Commentary Magazine


Topic: Peace Now

Not a Parody: Peace Now Shocked to Discover Arabs Don’t Want Peace

What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it’s hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world. But give Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.

However, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace “now” was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest. Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group’s critics could have come up with.

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What will it take to convince supporters of Peace Now the imperative of their organization’s name depends on the Arabs rather than the Jews? After 18+ years of Arab terrorism and rejection of peace offers since the Oslo Accords, it’s hard to say whether anything the Palestinians could do or say would cause them to rethink their myopic view of the world. But give Americans for Peace Now’s Lara Friedman a little credit. After schlepping to an Arab League conference on Jerusalem, she at least had the wit to notice that just about everybody else there was focused on delegitimizing Israel, denouncing its existence within any borders and denying thousands of years of Jewish history.

However, it’s hard not to chuckle a little bit at the indignant tone affected by Friedman in her op-ed published in the Forward as she conveys her shock and dismay to discover the Arab world believes Jews have no rights in Jerusalem or any other part of Israel. She and her group had so convinced themselves all it will take to create peace “now” was for Israelis to support a two-state solution and negotiate, it appears they never took the time or effort to realize the other side has little interest in peace, now or at any other time. This gives her piece the tone of a parody worthy of The Onion even though it was written in deadly earnest. Indeed, it must be considered in writing such an article she has demonstrated the utter cluelessness of her group better than anything the group’s critics could have come up with.

What is so touching (as well as more than a bit comical) about Friedman’s piece is that much of what she says in it is true. For example:

If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.

If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. …

All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians.

Friedman is quite right about all of this. But does it really need to be pointed out that she needn’t have traveled to Doha to figure this out? The Palestinians and their cheerleaders have been making this clear for decades. That is why Peace Now in Israel has been discredited by the events that have transpired since the Oslo Accords were signed, and their political supporters in the Knesset have been trounced in election after election. The traditional left in Israel, at least as far as the Palestinian issue is concerned, is barely alive, though you wouldn’t know it from the way many on the Jewish left in the United States talk. The conceit of groups like Americans for Peace Now and J Street — that Israel must be pressured to make peace by the United States for its own good — makes no sense once you realize the Jewish state has repeatedly tried and failed to trade land for peace and the Palestinians have little interest in a two-state solution no matter where Israel’s borders would be drawn.

Friedman archly compares the Arab hate fest she is attending to Jewish conclaves where only pro-Israel speakers participate. This is a bit much as is her insinuation no one who cares for Israel’s future can possibly oppose a partition of Jerusalem that would place Jewish holy places in the tender care of Abbas and his Hamas allies. As she has discovered to her consternation, Palestinians don’t care about Jewish sensibilities, let alone Jewish rights. Her failure to draw any rational conclusions from what she has heard in Doha tells us all we need to know about the irrelevance of Peace Now to any serious discussion about the future of the Middle East.

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Time to Jump Off the J Street Bandwagon

JTA has an exceptionally odd report up on the J Street–Soros connection. On one hand, the generally liberal publication argues that it was not a big deal to be funded by Soros, so the gaffe was in hiding the connection:

A senior staffer for a Democratic congressman who has accepted J Street’s endorsement agreed, saying that Soros’ support for J Street would not have been “a major factor” in deciding whether to accept the organization’s endorsement.

“People have to know first who George Soros is and, second, why it would be bad for a pro-Israel group — in some circles — to be associated with him,” the staffer said. “There are a lot of people like that in the Jewish macherocracy — but not in our district.”

But then again, maybe it really is a big deal:

It didn’t help that MoveOn was erroneously associated with a Web advertisement that likened Bush to Hitler, and that Soros himself said the times reminded him of aspects of his Nazi-era childhood in Hungary.

But, several observers said, the fraught politics of just a few years ago — when Soros was seen as an unhinged provocateur baiting the Bush administration and Republicans — were a thing of the past, with Democrats now controlling the White House and the U.S. Congress.

And then there is the whole Human Rights Watch thing:

In recent weeks, conservatives and other critics of Soros have noted the recent $100 million donation to Human Rights Watch, a group that is seen by Israel and many of the country’s supporters as biased in its treatment of abuses in the Middle East.

The donation “makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well established,” Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s director, wrote in a New York Post op-ed before the J Street controversy broke. “In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.”

So maybe there was a reason Jeremy Ben-Ami repeatedly lied about the Soros connection. Nevertheless, the JTA folks keep up their habit of sourcing (obsessively so) to Soros Street and its supporters, concluding that Soros Street will be just fine.

