Commentary Magazine


Topic: Angela Merkel

Ukraine in the Shadow of Molotov-Ribbentrop

The 75th anniversary of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pledged non-aggression toward each other and shortly thereafter divided Poland, passed with little comment on August 23. It should not have, for its ghosts loom large in Ukraine.

Read More

The 75th anniversary of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, in which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union pledged non-aggression toward each other and shortly thereafter divided Poland, passed with little comment on August 23. It should not have, for its ghosts loom large in Ukraine.

First, there were reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was negotiating secretly with Russian President Vladimir Putin in order to trade territory for Putin’s promise to continue the gas flow into Ukraine. That she proposed paying off Putin with Ukrainian territory was a fact she shrugged off, as was the fact she sought to change Ukraine’s borders permanently for the simple promise of a man who has repeatedly shown himself not to be trustworthy.

Then, there was the ill-considered Carnegie Corporation-sponsored “Track II” meeting in Finland with Russian officials in which both the American and Russian sides excluded any Ukrainian participation. One chapter of my recent book, Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogues Regimes, is dedicated to these so-called people-to-people meetings and showing that when constructed the way Carnegie did, they do far more harm than good. In this case, the American do-gooders handed a victory to the Kremlin from the start by acquiescing to Ukraine’s exclusion. That the resulting conclusions treated Ukraine and Russia and moral equivalents, no matter that Russia is the aggressor and occupying force, underlined the academics’ collective tin ear.

Any compromise that formalizes Russia’s occupation and annexation of Ukrainian territory effectively treats Ukraine the way that Germany and the Soviet Union treated Poland three-quarters of a century ago. The belief that treaties of non-aggression can restrain the most aggressive, revisionist powers is a notion that should have been dispensed with after, 75 years ago, such an agreement contributed to a cascade of events which ultimately claimed well over 50 million lives.

Read Less

Obama’s Indefensible Palestinian Policy

It might be considered an indication of just how warped the Obama administration’s position on Israel has become when the U.S. is sounding less supportive of Israel than several of the European countries. Germany’s Angela Merkel was quick to unequivocally condemn the latest barrage of Hamas rockets while Downing Street was also uncharacteristically forceful in its statement. There was none of the usual calls for Israeli restraint, and no attempt to pin casualties in Gaza on Israel. Instead the press release simply announced: “The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians,” and “The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them.”

Read More

It might be considered an indication of just how warped the Obama administration’s position on Israel has become when the U.S. is sounding less supportive of Israel than several of the European countries. Germany’s Angela Merkel was quick to unequivocally condemn the latest barrage of Hamas rockets while Downing Street was also uncharacteristically forceful in its statement. There was none of the usual calls for Israeli restraint, and no attempt to pin casualties in Gaza on Israel. Instead the press release simply announced: “The Prime Minister strongly condemned the appalling attacks being carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians,” and “The Prime Minister reiterated the UK’s staunch support for Israel in the face of such attacks, and underlined Israel’s right to defend itself from them.”

Yet from the State Department any cursory remarks about Israel defending itself were immediately invalidated by the usual moral equivalence that spoke of “both sides” and called for restraint, which in reality is just diplomacy speak for opposing any meaningful efforts taken by Israel to stop these unprovoked attacks on its people. However, the recent events raise pressing questions about the administration’s wider policy on the Palestinians, not least because just weeks ago President Mahmoud Abbas entered into a unity government with Hamas, a move that the Obama administration acquiesced in despite the many cautionary warnings they received against doing so.

The most recent flare-up makes the ongoing U.S. relationship with Abbas’s Hamas-Fatah unity government all the more awkward, but the administration has been seeking to get around the inconvenient facts of the matter with the most preposterous double-think, insisting that Abbas’s unity government with Hamas doesn’t actually have Hamas playing “any role” within it. The subtlety of this distinction will no doubt be lost on almost everyone but the State Department’s Jen Psaki, who has the unfortunate task of having to peddle this line to the press.

Nevertheless, even if we suspend our overriding sense of disbelief and buy into the State Department line for a moment, the truth is that Abbas and his supposedly moderate Fatah movement are far from innocent with regard to these latest attacks on Israel. Indeed, as Khaled Abu Toameh has pointed out, Fatah militiamen who serve in the Palestinian Authority security force—which is funded by the U.S. among others—have openly participated in rocket fire into Israeli civilian areas during this latest assault.

Yet far from hearing any condemnation from Abbas on account of these barbaric acts of terrorism, President Abbas—lauded by Obama and Kerry as Israel’s fabled and long awaited partner for peace—has been engaging in the most inflammatory incitement against Israel. At yesterday’s emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership Abbas accused Israel of perpetrating “genocide” in Gaza and even invoked a reference to Auschwitz, another apparent case of double-think given that Abbas holds a Ph.D. in Holocaust denial from the University of  Moscow.

To add to this unhinged rhetoric Abbas instructed the Palestinian Authority to ready for an application for membership of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Now this could just be a bluff, but as Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren noted, in the event that the Palestinians launched a successful prosecution campaign against Israel at the ICC, Israel would have “no Iron Dome for this,” and the threat of sanctions could suddenly become very real. Of course, this move could also backfire terribly for Abbas; given that the unity government theoretically puts Gaza under the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority, genuine and fully warranted charges of war crimes could well be leveled against the Palestinians. But when one considers that in 2004 the so-called International Court of Justice disgracefully ruled that Israel’s security barrier—its last line of defense against suicide bombings—is illegal under international law, it is hard to hold out much hope for decent rulings where Israel is concerned.

And when it comes to acting decently, if Abbas continues down the path that he has already progressed quite someway along, then it will become increasingly difficult for the Obama administration to defend its ongoing closeness with the Palestinian Authority, or to justify the significant amount of U.S. financial support that keeps Abbas in power. Yet after the administration has invested so much in so publicly championing Abbas as a kind of Palestinian Mandela, it would be rather awkward for them to have to admit that they were wrong all along.

Read Less

The Business of Statecraft and the Abandonment of Ukraine

The news in Ukraine gets bleaker, but a Rubicon of sorts has been crossed. What has turned into a civil war in eastern Ukraine cannot go back to its designation as a series of “protests,” nor can Vladimir Putin’s Russia plausibly go back to feigning nonintervention. Pro-Russian forces have reportedly shot down two Ukrainian government helicopters, at least one of them with shoulder-fired missiles.

The Ukrainian intelligence service is claiming that those “separatists” probably didn’t have shoulder-fired missile launchers stocked away in the linen closet for a rainy day, a sentiment based on some pretty sound logic. This is not Occupy Slavyansk. And yet, the West–especially Europe, quelle surprise–is acting as if it were. As Angela Merkel meets today with President Obama in Washington to discuss the next steps in the synchronized frowning that has characterized the response to Russian aggression thus far, the Wall Street Journal reports she is delivering some bad news for Kiev, with a predictable explanation.

“Angela Merkel is carrying a clear message from Germany’s business lobby to the White House: No more sanctions,” according to the Journal. “Several of the biggest names in German business,” including Siemens, Adidas, Volkswagen, and Deutsche Bank, “have made their opposition to broader economic sanctions against Russia clear in recent weeks, both in public and in private.” The Journal goes on to explain that, essentially, we have a new answer to Henry Kissinger’s famous question. If you want to talk to Europe, call the CEO of Adidas:

Read More

The news in Ukraine gets bleaker, but a Rubicon of sorts has been crossed. What has turned into a civil war in eastern Ukraine cannot go back to its designation as a series of “protests,” nor can Vladimir Putin’s Russia plausibly go back to feigning nonintervention. Pro-Russian forces have reportedly shot down two Ukrainian government helicopters, at least one of them with shoulder-fired missiles.

The Ukrainian intelligence service is claiming that those “separatists” probably didn’t have shoulder-fired missile launchers stocked away in the linen closet for a rainy day, a sentiment based on some pretty sound logic. This is not Occupy Slavyansk. And yet, the West–especially Europe, quelle surprise–is acting as if it were. As Angela Merkel meets today with President Obama in Washington to discuss the next steps in the synchronized frowning that has characterized the response to Russian aggression thus far, the Wall Street Journal reports she is delivering some bad news for Kiev, with a predictable explanation.

