Commentary Magazine


Topic: France

A French Dissent From Obama’s Iran Deal Party Line

The Obama administration party line on the Iran deal couldn’t be any clearer. Everyone from President Obama to Secretary of State John Kerry to the actors reading from a simplistic script in an agitprop advertisement extolling the agreement’s virtues have all been consistent on one thing: The only alternative to the deal is war. Any hope of getting a better agreement that would provide genuine scrutiny of their nuclear program or eliminate its infrastructure and ability to do research that will make a bomb a simple thing once this pact expires is, as Kerry keeps telling us, a “unicorn.” According to the president, 99 percent of the world (with the one percent being limited to Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress) agrees with this, especially America’s European allies who were crucial to the implementation of sanctions on Iran. But, as Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin reports, the French government may actually believe that a better deal is still possible even in the event that Congress votes the agreement down.

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The Obama administration party line on the Iran deal couldn’t be any clearer. Everyone from President Obama to Secretary of State John Kerry to the actors reading from a simplistic script in an agitprop advertisement extolling the agreement’s virtues have all been consistent on one thing: The only alternative to the deal is war. Any hope of getting a better agreement that would provide genuine scrutiny of their nuclear program or eliminate its infrastructure and ability to do research that will make a bomb a simple thing once this pact expires is, as Kerry keeps telling us, a “unicorn.” According to the president, 99 percent of the world (with the one percent being limited to Israel and pro-Israel members of Congress) agrees with this, especially America’s European allies who were crucial to the implementation of sanctions on Iran. But, as Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin reports, the French government may actually believe that a better deal is still possible even in the event that Congress votes the agreement down.

This crack in the supposedly solid wall of support for the notion that there is no alternative to the deal comes at an unfortunate moment for the administration. The polls are showing that voters aren’t happy with the deal and Congressional Republicans seem certain to vote it down, leaving the outcome in the hands of a few Democrats whose support will be necessary for an override of an expected Obama veto. The best argument for the deal isn’t on its merits since even most Democrats know it falls far short of what the administration had set as its goals when this process began. But the notion that there is no alternative and that all of our allies will immediately abandon the U.S. position if Congress votes the deal down is persuasive to many. But what if that isn’t so?

That’s the upshot of Rogin’s piece, which reports that Jacques Audibert, the senior diplomatic advisor to French President Francois Hollande told two members of Congress that Kerry’s predictions were false. As Rogin writes:

According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.

“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” [Democratic Rep. Loretta] Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”

The French embassy denied the report, but Sanchez and Rogin are obviously telling the truth about a moment of refreshing candor from Audibert.

Kerry told Congress there’s no way he could go back to Iran for a better deal and that Europe, which is eager to start doing business with the Islamist regime, would not support any effort to strengthen its terms. But the French, who reportedly took a tougher stand at some points during the negotiations than the Americans, know that this isn’t true.

This is an important admission that proves a better deal is no unicorn. In fact, it goes to the heart of everything that was wrong about the administration’s approach to the negotiations. Every time the Iranians said “no” during the last two and a half years — whether it concerned their right to enrich uranium, the extent of their nuclear infrastructure, inspections, an agreement that expired rather than was permanent, past military research and a host of other issues — Obama and Kerry simply backed down. They did so because they told themselves that there was no alternative short of war. But what was really animating their decision was, contrary to their promises, a belief that any deal at any price was better than none at all.

This means that, if they are capable of resisting partisan pressures, Congressional Democrats should be able to vote “no” on the deal with an easy conscience. The talk about war being the only other option has always been a big lie. It was Obama who fecklessly threw away the West’s enormous economic and political leverage over Iran when he signed the interim agreement that began the process of dismantling sanctions and giving approval to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But a return to the negotiating table would provide the Islamist regime with a wake-up call because it would force them to realize that a pushover president isn’t calling all the shots and able to ram through an agreement based on appeasement, rather than a defense of U.S. interests.

There were already a lot of good reasons for Congress to vote down the deal. But with this embarrassing French dissent from Obama’s talking points, it just received one more that ought, if Democrats are being honest about making their decisions on the basis of what is good for U.S. security, persuade fair-minded members to tell the president that this weak deal isn’t good enough.

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It’s Not France, But an Obama Diktat That Israel Fears

With Western nations concentrating on finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran this month, efforts to restart the Israel-Palestinian peace talks have been relegated to the diplomatic back burner. Even President Obama, who made the creation of a Palestinian state a priority from his first moment in office appears to have accepted that further efforts on that front will have to wait until after his cherished new entente with Tehran is safely signed and then ratified by Congress (or saved by a presidential veto). But Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister was in the Middle East this past weekend giving Israelis a sneak preview of what they can expect once appeasement of Iran is checked off on the West’s to-do-list. Once the dust settles on Iran, France is expected to propose a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would seek to impose a framework on future negotiations with the Palestinians. Such a framework would likely make the 1967 lines the basis of talks and treat Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem a foregone conclusion making it unlikely that the Palestinians would budge an inch on any vital issue. Israel would not have greeted this news happily under any circumstances, but it so happened that Fabius arrived just after a series of terror attacks on Jews that illustrated just how dangerous any such unilateral concessions on Israel’s part would be.

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With Western nations concentrating on finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran this month, efforts to restart the Israel-Palestinian peace talks have been relegated to the diplomatic back burner. Even President Obama, who made the creation of a Palestinian state a priority from his first moment in office appears to have accepted that further efforts on that front will have to wait until after his cherished new entente with Tehran is safely signed and then ratified by Congress (or saved by a presidential veto). But Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister was in the Middle East this past weekend giving Israelis a sneak preview of what they can expect once appeasement of Iran is checked off on the West’s to-do-list. Once the dust settles on Iran, France is expected to propose a resolution in the United Nations Security Council that would seek to impose a framework on future negotiations with the Palestinians. Such a framework would likely make the 1967 lines the basis of talks and treat Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem a foregone conclusion making it unlikely that the Palestinians would budge an inch on any vital issue. Israel would not have greeted this news happily under any circumstances, but it so happened that Fabius arrived just after a series of terror attacks on Jews that illustrated just how dangerous any such unilateral concessions on Israel’s part would be.

On Friday, one Israeli was killed and another wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank applauded by Hamas. On Sunday, a West Bank Palestinian stabbed an Israeli policeman in Jerusalem in another of what are actually fairly routine incidents of terror. Though the Netanyahu has recently relaxed security measures intended to forestall such attacks, Palestinian assaults on Israelis are so commonplace that U.S. newspapers like the New York Times mention them only in passing and sometimes not all.

While a two-state solution would be ideal and is favored, at least in principle, by most Israelis, terror incidents highlight why large majorities regard the prospect of a complete withdrawal from the West Bank or a partition of Jerusalem are seen as madness. It’s not just that the Palestinian Authority has repeatedly shown that it has no intention of ever recognizing the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. Nor that Hamas, though it might endorse a continuation of the cease-fire along the Gaza border is utterly committed to war to destroy Israel. It’s also that both the PA and its Hamas rivals routinely broadcast hate and sympathy for terrorists who slaughter Jews. It is that culture of violence and rejection of coexistence still governs Palestinian politics making a two-state solution impossible even if their leaders were prepared to try to make peace.

As President Obama’s fruitless attempts to tilt the diplomatic playing field in the Palestinians’ direction showed over the last six years, more initiatives aimed at pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians actually lessened the chances of peace rather than strengthening them. That’s because each such gesture that demonstrated the unfortunate daylight that Michael Oren wrote about in his memoir only convinced the Palestinians that they need only wait for the West to deliver Israel’s surrender to them on a silver platter. That’s as true today as it has ever been.

The danger here is not just of French or European meddling that will encourage the Palestinians to keep refusing to return to direct negotiations with Israel. It’s that a proposal put forward in the next few months (assuming that Iran is off the table by then) will give President Obama a chance to demonstrate whether the off-the-record comments of administration aides that predict a U.S. abandonment of Israel at the UN are accurate. Obama has been sending clear signals to Israel and its supporters — even as he seeks to disarm their justified alarm at his Iran entente — that this administration intends to take at least one more shot at bludgeoning the Netanyahu government into submission,

Under the circumstances, Netanyahu’s warning to Fabius that Israel will never accept a “diktat” on matters that concern its security was entirely justified. In response, Fabius said diktat wasn’t a word that was part of his French vocabulary. But it’s not a French initiative that worries Netanyahu but the very real possibility of an Obama diktat that lurks behind it. Though President Obama may not speak German, Netanyahu is right to fear that the lame duck in the White House understands the word all too well.

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Europe’s Anti-Israel Obsession Trumping Both Its Democracy and Its Economy

Even as President Barack Obama was arguing that Iranian anti-Semitism would never trump the country’s interests (as he defines them), an interesting case study in that theory was playing out in a very different venue: Europe. True, the European version doesn’t involve the classic anti-Semite’s obsession with individual Jews, but only the “new” anti-Semitism’s obsession with the Jewish state. Nevertheless, the results aren’t encouraging. In the past week alone, in the name of that obsession, one European country has gutted its own constitution and a second has endangered several of its leading commercial companies. Read More

Even as President Barack Obama was arguing that Iranian anti-Semitism would never trump the country’s interests (as he defines them), an interesting case study in that theory was playing out in a very different venue: Europe. True, the European version doesn’t involve the classic anti-Semite’s obsession with individual Jews, but only the “new” anti-Semitism’s obsession with the Jewish state. Nevertheless, the results aren’t encouraging. In the past week alone, in the name of that obsession, one European country has gutted its own constitution and a second has endangered several of its leading commercial companies.

The first case involved a report by the Swedish parliament’s Committee on the Constitution, which concluded that Prime Minister Stefan Loefvan’s government violated proper legal procedure in its recognition of “Palestine” last year. The report said the government announced the decision and even instructed Swedish embassies worldwide to put it into practice without consulting parliament’s Advisory Council on Foreign Affairs, as required, and without taking other necessary preparatory steps, such as consulting with the European Union. The report was issued unanimously; even members of Loefvan’s own party signed it.

