Monthly Archives: November 2007

Addicted to the Struggle – and its Perks

Ralph Peters, writing in the New York Post, on why “there’s no durable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem. None. The best all parties can hope for is an occasional time-out.”

An excerpt:

Whether the American administration is Republican or Democrat, it pressures Israel for concessions – since the Arabs won’t make any. Prisoner releases precede each summit; territorial handovers come under discussion.

For their parts, Arab leaders and their representatives assume we’re sufficiently honored if they just show up. We hear no end of nonsense about the great political risks they’re taking, etc. We’re suckers for any fat guy in a white robe with an oil can.

Today’s session in Annapolis may or may not result in a we-the-undersigned statement or a few unenforceable commitments. And yes, there’s merit just in bringing folks together and keeping them talking. But the baseline difficulty is that we want to solve problems for people who don’t really want those problems solved.

Mahmoud Ab- bas and his Fatah Party, for example, couldn’t accept a genuine peace tomorrow morning – even though Hamas’ coup in Gaza has put them up against the wall. Their problem? The most successful jobs program in the Arab world has been Palestinian “resistance” to Israel.

Consider what peace with Israel – real peace – would mean in the West Bank and Gaza, in southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley: Tens of thousands of gunmen (and terrorists) out of work, with no marketable skills – and radicalized by decades of fanatic rhetoric.

Think a punk who’s grown accustomed to swaggering around town in a face mask with a Kalashnikov is going to scrub squat toilets for a living?

Generations have grown addicted to the struggle – and its perks. It’s the only bearable justification for their individual and collective failures in life. Real peace with Israel would probably spark a convulsion throughout the Arab world – as tens of millions realized that their sacrifices were a travesty that merely empowered thieves.

Another reason Arab states won’t make peace: Most of their leaders have only survived in power because they have Israel to blame for every disappointment their people face. Israel has become the great excuse for every self-wrought failure in the Middle East – and that excuse is more valuable to Arab rulers than peace could ever be.

Were peace ever to arrive, Arabs might begin to demand good government. And the corruption that has thrived during decades of crisis could come into question. Worst of all, Arabs might have to accept responsibility for the catastrophic condition of their own societies.

In the end, the problem’s difficulty can be put in New York City terms: A shiftless, violent family that turned an apartment into a slum was evicted. The new tenants cleaned up the place and made the apartment a showcase. Now the former tenants hate them for it – and want the apartment back.

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Palestinian Arabs: The One Exception

In the print edition of the Wall Street Journal, Bernard Lewis notes that, “Without genuine acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.”

Lewis then provides some historical context to the refugee problem:

During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel.

What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways — Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement — Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by U.N. funding. Paradoxically, if a Palestinian fled to Britain or America, he was eligible for naturalization after five years, and his locally-born children were citizens by birth. If he went to Syria, Lebanon or Iraq, he and his descendants remained stateless, now entering the fourth or fifth generation.

Giving Thanks For America's Rare Blessings

Mark Steyn on why the world should give thanks to America.

An excerpt:

…”The New World” is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree “the Old World” can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists. We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany’s constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy’s only to the 1940s, and Belgium’s goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it’s not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France’s, Germany’s, Italy’s or Spain’s constitution, it’s older than all of them put together. Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent’s governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of “the west”‘s nation states have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they’re so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas — Communism, Fascism, European Union.

…Even in a supposedly 50/50 nation, you’re struck by the assumed stability underpinning even fundamental disputes. If you go into a bookstore, the display shelves offer a smorgasbord of leftist anti-Bush tracts claiming that he and Cheney have trashed, mangled, gutted, raped and tortured, sliced’n’diced the Constitution, put it in a cement overcoat and lowered it into the East River. Yet even this argument presupposes a shared veneration for tradition unknown to most western political cultures: When Tony Blair wanted to abolish in effect the upper house of the national legislature, he just got on and did it. I don’t believe the U.S. Constitution includes a right to abortion or gay marriage or a zillion other things the left claims to detect emanating from the penumbra, but I find it sweetly touching that in America even political radicalism has to be framed as an appeal to constitutional tradition from the powdered-wig era. In Europe, by contrast, one reason why there’s no politically significant pro-life movement is because, in a world where constitutions have the life expectancy of an Oldsmobile, great questions are just seen as part of the general tide, the way things are going, no sense trying to fight it. And, by the time you realize you have to, the tide’s usually up to your neck.

