Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 30, 2010

Passport Fraud and Double Standards

The excellent British organization Just Journalism has a report out today comparing the remarkable calm with which the latest instance of passport fraud has been treated with the hysterics that followed the Dubai assassination:

An editorial published by The Guardian following the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK following the Dubai affair: ‘Israel and Britain: The rule of law,’ (24 March 2010) carried the sub-head, ‘The forging of British passports is the work of a country which believes it can act with impunity when planning the murder of its enemies’. The piece described the faking of UK passports as ‘the mark[s] of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself.’ In today’s editorial, ‘Russian espionage: Spies like us,’ in the same newspaper, the alleged use of a forged UK passport failed to even elicit a mention.

Well, that’s because in the current case the passport forgers are not Jews.

What would be far better than reports from interest groups, though, are some statements from Israeli political leaders, shaming Britain for its hypocrisy. Given the British media’s hyper-obsession with Israel, such statements would surely receive a great deal of coverage — coverage that would invariably have to deal with the question of double standards, rather than with imagined Israeli crimes. That’s why it’s important to seize opportunities to be the accuser instead of waiting around to play the role of the accused.

The excellent British organization Just Journalism has a report out today comparing the remarkable calm with which the latest instance of passport fraud has been treated with the hysterics that followed the Dubai assassination:

An editorial published by The Guardian following the expulsion of an Israeli diplomat from the UK following the Dubai affair: ‘Israel and Britain: The rule of law,’ (24 March 2010) carried the sub-head, ‘The forging of British passports is the work of a country which believes it can act with impunity when planning the murder of its enemies’. The piece described the faking of UK passports as ‘the mark[s] of an arrogant nation that has overreached itself.’ In today’s editorial, ‘Russian espionage: Spies like us,’ in the same newspaper, the alleged use of a forged UK passport failed to even elicit a mention.

Well, that’s because in the current case the passport forgers are not Jews.

What would be far better than reports from interest groups, though, are some statements from Israeli political leaders, shaming Britain for its hypocrisy. Given the British media’s hyper-obsession with Israel, such statements would surely receive a great deal of coverage — coverage that would invariably have to deal with the question of double standards, rather than with imagined Israeli crimes. That’s why it’s important to seize opportunities to be the accuser instead of waiting around to play the role of the accused.

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Kagan Hearing: Just Say No

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

That’s what Sen. Arlen Specter – unbound and without any re-election prospects — suggested the Senate do when confronted with a nominee like Elena Kagan who gives no real substantive answers. It took a defeat in a primary, but Specter has articulated a principled and highly defensible position.

As for the partial-birth-abortion controversy, Kagan fenced over whether the memo was even in her handwriting. (Is this supposed to increase our confidence in her credibility and forthrightness?) And then she gave an answer that is simply not believable: namely, that she was simply reflecting or summarizing the work of the medical experts. Shannen Coffin, who brought forth the issue, explains:

[A]ny suggestion that her work was merely the synthesis of the task force’s deliberations doesn’t account for that time line — she had no interaction with the task force itself, only the executive board of ACOG.

Second and more significant, the White House had already met with ACOG’s former president and current chief lobbyist (to whom Kagan’s revisions were addressed) in June 1996, before the special task force was even formed. At that meeting (which apparently Kagan did not attend but recounted in a memo to her bosses, dated June 22, 1996), Kagan wrote that the White House staffers were basically told that ACOG couldn’t identify any particular circumstances where the procedure was medically necessary.

Coffin is right to focus on Kagan’s own words. She admits that the factual basis for objecting to a partial-birth-abortion ban is bogus:

First, there are an exceedingly small number of partial birth abortions that could meet the standard the President has articulated. In the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman’s health; another option — whether another abortion procedure or, in the post-viability context, birth through a caesarean section, induced labor, or carrying the pregnancy to term — is equally safe. … I will spare you all the medical details here. Suffice it to say that we went through every circumstance imaginable — post- and pre-viability, assuming malformed fetuses, assuming other medical conditions, etc., etc. — and there just aren’t many where use of the partial-birth abortion is the least risky, let alone the “necessary,” approach. … Second and relatedly, of the five women who came to the White House, only two can truly say (though they all apparently believe) that the partial birth procedure was the least risky of their alternatives.

Then she says that, nevertheless, facts shouldn’t stand in the way:

Those present at the meeting all agreed, on the basis of the thoroughness and care of the ACOG presentation, that these two points are probably just true, rather than a matter of medical opinion. (Betsy Myers and Jeremy Ben-Ami, neither of whom attended the meeting, have expressed the view that some other doctor might say something different.) At the same time, none of us think that this information should cause us to change the standard the President has articulated or the rhetoric he has used.

So a report was crafted that did NOT reflect the ACOG’s views but instead supported the president’s political agenda. That Kagan participated in this is bad enough. That she allowed her work to be presented to a court as that of neutral experts was essentially a fraud. The ABA Model rules don’t specifically address this type of issue, but several — 3.3, 3.4, and 4.1 (an attorney shall not “fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client”) – make clear that a lawyer’s obligation is to prevent false information and specious arguments from corrupting the administration of justice. This Kagan did not do.

I don’t see how senators can conclude that this was ethical behavior or that she is entitled to sit on the highest court in the land.

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CENTCOM’s ‘Red Team’ Hearts Hamas and Hezbollah

It appears that the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups have some friends in a rather unlikely niche of the American military. While the Obama administration has maintained the line that both these groups are terrorist and threats to peace, some senior intelligence officers at the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) think the United States should be making nice with them.