And then, having unequivocally declared the decision to be in procedural violation of Swedish constitutional law, the committee said the recognition of “Palestine” should nevertheless stand, because that’s a “political” issue on which the panel can’t intervene. In other words, it declared that not only can Loefvan violate Swedish law with impunity, but the illegal decision he made won’t be overturned.

Thus for the sake of catering to Sweden’s pervasive anti-Israel sentiment, Swedish parliamentarians have created a precedent that future premiers will be able to use to justify violating constitutional procedure in other cases. After all, if this unconstitutional move was allowed to stand, why shouldn’t others be? And letting a constitution to be violated with impunity is the surest way to destroy it.

That’s a very high price to pay for indulging anti-Israel animus, but Sweden is evidently willing to pay it.

Case number two involved the statement by a French cellphone company’s CEO that he would like to stop doing business in Israel in order to appease anti-Israel boycotters. Some French government officials promptly leapt to his defense: French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerard Araud, for instance, argued that Orange’s Israeli franchisee operates in the settlements and, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, “settlement policy in occupied territories is illegal. It is illegal to contribute to it in any way.” In other words, Orange’s Israeli operations violate international law.

Nor is Araud exceptional: Many European officials are increasingly pushing this view. In 2013, for instance, the Dutch water company Vitens canceled a deal with Israeli company Mekorot after the Dutch government warned of potential legal problems stemming from Mekorot’s operations in the settlements.

As law professor Eugene Kontorovich pointed out, this happens to be false: Even if you consider the West Bank occupied territory, neither international law nor European law bans private companies from doing business in occupied territory.

But Kontorovich also noted that many leading European companies do business in other occupied territories, including French oil company Total in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and French tire giant Michelin in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. So if any European country actually succeeds in declaring private business in “Israeli-occupied territory” illegal, activists in places like Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus will pounce on that precedent to sue European businesses operating in their territories.

Araud, for one, clearly doesn’t get this. When Kontorovich pointed it out to him on Twitter, he offered the following astonishing response: “I speak of one occupied territory. I am answered on other territories.”

But if something is the law for one occupied territory, then it’s the law for all occupied territories; as Kontorovich noted, law by definition is “a rule that applies to similar situations.” Thus by pushing the line that business activity in “Israeli-occupied territory” is illegal, European officials are making their own companies vulnerable to lawsuits from occupied territories ’round the world.

Again, that seems like a high price to pay for indulging anti-Israel animus, but many European officials are evidently willing to pay it.

I’ve written before about cases of European officials undermining cherished values and interests for the sake of indulging anti-Israel animus, but such cases used to be exceptional. Now, if the past week is any indication, they are rapidly becoming the norm. A growing number of Europeans are evidently willing to sacrifice both their democracies and their economies on the altar of their obsession with Israel.

But not to worry – Obama says anti-Semites are rational. And why let the facts interfere with a good story?

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Another Palestinian Statehood Bid?

Just three months since the UN Security Council rejected a resolution on Palestinian statehood, it appears another such resolution is being drafted. Back in December the Palestinian bid was rejected outright with no cause for a U.S. veto, but since then the membership of the Security Council has altered to include nations far more likely to support such a resolution. Added to that is the fact that this somewhat toned down French proposal may well win wider backing. Not to mention the growing threats from the Obama administration to withhold America’s veto and abandon Israel at the UN.

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Just three months since the UN Security Council rejected a resolution on Palestinian statehood, it appears another such resolution is being drafted. Back in December the Palestinian bid was rejected outright with no cause for a U.S. veto, but since then the membership of the Security Council has altered to include nations far more likely to support such a resolution. Added to that is the fact that this somewhat toned down French proposal may well win wider backing. Not to mention the growing threats from the Obama administration to withhold America’s veto and abandon Israel at the UN.

The very fact that the French are even planning to submit this resolution so soon after a similar one was rejected is itself an outrageous move. The French had been working closely with the Palestinian Authority regarding December’s statehood bid at the Security Council. The French had lobbied without success in an effort to get the Palestinians to submit a bid that the Europeans on the council could actually vote for. Yet astonishingly, when the Palestinians stuck to their guns and put forward a typically uncompromising text, both France and Luxembourg went ahead and voted in favor of the resolution anyway.

Now France is doing things its own way. This resolution calls for the old 1949/1967 Jordanian armistice lines to be the basis for borders, as well as making part of Jerusalem a Palestinian capital, and finding a “fair” solution for Palestinian refugees. There are conflicting reports on whether the resolution will recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Either way, only the other day President Abbas reiterated before the Executive Committee of the PLO that he would never recognize the Jewish state. So will the Obama administration now be threatening to abandon the Palestinians at the UN as they did following Netanyahu’s comparably milder comments during the Israeli elections?

Whatever the French actually decide to put in the final version, the fact that any such resolution is being put forward by France is itself bizarre. It is often asked why, of all the pressing concerns in the world today, is it the very much not pressing matter of Palestinian statehood that is awarded so much prominence? But one might just as well ask why, of all countries, is it France that has become so taken with forcing a Palestinian state into existence. What possible national advantage could there be for France in seeing a particularly dubious incarnation of a Palestinian state established—not alongside but rather right in the middle of the Jewish state?

Well, for one thing France’s Hollande-led government is desperately unpopular right now. And for another, the country has a large Muslim population that appears to be growing in both size and fury. And that’s the point: this does nothing to significantly advance French interests internationally, but it could do a great deal to improve the prospects of Hollande’s government at home.

This relationship between France’s domestic predicament and its actions on the world stage for the Palestinians is particularly unsettling. Because on the French domestic scene, the situation for Jews is becoming progressively worse.  And as French Jewry is being murdered and hounded out of the country, many are choosing to take refuge in the State of Israel. And yet it is the security of that very Jewish refuge that the French government now seems committed to jeopardizing.

Whether Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius realize it or not, there has never been a worse time to pursue Palestinian statehood. Frankly, it appears that they don’t care. Yet if a small, unstable, financially unviable Palestinian state was imposed on the West Bank tomorrow, there’s a very real chance that it would be well on the way to becoming just another of the region’s Iranian satellites the day after. Worse still, since the French proposal—like the Obama administration—seems determined to make the 1949 armistice lines Israel’s easternmost border, and not the more defensible Jordan valley, there is a very real threat of Islamist groups such as ISIS infiltrating the area from the east.

It is hard to comprehend that at a time when the Middle East is so perilously unstable, permanent Security Council members are hellbent on pursuing a policy that if implemented would make it radically more unstable. Similarly, it is mystifying that at a time when the West’s allies in the region already have their backs against the wall, Western countries appear prepared to push them still further. And all for the sake of feeding the deranged obsession for achieving imminent Palestinian statehood, no matter the cost.

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What If There’s No Iran Deal?

Each week seems to bring a new damning portrait of President Obama’s foreign policy from a different major news outlet. They say essentially the same thing but, like fingerprints, aren’t exactly the same. And Politico’s piece on Thursday by Michael Crowley stood out for providing a quote from the Obama administration that may rise above even the infamous “leading from behind” slogan the White House has rued since the words were spoken. What it lacks in bumper-sticker brevity it more than makes up for in stunning honesty.

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Each week seems to bring a new damning portrait of President Obama’s foreign policy from a different major news outlet. They say essentially the same thing but, like fingerprints, aren’t exactly the same. And Politico’s piece on Thursday by Michael Crowley stood out for providing a quote from the Obama administration that may rise above even the infamous “leading from behind” slogan the White House has rued since the words were spoken. What it lacks in bumper-sticker brevity it more than makes up for in stunning honesty.

Here’s how the Politico article closes, with a quote from an administration official:

“The truth is, you can dwell on Yemen, or you can recognize that we’re one agreement away from a game-changing, legacy-setting nuclear accord on Iran that tackles what every one agrees is the biggest threat to the region,” the official said.

The Obama administration’s official perspective on the Middle East currently engulfed in brutal sectarian conflict, civil war, and the collapse of state authority is: Let it burn. Nothing matters but a piece of paper affirming a partnership with the region’s key source of instability and terror in the name of a presidential legacy.

But there’s another question that’s easy to miss in the frenetic, desperate attempt to reach a deal with Iran: What if there’s no deal?

Obviously the president wants a deal, and he’s willing to do just about anything for it. The Obama administration long ago abandoned the idea that a bad deal is worse than no deal, and only recently began hinting at this shift in public. Officials have no interest in even talking about Yemen while they’re negotiating the Iran deal. It’s a singleminded pursuit; obsessive, irrational, ideologically extreme. But it’s possible the pursuit will fail: witness today’s New York Times story demonstrating that the Iranians are still playing hardball. (Why wouldn’t they? Their demands keep getting met.)

Surely it’s appalling for the administration to be so dismissive of the failure of a state, such as Yemen, in which we’ve invested our counterterrorism efforts. But it also shifts the power structure in the region. Take this piece in the Wall Street Journal: “Uncertain of Obama, Arab States Gear Up for War.” In it, David Schenker and Gilad Wenig explain that “The willingness of Arab states to finally sacrifice blood and treasure to defend the region from terrorism and Iranian encroachment is a positive development. But it also represents a growing desperation in the shadow of Washington’s shrinking security role in the Middle East.”

They also note the Arab League’s record isn’t exactly a monument to competent organization, so it’s not a great stand-in for an American government looking to unburden itself as a security guarantor for nervous Sunni allies. And it adds yet another note of instability.

Yemen’s only the latest example of the realignment, of course. The death toll in Syria’s civil war long ago hit six digits, and it’s still raging. Bashar al-Assad, thanks to his patron Iran and Tehran’s complacent hopeful partner in Washington, appears to have turned a corner and is headed to eventual, bloody victory.

The Saudis are toying with joining the nuclear arms race furthered by the Obama administration’s paving the Iranian road to a bomb. In Iraq, as Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent report, our decision to serve as Iran’s air force against ISIS has grotesque consequences, including that our military is now “providing air cover for ethnic cleansing.” Iran’s proxies, such as those in Lebanon and on Israel’s borders, will only be further emboldened.

