Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 26, 2013

Eric Holder’s Reckless Assertion

During a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Attorney General Eric Holder said that creating a “pathway to earned citizenship” was a “civil right.” Mr. Holder put it this way:

 

Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity.

As someone who believes in earned citizenship if it’s done in the context of other steps related to border security and encouraging more high-skilled workers coming to America, perhaps I have a bit of standing to say that what Holder said is nonsense. Offering earned citizenship to illegal aliens falls under the category of prudential arguments about immigration reform. There are serious policy arguments on both sides.

But Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it.

Read More

During a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Attorney General Eric Holder said that creating a “pathway to earned citizenship” was a “civil right.” Mr. Holder put it this way:

 

Creating a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in this country is essential. The way we treat our friends and neighbors who are undocumented – by creating a mechanism for them to earn citizenship and move out of the shadows – transcends the issue of immigration status. This is a matter of civil and human rights. It is about who we are as a nation. And it goes to the core of our treasured American principle of equal opportunity.

As someone who believes in earned citizenship if it’s done in the context of other steps related to border security and encouraging more high-skilled workers coming to America, perhaps I have a bit of standing to say that what Holder said is nonsense. Offering earned citizenship to illegal aliens falls under the category of prudential arguments about immigration reform. There are serious policy arguments on both sides.

But Attorney General Holder’s claim is more than simply silly; it is also pernicious. It attempts to frame this debate not on the merits of granting a pathway to citizenship for those who have violated our laws; it’s an effort to frame it as a conflict between those who support (good people) and those who oppose (bad people) basic human rights. This is an effort, in other words, to demonize those with whom one disagrees, and therefore creates yet more polarization and anger and self-righteousness in a debate that probably needs less of it.

What Holder said also reveals a fairly common mindset of those on the left, which is to characterize whatever position they embrace not simply as correct but as a basic civil right. In other words, as something fundamental and teleological, as a right that is ours based on our nature as human beings. The idea that a person who violates American sovereignty by illegally crossing our borders should be given a pathway to citizenship as a matter of civil and human rights is therefore indefensible, an invention. The attorney general is employing a very serious concept in a reckless way. And it empties the term of meaning, just as promiscuously accusing those who oppose the policies of President Obama of racism empties that charge of meaning. It really ought to stop, since human rights violations and racism really do exist.

Offering earned citizenship to those who are in America illegally may make sense economically, from a security standpoint, and even morally. Fine; if one believes that, then make the arguments. But words actually mean something — human rights and civil rights as concepts mean something — and so for Holder to make the claim that he did is quite unfortunate. But it is also, alas, quite predictable.

Read Less

Kerry Should Forget About ME Summit

Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that “well placed U.S. sources” said Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to convene a summit in June at which the United States, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority would, with the help of Turkey and Egypt, set a new agenda for peace talks. The starting point for this push would be the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the principle of “two states for two peoples.” But even before the idea had begun to percolate, the administration is publicly backing away from summit plans.

Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson: said “We have seen the media reports of a planned Middle East Peace summit in Washington. These reports are not true. We remain committed to working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations.”

What’s going on here? It’s hard to say with certainty but it appears that after four years of having a secretary of state who understood that the White House is the only place policy is made in the Obama administration, the switch from Hillary Clinton to Kerry involves a change in attitude as well as personnel. But whether Kerry is trying to slip the leash or not, it’s clear that whoever it is that has vetoed the summit understands the situation better than Kerry. A summit is an invitation to diplomatic disaster, not peace.

Read More

Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that “well placed U.S. sources” said Secretary of State John Kerry was planning to convene a summit in June at which the United States, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority would, with the help of Turkey and Egypt, set a new agenda for peace talks. The starting point for this push would be the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the principle of “two states for two peoples.” But even before the idea had begun to percolate, the administration is publicly backing away from summit plans.

Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council Spokesperson: said “We have seen the media reports of a planned Middle East Peace summit in Washington. These reports are not true. We remain committed to working with the Israelis and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace through direct negotiations.”

