Sunday, June 8, 2008
Short Takes Before Shavuot
1. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish People on Mount Sinai. It is also the agricultural feast of the first fruits. In the last few years, some people have observed the custom of staying up all night and going to lectures on Judaism. Even secular Jews have started attending some of these talks. Not yours truly. I will stay home and learn texts till midnight, go to sleep, and go to shul at 6:30 in the morning. Then I will come home, read, and take it easy until lunch, when the children and grandchildren are coming over. I don't get the custom of staying up all night, since it usually wrecks people for the next day (not to mention for the morning prayer service.) 2. Despite the unusually gloomy picture, small victories can be celebrated (and larger losses mourned.) On Thursday, the High Court of Justice ruled that "Breaking the Silence" can resume their tours of Hebron and the West Bank. As their attorney, Michael Sfard, pointed out in Thursday's Haaretz here, these tours had been suspended after a group on one of the tours was attacked by the Hebron settlers. The government lost this one. Of course, now the settlers are going to ask the High Court to suspend the tours, but they don't have a chance there. Unfortunately, Gisha lost its petition to the High Court to bring relief in Gaza. 3. Speaking of Michael Sfard, I am reading the new book by him and by Shaul Arieli, of the dovish Council for Peace and Security. The book is called in Hebrew Homah u-Mehdal, "Wall and Failure" (a play on the phrase Homah u-Migdal, "Wall and Tower," the watch-cry of the Zionist settlements. The book's title in English translation is "The Wall of Folly." Anyway, this is the first book-length treatment of Israel's land-grab wall. Basically, Sfard shows how illegal the wall is and Arieli shows how the wall damages Israel's security. Since nobody in the world who is not Israeli or a Zionist thinks that the land-grab wall is legal, much of Sfard's part of the book is like shooting fish in a barrel. But I will speak more about the wall later. (The reason why I don't call the land-grab wall a "security fence" is because it has nothing to do with Israeli security. In fact, there is no evidence that it has increased Israeli security, since there is no evidence linking the wall with the drop in suicide bombing. Those who argue that the wall stops suicide-bombing are guilty of the elementary post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. But I have discussed this elsewhere. There is abundant evidence, of course, that the route of the wall was chosen to annex land, both to the settlements today and to Israel tomorrow, despite Israeli denials. Even the High Court has accepted that evidence. Needless to say, the book is being translated into English. You can read about it here 4. A fascinating book that I have been waiting to appear for a long time is Chaim Gans's book, A Just Zionism: On the Morality of the Jewish State. I will have a lot to say about that book after the Shavuot holiday. Stay tuned. 5. And Walt and Mearsheimer are appearing at Hebrew University this week, the guests of the Department of Political Science. After the disgusting ritual of the candidates at AIPAC last week (see Jon Stewart for his take), they will have a lot to talk about.