Friday, August 28, 2009

Remembering the 1929 Hebron Massacre

This past week marked the 80th anniversary of the 1929 massacre of 67 Jews--men, women and children--by Palestinian Arabs in the town of Hebron. When the three days of murder, mutilation, torture, rape and pillaging ended, the British evacuated some 700 survivors, thereby ending the existence of the most ancient Jewish community in Palestine. Jews had lived in Hebron for 3000 years, and the community that Arabs attacked in 1929 had continuously resided peacefully in Hebron since the end of the 15th century C.E. The attack was incited by incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (This exact tactic was successfully repeated in September 2000 by the Grand Mufti's nephew and "spiritual" heir, Yassir Arafat, may his name be erased, to launch the Second Intifada, thereby diverting attention from Arafat's refusal to make peace with Israel at Camp David.) No Jew was able to live in Hebron from 1929 until 1967, when Israel conquered Hebron during the Six-Day War. Shortly thereafter, Jewish pioneers--the people the world roundly condemns as "settlers"--moved back to Hebron. Wellesley History Professor Jerold S. Auerbach tells the story in today's Wall Street Jhournal. At a time when Israel is regularly accused of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, even by a former President of the United States, it is useful to remember who are the real perpetrators of ethnic cleansing in the Holy Land.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Has the World Gone Crazy? Medieval-style anti-Semitic Rumors Spread in Sweden, Greece and Holland

In the Middle Ages, anti-Jewish rumors periodically swept Christian Europe. In the 14th Century, European Christians widely believed that the Jews had caused outbreaks of Black Plague, by poisoning Christian wells. The fact that Jews also were dying from the Plague did nothing to dispel the charge, which led to massacres of Jewish communities and the expulsion of Jews from several cities and towns.

Another medieval anti-Jewish rumor was the infamous blood libel, the belief that Jews required blood drained from a Christian child in order to make their Passover matzah (see woodcut at left). In modern times, the blood libel re-appeared in Damascus in 1840, when members of the Jewish community were arrested, tortured and tried for the ritual murder of a missing Franciscan monk; and again in Czarist Russia in 1913, when a Ukranian Jew named Menachem Mendel Beilis was arrested and tried (and fortunately acquitted) of the ritual murder of a 13-year old Ukranian Christian child, allegedly to drain his blood for Passover matzah.

Often these incidents were used as a pretext for anti-Jewish pogroms and campaigns. During the Damascus blood libel, one of the accused Jews died from the effects of torture during his interrogation, and another felt compelled to convert to Islam to save his life.

Perhaps because the non-Jewish world was embarrassed by the excesses of Jew-hatred in the Holocaust, the phenomena of blood libels disappeared for the most part after World War II, surfacing occasionally in Arab media as part of their propaganda campaigns against Israel. The Syrian government produced a dramatic television series in 2003, based on the Czarist secret police forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which portrayed "Zionists" committing a ritual murder in order to obtain non-Jewish blood for baking Passover matzah. But outside of the the Arab world, manifestations of the blood libel have been rare.

Unfortunately, as reported at "Israel Behind the News," recent weeks have witnessed a resurgence in Europe of blood libels--now mostly directed at "Israel" and "Zionists" rather than at "Jews" generally. A Swedish newspaper has repeatedly published completely unsubstantiated stories that the Israel Defense Forces have collected and sold organs taken from murdered Palestinian Arabs. Of course, it was baseless accusations by shameless Palestinians that first gave rise to the stories, and now the stories in the Swedish newspaper are cited by the Palestinians as substantiation of their libel.

Israel Behind the News also reports:

This week, a leading journalist from Holland claimed that Jews are responsible for the recent outbreak of swine flu. Holland's largest daily, De Telegraaf, printed the allegations [that]the ongoing global flu pandemic was part of an international Jewish conspiracy to reduce the world's population, as were previous outbreaks of bird flu and other forms of flu.

And in Athens, for the past two months, leading figures of the government, media and labor unions of Greece have organized protests over Israel’s destruction of the Christian hospital in Gaza. There is no Christian hospital in Gaza.

These are the toxic fruits of the ugly, unrelenting campaign waged by the enemies of Israel.

