A Publication of Seth J. Frantzman
November 12nd, 2007
1) Fear and Loathing in the Coexistence Nation: A collection of stories illustrating the stereotype 'they coexisted peacefully since time immemorial', and why it is always patently false.
2) What is Journalism? An exploration of some of the serious flaws of modern journalism.
3) 'They let him die by the side of the road': a short history of the U.N. What causes U.N workers to be so callously uninterested in human suffering? Why has the U.N done so much ill and so little good? Perhaps an exploration of its origins as well as the backgrounds of those who work for it can serve as a way to understand it and its people.
Fear and Loathing in the Coexistence nation
Seth J. Frantzman
November 4th, 2007
It’s a classic mantra, probably one of the most well honed among today’s westerners: Muslim countries are paradigms of coexistence. Take the article published in the Herald Tribune on Saturday, November 3-4, 2007 entitled ‘New cardinal speaks for Iraqi Christians.’ The reader is treated to the story of Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of the Chaldean church in Iraq. He notes that “Christians and Muslims have lived together for 1,400 years…we have much in common; in Iraq, the Christian house is next to the Muslim house..I am not happy when people ask ‘how is the situation for Christians?’ Those who kill don’t kill only Christians. They kill Muslims as well, the situation is the same for both.” Perhaps unwittingly the reporter noted later that “Delly met recently with prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to plead for protection for Christians.” But the same day an article appeared in the Jerusalem Post entitled ‘I know how to make you a Muslim’ by Catrin Ormestad. She wrote of the death of Rami Ayad, 31, the manager of The Teacher's Bookshop, the only Christian bookstore in Gaza. He was gunned down by a friendly Muslim assailant on November 2nd, 2007. The article reveals that “ the story of the Christians and Muslims in Gaza is one of peaceful coexistence. There has never been any friction between the communities, and there has never been a case of a Christian being attacked or killed because of his religion. ‘They come to us and say Merry Christmas and we do the same with them, on their holidays. We have good relations. They go to the mosque and we to the church, that is the only difference,’ says Hafez Michel, Ibrahim's brother-in-law.” The article, once again unwittingly, notes that the Teacher’s Bookshop has “been attacked several times in the past two years.” Furthermore people sometimes say “ ‘You should become a Muslim, and then you can go to Paradise!’, and Ibrahim's son Kader, 7, sometimes gets teased at school. ‘They say he will go to hell,’ he says.” No big deal, its all part of a tolerant society of perfect coexistence.
The coexistence nation operates slightly differently in Egypt. There are only 40 Jews left of a community that stretches back 2,000 years. Tolerance and coexistence was too much for them. Carmen Weinstein is the the president of the ‘community,’ which is composed entirely of elderly women. A recent article entitled ‘Cairo Synagouge marks 100 years of grandeur and decline’ noted that “The Egyptian Jewish community is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. Rabbi Moses Maimonides (the Rambam) lived and taught here in the 13th century.” While the community will sing the praises of Egyptian dictator Hasni Mubarek they condemn Israel. Magda Haroun, another member of the community “has never visited Israel, for ideological reasons. Her parents were Communists, and she hopes to come only when a Palestinian state is established.” Coexistence worked wonderfully for the Egyptian Jews, 99% of them left after they were herded into concentration camps by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and their property was taken away, and the remaining 1% hate Israel.
Coexistence worked differently in the Holy Land. We are always reminded that the Rambam lived in a Muslim cultural milieu and he knew Saladin. But why did he leave his native Spain which was reputed to be the crowning achievement of Muslim-Jewish-Christian tolerance? He had to flee because of the puritanical extremist Muslim government of the Almohades. But, nonetheless, we are reminded by most Jewish and Christian and Muslim historians that “Islamic rule in Spain was relatively tolerant of
minorities, Jews and Christians alike, and Jewish life flourished there.” Maimonides fled Spain because the Almohades, who conquered the country in 1148, offered the Jews a choice; conversion or death. The Jews most choose to leave the land of tolerance.
But forget about the Ramban and his experience with tolerance, let us turn instead to the Ramban or Nachmonides. Born in Spain in 1195 he was forced to flee at the age of 72 because of Christian tolerance for his beliefs (the church ordered him tried on charges of blasphemy). When he arrived in Jerusalem in 1267 he set about building a Synagouge. In 1589 “due to Muslim incitement” the Ottoman governor Abu Sufrin ordered the house of worship turned into a warehouse. Rabbi Yehuda Hahassid and his followers attempted to be rebuild the Synagouge in 1700 but in 1721 the structure was burned by an Arab Muslim mob. The Synagouge was rebuilt beginning in 1856 with the help of Sir Moses Montefiore but it was blown up by the Jordanian Arab Legion in 1948 after the legion had conquered the Jewish quarter.
