Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 30, 2010

Should We Feel Encouraged About an Iranian Nuke in Three Years?

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

Israel’s deputy prime minister, Moshe Ya’alon, caused something of a stir on Wednesday when he told Israel Radio that he believed Iran would be capable of creating a nuclear weapon within three years. But as alarming as that may sound, it seems that Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who currently also serves as strategic affairs minister, was sounding a note of optimism, since he credited the delay to “technological difficulties.”

This is being widely interpreted as meaning the Israelis believe the Stuxnet virus has dealt the Iranian nuclear program a serious setback. On Fox News, John Bolton speculated that this statement may mean “Stuxnet worked better than some of us thought.” While the former UN ambassador admitted that it was “hard to know the truth” about the state of Iran’s progress toward a nuclear capability, he said the one thing we do know about their program is “that they are determined” to achieve it.

Given that we know very little about Stuxnet or any other covert action undertaken by either the United States or Israel, it’s difficult to assess the current level of danger of an Iranian breakthrough. It may be that Israel is trying to dampen speculation about an imminent IDF attack on Iranian targets, but it is not clear whether such an attack would be launched in the face of almost certain American opposition.

While some may take comfort from Ya’alon’s statement, it is not exactly encouraging to know that, in spite of all the difficulties they have encountered, Iran is likely to be in possession of a nuclear weapon by the end of 2013. Even if we believe that Stuxnet has been a success, all it has accomplished is to push off the day of reckoning, and not by all that much. We already know that diplomacy won’t work; that serious sanctions are unlikely to ever gain international support; and, as we learned last week, that even the United States is not enforcing those sanctions against Iran that are already in place.

Bolton noted that “the Iranians have zero fear” of an American attack on their nuclear facilities so long as Barack Obama is president, and he is almost certainly right about that. The Iranians have taken Obama’s measure in the last two years, and their actions speak volumes about their lack of respect for the president and their belief that he is not to be taken seriously as a world leader. They have mocked U.S. efforts at diplomacy and disregarded America’s half-hearted attempts to mobilize world opinion against Tehran. So even if the virus or other clandestine operations have hampered the Iranians, the mullahs and Ahmadinejad have good reason to feel optimistic about their chances of ultimate success. If the best face we can put on this problem is the certain knowledge that in the absence of a U.S. and/or Israeli attack, an Iranian bomb will exist in three years, the Ya’alon announcement is no cause for celebration.

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Most Odious Column of the Month—or Is That Year?

The prize for the most odious column of the month, if not the year, goes (drum roll, please) to Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post. In the midst of a screed against letting ROTC on campus, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, he writes this:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

Whether America’s or the Taliban’s? As if there is no distinction to be made between the army of a democratic republic that spreads freedom in its wake and adheres to the laws of war, and a vile totalitarian movement that peddles drugs, deliberately kills civilians, tortures homosexuals to death, and throws acid in the faces of unveiled women.

It is hard to believe that the kind of hysterical, purblind anti-military prejudice exhibited by Colman McCarthy can still be found anywhere today, much less in the pages of a reputable newspaper, especially one like the Washington Post, which is run by Don Graham, an exemplar of honorable military service — he volunteered for service in Vietnam after graduating from Harvard.

Apparently, McCarthy has no idea how offensive what he just said is. But then what do you expect from a columnist who thinks this is a serious, well-reasoned position: ”ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.” Heaven forbid that the “intellectual purity” of American higher education be tainted by an idea whose truth has been repeatedly validated, from the American Civil War to World War II — only two of many instances of nations killing and destroying their way to establish a just peace.

The prize for the most odious column of the month, if not the year, goes (drum roll, please) to Colman McCarthy of the Washington Post. In the midst of a screed against letting ROTC on campus, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed, he writes this:

To oppose ROTC, as I have since my college days in the 1960s, when my school enticed too many of my classmates into joining, is not to be anti-soldier. I admire those who join armies, whether America’s or the Taliban’s: for their discipline, for their loyalty to their buddies and to their principles, for their sacrifices to be away from home.

Whether America’s or the Taliban’s? As if there is no distinction to be made between the army of a democratic republic that spreads freedom in its wake and adheres to the laws of war, and a vile totalitarian movement that peddles drugs, deliberately kills civilians, tortures homosexuals to death, and throws acid in the faces of unveiled women.

