Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 1, 2011

Hamas and Fatah Team Up to Oppose Holocaust History in Palestinian Schools

For years, Hamas has been fighting plans by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to teach eighth-graders about the Holocaust in Gaza schools. And apparently, the controversy is heating up again, this time with Fatah joining in:

Hamas and Fatah have vowed to foil any attempt to teach the Holocaust in UNRWA-run schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The two parties said that teaching the Holocaust was a “provocative act.” …

The [Hamas-controlled Ministry of Culture in the Gaza Strip] described the Holocaust as a lie, saying it had been exaggerated to win sympathy with the “usurping entity” at the expense of the rights and interests of the Palestinians.

Hamas also urged Palestinians to confront the “suspicious scheme,” which it condemned as a “cultural crime.” It said that schools should instead dedicate classes to talking about the “occupation’s terror and racism.”

That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? The idea that Holocaust education is a “scheme” to elicit sympathy for the Jews is one that’s finding increasing traction on the anti-Israel left. At the same time, many of these activists shamelessly exploit the memory of the Holocaust by equating the Israelis to the Nazis. There’s no doubt that Hamas and Fatah are concerned that the curriculum would generate sympathy for Jews among Palestinian youth. But it’s also likely that the two parties are worried about something else — that these lesson plans will unravel the lie that modern-day Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany.

For years, Hamas has been fighting plans by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to teach eighth-graders about the Holocaust in Gaza schools. And apparently, the controversy is heating up again, this time with Fatah joining in:

Hamas and Fatah have vowed to foil any attempt to teach the Holocaust in UNRWA-run schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The two parties said that teaching the Holocaust was a “provocative act.” …

The [Hamas-controlled Ministry of Culture in the Gaza Strip] described the Holocaust as a lie, saying it had been exaggerated to win sympathy with the “usurping entity” at the expense of the rights and interests of the Palestinians.

Hamas also urged Palestinians to confront the “suspicious scheme,” which it condemned as a “cultural crime.” It said that schools should instead dedicate classes to talking about the “occupation’s terror and racism.”

That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? The idea that Holocaust education is a “scheme” to elicit sympathy for the Jews is one that’s finding increasing traction on the anti-Israel left. At the same time, many of these activists shamelessly exploit the memory of the Holocaust by equating the Israelis to the Nazis. There’s no doubt that Hamas and Fatah are concerned that the curriculum would generate sympathy for Jews among Palestinian youth. But it’s also likely that the two parties are worried about something else — that these lesson plans will unravel the lie that modern-day Israel is comparable to Nazi Germany.

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Cautious Optimism Regarding the Arab Revolts, from an Unlikely Source

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a COMMENTARY contributor, has written a noteworthy piece on his optimism on the new Arab revolt.

“One has the sense that the past century’s extremism — tied to such figures as Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness,” according to Pipes. While admitting that he is known for “doom-and-gloom,” Pipes goes on to say this:

But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic speakers mature into adults. One rubs one’s eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held.

Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.

While I caution against premising foreign policies on this abrupt improvement, it would also be a mistake to discount it. The rebel movements need an opportunity to find themselves and to act as adults. Time has come to discard the soft bigotry of low expectations; speaking Arabic or Persian does not make one incapable of building democratic means to attain free ends.

Like many others, I remain quite uncertain about how these various Arab revolutions, each with its own shape and texture, will end up. (Bret Stephens has written a cautious and intelligent column on this.) But more and more people are conceding that what we’re seeing in Cairo, Benghazi, and other cities across the Arab world is amazing and encouraging. You can now count among them the eminent Daniel Pipes.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and a COMMENTARY contributor, has written a noteworthy piece on his optimism on the new Arab revolt.

“One has the sense that the past century’s extremism — tied to such figures as Amin al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ruhollah Khomeini, Yasser Arafat, and Saddam Hussein — has run its course, that populations seek something more mundane and consumable than rhetoric, rejectionism, and backwardness,” according to Pipes. While admitting that he is known for “doom-and-gloom,” Pipes goes on to say this:

But, with due hesitation, I see changes that could augur a new era, one in which infantilized Arabic speakers mature into adults. One rubs one’s eyes at this transformation, awaiting its reversal. So far, however, it has held.

Perhaps the most genial symbol of this maturation is the pattern of street demonstrators cleaning up after themselves. No longer are they wards of the state dependent on it for services; of a sudden, they are citizens with a sense of civic responsibility.

While I caution against premising foreign policies on this abrupt improvement, it would also be a mistake to discount it. The rebel movements need an opportunity to find themselves and to act as adults. Time has come to discard the soft bigotry of low expectations; speaking Arabic or Persian does not make one incapable of building democratic means to attain free ends.

