Commentary Magazine


Posts For: August 2, 2009

Insurance

We can hope that the American hikers detained by Iran on Friday will be released shortly, but it is not clear whether Iran’s recent history in this regard is the most useful guide. There may be more at work in the current situation than general suspicion of foreigners, state-to-state threats with hostages, and diplomatic posturing.

Iran’s historical pattern of detentions and hostage-taking is, of course, varied and well established. Recent years have seen the 2007 detention of Americans and British Royal Navy hostages in retaliation for U.S. forces’ seizure of Iranian officials in a raid in northern Iraq; the celebrated conviction and release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi in 2009; and the arrests in 2007, and again in July 2009, of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Tajbakhsh’s July 9 arrest occurred the same day the U.S. released to Iran the officials detained in the 2007 raid in Iraq. It also, of course, followed the disputed June 12 election and the detention of at least two foreign journalists along with hundreds of Iranians.

Iran arrests so many foreigners that we should be wary of making too much of a given case. But the detention of the American hikers has enough context in common with another detention — that of the American journalists in North Korea — to make the comparison worth reviewing.

Although the conditions of seizure were similar in both cases, with the Americans straying over unmarked borders, the situations of the detaining nations are even more significant. North Korea seized Laura Ling and Euna Lee in mid-March while preparing for a U.N.-prohibited rocket test launch. Since arresting them, North Korea has performed the controversial rocket launch in April, the country’s second-ever nuclear detonation in May, and some dozen missile-test launches in May and July — the largest flurry of such activity observed from North Korea in any single year, let alone in a four-month period. Asia analysts tie Kim Jong-Il’s string of high-profile weapons tests to the regime’s sense of vulnerability over internal succession questions. Bristling militarily, issuing threats, and impressing the domestic public with technological triumphs are intended as insurance against outside intervention and internal collapse.

In this context, holding on to the Americans is probably seen as additional insurance, for both the regime in Pyongyang and its testing program. Iran, with a predisposition to see hostages in this light anyway, shares key features of North Korea’s situation: internal regime vulnerabilities, U.N. sanctions due to a suspect nuclear program, and the need to immunize itself against intervention as the next steps in building a nuclear-weapons program are taken. Tehran has assuredly watched the North Korean hostage example closely. We can hope the American hikers seized on Friday do not become insurance for Iran. But as Iran’s inauguration of activities expressly prohibited by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nears, it should not surprise us if someone does.

We can hope that the American hikers detained by Iran on Friday will be released shortly, but it is not clear whether Iran’s recent history in this regard is the most useful guide. There may be more at work in the current situation than general suspicion of foreigners, state-to-state threats with hostages, and diplomatic posturing.

Iran’s historical pattern of detentions and hostage-taking is, of course, varied and well established. Recent years have seen the 2007 detention of Americans and British Royal Navy hostages in retaliation for U.S. forces’ seizure of Iranian officials in a raid in northern Iraq; the celebrated conviction and release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi in 2009; and the arrests in 2007, and again in July 2009, of Iranian-American scholar Kian Tajbakhsh. Tajbakhsh’s July 9 arrest occurred the same day the U.S. released to Iran the officials detained in the 2007 raid in Iraq. It also, of course, followed the disputed June 12 election and the detention of at least two foreign journalists along with hundreds of Iranians.

Iran arrests so many foreigners that we should be wary of making too much of a given case. But the detention of the American hikers has enough context in common with another detention — that of the American journalists in North Korea — to make the comparison worth reviewing.

Although the conditions of seizure were similar in both cases, with the Americans straying over unmarked borders, the situations of the detaining nations are even more significant. North Korea seized Laura Ling and Euna Lee in mid-March while preparing for a U.N.-prohibited rocket test launch. Since arresting them, North Korea has performed the controversial rocket launch in April, the country’s second-ever nuclear detonation in May, and some dozen missile-test launches in May and July — the largest flurry of such activity observed from North Korea in any single year, let alone in a four-month period. Asia analysts tie Kim Jong-Il’s string of high-profile weapons tests to the regime’s sense of vulnerability over internal succession questions. Bristling militarily, issuing threats, and impressing the domestic public with technological triumphs are intended as insurance against outside intervention and internal collapse.

