Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tel Aviv

Remembering Dalal Mughrabi

The Palestinian Authority just pushed off plans to honor Dalal Mughrabi by renaming a square just outside Ramallah after her. Her claim to fame? In 1978 she headed up one of the most horrific acts of terror every undertaken in the name of Palestine. In the attack, she and 11 others under her command landed on a beach north of Tel Aviv and started shooting and hurling grenades at passing cars and buses on the highway. They then hijacked a bus. Anyone who tried to escape was gunned down. Thirty-eight Israelis, including 13 children, were killed in the Coastal Road Massacre. Another 71 were wounded. In response, Israel launched an assault on southern Lebanon, where her Fatah bosses were based.

We don’t know why the PA has delayed the renaming of the square, but they insist that it’s not because, say, she might not put the Palestinians in the best light. On the contrary, reports the Jerusalem Post:

Adnan Dumairi, a senior PA security official, said that the ceremony had been delayed for “technical reasons.” He denied that the decision was the result of Israeli and American pressure. … “No one in the world can prevent the Palestinians from being proud of their history and heritage,” Dumairi said. “This history and heritage is part of our life.” He said that “had it not been for the blood and sacrifices of martyrs like Mughrabi, the Palestinians would not have been able to reach peace agreements and other achievements.”

And so, while Vice President Biden was busy “condemning” Israel for building housing units in its capital, the Palestinians were bogged down on when to best lionize their martyrs. But make no mistake: the Palestinians are proud of their achievements, just as the Israelis are of theirs.

The Palestinian Authority just pushed off plans to honor Dalal Mughrabi by renaming a square just outside Ramallah after her. Her claim to fame? In 1978 she headed up one of the most horrific acts of terror every undertaken in the name of Palestine. In the attack, she and 11 others under her command landed on a beach north of Tel Aviv and started shooting and hurling grenades at passing cars and buses on the highway. They then hijacked a bus. Anyone who tried to escape was gunned down. Thirty-eight Israelis, including 13 children, were killed in the Coastal Road Massacre. Another 71 were wounded. In response, Israel launched an assault on southern Lebanon, where her Fatah bosses were based.

We don’t know why the PA has delayed the renaming of the square, but they insist that it’s not because, say, she might not put the Palestinians in the best light. On the contrary, reports the Jerusalem Post:

Adnan Dumairi, a senior PA security official, said that the ceremony had been delayed for “technical reasons.” He denied that the decision was the result of Israeli and American pressure. … “No one in the world can prevent the Palestinians from being proud of their history and heritage,” Dumairi said. “This history and heritage is part of our life.” He said that “had it not been for the blood and sacrifices of martyrs like Mughrabi, the Palestinians would not have been able to reach peace agreements and other achievements.”

And so, while Vice President Biden was busy “condemning” Israel for building housing units in its capital, the Palestinians were bogged down on when to best lionize their martyrs. But make no mistake: the Palestinians are proud of their achievements, just as the Israelis are of theirs.

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Are They Being Smart Yet?

Joe Biden arrived in Israel. A ticker-tape parade he did not receive. As this report notes:

Vice President Biden arrived in Israel on Monday to boost U.S. efforts to mediate talks between Israelis and Palestinians amid criticism that the Obama administration has set back the peace process.

Biden’s four-day visit — in addition to reassuring Israeli leaders about the U.S. commitment to curb Iran’s nuclear program — is designed to prod Israel and the Palestinians to get talks moving again. With a speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, he will also try to court the Israeli public, some of whom felt snubbed in the past year by President Obama, who has visited Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia but has yet to come to Israel.

All George Mitchell could muster were so-called “proximity” talks, indirect discussions between parties that have little to discuss and, in the case of the Palestinians, little authority or willingness to make a “deal.” So the grousing has begun:

After so many years of direct talks that wrestled with the core issues of the future of Jerusalem, borders, security and Palestinian refugees, Mitchell’s announcement felt to some observers more like a setback than a success.

“It’s hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks,” said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of a Middle East blog and a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime Palestinian negotiator, told Israel’s Army Radio that the indirect talks were a last attempt “to save the peace process.”

My, what a comedown from the previous administrations, which at least were adept at getting the parties in the same room. But then all this is silliness squared. There is no deal to be had and no peace to be processed. That said, it’s painfully obvious that the Obami have made a bad situation worse. In case there was any doubt as to the diplomatic belly flop performed by the Mitchell-Axelrod-Clinton-Emanuel-Obama brain trust, we learn, “Israel announced construction of 112 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit. The administration had pushed hard — but unsuccessfully — last year for a complete freeze on settlements, and Israel’s new announcement came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Mitchell.” Message delivered.

Even those enamored of Obama and so benighted as to believe that peace is within sight at this juncture are rather disgusted with the Obama effort:

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. mediator and ambassador to Israel and Egypt who served both Democrat and Republican presidents, took a more skeptical view. He said it’s “not understandable why we would now have them sit in separate rooms and move between them.”

“I have been disappointed this past year with the lack of boldness and the lack of creativity and the lack of strength in our diplomacy with respect to this peace process. We have not articulated a policy, and we don’t have a strategy,” Kurtzer, who advised Obama’s presidential campaign, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

And like so many other allies (an entire coalition of the slighted might be assembled), the Israelis can’t quite believe they got a Biden visit. (“‘While we welcome Vice President Biden, a longtime friend and supporter of Israel,’ said Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, ‘we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming.'”)

When does the smart diplomacy start?

Here’s something smart: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s alternative vision. It goes like this:

Last August he announced what has come to be known as the “Fayyad Plan” under the heading: “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The idea is to build a de facto Palestinian state by mid-2011, with functioning government and municipal offices, police forces, a central bank, stock market, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. Fayyad’s watchword is transparency, and his aim is institutions that are corruption-free and provide an array of modern government services.

Then, in mid-2011, with all the trappings of statehood in place, he intends to make his political move: Invite Israel to recognize the well-functioning Palestinian state and withdraw from territories it still occupies, or be forced to do so by the pressure of international opinion.

In February, at the 10th Herzliya Conference, an annual forum on Israel’s national security attended by top decision-makers and academics, Fayyad, the lone Palestinian, gave an articulate off-the-cuff address, leaving little doubt as to what he has in mind.

Now which track do we think has a better chance of success — Mitchell’s or Fayyad’s? And since the answer is so obvious, the mystery remains why Mitchell is still there and why we are still pursuing a fruitless and counterproductive policy.

Joe Biden arrived in Israel. A ticker-tape parade he did not receive. As this report notes:

Vice President Biden arrived in Israel on Monday to boost U.S. efforts to mediate talks between Israelis and Palestinians amid criticism that the Obama administration has set back the peace process.

Biden’s four-day visit — in addition to reassuring Israeli leaders about the U.S. commitment to curb Iran’s nuclear program — is designed to prod Israel and the Palestinians to get talks moving again. With a speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, he will also try to court the Israeli public, some of whom felt snubbed in the past year by President Obama, who has visited Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia but has yet to come to Israel.

All George Mitchell could muster were so-called “proximity” talks, indirect discussions between parties that have little to discuss and, in the case of the Palestinians, little authority or willingness to make a “deal.” So the grousing has begun:

After so many years of direct talks that wrestled with the core issues of the future of Jerusalem, borders, security and Palestinian refugees, Mitchell’s announcement felt to some observers more like a setback than a success.

“It’s hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks,” said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of a Middle East blog and a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime Palestinian negotiator, told Israel’s Army Radio that the indirect talks were a last attempt “to save the peace process.”

My, what a comedown from the previous administrations, which at least were adept at getting the parties in the same room. But then all this is silliness squared. There is no deal to be had and no peace to be processed. That said, it’s painfully obvious that the Obami have made a bad situation worse. In case there was any doubt as to the diplomatic belly flop performed by the Mitchell-Axelrod-Clinton-Emanuel-Obama brain trust, we learn, “Israel announced construction of 112 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit. The administration had pushed hard — but unsuccessfully — last year for a complete freeze on settlements, and Israel’s new announcement came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Mitchell.” Message delivered.

Even those enamored of Obama and so benighted as to believe that peace is within sight at this juncture are rather disgusted with the Obama effort:

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. mediator and ambassador to Israel and Egypt who served both Democrat and Republican presidents, took a more skeptical view. He said it’s “not understandable why we would now have them sit in separate rooms and move between them.”

“I have been disappointed this past year with the lack of boldness and the lack of creativity and the lack of strength in our diplomacy with respect to this peace process. We have not articulated a policy, and we don’t have a strategy,” Kurtzer, who advised Obama’s presidential campaign, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

And like so many other allies (an entire coalition of the slighted might be assembled), the Israelis can’t quite believe they got a Biden visit. (“‘While we welcome Vice President Biden, a longtime friend and supporter of Israel,’ said Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, ‘we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming.'”)

When does the smart diplomacy start?

Here’s something smart: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s alternative vision. It goes like this:

Last August he announced what has come to be known as the “Fayyad Plan” under the heading: “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The idea is to build a de facto Palestinian state by mid-2011, with functioning government and municipal offices, police forces, a central bank, stock market, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. Fayyad’s watchword is transparency, and his aim is institutions that are corruption-free and provide an array of modern government services.

Then, in mid-2011, with all the trappings of statehood in place, he intends to make his political move: Invite Israel to recognize the well-functioning Palestinian state and withdraw from territories it still occupies, or be forced to do so by the pressure of international opinion.

