Saturday, June 30, 2007

Useless items found while moving, so far:

1) Bus transfer from 1994, before the Metrocard era.
2) $4 Canadian; smaller amounts, NIS, sure to come.
3) My high school ID card.
4) Countless receipts for sub-$5 (American) items. Muffins and coffees.
5) Flared jeans. (Useless, of course, because it's 2007).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Afterschool segregation

In City Journal, John Leo condemns segregated graduations. At UCLA, he explains, there are separate graduation ceremonies for black, gay, Filipino, and other groups. Leo hits the point exactly when he writes, "Promoters of ethnic and racial graduations often talk about the strong sense of community that they favor. But it is a sense of community based on blood, a dubious and historically dangerous organizing principle." That race-based ceremonies are a terrible idea for all sorts of reasons is so obvious that the only thing that could possibly be sustaining them is that once an institution's in place, there's always a certain amount of inertia.

Where Leo misses the point is in lumping in the "women’s studies" and "Chicana/Chicano studies" graduations with the identity-graduations pool. These are not identities, but fields of study. A Swedish man could, if he had double-majored, attend both ceremonies in good faith. It's fine for a large university to split up celebrations by department. If more women choose to study women and more Chicanos choose to study Chicanos, does that make these fields inherently silly? Is studying France any more respectable because of the number of non-French people doing it?

The problem with many conservative arguments about education is that they get a couple things so right, then segue into predictable and poorly-thought-out complains about all that is or implies political correctness. Segregated commencement alone cannot be wrong; all of those newfangled "cultural studies" classes must also be condemned.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Dachshundwatch: Target

I was looking for furniture for the new place and got a bit off track:

Forget a dining room table. What we need is a giant slipper made to house a dachshund.

Silly complaint of the day

Why doesn't NYU have campus coffee shops? (Does NYU have campus coffee shops?)

One of the best things about otherwise dreary/frightening Hyde Park, Chicago is Classics Cafe. There, you can get a mocha or an espresso-charged iced coffee and be a matter of feet away from the French department. You can watch the many "unconventional" beauties in ragged tweed as they pretend to read books in languages they may not even understand, possibly holding them upside down. Here in the Village, coffee shops have no academic affiliation, and have either loud music, no seating space, or heartthrob-actor clienteles. (The West 4th street branch. Gyllenhaal fans, now you know).

Waffles and couscous!

Talk about amazing: turns out there's a place in Brussels where you can research North African Jews. Sign me up!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Why can't I live my life with out all of the things that people say"-B.S.

Paris Hilton just told Larry King that not only does she not have a drug problem, but she has never taken drugs. Which might be the answer? The quotes will both have to remain anonymous, because not everyone might want to admit to having joined me for this discussion:

a) A "loose definition of drugs."
b) She took so many that she forgot.
c) She is actually a robot.
d) Anything's possible.
e) "Maybe she really thinks it's sugar."

Vote in the comments, if you wish.

Le choix

There's an article in the Jerusalem Post about French Jews, so of course here we go. But beware: if you click on the link from the word "France" you will be taken to a page of information about Germany. Insert Petain reference here, or maybe you only have to do that if you've spent the day typing up outlines about French history...

But as for the article itself, it's about what can be done for those French Jews who have, as French-Jewish community organizer Michel Elbaz puts it, "chosen to stay" in France. Wouldn't the "choice" be leaving? Isn't staying the default?

But here's where it gets bizarre. Elbaz explains:

"The French Jewish community is fairly new compared to other countries, with more than half a million of the Jews arriving from Morocco and Algeria following World War II."

Wrong and wrong-ish. The major Jewish immigration to France from North Africa did occur after World War II, but it had nothing to do with that event. It happened a couple decades later, upon North African countries' independence from colonial rule. That's the wrong-ish. Wrong, obviously, is the idea that France's Jewish community is "fairly new compared to other countries." It includes relatively new immigrants, but what Elbaz says (or what Ruth Eglash quotes him as saying) implies that France had no Jews prior to 1945 at the earliest. Not so. If that were the case, then why would Montesquieu and Voltaire bothered worrying about those particular monotheists? How about Abbe Gregoire? (How about the blogging not looking quite so much like the studying... gar!)

So why does this matter? The point is not to show off historical knowledge about an obscure subject no one cares about, but to take issue with the suggestion that the default option for French Jews is to leave for Israel. There were French Jews well before there were Israeli Jews, and even Theodor Herzl said that if the French Jews want to stay, so be it.

