Thursday, October 21, 2010

Interesting Stuff from the Wide Wide Web

Yehuda Mirsky - and his readers - discuss the idea that perhaps American Jewry might get along better without organizational denominations. Not all agree. Eventually the discussion veers off to Chabad. Someday I should tell one of my favorite Chabad jokes... but then again, perhaps I oughtn't.

Arye Tepper reviews Sir Martin Gilber's brand new book In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. Tepper tells that the book manages to cover lots of ground by being very focused on the single question of the level of persecution or lack of it suffered by the Jews throughout the centuries. Says Tepper:
By proceeding in this fashion, Gilbert succeeds in exploding the myth, manufactured by Islamic ideologues and peddled by left-wing apologists, to the effect that pre-modern Jews always lived harmoniously with their Muslim hosts. Sometimes this was the case; often it was not.

If it's books I'm recommending, a few weeks ago The Economist had a glowing review of  John Calvert's new biography Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism (Columbia/Hurst). Since Qutb is an extremely central figure for Islamists, any good book about him should be widely read. Slightly alarmingly, however, Benny Morris has read the book, liked it, but notices that 
Calvert never says, simply, that Qutb was an anti-Semite; perhaps it is politically incorrect to forthrightly accuse a major Muslim thinker of such a predilection. But “the Jews” appear to have been important, if not central, to Qutb’s worldview, at least after the Arab disaster in Palestine in 1948. From that year onward Qutb was wont, like most contemporary Islamists, to refer to the Muslims’ “Crusader [i.e., Christian] and Zionist” enemies.
But Qutb’s anti-Semitism was religious and deep-rooted, originating in the Koran and its descriptions of Muhammad’s antagonistic relations with the Jewish tribes of Arabia (who simply rejected the Prophet and his message and were consequently slaughtered, enslaved or exiled by him), not in the contemporary struggle with Zionism. (Though the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, no doubt, exacerbated his anti-Jewish prejudices. He often compared what he saw as Jewish misdeeds in seventh-century Hejaz—the Jews turning their backs on divine revelation, trying to poison the Prophet and fighting the believers—and twentieth-century Palestine.)
In or around 1951 Qutb published an essay entitled “Our Struggle with the Jews” (reprinted as a book by the Saudi government in 1970). Calvert devotes a paragraph to this screed—but would have done well to elaborate further. In the essay, Qutb vilified the Jews, in line with the Koran, as Islam’s (and Muhammad’s) “worst” enemies, as “slayers of the prophets,” and as essentially perfidious, double-dealing and evil. 
Odd. On the other hand, Culvert makes no secret of the irrational extent to which Qutb was fascinated and repelled by the (emerging) equality of women in America and sexual mores there; according to Culvert, Qutb himself apparently never had sex with a woman. Freudian, I suppose - except that Freud was an example of Jewish insidiousness.

If it's the war against Islamic extremism we're talking of (keep in mind that I'm not bound by the White House Talking Points), the NYT has an interesting article about how the surge in Afghanistan may actually be working. (My friend Juan Cole has yet to relate to the item).

Meanwhile, for a longer and less tractable war than the mere 9-year one in Afghanistan, Khaleb Abu Toameh reminds us that someday someone is going to have to explain to millions of Palestinians that they're not going back to Haifa or Jaffa, nor to Bir'em or Julis. So far, their leaders and the leaders of the Arab world are telling them they will, and this prevents peace. Hussein Ibish and Abu Toameh ought to get together and figure out what the facts of this matter are.

Finally, on a related topic, Eamonn Mc Donagh has a problem with the Spanish, Roman Catholic Democratic Kingdom of Spain. I spoof you not, and it is related.


Anonymous said...

as to Afghanistan Leon Wieseltier at TNR has a piece on it, only part of it available, but it seems to me that he doesn't agree:

“This is how you end these kinds of insurgencies,” General Petraeus said a few weeks ago, referring to the fact that senior officials of the Taliban had “sought to reach out” to senior officials of the Karzai government in Kabul. Pardon the impudence, but this is four-star spin.


Unknown said...

I think Khaleb Abu Toameh is just being pessimistic, look at the Jews, the PA would say, you just have to wait long enough

Samsung said...

How can they go back there if they haven't even been there once before?

Bryan said...

The fact that the US is "working with" the Taliban is shameful for me as an American. All the spin in the world won't change the fact that we are now suing for peace for terrorists and in doing so we are selling out the Afghani people (or I guess, the people in Afghanistan, since "Afghani people" is a bit of a stretch).

We have lost and they have won, and now they will be emboldened once again.

For a nation that has quite literally been constantly at war for the last 60 or so years, Americans don't really have a great deal of tolerance for wars, do we?