In February, at the 10th Herzliya Conference, an annual forum on Israel’s national security attended by top decision-makers and academics, Fayyad, the lone Palestinian, gave an articulate off-the-cuff address, leaving little doubt as to what he has in mind.

Now which track do we think has a better chance of success — Mitchell’s or Fayyad’s? And since the answer is so obvious, the mystery remains why Mitchell is still there and why we are still pursuing a fruitless and counterproductive policy.

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We’ll Meet at the Knesset, in Tel Aviv

A British media watchdog named Just Journalism has released its review of 2009 Financial Times editorials, and it finds what anyone familiar with this newspaper would expect: the FT fits in perfectly with the media culture of obsessive and deranged coverage of Israel that is a national embarrassment for Great Britain. My favorite example of this (as is Marty Peretz’s) is the fact that the FT, as official policy, refers to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, a plain denial of reality. Can you imagine the FT referring, today, to Philadelphia or New York as the capital of the United States? That would be crazy. It would cause the FT to become a laughingstock. But it is really no more neurotic than the Tel Aviv rule. Just Journalism’s complete report (PDF) can be found here.

A British media watchdog named Just Journalism has released its review of 2009 Financial Times editorials, and it finds what anyone familiar with this newspaper would expect: the FT fits in perfectly with the media culture of obsessive and deranged coverage of Israel that is a national embarrassment for Great Britain. My favorite example of this (as is Marty Peretz’s) is the fact that the FT, as official policy, refers to Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel, a plain denial of reality. Can you imagine the FT referring, today, to Philadelphia or New York as the capital of the United States? That would be crazy. It would cause the FT to become a laughingstock. But it is really no more neurotic than the Tel Aviv rule. Just Journalism’s complete report (PDF) can be found here.

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The Hasbara Test

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

It has been nearly three years since the Israeli foreign ministry decided to “rebrand” the country’s image through a silly campaign that included pictures of beautiful sabrinas with little clothing profiled in Maxim magazine. Oddly enough, the campaign didn’t work. In the meantime, we’ve had the Goldstone Report, Swedish accusations of IDF soldiers ripping apart the bodies of Palestinians, some still alive, and selling their organs, and so on. The diplomats scratch their heads, wondering why Madison Avenue wasn’t the answer.

In the past few weeks, however, three major events have propelled Israel to the forefront of the public debate in a much more positive light. Following the unsuccessful undie-bomber attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, Americans effluviated about the need for improved airport security, and suddenly everyone was aware that Ben-Gurion airport has not had a security breach in a generation, despite the fact that its passengers never have to part with their favorite nail clippers or the 6-oz. bottles of perfume they picked up in Tel Aviv. The difference, it seems, is not that Israelis indulge in racial profiling, but that their security personnel are intensely trained to recognize the fact that people who know they are about to die behave differently than ordinary airline passengers (who knew!). Although that’s oversimplifying things, the fact is that Israeli airline security really does put a far greater emphasis on the human components of terror prevention: recognizing behaviors, building a network of informants, and so on.

The second event was the earthquake in Haiti. Within hours, Israel had dispatched more than 200 personnel, including rescue teams and high-level medical staff. They set up a full-fledged field hospital, the only one of its kind, complete with digital imaging, an ICU, and more. For the past couple of days, both this CNN report and this MSNBC one have been passed around the Internet, highlighting Israel’s hospital. In addition, today we learn that the Israelis also set up a global communications center, enabling journalists to use the Internet and phones via Israel’s Amos satellite. One American observer has described this as a “home run” for Israeli PR.

The third was the publication of Saul Singer and Dan Senor’s Start-Up Nation, which hit the New York Times bestseller list. Of all the pro-Israel books to come out in the past year, this one probably made the biggest splash: by highlighting what Israel is indisputably good at (business innovation), Singer and Senor succeeded in changing the subject and constructing a positive image of Israel that is not all war.

How come these recent events have been so successful at helping Israel’s image, while the “rebranding” stunt didn’t? I’m no PR pro, but it seems like the first rule in boosting your image is to not throw money at the problem but instead correctly identify what it is you want to sell. The Western public is deeply inured to vacuous PR. Just think of how many political candidates have been utterly devastated at the polls despite vastly outspending their opponents on ads, or how President Obama’s media-saturation assault over the past year has failed to prevent his slide in approval ratings. It really does come down to the product, doesn’t it?

So let’s take a simple test, involving three key statements Israel has made to the world in recent years. Which of the following do you think does the best service to the country?

1. Israelis have a fascinating, powerful, human-friendly, and human-sensitive instinct that makes them take care of Haitians, identify terrorists by their behavior rather than a TSA-approved checklist, and encourage creativity and entrepreneurship.

2. Israel has the Most Moral Army in the World, and when we blow things up, we do it with the fewest civilian casualties possible, given how ruthless our enemy is.

3. Israel has lots of attractive women.

The fact is that (1) is true and proved by events; (2) is true but only helpful as a rearguard maneuver when war is forced upon us; (3) is true but irrelevant. Israel has succeeded in Haiti for the simple reason that Israelis really wanted to help; took swift, creative, and effective action without letting bureaucracy get in the way; and only then made sure CNN and MSNBC crews had access. As for (2), it is true that the IDF did a reasonable job of using YouTube to show how bad the Hamas guys really were, but wartime is always bad for PR in most of the world, and all Israel could do was make the best of a rotten situation. And as for Maxim, it is very hard to avoid the conclusion that “rebranding” was anything but a waste of money and energy.

So I suggest a radical new approach to Israel’s PR woes: Be good. Do things that express your best side. And make sure everybody knows about it.

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Building Peace by Ending Endism

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

In the past four years, there have been two experiments in peace-processing. The first was to dismantle every Israeli settlement, withdraw every Israeli settler, and turn over the entire area to the Palestinian Authority. The result of that experiment was a terrorist mini-state in Gaza — one that used the land to launch rockets at its neighbor and eventually caused a war, and that is today preparing for yet another one.

The second experiment is what Benjamin Netanyahu has referred to as the establishment of an “economic peace.” Tom Gross, a Middle East analyst and former Jerusalem correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, provides a glimpse of what is happening with that approach, reporting on a day spent in Nablus, the largest city on the West Bank — a city bustling “in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region”:

Wandering around downtown Nablus the shops and restaurants I saw were full. There were plenty of expensive cars on the streets. Indeed I counted considerably more BMWs and Mercedes than I’ve seen, for example, in downtown Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

And perhaps most importantly of all, we had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services (with the encouragement and support of President George W. Bush) were allowed, over recent years, to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.

And it’s not just Nablus:

Life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. New apartment buildings, banks, brokerage firms, luxury car dealerships and health clubs are to be seen. In Qalqilya, another West Bank city that was previously a hotbed of terrorists and bomb-makers, the first ever strawberry crop is being harvested in time to cash in on the lucrative Christmas markets in Europe. Local Palestinian farmers have been trained by Israeli agriculture experts and Israel supplied them with irrigation equipment and pesticides.

A year ago, Uzi Arad, a prominent Israeli foreign-policy academic, suggested that the way forward in the “peace process” is to put an end to “endism” — the belief that “we are within reach of resolving everything in one fell swoop.” Endism is what marked the two-week final-status negotiations at Camp David; the subsequent four-month process, culminating in the unsuccessful Clinton Parameters; and the failed one-year Annapolis Process under President Bush. Against advice from both the Left and Right, President Obama tried his own hand at endism, and his efforts cratered in less than a year.

Netanyahu has endorsed a two-state solution, as long as the Palestinians recognize one of them as Jewish and demilitarize the other so it cannot threaten Israel. Both conditions have been rejected even by the peace-partner Palestinians, not to mention those in control of the land handed over to them in 2005. Thus another attempt at endism is proving to be futile– and four times is enough in any event. Endism needs to be ended, not mended.

It is time, as the title of Gross’s article suggests, for “Building Peace Without Obama’s Interference” — and long past the time for Obama to turn his full attention, as Arad suggested a year ago, to Iran.

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Slow-Motion Train-Wreck Watch

If train wrecks really happened in slow motion, observers might have time to note carelessness and irrelevance in the human actors involved. Metaphorical train wrecks certainly afford us such opportunities. The State Department bracketed a busy weekend for the Iran problem with a bit of both. In the daily briefing on Friday, spokesman Robert Wood responded to a point-blank question on why we are stretching out the time line on negotiations with this affirmation:

QUESTION: Then why stretch it out? I mean, isn’t it quite clear that they’re not going to do this?

MR. WOOD: Look, we are — we have said from the beginning, we’re willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy. The President and the Secretary have been very clear about that. Iran has had plenty of time to consider this proposal. We still hope that they will reconsider and give the IAEA Director General a yes. But that’s up to Iran.

Iran had already, last week, given the IAEA director general a “no,” rejecting the P5+1 proposal to ship Tehran’s low-enriched uranium out of the country and offering a counterproposal: to exchange higher-enriched uranium for Iran’s current stock, simultaneously and inside Iran. In support of this negotiating ploy, the regime launched a major joint-forces exercise over the weekend, punctuating it with air-defense drills around the nuclear sites. In case the message was unclear, a senior Revolutionary Guard official emphasized the “deterrence power” of Iran’s ballistic missiles and threatened Tel Aviv with them. Meanwhile, President Lula da Silva of Brazil, with Ahmadinejad at his side, affirmed Iran’s right to civil nuclear technology and criticized “attempts to isolate Iran,” a condemnation that included the imposition of further sanctions.

