CBN News is reporting that the Red Cross is continuing to shelter three Hamas officials suspected in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit five years ago. It sounds like the terrorists have it pretty good. In addition to receiving visits from foreign dignitaries, Jimmy Carter has dropped by, and the Hamas members have been free to hold press conferences from their safe-house at the Red Cross’s East Jerusalem office. Legions of Hamas supporters reportedly congregate outside the office on Fridays to hold candlelight vigils, as well.
“Under international humanitarian law, East Jerusalem is considered occupied territory,” Red Cross spokesperson Cecilia Goin explained to CBN News. “So the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem are considered protected people.”
While the Red Cross has welcomed the Hamas officials with open arms (the three of them have reportedly set up a tent at the office), Red Cross medical personnel continue to be denied access to tend to Shalit while he’s in captivity, in violation of international law.
The Red Cross’s cushy treatment of these Hamas officials is bad enough on its own. But it also highlights the fact that the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations haven’t been nearly as forceful as they should be in demanding the release of Shalit. Nearly five years after his capture, it’s a travesty that he hasn’t even been able to receive medical attention, while three of his suspected kidnappers receive visits from former U.S. presidents and diplomats.
At the Daily Caller, Matthew Boyle gives an update on the left’s ongoing civil war over the term “ObamaCare.” Though Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz recently blasted the use of the word on the House floor as a “violation” of congressional rules, some supporters of health-care reform still employ it. “Obamacare is WORKING,” Center for American Progress staffer Van Jones wrote on Twitter yesterday, before telling his fellow Obama supporters, “why run from the term? Luv it!” Neither Wasserman Schultz nor Rep. Maxine Waters – who once insisted that “ObamaCare” was a racist expression – responded to the Daily Caller when asked if it was now appropriate to say it.
But whether or not Democrats approve of it, the term “ObamaCare” is still regularly found on left-wing websites. And the reason is because it’s just a simple and comprehendible way of saying “the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” without writing the whole thing out every time. Many of them put it in quotation marks. For example, Steve Kornacki wrote at Salon last month that “‘ObamaCare’ is something that — if prompted — voters might object to if there are other factors (like high economic anxiety) in place that make them inclined to view the president and his policies negatively. But it won’t keep them from flocking to him if economic conditions are improving come 2012.” Others don’t even bother with that formality, like Matthew Yglesias who used the word in a Think Progress post just a few days ago.
But no matter what you call the policy, the national perception of it isn’t improving. As Peter pointed out yesterday, only 37 percent of Americans support the law, while 59 percent oppose it. With those kind of numbers, a name change isn’t going to do much to reform its image.
There are plenty of reasons to worry about the future of what some are calling the “Arab Spring,” the region-wide movement that led to successful revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, the civil war in Libya, and efforts in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere to overthrow existing autocrats. But whatever happens in these countries, it won’t be Israel’s fault one way or the other. Despite the claims of Arab propagandists who have been telling us for generations that dislike of Israel and its Western supporters is the key issue motivating Muslims, these revolts have been about the shortcomings of the protesters’ own governments and nothing else. But it doesn’t take much for critics of Israel to justify injecting the Jewish state into the debate.
Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine is seen by some in the pro-Israel community as a moderate, but even he can’t seem to resist the impulse to blame Israel for the potential failure of the Arab Spring. Writing today in Foreign Policy, he asserts that the recent upsurge in Palestinian terrorism could derail the Arab Reform movement. According to Ibish, if Israel attempts to suppress Hamas terror attacks such as the fatal bus bombing yesterday in Jerusalem it could lead to Arabs’ being distracted from their campaign for self-rule and allow existing ruling elites to stay in power. Read More
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank celebrated the anniversary of the passage of President Obama’s controversial health care law with a piece extolling the virtues of one its most ardent defenders: Brooklyn Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner has a well-earned reputation of being one of the most obnoxious members of the House of Representatives but since Milbank likes Weiner’s politics, he describes him as a “Brooklyn-born streetfighter” rather than a lout and a bully as he would be called if he were a Tea Party favorite (though its likely that the only fisticuffs the politician has ever engaged in were while playing hockey and not on the mean streets of the borough of Brooklyn).
