Commentary Magazine


Topic: Forward

Holocaust Scholar Quoted in Anti-Glenn Beck Letter Criticizes the Campaign

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

Read Less

The Ninth Step

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all. Read More

President Obama has recently taken eight steps toward the right. As Peter noted yesterday, Romesh Ponnuru listed six: (1) the tax deal; (2) selecting Bill Daley as chief of staff; (3) absolving conservatives of murder in Tucson; (4) having Joe Biden project involvement in Afghanistan beyond 2014; (5) reviewing burdensome federal regulations; (6) authorizing Hillary Clinton’s new line on human rights in China. Ira Stoll identified two more: (7) appointing the Democratic Leadership Council’s Bruce Reed as Biden’s chief of staff; (8) Clinton’s pressuring Arabs on democratic reform, in a manner reminiscent of the Bush administration.

Let’s add a ninth: opposition to a UN resolution on Israeli settlements.

Ponnuru argued that Obama’s six moves are merely a “tactical and temporary” move to the center — a description that might also describe the seventh and eighth. Let’s consider whether it applies to the ninth.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley repeatedly answered questions yesterday by saying that the UN was not the place for the issues to be addressed — a position that will require a U.S. veto of any proposed resolution, even if the Palestinians continue their efforts to refine the language, since the language is irrelevant if the UN is not the proper forum to begin with:

QUESTION: …why are you opposed to the UN adopting a resolution that isn’t — that supports existing U.S. policy?

MR. CROWLEY: We believe that the best path forward is through the ongoing effort that gets the parties into direct negotiations, resolves the issues through a framework agreement, and ends the conflict once and for all.

QUESTION: So it’s not the contents that you’re opposed to; it’s simply the idea of a resolution.

MR. CROWLEY: We do not think that the UN Security Council is the best place to address these issues.

QUESTION: Can I ask why? Because, I mean, the UN is where Israel was created, basically. Why is the UN not the place to deal with these issues?

MR. CROWLEY: These are complex issues, and we think they’re best resolved through direct negotiations, not through the unilateral declarations, even if those unilateral declarations come in the form of a multilateral setting.

Asked to specify a productive step forward, Crowley repeated the goal of a framework agreement produced by direct negotiations and said the administration was working on it:

QUESTION: But that’s been going on for the past two years.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: And if you’re talking about productive steps —

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s been going on for longer than that if — (laughter)

QUESTION: Well, this Administration, it’s been going on for the last two years. And if you’re talking about productive steps, certainly that process hasn’t produced anything.

MR. CROWLEY: You’re leading to a kind of a glass half full, glass half empty kind of discussion.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, except that the glass doesn’t have any water in it at all. (Laughter)

There are two possible explanations for the administration’s position: (1) a tactical and temporary move to the center, by a shellacked president anxious to avoid a confrontation with Israel before the 2012 presidential election; (2) a realization that focusing on Israeli settlements, without comparable concessions from either Palestinians or Arab states, is a failed strategy — and a UN resolution is not going to put any water in the glass.

The Palestinians, with their two-year strategy of avoiding negotiations (even after Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech; even after the settlement moratorium; even after repeated U.S. attempts to drag them to the table), have driven the peace process into a ditch. Unwilling to recognize a Jewish state or make the concessions necessary to get a Palestinian one, they want others to act while they stand by drinking slurpees.

Whether because of politics or policy, or both, the administration seems to realize this.

Read Less

The Limitations of Holocaust Education

In the Forward last week, Donald Snyder puzzled over an apparent contradiction in German society: despite the country’s mandatory Holocaust-education programs and laws against Holocaust denial, recent studies have found that some anti-Semitic theories are actually on the rise.

The findings show that 57 percent of Germans agree that Israel is waging “a war of annihilation” against the Palestinians, while 38 percent agree that “considering the politics of Israel it is easy to see why one would have something against Jews.” Perhaps most disquieting was that over 40 percent of Germans agree that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

Snyder chalked up this phenomenon to a new “strain” of anti-Semitism caused by a changing population and the growing popularity of the anti-Zionist movement:

Muslim and classic right-wing anti-Semitism are combining with left-wing demonization of Israel to produce a toxic mix, despite Germany’s postwar efforts to ensure that future generations continue to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. This new strain renders old ways of combating anti-Semitism less effective. According to some observers, in Germany the Holocaust narrative is no longer the powerful antidote it once was.

But while Holocaust education is important for many reasons, it’s a lousy way to combat anti-Semitism. For one thing, it assumes that ignorance of the Holocaust is the cause of anti-Semitism — when, in fact, the exact opposite is often the case. Sam Schulman made this point well in a Weekly Standard essay this week: Read More

In the Forward last week, Donald Snyder puzzled over an apparent contradiction in German society: despite the country’s mandatory Holocaust-education programs and laws against Holocaust denial, recent studies have found that some anti-Semitic theories are actually on the rise.

The findings show that 57 percent of Germans agree that Israel is waging “a war of annihilation” against the Palestinians, while 38 percent agree that “considering the politics of Israel it is easy to see why one would have something against Jews.” Perhaps most disquieting was that over 40 percent of Germans agree that “what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is basically no different from what the Nazis did with the Jews during the Third Reich.”

Snyder chalked up this phenomenon to a new “strain” of anti-Semitism caused by a changing population and the growing popularity of the anti-Zionist movement:

Muslim and classic right-wing anti-Semitism are combining with left-wing demonization of Israel to produce a toxic mix, despite Germany’s postwar efforts to ensure that future generations continue to learn the lessons of the Holocaust. This new strain renders old ways of combating anti-Semitism less effective. According to some observers, in Germany the Holocaust narrative is no longer the powerful antidote it once was.

But while Holocaust education is important for many reasons, it’s a lousy way to combat anti-Semitism. For one thing, it assumes that ignorance of the Holocaust is the cause of anti-Semitism — when, in fact, the exact opposite is often the case. Sam Schulman made this point well in a Weekly Standard essay this week:

Most anti-Semites are perfectly well-informed about the actuality of the Holocaust; so are most people who believe that the time has come for the state of Israel to be eliminated. … Holocaust education, however well its teachers are trained, will never pry such people loose from their defects of character and judgment​—​or from their underlying feelings about Jews as individuals and fellow-citizens.

Holocaust denial tends to be a symptom of anti-Semitism, not the cause. Most of the revisionist theories about the Holocaust are aimed at rebutting the notion that Jews were innocent victims — i.e., “The Jews were in cahoots with the Nazis” or “The Holocaust was exaggerated.”

Germany has banned these types of statements, and so anti-Semites have latched on to a more socially acceptable argument: the Holocaust was really terrible, they typically concede, but now the Jews in Israel are doing the same thing to the Palestinians.

“The Israelis tried to dehumanise the Palestinians, just like the Nazis tried to dehumanise me. Nobody should dehumanise any other and those who try to dehumanise another are not human,” said Dr. Hajo Meyer, a Holocaust survivor and anti-Zionist, last January.

Unlike typical Holocaust revisionism, which relies on misstatements about the Jewish genocide, this argument relies on gross mischaracterizations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But its purpose is similar: it implies that Jews are unworthy of tolerance because they are morally equivalent to the Nazi regime.

This brings us to another problem with Germany’s use of Holocaust-education programs to combat anti-Semitism. The memory of the Holocaust isn’t an “antidote” to anti-Semitism but rather an example of what can occur when this sort of bigotry remains unchecked. It’s apparently not enough to say that Jews should be “tolerated” simply because they are human beings; they should instead be tolerated because of their suffering under the Nazis.

Not only is this notion offensive; it’s also deeply problematic. It holds that it’s only necessary to “tolerate” Jews as long as they are viewed as victims of persecution. But if Israel is falsely seen as engaging in “Nazi tactics” — as 40 percent of Germans surveyed believe — then the Jewish state must forfeit its grievances and victim status. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that nearly as many Germans agree that Israel’s “politics” justify animosity toward the Jewish people in general.

And it’s also noteworthy that these poll numbers come from a country that is still ultra-cautious when it comes to voicing anti-Semitic opinions. It would be interesting to see how other European states, with less of a historical connection to Nazism, would respond to the same survey.

Read Less

Goldstone Book Author: Critics Refuse to ‘Discuss the Contents of the Report’

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically. Read More

Here is Letty Cottin Pogrebin, author of the upcoming book The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict, in next week’s Forward (sneering italics in the original, bold in mine):

Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout. … From the moment the Goldstone Report was released in September 2009, its lead author has been subjected to fierce, well-orchestrated attacks by Israeli and American Jews who purport to be defending the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the safety of the Jewish people. Rather than discuss the contents of the report. … Israel’s defenders launched an all-points campaign to bury it. But their strategy was complicated from the start by an inconvenient truth: Goldstone was one of them — a Jew, and not just any Jew, an exemplary one.

And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically.

goldstonereportorg_500

There are also pages documenting the broad procedural flaws of the investigation, the caliber of individual witnesses, the importance of concealed evidence, the role of anti-Israel mediators, the dynamics of human-shield accusations, plus about 30 other issues. Yet another section, maintained by Daled Amos, served as a clearinghouse for criticisms posted on related blogs, like Elder of Ziyon, which alone had more than 25 Goldstone-related posts digging through the text of the report.

In size and scope, the site rivals the IDF’s comprehensive Goldstone rebuttal — another document that, by the by, directly rebutted “the contents of the report.” It has so much material and is so on-point, in fact, that it’s the top result on Google for “goldstone report.” It ranks higher than the .pdf of the actual Goldstone Report, which continues to be the focus of an international anti-Israel feeding frenzy. SEO tricks might give a site a slight advantage on Google, but nothing can push irrelevant content to the very top of a very crowded field.

So one theory suggests that Pogrebin, in preparing for her book, never went so far as to type “goldstone report” into Google. Could be, and it’s something to bear in mind when her book inevitable gets cited as a definitive anti-Israel treatise.

