Friday, November 17, 2006

Atlas (and how the World) Shrugged

Here is a graphic slide show of Al Naqbah. It was put together by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, who has just spent ten years completing The Atlas of Palestine. This monumental work represents one of the tipping points in the Palestine debate. You can read about it here:

The slide show is extraordinary. You can watch the incremental creep of Israeli settlement during the 1948 war.
If you click on the url below, you will be asked if you want to open or save the file. It is a Powerpoint presentation. I suggest that you save it as you will want to view it many times. To start the show, left click on the screen. After you have absorbed each page, click to advance.

Sorry, the host site has been attacked. Will try and find a new link.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Truth, lies, permitted lies and forbidden truths.

Whilst researching the previous post I found myself occasionally in unsavory company. It is natural that the Neo-Fascist groups occupying the margins of political debate make use of revisionist history and I dare say that revisionist historians find the currency of such audiences just as welcome as that of any other.
I should therefore state that I have no sympathy for the far right. To the contrary, I am somewhat left leaning by today’s standards and a multi-culturalist.
My primary interest is truth. I am a “truth and damn the consequences” sort of fellow.

Since gaining access to the wide range of thought that the internet provides, I have discerned a measure of relativism among younger bloggers. This was particularly evident during the debate over the Bush so-called “torture” legislation.
The argument was usually put like this:
“You know a strike is imminent and one man possesses the information needed to avert the attack. Torture is therefore justified.”
The answer to this unlikely scenario is, of course, that if extreme measures are called for, the correct response is to break the law then, the emergency being over, stand up and plead extenuating circumstances. Our judicial system has the flexibility to pardon offenders in a just cause.

That such measures as the suspension of Habeas Corpus are now enshrined in American law indicates that relativism or situation ethics is now acceptable to the majority.

Another label that might be applied is “post-modern”. My understanding of the term is that it informs that there is no paradigm of art or beauty - that which is beautiful is that which the individual finds to be so.
This philosophy seems to have been extended to truth and justice.

Diametrically opposed to the Neo-Fascist blogs, one would suppose, are the Orthodox Jewish blogs. I was interested to find:

....a Jewish Issues blog by Rick Richman whose articles have appeared in The American Thinker, The Jewish Press, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

In a review of Rabbi Telushkin’s book [“A Code of Jewish Ethics: You Shall Be Holy”], Richman says:

“I came across a point I thought was particularly insightful -- that the way to do unto others the way you would have them do unto you is to tell them the truth, rather than simply what you think they might want to hear. You would be doing them the favor that you yourself would want in that same situation.”

I wondered if this might be the musing of someone so deeply immersed in the Post-Modern ethos that the imperative of truth was, to him, something requiring insight. As New York seems to be the epicenter of such thought and as the philosophy that gave rise to the Neo-cons came from Strauss and Holstedder, I began to wonder if there was not something in the Jewish epistemology that lies at it’s heart.

Richman goes on to discuss Telushkin’s concept of “Truth, Lies, and Permitted Lies” which he says “is a vastly more intricate subject than I had thought”. Furthermore, Richman says that: “to be an ethical person in the Jewish tradition, ..... requires almost a lifetime of Jewish learning”.

It seems to me a very short step from this philosophy to one of “ends justify means”.

Thus, if Richman is giving us insight into the Jewish mind, we might understand how lies told by the State, suppression of inconvenient truth, State atrocities (so long as they are not committed against one’s own) and the torture of aliens can be compatible with a system of ethics.

Personally, I remain an ardent Classicist.

Life of Brian, David, Ernst, Fredrick and Ahmadinejad

One of Ahmdinejad’s great crimes is his supposed denial of the Jewish holocaust. This has incensed the Jewish and American World.

The fact that his statements are not denials makes little difference to his detractors. What the President of Iran says is made clear in this interview with Der Spiegel:

We are posing two very clear questions. The first is: Did the Holocaust actually take place? You answer this question in the affirmative. So, the second question is: Whose fault was it? The answer to that has to be found in Europe and not in Palestine. It is perfectly clear: If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe.
On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn't take place, why then did this regime of occupation ...
SPIEGEL: ... You mean the state of Israel...

Ahmadinejad: ... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that, if an historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it.

Other versions of Ahmadinijead’s view of the legitimacy of the Zionist Regime can be found here:

and in his letter to George W. Bush which I have posted previously.

Questioning the Holocaust is a serious offence in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and some other countries.

Consider the cases of David Irving, Ernst Zundel and Australian, Fredrick Töben .

In May, 1992, Irving told a German audience that the gas chamber shown to tourists at Auschwitz was "a fake built after the war."
In June, 1992, he was coming to Rome from Moscow. When the plane landed, it was surrounded by police and Irving was put on the next plane to Munich. He was charged under the German law of "defaming the memory of the dead" and fined 3,000DM.
He appealed the conviction and on subsequent appeals the conviction was upheld and the fine increased first to 10,000 and then to 30,000DM, or about $20,000. (The German
legal system provides for increasing the penalty on appeal.
Irving was not the victim of extralegal tactics, nor has he ever claimed this).
In all his appeals, Irving was not allowed to call the director of the Auschwitz museum as a witness to confirm his statement. (The Auschwitz gas chamber is, in fact, a reconstruction built after the war. No one at the Auschwitz museum denies this.)

Irving is currently serving three years in an Austrian prison on similar charges.

Zundel began serving time in a Canadian prison in 1984 for posing the question: “Did six million die?” The case was appealed twice and resulted in the repeal of the statute under which he was originally convicted.

In February 2003, Zundel was repatriated to Germany by extrajudicial rendition where he faces five years in prison.

At the conclusion of the three-day trial on November 10, 1999, a Mannheim district court found Fredrick Töben guilty on charges of incitement to racial hatred, insulting the memory of the dead, and public denial of genocide, because he had disputed Holocaust extermination claims in writings sent to persons in Germany. Presiding Judge Klaus Kern said that there is no doubt that Töben is guilty of "denying the Holocaust," and that because there is no sign that he would relent his views and activities, a prison sentence was required. The court then sentenced him to ten months imprisonment.

On the first day of the trial, November 8, Töben announced that he would not defend himself against the charges because by doing so he would likely be charged for additional violations of Germany's "Holocaust denial" and "incitement" laws. His lawyer, Ludwig Bock, similarly announced that he would offer no defense on behalf of Töben because he risked being charged himself. "If I say anything I will go to jail myself, and if he says anything there will be another trial," Bock told a reporter.
Prosecutor Klein later confirmed that such fears were entirely justified. "If they [Töben and Bock] had repeated things in this court which are against the law I would have charged them again," said Klein. Bock did however read a statement to the court that compared the prosecution of Töben and other "Holocaust deniers" to the trials of witches in the Middle Ages, and which called Germany's anti-revisionist laws a gross violation of the principle of freedom of speech.

Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” has a scene reminiscent of this:

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law.
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that.
More: Oh? And when the last law was down--and the Devil turned round on you--where would you hide? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Robert Bolt : A Man for All Seasons