The Current by nyut545e2

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									The Current
A Journal of Contemporary Politics, Culture, and Jewish Affairs
             Editor in Chief:                       Design Editor
     Jordan Hirsch, CC ‘10                  Tamar Schiff, BC ‘10

            Managing Editor:                      Photos Editor
        Avi Herring, CC ‘10          Sarah Kupferberg, BC ‘10

              Senior Editors:                           Publisher
    Reuven Garrett, CC ‘09                  Adinah Katz, BC ‘08
      Armin Rosen, CC ‘10
                                                   Advisory Board
              Features Editor                Christina Ferando
        Sara Arrow, BC ‘10                       David Hazony
                                                Jonathon Kahn
       Literary and Arts Editor                 Patricia Kitcher
       Philip Petrov, CC ‘09                  Yossi Klein Halevi
                                                  Michael Oren
Deputy Literary and Arts Editor                    Louise Rose
      William Lane, CC ‘09                 Andrzej Rapaczynski
                                                Joshua Walden
               Creative Editor
        Alexi Shaw, CC ‘09                         Editors Emeriti
                                             Bari Weiss CC ‘07
        Deputy Creative Editor               David Feith CC ‘09
 Taylor Napolitano, CC ‘10

         Contributing Editors     THE CURRENT is made possible through a grant from
   Sarah Brafman, CC ‘10
                                  the Azure Student Journals Project (
 Daniel Greenberg, CC ‘10
                                  asjp), which is supported by the generous gift of Susan
               Letters Editor     and Roger Hertog.
        Nick Serpe, CC ‘10
                                  THE CURRENT welcomes letters to the editor.
               Staff Writers
   Sandra Cariglio, CC ‘10        E-mail us at Visit THE
    Sophia Merkin, CC ‘11         CURRENT online at

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                                  COVER: In a St. Paul Courtyard, Paris, France. Photo by Yaniv Golan.
                          The Current

            The Editors    4   Gaming for Change

                           8   Letters to the Editor

      Taylor Napolitano   14   Boroughing: Sinking in a Queens Cemetery

Danielle Wiener-Bronner   17   Boroughing: Getting There

         Sophia Merkin    20   Boroughing: Carry-On Luggage to Wonderland

      Daniel Greenberg    23   The Beloved Country:
                               Minority Politics and South African Jewry

            Jon Cioschi   34   Human Rights Makes its Bid at the Global University

        Amy Moskowitz     44   Finding Home in Exile:
                               The Formation of an Israeli Identity in India

        Sandra Cariglio   53   Anti-Semitism, Redux?

      Brandon Hammer      61   Screening Society:
                               Eytan Fox Takes On Israel

      Emily Steinberger   67   The Contemporary Art Menagerie

            Sara Arrow    74   The New Humanitarianism

                                 Review: Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello
                                         and the Fight to Save the World

         Andrew Flynn     79   The Moral Life as Taboo?

                                 Off the Shelf: After Virtue: A Study in Moral History

          Philip Petrov   84   The End of the World: The Last Temptation of Kant
                                    summer 2008 / 4

From the Editors
Gaming for Change

        n mid-March, several days of peace-      any direct IOC involvement either in con-
        ful demonstrations against Chinese       demning China’s response or mediating an
        rule exploded into violent rioting in    end to the conflict. The IOC would remain
        the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. On         silent.
March 17th, as China engaged in the blood-           Political abstinence is not new in Olym-
iest period of its crackdown against the         pic history. Many governments, politicians,
protestors, International Olympic Commit-        and athletes strongly believe that politics
tee President Jacques Rogge circulated an        sully the Olympics. In their view, the Olym-
internal memo to IOC officials, outlining a      pics are defined by fraternal competition
communications strategy. “China’s involve-       rather than political agendas. The Olym-
ment in Tibet strictly concerns its social and   pic Charter itself contains strict provisions
political policy,” Rogge stated in the memo.     separating politics from sport, including
“It is not related to the country’s hosting of   banning athletes from engaging in political
the Games, nor to its relationship with the      propaganda.
IOC.” Most importantly, Rogge ruled out              But certainly the Olympics and politics
                                  Gaming for Change / 5

go hand-in-hand. Countries compete to host       to democracy in 1987. Indeed, the Seoul
the Olympics for obvious political reasons:      Games seem to demonstrate that the Olym-
to kindle national pride, gain international     pics can help to initiate progressive political
prestige, and stimulate their economies. The     change. As the Beijing Olympics approach
kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli          and world leaders remain at odds over how
athletes by Palestinian terrorists in the 1972   to respond, then, what lessons can the inter-
Munich Games, and the years of Olympic           national community draw from the history
boycotts from 1976-84 clearly evince the po-     of Seoul 1988?
litical nature of the Games. And, doubtless,          South Korea’s bid for the Olympics in
the IOC has made politically driven deci-        1980 served a number of political purposes
sions in selecting host countries. It rejected   for the ruling regime. The country had en-
China’s 1993 bid for the 2000 Games only         joyed rapid economic growth in the 1960s
four years after the Tiananmen Square mas-       and ‘70s, placing it among Asia’s most pros-
sacre.                                           perous countries, thus making the Olympics
     And even the Olympic Charter seems          a fitting venue to showcase its success. Yet
to call for the promotion of liberal politi-     the prosperity had not brought with it po-
cal ideals, including “the establishment of a    litical liberalization. When South Korean
peaceful society concerned with the preser-      President Park Chung-hee was assassinat-
vation of human dignity,” a rejection of any     ed in 1979, another military junta, led by
“discrimination with regard to a country or a    General Chun Doo-hwan, quickly assumed
person on grounds of race, religion, politics,   power before democratic reforms could take
sex, or otherwise,” and the use of sport to      place. President Chun continued the repres-
inculcate “value of peace, justice, mutual un-   sive policies of his predecessor, committing
derstanding, and international friendship.”      regular human rights abuses and stifling any
     The international community was fa-         form of dissent. But South Koreans—espe-
mously criticized for compromising these         cially students—vigorously opposed Chun’s
principles when Hitler’s Germany hosted          new dictatorship, and began protesting at
the 1936 Games. When the IOC granted             college campuses across the country. In May
the 1988 Summer Games to South Korea,            1980, as South Korea prepared its Olympic
then under a repressive military dictator-       bid, South Korean students and citizens
ship, critics accused it of once again award-    flooded the streets of the city of Kwangju in
ing the Olympics to an authoritarian regime      a massive pro-democracy rally. The govern-
that consistently violated human rights.         ment responded with overwhelming force,
     The critics were right about South Ko-      with opposition leaders declaring that it had
rea’s authoritarianism, but the Seoul Games      killed nearly 2,000 protestors in one week.
ultimately contributed to South Korea’s               With a bloody stain upon its record so
rapid and largely peaceful transformation        early in its political life, the government
                                 Gaming for Change / 6

sought to use the Olympics to enhance its le-   tonio Samaranch made a high profile visit
gitimacy at home and abroad. The military       to Seoul to mediate between the two sides.
regime thought it could harness the Olym-       According to historian Richard Pound, Sa-
pics to announce the entry of South Korea       maranch, a former Spanish diplomat, “had
as a respected power and to overcome the        never been shy about injecting himself and
ghosts of Kwangju. Yet at the same time, it     the Olympic movement into world events.”
remained unwilling to engage in meaningful      Only two days after Samaranch’s visit, the
reform. This became a major liability when      South Korean government made its famous
the regime was exposed to the stormy and        June 29th Declaration, agreeing to all of the
unpredictable elements that accompany the       opposition’s demands and giving way to the
Olympics—namely, foreign media attention        first democratic elections in South Korean
and international scrutiny.                     history.
     Indeed, once South Korea won its bid for       The government realized it would be far
the Games, outside media descended upon         too heavy a blow to lose the Olympics or
the country and gave voice to dissident stu-    see them become a fiasco. In Black’s opin-
dents and politicians. According to Dr.         ion, “the [South Korean] case illustrates that
David Black, Professor of Political Science     the oft-debated alternatives of engagement
at Dalhousie Univerisity, “the international    or sanctions in responding to authoritarian-
media played a catalytic role in political      ism are often complementary.” High-pro-
change.” Taken by surprise and unprepared       file diplomacy, under the threat of massive
to confront the empowered opposition, the       sanction, provided the right ingredients for
government buckled under the pressure           change.
and began making concessions.                       Much like South Korea, China has in-
     Alongside the media attention, high-       vested heavy political capital in the Games,
level diplomacy by the (nominally non-po-       taking the unprecedented steps of inviting
litical) IOC proved to be the other decisive    over fifty world leaders to the opening cer-
factor. Black noted that by the spring of       emonies and crafting the longest tour of the
1987, South Korea had arrived at a “crucial     Olympic torch in history. This is leverage
juncture.” The government had suspended         that the international community has over
debate over constitutional reforms, and the     China, especially in light of China’s still-
country nearly ground to a halt as South        unfulfilled promises to expand media free-
Koreans from all ages and classes united in     dom.
protest.                                            Yet the differences between China and
     As the instability left the fate of the    South Korea remain stark. China, as an
Olympics uncertain, other countries be-         incipient superpower, enjoys far larger eco-
gan offering to host the Games in South         nomic and political clout. Significantly, in
Korea’s stead, and IOC President Juan An-       Black’s opinion, the Chinese regime is far
                                  Gaming for Change / 7

more ideologically entrenched than were         provoke a backlash against the Games from
the South Korean generals. The Koreans,         non-Western countries and rob the Games
according to Black, “didn’t have the ideolog-   of their universal respect—the very element
ical premises or bases for expunging politi-    that empowers their potential for moral
cal dissent in the way that the Chinese com-    leadership in the first place.
munist regime does, with that collectivist          In advance of the Beijing Games in Au-
ideological foundation.” In Black’s view the    gust, the IOC has focused its energies on
Communist Party can invoke a long history       maintaining the idea that the Olympics are
of struggle for popular justice and [against]   “hallowed ground” not to be disturbed by
foreign intervention.”                          geopolitics. Yet the example set by the South
    What’s more, despite its success, Sa-       Korean Games establishes that the Olym-
maranch’s intervention in South Korean          pics can, if unevenly, maintain the balance
affairs raises questions about whether the      between its inherent contradiction: steering
IOC should engage in diplomacy. Under           clear of politics, and upholding its principles
Samaranch’s model, the Olympics might           of struggling against discrimination and pro-
become a vast political spotlight, shipped      moting peace, justice, and cooperation.
purposefully to oppressive regimes to bear
international pressure upon them and in-                                         - Jordan Hirsch
duce economic and political liberalization.                                       Editor-in-Chief
Such an agenda-driven Olympics, without
any pretense of political abstinence, might
                                 summer 2008 / The Current

Letters to the Editor

                                                     long-term strategy requires the U.S. to demand
Concessions of a Lifelong Diplomat                   accountability from those leaders with whom
Jordan Hirsch, Fall 2007                             it engages.” I agree, and in my chapter on how
                                                     to deal with radical Islamists, I focus on how
To the Editor:                                       best to identify and work with those partners in
    I read Jordan Hirsch’s critique of my book       the Muslim world who will be accountable and
Statecraft with interest and a sense of irony. I     therefore can discredit the radical Islamists. I
say irony because, as he says in his concluding      do say that “Islamists feed on indignity and a
sentence, the last thing we need to restore our      psychic landscape of frustration and anger. To
standing in the world is “hollow diplomacy and       be defeated, they must be seen as producing
selective thinking.” I could not agree more. In      one more source of failure. Just as we want to
effect, his criticisms are in almost every case      create models of success for the reformers, we
highly selective and even misleading. In my          also need the Islamists to fail.” But that is why
chapter on the Israelis and the Palestinians, I      I call for strategic dialogues with our partners
certainly do not suggest that the unilateral with-   both inside and outside the Muslim world who
drawal from Gaza was a good thing because it         share our objectives, so we can fashion effective
would “mollify those Arabs demanding Israeli         strategies together.
concessions.” Not only do I not suggest any-             Of course, Mr. Hirsch thinks my “grievance
thing like that, I actually criticize heavily the    philosophy” is a case of selective analysis, not
lack of preparation for the Gaza withdrawal,         just misperception. He believes that al Qaeda
the fact that it was carried out in a way bound      has transformed the Palestinians, and accord-
to strengthen Hamas, and that there needed to        ing to him, I am blind to that. It is true I don’t
be mutuality of responsibility built-into the ap-    see causation where it does not exist. Have Is-
proach. Mr. Hirsch attacks something that is         lamists become more influential among Pales-
not in the book.                                     tinian rejectionists? Absolutely, and the more
    Similarly, he says that to counter Muslim        they seem to succeed, the more they will feed
extremism, we need to engage in statecraft with      those among the Palestinians who reject peace
serious partners, and he adds a “responsible         and a two-state solution. That is one of the rea-
                                            Letters / 9

sons I say in the book that “Hamas must be           we should humble ourselves before such a qual-
forced to change or to fail--with change itself      ity tyrant may be clever but is completely taken
being a demonstration that Islamism is not the       out of context and in any case belies how I
answer.”                                             think one should negotiate with rogue regimes.
    Given his theme that I “habitually cherry        True, I think we want their bad behavior to be
pick,” it is interesting that he chooses to cherry   at issue and not our reluctance to talk, but the
pick in suggesting that my solution to the prob-     whole point of the chapter on negotiations and
lem of convergence between some neoliberal           then the discussion about Iran in the book is
and neoconservative attitudes on troop pres-         that we must have leverage when dealing with
ence in Iraq at the outset of the war is to say      them. They must not think that we are weak or
that Bill Kristol’s view is actually a neoliberal    need the negotiations more than they do.
one--effectively demeaning any significant dif-           Lastly, I don’t just suggest buzz words for
ference between neo-conservatives and neo-           trying to resolve the Palestinian conflict like
liberals. In fact, I said that “unlike Kristol and   “engagement” or a “hands-on approach.” I
other thoughtful neoconservatives, neoliberal        actually describe the specific steps that would
supporters of the war were far more preoccu-         need to be taken on the ground to change re-
pied with what would be needed in the after-         alities and see whether peace is possible. I ap-
math of Saddam’s demise. There was much              plaud Mr. Hirsch for reviewing the book and
less optimism about the ease of the mission and      understand that it is tempting to use a book re-
much greater concern about the messiness of          view to make one’s own preferred points. Next
the reconstruction or nation-building phase.” I      time, when doing so, try to actually reflect on
go on to talk not just about the concern about       what is in the book and not on what isn’t.
the vacuum after Saddam and the implications
for security, but also the neo-liberal concerns      Sincerely,
about the risks of sectarianism, the likelihood      Dennis Ross
of a Sunni insurgency, and the long-haul na-
ture of the responsibility we would be assum-        Dennis Ross is counselor and Ziegler distin-
ing. This is hardly an indication that I could       guished fellow of the Washington Institute for
not distinguish between the neoliberals and          Near East Policy, and published Statecraft: And
neoconservatives.                                    how to Restore America’s Standing in the World (Far-
    There are other instances of selectivity in      rar, Strauss and Giroux) in June 2007. Ambas-
what Mr. Hirsch chooses to highlight and then        sador Ross served as a State Department of-
use for his purposes which are, unfortunately,       ficial in three US Administrations and served
unrelated to what is in the book and why it is       as the lead U.S. negotiator between the Israeli
there. For example, the way he uses a quote I        government and Palestinian Authority for over
cite from Hafez al Asad to suggest that I believe    twelve years.
                                          Letters / 10

The Games We Play                                   Eminent Domain: Properties, Principles,
Jordan Hirsch, Fall 2007                            and Strange Bedfellows
                                                    Evan Daar, Winter 2007
To the Editor:
    Regarding PeaceMaker’s usefulness in the        To the Editor:
classroom: No one ever forgets to do his or her         Evan Daar, writing in The Current’s Winter
videogame homework. No one’s videogame              2007 issue, accuses the International Socialist
homework has yet been eaten by his or her           Organization of arguing “out of convenience
dog. And on the scheduled PeaceMaker dis-           rather than conviction” in opposing the use of
cussion day, attendance is always outstanding.      eminent domain in Columbia’s expansion into
PeaceMaker is not a perfect replication of re-      West Harlem. His premise for this accusation:
ality, but it is a novel, fresh, and entertaining   that the ISO has grounded its opposition to
break from the textbook and realistic enough        eminent domain in a defense of property rights
to give students an opportunity to experience       - a strange position for a socialist group. How-
the frustration, disappointment, and rare hap-      ever, there is a reason Daar does not provide
piness that is Arab-Israeli peacemaking. It also    any kind of quote or citation for his claim. His
gives them the chance to apply the vocabulary,      depiction of the ISO position is, in fact, based
issues, and geography they have been reading        on argumentative convenience, not reality.
about. If the textbook is the driver’s manual,          The ISO opposes any use of eminent do-
PeaceMaker is the car that students can take        main for Columbia’s expansion because we
out on the road. When was the last time a pro-      oppose the exercise of state power to transfer
fessor gave you an assignment to put the pedal      property from historically oppressed commu-
to the metal and see if you could handle the        nities to wealthy private institutions. As revo-
sharp curves? And wouldn’t that be a great          lutionaries we are skeptical of any exercise of
class—and a topic—you’d remember?!”                 coercion by the capitalist state; as socialists,
                                                    we are against the processes of gentrification
Sincerely,                                          that are slowly driving working people and
                                                    people of color out of Manhattan. We do not
Laurie Zittrain Eisenberg, Ph.D.                    support the “right” of a CEO who has driven
Associate Teaching Professor                        his or her company into the ground and laid
Department of History                               off thousands of workers to exit with a golden
Carnegie Mellon University                          parachute and keep the profits; we do support
Pittsburgh, PA, 15213 USA                           the right of Harlem residents to preserve their
412-268-2880                                        homes and their community. Universal rights                                 to decent housing, education, and health care
                                         Letters / 11

do not entail full property rights. Rather, the    means to an end and not an end in itself. While
two approaches are irreconcilable.                 he acknowledges Friedman’s (snide) criticism
                                                   that young people can’t just “email it in,” Lane
Sincerely,                                         does not necessarily point to a method of har-
David Judd, SEAS ‘08                               nessing digital and cultural activism for real
                                                   social change. Don’t get me wrong: I think Wil-
                                                   liam Lane has written a good defense of the
                                                   information generation. In an age where mass
Defining our Generation, Bit by Byte               media and public opinion can be so shame-
William Lane, Winter 2007                          lessly manipulated for political and economic
                                                   gain as they have been in the past eight years,
To the Editor:                                     a grassroots forum for opinion and information
    I was disappointed to be lumped in with        exchange is a prerequisite for social organizing.
Thomas Friedman in William Lane’s article,         However, to boil the internet revolution down
Defining Our Generation, in the Winter 2007        to a vehicle for “progress in artistic and cultural
issue of The Current. I appreciate Lane’s argu-    appreciation” is to ignore its real potential.
ment that information-sharing programs such            In the Democratic primaries of 2004 and
as Bit-Torrent have contributed to an online       2008, it has already shown its potential for
community of young, culturally savvy users         fundraising and awareness-raising on a nation-
exchanging interesting ideas, and I have never     al political scale. In a million other ways it has
meant to imply that young people are “quiet        shown itself a forum for large-scale debate and
and unsystematic,” as Lane puts it. The inter-     information exchange. But to have a real effect
net and the opportunities it provides for infor-   in the material world (which still does matter),
mation sharing are hugely important for young,     the digital universe needs to provide more
politically or socially conscious people (in my    than efficient “distributional models”—it needs
own defense, I did make that point in the essay    to provide forums with structure and vision to
of mine that Lane cites). Anyone who watches       harness the energy that has taken refuge on the
cable news knows that YouTube and Dailykos         internet. Cyberspace has yielded some nascent
have become information sources and indica-        versions of these communities (see Idealist or
tors of popular trends that are in many ways as    the much sneered-at, or the web-
important as traditional opinion polls and on-     sites of numerous pre-existing groups), but they
the-ground reporting. I also think that access     are still in their infancy. If information-sharing
to the myriad art forms that Lane refers to are    programs and the like are to be the lasting lega-
important in allowing younger generations to       cy of our generation, as Lane argues, then they
find their own forms of cultural expression.       need to be geared toward larger goals. We can-
    However, digital activism should be a          not confine ourselves to the online exchange
                                            Letters / 12

of films and movies. The digital world is great       is that bad content comes with good content.
and largely untapped, no doubt, but this one          Lane’s suggestion that distribution is worthless
still needs fixing, too.                              if most of what is disseminated online (via Bit-
                                                      Torrent) is “cheap pop culture and the new hit
Nick Handler                                          singles” is unfair. Distribution today may be
Yale University class of 2009                         pushing Britney Spears—but it is also fueling
                                                      the next Simon and Garfunkel. Both “art” and
                                                      Art will emerge in any society - distribution just
Dear Editor,                                          increases the volume of both.
    William Lane discusses “distribution” in              Finally–because it cannot be left unan-
Defining our Generation, Bit by Byte, Winter 2007,    swered–downloading or sharing copyrighted
as our generation’s central dogma and argues          music is not, as Lane states, theft. It is both le-
that it promotes the consumption of art and           gally and semantically copyright infringement.
the dissemination of ideas. While it is accurate      I can steal someone’s bicycle and leave them
that increased ease of distribution has made it       bicycle-less; I cannot steal someone’s song and
easier to access and consume information, this        leave them song-less. This has been treated ex-
is only half the story.                               tensively online and I leave it as an exercise to
    The other half of the story is distribution’s     the reader to explore the subject.
positive effect on creativity. Distribution of con-       If there is anything that our generation re-
tent promotes creation of content. For instance,      jects, it the transformation of copyright from
Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is           creative (and protective) force to profitable en-
premised both on its ability to reach masses          terprise. We want the freedom to create and re-
(simple distribution) but also on its ability to      create, to master and to mix, while still ensur-
encourage the masses to create. Wikipedia is          ing that artists are fairly compensated for their
possible only because millions have engaged           work. Lane is completely right that copyright
in a creative-productive process fueled by ease       infringement is a huge problem for our genera-
of distribution. While this is distribution in a      tion, but we must endeavor to strike a balance
different form than downloading music, it is          between fair compensation for producers and
distribution of a creative process and just as        fair use for consumers.
important. Hundreds of websites (YouTube,
Digg, Reddit, etc) and other community-built          Sincerely,
repositories of information (Gracenote, former-       Ron Gejman
ly CDDB) rely on this effect of distribution and      CC ‘10
we are enriched by it.                                Member, FreeCulture
    We must recognize that the consequence of
making content easier to distribute (and create)
                                                 Letters / 13

