Life Among the Chachamim

Theodore Bikel
An Occasional Series on Great Jewish Geniuses

So here is the actor Theodore Bikel, or Chaver Bikel as he is known to his comrades of Meretz.  Eighty-seven years old now, but brilliant, absolutely brilliant in his razor-sharp analysis of war and peace in the Middle East.  Here are his remarkable insights, as reported by the Forward:

Anyone who has strong feelings for Israel like I do, and that [sic] believes it is an absolute necessity to strive for peace, understands that the single most obvious obstacle are the [Jewish] settlements …

Ten thousand Hamas missiles fired at Israeli civilians ?  That’s nothing.  Holocaust denial by much of the Arab press ?  A trifle.  Hamas calling for an end to Israel ? Nada.  No, according to Chaver Bikel, it’s the Jews who cause the trouble.  The Jews.  What a friend we have in Bikel !

The Brouhaha about the Anti-Boycott Law in Israel

Two days ago two events took place in Israel: 1) the Israeli Knesset passed a law that provides for civil penalties for those who organize boycotts against Israel, and 2), at about the same time, Hamas resumed the firing of Qasam missiles into Israel. And guess what: all the self-described friends of peace in the Middle East — the New Israel Fund, the Americans for Peace Now, and their allies — are outraged, absolutely outraged at event number one, but considerably less so at event number two. In fact, these great friends of peace, to judge by their websites, have not at all noticed event number two. Peace, to these peaceniks, is not at all endangered by Hamas bombardments.

(It seems that Jewish organizations across the political spectrum have expressed criticism of the the anti-boycott law, but the hysteria about it is restricted to the self-styled Left. NGO Monitor has published a very good analysis of the law, including an English translation of its text.)

It may very well be, as NGO Monitor maintains, that this new law is objectionable on a number of grounds, and it also may very well be that it will be overturned by the courts. But in the meantime here are some factors that got lost in the brouhaha:

1) Israel finds itself in an existential crisis. The loftiest of advice is of questionable value when it comes from people far away, who, moreover, do not have to face the consequences of their admonitions. A beau mentir qui vient de loin.

2) Freedom of expression is a vacuous formulation if considered without context. For example, there is no jurisdiction on earth, or imaginable, without limitations to freedom. There are the obvious prohibitions about shouting “fire” in a crowded theater; about libel and slander; about false advertising; and many others. What the limits should be in a given circumstance can only be determined by a close consideration of its particulars. In the case of the anti-boycott law, it is important to recognize the evil to which this law is addressed: the agitation by a number of well financed groups, with the bulk of the money coming from abroad, to delegitemize the state of Israel. That is a problem to which the Knesset obviously had to react. Perhaps the law in this first version is overreaching or otherwise inappropriate, and it seems that amendments to it are under consideration. But to criticize the law without at all recognizing the underlying problem is mindless.

3) The right to organize boycotts, pace the opinion of the hysterics who are discussing this law from afar, is not one of those rock-bottom democratic rights like freedom of the press. It is not a tool of rational discussion but rather a tool of coercion: do as I say or I will try to take away your livelihood. In the United States there are limits to the right to organize boycotts. Unions may boycott employers with whom they have a dispute, but they cannot engage in “secondary boycotts,” i.e. boycott those who do business with these employers. And it is also illegal, in the United States, to collude in boycotts organized by foreign governments. It is similarly illegal to orchestrate boycotts against racial or religious groups where public accommodations are in play. In brief, public policy recognizes that the freedom to engage in public actions must stop where the freedom of others is encroached.

4) The left-leaning groups who are so enraged at what they think is an unjustifiable limitation of freedom here never criticized the Knesset, as far as I can remember, when it banned Kahane’s Kach party in 1988. It seems that these great defenders of absolute freedom are quite happy when it is their opponents who are banned.

In the end, many people in this world, including many diaspora Jews and not only those on the Left, are quite eager to see a mote in Israel’s eye while missing the beam elsewhere.

A JStreet "rabbi" endorses Hamas bombarding of Sderot

David Mivasair of Vancouver, who calls himself a rabbi but is also listed as Chaplain of the First United Church of Vancouver, is a member of the “rabbinic cabinet” of the Soros-financed pressure group JStreet.

Here he is on a street corner in Vancouver, explaining why he supports the Hamas bombardments of Israeli civilians at Sderot

hat tip: Richard Klagsbrun

UPDATE Sept. 5, 2011:  Mivasair has removed this video from Youtube.  With people like that, you must be grateful when they don’t have the courage of their convictions.