"I had a pony"

"Renovating Stables in Poland."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Textual analysis and automatic pistols!

I just got an email telling me that for a mere $899 I could go to Israel to "finish an army training course, complete fun outdoor activities, meet inspiring leaders and somewhere in between an archeological dig and sailing on the Sea of Galilee, you’ll find the way to donate $10,000 to an Israeli charity! Be prepared to get a first hand experience inside Israel, tangle yourself in Jewish textual analysis, and of course, train with automatic pistols!"

I took a class in the fall called "Textual Analysis," which involved many an explication de texte, and which was just fine without automatic pistols, thanks. Somehow I think I'll pass on this particular Israel adventure and save up instead for another trip to Tel Aviv, for more blended iced coffee, and maybe a pair of those amazing Israeli platform shoes.


Has anyone else noticed that the Atlantic blogs, "Of No Party Or Clique," are awfully, well, male? Perhaps the most qualified political bloggers are men, and affirmative action would mean lesser blogging. And after all, being a man does not imply membership in any party or clique. Fair is fair.

Of course, when Ross Douthat and Andrew Sullivan are debating circumcision, the lack of a female voice is especially apparent. Not because women have a different take on the matter, but because we, even the most staunchly heterosexual among us, are far less fascinated by male anatomy than are men, gay or straight. And is what Matthew Yglesias has to say about basketball inherently more worthwhile than what a female blogger has to say about fashion? (Sorry, men-who-like-fashion and women-who-like-sports for the generalization.)

I do not know who James Fallows and Marc Ambinder are, or what they blog about, but unless this is a George Sand situation, the point remains.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Singles' culture of Judaism, continued:

From a NYT Book Review article about the newly-trendy Jewish Book Network:

"Authors routinely say audience members seem less interested in their books than in marrying them off. 'I have been asked, ‘Are you single?’ at nearly every event, and despite answering that I am married, have then sat through the parade of eligible Jewish men in most towns,' said Jennifer Gilmore, who toured with her first novel, 'Golden Country.'”

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Europe: too Muslim?

Theodore Dalrymple has been saying for a while now that Europe is falling apart on account of being too Muslim. In his review of Walter Laqueur's The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, Dalrymple once again blames Europeans (but really, white European women) for not churning out enough babies. He is less than sympathetic to those women whose uteri fail to stay sufficiently active: "[P]erhaps bringing up children interferes with what they conceive to be the real business of life: taking lengthy annual holidays in exotic locations and other such pleasures." That must be it.

Mainly, Dalrymple doesn't like Europe's Muslim newcomers, or if not them themselves, everything about them. He has a problem with airport signs for British citizens written in Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, and Hindi scripts, and, for less discernible reasons, with the fact that Britain no longer uses the phrase "illegitimate children" in official documents. He also asserts with confidence that Muslim women in Europe are "vastly superior morally and intellectually to their menfolk." Lovely.

It is not clear how much of Dalrymple's problem with Europe's growing Muslim immigrant population comes from a genuine concern about a change in the continent's values-- say, the rights of gays, women, atheists, etc.--and how much much comes from an aesthetic distaste for a Europe that's not at least 50% blond, and with schwarma only in not-so-visible neighborhoods. He writes: "When I recently drove to Antwerp from the South of France, I thought I had arrived in Casablanca." This is a visceral reaction--how much couscous is too much?

Discussing the "accommodations" Europe is making for the newcomers, Dalrymple explains that "in the Central Library in Birmingham, for example, I found a women-only table occupied exclusively by young Muslims dressed in the hijab. (They were the lucky ones, members of liberal households that allowed them out on their own.)" How exactly does Dalrymple know that these women are "lucky," and that going to the library is not a normal thing for Muslim women in the UK? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but assuming the worst, with no evidence, doesn't help his case.

What I find mystifying in all the discussions of "Europe in decline" is how glowingly the neoconservative set speak of European culture and values, and how precious this world is, as compared to what it's becoming. From at least a Jewish neoconservative perspective, it's just incomprehensible. Europe was the site of the world's most violent anti-Semitism, then a few short decades later, manages to combine its own Arabophobia with a pro-Palestinian slant that allows anti-Semitism to seem natural for a whole new set of reasons. Western civilization in the abstract--Montesquieu, Rights of Man, perfectly aged chevre--is something far removed from Western Europe as it has ever existed. From the perspective of those conservatives who most frequently bemoan the new Old Europe, why is a Europe of blonds, Catholics, Protestants and baguettes better than one of darker complexions, headcoverings, and Islam? Since when did Europe do anyone any favors by embracing exclusivist definitions of nationality?

