Commentary Magazine


Topic: executive director

House Republicans Want to Cut UN Funding

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the new House Foreign Affairs Committee chair, has come up with another superb proposal. The congresswoman wants to cut funding for the UN — particularly the money that goes toward supporting the UN Human Rights Council.

“The fact that the U.S. continues to contribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to an unaccountable, unreformed U.N. is no laughing matter,” she said in a statement. “These allegations reinforce the need for expanded and effective oversight of the U.N. Next week, our committee will lead the way by holding the first of several briefings and hearings on UN reform.”

Ros-Lehtinen is holding a panel tomorrow that will discuss the problems with the UN and how Congress can take steps to solve them.

One of the main issues with the Human Rights Council, of course, is that its entire existence revolves around demonizing Israel at every opportunity. It’s also composed of many of the same countries that commit the worst human-rights abuse.

The executive director of UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, told the Hill that out of the 45 resolutions passed by the UNHRC over the past half-decade, 35 of them have been “one-sided measures against Israel.”

“One of the most significant tools has been used to wallop Israel over the head and not to promote peace,” added Neuer.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act prohibited the U.S. from funding the UNHRC unless the secretary of state certified that this funding was in the “national interest of the United States” or if the U.S. were a member of the council.

The U.S. was voted off the UNHRC under the Bush administration, but President Obama lobbied to get us back on after he was elected. So even if the council works against our national interest, there’s no current prohibition against funding it.

Also, defunding the UNHRC would be mainly a symbolic act, since the U.S. allocates money to the entire UN, not specific parts of it. Because of that, we could withhold a budgetary amount that’s equal to the cost of the UNHRC, but it appears that there’s no way of knowing whether the money will be spent on the council or not.

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Morning Commentary

What’s driving the disturbing trend of self-immolation in Arab countries? The Jerusalem Post editorial board writes that it’s a combination of pent-up frustration, a desire to encourage others through dramatic self-sacrifice, and the rise of new media: “Perhaps the recent flurry of self-immolation is an extreme aspect of this trend toward individualism. The personal stories of despair that led up to these acts of self-sacrifice are inevitably brought to the forefront. And the very nature of protest through self-immolation emphasizes the importance of exceptional individual acts and their capacity to generate widespread empathy via self-identification.”

Who said there wouldn’t be any benefit from Obama’s schmoozing with Hu Jintao last night? During the state dinner, Obama announced that China had made an exciting concession to the U.S.: “The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President [Hu], today we’ve shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news — under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.”

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pro-Palestinian group that was barred from running anti-Israel advertisements on Seattle buses. The lawsuit is aimed at forcing the transit agency to run the controversial ads: “’In a free and democratic society, we cannot allow the government to suppress lawful speech, even speech that may stir emotions,’ Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said in a statement about the suit on Wednesday.”

After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the next big military debate may be over whether women should be allowed to serve as combat soldiers. Proponents of the policy change say that the current rules don’t give women the same advancement opportunities as men, while critics argue that women lack the physical and physiological qualities necessary for combat: “The number one thing that soldiers, men going into battle, especially ones going into battle for the first time, are afraid of is that they are going to be cowards,” Kingsley [Browne said]. “That kind of fear, fear of cowardice, is highly motivating.”

Less than two weeks after suffering a bullet through the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is almost ready to get transferred to a rehab facility, says her doctor. The tenuous date for her departure from the hospital is Friday, depending on how her condition progresses. So far, Giffords’s recovery sounds miraculous — her husband says she’s begun reading get-well-soon letters sent to her by elementary-school students.

What’s driving the disturbing trend of self-immolation in Arab countries? The Jerusalem Post editorial board writes that it’s a combination of pent-up frustration, a desire to encourage others through dramatic self-sacrifice, and the rise of new media: “Perhaps the recent flurry of self-immolation is an extreme aspect of this trend toward individualism. The personal stories of despair that led up to these acts of self-sacrifice are inevitably brought to the forefront. And the very nature of protest through self-immolation emphasizes the importance of exceptional individual acts and their capacity to generate widespread empathy via self-identification.”

Who said there wouldn’t be any benefit from Obama’s schmoozing with Hu Jintao last night? During the state dinner, Obama announced that China had made an exciting concession to the U.S.: “The Chinese and American people work together and create new opportunities together every single day. Mr. President [Hu], today we’ve shown that our governments can work together as well, for our mutual benefit. And that includes this bit of news — under a new agreement, our National Zoo will continue to dazzle children and visitors with the beloved giant pandas.”

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pro-Palestinian group that was barred from running anti-Israel advertisements on Seattle buses. The lawsuit is aimed at forcing the transit agency to run the controversial ads: “’In a free and democratic society, we cannot allow the government to suppress lawful speech, even speech that may stir emotions,’ Kathleen Taylor, executive director of the ACLU of Washington, said in a statement about the suit on Wednesday.”

After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the next big military debate may be over whether women should be allowed to serve as combat soldiers. Proponents of the policy change say that the current rules don’t give women the same advancement opportunities as men, while critics argue that women lack the physical and physiological qualities necessary for combat: “The number one thing that soldiers, men going into battle, especially ones going into battle for the first time, are afraid of is that they are going to be cowards,” Kingsley [Browne said]. “That kind of fear, fear of cowardice, is highly motivating.”

Less than two weeks after suffering a bullet through the head, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is almost ready to get transferred to a rehab facility, says her doctor. The tenuous date for her departure from the hospital is Friday, depending on how her condition progresses. So far, Giffords’s recovery sounds miraculous — her husband says she’s begun reading get-well-soon letters sent to her by elementary-school students.

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Morning Commentary

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

It looks like Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier misread the judicial system in Haiti. Just days after he mysteriously returned to the country after a 25-year exile, the former Haitian dictator was arrested for corruption, theft of public funds, and human rights abuses that he allegedly committed during his vicious 15-year reign: “Two days after his return to the country he left following a brutal 15-year rule, a noisy crowd of his supporters protested outside the state prosecutor’s office while he was questioned over accusations that he stole public funds and committed human rights abuses after taking over as president from his father in 1971.”

Time for another article about the futility of the peace process. At Pajamas Media, David Solway is understandably pessimistic that the Palestinian Authority will agree to the conditions necessary for a successful completion of the negotiations, at least at the moment: “Peace in the Middle East is, in any sober analysis, probably and at the very least generations away from accomplishment. Peace may emerge after another thirty or fifty years of grinding exhaustion or a major outbreak of hostilities that leaves the belligerents incapable of pursuing so debilitating a struggle. And this is a best case scenario.”

The media is now wondering why the media covers Palin so obsessively: “And so, to Mr. Douthat’s chicken-and-egg dilemma — which came first: Ms. Palin or the media’s sometimes obsessive coverage of her? — we might want to add a third actor: the audience,” writes Nate Silver. He notes that a Politico poll from last month found that 59 percent of Americans have a strong opinion on Palin, and so any coverage of her is likely to elicit a lot of interest from the general public.

The American Jewish Committee will honor German Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s support for Israel with its Light Unto the Nations Award at a ceremony in Berlin today: “Chancellor Merkel is a true light unto the nations,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “Her outspoken support for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the values of human freedom and human dignity are hallmarks of Chancellor Merkel’s visionary political leadership.” Former recipients include French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

Ricky Gervais’s performance at last weekend’s Golden Globe awards may have been panned by the mainstream media, but it’s also earned him folk-hero status among conservatives. Instead of taking the predictable swipes at people like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin, Gervais turned the tables by relentlessly ridiculing the Hollywood elite in the audience: “It is an honour to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet: actors. They’re just better than ordinary people, aren’t they?” If you haven’t seen the videos of his performance yet, they’re worth watching.

