Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 24, 2011

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Asks: Were the Middle East Uprisings Caused by Global Warming?

At the Corner, John Hood points out one theory about the Arab uprisings that, fortunately, doesn’t seem to have gained much traction yet. Two writers at Bloomberg BusinessWeek are speculating that global warming — not the oppressive policies and corruption of autocratic Arab leaders — sparked food shortages and led to the uprisings across the Middle East. Hood writes:

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? A major cause of the revolutionary fervor sweeping the Arab world, according to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, is catastrophic climate change caused by human beings. The causal link is famine, say the authors of the piece: “Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act” against greenhouse-gas emissions?

The authors of the article, of course, call on the government to take immediate action:

Civilization has faced down pandemics and world wars — and has emerged stronger for having met the test. The current series of droughts and floods are not simply wreaking havoc on food supplies. They’re harbingers of life in a hotter and more chaotic climate. Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act?

If only “climate change” really were the problem in the Middle East. Think of how much more forceful Obama’s speeches would be.

At the Corner, John Hood points out one theory about the Arab uprisings that, fortunately, doesn’t seem to have gained much traction yet. Two writers at Bloomberg BusinessWeek are speculating that global warming — not the oppressive policies and corruption of autocratic Arab leaders — sparked food shortages and led to the uprisings across the Middle East. Hood writes:

You knew this was coming, didn’t you? A major cause of the revolutionary fervor sweeping the Arab world, according to a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, is catastrophic climate change caused by human beings. The causal link is famine, say the authors of the piece: “Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act” against greenhouse-gas emissions?

The authors of the article, of course, call on the government to take immediate action:

Civilization has faced down pandemics and world wars — and has emerged stronger for having met the test. The current series of droughts and floods are not simply wreaking havoc on food supplies. They’re harbingers of life in a hotter and more chaotic climate. Could hunger, and the threat to power that accompanies it, be what finally forces political leaders to act?

If only “climate change” really were the problem in the Middle East. Think of how much more forceful Obama’s speeches would be.

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Will Middle Eastern Protesters Turn to American Courts?

Security forces have reportedly killed more than a thousand people in Libya, several hundred in Egypt, several dozen in Yemen, and a handful in Iraqi Kurdistan. Normally, American courts would not have jurisdiction over these killings, but there is one scenario in which they will: when those giving the orders to murder civilians are also permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.

Dual citizenry is common in the region, and even more so in elite circles in which people seek multiple passports for business purposes. I do not know who among the Libyans, Egyptians, and Yemenis have dual citizenship, but the man who gave the order to fire into demonstrators last week in Iraqi Kurdistan is certainly a permanent resident and, according to several correspondents, an American citizen as well. Talking to some protesters, it seems that the street skirmishes may be only one battle in a larger war against some of the officials for whom there is credible evidence of torture and abuse.

Security forces have reportedly killed more than a thousand people in Libya, several hundred in Egypt, several dozen in Yemen, and a handful in Iraqi Kurdistan. Normally, American courts would not have jurisdiction over these killings, but there is one scenario in which they will: when those giving the orders to murder civilians are also permanent U.S. residents or American citizens.

Dual citizenry is common in the region, and even more so in elite circles in which people seek multiple passports for business purposes. I do not know who among the Libyans, Egyptians, and Yemenis have dual citizenship, but the man who gave the order to fire into demonstrators last week in Iraqi Kurdistan is certainly a permanent resident and, according to several correspondents, an American citizen as well. Talking to some protesters, it seems that the street skirmishes may be only one battle in a larger war against some of the officials for whom there is credible evidence of torture and abuse.

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Let Him Be Clear: He’s Voting ‘Present’

In reading Barack Obama’s long-delayed statement on Libya yesterday, I was reminded of Harry Reid’s recollection of Obama’s response to a compliment on one of his speeches: “I have a gift, Harry.”