At a time when virtually all the mainstream Jewish media and leadership have shown some mettle in condemning the Soros Street charade, it remains a mystery why JTA is still carrying water for it. I suppose they have invested a lot in J Street’s credibility as a legitimate organization, but the jig is up. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the obvious: J Street was a front for a hard-core leftist whose views and rhetoric are unacceptable to the majority of Americans. And Soros’s creation, which allied itself with Richard Goldstone (drafting his defense) and a raft of Israel-haters, was never the “pro-Israel” grassroots organization it made itself out to be. Surely JTA’s readers could accept that?

A final note: JTA quotes Abe Foxman at length saying all sorts of sweet things about J Street and Soros. Well, no one is ever going to confuse him with Nathan Perlmutter.

JTA has an exceptionally odd report up on the J Street–Soros connection. On one hand, the generally liberal publication argues that it was not a big deal to be funded by Soros, so the gaffe was in hiding the connection:

A senior staffer for a Democratic congressman who has accepted J Street’s endorsement agreed, saying that Soros’ support for J Street would not have been “a major factor” in deciding whether to accept the organization’s endorsement.

“People have to know first who George Soros is and, second, why it would be bad for a pro-Israel group — in some circles — to be associated with him,” the staffer said. “There are a lot of people like that in the Jewish macherocracy — but not in our district.”

But then again, maybe it really is a big deal:

It didn’t help that MoveOn was erroneously associated with a Web advertisement that likened Bush to Hitler, and that Soros himself said the times reminded him of aspects of his Nazi-era childhood in Hungary.

But, several observers said, the fraught politics of just a few years ago — when Soros was seen as an unhinged provocateur baiting the Bush administration and Republicans — were a thing of the past, with Democrats now controlling the White House and the U.S. Congress.

And then there is the whole Human Rights Watch thing:

In recent weeks, conservatives and other critics of Soros have noted the recent $100 million donation to Human Rights Watch, a group that is seen by Israel and many of the country’s supporters as biased in its treatment of abuses in the Middle East.

The donation “makes it a fine fit for George Soros, whose own biases are well established,” Gerald Steinberg, NGO Monitor’s director, wrote in a New York Post op-ed before the J Street controversy broke. “In the Middle East, for example, his Open Society Institute exclusively supports advocacy groups that campaign internationally to undermine the elected governments of Israel — organizations such as Adalah, Peace Now, Breaking the Silence, Gisha and Yesh Din.”

So maybe there was a reason Jeremy Ben-Ami repeatedly lied about the Soros connection. Nevertheless, the JTA folks keep up their habit of sourcing (obsessively so) to Soros Street and its supporters, concluding that Soros Street will be just fine.

At a time when virtually all the mainstream Jewish media and leadership have shown some mettle in condemning the Soros Street charade, it remains a mystery why JTA is still carrying water for it. I suppose they have invested a lot in J Street’s credibility as a legitimate organization, but the jig is up. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge the obvious: J Street was a front for a hard-core leftist whose views and rhetoric are unacceptable to the majority of Americans. And Soros’s creation, which allied itself with Richard Goldstone (drafting his defense) and a raft of Israel-haters, was never the “pro-Israel” grassroots organization it made itself out to be. Surely JTA’s readers could accept that?

A final note: JTA quotes Abe Foxman at length saying all sorts of sweet things about J Street and Soros. Well, no one is ever going to confuse him with Nathan Perlmutter.

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The Kindness of Israelis

The warm welcome travelers experience in the Arab world is so well-known it has become a guidebook cliché, but the Arabs have earned it. Their part of the world seems to suffer from no end of grave and serious problems, but a dearth of manners and kindness for strangers isn’t one of them. Everything you have heard about their hospitality code is true. Even first-time visitors who expect it are often astonished — especially Americans who might be used to frosty receptions in Europe.

Less well-known is the hospitality of Israelis. Their reputation is on-par with that of New Yorkers. Aggressive security officials at the airport, yelling taxi drivers, and occasionally abusive wait staff can put people off. That sort of thing, though, accounts for less than 1 percent of my experience when working in Israel.

A few days ago, I announced that I’m leaving for Israel this week now that I’ve finished and sold my book, and the same thing happened that always does when I mention in public that I’m on my way over there. My in-box filled with offers of generous assistance from Israelis whom I’ve never met or even heard of. Most offered to buy me dinner. Some said I could sleep on their couch or in a spare bedroom. A few even offered to show me around, introduce me to people, and set up appointments for me. Some of these offers even showed up in my comments section.

This rarely happens when I go anywhere else in the world. It happens every time I’ve announced a trip to Israel, though, in times of peace and during war, and it has been happening to me for years.

