|Jewish Current Issues|
Monday, July 26, 2004
Monday, July 26, 2004
Sunday, July 25, 2004
Friday, July 23, 2004
Worth reading in its entirety.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
In cases like Darfur, there is always a great deal of hand wringing about what is and is not genocide. But such discussion misses the point: A key element of the Genocide Convention is prevention. It calls for action once it is apparent that genocide is threatened.
In “Once Again, in Darfur,” the Washington Times reported that, as of last week:
The U.N. Security Council appears ready to turn a blind eye toward the certain death of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese. The international community has not only lost what Secretary of State Colin Powell has called a "race against death" in Sudan's western Darfur region, but it also has been unwilling to take steps to try to salvage what lives can still be rescued.
Mark Steyn, in “Sudan Is Getting Away With Murder,” focuses on the problem:
The UN system is broken beyond repair. In May, even as its proxies were getting stuck into their ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. . . .
In the meantime, you can sign a petition to Colin Powell here.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Each Life is an Entire World
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Bay Window on the Middle East
In late March, Austin Bay, author, columnist and U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, wrote that this summer might well "determine the Middle East’s political course for the next century:"
Start with this fact: Yassir Arafat's Palestinian Authority has no authority. It's a corrupt, moribund shell. . . .
Arafat's rejection of the summer 2000 peace deal crafted by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton ultimately made him the West Bank's chief thief [sending Palestinian funds to Switzerland], rather than independent Palestine's first statesman.
Any deal would have ignited a Palestinian Authority versus Hamas battle, but instead of waging that necessary civil war with the support of the United States, Arafat chose renewed intifada with Israel. . . .
The Arab world is watching, with fascination, Iraq's looming experiment in democracy. . . . An Iraqi democracy completely changes the Middle Eastern calculus. Terrorist cadres will blame Israel for the region's ills, but the elephant in the room -- the repression and robbery of Muslim people by corrupt Muslim elites -- can no longer be ignored. . . .
The Israelis bet the next generation of Palestinians, with terrorist cash gone and rejectionist guns removed, will look to democratic Iraq as a model -- and then help create a resilient, just and fruitful Israeli-Palestinian peace.
"Time out" is a mirage of the chattering class. . . . Hate to say it, but the call for "time out" . . . may be another case of Baby Boomers who can't separate Hollywood war from the real thing. Hollywood wars end in a couple of hours. Real earthly hells have no intermission.
[I]t must be a shock for the most frequent visitor to the White House during the years 1993-2001 to be kept out of it altogether, from Jan. 20, 2001, to now. Bush is often called a "neocon" and other not-quite-friendly things, but he is supremely realistic, certainly about the Middle East, certainly about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, certainly about Arafat.
Monday, July 12, 2004
Watchmen on the Walls
A few weeks ago, John Kerry gave a foreign policy speech in Seattle -- another of his criticisms of the Bush Administration for "going it alone" instead of "assembling a team." The speech ended with Kerry’s assurance that he would again lead a great alliance:
"We do not have to live in fear or stand alone. We don't have to be a lonely watchman on the walls of freedom."
"We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom."
"I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day nor night; you who make mention of the Lord, take no rest."
In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year, increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program, increased by more than 75 percent our Minuteman purchase program, increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on 15-minute alert, and . . . increased by 60 percent the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe. . . .
We have radically improved the readiness of our conventional forces -- increased by 45 percent the number of combat ready Army divisions, increased by 100 percent the procurement of modern Army weapons and equipment, increased by 100 percent our ship construction, conversion, and modernization program . . . increased by 30 percent the number of tactical air squadrons, and increased the strength of the Marines. . . .
We have increased by 175 percent the procurement of airlift aircraft, and we have already achieved a 75 percent increase in our existing strategic airlift capability. Finally, moving beyond the traditional roles of our military forces, we have achieved an increase of nearly 600 percent in our special forces . . . .
We in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."
Except the Lord build the house,
They labor in vain that build it;
Except the Lord keep the city,
The watchman waketh but in vain.
Friday, July 09, 2004
A Little Friday Miscellany
Truth has been taking a little while to get its boots on, but James Lileks' utter destruction of Michael Moore’s recent thoughts whipped around the Internet yesterday as fast as anything I’ve ever seen. Here it is, for the few of you who missed it, and the rest who want to read it again.
And today he has a sobering reflection on "what’s keeping Israel from taking out Iran’s nuclear bomb-making plants."
I like this title for Michael Moore's movie.
Driches at Crossfiah! was not wrong when he linked yesterday to this as "one of the funniest pages on the web." The best since Dean-O. Just keep scrolling.
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Kerry, Edwards and Israel
The Jerusalem Post editorializes on the new Democratic ticket ("Doubts About Kerry"), and the position paper the Kerry campaign recently distributed to Jewish community leaders:
Now the Democrats have a ticket, and that ticket has a pro-Israel position paper that, like the candidates' voting record, is reportedly "second to none." . . .
Let's take a closer look. Kerry's paper claims he "has been at the forefront of the fight for Israel's security during his 19 years in the US Senate."