We have since learned a lot about Obama’s oratory, and its relation to reality. He was able to call forth visions of the seas receding; he caused people to faint during campaign appearances; he provided the lyric for a video in which Hollywood stars endlessly repeated a single sentence; he caused a columnist to rank one of the speeches on where it stood in Obama’s lifetime oeuvre. We learned that the key point was always the let-me-be-clear moment — and sure enough, there was one in the Libya statement.

The statement consisted of 14 paragraphs that mixed strong adjectives with weak verbs. The only action items were to ask his administration to prepare options; to send an undersecretary of state to talk to other nations; and to send his secretary of state to a meeting of the Human Rights Council next week. The let-me-be-clear moment came in the 13th paragraph:

So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspiration of people who are seeking a better life.

The one thing he wanted to make clear was that we had nothing to do with the “change” — perhaps afraid the unnamed Libyan dictator might blame him for it. In the final paragraph, Obama conveyed a commitment to “continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.” You have to admit, he has a gift.

In reading Barack Obama’s long-delayed statement on Libya yesterday, I was reminded of Harry Reid’s recollection of Obama’s response to a compliment on one of his speeches: “I have a gift, Harry.”

We have since learned a lot about Obama’s oratory, and its relation to reality. He was able to call forth visions of the seas receding; he caused people to faint during campaign appearances; he provided the lyric for a video in which Hollywood stars endlessly repeated a single sentence; he caused a columnist to rank one of the speeches on where it stood in Obama’s lifetime oeuvre. We learned that the key point was always the let-me-be-clear moment — and sure enough, there was one in the Libya statement.

The statement consisted of 14 paragraphs that mixed strong adjectives with weak verbs. The only action items were to ask his administration to prepare options; to send an undersecretary of state to talk to other nations; and to send his secretary of state to a meeting of the Human Rights Council next week. The let-me-be-clear moment came in the 13th paragraph:

So let me be clear. The change that is taking place across the region is being driven by the people of the region. This change doesn’t represent the work of the United States or any foreign power. It represents the aspiration of people who are seeking a better life.

The one thing he wanted to make clear was that we had nothing to do with the “change” — perhaps afraid the unnamed Libyan dictator might blame him for it. In the final paragraph, Obama conveyed a commitment to “continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people.” You have to admit, he has a gift.

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Some Questions for Dennis Ross

As Ambassador Dennis Ross prepares to speak at the upcoming J Street conference, he might want to think about addressing a few serious concerns during his speech. While Ross has certainly been a friend to Israel, some of the people he’ll be sharing the spotlight with at the conference have not. Far from it — quite a few of them can’t be characterized as anything other than outright enemies of the Jewish state. And so by lending his profile to the event, Ross is giving credence to the noxious ideas of his fellow conference speakers.

The Emergency Committee for Israel has outlined some of the troublesome statements made by other conference speakers in a letter it sent to Ross today. These include the claim that Israel is “a full-fledged Apartheid system,” as Ross’s fellow speaker Mustafa Barghouti alleges. Add to that the insistence, by Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, that Hamas shouldn’t be “lumped in” with other terrorist groups. And Edina Lekovic’s designation of Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.” Consider also the allegation, by James Zogby, that the IDF is waging a “Holocaust” against the Palestinian people. And the dangerous theory that Jewish members of the Bush administration were surreptitious agents of Israel, as advanced by Lawrence Wilkerson.

If all that isn’t sufficient to dissuade Ross from attending the conference, how about the contention that Israel is illegitimate or that it must be boycotted or that its government officials and soldiers are war criminals, or any of the other delegitimization themes promoted by NGO leaders like Naomi Chazan, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and Oded Na’aman.

It can be assumed that Ross doesn’t buy into these toxic claims. So why would he give them legitimacy by tying his name to this event? Will he address and reject them unequivocally during his speech? And is he prepared to deal with the consequences to his reputation if these sort of outlandish statements are made during the conference he’s keynoting?

The Emergency Committee for Israel has rightly asked Ross to “seize this moment to explain why the Jewish State is not just one of our closest allies, but a country that fully deserves the admiration and moral support of all Americans.” This type of vicious anti-Israel rhetoric can’t be allowed to pass by unchallenged. And if Ross fails to address it, there’s certainly nobody else speaking at the conference who will.

