You may or may not have heard of the about-to-be-realeased album The Duckworth Lewis Method. You can read about it here and, for the the next few days, listen to it here. I recommend 'Jiggery Pokery'. Also 'Test Match Special', which speaks a profound truth.
Here are two accounts of the same event, a conference at York University in Canada under the title 'Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace'. In one of these accounts, it is reported that 'the dialogue was civil' there. That wasn't the experience of Israeli participant Na'ama Carmi. She took part in the conference because she didn't want to 'surrender to attempts to silence debate and curb academic freedom', and also so as not 'to leave the floor only to the most extreme and one-sided views, [but] to try to bring a different voice, one that attempts to display the complexity of the situation and presents a perspective that would not be presented if one were to stay away.' However:
[N]ot in my worst dreams did I imagine an atmosphere that was totally incompatible with academic discourse. The university rightly resisted outside pressures aimed at silencing the conference. But there were attempts at the conference itself to silence unpopular views.
A hostile atmosphere toward people with different views generally, and Jewish-Zionist Israelis in particular, was created. Anyone who challenged the Palestinian perspective was intimidated or even labelled a racist. The audience vocally applauded those whose views it approved. At times, those presenting a different view were subject to abuse and ridicule.
For me, this reached an extreme when one interlocutor, rather than debating the substantive arguments I presented, questioned my psychological state. And all of this without any apparent attempt by the organizers to stop it. Never before in my whole academic career have I encountered the rudeness that I experienced at this conference.
Academic discourse implies in-depth analysis of issues, even loaded ones, theorizing and making well-based arguments. Reasoned criticism is a first-degree instrument for the advancement of academic knowledge. Ad-hominem offence and the silencing of unpopular views are its antithesis. If one has good arguments, one doesn't need to resort to such tactics...
After my presentation, people approached me to thank me for presenting an alternative view. They admitted that in the prevailing atmosphere they were deterred from stepping forward and expressing a different voice. This is a disgrace for the academic host of this conference. I'd very much want to believe that the organizers were only naive. It's more difficult to accept that there was no agenda, explicit or hidden, to this conference.
The universities that sponsored this conference should give themselves an accounting. While the JDL demonstrated outside the campus, a pro-Palestinian demonstration took place inside the conference itself, from the floor, under an academic disguise.
This was not an academic conference, but an "academic" version of Durban.
The New 7 Wonders of Nature is a global Internet contest under the slogan: "If we want to save anything, we first need to truly appreciate it." In 2007 it chose the new seven man-made wonders of the world.
Its rules state that if a nominee site is located in more than one country, all countries in which it is located must form an Official Supporting Committee (OSC) by July 7.
It looks like this is going to sink the candidacy of the Dead Sea.
Here we go again. It doesn't matter how obviously silly an argument is, once it gets going in the public domain it will keep going. It's as if when you need something to say, you'll just say it because somebody else has. On this occasion, it's Janet Napolitano, Obama's secretary for homeland security, and she's explaining why the phrase 'global war on terror' has been discarded:
One of the reasons the nomenclature is not used is that 'war' carries with it a relationship to nation states in conflict with each other and of course terrorism is not necessarily derived from the nation state relationship... In some respects 'war' is too limiting.
The word 'war' is sometimes about nation states in conflict with each other, and other times it isn't - as with civil war, guerilla war (some cases of), war on crime, drugs war, and a war on greed, tax havens and blame. It's about as sensible as explaining that henceforth you won't be eating cake because you're staying off chocolate.
> '[I]t is not surprising to see waves of women protesting a fraudulent election. There is so much at stake for Iranian women.' - Women at the forefront of the struggle in Iran.
> 'I have developed my strong support for the struggle of the Iranian women based on three distinct events the first of which goes back to 1979.'
> '[T]he truth is that the high turnout was the result of many years of organizational work carried out by small groups of civil rights activists and, above all, women's groups, working largely unnoticed and without much outside help.'