So it’s not clear what gave Wood hope that Iran might reconsider. Monday’s laconic briefing from Ian Kelly projected a peculiar air of detachment, revealing mainly that there was no new policy guidance on Iran since Friday. There were some laughs, however. Kelly alluded, in suggesting that Iran seize a “fleeting opportunity,” to Friday’s thrice-repeated theme that the diplomatic window for Iran won’t be open forever. This led to a humorous exchange in which the word “fleeting” was suggested to amount to “new guidance.”

Surreal levity aside, Iran’s strategic wisdom in making a counterproposal, to which the P5+1 will have to take time in responding, has probably guaranteed that “fleeting” will not accurately describe the window bounded by negotiations. What the State Department has to show for eight years of business-as-usual negotiations is an Iran much closer to a working nuclear weapon. Robert Wood, in that sense, was exactly right: as long as we have a diplomacy-only approach, it is up to Iran. The only way to change that is to pose the credible threat of involving a different department of the U.S. government.

If train wrecks really happened in slow motion, observers might have time to note carelessness and irrelevance in the human actors involved. Metaphorical train wrecks certainly afford us such opportunities. The State Department bracketed a busy weekend for the Iran problem with a bit of both. In the daily briefing on Friday, spokesman Robert Wood responded to a point-blank question on why we are stretching out the time line on negotiations with this affirmation:

QUESTION: Then why stretch it out? I mean, isn’t it quite clear that they’re not going to do this?

MR. WOOD: Look, we are — we have said from the beginning, we’re willing to go the extra mile with regard to diplomacy. The President and the Secretary have been very clear about that. Iran has had plenty of time to consider this proposal. We still hope that they will reconsider and give the IAEA Director General a yes. But that’s up to Iran.

Iran had already, last week, given the IAEA director general a “no,” rejecting the P5+1 proposal to ship Tehran’s low-enriched uranium out of the country and offering a counterproposal: to exchange higher-enriched uranium for Iran’s current stock, simultaneously and inside Iran. In support of this negotiating ploy, the regime launched a major joint-forces exercise over the weekend, punctuating it with air-defense drills around the nuclear sites. In case the message was unclear, a senior Revolutionary Guard official emphasized the “deterrence power” of Iran’s ballistic missiles and threatened Tel Aviv with them. Meanwhile, President Lula da Silva of Brazil, with Ahmadinejad at his side, affirmed Iran’s right to civil nuclear technology and criticized “attempts to isolate Iran,” a condemnation that included the imposition of further sanctions.

So it’s not clear what gave Wood hope that Iran might reconsider. Monday’s laconic briefing from Ian Kelly projected a peculiar air of detachment, revealing mainly that there was no new policy guidance on Iran since Friday. There were some laughs, however. Kelly alluded, in suggesting that Iran seize a “fleeting opportunity,” to Friday’s thrice-repeated theme that the diplomatic window for Iran won’t be open forever. This led to a humorous exchange in which the word “fleeting” was suggested to amount to “new guidance.”

Surreal levity aside, Iran’s strategic wisdom in making a counterproposal, to which the P5+1 will have to take time in responding, has probably guaranteed that “fleeting” will not accurately describe the window bounded by negotiations. What the State Department has to show for eight years of business-as-usual negotiations is an Iran much closer to a working nuclear weapon. Robert Wood, in that sense, was exactly right: as long as we have a diplomacy-only approach, it is up to Iran. The only way to change that is to pose the credible threat of involving a different department of the U.S. government.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: A Third Lebanon War Could Be Much Worse than the Second

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently announced that he could hit any and every place in Israel with long-range missiles. That would mean that, unlike in 2006, Hezbollah could strike not only the northern cities of Kiryat Shmona and Haifa but also Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion International Airport, and the Dimona nuclear-power plant.

I dismissed his claim as a wild boast last week, but Israeli army commander Major General Gabi Ashkenazi confirmed it this week. So while we’ve all been worried about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been quietly arming his chief terrorist proxy with more advanced conventional weapons.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah recently announced that he could hit any and every place in Israel with long-range missiles. That would mean that, unlike in 2006, Hezbollah could strike not only the northern cities of Kiryat Shmona and Haifa but also Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion International Airport, and the Dimona nuclear-power plant.

I dismissed his claim as a wild boast last week, but Israeli army commander Major General Gabi Ashkenazi confirmed it this week. So while we’ve all been worried about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been quietly arming his chief terrorist proxy with more advanced conventional weapons.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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“Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.”

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

Read More

What follows is the text of President Bush’s speech today in Jerusalem:

 President Peres and Mr. Prime Minister, Madam Speaker, thank very much for hosting this special session. President Beinish, Leader of the Opposition Netanyahu, Ministers, members of the Knesset, distinguished guests: Shalom. Laura and I are thrilled to be back in Israel. We have been deeply moved by the celebrations of the past two days. And this afternoon, I am honored to stand before one of the world’s great democratic assemblies and convey the wishes of the American people with these words: Yom Ha’atzmaut Sameach.

It is a rare privilege for the American President to speak to the Knesset. Although the Prime Minister told me there is something even rarer — to have just one person in this chamber speaking at a time. My only regret is that one of Israel’s greatest leaders is not here to share this moment. He is a warrior for the ages, a man of peace, a friend. The prayers of the American people are with Ariel Sharon.

We gather to mark a momentous occasion. Sixty years ago in Tel Aviv, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israel’s independence, founded on the “natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.” What followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David — a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael.

Eleven minutes later, on the orders of President Harry Truman, the United States was proud to be the first nation to recognize Israel’s independence. And on this landmark anniversary, America is proud to be Israel’s closest ally and best friend in the world.

The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.

Centuries of suffering and sacrifice would pass before the dream was fulfilled. The Jewish people endured the agony of the pogroms, the tragedy of the Great War, and the horror of the Holocaust — what Elie Wiesel called “the kingdom of the night.” Soulless men took away lives and broke apart families. Yet they could not take away the spirit of the Jewish people, and they could not break the promise of God. When news of Israel’s freedom finally arrived, Golda Meir, a fearless woman raised in Wisconsin, could summon only tears. She later said: “For two thousand years we have waited for our deliverance. Now that it is here it is so great and wonderful that it surpasses human words.”

The joy of independence was tempered by the outbreak of battle, a struggle that has continued for six decades. Yet in spite of the violence, in defiance of the threats, Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.

My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.

I have been fortunate to see the character of Israel up close. I have touched the Western Wall, seen the sun reflected in the Sea of Galilee, I have prayed at Yad Vashem. And earlier today, I visited Masada, an inspiring monument to courage and sacrifice. At this historic site, Israeli soldiers swear an oath: “Masada shall never fall again.” Citizens of Israel: Masada shall never fall again, and America will be at your side.

This anniversary is a time to reflect on the past. It’s also an opportunity to look to the future. As we go forward, our alliance will be guided by clear principles — shared convictions rooted in moral clarity and unswayed by popularity polls or the shifting opinions of international elites.

We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation.

We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world.

We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.

We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction.

We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve.

The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.

This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is an ancient battle between good and evil. The killers claim the mantle of Islam, but they are not religious men. No one who prays to the God of Abraham could strap a suicide vest to an innocent child, or blow up guiltless guests at a Passover Seder, or fly planes into office buildings filled with unsuspecting workers. In truth, the men who carry out these savage acts serve no higher goal than their own desire for power. They accept no God before themselves. And they reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.

And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the “elimination” of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant “Death to Israel, Death to America!” That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that “the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.” And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.

There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.

Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.

Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you.

America stands with you in breaking up terrorist networks and denying the extremists sanctuary. America stands with you in firmly opposing Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions. Permitting the world’s leading sponsor of terror to possess the world’s deadliest weapons would be an unforgivable betrayal for future generations. For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

Ultimately, to prevail in this struggle, we must offer an alternative to the ideology of the extremists by extending our vision of justice and tolerance and freedom and hope. These values are the self-evident right of all people, of all religions, in all the world because they are a gift from the Almighty God. Securing these rights is also the surest way to secure peace. Leaders who are accountable to their people will not pursue endless confrontation and bloodshed. Young people with a place in their society and a voice in their future are less likely to search for meaning in radicalism. Societies where citizens can express their conscience and worship their God will not export violence, they will be partners in peace.

The fundamental insight, that freedom yields peace, is the great lesson of the 20th century. Now our task is to apply it to the 21st. Nowhere is this work more urgent than here in the Middle East. We must stand with the reformers working to break the old patterns of tyranny and despair. We must give voice to millions of ordinary people who dream of a better life in a free society. We must confront the moral relativism that views all forms of government as equally acceptable and thereby consigns whole societies to slavery. Above all, we must have faith in our values and ourselves and confidently pursue the expansion of liberty as the path to a peaceful future.

That future will be a dramatic departure from the Middle East of today. So as we mark 60 years from Israel’s founding, let us try to envision the region 60 years from now. This vision is not going to arrive easily or overnight; it will encounter violent resistance. But if we and future Presidents and future Knessets maintain our resolve and have faith in our ideals, here is the Middle East that we can see:

Israel will be celebrating the 120th anniversary as one of the world’s great democracies, a secure and flourishing homeland for the Jewish people. The Palestinian people will have the homeland they have long dreamed of and deserved — a democratic state that is governed by law, and respects human rights, and rejects terror. From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies, where a desire for peace is reinforced by ties of diplomacy and tourism and trade. Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today’s oppression a distant memory and where people are free to speak their minds and develop their God-given talents. Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and Hamas will be defeated, as Muslims across the region recognize the emptiness of the terrorists’ vision and the injustice of their cause.

