Cash starved: countries demanding cash from U.S.
8/6/2001 12:00:00 AM - Jonah Goldberg
The Egyptians owe me. Big Time. According to the Bible, my great-great-great-great-great-great - oh you get the point - grandfather helped build the great cities of Egypt whose ruins drive that country's tourism business today.
Indeed, tourism is Egypt's second biggest source of revenue. So I think I deserve my cut. And, hey, if they don't have the cash on hand (they don't), I will gladly accept movement of the pyramids to Israel or, say, Shaker Heights, Ohio; anyplace where Jews can get what they're owed will be fine. After all, no one wants to be unreasonable.
Or do they? At this moment delegates from around the world are meeting in Geneva trying to persuade the United States to participate in the upcoming "World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance" in Durban, South Africa, later this month.
The United States is rightly reluctant to participate because, well, the conference-goers want to use America as a giant piñata. The idea is to bash the United States until cash falls out of the U.S. Congress like so much Mexican candy.
Well, that's not entirely right. That's what the African nations want. The Middle East nations want to beat the tar out of Israel. The Organization of the Islamic Conference recently met in Iran, and members decided that they would form a united front to pass a declaration equating Zionism - the founding and guiding ideology of Israel - with racism at the U.N. conference later this month.
"Zionism is racism" is an old and hateful canard Arab states have thrown around for decades. This time it's being pushed by terrorist-turned-terrorist-with-a-nice-office Yasser Arafat and by the Syrian government, which is currently bankrolling a project to turn "The Matzah of Zion" into a film. The book "The Matzah of Zion," written by the Syrian Defense Minister, claims to prove that Jews (like me) drink Gentile blood. This was news to me.
Anyway, while the Zionism-equals-racism clause will probably be dropped from the final agenda, it looks like the demand for slavery reparations will remain, partly because African-American politicians and activists are clamoring for reparations here at home.
Indeed, Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney recently turned up the heat on those leaning toward opting out of the conference. "I have to wonder if the Bush administration's position ... is just politically dumb or if it is perhaps indicative of something more malignant," she said in The New York Times. "Is the Bush White House just full of latent racists?"
Anyway, the African delegations have already drafted a "Declaration of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery as a Crime Against Humanity," which calls for so-called "compensatory relief," i.e. cash payments to African nations and the descendents of African slaves around the world. The important phrase here is "Trans-Atlantic," because it excludes the millennia of slavery in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Asia and, well, everywhere else.
Slavery was a morally disgusting and evil practice. That America practiced slavery is particularly galling because of the standards America sets for itself. But, by world and historical standards, American slavery wasn't too exceptional.
Harvard's Orlando Patterson - an African-American, by the way - writes in "Slavery and Social Death," "Slavery has existed from the dawn of human history right down to the 20th century, in the most primitive societies and in the most civilized. ... Probably there is no group of people whose ancestors were not at one time slaves or slaveholders."
Thomas Sowell - another African-American if you're counting - explains in "Race and Culture: A World View" that what's exceptional about Europe and America is not that they had slaves, it's that they ended slavery - almost everywhere. The British and the West forced the Arab states to abandon slavery, virtually at gunpoint. The United States fought a bloody civil war to end slavery. Until this happened, slavery was the norm in the world.
In fact, the word "slave" is derived from "Slav," i.e. those white folks in southern and Eastern Europe. Slavs were slaves to pretty much everyone, including lots of people of color. Meanwhile, more black African slaves were owned by black Africans than white Americans. More black Africans died in the Sahara en route to the Middle East than died going across the Atlantic to the Americas, according to Sowell.
But that's all besides the point. The United States has cash. So it's irrelevant that racial hatred still thrives in the Middle East and Africa. There's actual slavery going on today in the Sudan and Mauritania. We've seen genocide and ethnic cleansing in Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo resulting in the deaths of millions. India has a caste system relegating some 150 million people to second- or no-class status.
And let's not forget that the United States gives billions in aid to African nations already. Or that unlike with reparations to Holocaust victims or Japanese internees, there are no former slaves left alive to repay.
But again, that's all beside the point. In fact, when recently pressed with these niggling issues, Libya's president-for-life and terrorist-in-chief Moammar Gadhafi said he didn't care. His solution: "The whites must pay."
Well, if everyone's going to be so reasonable, then I will be too. I await delivery of the Pyramids.