Res Ipsa Loquitur…

Following are excerpts from an interview with Abbas Zaki, member of the Fatah Central Committee, which aired on the Al-Jazeera network on September 23, 2011.

Abbas Zaki: The settlement should be based upon the borders of June 4, 1967. When we say that the settlement should be based upon these borders, President [Abbas] understands, we understand, and everybody knows that the greater goal cannot be accomplished in one go.

If Israel withdraws from Jerusalem, evacuates the 650,000 settlers, and dismantles the wall – what will become of Israel? It will come to an end.

[...]

Who is nervous, upset, and angry now? Netanyahu, Lieberman, and Obama… All those scumbags. Why even get into this? We should be happy to see Israel upset.

[...]

If we say that we want to wipe Israel out… C’mon, it’s too difficult. It’s not [acceptable] policy to say so. Don’t say these things to the world. Keep it to yourself.

 

On Hamas Flotilla Nonsense

Kudos to Greece. It momentarily stopped the latest Gaza flotilla nonsense, for now.  That is responsible and real.

Greece announced a ban last week on vessels headed to Gaza and arrested the captain of an American ship for leaving port without permission over the weekend.

The “Gaza flotilla” has always been a publicity stunt – never about “humanitarian aid.” The murderous Hamas gets pretty much whatever it wants through the sieve of the Egyptian border, and elsewhere. And by the way, the Gazan population is better off than it has been for decades, thanks to the influx of all manner of aid – including through Israeli borders.

But Hamas won’t miss an opportunity to make Israel look bad. And so while its minions lob missiles into Israel hoping they kill Jews, it also orchestrates “flotillas” for “freedom” – ostensibly to “break the blockade” that “prevents humanitarian aid getting to Gaza.” And that is how profoundly stupid Hamas believes we are. And by the way, we are.

Hasna El Maroudi, 26, can be described as a “Dutch pro-Palestinian activist/journalist of Moroccan descent.” She had planned to join other activists aboard a Dutch ship to Gaza, until she learned that she would be going on a secret Hamas-organized mission, and cancelled her participation.

Read the rest.

The two-state solution – the solution – turns on marginalizing Hamas. Hamas-orchestrated flotilla stunts empower Hamas and push a Palestinian state further and further away.

On the Difficulty of Recognizing the Jewish State of Israel

From the simple recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, peace and a Palestinian state follow. The chief geopolitical excruciation of our time, the Palestinian obsession of the United Nations, the rancor of millions who thrive on demonizing either Israel or Palestinians — all of it shrivels if Palestinians and surrounding Arab states simply recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

But that single, simple step to peace remains elusive. Why?

Note that I am urging Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, not merely Israel’s right to exist. The extremists who cannot even acknowledge Israel’s rudimentary right to exist are part of the permanent insurgency against peace and human decency. They will never entirely disappear, but they can be marginalized.

The question of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state is more complicated. It would mean, for example, giving up any Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. Asking Israel to absorb potentially millions, or even hundreds of thousands, of Palestinian refugees in Israel would be an invitation to geopolitical suicide. Eventually, Israel’s Jews would be a minority population. Israel’s Jews cannot become a minority population, for there would then be no defensible homeland for the Jews. Jews would again become beholden to a fickle majority, as they were in Europe and Russia — and to every Jew who vows to remember, this cannot happen. Never again.

We melting-pot Americans are not accustomed to thinking of states as ethnic enclaves — even though they often are. We would chafe at the notion of Guatemala as a Mayan state or Kenya as Kikuyu state. But the viability of Israel as a Jewish state is a special case, rooted in excruciating history.

Think of the Middle East as a football field. Think of Israel and Palestine as two wee postage stamps on this football field. The scale is important for the history that follows.

On October 4, 1946, President Truman issued a statement declaring United States support for creation of a “viable Jewish state.” On November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly approved a partition plan that divided the tiny area into three entities: a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone around Jerusalem.

Jews accepted this internationally-sanctioned partition. Arabs did not. At this crucial inception of Israel, there was never any international question that the tiny nation of Israel would be a Jewish state.

There was a sound reason for this tiny new state, and a sound reason that it be Jewish. In 1946, there were still tens of thousands of displaced Jews in Europe, survivors of the Holocaust. The thriving Jewish communities of Europe were all but wiped out. The Nazi machine killed six million Jews and produced a new word: genocide. But the defeat of the Nazis did not defeat homicidal anti-Semitism. Jewish refugees attempting to return to their European homes met murderous bigotry.

