VIEWS: 233 PAGES: 88 POSTED ON: 5/12/2011
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 (www.azure.org.il/ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit THE Sophia Merkin, CC ‘11 CURRENT online at www.columbiacurrent.com. THE CURRENT appreciates all donations, which can be sent to 2497 Lerner Hall, New York, NY 10027, or delivered electronically via our website. 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 I 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 email@example.com 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 moveon.org, 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 Boroughing 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 me. 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. email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 S 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 conscience. 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. Transition 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. Reckoning 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 issues. 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 at email@example.com. spring 2008 / 34 Jon Cioschi Human Rights Makes its Bid at the Global University A 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 them. 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 hiring.” 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’ improvement. 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 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. ii 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. iii http://www.columbia.edu/cu/humanrights/studies/undergraduate/about.html JON CIOSCHI is a Columbia College Senior studying History and Human Rights. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 F 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 enclaves.vi 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 state. 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. i 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. ii Ibid iii Ibid, p. 26 iv 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. v “Tourist Arrivals in India by Country of Nationality”, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India. vi Interview with Rabbi Motti Seligson and Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, April 1 2008. vii Interview with Uri Cohen, April 3, 2008. viii 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 “I 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 tempests. spring 2008 / 61 Brandon Hammer Screening Society: Eytan Fox Takes On Israel I 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 statements. 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 email@example.com. summer 2008 / 68 Emily Steinberger The Contemporary Art Menagerie I 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 monumental? 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 questionable 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 A 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. summer 2008 / 80 Andrew Flynn The Moral Life as Taboo? After Virtue: A Study in Moral History by Alasdair MacIntyre Original publication: 1981 I 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 A 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 Nietzsche? 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. i 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.
Pages to are hidden for
"The Current"Please download to view full document