Thursday, May 22, 2003

Shipping out

Those of you who know me, and those of you who are following my life know that I did something very out of character and joined the US Army Reserves. Because of something or other that I really don't understand, I am being forced to ship out a day earlier than I expected. I will be leaving in about an hour and a half for Fort Knox Kentucky to start basic combat training. This takes about nine or ten weeks.

I managed to finish all my work and get together a lot of the stuff I had to get to ship out. I do not have an address yet, but you can leave messages here, and I'l try to read them as I can.

I have no idea what to expect, as I know no one who was in the army here. But I do know that I like my country and I am prepared to take up my share of the common defense.

So, you can expect to hear from me sporadically for now, but I will resume in earnest come mid-August.

I will probably not have much internet access, and I will not get a chance to write much, but I will be back in mid-August and I will write whenever I can to give you the latest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Suicide bombings, abu Mazen, Israel, and Lebanon

These suicide bombings are coming so fast, I am having trouble keeping up with them. Morrocco, Chechnya, and five in Israel. The ones in Israel are not really aimed at Israelis this time. They are aimed at abu Mazen. This is the official challenge to abu Mazens power. abu Mazen is seen as the potential negotiator with Israel. Israel will only negotiate with him if he stops Hamas and all the other terror groups in the west bank and Gaza. So this is all of the groups announcing that they are contenders.

It is really sad that there is only one way for abu Mazen to make peace with Israel, and that is by becoming a strong-man dictator to the palestinians. The palestinians who are not under his tight fist will continue to challenge him, and it is his responsibility to rise to the challenge. The challenges will always be in the form of suicide bombings, as they are a direct threat to his international credibility and his credibility to the Israelis.

What abu Mazen has on his side is the fact that everyone expects him to either not respond, and thus become a rather impotent leader who has to kiss Hamas' ass to get things done, or respond with a lot of force befitting a violent and bloody clash. abu Mazen is assured that there will be no International Solidarity Movement types stopping him from fighting terrorism in the only way he can. There will be no "Ramala Ramala" movies made about the Palestinian supression of Hamas, etc. He has a free hand to do whatever it takes. If he does, it will be bloody, but in the end there will be a chance for peace. His men can be the real martyrs for peace - if they defeat the terrorists.

I am pessimistic.

I also still think that the situation in Lebanon is pivotal. Khatami, the president of Iran just visited Lebanon, and while the rhetoric was somewhat toned down, on the day he left the Lebanese police caught people planning to hit a few western targets. Khatami came there to attempt to reassert his influence in Lebanon with Hizbullah. As I have said before, this is the time for Lebanon to act. As I see it Lebanon is on the brink of either renewed clashes or a bright future. Naturally they will choose the war over peace, because the politicians there are too self-serving to realize what is happening.

I am reminded of the movie "Springtime for Hitler" when I think about what is going on in Lebanon. In the movie, these unscrupulous people decided that they will make money by selling many shares of the revenue of a play that they will produce. Now the key to making money on this is to have a really bad play. A really bad play will not get money and the investors will allthink they lost. A good play will have the investors all clamoring for their 50 percent. 50 Percent for 10 people is a whole lot of angry investors.

Syria is dividing up the power like that as well. As long as Lebanon is under Syrian occupation with Hizbullah militias controlling stuff and power struggles killing dozens in the refugee camps (like yesterdays incident in Ein Hilweh) then everyone who was given power by the Syrians cannot collect, so to speak. They are all just puppets with the appearance and feeling of pwer. But if they were to rid themselves of the Syrians, then power would go to he who got the votes. That would make a lot of important people suddenly unimportant - even though it would make Lebanon great.

Lebanon can revert to its old status that it had in say 1960, when every tourist made sure to stop there. To do that it would have to stop hating Israel long enough to clean house of all the accumulating crap that hangs out in the south and in the camps. Everyone wants a piece of the Lebanon action. Khatami realizes it, Syria realizes it, and now the palestinians who are about to loose their citizenship (those few who go it in 1994) know it. The only ones who don't are those who have an interest in creating a free, independent and peaceful Lebanon.

