February 2010 Archives

Indispensible

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The Meryl Yourish Blogger's guide to anti-Semitic comment trolls.

Don't leave your home page without it.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rachel's tomb

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The headlines are blaring across the Islamic world

Israel To Claim Ibrahimi Mosque, Bilal Mosque, As Historic Jewish Sites
Ok.  For the record: The "Ibrahimi Mosque" (i.e., the Tomb of the [Jewish] Patriarchs) and the "Bilal Mosque" (known universally -- until just a few years ago -- as Rachel's Tomb) are and have always been Historic Jewish Sites and have been, with complete justification, so claimed by the Jewish People for the past 2900 years or so (see, Genesis, chapters 23 and 35).  This is not new.  This is not news.

Revisionist history, invented out of whole cloth, is the order of the day.  This analysis, written about three years ago for JCPA by Nadav Shragai (and highlighted yesterday by IMRA) explains a lot:

In 2000, after hundreds of years of recognizing the site as Rachel's Tomb, Muslims began calling it the "Bilal ibn Rabah mosque."20 Members of the Wakf used the name first in 1996, but it has since entered the national Palestinian discourse. Bilal ibn Rabah was an Ethiopian known in Islamic history as a slave who served in the house of the prophet Muhammad as the first muezzin (the individual who calls the faithful to prayer five times a day).21 When Muhammad died, ibn Rabah went to fight the Muslim wars in Syria, was killed in 642 CE, and buried in either Aleppo or Damascus.22 The Palestinian Authority claimed that according to Islamic tradition, it was Muslim conquerors who named the mosque erected at Rachel's Tomb after Bilal ibn Rabah.

The Palestinian claim ignored the fact that Ottoman firmans (mandates or decrees) gave Jews in the Land of Israel the right of access to the site at the beginning of the nineteenth century.23 The Palestinian claim even ignored accepted Muslim tradition, which admires Rachel and recognizes the site as her burial place. According to tradition, the name "Rachel" comes from the word "wander," because she died during one of her wanderings and was buried on the Bethlehem road.24 Her name is referred to in the Koran,25 and in other Muslim sources, Joseph is said to fall upon his mother Rachel's grave and cry bitterly as the caravan of his captors passes by.26 For hundreds of years, Muslim holy men (walis) were buried in tombs whose form was the same as Rachel's.

Then, out of the blue, the connection between Rachel, admired even by the Muslims, and her tomb is erased and the place becomes "the Bilal ibn Rabah mosque." Well-known Orientalist Professor Yehoshua Porat has called the "tradition" the Muslims referred to as "false." He said the Arabic name of the site was "the Dome of Rachel, a place where the Jews prayed."27

Only a few years ago, official Palestinian publications contained not a single reference to such a mosque. The same was true for the Palestinian Lexicon issued by the Arab League and the PLO in 1984, and for Al-mawsu'ah al-filastiniyah, the Palestinian encyclopedia published in Italy after 1996. Palestine, the Holy Land, published by the Palestinian Council for Development and Rehabilitation, with an introduction written by Yasser Arafat, simply says that "at the northwest entrance to the city [Bethlehem] lies the tomb of the matriarch Rachel, who died while giving life to Benjamin." The West Bank and Gaza - Palestine also mentions the site as the Tomb of Rachel and not as the Mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah.28 However, the Palestinian deputy minister for endowments and religious affairs has now defined Rachel's Tomb as a Muslim site.29

The footnotes refer to ample annotation in Shragai's study (highly recommended), which exposes systematic Palestinian Authority exploitation and subversion of the Oslo Agreements and their progeny, using Rachel's Tomb as a prime example.  In short, the faux outrage and verifiably false claims being made today are contrary not only to the historical record but also to the positions of palestinian Arabs themselves prior to and even after Oslo.

