A Publication of Seth J. Frantzman
November 16th, 2007
Why aren't Saudi students changed by coming to America? Saudi Students studying in America bring billions of dollars to the U.S economy. But their exposure to American culture, American society and the liberal University atmosphere doesn’t lead them to become socially progressive activists in their home country. Why not?
Free speech and the free market. The Free Market limits our exposure to unpopular ideas and relegates extreme speech to the public park rather than the newsstand. Attempts by professors and other intellectuals to claim that their free speech rights are being violated when their books aren’t published or they aren’t invited to speak is an attempt to control the market and force it to sell their unpopular product. In the end they have a right to free speech but we have a right to ignore it.
Why the one state solution, now? Suddenly every anti-Israel leftist professor, politician and activist is speaking about how a two-state solution is unworkable and the one state solution is the only way to ‘solve’ the Israel-Palestinian dispute. It’s a return to the bi-national rhetoric of the 1940s. It didn’t work then, it hasn’t worked since and it won’t work now. But perhaps something else is behind this latest drive for one state west of the Jordan.
Why aren't Saudi students changed by coming to America?
Seth J. Frantzman
November 12th, 2007
People always seem surprised that so many Saudi students (twice as many in 2006 as 2005) come to the United States and return to their country and yet nothing changes in Saudi Arabia. Shouldn't four years of frat parties, strip clubs and 'freedom' rub off somewhere? People must be surprised that despite all the diversity in the U.S. and the collegiate events such as 'national coming out day' and 'holocaust awareness week' and 'gay black man month', that Saudi students don't seem to internalize any of it. They go back to a country where non-Muslims may not worship, where foreigners are denied citizenship but are forced to do most of the work, where women are imported from abroad as slaves for use in homes, and where women may not drive. The Saudis don't go back as good progressive liberals and protest their archaic backward unjust country (in which, for instance, a woman was recently sentenced to 200 lashes for having been gang raped. She violated the Islamic prohibition against adultery and being alone with a man who was not her husband).
But why is this such a surprise? People always think that American freedom and diversity should cause other cultures to imitate the west in their self critique. But evidence and history do not bare this out. In Egypt American students study in an intolerant dictatorial society. These are the same students who won't travel to Israel because of the occupation and support a boycott of Burma because of the junta. One might be surprised to find out that these student cavort with the sons and daughters of Egypt's 'progressives'. This week when Egyptian singer Gaber el-Beltagui dared to speak of greater peace with Israel at the 100th anniversary of the opening of Cairo's main synagogue he was blacklisted by his progressive secular friends. Beltagui was told on a talkshow, by the host mind you, that he might deserve physical harm for his actions. Egyptian Baha Jahin, whose father wrote the words to 'Song of Peace', publicly declared that Beltagui would be forbidden to sing the song. A year previously when Egyptian writer Ali Salem published a book about his trip to Israel he was expelled from the Egyptian writers union. Haaretz seemed to capture the dilemma of Egypt well when it explained that "opponents of normalization [with Israel] fall into two main categories; supporters of the Muslim brotherhood and secular nationalists and leftists. ('In Egypt calls for peace bring waves of rebuke' Nov. 12th, 2007)"
The Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) which runs a program at the American University of Cairo is chock full of American students, mostly women, who have no objections to the Egyptian society they study in. They would never lift a finger to protest it. Pictures posted by them on their private websites reveal costume parties where they dress up like Hamas members (some also dressed up like 'Jews' wearing phones with the words 'banks' and 'natural disasters' written on them. The caption of the photo read 'Hamas encounters the Zionist entity next to the water cooler').
If American students can so easily be duped into becoming Arab nationalists, anti-Semites and Islamists while studying abroad then why aren’t the Saudis duped into becoming freedom loving, gay tolerating, women respecting, equal rights crusaders? Perhaps an example from Jerusalem will further illustrate what is going on. Among the booths set up by student clubs weekly at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem there is almost always the Arab Communist booth and a Peace Now booth. The former is an Arab nationalist club, the latter is an Israeli leftist human rights club. One is nationalist, the other internationalist. One is nominally right wing, despite being 'Communist', the other is extremely left wing. Each booth is usually stocked with the same people: light skinned women with flowing hair and tall skinny men. The only difference is that the Arabs usually wear Khaffiyas around their necks. But there is a more subtle difference. The majority of Arab women in Israel and the Palestinian areas wear headscarves. But the Arab women at this Communist booth usually do not. They are, after all, progressive. But they are also nationalists. Even the minority Arab Christians are members of these nationalist parties, usually prominent members. Thus one finds that the most open minded 'progressive' Arab women, even the minorities, are nationalists.
