Thursday, January 08, 2004
Good for the Jews?

Back in the 1996 elections, some haredi supporters of Bibi Netanyahu plastered the country with posters saying "Netanyahu is Good for the Jews". This quickly became an Israeli pop culture catchphrase. (One memorable TV sketch by the Cameri Five has a guy at a grocery store asking the check out woman "This soap, is it good for the Jews?")

The phrase immediately popped in my head when I saw this piece by Julia Gorin in today's Opinionjournal. Gorin looks at the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls and sees a lot of Semitism. You have a Jew (Lieberman), a half-Jew (Clark), a quarter-Jew (Kerry, who has been playing up his Jewish grandfather for a while), and an almost-Jew (Dean, an Episcopalian-turned-Congregationalist but married to a Member of the Tribe).

Will any of this influence the Jewish vote if one of these guys is nominated? Possibly. Certainly if Lieberman wins he can count on the support of most Jewish voters. Not just because of his Jewishness but also for his strong support for Israel. The rest of the pack, I'm not so sure about. President Bush has proven himself to be a staunch ally of Israel over the last three years. By contrast, the Democratic nominees -- to judge from their statements on the matter -- either tend to waffle on the issue (Dean) or else overpraise the UN and other international bodies which are not known for their friendliness towards the Jewish state.

The other question is whether a Jewish president would be a good thing. Gorin thinks not:
A Jew in the White House would not be good for the Jews. Because the tendency of Jews in power is to bend over backwards to prove evenhandedness--an opportunity that most often presents itself in the context of the Middle East. It becomes the Jewish politician's complex to prove that a Jew is capable of governing without favoring the "Jewish side"--the first result of which is an unobjectively paranoid policy that sells Israel down the river.

We saw it in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War, when Henry Kissinger advised President Nixon against a massive arms airlift to Israel (advice Nixon declined). We saw it again under the Clinton administration, which included half-Jewish Defense Secretary William Cohen, as well as Jewish National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and once-Jewish Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. It was the policy of this guilt-ridden group to forge ahead with the peace process "no matter what"--a euphemism for making only the Israeli side accountable for its concessions in the Oslo agreement, regardless of how many Jewish corpses such an approach produced. This, after Candidate Clinton in 1992 offered the following story in answer to how he would handle Israel: He was at yet another deathbed, this time of a dying Baptist minister, who supposedly made Clinton promise that whatever he did, he was not to let Israel down. The Jews ate it up; the story didn't even have to be true.
I have a couple of problems with Gorin's analysis. First, as far as the Clinton administration goes I've always found it a bit ludicrous that people regard Madeleine Albright as Jewish. Halakhically it's true, but she discovered her Jewishness fairly late in life. I can't imagine it played much of a factor in her behavior as Secretary of State.

Also, there's a huge difference between not selling arms to Israel in time of crisis and pushing a peace plan that later proved to be flawed. Throughout the '90s, Oslo looked like a good idea. The Clintonistas were blinded by this fact and kept pushing Oslo despite Palestinian terrorism, but I doubt they did this because they wanted to appear evenhanded; they thought it was the right thing to do. A lot of us did.

Gorin chooses to focus on the Nixon and Clinton administration. However, a broader look at Israeli-American relations over the last 30 years opens up other holes in her "Jews in power=bad for Israel" theory. For instance, the two Presidents least amenable to Israel -- Carter and Bush I -- had no Jews in major positions in their administrations.

(Before y'all start screaming about Carter and Camp David, I'll concede him the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. However, Carter's fondness and admiration for Yasser Arafat is well-documented and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that had Carter been re-elected he would have happily sold Israel down the river.)

On the other hand, Reagan was one of the most pro-Israel presidents (right behind Bush II and Clinton) despite having a Defense Secretary (Caspar Weinberger) who was half-Jewish. Weinberger was instrumental in Jonathan Pollard getting the harshest sentence available for spying on behalf of Israel. This, according to Pollard's supporters, came about because Weinberger was trying to compensate for his Jewish background.