According to Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy, a leaked memo that was issued on May 7 by a CENTCOM “Red Team” asserts that the United States ought to be advocating for Hezbollah’s integration into the Lebanese Armed Forces and a Hamas-Fatah merger for the Palestinians. He quotes the report as characterizing the Islamist terror groups as “pragmatic and opportunistic” and plays down the close ties between them and Iran, for which they are widely viewed as local proxies. The memo compared Hezbollah with the post–Good Friday Agreement Irish Republican Army and seems to envision its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, becoming the Gerry Adams of Lebanon and a force for peace. As for Hamas, not only did the report boost that Islamist group, but it also dismissed the much-touted efforts of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton in helping to train a new Palestinian security force that would control terrorism.

Red Team reports are supposed to challenge existing policies and attitudes, but according to Perry, this apologia for Hamas and Hezbollah and repudiation of efforts to isolate these terror organizations actually “reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters — and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.”

If that is so, then it is a matter of deep concern for those who worry about the future of the Middle East. While the Obama administration has sought to distance itself from Israel, it has nevertheless resisted the temptation to repudiate the basic principles of American policy, which has always insisted that such groups must repudiate terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, and adhere to existing peace agreements before they can seek U.S. recognition, let alone the sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that the CENTCOM Red Team believes should be given to them. Moreover, the memo’s repudiation of efforts to aid Palestinian moderates ought to give Israelis pause. Both Israel and the United States have been active in supporting the efforts of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s attempts to create an infrastructure that could resist Hamas and become a credible partner for peace. But calling for Hamas to be integrated into the forces that Dayton is training is tantamount to saying that the two-state solution is dead and that Israel is, more or less, on its own as it faces the challenge of Palestinian terror.

There are many problems with the Red Team’s point of view, but the chief objection is that it completely misunderstands the power of extremist religion in determining the policies of both Hamas and Hezbollah. Both are guided by Islamist ideas that utterly reject the legitimacy of Israel and are steeped in anti-Jewish and anti-Western hatred. The notion that they can be house trained in the way that the Red Team envisions is not only ridiculous but also bespeaks a Western mindset that has no comprehension of extremist Islamic or Arabic political culture.

While there is no reason to believe that either the administration or outgoing CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus has endorsed this radical departure from American anti-terror policy, the leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process. If many in the U.S. military are willing to rationalize Hamas and Hezbollah in the way this memo does, then Israelis may be forgiven for concluding that perhaps they need to re-evaluate their own faith in American guarantees of the security of the Jewish state.

It appears that the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups have some friends in a rather unlikely niche of the American military. While the Obama administration has maintained the line that both these groups are terrorist and threats to peace, some senior intelligence officers at the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) think the United States should be making nice with them.

According to Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy, a leaked memo that was issued on May 7 by a CENTCOM “Red Team” asserts that the United States ought to be advocating for Hezbollah’s integration into the Lebanese Armed Forces and a Hamas-Fatah merger for the Palestinians. He quotes the report as characterizing the Islamist terror groups as “pragmatic and opportunistic” and plays down the close ties between them and Iran, for which they are widely viewed as local proxies. The memo compared Hezbollah with the post–Good Friday Agreement Irish Republican Army and seems to envision its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, becoming the Gerry Adams of Lebanon and a force for peace. As for Hamas, not only did the report boost that Islamist group, but it also dismissed the much-touted efforts of Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton in helping to train a new Palestinian security force that would control terrorism.

Red Team reports are supposed to challenge existing policies and attitudes, but according to Perry, this apologia for Hamas and Hezbollah and repudiation of efforts to isolate these terror organizations actually “reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters — and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.”

If that is so, then it is a matter of deep concern for those who worry about the future of the Middle East. While the Obama administration has sought to distance itself from Israel, it has nevertheless resisted the temptation to repudiate the basic principles of American policy, which has always insisted that such groups must repudiate terrorism, recognize the State of Israel, and adhere to existing peace agreements before they can seek U.S. recognition, let alone the sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that the CENTCOM Red Team believes should be given to them. Moreover, the memo’s repudiation of efforts to aid Palestinian moderates ought to give Israelis pause. Both Israel and the United States have been active in supporting the efforts of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s attempts to create an infrastructure that could resist Hamas and become a credible partner for peace. But calling for Hamas to be integrated into the forces that Dayton is training is tantamount to saying that the two-state solution is dead and that Israel is, more or less, on its own as it faces the challenge of Palestinian terror.

There are many problems with the Red Team’s point of view, but the chief objection is that it completely misunderstands the power of extremist religion in determining the policies of both Hamas and Hezbollah. Both are guided by Islamist ideas that utterly reject the legitimacy of Israel and are steeped in anti-Jewish and anti-Western hatred. The notion that they can be house trained in the way that the Red Team envisions is not only ridiculous but also bespeaks a Western mindset that has no comprehension of extremist Islamic or Arabic political culture.

While there is no reason to believe that either the administration or outgoing CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus has endorsed this radical departure from American anti-terror policy, the leaking of this memo and the notion that it represents the opinions of many in the Pentagon ought to scare Israelis and leave them less willing than ever to make the sorts of concessions Washington believes can strengthen the peace process. If many in the U.S. military are willing to rationalize Hamas and Hezbollah in the way this memo does, then Israelis may be forgiven for concluding that perhaps they need to re-evaluate their own faith in American guarantees of the security of the Jewish state.

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No Shortage of ‘Barbarians’ to Oppose Peace

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman closes his column today by quoting Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar, who believes Israel’s right-wingers hold on to the “no’s” of their Arab antagonists for dear life. To bolster this argument, Eldar quotes Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” in which a Byzantine narrator asks, “What’s going to happen to us without barbarians?”