Indeed, he has signed on almost every pro-Israel letter and voted for every pro-Israel resolution. But so have 80 or so other Senators. Yet hopping on such measures after most of the Senate is on board can hardly be characterized as being in the "forefront," unless the train is being driven from the caboose.
It is a happy fact, but a fact, that a Senator must go out of his way to rack up a record considered to be anti-Israel. Kerry did not. We are happy that Kerry dutifully followed the pro-Israel pack, but spare us the "forefront" rhetoric.
We cannot but welcome any pro-Israel manifesto, but Kerry's paper doth protest too much. . . .
Let's get this straight: the American contribution to the security of Israel, and of Jews around the world, for that matter, depends almost entirely on how successfully the US fights the global jihad, of which Israel is the leading and most long-standing target.
If America is losing, we will feel it here; if Israel is losing, America is likely to feel it there.
If Kerry really wants to be "pro-Israel" he should not just follow Bush, but outflank him on the need to drive the regimes in Teheran, Damascus, and Riyadh either out of power (a la Saddam) or out of the terror business (a la Qaddafi). If the war against jihad devolves into a September 10-style police action, Israel -- and America -- will be in trouble.
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
The Islamic Leonardo
Stephen Schwartz (who is a Sufi) writes that Islam needs to find its way to modernity, "but in my view that way lies through a Renaissance, not a Reformation, and by way of a Leonardo, not a Luther:"
What does a Muslim Renaissance mean? It means the restoration of the Islamic pluralism that was abolished in Mecca and Medina in the 1920s, less than a century ago, when Wahhabism conquered the Holy Sites.
Before then, all of the hundreds of Islamic legal schools, and all of the differing sects, and all of the Sufi orders, were represented in Mecca, and the Hajj pilgrimage . . . was a celebration of Islamic diversity.
In those days, also, Christian churches were open in Jiddah, and Jewish synagogues were found all over Yemen. Indeed, today only Saudi Arabia bars non-Muslims, and even non-Wahhabi Muslims, from openly practicing their faith. The rest of the Gulf states allow Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist worship; and Bahrain still has a synagogue. . . .
I believe an Islamic Renaissance will come, and an Islamic Leonardo will come, fit to stand alongside the Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists of the past, and that Wahhabism and everything like it will be defeated.
I also believe that many Westerners will be surprised when they find out that ordinary Muslims are not very different from ordinary Catholics, and represent no danger to them. How tragic it is that all this seems so far away today; yet is so near.
Friday, July 02, 2004
Anwar Chemseddine and Czeslaw Milosz
A footnote in Robert Satloff’s article that I posted Wednesday referred to a "brilliant essay" contributed by Anwar Chemseddine (the pseudonym of an Arab professor of English literature at a university in North Africa) to an Internet-based "virtual symposium" on Arab views of the Holocaust.
It is worth reading, as are the companion articles by Rami Khouri, Abdou Filali-Ansary, and Berel Lang.
Chemseddine’s article described the Arabs’ view of the Holocaust as "troubled," because the Holocaust is "almost invariably regarded through the foggy prism of the Middle East conflict" -- which obscures its significance as "the archetype of the crime against humanity:"
Anti-semitism is a modern European phenomenon in which Jews, assimilated or unassimilated, secular or religious, liberal or radical, are made the political, cultural, ideological and social scapegoats of modernity. . . .
And this is the basic definition of a crime against humanity: a crime perpetrated for no other reason than the victim being singled out as a human being.
The continued significance of the Holocaust is that it persistently asks the questions: . . . [H]ow is it that in the name of modernity such savagery and abomination are allowed to occur?
. . . And this is why revisionism or negationism of the Holocaust are pernicious and must be denounced: they aim at nothing less than weakening the debate on human rights, culture, democracy, and all the issues we associate with the Enlightenment and modernity.
You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word is
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.
It is good to be born in a small country where Nature was on a human scale, where various languages and religions cohabited for centuries. I have in mind Lithuania, a country of myths and of poetry. . . . A bizarre city [Vilna] of baroque architecture transplanted to northern forests and of history fixed in every stone, a city of forty Roman Catholic churches and of numerous synagogues.
In those days the Jews called it a Jerusalem of the North. Only when teaching in America did I fully realize how much I had absorbed from the thick walls of our ancient university, from formulas of Roman law learned by heart, from history and literature of old Poland, both of which surprise young Americans by their specific features: an indulgent anarchy, a humor disarming fierce quarrels, a sense of organic community, a mistrust of any centralized authority.
Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.
Certainly, the illiterates of past centuries, then an enormous majority of mankind, knew little of the history of their respective countries and of their civilization. In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion . . . .
[E]vents of the last decades, of such primary importance that knowledge or ignorance of them will be decisive for the future of mankind, move away, grow pale . . . . We are surrounded today by fictions about the past, contrary to common sense and to an elementary perception of good and evil. . . . [T]he number of books in various languages which deny that the Holocaust ever took place, that it was invented by Jewish propaganda, has exceeded one hundred.
If such an insanity is possible, is a complete loss of memory as a permanent state of mind improbable? And would it not present a danger more grave than genetic engineering or poisoning of the natural environment?
In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Villains and Heroes, and the French
Robert Satloff has an important article in the July issue of Commentary that is at once heartening, disheartening, and sobering.