Like many others, I remain quite uncertain about how these various Arab revolutions, each with its own shape and texture, will end up. (Bret Stephens has written a cautious and intelligent column on this.) But more and more people are conceding that what we’re seeing in Cairo, Benghazi, and other cities across the Arab world is amazing and encouraging. You can now count among them the eminent Daniel Pipes.

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Obama Taking His Time Getting Rid of ‘Terrorist Recruitment Tool’

Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest Obama-administration official to indicate that the president has no intention of closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center anytime soon. At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee today, Holder told lawmakers that he had no clue when the prison would be shut down:

US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder told members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday “I don’t know” when asked if the detention center at Guantanamo Bay will close by the end of the president’s first term.

He was not the first high ranking member of the Obama administration to admit things weren’t going well in efforts to find an alternative to Gitmo for dealing with top terrorists.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted last month that the United States has no contingency plans for detaining and trying Osama bin Laden if he were captured, saying, “the honest answer to that is, we don’t know.”

If Osama bin Laden is captured, Holder said that a committee would decide where he would be held and tried.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay immediately upon taking office. But with his 2012 re-election campaign right around the corner, he still hasn’t made good on his vow.

Recall that the president has often framed the need to close Guantanamo Bay as a national-security issue, calling the detention center a terrorist-recruitment tool. “It is a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment and harmful to our national security, so closing it is important for our national security,” Obama said in 2009.

But for something that’s supposedly so detrimental to our national security, Obama seems to be in no hurry to get rid of it.

Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest Obama-administration official to indicate that the president has no intention of closing the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center anytime soon. At a hearing before the House Appropriations Committee today, Holder told lawmakers that he had no clue when the prison would be shut down:

US Attorney Gen. Eric Holder told members of the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday “I don’t know” when asked if the detention center at Guantanamo Bay will close by the end of the president’s first term.

He was not the first high ranking member of the Obama administration to admit things weren’t going well in efforts to find an alternative to Gitmo for dealing with top terrorists.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted last month that the United States has no contingency plans for detaining and trying Osama bin Laden if he were captured, saying, “the honest answer to that is, we don’t know.”

If Osama bin Laden is captured, Holder said that a committee would decide where he would be held and tried.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay immediately upon taking office. But with his 2012 re-election campaign right around the corner, he still hasn’t made good on his vow.

Recall that the president has often framed the need to close Guantanamo Bay as a national-security issue, calling the detention center a terrorist-recruitment tool. “It is a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment and harmful to our national security, so closing it is important for our national security,” Obama said in 2009.

But for something that’s supposedly so detrimental to our national security, Obama seems to be in no hurry to get rid of it.

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Fouad Ajami on America’s ‘Shrinking President’

This morning, William Bennett conducted a fascinating interview with Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. During their conversation, Ajami spoke about the various Arab uprisings. He was also asked about President Obama and whether the president was being criticized too harshly for his weak stance during the Libyan revolution. Professor Ajami would have none of it.

“I would personally escalate the criticism of President Obama,” Ajami said. The president has become the “quiet American,” standing behind the British, the French, and even the Italians in condemning Qaddafi. There are options (like recognizing a new provisional government) that Obama could, but so far won’t, exercise. The president “doesn’t want his fingerprints on this story.” He has “outsourced his statements” to others. And this is not only a moral failure; it is a geopolitical one as well.

“Wouldn’t we want the moral credit and the gratitude of the Libyans in the future?” Ajami asks.

Standing with the Libyan people in their hour of need would benefit America’s standing in that nation and in the wider world. But we have as our commander in chief, Ajami speculates, a man who loves the adoration of the crowd but is unable to make the “strategic and moral choices on behalf of this great American republic.” And what we have gotten is not a leader but “almost like the shrinking president.”

The interview is quite insightful and, at least as it relates to our president, quite dispiriting.

This morning, William Bennett conducted a fascinating interview with Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami. During their conversation, Ajami spoke about the various Arab uprisings. He was also asked about President Obama and whether the president was being criticized too harshly for his weak stance during the Libyan revolution. Professor Ajami would have none of it.

“I would personally escalate the criticism of President Obama,” Ajami said. The president has become the “quiet American,” standing behind the British, the French, and even the Italians in condemning Qaddafi. There are options (like recognizing a new provisional government) that Obama could, but so far won’t, exercise. The president “doesn’t want his fingerprints on this story.” He has “outsourced his statements” to others. And this is not only a moral failure; it is a geopolitical one as well.

“Wouldn’t we want the moral credit and the gratitude of the Libyans in the future?” Ajami asks.

