This talk by Robin Yassin-Kassab sums up almost entirely how I feel about the Euro-American/Canadian left and how, at times, it resembles the extreme right (they certainly meet where their anti-Semitism is concerned). I don’t agree with everything he says here, but I certainly agree with his analysis of the current tragedy in Syria, and his contempt for the left in general, even though he is a leftist. Interestingly, I think in some ways I probably am too (or rather, I think I am a fiscal conservative/libertarian-social leftist/liberal-animal rights advocate/hawk) in some ways, but due to their useful idiocy (at one point in this clip, he uses that term), I never want to be associated with them. At any rate, Yassin-Kassab captures the sophomoric anti-Western sentiments of much of the left since the 1960s, as well as their racism. Honestly, I have come to the conclusion that if one is searching for racism, classism and sexism, one need only glance left. (Yassin-Kassab has a go at Chomsky, Fisk and Cockburn here, too, which is good.)
The remarkable British historian of the Middle East turned 100 last week. Mosaic magazine published this feature about him and his prescience – 40 years ago he predicted the rise of radical Islam. Virtually no one else did.
Thus did the West receive its very first warning that a new era was beginning in the Middle East—one that would produce a tide of revolution, assassination, and terrorism, conceived and executed explicitly in the name of Islam.
Another slogan, “The End of History,” would make its appearance with the demise of the cold war in the early 1990s; it has since come and gone. “The Return of Islam” is still very much with us.
I say to anyone who wants to understand what has happened, what went wrong, to read his aptly-titled book, What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity and the Middle East. I also recommend his book about Turkey and frankly, anything else he has written.
My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.
First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.
I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.
By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).
There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.
In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.
I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).
I mention it because of the vote condemning BDS in the House of Commons last week. To no one’s surprise, Elizabeth May, renowned half-wit and terrorist-apologist, said she would vote against the motion and then, perhaps also to no one’s surprise, she skipped the vote (the Green Party would be a lot less pitiful if it got itself a leader with a 3-digit IQ. I suspect some Greens are sane and I do agree with them on rather more issues than one might expect).
The NDP voted against the motion, as well. I expected this from most of the NDP, but I was disappointed in Mulcair. Does he want to remain leader so desperately that he will sell out on the one area where he had some integrity? Sheesh. The irony is, it won’t save him. I suspect they will ditch him and get a new leader, possibly from the growing, totally-crackpot-when-it-concerns-the-Middle-East branch of the party. (Remember that lovely candidate of theirs who made jokes about Auschwitz?)
And, of course, the Bloc voted against the motion. Does it even need to be said?
As for the Liberals, I am glad for the way they voted — although it must be remembered that some of them abstained — but they are all over the map on support for Israel. I suspect it is because they have few guiding principles. On the one hand, they seem to want to go back to the “glory days” of getting invited to UN cocktail parties and hanging out with dictators. Hence, the spouting of drivel about “honest brokers” and blah blah blah. On the other, they voted in a morally sound way on BDS.
So make of that what you will. And read Terry Glavin’s great column about why BDS does not help anyone, least of all any Palestinians.
There aren’t many, particularly when it comes to battling jihadis/Islamism (why we miss Hitchens and Norm Geras and why we appreciate Paul Berman), but Hilary Benn has revealed himself to be one such rare bird. This speech is extraordinary — the moral clarity, the integrity, the intelligence. Would any Canadian NDP or Liberal politician speak this way? No. Mediocrity is certainly the default position of both of those parties.
The really fun part of watching this clip is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s expression. He’s all like, damn, but I love Islamists! And the West is bad! We’re bad, bad, bad...blah blah blah. What a major loon.
From the speech – stand-out quote (among many):
We are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality but their belief they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt, they hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt, they hold our democracy — the means by which we will make our decision tonight — in contempt. But what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the international brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco; it is why this entire house stood up against Hitler and Mussolini; it is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr. Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil.
Now watch and marvel.
First of all, must vent. I created this huge, long, magnificent post about this great article, full of quotes and clever observations and links to modern media (in all its pitiful lack of glory) and then, I don’t know what happened, but I lost the page. Lost it! And it was not saved as a draft. Dagnabbit! Stupid WordPress.
I am too lazy to try it again so I will simply tell you to click here and read the whole damn thing and then weep. Weep because so little has changed and weep because even more people now have a stupid worldview and no understanding of history than when this article was written and weep because there are no more writers and astute thinkers of Martha Gellhorn’s caliber. (Seriously, we should just recycle great journalists of the past and avoid many of today’s clowns and their willful blindness.)
“The Arabs of Palestine” was written by the brilliant, glorious Gellhorn in 1961. Remember that when you are reading it. 1961. You will think, at times, she is talking about 2015, but for the changes that have taken place in regards Egypt’s relationship to Israel and but for the references to the Cold War.
Weep! And read. And take away some new expressions. I like her references to “Mad Hatter conversations”. I have had many of those in my time, but one of the few good things about getting older is learning to avoid the Mad Hatter types. Of course this means I avoid many people I used to greet (including some family members).