October 2006 Archives

That tiny missing word

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It's a bitch. Remember Neil Armstrong? Back in 1969, while stepping off the lunar lander, he was (supposedly) supposed to say:

That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.

Unfortunately, countless hours of endless analysis finally revealed that he (probably) did in fact accidentally leave out one tiny little word, and famously ended up saying something that sounded vaguely "chauvenistic" while at the same time being sort of self-contradictory.

That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.

As Armstrong himself has reportedly admitted, "Damn, I really did it. I blew the first words on the moon, didn't I?" But honestly, folks, it wasn't all that important. No harm, no foul, no gross insult. John Kerry's faux pas of yesterday, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish. In his latest cover story, Kerry's trying to say he was talking about the President. He's calling it a "botched joke." No sale.

You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq.

Nope, sorry. The sentence is clear, and it's not even self-contradictory, though of course it's totally offensive and completely wrong. But maybe extensive microanalysis of the video- or audiotape of Kerry's speech at Pasadena City College will ultimately reveal that what he actually said was

You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get us stuck in Iraq.

Maybe the Democrat spinmeisters should try that one on for size. It's as believable as anything else they've come up with so far. Static. Hey, maybe they'll even come up with a faux copy of the speech with that tiny little word in place.

Happy Halloween!

Update (Nov. 1): OMG! Anne Lieberman has the scoop. Listen. I made this missing word thing up, honest. And now Kerry's "spokeswoman" is actually trying to claim it was in the script? Maybe Amy Brundage reads my blog.

Scarce evidence

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I didn't think it was possible for Reuters to surprise me with their blatant anti-Israel bias any more, but, well, this is an article by a bloke named Yusri Mohamed on the build-up of Egyptian security forces near the Gaza border. It seems there's been a bit of weapons smuggling going on there and there are reports that Israel just might consider bombing the tunnels that are being used for that purpose. It's a little more effective and a lot less dangerous that trying to dismantle each one by hand. But here's the money quote. It's all the way at the end.

Egyptian police recently seized 195 crates of automatic weapons and ammunition meant to be smuggled across the border and the Israeli army said its troops discovered 15 tunnels along the border during the past week.

Israel estimates that tons of munitions, including advanced shoulder-fire missiles, have been smuggled into Gaza through the tunnels, though they have presented scarce evidence that Gaza militants use such weaponry.

Yes, you did read that right. Israel has presented "scarce evidence that Gaza militants use" the "tons of munitions" they're smuggling in from Egypt.

What can you say to that? Well, you can say this, I guess. Or this. Or you can say what she said: Eff you, Reuters.

Cart before the horse

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Judith Weiss provides an insightful and much-needed critique of Condolezza Rice's strategy for nation building vis a vis the palestinian Arabs.

Condi is putting the cart before the horse. The Soviet State didn't crumble because we tried to create a new Soviet state in the same location, with the same cast of characters, expecting to change their spots. It crumbled because we forced it to intensify its internal contradictions, tempting it into an accelerated arms race and continually showing its people the contrast between their lives and the ones they could have in a freer society.

That is the way to destroy jihadism, by not allowing it to expand its empire, not allowing it any military victories, starving it of legitimacy and financial support, until its internal contradictions force it to collapse, while at the same time demonstrating an alternative.

There's one crucial element missing here, though, when you compare palestinian Arabs to Soviet Russians or jihadism to international communism. Need I point out what that is?

Hello moon

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Which I guess is the most positive spin I can muster on the occasion of the end of Daylight Savings Time -- an event I dread each fall. Well, there's also that "extra" hour, which is good even though it's just a payback of the one we lost last April. But being a night person, I rarely get the benefit of the return of sunrise to its rightful place, and I sure do miss that added hour of daylight in the afternoon.

In 1986 (effective the following year, 1987), the beginning of DST was moved up from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday in April. Next spring, 20 years later, it'll be moved up even further to the second Sunday in March. Obviously a function of the vast right-wing conspiracy.

Works for me. But wait. I don't have kids to go back to rousing for school in the dark in March (as if it were the first weeks of January), but I do have the occasional 7:30 am meeting and that's going to be painful. Damn!

Seriously, the first Sunday in April, when the sun is already rising at an almost decent hour, was early enough, even for me. I expect there will be some griping come spring.

But for now, it's time to FALL BACK.

Shavua tov.

Short but sweet

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It's my intention to end this rather bad news week on an up note. And so I shall.

The libel suit in Denmark against Jyllands-Posten did not go the way of the libel suit against Philip Karsenty in Paris. Whatever else the Mohammed cartoons may have been, we now know they were not defamatory. So glad to have that out of the way.

And Meryl's Gracie is doing much better.

Shabbat Shalom.

Ruin your day?

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Omri can. Surely there is only so much of this that even a devoted free speech advocate can stand.

When your enemy has learned to take your greatest strength and use it against you, to debase it and defile it and smother it with utter falsehood, it's time for a reassessment of strategy. It's a wake-up call. It damn well better rouse you out of your comfortable PC slumber and bring you to the barricades. Hint (pay attention, France): You can't retreat when the enemy is behind you as well as in front of you.