Lebanon's challenging Hizbullah will undoubtedly also demoralize Hamas and the other Islamic groups in places where it will be pivotal that abu Mazen has control.

As Abba Eban would have put it, Lebanon will certanly be taking this opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Review of Saul Bellow's Ravelstein

Saul Bellow’s Ravelstein is well known as the very lightly fictionalized biography of Alan Bloom, the influential author of the now classic neo-conservative manifesto The Closing of the American Mind. Alan Bloom, like Ravelstein was consumed by the political, the Jewish, the good life, and the Just.

While the protagonist was fascinating, the book itself was not. It was a rather quick read, and gave us a glimpse, really the briefest glimpse, of the life of Ravelstein, it did little to present who he must have been. Bellow can be excused for not plunging in to the depths of the political and philosophical thought that was always falling out of the mind that must have been Bloom’s. That was not his job, but what was not forgivable is that he did not give us a feel for what Bloom was like. We learned a few facts about Bloom/Ravelstein, and a bit of what he was like and what he thought was interesting, like gossip, traveling first class, heck – doing everything first class.

We do not get a feel for what Ravelstien’s relationships were like, not with his students, enemies, or friends. We mostly learn a lot about what his relationship was with Saul Bellow. And frankly Bellow had a rather uninteresting relationship with Bloom. At the end, Bellow drops Ravelstein altogether and just talks about himself (as “Chick”).

I guess people read the book to see the one or two scandalous stuff about Bloom. OK, so bloom was gay and died of AIDS. Wow. I am really not sure what I was supposed to take out of this novel. The way Bellow writes it, you would think it was some big labor of love, to write such an ode to a friend. But it was kind of banal. Definitely not worthy of a writer like Bellow. I expected more. Bellow was a big fan of Bloom. He wrote the intro to his opus. He could have done more than the large piece of self-indulgent fluff that eventually was Ravelstein.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Trip to VA

I just came back from a weekend camping trip with "L" and "D". We went to Virginia. It was a really nice trip. There was lots of fire and meat. We went fishin' and campin'. We did the whole sleeping in tents and brave the elements thing. It was a genuinely nice male bonding thing. It is important to have these types of experiences. It has been a while since I sat around a raging campfire with good male friends and had a meaningful conversation about the world.

Between the three of us we have about 35 years of rather diverse higher education. (I am in the humanities, "L" is in the social sciences, and "D" is a medical doctor.) It is good to have some solid conversation about the meaning of life, the theory of evolution, and where our lives are headed. We have known each other for over 10 years, and have rather sympathetic ears for each others' problems.

There was rain, there was cold, but it was worth every minute.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Review of Dana Priest's The Mission: Waging war and Keeping Peace with America's Military

The only thing that most people (except for a few stuffy academics) know about Carl von Clausewitz is his famous dictum that war is just politics by other means. Dana Priest's book, The Mission, is a prolonged affirmation of this. The book basically has three main points: First, is that the Commanders in Chief (CinCs) of the US military have had their foreign politics powers growing to the point that it rivals or even surpasses that of the foreign service. Second, is that there is a growing trend in the US to use the military to achieve foreign policy objectives. And third, the book illustrates the difficulties the military has in keeping the peace.

The book explores at length how the CinCs and their CinCdoms actually carry out their own foreign policy track parallel and occasionally at odds with the agenda and interests of the foreign service. The military comes off as having somewhat of an ego problem who seems to need independence from the rest of the government. This leads to the sort of "coercive diplomacy" that the US finds itself so often practicing to "shape" the world to fit our dreams for it.

Second, when the United States has something they need to accomplish in some other country, they send in the military. When we need to stop drug dealers in Colombia, we declare a metaphorical "war on drugs" and send in the non-metaphorical soldiers to fight it. When we want to distribute food, or aid relief, we send in the army to do that. We seem to have no other way to get any of these jobs done. The US government is dependent on the military for all of these services.

Finally there is the problem that the military is not necessarily the most efficient means of carrying out all these missions. The military is not trained to distribute food or keep peace, but it should be, or those jobs should be carried out by a branch of the government that is trained for this. Moreover the military often lacks the proper authority to carry out its mandate where it needs to.

