Commentary Magazine


Topic: political activist

Shut Up, They Instructed

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

As I noted yesterday, the totalitarian impulse on the left is all too apparent these days. Their frenzy to silence opposition voices increases in direct proportion to their growing unpopularity and panic over the coming electoral wipeout. They seem to have lost the ability to engage in not only civil debate but in any debate. A case in point:

A private university in Chicago that refuses to host former senior Bush adviser Karl Rove, arguing that welcoming a “political” speaker ahead of the midterm elections could threaten its tax-exempt status, has added an Obama administration appointee to address the student body.

Loyola University Chicago is hosting Eboo Patel, an Obama appointee to the White House interfaith council, next month, calling into question the school’s rationale for rejecting Rove’s appearance.

“The news that Eboo Patel, an appointee of the Obama administration, will be allowed to speak at Loyola University Chicago, while Karl Rove was essentially barred, is further proof that the (university) administration either has zero understanding of tax law or is unabashedly biased,” said Evan Gassman, a spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, a conservative outreach group that was sponsoring the Rove speech.

The university’s rationale is patently contrived, given its past conduct. (“In September 2004, the school hosted Howard Dean, who ran for president that year. A couple of weeks after his speech, political activist Ralph Nader, who also ran for president that year, spoke on campus — a speech that was advertised as a campaign event in which donations were solicited.”) Their speaker-selection “rules” are a facade. The university is quite obviously trying to shield its students from one half of the political discussion.

Now, as a legal matter, a private university can invite whomever it pleases. But the example it is setting for students and faculty alike is about as far from the ideal of a university education as you can get. Academic freedom? A free exchange of ideas? Puhleez.

This incident does, however, perfectly embody the modus operandi of the left these days — disingenuous explanations for shutting down opponents and classification of critics as “political” (in contrast to their own side, which is, they tell us, high-minded and apolitical). It is not the behavior of a self-confident movement anxious to engage and best their intellectual rivals.

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Jim Wallis and the Echo Chamber

Michael Kruse is the vice-chair of the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly Mission Council. He is certainly no right-winger. But on his blog, Kruse’s critique of the liberal Christian political activist and Obama confidant Jim Wallis and his Orwellian hypocrisy is powerful. Kruse writes:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, “My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is.”

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don’t care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

To which I can only say: Amen.

Michael Kruse is the vice-chair of the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly Mission Council. He is certainly no right-winger. But on his blog, Kruse’s critique of the liberal Christian political activist and Obama confidant Jim Wallis and his Orwellian hypocrisy is powerful. Kruse writes:

What is the surest sign you have encountered someone living in an echo chamber? When they say, “My side is so reasonable and civil, but see how mean and hateful the other side is.”

The fact is that hyperbolic rhetoric is part and parcel of American politics. It ebbs and flows in intensity but there never was some golden age of nonpartisan government from which we have fallen. So I expect hyperbolic rhetoric from all sides. What I do take exception to is people engaging in hyperbolic partisan rhetoric while purporting to speak with a moral Christian authority. I don’t care if you name is Jim Dobson or Jim Wallis.

To which I can only say: Amen.

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Double-Standards Watch

For a few months, a “human rights activist” named Mohammad Othman was held by Israel in something called administrative detention, which allows suspects to be held for a short period of time without a trial, but with judicial oversight. Othman’s detention earned this rebuke from Human Rights Watch, titled with a stern demand: “End Arbitrary Detention.” Of course, many nations, both democratic and undemocratic, practice administrative detention. And why the presumption that it was “arbitrary”? Never mind. The statement reads:

Israeli authorities have detained Othman without charge for more than two months on what appear to be politically motivated grounds. … Othman has no criminal record and, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, has never advocated or participated in violence. …

“The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. [Emphasis added to weasel-phrasing]

Is that really the only reasonable conclusion? I would actually characterize this as a fantasy conclusion, or at least one of many possible conclusions. If the Shin Bet or IDF were interested in punishing people for “peaceful advocacy” in Israel and the West Bank, there would be tens of thousands of activists in detention. But there aren’t. The fact of the matter is that Whitson has no idea why he was detained, and neither does anyone else outside the Israeli security establishment and courts — but her ignorance of the facts doesn’t stop her from accusing Israel of grave abuses. I would say that the only “reasonable conclusion” here is that Whitson is a shrill and fanatical political activist who has no business working for a human-rights organization.

