Commentary Magazine


Topic: the International Herald Tribune

The Real Victims of Unions’ Anti-Israel Boycotts

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

There is a direct and disturbing link between the growing anti-Israel radicalism of American unions that J.E. Dyer detailed yesterday and the horrific treatment of union activists in Iran described by columnist Sohrab Ahmari in both the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.

Ahmari told of Mansour Osanloo, who had his tongue slit for the crime of organizing “17,000 transport workers to form Iran’s first post-Revolution independent union” in 2005 and is still in jail today. And of teacher Farzad Kamangar, who was executed along with four others for the crime of organizing a nationwide hunger strike by teachers “to protest unpaid wages and the arbitrary detention of teachers who question state education policy.”

The article concluded with a plea: “The Iranian labor movement deserves the support of Western progressives, just as American unions spoke out in support of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity during the 1980s.”

Doing so, Ahmari noted, could help the entire Iranian people throw off the yoke of their repressive regime: Tehran brutally suppresses union activism precisely because “the mullahs know that it took a massive general strike by Iranian workers to finally topple the shah — and usher in their own rise to power.” But union leaders need not support this larger goal in order to feel sympathy for colleagues being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for the crime of seeking higher wages and child-care allowances for female workers, as Osanloo was — or just for seeking to be paid at all, as Kamangar was.

At least, so one would think. But if any unions have responded to Ahmari’s plea, they have done so too far under the media radar for me to have noticed — or in other words, too quietly to make any difference.

In contrast, I can name a long list of labor unions worldwide that have loudly proclaimed planned boycotts of Israel, including Britain’s University and College Union (representing university lecturers), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario branch), the Swedish Port Workers Union, and an Italian food and retailing union (Flaica-Uniti-Cub). Yet Israel not only has dozens of independent and powerful labor unions of its own but also allows the free operation of dozens of independent trade unions in the “occupied territories.” Israel has not even interfered when Palestinian unions elected leaders affiliated with Hamas, despite deeming Hamas an illegal terrorist organization.

And this, of course, is precisely the problem. All human beings have limited time and energy. Thus if American and European union activists focus all their energy on Israel — where union organizers operate freely, with no fear of jail or torture — they have little to spare for those who need them most: their imprisoned, tortured, and executed fellow activists in Iran.

The irony is that Israel hasn’t even suffered much from all these boycotts. Instead, the price is being paid by the Mansour Osanloos and Farzad Kamangars of the world, whose cries for help are going unnoticed amid the din of all the anti-Israel noise.

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Forget Obama: Israel Needs Congress — and American Jews

Jennifer rightly decries Barack Obama’s lack of leadership in stymieing a UN effort to set up an “international inquiry” into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. But Congress need not wait for him to act; it could pressure the UN to desist all by itself, via its power of the purse.

The salient precedent occurred in 1974, when “UNESCO voted to exclude Israel from one of its regional working groups because Israel supposedly altered ‘the historical features of Jerusalem’ during archeological excavations and ‘brainwashed’ Arabs in the occupied territories,” as Front Page magazine recalled in a 2003 essay. Congress retaliated by suspending funding for the organization. UNESCO eventually gave in and readmitted Israel.

The U.S. provides 22 percent of the UN’s budget, so Congress has plenty of leverage. Nor need it threaten to pull the plug on the entire UN: it could deprive some specific UN agency of that 22 percent, as it did with UNESCO in 1974. And because Congress is far more pro-Israel than Obama, trying to work through Congress makes sense.

Even Congress, however, wouldn’t take such a step without strong pressure from American Jews. Jennifer has repeatedly (and rightly) bemoaned this community’s unwillingness to confront Obama, but another issue is at play here, too: American Jews, being overwhelmingly liberal, are reluctant to support an Israeli government that many deem “right-wing” or “hard-line” (to quote the mainstream media’s favorite terms).

What they fail to realize, however, is that even Israel’s left considers a UN inquiry utterly unacceptable. Here, for instance, is what Ze’ev Segal, legal commentator for the far-left daily Haaretz, said on June 4: “Recent experience — both the Goldstone Committee’s report on last year’s war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation fence – shows that international probes related to Israel are irredeemably politically biased, due to the political composition of international bodies like the UN.” And again, two days later: “Israel cannot agree to an international investigation, which would be political and biased.”

