Commentary Magazine


Topic: Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Iran Declares War on Purim

Less than two years ago, the readers of the New York Times were being treated to Roger Cohen’s tribute to Iran’s supposedly kindly treatment of the remnant of a once-great Jewish community. Cohen’s rosy description of life inside the Islamist republic was widely scorned for his willingness to buy into the lies being peddled by the tyrants of Tehran. The Times columnist’s motive for trying to soften the image of that openly anti-Semitic government was to undermine support for sanctions or the use of force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The point was that if Iran’s eliminationist rhetoric about the State of Israel could be rationalized or its reputation for Jew-hatred wished away, it would be that much harder to forge an international consensus on the need to stop this regime for gaining nuclear capability.

In the intervening two years since Cohen’s fallacious pro-Iranian broadside, we haven’t heard much about the treatment of the small Jewish community there. But this week, via a report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we learned that the Iranian news agency FARS has announced that the site of the Tomb of Mordechai and Esther in the city of Hamdan has lost its official status as a religious pilgrimage site. The FARS report says that Iranian children are now being taught that the site, which honors the biblical heroine Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, who are the central figures in the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, was “an arm of Israeli imperialism that impugns Iranian sovereignty.” FARS went on to say that the name of the shrine must be obliterated in order to teach Iranians to “beware of the crimes of the Jews.” It goes on to say that the site must become “a Holocaust memorial” to the “Iranian victims of Esther and Mordechai” and be placed under the supervision of the state religious-endowments authority. This is, of course, the same Iranian government that officially denies the fact of the actual Holocaust.

The Iranian account speaks of the events of the Purim story, in which Esther and Mordechai foiled a plan hatched by the King’s minister Haman to exterminate the Jews of the Persian Empire, who then strike back against the forces arrayed to slaughter them.

The action against the tomb appears to be a response to a demonstration by Iranian students who called for its destruction in response to a false report that Israel was digging beneath the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.

While we cannot know whether the Iranians will follow through on this threat and actually tear down the tomb or transform it into a center of anti-Jewish hate, it does provide yet another insight into the virulent nature of the attitudes of those in power there. Not satisfied with whipping up hatred against the State of Israel and the tiny, cowed remnant community that still lives there, the Iranians are now striking out against biblical Jews. The vicious nature of this regime is rooted in a view of Islam that apologists for Tehran have consistently sought to ignore. While the blow against Esther and Mordechai may be purely symbolic, it must be placed in the context of a long-running campaign of incitement against Jews and Israel that makes the possible acquisition of nuclear arms by this country even more alarming.

The Iranian war on Purim makes it even more imperative that they never be allowed to gain the power to do what the ayatollah’s ancient hero Haman attempted: the physical elimination of a Jewish population. Anyone who thinks that we can live with a nuclear Iran needs to consider the madness of allowing a government that thinks the Purim story should be reversed the power to do just that.

Less than two years ago, the readers of the New York Times were being treated to Roger Cohen’s tribute to Iran’s supposedly kindly treatment of the remnant of a once-great Jewish community. Cohen’s rosy description of life inside the Islamist republic was widely scorned for his willingness to buy into the lies being peddled by the tyrants of Tehran. The Times columnist’s motive for trying to soften the image of that openly anti-Semitic government was to undermine support for sanctions or the use of force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The point was that if Iran’s eliminationist rhetoric about the State of Israel could be rationalized or its reputation for Jew-hatred wished away, it would be that much harder to forge an international consensus on the need to stop this regime for gaining nuclear capability.

In the intervening two years since Cohen’s fallacious pro-Iranian broadside, we haven’t heard much about the treatment of the small Jewish community there. But this week, via a report from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, we learned that the Iranian news agency FARS has announced that the site of the Tomb of Mordechai and Esther in the city of Hamdan has lost its official status as a religious pilgrimage site. The FARS report says that Iranian children are now being taught that the site, which honors the biblical heroine Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai, who are the central figures in the story of the Jewish holiday of Purim, was “an arm of Israeli imperialism that impugns Iranian sovereignty.” FARS went on to say that the name of the shrine must be obliterated in order to teach Iranians to “beware of the crimes of the Jews.” It goes on to say that the site must become “a Holocaust memorial” to the “Iranian victims of Esther and Mordechai” and be placed under the supervision of the state religious-endowments authority. This is, of course, the same Iranian government that officially denies the fact of the actual Holocaust.