The middle 20th-century put to rest forever the notion that Jews, as a minority, could rely on the good will of their host nations. Good and patriotic German Jews, good and patriotic Polish Jews, good and patriotic Hungarian Jews — all died in the gas chambers, or were killed by locals when they tried to return.

Jews needed their own place to live. Their original homeland, the place that gave rise to the Bible, the place where they had a continuous presence for thousands of years, the place where Jews had been going for decades and transforming the land, made sense.

The world understood this in 1947. The world understood that Jews needed one place that they controlled, one place where pogroms were impossible, one place where Jews could be Jews without apology and obsequiousness. The world understood that the people who had suffered the most horrific slaughtering in human history had earned a place of their own.

Arabs also lived in this land. Indeed, Arabs, Jews and Christians had been living side-by-side for quite some time in what was then the British Mandate. And so the world did not give it all to the Jews. The world split it between Arabs and Jews. It was the solution to which everyone now aspires: a Jewish state and an Arab state. Yes, 64 years ago, the world solved the Middle East problem.

The Jews said yes, but the Arabs balked. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, proclaimed the existence of a Jewish state called Israel. President Truman’s administration immediately issued the following statement: “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine, and recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof. The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel.”

On May 15th, Arab states issued their response statement, and Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq attacked the new state of Israel, aided by volunteers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Libya. It could have been over for Israel then. It very nearly was. The football field attacked the postage stamp with determination to wipe it out.

Meanwhile, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, declared a new genocide against the Jews: “kill the Jews wherever you find them — this serves God.” He really meant it. He had passed the world war with fascists, and while a guest of fascist Italy in 1941, he submitted to the German government a draft declaration of German-Arab cooperation, stating:

Germany and Italy recognize the right of the Arab countries to solve the question of the Jewish elements, which exist in Palestine and in the other Arab countries, as required by the national and ethnic (völkisch) interests of the Arabs, and as the Jewish question was solved in Germany and Italy.

Had the Nazis prevailed in North Africa (they didn’t), they had a plan to exterminate Palestinian Jews and prevent the establishment of a Jewish state, and “the most important collaborator with the Nazis and an absolute Arab anti-Semite was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem.” Many honorable Palestinians refused to take up arms against the Jews because of their disgust with Haj Amin al-Husseini.

The fledgling state of Israel survived, barely, the attack of every surrounding Arab country. Israel survived again in 1967 and 1973, when Arab regimes attacked Israel with intent to destroy it. The violations of international law, never mind human decency, in these attacks are legion.

Meanwhile, Arab states set about dealing with their Jewish populations, and it wasn’t pretty. Most of Yemeni and Adeni Jews, some 50,000, were evacuated between 1949-1950 in fear of their security. 150,000 Iraqi and Kurdish Jews were encouraged to leave in 1950 by the Iraqi Government, which ordered in 1951 “the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism.” The Jews of Egypt began fleeing the country in 1948, and most of the remaining, some 25,000, were expelled in 1956. The Jews of Algeria were deprived of their citizenship in 1962.

So Jews were being systematically kicked out of Arab countries, typically without their property. There could have been a “Jewish refugee” problem exceeding the “Palestinian refugee” problem. But there wasn’t because Israel of course accepted the 800,000-1,000,000 Jews kicked out of Arab countries. Palestinian refugees, meanwhile, suffered horrible deprivations of basic rights by their host countries.

Over 400,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, and they are barred from 73 job categories including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They are not allowed to own property, and even need a special permit to leave their refugee camps. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese health care system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them work permits or permission to own land.

The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” In other words, Palestinian refugees are pure politics for Arab League members. And that is why the most free Palestinians live in America and Israel.

If I were Palestinian — and sometimes I wish I were just for the test of my character in the teeth of oppression and suffering — I believe I would be skeptical of my Arab brothers and their cynical anti-Semitism, and I believe I would say yes, let there be a Jewish state and a Palestinian state so that I could at least begin to control my own destiny, and I would cease to be a pawn in the games of nations that have done nothing for me except exploit my victim status.

Israel must be a Jewish state. There must be a homeland for Jews. And there must be a homeland for Palestinians. We have not evolved beyond ethnic thinking and ethnic hatred. That will take a while. Meanwhile, there can be peace, accounting for ethnic hatreds — but it must begin with recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

And acceptance of a Jewish state begins with understanding of what happened to Jews. The Holocaust must become real to Palestinians. In the New York Times, Palestinian social scientist Mohammed S. Dajani Doudi and Jewish-American historian Robert Satloff write:

But Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, know little about the Holocaust and what they do know is often skewed by the perverted prism of Arab popular culture, from the ranting of religious extremists to the distortions of certain satellite television channels to the many ill-informed authors. What happened to the Jews during World War II is not taught in Arab schools or universities, either as part of world history or as a lesson in genocide awareness or as an atrocity that ought not to be repeated.

