Jewish Current Issues

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Thursday, June 26, 2003

Gone Fishing.

JCI is on vacation. Back on July 15.

See you then.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

When They Came for Salman Rushdie, We Weren't Very Concerned

Mark Steyn writes in "May the Ayatollah Go the Way of Saddam" that Iran is the place things started going wrong, and where things need to be set right:

. . . the term ''Middle East peace process'' is better applied to the region as a whole than to the so-called Palestinian road map. Dignifying the swamp of the West Bank with the name of the entire neighborhood buys into the Arabs' propaganda that the Palestinian situation is responsible for the wretched nature of the Middle East, rather than the other way round. . . .

. . . the fall of the prototype Islamic Republic will be a huge setback to the world's jihadi.

It was Ayatollah Khomeini who successfully grafted a mid-20th century European-style fascist movement onto Islam and made the religion an explicitly political vehicle for anti-Westernism.

It was the ayatollah who first bestowed on the United States the title of ''Great Satan.''

And it was the ayatollah who insisted that this Islamic revolution had to be taken directly to the infidels--to the embassy hostages, to Salman Rushdie and, ultimately, to America itself.

One Year Anniversary of Bush's June 24 Speech

Not much celebration yesterday.

Clifford D. May says it is an "Unhappy Anniversary:"

One year later, the roadmap is leading not to peace, but to the past.

Frank Gaffney writes in "The Difference a Year Makes" that the principles in the June 24 speech have been ignored in the implementation of the road map. One example:

Today, official incitement in support of anti-Israeli and anti-Western terror continues in virtually every Arab capital except, notably, in Baghdad.

In particular, Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) persists in its use of maps, television and radio broadcasts and print media that conveys the proto- government's abiding determination to "liberate" all of "Palestine" — including the land Israel "occupied" before the 1967 Six-Day War.

. . . Lest the road map come a cropper . . . the U.S. government is ignoring the fact that those who perpetrate these "homicide bombings" (even ones that kill American citizens) continue to be lionized in Arabic via PA outlets as "martyrs."

Some things, on the other hand, don't get worse -- they just stay the same: Dennis Ross writes his umpteenth article calling for actions by both sides and strong U.S. support for the process. The article is entitled "Help Abbas Succeed."

One year after President Bush called for "a new and different Palestinian leadership," elected by the Palestinian people, with "new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism," here is where we are:

The new leadership is Arafat's deputy, elections have not been held or scheduled ("President" Arafat is in the seventh year of his four-year term), no new institutions of any kind have been established, and in place of a sustained fight against the terrorists, the "new" Palestinian leadership is negotiating with them.

One year ago, President Bush concluded that:

. . . the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.

We'll see.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Two Ways of Dealing With Iran's Nuclear Threat

The New York Times' lead editorial on Sunday reported that:

Under the noses of international atomic inspectors, the Iranians have overcome the single biggest hurdle to building a nuclear weapon: they have developed the capacity to produce their own nuclear bomb fuel. They did so while appearing to comply with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

The Times thus confirms that two-thirds of the original axis of evil (and 100% of its current remaining members) have now violated the nuclear control agreements they signed.

(Some people think the other original member of the axis kicked out UN arms inspectors and then secretly destroyed all its WMDs on its own, while keeping no records to prove it -- but no one is suggesting we rely on this approach in the case of Iran or North Korea).

The Times' remedy for Iran's duplicity? Better inspections!

The first step is to get Iran and other potential trouble spots to accept new, more intrusive inspection arrangements of the International Atomic Energy Agency. . . . to visit all suspected nuclear sites, not just those that are officially reported.

What a brilliant plan -- we'll get them to let us inspect the sites they hide from us!

The Times' editorial is a real-life parody of James Lileks' blog last week, which set forth the pre-Bush approach to arms control. According to Lileks, here's what you would do:

1. Make many speeches about Severe Consequences before various international organizations, preferably in Europe, because the food is incredible and the view out the windows at night is spectacular. The way the lights shine off that river - man, it's something.

2. Let the issue drift off the A-section into the weekly political magazines.

3. Use the State Department to pressure Iran into signing some sort of treaty that bans nuclear weapon development in exchange for favorable trade conditions.

5. Wait a year, during which you skim a few reviews of “Allah’s Sword: Inside Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program” by Ke Pollack, published 2004. Quell gnawing fear in gut by going on the stump for some campaign appearances - see, people love you! No matter what happens, you’ll be remembered well.

6. Get shaken awake at 3 AM by an aide who says you’re needed in the Situation Room; when you enter you see that one monitor has a picture of a mushroom cloud, and the other has a map of Israel. Crap.

7. Four AM call to the Israeli PM offering sympathy, and threatening to cut off aid if Israel nukes Iran; nine AM press conference that urges restraint, lest the “cycle of violence” begin again. After all, no one knows who was behind the bomb.

8. Demand a Congressional investigation to learn who bungled the intelligence.

9. Run for reelection on a platform that includes a call for a new international body to monitor nuclear arms proliferation.

Or adopt a different approach:

1. Mr. Enrichment Facility, meet Mr. Moab. Mr. Moab, Mr. Enrichment Facility. I’m sure you two have much to discuss, so we’ll just leave you to sort it out.

Lileks says he'll take the second option. In today's Washington Post, a poll indicates that the American people may feel the same way:

President Bush last week said the rest of the world should join the United States in declaring that it "will not tolerate" nuclear weapons in Iran -- a vow that most Americans appear willing to back with force.

By 56 percent to 38 percent, the public endorsed the use of the military to block Iran from developing nuclear arms.

Monday, June 23, 2003

A Place Where Every Conversation is a Miracle

Daniel Gordis has another Dispatch From Israel.

Posted just hours after the bus bombing that killed 17 Israelis, he writes about why "virtually no one that we know . . . is even thinking of leaving:"

. . . it's still a country where lots of us believe that even our language is
a miracle.

To many of us, waking up in the morning to a radio broadcast
that tells you the news and the weather in a language that not too many
decades ago, virtually no one in the world spoke, is miraculous.

Sure, it would be nice if the news were different, and tomorrow's news will be
brutal, because most of us will have dreamt of other things . . . .

But after that rude awakening, some of us will still be in awe. Really.
For what makes it possible to get through the news and all that it implies
is the simple realization that a Hebrew news broadcast is an extraordinary

He concludes his remarkable dispatch with a moving explanation of why "being here is about the greatest blessing life can offer."

Worth reading in its entirety. Essential Reading.