> 'As Iran's theocracy appears on the verge of silencing the biggest challenge to its authority since it was established in 1979, female activists in the region say they are inspired by the prominent role women are playing in the country's opposition movement. Many hope it will have a crossover effect on the struggle for women's rights in their own countries and help shatter Western perceptions of Middle Eastern women as subjugated in a male-dominated culture.'
Following up on James Petras, Seumas Milne and assorted co-thinkers, I point you to a piece by Reese Erlich on 'Iran and Leftist Confusion'. You'll have to read your way past an opening reference to the US as 'the Empire' and one or two other things, but Erlich takes on three central theses of those 'progressive authors, academics and bloggers bending themselves into knots about the current crisis in Iran': (1) that there's nothing to indicate that the election was stolen; (2) that the US is behind the recent unrest; and (3) that Ahmadinejad is an anti-imperialist with progressive credentials. He responds to each one and concludes by asking the leftist critics, 'Whose side are you on?'
One thing that is striking here is that the answer to his question is already provided by what has gone before. They are against what America is for; and therefore they are for those trying to put down the democratic movement in Iran. Digest that who can. Why are they not against Ahmadinejad and for Iranian democrats? Search me. It beggars belief. It's part of the long, slow downward road of the verkrappt. (Thanks: DP.)
Were American Jews reticent in talking about the Holocaust in the early years after World War II and until the 1960s? So it is often claimed, and the claim is sometimes inflected to suggest that subsequent Holocaust memorialization has been politically motivated, to bolster support for Israel. Adam Kirsch reviews a new book by Hasia Diner that assembles evidence to confute the 'myth of silence'.
Norman Geras on Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel
In inviting contributors to do a piece for this series, I ask them to write about a book that they 'like or admire'. My own contribution on the present occasion has arisen in a different way. It's not that I don't admire the book I've chosen to write about. I do - very much. But had I been asked by someone else to write something for a series of this kind, there are many other books I would have thought of ahead of it. How the piece comes about is this. I recently read Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel and was very impressed by it but found it hard to explain why. I therefore turned to some of the reviews, to see what they had to say. The threereviews I looked at all gave a fair account of the book and an accurate impression of both the content and the feel of it, making clear in each case that the reviewer rated it highly; but they didn't spell out sufficiently what it is about Claudel's novel that gives it its force. The reviewers liked Brodeck's Report but didn't say why it was a good novel, in what exactly its goodness consisted. That is my perception at any rate.
This set up the following challenge for me: to try to supply what they had failed to and answer the question which had led me to the reviews in the first place. Why was I impressed by Philippe Claudel's story? I abuse my position as editor of the Writer's Choice series to make this week's slot available to myself for attempting to say what the qualities of Brodeck's Report are that make it the excellent book it is.
I will not go over the ground amply covered between them by the reviews linked to above in delivering details of the plot, but merely say that Claudel's novel is a literary cousin to the Holocaust memoir and Holocaust novel. While most of the action takes place some time after the narrator Brodeck's incarceration in one of the camps, centring on the village where he lives with his wife and their child, his experience of deportation and imprisonment have indelibly marked him and the way he tells what he has to tell, and it is more generally the case that the events and the atmosphere in the village stand in the shadow of the crimes of that era. I have read dozens of books on the Holocaust, including many from the memoir literature. What about this new novel marks it out, making it a contribution of considerable power?
First, Claudel effects a distancing from what the reader may already know about the Nazi genocide by locating his story simultaneously in and not in 20th century Europe. That is where it must be set; but it is also placed in a mythicized location in which perceptions you might expect reading Primo Levi are clothed in the shape of a dark fairy tale. These are events which we know about, but they have been transposed to a strangely unfamiliar world. The effect is not dissimilar to the one achieved by Art Spiegelman in Maus. There the cartoon form, here a somewhat grotesque milieu, encourages the reader to see with fresh eyes what is by now familiar to her.
