Sunday, January 30, 2011

Woody Hayes, Hosni Mubarak and the Future of Egypt

Legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes famously said, "There are three things that can happen when you pass the ball, and two of them are bad."

The same might be said for the imminent demise of the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Egypt may emerge as (1) an anti-American and anti-Israeli Islamist state under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, which repudiates the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty; (2) an anti-American and anti-Israeli secular democratic state with a strong Islamist influence, which repudiates the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty; or (3) a secular democratic state that embraces the West and maintins peace with Israel. Unfortunately, the last alternative appears to me to be the least likely.

College football, even at Ohio State, evolved past the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offensive philosophy of Woody Hayes. The great Ohio State teams of recent years have fully embraced the forward pass.

Likewise, the United States and Israel cannot expect that Egypt and the rest of the Arab world will remain under the rule of pro-American but corrupt dictators who ruthlessly suppress dissent while the economic well-being of their peoples slips ever lower. The Egyptian people insist on democracy and freedom now, even if like Iran they may surrender their democracy to Islamist authoritarianism after a single election. All one can do is watch and hope and pray for the best. God has a plan and it is in his hands.

Israeli Labor Party of Blessed Memory

While the world watches events in Egypt with fear and trepidation, a recent event in Israel should not pass without comment. Dry Boness has a typically wry cartoon about the defection of present Israeli Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak from the Labor Party. But for once I think that our friend Yaakov Kirschen has missed the main point. By choosing to remain in Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government over remaining in the Labor Party, Barak effectively euthanized the political party of Israel's founding, the Labor Party of David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and Yitchak Rabin, which now has just eight seats in the 120-member Knesset.

As Sara Honig notes in her column in the Jerusalem Post, the Labor Party died of terminal leftist elitism and internationalism. Ms. Honig writes that while still espousing democratic socialism:
"Labor paradoxically became the party of big business, of millionaires and billionaires and their emulators who aspire to sidestep pesky Jewish travails and struggles, live high on the hog and pretend that they are in Davos all year around. Belittled plebians are uncannily insightful. They see right through the hypocrisy."

My, does that sound like any American political party, say, the party of the Clintons, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke, George Soros and Renaissance Weekends at Hilton Head?

In addition to economic and social elitism, the other primary cause of Labor's demise was its abandonment of Jewish identity and the Zionist vision, in favor of insipid internationalism. Unfortunately for Labor, Ms. Honig observes, "The proletariat Laborites profess to represent is patriotic and retains commonsense self-preservation techniques." Again the parallel to the Democratic Party, especially in the immediate wake of 9/11, is uncanny.

But in the case of Labor, the abandonment of Jewish idenity and Zionism was especially suicidal because Labor thereby abandoned its soul and its heritage. Ms. Honig describes how in the 1930s and 1940s, when it became clear that the price for Israeli statehood would be the partition of Palestine, David Ben Gurion, even while accepting territorial compromise, eloquently declared that the rights of the Jewish people to all of the Land of Israel were eternal and inalienable. That was the greatness of the Israeli Labor Party then, which will be remembered long after the current remnant of Labor disappears into politicial and historic irrelevancy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Brawling Democracy: WSJ's Bret Stephens Says He Will Miss Keith Olbermann

American democracy is best-served when its political debates take the form of honest brawls, not polite posturing, says Wall Street Journal Editor Bret Stephens in a column today. That is why he regrets the departure of Keith Olbermann from MNBC.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rabbi Shmuely Boteach Backs Sarah Palin Use of "Blood Libel"

When the Kosher Hedgehog heard that Jewish organizations were protesting the use by Sarah Palin of the term "blood libel," his first reaction was to ask, "Which Jewish organizations?" That was because certain Jewish organizations, such as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (whose Associate Director Mark Pelavin made one of the first public criticisms of Governor Palin), predictably would have publicly criticized almost any defense that Governor Palin might have made to accusations that her website may have provoked the Tucson shooting. Indeed, Reform Judaism has been aptly described as "the Democratic Party at prayer."

Yet even Mr. Pelavin, although he criticized the use by Governor Palin of the term "blood libel," conceded that she had a valid point. His statment notes:
Of course Sarah Palin is correct that neither she nor any other individual is culpable for the actions of Jared Lee Loughner, the disturbed man who killed 6 and wounded many others, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in Tucson this weekend. Unless evidence emerges to the contrary, we urge those who attempt to make a direct causal connection between the excesses of political rhetoric and this tragic shooting to desist.