Thus, by backing Israel on this issue, American Jews would be supporting not just the government they hate but also the left-wing opposition they adore.

And while American Jews sometimes wonder how much clout they really have under a Democratic administration, the consensus seems to be “plenty.” Consider, for instance, this New York Times piece on Turkey’s radicalization, which quoted unnamed “analysts” as saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior toward Israel “boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.”

Bizarrely, the Web version offers no explanation of this assertion. But in the print version of the Times’ overseas edition, the International Herald Tribune, the next paragraph does: “‘If Obama is faced with the choice of the American Jewish community or Turkey, he’s not going to choose Turkey,’ said a former American diplomat.”

The same would undoubtedly be true were Obama faced with a choice between American Jews and a UN flotilla inquiry. Unfortunately, American Jews have yet to present him with such a choice.

Jennifer rightly decries Barack Obama’s lack of leadership in stymieing a UN effort to set up an “international inquiry” into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. But Congress need not wait for him to act; it could pressure the UN to desist all by itself, via its power of the purse.

The salient precedent occurred in 1974, when “UNESCO voted to exclude Israel from one of its regional working groups because Israel supposedly altered ‘the historical features of Jerusalem’ during archeological excavations and ‘brainwashed’ Arabs in the occupied territories,” as Front Page magazine recalled in a 2003 essay. Congress retaliated by suspending funding for the organization. UNESCO eventually gave in and readmitted Israel.

The U.S. provides 22 percent of the UN’s budget, so Congress has plenty of leverage. Nor need it threaten to pull the plug on the entire UN: it could deprive some specific UN agency of that 22 percent, as it did with UNESCO in 1974. And because Congress is far more pro-Israel than Obama, trying to work through Congress makes sense.

Even Congress, however, wouldn’t take such a step without strong pressure from American Jews. Jennifer has repeatedly (and rightly) bemoaned this community’s unwillingness to confront Obama, but another issue is at play here, too: American Jews, being overwhelmingly liberal, are reluctant to support an Israeli government that many deem “right-wing” or “hard-line” (to quote the mainstream media’s favorite terms).

What they fail to realize, however, is that even Israel’s left considers a UN inquiry utterly unacceptable. Here, for instance, is what Ze’ev Segal, legal commentator for the far-left daily Haaretz, said on June 4: “Recent experience — both the Goldstone Committee’s report on last year’s war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation fence – shows that international probes related to Israel are irredeemably politically biased, due to the political composition of international bodies like the UN.” And again, two days later: “Israel cannot agree to an international investigation, which would be political and biased.”

Thus, by backing Israel on this issue, American Jews would be supporting not just the government they hate but also the left-wing opposition they adore.

And while American Jews sometimes wonder how much clout they really have under a Democratic administration, the consensus seems to be “plenty.” Consider, for instance, this New York Times piece on Turkey’s radicalization, which quoted unnamed “analysts” as saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior toward Israel “boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.”

Bizarrely, the Web version offers no explanation of this assertion. But in the print version of the Times’ overseas edition, the International Herald Tribune, the next paragraph does: “‘If Obama is faced with the choice of the American Jewish community or Turkey, he’s not going to choose Turkey,’ said a former American diplomat.”

The same would undoubtedly be true were Obama faced with a choice between American Jews and a UN flotilla inquiry. Unfortunately, American Jews have yet to present him with such a choice.

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The Israeli Punditry’s Own Goal

Though Barack Obama bears primary responsibility for fumbling the ball on Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli punditry has played a non-negligible supporting role.

Even before Hillary Clinton openly disavowed the possibility last week, U.S. military action against Iran was never a very credible threat, given Obama’s visible distaste for the idea. That left Israel as the only credible military threat. And without such a threat, no nonmilitary solution is possible — something even the Obama administration now tacitly acknowledges. As the New York Times reported this month, the administration’s main argument in trying to persuade China to back tough sanctions is that otherwise Israel is likely to bomb Iran, and the resultant instability in a major oil-producing region would be far worse for Chinese business than sanctions would. Thus, everyone who favors a nonmilitary solution to the Iranian problem has a vested interest in keeping the Israeli threat as credible as possible.

