Jewish Current Issues

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Jewish Current Issues Has Moved!

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JCI archives will remain here, at least for a while.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Today's Post

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Friday, July 23, 2004

The Pattern of Palestinian Rejection


Yossi Klein Halevi writes on the process of Palestinian rejection, encouraged by the world community, that inevitably creates still another disaster for the Palestinians:


The tragedy of the International Court's ruling on the security fence isn't only its depressing predictability, a politicization that undermines the hope for a global system of justice.

Nor is the tragedy only that Israel's right to self-defense has been branded illegitimate, while the criminals remain uncensured.

Perhaps the worst consequence of the ruling is that it will reinforce Palestinians' faith in their own innocence and victimization, and preclude a self-examination of their responsibility in maintaining the conflict.

That suicidal self-pity has led Palestinians from one historic calamity to another, and is precisely the reason why Israel is now building the fence.

Worth reading in its entirety.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

We Need a League of Democratic Nations

From "
Staring Genocide in the Face," on the U.S. Holocaust Museum website:

In cases like Darfur, there is always a great deal of hand wringing about what is and is not genocide.  But such discussion misses the point:  A key element of the Genocide Convention is prevention.  It calls for action once it is apparent that genocide is threatened.

There is no need for an absolute determination, which is inevitably elusive, that genocide is underway.  And in Darfur there can be no doubt that genocide is threatened. As former U.S. Ambassador David Scheffer once said of Kosovo, there are "indicators of genocide." 

Whatever the formulation, there is more than enough going on in Darfur to justify preventive action. . . . .What is needed now is a U.N. Security Council resolution . . . .

In Once Again, in Darfur,” the Washington Times reported that, as of last week:

The U.N. Security Council appears ready to turn a blind eye toward the certain death of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese. The international community has not only lost what Secretary of State Colin Powell has called a "race against death" in Sudan's western Darfur region, but it also has been unwilling to take steps to try to salvage what lives can still be rescued.

A U.S.-sponsored resolution . . . is not being supported by enough countries, Reuters reported on Friday. The resolution also would give the Arab-dominated Sundanese government 30 days to implement the promises it has already committed to.

European countries — including Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Romania — are backing the resolution at the 15-member council. But China, Russia, Pakistan, Algeria, Brazil and others have withheld support. . . . .

The phrase "never again" seems destined to be constantly repeated.

Mark Steyn, in “Sudan Is Getting Away With Murder,” focuses on the problem:

The UN system is broken beyond repair. In May, even as its proxies were getting stuck into their ethnic cleansing in Darfur, Sudan was elected to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. . . .

The Sudanese representative . . . immediately professed himself concerned by human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

The UN, as the Canadian columnist George Jonas put it, enables dictators to punch above their weight. . . . The world would be a better place if the UN, or the democratic members thereof, declared that thug states forfeit the automatic deference to sovereignty.

Since that won't happen, it would be preferable if free nations had a forum of their own in which decisions could be reached before every peasant has been hacked to death. The Coalition of the Willing has a nice ring to it.

In the meantime, you can sign a petition to Colin Powell here.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Each Life is an Entire World

Steve North, a senior producer and radio newscaster at CNBC, writes about accompanying British journalists (“Martin” and “Harriet”) for The Guardian and the Times of London on a tour of the fence/wall/barrier near the West Bank town of Kalkilya, conducted by an Israeli Lieutenant Colonel (“Shai”): 

“This wall is killing Kalkilya economically,” [Martin] said, clueless to the irony in his choice of words. “Do you see signs of ordinary citizens turning into terrorists because of it?”

I listened without comment. As we stood next to the wire fence and its motion detectors, Martin asked, “Is it electrified?”

“Touch it and see,” Shai suggested.

As we laughed nervously, Shai, then Martin, grabbed the barrier.

“It’s electronic,” said the soldier, “not electric. We’re not trying to electrocute them; we’re trying to stop them from coming in and killing us.” . . . . 

As our tour concluded, I asked some questions of my own.

“It seems to me that most of the British coverage I’ve seen of this story is inordinately focused on the inconveniences suffered by the Palestinians due to this fence, as opposed to the Israeli lives it is apparently saving. Why might that be?” I wondered.

After heated denials by both journalists, Martin said, “I could turn the question around. Why is there no coverage in America given to the root causes of terrorism? . . . . I understand why Israel is building a wall to stop terror, but terrorists only flourish if they have grievances to exploit.”

“Grievances?  You know, I’m from New York,” I said. “Should I try to understand the grievances of the terrorists who flew into the World Trade Center?”

“Well, yes,” answered Martin. “I think bin Laden tapped into grievances.”

Harriet chimed in, “Do you think they just did it for fun? They have reasons.”