Overall, the Middle East will be characterized by a new period of tolerance and integration. And this doesn’t mean that Israel and its neighbors will be best of friends. But when leaders across the region answer to their people, they will focus their energies on schools and jobs, not on rocket attacks and suicide bombings. With this change, Israel will open a new hopeful chapter in which its people can live a normal life, and the dream of Herzl and the founders of 1948 can be fully and finally realized.

This is a bold vision, and some will say it can never be achieved. But think about what we have witnessed in our own time. When Europe was destroying itself through total war and genocide, it was difficult to envision a continent that six decades later would be free and at peace. When Japanese pilots were flying suicide missions into American battleships, it seemed impossible that six decades later Japan would be a democracy, a lynchpin of security in Asia, and one of America’s closest friends. And when waves of refugees arrived here in the desert with nothing, surrounded by hostile armies, it was almost unimaginable that Israel would grow into one of the freest and most successful nations on the earth.

Yet each one of these transformations took place. And a future of transformation is possible in the Middle East, so long as a new generation of leaders has the courage to defeat the enemies of freedom, to make the hard choices necessary for peace, and stand firm on the solid rock of universal values.

Sixty years ago, on the eve of Israel’s independence, the last British soldiers departing Jerusalem stopped at a building in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. An officer knocked on the door and met a senior rabbi. The officer presented him with a short iron bar — the key to the Zion Gate — and said it was the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew. His hands trembling, the rabbi offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God, “Who had granted us life and permitted us to reach this day.” Then he turned to the officer, and uttered the words Jews had awaited for so long: “I accept this key in the name of my people.”

Over the past six decades, the Jewish people have established a state that would make that humble rabbi proud. You have raised a modern society in the Promised Land, a light unto the nations that preserves the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And you have built a mighty democracy that will endure forever and can always count on the United States of America to be at your side. God bless.

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The Other Holocaust Doctrine

Gordon and Noah have been duking it out below about Charles Krauthammer’s bold call for a presidential “Holocaust statement,” in which the President would declare that any nuclear attack on Israel would be seen as an attack on the US, and that there would be no “second Holocaust.”

Today’s New York Times carries an op-ed by Zev Chafets, a former advisor to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It’s really worth reading. Chafets accepts Krauthammer’s opening premise, that Bush has reneged on his commitment to preventing Iran from going nuclear. Yet he sees Krauthammer’s conclusion–that we should move all our thoughts towards how to deter an already-nuclear Iran–as premature.

Chafets lays into Bush’s non-response to Iran’s claim of having put online another 6,000 centrifuges, calling it “the abashed silence of an American president whose bluff has been called in front of the entire world.” But his real point is that the ball is now in Israel’s court. He writes:

I’m not questioning American friendship. But even friendship has practical limits. Presidents change and policies change. George W. Bush, the greatest friend Israel has had in the White House, hasn’t been able to keep a… commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is a good thing that Israel didn’t build its deterrence on that commitment.

What’s more, it is fair to say that Israel is not a weak country. It has developed a powerful set of strategic options. In the best case, it would be able to act on its own to degrade and retard the Iranian nuclear program as it did in Iraq (and, more recently, Syria). In a worse case, if the Iranians do get the bomb, Iranian leaders might be deterred by rational considerations. If so, Israel’s own arsenal — and its manifest willingness to respond to a nuclear attack — ought to suffice.

If, on the other hand, the Iranian leadership simply can’t resist the itch to “wipe Israel off the map” — or to make such a thing appear imminent — then it would be up to Israel to make its own calculations. What is the price of 100,000 dead in Tel Aviv? Or twice that? The cost to Iran would certainly be ghastly. It would be wrong for Israel to expect other nations to shoulder this moral and geopolitical responsibility.

Chafets cites Begin’s example: In 1981 the Prime Minister ordered the bombing of the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq, an act universally denounced at the time, but with hindsight proved to be crucial in preventing a nuclear Saddam. In Begin’s view, the true lesson of the Holocaust was that Jews should never be dependent on others, even good friends, for their fundamental security. Now, Israel faces a possibly much graver threat, and again will have to bear the burden all on its own. As Chafets puts it, “Sovereignty comes with a price. Israel’s willingness to pay it is the only Holocaust doctrine that it can really rely on.”

Gordon and Noah have been duking it out below about Charles Krauthammer’s bold call for a presidential “Holocaust statement,” in which the President would declare that any nuclear attack on Israel would be seen as an attack on the US, and that there would be no “second Holocaust.”

Today’s New York Times carries an op-ed by Zev Chafets, a former advisor to Prime Minister Menachem Begin. It’s really worth reading. Chafets accepts Krauthammer’s opening premise, that Bush has reneged on his commitment to preventing Iran from going nuclear. Yet he sees Krauthammer’s conclusion–that we should move all our thoughts towards how to deter an already-nuclear Iran–as premature.

Chafets lays into Bush’s non-response to Iran’s claim of having put online another 6,000 centrifuges, calling it “the abashed silence of an American president whose bluff has been called in front of the entire world.” But his real point is that the ball is now in Israel’s court. He writes:

I’m not questioning American friendship. But even friendship has practical limits. Presidents change and policies change. George W. Bush, the greatest friend Israel has had in the White House, hasn’t been able to keep a… commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is a good thing that Israel didn’t build its deterrence on that commitment.

What’s more, it is fair to say that Israel is not a weak country. It has developed a powerful set of strategic options. In the best case, it would be able to act on its own to degrade and retard the Iranian nuclear program as it did in Iraq (and, more recently, Syria). In a worse case, if the Iranians do get the bomb, Iranian leaders might be deterred by rational considerations. If so, Israel’s own arsenal — and its manifest willingness to respond to a nuclear attack — ought to suffice.

If, on the other hand, the Iranian leadership simply can’t resist the itch to “wipe Israel off the map” — or to make such a thing appear imminent — then it would be up to Israel to make its own calculations. What is the price of 100,000 dead in Tel Aviv? Or twice that? The cost to Iran would certainly be ghastly. It would be wrong for Israel to expect other nations to shoulder this moral and geopolitical responsibility.

Chafets cites Begin’s example: In 1981 the Prime Minister ordered the bombing of the Osirak nuclear facility in Iraq, an act universally denounced at the time, but with hindsight proved to be crucial in preventing a nuclear Saddam. In Begin’s view, the true lesson of the Holocaust was that Jews should never be dependent on others, even good friends, for their fundamental security. Now, Israel faces a possibly much graver threat, and again will have to bear the burden all on its own. As Chafets puts it, “Sovereignty comes with a price. Israel’s willingness to pay it is the only Holocaust doctrine that it can really rely on.”

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Krauthammer’s “Holocaust Declaration”

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

Put me down, first and foremost, as a Charles Krauthammer fan. But his latest column in my opinion is lacking in the unsparing analytic rigor that typically characterizes his work, and it is for this reason that I take a harsher view of the piece than does Gordon. Krauthammer writes that when Iran goes nuclear,

we shall have to rely on deterrence to prevent the mullahs, some of whom are apocalyptic and messianic, from using nuclear weapons. …

How to create deterrence? The way John Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. President Bush should issue the following declaration, adopting Kennedy’s language while changing the names of the miscreants:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

But the italicized declaration above would do very little to guarantee the promise that follows it — that the U.S. “will not permit a second Holocaust.” To state the obvious, a U.S. second strike would not prevent an Iranian first strike — only react to it once it has happened. What are the chances that Iran would attempt to nuke Israel? Well, who knows: the Soviet Union, however rapacious and barbaric, at least tended to act in favor of national self-preservation, whereas the mullahs — it is something they brag about — have no such conception of self-preservation. As Bernard Lewis has said about the regime, “mutually assured destruction is not a deterrent factor, but rather an inducement.” Krauthammer hints at the messianic and apocalyptic nature of the prevailing Iranian ideology, but gives the unpredictable — or suicidally predictable — nature of Iranian behavior very little weight in his analysis.

Two other major objections: it is very well for the United States to place Israel under its nuclear umbrella, but it will also be true that Iran will place its allies under its nuclear umbrella. During the Cold War, mutually-assured destruction did not prevent Soviet adventurism in many corners of the world, and likewise during a U.S.-Iran Cold War, an American second-strike pledge would not prevent a similar adventurism on the part of Iran’s many allies.

In other words, the recent wars we have witnessed would continue, except that Hezbollah and Hamas would be backed by a nuclear patron. What if Iran instructs Hezbollah to send rockets raining down on northern Israel and then threatens nuclear retaliation should Israel respond with a ground war in Lebanon? Will the Holocaust Declaration have any relevance to such a scenario? Of course not. It only becomes relevant after Tel Aviv is in smoldering ruins. Some comfort.

Which leads to the final point. This is the question of whether Iran, upon acquiring a nuclear weapon, would need to actually launch an ICBM at Israel to destroy the country, or whether it could attempt to pick it apart through a relentless campaign of terror wars launched by its “non-state actor” proxies. Please pardon me for quoting something on this subject that I wrote previously:

The Jewish state already has a problem in the number of its citizens who tire of the warfare, terrorism, and Arab hatred that are regular features of life in Israel. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live abroad, many permanently, because they seek a “normal life,” and many Jews will never immigrate to Israel exactly because of the absence of such a life. All of this is only in the face of Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorists who kill with crude weapons. Now imagine those groups with the support of a nuclear patron. Imagine daily life in Israel conducted under the constant threat — the Iranians would surely take every opportunity to remind Israelis — of nuclear annihilation.

