Commentary Magazine


Topic: London

Will Britain Outlaw the Brotherhood?

Following last year’s ousting of Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, it appears that several among its leadership may have simply moved their operations to London so as to escape the crackdown in Cairo. There it appears these leaders convened to strategize the movement’s response to their overthrow. In many respects it is remarkable that this Islamist organization had not already been outlawed. Yet, no doubt alarmed by the way in which London is being turned into the seat of the Muslim Brotherhood government in exile, Downing Street has now ordered an urgent investigation into the group’s ideology and operations, apparently in preparation for implementing a ban against the Brotherhood’s presence in the UK. 

Part of the impetus for this move by the British government comes in the wake of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked terror attack on a tourist bus in the Sinai peninsular. The concern here is that this may be yet another terror attack planned from British soil. As such Prime Minister David Cameron has instructed an enquiry into the “philosophy and activities” of the group so as to ascertain whether the group represents a security threat. Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5 will be tasked with investigating a number of senior Brotherhood figures currently residing in Britain, while MI6, the country’s foreign intelligence agency will follow up on the group’s involvement in launching terror activities beyond Britain’s shores.

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Following last year’s ousting of Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, it appears that several among its leadership may have simply moved their operations to London so as to escape the crackdown in Cairo. There it appears these leaders convened to strategize the movement’s response to their overthrow. In many respects it is remarkable that this Islamist organization had not already been outlawed. Yet, no doubt alarmed by the way in which London is being turned into the seat of the Muslim Brotherhood government in exile, Downing Street has now ordered an urgent investigation into the group’s ideology and operations, apparently in preparation for implementing a ban against the Brotherhood’s presence in the UK. 

Part of the impetus for this move by the British government comes in the wake of a Muslim Brotherhood-linked terror attack on a tourist bus in the Sinai peninsular. The concern here is that this may be yet another terror attack planned from British soil. As such Prime Minister David Cameron has instructed an enquiry into the “philosophy and activities” of the group so as to ascertain whether the group represents a security threat. Britain’s domestic intelligence service MI5 will be tasked with investigating a number of senior Brotherhood figures currently residing in Britain, while MI6, the country’s foreign intelligence agency will follow up on the group’s involvement in launching terror activities beyond Britain’s shores.

Britain’s capital first earned itself the epithet Londonistan back in the late 1990s, but since then successive governments were supposed to have taken action to prevent London from functioning as the Jihadi capital of Europe. Yet it now seems that an apartment in the leafy northwest London suburb of Cricklewood is being used as the operational headquarters of Muslim Brotherhood post the group’s overthrow in Egypt. Long before this had happened, commentators were complaining that in the rush to crackdown on al-Qaeda and in an effort to win friends an influence people in the Islamist world, the British establishment had sought to legitimate the Muslim Brotherhood and its associate organizations operating in the West. With the election of Morsi to Egypt’s presidency, the Obama administration set a precedent for “engagement” with Egypt’s new Islamist rulers.  

One interesting upshot of this probable move to outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain is the matter of how it might impact upon Hamas-affiliated groups in the UK. Hamas is after all simply the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, yet unlike in the U.S. where Hamas is designated a foreign terrorist organization; in Britain it is only the military wing of Hamas that is proscribed. In the event that all manifestations of the Brotherhood are forbidden to operate in the UK, this may have implications for a number of Hamas-linked NGOs and Campaign groups based in London but who take their marching orders and funding from their Islamist overseers.

While it may be regrettable that the Muslim Brotherhood was not prohibited from operating in Britain decades ago, if this investigation is conducted adequately it is hard to imagine that Muslim Brotherhood leaders will be sojourning in unassuming Cricklewood for much longer.  

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Ken Livingstone Does It Again, Again

Last month, London’s Labour Party mayoral-candidate Ken Livingstone, speaking before (irony alert) an audience of Labour-supporting Jews, proclaimed that Jews won’t vote for him because they’re rich. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership was finally able to relay its disgust in an anticipated meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband last night.

Previously, Miliband had defended Ken, maintaining that there was not a prejudiced bone in the former mayor’s body – which may be true, given the tongue, brain, and heart aren’t technically ‘‘bones.’’ In any case, Miliband, recognizing his party’s reclamation of the London mayoralty to be a critical boon to his leadership, pushed the usually recalcitrant ‘‘Red Ken’’ to apologize. The candidate agreed, though it seems not so readily: Haaretz reports the precise wording of the apology was the ‘‘subject of lengthy negotiations.’’ Read More

Last month, London’s Labour Party mayoral-candidate Ken Livingstone, speaking before (irony alert) an audience of Labour-supporting Jews, proclaimed that Jews won’t vote for him because they’re rich. The Anglo-Jewish community leadership was finally able to relay its disgust in an anticipated meeting with Labour Party leader Ed Miliband last night.

Previously, Miliband had defended Ken, maintaining that there was not a prejudiced bone in the former mayor’s body – which may be true, given the tongue, brain, and heart aren’t technically ‘‘bones.’’ In any case, Miliband, recognizing his party’s reclamation of the London mayoralty to be a critical boon to his leadership, pushed the usually recalcitrant ‘‘Red Ken’’ to apologize. The candidate agreed, though it seems not so readily: Haaretz reports the precise wording of the apology was the ‘‘subject of lengthy negotiations.’’

Well, that wording was published today in the Jewish Chronicle, and, despite having backed up his claim that Jews are rich and won’t vote for him by insisting that ‘‘Every psychological study I’ve seen in the 40 years I’ve been following politics shows the main factor that determines how people how vote is their income level…And it’s not anti-Semitic to say that,’’ he now acknowledges that ‘‘Jewish voters are not one homogeneous bloc. A 2010 report for the Institute for Jewish Policy Research shows the range of Jewish voting preference. In North London Labour was the preferred party, for example.’’

So what does all this mean? It means that a meeting called to dispel Jewish reservations about voting for Ken Livingstone because of his history of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions ended in controversy about a new anti-Semitic position – a position now retracted. And so London’s Jews find themselves where they were a month ago: looking to Livingstone to dispel reservations about voting for him in May’s election. Now, though, there may not be enough time for another meeting – but maybe that’s good for Livingstone.