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Historians and Civic Responsibility

The American Historical Association is on a roll. Last month, I felt compelled to read not one but two articles in its monthly newsmagazine, Perspectives on History. This month, the count is two again. Next thing you know, they’ll be hiring British historians in the academy.

Well, let’s not get carried away. Still, the piece by the AHA’s 2011 president, Prof. Anthony Grafton of Princeton, is worth a read if you can get past the pay wall. Subtly titled “History Under Attack,” it lays out all the charges against the academy in general, against the qualitative disciplines more particularly, and against history most specifically. Prof. Grafton regards these charges as heads of a hydra that can be readily cut off, though the critics will not be persuaded.

But Prof. Grafton believes the specific charges are but a distraction from the actual problem. As he puts it, “the real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical: it’s that our research and teaching are nothing more than sterile pursuits of mind-numbing factoids, tedious and predictable exercises in deploying the evidence to prove predetermined conclusions.”

Prof. Grafton doesn’t help his case that this mode of inquiry is “honest …  austere, [and] principled” by asserting that history matters “more than ever in the current media world, in which lies about the past, like lies about the present, move faster than ever before.” Maybe he’s implying that CNN is to blame, though I think not. It’s a pity that the president of the AHA can’t defend history without leaving the impression he believes that, basically, the job of the honest, austere, and principled historical profession is to do something about Fox News. Read More

The American Historical Association is on a roll. Last month, I felt compelled to read not one but two articles in its monthly newsmagazine, Perspectives on History. This month, the count is two again. Next thing you know, they’ll be hiring British historians in the academy.

Well, let’s not get carried away. Still, the piece by the AHA’s 2011 president, Prof. Anthony Grafton of Princeton, is worth a read if you can get past the pay wall. Subtly titled “History Under Attack,” it lays out all the charges against the academy in general, against the qualitative disciplines more particularly, and against history most specifically. Prof. Grafton regards these charges as heads of a hydra that can be readily cut off, though the critics will not be persuaded.

But Prof. Grafton believes the specific charges are but a distraction from the actual problem. As he puts it, “the real nub of the criticism is not financial but scholarly and ethical: it’s that our research and teaching are nothing more than sterile pursuits of mind-numbing factoids, tedious and predictable exercises in deploying the evidence to prove predetermined conclusions.”

Prof. Grafton doesn’t help his case that this mode of inquiry is “honest …  austere, [and] principled” by asserting that history matters “more than ever in the current media world, in which lies about the past, like lies about the present, move faster than ever before.” Maybe he’s implying that CNN is to blame, though I think not. It’s a pity that the president of the AHA can’t defend history without leaving the impression he believes that, basically, the job of the honest, austere, and principled historical profession is to do something about Fox News.

But the real problem with Prof. Grafton’s essay is what he doesn’t mention: professionalism. He writes a lot about professors, but not at all about the concept that defined the word. All the charges, including the ones he dismisses so rapidly, really come down to one: that the academy is failing to fulfill its professional responsibilities, both those internal to it and those that relate to the broader society.

This latter point is illustrated by Prof. Grafton’s desire to “find simple, cogent answers” to his self-defined nub. He refers with moderate enthusiasm to Martha Nussbaum’s belief that historians should teach “civic engagement and other moral lessons.” “Engagement”: no danger of politicization there. But he inclines toward Anthony Beevor’s argument that — quoting Beevor — “history should never be used to inculcate virtuous citizenship. Yet it offers the richest imaginable source of moral example and moral dilemmas.”

I certainly agree with in Beevor’s final point. But in reading Caspar Weinberger’s memoirs recently, I was struck by his quotation of the traditional dictum that accompanies the receipt of a Harvard Bachelor of Law: “You are awarded the degree of Bachelor of Law, and admitted to the study and practice of those wise restraints that make men free.”

Maybe Harvard’s got it wrong and there are no such restraints. But Harvard’s in good company: as Washington put it in his Farewell Address, “In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” That implies that history (and other forms of knowledge) does certainly have a role to play in inculcating virtuous citizenship.

That, in turn, implies that history, as a profession, must also be justified, in part, by how it fulfills its civic responsibilities. Now, there is room for much debate on what, exactly, those responsibilities are, but it does not get us far to frame them in terms of the merits of history as a discipline. No matter how true that defense, it ignores the fact that history is also a profession that has actual practices and failings.

And it would seem that the AHA agrees that broader failings do exist.  On the very next page of Perspectives is a piece by Jim Grossman, executive director of the AHA, on “Citizenship, History, and Public Culture.” Grossman recently watched a naturalization ceremony. He notes that “historians tend to downplay these kinds of ceremonies. … [O]ur scholarship has perhaps been too quick to dismiss the meaning of citizenship to the millions of Americans who over the years have valued not only its material benefits, but its meaning.” The reflexive dismissal that Grossman criticizes so mildly is, in reality, a serious example of professional and civic irresponsibility.

Grossman concludes by noting that the “Study Materials for the Civics Test” reach more Americans than even the best-selling work of history: “And few of us have ever even heard of it.” So it’s not true, certainly — to quote Prof. Grafton’s retelling of those hideous myths that rest so unfairly on the shoulders of the historical profession — that “professors are imprisoned within sclerotic disciplines, obsessed with highly specialized research.” Not true at all. Thank goodness for that.

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Morning Commentary

President Obama’s decision to tap former banker William Daley as his next chief of staff is angering all the right people: “This was a real mistake by the White House,” [Adam] Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.” Other liberals grumbling over the president’s choice are Jane Hamsher, Ezra Klein, and MoveOn.org’s executive director, Justin Rubin.

The filibuster rule changes wouldn’t just weaken the minority party by lowering the vote threshold. According to Ramesh Ponnuru, the alterations would also weaken the minority by handing the majority more control over the Senate calendar — a major source of power in the chamber.

Could the anti-Israel delegitimization activities on college campuses have a long-term impact on America’s relationship with Israel? While most students are opposed to the delegitimization campaign, the David Project’s David Bernstein is concerned that it may prompt students to become less supportive of the Jewish state: “While young people and particularly mainstream Democrats exposed to hostility on campus may not now or ever join the movement to boycott Israel, over time they may feel less sympathetic toward the Jewish state and more ambivalent about the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. When these young leaders become the next generation of Democratic Party representatives, it may become much tougher to garner those large bipartisan majorities.”

Michael Moynihan discusses how significantly the fight for free speech has changed since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses elicited calls for his death from the Ayatollah: “In 1989, when Iran’s theocracy suborned the murder of novelist Salman Rushdie for having written a supposedly blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses, only a handful of intellectuals, habitués of both left and right, attacked the author for being impolite to ‘a billion’ religious adherents. Author Roald Dahl whimpered that ‘In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.’ Twenty years ago this was a shockingly contrarian sentiment, today it’s depressingly de rigueur.

