee the farmers’ permanent rights to the land . . . and cannot prevent the illegal infringement by officials and thugs.”

The three peasants have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power,” and it’s not hard to see why. In what could be the most significant development in China this year, peasants across the country in the last few weeks are declaring that they, and not the state or its collectives, own the fields they till and the orchards they tend. Similar declarations have been made in the last two weeks in the provincial-level city of Tianjin and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jiangsu.

Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 on promises of land redistribution. He made good on his word by breaking up the holdings of landlords, but he soon confiscated all land for the state in the 1950s. Local peasants, on their own initiative, brought back the concept of individual farming in the early 1980s, but they never obtained title to the soil. Now, they want to complete the process and own the land they occupy. If successful, they will put an end to socialism in the countryside.

It’s not that the agricultural poor are highminded. They merely want what is theirs. In the last decade predatory officials have, in the name of development, grabbed peasant land with little or no compensation but almost always for their personal benefit. Land seizures are undoubtedly the biggest cause of unrest—sometimes in the form of pitched battles between peasants and thugs hired by local governments—in China today.

Beijing vows that the countryside will be stable in 2008. Yesterday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the central government’s State Council concluded their annual central rural work conference with the usual pledges to aid the peasantry, including a ten-point program. In addition, on Saturday the Ministry of Finance announced a pilot program to provide in three agricultural provinces subsidies covering 13 percent of the cost of color televisions, refrigerators, and mobile phones.

The Chinese will gladly take handouts, but central government technocrats are mistaken if they think they can prevent peasants from taking what they have demanded for generations—the right to own land. And there are others who are also deluded: we are about to witness, once again, the world’s poor conclusively prove to Western analysts that socialism is not sustainable.

Today, Reuters reports that Chinese authorities in central Shaanxi province have detained three peasants who led a campaign to reclaim land. The three were among six farmers who signed an open letter, purportedly on behalf of 70,000 others. “We reject the previous form of collective ownership,” the letter states. “It cannot guarantee the farmers’ permanent rights to the land . . . and cannot prevent the illegal infringement by officials and thugs.”

The three peasants have been charged with “inciting to subvert state power,” and it’s not hard to see why. In what could be the most significant development in China this year, peasants across the country in the last few weeks are declaring that they, and not the state or its collectives, own the fields they till and the orchards they tend. Similar declarations have been made in the last two weeks in the provincial-level city of Tianjin and the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jiangsu.

Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 on promises of land redistribution. He made good on his word by breaking up the holdings of landlords, but he soon confiscated all land for the state in the 1950s. Local peasants, on their own initiative, brought back the concept of individual farming in the early 1980s, but they never obtained title to the soil. Now, they want to complete the process and own the land they occupy. If successful, they will put an end to socialism in the countryside.

It’s not that the agricultural poor are highminded. They merely want what is theirs. In the last decade predatory officials have, in the name of development, grabbed peasant land with little or no compensation but almost always for their personal benefit. Land seizures are undoubtedly the biggest cause of unrest—sometimes in the form of pitched battles between peasants and thugs hired by local governments—in China today.

Beijing vows that the countryside will be stable in 2008. Yesterday, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the central government’s State Council concluded their annual central rural work conference with the usual pledges to aid the peasantry, including a ten-point program. In addition, on Saturday the Ministry of Finance announced a pilot program to provide in three agricultural provinces subsidies covering 13 percent of the cost of color televisions, refrigerators, and mobile phones.

The Chinese will gladly take handouts, but central government technocrats are mistaken if they think they can prevent peasants from taking what they have demanded for generations—the right to own land. And there are others who are also deluded: we are about to witness, once again, the world’s poor conclusively prove to Western analysts that socialism is not sustainable.

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Smith on Hitler

Will Smith probably doesn’t know what hit him. Everyone is freaking out about the interview he gave to the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper, in which he seems to have said that Hitler was essentially a good person. Here’s the direct quote:

Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today’ . . . I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good’. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming.

So a lot of people will scream about his (astonishingly poor) PR judgment, or will misread him to be approving of the Holocaust, which he is not. Even when the newspaper says Smith called Hitler “basically good,” this is not a direct quote, but the Record‘s paraphrase of his gist, and there he applies it to all human beings.

