Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 18, 2008

The Second Half of Hannity’s Palin Interview

What she conveys is something extremely tricky–she’s a clearly exceptional person, with an iron will and an almost surreal poise, whose entire mien is dedicated to making people feel comfortable and unthreatened by her even as she steamrolls her way forward. What makes her most formidable is the ability she has to soften her edges at will.

What she conveys is something extremely tricky–she’s a clearly exceptional person, with an iron will and an almost surreal poise, whose entire mien is dedicated to making people feel comfortable and unthreatened by her even as she steamrolls her way forward. What makes her most formidable is the ability she has to soften her edges at will.

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What She Knows Is Right

She doesn’t display her mastery of “stuff” but she has a working knowledge of  American history and embraces some core conservative values. Why does she admire Reagan? “American exceptionalism.” She throws in a little “team of rivals” reference for Abe Lincoln. And she’s an unalloyed patriot. We have done worse with VP’s.

She doesn’t display her mastery of “stuff” but she has a working knowledge of  American history and embraces some core conservative values. Why does she admire Reagan? “American exceptionalism.” She throws in a little “team of rivals” reference for Abe Lincoln. And she’s an unalloyed patriot. We have done worse with VP’s.

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Media Bias?

“A conservative candidate has to know what they’re getting into,” she says. She’s convincing when talking about herself and her record and doing the smear-debunking routine. Yes, she isn’t being pressed but she has that “thing” — what Bill Clinton described as an “instinctively effective” candidate.

“A conservative candidate has to know what they’re getting into,” she says. She’s convincing when talking about herself and her record and doing the smear-debunking routine. Yes, she isn’t being pressed but she has that “thing” — what Bill Clinton described as an “instinctively effective” candidate.

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She’s A Pistol Alright

Asked about her remark about community organizers, she says about Barack Obama that she hopes she”didn’t hurt his feelings.” Who many times did she use “long” to characterize Joe Biden’s time in the Senate.? (Three or four?) And why did she say such nice things about Hillary?  “There are things she did that no one can take away from her” — those 18 million cracks. Don’t look for substance here — the questions are too light and the answers too broad but what comes through is a wicked sense of fun and competition. She is already trying to psych-out Biden — “he has all those soundbites” –for the VP debate.

Asked about her remark about community organizers, she says about Barack Obama that she hopes she”didn’t hurt his feelings.” Who many times did she use “long” to characterize Joe Biden’s time in the Senate.? (Three or four?) And why did she say such nice things about Hillary?  “There are things she did that no one can take away from her” — those 18 million cracks. Don’t look for substance here — the questions are too light and the answers too broad but what comes through is a wicked sense of fun and competition. She is already trying to psych-out Biden — “he has all those soundbites” –for the VP debate.

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Palin Interview Part II

Well she has a leg up on Joe Biden. At least she knows: “Iraq is a central front in the war on terror.” Lots of generalities on national security. But then the telling moment: reminded of the Obama camp denigrating her as the former mayor of a town of 9000, she smiled, her eyes lit up and she said it was “motivating.” As for the oppo researchers descending on Alaska, she smiles and allows they will find a few “with ruffled feathers up there.” My general take: she’s not an encyclopedia of details but she has a very good temperament and superior communication skills.

Well she has a leg up on Joe Biden. At least she knows: “Iraq is a central front in the war on terror.” Lots of generalities on national security. But then the telling moment: reminded of the Obama camp denigrating her as the former mayor of a town of 9000, she smiled, her eyes lit up and she said it was “motivating.” As for the oppo researchers descending on Alaska, she smiles and allows they will find a few “with ruffled feathers up there.” My general take: she’s not an encyclopedia of details but she has a very good temperament and superior communication skills.

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Biden’s Refusal to Appear At Iran Protest Caused the Disinvitation of Palin

Here’s the latest news on the withdrawal of the invitation to Sarah Palin (and all other politicians) to Monday’s protest of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — withdrawn by the sponsor, the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization. COMMENTARY has learned that Joe Biden was invited to the event in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to appear on the same stage as  Palin — and he declined. In an e-mail to me, Biden spokesman David Wade said that “we’ve had longstanding commitment to speak at National Guard Convention on Monday in Maryland.”

After that, the decision was made to disinvite Palin — who is, let us recall, the chief executive of one of the 50 state of the union as well as the vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States. According to Ben Smith of Politico:

The appearance that the non-partisan group was aligning with the Republican ticket put the group and its president, Malcolm Hoenlein, under heavy pressure from Jewish Democrats, including members of the conference, members of Congress, and the liberal group J Street, not to give Palin a platform, sources said. Hoenlein told the McCain campaign that he would have to rescind Palin’s invitation or cancel the rally.

The question is: Was Hoenlein put in this position because of a decision by the Obama team and its supporters to treat Sarah Palin as though she were not a legitimate political figure with whom major Democratic politicians can or should share the stage.The McCain camp has issued a statement in the candidate’s name:

Throughout my political career, I have sought to rise above partisanship on critical national issues. Nowhere is this more true than on important matters of national security. Earlier this year, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and I issued a joint statement on the genocide in Darfur and pledged to support efforts to bring it to an end. Earlier this month, Senator Obama and I put the campaign aside to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country and talk about the importance of national service.

Next Monday, the day before Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to speak before the United Nations General Assembly, several organizations will sponsor an event to draw attention to the importance of halting Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Governor Palin and I share a strong belief that a nuclear armed Iran poses a grave threat to the security of Americans and to our allies. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The risk that Iran would provide terrorists with a nuclear weapon is too great for the world to ignore. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust occurred and called Israel a ’stinking corpse.’ A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the entire region.

Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be a shared goal of every American, not another occasion for partisan posturing.

Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue, regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.

We haven’t heard the end of this story.

