Commentary Magazine


Topic: Anti-Defamation League

Stone’s Apologies Don’t Erase Link Between the Left and Anti-Semitism

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

Oliver Stone added to his reputation as an incorrigible conspiracy monger this past week in an interview in the Times of London in which he claimed that America’s “obsession” with the Holocaust was caused by Jewish control of the media, sought to put Hitler “in context,” and denounced the “Jewish lobby” and Israel for controlling American foreign policy. The leftist director also defended the Jew-hating regime in Iran as well as Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez (who is featured in a flattering documentary produced by Stone), whose dictatorial government has terrorized that country’s Jewish community and made common cause with Tehran.

The Anti-Defamation League appropriately denounced this. But while, as Jennifer noted, Stone was not exactly deluged with criticism — the mainstream media generally ignored the controversy — he did issue two apologies within the next three days. The first backed away from his remarks about the Jews controlling the media and Hollywood, but, as the ADL rightly noted in a release, he failed to deal with his charges about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.” In response to this, Stone, obviously listening to his PR people, again apologized, saying: “I do agree that it was wrong of me to say that Israel or the pro-Israel lobby is to blame for America’s flawed foreign policy. Of course that’s not true and I apologize that my inappropriately glib remark has played into that negative stereotype.”

Feeling that this was sufficient, the ADL quickly declared victory in a statement in which its director, Abe Foxman, was quoted as saying, “I believe he now understands the issues and where he was wrong, and this puts an end to the matter.”

But does it?

Stone’s comments were hardly out of character. He had previously talked about putting Hitler “in context,” and his denunciations of Israel and defense of the anti-Semitic regimes in Iran and Venezuela are still a matter of the record. Last fall the ADL went out of its way to try to wrongly connect mainstream conservative and Republican critiques of President Obama with lunatic extremists and anti-Semites in a report. But as Stone’s comments illustrated, the lesson here is the slippery slope between the leftist conspiracy theories that Stone has championed in his films and public utterances and traditional anti-Semitic invective. This was not a mere slip of the tongue. The line between lionizing Jew-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and overt anti-Semitism is razor-thin if it exists at all. While it is appropriate for the ADL director to acknowledge the speed with which Stone has tried to flee from justified accusations of anti-Semitism, he should have used this moment to make it clear that this story is bigger than just one interview. Instead, he has produced a statement that will serve to allow Stone to escape any further opprobrium. The problem with Oliver Stone is not his big mouth but the ideas that he has spent his adult life propagating. What Stone has done is to once again highlight the nexus between far-left conspiracy theories and Jew-hatred. And that is something that can’t be put to rest with a mere blessing from Mr. Foxman.

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Sestak Can’t Shut Up Critics, Can’t Hide

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

The Jewish Exponent is not exactly a conservative publication, so its coverage of ECI’s ad and of Joe Sestak’s Israel problem must be of particular concern to the Sestak camp. The report explains:

A new effort to attack U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak’s record on Israel has gone viral. A debate that has long been playing out in the pages of the Jewish Exponent has now made its way to MSNBCs “Morning Joe,” and Web sites such as Politico, The Atlantic, Commentary, the Huffington Post and YouTube. … At the centerpiece of the new campaign against Sestak is a television ad sponsored by a prominent group of Jews and Evangelical Christians calling itself the Emergency Committee for Israel.

The ad, airing in Pennsylvania this week — including during a Phillies game — highlights an appearance he made before a controversial Muslim group in 2007 and criticizes him for signing one congressional letter urging Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza and for not signing another one affirming Israel-U.S. ties. The spot is likely the first strike in what organizers have vowed will be a sustained effort to challenge Democrats and President Barack Obama on policy toward Israel.

The Exponent is not buying Sestak’s defense of his speech to CAIR in 2007: “According to the Anti-Defamation League, CAIR has ‘refused for many years to unequivocally condemn by name Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations.’” Nor does it appear that Sestak will be able to duck the controversy:

“Michael Bronstein, a Philadelphia political consultant and pro-Israel activist who is supporting Sestak, said that the new commercial “is completely different from anything that we have seen before. I suspect it will be effective without an adequate response.” …

For his part, Toomey, through his spokeswoman, told the Exponent: “It’s really unfortunate that Joe Sestak has repeatedly chosen to align himself with the most anti-Israel faction in Congress.”

It is not simply that Sestak gave the speech to a group that often spouts anti-Israel venom. It is that, as the Exponent points out, “Despite repeated calls for Sestak to have canceled before the CAIR speech, and calls for him to admit the appearance was a mistake, he has never backed down.” Even now that CAIR continues to carry water (and censor books) on behalf of radical Islamists and even now that CAIR’s track record is well known (see here and here and here), Sestak has never issued an apology or denounced the group.

You can understand why his lawyer tried to take down the ad. In doing so, however, he’s only called more attention to Sestak’s shabby record.

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Who’s Angry Now? Brown Compares Whitman to Goebbels

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown was once known as “Governor Moonbeam” because of his eccentric manner way back in the 1970s, when he served two terms in the same office he’s trying for now. But you would think that after four decades in public life, Brown, who has always fancied himself an advocate of a purer brand of politics than the average lifetime politician, would have learned that calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t so smart.

Politico reports that, in a conversation with a reporter, Brown compared his Republican opponent, Meg Whitman, the former eBay chief who triumphed in this week’s GOP primary, to Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda. According to KCBS’s Doug Sovern, Brown claimed that:

She’ll have people believing whatever she wants about me. It’s like Goebbels. … Goebbels invented this kind of propaganda. He took control of the whole world. She wants to be president. That’s her ambition, the first woman president. That’s what this is all about.

Brown’s over-the-top paranoia about his opponent speaks volumes about his own view of the world, in which any opponent who brings up the details from his own long and not terribly successful record while holding numerous public offices is a Nazi. And because inappropriate Nazi analogies are one of the few political sins that can guarantee a liberal Democrat like Brown criticism from mainstream liberal Jewish organizations, he should be expecting a call (accompanied by a news release) from the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman sometime in the next day or two, in which he will be instructed that it is not appropriate behavior to compare a former business executive to the regime that slaughtered six million Jews just because she takes Jerry Brown’s name in vain.

