April 2007 Archives

Classic McCain


Anyone who wonders why he's slipping in the polls need listen or read no further than this -- a revealing excerpt from John McCain's interview today on Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: How would you fight the War on Terror differently than it's being fought now?

J. MCCAIN: I would probably announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I would move those detainees to Fort Leavenworth. I would announce we will not torture anyone.

I would announce that climate change is a big issue, because we've got some image problems in the world. I think that we've got to understand — diplomatic, intelligence-wise.

Clearly, in the area of, quote, "propaganda," in the area of the war of ideas, we are not winning as much as — well, in some ways we are behind.

Al-Jazeera and others maybe, in the view of some — my view — may sometimes do a better job than we are.

At the end of the day, it's how people make up their minds as to whether they want to embrace our values, our standards, our ideals, or whether they want to go the path of radical Islamic extremism, which is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.

So on the one hand, radical Islamic extremism is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in. And on the other hand, the best way to fight it is to close Guantanamo Bay and talk more about global warming. You know, it's a hard call, but between McCain and Barak Obama (during Thursday's debate) on the WOT, at this point I'd have to give Obama a slight edge.

MODERATOR: . . . Senator Obama, if, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists, and we further learned beyond the shadow of a doubt it had been the work of al Qaeda, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?

OBAMA: Well, the first thing we’d have to do is make sure that we’ve got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we’ve got good intelligence, A, to find out that we don’t have other threats and attacks potentially out there; and B, to find out do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.

But what we can’t do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are taling to the international community.

Because as has already been stated, we’re not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We’ve got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they’ve got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.

There are, of course, similarities between the answers, even though the questions themselves are somewhat different. But McCain's responses are actually counterproductive, while Obama's are (leaving the silly political swipe aside) simply inadequate. Bottom line: Presidential candidates McCain and Obama both seem to agree that the best strategy for defending America against enemies hellbent on our destruction is to get more people to like us better.


All out of words


Lots of thoughts, but they're just not organizing themselves right now. Next week, maybe.

Shabbat Shalom.

Anytown, USA


For some decades now, our enemies have realized that the most effective weapon against this country is the perversion of our own democratic principles. Their first major victory on this front was the Vietnam War. Previous attempts had proven unsuccessful. But there comes a time in the history of any great innovative endeavor when the prize starts getting taken for granted and we of the late sixties generation were a prime target. Not nearly as prime, however, as the typical liberal American of today.

It may take a little effort to remember that the vast majority of Americans who lead the way to our self-imposed defeat in Vietnam were considered fringe countercultural "hippies" until quite late in the game. The self-designated "freaks" who attended Woodstock weren't exactly the student union presidents and valedictorians of the class of '69. They were the dopers and the droppers, the long-haired, bell-bottomed weirdos that often (trust me) got laughed or pushed or punched out of acceptable everyday life in high schools and college campuses across the nation.

But by 1973, a new day had dawned. Long-haired, bell-bottomed weirdness was chic. The President that so proudly we hailed in 1968 and again in 1972 resigned in disgrace and "journalism" had become the enemy of the "establishment." And while I still hold that the housecleaning and transparency that resulted from Watergate have made our nation stronger and better, they also granted our enemies a new avenue of access to the maleable minds of our general populace.

Earlier today, I heard a nitwit proclaim on CNN that Roseanne Barr had opened her eyes to new persepectives on the war in Iraq. I mean, ... what? I can't even think of an analogy absurd enough to emcompass the idiocy of that statement. Whatever Roseanne Barr or any other celebrity may think they know about the war in Iraq, they're in no position to enlighten anyone on that subject. For the simple reason that they, like most Americans, are spared having to burden themselves with such details by the fact that we pay experts, i.e., people who actually do know something about how to wage a war, to do so. For the simple reason that they have access to no more intelligence or information than every other American with an opinion and that some of them (Roseanne Barr being a prime example) are clearly no more qualified to effectively process that intelligence and information than your average barn swallow.

The fact is that, today, the enemies of America are by and large not confined to nations against which we can exercise an effective deterrant strategy. Many of them are individuals who have taken up residence within our shores for the sole purpose of destroying us. Their benefactors, elsewhere, are hard to indentify and even harder to locate. They recognise completely that the freedoms we cherish in this country make our government weak, susceptible of defeat, open to infiltration. They're more than happy to use those openings to their own advantage, and they have, but they have no intention of allowing their own regimes to be brought low in similar fashion once they've succeeded. Why is this so hard to understand?