But Milbank’s point is that he thinks more Democrats should be like the liberal Weiner: unapologetic defenders of Obamacare. The columnist thinks too many Democrats are playing by “Marquess of Queensberry rules” when it comes to fighting the attempts by the Republican majority to roll bank the unpopular measure. Though he claims that Weiner has been admirable in answering the bill’s critics head on, all he can muster is what even Milbank admits is “the sort of rhetoric used to wage an argument in a schoolyard.” Which is to say, they are merely rants in which all opposition is dismissed and delegitimized. Weiner’s speeches on the subject are exactly the sort of uncivil speech that liberals have spoken of as the sole preserve of the political right.
The Post writer admits that it is easy for Weiner to get away with his extremist positions since he represents an area in which Republicans barely exist rather than a competitive district where such behavior would mean certain defeat. But Weiner’s unapolegetic liberalism has to be comforting to those on the left who have seen the tide turn in the last year and understand that theirs is a position that most Americans do not support.
Yet Milbank’s bouquet for Weiner’s adamant support for Obamacare turned out to be ill-timed. The same day the Post ran his column, Weiner was quoted in an interview published in Politico as saying that he believes his home town should join the long line of states and municipalities begging for a waiver that would exempt them from the law. Weiner, who hopes to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York City, said, “maybe New York City can come up with a better plan.”
While Weiner spent the anniversary of Obamacare trying to “debunk Republican myths” about the bill, his call for a waiver for New York reinforces the notion that no one really likes the result of the messy negotiations that led to its passage. Though Weiner lamely claimed that the waiver process shows how flexible Obamacare is, the public who must pay for this boondoggle has a right to ask: if it isn’t good enough for even hyper-liberal New York, then who does Weiner think it is good for? If even its greatest defender is running for the exit, then perhaps it really is doomed.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, only 17 percent of Americans see President Obama as a strong and decisive military leader. To which my first response is: what can those 17 percent possibly be thinking?
The poll also found that 60 percent of Americans support the United States and its allies bombing Libya to impose a no-fly zone to protect civilians from Muammar Qaddafi’s forces while 79 percent of those surveyed said the United States and its allies should try to remove Qaddafi.
The fact that less than one in five Americans consider Obama to be a strong and decisive military leader ought to concern the White House; those qualities tend to be fairly important ones when selecting a president, particularly when a nation is at war.
Of course, the outcome is what matters here. If Qaddafi is forced out and the Libyian situation resolves itself fairly easily, even with America playing a secondary role, Obama’s supporters will claim vindication. We’ll simply have to wait to see how things play out. That said, Obama’s weakness as a leader is now emerging as a significant political liabilty — which means it will now register with Obama himself. He is nothing if not political.
Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ), the George Soros-funded activist group that recently made headlines for its high-profile war against Fox News host Glenn Beck, has received over $1 million from the UJA-Federation of New York since 2008.
Over the past three years at least seven Federation grants have been awarded to the JFSJ, ranging from $75,000 to $219,000. Some of that money has gone toward JFSJ’s Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts. But, according to Federation spokesperson Samantha Kessler, the bulk of the funding has gone toward the group’s “Congregational-based Community Organizing” programs. Read More
The left is already up-in-arms claiming that President Obama is leading “Bush’s third term,” and this news isn’t likely to dispel that notion. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Obama administration is scrapping Miranda rights for terror suspects, which is a step farther than Bush went with his counter-terrorism policies:
New rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades. …
A Federal Bureau of Investigation memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the policy applies to “exceptional cases” where investigators “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.”
This is a necessary response to the Obama administration’s law-enforcement approach to terrorism. After Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arrested, he was read his Miranda rights in less than an hour, which is problematic for obvious reasons. Once the rights are read, it becomes more difficult to collect crucial information from the terror suspect that could impact national security.
Of course, the decision has the left predictably infuriated.
“The number of instances in which Obama has violently breached his own alleged principles when it comes to the War on Terror and the rule of law are too numerous to chronicle in one place,” wrote Glenn Greenwald at Salon today. “No rational person can argue that or even tries to any longer. It’s just a banal expression of indisputable fact.”
Like many on the left, Obama was a vocal opponent of Bush’s terror policies. But the president is learning, begrudgingly, that his old philosophy just doesn’t mesh with reality.
