How do we perceive fringe groups?

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AuthorTopic: How do we perceive fringe groups?
Shock Trooper
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In a recent political debate, I came across the question whether being a Jew is a matter of creed or ethnicity.
Now, imho, the label of "Antisemitism" is used in a inflationary manner, often to fend off reasonable criticism of the politics of the state of Israel, but this question in a political debate seems to me intrinsically Antisemitic, albeit thinly veiled.
The question seems to leave a choice but it is like a choice between cholera and typhoid.
The answer "a creed" easily gives rise to an apologetic attitude about Antisemitism with the undertone "it is the Jews' fault if they get problems. They should just get in line with other creeds."
The answer "an ethnic identity" easily gives rise to all kinds of racist remarks that I do not want to get into.
It is not everybody who tends to such connotions but only a minority but i times of social stress and Angst some things spread like viruses.
My answer is that the question simply does not belong in a political debate because it plays to despicable connotations. Shame on those selfrighteous unteachables who take it as a matter of politics.

The same applies, imho, to the similar question asked in the last presidential debate.
If Mr. Kerry had chosen for the "genetical origin" answer, this would have denigrated the respective group as handicapped in a way. If he had answered "matter of choice" a frequent connotation had been that of guilt.
As a consequence, he did well to try and unask the question as far as he could. The example of the good Samaritan teaches us that we should not seek an answer for the group as such but embrace the individual.
Mr. Bush on the other hand let the question stand - cholera or typhoid, as long as it was one of the two it did not matter to him.

[ Friday, October 15, 2004 08:37: Message edited by: No 2 Methylphenidate ]
Posts: 311 | Registered: Friday, February 13 2004 08:00
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You're the one choosing those connotations.

I mean, I think you're right. It's not an issue whether homosexuality, for example, is genetic or a choice, or a mixture of the two -- the question is whether it should be accepted. The conservative Christians have a response for either (if it's innate, they say "Then rise above your disability"), so making the argument on those grounds is futile.

The main problem with these debates is that the sides tend to differ on a fundamental level. Religion, for example, changes a number of the base assumptions made in a moral or ethical argument.

You can't argue with a Nazi based on the argument that "It's wrong to hate Jews because prejudice based on race is wrong." That argument holds no water, because the Nazi does not believe prejudice is wrong, period.

Neither does the American mainstream, for that matter. Prejudice based on age, gender, physical condition, and affiliation is codified into law -- drinking age limits, the ADA, veteran's benefits, etc. In general, we don't seem to feel this is wrong.

In general, I've come to the conclusion that all arguments of this type are basically futile games. Fun, sometimes, but futile. I'm not going to convince Creator of anything nor is he going to convince me, because we work from a fundamentally different set of values.

The only really useful argument is between two people that are in general close on the issues that differ on one or two. For example, my brother was able to convince me when I was 12 or so that the death penalty is wrong. It took a while, but eventually he was able to convince me based on our shared beliefs.

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Posts: 999 | Registered: Friday, June 27 2003 07:00
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That is very easy to answer. You cannot convert into an ethnicity. Judaism can be converted into-- a person of any ethnicity or race can choose to convert to Judaism. It is a religion.

Wasting your time and mine looking for a good laugh.

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Posts: 1084 | Registered: Thursday, November 7 2002 08:00
Shock Trooper
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Djur, thank you - in particular for reading my whole post before answering. Not everybody does that, obviously.
I agree with you that the death penalty is wrong.
However, I am not sure about the examples you give for the US mainstream embracing prejudices, and I even hesitate to agree that prejudices are bad in general. Maybe the word prejudice means different things to you. My prejudice is that we would find out we agree to a comfortable degree if we bothered to find out ... and I cannot see anything wrong with that.

Finally, as to your comment
You're the one choosing those connotations.
Not exactly, I have them and I take an inner position for which I then feel responsible. And one connotation is the virus nature in the spread of religious narrow-mindedness (you know where Hitler's ideas originated?), the feeling of being victimized, and the reaction of self-righteousness as precursors of fascism. I am German, you know.

