Jewish Current Issues

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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

"We Are All Jews"

James Woolsey, former CIA Director, writes that "We Are All Jews:"

I sometimes get asked these days if I’m Jewish — it’s my neoconish views on defense and foreign affairs, I suppose.

For a while I would just say, "No, Presbyterian," but I’ve started saying instead, "Well, I anchor the Presbyterian wing of JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs)."

What with anti-Semitism growing in Europe and a hideous variety thereof metastasizing in the Middle East — not to speak of the American Left’s (and a small part of the Right’s) hostility to Israel, which sometimes veers off into anti-Semitism — it seems to me our Jewish friends could use a bit of solidarity these days.

Today, the first day of Rosh Hashana, celebration of the Jewish New Year, is as good a time as any to explain why.

Worth reading in its entirety. (Hat tip to Little Green Footballs).

Monday, September 29, 2003

Leading Up to Yom Kippur

The 10-day period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is referred to as the Ten Days of Teshuvah, the Days of Awe.

Rabbi Alan Lew has a new book that is worth perusing during this period: "This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared." The subtitle of the book is "The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation."

We will move from self-hatred to self-forgiveness, from anger to healing, from hard-heartedness to brokenheartedness. This is the journey the soul takes to transform itself and to evolve, the journey from boredom and staleness—from deadness—to renewal.

It is on the course of this journey that we confront our shadow and come to embrace it, that we come to know our deepest desires and catch a glimpse of where they come from, that we express the paradoxical miracle of our own being and the infinite power of simply being present . . .

Excerpts from the first chapter of the book are here.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Happy New Year!

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown this evening.

May it be a year of health and happiness and peace.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic Violence at Rutgers

Natan Sharansky, MK and Minister without Portfolio in the Israeli Government, spoke last week at Rutgers University in New Jersey and was assaulted by a "student" who rushed the stage.

Here is a copy of the email sent by "NJ Solidarity" to students prior to the event, calling Sharansky a "war criminal" responsible for "racist, illegal Zionist colonization" and urging students to "TELL NATAN SHARANSKY HE IS NOT WELCOME AT RUTGERS UNIVERSITY!"

Here is the Letter to the Rutgers Community sent earlier this week by Richard L. McCormick, President of Rutgers, which notes that the assault on Sharansky was not an isolated incident:

This past weekend, two organizations with strong ties to Rutgers’ Jewish community – Hillel and the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity – were the targets of vicious acts of anti-Semitic vandalism.

The Rutgers Hillel facility was defaced with two swastikas, one on the walkway and another on the sign in front of the building. Two swastikas also were painted at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house, on the walkway and on the front door.

Two days earlier, Natan Sharansky, the Israeli government minister, was attacked by a University College student in a pie-throwing incident as he was about to speak at an event hosted by Hillel in Scott Hall. . . .

Sharansky's attacker was a Jewish "student" -- promptly lionized by the "Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy," a Palestinian organization headed by Nightline favorite Hanan Ashrawi, rockthrower Edward Said, and other Palestinian notables "dedicated to . . . the free flow of information and ideas" [sic].

More than 100 comments regarding the incident are recorded at Little Green Footballs. They're worth reading.

Also worth re-reading are Alan Dershowitz's reflections last year on the strange and troubling atmosphere at America's universities:

If a visitor from a far away galaxy were to land at an American or Canadian university and peruse some of the petitions that were circulating around the campus, he would probably come away with the conclusion that the Earth is a peaceful and fair planet with only one villainous nation determined to destroy the peace and to violate human rights.

That nation would not be Iraq, Libya, Serbia, Russia or Iran. It would be Israel.

. . . Do we have everything backwards? Do we know the difference between right and wrong? Do our universities teach the truth?

These are questions that need asking, lest we become the kind of world the visitor would have experienced had he arrived in Europe during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

The Third National Student Conference on the Palestine Solidarity Movement will be held October 10-17, 2003 at . . . Rutgers University.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

50th Anniversary of Saul Bellow's First Masterpiece

Jonathan Yardley has an article about Viking's issuance of a fifthieth anniversary edition of Saul Bellow's "The Adventures of Augie March," with an adulatory introduction by Christopher Hitchens. Yardly notes the book was:

. . . a brand-new voice in American fiction.