The Iranian account speaks of the events of the Purim story, in which Esther and Mordechai foiled a plan hatched by the King’s minister Haman to exterminate the Jews of the Persian Empire, who then strike back against the forces arrayed to slaughter them.

The action against the tomb appears to be a response to a demonstration by Iranian students who called for its destruction in response to a false report that Israel was digging beneath the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem.

While we cannot know whether the Iranians will follow through on this threat and actually tear down the tomb or transform it into a center of anti-Jewish hate, it does provide yet another insight into the virulent nature of the attitudes of those in power there. Not satisfied with whipping up hatred against the State of Israel and the tiny, cowed remnant community that still lives there, the Iranians are now striking out against biblical Jews. The vicious nature of this regime is rooted in a view of Islam that apologists for Tehran have consistently sought to ignore. While the blow against Esther and Mordechai may be purely symbolic, it must be placed in the context of a long-running campaign of incitement against Jews and Israel that makes the possible acquisition of nuclear arms by this country even more alarming.

The Iranian war on Purim makes it even more imperative that they never be allowed to gain the power to do what the ayatollah’s ancient hero Haman attempted: the physical elimination of a Jewish population. Anyone who thinks that we can live with a nuclear Iran needs to consider the madness of allowing a government that thinks the Purim story should be reversed the power to do just that.

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Tikkun’s Jewish ‘Ethics’ — Honor Goldstone for Libeling Israel

With the rise of groups like the left-wing lobby J Street and the presence of a critic of Israel in the White House, it’s hard for a magazine like Michael Lerner’s Tikkun to get much attention these days. But Lerner is doing his best (or is it his worst?) in an effort to recapture the focus of Jewish leftists.  To that end, as Jennifer has pointed out, the magazine has announced that it is giving its 25th annual “ethics” award to Richard Goldstone, the author of the biased and inaccurate United Nations report on last year’s war in Gaza that slandered Israel.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Lerner says he decided to give his dubious prize to Goldstone before the brouhaha over whether the South African jurist would be prevented from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of the anger of his fellow Jews at his presence in synagogue. But, Lerner says, he decided to announce the award now as an answer to Goldstone’s “outrageous” treatment.

The controversy over the Goldstone bar mitzvah is regrettable for two reasons. First, because a child’s rite of passage ought to be allowed to proceed without political demonstrations against one of his relatives, no matter how odious that relative might be. Second, because the threat of a demonstration against Goldstone at the synagogue enabled him to pose as a victim of Jewish intolerance rather than owning up to the fact that he allowed the anti-Semites at the UN to use him as a front man for a vicious libel against the Jewish state. The report treated Hamas aggression against Israel as a minor affair while hyping every unproven atrocity charge against Israel’s counteroffensive against terror.  It serves to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right of self-defense while allowing those who wish to exterminate that state and its Jewish inhabitants to be treated kindly. Goldstone is no martyr. His connection with this document is a badge of shame that will be indelibly attached to his name in Jewish history, a fact that ought to make us all sympathize with his relatives.

As for Lerner, true to form, he is trying to grab a little publicity out of this mess. The self-declared rabbi of Jewish Renewal has now invited the Goldstones to have the boy’s bar mitzvah in his Berkeley synagogue. Goldstone, whose despicable betrayal has made him persona non grata to any Jewish community with a shred of honor or self-respect, might well be received with cheers in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. But surely even he must know that an “ethics award” from the likes of Lerner is nothing to brag about.

With the rise of groups like the left-wing lobby J Street and the presence of a critic of Israel in the White House, it’s hard for a magazine like Michael Lerner’s Tikkun to get much attention these days. But Lerner is doing his best (or is it his worst?) in an effort to recapture the focus of Jewish leftists.  To that end, as Jennifer has pointed out, the magazine has announced that it is giving its 25th annual “ethics” award to Richard Goldstone, the author of the biased and inaccurate United Nations report on last year’s war in Gaza that slandered Israel.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Lerner says he decided to give his dubious prize to Goldstone before the brouhaha over whether the South African jurist would be prevented from attending his grandson’s bar mitzvah because of the anger of his fellow Jews at his presence in synagogue. But, Lerner says, he decided to announce the award now as an answer to Goldstone’s “outrageous” treatment.