[ Friday, October 15, 2004 13:57: Message edited by: No 2 Methylphenidate ]
Posts: 311 | Registered: Friday, February 13 2004 08:00
Off With Their Heads
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Well, the answer (in both cases) is that it's both. Being Jewish is both a matter of ethnic identity — which is how some people (not all Jews) can look Jewish — and a religion — which is how some people can convert.

Similarly, being gay depends both nature and nurture — I think it's pretty clear that both play a significant role. However, it isn't ever a decision ("Hm, do I feel like being gay today?"). If it were, then why on Earth would anyone choose to be gay?

As Djur reasonably points out, though, this is not what anyone cares about. The question is whether being gay is okay or not, and we've taken that one and beaten it into the ground, so it probably doesn't bear repeating again.

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Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
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I think that every person has their own set of prejudices (perhaps "assumptions" would be a better word) upon which they base their beliefs. Yes, some people's beliefs are different from your's, but unless you have an objective logical or moral standard to judge by, I don't see how you can convince someone that their belief is wrong.

There are three kinds of people in the world: those who think, those who think they think, and those who would rather die than think.
Posts: 104 | Registered: Thursday, September 16 2004 07:00
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Profile #6
Most people are stubborn these days anyway, few tend to change their ways/beleifs. I am not exempt of course, I can be stubborn.

Unless someone goes through a drastic life altering event or obtains some great revalation, most will stick to their own ethic code, or what they were taught as childeren, and sometimes, both.

I will debate, but I never expect to convert my opponent. Of course it can be fun to catch them in their own words if anyone knows what I mean.

Part of me wants to say, "Well, it's good enough for me, and it's my damn scenario," but another part of me sort of wants to hold back. I've settled on this compromise. -Kelandon
Posts: 135 | Registered: Tuesday, June 22 2004 07:00
Shock Trooper
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Profile #7
It is indeed a rare occurence (occurance?) that with a single argument one manages to "convert" the other side's beliefs, but believe it or not, these debates do change people's opinions. For example, while I still maintain the same position, there are some opinions of mine that have become less rigid. One person showed an example of how a phrase in the Bible, often depicted as an anti-homosexual verse, could easily be interpreted in an entirely different manner. To put it frankly, the immorality of homosexuality has become questionable to me, though I had earlier thought that it was indeed immoral. Another example is that these arguments led me to realize that it is possible that the Bible is not the Word of God, but merely a regular book. I do not exactly believe this, as it isn't proven (at least not to me yet) but I realize now that it's a faint possibility. Of course, I still have firm faith in the existence of a good God. So you see, the base of one's beliefs is not easily influenced, but if they yeild to logic, then you can change some more minor points of what they think.

My point is that not all of this debate is fruitless, though most of it is.

Now onto the actual subject, whenever I hear "Jew" I think "a person who believes the set of beliefs that is Judaism." This is because religion is a choice, while race is not a choice; so race doesn't affect the character of a person (excluding any circumstances where one's race affected one's uprising and therefore personality.) Neither of these has a negative connotation to me.

About the prejudice of age, this isn't exactly a prejudice. (If that makes any sense at all...) Somebody can say "Every one-year old in the world is helpless" and they'd be absolutely right. There are facts to back up the differences in age groups. Racial and sexual prejudice, however, has no valid ones.

[ Friday, October 15, 2004 12:38: Message edited by: Eldiran ]

You're a moron if you think I'm not.
Posts: 213 | Registered: Friday, March 26 2004 08:00
Shock Trooper
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race doesn't affect the character of a person
This is one of my dearest prejudices and I am afraid of the time science may find a counter example.
Posts: 311 | Registered: Friday, February 13 2004 08:00
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If Judaism has anything to do with ethnicity, then at most it's several different ethnicities. There are Russian Jews, Ashkenazi Jews and Ethiopian Jews, to name just a few groups, and they don't resemble each other in any particular way.

Part of the reason defining Judaism is complicated is that it's a religion that (at least in its orthodox form) considers itself an ethnicity; if your mother is Jewish, then you by definition are Jewish also, regardless of your beliefs or actions.

