by Caroline Glick
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Terrified of the secular/modern/liberal demonstrators who made their presence known in Tahrir Square, as well as of the soccer hooligans, Mohamed Tantawi and Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces have forged a mutually beneficial relationship with the country's Islamists, thereby blocking their joint opponents from power. Very clever – but maybe too clever by half. Here's why:
Over half of Egypt's caloric consumption comes from abroad, leaving the country vulnerable to international staple prices.
It's not every day that someone like the U.S. secretary of defense forecasts an ally's move but this just happened when Leon Panetta said that he believes, in the paraphrase of a Washington Post reporter, that "there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June." Thoughts on this unusual statement:
It's a paraphrase: For delicate statements, top officials prefer indirection and written words. It offers wiggle room and reduces tensions. Asked whether he disputed the Post report, Panetta inscrutably stated: "No, I'm just not commenting. What I think and what I view, I consider that to be an area that belongs to me and nobody else." (Contrast this episode with Barack Obama talking about drones in front of the cameras, an indiscretion that won him trouble, including a lawsuit from the ACLU.)
It might be disinformation: In the mirror world of nuclear diplomacy, we on the outside have almost no way of discerning wheat from chaff. Panetta could be sending a signal to Tehran as opposed to telling the truth. The same applies to other news, be it assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists or sales of ordnance to Israel. Wait a decade to learn what's really happening now.
Tehran is determined: Iran's supreme guide, Ali Khamene'i, again confirmed that nothing and no one will impede his regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, announcing that "Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course." I believe him. Just as the North Korean regime allowed its subject population to starve in the pursuit of nukes, so will the Iranians pay whatever the price.
Israel is also determined: The Israeli leadership looks back to the Holocaust and feels the weight of its responsibility. Commenting on those top-ranking military personnel who disagree with him and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu about the Iranian nuclear danger, Israel's Minister of Defense Ehud Barak commented that "It's good to have diversity in thinking and for people to voice their opinions. But at the end of the day, when the military command looks up, it sees us — the minister of defense and the prime minister. When we look up, we see nothing but the sky above us."
U.S. presidential elections: Were the Israelis to attack Iran, Obama's response could have major electoral implications. Were he to approve or (especially) join in the attack, he would scramble the elections to his advantage. Were he to condemn the Israelis, however, he would likely pay a price. (February 4, 2012)Daniel Pipes
Most of FrontPage Magazine’s readers already know that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta yelled at the wrong guy in early December, 2011, when he scolded Netanyahu with his misplaced adjuration: “just get to the damn table.” But it will still be useful to take a quick look at the many times that Israeli leaders have invited Arab leaders to that “damn table” and have been rebuffed, in word and in deed, by Arab leaders.
For a summary of the 31 times since 1937 that Arab leaders have not only refused Israeli offers of peace, but have responded with war, terrorist attacks, and threats of genocide and annihilation, see two earlier articles by the present writer, here and here.
Over the past few years, there has emerged a new and different pattern that, while obvious and transparent, has not made much of an impression on Secretary Panetta or other of the USA’s or EU’s spokespersons.
This new pattern is: PA President Mahmoud Abbas creates pre-conditions for negotiations that he knows Israel cannot accept. Then he refuses to join in negotiations that are open-ended and without pre-conditions. Then he blames Israel for its refusal to agree to his unacceptable pre-conditions. Then Western leaders and journalists blame Israel for the “log jam” in negotiations.
In June 20091, shortly after he formed his coalition government, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called publicly for direct negotiations toward a two-state solution. A PA spokesperson, speaking on behalf of President Abbas, declared the PA’s refusal to respond to Netanyahu’s invitation.
In November, 2009, Israel implemented its 10-month “settlement” construction freeze as a compromise response to US President Obama’s demands and called upon Abbas to join him “in meaningful peace negotiations…that will finally end the conflict.” Abbas again rejected Netanyahu’s invitation, first insisting that he would wait until the construction freeze was over before he would consider joining Netanyahu in negotiations; but then, when the 10-month freeze drew to an end, he threatening that he would not meet with Netanyahu unless the Israeli prime minister continue the freeze and extend it to include East Jerusalem, which had been excluded from the original freeze agreement.