Here’s the latest news on the withdrawal of the invitation to Sarah Palin (and all other politicians) to Monday’s protest of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — withdrawn by the sponsor, the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organization. COMMENTARY has learned that Joe Biden was invited to the event in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s refusal to appear on the same stage as  Palin — and he declined. In an e-mail to me, Biden spokesman David Wade said that “we’ve had longstanding commitment to speak at National Guard Convention on Monday in Maryland.”

After that, the decision was made to disinvite Palin — who is, let us recall, the chief executive of one of the 50 state of the union as well as the vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major parties in the United States. According to Ben Smith of Politico:

The appearance that the non-partisan group was aligning with the Republican ticket put the group and its president, Malcolm Hoenlein, under heavy pressure from Jewish Democrats, including members of the conference, members of Congress, and the liberal group J Street, not to give Palin a platform, sources said. Hoenlein told the McCain campaign that he would have to rescind Palin’s invitation or cancel the rally.

The question is: Was Hoenlein put in this position because of a decision by the Obama team and its supporters to treat Sarah Palin as though she were not a legitimate political figure with whom major Democratic politicians can or should share the stage.The McCain camp has issued a statement in the candidate’s name:

Throughout my political career, I have sought to rise above partisanship on critical national issues. Nowhere is this more true than on important matters of national security. Earlier this year, Senator Clinton, Senator Obama and I issued a joint statement on the genocide in Darfur and pledged to support efforts to bring it to an end. Earlier this month, Senator Obama and I put the campaign aside to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country and talk about the importance of national service.

Next Monday, the day before Iranian President Ahmadinejad is to speak before the United Nations General Assembly, several organizations will sponsor an event to draw attention to the importance of halting Iran’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Governor Palin and I share a strong belief that a nuclear armed Iran poses a grave threat to the security of Americans and to our allies. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The risk that Iran would provide terrorists with a nuclear weapon is too great for the world to ignore. Iranian President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust occurred and called Israel a ’stinking corpse.’ A nuclear-armed Iran would destabilize the entire region.

Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should be a shared goal of every American, not another occasion for partisan posturing.

Governor Palin was pleased to accept an invitation to address this rally and show her resolve on this grave national security issue, regrettably that invitation has since been withdrawn under pressure from Democratic partisans. We stand shoulder to shoulder with Republicans, Democrats and independents alike to oppose Ahmadinejad’s goal of a nuclear armed Iran. Senator Obama’s campaign had the opportunity to join us. Senator Obama chose politics rather than the national interest.

We haven’t heard the end of this story.

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Glass Houses

Remember the old saw about how far America’s good name has fallen in the world? It’s a bedrock principal of the Left’s worldview that the Bush administration (and conservatives more generally) have sullied America’s reputation to an extent unseen in world history, and it figures prominently in Barack Obama’s speeches and ideology. I’ve argued many times before that polls measuring “global attitudes” towards the United States are next to irrelevant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that “global attitudes” are misinformed or seriously prejudiced about everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the benefits of capitalism to intervention in Darfur.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes poll provides yet more evidence why Americans should not invest so much importance in world opinion, particularly European opinion, about which Obama’s supporters care so much: Across the continent, it finds disturbingly high levels of “negative” views of Jews and Muslims.

For instance, 46% of Spaniards have unfavorable attitude toward Jews, a figure that shot up from only 21% in 2005. 25% of Germans and 20% of French also view Jews unfavorably. Which countries have more positive views of Jews? In Britain only 9% view Jews unfavorably, just a little higher than the remarkably low 7% in the United States. Same goes for Australia, where only 11% view Jews unfavorably. In other words, America’s strongest democratic allies view Jews very favorably.

But it isn’t just Jews whom Europeans hold in low esteem. According to the same Pew poll, 52% of Spaniards view Muslims unfavorably, 6% more than those who view Jews unfavorably (so if you bump into a Spaniard, there’s an even chance that he’ll loathe Jews or Muslims). More people view Muslims unfavorably in every European country polled than they do Jews. And only 23% of Americans view Muslims unfavorably, which ties us with Britain as being the least bigoted country in the survey.

We’re starting to hear a lot about how bigoted America is, and that the only reason why Barack Obama isn’t trouncing John McCain in the polls is because he’s black. Should Obama lose come November 4, the narrative has already been established that America’s irredeemable bigotry is to blame. Where in Europe, however, does a minority have a chance of becoming prime minister? Has any European country had a leader approximating Barack Obama’s American experience? Indeed, is there any country in the world which has seen a member of one of its historically oppressed minority groups rise this far? Barack Obama’s race may indeed hurt him in this presidential election. If it is hurting him, however, it will be impossible to tell to what extent. What is not impossible to tell is that Europeans are far more bigoted than Americans.

Remember the old saw about how far America’s good name has fallen in the world? It’s a bedrock principal of the Left’s worldview that the Bush administration (and conservatives more generally) have sullied America’s reputation to an extent unseen in world history, and it figures prominently in Barack Obama’s speeches and ideology. I’ve argued many times before that polls measuring “global attitudes” towards the United States are next to irrelevant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that “global attitudes” are misinformed or seriously prejudiced about everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the benefits of capitalism to intervention in Darfur.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes poll provides yet more evidence why Americans should not invest so much importance in world opinion, particularly European opinion, about which Obama’s supporters care so much: Across the continent, it finds disturbingly high levels of “negative” views of Jews and Muslims.

For instance, 46% of Spaniards have unfavorable attitude toward Jews, a figure that shot up from only 21% in 2005. 25% of Germans and 20% of French also view Jews unfavorably. Which countries have more positive views of Jews? In Britain only 9% view Jews unfavorably, just a little higher than the remarkably low 7% in the United States. Same goes for Australia, where only 11% view Jews unfavorably. In other words, America’s strongest democratic allies view Jews very favorably.

But it isn’t just Jews whom Europeans hold in low esteem. According to the same Pew poll, 52% of Spaniards view Muslims unfavorably, 6% more than those who view Jews unfavorably (so if you bump into a Spaniard, there’s an even chance that he’ll loathe Jews or Muslims). More people view Muslims unfavorably in every European country polled than they do Jews. And only 23% of Americans view Muslims unfavorably, which ties us with Britain as being the least bigoted country in the survey.