While Friedman devotes his space on the op-ed page to a 700-word mash note to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Eldar column he quotes is devoted to resurrecting one of Friedman’s own publicity stunts — the so-called Saudi peace proposal of 2002 — and representing it as an example of how Israel has turned down a chance to end the conflict. That bit of nonsense, which was first broached in a Friedman column, supposedly offered Israel the recognition of the entire Arab world as long as it surrendered every inch of land it won in the 1967 Six-Day War. That this so-called peace proposal also included the demand that Israel allow millions of the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees to “return” — which would mean an end to the Jewish state — is a mere detail that can be ignored as far as Eldar is concerned. In other words, rather than a peace proposal, it was merely a demand for a unilateral Israeli surrender.

Even Friedman doesn’t talk much about the Saudi initiative anymore, but that doesn’t stop Eldar from pretending that it was a genuine opportunity for peace.

As for Friedman, his enthusiasm for Fayyad and his new Palestinian bureaucracy and security force is unbridled. But contrary to the implication of his column, Israel is not only willing to talk to Fayyad; it is his greatest booster, as the “hard-line” Netanyahu government has closed checkpoints and done all in its power to keep the PA government going.

But the problem for Fayyad as well as for Israel is those barbarians who Eldar pretends don’t exist anymore. The Islamist terrorists of Hamas hold Gaza in a totalitarian grip that has been strengthened by international support for lifting the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the region. And Fayyad and his boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, remain on their perches in the West Bank largely due to the protection and patronage of Israel’s security forces, which keep Abbas’s own Fatah terrorists and the threat of Hamas at bay.

If the terrorists of Hamas and Fatah were tiny and relatively harmless factions without a following in Palestinian society, Eldar and Friedman might well be right to deride Israel for fearing a barbarian threat from extremists. But as both of them well know, it is Fayyad and the fraction of the Palestinian public that supports “Fayyadism” — as Friedman likes to call it — that is the minority phenomenon and the supporters of violence and rejection of Israel’s legitimacy that are the overwhelming majority. That’s why Abbas and Fayyad (who has lately tried to burnish his image in the Palestinian street by staging public burnings of Israeli goods he wants his people to boycott) won’t negotiate directly with Israel and actually turned down the offer of a state that included the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well as Gaza and the West Bank from Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert only two years ago. They know that if they ever accepted an Israeli peace offer, their future in Palestinian politics, not to mention their lives, would be in great danger.

Far from fearing a barbarian threat that no longer exists, the real barbarians are still very much at Israel’s gate and have their hands around the throats of Palestinian moderates. Until that changes, far from being the truth-telling realists they claim to be, Friedman and Eldar remain mere fantasists with an ideological axe to grind against Netanyahu.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman closes his column today by quoting Haaretz’s Akiva Eldar, who believes Israel’s right-wingers hold on to the “no’s” of their Arab antagonists for dear life. To bolster this argument, Eldar quotes Greek-Egyptian poet Constantine Cavafy’s poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” in which a Byzantine narrator asks, “What’s going to happen to us without barbarians?”

While Friedman devotes his space on the op-ed page to a 700-word mash note to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Eldar column he quotes is devoted to resurrecting one of Friedman’s own publicity stunts — the so-called Saudi peace proposal of 2002 — and representing it as an example of how Israel has turned down a chance to end the conflict. That bit of nonsense, which was first broached in a Friedman column, supposedly offered Israel the recognition of the entire Arab world as long as it surrendered every inch of land it won in the 1967 Six-Day War. That this so-called peace proposal also included the demand that Israel allow millions of the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees to “return” — which would mean an end to the Jewish state — is a mere detail that can be ignored as far as Eldar is concerned. In other words, rather than a peace proposal, it was merely a demand for a unilateral Israeli surrender.

Even Friedman doesn’t talk much about the Saudi initiative anymore, but that doesn’t stop Eldar from pretending that it was a genuine opportunity for peace.

As for Friedman, his enthusiasm for Fayyad and his new Palestinian bureaucracy and security force is unbridled. But contrary to the implication of his column, Israel is not only willing to talk to Fayyad; it is his greatest booster, as the “hard-line” Netanyahu government has closed checkpoints and done all in its power to keep the PA government going.

But the problem for Fayyad as well as for Israel is those barbarians who Eldar pretends don’t exist anymore. The Islamist terrorists of Hamas hold Gaza in a totalitarian grip that has been strengthened by international support for lifting the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the region. And Fayyad and his boss, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, remain on their perches in the West Bank largely due to the protection and patronage of Israel’s security forces, which keep Abbas’s own Fatah terrorists and the threat of Hamas at bay.

If the terrorists of Hamas and Fatah were tiny and relatively harmless factions without a following in Palestinian society, Eldar and Friedman might well be right to deride Israel for fearing a barbarian threat from extremists. But as both of them well know, it is Fayyad and the fraction of the Palestinian public that supports “Fayyadism” — as Friedman likes to call it — that is the minority phenomenon and the supporters of violence and rejection of Israel’s legitimacy that are the overwhelming majority. That’s why Abbas and Fayyad (who has lately tried to burnish his image in the Palestinian street by staging public burnings of Israeli goods he wants his people to boycott) won’t negotiate directly with Israel and actually turned down the offer of a state that included the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as well as Gaza and the West Bank from Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert only two years ago. They know that if they ever accepted an Israeli peace offer, their future in Palestinian politics, not to mention their lives, would be in great danger.

Far from fearing a barbarian threat that no longer exists, the real barbarians are still very much at Israel’s gate and have their hands around the throats of Palestinian moderates. Until that changes, far from being the truth-telling realists they claim to be, Friedman and Eldar remain mere fantasists with an ideological axe to grind against Netanyahu.