“Angela Merkel is carrying a clear message from Germany’s business lobby to the White House: No more sanctions,” according to the Journal. “Several of the biggest names in German business,” including Siemens, Adidas, Volkswagen, and Deutsche Bank, “have made their opposition to broader economic sanctions against Russia clear in recent weeks, both in public and in private.” The Journal goes on to explain that, essentially, we have a new answer to Henry Kissinger’s famous question. If you want to talk to Europe, call the CEO of Adidas:

In most countries, it would be highly unusual for corporate executives to inject themselves into geopolitics and matters of national security with the forcefulness that a number of German business leaders have. But many of Germany’s largest companies have substantial Russian operations, built in some cases over decades, and worry that tough economic sanctions would rob them of a key growth market when their home market—Europe—is stagnant.

That has led to intense pressure on Berlin. Germany’s chancellor has repeatedly criticized Russia for its actions in Ukraine and warned the Kremlin it would face serious consequences if it doesn’t change course. Yet Ms. Merkel has stopped short of endorsing broader economic sanctions, opting instead to impose travel bans and asset freezes on individuals with close ties to the Kremlin.

It’s easy to begin, at least, with some sympathy for Merkel. Thanks to the EU’s fiscal troubles, Germany has taken the role of Europe’s financial backstop. It’s a mostly thankless job that earns the German government, when they try to fix the messes caused by other reckless European countries, obnoxious and offensive Nazi comparisons. This resistance to German hegemony is, for obvious reasons, coded into the continent’s DNA. Germany’s response has often been resignation to the role: to simply sign the checks while letting France command Europe’s military decisions.

Because of all that, Germany’s economic policy does not exist in a vacuum. Whether as penance for past sins or a paternal responsibility to Europe’s wayward sons, Germany must consider others when setting policy, ever mindful that Berlin can absorb losses others cannot.

However: there’s a limit to such excuses, and it’s not clear that long-term this would even be the right economic approach, let alone the right moral approach, which it plainly is not. After all, is constant political and military turmoil in major energy producers good for global markets and trade in the long run? And how will it affect European markets for expansionist powers to continue encroaching on Europe’s borders? (There are concerns Russia could target Moldova next, which is west of Ukraine.)

The state system in place is far from perfect, but allowing it to be undermined is unlikely to be good for business. After all, Merkel surely remembers how Germany came to be economically successful and the EU common market broadly integrated, and it began with throwing off the yoke of Russian tyranny and imperialism.

Merkel knows this not only because she is the head of government of the country that has basically become Europe’s central banker. She knows this because she grew up in East Germany. And here is where the moral and the material meet. It can’t be good for Europe’s economic future to yawn at Europe’s steady destabilization. But it certainly isn’t right. Merkel is where she is because there is no more East Germany, no more suffocating control by Moscow. Other independent states with sovereign borders deserve the same, no matter what the management at Adidas thinks.

Read Less

Putin to Ukraine: Pay Up

Having annexed the Crimea and destabilized much of eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems intent not on de-escalating the conflict, but rather exacerbating it, with exposing European Union impotence as a bonus. After all, faced with a crisis to European identity, the European Union has fallen on the sword of short-term economic interests in order to justify turning their collective back (short of ineffective rhetoric and weak symbolic action) on Ukraine.

In a way it’s understandable: London’s real-estate bubble is a direct result of Russian investment. France has always put France first before any collective security responsibility. That is why it has only delayed rather than scrapped a multibillion dollar deal to sell Russia helicopter carriers. German officials have long prioritized receiving a share of Russia’s oil wealth over any action which might undercut their ability to do so. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder famously went to work for the Russian energy giant Gazprom after leaving office. While he reportedly infuriated his successor Angela Merkel by backing Putin, Merkel’s own foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was Schröder’s chief-of-staff. Hire a Russia apologist as foreign minister and the crocodile tears about his former boss shilling for the Russians falls a bit flat.

Read More

Having annexed the Crimea and destabilized much of eastern Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems intent not on de-escalating the conflict, but rather exacerbating it, with exposing European Union impotence as a bonus. After all, faced with a crisis to European identity, the European Union has fallen on the sword of short-term economic interests in order to justify turning their collective back (short of ineffective rhetoric and weak symbolic action) on Ukraine.

In a way it’s understandable: London’s real-estate bubble is a direct result of Russian investment. France has always put France first before any collective security responsibility. That is why it has only delayed rather than scrapped a multibillion dollar deal to sell Russia helicopter carriers. German officials have long prioritized receiving a share of Russia’s oil wealth over any action which might undercut their ability to do so. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder famously went to work for the Russian energy giant Gazprom after leaving office. While he reportedly infuriated his successor Angela Merkel by backing Putin, Merkel’s own foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was Schröder’s chief-of-staff. Hire a Russia apologist as foreign minister and the crocodile tears about his former boss shilling for the Russians falls a bit flat.

Putin understands that for European Union leaders, economics trumps principle. Perhaps this is why, in an episode of the talk show “Vesti v Subbotu” (Vesti on Saturday) aired on Saturday, April 19, Putin ignored the fact that he had invaded the country and complained that the new Ukrainian government had fallen behind on their payments for Russian gas:

[Interviewer]: Today you threw in one very interesting calculation. In one month’s time, you will revisit the Ukrainian gas payment issue. In one month’s time, it will be 17 May, with eight days to go before the planned [presidential] election in Ukraine. Does it mean that you will recognize the May 25 election or are you…

[Putin]: This has nothing to do with the election. We are not linking the economy with the political process in Ukraine. We simply had to receive money, on 7 April this year, for the gas delivered in March. We did not receive it. I repeat, this is 525m dollars. Zero [was received].

So, there you go: Putin effectively has issued an ultimatum to Ukrainians that they must pay their gas bill eight days before Ukrainians go to the polls. Finance is finance and principle is principle, but finance trumps principle. Ukraine may be the sacrificial lamb, but how comforting it must be for Angela Merkel that Putin is finally acting European.

Read Less

Euros Don’t Care PA Steals Their Money

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was in Berlin this week and received the usual reception that he gets in European capitals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned Israeli settlement building and then vowed to continue funneling cash to the PA. The latter point is especially crucial because the PA dependent on European aid. But nowhere in Merkel’s remarks did the question of what exactly the PA does with all the funds poured into its coffers by Germany and the rest of the EU community.

Had she done so, she could have referred to an article in Britain’s Sunday Times that said the European Court of Auditors, the official European Union body monitoring the group’s funds, found that the PA has misspent nearly $3 billion in EU donations during the period covering 2008 to 2012. The audit body said the money was not being used for the purpose for which it was intended and that there were “significant shortcomings” in the PA’s accounts of what it did with the money. In other words, they are now well aware that Abbas and his cronies are robbing them blind just as his predecessor Yasir Arafat did when he ran things in Ramallah.

The question is, why does a nation like Germany, that was rightly prepared to pull the plug on a debt-ridden fellow EU member state like Greece unless they got their fiscal house in order, not care that the Palestinians are stealing their money?

Read More

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was in Berlin this week and received the usual reception that he gets in European capitals. German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemned Israeli settlement building and then vowed to continue funneling cash to the PA. The latter point is especially crucial because the PA dependent on European aid. But nowhere in Merkel’s remarks did the question of what exactly the PA does with all the funds poured into its coffers by Germany and the rest of the EU community.

Had she done so, she could have referred to an article in Britain’s Sunday Times that said the European Court of Auditors, the official European Union body monitoring the group’s funds, found that the PA has misspent nearly $3 billion in EU donations during the period covering 2008 to 2012. The audit body said the money was not being used for the purpose for which it was intended and that there were “significant shortcomings” in the PA’s accounts of what it did with the money. In other words, they are now well aware that Abbas and his cronies are robbing them blind just as his predecessor Yasir Arafat did when he ran things in Ramallah.

The question is, why does a nation like Germany, that was rightly prepared to pull the plug on a debt-ridden fellow EU member state like Greece unless they got their fiscal house in order, not care that the Palestinians are stealing their money?