Conspiring with this overall approach is the author's way of getting us to take in the inhumanities that were committed in Nazi Europe. Not heavily laden with episodes of barbarity or horror - these are in fact relatively sparse - Brodeck's Report displays a moral imagination astute in its portrayal of the depths to which humankind is capable of sinking, through a handful of signature incidents, each terrible in its implications. The horror is not piled on, but the evocations of man's inhumanity are as telling as they come. They are telling, in particular, on one issue much discussed in the explanatory literature on this subject, since they speak of the non-banality of evil, Hannah Arendt and others who have followed her notwithstanding. A whole large class of perpetrators may be unextraordinary men and women, yet what they turn out to to be able to do shatters the moral universe.
Meanwhile, the backdrop to the playing out of this theme is a setting of great natural beauty, albeit not without a menacing aspect. This, too, serves to highlight what we should already know: namely, that the beauties of nature accommodate every crime - just like that. The heavens did not darken, nor do they ever. Claudel's tale, indeed, against this natural backdrop, highlights the humanity of evil. Though he presents the village's inhabitants each with some bizarre or ugly feature, some unpleasant detail of conduct, so reinforcing the sense of his narrative as a grim fable, they are also recognizably people of the kind we see about us. Their foibles and blemishes make us more attentive to what sort of beings these are, but they are behaviourally related to us beyond all doubt.
At the same time, and in contraflow to this, Claudel keeps always in view the saving humanity of human beings, in that other sense of the word: despite everything, the moral capacities and aspirations of our kind are there at the bleak heart of his story. The most concentrated expression of it I will not give away here (though some of those reviewers do); I will only say that it is to be found in the details of Brodeck's personal story, his family situation; and there are also threads of it, this undying moral attribute, scattered elsewhere over the misshapen human landscape he traverses.
On the fate of one pivotal character, a newcomer to the village, a visitor, the whole of Claudel's novel turns, and this may be seen by some as a rather predictable component of a Holocaust-related fiction. The character in question is the Anderer. He is representative of difference, 'otherness'. He is also, however, the vehicle for a less predictable pair of tropes. These are that in a community intent or embarked upon grave wrongdoing, those who tell the truth are, just for that reason, objects of hostility and potential violence, and those who are merely innocent of any wrongdoing, the virtuous, may also be, and just for that reason, the targets of hatred and murder.
My review, I now see, in trying to provide some of what I thought was missing from the reviews I read in the press, has unintentionally conveyed an impression that Brodeck's Report is rather 'messagey'. That is misleading. The above themes are my excavation of what is to be found beneath the surface of Claudel's book. Its accomplishment is to have rendered them into the form of an original and gripping tale.
[All the pieces that have appeared to date in this series, with the links to them, are listed here, here, here, here and here.]
Not that I'm recommending the piece, because I'm not recommending it. It says that the 'central fallacy at the heart of the current [war on terror] narrative is that it employs a single prism to view a complex world' - a facile charge that could be levelled against more or less any organizing perspective: human rights campaign, war on poverty, fight against fascism, etc. The authors do notice, however, that the coming of Obama...
... did not mean the end of the global war (rephrased in his inaugural address as a war "against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred"), despite an outbreak of media chatter in the following days about whether the death of a slogan meant the end of the war itself... [W]e find the pronouncements of the global war on terror's demise to be premature.
Hamas leader - but not a great reader - Khaled Meshal commentson Barack Obama's Cairo speech:
Obama spoke widely about the suffering of Jews and their Holocaust in Europe, but ignored the talk about our suffering and Israel's Holocaust that has been going on for decades against our people.
Those with better hearing and/or eyesight will know that Obama spoke of Palestinian suffering directly after he spoke of Jewish suffering. True, he didn't say anything about a decades-long Holocaust against the Palestinians, but that may be because he has a better head for historical fact than Khaled Meshal.