September 2009 Archives

Two true giants

William Safire: 1929 - 2009

Appropriately, the NY Times' tribute, William Safir, Political Columnist and Oracle of Language, Dies at 79, is worth seeking out and reading, even if you have to resort to registration.  There will certainly be many more to come, but right now I'm not finding much else worth linking.

Meanwhile, here are just a few of the eloquent eulogies published for Irving Kristol, who passed away September 18:

The Power of Ideas; by Jonathan Tobin

While the vast majority of American Jews are still to be found on the Left, Kristol nevertheless must be credited, along with his fellow neocon pioneer Norman Podhoretz, with creating a lively debate about the follies of liberal orthodoxy and the perils to Jewish interests and specifically to Israel of Jews being trapped in a politics governed by knee-jerk support for any one party or ideology. Though the battle to open up Jewish minds on that subject is still very much an uphill climb, the penetrating insights of Kristol have ensured that it is one that continues to be fought.
A Great Good Man; by Charles Krauthammer

Having had the undeserved good fortune of knowing him during his 21-year sojourn in Washington, I can testify to something lesser known: his extraordinary equanimity. His temperament was marked by a total lack of rancor. Angst, bitterness and anguish were alien to him. That, of course, made him unusual among the fraternity of conservatives because we believe that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. That makes us cranky. But not Irving. Never Irving. He retained steadiness, serenity and grace that expressed themselves in a courtliness couched in a calm quiet humor.
Irving Kristol, 1920-2009: In memoriam; by William Kristol

In 1994, my father wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled "Life Without Father." It dealt with the subject of the family and poverty and welfare--with my father drawing for his argument, as he so often did, on a combination of social science, common sense, history, and personal experience. In the course of the article, my father briefly discussed his father, Joseph Kristol--who, he wrote, "was thought by all our relatives and his fellow workers to be wise, and fair, and good. I thought so too."

So have Liz and I always thought about our father. To us, he was wise, and fair, and good. I honestly don't think it ever occurred to us that we could have had a better father. So as we enter the rest of our life--a life without our father--we are overwhelmed not by a sense of loss or grief, though of course we feel both, but by a sense of gratitude: Having Irving Kristol as our dad was our great good fortune.

May both of their memories be for a blessing and may their families be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Who shall live

If you haven't had a chance to watch this video, please do.  Even though it's a year old and so not quite up to date, it remains very moving and powerful.

To all who are observing Yom Kippur, may you have an easy and meaningful fast and may you be sealed in the Book of Life for a sweet, happy and healthy New Year.

L'Shana tova teychatemu! 


Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bayou ... Ooops, wrong crocs.

But this is seriously one of the more ridiculous stories I've read in a while, and that's saying a lot.

Rabbi Elyashiv of the Lithuanian stream of ultra-Orthodoxy has ruled that it is best not to wear Crocs shoes on Yom Kippur even though they are not made out of leather and, therefore, would seemingly be permissible for the holiday. His reasoning behind the ruling is that they are too comfortable, and thus don't provide the level of suffering one should feel on the holiday.

Leather is traditionally not worn on Yom Kippur as a symbol of humility and increased humanity on the atonement holiday.
Ok, it's possible to take this discomfort thing too far, and I think we're there.  The sneakers that were ubiquitous before Crocs came along were pretty darn comfy and no one complained about those.  My Chabad rabbi and all his kids wear Crocs on Yom Kippur (or did last year, anyway). But, hey, maybe we should wear wooden boards with spikes in them on a day we spend mostly on our feet in supplication. Or require everyone to wear high heels and pointy toes (men too?).  That's about as uncomfortable as you can get, IMO, short of forgetting about shoes altogether and just arranging ourselves on a good, sturdy rack.

I don't own a pair of Crocs, by the way.  I just don't find them ... so comfortable.  Hmmm.

Shabbat Shuva Shalom.

Pushing peace forward

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says he's a happy camper tonight.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised US President Barack Obama's UN address Wednesday, which backed Israel's right to live securely, stressed its legitimacy as a "Jewish state," and urged the Palestinians to relaunch negotiations without preconditions.

The speech was "good and positive" for Israel and for moving the peace process forward, the prime minister told The Jerusalem Post.