     My primary disagreement with the contents of Mr.       more “mainstream” position—or as one member of Free
Gejman’s letter is not concerned with the positive effect   Culture put it in an e-mail, “the rhetoric of the record-
on creativity that improvements in digital content dis-     ing industry”—because to be any more radical would
tribution have produced, but rather that he has pigeon-     have shifted the focus away from the main point of my
holed me as being against this creativity and dismissive    essay. I wanted to demonstrate that bit-torrent websites
of the popular culture bit-torrent websites disseminate     are one example of how our generation is contributing
as “worthless.” As I specified in my essay, the digital     to the world even if it gets no recognition for doing so, or
revolution and its rapid online dissemination opens         in other words, that bit-torrent has cultural and genera-
up a world of possibilities for people to connect with      tional value. At the same time, I do hold that copyright
the content they enjoy. Naturally some people will use      laws are inimical to our generation’s productivity, a po-
this newfound opportunity to access materials that are      sition that I might explore at length in another essay.
already available to them (for a price), whereas others                                        - William Lane
will seek out information and artwork that they do
not have access to. While I consider the latter group the
more pioneering of the two, I leave to aestheticians what
should be considered “high art” and what should not.
     Mr. Gejman is correct that websites like Wikipe-
dia and Gracenote rely on fluid distribution to generate
new content, but he is mistaken when he presents me
as not recognizing that relationship between content
distribution and content creation. I reference both sites
in the conclusion of the essay for the purpose of putting
bit-torrent in the context of larger online contributions
our generation has helped to create. Wikipedia and
YouTube are in the vanguard of online development;
that we are using our distribution models to create huge
bodies of information that can be accessed quickly and
freely by all speaks to how much good our generation,
the primary users of and contributors to those websites,
has done and will continue to do.
     Finally, I concede that I was mistaken in my termi-
nology: downloading copyrighted material is not steal-
ing; it is merely breaking copyright laws. While I agree
with Mr. Gejman that we need to find a better way of
dealing with the problem of fair compensation and free-
dom of artistic exploration, I intentionally adopted a
                                     summer 2008 / 14

                                                  hold for children—the motives behind each
                                                  are disjointed and largely mysterious until
                                                  we get older.
                                                      I spent my first twenty years—my life
                                                  so far—in cemeteries, near cemeteries, or
                                                  thinking about cemeteries. There is a Jewish
                                                  cemetery right behind my house, and every
                                                  time I drive past it, I think about how I used
      Sinking in a                                to pester my father about why their grave
                                                  markers were so close together. How was it
    Queens Cemetery                               possible? I’ll never forget when I finally got
                                                  a response, the kind of shock it caused my
          Taylor Napolitano
                                                  innocent self. “They get buried standing up,

I  am the youngest in a long line of dead         Tail.” I had seen caskets lowered into the
   people, essentially. I am always going to      ground numerous times already, I had seen
wakes and burials, and it’s quite a wonder that   that they enter their eternal resting place
I haven’t become numb to it all, like children    lying down—never had I considered the
who become desensitized to violence after         other way. Somewhat more disheartening
playing too much Grand Theft Auto. Not            was when I realized my father had made up
quite the same idea, I know, but there is         that explanation. Good one, Dad.
something to the similarity of the original
shock that both death and acts of brutality          When I was a child, I used to visit my
                                                  grandfather’s grave frequently. He has this
Above: Photo by Adam Wozniak.                     great location in All Faith’s Cemetery in
                                        Boroughing / 15

Queens, one I consider truly prime. Queens          more relevant than now, as I can almost see
is known for being a borough of cemeteries,         the clip they might show on the five o’clock
but his really sets the bar high. Part of it        news—caskets, the hearty cement ones that
is its location relative to important local         morticians convince people to buy because
establishments. But it’s also the sounds one        they think it will keep their dead safer for
hears or the sights one sees while sitting there    longer, flipping over, opening, sliding down
on a lonely afternoon.                              into the abyss of receding dirt.
    All Faith’s is by far the most curious
cemetery I know. A dreary German                        There are some people that go a little
restaurant, Neiderstein’s, used to sit outside      overboard in their stones and leave indelible
the center front gate of the cemetery, and we       landmarks in a sea of otherwise identical
would all go there after a funeral. It was the      graves. In All Faith’s, there is this one
kind of place I could eat in, and probably          particular stone that always stops me in my
did eat in, at least once a year for most of my     tracks. It comes at a fork in the road, a sort
life, and yet I never remember what it really       of crossroads of sepulchers. It consists of
looked like inside. The décor, from what little     this emphatically phallic, tall monstrosity,
I can recall, was dark and stale, with wooden       like the Washington Monument. It has these
floors that looked dank with the sweat of           crazy angel statues peering out on all sides,
being built over the former marshlands that         ushering people in, perhaps attempting to
were Queens. The owners sold it a couple            lure them forward. It is quite the spectacle,
of years ago to the chain restaurant Arby’s,        to say the least.
which installed shiny, sterile white-tile floors.       Taking a left there, attempting to avert
Needless to say, we do not do lunch there after     my eyes from the angels, I can follow that
a burial anymore. Something about chicken           road almost directly to my grandfather. I am
fingers and fries does not ring respect for the     suddenly hyper-conscious of the fact that I
dead. Maybe that is prejudicial, I don’t really     just said my “grandfather,” considering that
know. But it seems to be the sentiment of           this stone, this plot, those weird flowers my
most of my living relatives. I personally enjoy     aunt stubbornly places on his grave—none
their lemonade.                                     of them really “are” my grandfather at all.
    A Catholic high school lies at the far          If anything, he would want real plants or
end of the cemetery. It is at the end of a big      nothing, and he would probably be mad that
dip, and apparently the whole thing sinks           he is buried next to his painfully frugal older
two inches every year, which by association         sister and her miserly husband. That is how
and proximity must mean that the cemetery           I know he is not there—eternal peace, for
is sinking too. Never before has the idea           Vito Specchio, could never be had in such
of Queens as former swamp land seemed               a place.
                                        Boroughing / 16

     Flanked by his sister and his brother-in-      wife put this peculiar little white picket
law, and backed by his in-laws’ stone, my           fence around his grave. I just stand there,
grandfather has a great set up. Besides his         look, and suddenly leave, feeling like I
distaste for his cheap older sister, he has a       have not quite sufficiently paid my respects.
breathtaking view. Clear blue skies stretched       There is something about standing in front
across the Queens landscape are not quite           of someone’s grave that reminds us of the
what most people enjoy when they look out           distance we have with people in life. Post-
of their windows at home (I for one can only        mortem is generally not the most opportune
catch sight of the Jewish cemetery when             time to feign conversation with strangers.
I look out of mine. To think, I am slightly             Stepping away from them, I head to Louis
jealous of my dead grandfather’s view). But         Petevelo’s stone. His is heart shaped, with a
it’s more than that—his stone is stately, yet       rose carved into its side. When I stand here,
tasteful. No need for the grandiose; it is a        I think of him and his wife, and how they
simply square slab of muted pink marble,            were such good friends of my grandparents.
with an open book etched into its top. No           Sometimes, I’ll toss his most used Italian
pictures, no biblical quotations, just his name     phrase out into our conversation, “Sta zitta!”
and the years of his life. It looks almost bare     which he was always saying to his wife Valda.
in comparison to the stones surrounding his,        It means shut up. Luckily, there is no more
and it is for this reason that when I look at       silent a time than death.
it, against the azure skies, I cannot help but          Louis’ grave lies in a sea of newer
rejoice in the quiet peace of the place. It is      plots, and a lot of the people near him are
this peace that allows me to sit there for a        considerably young. One girl, whose picture
while, talking with his grave as if it is in some   is emblazoned on her monument, was only
way a portal for communication with him. I          in her early twenties when she died. From
tell him about my life, about the parts of my       my grandfather’s plot, I can see this spot, and
existence that I know he would love. And then       sometimes when I come, there is a man with
the train that runs along the Cooper Avenue         a boom box who comes and plays his music.
side of the cemetery always interrupts me.          He then dances above the grave. I let my
This eruption of sound is welcome, even             mind wander, thinking up his story. Maybe
apropos, considering my grandfather had             he used to make up silly dances to make her
been a conductor on the railroad. He loved          laugh, or maybe she loved to dance but he
the trains, and when I see this, it is usually my   was too shy to get onto the floor at parties.
cue to head to my other grave pit stops.            He is making up for lost time now.
                                                        There is this other woman that finds her
   When I leave his resting place, I always         way to a mausoleum near the gate I usually
go see my aunt’s old neighbor John. His             leave through. She wears all black, like a little
                                         Boroughing / 17

Italian widow, and kneels on a pillow on the         All Faith’s, or in any cemetery for that matter:
cool marble floor, protecting her knees from         the ongoing conversation of life.
both the hardness, the chill, the cries. She
cries, I imagine, for the husband she fought         TAYLOR NAPOLITANO hails from Maspeth, Queens.

with every day for the sixty years they were         A Columbia College sophomore majoring in Italian

married. She cries for him, knowing that she         Literature and Creative Editor for The Current, she

never had a better friend. Or maybe, she just        can be reached at

needs to cry.

    The stories of strangers and their visits that
I like to imagine came to full fruition when I
noticed something at the cemetery one day.
Stones, feathers, and offerings of fruit can
be found on some of the larger gravestones.
After I saw these tokens, I decided that I
had to leave a stone on every grave I visited
before I left. In retrospect, it makes sense to
    Part of the calm I feel in All Faith’s arises               Getting There
from the sense that if I leave an artifact behind,      (…is always harder than coming back)
not a soul will dare move it. My chosen stone
                                                             Danielle Wiener-Bronner
then, stands as a constant reminder of both
remembrance and the persistence of life,
even in death. It is the mark I choose to leave
behind as the signal of the inter-generational
                                                     T    hese are, hands down, the best-behaved
                                                          school bus riders I have ever seen.
                                                     My eardrums are not being shattered by
conversation I like to believe I am always in        high-pitched renditions of “Sk8r Boi;” I am
the middle of, with everyone around me,              not covered in neon Doritos crumbs; and I
dead or alive.                                       have not spent hours listening to someone
    Like those rocks, the mourners I                 complain about how she is “literally, about
encounter here appear stagnate. They stand           to throw up.” Perhaps that’s because I am
vigil at the graves, in their own ways, and          not on a field trip, and my fellow riders are
though they seem unchanging, every time              not excitable middle schoolers but adults
a wind comes, they are slightly eroded like          who, like most reasonable people, would
the rocks, shaped by their inter-generational        not be caught dead even humming along
encounter.                                           to Avril. From my vantage point I can see
    That, to me, is the serenity to be found in      nothing but a sea of black hats, and the video
                                      Boroughing / 18

documentary that is simultaneously playing        me was a truck embellished with the hopeful
on six small screens.                             refrain “Moshiach is coming!” and the
    On this particular March day, I ride          more assertive, if less ideologically tenable,
with twenty-five Hasidic Jews to the resting      “Moshiach is here…now!”
place of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe,               The video jolts me out of my daydream as
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.                 I hear the narrator pleasantly inform us that
The shuttle transports members of Crown           one Rebbe married his niece, and, after losing
Height’s Chasidic community from a busy           his first wife to an unidentified serious illness
commercial street, Kingston Avenue, to the        proceeded to wed his first cousin. This casual
Rebbe’s grave, leaving daily at 10:30 A.M.        mention of incest is nearly outdone minutes
and returning at noon.                            later as on screen tour-guides offhandedly
    The video is a history of the Lubavitcher     declare that the name of the German people
movement. With production quality that            “be blotted out.” Although this is a common
easily rivals a PBS documentary, this brief,      Jewish curse for previous enemies, my censors
biographical account of the Lubavitcher rebbes    for political correctness bristle. The bus remains
leads the camera through various small towns      eerily silent. I seem to be alone in my doubt.
in Russia, tracing the geographical migrations        Yet, the most striking aspect of the ride
of the fourth and fifth Lubavitcher Rebbes.       from Crown Heights to the Rebbe’s tomb
    Reflecting on my position as someone          in Queens is, indisputably, the lack of
outside of the close-knit Hassidic Jewish         enthusiasm. Despite the fact that the voice-
community, I lean back into my seat, and          over on the screen informs us that that
think about the stroll I took along Kingston      Chasidic Jews in Eastern Europe used to
Avenue when waiting for the shuttle. The          travel for two hours by horse and buggy every
video announces that the Lubavitcher              day to spend even a few minutes with the
movement—otherwise known as Chabad—               Rebbe, my fellow riders take little notice, not
originated in the Russian town of Lyubavichi.     so much contemplative as they are distracted.
Its Eastern European heritage is on full          Our ride today marks the triumph of a fringe
display across Kingston Avenue. Home              group oppressed by Jews and non-Jews alike,
to a bustling, lively community, this small       and yet there is a profound lack of pathos
pocket of Brooklyn is lined with stores selling   upon this holy shuttle. These are not so much
Judaica and Kosher food.                          pilgrims as they are commuters, isolated
    Billboards advertise the services of high-    from one another, running one mundane
quality midwives and attorneys named              errand in a series of many. The only sounds
Avraham and Moishe.             A bricolaged      come from hushed, rapid mumblings into
telephone pole sports a faded flyer advertising   cell-phones, business sounds seemingly out
Passover cleaning services. Parked in front of    of place on a voyage to the burial site of such
                                        Boroughing / 19

a revered man.                                      as respected as he was in life.
     Our journey comes to an end as we arrive           The gravesite is quaint, an open-air,
at the Ohel, Hebrew for tent. It is just that: a    outdoor room. It is connected to a small
large white tent, poorly furnished with a few       antechamber, in which there are prayer
long tables, a vending machine, and some            books and votive candles. I follow a man
free coffee and tea. Each table is bare except      into the antechamber, but, am required to
for a stack of notepaper, pens, and Chabad          proceed on my own, as men and women
business cards. We exit the bus, and go             use two separate entrances. Perhaps twelve
through the Chabad house (adjacent to the           people can fit around the intimate shrine,
Ohel) to take our seats at the long table. The      which is a three-foot wall surrounding the
room rustles, not with the sound of clicking        Rebbe’s mound of dirt. Once beside it,
cell-phones, but with the flattening of paper       I am struck by its thoughtful and beautiful
and deliberate scratching of pens. The              design. The sun shines down upon us, and
purpose of this long trip is to write a letter to   space heaters warm the chilly air. Rather
the Rebbe, and as we begin to do just that,         than disturb the silence, the murmurings of
the heart-wrenchingly absent group dynamic          people praying and the occasional flutter of
begins to take shape. After glancing around         paper falling through wind somehow seem to
for a few minutes, I confront my own blank          deepen it.
sheet of paper. Slowly at first, but picking up         The spiritual part of my journey finally stirs
speed, I jot down what’s been on my mind,           to life as my torn letter mixes with the hopes,
and find, to my surprise, that after a few short    dreams, and concerns of my fellow travelers.
minutes I have run out of page.                     I begin to comprehend the unique, somewhat
     I finish my letter and spot a shoe-rack        bizarre mix of the ordinary and extraordinary
in the corner of the tent. Next to it a small       practiced by these devoted men and women.
laminated piece of paper explains that it is        A glance across the room reveals a man
customary not to wear leather shoes when            whose trembling shoulders and downcast eyes
visiting the Rebbe. I exchange my boots for         suggest that he is close to tears.
a pair of over-sized croc sandals, and read             We stand there, alone together, and I
another laminated sheet, which, to my relief,       realize that in making this pilgrimage routine,
lists the proper etiquette at the grave. It is      the Lubavitchers have not robbed it of its
customary to knock before entering, recite a        importance. They have formed a community
few prayers at the site, and then recite one’s      that can exist in the urban whirlwind that is
letter over the mound. Then, one is asked to        New York, seamlessly wedding the traditions
tear the letter and scatter it over the Rebbe’s     of their ancestors to their own. Maintaining
tomb, after which one should exit the burial        the pace of modern-day Manhattan,
site backwards. In death, the Rebbe remains         these coffee-sipping, child-toting men
                                     Boroughing / 20

and women hardly have the time to nod a        glamour or renown.
quick hello as they pass each other on the         The gallery sits on Manhattan’s hectic
street. And yet they have managed the near     West Side Highway, across the street from
impossible—they’ve rescued the practices of    the commercial nirvana that is Chelsea Piers.
their ancestors, and brought them from a       Its raison d’etre is somewhat subversive—
cherished past to a lived present.             rent, electricity and gas-free, the gallery is
                                               left open and unmanned during the day and
 DANIELLE WIENER-BRONNER is a sophomore is operated on a system akin to a prep-school
 at Barnard College. She can be reached at honor code.                               I stepped into the gallery on a blustery
                                               Friday morning. Honey Space’s website
                                               is not particularly forthcoming, and I was
                                               somewhat unsure of what I would discover.
                                               I was surprised to see a man seated at a small
                                               table to my left, as the gallery’s website
                                               proudly and prominently states that it is
                                               meant to “operate without any staff.” He
                                               caught my eye, smiled, offered to answer
                                               any questions I might have, and returned his
                                               focus to his laptop screen.
                                                   I walked across the warped and peeling
                                               floorboards, which I later realized were in
    Carry-On Luggage                           fact large sheets of thick oak tag laid over and
                                               concealing tiny glimpses of Formica floors.
     to Wonderland                             Not imbued with oak tag, much of the ceiling
              Sophia Merkin                    was exposed, with beams, electric wiring and
                                               a few inexplicable, unused hooks evident.

A     fter peering cautiously around the In some of the corners—spaces where wall
      corner of 11th Avenue and 23rd Street, joined with ceiling—the remnants of former
I carefully stepped into Honey Space, a new intricate, porcelain-hued engravings were
art gallery in Chelsea. A stone’s throw from teasingly perceptible.
prestigious galleries like PaceWildenstein and     The gallery’s one room was filled with
Matthew Marks, as well as established fashion objects d’art (albeit questionable ones), and
houses such as Balenciaga and Commes des I began to wander around, studying certain
Garcons, the slightly dilapidated warehouse pieces that caught my attention. There was
that Honey Space calls home claims no such a discrete cardboard box labeled FRAGILE,
                                        Boroughing / 21

and filled to the brim with small, evenly cut       gallery, informing me that current exhibit was
snippets of paper, each covered with the            called “Object Salon.” The only parameters
words “I am sorry.” In the back corner, I           he gave to the artists featured, he said, blue
found a pile of mundane objects, including          eyes twinkling, was that their works must be
Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart       “three dimensional works which meet the
Presents America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide      size and weight requirements of international
to Democracy Inaction, along with a few other       carry-on luggage.” Perhaps assuming that
books, upon which a chewed-away apple core,         such a curious piece of information stood
a florescent pink lighter, and an American          for itself, or believing that such standards
flag-patterned bong rested, surrounded by           could be had at any art exhibit he continued
a mass of strategically strewn jelly beans.         without any further explanation. With my
Across one of the walls were twinkly white          mind wandering on international air travel,
Christmas lights, gracefully and brightly           he explained that he typically preferred not to
spelling out the word DRUNK.                        have staff in the gallery, but, alas, the nature
    As I meandered through the room, I              of this exhibit precluded his ideal—some of
found myself in a Duchampian moment of              his more frustratingly grounded artists would
insecurity, beginning to question everything        not consent to leaving their work unattended.
I saw. Which pieces around were indeed              He additionally informed me with a chuckle
artistic áccoutrements and which were simply        that no, the jellybeans in the corner were not
things found in any rundown warehouse?              glued to the floor.
Were the clusters of unused nails embedded              He paused our conversation to answer
in the rear wall remnants of past items hung,       his cell phone at one point and told me that
or perhaps a satirical, R. Mutt-ian statement       someone was coming momentarily to deliver
on the emptiness and existence of art? Were         a new sculpture. As I stood there, noticing
the very oak tag floorboards I was crossing         that I could see my breath in the frosty
art? I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland: I had   gallery, I watched him run out to meet a
stepped through the Looking Glass, and no           woman wearing thick, black glasses, sitting in
longer knew how to interpret or understand          a taxi. She handed him a box, and he came
the things that I saw.                              back into the room, animatedly asking me if
    I wound my way back to the front of the         I wanted to see a new sculpture. He set the
room, where the enigmatic man took notice           box down on his small desk, inadvertently
of me once more, and stood to introduce             knocking over a small pewter pitcher of milk,
himself, handing me an odd cork business            splattering the white liquid over the desk, and
card. His name was Thomas Beale, sculptor           in Jackson Pollock-like drips and blotches
and curator/mastermind behind Honey                 across his boots and the floor. Apologizing,
Space. He eagerly began to describe the             he left me alone in the warehouse as he ran
                                       Boroughing / 22

next door to locate a towel.                       the bizarre yet educative, cocoon-like dream
     Feeling strangely powerful and free, I        that was my trip to Honey Space. Hopefully,
contemplated the fact that I, shockingly,          I thought, as I ran my finger over Tom’s card,
could grab anything I wanted and run with          I wouldn’t forget it by tomorrow morning.
it. I decided to save felonies for my next trip
to Chelsea, and instead accidentally kicked        SOPHIA MERKIN is a freshman in Columbia
over an odd Halloween mask-like head,              College majoring in History, and a Staff Writer for
placed incomprehensibly on the floor in the        The Current. She blushes ridiculously easily, and
center of the room. Rapidly growing red            can be reached at
with embarrassment, and grateful that I was
alone in the gallery, I decided to stand still
until Tom returned.
     When he re-entered the room, he
informed me to my surprise that there were
in fact fifty art works in the gallery. In my
naiveté, I would have most likely placed the
number at half of that—apparently, the nails
in the wall must have been art. I strained
to hear much of what he said to me over
the noise and commotion of the less-than-
picturesque West Side Highway, as three
other patrons entered the gallery.
     Eventually, I bade good-bye to Tom and
Honey Space, tightly wrapping my scarf
around me as I walked out into the only
slightly colder street. I wended my way
back to the subway, contemplating serious
questions of the meaning of art, and less
serious ones, such as whether to transfer trains
at Port Authority or Columbus Circle. As I
sat on the subway, I realized that the gallery
in and of itself had been more meaningful
than the art it housed. Honey Space and
even Tom had left a far more indelible
impression upon me than “Object Salon”
had. Like Alice, I had been awoken from
                                    summer 2008 / 23

                              Daniel Greenberg
               The Beloved Country
Minority Politics and South African Jewry

          heldon Cohen was born in South Africa in 1960. He was an active student
          leader at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and editor of
          its liberal student newspaper. He was also one of the many Jewish members
          of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS), whose call for
democracy and non-racialism in the 1980s brought them into conflict with the Apartheid
government, then at the height of its power.
   In February this year, Sheldon was shot in his car while waiting for his son Noah to finish
soccer practice. Sheldon’s father, who was on the phone with him when this happened,
rushed over and found his son’s body. At Sheldon’s funeral, South Africa’s Chief Rabbi
Dr. Warren Goldstein eulogized, “Sheldon’s death cannot go down as another statistic.
Our government needs to be held accountable for this. We as the community are not
going to stand for this and we say that one murder is one too much.” But Sheldon is just

ABOVE: Nelson Mandela and Yassir Arafat meet in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1990, months after
Mandela’s release from prison.
                                The Beloved Country / 24

one of the 55 South Africans who are murdered every day.

