Monthly Archives: February 2012

Dee Dee From The ‘Hood

Dee Dee from the 'hood

I am addicted to the Sunday political talk shows. My favorite is the BBC (Barak Broadcasting Company), otherwise known as NBC, show Meet The Press, hosted by the egregious David Gregory, a vigorous pusher of Democratic talking points. Gregory’s singular achievement in that regard was his relentless but unsuccessful hounding of John Boehner to denounce the handful of people who believed Obama was born outside the United States, otherwise known as birthers. Gregory never, to my knowledge, ever challenged any Democratic politician to denounce the many leftists who also believe loony things, like those who swear 9/11 was an “inside job,” to take only one example among many.

Yesterday, Gregory harped on Rick Santorum’s alleged dissing of Obama’s “religious faith.” What Santorum actually meant is that Obama’s devotion to left wing ideology is almost religious in its fervor; he was not talking about Obama’s actual religion. No matter. Gregory allowed Obama spinmeister Robert Gibbs to display the customary fake outrage while demanding that Santorum apologize for “crossing the line.”

You’d think Santorum would know better than to use the words Obama and religion in the same sentence which is almost as bad as using the phrase “Jeremiah Wright” or the word “cling” in the same sentence as religion and guns. Whatever.

Meanwhile, nobody on Meet the Press was ready to get all judgmental over Obama’s 24/7 envy and resentment campaign. Former Clinton spinmeistress Dee Dee Myers carefully enunciated the Obama campaign’s central doctrine: that hard working Americans who “play by the rules” believe the system is “rigged against them” in favor of “the rich.” Ms. Myers affirmed the correctness of this belief and added, “Unless you believe the rich “are smarter than the rest of us.”

Putting aside whether or not Obama and his media minions might have something to do with this allegedly wide spread belief, I was quite moved by Dee Dee’s implication that she, despite being a well-connected political consultant for something called the Glover Park Group as well as a best selling authoress and a former counsultant to the mega-hit TV show West Wing, dwelled among “the rest of us.”

Memo to Dee Dee: Except for those lucky enough to have inheritied a lot of money and are currently clipping coupons on the beaches of St. Bart, “the rich” are smarter, are more ambitious, are more talented, and/or are more willing to take risks than “the rest of us.” But I suspect Dee Dee already knows that since I doubt she hangs out much with “the rest of us” whom she is trying to convince to vote for Democrats who will then take away some of the rich’s ill-gotten gains and re-distribute it to “the rest of us.”

Obama’s Republic of Resentment

Michael Ramirez


Our current president is the most politically (as opposed to sexually) irresponsible individual to hold that office in my lifetime.

Now, I can hear some saying, “Even more irresponsible than Nixon?” Yes. Nixon conspired to coverup the Watergate break-in and thus deserved to be impeached and removed from office which he avoided by resigning (responsibly, I might add). But Nixon was faced with the task of cleaning up the mess created by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations:the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the paranoia unleashed by the Kennedy family’s successful attempt to turn JFK into a civil rights martyr rather than the victim of a pro-Castro communist, and of course Vietnam.

Nixon’s daunting task was to extricate the country from Vietnam while still maintaining American credibility as the only entity capable of keeping the forces of tyranny at bay and thus allowing the Europeans and much of the rest of the world to recover from a disastrous world war while creating ultimately unsustainable welfare states.

Nixon’s idiotic (if not traitorous) opponents in the so-called peace movement were determined to thwart this effort to maintain American credibility; they wanted an unalloyed American defeat which is what they got and which, ever since, has encouraged murderers and tyrants the world over, from bin Laden to the mullahs in Iran. Probably Reagan would have handled the job a lot better than Nixon, but it would not have been easy.

But back to Obama’s scary demagoguery. His non-stop politics of resentment and envy is, you’ll excuse the expression, down right un-American. A few years ago, a British actor whose name I have forgotten won a Tony Award for his work in a Broadway play. In his acceptance speech, he recalled the first time he met Americans, in a World War II prisoner of war camp. He had never encountered people like Americans, he said. Unlike the class obsessed British, Americans were actually happy for other people’s success.

And I once saw an interview with actor Michael Caine who explained the difference between Americans and Brits thusly: A Brit sees a guy driving a Rolls Royce and becomes angry; an American feels admiration and the desire to maybe one day buy one of his own. Now the sophisticates out there scoff at the dumb, naive American, but that simple minded American optimism is what has made America the envy of the world.

