Commentary Magazine


Topic: Sweden

How Sweden Ended Up Proving Israel Right

The diplomatic fallout from Sweden’s vote to recognize the state of Palestine continues. Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden along with an explanation from the Foreign Ministry. It followed Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s criticism of the Swedish recognition, in which he included a not-so-diplomatic dig at IKEA. Yet both responses from Israel to the Palestine recognition were not only defensible, but appropriate, especially if you follow Sweden’s own official statements about the matter.

Read More

The diplomatic fallout from Sweden’s vote to recognize the state of Palestine continues. Israel recalled its ambassador to Sweden along with an explanation from the Foreign Ministry. It followed Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s criticism of the Swedish recognition, in which he included a not-so-diplomatic dig at IKEA. Yet both responses from Israel to the Palestine recognition were not only defensible, but appropriate, especially if you follow Sweden’s own official statements about the matter.

One of the aspects of Lieberman’s rise through Israeli politics is that he drives non-Israelis, especially leftist American Jews, insane. What they don’t understand about Israeli politics could fill a bookshelf, but what they don’t understand about Lieberman is basically this: he’s among the most politically savvy figures in Israel, perhaps even topping the list. And he’s also, therefore, something of a realist. He supports the two-state solution and land swaps, and he’s used his knowledge of Eurasia (he’s Moldovan) to expand Israel’s alliances–a strategy that looks increasingly wise as the Obama administration throws temper tantrums at the Israeli leadership (and public) and downgrades the U.S.-Israel military alliance.

Here was Lieberman’s initial response to the Swedish recognition:

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the recognition “unfortunate” and said in a statement that it would only serve to strengthen the Palestinians’ “unrealistic demands.”

“The Swedish government needs to understand that the Middle East is more complicated than self-assembly furniture from Ikea and to act on the issue responsibly and with sensitivity,” he said, getting in a dig at the Sweden-based retail giant.

So there are two elements to this response: first, that it will essentially reward Palestinian intransigence, and second, that it oversimplifies what real peace requires. Lieberman, then, is quite obviously correct on both counts. The Swedes did not take kindly to the IKEA dig, and responded thus:

To which the Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström replied, “I will be happy to send him a flat pack of IKEA furniture and he will also see that what you need to put it together is, first of all, a partner. And you also need to cooperate and you need a good manual and I think we have most of those elements,” the Times of Israel reported.

This was intended as a rebuttal; instead, however, it proved Lieberman’s point better than even Lieberman could. Wallström says to put together the furniture you need a partner. Lieberman would agree, and the lack of a true Palestinian partner (Mahmoud Abbas sparked what may turn into the third intifada in Jerusalem this week) is a good reason why Swedish recognition now was a terrible idea and also explains why the lack of a two-state solution thus far is not Israel’s fault.

Wallström then says you need cooperation. This is correct, and demonstrates the foolishness of recognizing Palestine, since unilateral moves have long been considered obstacles to negotiations. In this case, Sweden has supported unilateral moves in direct contravention of the concept of cooperation.

Wallström concludes by saying “you need a good manual.” Perhaps. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has now produced two such manuals, though it’s arguable how “good” they are: the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap. Both of these manuals impose certain requirements on each side, but the central theme is that a peace agreement will come about through negotiations and that intransigence and violence should not be rewarded by each side being encouraged to go its own way and do what it pleases. Sweden’s recognition of Palestine violates this as well.

Wallström might have been better off researching what we in the West refer to as a “sense of humor,” and not responded so seriously to an obvious joke. Not only does Wallström look humorless, but her response perfectly illustrated why Sweden was wrong–according to Sweden! (Or at least according to its Foreign Ministry.)

Western liberals are probably getting accustomed to being outsmarted by Avigdor Lieberman, though I don’t imagine it reduces the sting all that much. As for recalling the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, that too is at least understandable. Israel is facing a bit of a European fad of late to recognize Palestine, though it’s usually symbolic. Israel can be expected to try to prevent the spread of this gesture by showing that it at least is not without repercussions.

Additionally, Israel is currently facing down the possibility of another intifada. Even if it doesn’t arrive–Jerusalem’s stability seems to thankfully be holding for the moment, which is a very good sign–there has been a spate of violence in Jerusalem against Jewish civilians and continued threats from Iranian Palestinian proxies. To reward Palestinian behavior such as this, and at this precise time, is to signal to the Palestinians that violence against Jews is the way to impress the international community and get what they want. Such behavior will be the death of peace, no matter how many states European politicians feel like recognizing.

Read Less

Israel’s Critics and the Next Election

The drumbeat of incitement against Israel in Europe reached a fever pitch this past summer as the war in Gaza raged. But though the anti-Semitic tinged demonstrations in support of a “free Gaza” — albeit one that was ruled by Islamist terrorists raining down thousands of rockets on Israeli cities — have ceased, the incitement continues as does the diplomatic initiatives seeking to pressure Jerusalem to make concessions. But rather than aiding the tiny minority of Israelis who oppose the war, criticism from abroad has seemingly only solidified a national consensus that opposes further territorial withdrawals under the current circumstances. And that is something its foreign detractors as well as American Jews who are bitterly opposed to Israel’s government should try to understand.

Read More

The drumbeat of incitement against Israel in Europe reached a fever pitch this past summer as the war in Gaza raged. But though the anti-Semitic tinged demonstrations in support of a “free Gaza” — albeit one that was ruled by Islamist terrorists raining down thousands of rockets on Israeli cities — have ceased, the incitement continues as does the diplomatic initiatives seeking to pressure Jerusalem to make concessions. But rather than aiding the tiny minority of Israelis who oppose the war, criticism from abroad has seemingly only solidified a national consensus that opposes further territorial withdrawals under the current circumstances. And that is something its foreign detractors as well as American Jews who are bitterly opposed to Israel’s government should try to understand.

Judging by developments in the last week, Israel is more isolated than ever. A new Swedish government announced that it would grant formal recognition to the Palestinian Authority as a state while the European Union made clear it planned to reevaluate bilateral ties with Israel unless it stopped building beyond the 1967 lines and failed to make progress in negotiations with the Palestinians. But rather than acting as a prod to Israel’s government or its people to rethink their stands on the dead-in-the-water peace process, there is no sign that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government is worried about its future or rethinking its actions. The events of the past summer have had the opposite effect on Israelis and that is reflected in the moves the prime minister is making toward moving up the dates of the next scheduled parliamentary election.

Having won a second consecutive term (and third overall) as prime minister in January 2013, no elections need be held in the country until at least 2017. But according to the Times of Israel, the prime minister’s decision to move up the date of his party’s primaries and to change procedures for selecting Knesset candidates all indicate that he intends to call for new elections sometime in the next year.

The reasons for this are obvious. In the wake of the war, what remains of Israel’s left-wing pro-peace camp is more discredited than ever. The centrist faction led by Finance Minister Yair Lapid that did so well in the last elections look to be badly beaten the next time voters have their say. Just as important is that Netanyahu is eager to shed what is left of the merger of his Likud Party with that of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael B’Aliya Party that has since been dissolved. Likud will win far more seats on its own next time out while its major right-wing partners Lieberman’s party and Economics Minister Naphtali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party will also likely be a big winner.

While a year is a lifetime in politics, there is little doubt the political landscape is shifting in favor of Netanyahu. While there is plenty of competition for the role of his eventual successor, no one, including Lapid, Lieberman, Bennett or Yitzhak Herzog, leader of the opposition Labor Party, seem to be credible alternatives to Netanyahu as prime minister. Which means that barring some unforeseen cataclysm, the prime minister and his party will be heavily favored to gain a third consecutive term that will place him in the same historic context as the nation’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

In analyzing the reason for this it should be remembered that Netanyahu has never been personally popular and his party remains beset by what sometimes seem like more popular competitors for the votes of right-wingers.

But despite this, Netanyahu represents what is now a centrist consensus about the prospects of peace with the Palestinians. While a majority of Israelis still favor a two-state solution in theory and many would be happy to be rid of much of the West Bank, the Gaza war, they also recognize that in the absence of a sea change in the political culture of the Palestinians, such moves are impossible.