I get these sorts of offers from the entire range of Israeli society, from people affiliated with Peace Now to the settler movement. I can always count on kind and generous people in Arab countries to help me out once I’ve arrived, but only Israelis reach out so extensively, so consistently, and in such large numbers before I even get off the plane.

I’ve never written about this before, but it finally occurred to me that I should, partly because I’m grateful and wish to say thank you in public, but also because general readers should know that Middle Eastern hospitality is a regional thing and isn’t only on offer from Arabs.

The warm welcome travelers experience in the Arab world is so well-known it has become a guidebook cliché, but the Arabs have earned it. Their part of the world seems to suffer from no end of grave and serious problems, but a dearth of manners and kindness for strangers isn’t one of them. Everything you have heard about their hospitality code is true. Even first-time visitors who expect it are often astonished — especially Americans who might be used to frosty receptions in Europe.

Less well-known is the hospitality of Israelis. Their reputation is on-par with that of New Yorkers. Aggressive security officials at the airport, yelling taxi drivers, and occasionally abusive wait staff can put people off. That sort of thing, though, accounts for less than 1 percent of my experience when working in Israel.

A few days ago, I announced that I’m leaving for Israel this week now that I’ve finished and sold my book, and the same thing happened that always does when I mention in public that I’m on my way over there. My in-box filled with offers of generous assistance from Israelis whom I’ve never met or even heard of. Most offered to buy me dinner. Some said I could sleep on their couch or in a spare bedroom. A few even offered to show me around, introduce me to people, and set up appointments for me. Some of these offers even showed up in my comments section.

This rarely happens when I go anywhere else in the world. It happens every time I’ve announced a trip to Israel, though, in times of peace and during war, and it has been happening to me for years.

I get these sorts of offers from the entire range of Israeli society, from people affiliated with Peace Now to the settler movement. I can always count on kind and generous people in Arab countries to help me out once I’ve arrived, but only Israelis reach out so extensively, so consistently, and in such large numbers before I even get off the plane.

I’ve never written about this before, but it finally occurred to me that I should, partly because I’m grateful and wish to say thank you in public, but also because general readers should know that Middle Eastern hospitality is a regional thing and isn’t only on offer from Arabs.

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Why Shouldn’t Helen Thomas Be Expelled from the White House Press Corps?

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

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Israel’s Right Discovers Political Sanity

Anyone familiar with Israeli politics knows that the Israeli right’s worst enemy is itself. Small right-of-center factions toppled both Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government in 1992 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999; those decisions led, respectively, to Yitzhak Rabin’s election and the Oslo Accords, and to Ehud Barak’s election and the second intifada.

Moreover, it was rightist voters who ensured Rabin’s victory by wasting thousands of votes on splinter parties that failed to enter the Knesset. Had all those votes gone to the main center-right party, Likud, Shamir would have formed the next government and not Rabin. Yet instead of learning the lesson, rightists continued wasting thousands of votes on unelectable splinter parties in subsequent elections.

So it was encouraging to read the following notice in a local newsletter (Hebrew only) published by the West Bank settlement of Eli: “After much thought, it has been decided by the [Givat Hayovel neighborhood] committee, the town council and rabbis, with backing from senior officials involved in the matter, to register people for Likud. Likud is the ruling party, and that is where we need to have an influence. … Joining Likud is the most effective way of influencing ministers and Knesset members to work with us on both the court case and other matters of importance to the town.”

Granted, Eli is only one settlement, and its decision stems from a very specific problem: the aforementioned court case, in which Peace Now is seeking a court order to raze Givat Hayovel on the grounds that it was built illegally. Eli contends that the neighborhood, built with massive government support, was always slated for legalization and needs only the final government permits — hence its quest for lobbying clout.

Nevertheless, this is a revolution. During Likud’s last membership drive, in 2008, a party activist who canvassed Eli and other settlements using this very same argument told me despairingly that most people didn’t get it. Now it is being promoted by the town’s entire political and religious leadership.

Moreover, many other settlements face similar problems with permits. So if Eli has reached this conclusion, it’s likely that other settlements are or will be doing the same.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of splinter voting, since joining Likud doesn’t oblige one to vote for it. Yet large-scale party membership carries its own dynamic: if those rightists who previously shunned Likud instead start working from within it, the party will presumably become more responsive to their needs, thus encouraging more of them to vote for it.

That in turn could promote more effective government. Israel’s current governing coalition comprises six different parties, with Likud commanding barely a third of its seats, and these parties’ disagreements have led to paralysis on many issues. A government composed of a larger Likud with fewer coalition partners would presumably find it easier to push through vital domestic initiatives.