It is true that Henry Roth's notable novel about Jewish ghetto life, Call It Sleep, had appeared two decades previously, but it almost immediately vanished into prolonged neglect. Isaac Bashevis Singer's publication in English (translated from the Yiddish) began in 1950 with The Family Moskat, but then and for the next two decades he wrote about Polish Jews.

Augie March was the novel that began what became known as the Jewish-American novel, a "genre" that . . . quickly assumed a central place in postwar American fiction.

Bellow went on to write masterpiece after masterpiece. In "Mr. Sammler's Planet," he wrote perhaps the finest final paragraph in modern American fiction, as Sammler enters a hospital room and views the body of his nephew Elya Gruner:

Sammler in a mental whisper said, "Well, Elya. Well, well, Elya." And then in the same way he said, "Remember, God, the soul of Elya Gruner, who, as willingly as possible and as well as he was able, and even to an intolerable point, and even in suffocation and even as death was coming was eager, even childishly perhaps (may I be forgiven for this), even with a certain servility, to do what was required of him. At his best this man was much kinder than at my very best I have ever been or could ever be. He was aware that he must meet, and he did meet -- through all the confusion and degraded clowning of this life through which we are speeding -- he did meet the terms of his contract. The terms which, in his inmost heart, each man knows. As I know mine. As all know. For that is the truth of it -- that we all know, God, that we know, that we know, we know, we know."

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Time For a New Peace Initiative?

Martin Peretz, writing "Tel Aviv Diarist" in The New Republic, responds to Thomas Friedman's suggestions that Israel's society is strong and resilient, and "what better time for Israel to try something new?"

. . . remember that Ehud Barak tried exactly these new initiatives and was rewarded with a macabre intifada.

And, besides, would the United States -- it too, after all, is culturally strong -- ever respond to terrorism with new peace initiatives?

When terrorism hits us, we instinctively understand that it cannot be bargained with, talked to, or appeased. We know that to do so represents, in some deep way, an affront to the dead and those who survive them.

Why, two years and countless suicide bombings after September 11, 2001, is it so hard to understand that Israelis feel the same way?

Sol Stern, who was an editor of Ramparts, the flagship magazine of the New Left, publishes "Israel Without Apology" in City Journal.

It is a remarkable piece. Here is the beginning:

Three decades ago, I was a Berkeley New Leftist with a political and personal problem. I had been born in Israel, and, though I didn’t consider myself a Zionist, I certainly didn’t want to see the Jewish state disappear.

Yet my comrades on the Left were starting on a long march whose ultimate objective was to demonize Israel and turn it into a pariah among the nations.

At Bay Area meetings, I heard Israel denounced as an imperialist aggressor that had “ripped off” the land from the native population and had aligned itself with the most reactionary forces in the world.

The Arabs, on the other hand, were the truly victimized, the wretched of the earth, right up there in the pantheon of our movement’s other heroes, the Cubans and the Vietnamese. . . .

[I]n the summer of 1970, I left for Israel—my first visit since immigrating to America as a three-year-old in 1939. . . . It was love at first sight, the beginning of an involvement that changed my life and, ultimately, made me realize how untenable were my left-wing politics.

I saw a vital, open society, with virtues that any liberal-minded person should have cheered. Israel was democratic; it was pluralistic; it was equalitarian; it was productive.

For progressives, there was a bonus: Israel had kibbutzim, hundreds of collective farms spread across the country—the only socialist experiment of the twentieth century that actually worked (at least for a while) and didn’t end up killing people.

He has come a long, long way. It is all recorded in this extraordinary article.

Essential reading. You don't even have to scroll back up. It's right here.

(Hat tip to for the article).

