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I’ve read and liked a lot of Canadian author Mordechai Richler‘s work, fiction and non- both, but our new age of paranoic terrorism has brought one passage in particular from 1994’s This Year in Jerusalem to mind. (I’ve added the hyperlinks, of course.)

By dint of belonging to Habonim, we were connected, through Poale Zion, to Ben-Gurion’s Mapai Party, Haganah, and a Yishuv policy of moderation. But the truth is, in those eventful days we secretly admired Menachem Begin. He, not Ben-Gurion, was out gutsy street-fighter, our James Cagney. When a seventeen-year-old Irgun fighter, Binyamin Kimche, was caught carrying arms and sentenced to fifteen years in prison and eighteen lashes, Begin was heard from: “If you whip us, we shall whip you.” The warning was dismissed as braggadocio and Kimche was whipped. So Begin had a British major and three noncommissioned officers kidnapped and subjected to eighteen lashes before they were released. Then he issued a communiqué: “If the oppressors dare in the future to abuse the bodies and the human and national honour of Jewish youths, we shall no longer reply with the whip. We shall reply with fire.” The second Irgun youngster caught with Kimche was not whipped, and the British flogged no more Jews or Arabs for the rest of the Mandate. But in the case of the three Irgun fighters involved in the raid in Acre [prison on May 4, 1947], the British would not bend. The three men were hanged on July 29, 1947, and two days later the bodies of the hanged sergeants [taken as hostages in reprisal] were found. A mine had been placed below their corpses, and the party that came out to cut them down was injured in the explosion. There were anti-Jewish riots in London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow. But what warmed the hearts of many of us in Habonim was a “Letter to the Terrorists of Palestine,” published as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, and signed by Ben Hecht, co-chairman of the American League for a Free Palestine:

My Brave Friends, You may not believe what I write you, for there is a lot of fertilizer in the air at the moment. But, on my word as an old reporter, what I write is true. The Jews of America are for you. You are their champions. You are the grin they wear. You are the feather in their hats. In the past fifteen hundred years every nation of Europe has taken a crack at the Jews. This time the British are at bat. You are the first answer that makes sense–to the New World. Every time you blow up a British arsenal, or wreck a British jail, or send a British railroad train sky high, or rob a British bank or let go with your guns and bombs at the British betrayals and invaders of your homeland, the Jews of America make a little holiday in their hearts….

On impulse, I went down to the Black Watch Armory on Bleury Street one afternoon. Claiming to be eighteen years old, I enlisted in the Reserve Army. It appealed to my sense of irony to have the Black Watch train me to fight the British–the British who were now beyond the pale, so far as I was concerned (26-27).

This Year in Jerusalem is one of Richler’s more interesting books, an autobiographical exploration of his relationship to Zionism, moving from his youthful full commitment to the Zionist ideal to a more nuanced and critical relationship with the state of Israel as it exists.

If you wanted, you could also read This Year in Jerusalem as the story of how a young man, belonging to an alienated and persecuted diasporic minority, first came to embrace the cause of violent terrorism against his diaspora’s oppressors and his homeland of birth (remember that the Commonwealth wasn’t a dead letter back in the 1940s) and then, over course of the following decades, move away from utopian violent dreams towards pragmatic realism. Does this sound at all familiar, in the era of al-Qaeda’s transnationalism and the alienation of Muslims in western Europe and North America and the embrace of tit-for-tat violence?
Just as interesting are the ways in which Britons and Canadians reacted, and did not react. Doubtless there was police surveillance of Jewish organizations linked to the violence in mandatory Palestine, but despite traditional anti-Semitism and very real contemporary conflict Jews don’t seem to have been constructed by non-Jews as dangerous internal enemies. The Holocaust may have helped here, but did it help that much? More, the question of Jewish terrorism against British interests in mandatory Palestine was solved not by a harsh British crackdown against the terrorist-supporting Jewish minority–perhaps, presaging events in Britain’s Malaya counterinsurgency in the 1950s (PDF format), enlisting the support of the native majority against the immigrant radicals?–but by Britain’s withdrawal from Palestine.

Why the difference between then and now? There are some times, I think, when it makes sense to treat terrorism not only as a military challenge or as a policing issue, but as a public-policy issue. As a commenter pointed out, this instinct has obvious flaws. Terrorist attacks against individual Jews or against Jewish civilians or against targets in the Jewish diaspora can only be justified if you decide, immorally, that total war should be waged without any limits. That way lies the Soviet targeting of Summerside for nuclear obliteration in the Cold War, never mind the whole question of terrorism’s ethics. French support for the Algerian military dictatorship was justified, unless that you think that the FIS, which includes groups dedicated to the theological debate over whether one should rape both the wife and the daughter of the infidel, or only one, and if so which one, should have been given control of the Algerian state. There are some times when the demands of terrorists shouldn’t be granted and should be opposed.