Standing with the Libyan people in their hour of need would benefit America’s standing in that nation and in the wider world. But we have as our commander in chief, Ajami speculates, a man who loves the adoration of the crowd but is unable to make the “strategic and moral choices on behalf of this great American republic.” And what we have gotten is not a leader but “almost like the shrinking president.”

The interview is quite insightful and, at least as it relates to our president, quite dispiriting.

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New York Times Magazine Unveils New Design with Old NYT Feature: Love of Leftist Terrorists

This Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will debut its redesign, and Michael Calderone at Yahoo News has a preview. The cover looks very much like the magazine’s cover looked 40 years ago, which is fine. But look beyond the visual and see if you can discern the subject of the cover story and the originator of its quote: “I Was Much Freer in Jail.”

Who is this Solzhenitsyn, this Sharansky, this prisoner of conscience? None other than Lori Berenson.

And who is Lori Berenson? Only the Manhattan-born red-diaper baby who moved to Peru in the early 1990s and became a member of the Tupac Amaru guerrillas, one of the monstrous terrorist organizations that plunged Peru into hellish chaos and killed an estimated 70,000 people (the evil done by these groups is a subject of some of the great fiction and journalism of this year’s Nobelist, Mario Vargas Llosa). Peru’s terrorist monsters were so brutal, it was necessary for the judges who heard cases involving them to be hooded so that they could not be identified — to spare both them and their families from personal retaliation following multiple assassinations.

Berenson housed Tupac Amaru members, let them use her apartment as an ammo dump, and attained press credentials so she could scout the Peruvian parliament to help design its planned takeover by the group. When she was in court, she famously screamed at the judges in Spanish: “There are no criminal terrorists in the MRTA. It is a revolutionary movement.” Even now she denies it, telling Newsweek: “I don’t consider myself a terrorist. I think saying someone is a criminal is enough. It’s not helpful to look for ways of qualifying our enemies in drastic terms instead of trying to figure out exactly what we’re faced with. … I’m not ashamed of what I did.”

On another occasion or two she said she regretted having lost her temper in the courtroom, but it sure didn’t look like she was sorry, or that she didn’t mean it, or that she wasn’t in fact saying (as she was) that the group was in fact exactly what it was accused of being. (Meryl Yourish has a good roundup of Berenson’s history.)

I haven’t read the magazine piece, by the often brilliant novelist Jennifer Egan, so it may be brutally honest about all this. But no matter what the text says, the cover image is consciously designed to make Berenson look like the Madonna with child — the child to whom she gave birth in prison in 2008. His father is also a convicted member of the Tupac Amaru group.

The Times has a repugnant history of this sort of thing; many people remember its glowing story about Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground domestic terrorist, which appeared, to the paper’s eternal shame, on September 11, 2001. It’s almost 10 years later. Evidently, the statute of limitations on journalistic embarrassments ran out, and it was time for the Times to snag another one.

This Sunday, the New York Times Magazine will debut its redesign, and Michael Calderone at Yahoo News has a preview. The cover looks very much like the magazine’s cover looked 40 years ago, which is fine. But look beyond the visual and see if you can discern the subject of the cover story and the originator of its quote: “I Was Much Freer in Jail.”

Who is this Solzhenitsyn, this Sharansky, this prisoner of conscience? None other than Lori Berenson.

And who is Lori Berenson? Only the Manhattan-born red-diaper baby who moved to Peru in the early 1990s and became a member of the Tupac Amaru guerrillas, one of the monstrous terrorist organizations that plunged Peru into hellish chaos and killed an estimated 70,000 people (the evil done by these groups is a subject of some of the great fiction and journalism of this year’s Nobelist, Mario Vargas Llosa). Peru’s terrorist monsters were so brutal, it was necessary for the judges who heard cases involving them to be hooded so that they could not be identified — to spare both them and their families from personal retaliation following multiple assassinations.

Berenson housed Tupac Amaru members, let them use her apartment as an ammo dump, and attained press credentials so she could scout the Peruvian parliament to help design its planned takeover by the group. When she was in court, she famously screamed at the judges in Spanish: “There are no criminal terrorists in the MRTA. It is a revolutionary movement.” Even now she denies it, telling Newsweek: “I don’t consider myself a terrorist. I think saying someone is a criminal is enough. It’s not helpful to look for ways of qualifying our enemies in drastic terms instead of trying to figure out exactly what we’re faced with. … I’m not ashamed of what I did.”

On another occasion or two she said she regretted having lost her temper in the courtroom, but it sure didn’t look like she was sorry, or that she didn’t mean it, or that she wasn’t in fact saying (as she was) that the group was in fact exactly what it was accused of being. (Meryl Yourish has a good roundup of Berenson’s history.)