Protests Prove President Obama's Charismatic Moment Has Passed; But Conservatives Must Recognize the Cost of McCain's Defeat

Professor Fouad Ajami, already known to me to be a perceptive observer of the Middle East, shows himself to be an equally keen observer of the American political scene. In today's Wall Street Journal Opinion section, he notes with irony how American liberal politicians have turned away from their embrace of robust political dissent during the George W. Bush Administration:

A political class, and a media elite, that glamorized the protest against the Iraq war, that branded the Bush presidency as a reign of usurpation, now wishes to be done with the tumult of political debate. President Barack Obama himself, the community organizer par excellence, is full of lament that the "loudest voices" are running away with the national debate. Liberalism in righteous opposition, liberalism in power: The rules have changed.

Only, as Professor Ajami proceeds to point out, the reality of American politics has not changed. President Obama, who wrote to election victory on charismatic appeal, now has discovered that charisma alone is not a sustaining force in American politic life. It has been revealed that the Emperor has no clothes. "In reality, he was who he was, a Chicago politician who had done well by his opposition to the Iraq war," Professor Ajami writes, and then adds:

American democracy has never been democracy by plebiscite, a process by which a leader is anointed, then the populace steps out of the way, and the anointed one puts his political program in place. In the American tradition, the "mandate of heaven" is gained and lost every day and people talk back to their leaders. They are not held in thrall by them. The leaders are not infallible or a breed apart. That way is the Third World way, the way it plays out in Arab and Latin American politics.

Gee, I hope that Professor Ajami is right. Watching the warm welcome Senator John McCain received at a townhall meeting in Sun City, Arizona, today, I think he may be right.

But while we are on the subject of John McCain, those conservatives out there who were unwilling to give Senator McCain the financial support and energy he needed to contest the 2008 presidential election, because he was not pure enough in his conservatism, do you still believe that it did not make a difference whether John McCain or Barack Obama won the election?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Do Mary Robinson and President Obama Share the Same Viewpoint on Israel and the Palestinians?

On August 12, President Obama presented former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, with the Medal of Freedom, our country's highest civilian honor. Her nomination had caused great anxiety in the American Jewish community and in Israel, because as UN High Commissioner she had presided over the infamous UN Conference World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001.

That conference was effectively highjacked by a group of Islamic nations, who insisted that the only issue of racism worthy of international intention was Zionism and the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. The rhetoric at the conference and the language of proposed resolutions became so inflammatory that the United States delegation, led by the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA), himself a Holocaust survivor, felt compelled to walk out of the conference. Lantos subsequently placed much of the blame for the outcome of the Conference on Ms. Robinson. In his account published in the Fletcher Forum of World Affairs (Vol. 26:1, Winter-Spring 2002), he wrote:
To many of us present at the events at Durban, it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who, in her role as secretary-general of the conference, failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track.

Accordingly, many pundits have mulled over the reason that the Obama Administration chose to so highly honor Ms. Robinson. Was it a political oversight? Was it a symbolic thumb in Israel's eye?

In Commentary, Rick Richman posits another possibility: Mary Robinson actually shares the Administration's views on Israel and the Palestinians, and may even be the original source for some of its rhetoric. One of the factors that discomforted Israelis and Zionist American Jews about President Obama's Cairo speech was its apparent attribution of the Holocaust as the sole raison d'etre for Israel's existence, juxtaposed with a comparison of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust to the stateless existence of Palestinian Arabs. The President said:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. . . .

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people—Muslims and Christians— have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they’ve endured the pain of dislocation. . . . They endure the daily humiliations—large and small—that come with occupation.

Rick Richman has discovered that the President's "on the one hand, on the other hand" formulation has an eerie and perhaps not coincidental echo in remarks of Ms. Robinson at a planning meeting in Geneva prior to the Durban conference, as quoted by Congressman Lantos in his account linked above. Ms. Robinson had met with the U.S. delegation to hear their objections to a so-called "compromise resolution," filled with accusations against Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing, the sorts of scurrilous slurs against Israel that would eventually lead to the U.S. walkout at the conference. The U.S. delegates urged her to intervene with the representatives of the Islamic nations to try to salvage the conference. Congressman Lantos relates:
Mrs. Robinson’s intervention with the assembled delegates later in the same day left our delegation deeply shocked and saddened. In her remarks, she advocated precisely the opposite course to the one Secretary Powell and I had urged her to take. Namely, she refused to reject the twisted notion that the wrong done to
the Jews in the Holocaust was equivalent to the pain suffered by the Palestinians in the Middle East. Instead, she discussed “the historical wounds of anti-Semitism and of the Holocaust on the one hand, and…the accumulated wounds of displacement and military occupation on the other.”(Emphasis added)

Unlike the President's remarks in Cairo, the context of Ms. Robinson's comparison was a defense of resolutions accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians. Of course, that is exactly the point of view espoused by the President's former minister in Chicago, Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago. Could it be that the President shares the views of Reverend Wright and Ms. Robinson regarding Israeli treatment of the Palestinians? Does he equate that history with genocide and the Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jewish people?

