Friday, March 27, 2015

Obama Administration Releases Classified Report on Israel's Nuclear Program

  Investor's Business Daily reports that the Defense Department has quietly and deliberately declassified and released a top-secret 1987 report on Israel's nuclear program.  IBD editorializes:
The same administration that refused to divulge what's in its soon-to-be-concluded nuclear "deal" with Iran, last month stealthily released a top-secret 1987 report on Israel's nuclear program — information that might be used by Israel's enemies.

IBD quotes from the reporter who initially broke the story, Michael Karpin in The Jewish Daily Forward online. Karpin writes:
I have some knowledge about the build-up process of Israel’s nuclear capacity and after reading the report in question I must express my astonishment: I have never seen an official American document disclosing such extensive revelation on subjects that until now were regarded by both administrations as unspeakable secrets.

Karpin writes that the report's authors "drew particular attention to the development and progression of Israel’s nuclear infrastructure and research labs."

The report was compiled by the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), under a contract with the U.S. Government. The IDA sent its engineers and physicists not only to Israeli installations, but also to military laboratories, factories and private companies of NATO countries. Curiously, and perhaps sinisterly, the Defense Department only declassified the information assembled by the IDA team on Israel, not on the NATO allies.

The timing and selectivity of the report suggest that once again the Obama Administration is retaliating for Israel's opposition to U.S. negotiations with Iran over the Iranian nuclear weapons program. However, this goes beyond the pale--the deliberate release of previously classified information that certainly has the potential to be used against Israel, both diplomatically and militarily, is an outrageous breach of trust.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Obama Administration Removes Iran, Hezbollah, from List of Terror Threats

Hey, everybody, there's great news. The Obama Administration has defeated terrorism in Iran and Lebanon. We know this because in the 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities, delivered by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to the United States Senate in February, Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah no longer appear as terrorist threats, for the first time in years. (The Times of Israel has the story, along with a link to a PDF file copy of the unclassified version of the intelligence report.)

What felicitous timing for the Obama Administration to announce this glorious victory!  Previously, one might have been concerned that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were enabling Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, which one might hesitate to do if Iran still promoted terrorism and sponsored a terrorist organization such as Hezbollah.  Now, however, there is no danger whatsoever, because Iran and Hezbollah are no longer terrorist threats.

Never mind that just this past January 18, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found murdered in his home. His murder occurred only one day before he was scheduled to report to the Congress of Argentina on alleged collusion between Iran and the Argentine government in covering up the role of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah in two terrorist bombings of Jewish targets in Buenos Aires: the 1992 car bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 people and wounded more than 250 others; and the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, which killed 87 people and injured at least 100 more.  One prominent theory is that Iran ordered Nisman's murder, but, hey, Iran would not do that, because it is not a terrorist threat.

Another serendipitous result of the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist watch list:  the Obama Administration is increasingly cooperating with Iran and Hezbollah in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  That might give some people--although probably only neocons--pause, if Iran and Hezbollah were still engaged in and promoting terrorism.  But they're not--look, they no longer appear on the list of terrorist threats in the Worldwide Threat Assessment!  Just don't tell that to Sunni Iraqis, who live in abject fear of massacre by the Shiite militias operating under the supervision of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Is Hezbollah still helping Syrian President Bashar Assad commit mass murder of his own citizens?  Sure, but just yesterday Secretary of State Kerry announced that he is willing to negotiate with Assad.  After all, the dude gave up his chemical weapons, and now uses only artillery, armored vehicles, small arms, and barrel bombs to do his bloodletting. Plus, most of his recent victims are fighters in Sunni militias (or civilians who hang out with them), which do appear as terrorist threats in the Worldwide Threat Assessment.  So Iran, Hezbollah and Assad are just doing God's work, so to speak

Does Hezbollah still call for the eradication of Israel, and is it busily stockpiling Iranian missiles along the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel, to prepare for carrying out that threat?  Well, sure, but look how friendly Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan appears in the photo above.  He's waving at us, for crying out loud!  In contrast, Israel's Prime Minister, as of today, is still that nasty Netanyahu fellow, of whom President Obama is not very fond.  And if Israelis don't elect a government more to President Obama's liking tomorrow, well, guess what country may make its featured debut in the 2016 Worldwide Threat Assessment.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Why does the Israeli Government Cover Up for the PA, Hamas and Hezbollah?