After the 1967 war when plans were drawn up by the Philidelphia architect Louis Khan to rebuild the Synagogue, Jerusalem’s mayor Teddy Kollek informed Kahn in 1968 that “the decision concerning your plans is essentially a political one. Should we in the Jewish Quarter have a building of major importance which competes with the mosque and the Holy Sepulchre?” Of course, it makes perfect sense that Jews should not ‘offend’ the churches and mosques of others, especially those who have burnt down their synagogues, by trying to rebuilt their own houses of worship. That is a society of perfect tolerance. The one side is intolerant and in order to foster tolerance the other side submits to the intolerance.
Tolerance is a fascinating thing. Emmanuel III, the patriarch of the Chaldeans in Iraq, studied Abu Nasr al-Farabi, a Muslim philosopher, in order to obtain his Doctorate in theology. He made sure to study the Koran in the name of tolerance, after all, shouldn’t every priest be as intimate with the Koran as he is with the Bible. This, of course was the model of tolerance that existed under Jordanian rule in Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967 when Christian schools had to devote equal amounts of time to Bible and Koran. Muslim schools, oddly enough, didn’t study the Bible. Muslim imams, oddly enough, don’t study Christian theology and they don’t need to study Christian theologians in order to receive their doctorates.
The Pope made a speech a year ago in which he mentioned that Islam may have some violent tendencies. His speech ‘offended’ Muslims so much that churches were firebombed and a priest in Turkey was murdered and so was a nun in Somalia. And afterward the Pope apologized and said it was wrong to link Islam with violence, surely Islam is not violent at all. The bodies of a priest and a nun not withstanding. It takes a perfect world of tolerance and coexistence where people murder other people for calling them violent and then expect an apology.
But such a world produced the Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams who came to Israel in November of 2007 ostensibly to take part in a interfaith dialogue with the Chief Rabbi of Israel but also found time to blame Israel’s security fence for ‘driving Christians out of the Holy Land.’ Interesting comments considering the fact that the Christian population of Gaza and the West Bank were declining for sixty years before the construction of the ‘wall’. By contrast the Christian population inside the Green Line, in Israel, has quadrupled in the last sixty years. But surely the cause of Christians leaving isn’t the murder of people like Rami Ayad, it is Israel’s fault.
The world of coexistence and tolerance, the psychology behind it and the belief system it entails is one of the most fascinating things ever created. The method by which is brainwashes people, its endless platitudes, is one of the most perplexing things in the modern world. The idea that we all live in an enforced tolerance regime, one in which we are always reminded how intolerant we are and how other cultures, despite evidence to the contrary, are always described as uber-tolerant is sheer brilliance. The words ‘coexistence’ and ‘tolerance’ have been twisted around to mean the exact opposite. Societies that are described as tolerant are invariably not and people that are said to have ‘coexisted’ have most likely been murdering and enslaving eachother. So what we need is less coexistence and less tolerance. The world needs it or we will all soon be killed off by the agents of tolerance and coexistence. We will all be like Rami Ayad or those 85 year old Jewish women in Cairo or that priest in Iraq, we will all be chanting at our funerals about how we live in a tolerant society.
What is Journalism?
Seth J. Frantzman
November 5th, 2007
Journalists tell us they are guardians of our rights. They ‘speak truth to power’ in the words of Dan Rather. Journalists ‘expose’ governments and injustice. They are at the front line of the war for free speech. All this may be well and good but it doesn’t really explain what Journalism is. Journalism is the theory that ordinary people who have no experience or background in anything can and should interpret the events of the world to the rest of the people living in the world. Journalists only rarely have any background in the places they cover. Sometimes the opposite is true, the journalist is so enmeshed in his environment that he is co-opted by it and in fact is a propaganda tool for whatever it is. What is most fascinating about journalism is the fact that people believe the newspapers they read. Once one gets by the blatent errors, the factual mistakes, the grammatical mistakes, the spelling errors and the rest of the small errors, one is confronted with the text of what is written. But what is most fascinating about journalists is that despite their continuing claims of being ‘unbiased’ we often find them writing books such as Sarah Chayes’ The Punishment of Virtue in which they tell us exactly what they think. Sarah reminds us in her book that “I do not believe in the Clash of Civilizations.” I wasn’t aware that Huntington’s theory had become a belief system, that one was either a convert or an infidel. But we can garner from this that our friend Ms. Chayes who works for the PBS is not exactly a blank sheet of paper that transcribes whatever she hears. She is an opinionated person, and her opinions come through in what she writes and what she chooses to cover. We are regaled with her story about a report she gave from a hospital on the border of Afghanistan in which she explains that she used a hospital ward to ‘set the scene’ for her piece. A wounded boy, wounded of course by an American bomb not by a friendly Taliban bullet, was the central figure. Yes, the journalist must set the scene. The journalist must frame the story. She must tell us what to think.
