Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Rhetoric as Epistemic

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond—
Invisible, as Music—
But positive, as Sound—
It beckons, and it baffles—
Philosophy—don't know—
And through a Riddle, at the last—
Sagacity, must go—
To guess it, puzzles scholars—
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown—
Faith slips—and laughs, and rallies—
Blushes, if any see—
Plucks at a twig of Evidence—
And asks a Vane, the way—
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit—
Strong Hallelujahs roll—
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul—
—Emily Dickinson, (c. 1862)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Generous Orthodoxy

"I am not one of those Stalin-like secularists who won't rest until the last rosary bead has been ground into a fine dust. Let theology flourish." (Jacques Berlinerbalu, "What's Wrong with the Society of Biblical Literature?" Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 10, 2006).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If They Hadn't Invented the Game, They Would Kill It

Martin Amis is a thuggish racist. But this article, an analysis of the England-Portugal 2006 World Cup quarterfinal, did make me laugh:

"When Owen scored in the third minute, the euphoria was soon qualified by the following intuition: with time added on, England were now going to spend an entire football match in frazzled defence, dropping back ever deeper, the beleaguerment solidified by ever-more paranoid substitutions. As Rooney limped off, after 20-odd minutes, you felt you were complicit in an act of unilateral disarmament. But by now it was taking some doing not to notice a qualitative difference between the teams: the abysmal gulf in technique.


"The days when an England player's first touch could often be mistaken for an attempted clearance or a wild shot on goal — those days are over. The deficit is not in individual skill, it is in collective skill; it is in the apparently cultural indifference to possession. In 2004, football is no longer a dribbling game, still less a long-ball game (and how many balls did we float to our two haring midgets up front?); it is a possession game. The 'clearance', as practised by England, is simply an anachronism. When an international defender heads it away, he heads it to a teammate. When we 'clear' it, we just clear it, for two or three seconds.


"During the second half it was a full-time job not noticing what the chasing game does to a side's morale. Pass it to a teammate? We couldn't even throw it to a teammate. A Martian, looking on, would have wondered at the mysterious discrepancy: whenever the ball went into touch, it seemed that it could only be reintroduced to a player in a red shirt. Portugal's equaliser was both completely inevitable and richly deserved. And then the crouched supporter was left to believe that England, this booting, blocking, sliding, nutting, hacking behemoth, this hysterical combine-harvester, was about to transform itself into an instrument of attack." (Martin Amis, "We Have to Face It: English Football is just No Good," The Guardian (courtesy of Eamonn Fitzgerald).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zionism is Fascism

M. J. Rosenberg:

"Something terribly ugly is happening in Israel. It started during Yitzhak Rabin's term as prime minister when right-wing extremists and religious fanatics joined in calling for his death and it would seem to have culminated with his assassination.

But the ugliness continues. Yigal Amir, Rabin's assassin, turned out to have been no "lone lunatic," no Lee Harvey Oswald or Sirhan Sirhan who acted for reasons that were perhaps psychological and not political.

Not Amir. Yigal Amir was inspired to kill the prime minister by a community which believed that taking Rabin's life was a necessity ordained by God. Rabin was preparing to give up land promised to the Jews, and so it was necessary to kill him. Amir has always been proud of what he accomplished. In his mind, he did it for Israel. A joyous, triumphant smirk can be seen on Amir's face in every photograph for twelve years.

The ugly thing to which I refer is not just the assassination itself. The killing of Rabin was the worst disaster in the history of the Jewish State. Its repercussions are felt every day. I believe that had Rabin lived, Oslo would have ended with an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty and a resolution of the conflict. (By the last years of Oslo, there was virtually no terrorism in Israel thanks to IDF-PLO security cooperation.) The assassin and his friends also believed that Rabin would achieve peace which is why they wanted him dead.

But even uglier than the assassination is the nauseating fact that Yigal Amir is today a hero to a portion of the Israeli public, especially the ideological settlers. He has been treated with kid gloves by the Israeli judicial and prison system, which not only allowed him to marry while in jail but also allowed him to father a child. This week the assassin’s son was circumcised in prison so that the proud father could attend.


Last week in Haifa during a major league soccer game between Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa, a moment of silence to commemorate the Rabin assassination was interrupted when half the stadium hissed and booed Rabin's name and sang songs extolling the virtues of his assassin.

Most Israelis were appalled. Many commentators said that these fans were a small minority of soccer hooligans. But many observers disagreed, including Prime Minister Olmert who said that the assassination cheerleaders were “not a small group, as some would like to minimize it, but a large, loud, influential and raging group. . .”

To be fair, these extremists have their counterparts here too. Just as Rabin's murderer is a hero in certain parts of Israel, he is also a hero in parts of the New York metro area and Los Angeles. There are people among us who believe that all is fair in the effort to preserve the settlements and keep the Palestinians under occupation -- even murder.

In a sense, it is not surprising that occupation produces this kind of ugliness. By definition, occupation coarsens the occupier.

Furthermore, an occupation that started as the retention of lands won in a defensive war evolved, once the settlement movement began, into a fierce religious nationalist movement that is less about love of Israel than hating those perceived as Israel’s enemies, especially fellow Israelis and Jews.

These new nationalists, for the most part, have little use for the State of Israel and its leaders. Their attachment is to the Land of Israel, a place located in the Bible, in their hearts and in the West Bank settlements. They have as little use for Tel Aviv and Haifa as they do for Cairo and Damascus.

These are the Israeli counterparts of the ballyhooed Islamo-Fascists--although the people so up-in-arms about Muslim lunatics tend not to see the similarities with their Jewish brethren, and vice versa. That is one of the remarkable things about extremists. They never recognize their mirror image in the people they hate most.

One of the many things these fanatics have in common is that their biggest fear is Arab-Israeli reconciliation. That is nothing new. Following Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995, the far right in Israel organized to defeat Prime Minister Shimon Peres in order to ensure that the Oslo process had died with Rabin. At the same time, Hamas terrorists began a campaign of suicide bombing to achieve the same goal. Hamas succeeded when Peres lost the election." (M. J. Rosenberg, TPM Cafe, Nov. 9, 2007).