It is hard to believe that the kind of hysterical, purblind anti-military prejudice exhibited by Colman McCarthy can still be found anywhere today, much less in the pages of a reputable newspaper, especially one like the Washington Post, which is run by Don Graham, an exemplar of honorable military service — he volunteered for service in Vietnam after graduating from Harvard.

Apparently, McCarthy has no idea how offensive what he just said is. But then what do you expect from a columnist who thinks this is a serious, well-reasoned position: ”ROTC and its warrior ethic taint the intellectual purity of a school, if by purity we mean trying to rise above the foul idea that nations can kill and destroy their way to peace.” Heaven forbid that the “intellectual purity” of American higher education be tainted by an idea whose truth has been repeatedly validated, from the American Civil War to World War II — only two of many instances of nations killing and destroying their way to establish a just peace.

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Good News from Iraq

Although multiple headlines about bombings have created the illusion of a “ramp up” in Iraq violence, Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped this year for the third year in a row. According to the organization Iraq Body Count, the number of violence-related civilian deaths fell by 15 percent in 2010, to 3,976.

Most remarkably, this decrease came while Iraqis were handling their own national security to an extent not seen since the beginning of the war. In June 2009, American combat troops pulled out of Iraqi cities and transferred security duties to Iraqis there. Speculation about sectarian violence was nearly the default analytical position. By August of this year, when President Obama announced the official end of combat operations in Iraq, it had become clear that in the unlikely event Iraq does unravel, it would (and still could) happen courtesy of Iraqi politics.

The decrease in civilian deaths is a tribute to American fighting and training, and also to the great many Iraqis who have managed to hold their fragile country together with diminishing American oversight. It also means that the Zarqawi-authored terrorist tactic of jump-starting a civil war by targeting civilians of particular religious sects is dead. For all the bombings we read about over here, Iraqis are far more interested in security and progress than in retaliation.

Although multiple headlines about bombings have created the illusion of a “ramp up” in Iraq violence, Iraqi civilian deaths have dropped this year for the third year in a row. According to the organization Iraq Body Count, the number of violence-related civilian deaths fell by 15 percent in 2010, to 3,976.

Most remarkably, this decrease came while Iraqis were handling their own national security to an extent not seen since the beginning of the war. In June 2009, American combat troops pulled out of Iraqi cities and transferred security duties to Iraqis there. Speculation about sectarian violence was nearly the default analytical position. By August of this year, when President Obama announced the official end of combat operations in Iraq, it had become clear that in the unlikely event Iraq does unravel, it would (and still could) happen courtesy of Iraqi politics.

The decrease in civilian deaths is a tribute to American fighting and training, and also to the great many Iraqis who have managed to hold their fragile country together with diminishing American oversight. It also means that the Zarqawi-authored terrorist tactic of jump-starting a civil war by targeting civilians of particular religious sects is dead. For all the bombings we read about over here, Iraqis are far more interested in security and progress than in retaliation.

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Another NPR Hit Piece on Israel

Never mind Juan Williams: What really gets me about National Public Radio is the way it manages to cover Israel in a manner more reminiscent of Tishreen‘s or Al Jazeera’s style than that of an American news outlet. The latest egregious example is a piece from NPR’s Morning Edition that runs on the NPR website — and this morning was the lead story on the NPR home page —  under the headline “In Israel, No Welcome Mat for African Migrants.” The article accuses Israel of being inhospitable to refugees. There’s no mention whatsoever of Israel’s welcoming 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union or tens of thousands of Jews and others from Ethiopia, which, last I checked, was in Africa. Nor is there any mention of whether any other countries are laying out welcome mats for refugees. It’s hard to think of a country other than America that has been more welcoming to refugees than Israel has, so it seems likely that the NPR piece is afflicted by a certain confusion between a “refugee” and an “illegal immigrant.”

One could argue that holding Israel to a higher standard of behavior represents a certain sort of philo-Semitism, but from National Public Radio — or National Palestinian Radio, as I call it (“Please turn down the National Palestinian Radio, dear”) — I’d settle for mere accuracy.

The NPR quotes one illegal African immigrant it states has been in Israel for 16 years as saying that Israel “ends up not a place for people who are different. It’s a place where people should be, look, all the same.” Again, there’s no reminder or reality check from the NPR correspondent to the effect that Israelis, who may be Ethiopian immigrants, black-hat Orthodox, secular supermodels, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, you name it, hardly “look all the same.”

