Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Terra Incognita 19 Barak Obama, Barbados, Islam and Gaza

This Newsletter was delayed for a week because I was absent on a hardship mission to Barbados to investigate the Bajan elections and tides. The subjects covered in this newsletter are a return to the basics, a return to our roots. There is a good old-fashioned bashing on dictatorship and Communism, a defense of Israel, a discussion on the stupidity of race politics and a critique of Islam and Islamic historiography. Thus the five pillars that form this newsletter's themes are all covered; Islam, dictatorship/leftism/liberalism vs. democracy and free-markets, American patriotism, aggressive defense of Israel and of course the continuing interest in and critique of the issue of race in western society. Enjoy.

Elections in a small Caribbean island: Barbados had free and fair elections on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 in which the opposition Democratic Labour Party of David Thompson beat Owen Arthur's Barbados Labour Party. Cuba is also having elections. Idealistic youth and old leftists like South African Nadine Gordimer romanticize Castro and Cuba. They would do better to romanticize the good people of Barbados and men like Errol Barrow.

Our Bi-racial consciousness: How did Barak Obama come to referred to in the New York Time as a 'bi-racial African American'? Who invented this ridiculous term and why? What does it say about race and race politics in America?

Collective Punishment, international law and the Gaza strip: The Israeli blockade of the Gaza strip is not collective punishment and neither is it a contravention of international law. If it were then why was the U.N allowed to blockade Iraq and place sanctions on it from 1991 to 2003?

A review of God’s Crucible by David L. Lewis: Mr. Lewis argues that if the Muslims had won the battle of Tours in 732 then Europe would have become a multi-cultural tolerant society free of slavery, hereditary rule and a priestly class. There is one problem. The Muslims brought slavery to Europe in the 8th century after the church had stamped it out and furthermore Islamic Spain was only as tolerant as the South was 'multi-cultural' before the Civil War and before the Civil Rights Movement.

Elections in a small Caribbean island
January 20th, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

Barbados recently had free elections in which four political parties competed for thirty seats in their parliament. The elections went smoothly and the Barbadian media congratulated their people on not being like Jamaica where scores of people die on election days due to violence. Barbados is a democratic success story. A former British colony the island is both stable and prosperous. Nearby Cuba is also having an election. In the Cuban democracy things are done slightly differently. There are roughly 900 candidates up for various offices. There are no political parties. When people go to the polling station they have a choice. They can either vote for the people that are running or they can choose not to vote for some of them. But since there is only one candidate per office, the fact that they might not vote for every single person doesn't determine the outcome, it merely shows that some people chose not to fill in all the blanks on the voting card. There is, in essence, no choice. But Cubans brag about their 'right to vote' which they received in 1994.

Cubans aren’t the only ones bragging. When I was in high school a bunch of socialists came and spoke to us about a trip to Cuba for high school students. We would have the honor of working in the fields and aiding the starving Cubans. We might get a chance to meet Fidel. Later when I was in college and I sat on a student government panel that handed out funding to clubs we received a request from the Socialist club asking us to fund their trip to Cuba. They were going to show solidarity for the Cuban people and also to attend a socialist meeting. I was the only student senator who objected to giving the club thousands of American dollars so they could experience Cuban democracy.

The latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine carried an article by Nadine Gordimer, the celebrated Jewish South African author, entitled 'End the Embargo'. In it she argued that in order for America to heal its dismal global image it must end the embargo of Cuba. Gordimer noted that: "In 2006, 183 member states voted in favor of this [U.N] resolution [to end the embargo of Cuba], proof of the international community’s rejection of U.S. policy against Cuba, which is contrary to the charter of the United Nations, the principles of international law, and the relations among states(Gordimer perhaps forgot that she supported a similar embargo used against apartheid South Africa)." Gordimer also noted that it was regretful that America, "the most powerful, self-proclaimed upholder of democratic values" was boycotting poor little Cuba. In addition she noted that Cuba was losing $1.3 billion dollars in trade a year because of the embargo.

