Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jihad Against Modernity

Tim Rutten in Saturday's Los Angeles Times was spot on in identifying the targets of the jihadists:
The places the killers struck -- luxury hotels, a railway station, a hospital for women and children, the Chabad Jewish center -- are all powerfully linked in the popular mind with the modern world. As the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has argued, the jihadis have linked anti-Americanism, anti-British sentiment (the assumption is that London is Washington's lap dog) and anti-Semitic antagonism toward Zionism into a potent new ideology. To the extent it seems to find an increasingly sympathetic hearing in some fashionable sectors of the intellectual West, including the U.S., Levy correctly labels it "the socialism of imbeciles."Like all the totalitarian movements that have come before it, hatred of liberty and Jews is the real foundation of contemporary jihadism, and not the traditions of Islam or its canonical prescriptions.

Like all the totalitarian movements that have come before it, hatred of liberty and Jews is the real foundation of contemporary jihadism, and not the traditions of Islam or its canonical prescriptions.

Rutten then contrasts Chabad, the Chasidic Jewish movement whose Mumbai center was chosen by the Islamist terrorists as one of their targets, with the warped worldview of the murderers:
The hallmark of Chabad's approach is an openness to -- indeed, an embrace of -- the modern world, while insisting that it make a place for their deeply traditional religious devotion. Around the world, including in Los Angeles, Lubavitcher Hasidim are living precisely the sort of lives the jihadi ideology insists are impossible. Culturally, they participate fully in the pluralist democracies, while privately, they profess fully a deeply traditional spirituality. Faithful to their own long history, they are valued and good neighbors to others.

Indeed, the very openess of Chabad made it a vulnerable "soft target" for the Islamist terrorists. News reports from the Times of India indicate that the sole surviving terrorist told his Indian interrogators that he and his cohorts scouted out their target by posing as Malaysian students on tour in India, and renting rooms in the Chabad Center, known as Nariman House.

Friday, November 28, 2008

BLESSED BE THE TRUE JUDGE--We Mourn the Victims of Terror in Mumbai

God always answers our prayers, but sometimes the answer is not the one we wanted.

The death toll in Mumbai is now 160, and expected to climb higher. The slain include Chabad Rabbi Gabriel Holtzberg, his wife Rivki and at least three others, probably Israelis. Members of Zaka, the Israeli rescue organization that collects remains of victims following terrorist attacks, has arrived in Mumbai to perform their grim but familiar duties.

Victims at the Oberoi Hotel include Americans Alan Scherr, 58, and his daughter Naomi, 13, from Virginia, who ironically were visiting India with a meditation group. The victims include Indians, Americans, Britains, Japanese, Germans, Italians, Chinese, Australians and Israelis--and sadly that list of nationalities will also grow. Their presence in Mumbai, India symbolized India's successful outreach to the world, her emergence as an international center of business and trade, her freedom, openess, tolerance and diversity--the opposite of everything that the murderous terrorists and their ilk represent.

We mourn all of the slain, and our prayers and hearts go out to their families. Our prayers and hearts also go out to the many injured, some of who face a life of continuous pain and disability.

I derive a small degree of solace from the survival of 18-month old Moshe Holtzberg, a brand snatched from the fire by his nanny and cook, Sandra Samuel, God bless her. Ms. Samuel had locked herself in her room. When she heard Moshe crying outside her door, she opened the door, grabbed him, and ran for safety. CNN reports that Moshe's diaper was stained with blood, not his own.

Did the killers of his parents spare Moshe because of his age? Unlikely, since their mercy did not extend to his mother. More probably, his mother initially hid her infant boy before she was killed. Picture in your mind, dear readers, Moshe coming out of his hiding place and walking over to where his mother lay dead on the floor, touching her, shaking her, getting no response, and in the process staining his diaper with her blood. He then goes to the hallway outside his nanny's bedroom, crying because his mother will not wake up.

This is one of those times when I feel grateful not to be a Christian, because I have no religious obligation whatsoever to forgive the killers of Gabriel and Rivki Holtzberg, Alan and Naomi Scherr and so many others. May God avenge their blood.

UPDATE Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008 at 9:45 p.m.: The names of the other victims murdered by jihadist terrorists at the Chabad House have now been released. As reported by Yeshiva World News, they are:

Norma Rabinovitch-Shvarzblat, a 49-year old mother of three from Mexico, who had played to make aliyah to Israel on Monday. She had worked as a volunteer during recent months in the Mumbai Chabad House. This week, Mrs. Rabinowitz was planning to move to Eretz Yisrael to join her son and his family, who live in Bnei Brak. It was Norma who phoned Israeli consular officials in Delhi on Thursday, with a gun pointed to her head. She told consular officials there were four bodies, including Rabbi and Mrs. Holtzberg.