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Vindication for Bush’s Freedom Agenda

As popular unrest sweeps the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Yemen to Egypt, it’s worth recalling the words and warning of President George W. Bush – in this case, his November 19, 2003, address at Whitehall Palace in London, where Bush said this:

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. …

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

Now we’re pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.

During the course of the Bush presidency, his “freedom agenda” was criticized from several different quarters, including foreign-policy “realists” who believed that the bargain Bush spoke about — tolerating oppression for the sake of “stability” — was worth it.

It wasn’t. The core argument Bush made, which is that America must stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity — the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance — was right. No people on earth long to live in oppression and servitude, as slaves instead of free people, to be kept in chains or experience the lash of the whip.

How this conviction should play itself out in the real world is not self-evident; the success of such a policy depends on the wisdom and prudence of statesmen. Implementing a policy is a good deal harder than proclaiming one. Still, it seems to be that events are vindicating the freedom agenda as a strategy and a moral insight, as even the Obama administration is coming to learn.

As popular unrest sweeps the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Yemen to Egypt, it’s worth recalling the words and warning of President George W. Bush – in this case, his November 19, 2003, address at Whitehall Palace in London, where Bush said this:

We must shake off decades of failed policy in the Middle East. Your nation and mine, in the past, have been willing to make a bargain, to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability. …

As recent history has shown, we cannot turn a blind eye to oppression just because the oppression is not in our own backyard. No longer should we think tyranny is benign because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny wherever it is found.

Now we’re pursuing a different course, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We will consistently challenge the enemies of reform and confront the allies of terror. We will expect a higher standard from our friends in the region, and we will meet our responsibilities in Afghanistan and in Iraq by finishing the work of democracy we have begun.

During the course of the Bush presidency, his “freedom agenda” was criticized from several different quarters, including foreign-policy “realists” who believed that the bargain Bush spoke about — tolerating oppression for the sake of “stability” — was worth it.

It wasn’t. The core argument Bush made, which is that America must stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity — the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance — was right. No people on earth long to live in oppression and servitude, as slaves instead of free people, to be kept in chains or experience the lash of the whip.

How this conviction should play itself out in the real world is not self-evident; the success of such a policy depends on the wisdom and prudence of statesmen. Implementing a policy is a good deal harder than proclaiming one. Still, it seems to be that events are vindicating the freedom agenda as a strategy and a moral insight, as even the Obama administration is coming to learn.

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Iranian-Funded Press TV’s British Bank Accounts Frozen

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

Press TV, the international news organization and propaganda arm of the Iranian government, has had its British bank account frozen, the Times of London reported today.

The frozen account is thought to contain more than $140,000 (100,000 euros), and National Westminster Bank is expected to close it shortly.

And while National Westminster Bank said the move was a “private commercial decision over which the Government has no control,” there has been speculation by both critics and supporters of the news station that politics may have played a part in the decision.

Lauren Booth — the Israel-bashing sister-in-law of Tony Blair — has written a barely legible opinion column for Al Jazeera, blaming the freeze on Zionism, the Blair machine, and American imperialism (errors in the original):

“The freezing of Press TV Ltd business account by Nat West Bank, is a politically motivated act,” wrote Booth. “The bank accounts of those companies who bring uncomfortable truths into the public domain, can now be closed as part of a political agenda, eliciting from the USA. Supported by the Nat West and Her Majesty’s Government.”

Booth compared it to a similar incident in 2007, when National Westminster Bank shuttered the account of a Hamas-linked Palestinian “charity” called Interpal. The bank said it closed the account under pressure from the U.S. legal system.

And it’s possible that similar concerns could have prompted the bank to freeze Press TV’s account as well. Legally, the Iranian-government-funded news organization may be subject to Iranian sanctions.

“[I]t is not surprising that an international bank like Nat West has frozen the accounts of a propaganda station, funded entirely by the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is increasingly subject to international financial and trade sanctions in the European Union and the United States,” wrote Alan A. at the conservative blog Harry’s Place.

Whatever the reason for the freeze, hopefully it’ll lead to some more government scrutiny for Press TV. The fake news station not only devotes itself to publishing constant anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda; it’s also issued news reports denying the Holocaust and claiming that the Mossad helped commit the 9/11 attacks. At the very least, the government should require the station to provide a content warning informing viewers that it’s funded entirely by the Iranian government.

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The Guardian‘s Spin on the Palestine Papers

If I may highlight one more thing regarding Noah Pollak’s excellent take-down of the “Palestine Papers” that the Guardian and Al Jazeera leaked to the public over the weekend, the Guardian editorial yesterday threw its weight behind Hamas in full.

Not much news there clearly, considering that the Guardian never made a mystery of its political sympathies: just to offer a few picks, it regularly hosts well-known Islamists, Hamas’s unofficial spokesman in London, a vast assortment of one-staters such as Karma Nabulsi, and former British Communist Party member Seumas Milne. And so to have dumped thousands of documents in the public domain that it deems so embarrassing to the Palestinian Authority as to make its leaders and negotiators lose any credibility they might still have suggests a certain agenda.

And it bears remembering that the Guardian is not new to this type of rhetoric, having been for the last decade a dedicated host of some of the most hostile columns against Israel, the patron of prominent Israeli anti-Zionist scholars and revisionist historians, the platform for left-wing opposition to the war in Iraq, anti-Bush activism, anti-globalization rhetoric, pleas against capitalism, and the occasional trivialization of Stalinism.

The Palestine Papers are less a scoop and more a tool to advance one of the above agendas. For the Guardian, they are evidence that “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

This prescription follows:

America must drop its veto on Palestinian unity talks and take up Hamas’s offer of a one-year ceasefire; a negotiating team that represents all major Palestinian factions must be formed; and Israel has to accept that a state created on 1967 borders, not around them, is the minimum price of an end to the conflict.

This in order to save a two-state solution that, for the Guardian, may already be dead anyway after its leaks have discredited the current Palestinian leadership.

The leak will generate an enormous amount of traffic on the Guardian website for the weeks ahead (good for ad buys); it may corner some European leaders into a panic as they see the PA bend over backward to deny it ever made any such concession, to avoid the loss of face the leaks may have caused it; it may ignite some debate inside Israel, not only about the quality of Israel’s leadership during the leaked negotiations, as Noah noted, but also about the existence of a Palestinian partner, whether that partner can deliver, and so on.