I have an idea. For all those who complain about how Cuba is being harmed by the embargo I wonder why they don't ask Cuba why it doesn't allow open and free elections and why it doesn't have a free press or free speech. All those people who romanticize Fidel Castro seem to forget that he is a thug. He is not romantic. He has enslaved an entire nation to his political will and his own self-aggrandizement. Otherwise why won't he retire. He can barely speak and get out of bed and yet he won't leave the stage. Yet this dictator is the person that idealistic young Americans look to for inspiration.

Cuba chooses everyday to remain a pathetic dictatorship. If the Communist government truly believed that it was popular it would allow people to challenge its leadership. History has shown that everytime people were given the choice to get rid of a Communist yoke they have chosen to do so. Cuba has all the choices. Cuba chooses everyday to be a dictatorship, just like Saudi Arabia chooses everyday to be a barbaric, disgusting inhuman country that enslaves half its people. These are choices. Nations, like individuals, make choices. They should suffer for those choices.

Barbados is an example of why there should be no tolerance for Cuba or any manifestation of dictatorship in this world. When one watches the local people in Barbados, from the wretchedly poor to the wealthy, from the oldest men to the youngest eligible voters cue up to vote in long lines one sees what democracy means to people. People yearn to choose their leaders. They yearn for the right to vote. Even if their vote is, at best, a token or a symbol, and in reality means little, they will cue up for it. The longest lines are in the countries with the newest democratic elections such as Iraq. When one sees what it means for people to vote and one looks over and sees the arrogant Cuban dictatorship proclaiming its disgusting warped version of democracy and then one sees the liberals like Mrs. Gordimer, who campaigned for South African democracy, supporting the dictatorship one must always know which side to be on. One must always know that they are on the side of the many, the side of the people, not the side of the wealthy liberal/leftist or the tin-pot dictator. Why it is that all the leftist intellectuals and leftist youth and students in the world cannot see the difference between Cuba and Barbados? Why don't they romanticize Bajan (Barbadian) leaders such as Grantley Adams or Owen Arthur, but instead insist on loving Fidel? This merely shows the degree to which wealth, privilege and education separates people from their desire to want government in their own hands. Wealthy leftists see Fidel and they think: "I could be him, I could run a whole country and have these people bow down and listen to my eight hour speech and read my editorials and there would be no Foxnews to distract them because we would ban right wing fascist broadcasts." But when one thinks of the socialist youth who trudge off to work the land in Cuba every year one can only smile recalling their intellectual ancestors who went over to Stalin's Russia to visit George Bernard Shaw's socialist Utopia and were thrown into the Gulag.

One just wonders if those leftists, as they rotted in the Soviet Gulag, if they ever heard of Errol Walton Barrow, the first Prime Minister of Barbados. Mr. Barrow was born to a poor family in the rural north of the island in the district of St. Lucy. At the age of twenty he enlisted in the Royal Air Force and flew 45 combat missions against the Nazis. As a founder of the Barbados Democratic Party he guided his country towards independence. No leftist will ever journey to Barbados and the slightly portly Mr. Barrow, who didn't smoke cigars, will never be a romantic figure to leftist whites. But Mr. Barrow was better than Fidel. He didn't give eight hour speeches. He left the press alone and he allowed the opposition Barbados Labour Party to come to power when it defeated his DLP in 1976. No friend of the United States, he was a harsh critic of Reagan and an ally of Michael Manley of Jamaica, Forbes Burnham of Guyana and Eric Williams of Trinidad. But he was better than Fidel Castro and he believed in democracy. American students and people like Mrs. Gordimer should pick better heroes. Mr. Barrow might be a good place to start.

Our Bi-racial consciousness
January 22nd, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

How did Barack Obama become a bi-racial African American? On the face of it this is a pretty simple question. Obviously a white person and a black person had a child. In the old days they would have called that child a 'mullato'. In some places that child would have been known as coloured. But through the years this child has become 'bi-racial'. But he hasn't merely become 'bi-racial', he also received that second descriptive adjective: 'African-American'. So the bi-racial person gets the best of both worlds. He gets to be 'black' which means he gets all the coolness and affirmative action and romanticism and victimhood that goes along with being 'African-American' and he gets to be 'white' at the same time.