We’re starting to hear a lot about how bigoted America is, and that the only reason why Barack Obama isn’t trouncing John McCain in the polls is because he’s black. Should Obama lose come November 4, the narrative has already been established that America’s irredeemable bigotry is to blame. Where in Europe, however, does a minority have a chance of becoming prime minister? Has any European country had a leader approximating Barack Obama’s American experience? Indeed, is there any country in the world which has seen a member of one of its historically oppressed minority groups rise this far? Barack Obama’s race may indeed hurt him in this presidential election. If it is hurting him, however, it will be impossible to tell to what extent. What is not impossible to tell is that Europeans are far more bigoted than Americans.

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McCain’s Battleground Battle

In the last couple of days, national polls have shown that the tide has shifted–McCain is slipping and Obama is gaining. But as election day is only a month and a half away, the more critical polls are those dealing with battleground states, and two new polls show that the national trend makes it difficult for McCain to get the electoral votes he will need come election day.

The first poll is the Big Ten Battleground Poll, conducted by the authoritative Charles Franklin. It covers Rust Belt and Midwestern states: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. Except for Obama’s home state of Illinois, the states covered all point to a tight race:

The two candidates are tied in Iowa and Pennsylvania, and Obama has just a one-point lead in Ohio and Wisconsin. McCain is ahead in just one state – Indiana – where he leads by 4 percentage points.

Not so bad for McCain. But the second poll–Allstate and National Journal–is less favorable. It confirms that McCain has a slight lead in Ohio, but also covers four other battleground states that Bush carried in 2004: Colorado (1 point Obama lead), Florida (tie), New Mexico (+7 for Obama!), Virginia (+7 for McCain). Obama, according to this poll, can hope to carry as many as four of the five Bush won in 2004:

Similar dynamics are shaping the races in each of the five Bush-won states surveyed. From one direction, Obama is benefiting from a desire for change grounded in widespread disenchantment with Bush. Although the president carried each of these states in 2004 and all except New Mexico in 2000, today a substantial majority of voters in all five disapprove of his performance in office. (About three-fifths of the voters in four of these states are unhappy with the job Bush is doing. In the fifth, Virginia, 56 percent disapprove.) Similarly, the survey found that most voters in all five states lean toward policy positions on energy, the economy, and international affairs predominantly associated with Democrats.

From the other direction, in each state except New Mexico, McCain leads by a double-digit margin when voters are asked which candidate is more prepared to lead the country.

One thing is for sure: November 4th is going to be a very long day.

In the last couple of days, national polls have shown that the tide has shifted–McCain is slipping and Obama is gaining. But as election day is only a month and a half away, the more critical polls are those dealing with battleground states, and two new polls show that the national trend makes it difficult for McCain to get the electoral votes he will need come election day.

The first poll is the Big Ten Battleground Poll, conducted by the authoritative Charles Franklin. It covers Rust Belt and Midwestern states: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. Except for Obama’s home state of Illinois, the states covered all point to a tight race:

The two candidates are tied in Iowa and Pennsylvania, and Obama has just a one-point lead in Ohio and Wisconsin. McCain is ahead in just one state – Indiana – where he leads by 4 percentage points.

Not so bad for McCain. But the second poll–Allstate and National Journal–is less favorable. It confirms that McCain has a slight lead in Ohio, but also covers four other battleground states that Bush carried in 2004: Colorado (1 point Obama lead), Florida (tie), New Mexico (+7 for Obama!), Virginia (+7 for McCain). Obama, according to this poll, can hope to carry as many as four of the five Bush won in 2004:

Similar dynamics are shaping the races in each of the five Bush-won states surveyed. From one direction, Obama is benefiting from a desire for change grounded in widespread disenchantment with Bush. Although the president carried each of these states in 2004 and all except New Mexico in 2000, today a substantial majority of voters in all five disapprove of his performance in office. (About three-fifths of the voters in four of these states are unhappy with the job Bush is doing. In the fifth, Virginia, 56 percent disapprove.) Similarly, the survey found that most voters in all five states lean toward policy positions on energy, the economy, and international affairs predominantly associated with Democrats.

From the other direction, in each state except New Mexico, McCain leads by a double-digit margin when voters are asked which candidate is more prepared to lead the country.

One thing is for sure: November 4th is going to be a very long day.

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Re: Re: McCain Squandered His Bump

Today the market bounced back on the buzz that an entity like the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation)–the government body created to help depositors in the savings and loan debacle twenty years ago–is in the offing. What did John McCain call for? Here’s what:

I am calling for the creation of the mortgage and financial institutions trust — the MFI. The priorities of this trust will be to work with the private sector and regulators to identify institutions that are weak and take remedies to strengthen them before they become insolvent. For troubled institutions this will provide an orderly process through which to identify bad loans and eventually sell them.

That seemed pretty much on the money. Where was Barack Obama on this? He couldn’t decide. Meanwhile, Obama was still calling this afternoon for the Fed to use emergency powers to keep credit flowing. The Fed already did that – this morning. That is how McCain may emerge from this: as the one who can come up with a concrete plan and move decisively. But first, he will have to explain all that through the media din.

Today the market bounced back on the buzz that an entity like the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation)–the government body created to help depositors in the savings and loan debacle twenty years ago–is in the offing. What did John McCain call for? Here’s what:

I am calling for the creation of the mortgage and financial institutions trust — the MFI. The priorities of this trust will be to work with the private sector and regulators to identify institutions that are weak and take remedies to strengthen them before they become insolvent. For troubled institutions this will provide an orderly process through which to identify bad loans and eventually sell them.

That seemed pretty much on the money. Where was Barack Obama on this? He couldn’t decide. Meanwhile, Obama was still calling this afternoon for the Fed to use emergency powers to keep credit flowing. The Fed already did that – this morning. That is how McCain may emerge from this: as the one who can come up with a concrete plan and move decisively. But first, he will have to explain all that through the media din.