Monday, September 22, 2003

Celebrating Oslo

The Jerusalem Post reports that a parade of global figures were in Tel Aviv on Sunday to mark the 80th birthday of Shimon Peres, including Bill Clinton, who saluted Peres, perhaps with intended irony:

"You honestly believe that vision, willpower and ingenuity are all one needs to change the world."

Peres celebrated his actual birthday last month with his family. This celebration is being held the week following the 10th anniversary of the Oslo accords, Peres' principal contribution to his country.

Merav Sarig in Haaretz reports that:

. . . Peres admitted he was a little excited, although he added that he was "excited every day about the prospect of peace. Abu Ala's appointment for prime minister proves there is a real chance for peace."

Danny Rubinstein is similarly excited about an "important article published on September 3 by Tawfiq Abu-Bakr" in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam. Abu-Bakr, a well-known journalist based in Amman, heads a strategic studies research institute and is a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

Abu-Bakr praises the current Palestinian leadership, which signed the Oslo accords and started to build an independent national entity in the Palestinian homeland.

This laudable moderate trend in Palestinian politics was overtaken by the extremist "all or nothing" approach, Abu-Bakr writes. In his words:

"When a state became a definite option following the Clinton initiative in late 2000, and when the moment of truth arrived, we reverted to the `all or nothing' policy. We kicked away all our words over the past three
decades, and we went back to square one - the very beginning. This is the disaster that led to the [present] disaster, which is evident in every alleyway and every street of our land."

Abu-Bakr accuses his countrymen of cultivating a culture of illusion and self-deception, and he calls for a return to balanced, pragmatic politics that will lead, for the time being, to a two state solution. In the long term, such moderation (he believes) will bring into being one joint, democratic state. [Italics added by JCI].

Excited by Abu Whomever. Ecstatic about someone who wants a two-state solution "for the time being." Does this merit a two-day celebration for Oslo's architect?

Several younger Israeli writers think not. Caroline Glick writes in "The Land of Delusion" that the gala celebration for Peres:

will show the yawning gap between the world we occupy and the world occupied by Peres and his friends and supporters.

In the world we live in, every promise of peace and a New Middle East has not only been broken, but has blown up in our faces. . . .

But in the Land of Peres, it is reality, not Peres, that is wrong. It is reality that is doomed to be remembered in history as a failure. . . .

The upshot of all that Peres has told us for the past decade is that he cannot be held responsible for the consequences of his strategies. He must only be congratulated for the hope he bestowed on us all.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz is even more direct in "Partying with Peres:"

. . . among those who will definitely not be attending the festivities are the thousand-plus Israeli civilians killed by Arab terrorists since Peres and then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Olso Accords and paved the way for the PLO and its brother organizations to operate with a free hand in the Land of Israel. Those people - once called "victims of peace" by our confused leaders - don’t celebrate birthdays anymore. . . .

My tribute . . . would simply note the empirical fact that in the ten-year period before . . . Peres allowed Arafat's Trojan Horse into our gates, approximately 130 Israeli civilians were killed by Arab terrorists; yet, subsequent to that accursed event ten years ago, more than 1,125 Israeli civilians have fallen victim to Arab terrorism.

DEBKAfile, in the midst of a special analysis of Israel's security fence, writes that:

. . . as Israelis prepare to celebrate the New Year festival with employment topping 10 percent, a stalled economy, 243 murdered in one year by Palestinian terrorists and no end in sight . . . Shimon Peres prepares to celebrate his 80th birthday next Monday, September 22, on a scale whose lavishness would not disgrace an Oriental potentate.

The guest list is studded with world leaders past and present, Nobel Prize laureates [and] Hollywood stars . . . . The foreign contingent is necessarily heavy since Peres could not expect the same sort of acclaim at home.

Sarah Honig compares Peres with two earlier prime ministers, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Shamir, whose 80th birthday eight years ago was not marked by a gala celebration.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Remember This the Next Time Abu Whomever Supports the Road Map

The Jerusalem Newswire reports on Mahmoud Abbas' resignation speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council:

Abbas told the PLC . . . that, contrary to reports in the American and Israeli press, he had never sought to wrest control of the Palestinian security forces from Yasser Arafat, nor had he agreed with Washington on establishing a unified security apparatus.

