Ship of Fools 1

One of the questions of the Normblog profile, of which I was the subject a little while back is

What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world?

I responded like a blogger.

The excesses of the international Left that are in part responsive to the American Right; the excesses of the American Right that are in part responsive to the international Left.

In contrast, New England blogger and graphic designer Sissy Willis responded like a writer.

Human nature.

Norm could reasonably now retire the question. There will be no better answer to it. Though, of course, the purpose of the question is to illumine the nature of the blogger, and not the world, and future profilees in their answers will further detail the myriad means by which human beings muck up creation.

For instance, this week while I was off-blog, Haaretz reported on the results of a poll conducted on behalf of the Spanish government by the Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center. (H/T Jeffrey Goldberg)

The study follows poll results from 2008 and 2009 conducted by the Anti-Defamation League and the Pew Research Center showing that close to half of all Spaniards at the time held anti-Semitic views. The two polls designated Spain an anti-Semitic country after finding that more than 35 percent of its citizens held anti-Jewish views. Ironically, however, in the most recent poll, 34.6 percent of respondents expressed anti-Semitic views, thereby barely escaping the anti-Semitic label according to that criterion. At an event at which the new findings were released, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said the poll showed Spanish society is not anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.

That’s some regrettable human nature right there. But it gets better.

Anti-Semitic sentiment exists in Spain despite the absence of a sizable Jewish community in the country since the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 15th century. Some 40,000 Jews currently live in the county of 40 million.

It gets better still, with this analysis of “paternal lineages of Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Iberian Peninsula” from the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Admixture analysis based on binary and Y-STR haplotypes indicates a high mean proportion of …Sephardic Jewish (19.8%) sources. Despite alternative possible sources for lineages ascribed a Sephardic Jewish origin, these proportions attest to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the integration of descendants.

To put a fine point on it, one third of Spaniards do not much like Jews; one fifth of Spaniards genetically are Jews. I suppose if they had only known who they really are, they might have loved themselves better. Or do you think if we drew a Venn diagram there would be no overlap in the classes. Insufficient data.

The poll follows upon the statement last week of Karel De Gucht, European Commissioner for Trade and former Belgian foreign minister, which I commented on here, that

There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

De Gucht, as is usually the case with public officials who have spoken the ugly truth they really believe, has since offered the kind of apology that blames the audience.

De Gucht expressed regret about the way his remarks were interpreted, saying he did not mean to offend Jews.

“I regret that the comments that I made have been interpreted in a sense that I did not intend,” he said in a statement.

What he really meant to say was that Jews are rational and irrational just like all other people, that they are at times convinced of the rightness of their beliefs, just as are other people, and that at times they may turn out to be wrong and at other times, amazingly, right in their convictions. The problem was the audience. It did not interpret him correctly. Go back and read his original words. See how wrong you got it?

De Gucht’s comments came not long after the head of Amnesty International Finland, Frank Johansson, called Israel, alone among all nations of the world, a “scum state.” Unlike De Gucht, there was no mealy-mouthed backtracking for Johansson.

Asked whether there are other countries aside from Israel that, according to him, meet the definition of a “scum state,” Johansson did not specify any, but noted that there are “Russian officials” who meet the criteria.

Corrupt Russian officials. The cure for the Jew’s existential loneliness.

Johansson did attempt one sleight of imprimatur, offering that he blogs – his blog, “which appears on the Web site of Finland’s third largest newspaper Iltaleht,” being the source of his comments – as a private individual and not in his official capacity for AI. Cute, no? Not, of course, that such is any kind of meaningful escape hatch for AI, but

Iltalehti’s Web site clearly provides readers with his title as “director of the Finnish branch of Amnesty International,” which appears above his blog.

Surely, then, AI, hallowed in humanistic tradition and aspiration, acted persuasively in disassociating itself from the advocate of such belief.