As for the obvious point--certain Muslims, more vocally than Christians, are currently most keen on destroying Israel--this too falls apart upon further examination. Isn't it far more understandable--even, if not especially, from a Zionist perspective-- why someone who identifies personally with the Palestinians would be pro-Palestinian, than why a Christian Western European would be obsessed with that fight? All things being equal, the descendant of Nazis screaming, "Down with Israel" has a different implication than does a relative of someone killed by the IDF doing the same.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Alert the factcheckers!

TNR film critic Stanley Kauffmann refers to a Belgian movie as French. See the second of the three reviews, then the last sentence. A more devastating conflation (to both the French and the Belgians, in all likelihood) is unimaginable.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Adam LeBor wants Israel to chuck "Hatikva," its national anthem, because it's too Jewish. LaBor makes a point to compare Israel's possible anthem-change to that of... you guessed it, South Africa. Argh.

As anyone who's grown up Jewish anywhere other than Israel knows, for all the times you hear of "separation of church and state" or "laicite," you are living in a country dominated by some faith not your own. I know nothing first-hand about how it goes for Jews in Muslim countries (interestingly, LeBor seems not at all interested in whether Arab lands include their numerous Jewish citizens and politicians in their own anthems), but in Christian ones, even those that call themselves secular, Christian holidays are national holidays and tourist sites are cathedrals. It would be lovely if religion were a relic and a non-issue for those who didn't believe, but it's not. A major reason for Zionism was for there to be a place where Jews would not be tolerated, but would be the ones setting the tone and doing the tolerating. Now let us all pray to the deity of our choice (say, Rufus Wainwright) that we as a species move from "tolerance" to "equality." Till that day comes, tolerance is the best humans have accomplished.

The anthem "problem," the conflation of Jewish and Israeli, is a bit tough because there isn't another Jewish state. Spain isn't the Catholic state any more than Morocco is the Muslim one. Until West 96th Street declares its independence, that's the difference.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Looking forward

According to David Brooks, the genetically-engineered future promises athletic Aryans and, less predictably, left-wingers who've gone to the University of Chicago. Good luck on that one.

Speaking of Chicago, you can tell this is Brooks's alma mater from the following: "Conservatives like me think that if you want your kids to have Harvard genes you should have to endure living with a Harvard spouse."

Grad students, in life and film

I need a new place to study. At the coffee shop I went to read in this morning, I saw John Cameron Mitchell, of "Hedwig" and "Shortbus" fame, out front. Whoa! But this Petite Fadette remains to be completed, and that, not the wig-filled musical, might be on the MA exam. Interdisciplinarity has its limits.

So I sit down with an iced coffee and a bagel, put on headphones, and get back into the story of these allegorical paysans. When who should walk in, with his mother (?), but Jake Gyllenhaal. His mother sits down at the table next to me, but at the seat further away, leaving guess which seat open for everyone's favorite gay cowboy/math grad student. He was a matter of inches away. Without the accoutrements of either a gay cowboy or a math whiz, Jake (first-name basis, why not) is less distracting than he might be otherwise. In fact, he's not even a little bit good-looking. OK, of course he is good-looking, but of an aesthetic that would probably appeal more to men than to women.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Israelophilia vs. Zionism II

Here's my response to the responses. First and least important, the latke-shwarma debate. Perhaps I overstated the case, but more likely I just failed to explain it. In Israel, just like in the US, there's a certain nostalgia for, or at least acknowledgment of, the Eastern European past. Not being Israeli, my sense of this comes only from the many Yiddish words that made it into Hebrew, the availability of latkes (yes, latkes) in Israel, the Mitteleuropa-esque cafe culture in Tel Aviv, and other randomly pieced-together and generally useless observations. The extent to which Judaism means remembering the shtetl or some upscale Central European variant depends on how much any given Jewish community is Ashkenazi--Yemenite Jews do not crave gefilte fish, etc.