Those who are using America's principles to defeat America have no respect for human rights, for women's rights, for gay rights, for minority rights, for freedom of religion, freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. In fact, they despise such "rights" as weakness and corruption. This is especially true today, but it's been so for a long, long time. The Fascists and the Communists had little more respect for these rights than the Islamists that are now aligned with the remains of both of those movements do today. And yet we elect government officials in the name of protecting those rights who are ready and anxious to sign our declaration of surrender to those who would obliterate them.

So. Is the American experiment over? Will we prove to the world that freedom and strength can't co-exist? And, if so, how long will it be before some newer, more improved version of democracy dares to rear its head? My guess is, quite some time. I must tell you, I wake up every morning hoping that sense will come to the Democrats in Congress and open their eyes to the threat that's ready to engulf everything they hold dear, everything I hold dear. Or that our President or his advisors will somehow, miraculously, figure out how to effectively articulate that threat. But every day brings more dismal news.

Once upon a time I dreaded what might have to happen to wake America up. And then, on a sunny September morning five and half years ago, something beyond my worst imaginings did happen. But it only woke us up for a few months. In effect, it almost seems to have inoculated us against a healthy understanding of what's to come. Once upon a time I was quite certain I wouldn't live to witness the defeat of America. Today, I'm not so sure.

ed brown part II


You'd think this story would be getting a little more attention. But it's not. If I didn't know better, I'd be inclined to write off almost the only current mention of it on Google News as the work of some outlet with an agenda. But I do know better.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A couple convicted of tax evasion for concealing $1.9 million in income was sentenced to prison Tuesday, but they refused to attend the hearing and have vowed not to leave their fortress-like mansion.

Ed and Elaine Brown insist tax laws do not exist and have holed up in their hilltop home in Plainfield, which has a watchtower, concrete walls and the ability to run on wind and solar power. Ed Brown, 64, said he has stockpiled food and supplies.

"The world belongs to the creator. It doesn't belong to man," he said Tuesday. "It doesn't belong to the United States government."

The Browns were convicted in January of scheming to hide $1.9 million of income between 1996 and 2003. They were also convicted of using $215,890 in postal money orders to pay for their residence and for Elaine Brown's dental practice. The money orders were broken into increments just below the tax-reporting threshold.

U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe sentenced them each to 5 1/4 years in prison. They skipped the sentencing hearings, and in a telephone interview, Ed Brown said they will not surrender to federal authorities.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Morse said the former exterminator and his dentist wife have acted as though they are above the law.

U.S. marshals have been ordered to arrest the couple but said they are not planning to storm the home, blockade the roads or cut off supplies.

"We're not going to engage in that kind of game with them," U.S. Marshal Stephen Monier said. But, he added, "law enforcement is not going away and neither are the warrants."

In telephone interviews, Ed Brown said the couple will stay in their home despite convictions and warrants.

"I could care less what he does," Brown said of McAuliffe. "I can't talk to a fiction. You're a fiction, too."

The Browns based their defense on a theory that no law exists requiring tax payments.

Elaine Brown, 66, said Monday that she doesn't recognize the government, and that its officials are "a fiction in my life."

Ed Brown has been holed up in his "compound" in Plainfield, NH since January. Apparently, in addition to food and supplies, he's hinted that he's also stockpiled weapons. And if you read the rest of the article, you'll find that he also has friends picketing the courthouse.

Some are already invoking Waco and Ruby Ridge. So why is this not news?

Raising the flag


As it does every year, the State of Israel passed from darkness to light this evening. Having mourned her sons and daughters who have died in the struggle for her existence, it's time to celebrate the birth of what they gave their lives for.

Israeli Flag light.gif


Remembering their sacrifice


Yom HaZikaron observed on the Tel Aviv highway (via Israel Insider):

Nuts with a vengeance


Have you seen this story? Ed Brown, "just a regular guy" and certainly not a nutcase in the eyes of his supporters, is a tax protester who has been holed up in his New Hampshire "compound" (his own term) for three months, defending the American people against the tyranny of our government and the illegal federal income tax. Ed and his wife Elaine were convicted in January of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and conspiracy to disguise large financial transactions to avoid income tax reporting requirements, 20 counts in all. They have now filed an "order" requiring that their case be dismissed because, well, they say so. And they filed this order under the new names they're recently adopted: "Edward, a Living Soul in the Body of the Lord, of the House of Israel," and "Elaine, a Living Soul ..." likewise.


