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Posts For: March 15, 2012

NAACP Turns Voter ID Spat Into Satire

The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

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The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

The UN Human Rights Council is itself a standing mockery of the entire cause of human rights not just because it is comprised of tyrannies who routinely practice the atrocities the council is supposed to combat, but also because it devotes the vast majority of its time and effort to attacking Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The UN’s obsession with delegitimizing Israel has long since crossed the line into anti-Semitism. But the world body’s lack of interest in doing something about China’s abuses in Tibet, the plight of women in the Arab world or the suppression of dissent in Cuba and China is just as outrageous.

The internationalization of the voter ID issue is also particularly inane because most developed countries, including the democracies, require citizens to have ID cards as a matter of law.

It should also be remembered that the argument that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities is a thinly veiled attempt to incite racial distrust at the expense of a good government measure. The notion that there is something discriminatory about requiring voters to properly identify themselves in a nation when such photo IDS are already required for all airline travel and many other routine measures is absurd. The best that Attorney General Holder could do when overruling Texas’ voter ID law last week was to cite the fact that approximately 94 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to about 96 percent of non-Hispanics. Interestingly, there was no mention in the complaint about any disparity between African-Americans and other citizens even though we are told voter ID laws target the poor.

In fact, as Rich Lowry noted last week in National Review, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that voter ID laws were legal. That 6-3-majority opinion was written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote, “there is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters.” Stevens also noted “we cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters.” That is especially true because the states that have passed or considered voter ID laws have made provisions to give such cards free of charge to the tiny minority of citizens who don’t already have them.

Hillary Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for advocacy, claims that by going to Geneva, “We can learn a lot from those who haven’t gone through as much as we have.” But the only thing that can be learned about democracy from China, Cuba or Saudi Arabia or the United Nations is how to suppress rights, not to protect them. Imagine what imprisoned dissidents in those countries will think about the NAACP granting their torturers this sort of legitimacy.

In bringing their flimsy complaint to such a tainted forum, the NAACP isn’t just illustrating the weak nature of their argument. By going before the council in this manner, the NAACP, which once actually stood for principle in the civil rights struggle, is demonstrating indifference to the real abuses of democratic rights around the globe. That isn’t comical. It’s shameful.

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Anti-Rush Campaign Was in the Works

Wonder how the left was able to mobilize so quickly on the Rush Limbaugh boycott? According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over (via Legal Insurrection):

I started Stop Rush in 2009, 2010, and when I went to register the domain, I saw that Rush owned StopRush.com….

The Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work, and experimented with it a little, to get a sense of who Rush’s advertisers were and what their comfort level with him was. It was definitely valuable, and I am glad I spent some time doing it. It has informed the work I am doing now.

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Wonder how the left was able to mobilize so quickly on the Rush Limbaugh boycott? According to the architect behind it, Media Matters online strategy director Angelo Carusone, the project was actually created in 2009, but stayed inactive until the Sandra Fluke controversy boiled over (via Legal Insurrection):

I started Stop Rush in 2009, 2010, and when I went to register the domain, I saw that Rush owned StopRush.com….

The Beck work was working, and I kind of froze the Rush work, and experimented with it a little, to get a sense of who Rush’s advertisers were and what their comfort level with him was. It was definitely valuable, and I am glad I spent some time doing it. It has informed the work I am doing now.

Legal Insurrection’s William Jacobson connects the dots on the story most of the media missed: that the entire Limbaugh boycott was pure, undistilled Astroturf.

The secondary boycott of Rush Limbaugh advertisers is portrayed in the media as a reaction to a groundswell of public outrage.  In fact, the secondary boycott was initiated by and driven by Media Matters, which had a “Stop Limbaugh” campaign on the shelf waiting to be used, and was executed by Angelo Carusone, Director of Online Strategy for Media Matters.

But while Carusone depicts his campaign as a response to the Fluke controversy, it seems obvious from the timeline that Media Matters played a large role in creating the controversy. According to the New York Times, the dormant “Stop Rush” twitter account run by Carusone snapped to life on Wednesday, Feb. 29, the day Limbaugh made his now-infamous comments. Media Matters also appears to be the first media outlet that reported on Limbaugh’s remarks, with Think Progress picking up on the story a few hours later, and the Huffington Post following up that evening.

This is a really useful case study of how the left coordinates to create a full-blown media uproar. Democrats in Congress don’t typically rush out to respond to every insult from conservative radio hosts. But Rep. Nancy Pelosi managed to round up six other female congressional Democrats to release a joint statement condemning Limbaugh’s comments within hours of the broadcast:

“When Sandra Fluke testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee after Republicans attempted to silence her, she courageously spoke truth to power. As a result, today, she has been subject to attacks that are outside the circle of civilized discussion and that unmask the strong disrespect for women held by some in this country. We call upon the Republican leaders in the House to condemn these vicious attacks on Ms. Fluke, which are in response to her testimony to the Congress. Democrats will always stand up for women’s health and women’s voices.”

According to Carusone, he began reaching out to Rush’s advertisers the next day to put the boycott campaign into action. Two days after Limbaugh’s comments, a Friday, President Obama put in a call to Sandra Fluke, which fanned the flames of the controversy and kept it going through the weekend.