Along the way, in this rather informative book, Priest takes us through the ins and out of the routines of the various CinCs generals and higher ups, like Zinni, Powell, and Clark. We are also given a very close look of what the Special forces is made of. We learn what they can do, and where they do it.

There are a few great chapters on Afghanistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Colombia. Each of the chapters illustrates the military strengths and also the peacekeeping weaknesses of the special forces. We see where the military and civilian authorities have different visions and expectations of their versions of diplomacy. The military has a vision of how diplomacy ought to be carried out, and what is feasible and what is not. This is not necessarily what is the case from the perspective of the civilian leadership.

The civilian leadership to their discredit has failed to perceive and appreciate the role of the military over the political in many foreign policy contexts. There is no one else the US has to carry out the objectives that are given to the military. Moreover there is no one else on the planet who can carry out these much needed objectives. The UN is generally ineffectual for even the most basic of tasks (like showing up on time) and NATO is basically the US and her yes men.

The book itself is entertaining. There are lots of anecdotes and stories that span the routine of Anthony Zinni to the grunts in Kosovo attempting to make sure that the Serbs and the Albanians are not squatting in each others houses. Priest does a good job of not boring us with the details. There are plenty of stories, and relevant anecdotes that make for a good read. The last couple of chapters about the 82nd Airborne and Kosovo are especially worth the time.

Overall the book is a bit disconnected, but it makes an important point, and if you want to get an idea of how our military works from the view from the top, and roughly what it does, this is not a bad place to look.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Ethics, Ethnicity, and Plagiarism (an ethics question for professors)

I was recently inspired to write this after having a conversation with a fellow adjunct about the demographics of plagiarism in our ethnically very diverse school. (The discussion here inspired me to post this for discussion.) It mimics questions about racial profiling. Those who think racial profiling is OK will have little problem with the following. Those who do not might have a problem, but I think there is nonetheless a significant difference that might make even the anti-profilers think that this case might be different:

Generally when we think of treating people unfairly we presume that the innocent are in some way harmed. I take it for granted that there is no problem harming (read: punishing) the guilty. does what follows present a problem in so far as it only punishes the guilty, albeit it punishes a larger number of the guilty in some particular subgroup. (Fans of Ernest van den Haag should have no problem with this.)

What if an instructor for a number of consecutive semesters would randomly choose ten percent of the papers she received in the class and ran a few random sentences from those papers through Google to spot-check for plagiarism. This is in addition to the quite obviously plagiarized papers.

Let us say that each assignment reveals (at least) one case of plagiarism detected by random spot-checking.

Then, looking at the plagiarists she caught by this random method and combining them with the plagiarists she caught beside she discovers a preponderance of cases that are biased in favor of people whose names indicate a common ethnicity (eg, they are all French sounding).

Then she Googles all the papers and discovers that indeed there is a disproportionate amount of people of that ethnicity who
plagiarized papers.

(The reason for this is irrelevant. I suspect that there is no gene for cheating. However cultural necessity may play a role, eg, impoverished countries may force individuals in that culture to be able to get by only via dishonesty. Or perhaps, a society which makes up a large proportion of a particular college's demographic might look down on secular knowledge (thought it is necessary for a livelihood) and thus encouraging them to have fewer qualms about cheating.)

Is the teacher then justified in looking at this particular group more carefully in the future? That is, should or may, the teacher select the obvious cases of plagiarism, the random ten percent, and all the individuals from a particular sub-group already judged to be more prone to plagiarism.

The innocent in this case do not suffer. They never know they were checked, and thus never feel the humiliation associated with spot-checks. On the cheating list, the particular ethnic group will show up significantly more, as opposed to slightly more. So the guilty of one group will likely be caught more, and hence punished more. The innocent of course will never suffer.

Are there any good argument against this kind of "ethnic profiling"?

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The role of the Dutch and the UN in the massacre of the Muslims

Here is a really revealing piece about a number of things. Mainly it is trying to show Dutch culpability in the massacres of thousands of Muslims in Bosnia by the Serbs.