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Oren’s Interview

Michael Oren has given yet another interview. One never knows whether to expect the Candid Oren or the Obama-Ingratiating Oren. His job requires a measure of both and to date he’s not been all that successful in balancing the two. This time he gives us some candor — suggesting that the Obama team will see things Israel’s way once it acquires more experience, pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress who have turned anti-Israel (in contrast to an earlier interview, in which he chastised critics of Obama’s Israel policy) and acknowledging that sanctions may actually spur Iran to step up its “proxy war on Israel and on the West.” He tells us that at the next meeting of Bibi with Obama there will be plenty of photographers to remove the perception of “snubbery” — which reminds us all that snubbery was the order of the day at the last get together.

But it is clear that Oren must walk on eggshells. The shift in U.S. policies, he insists, has both “positive and negative consequences.” (What are the positive ones? Hmm. He doesn’t say.) And he confesses that he has neither asked nor been told whether the U.S. would block a UN effort to launch its own flotilla investigation. If you have to ask, it’s not a good sign, certainly.

It is hard for even the most skilled diplomatist to disguise the truth: the U.S.-Israel relationship is more frosty than at any time in recent memory — and the Israelis are hoping (at least in public) that inexperience, rather than animus, accounts for Obama’s conduct toward the Jewish state. Israel, no doubt, is working hard on plans to defuse the existential threat it faces, since betting on Obama to come through is a gamble no Israeli government can undertake.

Michael Oren has given yet another interview. One never knows whether to expect the Candid Oren or the Obama-Ingratiating Oren. His job requires a measure of both and to date he’s not been all that successful in balancing the two. This time he gives us some candor — suggesting that the Obama team will see things Israel’s way once it acquires more experience, pointing the finger at Democrats in Congress who have turned anti-Israel (in contrast to an earlier interview, in which he chastised critics of Obama’s Israel policy) and acknowledging that sanctions may actually spur Iran to step up its “proxy war on Israel and on the West.” He tells us that at the next meeting of Bibi with Obama there will be plenty of photographers to remove the perception of “snubbery” — which reminds us all that snubbery was the order of the day at the last get together.

But it is clear that Oren must walk on eggshells. The shift in U.S. policies, he insists, has both “positive and negative consequences.” (What are the positive ones? Hmm. He doesn’t say.) And he confesses that he has neither asked nor been told whether the U.S. would block a UN effort to launch its own flotilla investigation. If you have to ask, it’s not a good sign, certainly.

It is hard for even the most skilled diplomatist to disguise the truth: the U.S.-Israel relationship is more frosty than at any time in recent memory — and the Israelis are hoping (at least in public) that inexperience, rather than animus, accounts for Obama’s conduct toward the Jewish state. Israel, no doubt, is working hard on plans to defuse the existential threat it faces, since betting on Obama to come through is a gamble no Israeli government can undertake.

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International Outrage, Please

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

There are stories in the news right now that in most of their themes are similar to stories that recently set off waves of condemnation and hysteria in much of the world, especially in the delicate global conscience of “the international community.”

In the Gaza Strip, many of the residents have been left without electricity because of a fight that shut down the Strip’s power plant. Palestinians are suffering, with nothing to relieve the daytime heat and the nighttime darkness — but the world yawns.

In a nearby part of the Middle East, an unprovoked and disproportionate attack against civilians destroyed a building and damaged others. The EU has not called for an investigation, and currently the UN Security Council has not been convened to discuss this act of war. Remarkably, this aggression is not even mentioned on the front pages of British newspapers, which normally cover attacks on civilians in this region with great attentiveness.

Also in the Middle East, a repressive regime is razing the homes of a persecuted minority. According to reports, 90 percent of the buildings owned by this minority group have been destroyed in these acts of discrimination and ethnic cleansing. Surprisingly, the UN secretary-general and the Obama administration — which have both publicly and repeatedly criticized Israel for legally demolishing buildings that were constructed in violation of zoning laws — have said nothing about this grave offense.

Elsewhere, it has been discovered that a major figure in a spy ring that has just been broken up had been using a forged British passport for her travels — and we all know what happens when someone is accused of using a forged British passport: two weeks of utter pandemonium in the British media; journalists, politicians, and concerned citizens become profoundly shocked and appalled; the foreign secretary promises investigation, punishment, and diplomatic fallout; the intelligence relationship with the offending country is downgraded; and so on.

But today the denunciations are absent, the criticism muted, the calls for investigation nonexistent, and the world’s attention fixed firmly on other issues. Why could this be?

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RE: Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?

ABC News, by far the most diligent of the broadcast network news outlets, has stepped up to the plate on the Blago case, with an informative report and a segment on the nightly news.

Conservatives rightly bash mainstream outlets when they are too docile in covering Obama, but when one does its job, it deserves some praise. So where are the rest of the media?

ABC News, by far the most diligent of the broadcast network news outlets, has stepped up to the plate on the Blago case, with an informative report and a segment on the nightly news.

Conservatives rightly bash mainstream outlets when they are too docile in covering Obama, but when one does its job, it deserves some praise. So where are the rest of the media?

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Bank Tax Eliminated

Well, score one for alert anti-tax conservatives:

Congressional negotiators briefly reopened the conference proceedings on a sweeping financial regulatory bill on Tuesday after Senate Republicans who had supported an earlier version of the measure threatened to block final approval unless Democrats removed a proposed tax on big banks and hedge funds. Conference negotiators voted to eliminate the proposed tax and adopted a new plan to pay the projected five-year, $20 billion cost of the legislation.

The glass-half-full crowd will be pleased that another effort to pass a noxious, anti-growth tax has been stymied. The half-empty set will bemoan the fact that the bill can now be passed.

On this one, I think the half-fullers have it right. For one thing, even the New York Times concedes, “The need to reopen negotiations was slightly embarrassing for Democrats and represented a price they had paid for rushing to complete the legislation.” Yeah, slightly. And it reinforced the case that the Democrats, if they could, would grind the economy to a standstill with an array of punitive taxes. In sum, the tax was awful policy, the very sort of thing conservatives should work furiously to prevent. That they did so successfully in this case is both good politics and good for the country.