In this context, holding on to the Americans is probably seen as additional insurance, for both the regime in Pyongyang and its testing program. Iran, with a predisposition to see hostages in this light anyway, shares key features of North Korea’s situation: internal regime vulnerabilities, U.N. sanctions due to a suspect nuclear program, and the need to immunize itself against intervention as the next steps in building a nuclear-weapons program are taken. Tehran has assuredly watched the North Korean hostage example closely. We can hope the American hikers seized on Friday do not become insurance for Iran. But as Iran’s inauguration of activities expressly prohibited by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nears, it should not surprise us if someone does.

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Bay Area Outrage

Abraham Miller gives us a peek at the descent into anti-Israel and anti-Semitic leftism that has gripped the Jewish community of the San Francisco Bay Area. The latest outrage was the Jewish Film Festival, at which the latest work of Simone Bitton, Rachel, was featured. Miller explains the background and the scene at the anti-Israel propaganda fest:

Simone Bitton is a French-Israeli director who numbers among the 479 Israelis who called for a complete boycott of Israel during the Israel Defense Forces incursion into Gaza to stop rockets from exploding in Sderot.

Obviously, Bitton exempted her own endeavors from the call. Bitton has now directed the film Rachel, a documentary on Rachel Corrie. If there is any doubt regarding Bitton’s politics or the film’s slant, note that the documentary tours film festivals along with Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother and a propagandist for the likes of Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement — groups committed to Israel’s destruction. One would expect Bitton’s work to be showcased by the usual gaggle of progressives and ultra-liberal church groups intent on destroying the Jewish state.

But in the San Francisco area? The Jewish Film Festival shows Bitton’s work. Peter Stein, the festival’s director, knew exactly what he was doing in selecting this film. Stein was familiar with both Bitton’s work and her politics. He invited the American Friends Service Committee, now helping with the boycott of Israeli goods, to participate in the showing.

(AFSC, you may recall, hosted a dinner in New York for Ahmadinejad in September 2008.) Those who attended the festival report that it predictably turned into a virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic crowd. The audience jeered a pro-Israel speaker and rooted for those boycotts and sanctions against Israel. A friend relates via e-mail that there were Nazi salutes and “Sieg Heil” screams. (Ron Radosh has more here.)

To be clear, this was an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation. Needless to say, the federation in San Francisco has been inundated with complaints. Yet the federation continues to defend its participation in the event and has refused to pull funding. The federation leadership instead continues to laud the film festival. It is all about the wonderful “diversity” of the Jewish community, the federation tells its critics.

But this is not an isolated event in the San Francisco Bay Area. As Miller and others have documented, with the full encouragement and support of the local federation and the Northern California Hillel, the Berkeley Hillel has become a hotbed of anti-Israel propaganda. Miller again explains:

For several years, Berkeley’s Hillel didn’t celebrate Passover, but it did celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that is not even celebrated throughout Mexico. But for leftist Jews, it’s better to align oneself with the revolt of the oppressed masses in Puebla, Mexico, than with Jews throwing off Pharaoh’s yoke of slavery.

Berkeley Hillel, under the ever-vigilant eye of the Jewish community, brought in the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine, a lead organization in the anti-Israel boycott, to disseminate its propaganda to impressionable and naïve Jewish students. Berkeley Hillel could not have better served the bidding of the anti-Israel left and their Muslim allies than if it had turned over the organization to them.

Other lowlights from the Berkeley Hillel: smearing Orthodox Jews in its Valentine’s Day invitation posted on Facebook, participation in “Israel Apartheid Week,” holding a dance party on Yom Ha’Shoah, and actively discouraging students from marching in support of Israel and displaying the Israeli flag during the Gaza incursion.

This is the “Jewish Left” in all its glory — embracing those who would destroy Israel, reveling in the camaraderie of Palestinian extremists, and determined to ostracize and vilify Israel. Why those in the Bay Area Jewish community who do not share these views have not risen up to put an end to this charade remains a mystery. But clearly, the enemies of Israel have no greater friends than those who are helping to carry out their aims – all in the name of the “Jewish community.”

Abraham Miller gives us a peek at the descent into anti-Israel and anti-Semitic leftism that has gripped the Jewish community of the San Francisco Bay Area. The latest outrage was the Jewish Film Festival, at which the latest work of Simone Bitton, Rachel, was featured. Miller explains the background and the scene at the anti-Israel propaganda fest:

Simone Bitton is a French-Israeli director who numbers among the 479 Israelis who called for a complete boycott of Israel during the Israel Defense Forces incursion into Gaza to stop rockets from exploding in Sderot.