As Ambassador Dennis Ross prepares to speak at the upcoming J Street conference, he might want to think about addressing a few serious concerns during his speech. While Ross has certainly been a friend to Israel, some of the people he’ll be sharing the spotlight with at the conference have not. Far from it — quite a few of them can’t be characterized as anything other than outright enemies of the Jewish state. And so by lending his profile to the event, Ross is giving credence to the noxious ideas of his fellow conference speakers.

The Emergency Committee for Israel has outlined some of the troublesome statements made by other conference speakers in a letter it sent to Ross today. These include the claim that Israel is “a full-fledged Apartheid system,” as Ross’s fellow speaker Mustafa Barghouti alleges. Add to that the insistence, by Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, that Hamas shouldn’t be “lumped in” with other terrorist groups. And Edina Lekovic’s designation of Osama bin Laden as a “freedom fighter.” Consider also the allegation, by James Zogby, that the IDF is waging a “Holocaust” against the Palestinian people. And the dangerous theory that Jewish members of the Bush administration were surreptitious agents of Israel, as advanced by Lawrence Wilkerson.

If all that isn’t sufficient to dissuade Ross from attending the conference, how about the contention that Israel is illegitimate or that it must be boycotted or that its government officials and soldiers are war criminals, or any of the other delegitimization themes promoted by NGO leaders like Naomi Chazan, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and Oded Na’aman.

It can be assumed that Ross doesn’t buy into these toxic claims. So why would he give them legitimacy by tying his name to this event? Will he address and reject them unequivocally during his speech? And is he prepared to deal with the consequences to his reputation if these sort of outlandish statements are made during the conference he’s keynoting?

The Emergency Committee for Israel has rightly asked Ross to “seize this moment to explain why the Jewish State is not just one of our closest allies, but a country that fully deserves the admiration and moral support of all Americans.” This type of vicious anti-Israel rhetoric can’t be allowed to pass by unchallenged. And if Ross fails to address it, there’s certainly nobody else speaking at the conference who will.

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Union Protester Berates Jewish FreedomWorks Employee: ‘You Are a Bad Jew!’

Some interesting footage from the union protest outside FreedomWorks’s D.C. headquarters has been hitting the Internet, and it’s shown the protesters to be less than civil. In one video yesterday, a new-media director at FreedomWorks was assaulted by a union worker, and now another clip shows a protester hysterically scolding a FreedomWorks employee for allegedly being a “bad Jew”:

As you can see from the video, the encounter began when one protester approached a group of FreedomWorks employees and insisted to know why none of them were minorities. When one of the employees noted that he was Jewish, a second protester approached and began screaming at him for being insufficiently Jewish.

So, apparently, if FreedomWorks doesn’t have any minority employees, that’s racist. And if it does have minority employees, then those individuals are traitors to their own people. With logic like that, is there any point in arguing with these people?

Some interesting footage from the union protest outside FreedomWorks’s D.C. headquarters has been hitting the Internet, and it’s shown the protesters to be less than civil. In one video yesterday, a new-media director at FreedomWorks was assaulted by a union worker, and now another clip shows a protester hysterically scolding a FreedomWorks employee for allegedly being a “bad Jew”:

As you can see from the video, the encounter began when one protester approached a group of FreedomWorks employees and insisted to know why none of them were minorities. When one of the employees noted that he was Jewish, a second protester approached and began screaming at him for being insufficiently Jewish.

So, apparently, if FreedomWorks doesn’t have any minority employees, that’s racist. And if it does have minority employees, then those individuals are traitors to their own people. With logic like that, is there any point in arguing with these people?

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The Beginning of the End?

Rasmussen has a new poll out, showing that the vamoosing out of state by the Senate Democrats in Wisconsin is deeply unpopular with Americans. Indeed, fully two-thirds oppose the tactic, while only 25 percent approve. Only 48 percent of Democrats approve (while 44 percent disapprove).