And the lengths the administration has gone to elbow Israel out of the way–from leaking Israel’s nuclear secrets to intervening in its elections to try to oust those critical of Obama’s nuclear diplomacy–only cement the impression that to this president, there is room for every erstwhile ally under the bus, if that’s what it takes to get right with Iran. The view from France, meanwhile, “is of a Washington that seems to lack empathy and trust for its long-time friends and partners — more interested in making nice with Iran than looking out for its old allies.”

The ramifications to domestic politics are becoming clear as well. The point of Obama portraying foreign-government critics as Republicans abroad is that he sees everything in binary, hyperpartisan fashion. The latest dispatch from the Wall Street Journal on the issue includes this sentence:

In recent days, officials have tried to neutralize skeptical Democrats by arguing that opposing President Barack Obama would empower the new Republican majority, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Taking a tough line on Iranian nukes is bad, according to Obama, because it could help Republicans. It’s a rather amazing bit of myopia and partisan mania from the president.

And yet all this damage Obama is doing is for an Iran deal that might, in the end, not happen. And what if that’s the case? We can’t stitch Yemen, Syria, and Iraq back together. The failure of the negotiations won’t make the Saudis or the Israelis or the French trust Obama any more.

Obama’s clout on the Hill will plummet. And his legacy will be in ruins. After all, though he has been on pace to sign a bad Iran deal, it would at least buy him time for his devotees to spin the deal before its worst consequences happen (which would be after Obama leaves office, as designed). In other words, signing a bad deal for Obama allows him to say that at least from a narrow antiwar standpoint, all the costs we and our allies have incurred were for a purpose.

Of course, the grand realignment Obama has been seeking with Iran can’t and won’t be undone. That’s happening whether a deal is signed or not. And while Obama will have spent much of his own political capital, the president’s wasted time will pale in comparison to the smoldering ruins of American influence he leaves behind.

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Can Americans Tell European Jews to Leave for Israel?

Actor Michael Douglas came face to face with European anti-Semitism recently and didn’t like the experience. Neither have many of the European Jews interviewed by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg for his feature, whose headline poses the main question about the upsurge in hatred and violence against them: “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” Douglas writes about the abuse directed at his son because the boy was wearing a Star of David while staying in what was likely a posh hotel in “southern Europe,” in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. He has plenty of commendable outrage but nothing other than an anodyne call for an ecumenical stand against hatred to offer in response to a trend that can’t be ignored. Goldberg delves deeper into the motivations of the haters and the responses of the Jews but seems ambivalent about what conclusions to draw from it all. But the answer remains obvious even if it is easier for American Jews, who live in a country where anti-Semitism touches few lives, to ignore it: Israel remains the only logical answer to the question that his article poses.

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Actor Michael Douglas came face to face with European anti-Semitism recently and didn’t like the experience. Neither have many of the European Jews interviewed by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg for his feature, whose headline poses the main question about the upsurge in hatred and violence against them: “Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe?” Douglas writes about the abuse directed at his son because the boy was wearing a Star of David while staying in what was likely a posh hotel in “southern Europe,” in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times. He has plenty of commendable outrage but nothing other than an anodyne call for an ecumenical stand against hatred to offer in response to a trend that can’t be ignored. Goldberg delves deeper into the motivations of the haters and the responses of the Jews but seems ambivalent about what conclusions to draw from it all. But the answer remains obvious even if it is easier for American Jews, who live in a country where anti-Semitism touches few lives, to ignore it: Israel remains the only logical answer to the question that his article poses.

Douglas’s piece was noteworthy because he lends his celebrity status to the effort to draw attention to what even the U.S. State Department has described as a “rising tide” of anti-Semitism in Europe. Goldberg offers a far more comprehensive triptych through Europe, describing the dilemma of Jews in places as diverse as France and Sweden and everywhere finding the same thing: it is increasingly impossible for Jews to live openly Jewish lives in nations that were long assumed to be bastions of Western freedom. But while the two pieces together help establish the importance of the issue, they also show how hard it is for American Jews to speak out on this issue in way that offers any clarity about the choices facing their European brethren.

Goldberg concludes his piece with the following puzzling paragraph:

I am predisposed to believe that there is no great future for the Jews in Europe, because evidence to support this belief is accumulating so quickly. But I am also predisposed to think this because I am an American Jew—which is to say, a person who exists because his ancestors made a run for it when they could.

Is Goldberg telling us that Jews must make “a run for it” in Europe in order to assure their safety? Or is he making a point that American Jews, who live in a very different environment, lack the standing to tell Europeans what to do?

If the latter, there is a point to be made on that score. No one can stand in judgment on the willingness of Jews in France, Sweden, and other countries to put up with insults and violence while seeking to conceal their Jewish identity in public. Leaving a home where you have history, jobs, family, and connections is very difficult. As a general rule, most people only do so when they feel they have little to lose by leaving or are motivated by ideology. Certainly American Jews, who are not likely to leave their homes for Israel, are in no position to demand that European Jews wake up and depart. Nor are we in a position to assure them asylum here at a time when a broken immigration system has left so many waiting to get in while millions live here illegally, albeit with the promise of amnesty from President Obama.

But it is possible for American Jews to look at the situation in Europe and to cease pretending that scattered gestures of goodwill or appropriate statements of concern from European leaders is any kind of an answer. As Goldberg’s report makes plain, the problem is too widespread, the roots of anti-Semitism run too deep in European culture, and the hate brought with them by Muslim immigrants to the continent far too embedded in their religion and culture to be talked out of existence. If Jews fear to wear Stars of David in public in some of the most enlightened capitals of the world, then it must be conceded that they not only have no future, but not much of a present.

Nor should American Jews think this situation has nothing to do with them.

It is true that American exceptionalism renders even the most virulent anti-Semitism less dangerous on these shores. Despite a history that includes many instances of Jew hatred, unlike every European and Asian country, America is a place where there is no real history of government-sponsored discrimination against them. Moreover, unlike Europe, where Israel’s existence is considered a vestige of the original sin of imperialism, support for Zionism is embedded in the political DNA of America. Religious Christians are ardent supporters of Israel and opponents of anti-Semitism. So are the overwhelming majority of Americans of all faiths.

But the trends that Goldberg discusses in Europe have established beachheads here on university campuses where Israel is a constant object of hate speech and boycott movements are part of the mainstream of academic culture. Last month’s incident at UCLA where a Jewish student was initially disqualified for a student government post was just the tip of the iceberg of a growing problem of prejudice. So is the ability of BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movements to demonize supporters of Israel and to legitimize anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish rights on many campuses.

The difference is that American Jews are in a position to stand up against these disturbing trends while European Jews find themselves isolated and at risk. Though attacks on Jews still vastly outnumber those on Muslims (despite the incessant harping of the media on the myth of Islamophobia), Jews know they are at home in America in a way they can never be in places where they have already experienced expulsion and extermination.

But as we wrote in our February editorial on “The Existential Necessity of Zionism,” after the attack on the Hyper Cacher market, like the subsequent attack on a Danish synagogue and a host of other examples in recent years, it is no longer possible to treat anti-Semitic violence as if it were an isolated phenomenon.

Nor are the arguments of Israel’s critics, such as those recounted in Goldberg’s piece, even minimally persuasive. The State of Israel faces a nuclear threat from Iran and an ongoing siege of terror from Palestinians and other Islamists. But it has the capability and the will to defend itself and it can be counted on to do so no matter who is running its government. Israel will retain its Jewish identity and it will do what it must to preserve itself even if that means, as it has so often in the past, forfeiting the applause of Europeans who are indifferent to the rise of anti-Semitism in their backyards.

The only possible answer to what Michael Douglas and Jeffrey Goldberg witnessed in Europe is an effort to help those Jews who wish to leave Europe to do so. And it should remind all Jews and non-Jews that the need for a Jewish state is just as much of an imperative as it was in the late 19th century where the Dreyfus case convinced Theodor Herzl of the need for one or as it was during and after the Holocaust. Any response to anti-Semitism that seeks an answer that ignores the Zionist imperative is part of the problem, not its solution. And American Jews, who are for the most part, as Goldberg pointed out, descendants of people who had the smarts to leave Europe while the getting was good, should not be shy about saying so.

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Don’t Ignore Nonviolent Anti-Semitism

The debate over the future of European Jewry has centered on violent anti-Semitism, and for good reason. Without basic security for European Jews, the only question will be the rate at which they leave. But attacks on Jews don’t happen in a vacuum, and whether Jews feel welcome in their home countries will depend also on something not often given enough weight: nonviolent anti-Semitism.

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The debate over the future of European Jewry has centered on violent anti-Semitism, and for good reason. Without basic security for European Jews, the only question will be the rate at which they leave. But attacks on Jews don’t happen in a vacuum, and whether Jews feel welcome in their home countries will depend also on something not often given enough weight: nonviolent anti-Semitism.

As Joel Kotkin explains in a column for the Orange County Register, the global Jewish community is rapidly becoming a regional Jewish community. According to Kotkin, four out of every five Jews now lives in either Israel or the United States. In 1939, that number was one in four. Rising anti-Semitism throughout the world–and not just Western Europe–has combined with a dwindling birth rate to produce demographic decline in most of the world’s Jewish communities. Kotkin writes:

Overall, nearly 26,500 Europeans immigrated last year to Israel – a 32 percent increase from 2013. In Britain, a Jewish population of less than 300,000 has not grown for a generation. With recent polls showing close to half of all Britons holding some anti-Semitic views, a majority of British Jews now feel there is no future for them in Europe; one in four is considering emigration.

Other historically significant Jewish communities, such as that in Argentina, also are losing population. The number of Jews in the South American republic has fallen from roughly 300,000 in the 1960s to 250,000 today. This demographic decline will likely be accelerated now that the current Peronista regime has been accused of collaborating with Iranian terrorists implicated in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded more than 300. The government is widely suspected of complicity in the murder last month of the prosecutor investigating the bombing.

Argentina and France aren’t the only nations with formerly large, now-shrinking Jewish communities. In 1948, Iran was home to 100,000 Jews; now it’s a tenth of that number. In South Africa, the population reached 119,000 at the end of apartheid but since has dropped by roughly half. The largest numerical losses were in the former Soviet Union, where, in 1980, there were some 1.7 million Jews; now, as few as 250,000 remain. Most have resettled in Israel or the United States.