Supporters of the man who assassinated Salman Taseer cheered him as he was transferred inside a courthouse on Thursday. The traitorous bodyguard has been hailed as a hero by many across the Muslim world, including a group of 500 Islamic scholars: “For a second day, sympathizers showed their support for Mumtaz Qadri by chanting slogans, with some throwing rose petals when police finally brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi. Authorities had tried to bring Qadri to the court from the nearby capital of Islamabad earlier Thursday, but sympathizers prevented his transfer.”

President Obama’s decision to tap former banker William Daley as his next chief of staff is angering all the right people: “This was a real mistake by the White House,” [Adam] Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “Bill Daley consistently urges the Democratic Party to pursue a corporate agenda that alienates both Independent and Democratic voters. If President Obama listens to that kind of political advice from Bill Daley, Democrats will suffer a disastrous 2012.” Other liberals grumbling over the president’s choice are Jane Hamsher, Ezra Klein, and MoveOn.org’s executive director, Justin Rubin.

The filibuster rule changes wouldn’t just weaken the minority party by lowering the vote threshold. According to Ramesh Ponnuru, the alterations would also weaken the minority by handing the majority more control over the Senate calendar — a major source of power in the chamber.

Could the anti-Israel delegitimization activities on college campuses have a long-term impact on America’s relationship with Israel? While most students are opposed to the delegitimization campaign, the David Project’s David Bernstein is concerned that it may prompt students to become less supportive of the Jewish state: “While young people and particularly mainstream Democrats exposed to hostility on campus may not now or ever join the movement to boycott Israel, over time they may feel less sympathetic toward the Jewish state and more ambivalent about the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. When these young leaders become the next generation of Democratic Party representatives, it may become much tougher to garner those large bipartisan majorities.”

Michael Moynihan discusses how significantly the fight for free speech has changed since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses elicited calls for his death from the Ayatollah: “In 1989, when Iran’s theocracy suborned the murder of novelist Salman Rushdie for having written a supposedly blasphemous book, The Satanic Verses, only a handful of intellectuals, habitués of both left and right, attacked the author for being impolite to ‘a billion’ religious adherents. Author Roald Dahl whimpered that ‘In a civilized world we all have a moral obligation to apply a modicum of censorship to our own work in order to reinforce this principle of free speech.’ Twenty years ago this was a shockingly contrarian sentiment, today it’s depressingly de rigueur.

Supporters of the man who assassinated Salman Taseer cheered him as he was transferred inside a courthouse on Thursday. The traitorous bodyguard has been hailed as a hero by many across the Muslim world, including a group of 500 Islamic scholars: “For a second day, sympathizers showed their support for Mumtaz Qadri by chanting slogans, with some throwing rose petals when police finally brought him to the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi. Authorities had tried to bring Qadri to the court from the nearby capital of Islamabad earlier Thursday, but sympathizers prevented his transfer.”

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Is Israel’s Controversial NGO Law Simply a ‘Foreign Agent Registration Act’?

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

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RE: Debt Commission Surprises

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

As I observed yesterday, the debt commission came out with a preliminary report that was better than expected from the perspective of conservatives and an anathema to liberals. The Wall Street Journal editors outline some of the negative aspects of the report: adhering to ObamaCare, too much timidity on discretionary spending cuts and entitlements, and an anti-jobs hike in the payroll tax. But the editors are mildly impressed:

Everyone to the right of MoveOn.org knows that the 35% corporate tax rate is a disincentive to invest in America and has sent businesses pleading to Congress for this or that loophole. This is the second Obama-appointed outfit to recommend a cut in the corporate tax rate, following Paul Volcker’s economic advisory group this year, and it ought to be one basis for bipartisan agreement. …

Mr. Obama conceived the deficit commission as a form of political cover for his spending blowout—and to coax Republicans into a tax increase. So it’s notable that Democrats and liberals have been more critical of the chairmen’s draft than have Republicans. Having put the U.S. in a fiscal hole, Nancy Pelosi’s minority wants to oppose all spending cuts or entitlement reform to climb out.

House Republicans should react accordingly, which means taking what they like from the commission report and making it part of their own budget proposals. If Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama want to regain any fiscal credibility, they’ll be willing to listen and talk. If not, the voters will certainly have a choice in 2012.

To a large extent, then, the report is a useful political document for the right. It helps sniff out who is serious about spending restraint and who is not, and it embraces a methodology for tax reform that conservatives can support and liberals almost certainly can’t. (Let the “rich” pay have a top marginal rate of 24 percent? Oh the horror!)

To put it bluntly, the left got rolled here. This group of Democrats, for lack of a better term, was comprised mostly of “Third Wave”/Democratic Leadership Council types. The Former Fed vice chairman Alice Rivlin is a grown-up. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. John Spratt are about the most responsible Democrats you could  find. By contrast, the liberals who were there, as one Washington insider pointed out to me yesterday, are “unserious” people. You can’t get more of a lightweight and a un-influential Democrat than the hard left Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

The left is already fingering the commission’s executive director Bruce Reed as the culprit. Reed, of course, was the CEO of the DLC and later a top domestic-policy adviser and welfare-reform bill author under Bill Clinton. He personifies what the netroots and Obama disdain — a pro-business, split-the-baby style of Democratic politics.

But the most predictable and provincial reaction came from a news outlet with skin in the game. “The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and NPR are denouncing the recommendation of the co-chairs of President Obama’s Fiscal Commission to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, long an objective of many conservatives.”  I’m sure that won’t affect their news coverage of the commission. Not in the least.

So the takeaway is that there are serious Democrats, just not in the White House (the Obama people were hiding under their desks yesterday) or many in the Congress. This presents a golden opportunity for Republicans to demonstrate they are the adults inside the Beltway. Unfortunately, the Democratic Senate and House caucuses with the exception of commissioner Conrad are not.

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Jihadist Prayer Sessions on Capitol Hill?!

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster: Read More

A longtime reader passes on this astounding report:

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a “Who’s Who” of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.

The Congressional Muslim Staff Association (CMSA) has held weekly Friday Jummah prayers for more than a decade, and guest preachers are often invited to lead the service. The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress. The second Muslim congressman, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., joined as co-sponsor after he was elected in 2008.

The guest imams include Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal, Anwar al-Awlaki (although his appearance was just after the 9/11 attacks). This is the rest of the jihad roster:

Randall “Ismail” Royer, a former communications associate for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who confessed in 2004 to receiving jihadist training in Pakistan. He is serving a 20-year prison term.

Esam Omeish, the former president of the Muslim American Society, who was forced to resign from the Virginia Commission on Immigration in 2007 after calling for “the jihad way,” among other remarks.

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who was forced to step down from a national terrorism committee post in 1999 for pro-terrorist comments.

— Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, the head of a division of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, considered a foreign agent by the U.S.

While their convictions and most egregious actions postdated their sermons on the Hill, these were controversial, extremist figures. For example:

Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, can also be seen at the Awlaki prayer session. Awad has spoken out in support of Hamas and attended a 1993 Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI, according to public record and court documents from the Holy Land Foundation trial. CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial.

Last year, the FBI severed ties with CAIR due to evidence of the group’s ties to networks supporting Hamas, which the State Department has designated as a terrorist group, according to documents obtained by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a watchdog group.

The staffers who organized this and their defenders will no doubt attribute all the concern to Islamophobia and plead that they are loyal Americans opposed to violent jihad. But here’s the problem: CAIR had “a heavy hand in selecting and bringing in outside guests.” So what is CAIR — which the FBI has tagged as a terrorist front group — doing acting as a sort of  speakers’ bureau for Capitol Hill Muslims?