Another theory holds that she found “Understanding the Goldstone Report” but has an idiosyncratic yet fortuitously self-serving interpretation of what counts as discussing “the contents of the report.” Maybe, though that wouldn’t bode well for her book’s relevance.

And then there’s the theory that Goldstone, Pogrebin, and their ilk willfully overlook substantive criticisms of the UN-sponsored blood libel lest they have to answer them. That, too, has the ring of plausibility and may warrant consideration.

All those theories aside, you do have to appreciate the formulation of the article’s opening sentence: “Two years after Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week assault against Hamas in Gaza, we are still grappling with the fallout.” Coming from the Goldstone crowd and from someone publishing a Goldstone-related book, this is the equivalent of setting a house on fire and then demurely mentioning that people are struggling to deal with the flames. How observant!

Read Less

In-Country Analysis vs. Mud-Slinging Critics

I have just returned from 10 days traveling around Afghanistan — along with retired Army Colonel Pete Mansoor and former Army Ranger Andrew Exum — at the invitation of General David Petraeus. Upon our return, all of us have published articles laying out our findings. Pete and I, for example, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times laying out the progress that our troops have made as well as the challenges still posed by bad governance and Pakistan sanctuaries. Rather than engage in a respectful discussion of our analysis, some overly excitable critics of the war effort have chosen to impugn our fact-gathering methods, suggesting that we have somehow been duped by the wily Petraeus into thinking that the war is going better than it actually is.

There is always a danger of drawing incorrect conclusions based on a 10-day visit — but that danger is even greater if, like many who opine on Afghanistan or Iraq, you never visit the country at all. (Or, like so many congressional delegations, spend only 24 or 48 hours in-country.)

The record will show that I have hardly been an unalloyed cheerleader for military efforts in either country — but nor did I ever conclude, as did so many others, that the situation was hopeless. In the case of Iraq, I may have been overly optimistic in my early assessments, as many were; but by 2006, I was writing that we were losing the war, much to the consternation of some conservatives — and I said so face to face with President Bush in the Oval Office in September 2006 (which didn’t make him happy). In 2007, I saw a turnaround and wrote that we were starting to win at a time when the conventional wisdom was that there was no way we could win. I think my trips to Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaluable in helping me to assess the situation, even if (like everyone else) I don’t always get it right.

I approach all such trips with great intellectual humility and do not claim to have greater expertise than I actually have. I just report what I see, and try to put it in the context of my close, ongoing study of the war effort and of previous wars. I would not by any stretch claim that 10 days in-country tells me everything I need to know; I always leave humbled by the limits of my understanding.

But on the other hand, I also get a better overview of conditions than many soldiers/civilians who spend longer periods of time in-country because they tend to stay in one small area, thus developing deep knowledge of that area but remaining aware of what is happening elsewhere. (Some soldiers — known as “Fobbits” — never leave their Forward Operating Bases at all.) Also, those who are actually deployed don’t generally keep personal tabs on what is happening after they leave — unless/until they prepare for another deployment — whereas the advantage that think tankers have is that we can keep traveling fairly regularly to examine progress or lack thereof. Read More

I have just returned from 10 days traveling around Afghanistan — along with retired Army Colonel Pete Mansoor and former Army Ranger Andrew Exum — at the invitation of General David Petraeus. Upon our return, all of us have published articles laying out our findings. Pete and I, for example, wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times laying out the progress that our troops have made as well as the challenges still posed by bad governance and Pakistan sanctuaries. Rather than engage in a respectful discussion of our analysis, some overly excitable critics of the war effort have chosen to impugn our fact-gathering methods, suggesting that we have somehow been duped by the wily Petraeus into thinking that the war is going better than it actually is.

There is always a danger of drawing incorrect conclusions based on a 10-day visit — but that danger is even greater if, like many who opine on Afghanistan or Iraq, you never visit the country at all. (Or, like so many congressional delegations, spend only 24 or 48 hours in-country.)

The record will show that I have hardly been an unalloyed cheerleader for military efforts in either country — but nor did I ever conclude, as did so many others, that the situation was hopeless. In the case of Iraq, I may have been overly optimistic in my early assessments, as many were; but by 2006, I was writing that we were losing the war, much to the consternation of some conservatives — and I said so face to face with President Bush in the Oval Office in September 2006 (which didn’t make him happy). In 2007, I saw a turnaround and wrote that we were starting to win at a time when the conventional wisdom was that there was no way we could win. I think my trips to Iraq and Afghanistan have been invaluable in helping me to assess the situation, even if (like everyone else) I don’t always get it right.

I approach all such trips with great intellectual humility and do not claim to have greater expertise than I actually have. I just report what I see, and try to put it in the context of my close, ongoing study of the war effort and of previous wars. I would not by any stretch claim that 10 days in-country tells me everything I need to know; I always leave humbled by the limits of my understanding.

But on the other hand, I also get a better overview of conditions than many soldiers/civilians who spend longer periods of time in-country because they tend to stay in one small area, thus developing deep knowledge of that area but remaining aware of what is happening elsewhere. (Some soldiers — known as “Fobbits” — never leave their Forward Operating Bases at all.) Also, those who are actually deployed don’t generally keep personal tabs on what is happening after they leave — unless/until they prepare for another deployment — whereas the advantage that think tankers have is that we can keep traveling fairly regularly to examine progress or lack thereof.

The notion that these are Potemkin tours designed to highlight only progress is ludicrous; in the past on a similar outing, I have been in a Humvee that was hit by a complex ambush in Mosul when it was the worst remaining area of Iraq. (Note: I am not claiming that the level of risk or discomfort I or others experience on such trips is remotely comparable to that of the average lance corporal; I always return in awe of the soldiers, Marines, and others who can endure such tough conditions and face such great risks for many months at a time — I realize how coddled we visitors are by comparison.)

To the critics of these fact-finding trips, I ask: What are they suggesting? That we would be better analysts if (like so many who write about Iraq and Afghanistan) we never visited at all? Or that there are analysts who are more deeply informed about events than we are?

I would agree that there are certainly people with deeper knowledge of the countries
in question than I possess, and I try to learn from them as much as possible. I would not dare to compare my country knowledge with theirs. But I think I can still make a useful contribution to the public debate by offering a broader view informed by my study of military history. If you want to disregard my analysis because I am not as deeply steeped in these areas as some others, be my guest. But keep in mind that even area experts are hardly infallible.

In general, I would suggest that commentators focus on the merits of the analysis provided by me, or by others, and stop slinging mud about our fact-gathering methods.

Read Less

Forgetful Architecture

It is hard to design a memorial, let alone a Holocaust museum. There are a handful of firms equipped to handle the demands of the institution, the local community, the municipality, and those who are to be honored, let alone the style du jour of memorial-building.

Take, for example, the opening of the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum this week. Reviewing the museum in the Forward, Gavriel Rosenfeld discusses how the building, literally underground and conforming, mostly, to the terrain of Pan Pacific Park, is itself a metaphor for Holocaust remembrance. He writes:

It is hard not to conclude that the building’s underground location also has deeper significance. In one sense, the building’s self-effacing character might be seen as reflecting an assimilationist reflex on the part of L.A.’s Jewish community. After all, some of the city’s most important Jewish institutions, such as the Museum of Tolerance and the Skirball Cultural Center (designed by Moshe Safdie in the years 1986 to 1995), have strived not to appear architecturally Jewish in any way, a strategy that echoes their universalistic mission of reaching out to non-Jewish audiences.

As Rosenfeld notes, other museums have shied away from architectural elements that are distinctly Jewish. What he is referring to are direct references to Holocaust imagery such as smoke stacks and barbed wire. Some designs are not so literal but are nonetheless specific. The Houston Holocaust Museum design includes six steel poles, stand-ins for the 6 million murdered Jews.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does not include such literalist elements but is designed to create an experience. James Ingo Freed, the architect for this building, writes, “There are no literal references to particular places or occurrences from the historic event. Instead, the architectural form is open-ended so the Museum becomes a resonator of memory.” Read More

It is hard to design a memorial, let alone a Holocaust museum. There are a handful of firms equipped to handle the demands of the institution, the local community, the municipality, and those who are to be honored, let alone the style du jour of memorial-building.

Take, for example, the opening of the Los Angeles Holocaust Museum this week. Reviewing the museum in the Forward, Gavriel Rosenfeld discusses how the building, literally underground and conforming, mostly, to the terrain of Pan Pacific Park, is itself a metaphor for Holocaust remembrance. He writes:

It is hard not to conclude that the building’s underground location also has deeper significance. In one sense, the building’s self-effacing character might be seen as reflecting an assimilationist reflex on the part of L.A.’s Jewish community. After all, some of the city’s most important Jewish institutions, such as the Museum of Tolerance and the Skirball Cultural Center (designed by Moshe Safdie in the years 1986 to 1995), have strived not to appear architecturally Jewish in any way, a strategy that echoes their universalistic mission of reaching out to non-Jewish audiences.

As Rosenfeld notes, other museums have shied away from architectural elements that are distinctly Jewish. What he is referring to are direct references to Holocaust imagery such as smoke stacks and barbed wire. Some designs are not so literal but are nonetheless specific. The Houston Holocaust Museum design includes six steel poles, stand-ins for the 6 million murdered Jews.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum does not include such literalist elements but is designed to create an experience. James Ingo Freed, the architect for this building, writes, “There are no literal references to particular places or occurrences from the historic event. Instead, the architectural form is open-ended so the Museum becomes a resonator of memory.”

Freed wants the visitor to experience the museum building viscerally. Just as the Holocaust defies understanding, so, too, should the building, which is meant not to be understood but rather felt.

Such experience-as-metaphor is the sin qua non of contemporary memorial design. The as-yet-to-be-built 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero exhibits many of the same tropes as the LAHM. Michael Arad and Peter Walker, the creators of the winning design, describe viewers’ experience of Reflecting Absence:

Bordering each pool is a pair of ramps that lead down to the memorial spaces. Descending into the memorial, visitors are removed from the sights and sounds of the city and immersed in a cool darkness. As they proceed, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool. Surrounding this pool is a continuous ribbon of names. The enormity of this space and the multitude of names that form this endless ribbon underscore the vast scope of the destruction. Standing there at the water’s edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.