* * *

Almost two years ago millions of Muslim Arabs listened carefully when President Barack Obama, speaking in Cairo, respectfully recited sentences from the Koran and proclaimed America’s endorsement of a two-state solution to achieve a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace. Few, however, remember that he also condemned Holocaust denial. Now that the Arab masses are applying the universal lessons of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in taking down their authoritarian governments, it is time they take back the learning of history, too. That includes teaching their children the universal lessons of the Holocaust.

History, true history, is almost always painful. Understanding why Israel must be a Jewish state is painful. Jews in Israel cannot ever again submit to the tolerance of a host culture. That is absolute.

Slaughter in the West Bank

Udi Fogel, 36; Ruth Fogel, 35; and their children, Yoav, 11; Elad, 4; and Hadas, three months, are dead. They were knifed to death in the West Bank.

The slaughter is heart-breaking. Even children. An infant. Up close murderous. Yes, there you are, you usurping Zionist infant, die.

The horrible catastrophe in Japan understandably commandeered the news. Our hearts are stretched. How do we feel the pain we must? We cannot.

Is what happened to the Fogel family, the slaughtered Fogel family, wrong? Does anyone with a particle of conscience doubt that what happened to the Fogel family is wrong? Is there any reaction conceivably appropriate other than grief and condemnation?

Hamas had this to say on the English part of its website:

Palestinian National Movement Hamas official Ezzat Al-Rashak said that the movement is not responsible for the murder of the five family members from the Itamar settlement.

Al-Rashak confirmed that harming children is not part of Hamas’ policy, nor is it the policy of the resistance factions.

He also confirmed that the possibility that the incident was carried out by settlers for criminal motives should not be ruled out.

No grief, no condemnation, but could be that a Jew knifed a Jewish baby to death “for criminal motives.”

And peace is elusive. A Palestinian state is elusive. How easy, how obvious, how necessary a Palestinian state — but this?

It gets worse.

On the Arabic part of its website, Hamas carried the following article:

Five Zionist usurpers were killed the morning of Saturday, 12 March 2011, in a knife-stabbing carried out by a Palestinian in the usurper (settlement) of Itamar east of the city of Nablus.

Our correspondent in Nablus reported that a Palestinian mujahid was able to break into the usurper (settlement) of “Itamar” south of Nablus in the occupied (West) Bank, and stabbed five Zionist usurpers.

Zionist media sources said that “A Palestinian broke into the usurper (settlement) between the hours of 9:30 – 11:00 PM, and killed five usurpers from one family while they were sleeping.” They confirmed that the perpetrator of the act was able to escape. …

Eye-witnesses informed our correspondents that Zionist airplanes, powerful forces from the military and police, and ambulances rushed to the scene and transported the wounded and slain, while occupation forces spread throughout the vicinity of the village of Awarta, and fired dozens of flares. …

Also, the al-Qassam Brigades were able to execute a series of operations in August of last year, which were named “Stream of Fire,” by which the mujahideen of al-Qassam were able to kill four Zionists. Intelligence officials from both the military and Abbas’s militias in the West Bank were confounded by these operations, and worked with all diligence to try to discover the perpetrators.

Let us make no mistake going forward. The Fogels are dead and Hamas is a resolute and despicable enemy of peace — never mind of peace, of rudimentary human decency.

I do not minimize the suffering of the Palestinian people. I do not deny that Israel has at times abused its power and visited injustice and indignity on the Palestinian people. I devoutly wish a homeland for the Palestinian people. But I am certain that Palestinians have no hope of homeland, justice or dignity — even from their own people — as long as Hamas commands the allegiance it does. The litmus test for peace is this: do you condemn Hamas? Where there is hesitation to do so, there will be perpetual obstacles to peace.

The Israeli government’s decision to respond to the killings by announcing that it would build hundreds of new apartment units inside the major West Bank settlement blocs is the tit-for-tat dynamic we’ve come to expect. Is it wise? Is it Middle Eastern? Two different answers. Both explain why there is no peace.

The Israeli government’s decision is a steely determination to ensure that no atrocity lacks a price tag. And there is a credible basis for that philosophy. Osama bin Laden mocked the weakness of the West and was emboldened in his terrorist ambitions by our withdrawals from Lebanon and Somalia.