The Iranians are probably smart enough to know that if they’re patient, nothing so dramatic as nuclear war will be necessary. Simply by possessing a nuclear capability and regularly threatening to use it or supply it to its proxies, Iran will accomplish the psychological and economic attrition of Israel. This goal will be achieved without firing a shot — or at least without full-scale war.

Krauthammer’s column is intended as an attempt at envisioning a U.S. security strategy that would protect Israel in an Iranian nuclear era. Its failure to present a plausible scenario for doing so should underscore the importance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons in the first place.

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Nuke Teheran?

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

Charles Krauthammer lays out the case today for a U.S. nuclear guarantee to Israel. “It’s time to admit the truth,” he writes. “The Bush administration’s attempt to halt Iran’s nuclear program has failed.” He proposes instead that George Bush should take a leaf from the Cuban missile crisis and issue a ringing declaration that:

“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear attack upon Israel by Iran, or originating in Iran, as an attack by Iran on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Iran.”

This should be followed with a simple explanation: “As a beacon of tolerance and as leader of the free world, the United States will not permit a second Holocaust to be perpetrated upon the Jewish people.”

Such an approach has its undeniable appeal, but would it suffice to assure Israel’s security needs, or even survival, in the face of a nuclear-armed Iran?

In some scenarios, perhaps. It certainly might give the Iranians pause before launching a nuclear-missile fusillade against Tel Aviv directly from their soil. But there are many far more ambiguous forms in which an Iranian nuclear weapon might be employed, and not only against Israel, but against other countries in the region. The provision of a nuclear weapon to a terrorist surrogate group under Iranian control is one. Coercive nuclear threats are another.

Would the United States really follow through on its word and destroy Tehran if, say, Hizballah smuggled a nuclear device into Haifa and detonated it? Somehow, I doubt it. And we are not even contemplating here the possibility that it might be Barack Obama who has to answer the phone at 3AM before calling General McPeak and asking him what to do.   

The fact is that a nuclear-armed Iran will be a far more assertive and dangerous power than it already is. No words from an American president, no matter how ringing, can solve Israel’s defense dilemma at a stroke. Unless the U.S. or Israel takes action, we may yet have to learn to live with an Iranian bomb. But it’s folly to believe we can solve major security problems with declarations.

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Spurious Spurlock

“Super Size Me” creator Morgan Spurlock begins his new documentary by comparing the supposed trauma of learning he was about to become a father with the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden,” a supposed comedy in which Spurlock tours various places in the Arab world and Israel (Morocco, Egypt, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and finally Afghanistan and Pakistan) begins with soaring-through-the-clouds airplane footage meant to evoke the point of view of the 9/11 attackers as they began their descent over New York City. In Spurlock’s narration, he speaks of how wonderful it is to experience the joy of waking up to realize it’s a beautiful day, only to be shocked when the whole thing is wiped out in a sudden unexpected moment. Cut to Spurlock’s wife announcing (in a moment obviously staged for the cameras) that she is pregnant.

Such bad taste is characteristic of the film, which is intended to downplay fears of terrorism and consequently is sure to delight the liberal press that praised every distortion in “Super Size Me.”

Spurlock’s vision is the squishy liberal view, the standard Westchester County wine-sipper’s wisdom, about the post-9/11 world. It isn’t that America is to blame for the attacks, exactly. But if only we were a little more sensitive to the suffering of the Arab world–if only we built them more schools and hospitals and resolved the Israeli/Palestinian issue and maybe sent them a card on Mother’s Day–they probably wouldn’t hate us.

In each country, Spurlock finds a couple of scholars and journalists to deliver that view. When he gets tired of listening to them he simply tells us in voice-over that we should think this, as we regard a cringe-inducing series of animated sequences in which Bin Laden and other terrorists are portrayed as dancin’ rappers or pictured on mock baseball cards (wearing caps with the AQ logo). This film is literally a cartoon version of the Islamist threat.

“Super Size Me” creator Morgan Spurlock begins his new documentary by comparing the supposed trauma of learning he was about to become a father with the attacks on the World Trade Center.

“Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden,” a supposed comedy in which Spurlock tours various places in the Arab world and Israel (Morocco, Egypt, the West Bank, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and finally Afghanistan and Pakistan) begins with soaring-through-the-clouds airplane footage meant to evoke the point of view of the 9/11 attackers as they began their descent over New York City. In Spurlock’s narration, he speaks of how wonderful it is to experience the joy of waking up to realize it’s a beautiful day, only to be shocked when the whole thing is wiped out in a sudden unexpected moment. Cut to Spurlock’s wife announcing (in a moment obviously staged for the cameras) that she is pregnant.

Such bad taste is characteristic of the film, which is intended to downplay fears of terrorism and consequently is sure to delight the liberal press that praised every distortion in “Super Size Me.”

Spurlock’s vision is the squishy liberal view, the standard Westchester County wine-sipper’s wisdom, about the post-9/11 world. It isn’t that America is to blame for the attacks, exactly. But if only we were a little more sensitive to the suffering of the Arab world–if only we built them more schools and hospitals and resolved the Israeli/Palestinian issue and maybe sent them a card on Mother’s Day–they probably wouldn’t hate us.

In each country, Spurlock finds a couple of scholars and journalists to deliver that view. When he gets tired of listening to them he simply tells us in voice-over that we should think this, as we regard a cringe-inducing series of animated sequences in which Bin Laden and other terrorists are portrayed as dancin’ rappers or pictured on mock baseball cards (wearing caps with the AQ logo). This film is literally a cartoon version of the Islamist threat.

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Daniel Levy, Making Stuff up Again

Ah, Daniel Levy. He is the far left’s favorite analyst of the Israeli-Arab dispute, and he is possessed of some very strange ideas. Several months ago I wrote a long piece laying out a few of his mendacities for NRO.

I happened upon his big-think Middle East piece in the current Prospect, and couldn’t help but take a quick look. It’s more or less a long tour of foreign policy fantasy-land. But this item in particular jumped off the page:

Recalibrating policy toward Hamas has become central to progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contrary to popular misperception, Hamas and al-Qaeda are adversaries, not allies. Hamas is about ending the occupation and reforming Palestinian society; al-Qaeda, about opposing the West per se and spreading chaos in the Muslim world and beyond. One is reformist, the other revolutionary; one nationalist, the other post-nationalist; one grievance-based, the other fundamentalist.

Amazing! The leaders of Hamas have, in Levy’s telling, been lying for decades about what they want. You thought Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh wish to destroy Israel, because that’s what they’ve promised to do over and over again? Well, you must be a simpleton. Or maybe you read the Hamas charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement . . . strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Is it possible that Levy doesn’t understand that when Hamas leaders talk about “the occupation,” they mean Tel Aviv, not the West Bank? No — he certainly knows this. Maybe he received a secret communiqué in which Hamas rescinded its most basic principles?

And Hamas as a nationalist movement? Also a figment Levy’s imagination. Here’s the Charter again:

As for the objectives: They are the fighting against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail, homelands be retrieved and from its mosques would the voice of the mu’azen emerge declaring the establishment of the state of Islam, so that people and things would return each to their right places and Allah is our helper.

“The state of Islam.” Note to Levy: this is different than the state of Palestine.

All of this reminded me of Michael Young’s most recent column in the Beirut Daily Star, which perfectly anticipated Levy’s essay. Young’s topic is the foolishness of western apologists for Islamist groups:

Why is the topic important? Because over the years academics, analysts, journalists, and others, particularly the Westerners among them, who write about militant Islamist groups, have tended to project their own liberal attitudes and desires onto such groups, misinterpreting their intentions and largely ignoring what these groups say about themselves. Inasmuch as most such observers cannot really fathom the totalitarian strain in the aims and language of armed Islamists, totalitarian in the sense of pursuing a total idea, total in its purity, they cannot accept that the total idea can also be apocalyptic. Where Nasrallah and the leaders of Hamas will repeat that Israel’s elimination is a quasi-religious duty, the sympathetic Westernized observer, for whom the concept of elimination is intolerable, will think much more benignly in terms of well-intentioned “bargaining.” Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic, they will argue, so that their statements and deeds are only leverage to achieve specific political ends that, once attained, will allow a return to harmonious equilibrium.

This argument, so tirelessly made, is tiresomely irrelevant.

Young concludes: “For outside observers to ignore or reinterpret their words in order to justify a personal weakness for these groups’ revolutionary seductions is both self-centered and analytically useless.”

I don’t know how self-centered Levy is. But analytically useless? Most definitely.

Ah, Daniel Levy. He is the far left’s favorite analyst of the Israeli-Arab dispute, and he is possessed of some very strange ideas. Several months ago I wrote a long piece laying out a few of his mendacities for NRO.

I happened upon his big-think Middle East piece in the current Prospect, and couldn’t help but take a quick look. It’s more or less a long tour of foreign policy fantasy-land. But this item in particular jumped off the page:

Recalibrating policy toward Hamas has become central to progress on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Contrary to popular misperception, Hamas and al-Qaeda are adversaries, not allies. Hamas is about ending the occupation and reforming Palestinian society; al-Qaeda, about opposing the West per se and spreading chaos in the Muslim world and beyond. One is reformist, the other revolutionary; one nationalist, the other post-nationalist; one grievance-based, the other fundamentalist.