What Oslo Wrought

Yossi Klein Halevi, a supporter of Oslo in its first months, now writes that "[f]or Israel, the consequences of Oslo are incalculable:"

The disaster isn't just measured in the 1,000-plus deaths, the thousands of wounded, the tens of thousands of mourners, the hundreds of thousands of traumatized.

Thanks to Oslo, Israel is now surrounded by terrorist entities - in the West Bank, in Gaza and, as a result of Ehud Barak's impetuous withdrawal from Lebanon, on our northern border too. . . .

Oslo mortgaged the peace process to Arafat and the leadership of the Palestinian diaspora. By imposing the Palestinians of 1948 on the Palestinians of 1967, Oslo became hostage to those least capable of compromising on the "right of return."

Oslo . . . entrusted the education of a generation of Palestinians to Arafat, thereby ensuring that the Palestinian people would be far less prepared for reconciliation than it was before the process began.

Until Arafat and his proxies pass from the scene, and until Hamas is defeated, the road map may lead to a Palestinian state, but it is not going to lead to peace.

Caroline B. Glick argues that alternatives to Oslo II should be considered:

As for the larger strategic blunder of regurgitating Oslo, we are told by our media elites that there is no alternative. No other plan exists, they say. Tel Aviv University held a three-day conference this week in which the participants at the failed Camp David summit sat and discussed why their operation was a success, even if the patient died. . . .

That Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel through genocide is known by all. So why is no one pointing out how dangerous it is to be negotiating with these murderers? . . . . [T]here is something pathological about a people that insists on repeating its mistakes. We must demand and embrace discussion of alternatives . . . .

Friday, June 20, 2003

This Week's Portion: Numbers 8:1 - 12:16 (Beha'alothekha)

Rabbi Lauren Eichler Berkun has a very nice d'var Torah about the seeming repetitiveness of Numbers 9:15-23, which mentions nine times that the Israelites would camp and move, camp and move, camp and move in accordance with the cloud settling or lifting over the Tabernacle.

It takes a seemingly prosaic portion and turns it into a nice meditation on the paths and guidance in our journeys through life.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

A New Book of Martin Buber's Writings

Leora Batnitzky, Assistant Professor of Religion at Princeton University, has an interesting review in "First Things" of The Martin Buber Reader: Essential Writings (Asher Biemann, editor).

She writes it is arguably Buber's "optimism about the possibility of personal and communal transformation that is most characteristic of his thought:"

Buber asks: In what sense can the [Ten] commandments be thought of as laws? His reply is that they are not laws in an ordinary sense at all . . . .

"The Ten Commandments are not part of an impersonal codex governing an association of men. They are uttered by an I and addressed to a Thou. They begin with the I and every one of them addresses the Thou in person. An I commands�Eand every Thou who hears this Thou is commanded. . . .

"The word does not enforce its own hearing. Whoever does not wish to respond to the Thou addressed to him can apparently go about his business unimpeded. The He who speaks the word has power, . . . [but] He has renounced this power of His sufficiently to let every individual actually decide for himself whether he wants to open or close his ears to the voice, and that means whether he wants to choose or reject the I of I am."

For Buber, God is neither a lawgiver nor an enforcer of law. Rather than an impersonal codex, the Ten Commandments represent for him the mark of a personal relationship each individual has with the divine. This relationship is marked not by God's power to enforce His laws but by the relinquishment of power by the divine for the sake of human freedom to accept or reject the divine.

Buber's Zionism -- in the Weimar Republic, the Jewish community in Palestine, and finally after the establishment of the State of Israel -- also emphasized the transformation of the Jewish people through Zionism rather than the external securing of a homeland for Jews.

Aligning himself with the cultural Zionism of Ahad Ha'am, Buber was deeply opposed to the goals and impetus of Theodor Herzl's political Zionism. Where Herzl saw Zionism as necessary because of a decay in the world in which Jews lived (anti-semitism), Buber believed Zionism to be necessary because of a decay in Jews themselves (assimilation to modern liberal culture).

Worth reading in its entirety (as is, obviously, the book itself).

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

History Unfolds in the Middle East

Paul Berman, the author of Terror and Liberalism, reviews in "Dissent" how Francis Fukuyama's notion of "The End of History" has fared since it was introduced in 1989.

Not too well in Europe and the Middle East:

. . . nobody could argue today that Europe's liberal democracy has turned out to be especially noble or inspiring. The European democrats have shown themselves to be admirably gifted at securing the good life for themselves, and often they have been generous to other people, too. But not when it comes to taking a risk. Europe's democrats have proved to be noticeably reluctant to put up a fight on behalf of anyone else, or even on behalf of their own European civilization. . . .

. . . Europeans threw up their hands in helpless despair at the fate of Europe's principal indigenous religious minority, the Muslims of the Balkans. Europe would not defend its Jews sixty years ago, and Europe would not defend its Muslims ten years ago. It was principally the American military, not the rich and powerful Europeans, who rescued Bosnia and Kosovo. . . .

By the time that Fukuyama presented his argument, Ba'athism and radical Islamism had already killed probably more than a million people; and in the next few years, millions more -- between 1.5 and two million in the Sudan alone; a hundred thousand in Algeria; untold thousands in Iraq; the innumerable victims of Islamism in Afghanistan, and so on. This was not the End of History. This was the crimson tide of the twentieth century.

. . . You could even argue that Fukuyama's End of History, together with the ebullient theories of many other delighted observers of communism's collapse, helped to obscure the panorama of crime and tragedy in the Muslim world. The massacres took place, but we liberal-minded inhabitants of the Western world were reveling in our own successes. . . . and somehow the gigantic massacres did not upset us. Nor did we imagine that we ourselves would end up in danger.

Indeed. We still don't fully realize how the war in Israel affects us directly, just as the Spanish Civil War affected the course of later events.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

US or NATO Peace-Keeping Forces in the Middle East?

Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times on Sunday that the possibility of a two-state solution in the Middle East might vanish unless the United States intervenes with military forces to enforce a peace.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said over the weekend that he would urge the EU to send peacekeeping forces to the Middle East.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan endorsed the idea of peacekeeping forces last week in an interview in Haaretz.

When Kofi Annan, Dominique de Villepin and Tom Friedman all have the same idea -- at the same time -- you know something's up.

Actually, this is not a new idea. Robert Kagan, author of "Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order," debunked the idea over a year ago (Can NATO Patrol Palestine?), in response to an earlier Tom Friedman column:

Let's say we get a peace agreement and we put the peacekeeping force on the ground between the Israelis and Palestinians. What happens when, despite all our best efforts, the occasional Hamas suicide bomber gets through anyway and commits the occasional massacre in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv? Count on it: This will happen.