I haven’t read the magazine piece, by the often brilliant novelist Jennifer Egan, so it may be brutally honest about all this. But no matter what the text says, the cover image is consciously designed to make Berenson look like the Madonna with child — the child to whom she gave birth in prison in 2008. His father is also a convicted member of the Tupac Amaru group.

The Times has a repugnant history of this sort of thing; many people remember its glowing story about Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground domestic terrorist, which appeared, to the paper’s eternal shame, on September 11, 2001. It’s almost 10 years later. Evidently, the statute of limitations on journalistic embarrassments ran out, and it was time for the Times to snag another one.

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Julian Assange: ‘Jewish Conspiracy’ Trying to Smear Me

Embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has devoted his life to exposing government secrets, but apparently he’s not able to handle his own private information being leaked to the public. After his personal e-mails were published by some newspapers, Assange reportedly had a major meltdown during a phone call with the editor of the magazine Private Eye. The WikiLeaks founder alleged that the editor was part of a “conspiracy” of “Jewish writers” who were trying to take him down:

The editor of Private Eye magazine says Assange told him that an Eye article about WikiLeaks’ Russian associate, alleged Holocaust denier and antisemite Israel Shamir, was “an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organisation of Jewish support and donations”.

In the same interview Mr Assange added that the magazine was “part of a conspiracy” led by “Jewish” writers.

Mr Assange accused the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger of being part of the conspiracy, despite the fact he is not Jewish.

According to Private Eye, when informed of this “Assange insisted that he was “sort of Jewish” because he was related to [Guardian journalist] David Leigh.

Apparently Assange’s wig-out was related to allegations that he had knowingly hired Holocaust-denier Israel Shamir. While journalists have questioned Assange’s ties to Shamir for a while now, newly leaked e-mails reportedly show that the WikiLeaks leader personally approved Shamir’s employment.

It’s also not much of a surprise that Assange blamed his predicament on the Jews. His philosophies — the anti-imperialism and anti-government paranoia — do tend to blend easily with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

Embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has devoted his life to exposing government secrets, but apparently he’s not able to handle his own private information being leaked to the public. After his personal e-mails were published by some newspapers, Assange reportedly had a major meltdown during a phone call with the editor of the magazine Private Eye. The WikiLeaks founder alleged that the editor was part of a “conspiracy” of “Jewish writers” who were trying to take him down:

The editor of Private Eye magazine says Assange told him that an Eye article about WikiLeaks’ Russian associate, alleged Holocaust denier and antisemite Israel Shamir, was “an obvious attempt to deprive him and his organisation of Jewish support and donations”.

In the same interview Mr Assange added that the magazine was “part of a conspiracy” led by “Jewish” writers.

Mr Assange accused the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger of being part of the conspiracy, despite the fact he is not Jewish.

According to Private Eye, when informed of this “Assange insisted that he was “sort of Jewish” because he was related to [Guardian journalist] David Leigh.

Apparently Assange’s wig-out was related to allegations that he had knowingly hired Holocaust-denier Israel Shamir. While journalists have questioned Assange’s ties to Shamir for a while now, newly leaked e-mails reportedly show that the WikiLeaks leader personally approved Shamir’s employment.

It’s also not much of a surprise that Assange blamed his predicament on the Jews. His philosophies — the anti-imperialism and anti-government paranoia — do tend to blend easily with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

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Ron Paul: We Shouldn’t Support Israel Over the Palestinians

News Real Blog’s Walter Hudson interviewed Rep. Ron Paul about his views on America’s Israel policy, and the congressman’s apathy toward the Jewish state was even more obvious than usual:

Paul: First off, [the Israelis are] under threat because we’re there. We’re a greater threat to them, and our polices, because they have assumed that we’ll [intervene] if they don’t do the right things for themselves.

I don’t know of anybody who can militarily threaten them. They have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody’s gonna touch them. This notion that we have to support them over the Palestinians – we shouldn’t favor one over the other. It’s a very different problem over there. If you’re a Palestinian-American, you might not like [America's position on Israel]. I’m not saying you should support the Palestinian side or the Israeli side. I’m saying let them work it out.

The congressman’s comments throughout the entire interview seemed glaringly naïve. At one point, he told Hudson that he believed “we should treat all other countries alike, and that we should be friends.” So we should treat North Korea the same way we treat Canada and just hope things work out? That’s certainly a nice fantasy, but have fun trying to convince voters that it’s a plausible foreign-policy doctrine.