Something else worth noting: Tucker Carlson recently reported that Media Matters representatives have weekly meetings with the White House, and the activist group is in close contact with the administration. Was anti-Rush media strategy ever discussed? Was the White House aware that Media Matters had a “Stop Rush” boycott campaign teed up and ready to go? After all, top White House officials have spoken openly about their 2009 campaign to use Rush Limbaugh to attack the Republican Party.

The anti-Limbaugh boycott may not have been the wild success Media Matters wanted it to be, since at this point it doesn’t look like there’s going to be any long-term fallout for Rush. But they were able to dominate the news cycle with their message for weeks and during a contentious primary race – a pretty impressive feat. Ruthless conservative political strategists out there would do well to take notes.

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Dutch Fund West Bank “Settlers” Game that Incites Anti-Semitism

From the seemingly harmless country of cycling enthusiasts, windmills, and those little wooden shoes nobody understands, comes the latest in a string of nefarious and anti-Semitic episodes, as a self-described liberal-Protestant Dutch website, VPRO, marketed an online game based on the popular board game ‘‘The Settlers of Catan.’’

Apparently, ‘‘The Settlers of the West Bank’’ was conceived and defended as ‘‘satire,’’ despite the overtly politicized idea behind the game, and the numerous, obviously insensitive features, including the ‘‘Jewish stinginess,’’ ‘‘Wailing Wall,’’ and ‘‘Anne Frank’’ cards. Allusion is also made to the ‘‘typical mercantile spirit’’ of the Jewish nation, and, according to the Jerusalem Post, the ‘‘settler’’ may also use the ‘‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad card’’ to avoid losing resources to a terrorist and simultaneously draw resources from other players. The ‘‘Anne Frank House’’ is a ‘‘winning point’’ for the settler. Read More

From the seemingly harmless country of cycling enthusiasts, windmills, and those little wooden shoes nobody understands, comes the latest in a string of nefarious and anti-Semitic episodes, as a self-described liberal-Protestant Dutch website, VPRO, marketed an online game based on the popular board game ‘‘The Settlers of Catan.’’

Apparently, ‘‘The Settlers of the West Bank’’ was conceived and defended as ‘‘satire,’’ despite the overtly politicized idea behind the game, and the numerous, obviously insensitive features, including the ‘‘Jewish stinginess,’’ ‘‘Wailing Wall,’’ and ‘‘Anne Frank’’ cards. Allusion is also made to the ‘‘typical mercantile spirit’’ of the Jewish nation, and, according to the Jerusalem Post, the ‘‘settler’’ may also use the ‘‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad card’’ to avoid losing resources to a terrorist and simultaneously draw resources from other players. The ‘‘Anne Frank House’’ is a ‘‘winning point’’ for the settler.

The website receives state funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science, but the minister claimed the state has no authority over content. In any case, according to Dr Shimon Samuels of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, ‘‘the funding makes the Netherlands the largest financier of hate incitement among youth in Europe.’’ Liberal Dutch Jewish groups, which also protested the game, agreed.

To put this in context, remember that the Netherlands has a ban on Jewish ritual slaughter forever pending in parliament, and a rising Muslim community whose intolerance of Jews provoked a veteran Dutch politician to warn Jews to leave, for their own safety. As for the game itself, it has just been taken offline, but the damage has been done.

In case anyone thought the low-lying Netherlands could not stoop any lower, evidently the Dutch are now prepared not only to tolerate the further abuse of their domestic Jewish population, but also to disinherit Anne Frank. It was precisely this European inconstancy toward its resident Jews – friendly here, lashing out there – that contributed to the need for the Jewish state. Evidently, little has changed, but with Anne Frank – and the many others – gone, the hostility turns to that very entity which could have saved her life.

Maybe that’s playing the Anne Frank card. But it was Europe which dealt the Jews this hand.

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Who Writes This Stuff?

Going from Churchill’s subtle and magisterial “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, on which Seth commented yesterday, to Obama’s remarks at the White House in welcome to David Cameron is like going from Paganini to the village fiddler. Honestly, who writes this stuff? The joke about the British burning the White House in 1814 was funny enough when Tony Blair used it in 2003 in his speech to a joint session of Congress:

On our way down here, Senator Frist was kind enough to show me the fireplace where, in 1814, the British had burnt the Congress Library. I know this is kind of late, but sorry.

But no joke stays funny if it gets recycled often enough, and a decade later, it’s become a lame and tiresome jest. And yet Obama, that modern master of rhetoric, and Cameron, who must have groaned when he read the script, used it again yesterday. Quoth Obama:

It’s now been 200 years since the British came here, to the White House – under somewhat different circumstances. (Laughter.) They made quite an impression. (Laughter.) They really lit up the place. (Laughter.)

This isn’t a presidential welcome – it reads, and it sounded, like a third-rate stand-up comedian living on stolen jokes.

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Going from Churchill’s subtle and magisterial “Iron Curtain” speech at Fulton, on which Seth commented yesterday, to Obama’s remarks at the White House in welcome to David Cameron is like going from Paganini to the village fiddler. Honestly, who writes this stuff? The joke about the British burning the White House in 1814 was funny enough when Tony Blair used it in 2003 in his speech to a joint session of Congress:

On our way down here, Senator Frist was kind enough to show me the fireplace where, in 1814, the British had burnt the Congress Library. I know this is kind of late, but sorry.