Obama wants to “transform” America into a European social welfare state: very high taxes and citizens dependent on government supplied entitlements. In order to do this, he needs to get most Americans thinking like Europeans, that is, resentful and envious, which is the Obama campaign in a nutshell.

Let’s hope that the voters recognize the future Obama and the Democrats are campaigning for will look like present-day Europe – mountains of debt and riots in the streets.

Victor Davis Hanson describes the Obama-induced mindset:

…The ancient idea of the limited good once again rules. Someone who has more, by definition, took unfairly more from someone else with less, one who nobly chose not to do that in turn to others. Fairness, not poverty, is our national obsession. My 48-inch screen television gets wonderful reception and offers sharp quality, but only if I know that someone else does not (and should not) have a 52-inch screen. I liked my Accord until I found out “he” parked a BMW next to me. But at least I can console myself that I choose not to do the sort of things that the BMW owner succumbed to. As is true in every peasant-minded society, wealth is as collectively scorned as it is privately lusted after…

Borrowing right now has no connection with repaying eons later. At some future date, inflation, debt reduction, write-down, higher taxes on “them,” growing the economy, a computer meltdown, those not born, a few “fat cats,” or a German will somehow step in to erase what is owed — some $16 trillion in collective debt. Borrowing and spending win friends and foster admiration; cutting and repaying alienate and earn antipathy. Do we adore more the politician who enacts another entitlement with someone else’s money than we do hate the curmudgeon who wants to see how it is paid for? Close call. Just as a billion in 2009 instantly became a trillion, then why cannot a trillion in 2012 likewise become a zillion? What do a few zeros matter anyway?…

Collective national wealth is natural; private wealth is unnatural. Barack Obama flies on sophisticated jets because as an American president he deserves that birthright; Boeing, which makes such wonderful planes for profit, does so only by the exploitation of non-union workers. Shut down a Boeing plant, and the planes will still materialize out of the upper air. iPhones, gas, and brain surgery spontaneously appear for all our benefit; engineers, oil company CEOs, and doctors deliberately profit at all our expense. Good things appear on trees; bad people claimed they made them. The gas in your L.A. Mercedes never should come from the oil off your coast. The driver is a refined sort; the refiner is not. Those who use things are to be given more credit for their existence than those who provide them. The consumer, never the supplier, is king: dive into the steps of a swimming pool, and we will curse the negligent or conniving builder who out of greed or ignorance put steps there in the first place…

Saying one thing, while doing another, is no longer hypocrisy, but rather logical, given that sinning is finessed by prior qualification. Deploring racial profiling ensures that you do not have to visit Detroit too often — and never feel guilt in avoiding it. Warren Buffett circumventing inheritance taxes, or fighting the IRS, requires him duly to whine about the soft tax treatment accorded billionaires like himself. Barack Obama can shake down Wall Street donors, but only if he has first branded them fat cats and corporate jet owners. Deriding super-PACsis requisite to creating them. You can keep Guantanamo open only if you damn those who opened it…

Owing in our new millennium shall be less stressful than saving. The man with a little money in the bank is more worried that he thereby will be taxed more, earn no interest, or have his small sum expropriated, than the borrower is worried that he will have to pay back the full amount of quite a lot that he borrowed for his mortgage, credit card, or student loan. The saver is suspect of doing something bad to the borrower; savers are always active-voice beneficiaries, debtors passive-voice victims. An American without debt or a federal program to relieve it is not really an American. Before this Greek mess is over with, the press and elite opinion will have convinced us that the Germans who lost nearly $400 billion really are merciless and conniving and the Greeks who squandered it really are victims and largely innocent. In the modern age, the history of lending and borrowing does not count; the present ledger book trumps all: why do poor Greeks have to pay back rich Germans? Or better yet, if the defaulter of mortgage, credit card, and tuition bills is still poorer than those who lent him the money or others who did not take out such loans, why, then, should he become even poorer paying the richer back?…

Deluded Jews and Other Useful Idiots

Every time I think liberals couldn’t be more shallow, they (as Elaine said about Jerry on Seinfeld) take a little more water out of the pool. Shallow (and delusional) thinking seems to most afflict liberals when it comes to Israel and her current prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Today, we have the New York Times’ columnist Roger Cohen, the savant who opined for months about how the Iranian regime was grossly misunderstood by the West, an opinion he held right up until the mullahs started shooting people in the street for protesting a rigged election. Here Cohen praises another deluded Jewish liberal, Peter Beinart:

Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism” is an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.

