Commentary Magazine


Topic: Cairo

Foreign Policy Alternatives

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

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Ticking Clocks

Jackson Diehl observes that Obama is very big on foreign policy deadlines — withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and a peace deal in the Middle East. He explains:

Obama’s foreign policy record hardly figures in this fall’s midterm election. That’s at least in part because of its inconclusiveness: It has neither failed nor produced tangible outcomes. A year from now, thanks to the timetables, the record should be in — just in time for the 2012 presidential campaign.

That’s a generous characterization. In fact, we haven’t impeded Iran’s nuclear program, we haven’t stop the slide of Turkey and Syria into Iran’s orbit,  and we haven’t moved the Palestinians from their rejectionist stance. Things may well get worse, but it’s not too soon to pronounce that the Obama team has yet to achieve a single success in foreign policy. To the contrary, allies are alienated, Russia has been emboldened by appeasement dressed up as a “reset,” and our human rights policy is derided by the left and the right.

As for those timetables, Diehl suggests:

Process is always important to good policy — and yes, the Bush administration sometimes demonstrated what can go wrong when there are no deadlines. Yet in the Obama administration, the timetable is becoming an end in itself. It reflects a president who is fixed on disposing of foreign policy problems — and not so much on solving them.

Or more specifically, we have a president fixed on shrinking America’s role in the world and vainly attempting to avoid confrontation (with Russia, Iran, et al.). It also fits with Obama’s imperious and arrogant presidency — the president speaks, the world should follow. After all, where’s the “Cairo effect,” that seismic shift that was to occur after Obama gave his sympatico-with-the-Muslim-world speech?

It’s telling that one country never has a deadline, at least not a real one, imposed by Obama: Iran. The door is ever open, the escape hatch is there. In that case, the clock is running out on us — to stop Iran before it goes nuclear. Obama appears not to have a solution to that one, and so we drift, ever closer, to what was once unacceptable and is now frightfully possible.

Jackson Diehl observes that Obama is very big on foreign policy deadlines — withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and a peace deal in the Middle East. He explains:

Obama’s foreign policy record hardly figures in this fall’s midterm election. That’s at least in part because of its inconclusiveness: It has neither failed nor produced tangible outcomes. A year from now, thanks to the timetables, the record should be in — just in time for the 2012 presidential campaign.

That’s a generous characterization. In fact, we haven’t impeded Iran’s nuclear program, we haven’t stop the slide of Turkey and Syria into Iran’s orbit,  and we haven’t moved the Palestinians from their rejectionist stance. Things may well get worse, but it’s not too soon to pronounce that the Obama team has yet to achieve a single success in foreign policy. To the contrary, allies are alienated, Russia has been emboldened by appeasement dressed up as a “reset,” and our human rights policy is derided by the left and the right.

As for those timetables, Diehl suggests:

Process is always important to good policy — and yes, the Bush administration sometimes demonstrated what can go wrong when there are no deadlines. Yet in the Obama administration, the timetable is becoming an end in itself. It reflects a president who is fixed on disposing of foreign policy problems — and not so much on solving them.

Or more specifically, we have a president fixed on shrinking America’s role in the world and vainly attempting to avoid confrontation (with Russia, Iran, et al.). It also fits with Obama’s imperious and arrogant presidency — the president speaks, the world should follow. After all, where’s the “Cairo effect,” that seismic shift that was to occur after Obama gave his sympatico-with-the-Muslim-world speech?

It’s telling that one country never has a deadline, at least not a real one, imposed by Obama: Iran. The door is ever open, the escape hatch is there. In that case, the clock is running out on us — to stop Iran before it goes nuclear. Obama appears not to have a solution to that one, and so we drift, ever closer, to what was once unacceptable and is now frightfully possible.

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Blocking Ricciardone

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

So the Wall Street Journal editorial page thinks Senator Brownback is wrong to put a hold on the nomination of Frank Ricciardone as ambassador to Turkey, issuing an editorial averring that while “the Senator is free to criticize and oppose this nomination … Mr. Ricciardone deserves an up-or-down vote on the floor.” The editorial goes on to claim that Mr. Brownback’s hold on Mr. Ricciardone may “make Mr. Brownback feel good, but it undermines the executive’s ability to function and American foreign policy.”

Well, in this fight, sign me up with Senator Brownback. To begin with, the idea that American foreign policy is somehow undermined by the lack of an ambassador in Ankara is quaint. If America needs to communicate with the Turks, there are plenty of avenues, from phone calls to e-mail to the dozens of other American government officials based in Turkey.

But beyond that, if Mr. Ricciardone isn’t a nominee worth using every parliamentary procedure available under the rules to block, who is? This blog understands this perhaps better than any other forum; it was at CONTENTIONS that Joshua Muravchik posted, back in May 2007, a report of Mr. Ricciardone’s preposterous claim, as American ambassador in Cairo, that “[h]ere in Egypt as in the U.S., there is freedom of speech.”

That post prompted a memorable New York Sun editorial headlined “Recall Ricciardone,” reporting:

In the same television interview, Mr. Ricciardone was asked how he could watch the execution of Saddam Hussein. He replied, “Personally, I’m against execution in principle. My personal reaction is that it is abominable.” It was a strange reply, since the ambassador hadn’t been asked for his personal views of the death penalty.

The interviewer also asked whether the ambassador had heard the Egyptian song “I hate Israel,” whose lyric include “I love Yasser Arafat” and “I hate Ehud Barak.” The ambassador’s response, according to the transcript on the embassy’s Web site, was “Yes. I also watched his latest movie on a web site.” He went on to say, according to the transcript, “It is sort of interesting. I enjoyed it.”

An earlier Sun editorial, in 2004, “Ricciardone’s Return,” described the diplomat’s clumsy and counterproductive performance on the Iraq front.

Anyway, I share the concern of the folks at the Journal about undermining American foreign policy. I just think that confirming Mr. Ricciardone is way more likely to undermine American foreign policy than Mr. Brownback’s hold on him will.

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The Human Rights “Charm Offensive”

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

Fred Hiatt is hopeful — as so many observers have been during the Obama administration — that the president is “turning the corner” on his foreign policy, specifically in the area of human rights and democracy promotion. Hiatt recounts some of the administration’s failings:

The administration criticized the narrowing of freedom in Russia, but cooperation on Iran was a higher priority. It chided Hosni Mubarak for choking civil society in Egypt, but the autocrat’s cooperation on Israel-Palestine mattered more.

Sadly, in fact, it seemed fellow democracies often paid a higher price for real or supposed human-rights failings: Colombia, for example, where human rights was the excuse for not promoting a free-trade agreement.

But it’s worse than that, really. We stiffed the Green movement and cut funding to groups that monitor Iranian human rights abuses. We facilitated the egregious behavior of the UN Human Rights Council. Our Sudan policy has been widely condemned by the left and right. Our record on promotion of religious freedom has been shoddy. We acquiesced as Iran was placed on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We turned a blind eye toward serial human rights atrocities in the Muslim World. We flattered and cajoled Assad in Syria with nary a concern for human rights. We told China that human rights wouldn’t stand in the way of relations between the countries. We’ve suggested that Fidel Castro might enjoy better relations and an influx of U.S. tourist dollars without any improvement in human rights. And the administration ludicrously sided with a lackey of Hugo Chavez against the democratic institutions of Honduras. The list goes on and on.

As I and other observers have noted, the Obama human rights policy has more often than not focused on America’s ills – supposed Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and the like: “Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have found some victims of rights-transgression who are of very great interest to them — indeed, since some of them are here at home, and sinned against by America herself!”

But Hiatt thinks Obama is turning over a new leaf: “[A]couple of weeks ago, in his second annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama declared that ‘freedom, justice and peace in the lives of individual human beings’ are, for the United States, ‘a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity.’” Yes, but we’ve heard pretty words before. What makes Hiatt think that this time around Obama honestly means it? He concedes that the proof will be in what Obama actually does:

If Obama’s speech signals a genuine shift, we will see the administration insist on election monitors in Egypt or withhold aid if Mubarak says no. It will wield real tools — visa bans, bank account seizures — to sanction human-rights abusers in Russia and China. It will not only claim to support a U.N. inquiry into Burma’s crimes against humanity but will call in chits from friends in Thailand, Singapore or India to make such an inquiry happen.

And maybe the administration will stop sabotaging Obama’s message on his most active foreign policy front: the war in Afghanistan. There, in its almost aggressive insistence that the war is about protecting the U.S. homeland — and only about protecting the U.S. homeland — the administration undercuts its claim to be a champion of “universal values.”

You’ll excuse me if I’m skeptical, but we’ve been down this road before. And to really be serious about human rights, Obama would need to undo and revise his entire Muslim-outreach scheme. Instead of ingratiating himself with despots, he would need to challenge them. Instead of telling Muslim audiences in Cairo that the most significant women’s rights issue was “for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear,” he would need to start challenging regimes that countenance and promote violence against women, child marriages, stonings, lashings, honor killings, etc. He would likewise need to revisit systematically our “reset” with Russia and our indifference to Chavez’s shenanigans in this hemisphere. Is this president going to do all that?