But no joke stays funny if it gets recycled often enough, and a decade later, it’s become a lame and tiresome jest. And yet Obama, that modern master of rhetoric, and Cameron, who must have groaned when he read the script, used it again yesterday. Quoth Obama:

It’s now been 200 years since the British came here, to the White House – under somewhat different circumstances. (Laughter.) They made quite an impression. (Laughter.) They really lit up the place. (Laughter.)

This isn’t a presidential welcome – it reads, and it sounded, like a third-rate stand-up comedian living on stolen jokes.

And Cameron’s reply was equally cringe-inducing:

So I am a little embarrassed, as I stand here, to think that 200 years ago – (laughter) – my ancestors tried to burn the place down. (Laughter.)  Now, looking around me, I can see you’ve got the place a little better defended today. (Laughter.)  You’re clearly not taking any risks with the Brits this time. (Laughter.)

Please, make it stop.

I decided a long time ago that Obama is only a great speaker if you like him before he opens his mouth. His oratory serves not to persuade, or to inspire, but to affirm. Unlike Churchill, who always presented an argument when he spoke, Obama usually speaks to present a conclusion. If you don’t agree with his conclusion, there’s nothing in his words to make you change your mind, and his reliance on jokey humor in his more informal remarks doesn’t help.

Look – writing welcoming remarks must be a tedious job, and I wouldn’t like to do it for anything. But would it be too much to ask that his speechwriters avoid obvious solecisms? If you’re going to use the tired “the British burned the White House” joke, don’t follow it up, two paragraphs later, with the claim that “through the grand sweep of history, through all its twists and turns, there is one constant – the rock-solid alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.” So, except for the whole burning thing, it’s a constant?

No one is a more enthusiastic supporter of the Anglo-American alliance than I am, and I mean that literally. But it’s just not true that the alliance is a constant. It reflects, yes, shared interests, but it was also made, with considerable effort and by taking real political risks, by leaders like Churchill. That was the point of the speech at Fulton – not to celebrate the war-time alliance, but to make the case for its continuance in the nascent Cold War.

But when Obama says that “the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is the strongest that it has ever been,” just after his administration has announced a “strategic pivot” to Asia and refused to back Britain over the Falklands, he’s not taking any risks, or making any effort, for the alliance at all. He’s just talking. And truly great speakers, like Churchill, don’t believe that assertions can substitute for arguments or actions.

 

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Dem Tactic to Smear GOP as Anti-Women

After failing to make much headway with women voters by insisting the GOP wants to take away the right to birth control, the Democratic Party is moving onto its next attempt to make the contrived “Republican war on women” narrative stick. The new fight is about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation the GOP has previously supported.

But this time around, Democrats are pinning a provision to it that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas as victims of domestic violence. In other words, it’s a transparent, politically-motivated attempt to provoke Republican opposition to VAWA and allow the left to claim the GOP supports violence against women:

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

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After failing to make much headway with women voters by insisting the GOP wants to take away the right to birth control, the Democratic Party is moving onto its next attempt to make the contrived “Republican war on women” narrative stick. The new fight is about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation the GOP has previously supported.

But this time around, Democrats are pinning a provision to it that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas as victims of domestic violence. In other words, it’s a transparent, politically-motivated attempt to provoke Republican opposition to VAWA and allow the left to claim the GOP supports violence against women:

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

Senate Democratic women are jumping on this gimmick today by marching on the Senate floor to insist on the quick renewal of the legislation.

But the one positive for Republicans is that there’s strong public opposition to illegal immigration. If they want any hope of winning on this issue, they’ll need to emphasize that it’s the Democrats who are holding the reauthorization hostage by tying it to provisions that would encourage more fraud in the immigration system. To the Senate Democratic women marching today, the GOP might argue: We would be happy to extend VAWA in its current form. We would love to do it immediately. In fact, the only thing delaying its extension is the controversial measure you tacked onto it.

What conservatives should avoid is relitigating VAWA. Yes, there are legitimate arguments that could be made against the law, some of which have been pursued by civil rights groups like the ACLU. But it’s also been in place for almost two decades, and while it may not be perfect, it’s negligible compared to the real battles conservatives need to focus on. If there’s opposition to VAWA from prominent conservative pundits, there’s a good chance it’ll be cited as ironclad proof that the Right is anti-women and used to divert attention from the serious election issues.

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German Opposition Leader Smears Israel as “Apartheid Regime”

Anyone wondering about how much progress those promoting hatred of Israel have made in recent years need only look at Germany. German governments have combined an understanding of the legacy of the Holocaust with a natural reticence about criticizing the Jewish state even when European political fashion has made such sentiments commonplace on the continent. But apparently that appears to be giving way to a willingness on the part of some of the country’s elites to promote some of the worst slanders against Israel.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and a likely challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next parliamentary election, posted on his Facebook page today a statement that Israel “is an apartheid regime, for which there is no justification.” Though he subsequently sought to explain the remark by seeking to limit his slur as applying only to the situation in Hebron (where an embattled small Jewish community lives under siege conditions surrounded by a hostile Arab majority) and also expressed his support for Israel’s existence and right to defend himself, that a possible future German chancellor would be willing to use such language illustrates the extent to which Palestinian propaganda has come to dominate mainstream discourse in Europe.

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Anyone wondering about how much progress those promoting hatred of Israel have made in recent years need only look at Germany. German governments have combined an understanding of the legacy of the Holocaust with a natural reticence about criticizing the Jewish state even when European political fashion has made such sentiments commonplace on the continent. But apparently that appears to be giving way to a willingness on the part of some of the country’s elites to promote some of the worst slanders against Israel.