Bryan Preston at the Pajamas Tatler has a good catch from an interview Obama did while he was in El Salvador. Addressing the international character of the operations in Libya, the president said this:
And that’s why building this international coalition has been so important because it means that the United States is not bearing all the cost. It means that we have confidence that we are not going in alone, and it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions that are important not only to us, but are important internationally. And we will accomplish that in a relatively short period of time. (Emphasis Preston’s)
When you think about it, “kinetic military action” probably is the kind of miscellany a military can be volunteered for by others. Presumably the U.S. armed forces got the most votes in the Military Idol competition. At least they won’t be voted off the island.
Obama’s string of preposterous miscues with the Libya operation sends a different signal from his strategic collapse on missile defense in Europe or his counterproductive inaction on Iran. In the case of Libya, he’s not shying away from confrontation; he’s deploying force and causing it to go “kinetic.” If he genuinely sees himself as presiding over a military that can be volunteered into combat by others, there is more danger here than we thought.
Rick does a fine job of highlighting the Obama administration’s use of phrases like “kinetic military action, particularly on the front end” in lieu of the word “war.” But this silly semantic game, which serves to obfuscate rather than to clarify, reveals two things that are, I think, disturbing.
The first is that confused language is often a manifestation of confused thoughts, and that’s certainly what we have with the Obama administration’s strategy (I used the word loosely) in Libya.
The bombing has begun but don’t think for a moment we’re in a war; it’s a front-loaded kinetic action. The president says the stated policy of the U.S. is to remove Muammar Qadaffi from power — but he also says that the purpose of the military intervention isn’t to remove Qadaffi from power. Never the twain shall meet. We’re told a coaltion is running the war, yet the coalition members themselves have no idea who’s in charge. Some want a unified NATO command while others do not. Basic questions are still unresolved. It’s therefore no wonder that the architects of a muddled and confusing military strategy would use language that is muddled and confusing to describe it.
Second, the president, having committed the U.S. to the conflict in Libya, is deeply ambivalent about it. He’s in, but only partially in, and boy does he want out. He’s like a guy who felt obligated to propose to a woman and regreted it the minute the words had passed his lips.
In this Libyan conflict, Mr. Obama went looking for an exit strategy the moment he found himself on the on-ramp. The animating goal isn’t success; it’s disengagement. Right now what Barack Obama wants above all is for the United States to take a back seat in this conflict, to follow rather than to lead, to do as little as possible as soon as possible. Perhaps the reason he doesn’t want to address the nation is he doesn’t really know what to say to it, because he really doesn’t know what to do.
It’s possible that the Qadaffi regime is fragile enough that it will fall with the slightest push. Or not. But the president has certainly made a hash of things so far. I said at the outset of this administration that it would find that governing is harder than campaiging. But it need not be this much harder.
Sarah Palin is a magnet for criticism and sometimes deserves it. But not always. Palin’s trip to Israel this week was, like everything else she does, interpreted as part of a pre-presidential candidacy tour. Thus, it was no surprise that her statements while in Israel and about it afterward generated the usual scorn that anything she says produces. An on-line discussion at Politico about her comments was headlined on its homepage as concerning “Palin’s idiotic comments about Israel.” So how “idiotic” were they? The correct answer is not very.
During an interview on FOX News’s Greta Van Susteren show Wednesday night, Palin criticized President Obama for not being sufficiently supportive of Israel: “I think there are many in Israel who would feel even more comfortable knowing that there is an even greater commitment from those who presently occupy the White House that they are there on Israel’s side, and that our most valuable ally in that region can count on us. Why is it in that the past, too often, the U.S. government has told Israel that they’re the ones, the Jewish community, that they need to back up, they need to back off or there will never be peace. Why aren’t we putting our foot down with the other side and telling the Palestinians, If you’re serious about peace, quit the shellacking and the shelling. Quit the bombing of innocent Israelis.” Read More
The White House and Africa Command have insisted that we are not coordinating air strikes with the Libyan rebels. I suppose it all depends on the meaning of “coordinate.” The Los Angeles Times reveals:
Leaders of the opposition national council in rebel-controlled eastern Libya say they are making regular, secure contacts with allied military representatives in Europe to help commanders identify targets for the U.S.-led air assault.