In February 2011, Netanyahu again called for a resumption of negotiations, and made some goodwill gestures to enhance the Palestinian economy. Not only did Abbas rebuff these gestures, but he announced his intention to side-step negotiations with Israel and take his case for Palestinian statehood to the UN despite President Obama’s objections.
In May 2011, Netanyahu again offered to restart negotiations for a two-state solution and promised significant territorial concessions. Abbas ignored Netanyahu, President Obama, and even the loss of $200 million in American aid; and instead he wrote his infamous op-ed essay in the New York Times in which he promised that even when “Palestine” becomes the 194th state in the UN, the conflict would not be over. The new state of “Palestine,” once it became the 194th member of the UN’s family of nations, would pursue political avenues of redress against Israel at the UN, the International Court of Justice and other human rights milieus.
In September 2011, at his speech before the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu renewed his invitation to Abbas. Abbas refused the offer and instead pressed on with his ultimately unsuccessful attempt at UN recognition of a Palestinian state.
Even Netanyahu’s “economic peace” plan of September 2009, that would have helped return the West Bank to the economic prosperity that it enjoyed during most of the pre-Oslo era from 1967 to 2004, was summarily dismissed by Abbas because it demanded that the PA put a stop to terror attacks emanating from the West Bank. Abbas rejected it, saying that: “We refuse to be security agents for Israel.” In other words, the PA prefers to tolerate, and therefore encourage, terror attacks against Israel rather than engage in cooperation with Israel that will economically benefit the Arabs of the West Bank.Israel’s refusal to accommodate Palestinian pre-conditions is rational and politically sound. If Israel were to agree in advance to:
Israel would be making enormous, costly, and dangerous concessions in advance of any PA agreements. But equally important, if one side acquiesces to all of the other side’s demands before negotiations even begin, then what are they negotiating about? The very idea of such pre-conditions renders negotiations meaningless.
It is important to point out that Israel has demands of its own; but these are not pre-conditions to negotiations, they are desired ends of negotiations.
Perhaps most problematic of all, PA leaders have worked long and hard to find a way to reconcile with Hamas and form a unified PA-Hamas strategy for what they call “popular resistance,” which Israel understands to mean renewed terrorism and a third Intifada.
Re-unification with Hamas poses the greatest threat to Israel. Hamas has been unrelenting in its commitment to an endless war against Israel, “until victory or martyrdom.” Hamas has also consistently refused any possibility of compromises with Israel, as well as any diplomatic process and any interaction that might end in peace and a cessation of hostilities. Polls and other reports indicate that Hamas enjoys much popularity on the West Bank that it, and therefore its agenda items and priorities, could become the dominant force in the West Bank if Hamas and the PA were united there. Israel has made it clear that it will not allow the West Bank to become another Hamastan, a massive launching pad for terrorism, for qasam rockets, and a new and improved training ground for the world’s worst terrorist murderers.
But the PA is forced into this strategy of re-unification with Hamas because without Hamas it loses credibility as an active participant in the 75-year-long genocidal war against Israel. El-qaeda and Hamas have condemned Abbas as a collaborator with Israel because he has made the mere pretense of willingness to negotiate. Abbas needs that credibility in order to continue benefiting from the largesse of Arab confrontation states and Iran.
So the PA must insist to its own constituency that it is refusing to negotiate, while representing to the USA and EU that it is Israel which is obstructing even indirect talks. This charade was exposed by the Quartet recently when Abbas and Sa’eb Erekat, a senior PA negotiator, demanded that the Quartet serve as a conduit for the communication of PA proposals, because the PA leaders were unwilling to meet directly with Israeli leaders. To their credit, Quartet officials refused to support the PA in this endeavor to circumvent direct talks, and told Abbas: “If you have something to say to the Israelis, you should give it to them directly.”
The latest attempt to get PA leaders to the negotiating table, this time in early January in Amman, foundered at the very onset. Palestinian representatives demanded that the talks be termed “exploratory talks” and not “peace talks,” and clashes about protocol and delegation participants moved the Palestinian side to refuse to even enter the same room with the Israelis. By all accounts the talks produced little, and the Palestinian side early on announced its decision to terminate them at the end of January. As this last in a long series of failed talks drew to a close on January 26, a new wave of terror attacks began in the West Bank, with daily attacks on individual Israeli motorists driving in the West Bank and the death of a father and son murdered on the main highway between Hebron and Jerusalem.