It’s lovely that the president is planning a trip “through Asia designed in part to put meat on the bones of his new rhetoric … [where] he will announce grants for nongovernmental organizations that the administration hopes will flower into the kind of domestic lobbies that can push their own governments to promote democracy abroad.” But unless there is a fundamental rethinking and reworking of foreign policy, this will be simply another PR effort that does little for the oppressed souls around the world.

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The Non-Direct, Non-Peace Talks

This report is emblematic of the double-talk that now passes for the “peace process”:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he was holding Israel responsible for the impasse in direct negotiations, but vowed to continue to search for solutions that could yield to progress in the recently renewed peace process.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Abbas said “there is an impasse, because we cannot carry on with the negotiations, and we have to follow up this impasse with the Arab side.”

“Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to the negotiating table,” Abbas said.

So Abbas will go back to talking to Mitchell but not to the Israelis? No, no, both sides really want to keep talking to each other, Mitchell assures us:

In Cairo earlier on Sunday, Mitchell said both Israel and the Palestinians wanted to continue direct peace negotiations, despite an ongoing dispute over Israel’s refusal to renew its moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

But Abbas said he didn’t want to keep talking to the Israelis. So is Mitchell, you know, dissembling? Meanwhile, we learn that the “Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it would halt direct talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. The decision was announced by the general secretary of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo.” So no direct talks, right? Mitchell tries out this gibberish:

“Both the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations,” Mitchell wrote in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s website. “They do not want to stop the talks.”

But didn’t the Palestinians say that … oh never mind. We are now into the phase of the charade when Mitchell and the rest of the Obami try to pretend the direct talks haven’t broken off. But they have. Do they think we won’t notice? In this regard, the Palestinians are helping with the subterfuge: “Despite the PLO’s declaration, the Palestinian leadership and Arab countries appear in no hurry to actually make the decision final. In all probability the Americans have requested time from the Arab states to reach a compromise on the settlement issue.” Because it would look really bad if all that the Obama team could accomplish in two years was less than a month of “direct” negotiations.

This report is emblematic of the double-talk that now passes for the “peace process”:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he was holding Israel responsible for the impasse in direct negotiations, but vowed to continue to search for solutions that could yield to progress in the recently renewed peace process.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II, Abbas said “there is an impasse, because we cannot carry on with the negotiations, and we have to follow up this impasse with the Arab side.”

“Of course, we are not going to sever ties with the Americans, and we will continue to have contacts with them to search for solutions, but the settlement building should stop and then we will return to the negotiating table,” Abbas said.

So Abbas will go back to talking to Mitchell but not to the Israelis? No, no, both sides really want to keep talking to each other, Mitchell assures us:

In Cairo earlier on Sunday, Mitchell said both Israel and the Palestinians wanted to continue direct peace negotiations, despite an ongoing dispute over Israel’s refusal to renew its moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

But Abbas said he didn’t want to keep talking to the Israelis. So is Mitchell, you know, dissembling? Meanwhile, we learn that the “Palestinian Liberation Organization announced it would halt direct talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. The decision was announced by the general secretary of the PLO, Yasser Abed Rabbo.” So no direct talks, right? Mitchell tries out this gibberish:

“Both the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have asked us to continue these discussions in an effort to establish the conditions under which they can continue direct negotiations,” Mitchell wrote in a statement posted on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s website. “They do not want to stop the talks.”

But didn’t the Palestinians say that … oh never mind. We are now into the phase of the charade when Mitchell and the rest of the Obami try to pretend the direct talks haven’t broken off. But they have. Do they think we won’t notice? In this regard, the Palestinians are helping with the subterfuge: “Despite the PLO’s declaration, the Palestinian leadership and Arab countries appear in no hurry to actually make the decision final. In all probability the Americans have requested time from the Arab states to reach a compromise on the settlement issue.” Because it would look really bad if all that the Obama team could accomplish in two years was less than a month of “direct” negotiations.

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RE: Shut Up, the Islamists Explained

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline ”Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

Islamists have been mighty successful in propounding a Big Lie: America is a nation beset by Islamophobes. If anything, the religious bigotry problem both in America and in Europe is one of vicious anti-Semitism, which has become mainstream and even fashionable.

Unlike the concocted Islamophobia — based on hysteria over a single whacked-out pastor and legitimate objections to a mosque at Ground Zero — there is plenty of evidence that anti-Semitism enjoys newfound popularity. Time magazine feels confident that its “Jews only care about money” cover story will hit a chord with the public. European officials suffer no ostracism for hurling epithets at Jews speaking up in defense of the Israel. The Turkish foreign minister talks about a “final solution” and no one bats an eye. Now a new and important film, Crossing the Line, documents the prevalence of not simply anti-Israel activism but also violent anti-Semitism on college campuses. (A five-minute clip is chilling viewing.)

But the chattering class and the media mavens aren’t much concerned with all that. To the contrary, CAIR’s darling Helen Thomas operated comfortably in the Washington press corps until she erred by speaking candidly to a rabbi with a video camera. And while Mayor Bloomberg tells us to hush up about the mosque, and the left blogosphere shouts “bigots” at New Yorkers who’d like the mosque moved, the impresarios of political correctness are mute when a journalist is forced into hiding by Islamic radicals. The Washington Examiner‘s editors explain:

Last week, the Seattle Weekly announced that Molly Norris, its editorial cartoonist, had “gone ghost.” Put another way, she went into hiding. The FBI told her she had to because otherwise it couldn’t protect her against death threats from Muslims she’d angered. Earlier this year, Norris started “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” to protest radical Muslims’ violently stifling freedom of speech and conscience. Incredibly, her plight has drawn precious little media attention, even though it is infinitely more newsworthy than, say, a fundamentalist preacher in Florida threatening to burn Qurans.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

From the New York Times to TNR (which I had hoped under the headline ”Atonement” was going to come clean on misguided support for the “pro-Zionist” candidate Barack Obama, who turned out to be anything but), journalists fall over themselves to apologize for affronts to Muslims.

But then, what can we expect when the president proclaims himself Explainer in Chief on behalf of Islam, chants in Cairo the trope of Palestinian exploitation, and dispatches his advisers to pronounce that opposition to the Ground Zero mosque is reminiscent of European anti-Semitism in the 1930s?

What started out as a widespread effort to delegitimize Israel has now morphed into a war on defenders of Israel and critics of Islamic radicals. So far they are winning the war — with the help of liberal American elites.

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Smackdown: Convoy vs. Flotilla

Perhaps the biggest recent news in Gaza-blockade busting is the lack of enthusiasm for it shown by some regional governments. Beirut delayed the departure of the Lebanese “women’s flotilla” flagship, M/V Maryam, for much of July. After Maryam was finally allowed to leave Lebanon, the authorities in Greek Cyprus, the staging point for Maryam to pick up additional passengers, denied the ship permission to depart for Gaza. The flotilla organizers have so far been unable to mount the effort by any other means. A separate aid ship departing from Syria this past weekend simply headed for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, near the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza, rather than attempting to break the naval blockade.

Three vehicle convoys are now preparing to converge on Gaza, but they, like the Syrian ship, will assemble near Rafah in Egypt. One convoy, arranged by the Hamas-linked Viva Palestina activist group, left from London this weekend. Departures are planned from Morocco and Qatar as well. Reporting suggests that the convoys from Europe and Africa will be composed largely of passenger vehicles, reinforcing their character as publicity stunts rather than humanitarian aid missions.

The convoy from Casablanca has already hit a snag, however, and some elements of it are currently delayed in Morocco. Algeria has granted permission to cross its territory only provisionally and unofficially, a posture that Moroccan factions consider unsatisfactory. The Egyptians, meanwhile, refused to allow a Viva Palestina convoy to use the Rafah border crossing in January 2010, deporting British activist George Galloway and banning him from further activities in Egypt. Cairo’s foreign ministry has reiterated the ban this week, emphasizing that aid-convoy vehicles will not be allowed to use the border crossing. Any cargo they bring will have to be reloaded on an Egyptian-managed official convoy.

The refusal of Greece and Egypt to collude in blockade-running attempts is encouraging. By making order a priority, they eliminate the convenience third-party territory represents for activists originating from Turkey, Syria, or Lebanon. Other European authorities could take a lesson from them.

An interesting development thousands of miles away merits a mention as well. The New Zealand-based organization Kia Ora Gaza, while fundraising at a university in Hamilton last week, was startled to encounter push-back against its vituperative anti-Israel appeal (“one non-Jewish student … described [it] as ‘hate-preaching’”). Kia Ora Gaza activists were reportedly “told by Iraqi and Iranian students that they ‘were playing straight into Hamas’s hands.’” After an hour of being challenged by attendees, the Kia Ora Gaza group cut its event short and left, having taken in very few donations (one attendee counted a total of three).