New Directions
    Sixty years ago, Alan Paton, in Cry, The Beloved Country, wrote these words through
his character Msimangu, a black priest in Johannesburg: “I have one great fear in my
heart: that one day when they [the whites] are turned to loving, they will find we [the
blacks] are turned to hating.” But we cannot see today’s senseless acts of brutality as mere
vengeance for centuries of oppression. Although there is some hatred among the black
population for the whites, intolerable levels of violent crime affect all races, especially in
the poorer, predominantly black areas. The crime currently experienced in South Africa
can be explained by and large by the socioeconomic position of the black population,
exacerbated by decades of oppression and economic exclusion.
    The white population of South Africa consists of two main groups divided along
linguistic lines: those of English heritage, and those of Dutch descent, the Afrikaners.
When Alan Paton wrote Cry in 1948, the predominantly Afrikaner National Party (NP)
had just assumed power, promising to curb the “black danger” under a policy framework
known as Apartheid (literally, the state of being separate or apart).
    To achieve white minority rule, the NP split the black majority into nine ethnic
minorities, each with its own “homeland” in which the black population ostensibly enjoyed
political autonomy in pursuit of “Separate Development.” Yet the system was a thinly
veiled façade; the white government allotted only 13% of South Africa’s land area to the
black “homelands,” despite the fact that the black majority comprised approximately 90%
of the population. Despite international scrutiny and domestic resistance, the Apartheid
regime only grew more oppressive.
    Today, fourteen years after the demise of Apartheid and the rise of the previously
banned African National Congress (ANC) under Nelson Mandela, most of the country’s
50 million people have not seen their lives substantially improved. Though the period since
the 1994 transition has been marked by robust economic growth and the rise of a growing
black middle class of 2.5 million, roughly 30% of the population is unemployed, over 5.5
million people suffer from HIV/AIDS, crime is rampant and poverty is everywhere.
    Thabo Mbeki, successor to Mandela, remains president of South Africa until his second
term expires next year. However, many are concerned about the ANC’s new leadership,
elected last year with Jacob Zuma as the party’s president. In 2005, Zuma was charged
with rape but acquitted. When asked why he did not use a condom when having sex with
his accuser, who is HIV positive, Zuma—who also heads the National AIDS Council—
stated that he showered after the incident to reduce the risk of transmission.
                                The Beloved Country / 25

    Also, Zuma, who derives his support from black trade-unionists and communists,
has been accused of corruption, bribery and fraud regarding a $5 billion arms deal
with a French manufacturer. Zuma’s financial advisor was sentenced to fifteen years
imprisonment for his criminal activities surrounding the deal, and Zuma will be tried
once again in August. Yet with Zuma ready to assume the presidency in 2009, it is unlikely
that he will be convicted.
    In a recent address to South Africa’s Jewish community, Zuma defended the ANC’s
“new leadership” on the grounds that all of the recently elected leaders are “seasoned
cadres of the liberation movement.” The problem is that the ANC does not see itself as a
political party competing in a healthy democratic nation.
    According to New Republic critic James Kirchick, “Drawing heavily on its history as
a liberation movement, the African National Congress (ANC) cloaks itself in a shroud
of moral absolutism that not so subtly implicates its critics as racists, Western stooges or
apologists for Apartheid.” Indeed, with over two-thirds of the seats in parliament and
consequent power to change the constitution, the ANC is effectively immune to any
political opposition. The boundary between party and state is perilously thin.
    Amidst the uncertainty, South Africa’s Jewish community continues to live in relative
affluence. Jews have established their own suburban enclaves within South Africa’s major
cities, securing themselves behind ten-foot concrete walls replete with electric fencing and
barbed wire, attempting to adapt to the crime epidemic. Houses are built like fortresses
and private security companies patrol “gated suburbs.” Yet try as they might to insulate
themselves from the rest of the population, South Africa’s Jews, like Sheldon Cohen,
cannot escape the country’s instability.
    Faced with a crime epidemic and an unhealthy, one-party-dominated democracy, the
Jewish community faces various dilemmas: What is it to do in a de facto one-party state
that cannot provide basic security and freedom from fear? How should it respond to
a ruling party that, despite its perceived moral character, will not sufficiently address
the HIV/AIDS pandemic and also supports Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe, further
exacerbating an urgent humanitarian crisis?

“Community and Conscience”
   The Jewish community’s behavior under the Apartheid regime offers a glimpse into its
reaction to the current political challenges. Founded in 1912, the South African Jewish
Board of Deputies is the official agency that represents the Jewish community to the
government in matters directly affecting the community. The Board has dealt with today’s
ANC-dominated government much as it did the Apartheid regime, by adopting a policy
                                The Beloved Country / 26

of pragmatic non-involvement in politics, speaking out only when the Jewish community
is directly affected. But there is furious debate within the Jewish community regarding the
Board’s stance towards the government.
    According to South-African born historian Gideon Shimoni, who analyzes Jewish
behavior during Apartheid in his book Community and Conscience, this communal non-
involvement policy can be described as a “characteristic minority-group phenomenon,
better understood in sociological terms as a function of self-preservation.” The Jews,
originating mainly in Lithuania, had fled persecution and lived as a tolerated minority
in constant fear of losing that status. Thus, Shimoni illustrates the general Jewish
disinclination to oppose Apartheid as a battle between “community and conscience,”
between preventing anti-Semitic legislation and persecution, and opposing a system that
was, from a Jewish and humanitarian perspective, morally bankrupt.
    Before assuming power in 1948, the Afrikaners had a long legacy of pro-Nazism and
anti-Semitism, even voting against South Africa’s support of the allies in World War
II. Pressured by the Afrikaners in the 1930s, the South African government imposed
immigration quotas targeting specific Eastern European countries, a clear attempt to curtail
Jewish immigration and maintain the “purity” of South Africa’s “original population.”
In 1961, when Israel voted to sanction South Africa for its racist policies, the avowedly
Zionist Jewish community condemned Israel’s actions as geopolitically motivated and
inconsiderate of South African Jewish concerns.
    South Africa’s Prime Minister, Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd—himself associated with many past
anti-Semitic organizations—deemed Israel’s actions “a tragedy” for the local Jewish community.
“Fortunately,” he continued, “the reaction of many Jews and Jewish organizations was
such that what might have been worse was relieved to a certain extent by this pro-South
African reaction.” However, he issued an ominous warning that “the fact that during the
last election so many Jews had favored the Progressive Party and so few the Nationalist
party, did not pass unnoticed.”
    Jewish support for the Progressive Party, which was formed in 1959 by a Jewish
woman, Helen Suzman, angered Afrikaner nationalists like Verwoerd. Suzman occupied
the party’s only seat in parliament for thirteen years. Though she opposed Apartheid
through the government apparatus, the Board still feared that she would draw negative
attention to the Jewish community.
    The disproportionately high number of Jews involved in radical, extra-legal opposition
to Apartheid was of an even greater concern. Of the 156 accused of treason in 1956, 14
of the 23 whites were Jews. In 1964, the government arrested the remaining leaders of
the banned ANC resistance movement and prosecuted them in the infamous Rivonia
                                 The Beloved Country / 27

trial. As a result of this trial, Mandela, already serving a five-year sentence for treason, was
further sentenced to life-imprisonment. Of the ten other convictions, five were black, one
was Indian, and four were white. All four whites were Jewish. Although these Jews were
mostly non-identifying atheists, the NP did not ignore the significant Jewish involvement
in resistance activities.
    The Board distanced itself from Jewish radicals for fear of arousing anti-Semitism,
advising Jews to act with “a due sense of communal responsibility” in political activities.
Meanwhile, the Board maintained political abstinence. Thus, when sixty-nine peaceful
protestors were massacred in 1960, the Board remained silent. Yet, when Prime Minister
Verwoerd was assassinated in 1966, both the Orthodox and Reform Chief Rabbis
delivered “glowing eulogies,” revealing the selective nature of their feigned neutrality.
To appease the government and protect the community, the Board had paid the price of
    The Board also attempted to quell Jewish student resistance. When the government
learned that the liberal National Union of South African Students had many Jewish
members, a senior government official urged the Jewish community to influence its
youth to “respect authority and not to disrupt it.” Youth were encouraged to express their
moral convictions only in their capacity as citizens but never as Jews. The most popular
Jewish youth movement of the time, Habonim, strongly disagreed, believing that this was
tantamount to a “renunciation of the relevance of Jewish values to the actual lives of Jews;
it dichotomized ‘the Jew’ and ‘the man’ and revealed the moral bankruptcy of Jewry in
the peculiar South African variety of Diaspora.”
    Yet Jews who opposed Apartheid under the banner of their Jewish identity and values
put the community at risk. Thus, Habonim encouraged aliyah (emigration to Israel) as
the sole solution to the dilemma of “community and conscience” that the Jewish South
African faced in Diaspora. Testimony from a Habonim activist who had made aliyah reveals
the tension between his conflicting imperatives. He drew on Holocaust historian Yehuda
Bauer’s famous line: “Thou shall not be a victim; thou shall not be a perpetrator. Above
all, thou shall not be a bystander.” By returning to South Africa, he thought he “would be
guilty of violating all three, whether or not [he] wanted to.”
    A striking change in the Board’s policy was made much later, in 1976, when the Board
honored Verwoerd’s successor, Balthazaar Johannes Vorster, with a banquet after his visit
to Israel where he had struck several trade agreements, including an unprecedented arms
sale. While the Board’s chairman praised the strengthening relations between South Africa
and Israel, he proclaimed “a new sense of urgency abroad in our land… that we must accord
to every man and woman respect and human dignity and the opportunity to develop to
                                The Beloved Country / 28

their fullest potential.” He based this explicitly on the Jewish biblical imperative “Justice,
Justice shall thou pursue.” The communal and religious condemnation of Apartheid
stood in stark contrast to the Board’s earlier neutrality in politics.
    However, strengthening ties between Israel and South Africa were to become
a massive political and moral problem for the Jewish community and for Israel itself.
Anglican Archbishop and later Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu, a champion of
the resistance movement, told a Jewish audience in 1987, “Israel’s integrity and existence
must be guaranteed. But I cannot understand how a people with your history would have
a state that would collaborate in military matters with South Africa and carry out policies
that are a mirror image of some of the things from which our people suffered.” Tutu’s
criticism, though not the first of its kind, would foreshadow the growing popularity of the
highly controversial Apartheid-Israel analogy.

Prelude to Change
   The 1980s were the darkest time in South Africa’s history. The country suffered
under a constant state of emergency, and few would predict the awesome changes that
the following decade would bring. Yet as the decade waned, it became clear that the
continuation of Apartheid was economically and politically unfeasible. As the system
began to collapse, new forms of resistance arose. In 1988, the politically-progressive
Rabbi Cyril Harris from England became the Chief Rabbi. The following year, the new
group Jews for Social Justice accompanied the Chief Rabbi’s wife Ann to Lusaka, Zambia,
where they met and established relationships with the exiled ANC leadership. From the
changing political climate, these few Jews sensed that the ANC would soon return to
South Africa and eventually gain power in a democratic election.
   While some Jews built bridges in anticipation of a brighter future, many in the
community had a more pessimistic view. Its population, reaching a peak of 120,000
around 1980, started to decline due to increasing emigration. Fear of political instability
and even civil war influenced many families to leave their country, with approximately
20,000 Jews leaving every decade since. The remaining Jews began to look inwards for
security. As the community shrank and grew more insular, it became even more cohesive
and took a striking turn towards religiosity.

   On February 2, 1990, President Frederik Willem de Klerk announced the unbanning
of the ANC and the release of all political prisoners, including Mandela. In 1992, de
Klerk issued a referendum gauging support for the creation of a non-racial democracy.
                                The Beloved Country / 29

In a radical departure from their traditional position of political neutrality, community
leaders, led by Chief Rabbi Harris, encouraged all Jews to support the move towards
democracy. On April 27, 1994, South Africa held its first ever non-racial democratic
elections. The ANC gained a massive 62% of the vote and Mandela was inaugurated as
president in a “government of national unity.”
   It would seem that Alan Paton’s hope now stood a chance. Foreseeing a future that
respected human dignity, he writes, “For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for
a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation,
from the fear of bondage and bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.” But in truth, the
mere political changes that occurred in 1994 would not suffice. The legacy of Apartheid—
poverty, crime, hatred and fear—endured.

    Jews, despite the prospect of a new democratic order, still feared instability and
continued to emigrate, effectively halving the size of the community to its current number
of 70,000. In addition, the prevailing silence of the community’s representative bodies
during Apartheid left many questioning their role in the new black majority-ruled South
Africa. Also troubling was the close relationship between the Apartheid government and
Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, when many Arab states had supported the ANC in its
struggle for liberation. The Jewish community was rightfully worried about the future of the
relationship between South Africa and Israel because Israel had supported the Apartheid
government, placing sanctions on it only when its downfall seemed inevitable.
    In contrast to current popular
opinion of Mandela, many white people
who had grown up in Apartheid South
Africa viewed him as a terrorist who, as
head of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the
Nation), the military wing of the ANC,
had resorted to violence. So when shortly
after his release from prison, Mandela
warmly met with Yasser Arafat, and
compared the Palestinian struggle to that
of the black people in South Africa, Jews
began to doubt their welcome in a new
                                             Feature at the Apartheid Museum in Johannes-
South Africa.                                burg showing separate entrances for “whites” and
    The official ANC policy sought to “blacks,” a typical occurrence during Apartheid.
                                 The Beloved Country / 30

foster relations with all who had helped the struggle against Apartheid, regardless of
their character. Mandela thus established relations with rulers such as Libya’s Gaddafi
and Cuba’s Castro. When asked if such actions would estrange the South African
Jewish community, Mandela bluntly replied, “If the truth alienates the powerful Jewish
community in South Africa, that’s too bad.” Though Mandela in part assuaged Jewish
concerns in meetings with the Jewish leadership, Jewish emigration continued en masse,
eventually leveling out by 1996.

Turning Inward
     Despite Chief Rabbi Harris’ best efforts to foster a smooth integration process for the
Jewish community, many remained recalcitrant and increasingly turned to the Jewish
community for security and identity. Education constituted a major factor in their attempts
to secure their communal strength. Parents increasingly turned to the Jewish “community
schools” that were established many decades before. When public schools were integrated
in 1994, an increasing number of Jewish parents sent their children to the private community
schools instead to avoid the perceived drop in the quality of public education. Indeed, over
80% of student-age Jews were enrolled in Jewish day schools by 2001.
     The new emphasis on Jewish education played a part in the community’s turn to
religiosity, beginning in the mid-1980s. The religious norms of the community have been
fittingly described paradoxically as “non-observant orthodox.” In Shimoni’s view, this is
“a mode of Jewishness characterized by deeply ingrained ethnic consciousness as well as
recognition of, and respect for, the Orthodox rabbinate and synagogue as the authentic
expression of Judaism.” While tradition and custom shape lifestyle, little emphasis is
placed on “fundamental orthodox theological beliefs.”
     From the 1950s onwards, religious groups such as Bnei Akiva, Ohr Someyach, Aish
Ha’Torah and Chabad pursued the goal of ba’al teshuvah (religious return), but failed to
attract significant attention. In the 1980s, however, at the height of instability, South
African Jewry saw the beginnings of a religious revival. Shimoni would attribute this
phenomenon to “a sense of dejection, dislocation and insecurity consequent on the radical
transformation of the entire South African social order and the accompanying epidemic of
terrifying crime.” In light of this, Shimoni noted, “the turning of Jews to greater religiosity
might be explained as an escape into the warmth of communal seclusion—the spiritual
solace and orderly life that comes with submission to the authority of rabbinical mentors
and immersion in the all-embracing orthodox code of living.”
     The groundwork of a normative non-observant orthodoxy provided fertile soil for
religious revival. While many Jews did not fully embrace Orthodoxy’s standards, they
                                The Beloved Country / 31

saw them as the legitimate expression of Judaism, and were thus intellectually open to
Orthodox religious practice. In addition, the insular nature of Jewish life served as the
perfect foundation for Orthodoxy to flourish. While many non-religious Jews fled South
Africa, Orthodox rabbis urged their congregants to stay, citing South Africa as one of the
few places where Jews could live a fully observant lifestyle.
    As Orthodoxy spread, so too did the pressure to conform to a now fashionable way of
life. With the transition from ethnic identification to religiosity came a shift from secular
Zionism, based on ideals of national self-determination, to religious Zionism, predicated
upon the divinely sanctioned relationship between the Jewish people and the land of
Israel. Secular-Zionist Habonim thus lost its appeal, while the Orthodox-affiliated Bnei
Akiva replaced it as the predominant youth movement. While Habonim had stressed
social justice, Bnei Akiva focused on individual religious observance, thus fortifying the
social and political seclusion of the Jewish community. Bnei Akiva, with the support of
the King David schools, gained popularity by taking young Jews on field trips aimed at
inculcating an appreciation for observant Judaism. While most of the community can
still be characterized as “non-observant orthodox,” surveys of religious observance have
shown that the levels of religiosity in South Africa “exceed those of the Jewish populations
of all other countries including Israel.” This has laid a foundation for a highly cohesive
community with some of the most advanced Jewish social services in the Diaspora. The
community is proud of its low level of assimilation and its high level of concern for the
well-being of its own community.
    An example of growing Jewish insulation is the Johannesburg suburb of Glenhazel,
home to over 4,000 Jews and the hub of Orthodox Judaism in South Africa. Each religious
organization has established its own Jewish day school in the area. The community has its
own volunteer ambulance service Hatzolah (the act of saving), and is now guarded by ex-
militia with semi-automatic rifles under the Glenhazel Action Patrol (GAP) program. With
all the elements of an autonomous community, and now even a quasi-police unit with the
authority to use force, some have characterized Glenhazel as a state within a state.

Echoes from the Past
   The current Board, chaired by pro-ANC businessman Zev Krengel, has adopted a
stance of “quiet diplomacy” with regard to the ruling party. In an interview, Mr. Krengel
explained his policy, arguing that “Your friends will listen to you. If you make them your
enemies, they will not.” Much like it did with the NP, the current Board attempts to
ingratiate itself with the ANC, hoping to curry political patronage. As a result, the Board
has secured Jewish business interests and has enjoyed some success in curbing Muslim
                                The Beloved Country / 32

anti-Semitism and potential anti-Jewish violence.
    Yet many South African Jews cannot accept the Board’s “quiet diplomacy.” Some Jews
find it outrageous that in its weekly report, the ANC regularly singles out and condemns
Israel’s “collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” The Board’s policy seems
insufficient in light of the frequent anti-Zionist remarks of the ethnically-Jewish former
Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils, who, by calling South Africans who support Israel
“unpatriotic,” has only fueled anti-Semitism. In addition, South Africa, which now has a
temporary seat on the UN Security Council, continually supports Iran and the Arab bloc
while calling for sanctions on Israel. When the government-run media last year censored
a journalist because a “white, Jewish girl” was not fit to report on the Middle East, many
found the Board’s response inadequate. The incidents raised questions of whether the
Board was once again sacrificing its conscience through its silence.
    But perhaps even more troubling is the community’s complacency on the issues of
HIV/AIDS, South African policy towards Zimbabwe, and corruption. These are troubling
precisely because they do not affect the Jewish community directly, thus continuing the
policy of neutrality when the community is not directly involved. But drawing from the
lessons of its past, it is perhaps foolish not to take a collective moral stand on unambiguous
    When the ANC refuses to accept the link between HIV and AIDS and installs a
Minister of Health who advocates the eating of beetroots and garlic instead of Anti-
retroviral medication as a treatment for HIV, should the community not take a stand?
When the government refuses to condemn the tyrant Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
because of liberation credentials, should the community not take a stand? When there
is widespread poverty and the government spends $5 billion on unneeded armaments,
probably traceable to the petty gains of a few corrupt politicians, should the community
not take a stand?
    But for now, the omnipresent fear of crime stands above all other considerations.
Fear—fear of suffering Sheldon Cohen’s fate—drives many Jews away from the country.
Fear causes those remaining to look inwards at the expense of all else. Whether under a
racist regime or in the midst of appalling insecurity, the South African Jewish experience
has been characterized by fear.
    Ernie Saks, a renowned educator at the King David School and former mayor of the
largely Jewish town of Sandton, wrote in a letter to the Star newspaper in August 1996,
“Through your newspaper, allow me to apologize to my three children and the many
hundreds that I have taught. Throughout the dark days of South Africa, my dear children,
I have stressed the positives: ‘Stay, you owe South Africa something. This is the dawn of
                                          The Beloved Country / 33

a new and better day.’ When my sister-in-law was hijacked, again I counseled patience.
When my car was stolen, it was just one of those things. Then my son was mugged and I
thanked God he wasn’t hurt. Soon afterwards my brother was hijacked and I still didn’t
see the light. Last Friday evening, when my family gathered to enjoy a Sabbath meal
together, in my own driveway, just meters from my door, my children and eleven-month-
old granddaughter were accosted by two savages and my son-in-law was shot. Children,
forgive me, I have given you poor advice and served you ill. Take your loved ones, wrap
them in your arms and go. The barbarians are not at the gate, they are in our midst.” A
community that once feared retribution from a racist government for voicing its moral
concerns is now paralyzed by an engulfing fear for their physical safety.
    Alan Paton’s words, written sixty years ago, ring truer today than ever before. He writes,
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him
not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through
his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire. Let him
not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a
mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.”

I would like to thank the following people for their invaluable assistance in the writing of this article: Michael
Kransdorff, for his interest and willingness to help; Howard Sackstein, for sharing his experiences and discussing
ideas; Joseph Gerassi, Rabbi Shmuel Mofsen and Zev Krengel for allowing me to interview them; and Gideon
Shimoni, Chaya Herman, and Lee Klawansky, whose research I have drawn on heavily.

