Dear Campus Campers: Do You Know What You’re Up Against? Hint:

It’s not the police, or the university administrations, or President Biden. It’s this:

These numbers are from late March, before your movement spread widely. We’ll have to see how your protests move the numbers—and in which direction.

I am sympathetic to student protests, having been in the leadership of some on two university campuses in the ‘60s. Our two main goals were 1) to end segregation (the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was our real leader on that) and 2) to end the war in Vietnam. In retrospect, I still believe today what I believed then: We were right on both counts.

But were we successful? On the first count, we accomplished a lot, although there was a long way to go, and there still is now. One big reason for this relative success was of course Dr. King, but another was President Lyndon Baynes Johnson, who politically strong-armed into existence the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (yes, the same laws being broken apart by the current Supreme Court). Nevertheless in those years the culture of the country with regard to race improved in some ways that are difficult to reverse.

But on the second goal, ending the war, we failed miserably. Continue reading

Gaza: The Goebsie Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards

Today, I will reveal the honorees for First Annual—okay, they might have to be more frequent—Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards, for the individuals or collectives who have done the most recently to promote the Big Lie and the Blood Libel against the Jewish people (see chart for hints).

Timeline of deaths with blood libelers

But first: Just as the holy, peaceful, month of Ramadan—including four sacred Fridays and the feast of Eid-al-Fitr—blessedly passed with none of the predicted Islamic violence on the Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary), in the Middle East, and throughout the world, so the martial, belligerent, massive, unprecedented attack on Israel last night passed with virtually no damage. The coalition that completely blocked the attack included the US, the UK, France, and Jordan shooting down Iranian missiles and drones and Saudi Arabia providing logistic support. Imagine the degree of cooperation that such coordinated response must have involved. Now imagine the formidable coalition that will follow the war, annealed by alliance against this attack. My brother likens the attack to an amateur boxer throwing a hundred punches none of which lands, then waiting with tired arms for the professional blow that will pop his lights out. Now we’ll see what punch Israel uses. Its stock market finished higher today.

But back to our Big Lie-Blood Libel Awards, known colloquially as Goebbsies in honor of Joseph Goebbels, the master propagandist who put it to history’s most effective use.

The chart above shows today’s Goebbsie honorees against the timeline of the dramatically declining deaths in Gaza since the war started. These are total deaths in successive two-week periods (the blue line) as provided by the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry and reported by the United Nations. There are many reasons to doubt these numbers, which are almost certainly over-estimates, but I am accepting them for present purposes because I want to focus on the steep decline—by Hamas’s numbers—and the remarkable fact that the lower the number of deaths got, the bigger the Big Lie got and the Bloodier the Blood Libel got as well. Five of the six Big Lies and Blood Libels shown here were smeared on Israel and the Jews when the number of deaths was about one quarter of what it was in the first month of the war—and declining. Continue reading

Gaza War: A Visual Aid

(Blogging on the Gaza War since January 14th. Please link them on to others.)

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I shouldn’t have much more work to do this week. I started with the very good public website of Kevin Drum, who presented the first graph in the top half of the picture (panel a). Based on data from the (Hamas-run) Gaza Health Ministry via the UN, it displays the daily deaths (red dots) of Gazans from October 7 to February 19, with a linear function (dotted black line) fitted to the daily data. This function declines from between 300-400 in October to 100 in February.

The lower part of the figure (panel b, my responsibility alone) is my attempt to extend Drum’s excellent graph from February to today. The daily deaths (also from the Gaza Health Ministry via the UN) are shown as blue dots, with the red line representing the 7-day moving average. Please note that the two graphs are on very different scales. Continue reading

Gaza War: Silly Sauce

(Scroll down to see earlier posts starting January 14th.)

Given certain remarks in the news lately, I thought it might be silly season, but not everybody is silly. Upon careful investigation I learned about Silly Sauce. Like beluga caviar, it is only for a select few—but not the rich. Only political leaders who can’t resist sipping it and don’t mind brain fog.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) first alerted me. He must have sipped some from his hip flask before going down to the Senate floor on March 14th. It was an interesting speech, touching to me in many ways. He said he was speaking for “a silent majority” of “mainstream Jewish Americans” in his “nuanced” view of the Gaza War. He’s a landsman of mine; I went to the next high school over from his a few years earlier. We grew up in the same culture of Brooklyn-Jewish love for Israel in the time when its survival was unlikely. “We love Israel in our bones.”