Regardless, the Guardian spin says more about its worldview and the views of its audience than it says about the peace process. To assume that the way forward is to have the U.S. pressure Israel, open up to Hamas, and declare the pre-1967 cease-fire line as the international boundary is not just an old and tired fantasy — it is a sure way to make the two-state solution even more moribund than at present.

If that is what the Guardian wished to achieve by leaking the papers, it may comfortably say “mission accomplished” in tomorrow’s editorial.

If I may highlight one more thing regarding Noah Pollak’s excellent take-down of the “Palestine Papers” that the Guardian and Al Jazeera leaked to the public over the weekend, the Guardian editorial yesterday threw its weight behind Hamas in full.

Not much news there clearly, considering that the Guardian never made a mystery of its political sympathies: just to offer a few picks, it regularly hosts well-known Islamists, Hamas’s unofficial spokesman in London, a vast assortment of one-staters such as Karma Nabulsi, and former British Communist Party member Seumas Milne. And so to have dumped thousands of documents in the public domain that it deems so embarrassing to the Palestinian Authority as to make its leaders and negotiators lose any credibility they might still have suggests a certain agenda.

And it bears remembering that the Guardian is not new to this type of rhetoric, having been for the last decade a dedicated host of some of the most hostile columns against Israel, the patron of prominent Israeli anti-Zionist scholars and revisionist historians, the platform for left-wing opposition to the war in Iraq, anti-Bush activism, anti-globalization rhetoric, pleas against capitalism, and the occasional trivialization of Stalinism.

The Palestine Papers are less a scoop and more a tool to advance one of the above agendas. For the Guardian, they are evidence that “The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street.”

This prescription follows:

America must drop its veto on Palestinian unity talks and take up Hamas’s offer of a one-year ceasefire; a negotiating team that represents all major Palestinian factions must be formed; and Israel has to accept that a state created on 1967 borders, not around them, is the minimum price of an end to the conflict.

This in order to save a two-state solution that, for the Guardian, may already be dead anyway after its leaks have discredited the current Palestinian leadership.

The leak will generate an enormous amount of traffic on the Guardian website for the weeks ahead (good for ad buys); it may corner some European leaders into a panic as they see the PA bend over backward to deny it ever made any such concession, to avoid the loss of face the leaks may have caused it; it may ignite some debate inside Israel, not only about the quality of Israel’s leadership during the leaked negotiations, as Noah noted, but also about the existence of a Palestinian partner, whether that partner can deliver, and so on.

Regardless, the Guardian spin says more about its worldview and the views of its audience than it says about the peace process. To assume that the way forward is to have the U.S. pressure Israel, open up to Hamas, and declare the pre-1967 cease-fire line as the international boundary is not just an old and tired fantasy — it is a sure way to make the two-state solution even more moribund than at present.

If that is what the Guardian wished to achieve by leaking the papers, it may comfortably say “mission accomplished” in tomorrow’s editorial.

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History Made Visible

Humans are visual animals. Just as a dog, suddenly aware of the unexpected, turns his nose toward it and starts sniffing, we humans turn our eyes toward things to try to figure them out. Of course, many things are invisible because of distance, size, lack of light, or obstruction. Much of the history of technology has been about overcoming these problems, with telescopes, microscopes, infrared sensors, radar, television, etc.  Once we can see something clearly, we can usually figure it out.

But some things are just inherently not visible. Epidemics, for instance. So we humans, clever creatures that we are, have devised ways to make even them visible. When cholera broke out in London in 1854, no one had a clue as to why or how the disease was spreading. A physician named John Snow stuck a pin in a map of London to indicate the residence of everyone who had developed cholera. It was quickly evident that the cases were clustered tightly around a particular public well from which people were drawing water for household use. Close the well, said Snow, and the epidemic will end. Snow, widely considered the father of epidemiology, was right, and the epidemic quickly abated when authorities closed the well.

Statistics, too, are a way of making the inherently invisible visible because they can be converted into graphs and charts.  Add the power of computers and you can produce charts that border on the magical. Consider this one published in Business Insider. It charts the fertility rate (the number of babies born per woman) against life expectancy over the past 50 years for a large number of countries. Each country is represented by a circle, its size a function of that country’s population.

The first thing you notice is that the fertility rate has been dropping sharply in most countries, while life expectancy has been rising equally sharply. The circles migrate toward the lower right of the chart over time to show this. But one of the large circles suddenly drops off a cliff beginning about 1970 as its fertility rate drops precipitously. How come? Click on the bubble and its name comes up: China and its one-child-per-family policy. And some countries suddenly reverse course, and their life expectancy collapses, moving their circles rapidly back toward the left of the chart. What is causing that? Click on the circles and the names of the countries come up: Rwanda, Cambodia, etc.

In other words, this chart makes history itself visible. Is that cool, or what?

Humans are visual animals. Just as a dog, suddenly aware of the unexpected, turns his nose toward it and starts sniffing, we humans turn our eyes toward things to try to figure them out. Of course, many things are invisible because of distance, size, lack of light, or obstruction. Much of the history of technology has been about overcoming these problems, with telescopes, microscopes, infrared sensors, radar, television, etc.  Once we can see something clearly, we can usually figure it out.

But some things are just inherently not visible. Epidemics, for instance. So we humans, clever creatures that we are, have devised ways to make even them visible. When cholera broke out in London in 1854, no one had a clue as to why or how the disease was spreading. A physician named John Snow stuck a pin in a map of London to indicate the residence of everyone who had developed cholera. It was quickly evident that the cases were clustered tightly around a particular public well from which people were drawing water for household use. Close the well, said Snow, and the epidemic will end. Snow, widely considered the father of epidemiology, was right, and the epidemic quickly abated when authorities closed the well.

Statistics, too, are a way of making the inherently invisible visible because they can be converted into graphs and charts.  Add the power of computers and you can produce charts that border on the magical. Consider this one published in Business Insider. It charts the fertility rate (the number of babies born per woman) against life expectancy over the past 50 years for a large number of countries. Each country is represented by a circle, its size a function of that country’s population.