"Many say I want to place the security services at my disposal and command and want to free them from [Arafat's] grip. This is false and it has never happened. I do not want the security services to be at my disposal," Abbas said. . . .

Abbas admitted that, his signature on the document notwithstanding, he had rejected America's expressed desire that he unify the PA security forces and place them under his command.

"The road map says: All security services are at the disposal of the prime minister. I did not even ask for the unification of the services… When the Americans spoke about the unity of the services, we told them we do not want that," the former premier continued. . . .

Appearing to list off his accomplishments as prime minister, Abbas told the PLC: "The road map calls for the unification of the security services. We surmounted this obstacle. It called for striking and uprooting the [terrorist] organizations. We surmounted this obstacle, too."

Abbas explained that the result had been the PA-brokered terrorist ceasefire, or hudna, "which the Israelis and Americans rejected, but was imposed on them."

"They were told there was no other solution [than the hudna] although the road map, which we approved, said the so-called terrorist organizations should be pounded and uprooted," the Fatah co-founder admitted.

In this way, Abbas continued, "we got over or tried to get over the tragedy in which we would have put ourselves if we had listened to them [the Americans and Israelis]."

The Palestinians famously accepted the Road Map without any "reservations." (Hat tip to the indispensable Little Green Footballs).

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Maybe He Can Explain it to Mahmoud Abbas (or Abu Whomever)

Jimmy Carter was interviewed yesterday on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition.”

Here's his evaluation of the obstacles to peace in the Middle East:

Q. The focus this week is on a single individual. Is Yasser Arafat the main obstacle to peace, as the United States and Israeli governments describe him?

Carter: No, I don’t think so.

In the last few years, as you know, Arafat has been almost completely isolated in one small building and hasn’t been really in charge of things on the ground.

But I think it’s just kind of an excuse to blame everything on Arafat, who has practically no authority even among his own people.

Most people (including Howard Dean) thought Howard Dean misspoke this week when he called for more "even handed" treatment of an American ally under attack, in a terrorist war begun by Yasser Arafat after he rejected a Palestinian state on 95% of the West Bank, with a capital in East Jerusalem.

But not Jimmy Carter:

Q. Last week candidate Howard Dean said that there should be more “even handed” American policy in the Middle East, and Senator Lieberman and others went after Dean, saying he was threatening to undermine longstanding relations with Israel. What do you think of that?

Carter: Howard Dean was absolutely right . . . .

Jimmy Carter, Yasser Arafat, and the United Nations. Nobel Peace Prize laureates all.

But even-handed with whom? As Nissan Ratzlav-Katz noted in his September 9 article:

Saturday, September 6, 2003, Mahmoud Abbas (nom de guerre: Abu Mazen) resigned the Palestinian Authority prime-ministerial post to which he was appointed by PLO leader Yasser Arafat a mere four months ago.

By Sunday, Ahmed Qureia (nom de guerre: Abu Ala) was appointed, also by Yasser Arafat, as the new PA prime minister.

According to reports out of the PA on Sunday night, Arafat gave Abu Ala five weeks to put together a new government. Then, if — and only if — the new government is approved by Arafat, will the PA legislative council get to review it.

In other words, Abu Ala is not an elected representative of anyone, he's an Arafat appointee and loyalist, and a long-time central PLO figure, whose major decisions will be subject to Yasser Arafat's veto. Just like Abu Mazen. . . .

Tourism Minister Binyamin Elon took a wider view of the PA political shift . . . "At this rate, instead of Abu Mazen, we'll have Abu Ala, and he'll be replaced by Abu Ali, and then Abu Jilda or whoever — there are a lot of Abu's in the world — but what we need is something to replace this failed Oslo program."

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Silence, Power and Auschwitz

Ami Eden reviews the arguments on both sides as "Israeli Fighter Jets Over Auschwitz Cause Controversy."