In passing, it addresses European double standards condeming Sharon for the Phalange murder of Palestinians, while exonnerating the Dutch for its more direct involvement in the murder of Muslims. It also addresses UN culpability, hypocracy and inability to ever carry out a humanitarian mandate, while condeming others who, with so much less, only manage to do much more than the UN, and not everything that the UN wants. The piece also raises issues about the morality of the member nations of the UN. It, like me, wonders where the US has any claim to moral certainty over anyone else.

Added note: You should check out this article about the "food looting" inside the UN building last week, by the delagtes. There is something very non-normal going on in there. Can't these people just eat out? There are 1000 retaraunts in that neighborhood.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

A bit of Yom HaAtzmaut autobiography

When I was a young student in Yeshiva Torah Temimah in Brooklyn I had repeatedly heard the party line about the evils of Israel, the evils of Zionism and the evils of the government of Israel. Israel allowed movie theaters to be open on Shabbos, they allowed abortions and autopsies. This was all appalling.

The rabbeim promoted this view and expressed it whenever it came up. Naturally we did not say Hallel (special holiday prayer of praise), like they do in more modern Orthodox synagogues. Naturally we did not march in the parade or have an Israeli flag in School. For that matter, we had no flag in school whatsoever.

Like much of my school career, I spent a lot of time not really getting it. I never made sense why we would not like Israel. Israel is what we learned about in the Bible and Talmud. We prayed facing Israel, and we obsessed over Israel's relationship to God.

If we were to ask about this incongruity, which apparently didn't exist for most of us, there was some vague references to God not wanting us back there and the government being full of wicked people. I always wondered what made my teachers think that God did not want us there. If he didn't want us there, I thought as a fifth grader, we simply wouldn't be there. But we were, so He did - right? Apparently not. There were some references to the three promises that God made, one of them alluding to the fact that Jews would not be back in Israel until the messiah was here.

Then there was all this stuff about movie theaters and autopsies. Somehow that never rang true, and I was unable to take it seriously. Moreover, I was never clear about who they actually wanted to run the Israeli government. There were all these religious people there. If they didn't want any of them to run the government, who did they want to put in charge? Arafat?

Inevitably, Ben Hecht's famous book Perfidy came up. Perfidy was a book that is (still illegally reprinted by Satmar and related sects and) widely distributed. Ben Hecht was a famous early Hollywood Movie writer and producer. He was very much disturbed by World War II and the treatment of his fellow Jews. He once went so far as to take out an add in the Times advertising that there were Jews for sale, who could be purchased from Nazi Germany for a few dollars. Perfidy, one of his many books described the treatment of some Jews (mostly religious holocaust survivors) by the early Israeli and proto-Israeli government. Much of the critiques relate to Rabin, the Altelena incident, and the Kastner trial. This too struck me as a big ad hominem against the Labor factions of the government. (As I got older, it dawned on me that it is really a critique of left-wing socialism, but that is a whole other story.)

As I got older and rebelled, I rejected a lot of the anti-Zionist rhetoric of the Yeshiva world. It made so little sense. It was always the place where the shearit ha'pleata (the remnants of the Jews) of the Jews went after the Holocaust. It was the place where being Jewish was normal, not "different". Israel was the only place in the world where Jewish was not a minority. There ought to be a place in the world for everyone where they can go and not be a minority. All peoples should have a right granted by the world to have at least one place where they are not an ethnic minority, at least until there is little stigma to being a minority. Being Jewish was never easy for anyone. (Here in the US we have it pretty good though, but it would be easier to not be a minority.) Es is Schver tzu zein a yid.

As I got extremely lax about much religious observance there were some things I still held on to. My support for Israel did not waver. My reasons have changed, as to why I support the country. I have never rejected the belief that given the way the world is, and given world history, Jews need to have Israel. However the reason Israel needs to be supported is because of its rather decent democratic tradition, and its staunch support for the US and values that I as an believer in freedom, autonomy, liberty, democracy and Jewish values, holds dear. Israel, in its many successes and accomplishments, is a positive force in the world that deserves our respect.

Chag Sameach everyone.