But there is a difference. There is no power ambiguity in the West Bank. Israel has it. Undertaking more settlements, as a “penalty,” simply reinforces the Palestinian narrative that the design is incremental encroachment. One despicable Palestinian murderer — let us even say one despicably celebrated Palestinian murderer — is not justification for doing the thing that Palestinians hate the most.

But I digress. The Fogels are dead. How people respond to that gut-wrenching reality tells me very much about the prospects for peace.

Vacuous Foreign Policy

What does this administration believe? What is its foreign policy?

That America has done wrong, and our ally Egypt did wrong, but despotic and anti-American Iran killing its people warrants silence, and Libya, finally, has done wrong after wantonly killing its people, and Israel has done wrong by building in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem?

What does this administration stand for? Forthrightly declared the president before a group of Jewish donors:

  • We must be “sober” about the current transformation in the region.
  • “We can’t be naïve about the changes that are taking place in the Middle East.”
  • But “we should not be afraid of the possibilities of the future.”
  • “There are going to be some bumps along the road.”
  • We’ll have to have the will “to seize the moment.”
  • “We’re going to have to be engaged and we’re going to have to be involved and we’re going to have to reach out.”
  • “But I’m actually confident that 10 years from now we’re going to be able to look back potentially and say this was the dawning of an entirely new and better era.”

Could a statesman be more vacuous? Our foreign policy, says our commander-in-chief, should be sober, not naive, and not afraid of possibilities of the future? And oh yes, please be sure to seize the moment? And reach out? This is the foreign policy of the United States of America?

This is an embarrassment.

This is an administration learning on the job, and not well. But “potentially” it’s “the dawning of an entirely new and better era.”

 

The Bizarre Frequency of Jew-Hatred

In a world of vast sensitivity to race, ethnicity, and religion, a world of political correctness that pounces upon any hint of disrespect, why are Jews an evident carve-out?

Yes, it is possible that many people with high profiles are pathetically young souls who lack the character to manage their visibility with rudimentary dignity. But why do these rants so routinely go off on the Jews? What makes Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone part of a pop culture phenomenon of hating Jews? Why is it so easy — especially since the haters are typically liberals hating Jews, who are overwhelmingly liberal?

Did we learn nothing from the Holocaust? Has Jew-hatred failed to become sufficiently unacceptable, such that we can indulge a bigotry, just this bigotry, while preserving our liberal bona fides as to all the rest?

The Jews say “never forget,” and would that it were so. If Palestinian Hamas and Fatah are mortal enemies in the Middle East, they at least evidently agree that the Holocaust should never be taught to Palestinian eighth-graders. Teaching the Holocaust, said the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Culture in the Gaza Strip, “is an attempt to impose on us the culture of normalization with the occupation. They want us to accept the tales and lies to win sympathy.” The ministry described the Holocaust as a lie, saying it had been exaggerated to garner sympathy for the “usurping entity” at the expense of the rights and interests of the Palestinians.

Salah al-Wadiyeh, a Fatah representative in the West Bank, said the Holocaust was a “big lie.” The Palestinians, he said, “know more than any other people the history of their enemies and their false claims and lies.”

Calling the Holocaust a “big lie” is equivalent to calling Mohammed a big cheat and sham artist. Yet the latter — actually far less than the latter — triggers riots that actually kill people, and the former is incredibly comfortably part of our discourse.

Charlie Sheen, John Galliano, and Julian Assange are part of a pathology of our discourse, a Jew-hating nonsense that draws sustenance from Palestinian Jew-hate. I don’t care about Charlie Sheen, John Galliano, and Julian Assange. But I care about Middle Eastern peace. And peace is not possible with Jew-hate.

 

The Palestinian Papers and the Malice of “Journalism”

“The Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.” —Tzipi Livni, 2008, then Israeli foreign minister

Let that statement sink in for a moment, and you will appreciate one of the most disturbing pathologies about the Middle East peace process—but not the one you think.

The quote was featured prominently in the liberal British newspaper The Guardian as part of its coverage of the so-called “Palestinian Papers”—1,600 documents about Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations leaked to Al-Jazeera and provided to The Guardian.

Here is what Ms. Livni actually said:

“I understand the sentiments of the Palestinians when they see the settlements being built. The meaning from the Palestinian perspective is that Israel takes more land, that the Palestinian state will be impossible, the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that it is impossible, we already have the land and cannot create the state.”

Consistent with its policy of active malice against Israel, The Guardian deliberately converted a statement by Ms. Livni describing Palestinian perceptions into a declaration by Ms. Livni of actual and pernicious Israeli policy. In short, The Guardian brazenly lied.