Our conversation was over. I returned to New York, where I later read the International Court of Justice’s decision declaring Israel’s security fence illegal . . . .

And Harriet and Martin returned to Great Britain, where they may have been enjoying a spot of tea and a scone as they read about last Sunday’s bus-stop bombing in Tel Aviv in which more than 30 people were wounded and a strikingly beautiful 19-year-old woman [Ma'ayan Na'im]  was torn apart by the metal bolts and ball bearings tightly packed into an explosive device.

This is 19 year-old Ma'ayan Na'im. She was murdered July 11 by Palestinian terrorists, during an attempt to kill as many Jews as possible.  The world shrugged.  The terrorists have grievances.

Anne Lieberman ("Yael") has a post and a three-picture response to Harriet and Martin that is worth at least 3,000 words.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Bay Window on the Middle East

In late March, Austin Bay, author, columnist and U.S. Army Reserve Colonel, wrote that this summer might well "determine the Middle East’s political course for the next century:"

Start with this fact: Yassir Arafat's Palestinian Authority has no authority. It's a corrupt, moribund shell. . . .

Arafat's rejection of the summer 2000 peace deal crafted by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. President Bill Clinton ultimately made him the West Bank's chief thief [sending Palestinian funds to Switzerland], rather than independent Palestine's first statesman.

Any deal would have ignited a Palestinian Authority versus Hamas battle, but instead of waging that necessary civil war with the support of the United States, Arafat chose renewed intifada with Israel. . . .

The Arab world is watching, with fascination, Iraq's looming experiment in democracy. . . . An Iraqi democracy completely changes the Middle Eastern calculus. Terrorist cadres will blame Israel for the region's ills, but the elephant in the room -- the repression and robbery of Muslim people by corrupt Muslim elites -- can no longer be ignored. . . .

The Israelis bet the next generation of Palestinians, with terrorist cash gone and rejectionist guns removed, will look to democratic Iraq as a model -- and then help create a resilient, just and fruitful Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Earlier this week, Austin Bay sent an important email from Iraq to Glenn Reynolds, discussing the idea, broached by Peggy Noonan and Mickey Kaus, that the American people might vote for Kerry to take a "time out" or "break" from the war on terror, or to otherwise seek a "return to normalcy." Bay thought we should stay the course:

"Time out" is a mirage of the chattering class. . . . Hate to say it, but the call for "time out" . . . may be another case of Baby Boomers who can't separate Hollywood war from the real thing. Hollywood wars end in a couple of hours. Real earthly hells have no intermission.

Bay’s email produced an email in response, and a fascinating post by blogger Dave Justus on why Spider-Man 2 supports the war. Both worth reading (IMHO). (Mickey promises a longer response soon).

Jay Nordlinger has a reminder this morning about how much George W. Bush has already changed the basic perspective regarding the Middle East:

[I]t must be a shock for the most frequent visitor to the White House during the years 1993-2001 to be kept out of it altogether, from Jan. 20, 2001, to now. Bush is often called a "neocon" and other not-quite-friendly things, but he is supremely realistic, certainly about the Middle East, certainly about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, certainly about Arafat.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Watchmen on the Walls

A few weeks ago, John Kerry gave a foreign policy speech in Seattle -- another of his criticisms of the Bush Administration for "going it alone" instead of "assembling a team." The speech ended with Kerry’s assurance that he would again lead a great alliance:

"We do not have to live in fear or stand alone. We don't have to be a lonely watchman on the walls of freedom."

The American Spectator noted that Kerry had actually cribbed the ending -- without acknowledgment -- from the final paragraph of the speech John F. Kennedy was to have given on the day he was assassinated, in which Kennedy's words were:

"We, in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than by choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom."

But the indispensable Yael noted last week that the actual source of the sentence went back much further -- to Isaiah 62:6-7:

"I have set watchmen upon your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day nor night; you who make mention of the Lord, take no rest."

Yael then noted a more critical point: Kerry had reversed the meaning of the biblical injunction, turning it into a portrait of a "lonely" watchman, watching over a people living in "fear," standing "alone," something they did not "have to be."

Kerry had not plagiarized Kennedy; he was actually saying something that was virtually the opposite of what the patron saint of the modern Democratic Party had sought to convey.

And thereby hangs a tale.

Kennedy was scheduled to give his speech on November 22 to a joint luncheon of the Dallas Citizens Counsel and the Dallas Assembly -- the two symbols of progressive leadership and learning in Dallas.

His prepared remarks began by saying it was inevitable that there would always "be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side . . . ." The speech ridiculed those who thought the Nation was "headed for defeat through deficit," and then turned to national security, to "the strength we stood ready to use on behalf of the principles we stand ready to defend:"

In less than 3 years, we have increased by 50 percent the number of Polaris submarines scheduled to be in force by the next fiscal year, increased by more than 70 percent our total Polaris purchase program, increased by more than 75 percent our Minuteman purchase program, increased by 50 percent the portion of our strategic bombers on 15-minute alert, and . . . increased by 60 percent the tactical nuclear forces deployed in Western Europe. . . .