And what about when Hezbollah tries to use the new Palestinian state created by the peace settlement the way it now uses southern Lebanon, as a convenient place from which to launch Katyusha rockets at Israeli population centers? What do we do then?

. . . One option is that the American-led peacekeeping force does nothing. But then we will have effectively created an American shield for terrorist attacks against Israel. This, by the way, was exactly the role a U.N. peacekeeping force played in Lebanon for several years in the late 1970s and early '80s, right up until the Israeli army invaded Lebanon and pushed the U.N. force (known as UNIFIL) aside.

Option two is that the peacekeeping force could, like UNIFIL, just get out of the way and let the Israeli military retaliate for any terrorist attacks. . . . So much for the Americans as saviors.

Option three is that the American-led force goes to war. We tell the Israelis to hold their fire and then send our own forces in to stop the terrorists. In essence, we take on the job the Israelis are currently doing in the territories. This prevents the outbreak of a new Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- and begins the first round of the U.S.-Palestinian conflict. . . .

Is there another option I'm missing?

If not, the proposal for an international peacekeeping force looks less like a real plan than a desperate if noble attempt to solve the insoluble in the Middle East -- a deus ex America summoned to provide a miracle when all roads to peace have reached a dead end.

Even Ehud Barak's idea of building a very, very big fence between Israel and the Palestinians looks better. Help us out, Tom.

Road maps, cease-fires, peacekeeping forces -- anything to avoid dealing with terror, and those who sponsor it, in the same way it was dealt with in Afganistan and Iraq.

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Interlocutor

Danny Rubinstein notes in Haaretz that after last week's bus bombing in Jersalem, Yasser Arafat:

condemned the bombing as terrorism (while Arafat issued that official condemnation, Palestinian newspapers ran obituaries honoring the teenaged "martyr Abdel Muati Shabana, the hero of the Jaffa Road operation").

The "hero" was a teenage boy, trained by Palestinian society to be a "martyr," lionized by the Palestinian press, and undoubtedly unaware that Nobel Prize winner Arafat has been condemning "terrorism" since 1988.

Even the French Foreign Minister has trouble keeping these concepts straight. Reuters reports that Britain and France clashed on Monday over whether the European Union should blacklist Hamas:

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pressed his EU colleagues at a meeting in Luxembourg to outlaw Hamas' political wing, but French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin was adamant it remained a necessary player in the peace process.

. . . de Villepin made a distinction between "mass movements" and "terrorists." "It is in our interest to have Palestinian interlocutors; I distrust a strategy based on cutting off dialogue," he said.

Look More Carefully at the PLO's Name

Gabriel Danzig, a classicist at Bar-Ilan University specializing in political thought, notes that Israel appears more interested than the Palestinians in creating a Palestinian state.

He writes that, after refusing a state in 1948, doing nothing to create one while the West Bank was in Arab hands, and refusing a state again in 2000, the Palestinians are still refusing a state that would be theirs if they simply stopped the violence.

Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has declared as a matter of principle that he will not fight Palestinian terror. . . .

Not only is Sharon taking upon himself the task of fulfilling Israeli responsibilities to ease restrictions on Palestinian workers and to dismantle illegal Israeli outposts, he has also taken on the task of fulfilling Palestinian responsibilities to fight terror. . . .

With the whole world, including Israel, supporting a Palestinian state, it would be relatively easy to resolve the remaining disputes in a mutually agreeable fashion, were this the goal. And yet the closer we get, the more violence erupts. Since the Aqaba meetings Palestinians have redoubled their efforts to target Israeli civilians . . . .

It is hard to know why Palestinians might be opposed to a state. It is probably because its acceptance would require recognizing Israel and being willing to cooperate with it. . . . "PLO" stands for Palestine Liberation Organization, not Palestinian Liberation Organization.

It's actually not so hard.

A More Effective Road Map

John Podhoretz writes that, ironically (or perhaps realistically), a U.S.-Israeli military alliance is the only hope for a Palestinian state:

There is a way to get the peace process on track.

The answer is simple, even if the execution will be fiendishly difficult: The terrorist groups that stand in the way of progress must be defunded and destroyed. Period.

Defunding is where Bush comes in. He said it on Wednesday: "I strongly urge all of you . . . to cut off money to organizations such as Hamas . . . ." That's a message for Saudi Arabia, mainly. And it needs to be more than a message. It needs to be a threat.

Destroying the terrorist organizations is where the Israelis come in. The so-called "road map" calls for the Palestinian Authority to make a powerful effort in this regard. But it can't do much, and everybody knows it. Only the Israelis can. Israel's efforts to destroy Hamas and Islamic Jihad represent the only hope Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) has.

A U.S.-Israeli diplomatic and military alliance is the only real hope for a Palestinian state.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Arab, Nazi and Stalinist Anti-Semitism

Ruth Wisse has the lead article ("Jews and Anti-Jews") on the Wall Street Journal editorial page today.

. . . the White House still cannot bring itself to admit the true nature of the aggression against Israel. It still tends to treat the regional crisis as "a conflict of two people over one land" that can be resolved by the creation of a Palestinian state. According to this view, since Jews and Arabs both lay claim to the same territory of Israel-Palestine, some division of the territory between will bring about a peaceful resolution. This is the assumption behind the "road map" . . .

Unfortunately, the Arab war against Israel is no more a territorial conflict than was al Qaeda's strike against America, and it can no more be resolved by the "road map" than anti-Americanism could be appeased by ceding part of the U.S. to an Islamist enclave. From the moment in 1947 when Jewish leaders accepted and Arab rulers rejected the U.N. partition plan of Palestine, the Arab-Israeli conflict bore no further likeness to more conventional territorial struggles.

Wisse compares the Arab exploitation of anti-Semitism to that of the Nazi regime. Robert Zeidman has a letter in the Journal today that compares it to manner in which Stalinist regimes "intoxicated their people with anti-American and anti-capitalist propaganda."

Terrorism Doesn't Mean What You Think It Does

Palestinian Authority Information Minister Nabil Amr, speaking Saturday in Arabic from Ramallah, on Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television, clarifies the meaning of "terrorism" -- since some people were upset when Mahmoud Abbas "denounced" it in Aqaba:

As regards the word "terrorism," I do not know why when the Palestinians denounce the word terrorism, certain people think that this means resistance. There is no text anywhere that says that the Palestinian people's resistance is terrorism, which we denounce.