Incredibly, Obama has been doing the exact opposite. It’s hard for administration officials to persuade either Tehran or Beijing to take the Israeli threat seriously while simultaneously proclaiming Obama’s determination to stop Israel from carrying it out. But that makes it all the more important for Israel to project willingness and ability to strike Iran whether Washington likes it or not — which Israel has tried to do.

Unfortunately, Israel’s efforts have been undercut by a string of academic and media pundits proclaiming that Israel cannot possibly strike Iran without U.S. permission. A typical example is the editorial Haaretz published last Tuesday, reprinted by the International Herald Tribune two days later. Explaining why Israel has “no better option” than to sit quietly and hope Obama’s efforts succeed, it declared: “Israel will need full American support for any actions it may decide to take against the Iranian threat. If Israel goes to war, it will need intelligence help, prior warning, military equipment and diplomatic support from the United States.” The obvious corollary is that Israel cannot go to war without American support.

Such assessments are almost certainly wrong: Israeli governments have rarely heeded American vetoes when they felt a vital Israeli security interest was at stake, and it’s hard to imagine a more vital Israeli interest than keeping Iran from getting the bomb. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Haaretz is widely viewed by overseas journalists and diplomats as a credible interpreter of the Israeli scene. And therefore, such assertions lead Iran and China to believe that as long as Obama remains unalterably opposed to an Israeli strike, they need not fear one. Hence, Iran can safely continue its nuclear program, and China can safely continue stymieing international sanctions.

Those who make such statements generally believe an Israeli strike would be disastrous and seek to prevent it. But by making the Iranians and Chinese feel they have nothing to fear, these pundits actually make it more likely that nonmilitary efforts will fail, leaving Israel with no choice but military action. Thus their ill-considered words may end up bringing about the very scenario they dread most.

Though Barack Obama bears primary responsibility for fumbling the ball on Iran’s nuclear program, the Israeli punditry has played a non-negligible supporting role.

Even before Hillary Clinton openly disavowed the possibility last week, U.S. military action against Iran was never a very credible threat, given Obama’s visible distaste for the idea. That left Israel as the only credible military threat. And without such a threat, no nonmilitary solution is possible — something even the Obama administration now tacitly acknowledges. As the New York Times reported this month, the administration’s main argument in trying to persuade China to back tough sanctions is that otherwise Israel is likely to bomb Iran, and the resultant instability in a major oil-producing region would be far worse for Chinese business than sanctions would. Thus, everyone who favors a nonmilitary solution to the Iranian problem has a vested interest in keeping the Israeli threat as credible as possible.

Incredibly, Obama has been doing the exact opposite. It’s hard for administration officials to persuade either Tehran or Beijing to take the Israeli threat seriously while simultaneously proclaiming Obama’s determination to stop Israel from carrying it out. But that makes it all the more important for Israel to project willingness and ability to strike Iran whether Washington likes it or not — which Israel has tried to do.

Unfortunately, Israel’s efforts have been undercut by a string of academic and media pundits proclaiming that Israel cannot possibly strike Iran without U.S. permission. A typical example is the editorial Haaretz published last Tuesday, reprinted by the International Herald Tribune two days later. Explaining why Israel has “no better option” than to sit quietly and hope Obama’s efforts succeed, it declared: “Israel will need full American support for any actions it may decide to take against the Iranian threat. If Israel goes to war, it will need intelligence help, prior warning, military equipment and diplomatic support from the United States.” The obvious corollary is that Israel cannot go to war without American support.

Such assessments are almost certainly wrong: Israeli governments have rarely heeded American vetoes when they felt a vital Israeli security interest was at stake, and it’s hard to imagine a more vital Israeli interest than keeping Iran from getting the bomb. But that doesn’t matter.

What matters is that Haaretz is widely viewed by overseas journalists and diplomats as a credible interpreter of the Israeli scene. And therefore, such assertions lead Iran and China to believe that as long as Obama remains unalterably opposed to an Israeli strike, they need not fear one. Hence, Iran can safely continue its nuclear program, and China can safely continue stymieing international sanctions.

