Well, I'm back from a short visit to Toronto, and it looks like while I was gone, the world decided to go mad. Er, madder. As protests continue to rage across Europe and the Middle East, I'm finding myself oddly unsympathetic toward either side in this strange global conflict over cartoons! The fact is, some of the Danish cartoons are truly hurtful and intentionally provocative; I would probably support the Muslim position (the criticism, not the property destruction) if it wasn't for centuries of systemic dicrimination and violence against Jews and Christians in the Arab world. Even as Moslems are protesting against Denmark, anti-semitic cartoons continue to appear in Arab newspapers.
And in Iran, one newpaper suggested a contest to find cartoons about the Holocaust, as if to suggest some correlation between Judaism and cartoons produced in Denmark. The whole thing would be funny if it wasn't so bizarre.
I also can't help feeling a little smug as Europeans face the sort of incendiary extremism that has for decades plagued Israeli efforts to resolve the Palestine dispute. Sadly, the rest of the world is slowly discovering that the problem may have always been that some groups are simple inflexible and unwilling to dialogue to resolve differences. Once again, Islamic extremists are being allowed to hijack a legitimate charge for their own political purposes. The timing of all of this strikes me as rather suspect. Didn't the cartoons first appear in print over four months ago? Could it really be pure coincidence that riots have broken out within days of an announcement that Iran's nuclear program will be referred to the UN Security Council (not to mention increased pressure on Syria over their involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former Prime Minister).
Incidentally, last year Denmark began a two-year stint on the Security Council and has recently been elected as chair of the UN Counter Terrorist Committee (CTC). The coincidences pile up.
Appropriately, I just finished a book I think would be worth everyone reading, "A View from the Eye of the Storm" by Professor Haim Harari. Harari, a theoretical physicist, is the chair of the Davidson Institute of Science Education. He was the president of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science from 1988 to 2001. In his career he has made major contributions to three different fields: particle physics research, science education, and science administration and policy. Harari's book is a refreshing personal assessment of conflict between the West and the Arab world, with specific reference to recent violence in Israel, written from the perspective of someone's whose family has lived in the "eye of the storm" for seven generations. As such, the book lacks the exposition of a political science or history text, but makes its case with reasonable and logical argumentation.
Of course, lack of credentials in political science hasn't stopped linguist Noam Chomsky from opining on similar issues. Harari's insight and first-hand perspective gives him, in my opinion, far more credibility.