Bi-racial is an invention, sort of like bisexual. The term 'bi-racial African-American' is a contradiction in terms. Just as one cannot be a 'bi-racial white person' one cannot be a 'bi-racial black person'. Yet Barack Obama seems to have been lucky, or unlucky, enough to receive this title. How did he achieve such an honour?

There was a time when blacks who had light skin, due to their mixed ancestry, increasingly struggled to escape their 'human stain' of blackness. They did so in order to succeed in countries that looked down on people due to their race. This is why several wealthy educated blacks passed themselves off as Jewish or Indian in order to escape their race. But this was in the 1920s and 1930s. As years went by those educated people who engaged in discussions of race claimed that given the 'melting pot' most blacks in America would fade away and the issue of race would disappear because everyone would 'have sex with one another'. This was the 1960s dream, a big fat orgy that would erase the issue of race. Some people disagreed, notably those black power advocates and those other black intellectual descendants of Booker T. Washington who realized that erasing race and heritage through intermarriage was not a goal but a tragedy. Even without the black power movement the idea that race would fade away in a country in which 10-15% of the people were black was a myth. Norman Podhoretz and other authors such as Allan Bloom noted the degree to which blacks 'failed' to integrate racially the way Jews, Italians and Polish people had joined the Anglo-white majority. Blacks became like the proverbial Jews of Europe, an 'indigestible' racial problem that refused to go away. But that was in the 1980s.

In the 1990s things changed. The end of racial stigmas and the destruction of the myth of integration led to a romantization of blacks. Increasingly black roles in movies were as the 'cool' character. Whereas Airplane had poked fun at the blacks who spoke 'jive' the modern movie script required a black character to either play the black president of the United States, as Morgan Freeman did on at least two occasions, or play the fun comedy relief black person. The era where the black characters always died first in movies had ended. Rap and the romantization of 'black culture' became a major component of American culture. Black athletes broke out of Basketball and became the romantic leaders in such un-black sports as tennis and golf. By the late 1990s it was hard to find a white person in any classroom in America who didn't describe Martin Luther King as their greatest Hero.

On the surface of it this seems like an ideal America, the one Dr. King would have dreamed of. But then something happened. A black person ran for President. Barack Obama isn't the first black person to run for president. Jesse Jackson did so. Alan Keyes and Alan Sharpton contended. But they were all 'black' or 'African-America'. Something happened when Barack started to succeed more than the token 'black' candidate had in the past. Suddenly he seemed to have a chance of unseating the anointed Clinton dynasty from a third term. The 'first black President' of the U.S, Bill Clinton, was not happy about this and neither was the media.

What to do when a black person becomes to uppity? In the old days, as Michael Richards (Sienfeld's Kramer) put it at the Laugh Factory, "we would have had you upside down with a fork in your ass." But those were the 1950s. So instead the media did the next best thing, they changed the racial status of Mr. Obama to be 'bi-racial'.

While 'bi-racial' might seem like a pleasant enough description of someone, at harmony with the multi-cultural ideals of our society, in reality this was code word. The code, when deciphered, means that Mr. Obama is not 'black enough'. If one were to take a section of Obama's skin and place it next to a section of Jesse Jackson's skin and examine them one would find equal levels of pigmentation. In short, they would be equally 'black'. But for some reason Mr. Obama is a 'bi-racial African American' and Mr Jackson is an 'African-American'. Is this merely because people know that Obama's mother is white? What lies behind this re-classification of Mr. Obama. One thing that lies behind it is he fact that our country always defines those with even a limited amount of black ancestry as 'black'. Those with mixed parents, be they Lenny Kravitz, Tiger Woods or Beyonce, always identify with their black ancestry because in today' age, unlike the 1920s, that is the way to get ahead (this of course belies the idea that blacks have a hard time achieving things due to their race and that 'racism is rampant in American society.' If racism were truly rampant then people wouldn't stress their blackness. In fact mixed people almost always use their slight black heritage as a way to complain when things don't go their way, they inevitably say 'I am being discriminated against because I am black.')