Merkel, who in many ways functions as the financier of the continent, is not as hostile to Israel as many of her European colleagues. But like everyone else in the EU, she thinks nothing of pouring her people’s money down the rat hole of the PA. The reasons for this are not hard to figure out.

The primary reason is the bigotry of low expectations. Like many of those who form the Palestinians’ foreign cheerleaders, the Europeans tend to act as if the PA and its people are not capable of responsible behavior. They believe, perhaps not entirely wrongly, that the only way to persuade the Palestinian people to keep Abbas and the corrupt Fatah in power rather than choosing the Islamists of Hamas is to bribe them. They seem to think them incapable of choosing democracy and good government over violence and terrorism.

It may well be that Abbas and Fatah are better than Hamas but the only way to force them to start using the billions that come into their hands from foreign donors on the Palestinian people is to make them accountable. Abbas, who is in the ninth year of the four-year-term as president to which the Palestinians elected him, depends on the European Union for the money that keeps the PA afloat via no show and no work jobs that spread that portion of the wealth that isn’t pocketed by the Fatah elite around the territories. While former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tried to reform the Ramallah government, he never stood a chance against Fatah.

But instead of trying to stop the PA from abusing their people, Germany and the rest of the EU continues to enable them to go on stealing. That’s something they’d never do the Greeks, who were driven hard to cut back on their profligate government in order to be bailed out of bankruptcy by the Germans.

The Palestinian government will never act in a responsible manner until they are forced to. That’s something that probably most ordinary Palestinians would like to see. But because pressure on the PA would be seen as somehow betraying the Palestinian cause or favorable to Israel (which also needs the PA to function), it never happens in a meaningful way.

In the meantime, Germans who care very much how the Greeks spend their money, continue to act as if the Palestinians can do what they like with it. Blaming the Israelis for all of the Palestinians’ woes is popular but it doesn’t come close to diagnosing the real problem. Until that changes, the PA will continue to be not only corrupt, but also a hotbed of potential violence ready to bubble over.

Read Less

Merkel at Dachau: Europe at the Brink

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit yesterday to the site of the Dachau concentration camp was criticized by the German left. The Green Party, among others, blasted Merkel for using the site of Nazi horrors as a campaign stop during the run-up to Germany’s scheduled parliamentary elections. The fact that her next stop after the appearance at the museum commemorating the victims of the Third Reich was a speech at a beer tent in the nearby town that bears the same name as the camp was seen by some as exposing the crass nature of her motivation in going to Dachau. But while it remains to be seen as to whether this event will help her as she cruises to reelection, Merkel deserves praise not just for being the first German chancellor to visit the Dachau camp but for articulating a call for tolerance at a time when the future of European civilization seems to be hanging in the balance.

To speak of the stakes of a speech about the specter of extremism in Europe today in such terms may strike some as hyperbole, but that is not the case. As Michel Gurfinkiel wrote this month in Mosaic, we are living at a moment when a rising tide of anti-Semitism may wipe out the remnants of European Jewry. With hate for Jews, often masquerading as mere disagreement with Israeli policies, having its biggest comeback in Europe since 1945, at no time since then has it been as important for a major European leader to make such a statement. By going to Dachau at this moment to warn the continent and the German people that they must turn away from hate, she may not be able to reverse this trend, but she has set an example that other European leaders must emulate.

Read More

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit yesterday to the site of the Dachau concentration camp was criticized by the German left. The Green Party, among others, blasted Merkel for using the site of Nazi horrors as a campaign stop during the run-up to Germany’s scheduled parliamentary elections. The fact that her next stop after the appearance at the museum commemorating the victims of the Third Reich was a speech at a beer tent in the nearby town that bears the same name as the camp was seen by some as exposing the crass nature of her motivation in going to Dachau. But while it remains to be seen as to whether this event will help her as she cruises to reelection, Merkel deserves praise not just for being the first German chancellor to visit the Dachau camp but for articulating a call for tolerance at a time when the future of European civilization seems to be hanging in the balance.

To speak of the stakes of a speech about the specter of extremism in Europe today in such terms may strike some as hyperbole, but that is not the case. As Michel Gurfinkiel wrote this month in Mosaic, we are living at a moment when a rising tide of anti-Semitism may wipe out the remnants of European Jewry. With hate for Jews, often masquerading as mere disagreement with Israeli policies, having its biggest comeback in Europe since 1945, at no time since then has it been as important for a major European leader to make such a statement. By going to Dachau at this moment to warn the continent and the German people that they must turn away from hate, she may not be able to reverse this trend, but she has set an example that other European leaders must emulate.

As the New York Times reports:

“How could Germans go so far as to deny people human dignity and the right to live based on their race, religion, their political persuasion or their sexual orientation?” she said in a somber ceremony on the wide plaza where inmates once assembled daily for roll call. “Places such as this warn each one of us to help ensure that such things never happen again.”

Merkel is right, but what has happened in Europe is, as Gurfinkiel noted, a threat not just to Jews and minorities, but also to the European idea of modern civilization. Many are in denial about the situation, yet as I wrote in response to his piece, his prediction that catastrophe lies ahead is a reasonable response to a steady drip of incidents and trends that have called into question whether the postwar revival of Jewish life in Europe is at an end.

Neo-Nazis grow in numbers and influence in places like Greece as well as in Germany. Intolerance for foreigners along with the importation of Islamist prejudices via the large number of immigrants from the Muslim world has created a toxic mix of hatred that makes Europe dangerous for Jews and other minorities. This is felt not only in the growing number of anti-Semitic incidents but the willingness of allegedly liberal Europeans to consider banning Jewish religious practices such as circumcision and kosher slaughter.

Moreover, the widespread revulsion expressed toward Israel and the delegitimization of Zionism is not merely a variant of traditional anti-Semitism. It is an effort to erase the memory of the Holocaust by falsely casting Jews as the new Nazis. As such, it is not merely a distortion of the truth about the Middle East conflict but a blatant case of Holocaust revisionism.

While Merkel should be applauded for speaking out when so many persons of influence are silent, her visit to Dachau will have no meaning at all if it is seen as only a necessary effort to remember the Holocaust. Europeans have worked hard in recent years to memorialize the victims of the Nazis. But since this has happened at the same time that the efforts of living Jews to defend themselves have been viciously attacked, it’s far from clear that these memorials have much meaning. What we have learned in recent years is that a Europe that abandons Israel will inevitably begin to abandon its own Jewish citizens as well as others. It can only be hoped that Merkel’s warning is a sign that there is still time for a critical mass of European opinion to reverse this ominous trend.

Read Less

Germans Move to Lift Bris Ban

Four months after a Cologne court rattled European Jews with a ruling that banned circumcision, the German government took the first step toward granting the ritual the formal protection of the law. Acting at the behest of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the 16-member cabinet voted in favor of a draft bill that will overturn the Cologne court and make circumcision legal throughout Germany if done by a trained professional, such as a Jewish mohel or ritual circumciser. If the bill is passed by the federal parliament, it will become law and remove the threat of prosecution that now hangs over mohels in Germany.

The odds are, that is exactly what the Bundestag will do in the coming weeks, though some Jews are worried that public sentiment is still against them no matter Merkel wants. As the Forward notes, German Jewish leaders fear that the ambivalence of all the major parties, as well as what may turn out to be spirited resistance from major medical associations, will derail the legislation. But even if Merkel succeeds, the question hanging over European Jewry is whether the bill can start to undo the damage that the court ruling created.

Read More

Four months after a Cologne court rattled European Jews with a ruling that banned circumcision, the German government took the first step toward granting the ritual the formal protection of the law. Acting at the behest of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the 16-member cabinet voted in favor of a draft bill that will overturn the Cologne court and make circumcision legal throughout Germany if done by a trained professional, such as a Jewish mohel or ritual circumciser. If the bill is passed by the federal parliament, it will become law and remove the threat of prosecution that now hangs over mohels in Germany.

The odds are, that is exactly what the Bundestag will do in the coming weeks, though some Jews are worried that public sentiment is still against them no matter Merkel wants. As the Forward notes, German Jewish leaders fear that the ambivalence of all the major parties, as well as what may turn out to be spirited resistance from major medical associations, will derail the legislation. But even if Merkel succeeds, the question hanging over European Jewry is whether the bill can start to undo the damage that the court ruling created.