Long story short, neither fried potatoes nor fried chickpeas nor spinning mystery meat count as "authentically" Jewish, or authentically anything, for that matter. Your grandma may have made latkes, but that doesn't make latkes more Jewish than the "Arab" food some other Jewish grandma slaved over day in and day out. Think latkes, etc., were in no way influenced by Russian-Polish culture and climate? Go to any Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village and decide whether you're eating the food of your Jewish ancestors or that of the nearby Christian peasants. It's hard to say. My reason for contrasting latkes with shwarma will become clear, I hope, by the end of this post.

DK writes, "I will not have my Jewish culture dictated to me my Zionists." This seems irrelevant. I'm addressing Zionists, thus "Israelophilia vs. Zionism." I'm not addressing all American Jews, but rather those who spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and arguing in favor of Israel. I'm addressing those who, politically, already know where they stand, not trying to convince anyone to be more or less pro-Israel than they happen to be at this moment. As for DK's point about latkes being more Jewish than "Arab" food, see above.

Jacob argues that replacing Israel with, say, Poland, is political, and, relatedly, artificial. I'm not so sure. Many Zionist Diaspora Jews are quite familiar with Israeli culture, and do not need to go out of their way to learn about it. (The same is true of all non-Israelis, regardless of politics or religion, with friends or family in Israel.) However, these non-Israeli Zionists make the assumption (as does Jewlicious commenter WEVS1) that it is inappropriate or insufficient to feel a cultural connection with Israel, when more serious issues demand our attention. The "not at a time like this" argument.

What we are looking at is an intentional--artificial, even-- decision not to focus on culture. Because Israel is a touchy issue-- and not because it is a new country-- its Diaspora Jewish supporters cannot mention the state without a whole treatise on the Palestinians and '67, rather than a comment about, say, shakshuka. Cultural knowledge and appreciation is considered secondary if not beside the point. Letting cultural Judaism remain shtetl Judaism, as do other Ashkenazi Diaspora Jews, is convenient for Zionists because it's politically neutral. Fears that a latke-eating populace will take over the world have diminished greatly since that world population was wiped out.

Indeed, the Jewish case differs from the Irish one in the newness of Israel, but also in the non-existence of the towns and communities for which we are asked to be nostalgic. Israel is not our Ireland, but neither is Poland. For someone my age, with three out of four grandparents born in North America, with family in Israel but not Europe, and with Israeli friends and classmates, as someone who attended Hebrew school, not Yiddish school, as a child, it seems at least as natural for me to have a cultural affinity for Israel as to have one for the villages of Belarus.

Israelophilia does not require Israeli ancestry any more than Francophilia requires Gallic ones. Nor must an Israelophile agree with all policies of the Israeli government, let alone know about them. The problem now is that those who dislike Israeli policies, etc., are unlikely to see in Israel anything other than a political problem; the same, strangely, is true of those who consider themselves Israel's greatest supporters. At this rate, the entire world, outside of (some) Israelis, is against thinking of Israel as a normal country. You simply cannot discuss Israel without discussing its politics. Even if there were some all-encompassing, once-and-for-all debate, and the pro-Israeli debater won, and the whole world agreed that this little piece of land should be governed by Jews... is that really all we're after?

Crossposted at Jewlicious.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Israelophilia vs. Zionism

Correct me if I’m wrong: The way Israelis see American Jews is in many ways a microcosm of how non-Americans see Americans in general. Israelis assume their American counterparts care about Israel in a self-serving way, one that allows them to sit comfortably in America (note stores in Israel selling “American Comfort” mattresses) and hold forth on issues whose results do not affect them personally. Oh, and American Jews, like other Americans, are ugly and fat. (I prefer to think of it as Tel Avivians and Parisians are just especially thin and good-looking).

But the specific problem here is that American Jews care more about Israel than do other Americans, yet seemingly do not differ from their compatriots (or, for that matter, from the rest of the world) in their refusal to see Israel as anything other than a political problem. Israel is something to read about in the op-eds, to sign petitions defending. Israel is an issue to search for when choosing whom to vote for, along with abortion, taxes, and education. For American Jews, Israel is a cause, a stance, or an argument. It is not, however, a country with a unique culture.

When other minorities in America think about their “home” countries, the first thing they think of is not political conflict, but culture. Even when these countries are in the midst of political conflicts as big as or greater than the ones facing Israel. We know that Ireland has never had any conflict with any neighboring country, that this part of the world has never dealt with any dispute between populations that to all outsiders look to be identical. In any case, to be Irish-American is to have pride, either in Irish culture from Ireland itself or in Irish-American culture.