That still remains a distant dream. But the first step is for rightists to understand that they need to work from within Likud rather than outside it. And it seems that is finally starting to happen.

Anyone familiar with Israeli politics knows that the Israeli right’s worst enemy is itself. Small right-of-center factions toppled both Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud-led government in 1992 and Benjamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999; those decisions led, respectively, to Yitzhak Rabin’s election and the Oslo Accords, and to Ehud Barak’s election and the second intifada.

Moreover, it was rightist voters who ensured Rabin’s victory by wasting thousands of votes on splinter parties that failed to enter the Knesset. Had all those votes gone to the main center-right party, Likud, Shamir would have formed the next government and not Rabin. Yet instead of learning the lesson, rightists continued wasting thousands of votes on unelectable splinter parties in subsequent elections.

So it was encouraging to read the following notice in a local newsletter (Hebrew only) published by the West Bank settlement of Eli: “After much thought, it has been decided by the [Givat Hayovel neighborhood] committee, the town council and rabbis, with backing from senior officials involved in the matter, to register people for Likud. Likud is the ruling party, and that is where we need to have an influence. … Joining Likud is the most effective way of influencing ministers and Knesset members to work with us on both the court case and other matters of importance to the town.”

Granted, Eli is only one settlement, and its decision stems from a very specific problem: the aforementioned court case, in which Peace Now is seeking a court order to raze Givat Hayovel on the grounds that it was built illegally. Eli contends that the neighborhood, built with massive government support, was always slated for legalization and needs only the final government permits — hence its quest for lobbying clout.

Nevertheless, this is a revolution. During Likud’s last membership drive, in 2008, a party activist who canvassed Eli and other settlements using this very same argument told me despairingly that most people didn’t get it. Now it is being promoted by the town’s entire political and religious leadership.

Moreover, many other settlements face similar problems with permits. So if Eli has reached this conclusion, it’s likely that other settlements are or will be doing the same.

This still doesn’t solve the problem of splinter voting, since joining Likud doesn’t oblige one to vote for it. Yet large-scale party membership carries its own dynamic: if those rightists who previously shunned Likud instead start working from within it, the party will presumably become more responsive to their needs, thus encouraging more of them to vote for it.

That in turn could promote more effective government. Israel’s current governing coalition comprises six different parties, with Likud commanding barely a third of its seats, and these parties’ disagreements have led to paralysis on many issues. A government composed of a larger Likud with fewer coalition partners would presumably find it easier to push through vital domestic initiatives.

That still remains a distant dream. But the first step is for rightists to understand that they need to work from within Likud rather than outside it. And it seems that is finally starting to happen.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

How to kill a senate candidacy: Alex Giannoulias has his bank seized by the Feds. “Whether the issue remains a central one in the race is yet to be seen, but today is surely not a happy day in the Giannoulias camp. GOPers will have a reason to celebrate this weekend.” I think that seat is gone for the Democrats, unless they can pull a Torrecelli.

How to kill cap-and-trade: “The bipartisan climate bill to be unveiled Monday isn’t dead on arrival but it’s not likely to be taken up this year — and not before an immigration bill comes to the Senate floor, according to Democratic aides.”

How to kill the recovery: “Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.”

Kill the slams on the tea partiers! “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a mistake when they called anti-health care protests ‘un-American’ last year.” Maybe he figured out these people are voters.

Naturally the Iranian Lobby — NIAC and Peace Now — want to kill sanctions against the mullahs.

Obama is doing more to kill off civility in public debate than any president since Richard Nixon. Charles Krauthammer on his Wall Street speech: “The way — and he‘s done this before — he tries to denigrate, cast out, and to delegitimize any argument against his. And here he’s talking about that it’s not legitimate even to suggest that the bill he’s supporting might encourage a bailout. It’s certainly possible [to] argue [that] because of the provisions in the ball, and one in particular, where the Treasury has the right to designate any entity — private entity – as a systemic risk, and then to immediately, even without Congress approving and appropriating money, to guarantee all the bad loans. That is an invitation to a bailout. Now, the president could argue otherwise, but to say that to raise this issue is illegitimate is simply appalling.”

Obama continues to kill off the freedom agenda and democracy promotion: “Just this week word came that the administration cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt by half. Programs in countries like Jordan and Iran have also faced cuts. Then there are the symbolic gestures: letting the Dalai Lama out the back door, paltry statements of support for Iranian demonstrators, smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Chávez, and so on. Daniel Baer, a representative from the State Department who participated in the [George W. Bush] conference [on dissidents' use of new media tools], dismissed the notion that the White House has distanced itself from human-rights promotion as a baseless ‘meme’ when I raised the issue. But in fact all of this is of a piece of Mr. Obama’s overarching strategy to make it abundantly clear that he is not his predecessor.”