The contacts, conducted through the council’s civilian representatives in France and elsewhere in Europe, are made by secure satellite telephone connections, according to spokesmen for the rebel leadership in its eastern base of Benghazi.
This is not the only channel for communication between the rebels and the coalition. The Times also notes that “CIA operatives and equipment were sent into rebel-held areas to monitor the opposition forces’ activity even before the air bombardment began.”
What apparently isn’t happening at the moment is direct military-to-military contacts between armed rebels and the coalition air forces, because there are not any American Special Forces or tactical air coordinators on the ground in Libya—at least that we’ve heard about. That needs to change, as I’ve said before.
I cannot fathom why Obama still clings to the fiction that we are only in Libya to impose a ceasefire and that this is unrelated to the ouster of Qaddafi, something that he has repeatedly called for. The result is that we do have some coordination with the rebels but not as much as we need to make them into a more cohesive and effecting fighting force.
One of the excuses we sometimes hear for this policy is that we don’t really know what the rebels are about. That may be true, although what we have heard so far is encouraging—as another L.A. Times story notes, “the U.S. intelligence community has found no organized presence of Al Qaeda or its allies among the Libyan opposition.” Instead, the face of the opposition has been liberal professionals such as the expatriate economist who is the finance minister in the rebel government. No doubt there are other, less savory elements in the opposition, and there is much we don’t know about them. But the best way to find out—and to shape them in a more constructive and democratic direction—is to send more representatives to work with them.
Instead the administration seems to hope that Qaddafi will be toppled by some deus ex machine—a palace coup or the like. I hope so too. But hope isn’t a policy.
Elizabeth Taylor was notorious for many things – marriage-hopping, garishness, those eyes, her numerous brushes with death. But at one point, the woman who famously played the Queen of the Nile was actually barred from entering Egypt because of her conversion to Judaism and her support for Zionist causes.
According to a July 20, 1962 article in the JTA, the film Cleopatra ran into a major roadblock after the actress was banned from the country “in accordance with the Arab League’s ban on all persons aiding Israel.”
“[T]he multimillion dollar film, “Cleopatra,” practically completed in Rome except for Egyptian location shots, may have to be finished in some other country,” the JTA reported at the time.
Taylor’s movies were also prohibited from playing in Arab countries, after the actress purchased $100,000 in Israeli bonds in 1959. (Egypt subsequently removed Taylor from its blacklist shortly after Cleopatra was released, because it decided the film was “good publicity” for the country).
The JTA, which unearthed numerous Taylor articles from its archives yesterday, has more information about the actress’s activism on its website.
The Zionist Organization of America also issued a statement of mourning today for Taylor, according to Arutz Sheva. The ZOA noted that the actress “had been converted to Judaism in 1959 by a former ZOA President, Reform Rabbi Max Nussbaum.”
Nine days ago, I wrote a post called “Obama’s Presidency Hangs by a Thread.” I said then that Obama “is largely notable by his absence, which is itself the result not only of not knowing what to do but also apparently believing it is better for the world if he remains a minor player as a bloodbath approaches in the Middle East and something more ominous seems to be approaching in Japan.”
What a difference nine days makes—or not. Because the Obama presidency is again hanging by a thread, but this time the thread is not the result of inaction. It is, rather, the result of taking action so incomprehensible and incoherent that even Obama’s own people are finding it impossible to defend or explain (thus the already notorious coinage yesterday of the term “kinetic military action” to describe the firing of 170 missiles and the destruction from the air of Libyan facilities).
As of now, there’s no reason anyone would cast a vote in 2012 directly based on what happens in Libya. But handling something this peculiarly means the president is on the verge of convincing all kinds of people that he’s either not the man they voted for (on the Left) or that he’s in over his head (not only people who dislike him already but independents who took a chance on him in 2008).
And there are other gloomy portents on the horizon. Rasmussen Reports revealed yesterday that 23 percent of Americans think the country is on the right track. The right-track number is among the most important in all of polling; if it’s not at least above 40 at the time of an election, an incumbent president does not have a prayer of winning a second term. It’s a very long time (in polling terms) till Election Day 2012, but without question, Obama has a climb ahead of him.