These contemporary designs wish to evoke an experience. Certain motifs prevail, such as a descent into the ground, a list of individual names, familiar yet distant forms — all of which are intended to “move” the viewer to contemplate the inaccessibility of horrific tragedy.

These motifs are not new. Take for example this description of perhaps the first such “non-monument”:

A corner submerged into the earth, the work is welcoming in its open-ended, book-like form, and yet disconcerting to those who realize that to read the names is to stand below the horizon — six feet under — conversing in the space of the dead. The work is outspoken and angry in the way in which it functions as a visual scar on the American landscape, cutting aggressively into the Washington Mall, and yet is dignified for the way in which it carves out a space for a public display of grief and pain. These emotions, necessary to the healing process, have a place in Lin’s work and are as natural as the cycles of the earth.

This describes the Vietnam Memorial designed by Maya Lin on the Washington Mall in Washington, D.C. This monument makes it clear that passage underground is a metaphor for death. One feels an uneasiness while reading the names of each soldier. Her monument does indeed reflect “grief and pain” and is to be understood not only as a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives but also to the ambivalence and anger at the country that sent them to war.

But should ambivalence be what visitors experience toward the Holocaust or 9/11? The architectural motif of descent into the ground does not carry the same complexity as it does for the Vietnam Memorial, nor should it. But if we accept the interpretation offered by the LAHM architect, Hagy Belzberg, not only are these monuments invisible, they celebrate that invisibility by communicating a dubious contradiction:

He noted that embedding LAMH into the natural environment of a public park represented a commentary on how the Holocaust transpired in the midst of ordinary German life. Citing Peter Eisenman’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin, whose location in the heart of the busy metropolis lends itself to such prosaic activities “as picnicking and playing Frisbee,” Belzberg observed that the daily occurrence of these same activities near LAMH would symbolically underscore the chilling fact that during the Holocaust, “people knowingly or unknowingly went on with their lives while extraordinary events were taking place.” Given this claim, the museum’s relative inconspicuousness as architecture does not so much hide as illuminate one of the more disturbing facts of the Holocaust: the coexistence of atrocity and normalcy.

Rosenfeld and Belzberg are exactly correct; the horror of the Holocaust is heightened when one considers German complicity and daily life. And life goes on for us. We picnic and play frisbee and visit parks on our day off. But when even our monuments dedicated to the memory of atrocity forget the victims, surely everyone else will too.

Read Less

Woodward’s Forgettable Writings

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran my review of Bob Woodward’s latest epic of insiderdom. Since then, I have received some interesting e-mails from informed readers who make a few points that I think are worth sharing.

I poked fun at Battlefield Bob for writing about the war in Afghanistan while making only one perfunctory visit there, which he then hyped as if he were eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy. A veteran war correspondent points out that this isn’t at all unusual for Woodward:

As best I can tell he hasn’t gone to Iraq for a single day. Not even to the I.Z. [International Zone, or Green Zone] or to a FOB [Forward Operating Base]. I haven’t tried to confirm that, but there is no mention of it in his books that I recall. And he wrote five books on the subject if you count “The Commanders.”

This correspondent continued:

Your analytical points were on target, too. And they are related. If don’t go to these places and talk to the Iraqi or Afghan leaders, politicians, pretenders, warlords, army officers and citizens how can you begin to understand what is happening there. They and their countries become a distant backdrop for personality feuds among US officials and second-tier aides in DC.

Absolutely right, and it is this reason that, as a government official pointed out to me, “these books have no lasting impact.” Indeed, it is hard for me to remember anything about Woodward’s last dozen books. The last major revelation I remember from one of his tomes was CIA Director Bill Casey’s “deathbed confession” in Veil (1987) — and that is largely because Woodward was accused of making it up.

Woodward continues to churn out No. 1 best-sellers. But, after being avidly hyped (especially by his employer, the Washington Post), each one drops down the memory chute because his revelations about Washington infighting are so petty and so far removed from the factors that shape presidential reputations — namely how well policies work out in the real world. In the meantime, however, Woodward does real damage to our government’s ability to implement its policies — a point Eliot Cohen wittily makes in this Washington Post op-ed, which features fictional interior monologues a la Woodward.

The real question, to my mind, isn’t why Woodward does what he does — he makes jillions from his books. The question is why so many administrations so willingly cooperate with him. As Eliot notes, “Senior Washington officials, in this administration or its predecessors, talk to Bob Woodward for all kinds of reasons — to fluff up their vanity, to avenge slights, to neutralize rivals, to gratify egos or, most laughably, to shape the historical record. ” It’s high time for the Obama administration and its successors to rethink this policy of granting Woodward unlimited access.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran my review of Bob Woodward’s latest epic of insiderdom. Since then, I have received some interesting e-mails from informed readers who make a few points that I think are worth sharing.

I poked fun at Battlefield Bob for writing about the war in Afghanistan while making only one perfunctory visit there, which he then hyped as if he were eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy. A veteran war correspondent points out that this isn’t at all unusual for Woodward:

As best I can tell he hasn’t gone to Iraq for a single day. Not even to the I.Z. [International Zone, or Green Zone] or to a FOB [Forward Operating Base]. I haven’t tried to confirm that, but there is no mention of it in his books that I recall. And he wrote five books on the subject if you count “The Commanders.”

This correspondent continued:

Your analytical points were on target, too. And they are related. If don’t go to these places and talk to the Iraqi or Afghan leaders, politicians, pretenders, warlords, army officers and citizens how can you begin to understand what is happening there. They and their countries become a distant backdrop for personality feuds among US officials and second-tier aides in DC.

Absolutely right, and it is this reason that, as a government official pointed out to me, “these books have no lasting impact.” Indeed, it is hard for me to remember anything about Woodward’s last dozen books. The last major revelation I remember from one of his tomes was CIA Director Bill Casey’s “deathbed confession” in Veil (1987) — and that is largely because Woodward was accused of making it up.

Woodward continues to churn out No. 1 best-sellers. But, after being avidly hyped (especially by his employer, the Washington Post), each one drops down the memory chute because his revelations about Washington infighting are so petty and so far removed from the factors that shape presidential reputations — namely how well policies work out in the real world. In the meantime, however, Woodward does real damage to our government’s ability to implement its policies — a point Eliot Cohen wittily makes in this Washington Post op-ed, which features fictional interior monologues a la Woodward.

The real question, to my mind, isn’t why Woodward does what he does — he makes jillions from his books. The question is why so many administrations so willingly cooperate with him. As Eliot notes, “Senior Washington officials, in this administration or its predecessors, talk to Bob Woodward for all kinds of reasons — to fluff up their vanity, to avenge slights, to neutralize rivals, to gratify egos or, most laughably, to shape the historical record. ” It’s high time for the Obama administration and its successors to rethink this policy of granting Woodward unlimited access.

Read Less

Jews Go Nuts over a Counseling Group for Pregnant Jewish Teens — Really

It is no secret that American Jews, especially Jewish women, are staunchly pro-choice. Norman Podhoretz has written that many Jewish women “think that the absolute right to an abortion had been inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.” It is no exaggeration to say that abortion rights are a much more significant factor (as are the environment, health care, and every item on the domestic wish list of the left) than Israel in determining the votes of a sizeable segment of Jewish voters.

So you can imagine the reaction when a new Jewish organization dedicated to providing resources, counseling, and ample information to pregnant Jewish women and teens — one not even pro-life in its core message — arrived on the scene. Yes, liberal Jews went bonkers.

The group is In Shifra’s Arms, headed by a young Jewish woman, Erica Pelman. Pelman was inspired to start the organization after a life-altering experience — she found herself unable and uncertain about how to provide advice to a friend who was pregnant and who felt she had no choice but to have an abortion. The group does not advocate politically or tout a pro-life line. Rather, its focus is on providing resources to pregnant girls and women should they choose to have their baby and making clear that no woman should feel that abortion is her only option. Its website explains:

We know that many women do not feel free to choose parenting or adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and therefore feel they must abort. In one study, 64% of American women who aborted reported being pressured by others to abort and 84% reported that they did not receive adequate counseling prior to aborting (1). Additionally, research has found that college campuses in particular are very unlikely to provide support for pregnant students and this lack of support becomes a pressure to abort; about a third of abortions take place amongst college-aged women (2). …

We respect each woman’s ability to determine her future.  We would not judge any woman for becoming pregnant unintentionally or for considering abortion.  We believe in the inner strength, independence, and capabilities of the women who call us.

Now could that be controversial?  How could giving a girl maternity clothes, an internship in D.C. (so her gap in schooling is not a hindrance in her future career), and explaining that there is a huge demand among Jewish women to adopt (all of which Shifra’s Arms does) objectionable?  After all, there are many Christian and non-denominational counseling organizations, but none other than Shifra’s Arms that is aimed at the Jewish community. Well, to those who shudder at the notion that abortion may have adverse psychological consequences or that an abortion is not any bigger deal than have your nails done, Shifra’s Arms is an anathema.

In a piece by the Jewish Weekly, critics pounced. Alyssa Zucker, professor of psychology and women’s studies at George Washington University, asserted “while these organizations say they are about choice, they are really not. Their goal is to convince women not to have abortions.” Nancy Ratzan, the president of the National Council of Jewish Women, declared that Sifra’s Arms’s website “looks like it fits the model that targets young women in a deceptive way. … [We are] greatly concerned about pregnancy crisis centers and their focus to limit women’s choice and undermine the rights of women.”

