Monthly Archives: May 2013

Liah Greenfeld is wrong on “Nationalism, Madness, and Terrorism”

Posted by dianamuir on May 21, 2013
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Liah Greenfeld, an historian of great learning and – usually – sound judgment is simply wrong in her assertion that “schizophrenia and depressive disorders” were new phenomenon in the sixteenth century.

Albrecht Durer knew this well, and he knew it well before Luther published or Elizabeth ascended the throne.



Joseph Massad’s Red Herring

Posted by dianamuir on May 21, 2013
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All the fuss about the a-factual, anti-Semitic screed Joseph Massad published in al Jazeera is a red herring.   Massad and friends want to recast Zionism as imperialism, a colonial implant on Muslim land.   It won’t wash.

The assertion that Israel is – somehow – a colony  is a red herring because it avoids the central claim of Zionism which is that the Jews had a right to return to build a Jewish state in their ancient homeland because a two thousand year long experiment had proven that only by having a sovereign Jewish state could Jews enjoy the right that other nations enjoy, the right to control their own cultural and political destiny.

The Kurds, the Berbers, the Tibetans, the Uighur are a few of the peoples that lack such a right even today, but most of the world’s peoples live in nation states, countries where most people  speak the language and share the culture of the country’s governing class.   Not all nation states are good places in which to live; nevertheless, given the choice, most people prefer to live in a nation state to the alternatives of being governed by a foreign empire or living as a  cultural or ethnic minority.

Beginning in the year 70, Jews lived either as a minority group in their ancient homeland or elsewhere.  There were better and worse places in which to live as a member of a Jewish minority, and  twice in ancient times there were Jewish kingdoms, Khazar and Himyar, but with those two exceptions, Jews lived at the sufferance of non-Jewish rulers.    This was not always as bad as it sounds, since until recent centuries almost everyone lived as the subject of a king.   But, in general, in a pre-modern world where everyone was a subject of the king and no one had the kind of civil rights that we take for granted, Jews had fewer rights than the peoples they lived among.

As European peoples began to gain civil rights in the 19th century, things got better for Jews in countries (France, England, Denmark) where there were relatively few Jews, but  in countries with large Jewish communities, and especially in the Russian Empire official persecution and violent anti-Jewish pogroms increased.    Zionism grew in popularity as pogroms persuaded people that  Jewish life in Eastern Europe was no longer viable.    There were counter-arguments at the time, but at the end of a century of mass killings by the Russian Army in the First World War, Stalinist mass-murder of Jews, and Nazi genocide, it is hard to argue that the Zionists were wrong.

The Zionists argument was that Jews had the right to have what other peoples have, a homeland in which they can control their own destiny and live in a Jewish culture speaking a Jewish language.    This is no more, and no less, than the Swedes enjoy in Sweden, the Japanese in Japan, the Iranians in Iran, the Turks in Turkey, and the Arabs in 22 Arabic-speaking countries.

If anti-Semitism is denying to Jews the rights granted to other people, denying to Jews the right to have a Jewish country while enjoying that right oneself is anti-Semitic.     This, of course, is the core of Joseph Massad’s anti-Semitism.   He demands for Palestinian Arabs a right he denies to Israeli Jews.

To distract attention from the fundamental injustice of his claim, he throws out a red herring, accusing Jews who dare to assert their right to be a nation like all of the other nations of being colony.  It’s a low debater’s trick.  But there are few tricks anti-Semites won’t stoop to.


Massad-speak strikes again

Posted by dianamuir on May 14, 2013
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Is Joseph Massad a “white,Christian-looking” man?   I ask because in the latest edition of Massad-speak, he asserts that “Since the 1960s, Hollywood films about the Holocaust began to depict Jewish victims of Nazism as white Christian-looking, middle class, educated and talented people not unlike contemporary European and American Christians…”

Massad means to place the Holocaust within the context of post-colonial studies by asserting that Europeans were horrified by the Nazi genocide only because of their “horror at the murder of white Europeans.”      For the record, pre-war Jews were both rich and poor, but mostly poor.   And not merely because we’re talking about the Great Depression in Poland and the Soviet Union.   In a part of the world where poverty was rampant, Jewish poverty was enhanced in the 1930’s by  virulent  Polish and Soviet  anti-Semitism that deprived Jews even of  the meager opportunities open to non-Jewish Soviet and Polish citizens.    

But Massad implies that it was somehow somehow illegitimate for post-war movie directors to depict the typical Holocaust victim wearing ordinary clothes.    “Presumably if the films were to depict the poor religious Jews of Eastern Europe (and most East European Jews who were killed by the Nazis were poor and many were religious)…”     But although Massad implies otherwise,  the great majority of Jews were secular; only a minority of pre-war Jews were religiously observant, and only some of those wore identifiably Jewish dress.

This is typical Massad-speak: a facile abuse of logic and evidence in the service of canard.

It gets worse.   Massad criticizes movie directors for depicting, “Jewish victims of Nazism as white.”    What is he talking about?     Nazis did not care what color a Jew  was.   They murdered Jews: blue-eyed, blond-haired Jews, brown-skinned, dark-haired Jews, and little Jewish children with freckled faces and curly red hair.  

Massad also misinforms us that the Hollywood depiction of Jews as secular, middle-class people in ordinary clothes, “Explains why in a country like the United States, which had nothing to do with the slaughter of European Jews, there exists upwards of 40 holocaust memorials and a major museum for the murdered Jews of Europe, but not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans for which the US is responsible.


In America, anyone can built a museum or memorial.   America has many, many more than 40 Holocaust memorials and museums.  They were built  and funded by American citizens.   The United States has so many of them because America granted citizenship to so many survivors of the Nazi genocide.