To many rabbis, Israeli officials and Jewish communal leaders, this modern-day embrace of Jewish power is the only logical response to the Holocaust. In the minority, however, are critics who complain that such an approach inappropriately turns the death of millions into a foil for Israel's creation. . . .

[Novelist Thane] Rosenbaum criticized the fly-over, noting that those who died in the camps were Jewish civilians, not soldiers.

"This isn't supposed to be a showcase for the Israeli military," the author said. "This isn't supposed to be a time for making loud noise that overshadows the whispering of ghosts but a time to reflect about the things that were lost."

. . . Rabbi Avi Shafran [of] the ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America [said such demonstrations] violate what he described as Judaism's historic approach to power and mourning.

"Even when Jews have had to wage war, whether in biblical or more recent times, the truly Jewish-minded among them have eschewed glorifying warfare or its weapons," Shafran wrote . . . "Jews cry, introspect, recite Psalms and pray to the God of Israel. If there is any place on Earth where those things alone are appropriate, it is Auschwitz."

Yossi Klein Halevi writes that the Israeli perspective is different:

For Israelis . . . there could be no more appropriate way to commemorate the victims than a display of Jewish power at Auschwitz.

That the pilots were sons of survivors only deepened the resonance of the gesture. When I visited the camp several months ago, there was a group of uniformed Israeli police marching through the grounds. I was moved to see them.

. . . for Jews, [the lesson of World War II] is the willingness to take almost any measure to protect themselves. After the Holocaust, Jews understood that learning to fight was a sign of vitality, an embracing of life.

Jay Norlinger writes about the issue in his September 10 Impromptus and shares some words he received from Jeff Jacoby:

. . . why should Auschwitz be a place of silence? Wasn't silence sort of a problem in the first place?

. . . I received a note from Jeff Jacoby . . . the award-winning columnist for the Boston Globe.

He writes, "As the son of a Holocaust survivor — my father was the only member of his family to leave Auschwitz alive — I am particularly involved in this question of silence in the face of Hitler's genocide. I thought you might like to see the last few paragraphs of a speech I gave for Yom Hashoah . . . . They describe something that occurred during a visit I paid to Auschwitz in my father's company a few years ago."

Here are those paragraphs:

When we were in Auschwitz — in the huge section called Birkenau, the part of the camp where the trains pulled in, where the selection took place, where the gas was — my dad and I saw a large group of Israeli students. . . .

[A]s we walked along a path near the crematoria, these Israeli kids overtook us. Like school groups everywhere, they were loud and boisterous, joking and laughing with each other.

I can't tell you how offended I was. "Shut up!" I wanted to tell them. "Have some decency! You're in Auschwitz. This is the biggest Jewish graveyard on earth. . . ."

And then, suddenly, I had a change of heart.

And I said to my father: "Who do you think would be more appalled to know that all these Jewish kids are running around and laughing in this place — your mother? Or Adolf Eichmann? Who would be more revolted? Who would feel more defeated?"

On Yom Hashoah, we remember. We cry. We swear "never again."

But we can also take heart. The most powerful nation in Europe set out to annihilate us. It drew upon every resource and tool at its command. It stopped at nothing. And yet Jewish children still laugh and play.

Even in Birkenau, you can hear the laughter of Jewish children. We are still here, "am Yisrael chai" — Jews living Jewish lives, as we always have, as we always must.

End of debate.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Explaining Death

Rabbi David Wolpe has an eloquent and elegant essay on "Death and Meaning" in the September issue of Shma:

There is both certainty and mystery in limitation. We know life will end but not when; we know that death defines life but we seek to minimize its power. . . .

The essential religious insight in addressing the mystery of death is that all creation necessitates restriction: the picture its frame, the story its denouement, the life its death. The Garden of Eden is the unreachable vision of infinitude; we live in limitation.

. . . it is almost blasphemous to suggest a theological justification to someone in the coils of loss. On an individual level we cannot avoid the feeling of . . . "Dear God, we know that death must come, but not to me, not to the one I love, not now."