Ever determined to demonize Israel as the obstacle to peace, The Guardian introduced the Palestinian Papers with the blaring banner, Israel spurned Palestinian offer of ‘biggest Yerushalayim in history’.” (Yerushalayim is the sonorous Hebrew word for Jerusalem.) Yes, the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, spoke the phrase “biggest Yerushalayim in history”—much exploited elsewhere by The Guardian—just as Tzipi Livni spoke the words attributed, with scissoring malice, to her. But Erekat’s words in context belie the Guardian narrative of Israeli intransigence:

Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state…what more can I give?

So Israel does want a two-state solution, sometimes even more than the Palestinians. The Guardian, evidently less so.  And just to make sure there was no lingering ambiguity about The Guardian‘s bigotry, it published a cartoon of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas dressed up like an Orthodox Jew toting an Uzi-like gun— drawn by cartoonist Carlos Latuff, known for his viciously anti-Israel work. What a splendid contribution to peace.

The revelations from the Palestinian Papers are not especially surprising—negotiations were cordial, frank, serious, and constructive—but the “journalists” at Al-Jazeera and The Guardian are full of fraudulent and bigoted surprises. Even more disturbing than the apparent intractability of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for which the Palestinian Papers actually suggest a ray of hope) is the despicable state of much “journalism” concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for which there is evidently no hope).

By comparison, WikiLeaks’ impish and reckless Julian Assange, who simply dumps secrets that imperil human lives, looks cherubic.

While The Guardian anchored the anti-peace process in the West, Al-Jazeera ensured hostility to peace in the Arab world, with particular attention to slandering Palestinians. Declared Al-Jazeera in one “news” article: “The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, The Palestine Papers indicate.” This is not journalism. This is cynical and fraudulent hate-mongering.

The slander about craven Palestinian negotiators making unprecedented concessions has already sent Palestinians scurrying for cover, immeasurably complicating an always delicate negotiation dynamic. In fact, Palestinian negotiators acted as sophisticated diplomats, in pursuit of a realistic peace that neither Al-Jazeera nor The Guardian want.

But then, surrounding Arab regimes have always had an interest in perpetuating the suffering of the Palestinian people. PA President Abbas condemned Al-Jazeera’s agenda as sparking a Tunisian-style uprising among Palestinians. Maybe so, maybe no, but Palestinians, thinking that surely 23 Arab states and 57 Muslim states have their backs against one Jewish state, have put so much misplaced faith in a fake solidarity that has failed them for 60 years.

Ghassan Khatib, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Institute, straightforwardly called Al-Jazeera’s coverage “malevolent.”

Al-Jazeera, which already pursues an Islamic political and ideological agenda, not only posted these documents on a website, but produced four major television programs “presenting” the documents. Al-Jazeera maliciously took things out of context with the objective of exaggerating the negative light they cast on the Palestinian Authority.

Negotiations may be suspended—but I see a tiny ray of hope. I see Palestinians and Israelis both recognizing that no one else in the world has as much shared interest with either of them as they do between themselves. I see Palestinians finally recognizing the cynicism of their Arab brothers in surrounding autocratic regimes that have exploited Palestinians for decades, and used Palestinian aspirations for their own cynical purposes while contributing nothing of consequence to—and often actively thwarting—the betterment of the Palestinian people and the peace process. I see Israelis resolving to trust again, to use power sparingly, to partner with their Palestinian brothers and make Semitic peace. I see recognition by Palestinians and Israelis that their lives, their livelihoods, their peace and security have become a ghoulish global sport, with hateful-half-baked and massively misinformed opinions traded like baseball cards. I see Palestinians and Israelis recognizing that hate and bigotry are imports from this global ghoulish sport, and resolving with vigor befitting their children to be done with them in their respective communities. I see honorable Palestinians and honorable Israelis re-committing to negotiating peace on terms that honor their children, rather than the distorted politics of foreign cynics. Yes, I see peace.

It is, admittedly, a tiny ray of hope, and perhaps one I’ll not be privileged to see realized in my lifetime, such is the anger and hate and suspicion that plasters the region. But I believe my son’s generation will make it happen. And I honor him and them in hopeful anticipation.

[Also published at CiF Watch.]

Daniel Turns 18, Birth of Egyptian Democracy on Hold

Hod Hasharon, IsraelThe boy was turning 18. “Daddy, wake up,” Daniel says insistently, as I had succumbed to a weird delayed jet lag. It was around 11:30 in the evening (4:30 pm EST). “You are missing history,” he says, “wake up, Mubarak is resigning.”