Yocheved Orpaz, a 62-year old grandmother from the Israeli town of Givataim, who was in Mumbai on a visit to her daughter and two grandchildren.

Bentzion Chroman, a Chasidic Jew from the Bobover sect, who lived in Bat Yam, Israel. He lives behind his widow and three small children, the oldest of whom is three and a half, the youngest just four months old. Reb Chroman worked in kosher inspection, and was visiting India on business. He apparently had dropped by the Mumbai Chabad House to say goodbye to Rabbi and Rebbetzin Holtzberg, and thank them for their hospitality, before he returned to Israel.

Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum, 37, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, and also a Chasidic kosher inspector visiting India on business, he was the son of HaRav HaTzaddik Rav Nachum Ephraim Teitlebaum Shlita, the Volover Rebbe of Williamsburg, in Brooklyn, New York. Rabbi Teitelbaum lived in Jerusalem, where he lived with his wife and 8 children, the oldest of whom is 13, and the youngest 10 months.

Along with Rabbi Gabriel and Rivka Holtzberg, may their pure and holy souls enjoy eternal life bound with the souls of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and all of of the righteous souls in Gan Eden (Paradise).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

MUMBAI CHABAD HOUSE WAS TERRORIST TARGET; ATTACKERS HOLD 8 HOSTAGES

For most Hedgehog readers, Chabad may only mean the guys with the black hats and beards who hold the telethon every year. However, there are "CHABAD Houses" all over the world, tending to the religious needs of Jewish tourists and young Israelis who are touring the world following their army service. The largest Passover Seder in the world is held by Chabad every year in Katmandu, typically attended by some 1500 people, mostly young Israelis.

Mumbai also boasts a Chabad House, run by Rabbi Gabriel and Rivki Holtzberg, pictured above. Incredibly, it was one of the targets of the terrorist attacks yesterday. The terrorists reported took 8 people hostage, including the Holtzbergs. Their two-year old boy, Moshe, was rescued by a courageous Chabad House employee, Sandra Samuel, who told reporters, "I just grabbed the baby and ran." (Photo below.) She and Moshe were the only persons in the Chabad House who escaped capture by the terrorists.

The most recent press reports (unconfirmed at this time) indicate that, please God it should be true, Indian anti-terrorists commandos have succeeded in freeing the hostages at Chabad House, as well as the hostages at the two hotels. Honor is due the brave Indian soldiers.

As for the identity of the perpetrators, the fact that they chose American, British and Jewish targets fairly shouts Al Qaeda, in my non-expert opinion. It was obviously a well-planned, coordinated attack, based on intelligence gathered by the perpetrators on sites frequented by American and British tourists and business visitors, to say nothing of the location of the Chabad House in a Mumbai apartment building.

UPDATE 2:00 PM PST from YNET: The previous reports of the release of 8 hostages from the Chabad House in Mumbai turned out to be incorrect. The 8 persons seen Thursday night were from a neigboring building. Indian commandos are apparently preparing to launch an operation to attempt to free the Chabad House hostages. A loud explosion has been heard from the Chabad House.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Aftermath of the 2008 BYU-Utah Game

With semi-sincere apologies to my BYU fan friends:

India and Israel: Twin Targets of Islamic War and Terror

Today's horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India crystalized some thoughts about which I have been mulling for some time now. Let me share them with you and invite your comments.

Three nations were created in 1947-48, by partition of regions previously under British colonial rule. The British Raj in India was divided into two new states, India and Pakistan. (Bangladesh, originally East Pakistan, later declared its independence.) That division created the largest human movement in history, an exchange of over 18,000,000 refugees, with Hindus and Sikhs fleeing to India and Moslems leaving India for Pakistan.

Also in 1947, the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate in Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. In May 1948, the Jewish state, Israel, declared its independence. However, the Arab state never came into being, and not due to any action by Israel. Following Israel's declaration of independence, the territory allocated to Israel by the United Nations partition resolution came under attack by troops from five surrounding Arab nations--Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The portions of Palestine allocated to the Arab State, Gaza and the so-called West Bank, were gobbled up by Egypt and Transjordan, respectively. (Transjordan appropriately renamed itself the Kingdom of Jordan, since it now controlled land on both sides of the Jordan River). Gaza and the West Bank remained under Egyptian and Jordanian control until captured by Israel in the June 1967 Six-Day War. At no time during the intervening 19 years did either Egypt or Jordan make any move toward creating a Palestinian Arab state. Yet, at no time in those same 19 years did anyone, in the U.N. or in our State Department or in European capitals, describe those territories as "occupied." Strange, that.