The link below is to a crow of victory from Israel Behind the News (David Bedein). He has been reporting for two decades, since Oslo, on the military cooperation between Fatah and the PA and Hamas. Now, a respected third party has issued a report that the PA has been arming Hamas.

The fact that successive Israeli governments refused to listen to the allegations does not surprise me. Those governments, both Labor and Likud, had too much invested in the Oslo Accords.

What is surprising and bothering me is a string of revelations that seems to indicate that the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are deliberately keeping the Israeli public in the dark. Other examples:

1. Prior to last summer's Gaza war, the IDF repeatedly said it had no evidence of Hamas tunneling under Israeli kibbutzim and moshavim in the south, although residents kept saying they could hear sounds of digging at night. It turned out that the IDF knew about the tunnels.

2. The same thing is now going on in the north, along the Syrian and Lebanese borders. People hear sounds of shovels through their water pipes at night. The IDF denies that Hezbollah is tunneling into Israel, and comes up with all sorts of explanations for the sounds.

A plausible explanation for the apparent IDF coverup reminds me somewhat of the XYZ scandal during the John Adams Presidency, when President Adams kept secret a letter from Talleyrand, who as a pre-condition to negotiating a treaty between the U.S. and France, then under the rule of the revolutionary Directory had demanded a personal bribe of $50,000 and the assumption by the United States of all American claims against France. Had the letter become public, it would have resulted in irresistable pressure for an immediate declaration of war, a war for which Adams correctly felt the United States was not yet prepared militarily or financially. The Federalists, the party to which Adams nominally belonged, but which Alexander Hamilton actually led, wanted a war with France. The Republicans of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who virulently opposed and libeled Adams, were pro-France and supporters of the French Revolution and the Directory. Adams initially kept the letter from Tallyrand secret, but only informed Congress that his peace mission to France had failed and urged strong defense measures, including strengthening the U.S. Navy. Eventually, when Republicans in Congress accused him of war mongering and demanded to see the diplomatic dispatches. Adams released them to Congress, substituting the letters W, X, Y and Z for the names of the French agents who had delivered Tallyrand's demand. The resulting scandal, known as the XYZ Affair, temporarily increased Adam's popularity and greatly damaged Jefferson and Madison's popularity. However, Adams continued to counsel patience and resist Federalist demands for war. That cost him a second term, and the Federalists turned against him and the Republicans continued to vilify him.

Is Prime Minister Netanyahu trying to delay what would be a costly war with Hamas and Hezbollah, and perhaps Iran, with a high prospect of civilian casualties and property loss, either
until Israel is better prepared to deal with it, or until after the elections? If it is the former reason, the Prime Minister is cut from the cloth as John Adams. If it is the latter, not so much.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

What was an Iranian General Doing on the Golan Heights?

An Israeli airstrike directed at Hezbollah vehicles in the Golan Heights of Syria ends up taking out an Iranian general of the Revolutionary Guard.  What was he doing there?
COMMENTARY has the answer--the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah were scouting out possible locations for ballistic missile launching sites outside of Lebanon, from which Iran and Hezbollah could rain death and destruction down on Israel.  This is the regime with which our President seeks engagement, while the Obama Administration continues its pivot away from Israel and Sunni Arab states, and toward Iran.

Why does Iran back the Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen in their largely successful attempt to take over that country?  Iranian missiles supplied to a Houthi regime would threaten Israeli shipping from its Red Sea port of Eilat, which must pass through the narrow passage leading from the Red Sea to the Sea of Aden.  Of course those same missiles would also threaten the shipping of Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and indeed might block world shipping to and from the Mediterranean Sea, passing through the Suez Canal. Major wars have erupted for far less, including the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War, which was triggered by Egypt's blockade of the Straits of Hormuz, which also threatened Israeli shipping from Eilat.

The United States will probably do nothing to counteract the Iranian threat in Yemen.  Like sanctions, opposition to Iran's initiative in Yemen might offend the mullahs.  As for Iran's active role in Syria, why it's an ally against ISIS.

Ironically, when President Obama announced the initiation of the bombing campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, he cited Yemen as an example of his foreign policy successes.  A few more such successes, and we may be worrying about Iranian missiles in Venezuela.   