The controversy over the Goldstone bar mitzvah is regrettable for two reasons. First, because a child’s rite of passage ought to be allowed to proceed without political demonstrations against one of his relatives, no matter how odious that relative might be. Second, because the threat of a demonstration against Goldstone at the synagogue enabled him to pose as a victim of Jewish intolerance rather than owning up to the fact that he allowed the anti-Semites at the UN to use him as a front man for a vicious libel against the Jewish state. The report treated Hamas aggression against Israel as a minor affair while hyping every unproven atrocity charge against Israel’s counteroffensive against terror.  It serves to delegitimize the Jewish state’s right of self-defense while allowing those who wish to exterminate that state and its Jewish inhabitants to be treated kindly. Goldstone is no martyr. His connection with this document is a badge of shame that will be indelibly attached to his name in Jewish history, a fact that ought to make us all sympathize with his relatives.

As for Lerner, true to form, he is trying to grab a little publicity out of this mess. The self-declared rabbi of Jewish Renewal has now invited the Goldstones to have the boy’s bar mitzvah in his Berkeley synagogue. Goldstone, whose despicable betrayal has made him persona non grata to any Jewish community with a shred of honor or self-respect, might well be received with cheers in the People’s Republic of Berkeley. But surely even he must know that an “ethics award” from the likes of Lerner is nothing to brag about.

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J Street’s Agenda Remains Irrelevant to Middle East Realities

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, threw the left-wing lobby J Street a few bones in an interview last week. JTA quotes Oren as telling a California Jewish newspaper that the “J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process. J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream.”

By refusing to appear at J Street’s conference last fall and saying that its views on Israel were “dangerous,” Oren demonstrated Israel’s impatience with a lobby whose agenda was solely focused on instigating pressure on Israel from the Obama administration while foiling pressure on Iran. It’s understandable that Oren would attempt to reward some moderation in their stands. His priority is to aid the assembly of the largest possible coalition of support for Israel, not to punish those whose efforts are, at best, less than helpful. However, to the extent that J Street is trying to behave like a mainstream organization — an assumption that is certainly open to debate — this change reflects two important factors.

First is the complete irrelevance of J Street’s main idea: that there is a need for a Jewish lobby whose purpose is to push Washington to push Israel to make peace. As the events of the last year continue to prove, the obstacle to peace remains the Palestinians and their political culture of violence and hatred for Israel. As much as the Jewish Left has gained in the United States during the Obama presidency, the Left in Israel is as close to dead as it can be. That’s because the overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that after Oslo’s false promises, Arafat’s refusal of a state in the West Bank and Jerusalem in 2000 and 2001, and Mahmoud Abbas’s refusal of an even more generous offer in 2008, the Palestinian nationalist movement Fatah has proved it is not interested in a state as long as that state must live in peace alongside Israel. That the even more extreme Hamas terrorist movement controls Gaza and might expand someday into the West Bank if Israel abandons its security presence there has rendered the idea of further concessions and withdrawals absurd. This is a political reality that no amount of pressure from either Obama or the American Left can alter.

But just as the Obama administration may be backing off its initial desire to push Israel into a corner, its Jewish cheering section at J Street may be starting to see that its initial extreme positions, such as opposing Israel’s counteroffensive into Gaza last year (an operation that had wall-to-wall political support in Israel), were a disaster. For all the controversy in the American Jewish community about whether J Street is “pro” or “anti” Israel, the bottom line is that J Street’s platform is simply irrelevant to the situation that Israel actually faces.

But J Street’s real purpose was never so much about influencing the peace process as it was a reflection of the desire on the part of the American Jewish Left to challenge mainstream groups for influence here, not at the peace table in the Middle East. J Street’s agenda is about American politics, not peace. But though most American Jews remain loyal liberal Democrats, the idea that a new group was needed to push for more Israeli concessions after all that has happened in the past two decades is ludicrous. The issue for American friends of Israel today is whether they are prepared to speak up for the existence of the Jewish state and its right of self-defense, not the stale old Left-Right arguments that have been rehearsed again and again in the past quarter century. If J Street wants to be anything more than the Jewish rump of Moveon.org, it must do things like support sanctions on Iran and back Israel’s right to self-defense. These are positions that undermine the entire reason for the group’s founding. But whether they can stay on this path — and I doubt it — this pat on the head from Israel’s ambassador reflects the fact that it has failed to muster support for an extreme agenda that it must either downplay or abandon.