With the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas still unable and/or unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn, few believe more talks with the PA will accomplish anything. Moreover the growing popularity of Hamas after its futile war reflects support for its desire to destroy Israel and to go on fighting until that goal is accomplished. Given that the Islamist movement leads Abbas in polls of West Bankers that ensures that the PA will not be holding another election anytime in the near future. But it also signals Israelis that any theoretical deal concluded with Abbas would be meaningless if he is succeeded, either by election or coup, by Hamas.

While Israelis are drawing appropriate conclusions from these events, many American Jews and other erstwhile supporters of Israel are not. They continue to attack Netanyahu and, like the left-wing J Street lobby, think that Israel should be saved from itself. But instead of carping about a government that looks to be in power for the foreseeable future, those who claim to be both pro-Israel and pro-peace should think about the need to respect the judgment of the people who were under fire last summer. Israelis don’t want peace any less than Americans but unlike some of their critics, they have been paying attention to what Palestinians say and do. The terror tunnels and the rockets and the support for those who shoot them, not to mention the Palestinian rejection of peace offers, have convinced them that they have no peace partner. In the absence of proof they are wrong, American critics of Israeli democracy should pipe down.

Read Less

Putin’s NATO Justification

To justify the unjustifiable–Russia’s aggression against Ukraine–Vladimir Putin has concocted a narrative of resentment built upon the myth that the U.S. supposedly humiliated Russia after the end of the Cold War. This ignores the obvious reality, which is that no one ever treated Russia the way Germany was treated after World War I. Far from demanding reparations or territorial concessions or imposing limits on Russia’s ability to defend itself, the West poured in billions in aid–money which was largely wasted because of the corruption of Putin and his ilk. 

True, the Russian Empire shrank considerably after 1991 but this was not because of a diktat imposed by Washington. It was because most of the subservient republics under Moscow’s thumb–from Ukraine to Uzbekistan–chose to go their own way. Washington couldn’t have stopped them if it had tried, and George H.W. Bush did try to discourage Ukrainian independence with his famous “Chicken Kiev” speech.

The one action that the West did take after the Soviet Union’s collapse that Putin can label as provocative was the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe. This was opposed by some at the time as a needless aggravation of Russia. That argument is now being heard anew not only from Putin but from those in the West eager to rationalize his aggression. 

Read More

To justify the unjustifiable–Russia’s aggression against Ukraine–Vladimir Putin has concocted a narrative of resentment built upon the myth that the U.S. supposedly humiliated Russia after the end of the Cold War. This ignores the obvious reality, which is that no one ever treated Russia the way Germany was treated after World War I. Far from demanding reparations or territorial concessions or imposing limits on Russia’s ability to defend itself, the West poured in billions in aid–money which was largely wasted because of the corruption of Putin and his ilk. 

True, the Russian Empire shrank considerably after 1991 but this was not because of a diktat imposed by Washington. It was because most of the subservient republics under Moscow’s thumb–from Ukraine to Uzbekistan–chose to go their own way. Washington couldn’t have stopped them if it had tried, and George H.W. Bush did try to discourage Ukrainian independence with his famous “Chicken Kiev” speech.

The one action that the West did take after the Soviet Union’s collapse that Putin can label as provocative was the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe. This was opposed by some at the time as a needless aggravation of Russia. That argument is now being heard anew not only from Putin but from those in the West eager to rationalize his aggression. 

But it is disingenuous to suggest that Putin’s desire to reassemble the Russian empire is fueled by fear of NATO, a purely defensive alliance. Only someone who has been binge-watching RT (formerly Russia Today)–the Kremlin’s propaganda organ–could possibly imagine that, absent NATO’s expansion, Putin would be behaving in a more neighborly fashion toward Georgia, Ukraine, or other neighboring states that he still considers to be Russian satrapies. 

NATO expansion may be an excuse for Russian aggression but it is not its cause. Actually, NATO expansion has been a great force for peace and stability, helping to lock in the democratic gains in Eastern Europe and to impose limitations on Russian bullying. 

Far from backing away from NATO, the U.S. and its allies should double down. Ukraine and Georgia may not be ready for membership, but Sweden and Finland could easily be absorbed into the alliance as Swedish commentator Jan Joel Andersson argues in Foreign Affairs. “From a military standpoint, Sweden and Finland would add technologically sophisticated and well-equipped armed forces to the alliance,” he argues, and “it would bring the NATO border ever closer to Russia, demonstrating that military aggression in Europe carries major geopolitical consequences.” 

Such a bold step makes eminent sense to counter Russian aggression and to signal that the West will not accept Putin’s attempts to blame NATO for his own misconduct.

Read Less

Time for European Jews to Leave?

Swedish Jewish activist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein admires her country’s long tradition of offering asylum to those who seek refuge from persecution. She just wishes it also applied to Jews. Hernroth-Rothstein writes today in Mosaic magazine to say that has decided to apply for asylum to her own country. The rising tide of anti-Semitism that is threatening Jewish life throughout Europe is nowhere more virulent than in Sweden, where acts of open hostility toward Jews are commonplace and the parliament is considering bans on circumcision and even the importing of kosher meat (kosher slaughter has been outlawed in Sweden since 1937) with the support of both the political left and the right. In response to this situation, Hernroth-Rothstein thinks the best thing to do is to ask her government for the same protection it routinely extends to others. She writes:

EU statutes provide that asylum be granted to persons with “well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to race; nationality; religious or political beliefs; gender; sexual orientation; or affiliation to a particular social group.” Jews in Sweden meet these criteria, and should be eligible for the same protection and support extended to non-natives.

Hernroth-Rothstein’s application is, of course, a stunt. But it encapsulates a heartbreaking dilemma for European Jews. Well-meaning onlookers in the United States and Israel believe the only answer for European Jews is to leave as soon as they can. But she is understandably reluctant to accept being run out of a home that is supposed to be a haven for free expression merely because she is Jewish. Pointing this disconnect between the EU’s pose as the champion of diversity while Jews are made to feel unwelcome is not so much a matter of irony as it is an ongoing tragedy.

Read More

Swedish Jewish activist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein admires her country’s long tradition of offering asylum to those who seek refuge from persecution. She just wishes it also applied to Jews. Hernroth-Rothstein writes today in Mosaic magazine to say that has decided to apply for asylum to her own country. The rising tide of anti-Semitism that is threatening Jewish life throughout Europe is nowhere more virulent than in Sweden, where acts of open hostility toward Jews are commonplace and the parliament is considering bans on circumcision and even the importing of kosher meat (kosher slaughter has been outlawed in Sweden since 1937) with the support of both the political left and the right. In response to this situation, Hernroth-Rothstein thinks the best thing to do is to ask her government for the same protection it routinely extends to others. She writes:

EU statutes provide that asylum be granted to persons with “well-founded reasons to fear persecution due to race; nationality; religious or political beliefs; gender; sexual orientation; or affiliation to a particular social group.” Jews in Sweden meet these criteria, and should be eligible for the same protection and support extended to non-natives.

Hernroth-Rothstein’s application is, of course, a stunt. But it encapsulates a heartbreaking dilemma for European Jews. Well-meaning onlookers in the United States and Israel believe the only answer for European Jews is to leave as soon as they can. But she is understandably reluctant to accept being run out of a home that is supposed to be a haven for free expression merely because she is Jewish. Pointing this disconnect between the EU’s pose as the champion of diversity while Jews are made to feel unwelcome is not so much a matter of irony as it is an ongoing tragedy.

Last month I wrote about the latest survey of European Jewry conducted by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights that illustrated how dangerous Europe has become for Jews and how pervasive the revival of anti-Semitism there has become. Hernroth-Rothstein told her own story of ordinary Jewish life in Sweden in Mosaic back in August. Her description was blunt. The only way to survive there as a Jew is to “shut up and fade into the woodwork.”

It needs to be understood that the problem in Europe is not merely the rise of radical neo-Nazi groups like Golden Dawn, troubling as they may be. It is the way anti-Jewish attitudes have leached into mainstream opinion finding, as she points out, support throughout the political spectrum. Hatred for Israel has become an acceptable way to openly express traditional anti-Semitic attitudes. At the same time the same people who pose as enlightened liberals seek to ban Jewish rituals as “barbaric,” effectively marginalizing and driving Jews out one law at a time.