Sunday, October 05, 2014

White House Double Standard on Civilian Casualties from Airstrikes

On October 2, as reported by CNN, the White House announced that the rules intended to avoid civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not apply to drone attacks or airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.   "The specific standards at issue in the NDU speech apply only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as was noted at the time," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council, referring to Obama's address at the National Defense University in the spring of 2013. "That description—outside areas of active hostilities—simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."

So what about this past summer, when Israel was unquestionably involved in "active hostilities" with Hamas in Gaza, and received scathing criticism from the Obama Administration for civilian casualties.   Well, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured above gazing congenially at President Obama) stated before the United Nations that Hamas and ISIS represent one and the same threat, United States State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (pictured below) pointedly disagreed, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.  "Certainly we see differences," she said.  "We would not agree with that characterization. Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL [Islamic State] poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States, and that’s just a fact.”

Let's examine that proposition.  In terms of whether Israel's use of airstrikes in Gaza produced unjustified civilian casualties, in contrast with civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes and airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, certainly the criteria for judging the Israeli policy must be the threat Hamas posed to Israel, as compared to the threat that ISIS poses to the United States.  In that regard, there are certainly telling distinctions that make ISIS a "different threat" from Hamas, but they all tend to refute Ms. Psaki's remarks and substantiate the legitimacy of  Israel's actions.

  1.   ISIS has not staged an attack on the U.S. homeland.  Hamas has attacked Israel thousands of times, including bombings of buses, restaurants and other civilian targets, armed raids, kidnappings, rockets and artillery attacks.
  2.   To date, thank God, ISIS has only taken two American lives.  Hamas terrorism has killed hundreds of Israelis and injured thousands more.  Were it not for the Iron Shield anti-missile system and the robust military response by the Israel Defense Forces, the toll of Israeli lives from Hamas attacks would be many times higher.
  3.   Hamas, as stated in its founding covenant and constantly repeated by its leadership, wants nothing less than the destruction of the State of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people.  ISIS would like to destroy American democracy and see America ruled by Sharia law, but has never expressed a desire to kill all Americans.
  4. When Israel launched attacks in Gaza, it would first drop warning leaflets, make telephone calls, and broadcast radio announcements, notifying civilians of the impending attack and urging them to leave the area.  Neither the United States, nor any country in the history of warfare, has gone to the lengths taken by the Israel Defense Forces to reduce civilian casualties.
So, yes, Ms. Psaki, Hamas poses a very different threat from ISIS, just not in the way you intended.

USEFUL IDIOT DEPARTMENT: Anthony Bourdain visits Iran

So it seems that Anthony Bourdain, after many failed efforts, finally visited Tehran, Iran, and he reports that it was "one of the most friendly, pro-American environments that we have ever shot in," and said, "The Iran that we know and deal with on a national level is so different from what it is like to walk around Tehran once you are inside the country."

Of course, there is the little matter of the couple who invited him to their home for dinner, Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who were both taken into custody by the Iranian regime shortly after the dinner.

The incredibly obtuse Bourdain comments, “They have not been heard from since and there’s been no concrete explanation of why, what possible reason they could have been detained. They were lovely people who were very proud of their Iranian roots and spoke glowingly of the country—and if anything were voices for understanding.”

What possible reason? Well, how about that they invited you to be their dinner guest for the benefit of American television, or that Mr. Rezaian reported for the Washington Post. Under the rule of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Mr. Bourdain, that is reason enough, and in any event no reason is needed, for enemies of the regime to disappear.

Yes, Tehran is a friendly, pro-American country where one's dinner hosts can be arrested and disappear without a trace.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where is the Book of Life? A True Story

Today is the eve of Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, and we stand 10 days away from Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. On Rosh Hashonah all humanity and every living thing passes before God for judgment. On Rosh Hashonah, the judgment is written, and on Yom Kippur, it is sealed. We fervently pray to be written and sealed in the Book of Life.

I want to retell an incident, which occurred at this season four years story, at my synagogue, Shaarey Zedek Congregation, just before the Kol Nidre prayer that initiates Yom Kippur. An elderly man came into the sanctuary. He had a Russian accent and in broken English he began asking people, "Where is Book of Life? I want to write my family in Book of Life." I tried to explain to him that God has the Book of Life and that we pray to God to write our names in it, but he responded, "No understand. Ruski. Where is the Book of Life?"

We have some Russian speakers at Shaarey Zedek, including Irine, the wife of our then President. So I went looking for Irine, and eventually I found her and she went to speak with the elderly man. I do not yet know what she told him or what was the result. Yet for some reason I was left with the vague feeling that I had been presented with a great test and failed it.