Even when there was abundant evidence of their terrorist connections, the preachers still led the prayer groups. A case in point is Anwar Hajjaj:

Hajjaj, tax filings show, was president of Taibah International Aid Association, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 for its ties to a network funneling money to Hamas.

Hajjaj and Usama bin Laden’s nephew, Abdullah bin Laden, co-founded World Assembly of Muslim Youth, which the FBI has deemed a “suspected terrorist organization” since 1996, according to a complaint filed in New York federal court on behalf of the families of Sept. 11 victims. The judge refused to dismiss the charges against the World Assembly in September, saying the charges against it were “sufficient to demonstrate that they are knowingly and intentionally providing material support to Al Qaeda.” Hajaj’s involvement with CMSA dates back at least to 2006, according to reports.

Fox has other eye-popping examples. So what in the world were the CMSA staffers and their congressional bosses thinking? Are they oblivious to the radical nature of their guests? Or are they sympathetic to their views? But more important, what will Congress do about the CMSA and the congressmen who attended? Isn’t a full investigation warranted at the very least?

Be prepared for the “Islamophobe!” hysterics. We’ve no right to meddle in the prayer groups of Muslims? Oh, yes we do when those attending are jihadists committed to the murder of Americans and those attending are charged with defending our country. And let’s find out who the true “moderate” Muslims are. They will be the ones calling for an inquiry and condemning the jihadist-led prayer sessions.

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Ground Zero Mosque: A Public Debate

This evening, November 9, at 6 p.m., a public forum will be held on the topic of “The Ground Zero Mosque: To Build or Not to Build?” at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs. The panel discussing the question will be composed of COMMENTARY executive editor Jonathan S. Tobin, author of “The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash,” which appeared in the magazine’s October issue; Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion; and the Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York. The moderator will be COMMENTARY contributor Kenneth L. Marcus, Lillie & Nathan Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality & Justice in America.

The forum will be held at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, Newman Vertical Campus, 14th Floor, Room 14-220, at 55 Lexington Avenue in New York City. To RSVP, please click here.

This evening, November 9, at 6 p.m., a public forum will be held on the topic of “The Ground Zero Mosque: To Build or Not to Build?” at Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs. The panel discussing the question will be composed of COMMENTARY executive editor Jonathan S. Tobin, author of “The Mosque and the Mythical Backlash,” which appeared in the magazine’s October issue; Rabbi David Ellenson, president of the Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion; and the Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York. The moderator will be COMMENTARY contributor Kenneth L. Marcus, Lillie & Nathan Ackerman Visiting Professor of Equality & Justice in America.

The forum will be held at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, Newman Vertical Campus, 14th Floor, Room 14-220, at 55 Lexington Avenue in New York City. To RSVP, please click here.

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More on How the Jewish Groups Did

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s executive director (and CONTENTIONS contributor), Noah Pollak, has released a statement:

Last night was a good night for the US-Israel relationship, with supporters of a strong alliance prevailing over a number of incumbents who had received financial and rhetorical support from anti-Israel groups. In Pennsylvania in particular, there was a close Senate race that resulted in the defeat of a candidate who had accused Israel of war crimes and helped raise money for an organization the FBI later called a front group for Hamas. ECI ran ads informing voters of that record, and no doubt many of those voters share our concerns. We are delighted with the result.

Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition points out that in 11 races in which RJC-supported candidates faced off against J Street–funded candidates, the RJC candidate came out on top in seven, including three Senate races.

It is important in trying to decipher all this to weed out the candidates who were always going to win and those who were never going to win. When you get down to competitive races, J Street proved to be no help to its chosen candidates and a great deal of trouble. In the future, do you think mainstream Democrats with a generally good record on Israel are going to take money from J Street? No. Why in the world would they? That will leave J Street with its hardened group of donors and the fringe Israel-bashers. Not so influential, I suppose. Maybe their big donor and his friend from Hong Kong will close up shop and spend their largess on groups that haven’t made themselves irrelevant.

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Freaking Out J Street

Washington Jewish Week reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is making quite a splash:

In the past few months, ECI has made a name for itself by assaulting Democrats in hotly contested congressional races over their support for Israel — or lack thereof, as ECI sees it. …

“There is some reason for Democrats to be concerned,” said one Democratic political strategist who would speak only on background. ECI is “going about this in an intelligent way and it’s likely to have an impact.”

“In a marginal and close race” in a niche market, the source added, “they could certainly move the needle.”

The ads, which [executive director Noah]Pollak said will air “hundreds” of times on several networks, target Pennsylvania Senate hopeful, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) — whom ECI pegged as anti-Israel in a spot that ran during the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Giants — as well as Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.).

The notion that, as an ECI spokesman put it, the “free ride is over” and candidates will actually be held accountable for their views, associations, and votes on Israel has left Democrats whimpering. Ira Forman, the former head of the  National Jewish Democratic Council, (who could never muster a single bad word about Obama’s assault on Israel) asserts: “Either [ECI] knows very little about what will drive Jewish votes… or they’re just cynical and this is a good opportunity for them to build their own political operation.” I actually don’t know what that means — the ECI operation obviously is designed to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records on Israel. But Forman has a point that the left has so downgraded Israel as a priority that exposing a lawmaker’s anti-Israel voting record might not shake its followers free of the “sick addiction” to the Democratic party. But then again, the rest of American voters, including a fair number of Jews, are quite pro-Israel, so it does make a difference. Odd, isn’t it, however, that Forman assumes that ECI is only going after Jewish voters?

But the whine-a-thon really revs up when J Street’s policy director, Hadar Susskind, (I guess the credibility-challenged Jeremy Ben-Ami is at an undisclosed location these days) insists that “ECI’s primary function as not to defend Israel or sway voters, but to ‘scare legislators.’” Well, I imagine many of the J Street endorsees, including Joe Sestak, are scared because their votes and actions don’t match their pro-Israel labeling. Then Susskind comes up with this howler:

“I could list out two dozen Republicans in Congress who take a much more nuanced view on” the peace process, but can’t express it “because the majority of campaign support they get is from folks who are on the far-right, neo-conservative, Israel-right-or-wrong crowd,” Susskind said.

To adopt that view, he explained, would mean sacrificing already scant Jewish support. ECI’s “game is really to keep Republicans in line.”

These alleged GOP lawmakers can’t express that they are secretly “more nuanced”? (So how do we know they are?) Who are these people, tailgunner Susskind? Perhaps there is a list to wave before the cameras. And by the way, in case the J Street kids hadn’t noticed, J Street’s game is to hold all lawmakers accountable — including Democrats Sestak, Holt, and Tierney.

Washington Jewish Week reports that the Emergency Committee for Israel is making quite a splash:

In the past few months, ECI has made a name for itself by assaulting Democrats in hotly contested congressional races over their support for Israel — or lack thereof, as ECI sees it. …

“There is some reason for Democrats to be concerned,” said one Democratic political strategist who would speak only on background. ECI is “going about this in an intelligent way and it’s likely to have an impact.”

“In a marginal and close race” in a niche market, the source added, “they could certainly move the needle.”

The ads, which [executive director Noah]Pollak said will air “hundreds” of times on several networks, target Pennsylvania Senate hopeful, Rep. Joe Sestak (D) — whom ECI pegged as anti-Israel in a spot that ran during the National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Giants — as well as Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.).