No single event should be regarded as definitive, of course, but the trend here is positive — and very different from the narrative adhered to by the mainstream media. At times it seems as though the only ones who don’t “get it,” when it comes to Hamas, Islamism, and the cause-célèbre of Gaza, are the Western leftist elites.

Perhaps the biggest recent news in Gaza-blockade busting is the lack of enthusiasm for it shown by some regional governments. Beirut delayed the departure of the Lebanese “women’s flotilla” flagship, M/V Maryam, for much of July. After Maryam was finally allowed to leave Lebanon, the authorities in Greek Cyprus, the staging point for Maryam to pick up additional passengers, denied the ship permission to depart for Gaza. The flotilla organizers have so far been unable to mount the effort by any other means. A separate aid ship departing from Syria this past weekend simply headed for the Egyptian port of El-Arish, near the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza, rather than attempting to break the naval blockade.

Three vehicle convoys are now preparing to converge on Gaza, but they, like the Syrian ship, will assemble near Rafah in Egypt. One convoy, arranged by the Hamas-linked Viva Palestina activist group, left from London this weekend. Departures are planned from Morocco and Qatar as well. Reporting suggests that the convoys from Europe and Africa will be composed largely of passenger vehicles, reinforcing their character as publicity stunts rather than humanitarian aid missions.

The convoy from Casablanca has already hit a snag, however, and some elements of it are currently delayed in Morocco. Algeria has granted permission to cross its territory only provisionally and unofficially, a posture that Moroccan factions consider unsatisfactory. The Egyptians, meanwhile, refused to allow a Viva Palestina convoy to use the Rafah border crossing in January 2010, deporting British activist George Galloway and banning him from further activities in Egypt. Cairo’s foreign ministry has reiterated the ban this week, emphasizing that aid-convoy vehicles will not be allowed to use the border crossing. Any cargo they bring will have to be reloaded on an Egyptian-managed official convoy.

The refusal of Greece and Egypt to collude in blockade-running attempts is encouraging. By making order a priority, they eliminate the convenience third-party territory represents for activists originating from Turkey, Syria, or Lebanon. Other European authorities could take a lesson from them.

An interesting development thousands of miles away merits a mention as well. The New Zealand-based organization Kia Ora Gaza, while fundraising at a university in Hamilton last week, was startled to encounter push-back against its vituperative anti-Israel appeal (“one non-Jewish student … described [it] as ‘hate-preaching’”). Kia Ora Gaza activists were reportedly “told by Iraqi and Iranian students that they ‘were playing straight into Hamas’s hands.’” After an hour of being challenged by attendees, the Kia Ora Gaza group cut its event short and left, having taken in very few donations (one attendee counted a total of three).

No single event should be regarded as definitive, of course, but the trend here is positive — and very different from the narrative adhered to by the mainstream media. At times it seems as though the only ones who don’t “get it,” when it comes to Hamas, Islamism, and the cause-célèbre of Gaza, are the Western leftist elites.

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RE: Spinning for CAIR

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans ”view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

An extremely insightful counterweight to the Washington Post’s slobbering over American Muslim leadership comes from Daniel Pearl’s father, Judea. He rejects the notion that mosque opposition is based on bigotry. “I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a ‘rightwing’ smear campaign against one imam or another,” he says. “Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.”

Instead, he posits that the opposition is based on the very reasonable explanation that Americans ”view… the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.” For that and the missed opportunity over nine years to take “proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies,” he holds American Muslim leadership accountable:

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. …

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

Real Muslim outreach would therefore require a frank discussion of this serious problem. It would require that we abstain from encouraging the victimology meme, which merely fuels anti-Americanism.

In this, much of the responsibility lies with Obama. He, after all, made Muslim outreach an official government policy. He went to Cairo and fed his audience the fiction that Palestinians are akin to enslaved African-Americans. He has asked nothing of the Muslim community — not sensitivity, not repudiation of specific terrorist groups, and not rejection of the noxious idea that America was responsible for 9/11. He may think he is bolstering Islamic self-esteem, but he is infantilizing Muslims and absolving them of the responsibility that is required of leaders who want to enjoy the love and respect of their fellow citizens.

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Religious Freedom Beyond Ground Zero

Obama’s indifference toward international religious freedom is well known – especially when it concerns despotic regimes of the Middle East. It is not as if the pervasive abuses are a secret.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year put both Egypt and Turkey on its watch list. Egypt has received billions in new aid and a pass on re-implementation of its so-called Emergency Laws from the Obama administration, despite the Commission’s findings:

Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. The reporting period marked a significant upsurge in violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Egyptian government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. This increase in violence, and the failure to prosecute those responsible, fosters a growing climate of impunity. … Disfavored Muslims continue to face discrimination and repression. The government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

In the wake of the Flotilla incident, the administration treated Turkey (from which the weapon-wielding terrorists embarked, and home to the terrorist-connected IHH “charity” ) with kid gloves, refraining from public criticism. Nor does it have much to say about the Commission’s findings:

Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. … An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques.

And just yesterday, writing in the Washington Post, Roxana Saberi (herself a captive in Iran’s notorious Evin prison) described the persecution of Bahais in Iran and the hellish experience of two Bahai mothers, sentenced to 20 years on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel as well as “insulting religious sanctities and, later, ‘spreading corruption on earth.’” They were shipped off to Rajai Shahr, a facility “known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.” Obama, however, came into office determined to bet on his “engagement” prowess, ignored the Green Movement, and still declines to spotlight the mullahs’ abominable record on religious (and every other) freedom.

It is regrettable that Obama’s Iftar speech not only mangled the Ground Zero mosque issue (which is a matter of discretion and comity, not legality) but ignored the massive deprivation of religious rights in the Middle East. But that would be like going to Cairo and talking about religious freedom for Copts or state-encouraged anti-Semitism. It is, in a word, inconceivable.

Obama’s indifference toward international religious freedom is well known – especially when it concerns despotic regimes of the Middle East. It is not as if the pervasive abuses are a secret.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier this year put both Egypt and Turkey on its watch list. Egypt has received billions in new aid and a pass on re-implementation of its so-called Emergency Laws from the Obama administration, despite the Commission’s findings:

Serious problems of discrimination, intolerance, and other human rights violations against members of religious minorities, as well as disfavored Muslims, remain widespread in Egypt. The reporting period marked a significant upsurge in violence targeting Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Egyptian government has not taken sufficient steps to halt the repression of and discrimination against Christians and other religious believers, or, in many cases, to punish those responsible for violence or other severe violations of religious freedom. This increase in violence, and the failure to prosecute those responsible, fosters a growing climate of impunity. … Disfavored Muslims continue to face discrimination and repression. The government has not responded adequately to combat widespread and virulent anti-Semitism in the government-controlled media.

In the wake of the Flotilla incident, the administration treated Turkey (from which the weapon-wielding terrorists embarked, and home to the terrorist-connected IHH “charity” ) with kid gloves, refraining from public criticism. Nor does it have much to say about the Commission’s findings:

Serious limitations on the freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Turkey. … An additional factor influencing the climate during the past year includes the alleged involvement of state and military officials in the Ergenekon plot, which included alleged plans to assassinate the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox patriarchs and to bomb mosques.

And just yesterday, writing in the Washington Post, Roxana Saberi (herself a captive in Iran’s notorious Evin prison) described the persecution of Bahais in Iran and the hellish experience of two Bahai mothers, sentenced to 20 years on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel as well as “insulting religious sanctities and, later, ‘spreading corruption on earth.’” They were shipped off to Rajai Shahr, a facility “known for torture, unsanitary conditions and inadequate medical care for inmates, who include murderers, drug addicts and thieves.” Obama, however, came into office determined to bet on his “engagement” prowess, ignored the Green Movement, and still declines to spotlight the mullahs’ abominable record on religious (and every other) freedom.

It is regrettable that Obama’s Iftar speech not only mangled the Ground Zero mosque issue (which is a matter of discretion and comity, not legality) but ignored the massive deprivation of religious rights in the Middle East. But that would be like going to Cairo and talking about religious freedom for Copts or state-encouraged anti-Semitism. It is, in a word, inconceivable.

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What Would He Have to Do to Get Below 50 Percent?

It is not as if all of American Jewry is comatose. The New York Times reports on numbers from a Pew poll:

Obama’s approval rating among Jews in 2010 averaged 58 percent.

This percentage was the lowest of all those representing his enthusiastic supporter groups except one, the religious unaffiliated.

The percentage change in Obama’s approval rating from 2009 to 2010 among Jews was greater than any of the other enthusiastic supporter groups, greater than Democrats and liberals in general and greater than the nation overall (or the goyim, if you prefer.)