We can expect Brown — who hasn’t denied the slur but instead had his office issue the usual weasel-worded claim that his words were “taken out of context” — to eventually apologize. But in a year in which the liberal media have seized every opportunity to brand Republicans and the Tea Party movement as extremists and as a threat to democracy, it’s interesting to note that invariably, it is liberal Democrats like Brown who are coarsening the public square with attempts to demonize their opponents for having the temerity to question their bona fides. The ADL itself stepped into dangerous territory last fall with a report titled “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies,” in which it speciously linked Republican critics of the Obama administration with militias and other far-right extremists.

But contrary to the ADL’s inappropriate and highly partisan report, most of the rage this year seems to come from Democrats and liberals like Brown who are willing to say anything to besmirch those who dare to oppose them. While I don’t doubt that the ADL will rightly take Brown to task for his loose talk about Goebbels, the group ought to think seriously about the fact that most of the anger we’re hearing lately is not from Tea Partiers heading to Washington with their pitchforks but from liberals who are crying in their beer about the imminent prospect of defeat at the hands of a re-energized GOP.

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Turning the Tables on the Turks

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.

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White House Hopes Someone Else Will Clean Up This Mess, Too

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

Three more Jewish organizations have come out with statements condemning Helen Thomas’s remarks. B’nai B’rith’s statement contains this:

“Thomas’ comments are contemptible,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Her distortion of historical reality is astonishing. Her call for Jews to return to Poland and Germany—site of the Nazi genocide, the worst genocide in modern history—is beyond offensive. . .These vile comments, unfortunately, are the culmination of Thomas’ ongoing anti-Israel sentiments that she kept thinly veiled over the years,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “There should be no place for her in a news organization. Her comments go beyond commentary and land well in the camp that will stop at nothing to delegitimize Israel.”

B’nai B’rith calls on Hearst to dismiss Thomas immediately.

The American Israeli Action Coalition put out a news release that reads in part:

“As Americans living in Israel, we are outraged at Ms. Thomas’s remarks which we feel are directed at us,” said AIAC Chairman Harvey Schwartz. “The remarks are a direct attack on American Israelis. Not only are they based on ignorance of history, but are the height of vicious anti-Semitism. They are beneath contempt. Furthermore, Ms. Thomas’s lame excuse of an “apology” contains not one word of remorse for the substance of her odious remarks.”

“AIAC joins with Bnai Brith International, the Anti Defamation League and other prominent Americans in calling on the Hearst Corporation to dismiss Thomas immediately,” continued Chairman Schwartz. “In addition, the White House Correspondents’ Association should immediately cancel her White House press credentials. The failure of either of such organizations to do will be proof positive that it agrees with Ms. Thomas’s vile comments.”

The Zionist Organization of America’s statement includes this:

Helen Thomas’ despicable anti-Semitic statements must not be tolerated. She should be fired by Hearst News and barred from the White House press corps. There is no way such vicious denial of Jewish nationhood and connection to the Jewish homeland would be tolerated if such statements were uttered in respect of any other people.

Helen Thomas’ long record of hostile questioning and grandstanding speeches in the guise of questions regarding Israel at White House press conferences over many years indicates only too clearly that Thomas has long harbored deep hostility towards Israel which she has now revealed to go even further – denying Jewish nationhood and the Jewish right to a sovereign state. She is clearly an anti-Semitic bigot. This is not a matter of mere criticism of Israel, which people are free to exercise, but of fostering hatred against Jews. Helen Thomas should be fired, not only for her unvarnished bigotry, but because she has made it unequivocally clear that she is deeply biased and unable to report with any semblance of objectivity. Helen Thomas would certainly condemn and reject anyone who would have tried to tell her parents, who were Lebanese, that they should go back to Lebanon. She would not tolerate it if someone told her that, since she is of Lebanese ethnicity, she should go back to Lebanon.

The White House remains mum. The administration no doubt hopes that Hearst will take care of this mess. But the White House has its own responsibility and is making its own views apparent by its silence: the Obama administration simply doesn’t care.

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What Do the Obami Believe? What Should We?

Each day sees another member of the administration seeking to mollify critics of its Israel policy. The latest is Dan Shapiro. No, no, the Obama administration really doesn’t think Israel’s failure to reach a deal with the Palestinians causes the deaths of Americans. No, no, they really understand Iran is not going to care even if there is a peace deal. And sure, sure, the Obami won’t be imposing a peace deal. This report recounts the spin offensive:

“We do not believe that resolving this conflict will bring an end to all conflicts in the Middle East,” Dan Shapiro, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East, told an Anti-Defamation League conference. “We do not believe it would cause Iran to end its unacceptable pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Shapiro also emphasized, to applause from the audience, that “we do not believe that this conflict endangers the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.” …

Shapiro explained that the US thinks that “depriving Iran of a conflict it can exploit by arming their terrorist proxies is very much in our national interests,” and that images broadcasting Palestinian state-building rather than suffering “would do much to transform attitudes positively and deprive extremists of an evocative propaganda tool.”

Shapiro is himself returning to the region this week as the sides are set to begin proximity talks.

He noted that the US sees direct talks as the only effective means of ultimately resolving the conflict.

“A solution cannot be imposed on the parties from the outside. Peace can only come from direct talks,” he said.

Do we believe him — or more precisely, believe he represents the president’s views? Shapiro’s spiel certainly is what the Jewish audiences want to hear, but it bears little resemblance to what the administration has been saying and doing (and leaking) since March. And in fact, Shapiro hints that there is a certain amount of wordplay at work when it comes to what it means to “impose” a deal: “There could be times and contexts in which US ideas can be useful, and when appropriate we are prepared to share them.”

Hmm. What does that mean? One supposes it means this:

Mitchell has made clear that he has no intention of merely shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah carrying messages, but that he intends to put forward American bridging proposals wherever they might be helpful. He  also has indicated to both sides that if the talks falter, the Obama administration will not be slow to blame the party it holds responsible. Indeed, Palestinian officials say Mitchell told them that the United States would take significant diplomatic steps against any side it believed was holding back progress.

In other words, it’s time to strong-arm the Jewish state with the threat of “blame” — and perhaps some abstentions at the UN — if the Obami’s latest threat is to be believed. The Palestinians need not come to the table, because Mitchell will do their work for them. It is noteworthy that even if done without the intention of exerting extreme pressure on the Jewish state, excessive American intervention in the talks is likely counterproductive. For this reason, the Bush administration eschewed bridging proposals. As a knowledgeable source says, “We truly believed they must negotiate themselves. All our presence did and does is slow things down because both sides play to us rather than seriously addressing each other.”