The notion that, as an ECI spokesman put it, the “free ride is over” and candidates will actually be held accountable for their views, associations, and votes on Israel has left Democrats whimpering. Ira Forman, the former head of the  National Jewish Democratic Council, (who could never muster a single bad word about Obama’s assault on Israel) asserts: “Either [ECI] knows very little about what will drive Jewish votes… or they’re just cynical and this is a good opportunity for them to build their own political operation.” I actually don’t know what that means — the ECI operation obviously is designed to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records on Israel. But Forman has a point that the left has so downgraded Israel as a priority that exposing a lawmaker’s anti-Israel voting record might not shake its followers free of the “sick addiction” to the Democratic party. But then again, the rest of American voters, including a fair number of Jews, are quite pro-Israel, so it does make a difference. Odd, isn’t it, however, that Forman assumes that ECI is only going after Jewish voters?

But the whine-a-thon really revs up when J Street’s policy director, Hadar Susskind, (I guess the credibility-challenged Jeremy Ben-Ami is at an undisclosed location these days) insists that “ECI’s primary function as not to defend Israel or sway voters, but to ‘scare legislators.’” Well, I imagine many of the J Street endorsees, including Joe Sestak, are scared because their votes and actions don’t match their pro-Israel labeling. Then Susskind comes up with this howler:

“I could list out two dozen Republicans in Congress who take a much more nuanced view on” the peace process, but can’t express it “because the majority of campaign support they get is from folks who are on the far-right, neo-conservative, Israel-right-or-wrong crowd,” Susskind said.

To adopt that view, he explained, would mean sacrificing already scant Jewish support. ECI’s “game is really to keep Republicans in line.”

These alleged GOP lawmakers can’t express that they are secretly “more nuanced”? (So how do we know they are?) Who are these people, tailgunner Susskind? Perhaps there is a list to wave before the cameras. And by the way, in case the J Street kids hadn’t noticed, J Street’s game is to hold all lawmakers accountable — including Democrats Sestak, Holt, and Tierney.

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The Laws of War Evidently Don’t Apply to Israel

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

The New York Times reported Monday on a U.S. soldier charged with killing Afghan civilians for fun. Yet much of the report was devoted to explaining why civilian killings by soldiers usually don’t result in indictments — like a 2008 case in which Marines allegedly fired indiscriminately at an Afghan road, killing 19 people and wounding 50. The case was closed because “the shootings began after a suicide bomber attacked the unit’s convoy,” and “the Marines said they had taken hostile gunfire after the explosion and had fired to defend themselves from perceived threats.” The Times explained:

It can be difficult to win a conviction, specialists in military law said, when defendants can make a plausible claim that they believed, in the confusion of the “fog of war,” that their lives were in danger and they needed to defend themselves.

“You often see cases of kids who just make dumb decisions,” said Gary Solis, who teaches the laws of war at Georgetown University. “But killings in the heat of the moment, they don’t usually try those guys. The guys you try are the ones who have an opportunity to consider what they are doing.”

Eugene R. Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale, added that it’s often hard to gather evidence in conflict zones.

In many cases, he said, months have passed by the time an accusation surfaces, and so units have rotated back from the tour of duty, records are poor, and it is difficult to find witnesses.

Moreover, in the Muslim world investigators are deeply reluctant, for cultural reasons, to exhume bodies and perform autopsies.

Astoundingly, even the lone human-rights advocate quoted agreed. “The large majority of civilian harm in both Iraq and Afghanistan takes place during legitimate military operations,” said Sarah Holewinksi, executive director of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict.

Clearly, all the above considerations also apply to Israel’s military operations in Lebanon and Gaza. Civilian deaths occurred in the heat of combat, when soldiers could plausibly have thought themselves endangered. Few witnesses will talk to Israeli investigators, yet testimony given to nongovernmental organizations is problematic as courtroom evidence, because attorneys and judges cannot question the witnesses themselves or form an impression of their credibility. And most victims are Muslims, who have religious objections to autopsies.

Yet when it comes to Israel, these factors are somehow dismissed as unimportant. That same day, the Times reported on an Israeli court’s conviction of two soldiers for crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. Altogether, it noted, 48 cases have been opened. A third are “still in progress,” a few produced convictions, and the rest were closed, for the reasons cited above.

“But human rights groups say that the military’s criminal proceedings are insufficient” and that Israeli troops committed “atrocities that require outside investigation.”

The principle that the law applies equally to all is a cornerstone of modern Western civilization. Yet too many Westerners seem to reserve the protections granted by the laws of war for their own soldiers while denying them to Israel.

By so doing, they don’t just undermine Israel. They undermine their own civilization.

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It’s Not the “Right Wing” That Did in J Street

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

As I observed on Sunday, all but a select few among the hard-core left have abandoned any hope of rescuing J Street from its self-inflicted wounds. This is not, as Jeremy Ben-Ami would have us believe, a plot by the right to do him in just when the peace talks are at a critical point. (It truly is delusional to imagine that talks are at a critical point, and even more delusional to imagine that he is critical to the fate of the Middle East peace process.)

David Harris of the AJC is no right-winger. He does, however, represent mainstream American Jewish leadership:

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said on Friday that J Street’s contact with Goldstone, coupled with last week’s revelation that it received funds from billionaire George Soros, an outspoken critic of Israeli policies on a number of occasions, undermined its stated mission of supporting the Jewish state.

“J Street has every right, of course, to express its viewpoint and lobby in Washington,” Harris wrote in an email. “But it arrogates to itself the right, from thousands of miles away, to determine what’s best for democratic Israel.

“In doing so, it espouses positions — e.g., ambiguity on the toxic Goldstone Report or prolonged hesitation to support legislative sanctions against a nuclear-aspiring Iran which seeks a world without Israel — that can only make one wonder what exactly it means, beyond the glib tag line, to be ‘pro- Israel.’”

Ben-Ami and his few defenders are incensed at having been exposed as marginal figures in American Jewry. They hid their connections and most egregious behavior (drafting Richard Goldstone’s defense and easing his way around Capitol Hill) because, at some level, they understood how toxic it all was. Now their worst fears have come true, and their lies have been revealed.

It is true that prominent conservatives at the Emergency Committee for Israel have made life miserable for J Street and the recipients of their campaign loot. But the J Streeters have merely proved what their critics have maintained from the get-go: that the premise of their organization — that there was a market for an alternative to the pro-Israel alliance that spanned from the AJC to AIPAC to CUFI — was fundamentally flawed. That alliance is not a “right-wing” phenomenon, any more than the avalanche of criticism falling on J Street is a right-wing plot.

It turns out that, as troublesome as the Obama era has been for American Jewry (not to mention Israel), a president as hostile as the current one and an organization as noxious as J Street have helped forge a degree of consensus in the Jewish community. American Jewish organizations may not agree on tone. They may have different levels of enthusiasm about the peace talks. But they agree on this: Israel is a democratic country entitled to make its own national-security decisions; efforts to delegitimize Israel, whether by Richard Goldstone or the UN Human Rights Council, should be roundly condemned; the U.S. does harm to itself and to its democratic ally Israel by distancing itself from the Jewish state; peace depends on putting an end to Palestinian rejectionism and terror; and the greatest threat to the Middle East and to the U.S. is a nuclear-armed Iran. That J Street stands outside this uncontroversial statement of common principles tells us why its run is over. And, of course, all that lying didn’t help.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats are in trouble: “If voters think the economy’s gotten worse under a Democratic President they’re going to vote Republican. Add in the Democrats’ enthusiasm issues and you have the formula for the big GOP victory that’s likely on the way.”

