Commentary Magazine


Topic: South Africa

Flotsam and Jetsam

A disappointment to leftist civil rights groups? “The issue of race is one reason some liberals fear Kagan’s confirmation would actually tug the court to the right, particularly on voting rights, immigration and racial profiling cases that could come before the justices.”

A coward on the issue of Islamic fundamentalism? “Holder, who last year called America ‘a nation of cowards’ for refusing to talk frankly about race, plainly didn’t want to say what is plain to everyone else, that Faisal Shahzad, back from five months in Waziristan, launched his terror attack because of his Islamist beliefs.”

A sign of the administration’s obliviousness? “[T]he State Department’s showcasing of the Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center in a film about Muslim life in America — despite the mosque’s longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, its virulent Islamist ideology, its support for the murderous Hamas organization, its notorious Islamist imams and elders (including al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki), and the ties of some of its worshippers to the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood massacre. Then, we learned that the federal government has struck a deal to pay Dar al-Hijra a whopping $582K just for this year (i.e., about one-tenth what it cost the Saudis to build the place), purportedly because the Census Bureau needs work space — y’know, because there are like no federal facilities anywhere near Falls Church, Virginia.”

A preview of what is to come? “A British chemicals firm is involved in a secret MI5 inquiry into the illegal export to Iran of material that could make a radioactive “dirty bomb”. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) raided the Essex home of the firm’s former sales manager after a tip that potentially lethal chemicals, including cobalt, were sold to Iran last summer.”

A reminder that Richard Goldstone had the choice not to facilitate evil? “Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, 70, who helped South Africa chart a peaceful way out of apartheid by leading fellow whites into talks with exiled black leaders, died May 14 at his home in Johannesburg after being treated for a liver-related complication, Reuters reported. … As a political figure, he symbolized the emergence of a new breed of Afrikaner: urbane, articulate and committed to racial equality. … Mr. Slabbert tried to lead, leaving behind an early career as a sociologist in academia to enter politics. He represented the Progressive Federal Party, a precursor to the current opposition Democratic Alliance, in parliament during the apartheid years. He resigned as party leader and left parliament in 1985, during a crackdown on black activists, saying the whites-only legislature was no longer relevant.”

A nail biter in the Democratic Pennsylvania primary? The last tracking poll had Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter tied at 44 percent each.

A character witness he (and the rest of us) could do without?: “Woody Allen has restated his support for fellow filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is in house arrest in connection with a 33-year-old sex scandal. Allen said Polanski ‘was embarrassed by the whole thing,’ ”has suffered’ and ‘has paid his dues.’ He said Polanski is ‘an artist and is a nice person’ who ‘did something wrong and he paid for it.’” I must have missed the jail time Polanski served for raping a 13-year-old.

A disappointment to leftist civil rights groups? “The issue of race is one reason some liberals fear Kagan’s confirmation would actually tug the court to the right, particularly on voting rights, immigration and racial profiling cases that could come before the justices.”

A coward on the issue of Islamic fundamentalism? “Holder, who last year called America ‘a nation of cowards’ for refusing to talk frankly about race, plainly didn’t want to say what is plain to everyone else, that Faisal Shahzad, back from five months in Waziristan, launched his terror attack because of his Islamist beliefs.”

A sign of the administration’s obliviousness? “[T]he State Department’s showcasing of the Dar al-Hijra Islamic Center in a film about Muslim life in America — despite the mosque’s longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, its virulent Islamist ideology, its support for the murderous Hamas organization, its notorious Islamist imams and elders (including al Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki), and the ties of some of its worshippers to the 9/11 attacks and the Fort Hood massacre. Then, we learned that the federal government has struck a deal to pay Dar al-Hijra a whopping $582K just for this year (i.e., about one-tenth what it cost the Saudis to build the place), purportedly because the Census Bureau needs work space — y’know, because there are like no federal facilities anywhere near Falls Church, Virginia.”

A preview of what is to come? “A British chemicals firm is involved in a secret MI5 inquiry into the illegal export to Iran of material that could make a radioactive “dirty bomb”. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) raided the Essex home of the firm’s former sales manager after a tip that potentially lethal chemicals, including cobalt, were sold to Iran last summer.”

A reminder that Richard Goldstone had the choice not to facilitate evil? “Frederik van Zyl Slabbert, 70, who helped South Africa chart a peaceful way out of apartheid by leading fellow whites into talks with exiled black leaders, died May 14 at his home in Johannesburg after being treated for a liver-related complication, Reuters reported. … As a political figure, he symbolized the emergence of a new breed of Afrikaner: urbane, articulate and committed to racial equality. … Mr. Slabbert tried to lead, leaving behind an early career as a sociologist in academia to enter politics. He represented the Progressive Federal Party, a precursor to the current opposition Democratic Alliance, in parliament during the apartheid years. He resigned as party leader and left parliament in 1985, during a crackdown on black activists, saying the whites-only legislature was no longer relevant.”

A nail biter in the Democratic Pennsylvania primary? The last tracking poll had Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter tied at 44 percent each.

A character witness he (and the rest of us) could do without?: “Woody Allen has restated his support for fellow filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is in house arrest in connection with a 33-year-old sex scandal. Allen said Polanski ‘was embarrassed by the whole thing,’ ”has suffered’ and ‘has paid his dues.’ He said Polanski is ‘an artist and is a nice person’ who ‘did something wrong and he paid for it.’” I must have missed the jail time Polanski served for raping a 13-year-old.

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Bar Goldstone from the U.S.?

This report (h/t Carl in Jerusalem of Israel Matzav) brings some intriguing news:

A well-known American Jewish attorney who worked to deport former Nazis from the US is urging American officials to bar former judge Richard Goldstone from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

In a letter sent to US officials, Neal Sher, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that recently disclosed information about Goldstone’s apartheid-era rulings raised questions about whether he was eligible to enter the United States. The letter was sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Attorney-General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Individuals who admit to acts that constitute a crime of moral turpitude¨are ineligible to enter the US, Sher charged. The recent public revelations, to which Goldstone has reportedly admitted, would appear to fit within this provision. At a minimum, there is ample basis for federal authorities to initiate an investigation into this matter, Sher said.

Well, bravo, Mr. Sher! It is especially gratifying to see that Goldstone is in infamous company: ”Sher, formerly director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was instrumental in deporting dozens of Nazi war criminals. He played a major role in placing Austrian president Kurt Waldheim on a watch list of people ineligible to enter the US.” And will the left — which at the time fully supported the ostracism of South Africa and threw about the Nazi analogy with abandon — object to this move? I assume it would, for intellectual consistency and moral outrage are reserved for one purpose — the crusade to hobble and delegitimize the Jewish state.

This report (h/t Carl in Jerusalem of Israel Matzav) brings some intriguing news:

A well-known American Jewish attorney who worked to deport former Nazis from the US is urging American officials to bar former judge Richard Goldstone from entering the country over his rulings during South Africa’s apartheid regime.

In a letter sent to US officials, Neal Sher, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said that recently disclosed information about Goldstone’s apartheid-era rulings raised questions about whether he was eligible to enter the United States. The letter was sent to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Attorney-General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Individuals who admit to acts that constitute a crime of moral turpitude¨are ineligible to enter the US, Sher charged. The recent public revelations, to which Goldstone has reportedly admitted, would appear to fit within this provision. At a minimum, there is ample basis for federal authorities to initiate an investigation into this matter, Sher said.

Well, bravo, Mr. Sher! It is especially gratifying to see that Goldstone is in infamous company: ”Sher, formerly director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was instrumental in deporting dozens of Nazi war criminals. He played a major role in placing Austrian president Kurt Waldheim on a watch list of people ineligible to enter the US.” And will the left — which at the time fully supported the ostracism of South Africa and threw about the Nazi analogy with abandon — object to this move? I assume it would, for intellectual consistency and moral outrage are reserved for one purpose — the crusade to hobble and delegitimize the Jewish state.

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The Un-Goldstone

Richard Goldstone, the former judge for apartheid South Africa (should that not be his lifelong description?), pleads that he was simply following the law when he handed out death sentences and orders to whip blacks. He had no choice, you see. What was a lawyer to do? Well, we are presented with the alternative today. A sharp-eyed reader spots an obituary for Sheena Duncan that explains her role in the South African legal system:

Sheena Duncan, who led the Black Sash, a group of middle-class white women in South Africa who protested against apartheid and counseled blacks victimized by the racist laws of that era, died Tuesday at her home in Johannesburg. She was 77. …

Over decades of volunteer work — counseling thousands of black South Africans, plotting legal strategy, writing pamphlets, holding silent vigils and speaking out in churches and at universities — Mrs. Duncan moved far beyond the traditional sphere reserved for white women of her day.

She helped people whose families were being torn apart by laws that kept black workers in the cities to serve whites while exiling their kin to impoverished rural “bantustans,” or homelands. She invited those who sought her advice to sit on the same side of the desk with her as she pored over their identity documents, especially the books blacks were required to carry to prove they were authorized to be where they were. With no formal legal training, Mrs. Duncan became an authority on the notorious pass laws, which governed the movement of blacks. She sent people with a chance of successfully challenging them to the Legal Resources Center, a human rights organization that took on such cases with financial support from American foundations and South African corporations.