And if proximity talks fail to bring about a deal, we hear:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, is proposing that Obama put a new set of peace parameters on the table and urge the parties to negotiate a final peace deal within the U.S.-initiated framework. Should either side refuse, Brzezinski says the United States should get U.N. endorsement of the plan, putting unbearable international pressure on the recalcitrant party.

Brzezinski reportedly outlined this position to Obama in a meeting of former national security advisers convened in late March by Gen. James Jones, the current incumbent.

This is precisely the type of scenario Israeli analysts are predicting for September, especially if the proximity talks fail to make progress: binding American peace parameters serving as new terms of reference for an international peace conference and subsequent Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

So what then to make of Shapiro’s fine words to the ADL? A healthy dose of skepticism is in order. And if we have learned anything, it is to ignore what the Obami say (a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable”) and watch what they do (delay and work for carve-outs for Russia and China in congressional petroleum sanctions).

Each day sees another member of the administration seeking to mollify critics of its Israel policy. The latest is Dan Shapiro. No, no, the Obama administration really doesn’t think Israel’s failure to reach a deal with the Palestinians causes the deaths of Americans. No, no, they really understand Iran is not going to care even if there is a peace deal. And sure, sure, the Obami won’t be imposing a peace deal. This report recounts the spin offensive:

“We do not believe that resolving this conflict will bring an end to all conflicts in the Middle East,” Dan Shapiro, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East, told an Anti-Defamation League conference. “We do not believe it would cause Iran to end its unacceptable pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Shapiro also emphasized, to applause from the audience, that “we do not believe that this conflict endangers the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.” …

Shapiro explained that the US thinks that “depriving Iran of a conflict it can exploit by arming their terrorist proxies is very much in our national interests,” and that images broadcasting Palestinian state-building rather than suffering “would do much to transform attitudes positively and deprive extremists of an evocative propaganda tool.”

Shapiro is himself returning to the region this week as the sides are set to begin proximity talks.

He noted that the US sees direct talks as the only effective means of ultimately resolving the conflict.

“A solution cannot be imposed on the parties from the outside. Peace can only come from direct talks,” he said.

Do we believe him — or more precisely, believe he represents the president’s views? Shapiro’s spiel certainly is what the Jewish audiences want to hear, but it bears little resemblance to what the administration has been saying and doing (and leaking) since March. And in fact, Shapiro hints that there is a certain amount of wordplay at work when it comes to what it means to “impose” a deal: “There could be times and contexts in which US ideas can be useful, and when appropriate we are prepared to share them.”

Hmm. What does that mean? One supposes it means this:

Mitchell has made clear that he has no intention of merely shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah carrying messages, but that he intends to put forward American bridging proposals wherever they might be helpful. He  also has indicated to both sides that if the talks falter, the Obama administration will not be slow to blame the party it holds responsible. Indeed, Palestinian officials say Mitchell told them that the United States would take significant diplomatic steps against any side it believed was holding back progress.

In other words, it’s time to strong-arm the Jewish state with the threat of “blame” — and perhaps some abstentions at the UN — if the Obami’s latest threat is to be believed. The Palestinians need not come to the table, because Mitchell will do their work for them. It is noteworthy that even if done without the intention of exerting extreme pressure on the Jewish state, excessive American intervention in the talks is likely counterproductive. For this reason, the Bush administration eschewed bridging proposals. As a knowledgeable source says, “We truly believed they must negotiate themselves. All our presence did and does is slow things down because both sides play to us rather than seriously addressing each other.”

And if proximity talks fail to bring about a deal, we hear:

Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser, is proposing that Obama put a new set of peace parameters on the table and urge the parties to negotiate a final peace deal within the U.S.-initiated framework. Should either side refuse, Brzezinski says the United States should get U.N. endorsement of the plan, putting unbearable international pressure on the recalcitrant party.

Brzezinski reportedly outlined this position to Obama in a meeting of former national security advisers convened in late March by Gen. James Jones, the current incumbent.

This is precisely the type of scenario Israeli analysts are predicting for September, especially if the proximity talks fail to make progress: binding American peace parameters serving as new terms of reference for an international peace conference and subsequent Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

So what then to make of Shapiro’s fine words to the ADL? A healthy dose of skepticism is in order. And if we have learned anything, it is to ignore what the Obami say (a nuclear-armed Iran is “unacceptable”) and watch what they do (delay and work for carve-outs for Russia and China in congressional petroleum sanctions).

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Mearsheimer Makes a List

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

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Year Two of Obama Means More of the Same Hostility on Israel

According to the Jerusalem Post, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, convened his nation’s consuls in the country for an emergency briefing and told them that last week’s dispute, which began with the announcement of new apartments being built in East Jerusalem, has become the “worst crisis” between Israel and the U.S. since 1975.

Given the escalation of American attacks on Israel’s government from a variety of sources in the last few days, it’s hard to argue with Oren’s analysis. Israel was in the wrong to have let such an announcement be made while Biden was in the country, but the escalation of the incident from a minor kerfuffle to a genuine crisis seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the administration. After all, had Obama wanted to be truly even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians, he could have treated the Palestinian decision to honor a mass murderer during Biden’s visit as being every bit as insulting as the building of apartments in an existing Jewish neighborhood.

Others have already started to dissect the administration’s motivation. As John wrote, pique and a lack of caring about the consequences play a big role in this crisis. The willingness to push back so disproportionately against Israel, to single it out for opprobrium in a way not customary to this administration even in its treatment of open foes (think back to Obama’s equivocal reaction to the stolen election and repression of dissent in Iran last summer) should also force friends of the Jewish state to return to a question that was much discussed last summer: Why has Obama decided to downgrade relations with Israel?

In 2009, relations between Israel and the United States were primarily characterized by a ginned-up dispute about settlement construction. Not only did Washington choose to make more of an issue about settlements than previous administrations had, it also escalated the problem by specifically rejecting past agreements with Israel regarding construction in those places which the U.S. had acknowledged that Israel would keep even in the event of a far-reaching land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. Even more troubling for the Israelis was a demand that construction of Jewish homes be halted in Jerusalem.