Obama is in trouble when his base-rousing appeals are annoying the base. “‘I think it is a remarkably condescending message,’ said Darcy Burner, the executive director of ProgressCongress.org and the Progressive Congress Action Fund. Progressives, she said, continue to be deeply involved in policy and in politics and are not at all lethargic or disengaged. ‘The fact that they are frustrated and discouraged has as much to do with the rhetoric coming out of the White House as anything else,’ she said. ‘And this is the latest example of that.’” When Burner and Rubin agree, it’s not a good sign for Dems.

The non-peace talks are hanging by a thread, and their collapse would mean trouble for Obama and his “smart” diplomacy: “Special Envoy George Mitchell, his deputy David Hale, and the NSC’s Dan Shapiro left Monday for the Middle East to try to hold together the direct peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas won’t say whether he will leave the talks until next week, following the end of the Israeli settlement moratorium. The U.S. was ‘disappointed’ in the Israeli decision, Crowley said.” You get the feeling its panic time at Foggy Bottom and in the White House.

The Rahm Emanuel brand is in trouble if he can’t get his own tenant to let him back in his Chicago house. Not even to live in the basement. Live in the basement?!

Obama must be in more trouble than we thought if his disapproval rating is 55 percent in the state that launched his presidential run.

The blame-Bush gambit is in trouble: “Portman, budget director and U.S. trade representative in Bush’s administration, leads Democrat Lee Fisher 50 percent to 37 percent barely more than one month before the November 2 congressional election. … The poll found a majority of Ohio voters brushed aside Democratic charges that Portman would represent a return to the failed economic policies of Bush, with 60 percent saying his work with Bush made no difference in their vote.”

No wonder the Obami are in such trouble. Emanuel was apparently under the belief that “the White House must govern principally through the [New York] Times.” OK, that’s scary.

Hotline: “Democrats See Old Bulls in Trouble.”

The economy is still in trouble: “September consumer confidence sagged to its lowest levels since February, driven by deteriorating labor market and business conditions, according to a private report released Tuesday. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 48.5 in September from a revised 53.2 in August. ‘September’s pull-back in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook, ‘said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. …  ‘Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim,’ Franco said.”

The Democrats are in trouble: “If voters think the economy’s gotten worse under a Democratic President they’re going to vote Republican. Add in the Democrats’ enthusiasm issues and you have the formula for the big GOP victory that’s likely on the way.”

Obama is in trouble when his base-rousing appeals are annoying the base. “‘I think it is a remarkably condescending message,’ said Darcy Burner, the executive director of ProgressCongress.org and the Progressive Congress Action Fund. Progressives, she said, continue to be deeply involved in policy and in politics and are not at all lethargic or disengaged. ‘The fact that they are frustrated and discouraged has as much to do with the rhetoric coming out of the White House as anything else,’ she said. ‘And this is the latest example of that.’” When Burner and Rubin agree, it’s not a good sign for Dems.

The non-peace talks are hanging by a thread, and their collapse would mean trouble for Obama and his “smart” diplomacy: “Special Envoy George Mitchell, his deputy David Hale, and the NSC’s Dan Shapiro left Monday for the Middle East to try to hold together the direct peace talks. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas won’t say whether he will leave the talks until next week, following the end of the Israeli settlement moratorium. The U.S. was ‘disappointed’ in the Israeli decision, Crowley said.” You get the feeling its panic time at Foggy Bottom and in the White House.

The Rahm Emanuel brand is in trouble if he can’t get his own tenant to let him back in his Chicago house. Not even to live in the basement. Live in the basement?!

Obama must be in more trouble than we thought if his disapproval rating is 55 percent in the state that launched his presidential run.

The blame-Bush gambit is in trouble: “Portman, budget director and U.S. trade representative in Bush’s administration, leads Democrat Lee Fisher 50 percent to 37 percent barely more than one month before the November 2 congressional election. … The poll found a majority of Ohio voters brushed aside Democratic charges that Portman would represent a return to the failed economic policies of Bush, with 60 percent saying his work with Bush made no difference in their vote.”

No wonder the Obami are in such trouble. Emanuel was apparently under the belief that “the White House must govern principally through the [New York] Times.” OK, that’s scary.

Hotline: “Democrats See Old Bulls in Trouble.”

The economy is still in trouble: “September consumer confidence sagged to its lowest levels since February, driven by deteriorating labor market and business conditions, according to a private report released Tuesday. The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 48.5 in September from a revised 53.2 in August. ‘September’s pull-back in confidence was due to less favorable business and labor market conditions, coupled with a more pessimistic short-term outlook, ‘said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. …  ‘Overall, consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy remains quite grim,’ Franco said.”

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J Street’s Dead End

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player – or wanna-be player, more precisely – are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

Easy prediction: the revelation that J Street has been underwritten by George Soros, who has used the anti-Semitic canard that Jews cause anti-Semitism, and a mystery woman from Hong Kong, and that it has lied about its Soros connection, will spell the end of J Street. It might limp along, but its days as a player – or wanna-be player, more precisely – are over. The Jewish press has excoriated it. Mainstream Jewish leaders are doing the same. Eli Lake, who broke the initial  story of the Soros connection, reports:

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Monday that The Times story was important because it exposed how Mr. Soros was funding J Street despite previous denials from the group. … Mr. Hoenlein said “this is further evidence of the duplicity that they have manifested all along, portraying themselves as something they are not, and engaging in attacks against others when they should have been taking care of their own house.”

More important, it has become politically radioactive. The White House wouldn’t comment on Soros Street or whether it will enjoy the same cozy relationship it did when it concealed its Soros ties. Minority Whip (soon to be Majority Leader) Eric Cantor turned up the heat:

In an interview Monday, Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and House minority whip, said: “The White House needs to disassociate itself from J Street, denounce J Street and cut off all ties.”

Mr. Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, added that “I am hopeful this revelation will now cause people to begin to ignore what they say. They are not reflecting the mainstream position of the pro-Israel community in America, nor do I think they help benefit the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

J Street’s beneficiaries, like Rep. Steve Cohen, are offering a nominal defense, but it’s hard to see others throwing themselves on Soros’s grenade.

Joel Pollak, who is running against J Street endorsee Jan Schakowsky, is calling on his opponent to give back the Soros money:

Jan Schakowsky is one of the top recipients of campaign cash from J Street, the far-left organization that opposes Israel at every opportunity. It turns out that J Street has taken $750,000 from George Soros, despite the earlier denials of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami. And J Street took even more money–almost half of its budget–from a foreign donor in Hong Kong. The organization has lost any credibility it may have had.

Thus far this election cycle, Schakowsky has received tens of thousands of dollars from J Street–close to $50,000, according to OpenSecrets.org, and perhaps twice as much in reality. J Street has made me their #1 target in the 2010 election, because I have taken on their leaders and their misguided policies–and also because I received the endorsement of Alan Dershowitz, whom J Street attacks, among other Jewish leaders. … In February, Jan Schakowsky boasted: “I’ve been a supporter of J Street since its inception.” In June, she thanked J Street for its money. Today, it’s time for her to cut her ties to J Street and give back the cash.