The problem with Will Smith is not how he said it, what ought not to have been said, or what he is misread to have said. The problem is what he actually said. Most evil people do not “wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’” No, they just do really bad things, for whatever reason, and we need to be able to call them by their name. The star of Men In Black and Independence Day seems to believe everyone is essentially good, or that they are good so long as their intentions are good in their own eyes. It’s a small step from there to reducing the most horrendous regime in history to mere “stuff” that “just needs reprogramming,” like a bug in your software. All this does is desensitize us to both the evil and the good in our world. Which might explain why the bad guys in his films are so often from outer space.

Will Smith probably doesn’t know what hit him. Everyone is freaking out about the interview he gave to the Daily Record, a Scottish newspaper, in which he seems to have said that Hitler was essentially a good person. Here’s the direct quote:

Even Hitler didn’t wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today’ . . . I think he woke up in the morning and using a twisted, backwards logic, he set out to do what he thought was ‘good’. Stuff like that just needs reprogramming.

So a lot of people will scream about his (astonishingly poor) PR judgment, or will misread him to be approving of the Holocaust, which he is not. Even when the newspaper says Smith called Hitler “basically good,” this is not a direct quote, but the Record‘s paraphrase of his gist, and there he applies it to all human beings.

The problem with Will Smith is not how he said it, what ought not to have been said, or what he is misread to have said. The problem is what he actually said. Most evil people do not “wake up going, ‘let me do the most evil thing I can do today.’” No, they just do really bad things, for whatever reason, and we need to be able to call them by their name. The star of Men In Black and Independence Day seems to believe everyone is essentially good, or that they are good so long as their intentions are good in their own eyes. It’s a small step from there to reducing the most horrendous regime in history to mere “stuff” that “just needs reprogramming,” like a bug in your software. All this does is desensitize us to both the evil and the good in our world. Which might explain why the bad guys in his films are so often from outer space.

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Snoozing on Sunni Awakening

Yesterday The New York Times ran a front-page story entitled, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict”. The valueless mouthful of a headline itself seems to advertise the strain reporters Alissa J. Rubin and Damien Cave must have exerted in order to shape the essentially positive story into something ominous.

The piece is about Iraq’s Sunni “Awakening” groups—the local security forces who’ve turned against insurgents and who continue to be invaluable in the rebuilding of the country. The Times reports that these groups could spell disaster because in the long-term they may amount to nothing more than a well-armed, well-trained anti-Shia military force.

Well, anyone who’s really concerned about that can’t also complain about the disbanding of the Iraqi Army. Saddam’s military was a deadly exercise in Sunni dominance. Awakening groups are far preferable to the former Ba’athist army for several reasons. The first being U.S. oversight. “Americans obtain biometric data on every Awakening group member to try to screen out known insurgents,” whereas no such practice would have been possible with the army. The second important difference has to do with goals. The Awakening exists in order to bring security to Iraq. Saddam’s army would almost have surely been a rolling crime wave over the past four years. The most important difference, however, is that Awakening groups are taking pride in the self-determination that comes with citizenship. Whatever problems lie on the horizon may be tempered by Iraq’s increasing sense of genuine statehood.

Ever since the undeniable success of the troop surge The New York Times has been scrambling to rediscover a tragic narrative in the good news. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a New York Times headline in the near future that reads, “Regional Neighbors Find Iraq’s Prosperity Gauche; Success Could Ignite Clash.”

Yesterday The New York Times ran a front-page story entitled, “In a Force for Iraqi Calm, Seeds of Conflict”. The valueless mouthful of a headline itself seems to advertise the strain reporters Alissa J. Rubin and Damien Cave must have exerted in order to shape the essentially positive story into something ominous.

The piece is about Iraq’s Sunni “Awakening” groups—the local security forces who’ve turned against insurgents and who continue to be invaluable in the rebuilding of the country. The Times reports that these groups could spell disaster because in the long-term they may amount to nothing more than a well-armed, well-trained anti-Shia military force.

Well, anyone who’s really concerned about that can’t also complain about the disbanding of the Iraqi Army. Saddam’s military was a deadly exercise in Sunni dominance. Awakening groups are far preferable to the former Ba’athist army for several reasons. The first being U.S. oversight. “Americans obtain biometric data on every Awakening group member to try to screen out known insurgents,” whereas no such practice would have been possible with the army. The second important difference has to do with goals. The Awakening exists in order to bring security to Iraq. Saddam’s army would almost have surely been a rolling crime wave over the past four years. The most important difference, however, is that Awakening groups are taking pride in the self-determination that comes with citizenship. Whatever problems lie on the horizon may be tempered by Iraq’s increasing sense of genuine statehood.