And as for the Israel issue, an overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with Paul. A Gallup poll released yesterday showed that U.S. adults are four times more likely to side with the Israelis over the Palestinians. Conservatives are even more likely to support Israel, which doesn’t do much to bolster Paul’s already-slim political chances for the 2012 Republican primary.

News Real Blog’s Walter Hudson interviewed Rep. Ron Paul about his views on America’s Israel policy, and the congressman’s apathy toward the Jewish state was even more obvious than usual:

Paul: First off, [the Israelis are] under threat because we’re there. We’re a greater threat to them, and our polices, because they have assumed that we’ll [intervene] if they don’t do the right things for themselves.

I don’t know of anybody who can militarily threaten them. They have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody’s gonna touch them. This notion that we have to support them over the Palestinians – we shouldn’t favor one over the other. It’s a very different problem over there. If you’re a Palestinian-American, you might not like [America's position on Israel]. I’m not saying you should support the Palestinian side or the Israeli side. I’m saying let them work it out.

The congressman’s comments throughout the entire interview seemed glaringly naïve. At one point, he told Hudson that he believed “we should treat all other countries alike, and that we should be friends.” So we should treat North Korea the same way we treat Canada and just hope things work out? That’s certainly a nice fantasy, but have fun trying to convince voters that it’s a plausible foreign-policy doctrine.

And as for the Israel issue, an overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with Paul. A Gallup poll released yesterday showed that U.S. adults are four times more likely to side with the Israelis over the Palestinians. Conservatives are even more likely to support Israel, which doesn’t do much to bolster Paul’s already-slim political chances for the 2012 Republican primary.

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Jim Wallis and the Dangers of Heresy

A coalition of liberal Christian leaders — including Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Ron Sider, Joel C. Hunter, and Tony Campolo — took out a full-page ad that asks “What would Jesus cut?” in Monday’s edition of Politico (see the news story here).

Now most of the ad is non-offensive. It argues that Christianity tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor. It insists that our budget should not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable. And it defends programs fighting pandemic diseases. On some of these matters I happen to agree with the signatories; on others I don’t. But where the ad crosses the line is with the campaign slogan itself: “What Would Jesus Cut?”

One is tempted to say Planned Parenthood, but set that aside for the moment. What these “progressive” Christian leaders are doing is committing the same error that some on the so-called Religious Right did, which is to pretend that Scripture can be reduced to a governing blueprint. (In this instance, we’re asked to imagine Jesus as a liberal, big-spending director of the Office of Management and Budget.) The temptation of politically active people of faith is to simplistically connect dots, insisting that certain biblical principles self-evidently translate into particular public policies.

Jim Wallis made this mistake on welfare reform. He was a ferocious critic of it in the name of caring for the poor and the vulnerable. Never mind that welfare reform ranks among the most humane social reforms of the last half-century and that Wallis’s predictions were ludicrously off-target. In the mid-1990s, however, we were not spared the sermon of how Jesus, in expressing solidarity with the poor, would oppose welfare reform. Read More

A coalition of liberal Christian leaders — including Jim Wallis, Shane Claiborne, Ron Sider, Joel C. Hunter, and Tony Campolo — took out a full-page ad that asks “What would Jesus cut?” in Monday’s edition of Politico (see the news story here).

Now most of the ad is non-offensive. It argues that Christianity tells us that the moral test of a society is how it treats the poor. It insists that our budget should not be balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable. And it defends programs fighting pandemic diseases. On some of these matters I happen to agree with the signatories; on others I don’t. But where the ad crosses the line is with the campaign slogan itself: “What Would Jesus Cut?”

One is tempted to say Planned Parenthood, but set that aside for the moment. What these “progressive” Christian leaders are doing is committing the same error that some on the so-called Religious Right did, which is to pretend that Scripture can be reduced to a governing blueprint. (In this instance, we’re asked to imagine Jesus as a liberal, big-spending director of the Office of Management and Budget.) The temptation of politically active people of faith is to simplistically connect dots, insisting that certain biblical principles self-evidently translate into particular public policies.

Jim Wallis made this mistake on welfare reform. He was a ferocious critic of it in the name of caring for the poor and the vulnerable. Never mind that welfare reform ranks among the most humane social reforms of the last half-century and that Wallis’s predictions were ludicrously off-target. In the mid-1990s, however, we were not spared the sermon of how Jesus, in expressing solidarity with the poor, would oppose welfare reform.

Scripture provides a moral framework through which people can debate particular public policies. On some matters, like the slave trade and genocide, the “right” Christian position may be obvious (though what policies one should support to oppose them isn’t always). But in the vast majority of cases, and certainly when it comes to the federal budget, what we are talking about are prudential judgments about competing priority. And to pretend that the budget Jesus would bless just happens to be at the current discretionary spending levels rather than, say, what they were in 2008, is close to offensive.