Amazing! The leaders of Hamas have, in Levy’s telling, been lying for decades about what they want. You thought Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniyeh wish to destroy Israel, because that’s what they’ve promised to do over and over again? Well, you must be a simpleton. Or maybe you read the Hamas charter: “The Islamic Resistance Movement . . . strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” Is it possible that Levy doesn’t understand that when Hamas leaders talk about “the occupation,” they mean Tel Aviv, not the West Bank? No — he certainly knows this. Maybe he received a secret communiqué in which Hamas rescinded its most basic principles?

And Hamas as a nationalist movement? Also a figment Levy’s imagination. Here’s the Charter again:

As for the objectives: They are the fighting against the false, defeating it and vanquishing it so that justice could prevail, homelands be retrieved and from its mosques would the voice of the mu’azen emerge declaring the establishment of the state of Islam, so that people and things would return each to their right places and Allah is our helper.

“The state of Islam.” Note to Levy: this is different than the state of Palestine.

All of this reminded me of Michael Young’s most recent column in the Beirut Daily Star, which perfectly anticipated Levy’s essay. Young’s topic is the foolishness of western apologists for Islamist groups:

Why is the topic important? Because over the years academics, analysts, journalists, and others, particularly the Westerners among them, who write about militant Islamist groups, have tended to project their own liberal attitudes and desires onto such groups, misinterpreting their intentions and largely ignoring what these groups say about themselves. Inasmuch as most such observers cannot really fathom the totalitarian strain in the aims and language of armed Islamists, totalitarian in the sense of pursuing a total idea, total in its purity, they cannot accept that the total idea can also be apocalyptic. Where Nasrallah and the leaders of Hamas will repeat that Israel’s elimination is a quasi-religious duty, the sympathetic Westernized observer, for whom the concept of elimination is intolerable, will think much more benignly in terms of well-intentioned “bargaining.” Hamas and Hizbullah are pragmatic, they will argue, so that their statements and deeds are only leverage to achieve specific political ends that, once attained, will allow a return to harmonious equilibrium.

This argument, so tirelessly made, is tiresomely irrelevant.

Young concludes: “For outside observers to ignore or reinterpret their words in order to justify a personal weakness for these groups’ revolutionary seductions is both self-centered and analytically useless.”

I don’t know how self-centered Levy is. But analytically useless? Most definitely.

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Palestine Isn’t for Lovers

The IDF recently granted a 33-year old Palestinian gay man a temporary Israeli residence permit so that he could join his ailing partner in Tel Aviv. (More Zionist oppression!) Of course, the Palestinian man had other reasons than a sick partner to wish to reside in Israel. Where he comes from, homosexuals are tortured and murdered, which has made Tel Aviv into a “mecca” for gay Palestinians. In a letter to the IDF, the man explained that “ever since his family learned of his gay relationship with an Israeli man, he has been facing an ongoing threat to his life.” Can you explain to me, again, how the Israeli government is in the wrong here?

The IDF recently granted a 33-year old Palestinian gay man a temporary Israeli residence permit so that he could join his ailing partner in Tel Aviv. (More Zionist oppression!) Of course, the Palestinian man had other reasons than a sick partner to wish to reside in Israel. Where he comes from, homosexuals are tortured and murdered, which has made Tel Aviv into a “mecca” for gay Palestinians. In a letter to the IDF, the man explained that “ever since his family learned of his gay relationship with an Israeli man, he has been facing an ongoing threat to his life.” Can you explain to me, again, how the Israeli government is in the wrong here?

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Ron Paul’s Real Politics: The Case of Daniel Larison

One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

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One of the benefits of spending the past couple of weeks tracking down and reading Ron Paul’s old newsletters, interviewing his past and present associates and boning up on the history of libertarianism in America (see Reason editor Brian Doherty’s Radicals for Capitalism, which I recommend) was learning about the strange history of libertarians and paleoconservatives (also explored today by Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez of Reason).

Daniel Larison is a prominent fixture in paleoconservative circles. He writes a regular column for Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine and contributes to Buchanan crony Taki Theodoracopulos’s website. He also writes for the popular right-of-center blog The American Scene and is often cited by mainstream political bloggers and publications, including my own. He is no doubt an eloquent proponent of the paleoconservative cause.

He happens, in addition, to be a member in good standing (at least until 2005, when he celebrated ten years of membership) of the League of the South. A little background on the League of the South, which is the most prominent neo-Confederate group in America. The League describes itself as a “Southern Nationalist organization whose ultimate goal is a free and independent Southern republic” and “encourage[s] individuals and families to personally secede from the corrupt and corrupting influence of post-Christian culture in America.” For more on this merry band of would-be traitors, see the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2000 report on the League, which SPLC labeled a “hate group.”

Larison was stirred to write about his membership in the League after reading Commentary and contentions contributor Max Boot’s review of the pro-Confederate Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, the book Ron Paul recently blurbed. Larison challenges, shockingly, both Boot’s citizenship bona fides and his loyalty, writing of “the first-generation American (and I apply the term here very loosely) Boot.” Such charges of disloyalty, particularly against Jews (I have no idea if Max is Jewish, though he is a neoconservative, and there exists no such distinction for paleocons) is a common trope in paleoconservative polemics and Larison’s is no exception.

Larison’s open nostalgia for the Confederacy is a marvel to behold. While deriding the “freethinking, Yankee spirit and empire that has gone on to devastate so many other societies” he reveres “the humane and decent civilisation of the South that took root in the Southland.” As with most teary-eyed Confederate apologists, he makes no mention whatsoever of that “humane” civilization’s most inhumane practice, referring obliquely only to the fact that the Confederate-era South “was never without flaws.” And it wasn’t Abraham Lincoln and the Union Army who fought to restore America to its founding principles, but those who joined the internal rebellion against the United States, men “who rose to defend, first by the pen and oration and then by the sword, the true political inheritance of the Republic” (emphasis added).

If you can stomach it, read his last paragraph:

The defeat of the Confederacy, though the Confederate political experiment does not exhaust the richness of Southern culture and identity, was a defining moment when the United States took its steps towards the abyss of the monstrous centralised state, rootless society and decadent culture that we have today. In sum, the Confederacy represented much of the Old America that was swept away, and with it went everything meaningful about the constitutional republican system, and the degeneration of that system in the next hundred years was the logical and ultimately unstoppable result of Lincoln’s victory. All of this is in recognition that we are beholden to our ancestors for who we are, and we honour and remember their struggles and accomplishments not only because they can be established as reasonable, good and true but because they are the struggles and accomplishments of our people, who have made this land ours and sanctified it with their blood in defense against the wanton aggression of a barbarous tyranny.

A 1988 edition of the Ron Paul Political Report put this idea much more succinctly:

Beginning with the Civil War and continuing to the present day, advocates of big government have sought to transfer the American people’s loyalty away from Constitutional liberty and to the government.

Larison’s neoconfederate sympathies form a crucial component of the “Old Right” tradition from which Ron Paul emerges. Indeed, the notion that this man is a “libertarian” is laughable; he is an equal mix of the paranoid nativism of Ross Perot, the conspiracy theorizing of Lyndon LaRouche, and the crude populism of Pat Buchanan.

Readers may recall that during the 2000 presidential election, John McCain got himself into serious trouble for far more tenuous ties to neo-Confederates, ties that were also exposed thanks to an article in The New Republic. It’s not my intention to play Kosher Cop (apologies to Larison for using such an un-American word, but my paymasters in Tel Aviv enforce a very strict quota) for the conservative movement. And of course, diversity of political opinion — Larison provides immoderate commentary in spades — is vital in any democracy. But it is inexplicable to me how respectable conservatives make room for views as repellent and noxious as these.

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Gaza Heats Up

It’s been a bad couple of days for Islamic Jihad and Hamas. In response to increased rocket fire from IJ and mortar fire from Hamas, the IDF has conducted air and ground operations in Gaza that demonstrate an impressive combination of precision firepower and deadly accurate intelligence.

Ten Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in two airstrikes Monday night and early this morning, including Majed Harazin, a high-value target, the head of IJ’s kassam rocket squads. You can watch infrared UAV video of his car getting blown up here (and note that the secondary explosions are larger than the explosion caused by the air strike—no doubt about what was in the trunk). Good riddance.

Meanwhile, four members of an IJ rocket crew were killed by IDF ground forces, and another high-value target, IJ’s Jenin commander, was killed in the West Bank. As a contributor to the Israellycool blog points out, the IDF has accomplished all of this without causing a single Palestinian civilian casualty. What other military in the world takes such pains to operate like this?

Islamic Jihad has of course threatened a terrible response:

“We have a long arm. You will soon [experience] strikes similar to those we carried out in Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Eilat,” Abu Hamza said in a message to residents of the towns broadcast on Hamas television, warning that his organization would step up Kassam attacks on Sderot, Ashkelon, Yad Mordechai, and Netivot.

Earlier, in an e-mail sent to reporters, Islamic Jihad said it would retaliate for its losses with suicide attacks inside Israel, threatening “a wave of martyrdom operations.”

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It’s been a bad couple of days for Islamic Jihad and Hamas. In response to increased rocket fire from IJ and mortar fire from Hamas, the IDF has conducted air and ground operations in Gaza that demonstrate an impressive combination of precision firepower and deadly accurate intelligence.