So wrong

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This issue is just not going to go away. No matter how much some people would like it to. So it's way past time to just deal with it and move on. This is worse than no solution at all.

The Kadima-led coalition plans to present a civil marriage bill that has the backing of the Orthodox rabbinic establishment, but it offers only a limited solution to the plight of thousands of Israeli citizens who cannot get married in Israel.

The bill, drafted by Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit in consultation with leading rabbis, including the chief rabbis, is expected to allow a marriage between two Israeli citizens who are defined as non-Jews according to Orthodox Jewish law and who do not belong to any other religion.

Only those Israelis who can prove they are not Jewish would be allowed to marry in a civil ceremony.

Passing thought

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I only regret that I have no more respect (not a shred) for Jimmbo Carter to lose.
(With sincere apologies to Nathan Hale.)

Full disclosure: I voted for him. Both times. Sorry.

Here we go again

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Can't someone just shut this guy up (nonviolently, of course)?

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that Israel should explore the possibility of making peace with Syria.

"Israel needs to demonstrate its willingness to make painful concessions if our main interests are [to be] maintained," he said, while stressing that Israel has to be "ready for every scenario of military confrontation" with its neighbor along the northeast border.

Oh, wow. Deja vu. Again. Well, at least most Israelis know by now that when they hear that "painful concessions" mantra they need to start looking up and running for cover.

Peretz noted that Syrian President Bashar Assad has recently made overtures of peace as well as threats of military confrontation in interviews with the international press.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has dismissed Assad's remarks about peace with Israel and recently declared that he would never give back the Golan Heights.

But Peretz said the government should "consider" each of the Baathist leader's positions. More broadly, he said that Israel needs to be engaging moderate Arab leaders, specifically Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Moderate Arab leaders? Specifically Mahmoud Abbas? Excuse me while I clean off my monitor. Hey, Amir Peretz: he doesn't get older, he just gets dumber.

Big power outage

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Back on now. Just in time.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thoughts and prayers

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For Gracie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Update


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Latest update

What do these dates ...

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have in common?

November 14, 1972
January 8, 1987
April 17, 1991
February 23, 1995
November 21, 1995
October 14, 1996
February 13, 1997
July 16, 1997
April 6, 1998
March 29, 1999
May 3, 1999
October 19, 2006

It's about time!

A travesty in Paris

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For those of us who dared to hope that truth, let alone justice, might finally be served in the Al-Dura hoax, the Court of First Instance in Paris has delivered a big disappointment.

A French court has ruled against the director of a media watchdog group who accused French TV officials of complicity in the staging of the infamous Muhammad Al Dura video.

Phillipe Karsenty, director of Media Ratings, was accused of "striking at the honor and respectability" of France 2's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Charles Enderlin and France 2 by questioning the validity of footage aired on September 30, 2000, in the first days of the Oslo War, depicting a cowering Muhamad Al Dura being shot while being sheltered by his father near the former Jewish community of Netzarim in Gaza.

Disappointing, ridiculous, but hardly surprising. Karsenty will, of course, appeal. More on this later...

New low

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette isn't known for its balanced Middle East coverage. But this editorial, which disgraced the pages of that paper today, might very well mark a new low in yellow, disingenuous, misrepresentative journalism. I guess the P-G is to be congratulated.

Entitled "Deal with Hamas: The U.S. conveniently ignores that it won election," this essay barely manages to get through a single sentence without twisting what shreds of reality it references into unrecognizable caricatures.

Gaza is one of the lesser-known foreign policy failures of the Bush administration, but it is nonetheless a dangerous piece of bungling in severe need of repair.

In no sense is "Gaza" either a foreign policy success or failure of the Bush administration, as "Gaza" is nothing more than a piece of the puzzle and a strip of land in which bad stuff has been happening for a really long time. But, wait ...

When he was Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon kicked off the effort to launch Gaza as at least a semi-independent Palestinian state, perhaps eventually to serve as the basis for a recognized, two-state approach to the nearly six-decade effort to arrive at a stable Israeli-Palestinian situation. Mr. Sharon, at political cost to himself, pulled out Israeli settlers and forces from Gaza.

So if Gaza is anyone's policy success or failure, it's Sharon's (or Olmert's), but certainly not in this fictionalized version. In what universe did Ariel Sharon ever characterize the disengagement as an effort to launch anything remotely resembling a "semi-independent Palestinian state?" I refer the illustrious editors of the P-G to this speech, Herzliya 2003, in which Sharon clearly characterized his aims and intentions, and I remind them that, despite the catastrophe it has engendered, there was little "political cost" to effecting a policy that at least 50% of Israelis professed to be solidly behind at the time. But, again, it was Sharon's policy. Not Dubya's.