President Yasir Arafat said this in Geneva 15 years ago. This is part of our policy. Yes, we denounce terrorism. Anyone who says that denouncing terrorism means denouncing resistance is doing an injustice to legitimate resistance and is in effect labeling it with terrorism.

Therefore, the statement that was read in Al-Aqabah is based on a commitment that the PLO made in Geneva, after which the Palestinian-US dialogue started in Tunis.

Palestinians -- Proudly Denouncing Terrorism Since 1988.

Israeli Intellectuals and the Battle of Ideas

Yair Sheleg of Haaretz has a story on Ruth Wisse, winner of the 2003 Guardian of Zion Award at Bar-Ilan University.

Her article centers on Wisse's belief that Israeli intellectuals are "Losing the War of Words."

Prof. Ruth Wisse fears for the fate, for the very existence, of the State of Israel. And not only because of the waves of Arab hatred and terror, which she describes as worse than that of the Nazis . . ."as historian Michael Oren . . . has said: "One thing that cannot be said about the Nazis, even when they slaughtered the Jews in the concentration camps, they did not plaster pictures of the murderers on the walls and make them into symbols."

Wisse's main fear concerns the weakness of . . . Israeli intellectuals and the sense of self-accusation that characterizes them. . . .

"I see very talented and intelligent Israelis coming to Harvard and Yale, but they can't explain the Israeli position. . . . Self-accusation makes you feel better, because it creates the illusion that everything depends on us. If only we move out of Nablus, or vote for Mitzna, it will solve all the problems. . . .

"[The Oslo] accords . . . [were] the most foolish decision ever made in human history. This is the first state in human history that armed its enemies, in the expectation of gaining security. It only shows the depth of the pathology."

Wisse's speech at Bar-Ilan is linked in the June 13 entry below.

The Road Map to Half-Peace

Saul Singer, editorial page editor of The Jerusalem Post, writes about "Sharon's Not-So-Secret Plan:"

It is fashionable on the Right to claim that the road map is worse than Oslo. What is meant by this is that, under the road map, the Palestinians get a state first, before they have to make peace with Israel. In this view, the road map is the latest, most serious step in Israel's serial capitulation to terrorism. . . .

. . . But here's the secret. For Sharon, the road map's "independent Palestinian state with provisional borders" is not at the bottom of the slippery slope, but a brake . . .

Sharon's real objective is to get to the middle phase of the road map and park there until the Arab world is ready for peace, which may or may not ever happen. . . . Palestine may choose to be belligerent, but Israel will have a provisional border to defend and a state to hold accountable.

Wasn't the idea behind Oslo that Israel would have a Palestinian Authority to hold accountable?

Friday, June 13, 2003

Ruth Wisse on Israel and Zionism

Earlier this week, the incomparable Ruth Wisse -- the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University -- received the Guardian of Zion Award from Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies.

In its seven years of existence, the award has been bestowed on Elie Wiesel, Cynthia Ozick, Sir Martin Gilbert, Charles Krauthammer, A.M. Rosenthal, and Herman Wouk.

On receipt of the award at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Prof. Wisse delivered the Distinguished Rennert Lecture for 2003: “Israel’s Answer to the Zionist Dream.” It is a remarkable survey of the idea of Israel throughout Jewish history and literature:

We all remember the cynical definition of the Zionist as a Jew who collects from a fellow Jew to send a third Jew to Israel. . . .[T]he Jews had hungered for so long for the ostensible object of their desire that the hunger had turned into the object of their yearning. . . . The Jews had become romantics to the point that they wanted to want, rather than to possess the object of their desire. . . .

Had it not been for the “romance” of Zion, the Jews could never have survived the humiliations of exile, yet when the time came to renounce the exile, it was painful to give up such a powerful dream. How could the actuality of a land that lay in dust and ruins satisfy the appetite of a people rendered dizzy with the passion of almost two thousand years? . . .

. . . the Bible was supremely aware of a rival presence in the promised land, but the Jews of the dispersion had ceased to imagine the face of an actual opponent whom they would have to fight and to conquer. The Jews developed no manuals of warfare, they practiced no martial songs or martial arts. . . .

The Zionist movement expected to purchase the land, and win it back through cultivation. Members of the yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine, hoped to demonstrate their usefulness to the local Arabs--just as Jews through the ages had tried to do in their successive places of residence.

What a shock it was to discover that they would have to prove, not their helpfulness as neighbors, as they would all have preferred, but their readiness to compete against opponents. . . .

Ironically, the people least prepared for battle has been fighting the longest and most protean war in modern history, and fighting it well enough to frustrate the ambitions of enemies many times its number. Within decades, the people falsely accused of going “like sheep” to the slaughter in the Nazi death camps wrote its way into the annals of military history.

Worth reading in its entirety -- as is her equally remarkable speech in 2000 on "The Brilliant Failure of Jewish Foreign Policy."

Ehud Barak on the Present and the Past

On Wednesday, Ehud Barak spoke in New York before the Council on Foreign Relations, in an extensive question-and-answer session.

He views the peace process as dependent first upon a successful stabilization in Iraq, and then upon a commitment by the Europeans to follow the leadership of the United States:

The road map is basically an interpretation of the President's vision as expressed in his speech last June . . . And this vision has been diluted by the Europeans . . . . Basically, they are trying to save Arafat for their own reasons.

[I]f Arafat will enjoy the slightest [bit] of executive power, there will be no peace. Even . . . just symbolic [power] might be enough in the Arab world to derail an effort. But clearly, if he enjoys any concrete executive power, there will be no peace.

. . . And when people ask me, "Okay, but how about Sharon, is he ready," I tend to say that . . . the burden of proof is not upon him. It's not Sharon who is responsible for this bloodshed. It's the Palestinian side. . . . Whenever the Palestinian tells you it's about occupation, occupation, occupation . . . I say, "No, it's about terror.”

How do I know? I was there. It was just two and a half years ago, not two and a half generations ago. And for the first time in the history of the conflict, we put an offer on the table together with President Clinton . . . . And Mr. Arafat rejected it, even as a basis for negotiation. [H]e did not negotiate it, and he turned deliberately and consciously to terror. That's what makes it all about terror and any other description is nonsense.

. . . [I]t is only then when they prove in action their readiness to crack down on Hamas [and] Islamic Jihad that the burden of proof will be [on Sharon], not a minute before.