NPR has responded to complaints about its Israel coverage by commissioning an independent review every three months of its coverage of “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But this isn’t even coverage of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”; it’s just a hit piece on Israel.

Never mind Juan Williams: What really gets me about National Public Radio is the way it manages to cover Israel in a manner more reminiscent of Tishreen‘s or Al Jazeera’s style than that of an American news outlet. The latest egregious example is a piece from NPR’s Morning Edition that runs on the NPR website — and this morning was the lead story on the NPR home page —  under the headline “In Israel, No Welcome Mat for African Migrants.” The article accuses Israel of being inhospitable to refugees. There’s no mention whatsoever of Israel’s welcoming 1 million Jews from the former Soviet Union or tens of thousands of Jews and others from Ethiopia, which, last I checked, was in Africa. Nor is there any mention of whether any other countries are laying out welcome mats for refugees. It’s hard to think of a country other than America that has been more welcoming to refugees than Israel has, so it seems likely that the NPR piece is afflicted by a certain confusion between a “refugee” and an “illegal immigrant.”

One could argue that holding Israel to a higher standard of behavior represents a certain sort of philo-Semitism, but from National Public Radio — or National Palestinian Radio, as I call it (“Please turn down the National Palestinian Radio, dear”) — I’d settle for mere accuracy.

The NPR quotes one illegal African immigrant it states has been in Israel for 16 years as saying that Israel “ends up not a place for people who are different. It’s a place where people should be, look, all the same.” Again, there’s no reminder or reality check from the NPR correspondent to the effect that Israelis, who may be Ethiopian immigrants, black-hat Orthodox, secular supermodels, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, you name it, hardly “look all the same.”

NPR has responded to complaints about its Israel coverage by commissioning an independent review every three months of its coverage of “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” But this isn’t even coverage of the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict”; it’s just a hit piece on Israel.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

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The Limitations of Holocaust Education

In the Forward last week, Donald Snyder puzzled over an apparent contradiction in German society: despite the country’s mandatory Holocaust-education programs and laws against Holocaust denial, recent studies have found that some anti-Semitic theories are actually on the rise.

The findings show that 57 percent of Germans agree that Israel is waging “a war of annihilation” against the Palestinians, while 38 percent agree that “considering the politics of Israel it is easy to see why one would have something against Jews.” Perhaps most disquieting was that over 40 percent of Germans agree that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

Snyder chalked up this phenomenon to a new “strain” of anti-Semitism caused by a changing population and the growing popularity of the anti-Zionist movement:

Muslim and classic right-wing anti-Semitism are combining with left-wing demonization of Israel to produce a toxic mix, despite Germany’s postwar efforts to ensure that future generations continue to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. This new strain renders old ways of combating anti-Semitism less effective. According to some observers, in Germany the Holocaust narrative is no longer the powerful antidote it once was.

But while Holocaust education is important for many reasons, it’s a lousy way to combat anti-Semitism. For one thing, it assumes that ignorance of the Holocaust is the cause of anti-Semitism — when, in fact, the exact opposite is often the case. Sam Schulman made this point well in a Weekly Standard essay this week: Read More

In the Forward last week, Donald Snyder puzzled over an apparent contradiction in German society: despite the country’s mandatory Holocaust-education programs and laws against Holocaust denial, recent studies have found that some anti-Semitic theories are actually on the rise.

The findings show that 57 percent of Germans agree that Israel is waging “a war of annihilation” against the Palestinians, while 38 percent agree that “considering the politics of Israel it is easy to see why one would have something against Jews.” Perhaps most disquieting was that over 40 percent of Germans agree that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

Snyder chalked up this phenomenon to a new “strain” of anti-Semitism caused by a changing population and the growing popularity of the anti-Zionist movement:

Muslim and classic right-wing anti-Semitism are combining with left-wing demonization of Israel to produce a toxic mix, despite Germany’s postwar efforts to ensure that future generations continue to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. This new strain renders old ways of combating anti-Semitism less effective. According to some observers, in Germany the Holocaust narrative is no longer the powerful antidote it once was.

But while Holocaust education is important for many reasons, it’s a lousy way to combat anti-Semitism. For one thing, it assumes that ignorance of the Holocaust is the cause of anti-Semitism — when, in fact, the exact opposite is often the case. Sam Schulman made this point well in a Weekly Standard essay this week:

Most anti-Semites are perfectly well-informed about the actuality of the Holocaust; so are most people who believe that the time has come for the state of Israel to be eliminated. … Holocaust education, however well its teachers are trained, will never pry such people loose from their defects of character and judgment​—​or from their underlying feelings about Jews as individuals and fellow-citizens.