What’s going on here? It’s hard to say with certainty but it appears that after four years of having a secretary of state who understood that the White House is the only place policy is made in the Obama administration, the switch from Hillary Clinton to Kerry involves a change in attitude as well as personnel. But whether Kerry is trying to slip the leash or not, it’s clear that whoever it is that has vetoed the summit understands the situation better than Kerry. A summit is an invitation to diplomatic disaster, not peace.

Kerry may think bringing together the Islamist governments of Egypt and Turkey into the process may give PA leader Mahmoud Abbas the diplomatic cover he needs to take risks for peace. But far from helping bring about the goal of a two state solution, having two nations that are allied with Hamas (which governs the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza) at the table merely makes it clear that Abbas doesn’t have the power to make peace even if he had the will to do so.

President Obama was right when he stated last month during his trip to Israel that direct negotiations between the two parties without preconditions was the only path to an agreement. Yet that is precisely why Abbas has sought to evade such talks. He knows he hasn’t the ability to sell the Palestinian people on a deal that recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. He also knows that the Arab peace initiative which Kerry thinks will draw Israel’s neighbors into the talks is a non-starter because it is antithetical to the notion of two states for two peoples.

Though the Arab initiative speaks of recognition of Israel, it eschews any understanding that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It specifically insists upon implementation of the so-called Palestinian “right of return” that would swamp Israel with millions of the descendants of Arab refugees from 1948.

What’s so depressing about this idea is not just that it is foolish but that it shows Kerry hasn’t been paying much attention to diplomatic history. There have been a number of summits whose purpose was to broker Middle East peace dating back to Rhodes in 1949, Madrid in 1991 and most recently, Annapolis in 2008. While Madrid could be said to have at least initiated a dynamic where direct talks became imaginable, these gatherings were mostly about photo opportunities and the chance for world leaders to grandstand than any real breakthrough. Even worse by raising unrealistic expectations with a summit, Kerry could be setting the stage for a new round of violence where Fatah and Hamas would again compete for popularity with bombs rather than state building.

The only possible scenario in which a summit might make sense would be if Kerry miraculously achieved an agreement from the PA to start negotiations in advance. But given Abbas’s demands for Israeli concessions in advance as a precondition for talks — something Obama specifically rejected — it’s difficult to see how that happens.

If Kerry really wants to help the situation, he should concentrate on plans for economic development in the West Bank that would improve the lives of Palestinians and, at least in theory, give them an incentive to back peace rather than more conflict. But with the forced exit of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, pumping more money into the area may do more to enrich Abbas’s corrupt Fatah cronies than to help the Palestinian people. His desire to give the PA control over areas that Oslo designates as solely under Israeli control also raises questions about the motives of this effort.

Doubling down on failure is a loser’s bet but that’s exactly what Kerry appears to be doing right now. His desire for a show that would highlight his pose as a peacemaker who can succeed where every predecessor failed is in keeping with his character. But if President Obama wants to keep the region from blowing up the Israel-Palestinian conflict at a time when he should be concentrating on Syria and Iran, he needs to make sure Kerry doesn’t go off the leash again.

Read Less

Gun Control and American “Givenness”

The New York Times reports that gun-control advocates are not dissuaded by their recent failure to get first a gun ban and then a background checks bill passed. They are pressing on with attempts to further regulate gun ownership. As I noted and as the Washington Post explained, Americans basically came to see the Toomey-Manchin bill as representative of the fight to restrict gun ownership, and the attempts by the government to impose such restrictions unnerved them. This bothers supporters of gun control for cultural reasons, and I think it’s worth explaining where gun-rights supporters are coming from.

In February, Timothy Noah wrote a perceptive column about how liberals were no longer always talking about liberal policies in “non-liberal language.” But gun control was an exception. “Hunters are understood to be part of an authentic American majority in a way liberals who don’t shoot guns are not,” Noah wrote. “But this ingrained assumption is no longer true. Busily genuflecting before hunters, liberals have somehow failed to realize that they are a new silent majority.”