Barak's comments included these observations about Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount, and Jacques Chirac's cynicism about the peace process:

. . . Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount was a political demonstration against myself, it was not against the Palestinians. And we know for sure that it was a very good excuse for them to explain why the intifada happened, but it was not the reason. . . . [H]ard evidence showed months before that they prepared themselves for an eruption of violence.

. . . Several weeks before I left the office, I met with Chirac. At the time there were 35 Israelis killed and some 400 Palestinians. So Chirac told me there is no way to make an agreement now. So many Palestinians were killed, so few Israelis. I told him, "Are you crazy? Do you mean that we have to wait until another 350 Israelis will be buried before the . . .? It's crazy!"

The toll is currently more than 800 Israelis and thousands of Palestinians.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

The Moderate Palestinian Strategy

Boaz Ganor, Director of the "Institute for Policy against Terrorism" in Israel, writes in "Stage By Stage, Peace By Piece" that "it is important to understand the strategic goals of the moderate Palestinian leadership."

This strategy is built on a three-phase approach, starting with the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The second stage involves the overthrow of the Hashemite regime in Jordan, whose population consists of a vast Palestinian majority.

Once Jordan is under the control of its Palestinian population, it will be unified with the existing Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

It is clear to the Palestinian leadership that they have much to lose by jumping the gun; a revolution in Jordan prior to the establishment of a state would only undermine their claim to an independent state in the disputed territories. . . .

Once both Jordan and the West Bank are under Palestinian rule, the Palestinian leadership will initiate the third stage of its strategy with a change of rhetorical tacks: from claiming that Israel is a conquering colonialist state they will insist that Israeli is a racist "apartheid" state which differentiates between its Jewish and Arab citizens. . . .

Thus Israel will be called upon to cease being a Jewish state and become instead "a state of all its citizens." . . . .The third stage of the Palestinian strategy of stages will thus end in the annulment of the Jewish character of the State of Israel as a result of international pressure.

This will be helped along by the natural demographics of the region . . . [and] through the opening of Israel's gates to Palestinian immigration via the family unification program, in the framework of a peace agreement signed as part of the first stage of the Palestinian strategy.

The result of this staged process will of course be the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state without the use of violence.

As a Palestinian leader known for his moderate views recently told me: "I recognize Israel's right to exist, but I do not recognize Israel's right to be a Jewish state."

In a recent interview with Ha'aretz, moderate Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas set forth his position on the "right of return:"

"We cannot accept relinquishing the right of return. The Arab League initiative refers to a just and agreed solution, based on UN decisions. That is a very clear statement." But then he adds immediately, "this does not mean we want to destroy the state of Israel - we recognize it in the borders drawn by [Resolution] 242."

At the summit in Aquaba, Abbas refused American requests to include in his statement a recognition of Israel as a "Jewish State."

"They Want it All"

Esther Wachsman, Chairwoman of Beit Nahshon, a nonprofit association that runs Jerusalem's Shalva Center for Disabled Children, and who lost her son Nahshon to Palestinian terrorism -- one of the "sacrifices of peace" -- writes an open letter to another Israeli, who lost his son Arik:

How much blood has been spilled due to the excess caution of our soldiers who wished to avoid harming civilians, at a time when enlightened, democratic countries, such as the United States in its war on Iraq, simply bombed, and apologized if they harmed civilians?

. . . Do not be so deceptive about conciliation. This simulated conciliation is absolutely one-sided. . . . Who offered concession after concession - the Rabin government, the Peres-Barak government, or the Arafat government? Who incites and dismisses from every stage - the mosques, or the synagogues? . . .

. . . they want it all. In each and every generation, when they rise up against us to annihilate us, the Blessed be He will rescue us. May this come to pass.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

James Taranto writes that "Bush Goes Soft on Terror:"

Sad news from Gaza City, where Hamas honcho Abdel Aziz Rantisi is still alive and two bystanders are dead in a failed Israeli helicopter strike. The White House, bizarrely, is criticizing Israel. "The president is concerned that the strike will undermine efforts by Palestinian authorities and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks and does not contribute to the security of Israel," says spokesman Ari Fleischer. "The president is deeply troubled by the strike."

Israel should ignore what Bush says and do what he does. The U.S. has "assassinated" numerous terrorist leaders since Sept. 11, and Israel has as much right to defend itself as America does.

Gary Bauer writes in his June 10 "End of Day" email:

Over the last 18 months we have tried to locate the cave Osama bin Laden was hiding in and dropped massive bombs trying to kill him. . . . Before the Iraq war began, we dropped bunker-busting bombs on facilities where we believed Saddam Hussein was holding meetings. . . . A few months ago, a U.S. drone aircraft took out a car in Yemen because we believed terrorist leaders were inside. . . .

Israel has suffered the same terror day after day for three years. Its citizens have been blown up while worshipping God. It regularly picks up the scattered body parts of Israeli families massacred while on buses, in restaurants and even in their own homes.

What is the moral, political, strategic or ethical basis for any U.S. president to tell another free nation that it cannot defend itself? Please e-mail the White House at and ask that the pressure on Israel end.

The Jerusalem Post editorializes that "We, Too, Are Deeply Troubled:"

Abdel Aziz Rantisi is a terrorist. As one of the senior leaders of Hamas, he is a senior terrorist. He has for years been involved in all aspects of Hamas's terrorist infrastructure. Rantisi incites Muslims to become suicide bombers. He raises funds for weapons. He mobilizes operatives to strike. And after each successful bombing he acts as a terrorist spokesman and apologist. . . .

The president apparently believes that, by taking out Rantisi, the government is somehow harming the chances for peace. To this we can only comment that we were unaware the US believes that Hamas is an organization worthy of protecting.. . .

Like Bush, we too are deeply troubled by yesterday's attempt to take out a mass murderer of our fellow citizens. We are troubled because Rantisi has lived to murder another day.

Michael Freund writes that Bush has become George W. Clinton:"

Bush has now decided to adopt the approach of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who continued to court the Palestinians even as they violated their commitments and carried out acts of terror against the Jewish state, all the while twisting Israel's arm . . . .

. . . he's become George W. Clinton, only without the intern. And so, we now find ourselves once again confronting an awfully similar scenario, one in which Israel is forced to make concessions even as the Palestinians persist in killing Jews.

Back to Moral Equivalence

From White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer's press conference yesterday:

Q: Ari, the President's reaction today, the "deeply troubled," seemed to be stronger than his reaction yesterday, when there was violence by Palestinian groups in an Israeli checkpoint in Gaza. Is this -- are the two -- are the violations equal in his mind, or was the one today of a more serious nature?