As the Jerusalem Post reports, Sigmar Gabriel, the head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party and a likely challenger to Chancellor Angela Merkel in the next parliamentary election, posted on his Facebook page today a statement that Israel “is an apartheid regime, for which there is no justification.” Though he subsequently sought to explain the remark by seeking to limit his slur as applying only to the situation in Hebron (where an embattled small Jewish community lives under siege conditions surrounded by a hostile Arab majority) and also expressed his support for Israel’s existence and right to defend himself, that a possible future German chancellor would be willing to use such language illustrates the extent to which Palestinian propaganda has come to dominate mainstream discourse in Europe.

Hebron is a ticking time bomb where the proximity of Jews and Arabs to each other has led to much violence and hatred. But to imply that the Jewish presence in this place where a Jewish community was massacred in the last century by Palestinian mobs is somehow a form of racism is outrageous. For Gabriel to employ the language of South Africa to Israel is a short step to the delegitimization of the Jewish state. Those who would deny to Jews the same rights they reserve for themselves and others are practicing anti-Semitism. That is a line that no European, let alone a German, should dare to cross.

That the leader of Germany’s second largest party would think nothing of writing in this manner speaks volumes about the way the SPD has adopted the terminology of the far left on Israel. It also highlights the way European elites, even those in Germany where a special relationship has always existed with the modern Jewish state, have come to view the Middle East conflict through the prism of Arab nationalists and Islamists who view the Jewish presence in the country as the cause of the conflict. The real advocates of apartheid and racial cleansing in the region are not the Jews but Palestinians who think Jews must be evicted from the country. Even if Gabriel expressly opposes that goal, by using the language by which Israel may be made a pariah he has strengthened the expectation by the Palestinians that they can reject peace without paying any price.

Though Merkel’s attitude toward Israel has often been critical, it appears that if she is defeated by Gabriel, the result will be even more isolation for Israel in Europe.

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Iran Branches Out in Search for Proxies

One of the important subtexts that are often ignored in the discussion about the nature of the nuclear threat from Iran is the way such weapons would allow Tehran to throw its weight around the Middle East without dropping any bombs. Iran has long employed auxiliary forces around the region to bolster its influence. Though Hezbollah has risen from a sectarian Shia terrorist group to a position where it is in virtual control of much of Lebanon, it is also a loyal follower of Iran. Hamas was deeply dependent on Iranian cash and arms for much of the last decade as it consolidated its control of Gaza. It seems to be willing to break away, but Iran has not lost hope of maintaining its influence among Palestinians via splinter groups as well as by efforts to get Hamas back in the fold. It is also hoping to back up a tottering but brutal Assad regime in Syria that has also been a faithful ally.

But just as troubling for the West is the news reported today by the New York Times that Iran is knee-deep in funding an insurgency in Yemen. While Yemen has been the site of proxy wars for the Muslim world for decades (Egypt’s Gamal Nasser regime came to grief there in the 1960’s), any such activity in a nation that borders a potentially unstable Saudi Arabia is bound to raise alarms in the West. It should also remind those foolish advocates for a policy aimed at containing or deterring a nuclear Iran that the ayatollahs have their own ideas about what the region will look like once they get their fingers on a nuclear button.

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One of the important subtexts that are often ignored in the discussion about the nature of the nuclear threat from Iran is the way such weapons would allow Tehran to throw its weight around the Middle East without dropping any bombs. Iran has long employed auxiliary forces around the region to bolster its influence. Though Hezbollah has risen from a sectarian Shia terrorist group to a position where it is in virtual control of much of Lebanon, it is also a loyal follower of Iran. Hamas was deeply dependent on Iranian cash and arms for much of the last decade as it consolidated its control of Gaza. It seems to be willing to break away, but Iran has not lost hope of maintaining its influence among Palestinians via splinter groups as well as by efforts to get Hamas back in the fold. It is also hoping to back up a tottering but brutal Assad regime in Syria that has also been a faithful ally.

But just as troubling for the West is the news reported today by the New York Times that Iran is knee-deep in funding an insurgency in Yemen. While Yemen has been the site of proxy wars for the Muslim world for decades (Egypt’s Gamal Nasser regime came to grief there in the 1960’s), any such activity in a nation that borders a potentially unstable Saudi Arabia is bound to raise alarms in the West. It should also remind those foolish advocates for a policy aimed at containing or deterring a nuclear Iran that the ayatollahs have their own ideas about what the region will look like once they get their fingers on a nuclear button.

According to the Times, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are shipping weapons to the Houthi Yemeni rebels who, as followers of the Shia variant of Islam, are natural allies of Iran. In doing so, they are countering the influence of the Saudis, who have been intervening in Yemeni tribal and civil wars throughout the country’s history. Given the ability of the Saudis as well as the United States to weigh in with greater resources in Yemen, the Iranian threat there might be dismissed as not that significant. But the more foreign assets Iran accumulates, the greater its ability to strike out via terrorism against the West as well as the regime’s Arab foes.

More to the point, the balance in power in Yemen as well as every other country where Iran seeks to exercise influence will be thrown to the winds once the regime goes nuclear. Though there is a debate as to how “rational” Iran’s Islamist leadership truly is, there is no doubt about its willingness to use terror as a tactic to broaden their regional power base. Even if one is willing to gamble with the lives of millions of Israelis by sitting back and letting the Iranians achieve their goal, a nuclear Iran running an active Middle East terror network will be an entirely different and far more dangerous threat.