Now let's recall something here. Leftism in the United States leads to majorities becoming more self-critical and minorities becoming more assertive. It leads Americans to go abroad and become nationalists for the causes of others. This is the key to understanding why Saudis don't change. First of all, 98% of the Saudi students studying in the United States are Saudi men. Saudi exports men, its women are not permitted to travel without the permission of male relatives and they therefore must stay at home, lest they be exposed to a country where women are equal. While in America the men are not encouraged to become American. Just as Israel transforms secular Arabs into self hating Jews, or rather Arab nationalists, America does a good job of transforming Saudi men into self hating Americans, or rather it doesn't change them at all. In the spirit of diversity the Saudis are encouraged to host 'Muslim cultural month' and give speeches about diversity. They are worshipped for being 'exotic oil-rich princes' and they are doted upon at all times by servants imported from their home country or hired in the United States. Their culture of dominating their women doesn't change in the United States, there are endless numbers of self hating American college women that desire nothing more than to be controlled and dominated.
There was a time when people came to America and took American ideas home with them. The French were the first people to be influenced by America in this way. When individual French intellectuals came to the United States in its early years they were told about freedom and they were encouraged to liberate themselves from their monarchy. Americans didn't want to learn about French culture in 1781, they were happy to tell the French what was good for them. Americans didn't reinforce and learn respect for the monarchy and the Catholic church when they traveled to France, rather they scoffed at both. Down throughout the years many people were influenced by the United States in this way. Many national liberation movements drew their inspiration from the United States, from the Haitian and Cuban revolutionaries of the 19th century to Ho Chi Minh. Edward Said's father was influenced by the United States after having served in her army during the First World War.
But look at the difference in influence between the younger and elder Said. The older one respected America. He respected the openness and freedoms that American society gave him. Most of all he respected the business environment in the United States. When the resided in Cairo in the 1940s he used these skills. But the younger Said was educated in a different time. The younger Said fled Egypt when the nationalist government took all the properties of foreigners. Said studied in the United States. But he was learning American self-critique by this time. Soon he became an Arab nationalist. He didn't want to free his country from bondage like the French or the Cubans, instead he wanted his nation to be more chauvinist and more fascist. Instead of taking anything positive from America he wrote one of the most scathing indictments of the West ever written, Orientalism. Ignoring his own past and his own secular upbringing, he joined forces with religious fanatics throughout the Muslim world to oppose the West. He traveled to Lebanon and threw stones at Israeli troops. Rather than argue for greater freedom and democracy in the Arab world, he became a supporter of each and every dictatorial regime the area could offer. He became a passionate hater certain people, directing most of his hatred against the United States and Israel. That’s what he learned from America: how to hate.
Why did this happen? Why do some people draw such inspiration from the United States, men such as Ninoy Aquino of the Philippines, and some draw such terrible lessons. We know what lessons the Japanese drew from learning about America in the 1920s when a large number of them studied at American Universities. They believed America was weak and that it would give in, that American boys could never give up their 'Susie' and their 'drive-in movies.' We also know that one of them, Admiral Yamamoto, drew the opposite conclusion; that America could never be defeated by Japan, that its economic power was unstoppable in any war over the Pacific. This is why, while the former encouraged the expansion of the Japanese empire and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the latter cautioned against such a rash and terrible decision that would bring only ruin to their nation;
Foreigners today draw the wrong lessons from America because America disseminates the wrong lessons about itself. Just as America managed to convince the Japanese, by mistake, that it was weak, so America has convinced foreigners today to hate it. Reports show that foreign student enrollment brings 14 billion dollars into the United States annually. Yet it primarily produces foreign students who hate the United States. The 19 Sept. 11 hijackers are no exception.
They learn to hate America for the same reason that American 19 year old women go to Egypt to learn Islamic law. America no longer exports values, it only imports them. Muslims come from a dictatorship to America and we desire to learn about their 'culture'. While abortion might be illegal in America and anyone who opposes it is known as a right wing fanatic, we applaud when some foreigner speaks of his faith-based hatred of abortion.
We weren't always like this and luckily so. We didn't revel in learning about French monarchist culture. We didn't want to adopt the Catholic culture of all of 19th century Irish and Italian immigrants. Except for Henry Ford and Charles Lindberg we didn't learn any Nazi culture. We never celebrated cultural attributes that we knew to be mistaken in the 19th and early 20th century. American women didn't go abroad to Rome and study Catholic cannon law in the 1870s. The very notion of such a thing would have been laughable. Americans disdained and hated dictatorships in the 19th century. Men such as Mark Twain poked fun at the snobbish and backward cultures he found throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. In today's Middle Eastern Studies departments students are taught hat cultures where slavery was legal, such as Abbasid or Ottoman Islam, are tolerant cultures to be respected. 19th century Americans, except for a few unrepentant southerners, would have barfed at such an idea. America is full of respect for all those things today that our forefathers held in contempt. Whether it is waxing eloquent about the 'Great Islamic empire' or speaking of tolerance in countries where there is no tolerance, or studying under dictatorships, or sucking up to countries that forbid free speech, or importing foreigners from the most brutal dictatorships, we are full of respect for terrible notions.
