Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 18, 2011

Temple Mount Vandalism Implicates Israel’s “Peace Partners”

Israel’s state comptroller published a special report yesterday on Muslim excavations on the Temple Mount. The report concluded what anyone who has followed the issue already knows: The Muslim Waqf (religious trust), in whose hands Israel left day-to-day control of the site when it captured the mount in 1967, has conducted massive excavations without a permit and without the required archaeological salvage digs, often using heavy machinery. In the process, it has irreversibly destroyed an untold number of antiquities.

Yet the report nevertheless included both some new information and a timely reminder. The new information can be derived only by implication, because aside from the conclusion, the entire report was classified, “to guarantee state security and to prevent damaging Israel’s international relations.”

That classification itself is significant, however, because there’s only one way the findings could possibly damage Israel’s international relations: if it turned out that the destruction of antiquities was carried out not by a few Islamic radicals, but with the active connivance of one or both of the two Israeli “peace partners” to whom Israel has granted a say in the mount’s management: the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and the Kingdom of Jordan.

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Israel’s state comptroller published a special report yesterday on Muslim excavations on the Temple Mount. The report concluded what anyone who has followed the issue already knows: The Muslim Waqf (religious trust), in whose hands Israel left day-to-day control of the site when it captured the mount in 1967, has conducted massive excavations without a permit and without the required archaeological salvage digs, often using heavy machinery. In the process, it has irreversibly destroyed an untold number of antiquities.

Yet the report nevertheless included both some new information and a timely reminder. The new information can be derived only by implication, because aside from the conclusion, the entire report was classified, “to guarantee state security and to prevent damaging Israel’s international relations.”

That classification itself is significant, however, because there’s only one way the findings could possibly damage Israel’s international relations: if it turned out that the destruction of antiquities was carried out not by a few Islamic radicals, but with the active connivance of one or both of the two Israeli “peace partners” to whom Israel has granted a say in the mount’s management: the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and the Kingdom of Jordan.

Since the PA’s role is much more active, it is the more likely culprit. And it would certainly be hard for the government to explain why Israelis should consider Abbas a “peace partner” if his administration were busy destroying archaeological evidence of the Jews’ ancient presence in the Holy Land. After all, such destruction hardly accords with acceptance of the Jews’ right to a state in this land; rather, it smacks suspiciously of trying to assert that they are interlopers with no rights here at all – as do Abbas’ written falsifications of history and his insistence, reiterated again just this week, on eliminating the Jewish state via a “right of return” for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees.

But it might be equally hard to sell Israelis on the value of “peace” if Jordan turned out to be the culprit. If, 17 years after signing a peace treaty, Jordan were still so unreconciled to Israel’s existence that it felt a need to destroy all trace of the ancient Jewish presence in Jerusalem, what would that say about the likelihood of reconciliation with the even more virulently anti-Israel Palestinians?

Valuable as this new information is, however, the report’s most significant conclusion is an old but still timely one. The Temple Mount, where both Temples were located, is Judaism’s holiest site; it also presumably contains unique archaeological findings of unparalleled religious, cultural and historical significance. Protecting these findings, the comptroller stressed, is thus “a public duty of the highest order.”

Since doing so would almost certainly involve a clash with the Waqf that could spark widespread violence, the government’s reluctance is understandable. Nevertheless, it is disastrously misplaced. For if Israel’s government cares so little about Jewish rights in this land that it will stand idly by while this unique trove is destroyed, how can it expect the rest of the world to take these rights seriously?

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Naturally, the UN Condemns Israel for Nakba Day Violence

To distract the world from how he’s been massacring his own people, Bashar al-Assad opened up the Israeli-Syrian border to rioters on Sunday, hundreds of whom infiltrated Israel. In Lebanon, Hezbollah—a recognized terrorist organization and a proxy for the Iranian government—organized protesters, ensuring that enough Palestinian flags were distributed. Israeli soldiers watched as Syrian, Lebanese, and United Nations soldiers stepped aside to let hostile mobs rush their border, and only when rioters were at the fences—or had climbed over them—did they react.

Naturally, then, the UN is condemning Israel.

“I am shocked by the number of the deaths and the use of disproportionate, deadly force by the Israeli Defense Forces against apparently unarmed demonstrators, which I condemn,” said Michael Williams, UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

Amnesty International is also calling for an investigation into Israel’s actions, although for some unknown reason they are not calling for a similar investigation of the Lebanese Armed Forces, which also opened fire on protesters. No surprise here. A little chagrin on the part of the UN, though—perhaps even some retincence to condemn Israel—might have been expected, given how UN forces’ severe dereliction of duty enabled the rioters to rush the Israeli border. Apparently not.

In other Israel-related UN news, it’s now apparently a thing to shout down the Israeli Ambassador while he gives speeches. The Iranian representative interrupted Meron Reuben to insist that “everything Israel says is a lie meant to divert attention from what is being done to the Palestinians,” with the aforementioned “what is being done” later clarified to be a “holocaust” by the Syrian ambassador.