Is it possible to shame Europe into seeking to turn back the tide of hate only 70 years after the Holocaust? Hernroth-Rothstein hopes so, but the answer to her question is to be found by one detail that she mentions. When optimists cite the growth of Jewish activities in Europe, she notes:

What I see is that the Holocaust wing at the Jewish Museum is crowded with visitors, while the synagogues are empty. I see cute Woody Allen-ish activities being promoted, and actual Jewish life being banned. The dead, suffering Jew is glorified; the healthy, active Jew is vilified.

What has happened in Europe is that Jews who speak up for Israel or who wish to practice their faith in the public square are endangered:

True: we are not being murdered, and we are not being physically driven out. But our religious observances are being interdicted, our persons are being threatened, our safety is being endangered, and—in short—our human rights are being violated. Why do we put up with it? And why do pundits and politicians assure me that Jews in Sweden are perfectly safe when what they really mean is that we will be safe only so long as we agree to become invisible as Jews and cease to practice Judaism?

We can only wish her good luck with her brave crusade to try and awaken Europeans or at least Swedes to their responsibility to stand up against anti-Semitism. But given the deep roots of Jew-hatred at the core of European culture as well as the growing influence of Muslim immigrants who bring their own legacy of hate with them, it’s difficult to envision much success. But even if she cannot alter the arc of history with respect to Jewish life in Europe, she is at least helping to expose the hypocrisy of European liberals who profess tolerance and respect for the rights of every people to self-determination except for the Jews.

Read Less

Official Swede Tweeter: “Whats the fuzz with Jews.”

The New York Times was right. It’s not very often we say that. Two days ago, the newspaper began a story about the country of Sweden’s official Twitter account with, “Chances of embarrassment are unusually high when you are @Sweden, the nation’s official Twitter spokesperson.” Every week, a new Swede is handed control of the country’s Twitter feed and gives a personal face and voice to the country of more than nine million. The social media strategy behind the Twitter account is meant to showcase a “typical Swede” and promote the diversity of the Nordic country as a possible tourist destination. This morning, this week’s “tweeter” (and in my opinion the entire country) have some explaining and soul-searching to do.

That’s the first of a series of tweets sent this morning surrounding who is a Jew and how exactly one is supposed to identify one. Here’s another:

Sonja, this week’s tweeter, seems to believe there are no Jews in her country (despite there being more than 18,000 nationally).

The New York Times was right. It’s not very often we say that. Two days ago, the newspaper began a story about the country of Sweden’s official Twitter account with, “Chances of embarrassment are unusually high when you are @Sweden, the nation’s official Twitter spokesperson.” Every week, a new Swede is handed control of the country’s Twitter feed and gives a personal face and voice to the country of more than nine million. The social media strategy behind the Twitter account is meant to showcase a “typical Swede” and promote the diversity of the Nordic country as a possible tourist destination. This morning, this week’s “tweeter” (and in my opinion the entire country) have some explaining and soul-searching to do.

That’s the first of a series of tweets sent this morning surrounding who is a Jew and how exactly one is supposed to identify one. Here’s another:

Sonja, this week’s tweeter, seems to believe there are no Jews in her country (despite there being more than 18,000 nationally).

This led me to do a search for the history of the Jewish community in Sweden. Knowing Europe’s infamous relationship with anti-Semitism (increased attacks on French Jews, an attempted ban on kosher slaughter in the Netherlands, the rise of a neo-Nazi party in Greece, etc.) I wasn’t surprised to see this headline from a 2010 edition of the Telegraph, “Jews leave Swedish city after sharp rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes.”

Sweden’s tweeter seems to have backed off after getting some heated responses and already a few unflattering articles, but perhaps the country should take this as an opportunity to have a discussion about Sweden’s Jewish community and Swedish anti-Semitism. How has a country that was once known for being a safe harbor for Jews fallen this low? While the country’s seven-month-old Twitter account has pushed the edge a number of times (the vulgarity is what led to my unfollowing it several months back), today’s tweets moved beyond sensationalist. Instead of demanding an apology and moving forward, Sweden and the tweeter in question should evaluate why the tweets were so offensive and how this mother of two and other “typical Swedes” could learn about Jews both in Sweden and beyond.

Read Less

Pro-Mubarak Demonstrators Attack Reporters

Pro-Mubarak protesters in Egypt may have been following government instructions when they attacked members of the media today, according to the Jerusalem Post. Journalists from Sweden and Israel have allegedly been detained by the Egyptian government, and CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were physically assaulted by the pro-government rioters:

Two Swedish reporters were held for hours on Wednesday by Egyptian soldiers accusing them of being Mossad spies, the reporters’ employer, daily newspaper Aftonbladet, reported.

The soldiers reportedly attacked the reporters, spitting in their faces and threatening to kill them.

Four Israeli journalists were arrested by Egyptian military police in Cairo on Wednesday. Three of those arrested work for Channel 2 and the fourth is from Nazareth.

In addition, renowned CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were roughed up by mobs favoring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as were Washington Post reporters. Cooper was reportedly punched in the head ten times.

Another CNN correspondent said that pro-government rioters were instructed to target the press.

The State Department has tweeted a statement condemned the attacks, saying that “We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press.” But the U.S. really needs to issue a much harsher condemnation on this. Not only is the Egyptian government now acting in direct defiance of Obama administration requests for nonviolence; it also appears that it may have instructed pro-Mubarak mobs to attack Americans. Based on this latest crackdown on the news media, and the recent suspension of Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau, it’s growing even clearer that Mubarak has no interest in pursuing the democratic reforms the U.S. has been calling for.

Pro-Mubarak protesters in Egypt may have been following government instructions when they attacked members of the media today, according to the Jerusalem Post. Journalists from Sweden and Israel have allegedly been detained by the Egyptian government, and CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were physically assaulted by the pro-government rioters:

Two Swedish reporters were held for hours on Wednesday by Egyptian soldiers accusing them of being Mossad spies, the reporters’ employer, daily newspaper Aftonbladet, reported.

The soldiers reportedly attacked the reporters, spitting in their faces and threatening to kill them.

Four Israeli journalists were arrested by Egyptian military police in Cairo on Wednesday. Three of those arrested work for Channel 2 and the fourth is from Nazareth.

In addition, renowned CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were roughed up by mobs favoring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as were Washington Post reporters. Cooper was reportedly punched in the head ten times.

Another CNN correspondent said that pro-government rioters were instructed to target the press.

The State Department has tweeted a statement condemned the attacks, saying that “We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press.” But the U.S. really needs to issue a much harsher condemnation on this. Not only is the Egyptian government now acting in direct defiance of Obama administration requests for nonviolence; it also appears that it may have instructed pro-Mubarak mobs to attack Americans. Based on this latest crackdown on the news media, and the recent suspension of Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau, it’s growing even clearer that Mubarak has no interest in pursuing the democratic reforms the U.S. has been calling for.

Read Less

A Peek into the Plans for ‘Freedom Flotilla II’

An Israeli investigation into last year’s flotilla incident may have just ended, but pro-Palestinian activists are still gearing up their plans for the “Freedom Flotilla II.”

The new flotilla will be much larger than the previous six-boat affair, with estimates ranging from 20 to 50 boats, the activists told the Washington Times:

“We have at least 15 different groups right now at one or two boats each,” said Huwaida Arraf, chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, one of the leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the effort. “Every meeting we have, we get one or two new country-based networks or coalitions that want to join.”

And, of course, the participants are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this flotilla is a public-relations success. They’re even planning to send the ships out as close to the anniversary of last year’s flotilla as possible:

“May 31 would be a very good date for many reasons,” said Dror Feiler, spokesman for Ship to Gaza-Sweden. “To pay tribute to the martyrs who died for the people of Gaza and human rights. From a media perspective. And also logistics: It is not too early, and we will be very well prepared. Others want to go sooner.”

Yes, the “martyrs” — who attacked unarmed soldiers with clubs and knives.