Ever since the undeniable success of the troop surge The New York Times has been scrambling to rediscover a tragic narrative in the good news. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a New York Times headline in the near future that reads, “Regional Neighbors Find Iraq’s Prosperity Gauche; Success Could Ignite Clash.”

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Sarkozy, Nuke Salesman

Nicolas Sarkozy has earned high marks for reorienting French diplomacy in a more pro-American direction. But he is also undertaking a little-noticed and potentially dangerous initiative. This Financial Times article reports that he is actively promoting the sale of French nuclear-power technology to Middle Eastern countries:

Since becoming president in May he has signed nuclear co-operation agreements with Morocco, Algeria and Libya as well as overseeing the sale of two nuclear power stations to China.

France is also looking to provide nuclear facilities or technical assistance to Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Egypt and Jordan.

The motive for this initiative is undoubtedly innocent: The French nuclear power industry leads the world, and Sarkozy no doubt figures he can help his economy by generating more sales. He is also probably interested in strengthening French influence in a region that it has long seen as its backyard.

But the outcome may be not-so-innocent. Every nation that has acquired nuclear weapons since the 1940′s has done so initially by launching a “nuclear power” program. The expertise and facilities needed to generate nuclear power can readily be converted to create nuclear weapons. The West barely nipped Libya’s nuclear program in the bud in 2003. What is Sarko thinking in helping Libya to rebuild its capacity? Even giving aid to more pro-Western regimes (such as those in Egypt and Jordan) is a dubious move, since they might be tempted to acquire a nuclear arsenal if Iran leads the way. The result could be a destabilizing nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.

The French claim there will be enough safeguards built in to their sales to prevent such a scenario. Let us hope so. But it still seems like an unnecessary risk simply to earn a few more euros.

Nicolas Sarkozy has earned high marks for reorienting French diplomacy in a more pro-American direction. But he is also undertaking a little-noticed and potentially dangerous initiative. This Financial Times article reports that he is actively promoting the sale of French nuclear-power technology to Middle Eastern countries:

Since becoming president in May he has signed nuclear co-operation agreements with Morocco, Algeria and Libya as well as overseeing the sale of two nuclear power stations to China.

France is also looking to provide nuclear facilities or technical assistance to Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Egypt and Jordan.

The motive for this initiative is undoubtedly innocent: The French nuclear power industry leads the world, and Sarkozy no doubt figures he can help his economy by generating more sales. He is also probably interested in strengthening French influence in a region that it has long seen as its backyard.

But the outcome may be not-so-innocent. Every nation that has acquired nuclear weapons since the 1940′s has done so initially by launching a “nuclear power” program. The expertise and facilities needed to generate nuclear power can readily be converted to create nuclear weapons. The West barely nipped Libya’s nuclear program in the bud in 2003. What is Sarko thinking in helping Libya to rebuild its capacity? Even giving aid to more pro-Western regimes (such as those in Egypt and Jordan) is a dubious move, since they might be tempted to acquire a nuclear arsenal if Iran leads the way. The result could be a destabilizing nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.

The French claim there will be enough safeguards built in to their sales to prevent such a scenario. Let us hope so. But it still seems like an unnecessary risk simply to earn a few more euros.

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Top Five Predictions for 2008

1. Hugo Chavez makes a guest appearance on hit hip-hop single.
2. Chelsea Clinton announces her engagement to young Republican.
3. Ron Paul hosts an MTV reality show, “Land of Liberty,” in which a group of twentysomethings are given five square acres of land on which to live in accordance with libertarian principles.
4. Record high temperatures, caused by global warming
5. Record low temperatures. Also caused by global warming.

1. Hugo Chavez makes a guest appearance on hit hip-hop single.
2. Chelsea Clinton announces her engagement to young Republican.
3. Ron Paul hosts an MTV reality show, “Land of Liberty,” in which a group of twentysomethings are given five square acres of land on which to live in accordance with libertarian principles.
4. Record high temperatures, caused by global warming
5. Record low temperatures. Also caused by global warming.