All of which brings us to this link from a few months ago, where Susan Rice explains how the United Nations “provides a real return on our tax dollars.” Seems reasonable.

To distract the world from how he’s been massacring his own people, Bashar al-Assad opened up the Israeli-Syrian border to rioters on Sunday, hundreds of whom infiltrated Israel. In Lebanon, Hezbollah—a recognized terrorist organization and a proxy for the Iranian government—organized protesters, ensuring that enough Palestinian flags were distributed. Israeli soldiers watched as Syrian, Lebanese, and United Nations soldiers stepped aside to let hostile mobs rush their border, and only when rioters were at the fences—or had climbed over them—did they react.

Naturally, then, the UN is condemning Israel.

“I am shocked by the number of the deaths and the use of disproportionate, deadly force by the Israeli Defense Forces against apparently unarmed demonstrators, which I condemn,” said Michael Williams, UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

Amnesty International is also calling for an investigation into Israel’s actions, although for some unknown reason they are not calling for a similar investigation of the Lebanese Armed Forces, which also opened fire on protesters. No surprise here. A little chagrin on the part of the UN, though—perhaps even some retincence to condemn Israel—might have been expected, given how UN forces’ severe dereliction of duty enabled the rioters to rush the Israeli border. Apparently not.

In other Israel-related UN news, it’s now apparently a thing to shout down the Israeli Ambassador while he gives speeches. The Iranian representative interrupted Meron Reuben to insist that “everything Israel says is a lie meant to divert attention from what is being done to the Palestinians,” with the aforementioned “what is being done” later clarified to be a “holocaust” by the Syrian ambassador.

All of which brings us to this link from a few months ago, where Susan Rice explains how the United Nations “provides a real return on our tax dollars.” Seems reasonable.

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Democracy Creates Conflict Between Blacks, Orthodox Jews and Liberals

The tension between supporters of public and parochial schools is never far below the surface in many communities. But the divide in East Ramapo, New York, also has the potential to exacerbate tensions among Jews and African-Americans and Hispanics in a way that is setting off alarm bells among those concerned with smoothing over community relations.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, the situation in the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, 35 miles northwest of New York City, is one that is almost guaranteed to start a fight between the two communities. The majority of the population in the area is Orthodox Jews, many of them either Hasidic or belonging to the category of Jewish belief that is commonly labeled “ultra”-Orthodox. They send their children to Jewish day schools. Over 20,000 students attend yeshivas in the area, a number that dwarfs the 8,100 mostly African-American or Hispanic kids who attend the public schools.

The problem arises from the fact that the Orthodox Jews in the township have exercised their franchise and elected members of their own community to the district’s School Board. A majority of the board now represents a sector of the population that has no use for the public schools. That majority has closed some public schools and the district has facilitated special-education services for Orthodox children at private Jewish schools outside East Ramapo rather than at the local public schools. This has angered the minority in the area who lodged complaints with the federal government about possible civil-rights violations. The Anti-Defamation League is also expressing interest in the situation with a view to opposing the decisions of the majority.

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The tension between supporters of public and parochial schools is never far below the surface in many communities. But the divide in East Ramapo, New York, also has the potential to exacerbate tensions among Jews and African-Americans and Hispanics in a way that is setting off alarm bells among those concerned with smoothing over community relations.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, the situation in the East Ramapo School District in Rockland County, 35 miles northwest of New York City, is one that is almost guaranteed to start a fight between the two communities. The majority of the population in the area is Orthodox Jews, many of them either Hasidic or belonging to the category of Jewish belief that is commonly labeled “ultra”-Orthodox. They send their children to Jewish day schools. Over 20,000 students attend yeshivas in the area, a number that dwarfs the 8,100 mostly African-American or Hispanic kids who attend the public schools.

The problem arises from the fact that the Orthodox Jews in the township have exercised their franchise and elected members of their own community to the district’s School Board. A majority of the board now represents a sector of the population that has no use for the public schools. That majority has closed some public schools and the district has facilitated special-education services for Orthodox children at private Jewish schools outside East Ramapo rather than at the local public schools. This has angered the minority in the area who lodged complaints with the federal government about possible civil-rights violations. The Anti-Defamation League is also expressing interest in the situation with a view to opposing the decisions of the majority.

The situation in East Ramapo is not entirely unique. The difference in this case appears to center on the fact that the primary opponents of the Orthodox are not non-Orthodox Jews, as they were in Lawrence, New York, and Lakewood, New Jersey, but blacks and Hispanics who see the problem not just in terms of a cultural or religious conflict but in those of race.

The notion of a school district’s being run by people who are more devoted to the interests of institutions that are outside the public sector strikes many people as somehow unwholesome. And if the Orthodox Jews’ opponents can prove that minority children have been illegally shortchanged, you can bet that higher echelons of government will step in and override the local majority’s wishes. But however unnatural this situation may seem to those who see public schools as not only essential to the welfare of the entire population but to the fabric of democracy itself, it must be acknowledged that the needs of most of the district’s students should not be a matter of indifference. Indeed, it is only logical that the public-education establishment should be operated on a scale that reflects the smaller number of students in government-run schools.