MR. FLEISCHER: To the President, this is not a linear matter of which action presents the greatest threat to making progress toward peace. They both do. And the President doesn't have to put one before or after the other. . . . Neither party can afford to take actions that derail the road map because it's too important to the peace and security and the well-being of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. And that's why the President finds this deeply troubling.

(1) Murdering Jews, and (2) seeking to kill the head of the terrorist group doing the murdering -- they both are "actions that derail the road map."

In fact, murdering Jews does not derail the road map; it just leads to calls for Israel not to retaliate.

Funding Terrorism is Fine, If You Use Your Own Money

Akiva Eldar has an extensive report on conversations between Bush, Abbas and Sharon at their summit and concludes that "Bush Likes Dahlan, Believes Abbas, and Has `A Problem with Sharon.'"

In one exchange, Abbas asserted that the Palestinians -- facing a humanitarian crisis as a result of the war they started three years ago -- needed funding from Israel through release of tax monies that Israel fears will be used for more terrorism:

Sharon . . . interrupted and said: "The insertion of new funding must be dependent on your good behavior."

Bush was . . . visibly irritated: "You should release their money as soon as possible. This will help the situation."

Sharon shook his head: "We have to deal with security first, and we will condition the release of their monies on this alone."

Bush peered at Sharon: "But it is their money . . ."

Sharon said: "Nevertheless, Mr. President . . ." and Bush interrupted him: "It is their money, give it to them."

What right do we have to freeze Al Queda's funds wherever we find them? It's their money.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

U.N. Slams Palestinians for Untimely Murders

Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, issued a statement yesterday "on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine."

He "deplored" the "violence" that occurred on Sunday -- in which Palestinians murdered five Israelis -- as "untimely:"

The Secretary-General deplores the violence by Palestinian groups over the weekend. Such violence is especially untimely following the Aqaba Summit, where the parties made a commitment to implementing the Quartet's Road Map. . . .

How very untimely, killing Jews right after a "commitment."

The reference to "the Middle East, including Palestine" -- a state not yet formed -- is another nice touch. There is no reference anywhere in the statement to "Israel" -- a member of the United Nations under untimely attack for the last three years.

Is Ariel Sharon a Mark?

Sarah Honig writes that the road map is "The Mother of All Stings."

She thinks that Mahmoud Abbas is a front man for Yasser Arafat, that Sharon is their mark, and that violence will recur:

Sharon will doubtlessly whine to George, who'll doubtlessly stress that it's not the front-man's fault but that of the villain he's fronting for, that there's a price for peace and there are victims of peace. In short, peace is a dangerous proposition. . . .

The provisional Palestinian terror state will be set up, rendering the existential threat to Israel ever more potent via the unabated clamor for its inundation by millions of hostile Arabs called refugees. . . .

Israel continues to be illegitimate. Its struggle has now returned to the 1947 starting line, when the Arabs belligerently rejected the UN's decision to allow the existence of an independent Jewish presence in the Middle East. To obfuscate this underlying reality is to create the impression of something which isn't, of a facade, a false front. That is exactly the counterfeit construct required to pull off a sting.

Jay Nordlinger analogizes it to a bazaar:

Over in the Middle East, they're discussing whether the Palestinians will acknowledge the right of Israel to exist. Excuse me, but didn't we go through this before, and why do we have to go through it again? This was a huge issue, at the beginning of Oslo: whether the PLO would recognize Israel's right to exist. . . .

How many times are civilized people going to buy this same rug? We've been discussing Palestinian recognition of the right of Israel to exist all of my life. Frankly, I don't know whether I'll live to see this forthright, unhedged, sincere recognition.

As we commence Oslo II, Lucy and the football also comes to mind.

Amotz Asa-El believes that the "current diplomatic spectacle's bottom line" will be a fence between Israel and the Palestinians:

That the road map will not generate peace is to us sobered-up Israelis a forgone conclusion. . . .

The cruel fact is that for the Palestinian national movement, attacking this land's Jews has been part of life at least since 1929, well before today's violence-excuses of settlements, occupation, and refugees came into being. There is no reason to believe this is about to change . . . .

The Palestinians, suddenly faced with a fence that makes their commute to our economy much more difficult, costly and unlikely, will be able to longingly recall the days - and they were so recent - when then-prime minister Shimon Peres all but begged them to come and get the jobs . . .

The Palestinians will also be able to see how our newly planted forest of barbed wires, land mines and surveillance cameras trespasses the original Green Line, and while at it recall how Ehud Barak once offered them so much more than that. . . .

This may sound pessimistic, but it's how Middle Israelis feel. After three years of butchery, demonization, and ostracizing by a region whose leaders' fear of freedom is second only to their disregard for life, most of us say . . . let them take some darn territories, provided a fence runs between us and them.

Monday, June 09, 2003

Five More Israelis are Murdered

Yesterday morning, in a joint operation by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, four IDF soldiers were murdered by Palestinian gunmen.

The gunmen arrived at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza hidden among other Palestinian workers on their way to work in Israel (as a result of Israel's newly relaxed entry policy). The gunmen climbed a concrete wall and hid in a factory, where they changed into IDF uniforms, infiltrated the adjacent Army outpost and began shooting.

A fifth soldier was killed Sunday afternoon in a shooting attack close to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, in Hebron, by Palestinians disguised as peddlers.

The four victims of the shooting at Erez were:

Chen Angel, 32, who began his reserve duty on Thursday. His friends say he was a modest man, who believed in and preached coexistence. "He was a leftist," some said bitterly. A trained software programmer, he worked for his father in the car industry, where he was "the brains and heart of the business," said a relative. He leaves his wife Lilach, in her fifth month of pregnancy, and their 3-year-old son.

Udi Ayelet, 38, who reported for reserve duty last week, after celebrating the bat mitzvah of his daughter. He was a member of the scouts and a counselor at the Orim special education school in Eilat, working with children with special needs.

Assaf Abergil, 23, who lived with his girlfriend, Shira, in Tel Aviv. He reported for reserve duty ten days ago and spoke to his parents for the last time Saturday night. He told his father everything was quiet and that he was not worried.

Boaz Emet, 24, who leaves his parents and three brothers. On Sunday, he was on duty at the Erez check point to replace a soldier who had been forced to go home following a death in the family. The last call he placed was at 3:00 A.M. to his girl friend, Elinor, telling her he had arrived safely at his destination.