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Re: Somebody Ate His Wheaties

It seems that John McCain has found his opening. He fires back at Barack Obama today–on raising taxes, slurping at the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac trough and trying to play the “present” game in a crisis. It is very tough stuff. A sample from his opening speech in Iowa:

Senator Obama talks a tough game on the financial markets but the facts tell a different story. He took more money from Fannie and Freddie than any Senator but the Democratic chairman of the committee that regulates them. He put Fannie Mae’s CEO who helped create this disaster in charge of finding his Vice President. Fannie’s former General Counsel is a senior advisor to his campaign. Whose side do you think he is on? When I pushed legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Senator Obama was silent. He didn’t lift a hand to avert this crisis. While the leaders of Fannie and Freddie were lining the pockets of his campaign, they were sowing the seeds of the financial crisis we see today and enriching themselves with millions of dollars in payments. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington.

. . .

Those same Congressional leaders who give Senator Obama his marching orders are now saying that this mess isn’t their fault and they aren’t going to take any action on this crisis until after the election. Senator Obama’s own advisers are saying that crisis will benefit him politically. My friends, that is the kind of me-first, country-second politics that are broken in Washington. My opponent sees an economic crisis as a political opportunity instead of a time to lead. Senator Obama isn’t change, he’s part of the problem with Washington.

When AIG was bailed out, I didn’t like it, but I understood it needed to be done to protect hard working Americans with insurance policies and annuities. Senator Obama didn’t take a position. On the biggest issue of the day, he didn’t know what to think. He may not realize it, but you don’t get to vote present as President of the United States.
While Senator Obama and Congressional leaders don’t know what to think about the current crisis, we know what their plans are for the economy. Today Senator Obama’s running mate said that raising taxes is patriotic. Raising taxes in a tough economy isn’t patriotic. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s just dumb policy. The billions in tax increases that Senator Obama is proposing would kill even more jobs during tough economic times.

And so it goes. McCain’s strength has always been as a counterpuncher and this is about as effective a message as possible. The problem, McCain wants to tell us, is politicians like Obama who take money from fat cats, don’t look after the public trust, and then duck the hard calls. Have we entered the political Twilight Zone? Wasn’t this Obama’s message? Yup.

But there was always a central problem with it: Obama’s own record doesn’t evidence any indication of reform-mided zeal, let alone bipartisan achievement. That’s hard to get people to understand–you are asking them to notice the absence of something. But in a sense this crisis is tailor-made for McCain because the specifics are almost irresistible (the second highest haul from Freddie and Fannie among all of Congress went to Obama) and it encompasses both personal attributes (leadership) and substance (liberal economic policy).

Obama and his MSM allies will have their response, but McCain and his team have figured out the way to make the best of a tough situation. Which, come to think of it, is their specialty.

It seems that John McCain has found his opening. He fires back at Barack Obama today–on raising taxes, slurping at the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac trough and trying to play the “present” game in a crisis. It is very tough stuff. A sample from his opening speech in Iowa:

Senator Obama talks a tough game on the financial markets but the facts tell a different story. He took more money from Fannie and Freddie than any Senator but the Democratic chairman of the committee that regulates them. He put Fannie Mae’s CEO who helped create this disaster in charge of finding his Vice President. Fannie’s former General Counsel is a senior advisor to his campaign. Whose side do you think he is on? When I pushed legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Senator Obama was silent. He didn’t lift a hand to avert this crisis. While the leaders of Fannie and Freddie were lining the pockets of his campaign, they were sowing the seeds of the financial crisis we see today and enriching themselves with millions of dollars in payments. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington.

. . .

Those same Congressional leaders who give Senator Obama his marching orders are now saying that this mess isn’t their fault and they aren’t going to take any action on this crisis until after the election. Senator Obama’s own advisers are saying that crisis will benefit him politically. My friends, that is the kind of me-first, country-second politics that are broken in Washington. My opponent sees an economic crisis as a political opportunity instead of a time to lead. Senator Obama isn’t change, he’s part of the problem with Washington.

When AIG was bailed out, I didn’t like it, but I understood it needed to be done to protect hard working Americans with insurance policies and annuities. Senator Obama didn’t take a position. On the biggest issue of the day, he didn’t know what to think. He may not realize it, but you don’t get to vote present as President of the United States.
While Senator Obama and Congressional leaders don’t know what to think about the current crisis, we know what their plans are for the economy. Today Senator Obama’s running mate said that raising taxes is patriotic. Raising taxes in a tough economy isn’t patriotic. It’s not a badge of honor. It’s just dumb policy. The billions in tax increases that Senator Obama is proposing would kill even more jobs during tough economic times.

And so it goes. McCain’s strength has always been as a counterpuncher and this is about as effective a message as possible. The problem, McCain wants to tell us, is politicians like Obama who take money from fat cats, don’t look after the public trust, and then duck the hard calls. Have we entered the political Twilight Zone? Wasn’t this Obama’s message? Yup.

But there was always a central problem with it: Obama’s own record doesn’t evidence any indication of reform-mided zeal, let alone bipartisan achievement. That’s hard to get people to understand–you are asking them to notice the absence of something. But in a sense this crisis is tailor-made for McCain because the specifics are almost irresistible (the second highest haul from Freddie and Fannie among all of Congress went to Obama) and it encompasses both personal attributes (leadership) and substance (liberal economic policy).

Obama and his MSM allies will have their response, but McCain and his team have figured out the way to make the best of a tough situation. Which, come to think of it, is their specialty.

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Good Lord

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has formally disinvited all politicians from its rally on Monday, September 22, to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at the U.N. General Assembly. The purpose of this, according to Ben Smith of Politico, was to come up with a face-saving way of specifially disinviting Sarah Palin — you know, Sarah Palin, the governor of one of the 50 states and the vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major American political parties. Why should she be present at a rally to protest Ahmadinejad?