DANIEL GREENBERG is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in Econ-Math and Political Sci-
ence and a Contributing Editor of The Current. Originally from South Africa, he is also a founder
and Managing Editor of Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development. He can be reached
                                   spring 2008 / 34

                                  Jon Cioschi
    Human Rights Makes its Bid
      at the Global University

              ncient and early modern antecedents notwithstanding, the idea of universal
              human rights is quite new. It was codified in the Universal Declaration of
              Human Rights and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in
              1948. Even newer is the idea of studying Human Rights as an academic
discipline. Human rights as such entered academia formally only after 1975, when the
United States, Canada, the Soviet Union, and most European states signed the Helsinki
Accords, a treaty that would become greatly important to the Cold War, as it settled the
post-WWII borders of Europe while calling for Human Rights to be respected within
   In 2000, 25 years after Helsinki and 52 years after the Declaration of Human Rights,
Columbia College and Barnard College established the U.S.’s first undergraduate
programs for the study of Human Rights. In their eight years of operation, both programs

ABOVE: Looking out on New York City from Columbia’s Morningside Heights Campus.
                                The Global University / 35

have inspired healthy criticism and approbation from students and faculty alike. The
programs have consistently drawn a small group of committed students, and they have
recruited a host of faculty from various departments to teach classes.i ii
    Human Rights Studies originated at Columbia in 1977, when faculty ambassadors to the
Carter Administration decided to inaugurate a hub for the academic study of this novel feature
of international politics. That year, professor J. Paul Martin (the Director of Columbia’s
Center for the Study of Human Rights [CSHR] from 1986-2007 and the current Director of
the Human Rights Studies Program at Barnard College) and renowned international lawyer
and law professor Louis Henkin (now University Professor Emeritus) created the Center for
the Study of Human Rights. The Center, whose mission is ”[t]o integrate Human Rights into
the intellectual and programmatic life of the University,” began offering extensive educational
programming for young scholars and activists on Human Rights and International Security
in the 1980’s. From 1988-1989, the Center held a conference with the African National
Congress and Afrikaners on the development of a post-Apartheid South African Constitution.
Likewise, in 1989, it began the Human Rights Advocates Program, through which it continues
to offer advanced training to Human Rights advocates. Around the same time, the Center
initiated an official Concentration at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) for
Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs.
    In keeping with its aim of integrating Human Rights into all realms of the University,
the Center joined with the faculty of Barnard and Columbia to launch the Undergraduate
Programs in 2000. Julie Peters, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, is
credited with initiating Columbia’s Program; Irene Bloom, Barnard’s Anne Whitney Olin
Professor Emerita of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures, and Peter Juviler, Professor
Emeritus of Political Science and Special Lecturer Chair, are credited with beginning
Barnard’s program. From the outset, the Programs were established to complement
programs of study in recognized departments. Neither Program began with departmental
status, and neither has sought such recognition since.
    The leadership of Barnard’s department has changed hands frequently since its
inception. The program’s directorship has been occupied, chronologically, by Irene
Bloom, Peter Juviler, Jack Hawley (Professor of Religion), and Rachel McDermott
(Associate Professor and Department Chair Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures). In
the fall of 2007, Martin assumed his current role as Director. Columbia’s program has
enjoyed somewhat greater stability. The position has switched hands between History
professors Michael Stanislawski, who served as its first head, and Samuel Moyn, who took
over in spring 2006 but will relinquish the post to Stanislawski in the coming academic
year. Despite this lack of consistency in leadership, the Programs have maintained a close
                                 The Global University / 36

relationship. Faculty associated with the Programs communicate and coordinate often,
and students earn credit for courses taken in either school’s Program.

    As a product of their close relationship, the Programs are nearly identical in structure
and requirements. Both Programs may only be taken in conjunction with a Major in a
recognized department (e.g. Political Science). Both require that students take a course
entitled Introduction to Human Rights, which surveys the dominant historical and contemporary
issues in Human Rights: from theoretical and conceptual underpinnings—e.g. conceptions
of natural rights, conceptions of civil and political rights that critique natural rights theories,
the relation of rights to international relations theories such as realism and liberalism, and
ideas about ethical behavior drawn from moral philosophy—to post-conflict justice and the
relevance of international Human Rights law to the War on Terror. Likewise, both require
that students complete their studies with a capstone of sorts: students of the Columbia
Program must take a Human Rights Senior Seminar, while students of the Barnard Program
are required to incorporate Human Rights Studies into their senior theses in their respective
Majors. In between these book ends, so to speak, students are required to take five courses
drawn from a list that pertain either explicitly (Human Rights in World Politics) or more
implicitly (Social Movements) to Human Rights.
    Students of the Programs have considerable freedom to structure their studies. Given
the interdisciplinary nature of Human Rights studies and the varied academic and
professional interests of those who embark on the concentration, a certain degree of
flexibility is a positive and important feature.
    Prior to this academic year, however, this freedom was undoubtedly too great, as
students could take courses that only loosely connected to Human Rights. For instance,
Pablo Piccato’s Mexico from Revolution to Democracy formerly counted automatically towards
Columbia’s Human Rights concentration, even though its discussions of the Mexican
Revolution and the Student Movements of 1968 rarely broached the topic of Human
Rights. Piccato’s class was one among many with questionable relevance to the Programs.
Consequently, students could finish the Human Rights Concentration with little real
knowledge of contemporary institutions (like the UN and the International Criminal
Court) so essential to understanding the role of Human Rights in a globalized, post-9/11
world—and in an improved future.
    Professors Martin and Moyn foresaw this problem, and narrowed the broad and
nebulous list of courses that count for the Concentration at Columbia to a set that pertains
more directly to Human Rights. Additionally, Moyn and Martin have created “Track”
options for students of the programs, including “Human Rights/Civil Rights in the U.S.”
                                 The Global University / 37

and various regional tracks to help students better focus their studies vis-à-vis their interests
while still covering necessary aspects of human rights.

    Moyn agrees that that taking a set of courses that address grave human problems
without some discussion of their relation to human rights cannot be read as Human Rights
Studies proper, noting that “just because you take five courses about suffering doesn’t
necessarily mean you should be entitled to a credential in human rights.” He suggests that
there are certain things that students must know—about human rights in principle and in
practice—in order to engage in the study of human rights genuinely and effectively.
    These particular issues point to more general questions about the purposes and
aims of Human Rights Studies and how academic programs ought to be conceived
to achieve these ends. For Martin and Thania Sanchez, Columbia’s Undergraduate
Program Coordinator, the object of Human Rights studies is to enable individuals to
deduce mutual duties and obligations—general rules of treatment and behavior for us
as individuals in communities, as citizens of states, and, quite importantly, as citizens
of the world. Sanchez further maintains that human rights are deeply related to some
of today’s most pressing questions and issues, including, but not limited to, tensions
between the protection of rights and consolidation of security in the context of the
War on Terror, protection of civilians and prevention of mass displacement in armed
conflict, growing inequalities in wealth and standard of living associated with economic
globalization, ethnic violence and genocide, and the debate over whether peace must
precede justice or vice versa in resolving long-standing civil conflict in places like
Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
    As such, Human Rights studies, properly conceived, gives students the tools to analyze
these situations from various perspectives and encourages them to address these and
similar issues by seeking to minimize human suffering and maximize human security. Most
importantly, Moyn, Martin, and Sanchez conceive of Human Rights studies, especially
in the Liberal Arts context, as an analytical pursuit geared towards helping students
understand the controversies surrounding human rights and the complexity of historical,
contemporary, and future problems at local, national, and international levels.

   But does Human Rights education fit neatly within a Liberal Arts context? To what
extent is it an academic pursuit, and to what extent is it about pre-professional training?
Though in the Columbia and Barnard Undergraduate contexts it remains a largely
analytical pursuit, Human Rights studies doubles as a springboard for activism and
advocacy. It attracts students who often involve themselves in practical pursuits such as
                               The Global University / 38

internships and advocacy campaigns alongside their studies. Likewise, many students
of the Programs plan to pursue advocacy in their careers. How should all this affect the
university’s Human Rights Programs?
    A general survey of students in this year’s Senior Seminar revealed that all but three of
them wished that they had had more opportunities to take such practical classes. They
also expressed frustration with the emphasis on theory in the Programs.
    This tension is understandable. At a minimum, it reflects the many career opportunities
in Human Rights: from academia to more professional settings in government, in non-
governmental organizations in inter-governmental organizations, and in grassroots
organizing. Perhaps it also demonstrates the desire of individuals who have studied and
who care immensely about human rights to acquire the tools necessary to put their studies
to practice as advocates and global citizens.
    But significant experience with Human Rights as a scholarly pursuit is a necessary
precondition for acting as an effective and wise human rights advocate. And since the
Programs, in their current states, hardly provide adequate opportunities for the pursuit of
Human Rights as an analytical project, it seems that a focus on bolstering the Programs
in this respect should take precedence over integrating more practical course options into
the curriculum.

    Analyzing these tensions in Human Rights Studies and adapting the Programs at
Barnard and Columbia to student needs and demands are clearly essential for improving
the state of undergraduate Human Rights Studies at Barnard and Columbia. However,
before considering these questions, Columbia and Barnard must first resolve their
administrative difficulties, which prevent the Programs from maximizing their potential
and limit discussion on the nature of course offerings.
    In addition to refining the curriculum, Moyn and Martin have spent significant effort
and time addressing administrative difficulties by tightening bureaucracy and soliciting
greater financial support for the Programs. Although working only part-time at Barnard,
Martin has secured significant donations, is currently teaching the Human Rights Senior
Seminar, has overseen the creation of an informative website for the Program, and functions
effectively as an experienced and knowledgeable advisor of a Program that formerly lacked
any semblance of management. In his tenure, Moyn has also helped to create a functional
and informative website for Columbia students, has helped to develop informative and
interesting programming, has secured funding to hire two professors annually to teach
courses as adjuncts, and has consistently taught Historical Origins of Human Rights. Moyn
accomplished all of this while acting as director voluntarily and without receiving any
                                The Global University / 39

course relief (the course load he is required to teach annually remains the same).
    Despite their best efforts, Moyn and Martin are restricted in their efforts by several
factors, including a lack of consistency and diversity in course offerings, a lack of adequate
administrative assistance, and a lack of committed faculty. Additionally, the Programs
lack the space allotted to other departments. There is no building, office, or floor at
Columbia where all of those affiliated with its Human Rights program are housed, and
Barnard’s Program is housed entirely in Martin’s small office in the Slavic Department.
As students like Barnard senior Samantha Stern note, the absence of both a distinct and
prominent location and plentiful resources for advising dampens student commitment
to the Program and reduces possibilities for community-building among students.
Moreover, the Program Directors—excluding Martin—have received no compensation for
their efforts. While it is clear that the Programs face a litany of troubles, one problem
clearly underlies them all: a significant funding deficit.
    The Columbia Program receives a meager budget of $6000 per year. Roughly $1000
of each year’s budget goes to the Center for the Study of Human Rights for their assistance
in handling some of the administrative
aspects of the Program; the remaining
funds are devoted to programming,
including the Human Rights Film
Series and lectures (including Harvard
professor, A Problem from Hell author, and
former Barack Obama adviser Samantha
Power’s recent appearance). Strikingly,
this sum is smaller than the Political
Science Graduate Students Association’s
budget, which, according to Sanchez, is
used almost exclusively to fund casual
events. In addition to these funds, the
Program receives only enough funding
to hire two adjuncts to teach two classes
each year. Worse yet, Moyn notes, the
Columbia Program has “no control over
    Prior to this year, the Barnard
Program, according to Martin, received The first article of the United Nations Declaration of
no funding whatsoever. Since he has Human Rights.
                                The Global University / 40

become Director, however, the Program has begun to receive some funding from Barnard
and from a fund created by Irene Bloom. Like Moyn, Martin has control over hiring one
or two adjuncts each year. However, as Martin explains, the funding the Human Rights
Program at Barnard receives is “minimal compared to others.”
    Scant funding underlies many of the problems associated with the Program. Students
like Columbia College senior Geoff Aung point to the lack of coherence, structure,
committed faculty, and upper-level seminars as some of the Programs’ most serious
problems. Coherence and structure can be, to a certain extent, improved by the
Directors, as they have begun in the ways described above. But they largely depend on
having a wide range of pertinent courses offered consistently, which necessitates having
faculty committed to teaching these courses annually, which, in turn, requires a level of
funding that neither Program possesses. In the past four years, only a few of the many
courses that count towards the Programs’ requirements have been taught more than
once, including Historical Origins of Human Rights, Freedom of Speech and Press, and Trauma,
and even fewer have been taught three or four times. The two courses offered most
consistently have been Introduction to Human Rights and the Human Rights Senior Seminar.
Consequently, structuring the Programs to fit one’s interests is quite difficult, even for the
most resourceful students and for those who decided to study Human Rights before the
spring of their sophomore year.
    Despite the recent popularization of and acquisition of departmental status by other
fields including American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Urban Studies, and various regional
studies programs, that, like Human Rights Studies, have, since their inception, been
“consciously interdisciplinary,” neither Moyn nor Martin nor Sanchez believes the
Programs will gain departmental status any time soon. Nor, according to Sanchez, has
either Program pushed hard for such recognition. In any case, a lack of departmental
status does not rule out the possibility of receiving more funding from the University or
some from CSHR. The latter option, Moyn suggests, is unlikely, because the Center
runs on a very small budget as well; the former is more likely but still improbable, as the
University is currently running a deficit and is, in comparison to other schools of its stature,
less financially secure. What’s more, one can imagine that funding an Undergraduate
Program with roughly 75 students at Columbia and 48 in the junior and senior classes at
Barnard is not the highest priority for the University.
    According to Moyn and Martin, then, the most feasible means for future growth is
recruiting current faculty and new hires in various departments to teach Human Rights
related courses. Given the interdisciplinary of Human Rights and the increasing interest
among academics in the social science and humanities for studying Human Rights, this
                                The Global University / 41

strategy may prove effective.
    For obvious reasons, however, its chances for success are questionable. First, there
is no guarantee that either Barnard or Columbia will hire professors who have research
and teaching interests in Human Rights or, at least, could be persuaded to teach courses
relevant to Human Rights. Secondly, the problem of meager resources arises once again.
Neither Martin nor Moyn can be expected to act as a fundraiser, teacher, and full-time
administrator simultaneously. While the Columbia Program has the assistance of three
diligent part-time, student Program Assistants and a part-time graduate administrator
(Sanchez), none have the administrative assistance or resources to function effectively.
    All signs, therefore, point to the need for more funding from the University and other
sources in the short term. In the long term, however, the Programs will hopefully lobby
more earnestly for and, ultimately, receive departmental status. With departmental status
would come funding for full time administrators, the ability to attract, hire, and retain more
than two adjunct professors a year and, consequently, the ability to broaden offerings,
options, and advising resources for students, and a space for students and affiliated faculty
to gather and interact. While it seems that departmental status would seemingly provide a
more sustainable future for the Programs and would impart greater flexibility for growth
than receiving resources on a relatively ad hoc basis from the administrations, it is clear
that to achieve the consitency, cogency, and structure necessary for attracting students
and academics, the Programs urgently need more financial and human capital. While
Moyn may assert that the Programs “do well with what [they] have,” at the end of the day,
the Programs have next to nothing with which to “do well.”

    One of President Lee C. Bollinger’s professed goals as President of Columbia
is to transform it into a “truly global University.” The World Leaders Forum and the
Committee on Global Thought are, as the biography on his website suggests, his crowning
achievements in this respect. The former has brought “prominent international figures to
the campus to engage in the [m]ajor issues of our time;” the latter aims, in part, to “generate
new curriculum models that help students become better citizens of the world.”iii
    Globalization, terrorism, sustainable development, civil and interstate war, genocide,
global justice, climate change and responses thereto are some of the issues of our time that
Bollinger seeks to address via the World Leaders Forum and, incidentally, those which
often greatly interest students and practitioners of Human Rights. As such, enabling
students to become “better citizens of the world” requires providing them with the best
possible opportunities to engage in the study of Human Rights.
   Human Rights remains a concept that informs and is deeply involved in those
                               The Global University / 42

issues about which “better citizens of the world” ought to be concerned. Addressing
these problems requires thorough understanding of their complexity, of how they affect
individuals, communities, societies, and humanity, and of how specific tools can be used
to mitigate their negative effects and maximize their potential benefits.
    Moreover, as financial institutions and trade agreements, the internet and high tech
transportation, and war and disease contribute to our increasingly interconnected world,
it is necessary to consider the potentially global impact of one’s behavior, to empathize
with others similarly and dissimilarly situated and, further, to determine our duties as
citizens of this shrinking world. Human Rights Studies, properly conceived, can properly
train students to do just this.
    While, to be fair, one need not study Human Rights to achieve such insight and
understanding, it seems clear that a University that aims to enable its students to become
“global citizens” ought to provide them with excellent opportunities for the study of
Human Rights. Moreover, students desiring to pursue a course of study which is almost
entirely unique to Barnard and Columbia, and which the University touts heavily, should
not have to struggle to structure and become engaged in the study of Human Rights.
    For these Programs to achieve their potential and to serve as models for the rest of the
academic world, and for this University to provide its undergraduates a valuable guide to
global citizenship, the University must increase its financial and administrative support to
the Human Rights Programs.
    Nonetheless, students of the Programs who have benefited from and are dedicated
to their success ought to voice their concerns and raise ideas for reform to faculty,
administration and fellow students. We, too, as students, share responsibility in advocating
for the improvement of the Programs—certainly more than we have in the past. From
my discussions over the years with other students in the Programs and faculty as well,
I have learned that there is significant passion for improvement of the Program; what is
required from here on out is that students invest themselves more deeply in the Programs’
    Last fall, students did just that through participating in Internal and External Reviews
established by the University’s Academic Review Committee, which focused primarily
on the Center for the Study of Human Rights in general and, more particularly, the
many programs established with its support, including the Undergraduate Human Rights
Programs. These reviews were the first of their kind since the inception of the Barnard
and Columbia Programs in 2000, despite the Programs’ numerous, long-standing, and
evident troubles. Nonetheless, in this context, undergraduate and graduate students and
faculty aired their criticisms of the Programs to University faculty and administrators as
                                        The Global University / 43

well as renowned academics involved in human rights from other institutions. At present,
the Programs are awaiting a final review and conclusion from the Vice President. Given
the fact that the review, though welcomed by students and faculty affiliated with the
Columbia and Barnard Programs, was not focused on the status of the Undergraduate
Programs, Sanchez is not optimistic that a proposal for increasing the Programs’ resources
will be the ultimate result; nor is Moyn. But doing so is critical if the President Bollinger’s
professed goal is to be achieved.

    I will refer to Columbia’s Program hereinafter as either the “Columbia College Program” or “Columbia’s
Program,” purely because it is based almost entirely in Columbia College.
    I would like to thank graciously those students and Professors who contributed their comments to this piece:
Samuel Moyn, J. Paul Martin, Thania Sanchez, Samantha Stern, Geoff Aung, and C.J. Ponce. I would also like
to thank those, who, in past conversations about the Program, provided much of the foundation and inspiration
behind this article: Anubha Agarwal, Emily Setton, Gabby Barbosa, and Marbre Stahly-Butts.

JON CIOSCHI is a Columbia College Senior studying History and Human Rights. He can be
reached at He hopes you will read and think hard about his article.
                                        spring 2008 / 44

                                 Amy Moskowitz
               Finding Home in Exile:
The Formation of an Israeli Identity in India

          or anyone who has had to withstand the 120-degree heat of urban north India,
          the weather in McLeod Ganj is blessedly sunny and mild. The fog settles around
          the mountains, prayer flags draped from houses and stores flap in the breeze,
          and the smell of incense wafts from the town’s famous Buddhist temples.
   I had been living in Jaipur, a major city in the northern state of Rajasthan, for two and
a half months before I went to McLeod Ganj. Over the months in Jaipur, I frequently
walked home from my Hindi class, dodging cows, camels, bikes, rickshaws and motor-
scooters, usually encountering a wedding procession or two along the way. I often got
caught in a sudden downpour, and returned home soaking wet and exhausted from
navigating the chaotic streets, only to find that the power was out and my ceiling fan

ABOVE: Israelis relax on their extended vacations in India after their army service.
                               Finding Home in Exile / 45

wasn’t working.
    After two and a half months of Jaipur’s oppressive weather and hectic street life I
needed a vacation from my vacation. Unlike the honking, yelling and mooing I was used
to hearing in the city, McLeod Ganj was filled with the sounds of muttered mantras,
meditation bells, and casual conversations over tea.
    McLeod Ganj is the home of the Dalai Lama in exile. There are many Tibetans and
Buddhist monasteries in the area. Tourists and backpackers are also present throughout
the year, drawn to McLeod Ganj by Buddhism and the hope of catching a fleeting glance
of the Dalai Lama. I had been in McLeod Ganj for three days, wandering the narrow
roads that curl through the Himalayan foothills, relaxing and practicing my Hindi and
Tibetan with locals and shop owners. There was a recurring topic in these conversations,
especially amongst shop owners: Israeli backpackers.
    I heard a lot about them, usually in the form of grievances against the town’s Israeli
visitors. The shopowners complained about their rudeness, and said that they were loud
and disrespectful. But the locals had only met Israelis who were on their way into or out of
a small town farther up the road, and although I had seen traces of Israelis in my various
travels in India—signs in Hebrew or the occasional lost tourist—I had never witnessed a
large group of them, let alone a semi-permanent community. Despite the tens of thousands
of young Israelis running around the subcontinent, I found the idea of an all-Israeli town
in India incredibly hard to believe. So I decided to see it for myself.