When most American Jews think about Israel, they do not think about falafel or Israeli rock, the beach culture of Tel Aviv, kibbutzim, aggressive driving, or any other cliched if not inaccurate detail of Israeli culture. They presumably have this information, and know a bit about Israel as a country, and may have even visited, but they hear “Israel” and their thoughts immediately turn to Thomas Friedman or, better yet, the European Left.

Let’s be realistic. American Jews will never know what it’s really like to be Israeli, any more than Israelis will know what it’s like to be Jewish in America. Which is fine. Israelophilia will never celebrate an accurate, “authentic” representation of Israeli culture. Also fine. But without expecting every last Jew with an opinion on Israel to trade in Springsteen for Beit Habubot, we need to switch the focus of American Jewish ties with Israel to one that is less a political alliance and more of a cultural one. Relatedly, cultural Judaism in 2007 needs to be less about latkes and more about schwarma. The choice need not be between a fun, cultural Judaism stuck in the past and yelling, to no avail, at BBC News. The political arguments matter, but in isolation are a complete waste of time.

Crossposted at Jewlicious.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Athleticism, the morning after.

I can barely, just barely, lift my arms. I was able to do today's necessary xeroxing, but lifting my backpack is a challenge, and there's not a whole lot in it other than a decadent (Decadent?) novel about a character who probably wouldn't have bothered with the free weights.

The verdict: I lasted a whopping nine minutes on the treadmill. To be fair (to make excuses) I ran most of the way to the gym, and ran quickly once on the thing. In addition, I used the free weights (100 lbs each, obviously) and some of the machines. I thought of "Borat" while on the treadmill, and it seemed as if each machines involve an action that mimics a different toilet or otherwise non-public activity, and thus it's quite odd to me that people use these machines in front of total strangers. How did this become socially acceptable? Between the weirdness of the machines, the dullness of the treadmill, and my inability to lift anything remotely heavy, I remembered why running outside has long been the only exercise I attempt. But if the ab machine, odd as it is, does what it claims, perhaps it's worth the embarrassment.

As for the gym itself, it looks like something you'd pay a lot for, which I've decided means my stipend is effectively $10k a year greater than I'd assumed all along, in that my ID card includes a membership to this establishment. But it's the idea that counts. The entrance leads to a fabulous lounge, complete with a snack area where you can buy everything from protein shakes to coffee to Twix(!), and a clothing store where you can buy athletic clothing with an NYU logo, if that's your thing.

The problem with the gym is that it is impossible to navigate. Jo asked me how long I spent there, and I couldn't quite say. This is because I spent most of the time wandering up and down the stairs, incapable of finding the exit. A workout of sorts, but no machine told me how many calories it burned. I ended up leaving what might have been the wrong way, but the important thing is I left.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


The combined stress of the apartment search, the impending Masters exam, and a general frustration with international politics has caused me to believe I need to find some way of calming down. Running should calm me down, but generally leads to exhaustion, which is not exactly the same thing. I cannot and will not attempt yoga. I will say this is because everyone I know does it and I want to be different, but it's really about not being able to touch my toes without bending my knees. So I'm going to try going to the gym. From the NYU gym website, it appears there are televisions there, so if nothing else, there's that.

I'm blogging about going to the gym in order to delay doing so, if that weren't obvious.

Still here.

OK, any minute now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

BBC explains it all

I was curious to see what exactly makes British academics believe Israel is the source of all evil, so I looked to see what's on the BBC News homepage.

BBC News has a slideshow about the "Arab-Israeli war of 1967". The slides and captions make it look like the war was a spontaneous, random act of Israeli aggression of which poor, defenseless Arabs were the victims. Israelis come across as up against no resistance whatsoever. Anyone whose knowledge of the war comes just from this slideshow would never in a million years guess that this war was about a tiny country surrounded by enemies poised to obliterate it.

Below are the captions for all of the photographs:

1) The capture of East Jerusalem on the third day of the war was a key objective for the Israelis.

2) Much of the Israeli victory in the West Bank depended on ground troops, including crack paratroopers.

3) "The Temple Mount is in our hands" declared Israeli radio as troops secured one of Judaism's most sacred sites.

