June 25, 2008

Abraham Foxman defends building settlements and starving children

This is from the 'Dog Bites Man' department: Abraham Foxman defends the indefensible yet again:

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today urged the United Nations World Children's Fund (UNICEF) to reconsider its decision to reject donations from a Jewish philanthropist, saying the move "smacks of selective political discrimination." ADL press release

Let me add some needed Talmudic exegesis to the words of this modern Jewish sage.

Selective political discrimination. Why say political?
We talk about an action or statement that singles out a political ideology, tendency or program and condemns it for some wrong that it contains, promotes or engages in. Examples would be, the abolitionist movement in the U.S., the boycott of South African apartheid, and the Nuremberg Trials. One calls this kind of discrimination political, because it targets the politics of the offender. This is different from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc. which is illegitimate. It is also different from normal criminal prosecution, which is also ipso facto discrimination against the class of offenders, in that it targets wrongs that cannot yet, for whatever reason, be righted through the regular legal mechanism. Law, as they say, is frozen politics. And the process of "freezing" politics into new, more progressive law requires indeed political discrimination. Hence, of course, UNICEF's avoidance of Leviev is indeed political discrimination. It discriminates against those whose politics include, among other offenses, building settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Leviev's actions should be illegal. They are illegal according to international law, but not according to the law enforceable in existing courts. Just as slavery was considered illegal under natural law, but was still legal through the mid 19th century.

More difficult is interpreting the qualifying term "selective," since to discriminate is to be ipso facto selective. We could pretend--following Rabbi Akiva's methods--that no word in the text is superfluous. What Foxman condemns is not the discrimination per se, but its selective application. I understand that Foxman means therefore that political discrimination is wrong unless it is directed at every equal wrong in the universe. Let's call it the Foxman Principle. Applying this principal would mean that it was wrong, for example, to condemn slavery in the U.S. while native-American land was still being stolen. It was wrong to hang the Nazis in Nuremberg while the perpetrators of the massacre of Katyn went unpunished. The choice is presumably this: either we make the whole world into a heaven of complete justice in one big swoop, or we accept that every injustice is made just by the existence of other injustices. If this is the principle of Foxman's politics, it is of course the height of hypocrisy. the ADL claims to fight antisemitism while ignoring much worse contemporary injustices (including, for example, the oppression of Palestinians). It is selectively discriminating against those it accuses of bigotry and prejudice.

But I'm no Rabbi Akiva fan. I'd rather adapt Rabbi Ishmael's opposite principle of exegesis here and assume that Foxman speaks like a run-of-the-mill political hack. His terminology isn't intended to clarify a moral principle but, on the contrary, to obfuscate and to neutralize the conscience. If one may bolster Rabbi Ishmael with George Orwell, Foxman's illocutions are intended "to defend the indefensible...and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind". The practical application of the Foxman Principle would be to neutralize all demands for justice. And that is all that the term "selective political discrimination" really means. It uses the term discrimination as a tarring mechanism, as if not taking Leviev's blood money is somehow similar to having separate toilets for people with different skin colors. It calls it "political" as if that was somewhat wrong. As if opposing Nazism for example is not "political." And so forth. Pure wind with the appearance of solidity.

Jewish Philantropist. No doubt Leviev is Jewish. But that is hardly appropriate as a definition. Is he also a "Philantropist"? Leviev is the 210th wealthiest man in the world. His net worth is $6.5 billion, mostly made from the sweat and blood of African miners and child soldiers. His personal yearly financial income can feed and cloth the whole population of Liberia at the level at which they are currently accustomed (thanks to people like Leviev). His most important value, according to his own words quoted in the New York Times, is making money. A trip to google news can ascertain that he is busy increasing is wealth through property swaps and other ventures. Leviev's philanthropy is a minor concern for him at best and most of it should be anyway qualified with "alleged". Indeed he was caught pretending to donate money he did not in fact donate. Furthermore, the bulk of Leviev's "philanthropy" is to the Chabad movement, a messianic Jewish political movement with strong supremacist overtones and promoter of rabid anti-arab racism. Chabad is one of the ideological mainstay of the settlements movement in Israel. Donating money to Chabad is like donating money to the Klan. You can call it philanthropy, but "misanthropy" would be more accurate.

"At a time when children around the world are in desperate need of food, medical care, education and other aid, it is a sad day when UNICEF has to create unnecessary, arbitrary and discriminatory guidelines in a bid to satisfy the demands of an outside group with little vested concern in improving the lives of children," said Mr. Foxman.

Abraham's concern for the world's children is touching. Really. The man's so full of love. But UNICEF is protecting children by disowning Leviev. Because of settlement construction in Zufim that is filling Leviev's coffers, children in nearby Palestinian villages like Jayyous are forced to drop out of school to help their impoverished families. And should I mention Gaza's children? Foxman's concern is somehow, well.....selective. Are Palestinian children children of a lesser god?

In a letter to Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, the League questioned the decision and its timing, noting that the fund has a history of accepting aid from other questionable partners, including the International Islamic Relief Organization, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2006 because of its links to Al Qaeda.

As is well known, when you're defending Israel, facts do not count (actually they count against you, that is why you can't rely on them). Foxman is a flat out lier. The U.S. treasury DID NOT designate the International Islamic Relief Organization as a terrorist organization. It designated one Saudi official and the Philippines and Indonesia branches "for facilitating fundraising for al Qaida and affiliated terrorist groups."

Some facts:
  1. IIRO is a legal charitable organization.
  2. Some officers of the organization have been accused of links to terrorist groups. The U.S. government uses a meaningless definition of terrorism and has a well known and proven tendency to jump the gun with terrorism accusation as a technique of political repression. Hence, such accusations should be taken with a lump of salt.
  3. IIRO has been accused of promoting extermist wahabism. If that were true, it would be no better and no worse than chabad, Leviev's philanthropy recipient. But given the blowing wind of Islampophobia, I wouldn't take such accusations at face value.
  4. IIRO doesn't give UNICEF money. It is a partner in delivering care to children in Saudi Arabia. IIRO is a charitable organization with some expertise about helping children that UNICEF can use. Leviev is a money bag. There is a difference there. If UNICEF were to partner with Chabad in Israel, that would be an interesting comparison. But comparing Leviev to the IIRO is really comparing apples and oranges.
  5. Foxman doesn't ask UNICEF to disown the IIRO. He merely asks to re-establish Leviev's good standing. This is basically the crux of it. Foxman identifies "wrongs," not out of any desire to right them, but only in so far as they can be used to defend or excuse crimes committed by Jews against Palestinians.

The biggest lie however is the byline:
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

The ADL is today the world's leading organization for the promotion of antisemitism. It promotes it by defining all attempts to defend the human rights of Palestinians as antisemitic and by using its money and influence in the defense of bigotry, hatred, and human rights violations committed by Jews.

A quite revealing touch is this little mention of timing: Foxman "questioned...[UNICEF's] decision and its timing."

Here's an interesting question. When will Abraham Foxman consider it good timing to defend the human rights of Palestinians? When the Messaiah comes? Or when there are no more Palestinians alive?


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