As you may have noticed, this blog is pretty sluggish these days. Please stand by. I'm hoping to get back up to speed shortly.
As you may have noticed, this blog is pretty sluggish these days. Please stand by. I'm hoping to get back up to speed shortly.
One Jerusalem hosted a blogger conference call this morning with Tony Blankley, former press secretary to Newt Gingrich, nationally syndicated talk show host and editorial page editor for The Washington Times. I'm ashamed to say that this guy really hadn't been on my radar screen before, but he definitely is now. It was a most interesting conversation and, as always, you can find the audio here, at One Jerusalem.
Tony's most recent book is The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations? It's going on my order list. In the meantime, I highly recommend reading all of the reviews of the book at Amazon. They're a fascinating microcosm of the debate within Western civilization that the book focuses upon, with extreme views on both sides and some (but not much) moderation in between.
MSM LWM-assigned seat on the far right, I was pleasantly surprised by his thoughtful and open but forthright approach to some of the most serious issues facing us today. It was an enlightening call. Thanks once again to Mr. Blakeley and One Jerusalem for giving us this opportunity to get to know him better.
L'shana tova tikatevu v'tehatemu.
May you all be inscribed and sealed for a healthy, happy and sweet New Year.
The President of Iran has granted an interview to Time Magazine, and the contents are on line for all to see. I just have a nagging question or two that I wish the interviewer had followed up on.
Ahmadinejad: Our position toward the [ ] question is clear: We say that a nation has been displaced from its own land. [ ] people are killed in their own lands, by those who are not original inhabitants, and they have come from far areas of the world and have occupied those homes.
Our suggestion is that the 5 million [ ] refugees come back to their homes, and then the entire people on those lands hold a referendum and choose their own system of government. This is a democratic and popular way. Do you have any other suggestions?
Now the word that Ahmadinejad inserted between those ellipses is, of course, "Palestinian." But if you try inserting instead the word "Jewish," you'll find that his statement explains concisely and precisely the historic roots and process of the creation of the State of Israel. Refugees of a nation, displaced by those who were not by any stretch the original inhabitants, returned to their homes and chose their own system of government. Why doesn't his democratic and popular analysis apply to the only original inhabitants of the land that are still around to lay claim to it (there being precious few Jebusites or Philistines around today)?
Ahmadinejad: As to the Holocaust, I just raised a few questions. And I didn't receive any answers to my questions. I said that during World War II, around 60 million were killed. All were human beings and had their own dignities. Why only six million?
This gibberish really wouldn't be worth paying attention to, but for the blazing inconsistency with his prior remarks. Of course, his numbers are terribly misleading. Almost half of those human beings were soldiers killed in battle. Of the remaining 35 million or so, the vast majority were collateral damage in air campaigns against enemy targets, were enemy targets themselves or succumbed to war-related scourges like famine and disease. While always tragic, these deaths are the necessary fallout of armed conflict. They're expected. Mass extermination campaigns of an entire people, however, are not. But why am I even trying to make sense of this man's mad ravings? The fact is that when it comes to the millions of refugees in the world, many of them Jews from Arab countries and, of course, from Iran, Ahmadinejad has no trouble singling out the "5 million" [sic] "Palestinians" [sic]. But when it comes to singling out victims of a campaign of mass extermination aimed primarily at Jews, all victims are the same. Why is that?
Can you think of anyone else who could write a sentence (well, two) like this?
The Pope expresses his belief in the superiority of his faith by tracing how the neo-Platonist trace in Aristotelian empiricism meant that the historical development of science qua falsification was limited by a horizon that it pointed to but could not access. The jihadists express their belief in their faith's superiority by slitting the throats of Jews on camera - and then selling those tapes to millions of other Muslims.
Awesome. And enlightening. But it gets even better.
To observe that someone said something that hurt someone else's feelings is not the same as proving that they should apologize. Enough of this absurd idea that nothing can be allowed to upset the temperamental Muslim Street. If someone has a reason why there was a factual or logical error in Pope Benedict's speech, let's hear it. The intellectual struggle for history and civilization is not a therapy session. Not liking an argument doesn't make it wrong. Not being able to justify irrational beliefs is often frustrating. But to assert that the Pope should apologize to fanatics because they're too illiterate, too uneducated, or too insane to understand or answer him is deeply perverse - it's either a new low of appeasement or evidence for the permanence of the idiot self-esteem affirmation sensibilities of previous decades. Probably both.