4) Elated Israeli troops carried this portrait of Jordan's King Hussein upside down to mark their triumph.

5) This picture of troops by the Wailing Wall has come to symbolise the war of 1967 for Israelis.

6) Israel's arrival spelt the start of a long trek into exile by hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

7) Israel devastated the airfields of Egypt, the strongest Arab air power, at the start of the war.

8) Taken by surprise, some Arab troops stood and fought, while others pulled back rapidly before the onslaught.

9) Hundreds of Israeli tanks churned up the sands of Gaza and Sinai as they pushed Egyptian units back.

10) On the final day of the war, Israeli forces captured the tip of the Sinai, taking Arab prisoners as they advanced.

The implication from this slideshow is that the war was above all else about Israelis' desire to disturb an otherwise peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, out of a greedy desire to secure more "holy" sites. The whole Arab-states'-aggression angle is omitted entirely. Looking at these captions a bit more closely, what shall we make of the Arab troops being "taken by surprise"? In that Arab troops were on the verge of attacking Israel anyway, was this the surprise of, Oh my, I'd thought they were our friends! If only they would discuss their grievances with us over coffee.? Or was it the surprise of, damn, looks like the enemy we thought we were about to take down might win? And then there's that final photo, the parting image of Israelis taking Arab prisoners. I'm a graduate student and not a soldier, but my limited knowledge of war suggests that the taking of prisoners-of-war is not unusual and by no means an Israeli-specific practice. This final image leaves the impression that "the Arabs"--and not just the Palestinians--are the innocent and weak victims of the Israelis. This is exactly how I would see this war if all I ever saw was information like what the BBC just provided. Probably a few more people will see that than will read this, but I'm trying...

Nudity-free French magazine

Haaretz reports that an ultra-orthodox Israeli magazine, Hamodia, is starting a French edition. French Hamodia's content will differ from that of other French Jewish publications in that it will include no photos of women whatsoever. Not even ones of bare-breasted women in, say, ads for dish detergent or fancy watches. And yet they expect their magazine to sell in France. Anything's possible.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Boycott idiocy

The British University and College Union's racist move will be referred to in no more polite terms on this blog. "Israel is mean," they say. Well, Britain, too, is mean, as is America, as are the Arab countries, the Asian countries, the African countries, and so on. Is Israel worse? Obviously! Why? Because scapegoating Jews, accusing Jews of being disproportionately guilty for crimes shared by all humanity, is a time-honored path of self-righteousness. If the Jews are doing something wrong, you can point this out and no one will point out your own, perhaps more impressive, failings. Of course, Britain itself, though not located in the region, has had no role in destabilizing the Middle East, past or present, so never mind that, then.

A circular argument then appears: "But Israel is doing bad things, and that's the issue at hand; other conflicts are irrelevant." But why are these other conflicts so often irrelevant? Why is CNN International all-Israel-Palestine, all the time? Because the anti-Semitic impulse did not end in 1945. It remains popular to pay disproportionate attention to Jewish misbehavior, obscuring all positive contributions from Jews and assuming the rest of the world to be simply of no interest whatsoever. The suffering of a large segment of Southside Chicago's population, in full view of anyone who spends any time at the University of Chicago, would prompt an entity like the UCU to boycott at the very least that Southside university, and perhaps the entire United States. But when the two individuals shot to death fail to be implicated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, oh well. Is the US government implicated in such a shooting? Of course--um, gun control? So here you have it, UCU, the time has come to forget about Haifa and Jerusalem, and stop attending conferences at my alma mater.

Colin Shindler, a British professor, explains the problems of an academic boycott for those who study Israel. University of Chicago professor Martha Nussbaum's piece in Dissent, "Against Academic Boycotts," makes all the key points, so onto Nussbaum:

"[...] I am made uneasy by the single-minded focus on Israel. Surely it is unseemly for Americans to discuss boycotts of another country on the other side of the world without posing related questions about American policies and actions that are not above moral scrutiny. Nor should we fail to investigate relevantly comparable cases concerning other nations. For example, one might consider possible responses to the genocide of Muslim civilians in the Indian state of Gujarat in the year 2002, a pogrom organized by the state government, carried out by its agents, and given aid and comfort by the national government of that time (no longer in power). I am disturbed by the world’s failure to consider such relevantly similar cases. I have heard not a whisper about boycotting Indian academic institutions and individuals, and I have also, more surprisingly, heard nothing about the case in favor of an international boycott of U.S. academic institutions and individuals. I am not sure that there is anything to be said in favor of a boycott of Israeli scholars and institutions that could not be said, and possibly with stronger justification, for similar actions toward the United States and especially India and/or the state of Gujarat."