This would indicate that the people howling in the streets are, essentially, political Astroturf. There is practically no real grassroots support for the senators. The fact that in the Assembly — the lower house of the legislature — Democrats have agreed to abandon their filibuster would indicate that they are correctly gauging the political winds. Instead of hundreds of amendments, there will be only 38 more, and debate will be limited to 10 minutes each. That would allow a final vote about noon, central time, today. Assemblyman Mark Pocan, Democrat of Milwaukee, said, in a remark that seems clearly intended for the ears of Senate Democrats, “You can’t limit democracy. You have to let the process happen.”

That sounds to me like an impending victory for Governor Scott Walker.

Rasmussen has a new poll out, showing that the vamoosing out of state by the Senate Democrats in Wisconsin is deeply unpopular with Americans. Indeed, fully two-thirds oppose the tactic, while only 25 percent approve. Only 48 percent of Democrats approve (while 44 percent disapprove).

This would indicate that the people howling in the streets are, essentially, political Astroturf. There is practically no real grassroots support for the senators. The fact that in the Assembly — the lower house of the legislature — Democrats have agreed to abandon their filibuster would indicate that they are correctly gauging the political winds. Instead of hundreds of amendments, there will be only 38 more, and debate will be limited to 10 minutes each. That would allow a final vote about noon, central time, today. Assemblyman Mark Pocan, Democrat of Milwaukee, said, in a remark that seems clearly intended for the ears of Senate Democrats, “You can’t limit democracy. You have to let the process happen.”

That sounds to me like an impending victory for Governor Scott Walker.

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A Bloodier Weekend for Libya as Qaddafi Goes Completely Off the Deep End?

President Obama’s speech last night has elicited no indication from Qaddafi that he’s willing to end the vicious massacre of his own people. As Elliott Abrams wrote at the Weekly Standard, the president’s speech was “an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days — five more days of likely slaughter.”

And with Qaddafi growing increasingly irrational, those five days have the potential to be far more violent than the crackdowns in Libya so far. Today the leader told Libya state TV that the protesters were “loyal to bin Laden. … This is al-Qaida that the whole world is fighting,” said the Libyan leader. He added that al-Qaeda has “exploited” teenagers by putting “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.”

Has Qaddafi completely lost it? Or are his wild claims just a way of setting the stage for launching a bloodier onslaught? Either way, the Libyan leader has made it clear that he’s unwilling to end the carnage anytime soon.

President Obama’s speech last night has elicited no indication from Qaddafi that he’s willing to end the vicious massacre of his own people. As Elliott Abrams wrote at the Weekly Standard, the president’s speech was “an announcement to Qaddafi that we won’t even get the secretary of State moving for five more days — five more days of likely slaughter.”

And with Qaddafi growing increasingly irrational, those five days have the potential to be far more violent than the crackdowns in Libya so far. Today the leader told Libya state TV that the protesters were “loyal to bin Laden. … This is al-Qaida that the whole world is fighting,” said the Libyan leader. He added that al-Qaeda has “exploited” teenagers by putting “hallucinogenic pills in their coffee with milk, like Nescafe.”

Has Qaddafi completely lost it? Or are his wild claims just a way of setting the stage for launching a bloodier onslaught? Either way, the Libyan leader has made it clear that he’s unwilling to end the carnage anytime soon.

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Witnesses to a Great Human Drama

As the Middle East and North Africa continue to convulse, with citizens of one nation and then another rising up against their oppressors, one cannot help but sense that we are experiencing something epic and for the ages. At this juncture, it’s far too early to know how all of this, or even any of this, will end. We don’t know which, if any, of the liberation movements will succeed — and if they do, what will finally become of them. It will take years, and in some cases perhaps decades, to judge whether the fruits of these revolutions are sweet or bitter or something in between.