Here's a recent interview with Mr. Brown, conducted by another pair of creative thinkers, John Stoddard Klar and his wife Jackie. Klar's website, which is all about "George W. Bush and the Desecration of Christianity in Modern America," is here. Just to put his views in perspective, Mr. Klar is of the opinion that "the mainstream media have been very uncomfortable criticising this president for the last year and a half."* So he, as a "conservative Christian lawyer" and a patriot, has to step up and do it for them.

Tax protesters, by and large, are a sorry lot of misguided, disturbed individuals. Once in a while you find one who's just a plain vanilla criminal using the tax protester dodge as a way to avoid paying taxes and fleece a bunch of the misguided, disturbed types in the process. This group, which is currently embroiled in its own legal problems and whose founders are currently serving hard time, has jumped with both feet onto the virulently anti-Israel bandwagon, as you can see here, e.g.,

Our hypothesis is as follows:

1) U.S. tax money is being used to oppress and destroy the Palestinian society;
2) in response, the Palestinians and their sympathizers are attacking the United States;
3) in reply, the United States has instituted a domestic War on Terror;
4) the War on Terror has given rise to a growing Police State in the U.S.;
5), the Police State has resulted in an across the board erosion of individual Freedoms, Rights and Liberties; and 6), therefore, U.S. financial aid to Israel is violative of the General Welfare Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1).

If anyone can show that the hostilities being directed toward the United States and the War on Terror has nothing to do with our funding of Israelעs occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, we beg them to do so.

"We the People" provides, of course, appropriate credit for this garbage to their spiritual guides Jimmy Carter and Professors Walt and Mearsheimer.

As I've pointed out elsewhere, no one pays attention to these kooks, but still. They're out there, dripping their own little bit of poison into the pot. And "We The People" naturally supports Ed Brown, though not his "stated intent to employ violence in defense of his Rights."

My question is: why are Ed and Elaine Brown still living "peacefully" in their "compound?" Well, the aforementioned stated intent to employ violence no doubt has something to do with it. He's not calling it a "compound" for nothing, and he's apparently been able to collect some supporters in there with him. His sentencing hearing is Tuesday. He's not expected to make an appearance.

*Update: More 'wisdom' from John Stoddard Klar:

The only effective counterforce for terrorism is to undermine the conditions which feed its existence. Instead, this administration consistently feeds the infection of Islamic extremism, dishing out the exact recipe to strengthen and enrage these people: unilateral support for Israel as it employs excessive force in Lebanon and Gaza "defending itself"; an attack on Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11; the use of torture, which has included the inflammatory practices of using women as interrogators, and of desecrating the Koran.

World's tiniest violin


It's playing its heart out, I'm sure.

Palestinian forces suffering from emotional issues

Infighting, tensions between Palestinian and Muslim groups, leads security forces to seek counseling for tension, depression

But let's be clear. It's only the infighting and tensions between palestinian and Muslim groups that are the problem. Murdering Israelis ... not so much. In fact, no matter how much shock, tension and depression the infighting may be causing, it's nothing, nothing I tell you, compared to the misery caused by "the occupation."

Palestinian security forces have been seeking emotional counseling, following "internal infighting in Gaza". Dr. Riad al-Aqra, the director for the Gaza hospital for mental health, said that "although the occupation is a major cause for emotional depression for Gaza residents…Palestinian infighting plays a striking role in the increase of shock, tension and depression, present in previously unseen amounts."

Dr. al-Aqra cited the Palestinian website Dunia al-Waran, stating that these phenomena were seen primarily among wives and mothers of Palestinian security force members, but also among the troops themselves.

"One member of the Hamas security force came to me suffering from high tension, which was causing physical problems. He said he felt fear from the fact that he would burn in hell forever if he fired even one bullet at someone," the doctor said.

This is actually starting to sound a little healthy. Hopeful. But, no.

He told of another case, in which a member of the security forces arrived with similar symptoms. "He said he couldn't fire at another Muslim, and that he felt pain and bitterness," al-Aqra said.

"These are the feelings on both sides of the infighting, and emphasize that everyone, deep inside, rejects the civil war in his soul, rejects that which is unnatural," he explained.