Though eventually, the Netanyahu government would give way and accept a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, it stood its ground on Jerusalem and won. By the end of the year, it appeared as though Obama had understood that his decision to test the Israelis was a failure. The hope that some in the White House had harbored about using their influence to topple the Netanyahu government had been unrealistic. Challenging Netanyahu on Jerusalem had strengthened his popularity. Distancing themselves from Israel had also not gotten the Palestinians to budge on making peace. Nor had it won the United States any extra goodwill in the Muslim world. It had just raised unreasonable expectations about Obama delivering Israel to them on a silver platter while motivating no one to greater efforts to cope with a real threat to both the United States and Israel: Iran’s nuclear program.

By the time of Biden’s visit last week, it had appeared that the administration had learned its lesson and was no longer placing any faith in the idea that pressure on Israel would do anyone any good. But the way they have gone off the deep end about an issue that was supposedly resolved last year makes you wonder how much Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have learned from their first year in office. Specifically, have they decided that this is an opportunity to make another push to get rid of Netanyahu by leveraging the dismay that Israelis feel about last week’s blunder?

The administration’s dispute with Netanyahu and with the mainstream pro-Israel community, which continues to support Israel’s democratically-elected government (as demonstrated by the statements from the Anti-Defamation League and the AIPAC condemning Obama’s overreaction), was never so much about boosting the non-existent chances for peace with the Palestinians as it was about changing the relationship between the two countries from one of close friendship to a more adversarial one. Hillary Clinton’s reported demands for more pointless Israeli concessions and the prospects for another year of non-action on Iranian nukes leave us with the same question we were asking a few months ago: When will Obama’s Jewish supporters face up to the fact that the man in the White House is no friend to the Jewish state?

According to the Jerusalem Post, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, convened his nation’s consuls in the country for an emergency briefing and told them that last week’s dispute, which began with the announcement of new apartments being built in East Jerusalem, has become the “worst crisis” between Israel and the U.S. since 1975.

Given the escalation of American attacks on Israel’s government from a variety of sources in the last few days, it’s hard to argue with Oren’s analysis. Israel was in the wrong to have let such an announcement be made while Biden was in the country, but the escalation of the incident from a minor kerfuffle to a genuine crisis seems to be a conscious decision on the part of the administration. After all, had Obama wanted to be truly even-handed between Israel and the Palestinians, he could have treated the Palestinian decision to honor a mass murderer during Biden’s visit as being every bit as insulting as the building of apartments in an existing Jewish neighborhood.

Others have already started to dissect the administration’s motivation. As John wrote, pique and a lack of caring about the consequences play a big role in this crisis. The willingness to push back so disproportionately against Israel, to single it out for opprobrium in a way not customary to this administration even in its treatment of open foes (think back to Obama’s equivocal reaction to the stolen election and repression of dissent in Iran last summer) should also force friends of the Jewish state to return to a question that was much discussed last summer: Why has Obama decided to downgrade relations with Israel?

In 2009, relations between Israel and the United States were primarily characterized by a ginned-up dispute about settlement construction. Not only did Washington choose to make more of an issue about settlements than previous administrations had, it also escalated the problem by specifically rejecting past agreements with Israel regarding construction in those places which the U.S. had acknowledged that Israel would keep even in the event of a far-reaching land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians. Even more troubling for the Israelis was a demand that construction of Jewish homes be halted in Jerusalem.

Though eventually, the Netanyahu government would give way and accept a temporary settlement freeze in the West Bank, it stood its ground on Jerusalem and won. By the end of the year, it appeared as though Obama had understood that his decision to test the Israelis was a failure. The hope that some in the White House had harbored about using their influence to topple the Netanyahu government had been unrealistic. Challenging Netanyahu on Jerusalem had strengthened his popularity. Distancing themselves from Israel had also not gotten the Palestinians to budge on making peace. Nor had it won the United States any extra goodwill in the Muslim world. It had just raised unreasonable expectations about Obama delivering Israel to them on a silver platter while motivating no one to greater efforts to cope with a real threat to both the United States and Israel: Iran’s nuclear program.

By the time of Biden’s visit last week, it had appeared that the administration had learned its lesson and was no longer placing any faith in the idea that pressure on Israel would do anyone any good. But the way they have gone off the deep end about an issue that was supposedly resolved last year makes you wonder how much Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have learned from their first year in office. Specifically, have they decided that this is an opportunity to make another push to get rid of Netanyahu by leveraging the dismay that Israelis feel about last week’s blunder?

The administration’s dispute with Netanyahu and with the mainstream pro-Israel community, which continues to support Israel’s democratically-elected government (as demonstrated by the statements from the Anti-Defamation League and the AIPAC condemning Obama’s overreaction), was never so much about boosting the non-existent chances for peace with the Palestinians as it was about changing the relationship between the two countries from one of close friendship to a more adversarial one. Hillary Clinton’s reported demands for more pointless Israeli concessions and the prospects for another year of non-action on Iranian nukes leave us with the same question we were asking a few months ago: When will Obama’s Jewish supporters face up to the fact that the man in the White House is no friend to the Jewish state?

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The ADL Is Wrong: Boycotts Can Be Kosher

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

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It’s Not Rush Limbaugh Who Should Apologize

In my new book, Why Are Jews Liberals?, I argue that it no longer makes any sense for so many of my fellow Jews to go on aligning themselves with the forces of the Left. I also try to show that our interests and our ideals, both as Americans and as Jews, have come in recent decades to be better served by the forces of the Right. In the course of describing and agreeing with the book the other day, Rush Limbaugh cited a few of the numerous reasons for the widespread puzzlement over the persistence of liberalism within the American Jewish community. And while discussing those reasons, he pointed to the undeniable fact that for “a lot of people” — prejudiced people, as he called them twice — the words “banker” and “Wall Street” are code words for “Jewish.” Was it possible, he wondered, that Obama’s attacks on bankers and Wall Street were triggering a certain amount of buyer’s remorse within the American Jewish community, which gave him 78 percent of its vote?

Finally, taking off from my observation that many Jewish liberals like to call themselves independents, he wondered whether a fair number of the self-described independents who deserted Obama and voted for Scott Brown might actually have been Jewish liberals. If so, he concluded, Brown’s “victory could be even more indicative of an even bigger change in the political temper of the country than has so far been recognized.”