Obviously, Bitton exempted her own endeavors from the call. Bitton has now directed the film Rachel, a documentary on Rachel Corrie. If there is any doubt regarding Bitton’s politics or the film’s slant, note that the documentary tours film festivals along with Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother and a propagandist for the likes of Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement — groups committed to Israel’s destruction. One would expect Bitton’s work to be showcased by the usual gaggle of progressives and ultra-liberal church groups intent on destroying the Jewish state.

But in the San Francisco area? The Jewish Film Festival shows Bitton’s work. Peter Stein, the festival’s director, knew exactly what he was doing in selecting this film. Stein was familiar with both Bitton’s work and her politics. He invited the American Friends Service Committee, now helping with the boycott of Israeli goods, to participate in the showing.

(AFSC, you may recall, hosted a dinner in New York for Ahmadinejad in September 2008.) Those who attended the festival report that it predictably turned into a virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic crowd. The audience jeered a pro-Israel speaker and rooted for those boycotts and sanctions against Israel. A friend relates via e-mail that there were Nazi salutes and “Sieg Heil” screams. (Ron Radosh has more here.)

To be clear, this was an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation. Needless to say, the federation in San Francisco has been inundated with complaints. Yet the federation continues to defend its participation in the event and has refused to pull funding. The federation leadership instead continues to laud the film festival. It is all about the wonderful “diversity” of the Jewish community, the federation tells its critics.

But this is not an isolated event in the San Francisco Bay Area. As Miller and others have documented, with the full encouragement and support of the local federation and the Northern California Hillel, the Berkeley Hillel has become a hotbed of anti-Israel propaganda. Miller again explains:

For several years, Berkeley’s Hillel didn’t celebrate Passover, but it did celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that is not even celebrated throughout Mexico. But for leftist Jews, it’s better to align oneself with the revolt of the oppressed masses in Puebla, Mexico, than with Jews throwing off Pharaoh’s yoke of slavery.

Berkeley Hillel, under the ever-vigilant eye of the Jewish community, brought in the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine, a lead organization in the anti-Israel boycott, to disseminate its propaganda to impressionable and naïve Jewish students. Berkeley Hillel could not have better served the bidding of the anti-Israel left and their Muslim allies than if it had turned over the organization to them.

Other lowlights from the Berkeley Hillel: smearing Orthodox Jews in its Valentine’s Day invitation posted on Facebook, participation in “Israel Apartheid Week,” holding a dance party on Yom Ha’Shoah, and actively discouraging students from marching in support of Israel and displaying the Israeli flag during the Gaza incursion.

This is the “Jewish Left” in all its glory — embracing those who would destroy Israel, reveling in the camaraderie of Palestinian extremists, and determined to ostracize and vilify Israel. Why those in the Bay Area Jewish community who do not share these views have not risen up to put an end to this charade remains a mystery. But clearly, the enemies of Israel have no greater friends than those who are helping to carry out their aims – all in the name of the “Jewish community.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Bob Herbert is convinced minorities are the victims of a disproportionate number of police stops. But wait – they commit a disproportionate number of crimes, as his own statistics show. (As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.) Unless one is to believe there is an undetected crime wave of white criminals (or wrongfully convicted blacks), it seems there isn’t anything terribly awry here. Herbert nevertheless demands that minorities should ”roar out their anger at such treatment, lift up their voices and demand change.” As we saw with Professor Gates and Obama, the race victim mongers don’t need any evidence of discrimination to keep their story line alive.

Covering a focus group, Slate‘s John Dickerson pleads with Obama to slow down: “There were lots of concerns expressed on everything from the growth of spending to the Wall Street bailouts. But speed was the big issue. ‘People just need to breathe,’ said [pollster Peter] Hart. ‘It’s like trying to shove a meal down in a minute. These people are saying, ‘Slow down, Mr. President.’ This echoed something I’d heard earlier in the day from House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talking about the Blue Dog Democrats, who were slowing the pace of health care legislation in the House, Boehner said: ‘It’s not surprising these members would have to stand up and say ‘stop.’ That’s what most Americans are saying.’” To the dismay of Rahm Emanuel (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”), Americans seem not to want a leftist revolution.

Former HSS secretary Michael Leavitt on why ObamaCare has stalled: “Simply stated: Partisan overreach. The Democrats produced a bill that is simply over the top on federal government control and that includes more new taxes than our economy can stand. It is just too much Washington.” As he notes, the Obama crowd missed the lesson of HillaryCare. The moral wasn’t to let Congress write the bill; it was not to freak out the American people.