We know why. This comes after Hillary Clinton bowed out in order to prevent herself from being in the same airspace as Palin.

There is only one thing to say about this: Has the world gone mad?

The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has formally disinvited all politicians from its rally on Monday, September 22, to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence at the U.N. General Assembly. The purpose of this, according to Ben Smith of Politico, was to come up with a face-saving way of specifially disinviting Sarah Palin — you know, Sarah Palin, the governor of one of the 50 states and the vice-presidential candidate of one of the two major American political parties. Why should she be present at a rally to protest Ahmadinejad?

We know why. This comes after Hillary Clinton bowed out in order to prevent herself from being in the same airspace as Palin.

There is only one thing to say about this: Has the world gone mad?

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HELP WANTED: Graphic Designer

Hello, readers–

COMMENTARY is in the market for a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who can produce web article illustrations as well as static and dynamic web advertising design. The person we need must be energetic, a self-starter, a team player, and capable of meeting tight deadlines. Experience with magazine websites is desirable.

Required skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, HTML, CSS, Flash.

Please send resumes/portfolios to contentions@commentarymagazine.com.

Hello, readers–

COMMENTARY is in the market for a freelance graphic designer and illustrator who can produce web article illustrations as well as static and dynamic web advertising design. The person we need must be energetic, a self-starter, a team player, and capable of meeting tight deadlines. Experience with magazine websites is desirable.

Required skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, HTML, CSS, Flash.

Please send resumes/portfolios to contentions@commentarymagazine.com.

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Palestinians Support McCain

Trusting polls in general–and polls of Israelis and Palestinians in particular–can be problematic. However, the latest poll conducted by The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion offers this interesting nugget: 33.5% of Palestinians are “in favor of John McCain as a presidential candidate in the US elections.” Democratic rival Barack Obama, supposedly the better friend of the Palestinian cause (a partisan claim that I do not particularly like, as I am not convinced it’s true), is only getting 27.7%. More than 30% want neither of the two.

This may be due to one or more of the following causes:

1. Palestinians, as always, will not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

2. Palestinians are influenced by Israelis to an extent that is constantly underappreciated. They are, at the moment, the only two national groups in the world who think McCain is preferable to Obama.

3. Obama learned a lesson when he was endorsed by Hamas, and his effort to reverse the trend by making many pro-Israel statements succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The question is: will he use this poll against McCain?

4. Palestinians believe that only a strong American leader can force Israel into making concessions, and hope a McCain administration will follow the path of Bush/Baker and not Bush/Cheney.

5. It’s actually McCain’s achievement: he worked so hard to convince Americans that his tenure will not be “four more years of Bush”–that he succeeded in convincing the Palestinians.

6. Maybe it’s because they really like Joe Lieberman?

Trusting polls in general–and polls of Israelis and Palestinians in particular–can be problematic. However, the latest poll conducted by The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion offers this interesting nugget: 33.5% of Palestinians are “in favor of John McCain as a presidential candidate in the US elections.” Democratic rival Barack Obama, supposedly the better friend of the Palestinian cause (a partisan claim that I do not particularly like, as I am not convinced it’s true), is only getting 27.7%. More than 30% want neither of the two.

This may be due to one or more of the following causes:

1. Palestinians, as always, will not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

2. Palestinians are influenced by Israelis to an extent that is constantly underappreciated. They are, at the moment, the only two national groups in the world who think McCain is preferable to Obama.

3. Obama learned a lesson when he was endorsed by Hamas, and his effort to reverse the trend by making many pro-Israel statements succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The question is: will he use this poll against McCain?

4. Palestinians believe that only a strong American leader can force Israel into making concessions, and hope a McCain administration will follow the path of Bush/Baker and not Bush/Cheney.

5. It’s actually McCain’s achievement: he worked so hard to convince Americans that his tenure will not be “four more years of Bush”–that he succeeded in convincing the Palestinians.

6. Maybe it’s because they really like Joe Lieberman?

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Re: McCain Squandered His Bump

Abe, that’s a very interesting analysis. There is another way to look at it, though, which is that the McCain bounce lasted nearly two weeks; during those two weeks he kept Obama off-balance and off-stride, and those are two weeks Obama will not get back. It was also the period in which he solidified the enthusiasm of the Republican base and thereby made sure that the intensity gap between him and Obama on election day will be relatively equal.

The other way to look at it is that Obama has taken the lead exactly at the same moment that the economic news became apocalyptic, and McCain is going to have to move aggressively on the subject to dislodge Obama from his position of advantage on the question. So far, he hasn’t found the right voice for it.

Abe, that’s a very interesting analysis. There is another way to look at it, though, which is that the McCain bounce lasted nearly two weeks; during those two weeks he kept Obama off-balance and off-stride, and those are two weeks Obama will not get back. It was also the period in which he solidified the enthusiasm of the Republican base and thereby made sure that the intensity gap between him and Obama on election day will be relatively equal.

The other way to look at it is that Obama has taken the lead exactly at the same moment that the economic news became apocalyptic, and McCain is going to have to move aggressively on the subject to dislodge Obama from his position of advantage on the question. So far, he hasn’t found the right voice for it.

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Re: Re: Shock Poll

Shmuel, your skepticism about the Siena poll is worthy of airing, but under no circumstances should one assume that a Gallup poll taken in May of Jewish voters necessarily bears any relation to the views of Jewish voters in September. There is one very good reason why Obama might do as poorly as Carter did in 1980. His name is Jeremiah Wright.

There is another, actually. Its name is Iran.

Shmuel, your skepticism about the Siena poll is worthy of airing, but under no circumstances should one assume that a Gallup poll taken in May of Jewish voters necessarily bears any relation to the views of Jewish voters in September. There is one very good reason why Obama might do as poorly as Carter did in 1980. His name is Jeremiah Wright.

There is another, actually. Its name is Iran.