So Americans should be thankful they have one of the last functioning nation states. Because they’ve been so inept at exercising it, Europeans no longer believe in national sovereignty, whereas it would never occur to Americans not to. This profoundly different attitude to the nation state underpins in turn Euro-American attitudes to transnational institutions such as the U.N. But on this Thanksgiving the rest of the world ought to give thanks to American national sovereignty, too. When something terrible and destructive happens — a tsunami hits Indonesia, an earthquake devastates Pakistan — the U.S. can project itself anywhere on the planet within hours and start saving lives, setting up hospitals and restoring the water supply. Aside from Britain and France, the Europeans cannot project power in any meaningful way anywhere. When they sign on to an enterprise they claim to believe in — shoring up Afghanistan’s fledgling post-Taliban democracy — most of them send token forces under constrained rules of engagement that prevent them doing anything more than manning the photocopier back at the base. If America were to follow the Europeans and maintain only shriveled attenuated residual military capacity, the world would very quickly be nastier and bloodier, and far more unstable. It’s not just Americans and Iraqis and Afghans who owe a debt of thanks to the U.S. soldier but all the Europeans grown plump and prosperous in a globalized economy guaranteed by the most benign hegemon in history.

That said, Thanksgiving isn’t about the big geopolitical picture, but about the blessings closer to home. Last week, the state of Oklahoma celebrated its centennial, accompanied by rousing performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s eponymous anthem:

“We know we belong to the land And the land we belong to is grand!”

Which isn’t a bad theme song for the first Thanksgiving, either. Three hundred and eighty-six years ago, the pilgrims thanked God because there was a place for them in this land, and it was indeed grand. The land is grander today, and that too is remarkable: France has lurched from Second Empires to Fifth Republics struggling to devise a lasting constitutional settlement for the same smallish chunk of real estate, but the principles that united a baker’s dozen of East Coast colonies were resilient enough to expand across a continent and halfway around the globe to Hawaii. Americans should, as always, be thankful this Thanksgiving, but they should also understand just how rare in human history their blessings are.

The al Durah Blood Libel

Remember when, a while back, the Israelis were accused of “killing” a Palestinian boy while he crouched in terror behind his father and it was all caught by French cameramen? Well, it seems the whole thing was a fraud.

Melanie Phillips reports.

Iraq? Whassup Wit Dat?

Heard or read any news from Iraq recently? Victor Davis Hanson observes:

…[the] dramatic turnabout in Iraq is rarely reported on. We know as much about O.J.’s escapades in Vegas as we do about the Anbar awakening or the flight of al-Qaida from Baghdad. When we occasionally do hear about Iraq, it is just as likely through a Hollywood movie – “In the Valley of Elah,” “Redacted,” “Lions for Lambs” – preaching to us how the U.S. was mostly incompetent or amoral in fighting a hopeless war.

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal of 2004 warranted 32 consecutive days on The New York Times’ front page. Congressional appeals for timetables and scheduled withdrawals, amid cries of “fiasco” and “quagmire,” were regularly reported this summer. Now, though, there is largely silence in newspaper headlines about the growing peace in Anbar province.

Why this abrupt amnesia about Iraq, given a radical drop in American casualties and entire cities now largely free from serial violence?

Many anti-war critics are so invested in the notion of the Iraq war as the “worst” something or other in U.S. history that they cannot accept the radical turnaround after over four years of war.

Other opponents have simply changed their argument from “Iraq is lost” to “Even if we do win, it will not have been worth the cost.” Either way, good news from the front seems to translate into no news.

Israel is a Different Matter

The Times of London reports that Israel would attack Iran at a certain point:

A claim by President Ahmadinejad that Iran has 3,000 working uranium-enriching centrifuges sent a tremor across the world yesterday amid fears that Israel would respond by bombing the country’s nuclear facilities.

Military sources in Washington said that the existence of such a large number could be a “tipping point”, triggering an Israeli air strike. The Pentagon is reluctant to take military action against Iran, but officials say that Israel is a “different matter”. Amid the international uproar, British MPs who were to have toured the nuclear facility were backing out of their Iran trip.

Even before President Ahmadinejad’s announcement, a US defence official told The Times yesterday: “Israel could do something when they get to around 3,000 working centrifuges. The Pentagon is minded to wait a little longer.” US experts say 3,000 machines running for long periods could make enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb within a year.

Israel responded by serving notice that it would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. “Talks never did, and never will, stop rockets,” said Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister, after talks with the security cabinet.

Lowering Oneself To The Level Of One's Enemies

Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens draws a parallel between “waterboarding” and World War II Allied bombing of Germany and Japan.