Ten Islamic Jihad terrorists were killed in two airstrikes Monday night and early this morning, including Majed Harazin, a high-value target, the head of IJ’s kassam rocket squads. You can watch infrared UAV video of his car getting blown up here (and note that the secondary explosions are larger than the explosion caused by the air strike—no doubt about what was in the trunk). Good riddance.

Meanwhile, four members of an IJ rocket crew were killed by IDF ground forces, and another high-value target, IJ’s Jenin commander, was killed in the West Bank. As a contributor to the Israellycool blog points out, the IDF has accomplished all of this without causing a single Palestinian civilian casualty. What other military in the world takes such pains to operate like this?

Islamic Jihad has of course threatened a terrible response:

“We have a long arm. You will soon [experience] strikes similar to those we carried out in Tel Aviv, Netanya, and Eilat,” Abu Hamza said in a message to residents of the towns broadcast on Hamas television, warning that his organization would step up Kassam attacks on Sderot, Ashkelon, Yad Mordechai, and Netivot.

Earlier, in an e-mail sent to reporters, Islamic Jihad said it would retaliate for its losses with suicide attacks inside Israel, threatening “a wave of martyrdom operations.”

On the diplomatic front, Israel is doing something shrewd in response to the ongoing Gaza terror offensive—it is bringing hard evidence of Egyptian complicity in weapons smuggling to the U.S. Congress:

The video footage—which allegedly shows Egyptian security forces assisting Hamas terrorists cross illegally into Gaza—is being transferred to Congress through diplomatic channels and is intended for senior congressmen and senators who can have an effect on the House foreign aid appropriations process. Israel believes this can be an effective way of pressuring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak into clamping down on Hamas smuggling activities.

The House and Senate agreed late Sunday on a 2008 foreign aid bill that would hold back $100 million in military aid for Egypt, out of a $1.3 billion allocation, unless US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certifies that concerns about smuggling weapons into Gaza and human rights abuses have been addressed. It is the first time that Egyptian military aid, supplied since the Camp David Accords, would potentially be restricted.

Israel is trying desperately to delay having to undertake a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza, given the current diplomatic circumstances. President Bush is expected to arrive in the region on January 8 to prod Israeli and Palestinian leaders further down the Annapolis rabbit hole, and an Operation Defensive Shield-type incursion into Gaza would be most unwelcome and disruptive to such efforts.

I suspect that Israeli strategists are pursuing a rather clever policy of eliminating Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror leaders in order simultaneously to suppress rocket and mortar fire, and to pressure the terrorists to engage in face-saving, but ineffective, retaliations. The Israelis do not want to deal such a devastating blow that Hamas seeks a cease-fire, which Israel would be pressured to grant, and which would only be used as a hudna, or quiet period, for re-arming and re-organizing. Hamas and IJ will want to mount serious attacks in the weeks preceding Bush’s visit so as to discredit the peace process and steal media and diplomatic attention from the Bush-Olmert-Abbas love-in. We’ll know soon enough if the terrorists’ strategy will work, or whether the IDF will be able to keep Gaza, working externally, at bay.

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Piano Teachers

The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

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The Piano Teacher, by Julia Cho, which opened recently at the Vineyard Theater off-Broadway to mixed reviews, features a haunted keyboard pedagogue with nasty secrets to hide. The Vineyard Theater production benefits from the presence of the veteran actress Elizabeth Franz in the title role of an isolated, shunned teacher who is only marginally more sane than the sado-masochistic piano teacher incarnated by Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 French film of the same title, based on a perverse novel by the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek.

The reiterated imagery of peccant piano instructors is so ingrained in our culture that a Google Search of “piano teacher” by anyone actually trying to learn to play the instrument will bring up references to Jelinek’s book and film, first and foremost. The world of music education as represented by such writers belongs to an earlier, less psychologically acute era. It is a relief to escape such querulous and indeed unmusical paradigms and look at today’s real world of superb piano teachers, who represent a vastly more intriguing, mysterious, and gratifying accomplishment.

Juilliard’s Yoheved “Veda” Kaplinsky, the Tel Aviv-born chair of the school’s piano department, also teaches in the Pre-College division, where some of America’s most astonishing prodigies are currently thriving. One such is Conrad Tao, a pianist and composer born in Illinois in 1994, whose live recordings on CD and video convey a sense of musical line (with the entire score evoked in every measure of a given work) as found only in the greatest musicians. Tao is also a characterful, accomplished composer of charm and nuance; his early compositions on CD sound more adult, individualistic, and masterful than those by any preteen composer I have heard, including Mozart.

One of the most admirable aspects of Tao’s musicality is his collaborative acumen, and another outstanding Kaplinsky pupil, the Chinese pianist Peng-Peng Gong, born in 1992, often plays with Tao, in addition to his solo performances. Such brilliant students are allowed to flower into musical maturity in a healthy, non-neurotic way. Encouraging, rather than stifling, prodigies allows them to develop as artists and human beings, instead of condemning them to becoming the stunted, frustrated, unhappy leftovers, some of whom are alas still present on the concert scene today.

Another outstanding Juilliard piano teacher, Oxana Yablonskaya, is helping to guide the destiny of Alice Burla, born in Toronto in 1997. In such challenging works as Chopin’s “Variations brilliants,” Burla displays the suavity and maturity of an adult musician, quite apart from her fabulous technique. Tao, Peng-Peng, and Burla already are more accomplished artists than a number of adult pianists who trudge around the concert circuit; the challenge for their teachers is clearly not to spoil or discourage their inborn talent. This custodial task of wonderful young talent is far more thrilling than any fictional elaboration of a pathological teacher.

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What’s Up With Itzhak?

The November 12 announcement that star violinist Itzhak Perlman will conduct the Westchester Philharmonic as its artistic director starting with the 2008-09 season should be an occasion for congratulations. The local Journal News likened the star’s move to “Alex Rodriguez’s coming to the New York Yankees or David Beckham’s playing soccer on this side of the Pond” (doubtlessly without any irony about those problematic sports superstars). Perlman told the Journal News: “I’m a bread-and-butter kind of musician. I like to do my Brahmses, my Mozarts, my Tchaikovskys. It’s fun. Here’s a term for you: Call it ‘comfort music.’”

A major star for over 40 years, Perlman deserves his fame, yet some of his recent appearances seem to confuse comfort with mere laxity. This past May, at a sonata recital presented by Lincoln Center’s Great Performances series, Perlman seemed only intermittently focused on the music of Schubert and Richard Strauss. His automatic, visibly bored delivery in solo appearances has been commented on for several years, usually with euphemistic terms like “disengaged.” Part of the problem may be that twenty years ago in recital, Perlman would program composers like Webern and Hindemith, not just “comfort music.”

For a decade, Perlman has also been conducting orchestras from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia to audience cheers, despite mixed artistic results. When he conducted the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on a high-profile 2002 Deutsche Grammophon release with the young violinist Ilya Gringolts, the orchestra sounded shapeless and unruly. In 2005, Perlman made his New York Philharmonic conducting debut, again to a mixed reception.

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The November 12 announcement that star violinist Itzhak Perlman will conduct the Westchester Philharmonic as its artistic director starting with the 2008-09 season should be an occasion for congratulations. The local Journal News likened the star’s move to “Alex Rodriguez’s coming to the New York Yankees or David Beckham’s playing soccer on this side of the Pond” (doubtlessly without any irony about those problematic sports superstars). Perlman told the Journal News: “I’m a bread-and-butter kind of musician. I like to do my Brahmses, my Mozarts, my Tchaikovskys. It’s fun. Here’s a term for you: Call it ‘comfort music.’”

A major star for over 40 years, Perlman deserves his fame, yet some of his recent appearances seem to confuse comfort with mere laxity. This past May, at a sonata recital presented by Lincoln Center’s Great Performances series, Perlman seemed only intermittently focused on the music of Schubert and Richard Strauss. His automatic, visibly bored delivery in solo appearances has been commented on for several years, usually with euphemistic terms like “disengaged.” Part of the problem may be that twenty years ago in recital, Perlman would program composers like Webern and Hindemith, not just “comfort music.”

For a decade, Perlman has also been conducting orchestras from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia to audience cheers, despite mixed artistic results. When he conducted the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto on a high-profile 2002 Deutsche Grammophon release with the young violinist Ilya Gringolts, the orchestra sounded shapeless and unruly. In 2005, Perlman made his New York Philharmonic conducting debut, again to a mixed reception.

Instrumentalists who are “naturals” as conductors are few. One example is Peter Oundjian (born 1955), former first violinist of the Tokyo String Quartet, now Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of New York’s Caramoor Music Festival. Oundjian has proven a passionate maestro with a real sense of symphonic line, who motivates both orchestral musicians and soloists to surpass themselves artistically. A decade older than Oundjian, Perlman may have left playing for conducting a bit late in his career.

Music fans will always rejoice in the best of Perlman’s sweet-toned, dazzlingly effortless playing, which can be heard on a recently reissued 1965 New York recital with pianist David Garvey, and in the delightful camaraderie of Isaac Stern’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, starring the so-called “Kosher Nostra” of Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, et al. Perlman is joyously virtuosic in a 1976 Brahms Violin Concerto conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, in delightful miniatures by Fritz Kreisler, and in a program of rare Romantic works usually only played by students, Concertos from my Childhood.