Mr. Panetta take note: Israel is already seated at that “damn table” but “peace” and “negotiations” are simply not in the PA’s vocabulary.
David Meir-Levi writes and lectures on Middle East topics, until recently in the History Department of San Jose State University.
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U.S. intelligence officials are surprised over the rapid deterioration of the Syrian Army, the Washington Post's David Ignatius reported Thursday. U.S. intelligence reports say that on Monday, 350 Syrian soldiers defected from the national Army controlled by President Bashar Assad to the opposition Free Syrian Army.
"I am stunned at how fast this is moving, and how fast Assad is falling," said a senior U.S. official who coordinates policy towards Damascus. American officials say Assad is no longer able to exert control over the entire country.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 Syrian soldiers have defected from the military, and an estimated 15,000 more have gone AWOL. They are believed to have taken refuge in Turkey or Jordan or to have gone underground in Syria. While these soldiers are hardly capable of taking on the 300,000-man Syrian Army by themselves, it's clear that things are spiraling rapidly downhill for Assad, whose family has run the country for more than 40 years.
In an effort to prevent opposition forces from making further inroads in embattled major cities like Aleppo and Damascus, the Syrian military is withdrawing units from embattled cities like Idlib, Homs and Hama—leaving them more vulnerable to capture by opposition forces. Thursday marked the 30th anniversary of the Hama massacre, in which the Syrian military, under orders from Bashar's father, President Hafez Assad, slaughtered tens of thousands of its countrymen in suppressing a revolt by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Assad's decline is worrying Iran, which last month dispatched Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Qods (Jerusalem) Force to Syria, where he offered weapons and financial assistance to the Assad regime.
But at the same time, Tehran may be hedging its bets. Ignatius reports that Iran has reportedly opened secret contacts with opposition forces, and may offer them a limited amount of weapons and funding.
"Such an effort to back two sides at once would be characteristic of Suleimani, who employed similar tactics in Iraq in his role as chief of Iranian covert action," Ignatius writes.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials are worried that Damascus may transfer weapons of mass destruction to Hizballah. A senior Israeli defense official said that as the situation worsens for Assad, it may try to transfer weaponry to Hizballah control—possibly at Tehran's behest. Doing so, one official said, would be tantamount to "a declaration of war."IPT News
An international campaign wants to stop a non-profit environmental organization that has been functioning for more than 100 years by purporting fallacies and anti-Israel propaganda.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) was established with the hope to help the birth of the State of Israel. JNF plants trees for forest development in Israel, creates parks, battles forest fires, is responsible for soil conservation, pioneers innovative solutions to help Israel's water supply, among other notable work.
The "Stop the JNF Campaign" alleges that the Jewish National Fund "was instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 1948 Nakba, and continues to play a central role in maintaining Israel's regime of apartheid." It calls for the revocation of JNF's charity and to isolate the group by breaking all ties with it.
The campaign posted an action alert on its website Friday asking its readers not to support JNF's "Green Sunday" on Feb. 5. "Don't be taken in," the alert reads. "The JNF's tree planting is a cover for ethnic cleansing."
Despite its shrill and nonsensical premise, the "Stop the JNF Campaign" has garnered support from organizations across the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world. It also has spread to American and Canadian college campuses.
Vilifying labels such as "ethnic cleansing" and "regime of apartheid" are used by anti-Israel activists to demonize the State of Israel. Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Gideon Shimoni has explained that the false equation between Israel and apartheid in South Africa is a "deceptive device [which] functions much like use of the term 'holocaust' to describe any and all human disasters. It obscures apartheid's constitutive core, racism, as well as its actual historical context, South Africa."
The false notion that Israel engaged in "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians cheapens actual cases of ethnic cleansing, including the Bosnian genocide committed by Bosnian Serbs, the ethnic cleansing of Armenians during World War I, Nazi Germany's persecutions and expulsions of Jews which culminated into the Holocaust, the Sudanese campaign against black ethnic groups in Darfur, among many other examples.
A look at the founders of the Stop the JNF Campaign helps explain its outrageous agenda. It was started by the Habitat International Coalition (HIC), the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), the Scottish Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).