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Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
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Are there any people that are actually able to trace their ancestry back to Israel? They could truly claim to be Jewish in ethnicity. Indeed Judaism cannot be merely a creed because there are people who consider themselves Jews but are athiests or Christians. In that case it really seems more like a culture.
I would have to agree with Djur that you are the one choosing the connections there though. I can consider being white, black, asian, or whatever to be a genetic disability, or I can draw connections between being male and being stupid but it does not mean that my connections are valid. I definitly agree that scientific research that even hints at any disadvantages of being a different race/ethnicity/sex is rather difficult to be happy with.
Being American would be another good example here. There is nothing genetic about it. My family has been here since the 16th century but I am no more American than many second generation folks. But are all the immigrants who come up say from Mexico and then do not learn English for their entire lives American? Is there something besides living in the U.S.A. or Canada that makes you a typical American. Opinions vary on this. I don't know about the immigration problems of other countries or really other states than California but I imagine that it is a controversy elsewhere as well.
(Sorry about using the word "American" as exclusivly for the average resident of the USA but I don't know what other word to use.)
Posts: 564 | Registered: Wednesday, April 14 2004 07:00
Shock Trooper
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Profile Homepage #11
I trust that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of, even among Republicans or in the Bible-belt.
VP Dick Cheney even mentioned his daughter'S sexual orientation in an obvious effort to reach out to the Logcabin Republicans.
I would have thought it to be more appropriate to leave that to herself - but never mind.
Now, however, I am getting my doubts about such a showcase liberal VP from the reaction of the Cheneys to John Kerry's kind remark in an answer to a question that did not belong in a decent political debate and that played openly to antigay supremacists.
Has there been some flip-flop over gays there?

If a lesbian daughter is something to be ashamed of, why do the Cheneys make it an issue in their campaign?

[ Saturday, October 16, 2004 01:14: Message edited by: No 2 Methylphenidate ]
Posts: 311 | Registered: Friday, February 13 2004 08:00
Member # 3857
Profile #12
About the US perception of 'fringe groups' please take a look at this very interesting article:

"Of settler crimes and media silence"

Some excerpts:

"...settlers are routinely attacking children on their way to school... ...We are not talking verbal abuse, taunts and pushes - we are talking punctured lungs, broken arms, fractured ribs and whipping with chains. But Israeli police are not investigating...."

It may help you realize how utterly misinformed the average US citizen is. It is a random example taken from today's issue. I could have picked dozens of articles like these in the last few months from the Spanish press alone.

But please, go on talking about antisemitism, don't let reality detain you :)
Posts: 21 | Registered: Sunday, January 4 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
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Jews can be as bigoted as anyone else, and in Israel they have the numbers to act on it. That doesn't change the fact that anti-semitism still thrives in Israel and abroad.

—Alorael, who is ethnically mongrel and religiously Jewish when not railing against all organized religion.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
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I believe I read the same things that Elderin read. I remember it was Murder She Wrote (or something like that) who connected me with the information. It did change my opinion about homosexuality. Not about whether it is moral or not, but rather how God persieves the person who is gay. I am very grateful for the discussion because it made me think for myself instead of just following what my parents, friends, pastors have said. My opinion now is based upon what I think, not what others have told me to think.

(FWIW even if it is nothing, I see David and Stephen's relationship more closely related to that of Sam and Frodo)

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Posts: 563 | Registered: Tuesday, July 27 2004 07:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #15
That Al-Jazeera article is wrong about an Israeli media bias - the media bias is the other way around. So many Palestinian militants are mentioned in the news as innocents, and everyone rails against Israeli tactical strikes on terrorist leaders when the US is praised for the same thing.

"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
Shock Trooper
Member # 3980
Profile Homepage #16
Praising the US for the same thing is just wrong but Drakey, I am disappointed.
What do you think about someone who defends a killer by referring to other killings?
I would call him an advocate of killing.
And blaiming the reporter for imbalanced reporting wherever imbalances are reported does not convince me. Give me facts and sources.
At the moment I have no better than eyewitnesses reports like

Only the Israeli soldier who killed Suleyman knows what he saw.
Doctors said Iman al-Hams was riddled with about 20 bullets IMAGE(

The defense by Israeli forces as well as the US troops in Iraq appears to me like that of firefighter arsonist spraying kerosene into the fire.
Posts: 311 | Registered: Friday, February 13 2004 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #17
HonestReporting Communique
04 April 2003


* * *

On Monday, two days after a checkpoint suicide bomb killed four American
soldiers, U.S. forces shot and killed 11 Iraqi family members when their
vehicle failed to stop at an army checkpoint. This fateful incident
parallels similar events in Israel, where the IDF -- like the Americans --
works the difficult balance between ensuring the safety of its soldiers
and avoiding civilian casualties.