Oh surely Journalism has nothing to do with telling us what to think, that’s left for the editorial page. But then why do journalists so often end up on the editorial page, playing god and blind justice at the same time? We find that our friend Maureen Dowd wrote for the Times for many years as a ‘journalist’ before becoming an oped writer. Avi Issacharoff writes stories and opeds for Israel’s Haaretz. In fact the journalists who write stories for newspapers tend to be the most opinionated people, not the least. In person they frequently resort to the most biased forms of describing the people they interview and the places they cover.
But the worst thing about journalists is the fact that they rarely have any amount of raw knowledge, least of all about the subject matter they cover. Take one reporter that I know. She regaled me with tales about how she was shocked to learn that Israel has a military censor and she was fascinating by how a modern democracy might have a person whose job is to censor the news. She explained to me that people associate censors with the Soviet Union, not with a modern country. She was determined to interview this censor and get the goods on this strange aberration. There was one problem, I explained. Censors are not unique to Israel. Censorship exists in many forms throughout t he democratic west. She objected. But she was ill-informed. Perhaps many people have not seen the film ‘Good Morning Vietnam’. But if they have they recall the two fat censors employed by the army to censor the news coming out of Vietnam. What is this? Censorship in a democracy. Certainly not. But what about those ‘gag orders’ we read so often about. What is a ‘gag order’? It is a legal device used to stop the press from reporting the details of criminal cases. The Press may also not print the names of criminal suspects who are under 18. What is all this? Censorship. Yes, some may be surprised to learn that the press is not entirely free to run amok and do whatever it pleases, even in the West. Does anyone really believe there is a military censor in Israel? If there was, then how would it be possible for all the most atrocious anti-Israel reporting to be done right there in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? How was it possible during the Lebanon war that there was live reporting? A military censor’s job is to censor reports coming out of the military for fear that they might contain secret material by mistake. For instance information regarding troop movements or unit numbers or names of certain individuals. Let’s recall that the American government won’t admit that Delta force even exists. What is this? Censorship.
Journalists may exist because they fill a niche that must be filled. Someone has to report the news and it can’t all be done by experts. So amateurs must be enlisted to do it. What does Journalism school teach? It doesn’t teach anything about facts or context or history. It teaches about method. It teaches about how to write a story and how to organize it and how to have sources. It does teach something about ‘background information’ but only instructs the journalists to use the internet.
We believe that the Newspaper is of a higher quality than Wikipedia. But in fact Wikipedia is most likely the source for the background material presented in most news reports. Journalism is a hoax. It is a massive scam perpetrated upon people It is true that there are some journalists who know about what they speak. But take this story entitled ‘When Conscience trumped duty in Guantanamo’ from the New York Times three weeks ago. The journalist describes the “harsh interrogation techniques.” What were these techniques. “Another recounted a detainee’s claim that a guard had thrown him to the ground and rubbed his face violently in the dirt after prisoner spat at him.” Harsh? What do the LAPD and NYPD do on a daily basis? Spit at a cop and you might get thrown to the ground. Pretty harsh. Surely something the U.N and Geneva and the International Criminal Court and the Red Cross should look into. Or perhaps something that any journalist who had lived anywhere outside of swank Beverly Hills would know was an everyday occurrence not relegated to Gitmo.
The strongest evidence that journalism is in fact declining in its accuracy is the ever expanding world of journalists who increasingly describe things in superlative terms. Almost every BBC ‘special report’ includes at least one instance of the reporter informing the audience that this is the ‘poorest’ or ‘worst’ thing that he has ever seen or that has ever happened. Every report ever done by the BBC always shows poor people and they are invariably described as ‘living in the worst conditions imaginable.’ There are two errors in this sentence. One hangs on the ability to imagine. Although many of the people watching the BBC may be mindless sheep, there are others who can certainly imagine worse things. The second error consists of the use of the word ‘worst’. How can it always be the ‘worst’. A report on Africa tells us of the ‘worst’ conditions in some slum in Kenya. A report from Gaza explains that these are the ‘worst’ conditions. Then there is the report from India and, surprise, surprise, the children are living in the worst conditions. Journalists feel they need to expose the viewer to the most extreme things and then pretend like these extremes are the norm and then further elaborate by telling everyone that this is the ‘most’ terrible thing taking place. The journalist undoubtebly believes this, just like the journalist believes that Israel is the only democracy in the world that has a military censor.