...To break the old patterns, to break the cycle of insecurity and despair, all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private.  The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.  (Applause.)  And -- and nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security. (Applause.)
In the past, Obama has repeatedly reassured Israel and her supporters that his commitment to her security is unwavering.  We've heard that over and over and over again, and never before with a caveat.

Until today.

The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.
Nothing here about coupling an unwavering commitment to palestinian statehood with an insistence that the incitement, vitriol, rocket attacks and suicide bombs be terminated and repudiated.  Nothing here about coupling that unwavering commitment with an insistence that the Arabs respect the legitimate claims and rights of Israel, starting with its right to exist.  Nothing about that.  Just a rap on the knuckles for their refusal to do so.  Very different language.

We get it.

For the record, it remains extremely unclear exactly what those "legitimate claims and rights" of the palestinian Arabs are.  What Obama might have meant by that phrase (he certainly didn't clarify it) is assuredly (?) much different from what Mahmoud Abbas understands it to mean, and even more different from what Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the leaders of Israel's neighbors near and far, including Iran, surely understand it to mean.  One would hope that the "legitimate claims and rights" Obama was talking about don't include the "claim" that all of "Palestine" is an Islamic waqf that must forever and always remain under exclusive Muslim control; or the "right" to reclaim for themselves and their posterity all of the land between the river to the sea; or the so-called "right of return" that would be synonymous with the end of Israel. 

One would hope, but one never knows.

Over the past few months, One Jerusalem has been posting warnings that Obama was going to throw Israel under the bus today.

One Jerusalem recently reported that the Obama Administration was seriously considering using the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September to box Israel into a corner in the presence of officials representing the nations of the world.
I tried to write that (and similar speculations elsewhere) off, optimistically, as slightly overheated alarmism.  Time for a re-write.

"Cooked up in New York"

All too predictably, Farouk Hosni is blaming the Jews for the defeat of his bid to head UNESCO.

"It was clear by the end of the competition that there was a conspiracy against me," Hosny told reporters at the airport upon his return from Paris.

"There are a group of the world's Jews who had a major influence in the elections who were a serious threat to Egypt taking this position," he said.
This will come as a surprise to ... absolutely no one.  And, as was the case with Chas Freeman's withdrawal, those prone to see a Jewish conspiracy behind every rock will conveniently overlook the many other influences that played their part.

Opposition came from other quarters as well. International human rights activists, as well as some Egyptian artists and intellectuals, expressed concerns over his role in the Egyptian government's restrictions on freedom of expression.
Cooked up in Cairo, as well, Hosni.

Excellent news, for a change

Somehow, I missed this welcome headline at the Jerusalem Post.

Bokova beats Hosni for UNESCO head

UNESCO said on Tuesday that a career diplomat from Bulgaria has defeated a controversial Egyptian candidate to head the United Nations agency for culture and education.

The chairman of UNESCO's executive board said Bulgaria's ambassador to France, Irina Bokova, has beaten longtime Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni in secret balloting.

UNESCO's press office said Bokova won 31 to 27 in a suspenseful fifth round.

Solomonia points to the ADL report on the vote as well.  And, like Sol, I'm pleasantly shocked by the news.  This editorial (entitled "Wrong man for UNESCO), which appeared in the JPost on September 11, explained in substantial detail the reasons why Hosni would have been a most inappropriate choice and castigated the Israeli government for failing to take a firm stand against him.  It left me with little hope that he would lose the vote.

It was left to Nobel peace laureate Elie Wiesel, philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy and Shoa producer Claude Lanzmann to uphold Jewish and Israeli honor and warn that Hosny "is the opposite of a man of peace, dialogue and culture," that he "is a dangerous man, an inciter of hearts and minds." The Simon Wiesenthal Center dubbed him "a major threat to the very values of UNESCO."

IT'S A shame the Jewish state couldn't do what Diaspora Jews did.

But with 20-20 hindsight, perhaps Israel took the right tack here, regardless of the motive behind it.  There will no doubt be plenty of accusations flying and fingers pointing, as there are those who thought it was way past time for a representative of the Arab or Muslim world to lead UNESCO, but they should have chosen their candidate more wisely.  And the accusation that "a small country like Israel has been able to control so many powerful countries from the West" will perhaps get just a bit less traction. 