For this, Rush Limbaugh has been subjected to a vile attack by Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Of course, Mr. Foxman has a long history of seeing an anti-Semite under every conservative bed while blinding himself to the blatant fact that anti-Semitism has largely been banished from the Right in the past 40 years, and that it has found a hospitable new home on the Left, especially where Israel is concerned. This makes Foxman a perfect embodiment of the phenomenon I analyze in Why Are Jews Liberals? Now Foxman has the chutzpah to denounce Rush Limbaugh as an anti-Semite and to demand an apology from him to boot. Well, if an apology is owed here, it is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League who should apologize for the defamatory accusation of anti-Semitism that he himself has hurled against so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh.

In my new book, Why Are Jews Liberals?, I argue that it no longer makes any sense for so many of my fellow Jews to go on aligning themselves with the forces of the Left. I also try to show that our interests and our ideals, both as Americans and as Jews, have come in recent decades to be better served by the forces of the Right. In the course of describing and agreeing with the book the other day, Rush Limbaugh cited a few of the numerous reasons for the widespread puzzlement over the persistence of liberalism within the American Jewish community. And while discussing those reasons, he pointed to the undeniable fact that for “a lot of people” — prejudiced people, as he called them twice — the words “banker” and “Wall Street” are code words for “Jewish.” Was it possible, he wondered, that Obama’s attacks on bankers and Wall Street were triggering a certain amount of buyer’s remorse within the American Jewish community, which gave him 78 percent of its vote?

Finally, taking off from my observation that many Jewish liberals like to call themselves independents, he wondered whether a fair number of the self-described independents who deserted Obama and voted for Scott Brown might actually have been Jewish liberals. If so, he concluded, Brown’s “victory could be even more indicative of an even bigger change in the political temper of the country than has so far been recognized.”

For this, Rush Limbaugh has been subjected to a vile attack by Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Of course, Mr. Foxman has a long history of seeing an anti-Semite under every conservative bed while blinding himself to the blatant fact that anti-Semitism has largely been banished from the Right in the past 40 years, and that it has found a hospitable new home on the Left, especially where Israel is concerned. This makes Foxman a perfect embodiment of the phenomenon I analyze in Why Are Jews Liberals? Now Foxman has the chutzpah to denounce Rush Limbaugh as an anti-Semite and to demand an apology from him to boot. Well, if an apology is owed here, it is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League who should apologize for the defamatory accusation of anti-Semitism that he himself has hurled against so loyal a friend of Israel as Rush Limbaugh.

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Rereading the ADL’s Foolish Report on Rage

My article on the Anti-Defamation League’s report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies” ignited a debate about the group’s foolish attempt to link virtually everyone who has voiced criticisms of the Obama administration and its agenda with gun-toting paranoid extremists from the far Right.

The ADL’s response to its critics was typically high-handed and obtuse. In a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about the controversy, ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum claimed: “The comments are coming from people who have not read the report. They’re reacting to the media spin and not its substance.”

As the person who helped kick off this fracas, let me assure Ms. Shinbaum and her boss Abe Foxman (in whose defense I have written when the Left had wrongly accused him of trying to suppress anti-Israel dissent) that it was precisely because I did read the report from start to finish that I chose to write about its egregious faults. If anything, I would say that, judging by some of the arguments put forth by the document’s defenders, it is far more likely that those who support the report, rather than its critics, have not read it.

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

For the ADL, the “rage” is the result of a three-headed monster: “mainstream political attacks,” “grass roots hostility,” and “anti-government extremists.”

The first of these threats to American democracy — the word “mainstream” appears in the report in quotes as if to disparage the notion that such opinions are widespread, while simultaneously paying lip service to the fact that strong criticism of Obama is entirely legitimate — is the result of “partisan attacks against the Obama administration by some conservative politicians and media figures. Upset and anxious about their loss of power following the 2008 elections, they seek primarily to energize their political base and to delegitimize the Obama administration at the same time.”

This passage ought to prompt disinterested readers to ask whether a defeated political party’s criticism of the opposition deserves mention in a report about extremism. After all, conservatives have attacked Obama on the issues not because they want to overthrow the government but because they disagree with him.

The mere mention of such Republican activities in this context, however, reinforces the very conclusion that the ADL claims it wishes to disavow. Indeed, the report then says, “One of the most important effects of these activists, however, is to help create a body of people who may be predisposed to believe the assertions and claims of more extreme individuals and groups.”

The ADL’s defenders claim that the group has made the proper distinctions between normal political activity and extremism. But if they read the report carefully, they will see that such distinctions were thrown to the winds in its introduction. Had the report stuck to its accounts of the more bizarre conspiracy theories circulating about Obama or of the activity of violent extremists, there would have been no reason to criticize it. But, instead, it linked the crackpots with legitimate public protests, conservative media figures, and even “mainstream” politicians pursuing the duties of an opposition party in a democracy.

One defender of the report, the editorial page of the New York Jewish Week, edited by the thoughtful and responsible Gary Rosenblatt, writes:

We recognize, as does the ADL, that the far left also reduces complex issues to simplistic, angry slogans that turn debate into meaningless shouting matches. The left, too, finds solace in broad-brush conspiracy theories. But in today’s America, it’s the other extreme, with its unparalleled access to new forms of media and which is sometimes legitimized by mainstream politicians eager to capitalize on the fears gripping the nation, that seems to be on the march.

But it is precisely the point that, earlier in this decade, when the Left was on the march, the ADL pointedly refused to link mainstream liberal politicians who bashed the Bush administration with radicals in the streets.

As I wrote: “Had the ADL issued a report a few years ago that began by accusing Democrats of creating resentment against Bush and then linked opposition to the GOP to extremists who supported Hamas or rationalized or even denied al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11, Democrats would have cried foul and been right to do so. That never happened.”

By painting its picture with such a broad brush, the anti-Semitism watchdog group lent its bully pulpit to the administration and its most partisan cheerleaders. Claiming that the tax protest “tea parties,” town-hall-meeting dissenters, and Glenn Beck’s broadcast broadsides are part of a structure that is threatening democracy or giving rise to anti-Semitism is absurd, but it does serve the partisan interests of the Left. That is not the proper function of the ADL.

My article on the Anti-Defamation League’s report “Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies” ignited a debate about the group’s foolish attempt to link virtually everyone who has voiced criticisms of the Obama administration and its agenda with gun-toting paranoid extremists from the far Right.