    The place is called Bhagsu, and although it is thousands of miles from Haifa, the port
city lends its name to a café in the center of this little Israeli enclave. I found out later
that the owners were Israeli and had happened upon the village after finishing their army
service—and remained there ever since.
    The café was just one product of the Israel mini-invasion: As the shop owners in McLeod
Ganj told me, Bhagsu was comprised entirely of Israelis and the Indians who serve them.
Nestled into the foothills of the Himalayas, the area resembled the Golan Heights, with
its rugged hills and lush green vegetation. One could easily forget that one was in India if
it weren’t for the occasional cow wandering down the road, or the single Shiva temple in
the lower half of town. Otherwise, all of the guesthouses catered to Israelis, and all of the
restaurants offered menus in Hebrew.
    This seemed strange to me at the time, but I later found out that India has many semi-
permanent Israeli backpacker enclaves. Located primarily in the North, they serve as
temporary homes for the thousands of Israelis that travel to India every year. The smallest
enclaves accommodate a hundred or so travelers, while the largest host almost a thousand
                                Finding Home in Exile / 46

at a time. Despite their various locations, these enclaves are more or less the same. They
sell the same t-shirts, pipes, and jewelry, and they have the same types of guesthouses—as
well as restaurants advertising bhang lassi, a drink made from marijuana.
    The Israelis stay in locally-owned guesthouses, which are generally the sorts of places
most tourists avoid. For 100 rupees (about $2.50) a night, the Israelis get shared toilets and
hard beds, cement floors and old blankets—and, of course, no heat or air conditioning.
They spend as little money as possible in order to stretch their funds over the months they
spend in Asia, which often results in bickering with store owners over having to pay an
extra five rupees for a bottle of water. Armed with generations of backpacker expertise,
they often arrive in India knowing where they want to go, what they want to do, and which
guesthouse they’re going to use in each city. And they return to Israel to tell their friends
about the cheapest accommodations, best beaches, parties, and activities. The enclaves—
some of which date back to the late 70s—are reinforced by word of mouth between the
returning backpackers and the constant flow of Israelis into the country.
    The Israeli backpacking phenomenon began as early as 1970, and gained popularity
in the 80s, but did not become a significant cultural occurrence until the early 90s.i These
days, almost all Israelis voyage abroad at some point in early adulthood, typically after
their army service. Most choose to go to either South America or Asia and very few go
elsewhere.ii Those who travel to South America are generally looking for adventure and
physical challenge, and engage in trekking and other outdoor activities.iii Alternatively,
those who travel to Asia are usually more interested in cultivating their spiritual side or
simply partying and relaxing.iv
    Close to 43,000 Indian visas are granted to Israelis every year.v Although the Israelis
travel all over Asia, India is often the first stop on their trip, and they spend periods
ranging from one to six months, sightseeing and shuttling between various
They go to Hindu temples, bathe in the Ganges, smoke pot in the Himalayas, and dance
at the infamous full-moon parties in Goa. While some go to India to study meditation and
yoga, others simply go to do drugs. I have found that most fall somewhere in between the
two extremes, wandering into ashrams some days and parties on others.
    After a rigorous two or three years in the army, these young Israelis take a year off
before pursuing their education or a career and beginning their adult lives. Many of the
Israelis seize the opportunity to unwind and party in Asia, much the same way American
youth let loose in their first year of college.vii The trip to Asia is usually the first chance
these Israelis have to experience life removed from the strict supervision of the army.
     But the Israeli backpacker is in an awkward and more complicated stage than is the
typical American college freshman. Israelis are moving past their youth and their military
                               Finding Home in Exile / 47

experience. They are leaving Israel behind, often trying to determine their own world
view and Israel’s place in it—as well as their place in Israel.
   In India, this process plays out in some incredibly unexpected ways. Even stranger
than the prevalence of Hebrew signs in Hindu holy places is the presence of the religious
Jewish movement Chabad, and its popularity among otherwise-secular backpackers.

    Chabad Lubavitch is a subgroup of mystical orthodox or Hasidic Judaism founded in
the early 19th century, and is one of Judaism’s best-known Hasidic movements. This is
largely because Chabad takes responsibility for disseminating its ideas to non-observant
Jews, and has become a fixture on hundreds of college campuses across the US and in
dozens of foreign countries. This responsibility to help other Jews find the “joy within
Judaism” drives “Chabadniks” to engage in outreach activities across the world. It has
also sparked a certain amount of criticism, and triggered claims that the movement
proselytizes. Yet Chabad believes that it does not attempt to “convert” anyone, and only
tries to connect less-observant Jews to their rich religious and cultural heritage.
    What makes this relationship so interesting is that Orthodox Judaism is generally
unpopular amongst secular Israeli youth. Israel is a country with deep-seated religious
chasms, separating religious from secular (dati vs. chiloni). Jerusalem Chabadniks and Tel
Aviv tsfonim (“northies,” average teenagers) are worlds apart, if not openly hostile towards
one another. But in India, the two camps find some surprising common ground, and the
Chabad houses in India serve as hangout spots for Israeli backpackers.
    It is hard to say exactly how many Israelis visit each center, since for every one visitor
who signs a chapter’s guestbook, another four or five come to use the internet or grab
a bite to eat. It seems clear that the majority of Israelis who travel to Asia interact with
Chabad at some point or in some capacity.
    I visited the Chabad house in the Himalayan town of Dharamkot, a place that functions
as an organizational and orienting center for both the pious and agnostic Israelis in the
area. The Chabad house in Dharamkot overlooks the mountain and villages below. At one
end were bookcases filled with Jewish texts as well as novels, travel books, and journals
in which visitors wrote notes, poems, and other travel anecdotes. On the floor next to
the bookcases were pillows where people would read, talk quietly, and nap as the Rabbi
wandered around the house talking to visitors.
    The first time I visited the house, which doubles as a kosher restaurant, I walked to the
end of the room by the bookcases and sat on a futon in front of a small table. On the table
sat a menu and an ashtray. I was shocked to see an ashtray in a room that also functioned
as a synagogue. Assuming this was a mistake, I turned to a girl sitting next to me and asked
                                Finding Home in Exile / 48

what the ashtray was doing there. She looked up from her book and replied, “You can
smoke in here, otherwise no one would come.”
    Though this liberal attitude towards social behaviors on the part of the Chabadniks
initially struck me as a tactic used to attract those who are otherwise less spiritually
inclined, I realized later that there was something more to it. Though Chabadniks may
not allow smoking in a synagogue in Jerusalem, their view is that, as long as an act does
not directly violate Jewish law, they will attempt to make people feel at home in the Chabad
house by allowing them to behave as they would in their own home. This attempt at
creating a “home away from home” is a common characteristic shared by all Chabad
houses worldwide.
    Chabad houses in India offer Israelis a place to eat kosher food and use the internet,
or simply a common point to meet up with other Israelis. But some Israelis, even the
virulently secular, attend Torah study—an activity they likely never would have considered,
let alone undertaken, in Israel.

    Part of the reason the Israelis are willing to approach Chabad in India is the context of
the encounter; paradoxically, the presence of Judaism in India is exotic and even foreign
to travelers who are attempting to gain distance from the world’s only majority-Jewish
    This distance appears to make Judaism more approachable. While it may seem strange
that Israelis would not interact with Judaism in Israel, many Israelis have a passive, if not
antagonistic, relationship to religion. According to Columbia University Middle Eastern
and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) assistant professor Uri Cohen, a scholar
of Israeli literature and society, Israelis have little reason to seek out their Judaism within
Israel. “In Israel, the state performs Judaism for you, and you don’t need to pay attention
to it,” Cohen said. Israeli cities shut down on Friday for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath,
lasting from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown), forcing everyone to recognize
Shabbat in some manner. Yet although they still describe themselves as Jews, secular
Israelis usually don’t go to synagogue on a regular basis or celebrate Shabbat. As Cohen
put it, “It’s enough for the city to get quiet and recognize that it’s a holiday. You don’t
need to go to synagogue.”
    The young Israelis often don’t consider their relationship to Judaism until they go
abroad when the ease of a built-in religious component disappears. As Cohen put it, they
are “forced to actively engage the religious dimension in their lives.”
    This idea was echoed by Chaim Noy, a professor in the communications department
at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. With two books and numerous articles on the topic,
                              Finding Home in Exile / 49

Noy is one of the foremost scholars on the Israeli backpacking phenomenon. This past
January, I spoke with him about the problem of religious discourse in a country with such
a problematic relationship to both secularism and religion. When I mentioned that the
Israelis I had met in India did not consider themselves religious but still made a point of
lighting Shabbat candles, he echoed Cohen in saying that Israelis don’t think about their
personal relationship to Judaism until they get to India.
    In Israel, there is simply Orthodox and secular, the religious and the non-religious.
The interaction with Chabad in India forces them to question all of their previous notions
about religion, and realize that there is a greater spectrum of religious observance than
they had previously imagined. It also allows them to experience Judaism untainted by the
complexities of Israel’s religious-secular divide.
    Many young people harbor resentments against the Ultra-Orthodox community in
Israel, often blaming them for many of Israel’s political and social problems. Therefore,
the separation of religious observance from its Israeli context forces the young Israelis to
contemplate how Judaism functions in their life while in Israel, and allows the backpackers
to experience religion without the pressures of Israeli life that complicate or discourage
an interest in spirituality.
    But it is not religious curiosity alone that compels an Israeli backpacker to visit a
Chabad house. Rather, Chabad also functions as a site of nostalgia for Israelis who yearn
for a symbolic stand-in for their far-away home country. Many scholars have written about
the Israeli backpacking trip as a rite of passage into Israeli society. Though my research
was limited in scope, lasting less than two weeks and including approximately twenty in-
depth interviews, I also found this to be true. The power of nostalgia, often inspired by
interaction with Chabad, causes the Israelis to reconsider their relationship to Judaism
and subsequently their relationship to the state of Israel. It is the precise combination
of the familiar (Chabad) within the unfamiliar (India) that causes the subsequent and
inevitable confrontation with identity. It is a confrontation that impels many Israelis to a
re-examine their place within their own society, and to re-evaluate their views of Israeli
society itself.

   There are no statistics that substantiate the role of Chabad in reconnecting Israelis to
a culture and society with which they are potentially at odds. The only reliable means of
understanding how alienated religiosity and a nostalgic connection to their country of
origin play themselves out in Israeli backpacking experiences is through talking to the
backpackers themselves, something I had the opportunity to do in Bhagsu, Dharamkot,
Delhi, and Goa. Most of the Israelis I spoke to were from relatively well-off families, and
                                Finding Home in Exile / 50

worked in various odd jobs to earn money for their backpacking trip. With one exception,
they all came to India with friends, though they sometimes split up to go in various
different directions and later meet up in another city. Some of the backpackers I spoke to
were actively engaged with Chabad, attended daily Torah studies and even volunteered
at the Chabad house. But the story that struck me the most was Ari’s.
    Over a period of years, Ari vacillated between feeling animosity toward Judaism
and having an interest in religious observance. He is one of the rare few who had an
experience in India that led him to pursue Judaism in Israel. Though some Israelis are
drawn to Chabad and flirt with the idea of religious observance while in India, most do
not continue their study when they return home. Ari, who now considers himself secular,
began his spiritual journey with an interest in Eastern religion that led him to India.
    Like most Israeli backpackers, Ari grew up in an upper middle class family. After
graduating from high school, he spent three years in a classified army post. Upon
completing his army service, he worked as a DJ in a hotel in Eilat for six months before
going to India. Prior to his visit, Ari felt no special attachment to Judaism. He did have
a sense of spirituality, but did not grow up in an observant family and therefore had no
personal connection to religious observance.
    During his first stay in Dharamkot, Ari recalled visiting the Chabad center a few times.
He initially looked down on them: “Vipasana (a form of Buddhist meditation) is better
because it isn’t religious. I saw them praying and thought, this is bullshit.” Ari said that he
and his friends from the Vipasana center went to the Chabad house on Passover and then
left to eat pizza which was not only un-kosher, but forbidden during Passover. To them,
this was a symbolic gesture, showing not only their disrespect for religious Jews, but also
their open defiance of what they consider to be dogma. It also reflected the belief that
their spiritual practice of Buddhist meditation and other alternative rituals was superior.
    But Ari would leave India with an acute sense of a higher power, partly due to a
harrowing, near-death experience when trekking through the Himalayas. A series of
interactions with religious Jews in northern Israel made him curious about his Jewish
roots. Back in Israel, he had a few short-lived stints in ultra-orthodox Yeshivot, or centers
for study of Jewish tradition and text. He told me about the experience of putting on
teffilinviii for the first time, of meeting spiritual “pure hearted people” in the holy city
of Tzfat, known for its mystic tradition, and finding the kind of spiritual fulfillment in
Judaism that he had sought but not found in Indian religion.
   But this culminated in a sense of confusion. He resented the dogmatic, rule-bound
spirituality found in Judaism while simultaneously experiencing a sense of fulfillment
found in the practice of Judaism. Searching for answers to this spiritual dilemma, Ari
                                Finding Home in Exile / 51

decided to return to the site of his original spiritual experience: India. He spent two
months in India on his second trip, and was somewhat bothered by the fact that though
he had gone to India with the distinct purpose of getting away from Orthodox Judaism,
he still found himself drawn to Chabad.
    Ari’s simultaneous attraction and repulsion to Judaism was initially triggered during
his experiences in India. All of the Israelis to whom I spoke had some variation on this
experience; something that happened to them in India that forced them to take a step
back and contemplate greater questions. Like Ari, many turned to Judaism for answers.
Chabad’s presence in India serves these Israelis who develop questions about life, Judaism,
and Israel. This usually has less to do with the appeal of Chabad ideology, and more to
do with the fact that Chabadnicks are wiling to listen, care for, and feed Jews--just because
they are Jewish.
    In Uri Cohen’s view, this is an extremely powerful realization for secular Israeli
backpackers. The compassion and understanding they discover in Chabad leads them
to develop a sense of solidarity with Israel while in India, and within this hectic place,
they find people who want to help, provide for, and listen to them. Whether it is spiritual
guidance, a shoulder on which to cry, or internet service, Chabad is there for the Israelis.
Their experiences with Chabad often lead them to reexamine religion and society in
Israel, allowing them to develop a whole new connection to the idea of a Jewish state and
to the power of religious connection
    But the religious dimension of this connection is tenuous and complicated by the fact
that though Chabad feels its goal is to cause Israelis to reconsider their spirituality, few
Israelis permanently embrace rigorous Jewish observance. Most Israelis return home still
identifying themselves as secular. Though occasionally a backpacker may develop a deep
and lasting commitment to Judaism through their experiences with Chabad in India,
this is relatively rare. For most, their interaction with Chabad in India, consciously or
unconsciously aids their passage into Israeli society. In an odd way, a temporary brush
with a kind of orthodox religiosity that most backpackers would find repellent in Israel
allows them to reenter secular Israeli life.
    The presence of Chabad in the Israeli enclaves in India not only stimulates the sense of
nostalgia that sets into motion the transition into Israeli society, but may also be indicative
of a greater, underlying desire among Israeli youth, a manifestation of a growing sense
of indifference present in modern Israeli society. In the 1970s, the early backpackers or
“drifters” traveled abroad as a result of their disappointment with the moral fiber of the
army and the nation. Though the Israelis who now travel to those same locations in India
may not be driven by the same circumstances, the feeling of separation from society and
                                        Finding Home in Exile / 52

a desire and need for perspective remains the same. Israelis now travel away from home
as a way of returning home. As Ari put it, their “gift” from India is often their rediscovery
of Israel.

   Noy, Chaim and Cohen, Erik, eds. Israeli Backpackers and Their Society: A View From Afar. Albany: State
University of New York Press, 2005. P. 10.
    Ibid, p. 26
    Noy, Chaim. “This Trip Really Changed Me: Backpackers’ Narratives of Self-Change”. Annals of Tourism
Research. Vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 78-102, 2004. P. 83.
   “Tourist Arrivals in India by Country of Nationality”, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India.
    Interview with Rabbi Motti Seligson and Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, April 1 2008.
    Interview with Uri Cohen, April 3, 2008.
     Teffilin are two black boxes containing Jewish scriptures. The boxes are attached to leather straps that are
wrapped around the upper arm and above the forehead. They are worn during morning prayers.

AMY MOSKOWITZ is a senior in the school of General Studies majoring in Anthropology.
                                     spring 2008 / 53

                                Sandra Cariglio
                     A New Haunting:
  French Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century

                will not let you wear your Magen David in the metro” my mother repeated,
                almost mechanically. We had this discussion every time I left the house.
                But as usual, I stubbornly insisted that I would not take it off. It came as no
                surprise later on when I heard a Moroccan man whisper “sale Juive” (French for
“dirty Jew”) as he looked at my necklace in the Parisian subway. That was one of many small
incidents which made me feel a peripheral unease.
    Again, I wasn’t surprised when I heard the story of a young Jewish professor in the suburb
of Seine-Saint-Denis whose coat had been scotched with an “Israel-apartheid” sticker by his
students, who had then drawn a swastika next to “Kill the Jews” on the classroom blackboard.
Nor when on March 23, 2002, in Toulon, a Jewish synagogue and community center were
set on fire, or when on October 29-30 of the same year, close to one hundred gravestones
were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in Brumath, just outside Strasbourg. The vandals had
painted swastikas and SS symbols on ninety-two Jewish gravestones.
                                    A New Haunting / 54

    It was only two years ago, when 23-year old Jewish boy Ilan Halimi was found naked by a
railway track in the Paris suburb of Bagneux, with burns and knife wounds all over his body, that
the threats suddenly became more tangible, not only for me but for many other Jews in France.
A gang of teens of North African origin took Halimi hostage and held him for weeks, demanding
a large ransom. Most public officials insisted the gang did not act out of anti-Semitism. However,
the gang seemed inordinately fixated on the fact that Halimi was Jewish because, as one police
detective put it, “Jews equal money.” Current President Nicolas Sarkozy, who at the time served
as Interior Minister, stated that greed was the main motive in the murder, “but they believed,
and I quote, ‘that Jews have money.’” he said. “That’s called anti-Semitism.”
    Early this year, in same suburb of Bagneux in which Halimi’s murder took place, and in
which there has a slew of violent immigrant riots in the past two years, 19-year-old Mathieu
Roumi suffered considerable physical and emotional mistreatment at the hands of another
youth immigrant gang. Among the many abuses subjected to Roumi, one of the assailants
shoved cigarette butts into his mouth, and another grabbed correction fluid and scrawled
“dirty Jew” on his forehead. The six men proceeded to scream at him and threaten that he
would die the way Halimi did. “We admire Youssouf Fofana!” they shouted at him, referring to
the leader of the gang that murdered Halimi. Fortunately, the similarity between the cases
ended there, as Roumi was able to return home alive and relatively unhurt.
    Certainly, the French government, and the majority of French society, utterly rejects
anti-Semitism. The epoch in which anti-Semitism was instrumental to the French nationalist
discourse, or almost represented an authentic political doctrine, seems to have ended long
ago. Forgotten, it appears, are the centuries in which the Jews were blamed for the de-
Christianization of society and were qualified as the “deicide” people, or were linked to the
wealthy Rothschild family and denounced for controlling the country’s economy. Yet these
events can be overlooked or minimized. They all provide striking counter examples to the
reassuring statistics on the “diminution of anti-Semitic feeling” in modern France.
    Today the average French citizen is increasingly open to marrying within Judaism or
of voting for a Jewish candidate. French Jews are now seen by more than two thirds of the
population as fully French. They hold important positions in all aspects of public life and can
openly practice their religion. The majority of the French public’s response to the violence of
the last ten years was also, on the whole, overwhelmingly empathetic. After Halimi’s death,
tens of thousands of people marched through Paris to protest against racism and anti-Semitism.
Similarly, in November 2003, after an arson attack on Jewish school in Gagny, President
Chirac stated, “An attack on a Jew is an attack on France.” He ordered the formation of an
inter-ministerial committee charged with initiating measures to combat anti-Semitism.
    Since its first meeting in December 2003, the committee has worked to improve
                                    A New Haunting / 55

government coordination in the fight against anti-Semitism by publishing statistics on the
number and nature of anti-Semitic acts committed annually as well as on the evolution of
public perception of these phenomena. During the Halimi scandal, now Minister of Foreign
Affairs Bernard Kouchner stated that the French population “shouldn’t relax its vigilance and
wait until the next anti-Semitic or racist act to come forward and say ‘that’s enough…’ that it’s
no use invoking the “republican integration” or ‘the country of the Rights of Man,’ because
these words are insufficient to make it stop.”
    The concept of “republican integration” lies at the heart of French political and cultural
identity. It holds that every citizen of the French state should cede racial and religious
allegiances in favor of political loyalty to the French nation. The notion of “communitarianism,”
understood as political communities anchored in historically cultural communities, has been
a recurrent source of debate within French society. For example, Jews have often been forced
to question whether they are first Jewish and secondarily French, or vice versa.
    Indeed, “communitarianism” is profoundly linked to the historically problematic notion
of diversity within the French republican system. During the Enlightenment, cultural
differences were depicted as a resurgence of tribalism and superstition, which opposed
the universality of “civilization.” The French Revolution and the writings of Jean-Jacques
Rousseau on minority interests, which suggested that minorities might “threaten the unity of
the indivisible Republic,” promoted the suppression of the Jewish cultural differentiation and
political autonomy. In view of recent criticism, many Jewish leaders, among them rabbis and
academics, have vigorously defended the traditional Republican values of French Judaism.
In their self-conscious reflection on “Judéité,” and its place in the Republic, many influential
Jewish figures have demonstrated a keen awareness of their collective responsibility to defend
a specifically French Jewish identity, subordinated to citizenship, as well as to demonstrate
their commitment to the notion of universalism.
    Yet anti-Semitism still plagues certain sectors of modern France. Since 2000, which
corresponds to the date of the second Palestinian uprising against Israel, the specter of a
new kind of anti-Semitism, particularly attributed to an economically disenfranchised North
African or Muslim youth, has menaced France. This anti-Semitism manifests itself in different
ways: violent in “heated” suburbs, latent in wealthier districts, and politicized in universities.
It often originates in a sector of the population which finds in the hatred of the Jews a relief
for its social frustration, material discomfort, and historical victimization. Police interrogations
deduced that the perpetrators of recent anti-Semitic violence seldom originate from extremist
right-wing milieus such as French nativists, but are instead often perpetrated by non-organized
North African youths. These delinquents often lack ideology but act out of a diffuse hostility
to Israel, exacerbated by the media representation of the Middle East conflict which, in their
                                    A New Haunting / 56

eyes, recreates the picture of ostracism and failure which they feel victims of in France.
    While these anti-Semitic acts appear to be perpetrated by a new element in French society,
it is unclear whether the motivations and justifications behind them are new, or whether
they stem from French anti-Semitism rooted in “republican integration.” Is this resurgence
in violence a continuation of the pre-World War II trend of conservative, right-wing French
anti-Semitism that underpinned the fascist regime during the Holocaust? Or is it attributable
to a new anti-Zionism born from a growing tension between the large Jewish and Muslim
communities in France?
    The Jewish community’s perpetual association with Israel represents one of the main reasons
for its renewed sense of unease. The French media has played a vital role in perpetuating anti-
Israel prejudice and, in the eyes of many, has sparked a distorted discourse on the Israeli-Arab
conflict. As the well-known French Muslim writer Tariq Ramadan stated, the tragic spectacle
of conflict in the Middle East nourished “an anti-Semitic discourse by no means confined to
young people with too much time on their hands but peddled by intellectuals and imams who
blame every setback and frustration on the machinations of the Jewish lobby.” The depiction
of the Jews as conspirators or likewise as a subversive group looking out only for itself has
also been linked to references about the “Jewish lobby” in America. A May 1998 issue of the
Left Republican wing magazine Marianne, for instance, pictured six million American Jews
marching united and using their financial influence to “buy Congress” and place its agents
at high levels of the State Department. The Socialist-Democratic oriented newsmagazine Le
Nouvel Observateur (French for The New Observer) has likewise hinted that the Jewish lobby was
responsible for America’s policies toward Iraq.
    The media’s attitude concerning Israel has perverted any meaningful conversation
about the Middle East. A class of highly partisan journalists has led the charge, engaging in
irresponsible and blatant manipulation of facts. These intellectuals have implicitly legitimated
the violence against French Jews, which the public quickly perceived as “understandable” in
view of Israel’s mistreatment of the Palestinians. In the words of Hubert Védrine, the former
Socialist Minister of Foreign Affairs, “One does not necessarily have to be shocked that young
Frenchmen of immigrant origin have compassion for the Palestinians and are very excited
because of what is happening [with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict].” Similarly, there
were no protests when agricultural trade union leader José Bové claimed that the Mossad
(Israeli Intelligence Agency) had initiated the anti-Semitic aggressions in France to hide their
own aggressions in the Palestinian Territories. These attacks have had a large affect on Jewish
institutions meant to defend Israel. Many Frenchmen criticize these pro-Israel organizations
for unconditionally and systematically supporting Israel and attempting to be “more Zionist
than the Israelis themselves.”
                                   A New Haunting / 57