So Governor Palin's "offense" is reduced to her choice of terms--Mr. Pelavin believes for Governor Palin to use the term "blood libel" in the manner she did is "to water down the meaning of this phrase in this manner that diminishes the distinctive nature of the historic anti-Semitism associated with the use of the blood libel."

So too Rabbi Marvin Hier, the director of a Jewish organization that is not normally so associated with liberal political sentiments, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, described Governor Palin's choice of terms as "over the top." Both criticisms are similar to criticism often leveled by Jewish organizations at the overly liberal use of the term "holocaust."

Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, however, in today's Wall Street Journal, defends Governor Palin's selection of "blood libel" to describe the accusations made against her. Writing with his usual scholarship and clarity, he argues:
Despite the strong association of the term with collective Jewish guilt and concomitant slaughter, Sarah Palin has every right to use it. The expression may be used whenever an amorphous mass is collectively accused of being murderers or accessories to murder.
As both the supporters and critics of Governor Palin have pointed out, the primary meaning of the term "blood libel" is the accusation that Jews murder non-Jews to make Passover matzoh. This malevolent fiction itself is probably rooted in the accusation in the Gospel of Matthew that that Jews killed Jesus and enthusiastically embraced responsibility for his murder, telling Roman governor Pontius Pilate, "His blood be upon us and our children" (Matthew 27:25).

Although a complete fabrication, the blood libel against the Jewish people has shown a remarkable resilience, flourishing in the Middle Ages, and surfacing again in Czarist Russia and Nazi Germany. The illustration below comes from a German newspaper in the Nazi era.

Today, the blood libel is a favorite theme in Arab anti-Israel propaganda and has been the subject of popular books and even a television series in Egpyt and Syria.

I recall reading one Rabbi's positive lesson that Torah-observant Jews may draw from the blood libel. Non-Jews attack our stubborn adherence to the Torah, saying, "Look around you--there are billions of Christians and Moslems, hundreds of millions of Buddhists and Hindus, and yet only perhaps 14 million Jews, of whom likely less than three million are Torah-observant in the traditional sense. Why won't you admit the validity of popular opinion?" To which the Jew may reply, "Popular opinion in the past, and even today in the Arab world, contends that Jews consume the blood of non-Jews for their matzoh, which we know is a complete falsehood without any basis in reality whatsover. So too, we know that popular religious opinion may have no basis in reality whatsover, and rely instead on the testimony of our ancestors that Moses our Teacher is truth and his Torah is truth."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Noah's Winery? Archaeologists Discover 6100 year old Winery in Armenia

Archaeologists from the University of California at Los Angeles have discovered the oldest known winery, in a cave in Armenia, according to an announcement by the National Geographic Society and a published paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The scientists discovered earthenware equipment from a Copper Age site in a cave in Armenia, including huge clay vats where grapes apparently were stomped by foot and fermented, storage jars, and cups carved from animal horns (apparently this ancient winery had a tasting room), as well as fossilized grape seeds and skins. They date the discovery to approximately 6100 years ago.

Alright, time now for some completely unsubtantiated Biblical speculation. The Kosher Hedgehog theorizes, based on no evidence whatsoever, that the UCLA archaeologists actually have stumbled upon Noah's winery, described in Genesis 9:20-21. (For the benefit of Original Hedgehog Lowell Brown, a devout Mormon, allow me to point out that the results of Noah's efforts as a vintner were not entirely blessed, to say the least.) Here is my entire proof:

The winery was discovered in a cave in Armenia. Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark came to rest when the waters of the Biblical flood receded (Genesis 8:4), in present-day Turkey, is located in the Armenian highlands. QED
Admittedly, there are a few holes in my theory. Chief among them is that the scientists date the find back 6100 years, while the traditional Jewish calendar holds that this year is only 5771 years from the creation of Adam. (According to the traditional Jewish view, the flood occurred in year 1656 from creation, or only 4115 years ago.)

I will try to resolve these difficulties this evening, in the tasting room and the Tierra Sur restaurant at the Herzog Wine Cellars winery in Oxnard, California.

