Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
On Sept. 10, 2001, nobody in America seemed to know anything about Islam. On Sept. 12, 2001, everybody seemed to know everything about Islam. Well, not quite; but it is really a wonder the way the arcane particulars of an alien civilization now trip off every tongue. People who would not know if a page of Arabic is upside down or right side up helpfully expound upon the meaning of jahilliyah. Sayyid Qutb is quickly overtaking Reinhold Niebuhr as the theologian about whom the un- or antitheological pronounce with the most serene authority. Nothing creates intellectual confidence like catastrophe. After the mind breaks, it stiffens; in the aftermath of grief, it lets in only certainty. In a time of war, complexity is suspected of a sapping effect, and so a mental curfew is imposed. From the maxim that we must know our enemy, we infer that our enemy may be easily known.According to Wieseltier
Amis seems to regard his little curses as almost military contributions to the struggle. He has a hot, heroic view of himself. He writes as if he, with his wrinkled copies of Bernard Lewis and Philip Larkin, is what stands between us and the restoration of the caliphate. He is not only outraged by Sept. 11, he is also excited by it. “If Sept. 11 had to happen, then I am not at all sorry that it happened in my lifetime.” Don’t you see? It no longer matters that we missed the Spanish Civil War. ¡No pasarán!I particularly like the phrase: "with his wrinkled copies of Bernard Lewis and Philip Larkin." What passes for knowledge of Islam among non-Muslims is so pathetic. Not that Wieseltier has adopted a multi-cultural stance towards all faiths and creeds. He is still very much the liberal hawk that many of my readers can't abide. And yes, there is the obligatory line that shows that he, too, can be an undiscriminating Islamist basher:
[Amis] is correct that in Islamism the many doctrines of antimodernism, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are one doctrineAnd there is a nary a word about other, more moderate forms of Islam, or non-lethal forms of Islamism. But the book offends deeply two components of Wieseltier's identity -- his commitment to historical scholarship in all its complexity, and his faith as a religious Jew. Only a deeply religious person could have been so wounded by Amis's indiscriminate attacks on religion, as if it is the source of all modern evils. What Amis and others of his ilk don't realize is that reason, tolerance, and skepticism, are found just as much among the religious as they are among the secular or among the great masses of neither -- and this is as it has always been. Bigotry, sloppy thinking, and, I may add, bad writing, are not the monopoly of any group. On the contrary, the position of the religious intellectual in society, as a member of a beleaguered minority within an elite, cultivates her intellecutal skepticism and humility. Yasher Koah, Leon. Maybe this calls for an extra shot next Shabbat.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 25, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Observing Passover When Still Enslaved -- A Response to Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf's "Liberation and Obligation"
Note: This post is dedicated to my former Hillel rabbi, Rabbi Arnold J. Wolf, one of the first American Jews to challenge the consensus thinking on Israel, and a simply wonderful human being. Arnie has written a piece called Liberation and Obligation in which, in his typical fashion, he balances the liberation of the Palestinians (i.e., the end of the occupation) with the obligation of both sides "to recognize the humanity of the other, and work together toward their mutual freedom, their mutual obligations." Balancing liberation and obligation is a life-long theme of Rabbi Wolf's work, and, to my knowledge, is a cornerstone of his own take on Torah. But it is also, in this context, a caution to the Jewish left to balance its criticism of Israel's morality and concern with the suffering of the Palestinians, with the recognition that the Palestinians are no less morally obligated -- and that Israelis are no less deserving than they are to be free from fear and terror. This is my response to his essay.For some time I have been thinking of what a "Palestinian Haggadah" would look like. The Haggadah is the book read around Jewish dinner tables on Passover that recounts the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and celebrates their future homecoming: "This year we are here; next year we will be in Jerusalem." I stopped the project for two reasons. First, while the parallels were painfully apparent (compare Pharoah's, "Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us..." with the interminable Zionist discussion of the "demographic problem"), the differences are real, and the project counterproductive. True, a "Palestinian Haggadah" may be instructive for us Jews; it may help to "circumcise the hearts" of those of us who have been made "hard-hearted" by our own tribalism and post-Holocaust traumas. But most Jews I know really aren't interested in having their hearts circumcised by reading parallels between the oppression of the Gazans by Israel and the