Omri has already managed to produce more voluminous and insightful analysis of this issue than most other sources combined. And he promises to have yet more tomorrow. Don't miss.
I've had family visiting. It's kept me busy. It's also given me a chance to do stuff I don't ordinarily find the time to do. Tuesday, we spent a few hours at the National Constitution Center. It's an amazing, beautiful, moving tribute to a most incredible document. You should visit.
I have a lot of faith in our Constitution. And in the system we developed, here in America, out of whole cloth, to protect, defend and enhance it. Through legislation, challenge, interpretation and re-interpretation, it continues to thrive, expand and contract, to grow in meaning and substance, to address the challenges posed to it by a changing world. As it was meant to.
Part of the burden and the privilege imposed upon us American citizens by that Constitution is the right to vote. And this coming November, the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have an extremely tough choice to make. It's a tough choice for me, anyway. Not because I'm vascillating (although I've had moments), but because, in this election, I'm going to have to vote against a candidate who stands for many things I strongly believe in. Why? Because he stands too strongly for too many other things I strongly oppose.
I urge the voters of Pennsylvania to consider their vote this November carefully. Very carefully. Two years ago, I decided to vote for George W. Bush, the first Republican Presidential candidate ever to win my vote, on the following premise: in order to protect our civil liberties, we must first and foremost remain a free country, and that means that we must first win the war against the Islamist threat, both here and abroad. I believed that then and I believe it today. But there are limits.
Rick Santorum's America is not my America. It's not an America I want to live in. If this race were happening in some other state, I could sit back and bite my nails and try not to worry about how I would vote. I don't have that luxury. Santorum gets the real threat to this country. He's a staunch supporter of Israel, and he understands the dynamics of the Middle East better than most of his colleagues in Congress. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, to what this country, the US of A, is all about, he doesn't have a clue.
It amazes and confounds me that so many in this country are so willing to overlook the attempts of politicians to impose their own narrow religious and moral rules upon the rest of us, so long as those rules derive from some fuzzy origin in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Or, let's be frank, from some less fuzzy origin in the fundamentalist Christian tradition.
I mean, imagine the reaction if a member of Congress tried to impose Jewish dietary laws on the country. Or make circumcision a legal requirement. How about if we set out to mandate an educational program to teach women that they must abstain from sex for two weeks out of every month? Or outlawed clothing that reveals a woman's navel, shoulders or collarbone? The notion is, of course, absurd. But why? Simply because Judaism, unlike fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, generally seeks to apply its rules only to those who are already within its fold. Even in Israel, most of the foregoing isn't law and that small part that is (dietary laws in some parts of the country) is often recognized more in the breach than in the observance.
Imagine, instead, a bill proposed to make the veil mandatory for all women in America. Or to legislate the circumstances under which men may beat their wives. This notion, sadly, isn't quite so absurd. Why? Because there are Americans already seeking to take us there. Because militant Islam seeks to apply its rules across the board, to anyone who lives under its power. And it seeks power here.
If an Orthodox Jew or a Wahhabi Muslim were to try to ram his (undoubtedly his) orthodoxy down our throats, we'd never for an instant tolerate it. But when Rick Santorum does it, it's ok. Why is that? No matter how strong his stand with Israel, when Rick Santorum says there's no right to privacy in the Constitution, I say: study up. Under our Constitution, the Supreme Court has the final say on that question, and it has consisently upheld that right. No matter how clear he may be on the so-called "war on terror," when Rick Santorum equates homosexuality with bestiality and incest, I say: the U.S. Congress is one of the last places we need to enshrine irrational and self-righteous hatred and bigotry. No matter how right he may be on the justification for the war in Iraq and the imminent threat from Iran, when Rick Santorum tries to blame the devastation of Katrina on the National Weather Service, when he claims that George W. Bush (a Methodist) is more Catholic than John F. Kennedy, when he describes how he brought his dead five month old fetus home for his children to hold in their arms, I ask: is this man even sane?
Bob Casey is not the right choice for Pennsylvania. But there is a worse choice and, unfortunately, that worse choice is Casey's opponent, the incumbent junior senator who, if elected, is projected to become the second most powerful Republican in Congress. Those of us who have lost faith in the Democratic party, who are seeking leadership elsewhere, can't possibly sit by and allow the fanatical right wing fringe to take over the GOP just as the fanatical left wing fringe is attempting to take over the party of Roosevelt and JFK. The Democrats need more Caseys, if only to pull the party back from the brink, back towards the center. And the last thing the Republican party -- or America -- needs is Rick Santorum serving another six year term.