IJAN is a radical organization that advocates the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. The organization was a sponsor of last year's "Never Again For Anyone" tour across the U.S. and in Toronto, Canada, which featured speakers who equated Israel's treatment of the Palestinians to that of the Nazis' treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Scottish Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) is a fringe anti-Israel organization that repeatedly uses the Holocaust to demonize Israel and has served as a platform for Holocaust deniers and Hamas supporters. The chairman of SPSC, Mick Napier, tried to justify a horrific terrorist attack in Israel by spewing lies about the school that was targeted and writing, "Palestinians continue to resist and we should be inspired by their courage, fortitude and endurance against an enemy that threatens them openly with a 'Holocaust'." In March 2008, a terrorist entered the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem and opened fire, killing eight students and wounding nine more. The massacre was praised by Hamas and supported by 84% of Palestinians, according to a poll taken shortly after.
BNC is the Palestinian coordinating body for the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS is a worldwide initiative to encourage companies, consumers, universities, cultural centers and more to boycott and divest from all Israeli interests and bodies. On college campuses, BDS often takes the form of student groups and professors pushing for universities to divest from companies that have holdings with Israel or do business with Israel.
The Stop the JNF Campaign is one initiative of the worldwide BDS campaign. Its launch last March was announced on the BDS website. BDS leaders, such as Omar Barghouti, single out Israel, apply double standards to the state, and often use the "apartheid" myth and false "ethnic cleansing" charge.
Canadian Foreign Minister John Bard criticized "the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization" of Israel as the "new anti-Semitism" on Monday during a conference in Israel. "Harnessing disparate anti- Semitic, anti-American and anti-Western ideologies, it targets the Jewish people by targeting the Jewish homeland, Israel, as the source of injustice and conflict in the world, and uses, perversely, the language of human rights to do so," he added. "We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism for what it is."
Last July, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd visited an Israeli-owned business in Melbourne after it was attacked by demonstrators. "I don't think in 21st-century Australia there is a place for the attempted boycott of a Jewish business," Rudd said. "I thought we had learned that from history," he added.
Unfortunately, the BDS campaign is gaining ground among youth in the United States. This weekend, the 2012 National BDS Conference will be held at the University of Pennsylvania. The conference is organized by PennBDS, a recognized student group at the University. The university is not sanctioning nor sponsoring the conference.
BDS tactics have not achieved many practical results, and seem more symbolic in nature. This holds true for the Stop the JNF Campaign. Just last week Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection in cooperation with the Jewish National Fund held an international conference on Climate Change & Forest Fires in the Mediterranean Basin: Management & Risk Reduction. The conference drew approximately 150 participants including lecturers and guests from Jordan, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Canada and the U.S. Additionally, JNF maintains partnerships with government and professional organizations in the United States, Egypt and Jordan.
If planting trees has become an act of evil, it may be time to re-evaluate your thinking.IPT News
A blurb on a book jacket would seem an unlikely vehicle for the introduction of a new and sinister tactic in the promotion of an ancient prejudice. But in September 2011, a word of appreciation on the cover of The Wandering Who launched a fresh chapter in the modern history of anti-Semitism. And when the dust had settled—what little dust there was—on the events surrounding the blurb, it had become horrifyingly clear that the role of defining the meaning of the term anti-Semitism did not belong to the Jews. It may, in fact, belong to anti-Semites.
The flattering quotation came from John Mearsheimer, the University of Chicago professor and co-author, with Harvard’s Stephen Walt, of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Mearsheimer’s 2007 bestseller, which contends that Israel’s American supporters are powerful enough to subvert the U.S. national interest, has been controversial for its adoption of anti-Semitic tropes—tropes Mearsheimer danced around cleverly. But in endorsing The Wandering Who and its Israeli-born author, Gilad Atzmon, Mearsheimer crossed the boundary.
The man whose book Mearsheimer called “fascinating and provocative,” a work that “should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike,” is an anti-Semite, pure and simple. A saxophone player by trade, Atzmon was born and raised in Israel but subsequently moved to London. He proclaims himself either an “ex-Jew” or a “proud self-hating Jew” and was quoted approvingly by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the Davos conference in 2009: Denouncing Israel in vociferous terms before a horrified Shimon Peres, Erdogan quoted Atzmon as saying, “Israeli barbarity is far beyond even ordinary cruelty.”