Spanish Government Sponsors Palestinian TV Ad Supporting Boycott of Israel

Last week Palestinian Authority television began broadcasting a commercial urging Palestinians to boycott Israeli goods. As reported by Palestinian Media Watch, the sponsorship credits at the end of the ad list:

The Spanish government,
the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
AECID (Spanish governmental humanitarian aid development),
ACSUR (a Spanish non-profit organization),
Canaan Joint Development Project for Jerusalem (Palestinian).

This story illustrates the sad decline in Spanish-Israeli and Spanish-Jewish relations under Spain's current government, led by President Jose' Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party. His government seems to be a throwback to that of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, which expelled all Jews from Spain in 1492. [I take this personally, as the descendent of exiled Spanish Jews. My grandfather Ralph Cohen, after whom I am named, was a Greek Jew whose first language was Ladino, the Judaeo-Spanish dialect.] President Zapatero is squandering the years of gradual reapproachment between Spain and world Jewry that began at the end of the Franco regime. His primary foreign relations objective appears to be friendly relations with the Islamic world, as the Islamic reconquista of Al Andalus continues.

In sad contrast, the previous President, Jose Maria Aznar Lopez, of the Partido Popular (affiliated in the European Parliament with the centrist Christian Democratic European People's Party) was and remains an outspoken advocate of democracy, individual freedom and friendship with Israel. Indeed, he founded the Friends of Israel initiative, whose stated goal is to "counter the attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel and its right to live in peace within safe and defensible borders".

UPDATE Jan. 12. 2011:

The Spanish government denies its sponsorship of the Palestinian Authority boycott adverstisement. Speaking to Israel's Channel 2 television news, a spokesperson said, "We [the Spanish government] don't know about a broadcast that we funded. The Spanish government logo was used without our knowledge." Channel 2 further reports that following its inquiry, the Spanish government has opened an investigation to find out exactly what happened. Source: Palestinian Media Watch.

Mitt Romney is Early Favorite in US and Israel for 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination

A column in the Jerusalem Post reports that Mitt Romney not only holds a narrow lead in a Clausen Poll guaging the preferences of Republicans voters for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination; he also is viewed as the most likely nominee by both Republican and Democratic "insiders" based on a National Journal survey; and he is the preferred candidate (in the current field) of the "Israel Factor," a panel of Israeli analysts of the American political scene, sponsored by the Jerusalem Post. The Israel Factor panel ranked leading potential Republican nominees from 1 to 10 on their support of Israel, with 1 being bad for Israel and 10 being good for Israel. Romney led all candidates except for Rudy Giuliani, who does not appear to be considering another Presidential run. The makeup and biography of the "Israel Factor" panel appears here.

However, in order to win the GOP nomination, Mr. Romney must overcome the anti-Mormon bias among evangelical Christians in the Republican base that sunk his 2008 nomination effort. To educate themselves on that issue, Hedgehog readers should visit the Article VI Blog, created and operated by the original Hedgehog, Lowell Brown, a Mormon, and John Schroeder, an evangelical Christian.

Mr. Romney continues to enjoy the endorsement of the Kosher Hedgehog, who wonders how history might have been different had the GOP chosen the best candidate as its Presidential nominee in 2008. Fortunately, we have a do-over.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Insanity is not a Political Ideology

First and foremost, The Hedgehog Blog joins our fellow citizens in wishing condolences to the families of those killed in the Tucson shooting, and in praying for the rapid recovery of Representative Gabrielle Gifford and the others wounded in the incident.

That having been said, I utterly reject the idea that robust political debate provoked the deranged young man into his shooting spree this past Saturday. Insanity knows no political ideology. All of the personal acquaintances interviewed by journalists concur that the shooter was a deeply disturbed individual. There is no evidence, for example, that either the Tea Party movement or Sara Palin's website had any influence on him whatsoever. Indeed, evidence suggests that the assassin's pathological fixation on Representative Gifford began after he met her in 2007, well before either Sara Palin or the Tea Party movement rose to prominence.