Rosh HaShana 5770

L'Shana tova tikatevu v'teychatemu!

May all who are celebrating Rosh Hashana be inscribed and sealed for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

shofar and rimon.jpg
and Shabbat Shalom.

Too horrible

Almost too much to bear.

"Our heart breaks for Rona Ramon, Assaf's siblings, and the whole Ramon family," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday evening, in his first public statement on the death of IAF officer Lt. Assaf Ramon, who was killed on Sunday after the F-16 he was piloting crashed into the southern Hebron hills.

"However, we must continue to build our strength, while extending our hand to peace," Barak said, during a joint press conference with US Mideast envoy George Mitchell.

Deputy commander of the IAF, Brig.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, also expressed sadness and offered condolences on the death of Ramon.

"This is a very difficult day for the IAF especially considering that this is the second time the Ramon family has been struck by a tragedy," said Locker said at a Tel Aviv press conference.

"The Ramon family lost Ilan, the first Israeli astronaut and his son Assaf - both exemplary officers and role models for many people in Israel."

Our deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the Ramon family and to Assaf's colleagues, friends and compatriots.

Back where I belong


After unceremoniously losing its former home and parking publicly at Blogger (and less publicly at for ... oy, almost a year and a half (procrastination is my middle name) ... InContext is back in the blue. 

More gratitude than I can possibly express to Sol, without whom I would have lost most of my archives and whose patience and encouragement in helping me to get set up here would make saints faint.

Many thanks also to Soccer Dad for having and passing on to me the inspired idea for the url.

Hey, I'm happy.

Shabbat Shalom.

Eight years and counting

Victor Davis Hanson:

In short, we are reaching a critical moment of clarity. We continue practices that we say are either futile or wrong, and we demonize their architects in speech even as we ratify them through action. At some date, the Democrats and Obama may well close Guantanamo, try our own CIA interrogators, cease tribunals and renditions, ground the Predators, pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq, reach out to Iran and Syria, and distance the United States from Israel.

At that point, when liberal deeds at last match liberal rhetoric, the great 9/11 debate of the last eight years -- are we still in lethal danger from radical elements of Islam or not? -- will finally be decided by either our continued safety or another September 11.
According to a Rasmussen survey published today,

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans believe that most of their fellow countrymen have already forgotten the impact of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in which 3,000 died.

And at first glance, it appears that opinion splits along party lines.  But read on. 

Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say most Americans have forgotten the impact of the events of September 11, a view shared by 52% of adults not affiliated with either political party.

Interesting.  So perhaps not so politically partisan after all.  I do, by the way, remember the impact of those events, with crystal clarity.  I intend to keep on remembering.

Here's a bit of trivia, FWIW.  On September 10, 2001, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9,605.51.  On September 10, 2009, it closed at 9,627.48.

Faye Fiore in The LA Times:

As anniversaries go, eight years isn't much of a milestone. The traditional wedding anniversary gift for eight isn't silver or gold, it's pottery: useful and durable, but fragile nonetheless.

In the first few years, the entire country braced for an attack on every holiday, every major sports event, every anniversary.  We don't do that any more.  Security is ramped up and proper precautions are taken, but most of us don't spend the day anxiously watching the sky.  That's a good thing, I guess. 

But we shouldn't forget to thank those who are always watching for us and who have kept us safe these eight years.  We shouldn't ever forget.

Testing the waters


Ah!  At last!  A home of my own?



This site is still in progress.  Pardon us while we fix the place up a bit.

Weekend reading


Two items in the news lately, both of which have been magnets for a great deal of misinformation, are the subject of two different monographs, both published by Nadav Shragai through the auspices of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Last August, Shragai presented "Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price." In the midst of the false rumors and ridiculous demands coming fast and furious with respect to the ever "imminent" release of Gilad Schalit, this piece is more relevant than ever.

More recently, Shragai wrote an in-depth analysis of "The U.S.-Israeli Dispute over Building in Jerusalem: The Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzadik Neighborhood." It's an especially important read in light of the continuing escalation of the building issue and the heat that's obscuring the issue from both sides.

Shabbat Shalom.

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