He writes in "In Search of ‘Righteous Arabs’" about his investigation of the "hidden history" of the Arab encounter with the Holocaust:
[F]or the past two years, while living in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, I have tracked down stories of Arabs who played a role in the Holocaust, be they villains or heroes. With the help of researchers and investigators in ten different countries, I have been able to unearth the stories of dozens of such individuals.
For three years -- from the fall of France in June 1940 to the expulsion of German troops from Tunisia in May 1943 -- the Nazis, their Vichy French collaborators, and their Italian Fascist allies applied in these areas many of the same tools that would be used to devastating effect against the much larger Jewish populations of Europe. . . Virtually no Jew in North Africa was left untouched. . . .
[O]f the three European countries that brought the Holocaust to Arab lands, the most malevolent by far was France. In Morocco and, especially, Algeria, France implemented strict laws against local Jews, expelling them from schools, universities, and government employment, confiscating their property, and sending a number of local Jewish political activists to harsh labor camps.
In some respects, Vichy was more vigorous about applying anti-Jewish statutes in Arab lands than in metropolitan France. . . . . The collaborationist government established in 1940 under Marshal Pétain turned the Jews, both foreign and native-born, into ready scapegoats for France’s shameful collapse at Nazi hands.
Monday, June 28, 2004
A Kerry Miscellany
John Kerry, speaking to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials on Saturday, presented the latest idea in his Don’t-Call-It-War on Terror:
I will also create a "North American Security Perimeter" to better facilitate the legitimate travel of law-abiding citizens and crack down on bad actors trying to enter the United States.
"He actually does feel at ease in the world," she said. "He likes people, in spite of whatever people [perhaps voters?] might think. He'd make the best nursery school teacher in the world, bar none." . . .
Teresa also said that Kerry would get the U.S. back in good with the United Nations [swell] and "will never, ever, ever send any children, or men -- as he was with young men in Vietnam -- into harm's way without being the first one to go out on the boat." . . .
His wife added . . . "We're not going to fight terrorism with missiles, we're going to fight terrorism with ideas. And I think that John knows that, deep down."
"The Bush Campaign should immediately remove these hateful images from its website and apologize for using them. The use of Adolf Hitler by any campaign, politician or party is simply wrong.”
Al Gore for his reference to “Bush’s gulag” and his use of Nazi references ("The Administration works closely with a network of 'rapid response' digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for undermining support for our troops."), or
George Soros for his Nazi allegations ("When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans."), or
Michael Moore for his comparison of the Patriot Act to Mein Kampf ("The Patriot Act is the first step. 'Mein Kampf' - 'Mein Kampf' was written long before Hitler came to power.").
Friday, June 25, 2004
What Might Have Been
Ron Rosenbaum, editor of "Those Who Forget the Past," writes about staying up all night reading the 390-page pre-publication galleys of Philip Roth’s new novel -- "The Plot Against America" -- to be published in October.
The book is another of Roth’s "alternative-future novels," in which Charles Lindbergh runs for President in 1940, beats FDR and makes a pact with Hitler shortly thereafter. The result is that America becomes "a silent partner in the Axis takeover of the rest of the world."
Earlier this year, the New York Times published a report on the novel, noting that "[Roth’s] Lindbergh blames Jews in a radio address for selfishly pushing America toward a pointless war with Nazi Germany." In response, Roth wrote a letter to the Times:
No, Roth wrote to The Times, it isn’t just "my" (fictional) Lindbergh who attacked an alleged Jewish cabal, it’s the Lindbergh of history.
Mr. Roth quoted from the actual ["Who Are the War Agitators?"] speech attacking Jews . . . a speech Lindbergh made at an America First rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sept. 11, 1941 . . . [in which] Lindbergh warned against American Jews, whom he depicted -- along with F.D.R. and British agents -- as a sinister cabal trying to manipulate America into opposing Hitler:"
"No person of honesty and vision can look on [the Jews’] pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a policy both for us and for them . . . . We cannot allow the natural passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction. . . .
"[The Jews’] greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government . . . ."
Sept. 11, 1941, when the U.K. alone was still holding off Hitler, in what increasingly looked like Churchill’s futile fantasy of resistance now that Nazi armies were sweeping towards Moscow.
If Lindbergh had succeeded in his aim, Hitler may have had a solid foundation for his Thousand Year Reich, rather than the 12 years he got.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Only in America
Norman Podhoretz will be at the White House today, to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation's highest civilian honor.
The White House description of him is as follows:
Norman Podhoretz has been at the forefront of American intellectual thought for the last half-century, as the longtime editor-in-chief of Commentary magazine, and as a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
[A] thinker and writer and polemicist, a geopolitician and student of religious ideas, an autobiographer of genius, a man who reacts sharply to the news as it pours from the press and the airwaves, who thinks deeply, angrily, and sincerely about it, and commits his thoughts into vivid and penetrative argument.
I was born in this country, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, but as a very small child I spoke -- or so family tradition has it -- more Yiddish than English.
[M]y English was so marked by a Yiddish accent that I was often mistaken for a recently arrived immigrant. . . . This accent created a problem when at the age of five I was sent to the local public school, P.S. 28 . . . .