In my reflections on the incident throughout Yom Kippur, however, two positive thoughts emerged. First was an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God that I was born and raised in the United States of America, and not under a tyranny that did its utmost to suppress all religious practice and education, especially of Judaism, for some 70 years. The second was a feeling of awe that a man who had lived under the Soviet system for most of his life, and had been so thoroughly deprived of his Torah heritage, still had enough of a connection to God, Torah and Judaism to know that there is a Book of Life, that he wanted his family to be inscribed in it, and that the place to look for it was in a synagogue on Yom Kippur.

While, as I said, I do not yet know about his conversation with Irine, I do believe that the old Russian Jew succeeded in having his family inscribed in the Book of Life. May God find my merits to be even a small fraction of those of that man.

May all of you be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a year of great blessings, of faith in God, awe of heaven, health, happiness, prosperity and peace.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hamas in its Own Words

In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg says that it is not hard to understand what Hamas would do to Israel and the Jewish people if given the chance.  Its charter and its spokespersons have informed us clearly and unequivocally of Hamas' program--the murder of all Jews in the world. He demonstrates how important provisions of the Hamas covenant "could have been taken, almost word for word, from Nazi Germany’s anti-Jewish propaganda texts and broadcasts."

Mr. Goldberg quotes a recent column on Hamas by Sam Harris:

What do we know of the Palestinians? What would the Palestinians do to the Jews in Israel if the power imbalance were reversed? Well, they have told us what they would do. For some reason, Israel’s critics just don’t want to believe the worst about a group like Hamas, even when it declares the worst of itself. We’ve already had a Holocaust and several other genocides in the 20th century. People are capable of committing genocide. When they tell us they intend to commit genocide, we should listen. There is every reason to believe that the Palestinians would kill all the Jews in Israel if they could. Would every Palestinian support genocide? Of course not. But vast numbers of them—and of Muslims throughout the world—would. Needless to say, the Palestinians in general, not just Hamas, have a history of targeting innocent noncombatants in the most shocking ways possible. They’ve blown themselves up on buses and in restaurants. They’ve massacred teenagers. They’ve murdered Olympic athletes. They now shoot rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas.

[Emphasis added.]

So why do so many Americans, especially those on the "progressive" left, publicly express their support for an overtly fascistic and genocidal organizational. In many cases, Charles Krauthammer argues, it is rank ignorance. Into that category I would throw the recent tweets and statements of many celebrities, such as Selena Gomez and Spaniards Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. What we have on display is an abysmal ignorance of recent history, coupled with understandable repulsion in reaction to the horrors of war, any war, including just wars. The dead of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden, Hamburg and Berlin were no easier to look at than those of Gaza, and included many more women, children, civilians and, yes, even opponents of the regimes that had led Japan and Germany into wars of aggression. Nearly absolute pacifism is the prevailing fashion among the stars of cinema, television, music and the performing arts. Superficial thinking understandably produces superficial opinions.

Mr. Krauthammer is much tougher on the Europeans who flock to anti-Israel demonstrations, now all too frequently turning into anti-Jewish riots. Mr. Krauthammer believes that the European demonstrators are motivated by deep-seated, 2000-year old Christian and Islamic Antisemitism. Certainly Roger Waters of Pink Floyd seems to exemplify traditional British Antisemitism, now placed in the service of Islamo-fascism.

What of the anti-Israel demonstrators of the American progressive left? Mr. Goldberg opines that it is "a dereliction of responsibility on the part of progressives not to try to understand the goals and beliefs of Islamist totalitarian movements."

But is he being too charitable? Are those demonstrators truly ignorant of Hamas' ideology? Do they truly not understand, in the words of the title of Mr. Goldberg's article, what Hamas would do if it could do whatever it wanted? Or does the prospect of a genocide against the Jews not really bother them very much?

The militias of the Islamic State, whose ideology is the twin of Hamas, are at this moment committing mass murder and oppression in Iraq, Syria and perhaps soon in Lebanon, against Christians and any other Muslims who do not meet their test of Sunni theological purity. Scarcely a word rises in protest, not from most of Christendom or the West, not from the White House, and certainly not from Hollywood, Broadway or the pop music industry that is so critical of Israel. Will the West wake in time to save itself?

