Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 11th, 2015


Why are you “Je suis Charlie?”

In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

Featured photo - In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons

Joe Raedle

Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

I’ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videos to the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package.

That’s all well beyond the numerous cases of jobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism.

I’m hoping this week’s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

Central to free speech activism has always been the distinction between defending the right to disseminate Idea X and agreeing with Idea X, one which only the most simple-minded among us are incapable of comprehending.

One defends the right to express repellent ideas while being able to condemn the idea itself. There is no remote contradiction in that: the ACLU vigorously defends the right of neo-Nazis to march through a community filled with Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, but does not join the march; they instead vocally condemn the targeted ideas as grotesque while defending the right to express them.

But this week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself.

Numerous writers thus demanded: to show “solidarity” with the murdered cartoonists, one should not merely condemn the attacks and defend the right of the cartoonists to publish, but should publish and even celebrate those cartoons. “The best response to Charlie Hebdo attack,” announced Slate’s editor Jacob Weisberg, “is to escalate blasphemous satire.”

Some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were not just offensive but bigoted, such as the one mocking the African sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens (left).

Others went far beyond maligning violence by extremists acting in the name of Islam, or even merely depicting Mohammed with degrading imagery (above, right), and instead contained a stream of mockery toward Muslims generally, who in France are not remotely powerful but are largely a marginalized and targeted immigrant population. But no matter.

Their cartoons were noble and should be celebrated – not just on free speech grounds but for their content.

In a column entitled “The Blasphemy We Need,” The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat argued that “the right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order” and “that kind of blasphemy [that provokes violence] is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good.”

New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait actually proclaimed that “one cannot defend the right [to blaspheme] without defending the practice.” Vox’s Matt Yglesias had a much more nuanced view but nonetheless concluded that “to blaspheme the Prophet transforms the publication of these cartoons from a pointless act to a courageous and even necessary one, while the observation that the world would do well without such provocations becomes a form of appeasement.”

To comport with this new principle for how one shows solidarity with free speech rights and a vibrant free press, we’re publishing some blasphemous and otherwise offensive cartoons about religion and their adherents:

And here are some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff (reprinted with permission):

Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights?

Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons?

If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?

When I first began to see these demands to publish these anti-Muslim cartoons, the cynic in me thought perhaps this was really just about sanctioning some types of offensive speech against some religions and their adherents, while shielding more favored groups.

In particular, the west has spent years bombing, invading and occupying Muslim countries and killing, torturing and lawlessly imprisoning innocent Muslims, and anti-Muslim speech has been a vital driver in sustaining support for those policies.

So it’s the opposite of surprising to see large numbers of westerners celebrating anti-Muslim cartoons – not on free speech grounds but due to approval of the content.

Defending free speech is always easy when you like the content of the ideas being targeted, or aren’t part of (or actively dislike) the group being maligned.

Indeed, it is self-evident that if a writer who specialized in overtly anti-black or anti-Semitic screeds had been murdered for their ideas, there would be no widespread calls to republish their trash in “solidarity” with their free speech rights.

In fact, Douthat, Chait and Yglesias all took pains to expressly note that they were only calling for publication of such offensive ideas in the limited case where violence is threatened or perpetrated in response (by which they meant in practice, so far as I can tell: anti-Islam speech). Douthat even used italics to emphasize how limited his defense of blasphemy was: “that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended.”

One should acknowledge a valid point contained within the Douthat/Chait/Yglesias argument: when media outlets refrain from publishing material out of fear (rather than a desire to avoid publishing gratuitously offensive material), as several of the west’s leading outlets admitted doing with these cartoons, that is genuinely troubling, an actual threat to a free press.

But there are all kinds of pernicious taboos in the west that result in self-censorship or compelled suppression of political ideas, from prosecution and imprisonment to career destruction: why is violence by Muslims the most menacing one? (I’m not here talking about the question of whether media outlets should publish the cartoons because they’re newsworthy; my focus is on the demand they be published positively, with approval, as “solidarity”).

When we originally discussed publishing this article to make these points, our intention was to commission two or three cartoonists to create cartoons that mock Judaism and malign sacred figures to Jews the way Charlie Hebdo did to Muslims.

But that idea was thwarted by the fact that no mainstream western cartoonist would dare put their name on an anti-Jewish cartoon, even if done for satire purposes, because doing so would instantly and permanently destroy their career, at least.

Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim commentary (and cartoons) are a dime a dozen in western media outlets; the taboo that is at least as strong, if not more so, are anti-Jewish images and words.

Why aren’t Douthat, Chait, Yglesias and their like-minded free speech crusaders calling for publication of anti-Semitic material in solidarity, or as a means of standing up to this repression?

Yes, it’s true that outlets like The New York Times will in rare instances publish such depictions, but only to document hateful bigotry and condemn it – not to publish it in “solidarity” or because it deserves a serious and respectful airing.

With all due respect to the great cartoonist Ann Telnaes, it is simply not the case that Charlie Hebdo “were equal opportunity offenders.”