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Rereading the ADL’s Foolish Report on Rage

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

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

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

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I wrote in COMMENTARY on Nov. 18:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Axis of Uranium Meets Middle East Peace Process


It’s a busy month for Brazil. The Latin American giant hosted Shimon Peres last week, sustained a visit from Mahmoud Abbas this week, and will receive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next week. Not exactly a random series of visitors — and at least some Americans are paying attention: the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.com have both picked up on the vociferous objections of Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) to Ahmadinejad’s visit. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency cites a Brazilian press account of Engel’s call on the ambassador in Washington [emphasis added]:

The Representative … met with the Brazilian Ambassador in Washington, Antonio Patriota, and conveyed his concern regarding Ahmadinejad’s visit on November 23.  Patriota, according to a source present at the meeting, reacted brusquely, surprising Engel. … [Engel said]: “I expressed my deep displeasure with Ahmadinejad’s visit, since I always speak openly in my meetings with ambassadors, and he (Patriota) defended his position.”

Engel is right to be concerned, but the cows got out of this barn a while back. U.S. media opinion looks almost poignantly out of touch on this: when editorialists speculate that Brazil could be jeopardizing its standing as a potential mediator with Iran, the salient question is, jeopardizing it with whom?

There has, after all, been no meaningful reaction from the U.S. to Brazil’s prior outreach to Iran, to the country’s own uranium-enrichment program, or to the late-2008 nuclear accord between Russia and Brazil. America has largely ignored Iran’s (and Russia’s) growing ties to nearby Venezuela and has evinced little if any reaction to a series of signals in 2009 that Brazil could help the mullahs evade sanctions by setting up a line of credit for Iran’s Export and Development Bank. Iranian sources now refer to this credit line as a fait accompli, an impression Ahmadinejad’s state visit will certainly not revise.

It’s no wonder, then, that Abbas today is asking Brazil to intervene with Iran and get its leaders to cease their support to Hamas. Nor is it surprising that Israel, in 2009, has already sent both its foreign minister and its president to Brazil, on the nation’s first Latin American charm offensives in more than two decades.

As Congressman Engel could tell us, Brazil’s policies are trending, disquietingly, toward specific and material support for Iran and a political solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs. But the U.S. should also wake up to the fact of this revolving-door courtship and what it says about the leadership vacuum up north.

Consider that while  Brazil mulled over a line of credit for Iran, this summer the U.S. made a government-backed loan to the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, as if Brazil were not a major economic power busy undermining our policy on Iran but still an importunate Third World backwater. Congressman Engel is right: this needs adjusting — as much in Washington as in Brasilia, if not more.


It’s a busy month for Brazil. The Latin American giant hosted Shimon Peres last week, sustained a visit from Mahmoud Abbas this week, and will receive Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next week. Not exactly a random series of visitors — and at least some Americans are paying attention: the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.com have both picked up on the vociferous objections of Congressman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) to Ahmadinejad’s visit. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency cites a Brazilian press account of Engel’s call on the ambassador in Washington [emphasis added]:

The Representative … met with the Brazilian Ambassador in Washington, Antonio Patriota, and conveyed his concern regarding Ahmadinejad’s visit on November 23.  Patriota, according to a source present at the meeting, reacted brusquely, surprising Engel. … [Engel said]: “I expressed my deep displeasure with Ahmadinejad’s visit, since I always speak openly in my meetings with ambassadors, and he (Patriota) defended his position.”

Engel is right to be concerned, but the cows got out of this barn a while back. U.S. media opinion looks almost poignantly out of touch on this: when editorialists speculate that Brazil could be jeopardizing its standing as a potential mediator with Iran, the salient question is, jeopardizing it with whom?

There has, after all, been no meaningful reaction from the U.S. to Brazil’s prior outreach to Iran, to the country’s own uranium-enrichment program, or to the late-2008 nuclear accord between Russia and Brazil. America has largely ignored Iran’s (and Russia’s) growing ties to nearby Venezuela and has evinced little if any reaction to a series of signals in 2009 that Brazil could help the mullahs evade sanctions by setting up a line of credit for Iran’s Export and Development Bank. Iranian sources now refer to this credit line as a fait accompli, an impression Ahmadinejad’s state visit will certainly not revise.

It’s no wonder, then, that Abbas today is asking Brazil to intervene with Iran and get its leaders to cease their support to Hamas. Nor is it surprising that Israel, in 2009, has already sent both its foreign minister and its president to Brazil, on the nation’s first Latin American charm offensives in more than two decades.

As Congressman Engel could tell us, Brazil’s policies are trending, disquietingly, toward specific and material support for Iran and a political solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs. But the U.S. should also wake up to the fact of this revolving-door courtship and what it says about the leadership vacuum up north.