So American Jews did notice when Obama condemned Israel for building in its eternal capital. They did notice that he has been, from Cairo on, spouting the Palestinian victimology meme. They did notice that he has played footise with the Israel-bashers at the UN and joined (to sit as a mute observer, it seems) the noxious UN Human Rights Council. They did notice that Obama snubbed Bibi, inducing a make-up session. They did notice that he signed onto an NPT declaration singling out Israel (and then said it meant nothing). They did notice that he hasn’t been to Israel. They did notice that his advisers have leaked the prospect of an imposed peace deal and forgoing a UN veto should Israel resume building in its own country. They did notice that his efforts to thwart an existential threat to Israel have been lackluster at best.

And still, 58 percent like what they see. It is indeed a “sick addiction.” There’s no denying it: a majority of American Jews are willfully indifferent to the fate of the Jewish State. It is a sad affirmation that the liberal agenda – of which Obama has been a stalwart, albeit incompetent, standard-bearer — takes precedence over the survival of the Jewish state, and in turn, the Jewish people. (Do we imagine Jewry would survive if Israel does not?)

For those Jews whose priorities are a bit different, a word of advice: find new friends, new allies. There are millions who will make up for and far exceed the numbers of Jews for whom abortion-on-demand and eliminating the Bush tax cuts trump defense of the Jewish state. And for Jewish leaders of pro-Israel groups: you occupy a minority position in American Jewry, so stop chasing the Obama-infatuated. An undiluted and unapologetic defense of the Jewish state, and candor about the president most of you voted for, is in order. Unless of course, you are part of the 58 percent.

It is not as if all of American Jewry is comatose. The New York Times reports on numbers from a Pew poll:

Obama’s approval rating among Jews in 2010 averaged 58 percent.

This percentage was the lowest of all those representing his enthusiastic supporter groups except one, the religious unaffiliated.

The percentage change in Obama’s approval rating from 2009 to 2010 among Jews was greater than any of the other enthusiastic supporter groups, greater than Democrats and liberals in general and greater than the nation overall (or the goyim, if you prefer.)

So American Jews did notice when Obama condemned Israel for building in its eternal capital. They did notice that he has been, from Cairo on, spouting the Palestinian victimology meme. They did notice that he has played footise with the Israel-bashers at the UN and joined (to sit as a mute observer, it seems) the noxious UN Human Rights Council. They did notice that Obama snubbed Bibi, inducing a make-up session. They did notice that he signed onto an NPT declaration singling out Israel (and then said it meant nothing). They did notice that he hasn’t been to Israel. They did notice that his advisers have leaked the prospect of an imposed peace deal and forgoing a UN veto should Israel resume building in its own country. They did notice that his efforts to thwart an existential threat to Israel have been lackluster at best.

And still, 58 percent like what they see. It is indeed a “sick addiction.” There’s no denying it: a majority of American Jews are willfully indifferent to the fate of the Jewish State. It is a sad affirmation that the liberal agenda – of which Obama has been a stalwart, albeit incompetent, standard-bearer — takes precedence over the survival of the Jewish state, and in turn, the Jewish people. (Do we imagine Jewry would survive if Israel does not?)

For those Jews whose priorities are a bit different, a word of advice: find new friends, new allies. There are millions who will make up for and far exceed the numbers of Jews for whom abortion-on-demand and eliminating the Bush tax cuts trump defense of the Jewish state. And for Jewish leaders of pro-Israel groups: you occupy a minority position in American Jewry, so stop chasing the Obama-infatuated. An undiluted and unapologetic defense of the Jewish state, and candor about the president most of you voted for, is in order. Unless of course, you are part of the 58 percent.

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The New Peace Process

The most important event in the new “peace process” took place last week, not in Washington but in Lebanon.

In Washington, it was clear from the Clinton-Mitchell media briefing Friday that while the administration has successfully pressured Mahmoud Abbas to talk to Israel, there is no agreement on anything else — not on the sequencing of issues, the terms of reference, the beginning point for the talks, or the role of Quartet statements:

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: … It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which [these issues] should be addressed.

***

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. …

***

QUESTION: … Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? …

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions…

***

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

As one of Israel’s prominent bloggers is fond of asking, what could go wrong?

In Lebanon last week, the parliament lifted some employment restrictions on Palestinians who have lived for decades in squalid camps run by UNWRA. Previously, they lacked the right to seek citizenship, own property, attend public schools, receive public health care, or work in anything but menial or administrative jobs. Under the new law, they can work in more jobs (although not in professions such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.), but they still lack all other rights. They are, in other words, the victims of legalized discrimination not by Israel but by their Arab brothers.

The new law was limited, according to the Lebanese Daily Star, because Lebanese “fear that granting the refugees the right to own property, among others, would be a slippery slope to permanent settlement.” The law passed only after a late June meeting with a delegation sent by Abbas, which promised that “Palestinian refugees would remain guests in Lebanon … and would not abandon their right of return.” Abbas thereby committed himself, once again, to a specious “right of return” that dooms any serious peace process with Israel.

Thomas Friedman yesterday called for a new Cairo speech by President Obama — to encourage not an interfaith dialogue but an intrafaith one within the Muslim world to heal “intracommunal divides.” Perhaps the president might use such a speech to term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights — and an obstacle to peace — and challenge them to “tear down those camps.” It would be a greater contribution to peace than the process he is initiating next week.

The most important event in the new “peace process” took place last week, not in Washington but in Lebanon.

In Washington, it was clear from the Clinton-Mitchell media briefing Friday that while the administration has successfully pressured Mahmoud Abbas to talk to Israel, there is no agreement on anything else — not on the sequencing of issues, the terms of reference, the beginning point for the talks, or the role of Quartet statements:

QUESTION: Could you talk about the sequencing of the talks? Will they discuss territory, refugees, or Jerusalem first, or will this all be in parallel?

MR. MITCHELL: … It will be for the parties themselves to decide the manner by which [these issues] should be addressed.

***

QUESTION: Senator, is re-launching the direct negotiations without preconditions means that we are re-launching the direct negotiations without terms and references?

MR. MITCHELL: Only the parties can determine terms of reference and basis for negotiations, and they will do so when they meet and discuss these matters. …

***

QUESTION: … Can you tell us whether they’re going to start from scratch, or will they build on what talks that – during the Olmert period? …

MR. MITCHELL: The parties themselves will determine the basis on which they will proceed in the discussions…

***

QUESTION: So the talks won’t be based on the Quartet statement of March 19?

MR. MITCHELL: The parties are the only ones who can determine what the basis of their discussions are, and that is the case.

As one of Israel’s prominent bloggers is fond of asking, what could go wrong?

In Lebanon last week, the parliament lifted some employment restrictions on Palestinians who have lived for decades in squalid camps run by UNWRA. Previously, they lacked the right to seek citizenship, own property, attend public schools, receive public health care, or work in anything but menial or administrative jobs. Under the new law, they can work in more jobs (although not in professions such as lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.), but they still lack all other rights. They are, in other words, the victims of legalized discrimination not by Israel but by their Arab brothers.

The new law was limited, according to the Lebanese Daily Star, because Lebanese “fear that granting the refugees the right to own property, among others, would be a slippery slope to permanent settlement.” The law passed only after a late June meeting with a delegation sent by Abbas, which promised that “Palestinian refugees would remain guests in Lebanon … and would not abandon their right of return.” Abbas thereby committed himself, once again, to a specious “right of return” that dooms any serious peace process with Israel.

Thomas Friedman yesterday called for a new Cairo speech by President Obama — to encourage not an interfaith dialogue but an intrafaith one within the Muslim world to heal “intracommunal divides.” Perhaps the president might use such a speech to term the treatment of Arab refugees by Arab countries an affront to human rights — and an obstacle to peace — and challenge them to “tear down those camps.” It would be a greater contribution to peace than the process he is initiating next week.

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Krauthammer and Dean Agree: Obama Blew It

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama – the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

Charles Krauthammer, as he is wont to do, makes a salient observation. On Obama’s Iftar speech at the White House, which begat arguably the worst week of his presidency, he writes:

It takes no courage whatsoever to bask in the applause of a Muslim audience as you promise to stand stoutly for their right to build a mosque, giving the unmistakable impression that you endorse the idea. What takes courage is to then respectfully ask that audience to reflect upon the wisdom of the project and to consider whether the imam’s alleged goal of interfaith understanding might not be better achieved by accepting the New York governor’s offer to help find another site.

In his own way (with the required sneers at conservatives), Howard Dean, of all people, makes the same point:

This center may be intended as a bridge or a healing gesture but it will not be perceived that way unless a dialogue with a real attempt to understand each other happens. That means the builders have to be willing to go beyond what is their right and be willing to talk about feelings whether the feelings are “justified” or not. No doubt the Republic will survive if this center is built on its current site or not. But I think this is a missed opportunity to try to have an open discussion about why this is a big deal, because it is a big deal to a lot of Americans who are not just right-wing politicians pushing the hate button again. I think those people need to be heard respectfully, whether they are right or whether they are wrong.