Those who make such statements generally believe an Israeli strike would be disastrous and seek to prevent it. But by making the Iranians and Chinese feel they have nothing to fear, these pundits actually make it more likely that nonmilitary efforts will fail, leaving Israel with no choice but military action. Thus their ill-considered words may end up bringing about the very scenario they dread most.

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Can the Palestinians Recite Them, Too?

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

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Not Good Sports

The State Department has released its annual report on human rights around the world. It’s not going to offer any comfort to those who, like the International Olympic Committee or President Bush, believe that the Games are forcing the Chinese to take human rights more seriously, or that the Olympics are just about sports.

Given the rise of lawless government in Russia and Pakistan, the fact that China was dropped from list of the ten worst abusers is nothing to be proud of: this is classic grading on a curve. When you move to on the ground realities, the report notes that, far from China opening up as the Game draw nearer, “The government [has] tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, particularly in anticipation of and during sensitive events, including increased efforts to control and censor the Internet.” It also mentions the reports of large-scale forced relocations in Beijing to make way for Olympic projects.

None of this is going to make the slightest impression on the IOC, or on U.S. participation in the Games. And to anyone who has been awake for the past sixty years, the IOC could hardly be more discredited than it already is. As Arch Puddington pointed out in November, there is nothing new about the IOC truckling to dictators. What the IOC prizes most in a host country is not human rights: it’s order.

This is why the IOC has such an ambivalent relationship with the U.S., which on the one hand is the source of a lot of corporate money, but on the other is a disorderly place where institutions like State publish critical reports on China, and where the press exposes the IOC’s love of bribes, as it did before the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The kind of press the IOC likes is well-illustrated by the International Herald Tribune‘s story on the report, which editorializes furiously that Iraq and Afghanistan “account for a huge chunk of the U.S. defense budget, and a disproportionate amount of diplomatic attention and resources.” For both the IOC and the Tribune, the problem is not what’s going on: the problem is that people persist in talking and trying to do something about it.

The State Department has released its annual report on human rights around the world. It’s not going to offer any comfort to those who, like the International Olympic Committee or President Bush, believe that the Games are forcing the Chinese to take human rights more seriously, or that the Olympics are just about sports.

Given the rise of lawless government in Russia and Pakistan, the fact that China was dropped from list of the ten worst abusers is nothing to be proud of: this is classic grading on a curve. When you move to on the ground realities, the report notes that, far from China opening up as the Game draw nearer, “The government [has] tightened restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, particularly in anticipation of and during sensitive events, including increased efforts to control and censor the Internet.” It also mentions the reports of large-scale forced relocations in Beijing to make way for Olympic projects.

None of this is going to make the slightest impression on the IOC, or on U.S. participation in the Games. And to anyone who has been awake for the past sixty years, the IOC could hardly be more discredited than it already is. As Arch Puddington pointed out in November, there is nothing new about the IOC truckling to dictators. What the IOC prizes most in a host country is not human rights: it’s order.

This is why the IOC has such an ambivalent relationship with the U.S., which on the one hand is the source of a lot of corporate money, but on the other is a disorderly place where institutions like State publish critical reports on China, and where the press exposes the IOC’s love of bribes, as it did before the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

The kind of press the IOC likes is well-illustrated by the International Herald Tribune‘s story on the report, which editorializes furiously that Iraq and Afghanistan “account for a huge chunk of the U.S. defense budget, and a disproportionate amount of diplomatic attention and resources.” For both the IOC and the Tribune, the problem is not what’s going on: the problem is that people persist in talking and trying to do something about it.

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Anyone Seen Bill?

The directive may have come from Hillary’s campaign or it may have been doctor’s orders, but boilin’ Bill Clinton has been officially benched. Here’s the International Herald Tribune:

He is being kept as far from the media as possible to prevent any more of the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades and freelance political commentary that polls say cost Hillary Rodham Clinton a lot of support, particularly among black voters.

So what audiences in venues like Lancaster, a working-class town of 33,000 about 35 miles, about 55 kilometers, southeast of Columbus, are seeing is a subdued and substantive former president going on at length about Iraq, health care, education, job creation and what he portrays as the multiple sins of the Bush administration.