Last January this effort was capped with decent, peaceful and democratic Palestinian elections, observed by the international community. Hamas, a Palestinian party with considerable violence in its past, won by a clear margin. Israel, the United States and its partners in the peace-seeking quartet -- the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- could have considered that at least there was now on the Palestinian side a party with an electoral mandate to serve as a partner in serious negotiations.

"Decent, peaceful and democratic Palestinian elections?" Again, I ask, in what universe? And in what universe is the considerable violence of Hamas "in its past?" Have the P-G editors opened a newspaper in the past nine months? Turned on a TV? Have they bothered to notice that their proposed "partners in serious negotiations" isn't the least bit interested in negotiating with the "entity" it is still sworn to destroy?

Gentle readers, it does get worse. But I have neither the space nor the stomach to go on much longer. So I'll skip over to this (expletive deleted):

The results of this mishandling of a sensitive issue are twofold. First, violence in Gaza continues between the Israelis and the Palestinians and also among the Palestinians, between armed Hamas and Fatah militias. Second, there is no serious interchange underway between the Israeli government or the international quartet and an authoritative Palestinian authority.

And so the violence in Gaza, both between Israelis (who are no longer in Gaza) and "Palestinians" and also among the Arab palestinians themselves, is all the fault of George W. Bush. The failure of the Roadmap, such as it is, is all the fault of George W. Bush. Not the terrorists, who attack or try to attack daily, not the Qassams, not the suicide bombers, but George W. Bush. What we have here, folks, is a pathetic and transparent attempt to leverage eight paragraphs of total horse manure into a political commercial for the Democrats' takeover of the U.S. Congress.

Finally, I leave you with this quote to ponder on your next trip to the john:

Absent a peace process, there is no basis for the United States or anyone else to request organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah to desist from violence to permit such a process to move ahead. Violence, thus, continues to rule the day.

What is needed is for the United States to accept that Hamas won the elections and start talking to them.

Going up?

Single malt scotch for kiddush

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It's not often I get to start my day with a slice of pickled herring and a shot of Laphroaig. But I'll take it.

Chazak, Chazak, V'nitchazek!

Rejoice!

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Wrapping up what, for Jews, is a more than three-week long holiday (holy day) season, we are tonight easing out of Succot and into Shemini Atzeret. It's not always that easy to keep these holidays straight, and so a few years ago, I decided to try to spell it out for my own benefit and that of others similarly bewildered. Here it is again:

I've always found this holiday a bit confusing because, depending on how you look at it and where you look at it from, it lasts either seven, eight or nine days. So Succot itself lasts seven days, followed immediately by the separate but connected holy day of Shemini Atzeret (Eighth Day Feast). The day after Shemini Atzeret is yet another holy day called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah). In Israel, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are celebrated on the same day, so that the entire holiday period lasts eight days. Everywhere else, it lasts nine days. Is this fun, or what?

Simchat Torah is, indeed, a very fun holiday. It's one of two (the other is Purim) on which it's actually considered a mitzva to drink (as in alcohol). And there's a lot of dancing and singing, as well. It's also the day when we finish up the Torah-reading cycle for the year, roll the whole thing back to the beginning and start all over again. Cool stuff.

Shabbat Shalom.

Chag Sameach.

Footnote

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And speaking of links, this story at MEMRI, which has kicked up quite a fuss, also lacks them and, in addition, is just plain wrong in so many ways. MEMRI is usually quite circumspect about such things, so I don't know what happened here, but at this point it appears that any serious provocation over the Apple Store Fifth Avenue (not now or ever called "Apple Mecca") entrance will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then again, there are those who are trying to exploit this small lapse as a wedge to pick MEMRI apart. I'd like to say more about all this, but I know someone who will most certainly do a better job. Over to you, Omri. (Update: toldja)

No soap

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For a few hours yesterday, there was some buzz going around that Cindy Sheehan was on the short list for the Nobel Peace Prize. She didn't get it, of course, and that rumor now seems to have been pretty well debunked, except over at World Net Daily, where Melanie Morgan is still using it to hype her new book.

News accounts confirm the rumors that Cindy Sheehan was passing along to her friends: Sheehan made the short list of leading candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Except that they don't confirm any such thing. This is one of those instances where a link (you know, one of those hyperlink gizmos that actually lend a modicum of credence to statements like this) might have come in handy, unless there really wasn't one that supported the point. Let's take a look for ourselves.

The National Ledger says she's a candidate, but cites its source as "a bookmaker." In an article about her book signing, the Rocky Mountain News says "she was told she is on the short list," but doesn't cite a source at all, so it's probably simply repeating what she announced at that event. NewsMax seems to have summed up the situation nicely last night:

At a signing for her new book "Peace Mom” in Austin, Texas, Sheehan — President Bush’s most vocal critic against the war in Iraq — announced that she is a finalist for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But the committee that selects the winner of the prize, which is to be awarded on Friday, Oct. 13, has not revealed the list of nominees to Sheehan or anyone else, and has stated only that it had received 191 names by the Feb. 1 deadline.