UPDATE, July 30, 2013:  Here, compliments of FresnoZionism, are Mivasair’s words as uttered on the video that he has removed:

Whenever we read about … I have to say about a puny, ineffective rocket fired into some place like Sderot, something to think about is very likely that very likely the people firing it are the children or grandchildren of people who perhaps once lived in Sderot. But it wasn’t Sderot, it was a Palestinian village that had existed there for centuries that had several hundred people who were forcibly expelled at gunpoint and when the place was empty, then Jews moved in and built a town…

UPDATE Jan. 2, 2013
Here he is, in a street-corner appearance in Vancouver on Nov. 18, 2012, declaring his support to Hamas and his enmity to Israel:

see my previous posting on JStreet

More than eighty of JStreet’s rabbis are active against Israel

Chomsky’s Veracity Problem — continued

“Wer die Wahrheit nicht weiß, der ist bloß ein Dummkopf. Aber wer sie weiß, und sie eine Lüge nennt, der ist ein Verbrecher!” (‘He who does not know the truth is merely an ignoramus. But someone who does know it while calling it a lie, that person is a criminal.’) – Bertolt Brecht

Noam Chomsky is now eighty-two years old. He is an academic linguist, but for the last half century the bulk of his considerable energy has been devoted to his two grand passions: his hatred of American society, and his even greater, enduring and consuming hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. And yes, his problems with veracity have remained as troubling as ever.

Partners in Hate. Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers

There is now an “official website” of Noam Chomsky’s which republishes many of his offenses against the truth over the years. Stuart Easterling, according to the site, is the person in charge of it.

The list of Chomsky’s prevarications is long and depressing, and it would be tedious to rehearse it here (“The top 200 Chomsky lies” have been described by Paul Bogdanor). But I have had a personal brush with Chomsky which, despite the years that have intervened, is kept current by him and/or his supporters, and therefore worth describing now.

It began when I detailed, back in 1985, Chomsky’s active collaboration with the French Holcaust-denial group La Vieille Taupe (VT) which was then led by Pierre Guillaume, Robert Faurisson, and Serge Thion.

After Chomsky and Edward Herman published their “Political Economy of Human Rights” in 1979, the problem came up of who would publish a French translation. Pierre Guillaume wrote an account of his friendship with Chomsky (in an essay “Une mise au point” in a volume “Droit et Histoire”) that shows Chomsky eager to help VT and Guillaume by allowing them to publish this translation of the Chomsky-Herman volume. Guillaume relates that Chomsky could have had a main-line publisher do this but refused, specifically to help Guillaume and VT.

After I published my report of the Guillaume essay, Chomsky — in a letter to a Canadian Communist journal and then in a personal letter to a correspondent — says that he read the Guillaume essay and that it contains nothing at all remotely relevant to the issue of his book. Moreover, Chomsky maintains, Cohn is a “pathological liar.” These Chomsky letters are now part of Chomsky’s “official website.”
Chomsky also maintains that the French version of his book was not at all published by VT, but rather by the “mainline” publisher J-E Halier/Albin Michel. The truth of the matter, as explained by Guillaume, is that he, Guillaume, directed this publication for Halier/Michel. Moreover, the catalog of the Bibliotheque National in Paris lists the book as published by Hallier / Michel, in a collection Le Puits et le Pendule, which, it explains, is directed by Pierre Guillaume at La Vieille Taupe:

Type : texte imprimé, monographie
Auteur(s) : Chomsky, Noam (1928-….)
Herman, Edward S. (1925-….)
Titre(s) : Économie politique des droits de l’homme [Texte imprimé] / Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman
Traduction de : Political economy of human rights
Publication : Paris : J.-E. Hallier : A. Michel, 1981
Description matérielle : 23 cm
Collection : Le Puits et le pendule, ISSN 0248-5478
Lien à la collection : Essai (Paris. 1978).
Le Puits et le pendule.
Sujet(s) : Droits de l’homme

Note(s) : Un ouvrage annoncé comme faisant partie de la collection a paru dans une autre collection
Collection dirigée par Pierre Guillaume
Certains volumes sont numérotés
Variante(s) de l’adresse : Paris : Éd. de la Différence, 1982- ; Paris : la Vieille taupe, 1985- ; Beaune-la-Rolande : Éd. de la Vieille taupe, [2009]-
Périodicité : Collection
Autre(s) forme(s) du titre :
– Autre forme du titre : Collection Le Puits et le pendule

So Cohn is a “pathological liar.” Guillaume did not say at all what in fact he did say. And the catalog of the Bibliotheque National in Paris ? Also part of a Zionist conspiracy against Noam Chomsky ?

I have collected all the details here, including links to the Guillaume essay in both French and English. (The catalog entries at the Bibliotheque Nationale, which I have just now discovered, are new at the present blog posting). Of course this dispute is more than twenty years old, and I could surely be excused for dropping it — if it weren’t for the fact that Chomsky’s “official website” continues to call me a “pathological liar” and also maintains that I have never “dared to respond” to Chomsky on this (see here and here). So I wrote a polite request to Mr. Stuart Easterling, the person in charge of the “official website,” requesting that he furnish his readers with a link to my responses to Chomsky. And no, Mr. Easterling has not deigned to reply.