In any event, the parallels between Israel and India are extraordinary. Israel and India are the great success stories among developing nations that came into existence after World War II. Both nations were born the same year and both became functioning democracies. Both nations have highly educated populations and flourising high-tech economies. Both have robust literary, theater, music and arts cultures. The citizens of both countries have the most extensive civil liberties of any nation in their respective regions.

Segments of the Islamic world view both India and Israel as enemy nations, and impermissable incursions into the Islamic world. And yet, in both nations, there are substantial Moslem minorities that have full civil rights, vote, and serve in the government. Some 13% of India's 1.13 billion people are Moslem. Tiny Israel has only 7.28 million people, or whom about 20% are Arab, four-fifths of whom are Moslem.

In contrast, Pakistan's 178,000,000 population is 97% Moslem. Indeed, its official name is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The areas of Palestine under Palestinian control are 98.7% Moslem, 0.7% Christian and zero percent Jewish. So Moslems are able to live and flourish in India and in Israel; but for all practical purposes a Hindu cannot live in Pakistan and an Jew cannot live in the Palestinian territories. Yet the Islamic world constantly accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing and genocide, and occasionally levels such charges against India as well. How poorly such charges stand up against the light of facts and truth.

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation


As recounted by Ira Stoll, in his Thanksgiving essay linked in the previous post, many American declarations of Thanksgiving followed the first one by the Continental Congress. Samuel Adams seemed to issue one at nearly every opportunity.

However, the identification of the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving dates back to the Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863. It is comforting to recall that, whatever crises our nation currently faces, they are hardly so grave as the American Civil War, which had raged for two bloody years and would continue for two bloody more, at the time that President Lincoln issued his proclamation. Here is the text:

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Friday, November 21, 2008

Jewish Liberals Value Free Speech, Except for Supporters of Proposition 8

Jewish liberals are traditionally outspoken defenders of free speech. They support the American Civil Liberties Union. The leading so-called Jewish defense organizations, the American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee and the Bnei Brith Anti-Defamation League, also are strong supporters of freedom of expresssion. Apparently however, there is a "Proposition 8" exception to that suppport.

Mark Paredes is the Los Angeles-based director of Latino outreach for the American Jewish Congress. Paredes previously served as the press attache' for the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles. He speaks fluent Hebrew. He has long-standing ties to the Los Angeles Jewish community. However, Mr. Paredes is also a Mormon, and a public supporter of Proposition 8. As reported in the Jewish Daily Forward, that political expression has submerged Mr. Paredes into hot water. Liberal opponents of Prop. 8 have called on him to recant or resign.

“I’m upset with how Mark Paredes has conducted himself in the Jewish community over this issue,” said Denise Eger, rabbi of West Hollywood’s gay and lesbian Reform synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami. “He’s been so public about his support on Proposition 8, and he’s somehow expected that the Jewish community is with him on this, when 70% of the Jews voted no on Prop. 8.”

Actually, Mr. Paredes hardly could have had any illusions regarding the vast majority of the Los Angeles Jewish community, which has made its strong opposition to Proposition 8 and its strong support for gay marriage quite clear. Outspoken support for Proposition 8 and traditional marriage is largely concentrated in the Orthodox Jewish community, which in Los Angeles does not tend to actively particpate in American Jewish Congress.

[Honest disclosure requires the Kosher Hedgehog to note that he is a former Vice President of the Southern Pacific Region of American Jewish Congress, and resigned because of his discomfort with the organization's support for unfettered abortion rights.]

American Jewish Congress did not take a public position on Proposition 8. According to the Forward story, Mark Stern, a national AJ Congress official, stated that the organization asks its staff members not to become publicly identified with politics or controversial issues when there’s a possibility of roles becoming confused. He said, however, that he had not made this clear to Paredes, specifically in regard to referendums.