Still, France emerges as the canary in the coal mine–if, after the 20th century, the Jews of Europe need such a canary at all. It’s the largest European Jewish community, and it saw 7,000 of its Jews make aliyah last year alone. The numbers keep climbing, however. And there’s a reason beyond the violence.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher terror attacks in Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls delivered a beautiful speech on what French Jewry means to the French state. He spoke out forcefully against resurgent French anti-Semitism and accused his country of historical blindness. And he was clear on France’s responsibility to the Jewish community.

And yet, there is a lingering sense that the endemic anti-Semitism in France has already reached a point of no return. I wrote in response that although Valls’s speech was laudatory and, at times, even inspiring, his framing of the issue left a bad taste. He spoke of France as the “land of emancipation of the Jews,” but that calls into question whether non-secular Jews will ever feel at home there again. I wrote: “A Frenchman who happens to be a Jew at home cannot be the only Jew who feels at home in France.”

A video making the rounds today demonstrates my point. A Jewish reporter for the Israeli news outlet NRG put on a yarmulke, untucked his tzitzit fringes, and walked around various neighborhoods of Paris for ten hours filmed by a hidden camera (and flanked by an undercover bodyguard). Here is what he encountered in more heavily Muslim neighborhoods of Paris:

Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. “What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?” the boy asked.

Walking by a school in one of Paris’ neighborhoods, a boy shouted “Viva Palestine” at me. Moments later, passing by a group of teens, one of the girls remarked, “Look at that – it’s the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing.”

Walking down another neighborhood, a driver stopped his car and approached us. “We’ve been made,” I thought. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “We’ve had reports that you were walking around our neighborhood – you’re not from around here.”

In one of the mostly-Muslim neighborhoods, we walked into an enclosed marketplace. “Look at him! He should be ashamed of himself. What is he doing walking in here wearing a kippa?!” one Muslim merchant yelled. “What do you care? He can do whatever he wants,” another, seemingly unfazed merchant, answered. Over at a nearby street I was lambasted with expletives, mostly telling me to “go f*** from the front and the back.”

At a nearby [café], fingers were pointed at us, and moments later two thugs were waiting for us on the street corner. They swore at me, yelled “Jew” and spat at me. “I think we’ve been made,” the photographer whispered at me. Two youths were waiting for us on the next street corner, as they had apparently heard that a Jew was walking around their neighborhood.

They made it clear to us that we had better get out of there, and we took their advice.

The video also suggests there was a fair amount of spitting in their direction throughout the day. The reporter, Zvika Klein, was spared violence by adhering to threats that were probably not empty. But even without violence, what you see in the video is a pervasive sense of almost distaste for a Jew wearing a kippah. I received similar stares at the airport in Paris once when I thought I could use the time before my flight to don my tallis and tefillin. I was not received warmly (by the Frenchmen nearby, that is; the other non-French tourists were fine with it).

But I don’t live there. What does Manuel Valls plan to do about his country’s obvious, pervasive, rank anti-Semitism? Staging security forces or police outside Jewish schools is all well and good, but they’re there for a reason. They won’t make French society less anti-Semitic, and they won’t make Jews feel more at home in a place where being identifiably Jewish has become not an expression of French multiculturalism but an act of defiance that requires a bodyguard.

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Ukraine Deal: Keeping Russia In, U.S. Out

It is easy to look at the ceasefire agreement struck between Ukraine, Russian-backed forces, and their European interlocutors and wonder whether it really is an agreement at all, let a lone a successful conclusion to the all-night talks in Minsk. But it may have been successful by the key metric set by German and French leaders heading into the negotiations: foreclosing the possibility of serious American military aid to Ukraine.

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It is easy to look at the ceasefire agreement struck between Ukraine, Russian-backed forces, and their European interlocutors and wonder whether it really is an agreement at all, let a lone a successful conclusion to the all-night talks in Minsk. But it may have been successful by the key metric set by German and French leaders heading into the negotiations: foreclosing the possibility of serious American military aid to Ukraine.

The deal itself inspires mostly pessimism, despite French President Hollande’s grandiose declaration that the talks “consisted of a long night and a long morning, but we arrived at an accord on the cease-fire and the global end to the conflict,” according to the New York Times. In fact, that is a generous reading of events. The ceasefire is scheduled to go into effect this weekend, which means the next few days could see an escalation. The ceasefire was also imprecise, to say the least, about where the two (three?) sides would end up, so we can expect a scramble to create facts on the ground before the ceasefire technically begins.

Indeed, just three paragraphs before Hollande’s peace-for-our-time announcement, the Times had already explained why that’s almost surely not the case:

The cease-fire is scheduled to begin at midnight on Saturday, but the 13-point compact appeared fragile, with crucial issues like the location of the truce line and control of the border with Russia left unresolved. Over all, there seemed to be no guarantee that the problems that marred the cease-fire agreement reached here in September had been ironed out.

The very fact that it took more than 16 hours of intensive negotiations to reach an agreement, and that the leaders announced the accord in three separate news conferences, seemed to highlight the differences that remained.

So there’s a truce without a truce line and a border up for grabs while the fighting is permitted to continue until late night Saturday, after which the fighting might not stop anyway since the same kind of ceasefire was reached in September and, well, here we are.

That article is by Neil MacFarquhar. In a companion piece, the Times’s Andrew Roth published a “Q&A” on the details of the agreement. It does not add too much, but mostly serves as a useful reference point for the key areas of conflict. It contains three questions and their answers. The three questions are: “Can the cease-fire hold?” “Where will the new dividing lines be?” and “What about Ukraine’s border with Russia?”

The answer to the question about “dividing lines” really says it all:

The situation on the ground favors the separatists.

Ukrainian officials have said that the rebels gained control over more than 500 square kilometers, or almost 200 square miles, of additional territory since the September cease-fire deal. Under the new agreement, both sides are required to withdraw heavy artillery to create a 30-mile demilitarized buffer zone. But the agreement does not explicitly demarcate the line. Ukraine is required to withdraw from the “current front lines,” which may change by Saturday. Separatist forces are supposed to withdraw behind the September line.

Sure–because when you’re trying to stop an ongoing ground war in Europe by setting borders and boundaries, it’s usually enough just to let each side eyeball it and see where everybody ends up.

Although Putin has not yet abided by ceasefire directives, maybe this time he will. It’s possible. But this ceasefire agreement may in the end succeed only in preventing American military aid to Ukraine. That’s because the terms of the deal represent an acknowledgement by all sides that Ukraine has lost each round of Russia’s invasions, and that there won’t be any help from Europe on the way. That means it might just be too late for the U.S. to accomplish very much by getting involved now.

“Now,” in this context, actually means “in a few months.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, the weapons we’d give Ukraine would probably have to be ordered, and their recipients would need training. Russia, then, has some time now to take free shots and move that border some more. Right now, the area the pro-Russian “rebels” are operating in crosses the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The Russian side will likely seek to carve out as secure a territory as possible before the ceasefire goes into effect.

And then what? Over at Foreign Policy, Mark Galeotti doesn’t rule out American arms for Kiev. But the real question is whether there is anything left to fight for. The agreement essentially ensures that eastern Ukraine will be either a frozen conflict or a breakaway Russian client. Ukrainian President Poroshenko will have to see to that for the full peace to take effect. That means Ukraine goes into this ceasefire conceding the areas under conflict to Moscow.

The message given to Poroshenko from his European “friends” was obviously: Get the best deal you can from Putin; no one has your back here. Even if they haven’t succeeded in bringing real peace to Europe, they may have succeeded in keeping America out.

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Will Ukraine Ceasefire Hold? Unlikely.

That was very exciting news from Minsk. In the words of the New York Times: “Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels reached a ceasefire agreement… the first step toward ending fighting in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended.”

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That was very exciting news from Minsk. In the words of the New York Times: “Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels reached a ceasefire agreement… the first step toward ending fighting in eastern Ukraine that has caused the worst standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War ended.”

You might be mistaken for thinking that’s a new story from today but actually it’s from September 5, 2014. Immediately after the signing of this previous ceasefire, the pro-Russian rebels violated it and fighting resumed over control of eastern Ukraine. With the battles escalating, representatives of Ukraine, France, Germany, and Russia once again convened in Minsk a few days ago and now have reached yet another ceasefire agreement.

Is there any reason to think that this agreement will hold any more than the last one did? Of course not. There are in fact holes big enough in the agreement to drive a Russian T-90 tank through it. The deal is to be implemented in stages with the most important and difficult bits coming many months from now.

As the Times notes, the accord “states that the process of restoring ‘full control of the state border by the government of Ukraine throughout the conflict area’ is to happen by the end of 2015. And it is only to happen then if constitutional reforms that will decentralize authority to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are first carried out and local elections held.” Naturally the pro-Russian rebels will never admit that any reforms carried out by Kiev are sufficient for them to give up control of “their” areas.

Moreover: “The accord calls for disarming illegal groups. But the separatists may maintain that their militias are not illegal and that therefore the provision does not apply to them.” The accord does not even address the issue of when, if ever, Russian forces and equipment are to withdraw from Ukraine.

In short, this is yet another meaningless piece of paper. Why has Putin signed it at all? Because he is cleverly zig-zagging from force to diplomacy to achieve his objectives. With credible threats coming from Washington that the Obama administration might finally rethink its stubborn refusal to arm Ukraine, Putin has found it expedient to pretend that peace is taking hold. He no doubt reckons this will dissuade Obama from sending arms, which the president has made clear he doesn’t really want to do anyway.

So Putin can then use the lull to further arm and train his puppet forces before they launch another big offensive. The Obama administration would be well advised to use the lull, if any, to train and arm the legitimate army of the democratically elected government of Ukraine–but odds are it won’t, because France and Germany don’t want us to do that and Obama has no stomach for a confrontation with the ruthless Putin.

It will would be a good thing if this ceasefire were really the first step toward the establishment of peace in Ukraine and the reestablishment of its territorial integrity. But that is highly doubtful. More likely it is just one more step toward the dismemberment of Ukraine and the triumph of the autocrat of the Kremlin.