After the first flotilla incident, Israel relaxed some of its import and export restrictions on Gaza. That move was supposed to quiet international pressure, but it looks like it was just further encouragement for flotilla activists.

One activist, Dror Feiler, told the Washington Times that their message to Israel “is that we are going to go again and again and again until the siege of Gaza ends.” Which means that Israel will probably have to contend with this annually.

The Freedom Flotilla has really become something of a franchise for these activists. In addition to the Mavi Marmara action movie set to be released later this month, Gaza flotilla T-shirts, and a “We Will Sail On” music video, they’re now apparently planning a sequel. But at least this time, Israel will be prepared.

An Israeli investigation into last year’s flotilla incident may have just ended, but pro-Palestinian activists are still gearing up their plans for the “Freedom Flotilla II.”

The new flotilla will be much larger than the previous six-boat affair, with estimates ranging from 20 to 50 boats, the activists told the Washington Times:

“We have at least 15 different groups right now at one or two boats each,” said Huwaida Arraf, chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, one of the leading nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the effort. “Every meeting we have, we get one or two new country-based networks or coalitions that want to join.”

And, of course, the participants are taking the necessary steps to ensure that this flotilla is a public-relations success. They’re even planning to send the ships out as close to the anniversary of last year’s flotilla as possible:

“May 31 would be a very good date for many reasons,” said Dror Feiler, spokesman for Ship to Gaza-Sweden. “To pay tribute to the martyrs who died for the people of Gaza and human rights. From a media perspective. And also logistics: It is not too early, and we will be very well prepared. Others want to go sooner.”

Yes, the “martyrs” — who attacked unarmed soldiers with clubs and knives.

After the first flotilla incident, Israel relaxed some of its import and export restrictions on Gaza. That move was supposed to quiet international pressure, but it looks like it was just further encouragement for flotilla activists.

One activist, Dror Feiler, told the Washington Times that their message to Israel “is that we are going to go again and again and again until the siege of Gaza ends.” Which means that Israel will probably have to contend with this annually.

The Freedom Flotilla has really become something of a franchise for these activists. In addition to the Mavi Marmara action movie set to be released later this month, Gaza flotilla T-shirts, and a “We Will Sail On” music video, they’re now apparently planning a sequel. But at least this time, Israel will be prepared.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

It looks like President Obama has finally found some backbone in his diplomatic spat with Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan president rejected the U.S.’s choice for ambassador to Caracas and dared Obama to cut diplomatic ties with the country. Today Obama responded by kicking the Venezuelan ambassador out of the U.S.

Americans are still displaying a lack of confidence in both political parties, according to a new poll released by CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. While pundits from all parts of the political spectrum have lauded President Obama’s successes during the lame-duck session of Congress, a plurality of Americans remains skeptical about the president’s ability to push his policies, according to the survey. And even though a majority of the public agrees that GOP control of the House will benefit the country, that optimism isn’t necessarily due to increased trust in the Republican Party. Only a quarter believe that the Republicans will do a better job running Congress than the Democrats.

The U.S. State Department has come out strongly against the Palestinian Authority’s newest effort to push through a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, suggesting that the Palestinians may be alienating the best friend they’ve had in the White House for years. However, State Department officials still haven’t commented specifically on whether the U.S. would veto the resolution.

The Huffington Post reported recently that the number of uninsured Americans has soared to “over 50 million.” But is that really the case? At the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey H. Anderson notes that the numbers come from a recent report published by the Census Bureau, which even the bureau has admitted was largely inaccurate: “The Census report also admits within its own pages that recognition of its inaccuracy led to ‘a research project to evaluate why CPS ASEC estimates of the number of people with Medicaid are lower than counts of the number of people enrolled in the program from CMS’ — in other words, to evaluate why the CPS ASEC lists millions of Americans as being uninsured while the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs Medicaid and keeps the official tally of enrollees, says that these people are on Medicaid.”

Islamists are apparently still having trouble getting over that Danish Mohammed cartoon from six years ago. Five terror suspects were arrested in Denmark and Sweden yesterday for plotting to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper headquarters, which published the cartoon in 2005.

With the rest of the world unwilling to combat the growing problem of Somali pirates, the transitional federal government of Somalia has finally taken the problem into its own hands by creating a paramilitary force to fight piracy. Sources say that the militia is being funded by donors in Muslim countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Ron Radosh joins the growing ranks of writers criticizing New Yorker editor David Remnick’s hostile rant against Israel last week. Radosh also highlights the insidious anti-Israel sentiment among today’s liberal Jewish intellectuals: “Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions  they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential [among] journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel.” Jonathan Tobin discussed Remnick’s Israel problem in CONTENTIONS on Sunday.

Read Less

Investing in Assange

Julian Assange, out of jail on bail in England and last seen, deliciously, complaining that someone was unfairly leaking details of his rape case in Sweden, has now made news for another reason: He has reportedly received $1.3 million from Random House and a British publishing company, Canongate, to write his memoirs. He has pledged to use the money “to keep Wikileaks afloat.” That means that Canongate (an independenet publisher) and Random House (a division of the German giant Bertelesmann) are helping to subsidize WikiLeaks, an organization that traffics in stolen documents designed to hurt American foreign policy and anyone who cooperates with American officials–including British and German officials.

Their actions stand in sharp distinction to more responsible corporations such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Facebook and Twitter that have cut off WikiLeaks because they do not want to be associated with its irresponsible and possibly criminal activities.

Where is the outrage? These publishers deserve, at the very least, considerable opprobrium for throwing a lifeline to the odious Julian Assange, an Internet vandal pursuing, by his own admission, an anti-American agenda. They should certainly be in the sights of the Justice Department as it contemplates legal action against Assange. At the very least prosecutors should plan to freeze and seize any payments to him. I wonder if there might not be a civil suit possible by one of Assange’s victims–someone who has been hurt by the publication of these confidential communications–who might be able to go after the publishers for a substantial award? That may only be wishful thinking on my part but certainly it would be nice if these publishing houses did not get away with their amoral decision to try to make money out of this scandal and in the process to enrich one of the world’s most disgusting cyber-preeners and -saboteurs.

Julian Assange, out of jail on bail in England and last seen, deliciously, complaining that someone was unfairly leaking details of his rape case in Sweden, has now made news for another reason: He has reportedly received $1.3 million from Random House and a British publishing company, Canongate, to write his memoirs. He has pledged to use the money “to keep Wikileaks afloat.” That means that Canongate (an independenet publisher) and Random House (a division of the German giant Bertelesmann) are helping to subsidize WikiLeaks, an organization that traffics in stolen documents designed to hurt American foreign policy and anyone who cooperates with American officials–including British and German officials.

Their actions stand in sharp distinction to more responsible corporations such as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal, Facebook and Twitter that have cut off WikiLeaks because they do not want to be associated with its irresponsible and possibly criminal activities.

Where is the outrage? These publishers deserve, at the very least, considerable opprobrium for throwing a lifeline to the odious Julian Assange, an Internet vandal pursuing, by his own admission, an anti-American agenda. They should certainly be in the sights of the Justice Department as it contemplates legal action against Assange. At the very least prosecutors should plan to freeze and seize any payments to him. I wonder if there might not be a civil suit possible by one of Assange’s victims–someone who has been hurt by the publication of these confidential communications–who might be able to go after the publishers for a substantial award? That may only be wishful thinking on my part but certainly it would be nice if these publishing houses did not get away with their amoral decision to try to make money out of this scandal and in the process to enrich one of the world’s most disgusting cyber-preeners and -saboteurs.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

Read Less

“If It’s Freedom We Hate, Why Didn’t We Attack Sweden?”

That was the question posed by Osama bin Laden in a 2006 speech, in which he blamed the 9/11 attacks on U.S. “imperialist” foreign policy. Apparently, this statement seemed like watertight logic to a certain species of non-interventionists, who immediately began quoting the terror leader as if he was a dependable, trustworthy source.

“Why is America the target of terrorists and suicide bombers?” asked Philip Giraldi at CPAC just last February. “Surely not because it has freedoms that some view negatively. As Usama bin Laden put it, in possibly the only known joke made by a terrorist, if freedoms were the issue, al-Qaeda would be attacking Sweden.”