What seems to get under these groups’ skins is the mere suggestion that abortion may be a traumatic event with long-term consequences to women. (In the Jewish Weekly, Zucker proclaimed: “From looking at the In Shifra’s Arms Web site, it is talking about emotional risks, but it is citing studies that show extreme results. … The majority of studies show women are fine.”) The Shifra’s Arms’s website provides links to research studies and websites regarding the impact of abortion. In measured language, it explains:

Every abortion procedure involves some potential risk of harm and side effects. You have the legal right to know what type of procedure will be performed upon you and what specific risks of harm or side effects are associated with the performance of this procedure on you. Many women, particularly women who have felt rushed or coerced into abortion, or who felt they did not have access to other options, report significant emotional side effects. Other women feel relieved in the short term, but later feel significant loss or regret.

But that is too much for many rabidly pro-abortion groups. Attacks sprang up at a variety of websites. At the Reproductive Health website, the editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, attacked Shifra’s Arms and all pregnancy-counseling organizations as frauds and menaces that seek to “channel” women’s choices (unlike the pristinly neutral Planned Parenthood?). Over at the Sisterhood blog at the Forward, they were outraged that women might not get an undiluted pro-abortion message, but they were heartened as well: “At least we can get comfort in the backlash from other Jewish groups and bloggers, and the fact that out of thousands of these centers, only one is aimed at Jewish women.” Good to know that the hysteria from fellow Jews was solace.

The critics also complain that Shifra’s Arms doesn’t provide contraception or medical advice. Pelman explains to me that the employees are not medical professionals and don’t dispense medical advice. Instead, they provide mentors to young women, explain adoption rules, assist in dealing with school administrators, and, for clients who want to either keep the baby or pursue adoption, support them in counteracting the overwhelming pressure they may face to abort and “get on” with their lives. Perlman says simply, “There are two ways to terminate a pregnancy — abortion and giving birth.”

The critics of Shifra’s Arms reveal far more about themselves than the object of their ire. It seems there is nothing quite so dangerous in their eyes as providing Jewish women with information and an alternative that clashes with the abortion-on-demand inscription on those liberal tablets. And abortion-rights activists certainly don’t appreciate the reminder that there are Jewish couples waiting in some cases more than a decade to adopt a Jewish baby.

Abortion-rights advocates insist they aren’t “pro-abortion,” but their vehement reaction to a group offering real choice (and an opportunity for Jewish women to contemplate a critical life decision) is the most telling evidence that this is precisely what they are.

It is no secret that American Jews, especially Jewish women, are staunchly pro-choice. Norman Podhoretz has written that many Jewish women “think that the absolute right to an abortion had been inscribed on the tablets Moses brought down from Sinai.” It is no exaggeration to say that abortion rights are a much more significant factor (as are the environment, health care, and every item on the domestic wish list of the left) than Israel in determining the votes of a sizeable segment of Jewish voters.

So you can imagine the reaction when a new Jewish organization dedicated to providing resources, counseling, and ample information to pregnant Jewish women and teens — one not even pro-life in its core message — arrived on the scene. Yes, liberal Jews went bonkers.

The group is In Shifra’s Arms, headed by a young Jewish woman, Erica Pelman. Pelman was inspired to start the organization after a life-altering experience — she found herself unable and uncertain about how to provide advice to a friend who was pregnant and who felt she had no choice but to have an abortion. The group does not advocate politically or tout a pro-life line. Rather, its focus is on providing resources to pregnant girls and women should they choose to have their baby and making clear that no woman should feel that abortion is her only option. Its website explains:

We know that many women do not feel free to choose parenting or adoption when faced with an unplanned pregnancy, and therefore feel they must abort. In one study, 64% of American women who aborted reported being pressured by others to abort and 84% reported that they did not receive adequate counseling prior to aborting (1). Additionally, research has found that college campuses in particular are very unlikely to provide support for pregnant students and this lack of support becomes a pressure to abort; about a third of abortions take place amongst college-aged women (2). …

We respect each woman’s ability to determine her future.  We would not judge any woman for becoming pregnant unintentionally or for considering abortion.  We believe in the inner strength, independence, and capabilities of the women who call us.

Now could that be controversial?  How could giving a girl maternity clothes, an internship in D.C. (so her gap in schooling is not a hindrance in her future career), and explaining that there is a huge demand among Jewish women to adopt (all of which Shifra’s Arms does) objectionable?  After all, there are many Christian and non-denominational counseling organizations, but none other than Shifra’s Arms that is aimed at the Jewish community. Well, to those who shudder at the notion that abortion may have adverse psychological consequences or that an abortion is not any bigger deal than have your nails done, Shifra’s Arms is an anathema.

In a piece by the Jewish Weekly, critics pounced. Alyssa Zucker, professor of psychology and women’s studies at George Washington University, asserted “while these organizations say they are about choice, they are really not. Their goal is to convince women not to have abortions.” Nancy Ratzan, the president of the National Council of Jewish Women, declared that Sifra’s Arms’s website “looks like it fits the model that targets young women in a deceptive way. … [We are] greatly concerned about pregnancy crisis centers and their focus to limit women’s choice and undermine the rights of women.”

What seems to get under these groups’ skins is the mere suggestion that abortion may be a traumatic event with long-term consequences to women. (In the Jewish Weekly, Zucker proclaimed: “From looking at the In Shifra’s Arms Web site, it is talking about emotional risks, but it is citing studies that show extreme results. … The majority of studies show women are fine.”) The Shifra’s Arms’s website provides links to research studies and websites regarding the impact of abortion. In measured language, it explains:

Every abortion procedure involves some potential risk of harm and side effects. You have the legal right to know what type of procedure will be performed upon you and what specific risks of harm or side effects are associated with the performance of this procedure on you. Many women, particularly women who have felt rushed or coerced into abortion, or who felt they did not have access to other options, report significant emotional side effects. Other women feel relieved in the short term, but later feel significant loss or regret.

But that is too much for many rabidly pro-abortion groups. Attacks sprang up at a variety of websites. At the Reproductive Health website, the editor in chief, Jodi Jacobson, attacked Shifra’s Arms and all pregnancy-counseling organizations as frauds and menaces that seek to “channel” women’s choices (unlike the pristinly neutral Planned Parenthood?). Over at the Sisterhood blog at the Forward, they were outraged that women might not get an undiluted pro-abortion message, but they were heartened as well: “At least we can get comfort in the backlash from other Jewish groups and bloggers, and the fact that out of thousands of these centers, only one is aimed at Jewish women.” Good to know that the hysteria from fellow Jews was solace.

The critics also complain that Shifra’s Arms doesn’t provide contraception or medical advice. Pelman explains to me that the employees are not medical professionals and don’t dispense medical advice. Instead, they provide mentors to young women, explain adoption rules, assist in dealing with school administrators, and, for clients who want to either keep the baby or pursue adoption, support them in counteracting the overwhelming pressure they may face to abort and “get on” with their lives. Perlman says simply, “There are two ways to terminate a pregnancy — abortion and giving birth.”

The critics of Shifra’s Arms reveal far more about themselves than the object of their ire. It seems there is nothing quite so dangerous in their eyes as providing Jewish women with information and an alternative that clashes with the abortion-on-demand inscription on those liberal tablets. And abortion-rights activists certainly don’t appreciate the reminder that there are Jewish couples waiting in some cases more than a decade to adopt a Jewish baby.

Abortion-rights advocates insist they aren’t “pro-abortion,” but their vehement reaction to a group offering real choice (and an opportunity for Jewish women to contemplate a critical life decision) is the most telling evidence that this is precisely what they are.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

In case you had any doubt about her political views: “Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan has given at least $12,050 over the past decade to Democratic candidates and causes — including to the president who nominated her and a sitting senator who will get to vote on her nomination — according to federal campaign finance records.”

In case you had any doubt how indebted Obama is to Big Labor: “The National Mediation Board issued its final rule Monday that changed how workers could unionize at companies covered by the Railway Labor Act. Originally, a majority of workers at a company covered by the law had to vote for a union while those not voting were counted as ‘no’ votes. Under the new rule made final on Monday, if a majority of workers who cast votes said they wanted to form a union, the company would be unionized. Workers who fail to vote will not count for either side.”

In case you had any doubt that Michael Steele is nothing but a problem for the RNC (from Abigail Thernstrom): “Mr. Steele (and RNC staff), just as a little experiment, you might try thinking before you speak. In a tribute to Justice Thurgood Marshall shortly before his death, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan quoted our first black Justice as having said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was ‘defective.’ ‘Does Kagan Still View Constitution “As Originally Drafted And Conceived” As “Defective”?’ the RNC now asks. A litmus test for Kagan, it implies. But of course the answer should be, yes. Might the Three-Fifths Clause have been a wee bit of a defect?”

In case you had any doubt about the nature of the Cuban thugocracy, check out this interview with Cuban bloggers.

In case you had any doubt how vapid the left’s foreign-policy vision is, Rep. Gary Ackerman argues that it’s all Bush’s fault that the Middle East is a mess and that sending an ambassador to Syria doesn’t signify much of anything. Sigh.

In case you had any doubt, there are good reasons to oppose Moses for the Supreme Court. For example, there’s the lack of transparency: “Moses went up Mount Sinai only to return with two tablets which he referred to as the Ten Commandments. These commandments were developed behind closed doors without any input from the people.”

In case you had any doubt that nothing much has changed with the “proximity talks”: “Construction of new housing for Jews in east Jerusalem will press forward, Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser illustrated in a statement on Monday. This drew Palestinian accusations that the plans could undermine newly relaunched peace talks.” Are we making progress yet?

In case you had any doubt that Charles Krauthammer is the greatest pundit of his time, he sums up our economic peril and the Supreme Court nomination in one brief sentence: “Long after America goes bankrupt, she’ll still be on the court.”

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s something to cheer about: “The plan to unveil a bipartisan climate bill in the Senate on Monday collapsed over the weekend as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the bill’s three authors, declared he couldn’t support it if Democrats decided to prioritize immigration reform.”

Or is there? It seems Graham is just waiting for the Democrats’ immigration-reform ploy to blow over: “[Joe] Lieberman said [Harry] Reid pledged to bring the energy bill to the full Senate as soon as possible this year. In a separate conversation, according to Lieberman, Graham reiterated his support for the energy bill once it’s no longer tangled up with immigration legislation. ‘Now I’m encouraged,’ Lieberman said. Asked when the energy bill might advance, he said, ‘Sometime soon, as soon as we can get Lindsey on board.'”