And that's pretty much it for unique news accounts on the Sheehan nomination. Go ahead. Google it.

Look, to be clear, it's highly likely that she was nominated. Just look at the list of people who are qualified to submit Peace Prize nominations (members of national assemblies, governments, and international courts of law; university chancellors, professors of social science, history, philosophy, law and theology; leaders of peace research institutes and institutes of foreign affairs; previous years' Peace Prize Winners, board members of organizations that have received the Nobel Peace Prize; present and past members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and former advisers of the Norwegian Nobel Institute). So while it's always nice to get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, all it really means is that at least one person who fits the above description thinks you've made a worthwhile contribution to world peace. Chances are ...

But the short list is a different matter. That's what comes out of a review and analysis of the nominees by the Nobel Committee, and requires some actual merit. Regardless of what you think of the choices that have been made through that process and the mindset that informs those choices, at least some thought and consensus goes into them.

But the bottom line is that the statutes of the Nobel Foundation (§ 10) require that the names of all nominees be kept secret for at least 50 years, and the Committee claims that it has never had a leak (stories to the contrary by disgruntled non-winners notwithstanding). Leaks, such as they are, appear to be the province of those who have made the nominations, or who say they have made the nominations (it's a hard claim to disprove, unless you want to wait 50 years).

So while Sheehan may have been told by someone that they nominated her (almost certainly) and while that may have been true (highly likely), it's extremely unlikely that she had any way of finding out whether she was on the short list. But it sounded good at her book signing, and it got her some more attention, which she so desparately craves.

Perhaps we can keep that in mind when the rumors start flying again next year.

Holy Toledo

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Amazing fact no. 1 is that this op-ed appeared in the Lebanon Daily Star. Amazing fact no. 2 is who wrote it, which I've saved for the end:

'Protecting' Muslims may also be a way of insulting them

The recent cancellation of performances of Mozart's "Idomeneo" in Berlin raised the very important question of our perception of the Muslim world, an issue which has not been addressed in any way that has been satisfactory.

The production, which I have not seen and am therefore unable to comment upon, was temporarily removed from the German Opera's repertoire this season because of elements in it which could offend or insult people, namely Muslims, who were in fact not even required to see it.

It is the duty of a government to protect its citizens from the threat of violence and terrorism. But is it the duty of a theater to protect its audience from artistic expressions that might be interpreted as offensive?

[ . . . ]

The very essence of the role of theater in society is its ability to remain in constant dialogue with reality regardless of its impact on real events. This form of dialogue is neither a sign of courage nor of cowardice, but must come of the inner necessity of an individual or an institution to express itself. Limiting one's freedom of expression as a response to fear is as ineffective as imposing one's point of view through military force.


Art is neither moral nor immoral, neither edifying nor offensive; it is our reaction to it that makes it one or the other in our minds. Our society sees controversy more and more as a negative attribute, yet difference of opinion and the difference between content and the perception of it lie at the very essence of creativity.

If content can be manipulated, perception can be doubly so. By censoring ourselves artistically out of fear of insulting a certain group of people, we not only limit rather than enlarge human thought in general but in fact insult the intelligence of a large group of Muslims and deprive them of the opportunity to demonstrate their maturity of thought.

This is the exact opposite of dialogue and a consequence of the inability to discern between the many different points of view existent in the vast Muslim world.

Art has nothing to do with a society that rejects what I would call publicly accepted standards of intelligence and takes the easy way out with political correctness, which is in fact not different in essence from fundamentalism in its various manifestations. Both political correctness and fundamentalism give answers not in order to further understanding, but in order to avoid questions. Acting out of fear does not appease the fundamentalists, who in any case have no intention of being appeased, and does not encourage the enlightened Muslims whose aim is progress and dialogue.

Instead, it isolates all Muslims, making out of them part of the problem rather than partners in search of a solution. By depriving our society of this essential dialogue we continue to alienate people whose peaceful cooperation is indispensable for a future without violence.

Maybe the Muslim world needs a modern equivalent of Spinoza who would be able to express the very nature of Islam in the same way that Spinoza expressed the very nature of the Judeo-Christian way of thought, at once remaining outside of it and even negating it.

The decision not to perform "Idomeneo" was, finally, a decision not to differentiate between enlightened and extremist, between intellectual and dogmatic, between culturally interested and narrow-minded people of any origin or religion. The refusal to let this image be seen is precisely the fear that the violent elements of the Muslim world want us to have.

As I said above, I have not seen this production. I can only hope that Hans Neuenfels, the director of German Opera, found the display of the severed heads of Jesus, Mohammad and the Buddha an absolute inner necessity dictated by Mozart's score. Maybe he should have allowed the severed heads to speak so that they could have pled for acknowledgment of the great wisdom and power of thought they collectively represent.