“We are being asked to perpetuate a narrative of victimhood that evades the central Jewish question of our age: the question of how to ethically wield Jewish power,” he writes. That power, for 45 years now, has been exercised over millions of Palestinians who enjoy none of the rights of citizenship and all the humiliations of an occupied people.

When Cohen and Beinart say that Israel should use Jewish power “ethically,” they mean in keeping with the American Democratic Party’s agenda of pacifism and appeasement. How many times does it need to be said that the Arabs could “enjoy” the rights of citizenship and their own state if they only accepted Israel’s existence as a Jewish state?

Then Cohen deploys what Michael Kinsley once referred to as the “to be sure” paragraph, where you acknowledge the possibility of an obviously extreme (to liberals) opposing opinion:

Threats persist, of course. The annihilationist strain in Palestinian ideology, present since 1948, has not disappeared. Arab anti-Semitism festers, although at least in Tunisia it’s being debated. Hezbollah and Hamas have their rockets and missiles. Iran has a stop-go nuclear program. Terrorists can strike in New Delhi or Tbilisi.

Threats persist? And the annihilationist strain has not “disappeared” from Palestinian ideology? “Strain” and “has not disappeared” implies that the desire to annihilate Israel is a view held only by a few bitter enders which somehow would disappear if only the intransigent Bibi would bend a little. And who says Iran has a “stop-go” nuclear program? The only time the mullahs paused (briefly) in their effort to get a nuclear weapon is right after 9/11 when they feared that they, rather than Iraq, would be next in line for regime change.

The “greatest danger,”Cohen claims is that Israel, “…will squander the opportunities of power or overreach militarily (Iran) through excess of victimhood, rather than that any imaginable coalition of its enemies will deliver a crippling blow.” Spoken like a truly “ethical” Jew from the relative (for now) safety of London.

And then there’s Leslie Gelb, former Times foreign policy maven:

…But you know, Bibi [Netanyahu], that most times this White House is too nice about saying hard things to you. And maybe you won’t get the message.

Let me spell out what I think President Obama is saying to you: the unprecedented economic sanctions against Iran are already hurting and will hurt a lot more over the next year. Let them bite more. Meantime, the U.S. and Israel are both underlining to Tehran that all options are on the table. (That’s not a trivial phrase from a great power.) Israeli threats won’t reinforce the pressure from the sanctions; they’ll harden Iran’s heart. And we’ll all be heading for an incredibly dangerous war…

Harden Iran’s heart? Where has this genius been since the mullahs took over? Can he present one shred of evidence that the regime has ever responded to any thing but the real threat of force? Then he tells us what he believes American and Israeli intelligence agencies believe.

…Now look at both American and Israeli intelligence judgments:

First, we both estimate that Iran’s leaders won’t surrender to Israel’s threats.

Second, we both reckon that either you reverse your rhetoric or you go to war.

Third, your attacks probably will destroy most of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but these can readily be reconstructed in one to two years—deeper and less vulnerable to future attacks. (Startling, last week, your Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the chief of Israeli military intelligence, stated publicly that Iran already had enough fissile material to build four nuclear bombs in one year. If true, that’s already enough to destroy Israel. So what’s to be gained by your attack?)

U.S. officials are not blind to your tactics to circumvent these joint judgments of reality. One tactic is to convince us the costs of war won’t be so great. Just the other day your defense minister, Ehud Barak, tried to minimize the aftershocks: “There will not be 100,000 dead or 10,000 dead or 1,000 dead. The state of Israel will not be destroyed.” He should not be so certain or so cavalier…

How can Gelb (again from the relative safety of America) be so certain or so cavalier? He too inserts a “to be sure” paragraph:

Israelis are quite right to look on the dark side of things and to worry that it’s getting “too late.” Last week, International Atomic Energy inspectors visited Iran only to be denied access to key Iranian nuclear facilities. The inspectors will return shortly, but can’t be expected to fare much better.

But it is not now or soon “too late.” And we should not permit ourselves to think we’ve run out of time and choices. There can be no doubt that the sanctions are causing ever deeper pain, and no doubt that background military threats reinforce the message. But what’s really needed to round out a plausible policy is a comprehensive U.S. and Israeli proposal that gives Tehran some incentive to compromise and protects Israel’s and America’s vital interests.