Opponents of Proposition 8 argue that marriage is a fundamental civil right. Well, so is free speech, and its bona fides as a constitutionally protected right, both in the U.S. and California State Constitutions, have far firmer historical antecedents and legal precedents than the "constitutional right" to same-sex marriage, which first became law as a result of a May 2008 California Supreme Court decision that the voters of California have now overturned. The case of Mark Paredes will provide an excellent measure as to whether the opponents of Proposition 8 truly value free speech, or only when it serves their agenda.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Israel's National Religious Party, of Blessed Memory


Israel's National Religious Party died this past Tuesday after a long illness. Its demise was almost unnoticed. The once powerful Israeli political party that represented the philosophy of Religious Zionism, the Miflaga Datit Leumi (its Hebrew name, commonly abbrieviated as "Mafdal," the word emblazoned on the election poster pictured above right), was created in 1956 and participated in every Israeli government coalition between that year and 1992, regardless of whether Labor or Likud led the government. Its importance as a coalition partner was attributable to the roughly 12 Knesset seats it won in every election from 1956 through 1981.

The long decline and eventual death of the NRP began in 1981, when Sephardi members left to join a new, ethnically oriented religious party, the Sephardic Torah Guardians (abbrieviated in Hebrew as "SHAS"). Sephardic and mizrachi (eastern) Jews are Jews that come from the Mediterranean countries, Italy, Greece, Turkey, North Africa, the Arab countries, and Iran. They are called Sephardic because many (but by no means all) of them trace their ancestry to Jews expelled from Spain (in Hebrew, "Sepharad") in 1492. The departing Sephardic and mizrachi members of the NRP felt that Ashkenazi Jews, of German, Eastern European and Russian ancestry, unduly dominated the outlook and affairs of NRP.

From then on NRP struggled to hold onto 4 or 5 Knesset seats. It splintered again and again, with the left-wing faction forming a party called Meimad, and many of its right-wing nationalist voters deserting it for Likud or other nationalist parties. Some critics also point to the party's fixation with the settling and retention of territory captured in the 1967 as underlying reasons for its loss of popular support.

The philosophy of NRP, and of the Religious Zionist movement is general, was described in the motto created by one of Religious Zionism's early leaders,
Rabbi Meir Berlin (later Bar-Ilan), around a century ago: "The Land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel." It was at Bar-Ilan University, named for Rabbi Bar-Ilan, that the Central Committee of the NRP voted this week to disband the party, and join the new Jewish Home party (in Hebrew "HaBayit HaYehudi").

Despite its sad demise, the NRP leaves behind a considerable legacy. That the official day of rest in Israel is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and not Sunday; that state functions in Israel are not held on the Jewish Sabbath or religious holidays; that public transportation does not run on Friday nights and Saturdays; that kosher food is standard in the Israeli Defense Forces; and that marriage, divorce and burial of Israel's Jewish citizens fall under the purview of Orthodox Jewish rabbinical authorities--all these facets of Israeli life are largely attributable, for better or for worse, to the influence of the National Religious Party.

As pointed out in this editorial in the Jerusalem Post, the National Religious Party saw itself as a political movement by which Modern Orthodox Judaism would serve as the bridge between the secular and religious in Israel. That ideal seems nearly as dead today as the NRP, but the Religious Zionist movement--Mizrachi--lives on and still pursues that noble objective, and hopefully this seemingly tarnished ideal will ultimately prove more enduring than the National Religious Party itself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's time for the most important college football game of the year . . . .

Yes, my beloved 7th-ranked University of Utah Utes are playing the . . . what is their name again? Oh, yes, the BYU Cougars. Ranked 14th or so, I think.

I will be present at the game, for the first time since 1981.

That thought reminded me of the little GIF file at right. I know there are some BYU fans who frequent this blog. I hope they are not offended. I also hope they are . . . afraid! Very afraid!

Monday, November 17, 2008

BRRRR! The World Has Never Seen Such Freezing Heat!


[Photo: Telegraph.co.uk London October Snowfall]


Here in Southern California, we are in the middle of a sweltering November, accompanied by a continuing drought and a prolonged, disastrous wildfire season. That, plus the politicial proclivities of most Southern Californians, meant that few of us were surprised when, last Monday, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record. The rest of the world, however, found the GISS announcement rather startling. As Christoper Booker writes in the Telegraph:
Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years.

So what explains the GISS announcement. It was a case of "garbage in, garbage out." Seems that the figures for a large part of Russia, which showed temperatures 10 degrees above normal, reflected the fact that no new data had been entered for October. Rather, data from September had been simply carried over and entered for two months running. No one at GISS noticed. Read the whole story here. [Hat tip: Dennis Prager.]