If one of the nine dwarves besides Lieberman wins the nomination (which is likely), Bush may be the first Republican to receive the majority of the Jewish vote. I have the luxury of judging Bush based solely on his foreign policy, which is the only thing that influences my life. And on this basis, I can say that Bush is good for the Jewish state, if not the Jews. Were inclined to vote in November's election (which I'm not, since I live here and not in the States) I would probably vote Republican for the first time in my life. I'm sure there are quite a few other Jewish voters in the States who feel the same.

Islamofascist Tactics

A Palestinian Authority security document in today's Ha'aretz provides a fascinating look at the strategic aims of Hamas and Jihad. The document reports that the terrorist groups have carefully timed their most murderous attacks to best derail negotiations between the PA and Israel, to influence internal Palestinian politics, or to take advantage of regional developments.

The report's most interesting conclusion IMHO is this tidbit:
The authors of the report assume that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad are well-connected inside the Palestinian Authority with agents and elements who provide information based on knowledge of political developments, including inside information about negotiations with Israel, the U.S. and the international community, thus enabling the Hamas and Islamic Jihad to respond accordingly.

And the main objective of the two Islamic organizations is "the destruction of the PA and the creation of a governmental alternative that has the goal of negotiating under fire according to Hamas conditions, along the lines of the Hezbollah model."
The Palestinian Authority has repeatedly refused to do anything about these groups, even though the terrorists are gunning for the PA. Is there any hope for these people?

Report on the War on Terror

The defense establishment here issued a report on the war on terrorism here in Israel. The good news: it looks like we're winning. The number of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis decreased by 30% in 2003 and the number of people killed decreased by 50%.

The bad news: the Palis are trying out new and even more debased tactics such as recruiting women and using ambulances. There has also been a sharp rise in the involvement of Israeli Arabs and foreign nationals in terrorist attacks.

The bottom line: all the methods that Israel uses to counter Palestinian terrorism -- the targeted assassinations, the sweeps of the West Bank, and above all the separation fence -- and that draw so much criticism by the UN and the Europeans, work to prevent terror attacks. In the absence of the Palestinian Authority lifting a finger against the terrorists in its midst, Israel need to keep doing more of the same: put up the fence faster, kill more terrorist leaders, destroy more bomb labs and smuggling tunnels.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004
A New Friend in North Africa?

It's probably too early to get excited by this, but there are reports that Israeli representatives have been meeting with Libyans over the last couple of weeks to make initial gestures towards peace. One of these meetings was with Saif al-Islam Qadaffi, the son of the Libyan dictator. The government here is trying to douse expectations that these talks will lead anywhere, but they are another indication of changes in this region since Saddam fell.

However, we can dream. And Tripoli sounds like a nice vacation spot for next year.

Local Boys Selected for WTC Memorial

The agency in charge of overseeing the memorial site at the grounds of the World Trade Center have chosen a design by an Israeli architect. Michael Arad designed the winning entry, named "Reflecting Absence" along with a Californian landscape designer named Peter Walker. "Reflecting Absence" features two sunken reflecting pools in the footsteps of the original towers.

As expected, the choice has aroused controversy where the biggest complaint against it that it seems cold and remote.

Having seen pictures of the design I'm a bit torn myself. In some of them, you get a feeling of epic grandness. Others do seem too impersonal. And some just look like ass. But it's not clear if the designs we've seen are the final ones. The story in the Times today seems to indicate that these are a first draft and that the architects made changes based on initial criticism from a few months ago.

At any rate, it's a nice little piece of local-boy-makes-good news for us provincials. Now, coupled with the fact that Ground Zero's master site planner, Daniel Libeskind, also has an Israeli background (he lived here as a child) and it's front page news. Now, how long until someone ties this story in with the 4,000 Israelis who were supposedly warned not to go to work on 9/11?

Vote! Vote! Vote!

The final candidates for LGF's Idiotarian of the Year Award have been announced.

At this moment, Rachel Corrie has a slight lead over Michael Moore. My pet candidate, the International Solidarity Movement is lodged at number 8. Surely we can get those numbers up there. Surely ISM is more loathsome than Paul Krugman (the #7 choice) and maybe even than Koffi Anan (#6).