Noah’s column was headlined “How Liberals Became ‘Real Americans’,” and the example of gun ownership as the outlier–gun owners are the real “real Americans” no matter how many, or how few, of them there actually are–is instructive. As anyone who has been told by gun control supporters that tyranny is not on the agenda and therefore the Founders’ concern for the right to bear arms is just a bit dated can attest, concern about the slippery slope argument on guns is downright puzzling to the left. But it’s actually much easier to understand than it seems.

Read More

The New York Times reports that gun-control advocates are not dissuaded by their recent failure to get first a gun ban and then a background checks bill passed. They are pressing on with attempts to further regulate gun ownership. As I noted and as the Washington Post explained, Americans basically came to see the Toomey-Manchin bill as representative of the fight to restrict gun ownership, and the attempts by the government to impose such restrictions unnerved them. This bothers supporters of gun control for cultural reasons, and I think it’s worth explaining where gun-rights supporters are coming from.

In February, Timothy Noah wrote a perceptive column about how liberals were no longer always talking about liberal policies in “non-liberal language.” But gun control was an exception. “Hunters are understood to be part of an authentic American majority in a way liberals who don’t shoot guns are not,” Noah wrote. “But this ingrained assumption is no longer true. Busily genuflecting before hunters, liberals have somehow failed to realize that they are a new silent majority.”

Noah’s column was headlined “How Liberals Became ‘Real Americans’,” and the example of gun ownership as the outlier–gun owners are the real “real Americans” no matter how many, or how few, of them there actually are–is instructive. As anyone who has been told by gun control supporters that tyranny is not on the agenda and therefore the Founders’ concern for the right to bear arms is just a bit dated can attest, concern about the slippery slope argument on guns is downright puzzling to the left. But it’s actually much easier to understand than it seems.

Exactly 60 years ago, in the April 1953 issue of COMMENTARY, Daniel J. Boorstin wrote an eloquent essay that sheds light on this issue without actually discussing gun rights. The piece was titled “Our Unspoken National Faith: Why Americans Need No Ideology,” and it was adapted from his then-forthcoming book The Genius of American Politics. The purpose of Boorstin’s essay, as indicated in the title, is to explain why Americans have developed such successful political institutions without a tradition of impressive modern political theorizing. Americans are, Boorstin noted, surprisingly uninterested in political philosophy for a country that has experienced such magnificent political achievement.

Boorstin’s aim is to explain what he calls “givenness,” briefly defined as “the belief that values in America are in some way or other automatically defined: given by certain facts of geography or history peculiar to us.” There are three aspects to American “givenness,” according to Boorstin. First, that our values are a gift from the past; second, that we continue to receive our values as a gift from the present; and third, a belief in the continuity of American history, which helps explain how his first and second parts of “givenness” can coexist. “Our feeling of continuity in our history makes it easy for us to see the Founding Fathers as our contemporaries. It induces us to draw heavily on the materials of our history, but always in a distinctly non-historical frame of mind,” he writes.

We haven’t felt the need to invent mythical American prophets because that’s how we see our Founders. And we haven’t felt the need to develop a uniting political theory because we believe the nation was founded on an already complete theory that we happily accepted. One major reason for this is the recency of our founding. Boorstin calls us “primitivistic” in comparison to Europeans, who–for obvious reasons–don’t see themselves in their earliest settlers.

This explains the left-right divide over constitutional interpretation. Both liberals and conservatives have taken to claiming their constitutional righteousness in terms of its “originalism.” Neither side’s leading judicial theorists, however, tend to argue that it doesn’t matter what the Founders thought at the time. “We are haunted by a fear that capricious changes in theory might imperil our institutions,” Boorstin writes. “This is our kind of conservatism.” Later, he adds: “What need has either party for an explicit political theory where both must be spokesmen of the original American doctrine on which the nation was founded?”