My recollection of the incident is naturally dim. But it is clear enough to confirm the general accuracy of another favorite family tale, this one about a teacher who came upon me climbing alone up a staircase, apparently lost and in search of my class which had peeled off in some other direction while I was distractedly looking elsewhere.
"Where are you going, little boy?" this teacher asked. "I goink op de stez," I am reputed to have replied. At this the teacher instantly marched me off to the principal’s office and had me placed in a remedial-speech class. . . .
[T]his teacher, like most of her colleagues, was a middle-age Catholic woman, of Irish ethnicity, and (in the lingo of the day) an "old maid." . . . . [These teachers] were something like (and may even have seen themselves as) secular nuns. . . This was the very height of the age of the "melting pot," and one of the main jobs of our teachers was to throw us into it and heat it up to as high a temperature as it might take to burn out our foreign impurities and turn us into real Americans. . . .
In the age of multiculturalism that dawned on America a half century later, any teacher doing to a black or Latino or Asian kid what that teacher did to me would (I exaggerate only slightly) have been surrounded in a trice by federal marshals materializing out of the very walls of the school, arrested for attempted cultural genocide, read her Miranda rights, and carted off in handcuffs to the applause of the child’s parents . . . .
I assumed Saddam Hussein possessed the sort of arsenal that made him a clear and present danger: The alarming intelligence estimates were shared by many Western governments, so that the debate in the months preceding the war concerned the methods for disarming Iraq, not the reasons for disarming it.
And to my certainty of Saddam's capability I added my certainty of his depravity. I required no intelligence estimates to demonstrate that Saddam stood out darkly in the discussion of weapons of mass destruction, because he had employed them, against soldiers and against civilians, and thereby demonstrated his immunity to the cold and saving rationality on which the art of deterrence has always been based.
A man who could use these obscene materials was also a man who could proliferate them. . . .
In the case of Saddam Hussein, then, the benefit of the doubt did not seem like an exercise in critical thinking.
We will remove threats before they arrive, instead of waiting for the next attack, the next catastrophe. That is one of the lessons of September the 11th we must never forget.
Iraq was a country in which millions of people lived in fear, and many thousands disappeared into mass graves. This was a regime that tortured children in front of their parents. This was a regime that invaded its neighbors. This is a regime that had used chemical weapons before. It had used weapons not only against countries in its neighborhood, but against its own citizens. This is a regime which gave cash rewards to families of suicide bombers. This is a regime that sheltered terrorist groups. This is a regime that hated America.
And so we saw a threat, and it was a real threat. And that's why I went to the United Nations. The administration looked at the intelligence, saw a threat, and remembered the facts and saw a threat. The Congress, members of both political parties, looked at the intelligence. They saw a threat. The members of the United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and saw a threat, and voted unanimously to send the message to Mr. Saddam Hussein, disarm or face serious consequences.
A policeman shoots a robber who has killed in the past and who brandishes what seems to be a gun. The gun turns out to be a cellphone. . . .
In the end, if [the policeman] is exonerated, it is not because he made no mistake but because his mistake was justified. Reasonable people, facing uncertainty, would have thought they saw a gun.
George W. Bush and the CIA thought they saw a gun. So did French President Jacques Chirac, who last February warned of Iraq's "probable possession of weapons of mass destruction." So did Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor, who last February said, "My personal belief is that Saddam may well possess anthrax and chemical weapons. That being the case, he must be disarmed." . . . .
So [Saddam] waved what looked like a gun and got shot.
The only genuine solution to the problem of proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological arms is political development. It comes in many kinds, and often with assistance from the outside. . . . And the theory of deterrence cannot be responsibly applied to a dictator who has already used weapons whose use is famously not rational. . . .
How can any liberal, any individual who associates himself with the party of humanity, not count himself in this coalition of the willing? . . . . Dominique de Villepin, in a breathtakingly obtuse phrase that brought down the house at the Security Council last week, called for "disarmament through peace." There speaks the collapse of modern memory. . . .
[T]he doctrine of preemption . . . in the case of certain threats really is nothing more than prudence ("Be early to kill a man who is coming to kill you," runs an ancient Jewish adage.).
If I had known there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, I would not have supported this war. . . . But I was deceived. . . . I have come to despise some of the people who are directing it.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Hamas and Our Friends the Europeans.
Earlier this week, the Council on Foreign Relations released the "Second Report of an Independent Task Force on Terrorist Financing."
The Task Force is composed of a bipartisan group of experts from the foreign policy, business, law enforcement, and intelligence communities -- including Richard A. Clarke (the former White House National Coordinator for Counterterrorism), Stuart E. Eizenstat (former Under Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to the E.U.), Geoffrey Kemp (former member of the National Security Council), Matthew Levitt (former counterterrorism analyst for the FBI), William F. Wechsler (former chair of the interagency group charged with disrupting al-Qaeda’s financial network), and 12 others.
It is an eye-opening report, worth reading in its entirety. Saudi Arabia is a focus, and is definitely a problem.