[But a] world with no end would be a life with no urgency. That is as much as we are given in this life to understand.

Faith in God brings with it faith in the wisdom of the order of things. When we cannot count the pages [of our lives], perhaps we can nonetheless trust the Author of all.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis, in a beautiful and moving dispatch from Israel, seeks to explain to his young son the death by murder of innocent Israelis, just five minutes from his house:

. . . it was time for Micha to go to bed. . . It was too late for a story, so I just sang to him. After the Shma and the other things we say with him each night, at which point he usually just grabs his pillow with both arms and goes to sleep, he suddenly turned onto his side, and looked at me.

"Abba, why do the suicide bombers blow themselves up?"

. . . "What they do is evil, and they're being taught terrible things by their teachers."

. . . He turned onto his stomach, grabbed his pillow and closed his eyes. But I couldn't leave him, not with that.

So I sat back down next to him, rubbed his back, and told him I was sorry. "I'm sorry that you have to think about that kind of stuff," I told him. "Kids your age shouldn't even know about this."

"It's OK," he said. He paused for a minute, and then he said, "I still like it here. I'm still glad we live here."

I gave him a kiss on the head, told him I loved him, and walked out of the room. I figured that the last thing he needed at the end of a day like that was to see me crying. What would I have told him? That the world is falling apart and no one knows how to stop it?

. . . I still pray for peace, but I know I won't live to see it. I suspect that my children won't either.

Sure, there will be hudnas, and other celebrated cease fires will come and go, but there won't be peace. Not in my generation, and not in the next.

And yet, I can't imagine the Jewish people without a state, and I can't imagine how I'd look in the mirror if we left. So we stay, try to raise decent Jewish kids who are both passionate Zionists and moral human beings, and try to learn to live with what I believe will not change.

So what do I hope for? I hope that Micha will also put his kids to sleep here, and not somewhere else.

And I hope that somehow, we'll survive here, and that despite everything, we'll build the kind of society here that will lead his kids to tell him, a few decades from now, on some dark, oppressively sad, tear stained night, "I'm still glad I live here."

Eloquence, compassion, love and hope -- the ultimate answers to death.

Both articles are essential reading.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

September 11

Christopher Hitchens writes on "How Not to Remember Sept.11." The understanding of the event that began the 21st Century is:

. . . diluted by Ground Zero kitsch or by yellow-ribbon type events, which make the huge mistake of marking the event as a “tribute” of some sort to those who happened to die that day. One must be firm in insisting that these unfortunates, or rather their survivors, have no claim to ownership.

They stand symbolically, as making the point that theocratic terrorism murders without distinction. But that’s it. The time to commemorate the fallen is, or always has been, after the war is over. This war has barely begun. . . . Dry your eyes, sister. You, too, brother. Stiffen up. . . .

Two beautiful fall seasons ago, this society was living in a fool’s paradise . . . so far from being “in search of enemies” that its governing establishment barely knew how to tell an enemy from a friend.

If there is anything to mark or commemorate, it is the day when that realm of illusion was dispelled — the date that will one day be acknowledged as the one on which our enemies made their most truly “suicidal” mistake.

Mark Steyn, looking back at a column he published the day after 9/11/01, is surprised by how perceptive it was on the self-loathing of the West, the uselessness of the Cold War alliances, and the duplicitousness of America’s "moderate" Arab "friends." He has published it again, and it is worth re-reading:

You can understand why they’re jumping up and down in the streets of Ramallah, jubilant in their victory. They have struck a mighty blow against the Great Satan . . . . They have ruptured the most famous skyline in the world, the glittering monument to his decadence. They have killed and maimed thousands of his subjects, live on TV.

. . . All last week the plenipotentiaries of the west were in Durban holed up with the smooth, bespoke emissaries of thug states and treating with them as equals, negotiating over how many anti-Zionist insults they could live with and over how grovelling the west’s apology for past sins should be.

Yesterday’s sobering coda to Durban let us know that those folks on the other side are really admirably straightforward: they mean what they say, and we should take them at their word. . . .