Atzmon fixates upon the irredeemably tribal and racist identity he calls “Jewishness.” The anti-Gentile separatism that compels Jews to amass greater power and influence is manifested, he preaches, in any context where Jews come together as a group. The Wandering Who finds Atzmon on territory well-trodden by anti-Semites past and present: Holocaust revisionism (one chapter is entitled “Swindler’s List”), the rehabilitation of Hitler (he argues that Israel’s behavior makes all the more tempting the conclusion that the Führer was right about the Jews), the separation of Jesus from Judaism (Christ was the original proud, self-hating Jew, whose example Spinoza, Marx, and now, Atzmon himself, have followed).
One would think this was categorically indefensible stuff. Yet, when the blogger Adam Holland e-mailed Mearsheimer to ask whether he was aware of Atzmon’s flirtation with Holocaust denial, as well as his recital of telltale anti-Semitic provocations, Mearsheimer stood by his endorsement of the book. Holland duly published Mearsheimer’s response: “The blurb below is the one I wrote for The Wandering Who and I have no reason to amend it or embellish it, as it accurately reflects my view of the book.” A number of prominent commentators—among them Jeffrey Goldberg, Walter Russell Mead, and even Andrew Sullivan, up to that point a dependable supporter of Mearsheimer—rushed to confront and condemn the professor. But Mearsheimer maintained in various blog posts that Atzmon was no anti-Semite and those who said otherwise were guilty of vicious smear jobs. He wrote on the Foreign Policy magazine blog of his co-author, Stephen Walt: “[Jeffrey Goldberg’s] insinuation that I have any sympathy for Holocaust denial and am an anti-Semite . . . is just another attempt in his longstanding effort to smear Steve Walt and me.”
And that was that. No affaire Mearsheimer unfolded.
The fact that a controversy did not erupt, that the endorsement of a Holocaust revisionist by a prominent professor at a major university did not lead to calls for his dismissal or resignation or even a chin-pulling symposium in the pages of the New York Times’s “Sunday Review,” represents an important shift in the privileges that anti-Semites and their sympathizers enjoy. Now, it appears, anti-Semites are being given additional power to define anti-Semitism by stating that it is something other than what they themselves represent—before rising in moral outrage to denounce anyone who might say different. Their views are not offensive, not anti-Semitic; no, it is the opinions of those who object to their views that should be considered beyond the pale.
This is more than a change in the dynamics of anti-Semitism; it is an inversion of the accepted logic of minorities and bigots altogether. Unlike blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, or any other religious or ethnic group, Jews alone are now to be told by their enemies who does and who does not hate them.
The list of flagrant Jew-baiters is growing; those with Jewish names provide an additional frisson. In America, M.J. Rosenberg—a one-time employee of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)and now called a “foreign policy fellow” at the leftist organization Media Matters—refers to supporters of Israel as “Israel Firsters,” recycling the notion that Jewish political loyalties gravitate toward other Jews first and last. There is Max Blumenthal, whose enraged salvos against Jewish chauvinism earned him a flattering profile on the Iranian regime-financed Press TV, the most repulsive of all the English-language satellite broadcasters currently on the market. There is Philip Weiss, a blogger whose bitterly personal reflections on Jewish influence were, until quite recently, underwritten by the Nation magazine’s Nation Institute (“I felt that the form demanded transparency about what I cared about, Jewish identity,” Weiss wrote about his blog in the American Conservative.) What Weiss means by “Jewish identity” was laid bare in a 2007 posting on his Mondoweiss blog, concerning journalist Seymour Hersh’s contention that “Jewish money” was driving a new war fervor against Iran. Crowed Weiss: “This is a beautiful moment, too. Hersh is a progressive Jew. Now he is turning on other Jews. ‘New York Jewish money,’ he says. The soul-searching that I have called for within the Jewish community has begun!!!!”
To understand why such blatant expressions of anti-Semitism are no longer a cause for moral opprobrium, we have to examine the sociology that determines that Jews, in contrast to nearly every other minority group, sit squarely on the wrong side of the oppressor/oppressed dynamic and thereby make any Jewish complaints about bigotry inherently suspect.
The origin of this warped thinking lies in the left’s commitment to anticolonialism following the Second World War.1 Frustrated by Marxist orthodoxies about class, and contemptuous of such bourgeois frivolities as individual rights, writers Frantz Fanon, Regis Debray, and others laid the foundations for a new politics based on identity. Native populations would never see the world clearly until they were liberated from the neuroses imposed on them by their white, Western colonizers. Through the revolutionary process, the colonized would become the masters of their countries, their cultures, and—above all—their discourse.