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McCain Squandered His Bump

It is fair to say John McCain has stumbled since the triumphant Republican National Convention. In the course of a week, he went from inspiring doyen to tactical opportunist. He introduced the world to Sarah Palin, the most exciting thing to hit the GOP since Ronald Reagan; he made a speech in praise of bipartisanship and American unity in the face of history’s challenges.

Then he moved effortlessly to Swinegate and kindergarten sex-ed. Forget the merits of the charges; the tone was problematic. After announcing that Americans don’t hide from history, they make history, John McCain made hay. He took schoolyard potshots at his opponent. That undermined the seriousness of his pledge and tilted an electorate still trying to figure out just what they thought of this intriguing new ticket. As went McCain’s tone, so went his poll numbers.

During the GOP Convention, McCain had guided the election into its most elevated phase, and the advent of Sarah Palin rescued McCain’s pledge of old-fashioned decency from sounding like sheer nostalgia. After the GOP Convention bounce, Obama was disoriented. He had nothing to work with. More than that, he was exposed. He wasn’t the fresh-faced outsider; he wasn’t the voice of change or the catalyst for unity. In fact, while his rabid supporters sullied themselves digging for non-existent scandal in Alaska, the Obama phenomenon began to look depraved. It was time for McCain to sit back a bit. He found a theme in American courage and his VP gamble paid off in a brilliant package. He was triumphing both as American hero and as maverick. Having claimed the high road, he should have taken it. Instead, he gave the Obama camp material in the form of manufactured outrage and an inflammatory charge–lifted from an Alan Keyes campaign, no less.

During a September 11 forum on national service, McCain said, “I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all across America. . .” That’s the unmistakable language of punishment.

But who does McCain think he’s punishing? And to what end? Trashy politics isn’t some old reliable weapon that will do the job if you just have the nerve to bring it out. It’s a risk, because it’s an insult to the electorate. It’s also not an organic feature of John McCain’s persona. And for that reason, above all others, he should cut it out. McCain went from leader back down to underdog in no time. He won’t be able to reclaim the upperhand quite that fast, but he’ll never get there again if he doesn’t set his campaign clock back to the morning after his Minnesota high point.

It is fair to say John McCain has stumbled since the triumphant Republican National Convention. In the course of a week, he went from inspiring doyen to tactical opportunist. He introduced the world to Sarah Palin, the most exciting thing to hit the GOP since Ronald Reagan; he made a speech in praise of bipartisanship and American unity in the face of history’s challenges.

Then he moved effortlessly to Swinegate and kindergarten sex-ed. Forget the merits of the charges; the tone was problematic. After announcing that Americans don’t hide from history, they make history, John McCain made hay. He took schoolyard potshots at his opponent. That undermined the seriousness of his pledge and tilted an electorate still trying to figure out just what they thought of this intriguing new ticket. As went McCain’s tone, so went his poll numbers.

During the GOP Convention, McCain had guided the election into its most elevated phase, and the advent of Sarah Palin rescued McCain’s pledge of old-fashioned decency from sounding like sheer nostalgia. After the GOP Convention bounce, Obama was disoriented. He had nothing to work with. More than that, he was exposed. He wasn’t the fresh-faced outsider; he wasn’t the voice of change or the catalyst for unity. In fact, while his rabid supporters sullied themselves digging for non-existent scandal in Alaska, the Obama phenomenon began to look depraved. It was time for McCain to sit back a bit. He found a theme in American courage and his VP gamble paid off in a brilliant package. He was triumphing both as American hero and as maverick. Having claimed the high road, he should have taken it. Instead, he gave the Obama camp material in the form of manufactured outrage and an inflammatory charge–lifted from an Alan Keyes campaign, no less.

During a September 11 forum on national service, McCain said, “I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all across America. . .” That’s the unmistakable language of punishment.

But who does McCain think he’s punishing? And to what end? Trashy politics isn’t some old reliable weapon that will do the job if you just have the nerve to bring it out. It’s a risk, because it’s an insult to the electorate. It’s also not an organic feature of John McCain’s persona. And for that reason, above all others, he should cut it out. McCain went from leader back down to underdog in no time. He won’t be able to reclaim the upperhand quite that fast, but he’ll never get there again if he doesn’t set his campaign clock back to the morning after his Minnesota high point.

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Mr. Awkward

Oy. Vey.

Oy. Vey.

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Gotta Hand It to Them

Those Democrats — without their help what would John McCain do? Remember all the hassle he got from the Right on immigration? Well, only the Democrats–with an over-the-top, race-baiting, fear-mongering immigration ad–could drive conservatives who vehemently opposed immigration reform rushing to defend and embrace McCain. And recall Rush Limbaugh, who did everything possible to torment McCain? He is now McCain Central – vehemently defending his own honor and McCain’s. I think McCain’s conservative turnout/enthusiasm gap is quickly narrowing.

Now, this would truly be extraordinary if the immigration smear ad woke up the MSM, which decided that this effort was really beyond the pale and evidenced a mean-spiritedness entirely at odds with the New Politics. You know, if MSNBC for example . . . oh, well, there’s a start. (h/t Jim Geraghty)

Living in a media cocoon has its downsides. One is that you think you can get away with anything. Sometimes there is a price to be paid.

Those Democrats — without their help what would John McCain do? Remember all the hassle he got from the Right on immigration? Well, only the Democrats–with an over-the-top, race-baiting, fear-mongering immigration ad–could drive conservatives who vehemently opposed immigration reform rushing to defend and embrace McCain. And recall Rush Limbaugh, who did everything possible to torment McCain? He is now McCain Central – vehemently defending his own honor and McCain’s. I think McCain’s conservative turnout/enthusiasm gap is quickly narrowing.

Now, this would truly be extraordinary if the immigration smear ad woke up the MSM, which decided that this effort was really beyond the pale and evidenced a mean-spiritedness entirely at odds with the New Politics. You know, if MSNBC for example . . . oh, well, there’s a start. (h/t Jim Geraghty)

Living in a media cocoon has its downsides. One is that you think you can get away with anything. Sometimes there is a price to be paid.