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Top Five Christmas Books

If one is trying to “prove,” as Christopher Hitchens has been doing, that “religion poisons everything,” he probably ought to give it a rest around this time of year—if only as a matter of strategy. Many believers are willing and able to debate points of doctrine in a calm and dispassionate way; fewer will countenance assaults on their favorite holidays. How the Hitch Stole Hannukah was surely a self-defeating effort. Religion hasn’t poisoned anything by giving us these annual opportunities to spend time with family and friends. (Forgive the sappiness, but it’s running freely from my Douglas Fir.) For my part, I don’t think I could do without my favorite Christmas literature. Here’s a top five that the goyim and the Chosen alike can enjoy:

1. How to Be Topp by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. A treasury of advice from the spelling-disabled British schoolboy Nigel Molesworth, this one isn’t strictly a Christmas book, but its last chapter, “Ding-Dong Farely Merily For Xmas,” is indispensable. “You canot so much as mention that there is no father xmas when some grown-sa Hush not in front of wee tim. So far as I am concerned if father xmas use langwage like that when he tripped over the bolster last time we had beter get a replacement.” The Molesworth Self-Adjusting Thank-You Letter can be used all year round.

2. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Before the noble fruitcake was just another sight gag on some post-Thanksgiving Best Buy commercial, there was Capote’s charming memoir of “fruitcake weather” and a child’s Christmas in Alabama.

3. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. The only thing better than reading the Welsh poet’s famous Christmas memoir is reading it with a whiskey in hand, and the only thing better than that would be having a drunken Thomas on hand to recite a wish list like: “Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Families. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions.”

4. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!,” Sedaris’s exclamation-point-laden parody of a Christmas “update” letter, is worth the price of admission.

5. A Christmas Garland by Max Beerbohm. Is it a holiday bagatelle or a stunning work of literary criticism? I report, you decide. George Bernard Shaw called him “the incomparable Max,” and you will too once you’ve read this collection of seventeen literary parodies, each on the subject of Christmas. “The Feast” (Joseph Conrad), “Some Damnable Errors About Christmas” (G. K. Chesterton), and “Shakespeare and Christmas” (Frank Harris) are enthusiastically recommended, but it’s all gravy. Henry James and Rudyard Kipling also take their places on Beerbohm’s skewer.

If one is trying to “prove,” as Christopher Hitchens has been doing, that “religion poisons everything,” he probably ought to give it a rest around this time of year—if only as a matter of strategy. Many believers are willing and able to debate points of doctrine in a calm and dispassionate way; fewer will countenance assaults on their favorite holidays. How the Hitch Stole Hannukah was surely a self-defeating effort. Religion hasn’t poisoned anything by giving us these annual opportunities to spend time with family and friends. (Forgive the sappiness, but it’s running freely from my Douglas Fir.) For my part, I don’t think I could do without my favorite Christmas literature. Here’s a top five that the goyim and the Chosen alike can enjoy:

1. How to Be Topp by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. A treasury of advice from the spelling-disabled British schoolboy Nigel Molesworth, this one isn’t strictly a Christmas book, but its last chapter, “Ding-Dong Farely Merily For Xmas,” is indispensable. “You canot so much as mention that there is no father xmas when some grown-sa Hush not in front of wee tim. So far as I am concerned if father xmas use langwage like that when he tripped over the bolster last time we had beter get a replacement.” The Molesworth Self-Adjusting Thank-You Letter can be used all year round.

2. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Before the noble fruitcake was just another sight gag on some post-Thanksgiving Best Buy commercial, there was Capote’s charming memoir of “fruitcake weather” and a child’s Christmas in Alabama.

3. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. The only thing better than reading the Welsh poet’s famous Christmas memoir is reading it with a whiskey in hand, and the only thing better than that would be having a drunken Thomas on hand to recite a wish list like: “Hardboileds, toffee, fudge and allsorts, crunches, cracknels, humbugs, glaciers, marzipan, and butterwelsh for the Welsh. And troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run. And Snakes-and-Families and Happy Families. And Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions.”

4. Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris. “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!,” Sedaris’s exclamation-point-laden parody of a Christmas “update” letter, is worth the price of admission.

5. A Christmas Garland by Max Beerbohm. Is it a holiday bagatelle or a stunning work of literary criticism? I report, you decide. George Bernard Shaw called him “the incomparable Max,” and you will too once you’ve read this collection of seventeen literary parodies, each on the subject of Christmas. “The Feast” (Joseph Conrad), “Some Damnable Errors About Christmas” (G. K. Chesterton), and “Shakespeare and Christmas” (Frank Harris) are enthusiastically recommended, but it’s all gravy. Henry James and Rudyard Kipling also take their places on Beerbohm’s skewer.

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A Jewish “Prince of Darkness”

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

Prince of Darkness is the title of a new book about Richard Perle by a journalist named Alan Weisman. It has a chapter entitled “Perle and the Jews,” which begins with a discussion of how two scholars, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, have raised a topic, the influence of American Jews on American politics, that has “long been out of bounds in American political discussion.” For their pains, writes Weisman, the two academics have been branded as “anti-Semites” and their work labeled as “a modern equivalent of Mein Kampf.”