As abuses of history go, Daniel’s is perhaps the most gentle and heart-warming in history. By the time Daniel wakes me up, it is clear Mubarak has no intention of resigning. That hopeful moment, predicted by too many, had already been dashed in a defiant speech.

But Daniel wants me awake. “Otherwise, you will wake up at 3,” he tries to explain. But in truth, he wants me awake at midnight, when he turns 18. I watch events in Egypt not unfold on an English language TV station upstairs. At 11:59, Daniel yells impatiently, “Daddy, I’m turning 18 and you’re not down here.”

I run downstairs, scolding him for getting upset when it’s only 11:59. Savlanoot is the Hebrew word for patience, and probably for the last time, I say to him, “savlanoot for boys”—my shorthand throughout his childhood for “you’re not even managing the special, indulgent standard of patience for boys.”

When the midnight moment arrives, we hug, everyone hugs him, and even language changes. Now, with my terms of affection, I am obliged to acknowledge his manhood respectfully. “Happy birthday best boy man!” “I love you great boy man.” His innumerable nicknames are longer now. “Dookiemon” (a spin-off from Pokemon, which stuck) is now Dookiemon Man. “Shponk” is now Shponk Man. “Shpinkle MacPinkleWinkle” is now Shpinkle MacPinkleWinkle Man. There are others, but they might embarrass him.

Since I arrived last Friday, I’ve been preparing him for manhood. That cereal box with a cartoon on it? Might want to reconsider. He reminds me that I am Lucky Charms man. True, I concede, I’ve come full circle.

Our game of choice this visit is the manly pursuit of Power Yahtzee. We’ve taken to calling it “Schmatz,” which serves as noun and verb. “Hey, wanna’ Schmatz it up a bit?” We’re competitive in that manly way, but with a dollop of manly solidarity. He rolls four ones, but already has ones. He goes for the Yahtzee. “I’m a man, and this is what men do.” I sing the anthem that necessarily accompanies such courage. “He know’s he’s a man, he knows he’s a ma-a-a-an.” (I take the melody from an old U.S. Army commercial jingle. Or maybe Wheaties. Can’t recall.)

And now my son is a man, already an inspiration of a man, a man of good character, good will, and good humor in a region where men are tested in ways we Americans can barely comprehend. When, that is, they survive to manhood. In Pakistan earlier this week, a young Taliban boy walked into an army compound wearing a school uniform and blew himself up, killing 31 and wounding many others.

More hopefully, an Israeli woman gave birth in a Palestinian hospital on Wednesday. For security reasons, Israeli citizens are barred from visiting Palestinian areas. The woman, a Jew who speaks only Hebrew and who converted to Islam, was with her Arab Israeli husband in Ramallah when she went into labor. The rarity of the occurrence sparked a visit from the town mayor and flowers from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The couple named the boy Omri, a name used by both Jews and Arabs.

The poet Rilke said God is in all beginnings. Let it be so, and let Him persist with His grace—for Daniel’s new manhood, for Omri, for the still hopeful birth of Egyptian democracy, and for the faintest stirrings of a durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

 

UPDATE: Mubarak resigns. It may not yet quite be the beginning of democracy, but it is the definitive end of one despot.

On Egypt, from Israel

Hod Hasharon, IsraelI write from my son Daniel’s home, about 20 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. It has been six months since I saw Daniel, and I’ve been giddily happy in ways that elude me in Washington DC. I juggle that pleasure with graver feelings about what is happening a little distance to the south in Egypt, with, to date, 200 dead and hundreds more injured. I shudder along with many Israelis at the possibilities. I texture these emotions with contemplation of Natan Sharansky’s take on democracy and what is happening in Egypt—which, to complete the pastiche, permits me a respectful nod to one of Sharansky’s heroes, Ronald Reagan, who would have been 100 on Sunday.

When Israelis shudder these days, it is not with a gush of familial affection for Mubarak. After all, for Mubarak, as for most Middle Eastern tyrants today and the European tyrants last century, the Jews are such serviceable scapegoats. Indeed, Mubarak’s counter-offensive against the protesters began by blaming Israel and the Mossad for the protests. When the pro-Mubarak forces began attacking foreign journalists with shouts of “Jew!” they reflected the sinister reports from Egyptian state-run television that Jews had infiltrated the protests.

But Mubarak was a credible peace partner for three decades. He met regularly with Netanyahu. His steadfast adherence to the peace treaty with Israel has stabilized a volatile region and provided a critical paradigm for the world to see: coexistence is possible, honorable, and mutually beneficial. There has been no region-wide saber-rattling, much less war, against Israel since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, fairly credited Mubarak with saving many Arab and Israeli lives by preventing war in the Middle East.