Here are some significant excerpts relating to Hamas:
On June 26, 2003 . . . at the annual U.S.-EU Summit, President Bush took the important step of publicly urging European leaders to criminalize all fundraising by Hamas . . . . Extensive work by the State and Treasury Departments preceded and followed up the president’s strong remarks. . .
Targeting the financial support network of Hamas is an important part of the overall war on terrorist financing, affecting both the Middle East peace process and the larger U.S.-led war on terrorism.
However, in Saudi Arabia, whose people and organizations may contribute as much as 60 percent of Hamas’s annual budget, the government still does not recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization . . .
The EU has now officially added Hamas to its list of terrorist groups. But to date, the EU has designated only a small number of Hamas-affiliated entities.
Britain and only a handful of other European states have joined U.S.-led enforcement actions against Hamas leaders and fronts, although Britain has not yet taken effective action to close the Palestinian Relief and Development Front (Interpal), perhaps the largest Hamas front organization in Europe.
No such action has been taken by other European countries that are home to other Hamas front organizations, such as Austria, France, and Italy.
The EU’s decision to ban Hamas will remain meaningless until such time as the EU and its constituent member states act aggressively to restrict Hamas financial activities to the maximum extent possible.
European Commission Delegation
2300 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone (202) 862-9553
FAX (202) 429-1766
Attn: Anthony Gooch (202-862-9523)
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
What Could Explain It?
David Wolpe has a compelling essay ("Because They Are Jews") on European hatred of Israel combined with the strange absence of any objections to (much less hatred of) other countries in the region:
Where were the vituperative voices when the Jordanians controlled Jerusalem and turned the Western Wall into a garbage dump? There was no UN resolution about that sacrilege.
Where were they when the Arab countries prevented Jews from entering the old city of Jerusalem?
For that matter, where were those voices when Assad killed thousands of his own people, or when the late King Hussein of Jordan slaughtered thousands of Palestinians? . . .
I have heard calls for the end of this or that government but never for the end of the state. No one said Germany after two world wars should cease being a state. The world did not agitate for the end of Uganda under Amin. Only Israel. Only the state populated by and run by Jews. Remarkable coincidence, is it not?
. . . . It may be happenstance that people who live in countries where Jews were hated for millennia are saying that only Jews should not have a country, or criticize that country exclusively, or ignore atrocities perpetrated by other countries, or have deep understanding of those who are moved to murder Jews.
Poles have never come out against Jews "because they are Jews" -- but because Jews are dirty, greedy, mendacious, because they wear ear-locks, speak jargon, do not want to assimilate; and also because they do assimilate, cease using their jargon, are nattily dressed, and want to be regarded as Poles.
Because they lack culture and because they are overly cultured.
Because they are superstitious, backward and ignorant, and because they are damnably capable, progressive, and ambitious.
Because they have long, hooked noses, and because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from "pure Poles."
Because they crucified Christ and practice ritual murder and pore over the Talmud, and because they disdain their own religion and are atheists.
Because they look wretched and sickly, and because they are tough and have their own fighting units and are full of chutzpah.
Because they are bankers and capitalists and because they are Communists and agitators.
But in no case because they are Jews.
Israel not perfect? No, but it's a helluva lot better than most countries on this earth.
Considering that it was largely founded by refugees from Russian pogroms, the Holocaust and persecution in Arab countries, that most everyone arrived speaking a foreign language and with only the clothes on their backs, that it's been under constant attack from Arab terrorists since even before it became a country, and hasn't had a moment's peace, I'd say they're doing extremely well.
They've accommodated immigrants from 100 countries on five continents, over a million just since 1990, and 23,000 last year. And for crying out loud, in terms of democracy, they just appointed a Christian Arab woman to their supreme court! They house a mosque in the Knesset building for the Arab Muslims who are elected representatives.
Israel has more political parties, museums and newspapers per capita than any other country in the world, produces more scientific papers and files more patents (both per capita) than any country in the world, has The Highest Average Living Standard in the Middle East, and a per capita income which exceeds that of the UK.
Their economy is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined (perhaps because over 95% of the population is literate, 24% of the workforce has university degrees and 12% hold advanced degrees). . . . And they're the only country to have come out of the 20th century with more trees than it began with. . . .
Maybe it's not perfect, but you have to admit, it's miraculous. If it survives, it's only going to get better.
Monday, June 14, 2004
Bret Stephens, editor of The Jerusalem Post, responds to Richard Ben Cramer’s assertion that "any Jew who's not an Israeli, and not on psychotropic drugs, could solve this Peace-for-Israel thing in about ten minutes of focused thought."
This is a common theme among the dull-minded: that the solution to all our strife is so blazingly evident that only knaves or fools could fail to grasp it. . . .
But Israel's conflict with the Palestinians is not so simple, and one needs to be a simpleton to believe that it is, or that malice or stupidity or greed prevent Israelis from grasping what they so obviously yearn for, or that a conflict that did not begin with the occupation can be ended by ending the occupation.
Israel cannot swallow the Palestinians. It cannot drive them out. It cannot arrive at a peaceful settlement with them. All it can do is disengage itself from them.
It is not an ideal solution. A better one would have been a negotiated partition in which Israelis and Palestinians would live in two separate but friendly states within the geographical framework of one, mutually accessible country.