Okay, not benched—sent down to the minors. It certainly took the Clintons long enough to face up to the fact that Bill was not being received with the public adoration they thought his due. The Tribune reports that in a December New York Times/CBS News Poll, 44 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for Hillary because of her husband and 7 seven percent said he made them less likely to do so. In the latest such poll, respondents were split evenly at 22 percent in each category.

Since Bill has been demoted from the main room to the lounge, Hillary has made the mistake of embodying the traits that seemingly turned her husband’s fans against him: the divisiveness, sense of entitlement, scolding, baiting, and general propensity for playing the victim don’t look much better on her. I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that if she too went into hiding for a while, her numbers might jump.

The directive may have come from Hillary’s campaign or it may have been doctor’s orders, but boilin’ Bill Clinton has been officially benched. Here’s the International Herald Tribune:

He is being kept as far from the media as possible to prevent any more of the red-faced, finger-wagging tirades and freelance political commentary that polls say cost Hillary Rodham Clinton a lot of support, particularly among black voters.

So what audiences in venues like Lancaster, a working-class town of 33,000 about 35 miles, about 55 kilometers, southeast of Columbus, are seeing is a subdued and substantive former president going on at length about Iraq, health care, education, job creation and what he portrays as the multiple sins of the Bush administration.

Okay, not benched—sent down to the minors. It certainly took the Clintons long enough to face up to the fact that Bill was not being received with the public adoration they thought his due. The Tribune reports that in a December New York Times/CBS News Poll, 44 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for Hillary because of her husband and 7 seven percent said he made them less likely to do so. In the latest such poll, respondents were split evenly at 22 percent in each category.

Since Bill has been demoted from the main room to the lounge, Hillary has made the mistake of embodying the traits that seemingly turned her husband’s fans against him: the divisiveness, sense of entitlement, scolding, baiting, and general propensity for playing the victim don’t look much better on her. I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that if she too went into hiding for a while, her numbers might jump.

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Lessing Earns Her Nobel

The Nobel Prize has become little more than an award offered in recognition of outspoken anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-Israel bile. Whether the recipient is Yasser Arafat or Al Gore (for Peace) or Harold Pinter (for Literature), the ideological thread that links the winners is visible in varying degrees: America is either on the wrong track or apocalyptically on the wrong track, and Israel was never on the right one.

So, when Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature, Christopher Hitchens, a Nobel detractor and a big Lessing fan, wrote: “It’s as though the long, dreary reign of the forgettable and the mediocre and the sinister had been just for once punctuated by a bright flash of talent.”

It turns out the Nobel Committee must have known something Hitchens didn’t, because since receiving the award, Ms. Lessing has seen to her “sinister” duties retroactively, as it were. In October of 2007, the BBC quoted Lessing on 9/11: “Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think.” Additionally, she described Americans as “very naïve people.” Today, the International Herald Tribune quotes Lessing predicting the assassination of a President Barack Obama: “He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him.” One supposes this has to do with those American propensities for alarm and naïveté.

Do you think the Nobel Committee made an arrangement with Doris Lessing beforehand?

The Nobel Prize has become little more than an award offered in recognition of outspoken anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-Israel bile. Whether the recipient is Yasser Arafat or Al Gore (for Peace) or Harold Pinter (for Literature), the ideological thread that links the winners is visible in varying degrees: America is either on the wrong track or apocalyptically on the wrong track, and Israel was never on the right one.

So, when Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature, Christopher Hitchens, a Nobel detractor and a big Lessing fan, wrote: “It’s as though the long, dreary reign of the forgettable and the mediocre and the sinister had been just for once punctuated by a bright flash of talent.”

It turns out the Nobel Committee must have known something Hitchens didn’t, because since receiving the award, Ms. Lessing has seen to her “sinister” duties retroactively, as it were. In October of 2007, the BBC quoted Lessing on 9/11: “Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think.” Additionally, she described Americans as “very naïve people.” Today, the International Herald Tribune quotes Lessing predicting the assassination of a President Barack Obama: “He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him.” One supposes this has to do with those American propensities for alarm and naïveté.

Do you think the Nobel Committee made an arrangement with Doris Lessing beforehand?