But, “What horrifies so many Jews especially…is that Israel is falling short” of “distinctive Jewish values.” What exactly are those? He recounts the history of the conflict and the “perfidy” of Hamas in a way that most Jews, including Israelis, can accept. He blasts the right-wing thugs in the Israeli cabinet and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “obstacles to peace.”

Fine. But he gives Bibi Netanyahu special attention. Almost all he says about Bibi would be endorsed by the great majority of Israelis. Eighty-five percent disapprove of Bibi, and a growing number support early elections—which Schumer crossed a line to call for.

But here’s the silly part: Schumer calls Bibi too an obstacle to peace, which implies that without him the war would be different. It would not. If 85 percent of Israelis dislike Bibi, about the same percentage approve of how the war is being conducted. Replace Bibi with Gantz or Gallant, and you will get the same war, the same operation in Rafa, the same checking of aid trucks for weapons. The vast majority of Israelis want the war to continue until Hamas is completely disabled.

Apparently Chuck then passed the Silly Sauce on to Vice President Kamala Harris, Continue reading

Anti-Zionism is Antisemitism

(Scroll down to see earlier posts in this series, beginning January 14th.)

This will be my most personal posting, since its wellspring is my childhood experience. Although I supply citations, I could have written this from memory. One example: during the years I was praying regularly (age 8-17), I said these words every day: V’tekhazena eyneynu b’shuvkha l’Tzion b’rakhamim—May our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy. In fact, observant Jews said it three times every day for twenty centuries, as part of the Amidah,[1] the holiest prayer after the Shema (Hear O Israel). Along with God’s Unity and the primacy of Torah—the first five books of the Bible—the longing for Zion is intrinsic to the Jewish faith.

Let’s go back to, not the beginning of Judaism, but early enough: the composition of Psalm 137, roughly 2,500 years old, describing the exile of Jews in Babylon. Some may recall the 1970s Rastafari song that echoed the Psalm:

By the rivers of Babylon, where we sat down,

And there we wept, when we remembered Zion…

For the Jamaican singers, Zion stood for Africa, but, as with other African diaspora songs, they adopted the ancient Jewish narrative as a symbol for their suffering. But for the Jews in Babylon it was no metaphor. It was brutal exile and a desperate longing for home. The psalm begins as the song does, but in lines 5-6,

If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning…

Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.

Continue reading

Gaza War: Academic Fairy Tales

(Scroll down to see earlier posts in this series, beginning January 14th.)

Fair Harvard, thy sons to thy jubilee throng,

And in faith with thy glorious past,

By these odious rites now surrender thee o’er

To the murders and rapes of Hamas.*

This rewrite of the first stanza of Harvard’s alma mater—find the original wording and the history here—is impolite but not unfair, given the recent outpouring of hatred of Israel and, to a lesser extent, of Jews, on this nearly 400-year-old American campus. Most pointedly, Harvard’s students and faculty have supported a terror group whose grotesque atrocities against Jews and others in Israel are unprecedented in modern times. Can Harvard students and faculty be useful idiots, shills for Hamas mass murderers?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no desire to limit the free speech of deluded or even malicious faculty and students. Only a few have gone so far as to merit a legal crackdown against them. I’m not saying it’s fine to spew hatred of Israel, Zionism, and Jews, merely that I have to weigh these wrongs against the wrong of muzzling them, and given the first amendment’s protections, letting them puke up their lies is the lesser of two evils. But that doesn’t mean there are no remedies.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wisely said that the remedy for noxious speech is more speech, and Jewish students on these campuses can avail themselves of that opportunity—although at a risk of harm if they do or even if they let it be known that they are Jewish. They of course cannot have anything like the kind of college experience they signed up and paid for, just to stay in their rooms and go warily to class in groups and in daylight hours. That is the price they must pay for the first amendment protections of others, and ultimately their own, if they go to those schools.

Continue reading

Gaza, Israel, and the United Notions

I was born in August 1946; the first UN meetings were held in London in January that year. So the UN and I are the same age—you might say, nonidentical twins. I have followed it from an early age, and I am glad to report that—despite the small scale and limitations of my lifetime efforts—I have done better with my challenges than my twin has in its equal lifetime.