But such an arrangement, if it was ever feasible, is so no longer. Four years of Palestinian terrorism, and the lawlessness of a Palestinian society that has come to be dominated by fanatically Israel-hating gunmen and religious groups, make it evident that a Palestinian state friendly to Israel is an impossibility in our time.
And since Israelis have no particular interest in an unfriendly Palestinian state, it is enough for them to concentrate on being a Jewish state with militarily and demographically defensible borders while letting the Palestinians fend for themselves.
Not long ago Aweideh and his comrades from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- the armed cells, affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, that sprung up with the intifada -- would have been swaggering through the streets of this West Bank market town, inspiring admiration in some residents, terrorizing others and plotting what they call "military operations" against nearby Jewish settlements or Israeli cities that lie over the Green Line, the pre-1967 border that skirts Tul Karm to the west.
But the armed men are not walking around here anymore, certainly not in broad daylight. The few of them left after the army’s frequent raids, targeted killings and arrests are said to be feeling hunted and alone. And while predictions of calm times ahead may be premature, many here are already declaring Tul Karm’s intifada over. . . .
Residents of Tul Karm are no longer willing to provide refuge for the armed men in their houses, local sources say, for fear of ending up on the army’s demolition list. . . .
Aweideh attributes the difficulty in launching attacks to the recently constructed security barrier that now seals Tul Karm off from Israel, as well as the strict checkpoint regime that controls movement between the city and the rest of the West Bank and "the pressure put on us by the PA." He says that the people he deals with in Ramallah "are scared for Arafat" following Prime Minister Sharon’s veiled threats on the Palestinian leader’s life.
For decades, America had waged a Cold War, and few believed it could possibly end in our own lifetimes. The President was one of those few.
And it was the vision and will of Ronald Reagan that gave hope to the oppressed, shamed the oppressors, and ended an evil empire. More than any other influence, the Cold War was ended by the perseverance and courage of one man who answered falsehood with truth, and overcame evil with good.
Ronald Reagan was more than an historic figure. He was a providential man, who came along just when our nation and the world most needed him. And believing as he did that there is a plan at work in each life, he accepted not only the great duties that came to him, but also the great trials that came near the end.
When he learned of his illness, his first thoughts were of Nancy. And who else but Ronald Reagan could face his own decline and death with a final message of hope to his country, telling us that for America there is always a bright dawn ahead.
Fellow Americans, here lies a graceful and a gallant man.
If Reagan’s landslide victory over Carter was greeted by a less than enthusiastic response from American Jewry -- then even more than now one of the Democratic party’s most loyal constituencies -- the reaction was entirely different in Israel, where there were real fears of what another four years of a Carter administration would bring.
It is hard to imagine two people more different in life experiences than Natan Sharansky and Ronald Reagan. Did you feel those differences on a human level?We both saw the world similarly. That is what matters. Not the experiences themselves but what is learned from them.
People used to say that Reagan's jokes exposed him as a simpleton. To me they revealed his strengths and convictions. He took great joy in telling me the old joke about the time Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev and his deputy Alexei Kosygin discussed what would happen to the USSR if it really did conform to the Helsinki Accords and adopted a truly open emigration policy.
"You and I would be the only two citizens left in the USSR," Brezhnev said. "Speak for yourself," answered Kosygin.
Ronald Reagan understood the power of this joke. He stood up to evil. He had the courage to fight evil and the wisdom to defeat it.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
The Great American Yiddish Novelist.
Jonathan Rosen, formerly the culture editor of the Forward and author of "The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Worlds," has an extraordinary essay in The New Yorker on Isaac Bashevis Singer ("American Master: How I.B. Singer Translated Himself into American Literature").
Rosen writes of biographer Janet Hadda's suggestion that, in "The Family Moskat," Singer portrayed his Polish Jews, whether assimilated or pious, as spiritually exhausted, and he illustrates the point with an excerpt from the book -- set amidst the virulent anti-Semitism unleashed after the devastations of World War I, when "neither assimilation nor a return to former piety was possible."
Singer captures this sense of futility perfectly in "The Family Moskat." When, during the First World War, an order of expulsion comes to the shtetl where the hero grew up, the pious rabbi finds himself fleeing next to the town atheist:
Reb Dan’s wagon drew up alongside the cart on which Jekuthiel the watchmaker sat, the tools of his trade piled around him. He looked at the rabbi and smiled sadly. "Nu, rabbi?" he said.
It was clear that what he meant was: Where is your Lord of the Universe now? Where are His miracles? Where is your faith in Torah and prayer?
"Nu, Jekuthiel," the rabbi answered. What he was saying was: Where are your worldly remedies? Where is your trust in the gentiles? What have you accomplished by aping Esau?
Most of his characters, despite Orthodox childhoods, began their rebellion against God and Judaism before the Second World War, in the nineteen-teens and twenties, when many Polish Jews were stepping out of traditional Jewish culture for the first time, as Singer himself had. The Holocaust brought the curtain down on their unresolved rebellion, and left them quarrelling with murdered parents and a culture that had been annihilated, punishing themselves for having wished to be rid of what was now gone.