The Iranian foray in Yemen is just one more piece of a puzzle that points to the lethal nature of its rulers’ grand ambitions. Those in Washington and Europe who are inclined to keep talking about the problem rather than acting to forestall this peril need to remember that allowing the leading state sponsor of terror to go nuclear threatens not only Israel but the West and moderate Arab regimes as well.

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Wieseltier Skewers Rachel Maddow

Leon Wieseltier’s latest piece is worth reading in full for his take on Syria and Iran (too much talk of Auschwitz on the latter, he says. Maybe. In terms of the existential threat, it is true Israel still holds the ultimate nuclear trump card if it concludes that Iran’s ambitions are unstoppable by traditional military means).

But Wieseltier’s piece is also an immensely satisfying read because it doubles as an obliterating take-down of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s latest book, which sounds about as unreadable as her nightly news show is unwatchable. TNR has called out Maddow for her unseriousness in the past, most recently in its list of DC’s most overrated thinkers, but Wieseltier really follows through in this piece:

Written in the same perky self-adoring voice that makes her show so excruciating, it offers some correct observations about certain lamentable trends in the American military— its reliance on contractors, its exploitation of reservists, its surfeit of nuclear weapons; but its righteous aim is to make the use of force itself seem absurd. (Maddow is an absurdity artist, who thinks that all you have to do to refute something is to make fun of it.) What offends her is “the artificial primacy of defense among our national priorities.” …

Maddow adverts to the Founders a lot, proving again that originalism is just the search for a convenient past, a political sport played with key words. …

Trashing force may win you a lot of friends, but it is stupid. There is nothing “artificial” about the primacy of defense because there is nothing artificial about threats and conflicts and atrocities. The American political system’s “disinclination” to war must not be promoted into a disinclination to history. We are not the country we were in the eighteenth century, as every liberal insists about every other dimension of American policy. Anyway, this is what President Jefferson said in 1806: “Our duty is, therefore, to act upon things as they are, and to make a reasonable provision for whatever they may be.”

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Leon Wieseltier’s latest piece is worth reading in full for his take on Syria and Iran (too much talk of Auschwitz on the latter, he says. Maybe. In terms of the existential threat, it is true Israel still holds the ultimate nuclear trump card if it concludes that Iran’s ambitions are unstoppable by traditional military means).

But Wieseltier’s piece is also an immensely satisfying read because it doubles as an obliterating take-down of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s latest book, which sounds about as unreadable as her nightly news show is unwatchable. TNR has called out Maddow for her unseriousness in the past, most recently in its list of DC’s most overrated thinkers, but Wieseltier really follows through in this piece:

Written in the same perky self-adoring voice that makes her show so excruciating, it offers some correct observations about certain lamentable trends in the American military— its reliance on contractors, its exploitation of reservists, its surfeit of nuclear weapons; but its righteous aim is to make the use of force itself seem absurd. (Maddow is an absurdity artist, who thinks that all you have to do to refute something is to make fun of it.) What offends her is “the artificial primacy of defense among our national priorities.” …

Maddow adverts to the Founders a lot, proving again that originalism is just the search for a convenient past, a political sport played with key words. …

Trashing force may win you a lot of friends, but it is stupid. There is nothing “artificial” about the primacy of defense because there is nothing artificial about threats and conflicts and atrocities. The American political system’s “disinclination” to war must not be promoted into a disinclination to history. We are not the country we were in the eighteenth century, as every liberal insists about every other dimension of American policy. Anyway, this is what President Jefferson said in 1806: “Our duty is, therefore, to act upon things as they are, and to make a reasonable provision for whatever they may be.”

Maddow has apparently written a book that relies on the premise that the Founders were anti-war, mainly by taking Thomas Jefferson quotes entirely out of context. That’s not exactly out of character for her. Notice how on her nightly news show she only responds to the parts of her opponents’ arguments that can be twisted into unrecognizable strawmen and set-ups for easy punchlines.

Which is why I can’t imagine she’ll respond to Wieseltier’s criticism. Maddow really is one of those people who believe any argument can be won with enough ironic eyebrow raises. Responding would mean she’d actually have to take the critique seriously, and that just wouldn’t be cute or endearingly quirky.

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Kasparov, Nemtsov call McFaul’s Bluff

On Tuesday, I wrote about U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul’s objection to tying America’s economic interaction with Russia to the promotion of human rights. McFaul was in Washington for a conference and also to push for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation that sanctioned Moscow’s trade status for restricting Jewish emigration. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, Jackson-Vanik disadvantages American businesses, and so it’s time to repeal it.

But I argued that McFaul’s emphasis on repealing Jackson-Vanik was a dodge, since its repeal is uncontroversial. The real issue is whether it should be replaced by legislation that would hold Vladimir Putin’s administration accountable for its atrocious human rights record. Were McFaul not representing the Obama administration, I added, he might very well support such action–McFaul is the author of several books on promoting democracy in the post-Soviet space. Today, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, two outspoken Russian opposition figures, take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to make those points, and a few others.