I have a feeling that Danny Barenboim's buddies in Ramallah aren't going to be giving him a standing ovation for this one. I usually find very little that Barenboim has to say worth listening to, but he's making a lot of sense here. And, to be fair, what he's saying ("Art is neither moral nor immoral, neither edifying nor offensive; it is our reaction to it that makes it one or the other in our minds.") is more or less consistent with (but hardly completely analogous to) his reasons for insisting upon conducting Wagner in Israel. So I find it interesting but not entirely surprising that he elected to speak out publicly on this issue. That he chose to do so in a Lebanese newspaper is more intriguing.

Read it all.

With friends like these

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According to reports, George Soros is now trying to start (i.e., dump buckets of money into) a "dovish pro-Israel" [sic] alternative to (i.e., competitor with/opponent of) AIPAC. Excerpts from the JPost story on this development truly sound like something out of Bizarro world:

The meeting focused on how best to press Congress and the Bush administration to back greater US engagement toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how to better represent American Jews who don't buy into AIPAC's often hawkish policies.

That would be the same hawkish AIPAC that in 2005 enthusiastically backed the explusion of 10,000 Jews from their homes and the surrender of their communities and greenhouses to the terrorist-led Arab population of Gaza, dedicated to eradicating Israel from the map.

If it comes to fruition, it would be Soros' first major venture into Israel advocacy. Soros drew fire from some Jews in 2003 when at a conference on funding for Israel he suggested that Israel bore some responsibility for the outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe because of its stiff response to Palestinian terrorism during the intifada.

Yeah, 'cause that last effort probably didn't quite rise to the level of "Israel advocacy." If at first you don't succeed...

There also are differences about the degree to which the new structure should confront AIPAC.

I'll bet. Hey, AIPAC says it's not concerned about it. Me neither.

In touch

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Ocean Guy has managed to summarize quite succinctly a whole lot of what I find so depressing about the upcoming Congressional midterms: naked negativity sucks.

Out of touch

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This guy seems to be saying that the reason Rick Santorum is about to lose his Senate seat is that he hasn't pandered enough to his hard right base. Or explained nicely enough why he hasn't.

Whatever.

Go Yael!

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Anne Lieberman has posted a terrific, timely and immensely informative response to a benighted commenter from Argentina who does not like the way she writes about palestinians. The comment was posted in response to this post at Boker Tov, Boulder, which consists mostly of quotes from a really whiney article at Time about the plight of the poor people in Gaza ("Turning Hunger Into Hatred" -- give me a break). But never mind. Any opportunity to lament will do.

I read BtB regularly, and I'm absolutely certain Anne has never said anything about the palestinians that's remotely as nasty as most of the things that palestinians say about Jews. But, again, never mind. Anyway, here's part of her answer:

It's a shame that Palestinians are unhappy, but they have been given more aid per capita than any people anywhere in the history of the world. They have been given land (i.e. Gaza), and they have been offered a state (in 1937, 1947, 1949, 1967, 1978, 2000, 2001 and in the Roadmap of 2003).

The Palestinians have chosen a path of terrorism, intifada and jihad rather than negotiation. When they're not shooting from among women and children, they're sending women and children to blow themselves up. They have elected HAMAS to represent them. They have made their choices, and those choices are not civil, friendly or peaceful.

Being the object of their hate, I understand it plenty.

(links omitted -- but there are plenty -- so, like, go read the whole thing.)

Spencer's Truth

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On the off chance that you don't already know, Robert Spencer (of Jihad Watch) has a new book out: The Truth about Muhammad (subtitled: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion). I just finished reading it over the weekend. I wish everyone could. Unfortunately, the people who most need to read it, probably won't.

Yesterday, One Jerusalem sponsored a bloggers' conference call with Spencer. The audio will be available shortly here. Among the highlights of a very interesting interview was Spencer's response to a question about the differences between his view and that of Dr. Daniel Pipes on the question of "moderate Islam." Pipes has famously suggested that "radical [or militant] Islam is the problem and moderate Islam is the solution." Spencer has always seemed to be among those who question this premise, but his answer was very diplomatic as well as both informative and discouraging. He said that he supports Pipes "one hundred percent," that they have discussed the "moderate Islam" question and agree that the moderate Islam that's the solution "doesn't exist and needs to be formulated." Spencer also noted that "moderate Islam is in retreat everywhere in the world."

Dr. Pipes' elaboration of his own position can be found here, among other places. I still do see some space between them and, while I share Spencer's respect and admiration for Pipes' work, I have to confess that I tend to find Spencer's analysis somewhat more persuasive on this issue, especially in light of the extensive research and original source material with which he always backs it up.

Which brings me back to his book and its importance. Spencer related that a well known "moderate Muslim" accused him of "making up" a story that's a focal point of the book: Muhammad's marriage to the ex-wife of his adopted son. It's a ludicrous allegation, as the story is well known and well documented in Muslim sources which, of course, Spencer footnotes copiously and in detail. If you don't have easy access to the historical sources he cites, numerous accounts of it, both critical and laudatory, can also be found on line. Here, for example, is a version of it at Islamweb.