As it turned out, it was in the colonizing nations, among the disaffected students and intellectuals who swelled the ranks of the New Left, that the politics of identity were embraced most fervently. As Western progressives reassessed their own societies through the filter of identity, matters of sex and race were pushed to the fore. And when it came to defining and identifying racism and sexism, the inner logic of identity politics dictated that these words were the property of the victims.
In our own time, these ownership rights have become largely uncontroversial, insofar as most minorities can expect a respectful hearing when it comes to claims of racism. With the Jews, however, the reverse is now true: Claims of anti-Semitism are so often disputed, scorned, and denied outright. This state of affairs faithfully reflects the perception of the Jews as socially privileged, disproportionately represented in the fields of glamour, intellect, and finance, and—crucially—as the agency behind the dispossession of Palestine’s native Arab inhabitants.
This perception is not limited to the extreme left (nor, for that matter, to the far right, which thinks in near-identical terms). It now sits as comfortably with a traditional conservative realist like Mearsheimer as it does with many others who have had little interaction with the New Left or the Chomskyite school of international relations. It leads, furthermore, to a conclusion with a distinctly postmodern twist: Those who truly suffer from anti-Semitism today are not Jews, but those who are accused of being anti-Semitic. Those mere speakers of truth, so the thinking goes, are being made to pay for centuries of hateful prejudice.
Adherents of anti-Zionism have traditionally avoided speaking about Jews qua Jews to dodge the anti-Semitism bullet. Atzmon observes no such niceties, happily telling an Israeli journalist in a recent interview that he “hates” Judaism, that neoconservative Jews are responsible for the global financial crisis, and—for good measure—that the death marches the Nazis forced the last remnants of concentration camp inmates to go on should properly be seen as a Jewish attempt to escape the advancing Red Army. That Erdogan, Mearsheimer, and numerous others—ranging from Tony Blair’s estranged sister-in-law to a prominent Anglican Bishop—do not think the person who speaks such bile is to be avoided, lest his inarguable Jew-hatred be seen as infecting their own views, suggests the degree to which anti-Semitism has been normalized in the current political culture.
Anti-Semitism’s newfound respectability is not unprecedented. Indeed, the fact that anti-Semites have been given power over the definition of anti-Semitism reflects the very origins of the term. Coined in late 19-century Germany, anti-Semitism was not intended as a descriptor for a troubling social trend—like racism, or the more recent Islamophobia—but as the positive organizing principle of an emancipatory political movement.
While the Jews and their allies regard anti-Semites as propelled by hatred, anti-Semites regard themselves as a fraternity bound by a message of universalist love. “This book is above all a book for friends, a book that is written for those who love us,” wrote Edouard Drumont, one of the founders of France’s Ligue Antisemitique, and an especially shrill voice behind the false allegations of treason against Alfred Dreyfus, in his Le Testament d’un Antisemite. Atzmon expresses himself with similar pretensions: “When you talk about humanity, you talk about a universal system of values promoting love for one another.” Rather than being anti-moral, the moral sensibility of anti-Semitism resides in its presentation of the Jews (or “Jewishness” or “Judaism”) as the barrier to a society founded upon love. What seems at first glance to be a material battle is really a spiritual one.
With this understanding, we can better appreciate a rare modification in the nature of anti-Semitism in our own time. I say rare, because, as a framework for interpreting the world, anti-Semitism resists innovation. Charles Maurras, another French anti-Semite, took great delight in hawking a worldview that “enables everything to be arranged, smoothed over, and simplified.”
The modification rests upon a distinction between what I call bierkeller and bistro anti-Semitism. Bierkeller anti-Semitism—named for the beer halls frequented by the German Nazis—employs such means as violence, verbal abuse, commercial harassment, and advocacy of anti-Jewish legal measures. Certainly, the first and second generations of modern anti-Semitic publicists and intellectuals had no qualms about this sort of thuggery. Since the Second World War, though, this mode of anti-Semitism has waned sharply, along with the tendency to use the word anti-Semite as a positive means of political identification.