The first thing you notice is that the fertility rate has been dropping sharply in most countries, while life expectancy has been rising equally sharply. The circles migrate toward the lower right of the chart over time to show this. But one of the large circles suddenly drops off a cliff beginning about 1970 as its fertility rate drops precipitously. How come? Click on the bubble and its name comes up: China and its one-child-per-family policy. And some countries suddenly reverse course, and their life expectancy collapses, moving their circles rapidly back toward the left of the chart. What is causing that? Click on the circles and the names of the countries come up: Rwanda, Cambodia, etc.

In other words, this chart makes history itself visible. Is that cool, or what?

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Obama Snubs Britain Yet Again

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

He just can’t help himself. President Obama has apparently dissed Britain once again by declaring that “[w]e don’t have a stronger friend and stronger ally than Nicolas Sarkozy, and the French people” during a White House appearance with the French president. And the British press has taken notice:

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

Whether or not Obama meant any offense by the statement, he obviously should have realized that his past coldness toward Britain has made the it highly sensitive to any perceived slights from the White House. The president previously declined to meet with former prime minister Gordon Brown, removed the bust of Winston Churchill from his office, and famously gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod with photos of himself on it as a gift. His latest amateur diplomatic slip-up has sparked a bit of anti-French bad-mouthing from both British lawmakers and foreign-policy experts in Washington:

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: “I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like ‘best ally’ so loosely.

“It’s Britain that has had more than 300 servicemen killed in Afghanistan, not France.

“That to my mind is a lot more powerful than any political gesture making.”

The remarks also angered conservatives in Washington.

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Centre For Freedom at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said: “Quite what the French have done to merit this kind of high praise from the U.S. President is difficult to fathom.

“And if the White House means what it says this represents an extraordinary sea change in foreign policy.” Dr Gardiner, a former aide to Lady Thatcher, added: “To suggest that Paris and not London is Washington’s strongest partner is simply ludicrous.

“Such a remark is not only factually wrong but insulting to Britain, not least coming just a few years after the French knifed Washington in the back over the war in Iraq.”

And it’s not hard to see why Obama’s statement provoked such a response. As the Daily Mail notes, the UK has lost nearly seven times as many troops as France in the global war on terror. I’d say that the president should choose his words more carefully next time, but in light of his numerous diplomatic flaps with Britain, I’m not sure if he has it in him.

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Morning Commentary

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

Concern is growing over China’s advancing military capabilities. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with civilian leaders in Beijing today, Chinese bloggers and news agencies produced photos that appear to show the country’s new stealth fighter taking its first test flight: “That message undercuts the symbolism of Mr. Gates’ visit, which is designed to smooth military relations ahead of a state visit to the U.S. next week by Chinese President Hu Jintao.”

The insta-politicization of the Arizona shooting — by both Twitter activists and serious political leaders — is just another example of why Americans are becoming increasingly fed up with both the Republican and Democratic parties, writes Reason’s Nick Gillespie: “How do you take one of the most shocking and revolting murder sprees in memory and make it even more disturbing? By immediately pouncing on its supposed root causes for the most transparently partisan of gains.”

Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin outlines the possible replacements for the top positions on Obama’s foreign-policy team in 2011. The most likely candidates to replace Defense Secretary Robert Gates — who is expected to step down after early next spring — are John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Michele Flourney, Gates’s current undersecretary for policy; and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

The IDF is fighting back at criticism over its use of tear gas at an anti-Israel protest in Bil’in, by launching a YouTube campaign showing demonstrators throwing rocks and attempting to tear down fences at the same rally.

A former ambassador to Lebanon responds to the New York Times’s shameful fluff story about a radical Lebanese, Hezbollah-praising newspaper: “Sadly, Al Akhbar is less maverick and far less heroic than your article suggests. Al Akhbar will no more criticize Hezbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, than Syria’s state-run Tishreen newspaper would question the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.”

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the chair of the Pakistan ruling party and son of the late Benazir Bhutto, has vowed to keep fighting the country’s blasphemy laws after the assassination of Salman Taseer: “‘To the Christian and other minority communities in Pakistan, we will defend you,’ he said at a memorial ceremony in London for Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province who was killed by his own security guard last week. ‘Those who wish to harm you for a crime you did not commit will have to go through me first.’”

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John Gross, 1935-2011

John Gross, one of the most delightful, literate, and civilized men in the English-speaking world, died earlier today in London at the age of 75. A literary journalist and critic of the highest order, John wrote for every publication that mattered, edited the Times Literary Supplement for seven years, and was a book critic at the New York Times for six years in the 1980s.

His writings also appeared in COMMENTARY for decades; last year he wrote a wonderful piece on those who would deny Shakespeare’s authorship — a subject of considerable interest to a man who, in 1993, literally wrote the book on Shylock and the effect of Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic character over the course of the 400 years since The Merchant of Venice was first performed. That piece, “Denying Shakespeare,” can be read in its entirety here. And here you can find his wondrous memoir of growing up as a Jew in Britain.

May his children, Tom and Susanna, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

John Gross, one of the most delightful, literate, and civilized men in the English-speaking world, died earlier today in London at the age of 75. A literary journalist and critic of the highest order, John wrote for every publication that mattered, edited the Times Literary Supplement for seven years, and was a book critic at the New York Times for six years in the 1980s.

His writings also appeared in COMMENTARY for decades; last year he wrote a wonderful piece on those who would deny Shakespeare’s authorship — a subject of considerable interest to a man who, in 1993, literally wrote the book on Shylock and the effect of Shakespeare’s anti-Semitic character over the course of the 400 years since The Merchant of Venice was first performed. That piece, “Denying Shakespeare,” can be read in its entirety here. And here you can find his wondrous memoir of growing up as a Jew in Britain.

May his children, Tom and Susanna, be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Margaret Thatcher and Defensible Borders

Among the documents released last week by the British National Archives is a February 14, 1980, memorandum to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, entitled “Arab/Israel” — and another document showing her handwritten reaction to it. The documents should be read in connection with Harry Kanigel’s excellent article on defensible borders for Israel in yesterday’s American Thinker.

Lord Hailsham’s memorandum responded to a plan that the British foreign secretary, Lord Peter Carrington, wanted Thatcher to approve. Carrington argued that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan provided a “unique opportunity” for the West to form an alliance with Islamic countries but that the “main obstacle” was those countries’ dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the Arab/Israel conflict. He wanted to “build a bridge between the US and the Arabs” with a UN resolution endorsing a Palestinian “right of self-determination” and “the right of Palestinian refugees … to return to their homes,” while assuring Israel of its security “within its 1967 frontiers.”