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“Hamas Is Not the IRA”

Last month, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, had an instructive piece in the International Herald Tribune. In it, he makes an argument that Israeli ambassadors to the Emerald Isle have likely long had to make to well-intentioned Irish observers of the Arab-Israeli conflict: “Hamas is not the IRA.” Evrony writes:

One of the main differences between Hamas and the IRA is the role played by religion in their ideologies. While most IRA members were Catholic and religion was a factor, its political platform and vision was the unification of the island of Ireland, not defined in religious terms. The religious beliefs of its members did not block the way to a political compromise.

By contrast, the ideology of Hamas is defined in absolutist religious terms, that of a radical version of Islam, which is not open to influence or change. The political vision and religious belief of Hamas are one and the same; therefore, change is unlikely.

Democratic engagement and disarmament—while taking decades to achieve—nonetheless eventually succeeded in Northern Ireland because neither the IRA nor the loyalist elements adhered to the type of fascist dogma which is an inherent feature of Islamism. While the IRA set as its ultimate goal an autonomous, united Ireland, and Hamas a “Palestine” without Israel, the former has made a good-faith effort to see that goal achieved through democratic processes, while Article 13 of the Hamas Charter states that such processes “are no more than a means to appoint the unbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam.” Moreover, a united Ireland would not expel its Protestants. The same cannot be said for the “bi-national” Palestinian state, where Jews would be left to the tender mercies of Hamas.

The burgeoning field of “conflict resolution studies,” taught at prestigious educational institutions around the world, seeks to apply the lessons of political and ethno-religious strife in one region—sometimes wholly devoid of cultural context or time period—to disputes in other parts of the world. Attempts to compare the Northern Ireland peace process (as well as the negotiated end to apartheid in South Africa) to the Arab-Israeli conflict are ultimately wrongheaded: they consciously downplay the existence of religious fanaticism. And such fanaticism, though it played next to no role in The Troubles or in South Africa, is the the central feature of the Muslim world’s long rejection of Jews in its midst.

Last month, Israel’s ambassador to Ireland, Zion Evrony, had an instructive piece in the International Herald Tribune. In it, he makes an argument that Israeli ambassadors to the Emerald Isle have likely long had to make to well-intentioned Irish observers of the Arab-Israeli conflict: “Hamas is not the IRA.” Evrony writes:

One of the main differences between Hamas and the IRA is the role played by religion in their ideologies. While most IRA members were Catholic and religion was a factor, its political platform and vision was the unification of the island of Ireland, not defined in religious terms. The religious beliefs of its members did not block the way to a political compromise.

By contrast, the ideology of Hamas is defined in absolutist religious terms, that of a radical version of Islam, which is not open to influence or change. The political vision and religious belief of Hamas are one and the same; therefore, change is unlikely.

Democratic engagement and disarmament—while taking decades to achieve—nonetheless eventually succeeded in Northern Ireland because neither the IRA nor the loyalist elements adhered to the type of fascist dogma which is an inherent feature of Islamism. While the IRA set as its ultimate goal an autonomous, united Ireland, and Hamas a “Palestine” without Israel, the former has made a good-faith effort to see that goal achieved through democratic processes, while Article 13 of the Hamas Charter states that such processes “are no more than a means to appoint the unbelievers as arbitrators in the lands of Islam.” Moreover, a united Ireland would not expel its Protestants. The same cannot be said for the “bi-national” Palestinian state, where Jews would be left to the tender mercies of Hamas.

The burgeoning field of “conflict resolution studies,” taught at prestigious educational institutions around the world, seeks to apply the lessons of political and ethno-religious strife in one region—sometimes wholly devoid of cultural context or time period—to disputes in other parts of the world. Attempts to compare the Northern Ireland peace process (as well as the negotiated end to apartheid in South Africa) to the Arab-Israeli conflict are ultimately wrongheaded: they consciously downplay the existence of religious fanaticism. And such fanaticism, though it played next to no role in The Troubles or in South Africa, is the the central feature of the Muslim world’s long rejection of Jews in its midst.