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U.S., Germany, and France to Putin: The World Is Too Weak to Stop You

Vladimir Putin may be reckless, but he seems to be guided by one valuable strategic rule when picking fights in Europe: divide the west to conquer the east. And dividing the west doesn’t just mean dividing Western Europe among itself; it also means dividing Western Europe from the rest of the West. It broadens the (likely apocryphal) Kissinger quote about calling Europe, and updates it for modern times. If you want to talk to “the West,” whom do you call?

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Vladimir Putin may be reckless, but he seems to be guided by one valuable strategic rule when picking fights in Europe: divide the west to conquer the east. And dividing the west doesn’t just mean dividing Western Europe among itself; it also means dividing Western Europe from the rest of the West. It broadens the (likely apocryphal) Kissinger quote about calling Europe, and updates it for modern times. If you want to talk to “the West,” whom do you call?

The sudden rush of new peace conferences to solve the conflict in Ukraine prove this point. This New York Times rundown of the various meetings and pressers and conferences is thorough but also thoroughly maddening. It is headlined “U.S. Joins Europe in Efforts to End Fighting in Ukraine,” but good luck finding any semblance of a workable solution in any of the proposals and declarations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande met in Kiev with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. No progress seems to have been made in halting or turning back the Russian invasion in Ukraine’s east. But that’s not surprising when you consider what the aim of the Franco-German trip was in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal noted today:

The trip also comes as political momentum grows in the U.S. to deliver weapons to Ukrainian forces—a step that the German and French leaders oppose because they say it would only lead to more violence.

So the purpose of German and French diplomatic intervention was to stop the U.S. from helping Ukraine too much. Mission accomplished.

Not that the U.S. is ready to take that step anyway. There continue to be Obama administration figures who support arming Ukraine, but until that group includes President Obama, this is all they’re going to get, as the Times reported:

Mr. Kerry, who announced $16.4 million in humanitarian assistance for eastern Ukraine, plans to press for a new cease-fire.

In a joint appearance with Mr. Poroshenko, Mr. Kerry said that France, Germany and the United States were united in supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict. And he called for Russia to agree to a cease-fire.

“Our choice is a peaceful solution, but Russia needs to make its choices,” Mr. Kerry said.

Russia, in fact, has made its choice–repeatedly. That choice has been a relatively easy one for Putin because no one is willing to defend Ukraine. What would possibly give American officials the idea that Putin would retreat without real resistance? That’s where what is possibly the most damning line in the Times story comes in:

The Obama administration’s hope is that its widely reported deliberations over whether to send defensive weapons to Ukraine and about additional economic sanctions will induce Russia to agree to a halt in the fighting and, ultimately, to a political agreement within the framework of the Minsk accord.

This is strategic ineptitude of the first order. Obama’s defenders like to scoff at the notion of “credibility”–that Obama retreating on a red line in, say, Syria would enter the calculus of someone like Putin when considering American opposition to his invasions of Ukraine. We are told that “credibility” is overrated, but it’s more accurate to say it’s simply unquantifiable.

But you have to ask yourself: why would Vladimir Putin believe Obama’s threats when he doesn’t follow through? You have to make a rational calculation, and right now the smart money will always be on Obama bluffing. It’s just who he is; he says things but doesn’t mean them. The sound of his own voice is pleasing to him, but the content is irrelevant.

Additionally, Obama keeps undercutting any such threat. One way he does this is in the implied threat itself: Obama thinks leaking that the administration is debating arming Ukraine will spook Putin, but that very leak is based on the fact that Obama is personally opposed to arming Ukraine, so it’s toothless.

More importantly, the administration keeps undercutting the idea that the aid would help anyway. On Tuesday, CBS’s Mark Knoller tweeted the administration’s justification for not giving Ukraine military aid. He wrote: “On Ukraine, WH says its (sic) not possible for US to put Ukraine on par militarily with Russia. Stands by objective of diplomatic resolution.”

So here’s Obama’s opinion: Ukraine should not get military aid from the West because even with American help, Russia would still mop the floor with them. And this, according to the Times, is what Obama thinks will intimidate Putin into signing a peace treaty. I’ll offer the president some free advice: telling Putin the world is too weak to stop him isn’t very intimidating.

Yet even if the West got Putin to sign on to a new agreement, nothing will have been accomplished. Putin has been violating the last ceasefire agreement, because there’s no one to enforce it. What Obama, Merkel, and Hollande are working for, then, is a non-solution–an agreement that would allow everyone involved to pretend it’s more than it is, and which would implicitly (if not explicitly) accept Putin’s previous land grabs in Ukraine while asking him nicely–on the honor system–to stop taking more land.

You can see what bothers the Ukrainians about this. They are at war, and high-level delegations from France, Germany, and the United States all flew in to tell them, personally, that they’re a lost cause. They either don’t realize it or don’t seem to care, but three major Western powers just went out of their way to ostentatiously humiliate their besieged ally on the world stage.

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UKIP’s Selective Democracy and the Jews

A major reason for the skepticism regarding the future of European Jewry is that there appears no political solution on the horizon to the worsening climate of anti-Semitism. The belief among many is that while it’s beyond dispute that the European left has failed the Jews, the European far right would fail them too if given the chance. And now UKIP, Britain’s ascendant right-wing populists, are proving the point.

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A major reason for the skepticism regarding the future of European Jewry is that there appears no political solution on the horizon to the worsening climate of anti-Semitism. The belief among many is that while it’s beyond dispute that the European left has failed the Jews, the European far right would fail them too if given the chance. And now UKIP, Britain’s ascendant right-wing populists, are proving the point.

UKIP (the UK Independence Party) is actually far more moderate than its reputation would suggest. And unlike in France, it’s conceivable that an anti-EU party in Britain could pull the UK away from the union. That’s because Britain isn’t in the union with both feet. And it’s also because mainstream parties like the Conservatives have a strong and eloquent faction of Euroskeptics among them.

UKIP, in other words, gets a bad rap. Unfortunately, they’re starting to live up to it.

What’s concerning about the rise of the French far right is that a militant anti-Muslim posture, aside from being animated by discriminatory ideas, will do no good for non-Muslims either. You can’t have religious freedom for only some of your citizens and still be free.

UKIP is demonstrating this with its new anti-halal campaign.

The latest controversy started with the revelations that hidden cameras in a halal slaughterhouse had captured “horrifying” abuse of the animals before and during the slaughter. Muslims have been fighting against the government’s preference that animals be stunned before being slaughtered, and this appears to have turned public opinion back against them.

UKIP responded by calling for a ban on any slaughter in which the animal isn’t stunned first, in essence simply removing the religious exemption. As other similar bans have shown, this would outlaw the kosher shechita process as well. UKIP’s attempt at reassurance to Britain’s Jewish Chronicle sounded as though a Tory plant had dressed as a UKIP minister and set about sabotaging the group’s standing:

A senior Ukip member has claimed that the party’s ban on non-stun slaughter, announced today, was against his wishes.

MEP Stuart Agnew, the party’s agricultural spokesman, said: “We are a democratic party and I couldn’t get enough support. They didn’t like my tolerance of non-stunning.

“They have decided to override me on this occasion. I’m not going to say they were wrong.”

But Mr Agnew said the policy was not meant to target shechita.

“This isn’t aimed at you – it’s aimed elsewhere – it’s aimed at others.

“You’ve been caught in the crossfire; collateral damage. You know what I mean.”

Yes, we know what you mean. And that statement is a bumbling masterpiece.

First, the UKIP spokesman said that he was forced to go along with the outlawing of basic tenets of Judaism and Islam because they “are a democratic party.” I don’t know if he appreciated the irony of defending the proposal that the government stomp on individual rights in the name of democracy, but it’s not comforting.

His second part of the “defense” of the UKIP vote was more honest. The Jews are simply “collateral damage.” It’s possible he meant this in a positive way too, something like: You folks are usually the target of populist authoritarianism, so in a way you’ve graduated.

He might be comparing Britain to France here. Maybe UKIP thinks that because they’re not threatening violence, outlawing Jewish practice in this way is not the really bad kind of authoritarian nationalism. But in fact it’s not really fully accurate to say they’re not threatening violence, is it? After all, such laws are backed up by the force of the state, so we’re not talking about simply peer pressure here.

We’ve seen similar efforts in the U.S. get struck down by the courts, if they even get that far. For a while “anti-Sharia” laws were all the rage, but they often amounted to unconscionable infringements on religious liberty. (In one case an anti-Sharia law raised fears it would, as written, outlaw Jewish divorce.)

In Britain’s case, UKIP’s selective democracy works against the Jews twice over. Not only must Jews’ religious liberty be eroded because UKIP votes on its asinine schemes, but Jews are also not present in high enough numbers to make UKIP pay at the ballot box–or, at least, not in high enough numbers to stop a ritual slaughter ban from being a net-gain for UKIP:

Mr Agnew said he believed that the policy was put forward to win votes ahead of the general election.

He said: “There are more votes to be gained, and I expect that’s what they were looking for.

“We’ll have lost the Jewish vote for sure, they won’t support us now for sure – we won’t get any now.

“But we might gain votes elsewhere – and that’s what they’re after, general election votes.”

This is a perfect example of what a glorious document our Constitution, with its attendant amendments, is. Britain has a tradition of freedom and republicanism from which we get our own. But that tradition here was, wisely, codified and made explicit. UKIP’s members like to think of themselves as a party geared toward liberty. But it’s clear they don’t know the meaning of the word.

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Blasphemy’s New Friends

Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

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Innocent victims of violence and injustice often attract the opposite of fair-weather friends: when they are at a low point, they become a cause. The surviving staffers of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine at which twelve were murdered by Islamist terrorists for publishing Muhammad cartoons, would probably be surprised by some of their new friends. And in fact, some of those new friends might be surprised themselves.

Over at his new perch at the Atlantic, former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier has written a piece about the choice now facing the Jews of France. It’s headlined “We Are Hyper Cacher,” a reference to the kosher market whose shoppers were taken hostage by the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, who then killed four of the Jewish hostages. In discussing the history of French Jews, Wieseltier pairs the religious shoppers at Hyper Cacher and the secular satirists of Charlie Hebdo this way:

The mockers at Charlie Hebdo had no place in their hearts for the believers who shopped at Hyper Cacher, and the pious consumers at Hyper Cacher were not readers of the witheringly anticlerical Charlie Hebdo, but they were unlikely partners in the same project: a society of freedoms and rights. In striking at them both, the killers struck at the same thing. The cartoons and the challahs both were talismans of democracy, which is Islamism’s nightmare.