Like Bill Maher, Sam Harris and other anti-Islam obsessives, mocking Judaism, Jews and/or Israel is something they will rarely (if ever) do. If forced, they can point to rare and isolated cases where they uttered some criticism of Judaism or Jews, but the vast bulk of their attacks are reserved for Islam and Muslims, not Judaism and Jews.

Parody, free speech and secular atheism are the pretexts; anti-Muslim messaging is the primary goal and the outcome. And this messaging – this special affection for offensive anti-Islam speech – just so happens to coincide with, to feed, the militaristic foreign policy agenda of their governments and culture.

To see how true that is, consider the fact that Charlie Hebdo – the “equal opportunity” offenders and defenders of all types of offensive speech – fired one of their writers in 2009 for writing a sentence some said was anti-Semitic (the writer was then charged with a hate crime offense, and won a judgment against the magazine for unfair termination). Does that sound like “equal opportunity” offending?

Nor is it the case that threatening violence in response to offensive ideas is the exclusive province of extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam.

Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi,” depicting Jesus as gay, was repeatedly cancelled by theaters due to bomb threats.

Larry Flynt was paralyzed by an evangelical white supremacist who objected to Hustler‘s pornographic depiction of inter-racial couples.

The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats and needed massive security after they publicly criticized George Bush for the Iraq War, which finally forced them to apologize out of fear.

Violence spurred by Jewish and Christian fanaticism is legion, from abortion doctors being murdered to gay bars being bombed to a 45-year-old brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza due in part to the religious belief (common in both the U.S. and Israel) that God decreed they shall own all the land. And that’s all independent of the systematic state violence in the west sustained, at least in part, by religious sectarianism.

The New York Times‘ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America – which has never elected a non-Christian president – that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

That is a real taboo – a repressed idea – as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circlesincluding the U.S. Congress – that one barely notices it any more.

This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west.

When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images; additional research was provided by Andrew Fishman







“This sick animal among all animal species”: Mankind confronting unnatural tensions

Mankind is in a constant tension between what nature requires and what the spirit imposes on him: A situation between the beast and the angel.

The Will is but acting on a doubt, otherwise we are mostly  not ready to confront truth and the essence of the world.

Schopenhauer wrote:

“The domain of the Self is this obscure and impenetrable part of our personality. The little we know of the Self we had acquired by studying and reflecting on our dreams and the formation of the symptoms in the neurotic people.

The Self has two openings to the influences of the physical body and to the impulses (pulsion) of the psychic needs and desires.  These impulses fill the person with chaotic energy and cannot get rid of these impulses by adopting any wholesome willing process.

The person has to satisfy the impulses. No logical procedure is at work.

For example, this principle of non-contradiction has no effect on the tumultuous internal influences that seem Not to eliminate one another or weaken any of the impulses.”

The unconscious mind refutes the set of value judgment, morality, the good and evil dichotomy, or even the influence of time in the succession of events in the realm of the conscious mind.

C.G. Jung stated:

It is more convincing and more natural to look at how events come to me rather than observing how I have produced these events

Sciences has done No discoveries that philosophy didn’t authorize to do, or guided the conduct of the research.

Has the world ever been transformed without the mind acting on a doubt?

It is the animal nature in mankind that provided and projected all the necessary data to formulate valid hypothesis.

We have got to reach a level of confidence that the subject and the object form one entity. This is the fundamental point that links mankind to his created God in any religion.

Otherwise, we remain totally confused and in disarray.

Most of us lead our life according to a typical formal biography: the destiny of a  caste, an economic  class, a profession, the color of our skin, family condition, the immediate environment we live in…

We can talk of a typical “lived life” as of a living myth.

The interest in myths is inherent in our psychoanalyse, which is linked to the poetic creation: Totem and Tabou

If in our maturity we fail to discover what is eternally valid in the deep mystic in us, we are doomed to spiritual misery: We have got to agree that what we did and the events we submitted to had sources in the deepest level of our psychic and that they are all legitimate activities and thinking.

It is this continuity in the living history, the typicality we adhere to, that allow us to function and move.

In antiquity, it was natural to incarnate a mythical entity, a God, a semi-God…and emulate their behaviour and adopt their line of thought: The past was necessary for the present.



How to Help the Palestinians: Join the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Movement

In the mid-19th century, influenced by the nationalism then sweeping much of the continent, some European Jews concluded that the remedy to centuries of persecution and pogroms in Europe and Russia was the creation of a nation state for Jews in Palestine.

Some of them subsequently began emigrating to the Holy Land, mainly from Romania, Bulgaria and then Russians. The first fertile piece of land was offered by the Ottoman Empire in 1868.

In 1874, there were about 14,000 Jews in Palestine (most of them local Jews, and the majority of the immigrants were from Yemen and Iraq), and about 426,000 Palestinians (far more populous than people living in Lebanon).…

Since that time, the Palestinian people have been subjected to colonialism, ethnic cleansing, massacres and atrocities, terrorism, and dispossession, martial law, blockade, and occupation at the hands of first the early Zionists and then the state of Israel, with a big assist from many Western and Arab powers.