Boorstin admits that the second facet of “givenness” is vague, but it boils down to accepting that our founding value system is being constantly upheld and reinvigorated by the simple experience of American life. And here he quotes Frederick Jackson Turner writing about the idealized American frontierland and how we translate that into our value system. Turner’s quote, in turn, provides some perspective on Noah’s remark about “real Americans”:

The result is that to the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics. That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness, that practical inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; that masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and for evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance which comes with freedom—these are traits of the frontier, or called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier.

Indeed, Boorstin notes that we admire not extraordinary men but men “who possessed the commonplace virtues to an extraordinary degree.” The third facet of “givenness,” continuity between the first two, is both a goal and a fact of life–though this, too, has much to do with America’s youth and is probably far from a given if the United States reaches in the future the age that Europe is now. American political convention has an authenticity, Boorstin writes, guided by “the axiom that institutions are not and should not be the grand creations of men toward large ends and outspoken values; rather they are organisms which grow out of the soil in which they are rooted and out of the tradition from which they have sprung.” He concludes:

Our history has fitted us, even against our will, to understand the meaning of conservatism. We have become the exemplars of the continuity of history and of the fruits which came from cultivating institutions suited to a time and place, in continuity with the past.

How this applies, precisely 60 years later, to the gun debate is twofold. First, liberals have been frustrated by the fact that lower population states, in conservative and gun-friendly regions of the country, hold disproportionate sway in the Senate thanks to each state having the same number of senators, and thus votes. But they should also keep in mind that this doesn’t bother others nearly as much because these states, as we see from Turner’s description of the frontier in American consciousness, hold disproportionate sway over much of America’s national and cultural identity. Guns are only part of this, but a recognizable part.

Second, unlike many other policy fights, gun rights have special resonance because the right to bear arms is written explicitly. We can, and do, argue over whose right that is and what arms they may bear, but few rights were so clearly declared to exist or jealously guarded by the Founders as this one. And that helps explain how Americans can simultaneously support universal background checks in theory yet seem to suddenly get cold feet when it is time for Congress to vote. They don’t take it lightly when their rights are on the table. That may be frustrating for lawmakers, but it’s part of the genius of American politics.

Read Less

Airline Sequester Fix Exposes Dem Hysteria

Our long national nightmare is finally over. After a week of experiencing some delays at many major airports, Congress acted in the last 24 hours and passed a bill that will allow the Federal Aviation Agency to bring back air controllers from the furloughs that were forced upon them by the budget sequester. The legislation gives the secretary of transportation the ability to manage the ample funds left to the FAA to perform essential services. Of course, that is exactly what Republicans have been asking their Democratic congressional colleagues and the White House to do for the entire federal government since the sequester went into effect. Since it would mitigate the effects of the sequester and end any talk of a budget deal that would raise taxes, the president and his party have refused to consider any such commonsense measure. But the idea of forcing their constituents to stand in line at security checks at airports was too terrible to contemplate, and the Democrats finally gave in after a week on this one point.

This episode demonstrates two basic facts about the entire sequester controversy.

One is that the pain being inflicted on some people as a result of across-the-board, rather than targeted, cuts is entirely unnecessary and can almost immediately be remedied by the Democrats getting down off their high horses and agreeing to GOP demands to extend the same courtesy granted the FAA to the rest of the government.

The second is that the white flag the Democrats quickly ran up on the FAA furloughs illustrates they know they’ve failed to convince the country to pressure Republicans to give in on tax increases in order to create a grand budget deal.