But for now we can, I think, say this: a region of the world that for decades has been characterized by maladies and ruthless rulers, that has produced ideologies of hate and violence, that has given rise to feelings of hopelessness and fatedness, has produced in a matter of mere weeks striking displays of courage, moral clarity, and human dignity. I understand, as any conservative would, why some people are unnerved by the scale and pace of change, to say nothing of the history of the region. Still, I can hardly imagine anyone who has listened to the voices of the protesters not being moved by them or not feeling some solidarity with them. Many of them are dying in the streets in hopes of achieving emancipation. In Libya, for example, we are seeing a regime declare war on its own people, to the point of using mercenaries to gun them down.

“Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also,” Alan Paton wrote in the beautiful and evocative book Cry, the Beloved Country. “For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.”

In Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, we are seeing people trying to unlock the secret, to create the dawn.

We are witnesses to a great human drama.

As the Middle East and North Africa continue to convulse, with citizens of one nation and then another rising up against their oppressors, one cannot help but sense that we are experiencing something epic and for the ages. At this juncture, it’s far too early to know how all of this, or even any of this, will end. We don’t know which, if any, of the liberation movements will succeed — and if they do, what will finally become of them. It will take years, and in some cases perhaps decades, to judge whether the fruits of these revolutions are sweet or bitter or something in between.

But for now we can, I think, say this: a region of the world that for decades has been characterized by maladies and ruthless rulers, that has produced ideologies of hate and violence, that has given rise to feelings of hopelessness and fatedness, has produced in a matter of mere weeks striking displays of courage, moral clarity, and human dignity. I understand, as any conservative would, why some people are unnerved by the scale and pace of change, to say nothing of the history of the region. Still, I can hardly imagine anyone who has listened to the voices of the protesters not being moved by them or not feeling some solidarity with them. Many of them are dying in the streets in hopes of achieving emancipation. In Libya, for example, we are seeing a regime declare war on its own people, to the point of using mercenaries to gun them down.

“Ndotsheni is still in darkness, but the light will come there also,” Alan Paton wrote in the beautiful and evocative book Cry, the Beloved Country. “For it is the dawn that has come, as it has come for a thousand centuries, never failing. But when that dawn will come, of our emancipation, from the fear of bondage and the bondage of fear, why, that is a secret.”

In Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, we are seeing people trying to unlock the secret, to create the dawn.

We are witnesses to a great human drama.

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Palestinians Hold Their Governments Accountable. Shouldn’t the West?

With protesters being slaughtered in Libya and Bahrain, the saga of the Palestinian Authority elections has understandably garnered little attention. But their cancellation immediately after being called last week, due to Hamas’s refusal to participate, is worth a closer look, because it explodes one of the West’s favorite myths: that Israel’s blockade of Gaza strengthened Hamas.

If that were true, Hamas ought to jump at the prospect of elections. After all, it won the last election; now, with its increased popularity, it would surely secure an even bigger win that would force the West to finally end its boycott and acknowledge the Hamas government’s legitimacy.

Except that Hamas, unlike the West, knows that its popularity has actually plummeted: every recent poll has shown that it would be trounced by Fatah. A December poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, for instance, found Fatah beating Hamas 42 percent to 24 percent in the West Bank and 48 percent to 26 percent in Gaza. And since voicing support for Fatah can be dangerous in Hamastan, the real gap in Gaza might be even wider. Read More

With protesters being slaughtered in Libya and Bahrain, the saga of the Palestinian Authority elections has understandably garnered little attention. But their cancellation immediately after being called last week, due to Hamas’s refusal to participate, is worth a closer look, because it explodes one of the West’s favorite myths: that Israel’s blockade of Gaza strengthened Hamas.

If that were true, Hamas ought to jump at the prospect of elections. After all, it won the last election; now, with its increased popularity, it would surely secure an even bigger win that would force the West to finally end its boycott and acknowledge the Hamas government’s legitimacy.

Except that Hamas, unlike the West, knows that its popularity has actually plummeted: every recent poll has shown that it would be trounced by Fatah. A December poll by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, for instance, found Fatah beating Hamas 42 percent to 24 percent in the West Bank and 48 percent to 26 percent in Gaza. And since voicing support for Fatah can be dangerous in Hamastan, the real gap in Gaza might be even wider.