Israelites by Pharoah. Still, were this difficulty surmountable, there is another, more powerful reason for abandoning the idea: The Haggadah celebrates liberation, but the Palestinians are still oppressed. How do you celebrate the Feast of Freedom when you are still enslaved? The answer, according to the Bible, is that you observe Passover before you are free. You unite as a people while you are still under enslavement -- indeed, your sense of national identity comes to you partly as a result of that enslavement. You celebrate yourselves as a people, you remember happier days, you resolve to press onward with your liberation and never to despair: "This year we are here. Next year we will be in al-Quds". That is my modern reading of the very first Passover, described in Exodus 12, which was celebrated shortly before the exodus. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice and to eat the pascal lamb, and to prepare themselves for leaving Egypt, while the Lord was striking for them the firstborn of the Egyptians. They were commanded to repeat the ritual year after year, and to tell their children not that it was because the Lord had liberated them from slavery -- for He had not done that yet -- but because He had killed the first born of the Egyptians and had "passed over" the Israelites (whence the name, "Passover".) They were to celebrate their own salvation as well as the mass killings of their Egyptian oppressors -- a harsh celebration, no doubt, yet befitting an oppressed people that had only recently entered into a covenant with God, a people who, like people everywhere, were concerned first and foremost with their own situation; a spiritually impoverished people, no doubt, but desparate for their own freedom, and conditioned by their slavery. To judge such a people from the mountain top of Sinai, and what is worse, to condition their liberation on their being able to give assurances that they will not rise up against their oppressors (who may actually have their own good reasons for continuing that oppression) is simply unfair -- unless you make the same requirement of your own people. Of course, no people is given carte blanche to act in any way that it sees fit. We are all of us after Sinai, Jerusalem, and Mecca, and, for that matter, after Noah, and after the Geneva conventions. There are standards to which decent states must conform. If I don't spare myself or my people moral criticism, then who am I? But if I only single them out for such treatment, then what am I? But there is a progression: first national consciousness and national struggle,then national liberation and the hope for true freedom and security, and then -- and only then, the acceptance of the law and obligations of states. Before Sinai can occur, there had to first be a people (Passover celebrated in Egypt), then a liberated people (Passover celebrated after Sinai), and only then, a nation that takes its place with other nations (Shavuot celebrated after the Giving of the Law). I repeat what I have said before. The State of Israel was not born as a result of a peace agreement with the natives of Palestine or the surrounding nations. You can see this as a reason to oppose the legitimacy of Israel -- many do. But progressive Zionists don't. They argue for Israel's legitimacy, despite the fact that it came into existence by a unilateral declaration of independence in the midst of an inevitable war, which both sides prepared for and fought. (I am not suggesting that progressive Zionists did not criticize Jewish behavior during the war. But they believed, and believe still, that the declaration of independence without the agreement of the Palestinian Arabs was just.) For progressive Zionists to have one standard for Jewish liberation and another standard for Palestinian liberation is inexplicable to me. And yet...must the Palestinians win their state in the same way that the Israelis won theirs? Is there no better way? Can such states, born in violence without any agreement, be truly viable? Wouldn't it be better for all us -- Palestinians and Israelis -- to be in the mindset of Sinai rather than in the mindset of the Egyptian enslavement? If there is another way, then it is when human beings realize that they must bind together to prevent injustice and the oppression. That is our agenda now, and that is our agenda first. Justice now, peace as soon as possible thereafter. I believe that we will all, one day, get to Sinai, and I hope that we shall all listen to the voice coming from Sinai then. But now our discourse should focus freedom and liberation -- for them and for us -- from the inequities and injustices of the last sixty years. A happy and healthy festival of freedom to us all
Monday, April 14, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The Dove of Peace? Or Rather the Hammer of Justice and the Bell of Freedom? On the Thirtieth Anniversary of Peace Now