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On Tuesday, I wrote about U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul’s objection to tying America’s economic interaction with Russia to the promotion of human rights. McFaul was in Washington for a conference and also to push for repeal of the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a piece of Cold War-era legislation that sanctioned Moscow’s trade status for restricting Jewish emigration. Now that Russia is joining the World Trade Organization, Jackson-Vanik disadvantages American businesses, and so it’s time to repeal it.

But I argued that McFaul’s emphasis on repealing Jackson-Vanik was a dodge, since its repeal is uncontroversial. The real issue is whether it should be replaced by legislation that would hold Vladimir Putin’s administration accountable for its atrocious human rights record. Were McFaul not representing the Obama administration, I added, he might very well support such action–McFaul is the author of several books on promoting democracy in the post-Soviet space. Today, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, two outspoken Russian opposition figures, take to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to make those points, and a few others.

The authors note that McFaul challenged a crowd on Monday to ask Aleksei Navalny, a popular Russian activist and blogger who has become a vocal leader of the protest movement, what he thinks. McFaul was certain his interlocutors would decline to accept the challenge. Kasparov and Nemtsov called McFaul’s bluff:

So we asked Mr. Navalny, who, along with several other members of the opposition leadership, signed a letter cited by Mr. McFaul calling for the removal of Russia from Jackson-Vanik. “Of course no one in Russia is foolish enough to defend Jackson-Vanik,” he told us. “But we also understand that it should be replaced with something else. And we said as much in our letter when we recommended the passing of the Magnitsky Act, as has been done in Europe.”

Mr. Navalny is referring to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2011, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate last May with wide bipartisan support. Named for the Russian attorney who died in police custody in 2009 while investigating official corruption, the Magnitsky Act would bring visa and asset sanctions against Russian government functionaries culpable of criminal and human rights abuses.

Kasparov and Nemtsov also challenged the administration’s realpolitik approach to the “reset” policy, arguing that McFaul’s devotion to his own policy (the “reset” is McFaul’s handiwork) is causing the erstwhile defender of human rights to subjugate his own value system in the mad dash to defend his legacy. What’s more, the authors point out the assault on logic the administration must conduct in order to justify its behavior:

Moreover, if economic engagement is the best way to promote an open society, why does the Obama administration not forge a free-trade pact with Iran instead of levying sanctions? Russia will be joining the World Trade Organization regardless of what the U.S. does. But WTO membership will not undo Mr. Putin’s monopolization of political and economic power. If Mr. Putin and his oligarchs believed for an instant that the WTO might weaken their grip, they simply would stay out.

The Obama administration is not only attempting to overturn a law, but also its spirit. As Mr. Kissinger did 39 years ago, Amb. McFaul is trying to make the case that human rights should not get in the way of realpolitik and the business of doing business. He reminds us that the State Department already has its own secret list of banned Russian officials, and so nothing more need be done. But the entire object of such laws is to publicly shame and punish the rank and file of Mr. Putin’s mob so they know the big boss can no longer protect them.

The Obama administration talks a lot about human rights. Kasparov and Nemtsov are right to ask if those speeches are, as the president himself might say, just words.

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Gingrich Death Watch May Be on Hold

After Newt Gingrich’s defeats in Mississippi and Alabama this week, the expectation in some quarters was that the former speaker would realize  he had no hope to win the nomination and bow out of the race. Certainly that’s what Rick Santorum and his supporters were hoping. It would set up the one-on-one matchup with Mitt Romney that they think will give him a chance to turn the GOP race around. Though there have been signs some in Gingrich’s campaign are looking for the exit signs, the candidate is giving no indication he’s giving up yet. Last week, I came up with seven reasons why Gingrich won’t quit, and I think they are still valid. But apparently he has come up with another one to justify the continuation of his presidential run: staying in the race hurts Romney.

This seems counterintuitive as Gingrich’s presence on the ballot diverted a portion of the conservative vote away from Santorum and probably cost the Pennsylvanian first place finishes in Michigan and Ohio. It might do the same next week in Illinois, a primary that could be a turning point in the race should Santorum pull an upset. The idea put forward by Gingrich’s camp is that because the GOP’s rules this year have encouraged proportional delegate allocation, keeping the nomination battle a three-way race (not counting libertarian outlier Ron Paul who is polling in the single digits just about everywhere these days) means Romney will be deprived of the ability to rack up large delegate hauls, thus making it impossible for him to reach a majority before the convention. Though this is a weak argument, it may be all Gingrich requires to justify continuing his ego-gratifying presidential run.

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After Newt Gingrich’s defeats in Mississippi and Alabama this week, the expectation in some quarters was that the former speaker would realize  he had no hope to win the nomination and bow out of the race. Certainly that’s what Rick Santorum and his supporters were hoping. It would set up the one-on-one matchup with Mitt Romney that they think will give him a chance to turn the GOP race around. Though there have been signs some in Gingrich’s campaign are looking for the exit signs, the candidate is giving no indication he’s giving up yet. Last week, I came up with seven reasons why Gingrich won’t quit, and I think they are still valid. But apparently he has come up with another one to justify the continuation of his presidential run: staying in the race hurts Romney.

This seems counterintuitive as Gingrich’s presence on the ballot diverted a portion of the conservative vote away from Santorum and probably cost the Pennsylvanian first place finishes in Michigan and Ohio. It might do the same next week in Illinois, a primary that could be a turning point in the race should Santorum pull an upset. The idea put forward by Gingrich’s camp is that because the GOP’s rules this year have encouraged proportional delegate allocation, keeping the nomination battle a three-way race (not counting libertarian outlier Ron Paul who is polling in the single digits just about everywhere these days) means Romney will be deprived of the ability to rack up large delegate hauls, thus making it impossible for him to reach a majority before the convention. Though this is a weak argument, it may be all Gingrich requires to justify continuing his ego-gratifying presidential run.