The Lord Chancellor wrote to Thatcher that he did not share Carrington’s optimism on the prospects of his proposed initiative — “unless, of course, we are prepared to sacrifice things which are too important morally, and too valuable to our interest to sacrifice.”

Were [Israel] to be destroyed by an aggressive war the devastating effects on the rule of law throughout the world could hardly be exaggerated. … Prior to 1967 the physical boundaries of Israel were virtually untenable militarily. South of the Jezreel valley, the geography of Israel is starkly simple, consisting virtually of three parallel straight lines running North and South, the sea, the Judean hills and the Jordan valley. Whoever commands the hills commands the rest. Prior to 1967 the waist-line of Israel was only 10 miles broad, and its main centers of population [were] exposed to artillery fire as well as the prospect of devastating air raids. After 1967 Israel has enjoyed reasonably viable military frontiers consisting of the Judean hills (and the no less important frontier heights on the Syrian border). Jerusalem is built on the Judean hills. [emphasis added]

He also noted that Jewish opinion was “fanatically involved in the fate of Israel” and that Manchester, Leeds, and the whole of North London would be “profoundly affected” by Jewish hostility on this issue. Then he concluded as follows:

If there be a reasonable chance of success without losing our honor yet again over the Balfour declaration; go ahead. But have we not enough on our plate just now not to consider leaving this hot potato alone?

On reading the Hailsham memorandum, perhaps Thatcher recalled the confrontation with Menachem Begin eight months before, when Begin told her that without settlements, Israel could be “at the mercy of a Palestinian state astride the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria.” Perhaps she was impressed by Lord Hailsham’s immense stature as Lord Chancellor and his reference to British honor. Perhaps she took his point about Jewish opinion.

In any event, the files contain a note apparently written to her by her cabinet secretary that appeared to side with Carrington, asserting that “losing our honor” was not involved and suggesting that Jewish hostility was “a different kind of problem.” On the note, Thatcher wrote a single-sentence rebuttal: “I agree with the Lord Chancellor.”

Among the documents released last week by the British National Archives is a February 14, 1980, memorandum to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, entitled “Arab/Israel” — and another document showing her handwritten reaction to it. The documents should be read in connection with Harry Kanigel’s excellent article on defensible borders for Israel in yesterday’s American Thinker.

Lord Hailsham’s memorandum responded to a plan that the British foreign secretary, Lord Peter Carrington, wanted Thatcher to approve. Carrington argued that the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan provided a “unique opportunity” for the West to form an alliance with Islamic countries but that the “main obstacle” was those countries’ dissatisfaction with U.S. policy in the Arab/Israel conflict. He wanted to “build a bridge between the US and the Arabs” with a UN resolution endorsing a Palestinian “right of self-determination” and “the right of Palestinian refugees … to return to their homes,” while assuring Israel of its security “within its 1967 frontiers.”

The Lord Chancellor wrote to Thatcher that he did not share Carrington’s optimism on the prospects of his proposed initiative — “unless, of course, we are prepared to sacrifice things which are too important morally, and too valuable to our interest to sacrifice.”

Were [Israel] to be destroyed by an aggressive war the devastating effects on the rule of law throughout the world could hardly be exaggerated. … Prior to 1967 the physical boundaries of Israel were virtually untenable militarily. South of the Jezreel valley, the geography of Israel is starkly simple, consisting virtually of three parallel straight lines running North and South, the sea, the Judean hills and the Jordan valley. Whoever commands the hills commands the rest. Prior to 1967 the waist-line of Israel was only 10 miles broad, and its main centers of population [were] exposed to artillery fire as well as the prospect of devastating air raids. After 1967 Israel has enjoyed reasonably viable military frontiers consisting of the Judean hills (and the no less important frontier heights on the Syrian border). Jerusalem is built on the Judean hills. [emphasis added]

He also noted that Jewish opinion was “fanatically involved in the fate of Israel” and that Manchester, Leeds, and the whole of North London would be “profoundly affected” by Jewish hostility on this issue. Then he concluded as follows:

If there be a reasonable chance of success without losing our honor yet again over the Balfour declaration; go ahead. But have we not enough on our plate just now not to consider leaving this hot potato alone?

On reading the Hailsham memorandum, perhaps Thatcher recalled the confrontation with Menachem Begin eight months before, when Begin told her that without settlements, Israel could be “at the mercy of a Palestinian state astride the commanding heights of Judea and Samaria.” Perhaps she was impressed by Lord Hailsham’s immense stature as Lord Chancellor and his reference to British honor. Perhaps she took his point about Jewish opinion.

In any event, the files contain a note apparently written to her by her cabinet secretary that appeared to side with Carrington, asserting that “losing our honor” was not involved and suggesting that Jewish hostility was “a different kind of problem.” On the note, Thatcher wrote a single-sentence rebuttal: “I agree with the Lord Chancellor.”

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Missed Opportunity in Assange Bail Request

As London’s Independent reports, Julian Assange was refused bail, despite this offer by some devoted fans:

Jemima Khan, the sister of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger all offered to stand as surety for Assange.

We understand the judge’s concerns that if Assange were released on bail, he might disappear again. Still, the risk was far outweighed by the benefit of having Khan, Loach, and Pilger behind bars.

Clearly, a missed opportunity!

As London’s Independent reports, Julian Assange was refused bail, despite this offer by some devoted fans:

Jemima Khan, the sister of Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, film director Ken Loach and veteran journalist John Pilger all offered to stand as surety for Assange.

We understand the judge’s concerns that if Assange were released on bail, he might disappear again. Still, the risk was far outweighed by the benefit of having Khan, Loach, and Pilger behind bars.

Clearly, a missed opportunity!

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Morning Commentary

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

Assange arrested in London, but extradition to Sweden “could take months,” reports the BBC. Despite the development, a WikiLeaks spokesman says the site will continue to release cables.

During nuclear talks this week, Iran showed a willingness to further discuss its program with P5+1 officials, reports the Los Angeles Times: “Though Iran’s position was a sign of progress, it was about the minimum the six powers could accept after a 14-month stalemate. Pressed by Washington, the U.N. Security Council tightened economic sanctions against Iran in June. The U.S. and European Union added their own tougher sanctions the following month. The U.S. and its allies have threatened further action if Iran does not commit to serious negotiations.”