That’s because Palestinians, unlike the West’s useful idiots, aren’t idiots; they’re capable of understanding cause and effect: in the West Bank, where no rockets are being fired at Israel, there’s also no Israeli blockade.

They also understand that the daily fire from Gaza isn’t an act of God, but a deliberate choice by Hamas: even when the organization isn’t launching rockets itself, its consistent policy has been not to use its vast security apparatus to keep other organizations from doing so — unlike in the West Bank, where PA forces do make some effort to stop anti-Israel terror.

Finally, they understand that Hamas couldn’t care less about them. Just consider what happened when, under international pressure, Israel finally eased its blockade last year: Hamas promptly imposed its own ban on most imports from Israel, because that would reduce its income from the smuggling tunnels.

Nor is this an isolated incident. There’s also the shutdown of Gaza’s major power plant last year, because Hamas didn’t want to pay for the fuel, as well as the Hamas-Fatah dispute that has kept many Gazans from getting passports. Most recently, there was last month’s critical shortage of medicines in Gaza: Hamas claimed that the PA had stopped sending them, but the PA denied this, countering that Hamas was stealing the shipments and selling the drugs to earn additional cash.

Needless to say, none of these outrages has elicited a peep from nongovernmental organizations and Western leaders; they would rather continue blaming Israel for Gaza’s “humanitarian crisis.” Evidently, they feel it’s perfectly acceptable for a Palestinian government to abuse its own people.

But if the revolts sweeping the Arab world should have taught the West anything, it’s that ordinary Arabs don’t agree. They want their own governments held accountable. And it’s high time for Western leaders and NGOs to start helping the Palestinians in this endeavor, instead of reiterating the tired canard that it’s all Israel’s fault.

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Kadima Infighting Over J Street Conference

Four members of Kadima (which is pretty much the only mainstream party in the Knesset that will have anything to do with J Street anymore) are reportedly facing opposition from fellow party members over their decision to speak at the J Street conference early next week:

“I have my own criticism of the current government, but there have to be limits, and this organization is doing tremendous damage to Israel,” said Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski, a former Jewish Agency chairman. …

MK Shai Hermesh added that he could do his job of trying to topple the government while in Israel, but when he went abroad, he wouldn’t cooperate with any organization that worked against the Israeli government.

“It is too bad that some of my colleagues do not understand the danger of supporting an organization that is working against Israel,” Hermesh said.

The damage that J Street has sustained to its reputation over the past year has made it much easier for politicians to oppose the group or simply ignore it altogether. This couldn’t be more obvious than when you compare the list of speakers from J Street’s 2009 conference with the list of speakers at this year’s conference. While almost no high-ranking Israeli or American politicians will be in attendance this year, in 2009 the conference drew some impressive names, including National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones and Sen. John Kerry.

“J Street tried unsuccessfully to get more senior Israeli politicians to come, including the most dovish minister in the cabinet, Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor (Likud),” reported the Jerusalem Post.

The group just doesn’t have the influence it once did, even among left-wing politicians.

Four members of Kadima (which is pretty much the only mainstream party in the Knesset that will have anything to do with J Street anymore) are reportedly facing opposition from fellow party members over their decision to speak at the J Street conference early next week:

“I have my own criticism of the current government, but there have to be limits, and this organization is doing tremendous damage to Israel,” said Kadima MK Ze’ev Bielski, a former Jewish Agency chairman. …

MK Shai Hermesh added that he could do his job of trying to topple the government while in Israel, but when he went abroad, he wouldn’t cooperate with any organization that worked against the Israeli government.

“It is too bad that some of my colleagues do not understand the danger of supporting an organization that is working against Israel,” Hermesh said.

The damage that J Street has sustained to its reputation over the past year has made it much easier for politicians to oppose the group or simply ignore it altogether. This couldn’t be more obvious than when you compare the list of speakers from J Street’s 2009 conference with the list of speakers at this year’s conference. While almost no high-ranking Israeli or American politicians will be in attendance this year, in 2009 the conference drew some impressive names, including National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones and Sen. John Kerry.