    All layers of French society engaged in and embraced attacks against Israel from 2001-
2003. Slanted media coverage and limited sources of information resulted in an anti-Israel
ideological consensus within France. This sparked Jacques Tarnero and Philippe Bensoussan
to produce the documentary “Decryptage,” which offers an in-depth investigation of the abuses
of language and accuracy of the French media. The documentary demonstrates how an
average French viewer is subject to selective and biased images, often taken out of context,
and hears only the opinions of Israelis who are well known critics of the Israeli government.
In one particularly troubling example addressed by the documentary, when thirteen-year-old
Israelis Koby Mandell and Yossi Ish-Ran were brutally stoned to death by Palestinians as they
went for a hike in 2001, the French media described the two boys as “young Jewish colonists.”
The word “colony” has a singularly derogatory connotation in French culture, as it evokes
associations with France’s colonial past in North Africa, a past with which many have not
yet come to terms. The term “colonist” insinuates that the victims, however young, were not
entirely innocent. This only made the horrific crime against them more “contextualized” and
hence less “blamable.”
    Indeed, the particular intensity of the French public’s mobilization for the Middle East is
also partly motivated by sentiments of culpability from its colonial period. The comparison
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the
Algerian War of Independence, in which
France fought to retain Algeria as a colony
despite fierce insurgent resistance, leads to
an understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict as one between the oppressor the
oppressed. This makes it difficult for many
in France to comprehend the Arab-Israeli
conflict objectively and dispassionately.
    Perhaps, then, the perpetrators of today’s
anti-Semitism are engaged not in protecting a
traditional model of “Frenchness” from Jewish
contamination, but in importing a conflict
from their homelands to a country where
their own inclusion is often questioned. In the
“banlieues,” the economically underdeveloped
neighborhoods on the outskirts of French
                                                 A Jewish cemetery defaced with swastikas and
cities where residents enjoy few educational anti-Semitic slurs in the Alsace Lorraine region
and career opportunities, many second of France.
                                    A New Haunting / 58

generation immigrant youths have inherited anti-Jewish prejudices. This xenophobia has
manifested itself within the French school system. Indeed, in many suburbs heavily populated
by North African immigrants, the word “Jew” appears in derogatory graffiti on middle school
walls and neighborhood playgrounds. The term ‘broken pen’ translates to “feuj” in French,
is the slang word for Jew and also used as a synonym for “stingy.” The Inspector General of
Education in France, Mr. Jean-Pierre Obin, wrote in the official report on French national
education that France is facing “a stupefying and cruel reality: in France, Jewish children—and
they are alone in this case—can no longer be educated in just any school.”
    Many teachers complain that the government has done little to combat such prejudice
despite many proposals for reform. President Sarkozy’s recent proposition to formalize
Holocaust education by having each French elementary school class ‘adopt’ and learn about
a child victim of the Holocaust was met with fierce opposition from both the left and the right.
Jean-Marie le Pen, the far-right leader who in the past described the gas chambers of Nazi
death camps as a mere “detail in history,” declared the plan morally appalling. “The poor
children will feel guilty and broken,” he said. This widespread condemnation placed Jewish
organizations in an uneasy position. Many Jewish leaders, including Holocaust survivor and
former cabinet minister Simone Weil, condemned Sarkozy’s initiative. Others grant that,
although the intention of fighting anti-Semitism inside schools is laudable, the institutional
means Sarkozy wished to implement were inappropriate.
    Some schools have also attempted to resolve the problem by employing more subtle means.
After a gang harassed a young Jewish girl in the Parisian suburb of Saint-Ouen in 2004, her
school’s administration decided to screen the movie “Night and Fog,” a 1955 documentary
that includes footage of Nazi death camps. In the discussion following the movie, one boy
asked how Jews who had experienced such suffering could treat Palestinians “the same way.”
    The boy’s remarks speak to a phenomenon known in France as “competing victimization,”
where various minority groups wage war for the right to play the victim. The victim, of course,
never has to take responsibility for his actions or for his welfare. In the words of French history
teacher Barbara Lefèbvre, who taught in many working-class suburbs has extensively written
about anti-Semitism in schools, “As long as anti-Semitism came from the extreme right there was
a reaction… but when it came from that part of the population that itself was a victim of racism,
no one wanted to see it.” After each new anti-Semitic attack the Interior Ministry promises
increased security around Jewish institutions. But “more police aren’t the answer because [the
anti-Semitism] remains in the spirit of the people,” said Marc Djebali, a spokesman for the Jewish
community in Sarcelles, a suburb with highly concentrated Jewish and Arab communities.
    As a consequence of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment, many have argued that the
Jewish community has entered an intellectual and behavioral “ghettoization.” Jewish parents
                                    A New Haunting / 59

send their children to Jewish schools at a much higher rate as a “security measure.” French
critics have denounced this trend as an unacceptable rejection of the secular and republican
conception so sacred to the French national ethos, an ethos which demands that ethnic and
religious preferences remain in the private realm. Indeed, from the start, the French Revolution
wooed many Jews away from their traditional communities and managed to assimilate many.
As evidence of their fruitful integration, Jews adopted French-sounding names and enrolled
their children in French public schools. Although decolonization and the resultant influx of
millions of North African immigrants resulted in the sociological transformation of French
Jewry, Jewish integration remained relatively successful.
    Yet in the midst of the renewed strife, critics of the French Jewish community once again
discuss the notion of “communitarianism.” By phrasing their argument in these terms, the
critics reincarnate the pejorative connotation of “communitarianism”—so often prevalent in
French anti-Semitism stemming from the Revolution—that Jews do not act in the interest of
the nation as loyal and dedicated Frenchmen but rather as members of a community whose
allegiance resides elsewhere. Today, however, that traditionally elusive and vague “elsewhere”
has taken physical form in Israel. Combined with the traditional calumnious depiction of
Jews as unpatriotic and treacherous, this concept is far from innocent. Anti-Zionism adds a
new and troubling element to anti-Semitic behavior.
    Different sectors of the French Jewish community have faced varying degrees of anti-
Semitism in the past decade. In an example of such fluctuation, a study by sociologist Erik
Cohen in Le Monde des Religions (The World of Religions) suggests that 65% of Jews in the Paris
area today claim to feel uneasy about publicly identifying as Jews. Yet 91% also stated they are
happy or very happy with their lives in France. Other French Jews, however, have lost faith in
their country and decided to make aliyah (to immigrate) to Israel. In 2000, for example, about
1,153 French Jews made aliyah during the recrudescence of anti-Semitic aggressions. But in
2005, that number rose to 3,005.
    During the 2002 elections, a minority of French Jews increasingly threatened by instability,
actually felt more secure in voting for extremist nationalist politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, despite
his well-documented and unabashed anti-Semitism. Even as he downplayed the Holocaust,
many Jews took solace in his pledge to provide greater protection against urban delinquency.
Former President of the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France (Representative
Council for French Jewish institutions) Roger Cuckierman remarked after the first round of
the elections, in which Le Pen scored 16.86% of the votes, that he both “understood and
deplored” the French Jewish vote in light of domestic security concerns, but that he did not
expect “French Jews to be duped by a racist and anti-Semitic party” in the second round.
    Some Jews have felt reassured under the new presidency of conservative Nicolas Sarkozy,
                                   A New Haunting / 60

who was elected in 2007 promising sweeping change to French society. Jewish emigration to
Israel has dropped under Sarkozy’s administration, as he has voiced his unwavering support
for Israel—even declaring Israel’s creation one of the “miracles of the 20th century.” Sarkozy’s
immigrant background and support for the Jewish community represents an image that many
Jews identify with, despite their traditionally leftist political leanings.
     Thanks to Sarkozy’s rise and the waning of the Palestinian uprising, many see hope for
a resolution of the conflict between the French Arab and Jewish communities. Moderate
leaders consistently called for reconciliation, including the leader of the “Young Muslims of
France,” which at the break of the second intifada in 2000 claimed that “the Jews of France
are not the soldiers of the Israeli army.” Such moderates prove that the extremist behavior of
certain groups and individuals cannot be generalized to the majority of Arabs and Muslims
living in France. State and private institutions have also attempted to bridge the gaps between
the two communities. Indeed, these new developments remind us that peaceful elements can
resist the temptation to amalgamate identities, and that despite their conflicting allegiances,
French Arabs and Jews do not need to resort to violence.
     At present, however, anti-Semitism continues to haunt French society. The long reach
of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has certainly touched France and inflamed anti-Jewish
sentiment. But although the situation of anti-Semitism in France is linked to battles fought in
other regions of the globe, its manifestation remains profoundly ingrained in the history and
political system of the country.
     These phenomena raise the question of the validity of the French nation-state in a period
where its collective identity is very much in crisis. Indeed, the problem of French anti-Semitism
cannot be understood independently from the difficulties of dealing with the sociological
impact of mass immigration in France as well as the process of European unification. France’s
attitude toward Israel and America, for which it suffers continual stereotyping, has also
increasingly become a powerful factor for consolidating a collective identity, articulated
“against” diverging models. The challenge for France, as for many European countries today,
is to bear in mind its special responsibility to preserve a “cautious” discourse, as modern
anti-Semitic rhetoric has an inviolable historical resonance, as well as to fight the schematic
associations of identity in order to preserve the authentic values of equality and fraternity of
its republic.

SANDRA CARIGLIO is a Columbia College sophomore and Staff Writer for The Current. Originally
from Paris, France, she is majoring in Philosophy and Political science and enjoys watching snow
                                       spring 2008 / 61

                               Brandon Hammer
                   Screening Society:
               Eytan Fox Takes On Israel

        n the Holy Land, regarded by some as the birthplace of homophobia, two
        filmmakers are trying to use movies to create social acceptance of the Lesbian Gay
        Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community. In Walk on Water (2005) and The Bubble
        (2007), Israeli director Eytan Fox and his spouse and screenwriting collaborator
Gad Uchovsky simultaneously address the issues of gay acceptance in Israeli society and
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both films demonstrate a clear desire to send a message
about acceptance of the gay community and also to urge viewers to re-evaluate the
Palestinian problem. While the duo’s efforts are innovative and their desire to tie the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the acceptance of gays has potential to create an impact

ABOVE: A poster advertising The Bubble, Israeli director Eytan Fox’s 2007 movie about LGBT life in
Israeli and Palestinian society.
                                   Screening Society / 62

in Israeli society, their inability to conceive of realistic, or even plausible, narratives
and narrative transitions greatly inhibits their effectiveness. To solve this problem, the
filmmakers need to rely less on the narrative to express their message and instead create
meaning by utilizing the special features with which the medium of film is endowed.
    Walk on Water, which has performed better at the American box office than any other
Israeli film, centers on Eyal, a Mossad (Israel’s intelligence agency) officer assigned to
ascertain the whereabouts of Alfred Himmelman, a former Nazi who went into hiding
abroad after the war and has recently returned to Germany. To achieve his mission,
Eyal impersonates a tour guide and takes Himmelman’s grandson, Axel, around Israel
as the latter visits his sister who has recently moved to a kibbutz. Through their time
together, Axel steadily brings Eyal out of his comfort zone, forcing him to confront both
homosexuality and the Palestinian conflict in a meaningful way. After sleeping closely
beside Axel during a night camping in order to stay warm and showering with him at the
Dead Sea—two actions that Eyal apparently does not find problematic for straight men to
do—Eyal learns that Axel is gay. Though he is at first surprised and actually angered, Eyal
eventually comes to accept Axel and, even later in the film, takes the initiative to defend
a group of LGBT partiers who come under attack by lowlifes in Berlin. Axel also forces
Eyal to confront the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when he becomes romantically
involved with a Palestinian man, Rafik. Eyal is extremely upset by this development, and
in contrast to his acceptance of Axel’s sexual orientation, Eyal never seems to accept
his guest’s decision to have a relationship with a Palestinian. At one instance, he even
embarrasses Rafik when he accuses the Palestinian’s uncle of ripping off Axel.
    The Bubble confronts these same issues from a very different angle. Set mostly in Tel Aviv,
the story focuses on two young men whose lives collide with the politics and prejudices of
their societies. Noam, an Israeli soldier who has just finished his duty at a checkpoint in
the territories, has fallen in love with Ashraf, a Palestinian who has snuck into Tel Aviv.
While Noam’s two roommates, one of whom is gay, accept his sexual orientation, Noam
faces a fair amount of antagonism about Ashraf’s ethno-political identity. Moreover,
Ashraf has to hide his identity in Tel Aviv in order to remain there, changing his name to
“Shimi” and speaking Hebrew without a Palestinian accent. More significantly, he must
continually hide his sexual orientation from his family that does not even recognize the
possibility or existence of homosexuality.
    Both films are shot with an unobtrusive, documentary-style camera, mostly with basic
medium shots and traditional establishing shots (shots at the beginning of a scene that tell
the viewer where the action is taking place). There are no memorable montage sequences
and very few provocative or engaging shots of note. Fox and Uchovsky seem to rely entirely
                                  Screening Society / 63

on the events and dialogue of the plot to provide meaning, without any noticeable attempt
to use other specific features of the medium, such as non-diegetic sound (i.e., sound that
the viewer hears but is not present in the story, like a score), cinematography, or even
iconography, when specific elements in the film, such as a prop, are used to signify a
much greater idea or concept. Nevertheless, both films have received a good deal of
attention both within Israel and internationally. But will they make a difference?
    To answer this question, we must first examine the level of social and legal acceptance
for the LGBT community within Israel. Israel’s law code is generally very welcoming
of the LGBT community. In contrast to the United States, Israel has often received
praise for allowing gays into full military service. Indeed, the Jewish state has a number
of anti-discrimination laws in effect to protect the LGBT community. Also, the Israeli
Supreme Court recently declared that a lesbian couple may both remain parents of a
child born to one of the mothers. According to The Advocate, an American gay and lesbian
newsmagazine, the Israeli government granted homosexual couples the full adoption
rights as heterosexual couples. Most significantly, while there are no civil marriages in
Israel and the Orthodox religious leadership does not condone same-sex marriage, the
state recognizes same-sex marriages from other countries, like Spain or the Netherlands.
In legal terms, Israel is not only more accepting of the gay community than is the United
States, but is even more accepting than a number of Western European nations as well.
    Nevertheless, Israeli society is not as accepting of homosexuality as its laws suggest.
According to Ira Stup, Columbia College ’09 and member of Gayava, a group dedicated
to promoting LGBT Jewish life both on campus and in the city as a whole, the social
situation for the community within Israel varies upon location. In some places such as
Tel Aviv, Stup explains, being “out” can be relatively easy. The city government provides
services for the LGBT community. Moreover, there are a number of businesses that cater
to the LGBT lifestyle. As British journalist Chas Newkey Burden puts it, “Tel Aviv has a
fine gay scene with a number of bars, clubs, saunas, and gay sex shops on its streets.” Also,
Tel Aviv has had an annual gay pride parade since 1998, which runs relatively smoothly
each year.
    Yet in Jerusalem, however, being “out” can prove very difficult. Jerusalem’s sizable
Orthodox Jewish population voices intense hostility to homosexuality, and Jerusalem’s
annual gay pride parade is a constant point of contention between the Jerusalem Open
House, Jerusalem’s lead LGBT advocacy group, and religious authorities. In a tragic
example of how much animosity the LGBT community faces in Jerusalem, Time magazine
noted that in a “near-miraculous occurrence,” Jerusalem’s Christian, Muslim, and Jewish
leaders—so often at odds—actually agreed to collaborate on one issue: intense opposition
                                  Screening Society / 64

to the gay pride parade. Thus, while Israel certainly does have laws that provide for the
acceptance of LGBT community, certain sectors of Israeli society still demonstrate a great
deal antagonism to the community.
    Into the fray stepped Fox and Uchovsky with Walk on Water and The Bubble. Yet their
impact on both dialogue and reality within Israel remains hard to measure. Columbia
University film professor Richard Peña, who teaches “International Film History after
1960,” explains that it is hard to determine how much power films have to foster social
change. He notes that there are some specific cases of films profoundly influencing society.
D.W. Griffith’s racist homage, The Birth of a Nation (1915), is one of the principle films
that define how feature-length films are made today. Following its release, according to
Peña, “membership in the Klan rose to unprecedented levels, setting reform back in the
American South for decades.” In another instance, Peña explains that Jorge Salinas’ Blood
of the Condor (1968), which depicted American aid workers sterilizing Bolivian women,
sparked enough of an outcry that it led to the expulsion of the Peace Corps from Bolivia.
Nevertheless, Peña notes that there are also a number of great films that have failed to
make a strong impact. Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), for example, is, according
to Peña, “what many consider one of the greatest anti-war films of all time.” Nonetheless,
the world erupted in the most destructive war in history two years later.
    As far as whether Fox and Uchovsky’s strategy of linking the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and issues of gay acceptance can have an impact, Peña says, “I frankly don’t
think it’s effective on either issue.” He finds fault with the films because they are not
                                                     only “too cartoonish,” but describes
                                                     their messages as “woefully obvious.”
                                                     Instead, he says that he believes Fox’s
                                                     most effective film is After (1990),
                                                     a short about homosexuality in the
                                                     military, which succeeded because,
                                                     in Pena’s view, “just showing that
                                                     homosexuality existed in the military
                                                     seemed bold and direct.” The more
                                                     recent films, in contrast, have been
                                                     too obvious, and yet not very direct.
                                                          Ira Stup of Gayava has a different
                                                     view. He believes that modern film
The two main characters from The Bubble, the Israeli can serve as an extremely powerful
Noam and the Palestinian Ashraf.                     means of creating social change due to
                                  Screening Society / 65

recent technological developments. In his view, “YouTube can be more effective than a
rally.” Moreover, in contrast to Peña, he believes that Fox and Uchovsky’s approach is
very effective because “the connection of all of these things are important and integral”
to what the filmmakers are trying to say. Without Fox and Uchovksy’s inclusion of the
Palestinian element, Stup believes that the story of gay life in Israel would really be
incomplete. More importantly, he contends that the simultaneous presentation of the
two issues makes the films “more realistic.” Stup argues that this strategy allows Fox and
Uchovsky to present “abstract issues in a more authentic way.”
    Both Peña and Stup are right in a certain sense. Perhaps more like soap operas than
cartoons, both Walk on Water and The Bubble are fraught with horribly unrealistic scenarios.
In The Bubble, virtually every event that initiates plot development is unrealistic and
incredible. For example, Fox fails to explain how Ashraf manages to elude Israeli security
forces and to sneak into Israel from the West Bank twice, while the ease with which Noam
visits Ashfraf in the West Bank city of Nablus seems implausible at best. Indeed, Uchovsky
and Fox seem as though they do not care enough to construct the necessary explanations
for these situations. Moreover, the film’s most pivotal moment is unrealistic to the point
of absurdity. Inexplicably, an Israeli security guard manages to shoot bullets into the air
and somehow accidentally hit Ashraf’s sister who was standing some distance away. Such
a scene is not only contrived but appears to mock the reality of warfare in the region.
    A number of unrealistic elements also appear in Walk on Water, though its focus on the
legendary and mysterious Mossad gives Fox leeway to stretch plausibility. Nevertheless,
Fox indulges in poorly justified flights from reality. For example, when Eyal compromises
his “tour guide” guise as he saves the LGBT partiers from their attackers in Berlin, Axel
barely reacts to the fact that he has been completely duped by Eyal. Moreover, Fox offers
no explanation for how the German government would permit a former SS official back
into its country.
    Furthermore, it seems that Peña is correct in contending that the films are almost
repulsively self-evident. In The Bubble, two characters even go so far as to explain what the
concept of “the bubble” means, basically force-feeding the audience one of the points the
filmmakers are trying to make and leaving no room for interpretation. Moreover, in Walk
on Water, the intention to create a parallel between Eyal’s discomfort with gays and his
animosity toward the Palestinians feels incredibly forced. The final scene of The Bubble,
where the two principal characters hug as Ashraf blows them up in a suicide bombing
in Tel Aviv, is most prominent and destructive. Perhaps if the filmmakers would have
further developed their principle characters, the plot of these movies might not have
seemed so preposterous. Without this development, however, the movies have no impact
                                   Screening Society / 66

and amount to little more than unsophisticated forums for Fox and Uchovsky’s political
    Despite these issues, Stup rightly notes that the connection between the Palestinian
situation and the acceptance of gays brings the films closer to reality of Israeli life. Indeed,
by choosing not to make homosexuality the central theme of the films, and instead simply
one element among many, Fox and Uchovsky help weave it into the milieu of sociopolitical
fissures in Israeli society. With many gay Palestinians, like Ashraf, secretly living in Israel
to escape persecution back home, and with gay rights in Israel intricately tied to the
tensions between left and right wing, secular and Orthodox, there is little question that
gay rights are at least peripherally connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Fox and
Uchovsky argue implicitly through their films that Israelis cannot choose to dissociate the
two issues. In doing so, they attempt to reach Israelis on a plane of depth that encompasses
all aspects of the Israeli existence. Like the monumental The Birth of a Nation and other
films that left indelible marks on their respective societies, Walk on Water and The Bubble
are ambitious attempts to shake Israelis to the core—by reaching them there.
    While the connection between gay rights and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not
be as linear as Fox and Uchovsky imagine, there is still the potential to make an impact.
The key to that, however, requires a shift in approach: they must adjust their far-fetched
narratives to reality, while still retaining a strong statement. Beyond the need to remove
the unrealistic elements from their narrative, Fox and Uchovsky need to make greater
use of cinematic tools, which they have utilized only minimally. For instance, they could
employ close-ups and other carefully chosen cuts, purposefully placed music, or even
iconography to make their statements. For by lifting the burden off of the narrative to
present every theme and allowing the tools of cinema to shoulder the responsibility, the
filmmakers will free the storyline so that the films can be plausible and realistic, while at
the same time send an important message to viewers.
    Unlike for Renoir in 1937, when perhaps no film could stop the march to war, both
time and circumstance seem ripe for art to create change in Israeli society. As gay rights
activists continue to campaign for social and political acceptance across the country, the
government continues to pass new legislation that increasingly enfranchises the LGBT
community. Moreover, as the effects of films like The Birth of a Nation have clearly shown,
film can have a profound impact on people’s sentiments, both negatively and positively.
Fox and Uchovsky have attempted with Walk on Water and The Bubble to achieve that same
lofty status. Nevertheless, while their strategy of combining the Palestinian conflict and
the acceptance of gays in Israeli society has the potential to reach Israelis on a level of
complexity that they have perhaps never experienced before, Fox and Uchovsky’s failure
                                  Screening Society / 67

to write a realistic narrative leaves the viewer detached and unconcerned. If Fox and
Uchovsky fail to rely less exclusively on narrative, and more on cinematic creativity, their
films may miss an incredible opportunity. By placing greater trust in film technique and
imagery to carry their message, however, Fox and Uchovsky may yet make the impact
they seek to achieve.