So a housewife with no legal training managed to do heroic work, combating rather than facilitating the apartheid regime’s legal structure. How much more could a trained jurist like Goldstone have done? We don’t know, for he chose a different course, one of sniveling servility to a noxious legal system. That he now seeks to serve new masters at the UN – equally noxious and devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish state — should therefore not surprise us. Goldstone is not one to buck the system. He has been and remains a self-promoter whose career advancement depends on victimizing others, be they South African blacks or Jews. You’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a more venal example of the misuse of legal training.

Richard Goldstone, the former judge for apartheid South Africa (should that not be his lifelong description?), pleads that he was simply following the law when he handed out death sentences and orders to whip blacks. He had no choice, you see. What was a lawyer to do? Well, we are presented with the alternative today. A sharp-eyed reader spots an obituary for Sheena Duncan that explains her role in the South African legal system:

Sheena Duncan, who led the Black Sash, a group of middle-class white women in South Africa who protested against apartheid and counseled blacks victimized by the racist laws of that era, died Tuesday at her home in Johannesburg. She was 77. …

Over decades of volunteer work — counseling thousands of black South Africans, plotting legal strategy, writing pamphlets, holding silent vigils and speaking out in churches and at universities — Mrs. Duncan moved far beyond the traditional sphere reserved for white women of her day.

She helped people whose families were being torn apart by laws that kept black workers in the cities to serve whites while exiling their kin to impoverished rural “bantustans,” or homelands. She invited those who sought her advice to sit on the same side of the desk with her as she pored over their identity documents, especially the books blacks were required to carry to prove they were authorized to be where they were. With no formal legal training, Mrs. Duncan became an authority on the notorious pass laws, which governed the movement of blacks. She sent people with a chance of successfully challenging them to the Legal Resources Center, a human rights organization that took on such cases with financial support from American foundations and South African corporations.

So a housewife with no legal training managed to do heroic work, combating rather than facilitating the apartheid regime’s legal structure. How much more could a trained jurist like Goldstone have done? We don’t know, for he chose a different course, one of sniveling servility to a noxious legal system. That he now seeks to serve new masters at the UN – equally noxious and devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish state — should therefore not surprise us. Goldstone is not one to buck the system. He has been and remains a self-promoter whose career advancement depends on victimizing others, be they South African blacks or Jews. You’d have to go back to the 1930s to find a more venal example of the misuse of legal training.

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Goldstone’s Past: Apartheid Hangman

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

This report should shed some light on the hero of the Jewish left — Richard Goldstone. The man is to be feted by Tikkun and has been defended by J Street, but he had quite a track record as a judge in South Africa:

It turns out, the man who authored the Goldstone Report criticizing the IDF’s actions during Operation Cast Lead took an active part in the racist policies of one of the cruelest regimes of the 20th century. During his tenure as sitting as judge in the appellant court during the 1980s and 1990s sentenced dozens of blacks mercilessly to their death. Yedioth Ahronoth’s findings show that Goldstone sentenced at least 28 black defendants to death. Most of them were found guilty of murder and sought to appeal the verdict. In those days, he actually made sure he showed his support for the execution policy, writing in one verdict that it reflects society’s demands that a price be paid for crimes it rightfully views as frightening. …. In another verdict, in which he upheld the execution of a young black man convicted of murdering a white restaurant owner after he fired him, Goldstone wrote that the death penalty is the only punishment likely to deter such acts.

Alan Dershowitz, who has thoroughly debunked Goldstone’s fraudulent report, doesn’t buy Goldstone’s defense that he was merely applying South African law. (“You know, a lot of people say we just followed the law, German judges… That’s what [German SS officer and physician Josef] Mengele said too. That was Mengele’s defense and that was what everybody said in Nazi Germany. ‘We just followed the law.’ When you are in an apartheid country like South Africa, you don’t follow the law.”)

There are a few issues that this raises. First, as Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it certainly provides the motive for Goldstone’s vilification of Israel:

The most serious charge leveled against Goldstone — one of the most serious, anyway — is that he is a man without a moral compass, who did what he did at the UN because he wants to be remembered as an avatar of human rights, and he knew that one way to become a favorite of the human rights community would be to lead the charge against that community’s most favored target. This new report suggests not only that Goldstone is at best intermittently principled, but that he knew his old hanging-judge record would one day catch up with him.

This, of course, is the endemic problem of the UN — they always get their man — i.e., Israel — because the “investigators” are selected for the express purpose of dummying up evidence to defame and delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s no accident Goldstone reached the conclusions he did, and it’s no accident that the UN selected him.

Second, will the left repudiate its heroic figure? Tikkun is set to give Goldstone an award next year for ethics. Perhaps it should reconsider. J Street helped mount Goldstone’s defense. Will it repudiate its association with him? I think both are unlikely, and we shouldn’t expect too much daylight between members of the anti-Israel Jewish left and Goldstone. For the enemy of Israel is their friend, be it NIAC or Stephen Walt. They aren’t too picky when it comes to those willing to go after Israel. (It is no coincidence that the anti-Israel left and the Gaza souvenir-buyers share a hero worship for Goldstone.) So no doubt, all will be forgiven. By defaming Israel, Goldstone has earned the eternal gratitude of the anti-Israel left.

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Ontario Defies Israel Apartheid Week

This week is Israel Apartheid Week on college campuses worldwide — an annual hatefest devoted to demonizing Israel and mobilizing support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), made even more grotesque by the numerous Israelis serving as featured speakers. But this year, pushback came from a surprising direction: the provincial legislature of Ontario, Canada, voted unanimously to condemn this extravaganza, because it “serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and … diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Two things make this decision remarkable. One is that Ontario has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activity. For instance, its largest labor union, the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, enthusiastically promotes BDS; in 2006, the chapter voted to boycott Israel until it accepts a Palestinian “right of return,” otherwise known as committing demographic suicide. Thus Ontario legislators defied a powerhouse vote machine over an issue with little political traction, just because they thought it was right.

The second is that not long ago, Canada’s foreign policy was hostile to Israel. In October 2000, for instance, days after the intifada erupted, Canada voted for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the violence, without a word of blame for the Palestinians. And that vote was typical, not exceptional. Thus the Ontario decision represents a sharp turnabout in a fairly short period of time.

The man primarily responsible for the change is undoubtedly Canada’s Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has turned his country into one of Israel’s most reliable supporters. Under his leadership, Canada has repeatedly cast the sole “no” vote on anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (for example, a January 2009 resolution condemning Israel’s war in Gaza); Canada became the first country — even before Israel — to announce a boycott of last year’s Durban II conference because of its anti-Israel tone; and Harper has worked to end Canadian government support for nongovernmental organizations that demonize Israel. In short, he has made it respectable to publicly support Israel in Canada. So it’s unsurprising that the legislator who introduced Ontario’s anti–Apartheid Week resolution belonged to Harper’s party.

But Harper’s revolution alone cannot explain the Ontario vote. The Conservatives have only 24 seats in Ontario’s parliament; the rival Liberal Party, which has no reason to toe Harper’s line, has 71. Yet Liberals who, as one noted, normally disagree with Conservatives over almost everything united with them on this. It’s worth reading the debate in full to appreciate the depth and breadth of the legislators’ support.

The obvious conclusion is that Israel’s case can be persuasive to people of goodwill of all political stripes — if Israel and its supporters bother to make it. Activists in Ontario clearly have, creating fertile soil for Harper’s moves; last week’s assembly vote was the fruit. It’s a lesson pro-Israel activists facing uphill battles elsewhere should remember. For not long ago, Canada, too, seemed lost.

This week is Israel Apartheid Week on college campuses worldwide — an annual hatefest devoted to demonizing Israel and mobilizing support for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), made even more grotesque by the numerous Israelis serving as featured speakers. But this year, pushback came from a surprising direction: the provincial legislature of Ontario, Canada, voted unanimously to condemn this extravaganza, because it “serves to incite hatred against Israel, a democratic state that respects the rule of law and human rights, and … diminishes the suffering of those who were victims of a true apartheid regime in South Africa.”

Two things make this decision remarkable. One is that Ontario has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activity. For instance, its largest labor union, the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, enthusiastically promotes BDS; in 2006, the chapter voted to boycott Israel until it accepts a Palestinian “right of return,” otherwise known as committing demographic suicide. Thus Ontario legislators defied a powerhouse vote machine over an issue with little political traction, just because they thought it was right.

The second is that not long ago, Canada’s foreign policy was hostile to Israel. In October 2000, for instance, days after the intifada erupted, Canada voted for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel for the violence, without a word of blame for the Palestinians. And that vote was typical, not exceptional. Thus the Ontario decision represents a sharp turnabout in a fairly short period of time.

The man primarily responsible for the change is undoubtedly Canada’s Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has turned his country into one of Israel’s most reliable supporters. Under his leadership, Canada has repeatedly cast the sole “no” vote on anti-Israel resolutions in the UN Human Rights Council (for example, a January 2009 resolution condemning Israel’s war in Gaza); Canada became the first country — even before Israel — to announce a boycott of last year’s Durban II conference because of its anti-Israel tone; and Harper has worked to end Canadian government support for nongovernmental organizations that demonize Israel. In short, he has made it respectable to publicly support Israel in Canada. So it’s unsurprising that the legislator who introduced Ontario’s anti–Apartheid Week resolution belonged to Harper’s party.