Do we really think Obama is going to pick a non-judge to go toe-to-toe with Justices Alito, Scalia, and Roberts? “Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) says she’s once again on President Obama’s short list for appointment to the Supreme Court. In an interview with CNN, the term-limited governor says she has talked with people in the Obama administration about the upcoming nomination to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.” Well, it would nail down that all-important Canadian-American vote.

Delusions of grandeur time: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is talking up the healthcare reform law in a big way on the campaign trail. Reid, who led efforts to shepherd the $940 billion legislation through the Senate, is facing a tough reelection battle this fall. He spoke at several Democratic county conventions in northern Nevada on Saturday. ‘The most important thing we’ve done for the country and the world is health care’ he said.”

The GOP is expanding the playing field: “Representative David R. Obey has won 21 straight races, easily prevailing through wars and economic crises that have spanned presidencies from Nixon’s to Obama’s. Yet the discontent with Washington surging through politics is now threatening not only his seat but also Democratic control of Congress. Mr. Obey is one of nearly a dozen well-established House Democrats who are bracing for something they rarely face: serious competition. Their predicament is the latest sign of distress for their party and underlines why Republicans are confident of making big gains in November and perhaps even winning back the House.”

James Jones is now making Jewish jokes. The Forward, via Haaretz, notes that some were not amused: “After all, making jokes about greedy Jewish merchants can be seen at times as insensitive.”

An unnamed Obama official confesses: “We do not understand Syrian intentions. No one does, and until we get to that question we can never get to the root of the problem. … Until then it’s all damage control.” No one? Could it be that Assad is pushing the U.S. and Israel as far as they will go and cozying up to the Iranians, whom he sees as the rising power in the region? The Obami, however, are stumped.

On Friday, Charlie Crist has to decide whether to run for the Senate as an independent. Stories like this in the Miami Herald don’t help: “Charlie Crist, once Florida’s spectacularly popular governor, now in danger of seeing his political career washed up? ‘I honestly don’t know,’ Crist said Friday. ‘But I certainly think the economy played a role.” In hindsight, the warning signs were too numerous: Marco Rubio winning local ‘straw poll'; U.S. Senate elections that Crist brushed off as meaningless; prominent GOP allies publicly scolding him for endorsing President Barack Obama’s stimulus package; veteran party leaders beseeching him to remove or at least rein in his hand-picked Florida GOP chairman, Jim Greer.”

There’s something to cheer about: “The plan to unveil a bipartisan climate bill in the Senate on Monday collapsed over the weekend as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the bill’s three authors, declared he couldn’t support it if Democrats decided to prioritize immigration reform.”

Or is there? It seems Graham is just waiting for the Democrats’ immigration-reform ploy to blow over: “[Joe] Lieberman said [Harry] Reid pledged to bring the energy bill to the full Senate as soon as possible this year. In a separate conversation, according to Lieberman, Graham reiterated his support for the energy bill once it’s no longer tangled up with immigration legislation. ‘Now I’m encouraged,’ Lieberman said. Asked when the energy bill might advance, he said, ‘Sometime soon, as soon as we can get Lindsey on board.'”

Do we really think Obama is going to pick a non-judge to go toe-to-toe with Justices Alito, Scalia, and Roberts? “Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D) says she’s once again on President Obama’s short list for appointment to the Supreme Court. In an interview with CNN, the term-limited governor says she has talked with people in the Obama administration about the upcoming nomination to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.” Well, it would nail down that all-important Canadian-American vote.

Delusions of grandeur time: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is talking up the healthcare reform law in a big way on the campaign trail. Reid, who led efforts to shepherd the $940 billion legislation through the Senate, is facing a tough reelection battle this fall. He spoke at several Democratic county conventions in northern Nevada on Saturday. ‘The most important thing we’ve done for the country and the world is health care’ he said.”

The GOP is expanding the playing field: “Representative David R. Obey has won 21 straight races, easily prevailing through wars and economic crises that have spanned presidencies from Nixon’s to Obama’s. Yet the discontent with Washington surging through politics is now threatening not only his seat but also Democratic control of Congress. Mr. Obey is one of nearly a dozen well-established House Democrats who are bracing for something they rarely face: serious competition. Their predicament is the latest sign of distress for their party and underlines why Republicans are confident of making big gains in November and perhaps even winning back the House.”

James Jones is now making Jewish jokes. The Forward, via Haaretz, notes that some were not amused: “After all, making jokes about greedy Jewish merchants can be seen at times as insensitive.”

An unnamed Obama official confesses: “We do not understand Syrian intentions. No one does, and until we get to that question we can never get to the root of the problem. … Until then it’s all damage control.” No one? Could it be that Assad is pushing the U.S. and Israel as far as they will go and cozying up to the Iranians, whom he sees as the rising power in the region? The Obami, however, are stumped.

On Friday, Charlie Crist has to decide whether to run for the Senate as an independent. Stories like this in the Miami Herald don’t help: “Charlie Crist, once Florida’s spectacularly popular governor, now in danger of seeing his political career washed up? ‘I honestly don’t know,’ Crist said Friday. ‘But I certainly think the economy played a role.” In hindsight, the warning signs were too numerous: Marco Rubio winning local ‘straw poll'; U.S. Senate elections that Crist brushed off as meaningless; prominent GOP allies publicly scolding him for endorsing President Barack Obama’s stimulus package; veteran party leaders beseeching him to remove or at least rein in his hand-picked Florida GOP chairman, Jim Greer.”

Read Less

Tom Campbell Will Debate on Terrorism and National Security

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

There will be a radio debate with California Republican Senate candidates Carly Fiorina, Chuck DeVore and Tom Campbell on Friday. The topics will be national security, foreign affairs, and terrorism. Sure to come up will be Campbell’s record. The controversy concerning his past voting record, campaign donors, and positions on Israel and the Middle East certainly will not subside so long as new facts continue to come to light.

For example, in a 2000 report for the Forward (subscription required), Eli Lake, now a national security correspondent for the Washington Times, wrote:

The California Republican who hopes to unseat Senator Feinstein this fall in the general election raised $35,000 last month at a fundraiser in Brooklyn hosted by Arab American and Muslim grateful for his efforts to cut aid to Israel, ease sanctions on Iraq and weaken counterterrorism legislation.

The report quotes the event’s invitation: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Mercy-Giving, the American Muslim Coordinating Council and the American Muslim Alliance of New York request the honor of your presence at the Support for Tom Campbell for Senate Fundraising Dinner. … Requested Donation $250 per person.” Lake explains that the invitation explicitly praised Campbell for “votes to cut aid to Israel and weaken anti-terrorism legislation. It also stressed his support for a Palestinian-Arab state and opposition to sanctions on Iraq.” Lake noted that the American Muslim Alliance website boasted that the event raised $35,000 for Campbell.

The report also says the groups represented in the Campbell fundraiser include those who held “such events as a protest organized by the Southern California chapter of CAIR in 1998 outside a special televised event marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.  According to the CAIR website, protestors held signs that said, ’50 years of Palestinian Blood’ and ’50 years of Palestinian Disposession.’  In 1996, the American Muslim Council took out a newspaper advertisement accusing the Israeli Defense Force of ‘genocide’ in Southern Lebanon for the bombing commissioned by Prime Minister Peres.”

At the time, the campaign manager of Campbell’s opponent made the argument that “Senator Feinstein’s votes on the Middle East are much more in the mainstream than Congressman Campbell’s, and I would like their records to be evaluated by the voters of California.” One can imagine Sen. Boxer’s campaign manager is readying the same spiel should Campbell be the Republican nominee.

But this, of course, was not an isolated event. Campbell was not rewarded with a lifetime achievement award by the American Muslim Alliance for nothing. He was there with the likes of Sami Al-Arian at rallies and advocated the position of these Muslim organizations in Congress. In October 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Calling themselves a “sleeping giant,” Muslims gathered Saturday in Irvine to brainstorm ways to increase their clout in the U.S. political system and the November elections. . .

“When we first started this, no one stood with us,” said Sami Al-Arian, a professor at University of Southern Florida. He told the crowd of more than 100 people that the campaign against secret evidence took persistence and eventually generated more than 55 supportive editorials and 200 positive articles in U.S. newspapers that were instrumental in raising public awareness.

Campbell, delivering the keynote luncheon address, told the Muslim crowd that such political victories could be replicated–such as fighting to end sanctions on Iraq. Campbell, who is challenging Democrat Dianne Feinstein for a Senate seat, urged Muslims to set up volunteer networks to support candidates of both major parties in every congressional district.

While Campbell now says he was unaware of the extremism of his supporters, the facts suggest otherwise. Yesterday, Philip Klein had yet another report detailing a Campbell donor, “Abdurahman Alamoudi of the American Muslim Council, whose views in support of Hamas and Hezbollah were well known — and captured on videotape back in 2000. Yet Campbell was still defending him even as other politicians were running for cover.” Alamoudi appeared at a rally extolling the crowd: “We are all supporters of Hamas.  …  I am also a supporter of Hezbollah.” But as Phil notes, a week later, Campbell defended Alamoudi and refused to return the donation.

Campbell has yet to explain fully his connection to these Islamic organizations, from whom he took money and for whom he was a dependable advocate at a time when these groups did not bother to hide their extreme rhetoric and views. California voters will have to decide for themselves whether they feel comfortable with Campbell’s record. But I think there is little doubt that the portrait Campbell now paints of himself bears little resemblance to the one he was peddling up through 2001.

Read Less

Why the Truth Constitutes “Incitement”

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

As Noah noted, the New Israel Fund controversy is laying bare just how warped the “human rights” community’s definition of human rights is. But it has also showcased two particularly Israeli variants of this disease: that freedom of information constitutes “incitement,” and that freedom of speech requires financing speech you oppose. The NIF’s Israeli president, former Meretz MK Naomi Chazan, demonstrated both in response to the Im Tirtzu organization’s report that 92 percent of the anti-Israel information in the Goldstone Report came from Israeli groups funded by the NIF.