The IDF's View of the War

Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland, Head of the IDF's Planning and Policy Division, gave a tour d'horizon to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem, speaking on the "Challenges Facing Israel After the Iraq War."

In Eiland's view, the current Palestinian war began because:

The Palestinians had hoped they would easily achieve their goals because they expected that a rich and spoiled Israeli society would not be able to live under the threat of violence over a long time.

At the beginning, they thought in terms of weeks or months, and they made a very simple comparison between the Israeli evacuation of Lebanon and the situation in the territories. In their perception, if Israel had made a decision to withdraw unilaterally from Lebanon because it suffered 25 casualties a year there, then if the Palestinians could cause a greater number of casualties, the result would be quite similar . . . .

Eiland noted that the situtation has become better over the course of the last year:

In March 2002 there were 17 successful terrorist suicide attacks inside Israel, as well as many others in the West Bank and Gaza. A total of 135 Israelis were killed in that one month. Everybody who lived in Israel at that time could understand that the situation was completely unbearable.

The situation now is not perfect but is much better, and is a direct result of Israel's Operation "Defensive Shield" when we entered all the Palestinian cities. We . . . decided that we could not count on the Palestinian security organizations to stop terrorism and took the responsibility upon ourselves.

Eiland's conclusion is that Palestinian violence is the result of prior Israeli acquiesence in the existence of terrorist organizations:

In 1996 the Palestinians decided to initiate violence. They tried it again in May 2000 and then in September 2000. They could do this each time because none of the terrorist organizations were dismantled. They were preserved in order to be used at the right time.

This is something that Israel cannot accept in the future. If the Palestinian Authority wants to be a legitimate and reliable political entity, there is only one option: to dismantle the military capability of the Popular Front, Tanzim, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and many others. . . . Israel will not repeat the mistakes made in the past when we were too forgiving regarding this crucial point.

Eiland notes that the situation on Israel's northern border is, if anything, more dangerous:

Some people have a perception that Hizballah is a guerrilla organization deployed along the Israeli-Lebanese border that sometimes carries out certain attacks. At worst, they might even hit Israeli settlements located close to the border with Katyusha rockets.

This might have been the situation years ago, but in the past three years, Hizballah, with the very deliberate and consistent assistance of Iran and Syria, has built up a real military capacity that now consists of about 12,000 rockets of different types and different effective ranges. Hundreds of these rockets can reach the northern third of Israel, including Haifa and other cities. Their military readiness is very high, so it may only be a matter of hours between a decision to strike and full deployment of this capacity. . . .

And the threat from Iran is potentially the worst:

Iran represents a type of threat to Israel that does not exist in any other part of the region . . . . First, the Iranian hatred of Israel is a religious hatred. They say that religiously they cannot accept the simple fact that the State of Israel exists. There is very little that can be done to try to solve this since it is not a political dispute that might have a solution; it is something much deeper. . . .

Second, the Iranians are trying to spread what they call "the Islamic revolution" to other countries. They have partially succeeded in Lebanon . . . and are now looking to try to increase their influence in Iraq.

The third element is that Iran, perhaps more than any other country, has been successful in supporting terrorist activities in the Palestinian areas . . . .

Finally, Iran has an ambition to achieve a nuclear capability and, if not stopped, they will reach this capability in a few years. Everyone should be able to understand the nature of the conflict in the Middle East when there is an Iranian nuclear threat.

Thorough and measured report.

An AIPAC report on Iran's nuclear program is here.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Shavuot Begins at Sundown This Evening

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes in "The Living Torah" that:

. . . more Jews participate in a Passover seder each year than in any other Jewish observance. It is ironic, then, to note that Shavuot, the Festival of the Giving of the Torah, which is the climax and completion of Passover, is largely unknown and ignored.

Passover arouses the hopes and yearnings of the Jewish people; Shavuot fulfills them. (Shavuot is observed this year from Thursday evening, June 5, through Saturday evening, June 7.)

Jane Ulman has an engaging piece -- "No Loopholes on Shavuot: 3,315 Years of Jewish Law Honored" -- that begins with her explanation of the holiday to her son Danny:

"You were there," I tell Danny.

"I was?"

"We all were." The rabbis tell us that every Jew who would ever be born was present 3,315 years ago, on the sixth day of the month of Sivan, when G-d, amidst thunder, lightning and the sound of the shofar, gave Moses the Ten Commandments as well as, many believe, the entire written and oral Torah.

This was an extraordinary and revolutionary event, marking the first time in history that a civilization was given a code of law that included ethical obligations.

Rabbi David Wolpe has a lovely image of Shavuot as "A Sacred Pact":

Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah. The Rabbis cherished the Torah as the ketubah, the marriage contract, between God and Israel. . . .

Each year Israel re-enacts its wedding. The couple has been through a lot, and history, like a marriage, did not enfold the way Israel envisioned long ago. But the excitement endures and the love abides.

Chag Sameach.

Reading the Bible as Fact

Rabbi David Wolpe has a thoughtful and balanced review of a new book: "The Miracles of Exodus: A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories," by Colin J. Humphreys.

Humphreys, a scientist (expert in physics, astronomy and geology) and a Christian, seeks to "establish that the mysteries and miracles of the Exodus have scientific explanations."

Rabbi Wolpe, intrigued by the book because of the uproar created by his Pesach sermon two years ago -- in which he argued that the biblical depiction of the Exodus "though likely based on some historical memory, was extravagantly improbable" -- finds the book "an intelligent, searching and fascinating work."

He notes that the attempt to establish the factual basis of the Bible can sometimes conflict with an attempt to establish its literal truth:

. . . Humphreys argues that the first plague -- the Nile turning to blood -- is a result of toxic algae mixed with red soil particles. He does not dwell on the fact that this actually means the Bible is wrong: the Nile did not turn to blood.

Rabbi Wolpe finds Humphreys an "engaging guide" and his book an "intellectual treat." He concludes that it is:

a mixture of special pleading and plausibility. I hope scholars in the field will not respond with disdain, because his work is the product of high intelligence, seriousness and dedication. He may not achieve his goal of upending the field of Bible studies, but he deserves his shot.

The book is receiving favorable reviews so far on (five stars based on six customer reviews).

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

A Briefing by Victor Davis Hanson

Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum has published a summary of two MEF briefings earlier this year by Victor Davis Hanson ("The Current Crisis Through the Eyes of the Greeks").

Hanson's theme was that "the Greeks can offer contemporary leaders a valuable analytical tool for such questions as: What are the root causes of war? Why do wars break out? What factors determine the victor and vanquished? How do wars end?"