Well, score one for alert anti-tax conservatives:

Congressional negotiators briefly reopened the conference proceedings on a sweeping financial regulatory bill on Tuesday after Senate Republicans who had supported an earlier version of the measure threatened to block final approval unless Democrats removed a proposed tax on big banks and hedge funds. Conference negotiators voted to eliminate the proposed tax and adopted a new plan to pay the projected five-year, $20 billion cost of the legislation.

The glass-half-full crowd will be pleased that another effort to pass a noxious, anti-growth tax has been stymied. The half-empty set will bemoan the fact that the bill can now be passed.

On this one, I think the half-fullers have it right. For one thing, even the New York Times concedes, “The need to reopen negotiations was slightly embarrassing for Democrats and represented a price they had paid for rushing to complete the legislation.” Yeah, slightly. And it reinforced the case that the Democrats, if they could, would grind the economy to a standstill with an array of punitive taxes. In sum, the tax was awful policy, the very sort of thing conservatives should work furiously to prevent. That they did so successfully in this case is both good politics and good for the country.

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Kagan’s Political “Scrawling” Catches Up with Her

Yuval Levin provides a useful summary of perhaps the only revelation — and potential deal-breaker — in the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings. Yuval explains:

It seems that the most important statement in the famous position paper of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—a 1996 document that was central to the case of partial-birth-abortion defenders for the subsequent decade and played a major role in a number of court cases and political battles—was drafted not by an impartial committee of physicians, as both ACOG and the pro-abortion lobby claimed for years, but by Elena Kagan, who was then the deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.

Kagan saw ACOG’s original paper, which did not include the claim that partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman,” but, on the contrary, said that ACOG “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure … would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” … In notes released by the White House it now looks as though Kagan herself—a senior Clinton White House staffer with no medical background—proposed the “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman” language, and sent it to ACOG, which then included that language in its final statement.

This, as Yuval points out, is not only a shocking “violation of the boundary between scientific expertise and politics”; it is also an outright deception that was subsequently used in litigation by partial-birth-abortion defenders. The former deputy attorney general who defended the partial-birth-abortion ban during the Bush administration, Shannen Coffin, brought the story to light. He reminds us: “U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, one of the three federal judges that issued orders enjoining the federal ban (later overturned by the Supreme Court), devoted more than 15 pages of his lengthy opinion to ACOG’s policy statement and the integrity of the process that led to it.” Had the judge known it was not the work of scientific gurus but that of a Clinton staffer (“nothing more than the political scrawling of a White House appointee”), one can imagine he wouldn’t have spent a sentence, let alone 15 pages, on it.

Some senator should have the wherewithal to take this on and require that Kagan explain herself. Not only is it, if accurate, a disqualifying episode for a Supreme Court justice; it is grounds for a solicitor general to step down. And her failure to advise the courts — which believed they were relying on neutral, expert testimony — constitutes a significant ethical breach.

Yuval Levin provides a useful summary of perhaps the only revelation — and potential deal-breaker — in the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings. Yuval explains:

It seems that the most important statement in the famous position paper of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—a 1996 document that was central to the case of partial-birth-abortion defenders for the subsequent decade and played a major role in a number of court cases and political battles—was drafted not by an impartial committee of physicians, as both ACOG and the pro-abortion lobby claimed for years, but by Elena Kagan, who was then the deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy.

Kagan saw ACOG’s original paper, which did not include the claim that partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman,” but, on the contrary, said that ACOG “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure … would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” … In notes released by the White House it now looks as though Kagan herself—a senior Clinton White House staffer with no medical background—proposed the “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman” language, and sent it to ACOG, which then included that language in its final statement.

This, as Yuval points out, is not only a shocking “violation of the boundary between scientific expertise and politics”; it is also an outright deception that was subsequently used in litigation by partial-birth-abortion defenders. The former deputy attorney general who defended the partial-birth-abortion ban during the Bush administration, Shannen Coffin, brought the story to light. He reminds us: “U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf, one of the three federal judges that issued orders enjoining the federal ban (later overturned by the Supreme Court), devoted more than 15 pages of his lengthy opinion to ACOG’s policy statement and the integrity of the process that led to it.” Had the judge known it was not the work of scientific gurus but that of a Clinton staffer (“nothing more than the political scrawling of a White House appointee”), one can imagine he wouldn’t have spent a sentence, let alone 15 pages, on it.

Some senator should have the wherewithal to take this on and require that Kagan explain herself. Not only is it, if accurate, a disqualifying episode for a Supreme Court justice; it is grounds for a solicitor general to step down. And her failure to advise the courts — which believed they were relying on neutral, expert testimony — constitutes a significant ethical breach.

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Did Obama Try to Cover Up His Blago Contacts?

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony – hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

As the Obama team left for Christmas vacation in December 2008, they issued a report on its internal investigation (the administration has continued its habit of exonerating itself of scandals such as the Andrew Romanoff and Joe Sestak job offers) denying that Obama had any contact with Gov. Rod Blagojevich or his staff on the subject of his Senate replacement. Greg Craig’s memo stated:

The accounts support your statement on December 11, 2008 that you “have never spoken to the Governor on this subject [or] about these issues,” and that you “had no contact with the Governor’s office.” In addition, the accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a “deal” or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy. … The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Governor Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat. In various conversations with transition staff and others, the President-Elect expressed his preference that Valerie Jarrett work with him in the White House. He also stated that he would neither stand in her way if she wanted to pursue the Senate seat nor actively seek to have her or any other particular candidate appointed to the vacancy.