This is why Saudis will never learn anything from America and why American freedom and democracy will inspire contempt from them and they will go back more nationalistic and religious than they came. We teach them nothing but critique for America. They are assigned nothing but Chomsky to read and they are encouraged to watch nothing but Michael Moore. What we should be hoping is not that they learn something from American academia, but rather that like all those Japanese who studied in the U.S in the 1920s, that they are taking away the wrong message from the wrong people and that deep down, under all the bourgeoisie snobby leftists on the surface there are good decent Americans who are beholden to their good values and who have no interest in Islamic law or slavery or empire or dictatorship.
Free speech and the free market
Seth J. Frantzman
November 7th, 2007
In a recent interview Bard college professor Joel Kovel spoke about the controversy surrounding the publication of his book, 'Overcoming Zionism.'
"Very powerful institutions in our country take it upon themselves to defend Israel at all costs, and in doing so, they frequently cross the line of a constitutional right to freedom of speech."
His line of reasoning is part of a new discussion regarding freedom of speech. The argument is that lobbies and corporations and other private non-governmental groups are interfering with freedom of speech. They do this by pressuring publishers and universities and corporations to remove the content of certain people. In doing so they are supposedly denying people freedom of speech. But what is the interaction between the free market and freedom of speech? Is speech affected by the same hidden hand as the market, or is speech above the market and are we thus constitutionally bound to listen to speech we disagree with?
The first amendment of the U.S Constitution reads:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
By contrast Professor Kovel has noted that:
"The notion of freedom of speech predates the Constitution and extends beyond the Constitution. It is, however, “grounded” in the Constitution, that is, given the solidity of a basic principle of a good society. One does not simply struggle for this right by legal means, as important and necessary as these are. One fights for it throughout civil society, where its manifestations include the openness of dialogue about important issues of the day. Anyone who thinks that such a dialogue exists about Israel/Palestine in the US has his head in the sand."
The idea of free speech may be grounded in our natural rights (Locke), but it is these natural rights that only the government can deny us, that was the main gist of Locke and other thinkers. They did not direct their thoughts towards what a private individual might do to another individual.
Does free speech mean that a newspaper may not defame someone? Does it mean that the ADL and Dershowitz may not defame an author who criticizes Israel? David Irving sued Penguin publishing because Deborah Lipstadt had 'libeled' him by publishing a book that called him a holocaust denier. Now who was silencing whose speech in that case? The libel suit was directed at silencing a book and its speech. Ideally free speech laws, at least in the United States, grant someone the right to defame someone else. Kovel defamed Zionism, or exposed it depending on the point of view, and that is part of free speech. But it is equally part of our free speech that one should be allowed to tell others not to listen to someone else's speech, for instance by saying they should not read or publish your book.
Not every author has a 'right' to be published, just as Ahmadinjed does not have a 'right' to speak at Columbia University. Free speech goes to the core of our rights as individuals to express ourselves. It does not preclude the fact that individuals will disagree, and condemn eachothers speech. What is most important is for the government not to interfere in this free exchange of ideas. Were the government to pass a law mandating that we listen to an 'open and impartial debate regarding the Jewish lobby' it seems this would be a complete reversal of the logic of free speech. Free speech also entitles us to the freedom not to listen. The freedom to ignore. The freedom to boycott. The freedom, yes, to hate. To hate in our hearts. The freedom to be a racist. The freedom to imagine the most terrible things. And I suggest, implicit in this freedom, as Xenophon noted, is the ability to say 'no'. No, I shall not publish. No, I shall not distribute this book. No, I shall not read this. No, I shall not open my mind to this line of thought. All are freedoms. All are imbedded in the U.S Constitution. The day that we are not free to think all these things and voice our opinion on them, the day we are forced to read certain things, we will have lost that inalieble right to freedom of speech.
The free market plays the most unique role in what speech we are exposed to. A vibrant society, full of many ideas, such as the United States, nevertheless does not have room in the marketplace for all of them. Instead the market regulates what speech we hear by the very nature of our own interest in the speech itself. We do not desire hate speech and therefore we are not exposed to it at Barnes and Noble or any major retailer. Nevertheless much of the new media such as the internet has a low entry cost thus illustrating that there is no market failure in regard to products that lack widespread demand. For example, Professor Kovel has a blog and website devoted to his ideas.