The Christian ethicist Paul Ramsey wrote, “Identification of Christian social ethics with specific partisan proposals that clearly are not the only ones that may be characterized as Christian and as morally acceptable comes close to the original New Testament meaning of heresy.”

That is what Wallis & Company are engaging in. To argue that their form of liberalism has the imprimatur of Jesus — and to argue the necessary corollary, which is that those who want to return spending levels to their pre-stimulus levels are being unfaithful to the commands of their Lord — is arrogant and harmful. It reduces faith to a political weapon. In their partisan zeal, these Christian leaders are discrediting the very faith they insist they are defending.

Paul Ramsey was right.

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New Israel Fund Funneling Money to the ‘Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement’

The New Israel Fund — which has come under fire in the past for funding questionable groups — is now reportedly funneling money to the controversial Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement:

In contrast to its recent moral guidelines, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is involved in the funding of a group that calls for the “liquidation or fundamental change of organizations that contribute to the dispossession of Arabs, including the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, and the Israel Lands Authority.” NIF currently channels funds to the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which has embraced this radical agenda, notes Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.

A recent SJSM pamphlet asks U.S. donors to “make a tax-exempt donation via the New Israel Fund.” In addition to the group’s comments about the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, it has also accused Israel of fascism, apartheid, and ethnic discrimination.

“NIF has made an important and positive contribution to Israeli society,” said NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg in a press release today. “But this does not excuse funding for radical political advocacy groups involved in demonization. NIF must choose between ending this relationship with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, and repudiating the group’s offensive rhetoric, or ending the pretense of promoting a pro-Israel and pro-Zionist agenda.”

While the SJSM may not support boycott, divestment, and sanctions outright, it still works to delegitimize Israel in other ways. New Israel Fund should put its support elsewhere.

The New Israel Fund — which has come under fire in the past for funding questionable groups — is now reportedly funneling money to the controversial Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement:

In contrast to its recent moral guidelines, the New Israel Fund (NIF) is involved in the funding of a group that calls for the “liquidation or fundamental change of organizations that contribute to the dispossession of Arabs, including the Jewish Agency, the Jewish National Fund, and the Israel Lands Authority.” NIF currently channels funds to the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, which has embraced this radical agenda, notes Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.

A recent SJSM pamphlet asks U.S. donors to “make a tax-exempt donation via the New Israel Fund.” In addition to the group’s comments about the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, it has also accused Israel of fascism, apartheid, and ethnic discrimination.

“NIF has made an important and positive contribution to Israeli society,” said NGO Monitor president Gerald Steinberg in a press release today. “But this does not excuse funding for radical political advocacy groups involved in demonization. NIF must choose between ending this relationship with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, and repudiating the group’s offensive rhetoric, or ending the pretense of promoting a pro-Israel and pro-Zionist agenda.”

While the SJSM may not support boycott, divestment, and sanctions outright, it still works to delegitimize Israel in other ways. New Israel Fund should put its support elsewhere.

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Peace-Process Payments

Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud members yesterday that the “American veto in the Security Council was only achieved with great effort,” and he rejected any new settlement-construction plans. Last week, he issued a statement endorsing “the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration for statehood,” which the Jerusalem Post characterized as the “initial repayment to the US” for the veto. Yesterday’s statement, combined with the forcible demolition of a settlement outpost and announcement of more demolitions to come, appear to be further installment payments.

The U.S. has thus — in exchange for a veto with a statement rejecting “in the strongest terms” the “legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” which allegedly “corroded hopes for peace for more than four decades” (although not multiple offers of a contiguous state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza) — obtained (1) a new construction freeze to replace the expired moratorium; (2) the  dismantlement of settlement outposts without reciprocal Palestinian steps; and (3) a public endorsement of the “legitimate aspiration” of the statehood the Palestinians refuse to negotiate.

The Palestinians will presumably pay a significant price for their (1) repeated refusal to come to the negotiating table in response to U.S. requests; (2) rejection of a direct presidential request to withdraw their polarizing UN resolution; and (3) public criticism of the U.S. and its president in the harshest possible terms. But perhaps not — since they have yet to pay any price for their hope-corroding response to the removal of every settler and soldier from Gaza.

Benjamin Netanyahu told Likud members yesterday that the “American veto in the Security Council was only achieved with great effort,” and he rejected any new settlement-construction plans. Last week, he issued a statement endorsing “the Palestinians’ legitimate aspiration for statehood,” which the Jerusalem Post characterized as the “initial repayment to the US” for the veto. Yesterday’s statement, combined with the forcible demolition of a settlement outpost and announcement of more demolitions to come, appear to be further installment payments.