Consider that while  Brazil mulled over a line of credit for Iran, this summer the U.S. made a government-backed loan to the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, as if Brazil were not a major economic power busy undermining our policy on Iran but still an importunate Third World backwater. Congressman Engel is right: this needs adjusting — as much in Washington as in Brasilia, if not more.

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Reversing Field, ADL Blasts J Street Over Palin

Days after the ADL pandered to its liberal adherents with a report that attempted in part to link mainstream conservative critics of the Obama administration with extremists, the venerable watchdog group tilted in the other direction with a blast aimed at J Street, the leftist lobby that seeks to undermine the pro-Israel consensus in Washington. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ADL national director Abe Foxman called up the wire service last night to condemn J Street for its attack on Sarah Palin’s recent statement opposing Obama’s stand on Jewish settlements. JTA’s Capital J blog said Foxman termed J Street’s statement “over the line” and wondered whether the group should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”

Palin had expressed support for the settlement movement in a Barbra Walters interview, though her explanation of the need for allowing existing settlements to expand was a bit off the mark. She said it was because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” That is more than anybody in Israel knows about the possibility of an increase in aliyah. The argument for settlement expansion has to do with Israel’s rights to the land and its security as well as the needs of the existing Jewish population. This is, alas, another example of the former vice-presidential candidate sometimes having a correct opinion but not knowing the right reason for having it. But in a week when Obama personally blasted Israel for building new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, this is not a moment to quibble about the statements of those who are trying to help Israel rather than cut it off at the knees, as the administration seems intent on doing.

Which is why Foxman was absolutely right to point out that J Street was way out of line. Capital J claims that Foxman asserted that J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza, its opposition to new Iran sanctions, its failure to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, and the reaction to the Palin statement raise a “question mark” about the group’s own “pro-Israel” bona fides.

J Street’s willingness to use the settlements issue to jump on Palin, a popular liberal punching bag, illustrates again that its primary reason for being has nothing to do with a desire to back Israel or a peace process that is dead in the water due to a complete lack of interest in making peace on the part of the Palestinians. J Street’s only purpose is to pursue the political agenda of the Left with no concern for the need to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. But as much as Foxman’s anger at J Street was on target, we’d have a little more respect for the ADL’s own judgment had the full force of its efforts not otherwise been similarly aimed at delegitimizing anti-Obama and largely pro-Israel conservatives earlier in the week.

Days after the ADL pandered to its liberal adherents with a report that attempted in part to link mainstream conservative critics of the Obama administration with extremists, the venerable watchdog group tilted in the other direction with a blast aimed at J Street, the leftist lobby that seeks to undermine the pro-Israel consensus in Washington. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, ADL national director Abe Foxman called up the wire service last night to condemn J Street for its attack on Sarah Palin’s recent statement opposing Obama’s stand on Jewish settlements. JTA’s Capital J blog said Foxman termed J Street’s statement “over the line” and wondered whether the group should be calling itself “pro-Israel.”

Palin had expressed support for the settlement movement in a Barbra Walters interview, though her explanation of the need for allowing existing settlements to expand was a bit off the mark. She said it was because “more and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.” That is more than anybody in Israel knows about the possibility of an increase in aliyah. The argument for settlement expansion has to do with Israel’s rights to the land and its security as well as the needs of the existing Jewish population. This is, alas, another example of the former vice-presidential candidate sometimes having a correct opinion but not knowing the right reason for having it. But in a week when Obama personally blasted Israel for building new apartments in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, this is not a moment to quibble about the statements of those who are trying to help Israel rather than cut it off at the knees, as the administration seems intent on doing.

Which is why Foxman was absolutely right to point out that J Street was way out of line. Capital J claims that Foxman asserted that J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s invasion of Gaza, its opposition to new Iran sanctions, its failure to support last month’s congressional resolution condemning the Goldstone Report, and the reaction to the Palin statement raise a “question mark” about the group’s own “pro-Israel” bona fides.

J Street’s willingness to use the settlements issue to jump on Palin, a popular liberal punching bag, illustrates again that its primary reason for being has nothing to do with a desire to back Israel or a peace process that is dead in the water due to a complete lack of interest in making peace on the part of the Palestinians. J Street’s only purpose is to pursue the political agenda of the Left with no concern for the need to maintain a bipartisan pro-Israel coalition. But as much as Foxman’s anger at J Street was on target, we’d have a little more respect for the ADL’s own judgment had the full force of its efforts not otherwise been similarly aimed at delegitimizing anti-Obama and largely pro-Israel conservatives earlier in the week.

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