But the free market also controls our access to free speech in a different way. Political pressure groups, lobbyists and individuals may pressure corporations or publishers or entertainment outlets to remove certain content. The case of Don Imus, an NBC radio show host, comes to mind. He was removed from the airwaves for using the words 'nappy-headed hoes.' He had the freedom to issue forth this type of speech, but the market regulated the speech when advertisers pulled their paid advertising from NBC in response to pressure from Al Sharpton and other black leaders. This is the essence of the free market and freedom of speech. Don Imus was not denied his freedom of speech, but NBC choose to stop paying to expose people to it.
The claim that what certain people say is being 'silenced' because publishers and colleges and newspapers and broadcasters will not support their speech is not only wrongheaded but it also indirectly claims that we must be exposed to certain types of speech, regardless of the market. Those who claim we must be exposed to their speech are not only denying us the right that we have to say no to their speech as a consumer but they are trying to alter to laws of the market by placing themselves above it. This was another byproduct of the Soviet Union. Not only was the market part of a planned economy but speech was also planned and controlled. Is it a surprise that the two go hand in hand? Countries that try to deny the consumer what he desires through Communism or price controls are the same countries that deny people the right to freedom of speech. They are the same countries that mandate the only certain types of speech and certain ideas are heard.
How did Pravda measure its 'ratings?' It didn't have to because people were forced to consume it along with the Volga cars produced by the Soviet Union. When a college professor claims that he is being denied his freedom of speech due to his point of view that no one is interested in hearing or purchasing he is implicitly stating that he wishes he lived in a non-capitalist society in which the market is forced to buy his unpopular product, in this case his ideas.
Why the one state solution, now?
Seth J. Frantzman
November 15th, 2007
Suddenly people are talking about the 'one-state solution' again. The Oxford Union has debated the subject with such luminaries as Avi Shlaim and Norman Finkelstein invited to the debate. Norm Chomsky has chimed in. Virginia Tilley, a veteran condemner of Israel, has spoken her mind. Students, intellectuals and professors across the world are once again championing the bi-national solution to the problems between Israel and the Palestinians.
But is it just a coincidence that the one-state solution is back in the news? Alongside discussion of bi-nationalism is further condemnation of the Israeli 'occupation' of the Gaza strip. The U.N and many Human Rights organizations have pointed out that according to 'international law' Israel is still considered the 'occupying power' of the Gaza strip. Where exactly it says this in 'international law' is now clear, but it remains an easy solution for NGOs and the U.N to hold Israel responsible for all that happens in the strip.
The reason that the one-state solution is back in the news and that professors such as Joel Kovel are getting kudos for books such as Overcoming Zionism is because the extreme anti-Israel left is worried that a two-state solution is finally in the making. Most Israelis and most Palestinians have come to accept the idea that there will be two states west of the Jordan. This scares the anti-Israel lobby and the anti-Israel intelligentsia who have devoted so much work to condemning Israel. Once the occupation ends they will have to find new excuses to refer to Israel as an 'aparthied-nazi state.'
The solution is to declare that Israel is still in occupation of Gaza, that the Palestinians can never form a 'viable' state in the West bank because of the security fence and that therefore the only solution is one state west of the Jordan. The only people that support this concept today are those who have said time and again that they reject the very notion that a Jewish state should exist in the first place. Saed Erakat's statements rejecting Israel as a Jewish state are in line with this thought process.
The reason that the one-state solution gains more prominence the more that Israelis want to give up the West Bank is because the anti-Israel lobby is concerned that if there is a final divorce between Israel and the Palestinians then they will have lost a card to play. Since the one-state solution theorists reject the very notion of a Jewish state they know the best way to destroy the Jewish part of a democratic Israel is to make the country a majority Muslim and Arab. But with a Palestinian state next to an Israeli one they realize that demographics will no longer solve their problem, because most of the Palestinians will be members of the Palestinian state.
All of those who mention the idea of a 'one-state' or 'bi-national' solution have in mind, not one state, but the disappearance of Israel and the disappearance of a nation that is a majority Jewish. While these people would never suggest that Germany and France should merge or that Japan and China should merge, or Mexico and America, they have no qualms debating what should happen in Israel. That is there prerogative. The genius of their blind slavish devotion to this idea is that they ignore the fact that every bi-national state, except Switzerland has been a patent failure. From the Sudan to Yugoslavia to Belgium and Lebanon, every state that includes two ethnic-religious groups in equal numbers has proved disastrous. But perhaps that is what the extreme anti-Israel lobby really desires, a bloodbath and total destruction in the Holy Land so that the international community can once again run the affairs of Jerusalem.