Saturday, March 19, 2011

An Open Letter to the Arab Street

First and foremost, congratulations. Even from our vantage point on the other side of a seemingly unbridgeable divide between our peoples, the extraordinary nature of what you have accomplished in recent weeks is obvious. The eventual outcome of your revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere is clearly still in question, but there is no doubt that by your actions you have changed the Middle East, possibly forever.

From our point of view, two very ironic things have emerged from what you have done. The first is that, contrary to the widely held belief that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is the main reason for the "anger" of the Arab street, and the great impediment to political reform in the region, Israel's name has been all but absent from your demonstrations and protests. This, in and of itself, is a hopeful sign. The second is that Israel's own reaction to these events, despite their great promise, has been an ambivalent one.

Continue reading at An Open Letter to the Arab Street » Main Feature » Jewish Ideas Daily

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stieg Larsson, Lars Larson, and me

Listen to my discussion with Lars Larsson about the libertarian politics of the Millennium trilogy.

The Objectivist with the Dragon Tattoo

One of the strangest publishing phenomena in recent memory is the extraordinary international success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. A semi-famous left-wing Swedish journalist who died young and relatively uncelebrated, the three mystery novels Larsson wrote before his death, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, have sold millions of copies worldwide, gained a dedicated cult of adoring fans, spawned a hugely popular Swedish film series, and set in motion a Hollywood remake directed by celebrated filmmaker David Fincher.

There is really only one reason for the massive success of Larsson’s trilogy: a fascinating, unique, and entirely fictional young woman named Lisbeth Salander. While the books’ Swedish setting, their overtones of political and social criticism, and their main character, the plodding journalist and obvious Larsson alter ego Michael Blomquist, are interesting variations on the conventional mystery, it is Salander who elevates the proceedings into something entirely new in crime fiction.

Continue reading at Pajamas Media » The Objectivist with the Dragon Tattoo

What J Street Means When It Says ‘Pro-Israel’

There are certain terms whose meanings are — or seem like they ought to be — obvious. The term “pro-Israel” is one of them. One presumes that it simply means having positive sentiments toward the state of Israel and sympathy for its political or military position. In our strange day and age, however, this is no longer the case. Even the simplest terms have become hopelessly foggy.

Indeed, there is now something of a quiet but impassioned debate within the American Jewish community over what it means to be “pro-Israel.” This dispute has gone public with the emergence of the left-wing lobby J Street. Advertising itself as both “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace,” J Street both implicitly and explicitly attacks its rivals — especially the much older and more influential lobbying group AIPAC — as being neither. Critics of J Street attack the group as itself neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace, but rather pro-Palestinian or pro-Arab.

Continue reading at Pajamas Media » What J Street Means When It Says ‘Pro-Israel’