. . . the Greeks would, without reservation, strongly rebut the now-prevalent idea that war results from material grievances or socioeconomic disparity.

During the fifth century, Athens was at war three out of every four years and seventy five percent of those conflicts centered on border disputes. Upon closer inspection of these struggles one finds that the actual territories fought over were strategically worthless. The true sources of the clash were rooted in differences of honor, status, fear, and prestige.

Two modern examples of this concept are discernible in the motivations behind the Falklands War and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Falkland Islands were not a major strategic asset for Great Britain, but allowing an aggressor a foothold on her sovereign territory was an affront to her sense of prestige requiring a forceful response. Similarly, the Palestinian campaign of terror against Israel does not result from the Israeli presence on the West Bank but is part of a larger struggle that concerns honor, status, and fear. . . .

. . . Palestinians continue to murder Israeli civilians believing exhaustive violence will force their capitulation. They base this on Israel's lack of military retaliation after 39 SCUD missiles landed within its territory during the first Gulf War; the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon; and the astonishing offer made at Camp David by the Barak government. These events have generally been perceived by the Arab world as indicators of a weak national character.

Anti-Semitism at the Chicago Tribune

Last week the Chicago Tribune published a blatantly anti-semitic political cartoon.

Don Wycliff, the Tribune's former editorial page editor -- to his credit -- wrote a column in the Tribune on June 1 about the cartoon. He noted that he was "jolted" by it, and the cartoon did not go unnoticed: "The telephones began ringing early and continued to ring late."

. . . even at its roughest and bluntest, there are lines that a cartoon should not cross. On Friday, our editorial page ran a cartoon that crossed all the lines.

Drawn by former Tribune cartoonist Dick Locher, the cartoon depicted President George W. Bush on one knee on a bridge over what was labeled "Mideast Gulch." The president is laying down a carpet of [dollar] bills . . . in front of a portly male figure with a large, aquiline nose and clad in a black suit marked with the Star of David.

As a Yasser Arafat-like figure looks on with arms crossed, the black-suited man -- is he Ariel Sharon? a generic Israeli? a generic Jew? -- remains riveted on the money, and says, "On second thought, the pathway to peace is looking a bit brighter."

The indispensable Glenn Reynolds called attention to the cartoon in a June 2 entry on

. . . the Chicago Tribune should be deeply ashamed.

. . . Let's be honest here: The equivalent [anti-black cartoon] . . . never would have seen print, and the columnist would have been fired.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Doubts About the Road Map

Brent Scowcroft has written an article ("Bush's Bold Venture") praising the road map, which itself is enough to give one pause:

Violence cannot be completely stifled, as recent events have underscored, and to require its total cessation as a precondition is simply to put control of the process in the hands of the radicals opposed to any settlement. The United States is, therefore, wisely pressing the parties to embrace the road map as the point of departure.

To be sure, Mr. Abbas must develop and inaugurate a true strategy for dealing with Palestinian terrorism.

To be sure -- a "true" strategy.

Why is that Israel must always take "risks for peace" by making tangible concessions to terror, while for Palestinians the requirement is always simply to "develop" and "inaugurate" a "strategy" -- instead of simply ending the war they began?

The Political Affiliation That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Willy Stern, who teaches in the Law School and English department at Vanderbilt University, writes about his "coming out."

He worries that this time it may have more long-lasting consequences than the first time -- in a Greenwich Village restaurant, with "Suzi," more than a decade ago:

The year was 1992 . . . . I was a walking, talking New York Magazine personal ad—SJM, 31, in NYC. My date—I'll call her Suzi—and I, it turned out, had oodles in common; she too was Jewish, age-appropriate, and a Manhattanite.

We ordered more saki, and the conversation flowed easily. Then she said something about "all those asshole Republicans."

. . . By all accounts, I should share this sentiment. After all, I grew up with a Scarsdale mailing address. Both sides of my family are Jewish. I hold degrees from Williams College and Harvard University. . . . I seem like a nice, caring guy. I give to charities. . . .

But, it turns out, I am a Republican. . . .

"Actually, Suzi," I explained as gently as possible, "I'm one of those asshole Republicans."

She dropped her chopsticks and stared at me as if I had just announced that I was a convicted child rapist.

Then she smiled, as she finally grasped the situation. "Oh, you're kidding, right?"

"No, I really am a Republican."

"What? Nobody told me."

I tried to blunt the blow. "I'm actually not terribly interested in politics." This is, in fact, true.

No matter.

"Well, look," she said as she pulled her purse out from under her seat. "I'm sorry but I can't deal with this. Please don't think me rude, but I really think it would be best if I just left."

Worth reading in its entirety.

Worth re-reading is Jay Nordlinger's annecdote about Max Rovner, conflicted Jewish liberal who last year "felt a shift in his identity."

Monday, June 02, 2003

The June Issue of "Commentary" is Out

Victor Davis Hanson has the lead article in this month's Commentary. He writes about the military, diplomatic, historical and other "Lessons of the War" in Iraq, which are many. He concludes as follows:

. . . it is habitual by now for any American success in the region to be followed by efforts at resolving [the Israel-Palestinian] dispute. Pressuring Israel to “take risks for peace” has long been seen by our State Department as a means of assuaging Arab humiliation after military defeat . . . . Thus, in the aftermath of the first Gulf war, the rapid convening of the Madrid conference set the stage for the disastrous Oslo accords—and hence the current “road map.”

But the Palestinians have their own Saddam Husseins, and their own kindred thugocracy—and their own murderous delusions. From all of these material and ideological shackles they need to be liberated before there can be a glimpse of a beginning of concord between them and the Israelis. That difficult truth, too, is a lesson of the recent war . . .

David Pryce-Jones has a review in Commentary of Robert Kagan's remarkably persuasive and elegant "Of Paradise and Power."

At an earlier turning point in history . . . George Kennan warned in a famous article that the democracies would have to resist the Soviet Union in its post-1945 expansion. He pointed the way ahead—to NATO, and the ultimately successful waging of the cold war. Robert Kagan, a foremost strategist and geopolitical thinker in a later generation, has had an insight comparable to Kennan’s, and one that likewise outlines the shape of the future.

Kagan relates the current estrangement between America and Old Europe to the conflicting views of the world held by the two great philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and Immanuel Kant, and writes that -- given these conflicting worldviews -- the estrangement is likely to continue.

The relevance of Hobbes to current world affairs is also the theme of another important recent book -- Robert D. Kaplan's "Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Requires a Pagan Ethos."