And here’s why that right-track number might not rise: Macroadvisers, an economic forecasting firm, predicted that first-quarter growth this year would be 4 percent. This morning it revised that estimate downward—to 2.1 percent. It’s really simple: If the economy remains anemic while the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, The One will be The One Term no matter who runs against him.
But if Obama decides to get serious and decides the U.S. must succeed in Libya, and ceases looking feckless and unprepared for the consequences of his own actions, then the thread from which his presidency is hanging will reconstitute itself into a lifeline.
In my New York Post column today, I wonder at the contrast between Arabs throughout the Middle East demanding change, while in Israel, Palestinians are keeping quiet as terrorist attacks and rocket launches take center stage:
Outside Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, the people of the Middle East are telling their potentates they want something better. They want something more. They want a future. And the Palestinians? Seems like they want blood.
The whole piece, again, is here.
Of course the real question is, will this investigator actually get inside the country?
The UN Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to a U.S.-backed proposal to establish a UN human rights investigator for Iran, the first in a decade.
The 47-member Geneva forum approved the resolution by 22 votes in favor, 7 against and 14 abstentions, its president, Thai Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, announced.
The UN hasn’t sent a human rights rapporteur to Iran since 2002, when the Iranian government became uncooperative with the human rights office.
While the approval of a human rights investigator is a symbolic achievement – the text of the resolution reportedly condemned the recent increase of death penalty sentences in Iran, as well as other human rights violations – there isn’t much recourse for the council if the Iranian government refuses to work with the rapporteur.
In other UNHRC news, the Jerusalem Post reports that the UN was set to vote on six resolutions involving Israel, including four that “speak of illegal Israeli activity and human rights violations.” Needless to say, there’s probably no mention of the recent terrorist and rocket attacks against Israel. No word yet on the outcome of the resolutions, though the Post said they were “expected to pass.”
At the State Department press conference yesterday, acting deputy spokesman Mark Toner was asked a straightforward question:
QUESTION: Are we at war in Libya?
MR. TONER: We are implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1973. It is clearly a combat operation or combat mission. As the President made very clear, there will be no U.S. ground force involved in this and that the U.S. role is upfront – frontloaded, if you will, on this. But that’s going to obviously recede into a more – a broader international coalition as we move forward to implement the no-fly zone.
QUESTION: So you would not say we’re at war? Read More
Usually, you have to get outside sources to debunk New York Times articles minimizing anti-Israel incitement and violence. After the Gaza flotilla, Isabel Kershner slanted early reporting with an uncritical quote about how “it was inconceivable” that the passengers were armed. Disproving that required photos and film released by the IDF. She made a similar move when a Palestinian New Year’s Eve protest turned violent, declaring outright that a woman had died because of tear gas inhalation. Addressing that one required investigating the medical conditions that actually killed the woman. When Fatah held elections Kershner described the winners as “moderates.” To see why that was wrong required going to the Jerusalem Post.
You get the pattern. The New York Times publishes something and readers have to go elsewhere to find out why it’s wrong. That’s what makes Kershner and Goodman article on the Jerusalem bus bombing so special. Here’s the lede:
A small bomb exploded at a crowded bus stop outside Jerusalem’s main bus station on Wednesday, killing one woman and leaving at least 24 other people injured, two seriously. It was the first bombing inside Jerusalem in four years.
Here’s paragraph 15 of the 16 paragraph article:
Two weeks ago, a municipal worker lost his hand when a pipe bomb exploded in a trash bag in the southern section of Jerusalem. There were no claims of responsibility or arrests in that case.
Not to belabor the obvious, but a pipe bomb planted on the side of a Jerusalem road counts as a previous “bombing inside Jerusalem,” especially when the subject is a second bomb planted on the side of a Jerusalem road.
A decision has apparently been made to escalate the violence against Israel, and Israel will eventually have to retaliate. When that happens the media spin will be somewhat split. Some of the coverage will imply that the Palestinians have exhausted their numinous patience with “the stalled peace process,” and can’t help but lash out. Other stories will insist that the Palestinians are merely reacting to an Israeli-triggered “cycle of violence,” and can’t help but lash out. Glossing over Palestinian violence at the beginning of the escalation is critical to making both narratives work.