Bistro anti-Semitism, on the other hand, sits in a higher and outwardly more civilized realm, providing what left-wing activists would call a “safe space” to critically assess the global impact of Jewish cabals from Washington, D.C., to Jerusalem. Anyone who enters the bistro will encounter common themes. These include the depiction of Palestinians as the victims of a second Holocaust, the breaking of the silence supposedly imposed upon honest discussions of Jewish political and economic power, and the contention—offered by, among others, Mearsheimer’s co-author, Stephen Walt, of Harvard—that American Jewish government officials are more suspect than others because of a potential second loyalty to Israel.
To this list we can now add the assault upon what Atzmon calls the “Holocaust narrative.” This type of revisionism doesn’t deny that the Nazis killed Jews, but it redistributes a good deal of the blame among the victims. Additionally, it disputes the conclusion of mainstream Holocaust historians that total elimination was the goal of the Third Reich’s Jewish policy.
All in all, then, the bistro satisfies admirably: Its denizens can confront the cabals of Jewish power unencumbered by the vulgar anti-Semite label, and, freed from the Judeocentrism the word Holocaust reinforces, they can also reevaluate the experience of Jews under Nazi rule.
The prevalence of bistro anti-Semitism, which deals its blows through words rather than fists, is the clearest indicator of the Jewish failure to take ownership of the term originally invented by the enemies of the Jewish people. True, for a long period after 1945, there were hopeful signs that the tide was turning. Lifted by Israel’s creation and its military prowess, Jewish communities in the Diaspora spoke and acted with an assertiveness unseen during the Holocaust. Notably, their campaign in behalf of the persecuted Jews of the Soviet Union was an unashamedly public one. The charge of Soviet anti-Semitism was leveled with confidence, and—outside the circles of Western Communists and their fellow-travelers—registered in the wider public domain with few objections, bolstering the conclusion that in free societies, anti-Semitism had at last been dealt a death blow.
But that was then. Imagine, for a moment, that the Soviet Union was still in existence, still forbidding its Jews to emigrate, still barring them from sensitive jobs and higher education opportunities. Imagine, too, that the Soviets were still pumping out the propaganda of pamphleteers like Trofim Kichko—a clear precursor to Atzmon—who wrote, in Judaism and Zionism, of the connection between the Torah, the “morality of Judaism,” and Israeli “aggression.” Would a Jewish advocate, standing before a learned liberal audience, be able to categorize these as instances of anti-Semitism with the same ease that a Muslim civil-rights advocate could expect in an equivalent circumstance?
No, of course not. Actually, were he still alive, it would be entirely plausible that Kichko would be on a speaking tour of North American and European campuses. An army of professors, commentators, and student activists would line up to shield this progressive intellectual from the smear of anti-Semitism—aided, no doubt, by those self-consciously Jewish leftists whom Kichko reviled, just as Gilad Atzmon does.
The use of anti-Semitism denial as a technique of anti-Semitism comes to the Western bistros in part from the Arab and Muslim worlds, where rampant anti-Semitism resulted in the wholesale expulsion of Jewish communities from Arab countries in the latter half of the 20th century. We have all heard the ludicrous platitude that the Arabs, as “Semites,” can’t possibly be anti-Semitic. We have heard—endlessly—about the unparalleled tolerance of the Islamic world. And we have grimaced before those spokesmen who whisper that the Arabs of Palestine “are the Jews of the Jews,” the final victims of the Holocaust and the most tragic of all. All these lines of argument reject the very possibility of Arab anti-Semitism, deflecting any moral censure onto those who argue otherwise.
In America, too, the practice of anti-Semitism denial is older than one might believe. In his fascinating study, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower, Stephen H. Norwood reveals the wide-ranging sympathy for Nazi Germany on American campuses. Norwood offers an especially relevant account of how the president of Columbia University at the time, Nicholas Murray Butler, dismissed the campus demonstrations that greeted Hans Luther, Nazi Germany’s ambassador to the United States, as an uncouth smear campaign.
When it comes to anti-Semitism, American universities have too often found that there is honor not in opposing it, but in fawning before it or “speaking truth to power” by denying it. The realization that Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz is the only famous academic to have confronted Mearsheimer says more about his peers than anything else could.
Similar trends are evident in liberal and leftist media and policy circles. As in the ivory tower, in the field of policy debate these skirmishes conform to a pattern: First, make a wildly hyperbolic statement about Israel or the “Israel Lobby.” Second, prepare to be denounced as an anti-Semite. Third, assume the role of the victim—one more example proving yet again that the Jews can’t be trusted to diagnose what constitutes anti-Semitism.