Spencer's critics are almost always reduced to blanket assertions of "lies," "distortions" and "make believe," but can rarely point to specific instances of any of these things. When they do, as in this case, their claims are easily refuted. For this reason alone (and there are many others), The Truth about Muhammad should be within easy reach of anyone attempting to respond effectively to today's pervasive "religion of peace" propaganda.

Right man for the job

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When it comes to fisking bird-brained BS about the Pope and his much maligned challenge to the Islamic world to enter into some semblance of rational dialogue, well, nobody does it better than Omri.

And while we're on the subject of the Arab News and the right men for the job, don't miss this lament about a recent trick the authorities at the Aziziya Water Distribution Center in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, have adopted to protect precious water deliveries from pilfering: requiring women to sit shotgun in the delivery truck. I kid you not. To assure that the cargo isn't hijacked or sold by the driver en route to someone else at an inflated price, women who come to Aziziya to purchase water for their families are being told to hitch up their abbayas and climb into the cab. Never mind that these women aren't technically permitted to be alone with any man other than their legal guardian (i.e., father, brother, husband). Or that they risk accusations of adultery by doing so.

It would be rational to assume that, prior to this incident, no one here could have foreseen women getting into the passenger seats of cars driven by men who were not their legal guardians, leave alone into the cabins of industrial trucks, without being targeted by the religious police or, at the very least, severely chastised and rebuked by the male members of their families. But that’s what necessity does. It dictates situations otherwise seemingly unimaginable.

And where were all the men who are supposed to be the self-imposed guardians and protectors of these women? Why weren’t they the ones taking it upon themselves to provide water for their households? Isn’t it a tad ironic that so many of them insist on exercising their authority over their womenfolk when it comes to issues of education, employment et al but when it comes to the boring and monotonous chore of queuing up for water, they give them license to fend for themselves?

Ironic? Well, yeah. Many times, the right man for the job is a woman. But probably not in this case. What were they thinking?

Z'man simchateinu

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It's a cold and rainy night to be sitting in the succah. I shall not be, as I'm down with a nasty cold. And since I don't seem to be up to posting much, either, here's a link to a great discussion of Succot over at Judaism 101.

Chag sameach.

Shabbat Shalom.

Choudhury redux

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The last time I wrote about Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on this blog, all was good. Or at least better. After being detained 17 months in a Bangladeshi jail, after over a year and a half of prison abuse as well as threats to and attacks on his family, Choudhury was released on bail. This was largely due to the tireless efforts of US Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and activist Dr. Richard Benkin.

But now things have taken a bad turn for the worse. Choudhury's trial is scheduled for next week, and he faces a potential death penalty. The new judge assigned to the case (a member of the radical Islamist group Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh) appears determined to throw the book at him, and he's being pressured in various ways to abdicate his rights and weaken his own defense.

Choudhury's crime, by the way: promoting interfaith dialogue and ending religious hatred or, in his own words, "Being a living contradiction: a Zionist and a devout Muslim living in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest Muslim country."

On Tuesday, OneJerusalem sponsored a bloggers' teleconference with Yehudit Barsky of the American Jewish Committee in an attempt to publicize this outrage and solicit support for Choudhury (audio here). It's apparently a tough sell. Since I first heard about Choudhury's arrest, I've been amazed at the lack of public attention given to his case. In reporting on the conference call, Mere Rhetoric lays it on the line:

Mr. Choudhury IS the moderate Muslim that the Bush administration swears is the true face of Islam. He's the vocal dissident that every single right of center blog swears they're desperate to hear from and ally with. Now our unilaterally-declared ally (declared by us) is fighting for his life against representatives of the most pathological and vicious strains of a religious ideology that is bringing the planet to the abyss of nuclear conflict. We try to avoid hysteria or hand-wringing on this blog, but it's not an exaggeration to say that Bangladesh's fate as a secular democracy hangs in the balance. How it tips will be based largely on the amount of pressure that the West brings to bear to ensure Mr. Choudhury's human rights. We've all been saying for years that we'll support moderate Muslims when they stand up to Islamofascist thugs. The world will be watching to see how much that support is worth.

So where is President Bush on this? Why have only three members of Congress (Kirk has been joined by Congressmen Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) ) come out swinging? And where are the cries of outrage and protest from all of those other moderate Muslims we keep hearing about? Let alone the mainstream media. A Google news search today for "Shoaib Choudhury" reveals a total of five hits. One of the them is Jawa Report. Another is the Jerusalem Post. And a third is the Israel Hasbara Committee.

Pathetic.

Please help. Don't put it off. Here is the contact information that will do the most direct good. But if you have time, please also get the word out however you can, by blog or email, by letter or phone call. Much more than a good man's life hangs in the balance here. As if that wasn't enough.

1. Contact the Bangladeshi Ambassador to the U.S. Shamsher M. Choudhury at bdootwash@bangladoot.org or at 202-244-0183 and let him know that such behavior is unacceptable from "an ally of the U.S. in the war on terror." Bangladesh is currently the recipient of U.S. aid dollars and the government of Bangladesh needs to know that U.S. citizens will not stand for such behavior.