Take a brilliant headline that appeared recently: “Russia unleashed hackers on the west” and the byline read ‘Only the US and China have more online rogues.’ What a sec. The US is one of the biggest cultural components of the West. If the U.S has more hackers than Russia then who is unleashing hackers on whome? The article wants us to believe that this is a newsworthy story, but it isn’t Russia has one of the largest populations in the world. America has more people. China has a lot more, but China has less computers per person. Thus it is no surprise that China, with a billion people and America with 300 million have more hackers and that Russia, an up and coming country with more than 100 million people, also has a lot of computer hackers. If we were to combine all the European countries into one their 250 million people would have as many hackers as America. See the problem with this story. But, regardless, Russia is ‘unleashing’ the ‘worst’ hackers on everyone else.
Every newspaper contains such stories daily. Haaretz on November 1st, 2007 contained the story “For Nablus’ ‘Night Horsemen,’ the days are numbered.” The story tells us of a group of young men who are “dead men walking.” Why? The article doesn’t say. They just are. It s a typical newstory. No history. No context. Just three Arab men with M-16s and cups of coffee and ever ringing cell phones and the IDF in hot pursuit.
We can’t live without journalism in the modern world. That is a tragic fact. But we could surely live with less hyperbole and less superlatives in the Newspaper. How about one day where every poor person isn’t the ‘most poor’ and every story has some context and there isn’t some incredible bias dripping through every story. Just once would be nice. And just once, could we not have a story that tells that there is some conspiracy about something and then interviews some shopkeeper to ‘prove’ that there is a conspiracy because he provides the quote that explains the ‘plot’.
"They let him die by the side of the road"
A short history of the U.N
Seth J. Frantzman
November 20th, 2007
The U.N's history is rooted in the history of other international organizations, foremost among them the Red Cross and the League of Nations. In order to understand the roots of the culture of the U.N one must look no further than the performance of these organizations in saving lives during crises and war. The first test of the League of nations came with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the Japanese invasion of China in the early 1930s. In both instances the League did nothing. As Haille Selaise's tribesmen were gassed by the Italians, the league did nothing. When Shanghai and Nanjing and other Chinese cities were sacked and destroyed by the Japanese and half a million Chinese killed the League did nothing. During the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) where many civilians were butchered by both sides the League did nothing.
But while the League did nothing to prevent war, murder and genocide, the Red Cross proved equally culpable in doing nothing during the Holocaust. Under the guise of not wanting to 'offend' the Nazis, lest the Red Cross be banned from Nazi occupation Europe, the Red Cross and its Swedish and Swiss workers, visited concentration camps and never once condemned the Nazis for their treatment of Jews. Some 20 million people, including Jews and Slavs, died under the noses of the Red Cross and the organization never lifted a finger to save one person or protest the death of one person, or reveal the world the terrible things taking place in Europe.
Beginning in 1945 the world was shackled with yet another international organization, the U.N. Its role in complicity with genocide would outdo anything the Red Cross and the League ever accomplished. To catalogue all the atrocities would be too much. Suffice it to say the U.N is primarily composed of Europeans who are paid massive salaries to travel the world and tell other people how to live. When the U.N has been lucky it has been allowed to colonize countries, such as Haiti, Kosovo, East Timor and Bosnia. When it has been less lucky it has simply been allowed to sit on the sidelines as millions die, such as in Cambodia or the Sudan.
But the words of Ivan Ceresnjes, previously the head of the Jewish community in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars in the 1990s and who was responsible for helping thousands of refugees flee the siege there, should be enough to sum up what the U.N and what its primary role has been in the world:
"My driver was wounded and he was lying in the road. For eight hours dozens of U.N vehicles drove past. I tried to get them to help him, to take him to a hospital. But the U.N workers just looked at me and adjusted their collars and said 'this is not my mandate.' The U.N is the enemy of humanity."