But Harper’s revolution alone cannot explain the Ontario vote. The Conservatives have only 24 seats in Ontario’s parliament; the rival Liberal Party, which has no reason to toe Harper’s line, has 71. Yet Liberals who, as one noted, normally disagree with Conservatives over almost everything united with them on this. It’s worth reading the debate in full to appreciate the depth and breadth of the legislators’ support.

The obvious conclusion is that Israel’s case can be persuasive to people of goodwill of all political stripes — if Israel and its supporters bother to make it. Activists in Ontario clearly have, creating fertile soil for Harper’s moves; last week’s assembly vote was the fruit. It’s a lesson pro-Israel activists facing uphill battles elsewhere should remember. For not long ago, Canada, too, seemed lost.

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The ADL Is Wrong: Boycotts Can Be Kosher

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

A long simmering dispute about the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement going on at the University of California at Irvine has prompted a debate between Jewish groups about the propriety of academic boycotts. After the latest incident in which heckler disrupted a speech being given by Michael Oren — Israel’s ambassador to the United States — at the school’s campus, the Zionist Organization of America has called for donors to cease making contributions to the institution and for students to stop applying to the school. But the Anti-Defamation League says this is a mistake, since such boycotts are a “double-edged sword that legitimizes a tactic so often used against Jews and Israel.”

The problem with UC Irvine goes deeper than just the bunch of loudmouths who interrupted Oren. For a number of years, the Irvine campus’s Muslim Student Union and its leftist allies have made the school a haven of Israel-and-Jew bashing without the university’s administration doing much or anything about it. The result has apparently been the creation of a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. Repeated attempts to get the university to address the grievances of the Jewish community have failed. After years of talking about the problem, the ZOA has apparently concluded that the only thing the school will understand is a boycott that will bring home to them that their indulgence of radical anti-Israel and anti-Jewish elements has consequences. The ADL prefers to keep the lines of communications open with the university and, in its usual manner, spends as much time complimenting the administration for the little it has done as it does criticizing them for their obvious failures.

The conflict on campus is sometimes construed as one between free speech and civility. On the one hand, friends of Israel have a right to expect that a campus mafia of Muslim Jew-haters does not disrupt pro-Israel speakers and events, thus protecting the right of the Jews to free speech. That means that anti-Israel events must have the same protection. Yet if the latter descend as they often do, into hate speech against Israelis and Jews, a university that claims to be trying to create a haven of free inquiry must at some point step in and say enough is enough. The dispute here is not between Jews and Arabs who both want to be heard but rather between a democratic Zionist movement on campus that is under siege and a Muslim anti-Zionist movement that holds fundraisers for Hamas terrorists.

The question here is whether, after repeated attempts to get satisfaction, the Jewish community is justified in throwing up its hands and saying that it serves no further purpose to go on supporting a place that allows such a situation to persist — or whether, by contrast, it should continue its quiet diplomacy aimed at flattering or shaming the university into doing the right thing. The ZOA and the ADL, with their very different organizational cultures — the former being rabble-rousing activists at heart and the latter, the quintessential establishment group — are bound to disagree about that.

But no matter whether you think further efforts to improve the situation at UC Irvine are warranted or not, the ADL’s belief that boycotts are inherently wrong cannot be sustained. It is true that in our own time anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements have attempted to create boycotts of Israeli academics and produce and that the Jewish community has rightly decried such despicable campaigns. But these boycotts are wrong not because a desire to isolate any movement or country is inherently evil but rather because it is unjust to apply such measures to a democratic state besieged by terrorists who wish to destroy. In the past, Jews have readily embraced boycotts. Jewish activists once boycotted the Soviet Union and protested any commerce or diplomatic niceties conducted with an anti-Semitic Communist government, which had refused to let Russian Jews immigrate to freedom in Israel or the United States. Jews also boycotted Germany during the 1930s as the Nazis set the stage for the Holocaust. There is also the fact that the vast majority of American Jews were profoundly sympathetic to boycotts of grapes picked by non-union labor as well as those aimed at isolating apartheid-era South Africa. The idea that one cannot boycott evildoers just because leftist extremists wish to wrongly use the same tactic on Israel makes no sense.

Thus, one can argue that the ZOA’s boycott of UC Irvine is unjustified, not helpful, or even premature. But you cannot, as the ADL does, argue that there is something inherently wrong with any boycott. The principle of free speech must protect pro-Israel speakers as well as forums for those who take the other side. But no principle obligates any Jew to attend or contribute to a school where Jews are made to feel uncomfortable or where fundraisers are held for groups that kill Jews.

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Re: Does South Africa’s “Big Love” President Have a Lesson for Liberal America?

Jonathan, you bring up an interesting point: “If your libertarian instincts tell you that it’s none of your business if two men or two women marry each other, then why is it the state’s business if one man marries two, three, or four women, so long as they are all consenting adults?”

Properly construed, the subject of homosexual marriage is awkward for ardent libertarians because it insidiously suggests another question to which their doctrine provides no comfortable answer: Should marriage of any form, even the traditional, be within the domain of state regulation?

In as far as the relationships, duties, and privileges of marriage are confined in their reach and consequences to the adult spouses, libertarians see no reason for the state to treat marriage any differently from ordinary contracts. From this point of view, traditional marriage too is just a contractual union not to be accorded special treatment or “social subsidies” by the state. Conversely, seen as yet another contract, any domestic union that wants to call itself marriage should be allowed to take place. The finer point is that libertarians, even in their laissez-faire attitude toward marriage, neither dispute nor defend the virtues of transgressive unions. What they advocate, while professing moral agnosticism on the matter, is that marriage be divested of its social mystique and institutional protections—that it shrink to a merely appellative label for an open-ended category of contractual domestic relationships.

Whatever its merits, this radical position fails on practical grounds. The obvious enormity of polygamy is often cited to make the point—the same could be said for other far more aberrant though contractually sound unions.

By contrast, most so-called progressive liberals do not champion homosexual unions in the context of fully deregulated marriage. Whatever libertarian instincts they might be endowed with, their prevailing instincts are statist. Unlike confused libertarians, they are not prone to fall down the rabbit hole of “if homosexual marriage, then why not polygamy?” because they have no reservations about wielding the Leviathan’s scepter against unions they themselves find distasteful or destructive. Of course they see marriage as a public good: a vital institution worthy of state sanction, societal approval, and “social subsidies.” This also means they must defend, on its moral merits, whatever union they deem worthy of calling marriage, so as to justify the latter’s high standing.

To this effect they are advancing the argument that marriage is—essentially—monogamy. In this context, same-sex monogamous unions are seen as normative. Cultural conservatives insist that, rather, marriage is essentially the union between man and woman. The conservatives’ argument carries the authoritative weight of thousands of years of continuity in human customs. Marriage has always been between men and women, even in societies most tolerant of homosexuality. Ironically, it has only occasionally been monogamous, even in Abrahamic religions.

But being made by man, marriage could also be changed, improved by man. And it has. Indeed, monogamy is now nearly synonymous with marriage—aberrations from it are seen as barbaric relics from tribal, primitive societies or Islamist theocracies. Perhaps the institution of marriage can withstand further changes productively—but it certainly cannot do so as flimsily as today’s “progressives” propose. Human traditions do matter. In fact, it may be the rites of marriage, the cultural myths surrounding it, its promises of domestic bliss and family adventures, of home and hearth, that homosexual couples covet most of all when they aspire to marriage. But these are the cultural byproducts of a heterosexual tradition, with the peculiar relations it prescribes between men and women, which may or may not scale well across same-sex unions. In the debate to define marriage, it would take a very powerful argument to compete with the force of tradition, especially when that tradition partly accounts for the very allure of marriage to those who seek to redefine it.

Could the virtues of monogamy-above-all-else trump the fitness between man and woman as the truest essence of marriage, thus conveniently extending marriage to homosexual couples while banishing polygamy? Perhaps so, but liberal progressives are not the best advocates for an argument that elevates marital exclusivity as the cornerstone of marriage, given their own distaste for and attacks against traditional culture. For that’s where the sentiment that monogamy and fidelity are the ideal form of marriage is grounded.

Jonathan, you bring up an interesting point: “If your libertarian instincts tell you that it’s none of your business if two men or two women marry each other, then why is it the state’s business if one man marries two, three, or four women, so long as they are all consenting adults?”

Properly construed, the subject of homosexual marriage is awkward for ardent libertarians because it insidiously suggests another question to which their doctrine provides no comfortable answer: Should marriage of any form, even the traditional, be within the domain of state regulation?