So, despite Mubarak’s periodic indulgence in cynical Jew-baiting – a global phenomenon to which Israelis are accustomed – Israeli prime ministers have regularly instructed their officials to avoid public criticisms of Mubarak. When the protests broke out in Egypt, Netanyahu wisely instructed his cabinet to stay mum. For the Israeli government – reflexively reviled both by protesters and regime – there was no percentage in taking sides. But the Israeli public hasn’t been mum.

For a people who suffered genocidal slaughter within the memory of some of the living, Israelis are remarkably even-tempered about anti-Semitism. It’s a kind of peace-for-hatred swap. Give us peace, keep your anti-Semitic cesspools. We’ll take a rough stability and reconcile to being blamed for shark attacks in the Red Sea. Hardly a bargain crafted in heaven – but enormously better than the hellish alternative, cesspools and war. It’s not a formula for long-term stability – all that government-inspired hatred will eventually spew somewhere – but for Israelis, for decades, it has been the only formula available.

That formula also makes many Israelis uneasy with Arab democracy. The “power of the people,” after all, springs forth according to the attitudes of the people – and populations programmed for so long to despise Jews may exercise less restraint than the autocrats they topple.

A 2009 Pew Research Center opinion survey of Arab attitudes toward Jews would be chilling at half the hostility: 95% of Egyptians, 97% of Jordanians, 97% of Palestinians and 98% of Lebanese hold unfavorable opinions of Jews. In other words, virtually the entire population.

Note that the survey specifically asked about “Jews,” not Israelis or the Israeli government. Note further the breakdown in Lebanon: 98% of both Sunni and Shia Muslims, and 97% of Lebanese Christians, hold unfavorable opinions of Jews. There is nothing inherently Muslim about anti-Semitism. Among Israeli Arabs, 35% hold unfavorable views of Jews. But most Middle Eastern Muslims live under governments that cynically spread virulent anti-Semitism like candy. Where there are populations other than Muslims in these countries, as with the Lebanese Christians, they gobble the candy just as fast as the Christians in Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany.

It warrants note that Egypt’s anti-Semitism co-exists with an astounding level of racism concerning sub-Saharan Africa. I am reminded, only suggestively, not conclusively, of imperial Japan’s racial attitudes, not least the analogy of being in a continent, but not of it, rather above it. Egypt of course cannot embark upon a program like Japan’s in the 1930s – thankfully no modern nation can. But do I understand Israel’s uneasiness over the prospect of unleashing popular Egyptian attitudes in the Middle East? Yes.

Here is Israel’s geo-military reality, and why Egypt-anxiety looms large: Israel borders Hamas-controlled Gaza, Hizbullah-controlled Lebanon, Iranian ally Syria, Jordan and Egypt. If the largest of these, Egypt, turns Islamist, repudiates the treaty with Israel, or otherwise renews saber-rattling against Israel, then Israel confronts a very grave security threat.

Mubarak, for all his typical autocratic pathologies, has been a steadfast partner in the maintenance of peace with Israel. Egyptian “democracy” has the disadvantage of being substantially less predictable, even assuming some early version of democracy has any staying power.

Some Israeli commentators, bucking the prevailing anxiety, note that there are many good and decent people, with the most genuine democratic aspirations, involved in the Egyptian protests, and this is doubtless true. But history has often been unkind to good and decent people in the throes of revolution. There were heroically good and decent people in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the 1979 Iranian Revolution—and in the first two, none would have guessed the ultimate victory of the most radical and bloodthirsty faction. Each of the three became brutally repressive and terrorist regimes. Hillary Clinton was right to warn against repeating the takeover in Iran, with a “small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society” seizing control and imposing its ideological beliefs.

Natan Sharansky has a different take, one unencumbered by doubts about democracy. He is one voice in a great crowd of voices in Israel, and not a dominant one. He had more influence in Washington than in Tel Aviv. George W. Bush said in 2005, “if you want a glimpse of how I think about foreign policy, read Natan Sharansky’s book, The Case for Democracy.” The book became a bestseller in the U.S.

Sharansky survived nine brutal years in the Soviet gulag for his advocacy on behalf of Soviet Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union. Released in 1986, thanks to his wife’s campaign and the personal interest of Ronald Reagan, he moved to Israel and became active in Israeli politics. Sharansky was in the gulag when Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” For Sharansky, it was a transformative moment, a rekindling of faith in the world to see evil and name it so—the necessary beginning to confronting and weakening it. It is a capacity with uneven fortunes in all times, including modern times.