Of course, in light of some recent events in Stockholm, I think we can now safely assume that terrorists fall into the anti-freedom camp. As Elliot Jager notes at Jewish Ideas Daily, even the Swedish foreign policy praised by so many non-interventionists wasn’t enough to protect the country from getting targeted by radical Islamists:

Given Sweden’s lusty embrace of multiculturalism and an immigration policy that many observers regard as suicidal; its diplomatic predisposition to the Palestinian cause; and its tepid response to violent Muslim anti-Semitism, what could it possibly have done to deserve an Islamist suicide bombing? In his recording, al-Abdaly, for one, named the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a 2007 cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. But is this credible? Sweden has a mere 500 soldiers in northern Afghanistan, where they are involved mostly in reconstruction work and social services like training midwives. As for the allegedly offensive cartoons, they appeared in a regional newspaper and were intended only as a protest against the widespread media self-censorship that followed in the wake of the 2005 Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark.

And the Stockholm attack is only the latest in a string of international terrorist acts and plots that have helped discredit the “blowback” theory. Nearly every country that non-interventionists have claimed was “safe” from terrorism has been forced to fight Islamic terrorists on its own soil in recent years.

“A growing number of Americans are concluding that the threat we now face comes more as a consequence of our foreign policy than because the bad guys envy our freedoms and prosperity,” said Rep. Ron Paul on the floor of the House in 2002. “How many terrorist attacks have been directed toward Switzerland, Australia, Canada, or Sweden? They too are rich and free, and would be easy targets, but the Islamic fundamentalists see no purpose in doing so.”

Let’s look back on that statement knowing what we know today. Have Islamic terrorists targeted Switzerland? Yes. Australia? Several times. Canada? Definitely. Sweden? Of course.

So to say that the U.S. would be safe from terrorism by adapting a non-interventionist foreign policy simply ignores the reality on the ground. Enemies who will gladly kill us over a petty cartoon in a small-circulation newspaper certainly don’t need to use foreign policy as a justification to fly planes into our buildings.

That was the question posed by Osama bin Laden in a 2006 speech, in which he blamed the 9/11 attacks on U.S. “imperialist” foreign policy. Apparently, this statement seemed like watertight logic to a certain species of non-interventionists, who immediately began quoting the terror leader as if he was a dependable, trustworthy source.

“Why is America the target of terrorists and suicide bombers?” asked Philip Giraldi at CPAC just last February. “Surely not because it has freedoms that some view negatively. As Usama bin Laden put it, in possibly the only known joke made by a terrorist, if freedoms were the issue, al-Qaeda would be attacking Sweden.”

Of course, in light of some recent events in Stockholm, I think we can now safely assume that terrorists fall into the anti-freedom camp. As Elliot Jager notes at Jewish Ideas Daily, even the Swedish foreign policy praised by so many non-interventionists wasn’t enough to protect the country from getting targeted by radical Islamists:

Given Sweden’s lusty embrace of multiculturalism and an immigration policy that many observers regard as suicidal; its diplomatic predisposition to the Palestinian cause; and its tepid response to violent Muslim anti-Semitism, what could it possibly have done to deserve an Islamist suicide bombing? In his recording, al-Abdaly, for one, named the ongoing war in Afghanistan and a 2007 cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog. But is this credible? Sweden has a mere 500 soldiers in northern Afghanistan, where they are involved mostly in reconstruction work and social services like training midwives. As for the allegedly offensive cartoons, they appeared in a regional newspaper and were intended only as a protest against the widespread media self-censorship that followed in the wake of the 2005 Muhammad cartoons published in Denmark.

And the Stockholm attack is only the latest in a string of international terrorist acts and plots that have helped discredit the “blowback” theory. Nearly every country that non-interventionists have claimed was “safe” from terrorism has been forced to fight Islamic terrorists on its own soil in recent years.

“A growing number of Americans are concluding that the threat we now face comes more as a consequence of our foreign policy than because the bad guys envy our freedoms and prosperity,” said Rep. Ron Paul on the floor of the House in 2002. “How many terrorist attacks have been directed toward Switzerland, Australia, Canada, or Sweden? They too are rich and free, and would be easy targets, but the Islamic fundamentalists see no purpose in doing so.”

Let’s look back on that statement knowing what we know today. Have Islamic terrorists targeted Switzerland? Yes. Australia? Several times. Canada? Definitely. Sweden? Of course.

So to say that the U.S. would be safe from terrorism by adapting a non-interventionist foreign policy simply ignores the reality on the ground. Enemies who will gladly kill us over a petty cartoon in a small-circulation newspaper certainly don’t need to use foreign policy as a justification to fly planes into our buildings.

Read Less

Terrorists Target “Children, Daughters, and Sisters.”

Reason‘s Michael Moynihan has the scoop on an under-reported terrorist attack that occurred yesterday:

Two explosions rocked the downtown shopping district in Stockholm this evening as holiday shoppers crowded the chainstore-clogged area around Drottninggatan. According to early Swedish media reports, a car parked on the busy shopping street exploded at just after 5PM today, wounding two passersby. Two minutes later, say investigators, a second explosion was heard from a nearby street, where police found a bag stuffed with nails and the body, it appears, of the bomber.

According to this report in the tabloid newspaper Expressen, the Swedish security service and TT newswire (the Swedish equivalent to the AP) received a threat “against the Swedish people” ten minutes before the explosions. In a letter and audiotape, the bomber wrote that “Now your children, daughters, and sisters die like our brothers and sisters die.” He continued: “Our actions speak for themselves. As long as you don’t stop your war against Islam, and you degrade the Prophet, and your support for that stupid pig [cartoonist Lars] Vilks.”

Indeed, their actions do speak, repulsively, for themselves.

Reason‘s Michael Moynihan has the scoop on an under-reported terrorist attack that occurred yesterday:

Two explosions rocked the downtown shopping district in Stockholm this evening as holiday shoppers crowded the chainstore-clogged area around Drottninggatan. According to early Swedish media reports, a car parked on the busy shopping street exploded at just after 5PM today, wounding two passersby. Two minutes later, say investigators, a second explosion was heard from a nearby street, where police found a bag stuffed with nails and the body, it appears, of the bomber.

According to this report in the tabloid newspaper Expressen, the Swedish security service and TT newswire (the Swedish equivalent to the AP) received a threat “against the Swedish people” ten minutes before the explosions. In a letter and audiotape, the bomber wrote that “Now your children, daughters, and sisters die like our brothers and sisters die.” He continued: “Our actions speak for themselves. As long as you don’t stop your war against Islam, and you degrade the Prophet, and your support for that stupid pig [cartoonist Lars] Vilks.”

Indeed, their actions do speak, repulsively, for themselves.

Read Less

WikiLeaks, Treason, and Plot

You can’t make any WikiLeaks-related calendar date fit the Gunpowder Plot ditty:

Remember, remember the fifth of November:
Gunpowder, treason, and plot!

But as yet another historical analogy, the Gunpowder Plot has illuminating features. WikiLeaks plays a role similar to that of gunpowder in the Gunpowder Plot. Like the 36 barrels of gunpowder deployed by Guy Fawkes under the House of Lords in 1605, WikiLeaks is a fascinating agent — the iconic tool of its technological age — giving unique shape and unprecedented scope to a treasonous impulse. And as with the Gunpowder Plot, the real story with WikiLeaks and the Web isn’t the technological agent; it’s the treason.

In this regard, I endorse the related point made on Friday by “Zombie” at Pajamas Media. The criminal act in the case of the WikiLeaks data dumps was committed by the person with the government clearance who made unauthorized copies of classified documents and turned them over to WikiLeaks. The individual charged with these crimes is Private First Class Bradley Manning, formerly an Army intelligence analyst. He is being held in the Quantico brig until his court-martial date in 2011.