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The ProtectMarriage.com (Proposition 8) Press Conference, November 14, 2008

Here's a 6-minute excerpt from the video:

video

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New York Times Reports Palin "Quote" About Africa was a Hoax

By now everyone has heard about the leak from a staffer in the John McCain campaign, that Governor Sarah Palin had to be told that Africa was a continent, not a country. Fox News initially reported the source of the story as an unnamed McCain campaign member. MSNBC did Fox one better; David Shuster, an MNBC anchor, reported, “Turns out it was Martin Eisenstadt, a McCain policy adviser, who has come forward today to identify himself as the source of the leaks.”

Trouble is, as the New York Times now reports, there is no such person as Martin Eisenstadt. His existence, the supposed leak, and Governor Palin's remark about Africa were all a hoax.

One would have thought that the media's mauling of Governor Palin would have ended with the defeat of the McCain-Palin ticket. However, the media seems intent on destroying her future political prospects as well. Unfortunately, the revelation of the hoax will not get one-tenth of the publicity as the original false story.

UPDATE: HOT AIR reports that the fictional Martin Eisenstadt was not the source of the smear for Carl Cameron at Fox News, and so far at least Fox News is not retracting the original Carl Cameron report, even though MSNBC has retracted the story.

Wall Street Shows Confidence in Economic Future Under Obama--NOT!!

Happy days are not here again. Since Election Day, the Dow has fallen 14% with similar tumbles in the S&P 500 and NASDAQ. Apparently, Wall Street is not convinced that the advent of Obama will heal all financial wounds. Read all about it in "A Barack Market," in today's Wall Street Journal.

Center for American Progress Formulates Obama Administration Middle East Policy--and it is Ominous for Israel


John Podesta (pictured standing with President-elect Barack Obama in the photo above) wields great influence with the President-elect. Mr. Podesta heads up the Obama transition team. Mr. Podesta is also the founder, President and Chief Executive of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank that is systematically formulating the public policy positions that the Obama brain trust is feeding to the President-elect. For that reason, writes David Goder at One Jerusalem, an excellent place to search for the possible new direction that American Middle East policy may take under an Obama Administration is Change for America: A Blueprint for the 44th President, a book published by the Center For American Progress and the New Democracy Project as a guide for the Presidential transition team, 10 chapters of which are available for downloading here.

According the David Goder, the chapter on American policy in the Middle East does not bode well for Israel. There is no recognition, he writes, of the special relationship between the United States of America and Israel, born of their shared democratic values. Instead, the discussion treats the Palestinians and the Israelis as equals. The underlying assumption regarding Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is that Israel has a rational, peaceful party on the Palestininan side with whom to negotiate, a proposition that is demonstrably fales.

Finally, and most disburbingly, writes Goder:
"...is the support for ignoring Israel's sovereignty as a free state, the willingness to invite the international community, i.e. Israel's enemies, into the decision making process.

"Anyone familiar with Israel's treatment at the United Nations knows that Israel has had only one friend to count on in the international arena: The United States. These proposals support the ending of that special relationship."

I sure hope that Mr. Goder is mistaken, but I suspect that he is not.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HAMAS CLAIMS IT MET WITH OBAMA AIDES BEFORE ELECTION!

As reported today in Ha'Aretz, the London-based Arab daily newspaper Al-Hayat quotes a senior Hamas official, Ahmed Yusuf, a political advisor to Hamas' Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh, as saying that aides to President-elect Barack Obama met with members of Hamas in Gaza prior to the Presidential election. According to Yusuf, the meeting was kept secret so as not to help Republican nominee John McCain. Yusuf further stated that the relations were maintained after Obama's election victory.

During his campaign, Obama had said that his administration would only hold talks with Hamas if it renounced terrorism, recognized Israel's right to exist, and abided by past agreements. Technically, but only so, pre-election and pre-Inaugeration meetings with Hamas in Gaza would not breach that pledge, since until the President-elect is actually inaugerated, he cannot be said to have an administration. However, it totally violates the spirit of Obama's statement, and bodes poorly for the future.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Course Race Played a Role In the Presidential Election--In Obama's Favor!

In Sunday's Los Angeles Times Op-Ed Section, John Judis, following the lead of other pundits, considers whether race played a factor in the 2008 Presidential election. As has been the case of every article of the genre that I have seen, Judis is primarily concerned with whether racial animus cost President-Elect Barack Obama white votes. He concludes that it did, but not enough to cost Obama the election.

Yet, to his credit, although only in passing, Judis notes that race actually may have worked in favor of Barack Obama in the Presidential election. He writes:
The polls asked whether race was "the single most important factor," "one of several important factors" or "a minor factor" in the voter's choice. Those who said it was the most important or one of several important factors -- 9% of overall voters -- backed Obama by 53% to 46%. That suggests Obama's race was a net plus for him. It brought blacks to the polls, and some whites as well who liked the idea of having an African American president of the United States.