As it happens, there was another person detained in the area around the same time — a British journalist named Paul Martin, who traveled to Gaza to testify on behalf of a Palestinian accused by Hamas of “collaborating.” Martin was promptly arrested and thrown in jail as a “security threat.” Whitson’s response? She waited until Martin was released and then issued a short statement that is exquisitely deferential to Hamas, containing none of the allegations and passion of her Othman statement. “Journalist’s Detention Violated Due Process,” the title reads.

“We are relieved at Martin’s release, but we are also concerned that Hamas has produced no evidence to justify his detention,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

For Israel, there are accusations, demands, and denunciations. For Hamas, there is polite “concern” that “due process” rules weren’t followed, as if Hamas has any pretensions to due process in the first place. This is Human Rights Watch.

For a few months, a “human rights activist” named Mohammad Othman was held by Israel in something called administrative detention, which allows suspects to be held for a short period of time without a trial, but with judicial oversight. Othman’s detention earned this rebuke from Human Rights Watch, titled with a stern demand: “End Arbitrary Detention.” Of course, many nations, both democratic and undemocratic, practice administrative detention. And why the presumption that it was “arbitrary”? Never mind. The statement reads:

Israeli authorities have detained Othman without charge for more than two months on what appear to be politically motivated grounds. … Othman has no criminal record and, to the knowledge of Human Rights Watch, has never advocated or participated in violence. …

“The only reasonable conclusion is that Othman is being punished for his peaceful advocacy,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. [Emphasis added to weasel-phrasing]

Is that really the only reasonable conclusion? I would actually characterize this as a fantasy conclusion, or at least one of many possible conclusions. If the Shin Bet or IDF were interested in punishing people for “peaceful advocacy” in Israel and the West Bank, there would be tens of thousands of activists in detention. But there aren’t. The fact of the matter is that Whitson has no idea why he was detained, and neither does anyone else outside the Israeli security establishment and courts — but her ignorance of the facts doesn’t stop her from accusing Israel of grave abuses. I would say that the only “reasonable conclusion” here is that Whitson is a shrill and fanatical political activist who has no business working for a human-rights organization.

As it happens, there was another person detained in the area around the same time — a British journalist named Paul Martin, who traveled to Gaza to testify on behalf of a Palestinian accused by Hamas of “collaborating.” Martin was promptly arrested and thrown in jail as a “security threat.” Whitson’s response? She waited until Martin was released and then issued a short statement that is exquisitely deferential to Hamas, containing none of the allegations and passion of her Othman statement. “Journalist’s Detention Violated Due Process,” the title reads.

“We are relieved at Martin’s release, but we are also concerned that Hamas has produced no evidence to justify his detention,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

For Israel, there are accusations, demands, and denunciations. For Hamas, there is polite “concern” that “due process” rules weren’t followed, as if Hamas has any pretensions to due process in the first place. This is Human Rights Watch.

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Consistently Rotten Results

You have to give the Obami credit. They have doggedly applied their engagement tactic to a variety of regimes — and gotten remarkably similar results. It so happens that the result has been to embolden our adversaries. In response to our efforts to ingratiate ourselves with the mullahs and pipe down about democracy, we have been scorned and snubbed. In response to our decision to redeploy our ambassador to Syria, Bashar al-Assad has moved ever closer to Iran and joined in the pummeling of the U.S. In response to our suck-uppery, the Chinese have become ever bolder, continuing their opposition to sanctions and their despotic treatment of dissidents. The same is true, we now learn, of Burma.

This report explains:

The Obama administration, concerned that Burma is expanding its military relationship with North Korea, has launched an aggressive campaign to persuade Burma’s junta to stop buying North Korean military technology, U.S. officials said.

Concerns about the relationship — which encompass the sale of small arms, missile components and technology possibly related to nuclear weapons — in part prompted the Obama administration in October to end the George W. Bush-era policy of isolating the military junta, said a senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

But we’ve been having meetings with them and engaging them! Some now fret that this is getting us nowhere:

Congress and human rights organizations are increasingly criticizing and questioning the administration’s new policy toward the Southeast Asian nation, which is also known as Myanmar. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and generally a supporter of the administration’s foreign policy, recently called for the administration to increase the pressure on Burma, including tightening sanctions on the regime.

“Recent events have raised the profile of humanitarian issues there,” Berman said Friday. “Support is growing for more action in addition to ongoing efforts.”

There is good reason to conclude that things are moving in the wrong direction. (“On Feb. 10, a Burmese court sentenced a naturalized Burmese American political activist from Montgomery County to three years of hard labor; he was allegedly beaten, denied food and water, and placed in isolation in a tiny cell with no toilet. Burma recently snubbed the United Nations’ special envoy on human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, denying him a meeting with Suu Kyi and access to Burma’s senior leadership.”) As one expert succinctly put it, “The bad behavior has increased.”