Tragedy in Boro Park

I recently heard from my uncle (and saw on NY1) that a distant relative-of-a-relative was killed in Boro Park. I think the relative was about 11 months old. Allegedly this was by a baby sitter. Not that the baby sitter did anything, but apparently there were a whole bunch of kids (like 10) being "baby sat" by some woman. The children were apparently all in the basement, and the police currently suspect that there was a gas leak or something that asphyxiated the child and left another hospitalized.

I am not sure that there was any wrong doing on anyone's part. However there are a few things that I do want to say here. First, the state will demand an autopsy if it does not become clear soon what happened to the child. The religious family will put up a fight. I really do not know who I would side with on this one. On the one hand the state ought to be able to determine the cause of death for an 11-year old. But on the other hand I do see the family's wish to not mutilate their dead as very important too. I do not know how to figure out who has the trumping interest.

Secondly, I don't know what counts as a day care establishment in this state, but I am sure there are laws and regulations. Someone ought to make sure that if this was a day care masquerading as a baby sitter, then the owner should be punished and held responsible. If someone is taking care of a whole bunch of children (especially someone else's children) they ought to know the basics of CPR and child first-aid and have at least minimal competency. Undoubtedly this goes on a lot, without being registered. Registration means licencing and taxes - two things many in Boro Park are not concerned with. This should not continue, nor should it take a tragedy of this magnitude to change policy. All this money-under-the-table outsmarting-the-government way of life has to come to an end. The rules are there to make sure this does not happen.

Review of Carl von Clausewitz's Principles of War

This book is the shorter preliminary version of Clausewitz's classic On War. It is an OK book, not all that different from Sun Tzu's book by the same title. It has a lot about tactics, strategy, and encampments, and how to organize your cavalry. There is a lot about the minutiae of tactics, formations, territory, and what can and cannot easily be defended. There is also some discussions of troop morale and trusting your officers, and their quality. The book is well peppered with citations of actual battles from which Clausewitz's experience is drawn.

This is probably the first modern book on war, but it is not the last word. There are some good pieces of advice/wisdom interspersed throughout. "Victory is purchased by blood", "a powerful emotion must stimulate the ability of a powerful military leader", "We may be sure that an army will never be in the condition supposed by someone following its operations in an armchair", "have faith in our own insight and convictions". . . are just a few of the little pieces of advice he has for the aspiring military leader.

All in all an interesting read.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Lebanon can and must act now

Lebanon is at an historic crossroads. Beirut is in a position to shape the future of the middle east. She can become the catylist for Palestinian statehood, and rid herself of Syria, and restore her economy and dignity, all in one fell swoop. But alas, she is not.

Yesterday, it was reported that Lebanon refused to listen to Colin Powell's request that Lebanon remove Hizbollah from her country. This is a grave mistake. It is a grave mistake for a number of reasons. First, by definition, a government, in this case the government of Lebanon, is defined as the institution with a monopoly on force in some country. Lebanon is claiming that Hizbollah also ought to have an army in Lebanon. This is preposterous. Lebanon is the only country in the world that willingly allows another institution to maintain a militia, probably one capable of defeating her own army, in her borders, on the excuse that it is a legitimate political party who was responsible for kicking Israel out of the south in under 25 years. In the US, the democrats cannot maintain an army, nor does any opposition party. Nor does any political party. That is not the way governments work anywhere else in the world. Lebanon's track record does not suggest that it is somehow wiser about these sort of things.

Second, we should be a little less naive, and look at the real reason that Lebanon is not kicking out Hizbollah. The reason is that Syria does not want her too. Syria plans on continuing its proxy war against Israel completely via Lebanon. This is the Shebaa Farms extension strategy. When you realize that you cannot fight Israel for your own territory because it will be too costly as it may mean real war, let Lebanon do the fighting for you. This way the war will still go on, Syria will still be in control and Lebanon will do all the suffering.