Good luck with those comprehensive proposals. When did Iran ever respond to proposals and incentives that we and the Europeans have been making for decades?

Finally, we have the “truther” brigades who believe in preposterous schemes hatched by those crafty Jews to make their innocent would-be murderers look bad:

…Foreign correspondents and their military beat colleagues stationed overseas sometimes drink too much of the local water. Usually their editors catch the nonsense, but sometimes craziness slips through. Thomas Ricks, at the time a military correspondent for the Washington Post, and now a blogger for ForeignPolicy.com, suggested that Israel purposely allowed Hezbollah to launch missiles into northern Israel in order to have an excuse to retaliate. According to Ricks:

“One of the things that is going on, according to some U.S. military analysts, is that Israel purposely has left pockets of Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon, because as long as they’re being rocketed, they can continue to have a sort of moral equivalency in their operations in Lebanon.”

Ricks never named those military analysts; he appeared to simply couch his own bias in made-up sources, and later left the newspaper.

Now, it seems the craziness has spread to former journalists’ commentary about the terrorist attacks on Israeli diplomats in Georgia and India. Genieve Abdo, a long-time correspondent for London’s Guardian, and a frequent contributor to The Economist and New York Times, is now a fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think-tank. She has also been affiliated with the National Security Network, a group with close ties to the Obama White House. At the think tank, she no longer has an editor to screen away personal biases, so her radicalism shines through. Yesterday, for example, she told Australian public radio that Israel had bombed its own diplomats in order to have an excuse to blame Iran:

ELEANOR HALL: Iran’s leadership says it’s sheer lies that it’s behind the attacks and that the Israelis have planted the bombs themselves to discredit Iran?

GENEIVE ABDO: Well I think that’s entirely possible. I mean, if you consider what the Israelis did for many years in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East, that theory is not so farfetched.

What progressive analysis would be complete without obsessing about the dark shadow of a “Jewish lobby?”

ELEANOR HALL: So how dangerous do you think the situation is right now?

GENEIVE ABDO: Well, I think it’s very dangerous. It’s far more dangerous than probably any escalation tension that we’ve seen in 30 years. So, you know, you have the Israelis not willing to live with a nuclear Iran. You have the Iranians going forward with their nuclear program. And you have an American president trying to be re-elected with a Jewish lobby in the United States that’s extremely powerful…

There you have it: It is all the fault of Netanyahu and the “Jewish Lobby” cleverly manipulating dumb Americans into a war to defend Israel. And all of it coming from the left wing, largely Jewish intelligensia.

Those Simple-Minded Israelis

Masada


Before my trip to Israel last month, I anticipated that I would feel unsafe, but ironically, I felt more safe in Israel than in any other country I have ever visited, including and especially the United States. I felt safe in Israel because I quickly became aware that the Israelis are a lot more serious about protecting their citizens and visitors than are other countries, and are not held back by the “phosgene gas” of political correctness that has descended on the West, in British historian Paul Johnson’s words.

Israelis profile racially, psychologically and every other conceivable way. They also investigate and act on “rumors.” It seems impossible to me that Israeli security would not have acted swiftly on information that, for example, young men of any ethnicity were taking airliner flying lessons and were uninterested in learning how to land planes, as FBI bureaucrats failed to do with the 9/11 terrorists.

Israeli tanks in Negev


So today, we have a New York Times report that the Obama administration and the Israeli government are split over “the speed” of the Iran threat:

Amid mounting tensions over whether Israel will carry out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Israel remain at odds over a fundamental question: whether Iran’s crucial nuclear facilities are about to become impregnable.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, coined the phrase “zone of immunity” to define the circumstances under which Israel would judge it could no longer hold off from an attack because Iran’s effort to produce a bomb would be invulnerable to any strike. But judging when that moment will arrive has set off an intense debate with the Obama administration, whose officials counter that there are other ways to make Iran vulnerable.