Whatever the answer, on Rich Richman's own website, Jewish Current Issues, he juxtaposes a photo of President Obama conferring the Medal of Freedom on Ms. Robinson with a photo of President George W. Bush presenting the Medal of Freedom to former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, a true champion of freedom and democracy. What a contrast!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dry Bones on the Iranian Show Trials of Ahmadinejad Opponents

"Mideast Peace Starts With Respect"

Writing on the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Ronald S. Lauder, the President of the World Jewish Congress, notes that while the two-state solution to Mideast Peace--a Jewish state and an Arab state existing side-by-side in the territory of the former UN Palestininan Mandate--was accepted by Israel’s pre-state leadership, led by David Ben-Gurion in 1947, when the Jewish Agency agreed to the partition plan contained in United Nation’s General Assembly Resolution 181, Palestinian Arabs and all other Arab nations flatly rejected it then and have done so ever since.

Mr. Lauder might have gone even further, and mentioned that the much ballyhooed Arab League peace proposal, lauded in the Western press and on the Israeli left as evidence of Arab good faith, would require a right of return to Israel of all Palestinian refugees and their descendents. That would be a prescription for the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Mr. Lauder urges the Obama Administration to address that issue with the Palestinians and Arab nations. He writes:
The administration would also do well to take heed of the Palestinian Authority’s continued refusal to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This is not a trivial matter. A long-term settlement can only be forged on the basis of mutual recognition and respect. To deny the essence of the Zionist project—to rebuild the Jewish people’s ancient homeland—is to call into question the seriousness of one’s commitment to peace.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pakistan an Obama Administration Foreign Policy Success

When President Barack Obama was elected, the Hedgehog Blog promised to be a loyal opposition, supporting the President when he stood in the right and respectfully dissenting when he did not. Therefore it is pleasing to note that in Pakistan the Obama Administration has achieved a notable foreign policy success.

Just three months ago, as an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal notes, the Taliban had captured the Swat Valley and was marching toward Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Today, the Pakistani armed forces have the Taliban on the run in the Swat Valley, and now it appears that a missile fired last week from a CIA predator drone aircraft, such as the one pictured above right, killed the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud. One unconfirmed news report over the weekend recounted that at a meeting of Taliban leaders to discuss the succession following Mehsud's death, shooting broke out between factions supporting different candidates, resulting in the death of one leading contender.

It is worth noting, of course, that the Obama Administration achieved its success in Pakistan by urging the Pakistani government to steadfastly confront Islamist extremists, and by continuing the directive to the CIA to hunt down and eliminate Taliban leaders, through the use of drone aircraft. In other words, the foreign policy achievements in Pakistan resulted from the continuation of policies initiated by the George W. Bush Administration. Of course, many of the President's supporters on the left deplore CIA assassinations of Islamist terrorist leaders. President Obama himself regularly tries to score poltical points by emphasizing his departures from Bush Administration policies. Perhaps he would be so considerate as to acknowledge the success of a W policy carryover.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Robinson Medal of Freedom Nomination Part of the Obama Campaign to Pressure Israel

In a column published in the Jerusalem Post, Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky of the American Thinker explain why they have concluded that President Barack Obama is no friend of Israel. Now one might think that the President's policy toward Israel has little or nothing to do with nominations for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor that a President may bestow.

That would be naive. The recent and controversial nomination of Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland and the former UN high commissioner for human rights, for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is part and parcel of the continuing campaign by the Obama Administration to pressure Israel into dangerous concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Ms. Robinson, during her UN tenure, presided over the infamous 2001 Durban conference on racism, which descended into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate fest. The late Congressional Representative Tom Lantos (D-California), the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, and a member of the U.S. delegation to the Durban conference that walked out of the event, ascribed much of the blame for what transpired at Durban on Ms. Robinson. "To many of us present at the events at Durban," Lantos wrote, "it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of U.N. High commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who in her role as secretary-general of the conference failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track."