“J Street tried unsuccessfully to get more senior Israeli politicians to come, including the most dovish minister in the cabinet, Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor (Likud),” reported the Jerusalem Post.

The group just doesn’t have the influence it once did, even among left-wing politicians.

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The Most Disturbing Personality on Cable Television

In the past few weeks Glenn Beck has spoken about the coming caliphate that he believes is about to envelope most of the world. He then dilated on the anti-Christ with a man who says he has “new prophetic understanding into the end times.” In 2009, this self-proclaimed prophet wrote a column titled “What Obama and the Anti-Christ Have in Common.” Then, on a recent show, the discussion focused on the coming Islamic anti-Christ. And earlier this week, an irate, bellicose Beck spoke about the “perfect storm” America faces. “I can’t honestly believe we’re finally here,” he said in praising his own prescience. In his version of events, Beck is the solitary Voice of Truth willing to expose the New World Order (complete with references to Van Jones and Code Pink).

It’s hard to tell how much of what Beck says is sincere and how much is for show. Whatever the case, and even taking into account the entire MSNBC lineup, Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television. One cannot watch him for any length of time without being struck by his affinity for conspiracies and for portraying himself as the great decoder of events. Political movements are not just wrong; they are infiltrated by a web of malevolent forces. Others see the shadows on the wall; Beck alone sees the men casting them. The danger when one paints the world in such conspiratorial terms is that it devalues the rational side of politics. It encourages a cast of mind that looks to expose enemies rather than to engage in arguments. Few things, after all, are as they appear.

Beyond that, of course, is the sense of impending doom, of the coming Apocalypse, of our world being on the edge of calamity. If taken seriously, this has the effect of creating fear, hopelessness, and feelings of helplessness.

All this is quite troublesome in its own right. But what ought to worry conservatives in particular is that Beck not only has the unusual capacity to discredit virtually every cause he takes up; he also confirms the worst caricatures of the right. What was true before is doubly true today. It looks to me like it’s only a matter of time — and I suspect not much time — until he blows apart professionally. If and when that happens, one can only hope that conservatism as a movement will have created enough distance from Beck to mitigate the damage.

In the past few weeks Glenn Beck has spoken about the coming caliphate that he believes is about to envelope most of the world. He then dilated on the anti-Christ with a man who says he has “new prophetic understanding into the end times.” In 2009, this self-proclaimed prophet wrote a column titled “What Obama and the Anti-Christ Have in Common.” Then, on a recent show, the discussion focused on the coming Islamic anti-Christ. And earlier this week, an irate, bellicose Beck spoke about the “perfect storm” America faces. “I can’t honestly believe we’re finally here,” he said in praising his own prescience. In his version of events, Beck is the solitary Voice of Truth willing to expose the New World Order (complete with references to Van Jones and Code Pink).

It’s hard to tell how much of what Beck says is sincere and how much is for show. Whatever the case, and even taking into account the entire MSNBC lineup, Glenn Beck has become the most disturbing personality on cable television. One cannot watch him for any length of time without being struck by his affinity for conspiracies and for portraying himself as the great decoder of events. Political movements are not just wrong; they are infiltrated by a web of malevolent forces. Others see the shadows on the wall; Beck alone sees the men casting them. The danger when one paints the world in such conspiratorial terms is that it devalues the rational side of politics. It encourages a cast of mind that looks to expose enemies rather than to engage in arguments. Few things, after all, are as they appear.

Beyond that, of course, is the sense of impending doom, of the coming Apocalypse, of our world being on the edge of calamity. If taken seriously, this has the effect of creating fear, hopelessness, and feelings of helplessness.

All this is quite troublesome in its own right. But what ought to worry conservatives in particular is that Beck not only has the unusual capacity to discredit virtually every cause he takes up; he also confirms the worst caricatures of the right. What was true before is doubly true today. It looks to me like it’s only a matter of time — and I suspect not much time — until he blows apart professionally. If and when that happens, one can only hope that conservatism as a movement will have created enough distance from Beck to mitigate the damage.