Senior Israeli officials, including the foreign minister and leader of the Mossad, have traveled to Washington in recent weeks to make the case that this point is fast approaching. American officials have made reciprocal visits to Jerusalem, arguing that Israel and the West have more time and should allow sanctions and covert actions to deter Iran’s plans…

“ ‘Zone of immunity’ is an ill-defined term,” said a senior Obama administration official, expressing frustration that the Israelis are looking at the problem too narrowly, given the many kinds of pressure being placed on Tehran and the increasing evidence that far tougher sanctions are having an effect…

At its core, the official said, the argument the Israelis make is that once the Iranians get an “impregnable breakout capability” — that is, a place that is protected from a military strike — “it makes no difference whether it will take Iran six months or a year or five years” to fabricate a nuclear weapon, he said.

The Americans have a very different view, according to a second senior official who has discussed the concept with Israelis. He said “there are many other options” to slow Iran’s march to a completed weapon, like shutting off Iran’s oil revenues, taking out facilities that supply centrifuge parts or singling out installations where the Iranians would turn the fuel into a weapon.

Administration officials cite this more complex picture in pressing the Israelis to give the latest sanctions a chance to inflict enough pain on the Iranian leadership to force it back to the negotiating table, or to make the decision that the nuclear program is not worth the cost…

It is so typical of the Obama administration (and liberals in general) who aren’t directly in the line of fire from a deadly enemy to cite their putative understanding of a “more complex picture” beyond the ken of their intellectual inferiors, like in this instance, the Israeli government.

After all, the nuanced thinker Obama has been exceptionally perceptive in thinking “engagement,” apology, humility and charm would bring the mullahs around. When it comes to Israel’s (and our) survival, I’ll go with the Israelis.

The “Fix It Again, Tony” Bailout



Supposed rugged individualist Clint Eastwood was clearly promoting Obama’s vision of statist America in his controversial Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler. Rich Lowry comments:

Eastwood’s two-minute ad during halftime was one of the most memorable of the Super Bowl (putting aside all the Doritos spots, of course). Eastwood walks toward the camera in a dark tunnel and says, in his slightly threatening near-whisper, “It’s halftime.” Lest you think that’s a cue to get up and reload on nachos and beer, he intones, “It’s halftime in America, too.”

What follows is a half-baked tale about the revival of the automotive industry wrapped in economic nationalism: Dirty Harry does chest-thumping corporatism. Eastwood says that Americans are hurting and that “the people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again.”

We all pulled together? As euphemism, this is clever; as history, it is false. Congress never approved the bailouts. Given the option to do so explicitly, it declined. The Bush and Obama administrations acted on their own, diverting TARP funds to Detroit regardless of the letter of the law. In Eastwood’s telling, a legally dubious act of executive highhandedness qualifies as patriotic collective action.

By this standard, any initiative of government must be a stirring exercise in people’s power. Remember when we all pulled together to back the solar-panel maker Solyndra to the tune of $500 million? Right now, we are all pulling together to try to force Catholic institutions to pay for contraceptives and morning-after abortifacients for their employees. See? There’s nothing we can’t do — together.

What Chrysler and GM desperately needed in their extremity was to go through Chapter 11 reorganization to pare down wages and benefits, shed uneconomical dealerships, and ditch unnecessary brands. When the government got its hooks in them, it politicized this process and threw some $80 billion at the companies. Since we’ll never get an estimated $23 billion back, we all must be “pulling together” behind Detroit still.

Amid all the patriotic piety, Eastwood neglects to mention that Chrysler is now 58.5 percent owned by Fiat, an Italian company. The heart-tugging images of Turin, Italy, apparently were left on the cutting-room floor…

He Has A Dream (Because He’s Asleep)


British writer Robin Shepherd disusses an article in the Guardian calling for a “Palestinian” revolution like those of the putative “Arab Spring”:

The central point [of the Guardian piece] is that with all the revolutions taking place across the Middle East it’s surely time for the Palestinians to rise up in a peaceful uprising to bring unity and democracy to Palestinian society in order to end the occupation. Palestinian youth would join hands with Israeli peaceniks and the conflict would finally be resolved.

“Being the dreamer that I am,” says Diab, “I cannot shake the vision in my head of the joint Israeli-Palestinian activism infecting the masses, with large-scale joint action as the most effective way to end the occupation and bring about peace”.

Diab calls himself a “dreamer” so I suppose he at least has a defence for his ideas in that he came up with them when he was asleep. Those of us who try to generate our thinking in the cold light of day can tell him the following:

1. The Palestinians don’t need a revolution to get a state. They just need to accept Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and put aside dreams – that word again – of annihilating it. It’s really that simple. The rest is detail.