That criticism might amount to little more than a critique of poor management and administrative skills. However, Ms. Robinson has also been a harsh public critic at Israel's defensive actions against terrorist missile attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Max Brooks, the Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, writing in an op-ed appearing at JTA, notes that according to Michael Rubin writing in National Review, Robinson’s U.N. Human Rights Commission voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood shortly after Robinson pushed for investigation of the “Jenin massacre” -- a massacre that never actually happened.

It is probably not coincidental that another Obama Medal of Freedom honoree is Bishop Desmond Tutu, also a fierce and unrelenting critic of Israel. Bishop Tutu and Ms. Robinson appear together in the photo above, along with Graca Macel, the wife of Nelson Mandela. The three were attending the inaugural meeting of "the Elders," a group of world figures organized by Sir Richard Branson. Charter members also included Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter. While one assumes that an anti-Israel bias is not a formal criteria for membership in the Elders, it seems to help establish one's credibility.

The organized Jewish community has generally restrained itself from public criticism of the Bishop Tutu honor, probably for fear of alienating African Americans. But the Los Angeles Times reports that Jewish congressional leaders (who are almost entirely Democrats) and many mainstream Jewish organizations have expressed dismay at the award to Ms. Robinson. Ms. Robinson, herself a model of consistency, has blamed the controversy on "a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community. They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank," she told a radio network, according to an account in the Belfast Telegraph.

Some critics have suggested that the nomination of Ms. Robinson represented no more than an unfortunate breakdown in the White House vetting process. Such a gaffe would be too incredible to be believed. As Tevi Troy, a former White House senior aide in the George W. Bush administration, points out in a column co-authored with his brother, McGill University History Professor Gil Troy, in the New York Post:

The White House has careful procedures for selecting winners of awards like this, and for running these names by key White House offices to avoid trouble.
This process of "clearing" the 16 Medal of Freedom recipients surely allowed officials such as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser David Axelrod, both savvy political operatives, to sign off or object before the list became final.

Incidentally, the Troys criticize the nomination on account of Ms. Robinson's anti-American views, not just her attacks on Israel.

So if poor vetting is not an explanation, what is the purpose of the Medal of Freedom nominations of Bishop Tutu and Ms. Robinson? It would be an inaccurate oversimplification to say that President Obama is "anti-Israel." Rather, President Obama has made a Palestinian-Israel peace treaty, resulting in the creation of a Palestinian state, his first-priority foreign policy objective, and will allow nothing, including Israel's legitimate security concerns, to stand in the way. Because the Palestinians will not move off their maximalist positions, in order to achieve its objective the Obama Administration has no choice but to apply more pressure for Israeli concessions.

To thwart potential domestic political opposition to this approach from the mainstream American Jewish leadership, the Administration is trying to drive a wedge between American Jewish voters, whose basic instinct is to support a Democratic President, and their traditional organizational leadership. As the American Jewish community has become increasingly secular, its ties and traditional support to Israel have markedly attenuated. President Obama and his advisers are aware of this, and intend to exploit the trend. Consequently the Obama Administration has gone to great efforts to increase the White House access and visibility of left-wing Jewish organizations such as J Street and Peace Now, even though they represent a fringe of the Jewish community. I wrote about this campaign previously in a post entitled "How J Street Aids and Abets Obama's Anti-Israel Policies." Ed Lasky, in a post at the American Thinker, concurs.

This domestic campaign will be coupled with a continuing effort to pressure, delegitimize and perhaps even remove the Netanyahu government in Israel. This tactic has a precedent from the Clinton Presidency, when Bill Clinton became frustrated at the insistence by an earlier Netanyahu government that the Palestinians halt terror attacks before Israel made additional territorial concessions. President Clinton dispatched James Carville to Israel to advise the 1999 political campaign of Labor Party opposition leader Ehud Barak. When Barak unseated Netanyahu in the Knesset elections that followed, President Clinton remarked that he felt like "a kid with a new toy." The Obama Administration is now initiating a similar campaign against poor Bibi Netanyahu, who once again finds himself in the cross-hairs of a Democrat in the White House.

The Medal of Freedom nominations of Ms. Robinson and Bishop Tutu are a not-so-subtle message to both the Netanyahu government in Israel and American Jewish leaders who might be inclined to come to its defense. There is a new sheriff in town, and some of his good friends aren't friends of yours.