The prosecutions of rabbis for performing circumcisions, the decisions by hospitals to cease conducting the procedure, and incidents of anti-Semitic violence have all helped to create a hostile atmosphere for European Jews. While some put down the opposition to circumcision to a general lack of tolerance for faith and organized religion in Europe, the fact remains that Jews remain the leading targets for ostracism and hatred.

In contemporary Europe, hostility to Zionism and Israel has given a façade of faux legitimacy to traditional anti-Semitism. Combine that with a culture that views all religious observance as either primitive or foreign and it’s easy to see how the anti-circumcision movement has gained so much traction.

That means that Merkel is going to have put the whip out on her coalition members to ensure that the bill is passed without any changes that would make it impossible for mohels to do their job and thus render the whole exercise pointless.

Nevertheless, Chancellor Merkel deserves great credit for pushing the bill through this far. A failure to legalize circumcision will expose Germany to ridicule and anger. But even if it passes, there is no denying that this lamentable chapter has exposed a raw nerve of modern Jew-hatred.

Read Less

German Circumcision Ban Bags First Victim

After a Cologne court ruled that circumcision was illegal, there were those who argued that the decision would not impact Jewish life in Germany. We were cautioned not to jump to conclusions since it was just one court, whose jurisdiction was limited. The reaction of Germany’s political leadership, particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, was exemplary as the parliament voted to take up a bill legalizing the ritual in the fall. But, as today’s news reveals, the optimists did not count on the willingness of many Germans to support the court.

As the Times of Israel reports, criminal charges have been filed against a rabbi in Northern Bavaria for performing circumcisions. According to the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish weekly, the state prosecutor of Hof confirmed that charges had been filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, who serves the community of Upper Franconia for “harming” infants by performing the rite of brit milah, the covenantal ritual at the heart of Judaism. A Hessian doctor that cited the Cologne court’s ruling brought the charges against the rabbi. While the rabbi has not yet been tried, let alone convicted, the spectacle of German courts prosecuting a Jew for practicing Judaism doesn’t just awaken echoes of the Holocaust. It also sounds a warning that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Western Europe is not a passing phase.

Read More

After a Cologne court ruled that circumcision was illegal, there were those who argued that the decision would not impact Jewish life in Germany. We were cautioned not to jump to conclusions since it was just one court, whose jurisdiction was limited. The reaction of Germany’s political leadership, particularly Chancellor Angela Merkel, was exemplary as the parliament voted to take up a bill legalizing the ritual in the fall. But, as today’s news reveals, the optimists did not count on the willingness of many Germans to support the court.

As the Times of Israel reports, criminal charges have been filed against a rabbi in Northern Bavaria for performing circumcisions. According to the Juedische Allgemeine, a Jewish weekly, the state prosecutor of Hof confirmed that charges had been filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, who serves the community of Upper Franconia for “harming” infants by performing the rite of brit milah, the covenantal ritual at the heart of Judaism. A Hessian doctor that cited the Cologne court’s ruling brought the charges against the rabbi. While the rabbi has not yet been tried, let alone convicted, the spectacle of German courts prosecuting a Jew for practicing Judaism doesn’t just awaken echoes of the Holocaust. It also sounds a warning that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Western Europe is not a passing phase.

In recent decades, Jewish life in Germany has thrived as immigrants in the prosperous nation have revived communities that were long dormant. But this episode unfolding in the one country where awareness of the consequences of anti-Semitism are so well known should send chills down the spine of Jews around the world.

Circumcision opponents may claim they are not anti-Semitic, especially since their campaign also targets Muslims. But there is little doubt that the driving force behind this movement is resentment toward Jews and a willingness to go public with sentiments that long simmered beneath the surface in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Just last week, French scholar Michel Gurfinkiel wrote on his blog that anti-Semitism has increased in France since the Toulouse massacre in March. Since then violence has grown, fed by what he calls a rejection of Jews and Judaism. In France, these sentiments are fed by the Jew hatred openly expressed by the expanding Muslim population. Throughout Europe, the demonization of Israel hasn’t just increased hostility to the Jewish state; it has served as an excuse for anti-Semitism to go mainstream for the first time since World War Two. Just as some claim circumcision critics aren’t intrinsically anti-Semitic, there are those who blame anti-Semitism on Israeli policies. But when you add all these factors together what you get is an undeniable upsurge in Jew-hatred.

While we trust that Chancellor Merkel and the Berlin government will find a way to quash this latest disgraceful attack on Judaism, we need to realize that this won’t be the last such episode. The strength of Europe’s traditional pastime of Jew-hatred should never be underestimated.

Read Less

Swiss Circumcision Decision an Ominous Portent for Euro Jews

Last week, Germany’s parliament acted expeditiously to squelch the attempt of a Cologne judge to ban circumcision. A cross-party motion promoted by Chancellor Angela Merkel passed by the lower house urged the government to present a bill in the fall that would specifically protect the right of circumcision. This both reassured the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as prevented Germany from being seen as, in Merkel’s words, a “laughingstock” for seeking to render illegal a key Jewish religious ritual only a generation after the Holocaust.

But Germany’s efforts may not be enough to halt the momentum of those seeking to infringe upon religious liberty. As Haaretz reports, two Swiss hospitals have just announced they will stop performing circumcisions. This illustrates that the movement to ban circumcision, fueled as it is by the rising tide of European anti-Semitism, is still gaining ground.

Read More

Last week, Germany’s parliament acted expeditiously to squelch the attempt of a Cologne judge to ban circumcision. A cross-party motion promoted by Chancellor Angela Merkel passed by the lower house urged the government to present a bill in the fall that would specifically protect the right of circumcision. This both reassured the Jewish and Muslim communities as well as prevented Germany from being seen as, in Merkel’s words, a “laughingstock” for seeking to render illegal a key Jewish religious ritual only a generation after the Holocaust.

But Germany’s efforts may not be enough to halt the momentum of those seeking to infringe upon religious liberty. As Haaretz reports, two Swiss hospitals have just announced they will stop performing circumcisions. This illustrates that the movement to ban circumcision, fueled as it is by the rising tide of European anti-Semitism, is still gaining ground.

Even if Merkel follows up on her pledge to ensure that circumcision is protected in Germany, the problem is that the Cologne ruling granted a veneer of respectability to its opponents. Whereas in the past those railing against Jewish practices were largely marginal, the court victory legitimized their campaign to drive one of the key principles of Judaism — the Abrahamic covenant that circumcision symbolizes —underground. As with other expressions of Jew-hatred in the current atmosphere in which Israel and its supporters are demonized, it is now possible to be more open with contempt for Judaism and to advocate measures that might have been unthinkable not that long ago.

Moreover, the court placed a doubt in the minds of doctors and others in the medical profession that they would be exposed to penalties for performing the procedure. After the Cologne ruling, the German Medical Association advised doctors to stop their participation in circumcision.

It bears remembering that, as COMMENTARY contributor Ruth Wisse once wrote, anti-Semitism is the most successful ideology of the 20th century. It helped inform Fascism, Nazism and Communism and today is a useful tool for Islamists and their European leftist allies. The campaign against circumcision, like the even more successful European efforts to ban kosher slaughter, is driven in no small measure by a desire to drive Jews out of the continent. That it is harming Muslims as much as Jews is an irony that ought not to prevent joint efforts by the two communities to combat this noxious proposal.

But taken in the context of a noticeable increase in violence against Jews in the aftermath of the shootings in Toulouse this past spring, the circumcision bans are an indication that the future of European Jewry is by no means assured.

Read Less

Germany Must Do More Than Reverse Circumcision Ban

Last week, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, wrote in the Jerusalem Post about a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007 at which he said it was up to her and other leaders as to whether the rising tide of anti-Semitism would determine the future of Jewish life in Europe. He said afterwards she asked him what she could do to help. Thinking back on the question, he said he now had an answer: override the ban on circumcision handed down by a judge in Cologne last month.