But when it comes to press coverage, the parallels end. For nearly three
years, Israel has been lambasted in the media for its rules of engagement
-- accused of humiliating Palestinians and using excessive force that
caused civilian deaths.

Here's a specific example from the Associated Press, February 2002. Under
the headline, "Second Pregnant Woman Shot By Israeli Checkpoint Troops,"
AP gives extensive details of Palestinians victims' ages, names,
background, medical condition, and a graphic description of bloody wounds.
Readers have to wade 250 words deep into the article before AP mentions
the key points -- that the Palestinian car ran a barricade, ignored
warning calls, and then attempted a reverse detour around the checkpoint.
And only at the very end of the 562-word account is appropriate context
provided -- that six IDF soldiers were killed at a similar checkpoint just
days before.

This article is cached on a pro-Palestinian website:

Even the U.S. State Department, in its just-released annual Human Rights
Report, accuses the IDF of using "excessive force while manning
checkpoints... which resulted in many deaths."

* * *

In covering the Iraqi deaths, however, major media reports -- across the
board -- encourage sympathy and understanding for the U.S. checkpoint
soldiers' difficult predicament.

For example, The New York Times headline reads: "Failing to Heed G.I.'s, 7
Iraqis Die at Checkpoint"

Note how The Times places blame on the victims (for "failing to heed
warning"), and rather than mention that U.S. soldiers did the killing,
terms the deaths in passive terms ("women and children die").

Could we ever imagine The New York Times reporting a similar
Israeli-Palestinian incident in this way?

More examples of the media showing understanding toward the difficult
American position:

- TIME MAGAZINE: "Their own safety now demands that U.S. and British
forces consider every Iraqi civilian a potential mortal threat.",8599,439438,00.html

- BBC, quoting an American officer: "If vehicles approach us on the road
we may open fire. We need this road open and we can't delay for vehicles
that might approach us and might contain suicide bombers."

- REUTERS: "The United States... has tried hard to avoid civilian
casualties. But soldiers' nerves are stretched thin since a suicide attack
killed four U.S. soldiers on Saturday."

- LOS ANGELES TIMES: "It was yet another example of the bewildering
predicament American troops find themselves in as Iraqi forces disguise
themselves as civilians, women are used as human shields and any vehicle
driving down the road could be a suicide bomb.",1,1650227.story

(If the URL does not fit onto one line of this e-mail, paste the parts
into your browser, and remove any spaces that appear in the URL address

* * *

Many media went even further, prominently quoting the idea that Saddam
Hussein himself is to blame for the checkpoints death. For example:

- LOS ANGELES TIMES: "The blood is on the hands of the regime for their
decisions and their willingness to use their population this way," said
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, spokesman for Central Command. "If there's a
question of morality, it really should go back to the regime." -military2apr02,1,6404528.story?coll=la%2Dhome%2Dheadlines

(If the URL does not fit onto one line of this e-mail, paste the parts
into your browser, and remove any spaces that appear in the URL address

- THE UK INDEPENDENT: "This is yet another incident in a trend of this
regime using civilians, in this case innocent women and children, in order
to cause harm to coalition forces," said Capt Frank Thorp. "The blood of
this incident is on the hands of this regime."

Has the media ever lent credence to the idea that Yasser Arafat and his
dictatorial terror tactics are to be blamed for difficulties endured by
Palestinians at checkpoints?

* * *


HonestReporting believes that the media portrayal of U.S. army actions is
legitimate. Yes, soldiers are under intense pressure. Soldiers are
threatened with suicide bombings, and terrorists who disguise themselves
as civilians and use civilian shields. Soldiers are confronting a regime
that encourages its citizens to engage in suicide-terror tactics.