Despite being tarred in this way by their critics, the debate Walt and Mearsheimer have opened up helps to explain the fact that while “Jews make up only 2 percent of the American electorate, . . . Israel takes in by far more U.S. aid than any other country in the world.” Given that the Israel lobby focuses so heavily on the Middle East, its conduct inevitably raises “questions about true allegiances and loyalties, . . . [and] suspicions of darker activity such as espionage.”

All this is relevant for a discussion of Perle, writes Weisman, “because he is a Jew, albeit nominally, and because he is clearly a man of influence.” Indeed, Perle’s background has made him a symbol to many “of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy.”

Among other things, Perle signed his name to a report about Israeli strategy, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for the Realm, which “was a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the [Middle East], a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny.” The appearance of this document in 1996 was “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving, and lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily.”

Connecting the Dots has some questions about Weisman’s take on these issues:

1. Who has compared Walt and Mearsheimer’s work to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, as Weisman asserts?

A search of Nexis and Google draws a blank.

2. Is Richard Perle really “a symbol of unchecked and unwarranted Jewish meddling in U.S. foreign policy”?

Undoubtedly there are some people who believe this about Perle. Weisman does not say whether he is among them. But he puts forward “evidence” that it is true. Perle’s signature on the 1996 report is his smoking gun.

3. Does anything in this report support Weisman’s characterization of it as “a blueprint for Israeli dominance in the region, a paean to Zionist aspirations, and biblical claims of divinely ordained destiny”?

4. Is there anything in this report that makes it “a Jew-hater’s delight, a gift that kept on giving . . . [one that] lit up like a menorah on the radar screen of the millions who believe Israelis and American Jews run the world, economically, politically, and militarily”?

Connecting the Dots has provided links to the report; readers can draw their own conclusions.

5. Is Richard Perle truly a Jewish “prince of darkness” and a “hidden hand guiding D.C. power players”? Or is Alan Weisman, the author of all these characterizations, trading in time-honored anti-Semitic tropes?

6. Weisman’s book was reviewed by James Traub in the New York Times. Traub’s judgment of the book and its author is: “Weisman, no ideologue himself, gives Perle his due.” What does it say about Traub and the Sunday Times Book Review that Weisman’s take on Perle as a Jewish “Prince of Darkness” goes completely undiscussed?

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A Jewish Revival?

According to Anshel Pfeffer, writing in Haaretz, there is a major religious revival going on in Israel:

This renaissance of Jewish learning is going unreported and largely unremarked upon because it has not resulted in a perceptible shift toward one religious stream or denomination. There is no new mass movement, and none of the charismatic rabbis or teachers has turned into a guru with a following of thousands. On the surface, the old fault lines between Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), dati (modern Orthodox), traditional, and secular Israelis are still in place, but just beneath, these boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred.

What’s fascinating here is that it is not really an Orthodox shift, so much as an increased interest among “secular” Israelis in a whole variety of new and old forms of religious expression. A wide range of institutions of Jewish learning, festivals, and synagogues have emerged for and by non-Orthodox Jews—each with its own angle, not necessarily to the exclusion of more traditional Jews, and mostly without affiliation to the Reform and Conservative movements known in America.

In other words: Something serious is afoot in non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. It’s a creative period, and new movements may be about to emerge—trends which could easily reverberate back to the diaspora. Stay tuned.

According to Anshel Pfeffer, writing in Haaretz, there is a major religious revival going on in Israel:

This renaissance of Jewish learning is going unreported and largely unremarked upon because it has not resulted in a perceptible shift toward one religious stream or denomination. There is no new mass movement, and none of the charismatic rabbis or teachers has turned into a guru with a following of thousands. On the surface, the old fault lines between Haredi (ultra-Orthodox), dati (modern Orthodox), traditional, and secular Israelis are still in place, but just beneath, these boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred.

What’s fascinating here is that it is not really an Orthodox shift, so much as an increased interest among “secular” Israelis in a whole variety of new and old forms of religious expression. A wide range of institutions of Jewish learning, festivals, and synagogues have emerged for and by non-Orthodox Jews—each with its own angle, not necessarily to the exclusion of more traditional Jews, and mostly without affiliation to the Reform and Conservative movements known in America.

In other words: Something serious is afoot in non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. It’s a creative period, and new movements may be about to emerge—trends which could easily reverberate back to the diaspora. Stay tuned.

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