In as far as the relationships, duties, and privileges of marriage are confined in their reach and consequences to the adult spouses, libertarians see no reason for the state to treat marriage any differently from ordinary contracts. From this point of view, traditional marriage too is just a contractual union not to be accorded special treatment or “social subsidies” by the state. Conversely, seen as yet another contract, any domestic union that wants to call itself marriage should be allowed to take place. The finer point is that libertarians, even in their laissez-faire attitude toward marriage, neither dispute nor defend the virtues of transgressive unions. What they advocate, while professing moral agnosticism on the matter, is that marriage be divested of its social mystique and institutional protections—that it shrink to a merely appellative label for an open-ended category of contractual domestic relationships.

Whatever its merits, this radical position fails on practical grounds. The obvious enormity of polygamy is often cited to make the point—the same could be said for other far more aberrant though contractually sound unions.

By contrast, most so-called progressive liberals do not champion homosexual unions in the context of fully deregulated marriage. Whatever libertarian instincts they might be endowed with, their prevailing instincts are statist. Unlike confused libertarians, they are not prone to fall down the rabbit hole of “if homosexual marriage, then why not polygamy?” because they have no reservations about wielding the Leviathan’s scepter against unions they themselves find distasteful or destructive. Of course they see marriage as a public good: a vital institution worthy of state sanction, societal approval, and “social subsidies.” This also means they must defend, on its moral merits, whatever union they deem worthy of calling marriage, so as to justify the latter’s high standing.

To this effect they are advancing the argument that marriage is—essentially—monogamy. In this context, same-sex monogamous unions are seen as normative. Cultural conservatives insist that, rather, marriage is essentially the union between man and woman. The conservatives’ argument carries the authoritative weight of thousands of years of continuity in human customs. Marriage has always been between men and women, even in societies most tolerant of homosexuality. Ironically, it has only occasionally been monogamous, even in Abrahamic religions.

But being made by man, marriage could also be changed, improved by man. And it has. Indeed, monogamy is now nearly synonymous with marriage—aberrations from it are seen as barbaric relics from tribal, primitive societies or Islamist theocracies. Perhaps the institution of marriage can withstand further changes productively—but it certainly cannot do so as flimsily as today’s “progressives” propose. Human traditions do matter. In fact, it may be the rites of marriage, the cultural myths surrounding it, its promises of domestic bliss and family adventures, of home and hearth, that homosexual couples covet most of all when they aspire to marriage. But these are the cultural byproducts of a heterosexual tradition, with the peculiar relations it prescribes between men and women, which may or may not scale well across same-sex unions. In the debate to define marriage, it would take a very powerful argument to compete with the force of tradition, especially when that tradition partly accounts for the very allure of marriage to those who seek to redefine it.

Could the virtues of monogamy-above-all-else trump the fitness between man and woman as the truest essence of marriage, thus conveniently extending marriage to homosexual couples while banishing polygamy? Perhaps so, but liberal progressives are not the best advocates for an argument that elevates marital exclusivity as the cornerstone of marriage, given their own distaste for and attacks against traditional culture. For that’s where the sentiment that monogamy and fidelity are the ideal form of marriage is grounded.

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Does South Africa’s “Big Love” President Have a Lesson for Liberal America?

You have to hand it to the Republic of South Africa. That continent’s richest country may have a lot of problems, but there’s no obsessing about the sexual escapades of its political leaders in the way we prudish Americans obsess about ours. South Africans appear to believe in marriage and lots of it. In fact, in a story that didn’t make it into the pages of most American newspapers on Monday, Britain’s Guardian reports that South African President Jacob Zuma reaped the congratulations of his countrymen by marrying his third wife today in a traditional Zulu ceremony. The only hitch in the proceedings occurred when the 67-year-old president slipped and fell backward while performing a traditional solo dance throughout which he wore animal pelts and white tennis shoes. He is believed to be uninjured.

According to a different report about the event from the AP, South Africa’s new first (or should I say third) lady, 38-year-old Tobeka Madiba, has actually already been married to the president under civil law (he paid her family the bride price back in 2007) and has given birth to three of Zuma’s 19 children.

But three isn’t enough for the popular Zuma, who revels in his reputation as a representative of Zulu traditionalism. The Guardian says he is planning on marrying a fourth woman, Gloria Bongi Ngema, who has also already given birth to one of his children. His other wives are Sizakele Khumalo, whom he married in 1973, and Nompumelelo Ntuli, who became his wife in 2008. Another marriage ended in divorce (though that wife is now South Africa’s home-affairs minister). Yet another wife killed herself reportedly after describing her marriage as “24 years of hell.”

For those wondering how South African women feel toward a polygamist president, a better question would be to wonder how they feel toward a president who was tried for rape in 2006. Zuma was acquitted of raping the daughter of a family friend. His defense consisted of stating that he believed that the woman’s decision to see him alone was an invitation to consensual intercourse. The following year, the victim was granted asylum in the Netherlands.

While all this may seem either revolting or ridiculous to Western sensibilities, it does raise the question of whether or not polygamy is compatible with genuine democracy. Back in 2006, Stanley Kurtz penned a fascinating piece in the Weekly Standard, which insisted: “Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family.”

However, as Kurtz noted then, in the era we live in, a growing number of Americans, including the majority of some courts and legislatures, appear to believe that it is not only permissible but also mandatory to redefine our traditional concepts of marriage to allow gay unions. But it isn’t clear what legal — as opposed to religious — principle would mandate that same-sex marriage be labeled kosher while plural marriage still be treated as beyond the pale.

As HBO’s “Big Love” series about Mormon fundamentalists gears up for the premiere of its fourth season this week, Zuma’s shenanigans provide a version of reality TV that makes Bill Hendrickson, the show’s embattled home-improvement entrepreneur with three very different women to deal with at home, look pretty tame. But as Kurtz wrote in 2006, the impetus for the premise of the series may come from a liberal Hollywood mindset that seeks “to highlight the analogy between same-sex unions and polygamy.” The point is, if your libertarian instincts tell you that it’s none of your business if two men or two women marry each other, then why is it the state’s business if one man marries two, three, or four women, so long as they are all consenting adults? Kurtz’s answer, dictated in no small measure by his concern about the spread of polygamy in the West as a result of tolerance for the Muslim practice of plural marriage, was that “stable, monogamous, parenthood-focused marriage” is part of the foundation of a society in which freedom can thrive. There is little question that, as Zuma’s preeminence in South Africa proves, polygamy can lead to a society ruled by men, not laws. That’s a sobering thought that ought to worry even the most ardent libertarians on such issues.

You have to hand it to the Republic of South Africa. That continent’s richest country may have a lot of problems, but there’s no obsessing about the sexual escapades of its political leaders in the way we prudish Americans obsess about ours. South Africans appear to believe in marriage and lots of it. In fact, in a story that didn’t make it into the pages of most American newspapers on Monday, Britain’s Guardian reports that South African President Jacob Zuma reaped the congratulations of his countrymen by marrying his third wife today in a traditional Zulu ceremony. The only hitch in the proceedings occurred when the 67-year-old president slipped and fell backward while performing a traditional solo dance throughout which he wore animal pelts and white tennis shoes. He is believed to be uninjured.

According to a different report about the event from the AP, South Africa’s new first (or should I say third) lady, 38-year-old Tobeka Madiba, has actually already been married to the president under civil law (he paid her family the bride price back in 2007) and has given birth to three of Zuma’s 19 children.

But three isn’t enough for the popular Zuma, who revels in his reputation as a representative of Zulu traditionalism. The Guardian says he is planning on marrying a fourth woman, Gloria Bongi Ngema, who has also already given birth to one of his children. His other wives are Sizakele Khumalo, whom he married in 1973, and Nompumelelo Ntuli, who became his wife in 2008. Another marriage ended in divorce (though that wife is now South Africa’s home-affairs minister). Yet another wife killed herself reportedly after describing her marriage as “24 years of hell.”

For those wondering how South African women feel toward a polygamist president, a better question would be to wonder how they feel toward a president who was tried for rape in 2006. Zuma was acquitted of raping the daughter of a family friend. His defense consisted of stating that he believed that the woman’s decision to see him alone was an invitation to consensual intercourse. The following year, the victim was granted asylum in the Netherlands.

While all this may seem either revolting or ridiculous to Western sensibilities, it does raise the question of whether or not polygamy is compatible with genuine democracy. Back in 2006, Stanley Kurtz penned a fascinating piece in the Weekly Standard, which insisted: “Polygamy in all its forms is a recipe for social structures that inhibit and ultimately undermine social freedom and democracy. A hard-won lesson of Western history is that genuine democratic self-rule begins at the hearth of the monogamous family.”

However, as Kurtz noted then, in the era we live in, a growing number of Americans, including the majority of some courts and legislatures, appear to believe that it is not only permissible but also mandatory to redefine our traditional concepts of marriage to allow gay unions. But it isn’t clear what legal — as opposed to religious — principle would mandate that same-sex marriage be labeled kosher while plural marriage still be treated as beyond the pale.