While the ruling, along with the troubling growth of Jew-hatred throughout Western Europe and violence in France has raised questions about the viability of Jewish life in Europe, Merkel has answered the rabbi’s challenge. As Reuters reports, the chancellor’s office has issued a statement telling both Jews and Muslims in Germany that they should not be deterred from practicing their faith despite the court ruling. The Berlin government said it would seek a quick resolution that would enable it to override the Cologne decision that banned the circumcision of infants. Yet, while Merkel is to be commended for speaking up for religious freedom in Germany, the bris ban remains a bitter reminder of the history of German anti-Semitism. But it also shone a spotlight on the way in which Jews have been targeted not just by thugs or terrorists but also by European elites in recent years.

Read More

Last week, the chief rabbi of Great Britain, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, wrote in the Jerusalem Post about a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2007 at which he said it was up to her and other leaders as to whether the rising tide of anti-Semitism would determine the future of Jewish life in Europe. He said afterwards she asked him what she could do to help. Thinking back on the question, he said he now had an answer: override the ban on circumcision handed down by a judge in Cologne last month.

While the ruling, along with the troubling growth of Jew-hatred throughout Western Europe and violence in France has raised questions about the viability of Jewish life in Europe, Merkel has answered the rabbi’s challenge. As Reuters reports, the chancellor’s office has issued a statement telling both Jews and Muslims in Germany that they should not be deterred from practicing their faith despite the court ruling. The Berlin government said it would seek a quick resolution that would enable it to override the Cologne decision that banned the circumcision of infants. Yet, while Merkel is to be commended for speaking up for religious freedom in Germany, the bris ban remains a bitter reminder of the history of German anti-Semitism. But it also shone a spotlight on the way in which Jews have been targeted not just by thugs or terrorists but also by European elites in recent years.

Swift action by Berlin is necessary, and it is likely the chancellor will get her way. Though many intellectuals throughout Western Europe appear to be slipping back into the continent’s old habits with regard to Jew-hatred, Merkel has demonstrated an understanding of her nation’s historic responsibility. But it will take more than the much needed trashing of the circumcision ruling to reassure European Jewry that they are well and truly safe.

The embrace by European elites of a brand of anti-Zionism that seeks to delegitimize all expressions of Jewish identity has complicated the defense of the rights of religious minorities in Western Europe. Where decades ago, the memory of the Holocaust might have served to deter even the most perverse judge from seeking to curtail religious freedom in Germany, today it increasingly seems as if it is open season on the Jews.

If Merkel is to answer Rabbi Sacks’ challenge, she and her fellow European leaders will have to do more than merely quash the Cologne decision. They must speak up in opposition to the delegitimization of Israel and Jewish identity. If not, the bris ban will be seen as just the beginning of attacks on Jewish rights rather than a regrettable but reversible episode.

Read Less

Freedom in Post-Democratic Europe

If America must shoulder the burden of global security because others will not or cannot, America also shoulders the burden of a global idealism always present, if dormant, that is now–20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union–again rearing its head on a massive scale throughout the Arab world (and in Iran and to some extent, Russia). Today, Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wonders aloud why President Obama has remained so dismissive toward the outward expression of freedom for its own sake. Hiatt guesses that it’s a kind of post-nationalism:

But his stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. The democrats’ uprising in Iran threatened his hopes of negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran’s rulers. Aid to Syria’s democrats requires approval from the UN Security Council, which is unattainable without Russian and Chinese acquiescence.

Read More

If America must shoulder the burden of global security because others will not or cannot, America also shoulders the burden of a global idealism always present, if dormant, that is now–20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union–again rearing its head on a massive scale throughout the Arab world (and in Iran and to some extent, Russia). Today, Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt wonders aloud why President Obama has remained so dismissive toward the outward expression of freedom for its own sake. Hiatt guesses that it’s a kind of post-nationalism:

But his stance also reflects his own brand of idealism, which values international law and alliances more than the promotion of freedom. The democrats’ uprising in Iran threatened his hopes of negotiating a nuclear agreement with Iran’s rulers. Aid to Syria’s democrats requires approval from the UN Security Council, which is unattainable without Russian and Chinese acquiescence.

Hiatt thinks Obama sorely and mistakenly undervalues the practical uses of the so-called freedom agenda, to the detriment of his own stated policy goals. But there is another relevant facet to this debate. The trend in the rest of the West, notably Europe, is away from democracy. Who, then, will proclaim the virtues of freedom and self-rule if we don’t? The answer is: no one.

Daniel Hannan, writing in the magazine Standpoint, noted that the European Union is, on its face, manifestly undemocratic, as more and more of the continent’s policy is made by unelected committees, whose members are appointed by other unelected committees, in Brussels. The euro is the symbol of this union, and the union’s most powerful and influential state (though we have now begun using the term “state” loosely), within and probably without, is Germany. So what happens when you ask the most obvious question to the most relevant official? When you ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel why the euro should not be dissolved, what does she say? Hannan quotes her response:

Nobody should take for granted another 50 years of peace and prosperity in Europe, and that’s why I say, if the euro fails, Europe fails. We have a historical obligation: to protect by all means Europe’s unification process begun by our forefathers after centuries of hatred and bloodshed.

Hannan adds: “Put in those terms, of course, the issue is literally beyond argument. If you oppose the euro, Mrs Merkel suggests, you’re in favour of war.” Eurocrats are shown the door when they even glance at the hoi polloi. Hannan notes what happened when Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou proposed a referendum on the bailout package offered his country by Europe. Less than a week later, Papandreou had been forced out of office. Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier and no euroskeptic himself, expressed his ambivalence toward his country staying in the euro. At an EU summit, an official boasted they were about to be rid of Berlusconi. That was a promise, not a threat; five days later the deed was done.

Hannan then upends the conventional wisdom of the European Union:

People sometimes talk of the EU’s democratic deficit as if it were accidental. In fact, it is essential to the whole design. Having lived through the 1920s and 1930s, the founders had little faith in democracy — especially the plebiscitary democracy which they saw as a prelude to demagoguery and fascism. They were therefore unapologetic about vesting supreme power in the hands of appointed commissioners who were to be invulnerable to public opinion. They were disarmingly honest, too, about the fact that their dream of common European statehood would never be realised if successive transfers of power to Brussels had to be approved by the national electorates.

The euro was the culmination of their scheme.

The democracy deficit–in this case forcing the single-currency suicide pact on disapproving commoners–has led to increasing actual deficits. Those financial debts, in turn, have a corrosive effect on freedom abroad. For example, as Justin Vaïsse wrote in February, European governments promised “money, markets access, mobility” to emerging Arab states, especially Tunisia and Libya, during the Arab Spring. But the debt crisis at home resulted in modest, and disappointing, results–just as those countries needed it the most.

But more than cash, and certainly more than immigration opportunities, the awakening human spirit needs an atlas of ideas. Those North African countries may look across the Mediterranean and wonder what all the fuss is about. Where will the inspiration come from? Not Europe, which sticks its fingers in its ears when it hears the noise of the people. And certainly not the leader of the pack–Germany–slow to act against Iranian bank interests and offering diplomatic support to Vladimir Putin, a fraud and a thug who requests, and receives, Germany’s acquiescence in preventing the further enlargement of NATO, whose raison d’être is explicitly tied to promoting and protecting democracy.

No doubt Hiatt’s column will be derided by those on the left who delight in sounding the alarm of a creeping conservatism on the Post’s editorial page (if only!), and by those enlightened observers who scoff at the caveman barbarism of nationalism and identity. But if Europe’s leaders are indeed ready to put their experiment in democracy behind them, there will be one nation, and one office, left to carry the banner. As president of the United States, this is Barack Obama’s mission, whether or not he chooses to accept it.

Read Less

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.

Read More

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.

Read Less

The Berlin-Rome-Tehran Axis

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

One of those dirty secrets that broad swaths of European media and politicians avoid like the plague is the ways in which European countries are propping up Tehran’s regime and its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah via their pro-Iranian trade policies. Last year, Italy and Germany turned out to be Europe’s major economic respirators for Iran’s stagnating economic system, with an overall joint business volume of 10 billion euros.

