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7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 0 replies · +7 points

"Your comments are too long and detailed, so it's really impossible to answer your many points."

Take heart! It's not impossible, Eddie. My reply to JJ was just 20 words longer than his original essay and I will be away til Monday. So that gives you almost two whole days to read and respond to my other points before I return with a reply to yours.

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 3 replies · +10 points

Thank you for these cogent arguments and insights, Hurwitz, and thank you for reminding me of all the other things I could have criticized JJ for.

Goldberg seems to be morphing into the neocon writer Robert Kaplan, who infamously reduced all interpretations and explanations of conflict in the Balkans to a single mystical factor: primordial hatreds. Sure, you can argue that the Jewish state poses a religious challenge to Islamists who are already inclined to see it that way, but that requires far more strain than the political interpretation -- namely that Arabs are humiliated not by Judaism or even Jewish hegemony in the Holy Land, but by political Zionism and what they perceive as the oppression of Palestinian Arabs and Muslims by a Western state, a state which was the byproduct of a Western ideology (Zionism) and which acts -- in their view -- as a colonialist surrogate for the West. (On the eve of Bibi's address to the US Congress, arranged by an ex-American politico, I'm sure I don't know where the Arabs could possibly get THAT idea.)

This is not just guessing on my part. If "ISLAM" were so all fired up by the hegemony of Jews in the Holy Land, why weren't they all aflame about the large cultural Zionist presence in Palestine under the British Mandate?

If "Islam" is so inherently hostile to the establishment of a Jewish state, how is it that the first Palestinian nationalists, "freedom fighters", and terrorists were secularists, among whom Christian secularists were disproportionately represented?

If "Islam" is so inherently hostile to the establishment of a Jewish state, how is it that Israeli operatives secretly worked to encourage and strengthen Hamas as a counterweight to Fatah?

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation." Avner Cohen, former Israeli official with the Religious Affairs department.

JJ doesn't feel comfortable with such inconvenient reasoning, so he just ignores it.

(There was a time when JJ actually responded to his challengers in the comments section. If only he would do so now...)

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 0 replies · +4 points

Excellent comments, Hurwitz.

Obama's speech has all the hallmarks of very careful and informed crafting, not just by Obama himself, but by the best Arabists, scholars of political Islam, and terrorism experts available to him.

And this is what I love about Obama's "pragmatic egghead-ism". He has the knowledge, judgment and instincts of a cosmopolitan and that helps him recruit the right people to produce a speech of this caliber. But he also has the knack for speaking clearly and effectively about enormously complex issues to people who aren't necessarily cosmopolitan or well-informed.

I simply can't imagine a speech better than the one he just delivered.

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 1 reply · +5 points

Glad to see you here, Hurwitz! You are one of the best commenters the JDF has ever known. Somehow I missed your post but I will look for it now.

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 0 replies · +3 points

We don't even have to imagine what a neocon administration would say or do to handle a crisis like this. Their record of lies, death,, destruction and enmity is history now.

I think Obama's youthful experience in Indonesia and his socialization by an anthropologist mother have served him -- and the nation -- extremely well. He is the right man for these times.

I wish I could say the same for JJ, whose obtuseness is getting on my last nerve. (I've just written three long posts chiding him for his political autism).

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 0 replies · +5 points

Thanks for going against the tide with an intelligent post. I happen to think Obama's speech was brilliant and I lay out my reasons in three lengthy posts.

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 2 replies · +23 points

12) Finally, Obama makes a compelling yet diplomatic case for the thesis that the fate of Islam hinges on the ability of Muslim leaders and citizens to usher in effective political, economic and social reforms.

" It’s institutions that uphold the rule of law and apply justice equally. It’s security forces and police that respect human rights and treat people with dignity. It’s free speech and strong civil societies where people can organize and assemble and advocate for peaceful change. It’s freedom of religion where all people can practice their faith without fear and intimidation."

In other words, JJ, it's not all about "Islam", but HOW ISLAM IS INTERPRETED AND APPLIED. It is about inequality in how power is currently apportioned and how conflicts (economic, political, social) are resolved. By invoking community in connection with Islam, Obama implicitly reminds Muslims of the social egalitarianism and communally responsive aspects inherent in Islam and urges them to build on that.

The remainder of the speech deals with practical matters and concrete evidence of US resolve, but the truly brilliant elements of the speech are the ones I described above. By affording Muslims respect and by forcefully opposing the stigmatization or demonization of Islam, Obama gives Muslim leaders and communities a powerful reason to work with him and make the fight against extremism a truly international "jihad" -- for the sake of Islam AND the world.

You're a good writer with a good head on your shoulders, JJ. I urge you to come to your senses. Start a dialogue with knowledgeable academics who study political Islam for a living. Dialogue is something Jews are supposed to be good at, no? Or is it all being replaced with narrow, Manichaean invective these days?

You are STILL better than this, JJ.

7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 0 replies · +24 points

3) Obama's rhetoric denied ISIL and company the legitimacy and stature they crave by calling them terrorists rather than conveying the impression that they are leaders of a religious movement. Your misguided rhetorical path turns them not only into "religious leaders" but bold crusaders for a new religious civilization.