An excerpt:

In a recent article in Commentary, essayist Algis Valiunas recounts that when war broke out in Europe in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt “issued a plea that all combatant nations do the decent thing and refrain from bombing.” And yet, he continues, “President Roosevelt’s high-mindedness did not count for much once the action was under way.” The Nazis, for whom terror from the skies was no more anathema than every other form of terror they practiced, were the first to bomb civilian targets, beginning with Warsaw and moving on to Rotterdam and London.

Within a couple of years, the Allies were retaliating in kind, which in current parlance would be known as “lowering oneself to the level of one’s enemies.” At the Casablanca conference in January 1943, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill promised to undertake “the heaviest possible bomber offensive against the German war effort.” Six months later that terrible promise was fulfilled over Hamburg by 700 British bombers. In Mr. Valiunas’s telling, it was a scene from the Inferno: “Oxygen starvation and carbon monoxide poisoning killed many; bomb shelters turned into ovens and roasted the persons inside, so that rescue workers days later found the bodies seared together in an indistinguishable mass; the molten asphalt of the streets engulfed those who fled the burning buildings.”

An estimated 45,000 people died this way in Hamburg. U.S. and British air forces would repeat the procedure over Dresden, Tokyo, Yokohama, Hiroshima, Nagasaki–cities of real or at least arguable military significance. Hundreds of smaller cities and towns of doubtful strategic value were also reduced to ash and rubble, bringing the total civilian death toll to about 600,000 Germans (including 75,000 children under 14) and a roughly equal number of Japanese. How can this be justified? Does it not greatly diminish Allied claims to moral superiority?

Most people would argue that it does not, even though the horror of what was done to Hamburg and the other cities dwarfs in moral scale the worst U.S. abuses in the war on terror (real or alleged), which are so frequently cited as evidence that we have debased ourselves beyond recognition. Most people would also agree that the only compelling ethical defense that can be made for the bombing campaign is that it hastened Allied victory, spared at least as many lives (on both sides) as it cost, and created the conditions for a more peaceful postwar world. In other words, the question here isn’t about the intrinsic morality of the bombing. It’s about whether the good that flowed from the bombing outweighed the unmistakable evil of the act itself.

Among historians, there is a lively debate about whether that result was achieved. In the cases of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the evidence that the bombings ended the war and saved as many as a million Allied and Japanese lives is overwhelming. A somewhat better argument can be made that the bombing of Germany failed to justify its price in human suffering, particularly the bombing of non-strategic targets. Yet as historian Richard Overy has noted, “There has always seemed something fundamentally implausible about the contention of bombing’s critics that dropping almost 2.5 million tons of bombs on tautly stretched industrial systems and war-weary urban populations would not seriously weaken them.”

I think the members of the waterboarding-is-torture chorus are disingenuous since, as National Review’s Rich Lowry recently pointed out, dozens of journalists have volunteered to be waterboarded in order to write about it (Would they volunteer to have their fingernails pulled out?), the U.S. military uses waterboarding in the training of soldiers, and Congress has failed to outlaw the practice despite having numerous opportunities to do so.

The Terrorist Voter Registration Act

Here’s another reason why Hillary and the Democrats want to issue drivers’ licenses to “undocumented Americans.”

John Fund writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The background here is the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as “Motor Voter,” that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1993. It required all states to offer voter registration to anyone getting a driver’s license. One simply fills out a form and checks a box stating he is a citizen; he is then registered and in most states does not have to show any ID to vote.

But no one checks if the person registering to vote is indeed a citizen. That greatly concerns New York election officials, who processed 245,000 voter registrations at DMV offices last year. “It would be [tough to catch] if someone wanted to . . . get a number of people registered who aren’t citizens and went ahead and got them drivers’ licenses,” says Lee Daghlian, spokesman for New York’s Board of Elections. Assemblywoman Ginny Fields, a Long Island Democrat, warns that the state’s “Board of Elections has no voter police” and that the state probably has upwards of 500,000 illegal immigrants old enough to drive.

The potential for fraud is not trivial, as federal privacy laws prevent cross-checking voter registration rolls with immigration records. Nevertheless, a 1997 Congressional investigation found that “4,023 illegal voters possibly cast ballots in [a] disputed House election” in California. After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote. [my emphasis]

Under pressure from liberal groups, some states have even abandoned the requirement that people check a citizenship box to be put on the voter rolls. Iowa has told local registrars they should register people even if they leave the citizenship box blank. Maryland officials wave illegal immigrants through the registration process, prompting a Justice Department letter warning they may be helping people violate federal law.