Holocaust denial tends to be a symptom of anti-Semitism, not the cause. Most of the revisionist theories about the Holocaust are aimed at rebutting the notion that Jews were innocent victims — i.e., “The Jews were in cahoots with the Nazis” or “The Holocaust was exaggerated.”

Germany has banned these types of statements, and so anti-Semites have latched on to a more socially acceptable argument: the Holocaust was really terrible, they typically concede, but now the Jews in Israel are doing the same thing to the Palestinians.

“The Israelis tried to dehumanise the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanise me. Nobody should dehumanise any other and those who try to dehumanise another are not human,” said Dr. Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and anti-Zionist, last January.

Unlike typical Holocaust revisionism, which relies on misstatements about the Jewish genocide, this argument relies on gross mischaracterizations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But its purpose is similar: it implies that Jews are unworthy of tolerance because they are morally equivalent to the Nazi regime.

This brings us to another problem with Germany’s use of Holocaust-education programs to combat anti-Semitism. The memory of the Holocaust isn’t an “antidote” to anti-Semitism but rather an example of what can occur when this sort of bigotry remains unchecked. It’s apparently not enough to say that Jews should be “tolerated” simply because they are human beings; they should instead be tolerated because of their suffering under the Nazis.

Not only is this notion offensive; it’s also deeply problematic. It holds that it’s only necessary to “tolerate” Jews as long as they are viewed as victims of persecution. But if Israel is falsely seen as engaging in “Nazi tactics” — as 40 percent of Germans surveyed believe — then the Jewish state must forfeit its grievances and victim status. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that nearly as many Germans agree that Israel’s “politics” justify animosity toward the Jewish people in general.

And it’s also noteworthy that these poll numbers come from a country that is still ultra-cautious when it comes to voicing anti-Semitic opinions. It would be interesting to see how other European states, with less of a historical connection to Nazism, would respond to the same survey.

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Israel Brings Senior Gov’t Officials to Justice

If any more evidence were needed of Israel’s moral superiority over the neighboring states, look no further than the news that former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of rape. At first blush, that may seem like a strange statement: isn’t the fact that a rapist and sexual harasser was president of Israel a blow to the moral standing of the Jewish state? Actually no: abuse of power, especially by powerful men, can happen under any regime. Can anyone doubt that such offenses are frequent among senior Arab officials? Certainly Saddam Hussein and his debased sons were known for preying on women; and that is only the most public example of a pattern that no doubt applies across all dictatorial regimes around the world — including the dictatorial regimes that surround Israel. The difference is that, in Israel, there is an independent judiciary that has the power to root out wrongdoing at the highest level. Such prosecutions are in fact routine. As the AP notes:

The conviction was the latest in a series of high-profile cases against Israeli officials.

Former Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson is currently in prison after being convicted of embezzling more than $600,000 from a workers union. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted in March 2007 of forcibly kissing a female soldier. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is currently standing trial on corruption charges.

It is, in fact, an amazing testament to the strength of Israel’s democracy that a former president — and other senior officials — can be convicted of such grave offenses and it’s not even big news. It would be very big news indeed if the former president of any major Middle Eastern state aside from Israel were to face prosecution and conviction for any crime — unless it was the result of a vendetta carried out by his political enemies.

If any more evidence were needed of Israel’s moral superiority over the neighboring states, look no further than the news that former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of rape. At first blush, that may seem like a strange statement: isn’t the fact that a rapist and sexual harasser was president of Israel a blow to the moral standing of the Jewish state? Actually no: abuse of power, especially by powerful men, can happen under any regime. Can anyone doubt that such offenses are frequent among senior Arab officials? Certainly Saddam Hussein and his debased sons were known for preying on women; and that is only the most public example of a pattern that no doubt applies across all dictatorial regimes around the world — including the dictatorial regimes that surround Israel. The difference is that, in Israel, there is an independent judiciary that has the power to root out wrongdoing at the highest level. Such prosecutions are in fact routine. As the AP notes:

The conviction was the latest in a series of high-profile cases against Israeli officials.

Former Israeli Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson is currently in prison after being convicted of embezzling more than $600,000 from a workers union. Former Justice Minister Haim Ramon was convicted in March 2007 of forcibly kissing a female soldier. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is currently standing trial on corruption charges.