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Obama and History (Class)

It’s “shopping week” here at Harvard College, where I am a freshman: the first week of classes when all students can go to as many classes as they wish, and pick out their schedule after having “shopped” around a bit.

This morning I decided to shop an American history class called “Pursuits of Happiness: Ordinary Lives in Revolutionary America.” The course–according to its description in the course book–proposes to discuss competing visions of how happiness was to be achieved at the time of the American Revolution.

I walked into the packed lecture hall, standing in the back with my laptop open ready to take notes. During the first half of the lecture, Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discussed the answers she received from the first session of this class (which I did not attend), when she had asked those in the room to jot down a list of things that come to mind when she said the words “American Revolution.”

Not surprisingly, the discussion centered on the names of the major founding fathers. But this, we were told by Professor Ulrich, was “Founding father chic.” In other words: we possessed only an immature understanding of American Revolutionary history, clouded by the glorification of its main political players. A short discussion of the founding documents ensued, during which Professor Ulrich quoted the historian Pauline Maier on the issue of the founding documents having achieved a quasi-sacred status in the civic religion of American politics, in a way comparable to the way other religions revere their own holy texts.

Professor Ulrich then announced, with some disappointment, that only 3 students–out of a response pool of approximately 180–wrote down the word slavery. This comment began the second half of her lecture, which might well have been titled, “A Short Break From American History to Glorify, Not the Founding Fathers, But Barack Obama.” Professor Ulrich, after mentioning the (real and disturbing) relationship between the founding fathers and slavery, proceeded to play, on two massive projector screens, the first few minutes of Barack Obama’s famed speech on race in Philadelphia this past March.

After the video, Professor Ulrich led a choir of some ten or so students in a discussion of how the speech so perfectly captured and dissected all the issues that we had discussed earlier. She mentioned how Obama’s use of the term “original sin” to refer to slavery used the religious language discussed by Maier, “but,” Ulrich said, “in a very different way.” In other words, to use religious language to honor the United States is foolish, but to use it to criticize and point out the failures of the United States is necessary.

Probably the most important thing I learned from the discussion of Obama’s speech, however, was this unqualified yet penetrating insight given by Professor Ulrich: Obama is “invoking all the right words about the Constitution.” It is an indisputable fact that the founding fathers failed to eradicate slavery. Slavery is a huge stain on the history of the United States. And the founding fathers had major flaws that allowed them to tolerate the continued existence of this intolerable practice. (Albeit, for many of the most revered ones, with a hefty amount of personal guilt.) But, after all, the U.S. fought a bloody and destructive war with itself over this very issue, to say nothing of the subsequent struggles and clashes of the civil rights movement. Ulrich mentioned neither of these facts.

At the end of the lecture, Professor Ulrich asked the students to think about a question for the next session: Can a flawed document (i.e. the U.S. Constitution) contain the means for its own redemption? I wanted to bellow out that the answer was staring the whole class in the face, on the two huge projector screens hanging from the ceiling of the lecture hall. Barack Obama’s historic primary win, and his solid chance of becoming the first black President of the United States, is the strongest possible answer to Professor Ulrich’s question. The mutability and responsiveness of that “flawed document” so egregiously allotted near-sacred status in our political lives allowed for a slow, painful, bloody, and costly enlargement of political and social liberties, an enlargement that has given a black man the chance to stand on the verge of becoming president of the same country that permitted for far too long the enslavement and repression of blacks.

This is not to say that Obama’s candidacy means that all racial issues in the U.S. are at an end, or that his election will somehow wipe clean the slate. Race has a tortured history in America, and will continue to, I suspect, for many years. But I still must ask myself whether any of my fellow undergrads realized the sad irony in Ulrich’s loaded question, when its answer lies in the candidate whom she and they so lovingly adore.

It’s “shopping week” here at Harvard College, where I am a freshman: the first week of classes when all students can go to as many classes as they wish, and pick out their schedule after having “shopped” around a bit.

This morning I decided to shop an American history class called “Pursuits of Happiness: Ordinary Lives in Revolutionary America.” The course–according to its description in the course book–proposes to discuss competing visions of how happiness was to be achieved at the time of the American Revolution.

I walked into the packed lecture hall, standing in the back with my laptop open ready to take notes. During the first half of the lecture, Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discussed the answers she received from the first session of this class (which I did not attend), when she had asked those in the room to jot down a list of things that come to mind when she said the words “American Revolution.”

Not surprisingly, the discussion centered on the names of the major founding fathers. But this, we were told by Professor Ulrich, was “Founding father chic.” In other words: we possessed only an immature understanding of American Revolutionary history, clouded by the glorification of its main political players. A short discussion of the founding documents ensued, during which Professor Ulrich quoted the historian Pauline Maier on the issue of the founding documents having achieved a quasi-sacred status in the civic religion of American politics, in a way comparable to the way other religions revere their own holy texts.

Professor Ulrich then announced, with some disappointment, that only 3 students–out of a response pool of approximately 180–wrote down the word slavery. This comment began the second half of her lecture, which might well have been titled, “A Short Break From American History to Glorify, Not the Founding Fathers, But Barack Obama.” Professor Ulrich, after mentioning the (real and disturbing) relationship between the founding fathers and slavery, proceeded to play, on two massive projector screens, the first few minutes of Barack Obama’s famed speech on race in Philadelphia this past March.

After the video, Professor Ulrich led a choir of some ten or so students in a discussion of how the speech so perfectly captured and dissected all the issues that we had discussed earlier. She mentioned how Obama’s use of the term “original sin” to refer to slavery used the religious language discussed by Maier, “but,” Ulrich said, “in a very different way.” In other words, to use religious language to honor the United States is foolish, but to use it to criticize and point out the failures of the United States is necessary.