The Kosher Conspiracy

Suzanne Fields on the “Kosher Conspiracy.”

She writes of left-wing anti-Semitism in Britain and quotes Winston Churchill:

The ghost of Winston Churchill, who admired Jews for their energy, their intellect and their creative drive, is surely spinning in a narrow English coffin. “He was both a friend in their hours of need and a friend in deed,” writes British historian Martin Gilbert in his new book “Churchill and the Jews.” It has never been more relevant. America’s favorite prime minister couldn’t understand why the Arabs refused to learn agricultural techniques from the Jews of Palestine eight decades ago. He couldn’t understand why the presence of Jews was considered an injustice to Arabs, nor why certain Englishmen thought they had more to gain from the Arab occupation of the unworked arid land than the Jews who transformed the desert into a vast oasis.

“Why is there harsh injustice done if people come and make a livelihood for more and make the desert into palm groves and orange groves?” Sir Winston asked. “Why is it injustice because there is more work and wealth for everyone? There is no injustice. The injustice is when those who live in the country leave it to be a desert for a thousand years.”

He defended the Jewish presence in Palestine as historical precedent. Jews arrived before the Arabs, who arrived as outsiders and conquerors. “In the time of Christ,” Churchill observed, “the population of Palestine was much greater when it was a Roman province.” The majority in that Roman province were Jews.

Sleeping With Anti-Semites

Ann takes on the Anti-Defamation League.

An excerpt:

To hide the dirty little secret of the left’s burgeoning anti-Semitism, liberals act as if they live in abject terror of right-wingers. When it comes to conservatives, the Anti-Defamation League is the Pro-Defamation League.

For decades, most Jews supported the left, and the left supported Jewish causes. But the left moved on long ago. For liberals, Jews are just so “last Holocaust.”

The ADL gently chided Columbia University for making the “mistake” of inviting a genocidal, Holocaust-denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak. It tepidly criticized Ahmadinejad’s speech for being “a charade of half-answers and obfuscation.” That sounds like a fair description of Hillary’s current stump speech.

…Gosh, it’s a good thing there isn’t a worldwide terrorist movement dedicated to killing Jews. The ADL might have to tear themselves away from promoting faddish liberal causes.

The ADL is more concerned with what it calls the “neo-Nazis” and “anti-Semites” in the Minutemen organization than with people who behead Jews whenever they get half a chance. It’s only a matter of time before the ADL gets around to global warming.

Earlier this year, the ADL issued an alarmist report, declaring that the Ku Klux Klan has experienced “a surprising and troubling resurgence” in the U.S., which I take to mean that nationwide KKK membership is now approaching double digits. Liberal Jews seem to be blithely unaware that the singular threat to Jews at the moment is the complete annihilation of Israel. Why won’t they focus on the genuine threat of Islamo-fascism and leave poor old Robert Byrd alone?

The ADL goes around collecting statements from Democrats proclaiming their general support for Israel, but it refuses to criticize Democrats who attack Joe Lieberman for supporting the war and who tolerate the likes of former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Sure, Hillary will show up at an ADL dinner and announce that she supports Israel. And then she gets testy with Bush for talking about sanctions against Iran in too rough a tone of voice.

What does it mean for the ADL to collect those statements?

The survival of Israel is inextricably linked to the survival of the Republican Party and its evangelical base. And yet the ADL viciously attacks conservatives, implying that there is some genetic anti-Semitism among right-wingers in order to hide the fact that anti-Semites are the ADL’s best friends — the defeatists in Congress, the people who tried to drive Joe Lieberman from office, the hoodlums on college campuses who riot at any criticism of Muslim terrorists and identify Israel as an imperialist aggressor, and liberal college faculties calling for “anti-apartheid” boycotts of Israel.

The Democratic Party sleeps with anti-Semites every night, but groups like the ADL love to play-act their bravery at battling ghosts, as if it’s the 1920s and they are still fighting quotas at Harvard.

Earlier this year, Rep. Virgil Goode Jr., R-Va., said “in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America.”

The ADL attacked him, saying, “Bigots have always hid behind the immigration issue.”

Like the noose hysteria currently sweeping New York City, liberals are always fighting the last battle because the current battle is too frightening.

Liberal Jews are on a collision course with themselves. They can’t reconcile the survival of Israel with their conception of themselves as liberals. The liberal coalition has turned against them. Jews are out; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is in. The new king knows not Joseph.