As Bret Baier and Bryan York both have noted, following the Fort Hood shooting, by Nidal Malik Hasan, who frequented radical Islamist websites, spouted radical Islamist ideology, communicated with a radical Islamist terrorist leader and fugitive from U.S. prosecution, and shouted "Allah Akbar" before opening fire on his unarmed fellow soldiers, political pundits on the left frequently admonished us to be cautious about attributing a religious or political motive to Hasan's murderous actions. Apparently, for at least some on the left, no such hesitancy need be adhered to when the source of the alleged provocation is legitimate conservative political expression. If a graphic on Sara Palin's website put a target symbol over several Congressional districts identified as vulnerable for defeat of a Democratic incumbent, including the district of Representative Gifford, why that makes her responsible for the shooting in Tucson.

No matter, as Glenn Reynolds notes in today's Wall Street Journal, that the left-wing Daily Kos website used nearly identical imagery in calling for Representative Gifford's defeat in the Democractic Primary by a "progressive" candidate, stating that Gifford's district was "bullseyed." No matter that President Obama famously remarked in a 2008 campaign speech in Philadelphia that "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." No matter (although Professor Reynolds does not raise this example in his column) that during the George W. Bush administration, anti-war protestors carried wanted poster placards with photos of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, festooned with the legend "Wanted Dead or Alive." As Professor Reynolds notes, "When Democrats use language like's just evidence of high spirits, apparently. But if Republicans do it, it somehow creates a climate of hate."

Please do not misunderstand me. I agree that our society would benefit from a lowering of the vitriol level in political expression on both sides of the spectrum. Our criticism of our political opponents always should be expressed with respect, and with an awareness that both the left and the right want the best for our country, although they differ radically on the means to achieve it. Finally, there is no question that the enduring genius of the American democratic republic is that our Constitution and political system allows for peaceful political change, as we just experienced in the last election.

But if I have to choose between avoiding offense and vigorous political debate, I will choose free expression every time. Every notorious shooting is followed by calls for gun bans; yet the Second Amendment to the Constituion has been held to prohibit blanket prohibitions on firearms. If I would not countenance an unconstitutional ban on gun ownership in reaction to the Tucson shooting, I certainly will not countenance a stifling of political expression.

Friday, January 07, 2011


In a decision that potentially could cost him 40 million dollars, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, number 2 in this year's Heisman Trophy vote and the consensus number 1 NFL draft pick had he gone pro this year, has decided to return to Stanford for his redshirt junior year. "I am committed to earning my degree in architectural design from Stanford University and am on track to accomplish this at the completion of the spring quarter of 2012", Luck said in a statement released by the school.

His father, Oliver Luck, the Athletic Director at West Virginia University and an NFL veteran who himself played 4 year of college football, applauded his son's decision:
"This is a win-win for him. He gets to spend another year at Stanford, be part of team that will be highly ranked again next year, finish his degree and enjoy Palo Alto. It's not like the NFL is going anywhere, it's one of the best run leagues in the world. It will still be there when he graduates."

Prior to the announcement of Luck's decision, sports pundits had speculated that economic reality would force Luck into the pros--the NFL is considering implementing a rookie salary cap that if it goes into effect for the 2012 draft could cost Luck tens of millions of dollars. One pundit remarked, "This could be the most expensive architectural design decree in history."

His father Oliver Luck had it right when he said, "It’s a Rorschach test for people’s values system."

In the end, Luck put aside concerns about the salary cap and the risk of declining performance and potential injury in his final year of college football, and even disregarded the imminent loss of his beloved head coach Jim Harbaugh to the San Francisco 49'ers, and went with his heart. He loves Stanford and Palo Alto, loves his team and loves his life as a college student and player. Luck typically made the announcement in a one-sentence statement, without a press conference, hoopla or fan fare.

Way to go, Andrew. Ultimately, G-d willing, you will be a success in the NFL and in architecture or whatever profession or business endeavors you pursue when your playing days are over. In the meantime, Stanford may have lost Jim Harbaugh, but it's not out of Luck.

A late farewell to 2010

The folks at JibJab never disappoint:

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Fair and Balanced Clergy?

Our blog friend Yaakov Kirschen, the cartoonist of Dry Bones, somehow always manages to pithily capture irony with a few picture boxes and captions. Recently newspapers in Israel and around the world trumpeted what they described as the latest example of racist discrimination in Israel, a letter signed by some municipal rabbis condemning the rental or sale of apartments in Jewish neighborhoods in Israel to Arabs. The letter was immediately condemned by two of the most prominent rabbis and decisors of halacha (Jewish law) in the haredi community, the centenarian sage Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman. Rav Elyashiv showed that age has not dulled his sense of humor, quipping "I've said for some time that there are rabbis who must have their pens taken away from them."