The greatest American novel of the nineteenth century, after all, tells the story of a whaling ship -- a whole civilization, really -- that sinks; everyone dies except one solitary survivor with a Biblical name, who narrates the story.
Or consider the novels of Hemingway, steeped in a postwar bleakness so deep that distraction alone holds despair at bay -- a condition with which Singer’s survivors, a truly lost generation, are intimately acquainted.
These lost souls would not be out of place in the novels of Faulkner, where the past is so tormenting that, as one character says, it’s not even past.
Monday, June 07, 2004
Well, No One is Right 100% of the Time.
Abner D. Goldstine, good friend, strong supporter of Israel, all-around mensch -- and generally right about 99% of the time -- has a letter in the The Jewish Journal. He asserts a recent article in the Journal -- which Jewish Current Issues frankly found compelling -- "reflected some skewed reasoning:"
The May 21 issue of The Jewish Journal carried an opinion piece by Rick Richman titled "Kerry’s Flip-Flops on Israel Stir Concern." . . . .
Here are the facts. Throughout his 19 years in the Senate, John Kerry’s pro-Israel voting record has been second to none. Kerry has consistently supported the foreign aid critical to Israel and fought the attempt by Bush the elder in the early 1990s to slash the loan guarantees program that would have restricted aid to Israel.
Kerry endorses Israel’s need to maintain military superiority and supports Israel’s action to defend the safety and security of its citizens, including its recent actions taken against leaders of Hamas and other terrorist groups. Kerry has expressed unequivocal support for Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza. Beyond defense and security, Kerry has expressed his intent to work to bolster the economy of Israel, so key to Israel’s future strength. . . .
John Kerry’s campaign last week used the excuse that the senator was on vacation in Idaho to dodge repeated requests from the Forward for a statement from him on Israel’s assassination of Hamas head Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. It is still dodging the matter.
"For 20 years, Joe [Lieberman] will tell you, I have a 100 percent record -- not a 99, a 100 percent record -- of sustaining the special relationship, the friendship that we have with Israel."
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Leon Wieseltier, writing in this week’s New Republic, argues we should connect the Holocaust to current events, rather than argue for its uniqueness:
If no adversity can be likened to the Jewish adversity of the 1930s and 1940s, then all the instruction about the moral centrality of the Holocaust will have the perverse effect of stripping the Holocaust of its moral centrality, since it will no longer serve as a reference point in the analysis of contemporary evil.
[M]ore than 2 million people have been affected by the conflict; more than one million people have been internally displaced; more than 100,000 people are now living on the Sudanese-Chad border; and more than 100,000 people will die of disease and starvation this year, excluding deaths from the conflict.
[Darfur involves] a deliberate effort [by the Government of Sudan] to eliminate three African tribes in Darfur so Arabs can take their land. The Genocide Convention defines such behavior as genocide, and it obliges nations to act to stop it.
That is why nobody in the West wants to talk about Darfur -- because of a fear that focusing on the horror will lead to a deployment in Sudan. . . .
[George W. Bush] sent aides to speak forcefully at the U.N. and raised the matter with Sudan's leaders. That's more than the Europeans or the U.N. has done. Where are Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac? Where are African leaders, like Nelson Mandela? Why isn't John Kerry speaking out forcefully? And why are ordinary Americans silent?
[W]e have repeatedly failed to stand up to genocide, whether of Armenians, Jews, Cambodians or Rwandans. Now we're letting it happen again.
The original population of Kailek was some 5,000 persons. As the campaign to cleanse the entire Kass-Shattaya-Kailek triangle of its mainly Fur population progressed, villagers sought towards Kailek after other locations were destroyed by [Government of Sudan] and Jenjaweed [Arab militia] forces, at times backed by [Government of Sudan] aerial bombardment . . .
The 23 Fur villages in the Shattaya Administrative Unit have been completely depopulated, looted and burnt to the ground . . . Meanwhile, dotted alongside these charred locations are unharmed, populated and functioning ‘Arab’ settlements.
. . . Today, Kailek is completely destroyed with virtually no complete buildings left in the entire town area. . . . The last village before Shattaya is Abruminoa which . . . housed some 6,000 people . . . The village is now completely obliterated . . .
The Sudan has been a very important issue for evangelical voters, because most of the repression historically involved northern Muslims repressing southern Christians, even enslaving them.
So the Christian right became very active in helping Sudanese Christians, and in pressing for justice in the north/south Sudan civil war. That’s why President Bush got involved, but there’s no question that he did.
Europe needs to . . . acknowledge the severity of the situation in Darfur and use its weight in the UN Security Council. That weight is considerable: In addition to the permanent members -- France and the UK -- EU member states Germany and Spain are also currently on the Security Council, as is Romania, an EU applicant.
They need to push for an emergency session of the Security Council to take up the Darfur issue . . . . The Security Council should . . . warn Khartoum of international military intervention if it does not alter its course. Only such an ultimatum will demonstrate that the international community means it when it says "never again" -- that we are not going to stand by as another mass slaughter of innocents unfolds before our eyes.
Monday, May 31, 2004
Thank You for Sharing; Another Staff Mistake.