In other cases, though, policy changes are merited. Terrorists themselves can’t be readily bargained with, although I will note that much of the leadership of the Irish Free State came from terrorist origins and that Pilsudski, founder of the Polish Second Republic, once was a bandit on the Lithuanian roads. Many of the causes which inspire terrorists do find wider support from legitimate political movements. Under Franco, for instance, ETA arguably played a major role in the post-Franco democratization and federalization of Spain. Would it have made sense for Franco’s successors to blindly insist on the need to maintain Spain as a unitary dictatorship?

Terrorists may be beyond caring about plausible responses to root causes; non-terrorists, though, not so. Keep in mind that terrorists come from somewhere. Something made people otherwise ordinary, people who in other circumstances would have become upwardly mobi
le members of their societies, decide that it was a good idea to set to killing. Something made other members of their societies think that they were heroes. Might it not be a wise idea to make sure that the likelihood of there being terrorists at all is as low as possible?

• Category: Science 
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There’s a depressing interview over at the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Two excerpts, from separate interviews with Islamist women, are below.

Abd al-Lami: The demands raised by [secularist demonstrators]…are demands contradictory to Islam.
RFI: Why? They demand the implementation of [international] agreements that arose from decades-long fight for the rights of women and from studying the situation of women all over the world. They demand that these agreements be incorporated in the constitution.
Abd al-Lami: Yes. All of us, as women of Iraq, were oppressed for many years. Now, everybody fights for something better. Efforts should be spent on laying down a solid basis for improving the situation of Iraqi women in a complex way. We do not want that one opinion be given priority over another. We want justice, not equality.
RFI: What is your objection to equality?
Abd al-Lami: If we demand an absolute equality between men and women, that would mean depriving women of certain rights.

These rights include maternity leave, since apparently such a thing as paternity leave can’t exist. The other interview subject isn’t much more encouraging.

Sumaysim: I want to stress one point: This extreme attitude that leftist, liberal, and democratic forces have taken in handling these affairs only provokes an opposite extreme. I call for dialogue. Regarding these activists, whom I do not like to call “secularists” because I have a particular view on the problem of “secularism” but who oppose the application of Islamic law, why do they not gather with activists who support the application, or the practical implementation of terms, of Islamic law? Why don’t they try to understand each other?
RFI: Since you have called the leftists, secularists, and liberals “extreme,” what about those who have been writing the constitution draft? How about those [women] whose views have been [transparent], beginning from their [Islamic] dress and ending with the [Islamic] formulations that they want to set in the constitution? Sumaysim: I reject extremism in all forms.
RFI: So why have you labeled as extremists those who want to defend their rights?
Sumaysim: Through my work at the Ministry for Women’s Affairs, I have noticed one very regrettable phenomenon: Those [secularist] women try to accuse all Islamic-oriented women equally, be they moderate or non-moderate. The problem is mainly that the term “secular” has come to be used in various contexts, sometimes correctly and sometimes not. “Secularism” does not mean detachment from religion. No, you can be a believer and a secularist, or, you do not want Islam be used politically. This is the right of every citizen. I believe that the prime human right is the freedom of belief. So how could I abstain from a particular religion?

Kanan Makiya described, in his 1989 Republic of Fear, just how thoroughly the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein had atomized what would now be called Iraqi civil society, using Orwellian methods of divide and conquer and liberal applications of brute force. Makiya also described how, before the Ba’ath Party ascended to power, Iraqi civil society was decidedly majoritarian, gleefully supporting the overwhelming use of force against whichever populations and groups happened to be unpopular: Assyrians, Jews, the Hashemite dynasty, rivals for power. Iraq can move beyond this majoritarianism to levels of democracy surpassing anything ever found in Iraq. Unfortunately, it seems like the new constitution and the new regime isn’t going to enable this.

The Kurds will be protected by their autonomy; if need be, Iraqi Kurdistan can quickly pass to independence. Iraq’s million Christians likewise don’t have much to fear since, early optimism aside, are emigrating massively to such prosperous and stable places as Syria. Secularists and women, alas, and other unpopular groups, unless they can document their persecution and find welcoming governments. They can be guaranteed the first, but the second may be harder to come by given growing xenophobia in likely receiving countries. Life in the Islamic Republic of Iraq will be more tolerable for those groups deemed unpopular true. I wonder, though, whether to some extent the groups stigmatized have simply been switched.