The Wall Street Journal’s David Feith recently interviewed Natan Sharansky for the occasion of Reagan’s 100th birthday, and it is a most rewarding read. Sharansky insists that all people, regardless of religion or culture, desire freedom. “That’s a very powerful universal message. It was powerful when the Iron Curtain exploded, and it’s as powerful today.” As the events in Tunisia and Egypt illustrate, he says, there are limits to control by fear.

The current anxiety about what happens next, according to Sharansky, is an anxiety of our own making.

“Why is there such a big danger that if now there will be free choice for Egyptians, then the Muslim Brotherhood can rise to power?” Mr. Sharansky asks. “Because they are the only organized force which exists in addition to Mubarak’s regime.” Mr. Mubarak quashed almost all political dissent, with the general acquiescence of his American patrons. But he couldn’t stop the Brotherhood from spreading its message in mosques. Meanwhile, he used the Brotherhood as a bogeyman, telling the U.S. that only he stood between radical Islamists and the seat of power.

Sharansky exposes the fatal circularity – what we mean when we say “come back to haunt you” – of bedding with hate-mongering dictators.

Sharansky points out that Mr. Mubarak is no great man of peace. Indeed, since 1979, Egyptians’ “hatred toward Israel only grew.… Egypt became one of the world centers of anti-Semitism.” That’s because all dictators must cultivate external enemies in order to maintain their grip on power. So even when Mr. Mubarak “lost Israel as an enemy, he continued to need Jews as the enemy.”

Sharansky’s prescription is eminently sensible, if unlikely to be embraced in the U.S. Mubarak must go—lest hatred of Israel and America reach an even higher feverish pitch—and then, instead of focusing on an illusory “stability,” U.S. policy should link U.S. aid to measurable progress in Egypt’s development of free institutions.

Sharansky believes the White House pronouncements about Egypt are getting better – especially compared to President Obama’s disturbing silence about human rights or dissidents in Egyptian jails during his Cairo speech, and the administration’s truly bewildering and inexcusable silence during the 2009 uprising in Iran – which, unlike, Egypt, was actively hostile toward America and Israel.  It’s troubling to think the Obama administration is learning some basics on the job, but bearable if the trajectory is good.

My teenage son looks over my shoulder and says he has heard of Sharansky but can’t recall what he does. We talk about it briefly. We could all bear a little more familiarity with the voice of Natan Sharansky.

Helen Thomas Gets Vile Again

Helen Thomas, ninety and nutty, just can’t stop.  But now she’s taking the anti-Semitic bigotry to a new level.

For readers who have erased Helen Thomas from their memories, in the interest of minimizing the brain’s devotion to neural disgust, Helen is the former White House correspondent who said Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Germany and Poland.

It is remarkable that such a statement could come from a person who received a gift of cupcakes on her 89th birthday from the President of the United States.  Even Lanny Davis, loathe to condemn any Washington player, called Helen Thomas an anti-Semitic bigot.  We think of such statements as the meanest workings of the benighted and bigoted human mind, the adolescent acting out of vulgar hate.  We do not anticipate them coming from people with high profiles and illustrious careers.

Except, of course, given the tenacity of virulent anti-Semitism, and hate crimes in America targeting Jews over eight times more often than Muslims, they routinely do.

At least Mel Gibson and Oliver Stone apologized.

Helen Thomas not only declined to apologize.  She said damn straight.  She meant it.  And then she elaborated.

“Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists. No question, in my opinion,” she said. “They put their money where their mouth is. We’re being pushed into a wrong direction in every way.”

It’s as if Helen Thomas seeks some kind of anti-Israel gold medal in her dotage.  Let’s see.  How about combining every stupid notion ever peddled by an angry anti-Semite into one spectacularly vile declaration?  Perhaps the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were edited out.

When confronted with how she would respond to those who say she’s anti-Semitic, Helen got cute.  “I’d say I’m a Semite. What are you talking about?”  How profoundly true, as an ethnic proposition.  Helen’s Lebanese origins make her Semitic, and underscore the vileness of her ethnic hatred.  But Helen knows what we mean by “anti-Semitic.”  It’s certainly not anti-Lebanese, as her own tremendously successful career in America illustrates.

This is an opportunity, again, for the vast majority of patriotic Muslim-Americans to condemn hate.  Simply say, Helen Thomas does not speak for us.  Simply say, she promotes a notion that is alien to both our Muslim and American heritage.

 

[Also published at The Daily Caller.]

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