2. A Palestinian state has been on offer from day one of the conflict. The Jewish/Israeli side accepted a Palestinian state under UN Resolution 181 – the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which was adopted in November 1947. The Arab/Palestinian side rejected it and opted for war and violence. That’s why there’s a conflict.

3. Up until the Six Day War in 1967 the so called “occupied territories” were ruled by Jordan and Egypt. “Occupation” took place after the Arab armies again went to war with the aim of destroying Israel.

4. Since 1967, Israel has tried numerous times to give the Palestinians statehood, only to be rejected, as in 2000 and 2001, by the Palestinian leadership.

5. The Palestinian leadership inculcates hatred of Israel on a daily basis in schools, in the mosques and on television. That is why the large majority of Palestinians oppose a two state solution.

6. A comprehensive poll by the Israel Project in November 2010 showed 60 percent of Palestinians supporting the proposition that: “The real goal should be to start with two states but then move to it all being one Palestinian state”. 66 percent supported the proposition that: “Over time Palestinians must work to get back all the land for a Palestinian state”. And 71 percent said Yasser Arafat was right to reject Bill Clinton’s peace proposals in 2000 and 2001.

Amid all the complexities in this conflict, these are the hard facts that simply won’t go away. And the hardest fact to internalise, and the one that encapsulates all of the above, is that the tragedy of the Palestinians is a tragedy of their own making.

Khaled Diab and his friends at the Guardian can “dream” and “hope” all they like. But until the Palestinians put aside their delusions and see the world for what it is, their national tragedy is destined to continue.

Israel: Two Weeks In The Real World, Conclusion

An interesting Tel Aviv building


Tel Aviv is a seacoast city with beautiful views of the Mediterranean, but the architecture is mostly ugly. It has the greatest concentration of Bauhaus buildings of any city in the world. Tom Wolfe, in his book Bauhaus To Our House, describes that school of architecture as influenced by the leftist concept of modeling buildings on “workers’ flats for the proletariat.” Any kind of ornamentation is considered bourgeois, according to this theory, and thus to be avoided. Everything must be “functional.”

It made me think of Orwell’s 1984, where Winston Smith wonders into the “prole” neighborhood and comes upon a junk shop where he marvels at the beauty of the old, “useless” objects of art not permitted to party members.

Which brings me to David Ben Gurion’s house in Tel Aviv. It is little more than a two story concrete box. The furnishings are spare and utilitarian, the chairs and beds uncomfortable looking. The only relatively pleasing room is the library containing his many books. Rows of books are inherently attractive.

Israelis are proud that their first prime minister and founding father lived like a “common man.” But why not a little ornamentation and a few aesthetically pleasing objects of art? Why is the choice between living in a palace and living in a dreary two story hut? Perhaps it stems from what Isaac Bashevis Singer once referred to in a different context as the “socialism mishegoss.”

David Ben-Gurion's library


Speaking of socialism, I must say a word about my fellow tourmates. Except for one couple from Brazil, they were all American Jews. And surprise, surprise: They were Democrats, except for one feisty, retired school administrator from New York who spoke fluent Hebrew. The Democrats were ambivalent towards Israeli policy, and at one point a professor of Jewish Studies at Lafayette College asserted that we need to preserve “Jewish values,” which, clearly, he equated with the agenda of the Democratic Party, that is: multiculturalism, moral equivalence, and pacifism. When, I wondered, did pacifism and moral equivalence become Jewish values? Turning the other cheek is a Christian idea which, if history tells us anything, has been more honored in the breach than the observance.

My fellow right wing tourmate calls these folks “self-loathing Jews.” (I prefer to call them adherents to the Democratic Party with holidays.) She had lived in Israel for a number of years and been married to an Israeli. We met her daughter who, before moving to Israel, was an assistant district attorney in New York City. Her move was motivated by feelings of alienation from the reflexively liberal American Jews she encountered in college and law school, feelings with which I can readily identify.

As is my habit nowadays when I visit countries with socialized medicine, I asked our guide if Israelis were generally satisfied with their medical care. The answer was no. It’s pretty much the same wherever I go: It’s fine as long as your doctor does not think you might have something serious and orders a diagnostic procedure like an MRI. Unless you are exhibiting a death rattle, you can expect to wait months for a diagnosis and treatment. So as long as you don’t get sick, it is fine.