Friday, August 01, 2014

Recent Gems from Dry Bones

Good news, readers of The Hedgehog Blog, if any are left.  I have recovered or maybe rediscovered the ability to post photos and images.  We celebrate by catching up with Yaakov Kirschen at The Dry Bones Blog, which everyone should visit frequently.  Here are three of his latest:

UN Says Israel's Refusal to Share Iron Dome with Hamas is Human Rights Violation

How fair a hearing is Israel likely to receive from the United Nations Human Rights Commission on charges of war crimes? Judge for yourself:  Israel National News reports that on Thursday, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay (photo right) cited as evidence of Israeli war crimes the fact that Israel has refused to share Iron Dome with the "governing authority of Gaza," which is Hamas. She also criticized the United States for helping develop Iron Dome, stating, "No such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling.”

So it is not enough that for the first time in the history of warfare, a besieger has provided the besieged party with food, water, (free) electricity, natural gas, medicine, medical treatment in the besieger's hospitals, cement and rebar that the besieged party uses to build attack tunnels and advanced warnings of attacks. Now Israel is also expected to provide a defense system against its own attacks.

Would it be too much to also demand that Hamas stop the indiscriminate rocketing and shelling of Israel and attempts to kill and kidnap its citizens? Probably.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Murder of Three Israeli Teens by Hamas

May the Almighty comfort the families of Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16)and Eyal Yifrach (19) among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. As Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the founder of the yeshiva where two of the martyrs studied, has said, they were murdered only because they were Jewish, and therefore died, as they lived, l'kiddush HaShem, for the holiness of God's name.

Unlike the so-called "martyrs" of the Islamist world, they did not commit suicide or die in the attempt to kill others.

I am grateful for the condemnation of their murders by the United States government and by President Obama. However, actions speak louder than words. With three boys murdered (including an American citizen) and rockets launched from Gaza raining down on Southern Israel, the U.S. is calling for "restraint." Since Hamas will not restrain itself, in effect, the U.S. is calling for Israel not to take steps to defend its citizens. Noah Pollak, in an article in the Weekly Standard, describes the situation better than I can.

The test for the Administration's sincerity will be whether it continues to deal with a Palestinian Authority that incluces Hamas, with the blood of a 16-year old American boy on its hands, in its coalition.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dry Bones: It's WWIII in Disguise

Yaakov Kirschen elaborates on a recurring message: The war against radical Islamism is a world conflict.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Obama's Peace In Our Time

Even for those who have consitently criticized the foreign policy of the Obama Administration, it is stunning how quickly the disasters have come upon us. Yes, they warned that power abhors a vacuum, and if the United States refuses to assert its power and influence, other forces will rush in to fill the international void. But did even the Administration's critics ever imagine that matters would go so terribly wrong so quickly?

During his 2012 re-election campaign, President Obama boasted that Osama Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda was on the run. On the run, indeed. Today, as I write this post, the troops of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Al Qaeda spinoff, have overrun Mosul, Iraq's largest city, and are running with captured American weapons, including armor and artillery, toward Baghdad.

ISIS now controls a huge swath of territory that includes northwest and central Iraq and a generous strip of Syria along the Iraqi-Syrian border. With access to the oil fields and cash reserves they captured in Mosul, ISIS has been called the world's richest terrorist group. ISIS may be said to have established the first Al Qaeda proto-state.

Almost as horrific as what has already occurred are the prospects of a widening regional confrontation. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that two battalions of Iranian Quds Forces (Iran's Special Forces) have joined Iraqi Shi'ite troops and are battling ISIS in the streets of Tikrit.

Some analysts say that the Iraqi fighting is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, which is funding and supplying ISIS, and Iran. If so, the confrontation is increasingly becoming less proxy and more direct. The Saudis, frustrated by American fecklessness, are looking elsewhere for military resources. They recently displayed on parade Chinese missiles capable of reaching Tehran. Tehran certainly is reciprocating.

Incredibly, while all this goes down, the Obama Administration continues to promote its accomplishments in Iraq, and the achievements of its former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Even as the ISIS troops overran Mosul, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest, responding to a question regarding Secretary Clinton's accomplishments during her tenure, remarked, "Ending the war in Iraq and winding down in a responsible fashion the war in Afghanistan, and doing that after the success of our our efforts to dismantle and destroyed Al-Qaida core that had established a base of operations in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” As Mark Steyn observed, losing a war is one way of ending it.