As HBO’s “Big Love” series about Mormon fundamentalists gears up for the premiere of its fourth season this week, Zuma’s shenanigans provide a version of reality TV that makes Bill Hendrickson, the show’s embattled home-improvement entrepreneur with three very different women to deal with at home, look pretty tame. But as Kurtz wrote in 2006, the impetus for the premise of the series may come from a liberal Hollywood mindset that seeks “to highlight the analogy between same-sex unions and polygamy.” The point is, if your libertarian instincts tell you that it’s none of your business if two men or two women marry each other, then why is it the state’s business if one man marries two, three, or four women, so long as they are all consenting adults? Kurtz’s answer, dictated in no small measure by his concern about the spread of polygamy in the West as a result of tolerance for the Muslim practice of plural marriage, was that “stable, monogamous, parenthood-focused marriage” is part of the foundation of a society in which freedom can thrive. There is little question that, as Zuma’s preeminence in South Africa proves, polygamy can lead to a society ruled by men, not laws. That’s a sobering thought that ought to worry even the most ardent libertarians on such issues.

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British Corruption

Britain has fallen a notch in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruptions Perceptions Index. It now ranks 17th out of the 180 countries surveyed. Transparency said that the decline “reflects the damage to its international standing caused by the MPs’ expenses scandal and the weakness of its efforts to prosecute foreign bribery.”

The second item, the “foreign bribery” problem, relates to the long-running saga of allegations against BAE and arms sales to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Tanzania. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of these allegations, which shed revealing light on the hypocrisy of the UK’s support for the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty, but they are old news. It’s probable that Britain’s decline was driven by the expenses scandal. Read More

Britain has fallen a notch in Transparency International’s 2009 Corruptions Perceptions Index. It now ranks 17th out of the 180 countries surveyed. Transparency said that the decline “reflects the damage to its international standing caused by the MPs’ expenses scandal and the weakness of its efforts to prosecute foreign bribery.”

The second item, the “foreign bribery” problem, relates to the long-running saga of allegations against BAE and arms sales to Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Romania, and Tanzania. I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of these allegations, which shed revealing light on the hypocrisy of the UK’s support for the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty, but they are old news. It’s probable that Britain’s decline was driven by the expenses scandal.

The impact of that scandal is an illustration of John Hay’s remark that “it is curious how a concise impropriety hits the public.” But it is also small beer: New Labour has brought Britain many “improprieties” that were a good deal worse but that failed to catch Transparency’s eye. There was the 2005-07 “cash for peerages” controversy, in which it was alleged that the Labour party was selling seats in the House of Lords in exchange for donations. There was — indeed, there is — the scandal of Labour’s immigration policy, which a former Labour speechwriter confessed last month deliberately sought to deceive Parliament, the public, and its own supporters.

There is the ongoing refusal of ministers to treat Parliament with any seriousness, as witnessed by the relentless leaking of government proposals in advance of the Queen’s Speech, a formerly great occasion of state. And, above all, there is the fact that more than 90 percent of all British law is now made by the EU. Compared to this, the expenses scandal is nothing: if the MPs can’t make law for their own constituents, the money they pocket on the side by fiddling second mortgages and buying expensive wallpaper is hardly the most vital national issue. Not all government corruption is financial, and the nonmonetary kinds are by far the most vicious.

But the expenses scandal is an attention grabber nonetheless. It is a very British saga — only in the UK, and a few other countries, would the public be exercised by this kind of corruption. In too many countries, it’s taken for granted that public service is an opportunity for personal enrichment. It goes to show that, though the standards have been traduced, the British public’s view of what is right in political life still stems from the Victorian era. And in my eyes, there is no higher praise than that.

It is of course true that that era was not free from corruption. If you’re a fan of old political scandals, I recommend G.R. Searle’s superb study of “Corruption in British Politics, 1895-1930,” which proves that this century was not the first time the House of Lords has been for sale. But that era nonetheless created standards that, even if they were in part aspirational, are of real value. MPs are not supposed to seek their private good. The British armed forces are not supposed to have their budget cut in the face of the enemy. Brussels is not supposed to make British law. Yet all these things happen openly and repeatedly.

Part of the sour tone of British politics today is obviously the result of the recession. But it is more than that: it is the result of the grating divergence between basic political ideals and obvious political realities in Britain. And given how influential those ideals have been around the world, and the high expectations that people abroad still have of Britain, it is not surprising that Britain has been punished by the Transparency survey.

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John McCain, the Zionist

This morning, John McCain appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and delivered a stemwinder about the American relationship to Israel, the threat from Iran, and the war in Iraq. We’ve made available the full text of the speech here. A few highlights:

The people of Israel reserve a special respect for courage, because so much courage has been required of them. In the record of history, sheer survival in the face of Israel’s many trials would have been impressive enough. But Israel has achieved much more than that these past sixty years. Israel has endured, and thrived, and her people have built a nation that is an inspiration to free nations everywhere.

I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for us to follow any other policy.

Years ago, the moral clarity and conviction of civilized nations came together in a divestment campaign against South Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against the regime in Iran, and help to safeguard the people of Israel and the peace of the world.

Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are engaged in talks that all of us hope will yield progress toward peace. Yet while we encourage this process, we must also ensure that Israel’s people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace. A peace process that places faith in terrorists can never end in peace.

[A]s the people of Israel know better than most, the safety of free people can never be taken for granted. And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.

This morning, John McCain appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and delivered a stemwinder about the American relationship to Israel, the threat from Iran, and the war in Iraq. We’ve made available the full text of the speech here. A few highlights:

The people of Israel reserve a special respect for courage, because so much courage has been required of them. In the record of history, sheer survival in the face of Israel’s many trials would have been impressive enough. But Israel has achieved much more than that these past sixty years. Israel has endured, and thrived, and her people have built a nation that is an inspiration to free nations everywhere.

I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for us to follow any other policy.

Years ago, the moral clarity and conviction of civilized nations came together in a divestment campaign against South Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against the regime in Iran, and help to safeguard the people of Israel and the peace of the world.

Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are engaged in talks that all of us hope will yield progress toward peace. Yet while we encourage this process, we must also ensure that Israel’s people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace. A peace process that places faith in terrorists can never end in peace.

[A]s the people of Israel know better than most, the safety of free people can never be taken for granted. And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.

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Mbeki’s Mania

Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column last week contained a major scoop that hasn’t received nearly enough press attention. In a piece about South Africa’s woeful support for despots around the world, Gerson revealed:

In late April, about the time this e-mail was written, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa — Zimbabwe’s influential neighbor — addressed a four-page letter to President Bush. Rather than coordinating strategy to end Zimbabwe’s nightmare, Mbeki criticized the United States, in a text packed with exclamation points, for taking sides against President Robert Mugabe’s government and disrespecting the views of the Zimbabwean people. “He said it was not our business,” recalls one American official, and “to butt out, that Africa belongs to him.” Adds another official, “Mbeki lost it; it was outrageous.”

South Africa’s Sunday Times reports that while Mbeki’s office does not acknowledge the letter, the American embassy in Pretoria confirmed that President Bush did receive a letter from Mbeki.

That Mbeki would write a rambling, 4-page screed “packed with exclamation points” to the President of the States is yet further confirmation of his paranoid, conspiratorial world view, and complete unfitness for executive office. It is of a piece with his belief that HIV does not cause AIDS and that those who complain about South Africa’s rampant crime problem are all closet racists. Moreover, as Gerson notes, Mbeki is but symptomatic of the African National Congress’s broader attempt to position South Africa in an anti-Western, Third-Worldist posture on the international stage. Allowing Robert Mugabe to ruin his country is simply the price to be paid when the alternative is the election of a political party favored by the West.

Meanwhile, not long after Mbeki fired off his strange missive to President Bush, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sent his thoughts to the dictator-abetting South African president, who had been tasked by both Bush and regional leaders with mediating Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis. He does not mince words, informing Mbeki that if his style of “diplomacy” persists, “there will be no country left.” While Mbeki tells President Bush to “butt out” of African affairs (a strange request, considering the fact that the United States has been relatively passive about the chaos in Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe’s democrats wish the reverse: that the United States take a more proactive role while Mbeki exit the stage.

Michael Gerson’s Washington Post column last week contained a major scoop that hasn’t received nearly enough press attention. In a piece about South Africa’s woeful support for despots around the world, Gerson revealed:

In late April, about the time this e-mail was written, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa — Zimbabwe’s influential neighbor — addressed a four-page letter to President Bush. Rather than coordinating strategy to end Zimbabwe’s nightmare, Mbeki criticized the United States, in a text packed with exclamation points, for taking sides against President Robert Mugabe’s government and disrespecting the views of the Zimbabwean people. “He said it was not our business,” recalls one American official, and “to butt out, that Africa belongs to him.” Adds another official, “Mbeki lost it; it was outrageous.”

South Africa’s Sunday Times reports that while Mbeki’s office does not acknowledge the letter, the American embassy in Pretoria confirmed that President Bush did receive a letter from Mbeki.

That Mbeki would write a rambling, 4-page screed “packed with exclamation points” to the President of the States is yet further confirmation of his paranoid, conspiratorial world view, and complete unfitness for executive office. It is of a piece with his belief that HIV does not cause AIDS and that those who complain about South Africa’s rampant crime problem are all closet racists. Moreover, as Gerson notes, Mbeki is but symptomatic of the African National Congress’s broader attempt to position South Africa in an anti-Western, Third-Worldist posture on the international stage. Allowing Robert Mugabe to ruin his country is simply the price to be paid when the alternative is the election of a political party favored by the West.