Understandably, the Western media consider the difficulties of wartime
checkpoint ethics, and is therefore prepared to strike a forgiving pose in
the event of accidental civilian deaths.

This yields important conclusions vis-a-vis the media's coverage of

1) While the media has consistently portrayed Israeli tactics as
inappropriate, Israeli policy has now apparently been vindicated as
conforming to Western moral standards of combat.

2) The media, it seems, never really objected to the actual tactics...
unless it was Israelis pulling the trigger. When an incident occurs in
Israel, the media's understanding tone simply disappears.

And this, despite the fact that IDF checkpoints are guarding against
hostile entry to civilian -- not military -- populations.

The conclusion is stark: The media employs a double standard against

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor coverage of the Iraq war,
insisting that the media apply uniform standards to their Israeli

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.
Another note - civilians harboring militants are just as bad as the militants themselves.

And Israelis have to be alert and concerned - you don't hear about how many suicide bombers and militants are stopped by the wall or how it has normalized the lives of Palestinian civilians on the side - only the inconveniences for the minority of Palestinians that work within the wall.

[ Monday, October 18, 2004 00:53: Message edited by: Drakefyre ]

"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
Drakefyre's Demesne - Happy Happy Joy Joy - We're Everywhere
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Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00
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Profile #18
Neither side in the case of Israel can be right because of how Israel came into being historically. When the British left Israel they purposefully did not give the land to either side and a war was fomented. It was an unnecessary war. Before the war, both Israelis and Palestinians had a history of blowing up British police stations and other acts of terror. No one wants to hear this probably. When the war was over the Israelis won.

At this point, there could have been a solution. Put the palestinians on marginal land and leave them alone. The answer turned into we own everything get out which is why the current situation is going on. The land was given to us by the bible and no one but us can be settled on it.

As far as antisemitism is concerned-- A member of a group of Semitic-speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Armenians, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians. Jews are not the only semitic people.

Furthermore, the reason for making someone Jewish because there mother is Jewish is for an entirely different purpose. During the early time of the Israelites other tribes and groups repeatedly conquered them. With conquest comes rape and other things. One way to ensure legitimacy in situations of mass rape and conquest is to make all children legitimate through the mothers line. Also paternity was impossible to prove in those days, you knew who the mother was definitely, but not the father.

Wasting your time and mine looking for a good laugh.

Star Bright, Star Light, Oh I Wish I May, I Wish Might, Wish For One Star Tonight.
Posts: 1084 | Registered: Thursday, November 7 2002 08:00
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Profile #19
At this point, there could have been a solution. Put the palestinians on marginal land and leave them alone. The answer turned into we own everything get out which is why the current situation is going on. The land was given to us by the bible and no one but us can be settled on it.

The solution would have required that the palestinians also leave the Israelis alone. The palestinians also have the same attitude towards the land- They want all of it. Putting them on "marginal land" has been tried and it didn't work. Multiple wars have been fought with the expressed purpose being to drive the Israelis totally out of Israel. Yes the Israelis won but they were left with a seemingly insolvable situation,due to the pressures of a civilized world they can not assimilate, move, or otherwise deal with the issue of the palestinians. In medieval times or in biblical times genocide would have been acceptable but obviously that is not possible now. They cannot assimilate the palestinians into their own culture, and they can not kick them all out as no other country will accept palestinian refugees. Both sides have done wrong and neither can end the conflict.

This issue always reminds me of the American Indian conflicts. But in that case the U.S. did not have a lot of more powerful countries breathing down its neck to make sure that it played fair. And guess what- The "natives" got relagated to "marginal land". It sucked.
Posts: 564 | Registered: Wednesday, April 14 2004 07:00
Member # 22
Profile #20
The gist I got from your line of argument, Drakey, is that since Americans commit similar atrocities, it is ok for the Israelis to do the same.

Actually, I'm not sure I want to argue this again. While I disagree strongly with Drakey's opinions on the Israel/Palestine issue, we've had the discussion before and never come to a resolution.