Making some progress in killing off business with Iran: “Two giant American accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young, disclosed this week that they no longer had any affiliation with Iranian firms, becoming the latest in a string of companies to publicly shun the Islamic republic. Following a similar decision by KPMG earlier this month, that leaves none of the Big Four audit firms with any ties to Iran. In recent months, other companies have announced that they would stop sales, cut back business or end affiliations with Iranian firms, including General Electric, Huntsman, Siemens, Caterpillar and Ingersoll Rand. Daimler said it would sell a minority share in an Iranian engine maker. An Italian firm said it would pull out after its current gas contracts ended. And the Malaysian state oil company cut off gasoline shipments to Iran, following similar moves by Royal Dutch Shell and trading giants like Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura.”

How to kill a senate candidacy: Alex Giannoulias has his bank seized by the Feds. “Whether the issue remains a central one in the race is yet to be seen, but today is surely not a happy day in the Giannoulias camp. GOPers will have a reason to celebrate this weekend.” I think that seat is gone for the Democrats, unless they can pull a Torrecelli.

How to kill cap-and-trade: “The bipartisan climate bill to be unveiled Monday isn’t dead on arrival but it’s not likely to be taken up this year — and not before an immigration bill comes to the Senate floor, according to Democratic aides.”

How to kill the recovery: “Vast tax increases will be inevitable under President Barack Obama’s budget blueprint, the nation’s largest business groups complained on Friday.The groups blasted tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals and families in the budget in a letter to members of the House and Senate, while warning that escalating public debt threatened the underlying economy.”

Kill the slams on the tea partiers! “House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Thursday he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a mistake when they called anti-health care protests ‘un-American’ last year.” Maybe he figured out these people are voters.

Naturally the Iranian Lobby — NIAC and Peace Now — want to kill sanctions against the mullahs.

Obama is doing more to kill off civility in public debate than any president since Richard Nixon. Charles Krauthammer on his Wall Street speech: “The way — and he‘s done this before — he tries to denigrate, cast out, and to delegitimize any argument against his. And here he’s talking about that it’s not legitimate even to suggest that the bill he’s supporting might encourage a bailout. It’s certainly possible [to] argue [that] because of the provisions in the ball, and one in particular, where the Treasury has the right to designate any entity — private entity – as a systemic risk, and then to immediately, even without Congress approving and appropriating money, to guarantee all the bad loans. That is an invitation to a bailout. Now, the president could argue otherwise, but to say that to raise this issue is illegitimate is simply appalling.”

Obama continues to kill off the freedom agenda and democracy promotion: “Just this week word came that the administration cut funds to promote democracy in Egypt by half. Programs in countries like Jordan and Iran have also faced cuts. Then there are the symbolic gestures: letting the Dalai Lama out the back door, paltry statements of support for Iranian demonstrators, smiling and shaking hands with Mr. Chávez, and so on. Daniel Baer, a representative from the State Department who participated in the [George W. Bush] conference [on dissidents' use of new media tools], dismissed the notion that the White House has distanced itself from human-rights promotion as a baseless ‘meme’ when I raised the issue. But in fact all of this is of a piece of Mr. Obama’s overarching strategy to make it abundantly clear that he is not his predecessor.”

Making some progress in killing off business with Iran: “Two giant American accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young, disclosed this week that they no longer had any affiliation with Iranian firms, becoming the latest in a string of companies to publicly shun the Islamic republic. Following a similar decision by KPMG earlier this month, that leaves none of the Big Four audit firms with any ties to Iran. In recent months, other companies have announced that they would stop sales, cut back business or end affiliations with Iranian firms, including General Electric, Huntsman, Siemens, Caterpillar and Ingersoll Rand. Daimler said it would sell a minority share in an Iranian engine maker. An Italian firm said it would pull out after its current gas contracts ended. And the Malaysian state oil company cut off gasoline shipments to Iran, following similar moves by Royal Dutch Shell and trading giants like Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura.”

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RE: Other Than That, Mr. Biden

Joe Biden’s trip to Israel isn’t getting any better. The New York Times cites an unknown “Western diplomat” — it seems George Mitchell or whoever is churning out the Israel-bashing today wouldn’t even permit “American” to be affixed to the blind quote – as saying that the Israelis’ housing announcement put a “damper” on the visit. Yes, when things were going so swimmingly! The Israelis have no problem with on-the-record statements:

Yuli Edelstein, minister of public affairs for Israel, said in an interview that the timing of the housing announcement was not aimed at harming the visit by Mr. Biden. “But it is also very important to make things clear and not to play make-believe,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have been saying loud and clear that according to Israeli law Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, so no special commissions are needed to build within the municipal borders of Jerusalem. There will not be in the foreseeable future an Israeli government willing to divide Jerusalem. Normally our friends in Washington understand that.”