Nearing the anniversary of the invasion of Georgia, Russia is once again making threats. Didn’t they hit the reset button? Oh, that was only us.

Matthew Continetti: “One can’t help noticing that the more Obama talks about his health plan, the less the public supports it. Why? Partly because voters have connected the dots between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Obamacare. They have seen the meager results and huge deficits that the stimulus produced, and can’t come up with a good reason to embark on yet another government shopping spree. For the public, the stimulus was bad economic medicine. Now Obama wants it to try another, unapproved experimental drug.”

Cash for Clunkers” has raised the ire of John McCain and some Senate Democrats. Say what you will; the car dealerships in my area were jammed on Saturday.

Democrats think about jamming health care through on 51 votes in the Senate: “With bipartisan health care negotiations teetering, Democrats are talking reluctantly — and very, very quietly — about exploiting a procedural loophole they planted in this year’s budget to skirt Republican filibusters against a health care overhaul. The Democrats are talking reluctantly because using the tactic, which is officially known as reconciliation, would present a variety of serious procedural and substantive obstacles that could result in a piece-meal health bill. And they are whispering because the mere mention of reconciliation touches partisan nerves and could be viewed as a threat by the three Republicans still engaged in the sensitive health talks, causing them to collapse.” So don’t tell anyone.

Bob Herbert is convinced minorities are the victims of a disproportionate number of police stops. But wait – they commit a disproportionate number of crimes, as his own statistics show. (As of mid-2008, there were 4,777 black men imprisoned in America for every 100,000 black men in the population. By comparison, there were only 727 white male inmates per 100,000 white men.) Unless one is to believe there is an undetected crime wave of white criminals (or wrongfully convicted blacks), it seems there isn’t anything terribly awry here. Herbert nevertheless demands that minorities should ”roar out their anger at such treatment, lift up their voices and demand change.” As we saw with Professor Gates and Obama, the race victim mongers don’t need any evidence of discrimination to keep their story line alive.

Covering a focus group, Slate‘s John Dickerson pleads with Obama to slow down: “There were lots of concerns expressed on everything from the growth of spending to the Wall Street bailouts. But speed was the big issue. ‘People just need to breathe,’ said [pollster Peter] Hart. ‘It’s like trying to shove a meal down in a minute. These people are saying, ‘Slow down, Mr. President.’ This echoed something I’d heard earlier in the day from House Minority Leader John Boehner. Talking about the Blue Dog Democrats, who were slowing the pace of health care legislation in the House, Boehner said: ‘It’s not surprising these members would have to stand up and say ‘stop.’ That’s what most Americans are saying.’” To the dismay of Rahm Emanuel (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste”), Americans seem not to want a leftist revolution.

Former HSS secretary Michael Leavitt on why ObamaCare has stalled: “Simply stated: Partisan overreach. The Democrats produced a bill that is simply over the top on federal government control and that includes more new taxes than our economy can stand. It is just too much Washington.” As he notes, the Obama crowd missed the lesson of HillaryCare. The moral wasn’t to let Congress write the bill; it was not to freak out the American people.

Nearing the anniversary of the invasion of Georgia, Russia is once again making threats. Didn’t they hit the reset button? Oh, that was only us.

Matthew Continetti: “One can’t help noticing that the more Obama talks about his health plan, the less the public supports it. Why? Partly because voters have connected the dots between the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Obamacare. They have seen the meager results and huge deficits that the stimulus produced, and can’t come up with a good reason to embark on yet another government shopping spree. For the public, the stimulus was bad economic medicine. Now Obama wants it to try another, unapproved experimental drug.”

Cash for Clunkers” has raised the ire of John McCain and some Senate Democrats. Say what you will; the car dealerships in my area were jammed on Saturday.

Democrats think about jamming health care through on 51 votes in the Senate: “With bipartisan health care negotiations teetering, Democrats are talking reluctantly — and very, very quietly — about exploiting a procedural loophole they planted in this year’s budget to skirt Republican filibusters against a health care overhaul. The Democrats are talking reluctantly because using the tactic, which is officially known as reconciliation, would present a variety of serious procedural and substantive obstacles that could result in a piece-meal health bill. And they are whispering because the mere mention of reconciliation touches partisan nerves and could be viewed as a threat by the three Republicans still engaged in the sensitive health talks, causing them to collapse.” So don’t tell anyone.

Read Less