Nineteen governments have joined a boycott of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that will give the award to jailed Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, indicating increased pressure from Beijing. Xiaobo is currently serving an 11-year sentence for “subversion.” China’s foreign minister claimed that Nobel officials “are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves. …We are not changing because of interference by a few clowns and we will not change our path.”

In the December issue of COMMENTARY (behind our pay wall), Ron Radosh dissected Walter Schneir’s attempt to backtrack from his bid to exonerate Communist spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. He now does the same (with co-author Steven Usdin) for another Rosenberg apologist: “Now, so many years later, when the intellectual community largely acknowledges the Rosenbergs’ guilt—a 2008 public confession by former Soviet spy Morton Sobell, who was tried along with the Rosenbergs, made continued denial impossible—[Victor] Navasky has written what is possibly the last-ditch attempt to redeem the Rosenbergs.”

The New York Times claims that a letter from lawmakers indicates “bipartisan” support for Obama’s nuclear strategy. Reality seems to disagree.

Looks like President Obama’s counter-attack against the U.S. Chamber of Conference is paying dividends. Dozens of local chapters of the Chamber have distanced themselves from or quit their associations with the national body due to its support of Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms. “Looking ahead to the 2012 elections, if more local chambers publicly declare their independence, it could undermine the power and credibility of attacks launched from the Washington office,” reports Politico.

Obama cut a deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two years, but has this move alienated his liberal base? New York Times analyst Peter Baker writes: “For President Obama, this is what bipartisanship looks like in the new era: messy, combustible and painful, brought on under the threat of even more unpalatable consequences and yet still deferring the ultimate resolution for another day.”

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TSA Scanners vs. Profiling Redux

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

As they say in Congress, I would like to expand and clarify my previous remarks on TSA security screening. Abby Wisse Schachter at the New York Post has a thoughtful response taking issue with my endorsement of body scanners and pat-downs. She concedes that racial/ethnic profiling doesn’t work, but goes on to argue:

I differ with Boot when he dismisses behavioral profiling because it isn’t a perfect cure-all. Wouldn’t it be possible to profile everyone in line at security by conducting an interview to suss out an individual [who] seems like they might be a security threat based on their behavior, then have a second layer of pat-downs and nudie screening for those who didn’t pass the interview? Why is it necessary to essentially terrorize children in order to provide security which if we’re being realistic is not going to work 100 percent of the time. I’m not convinced the TSA has exhausted the benefits of other less invasive security techniques that they can plausibly claim this is the only way to go.

I was not dismissing behavioral profiling. I think it is vital and necessary but insufficient. To truly secure anything, you need multiple defenses. Thus military bases have an outer and an inner perimeter so that if the first is breached, the second will stand. In the same way, we need various defenses to stop terrorists from hitting our aviation system. Behavioral profiling is certainly part of it. So is interviewing at least some passengers. But there are limits to how far we can go with interviews. This is something that Israeli airport security personnel do extensively (I always seem to get asked if I’m Jewish and to name my rabbi), but they have the luxury of guarding only one airport. In the U.S., we have hundreds and hundreds of airports with thousands of flights every day. Imagine subjecting every single passenger to the kind of (sometimes lengthy) interrogation that Israeli security personnel do. It would slow the entire system to a crawl and generate more complaints than the body scanners. It would also be much more difficult to do because you would have to train tens of thousands of personnel in very difficult interrogation techniques. Far easier to train them to monitor a body scanner or to pat you down.

Even when done by well-trained Israeli operatives, the interviews are sometimes insufficient. That is made clear by this account (from the website of Israel’s security agency, Shabak) of a 1988 attempted bombing of an El Al flight from London to Tel Aviv:

The passenger, a 32 year old Irish woman named Anne-Marie Murphy, who was six months pregnant, arrived at the check-in desk some forty minutes before it closed. She was approached and questioned by the deputy security officer as part of routine passenger security checks.

No suspicious signs were revealed during her questioning. The passenger, who gave the impression of being a simple woman, responded in the negative when asked if she had been given anything to bring to Israel. During the questioning she was calm, and revealed no sign of nervousness. In the check of her baggage, suspicious signs came to light: a Commodore scientific calculator with an electric cable was found; the bag raised suspicion due to its unexpectedly heavy weight. The security officer’s examination of the bag revealed explosives concealed in the bottom of the bag, under a double panel. He called the police, and the passenger was arrested.

Turns out Ms. Murphy — who did not fit the profile of a terrorist or act like one — had been given a bomb by her Jordanian boyfriend. In this case, only physical examination of her luggage revealed the device. But that wouldn’t work with some of the more recent al-Qaeda bombers, who are secreting explosives in their underwear or elsewhere on their person. The only way they can be reliably detected is with the body scanners and pat-downs that the TSA is now rolling out.

By all means, we should do various kinds of profiling and interviewing, but we also need another line of defense. This is it.

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An Exceptional Life

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

I admit to being a fan of obituaries, not only those of the most famous or infamous but also of those whose lives were not played out in daily headlines. They are tiny history lessons and morality tales. They are vivid reminders that ordinary people are capable of doing remarkable things, and they prod us to ask: what would I have done?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a gem. We learn:

Shortly after German troops invaded Belgium in 1940, Gaston Vandermeerssche, a Belgian university student, bicycled 800 miles to the south of France and became a spy.

Mr. Vandermeerssche, who died Nov. 1 at age 89 in Milwaukee, joined the resistance and ferried microfilm documents over the Pyrenees to Spain, where intermediaries sent the information on to London.

Later in the war he helped organize the Dutch underground, which came to comprise hundreds of agents and safe houses. After his network was penetrated by the Germans, he tried to escape, but was arrested near the Spanish border. He spent 24 months being interrogated in prison, but by his own account never broke.

The details of his exploits are eye-popping. (“He became a courier, making weekly trips from Brussels to Toulouse to Barcelona. The last leg involved trudging over snowy passes in the Pyrenees by moonlight. The microfilms he carried bore information collected by members of the underground on shipyards, gun emplacements and the like.”) But it is also the details of his very unextraordinary life — the son of a furniture maker who ended life in the U.S. as an executive of Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co. — that remind us of the innate decency and capacity for greatness that ordinary people possess. Indeed, it was Vandermeerssche’s unexceptionalness that confounded his captors:

Mr. Vandermeerssche was arrested in Perpignan, France, in 1943 with a cache of microfilm stuffed into butter tubs. His German interrogators suspected his role in the Dutch underground, but couldn’t prove it.