4) Obama, BRILLIANTLY, gives Arab leaders new incent1ves to see injustice and corruption as dire threats to their own rule, to their country's security and to Islam itself. He also empowers the US to discuss (Arab) political failures in terms of its dangers to international security Here we have the rudiments of a new narrative that makes Arab socioeconomic and institutional reforms not merely important or even urgent, but absolutely mandatory.

5) Obama offers the Arab people a new narrative that helps move their own Arab Spring agendas further in the direction of PLURALISM, not just freedom. Most have already acknowledged the value of pluralism to a degree (simply because there are so many divisions in their own countries) but Obama's speech gives new momentum to it and a welcoming of pluralism is just as vital to the building of Muslim & Arab civil societies as is freedom.

6) Obama creates an emotional receptivity to his message -- a sincere sense of kinship - by recognizing Muslim suffering, Muslim victims and Muslim sacrifices as well.

7) Obama displays American moral power by ignoring the hateful rhetorical buzzings of moral fleas and attending instead to the narrative of Western cosmopolitan inclusion, respect and love, in all its majesty. And he makes it crystal clear that AMERICAN MUSLIMS are just as much a part of that narrative as any other American. Brilliant, JJ. Take notes.

8) He makes it clear that Muslims who are not "radicalized" are not suspects and that the US government has their back. This makes it clear to everyone that the US will not use the current wave of terrorism as an excuse to abuse or expand the powers of the state.

9) HE INSPIRES (challenges and incent1vizes) MUSLIMS TO COME UP WITH THEIR OWN FORCEFUL COUNTERNARRATIVE of Islam as a religion of peace, love and justice and above all, Islam as a religion that is compatible with INTERNATIONAL NORMS OF MODERNITY AND JUSTICE. This, of course, is vital to the success of the world's counterterrorism efforts.

10) Obama thus turns an atmosphere of crisis into one of opportunity: seize this moment to press all Muslim leaders to work out an accommodation with modernity and to tout the absolute necessity of tolerance as an Islamic value. (Tolerance is what Muslims were renowned for, compared with Christians, in the Middle Ages and beyond).

11) Obama reminds Muslim leaders that the world is now inter-connected. There is no getting around this. Thus they have little choice but to get behind the narrative that Islam CAN and MUST be identified with pluralist values.


7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - No, Mr. President, We ... · 4 replies · +25 points

Yet another autistic column by a commentator long on some forms of knowledge but increasingly short on judgment & wisdom. I don't even bother posting an immediate reply anymore, JJ, and you know why? I hope that your "first respondents" in the comments section mirror back to you what you've become, at least on this issue. You like this crowd? You can have them.

I think Obama's speech was BRILLIANT and here's why:

1) The US has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to gain from appearing to criticize Islam as a whole. Think about that. A President's power doesn't inhere in telling it "like it is" (and you got that wrong, too, but I'm getting to that). It inheres in his ability to tell it like he wants it to be and then to make that come true. The greatest presidential rhetoric is PERFORMATIVE. Lincoln understood that, Obama understands that as you, JJ, apparently do not. An American president who appears to criticize Islam as a whole (or even a particular sect of it) jeopardizes US national interests in several key ways.

a) It creates tension and instability in his own country, giving encouragement to those who would commit hate crimes, demonize Muslim Americans, or commit workplace/school harassment. It also stokes resentment among American Muslims, and gives aid to those who would manipulate such resentments for terroristic ends. Keep in mind that minorities often live down to the low expectations established by the majority. So a President must choose his words extremely carefully to optimize the chances of continued domestic tranquility.

b) It makes it more difficult for leaders in the Muslim world to justify their own crackdowns on domestic and foreign extremism. They cannot be seen as traitors to Islam working as lackeys of non-Muslim, imperialist or formerly imperialist powers. Who cares if ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE calls the current situation "global jihadism"?! For crying out loud, JJ, Arab leaders are not ALLIED with Israeli intelligence (at least not openly. *smirk*) . Do you seriously think that Israeli intelligence and a US President have identical rhetorical effects and hence identical rhetorical responsibilities? Of course not. A US President must confer dignity on the leaders of countries with whom he hopes to have a productive relationship. And we can and must have a productive relationship with the conservative-centrist leaders of the Muslim & Arab world.

2) Militant jihadists have their narratives of hate & death. It's up to the leader of the free world to come up with a counternarrative that is so powerful, it transcends & negates the extremist narrative at the same time. You, JJ, are enslaved by the terrorist's narrative. You perceive the world in 2 hostile camps, Islamic & non-Islamic, which is exactly what the Manichean terrorists want you to see and how they want you to frame the issue. People like you are TERRIFIC for terrorist recruitment drives

So one way Obama got it right was by avoiding obvious traps.


7 years ago @ Jewish Daily Forward - DSK and the Reluctant ... · 0 replies · +8 points

haha, good catch. Apparently the JDF editors mistook one obscenity for another.