Alevai. If only. If only these people would actually start to reject "that which is unnatural," peace would come to the Middle East in short order. If only.

Hopeless, helpless and lost


The other victims of the VT massacre:

Statement issued to The Associated Press by Sun-Kyung Cho, sister of Seung-Hui Cho:

On behalf of our family, we are so deeply sorry for the devastation my brother has caused. No words can express our sadness that 32 innocent people lost their lives this week in such a terrible, senseless tragedy.

We are heartbroken.

We grieve alongside the families, the Virginia Tech community, our State of Virginia, and the rest of the nation. And, the world.

Every day since April 16, my father, mother and I pray for students Ross Abdallah Alameddine, Brian Roy Bluhm, Ryan Christopher Clark, Austin Michelle Cloyd, Matthew Gregory Gwaltney, Caitlin Millar Hammaren, Jeremy Michael Herbstritt, Rachael Elizabeth Hill, Emily Jane Hilscher, Jarrett Lee Lane, Matthew Joseph La Porte, Henry J. Lee, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan, Lauren Ashley McCain, Daniel Patrick O'Neil, J. Ortiz-Ortiz, Minal Hiralal Panchal, Daniel Alejandro Perez, Erin Nicole Peterson, Michael Steven Pohle Jr., Julia Kathleen Pryde, Mary Karen Read, Reema Joseph Samaha, Waleed Mohamed Shaalan, Leslie Geraldine Sherman, Maxine Shelly Turner, Nicole White, Instructor Christopher James Bishop, and Professors Jocelyne Couture-Nowak, Kevin P. Granata, Liviu Librescu and G.V. Loganathan.

We pray for their families and loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief. And we pray for those who were injured and for those whose lives are changed forever because of what they witnessed and experienced.

Each of these people had so much love, talent and gifts to offer, and their lives were cut short by a horrible and senseless act.

We are humbled by this darkness. We feel hopeless, helpless and lost. This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person.

We pray for you, as well.

Shabbat Shalom.

There you have it


The debate is over. It's time for the international community to embrace Hamas and stop trying to convince the terrorist organization (or any Muslim country, for that matter) to recognize Israel's right to exist. After all, we all know that we musn't ever interfere with the free practice of religious beliefs.

Former PA foreign minister Mahmoud A-Zahar of Hamas said Friday that recognizing Israel contradicts the Koran, Israel Radio reported.

In an interview with a Hamas-affiliated Web site, A-Zahar said that Hamas had not given up on the principle that all of Palestine is Muslim land.

Yes. We knew that.

NOT important


People ... the Islamic connection, such as it is NOT, to the Virginia Tech shooter, is a non-story and the sooner we dispense with it, the better. The evidence is overwhelming that this was a very, very sick kid. To draw any inference that his abominable actions had any connection whatsoever to any faith, creed, cause or ethnic affiliation would be an immense disservice to both his victims and to the horrific nature of his crime.

Drop it.

Update: I haven't been getting around much lately, so I missed Omri's much more nuanced version of this message. If you did, too, go read now.

The face of vulgarity


This one requires no comment. From Commentary:

Michael Lerner, Vulgarian

Joshua Muravchik - 4.15.2007 - 12:40PM

April 15 is Yom haShoah, the day of commemoration of the Holocaust. The Nazis killed one-third of the world’s Jewish population, and most Jews, at least most Ashkenazi Jews, lost an ancestor or cousin in this unparalleled slaughter. Many lost their whole families. Around the world, Jews will pray for these lost ones and lament the immense part of the body of our people that was torn away from us—a wound that will never heal. It is a moment of deepest grief and solemnity.

Except, that is, to one Michael Lerner, who has just announced that he will use the occasion to launch a “campaign for a Global Marshall Plan.”

Like a bad penney, Lerner keeps turning up, making a mockery of himself and everything he purports to stand for. If you're unfamiliar with Mr. Lerner's background, Muravchik provides some:

Michael Lerner is someone about whom I would not ordinarily comment, except that this display of vulgarity cannot be allowed to pass unnoticed. Lerner was a 1960’s New Leftist, founder of the Seattle Liberation Front. When a demonstration he organized turned into a riot, he was tried as part of the “Seattle Seven.” While many other 60’s radicals eventually rethought their juvenile beliefs, Lerner set his mind instead to carving out new turf. He reappeared as a psychotherapist, dressing his old ideology in a new robe by founding the Institute for Labor and Mental Health, which purported to study the “psychodynamics of American society.”