Finally, there is the question of Israel’s “dependence” on America. Our guide noted that two-thirds of the $3 billion dollars Israel receives in aid from America must be spent in America, something I imagine most American are unaware of. You can, if you wish, think of it as a “stimulus package.”

But more importantly, there is hardly a nation on earth that has not depended on the United States. American taxpayers saved Europe and Asia in two bloody and expensive world wars and continue to subsidize these countries by picking up the tab for their defense as well as buying their products (Americans have more disposable income than their overtaxed counterparts around the world.).

The difference between Israel and the rest of the world is this: Not one American soldier has ever shed blood defending Israel’s people and sovereignty, which is a lot more than you can say for Europe, Asia, and the Arab countries.

Even though Israel deeply moved me, I realize, in the end, that I am an American. I am too old to learn Hebrew and besides I like living where I live. I like the seasons and most of the architecture where I live; I couldn’t live in Florida or California either.

But it would be almost perfect if American Jews were more like Israelis.

Tel Aviv Beach at sunset

Israel: Two Weeks In The Real World

Israeli soldiers outside Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum)


I recently returned from Israel, with a side trip to Petra in Jordan. There was so much to absorb in both history and culture, and I still feel overwhelmed by the experience. Two weeks in a country do not make me an expert, nor am I qualified to comment competently on the culture and history. So what follows are my impressions on which I welcome comment and corrections.

Other places I have traveled to are more beautiful than Israel, although there is much beauty to admire there. What hooked me emotionally is the people. To encounter this amazing conglomeration of disparate people from different cultures tied together by the singular fact that they are Jews is profoundly moving. Jews from Europe, America, the Middle East, Ethiopia, and Russia; religious Jews ranging from the merely Orthodox to the ultra-Orthodox (haredim),and the non-observant Jews who never go to “schul” all live on this tiny piece of land (the size of New Jersey) and seem completely committed to its continued existence (although, inexplicably, the haredim consider a Jewish state blasphemous until the Messiah comes).

I found no sense of fear or uncertainty about Israel’s survival. They talk about Israel’s “problems,” like the ultra-Orthodox who are most numerous in and around Jerusalem and who often harass secular women with epithets of “shiksa,” and prosititute, showers of spittle and demands that the women sit in the back of the bus or travel in segregated vehicles. But the threat from Iran and terrorism in general are also called “problems.” The word “crisis” doesn’t seem to be in the Israeli vocabulary. And the many children and pregnant women attest, at least to me, that these Jews intend to stay where they are and if worse comes to worst, will not go gently into that good night.

Israelis do not seem to have the same concerns American Jews have, at least not to the same extent. I didn’t read or hear anyone talk about abortion, for example. Gun control in Israel seems to mean having a good aim. You know you are not in America when you see an 18 year old Jewish girl in an army uniform strolling down the street with an Uzi (I assume) slung over her shoulder so that it bounces against her butt (the latest style in weapon-wear according to our guide).

The sight of young Israeli soldiers got to me. They look so young and except for the uniforms and weapons seem just like American teenagers with their headsets and cell phones. But they are different because they are Israel’s protectors and that is a very serious business. As our guide told us, “Unlike you [Americans], we profile.” The Israelis know whom they are looking for when it comes to their security, and they don’t waste time doing multi-cultural security checks so as not to offend anyone likely to complain (or sue) as we do in America. They believe that, while not all Muslims are terrorists, most terrorists are Muslims. The security people are very “pro-active” with people whose appearance and “body language” is suspicious – a contrast to the bored-looking security guards you often encounter in America.

Israelis refer to the Jewish extremists among them as “the Americans.” Many of the zealots who want to expel all Arabs from Israel and annex the West Bank (and beyond) tend to hail from America as do the peaceniks who consider the Arabs victims of Israeli “occupation” and who want to make Israel a subsidiary of the post 1960’s American Democratic Party. Most Israelis fall somewhere in between. Our guide had particular distaste for the zealots who set up an illegal settlement somewhere, only to be evicted by the Israel Defense Force (IDF), after which they move on to another area and destroy Arab dwellings. The zealots call this “payback.”