This thesis is endorsed by Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chair who is largely responsible for this scheme in the first place and is rightly reviled by most in the GOP for doing so. Steele told the New York Times a Santorum-Gingrich double teaming of Romney would be a bigger burden to the frontrunner than a setup in which he was forced to confront a single conservative opponent.

There is, however, a fatal flaw in such thinking. After April 1, there are nearly as many winner-take-all primaries scheduled, including important races in Wisconsin and California, as there are proportional ones. Others will elect delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district. In such states, Gingrich’s remaining on the ballot would almost certainly help Romney.

What Gingrich really seems to be hoping is that by staying in the race and accumulating more delegates even while losing he would increase his leverage if neither Romney nor Santorum secured enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. Though one could argue his leverage with Santorum will never be higher than it is today should he be willing to make a bargain of some sort with the Pennsylvanian, Gingrich’s dream scenario is really one where he could play the kingmaker at Tampa with Romney or with some theoretical dark horse who might emerge from a deadlock.

In a year where so much that was unexpected happened, we should all hesitate before scoffing at Gingrich’s reasoning. But this still seems to be more science fiction than political science. The plain fact of the situation is that unless Gingrich gets out and/or gets behind Santorum, the odds are Romney will wrap up the nomination by June. If Gingrich, who seems motivated as much by hatred for Romney as by his own ambition, seems to be working at cross purposes to his own interests, all we can say is anyone who remembers some of the bad judgment he showed in the speaker’s chair knows this wouldn’t be the first time he has done so.

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Why is WaPo Partnering With the Chinese Communist Party?

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo has a great item out this morning on the Washington Post’s advertising partnership with the Chinese Communist Party. Apparently, a Chinese government-controlled media outlet has purchased its own news supplement – complete with Washington Post masthead – that is published in the Post’s print and web editions. Ostensibly this is considered an “advertisement,” and is handled by the Post’s advertising department, but critics say the supplement is so poorly labeled that many readers likely believe they’re reading the Post’s own reporting – but are actually reading Chinese government propaganda.

Kredo spoke to journalism ethics experts who explained why the relationship is problematic:

“They need to address the proverbial elephant in the living room—why are you carrying a Communist government-sponsored publication?” asked Lois Boynton, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“It raises some ethical issues for the Post,” said Boynton, who criticized China Watch for intentionally obfuscating its origins.

“There are issues of transparency associated with who publishes China Watch,” she said. “The ‘about’ blurb doesn’t provide that detail. Although many people may know that China mainstream media is government-controlled, it may not be clear for all readers.”

“Readers go right through this section as if they’re moving through the hard news to the more in depth reporting, never realizing that they’re being inundated with Chinese government propaganda,” said Stephen Yates, a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. “It doesn’t hit a person that they’ve arrived at an ad supplement filled with things that have passed Chinese Communist Party filters.”

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The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo has a great item out this morning on the Washington Post’s advertising partnership with the Chinese Communist Party. Apparently, a Chinese government-controlled media outlet has purchased its own news supplement – complete with Washington Post masthead – that is published in the Post’s print and web editions. Ostensibly this is considered an “advertisement,” and is handled by the Post’s advertising department, but critics say the supplement is so poorly labeled that many readers likely believe they’re reading the Post’s own reporting – but are actually reading Chinese government propaganda.

Kredo spoke to journalism ethics experts who explained why the relationship is problematic:

“They need to address the proverbial elephant in the living room—why are you carrying a Communist government-sponsored publication?” asked Lois Boynton, a journalism professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“It raises some ethical issues for the Post,” said Boynton, who criticized China Watch for intentionally obfuscating its origins.

“There are issues of transparency associated with who publishes China Watch,” she said. “The ‘about’ blurb doesn’t provide that detail. Although many people may know that China mainstream media is government-controlled, it may not be clear for all readers.”

“Readers go right through this section as if they’re moving through the hard news to the more in depth reporting, never realizing that they’re being inundated with Chinese government propaganda,” said Stephen Yates, a former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. “It doesn’t hit a person that they’ve arrived at an ad supplement filled with things that have passed Chinese Communist Party filters.”

In addition, Kredo reports there are questions about whether the partnership violates the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The law requires agents being paid by foreign governments – i.e. lobbyists or political consultants – to register their affiliations in a database and disclose them publicly. But there is a gray area here when it comes to FARA. For example, while a lobbyist may have to register under FARA if he has a financial relationship with the Russian government, news organizations controlled by the Russian government that are aired in the U.S. (i.e. Russia Today) do not have to register in the same fashion. It’s a loophole that allows foreign governments to duck the rules.

While FARA violations are rarely prosecuted, this could still increase pressure on the Post to rethink its current partnership. Considering the Post editorial page’s typically exemplary coverage of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, it would be nice to see the advertising department update its standards to follow suit.

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More U.N. Officials Step Up to Push Anti-Israel Smears and Pro-Hamas Propaganda

UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.

Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.

The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.