Meanwhile, the predictable J Street and Peace Now crowd is piling on the Obami’s undiplomatic diplomacy, nervous that the spat might interfere with the proximity talks. (At this rate, we might need another party to go back and forth between the U.S. and Israel.) Meanwhile, JTA points out:

On Thursday, according to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Authority is planning to go through with plans to name a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were killed. Thursday is the 32nd anniversary of the attack. Biden will still be in town. So it’ll be interesting to see if he wieghs in, as he did on the Israeli housing starts.

Any word from J Street on that one? From Foggy Bottom? Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America doesn’t mince words: “The record shows that within the PA, few opportunities are missed to glorify a terrorist, celebrate a suicide bomber, or inculcate Palestinian youth into worshipping cold-blooded murderers. The record also shows that all aspects of PA life — the schools, youth movements, sports teams, newspapers, TV, even the names of streets — are made vehicles for honoring and praising terrorism. This in turn breeds more terrorists and bloodshed.” But the Obami think the problem is apartment buildings.

Makes one miss the days when Israel’s “friends in Washington” understood what the nub of the problem was, and, as a spirited reader put it, when there was no “mistaking where Israel stands on its eternal and undivided capital.”

Joe Biden’s trip to Israel isn’t getting any better. The New York Times cites an unknown “Western diplomat” — it seems George Mitchell or whoever is churning out the Israel-bashing today wouldn’t even permit “American” to be affixed to the blind quote – as saying that the Israelis’ housing announcement put a “damper” on the visit. Yes, when things were going so swimmingly! The Israelis have no problem with on-the-record statements:

Yuli Edelstein, minister of public affairs for Israel, said in an interview that the timing of the housing announcement was not aimed at harming the visit by Mr. Biden. “But it is also very important to make things clear and not to play make-believe,” he said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu and others have been saying loud and clear that according to Israeli law Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, so no special commissions are needed to build within the municipal borders of Jerusalem. There will not be in the foreseeable future an Israeli government willing to divide Jerusalem. Normally our friends in Washington understand that.”

Meanwhile, the predictable J Street and Peace Now crowd is piling on the Obami’s undiplomatic diplomacy, nervous that the spat might interfere with the proximity talks. (At this rate, we might need another party to go back and forth between the U.S. and Israel.) Meanwhile, JTA points out:

On Thursday, according to Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian Authority is planning to go through with plans to name a public square after Dalal Mughrabi, who led a 1978 bus hijacking in which 37 Israelis, including 12 children, were killed. Thursday is the 32nd anniversary of the attack. Biden will still be in town. So it’ll be interesting to see if he wieghs in, as he did on the Israeli housing starts.

Any word from J Street on that one? From Foggy Bottom? Morton Klein from the Zionist Organization of America doesn’t mince words: “The record shows that within the PA, few opportunities are missed to glorify a terrorist, celebrate a suicide bomber, or inculcate Palestinian youth into worshipping cold-blooded murderers. The record also shows that all aspects of PA life — the schools, youth movements, sports teams, newspapers, TV, even the names of streets — are made vehicles for honoring and praising terrorism. This in turn breeds more terrorists and bloodshed.” But the Obami think the problem is apartment buildings.

Makes one miss the days when Israel’s “friends in Washington” understood what the nub of the problem was, and, as a spirited reader put it, when there was no “mistaking where Israel stands on its eternal and undivided capital.”

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Defending the Gaza 54

J Street and Peace Now rush to the pages of the Jerusalem Post to defend the letter sent by 54 Democratic congressmen (one subsequently fell off the Israel-bashing bandwagon) calling on the lifting of the Gaza blockade. It’s what we have come to expect from those who find Israel’s reasoned self-defense measures to be gross violations of human rights. It is also deeply misleading. As others have noted:

Note that for the Jerusalem Post, J Street and APN argue that first they were concerned for “Israel’s security,” but the text of the letter indicates that Israel’s security is of little concern. More than 90 percent of the letter deals with the “collective punishment of the Palestinian residents” of Gaza and easing their plight. This accusation of Israel’s “collection punishment” helps explain why J Street failed to condemn the Goldstone Report. This is not a letter from “pro-Israel” sources, but from “pro-Gaza” sources. And in the case of Hamas-occupied Gaza, the two are mutually exclusive.