Well, duhhh! Judis acknowledges what must be obvious to any objective observer who does not write about politics for a living. One need simply ask the following question: Does any one believe--all other factors being equal, including his intelligence, his good looks, his Harvard legal eduction, his editorship of the Harvard law review, his oratorical skills, his manifest talent at managing a political campaign and his service as Chicago community organizer, member of the Illinois State Assembly, and U.S. Senator--does any one believe that if Barack Obama's father had been a white Kenyan, that Obama would be President-Elect today?

Isn't it obvious that were it not for the color of his skin Barack Obama would not even have won the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and that the President-Elect would be Senator Hillary Clinton? (Sorry, Senator McCain, but I think she would have won handily.)

Barack Obama is our first affirmative-action President. Hundreds of thousands of persons, perhaps even millions, of every race, voted for him in the primaries and the general election because he is black. That is not a criticism of President-Elect Obama--it is simply a fact. It does not diminish his considerable gifts. He has the ability to be a great President, and I hope he becomes one. (My differences with him solely concern his liberal policies, not his abiity.) Just don't tell me that race was not a decisive factor in his election victory.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Few Prop 8 Thoughts

I have finally been able to find my way through the post-election dust and fog, and have posted some thoughts on the coalition that supported Prop 8 and one big issue -- perhaps the issue-- that still looms. But the post is not here - you'll find it at Article Vi Blog, which focuses on questions about religion in the public square. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Yossi Beilin, Architect of Israel's Disasters

You may not have heard of Yossi Beilin, but you know his works. He is a politician on the far left of Israeli politics, having led the Meretz-Yachad party from 2003-2006. The roots of Meretz are in Mapai, a Stalinist pro-Soviet faction of the Israeli left that even managed to alienate the Israeli Labor Party led by David Ben-Gurion. In more recent years, Meretz was the most fervent advocate of withdrawal from all territories captured during the 1967 War (including even the historic Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem), the secularization of Israel, and the change of its character from a Jewish State to "a state of all its citizens."

Meretz never commanded the loyalties of more than a small fraction of Israeli voters, smaller even than the Israeli fervently Orthodox Hareidi parties. However, Beilin's political influence dates back to his years with the Israeli Labor Party, especially his term as Deputy Foreign Minster in the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres from 1992 through 1995. In that capacity, he participated in the secret negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization that led to the Oslo Accords. He also was a leader of the Israeli delegation in subsequent negotiations with the Palestinians. A description of his career appears in Wikipedia.

Last month, Beilin announced that he would not seek a place on the Meretz-Yachad ticket in the upcoming elections. In today's Ha'Aretz (English edition), in a column entitled "Yossi Beilin's Poodles," Israel Harel, a right-wing nationalist columnist, assesses the results of Beilin's 31-year political career. [Ha'Aretz is a left-wing paper, but carries Harel's columns. Beilin's own writings also frequently appear in Ha'Aretz.] Harel notes that Beilin was sometimes derided as "Peres' oodle," but argues that in reality "he made Shimon Perez and Yitzchak Rabin the poodles of his initiatives," the fruits of which have been disastrous for Israel. The column is an excellent critique of Israel's misguided "peace policy," from the right-wing nationalist perspective.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Post-Election Hangover


While I hope that our readers will hear from Senior and Founding Hedgehog Lowell today, he and Mrs. Hedgehog, Sonja Eddings Brown, deserve a late wake-up call in view of their tireless and successful efforts to pass Proposition 8, the Preservation of Marriage Amendment. Congratulations to them. Beyond their hard work, they have endured a vicious campaign directed against them personally and against their Mormon faith by the opponents of Proposition 8. I have never been prouder to say, "Yes, I know Lowell and Sonja--they are dear friends of mine!"

Always in character, the opponents of Proposition 8 have already declared their intention to challenge the proposition in the courts, hoping once again to achieve by judicial fiat what the will of the people would deny them.

The passage of Proposition 8 and the victory of Senator Norm Coleman in Minnesota (sparing us the advent of Al Franken in the U.S. Senate) give me reason to be grateful on an otherwise grim morning.

In light of the financial meltdown, it is remarkable that John McCain did as well as he did. Our best wishes to him for long life, good health and further service to our nation.