This will no doubt disappoint Sen. Jim Webb, who has been leading the charge to lessen Burma’s “isolation.” As the report notes, “Webb’s trip to Burma in August — the first by a member of Congress in a decade — has been credited with giving the Obama administration the political cover to open up talks with the junta.” Credited, indeed.

The Obami conclude from all of this that they must redouble their efforts — engage more! They seem never to learn from experience — never to examine the motives and conduct of our foes as a means of assessing whether our policies are working. For a group that declared ideology to be “so yesterday,” they seem to be trapped in the the grips of their own. They are convinced that despotic regimes will respond to unilateral gestures and American obsequiousness. Repeated failure seems not to impact their analysis. Too bad there aren’t any realists to be found.

You have to give the Obami credit. They have doggedly applied their engagement tactic to a variety of regimes — and gotten remarkably similar results. It so happens that the result has been to embolden our adversaries. In response to our efforts to ingratiate ourselves with the mullahs and pipe down about democracy, we have been scorned and snubbed. In response to our decision to redeploy our ambassador to Syria, Bashar al-Assad has moved ever closer to Iran and joined in the pummeling of the U.S. In response to our suck-uppery, the Chinese have become ever bolder, continuing their opposition to sanctions and their despotic treatment of dissidents. The same is true, we now learn, of Burma.

This report explains:

The Obama administration, concerned that Burma is expanding its military relationship with North Korea, has launched an aggressive campaign to persuade Burma’s junta to stop buying North Korean military technology, U.S. officials said.

Concerns about the relationship — which encompass the sale of small arms, missile components and technology possibly related to nuclear weapons — in part prompted the Obama administration in October to end the George W. Bush-era policy of isolating the military junta, said a senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

But we’ve been having meetings with them and engaging them! Some now fret that this is getting us nowhere:

Congress and human rights organizations are increasingly criticizing and questioning the administration’s new policy toward the Southeast Asian nation, which is also known as Myanmar. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and generally a supporter of the administration’s foreign policy, recently called for the administration to increase the pressure on Burma, including tightening sanctions on the regime.

“Recent events have raised the profile of humanitarian issues there,” Berman said Friday. “Support is growing for more action in addition to ongoing efforts.”

There is good reason to conclude that things are moving in the wrong direction. (“On Feb. 10, a Burmese court sentenced a naturalized Burmese American political activist from Montgomery County to three years of hard labor; he was allegedly beaten, denied food and water, and placed in isolation in a tiny cell with no toilet. Burma recently snubbed the United Nations’ special envoy on human rights, Tomás Ojea Quintana, denying him a meeting with Suu Kyi and access to Burma’s senior leadership.”) As one expert succinctly put it, “The bad behavior has increased.”

This will no doubt disappoint Sen. Jim Webb, who has been leading the charge to lessen Burma’s “isolation.” As the report notes, “Webb’s trip to Burma in August — the first by a member of Congress in a decade — has been credited with giving the Obama administration the political cover to open up talks with the junta.” Credited, indeed.

The Obami conclude from all of this that they must redouble their efforts — engage more! They seem never to learn from experience — never to examine the motives and conduct of our foes as a means of assessing whether our policies are working. For a group that declared ideology to be “so yesterday,” they seem to be trapped in the the grips of their own. They are convinced that despotic regimes will respond to unilateral gestures and American obsequiousness. Repeated failure seems not to impact their analysis. Too bad there aren’t any realists to be found.

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Tom Campbell’s Record and the GOP Senate Primary

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

The headline in the Jewish Journal on the California Republican Senate primary bizarrely reads: “Campbell’s Pro-Israel Stance Could Be His Undoing in Run for U.S. Senate.” Well, actually it’s his anti-Israel and pro-Muslim record and associations that are at issue. The article does accurately recount that Campbell’s record has reached the attention of the mainstream media and become a key issue in the race. It also provides a useful reminder that this is not only a matter of his Israel stance but also of Campbell’s record on terrorism and Muslim extremism:

Long before [Campbell donor Sami] Al-Arian went to jail for supporting terror, he was a professor at the University of South Florida (USF) and a political activist with high-level contacts among American politicians. His brother-in-law, Mazen Al-Najjar, was imprisoned pending deportation based on secret evidence. Campbell took up the cause, visiting Al-Najjar in jail and introducing legislation critical of the government’s practice.

Campbell found himself on the side of Muslim-American civil rights groups. “The community that was most interested in this was the Muslim American community,” Campbell said in an interview last week, because 26 of the 28 people in jail under the secret evidence rule were Muslim. As a result of Campbell’s work, Al-Arian made campaign contributions totaling $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate run against Dianne Feinstein.