Certainly the juxtaposition of Iraq and Afghanistan is apt. What we are seeing today in Iraq may be a foretaste of a Taliban and Al Qaeda resurgence in Afghanisan, once the United States completes its cut-and-run there.

And one should not think that the other challengers to the crumbling American empire will pause to watch what is going on in the Middle East. The Ukraine today charged that Russian tanks as well as other military vehicles crossed the border into the Ukraine, triggering a skirmish between Russian and Ukrainian troops.

In reviewing the foreign policy accomplishments of the Obama Administration, let us not ignore the efforts of the current Secretary of State, John Kerry. During the months when Libya disintegrated, Russia seized Crimea, the Taliban regrouped in Afghanistan, civil war destroyed Syria, and that conflict spilled over into Iraq in spectacular fashion, threatening a regional confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, what preoccupied Secretary Kerry? He, President Obama, and the sages of the European Union, as well, concluded that the greatest threat to world peace was Jews building apartments in Jerusalem, Judah and Shomron.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

BSD On-Campus Activities Reminiscent of Nazi Germany

Yes, comparisons to Nazi Germany in the 1930s can be overdone and overwrought, but in the case of the activities of the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement on American, Canadian and European universities, the comparison is apt and needs to be urgently and stridently made. Not only Israel and Zionism, but academic freedom are at risk.

BDS and other on-campus pro-Palestinian activists are the Brown Shirts of our day. Not content to debate issues with their opponents in a dignified and respectful manner (probably because they know that their charges of "apartheid" would not survive the sunlight of free and open debate), they exercise the heckler's veto. They believe that the righteousness of their cause justifies disrupting speakers and classes, and generally try to intimidate and suppress any expression of opinions contrary to their own.

If you believe I exaggerate, please read this account by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East of recent incidents at Vassar College, involving protests and disruption by Students for Jusice in Palestine ("SJP") of Vassar's International Studies 110 ("IS"), because of a planned academic trip to Israel.

The IS trip was taught and led by Vassar professor of Earth Science and Geography, Jill Schneiderman, and associate professor of Greek and Roman Studies, Rachel Friedman. Its educational purpose was to look “at issues of water rights and access to the Jordan River, as well as disparities in water distribution in Palestine and Israel.” Locations visited by students in the class included sites throughout Israeli and Palestinian Authority controlled territories and a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Professor Schneiderman’s teaching objective was inclusive. “I was motivated to propose and teach such a course because from my perspective as an earth scientist,” she wrote in a blog, “I understand how daily and future access to clean water in ample supply is one of the key issues about which people in the region fight. It is also a problem on which Arabs, Jews, Jordanians, Palestinians, and Israelis have worked together with integrity and compassion.”

The response of SJP was not to peacefully protest against the trip. Rather they tried to disrupt the class and intimidate the students enrolled in the course. As Scholars for Peace in the Middle East notes:

On February 6th, nine members of SJP appeared at the classroom for the IS course and formed a human barricade to impede students from entering the classroom. An SJP leaflet distributed to students described Israel as sponsoring apartheid and asserted that “the indigenous people of Palestine” did not want students going on the trip.

Professors Friedman and Schneiderman have noted that the demonstration by SJP was inappropriate because it took place at the classroom itself, misguided because it misrepresented both the purpose and substance of the course, and threatening and intimidating to students enrolled in the class because of the physical presence of the demonstrators and the ululating and heckling that accompanied the protest. When the class did finally begin, protestors continued to shout and students inside the classroom told the professor that they “felt unsafe,” “bullied,” and “harassed.”

The linked account relates how SJP is continuing to use stormtrooper tactics at Vassar. Incredibly, they are aided and abetted by the "Vassar Jewish Union" and the head of the Vassar Jewish Studies department, who support BDS. The Vassar Jewish Union recently declared itself an "open Hillel." Hillel is a national college student organization that is pro-Zionist by policy. Wall Street Journal writer Lucette Lagnado, a Vassar alumna, notes that the Vassar Jewish Union declared its independence so that it would be "no longer obliged to heed Hillel's pesky rule of banning speakers who demonize Israel or believe the Jewish state shouldn't exist." The press release annoucing the change "was replete with more clichés about needing a 'diverse range of personal and political opinions' that it argued Hillel failed to provide." So the Vassar BDS'ers apparently feel that Hillel must be open to a diversity of views on Israel's existence, but not Vassar itself.