What went wrong? During 8 years of Republican rule we betrayed our own principles of good and small government. Government spending and deficits mushroomed. Government programs expanded. Corruption and scandal disgusted the voters who had been told they could expect better from the GOP, and in 2006 the voters reacted predictably, returning control of Congress to the Democrats. Ironically, Iraq turned out to be a minor issue in the election, as the counterinsurgency strategy of General David Petraeus, backed early on and vigorously by Senator John McCain, corrected the course there.

Enough instant analysis. I need a break from politics.

The Loyal Opposition Congratulates President-Elect Barack Obama


The election is over. The people have spoken. The Hedgehog Blog congratulates President-Elect Barack Obama. As you declared in your victory speech in Chicago, upon your inauguration you will be our President as well as the President of those who voted for you. Our policy differences with you have not disappeared, but on this Blog our statements of those differences will be stated with the respect to which both you and your high office are entitled. Where our conscience and principles tell us that your policies will advance the interests of the United States of America, you will have no more enthusiastic supporters. Best wishes to you, Mr. President-elect, and to your wife and family.

Most of all, as we said when you received the Democratic Party's nomination, we are truly proud to live in a nation where Barack Obama can be elected President. Ironically, your election is the ultimate repudiation of the views of Reverend Jeremiah Wright and the self-declared enemies of our nation. God Bless President-Elect Barack Obama! God Bless the United States of America!

Lowell adds: Amen!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Keep Gitmo Open!


The Wall Street Journal notes today that if Barack Obama wins the Presidency, we can look forward to startling revelations about the Guantanamo Bay Prison--not about claims of atrocities and torture, but rather, as campaign rhetoric gives way to the sobering responsibilities of dealing with the threat of terrorism, that the place isn't so bad after all. The New York Times began the process yesterday, just in time to avoid helping the Republicans in the election, but early enough to provide plausible deniability against charges of sitting on a story until after the election. As the Journal describes the story:

In their 1,600-word dispatch "Next President Will Face Test on Detainees," reporters William Glaberson and Margot Williams discover that, gee whiz, many of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay really are dangerous terrorists. The Times reviewed "thousands of pages" of evidence that the government has so far made public and concludes that perhaps the reality is more complicated than the critics claim.

Lo and behold, detainees are implicated in such terror attacks as the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Those with "serious terrorism credentials" include al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and the so-called "Dirty 30," Osama bin Laden's cadre of bodyguards. The Times didn't mention Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of 9/11, though he's awaiting a war-crimes tribunal at Gitmo too.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain have pledged to put Guantanamo out of business, but, as the Times explains, "the review of the government's public files underscores the challenges of fulfilling that promise. The next president will have to contend with sobering intelligence claims against many of the remaining detainees." Now they tell us.

Well, now, I haven't been so surprised since the non-partisan Alaska State Personnel Board report cleared Sarah Palin of charges of ethics violation in connection with her firing of state's public safety commissioner. That report, released Monday, received a fraction of the publicity given the findings of a partisan legislative probe, led by Alaska's Democrats, and came too late to prevent the sullying of Governor Palin's reputation as a government reformer.

We can expect a lot of this. The mainstream media and commentators on the Left somehow forgot during the last eight years that the much-maligned policy of "extraordinary rendition"--the transport of terrorist suspects arrested abroad by the FBI or CIA to other countries for interrogation or trial--was employed throughout the Clinton Administration; only to become an instant human rights abuse when the practice was continued by President George W. Bush. Should an Obama Administration take the terrorist threat seriously, those same critics will now ignore the use of extraordinary rendition, or even find the policy to be innocuous, and even helpful to national security.

On the other hand, if John McCain is our next President, extraordinary rendition will continue to be a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention and the U.S. Constitution, and a war crime deserving of trial before the International Court of Justice.

Back to the subject of Gitmo. As the New York Times article suggests, the prison serves a useful function, and members of Congress are not exactly clamoring to have a replacement prison located in their districts. Whether our next President is John McCain or Barack Obama, don't be surprised to see Gitmo stick around at least four more years.

California Catholic Conference Condemns Outrageous No on 8 TV Commercial

We received the following this morning, which is an excellent followup to our post below:

News Release

For Immediate Release Contact: Chip White
916-215-4392
Catholic Conference Criticizes Outrageous No on 8 TV Commercial

SACRAMENTO, Nov. 3 -- The California Catholic Conference today criticized as "bigoted and intolerant" a new 'No on Proposition 8' television commercial scheduled to run on TV stations tomorrow. The ad, produced by a group called 'Courage Campaign Issues Committee and viewable at

http://www.kutv.com/content/news/topnews/story.aspx?content_id=e1f83189-843f-41d7-84c4-2029fbd9a2ce

or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q28UwAyzUkE

depicts supposed missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints conducting a home invasion of a lesbian couple's home to steal their wedding rings and rip up their marriage license.