Lerner married wealth, and although the marriage did not last, the wealth did, enabling him to found the magazine Tikkun. A few years later, a disillusioned employee revealed that letters to the editor that ran in its pages, lavishing praise on the magazine and Lerner, were in fact fabricated by Lerner himself.

In his next self-reinvention, Lerner appeared as a rabbi, although his theological training was as sketchy as that of such other famous self-promoters as the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. In this guise, he propounded the “politics of meaning”—the meaning of which was indecipherable. Of greater moment, Lerner used his rabbinic title as cover for a relentless campaign against Israel, including the embrace of such unsavory enemies of the Jewish state as Cindy Sheehan, prompting the scholar Edward Alexander to observe, “nothing anti-Semitic is entirely alien to him.”

Like other leftists cloaking themselves in rabbinic garb, Lerner redefined Passover as a vehicle on which to display ideological bumper stickers rather than as a commemoration of the creation of Judaism through the exodus from Egypt, the receipt of the Ten Commandments, and the settlement of the promised land.

And there's more.

Lerner slithered into my consciousness decades ago, before he started calling himself a rabbi, and his perversion of the Passover Haggada was actually the topic of my second post on this blog. He's made numerous appearances here since, all of them unfavorable. Feh!

Remember them


YNet has a collection of comments by a widely diverse group of Knesset members on the occasion of Yom HaShoah -- Holocaust Memorial Day.

Israel’s Knesset members gathered together to mark Holocaust Day by attending the traditional “Every Person Has a Name” ceremony at the Knesset Monday morning.

Ynet asked the participants a question: Could the Holocaust happen again?

“It was the biggest crime against humanity, and its denial is something that must be rejected completely, both on a political level and a moral level,” said MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al).

“The very existence of the State of Israel and its power already constitutes a major obstacle, so that another Holocaust does not occur,” MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yahad) said during the ceremony.

“Still, the dangers Jews and the State of Israel face, such as Iran, are clear and known. I believe that Iran is a real threat to Israel – but I most definitely do not place it on the same level as the Holocaust,” Cohen continued.

MK Danny Yatom (Labor) said, “The danger of another Holocaust occurring is stronger than ever. In recent years, we’ve seen several incidents of genocide in the modern world, so the world has not internalized or learned the lessons of the Shoah, even though they can’t be compared to the Holocaust the Jewish people suffered.”

“It’s up to us whether we learned the lesson or not. At the end of the day, it’s in our power to prevent, God forbid, another Holocaust. Our stupidity could also lead to another Holocaust. It’s only up to us,” said MK Zvi Hendel (National Union-NRP)

Could it happen again? Is that really the question? The danger really isn't so much that the Holocaust might happen again as it is that something else might happen that wouldn't be recognized as another "Holocaust" until far too late. Something that might appear at first as innocuous, justifiable, well-intentioned, even. It begins with the poisoning of people's minds, with the substitution of words, with the pointing of fingers in one direction. It gains critical mass almost without notice. And then it quickly becomes a juggernaut.

Today's fast-paced, mass-media-addicted global community is far more vulnerable to this phenomenon than was the Europe of the 1930s. We need to be viligent. We need to be ever on our guard. All of us. It's the least we can do to honor their memory.



So according to this article in yesterday's Jerusalem Post, "the Israeli defense establishment" is worried about what it perceives to be a "split" in the Hamas leadership. Now one of the authors of this article is Khaled Abu Toameh, and that carries a lot of weight with me, but the piece is more interesting for its commentary on the state of Hamas's union, so to speak, than it is for any bearing its analysis may have on the chances for Gilad Shalit's release. (The fact is that I don't think it has any bearing whatsoever, because ... well, I hope I'm wrong. Anyway...)

As negotiations over the release of Cpl. Gilad Schalit appeared to enter their final lap this week, grave concern was expressed within the Israeli defense establishment on Wednesday over the growing rift within Hamas, which officials warned could jeopardize the deal and future contacts with the Palestinian Authority.