Unsavory as Julian Assange is, it’s not clear that he has committed a crime with his WikiLeaks publications. He has never held a U.S. government clearance. He’s not even an American citizen. It’s not at all certain that he could legitimately be prosecuted for failing to protect U.S. government information. European nations — Britain, Sweden — could reasonably balk at extraditing him for prosecution in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Americans should think hard about how much Web oversight we want to cede to the federal government (or to foreign governments) in response to the WikiLeaks disclosures. The Internet certainly accelerates and amplifies the effects of the crime in this case. There is a sense in which the prospect of Internet publication justifies calling this treason, rather than merely a disclosure crime (which is what Manning is charged with). The managers of WikiLeaks are not themselves known to be agents of an enemy government; it is Manning’s pursuit of damaging, high-profile Web publication that makes it clear he intended to act against his country’s interests in wartime. Read More

You can’t make any WikiLeaks-related calendar date fit the Gunpowder Plot ditty:

Remember, remember the fifth of November:
Gunpowder, treason, and plot!

But as yet another historical analogy, the Gunpowder Plot has illuminating features. WikiLeaks plays a role similar to that of gunpowder in the Gunpowder Plot. Like the 36 barrels of gunpowder deployed by Guy Fawkes under the House of Lords in 1605, WikiLeaks is a fascinating agent — the iconic tool of its technological age — giving unique shape and unprecedented scope to a treasonous impulse. And as with the Gunpowder Plot, the real story with WikiLeaks and the Web isn’t the technological agent; it’s the treason.

In this regard, I endorse the related point made on Friday by “Zombie” at Pajamas Media. The criminal act in the case of the WikiLeaks data dumps was committed by the person with the government clearance who made unauthorized copies of classified documents and turned them over to WikiLeaks. The individual charged with these crimes is Private First Class Bradley Manning, formerly an Army intelligence analyst. He is being held in the Quantico brig until his court-martial date in 2011.

Unsavory as Julian Assange is, it’s not clear that he has committed a crime with his WikiLeaks publications. He has never held a U.S. government clearance. He’s not even an American citizen. It’s not at all certain that he could legitimately be prosecuted for failing to protect U.S. government information. European nations — Britain, Sweden — could reasonably balk at extraditing him for prosecution in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Americans should think hard about how much Web oversight we want to cede to the federal government (or to foreign governments) in response to the WikiLeaks disclosures. The Internet certainly accelerates and amplifies the effects of the crime in this case. There is a sense in which the prospect of Internet publication justifies calling this treason, rather than merely a disclosure crime (which is what Manning is charged with). The managers of WikiLeaks are not themselves known to be agents of an enemy government; it is Manning’s pursuit of damaging, high-profile Web publication that makes it clear he intended to act against his country’s interests in wartime.

But we should note that the military already has an elaborate set of rules for information security. The problem in this case, if Manning’s own account is valid, is that some of those rules were not being enforced in his work facility in Iraq. There is nothing unusual about junior personnel having access to secret information; intelligence analysts need it to do their jobs. But Manning says he took writable CDs into a secure area and pretended to listen to music from them while copying files to them on a secret-level computer. Everything about this is a breach of sound security policy, and the military is well aware of that.

I signed a dozen oaths in my 20 years in Naval Intelligence to never do — on pain of severe penalties — what Bradley Manning is charged with doing. The rules to prevent it have long been in place. The apparent systemic failures in this case were the poor IT security at Manning’s former command and the inattention of supervisors to the red flags in Manning’s personnel profile, such as his propensity to get into fights with other soldiers. Better application of prudent policy guidelines could well have prevented the whole incident.

Expanding government supervision and control of the Internet, however, would be a disproportionate and mistargeted response. As with gunpowder, the inherent nature of the tool can’t be altered; it can only be made the pretext for restrictions and limitations on the human users. And as with 17th-century England’s prohibitions on the ownership of gunpowder by Catholics, such regulatory prophylaxis invites invidious application.

Criminalizing the role of Julian Assange, meanwhile, could easily carry unintended consequences. We in the liberal nations are not always aligned against the disclosers of government secrets. Should Iran or Cuba be able to demand extradition of a foreigner who publishes their governments’ secrets? Should Russia or China? There is the real danger of a misapplied remedy here. Bluster from our senators is about as close as we need to get to making bad law on the basis of a hard case.

The gunpowder analogy isn’t perfect. But the last two lines of the Gunpowder Plot ditty frame the correct priority for addressing the WikiLeaks Plot:

I see no reason why Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Less

A Natural Experiment in Political Economy

One of the reasons that political science is such an inexact discipline is the difficulty of experimentation. If you want to test, say, a drug, you take a bunch of genetically identical rats, give half of them the drug and half a placebo, and see what differences turn up between the two groups. But testing a political theory (or an economic one — and political science was known in the 19th century as political economy) is harder to arrange. Rats don’t vote and people do, at least in democracies.

So political scientists, like astronomers, have to wait for natural experiments to come along. To test, for example, capitalism against Communism, one might want to take an economically and ethnically homogeneous country — Sweden would do nicely — and divide it in half. Place one half under one system and the other under the other and wait 50 years to see which half prospers more. But the Swedes are unlikely to agree to be the rats in this experiment. Fortunately, the vagaries of Great Power politics in the 20th century produced two situations surprisingly like the ideal experiment: Germany and Korea.

The evidence from these natural experiments is overwhelming: capitalism produces wealth and liberty; Communism produces poverty, war, and famine. The wonder is that there are still so many Marxists around.

Perhaps the reason is that ideology makes you stupid.

It is often pointed out that the states make great laboratories for political-science experiments. And an experiment has been underway for quite a while testing the liberal model — high taxes, extensive regulation, many government-provided social services, union-friendly laws — against the conservative model — low taxes, limited regulation and social services, right-to-work laws. The results are increasingly in. As Rich Lowry reports in National Review Online, the differences between California and Texas are striking. Between August 2009 and August 2010, the nation created a net of 214,000 jobs. Texas created more than half of them, 119,000. California lost 112,000 jobs in that period. Lowry writes:

Texas is a model of governmental restraint. In 2008, state and local expenditures were 25.5 percent of GDP in California, 22.8 in the U.S., and 17.3 in Texas. Back in 1987, levels of spending were roughly similar in these places. The recessions of 1991 and 2001 spiked spending everywhere, but each time Texas fought to bring it down to pre-recession levels. “Because of this policy decision,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes, “Texas’ 2008 spending burden remained slightly below its 1987 levels — a major accomplishment.”

The result has been dramatic: “A new Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes that Texas experienced a decline of 2.3 percent from its peak employment [in the current recession], while the nation declined 5.7 percent and California 8.7 percent.” And people have been voting with their feet: A thousand people a day are moving to Texas. It will likely gain four House seats next year, while California for the first time since it became a state in 1850 will gain none.

So, again, the evidence would seem to be overwhelming: high tax-and-spend policies and regulation produces stagnation and unemployment, low tax-and-spend policies and regulatory restraint produce the opposite. So why are there still so many liberals?

Same reason.

One of the reasons that political science is such an inexact discipline is the difficulty of experimentation. If you want to test, say, a drug, you take a bunch of genetically identical rats, give half of them the drug and half a placebo, and see what differences turn up between the two groups. But testing a political theory (or an economic one — and political science was known in the 19th century as political economy) is harder to arrange. Rats don’t vote and people do, at least in democracies.

So political scientists, like astronomers, have to wait for natural experiments to come along. To test, for example, capitalism against Communism, one might want to take an economically and ethnically homogeneous country — Sweden would do nicely — and divide it in half. Place one half under one system and the other under the other and wait 50 years to see which half prospers more. But the Swedes are unlikely to agree to be the rats in this experiment. Fortunately, the vagaries of Great Power politics in the 20th century produced two situations surprisingly like the ideal experiment: Germany and Korea.

The evidence from these natural experiments is overwhelming: capitalism produces wealth and liberty; Communism produces poverty, war, and famine. The wonder is that there are still so many Marxists around.

Perhaps the reason is that ideology makes you stupid.