Last summer, the EU signed off on watered-down economic sanctions targeting Iran. Nevertheless, the EU did awaken from its slumber and banned the delivery of crucial energy technology to the Islamic Republic. Whereas the more robust U.S. sanctions prohibit the acquisition of Iranian gas and crude oil, European countries are permitted to consume vast amounts of the stuff. Iran’s lifeline is the sale of its crude oil, and Italy has an Iranian oil addiction, with imports mushrooming by 90 percent in 2010.

Traditionally, Germany has  been Europe’s No. 1 trade partner with Iran. During the second Bush administration, U.S. diplomats urged German engineering firms and banks to end their flourishing deals with Iran. Bush had some striking successes, such as major German financial institutions like Deutsche Bank shutting down their Iranian operations. Bush twisted arms in Germany.

President Obama is limping on both legs in trying to convince Chancellor Angela Merkel to shut down Iranian banks in Germany. Last summer, he called Merkel to persuade her to pull the plug on the Hamburg-based European-Iranian trade bank, an entity that was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department because of its involvement in Iran’s illicit nuclear-proliferation and ballistic-missile program. Merkel simply snubbed Obama.

Despite Merkel’s promises to the Israeli Knesset in 2008 and to the U.S. Congress in 2009 that Israel’s security is “non-negotiable“ and that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program must be stopped, business as usual takes priority over the so-called German-Israeli special relationship and defending Western and global security.

It seems that the time is ripe for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to flex their diplomatic muscles and publicly urge Rome and Berlin to implement unilateral sanctions against Iran, as Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi are a making a mockery of President Obama’s multilateral effort to isolate the Islamic Republic.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Hooray for Newton, Massachusetts!: “Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics.” Bravo — why should Jews, even liberal ones, keep up the facade that the Soros-funded group is a legitimate, pro-Israel organization.

Three cheers for hope and change: “The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, was re-elected on Wednesday to lead the Democrats in the next Congress, despite her party’s loss of more than 60 seats and its majority control of the House in the midterm elections. Officials said that Ms. Pelosi defeated Representative Heath Shuler of North Carolina in an internal party vote, 150 to 43.” We now know that there are 43 Dems who have sense enough to perhaps join their Republican colleagues on key votes.

Bingo! “The whole TSA procedure is hugely frustrating to travelers because not only is it needlessly invasive, but it is also a complete waste of time. Other countries facing similar threats respond in much less irritating and much more intelligent and effective ways. Israel, for example, does not do body scans and invasive pat-downs. If the Republicans want to cut government spending, a good place to start would be to abolish TSA. I say this as a very frequent traveler who regularly flies 150,000 miles per year.”

Wow-wee. Look what $1.5B in aid and Muslim Outreach got us: “Financial ties between Egypt and Iran have recently improved as a result of the Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB), jointly owned by the two countries, according to a report by the Atlantic Monthly on Monday. According to the report, the MIDB, founded in 1975, has become a potential route for Teheran to bypass imposed economic sanctions with Egypt. The bank serves as evidence of the complex challenge faced by the US in enforcing international sanctions against Iran.”

Bravo, Just Journalism, for documenting 10 years of the London Review of Books‘s noxious anti-Israel screeds. “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organisations by the British government such as Hamas and Hezbollah. While the Palestinian narrative was fully represented, Israel’s narrative on its legitimate security concerns, Arab rejectionism and terrorism was near absent.” Do you think they could do the New York Review of Books next?

Kudos to Lela Gilbert, who highlights this: “Recent terrorist attacks against Christians in Iraq have spotlighted their desperate circumstances in the Middle East, characterized by threats of terror and bloodshed, and culminating in a silent exodus from their ancient homelands—an exodus that mirrors that of the Jews half a century before. Murders, rapes, beatings, extortions, the burning and desecration of houses of worship and mob violence are abuses are all too familiar to surviving Jews who remember their own perilous journeys.” Where’s our Islam-Explainer-in-Chief, and why doesn’t he ever talk about this topic?

Way to go! First an earmark ban and now this: “House Republicans announced Wednesday they plan to force a floor vote on defunding NPR in response to the firing of analyst Juan Williams last month. House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) said that cutting funds to the publicly subsidized news organization was the winner of the conference’s weekly ‘YouCut’ contest, in which the public votes online on spending items they want eliminated.”

Whew. No candidates like Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom this year. But Stan “the Man” Musial, Yo-Yo Ma, and Angela Merkel will get their awards. Also Bush 41. Bush 43 will have to wait to get his — maybe in Marco Rubio’s first term. (Yeah, yeah — Maya Angelou is an awful poet, but harmless enough.)

Better late than never. A gathering of 100 CEOs delivered the administration some long overdue pushback: “The CEOs, in a vote, said the government’s top priority should be to foster global trade and create a more business-friendly environment. But CEOs also said uncertainty about government policy on taxes and regulation remained a barrier to unlocking $2 trillion in capital sitting in the treasuries of U.S. non-financial businesses.”

Read Less

Plus Ça Change

A poignant development illustrates the disintegration of the rarefied post-Cold War order we have inhabited since the early 1990s. Against the backdrop of shocks to that order over the past year and half, this little event may seem minor. But it is emblematic of the actions our strategic opponents no longer fear to take openly.

President Obama, currently in Indonesia, will attend the G-20 summit in Seoul on Nov. 11-12. Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Seoul today for a state visit and will hold bilateral talks with South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak prior to the summit. These discussions – in which Korean security and global economic policy are expected to be major topics – continue the theme of Medvedev’s summit with Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in October. Each case involves the Russian president talking over the biggest of global and regional issues with key American allies, in advance of the general summits to be held this month (the G-20 meeting in Seoul and the NATO summit in Lisbon).

But that’s not the most telling aspect of Russia’s posture for the G-20 summit in Seoul. That aspect is to be observed down the road in Inchon, from the pier where the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the missile cruiser Varyag, will be moored throughout the summit. The unambiguous signal from this visit is underscored by the report that South Korea will turn over to Varyag a set of artifacts Russia has been requesting for years: a battle flag and remnants of weapons from Varyag’s namesake, which participated in the Russo-Japanese War more than a century ago.

The earlier Varyag, attacked in Inchon in 1904 by a Japanese task force, was scuttled by the captain rather than being surrendered to the more powerful Japanese flotilla. Artifacts recovered from it by the Japanese have been stored in Inchon for decades – and each year since 1996, the modern cruiser Varyag has visited Inchon in February to commemorate the battle. Besides the latent bellicosity of bringing a warship to a G-20 summit, Russia is dealing a symbolic slap to Japan: occupying, under the aegis of a U.S. ally and an international body, the position in which a Japanese force once inflicted defeat on Russian ships.

To the American mind, the era before World War I seems to have existed across an unbridgeable historical divide. In a geopolitical sense, in particular, we have believed for decades that we inhabit a different order now. The old territorial resentments seem antique and irrelevant for global technological powers; we think of these obsessions as the province of benighted tribal cultures. But it shouldn’t surprise us to see Russia reverting to this age-old pattern. What we have to understand – but probably don’t today – is that this isn’t a meaningless gesture from Russia: it’s a marking of territory. This is how Russia operates. It all matters.

A poignant development illustrates the disintegration of the rarefied post-Cold War order we have inhabited since the early 1990s. Against the backdrop of shocks to that order over the past year and half, this little event may seem minor. But it is emblematic of the actions our strategic opponents no longer fear to take openly.

President Obama, currently in Indonesia, will attend the G-20 summit in Seoul on Nov. 11-12. Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Seoul today for a state visit and will hold bilateral talks with South Korea’s Lee Myung-bak prior to the summit. These discussions – in which Korean security and global economic policy are expected to be major topics – continue the theme of Medvedev’s summit with Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in October. Each case involves the Russian president talking over the biggest of global and regional issues with key American allies, in advance of the general summits to be held this month (the G-20 meeting in Seoul and the NATO summit in Lisbon).

But that’s not the most telling aspect of Russia’s posture for the G-20 summit in Seoul. That aspect is to be observed down the road in Inchon, from the pier where the flagship of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the missile cruiser Varyag, will be moored throughout the summit. The unambiguous signal from this visit is underscored by the report that South Korea will turn over to Varyag a set of artifacts Russia has been requesting for years: a battle flag and remnants of weapons from Varyag’s namesake, which participated in the Russo-Japanese War more than a century ago.