"Evangelical Christians and Jewish people will stand together, declaring a God of love, not hatred, and calling for peace, not violence," said Rabbi Riskin, who recently launched the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel” (From a press release; see here)The American philosopher Thomas Nagel has pointed to a phenomenon he calls “circumstantial moral luck”. There are people who find themselves in circumstances in which they act immorally. His example is the Germans who supported Hitler in the 1930’s. Certainly, they are deserving of moral censure, because they chose to act immorally. But had these same Germans emigrated before Hitler came to power, they would not have had the opportunity to act immorally. It was their “bad moral luck” to be in Germany. Well, it is not exactly the bad moral luck of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, to be deeply implicated in the immorality of the settlement enterprise. After all, he chose to leave the United States to lead Efrat – arguably one of the most harmful, and certainly the most hypocritical, of the West Bank settlements. (See my "There are no kosher settlements.") Still, had Rabbi Riskin stayed in the United States, he may have had a pretty decent career as a liberal orthodox rabbi. Riskin was never an intellectual or for that matter, much of a talmid hakham. But he was very good at presenting a liberal version of traditional Judaism back in the late sixties and early seventies, and he was a bridge-builder between various communities, Jewish and non-Jewish, in New York. But seduced by the dark side of religious Zionism, and driven by the dream of empire-building on cheap land, he emigrated to Israel and founded (with Moshe Moshkowitz) the town of Efrat, a sprawling settlement built entirely on Palestinian private and public land that never ceases to expand into, and pollute, the surrounding region. Through this his life-project, Riskin has caused more tragedy and pain to more Palestinians than any other rabbi of modern times, certainly more than Meir Kahane and his ilk. Yes, that is a tough judgment. Let me explain what leads me to make it. You see, it hurts me, as an orthodox Jew, when an ethnic chauvinist like Meir Kahane spouts racist pap in the name of traditional Judaism. It hurts me more when a cultured rightwing rabbi like Rabbi Dr. Nahum Rabinowitz appeals to John Locke (!) in order to protest against the evacuation of settlers, But it hurts me most when a “liberal modern orthodox rabbi” like Riskin offers moral justifications for his stands that are so transparently self-serving, and, well, so extraordinarily bad. And, it is not just his arguments, but the consequences of his actions for the surrounding Palestinians of the growth of the Efrat, which should pain any decent human being. To be sure, the initial goal behind Efrat – the creation of a model Torah community in the Land of Israel which would be tolerant of others (at least other Jews) and would offer a liberal vision of Judaism – was a noble one for an orthodox rabbi. One cannot fault Rabbi Riskin for his idealism and his yetzer ha-tov (good inclination). But to build such a community within the 1967 borders was virtually impossible. The availability of West Bank land a stone's throw from Bethlehem, and government subsidies for building in the territories, were too much of a temptation. The yetzer ha-tov bowed to the realities of the yetzer ha-ra’ (evil inclination) eased by the aforementioned moral rationalizations. Take, for example, Riskin’s constant appeal to the “Israeli national consensus”. Already in the late 1970s, he was questioned about the wisdom of building a town on land that was not even annexed by the State of Israel. “Don’t worry,” I heard him tell a potential resident in 1979, “Gush Etzion is in the national consensus. It will never be given back.” I was not sure what he meant by that: Rabin had said around that time that he would not mind traveling to the Etzion Bloc with a passport. The facts that nobody in the world recognized the legitimacy of the settlement movement; that Efrat was even not in the Etzion Bloc, but only in an imagined Etzion bloc that knows no borders, and that the settlements were not entirely uncontroversial even in Israel – did not give him pause. Another example: Although Efrat was built entirely on Palestinian land, Riskin subscribed to the fiction (which was official Israeli dogma then and now, though few besides Riskin actually believed it) that Palestinian public land could be cultivated for Jewish settlement. Of course, it subsequently turned out that most of the land was not public land, but private land, that the public/private distinction made no difference to anybody outside of Israel, and that the Fourth Geneva Convention, according to everybody in the world except for some Israeli and Jewish lawyers, forbade the expropriation of the Occupied Territories by Israel. Any argument in a storm. With the advent of Oslo, Riskin could no longer masquerade as the liberal orthodox rabbi who was willing, “theoretically”, to trade land for peace. He wasn’t even ready to consent to a temporary freeze on Efrat’s expansion that was declared by the second Rabin government, on one of those rare occasions that Israel attempted to adhere to its commitments on settlement freezes. Like the “states-rights” segregationists of the sixties, Riskin appealed to a higher law. In one of the most farcical moments of the Oslo years, he was arrested, draped in a tallit and holding a Sefer Torah (!), on a hill outside Efrat. Here were some of his self-serving justifications made to reporter Ira Rifkin in 1995, the year which outed him as a rightwing extremist in moderate's garb:
"But this land is too small for a separate Palestinian state. It's a prescription for war, and I don't want to commit suicide -- that's also an ethical value," he said.Riskin’s first justification was not unreasonable, then or now. After Israel had prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state for almost a half-century and, contrary to international law and common-sense morality, had expropriated Palestinian land for Jewish settlement and denied both the right of self-determination and Israeli citizenship to the occupied population, the resultant Palestinian state that had international legitimacy since 1947 was, and is, not obviously viable. But it was the conclusion that he drew that showed the defects of his reasoning. After all, the territory allotted to the Zionists by the 1947 partition plan was also tiny and raised the question of that state’s viability. But rather than work to see how a viable Palestinian state would be possible, which would have been a just way to proceed, he decided to deny 3 ½ million people under occupation, and millions of people in exile, any sort of self-determination in their homeland. And why? In order to expand his Torah community, complete with red-roofed villas and swimming pools. (A comparison of the water allotment to Efrat per capita to that of the neighboring El Khader boggles the mind.) Here is another Riskinesque argument from the same article:
[When Efrat was founded] "It was unthinkable that Israel might one day consider giving up this community, and we're not going to leave here.”Unthinkable? Perhaps. The city of Efrat was illegal under international law, but not under the law of the occupier. Before the First Intifada, Riskin could, like a nineteenth-century British colonialist, rely on his self-declared good relations with the village chieftain of neighboring El-Khader to ease any doubts. The land-grab was in full swing, and Riskin could, in his mind, fall back on the idea that Efrat was in the national consensus. But anybody with half-a-brain and not motivated by blind nationalism and a lust for expansion could see that there was something – how should I say – “risky” about building over the Green Line. The sole Israeli argument for Jews settling the Etzion bloc was that it had been settled by Jews prior to 1948, an argument that can justify the return of millions of Palestinians to Israel. But for Israelis like Riskin, the Jews have a right of return to their pre-48 places of residence, but the Palestinians do not. So that is why Riskin in 1995, betrayed by the Palestinans of the First Intifada in 1987, and by the Rabin government in 1993, had to resort to another argument:
“Turn the other cheek is not a Jewish ideal.”Well, “turn the other cheek” is certainly not the ideal of a mafioso, barbarian, or tyrant. But Riskin’s option in the late seventies was not of turning the other cheek but rather of driving people from their lands, people who had rights to those lands even if they had made war on Israel from them, which many of them had not. (By the way, anybody familiar with Jewish writings on ethics know that “turning the other cheek” is a Jewish ideal. To say otherwise is to appropriate an anti-Jewish Christian stereotype, which many modern European Jews, mostly secular, did. As usual, the orthodox later adopted the apologetics of their secular brethren.)
"To the victor belongs the spoils if the victor is moral," he added. "For the immoral loser, there can be no spoils."Ribono shel olam, it is hard to know which is more offensive – the sheer stupidity of the remark or the obtuse moral premise on which it is based. Even if the Palestinian people had, without any provocation, declared an offensive war on Israel, they STILL would have the same right to self-determination as the Israelis had. The question was never one of who started the war, but what people had the right to a state. And it was internationally recognized (though, as Rashid Khalidi points out in the Iron Cage, not recognized enough) that the Palestinians had a right to a state. And who gets to decide who is the aggressor and who is immoral – the victor? Who declared the Palestinians the aggressors? Israel? Riskin’s decline -- or his display of his true colors -- continued. After 1995, if not considerably earlier, he abandoned the argument of “Gush Etzion” for the fundamentalist arguments of Gush Emunim. Suffice it to say that when the question of the illegal outposts arose, all pretence of Efrat’s “legality” was thrown to the winds. In the Fall of 2007 he supported the settlers of Givat Eitam, an expansion of Efrat that was illegal, even by Israeli expansive legal standards. See here. So, given his downward moral spiral of the last thirty years, should we be surprised that the rabbi who marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma in the sixties (he says) is now allied with conservative Christian evangelicals like the Reverend John Hagee? Now, it is not unusual for orthodox Jews to make common cause with conservative Christians on social issues -- and against liberal Jews. That tradition goes back at least as far as fifteenth-century Spain – just read the praise of Christian thinkers by such Jewish conservatives as Isaac Abravanel and Isaac Arama, etc., against earlier Jewish thinkers” such as Joseph ibn Kaspi and Moses of Narbonne (thinkers who had been led astray, according to Abravnel and Arama, by Arabic Aristotelianism.) And in the nineteenth century, the first orthodox Jewish political party made common cause with Polish Catholics in their fight against Jewish liberals. The coalition managed to win a seat in the Austrian parliament for the orthodox chief rabbi of Cracow. The coalition of orthodox Jews and conservative Christians is as Jewish as bagels and lox. What is irksome in the Riskin-Hagee partnership is that what brings them together – outside of their shared lust for the Holy Land – is their common hatred for Islam. “Islam itself seems poised for world domination,” opines Rabbi Riskin, “following a line of jihad-inspired Wahhabi fanaticism.” Pretty soon he will have us reading the Protocols of the Elders of the House of Saud, I suppose. Contrast Riskin’s new rightwing “Center for Jewish Christian Understanding and Tolerance” in Efrat with the more inclusive “Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies” in Baltimore. Both groups were founded for the purpose of fostering understanding between two religions. Yet when the Baltimore Institute saw the ignorance and growing prejudice of Jews and Christians against Islam, it hosted a lecture series last spring, inviting four prominent experts on Islam to explain “What Jews and Christians Need to Know About Islam.” Whereas Riskin’s group’s mission statement raises the specter of “confused and concerned masses threatened to be overwhelmed by material secularism on the one hand and Islamic fundamentalism on the other.” In other words, Riskin’s group has bought into the bigotry of the Christian right against Islam. Nary a mention of moderate Muslims. Of course, Rabbi Riskin is savvy enough to know about the moderate Muslims. But God forbid he should mention them, or how they are the majority of the world’s billion plus Muslims. That would ruin his lucrative coalition with the Christian Islamophobes. You know, the yetzer ha-ra’ (“evil inclination”) works in mysterious ways. Instead of fighting bigotry (which would include, in my mind, fighting Islamic, Christian, and Jewish bigotry) it seduces “moderate” rabbis like Riskin into sanctifying bigotry. How ironic that in order to justify Jewish dialogue with Christians, Rabbi Riskin cites the following passage from Maimonides’ Code of Law.
"There is no human power to comprehend the designs of the Creator of the Universe since our ways are not His ways and our thoughts are not His thoughts. Hence all of the words of Jesus the Nazarene and of the Ishmaelite who came after him (Muhammad) served to pave the way for the King Messiah and to repair the whole world to serve the Lord in unison, for it is written, (Zephania 9:3), 'I shall make all the people pure of speech, so that they all call upon the name of the Lord and serve Him with one heart.' "How so? The entire world has been filled with the words of the Messiah and the words of the Torah and the words of the commandments, and these words have been disseminated even to faraway islands, and to many nations of uncircumcised hearts, who are now dealing with these concepts and with Biblical commandments…"Now, as Rabbi Riskin knows, Maimonides considered Islam to be a monotheistic religion and, theologically less objectionable than Christianity. Maimonides preferred Islam to Christianity, although he was certainly familiar with fanatical Muslims like the Almohads, who had forced him and his family to leave Spain. But on Riskin’s interpretation, Maimonides’s statement justifies a partnership only with Christians. Muslims – even non-Arab Muslims -- are dropped from the team. The truth is that Maimonides’ statement justifies nothing of the kind. It doesn’t speak of partnership or tolerance; rather, it is an attempt by a medieval thinker to fathom why God would allow such “false” religions as Islam and Christianity to thrive. If, however, we want to use Maimonides for the sake of interfaith understanding, we should at least be true to the symmetry he posits between the two religions, Islam and Christianity. But to do that, one would not have to be a truly liberal orthodox rabbi who believes in fostering understanding between religions for its own sake (such as Rabbi David Rosen, whom you should read about here), and not one who speaks with the voice of a liberal Jacob, but wears the garb of an Uzi-wielding Esau. Not a rabbi who divides his moral universe into those who support his empire and those who do not. U-ve-khol zot. And yet…Rabbi Riskin has been a moderating force in some areas of orthodoxy, such as the participation of women in advanced Torah study, and the plight of the agunah. What a pity that he had the bad “moral luck” to be caught up in the settlement enterprise. When the Jews leave Efrat – and by God they will, sooner or later (unless they live there under the jurisdiction of the state of Palestine, may it speedily be built),-- some of Riskin’s legacy may be salvaged in his institutions of Torah learning. Unless they succumb to the morality of their founder.