But not Obama – the great healer, the no-Blue-America-no-Red-America politician. In reality, Obama is stymied when he can’t charm his opposition or shame them into accepting his position.

We have seen this consistently in his Middle East policy. In fact, it is his habitual mode of Muslim outreach — whether in his fawning engagement of Iran (which demanded neglect of the Green Movement), his failed attempt to dispatch an ambassador to Syria, his Cairo speechifying, or his appointing an envoy, who voiced suspicion of the prosecution of terrorists by his own government, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Obama imagines that by simply telling Muslim leaders (certainly, not democracy advocates or human-rights protesters) what they want to hear, we will improve our image and cool their ire toward the U.S. But this is childlike and shortsighted.

If one is really going to advance our interests or mediate successfully between parties with conflicting interests and values, it won’t do to simply stamp your foot and simply insist everyone show empathy toward and defer to the Muslims’ point of view (or that of one segment of Muslims). It’s not going to win over the 68 percent of Americans. It’s not going to bring peace to the Middle East. It’s not going to make Obama an effective or popular president.

Of course I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. But his excessive deference to Muslim states abroad and now to the American Muslim community has set many Americans’ teeth on edge and fueled conspiratorialists’ suspicions. There’s not much he should or can do about the latter. But the American people, not to mention our allies, sense that there is something very much amiss in all the genuflecting. That, in part, is why the mosque controversy has been so devastating for Obama.

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Inconvenient Facts About Israel

George Will has been on a roll when it comes to Israel and debunking the Israel-haters. He’s not Jewish, and he’s no neocon, so this may be hard to explain for the “Israel Lobby” hysterics. Actually, he’s just looked at the facts:

In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America’s eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take “risks for peace.”

Yes, that’s a phrase thrown around by those living thousands of miles away, whose biggest problem is how to convince the public that their uninterrupted criticism of the Jewish state is just “tough love.”

There are some inescapable, stubborn facts, which Will highlights. (“Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.”) You can understand why Obama left such details out of his Cairo speech.

Will is right when he argues:

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’ In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza’s actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla’s pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza — where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

But these are more inconvenient facts, which neither the administration nor the anti-Israel left (and certainly not the “international community”) cares much about. That, in a sense, is the real tragedy of Obama’s Muslim outreach. At a time when he did command the international and national stage, when Americans and the world had not figured out that there was less to him than meets the eye, when he could have injected some realism into the Middle East, when he could have elucidated the Wahhabists tentacles seeking to strangle Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and when he could have begun to wean the Palestinians from their victimology and rejectionism, he instead misrepresented history, ignored the evidence, turned a blind eye toward Islamic human-rights abusers, and encouraged anti-Israel animosity. (Who can resist the urge to attack a Jewish state “condemned” by the U.S.?)

Will concludes:

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

That’s actually an apt description for the administration’s Middle East policy.

George Will has been on a roll when it comes to Israel and debunking the Israel-haters. He’s not Jewish, and he’s no neocon, so this may be hard to explain for the “Israel Lobby” hysterics. Actually, he’s just looked at the facts:

In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America’s eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, which began 10 Septembers ago, Israeli parents sending two children to a school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take “risks for peace.”

Yes, that’s a phrase thrown around by those living thousands of miles away, whose biggest problem is how to convince the public that their uninterrupted criticism of the Jewish state is just “tough love.”

There are some inescapable, stubborn facts, which Will highlights. (“Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.”) You can understand why Obama left such details out of his Cairo speech.

Will is right when he argues:

Palestine has a seemingly limitless capacity for eliciting nonsense from afar, as it did recently when British Prime Minister David Cameron referred to Gaza as a ‘prison camp.’ In a sense it is, but not in the sense Cameron intended. His implication was that Israel is the cruel imprisoner. Gaza’s actual misfortune is to be under the iron fist of Hamas, a terrorist organization.

In May, a flotilla launched from Turkey approached Gaza in order to provoke a confrontation with Israel, which, like Egypt, administers a blockade to prevent arms from reaching Hamas. The flotilla’s pretense was humanitarian relief for Gaza — where the infant mortality rate is lower and life expectancy is higher than in Turkey.

But these are more inconvenient facts, which neither the administration nor the anti-Israel left (and certainly not the “international community”) cares much about. That, in a sense, is the real tragedy of Obama’s Muslim outreach. At a time when he did command the international and national stage, when Americans and the world had not figured out that there was less to him than meets the eye, when he could have injected some realism into the Middle East, when he could have elucidated the Wahhabists tentacles seeking to strangle Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and when he could have begun to wean the Palestinians from their victimology and rejectionism, he instead misrepresented history, ignored the evidence, turned a blind eye toward Islamic human-rights abusers, and encouraged anti-Israel animosity. (Who can resist the urge to attack a Jewish state “condemned” by the U.S.?)

Will concludes:

In the 62 years since this homeland was founded on one-sixth of 1 percent of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called “the Arab world,” Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

That’s actually an apt description for the administration’s Middle East policy.

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Chait off the Rails, Even at the Beach

Almost all the TNR crew has leapt off the cliff with Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. But none has leapt farther than Jonathan Chait, or with less candor about his opponents’ arguments. Chait, it seems, spends much time reading our posts and writing about what we think on the topic, which is lovely for our readership stats but odd for one who finds that we’ve “descended” to new lows. (By the way, as John Podhoretz recently pointed out to a group of assembled readers, Chait’s fond memories of COMMENTARY should come as news to those who recall that the left found COMMENTARY every bit as distasteful in the 1970s and 80s as it does now.) Chait checks in from the beach to throw in his latest dose of disdain for all those (Al-Rashid too?) who object to the monument to Islam on Ground Zero.

Chait, once again, flies into a tizzy, this time about my use of the term ”Muslim World.” He suggests that in saying Obama preferred the “Muslim World” to America on the mosque, I was referring to the domestic mosque builders, thereby implying that American Muslims aren’t Americans. No, I’m using Obama’s own term and in precisely the same way Obama does — to describe the audience of Muslims in the Middle East and around the globe. My point, one made more compelling by the words of Al-Rashid and other Muslims, is that Obama is acting in ways antithetical to our interests and to those of Muslims not yet caught in the grip of jihadism. He repeatedly favors grand gestures for the consumption of the Muslim World outside the U.S. at the expense of our own values and interests, and in contravention of the overwhelming sentiments of Americans. We can only speculate why he behaves in this fashion.

We have seen this profound error in judgment and strategy from Obama before. Recall that this approach was central to his decision to close Guantanamo, which he explained would make us look better in the eyes of, yes, the Muslim World. We see it in his excising of the term “Islamic fundamentalist” from our government’s vocabulary because he imagines that the Muslim World would be insulted if we point out that extremists in their ranks are responsible for much death and destruction — in Islamic countries as well, for that matter. We saw and heard it in his Cairo speech when Obama served up the Palestinians’ victimology rhetoric while avoiding an honest discussion of the human rights atrocities all too common in the Muslim World. In short, Obama not only pays excessive deference to the Muslim World (at least a certain slice of it) while denigrating his own country; he also manages to fuel Muslim resentment and undermine the voices of moderation both in the U.S. and abroad.

But really, what can Chait expect of “bigots” who ask impertinent questions like: “So, dear Jon Chait and dear Isaac Chotiner, does the Cordoba Initiative at least not give you the creeps?” And just to be clear, since Chait doesn’t always read carefully, there’s nothing bigoted in the least about that query from Chait’s editor, or in the increasingly bipartisan opposition to a mosque that a number of eloquent Muslims — American and otherwise — have voiced.

Nevertheless, it is swell to know our views still command the attention (obsession?) of the left. But some friendly advice to Chait: enjoy your vacation — and rather than blog from the beach, wait to get caught up on the story before your next assault.

Almost all the TNR crew has leapt off the cliff with Obama on the Ground Zero mosque. But none has leapt farther than Jonathan Chait, or with less candor about his opponents’ arguments. Chait, it seems, spends much time reading our posts and writing about what we think on the topic, which is lovely for our readership stats but odd for one who finds that we’ve “descended” to new lows. (By the way, as John Podhoretz recently pointed out to a group of assembled readers, Chait’s fond memories of COMMENTARY should come as news to those who recall that the left found COMMENTARY every bit as distasteful in the 1970s and 80s as it does now.) Chait checks in from the beach to throw in his latest dose of disdain for all those (Al-Rashid too?) who object to the monument to Islam on Ground Zero.