Those who would argue that the Vassar Jewish Union has made a stand for academic freedom need to ask themselves: Do pro-Palestinian and pro-BDS organizations invite and welcome Zionist and pro-Israel speakers? Probably not. In fact, I would venture a guess that pro-Israel speakers are not even welcome at the Vassar Jewish Union.

Ms. Lagnado, concludes, "I am still waiting for the day a student or faculty member stands up to these academic hooligans at the Vassar Quad. Now that would show some 'critical thinking.'"

Monday, March 03, 2014

As Russia Tightens its grip on Ukraine, President Obama Issues an Ultimatum--to Israel

The good news is that with the deteriorating situation in the Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin digests the Crimea and ponders whether to swallow up the rest of the eastern Ukraine as well, today President Obama finally found the backbone to issue an ultimatum. The bad news is that he issued it to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to this story in Reuters:
Obama assured Netanyahu of his "absolute commitment" to preventing Iran from developing atomic weapons, despite the Israeli leader's deep skepticism over U.S.-led efforts to reach a final international deal to curb Tehran's nuclear program.

But, warning that time was running out, Obama also urged Netanyahu to make "tough decisions" to help salvage a faltering U.S.-brokered peace process aimed at reaching a framework agreement with the Palestinians and extending talks beyond an April target date for an elusive final accord.

If his mind runs to plays on words, Bibby Netanyahu may have been thinking, "For me to trust the security of Israel to your hands would be a Crimea."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Syrian Opposition Vows to Conquer Israel and then the World

A recent news item that should be of interest to Secretary of State Kerry and his boss, but probably will be ignored by them:

In a video interview with Vice News Network, linked in this story posted at Jerusalem Online, a young Islamist militant fighting with Al Qaeda in Syria declares, "After liberating Syria, our next mission is to liberate Palestine and the Golan, and then continue our conquests." One may safely assume the young fighter was not limiting his target for conquest to Gaza, Yehuda and Shomron and the Golan Heights, but rather has all of Israel in mind. Al Qaeda's forces in Syria now number over 30,000 well-trained, well-armed and highly motivated fighters. Fortunately, Israel takes this threat very seriously.

Of course, the Baathist Syrian regime the Islamist radicals are fighting is murdering men, women and children, combatants and non-combatants, by any means necessasry other then chemical weapons, including starvation. However tempting it might be to blithely wish both sides in the conflict continuing success in killing one another, given the suffering of innocents among the Syrian people, one must not do so. Hopefully, the West will recognize and prepare to face the threat from Islamist militants allied with Al Qaeda that the fall of the Assad regime, or even its loss of territorial control over portions of Syria, will inevitably create.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Assad Bombs Kill 18 Children--Without Chemicals!

The Jerusalem Post reports that bombs dropped by Syrian Air Force helicopters over the past three days on an elementary school, town square and public market in Aleppo have killed 16 children, 2 of their teachers and over 100 civilians. The barrel bombs, which were dropped from the back doors of helicopters on the Tayba primary school and other civilian targets in Aleppo, almost certainly were intentional attacks, since the helicopters would have been flying low enough to clearly identify their targets.

However, the United States government and the other Western powers surely can take pride in the fact that none of these children, or the more than 100 other civilian victims of the bombings, were killed by chemical weapons.

At the same time, news outlets are reporting that the Western governments have informed the Syrian opposition forces that the ouster of Bassar Assad will not be on the table in the upcoming Geneva peace talks on Syria. Apparently the prospect of an Al Qaeda takeover in Syria has convinced the U.S. and its Western European allies that the Alawite-dominated Assad regime must stay in power.

A NATO declaration of a no-fly zone could stop this airborne butchery. Surely, also, there is an achievable middle gound between the current Assad regime and an Al Qaeda takeover.

What a colossal moral failure on the part of the West. This will and should haunt the Western and American conscience for decades. Someday, perhaps, a U.S. President will apologize for allowing this slaughter of innocent civilians to continue, as former President Clinton eventually apologized for the failure of the U.S. to stop the genocide in Rwanda.

Of course, that apology will mean about as much to the dead of Aleppo as the fact that they were killed by bombs rather than chemical weapons.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Is the Choice with Iran between War and Peace, or between Conventional War now and Nuclear War later?