Haredi man near the Western Wall


The ultra-Orthodox or haredim add a certain exoticism to Jerusalem where they are numerous. A big “problem” for secular and moderately religious Israelis is what our guide Yacov called “Ben-Gurion’s mistake.” As Mati Wagner writes in Commentary Magazine:

David Ben-Gurion’s willingness to make concessions to the haredim in the first decades after the establishment of the state of Israel was the direct result of his conviction that his version of secular Zionism would soon become the dominant force in all aspects of Israeli society, while Judaism as a religion, especially in its most extreme expressions, would disappear.

Perhaps that seemed like a good idea back at the time when secular socialists founded Israel and there were relatively few devoutly religious Jews living there, but now the haredim have grown into a large, powerful community whose members are highly visible and are often aggressively abusive to moderately religious and non-observant Jews, especially women. Since the average number of children born to the haredim is 8, many secular Israelis are more fearful of a haredi takeover than they are of the Arabs. Others believe that the modern world, particularly the internet, will change the haredim before the haredim change Israel. As the Israelis say about most things: We will see.

The haredim are particularly eccentric, colorful or weird (take your pick) in their Sabbath outfits. My wife provides description:

The everyday uniform of the haredi – the large black hats perched on top
of yarmulkes, the long black coats, payot, fringes hanging down from under sweaters or jackets—seems only slightly less out of place in Jerusalem than in Brooklyn but still anachronistic, belonging to another place (Eastern Europe, not the Middle East) and another age (a century or two ago). The Shabbat attire is something else. Costume, costume. There are variations, subtle and not-so-subtle (like a hat leaning to the left or the right, stockings in white or black, beards shaped this way or that) that are apparently very important as signs to those who know as to what
sect or rabbi someone belongs. But most wear their Shabbat best: a belted pink-beige silk kimono-type robe over the regular black suit, sometimes worn under a shiny black overcoat, sometimes not. White or black stockings with black patent slippers. The headpiece is a huge flat-top, round fur-brimmed hat, the brim at least six inches deep, often more. With beards and payot, of course, that can sometimes reach well below the shoulders. The impression is of a spinning top walking down the street, wide on top, narrowing to a small base. The women, sometimes walking behind the men, look modern by comparison, wearing simple dark clothes, a scarf or nice plain hat on the head, always with children dressed in their best.

Secular Jews could not appear more different from their religious compatriots. In a sentence: Israeli men look tough and Israeli women look sexy. I didn’t see any recognizable American Jewish types of men (although there may be some) like, say, the characters played by Woody Allen, Larry David or Jerry Seinfeld. No nebbishy, timid, kvetchy guys in the American style. Secular Jewish men look much more like Tony Soprano than Jerry Seinfeld. Dressed in jeans, often powerfully built, secular men wear their hair closely cropped and eschew facial hair. I would guess that hair, to them, denotes piety and piety is not their thing.

An aside: One night we walked into a convenience store in Jerusalem where the kid at the checkout counter was engrossed in a Seinfeld rerun on the TV monitor. It was the episode where Jerry and George go to the network executive’s apartment to persuade him to “greenlight” their pilot episode and where George ogles the “cleavage” of the executive’s young daughter. I said to the kid, “One of the best episodes, no?” He chuckled and nodded yes.

I really cannot say why Jewish women in Israel are sexier than their American counterparts. Maybe it’s because they speak Hebrew or Hebrew-accented English. Hebrew sounds sexy to my ear. Go know.

Another aside: Yesterday, I had some root canal work done by a quite skillful, Jewish woman dentist who prefaced every sentence with the phrase, “I’m like…” Cannot say whether there is a Hebrew equivalent, but I did not hear similar locutions from English speaking Israeli women.

Or perhaps it’s the setting. As Hemingway noted, places of war and danger heighten the senses. The knowledge that these women have served in the army and must live their lives on a tiny sliver of land surrounded by millions of implacable and often murderous enemies maybe sharpens and deepens their personalities in a way not evident in their more secure American sisters.

Walking through the various quarters of Jerusalem, it became clear to me why devout Christians are thrilled that the Jews control the city and why religious Christians make up a major part of the support for Israel. The easy access Christians have to their holy sites is secure with Israeli sovereignty over the city, which would hardly be the case if Muslims were in control. Even in the West Bank cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem where the Palestinian Authority is in charge, Christians know that in the absence of a final peace treaty, the Israelis are the ultimate controlling authority and will protect Christian holy sites. I cannot imagine that West Bank Christians relish the thought of living in an Islamic Palestinian state .

To be continued.