The ADL’s response to its critics was typically high-handed and obtuse. In a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article about the controversy, ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum claimed: “The comments are coming from people who have not read the report. They’re reacting to the media spin and not its substance.”

As the person who helped kick off this fracas, let me assure Ms. Shinbaum and her boss Abe Foxman (in whose defense I have written when the Left had wrongly accused him of trying to suppress anti-Israel dissent) that it was precisely because I did read the report from start to finish that I chose to write about its egregious faults. If anything, I would say that, judging by some of the arguments put forth by the document’s defenders, it is far more likely that those who support the report, rather than its critics, have not read it.

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

For the ADL, the “rage” is the result of a three-headed monster: “mainstream political attacks,” “grass roots hostility,” and “anti-government extremists.”

The first of these threats to American democracy — the word “mainstream” appears in the report in quotes as if to disparage the notion that such opinions are widespread, while simultaneously paying lip service to the fact that strong criticism of Obama is entirely legitimate — is the result of “partisan attacks against the Obama administration by some conservative politicians and media figures. Upset and anxious about their loss of power following the 2008 elections, they seek primarily to energize their political base and to delegitimize the Obama administration at the same time.”

This passage ought to prompt disinterested readers to ask whether a defeated political party’s criticism of the opposition deserves mention in a report about extremism. After all, conservatives have attacked Obama on the issues not because they want to overthrow the government but because they disagree with him.

The mere mention of such Republican activities in this context, however, reinforces the very conclusion that the ADL claims it wishes to disavow. Indeed, the report then says, “One of the most important effects of these activists, however, is to help create a body of people who may be predisposed to believe the assertions and claims of more extreme individuals and groups.”

The ADL’s defenders claim that the group has made the proper distinctions between normal political activity and extremism. But if they read the report carefully, they will see that such distinctions were thrown to the winds in its introduction. Had the report stuck to its accounts of the more bizarre conspiracy theories circulating about Obama or of the activity of violent extremists, there would have been no reason to criticize it. But, instead, it linked the crackpots with legitimate public protests, conservative media figures, and even “mainstream” politicians pursuing the duties of an opposition party in a democracy.

One defender of the report, the editorial page of the New York Jewish Week, edited by the thoughtful and responsible Gary Rosenblatt, writes:

We recognize, as does the ADL, that the far left also reduces complex issues to simplistic, angry slogans that turn debate into meaningless shouting matches. The left, too, finds solace in broad-brush conspiracy theories. But in today’s America, it’s the other extreme, with its unparalleled access to new forms of media and which is sometimes legitimized by mainstream politicians eager to capitalize on the fears gripping the nation, that seems to be on the march.

But it is precisely the point that, earlier in this decade, when the Left was on the march, the ADL pointedly refused to link mainstream liberal politicians who bashed the Bush administration with radicals in the streets.

As I wrote: “Had the ADL issued a report a few years ago that began by accusing Democrats of creating resentment against Bush and then linked opposition to the GOP to extremists who supported Hamas or rationalized or even denied al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11, Democrats would have cried foul and been right to do so. That never happened.”

By painting its picture with such a broad brush, the anti-Semitism watchdog group lent its bully pulpit to the administration and its most partisan cheerleaders. Claiming that the tax protest “tea parties,” town-hall-meeting dissenters, and Glenn Beck’s broadcast broadsides are part of a structure that is threatening democracy or giving rise to anti-Semitism is absurd, but it does serve the partisan interests of the Left. That is not the proper function of the ADL.

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Flogging on the Quads

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

New York magazine reports that a multi-multi-million dollar deal to set up a New York University campus in the Arab city-state of Abu Dhabi is all but closed. The Gulf campus will be a clone of the Manhattan one “but with an Arab twist,” according to Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of the government-owned investment company overseeing the deal.

What’s involved in an Arab twist, you ask? “Homosexual activity is illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and those found guilty of drug use, prostitution, or adultery can be sentenced to flogging.” There goes spring break!

John Sexton, NYU’s president and the driving force behind the deal, isn’t worried. “We have to accept the fact that, like in New York, we cannot provide immunity to students or faculty members at NYU Abu Dhabi from the normal laws of that society when not engaged in activities on our campus,” he says. And when they are engaged in campus activities–what can we expect then? “Two years ago, a foreign lecturer at a university in the emirates was dismissed for showing and discussing controversial Danish cartoons that ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad.”

At a recent NYU faculty meeting, one person asked “What exactly is the status of Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Israel?” Well, it can’t be much worse than American academia’s relationship with Israel. Or can it? For starters, Israelis are prohibited from entering the country. And then there’s this:

According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Sexton, once again: “I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, ‘Go.’ Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories.” (As if the problem lies in Americans thinking in those categories.) This whole thing is, for Sexton, a great big multi-culti wet kiss to the post-9/11 Arab world:

After that day, we were forced to confront the critical choice of the 21st century. What is our attitude toward ‘the other’ going to be? Is it going to be a clash of civilizations? Or is it going to be an ecumenical gift?

Do I have a vote? Because I’m willing to clash with any civilization that flogs homosexuals and outlaws Israeli visitors. By selling a degraded clone of itself to the highest bidder, NYU is doing irreversible damage to U.S. universities as a whole. This frightening love-child of Western multi-cultural lunacy and Arab oil money represents a new low. As NYU professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco enthusiastically stated, “This is not just study abroad on steroids . . . This is really upping the ante. It will be a complete game-changer for higher education as we know it.”

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Googling Anti-Semitism

Yesterday, Google Israel Director Meir Brand, at a conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League in Israel, rejected censoring anti-Semitic material from Google search results. As Brand noted, “At Google, we have a bias in favor of people’s right to free expression.”

In short, whatever content Israeli law permits, Google’s search will find. Such a policy is easy for Google to administer and avoids difficult decisions for the company. “Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does not appear on the Web,” Brand explained. In doing this, Google is sensibly imitating a public utility. Your local telecom provider, for example, is not responsible for any of the things you say on the phone—whether your words be merely ill-advised or downright illegal—so the giant search company cannot be liable for what you read on the net. All this is perfectly reasonable, and I can accept this argument as a general proposition.