Liberal Jewish groups have traditionally been in the forefront of advocating a high wall of separation between church and state that has led to severe restrictions on the provision of services to religious schools by public districts. The motivation behind this advocacy was not only a matter of Constitutional principle but also rooted in a belief that a religious minority like the Jews needed to be protected from the tyranny of the majority. But in East Ramapo, it is no small irony that the rigid application of these principles may serve to shortchange the needs of the majority of the districts students who just happen to be Jews.

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Pelosi’s District Gets 20% of Latest ObamaCare Waivers

Crony capitalism at its most basic. Create onerous regulations and then give out exemptions to allies and constituents. The only wrinkle in this case is that the demographic subsection unburdening itself of ObamaCare is the same demographic subsection that has been most pointedly exuberant in advocating health care reform, with California Democrats even passing symbolic health care laws just like the ones that their most liberal supporters are now opting out of.

On the federal level, of course, Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi was instrumental in securing ObamaCare’s passage. And now, for a disproportionate number of businesses in Pelosi’s San Francisco district, ObamaCare is not their problem, not any more. As if having entire states get waivers wasn’t enough of a debacle, now there’s this nonsense. The process is making the original passage of ObamaCare, which the President himself admitted was insufficiently transparent, seem like a model of good governance:

Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs, and decadent hotels in Pelosi’s district. These are in addition to the 27 new waivers for health care or drug companies and the 31 new union waivers Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services approved. Other common waiver recipients were labor union chapters, large corporations, financial firms, and local governments. But Pelosi’s district’s waivers are the first major examples of luxurious, gourmet restaurants, and hotels getting a year-long pass from ObamaCare.

The Daily Caller does a nice job covering the kinds of businesses in question. These are not exemplars of populist simplicity. The phrases “four-diamond luxury in the heart of the city” and “timeless Parisian style brasserie” come up. An ungenerous critic might even tag the entire spectacle as unseemly limousine liberalism, with San Francisco Democrats getting to retreat into four-diamond luxury while restaurants that cater to everyone else collapse under ObamaCare’s weight. Presumably those restaurants’ former customers can just eat at home from now on.

Still unanswered: whether waivers run afoul of Sheila Jackson Lee’s insistence that an ObamaCare repeal would be unconstitutional on 5th and 14th amendment grounds. “Must I die, must my child die, because I am now disallowed from getting insurance,” Ms. Jackson Lee asked from the floor of Congress, reasoning that not mandating employer coverage was equivalent to “taking away rights.” And if waivers do constitute Equal Protection violations, will the Justice Department be pursuing cases against the Department of Health and Human Services? Seriously. If we’re going to get stupid about this, let’s at least be consistently stupid.

Crony capitalism at its most basic. Create onerous regulations and then give out exemptions to allies and constituents. The only wrinkle in this case is that the demographic subsection unburdening itself of ObamaCare is the same demographic subsection that has been most pointedly exuberant in advocating health care reform, with California Democrats even passing symbolic health care laws just like the ones that their most liberal supporters are now opting out of.

On the federal level, of course, Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi was instrumental in securing ObamaCare’s passage. And now, for a disproportionate number of businesses in Pelosi’s San Francisco district, ObamaCare is not their problem, not any more. As if having entire states get waivers wasn’t enough of a debacle, now there’s this nonsense. The process is making the original passage of ObamaCare, which the President himself admitted was insufficiently transparent, seem like a model of good governance:

Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers President Barack Obama’s administration approved in April, 38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs, and decadent hotels in Pelosi’s district. These are in addition to the 27 new waivers for health care or drug companies and the 31 new union waivers Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services approved. Other common waiver recipients were labor union chapters, large corporations, financial firms, and local governments. But Pelosi’s district’s waivers are the first major examples of luxurious, gourmet restaurants, and hotels getting a year-long pass from ObamaCare.

The Daily Caller does a nice job covering the kinds of businesses in question. These are not exemplars of populist simplicity. The phrases “four-diamond luxury in the heart of the city” and “timeless Parisian style brasserie” come up. An ungenerous critic might even tag the entire spectacle as unseemly limousine liberalism, with San Francisco Democrats getting to retreat into four-diamond luxury while restaurants that cater to everyone else collapse under ObamaCare’s weight. Presumably those restaurants’ former customers can just eat at home from now on.

Still unanswered: whether waivers run afoul of Sheila Jackson Lee’s insistence that an ObamaCare repeal would be unconstitutional on 5th and 14th amendment grounds. “Must I die, must my child die, because I am now disallowed from getting insurance,” Ms. Jackson Lee asked from the floor of Congress, reasoning that not mandating employer coverage was equivalent to “taking away rights.” And if waivers do constitute Equal Protection violations, will the Justice Department be pursuing cases against the Department of Health and Human Services? Seriously. If we’re going to get stupid about this, let’s at least be consistently stupid.

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