Chait, once again, flies into a tizzy, this time about my use of the term ”Muslim World.” He suggests that in saying Obama preferred the “Muslim World” to America on the mosque, I was referring to the domestic mosque builders, thereby implying that American Muslims aren’t Americans. No, I’m using Obama’s own term and in precisely the same way Obama does — to describe the audience of Muslims in the Middle East and around the globe. My point, one made more compelling by the words of Al-Rashid and other Muslims, is that Obama is acting in ways antithetical to our interests and to those of Muslims not yet caught in the grip of jihadism. He repeatedly favors grand gestures for the consumption of the Muslim World outside the U.S. at the expense of our own values and interests, and in contravention of the overwhelming sentiments of Americans. We can only speculate why he behaves in this fashion.

We have seen this profound error in judgment and strategy from Obama before. Recall that this approach was central to his decision to close Guantanamo, which he explained would make us look better in the eyes of, yes, the Muslim World. We see it in his excising of the term “Islamic fundamentalist” from our government’s vocabulary because he imagines that the Muslim World would be insulted if we point out that extremists in their ranks are responsible for much death and destruction — in Islamic countries as well, for that matter. We saw and heard it in his Cairo speech when Obama served up the Palestinians’ victimology rhetoric while avoiding an honest discussion of the human rights atrocities all too common in the Muslim World. In short, Obama not only pays excessive deference to the Muslim World (at least a certain slice of it) while denigrating his own country; he also manages to fuel Muslim resentment and undermine the voices of moderation both in the U.S. and abroad.

But really, what can Chait expect of “bigots” who ask impertinent questions like: “So, dear Jon Chait and dear Isaac Chotiner, does the Cordoba Initiative at least not give you the creeps?” And just to be clear, since Chait doesn’t always read carefully, there’s nothing bigoted in the least about that query from Chait’s editor, or in the increasingly bipartisan opposition to a mosque that a number of eloquent Muslims — American and otherwise — have voiced.

Nevertheless, it is swell to know our views still command the attention (obsession?) of the left. But some friendly advice to Chait: enjoy your vacation — and rather than blog from the beach, wait to get caught up on the story before your next assault.

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Obama’s Muslim Problem

Ben Smith relates an interesting Tweet from Tim Pawlenty: “To improve USA’s relations with peaceful Muslims, Obama should tout our relief efforts in Pakistan floods; not defend Ground Zero mosque.” Well, that would be nice, but highly unlikely.

Pawlenty got me thinking about why it is that Obama does not conceive of Muslim outreach as an opportunity to inject some much needed accuracy and balance into societies saturated with anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda and which lack a free press. Why did he not, for example, in his first video valentine to the mullahs and the Iranian people, explain the blood and treasure we have expended to defend Muslims? Why does he prefer to commiserate with Muslim leaders (who all too often wallow in victimology) rather than champion the cause of Muslim human-rights activists and democracy promoters? Why didn’t he confront Palestinian rejectionism in his Cairo speech?

There are a couple of possible explanations. First, he is, we re-learn every day, a garden-variety leftist. The narrative of Third World victimhood and Western oppression is one he finds comfortable, notwithstanding its inapplicability to a variety of settings. (In his Cairo speech Palestinians were transformed into enslaved African American slaves, who, of course, were not repeatedly offered their own state.)

The other, suggested by a reader, may also be true: he learned about the “Muslim World” not from his childhood in Indonesia but from extremists, like former PLO-spokesman Rashid Khalidi, who have “educated” Obama for years about the Palestinians’ plight, attributed to American indifference and Israeli “oppression” rather than their own refusal to renounce violence and to the cynical manipulation of Arab states. Obama himself acknowledged the deep influence on his thinking:

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. … It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Now, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. Whatever the root causes or motivations, over the last 18 months we’ve seen that Obama has been spectacularly unwilling to confront radical Islamists (even to call them that) and all too anxious to promote sentiments in the Muslim community which are counterproductive both for those trying to battle against the forces of radicalism and for the U.S. For someone who fancies himself as the Explainer in Chief with regard to Islam, he certainly could use some fresh thinking.

Ben Smith relates an interesting Tweet from Tim Pawlenty: “To improve USA’s relations with peaceful Muslims, Obama should tout our relief efforts in Pakistan floods; not defend Ground Zero mosque.” Well, that would be nice, but highly unlikely.

Pawlenty got me thinking about why it is that Obama does not conceive of Muslim outreach as an opportunity to inject some much needed accuracy and balance into societies saturated with anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda and which lack a free press. Why did he not, for example, in his first video valentine to the mullahs and the Iranian people, explain the blood and treasure we have expended to defend Muslims? Why does he prefer to commiserate with Muslim leaders (who all too often wallow in victimology) rather than champion the cause of Muslim human-rights activists and democracy promoters? Why didn’t he confront Palestinian rejectionism in his Cairo speech?

There are a couple of possible explanations. First, he is, we re-learn every day, a garden-variety leftist. The narrative of Third World victimhood and Western oppression is one he finds comfortable, notwithstanding its inapplicability to a variety of settings. (In his Cairo speech Palestinians were transformed into enslaved African American slaves, who, of course, were not repeatedly offered their own state.)

The other, suggested by a reader, may also be true: he learned about the “Muslim World” not from his childhood in Indonesia but from extremists, like former PLO-spokesman Rashid Khalidi, who have “educated” Obama for years about the Palestinians’ plight, attributed to American indifference and Israeli “oppression” rather than their own refusal to renounce violence and to the cynical manipulation of Arab states. Obama himself acknowledged the deep influence on his thinking:

His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. … It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”

Now, these are not mutually exclusive explanations. Whatever the root causes or motivations, over the last 18 months we’ve seen that Obama has been spectacularly unwilling to confront radical Islamists (even to call them that) and all too anxious to promote sentiments in the Muslim community which are counterproductive both for those trying to battle against the forces of radicalism and for the U.S. For someone who fancies himself as the Explainer in Chief with regard to Islam, he certainly could use some fresh thinking.

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Obama’s Ground Zero Hoorah Unmatched

Democrats and their media enablers have fallen into the habit of using George W. Bush (when not bashing him) as a shield to deflect Obama’s inanities. Sometimes the comparison is factually deficient (as with civilian trials for terrorists), but it’s a childish game that only succeeds if their rhetorical opponents insist on defending everything Bush ever said or did. Conservatives need not play that game.

Dear conservatives, here’s a demonstration of how one disarms those taunting the “Bush did it too! line”:

The practice of hosting an annual iftar was established by George W. Bush in November of 2001. It was an extremely ill-conceived effort to persuade the world in the period immediately following the Islamofascist slaughter of 3,000 Americans that we were not Islam-allergic, and it remains so today, almost a decade later. Islamofascists are still trying, and succeeding, to kill Americans, and no amount of genuflecting at White House dinners will make it otherwise.

The same, I would suggest, is true of the dopey idea of appointing an envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference. It was a bad idea for Bush to do it; it’s a disaster in an administration addicted to apologizing to and for the Muslim World.

And, as with so many other things, the Bush error with regard to Iftar is made much worse by Obama’s stomach-turning tendency to laddle out the obsequiousness on all matters Islam (“the Obamic endorsement of the Ground Zero Mosque project, an act of appeasement on the order of his Cairo speech and his flirtation with the despots of Iran”). Really, was it necessary for Obama to doff his cap to the Ground Zero mosque from the Iftar fest — as if to emphasize just how deep is his concern for the Muslim World and how critical it is to shield them from the whiff of criticism or scrutiny? And how brave the president was — you know, to put this out as the ultimate Friday news dump, after lawmakers and many pundits had scampered away for the weekend.

Then to top it off, when the howls of protest went up, Obama retreated (sort of) – no doubt, to the dismay of his comrades on the left — and claimed he really wasn’t offering anything but a legal analysis:

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Obama continued. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”

But his comments Friday night were widely interpreted as an endorsement of plans to build a mosque a few blocks away from where nearly 3,000 Americans perished at the hands of Islamic terrorists on 9/11 – an interpretation the White House hadn’t disputed, up until Obama’s comments in Florida.

This is how one goes about alienating conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between.

All in all, this is as unseemly a performance (and there have been plenty) as this president has given. Well, maybe it’s a tie with his “condemnation” of Israel for — oh yes — building in the Jewish state’s own capital. Because while Obama believes that Muslims have “the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” regardless of who it annoys and offends, he considers it an unacceptable affront to him and his Palestinian clients for Jews to build apartments in their eternal capital. Funny, how that works out. (And notice how in consecutive paragraphs Obama goes from “hallowed ground” to “private property in Lower Manhattan.”)

Conservatives infuriated (but not surprised) by the president’s remarks might ponder three comforting thoughts. First, all the Democrats on the 2010 ballot — and maybe 2012 — will face the question as to whether they buy into Obama cheerleading for the Ground Zero mosque.

Second, in the speculation department, perhaps this shows just how indifferent Obama is to the notion that he, to earn a second term, will have to bridge the chasm between his core beliefs and those of the voters. (Could he have been serious when he said he wasn’t much concerned with a second term?)