It is, in fact, an amazing testament to the strength of Israel’s democracy that a former president — and other senior officials — can be convicted of such grave offenses and it’s not even big news. It would be very big news indeed if the former president of any major Middle Eastern state aside from Israel were to face prosecution and conviction for any crime — unless it was the result of a vendetta carried out by his political enemies.

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SPECIAL JANUARY PREVIEW: The WikiLeaks War on America

The indefinable international organization known as WikiLeaks was relatively unknown between its setting up in 2006 and the April 2010 premiere it staged at the National Press Club in Washington of the “Collateral Murder” video—a selection of stolen and decrypted gun-camera footage that purportedly shows the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists by the crew of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter. Skillfully edited and promoted, and widely accepted by the mainstream media as proof of a U.S. war crime, the video won WikiLeaks fame and praise around the world and made its founder, a 39-year-old Australian named Julian Assange, an international celebrity.

To finish reading this SPECIAL PREVIEW from the JANUARY 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

To ensure you never miss an issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

The indefinable international organization known as WikiLeaks was relatively unknown between its setting up in 2006 and the April 2010 premiere it staged at the National Press Club in Washington of the “Collateral Murder” video—a selection of stolen and decrypted gun-camera footage that purportedly shows the unlawful killing of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters journalists by the crew of a U.S. Army Apache helicopter. Skillfully edited and promoted, and widely accepted by the mainstream media as proof of a U.S. war crime, the video won WikiLeaks fame and praise around the world and made its founder, a 39-year-old Australian named Julian Assange, an international celebrity.

To finish reading this SPECIAL PREVIEW from the JANUARY 2011 issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

To ensure you never miss an issue of COMMENTARY, click here.

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Goldstone Book Author: Critics Refuse to ‘Discuss the Contents of the Report’

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically. Read More

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically.

goldstonereportorg_500

There are also pages documenting the broad procedural flaws of the investigation, the caliber of individual witnesses, the importance of concealed evidence, the role of anti-Israel mediators, the dynamics of human-shield accusations, plus about 30 other issues. Yet another section, maintained by Daled Amos, served as a clearinghouse for criticisms posted on related blogs, like Elder of Ziyon, which alone had more than 25 Goldstone-related posts digging through the text of the report.

In size and scope, the site rivals the IDF’s comprehensive Goldstone rebuttal — another document that, by the by, directly rebutted “the contents of the report.” It has so much material and is so on-point, in fact, that it’s the top result on Google for “goldstone report.” It ranks higher than the .pdf of the actual Goldstone Report, which continues to be the focus of an international anti-Israel feeding frenzy. SEO tricks might give a site a slight advantage on Google, but nothing can push irrelevant content to the very top of a very crowded field.

So one theory suggests that Pogrebin, in preparing for her book, never went so far as to type “goldstone report” into Google. Could be, and it’s something to bear in mind when her book inevitable gets cited as a definitive anti-Israel treatise.

Another theory holds that she found “Understanding the Goldstone Report” but has an idiosyncratic yet fortuitously self-serving interpretation of what counts as discussing “the contents of the report.” Maybe, though that wouldn’t bode well for her book’s relevance.

And then there’s the theory that Goldstone, Pogrebin, and their ilk willfully overlook substantive criticisms of the UN-sponsored blood libel lest they have to answer them. That, too, has the ring of plausibility and may warrant consideration.

All those theories aside, you do have to appreciate the formulation of the article’s opening sentence: “Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout.” Coming from the Goldstone crowd and from someone publishing a Goldstone-related book, this is the equivalent of setting a house on fire and then demurely mentioning that people are struggling to deal with the flames. How observant!

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RE: Palestinians’ UN Gambit Puts Both Israel and Obama on the Spot

The Associated Press has published excerpts from the Palestinians’ draft resolution; it seeks a declaration that Israeli settlements are “illegal” and a “major obstacle” to peace, and demands that settlement activities cease “immediately and completely.” The gambit should put the Palestinians on the spot.

As Jonathan noted, the asserted illegality has no foundation in international law. Nor have settlements been a “major obstacle” to peace, since notwithstanding them, Israel has made repeated offers of a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank. In 2005, Israel removed every settlement from Gaza, only to have the Palestinian Authority turn it into Hamastan in one week. In 2009, Israel declared a 10-month West Bank construction moratorium (more than enough time to negotiate still another offer of a state, since Abbas asserted it would take only six months); George Mitchell repeatedly warned the Palestinians that the moratorium would not be extended, yet they had to be dragged to the table in the ninth month, and then left it at the end of the tenth.