In today's Wall Street Journal, Norman Podhoretz critically assesses the diplomatic outreach to Iran by the Obama Administration. He suggests that the range of choices posed publicly by the Administration, between war and peace, is actually a choice between conventional war now and nuclear war later. I hope that he is wrong, but I fear that he is not.

Romanian "Christmas Carol" Celebrates Holocaust

Although I am an observant Jew, and therefore reject any belief in Jesus as Messiah or divine in nature, I nonetheless have always enjoyed Christmas carols. We learned them and sang them in music classes in the public schools of Phoenix. Had I requested to be excused from joining in singing the carols, I certainly would have been allowed to do so, but I never did. When I was in high school, I would even join my non-Jewish friends in caroling--indeed, often I knew the lyrics to the traditional carols better than they did. However, apparently, Christmas carols in Romania are a little different from what I am used to here. An international furor has erupted over a Romanian public television broadcast last week of a "Christmas carol" performed by the Dor Transilvan ensemble. Here is an excerpt of the lyrics:
“The kikes, damn kikes, Holy God would not leave the kike alive, neither in heaven nor on earth, only in the chimney as smoke, this is what the kike is good for, to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”
Peace on earth and goodwill to men, indeed. To the credit of the Romanian government, official condemnations came swiftly. JTA reports that Titus Corlatean, the Romanian Foreign Minister, has even called for the prosecution of the responsible parties. As a United States citizen who treasures our rights of free expression under the First Amendment, I feel that a criminal prosecution is too drastic a response. Nontheless, I am grateful that Romanian officials took the matter so seriously. What has always seemed utterly incomprehensible to me about Christian anti-Semites is their cognitive ability to hate the Jewish people so thoroughly while worshipping a Jewish savior whose earliest followers consisted entirely of Jews. The founders of the Christian religion, Peter and Paul, and probably three of the four gospel writers, were Jews. Apparently the Dor Transilvan would have celebrated with song the burning of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, James, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Mark, and John along with the other "kikes." If someone can provide a rational explanation reconciling such views with Christianity, I would be grateful. It seems to me to be more of a nearly inbred animosity, reflective of the maxm by our Jewish sages that "Esau hates Jacob" is a matter of natural law.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Caroline Glick: Pew Report Doesn't Show American Jews Abandoning Judaism--They Never Knew About It

The Jewish communal world is all atwitter regarding the results of the recent Pew Research Center report on the American Jewish community, which showed a 71% intermarriage rate and an increasing percentage of American Jews--32% of Jews born since 1980 and 19% overall--who do not describe themselves as Jewish by religion. They instead identity themselves as Jewish by ancestry, ethnicity or culture. Indeed, 42% of those surveyed said that having a good sense of humor is a critical part of being a Jew, as opposed to just 19% who cited observance of Jewish law as a critical factor. Truly, bearing out that last finding, the joke is on us. Caroline Glick makes sense out of all this. In a column published online at Jewish World News, she points out that in an American Jewish community most prominently characterized by Jewish illiteracy, this result is hardly shocking. By Jewish illiteracy, she cites the definition promoted by Yoram Harzony, author of The Philosophy of Jewish Scripture, namely, lack of familiarity with Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) and its rabbinic commentaries. This ignorance is tragic for humanity, not just Jews, because, as Harzony explains in his book:
The Jews were the people who brought the idea that an individual was responsible for discovering truth and right and for bringing it into the world. That is the idea that freed mankind. That is the biblical idea. The Bible is about the expectation that a human being is going to take responsibility for discovering the truth and what's right and devote his or her life to bringing what is right to the world.
Or, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote decades ago, modern Jews are a messenger who has forgotten the message. I would add that an essential aspect of the lost message is the sender. As we read in the current Torah portions, it was God who sent the message, choosing Abraham and his descendents to be the messenger. The command said by God to Abraham that set Jewish history in motion, the phrase, Lech l'cha m'artzecha, m'meladecha u'm'beit avicha," is often translated as "Go for yourself yourself from your land, your birthplace and your father's house," reflecting Rashi's comment that God was informing Abram (his name at the time) that his departure from Haran and travel to Canaan would be for his own benefit. However, one might also, still consistent with Rashi's explanation, translate "l'cha" as meaning "to yourself." In other words, Abram's journey was not merely travel to a new land that his descendents would someday possess, but also to his true identity. Forget the message, forget the messager, and one also has forgotten one's Jewish identity.