Yeah, I know that he's blanketing Pajamas Media with his ads. And that he's speaking in all the right places and saying what we, would go to the mat for Israel, want to hear. I know that many of us aren't willing or able to see past that because it's just too important. I get that. But I can't do it. Baring totally unforeseen circumstances, he's not getting my vote.
Anniversaries are important. Very important. But truth be told, I'm 9-11ed out at this point. There's something about the constant barrage of replays and interviews and political posturing that's covered the news for the past several days that's had a numbing effect.
The best tribute to the 9-11 victims would be to get our act together and our heads out of the sand and start doing something serious about making sure it never happens again, anywhere. I've heard a lot of self-congratulations going on about reaching five years without another attack on American soil. Five years is good. Ten years would be excellent. But it's not going to be enough so long as the threat is still out there and we're still pussyfooting around looking for it in many of the wrong places.
Meanwhile, on a related subject I've heard about enough of, Meryl scrapes the shine off the "Path to 9/11" controversy. She's right. About all of it.
I commented earlier today on the importance of accepting responsibility and of recognizing the significance of not only cause but also effect. Effect, otherwise known as consequences.
This week's Torah portion focuses on commitments and consequences. It rather succinctly outlines the parameters of the covenant between God and the Jewish People, and it makes clear that it's not a picnic. Good things are promised, rules are set and consequences for breaking them are clearly delineated. Cause and effect. The terms of the contract.
There's no wiggle room, no exculpatory clauses, no loopholes. No room for the most obvious excuse: if we screw up, God, it's because You made us weak, You abused us as children, You oppressed us in the desert. Not our fault. None of that works. Because, you see, it's all about responsibility. When we took it upon ourselves to grow up, to become a nation, we accepted responsibility for ourselves and our actions. And we accepted that there would be consequences if we behaved badly.
It's a good lesson. Spread it around.
It's a must read, especially if you're unfamiliar with the details of the Conference in question: the commitment of close to a billion dollars in aid for the rebuilding of Lebanon in the aftermath of an unprovoked aggression launched from its soil, coupled with uncontested condemnation of Israel, the victim of that aggression. Oh, and some additional gratuitous aid for Fatah and Hamas thrown in, just for kicks. It truly boggles the mind.
But as if that weren't enough, Neuwirth outlines the parallel attempt at Stockholm (by the European-based Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt) to require reparations(!) from both Israel (the victim) and the United States (the ally of the victim) to be paid into the coffers of Lebanon (where, God forbid, they would certainly flow directly into the pockets of Hizbollah).
Finally, Neuwirth deftly turns this funhouse mirror back on itself by proposing that there are adequate grounds in international law for both Lebanon and Israel to demand, together (and for the international community to enforce), reparations from Syria and Iran, the true forces behind the aggression that devastated both countries. I say: Go for it!
That said, I'd like to draw attention to one paragraph in Neuwirth's essay that deserves a post all its own. She quotes the Swedish Prime Minister's firm statement of solidarity with the Lebanese people, to which she replies:
These are noble sentiments; no one should be indifferent to the human suffering of civilian populations. But there is a shocking omission in this kind of statement: the quest for responsibility. Whereas the European Left has always been eager to find exculpatory â€œroot causesâ€ in all matters related to Islamic terrorism after 9/11, and found them in such implausible factors as poverty, inequality, oppression, joblessness and alienation, there was no mention in Stockholm of the root causes of the Lebanese ordeal. This omission is nothing short of obscene.
This aversion to "the quest for responsibility" (it's more than an "omission"), this compulsive but selective search for exculpatory "root causes" and this insistence upon ignoring forseeable effects, characterizes not only the European Left but the universal Left, and not only in matters related to Islamic terrorism after 9/11, but in all matters, from its distorted perception of the Israeli-Arab conflict to race relations in America. It's one of the fundamental flaws that has torn the left away from any claim it had to the moral high ground and set it adrift on a sea of its own rudderless self-righteousness.
More on this anon, I expect.