And finally, if Obama tries an “oh never mind” defense (is he simply trying now to confuse everyone about what he thinks?), he’s going to manage to further depress and infuriate his own base, who understood him to be championing for the mosque builders but now see what a mess he’s made of the entire affair. (Former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost: “I would prefer the president be a little more of a politician and a little less of a college professor. … While a defensible position [which one of his positions is Frost referring to, I wonder], it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.”)

In sum, this is the low point (so far!) of the Obama presidency, an embarrassment to his supporters (whatever their stance on the Ground Zero mosque) and another dollop of bad news for the Democrats. But, most important, it is a tragedy that we should have such a president at such a time. We will have to muddle through in spite of him.

Democrats and their media enablers have fallen into the habit of using George W. Bush (when not bashing him) as a shield to deflect Obama’s inanities. Sometimes the comparison is factually deficient (as with civilian trials for terrorists), but it’s a childish game that only succeeds if their rhetorical opponents insist on defending everything Bush ever said or did. Conservatives need not play that game.

Dear conservatives, here’s a demonstration of how one disarms those taunting the “Bush did it too! line”:

The practice of hosting an annual iftar was established by George W. Bush in November of 2001. It was an extremely ill-conceived effort to persuade the world in the period immediately following the Islamofascist slaughter of 3,000 Americans that we were not Islam-allergic, and it remains so today, almost a decade later. Islamofascists are still trying, and succeeding, to kill Americans, and no amount of genuflecting at White House dinners will make it otherwise.

The same, I would suggest, is true of the dopey idea of appointing an envoy to the Organization of Islamic Conference. It was a bad idea for Bush to do it; it’s a disaster in an administration addicted to apologizing to and for the Muslim World.

And, as with so many other things, the Bush error with regard to Iftar is made much worse by Obama’s stomach-turning tendency to laddle out the obsequiousness on all matters Islam (“the Obamic endorsement of the Ground Zero Mosque project, an act of appeasement on the order of his Cairo speech and his flirtation with the despots of Iran”). Really, was it necessary for Obama to doff his cap to the Ground Zero mosque from the Iftar fest — as if to emphasize just how deep is his concern for the Muslim World and how critical it is to shield them from the whiff of criticism or scrutiny? And how brave the president was — you know, to put this out as the ultimate Friday news dump, after lawmakers and many pundits had scampered away for the weekend.

Then to top it off, when the howls of protest went up, Obama retreated (sort of) – no doubt, to the dismay of his comrades on the left — and claimed he really wasn’t offering anything but a legal analysis:

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” Obama continued. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”

But his comments Friday night were widely interpreted as an endorsement of plans to build a mosque a few blocks away from where nearly 3,000 Americans perished at the hands of Islamic terrorists on 9/11 – an interpretation the White House hadn’t disputed, up until Obama’s comments in Florida.

This is how one goes about alienating conservatives, liberals, and everyone in between.

All in all, this is as unseemly a performance (and there have been plenty) as this president has given. Well, maybe it’s a tie with his “condemnation” of Israel for — oh yes — building in the Jewish state’s own capital. Because while Obama believes that Muslims have “the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances,” regardless of who it annoys and offends, he considers it an unacceptable affront to him and his Palestinian clients for Jews to build apartments in their eternal capital. Funny, how that works out. (And notice how in consecutive paragraphs Obama goes from “hallowed ground” to “private property in Lower Manhattan.”)

Conservatives infuriated (but not surprised) by the president’s remarks might ponder three comforting thoughts. First, all the Democrats on the 2010 ballot — and maybe 2012 — will face the question as to whether they buy into Obama cheerleading for the Ground Zero mosque.

Second, in the speculation department, perhaps this shows just how indifferent Obama is to the notion that he, to earn a second term, will have to bridge the chasm between his core beliefs and those of the voters. (Could he have been serious when he said he wasn’t much concerned with a second term?)

And finally, if Obama tries an “oh never mind” defense (is he simply trying now to confuse everyone about what he thinks?), he’s going to manage to further depress and infuriate his own base, who understood him to be championing for the mosque builders but now see what a mess he’s made of the entire affair. (Former Democratic Rep. Martin Frost: “I would prefer the president be a little more of a politician and a little less of a college professor. … While a defensible position [which one of his positions is Frost referring to, I wonder], it will not play well in the parts of the country where Democrats need the most help.”)

In sum, this is the low point (so far!) of the Obama presidency, an embarrassment to his supporters (whatever their stance on the Ground Zero mosque) and another dollop of bad news for the Democrats. But, most important, it is a tragedy that we should have such a president at such a time. We will have to muddle through in spite of him.

Read Less

Sniffing Out What “Pro-Israel” Means (Updated)

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

In the last week or so, the Emergency Committee for Israel has come out with ads on the anti-Israel records of Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy, Glenn Nye, and Jim Himes, specifically calling attention to their signatures on the Gaza 54 letter.

Dave Weigel, now writing for Slate (whose editors, unlike the Washington Post’s management, knew his political leanings before hiring him) observes:

“While it’s true that signing the J Street letter was a cause for concern,” said one official with a pro-Israel group, “and remains so, it’s also a fact that Congressman Himes has a consistently pro-Israel voting record and strong friends in the mainstream pro-Israel community.”

There was no such pushback when the Committee went after Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.), now running for the Senate. But the aftermath of that attack — Sestak trying to get the ad pulled, and failing — ensures much more of this.

As an aside, this speaks volumes about Joe Sestak. To my knowledge, not a single pro-Israel group — no, J Street certainly doesn’t count on this one — rushed to his defense, either on or off the record. But CAIR did. (And with a record like this, don’t expect them to rush to Mary Jo Kilroy’s defense either.)

But I think there is good reason why Himes’s record should be scrutinized and why he is being funded by the Israel-bashers at J Street. He signed the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter. What was that about? This report explains:

The letter urged Obama to become intimately involved in forcing talks between Israel and the PA, and said the creation of a Palestinian state must precede transparency of the PA government, control over security, or a stable economy.

An official with a real pro-Israel organization (that defends Israel’s right of self-defense and everything) explains:

Coming in the run up to the first ever meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, just weeks before the speech in Cairo, the clear intent of that letter was to call on the President to impose a solution, something Israel and every previous American administration has rejected as a failed strategy.  More over, the letter totally ignores the history of the conflict, implying that the failure of the Arabs and the Palestinians to make peace is Israel’s fault as much as the Arabs, and that is simply as ignorant as it is offensive.

As the viciously anti-Israel M.J. Rosenberg noted at the time, the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter was the left’s alternative to an AIPAC letter (which the overwhemlming number of House members signed onto):

The AIPAC letter sounds like it is calling for a Palestinian state to be worked out by the two sides. But its authors know full-well that no Israeli government (even a peace government) is going to risk enraging the right by agreeing to a Palestinian state unless it is the United States that is insisting upon it. The AIPAC letter does not envision a Palestinian State. Quite the contrary, its intent is to delay that state until there is no possibility of it ever being established.

It argues that America’s job is to serve as “trusted mediator and devoted friend of Israel.” It concedes that “no doubt our two governments [sic] will agree on many issues and disagree on others. The proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement.”

That is what Himes wouldn’t sign.

So I’d be very curious to know just what “pro-Israel” group thinks Himes has been consistently pro-Israel. This, it should be noted, is precisely why ECI is needed. It is about time we start to parse what “pro-Israel” really means. It’s not signing the Gaza-54 letter or the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letter.

CORRECTION: Himes inexplicably signed both the AIPAC and the Cohen-Boustany-Carnahan letters. The latter explicitly declared that the U.S. should intervene because the parties could not reach agreement (i.e., back an imposed peace plan) and cheered the Arab Initiative, which would impose on Israel pre-1967 borders and re-divide Jerusalem. Perhaps Himes’s defense will be that he didn’t read what he signed, but those positions are not embraced by the vast majority of American Jews  – or even by the Obama administration (at least not yet).

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The Left vs. America at Ground Zero

The left — the J Street crowd, the media arbitrators of morality and tolerance, the blogospheric finger-waggers who disdain ordinary voters – has once again managed to find itself on the other side of a gulf from the American people. No matter how you slice it, Americans have figured out that an imam with shadowy connections shouldn’t build his Cordoba mosque on the virtual cemetery of 3,000 Americans. CNN’s poll shows that 68 percent of voters oppose the mosque, only 29 percent favor it. More women than men (70 percent to 65 percent) oppose it. Every income and educational group overwhelmingly opposes it. Democrats (54 percent), Independents (70 percent), and Republicans (82 percent) all oppose it.

The White House advertises Michael Bloomberg’s sneer at the vast majority of his fellow citizens, who have decided not to be bullied into submitting to an ideological assault on America. But the president is mum because, while the practices of the Cambridge police department and every other problem are within the federal government’s purview, this is not a subject on which Obama the Explainer of Islam wants to opine.