America  also has  multiple memorials to the Armenian genocide, the Irish Famine,  the Katyn Massacre, and to many other horrors and tragedies.    These exist because groups of Americans have come together to build them.

Massad appears to be unaware that America  has a long tradition of building memorials and museums with private donations  but with such broad public support that  it was deemed appropriate to make public land available for their construction.     Grant’s Tomb, the magnificent tribute of a grateful nation to the man who won the war to end slavery, is such a memorial.      It is a deeply moving commemoration of the willingness of white and black Americans, to fight and die in that war.     Grant’s Tomb was entirely funded by private donations.     It is located only a few  blocks from Massad’s office on the Columbia campus.   I hope that he will visit it before he writes another misleading paragraph on American National Memorials.

The “major museum” Massad refers to, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is, like Grant’s Tomb,  built on public land but it was and is funded by private donations.    It is only one of the National Memorials built in recent decades with private funds on public land,  they include the  National Japanese American Memorial, and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.   Other recent official National Memorials, including the Flight 93 Memorial,   and the World War II Memorial were built  with a combination of public and private funds.

But back to today’s classic Massad-speak assertion that although there is a holocaust museum there is “not one for the holocaust of Native Americans or African Americans.”   The idea that America is at fault for not dedicating museums to the “holocaust” of “Native Americans or African Americans” is a red herring.

There is in fact a Black Holocaust Museum and there have been efforts to build an American Indian Genocide Museum.   They are minor efforts because American blacks and Indians have not chosen to support them; they do not agree with Professor Massad’s version of history.

Americans of every hue and cultural background continue to grapple with the quesiton of how to understand  American racism and slavery, and we continue to grapple with the question of how to understand the interaction between Amerindians, and Americans whose ancestors arrived after 1607.   The United States has scores of monuments, museums and major collections dedicated to American Indian history and culture, hundreds of museums and memorials of African American history.

More importantly, the Massad-speak implication that America honors the Holocaust more than it honors its black or native heritage is  is  a red herring because he omits an enormous fact.   The fact is that there are two and  only two official, government-operated national museums built on the National Mall in Washington D.C. and  dedicated to single ethnic or cultural groups.   They are the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Massad-speak, a intellectual shell-game to delude the gullible.



Update:  Al Jazeera appears to have removed the article form its site; a reasonable outcome for this anti-Semitic screed.   This does not excuse Columbia for employing a professor capable of producing a-factual hate-speech.    The article is cached at Scribd.

Could the Marathon Bombing have been prevented by investigating a 9/11/11 triple-murder?

Posted by dianamuir on May 12, 2013
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Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Mohammed Ali Alayed had little in common, unless, of course it turns out that the Tsarnaev brothers viciously slit the throats of Jewish friends in the service of jihad two years before they planted bombs at the Boston Marathon.     


Alayed is the son of a Saudi millionaire, a rich kid with an allowance of $60,000.00 a year from Dad who liked to drink and meet girls.    He was a student at Houston Community College when he became friends with a fellow student named Ariel Sellouk, the son of Jewish immigrants from Morocco.   The two were close for a couple of years, until Alayed became an observant Muslim. 



Sellouk hadn’t seen his former friend for over a year when, in August 2003, he phoned and the two spent an evening together, part of it at a bar.    They walked back to Alayed’s apartment together.   Alayed’s roommate says that there was no sign of tension between the two.   Then Alayed pulled out a 6” butterfly knife and cut Sellouk’s throat with such force that the head was nearly severed from his body.   



No motive has been proposed, except for the idea that jihad inspired by Alayed’s new commitment to Islam and exposure to Islamist ideas may have been involved.   Investigators suspected an Islamist hate crime because of the strange details: no motive, the phone call to a Jewish friend the murderer had not seen for over a year,  the newly devout Muslim spending an evening in a bar, and the brutal throat-slitting.   Islamists have a bizarre fascination with murder by beheading.



There was no trial.   Alayed was allowed to plead guilty and sentenced to life in prison.    Few Americans have ever heard about the bizarre and unexplained murder. 



Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not a rich kid.  He was the son of immigrants, a boxer of some promise, a college drop-out, and a flashy dresser who liked to drink and party.    He sparred regularly with Brendan Mess, a man he once introduced as his “best friend”.   



On September 11, 2011, Brendan Mess (Catholic) and two young Jewish men, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken were murdered in Mess’ apartment. Two unidentified men had been seen entering the building near the time of the murders, but there was no sign of forced entry.     Oddly, the murderer(s) strew thousands of dollars in cash and thousands of dollars worth of marijuana over the dead bodies. Their throats were slit so brutally that their heads were nearly severed from their bodies.



Some among Mess’ circle of friends though it odd that Tsarnaev chose not to attend the funeral, but he was not questioned by the police.    No one was indicted.  




After the Marathon bombing, however, the Boston Globe called attention to the unsolved triple murder of three men, one of them a very close friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and to the odd facts that the murders took place on 9/11, and involved near-severed heads.  



The District Attorney reopened the case.   On May 10 ABC News reported that investigators had “mounting evidence” tying both Dzhokhar and Tamerlan to the crime, including the preliminary results of DNA evidence from the crime scene.   Cell phone records also place the brothers in the area where the murders took place at the time of the killings.



And I cannot help asking whether a more thorough investigation of this throat-slitting murder back when it occurred on 9/11/11, or a trial with press coverage, might have prevented the Marathon Bombing.


Update:   Massachusetts police shot and killed Ibragim Todashev friend of  the late, unlamented Tamerlan Tsarnaev today in Orlando, but not before he implicated Tsarnaev in the 2011 Waltham triple beheading murder.

Suppose  the Middlesex County had pondered why three young men had had their throats cut to the point of near-decapitation long enough to question the young men’s drinking and sparring buddies.

There would not have been a Marathon bombing.