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RE: The Dog Eating Obama’s Foreign Policy Homework

J.E. Dyer wrote, “But it’s increasingly clear that regardless of what Team Obama fails to do in foreign policy, it won’t be because of principle or priorities; it will be because of the ravenous, homework-eating dog that prowls the State Department.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Franklin Roosevelt. Asked why he preferred using his own people, such as Harry Hopkins, to conduct foreign policy instead of working through the State Department, he replied, “Because using the State Department is like watching elephants mate. There’s a great deal of noise, everything of importance takes places at a very high level, and it’s two years before you see any results.”

Some things never change in Washington.

J.E. Dyer wrote, “But it’s increasingly clear that regardless of what Team Obama fails to do in foreign policy, it won’t be because of principle or priorities; it will be because of the ravenous, homework-eating dog that prowls the State Department.”

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Franklin Roosevelt. Asked why he preferred using his own people, such as Harry Hopkins, to conduct foreign policy instead of working through the State Department, he replied, “Because using the State Department is like watching elephants mate. There’s a great deal of noise, everything of importance takes places at a very high level, and it’s two years before you see any results.”

Some things never change in Washington.

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What’s Behind the Campaign to Delist the Mujahedin al-Khalq Organization?

A growing number of former U.S. officials — both Republicans and Democrats — have hopped on the bandwagon to demand that the State Department delist the Mujahedin al-Khalq Organization (MKO) from its list of terrorist groups.

I consider the MKO a terrorist group for good reason. There is no doubt that the MKO has targeted Americans, and no amount of slick public relations should erase that. During my time in Iran, it was clear that while Iranians respect the United States and have little good to say about their own government, they all detest the MKO.

The enemy of my enemy is not always a friend: Iranian attitudes toward the MKO are analogous to Americans’ views toward American Taliban John Walker Lindh. Iranians despise the MKO for siding with Saddam Hussein as he murdered Iranians. After liberation, the MKO embraced America not because it loves liberty and apple pie but rather because it is an ideological chameleon. Only fools would believe that the MKO is sincere in its pro-American rhetoric. While the MKO claims credit for intelligence coups, more often than not it is either a conduit for other countries to launder their own collections or the MKO simply makes it up.

One thing is certain: embracing the MKO is the surest way to make anti-American the 65 million Iranians who dislike their government and dislike theocracy.

Still, MKO lobbying is slick and, as a cult, it can rely on the entirety of its members’ incomes to purchase support it might not otherwise receive. If American officials call for the delisting of the MKO, that is their right. For an honest debate on the issues, however, they should acknowledge the honorarium or consulting fees they receive from the group.

A growing number of former U.S. officials — both Republicans and Democrats — have hopped on the bandwagon to demand that the State Department delist the Mujahedin al-Khalq Organization (MKO) from its list of terrorist groups.

I consider the MKO a terrorist group for good reason. There is no doubt that the MKO has targeted Americans, and no amount of slick public relations should erase that. During my time in Iran, it was clear that while Iranians respect the United States and have little good to say about their own government, they all detest the MKO.

The enemy of my enemy is not always a friend: Iranian attitudes toward the MKO are analogous to Americans’ views toward American Taliban John Walker Lindh. Iranians despise the MKO for siding with Saddam Hussein as he murdered Iranians. After liberation, the MKO embraced America not because it loves liberty and apple pie but rather because it is an ideological chameleon. Only fools would believe that the MKO is sincere in its pro-American rhetoric. While the MKO claims credit for intelligence coups, more often than not it is either a conduit for other countries to launder their own collections or the MKO simply makes it up.

One thing is certain: embracing the MKO is the surest way to make anti-American the 65 million Iranians who dislike their government and dislike theocracy.

Still, MKO lobbying is slick and, as a cult, it can rely on the entirety of its members’ incomes to purchase support it might not otherwise receive. If American officials call for the delisting of the MKO, that is their right. For an honest debate on the issues, however, they should acknowledge the honorarium or consulting fees they receive from the group.

Read Less




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