Monday, August 27, 2018

Cyber Siberia & Return from Cyber Exile

Returning from Cyber Exile - Bruce

"Cyber exile" is a relatively new concept.

I never thought it would happen to me.  I'm an "ideas" guy.  I like debate and find the free flow of intellectual discourse to be one of the most enjoyable things about being alive.  That, apparently, is no longer in vogue.  That ideas are to be banned from the public square is a relatively new concept in the American psyche.  It seems to have gained traction, as my experience attests to.

I've been associated with the National Havurah Committee [NHC] secondary to my membership in an affiliated congregation.  Thus, I've been a relatively quiet member of their electronic listserv for many years.  Periodically I would post an article I found interesting and thought others would find interesting as well. 

(Note: a "listserv" is an electronic bulletin board/mailing list that distributes emails to subscribers. It is not unusual for organizations to use listservs to facilitate communication among its members.)

It's not that I didn't know most NHC listserv members were very liberal and left wing.  Of course I did; some of them are my friends.  It's that I severely underestimated how much the world has much ideas can be shunned.  Or rather, I was to be shunned.

Jonathan Tobin has called this phenomenon "...the twenty first-century's version of Puritan New England's stocks where the public could mock and pelt offenders with garbage for violating community norms."

It began innocently enough on December 21st, 2016.  I read, enjoyed and posted a piece I thought worthy of consideration on the National Havurah Committee listserv.

Even now the piece strikes me as intellectually sound and interesting.  The scholarly article was called "Celebrating Orientalism" by Richard Landes.  It was published in a journal called Middle East Quarterly [Winter 2017, Volume 23].  Click HERE to view the article.

In my email to the NHC listserv I introduced the article as follows:

Dear Cyberspiritualists,

I just read a rather lengthy article, that lays out a fresh intellectual
reframe for understanding the MidEast.  Worth printing, reading and
debating over Shabbat.

Many on the left have a strong distaste for religious triumphalism...except
when it comes to the religious triumphalism of Islam.  This piece offers an
analysis of that tendency and its dangers.

For those averse to long pieces, allow me to tempt you with this gem:

*"It took a millennium of constant and painful efforts for Western culture
to learn how to sublimate man's libido dominandi to the point of creating a
society tolerant of diversity, one that resolved disputes with a discourse
of fairness rather than violence, and one where positive-sum encounters are
a desired norm. To insist, as many liberals do, that this exceptional
achievement be considered the default mode for mankind regardless of how
far the "other" is from this cherished goal, and to exempt enemies of
democracy from the civic responsibility of self-criticism even while
redoubling its burden on oneself, is to undermine the freedoms Western
civilization has built up over centuries."*


Bruce Xxxxxxxx :}

The avalanche that followed my post was not to be believed.  In the hundreds of email postings that followed, I was accused of Islamophobia, racism, white supremacy, fascism and bigotry.  It should be noted that many listserv members, even those disagreeing with the piece I posted, defended me.

Nonetheless, two days later I was removed from the listserv, receiving this simple notification banishing me to cyber-Siberia:

The Executive Committee of the NHC Board of Directors has decided to remove you from the NHC-DISCUSS listserv, as your most recent email is really not appropriate.  We have all kinds of lively debates in our community, on everything from Israel politics to how to count a minyan, but we feel strongly that an NHC listserv cannot be used to disseminate Islamophobia or any other form of bigotry. 
-Harpo Jxxxxx, Treasurer of the Board

There was enormous pressure on the NHC Board of Directors from the membership to reinstate me.  Despite this pressure, it was almost a year before I was reinstated.

As I reflect on this experience, it is not hard to chalk this up to an increasingly polarized polity and a partisan divide that has worsened significantly over the last decade or so.  Tolerance for opposing views is limited by an elevated sense of political correctness gone amok.  The First Amendment, while still intact, has been socially chipped away at by accusations of "hate speech" that have been applied so liberally [no pun intended] as to be rendered almost meaningless.

As fate would have it, an early mentor of mine just died as I'm writing this.  David McReynolds, a pacifist and long time socialist, was a friend and a strong influence on me in my 20's and early 30's.  His New York Times obituary stated:

Mr. McReynolds resigned from the Socialist Party in 2015 after he was censured for comments he had made on social media. In one, he expressed concern over Islamist extremism following a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper in Paris. 
“The failure of the Socialist Party, its tendency to substitute a kind of left rhetoric for serious analysis, is to be regretted...,” Mr. McReynolds wrote after his resignation.
Source: New York Times [8/18/18]
Even David McReynolds, a morally centered soul from the left wing intelligentsia, could not escape politically correct cyber exile!

I don't mean to compare myself with such a great thinker as David McReynolds, but the irony is poignant.

I am sad to say that my cyber exile was quite effective.  I no longer identify with the NHC community.

I am planning to leave the NHC listserv...this time voluntarily.
[Bruce's MidEast Soundbites]

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

To Palestinian Arabs: "It's Over"

Palestinian Arab flashes a V for "victory" sign with his hand...but have they reached the end of the road?

Time for Palestinians to Stop Fighting Lost Battles - Daniel J. Arbess 

Palestinian Arabs need to realize it's time to stop fighting lost battles and accept reality.

Israel is the ancestral and legal homeland of the Jewish people. Its capital is Jerusalem, as the U.S. has belatedly recognized, with other countries following. 

Israel's enemies lost the Six-Day War more than 50 years ago and relinquished the West Bank and the ancient city of Jerusalem.

The 1967-borders-and-land-swaps formula of the 1993 Oslo Accord is an artifact of history, overtaken by developments on the ground, and the Palestinians rejected itA broad alignment is coalescing among Israel and its treaty partners, Egypt and Jordan, and the consensus now informally includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, among others. With this Israeli-Arab detente, the Palestinians are finding that they are the last holdouts of an Arab world that has accepted Israel and will make peace with it.

Arab leaders who truly want to help their people know the path is through creativity, negotiation and compromise, not violent "resistance" - a euphemism for terrorism - and war.

Polls show the Israeli public wants a dignified outcome that integrates the Palestinian people into Israel's thriving economy and culture of innovation.

But security comes first. How could Israel ease security restrictions while Palestinian leaders are indoctrinating and inciting new generations to violence?
The writer is CEO of Xerion Investments and a co-founder of No Labels.
(Wall Street Journal)


Palestinian Leadership Does Not Understand the U.S. President 
- Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Palestinian leadership does not understand the character of President Donald Trump. Since the beginning of his presidential term, one of Trump's acquaintances warned: Try to understand how to disagree with him, otherwise he will throw you under the bus! This is what happened to Mahmoud Abbas, whose friends are now rushing to get him from under the bus.
Among the mistakes committed by the Palestinian leadership is that it tried a confrontation and forgot that the American government has huge influence on Palestinian activity as it's the largest funder of the Palestinian refugees and their organization UNRWA, contributing a quarter of a billion dollars each year.
When delegates dispatched by President Trump went to the Palestinian territories to explain their ideas, the Palestinian leadership refused to receive them. The leadership was angry because the American government had executed an old decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The opposite should have happened; the Palestinians should have met the American delegation. Sitting down and talking would have been the right approach.
One of the major mistakes is believing that Palestine is a pivotal cause which Arabs and Muslims will not give up on. Truth is they have given up on it a long time ago, as each state is preoccupied with its causes. This is the truth, which the dreamers in the Arab world must realize. 
The writer is former general manager of Al Arabiya and a former editor-in-chief ofAsharq al-Awsat.