The idea of classifying race is not new. In fact it was developed long before the race theorists of the 19th century. Early Portuguese ethnographers in Brazil described in excruciating detail some 16 levels of racial difference between the most pure bred Portuguese royalty and the darkest heathens of their colony. In the 19th century such differences took on a 'scientific' attribute. Those with the dark skin became the lesser people and those with the Aryan skin became the supermen. South Africa preserved racial classification into the 1990s with a complicated system of classification that at times bizarrely classified non-whites as 'white' and whites as 'coloured'. But no matter. That all went out in 1994. But somehow between the free elections in 1994 in South Africa and the 2008 American Democratic primaries the best South African racial classification scientists made their way to the New York Times and the Associated Press and were put to work on the case of Barack Obama. These men had ample education in the matter. They had been responsible for turning Jews and Arabs into 'white' people in South Africa. Their most difficult mission had been to turn Japanese into 'white' people so that they could play on the Golf Courses of South Africa. But Barack Obama would be a greater challenge. Here was a black person. Their goal was to make him white.

In the last six months they have succeeded through the use of their brilliant term: bi-racial African American. To a white person this means that the candidate is both 'white' in his sensibility and romantically black in his skin color. To a black person this means he is white. Thus Barack Obama has succeeded with well-meaning upper and middle class whites while Hilary Clinton has done well among racist lower class whites and among Blacks. This is the extreme irony. The Clinton alliance is today made up of racist whites and blacks, because the blacks have been convinced that Mr. Obama is 'not one of them' and the whites have been equally convinced.

This is a disturbing election year. Watching race politics play out in America is exasperating when one considers that the only difference between Mr. Obama and the rest of the candidates is his extraordinary life story (John McCain has such a life story as well). Why he must be denigrated with the term 'bi-racial' is beyond me. If 'bi-racial African American' was meant in a positive way then one would celebrate but the sinister way in which it appeared across the spectrum of the elite media leads one to suspect it is not a term that was coined lightly. Just like when the word 'Palestine' is let loose by Jimmy Carter, the Economist or Tommy Lee Jones, it is not done so without thinking. But just as Israel is not Palestine, Mr. Obama is not a 'bi-racial African America'.

Collective Punishment, international law and the Gaza strip
January 22nd, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

Israel has closed all the border crossing to the Gaza strip. The power is out in Gaza city, so we are told. The U.N and the E.U and Human rights watch and Amnesty International warn of a 'humanitarian crises' and they claim that Israel is uses 'collective punishment' and 'disproportionate force' against the Gazans, thus contravening international law. The essence of this argument rests on the fact that Israel has, in effect, instituted a blockade of Gaza. Except for the Egyptian border crossing of Rafah, the strip's coastline and other border crossings are controlled by Israel. A blockade is in effect. But do blockades and sanctions truly constitute a violation of International law? Are they a form of collective punishment?

The idea of collective punishment might best be illustrated by a little known incident that took place in Rome in the early months of 1944. On the 23rd of March, 1944 an Italian partisan exploded a bomb that killed 32 German soldiers in Rome. On March 24th a total of 335 Italians, including 70 Jews, were taken to the Ardeatine caves outside Rome and shot by the Nazis. The 335 who were killed as a 'reprisal' had no connection to the Partisans who carried out the attack. The Nazi logic was simple; ten people would be killed for every German soldier who died at the hands of partisans. The same collective punishment and murder of civilians was common throughout the areas occupied by the Nazis. This is collective punishment. The British know something about collective punishment also. In each of their colonies, including Palestine and South Africa, they were experts at using such methods as the concentration camp against the Boers and Kenyans, the mass demolition of houses in Jaffa and other forms of this measure to combat resistance to their rule. In South Africa alone 27,000 Boer women and children died at the hands of the British in these camps. This is collective punishment. Europeans know it well.

But what of blockades? During the Napoleonic wars the British blockaded Napoleonic Europe. During the Civil War the northern navy blockaded the South. During the First and Second World Wars a blockade was in existence against the Germans and their allies. America has blockaded Cuba. In the 1990s the U.N itself enacted a blockade, known as 'sanctions', against Saddam's Iraq. Blockades are defined as an act of war according to 'international law' and they provided the Casus Belli for Israel's air and subsequent war strike against Nasser in 1967. But they are not usually defined as 'collective punishment' and 'war crimes'. If they were then one would expect that the U.N sanctions against Iraq that existed from 1992 to 2003 would have been illegal.