The Palestinians have tried every which way to halt and reverse their dispossession, as anyone would. They have tried revolts, rejectinga partition plan, terrorism, non-violent resistance, violent resistance, working with Israel, recognizing Israel , participating in peace processes, shunning Hamas, unifying with Hamas, maintaining quiet for Israel, non-violent protest, appealing to international bodies, appealing to international law. The result has been further dispossession and regularly-scheduled bouts of grass-mowing by Israel, which is where they find themselves today.

What can we as liberals do to help the Palestinians, and frankly, to try to protect ourselves from the blowback to our government’s pro-Israel policies? I do write to my representatives and the White House even though I’m probably just spitting in the wind. I believe it might helpful to let our reps know there are more of us out there.

However, due to domestic political considerations, until there is serious campaign finance reform in this country, I think it is unrealistic to expect US politicians to take any meaningful stand against Israel.

If we are interested in justice for the Palestinians, and safety from blowback from our government’s stand on Israel, then the only way forward is boycott, sanctions and divestment from Israel (BDS).

We the people are going to have to leave the US government behind on this one, just like we did in South Africa. You many recall that the US government clung to the SA apartheid government until the end.

What is BDS?

BDS is a call to global citizens to respond (non-violently) to Israel’s continued denial of Palestinian rights to freedom, equality, and self-determination through its ethnic cleansing, colonization, racial discrimination, and military occupation.

On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall of Shame in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.…

BDS doesnt advocate for a one-state solution, or a two-state solution. It is rights-based, advocating for the human, civil and legal rights of Palestinians. The campaigns under the movement are: an academic boycott, a cultural boycott, a consumer boycott, divestment, and sanctions.

What Can you Do?

1. Personally boycott products from either the illegal Israeli settlements, or Israel, or both. You can read more at this link:…
. The movement suggests:

Trying to boycott the products of every single company that participates in Israeli apartheid is a daunting task that has a slim change of having a concrete impact.It makes more sense to focus on optimal targets that are being targeted as part of national or international campaigns.

Consumer boycotts are most effective when part of a broader campaign against a particular product or aiming to pressure a retailer to stop selling a particular Israeli product.

That means we can focus on Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream, Eden Springs bottled water, Golan Heights wineries, Israeli Medjoul dates and other fruits and vegetables from the settlements, HP, Caterpillar, Volvo and Hyundai.

There is also an app available for smartphones call Boycott that lets you choose causes you want to participate in, and then lets you scan barcodes of products to tell you whether the product is aligned with your goals. Freeing Palestine is one of the causes you can sign up for.

2. Agitate for American businesses to stop profiting from the Israeli occupation.

3. Advocate for divestment from corporations doing business with either Israel, the settlements or both.…

4. Advocate for an arms embargo on Israel. There is a campaign on now. You can add you name to a list that includes Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Peres Esquivel, Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchú and Betty Williams as well as Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, playwright Caryl Churchill, US rapper Boots Riley, João Antonio Felicio, the president of the International Trade Union Confederation, and Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Confederation of South African Trade Unions.…

5. Advocate for better coverage of the issue by the main stream media. I don’t believe there is an organization for this, but there should be. is a progressive website that follows the media and currently has a lot to say about the coverage of this crisis. The key is to register your complaints with the media as they happen.

6. Advocate for your favorite artists to refuse to perform in Israel (politely) and encourage those who have already joined the boycott. This can be done on Twitter and Facebook.…

Successes in the last 18 months

July 23 2014 – The African Liturature Association joined the academic boycott.….

July 3 – Brighton, UK, Sodastream store shuts down after two years.…

June 20 2014 – Presbyterians voted to divest from 3 American business that profit from the occupation….

Feb 2014-Norway’s $810 billion sovereign wealth fund divested from two Israeli companies.….

The Dutch pension fund, PGGM, with over $210 billion in assets, announced it has divested from five Israeli banks, effective January 1, 2014.….

December 15 2013 – The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) announced that it will join the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.….

Dec 2013, American Studies Association endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions….

May 2013, Stephen Hawking joined academic boycott….

May 7th, 2013 – Oberlin College Student Senate endorses divestment resolution…

April 2013 – Association for Asian American Studies joined academic boycott….

March 16th, 2013 – Mennonites Divest From Israeli Occupation…

March 14th, 2013 – UC San Diego Students Vote to Divest (non-binding)…

March 9th, 2013 – The Netherlands calls on Retailers to Distinguish Between Israeli Produce and Produce Grown in Illegal Settlements…

Israeli Captains of Industry Fear Boycott…

European Boycotts Begin to Bite Catching Israel’s Attention…

The time is now. Please join us.

Will You Join BDS?

  • Yes 66%
  • No 33%

111 votes




January 2015

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