Those western nations who spent last week in Durban finessing and nuancing evil should understand now that what is at stake is whether the world’s future will belong to liberal democracy and the rule of law, or to darker forces.

Victor Davis Hanson summarizes a "world turned upside down after September 11:"

America was aroused after 9/11 in the manner that a comatose patient suddenly jerks up to find that an entire world in his slumber has become unrecognizable. It really has. Think of it:

. . . What in the world has become of the UN, of our childhood memories of Halloween UNESCO buckets and UNICEF Christmas cards — when Iran, Iraq, and Libya arbitrate questions of legality and human rights and a Security Council serves as a surrogate for a nonexistent French fleet and phantom Gallic divisions?

. . . Has the EU made the world safer, and proved helpful in the Middle East, its members careful to limit arms sales to tyrants, to discourage terrorist cliques in Palestine, and to ensure murderous states abroad do not harm the innocent?

Had Oslo become temporarily "derailed," or was it the inevitable result of pretending that autocracies would not do what they exist for?

Was India or France the better friend? And why were those countries where we based thousands of troops the most likely to oppose our efforts in Iraq — whether Germans, Belgians, Greeks, Saudis, or Turks? — and their newspapers to vent virulent anti-Americanism?

. . . Did either the nonexistent or the measured response after a series of attacks on Americans the past decade — in Lebanon, Africa, Saudi Arabia, New York, and Yemen — suggest to our terrorist enemies that it was wrong and unwise to kill reasonable and affable people, or did the easy killing imply that self-absorbed and pampered Lotus-eaters would not much care who or how many were butchered as long as it was within reasonable numbers and spread out over time?

In this regard, why do suicide bombers blow up women and children alike in both Jerusalem and New York?

. . . And when a Norman Mailer or Michael Moore and a host of writers and actors in the aftermath of 9/11 have uttered such atrocities after 3,000 vanished, what has happened to our intelligentsia and artists, so much the beneficiaries of the very wealth and leisure of the American engine they sneer at? Did they, like our brave firemen and police in New York and Marines in Iraq, show themselves in the hour of our need to be even better than we thought them — or was it instead to be abjectly worse?

. . . In our current feeding hysteria that diminishes astounding success to quagmire or worse, what disinterested observer would ever believe that in just 24 months we have liberated 50 million people, destroyed the odious Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and routed 60% of the al Qaeda leadership — all at the cost of less than 300 American dead? . . . .

. . . we would do better to think simply of the dead, and to pledge both that we shall never forget them and in our lifetimes and, according to our efforts and station, we shall not allow it to happen again to any others on these shores — so help us, God.


Tuesday, September 09, 2003

The Long Road Back from Peace in Our Time

Daniel Pipes has a must-read analysis of where Oslo went wrong and what is necessary to get back: "Why Olso's Hopes Turned to Dust."

Ten years later, it is embarassing to recall the elation and soaring expectations.

President Bill Clinton lauded it as a "great occasion of history." Secretary of State Warren Christopher ruminated on how "the impossible is within our reach." Yasser Arafat called it an "historic event, inaugurating a new epoch." Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel discerned in it "the outline of peace in the Middle East."

The press hyped it, providing saturation coverage on television and radio, in newspapers and magazines. Pundits like Anthony Lewis of The New York Times called it "ingeniously built" and "stunning."

The date was Sept. 13, 1993, and the occasion was the signing of the Oslo accords on the White House lawn. Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's prime minister, and Arafat, the Palestinian leader, stood by President Clinton and shook hands. For years afterward, "The Handshake" (as it was known) served as the symbol of successful peacemaking.

. . . Instead, Oslo brought the Palestinians poverty, corruption, a cult of death, suicide factories and militant Islamic radicalization. The Israelis have mainly suffered from terrorism's toll of 854 murders and 5,051 injuries, plus assorted economic and diplomatic losses.

In terms of the relative size of their populations, 854 murders would translate to 38,430 U.S. deaths. In terms of the U.S. population, 5,051 injuries would translate to 224,295. Victims of peace.