David Postman, chief political reporter for The Seattle Times, lists the "20 Things Sen. Kerry Taught Us" during his visit last week to Seattle:
15. Kerry must have gone to a really good grade school. In his Wednesday speech he said:
"Well, let me share a scientific fact with this president that most children in school learn very quickly. God only gave the United States 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. The Middle East has 65 percent, Saudi Arabia alone has 46 percent. We import 60 percent of our fuel oil from other countries and growing."
The public schools I attended didn't offer Introduction to Comparative Worldwide Distribution of Petroleum Reserves until middle school.
On Thursday, at the conclusion of his speech in Seattle, Kerry said, "We do not have to live in fear or stand alone. We don't have to be a lonely watchman on the walls of freedom."
In a speech that his staff had billed as a "major" policy address, but which broke no new ground and read like Kerry's stump speech, the watchman line is the most evocative and stands out.
But it turns out that Kerry -- or his speechwriters -- lifted it from a speech President John F. Kennedy was to give on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, at the Trade Mart in Dallas -- on the day Kennedy was shot and killed on his way to the event. . . .
"He'll probably blame it on his speechwriters, the way he blames them for everything else," says a former staffer for Wesley Clark.
Sunday, May 30, 2004
George W. Bush’s eloquent remarks at the World War II Memorial dedication are worth reading in their entirety -- as an act of memory and appreciation:
In the history books, the Second World War can appear as a series of crises and conflicts, following an inevitable course -- from Pearl Harbor to the Coast of Normandy to the deck of the Missouri. Yet, on the day the war began, and on many hard days that followed, the outcome was far from certain.
There was a time, in the years before the war, when many earnest and educated people believed that democracy was finished. Men who considered themselves learned and civilized came to believe that free institutions must give way to the severe doctrines and stern discipline of a regimented society.
Ideas first whispered in the secret councils of a remote empire, or shouted in the beer halls of Munich, became mass movements. And those movements became armies. And those armies moved mercilessly forward -- until the world saw Hitler strutting in Paris, and U.S. Navy ships burning in their own port.
* * *
These were the modest sons of a peaceful country, and millions of us are very proud to call them Dad. They gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted. They faced the most extreme danger, which took some and spared others, for reasons only known to God. . . .
On this Memorial Day weekend, the graves will be visited, and decorated with flowers and flags. Men whose step has slowed are thinking of boys they knew when they were boys together. And women who watched the train leave, and the years pass, can still see the handsome face of their young sweetheart. America will not forget them, either.
At this place, at this Memorial, we acknowledge a debt of long-standing to an entire generation of Americans: those who died; those who fought and worked and grieved and went on. They saved our country, and thereby saved the liberty of mankind.
Newsweek says that while President Bush consciously draws parallels to the WWII leaders -- he sits at FDR's old desk and has a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office -- the comparisons aren't so apt: "Bush eschews complexity; FDR and Churchill embraced it .. . .”
The [Atlantic Monthly] cover story's criticisms of Tony Blair -- he's not much of an intellectual, he's too much of a moralist, he misled his country on the case for war -- sound like the boilerplate arguments against the prime minister's Iraq war partner, George W. Bush.
Now at last the slowly-gathered, long-pent-up fury of the storm broke upon us. Four or five millions of men met each other in the first shock of the most merciless of all the wars of which record has been kept.
Within a week the front in France, behind which we had been accustomed to dwell through the hard years of the former war and the opening phase of this, was to be irretrievably broken. Within three weeks the long-famed French Army was to collapse in rout and ruin, and our only British Army was to be hurled into the sea with all its equipment lost.
Within six weeks we were to find ourselves alone, almost disarmed, with triumphant Germany and Italy at our throats, with the whole of Europe open to Hitler’s power, and Japan glowering on the other side of the globe.
It was amid these facts and looming prospects that I entered upon my duties as Prime Minister . . . .
Five years later almost to a day it was possible to take a more favorable view of our circumstances. Italy was conquered and Mussolini slain. The mighty German Army had surrendered unconditionally. Hitler had committed suicide. . . . France was liberated, rallied, and revived. Hand in hand with our Allies . . . we advanced to the swift annihilation of Japanese resistance.
The contrast was certainly remarkable. The road across these five years was long, hard and perilous. Those who perished upon it did not give their lives in vain. Those who marched forward to the end will always be proud to have trodden it with honor.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
History Without End.
From Ron Rosenbaum's Introduction to "Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism" -- discussing the reasons for anti-Semitism:
[P]erhaps -- and this might sound at first like a radical suggestion -- it doesn’t matter anymore.
The reasons, like the origins, no longer matter. At this point anti-Semitism has become so embedded in history . . . that it will always be there, a template for whatever hurts need to find an easy answer, a simple-minded balm: the Jews are responsible.
The explanation of renewed anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism . . . . It has become its own origin. . . .
One important thing [Leon Wieseltier] said is that those who consider that anti-Semitism is a problem only for Jews ought to reconsider:
"If anti-Semitism is to vanish from the earth it will be from the transformation of non-Jewish rather than Jewish [peoples] . . . . In this sense it is not a Jewish problem at all . . . it is a prejudice whose object is not its cause . . . if you wish to study racism, study whites, not blacks."