The front-runner, St. Rachel, was an angry, misguided, dumb, and ultimately extremely unlucky young woman who got killed trying to play chicken with an IDF bulldozer while protecting smuggling tunnels used by terrorists. Idiotarian? Probably. But who deserves your votes more: she or the group that sent her and then scrambled to make political hay of her death?

Think about it and go vote!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004
That Whole Bushitler Thing...

Have you heard about the controversy invovling the anti-Bush television spots?, the lefty anti-Bush site has been hosting a "Bush in 30 Seconds" competition which asks people to come up with 30-second spots "that best explains what this President and his policies are really about -- in only 30 seconds."

Almost predictably, a couple of the entries used the meme equating Bush and Hitler. (Discussion here, among other places.) This "Bush=Hitler" thing has become depressingly commonplace on Indymedia, Counterpunch, and other whack job sites. It's the single best example of Godwin's Law* in action.

As I've written before, I hate it when Hitler and the Holocaust get dragged into contemporary political discussions. It does absolutely nothing to enlighten the subject being argued but does serve to cheapen the single worst crime of the 20th century and the man responsible for it.

Jonah Goldberg feels the same way when he hears the Bush administration being compared to Hitler's:
Show me the camps. Show me the millions of people being gassed. Show me the tattoos on people's arms. Show me elderly Muslim men being beaten in the streets, their stores smashed, and books burned. Show me huge piles of emaciated bodies stocked high like cords of wood.

Instead, on the web we find juxtaposed pictures of Bush with a dog and Hitler with a dog; Bush posing with children and Hitler posing with children; Bush appearing before large crowds and Hitler appearing before large crowds. By such "standards" every president — every politician — since at least the day photography was invented is a Nazi. To assume the mantle of "reasonableness" — as Lindorff does — by conceding that Bush isn't as good an orator as Hitler was, is to claim soundness of mind by conceding that a clock doesn't melt because vests have no sleeves.


*Godwin's Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Apropos of nothing, Mike Godwin was the editor of the Daily Texan during a small part of my tenure there. I've had run-ins with him since on a couple of other occasions. He's one of the most over-exhuberant people I've ever met. But in a good way. I think.

Chuckle Du Jour

Tim Blair has a few thoughts about the Guardian's newest columnist....

Where are the Palestinian Refuseniks?

An eminently sensible editorial in Ha'aretz today by Yoel Marcus:
We have committees of inquiry investigating how and why Palestinian women and children were killed in this or that operation. We have a High Court to which every Palestinian can appeal. We have a media that will not allow the least injustice or wrong to slip by. We have columnists whose hearts ache along with the Palestinians.

What I would like to know is why there is no one on the other side crying out against the Palestinian Authority's policy of hatred and bloodshed. Where is their B'Tselem? Where are the Palestinian refuseniks who object to the murder of women and children?

How come, when civilians are accidentally killed in one of our military operations, everyone clamors right away for an investigation, while their suicide bombers have no qualms about boarding a bus packed with children or entering a crowded restaurant and blowing themselves up, fully aware of who they are taking with them? Not only are they not denounced, but their families are treated with respect and showered with perks and pensions.
Read the rest...

Monday, January 05, 2004
The Zohar Made her do it

Britney Spears' 6-hour marriage was splashed over the front pages of both Israel's major papers this morning. According to the New York Post, Spears' little marital experiment may have come from her involvement with Kabbalah:
Reports abound that Spears has visited the Kabbala Center in Los Angeles and was even spotted sporting a red string bracelet, which supposedly protects against the evil eye.

Kabbala, from the hebrew word kabel, meaning 'to receive,' is based on the basic truths of the universe, and places emphasis on marriage and the family, which Spears could have interpreted as a chance to settle down and start anew, sources told The New York Post on Sunday. ...

However, Goodman explained to The Jerusalem Post that the form of Kabbala practiced by celebrities such as Madonna and Britney is not the traditional teaching but a New Age version.