BRANDON HAMMER is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in Film Studies. He can be
reached at
                                    summer 2008 / 68

                             Emily Steinberger
  The Contemporary Art Menagerie

        n 2000, Maurizio Cattelan created “Not Afraid of Love,” a life-sized, taxidermized
        elephant covered in a white sheet, with only its eyes, legs, and trunk exposed. If
        Jackson Pollock’s splashes or Mark Rothko’s blocks of color had proved shocking
        half a century earlier, it was now clear that the new millennium would see art take
off in unforeseen directions. The piece was sold by Cattelan’s dealer, Marian Goodman,
for roughly $350,000 to $500,000. Within only one year, the enormous mammal was
sold for $2.75 million at Christie’s auction house, surpassing Cattelan’s previous record by
approximately $700,000.
    While thinking about what profound meaning could make “Not Afraid of Love” so
valuable, I cannot help wondering if the piece means absolutely nothing. Perhaps it is
Cattelan’s prank on the art world. Maybe Cattelan gets the last laugh as people stare with
furrowed brows and heads askance at the beast, trying to interpret the piece’s profundity,

ABOVE: Jeff Koons’ “Elephant” (2003).
                           The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 69

while he makes a mockery of these same people who bid millions on his work. Perhaps he
chose the elephant—besides the inherent humor in the immensity and gracelessness of the
beast—to subtly point to the “elephant in the room.” Everyone feigns understanding, but
nobody really understands.
    This is certainly not to say that contemporary art is valueless and empty. This is to say that
contemporary art is actually undervalued: not in the monetary sense, but in the sense that
so many of its investors do not adequately appreciate it. The semi-ridiculous interpretation
of Cattelan’s piece above is a testament to the contradiction of the modern art world:
contemporary art is actually beautiful, but, surrounded by status-seeking buyers feigning
artistic appreciation, its meaning is often lost.
    The contemporary art market is largely filled by rich individuals who participate simply
because they can. These super-moneyed hotshots have caused a stir among artists, collectors,
and distributors because the market is attracting a crowd interested in the art solely for the
investment and not for the art itself. Despite the lack of aesthetic appreciation from the flashy
but undiscerning cohort, however, the art produced in today’s market is certainly not lacking.
With so much demand, the market is enjoying an age of more complete artistic freedom in
which artists are pursuing new exploration and diversity in their work.

Glitz and Glamour
    “Not Afraid of Love” is just one example of contemporary art’s dramatically increasing
popularity. This past June, Christie’s auction was monumental: for the first time, the post-War
contemporary art collection brought higher prices than the Impressionist and early modern art
collection. At a Sotheby’s auction the month before, a Rothko painting sold for an astounding
$72.8 million, tripling the artist’s previous record.
    The contemporary art scene has exploded within the last five years due largely to
technological advances and also to smaller factors that have further catapulted the market in
recent years. The Internet has turbocharged and globalized the market, connecting industry
figures across the world. Televisions and computers have affected the market in another, less
obvious way. Frank Moore, a respected New York City-based collector for nearly two decades,
believes that flat-screen TVs and computers have changed general aesthetic conceptions,
adding appeal to the sleek, flat images of photographic art so common in contemporary
collections. In addition, Diego Cortez, a prominent art consultant based in NY, tells Adam
Lindemann that “there was an emotional solidarity with contemporary art and culture during
the difficult period following 9/11,” in Collecting Contemporary, Lindemann’s collection of
interviews with major players in the contemporary art world. Like other cultural symbols
of the time, contemporary art facilitated a sub-cultural community within New York City
                           The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 70

that allowed its followers to replace their anxiety with a reinvigorated focus on art, adding
dynamism and dedication to the art scene.
    It also helps the contemporary market that Impressionist art is scarcely available, as most
is already owned by private or museum collections. This reality further pushes art consumers
toward the ever-growing plethora of contemporary art.
    But arguably the most significant transformative force has been the rise of hedge funds,
and with them, an emerging class of super-moneyed moguls eager to spend and willing to do
so in whopping quantities. They’re upping the ante so much that long-standing collectors are
concerned that the new astronomic prices are reaching beyond their spending capability.
    But it’s not only about collecting art, especially for the haut monde. Buying contemporary
art means buying into a new lifestyle—one replete with world travel, fascinating personalities,
culture hot off the press, and exclusive parties. It’s called the contemporary art scene, the
market playing only one factor in its appeal. Buying the art amounts to buying a VIP pass to
the most elite club in the world. Participants can stand on common ground with some of the
hottest names in finance, business, and media, interfacing with the highest end of the society.
“You’re achieving something close to celebrity,” said Sandy Heller, a young and ubiquitous
art consultant known for market savvy, art smarts, and representing hedge fund moguls.
    It is exclusivity open to the glamorous, competitive, confident, and connected. There are
courtships and relationships between galleries and artists, galleries and collectors, collectors
and auction houses, collectors and museums, consultants and collectors, and critics with
all of the above. There are huge parties with lines out the door, auction preview parties,
gallery openings and dinners, and festivities around the world. “The contemporary art
world is fast becoming a major social event,” writes Lindemann, “and people are there to
see and be seen, as much as to look at and perhaps buy art. This phenomenon is particular
to contemporary art alone; if you start collecting antiquities, tribal art or even Impressionist
works, you will never find the excitement, the number of events and the overall buzz of the
art scene today.”
    Buyers are drawn to the art for the status symbol, for what Lindemann calls “the ego trip of
possession,” the “look what I’ve got factor.” There’s risk, the potential to win big is sexy, and
as collecting contemporary becomes increasingly popular, there’s a natural curiosity among
those not yet involved. Acquiring a good work of contemporary art is a twofold achievement:
not only can you afford it, but you just scored a hot piece, which in itself says something about
your prestige. Gallerists and dealers won’t sell big names to just anybody. “It is somewhat
shocking,” writes Lindemann, “to experience how spending some money, or making believe
you will, can suddenly bring so many people to your doorstep.”
                            The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 71

Who Determines the Bunny?
    Amidst the fluidity of today’s art market—filled with artists, gallerists, collectors, critics,
consultants, and curators—it is increasingly difficult to discern who sets the trends. Beauty is
subjective, so how does one piece of art become popularly recognized as “good art”? Who
determines which artist will be the next superstar? In short, who makes “hot” art “hot”?
    In 1986, for instance, Jeff Koons made a series he called “Statuary,” which included
Rabbit, a stainless steel bunny that became the decade’s iconic work. How did it happen
that a 3D image of a bunny became so hot? Who declared that Rabbit would become so
    Some say that herein lies the fundamental flaw of the market: the art that makes it to the top is
the result of the whim of a few prominent players, and the rest of the crowd simply follows in line.
    The major players include three broad categories. The first are the mega-gallerists who
scout out new artists, assemble exhibitions to showcase the work they represent, and serve as
the primary source of art for collectors, auction houses, and museums. Then, there are art
consultants, often responsible for forming the tastes of moneyed collectors, for disseminating
facts about auctions, exhibits, and artists, and for contributing to market hearsay and whispers.
And last but most certainly not least: the mega-collectors. Serving as “trendsetters,” these
aficionados number at about ten, and include such names as Francois Pinault, one of the
wealthiest men in France, and the Rubbell family in Miami—both of whom have their own
museum. What they buy influences everyone else who tries to emulate them.
    It is said that “choosing the bunny” is ultimately a collective effort. The gallerists depend on
the artists to perform and the collectors to show interest. Collectors depend on gallerists and
auction houses to showcase. Curators depend on critics for good reviews and on collectors to
sell them art. For a piece to succeed, it needs the “three Cs” going for it: collectors, curators, and
critics. The path of an artist to stardom is what Heller calls “a perfect storm,” a conglomerate
of different people and various opinions coalescing in agreement.
    This process is certainly steered disproportionately by a handful of big names. “They’re
like prophets,” Moore said. “And once people realize these people are right, they have a
tendency to listen to them.” Does this not hint at mass manipulation by the major players and
at mass blind faith on the part of everyone else? What kind of negative effect might that have
on the market?

The Emperor Has No Clothes
   This new emphasis on the avant garde art scene has also raised skepticism concerning the
quality of both the art and its collectors. With collectors seemingly more interested in status
                           The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 72

than artistic appreciation, and with little background in the traditional markers of art quality
themselves, how are they capable of recognizing good art? If a significant number of the
contemporary art market’s participants are in fact incapable of recognizing good art, what is
happening to the quality of the art on the market? Is art in danger of becoming yet another
materialistic symbol for celebrity-hungry hedge fund managers and their hip, corporate peers?
    With a new brand of collector characterized more by finances than art appreciation, and
a collector who often relies on art consultants to do the bidding and choosing, a sense of art’s
purity is lost. One cannot help but be skeptical of today’s collectors’ understanding of the art
they purchase.
    Individuals stand in front of pieces of art in auction houses, stare intently, and convey a
look of focused curiosity and profound understanding. I can’t help but ask: What are they
really thinking? How many of these people really understand the art, and how many are
striking the pose, wondering what it is they’re supposed to be thinking?
    In this way, the auction house is perhaps a modern day case of the “emperor has no clothes,”—a
situation in which the majority of observers willingly share a collective ignorance of an obvious
fact (i.e. nobody understands what he or she is looking at), despite individually recognizing
                                                        the absurdity. Parallel to the well-known
                                                        fable, nobody dares admit that they
                                                        don’t see the value of the art, preferring
                                                        instead to feign understanding. Thus
                                                        the serious art-gazer at the auction house
                                                        strikes the pose, dresses the part, but her
                                                        understanding of the work before fer is
                                                            There is currently a second major
                                                        critique of the market: none of the art,
                                                        no matter how groundbreaking or
                                                        extraordinary, is worth the money being
                                                        spent on it today. To spend millions on
                                                        a work of art seems extravagant, and
                                                        this is where much of the criticism of
                                                        the contemporary art world derives. It
                                                        is an archetype of ultra-consumerism,
                                                        the existence of which draws sneers
                                                        from many sectors of society. Outsiders
Maurizio Cattelan’s “Horse, Sans Titre” (2007).         approach the contemporary art scene
                           The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 73

with a preconceived negative bias of money over-spent and better spent elsewhere.

A Trojan Horse
    When I walked through a recent Christie’s auction, I found my eyes drawn equally as often
to the price tag beside the pieces as to the pieces themselves, the numerical values serving as
much as a spectacle as the art to which they referred. Is it possible to see the art without seeing
the monetary value when so much of the culture is financially based?
    According to Moore, not all hope is lost. He believes those who enter the market for
purely financial reasons do gain a sincere appreciation for the art through their involvement.
They acquire art, hang it on their walls, and, after living with it for some time, are affected by
their “investment.” “The whole purpose of art,” he said, “is to generate a response from the
person looking at it. So if you’re a collector for the wrong reasons, but you bring art into your
own home, eventually you may turn out to be a collector for the right reasons. The art has
either taught you or contaminated you, depending on how you want to look at it.”
    Matthew Goulish, in his article “39 Microlectures in Proximity of Performance” dealing
with how to approach art, writes that “we look at each work of art…for its moments of
exhilaration…and thus effect a creative change in ourselves…In this way we will treat the work
of art…not as an object in this world but as a window into another world. If we can articulate
one window’s particular exhilaration, we may open a way to inspire a change in ourselves.”
Good art bares the capacity to enjoin change in a good observer. A masterpiece hanging
in one’s apartment will eventually elicit from its owner an appreciation, understanding, and
respect for its quality.
    On my tour around Moore’s art-filled apartment, we stopped at a Christopher Wool painting
hanging right outside his son’s room. In his signature style, Wool’s word art showed the words
“Troj[a]n Hors[e]” displayed down the canvas. Moore explained that to him, Wool’s simple
painting encapsulates the power of contemporary art. “The piece embodies the whole concept
of bringing the whole Trojan Horse inside your house, and that’s how it affects these new
collectors.” Today’s art is implanting a seed of appreciation within its collectors that grows with
time and experience. Though they might not begin with any sense of appreciation for the art
they are purchasing, buyers and collectors may develop that appreciation over time.

An Age of the Art
   Moreover, the art itself is flourishing. Because of the sheer multitude of artists today
abounding from diverse backgrounds, contemporary art boasts no dominating artists or
movements. A hierarchy of artists does exist, but no single artist leads the movement, and
no single aesthetic defines “contemporary art,” which includes abstract impressionist, color
                           The Contemporary Art Menagerie / 74

field, stuckism, and many others. The large market also means more room for ideas, which
leads to what art critic Jerry Saltz calls “interesting cross-currents,” with different streams of
art under the contemporary umbrella influencing and contributing to each other. Contrary
to the belief that artists cater to their audience, creating what they think is wanted rather than
what they think is good art, Saltz wrote that “artists and dealers don’t have to cater to the
market, because the market is catering to them. More artists can take matters into their own
hands, curate shows, write, and make publications.” Artists’ success, he believes, allows them
to pursue their creative inclinations with less risk of rejection.
     This is where the role of the major players becomes an indispensable element of the
contemporary art market. In this era of prolific art abounding and consumers ready with
infinite cash, these savants are actually crucial if the art market is to continue to flourish on a
solid foundation of worthy art. In an era when so many collectors lack art appreciation skills,
these major players—indeed, “prophets”—who decide which art is “hot” are actually exercising
quality control, not manipulation. Those prophets, have extensive experience and nuanced
intuition for the art. The purity of the art now depends on the market’s genuine participants,
including these key figures and individuals like Moore, who still appreciate the art for the art
itself and recognize its aesthetic worth stripped of its financial value, preserving its quality
while simultaneously leading the undiscerning consumers toward it.
     As for the profligate spending, it is what makes the contemporary art scene such a
defining cultural phenomenon of our era. The fact that Wall Street’s status symbol de jour is
contemporary art indicates that art has entered into the culture of mcmansions, yachts, and
jets and has become another means of comparison with other super-wealthy people, another
way to keep up with the Joneses. The competition is only growing, and contemporary art is
fueling the ultra-consumerist fire.
     So contrary to the fable, the emperor in this story is wearing clothes, and those clothes are
indeed beautiful, but like the fable, the majority of the people are incapable of seeing them.
It is those same people who are shelling out large sums for prestige more than for the art itself.
However, let criticisms not blind us to the merits of this significant and representative cultural
phenomenon. We are an age of the artist, with abounding creativity and vibrant culture
that spans the globe, creating an international cultural community among an often-unlikely
conglomerate of nationals. Where all this is headed, how much farther it can be pushed, and
for how much longer it can last, only remains to be seen.

EMILY STEINBERGER is a sophomore in Columbia College. She would love to accompany you to
any of the contemporary art exhibits in NYC, especially if it includes Richard Prince.
                                      summer 2008 / 75

Sara Arrow
The New Humanitarianism

            Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World
                                                               by Samantha Power
                                                               Penguin, 640 pages

              ppointed United Nations High          non, Cyprus, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda,
              Commissioner for Human                Kosovo, and East Timor, Vieira de Mello
              Rights in 1992, Sergio Vieira de      was ready to settle into his life with his fi-
              Mello and his staff occupied the      ancé and his Geneva-based job as the UN’s
Palais Wilson, a regal manor overlooking Lake       official monitor of human rights. Motivated
Geneva. Named after Woodrow Wilson, US              by “Wilsonian” ideals of multilateralism and
president and champion of international peace       the UN commitment to international peace,
and cooperation, the building was the first         he disapprovingly viewed the Iraq War as a
headquarters of the League of Nations. Though       product of the Bush administration’s illegiti-
the League never succeeded, the United Na-          mate unilateralism. Nonetheless, UN Secre-
tions—an organization predicated on collective      tary General Kofi Annan called on a hesitant
action and on the enforcement of international      Vieira de Mello to head the UN’s new mis-
law—grew out of its weaknesses. In 2003, it was     sion in Iraq, established in the wake of the US
from the Palais Wilson that Vieira de Mello, a      invasion. Having participated in peacekeep-
life-long UN career officer, found himself on his   ing missions, conflict resolution, and nation
way to be the Special Representative of the Sec-    building around the world, Vieira de Mello
retary General in Iraq.                             seemed a natural candidate for the job. De-
     Exhausted by his many years of field-          spite his reservations, Vieira agreed to under-
work representing the UN in Vietnam, Leba-          take the daunting mission, assuming respon-
                                The New Humanitarianism / 76

sibility for restoring the UN’s viability as an       adorned his office. His legs were crushed,
international actor. He and the institution he        and his silver dog tags, bearing identification
so loyally served are the engrossing subjects         markers and the UN flag, had disappeared in
of Samantha Power’s new book, Chasing the             the explosion. Less than three months later,
Flame: Sergio Vieira De Mello and the Fight to Save   the UN withdrew its staff from Iraq in the
the World.                                            wake of increasing violence.
    Vieira de Mello’s time in Iraq would be               Samantha Power’s project in Chasing the
short. Though he listened closely to many             Flame is twofold: to tell the story of the man,
disparate voices in Iraq, touring the country         Sergio Vieira de Mello, and of the institu-
in order to meet with political leaders, reli-        tion in which he so strongly believed until
gious clerics, and activists, Vieira de Mello’s       his death. Within its biography format she
work culminated in but a few concrete chang-          claims also to tell the story of “dangerous
es. While he may have been responsible for            world whose ills are too big to ignore but too
the formation of a flawed but functioning             complex to manage quickly or cheaply.” She
Iraqi Governing Council, a majlis al-hukm,            skillfully approaches her first task, illustrat-
he had only minimal influence on the deci-            ing how Vieira de Mello developed from a
sions of US leaders in Iraq, and in particular,       youthful revolutionary into a pragmatic dip-
Paul Bremer, the head of the US Coalition             lomat and politician. In portraying Vieira de
Provisional Authority. As he confronted US            Mello’s own transformation and ultimate de-
leaders situated behind the secure boundar-           mise, she alludes to an expanding set of prob-
ies of the Green Zone, Vieira de Mello in-            lems that the UN faces, not least of which is
creasingly saw the Iraqi security situation as        its growing sense of irrelevance in the face of
unpredictable and dire.                               US unilateralism, signified, to an extent, by
    On August 19, 2003, as Vieira de Mello            the Iraq War. In his own life, Vieira de Mello
counted down the days before he could re-             had developed an array of strategies to deal
turn to Geneva, an Al-Qaeda terrorist drove           with the complications he faced in complex
a Kamash truck into a relatively unprotected          and often violent political situations. These
part of the Canal Hotel, the UN compound              included the need to achieve on-the-ground
in Baghdad, and detonated approximately               legitimacy, to forge lasting political solutions
one thousand pounds of explosives. Buried             to political problems, and to approach hum-
under rubble that had once been his corner            bly and patiently difficult situations with an
office, Sergio Vieira de Mello, along with            appreciation for their complexity. Samantha
twenty one others, died after a rescue opera-         Power employs Vieira de Mello as a model
tion that lasted over five hours. When he was         of a sound and practical approach to peace-
finally found, Vieira de Mello’s body was rest-       keeping and problem-solving. It is these les-
ing on the light blue UN flag that had once           sons, she argues, that the UN must likewise
                              The New Humanitarianism / 77

adopt to mend its own standing as a respect-      sion (UNHCR). Youthfully passionate and
ed and effectual world institution.               committed to aiding victims at all costs, the
    Yet, in documenting the life of a twenty-     young Sergio was unwilling to create enemies
first century role model, the book, by the        and valued the UN’s unconditional neutral-
end, appears to be more an instructional          ity. In Vietnam, Lebanon, and Cambodia, he
guide for the aspiring UN peacekeeper than        cemented the singular qualities that later dis-
an encompassing or relevant reflection on         tinguished him from many of his colleagues:
the role of the UN in international politics.     a relentless insistence on being in the “field;”
While Power compellingly insists that we          an insatiable curiosity about the cultures and
cannot look towards abstract principles or in-    languages of the areas in which he worked;
stitutions to solve urgent humanitarian crises,   a willingness to negotiate and engage with
she fails to demonstrate how public outrage       militants, war criminals, and génocidaires;
over crises can be translated into effective      and a dedication to restoring dignity and self-
policy within the existing power structures of    esteem to victims.
the UN.                                                Power’s biography, though at times
    Vieira de Mello’s history is intricately      sprawling and perhaps even romanticized,
entangled with that of the United Nations.        relies on extensive and personal interview-
Born in 1948, the year that the UN passed         ing that dramatically recreates conversations
its monumental “Universal Declaration of          in which Vieira de Mello engaged over thirty
Human Rights” and convened to criminal-           years ago. These conversations allow the
ize genocide under international law, Vieira      reader intimate insight into the life of a man
de Mello found employment at the UN High          who once drank wine with Ieng Sary, “Broth-
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) upon            er Number Three” of Cambodia’s genocidal
finishing his graduate studies. Vieira studied    Khmer Rouge regime. Tracking his trans-
philosophy in high school and later enrolled      formation, Power notes that while Vieira de
in the Sorbonne to immerse himself in the         Mello never lost sight of the ideals of the UN
writings of Hegel and Marx. In France, dur-       and proudly operated under its flag, his po-
ing the 1968 revolution against the de Gaulle     litical pragmatism disillusioned him with the
government, Sergio proclaimed himself a           state of the world, forcing one friend to re-
student revolutionary intent on antiestablish-    mark that “he was…in touch with the world’s
ment activism and, in so doing, solidified the    cruelty.” In light of the peacekeeping failures
idealistic leanings of his early youth.           of the 1990s, especially Somalia, Rwanda,
    These zealous leanings prompted Vieira        and Srebrenica, Vieira de Mello recognized
de Mello to devote his life to humanitarian       the need for the UN to adopt a more force-
and peacekeeping work, primarily under the        ful approach to peacekeeping, an approach
auspices of the UN Human Rights Commis-           that Power describes as a willingness to “give
                              The New Humanitarianism / 78