The U.S. has thus — in exchange for a veto with a statement rejecting “in the strongest terms” the “legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity,” which allegedly “corroded hopes for peace for more than four decades” (although not multiple offers of a contiguous state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza) — obtained (1) a new construction freeze to replace the expired moratorium; (2) the  dismantlement of settlement outposts without reciprocal Palestinian steps; and (3) a public endorsement of the “legitimate aspiration” of the statehood the Palestinians refuse to negotiate.

The Palestinians will presumably pay a significant price for their (1) repeated refusal to come to the negotiating table in response to U.S. requests; (2) rejection of a direct presidential request to withdraw their polarizing UN resolution; and (3) public criticism of the U.S. and its president in the harshest possible terms. But perhaps not — since they have yet to pay any price for their hope-corroding response to the removal of every settler and soldier from Gaza.

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So Who Exactly Thought Syria Engagement Would Work?

As Michael Rubin pointed out Sunday, Syrian engagement has been a near-total failure. Damascus spent February 2010 responding to Obama’s outreach by openly mocking the White House’s efforts and threatening to saturation-bomb Israeli civilians, so the failure’s been predictable for at least a year.

So why did the White House continue to pursue engagement, up through recess-appointing Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria at the risk of souring executive-congressional relations? Hard to answer. What did Syria do in the meantime, while the administration continued to bumble through its naive policy? Here is a straightforward answer:

Commercial satellite photos have revealed a new Syrian nuclear enrichment facility near Damascus. There are two other facilities apparently related to nuclear research, but the Damascus site is apparently being equipped for enriching uranium for a reactor, or nuclear weapons. The grounds around this site are being paved, so that it’s more difficult to detect radioactive material… Syria originally had a nuclear reactor under construction at al Kibar, which was bombed by Israel in September, 2007.

Even this tactic was thoroughly predictable years ago, when Damascus responded to Israel’s bombing of al-Kibar by following the Iranian model and building multiple, redundant nuclear facilities. In other words, we’ve known about this exact plan since before Obama took office, yet the administration still pursued engagement. Now the Russians have gotten around to closing on their sale of anti-ship cruise missiles to Damascus, because if Obama can engage in his way, why can’t the Russians engage in their own way? Again, the clock keeps ticking as the White House keeps failing.

The critical question, as always, is not just about the decision but also about the decision-making process. What were the now-undeniably untenable assumptions that the White House used to game out the costs and benefits of engagement? Now that reality has pushed back forcefully, have those assumptions been abandoned? Were the assumptions originally brought to bear on decision-making as a matter of politics, or did some in the administration actually think they represented the most likely model for Middle East international relations? Have those people been fired?

Or more pointedly, who told Obama — mistakenly — that Syria could be peeled away from Iran? On what basis did they come to those conclusions? Are they still laboring under those delusions? I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to sketch assessments or pen policy prescriptions anymore. I just think they should have to write their assessments out in crayon, as a kind of very appropriate warning to the rest of us.

As Michael Rubin pointed out Sunday, Syrian engagement has been a near-total failure. Damascus spent February 2010 responding to Obama’s outreach by openly mocking the White House’s efforts and threatening to saturation-bomb Israeli civilians, so the failure’s been predictable for at least a year.

So why did the White House continue to pursue engagement, up through recess-appointing Robert Ford as ambassador to Syria at the risk of souring executive-congressional relations? Hard to answer. What did Syria do in the meantime, while the administration continued to bumble through its naive policy? Here is a straightforward answer:

Commercial satellite photos have revealed a new Syrian nuclear enrichment facility near Damascus. There are two other facilities apparently related to nuclear research, but the Damascus site is apparently being equipped for enriching uranium for a reactor, or nuclear weapons. The grounds around this site are being paved, so that it’s more difficult to detect radioactive material… Syria originally had a nuclear reactor under construction at al Kibar, which was bombed by Israel in September, 2007.

Even this tactic was thoroughly predictable years ago, when Damascus responded to Israel’s bombing of al-Kibar by following the Iranian model and building multiple, redundant nuclear facilities. In other words, we’ve known about this exact plan since before Obama took office, yet the administration still pursued engagement. Now the Russians have gotten around to closing on their sale of anti-ship cruise missiles to Damascus, because if Obama can engage in his way, why can’t the Russians engage in their own way? Again, the clock keeps ticking as the White House keeps failing.