It is often pointed out that the states make great laboratories for political-science experiments. And an experiment has been underway for quite a while testing the liberal model — high taxes, extensive regulation, many government-provided social services, union-friendly laws — against the conservative model — low taxes, limited regulation and social services, right-to-work laws. The results are increasingly in. As Rich Lowry reports in National Review Online, the differences between California and Texas are striking. Between August 2009 and August 2010, the nation created a net of 214,000 jobs. Texas created more than half of them, 119,000. California lost 112,000 jobs in that period. Lowry writes:

Texas is a model of governmental restraint. In 2008, state and local expenditures were 25.5 percent of GDP in California, 22.8 in the U.S., and 17.3 in Texas. Back in 1987, levels of spending were roughly similar in these places. The recessions of 1991 and 2001 spiked spending everywhere, but each time Texas fought to bring it down to pre-recession levels. “Because of this policy decision,” the Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes, “Texas’ 2008 spending burden remained slightly below its 1987 levels — a major accomplishment.”

The result has been dramatic: “A new Texas Public Policy Foundation report notes that Texas experienced a decline of 2.3 percent from its peak employment [in the current recession], while the nation declined 5.7 percent and California 8.7 percent.” And people have been voting with their feet: A thousand people a day are moving to Texas. It will likely gain four House seats next year, while California for the first time since it became a state in 1850 will gain none.

So, again, the evidence would seem to be overwhelming: high tax-and-spend policies and regulation produces stagnation and unemployment, low tax-and-spend policies and regulatory restraint produce the opposite. So why are there still so many liberals?

Same reason.

Read Less

RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn’t remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. [“Notion” is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street’s blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn’t remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. [“Notion” is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street’s blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

Read Less

Flotilla Fiasco (UPDATED)

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

The details of what happened on the boat leading the flotilla trying to enter the Gaza Strip are still coming to light. CNN in the U.S. is speaking about “conflicting accounts,” though the videos it keeps playing seem to vindicate the Israeli side. (You see an Israeli soldier dropping into the deck, and then you seem him getting attacked. There is no indication that the IDF soldier had opened fire. The same video appears on an Israeli website here.) And yet, none of this has prevented worldwide international condemnation, including the hauling in of Israeli ambassadors in Sweden, Spain, and Turkey. And the grim results seem very clear: between nine and 15 people on board killed, and at least two Israeli soldiers in critical condition with stab and gunshot wounds.

Veteran Israel journalist Ron Ben-Yishai at YNet describes IDF soldiers who were ill-prepared for having to disperse a violent response. “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” the soldiers yelled to each other as they were attacked, picked off one by one as they landed on the deck, still believing they were dealing with innocent ideologues rather than orchestrated violence. “Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one,” Ben-Yishai reports, “yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly.” Later on, caches were found on board containing more weapons. What’s clear is that these people were prepared for a fight — peace activists, indeed.

But beyond the question of what happened on the boat, and the more serious questions of the evolving nature of pro-Palestinian activism and the IDF’s apparent failure to prepare for a violent response, the event is also an important test case for how Israel is doing at adapting itself to the new rapid-information media world. The answer: so-so. On one hand, it’s clear that the Israelis, and especially the IDF, have made major advances in internalizing the message that the media battle is a crucial and — more often than not — decisive element in modern warfare. They released videos that would have remained classified not too long ago; they cleared a commando who took part in the raid to interview with the Associated Press and CNN; and they have emphatically made the case that the people on board planned to use force in advance. All these facts suggest a sea change in the way the IDF deals with the media, one that we already saw in the last Gaza war with the creation, for example, of a YouTube channel for the IDF. The result has been that, at least here in the United States, television coverage has been somewhat balanced.

At the same time, Israel is still far behind the Palestinians in real-time rapid response and pre-event preparedness.

I spoke this morning with a senior producer for one of the major network news divisions in the United States. “This morning, I received a well-phrased press release from the office of [PA spokesman] Saeb Erekat,” he told me. “I got it at 4:36 a.m. It was obviously prepared in advance. Now it’s 11 a.m., and I still have got nothing from the Israeli government.” Predictably, that news release, which was sent out to key journalists around the Western world, was full of half-truths (like the assertion that the passengers on the ship were “unarmed civilian activists” who were “savagely attacked” by the IDF), but the point is that for all of Israel’s rapid response, it was wildly outmaneuvered by the Palestinian media commandos. As CNN pointed out, the pro-Palestinian activists were live-streaming the event and sending messages via Twitter throughout. “Despite everything they’ve been through,” he continued, “the Israelis seem to have been taken utterly by surprise. It’s always react, react, react — never proactive.”

UPDATE: A good friend of mine is a nurse who was on duty in the emergency room at a Jerusalem hospital when some of the injured “activists” were brought in. She tells me that many of them are wearing camouflage. “Not sure they were official Turkish army clothes,” she says, “but they weren’t civilian dress, that’s for sure.”

Read Less

Mob Rule in Sweden

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was attacked a few days ago during the screening of a short film he made depicting Islamic religious figures in homoerotic positions. He wasn’t hurt badly, but he was surely shaken up when a dozen or so enraged Muslims in the audience exploded out of their seats and rioted in the theater.

The police were on hand as though they expected something like this, just as Vilks himself must have expected it. His film is rude and provocative and could be considered offensive even to people who are not Muslims, which of course doesn’t excuse the reaction.

The reaction could have been even worse. Two people in the United States and seven people in Ireland were arrested in March for conspiring to kill him after he drew a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad with his head on a dog’s body. Vilks is an equal-opportunity offender who also enjoys tweaking the noses of Christians and Jews, none of whom, to my knowledge anyway, have ever rioted or tried to hunt him down with a death squad.

Someone posted a video clip to YouTube, which shows the entire incident in the Swedish theater from beginning to end, including the opening shots of Vilks’s film. What stands out more than anything else, aside from the dismal spectacle of a hysterical mob behaving atrociously for 10 minutes, is how the Muslims in the audience cheer when the screening is canceled for security reasons.

They cheered because they won. Censoring the film was the point. It’s almost certainly what they intended to do when they showed up.

The mob deserves most of the blame, but the authorities need to own a small part of it. Surely they believed in Vilks’s right to show his film. Otherwise they would have shut him down, and they would have shut him down in advance. And I can certainly understand why the organizers would want to cancel an event that became unruly and dangerous. Still, they pulled the plug on a film while a mob cheered as the police failed to keep order. Free speech in Sweden has taken a body blow. There is no way around this.

Too many Westerners don’t have a clue how to handle problems like this, but a solution, at least in this case, was actually pretty straightforward. Those who couldn’t control themselves should have been arrested or escorted out of the theater so the film could be restarted. The police, by failing to control or remove all the violent and potentially violent agitators, will only encourage more of the same as people can generally be counted on to learn what works and repeat it.

Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks was attacked a few days ago during the screening of a short film he made depicting Islamic religious figures in homoerotic positions. He wasn’t hurt badly, but he was surely shaken up when a dozen or so enraged Muslims in the audience exploded out of their seats and rioted in the theater.

The police were on hand as though they expected something like this, just as Vilks himself must have expected it. His film is rude and provocative and could be considered offensive even to people who are not Muslims, which of course doesn’t excuse the reaction.

The reaction could have been even worse. Two people in the United States and seven people in Ireland were arrested in March for conspiring to kill him after he drew a cartoon of the prophet Mohammad with his head on a dog’s body. Vilks is an equal-opportunity offender who also enjoys tweaking the noses of Christians and Jews, none of whom, to my knowledge anyway, have ever rioted or tried to hunt him down with a death squad.

Someone posted a video clip to YouTube, which shows the entire incident in the Swedish theater from beginning to end, including the opening shots of Vilks’s film. What stands out more than anything else, aside from the dismal spectacle of a hysterical mob behaving atrociously for 10 minutes, is how the Muslims in the audience cheer when the screening is canceled for security reasons.

They cheered because they won. Censoring the film was the point. It’s almost certainly what they intended to do when they showed up.

The mob deserves most of the blame, but the authorities need to own a small part of it. Surely they believed in Vilks’s right to show his film. Otherwise they would have shut him down, and they would have shut him down in advance. And I can certainly understand why the organizers would want to cancel an event that became unruly and dangerous. Still, they pulled the plug on a film while a mob cheered as the police failed to keep order. Free speech in Sweden has taken a body blow. There is no way around this.