On May 23, 2000, Campbell testified before Congress in support of the “Secret Evidence Repeal Act,” mentioning Al-Najjar by name. Campbell shot down the government’s argument that barring secret evidence in immigration cases would lead to the release of terrorists, because the government would only need to forgo its use in immigration hearings. In his professorial style, Campbell compared the issue to other Constitutional abuses: “Why not give [suspected terrorists] truth serum, as long as they are in jail? If, like me, your stomach revolts at that thought, it must be because something in this Constitution prevents it.” That fall, Campbell lost the Senate election and left public office.

And, of course, Campbell then went on to write a letter on behalf of Al-Arian when the University of South Florida fired him. Campbell now claims it came at a time when he really was unaware of Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. (“‘A fellow law professor asked me as a matter of academic freedom to express concern about [Al-Arian],’ Campbell told The Jewish Journal. Campbell says that although he knew Al-Arian was an activist with controversial views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he had no idea Al-Arian actually was under criminal investigation by the FBI.”)

Well, as others have detailed, there was much in the public record at the time about an investigation into Al-Arian’s terrorist activities. Campbell’s defense of carelessness — “If I’m asked to write a letter on behalf of a professor, I should find out all I can about him” — doesn’t sound at all like the smart, methodical academic his boosters claim him to be.  The Journal quotes Republican Jewish Coalition executive director Matt Brooks: “If he’s offering a mea culpa, then I think that’s a signal to the Jewish community that he maybe would have done things differently. … It’s up to the voters to decide whether to accept his change of heart or not.”

Additionally, voters will have to consider what Campbell truly believes when it comes to anti-terrorism policies. He claims now to “strongly favor keeping Guantanamo and keeping enemy combatants under a prisoner-of-war status until the war on terror is over” and says he now actually would support the position that “enemy combatants and their supporters do not have Miranda rights or the right to confront the evidence against them.” That’s quite a change of heart for the former congressman who carried water for Al-Arian at a congressional hearing.

Voters will decide if Campbell has had a few too many changes of heart and whether his willingness to turn a blind eye toward the views of people like Israel-basher Alison Weir and Muslim extremists in the 1990s are disqualifying factors. Should he win the primary, his general-election opponent will certainly make the case that they are.

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Nader Raises Obama’s Israel Issue

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

Ralph Nader finagled airtime on Meet the Press to announce he is mounting another presidential run, which certainly will garner even less attention than last time. He also contributed this analysis of Barack Obama:

But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself. And I give you the example, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, which is a real off the table issue for the candidates. So don’t touch that, even though it’s central to our security and to, to the situation in the Middle East. He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois before he ran for the state Senate, during he ran–during the state Senate. Now he’s, he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza with a million and a half people. He doesn’t have any sympathy for a civilian death ratio of about 300-to-1; 300 Palestinians to one Israeli. He’s not taking a leadership position in supporting the Israeli peace movement, which represents former Cabinet ministers, people in the Knesset, former generals, former security officials, in addition to mayors and leading intellectuals. One would think he would at least say, “Let’s have a hearing for the Israeli peace movement in the Congress,” so we don’t just have a monotone support of the Israeli government’s attitude toward the Palestinians and their illegal occupation of Palestine.
The Republican Jewish Coalition responded with a press release which read, in part:
“People should be very skeptical of Barack Obama’s shaky Middle East policies. When a long-time political activist like Ralph Nader, with a well-documented, anti-Israel bias, claims that Senator Obama shares this anti-Israel bias, that is alarming,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “If Senator Obama supports Ralph Nader’s policies, which consistently condemn Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, and if Sen. Obama has only reversed his positions to run for president, it once again raises serious questions about his grasp of the geo-political realities of the Middle East and puts into doubt his commitment to the safety and security of Israel. These are important questions we in the Jewish community will be asking.”
Now Ralph Nader is not exactly a keen or accurate political observer, but the problematic issue of Obama’s views and advisors on Israel, explored at length here, here and here, is not something the Obama camp can ignore. He recently had this to say in Cleveland:
“Well here’s my starting orientation is A – Israel’s security is sacrosanct, is non negotiable. That’s point number one. Point number two is that the status quo I believe is unsustainable over time. So we’re going to have to make a shift from the current deadlock that we’re in. Number three that Israel has to remain a Jewish state and what I believe that means is that any negotiated peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is going to have to involve the Palestinians relinquishing the right of return as it has been understood in the past. And that doesn’t mean that there may not be conversations about compensation issues. It also means the Israelis will have to figure out how do we work with a legitimate Palestinian government to create a Palestinian state that is sustainable. It’s going to have to be contiguous, its going to have to work its going to have to function in some way. That’s in Israel’s interest by the way. If you have a balkanized unsustainable state, it will break down and we will be back in the same boat. So those are the starting points of my orientation. My goal then would be to solicit as many practical opinions as possible in terms of how we’re going to move forward on a improvement of relations and a sustainable peace.”
He also sought to distance himself from association with Zbigniew Brzezinski:

“I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally,” Obama said. “He’s not one of my key advisers. I’ve had lunch with him once. I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe three times. He came to Iowa to introduce . . . for a speech on Iraq.”

No word as yet on whether he is having second thoughts about advice from Samantha Power or whether his “talking to our enemies” mantra includes Hamas and Hezbollah. This certainly will be a general election issue. It remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton will raise this as an example of the risk of getting an “unknown quantity” with an Obama presidency (perhaps it would be a more effective argument for her than desperation moves like this).

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The Fulani Follies

It has been proven yet again that New York City’s colorful political scene rivals that of any municipality or state. To wit: Lenora Fulani—the political cult leader—appears to be making a comeback, planning a run for the mayoralty in 2009.

In 1989, Fulani wrote that Jews “function as mass murderers of people of color” and “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel.” Last week she said: “The language I used was harsh, and today I would call it excessive.” Irrespective of whether Fulani is an anti-Semite (the fact that she waited eighteen years to repudiate these remarks and has only done so on the verge of announcing her intentions to run for political office renders her motivations highly suspect), she still remains a disreputable public figure. She has long been allied with Fred Newman, who, as a “revolutionary” psychotherapist, playwright, and Marxist political activist, rivals L. Ron Hubbard in his megalomaniacal dilettantism and knack for operating cults behind the veneer of an ostensibly respectable front group. Newman and Fulani eventually manged to gain control of New York’s Independence Party. Yet, like many Marxists, the two are opportunists first and ideologues second, as this 2005 piece in the New York Times (which discusses Newman’s one-time support for Al Sharpton) and this 1999 piece from the Nation (about Fulani’s erstwhile allegiance with Pat Buchanan) demonstrate.

Mayor Bloomberg sought—and won—the support of Fulani’s Independence Party in his 2001 election, and has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party’s political coffers. He even went so far as to join with Fulani’s group in the campaign to bring non-partisan elections to New York City, which would have weakened the Democratic Party and strengthened the Newman/Fulani faction. When necessary, Bloomberg has delivered the standard disapproving sound-bite about the wackiness of those running the Independence Party. Politics does make strange bedfellows, particularly in New York. But before the Mayor begins to tread in Presidential waters, he would do well to explain why he spent so many years currying favor with such disreputable politicians.

It has been proven yet again that New York City’s colorful political scene rivals that of any municipality or state. To wit: Lenora Fulani—the political cult leader—appears to be making a comeback, planning a run for the mayoralty in 2009.

In 1989, Fulani wrote that Jews “function as mass murderers of people of color” and “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel.” Last week she said: “The language I used was harsh, and today I would call it excessive.” Irrespective of whether Fulani is an anti-Semite (the fact that she waited eighteen years to repudiate these remarks and has only done so on the verge of announcing her intentions to run for political office renders her motivations highly suspect), she still remains a disreputable public figure. She has long been allied with Fred Newman, who, as a “revolutionary” psychotherapist, playwright, and Marxist political activist, rivals L. Ron Hubbard in his megalomaniacal dilettantism and knack for operating cults behind the veneer of an ostensibly respectable front group. Newman and Fulani eventually manged to gain control of New York’s Independence Party. Yet, like many Marxists, the two are opportunists first and ideologues second, as this 2005 piece in the New York Times (which discusses Newman’s one-time support for Al Sharpton) and this 1999 piece from the Nation (about Fulani’s erstwhile allegiance with Pat Buchanan) demonstrate.

Mayor Bloomberg sought—and won—the support of Fulani’s Independence Party in his 2001 election, and has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party’s political coffers. He even went so far as to join with Fulani’s group in the campaign to bring non-partisan elections to New York City, which would have weakened the Democratic Party and strengthened the Newman/Fulani faction. When necessary, Bloomberg has delivered the standard disapproving sound-bite about the wackiness of those running the Independence Party. Politics does make strange bedfellows, particularly in New York. But before the Mayor begins to tread in Presidential waters, he would do well to explain why he spent so many years currying favor with such disreputable politicians.

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