[A] spokeswoman for Amnesty International’s headquarters in London, Susanna Flood, told the Post in a telephone interview that “Amnesty would never use an expression like this toward the State of Israel, or any other state.”

Flood said that Johansson used the phrase “creep state” to describe Israel, rather than “scum,” as the initial English translation of the Finnish word found. Native Finnish speakers from Tundra Tabloids said the Finnish term used by Johansson to denigrate Israel is a “highly derogatory term,” and is frequently translated as “scum,” “scum bag” or “douche bag.”

A pro forma rejection of the comment followed by an attempt to partially exonerate Johansson based on mistranslation. (Because “creep” state would be so much better.) We needn’t ask, or shouldn’t need to, what it is that AI stands for – the holding accountable of governments and political actors for their actions. Way to hold accountable AI! Finally, over two weeks later, no doubt under pressure from the main office in London, Johansson issued this heartfelt apology, under, you should note, Amnesty International Finland letterhead, for the guy who was being anti-Semitic purely in his personal, not official, capacity, and now getting all weaselly, in the De Gucht tradition, by stating that he had referred to Israel in “colloquial” terms that he “very quickly realized, were hugely offensive.” One can understand how “scum” state might not be immediately apparent as offensive, and you know how often you call someone who hasn’t just peed on you scum. Johansson continues as head of AI Finland.

What is transpiring at AI is a subject I and plenty of others have written about many times – on the Right gleefully and on the Left, as with me, with great sorrow. That’s one related phenomenon to the one that is my focus today, the European one. AI, founded in England, headquartered in London, is significantly influenced by European, and European Left, perspectives and culture, which have their lesser counterpart elsewhere and in the U.S. These items today are just some very recent examples of a widespread condition, quite noticeably so in England, too. That anti-Semitism could be so profoundly present in European culture, that members of the political class and of even human rights NGO leadership could be so expressive of it, and so deaf, so dumb, to the appropriate level of recognition and reaction to it only six decades and some after the Holocaust that shaped the world in which Europeans live – well, it would be an astonishment to the soul were it not for that human nature and our knowledge of it.

The evidence has been before us for some time that what the European political and social cultures think was to be learned from the two world wars, which were the culmination of centuries of warfare and colonial conquest while struggling toward humanistic conceptions, is that believing in anything too fervidly – a religious faith, a cultural or social ideal – is the source of all conflict. Even the enlightened humanistic ideals that form the ground of an emerging international legal superstructure, which became the substitute for anything too uncomfortably locally, culturally based – even those ideals are another God that might fail if it means insisting on their truth too strenuously before the fervent dissent of anti-humanistic forces, or doing anything more than playing at fighting for something, in Kosovo or Afghanistan, for instance, behind the back of the United States.

Meanwhile the same, old ugly human passions and prejudices persist all dressed up in finer garb – it’s not the Jews; it’s Israel. (Well, actually, for many Spanish and De Gucht it is, frankly, the Jews.) And the European world, in its social welfare comfort, believes it has elevated itself to some higher plane of human organization, because it turns out it was the Second World War that was the war to end all wars. At least for them. At least for now.

Scum states live in a different world.


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1 thought on “Ship of Fools 1

  1. I like the new design; well done.
    As to your comment: “What is transpiring at AI is a subject I and plenty of others have written about many times – on the Right gleefully and on the Left, as with me, with great sorrow.”
    There are certainly those on the Right who are reacting with glee to the transformation of organizations like AI (and HRW, among others) but I doubt that was the predominant mood for a very long time. I have followed their accelerating path toward overt anti-Semitism for some time now and my initial reaction as a significant portion of the Left descended into the ancient madness was indeed sorrow and disappointment, even despair; as their anti-Semitism and anti-Israel positions began to merge my disappointment turned to anger. If I seize upon episodes which reveal their corruption with glee, it is only because I have long since left disappointment behind and having abandoned the fight for Freedom in favor of the easy pleasures of Israel/Jew bashing, they deserve only contempt.

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