What seems to be at play in the international condemnation of Israel regarding the blockading of Gaza is merely another use of the old double standard. Europeans and the U.N know much about blockades and collective punishment and in their vicious condemnation of Israel they are merely saying that what is ok for Europe and what is ok for the U.N is not acceptable for Israel.

Meanwhile more than 2,000 Kassam rockets have been fired at Sderot and the south of Israel from Gaza. This form of 'collective punishment' against the Jews who reside in the areas near the strip has not been condemned by those organizations who now complain about Israel's actions. While England has reacted to a few terrorist attacks by creating the most expensive and hi-tech internal surveillance system in the world complete with 4.2 million CCTV cameras to monitor its people, one must ponder what Europeans would do if 2,000 rockets rained down on them. We know what they would do. They have done it before. They would blockade those firing the rockets and exercise the most extreme measures of collective punishment against them. Israel has learned well from the Europeans and it has learned that in war collective punishment does not work, but blockades do.

A review of God’s Crucible.
January 19th, 2008
Seth J. Frantzman

In the book God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis the author argues that were it not for the intolerant Europeans Islam would have created a multi-cultural borderless Europe and a wonderful world to boot. One reviewer has noted that “Muslim al-Andalus flourished - a beacon of co-operation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism and Christianity - while proto-Europe, defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war and slavery.”
His book begins by describing how news Christianized Visigoth Spain was already intolerant at hearing that friendly Arabs under the Berber chief Tariq ibn Zayid were going to invade their country in 711. But it didn’t stop there. Except for the kingdom of Asturias the entire Iberian peninsula was brought under Muslim rule. In a chapter dedicated to the ‘myth of the battle of Tours’ Mr. Lewis sets about the dismantle the idea that the battle of Tours was a positive development in European history. At Tours in 732 the Corolingian Frankish king Charles ‘the hammer’ Martel defeated a Muslim force led by Abdul Rahman and thus saved Paris and the rest of France from suffering the fate of Spain. But according to Mr. Lewis this was not a good thing. Instead Lewis notes that the battle of Tours actually encouraged more Muslim raiding of France. It also led to the evils of the ‘hereditary rule’ and ‘slavery’ and a ‘priestly class’. Had it not been for Tours, argues Lewis, Europe would have become part of the “multicultural” and “tolerant” Muslim world and there would have been no borders in Europe.

Lewis is walking a well traveled trail. Already books about the ‘golden age of Muslim Spain’ predominate. Most speak of a Spain of tolerance and equality where Christians, Jews and Muslims ‘coexisted’. The antithesis of this is the Spain of post-1492, that of the Reyes Catolicos, Ferdinand and Isabella, who threw out the Jews and Muslims and created a Christian Spain after the Reconquista had ended.

While the Spain of post 1492 was certainly not tolerant one must wonder why people have therefore assumed the one before 1492 was tolerant. Just because someone is bad doesn’t mean that what came before it was good. Let's try to recall a few things about Muslim Spain that may enlighten us as to how it was a model of Coexistence. Between 711 and 1492 any person in Muslim Spain who insulted the Muslim faith was put to death. Many Christian priests dared to oppose Muslim rule by publicly insulting Islam and many of them became Christian martyrs for having done so. Coexistence apparently didn’t mean free speech in Muslim Spain. But if Muslim Spain wasn’t always nice to Christians then we are certainly assured that it was a place where Jews were always tolerated. But when a young Jew named Moses Maimonides was only 13 years old in 1148, just old enough to be a man according to his religion, the friendly and tolerant Almohad rulers of Cordoba of Spain ordered every Jews to either convert or leave Spain. Because of this young Maimonides fled Spain eventually living in Egypt and the land of Israel and becoming one of the greatest Jewish theologians of all time, the Rambam. But his legacy doesn’t belong to tolerant, coexistence, multi-cultural Spain, because Jews were expelled from Spain when he was alive. It is odd that 1148 is not remembered the way 1492 is. It is odd the Almohades have not come down for the same criticism as the inquisition. Mr. Lewis avoids discussing this chapter in the history of ‘Al-Andalus’, for fear it might make the reader question his narrative.