Neither Chazan nor her American parent organization has disputed Im Tirtzu’s findings: they do not deny that the NIF grantees supplied the material in question to a UN inquiry into last year’s war in Gaza, nor do they deny the Goldstone Commission’s use of it. On the contrary, Chazan said she was “ever so proud to be a symbol of Israeli democracy,” while the NIF’s American CEO, Daniel Sokatch, told the Forward that the grantees bolstered “Israel’s moral fiber and its values” by “tell[ing] the truth.”

If so, why was Chazan so upset over the revelation of the NIF’s contribution to this achievement that when the Knesset announced it wanted more information on the subject — a Knesset committee said it would establish a subcommittee to examine foreign funding of Israeli nonprofits, and one MK even advocated a parliamentary inquiry commission — she responded by accusing the Knesset of trying to “fan incitement”? Since when has the search for, and dissemination of, truthful information constituted incitement?

The answer relates to her other fallacy: “We really don’t support every single thing these organizations [the grantees] say, but we support their right to say it.” Actually, so would most Israelis — but they wouldn’t give money to help them say it. And that is a crucial distinction. Freedom of speech means letting people or groups say what they please without fear of prosecution. It does not require anyone to help them do so by giving them money. The minute you donate to a group, you are not just “supporting its right” to speak; you are supporting the content of its speech. After all, the NIF doesn’t fund Im Tirtzu; does that mean it doesn’t support Im Tirtzu’s right to speak?

The problem for the NIF is that many donors might not support this particular content. Indeed, the Forward reported that when the NIF sought statements of support from other major Jewish groups, only three had complied as of February 3: Americans for Peace Now, J Street, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Thus it is critical for the NIF and other groups with similar views to promote these twin canards: that freedom of information — i.e., shedding light on what they actually do — constitutes “incitement,” which is legally suppressible, and that freedom of speech requires funding even speech you oppose. For unless they can either suppress knowledge of just what speech they are enabling or convince donors that liberal values require funding such speech even if they oppose it, their own funding is liable to be endangered.

Read Less

The Bow Is Par for the Course

Jake Tapper finds an academic with some expertise on Japan who relates this on the cringe-inducing bow:

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

Without getting too carried away, this incident is a neat little example of Obama’s foreign-policy blunder-fest. First, the arrogance — he lived abroad, don’t you know. He “gets” other cultures. Second, the ignorance — no, he doesn’t. He should not have done this, both because it is an affront to American dignity (we have not submitted to monarchs since 1776) and because it conveys the wrong message to the Japanese. Third, Obama’s natural inclination is groveling, ingratiating, and general suck-uppery. He seems to believe that, rather than an erect projection of American strength, submissiveness is going to get him/us somewhere. Finally, the lie — oh this is “protocol,” the Obami say. Ah, no it’s not. Whether delivering fractured history (in Cairo), or denying their own failed gambit (preconditions? what preconditions for the Middle East peace process?), or disguising their motives (dismantling missile defense isn’t to appease the Russians, we were laughably told), or trying to pull a fast one to get out of an embarrassing jam (Honduras), the Obama foreign-policy operation is one of the most disingenuous and incompetent in recent memory.

Sometimes a bow is just a bow. And sometimes it is a reminder that it is amateur hour at a critical time in our history.

Jake Tapper finds an academic with some expertise on Japan who relates this on the cringe-inducing bow:

“Obama’s handshake/forward lurch was so jarring and inappropriate it recalls Bush’s back-rub of Merkel.

“Kyodo News is running his appropriate and reciprocated nod and shake with the Empress, certainly to show the president as dignified, and not in the form of a first year English teacher trying to impress with Karate Kid-level knowledge of Japanese customs.

“The bow as he performed did not just display weakness in Red State terms, but evoked weakness in Japanese terms…. The last thing the Japanese want or need is a weak looking American president and, again, in all ways, he unintentionally played that part.

Without getting too carried away, this incident is a neat little example of Obama’s foreign-policy blunder-fest. First, the arrogance — he lived abroad, don’t you know. He “gets” other cultures. Second, the ignorance — no, he doesn’t. He should not have done this, both because it is an affront to American dignity (we have not submitted to monarchs since 1776) and because it conveys the wrong message to the Japanese. Third, Obama’s natural inclination is groveling, ingratiating, and general suck-uppery. He seems to believe that, rather than an erect projection of American strength, submissiveness is going to get him/us somewhere. Finally, the lie — oh this is “protocol,” the Obami say. Ah, no it’s not. Whether delivering fractured history (in Cairo), or denying their own failed gambit (preconditions? what preconditions for the Middle East peace process?), or disguising their motives (dismantling missile defense isn’t to appease the Russians, we were laughably told), or trying to pull a fast one to get out of an embarrassing jam (Honduras), the Obama foreign-policy operation is one of the most disingenuous and incompetent in recent memory.

Sometimes a bow is just a bow. And sometimes it is a reminder that it is amateur hour at a critical time in our history.

Read Less

Judge Goldstone: I Participated in a Farce

Richard Goldstone seems to use interviews to chip away at the legitimacy of his own work. He told the Forward that nothing he uncovered in Gaza is credible enough to be admissible in court. And now he has admitted this to Haaretz:

Many Israelis are right to feel that the United Nations and its member bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have devoted inordinate and disproportionate attention to scrutinizing and criticizing Israel. This has come at the price of ignoring violations of human rights in other countries, some of them members of those very same bodies. The time has come for the investigation of all violations of international human rights law and international law whenever they are committed, in any state.

A few thoughts: First, this is almost exactly what Bob Bernstein argued in his New York Times op-ed about Human Rights Watch — for which he was accused by HRW, on whose board Goldstone sat, of claiming that no scrutiny whatsoever should be applied to Israel. Will HRW now distort Goldstone and level the same charge? Not a chance.

Second, this statement would seem to validate Shimon Peres’s critique that Goldstone is a “small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence” who was “on a one-sided mission to hurt Israel.” Goldstone has admitted that the lawfare campaign against Israel, of which he has become the de facto leader, is a perversion of justice: disproportionately and selectively applied. It is the equivalent of a police force that pursues the arrest of Jews, and scarcely anyone else, for violations. Such a police force is inherently illegitimate. Yet Goldstone chose to become the chief of that police force, and now denounces the fact of its — his — own iniquity. What psychodrama. What a small man.

Third, there is one person perfectly situated to rise to the challenge of even-handedness and proportionality that the good judge has placed before the world: his name is Richard Goldstone. He has earned his bona fides as a harsh and tendentious critic of Israel. Because of this, he has immense credibility at the UN and among “human-rights” activists worldwide. When will his campaign of inquisition against other democracies begin? Someone should ask him.

Richard Goldstone seems to use interviews to chip away at the legitimacy of his own work. He told the Forward that nothing he uncovered in Gaza is credible enough to be admissible in court. And now he has admitted this to Haaretz:

Many Israelis are right to feel that the United Nations and its member bodies such as the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly have devoted inordinate and disproportionate attention to scrutinizing and criticizing Israel. This has come at the price of ignoring violations of human rights in other countries, some of them members of those very same bodies. The time has come for the investigation of all violations of international human rights law and international law whenever they are committed, in any state.

A few thoughts: First, this is almost exactly what Bob Bernstein argued in his New York Times op-ed about Human Rights Watch — for which he was accused by HRW, on whose board Goldstone sat, of claiming that no scrutiny whatsoever should be applied to Israel. Will HRW now distort Goldstone and level the same charge? Not a chance.

Second, this statement would seem to validate Shimon Peres’s critique that Goldstone is a “small man, devoid of any sense of justice, a technocrat with no real understanding of jurisprudence” who was “on a one-sided mission to hurt Israel.” Goldstone has admitted that the lawfare campaign against Israel, of which he has become the de facto leader, is a perversion of justice: disproportionately and selectively applied. It is the equivalent of a police force that pursues the arrest of Jews, and scarcely anyone else, for violations. Such a police force is inherently illegitimate. Yet Goldstone chose to become the chief of that police force, and now denounces the fact of its — his — own iniquity. What psychodrama. What a small man.

Third, there is one person perfectly situated to rise to the challenge of even-handedness and proportionality that the good judge has placed before the world: his name is Richard Goldstone. He has earned his bona fides as a harsh and tendentious critic of Israel. Because of this, he has immense credibility at the UN and among “human-rights” activists worldwide. When will his campaign of inquisition against other democracies begin? Someone should ask him.

Read Less

Arab Assimilation

“If the Germans could not succeed in eliminating the Jewish people in the Holocaust, then neither will the campaign that the Israelis are now perpetrating against millions of Palestinians and billions of Arabs and Muslims succeed.” Thus spoke Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, in observance of the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians call the “naqba,” or the catastrophe — the birth of Israel.

Leaving aside the implicit compliment about Jewish resilience in the Holocaust (did he really mean that?), it goes without saying that the Final Solution is a weird comparison to what Israeli Arabs, among whom Khatib is one of the leaders, are experiencing. In this week’s Forward, the social linguist Philologos writes about the gradual assimilation of Arabs into Israeli society, as evidenced by their increasing use of Hebrew words when speaking in Arabic. As with any dual-lingual discourse, the majority are terms that have no easy Arabic equivalent–not just “machsom” (roadblock) or “ramzor” (traffic light) but also “glidah” (ice cream) and “sulamit” (the pound sign on your phone). But the most interesting of these is “m’anyen,” which means “interesting.” After checking around, the columnist confirms that there is no such word in Arabic. “Is this just a linguistic oddity,” Philologos asks, “or is it indicative of a deeper feature of Arab culture – the absence, perhaps, of the very concept of ‘interesting’ that is so basic to the Western mind, since what isn’t unusual enough or noteworthy enough to arouse curiosity is not considered worthy of attention?” Interesting!