When cartoons and challahs occupy the same bunker in a culture war, one of them has either been sacralized or demoted. In this case, the cartoons have been sacralized.

What’s interesting about this is the clarifying moment the mass murder at Charlie Hebdo now appears to have been. The cartoons don’t suddenly possess new meaning; if such meaning is present, it predated the massacre. Wieseltier, though, didn’t seem to think so the last time they were in the news.

In the fall of 2012, Charlie Hebdo was a topic of conversation around the time of the terrorist attack on the American mission in Benghazi and the administration’s ham-handed attempt to blame it on the obscure anti-Islam video Innocence of Muslims. Right after the attack, Charlie Hebdo published more cartoons making fun of Muhammad, raising fears of more attacks and calls to tone down anti-Islam “art,” such as it was.

The Washington Post’s Charles Lane was having none of it. In a column decrying “censorship-by-riot,” Lane wrote: “I say: One cheer for Charlie Hebdo. I doubt that its cartoons are either laudable or responsible. In fact, I’m sure that they are neither. But if free speech means anything, it’s the right to say and publish things that other people find objectionable and irresponsible, even blasphemous.”

Lane was right about the attempted censorship through violence (or fear of violence). Wieseltier didn’t think so. And he particularly didn’t care for Lane’s bestowal of the term “blasphemous” on Charlie Hebdo’s antics. He shot back at Lane:

When the cartoons of Mohammed were published by Charlie Hebdo in Paris, it was another exercise in pseudo-blasphemy, even if they did give real offense, because the right of a French magazine to publish them was never in doubt. The constitutional freedoms of Pastor Jones were never imperiled by General Dempsey when he implored the odious cleric not to circulate “Innocence of Muslims,” the Islamophobic garbage that led ineluctably to violence in the Muslim world. It is not “censorship-by-riot,” as Charles Lane indignantly put it, to attempt to prevent innocent people, Americans among them, from dying. Is this video not crying fire in a crowded theater, or providing theater for a crowded fire?

Here we have two points that seem to have dissipated with the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. First is Wieseltier’s suggestion that what Charlie Hebdo’s editors were doing wasn’t real blasphemy, and it wasn’t brave. It was the empty gesturing of ungrateful nogoodniks. This is because, according to Wieseltier, the cartoons were protected by law.

But law had no helping hand to lend when the terrorists came for the cartoonists and murdered them in cold blood. And the law certainly permitted Western newspapers from republishing examples of the subject matter that some felt was worth dying for. But the hasty and obsessive self-censorship in the wake of that attack had nothing to do with the law, because it wasn’t the law anyone was worried about. It was censorship-by-riot.

And it’s not censorship, Wieseltier said, to lean on cartoonists and filmmakers to take it easy on Muslims because lives are at stake. Once upon a time, Charlie Hebdo deserved mention alongside Innocence of Muslims while Wieseltier decried the latter as shouting fire in a crowded theater–arguably unprotected speech. Today, however, Charlie Hebdo has been promoted. It is speech that ought to be protected, it is essential to democracy, it is analogous to the bread Jews bless and eat to signify their miraculous survival by God’s grace in the wilderness.

It appears the 2012 set of incidents were the exception in Wieseltier’s worldview. In 1989, he castigated fellow Western writers for not immediately stepping up to defend Salman Rushdie from the latter’s censorship-by-fatwa. And those who found some dark irony in writers like Rushdie having opposed the free world’s democrats whose support and protection he now requires, Wieseltier called “mean and grudging and partisan.”

I don’t think so, but on the rest he was surely right then, as he is right now. And it would be mean and grudging and partisan to ignore the fact that some writers, Charles Lane among them, were right all along.

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Terror War Comes to Europe

Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

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Many European countries decided they would have nothing to do with the war on terror. Of course, they made the argument for not intervening in the Middle East on moral and legal grounds, but no doubt they also wagered that they would be safer at home if they kept out of it and left the unpleasant work to others. Yet as the events of recent weeks have demonstrated, none of this has kept Europeans any safer, and now Europe is rapidly turning into a flashpoint in radical Islam’s war with the West.

Following last week’s four terror incidents in France (the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices, the shooting of a female police officer in Paris, the hostage taking at the printing works, and the attack on the kosher supermarket), there have now been a series of terror raids across Europe. Most dramatic were the events in the small Belgian town of Verviers. There the police intervened to prevent an imminent attack—what some have called a “second Paris”—and a gun battle ensued in which two of the terror suspects were killed and a third was injured and arrested.

Meanwhile in Germany a whole series of anti-terror raids took place. Already on Saturday night there had been the firebombing of the Hamburger Morgenpost, when once again Islamist extremists moved to shut down the free press. Now the German authorities have arrested several with alleged links to ISIS, with 250 police being involved in raids on eleven residences in Berlin, and a further unrelated raid and arrest of a man linked to ISIS in Wolfsburg, west of Berlin. Back in France, twelve people were detained by police for their association with Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher supermarket attacker. Additionally, French police also closed the Gare de l’Est station in Paris on account of a bomb scare there.

There can be little doubt that the terror war has come to Europe, in spite of—and perhaps even because of—Europe’s refusal to play a significant role in the war against radical Islam. For while most European countries have attempted to avoid getting involved in the wars of the Middle East, the turmoil currently rocking the Islamic world has come to the streets of Europe nonetheless. As Simon Gordon remarks in an important new piece for Mosaic, “rather than the West exporting liberal democracy to the Middle East, as many had fantasized during the late lamented ‘Arab Spring,’ it is the Middle East that is exporting Islamism to the free world.”

As Islamism has increasingly gained a foothold in Europe, so the future of Europe’s Jews has become increasingly imperiled. France may have resisted deploying troops to Iraq, but now in a ridiculous and unsustainable move it has been forced to put boots on the ground in Jewish schools. And following last night’s incident in Belgium, Jewish schools across Brussels and Antwerp have been closed for the time being, as have a synagogue and a Jewish school in Amsterdam. In Sweden, Jewish communal leaders are reporting that the already high threat to Jews there has now doubled in the wake of Paris; apparently these attacks have galvanized radicals, rather than convincing them of the horror that their extremism unleashes. It is also noteworthy that in Britain a report released this week by the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism found that 45 percent of Jews there believe they and their families are at risk from Islamists.

Just like Nazism and Communism before it, the nihilistic and anti-Western forces of radical Islam know that ending the Jews must be a core pillar of their efforts to turn the world upside-down. Understanding where Jews fit into the Islamist worldview is an essential part to understanding their war with the West and current events in Europe. Yet maddeningly, while Jews are being murdered in Europe, the left-liberal media is primarily concerned with handwringing over a possible anti-Muslim backlash. A backlash which apparently, and thankfully, never seems to come. Yet somehow Europe’s Muslims have gained the status of victims in waiting. So while extremists from their community terrorize society and specifically target the Jews, publications such as the New York Times have prioritized coverage of fears among European Muslims, as Liel Leibovitz has exposed so brilliantly.

Once again in Europe, Western democracy is under attack. Indeed, one cannot help but wonder if that continent hasn’t been identified by Islamists as a soft target, as the West’s weakest link. Europe’s security services are now springing into belated action, but they have let radical Islam fester in their cities for so long that they have a lot of catching up to do. And more than anything, it is not at all clear that Europeans and their politicians even fully recognize the battlefield that they are on. Yes, freedom and democracy are valued by many in Europe. But the values of wealth redistribution, multicultural tolerance, and even pacifistic dialogue are still so strong in Europe that it remains unclear whether these societies can even muster the willpower to have this fight.

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Western Media Have Forgotten that Only the Truth Shall Set Us Free

One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

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One of the most insightful commentaries I’ve read about last week’s terror attacks in France was Ben-Dror Yemini’s column in Ynet yesterday. Yemini pointed out that someone who gets all his news from mainstream Western media would have no reason to believe Islamic extremism was a problem–not because the words “Islamist terror” aren’t used, but because the vast majority of the attacks themselves aren’t reported.

The handful of attacks on Western targets get extensive coverage, alongside a few particularly egregious attacks in non-Western countries, like last month’s assault on a Pakistani school. But the “routine” attacks that occur almost daily in the Muslim world, which have killed hundreds of thousands of people in recent years, go largely unreported.

Thus, for instance, the New York Times did report an exceptionally bloody Boko Haram attack last week that may have killed up to 2,000 Nigerians. But buried in the 12th paragraph is the shocking fact that Boko Haram killed around 10,000 people last year alone. How many of the thousands of attacks that produced those 10,000 victims did the Times report? Almost none.

Similarly, Al-Arabiya’s Hisham Melham noted last week that 74,000 people were killed in Syria last year, while in Iraq, the death toll averaged about 1,000 a month. But how many of the thousands of attacks that produced those grim totals did the mainstream Western media report? Again, almost none.

Yet the problem doesn’t end there, Yemini argued–because alongside its failure to report on Islamic terror, the mainstream media obsesses over Israel. And this has consequences not just for how people view Israel, but for how Muslims view the West.

To understand why, a brief illustration might help. On the Times’s website, the article about Boko Haram killing up to 2,000 people merited 540 words. By comparison, an article last month about a Palestinian who died at an anti-Israel demonstration (whether due to ill-treatment or a heart attack remains disputed) merited 1,040 words. Thus one Palestinian allegedly killed by Israel merited 4,000 times as many words as each Boko Haram victim–and the ratio would be much higher if you included all of the latter who never get reported at all. And every Palestinian killed or allegedly killed by Israel gets similarly extensive coverage.

Thus a Muslim who relies for information solely on the mainstream Western media would rationally conclude that Israel, not Islamic extremism, is the greatest source of death and destruction in the world today, Yemini argued. And in fact, though he didn’t mention it, listening to any Western leader would produce the same conclusion: All spend far more time condemning Israel than they do, say, Boko Haram or Syria’s Iranian-supported regime.