2. Contact Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois to thank him for championing the cause of Mr. Choudhury. Congressman Kirk was able to secure Mr. Choudhury's release from prison once before after threatening to withhold U.S. aid to Bangladesh and his efforts to stop this severe human rights abuse should be encouraged.

Making stuff up

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Inspired to action by the recent death of Oriana Fallaci, I finally picked up a copy of The Force of Reason and sat down to devour it. It's a pretty scary book. Fallaci has been there and done that in so many different places and contexts and situations that trying to keep up with her accounts almost leaves me dizzy. Her knowledge and her experience are so deep and so broad that when, in several instances I found myself shaking my head in serious disbelief, wondering if she could possibly have gotten this quote right or that set of events straight, I quickly dismissed my cynicism as stemming from my own ignorance.

But finally, toward the end of the book (pp. 250-51), she got to a story that I already knew and knew well. I knew it much too well to leave any doubt whatsoever that she had made up her account of it, her re-invention of it, from whole cloth. Whether she wrote it from (faulty) memory without bothering to check her facts, or simply fabricated the details that fit her thesis, I don't know. Regardless, the result is the same. All of those other references I questioned are now open to doubt, and will remain so. I no longer feel comfortable citing her as a source. And that's not good.

I bring this up here, not to air dirty laundry, but because I want to stress once again how important it is that in our narrative of the dangers facing us today we avoid slipping into the practice of relying on anything and anyone that tends to support it without applying the discipline we apply to the narrative of our opponents. We need to leave that sort of sloppiness to the Dan Rather and Adnan Hajj supporters. To mix metaphors a bit, if we're going to stick out our necks, we ought to be sure that we're standing on solid ground.


Here is Fallaci's example of the American version of what she calls "[t]he insuperable line, the insurmountable barrier," behind which it's only possible to keep silent or join the enemies of Western civilization:

And, to assert that it prevails in America too, here I choose the striking example provided by the beautiful monument which stood before the State Judicial Building of Birmingham, Alabama. A granite plinth with a great marble open book. On the two exposed pages, the Ten Commandments: the genesis of our moral principles. As I'm told, the people of Birmingham were proud of that great marble book. And so was the State Governor: an impartial white man, a man much beloved also by the blacks who in Birmingham are almost always Christians. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Catholics. But one ugly day the representatives of the tiny Muslim minority began muttering that the Ten Commandments had been written by the Jew Moses, that showing them in public clearly favoured Judaic-Christian culture, and the Politically Correct brigade sided with Allah. The protest ended up in the Supreme Court, the Solomons of the Supreme Court decided that in addition to harming Interrelgious Dialogue the marble book violated the principles underpinning the separation of the Church and the State, and another ugly day the beautiful monument was removed in defiance of the State Governor who refused to accept the verdict and resigned.

The number of indisputable factual errors and fabrications in this account is mind-boggling. Add to that the bogus implications and innuendos, and you have a piece of near fiction, based very loosely on a recent historical event, the implications of which are almost (but not quite) entirely the opposite of those that Fallaci attempts to paint.

Let's start with the monument, of which the people of Birmingham were so proud. The monument was first placed in the rotunda of the State Judicial Building, late at night on July 31, 2001, by Roy Moore, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, who did so unilaterally and in explicit and deliberate defiance of the growing body of legal authority holding that such displays were unconsitutional. The next morning, he held a press conference at the monument to ensure that no one missed the point.

Three months later, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, not by representatives of any "tiny Muslim minority," but by the ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, all of which organizations boast a healthy majority of Jews and Christians among their membership and in positions of high leadership. No mention whatsoever was made of "the Jew Moses."

On November 18, 2002, the District Court ruled that the monument was unconstitutional and must be removed. That judgment was affirmed on appeal by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The "Solomons of the Supreme Court" decided nothing, other than that they would not hear the case.

Moore was ordered to remove the monument, which he refused to do. Consequently, on November 14, 2003, Moore was removed from office. On the same day, the monument was removed from the State Judicial Building.

Neither Don Siegelman (the governor of Alabama at the time Moore planted the monument in 2001 and at the time he lost the lower court case in 2002), nor Bob Riley (the governor of Alabama at the time of Moore's loss on appeal and his removal from office in 2003) played any significant role or took any vocal stand on the issue. Certainly, neither of them resigned over it. Riley is running for a second term this year. (In the primary, he faced a hostile and utterly unsuccessful challenge from none other than Roy Moore.)

So Fallaci tried, using made-up "facts," to turn an ongoing American struggle over the interpretation of the First Amendment to our Constitution, with die-hard patriots, Jews and Christians firmly on both sides of the issue, into part of a nefarious plot by antisemitic Muslims to undermine Western culture. The ongoing Ten Commandments debate is just, in fact, the opposite. As long as Americans can continue to debate and discuss, protest and pontificate over exactly these sorts of questions, we'll be ok. As long as they're resolved in plain daylight, through the channels of our legislatures and our judicial system as directed by our Constitution, our freedom and our liberty will be preserved. While I've lost all respect for the ACLU, I still have a great deal for Americans United and, especially, the SPLC. They're on the right side of the struggle.