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Rafsanjani, “Moderate”

Today’s print edition of the International Herald Tribune—the New York Times-owned international paper—has an article by Michael Slackman on Hashemi Rafsanjani’s election as the new leader of Iran’s Assembly of Experts. Its title, in the print edition, runs “Moderate wins Iran election.” (In the online edition, the article has a different title, strangely.) It’s often a mistake to look for convoluted explanations where none may be found. Still, we’d like to know who decided that Rafsanjani is a “moderate,” and how they arrived at that decision. After all, it was Rafsanjani who said that

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.

Is it this (rather peculiar) interpretation of nuclear deterrence that makes him a moderate?

Today’s print edition of the International Herald Tribune—the New York Times-owned international paper—has an article by Michael Slackman on Hashemi Rafsanjani’s election as the new leader of Iran’s Assembly of Experts. Its title, in the print edition, runs “Moderate wins Iran election.” (In the online edition, the article has a different title, strangely.) It’s often a mistake to look for convoluted explanations where none may be found. Still, we’d like to know who decided that Rafsanjani is a “moderate,” and how they arrived at that decision. After all, it was Rafsanjani who said that

If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel, but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.

Is it this (rather peculiar) interpretation of nuclear deterrence that makes him a moderate?

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Hamas and the Europeans

Noting that the EU had been accused of being too pro-Israel by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, I recently wrote that

it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Despite shows of unity with their U.S. partners, the Europeans are doing just that, now that the Palestinian “national unity” government is in place. The foreign minister of Norway traveled to Gaza to confer with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, after Norway’s government recognized the new executive.
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Noting that the EU had been accused of being too pro-Israel by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, I recently wrote that

it seems more and more possible that the recent period of relative quiet with respect to Israel might in itself suffice for Hamas to win a hearing in Europe. If money were to begin flowing again into government coffers in Gaza, the “moderates” can argue, it would strengthen their hold on the PA and make it possible, at long last, for the government to meet the Quartet’s three demands. Hamas would not even have to say this much, only to make the EU believe that this might happen at some point in the future. The EU’s readiness for a diplomatic fire sale is already evident, with France and the UK leading the push to set aside the Quartet’s three burdensome preconditions.

Despite shows of unity with their U.S. partners, the Europeans are doing just that, now that the Palestinian “national unity” government is in place. The foreign minister of Norway traveled to Gaza to confer with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, after Norway’s government recognized the new executive.

Rumor has it that the next Norwegian diplomatic move was a phone call to the EU’s foreign policy czar, Javier Solana, asking EU states to emulate Norway (which is not a member). The EU chose caution instead: it would judge the new government by its deeds, a spokesman said, not only by its words. Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, visiting Ramallah last Friday, reiterated this message. But he did so at a joint press conference with the new Palestinian foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr. And Italy’s undersecretary for foreign affairs, Vittorio Craxi, called Haniyeh “in his personal capacity,” but did not pay an official visit.

Next, it was the turn of Marc Otte, the EU special envoy to the Middle East, who met the new PA finance minister, Salam Fayyad (as did the U.S. consul in Jerusalem). As the International Herald Tribune reports, the Swedish foreign minister is next; the Swiss and Russian ambassadors will also meet Fayyad. Switzerland and France have invited him to visit; the UK announced that it, too, will speak to non-Hamas ministers.

Unlike Norway, the EU still has a few problems talking to the PA while Hamas is part of the government: Hamas, after all, is on the EU terror list. And the Quartet, at least officially, still stands by the Roadmap and the three preconditions that any PA government must meet for the international embargo on aid and dialogue to be ended.

But even Europe’s modest overtures are quite astonishing when one considers how Hamas itself views the new “unity” government: as the group’s leaders have repeatedly emphasized, “resistance” in all its forms will continue. True to form, Hamas followed words with deeds, and proceeded to claim responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli worker only two days after the government was sworn in.

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News from the Continent: False Prophets

The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.

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The new anti-Semitism described by Alvin H. Rosenfeld in a controversial essay published by the American Jewish Committee is not a myth, as his critics would have us believe. It is, sadly, all too real a phenomenon. If one criticism can be levelled at Rosenfeld’s essay on the succor that anti-Semitism receives from the anti-Israel rhetoric of liberal Jewish intellectuals, it is that his pool of examples, with the single exception of the British academic Jacqueline Rose, is drawn exclusively from the U.S. In fact, the emergence of Jewish voices demonizing Israel (and making condemnation of Israel, in some cases, their only expression of Jewish identity) is not unique to America.