"I would not favor an academic boycott in any of these cases, but I think that they ought to be considered together, and together with yet other cases in which governments are doing morally questionable things. One might consider, for example, the Chinese government’s record on human rights; South Korea’s lamentable sexism and indifference to widespread female infanticide and feticide; the failure of a large number of the world’s nations, including many, though not all, Arab nations, to take effective action in defense of women’s bodily integrity and human equality; and many other cases. Indeed, I note that gross indifference to the lives and health of women has never been seriously considered as a reason for any boycott, a failure of impartiality that struck me even in the days of the South Africa boycott. Eminent thinkers alleged that the case of South Africa was unique because a segment of the population was systematically unequal under the law, a situation that of course was, and still is, that of women in a large number of countries. By failing to consider all the possible applications of our principles, if we applied them impartially, we are failing to deliberate well about the choice of principles. For a world in which there was a boycott of all U.S., Indian, and Israeli scholars, and no doubt many others as well, let us say those of China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia (on grounds of sexism), and Pakistan (on the same grounds, though there has been a bit of progress lately) would be quite different from the world in which only scholars from one small nation were being boycotted, and this difference seems relevant to the choice of principles."

"nobody should be fired for a political position, left or right, short of threats, assault, sexual harassment—the legitimate reasons for dismissal from a faculty position."

"In defense of the boycott, people say that scholars in Israel have not condemned the government as much as they might have. As a rationale for doing harm to them, this is both implausible and deeply repugnant to the core values of academic life. Usually, one aspect of being powerless is that one’s voice is not heard in the corridors of power, and I would think that (a) lots of Israeli scholars do have critical views but these views just don’t appear in the news and (b) that many are deterred from trying to write for newspapers for the same reasons that few Americans write for newspapers, namely that one almost never gets accepted there, and so it is a waste of time. Moreover, being a good chemist or classicist does not entail being a good writer of op-ed articles. Israeli scholars may well just be doing what they are good at doing. Whatever one says about this, I think one must, in all consistency, apply the same criticisms to scholars in the United States, who do not express their opinions much in public."

"In general, I think that we can only debate this question in a philosophically respectable way if we first offer a principled account of the responsibility of scholars to engage in public debate. If we have such an account, we can at least say who is violating it, in a principled and impartial way. But what disturbs me about the proponents of the boycott is that they lack such an account, and certainly do not comment on the actions of scholars in the United States. vis-à-vis U.S. foreign policy, or the actions of Indian scholars vis-à-vis Hindu-Muslim relations in India, or the actions of South Korean or Pakistani scholars vis-à-vis the alarming levels of violence against women in those nations—and yet, lacking an account that they would be prepared to defend and apply impartially, they wish to impose damages on Israeli scholars."

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Decipher the following:

"Five bucks, it's great. You feel like a man and they feel like a woman."

-one guy to another, HaYarkon St., Tel Aviv.

Bovary the Chaste

Woody Allen's "The Whore of Mensa" would be an entirely reasonable outcome in contemporary Iran.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Audrey just went on Birthright and has some interesting pics/commentary on her blog, LowConcept. I've decided to supplement her photo of Tsfat with some more coverage of Schneersonalia, in Tsfat and Brooklyn, respectively:


Read into these what you will about Judaism in Israel vs. the heart of the Diaspora, but only if you see Scheerson as symbolizing all of Judaism, not just the Chabad wing. I also have some fun pics of Rebbe paraphernalia from my first trip to Antwerp, but those are not digital; my latest trip to Antwerp ended up being on a Saturday so the diamond shtetl was sadly not a part of the itinerary. But in any event, the possibilities for research topics never cease!

To do this summer:

1) Read 19th and 20th century French canon in its entirety.

2) Find affordable apartment near NYU.

3) Prepare to teach a class, for the first time ever.

4) Get my Hebrew from, "hachesbon, bevakasha," up to something a bit more impressive.

5) Get my Dutch from, "Hoe gaat het ermee?" to...

And that's not all. It will be a busy summer.