Too many Westerners don’t have a clue how to handle problems like this, but a solution, at least in this case, was actually pretty straightforward. Those who couldn’t control themselves should have been arrested or escorted out of the theater so the film could be restarted. The police, by failing to control or remove all the violent and potentially violent agitators, will only encourage more of the same as people can generally be counted on to learn what works and repeat it.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

Maybe attacking another ally in public wasn’t so smart. Charles Krauthammer: “What we have here is the problem of an unruly client. The problem with Karzai is that he’s the worst ally except for all the others. We’re stuck with him, and we’re not in Afghanistan because of him but for our own perceived national interest. We’re stuck with him. We’re going to have to tolerate this. … And what you do is you do not attack him as we did, as Obama [did], on his way over to Afghanistan, saying we’re going to read him the riot act on corruption. You don’t do that and leak it. You do it in quiet — and in public hail him as a liberator.”

Maybe it’s not so smart to take use of of force off the table before the mullahs get the bomb either. If they do, at least “Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the U.S. will not limit its options under a new nuclear strategy if Iran or North Korea decides to launch a nuclear attack.” Well, that’s a relief. Would Obama’s policy have prohibited dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, by the way? Just asking.

Maybe nominating Tony Rezko’s banker wasn’t so smart. The Public Policy Polling survey finds: “The last two months have not been good for Alexi Giannoulias, and Mark Kirk now leads him 37-33 in his bid to be the next Senator from Illinois.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for House Democrats to take political advice from the White House: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate, up from 46% last week, while 38% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent, down a point from the previous survey.”

Maybe switching parties wasn’t so smart. “Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is trailing in the latest Pennsylvania Senate poll.Public Policy Polling (D) has released its first survey of the race and found the Republican candidate, former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.), beats both Specter and Specter’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D), in a general election matchup.Toomey beats Specter by three, 46-43, and he beats Sestak by six, 42-36. Specter’s job rating is troubling for an incumbent. He had a 34 percent approval rating and a 52 percent disapproval rating. President Barack Obama also has low approval ratings in the state, which could be helping Toomey. Obama has a 46 percent approval rating and 50 percent disapproval rating.”

Maybe sneering at the Tea Party movement wasn’t so smart. Matthew Continetti: “Imagine what might have happened if Democrats had decided to take the Tea Party seriously in 2009. The Democrats might have moved to the center, adopting Bill Clinton’s second-term strategy of balanced budgets, economic growth and globalization, and incremental, small-bore reforms on health care and education. They might have been able to retain the independents they held in 2006 and 2008 while dampening Republican fears that Obama wants to turn the country into Sweden. The economy would still be crummy. But, in this scenario, 2010 wouldn’t look like the Democratic bloodbath it’s shaping up to be.”

Maybe it wasn’t so smart for a controversial appellate court nominee who never wrote a legal opinion to omit 117 documents from a Senate questionnaire. After all, Eric Holder only left out seven briefs.

Maybe David Shuster isn’t so smart: “MSNBC brass wasn’t happy when news broke this week that David Shuster had taped a pilot for CNN, and the anchor wasn’t on-air yesterday. Now comes word of Shuster’s fate through an MSNBC spokesperson: ‘David has been suspended indefinitely.’ It’s not the first time he’s been suspended. Shuster was off the air a couple weeks in 2008 after he talked about how Hillary Clinton had ‘pimped out’ Chelsea on the campaign trail.”

Read Less

Al-Qaeda Attempts to Woo Useful Idiots

Last year in Lebanon, a left-wing American journalist tried to convince me that I’ve been too hard on Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, that I might like what I heard if I’d just listen more open-mindedly. “He’s trying to raise awareness of global warming,” he said to me earnestly over lunch. “Don’t you think that’s interesting?” I told him, no, I did not find it interesting, but the truth is I think it’s fascinating that anyone in the world would believe a terrorist and a fascist is concerned about the environment.

Osama bin Laden must be paying attention because now even he hopes to broaden his appeal by passing himself off as a green activist. “Osama bin Laden enters global warming debate,” reads the straight-faced headline in London’s Daily Telegraph, as if the Copenhagen Climate Conference organizers now have some rhetorical backup for their arguments against Republicans, Chinese industrialists, and Montana residents who set their thermostats to 70 degrees during the winter. Al-Qaeda’s founder and chief executive — assuming he’s actually still alive and recorded the most recent broadcast — even cites the latest anti-American diatribe in the Guardian by campus favorite Noam Chomsky. Read More

Last year in Lebanon, a left-wing American journalist tried to convince me that I’ve been too hard on Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, that I might like what I heard if I’d just listen more open-mindedly. “He’s trying to raise awareness of global warming,” he said to me earnestly over lunch. “Don’t you think that’s interesting?” I told him, no, I did not find it interesting, but the truth is I think it’s fascinating that anyone in the world would believe a terrorist and a fascist is concerned about the environment.

Osama bin Laden must be paying attention because now even he hopes to broaden his appeal by passing himself off as a green activist. “Osama bin Laden enters global warming debate,” reads the straight-faced headline in London’s Daily Telegraph, as if the Copenhagen Climate Conference organizers now have some rhetorical backup for their arguments against Republicans, Chinese industrialists, and Montana residents who set their thermostats to 70 degrees during the winter. Al-Qaeda’s founder and chief executive — assuming he’s actually still alive and recorded the most recent broadcast — even cites the latest anti-American diatribe in the Guardian by campus favorite Noam Chomsky.

Communists used to pull stunts like this all the time to get support in the West from what Vladimir Lenin called “useful idiots.” Even 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez manage to attract Western fans like Oliver Stone, Medea Benjamin, and writers at the Nation.

I’m slightly surprised it has taken al-Qaeda so long to figure this out. Hamas and Hezbollah are way ahead. They have far more sophisticated public relations departments. A few weeks ago, Hezbollah, Hamas, and leaders from what’s left of the Iraqi “resistance” hosted a terrorist conference in Beirut, which some of the usual subjects from the fringe Left attended — former Democratic party Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and British member of Parliament George Galloway.

Less prominent American and European leftists also attended, including a Jewish blogger from Sweden who said his first trip to Lebanon was an “overwhelming experience” and described his slide into the political abyss in two sentences. “As a Jew I felt guilt about the treatment of the Palestinians because it is carried out in the name of all Jews,” he said to a Syrian journalist who asked what he was doing there. “I converted guilt into responsibility by taking up the political cause for the dissolution of the Jewish state.”

In a way, it’s rather astonishing that terrorists can scrape up support from even marginal people who imagine themselves upholders of the liberal tradition, but look at the propaganda. This crowd isn’t just championing the environment and quoting Chomsky. A statement at the Arab International Forum for the Support of the Resistance said “the right of people to resist via all forms, particularly armed struggle, stems from a fundamental principle of self-defense and the right to liberty, dignity, sovereignty and equality among the peoples of the world, and emphasized that resistance is in fact a necessary condition for the establishment of a just international order, to prevent aggression and occupation, and to end colonialism and racism.”

Sounds great. Liberty, dignity, sovereignty, and equality? Post-racism? A just international order? Who could argue with any of that?

The problem, of course, is that Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iraqi “resistance” aren’t fighting for liberty, any more than Communist guerrillas fought for liberty. Hamas fires rockets at schools and throws its political opponents off skyscrapers. Hezbollah fires even bigger rockets at schools, torches Lebanese television stations, shoots political opponents dead in the streets, and self-identifies as the “vanguard” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s murdering, raping, head-cracking government in Iran. Iraqi “resistance” fighters not only kill American soldiers with improvised explosive devices, they blow up mosques, massacre civilians with car bombs, decapitate children with kitchen knives, and assassinate officials and employees of the elected representative government.

None of the useful Western idiots attending the recent terrorist conference belong to the mainstream Left, nor does the American journalist who swooned over Hezbollah’s supposed global-warming “awareness.” There isn’t a chance that the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or even Jimmy Carter will ever fall for this kind of nonsense or throw their support behind Hamas, Hezbollah, or active leaders of the Iraqi “resistance.” Still, having a gallery of rogues and naifs as your cheering section in the West beats having no one.

It’s too late for Osama bin Laden to polish his image, but I can’t really blame him for thinking he could.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.