Friday, April 4, 2008
"Even when we seek revenge, it is important to make one thing clear – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs. "The Talmud states that if gentiles rob Israel of silver they will pay it back in gold, and all that is taken will be paid back in folds, but in cases like these there is nothing to pay back, since as I said – the life of one yeshiva boy is worth more than the lives of 1,000 Arabs," added Rabbi Eliyahu.And Sheikh Yunis al-Astal, from Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas's anti-Judaism in the Times.
"The reason for the punishment of burning is that it is fitting retribution for what [the Jews] have done,” Mr. Astal wrote on March 13. “But the urgent question is, is it possible that they will have the punishment of burning in this world, before the great punishment” of hell? Many religious leaders believe so, he said, adding, “Therefore we are sure that the holocaust is still to come upon the Jews."And as for the Reverend Wright...well, I don't have to cite his statements, do I? The reactions to these statements range from enthusiastic support to unrelenting condemnation of the statement and the speaker, including calls for silencing him in some way. Somewhere in the middle, trying to juggle conflicting values and conflicting loyalties, thinking people may be found. How should they react to hatred and to offensive statements? As somebody who defines himself as liberal and orthodox (hence, a fundamentalist), here are some of my thoughts: 1. Don't assume that the speaker is articulating a well-thought-out and consistent ideology. Religious folks, like everybody else, hold inconsistent beliefs. That is because they are generally not that sophisticated and because their sources speak with many voices. The Talmud teaches "Righteous gentiles merit a place in the World-to-come" as well as "Kill the best of gentiles." What you hear depends on what best serves the immediate interests of the speaker. 2. Religious rhetoric is particularly inflammatory -- but don't assume that the cleric buys into the implications what he is saying, even when he says it. "Rabin is an informer"; "The Arabs are Amalek"; "The Jews are apes and pigs," etc., are not harmless statements; they can lead others to kill. But they are said all too often in the way reserved for unthinking people (or politicians.) 3. Try to find out about the context of the remarks. There is a big difference between a Palestinian making an anti-Semitic remark during the Second Intifada and a German making the same one during the Holocaust. Both are to be condemned, but the second is to be condemned more. It is one thing for Eliyahu to stand up at a funeral service and make an anti-Arab racist slur. That is bad -- but it could be worse were he not to make it at a time of stress, but at a time of relative peace and coexistence. I am not saying that anti-Semitism is hating Jews more than is strictly necessary (the bon mot attributed to Isaiah Berlin). But I do believe that what is particularly invidious about German anti-Semitism, besides its racism, is that in no way could the Jews be objectively viewed as responsible for the troubles of the Germans. 4. Avoid the human tendency to self-righteousness and smugness. Haaretz used to regularly feature on Sunday mornings some of the outrageous pearls of former Chief Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef in his public lecture the night before. Such statements reaffirmed the moral values and Jewish identity of the secularists, but were counter-productive in trying to engage his community in dialogue. 5. Realize that the inflammatory quotes are the result of cherry-picking. In Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas' anti-Judaism, several quotes appear to have been supplied to him by Jewish and Israeli watchdog associations like MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. Itamar Marcus and Yigal Carmon, both rightwingers, hunt the statements of Hamas as assiduosly as the Clinton campaign hunts the statements of Rev. Wright. It makes for good copy, but does not spread a lot of light. In my opinion, Steven Erlanger's piece on Hamas was a disappointment. He did not talk to a single expert on Hamas or on religious fundamentalism. Rather, like other liberals, he cherry-picked quotes that put Hamas in a very negative light. Is Hamas anti-Semitic? You bet you it is. Just read the charter. But is anti-Semitism at its core? No, at its core is Islamic fundamentalism and a Palestinian national movement. And anti-Zionism and anti-Israelism are not anti-Semitism. The way to dampen the anti-Semitic fervor of Hamas is to force it to confront the images of other Jews besides that of Occupier. And if that fails, do what one can to minimize their influence. Right now, Israel adopts policies that ensure the growth of Hamas.