The United States has removed terrible tyrannies in Iraq and Afghanistan, true. The United States has not implanted democracy and civil rights in either country. Rather, it has created not one, but two Islamic republics. It’s true that they are fairly traditional tyrannies, lacking the synthetic modernities favoured by Iraq’s Ba’athists and Afghanistan’s Taliban or by the early Islamic Republic of Iran. It’s still true that they are tyrannies, the one in the process of becoming a majoritarian polity marked by all forms of strife and the imposition of private mores to ensure public virtue, the other a collection of warlord states looking like Iraq writ small. Neither, I fear, is going to prove to be much of a model for the wider Islamic world.

Events in Iran, now, will have global import. Almost unique in the Middle East, Iran is a country that works well. Iran has a middle-income economy; Iran has a reasonably high level of technology available to it; Iran has mass politics and an ambitious parliament; Iran has mass media and high Internet penetration. Iran is run by a clerical regime that verges on fascism, yes, but this regime can’t dominate everything. The life story of Shirin Ebadi is one element proving this. The widely-reported discontent among the young and the urbanites, desiring secularism and true democracy, suggests strongly that Iran’s future will be bright. Spengler was right, in June, to note at Asia Times that Ahmadinejad was elected because Iran’s conservative rural peasantry wanted to be protected. Spengler was wrong to expect this to be sustained indefinitely, since, after all, modern urban Iran can trace its origins directly to the dislocated peasantry urbanized and modernized by economic growth and the modern state. Iran just has to wait, hopefully not much longer, for the political demographics to tip in the right direction.

This is why Iran must not be invaded. Michael J. Mazarr’s observations at The New Republic on the 5th of this month are accurate, in that an American invasion of Iran would create a new garrison state. Worse still, an American invasion that shattered the Iranian state–as it would, judging by precedents in Iran’s eastern and western neighbours–would create just the right sort of opportunity for Iran’s real fascists, the reactionaries who’ve been so far limited, to imitate Iraq’s urban guerrillas and wreak havoc. If the United States wants Iran to become fully fascist, this is what the US military should do. Iran shouldn’t be sent back a generation because of a nuclear deterrent in the working that may be built only after the current regime has fallen.

And so, ¡No Pasarán!. I’ve no doubt that the United States as a whole would mean well, but an American invasion of Iran at this point would be the worst thing that it could possibly do for freedom and liberty in the Middle East.

• Category: Science 
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Reading Silt 3.0 yesterday, I was interested to read an analysis of Dutch migratory statistics, entitled “Witamy!”. Specifically, he was examining the data presented in a recent article in the Dutch newspaper Trouw. His translation:

The total number of emigrants was 112,000, whereas only 90,000 people, mostly Europeans, settled in the Netherlands. […]

Turks and Moroccans were especially likely to remain in their homelands in 2004. Arrivals from those countries fell by 40%, from 11,600 in 2003 to 6,800 in 2004. The stricter rules for “marriage immigration” would seem to be a logical explanation for this drop, but the rules did not take effect until late in 2004. So their effect should not be apparent until 2005. [Demographer Jan] Latten speculates that many Turks and Moroccans stayed away because of the less welcoming climate, or because of better economic conditions in their homelands.

Only the Poles went against the trend of falling immigration. Since their country joined the European Union on 1 May 2004, they have been arriving here in greater numbers. The number of immigrants from Poland doubled last year, to nearly 5,000 people.

As for the emigration of 112,000 people, the highest total ever, the Central Bureau of Statistics has no explanation. Around half of this number are autochtonen [native Dutch people]. Some are leaving to retire abroad; others for work or study.

The other half of this number would be non-autochtonen leaving the Netherlands. Making the generous assumption that there are exactly one million Muslims in the Netherlands, my admittedly simple calculations suggest that the allochtonen population has shrunk by at least 5%, wiping out a couple of years of natural increase.

Project that trend.

Posted by randy at 07:55 PM

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Hi! I’m Randy McDonald, a long-time GNXP reader whose writings have occasionally been linked to from GNXP. I’d like to thank Razib for giving me this guest account.

I’m interested in the dynamics of migration and assimilation, in a variety of settings, historical and contemporary, Western and non-Western, on their own terms and. GNXP readers are a well-read and well-educated lot, and it’s always interesting to get feedback and comments from them, as I did here.

I’d like to ask GNXP readers a question in two parts.

1. How do they think current immigration waves in North America and Europe differ from previous waves (gastarbeiter in Europe, the turn-of-the-century wave in North America)?

2. What do they think are the particular dangers or problems of the current waves?

Posted by randy at 10:21 AM

• Category: Science 
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