“I was so young, the Germans did not believe that this kid was the head of that large network,” he said in the oral history. “And I told them, ‘Are you crazy? I couldn’t have done this.’ ”

Months of brutal interrogation and solitary confinement failed to break Mr. Vandermeerssche’s will. He was betrayed by another member of the underground, and was sentenced to death in a military trial. But he was freed by American troops near the end of the war.

Although shattered by his experiences in prison—he said he couldn’t eat or sleep normally for a decade—Mr. Vandermeerssche resumed his studies, earning a Ph.D. in physics.

You can understand my fondness for obits.

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BBC Report: UK Muslim Schools Teaching Anti-Semitism

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

An eye-opening report released by the BBC on Monday found that roughly 5,000 students attending 40 Muslim schools and after-school clubs in the UK have been taught the Saudi national curriculum — which includes subjects like chopping off the hands of thieves and the demonization of Jews and gay people.

From the BBC report:

One of the text books asks children to list the “reprehensible” qualities of Jewish people. A text for younger children asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam — the answer given in the text book is “hellfire.”

Another text describes the punishment for gay sex as death and states a difference of opinion about whether it should be carried out by stoning, burning with fire or throwing the person over a cliff.

Considering the growing problem of youth radicalization in the UK, this report is quite disturbing — but it’s certainly no surprise. Three years ago, the BBC revealed that textbooks at the Saudi-funded King Fahad Academy in East London referred to Jewish people as “repugnant” and Christians as “pigs.” The school was initially investigated by British officials, but once the textbooks were removed, no further action was taken.

This new BBC report pretty much confirms that the government has done nothing since that incident to deal with these problems. A 2007 analysis by the Telegraph showed that more than half of the 114 private Muslim schools had not been officially inspected for more than half a decade, and I think it’s fair to assume that this hands-off policy by the government has continued until now.

Even in light of the BBC report, education officials seem pretty blasé about what’s going on in Saudi-backed classrooms. When contacted by the BBC about the problematic curricula, Michael Gove, the education secretary, offered this gem of an understatement:

“To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that should be used in English schools,” said Grove.

He said that part-time schools were not required to undergo inspections, but officials were looking into the possibility.

“Ofsted are doing some work in this area, they’ll be reporting to me shortly about how we can ensure that part-time provision is better registered and better inspected in the future.”

Great — but let’s that hope education officials actually start taking this problem seriously.

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Hamas Finally Admits Most Gaza Fatalities Were Combatants, Not Civilians

Here’s a news item certain to be ignored by every human rights organization, every UN agency, and every country that backed the Goldstone Report: almost two years after the war in Gaza ended, no less a person than Hamas’s interior minister has finally admitted that Israel was right all along about the casualties — the vast majority were combatants, not civilians.

The first crucial admission in Fathi Hammad’s interview with the London-based Al-Hayat is that the 250 policemen Israel killed on the war’s first day by bombing their station were indeed combatants, just as Israel claimed. Human rights organizations have repeatedly labeled this raid a deliberate slaughter of civilian police tasked solely with preserving law and order, dismissing Israel’s contention that these policemen functioned as an auxiliary Hamas army unit. But here’s what Hamas’s own interior minister says:

On the first day of the war, Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs who were part of Hamas and the various factions fell.

In short, just as Israel claimed, many of these policemen belonged to Hamas, while the remainder belonged to other “factions” — the standard Palestinian euphemism for their various armed militias.

In addition, Hammad said, “about 200 to 300 were killed from the Qassam Brigades, as well as 150 security personnel.” The Qassam Brigades are Hamas’s main fighting force.

Combining the higher of Hammad’s estimates for the Qassam Brigades, 300, with the 150 “security personnel” and the 250 policemen brings the total number of combatants killed by Israel to 700. Add in the fact that Israel also killed combatants from other organizations, like Islamic Jihad, and you’re already above the 709 people the Israel Defense Forces said it had definitely identified as combatants — that is, some of the 162 whose status the IDF couldn’t determine were (as it suspected) also combatants. Based on the IDF’s total casualty figure of 1,166, that means at least 61 percent of the Palestinian fatalities were combatants, and quite possibly more.

Nor does taking the lower estimate, 200, alter the results significantly: that gives a total of 600 combatants, which, assuming some from other organizations as well, brings you quite close to the IDF’s figure of 709.

And of course, even the lower estimate gives you almost double the 349 combatants cited by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

So why did Hamas lie about its casualties for almost two years? Because in Hammad’s world, that’s simply standard practice. That’s why he also insisted in the interview that Israel really suffered 50 wartime fatalities, though it “acknowledged only 12”: he can’t conceive of a party to a conflict actually reporting its losses accurately.

But however belatedly, Hamas has now confirmed that most of the war’s casualties were indeed combatants rather than civilians, just as Israel always claimed. So now all that’s needed is a humble apology from all the individuals and organizations that have spent the past two years slanderously accusing Israel of the wholesale slaughter of civilians.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Here’s a news item certain to be ignored by every human rights organization, every UN agency, and every country that backed the Goldstone Report: almost two years after the war in Gaza ended, no less a person than Hamas’s interior minister has finally admitted that Israel was right all along about the casualties — the vast majority were combatants, not civilians.

The first crucial admission in Fathi Hammad’s interview with the London-based Al-Hayat is that the 250 policemen Israel killed on the war’s first day by bombing their station were indeed combatants, just as Israel claimed. Human rights organizations have repeatedly labeled this raid a deliberate slaughter of civilian police tasked solely with preserving law and order, dismissing Israel’s contention that these policemen functioned as an auxiliary Hamas army unit. But here’s what Hamas’s own interior minister says:

On the first day of the war, Israel targeted police stations and 250 martyrs who were part of Hamas and the various factions fell.

In short, just as Israel claimed, many of these policemen belonged to Hamas, while the remainder belonged to other “factions” — the standard Palestinian euphemism for their various armed militias.