I just have a hard time accepting it specifically from Google. After all, just this April this same company successfully urged shareholders to reject a proposal that would have prohibited the search engine from engaging proactively in censorship. And don’t get me started about China, where Google management risked its do-no-evil reputation last year to establish a site—www.google.cn—that gives new meaning to the concept of self-censorship. Try Googling “Tiananmen” or “Tibet” on the Chinese and American versions of the search engine, and see what I mean. Read this and this.

In my more reflective moments I can sympathize with Google management as it deals with conflicting considerations. Obviously, it would be best if the search engine filters no content on behalf of anybody. Yet the company is in fact controlling content today. So if Google censors at the behest of the Communist Party of China, why should it not self-censor for the Anti-Defamation League?

Yesterday, Google Israel Director Meir Brand, at a conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League in Israel, rejected censoring anti-Semitic material from Google search results. As Brand noted, “At Google, we have a bias in favor of people’s right to free expression.”

In short, whatever content Israeli law permits, Google’s search will find. Such a policy is easy for Google to administer and avoids difficult decisions for the company. “Google is not and should not become the central arbiter of what does and does not appear on the Web,” Brand explained. In doing this, Google is sensibly imitating a public utility. Your local telecom provider, for example, is not responsible for any of the things you say on the phone—whether your words be merely ill-advised or downright illegal—so the giant search company cannot be liable for what you read on the net. All this is perfectly reasonable, and I can accept this argument as a general proposition.

I just have a hard time accepting it specifically from Google. After all, just this April this same company successfully urged shareholders to reject a proposal that would have prohibited the search engine from engaging proactively in censorship. And don’t get me started about China, where Google management risked its do-no-evil reputation last year to establish a site—www.google.cn—that gives new meaning to the concept of self-censorship. Try Googling “Tiananmen” or “Tibet” on the Chinese and American versions of the search engine, and see what I mean. Read this and this.

In my more reflective moments I can sympathize with Google management as it deals with conflicting considerations. Obviously, it would be best if the search engine filters no content on behalf of anybody. Yet the company is in fact controlling content today. So if Google censors at the behest of the Communist Party of China, why should it not self-censor for the Anti-Defamation League?

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“Throw the Jew down the Well”

Comedy fans with strong stomachs may chuckle when Borat Sagdiyev, the faux-Kazakh journalist played by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, sings the pseudo-folksong “In My Country There Is Problem”: “Throw the Jew down the well/ So my country can be free/ You must grab him by his horns/ Then we have a big party.” The song, praised by Slate as “hilarious” and “catchy,” raised concerns from the Anti-Defamation League last September: “One serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”

This precise worry has become tragically current. In Kazakhstan’s neighbor Uzbekistan it is now clear that Jews are still being lynched. As Ynetnews reports, last week the noted Jewish-Uzbek stage director Mark Weil was stabbed to death outside his Tashkent home. “Uzbek police suspect the murder was an anti-Semitic attack,” according to Ynetnews. Last April, the 55-year-old theater director, founder in 1976 of the Ilkhom Theater (one of the oldest independent theaters in the former USSR), had hosted a festival in Tashkent of Contemporary Israeli Literature and Drama. Weil was stabbed to death by two men, “possibly due to his Jewish identity,” as the director was well known for his close ties to the local Jewish community. Despite U. S. State Department warnings, Weil had assured friends and colleagues that his theater “had no enemies,” although its avant-garde subject matter on occasion included gay love, which in the Central Asian Muslim country of Uzbekistan is still punishable by a prison sentence.

Read More

Comedy fans with strong stomachs may chuckle when Borat Sagdiyev, the faux-Kazakh journalist played by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, sings the pseudo-folksong “In My Country There Is Problem”: “Throw the Jew down the well/ So my country can be free/ You must grab him by his horns/ Then we have a big party.” The song, praised by Slate as “hilarious” and “catchy,” raised concerns from the Anti-Defamation League last September: “One serious pitfall is that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke, and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry.”

This precise worry has become tragically current. In Kazakhstan’s neighbor Uzbekistan it is now clear that Jews are still being lynched. As Ynetnews reports, last week the noted Jewish-Uzbek stage director Mark Weil was stabbed to death outside his Tashkent home. “Uzbek police suspect the murder was an anti-Semitic attack,” according to Ynetnews. Last April, the 55-year-old theater director, founder in 1976 of the Ilkhom Theater (one of the oldest independent theaters in the former USSR), had hosted a festival in Tashkent of Contemporary Israeli Literature and Drama. Weil was stabbed to death by two men, “possibly due to his Jewish identity,” as the director was well known for his close ties to the local Jewish community. Despite U. S. State Department warnings, Weil had assured friends and colleagues that his theater “had no enemies,” although its avant-garde subject matter on occasion included gay love, which in the Central Asian Muslim country of Uzbekistan is still punishable by a prison sentence.

Weil, who is survived by a wife and two daughters, is scarcely the first victim of recent anti-Semitic violence in Uzbekistan. Last year, 33-year-old Avraham Hakohen Yagudayev, a Jewish leader, died of cranial injuries in Tashkent after what local authorities called a traffic accident, but what local Hillel director asserted “was no accident,” pointing to overt anti-Semitism as the motive. (In 2000, his synagogue had been gutted by a fire that authorities pooh-poohed, claiming it was caused by a short circuit.) Since 1989, some 83,000 Uzbeki Jews have fled to Israel, with only around 17,000 remaining. As the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress explains, anti-Semitic violence in Uzbekistan is prevalent and a matter of ongoing concern.

During the filming of Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 The Great Dictator (a satire about Europe’s evolving historical tragedies), Chaplin realized that “Hitler [was] a horrible menace to civilization rather than someone to laugh at.” As the death toll of Central Asian Jews continues to increase, cinema audiences may wish to reconsider whether it is really timely to laugh at Borat, a character from a region of the world where (at least for Jews) the laughs have dried up entirely.

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No “Islamophobia”

For years now, pundits, journalists, and community leaders have warned against the rise of so-called “Islamophobia” in Great Britain. Given the presence and increasing visibility of homegrown radical Islam, it would not be surprising to discover that the British public is growing fearful of the Muslim minority in its midst. After all, race attacks against Asians—British Muslims are overwhelmingly from the subcontinent—were reported to have increased exponentially after the 2005 July bombings in Central London.