Yet when that same Western Muslim looks at his government’s policy, Yemini said, he sees that its actions contradict the rational conclusion he drew from the media. After all, Western countries are currently bombing ISIS, not Israel. And they imposed economic sanctions on Syria, not Israel. Thus the rational Muslim news consumer would conclude that Western governments are not only hypocrites, but anti-Muslim hypocrites: They engage in military and economic cooperation with Israel while employing military and economic force against Muslims, even though Israel, judging by Western media, would seem to be a far worse offender. And such anti-Muslim hypocrisy rightly makes this rational Muslim angry, Yemini wrote.

Of course, Western governments’ policies are actually far more closely aligned to reality than the distorted impression our hypothetical Muslim gets from the media. But he really has no way of knowing that, because the people he depends on for information–the media–consistently tell him the opposite.

Once upon a time, Western liberals understood the critical importance of truthful information. They genuinely believed, as the New Testament proclaims, that “the truth shall set you free.” That’s precisely why the West invested so heavily in media outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War: Many Westerners genuinely believed that letting Eastern Europeans and Soviet citizens hear the truth, rather than the propaganda published in Soviet media, would help bring the Iron Curtain down. And history proved them right.

But today, it seems, Western liberals no longer believe in the power of truth. If they did, they would realize that the road to defeating Islamic extremism starts with reporting faithfully on all its victims, day in and day out. For only when people know the truth about the carnage this extremism has wrought might they begin to turn against it.

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Lynch Mob Attacks Turkish Newspaper

Over the years, I’ve chronicled the rapid decline in press freedom in Turkey.

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Over the years, I’ve chronicled the rapid decline in press freedom in Turkey.

For example:

I wish this was an exhaustive list, but alas it’s not and there’s far more available in the pages of COMMENTARY, easily accessible if you follow the tags “press freedom” and “Turkey.”

Alas, it seems that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Islamist Brownshirts are now willing to take the battle against the press and free expression to a new level. The Turkish broadsheet Cumhuriyet, traditionally a center-left newspaper, decided to reprint a four-page selection of Charlie Hebdo’s post-massacre edition. In response, Turkish police—firmly under Erdoğan’s control—earlier today raided the Istanbul offices of the paper. That’s bad enough, but par for the course in Erdoğan’s police state. Nor was it unpredictable that Erdoğan would take such a hard line against Charlie Hebdo and its drawings. After all, the assailants were still on the run when senior ministers in Erdoğan’s government and the Islamist press in Turkey—the only press which Erdoğan allows to operate freely—began to rationalize the murders in Paris.

Now, however, as I write this, interlocutors in Turkey tell me a mob has gathered in front of Cumhuriyet and is calling, quite literally, for blood, chanting, “Be prepared, death is coming all around.” They are also reportedly chanting their allegiance to the Kouachi brothers who carried out the massacre at Charlie Hebdo. This Twitter feed is worth watching as the situation develops.

Let us hope and pray that the journalists at Cumhuriyet remain safe, and that the international community makes clear to Erdoğan that he will personally be held responsible for their lives and safety. Meanwhile, it is worth reflecting just how bold is not only Cumhuriyet but also the Iranian newspaper Shargh which tweeted out some of the cartoons. Meanwhile, the New York Times refuses for fear of insulting someone. (That didn’t stop Dean Baquet from insulting those who pressed him on his decision to self-censor.) The lesson? Perhaps it’s true that people don’t appreciate their freedoms until they are taken away. Nevertheless, it’s about time we start recognizing the fragility of freedom and liberty.

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How Not to Fight Anti-Semitism in France

Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

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Anti-Semitism in France is nothing new. And even the “new” anti-Semitism in France isn’t new, as our COMMENTARY editorial on the plight of Jews in France and the necessity of Zionism points out. What’s new, it appears, is that France is in danger of its Jews giving up on the sustainability of Jewish life there. The current trend of French Jews making aliyah is seeing the numbers double each year. In response, the French government has taken to saying nice things about how integral Jews are to France’s national identity. It’s a kind sentiment. But is it true?

In a speech yesterday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls offered the following stirring declaration:

How is it possible to accept that France, which is the land of emancipation of the Jews many centuries ago, but which also seventy years ago was one of the lands of the martyrdom of Jews, how can it be accepted that we hear on our streets “Death to the Jews”? How can we accept the acts that I have just recalled? How can one accept that French people be murdered simply because they are Jewish?

… We must say to the world: without the Jews of France, France would no longer be France. And that message is one that we all have to deliver strongly and loudly. We did not say it in the past. We did not show our indignation in the past.

First, it must be said that the prime minister deserves praise for his defense of the Jews. The rest of Europe should take note. We should temper our cynicism by recalling that words and ideas are the currency of a society reckoning honestly with its political demons. And if positive change is going to come to France, it won’t arrive overnight. Valls’s speech is in some ways a plea for patience, to buy time for the state to begin turning things around.

But it is unlikely that real change is, in the end, on the horizon in France. And Valls’s speech even hints at why. The talk of “emancipation” of the Jews of France in the time of the revolution is a bit of a misdirection. “Emancipation” in France was a graduation to secularism. The revolution was a psychotically violent one, and that violence was aimed, much of the time, at the clergy.

Loyalty oaths were instituted, Constitutional clergy were foisted upon faith communities that preferred their own, and the state engaged a struggle to render unto Caesar far more than what is Caesar’s. That was merely a reverse power structure from the ancien regime, in which the clergy were part of an aristocratic governing structure. For the ancien regime to be uprooted, so did the clerical class. And it was a bloody uprooting.

What does this have to do with the Jews of France? A lot, actually. The French Revolution inculcated a fear and suspicion of religious authority as a threat to secular Enlightenment power. It’s true that when the dust settled under Napoleon’s feet, there had been at least a façade of reconciliation for the purposes of putting the country back together. But it was only really a façade. And a Napoleonic power structure sowed the seeds of its own undoing. French society remains unnerved by strangers among them, as well as anyone they believe answers to a higher authority than the state. The French government can talk all it wants about appreciating its Jews, but unless and until those Jews feel comfortable and safe actually showing outward signs of their Judaism and religiosity, it won’t change minds. A Frenchman who happens to be a Jew at home cannot be the only Jew who feels at home in France.

Additionally, the French government appears poised to make precisely the same mistakes over and over again. If Valls is right about the importance of Enlightenment principles and personal liberty in his country, they wouldn’t be arresting the notorious anti-Semite and popularizer of Nazi social signaling Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, which authorities have now done.

Dieudonne is actually a perfect test case for how France chooses to fight its battles going forward. He is fully and truly repellant in virtually every way. And so his freedom must be defended forcefully. If the lesson of the “free speech uber alles” protests after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and then the censorship conducted by Western media (with the New York Times as the chief self-censor) is to censor Dieudonne–or worse, criminalize his demented stupidity–then France will doom history to repetition.

Censoring and criminalizing anti-Semitism, in addition to being incompatible with a free society, does two major things wrong. First, it suggests that the Jews get special treatment and that therefore the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists are right. This will certainly not make Jews–or anyone in France–any safer. Second, it allows these ideas to gain the credibility of the counterculture while simmering and metastasizing unchallenged out of view. If sunlight is truly the best disinfectant, then France is enabling this infection to spread.

Is France truly still France without its Jews? The last thing the government wants is to have to find out. But that’s where they’re headed, and they haven’t done anything yet to change direction.

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ISIS and al-Qaeda’s Deadly Rivalry

There is little ideological or moral difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Both are fanatical terrorist organizations with a Sunni jihadist ideology and complete disdain for life. ISIS was even once affiliated with al-Qaeda, having been previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. But now they are deadly rivals. The al-Nusra Front is the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and it is at war with ISIS. Like Apple and Samsung or Adidas and Nike, al-Qaeda and ISIS are locked in a battle for market share. Those companies compete by bringing to market better products. So do terrorist organizations, only their “products” are high-profile atrocities.

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There is little ideological or moral difference between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Both are fanatical terrorist organizations with a Sunni jihadist ideology and complete disdain for life. ISIS was even once affiliated with al-Qaeda, having been previously known as al-Qaeda in Iraq. But now they are deadly rivals. The al-Nusra Front is the official al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and it is at war with ISIS. Like Apple and Samsung or Adidas and Nike, al-Qaeda and ISIS are locked in a battle for market share. Those companies compete by bringing to market better products. So do terrorist organizations, only their “products” are high-profile atrocities.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre, now claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in a video entitled “Vengeance for the Prophet: A Message Regarding the Blessed Battle of Paris,” should be seen in this light. It is, if nothing else, a powerful reminder to the world, after having read about little but ISIS for the past year, that al-Qaeda still matters. ISIS may have made global headlines with grisly beheading videos but it has never struck in a major Western capital before.

It is still unclear, of course, the extent to which AQAP was involved in the attack. Its level of involvement was probably less than al-Qaeda’s role in 9/11 or Lashkar e Taiba’s role in the Mumbai massacre, but both of the murderous Kouachi brothers, Said and Cherif, apparently traveled to Yemen to train with AQAP. This helps to explain their familiarity with AK-47s, even if their tradecraft always remains questionable–they left an identification card in their getaway car.

And even if AQAP was largely responsible for the attack, one of the jihadists killed in Paris–Amedy Coulibaly–claimed allegiance with ISIS. One suspects that in jihadist circles this is a branding statement similar to one’s choice of smart phone or warm-up jacket.

In some ways the Paris attacks may be seen to represent a potent new style of terror–not as complex as 9/11 or Mumbai but not an entirely “lone wolf” style attack, such as the hostage-taking in Sydney last month. The attack is linked to a global terrorist organization but was carried out by homegrown extremists. This is a model that, in business parlance, is easily “scalable”–there are, unfortunately, lots of radicalized Muslims in Europe and even some in the United States, and many of them can travel to places like Pakistan and Yemen where it is easy to link up with major terrorist groups.

The Western response must be twofold.