Under oath, a union official at Blago’s trial has now testified that Obama made his preferences clear:

In testimony at Blagojevich’s federal corruption trial, Tom Balanoff said Obama — speaking a day before his Nov. 8, 2008 triumph in the presidential election — said that [Valerie] Jarrett wanted the job and was qualified, although he wanted her to join him in the White House. Balanoff, a close Obama ally and top official with the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, said Blagojevich countered by suggesting Obama appoint him Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Robert Gibbs brushed off inquiries on the testimony – hasn’t been keeping up with the trial, he says. This is ludicrous. Either the transition team and the president-elect weren’t straight with the American public or Balanoff lied under oath. And Obama is a potential witness, perhaps the only one who can help the jury decide which it is. This is not a small matter.

Now was Greg Craig playing it cute when he said that the “President-elect had no contact or communication,” because Obama wasn’t president-elect when the call was made? Well, no. In his introductory paragraph, he says Obama’s statement that he “never” had contact with Blago was true. Were they playing a Clinton-esque word game, given that Balanoff was an emissary but not on Blago’s staff? Perhaps, but whatever Craig was trying to pull, Obama gave the country the distinct impression that he had no communications with the Blago camp on the Senate pick.

The Washington press corps rolled over when the incident first surfaced and showed zero interest in following up on the many questions the review left open. The media can redeem themselves by refusing to allow Gibbs to get away with his usual dodge-the-tricky-questions game. And the president, when next he appears, should be queried on whether he really did talk to Blago’s union pal and whether he later tried to deceive the American people.

The unpleasant image of Chicago pols running their backroom deals before and after they arrived in the Oval Office is not one that the president wants to take hold. The president is low on credibility these days, and refusing to put this matter to rest isn’t going to improve things. It’s time to come clean — on this and the Sestak and Romanoff deals.

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Petraeus Backs Obama Timeline

Gen. David Petraeus probably had no choice. His predecessor was fired for failure to show proper respect for civilian control of the military. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Petraeus in his confirmation hearing not only agreed with but enthused over Obama’s timeline for withdrawal of troops (“Not only did I say that I supported it, I said that I agreed with it”), parroting the administration line that it lends “urgency” to the operation. This is, of course, precisely what overly optimistic observers who support the Afghanistan war effort were hoping would not occur. They imagined that Petraeus would prevail upon Obama to lift the deadline; instead, the general was obliged to re-enforce it.

We see once again that there is no substitute for a clear-headed commander in chief. Petraeus was successful in Iraq because he had the right strategy and a president who supported him fully. Had Petraeus not been given Ambassador Crocker to work with and had he not been given a wholehearted and, yes, open-ended commitment from the commander in chief, he might very well have failed.

Petraeus could have said to Obama that he wouldn’t take the job given the timeline — and he still could resign if it remains firmly in place. But at least for now he has chosen to operate with the ball and chain around his ankle. We should hope that this is not an indication of his ability or determination to insist that competent and effective civilian leaders replace Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry.

The president — only the president — can decide to do what is needed to win a war. Whoever accepts the assignment to run the Afghan operation puts his own career and reputation at stake by agreeing to work under conditions that are widely regarded as inimical to victory. If Petraeus can promptly persuade Obama to remove those conditions and the personnel who will impede success, he will do his country and his troops an immense service. If not, he has set himself and those he commands up for failure.

Gen. David Petraeus probably had no choice. His predecessor was fired for failure to show proper respect for civilian control of the military. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that Petraeus in his confirmation hearing not only agreed with but enthused over Obama’s timeline for withdrawal of troops (“Not only did I say that I supported it, I said that I agreed with it”), parroting the administration line that it lends “urgency” to the operation. This is, of course, precisely what overly optimistic observers who support the Afghanistan war effort were hoping would not occur. They imagined that Petraeus would prevail upon Obama to lift the deadline; instead, the general was obliged to re-enforce it.

We see once again that there is no substitute for a clear-headed commander in chief. Petraeus was successful in Iraq because he had the right strategy and a president who supported him fully. Had Petraeus not been given Ambassador Crocker to work with and had he not been given a wholehearted and, yes, open-ended commitment from the commander in chief, he might very well have failed.

Petraeus could have said to Obama that he wouldn’t take the job given the timeline — and he still could resign if it remains firmly in place. But at least for now he has chosen to operate with the ball and chain around his ankle. We should hope that this is not an indication of his ability or determination to insist that competent and effective civilian leaders replace Richard Holbrooke and Karl Eikenberry.

The president — only the president — can decide to do what is needed to win a war. Whoever accepts the assignment to run the Afghan operation puts his own career and reputation at stake by agreeing to work under conditions that are widely regarded as inimical to victory. If Petraeus can promptly persuade Obama to remove those conditions and the personnel who will impede success, he will do his country and his troops an immense service. If not, he has set himself and those he commands up for failure.

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Does Obama Know that Elena Kagan Is Pro-Israel?

A little embarrassing for The One, wouldn’t you say?

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said her admiration for a former Israeli chief justice was rooted in her Jewishness and admiration for Israel. …

“[Aharon Barak] is very often called the John Marshall of the State of Israel because he was central in creating an independent judiciary for Israel and in ensuring that Israel — a young nation, a nation threatened from its very beginning in existential ways and a nation without a written constitution — he was central in ensuring that Israel, with all those kinds of liabilities would become a very strong rule of law nation,” she said.

She also admired Barak for personal reasons.

“As you know, I don’t think it’s a secret I am Jewish,” she said. “The State of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family.”

This actually puts Zionist conservatives in a tough spot. On the one hand, we have a rare defense of Israel from someone in the Obama camp that is genuine, well-informed, and morally sensible. On the other, we have an endorsement of an Israeli jurist whose exegetical views would elevate judges into a position not indistinguishable from the philosopher-kings of Plato’s Republic. Obviously, she should be voted down. But still.