Per the UN itself, the genocides in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s proved “in the worst possible way” that the UN repeatedly failed to prevent this horror, despite being able to do so. It failed to stop and even to recognize earlier genocides in Indonesia (1960s) and Cambodia (1970s) and much more recent ones in Darfur, Iraq and Syria (against the Yazidis), and Myanmar (the Rohingya). The UN rights council refused to discuss China’s ongoing genocide of Uighur Muslims.

The UN’s failure to prevent small wars—more than 200 in its lifetime and mine—speaks for itself; advocates argue that it has prevented World War III, but that is conjectural. Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning its Ukraine invasion, although the General Assembly passed it overwhelmingly. The UN has done good work against hunger and slavery and promoting sustainable development, but has consistently fallen short of its own stated goals. More than 780 million people (and rising) face hunger, and there are more slaves in the world today than ever before in human history.

Continue reading

Gaza Plus

From the moment it moved its first aircraft carrier into the eastern Mediterranean, the US has adamantly said and said again that it wants to avoid a regional war. Despite that reluctance, regional war is here.

In a sense it has been from the start, since Iran (a non-Arab, often anti-Arab country) is on the east of the region, but its empire of vassals and proxies control Lebanon, Gaza, and Yemen as well as infiltrating Iraq and Syria with its own soldiers (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC) and arming Hamas in the occupied West Bank.

After the US accepted more than 160 attacks on its limited forces and facilities in Iraq and Syria, three US soldiers (two women and a man) were killed about two weeks ago, and the US vowed retaliation. Heavy strikes directed at key targets in Syria and Iraq occurred last Friday night, with more to come.

The Houthis, the terrorist group controlling Yemen, has for months attacked merchant ships in the Red Sea, impeding twenty percent of world commerce and decimating Suez Canal traffic. The group also attacks US naval vessels. Continue reading

Gaza War: Some Numbers

Please see below (“Concerning the War in Gaza”, January 14) for my overview of the war, and the disclaimer introducing it, also applicable here. So is this: Every death is a terrible loss, and every civilian death more so.


In 1944, General Curtis Lemay was appointed to command the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force) in the Pacific Theater, his predecessor having been fired for a reluctance to bomb civilians. Lemay soon ordered the fire-bombing of Tokyo with napalm, killing as many as 100,000 people in six hours. He repeated this in other Japanese cities, with the estimated total deaths ranging from 241,000 to 900,000. This was before the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed another 129,000 to 226,000. These mass bombings were not directed at military targets (few were involved) but were carpet bombings of civilians. To many, Lemay is a hero.

Similar incendiary bombings, also creating firestorms, were carried out by the British and Americans in the German cities of Hamburg and Dresden, killing at least scores of thousands. Civilian populations being what they are, most of the victims in all these cases were women and children. Causing terror was their explicit goal, in the service of ending the war. Some considered these war crimes, but they were never tried or punished as such. German mass murder of civilians, using different methods, was of much greater magnitude, and was punished.

In part in reaction to the destructiveness of that war, the 1949 Geneva Conventions greatly strengthened the laws defining and prohibiting war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide, a term coined to describe what the Germans did to the Jews, but subsequently applied—in a few cases I think legitimately—to other mass killings. It has more often been misapplied. Continue reading

Concerning the War in Gaza

After focusing on the Gaza war since 7:30 am on October 7th, I’ve finally decided to begin writing about it. People ask for my opinion and I will now refer them here. If you read on, that is what you will get. I will not keep saying, “In my opinion” again and again, so please assume it. Today I will give my overview, which may be followed by other, future entries.

*****

Israel is at war with the empire of Iran, which includes the failed state of Lebanon, the territory of Gaza, and the faltering state of Yemen. Iran rules these entities through the terror groups Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis respectively. Like Iran, they are sworn to eliminate Israel. Through these and other proxies, Iran also controls parts of Syria and Iraq and has significantly infiltrated the West Bank. Since Iran is not an Arab country, this is larger than the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The question of whether Iran gives directives to these proxies on a day to day basis is irrelevant. It nurtures, trains, arms, consults, and plans with them and has done so for many years. They don’t do anything without Iran’s approval before and after the fact. Meanwhile Iran progresses steadily toward a nuclear arsenal (which Israel already has). Continue reading