The myth of Muslim Spain is one of the greatest myths of our generation. It is one of the greatest myths of Islamic historiography. Muslim Spain was not tolerant. It was not a land without borders. It was not multi-cultural. It was not a land of coexistence. If Spain was tolerant it was only tolerant in the way the American South was tolerant before 1960. In the American South Blacks had there place, as long as it was at the bottom. As Edward Almond understood it “we don’t hate blacks, we just understand their capabilities better than northerners.” Yes, the American south was always ‘multi-cultural’ in the sense that it had more than one culture. Muslim Spain also had more than one culture. But that doesn’t mean it was tolerant.

Mr. Lewis blames the existence of a European slave trade after the fall of Muslim Spain on the fact that Europe was intolerant whereas Muslim Spain was tolerant. But Muslim Spain did not lack the institution of slavery. In fact it was Islam that brought slavery to every place it conquered and it was Christian Europeans that eventually ended the practice of slavery throughout the world. The Christian church in the 5-7th centuries was actually in the process of stamping out the old traditions of Roman slavery that had existed in Europe when Islam suddenly began colonizing European soil, beginning with Spain and Southern Italy. Islam brought slavery to Spain and Islamic armies ravaged France and Italy in search of slaves for the next 800 years after 711. In fact Islamic slavers ever ventured as far as Ireland to take slaves. Few recall today that as many as a million or more Europeans were sent as slaves to the Muslim world between the 8th century and the 19th. In the Ottoman empire slavers paid tolls to transport slaves and they paid different tolls depending on whether their slaves were ‘white’(European) or ‘black’(African). This is a chapter in Islamic history scholars like Mr. Lewis like to ignore. But every single place in Europe that Islamic armies colonized, from Spain to the Balkans to the Ukraine, also became a center of the Islamic slave trade. In Thessaloniki, Salonki, in Greece there was a thriving slave market. The buyers and sellers were only Muslims of course. This was Islamic tolerance. It was a tolerance and a culture that would have been at home in the American South before the Civil War.

Why is the culture of the American South, with its grand plantations and exotic culture, derided while that of Muslim Spain is made exotic. There was little difference between Muslim Spain and the American South in the 1830s. Like the Islamic world the American South also produced great philosophers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The American South also had Jews. Jefferson even owned a Koran. The American South was quite diverse, it had native-Americans and blacks and all sorts of people. It was multi-cultural and tolerant. It was tolerant like Muslim Spain, it allowed people to exist so long as they were at the bottom rung of society.

This is what Muslim tolerance means. It means one people are in charge and everyone else is treated like a second class citizen. This is what it means to be a non-Muslim in Iran or the United Arab Emirates. This type of tolerance, where one people rule and the others are second class, is reminiscent of Apartheid South Africa. Like Muslim Spain, Apartheid South Africa was also multi-cultural. It had Africans and Jews and Asians. It was tolerant, in the sense that it allowed those people to survive.

But Muslim Spain was even more tolerant. It had separate styles of dress for each group. Jews were a certain color turban and Christians another color and Muslims another color. Non-Muslims could not build their houses higher than Muslim homes and could not build new places of worship. This was a form of ‘tolerance’ sort of like the Nuremburg laws. After all, every person had his place in society, sort of like in Nazi Germany before 1942.

Mr. Lewis claims that the intolerant Europeans invented hereditary rule and a ‘priestly class’ and slavery in order to combat Islam. Is he kidding? Hereditary rule existed long before European nations. Slavery existed long before European nations. A priestly class? Well one must look no further than the Jews and the Hindus to find such a class and, yes, the Jews and the Hindus existed long before Charles Martel.

Mr. Lewis fantasizes about a Europe in which Charles Martel was defeated at Tours in 732. But what would this Europe look like? It would like a lot like the Muslim world does today. Is this the world Mr. Lewis wants? Perhaps it is. But he shouldn’t pretend that this world is more tolerant and multi-cultural and full of coexistence than modern day Europe.

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