In addition, Hammad said, “about 200 to 300 were killed from the Qassam Brigades, as well as 150 security personnel.” The Qassam Brigades are Hamas’s main fighting force.

Combining the higher of Hammad’s estimates for the Qassam Brigades, 300, with the 150 “security personnel” and the 250 policemen brings the total number of combatants killed by Israel to 700. Add in the fact that Israel also killed combatants from other organizations, like Islamic Jihad, and you’re already above the 709 people the Israel Defense Forces said it had definitely identified as combatants — that is, some of the 162 whose status the IDF couldn’t determine were (as it suspected) also combatants. Based on the IDF’s total casualty figure of 1,166, that means at least 61 percent of the Palestinian fatalities were combatants, and quite possibly more.

Nor does taking the lower estimate, 200, alter the results significantly: that gives a total of 600 combatants, which, assuming some from other organizations as well, brings you quite close to the IDF’s figure of 709.

And of course, even the lower estimate gives you almost double the 349 combatants cited by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

So why did Hamas lie about its casualties for almost two years? Because in Hammad’s world, that’s simply standard practice. That’s why he also insisted in the interview that Israel really suffered 50 wartime fatalities, though it “acknowledged only 12”: he can’t conceive of a party to a conflict actually reporting its losses accurately.

But however belatedly, Hamas has now confirmed that most of the war’s casualties were indeed combatants rather than civilians, just as Israel always claimed. So now all that’s needed is a humble apology from all the individuals and organizations that have spent the past two years slanderously accusing Israel of the wholesale slaughter of civilians.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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It Has Come to This

George Mitchell is still obsessing about the settlement moratorium. Bibi says he wants to continue direct talks. And the voice of sanity — get this — comes from Egypt:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit criticized the Palestinian Authority for its “insistence” on a moratorium on building in the settlements.

In an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Aboul Gheit said waiting for a renewed freeze will only complicate peace talks, and that the most important issue is borders. Aboul Gheit also hinted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not think a settlement freeze is essential.

Mitchell and his boss are clearly the least savvy operators in the Middle East. Maybe the best thing for the peace “process” — aside from calling an end to it — would be for the Obama administration to get out of the picture. Before the Obami came along, settlements were not a make-or-break issue, talks without preconditions were continuing, economic and security progress were evident in the West Bank, and our relations with Israel actually were “rock-solid,” to borrow Hillary Clinton’s disingenuous description of her administration’s relationship with Israel. I suspect if Mitchell packed up and left, and if Obama focused less on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and more on Iran, all the players in the Middle East would be a lot better off.

George Mitchell is still obsessing about the settlement moratorium. Bibi says he wants to continue direct talks. And the voice of sanity — get this — comes from Egypt:

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit criticized the Palestinian Authority for its “insistence” on a moratorium on building in the settlements.

In an interview with London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, Aboul Gheit said waiting for a renewed freeze will only complicate peace talks, and that the most important issue is borders. Aboul Gheit also hinted that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not think a settlement freeze is essential.

Mitchell and his boss are clearly the least savvy operators in the Middle East. Maybe the best thing for the peace “process” — aside from calling an end to it — would be for the Obama administration to get out of the picture. Before the Obami came along, settlements were not a make-or-break issue, talks without preconditions were continuing, economic and security progress were evident in the West Bank, and our relations with Israel actually were “rock-solid,” to borrow Hillary Clinton’s disingenuous description of her administration’s relationship with Israel. I suspect if Mitchell packed up and left, and if Obama focused less on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and more on Iran, all the players in the Middle East would be a lot better off.

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Smackdown: Convoy vs. Flotilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Didn’t Obama Grasp What the Ground Zero Mosque Is All About?

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of “religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not “want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of “religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not “want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.'”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

Isn’t it funny how the press doesn’t go nuts when this happens in a Democratic administration? “Before Marie Antoinette ‘Farmer in the Dell’ Obama’s even had a chance to teach low-income obese children how to sow and harvest and eat like so many little Johnny Appleseeds, her ‘Let’s Move’ initiative may lighten them up perforce, as Dem legislators find they are obliged to slash the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, to pay for it.”

Isn’t it interesting how Obama always delivers the message the “Muslim World” wants to hear? The Emergency Committee for Israel calls on the Obami to disassociate themselves from Imam Rauf: “The employment of Mr. Rauf by the State Department lends American credibility to a disturbing trend in the West: the idea that terrorism against Israelis falls into a different and less objectionable category from terrorism against other people. This may be fashionable in Europe, but the United States does not embrace an Israel exception to the unacceptability of suicide bombings. One of the most important messages the United States can deliver to the Middle East is that there is never a justification for jihadist murder, whether in New York, Madrid, London — or Tel Aviv. … There are numerous Muslim leaders in America who are willing to speak the plain truth about Hamas.”

Isn’t it a travesty that it took six years?: “The Justice Department has informed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that the government has ended a six-year investigation of his ties to the disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to DeLay’s lead counsel in the matter. … The investigation lasted through two presidents and four attorneys general. Its demise provides a stark footnote to the lobbying scandals that helped Democrats regain the House majority they held for 40 years.”

Isn’t it getting to be desperation time for the Democrats? “Republican candidates have jumped out to a record-setting 12-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, August 15, 2010. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held in over a decade of Rasmussen Reports surveying.”

Isn’t it time someone in the White House told Obama to stop saying “it’s clear” when it’s not? In Wisconsin, Obama was at it again: “What’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction.” But the press now is cutting him no slack: “But despite positive signs in the manufacturing sector, the White House has found itself at odds with continued high unemployment rates and anemic job growth, and the shadow of an uncertain future hung low over the event.”

Isn’t it a bad sign for Obama when he loses even Harry Reid on the Ground Zero mosque?

Isn’t the time when corporate America was trying to get along with Obama only a dim memory? Now it’s a pitched battle: “U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist Martin Regalia on Monday said the tax increases advocated by President Obama would essentially kill any chance for an economic rebound. ‘That’s what you’re suggesting, is a corporate bullet in the head,’ Regalia said. ‘That is going to be a bullet in the head for an awful lot of people that are going to be laid off and an awful lot of people who are hoping to get their jobs back.'”

Isn’t parody dead when TNR praises Ross Douthat’s rant against the rubes in “Second America” as “studiously non-judgemental”?

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