First, do more to shatter groups such as ISIS and AQAP–to prevent them from controlling territory that they can use as a training base for foreign jihadists. We are very far from achieving this objective today, given widespread reports that 1,000 foreigners a month are traveling to Syria to join the fight. Defeats for AQAP and ISIS also dim their luster and make it less likely they will attract more adherents in the West–no one wants to join a lost cause, not even a would-be suicide bomber.

Second, do more to track down and stop homegrown jihadists before they strike again. The French security services, for all their effectiveness (and it is considerable), failed in this regard because all three culprits had been in and out of custody. All three were known to be violent jihadists yet they were free to roam at will, apparently falling off the French radar screen because the security services were so overwhelmed with tracking fighters heading to and from Syria. The French government is right to push for expanded surveillance powers. The U.S., Britain, and other frontline states should follow suit–or at the very least not stop effective surveillance programs which became so unfairly controversial after Edward Snowden’s treasonous revelations.

France, the U.S., Britain, and other states also need to think about how they should act once jihadists are identified–is it possible to detain them or even expel them before there is solid evidence that they are about to carry out a massacre? Such actions may seem antithetical to the idea of free speech–no one should be punished for their beliefs. And there is no question that abuses have been carried out in the past in the name of preventing terrorism, for instance during the Red Scare of 1919-1920 when hundreds of socialists and anarchists were deported.

But courts do grant protective orders against those who are believed to be violent without waiting for them to carry out an actual violent act. Might it be time to institute some similar system with those who advocate terrorism–not fundamentalist Islam but actual terrorist violence? I’m not sure of the answer, because this would raise legitimate civil-liberties concerns, but it is at least a question worth exploring in the wake of attacks such as the one in Paris–or at the Boston Marathon. We cannot just sit back as ISIS and al-Qaeda play out their deadly rivalry at our expense.

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What Binds Our Hearts to the Jewish State

I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

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I want to commend COMMENTARY’s powerful and bracing editorial, “The Existential Necessity Of Zionism After Paris.” In its words:

The battle lines are drawn. The French elite may occasionally condemn anti-Semitism, as did Hollande after the attack on the kosher market. And on January 11, Hollande, arm-in-arm with world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, led more than a million people in a march supporting the victims of the January attacks and condemning hate.

But there are no substantive signs that France’s leaders are prepared to stop the radical Islamists who have declared war on French Jewry. Meanwhile, members of the French working class are coming to see the Jews more and more as a hindrance to their own economic well-being. And Europe’s steady turn against Israel has sharpened anti-Semitism of all stripes.

… For every French Jew at risk, for every Jew everywhere at risk, and for every Jew who chooses, Israel is home. Its existence before the Holocaust would have saved millions. Its existence after the Holocaust saved and created millions. Seventy years after the Holocaust, Jews in Europe are in need of it again.

This editorial should be alongside of this front-page story in the New York Times that begins this way: “French Jews, already feeling under siege by anti-Semitism, say the trauma of the terrorist attacks last week has left them scared, angry, unsure of their future in France and increasingly willing to consider conflict-torn Israel as a safer refuge.”

The rise of anti-Semitism in France–most especially the Muslim attacks on French Jews, of course, but also the tepid and equivocal response by the French government–is a moral disgrace. In one respect, it’s staggering to see the rise of anti-Semitism on the continent that produced the Holocaust. In another respect, I suppose, it’s not, as history demonstrates that there is no half-life to anti-Semitism. Its lethally corrosive evil may be contained now and then, but it usually finds a home. And this explains in part why the Jews need their home, too. That home has been, and must ever be, Israel. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen,” the prophet Amos wrote, “and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old.”

The Jewish people deserve a Jewish state. As a non-Jew, I simply want to add that the founding of the Jewish state also touches my heart because it is an unbelievable human drama, a transcendent story of hope and redemption, a nearly miraculous testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. Israel is a place and a state. But it is also a story, among the most riveting and inspiring ever written. For many of us it is that story, its beauty and wonder, its defiance and courage, that further binds us to the Jewish state. First and foremost, the fate of the Jewish people is tied to Israel. But not their fate alone.

Jews are in need of Israel. So are the rest of us.

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On Muhammad Cartoons, History Already Repeating Itself

Over the weekend, while much of the world was busy being “Charlie,” something terrible happened at one of the very few publications that actually followed Charlie Hebdo’s lead and published the Muhammad cartoons. It drew little comment, as the international media was mostly preoccupied with feel-good reporting from the Paris unity march, but in the early hours of Sunday morning the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost were firebombed in an apparent reprisal for the paper having dared to republish some of the cartoons. Back in 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were similarly firebombed for having published Muhammad cartoons, and there was little outcry then too. For all the talk of “Je suis Charlie” one fears little has been learned.

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Over the weekend, while much of the world was busy being “Charlie,” something terrible happened at one of the very few publications that actually followed Charlie Hebdo’s lead and published the Muhammad cartoons. It drew little comment, as the international media was mostly preoccupied with feel-good reporting from the Paris unity march, but in the early hours of Sunday morning the offices of the Hamburger Morgenpost were firebombed in an apparent reprisal for the paper having dared to republish some of the cartoons. Back in 2011 the offices of Charlie Hebdo were similarly firebombed for having published Muhammad cartoons, and there was little outcry then too. For all the talk of “Je suis Charlie” one fears little has been learned.

Following the Paris attacks and the murder by Islamists of journalists who had dared to satirize Islam—among other faiths—huge numbers took to declaring themselves “Charlie” and held up the pen in a sign of solidarity and defiance. Many publications echoed these sentiments on their front covers the morning after the attack. Yet, very few were actually willing to reprint the offending cartoons, either in defiance or in simple illustration of the news story, and for good reason. Among those who did were the Danish newspaper Berlingske, a few of the Montreal based French language magazines, and several German publications, including Berliner Zeitung, the Berliner Kurier, and the Hamburger Morgenpost. Now the latter of those has been attacked already, and to remarkably little condemnation.

Of course, the best way to overcome the terror threat to freedom of the press would be, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali has suggested, to spread the risk around. This would require all the media outlets who wished to resist the imposition of Islamic blasphemy laws to simultaneously publish the drawings. Otherwise it is left to just one or two lonely publications to hold the line for the entire free world. That of course was what happened to Charlie Hebdo.

Back in 2005 when the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten first published some images of Muhammad, all hell broke loose. Danish embassies were attacked and it has been estimated that as many as 200 people were killed in the riots that ensued globally. While the Danish government came under diplomatic pressure to apologize, Charlie Hebdo was one of the few publications to support the Danish newspaper and in 2006 the French magazine republished the Muhammad cartoons. Along with death threats and legal action, in 2011 the office of Charlie Hebdo was firebombed. Not only did the world pay little attention but many commentators condemned the magazine for having been irresponsibly provocative. It seems that not until the staff of Charlie Hebdo lost their lives were people prepared to give this subject serious attention.

So now that the Hamburger Morgenpost is where Charlie Hebdo was in 2011–firebombed after having taken a stand of solidarity with a fellow publication–wouldn’t it be the time to take note and act before the staff of the German publication find themselves in the same situation the French journalists encountered in 2015?

If people living in modern-day Europe, and liberal democracies the world over, decide they do not wish to live under Islamic blasphemy laws as imposed by a fanatical minority, then they must understand that hashtag trends and unity rallies will not be enough. Clearly, free and democratic societies are not the natural way of things and basic rights such as free speech do not happen automatically. They require work from a committed citizenry and civil society that is ready to guard its freedoms jealously. The Hamburger Morgenpost has come under attack for doing nothing more than exercising its freedom of expression. Instead of looking the other way, now is the time for other publications and public figures to rally to their defense, lest their staff go the same way as that of Charlie Hebdo’s.

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A Diplomatic Blunder

Remember when Democrats–like, um, Senator Barack Obama–were castigating President George W. Bush for his supposed unilateralism and alienation of allies? Obama promised to do better but in many respects he’s done worse.

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Remember when Democrats–like, um, Senator Barack Obama–were castigating President George W. Bush for his supposed unilateralism and alienation of allies? Obama promised to do better but in many respects he’s done worse.

I remember attending a breakfast in the past year with a former European leader who said that European heads of state had a much better relationship with Bush than with Obama–and not just Tony Blair and Nicolas Sarkozy who were known for being close to Dubya. All the Europeans found it easier to get Bush on the phone than Obama and they also formed better bonds with the more affable Bush than the more aloof Obama. Indeed it’s hard to name a single foreign head of state with whom Obama is close in the way that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were close with Tony Blair or in the way that Ronald Reagan was close to Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney.

This isn’t because Obama is inherently unlikable; plenty of people have been seduced by his cerebral coolness in the past. It’s because he hasn’t worked at it. He has not cultivated foreign leaders any more than he has cultivated congressional leaders. In both cases he has built up no reservoirs of affection to cushion him when times get tough–as they are now for a United States that is at the nadir of its post-1970s influence.

The moment that may come to symbolize Obama’s aloofness occurred on Sunday when nearly four million French people–and numerous foreign heads of state–marched to make clear their opposition to terrorism and their support for freedom of speech. A partial list of foreign leaders who attended: “Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga.”

Guess who was missing–yup, Obama. Apparently he spent his Sunday watching football on TV rather than marching against terrorism. He didn’t even bother to send Vice President Biden or Secretary of State Kerry. Attorney General Eric Holder was already in Paris for unrelated business but he didn’t bother to show up either.

The fact that America’s president was MIA was noted among our allies–and not favorably. As the Daily Mail wrote: “President Barack Obama and other top members of his administration have snubbed a historic rally in Paris today that brought together more than 40 world leaders from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even Russia.”

Even the White House was forced to acknowledge this was a blunder but I suspect this apology (“It’s fair to say that we should have sent someone with a higher profile to be there”) is unlikely to undo the damage because it only reinforces an existing stereotype. With two years left in his presidency, he appears to have all but checked out, preferring to rule by executive order rather than by mobilizing support at home or abroad. Rather than cultivating America’s allies, he prefers to reach out to our enemies–notably Cuba and Iran. The Paris rally might become, as my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Robert Danin suggested on Twitter, “Obama’s diplomatic Katrina moment”–a moment which crystallizes a growing perception of presidential failure. That is an ironic end to a presidency which came into being in no small measure as a protest against “unilateralism.”

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