Fortunately, the Good Lord watches over fools, drunkards, the United States and the Jewish people. Ironically, what will ultimately will rescue Israel will be the Palestinians, who can't take "yes" for an answer. Already they are encouraged by the public rift between the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu government, and are reacting in typical fashion. Ha'Aretz reports that at the recently concluded convention of Fatah (the so-called moderate Palestinian faction), Fatah rejected interim agreements with Israel and adopted a position paper that called for Jerusalem to be "returned free of settlements and settlers." The position paper does not differentiate between the areas of Jerusalem (including the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter) captured by Israel in 1967 and the areas of the City that have been part of Israel and its capital since the ceasefire that ended the 1949 War of Independence. In other words, Fatah is demanding that all of Jerusalem, including the seat of the Knesset, be "judenrein," cleansed of Jews.

Thus Fatah seems to be following the path previously taken by the late Yassir Arafat (may the name of the wicked be erased), who rejected Bill Clinton's offer at Camp David in August 2000 of a Palestinian state covering 95% of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, with additional territory in Israel to be ceded to make up for the loss of the other 5%; and Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem, including the Moslem and Christian Quarters of the Old City and the Temple Mount. Had Arafat accepted, the Palestinians could have used the resulting "peace agreement" as a tangible interim step toward the eventual destruction of Israel, just as Hamas has used the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to increase the military threat to Israel. Arafat's response, however, was to repudiate the deal proposed by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak, and initiate the Second Intifada.

If the Palestinians react similarly now, Israel and the Jewish people will once more quite literally have God to thank for the resoluteness of their enemies.

8/10/2009 Update: At Commentary's Contentions blog, Jennifer Rubin concurs that the Robinson nomination was not a vetting error, but comes to an even more sinister conclusion:
One can’t help but conclude that Robinson was chosen precisely because and not in spite of her worldview, which differs not that appreciably from Obama’s. Yes, Obama chose not to attend Durban II—that was a bridge too far. But let’s get real—is it more likely that the Obama team “missed” the entire focus of Robinson’s career or that she embodies in meaningful ways their vision of the world and underlying unease with American exceptionalism? They would have us believe the former—pleading incompetence. But the more one recalls Robinson’s career, the weaker that excuse seems.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fouad Ajami: Realism and Benign Neglect Now Drive U.S. Middle East Policy

Fouad Ajami, writing in today's Wall Street Journal, contends that realism and benign neglect are the animating drive of the Obama Administration's new policy in the Middle East. He mourns for the activism in the cause of freedom of the George W. Bush Administration.

I normally concur with Professor Ajami's observations, and I certainly concur that there has been a change for the worse in American Middle East policy. However, I am not convinced that the terms "realism" and "benign neglect" accurately describe the Middle Eastern policy of the Obama Administration. They may be accurate regarding the Administration's approach to despotic Arab regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other "allies" of the U.S., which was the main focus of Professor Ajami's column. With respect to Israel and the looming nuclear threat from Iran, the policy has been neither realistic, nor benign.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Obamacare: Dueling Republican and Democrat TV Ads

This is the Republicans' ad, put out by Minority Leader John Boehner:

The is the Democrats' ad:

Both are very effective political ads, I think. The Dems' ad is more clever (some would say cunning and manipulative) in that it attempts to marginalize the opposition as a bunch of whack jobs. The GOP ad is more substantive, in that it simply quotes the president's more . . . unfortunate statements about his health care reform agenda.

It remains to be seen whether either ad will resonate with the key bloc of independent voters not already committed to one side or the other in the debate. I think the Democrats have a bigger problem right now -- angry voters nationwide -- than the Repubublicans do. If the Democrats weren't worried about the voter backlash they would not be trying to neutralize it. In any case, it should be an interesting August.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

John Podhoretz on President Obama's "Honesty" With Israel

In a recent interview with National Public Radio, President Barack Obama emphasized the special relationship between the United States and Israel, and then pointedly added, "part of being a good friend is being honest." That was by way of introducing the increasing pressure that the U.S. is putting on Israel regarding settlements in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank"). Writing in Commentary Magazine,John Podhoretz analyses the possible cost to Israel of President Obama's friendship.

Why Was Joe Biden Was Invited to "The Teachable Moment"?

Dennis Prager, writing at, notes that there is much to learn from the assumptions that liberals and conservatives make about why Vice President Joe Biden was invited to join President Obama, Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley at the White House "beer summit."

Monday, August 03, 2009

Arlen Specter on Obamacare: "We have to make judgments very fast."

Watch this video of a joint "town hall" appearance by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Arlen Specter, and see what happens when Specter talks about making judgments "very fast."

(HT: Instapundit, who has several more highly-recommended links.)