There always seem to be those — the Gaza-letter brigade and their boosters at J Street, most prominently — who offer themselves as true friends of Israel, knowing better than the Israelis what sacrifices are to be taken. Lift the blockade, they say from the cozy confines of New York, waving off the notion that more Israeli children will die from the bombs smuggled among the “construction supplies” they seek to allow into Gaza.

As if to hammer this home, the Jerusalem Post also offers up the remarks of an actual pro-Israel congressman, Rep. Eliot Engel. He comments on the Israeli government’s decision not to meet with the J Street delegation:

“It’s up to Israeli officials to decide who they will meet with, and who not to meet with,” he said.

He pointed out that a number of the congressmen that J Street brought over vote against Israel on resolutions that generally carry massive support on the House floor.

For instance, two of those congressman – California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner – voted against House Resolution 867 that slammed the Goldstone Report and re-affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.

Another member of the delegation, Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), voted “present,” while Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) did not vote. The only member of the delegation to back the resolution, deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel resolution, was Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio).

The resolution passed 344-36, with another 22 voting “present,” and 20 not voting.

Engel is also not buying J Street’s “pro-Israel” moniker (well, neither does the J Street gang, as its college group prefers not to use that label):

Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel in the House, said J Street takes “positions in Washington I have difficulty with.”

Engel said J Street’s statements “over-emphasize” what the organization feels Israel is not doing, “rather than putting the blame squarely where I think it belongs – the Palestinian attitude of denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

He continued, “If you look at some of the votes we had in the US Congress pertaining to Israel and the Middle East, there are some people on that [J Street] trip who the government would be unhappy with regarding their votes – and that would be understandable. They probably feel that if people are going to criticize them, they don’t have to facilitate the criticism.”

Yes, what an odd thing indeed for a government to decide for itself how best to defend its population and to decide for itself whether those claiming to have its best interests at heart really do. In the meantime, those who profess to place Israel’s security first might forgo, for starters, the embrace of the Hamas position on Gaza and the aversion to crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime, which would like to eradicate the Jewish state rather than to nibble away at its edges.

J Street and Peace Now rush to the pages of the Jerusalem Post to defend the letter sent by 54 Democratic congressmen (one subsequently fell off the Israel-bashing bandwagon) calling on the lifting of the Gaza blockade. It’s what we have come to expect from those who find Israel’s reasoned self-defense measures to be gross violations of human rights. It is also deeply misleading. As others have noted:

Note that for the Jerusalem Post, J Street and APN argue that first they were concerned for “Israel’s security,” but the text of the letter indicates that Israel’s security is of little concern. More than 90 percent of the letter deals with the “collective punishment of the Palestinian residents” of Gaza and easing their plight. This accusation of Israel’s “collection punishment” helps explain why J Street failed to condemn the Goldstone Report. This is not a letter from “pro-Israel” sources, but from “pro-Gaza” sources. And in the case of Hamas-occupied Gaza, the two are mutually exclusive.

There always seem to be those — the Gaza-letter brigade and their boosters at J Street, most prominently — who offer themselves as true friends of Israel, knowing better than the Israelis what sacrifices are to be taken. Lift the blockade, they say from the cozy confines of New York, waving off the notion that more Israeli children will die from the bombs smuggled among the “construction supplies” they seek to allow into Gaza.

As if to hammer this home, the Jerusalem Post also offers up the remarks of an actual pro-Israel congressman, Rep. Eliot Engel. He comments on the Israeli government’s decision not to meet with the J Street delegation:

“It’s up to Israeli officials to decide who they will meet with, and who not to meet with,” he said.

He pointed out that a number of the congressmen that J Street brought over vote against Israel on resolutions that generally carry massive support on the House floor.

For instance, two of those congressman – California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner – voted against House Resolution 867 that slammed the Goldstone Report and re-affirmed Israel’s right to self-defense.

Another member of the delegation, Bill Delahunt (D-Massachusetts), voted “present,” while Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) did not vote. The only member of the delegation to back the resolution, deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel resolution, was Mary Jo Kilroy (D-Ohio).

The resolution passed 344-36, with another 22 voting “present,” and 20 not voting.

Engel is also not buying J Street’s “pro-Israel” moniker (well, neither does the J Street gang, as its college group prefers not to use that label):

Engel, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a staunch supporter of Israel in the House, said J Street takes “positions in Washington I have difficulty with.”

Engel said J Street’s statements “over-emphasize” what the organization feels Israel is not doing, “rather than putting the blame squarely where I think it belongs – the Palestinian attitude of denying Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”

He continued, “If you look at some of the votes we had in the US Congress pertaining to Israel and the Middle East, there are some people on that [J Street] trip who the government would be unhappy with regarding their votes – and that would be understandable. They probably feel that if people are going to criticize them, they don’t have to facilitate the criticism.”