Meanwhile, not long after Mbeki fired off his strange missive to President Bush, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai sent his thoughts to the dictator-abetting South African president, who had been tasked by both Bush and regional leaders with mediating Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis. He does not mince words, informing Mbeki that if his style of “diplomacy” persists, “there will be no country left.” While Mbeki tells President Bush to “butt out” of African affairs (a strange request, considering the fact that the United States has been relatively passive about the chaos in Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe’s democrats wish the reverse: that the United States take a more proactive role while Mbeki exit the stage.

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Reaping the Whirlwind

The riots which swept Johannesburg yesterday were, according to the Guardian, “the worst violence to hit Johannesburg since the politically-driven killings of the final years of apartheid.” Judging by the photographs, one could be forgiven for thinking yesterday’s uproar actually were scenes from the 1980′s. The targets of these roving mobs–which rampaged through not only the poor, sprawling townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg but also ravaged the city’s downtown business district–were foreigners, most of whom are Zimbabwean. South Africa has an unofficial employment rate believed to be hovering around 40%, and the presence of outsiders willing to work cheaply has for many years been a source of embitterment for South Africa’s poor blacks. (And a glaring shortcoming of the African National Congress’s promise to redistribute the country’s wealth.)

This latest outburst, while reprehensible, was bound to happen. Over the past eight years, what started as a steady stream of migrants fleeing the tyranny of Robert Mugabe has turned into a flood. At least three million (and perhaps many, many more) Zimbabweans (a full quarter of the country’s native population) now reside illegally in South Africa. Some 3,000 people cross the border every week. Zimbabwe has become, as a South African economist told me in 2006, “South Africa’s Mexico.”

Yet the situation is far more dire than that of Mexico and America. The glaring deficiency with this analysis is that we don’t have a 40% unemployment rate. Moreover, you can be sure that were Mexico experiencing the tumult that Zimbabwe has over the past 8 years–a dictator stealing elections, killing his political opponents, and starving his people–America would do something about it, from enforcing stringent sanctions to carrying out regime change.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, meanwhile, has carried out a policy that has amounted to saying nothing about the human rights catastrophe next door while keeping the United Nations and Western countries at bay. South Africa is beginning to experience the chaos wrought by its negligence towards Mugabe. The only beneficial outcome of the growing refugee crisis within its borders is the possibility that it may change the government’s attitude towards the dictator.

The riots which swept Johannesburg yesterday were, according to the Guardian, “the worst violence to hit Johannesburg since the politically-driven killings of the final years of apartheid.” Judging by the photographs, one could be forgiven for thinking yesterday’s uproar actually were scenes from the 1980′s. The targets of these roving mobs–which rampaged through not only the poor, sprawling townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg but also ravaged the city’s downtown business district–were foreigners, most of whom are Zimbabwean. South Africa has an unofficial employment rate believed to be hovering around 40%, and the presence of outsiders willing to work cheaply has for many years been a source of embitterment for South Africa’s poor blacks. (And a glaring shortcoming of the African National Congress’s promise to redistribute the country’s wealth.)

This latest outburst, while reprehensible, was bound to happen. Over the past eight years, what started as a steady stream of migrants fleeing the tyranny of Robert Mugabe has turned into a flood. At least three million (and perhaps many, many more) Zimbabweans (a full quarter of the country’s native population) now reside illegally in South Africa. Some 3,000 people cross the border every week. Zimbabwe has become, as a South African economist told me in 2006, “South Africa’s Mexico.”

Yet the situation is far more dire than that of Mexico and America. The glaring deficiency with this analysis is that we don’t have a 40% unemployment rate. Moreover, you can be sure that were Mexico experiencing the tumult that Zimbabwe has over the past 8 years–a dictator stealing elections, killing his political opponents, and starving his people–America would do something about it, from enforcing stringent sanctions to carrying out regime change.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, meanwhile, has carried out a policy that has amounted to saying nothing about the human rights catastrophe next door while keeping the United Nations and Western countries at bay. South Africa is beginning to experience the chaos wrought by its negligence towards Mugabe. The only beneficial outcome of the growing refugee crisis within its borders is the possibility that it may change the government’s attitude towards the dictator.

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Juan Cole: Illogic :: Michael Jordan: Basketball

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

Professor-cum-blogger Juan Cole’s habit of producing illogical analogies to evaluate events in the Middle East is legendary. As Martin Kramer has noted, Cole’s faulty analogies have been employed misleadingly to compare such dissimilar phenomena as the caliphate to the papacy; Saudi Arabia to Amish country; and the Sunni-Shiite divide to the Catholic-Protestant one.

Well, Cole is at it again:

Israeli ambassador to the UN Dan Gillerman called Carter a bigot for his diplomacy. Gillerman called Hizbullah, an Arab party, “animals” in summer of 2006. Would he like to expand the reference to include other races? … For Likudniks to call Jimmy Carter a “bigot” is sort of like the Ku Klux Klan denouncing Nelson Mandela for racial insensitivity.

Just in case you missed it, Cole’s stunning logic goes something like this: the Likud Party is to Jimmy Carter what the KKK is to Nelson Mandela. Or, as it would have been written on the old version of the SAT, “Likud: Carter :: KKK: Mandela.”

Still don’t get it? Let me help. To make sense of Cole’s analogy, one must accept the bizarre premise that denouncing Hizbullah–a militant group representing one extreme faction within one of twenty-one Arab states–constitutes KKK-like racism against all Arabs (and possibly against many other peoples). It therefore follows logically that, in protesting the anti-Hizbullah “Likud Light” Israeli government, Jimmy Carter is actually protesting KKK-like racism, much as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa.

Yet, for Cole, the notion that criticism of Hizbullah constitutes anti-Arab racism is dangerously revealing of his true intentions. After all, Cole has often railed against the exact same logic when applied to Israel, arguing that accusations of anti-Semitism against Israel’s most vitriolic critics–such as himself–are “designed to silence.” Indeed, by accusing Dan Gillerman of racism for denouncing Hizbullah, Cole’s own internal logic suggests that he is trying to stifle one of Hizbullah’s most prominent detractors–an aim consistent with Cole’s legacy of apologias for radical Islamists.

Of course, Cole’s pollution of the blogosphere is nothing new. But, insofar as Cole’s students now hail from a generation that no longer studies analogies in preparation for the SATs, his distortions may be more dangerous than ever before.

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Learning from Longshoremen

On Friday, the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying arms bound for Zimbabwe, left the port of Durban. Earlier, a high court refused to allow the weapons to be transported across South African soil.

The decision capped a surprising turn of events. On Thursday, Themba Maseko, a spokesman for Pretoria, said that his country would not stop the shipment as long as formalities had been completed. Dockers of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, however, refused to unload the cargo, fearing that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe might use the weapons against his opponents, who are locked in a post-election standoff with him. Mugabe appears to have lost his post in the March 29 presidential election but is unwilling to step aside.

“This vessel must return to China with the arms on board,” the union said in a statement. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. The rust bucket is headed for Luanda, where the weapons will be unloaded for a long overland trek to Zimbabwe. So the workers have won only a symbolic victory.

Yet symbolism matters, especially to autocrats. South African workers apparently know that. “How positive it is that ordinary dockers have refused to allow that boat to go further,” said Mary Robinson, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Mary, you’re right, of course. But let’s not call these South Africans “ordinary.” They have done more to stop Chinese autocrats from aiding Mugabe than their own leader, Thabo Mbeki–and than the most powerful individual on earth, President George W. Bush.

As Robinson said, the Durban port workers tried to stop something they believed was wrong. Perhaps the American people should ask their leader to go to South Africa so he can learn a thing or two from the longshoremen in Durban.

On Friday, the An Yue Jiang, a Chinese ship carrying arms bound for Zimbabwe, left the port of Durban. Earlier, a high court refused to allow the weapons to be transported across South African soil.

The decision capped a surprising turn of events. On Thursday, Themba Maseko, a spokesman for Pretoria, said that his country would not stop the shipment as long as formalities had been completed. Dockers of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, however, refused to unload the cargo, fearing that Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe might use the weapons against his opponents, who are locked in a post-election standoff with him. Mugabe appears to have lost his post in the March 29 presidential election but is unwilling to step aside.

“This vessel must return to China with the arms on board,” the union said in a statement. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely. The rust bucket is headed for Luanda, where the weapons will be unloaded for a long overland trek to Zimbabwe. So the workers have won only a symbolic victory.

Yet symbolism matters, especially to autocrats. South African workers apparently know that. “How positive it is that ordinary dockers have refused to allow that boat to go further,” said Mary Robinson, the former U.N. high commissioner for human rights. Mary, you’re right, of course. But let’s not call these South Africans “ordinary.” They have done more to stop Chinese autocrats from aiding Mugabe than their own leader, Thabo Mbeki–and than the most powerful individual on earth, President George W. Bush.

As Robinson said, the Durban port workers tried to stop something they believed was wrong. Perhaps the American people should ask their leader to go to South Africa so he can learn a thing or two from the longshoremen in Durban.