This phenomenon is well known in Europe. If Rosenfeld ever publishes a second version of his essay, he will not have any difficulty bringing in literally dozens of additional examples. The continental landscape is littered with Jewish intellectuals engaged in exactly the kind of rhetoric he criticizes.

One of their newest outlets is Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), an organization now bidding to be the voice of Anglo-Jewry, as evidenced by its role in a debate hosted last week by the ultraliberal Guardian blog, Comment Is Free. Having taken part in this debate, I will not repeat what I said there. But a few more considerations are in order, as they apply to the debate triggered in America by Rosenfeld’s essay.


First, the oft-repeated claim (framed in identical terms by both IJV and New York University professor and leading anti-Zionist Tony Judt) that the views of anti-Zionists are being censored is risible. Jaqueline Rose’s The Question of Zion was published by Princeton University Press, not by the Jewish underground in Warsaw circa 1943. Judt’s tirades against Israel feature in the New York Review of Books (and Haaretz, no less). The price that Jimmy Carter has paid for his book is, aside from exactly the robust debate he wished to trigger, a hefty financial gain from over a half million copies sold. Not exactly, in other words, the fate of beleaguered dissenters.

As for IJV, the percentage of professors in its membership suggests that establishment figures with access to mainstream publishing options predominate over the disenfranchised and voiceless. Antony Lerman, for example, is the director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, a once-serious Jewish think tank based in London, and a frequent guest at the court of London’s radical mayor, Ken Livingstone. IJV’s initiator, Brian Klug, and his colleague Avi Shlaim are both Oxford dons. Shlaim routinely publishes in the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune, and the London Review of Books (the same journal that published John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s “The Israel Lobby”). It is hard to pretend, with such credentials, that IJV does not enjoy all the privileges of membership in Britain’s intellectual establishment. How can these people claim that their views are suppressed? What they really object to, it seems, is the fact that their views are challenged.

The claim that these anti-Zionist Jewish intellectuals are dissidents whose daring words against Israel are an act of courage is absurd. By posing as victims, these quintessential establishment figures wish to hide their intolerance for opponents. Demonizing their opponents as the enemies of free speech and human rights serves, as University of London professor David Hirsh remarked in the IJV debate, one purpose only: to create a self-mythologizing narrative of resistance, through which liberals can reclaim their role as the enlightened but stifled vanguard.

Through their self-nomination as the true heirs of the biblical prophets, Lerman, Klug, and company demonstrate a complete ignorance of what the prophets actually stood for. They claim that the essence of Judaism lies in fighting for social justice, human rights, and pacifism. Yet the prophets they invoke—as even a cursory reading of scripture will demonstrate—were neither pacifists nor champions of human rights, but rather advocates of absolute rule by the divine, a system hardly palatable to the modern Left.

Such a clumsy effort at biblical interpretation reveals more than ignorance of Jewish thought. It shows that, for this class of liberal Jewish intellectuals, being Jewish is equivalent to being progressive. And if this is the case, then the converse must also be true: to be a progressive is to be Jewish. These days, most self-respecting progressive thinkers view Israel, the nation-state of the Jews, as nothing other than an embarrassment and “an anachronism,” as Judt wrote. Small wonder, then, that Jewish intellectuals avid of membership in the liberal elite must denounce Israel.

But surely the real question is not whether pro-Israel views are mainstream in the Jewish world; nor is it fruitful to debate who censors whom in the Jewish battle of ideas over Jewish identity and the place Israel occupies in that battle. The real question is whether liberal Jewish intellectuals, by speaking against Israel, merely exercise their freedom of speech, or whether by doing so they offer succor to Israel’s enemies.

The answer to this question is, sadly, the latter. The most extreme views of Israel, including distortions, fabrications, and double standards aimed at demonizing the Jewish state and providing a mandate for its destruction, become legitimate once Jews endorse them. This alibi—i.e., that Jews themselves level these criticisms—becomes a vital tool for those who harbor the oldest hatred but cannot freely express it. The cover offered by liberal Jews enables the anti-Semites, under the pretext of anti-Zionism, to attack all other Jews who fail to comply with the political orthodoxy of the age.

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