Once again, there's talk of a prisoner swap. Two of them, actually. For now, I'm going to focus on the demands that Hezbollah is making for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. The kidnapped soldiers for whom Israel went to war in July. The kidnapped soldiers for whom Ehud Olmert vowed to keep fighting until he brought them home. The kidnapped soldiers for whose lives Olmert swore he would not negotiate with terrorists.
Those kidnapped soldiers.
Nasrallah seems particularly interested in three "Lebanese" men held in Israeli jails. The first, Samir Kuntar, we can only hope and pray will not ever be considered a candidate for release, no matter what. I won't waste more breath on this pile of sludge. If you don't already know it, the horrific story is here, among many other places.
It gets stranger.
The second, Nissim Nassar (Nasr), is actually an Israeli citizen, although reportedly born in Lebanon and of Lebanese descent. Here's the kicker: he's a Jew (his father was a Shi'ite Muslim, but his mother is Jewish). An Israeli Jew who spied for Hezbollah against Israel. Very nice. He gets out in 2008 anyway.
Yehia Skaff either died or was arrested in March or April of 1978 for his part in a terrorist attack on an Israeli bus in which 37 innocent civilians were murdered. That attack is better known for its catapulting of Dalal Mughrabi to hero status among palestinian Arabs. Slaughtering Jews is all it takes. One of those killed in that attack, BTW, was American nature photographer Gail Rubin. She had the misfortune to be taking photographs nearby.
It appears that Olmert may be considering offering some petty criminals of Lebanese descent in return for the soldiers. If that turns out to be the case, I'm not going to get too worked up about it. There's a limit to how far one can stand on principle when the lives of two brave young men are at stake. If a few car thieves go free, well, maybe that's ok.
Unless, of course, it encourages more kidnappings. This would be my bottom line. I know it sounds harsh. I know it's easy for me to say. But as Meir Indor of the Israeli Terror Victims Association said on the occasion of the last Lebanese prisoner swap:
"Today three mothers will get the bodies of their sons back, and tomorrow many others will cry over the result of terrorists being freed."
(originally quoted in the JPost but of course that link is now gone)
Today (and every day for the past few months) is tomorrow for the mothers of Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. How many more?
So no, wait, to Nasser. No, never, to Skaff (if he's even alive). And never, ever, to Kuntar, who is eagerly anticipating his hero's welcome back home (according to a report I read yesterday but now cannot find). Regardless of the pathetic posturing of Ha'aretz pundits. Never, ever.
Seriously. One more day is too long for this disgrace to preside over the United Nations (which is enough of a disgrace all by itself).
Unfortunately, there doesn't actually appear to be any legal way to remove a sitting UNSG. Another disgrace.
Or battening down, as the case may be. Actually, I guess this is more like tying up a few loose ends.
The only reason I didn't link sooner to Lori Lowenthal Marcus's Weekly Standard article on UNIFIL's egregious perfidy in the recent war in Lebanon is because everyone else was. In case you forgot to go and read it, or if you somehow missed the previous links, go now.
In the What Were They Thinking department, Israel drops objection to Indonesian troops in UN force. But of course it does. It's being run by the three stooges and their merry band of pranksters, after all.
And don't miss the accounts here, here, here and here (at least) of Wednesday's blogger conference call with former Israeli army COS Moshe Ya'alon. It's a knockout. The audio is available at One Jerusalem, but it's a little hard to hear this time. Pamela has the full transcript of the Q&A.
Well, Ernesto is bearing down on the Delaware Valley, and it's going to be a wet and windy night. Time to go.
In a nutshell, a commenter calling himself "Roberto" and claiming to have attended the conference suggests at Soccer Dad that the Ynet story was "a flawed representation" and that Steven Erlanger was "purely professional and showed no bias." Now that would be a first for Erlanger when it comes to Israel, at least in my experience.
But, as mentioned in my previous post, Ynet has already deleted one particularly inflammatory paragraph from the article. And The Media Line, in an email that has been quietly circulating, corroborates Roberto's appraisal. They should know. They organized the conference.
Here are two other (considerably milder) versions of the conference comments. Compare and contrast. Stephen Spruiell says it seems as if Ynet just emphasized different comments. Omri suggests they may have been taken out of context.
TML has promised to put up the audio and video of the conference soon. We shall see and we shall update, as circumstances permit.
Update: The mystery of the deleted paragraph is solved, Steve Erlanger responds to Lappin's article, and Lappin responds to Erlanger's response (all here). They both recommend watching the tape -- when it's available. Stay tuned.