City of Brass

The following anecdote is written by my friend Aamer Jamali, via email a few weeks ago (prior to the Inauguration). I have his permission to reprint it here.

Of all the things to remember about my Hajj trip (and there are right
now, too many to recount) an especially illustrative anecdote stands
out in my mind, which may do more to establish a fundamental truth
about our recent election than any number of pundits could.
Medina (the Prophet’s SA city), a group of us from the States were
visiting a number of the Prophet’s SA original mosques.  In Masjid
al-Fateh, a small masjid on a small hilltop, a group of us crowded in
to say our prayers.  Seeing the group of us ascend the hill, two
members of the Moral Authority (Saudi religious police) followed us up,
and shortly after we began our prayers began to usher us out.  Their
ostensible reason?  There was a much larger masjid nearby where we
could pray more comfortably (not built by the Prophet SA).  There was
no doubt that their outward ‘concern’ for our comfort was fueled by a
bitter dislike of Shiites (us) by Wahhabi Sunnis (them). 
we were filing out (after an impressive Arabic shouting match by our
group leader), one of the ladies made a comment that gave away the fact
we were Americans.  Immediately, the policeman stopped everyone to
loudly ask “You are from America?”  Fearing that this lady had made a
comment that would land us a night in jail or worse, we meekly answered
A heated whispering Arabic discussion took place between
the two MA members.  Followed by one of them addressing the lady
“Hussein Obama?” To which she enthusiastically replied “Barack Hussein
Obama!”  At this point, the most amazing thing happened.  The two MA
members, Wahhabis through and through, took pains to turn our group
around, usher our Shiite group back INTO the masjid, and exhort us to
take as long as we wanted to finish our prayers.
We have no
idea what kind of president Barack Obama will be.  He has not even
taken office yet.  But it is becoming clear what the fact that we
elected him says about US, the American people.  And no matter what he
does or doesn’t accomplish, nobody can take that away from us.

Aamer H. Jamali, MD, FACC is a cardiologist in Los Angeles.

I am frustrated, because in the past few weeks I’ve received various email forwards from many people I respect that are laden with anger and frustration at Israel’s campaign of collective punishment in Gaza. These are intelligent, tolerant people – mostly muslim, but also christian, hindu and atheist – who have never been tainted by anti-Semitism in the past. But the emails are vicious and invoke Hitler and draw the usual Nazi comparisons. One of the most upsetting is an email which pairs images from Nazi occupation of Poland with images from Gaza and the West Bank, which makes a visceral equivalence that is virtually impossible to reason against.

Gaza has been radicalizing public opinion against Israel worldwide. It’s sad to see how anti-Semitism flourishes and takes root in the space created by the anger and helplessness. Israel may claim to have won the tactical battle but it has suffered a massive, self-inflicted, strategic defeat. And so too have the Jewish people as a whole.

It bears repeating in black and white – the actions of Israel, despite the Isaeli government’s own propaganda to the contrary, are NOT representative of Judaism or Jews as a collective whole, any more than the actions of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are of Islam and muslims as a whole, or even the actions of the Bush Administration were of America or Americans as a whole.

There is yet hope. Just as electing Obama virtually ended anti-Americanism’s spread worldwide overnight, so too can Israel fight anti-Semitism worldwide, by doing the right thing: dismantling the settlements in the West Bank, opening up Gaza, and engaging in genuine diplomacy towards a two-state solution. In other words, to choose Jewishness and Democracy over Greater Israel. If Israel does not, then the only option left will be a binational state.

UPDATE: in response to an analogy to the Holocaust at Talk Islam, I comment:

Israel is certainly inflicting collective punishment on the
Palestinians. But did I miss railroad cars and forced deportations? Are
there concentration camps built around giant ovens somewhere I haven’t
been paying attention?

Lets be as accurate as possible so that our genuine moral outrage
isn’t so easily deflected. Israel is engaged in war crimes and is
violating the Geneva Convention; it deserves censure, boycott, and
sanctions. Israel is not, however, gassing Palestinians en masse.

Note, however, that “Israel isn’t as bad as the Nazis” is damning with faint praise, indeed.


related – The One State Solution and Who Won the War in Gaza? at Syria Comment; The Wrong Path by Larison; and Anthony Cordesman at CSIS about Israel’s strategic defeat

I don’t begrudge Sarah Palin this at all:

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin wants to write a book and is looking
to Robert Barnett, the same high-powered DC attorney who represented
Barack Obama and both of the Clintons while they were getting their
book deals.

Palin is seeking an $11 million book advance, reported.

That’s $3 million dollars more than Hillary Clinton received to pen her bestseller, Living History.

However, it should certainly lay to rest the quaint notion that Sarah was somehow authentically middle class. Just like Fred Thompson. who played the everyman role to the hilt just like any other acting role he’s played. This sort of thing is condescending on their part to the people – it’s a cynical attempt to play off of class resentment. And it works.

Related – outstanding piece by Rick Moran at The Next Right about the problem of the “splenetic conservatives” (splenecons?) who have made Palin their messiah., which was once the true epicenter of conservative innovation, but now has devolved into splenecon-central, is still pining for Sarah. For them, it’s about cleansing the Party. I don’t envy Rick Moran the task ahead.

Obama’s inauguration speech certainly set a high bar. Can his Administration live up to it? Or the expectations of Obama’s supporters? President Obama himself has been careful not to promise the moon, but rather emphasized that the job ahead is a shared responsibility and will not be an easy road. Still, there is alwas the danger of expectations feeding on themselves, irrespective of the reality of Obama’s actions or rhetorical restraint.

There are a couple of good articles out there that go into the reasons why expectations shoudl be kept in check. First, seven reasons for healthy skepticism about what Obama can reasonably achieve in the context of the Washington establishment, and political and economic realities. Second, a piece asking what we still don’t know, in terms of the big picture. These articles serve as a good laundry list of major issues that Obama will need to confront head-on as he crafts his policy agenda and tries to get things done.

There are of course Republican sore losers who are more interested in seeing Obama fail than in seeing our nation succeed. But the simple truth is that the deck is stacked against Obama’s Administration, so at some level Obama is bound to fail. The question is simply, how much failure can we bear? The next eight years are not going to be easy ones.