There is no better way to put it. The U.N is the enemy of humanity just as its predecessors, the Red Cross and the League of Nations proved to be the enemies of humanity by allowing Nazism to thrive and collaborating with it once it was in power. The U.N's lack of humanity. The reason that 50 U.N workers could drive by a dying man and do nothing stems from where they are born and the culture that they are brought up in. Suffice it to say that the majority of U.N workers are European. Many of them come from countries such as Ireland, Sweden and Switzerland, countries that were neutral during the Second World War. They come, primarily, from countries that stood by during the Holocaust. Is it a surprise that the countries that stood by while 20 million were killed now produce people that stand by when individuals were killed. Even Stalin understood that there are times when one must be a human. He noted that 'one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a statistic.' He is quite right. A million deaths is too hard to comprehend. But for the individual U.N worker who drives by a dying man, this is one death, and yet the U.N worker does not see the tragedy. Is he blinded by his $500,000 a year salary? Is he blinded by the fact that his job allows him to be above the law (for instance in Africa the French U.N workers in the Congo are known for trading U.N food shipments for sex with 13 year old women). Is he blinded by the fact that he is driving a large white SUV while the people he is lording himself over usually cannot afford cars or food? Is he blinded by the fact that he goes home to sleep in a compound with other U.N workers who listen to Classical music while the people he lords himself over go to sleep in hovels and risk death everyday? What is it that produces this individual. What is it that produces Swedish, Irish and Swiss people? Why do certain nations produce people who work for NGOs but never actually seem to help anyone and will not even slow down to help a dying man on the side of the road? Is volunteerism, which is to say the innate decency of helping others, cultural? Is it merely a case of a culture among these nations of entire peoples who cannot bring themselves to ever help others?
It is a mystery what breeds this. This type of illness, this inhumanity, is more and more common in western secular societies. People in war torn societies, in societies racked by famine, are famous for doing little when human suffering and bloodshed are at their doorsteps. Footage from the siege of St. Petersburg in 1942 or the Warsaw Ghetto in the same year show starving people dying on the streets, corpses crowding ditches, and people walking by as if nothing were out of place. But these people have been forced to live in these savage conditions. They become accustomed to ignoring suffering because the suffering has become too much.
But the U.N worker, the Swede, does not have this problem. He comes from a rich, fat, country where the standard of living is among the highest in the world, where education is among the best in the world and where few if any people believe in God. So what causes him to have no humanity? What causes him to lack sympathy and lack compassion and lack the most basic human traits? What has made him devoid of these qualities? Perhaps the accumulation of wealth and living in a safe and plush society produces the same indifference to suffering as living in the most wretched conditions? Perhaps living in the Warsaw ghetto is not so different in the affect on the mind as living in Stockholm? Perhaps it breeds the same contempt for humanity, the same need of the brain to shut out the horrors of the world.
People are only shocked by contrasts. One only feels cold because there is heat. Thus a person who has never been exposed to any forms of deprivation and difference and suffering cannot comprehend it, because it is so alien. However someone who sees that there is suffering, but is not exposed to it all the time, understands it and interacts with it in a meaningful way. The inhumanity of Europeans who work for the U.N stems from their lack of comprehension for the human condition. They are simply blind. They don't see the man dying on the road. He simply does not exist to them. They cannot comprehend it. It is like a computer program that does not recognize a type of software. It simply does not compute.
How can Europeans be made more humane? How can one make Swedish and Swiss and Irish people more humane? The truth is we cannot. The only way for them to become humane again is for them to suffer, for their nations to become poor and for their nations to experience the privations that other nations have within them. Fifty years of progress and wealth and isolation from the conflicts of the world, 100 years of pretending the world didn't exist, of never volunteering to help the world in its struggles, have taken their toll. It has created an entire generation of people who cannot help others. Philanthropy is virtually non-existent among people in these countries and lack of philanthropy is one side of mans inhumanity to man.
Europeans hate America and they loathe 'stupid Americans.' That is their prerogative. It is why Europeans and Americans will never understand one another. This is because the average American would always stop for the dying man on the side of the road. Americans may be naïve and stupid and uselessly optimistic, but they are a giving people, a people who do not ignore other humans. Swedes and Irish and Swiss could learn much from Americans. The Swedes and Irish who live in America do not lack the humanity that their contemporaries in their home countries do. We live in a world of increasingly isolated, selfish, self loathing, people who have no interest I humanity and are disconnected from it. They lack faith, which is their prerogative, but they have replaced faith with decadence, they have not replaced it with morality, which was the drive of their secular forebears. Instead they have replaced faith and accountability and social responsibility, with nothingness, with inhumanity. Evil triumphs when good people do nothing. But U.N workers cannot be described as good people. Its not a matter of 'good' people do nothing, it’s a matter of people ceasing to be human.