How long before others do the same?

J Street operated under the guise that it was a legitimate grassroots, pro-Israel organization. Its positions have demonstrated that it is anything but pro-Israel. The Soros revelation demonstrates that it is not a genuine expression of  “liberal Zionism” (we’ll leave discussion of that oxymoron for another time). If Democrats are really concerned with the influence of shadowy money in politics, cutting ties and returning the dirty Soros Street loot is the best way to prove their concern for the health of our democratic process. And you don’t need a law that tramples on the First Amendment to do it. Just give back the cash.

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J Street Unmasked

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

It’s been a mystery: what sliver of the electorate is J Street representing? Where is the market for virulent left-wing, anti-Israel propaganda disguised as tough love? It is hard to believe there is a significant segment of American Jewry that this group represents. Actually, we now know that J Street, for all intents and purposes, represents the views and is a wholly owned subsidiary of one individual — George Soros, the gazillionaire who seems to think anti-Semitism is caused by pushy Jews. In 2003, JTA had this report:

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.” That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

Eli Lake has the scoop. J Street is not so much a “group” as it is a front for Soros (shouldn’t it really be “Soros Street”?), who has funded J Street to the tune of $750,000 over a three-year period. Lake reminds us of Soros’s background:

Mr. Soros made billions as a hedge fund manager and currency speculator, founding the Quantum hedge fund that, until the early 1980s, was based in an offshore tax haven in the Dutch Antilles Islands. Both his business success and his subsequent charitable giving in support of favored political and social causes have made him a figure of immense controversy both in the United States and around the world.

One of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists, Mr. Soros gave initially gave money to support Eastern European dissidents at the end of the Cold War, particularly in his native Hungary, through the Open Society Institute.

But during the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Soros stepped up his funding of more partisan liberal organizations in the United States, including MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America. He has also strongly criticized U.S. policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the Bush administration’ decision in 2007 not to recognize a Palestinian unity government that included the militant Islamist Hamas movement.

So if Soros Street’s line bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Israel’s enemies, you know why.

Soros’s underwriting of the faux pro-Israel group, as Michael Goldfarb aptly documents, directly contradicts the repeated representations of Soros’s executive director, Jeremy Ben Ami, and J Street’s own website. Ben Ami was quickly out spinning that he hadn’t really lied because … well, the explanation is less convincing than “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The usually sympathetic Ron Kampeas wasn’t buying it:

In the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, J Street denied the “myth” that Soros “founded and is the primary funder of J Street” as follows: “George Soros did not found J Street. In fact, George Soros very publicly stated his decision not to be engaged in J Street when it was launched – precisely out of fear that his involvement would be used against the organization. J Street’s Executive Director has stated many times that he would in fact be very pleased to have funding from Mr. Soros and the offer remains open to him to be a funder should he wish to support the effort.”

In an interview, Ben-Ami denied that the conditional tense of the last sentence, and saying that an offer “remains open” leaves little room to infer Soros had given the group any money. He insisted that the characterization was truthful. “This was not founded by him, he didn’t provide initial funding,” he said. “I stand by the way that is phrased — I still want him to support us more.”

However, in an interview with Moment Magazine in March of this year, Ben-Ami was even more direct in his denial: “We got tagged as having his support, without the benefit of actually getting funded!”

Ben-Ami said J Street’s board kept contributions secret as a matter of policy, but that it was also his understanding that Soros continued to prefer to keep his funding off the record.

It was his policy, you see, to lie.

Even odder, about half of Soros Street’s money comes from a mysterious woman from Hong Kong (you can’t make this stuff up). She may be involved in the gambling biz:

The group’s 990 forms … show the group’s single largest contribution, in the odd sum of $811,697 coming from one Consolacion Ediscul of Happy Valley, a Hong Kong suburb. Ediscul, whose name is Filipino, has no presence on Google or Nexis aside from this story, and people I spoke to in Jewish groups left and right had never heard of her.

It is, to say the least, unusual that a group would get half its budget from a foreigner doing a favor to a business associate.

She is “an associate” of a J Street board member, Bill Benter. The connection? “Happy Valley is the site of a major racetrack, and Benter is “regarded by many of his peers as the most successful sports bettor in the world.”

To be clear, J Street repeatedly has misrepresented its source of funding and is largely supported by a Hong Kong national and a gazillionaire with known anti-Semitic views. Isn’t it about time that J Street stopped being treated as a legitimate “pro-Israel” group? Frankly, any lawmaker who has accepted funding or support should give it back and in the future steer clear of Soros Street.

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RE: A Whole Lot Harder

Charlie Cook (subscription required) wastes no time:

Marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell’s upset of Rep. Mike Castle in last night’s Republican primary puts this open seat, which should have been an easy pick up for the GOP, out of their reach. While the primary provided Democrats with enough fodder to bury O’Donnell, from her personal finances to dubious claims she made in a lawsuit against a former employer, the reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

National Republicans harbor no delusions that they can make O’Donnell a viable candidate, issuing a terse one-sentence statement from National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer congratulating O’Donnell on her win. It is clear that the NRSC has no intention of playing in Delaware and will put their resources into more winnable races.

The Tea Party’s enthusiasm has contributed to wins by figures like Scott Brown, a candidate who is about as conservative as you can get and still be viable in Massachusetts. Success in electoral politics is not measured by whether you win primaries but rather by your track record in the general election. The former shows you are an influence in the party; the latter that you are a positive influence. When better candidates who are equally or more viable in the general race are substituted for worse ones (e.g., Joe Miller for Lisa Murkowski), that is something to crow about. But simply getting a sliver of your own base very excited at the expense of a broader appeal is nothing to be proud of — unless the point is to annoy the Republican establishment, not to win elections and influence the country’s agenda.

In November we’ll see whether Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller are a new group of fresh, conservative guns or footnotes in history. I suspect the results will be mixed, as is the Tea Party’s blessing.

Charlie Cook (subscription required) wastes no time:

Marketing consultant Christine O’Donnell’s upset of Rep. Mike Castle in last night’s Republican primary puts this open seat, which should have been an easy pick up for the GOP, out of their reach. While the primary provided Democrats with enough fodder to bury O’Donnell, from her personal finances to dubious claims she made in a lawsuit against a former employer, the reality is that Delaware is a Democratic-leaning state where Democrats have a 17-point advantage over Republicans in voter registration. Democrats also have a strong candidate in New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, who saw his fortunes turn 180 degrees over the course of a few hours last night.

National Republicans harbor no delusions that they can make O’Donnell a viable candidate, issuing a terse one-sentence statement from National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer congratulating O’Donnell on her win. It is clear that the NRSC has no intention of playing in Delaware and will put their resources into more winnable races.

The Tea Party’s enthusiasm has contributed to wins by figures like Scott Brown, a candidate who is about as conservative as you can get and still be viable in Massachusetts. Success in electoral politics is not measured by whether you win primaries but rather by your track record in the general election. The former shows you are an influence in the party; the latter that you are a positive influence. When better candidates who are equally or more viable in the general race are substituted for worse ones (e.g., Joe Miller for Lisa Murkowski), that is something to crow about. But simply getting a sliver of your own base very excited at the expense of a broader appeal is nothing to be proud of — unless the point is to annoy the Republican establishment, not to win elections and influence the country’s agenda.