The critical question, as always, is not just about the decision but also about the decision-making process. What were the now-undeniably untenable assumptions that the White House used to game out the costs and benefits of engagement? Now that reality has pushed back forcefully, have those assumptions been abandoned? Were the assumptions originally brought to bear on decision-making as a matter of politics, or did some in the administration actually think they represented the most likely model for Middle East international relations? Have those people been fired?

Or more pointedly, who told Obama — mistakenly — that Syria could be peeled away from Iran? On what basis did they come to those conclusions? Are they still laboring under those delusions? I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be allowed to sketch assessments or pen policy prescriptions anymore. I just think they should have to write their assessments out in crayon, as a kind of very appropriate warning to the rest of us.

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A Shoddy New York Times Poll

The New York Times published a poll in today’s paper with the headline “Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions.” The Times thought the story so significant that it put it on page 1, above the fold, and even sent out a news alert last night via e-mail. According to the Times:

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, …

“Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits,” the Times adds, “those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one.”

How do you square these figures with the results of last November’s elections, in which anti-tax, anti-deficit, anti-public-union forces swept to historic victories in federal and state elections across the country? Well, you can’t, of course. The Times doesn’t even ask this blindingly obvious question, let alone try to answer it.

But if you read down to the seventh paragraph of the story, which is on page 17, not page 1, an answer emerges:

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household.

Although less than 12 percent of the workforce is unionized today, 20 percent of the households in the survey had a union member. Although government workers are 17 percent of the workforce, 25 percent of the households surveyed had one living there. In other words, the sample was wildly skewed toward the very people most likely to give the answers the Times was hoping to hear.

The New York Times published a poll in today’s paper with the headline “Majority in Poll Back Employees in Public Sector Unions.” The Times thought the story so significant that it put it on page 1, above the fold, and even sent out a news alert last night via e-mail. According to the Times:

As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, …

“Asked how they would choose to reduce their state’s deficits,” the Times adds, “those polled preferred tax increases over benefit cuts for state workers by nearly two to one.”

How do you square these figures with the results of last November’s elections, in which anti-tax, anti-deficit, anti-public-union forces swept to historic victories in federal and state elections across the country? Well, you can’t, of course. The Times doesn’t even ask this blindingly obvious question, let alone try to answer it.

But if you read down to the seventh paragraph of the story, which is on page 17, not page 1, an answer emerges:

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Feb. 24-27 with 984 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said there was a union member in their household, and 25 percent said there was a public employee in their household.

Although less than 12 percent of the workforce is unionized today, 20 percent of the households in the survey had a union member. Although government workers are 17 percent of the workforce, 25 percent of the households surveyed had one living there. In other words, the sample was wildly skewed toward the very people most likely to give the answers the Times was hoping to hear.

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Some Good News Out of Libya

The Christian Science Monitor reports that an experienced Libyan radio team, once subject to Qaddafi’s control, has set up the “Voice of Free Libya” and is now broadcasting from Benghazi. Enterprising volunteers have also started a four-page newspaper in the opposition-held port city.

With Qaddafi jamming the Nilesat satellite broadcast, on which Libyan civilians are dependent for news and foreign Internet service, the people in Benghazi have had little access to news. The Voice of Free Libya could be a remarkable source for foreign governments in the coming days; but to the Libyan opposition, it is likely to be something much more: not just a source of news but also a source of connection and shared hope.

The new radio broadcast is a reminder that good outcomes cannot be shaped solely by punishing the bad guys. That has been Obama’s focus with Libya, but it is equally important to encourage and reinforce positive activities. Maybe this broadcast is worth our support — and perhaps there are other things we can do to get alternative media back into Libya past Qaddafi’s signal-jamming. In fostering the Libyan people’s own energy and courage, America would be at its best.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that an experienced Libyan radio team, once subject to Qaddafi’s control, has set up the “Voice of Free Libya” and is now broadcasting from Benghazi. Enterprising volunteers have also started a four-page newspaper in the opposition-held port city.

With Qaddafi jamming the Nilesat satellite broadcast, on which Libyan civilians are dependent for news and foreign Internet service, the people in Benghazi have had little access to news. The Voice of Free Libya could be a remarkable source for foreign governments in the coming days; but to the Libyan opposition, it is likely to be something much more: not just a source of news but also a source of connection and shared hope.

The new radio broadcast is a reminder that good outcomes cannot be shaped solely by punishing the bad guys. That has been Obama’s focus with Libya, but it is equally important to encourage and reinforce positive activities. Maybe this broadcast is worth our support — and perhaps there are other things we can do to get alternative media back into Libya past Qaddafi’s signal-jamming. In fostering the Libyan people’s own energy and courage, America would be at its best.

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