Michael B. Oren has a similar analysis ("Oslo's Legacy: A Road Map to Nowhere") on this morning's op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal (not available on the web), as does The Jerusalem Post ("Don't Stay the Course").

All essential reading.

Friday, September 05, 2003

The Significance of All Those "Begats"

Rabbi David Wolpe notes the importance of connecting the generations in the Bible:

Why must the Bible afflict us with genealogies? Even the devout reader finds his eyes glazing over when all the “begats” go on endless parade. There is great significance, however, in these seemingly arbitrary chronicles.

Dr. Leon Kass in his profound new book on Genesis, The Beginning of Wisdom, reviews the generations between Adam and Noah. . . . He notes that . . . Noah is the first person born into the world after the death of Adam.

Noah is the first to live in a world that knows natural death. . . . As Kass beautifully notes: “Noah" ... means both "comfort" and "lament," a perfect name for new life seen in the light of inevitable death. These facts may explain, in part, why Noah would, uniquely, later find grace in the eyes of the Lord.”

Genealogies are reminders of mortality, of the chain of generations, of the importance of each individual life even in the grand sweep of time. . . . . [E]ach name is a bulwark against the abyss.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Quartet Member Holds Conference(s)

A "Featured Event" currently on the website of the United Nations, 2001 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Proud Member of the Roadmap Quartet:

Live Webcast Schedule for Monday 23 September:

United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People: "End the Occupation", 23-24 September

Time: 10:00am

Here is the U.N.'s description of the conference:

The Conference will draw on the positive results of the 2002 International Conference of Civil Society and maintain its unifying theme “End the Occupation!”

Its purpose is to provide civil society organizations from all regions of the world with an opportunity to discuss the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, renew efforts to coordinate their activities and develop action-oriented proposals in support of the Palestinian people. . . .

It is envisaged that a plan of action will be adopted by participants at the close of the Conference.

If you miss this conference, you can always attend the next event: "International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People:"

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People will be observed this year on Monday, 1 December 2003.

Special events are organized at United Nations headquarters in New York, as well as at United Nations offices at Geneva and Vienna.

It is unfortunately too late to attend July's event -- the "United Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People," held on July 15-16, 2003:

This Seminar will be held under the auspices of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in accordance with its mandate to mobilize international support for and assistance to the Palestinian people.

Coming soon (I'm sure): "Seminar on Protecting a U.N. Member from Palestinian Terrorism."

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The September Commentary

The new issue of Commentary is out. Seven rabbis write in response to Jack Wertheimer's article "The Rabbi Crisis."

There is a good exchange of letters between readers and Abraham Sofaer on his article "The U.S. and Israel: The Road Ahead."

Monday, September 01, 2003

Morality and Compromise

Looking through the bargain books at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this weekend, I came across Robert D. Kaplan's remarkable book, Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus (Random House, 2000).

At one point in the book, he reflects on what he learned from living in Israel in the 1970s, while in his twenties:

What I took away from Israel was not Zionism so much as realism: While Israel's security phobia might at times seem extreme, life in Israel taught me that the liberal-humanist tendency to see politics predominantly in moral terms could be no less so.

In Israel, I often met foreign journalists who demanded absolute justice for the Palestinians and talked constantly about morality in politics, which in practice meant that anyone who disagreed with them was "immoral." You couldn't argue with these people.

Meanwhile, my right-wing neighbors in a poor, Oriental part of Jewish Jerusalem sought absolute security. You couldn't argue with them either, but at least their arguments were grounded in concrete self-interest and not in absolute moral terms. . . .

Self-interest at its healthiest implicitly recognizes the self-interest of others, and therein lies the possibility of compromise. A rigid moral position admits few compromises.

This is some of what I took away from Israel.

The belief one is fighting a war mandated by God tends to take away the ability to compromise -- which may explain some of what happened shortly after Kaplan published his book.

An excerpt from the first chapter of the book is here. It gets even better after that.