A little embarrassing for The One, wouldn’t you say?

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan said her admiration for a former Israeli chief justice was rooted in her Jewishness and admiration for Israel. …

“[Aharon Barak] is very often called the John Marshall of the State of Israel because he was central in creating an independent judiciary for Israel and in ensuring that Israel — a young nation, a nation threatened from its very beginning in existential ways and a nation without a written constitution — he was central in ensuring that Israel, with all those kinds of liabilities would become a very strong rule of law nation,” she said.

She also admired Barak for personal reasons.

“As you know, I don’t think it’s a secret I am Jewish,” she said. “The State of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family.”

This actually puts Zionist conservatives in a tough spot. On the one hand, we have a rare defense of Israel from someone in the Obama camp that is genuine, well-informed, and morally sensible. On the other, we have an endorsement of an Israeli jurist whose exegetical views would elevate judges into a position not indistinguishable from the philosopher-kings of Plato’s Republic. Obviously, she should be voted down. But still.

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Religious Intolerance in the Middle East: Where Should We Focus?

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

In the Washington Post‘s On Faith blog, Menachem Rosensaft looks at Morocco’s expulsion of  Christian missionaries who were accused of proselytizing at a Moroccan orphanage earlier this year. As Rosensaft explains:

A group of Republican members of Congress have taken up the cause of the expelled Christian missionaries, which is, of course, their right. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) and Anh Cao (R-La.) recently convened a [briefing] at which they urged Morocco to allow the deportees to return.

At the [briefing], some of the rhetoric turned ugly. Rep. Wolf called for the suspension of U.S. foreign aid to Morocco and compared the Moroccan government to the repressive Ceaucescu regime in Romania during the 1980′s. Rep. Pitts went further and likened the measures taken by the Moroccan authorities to “some of the tactics used by the Nazis.”

Rosensaft provides some much-needed perspective on the incident. Morocco, as he observes, is the least of our concerns when it comes to suppression of religious freedom in the Middle East:

The Kingdom of Morocco is a Muslim nation where Jews and Christian are able to practice their religions openly. Synagogues and churches stand alongside mosques, and the Moroccan government is a rare beacon of tolerance in an otherwise mostly religiously xenophobic Muslim world. Both King Muhammed VI and his late father, King Hassan, have publicly placed the Moroccan Jewish community under royal protection. As Rabbi Marc Schneier, vice president of the World Jewish Congress, reminds us, “during World War II, when Morocco was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco .” Moroccan law simultaneously guarantees freedom of religion and criminalizes proselytization. Morocco has also been a stalwart ally of the United States and the West.

Rosensaft notes that an anti-proselytizing law, common throughout the Middle East, is what is at issue and what was the basis for the missionaries’ expulsion. Rosensaft concludes:

Non-Muslims enjoy far greater freedom of religion in Morocco than in most other Muslim countries, and Americans who go there are fully aware that proselytizing is prohibited. There are no allegations that the Americans involved were tortured or physically mistreated. They were simply expelled from Morocco for refusing to abide by its laws.

Rosensaft is not alone in raising a cautionary flag. The World Jewish Congress last week wrote to the House Foreign Affairs Committee members and co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Reps. Wolf and James McGovern. The letter included this:

As Chairman of the World Jewish Congress United States, I have met with Moroccan leaders on several occasions to discuss our shared commitment in building ties of communication, reconciliation and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities. I am aware first hand that the Kingdom of Morocco is determined to strengthen interfaith relations. As has historically been the case, Morocco’s leaders continue to promote dialogue based on tolerant speech, good intention and honored objectives.

Morocco in the Middle East is a paradigm of religious freedom and tolerance. The Jewish community of present-day Morocco dates back more than 2,000 years. During World War II, when France was ruled by the anti-Semitic Vichy government, King Muhammed V prevented the deportation of Jews from Morocco. There are centuries old synagogues, old-age homes, and kosher restaurants throughout Morocco that are well kept by Muslims. And, there are close ties between Morocco and the State of Israel.

Raphael Benchimol, the rabbi of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, also wrote to Wolf this month, urging him to consider Morocco’s record on religious tolerance. He included this account of a synagogue trip this February:

We visited the sites of Moroccan synagogues, places of historic and religious importance to the Moroccan Jewish community, and the final resting places of many of the righteous Moroccan rabbis and sages who have rested in Morocco, in harmony, for thousands of years. Never once during our stay did I see any lack of religious tolerance or freedom. Never once did I sense the “precarious” situation you describe vis-à-vis our religion. To the contrary, I always felt safe and secure to pray and visit any of the Jewish sites without any fear whatsoever. The Muslim citizens of each of the cities we visited were polite, courteous and respectful of our religious tour. Indeed, I observed how many of the locals have a deep reverence for our holy sites. …

To give you an idea of how important the Jewish “minority religion” is to the King and to the Moroccan government, this past May we hosted a special event at our synagogue where several representatives of the Moroccan government, including Ambassador Mekouar, were present. Serge Berdugo, a Jewish Ambassador of the King of Morocco, beautifully presented to our congregants “His Majesty’s gracious and holy plan to identify, refurbish and protect all the Jewish cemeteries and mausoleums in Morocco.” The Ambassador also proudly announced that “as Commander of the faithful, His Majesty safeguards the sacred values of His subjects, Jew and Muslims alike.” This positive message as well as the gracious offer of the King was received with deep gratitude and sheer excitement by the entire congregation.