The earlier Varyag, attacked in Inchon in 1904 by a Japanese task force, was scuttled by the captain rather than being surrendered to the more powerful Japanese flotilla. Artifacts recovered from it by the Japanese have been stored in Inchon for decades – and each year since 1996, the modern cruiser Varyag has visited Inchon in February to commemorate the battle. Besides the latent bellicosity of bringing a warship to a G-20 summit, Russia is dealing a symbolic slap to Japan: occupying, under the aegis of a U.S. ally and an international body, the position in which a Japanese force once inflicted defeat on Russian ships.

To the American mind, the era before World War I seems to have existed across an unbridgeable historical divide. In a geopolitical sense, in particular, we have believed for decades that we inhabit a different order now. The old territorial resentments seem antique and irrelevant for global technological powers; we think of these obsessions as the province of benighted tribal cultures. But it shouldn’t surprise us to see Russia reverting to this age-old pattern. What we have to understand – but probably don’t today – is that this isn’t a meaningless gesture from Russia: it’s a marking of territory. This is how Russia operates. It all matters.

Read Less

China Turns Our Lights Out

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

Chinese hackers caused two power blackouts in the United States in the last half decade, according to the cover story in tomorrow’s National Journal. American intelligence sources confirm that the People’s Liberation Army was responsible for intrusions in 2003 that likely caused North America’s largest blackout, which affected three states, parts of Canada, and 50 million people. More than a hundred generating stations were shut down. To this day the Chinese activity that precipitated the cascading failure is not fully understood.

Then, this February, three million customers were hit by a blackout that appears to have been inadvertently caused by the People’s Liberation Army as it mapped the network of Florida Power & Light. “I suspect, as the system went down, the PLA hacker said something like, ‘Oops, my bad,’ in Chinese,” said an unnamed information-security expert quoted in the story.

As they say, the Chinese are at war with us every day over the phone lines. Washington is squeamish about publicly naming China as the source of hostile attacks, so we almost never push back.

Whatever happened to the don’t-tread-on-me spirit in this country? We ignored al Qaeda’s attacks until September 11. Now we’re adopting the same passive approach to Chinese assaults on our critical infrastructure. Last August, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, while in Beijing, publicly told off Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao about Chinese hacking. Why can’t Robert Gates muster the courage to say anything in front of the microphones when he travels to the Chinese capital? Beijing has rewarded our secretary of defense for his discretion by hacking into the computer network serving his office last June.

We need a better China policy. So here’s a proposal. The next time the Chinese cause a blackout in this country, let’s take down all their grids. The communists in Beijing will be angry, but I suspect they’ll get the message.

Read Less

Where Hysteria Rules

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan took me to task for my delusional “complacency” about America’s image in the eyes of the world. (Earlier in the day, I had written of Camille Paglia: “If Ms. Paglia finds the U.S.’s ‘reputation in tatters,’ she’s describing some internal or personal state of perception.”)

America’s commitment to a drawn-out, asymmetrical, multi-theater war with a global enemy has thrown up an array of sticky challenges. One of them is securing the ongoing commitment of allies. But Paglia’s (and Sullivan’s) hysteria is another matter.

Among whom, exactly, has the U.S.’s reputation taken this alleged dramatic downturn? Spain; Iran and Syria, the enjoyment of whose friendships would be both a disgrace and a functional liability; the totalitarian Hugo Chavez, whose loathing the U.S. should wear as a badge of honor.

Canada’s conservative government continues to pledge troops to the Afghanistan fight, though there are some grumblings there about creeping American fascism. Yet these come from the same quarters that hold state-sponsored censorship hearings in the name of human rights.

There is, of course, the case of Vladimir Putin and Russia. But can the chill emanating from Moscow really be chalked up to cowboy diplomacy? If anything, George Bush has been too trusting and deferential towards the Russian president.

North Korea is everyone’s problem, and will remain so no matter who is in office, even if it’s Barack Obama.

It’s worth pointing out who likes us, too. The Brits under Brown are still fighting with us. France under Sarkozy has taken an unprecedentedly pro-American stance, even upping its contribution to active NATO forces in Afghanistan. Germany’s Angela Merkel is no longer cringing away from George Bush, as she was a couple of years back. Eastern Europe seems fairly content to have the U.S. erecting a protective missile shield there. Bush’s decision to share nuclear technology with India has ushered in a new age of economic and diplomatic comity with the sub-continent. U.S. aid to Africa over the past seven years has made Bush an adored personage continent-wide.

Yet unless you admit the sky is falling, Sullivan diagnoses you as delusional and moves on to the next Obama convert who “gets it,”who understands that Obama’s willingness to talk to everyone (and trade with no one) will repair America’s tattered image.

This is the bi-polar political impulse that’s characterized Sullivan’s work since 9/11. The Iraq War was the bravest, most thoughtful, most promising exercise of military might in modern history–until it was the biggest moral and strategic catastrophe America had ever seen. To find yourself in the path of Sullivan’s hyperbolic pendulum only means that you’ll find yourself there again when it swings from the other direction. In time, even I will presumably “get it.”

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan took me to task for my delusional “complacency” about America’s image in the eyes of the world. (Earlier in the day, I had written of Camille Paglia: “If Ms. Paglia finds the U.S.’s ‘reputation in tatters,’ she’s describing some internal or personal state of perception.”)

America’s commitment to a drawn-out, asymmetrical, multi-theater war with a global enemy has thrown up an array of sticky challenges. One of them is securing the ongoing commitment of allies. But Paglia’s (and Sullivan’s) hysteria is another matter.

Among whom, exactly, has the U.S.’s reputation taken this alleged dramatic downturn? Spain; Iran and Syria, the enjoyment of whose friendships would be both a disgrace and a functional liability; the totalitarian Hugo Chavez, whose loathing the U.S. should wear as a badge of honor.

Canada’s conservative government continues to pledge troops to the Afghanistan fight, though there are some grumblings there about creeping American fascism. Yet these come from the same quarters that hold state-sponsored censorship hearings in the name of human rights.

There is, of course, the case of Vladimir Putin and Russia. But can the chill emanating from Moscow really be chalked up to cowboy diplomacy? If anything, George Bush has been too trusting and deferential towards the Russian president.

North Korea is everyone’s problem, and will remain so no matter who is in office, even if it’s Barack Obama.

It’s worth pointing out who likes us, too. The Brits under Brown are still fighting with us. France under Sarkozy has taken an unprecedentedly pro-American stance, even upping its contribution to active NATO forces in Afghanistan. Germany’s Angela Merkel is no longer cringing away from George Bush, as she was a couple of years back. Eastern Europe seems fairly content to have the U.S. erecting a protective missile shield there. Bush’s decision to share nuclear technology with India has ushered in a new age of economic and diplomatic comity with the sub-continent. U.S. aid to Africa over the past seven years has made Bush an adored personage continent-wide.

Yet unless you admit the sky is falling, Sullivan diagnoses you as delusional and moves on to the next Obama convert who “gets it,”who understands that Obama’s willingness to talk to everyone (and trade with no one) will repair America’s tattered image.

This is the bi-polar political impulse that’s characterized Sullivan’s work since 9/11. The Iraq War was the bravest, most thoughtful, most promising exercise of military might in modern history–until it was the biggest moral and strategic catastrophe America had ever seen. To find yourself in the path of Sullivan’s hyperbolic pendulum only means that you’ll find yourself there again when it swings from the other direction. In time, even I will presumably “get it.”

Read Less

Bush: AWOL on Human Rights?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

With three European leaders–Angela Merkel of Germany, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic–having now announced that they will not attend the Beijing Olympic games to protest China’s treatment of Tibet, Washington’s near total silence is increasingly troubling.

Where, in particular is President Bush? He came out swinging In November of last year, when police shot peacefully protesting monks in Burma, Speaking before the United Nations, he condemned that country’s “19-year reign of fear” while calling for economic sanctions and announcing “an expanded visa ban on those responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights, as well as their family members.”