[ Monday, October 18, 2004 07:19: Message edited by: Morgan ]
Posts: 2862 | Registered: Tuesday, October 2 2001 07:00
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Profile #21
This is not an argument which either side can "win". Whoever wins wins with blood and misery. There can only be some kind of mediation, with a willingness to kill or subdue extremists on both sides of the issue.

Unfortunately, it behooves the other superpowers to destabilize the region so they can get cheap oil, cheap labor, and a constantly threatened heavily militarized Israel.

Wasting your time and mine looking for a good laugh.

Star Bright, Star Light, Oh I Wish I May, I Wish Might, Wish For One Star Tonight.
Posts: 1084 | Registered: Thursday, November 7 2002 08:00
By Committee
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Profile #22
Originally written by Crispy Toast:

Unfortunately, it behooves the other superpowers to destabilize the region so they can get cheap oil, cheap labor, and a constantly threatened heavily militarized Israel.
No. Instability largely has negative economic effects, which make superpowers cry. Instability in this region -> instability in oil production (e.g., attacks on Iraqi oil pipelines) -> increase in risk premiums -> higher prices. The middle east is also not known for its cheap labor - when have you ever seen anything labeled "Made in Jordan"? For the longest time, Saudi Arabia has had to import workers to drive their cars, maintain their buildings, and provide services, because almost the entire citizen population of Saudi Arabia is on the government dole, and this work is considered "beneath" them.

The biggest problem in most of the middle east, IMHO, is that their economies are based on single resource extraction, which is an inherently undemocratic economic model. Note that Iran, which doesn't really export all that much oil in comparison to its neighbors but has comparitively more industry, is relatively stable and successful, despite the fact that we hate its politics. Among the populations of the oil producers, however, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer and Wahabism, and there you go. Add religious indignation at their fellow Arab brothers, the Palestinians, being repressed by another government with its own religious mandate, and presto! trouble's a'brewin'.

I'm actually not 100% against Israel's wall. It has succeeded in doing what so many attempts at cease fires and truces have not - reduced the number of suicide attacks in Israel. It also is a physical sign to the Palestinians that Israel doesn't think that they can be trusted. I do think that Israel should withdraw the settlements, but I think the Palestinians need to do some soul searching with regard to what they can realistically achieve and how thy can make things better for themselves now that Israel won't sit at a table with them.

[ Monday, October 18, 2004 10:21: Message edited by: Andrew Miller ]
Posts: 2242 | Registered: Saturday, April 10 2004 07:00
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Profile #23
Many jews arond the world are suffering antisemitism. For instance those in central Asia, where US-backed governments are sponsoring true low-intensity pogroms. Incidentally, the result of these US-backed policies is a net flux of settlers towards Israel.
But why do all those jewish refugees flee to Israel and not the US or Europe? Why can't jews do like all other people and just buy a home in Spain? In part, because the Israeli govt. actually pays a huge lot of money (US money) to new settlers. That's why many impoverished jewish refugees go to Israel at all, instead of going to some civilized country.
I think that the two most objectively antisemitic governments (not peoples) in the world today are the US and Israel -- they are directly responsible for the suffering of the jews and they alone benefit from it.

I have a suggesion to end this bloodshed: let the palestinians recover their homes and pay huge amounts of money to any jewish settler whishing to relocate to the US or Europe, to Spain for example -- many Israeli settlers are latin american. In my ignorance, I can't understand what's wrong with that idea :) Except that it would only benefit the settlers and would not give any political advantage to the US govt...
Posts: 21 | Registered: Sunday, January 4 2004 08:00
Triad Mage
Member # 7
Profile Homepage #24
Because you're missing the religious perspective. There is immense religious significance to be in Israel, and that's what Zionism is all about.

Morgan, I posted that article not in the defense of killing by Americans and Israelis, but in the interest of showing the different attitudes in the media.

Crispy Toast, we know that Jews are not the only semitic people, but the common meaning of the word refers to an anti-Jewish prejudice. Let's not play semantic games.

"At times discretion should be thrown aside, and with the foolish we should play the fool." - Menander
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You can take my Mac when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the mouse!
Posts: 9436 | Registered: Wednesday, September 19 2001 07:00