It seems, according to one unidentified Israeli official, that there are now three separate elements fighting for control of Hamas: 1) the ones who want to pretend to think about conceding a few points re: Israel's right to exist in order to appear moderate and thus gain concrete concessions of their own from Israel, the US and the EU; 2) the ones who want to stand firm on their "principles" and continue to reject every possibility of co-existence with Israel; and 3) the "most radical" ones, who were behind Cpl. Shalit's kidnapping in the first place and have no intention of allowing any agenda other than their own to dictate his destiny.

Thus we can see how easily the veneer of a palestinian Arab "moderate" is concocted. That first group now looks pretty good in comparison to the second and third groups, although the distinction between the goals of the latter two is somewhat unclear. But what does this have to do with Shalit?

According to a senior Israeli defense official, the current rift within Hamas could serve as an obstacle for Israel in advancing Schalit's release. Hamas's agreement to the deal was essential for its implementation. He said Hamas was also trying to copy Hizbullah war tactics and draw the IDF into a fight where Hamas would have the upper hand.

All of which begs the question: who is making the rules in this game? While it may sound insensitive and callous to call it a "game," it's beyond clear that to one side (i.e., Hamas et al.) that's exactly what it is. And as long as the other side (i.e., Israel) agrees to play, and to play by the rules that Hamas (and particularly that "most radical" element of Hamas) is setting, that's exactly what it becomes. It isn't rocket science. It isn't complex military strategy. It's just common sense.

Time to sweep all the pieces off the table. Time to turn over the board. In the immortal words of William Harrison: This wasn't meant to be a game.

Shabbat Shalom.

About CAIR


Well, Joe Sestak's appearance at the Philadelphia CAIR fundraising dinner last night has come and gone and created barely a ripple. As Sestak had hoped. The media pretty much gave him a pass. The governor gave him a boost. And the tiny smattering of protesters who showed up didn't make much of a dent, but did attract a group of CAIR supporters with their own quickly scrawled signs who appeared to be protesting the appearance of Joe Kaufman more than anything else. CAIR, of course, doesn't like Joe Kaufman, founder of CAIR Watch and Americans Against Hate, who they attempt to brand a "racist" and a "bigot" on the basis of nothing other than the fact that he's a pain in their butt.

But what's the real story on CAIR? Look, they post a long list of condemnations of terrorism on their website, including one of the Park Hotel bombing in Netanya on Passover, 2002. The text of that press release is interesting:

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 3/28/2002) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today condemned a bomb attack on a Passover celebration in the Middle East that left 20 people dead and more than 100 wounded.

In a statement, CAIR said:

"We condemn this attack and all other attacks on innocent civilians. Illegitimate and counterproductive tactics must not be used in the legitimate struggle to end Israel's brutal occupation.

The Passover celebration was "in the Middle East" but the name of the country in which it occurred only appears in the context of the "legimate struggle" against "brutal occupation." And that's exactly the sort of "condemnation" of terrorism those familiar with CAIR have come to expect. The problem is, those who aren't as familiar with CAIR don't bother to check the details.

And speaking of CAIR press releases, let's have a look at this one on last night's fundraiser. CAIR praised Sestak for "refusing to back out of speaking at the dinner after facing rhetorical attacks from Islamophobic Internet bloggers who objected to his decision to address hundreds of local Muslims." In fact, the "attacks" that Sestak faced were hardly "rhetorical" and came mostly from his own constituents (including many non-bloggers) who showed up in considerable numbers at a town meeting at a synagogue in Havertown, PA, last month (more on that here). And, naturally, the objections were not to Sestak addressing local Muslims. The objections were to Sestak participating in fundraising for CAIR. More details.

After once again enumerating its many condemnations of terrorist attacks (including, again, "the bombing of a Jewish Seder party in Israel"), CAIR elected to highlight this statement by its national board chairman, Parvez Ahmed:

"It is time apologists for Israeli apartheid issue similar condemnation statements against the usurping of Palestinian land, the demolition of their homes, and the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Until this happens they stand on no moral ground to lecture us..."

CAIR refuses to acknowledge that Hamas and Hezbullah are terrorist groups because, it says, it condemns actions, not organizations. Obviously, that qualm doesn't apply to countries. Or at least it doesn't apply to one country in particular.

When Joe Sestak spoke to his constituents at The Suburban Jewish Community Center/B'nai Aaron synagogue last month, he said he intended to deliver a clear message to CAIR that the failure to condemn terrorism, by name, specifically, is wrong. His delivery, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Near the end of the speech, amid clanking silverware and the burble of table conversations, the former Navy admiral said it was not sufficient for any group just to condemn terrorist acts.