He said, "Kabbalistic texts are a commentary on the Torah. The study of it assumes a knowledge which these actors and actresses do not possess."
In any case, if Britney's dream was domestic bliss, it was short-lived.
Insert your own "Funny, she doesn't look Jewish" joke here.

Convention Follies

If you're looking for an entertaining bit of spectacle, you could do worse than the Likud convention. The Likud Central Committee meets every year and every year we're treated to the sight of the party's leading Knesset members sitting in a hall in front of a thousand party activists divided into a number of warring camps, all screaming at each other.

Each party has a stereotype of its own members. You think Labor and you think of an old guy in Kibbutz garb complaining how things have gone downhill since Ben Gurion. You think Shinui and you see a bourgie woman from Ramat Hasharon.

And when you think Likud you think of a shlubby loudmouth, possibly a building contractor or a guy who runs a stall in the market. The Central Committee is a political body almost unique in its shameless corruption. It is a collection of little thugs whose only purpose in life is to secure government jobs and contracts for themselves, their families, and their associates.

At this evening's convention in Tel Aviv, Arik Sharon reiterated his speech from a few weeks ago. He said that Israel would continue to seek a solution with the Palestinians based on the road map, but if that failed we would go for unilateral separation. The real interesting stuff, though, wasn't Sharon's sober policy statement but rather the circus surrounding it.

The convention was marked by two things. First came word that the Central Committee wanted to pass a rule that Likud cabinet ministers needed to get the approval of the Committee before major votes. In effect, they wanted to pass a party law subverting government policy to a group of 3,000 unelected party hacks. Just a reminder that these hacks include the likes of Moussa Alperon, he of the Alperon crime family.

(This was only one of numerous wacko ideas floated at the convention. Party activist Uzi Cohen -- a real knuckle dragger if you ever saw one -- made a proposal to set up a Palestinian state between Jordan and Syria. Some other goon suggested that the Knesset be expanded from 120 MKs to 160 - all the more jobs for the boys!)

Then came the response by Education Minister Limor Livnat. Livnat called the proposals "totally insane" and complained about the fringe and criminal elements which have invaded the party in the last couple of years. And she's right. This isn't the first time that Livnat has tussled with the Central Committee. In 1997 she made a speech in front of the convention where she asked the Committee members "are we only in this for jobs?" She was greeted by a chorus of "Yes!"

In the end, nothing will come of these suggestions. Sharon hardly consults his own cabinet members before taking major policy decisions. He certainly won't answer to the idiots who make up his party's governing body.

Vote Early, Vote Often

It's that time of the year again. Little Green Footballs is holding the second annual Robert Fisk Award for Idiotarian of the Year.* Last year, former president Jimmy Carter won the prize in recognition of years of work coddling Third World dictators and meddling in current US foreign policy.

This year, there will be a preliminary round of voting to decide the ten finalists for the prize. Readers can vote for five candidates out of a fairly long list. At the moment, mendacious assweasel Michael Moore (last year's runner-up) is in the lead with France at second place.

Now, there's definitely an argument to be made for either of these worthy candidates. Moore has a global audience who lovingly lap up the bs he spews. And no one did more to try and keep Saddam in power than the French. I, however, am lobbying for my favorite bete noir, the International Solidarity Movement. IMHO, the ISM deserve the nod for taking action on their misguided, misinformed, and almost criminally naive conceptions about the Palestinian national liberation struggle and in doing so serving as handmaidens for terrorists.

Like veteran ISM-watcher Tal G., I'm calling on all my readers to go out and cast your votes for ISM!


*(The Samizdata glossary of blogging terms defines "idiotarian" as "A term of abuse for an advocate of what are deemed to be irrationalist and subjectivist values that have very little reference to the workings of the real world." There are other similar definitions. The term is most often used to describe the "It's always America's fault" sector of the loony left. The LGF crowd expands it to include basically anyone on the wrong side of 9/11.

Fisk, for those who don't know him, is a notoriously anti-American British journalist who became a symbol for all of his ilk during the war in Afghanistan when he was beset upon by an Afghan mob despite his reassurances that he was on "their" side against the Americans.)