Yes, what an odd thing indeed for a government to decide for itself how best to defend its population and to decide for itself whether those claiming to have its best interests at heart really do. In the meantime, those who profess to place Israel’s security first might forgo, for starters, the embrace of the Hamas position on Gaza and the aversion to crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime, which would like to eradicate the Jewish state rather than to nibble away at its edges.

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Why the Truth Constitutes “Incitement”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The “No”s Have It

I recently wrote about the Oxford Union‘s upcoming debate on the Middle East, which was scheduled to take place tonight. The motion to be debated stated: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” The motion was to be seconded by the Israeli revisionist historians Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe and by Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian physician with an academic appointment at Exeter University. On the “no” side: the British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, along with former Irish MP Lord David Trimble, who is staunchly pro-Israel. And, bizarrely, the passionately anti-Zionist academic Norman Finkelstein.

How, you may ask, does this qualify as a debate? Five out of the six invited participants are all harsh critics, to one degree or another, of the state of Israel. But Finkelstein really belongs in a class by himself, for the hysterical fervor and vitriol of his anti-Zionism and his obsession with minimizing the moral meaning of the Holocaust. Trimble demanded that Finkelstein be dropped from the panel as a precondition for his participation; when the Union accepted Trimble’s argument, Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi decided to withdraw in protest. Clearly, they felt that without Finkelstein on the other side of the floor, there was now a chance the debate might be fair. The debate is taking place tonight nonetheless, with three Oxford students replacing Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi, and Paul Usiskin of Peace Now UK replacing Finkelstein.

Why Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi thought that running away from worthy opponents like Trimble would help their cause is a mystery, but largely besides the point. It is in the nature of such ideologues to engage only in battles they are absolutely sure of winning. Apparently, Finkelstein’s absence undercut their advantage too greatly: instead of being five-sixths anti-Zionist, the panel would be only two-thirds. I predict that the trio will try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by claiming that Finkelstein was “silenced,” and that their withdrawal was a gesture of solidarity with their “dissident” friend. To which one should reply with the words of Hillel Halkin, appearing yesterday in the New York Sun:

Deservedly, Mr. Finkelstein was recently denied tenure at De Paul because of a Jewish campaign to demonstrate that he lacked all academic integrity. It was a fight worth winning, not because qualified scholars with anti-Israel politics should not be allowed to teach at universities, but because men whose only qualification is their politics do not belong in institutions of higher learning.

Halkin could have written these words about Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi as well.

I recently wrote about the Oxford Union‘s upcoming debate on the Middle East, which was scheduled to take place tonight. The motion to be debated stated: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” The motion was to be seconded by the Israeli revisionist historians Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe and by Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian physician with an academic appointment at Exeter University. On the “no” side: the British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, along with former Irish MP Lord David Trimble, who is staunchly pro-Israel. And, bizarrely, the passionately anti-Zionist academic Norman Finkelstein.

How, you may ask, does this qualify as a debate? Five out of the six invited participants are all harsh critics, to one degree or another, of the state of Israel. But Finkelstein really belongs in a class by himself, for the hysterical fervor and vitriol of his anti-Zionism and his obsession with minimizing the moral meaning of the Holocaust. Trimble demanded that Finkelstein be dropped from the panel as a precondition for his participation; when the Union accepted Trimble’s argument, Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi decided to withdraw in protest. Clearly, they felt that without Finkelstein on the other side of the floor, there was now a chance the debate might be fair. The debate is taking place tonight nonetheless, with three Oxford students replacing Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi, and Paul Usiskin of Peace Now UK replacing Finkelstein.

Why Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi thought that running away from worthy opponents like Trimble would help their cause is a mystery, but largely besides the point. It is in the nature of such ideologues to engage only in battles they are absolutely sure of winning. Apparently, Finkelstein’s absence undercut their advantage too greatly: instead of being five-sixths anti-Zionist, the panel would be only two-thirds. I predict that the trio will try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by claiming that Finkelstein was “silenced,” and that their withdrawal was a gesture of solidarity with their “dissident” friend. To which one should reply with the words of Hillel Halkin, appearing yesterday in the New York Sun:

Deservedly, Mr. Finkelstein was recently denied tenure at De Paul because of a Jewish campaign to demonstrate that he lacked all academic integrity. It was a fight worth winning, not because qualified scholars with anti-Israel politics should not be allowed to teach at universities, but because men whose only qualification is their politics do not belong in institutions of higher learning.

Halkin could have written these words about Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi as well.

Read Less




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