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UNRWA’s Chris Gunness has personally stepped up to fulfill his organization’s traditional role as a wartime propaganda outlet for Hamas, describing Israel’s self-defense operations as “sick sick sick.” The UN group routinely peddles anti-Israel falsehoods even during relatively quiet periods – e.g. their scapegoating Israel for UNRWA’s terror-promoting schools – but during conflicts their media manipulation becomes particularly shameless.

Now even non-UNRWA UN officials have taken to broadcasting false anti-Israel smears, per new information about a tweet that Alana first covered earlier this week. You’ll remember that Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of an injured Palestinian girl, with a caption asserting that the girl had been hit in an Israeli air strike. The photo spread like wildfire, garnering 300 retweets and becoming the day’s top “#Gaza” tweet.

The entire thing was a fabrication. The photo wasn’t taken this week and the girl wasn’t hurt by Israeli munitions. The picture was actually snapped by Reuters in 2006, and the girl had fallen off a swing. Honest Reporting ran down the original.

Now it turns out Badawi is an official at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), where she works as an Information and Media Coordinator. Again the story is on Honest Reporting, which has helpfully posted OCHA’s contact information in case you feel moved to protest how a UN media coordinator is using new media technology to spread lies.

Compared to Badawi’s hit-and-run resentment, or to the rants about the “big lies of Zionists” that other UNRWA officials are posting as blog comments, Gunness’s open gushing is almost refreshing. Not only is he a sort of happy pro-Hamas warrior, but viewed from a certain angle what he’s doing is admirably consistent with UNRWA’s historical behavior. As opposed to OCHA workers, who are neophytes on the institutionalized anti-Israel propaganda scene.

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The Israeli Leftist Diplomats Should Read

If there’s one article I’d like every international diplomat to read today, it’s Carlo Strenger’s post on the Haaretz website. Strenger, a professor of psychology, is a lifelong leftist and dedicated advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But unlike many of his fellows, he refuses to shut his eyes to reality. Here’s his comment on the latest violence out of Gaza:

Most commentators assume that neither Hamas nor Israel is interested in further escalation of the hostilities that have been initiated by Islamic Jihad this time, ostensibly to jockey for position vis-à-vis Hamas … [But] Israelis, for very understandable reasons no longer care who is responsible for the violence. All they know is that, in the end, there will always be a Palestinian group that will initiate violence. As a result they say “why should we take the risk of retreating to the 1967 borders? Why should we rely on Palestinians to keep the peace? All we’ll get is rockets on Tel Aviv, Raanana and Kfar Saba. So the world won’t like us for the occupation; we can live with that, but not with rockets on our population centers.”

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If there’s one article I’d like every international diplomat to read today, it’s Carlo Strenger’s post on the Haaretz website. Strenger, a professor of psychology, is a lifelong leftist and dedicated advocate of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But unlike many of his fellows, he refuses to shut his eyes to reality. Here’s his comment on the latest violence out of Gaza:

Most commentators assume that neither Hamas nor Israel is interested in further escalation of the hostilities that have been initiated by Islamic Jihad this time, ostensibly to jockey for position vis-à-vis Hamas … [But] Israelis, for very understandable reasons no longer care who is responsible for the violence. All they know is that, in the end, there will always be a Palestinian group that will initiate violence. As a result they say “why should we take the risk of retreating to the 1967 borders? Why should we rely on Palestinians to keep the peace? All we’ll get is rockets on Tel Aviv, Raanana and Kfar Saba. So the world won’t like us for the occupation; we can live with that, but not with rockets on our population centers.”

Strenger’s conclusion is that however sincerely committed to peace Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may be (and he credits Abbas with far more sincerity than most Israelis do), Israel won’t sign any agreement as long as major Palestinian players remain committed to violence: The risk of a pro-violence faction gaining control of the Palestinian state, whether through elections or by force, is too high. And he’s smart enough to realize that the kind of dodges now being mooted by parts of the Israeli left and the international community – like a Palestinian unity government in which Hamas authorizes Abbas to continue negotiating but refuses to recognize Israel itself, or Hamas’s offer of a “long-term truce” rather than full peace – won’t do:

Israelis will not move towards peace as long as Hamas, a central player and crucial part of Palestinian society will not endorse peace explicitly. No amount of playing games will do; nothing less than full recognition of Israel’s right to exist in safety and abolishing the [Hamas] Charter and excising its anti-Semitism as it stands completely; nothing less will do.

Strenger is certainly right as far as he goes, and anyone who supports a two-state solution should take his words to heart.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t go far enough. For as he himself wrote, even when Hamas isn’t interested in escalation, there’s always some “Palestinian group that will initiate violence” instead. And that means reforming Hamas, while necessary, isn’t sufficient: Pro-violence Palestinians will simply migrate to other groups, like Islamic Jihad.

What is needed, therefore, is a change in attitude among the Palestinian public. And that will never happen as long as even the “pro-peace” camp, aka Abbas and the PA, engages in relentless, vicious incitement against Israel: denying historic Jewish ties to Jerusalem; teaching  children that pre-1967 Israel was “stolen” from the Palestinians, who will someday get it back; consistently promoting a vision of a world without Israel; and lionizing murderers.

Combatting Palestinian incitement and educating for peace is slow, unglamorous work; international peace conferences are much more exciting. But as Strenger noted, peace isn’t possible as long as “there will always be a Palestinian group that will initiate violence.” And only a fundamental change in Palestinian culture can change that.

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