Dry Bones notes that a similarly forthright condemnation of discrimination has not come from the Moslem clergy of Jordan or Yehuda and Shomron ("the West Bank"), where the penalty for selling land to Jews is capital punishment, and the penalty is carried out. Indeed, just this past September the Palestinian Authority confirmed the policy, describing the sale of land by Arabs to Jews as "high treason."

J Street Paid Thousands to PR Firm Owned by Its President

J Street is the left-wing Jewish political organization whose philosophy is to "support" Israel by loud public criticism of all of its actions and policies, and by advocating peace at any price, including especially weakening Israel's national security. Consequently, it quickly became the favorite Jewish communal organization of the Obama White House. For example, Israel's Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, did not attend J Street's annual conference in October 2009, but senior Obama Administration officials, including national security advisor James Jones, were delighted to participate.

Now a Washington Times news story has revealed that J Street also has a second agenda, namely lining the pockets of a PR firm in which J Street founder and President Jeremy Ben-Ami (photo top LEFT) owns a 15% interest. The Washington Times reports that Ben-Or consulting charged J Street, a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, $56,000 over a six-month period.

Ben-Ami has denied any conflict of interest, saying in a statement released through a spokesperson that even though he started Ben-Or and still retains a 15% shareholder's interest in the firm, he relinquished "all rights to on-going compensation" from the company when he left the firm in 2000. However, that statement belies the fact that no common stock shareholder of a corporation ever has a right to "on-going compensation." Rather, shareholders have a right in dividends and distribution from the company, as determined by the corporation's board of directors. Also, the value of a shareholder's stock is directly related to the earnings of the corporation.

Moreover, Ben-Ami has shown less than complete fidelity to the truth in the past. He repeatedly publicly denied that J Street had any connection with the left-wing and anti-Israel billionaire George Soros, only to apologetically confirm another Washington Times scoop this past September, which revealed that Soros and his children had donated $245,000 to J Street in the year of its founding, 2008, and another $500,000 since, about seven percent of J Street's total fundraising.

The current Times story notes, "According to nonprofit analysts, Mr. Ben-Ami's stake creates a conflict of interest that runs afoul of ethical — if not legal — restrictions on acts of 'self-dealing,' in which an officer in a tax-exempt organization receives undue benefit from that organization's transactions."

As J Street and Ben-Ami continue to dissemble in reaction to this newest revelation concerning its activities, one need only ask how J Street would react to a report of similar self-dealing at the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), which is J Street's favorite whipping boy on account of its steadfast political advocacy for Israel.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Movement for Jonathan Pollard Release Widens

Listeners to the Hugh Hewitt Show some weeks back heard Dennis Prager argue persuasively in favor of a Presidential commutation of the life sentence of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who was imprisoned in 1984 following his conviction for espionage. Hugh had quizzed Dennis that day because the Cabinet of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had voted to formally request that President Obama commute Pollard's life sentence.

Now a letter signed by 500 rabbis and prominent Jewish and non-Jewish religious and communal leaders has been sent to President Obama, supporting his immediate release. As reported by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, the letter reads in part:
Mr. Pollard is currently serving his 26th year of a life sentence, having been indicted on one count of passing classified information to an ally without intent to harm the United States. We certainly do not condone his crime, nor do we underestimate the gravity of the offense. But it is patently clear that the sentence was and remains terribly disproportionate - the average punishment is a 2-4 year prison term - and (as several federal judges have noted) constitutes a gross miscarriage of justice.
Public support for Pollard's release has come from such diverse figures of the political and religious right and left as Pastor John Hagee, Gary Bauer, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, Benjamin Hooks of the NAACP, former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olsen. As the letter to Presidential Obama further notes:

Perhaps most noteworthy, similar support has come from those who have seen the classified information of the actual damage caused including former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dennis DeConcini.
It is important to note that neither the Israeli government, nor the signers of the letter to the President, are requesting a Presidential pardon for Pollard. He should remain a convicted felon, but he should not remain in prison after 25 years. He did the crime, but he has more than done the time.