war a chance.” Thus, the Sergio who entered         deal with the enormous transformation that
Iraq in 2003 was not merely the left-leaning        the UN must undergo to transcend—or effec-
philosophy student of his youth. Envisioning        tively navigate—the member state structure
his international role within the context of        that constrains it. Conceptualizing the UN as
creating a pragmatic “synthesis of utopia and       an organization of independent states, Vieira
realism,” Vieira de Mello knew that peace           de Mello, and by extension Power, thought
would require justice, and that the UN would        that “instead of relying on the UN to change
increasingly have to take sides.                    the countries of the world…the countries of
    Power deftly tracks the UN’s extensive          the world would have to change in order to
transformation from a body committed                transform the UN.” And yet, the reality is
to neutral peacekeeping to one that rec-            that states increasingly bypass the complex
ognizes—though perhaps does not always              web of bureaucracy that encompasses the
implement—the need to use force in conflict-        UN, even as the UN struggles to resolve the
ridden areas. In light of the indignities he        contradictions within its original mandate.
witnessed around the world, Vieira de Mello             Vieira de Mello was right to contend,
determined that “solutions to humanitarian          then, that the “world has become too com-
problems cannot be humanitarian.” Instead,          plex for only one country, whatever its might,
it would be necessary to enlist the support of      to determine the future or the destiny of hu-
a broad range of people, especially “political,     manity. The United States will realize that it
military, human rights, and economic devel-         is in interests to exert its power through this
opment experts.” Sergio knew that humani-           multilateral filter that gives it credibility, ac-
tarian crises could only be solved with com-        ceptability, and legitimacy.” But how can the
prehensive political solutions; Power should        UN, as a multilateral filter, fulfill its objec-
take this lesson to heart. Instead of suggesting    tives when powerful states refuse to abide
that the UN take a new approach to world            by its norms, causing the rest of the world to
crises, one modeled on Sergio’s example, she        look on as its legitimacy disintegrates? If the
might consider explaining how the UN can            United Nations operates under a strict code
do this so as to position itself to exert greater   of state sovereignty and neutrality, how is it
political will. Beyond implying that Vieira de      possible for a UN official to function as an
Mello’s death marks the end of a productive         effective “statesmen of the world”? Power
UN, Power might come out more strongly on           leaves us wondering.
the question of the UN’s viability.                     Thus, while Power creates a fast-paced
    Though Power offers some concrete               book whose hero dashes off to meet every
recommendations as to how the UN can                new adventure¸ she does not account for a
become a “truly constructive, stabilizing           contradiction that seems irreconcilable: the
twenty-first century player,” she does not          UN relies on the support of it member coun-
                             The New Humanitarianism / 79

tries to solve common problems, and yet           ate without the grand problem-solver, Sergio
few are willing to contribute substantively       Vieira de Mello. Who will take his place, and
to achieve common ends. She regards the           more importantly, will the UN—and its mem-
United Nations as a leader in the field of hu-    ber states—be ready to receive him?
manitarian and human rights issues, and yet           Perhaps Sergio had the answers. In De-
she neglects to resolve the tension between       cember 1991, at a lecture at the Geneva In-
the UN’s global role and the unilateralist ten-   ternational Peace Conference, the seasoned
dencies of states seeking to safeguard their      statesman reflected on the Kantian thought
own interests, a tension that often eclipses      that he had considered essential during his
the UN’s capacity to produce sustained and        days as a philosophy student. Though he
effective action.                                 questioned the practicality of perpetual
    Ultimately, Power frames the question         peace, he still believed strongly in states and
correctly: it is not “if to engage” but “how to   individuals as powerful agents of change.
engage” in a world that, while increasingly       Sergio called on the people of the world to
globalized and modernized, faces the urgent       take responsibility for their future, proclaim-
questions of civil war, religious extremism,      ing that citizens cannot “abdicate important
genocide, terrorism, and immense poverty.         decisions to statesmen,” but rather must
In a recent interview at Columbia Univer-         be “jointly responsible for the opportunity,
sity, she stated that, “States have to change.    which is a right, to fully participate in the for-
Citizens have to change. The UN is not the        mation of progress.” Though Vieira de Mello
point; it’s about the governments that com-       lived through a changing international order
prise it.” And yet, given these enormous chal-    and knew that states would continue to play
lenges, one has to wonder how the UN and its      an integral role in the UN’s policymaking,
member states can continue the legacy that        he never lost sight of the need for individual
Vieira de Mello began, one in which actions       responsibility. Concluding his lecture, Vieira
are based on fostering legitimacy, enabling       de Mello, who had spent his life in war zones
constructive partnerships, ensuring law and       viewing first-hand the baseness of human
order, and guaranteeing individual dignity.       cruelty, dared to trust humanity’s potential.
Perhaps it is sufficient to point out the sys-    “We must act as if perpetual peace is some-
tem’s problems; nonetheless, one leaves           thing real, though perhaps it is not,” he said,
Chasing the Flame with many more questions        echoing Kant. In his own words, he added,
than answers about how the world will oper-       “The future is to be invented.”

SARA ARROW is a sophomore majoring in Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University,
and Features Editor of The Current. She also serves as a founder and Managing Editor of Consil-
ience: The Journal of Sustainable Development. She can be reached at
                                   summer 2008 / 80

Andrew Flynn
The Moral Life as Taboo?

                                                  After Virtue: A Study in Moral History
                                                                by Alasdair MacIntyre
                                                          Original publication: 1981

       n his essay, “Thomas Kuhn, Rocks,        that it is hard to imagine anyone’s life being
       and the Laws of Physics,” Richard        changed because they read this in a book.
       Rorty describes the life-transform-         I had my own historicist, life-changing
       ing experience of reading the fa-        experience, but it was not while reading
mous historian and philosopher of science.      Kuhn, or Rorty, or Foucault. The sense of
“Kuhn was one of my idols,” he wrote, “be-      scales falling away from my eyes occurred,
cause reading his The Structure of Scientific   as I lay on my bed, in my John Jay single,
Revolutions (1962) had given me the sense       reading Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue.
of scales falling away from my eyes.” Rorty     MacIntyre, though widely appreciated in
was not alone. Our academic discourse is        the humanities, doesn’t have the name rec-
now so saturated with the notion of “para-      ognition of Rorty or Foucault outside of the
digm change”—the fruit of those who react-      academy. This, I think, is too bad, because
ed much like Rorty—that it is hard to imag-     the philosopher’s work, especially his ultra-
ine a pre-Kuhnian age. For many, scales fell    accessible After Virtue, offers alternatives to
not while reading Kuhn, but rather Rorty’s      thinkers like Rorty and Rawls which would
own magisterial Philosophy and the Mirror of    be well worth pursuing.
Nature, and now the idea that our beliefs          The thesis of After Virtue is not compli-
about everything—from science to ethics—        cated, but it is disturbing. It is disturbing
are historically contingent is so common        because it casts judgment on our society
                             The Moral Life as Taboo? / 81

writ large. Our ethical debates—what we         nally adjudicating between the values that
do when we shout down the death pen-            underlie our moral arguments, not about
alty or lambaste our leaders for increasing     how we conduct our ethical spats. To find
taxes–are interminable. There are sound         a way out of this catastrophic mess, per-
arguments that can be made for opposing         haps we can look towards an era in which
sides of almost any issue. Both arguments       we could rationally choose between values
are sound because they start from different     informing our moral judgments.
value premises, and we posses no rational           This era is the pre-modern period, when
mechanism for adjudicating between these        virtue-centered ethical theories dominated.
conflicting values. Modern society is, Ma-      MacIntyre dedicates many pages to con-
cIntyre argues, emotivist—but not because       structing a stunningly lucid narrative of the
there is no such thing as right answers in      rise of modern moral theory. He informs
ethics. In a startling coup for any under-      us that ascriptions of “good” were once a
graduate who has been charmed into intel-       three-fold process: there were descriptions
lectual complacency by A.J. Ayer’s Logic,       of humans as they are, descriptions of hu-
Truth and Language, MacIntyre turns the         mans as they ought to be, and a means of
emotivist ethics of Ayer’s logical positivism   getting from point A to B—the actions we
on its head. Ayer’s equation of value judg-     need to take, the virtues we need to culti-
ments with emotions is not so much a the-       vate to achieve our ends. This is the final
ory of ethics as a description of our ethics.   end of humans in Aristotle, a “cause” of
Ayer’s conclusion—that the claim “abortion      virtue, in a sense of the word that we find
is wrong” is nothing more than a feeble cry     almost incomprehensible today. For when
of “boo abortion!”—is not a clearing away       teleology stopped making sense in sci-
of centuries of worthless ethical obfusca-      ence—when the final end of the sun ceased
tion, but it is a fairly accurate account of    to be one of the causes of its rotation, and
how we argue today.                             we accepted a mechanistic science of effi-
    But only fairly accurate. As MacIntyre      cient causes—teleology disappeared from
is quick to point out, there is a sense in      ethics as well.
which emotivist accounts are obviously not          So ethical thinkers stopped trying to
descriptive: we take it that our moral state-   move from A to B, MacIntyre argues,
ments are different—and stronger—than our       and started arguing only from A. These
statements about our emotions. When we          philosophers gave us ethical systems that
say, “The death penalty is unjust,” we think    were not intent on showing us how to get
we are doing something different than just      from man as he is to man as he ought to be;
expressing our feelings. The emotivist’s in-    they gave us systems that are supposedly
sight is about how we have no way of ratio-     derived from an account of man as he is.
                             The Moral Life as Taboo? / 82

Thus, in Kant we find that ethics is based      text of an earlier matrix of social relations,
on an account of man as a fundamentally         but—with that context removed—taboos
rational being, and—in Mill and the utilitar-   took on the character of arbitrary rules
ians—we have an account based on man as         that were followed habitually but could not
a pleasure-maximizer. For MacIntyre, ethi-      be explained. That the prohibitions no lon-
cal thinkers who stopped thinking about         ger made any sense explains the ease with
the final end of humanity did not aban-         which the emperor Kamehameha II was
don the search for ethical conclusions. In      able to outlaw taboos in Hawaii forty years
fact, they reached ethical conclusions that     later. This is, of course, the state of moral
made sense within the earlier, teleological     arguments in the 20th century. “Good” has
system, but they tried to argue for them        been deprived of its meaning because we
without recourse to teleology. Such an          have forgotten the context in which it was
enterprise was bound to fail from the be-       originally employed, and we use it habitu-
ginning. It is no wonder, then, MacIntyre       ally but without real understanding. “Bad,”
thinks, that the twentieth century yielded      then, is our version of “taboo.” As the title
emotivism. This was the ethical theory that     of MacIntyre’s chapter suggests, there are
the incoherent Enlightenment project was        two options facing us. We can choose Ni-
bound to give us.                               etzsche, MacIntyre’s Kamehameha II, and
    This story of modern moral theory swells    get rid of those moral notions that have
to fury in the culmination of MacIntyre’s       ceased to be intelligible. On the other
withering critique, a chapter entitled “Ar-     hand, we can choose Aristotle and attempt
istotle or Nietzsche?” Here is where the        to reconstruct a morality that restores the
scales really fell from my eyes. MacIntyre      context in which ascriptions of “good” and
recounts the discovery of Polynesian taboos     “bad” made sense.
by the members of Captain Cook’s voyage.            MacIntyre chooses the way of Aristotle,
While, from the British standpoint, the na-     and the rest of his book is spent sketching
tives had surprisingly lax sexual ethics,       the beginnings of a constructive account of
they had an absolute prohibition against        neo-Aristotelian ethics. This is the break-
men and women eating together, a prohi-         ing point in MacIntyre’s work, the bound-
bition that startled the foreigners. When       ary between his critique of modern ethical
pressed, the natives could only say that the    theory and his alternative theory. Up to this
practice was “taboo”—the word had no fur-       point, MacIntyre’s book floored me; I was
ther explanation. MacIntyre suggests that       awed by the fact that one could convinc-
the Polynesians could no longer explain         ingly sweep away not only the meta-ethi-
taboo because the notion had lost its intel-    cal wrangling of the last century, but also
ligibility. Taboos had originated in the con-   the last three centuries of moral thought.
                            The Moral Life as Taboo? / 83

As I read, I experienced one of those rare     Project.” I remember rubbing my head as
moments when one can suddenly connect          I finished MacIntyre’s book, mildly per-
all the dots, when everything makes sense,     plexed and unsure if I was willing to battle
and when a new map of reality is drawn         my way through another 600 pages just
before one’s eyes. My previous ethical intu-   to find out the fate of MacIntyre’s histori-
itions, which wavered somewhere between        cism.
an obstinate Kantianism and a grudging             This should clue us into some of the
emotivism, suddenly seemed silly.              paradoxes of MacIntyre. MacIntyre is, for
    Many thinkers have been highly ap-         lack of a better term, a hobo philosopher.
preciative of MacIntyre’s critique of mod-     Reading his work feels like reading a more
ern moral theory while remaining uncon-        proper, more well-mannered Foucault—a
vinced by the alternative he proposes.         Foucault who has studied plenty of analytic
Philosophers like Bernard Williams and         philosophy. This is because After Virtue is
Richard Rorty agree with MacIntyre’s ac-       somewhat similar to books like Discipline
count of the incoherence of Enlightenment      and Punish; both books seek to locate and
ethics while rejecting his belief in an Ar-    make explicit the forces that shape our
istotelian alternative. And, for those who     conceptions of the self. But, if MacIntyre’s
wished to defend utilitarianism and Kan-       work is a toolbox for activists, it is unclear
tianism, critiquing MacIntyre’s admittedly     what sort of activists these are supposed to
cursory history required a long overdue re-    be. He is often pegged as a conservative,
acquaintance with the history of ethics.       and it is true that he detests the liberalism
    The let-down is this: a convincing de-     that excludes debate about the good life
fense of Aristotelianism is not presented      from the public square. But MacIntyre is
in After Virtue. MacIntyre sketches what he    also a former Marxist, and his distaste for
sees as the way forward. He attempts to        laissez-faire capitalism is apparent every-
isolate the core that is common to all ac-     where in After Virtue—from his description
counts of virtue. He suggests that virtue is   of that modern archetype, the bourgeois
central to a unified human life. He argues     manager whose only job is maximizing ef-
that moral reasoning is impossible outside     ficiency, to his inclusion of Trotsky and En-
of some tradition of inquiry. Yet these are    gels on his list of virtuous people. Perhaps
only skeletal arguments for provocative        it is not so uncanny that a conference on
theses, theses that cannot be defended         MacIntyre, Marx, and Aristotle was held
by MacIntyre’s book alone. Interestingly       last year.
enough, these theses have been developed             MacIntyre is an historicist in his ap-
in the three subsequent volumes that round     proach to philosophy, a believer in incom-
out what has been dubbed the “After Virtue     mensurable moral traditions and in the
                              The Moral Life as Taboo? / 84

importance of tradition for rationality. In       also seems to have grown increasingly
this sense, he can be grouped with those          Catholic in his interests: he recently pub-
English-speaking philosophers who have            lished a book on the thought of Edith
been appreciative of Continental thought:         Stein, the Jewish convert to Catholicism
Rorty, Charles Taylor, Stanley Cavell, and        who became a discalced Carmelite nun
Hubert Dreyfus. But MacIntyre is rarely           and was killed at Auschwitz). Nonetheless,
associated with the aforementioned think-         MacIntyre is not exactly at home among
ers. Perhaps this is because he is a self-pro-    natural law theorists and Aquinas scholars,
claimed Thomist who has spent less time           either. The future will tell us, as it almost
writing about contemporary philosophy             always does, whether the wandering cara-
and more time weighing in on debates              van of MacIntyre’s historicism will ever
about the interpretation of Aquinas. (He          find a home.

ANDREW FLYNN is a senior philosophy and history major in Columbia College and former Liter-
ary Editor of The Current. He reviewed Mark Lilla’s The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the
Modern West in the Winter 2007 issue.
                          The End of the World / The Current

                                    Philip Petrov
        The Last Temptation of Kant

               fter I completed my studies at the École normale supérieure, I came to the
               United States with a single interest: Kant scholarship. I knew that I would
               shift shapes, smash paradigms, and sing the sorts of songs that had never
               been sung. It was my intention to move towards the spirit, to become the
fiercest visionary since Kevin Spacey. My agenda, dear reader, was biblical.
    I became well-known and well-liked: my visa was extended, the peasants worshipped
me, and I sent my writings on reflexive modernity to several prestigious journals (one does
not discuss Kant until one has established oneself in the field). Then, I had a dream.
    I dreamt that I was traveling through a forest in pre-Columbian North America. Alone,
and wholly bereft of food, I made my way through the wood with little hope of survival.
Suddenly, I spotted Nietzsche. Dressed like a gentleman, he was bent over a pile of twigs;
if I remember correctly, he was rather frantically attempting to start a fire. My arrival
seemed to comfort him in some way. He greeted me, and I approached him and asked

ABOVE: Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies for a Self-Portrait” (1979).
                               The End of the World / 86

whether he ever grew tired of being insistent? He said nothing, but smiled and hugged me
lovingly. He then gave me some provisions for my journey and told me, incidentally, that
Kant had been heavily influenced by his writings.
    I awoke and began writing a hermeneutic analysis that would transform the course of
history; it was clear to me that, in its importance, my analysis would rival Steven Seagal.
My task was simple: I needed to alert the world that Kant—that most sagacious of all
Königsbergians—had studied Nietzsche. My plans were cut short, however, when—just
three days after my dream—I noticed that The _______ Review of Philosophy had published
an article by Domenico Alberti, my archrival. I read Alberti’s article as soon as I saw it—to
my horror, it revealed what only I was supposed to know: that Kant had read Nietzsche.
Within seconds, it became clear to me that I had been bested…every man, it seems, has
the right to dream. After I realized that the glory destined for me had been stolen, I joined
the Green Party, sang songs that had been sung before me, and wrote two books on Ibn
Qutaybah, the ninth-century Muslim scholar. I then toyed with the idea that Alberti and
I are the same man, but I gave that up, for such a thesis is highly unmarketable. Below is
a verbatim transcription of Alberti’s article.

    The literature is strangely silent when it comes to the question of Nietzsche’s influence
on Kant. That Kant had Nietzsche’s work in mind as he developed his metaphysics is
obvious; what is uncertain is why scholars have ignored the matter for over a century. It
is almost unnecessary to point out the ways in which Kant’s system represents a rewriting
of Nietzsche. Consider, for instance, the opening of Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries
of Mere Reason:

     That “the world lieth in evil” is a complaint as old as history, even as old as the
     older art of poetic fiction; indeed, just as old as that oldest among all fictions,
     the religion of the priests. All allow that the world began with something
     good: with the Golden Age, with life in Paradise, or an even happier life in
     communion with heavenly beings. But then they make this happiness disappear
     like a dream, and they spitefully hasten the decline into evil…so that now…we
     live in the final age; the Last Day and the destruction of the world are knocking
     at the door, and…Rutra…already is worshipped as the God now holding power,
     after Vishnu…resigned it centuries ago.

   Is it not clear that all of the idiosyncrasies of Nietzsche’s prose are present in this
momentous paragraph? The unearthly wit, the sardonic critique of history, the nearly
perverse obsession with metaphor—are not all of these features combined in such a way as
                                The End of the World / 87

to make it clear that the paragraph could only have been composed by a man who knows
   To my knowledge, I was the first to examine Kant’s debt to Nietzsche when I published
The Four-Sided Triangle: Towards a Memory of the Future, my analysis of the critique of modernity
embedded in Homer’s Iliad.i Few, it seems, have taken the time to read my Triangle; how
else can one explain the fact that scholars still maintain an uncanny silence—a silence
disturbing enough to be audible—in the face of the Nietzsche-Kant question? After two
weeks of study, I have concluded that this silence can be explained in only one way.
     It seems to me that there exists some unseen force—some indeterminable quantity
of power—that compels scholars to speak (mistakenly, of course) of Kant’s influence on
Nietzsche. Foucault has made it clear to us that power cannot be understood as a purely
prohibitive force; power, after all, can be deployed to multiply particular forms of discourse.
What this suggests is that—as the mental patient of the nineteenth century was prodded
by his doctors to reveal the details of his sexual life—so the contemporary scholar is
compelled by an invisible machinery to produce (erroneous) histories in which Kant
influences Nietzsche. One cannot help but ask, in fact, whether the production of such
histories functions as a therapeutic operation? It seems that, whenever the modern scholar
approaches the question of Nietzsche’s influence on Kant, several mechanisms of power
come into play and compel him to change the subject. As the scholar sits down to write,
he perceives that he is being acted upon by a force whose origin he cannot determine;
glasses fog up, typewriters break, and the scholar’s will to knowledge is subverted before
he can even reach the discursive act. The scholar is silenced before he speaks; he is, in
some strange sense, always-already unable to broach the subject. In truth, I do not know
why these mechanisms of power have not affected me. I do not know, in other words, why I
am the only one who has been able to cross the invisible threshold. It may have something
to do with my interest in Spinozism, but that is a matter for another day.
     It has been suggested to me on several occasions that my explanation is mistaken, and
that the Nietzsche-Kant question has been ignored only because scholars have deemed it
unimportant. What, I ask, can be more important? If something does not work in theory,
it is a sure sign that it must work in practice—I learned this while interpreting two crucial
texts: The Bible Code and its sequel, The Bible Code II: The Countdown. I dare to dream the
impossible dream.

   There you have it. Since I learned that Alberti published the secrets of my dream in a
journal of philosophy, I have been tormented by a very particular question: Did Alberti
dream me? Did I, in other words, appear to him in a dream and inform him about Kant,
                                         The End of the World / 88

that sagacious Königsbergian? To answer this question, I need a methodology that has not
yet been developed. I need to find a deserted road that is flanked on both sides by forest.
I need to follow this road until I see Kevin Spacey crouching beneath a tree, yelling at me,
informing me that he has seen things I would not believe. Only then will I move towards
the spirit.

 The Four-Sided Triangle is the sequel to my self-published and privately circulated monograph, Stop Bustin’ on Me:
Critical Reflections on Lacan.

PHILIP PETROV is a Columbia College junior. He is interested in politics, literature, music, and
philosophy. Though he does dream at night, his visions have yet to tell him anything about the
relationship between Kant and Nietzsche.

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