Read More

Our long national nightmare is finally over. After a week of experiencing some delays at many major airports, Congress acted in the last 24 hours and passed a bill that will allow the Federal Aviation Agency to bring back air controllers from the furloughs that were forced upon them by the budget sequester. The legislation gives the secretary of transportation the ability to manage the ample funds left to the FAA to perform essential services. Of course, that is exactly what Republicans have been asking their Democratic congressional colleagues and the White House to do for the entire federal government since the sequester went into effect. Since it would mitigate the effects of the sequester and end any talk of a budget deal that would raise taxes, the president and his party have refused to consider any such commonsense measure. But the idea of forcing their constituents to stand in line at security checks at airports was too terrible to contemplate, and the Democrats finally gave in after a week on this one point.

This episode demonstrates two basic facts about the entire sequester controversy.

One is that the pain being inflicted on some people as a result of across-the-board, rather than targeted, cuts is entirely unnecessary and can almost immediately be remedied by the Democrats getting down off their high horses and agreeing to GOP demands to extend the same courtesy granted the FAA to the rest of the government.

The second is that the white flag the Democrats quickly ran up on the FAA furloughs illustrates they know they’ve failed to convince the country to pressure Republicans to give in on tax increases in order to create a grand budget deal.

It should be conceded that the sequester is a stupid idea and one that the White House—which suggested it in the first place and resisted efforts to lessen its effects until now—is right when it says that it should never have been put into effect. As our Max Boot has written many times, its effect on the U.S. military is especially unfortunate and Congress should have acted to exempt the Pentagon from it months ago.

But if most of the public isn’t exactly up in arms about the sequester, as President Obama expected they would be, it also shows they understand that a bloated federal budget needed trimming. The sequester cuts are a mere drop in the bucket attempting to bail out the ocean of government debt. But as some conservative Republicans who have learned to love the sequester are pointing out, it was the only way anyone has found to make actual cuts—rather than reductions in the amount of increase in spending—in recent memory.

The point is every federal agency, including the military, could, if allowed the flexibility given the FAA, reduce expenditures without compromising their ability to perform the basic functions the public expects it to handle. As Rich Lowry pointed out in his latest Politico column the FAA holdup was entirely unnecessary:

The head of the FAA, Michael Huerta, says he has no choice but to disrupt the nation’s aviation in implementing the sequestration. He has to find $600 million in cuts in an agency with a $15 billion budget within a Transportation Department with a $70 billion budget. Only 15,000 of the FAA’s 47,000 employees are air traffic controllers. Yet he is furloughing controllers such that on Monday more than 1,000 flights were delayed. …

The FAA should be able to manage with a little less. Its operations budget has doubled since 1996. The agency got along just fine in 2007, even though it had fewer controllers than today and less money, while handling more air traffic. Even with sequestration, the FAA overall has slightly more funding than under President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request.

Democrats have been trying to sell the country on the idea that the sequester is an evil that was mandated by the takeover of the House of Representatives by a group of Tea Party extremists. But rather than storming Congress to force them to bow to the president’s demands for more taxes in a grand budget deal, the public has yawned. Whatever they think of Republicans, most people think forcing the government to make do on less—as they have been forced to do in hard economic times—is a good idea. Rather than hurting the GOP, the sequester has helped it.

If the president was counting on the budget helping him lay the groundwork for a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2014, he was mistaken. The hysteria they’ve tried to feed on this issue has fizzled. It’s time for him to acknowledge that error and start negotiating with Congress rather than trying to dictate to it.

Read Less

If Obama’s Syria Promises Mean Nothing, How Can We Trust Him on Iran?

Yesterday’s admission by the White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Syria appears to have used chemical weapons against its own people took the debate about American policy toward the embattled Assad dictatorship to a new level. There are still no good choices available to the United States since the rebels fighting the regime are, at best, a mixed bag, and if successful may bring Islamists to power in Damascus. But, as I noted previously, President Obama’s preference for “leading from behind” and simply sitting back and hoping for the best won’t work. Allowing an Iranian ally to use Sarin gas to commit mass murder without lifting a finger to stop it is both morally wrong as well as bad geostrategic policy. So too is a policy that would not give the U.S. the leverage to help those Syrian rebels who are not Islamists prevail over those who are extremists.