The Gaza experience in 2005, the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s offer of a state on 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) in 2008, the Palestinian refusal to negotiate during the 2009-10 moratorium, and now the attempted UN diversion all demonstrate that the problem is not the settlements but the Palestinians.

Settlements are a final-status issue under the Roadmap, to be negotiated in good faith. Asked yesterday about the potential Palestinian push for a UN resolution, the State Department spokesman said:

We believe, fundamentally, that direct negotiations are the only path through which the parties will ultimately reach the framework agreement that is our goal, our mutual goal. And final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the UN Security Council, so we’ve consistently opposed any attempt to take these kinds of issues to the Council. [emphasis added]

Asked yesterday if the U.S. would exercise its veto, the State Department spokesman said that “it’s a hypothetical at this point … but I think I made our position pretty clear.” If the Palestinians proceed with their end-run resolution, they will force the U.S. to make that position even clearer, assuming the italicized words matter.

The Associated Press has published excerpts from the Palestinians’ draft resolution; it seeks a declaration that Israeli settlements are “illegal” and a “major obstacle” to peace, and demands that settlement activities cease “immediately and completely.” The gambit should put the Palestinians on the spot.

As Jonathan noted, the asserted illegality has no foundation in international law. Nor have settlements been a “major obstacle” to peace, since notwithstanding them, Israel has made repeated offers of a Palestinian state on substantially all the West Bank. In 2005, Israel removed every settlement from Gaza, only to have the Palestinian Authority turn it into Hamastan in one week. In 2009, Israel declared a 10-month West Bank construction moratorium (more than enough time to negotiate still another offer of a state, since Abbas asserted it would take only six months); George Mitchell repeatedly warned the Palestinians that the moratorium would not be extended, yet they had to be dragged to the table in the ninth month, and then left it at the end of the tenth.

The Gaza experience in 2005, the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s offer of a state on 100 percent of the West Bank (after land swaps) in 2008, the Palestinian refusal to negotiate during the 2009-10 moratorium, and now the attempted UN diversion all demonstrate that the problem is not the settlements but the Palestinians.

Settlements are a final-status issue under the Roadmap, to be negotiated in good faith. Asked yesterday about the potential Palestinian push for a UN resolution, the State Department spokesman said:

We believe, fundamentally, that direct negotiations are the only path through which the parties will ultimately reach the framework agreement that is our goal, our mutual goal. And final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the UN Security Council, so we’ve consistently opposed any attempt to take these kinds of issues to the Council. [emphasis added]

Asked yesterday if the U.S. would exercise its veto, the State Department spokesman said that “it’s a hypothetical at this point … but I think I made our position pretty clear.” If the Palestinians proceed with their end-run resolution, they will force the U.S. to make that position even clearer, assuming the italicized words matter.

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Support for Terrorism Falls…but More Slowly Than During the Bush Years

In his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Joshua Muravchik points out that public support for terrorism is still dropping in Islamic countries, but more slowly than it did during the Bush years.

Using the results from the most recent Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Muravchik focuses on attitudes toward terrorism in several Muslim countries. The results are mildly encouraging for America, he writes, but not necessarily for Mr. Obama and his outreach efforts.

In summarizing the data, Muravchik writes:

The survey gauges attitudes toward three crucial terrorism-related subjects: al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings. The good news is that the proportion of pro-terror opinion continues to decline. The bad news is that the minority holding such views remains considerable.

For example, 20% of Egyptians, 23% of Indonesians and 34% of Jordanians say they hold favorable views of al Qaeda. Asked whether they have confidence that bin Laden will “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 19% of Egyptians, 25% of Indonesians and 14% of Jordanians responded positively. On the question of suicide bombing, 20% of Egyptians, 20% of Jordanians and 15% of Indonesians said it is “often” or “sometimes” justified (as opposed to “rarely” or “never”).

These results seem to reflect well on Mr. Obama’s engagement project, according to Muravchik, since a few years ago, these measures of support for terrorism were much higher. But he adds that the Pew report also offers a time-sequence chart, dating back to 2003, of answers to the question about bin Laden. And it shows

an encouraging decrease in support for terrorism—but the largest drop came when George W. Bush was president. The sharpest decrease in terror support in Indonesia, Turkey and Lebanon came between 2003 and 2005; in Jordan, between 2005 and 2006; and in Nigeria and Egypt between 2006 and 2007.