The George Bush who briefly broke his silence about Tibet last Friday at a joint White House press conference was by contrast feeble. According to the New York Times it was his guest, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who laid out the case squarely, calling human rights abuses in Tibet “clear-cut,” adding “We need to be upfront and absolutely straight about what is going on.” Bush said only “[T]hat it [was] in his country’s interest that he sit down, again with representatives of the Dalai Lama–not him, but his representatives.”

Those last five words should be noted. Even as Lhasa burns and reports of atrocities continue to find their way out, the administration still is not urging direct talks with the Dalai Lama himself (as the Europeans and others have done), but rather only with “his representatives.” This careful official evasion manifests a United States unwillingness to contradict directly Beijing’s insistent denunciation of the Tibetan leader. (Most recently official Chinese media reported, contrary to fact, that it was the Dalai Lama who was blocking talks.)

This week Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will be heading for Beijing, to talk economics. But be reassured: he will mention Tibet: “All senior U.S. officials do raise our concerns with respect to Tibet and this trip will be no different,” he said. Paulson’s understatement, and the President’s avoidance of the issue, are products of the administration’s initial assumption that, after a quick and decisive Chinese crackdown, the March unrest in Tibet would prove no more than a bump on the road to the triumphant Beijing Olympics in August. American interest was therefore to stick with China’s government, even if doing so involved some substantial trimming of American values.

That approach is untenable now, as unrest spreads and world indignation grows. How to respond to Chinese oppression of Tibet has become a defining issue. Angela Merkel and her counterparts have firmly taken the lead in doing the right thing. The new question is, when and how will the putative “leader of the free world” follow?

Read Less

Merkel Comes to the Knesset

This week, Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. This is as it should be. Germany has become one of Israel‘s staunchest supporters in the world, and is a major player in the effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Never in human history, perhaps, has a nation repented so much for its wrongdoings as has Germany since Hitler.

And yet, one cannot really blame those few members of Knesset who have threatened to walk out in protest. There are certain things that neither time nor reason overcome. Nothing can ever make up for the Holocaust. The Jews are a people of exceptionally long memory, and we should be more surprised by the Knesset’s willingness to host Merkel than by the few who oppose the visit.

On this issue, ambivalence is the only reasonable posture. The Jewish state is not terribly good at building and keeping international alliances, probably because for millennia it has had good reason to be suspicious of other peoples. Inviting Merkel is the right move at the right time: under the leadership of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Continent has shifted to its most pro-Israel stance since at least the 1950’s. Yet the Holocaust will forever be there, with all its lessons for the world, and it is right for the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, to make sure it is never forgotten.

In 2000, Germany‘s president (largely a figurehead position) visited Israel and addressed the Knesset, asking the Jewish people for forgiveness. It is not clear what that forgiveness really means. But what is clear is that Israel should embrace the friendship Germany has offered, while at the same time continuing to study the Holocaust, hunt down the remaining Nazi criminals, and bring foreign dignitaries to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, to reinforce the lessons of what humanity is capable of, of modernity’s darker side, and of Jewish powerlessness.

Forgive, but never, ever, forget.

This week, Angela Merkel becomes the first German chancellor to address the Israeli parliament. This is as it should be. Germany has become one of Israel‘s staunchest supporters in the world, and is a major player in the effort to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Never in human history, perhaps, has a nation repented so much for its wrongdoings as has Germany since Hitler.

And yet, one cannot really blame those few members of Knesset who have threatened to walk out in protest. There are certain things that neither time nor reason overcome. Nothing can ever make up for the Holocaust. The Jews are a people of exceptionally long memory, and we should be more surprised by the Knesset’s willingness to host Merkel than by the few who oppose the visit.

On this issue, ambivalence is the only reasonable posture. The Jewish state is not terribly good at building and keeping international alliances, probably because for millennia it has had good reason to be suspicious of other peoples. Inviting Merkel is the right move at the right time: under the leadership of Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Continent has shifted to its most pro-Israel stance since at least the 1950’s. Yet the Holocaust will forever be there, with all its lessons for the world, and it is right for the Jewish people, and the Jewish state, to make sure it is never forgotten.

In 2000, Germany‘s president (largely a figurehead position) visited Israel and addressed the Knesset, asking the Jewish people for forgiveness. It is not clear what that forgiveness really means. But what is clear is that Israel should embrace the friendship Germany has offered, while at the same time continuing to study the Holocaust, hunt down the remaining Nazi criminals, and bring foreign dignitaries to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, to reinforce the lessons of what humanity is capable of, of modernity’s darker side, and of Jewish powerlessness.

Forgive, but never, ever, forget.

Read Less

Germany Takes a Bullet

According to a recent report, beefing up sanctions against Iran will cost the German taxpayer dearly: new sanctions will force the German government to pay significant sums (projected at 2 billion euros) to cover the losses incurred by German business. Germany is the biggest EU exporter of goods to Iran. Hundreds of German companies have subsidiaries and offices in Iran; many more attend annual industrial fairs, looking for lucrative deals. And while German companies are not at the forefront of the oil business in Iran, German technology provides Iran with the type of industrial machinery—including drilling and refining technology—that a modern economy needs to develop.

Indeed, all protestations to the contrary, if European companies—Germany, first and foremost—were to pull out of Iran and deny Iranian customers their products, it is highly doubtful that Chinese, Indian, or Russian companies could fill the void. Quantity is less important than quality when one looks at EU-Iran trade. Sure, if European oil companies pulled out of such giant projects as the South Pars oil fields, then Russian, Chinese, and Indian companies might line up to replace them. But, those who suggest that the main reason not to expand sanctions is that they are ineffective unless these other non-Western giants also support them forget that those countries’ industries cannot compete with Western technology. (At least not yet. Otherwise, why would the Iranians be so keen to buy “made in Europe?”)

Germany and its government must be praised for their newly found resolve to pay a steep price to pressure Iran. For the U.S., the choice between profit and principle was never there—its 27-year government-sanctioned embargo of Iran means that there are virtually no American economic and commercial interests to suffer from sanctions fallout. For Europeans, it is a different story. Their choice is real—and they have been roundly criticized for preferring profit over principle. Now it’s crunch time. Bravo to Angela Merkel then, for recognizing that a financial loss is easier to come to terms with (even at that exorbitant projected cost of 2 billion euros) than a nuclear Iran. And let’s hope that Merkel’s resolve—alongside that of the British and French governments, already committed to tougher sanctions—will sway those European leaders who still think that, nukes aside, with Iran it should be business as usual.

According to a recent report, beefing up sanctions against Iran will cost the German taxpayer dearly: new sanctions will force the German government to pay significant sums (projected at 2 billion euros) to cover the losses incurred by German business. Germany is the biggest EU exporter of goods to Iran. Hundreds of German companies have subsidiaries and offices in Iran; many more attend annual industrial fairs, looking for lucrative deals. And while German companies are not at the forefront of the oil business in Iran, German technology provides Iran with the type of industrial machinery—including drilling and refining technology—that a modern economy needs to develop.

Indeed, all protestations to the contrary, if European companies—Germany, first and foremost—were to pull out of Iran and deny Iranian customers their products, it is highly doubtful that Chinese, Indian, or Russian companies could fill the void. Quantity is less important than quality when one looks at EU-Iran trade. Sure, if European oil companies pulled out of such giant projects as the South Pars oil fields, then Russian, Chinese, and Indian companies might line up to replace them. But, those who suggest that the main reason not to expand sanctions is that they are ineffective unless these other non-Western giants also support them forget that those countries’ industries cannot compete with Western technology. (At least not yet. Otherwise, why would the Iranians be so keen to buy “made in Europe?”)

Germany and its government must be praised for their newly found resolve to pay a steep price to pressure Iran. For the U.S., the choice between profit and principle was never there—its 27-year government-sanctioned embargo of Iran means that there are virtually no American economic and commercial interests to suffer from sanctions fallout. For Europeans, it is a different story. Their choice is real—and they have been roundly criticized for preferring profit over principle. Now it’s crunch time. Bravo to Angela Merkel then, for recognizing that a financial loss is easier to come to terms with (even at that exorbitant projected cost of 2 billion euros) than a nuclear Iran. And let’s hope that Merkel’s resolve—alongside that of the British and French governments, already committed to tougher sanctions—will sway those European leaders who still think that, nukes aside, with Iran it should be business as usual.

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.