But there is another angle to the decision that the administration will have to make on Syria that has wider implications for the region. With even ardent Obama supporters like Jeffrey Goldberg reminding the president he has made it crystal clear that chemical weapons use would be a red line that would trigger a strong U.S. response, what follows will not only tell us whether that promise would be kept. It will also illustrate just how seriously to take other pledges the administration has made, specifically its vow never to allow Iran to go nuclear. With the White House desperately trying to buy time before making a decision on Syria, it’s fair to ask why anyone should regard American rhetoric on Iran as anything more than an elaborate bluff if Obama won’t keep his word about Assad’s behavior.

Read More

Yesterday’s admission by the White House and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Syria appears to have used chemical weapons against its own people took the debate about American policy toward the embattled Assad dictatorship to a new level. There are still no good choices available to the United States since the rebels fighting the regime are, at best, a mixed bag, and if successful may bring Islamists to power in Damascus. But, as I noted previously, President Obama’s preference for “leading from behind” and simply sitting back and hoping for the best won’t work. Allowing an Iranian ally to use Sarin gas to commit mass murder without lifting a finger to stop it is both morally wrong as well as bad geostrategic policy. So too is a policy that would not give the U.S. the leverage to help those Syrian rebels who are not Islamists prevail over those who are extremists.

But there is another angle to the decision that the administration will have to make on Syria that has wider implications for the region. With even ardent Obama supporters like Jeffrey Goldberg reminding the president he has made it crystal clear that chemical weapons use would be a red line that would trigger a strong U.S. response, what follows will not only tell us whether that promise would be kept. It will also illustrate just how seriously to take other pledges the administration has made, specifically its vow never to allow Iran to go nuclear. With the White House desperately trying to buy time before making a decision on Syria, it’s fair to ask why anyone should regard American rhetoric on Iran as anything more than an elaborate bluff if Obama won’t keep his word about Assad’s behavior.

Judging by the reaction in Washington to the news about the proof of the Assad regime using chemical weapons, many in the administration may now regret the president’s willingness to make promises about Syria. It is likely that he and his foreign policy team naively believed that Assad would fall long before they were called to account for their loose talk about being willing to act if the dictator went too far in trying to preserve his regime. Moreover, having largely been propelled into office by American war weariness, it will be difficult for a president who prefers to lead from behind to convince his supporters to back American involvement in Syria.

But if after his trademark slow decision-making process unfolds, the president decides that the U.S. will still not do anything to prevent the future use of chemical weapons or to limit Assad’s ability to use them, a crucial red line will have been crossed.

As I have written many times, its more than clear that the ayatollahs neither respect nor believe President Obama’s many warnings about their nuclear ambitions. The president’s record of dithering, feckless engagement policies, slowness to enact and then enforce economic sanctions and his commitment to a diplomatic process that has repeatedly failed have given Tehran good reason to doubt that he means business about the issue or that he regards force as an option that is truly still on the table.

Yet the president’s continued use of strong words about Iran leaves open the possibility that they are wrong. But if he cannot muster the will to do something about Syria even after the death of 70,000 people at Assad’s hands and the use of chemical weapons, then why should anyone think Obama will ever act against Iran?

That places the Syrian decision in a context in which the possible costs of inaction are far greater than the justified worries about those of intervention. There may be no good options in Syria, but the blowback from a realization that the U.S. won’t stop mass killings in this manner may be far more costly. The price may not be paid by Americans, at least not immediately, but the toll in blood and diplomatic and security complications will be great. If American “red lines” mean nothing, then Obama’s blind faith in diplomacy will be exposed as a disastrous sham.