The pattern is clear.  It was in the wake of Oslo that the distortion of history to deny Jewish connections to our holiest places began.  And with every Israeli overture and instance of American pressure, that process is only accelerated.  The implications of these developments for the effectiveness and likely consequences of the "peace process" should not be ignored.

Ups and downs

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This is encouraging.

Catholic scholars urge pope to slow Pius sainthood

Top Catholic scholars have written an unusual and impassioned private letter to Pope Benedict urging him to slow down the sainthood procedure for wartime Pope Pius XII, accused of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust.

The letter, which was made available to Reuters by a source familiar with the initiative, is extremely rare because in the past it has mostly been Jewish groups and not Catholic academics who have written to popes about the issue.
Here's a good question.

Who really funds the NIF?

MK Danny Danon says anti-Israel groups like New Israel Fund must not be tolerated

A recent report claimed that the well-known NGO the New Israel Fund and 16 of its grantees provided the bulk of the testimony that resulted in the anti-Israel Goldstone Report. In light of these accusations I formally requested a public inquiry into the funding of this organization. I did so, because I have sufficient suspicions of the dubious nature of its funders abroad.

This would not be the first time that hostile countries and groups, which yearn for Israel's destruction, have attempted to meddle in our internal politics. However this time it's worse than ever because the report has already done untold damage to Israel's standing in the international community.
See also this piece last week in Ha'aretz (!), which has a different take on the donor angle, but not on the overall malevolence of the NIF.

Thus in funding organizations that work to deepen the rift between Jews and Arabs in Israel, the NIF has racked up noteworthy successes. Astonishingly, however, these successes are not proudly displayed to the fund's philanthropists.

These donors, most of them Jews who support Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, are asked to contribute to the fund's praiseworthy - but as it turns out, not primary - activities: improving welfare, education and human rights in Israel.

Many NIF donors do not know that their money is being used to fund dozens of organizations committed to inflaming the Arab street, intensifying its nationalist tendencies and deepening the rift between Jews and Arabs.

These philanthropists would almost certainly object to their money being used to undermine Israel's Jewish identity and to lay a theoretical, legal and political framework for establishing another Arab state, on top of the proposed Palestinian state, in place of the State of Israel.
Finally, please join me in wishing a refua shleima to David Bogner's mom (Chana Bat Feigie), who is recovering from hip replacement surgery at Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus.

Shabbat Shalom.

A false choice

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Tom Friedman is putting his charming combination of ignorance and arrogance on display again this morning.

Avoid the term "global warming." I prefer the term "global weirding," because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird. The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier and the most violent storms more numerous.

The fact that it has snowed like crazy in Washington -- while it has rained at the Winter Olympics in Canada, while Australia is having a record 13-year drought -- is right in line with what every major study on climate change predicts: The weather will get weird; some areas will get more precipitation than ever; others will become drier than ever.

Tom clearly missed the memo.

But beyond that, it's a sign of obvious desperation when the defenders of climate alarmism bring out the big gun: reliance on foreign oil.

Indeed, I suspect China is quietly laughing at us right now. And Iran, Russia, Venezuela and the whole OPEC gang are high-fiving each other. Nothing better serves their interests than to see Americans becoming confused about climate change, and, therefore, less inclined to move toward clean-tech and, therefore, more certain to remain addicted to oil. Yes, sir, it is morning in Saudi Arabia.

As if confusion about climate change has any rational connection to the inclination to move toward clean-tech and away from oil addition.  For the record, I'm all for that move, climate change (whatever Tom Friedman wants to call it) or no climate change.

Perhaps liberals can't manage to generate sufficient enthusiasm for independence from foreign oil on the basis of very real political, economic and national security threats.  Maybe they can only find the will for that effort based on exaggerated environmental threats?  Sad, if true, but let them tell themselves whatever they need to hear to get on board.  Just do it.

Meanwhile, David Harsanyi at the Denver Post admits he doesn't fully understand the underlying science but offers some common sense-based advice, devoid of hysterics and hyperbole.