In Jewish history, Jews tended to assimilate much more in countries that gave them freedom than in those that persecuted them. If Israeli Arabs are so upset by Israeli independence, why are they assimilating? Why do they generally support national service and insist they would never become part of the Palestinian state? And while we’re at it: Isn’t it a little odd that they observe the naqba on the same day that Israel celebrates its independence? What I mean is, Israel celebrates the fifth of Iyyar, which corresponds to May 14, 1948, on the Jewish calendar. Americans, by contrast, tend to observe May 14. Given the choice between the Muslim, Western, and Jewish calendars, why would Israeli Arabs pick the last of the three?

M’anyen m’od.

“If the Germans could not succeed in eliminating the Jewish people in the Holocaust, then neither will the campaign that the Israelis are now perpetrating against millions of Palestinians and billions of Arabs and Muslims succeed.” Thus spoke Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, in observance of the 60th anniversary of what Palestinians call the “naqba,” or the catastrophe — the birth of Israel.

Leaving aside the implicit compliment about Jewish resilience in the Holocaust (did he really mean that?), it goes without saying that the Final Solution is a weird comparison to what Israeli Arabs, among whom Khatib is one of the leaders, are experiencing. In this week’s Forward, the social linguist Philologos writes about the gradual assimilation of Arabs into Israeli society, as evidenced by their increasing use of Hebrew words when speaking in Arabic. As with any dual-lingual discourse, the majority are terms that have no easy Arabic equivalent–not just “machsom” (roadblock) or “ramzor” (traffic light) but also “glidah” (ice cream) and “sulamit” (the pound sign on your phone). But the most interesting of these is “m’anyen,” which means “interesting.” After checking around, the columnist confirms that there is no such word in Arabic. “Is this just a linguistic oddity,” Philologos asks, “or is it indicative of a deeper feature of Arab culture – the absence, perhaps, of the very concept of ‘interesting’ that is so basic to the Western mind, since what isn’t unusual enough or noteworthy enough to arouse curiosity is not considered worthy of attention?” Interesting!

In Jewish history, Jews tended to assimilate much more in countries that gave them freedom than in those that persecuted them. If Israeli Arabs are so upset by Israeli independence, why are they assimilating? Why do they generally support national service and insist they would never become part of the Palestinian state? And while we’re at it: Isn’t it a little odd that they observe the naqba on the same day that Israel celebrates its independence? What I mean is, Israel celebrates the fifth of Iyyar, which corresponds to May 14, 1948, on the Jewish calendar. Americans, by contrast, tend to observe May 14. Given the choice between the Muslim, Western, and Jewish calendars, why would Israeli Arabs pick the last of the three?

M’anyen m’od.

Read Less

A Debate On The Surge

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Yochi Dreazen airs the views of Lieutenant Colonel Gian Gentile, an Iraq War veteran now teaching at West Point. Gentile opposes the surge–and thinks the army is making a mistake by preparing for counterinsurgency warfare at the risk of diminishing its conventional combat capabilities. As Gentile makes clear in this essay, he doesn’t think that U.S. forces have gotten any better at counterinsurgency since he commanded a battalion in Baghdad in 2006. The only difference between now and then, he argues, is that we paid off the insurgents not to fight.

Colonel Peter Mansoor, General Petraeus’s executive officer (who is retiring soon to become a professor of military history at Ohio State University), demolishes Gentile’s arguments in the Small Wars Journal. As Mansoor points out:

Gentile’s battalion occupied Ameriyah, which in 2006 was an Al Qaeda safe-haven infested by Sunni insurgents and their Al Qaeda-Iraq allies. I’m certain that he and his soldiers did their best to combat these enemies and to protect the people in their area. But since his battalion lived at Forward Operating Base Falcon and commuted to the neighborhood, they could not accomplish their mission. The soldiers did not fail. The strategy did.

I side with Mansoor in this debate, much as it pains me to disagree with Gentile, a fellow U.C. Berkeley graduate. But I am glad that Gentile is able to express a contrary viewpoint while remaining an officer in good standing. The U.S. Army has a reputation for conformity that is to some extent well-deserved. Obviously you need a “yes, sir” ethos to command forces in battle. But you also need a lively intellectual discourse—the willingness to say “no, sir, you’re wrong” in order to figure out how to prepare for battle. There is no doubt that, as many soldiers themselves say, the army can do better in this department. But as demonstrated by the Mansoor-Gentile debate—and a hundred other doctrinal disputes which are never written up in the Wall Street Journal—there is a greater degree of spirited debate and tolerance for competing viewpoints within the army than on many of our major college campuses.

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Yochi Dreazen airs the views of Lieutenant Colonel Gian Gentile, an Iraq War veteran now teaching at West Point. Gentile opposes the surge–and thinks the army is making a mistake by preparing for counterinsurgency warfare at the risk of diminishing its conventional combat capabilities. As Gentile makes clear in this essay, he doesn’t think that U.S. forces have gotten any better at counterinsurgency since he commanded a battalion in Baghdad in 2006. The only difference between now and then, he argues, is that we paid off the insurgents not to fight.

Colonel Peter Mansoor, General Petraeus’s executive officer (who is retiring soon to become a professor of military history at Ohio State University), demolishes Gentile’s arguments in the Small Wars Journal. As Mansoor points out:

Gentile’s battalion occupied Ameriyah, which in 2006 was an Al Qaeda safe-haven infested by Sunni insurgents and their Al Qaeda-Iraq allies. I’m certain that he and his soldiers did their best to combat these enemies and to protect the people in their area. But since his battalion lived at Forward Operating Base Falcon and commuted to the neighborhood, they could not accomplish their mission. The soldiers did not fail. The strategy did.

I side with Mansoor in this debate, much as it pains me to disagree with Gentile, a fellow U.C. Berkeley graduate. But I am glad that Gentile is able to express a contrary viewpoint while remaining an officer in good standing. The U.S. Army has a reputation for conformity that is to some extent well-deserved. Obviously you need a “yes, sir” ethos to command forces in battle. But you also need a lively intellectual discourse—the willingness to say “no, sir, you’re wrong” in order to figure out how to prepare for battle. There is no doubt that, as many soldiers themselves say, the army can do better in this department. But as demonstrated by the Mansoor-Gentile debate—and a hundred other doctrinal disputes which are never written up in the Wall Street Journal—there is a greater degree of spirited debate and tolerance for competing viewpoints within the army than on many of our major college campuses.

Read Less

The Zimbabwean Aliyah?

In the aftermath of tomorrow’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, one possible outcome may be a massive influx of refugees into neighboring countries fleeing political violence. There is no chance that Robert Mugabe will accept any result other than victory for him and his ZANU-PF party. Though Mugabe has executed all the usual vote-rigging tactics in anticipation of the election, sentiment against him runs so strong that manipulation of the election could likely result in violence.

Zimbabwe’s small community of Jews — numbering no more than 300 — is particularly vulnerable, as most of them are elderly. Due to the massive inflation of the past 8 years, their savings have disappeared, and many depend on families abroad or on Jewish philanthropy. (Peter Godwin’s recently-published memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, is a searing account of one Jewish family’s struggle to survive in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.) Mugabe is prone to anti-Semitic outbursts, and has long expressed support for Palestinian terrorist organizations. Though they are numerically small and represent no threat whatsoever to his regime, the Jewish community of Zimbabwe would be an easy group for Mugabe to scapegoat as he sinks to even further levels of desperation.

Claudia Braude has a piece in this week’s Forward reporting from Harare on the state of the Zimbabwean Jewish community. She writes that contingency plans are being drawn up by an African Jewish organization to help Zimbabwe’s Jews emigrate should they find themselves in physical danger following the election. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Israeli government sponsored a series of heroic missions to rescue Ethiopian Jews wishing to flee oppression and make Aliyah. Perhaps the time has finally arrived for another Operation Moses.

In the aftermath of tomorrow’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe, one possible outcome may be a massive influx of refugees into neighboring countries fleeing political violence. There is no chance that Robert Mugabe will accept any result other than victory for him and his ZANU-PF party. Though Mugabe has executed all the usual vote-rigging tactics in anticipation of the election, sentiment against him runs so strong that manipulation of the election could likely result in violence.

Zimbabwe’s small community of Jews — numbering no more than 300 — is particularly vulnerable, as most of them are elderly. Due to the massive inflation of the past 8 years, their savings have disappeared, and many depend on families abroad or on Jewish philanthropy. (Peter Godwin’s recently-published memoir, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun, is a searing account of one Jewish family’s struggle to survive in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.) Mugabe is prone to anti-Semitic outbursts, and has long expressed support for Palestinian terrorist organizations. Though they are numerically small and represent no threat whatsoever to his regime, the Jewish community of Zimbabwe would be an easy group for Mugabe to scapegoat as he sinks to even further levels of desperation.

Claudia Braude has a piece in this week’s Forward reporting from Harare on the state of the Zimbabwean Jewish community. She writes that contingency plans are being drawn up by an African Jewish organization to help Zimbabwe’s Jews emigrate should they find themselves in physical danger following the election. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Israeli government sponsored a series of heroic missions to rescue Ethiopian Jews wishing to flee oppression and make Aliyah. Perhaps the time has finally arrived for another Operation Moses.

Read Less

Billions for Defense!

The Bush administration is unveiling a new budget asking for $515 billion in defense spending. You’re going to be reading a lot of headlines in coming days such as “Rising Cost of Iraq War May Reignite Public Debate” and “Proposed Military Spending is Highest Since WWII.”

It’s true that we’re spending a lot of money on defense in absolute terms, but is it unaffordable? That’s like asking if a 7-series BMW is expensive. The answer is: It depends. For someone making $50,000 a year, a 7-series is prohibitively expensive. For someone making $5 million a year it’s cheap.

When it comes to defense spending, keep in mind that the United States is the richest country in the world, with a GDP of $13.75 trillion. That makes defense spending look pretty affordable, especially when compared to the cost of losing in Iraq and watching a region with the world’s leading oil reserves spin out of control.