Read Less

Ignoring Jew-Hatred in the Islamic World

Western opinion leaders too often ignore the Islamic world’s rampant Jew-hatred, argues a new book reviewed recently in The Jerusalem Report. It’s unfortunate that Tibor Krausz’s review is behind a paywall, since it’s a must-read for anyone who doesn’t plan to read the full book: In example after chilling example, it demonstrates the depth and extent of this Jew-hatred, while also showing that it has nothing to do with Israel’s “occupation of Palestine.” In a televised sermon in 2009, for instance, Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qub said, “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not … The Jews are infidels not because I say so but because Allah does… They aren’t our enemies because they occupy Palestine; they would be our enemies even if they had not occupied anything.”

But what moved Neil Kressel, a professor of psychology at William Patterson University, to write The Sons of Pigs and Apes wasn’t merely the existence of this hatred; rather, Krausz noted, it was his dismay over “what he sees as a blind spot — ‘a conspiracy of silence’ — among Western academics, policymakers and journalists about the extent of Muslim anti-Semitism.” Policymakers may not actually belong in this list; I suspect many are genuinely ignorant about this hatred. But if they are, it’s because of this “conspiracy of silence”: The journalists and academics whose job it is to inform them consistently fail to do so.

Read More

Western opinion leaders too often ignore the Islamic world’s rampant Jew-hatred, argues a new book reviewed recently in The Jerusalem Report. It’s unfortunate that Tibor Krausz’s review is behind a paywall, since it’s a must-read for anyone who doesn’t plan to read the full book: In example after chilling example, it demonstrates the depth and extent of this Jew-hatred, while also showing that it has nothing to do with Israel’s “occupation of Palestine.” In a televised sermon in 2009, for instance, Egyptian cleric Muhammad Hussein Ya’qub said, “If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not … The Jews are infidels not because I say so but because Allah does… They aren’t our enemies because they occupy Palestine; they would be our enemies even if they had not occupied anything.”

But what moved Neil Kressel, a professor of psychology at William Patterson University, to write The Sons of Pigs and Apes wasn’t merely the existence of this hatred; rather, Krausz noted, it was his dismay over “what he sees as a blind spot — ‘a conspiracy of silence’ — among Western academics, policymakers and journalists about the extent of Muslim anti-Semitism.” Policymakers may not actually belong in this list; I suspect many are genuinely ignorant about this hatred. But if they are, it’s because of this “conspiracy of silence”: The journalists and academics whose job it is to inform them consistently fail to do so.

A salient example occurred in January, when MEMRI released a video of a 2010 television interview given by Mohamed Morsi, today the president of Egypt. In it, Morsi referred to “Zionists” (a term, as the continuation of the interview made clear, that he considers interchangeable with “Jews”) as “descendants of apes and pigs.” This bombshell was ignored by the mainstream media until one courageous Forbes journalist launched a crusade: He contacted numerous leading news outlets to ask why they didn’t consider it newsworthy that a recipient of billions in American aid was spouting anti-Semitic incitement, then published a story documenting their nonresponse. Only then did the New York Times finally run the story, after which other major media outlets followed suit (the Times claimed its story had nothing to do with Richard Behar’s crusade; I confess to skepticism).

But even once the story ran, it left readers ignorant of the scope of the problem. Granted, they now knew that one individual had made anti-Semitic slurs, but every country has such individuals. What they didn’t know is that Morsi is the Egyptian norm rather than the exception. They didn’t know, for instance, that just days after this story broke, a senior Morsi aide called the Holocaust a “myth” that America “invented” to justify World War II, and claimed the six million Jews Hitler slaughtered really just moved to the U.S. Or that two months earlier, the head of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, Mohammed Badie, called for jihad against Israel, after having previously called Israel’s creation “the worst catastrophe ever to befall the peoples of the world.” Or about Ya’qub’s televised sermon. And so on.

Nor did they know that such incitement is routine throughout the Islamic world, even in “moderate” U.S. allies like Turkey or Jordan.

For people to know, it would have to be reported on a regular basis. But it isn’t. So policymakers remain blithely ignorant of a defining fact of Middle Eastern life. And then we wonder why they so often get the Middle East wrong.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.