The problem is that reasonable people also understand economic trade-offs. Many don't like intrusive legislation. Others can sniff out fear-mongering for what it is. Some even trust in humanity's ability to adapt to any changes in climate trends.

In the end, though, the burden of proof is on the believers. And if they're going to ask a nation -- a world -- to fundamentally alter its economy and ask citizens to alter their lifestyles, the believers' credibility and evidence had better be unassailable.

Bottom line.

The two faces of Fareed

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In next week's issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria argues that the war on global jihad is over, and it was won by the overwhelming might of moderate Muslims.

But, in fact, the entire terrain of the war on terror has evolved dramatically. Put simply, the moderates are fighting back and the tide is turning. We no longer fear the possibility of a major country succumbing to jihadist ideology. In most Muslim nations, mainstream rulers have stabilized their regimes and their societies, and extremists have been isolated. This has not led to the flowering of Jeffersonian democracy or liberalism. But modern, somewhat secular forces are clearly in control and widely supported across the Muslim world. Polls, elections, and in-depth studies all confirm this trend.
Interesting.  In Indonesia, for example,

... JI [Jemaah Islamiah] has been marginalized and main-stream political parties have gained ground, all while a young democracy has flowered after the collapse of the Suharto dictatorship.
It's a veritable revolution.

Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest and most prestigious school of Islamic learning, now routinely condemns jihadism. The Darul Uloom Deoband movement in India, home to the original radicalism that influenced Al Qaeda, has inveighed against suicide bombing since 2008. None of these groups or people have become pro-American or liberal, but they have become anti-jihadist.
Don't believe it?  We have data!

The data on public opinion in the Muslim world are now overwhelming. London School of Economics professor Fawaz Gerges has analyzed polls from dozens of Muslim countries over the past few years. He notes that in a range of places--Jordan, Pakistan, Indonesia, Lebanon, and Bangladesh--there have been substantial declines in the number of people who say suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets can be justified to defend Islam. Wide majorities say such attacks are, at most, rarely acceptable.
Gerges has indeed analyzed polls.  You can read his conclusions here, published in May of last year.  So it's settled, then.  Global jihad is no longer a threat and we have moderate, secular Muslims to thank for that. 

This is very far cry indeed from what Fareed Zakaria was arguing, just as strenuously in the same pages, last March.  Back then, he was assuring us that only by aligning our interests with non-violent Islamist leaders could we hope to make a dent in what he then saw as the inexorably growing popularity of Islamist extremism.

It is not just in the Swat valley that Islamists are on the rise. In Afghanistan the Taliban have been gaining ground for the past two years as well. In Somalia last week, Al-Shabab, a local group of Islamic militants, captured yet another town from government forces. Reports from Nigeria to Bosnia to Indonesia show that Islamic fundamentalists are finding support within their communities for their agenda, which usually involves the introduction of some form of Sharia--Islamic law--reflecting a puritanical interpretation of Islam. No music, no liquor, no smoking, no female emancipation.
How do we get in two short months from that to Gerges's "overwhelming" data on the rejection of jihad in the Islamic world?  Was it the magic of Obama's ascendancy to the White House?  Unlikely, especially since most if not all of Gerges's data was collected prior to that historic event.  Most telling, in contrast to his essay of next week, is Zakaria's approving citation, last March, of Reuel Marc Gerecht:

What you have to realize is that the objective is to defeat bin Ladenism, and you have to start the evolution. Moderate Muslims are not the answer. Shiite clerics and Sunni fundamentalists are our salvation from future 9/11s.
(Daniel Pipes has responded to this argument here, among other places.)  Well, it appears that an evolution has started in Fareed Zakaria's approach to the war on global jihad, but it's hard to figure.  Maybe it was all that overwhelming data that Fawaz Gerges dug up.  But then, Gerges was the fellow who just six months before 9/11 was suggesting:

Should not observers and academics keep skeptical about the U.S. government's assessment of the terrorist threat? To what extent do terrorist 'experts' indirectly perpetuate this irrational fear of terrorism by focusing too much on farfetched horrible scenarios? Does the terrorist industry, consciously or unconsciously, exaggerate the nature and degree of the terrorist threat to American citizens?
I particularly remember Gerges' dismissal of the terrorist threat in early 2001 (I seem to recall a TV interview on PBS) because it was the stimulus for a debate between me and a close friend at the time.  Meanwhile, in the most recent volume of the Middle East Quarterly, Michael Rubin and Matthew Levitt make two pretty strong and well-documented cases for the argument that Syria (for example) is becoming an ever more active supporter of that very same global jihad that has supposedly been crushed. 

And there's quite a bit of other data out there suggesting that the global jihad is thriving elsewhere, as well.  Unfortunately.  Except in the world of Newsweek and Fareed Zakaria, where reality appears to be ... pliable.

Good luck with that.

Snow, snow and more snow

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Very pretty.  Very treacherous.  The kids on the street are having a ball.

We were among the really lucky ones.  No power outage.

We've had it up to here with snow.  Enough already.

Shabbat Shalom.

Pipes, Palin & Pat

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In a shot heard round the world last week, Daniel Pipes unequivocally advocated a crippling U.S. strike on Iran's nuclear arsenal, suggesting that it might even "save the Obama Presidency."  For the record, he said nothing about either the 2012 or the 2010 elections, and I'd suggest he was speaking more to Obama's legacy than to his chances of a second term.

A few days later, Pat Buchanan (to whom I will not link on this blog ... it's at Townhall and it's not hard to find) wove Pipes's column into an argument for leaving Iran alone.  Iran doesn't really want a bomb, sanctions would only piss them off and following Pipes' advice would only guarantee a Democrat sweep of both the Congressional midterms and the next Presidential election.  "True" conservatives ... beware!

Yesterday, Sarah Palin appeared on Fox News Sunday and, in one of those rambling, largely incoherent interviews for which she's been justifiably skewered by the left and the MSM, she managed to give the impression of both (a) aligning herself with Buchanan (not a good move) and (b) completely misunderstanding his point.  Here's the key snip:

WALLACE: How hard do you think President Obama will be to defeat in 2012?

PALIN: It depends on a few things. Say he played - and I got this from Buchanan, reading one of his columns the other day - say he played the war card. Say he decided to declare war on Iran or decided really [to] come out and do whatever he could to support Israel, which I would like him to do, but - that changes the dynamics in what we can assume is going to happen between now and three years. Because I think if the election were today I do not think Obama would be re-elected. But three years from now, things could change if -- on the national security front . . .

It goes without saying that Buchanan never remotely advocated support for Israel.  But when he asks if Obama will "cynically yield to temptation, play the war card and make 'conservatives swoon,' in Pipes' phrase, to save himself and his party," he's clearly pleading with his audience (such as it is) to lobby against such a move.  Did Sarah get that?  Because if she did, why didn't she cite Pipes (who is on her side here) rather than Buchanan (who clearly isn't)?

Meanwhile, those who have been trying to paint Palin as a Buchananite since the 08 election are having a field day.  This is the kind of thing that's now got me hoping we'll see and hear less rather than more of Sarah Palin in the months and years ahead.

Update:  Nevertheless ... give me a break.  How far a cry is writing a few crib notes on your palm from a teleprompter that feeds you a word-for-word script?  At least as far as the wild Alaskan tundra is from Washington.  Let's not make ridiculous comparisons, shall we?  See also, glass houses, stones: when it comes to mindless mediocrity ... Andrea Mitchell has no room to mock. 