The key fact to keep in mind may be found in this chart. It notes that even counting supplemental war spending, the defense budget still equals only 4 percent of GDP—1.5 percentage points lower than the average of the past 40 years.

It is in fact because we are so rich that our wars cost so much. It is possible to fight for much less, but the result would be higher casualties, as the Canadians, who have stinted on defense spending for years, are finding out in southern Afghanistan. Thanks to our massive treasury, we are able to provide our troops all sorts of protection, such as the new armored vehicles known as MRAP’s and ubiquitous IED-jammers, that poorer nations can’t afford. We also provide the best in air support, medical evacuation and treatment, intelligence and surveillance assets, and untold numbers of other “combat enablers” to allow our troops to get the most dangerous jobs done as safely as possible. Casualties are still higher than anyone would like, but they are pretty low when compared to past wars, especially past counterinsurgencies, precisely because of such spending.

There are also numerous comforts available to our troops at their Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan and Iraq that would have been unimaginable to previous generations of servicemen—everything from fully equipped PX’s to dining facilities serving multiple types of freshly made pies. And then there is the compensation awarded to our service personnel. They have to be paid a competitive wage, along with decent medical and retirement benefits, because they are all volunteers, not the conscriptees that have fought so many of our previous wars. Those personnel costs are rising because of the much-needed increase in the size of the ground forces.

If you add in the rising cost of military equipment—everything from Nimitz-class aircraft carriers to F-22’s—the wonder is that defense spending is so low, not so high. In fact defense spending needs to go even higher to make up for years of procurement shortfalls and the urgent need to expand our ground forces even further. But we’re rich enough to afford it. What we can’t afford is to stint on our armed forces at a time of war.

The Bush administration is unveiling a new budget asking for $515 billion in defense spending. You’re going to be reading a lot of headlines in coming days such as “Rising Cost of Iraq War May Reignite Public Debate” and “Proposed Military Spending is Highest Since WWII.”

It’s true that we’re spending a lot of money on defense in absolute terms, but is it unaffordable? That’s like asking if a 7-series BMW is expensive. The answer is: It depends. For someone making $50,000 a year, a 7-series is prohibitively expensive. For someone making $5 million a year it’s cheap.

When it comes to defense spending, keep in mind that the United States is the richest country in the world, with a GDP of $13.75 trillion. That makes defense spending look pretty affordable, especially when compared to the cost of losing in Iraq and watching a region with the world’s leading oil reserves spin out of control.

The key fact to keep in mind may be found in this chart. It notes that even counting supplemental war spending, the defense budget still equals only 4 percent of GDP—1.5 percentage points lower than the average of the past 40 years.

It is in fact because we are so rich that our wars cost so much. It is possible to fight for much less, but the result would be higher casualties, as the Canadians, who have stinted on defense spending for years, are finding out in southern Afghanistan. Thanks to our massive treasury, we are able to provide our troops all sorts of protection, such as the new armored vehicles known as MRAP’s and ubiquitous IED-jammers, that poorer nations can’t afford. We also provide the best in air support, medical evacuation and treatment, intelligence and surveillance assets, and untold numbers of other “combat enablers” to allow our troops to get the most dangerous jobs done as safely as possible. Casualties are still higher than anyone would like, but they are pretty low when compared to past wars, especially past counterinsurgencies, precisely because of such spending.

There are also numerous comforts available to our troops at their Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan and Iraq that would have been unimaginable to previous generations of servicemen—everything from fully equipped PX’s to dining facilities serving multiple types of freshly made pies. And then there is the compensation awarded to our service personnel. They have to be paid a competitive wage, along with decent medical and retirement benefits, because they are all volunteers, not the conscriptees that have fought so many of our previous wars. Those personnel costs are rising because of the much-needed increase in the size of the ground forces.

If you add in the rising cost of military equipment—everything from Nimitz-class aircraft carriers to F-22’s—the wonder is that defense spending is so low, not so high. In fact defense spending needs to go even higher to make up for years of procurement shortfalls and the urgent need to expand our ground forces even further. But we’re rich enough to afford it. What we can’t afford is to stint on our armed forces at a time of war.

Read Less

Exit Venezuela?

Despite all his rhetoric, his failed constitutional coup, and his cozying with Iran, there are still people who insist that Hugo Chavez is more of a buffoon than a serious threat to Western interests. They should take a look at this week’s Forward. Life under Chavez has become particularly difficult for the country’s Jews, who have begun fleeing the country in droves. In 2002, Jews were accused of being behind a coup attempt. Last year, Chavez accused Venezuelan Jewish leaders of disloyalty to the country, and began speaking out viciously against Israel, insisting that Mossad agents were trying to topple him. State-run television has been pretty free with anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Israel propaganda. And last month, armed policemen raided the Jewish communal center in Caracas, looking for arms and evidence of subversive activity, which they failed to find. It was the second such raid in four years, and Jewish leaders, who until now have tried their best to maintain smooth relations with Chavez, have finally lashed out. “We’re facing the first anti-Jewish government in our history,” the head of the center told the Forward. Since Chavez’s election in 1998, the Jewish population in Venezuela has dropped from 16,000 to about 12,000, and the emigration continues apace.

It has often been said that the test of a regime’s inner values and long-term intentions is how it treats its Jews. Whereas liberal regimes take pride in allowing a community to live their own lives and have some measure of control over their own communal space, anti-Western revolutionary regimes can’t really handle that sort of thing, and they often find that when support for the regime is flagging, there is no better way to rally it than to play on background anti-Semitism, to insist that the Jew is an enemy in their midst. Okay, so it’s not Germany in 1938. But we should still be pretty alarmed.

Despite all his rhetoric, his failed constitutional coup, and his cozying with Iran, there are still people who insist that Hugo Chavez is more of a buffoon than a serious threat to Western interests. They should take a look at this week’s Forward. Life under Chavez has become particularly difficult for the country’s Jews, who have begun fleeing the country in droves. In 2002, Jews were accused of being behind a coup attempt. Last year, Chavez accused Venezuelan Jewish leaders of disloyalty to the country, and began speaking out viciously against Israel, insisting that Mossad agents were trying to topple him. State-run television has been pretty free with anti-Semitic rhetoric and anti-Israel propaganda. And last month, armed policemen raided the Jewish communal center in Caracas, looking for arms and evidence of subversive activity, which they failed to find. It was the second such raid in four years, and Jewish leaders, who until now have tried their best to maintain smooth relations with Chavez, have finally lashed out. “We’re facing the first anti-Jewish government in our history,” the head of the center told the Forward. Since Chavez’s election in 1998, the Jewish population in Venezuela has dropped from 16,000 to about 12,000, and the emigration continues apace.

It has often been said that the test of a regime’s inner values and long-term intentions is how it treats its Jews. Whereas liberal regimes take pride in allowing a community to live their own lives and have some measure of control over their own communal space, anti-Western revolutionary regimes can’t really handle that sort of thing, and they often find that when support for the regime is flagging, there is no better way to rally it than to play on background anti-Semitism, to insist that the Jew is an enemy in their midst. Okay, so it’s not Germany in 1938. But we should still be pretty alarmed.

Read Less

Walt and Mearsheimer at Princeton

The Israel Lobby duo is speaking at Princeton tonight, and the indispensable Martin Kramer has a few prefatory thoughts on what it might be worth asking them about:

In [their] book, Mearsheimer and Walt admit that Israel was pushing for Iran over Iraq. And yes, they say, Israel only joined the Iraq bandwagon when the Bush administration seemed set on Iraq. But they haven’t dismantled their thesis–far from it. Instead they’ve come up with the new and improved Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it goes like this: the Iraq war must still be blamed on Israel, because in the lead-up to the war, Israel and its lobby worked overtime to ensure that Bush didn’t get “cold feet.”

Believe it or not, this the new Mearsheimer-Walt twist: the “cold feet” thesis of Israel’s responsibility for the Iraq war. For example, page 234: “Israeli leaders worried constantly in the months before the war that President Bush might decide not to go to war after all, and they did what they could to ensure Bush did not get cold feet.” And this, page 261: “Top Israeli officials were doing everything in their power to make sure that the United States went after Saddam and did not get cold feet at the last moment.”

Mearsheimer and Walt bring not a single footnote, in their copiously footnoted book, to substantiate this new and bizarre claim. You have to be pretty credulous to imagine that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would waver “at the last moment” when they had Saddam squarely in their sights. You can read Bob Woodward forward and backward and find no evidence of wobble. Nor is there any evidence of Israeli worries that the Bush administration would waver on Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt just made it up.

The Israel Lobby duo is speaking at Princeton tonight, and the indispensable Martin Kramer has a few prefatory thoughts on what it might be worth asking them about:

In [their] book, Mearsheimer and Walt admit that Israel was pushing for Iran over Iraq. And yes, they say, Israel only joined the Iraq bandwagon when the Bush administration seemed set on Iraq. But they haven’t dismantled their thesis–far from it. Instead they’ve come up with the new and improved Mearsheimer-Walt thesis, and it goes like this: the Iraq war must still be blamed on Israel, because in the lead-up to the war, Israel and its lobby worked overtime to ensure that Bush didn’t get “cold feet.”

Believe it or not, this the new Mearsheimer-Walt twist: the “cold feet” thesis of Israel’s responsibility for the Iraq war. For example, page 234: “Israeli leaders worried constantly in the months before the war that President Bush might decide not to go to war after all, and they did what they could to ensure Bush did not get cold feet.” And this, page 261: “Top Israeli officials were doing everything in their power to make sure that the United States went after Saddam and did not get cold feet at the last moment.”

Mearsheimer and Walt bring not a single footnote, in their copiously footnoted book, to substantiate this new and bizarre claim. You have to be pretty credulous to imagine that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld would waver “at the last moment” when they had Saddam squarely in their sights. You can read Bob Woodward forward and backward and find no evidence of wobble. Nor is there any evidence of Israeli worries that the Bush administration would waver on Iraq. Mearsheimer and Walt just made it up.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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