Probably the most important thing I learned from the discussion of Obama’s speech, however, was this unqualified yet penetrating insight given by Professor Ulrich: Obama is “invoking all the right words about the Constitution.” It is an indisputable fact that the founding fathers failed to eradicate slavery. Slavery is a huge stain on the history of the United States. And the founding fathers had major flaws that allowed them to tolerate the continued existence of this intolerable practice. (Albeit, for many of the most revered ones, with a hefty amount of personal guilt.) But, after all, the U.S. fought a bloody and destructive war with itself over this very issue, to say nothing of the subsequent struggles and clashes of the civil rights movement. Ulrich mentioned neither of these facts.

At the end of the lecture, Professor Ulrich asked the students to think about a question for the next session: Can a flawed document (i.e. the U.S. Constitution) contain the means for its own redemption? I wanted to bellow out that the answer was staring the whole class in the face, on the two huge projector screens hanging from the ceiling of the lecture hall. Barack Obama’s historic primary win, and his solid chance of becoming the first black President of the United States, is the strongest possible answer to Professor Ulrich’s question. The mutability and responsiveness of that “flawed document” so egregiously allotted near-sacred status in our political lives allowed for a slow, painful, bloody, and costly enlargement of political and social liberties, an enlargement that has given a black man the chance to stand on the verge of becoming president of the same country that permitted for far too long the enslavement and repression of blacks.

This is not to say that Obama’s candidacy means that all racial issues in the U.S. are at an end, or that his election will somehow wipe clean the slate. Race has a tortured history in America, and will continue to, I suspect, for many years. But I still must ask myself whether any of my fellow undergrads realized the sad irony in Ulrich’s loaded question, when its answer lies in the candidate whom she and they so lovingly adore.

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Diaspora Denial

The phenomenon of Holocaust denial is well-known, but I had never heard of Diaspora denial—until now.  Any thanks should go to the English translation of Le Monde Diplomatique, which has published an article denying the existence of both the Babylonian and Roman exiles.  Its author—Shlomo Sand, a professor of modern European history at Tel Aviv University—claims that:

The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. . . .

Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

The opinion piece is a capsule version of Sand’s Hebrew-language book When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, which attempts to undermine all Jewish historical claims to a homeland in the land of Israel.  Just published in French translation, the book is an all-out assault not just on the standard understanding of Jewish history but on the very idea that there has ever been a Jewish nation.

In a devastatingly negative review, which describes the book’s treatment of Jewish sources as “embarrassing and humiliating” for its author, Ha’aretz summarizes Sand’s theme:

In his view, the homeland of the Jewish people is not Palestine, and most Jews are descendants of the members of different nations who converted to Judaism in ancient times and in the medieval period. He claims that the Jews of Yemen and Eastern Europe are descendants of pagans.

According to Sand, this historical truth was concealed by Zionist thinkers, who developed an ethno-biological ideology, and the so-called “Jewish people” was invented as late as the 19th century. Furthermore, he argues, the idea of a “nation” that was exiled from its homeland in ancient times and which is destined to return to it in the modern age so as to rebuild its independent state is merely an invented myth.

The reviewer, Israel Bartal, largely avoids discussing the latest research on the sources of Jewish ancestry—something Hillel Halkin engagingly surveyed in the September issue of COMMENTARY—but he does demonstrate that Sand grossly distorts the work of Jewish historians and utterly fails to undertand Jewish historiography.

Curiously, Le Monde Diplomatique seems to have been quite eager to publicize Sand’s anti-Zionist pseudo-scholarship.  Not only did it run his lengthy article, but back in March the magazine allowed the book to be plugged in its pages by Eric Rouleau, who just happens to be a former French ambassador to Turkey and Tunisia.

The phenomenon of Holocaust denial is well-known, but I had never heard of Diaspora denial—until now.  Any thanks should go to the English translation of Le Monde Diplomatique, which has published an article denying the existence of both the Babylonian and Roman exiles.  Its author—Shlomo Sand, a professor of modern European history at Tel Aviv University—claims that:

The general population of Judah did not go into 6th century BC exile: only its political and intellectual elite were forced to settle in Babylon. . . .

Then there is the question of the exile of 70 AD. There has been no real research into this turning point in Jewish history, the cause of the diaspora. And for a simple reason: the Romans never exiled any nation from anywhere on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean. Apart from enslaved prisoners, the population of Judea continued to live on their lands, even after the destruction of the second temple. Some converted to Christianity in the 4th century, while the majority embraced Islam during the 7th century Arab conquest.

The opinion piece is a capsule version of Sand’s Hebrew-language book When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, which attempts to undermine all Jewish historical claims to a homeland in the land of Israel.  Just published in French translation, the book is an all-out assault not just on the standard understanding of Jewish history but on the very idea that there has ever been a Jewish nation.

In a devastatingly negative review, which describes the book’s treatment of Jewish sources as “embarrassing and humiliating” for its author, Ha’aretz summarizes Sand’s theme:

In his view, the homeland of the Jewish people is not Palestine, and most Jews are descendants of the members of different nations who converted to Judaism in ancient times and in the medieval period. He claims that the Jews of Yemen and Eastern Europe are descendants of pagans.

According to Sand, this historical truth was concealed by Zionist thinkers, who developed an ethno-biological ideology, and the so-called “Jewish people” was invented as late as the 19th century. Furthermore, he argues, the idea of a “nation” that was exiled from its homeland in ancient times and which is destined to return to it in the modern age so as to rebuild its independent state is merely an invented myth.

The reviewer, Israel Bartal, largely avoids discussing the latest research on the sources of Jewish ancestry—something Hillel Halkin engagingly surveyed in the September issue of COMMENTARY—but he does demonstrate that Sand grossly distorts the work of Jewish historians and utterly fails to undertand Jewish historiography.

Curiously, Le Monde Diplomatique seems to have been quite eager to publicize Sand’s anti-Zionist pseudo-scholarship.  Not only did it run his lengthy article, but back in March the magazine allowed the book to be plugged in its pages by Eric Rouleau, who just happens to be a former French ambassador to Turkey and Tunisia.

Read Less




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