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Obama’s Church and Israel’s “Ethnic Bomb”

It is becoming clear that the Trinity United Church of Christ’s anti-Israel stance represents a significant aspect of its political agenda. The blog Sweetness & Light dug up a June 2007 missive published in the church’s newsletter accusing Israel of developing an “ethnic bomb” that kills only blacks and Arabs.

The piece was written by Ali Baghdadi, who was, among other things, “Middle East advisor” to Louis Farrakhan. The rant takes the form of a sappy and delusional open letter to Oprah Winfrey, in response to her accepting Elie Wiesel’s invitation to visit Israel. Baghdadi describes Israel’s “apartheid” regime and writes, “I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the white supremacists of South Africa.”

The real danger in Obama’s relationship to this church has barely been touched upon despite all the press the situation has received. There is a verifiable convergence of the ideas promoted in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s brand of black liberation theology and the anti-American, anti-Semitic doctrine of radical Islam. America’s current enemies are crazed clerics who wail about Israeli oppression and who damn America before cheering crowds. This description also fits Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years. That the two types of hate-filled holy men have connected, at least in print, is hardly a surprise. And the slack that liberals want to extend to Jeremiah Wright is merely the “root-cause” terrorist argument re-purposed: We have to understand their reasons, etc. This is what Obama brings with him, and it’s an implausibly generous gift to those who want to destroy us.

It is becoming clear that the Trinity United Church of Christ’s anti-Israel stance represents a significant aspect of its political agenda. The blog Sweetness & Light dug up a June 2007 missive published in the church’s newsletter accusing Israel of developing an “ethnic bomb” that kills only blacks and Arabs.

The piece was written by Ali Baghdadi, who was, among other things, “Middle East advisor” to Louis Farrakhan. The rant takes the form of a sappy and delusional open letter to Oprah Winfrey, in response to her accepting Elie Wiesel’s invitation to visit Israel. Baghdadi describes Israel’s “apartheid” regime and writes, “I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the white supremacists of South Africa.”

The real danger in Obama’s relationship to this church has barely been touched upon despite all the press the situation has received. There is a verifiable convergence of the ideas promoted in Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s brand of black liberation theology and the anti-American, anti-Semitic doctrine of radical Islam. America’s current enemies are crazed clerics who wail about Israeli oppression and who damn America before cheering crowds. This description also fits Barack Obama’s pastor of twenty years. That the two types of hate-filled holy men have connected, at least in print, is hardly a surprise. And the slack that liberals want to extend to Jeremiah Wright is merely the “root-cause” terrorist argument re-purposed: We have to understand their reasons, etc. This is what Obama brings with him, and it’s an implausibly generous gift to those who want to destroy us.

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The Evil to His North

In the past several weeks, Robert Mugabe has announced that he will ban American and EU observers from documenting the upcoming presidential election in Zimbabwe (though he has invited representatives from China, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia). His country’s inflation rate has surpassed 100,000%. The harassment of journalists, civil-society activists, and opposition politician continues unabated. Does any of this information move South Africa, governed by the African National Congress?

A place to look would be President Thabo Mbeki’s weekly email bulletin. A brief search through the archive shows that he has not bothered to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Zimbabwe for months. This week, however, on the verge of what will be a rigged election in Zimbabwe, Mbeki takes the time to plead that Israel “stop the collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and end its “punishing blockade of Gaza.” Given that a country halfway around the world defending itself from daily terrorism invokes such anger in President Mbeki, perhaps he could work up a measurable degree of outrage about the crimes against humanity committed by the evil man immediately to this north.

In the past several weeks, Robert Mugabe has announced that he will ban American and EU observers from documenting the upcoming presidential election in Zimbabwe (though he has invited representatives from China, Iran, Venezuela, and Russia). His country’s inflation rate has surpassed 100,000%. The harassment of journalists, civil-society activists, and opposition politician continues unabated. Does any of this information move South Africa, governed by the African National Congress?

A place to look would be President Thabo Mbeki’s weekly email bulletin. A brief search through the archive shows that he has not bothered to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Zimbabwe for months. This week, however, on the verge of what will be a rigged election in Zimbabwe, Mbeki takes the time to plead that Israel “stop the collective punishment of the Palestinian people” and end its “punishing blockade of Gaza.” Given that a country halfway around the world defending itself from daily terrorism invokes such anger in President Mbeki, perhaps he could work up a measurable degree of outrage about the crimes against humanity committed by the evil man immediately to this north.

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Honest Words on Zimbabwe

This week President Bush is touring Africa, a part of the world where both he and the United States remain remarkably popular. This is due, in part, to the massive aid his administration has designated for HIV-prevention, truly a monumental effort (especially in comparison to the dilatory record of his predecessor.) While political analysts will bicker for a long time over practically every aspect of the Bush legacy, his record on African issues is one that even Bush’s harshest critics can admire.

Bush has spoken out consistently against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Now, finally, he is denouncing Mugabe’s South African enablers, as well. Last week, in a White House speech that presaged his trip, Bush had some harsh words for Robert Mugabe, stating that the “discredited dictator” had “ruined” his country. This sort of rhetoric is par for the course, but what followed was unusual. “I was hoping that the South African government would have been more pro-active in its intercession to help the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

In 2003, visiting South Africa, Bush called President Thabo Mbeki his “point man” on Zimbabwe. Five years later, Zimbabwe has gone from a politically tumultuous state into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. As much as a third of the country’s population now lives as refugees in neighboring countries, life expectancy is the lowest on earth, and inflation hovers somewhere around 100,000%. Mbeki’s record on Zimbabwe has been nothing short of disastrous, and his certifying what is bound to be yet another stolen election next March is his latest poke in the eye to Zimbabwean democrats. In a rare outburst, the leader of the Zimbabwean opposition — which has been nothing but deferential to the South African government throughout its struggle against tyranny — criticized Mbeki and demanded that he stop his “quiet support for the dictatorship” of Mugabe. Though neither Zimbabwe nor South Africa is on Bush’s itinerary, perhaps the president can deliver a speech in his remaining days urging Africa’s leaders to end their support for one of the world’s longest-serving tyrants.

This week President Bush is touring Africa, a part of the world where both he and the United States remain remarkably popular. This is due, in part, to the massive aid his administration has designated for HIV-prevention, truly a monumental effort (especially in comparison to the dilatory record of his predecessor.) While political analysts will bicker for a long time over practically every aspect of the Bush legacy, his record on African issues is one that even Bush’s harshest critics can admire.

Bush has spoken out consistently against Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Now, finally, he is denouncing Mugabe’s South African enablers, as well. Last week, in a White House speech that presaged his trip, Bush had some harsh words for Robert Mugabe, stating that the “discredited dictator” had “ruined” his country. This sort of rhetoric is par for the course, but what followed was unusual. “I was hoping that the South African government would have been more pro-active in its intercession to help the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

In 2003, visiting South Africa, Bush called President Thabo Mbeki his “point man” on Zimbabwe. Five years later, Zimbabwe has gone from a politically tumultuous state into a full-blown humanitarian disaster. As much as a third of the country’s population now lives as refugees in neighboring countries, life expectancy is the lowest on earth, and inflation hovers somewhere around 100,000%. Mbeki’s record on Zimbabwe has been nothing short of disastrous, and his certifying what is bound to be yet another stolen election next March is his latest poke in the eye to Zimbabwean democrats. In a rare outburst, the leader of the Zimbabwean opposition — which has been nothing but deferential to the South African government throughout its struggle against tyranny — criticized Mbeki and demanded that he stop his “quiet support for the dictatorship” of Mugabe. Though neither Zimbabwe nor South Africa is on Bush’s itinerary, perhaps the president can deliver a speech in his remaining days urging Africa’s leaders to end their support for one of the world’s longest-serving tyrants.

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Nicolas Sarkozy, Judeophile

Have you heard what the French President has been saying lately?

On Wednesday, he declared that “I won’t shake hands with people who refuse to recognize Israel,” a snub directed at Muslim leaders. On the same day he warned that France may join the U.S. and Canada in boycotting the UN’s anti-Israel hatefest (known officially as an “anti-racism conference”) in Durban, South Africa: “France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001.”

He has pledged to attend Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations in May, and after the recent suicide bombing in Dimona, sent a condolence letter to Shimon Peres in which he went out of his way to declare that he will always stand with Israel against terrorism.

His rhetoric on Iran of late has surpassed President Bush’s in its spirit of determination: “Proliferation is a grave threat to international security. We cannot sit by and do nothing while Iran develops technologies which are in violation of international law.”

Sarkozy made some of the above comments at the annual dinner of the CRIF, the umbrella organization of the French Jewish community — it was the first time a French president had ever attended.

And there’s more. The opening paragraph of a New York Times story today reads:

President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week, surprising the nation and touching off waves of protest with his revision of the school curriculum: beginning next fall, he said, every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

All of this is the opposite of his predecessor’s approach, which involved a meticulous attention to detail when it came to denigrating and insulting the Jewish state. It was only a couple of years ago, two days into Israel’s war with Hezbollah, that Jacques Chirac sat in a garden in Paris and announced to the press that Israel’s opening salvos were “completely disproportionate” and added that “One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon.” Three days later he sent Dominique de Villepin on a solidarity mission to Beirut.