We have radically improved the readiness of our conventional forces -- increased by 45 percent the number of combat ready Army divisions, increased by 100 percent the procurement of modern Army weapons and equipment, increased by 100 percent our ship construction, conversion, and modernization program . . . increased by 30 percent the number of tactical air squadrons, and increased the strength of the Marines. . . .

We have increased by 175 percent the procurement of airlift aircraft, and we have already achieved a 75 percent increase in our existing strategic airlift capability. Finally, moving beyond the traditional roles of our military forces, we have achieved an increase of nearly 600 percent in our special forces . . . .

In the remainder of his speech, Kennedy noted that in less than 1,000 days the Nation had surged ahead of most of Western Europe in corporate profits -- which had risen 43% in less than three years -- by cutting personal and corporate income taxes by huge amounts.

Finally, he said he cited all these facts and figures to "make it clear" that we now had the military and economic strength "to do whatever must be done for the preservation and promotion of freedom." And then he concluded with this paragraph:

We in this country, in this generation, are -- by destiny rather than choice -- the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of "peace on earth, good will toward men." That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago: "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain."

There were thus three biblical references in Kennedy’s concluding paragraph. The reference in the last sentence was to Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house,
They labor in vain that build it;
Except the Lord keep the city,
The watchman waketh but in vain

It was a time when the Democratic Party could reference the Bible without irony or ostentation; when the Democratic Party was proud of mobilizing the country after a decade of ignoring gathering threats; and when the Democratic Party believed in bearing any burden in the service of a righteous cause throughout the world.

Some of us still registered as Democrats still wish that the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy still existed.

Friday, July 09, 2004

A Little Friday Miscellany

Truth has been taking a little while to get its boots on, but James Lileks' utter destruction of Michael Moore’s recent thoughts whipped around the Internet yesterday as fast as anything I’ve ever seen. Here it is, for the few of you who missed it, and the rest who want to read it again.

And today he has a sobering reflection on "what’s keeping Israel from taking out Iran’s nuclear bomb-making plants."

I like this title for Michael Moore's movie.

Driches at Crossfiah! was not wrong when he linked yesterday to this as "one of the funniest pages on the web." The best since Dean-O. Just keep scrolling.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Kerry, Edwards and Israel

The Jerusalem Post editorializes on the new Democratic ticket ("Doubts About Kerry"), and the position paper the Kerry campaign recently distributed to Jewish community leaders:

Now the Democrats have a ticket, and that ticket has a pro-Israel position paper that, like the candidates' voting record, is reportedly "second to none." . . .

Let's take a closer look. Kerry's paper claims he "has been at the forefront of the fight for Israel's security during his 19 years in the US Senate."

Indeed, he has signed on almost every pro-Israel letter and voted for every pro-Israel resolution. But so have 80 or so other Senators. Yet hopping on such measures after most of the Senate is on board can hardly be characterized as being in the "forefront," unless the train is being driven from the caboose.

It is a happy fact, but a fact, that a Senator must go out of his way to rack up a record considered to be anti-Israel. Kerry did not. We are happy that Kerry dutifully followed the pro-Israel pack, but spare us the "forefront" rhetoric.

Kerry’s record is in fact not "second to none," as this article in the Jewish Press noted last month. Moreover, the Kerry paper distributed to the Jewish community has not been posted on his website (which has only this bland statement), suggesting the paper is not for general consumption. As the Jerusalem Post notes:

We cannot but welcome any pro-Israel manifesto, but Kerry's paper doth protest too much. . . .

Let's get this straight: the American contribution to the security of Israel, and of Jews around the world, for that matter, depends almost entirely on how successfully the US fights the global jihad, of which Israel is the leading and most long-standing target.

If America is losing, we will feel it here; if Israel is losing, America is likely to feel it there.

If Kerry really wants to be "pro-Israel" he should not just follow Bush, but outflank him on the need to drive the regimes in Teheran, Damascus, and Riyadh either out of power (a la Saddam) or out of the terror business (a la Qaddafi). If the war against jihad devolves into a September 10-style police action, Israel -- and America -- will be in trouble.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Islamic Leonardo

Stephen Schwartz (who is a Sufi) writes that Islam needs to find its way to modernity, "but in my view that way lies through a Renaissance, not a Reformation, and by way of a Leonardo, not a Luther:"

What does a Muslim Renaissance mean? It means the restoration of the Islamic pluralism that was abolished in Mecca and Medina in the 1920s, less than a century ago, when Wahhabism conquered the Holy Sites.