J-Street fizzle

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By most accounts, last night's J-Street (spit) national kick-off event appears to have been largely a bust, attracting little attention beyond its own ardent supporters and most vehement detractors.  The live event was here (I used that term loosely) in Philadelphia and was reportedly attended by around two hundred people, few of them students in spite of being held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.  Z-Street, a new, grassroots, genuinely pro-Israel organization founded, in part, to counter J-Street's propaganda, sponsored this alternative event, held in the same building at the same time, which attracted a sizable crowd of its own.

In spite of J-Street's dubious pretensions to being "pro-Israel," its rhetoric and the reactions of its acolytes always reveal a very different agenda.  Take, for example, the first major applause line of last night's speech by Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami:

Maybe you just believe that all people have a right to self-determination, to opportunity, to security - and you want to see an end to the occupation of the Palestinian people.
By contrast, there was nary a clap in response to this one:

We believe in the state of Israel and support the notion of a national home for the Jewish people.
Nor was any enthusiasm generated by this very odd formulation of J-Street's aspirations:

We will build a home together where our organizing and our advocacy around Israel lines up with the values and the principles of our people.

A community where it is acceptable to study and to learn about history and about competing narratives and claims to the land - where we can hug and wrestle with Israel at the very same time.

Hug and wrestle?  Is he serious?  Or this one

You'll help redefine and expand the very concept of being pro-Israel. No longer will this pro- require an anti-.

Mr. Ben-Ami, judging by this performance, is a pretty terrible public speaker, which I must say is a bit encouraging.  But his organization is a nasty, disingenuous scam designed to dress up patently anti-Israel rhetoric in the guise of "progressive" pro-Israel ("pro-peace," pro-democracy") advocacy.  It plays on the hopes and fears of the hopelessly naive and uninformed, and hopefully this latest initiative will die on the vine.  In short, J-Street is a wolf in sheep's clothing. 

(Hey.  It's a demon sheep!)

Shabbat Shalom.

Just plain wrong

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Powerline debunks some of the BS in Obama's 2011 budget, pointing out that, when you get through the slight-of-hand and misdirection, some of the President's proposals appear likely to throw the recovering economy under the bus.

I'd like to add that if you look even closer (@ page 40), the following is just plain wrong:

Currently, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction, but a millionaire who does the same enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous.
Actually, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, and if it itemizes, it gets a one dollar tax deduction (that would be 100 cents, not 15, Barry).  And the millionaire (family ... they do have families, too) actually gets less (we'll get to that in a minute).  The millionaire (family) does NOT "enjoy a deduction" that's any more generous than the middle class family.  It's just that if the millionaire family's tax rate is twice as high as the middle class family's, the millionaires will probably (depending on a number of other things) get a larger tax reduction (not the same thing as deduction) bang out of their tax deduction buck.  The buck, however, is still a buck.  Not 15 cents.

You'd think the President could get the most basic elements of the tax code right in his budget, but that appears to be beyond his pay grade.  It's just semantics, you say?  Not exactly.  And how are Americans to be expected to understand this stuff if the President clearly can't (or can't communicate it clearly)?

And still worse ...

The kicker is that
the "millionaire" family actually doesn't get the whole buck, because there are already limits on itemized deductions that kick in way below Obama's "wealthy family" income of $250,000 a year.  For 2009 (the year you're getting ready to do your taxes for now), a married couple starts losing the benefit of their itemized deductions once their adjusted gross income hits $166,800. 

So if you're a not-quite-wealthy family with income of $200,000 and itemized deductions for taxes, mortgage interest and charitable gifts
of $50,000, you only actually get to deduct 99 cents on the dollar.  If you're a filthy rich capitalist pig family with income of $1,600,000 and the same $50,000 in itemized deductions, you only get to deduct 73 cents on the dollar.  That's under current law.  (You can check for yourself ... Publication 17, pages 207-08.)

What was that again about the millionaire enjoying a deduction that's more than twice as generous?

See also, Rick Richman at Contentions:
Not Only Orwellian but Also Disingenuous.  Yes, indeed.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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