He either agrees with the finger-wagging left (certainly, it’s precisely the sort of thing the Cairo-speech author would cheer), which would cement the public’s sense that he is not on the same wave length (planet?) as the rest of us, or he agrees with those whom the left vilifies (everyone else), in which case, down-in-dumps liberals would be depressed to an even greater degree than they already are. So Obama takes the courageous route and votes “present” — that is, “no comment.”

It’s no surprise that a president soaked in the juices of the left should find himself sidelined when the issue is squarely presented: is American civilization worth defending? The question seems too hard or too politically inconvenient for the commander in chief and current leader of the Free World to answer.

The American people have figured out who we are fighting and what they are up to. They have no patience with the notion that we should afford our foes a platform (the KSM trial) or symbol (the Ground Zero mosque) with which to attack us. They assumed their president shared that entirely unextraordinary position. They should have more closely examined the intellectual underpinnings, the associations, and the life experience of the man they elected president. If they had, they’d have seen this coming.

The left — the J Street crowd, the media arbitrators of morality and tolerance, the blogospheric finger-waggers who disdain ordinary voters – has once again managed to find itself on the other side of a gulf from the American people. No matter how you slice it, Americans have figured out that an imam with shadowy connections shouldn’t build his Cordoba mosque on the virtual cemetery of 3,000 Americans. CNN’s poll shows that 68 percent of voters oppose the mosque, only 29 percent favor it. More women than men (70 percent to 65 percent) oppose it. Every income and educational group overwhelmingly opposes it. Democrats (54 percent), Independents (70 percent), and Republicans (82 percent) all oppose it.

The White House advertises Michael Bloomberg’s sneer at the vast majority of his fellow citizens, who have decided not to be bullied into submitting to an ideological assault on America. But the president is mum because, while the practices of the Cambridge police department and every other problem are within the federal government’s purview, this is not a subject on which Obama the Explainer of Islam wants to opine.

He either agrees with the finger-wagging left (certainly, it’s precisely the sort of thing the Cairo-speech author would cheer), which would cement the public’s sense that he is not on the same wave length (planet?) as the rest of us, or he agrees with those whom the left vilifies (everyone else), in which case, down-in-dumps liberals would be depressed to an even greater degree than they already are. So Obama takes the courageous route and votes “present” — that is, “no comment.”

It’s no surprise that a president soaked in the juices of the left should find himself sidelined when the issue is squarely presented: is American civilization worth defending? The question seems too hard or too politically inconvenient for the commander in chief and current leader of the Free World to answer.

The American people have figured out who we are fighting and what they are up to. They have no patience with the notion that we should afford our foes a platform (the KSM trial) or symbol (the Ground Zero mosque) with which to attack us. They assumed their president shared that entirely unextraordinary position. They should have more closely examined the intellectual underpinnings, the associations, and the life experience of the man they elected president. If they had, they’d have seen this coming.

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The Farce Ends

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-”smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

The worst-kept secret in the Middle East “peace process” has been that Mahmoud Abbas was never serious about a peace deal. This was apparent to anyone who has observed him over the years, who has followed his duplicitous rhetoric (incitement in Arabic, peace lingo in English), and who understands that he is incapable of making an enforceable peace agreement that would recognize the Jewish state, ensure that Israel retains defensible borders, renounce the dream of a one-state solutions with Jerusalem as its Muslim capital, and commit to disarmament and the renunciation of terror. Even to list what is required reveals how misplaced were the expectations of Obama and his “smart” diplomats.

After 18 months of badgering and bullying Israel and sucking up to the Muslim World, that world is on the verge of dealing a stinging blow to their patron: “Despite pressure from the US and EU, Abbas has signaled in recent days that he does not intend to enter direct talks until Israel stops all settlement construction, as well as construction in east Jerusalem, and commits itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, lines.” And he’s gone scurrying to the Arab League to bless this.

Hmm, maybe it isn’t Israel’s fault that we don’t have peace in our time. Maybe Obama’s mere presence and his suck-uppery to Palestinians in Cairo (and ever since) did not transform the Middle East. Maybe the Middle East is not just like Northern Ireland. Maybe putting political hacks in charge of foreign policy wasn’t a swell idea. Maybe the Obami were the least-”smart” diplomats ever to take on the Middle East conflict. And maybe — finally — we can all agree that the peace process is a counterproductive farce that provides cover only for Palestinian rejectionism.

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Sestak Praised CAIR in 2007

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

In a statement to the Exponent, Joe Sestak said of his speech to CAIR in 2007:

“I don’t just speak to groups that I support, I speak to groups that I don’t support and I think that is the job of a congressman in order to have a dialogue,” he said. “And I went to CAIR and I criticized their failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them.

Well, let’s take a look at the speech. It’s roughly five pages long and over 2,500 words, filled with glowing tributes to Muslims. It’s like Obama’s Cairo speech and his Iran video, and then some. The speech is full of this sort of thing:

Prominently recognized in the U.S. Supreme Court are 18 great lawgivers of history, including the Prophet Muhammad with Moses, Solomon and Confucius. The beauty of Baroque music comes from Islamic influence; as did the ‘Moorish’ style of some of New York’s nineteenth-century synagogues.

Around page three, however, Sestak takes an odd turn:

I was stationed at the Pentagon that fateful day six and a half years ago. In its confliction after “911″, an America with a negative perception of Islam – and by implication, of Muslims – is rightly threatening to many – including me – in wrongly reflecting who we are. We need to claim our values, not betray them, by ensuring there is not a psychology that “pulls out” of the rich fabric of our American community those who look like “one of them”? We are better than that. CAIR does such important and necessary work in a difficult environment to change such perceptions and wrongs – from racial profiling and civil rights to promoting justice and mutual understanding – at a time when it is challenging to be an American-Muslim and pass, for example, through an airport checkpoint. The Jewish people have passed through – and still confront – many of the same challenges, some so horrific that one gentle man was moved to write after visiting the horror of Auschwitz: “Forgive them not Father, for they knew what they did.”

Is he buying into the CAIR line that Americans turned anti-Muslim after 9/11? He seems to be implying — though the sentence is a bit hard to follow — that Americans took out their anguish over the slaughter of their fellow citizens by reacting negatively to all Muslims. That’s quite a slur, if that’s what he meant.

But the doozy in there is the praise for CAIR’s “important and necessary work” in racial profiling and “civil rights.” CAIR’s work in this regard is amply documented here. “When it comes to domestic investigations CAIR casts virtually any law enforcement action as an assault on all American Muslims. Missing is any possibility that a radical element, unwelcome in its midst, has been exposed.” Is this what Sestak finds praiseworthy?

And, finally, other than to analogize the “challenge” of passing through an airport-security gate (don’t we all?) with the Holocaust, I see no reason for the Auschwitz reference. It is, in a word, disgusting.

Back to the speech. We return to paragraph after paragraph of praise for “the richness of many Islamic nations and their faithful people, including the Palestinians.” He makes a nice ode to peace:

War and the use of terror are not beautiful, but rather, says the Qur’an, they are a corruption of God’s creation, the earth. The act of corrupting the earth consists of the destruction of life, including by the prevention of peaceful coexistence: “Whoever unjustly kills a person and (in so doing so) spreads corruption on earth, it is (in the eyes of God) as if he killed all of humanity. And, anyone who saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’”

So where’s the criticism of CAIR for “failure to condemn terrorists by name, Hezbollah and Hamas, and the fact that they had not dissociated themselves” from them? Well, it is so mild that you – and certainly those in attendance at the event – might not see it as a rebuke at all:

This is why it is my, and your, just duty to condemn not just terrorism – as you have done – but also condemn the specific acts, and specific individuals and groups by name, associated with those acts, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

That’s it. It’s a polite request, not a criticism. And if CAIR hasn’t condemned Hamas and Hezbollah, what is Sestak doing giving a keynote for the group?

He wraps up with more frothy praise and throws a bouquet to the group: “I know, and appreciate, all you do as an advocate for justice and mutual understanding.” That is straight out of the CAIR playbook, an absolute misrepresentation of what CAIR says and how it behaves. A helpful explanation of exactly what CAIR is all about comes from Mark Steyn, who recites some of the CAIR rhetoric  –”down with the Jews, descendants of the apes” – and explains CAIR’s terrorist connections, which “assist in the mainstreaming of jihad in America.” For those not familar with CAIR’s rhetoric, a compendium of CAIR’s comments relating to terrorism, Hamas, and denying the legitimacy of Israel can be found here. Sestak isn’t bothered by all that?

So Sestak didn’t go to CAIR to criticize the group at all. If he had intended to do that, he would have called it out for its anti-Israel rhetoric and its efforts to impede legitimate anti-terror measures. Instead, he went to flatter the group and to echo its own propaganda. Once again, Sestak’s characterization of his own record is different than his actual record and his own words. Pennsylvania voters should remain alert.

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