However Lebanon must realize what is going on now. The US is making demands on Syria right and left. "Return Iraqis who fled to your country." "Kick out terrorist groups." "Do everything we say." And Syria is saying "yessir" to each and every one. Syria is so weak that Israel is dismissing them and even some Lebanese are feeling freer to suggest that Syria get the hell out. Of course the US will not invade Syria, but Syria does not know that. Lebanon need not fear standing up to Syria. The US will back any initiative that weakens Syria, including Syria's divestment of control of Lebanon. (I of course understand Lebanon's scepticism about real American involvement, after all we fled after the first suicide bombing in 1982, but I am sure we can do better this time.)

But the Syrians are wise to this. They know that they are losing power at home, but they can still hold on to Lebanon. Some Lebanese, no doubt fostered by Syria, are scared that without Syria civil war will break out again. No doubt they are right. While Syria had absolutely no role in ending the civil war, they probably are what is preventing Hizbullah and whatever is growing in places like Ein el-Hilweh from causing a new civil war.

That is why Lebanon should abandon Syria and appeal to the west, or even the EU, or NATO, if she feel more comfortable with them, to get rid of Hizbullah. If she does so, and the US tells Syria to get out of Lebanon then the rewards to Lebanon will be endless. Beirut can once again be the paradise it once was. With tourists not having to worry about accidentally ending up kidnaped in a basement of Dahe, and with real trading partners, and genuine free economic and academic enterprise, Lebanon can resume its pre-civil war glory as the Rivera of the Middle East.

Moreover if Lebanon kicks out Hizbullah there is a true chance for the Palestinians. How? Hizbullah is seen as the one bright light for Palestinian radicalism. (Palestinian moderates have seen no bright lights unfortunately.) Hizbullah managed to kick Israel out of South Lebanon. So there is hope for the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Tanzim factions, and the Militant Fatah brigades. However if Hizbullah is removed or otherwise delegitimized then all else will fall. Radicals will lose their only beacon of light. This great loss of morale will allow a new stronger Palestinian leadership to take control of the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians and at the same time negotiate a settlement with Israel. This can only be done if the Palestinian leader, who right now looks like Abu Mazen, to wrest control from and eliminate other armed factions who are right now the biggest obstacle to a peaceful settlement. Without their arms Israel will be forced to concede that it has no security issues that Mazen cannot handle.

Lebanon must not let itself be fooled in to thinking that she is so clever that she is outsmarting the Syrians, the Americans, and the Israelis. I am sorry to reveal this to them, but she is not. The clever ploy to reintroduce the Falange party back in to the government WILL NOT fool the US in to thinking that there is now a semblance of normalcy and stability in the country. The Falange was reintroduced in to the government so they won't complain to the US that they are being prosecuted, arrested, and routinely tortured by the Syrians and Lebanese. With their silence Lebanon is hoping to pass herself off as a real democracy who is in control of the whole country. But this is a sham. The calm is a facade. The conditions are similar to what they were before the civil war. Only this time everyone thinks they have power. How long will it be before they all realize they are puppets of the Syrians? How long will it be before they all want a share of real power? If they start a genuine program of power sharing, such as exists in a true democracy, then there is hope. If not, it will be years, and probably many more dead bodies in to the future before this opportunity is available again.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Fishing along the East River

Today while running along the East River I noticed a lot of people fishing – more people than usual. When I was growing up the East River was believed to be, and probably was, the final destination for all of New York’s raw sewage. Now, apparently, it is being cleaned up. This guy I know, who was fishing there today swears that you can eat the fish. He claims that the bass and stripers are biting and with a good cleaning, they are ready to eat. (I am still not sure I trust him.) He also told me that they are in the process of cleaning up the Hudson River too. He believes that they are going to start an oyster nursery there.

Review of Sun Tzu's The Art of War

This book is rightfully a classic. I am not sure if the insights here that Sun Tzu offers us are common sense, or perhaps they just sound like it after you read it, but the book definitely has some very straight forward ideas about the most direct and useful military tactics.

Sun Tzu outlines what you need to understand to attain your goal. You need to know things like your terrain, your equipment, your troops, and your enemy.