Bishop Stephen Blaire, the President of the California Catholic Conference decried the new advertisement from opponents of Proposition 8 as “a blatant display of religious bigotry and intolerance. “ He expressed dismay that any public media outlet would give it an airing. "The YES on 8 campaign is not about discrimination and intolerance; it is about restoring the traditional definition of marriage for the good of society and children," said Bishop Blaire. "All individuals and groups, whether religious or not, have both a right and a responsibility to participate in a civil debate about this important issue. From the beginning of this campaign theCatholic Conference has stressed the importance of mutual respect and denounces this type of religious bigotry."

# # #

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Monday, November 03, 2008

The Latest "No On Prop 8" Ad: A Fine Example of Anti-Religious Bigotry

I think Prop 8's opponents have finally gone over the edge. Here's their latest ad, which we just received from our reader Bart:



Our reader comments:

Please forward - with my comments, if you want to - to every religious group you have dealt with. I would like them all to condemn this in very strong terms, as soon as day breaks. Once again, the opposition forces show that their true agenda is to attack religious organizations.

The battlefront is getting very ugly. If you haven't seen this latest No on 8 ad that will hit the California Television markets tomorrow, it is worthy of awareness. The direct attack against the Mormon church using faux missionaries is deplorable.

My great hope is that Californians will be repulsed by such a blatant display of religious bigotry, and that they will see the true agenda of those who claim they want free speech. Anyone who tries to equate the free exercise of a person's political rights with home invasion clearly has a twisted perception of the world. I hope that there is a firestorm of condemnation - from every religious denomination - of this raw display of intolerance. It's Mormons today, and who else tomorrow?
Indeed. I am sure we will see efforts in the comments here to justify this ad. They should be amusing.

UPDATE: It's 12:15 p.m here in California and the No on 8 campaign has yet to denounce or disavow this ad.

The California Catholic Conference has denounced it. Other churches will no doubt follow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Story of Proposition 8

Here's the video that tells the story:



And here's a statement from Frank Schubert, Campaign Manager Yes on Proposition 8:

Dear Friend,

With every recent poll showing Proposition 8 slightly leading or surging with support, our opponents are growing increasingly desperate.

They have aired two new commercials this weekend that are nothing short of shameful. In one, they compare people who believe in traditional marriage to those responsible for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. And in another they call backers of traditional marriage, "intolerant" and "offensive."

Did you ever dream that because you believe marriage is between a man and a woman you’d be called "intolerant," "offensive" and have it suggested you are racist to boot?

Do the tactics of our opponents anger you? They anger me. But let’s not lash out. Let’s use this as motivation to maximize our get-out-the-vote efforts so that we send a powerful message on Tuesday: Proposition 8 will pass because traditional marriage matters.

The commercials from our opponents are so desperate and over the top that I think there is a very good chance they will backfire with voters. Still, our opponents’ smear campaign cannot go unanswered. That’s why we have created a new video to remind California voters – and our dedicated Yes on 8 volunteers -- about which side has truly displayed intolerant and offensive behavior in this campaign.

Watch the video here.

I’ve never seen such boorish behavior and such utter disregard for principles of fair play – not to mention respect for freedom of expression – as I have seen from opponents of Proposition 8. For a community that demands tolerance from others, they seem completely incapable of showing tolerance for anyone who may disagree with them on traditional marriage.

There are some important things you can do to fight back against these latest attacks. First, please share our new video with your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors so they can evaluate our opponents’ outrageous claims for themselves. Most importantly, please sign up to work on Election Day . We’re in the process of mobilizing 100,000 people to help us get Yes on 8 voters to the polls. We need people to phone voters and knock on doors to remind our supporters that Tuesday is "D-Day" for marriage.

Even though support for Proposition 8 is surging and we have momentum, the race is very close. Every vote matters. Please forward our new video now, and make sure you are part of our volunteer army on Election Day.

The institution of marriage is in our hands. It’s up to us to save it.

Sincerely,

Frank Schubert
Campaign Manager

Copyright 2008 ProtectMarriage.com. All Rights Reserved. ProtectMarriage.com is a project of California Renewal (I.D. #1302592) (Used with permission.)

You can sign up to work on election day here. Invite your friends to watch the video and learn about Prop 8 here.

Thanks for stopping by.