Before then, all of the hundreds of Islamic legal schools, and all of the differing sects, and all of the Sufi orders, were represented in Mecca, and the Hajj pilgrimage . . . was a celebration of Islamic diversity.

In those days, also, Christian churches were open in Jiddah, and Jewish synagogues were found all over Yemen. Indeed, today only Saudi Arabia bars non-Muslims, and even non-Wahhabi Muslims, from openly practicing their faith. The rest of the Gulf states allow Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist worship; and Bahrain still has a synagogue. . . .

I believe an Islamic Renaissance will come, and an Islamic Leonardo will come, fit to stand alongside the Islamic mathematicians, astronomers, and scientists of the past, and that Wahhabism and everything like it will be defeated.

I also believe that many Westerners will be surprised when they find out that ordinary Muslims are not very different from ordinary Catholics, and represent no danger to them. How tragic it is that all this seems so far away today; yet is so near.

(Hat tip: Arts & Letters Daily).

Perhaps the Islamic Leonardo will be an Iraqi, born in 2004 in free Iraq, someone with parents like Iraqi bloggers Alaa and Mohammed (whose moving posts are essential reading).

Friday, July 02, 2004

Anwar Chemseddine and Czeslaw Milosz

A footnote in Robert Satloff’s article that I posted Wednesday referred to a "brilliant essay" contributed by Anwar Chemseddine (the pseudonym of an Arab professor of English literature at a university in North Africa) to an Internet-based "virtual symposium" on Arab views of the Holocaust.

It is worth reading, as are the companion articles by Rami Khouri, Abdou Filali-Ansary, and Berel Lang.

Chemseddine’s article described the Arabs’ view of the Holocaust as "troubled," because the Holocaust is "almost invariably regarded through the foggy prism of the Middle East conflict" -- which obscures its significance as "the archetype of the crime against humanity:"

Anti-semitism is a modern European phenomenon in which Jews, assimilated or unassimilated, secular or religious, liberal or radical, are made the political, cultural, ideological and social scapegoats of modernity. . . .

And this is the basic definition of a crime against humanity: a crime perpetrated for no other reason than the victim being singled out as a human being.

The continued significance of the Holocaust is that it persistently asks the questions: . . . [H]ow is it that in the name of modernity such savagery and abomination are allowed to occur?

. . . And this is why revisionism or negationism of the Holocaust are pernicious and must be denounced: they aim at nothing less than weakening the debate on human rights, culture, democracy, and all the issues we associate with the Enlightenment and modernity.

The "virtual symposium" appeared on the website of The Legacy Project-- a "global exchange on the enduring consequences of the many historical tragedies of the 20th century."

The Project also offers excerpts from great literature on violence and memory, including this extraordinary poem by Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize winning poet born in Lithuania in 1911, who spent World War II working for the underground presses in Poland, and who moved to the United States in 1960 to teach at Berkeley:

You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.

All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.

That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word is
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.

Notice: I say we; there, every one separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.

Czeslaw Milosz’s 1980 Nobel Lecture is an extraordinary address, providing a biographical perspective that makes the above poem all the more remarkable:

It is good to be born in a small country where Nature was on a human scale, where various languages and religions cohabited for centuries. I have in mind Lithuania, a country of myths and of poetry. . . . A bizarre city [Vilna] of baroque architecture transplanted to northern forests and of history fixed in every stone, a city of forty Roman Catholic churches and of numerous synagogues.

In those days the Jews called it a Jerusalem of the North. Only when teaching in America did I fully realize how much I had absorbed from the thick walls of our ancient university, from formulas of Roman law learned by heart, from history and literature of old Poland, both of which surprise young Americans by their specific features: an indulgent anarchy, a humor disarming fierce quarrels, a sense of organic community, a mistrust of any centralized authority.

Milosz’s speech included a warning that now seems prophetic:

Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.

Certainly, the illiterates of past centuries, then an enormous majority of mankind, knew little of the history of their respective countries and of their civilization. In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion . . . .

[E]vents of the last decades, of such primary importance that knowledge or ignorance of them will be decisive for the future of mankind, move away, grow pale . . . . We are surrounded today by fictions about the past, contrary to common sense and to an elementary perception of good and evil. . . . [T]he number of books in various languages which deny that the Holocaust ever took place, that it was invented by Jewish propaganda, has exceeded one hundred.

If such an insanity is possible, is a complete loss of memory as a permanent state of mind improbable? And would it not present a danger more grave than genetic engineering or poisoning of the natural environment?

And Milosz’s speech has a single sentence that reverberates, at a time when the mere use of the word "evil" by an American president -- first in 1982, and then again 20 years later -- shocked the elites:

In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.

It is a speech to be studied. Essential reading.