The nefarious plot into which Fallaci tried to fit this episode is one that I have no doubt exists. I'm in awe of the courage and energy and articulate expression that Oriana Fallaci summoned during her lifetime to fight the battle against it. But the battle, the war, has to be won with truth and honesty, and with accuracy, not with made-up, lazy, convenient fictionalized accounts and fabrications. And because I have neither the time nor the resources to fact-check the myriad other quotations and references in her books of which I have no independent knowledge, I'm afraid I can no longer trust them to shape either my own opinions or my own arguments. A pity.

Meltdown

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On the one-week anniversary [sic] of Bill Clinton's meltdown on Fox News Sunday, I'm just itching to share a few thoughts and observations. It's the first of October. We've got a little more than a month until the mid-term elections will be (blessedly) behind us. So of course all sorts of things are not so much creeping as being extracted from the woodwork for our perusal and judgment. (Any left wing pundit or politician, by the way, who participated in making "swift boat" a verb ought to be taken out and severely lashed, but that's a different discussion.)

How and why we got to the point where our ex-pres felt the need to sit down with Chris Wallace and try to vindicate his WOT performance record is truly beyond me. I know the momentum ratcheted up with the release of the ABC fictionalized docudrama [sic] "The Path to 9/11." I know that the reactions to that piece of piffle on both sides of the debate were pretty pathetic. But now comes Bill, full of spit and venom, fire and fury, and makes an ass of himself on what's generally perceived to be a hostile news network, to the general applause and admiration of the Democratic Party, which apparently believes the meltdown represents a positive note in their Congressional campaign. Will Americans who were not already deeply entrenched in their camp see it that way? I guess we'll find out.

Even more perplexing, Chris Wallace felt it necessary to devote part of this week's program to defending his own behavior last week. Why? His questions were mild and meek and an open invitation to Clinton to defend himself against any and all accusations, yet Clinton chose to characterize them as an attack. And anyone who's been watching Wallace for a while knows that his "little smirk" is a permanent facial feature. It's been there at least since he was a guest host on "Nightline," and it persists regardless of who he's interviewing.

The most troubling thing to me about this whole brouhaha, though, is its exemplification of what I've come to think of as America's Self-Deleting Memory Syndrome. It's one thing to get confused about events that took place in the deep dark past -- say, more than twenty or thirty years ago. But most Americans of voting age ought to have a pretty clear memory of what the world was like before 9-11-01. Practically no one, no one, thought the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil was a serious issue, even after the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. People who raised it were laughed out of town. After the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, after the U.S.S. Cole attack in 2000, Americans were still in deep denial. After the embassy attacks, the public outrage wasn't over Clinton's failure to take decisive action -- it was over his retaliatory bombing of a pharmaceutical company (and suspected chemical weapons plant, later cutely dubbed an "aspirin factory" by opponents of the action) in Khartoum.

Let's give our memories a little jog as to what we were thinking, as a country, before the day that pretty much changed everything. Here's a news page of the The Witherspoon Society, an arm of the PC-USA, for September, 2001. In the year and half prior to 9-11, the word "terrorist" appears on this page only twice, both times in connection with attacks on abortion clinics. Then the pace picks up rather sharply. Steven Emerson, now widely acknowledged as one of the foremost experts on terrorism, was either explicitly or implicitly banned from appearing on National Public Radio during the three years prior to 9-11 (his last appearance, by NPR's own admission, was in August, 1998, just after the embassy bombings). In the academic world and pervasively on the news, this was what we were hearing: that people like Emerson were "spreading an irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on farfetched horrible scenarios."

So whose house to pox? Is there any question that neither William Jefferson Clinton nor George W. Bush did all or even a good bit of what could have been done to prevent 9-11? No. They didn't. But what seems to be getting lost in all the fuss over this is that the American people weren't prepared, willing or motivated to support what needed to be done. Apparently, a lot of us still aren't.

So while we're busy flinging blame around with the benefit of ghastly 20/20 hindsight, we should keep in mind that our leaders derive their power from us, the People. And that, unfortunately, We, the People, needed a good kick in the pants before we were ready to begin serious consideration of whether to grant them even a modicum of that power. We're still considering. Let's hope we figure it out before the next kick comes.

To all of you who are observing the holy day of Yom Kippur, an easy fast.

G'mar Hatima Tova.

Dear Omri,

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Please correct this, too. I do not support Bob Casey, although I will, most likely, be reluctantly voting for him. And I, too, would love to see him denounce the moronic drivel by the commenters at MoveOn.org. But I'm not sure it's really worth his time to bother, any more than it's worth his opponent's time to denounce every nut job that comments on right wing websites.

I'd find it more meaningful, actually, if Santorum would denounce his own moronic drivel. But I don't expect that to happen.

Thanks. (Update: sincerely)

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