There have been plenty of triggers for an anti-Muslim backlash in Britain. Britain is home to some of the world’s most radical Islamist organizations,such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The country gave shelter to radical self-styled Imams, such as Omar Bakri Muhammad, the leader of now-disbanded al Muhajiroun. And Britain was the scene of the first European instance of homegrown Islamist mass-murderous terrorism. It has since witnessed more outrages, like the failed plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners, and the recent failed Glasgow and London attacks. When the Muhammad cartoon censorship campaign began, Londoners witnessed angry mobs agitate in the streets of their capital, calling for the beheading of anyone who insulted Islam. As for foreign policy, Britain went to war against two Muslim regimes in the last five years—the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq—and was accused of refraining from saving Muslims from ethnic cleansing in the early 1990’s.

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For years now, pundits, journalists, and community leaders have warned against the rise of so-called “Islamophobia” in Great Britain. Given the presence and increasing visibility of homegrown radical Islam, it would not be surprising to discover that the British public is growing fearful of the Muslim minority in its midst. After all, race attacks against Asians—British Muslims are overwhelmingly from the subcontinent—were reported to have increased exponentially after the 2005 July bombings in Central London.

There have been plenty of triggers for an anti-Muslim backlash in Britain. Britain is home to some of the world’s most radical Islamist organizations,such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The country gave shelter to radical self-styled Imams, such as Omar Bakri Muhammad, the leader of now-disbanded al Muhajiroun. And Britain was the scene of the first European instance of homegrown Islamist mass-murderous terrorism. It has since witnessed more outrages, like the failed plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners, and the recent failed Glasgow and London attacks. When the Muhammad cartoon censorship campaign began, Londoners witnessed angry mobs agitate in the streets of their capital, calling for the beheading of anyone who insulted Islam. As for foreign policy, Britain went to war against two Muslim regimes in the last five years—the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq—and was accused of refraining from saving Muslims from ethnic cleansing in the early 1990’s.

It is plausible to assume that, against this background, a significant portion of Britons may feel—unexcusably, to be sure—that Muslims can be suspected of dual loyalties, and that their identity is irreconcilable with being British. And it may be equally plausible that some Muslims genuinely will feel conflicted about their loyalties—especially when part of the British-Muslim elites encourage this linkage in their rhetoric, accusing foreign policy of being the root cause of extremism.

A recent poll now offers us a new perspective on this issue. The good news is that, according to the Harris Interactive/Financial Times survey, the majority of Britons—59 percent—thinks that “it is possible to be both a Muslim and a Briton.” The bad news is that 29 percent disagrees. Still, given the circumstances, one can interpret these data to mean that Britain remains, overall, tolerant. Of Muslims, that is. But when asked to respond to a similar proposition about Jews in a recent Anti-Defamation League sponsored poll (“Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Britain”), 50 percent of Britons answered yes.

This is strange, to say the least. Jews have had no problem integrating in the UK. As for Israel, its sound and solid relation with Great Britain derives from a commonality of interests and values. Jewish extremists have not blown themselves up in the London tube. They do not advocate the establishment of a global Jewish theocracy to dominate the world—as Hizb-ut-Tahrir does—and when they get angry or offended at depictions of their beliefs and habits, Jews will at most write angry emails and letters to the editors, not call for the beheading of those who insult Judaism. Nevertheless, half of England doubts their loyalty.

British attitudes to Muslims could, and should, be better. But it is British attitudes towards Jews that truly expose intolerance.

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The Jewish Al Sharpton?

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

After a long absence from respectable circles, Jew-baiting is back.

When Patrick J. Buchanan denounced the 1991 U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein, saying it had been cooked up by “Israel and its amen corner,” he largely sealed the doom of his political career. His remark, blaming the Jews for steering U.S. policy to actions that he alleged were in their own interest but not in America’s, made use of the classic anti-Semitic formula. Anti-Semitism, however, had been taboo in America for a generation or more, partly as a response to the Holocaust and partly due to the wider revulsion against bigotry occasioned by the civil-rights revolution. Commentators unloaded on Buchanan from many directions, led by the New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal.

Fifteen years later, however, anti-Semitism is becoming, more and more, an accepted part of national discourse. First, Harvard University published the fulminations of scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (dissected in the pages of COMMENTARY by Gabriel Schoenfeld) accusing the “amen corner,” or in their term “the Israel Lobby,” of distorting U.S. policy to serve Israel rather than America. Then came former President Jimmy Carter’s book, blaming the Arab-Israel conflict entirely on the Jews, and claiming that this information had been kept from the American people by the pervasive and intimidating influence of certain “religious groups,” i.e., the Jews. (See my piece about Carter in the February issue of COMMENTARY.) Next came Democratic presidential aspirant, Wesley Clark, who commented recently that pressure for U.S. action against Iran’s nuclear weapons program was coming primarily from “New York money people.” Can you guess which religious/ethnic group he might be referring to?

Enter the New York Times, a paper famously Jewish-owned and long edited by A.M. Rosenthal, and therefore the target of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the kind once propounded by cranks (and now routinely put forth by the likes of Carter, Walt, and Mearsheimer).

The Times‘s Sunday magazine of January 14 carried James Traub’s astounding hatchet job on Abe Foxman. Foxman is head of the Anti-Defamation League, which in Traub’s view, should long ago “have moved away from its original mission [of combating anti-Semitism] in favor of either promoting tolerance and diversity or leading the nonsectarian fight against extremism.” Instead, Foxman, a “hectoring” man of “spleen” who is “domineering” and “brazen,” “an anachronism” who resembles “a Cadillac-driving ward-heeler” and “stages public rituals of accusation,” insists perversely on “dwell[ing] imaginatively in the Holocaust.”

“It is tempting,” writes Traub, “to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts.” Leave aside that Sharpton is a notorious fraud who gave America the Tawana Brawley farce. More to the point is that for all the publicity that he succeeds in garnering, Sharpton represents no one but himself. Foxman, in contrast, is the chief of one of the leading, if not the leading, organizations through which American Jews defend their civil rights. Traub’s complaint that Foxman is obsessive about anti-Semitism is akin to assailing the head of, say, the NAACP for being overly sensitive to racism. But that’s an exposé you won’t read in the Times any time soon.

Apparently for the likes of Walt and Mearsheimer to bait the Jews is all right: Traub gives them extremely respectful treatment. But for Jews to defend themselves is, it seems, disgusting.

Read Less




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