Only in Pakistan was the largest drop between 2008 and 2009—but the poll was taken in April 2009, so Mr. Bush was in office more than Mr. Obama during that one-year interval. From 2009 to 2010, the one full-year interval of Mr. Obama’s presidency for which Pew offers data, the decline was negligible everywhere except in Jordan, where the drop-off was smaller than it was from 2005 to 2006. [emphasis added]

In exploring the reasons for this, Muravchik concludes that “the data are too slender to sustain the claim that Mr. Bush’s policies succeeded in turning much of the Muslim world against terrorism. But they are substantial enough to inform our understanding that Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved little in this regard.”

My own hunch is, as Muravchik suggests, that the actions of al-Qaeda may be the crucial variable. As its savagery became more and more apparent in Iraq and elsewhere, large portions of the Islamic world turned against it and militant Islam more broadly.

But of course, Mr. Obama’s promise to transform the attitudes of the world didn’t take any of this into account. Through the force of his personality and charm, the wisdom of his policies, and his worldwide apology tours, Obama was going to win over the Muslim world in a way that was inescapable and unprecedented. The president’s speech in Cairo, you may recall, was going to be a tipping point in how the Muslim world viewed us and terrorism.

But like so many other hopes and dreams set forth by Mr. Obama, it hasn’t turned out that way. Not by a long shot.

In his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Joshua Muravchik points out that public support for terrorism is still dropping in Islamic countries, but more slowly than it did during the Bush years.

Using the results from the most recent Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, Muravchik focuses on attitudes toward terrorism in several Muslim countries. The results are mildly encouraging for America, he writes, but not necessarily for Mr. Obama and his outreach efforts.

In summarizing the data, Muravchik writes:

The survey gauges attitudes toward three crucial terrorism-related subjects: al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and suicide bombings. The good news is that the proportion of pro-terror opinion continues to decline. The bad news is that the minority holding such views remains considerable.

For example, 20% of Egyptians, 23% of Indonesians and 34% of Jordanians say they hold favorable views of al Qaeda. Asked whether they have confidence that bin Laden will “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 19% of Egyptians, 25% of Indonesians and 14% of Jordanians responded positively. On the question of suicide bombing, 20% of Egyptians, 20% of Jordanians and 15% of Indonesians said it is “often” or “sometimes” justified (as opposed to “rarely” or “never”).

These results seem to reflect well on Mr. Obama’s engagement project, according to Muravchik, since a few years ago, these measures of support for terrorism were much higher. But he adds that the Pew report also offers a time-sequence chart, dating back to 2003, of answers to the question about bin Laden. And it shows

an encouraging decrease in support for terrorism—but the largest drop came when George W. Bush was president. The sharpest decrease in terror support in Indonesia, Turkey and Lebanon came between 2003 and 2005; in Jordan, between 2005 and 2006; and in Nigeria and Egypt between 2006 and 2007.

Only in Pakistan was the largest drop between 2008 and 2009—but the poll was taken in April 2009, so Mr. Bush was in office more than Mr. Obama during that one-year interval. From 2009 to 2010, the one full-year interval of Mr. Obama’s presidency for which Pew offers data, the decline was negligible everywhere except in Jordan, where the drop-off was smaller than it was from 2005 to 2006. [emphasis added]

In exploring the reasons for this, Muravchik concludes that “the data are too slender to sustain the claim that Mr. Bush’s policies succeeded in turning much of the Muslim world against terrorism. But they are substantial enough to inform our understanding that Mr. Obama’s approach has achieved little in this regard.”

My own hunch is, as Muravchik suggests, that the actions of al-Qaeda may be the crucial variable. As its savagery became more and more apparent in Iraq and elsewhere, large portions of the Islamic world turned against it and militant Islam more broadly.

But of course, Mr. Obama’s promise to transform the attitudes of the world didn’t take any of this into account. Through the force of his personality and charm, the wisdom of his policies, and his worldwide apology tours, Obama was going to win over the Muslim world in a way that was inescapable and unprecedented. The president’s speech in Cairo, you may recall, was going to be a tipping point in how the Muslim world viewed us and terrorism.

But like so many other hopes and dreams set forth by Mr. Obama, it hasn’t turned out that way. Not by a long shot.

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