Chirac, though, was simply following tradition — French leaders have always held Israel in public contempt, such acts being viewed as necessary to earning an advantageous relationship with the Arab world (relations, it’s worth adding, that never worked out very well for France — what did Chirac and his predecessors ever get from their courtships of Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and Ayatollah Khomeini?).

There was only one period in history when France treated Israel with anything approaching Sarkozy’s benevolence, and that was during the ambassadorship of Pierre-Etienne Gilbert from 1953 to 1959. Gilbert was the first French diplomat who actually admired the Jewish state. During his time in Israel, he learned Hebrew and lobbied vigorously for a collaborative relationship between the two countries. After the 1956 Suez War, Gilbert helped push through the nuclear deal that supplied Israel with its reactor in Dimona. This brief window of good relations was slammed shut when De Gaulle returned from retirement in 1958 and quickly put French diplomacy back on its historic track, an official policy of obsequience to the Arab states.

In the run-up to the Six Day War, France embargoed arms sales to Israel, and during the war, counting on an Israeli defeat, De Gaulle told British Prime Minister Harold Wilson that eventually the West would thank him, as from then on France would “be the only Western power to have any influence with the Arab governments” — a remark that perfectly captures the central ambition of 200 years of French Middle East policy.

Until Sarkozy, that is.

Have you heard what the French President has been saying lately?

On Wednesday, he declared that “I won’t shake hands with people who refuse to recognize Israel,” a snub directed at Muslim leaders. On the same day he warned that France may join the U.S. and Canada in boycotting the UN’s anti-Israel hatefest (known officially as an “anti-racism conference”) in Durban, South Africa: “France will not allow a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001.”

He has pledged to attend Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations in May, and after the recent suicide bombing in Dimona, sent a condolence letter to Shimon Peres in which he went out of his way to declare that he will always stand with Israel against terrorism.

His rhetoric on Iran of late has surpassed President Bush’s in its spirit of determination: “Proliferation is a grave threat to international security. We cannot sit by and do nothing while Iran develops technologies which are in violation of international law.”

Sarkozy made some of the above comments at the annual dinner of the CRIF, the umbrella organization of the French Jewish community — it was the first time a French president had ever attended.

And there’s more. The opening paragraph of a New York Times story today reads:

President Nicolas Sarkozy dropped an intellectual bombshell this week, surprising the nation and touching off waves of protest with his revision of the school curriculum: beginning next fall, he said, every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

All of this is the opposite of his predecessor’s approach, which involved a meticulous attention to detail when it came to denigrating and insulting the Jewish state. It was only a couple of years ago, two days into Israel’s war with Hezbollah, that Jacques Chirac sat in a garden in Paris and announced to the press that Israel’s opening salvos were “completely disproportionate” and added that “One could ask if today there is not a sort of will to destroy Lebanon.” Three days later he sent Dominique de Villepin on a solidarity mission to Beirut.

Chirac, though, was simply following tradition — French leaders have always held Israel in public contempt, such acts being viewed as necessary to earning an advantageous relationship with the Arab world (relations, it’s worth adding, that never worked out very well for France — what did Chirac and his predecessors ever get from their courtships of Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and Ayatollah Khomeini?).

There was only one period in history when France treated Israel with anything approaching Sarkozy’s benevolence, and that was during the ambassadorship of Pierre-Etienne Gilbert from 1953 to 1959. Gilbert was the first French diplomat who actually admired the Jewish state. During his time in Israel, he learned Hebrew and lobbied vigorously for a collaborative relationship between the two countries. After the 1956 Suez War, Gilbert helped push through the nuclear deal that supplied Israel with its reactor in Dimona. This brief window of good relations was slammed shut when De Gaulle returned from retirement in 1958 and quickly put French diplomacy back on its historic track, an official policy of obsequience to the Arab states.

In the run-up to the Six Day War, France embargoed arms sales to Israel, and during the war, counting on an Israeli defeat, De Gaulle told British Prime Minister Harold Wilson that eventually the West would thank him, as from then on France would “be the only Western power to have any influence with the Arab governments” — a remark that perfectly captures the central ambition of 200 years of French Middle East policy.

Until Sarkozy, that is.

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The Return of Durban

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who apparently doesn’t have greater problems to deal with, has announced that his country will host the follow-up session to the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This conference, of course, was infamous for its near-instantaneous descent into anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. How a United Nations conference could ever combat something as nebulous as “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” is an open question. The U.N. has repeatedly proven itself rather adept at promoting bigotry itself (see its infamous resolution condemning Zionism as racism), and has repeatedly shied away from protecting people from violent racists, whether it be Darfurians attacked by the Arab government in Khartoum or white farmers evicted from their land in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Tony Leon, the former leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party and now its spokesman on foreign affairs, warned that the conference would once again serve as a front for anti-Semitism:

“The question then arises how South Africa hopes to steer the conference in a direction of balance and probity, rather than leading it to degenerate again into a hate fest of intolerance and imprudence.”

He added that the South African taxpayer forked out R100-million for the last World Conference against Racism. “The results have been dismal and in terms of the advancement of the real fight against racism, almost non-existent.”

He asked: “Are we again going to witness, host and pay for a slanted, sectional and sectarian conference, or will we use our best endeavours and our foreign policy credentials to steer it in the right direction?”

Secretary Rice has already announced to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States will not partake in the conference if it “deteriorates into the kind of conference that Durban I was.” Canada has already bowed out of the conference irrespective of whatever makes it onto the agenda.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who apparently doesn’t have greater problems to deal with, has announced that his country will host the follow-up session to the 2001 Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. This conference, of course, was infamous for its near-instantaneous descent into anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. How a United Nations conference could ever combat something as nebulous as “Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance” is an open question. The U.N. has repeatedly proven itself rather adept at promoting bigotry itself (see its infamous resolution condemning Zionism as racism), and has repeatedly shied away from protecting people from violent racists, whether it be Darfurians attacked by the Arab government in Khartoum or white farmers evicted from their land in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Tony Leon, the former leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance party and now its spokesman on foreign affairs, warned that the conference would once again serve as a front for anti-Semitism:

“The question then arises how South Africa hopes to steer the conference in a direction of balance and probity, rather than leading it to degenerate again into a hate fest of intolerance and imprudence.”

He added that the South African taxpayer forked out R100-million for the last World Conference against Racism. “The results have been dismal and in terms of the advancement of the real fight against racism, almost non-existent.”

He asked: “Are we again going to witness, host and pay for a slanted, sectional and sectarian conference, or will we use our best endeavours and our foreign policy credentials to steer it in the right direction?”

Secretary Rice has already announced to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States will not partake in the conference if it “deteriorates into the kind of conference that Durban I was.” Canada has already bowed out of the conference irrespective of whatever makes it onto the agenda.

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Durban Blues

Good news: Following up on Canada’s example, which I mentioned in a previous post, the United States has decided to boycott next year’s UN conference on human rights in Durban, South Africa, known as “Durban II.” This, according to Senator Norm Coleman (R – Minn.), who says the state department is calling off its participation, in response to a letter he and 26 other senators sent to Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice. In the letter, he senators cited the debacle of the previous Durban conference, which deteriorated into a festival of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing; and the fact that the Durban II organizers include such humane governments as Libya and Iran. The conference, the let ter says, is “yet another example of a seemingly noble UN agenda item being hijacked by member states to spew anti-Semitism.” The senators are right; the U.S. has made the right decision.

Or has it? According to reports, a State Department spokesman, Karl Duckworth, says no such decision has been made. Tom Casey, also at State, says that because the conference is being held after the current administration finishes its term, the decision will be up to the next one. On the other hand, he told reporters that “I certainly don’t think that presently we view it as a particularly valuable activity.”

Perhaps it is considered polite for outgoing administrations not to saddle subsequent ones with their decisions. Yet the question of whether to prop up one of the ugliest forums of world anti-Semitism or to deal it a belated diplomatic death is not next year’s—it’s today’s.

Good news: Following up on Canada’s example, which I mentioned in a previous post, the United States has decided to boycott next year’s UN conference on human rights in Durban, South Africa, known as “Durban II.” This, according to Senator Norm Coleman (R – Minn.), who says the state department is calling off its participation, in response to a letter he and 26 other senators sent to Secretary of State Condolleezza Rice. In the letter, he senators cited the debacle of the previous Durban conference, which deteriorated into a festival of anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing; and the fact that the Durban II organizers include such humane governments as Libya and Iran. The conference, the let ter says, is “yet another example of a seemingly noble UN agenda item being hijacked by member states to spew anti-Semitism.” The senators are right; the U.S. has made the right decision.

Or has it? According to reports, a State Department spokesman, Karl Duckworth, says no such decision has been made. Tom Casey, also at State, says that because the conference is being held after the current administration finishes its term, the decision will be up to the next one. On the other hand, he told reporters that “I certainly don’t think that presently we view it as a particularly valuable activity.”

Perhaps it is considered polite for outgoing administrations not to saddle subsequent ones with their decisions. Yet the question of whether to prop up one of the ugliest forums of world anti-Semitism or to deal it a belated diplomatic death is not next year’s—it’s today’s.

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