He said it was CAIR's duty to condemn individuals or groups that commit terrorism, and he specifically mentioned Hamas and Hezbollah.

"It's the same as those who did not speak out against the perpetrators of Jim Crow laws . . . or the Holocaust," he said.

The remark drew no reaction from the audience. At the end of his speech, he was applauded.

Umm hmmm. Sestak also promised to publish the full text of his speech on his website. Still waiting for that.* What's not clear is whether the "apologists for Israeli apartheid ... stand on no moral ground to lecture us" speech came before or after Sestak's admonitition. My guess is after, since Ahmed's speech is described as taking place during the banquet.

Good job, Joe. You clearly got your message across. Not.

So, again, what is it that CAIR is really up to? I have some ideas. For a clue, pay careful attention to this story. To be continued...

*Update: And here it is. wow.



My mom sent me this awesome PowerPoint presentation of Chava Alberstein singing her own version of 'Hadgadya over a montage of incredible paintings by Israeli artist Baruch Nachshon -- a hasid who lives in Hebron. Both Alberstein and Nachshon have a knack for expressing volumes of spirit and meaning in the subtle nuances of their art. But while I was watching the slide show for the dozenth time or so last night, something else occurred to me. Something old and obvious but new and inspiring at the same time: the miracle of Jewish national culture reborn.

Art is the way that the soul of a people finds its voice, whether it be through song or poetry, dance or theater, painting or sculpture. One of the things you can't help but be struck by when you visit Israel (or live there) is the abundance of artistic expression everywhere. It gushes out of every crack and crevice. Spontaneous works of art are always happening, are almost always embraced, are most often integrated in surprising ways into everyday life. It's 2,000 years of stifled creativity, channeled through other people's culture, now suddenly home again, free to be itself, to find itself. It's truly an amazing phenomenon, and one so natural, so intrinsic, that it's easy to take it for granted, to fail to appreciate the sheer wonder of it. But it is a miracle. And it couldn't have happened anywhere else.

Now those of you who know Chava Alberstein -- and the story behind her version of 'Hadgadya -- know that she wrote it as a protest against the Israeli "disproportionate response" to what's commonly known as the "first intifada." You can find some background here. And here. And no doubt elsewhere. This, too, is part of the rebirth of Jewish national culture. But a sadder part. A part that, I fear, may threaten the longevity of that rebirth. Alberstein's politics aside, however, it's an amazing, beautiful piece. So please enjoy.

Shabbat Shalom.

Dayenu/lo dayenu


If He had brought us out from Egypt, and had not carried out judgments against them--Dayenu!
If He had carried out judgments against them, and not against their idols--Dayenu!
If He had destroyed their idols, and had not smitten their firstborn--Dayenu!
If He had smitten their firstborn, and had not given us their wealth--Dayenu!
If He had given us their wealth, and had not split the sea for us--Dayenu!
If He had split the sea for us, and had not taken us through it on dry land--Dayenu!
If He had taken us through the sea on dry land, and had not drowned our oppressors in it--Dayenu!
If He had drowned our oppressors in it, and had not supplied our needs in the desert for 40 years--Dayenu!
If He had supplied our needs in the desert for 40 years, and had not fed us the manna--Dayenu!
If He had fed us the manna, and had not given us the Shabbat--Dayenu!
If He had given us the Shabbat, and had not brought us before Mount Sinai--Dayenu!
If He had brought us before Mount Sinai, and had not given us the Torah--Dayenu!
If He had given us the Torah, and had not brought us into the land of Israel--Dayenu!
If He had brought us into the land of Israel, and had not built for us the Holy Temple--Dayenu!

Probably one of the most popular songs at Pesach tables all over the world, but a strange one. When you think about it (and many people have), what would have been the point of any of these gifts without the ones that followed it? What was the mindset of the people who wrote these words? Gratitude and humility, no doubt. But to me it misses the point. Without all of the steps, right up to the last one, any one of these gifts would have been futile. There would be no Jews commemorating this holiday today. We would have died out long ago, disappeared from the face of the earth. No one would remember us, and there would be no Christianity, no Islam. The elements of "Dayenu" are a seamless whole. They are, together, in their entirety, what made us who we are.

Chag Pesach sameach!

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