There is a disturbing pattern of religious oppression and intolerance in Muslim countries – but not in Morocco. The unfortunate situation at the Christian orphanage (how many of those exist in Muslim countries?) should not obscure this. As a savvy analyst explains, “They should never have let evangelicals run orphanages; that was the mistake. When a kid has no home to return to, the religious influence of those acting in loco parentis is inevitable.” But that is a discrete issue, and resolvable by the Moroccan government. It would seem that the best use of the time and focus of Congress — which is at least making a good effort to pick up the slack from an administration utterly indifferent to the issue of religious freedom — would be to focus on the worst actors in the Muslim World, not the best.

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You Won’t See This on MSNBC

You get the idea that Al Franken isn’t, well, serious about his job. Fox News reports:

He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, but doggone it — he just can’t keep his eyes open for Senate confirmation hearings. Al Franken, the onetime comedian and current Democratic senator from Minnesota, used his position on the vaunted Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to doodle a lifelike bust of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee’s ranking Republican, as Sessions raked Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan over the coals. But it wasn’t all fun and games for the former “Saturday Night Live” star — Franken also found time to get in a good nap during the first day of hearings Monday.

Yes, Franken is neglecting his duties and not fulfilling his constitutional obligations to provide advice and consent (at least not advice and consent based on reasoned consideration). But, when you think about it, neither are his Democratic colleagues. They may not be doodling (well, not after this report), but neither are they doing anything productive in the hearings — like attempting to discern Kagan’s views on Supreme Court precedent. At least the Republican senators were trying. As Robert Alt of Heritage put it:

From the outset, Kagan ran away from every attempt to characterize her political and philosophical views. Senators Sessions (R-AL), Hatch (R-UT), Kyl (R-AZ), Grassley (R-IA), and Graham (R-SC) pressed Kagan on the nature of her political ideology and approach to legal analysis. She generally refused to admit any specific views and even went so far as to claim that she did not know what the term “progressive” meant.

If she’s not going to answer any important questions, then doodling or taking a nap might be forgiven.

You get the idea that Al Franken isn’t, well, serious about his job. Fox News reports:

He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, but doggone it — he just can’t keep his eyes open for Senate confirmation hearings. Al Franken, the onetime comedian and current Democratic senator from Minnesota, used his position on the vaunted Judiciary Committee on Tuesday to doodle a lifelike bust of Sen. Jeff Sessions, the committee’s ranking Republican, as Sessions raked Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan over the coals. But it wasn’t all fun and games for the former “Saturday Night Live” star — Franken also found time to get in a good nap during the first day of hearings Monday.

Yes, Franken is neglecting his duties and not fulfilling his constitutional obligations to provide advice and consent (at least not advice and consent based on reasoned consideration). But, when you think about it, neither are his Democratic colleagues. They may not be doodling (well, not after this report), but neither are they doing anything productive in the hearings — like attempting to discern Kagan’s views on Supreme Court precedent. At least the Republican senators were trying. As Robert Alt of Heritage put it:

From the outset, Kagan ran away from every attempt to characterize her political and philosophical views. Senators Sessions (R-AL), Hatch (R-UT), Kyl (R-AZ), Grassley (R-IA), and Graham (R-SC) pressed Kagan on the nature of her political ideology and approach to legal analysis. She generally refused to admit any specific views and even went so far as to claim that she did not know what the term “progressive” meant.

If she’s not going to answer any important questions, then doodling or taking a nap might be forgiven.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.’” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

The markets don’t have faith in Obama’s economic policies: “Stocks fell sharply Tuesday as a steep decline in consumer confidence aggravated growing concern about the global economy and sent the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index to a new low for the year. Stocks fell from the start, continuing a trend that had begun overnight in Asia and spread to Europe, driving major indexes in the United States down about 3 percent.”

Allan Meltzer doesn’t think the markets are behaving irrationally to Obamanomics: “Two overarching reasons explain the failure of Obamanomics. First, administration economists and their outside supporters neglected the longer-term costs and consequences of their actions. Second, the administration and Congress have through their deeds and words heightened uncertainty about the economic future. High uncertainty is the enemy of investment and growth.”

Bill Clinton doesn’t follow Obama’s political judgment: “Former President Bill Clinton broke with the White House Tuesday and endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-Colo.) primary challenger.”

Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor doesn’t pull any punches on Obama’s response to the BP oil spill. He says, “I haven’t seen this much incompetence since Michael Brown was running FEMA.’

The voters don’t like Obama’s Guantanamo decision: “A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of voters agree with the president’s decision to close the Guantanamo facility, Obama’s first major act upon taking office. Fifty-four percent (54%) disagree with that decision.”

Israel doesn’t want to knuckle under to Obama on a  Middle East peace deal: “U.S. envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is frustrated by the conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. … A senior Israeli source updated on some of the content of the proximity talks said that the American frustration stems from the fact that Netanyahu has so far not given any clear answers on the borders of the future Palestinian state.”

Turkey doesn’t  appear impressed with Obama’s straddling on the flotilla incident: “Israel must apologize for its blockade of the Gaza Strip, as well as compensate the people of Gaza, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview to American television Monday, adding that such an apology would be a condition to continued Turkish mediation in any future peace talks between Israel and Syria.” Yes, the Turks want Israel to capitulate, and Obama’s half-measures have only whetted their appetite for more Israel-bashing.

Californians don’t like the Obama economy: “Californians’ concerns about their state economy mirrors similar worries in other states. ‘There’s a high level of discontentment,’ said poll analyst [Clifford] Young. ‘They’re mad. However, in California is not clear who they’re going to be mad at. It will be incumbent upon the different candidates to frame that to their advantage.’” Right now, they are mad at Barbara Boxer, who is under 50 percent in the poll — a bad sign for an incumbent.

Liberals don’t like Obama at all, says Fareed Zakaria: “Liberals are dismayed. They’re angry. They’re abandoning him.”

Read Less




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