In November we’ll see whether Sharon Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, and Joe Miller are a new group of fresh, conservative guns or footnotes in history. I suspect the results will be mixed, as is the Tea Party’s blessing.

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Hagel, Sestak, and Pro-Israel Groups

When Chuck Hagel threw his support to Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak and seemed to have made it into the short list for a replacement for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alarm bells went off with pro-Israel groups. The Washington Jewish Week reports just how serious is the opposition and aversion to Hagel:

“I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and treasurer of the Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.

In light of its past criticism of Hagel’s anti-Israel record, even the National Democratic Jewish Council had harsh words:

“Clearly, Hagel has a mixed record on Israel, but that record frankly puts him at variance with the president’s own policies vis-a-vis Israel,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, adding that, for now, “speculation is just that.”

Well then, what does all of this say about the candidate who calls Hagel his favorite Senator and who warmly received the endorsement? If Hagel’s record is “mixed” (it used to be much worse, from the NJDC’s perspective), then isn’t there just a wee bit of concern that Sestak’s views are also at “variance” with support for Israel?

Likewise, we have this from a Democratic operative: “If he was in fact appointed [Defense Secretary], I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration.” So, isn’t it also hard to reconcile with Sestak’s views?

When Chuck Hagel threw his support to Democratic Senate candidate Joe Sestak and seemed to have made it into the short list for a replacement for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, alarm bells went off with pro-Israel groups. The Washington Jewish Week reports just how serious is the opposition and aversion to Hagel:

“I would regard him as the bottom of the class as far as Israel goes,” said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and treasurer of the Washington PAC, a pro-Israel political action committee.

In light of its past criticism of Hagel’s anti-Israel record, even the National Democratic Jewish Council had harsh words:

“Clearly, Hagel has a mixed record on Israel, but that record frankly puts him at variance with the president’s own policies vis-a-vis Israel,” said David Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council, adding that, for now, “speculation is just that.”

Well then, what does all of this say about the candidate who calls Hagel his favorite Senator and who warmly received the endorsement? If Hagel’s record is “mixed” (it used to be much worse, from the NJDC’s perspective), then isn’t there just a wee bit of concern that Sestak’s views are also at “variance” with support for Israel?

Likewise, we have this from a Democratic operative: “If he was in fact appointed [Defense Secretary], I would find his appointment difficult to reconcile with my views of the administration.” So, isn’t it also hard to reconcile with Sestak’s views?

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Playing the Bigot Card

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

On the Ground Zero mosque, the left is playing the bigot card, big time. Some may honestly believe the mosque opponents are Muslim-haters, for they cannot fathom why their fellow citizens would object not to the 100 mosques in New York but to the one on Ground Zero. Others may have figured that 68 percent of America is lost to them so better to rally their own side (sliver?) of voters to put their finger in the electoral dike about to burst all over them. It’s the same thinking that demanded that Democrats pass ObamaCare.

But it’s tricky to label as diverse a group as the mosque opponents as bigots. Sarah Palin, Abe Foxman, Howard Dean, Harry Reid, and, oh, a whole lot of thoughtful Muslims. (It’s the opposition that “looks like America,” as Bill Clinton bragged about his Cabinet.) As to the Muslim objectors, I have highlighted a few this week, and the Daily Caller is out with an interesting report:

Stephen Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, told The Daily Caller that despite their relative silence on the issue, many Muslims question the placement of the mosque.

“This is not a humble Islamic statement. A mosque such as this is actually a political structure that casts a shadow over a cemetery, over hallowed ground. 9/11 was the beginning of a kinetic war, it is not an opportunity for cultural exchange. It was the beginning of a conflict with those who want to destroy our way of life,” Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told The Daily Caller.

“I am in no way looking to infringe on First Amendment issues. I approach this as a Muslim that is dedicated to reform,” he said.

Jasser cited the Quranic verse, “Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book [Jews and Christians],” and said that Muslims backing the project should be introspective during this month of Ramadan.

Schwartz lists three reasons for Muslims to object to the project:

“First of all, aside from the issues of conflict with jihad, Islam teaches us, especially Muslims living in non-Muslim societies, to avoid conflict with our neighbors. … We think this is an incredibly heedless project. It went forward without adequate planning or foresight, without anticipating reaction and it is absurd to think that there would not have been reaction. It is simply absurd. Second, there is the problem of Imam Feisal’s propensity to mix with radicals. And thirdly, there is a problem with the lack of transparency about money funding.”

Doesn’t sound like a bigot to me. In fact, it’s the voice of empathy and reasoned argument, exactly what Obama says he wants to promote. (Or is that a one-way street that travels only to the Muslim World?) Dr. Jasser sums up:

“We are Americans who happen to be Muslims, not Muslims who happen to be Americans. … And this structure is all backwards. They just want to force Islam upon the American people and it is going to be used around the world, especially in Islamic media. From the ashes of this destruction comes the flourishing of Islam and I think that is just the wrong message. It is not good for America or for Muslims.”

That the president has no insight into this and seemingly no access to such opinions explain much about his counterproductive Muslim-outreach efforts. If only ideology really was “so yesterday” and Obama operated in the world as it is, not as Rashid Khalidi and the Ivy League taught him it was, we and he would be vastly better off.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

Gloom and doom from the Democrats: “Dems are worried that a new feud between the WH and their liberal base is further endangering the party’s candidates during the midterms, exacerbating an already immense enthusiasm gap.”

Succinct brilliance from Charles Krauthammer: “No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz — and no mosque at Ground Zero. Build it anywhere but there.”

Evasion from Rep. Anthony Weiner on the Ground Zero mosque. Is it too hard a question, or is his answer too unpopular?

A warning from the Democrats’ own ranks. Rick Sloan, acting executive director of UCubed, a community-service project of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “You can talk about deficit reduction, health-care reform—you can talk about all those things but you’re talking past the jobless voters.” And from a Democratic voting analyst: “Unemployment in the individual congressional districts ‘is the leading factor in determining the November elections. … The hope of the administration is it’s trending down when the elections are held, but they’re running out of time.”

A dose of reality from Colorado: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Voters in Colorado shows a close U.S. Senate race between Republican challenger Ken Buck and incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. Buck attracts 46% support, while Bennet picks up 41% of the vote.” So much for the notion that Colorado proves Obama still has political mojo.

An effort to save Republicans from themselves on birthright citizenship, from Michael Gerson: “The Radical Republicans who wrote the 14th Amendment were, in fact, quite radical. … Their main goal was expressed in birthright citizenship: to prevent a future majority from stealing the rights of children of any background, as long as they were born in America. Today’s dispute over birthright citizenship reveals the immigration debate in its starkest form. Usually, opponents of illegal immigration speak of giving lawbreakers what they deserve. But this does not apply in the case of an infant. … The radical, humane vision of the 14th Amendment can be put another way: No child born in America can be judged unworthy by John Boehner, because each is his equal.”

Surprising sanity from the Gray Lady’s editors: “We believe that the United States has a powerful national interest in Afghanistan, in depriving Al Qaeda of a safe haven on either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. This country would also do enormous damage to its moral and strategic standing if it now simply abandoned the Afghan people to the Taliban’s brutalities. … But reports from the ground have been so relentlessly grim — July’s death toll of 66 American troops was the highest since the war began — that Mr. Obama needs to do a better job right now of explaining the strategy and how he is measuring progress.”

Read Less