If I may be permitted to be philosophical here for a moment, I’d like to speculate on how this book became the classic it did. The secret, I suspect, lies in the fact that the advice in the book has little to do with war. Sure, the book is about war, but in reality, the book is far more generalized. In some sense it reminds me of Hilbert’s axiomitization of geometry. Hilbert has a famous line about his geometry being not only about points, straight lines, and planes, but also about anything that meets the criteria of the axioms – even tables, chairs, and beer steins. The Art of War is the same way. Sun Tzu could be talking about business competition or how to pick up women and the advice would be the same. Instead of "enemy troops", you would have "competitor’s product" or "woman in bar". The ability to give advice, no matter how obvious, that is this general and universally applicable, is surely the mark of a careful and penetrating thinker.

Jewish Sexual Scandals: Being just like Catholics ain't all that great

A Whole bunch of people have been posting about the sexual scandals in the religious world lately. My family was discussiong it over dinner on Friday night. The Jewish Week is where I saw it. The Jewish Week also gets the credit for breaking and pursuing the Baruch Lanner story a while back. To the best of my knowledge no one in NCSY has yet stepped up and taken responsibility for covering his story up as much as they did, though there was some remorse on behalf of the beit din that addressed that case before.

Now there are also scandals surrounding the Chief Rabbi of Israel. This is getting out of hand. We are becoming a nation like all the others, and I am thinking specifically the Catholics. This is so embarassing.

I remember the old city of Jerusalem from my Yeshiva days. It was always a refuge for all sorts of people. Going back to the 1970's there was an incident with a certain Rabbi Fleer in Brooklyn (if memory serves me) who is now a rather popular lecturer in Jerusalem whose sins are pretty much forgotten, in favor his stories of Nachman of Bratslov. There were incidents with past rosh Yeshivas in various schools, there were the problems in Netiv Meir, the respected high school in Israel. See Naomi Regan's piece on this.

Matis Weinberg is also a popular lecturer in the Old City of Jerusalem. lots of people hang around him. I remember his lecturers always being advertised around the Old City. His book, Patterns in Time was also supposed to be a real intellectual journey. I am scared to hear about the stories that will come out in the future as more people learn that people are speaking out.

Matis Weinbers is related to the Ner Yisroel Weinbergs, and he is also closely related to Noach Weinberg, also a rather prominent figure in the old City. Noach Weinberg runs Aish Hatorah, which recently had a rather disparaging article about it in the academic Journal of Jewish Social Studies. Noach Weinberg must have a lot of clout, as he has been actively courting rich assimilated Jews. Prominent among them are Larry King and Kirk Douglas. I hope that he is not able to use all the Hollywood clout to cover up for his nephew (I think).

All this is just wrong. Anecdotally I have heard of this type of stuff being covered up all over Israel, from Har Nof to Meah Shearim.

Perhaps we need to start putting measures in to place to deal with this. The chilul Hashem is much worse now that this has happened then it would have been if we would have taken care of it way back when.

Revisionist textbooks - Now available in Europe

There has been plenty of discussion of palestinian textbooks, as well as the textbooks of other Arab countries. The discussion will generally rewrite the history of the Arab-Israel conflict such that there is no state of Israel, or Israel was the agressor of all the Arab-Israel wars, or that the Arabs won all the Arab-Israel wars, or focus on the various barbarisms committed by Israel. Or the textbooks will advocate violence or whatnot against Israel. Of course all of these charges have been disputed by various Arab groups.

There has also been a lot of controversey over the various Zionist and post-Zionist historiography. This trend in politically correct historical revisionism has apparently caught on. Europe is now on the bandwagon, where there was genuine resistance against the Nazis and the vikings were skilled traders. History is now drab, and PC. School children grow up with a distorted sense of their past and a messed up sense of others' past.

This issue is generally much greater than one of simple history. There is genuine cultural revisionism, and no sense of others. History and all scholarship is truly the creation of the writers. There must be accountability.

One may of course ask, why worry about the past? Maybe the myths we tell our children are more important than the facts we pass on. I am not sure what to answer to that, other than the wondering if you would want your history rewritten?

Added note: Here is a good book about the politically correct censorship that goes on in the US.

Those who are interested in India and what they are doing to their text books might want to read this article.

(I found both of those links here.)