Itzhak Perlman has won the hearts of a vast music-going public with his emotional playing, indomitable spirit, and sometimes raucous sense of humor. Westchester audiences surely will give him the benefit of the doubt and cheer his on-the-job training as conductor. Yet by the evidence so far, his main achievement looks likely to remain, first and foremost, as a violinist.

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Susceptible to Cyber-Terror

Gabe Schoenfeld has written skeptically about the new Defense Science Board study, which raises alarms about the Department of Defense’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks, especially in light of the fact that so much of our software code is written abroad, “some in countries that may have interests inimical to those of the United States.”

Gabe wonders:

If our adversaries are as good as we are saying they are at exploiting vulnerabilities in our technology, why are their brilliant programmers not going off on freelance missions to tap in, say, to the electronic systems of a Goldman Sachs and transferring its assets to themselves?

The short answer is they are doing precisely that. It’s just that the public doesn’t hear much about it because the targeted institutions want to keep as quiet as possible for obvious reasons, so as not to encourage copycats and not to endanger the confidence of their clients, investors, and counterparties.

The Financial Times broke the story of one such attack that occurred in 2005. Israeli-Russian mobsters based in Tel Aviv succeeded in hacking into the London offices of the Japanese bank Sumitomo, and almost managed to transfer some $500 million to their own bank accounts. According to one account, this was how the operation was carried out:

Thieves masquerading as cleaning staff with the help of a security guard installed hardware keystroke loggers on computers within the London branch of Sumitomo Mitsui, a huge Japanese bank.

These computers evidently belonged to help desk personnel. The keystroke loggers captured everything typed into the computer including, of course, administrative passwords for remote access.

By installing software keystroke loggers on the PC’s that belonged to the bank personnel responsible for wire transfers over the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, the thieves captured credentials that were then used to transfer 220 million pounds (call it half-a-billion dollars).

These thieves were nabbed in time by Scotland Yard, but if they had succeeded it would have been the greatest bank robbery of all time.

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Gabe Schoenfeld has written skeptically about the new Defense Science Board study, which raises alarms about the Department of Defense’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks, especially in light of the fact that so much of our software code is written abroad, “some in countries that may have interests inimical to those of the United States.”

Gabe wonders:

If our adversaries are as good as we are saying they are at exploiting vulnerabilities in our technology, why are their brilliant programmers not going off on freelance missions to tap in, say, to the electronic systems of a Goldman Sachs and transferring its assets to themselves?

The short answer is they are doing precisely that. It’s just that the public doesn’t hear much about it because the targeted institutions want to keep as quiet as possible for obvious reasons, so as not to encourage copycats and not to endanger the confidence of their clients, investors, and counterparties.

The Financial Times broke the story of one such attack that occurred in 2005. Israeli-Russian mobsters based in Tel Aviv succeeded in hacking into the London offices of the Japanese bank Sumitomo, and almost managed to transfer some $500 million to their own bank accounts. According to one account, this was how the operation was carried out:

Thieves masquerading as cleaning staff with the help of a security guard installed hardware keystroke loggers on computers within the London branch of Sumitomo Mitsui, a huge Japanese bank.

These computers evidently belonged to help desk personnel. The keystroke loggers captured everything typed into the computer including, of course, administrative passwords for remote access.

By installing software keystroke loggers on the PC’s that belonged to the bank personnel responsible for wire transfers over the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, the thieves captured credentials that were then used to transfer 220 million pounds (call it half-a-billion dollars).

These thieves were nabbed in time by Scotland Yard, but if they had succeeded it would have been the greatest bank robbery of all time.

There are also, of course, countless cyber-attacks being carried out every day against the information infrastructure of the U.S. and our allies. The most famous of these was the assault by Russian hackers on Estonia’s computers earlier this year. (For details, see here.)

The U.S. is just as vulnerable to such an attack. In fact, as Ralph Peters argues in this New York Post column, our reliance on computer networks and satellites constitutes one of our biggest strategic vulnerabilities. He calls it a “ ‘high-tech’ Maginot Line,” and I would have to agree with him.

The comparison may seem overwrought, but only because no enemy has tried to exploit this vulnerability in a major way. Yet. We do know, however, that China, Russia, and various non-state actors are working to ramp up their capabilities in this sphere. We’d better step up our defenses, or else face the prospect of many of our super-expensive weapons and surveillance systems being rendered useless in a war. There is also the very real threat of cyber-terrorism wreaking havoc with our financial systems. Just imagine what would happen if the fidelity of banking or trading records were compromised on a massive scale: That could be a more severe blow to our economy than the loss of the World Trade Center.

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Syria’s Useful Israeli Idiots

The Syrian state-run propaganda organ Cham Press published a fake story about Lebanese Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt’s supposed plan to meet Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the United States last weekend to coordinate a regime-change in Syria. No Western media organization I know of took this non-story seriously. Israeli media, though, scooped it right up. Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, and Infolive TV published their own articles about the imaginary meeting between Jumblatt and Barak. None had a source for their story other than the Syrian government’s website.

It goes without saying that Israeli journalists aren’t in cahoots with the Baath Party regime in Damascus. Many Israeli reporters and editors, however, are frankly clueless about Lebanese and Syrian politics.

First of all, it is illegal for a Lebanese citizen to speak to an Israeli citizen no matter where in the world their meeting takes place. Even quietly waving hello to an Israeli on the border is treason.

A significant portion of the Lebanese people sided with Israel during the first Lebanon War in 1982, including Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel before he was assassinated. The South Lebanese Army was Israel’s proxy militia in what is now Hizballah-controlled territory, until then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli occupation forces from their “security belt” in South Lebanon in 2000. The draconian law is in place precisely to prevent such sympathizers from working with Israelis against Lebanese.

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The Syrian state-run propaganda organ Cham Press published a fake story about Lebanese Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt’s supposed plan to meet Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the United States last weekend to coordinate a regime-change in Syria. No Western media organization I know of took this non-story seriously. Israeli media, though, scooped it right up. Haaretz, the Jerusalem Post, and Infolive TV published their own articles about the imaginary meeting between Jumblatt and Barak. None had a source for their story other than the Syrian government’s website.

It goes without saying that Israeli journalists aren’t in cahoots with the Baath Party regime in Damascus. Many Israeli reporters and editors, however, are frankly clueless about Lebanese and Syrian politics.

First of all, it is illegal for a Lebanese citizen to speak to an Israeli citizen no matter where in the world their meeting takes place. Even quietly waving hello to an Israeli on the border is treason.

A significant portion of the Lebanese people sided with Israel during the first Lebanon War in 1982, including Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel before he was assassinated. The South Lebanese Army was Israel’s proxy militia in what is now Hizballah-controlled territory, until then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli occupation forces from their “security belt” in South Lebanon in 2000. The draconian law is in place precisely to prevent such sympathizers from working with Israelis against Lebanese.

The law is absurd from the West’s point of view, and from the point of view of many Lebanese, too. Lebanon is “the least anti-Israel Arab country in the world,” as Lebanese political consultant and analyst Eli Khoury told me last year. But Lebanon, despite its moderation outside the Hizballah camp, is still under the shadow of the Syrian-Iranian axis, and remains threatened with de facto re-annexation. The reactionary law is still on the books, and even a leader as prominent as Walid Jumblatt dare not break it.

Jumblatt traveled to Washington this past weekend to give a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which you can read here. After Cham Press published its fabricated story, his office phoned the institute to make sure the Israeli Defense Minister would not be attending. He needed to be sure the two could not even run into each other by accident and make Syria’s bogus assertion look true.

Israeli journalists who “reported” this non-story should have noticed that they published a claim that Jumblatt and Barak will meet in the United States after the meeting was supposed to have already happened. Cham Press said the meeting would take place on Sunday, and Israeli media placed the alleged meeting in the future tense the following Monday.

Re-reporting Syrian lies in the Israeli press makes Cham Press look almost legitimate, its lies almost plausible. This should be obvious, but apparently it isn’t. The Damascus regime knows what it is doing and has been using gullible foreign journalists to its advantage for a while now.

“Regime flacks fed New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh outrageous propaganda about how the United States supposedly supported the Fatah al-Islam terrorists in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in Lebanon,” said Tony Badran, a Lebanese research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Then they quoted his New Yorker story to get themselves diplomatically off the hook for their own support of those terrorists in the camp.”

And here we go again. Cham Press now says Israel’s Omedia reported that Jumblatt met with Barak and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in Washington. Cham Press no longer quotes only itself; it quotes Israeli websites as backup. But the only reason Israeli media reported any of this in the first place is the initial false story appearing in Cham Press. Syrian media is still just quoting itself—only now it does so through Israel.

Jumblatt is near or at the top of Syria’s hit list. No Lebanese leader opposes Syrian terrorism and attempts at overlordship in Lebanon as staunchly as he. His pro-Western “March 14” bloc in parliament is already accused of being a “Zionist hand” by Hizballah and the Syrians. He was the second person Syrian ruler Bashar Assad threatened by name shortly before former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others were assassinated by a truck bomb in downtown Beirut. (“I will break Lebanon over your head and Walid Jumblatt’s,” Assad said to Hariri.) As Tony Badran pointed out to me, the Syrian regime has a habit of planting false stories about Lebanese leaders just before dispatching them with car bombs. The idea of Jumblatt meeting with Barak may seem innocent in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but it marks him for death in Lebanon and in Syria.

Syria is at war with both Israel and Lebanon. Journalists who wish to write about a conspiracy between Israel and Lebanon to destroy the regime in Syria need a better source for that story than the manipulative and murderous Syrian state.

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