Time and again, this strategy of deflecting and denying anti-Semitism has proved reliable. Following the recent controversy over claims by Josh Block, a former AIPAC spokesman, that left-wing outfits like Media Matters and the Center for American Progress are pushing the dual-loyalty canard with growing brashness, the commentator David Frum wondered “whether it is more unacceptable inside today’s liberal Washington to use the language of anti-Semitism—or to protest the language of anti-Semitism.” Frum got his answer when Block was relieved of his title at the progressive Truman National Security project for issuing group e-mails citing Jew-baiters in the left-wing media.
The vilification of Block leaves little doubt about the answer. In the eyes of liberal pundits, his deception was unmasked the moment he introduced the charge of anti-Semitism.
Only a few days after Block raised his concerns, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asserted that the standing ovation that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received from Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Not to be outdone, Time columnist Joe Klein, in a sympathetic nod to isolationist Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, weighed in against sending “American kids off to war, yet again, to fight for Israel’s national security.” Although Friedman later regretted his phrasing—it would have been better to have said the ovation was “engineered,” he said—neither he nor Klein faced the kind of deafening censure that would have greeted similar barbs directed at another minority. That these two barometers of accepted center-left rhetoric felt safe writing such things shows just how effective the work of the bistro has been.
In the face of the unfolding reality I have outlined, the scholars, journalists, and Jewish community officials who track the troughs and peaks of anti-Semitism have not been impassive. In 2004, their efforts culminated in a noteworthy milestone. The European Union Monitoring Center (EUMC) published its “working definition” of anti-Semitism, thereby launching a counteroffensive against the anti-Semitic revival that was found in distilled form at the UN’s 2001 “anti-racism” conference in the South African city of Durban.
At the heart of the definition lay this statement: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The declaration is imperfectly worded: To the uninitiated, there is a head-scratching fogginess in the sentence, later on, that “anti-Semitism…is often used to blame Jews for ‘why things go wrong.’” Nonetheless, the definition was a valiant attempt, early on in the fight, to reestablish anti-Semitism as the oldest and most enduring of bigotries. Many of the favored themes of bistro anti-Semitism—Jewish power, Holocaust analogies, the denial of Israel’s legal and historical legitimacy—were purposefully included in the definition as illustrations of how contemporary anti-Semitic discourse operates.
Not long after the working definition began percolating, Yale upped the stakes by announcing the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). Through a series of papers, seminars, and conferences, YIISA tackled the problems identified in the EUMC working definition with gusto. One publication laid bare the anti-Semitic provenance of the campaign among British academics to boycott Israeli universities. Several more focused on the woefully under-researched subject of anti-Semitism in Palestinian and wider Arab society.
Taken together, the EUMC definition and the research carried out by YIISA indicated that at least one anti-Semitic fantasy—that Jews and their allies control, as Mearsheimer and Walt put it, the “public discourse” about U.S. Middle East policy and the anti-Semitism charge—might just become reality. At minimum, the imprimatur of both the European Union and an Ivy League school would underline that anti-Semitism, whether in the academy, in international affairs, or on the streets of a Parisian banlieue, is a genuine presence and not another nefarious Jewish hoax.
The grand scale of these ambitions only magnifies their eventual defeat. Who talks about the EUMC “working definition” of anti-Semitism? Virtually no one. And Yale closed down its anti-Semitism initiative in the early summer of 2011. The previous year, the initiative had staged a conference that featured a presentation on anti-Semitism’s role in shaping Palestinian identity. The PLO representative in Washington, Ma’en Areikat, accused Yale of having been hijacked by pro-Israel lobbyists masquerading as academics. Areikat’s ire encouraged those Yale social scientists who resented the new initiative’s existence to speak their minds. It was hit with the charge that its true allegiance was to the state of Israel, instead of its sponsoring university.
Having been turned into its own case study of dual loyalty, the Yale initiative was then reproached for treating the ideal of academic rigor with cavalier disregard. Donald Green, the director of Yale’s Institute for Social and Policy Studies, deemed that the initiative had “failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,” sealing its fate.
There is, of course, no disputing that the Yale initiative’s scholarship was informed by certain basic arguments: that anti-Semitism is a social curse; that its reliably consistent content is perpetuated in an array of more or less obvious forms; and that, in the present climate, the Muslim world offers it an environment more hospitable and promising than any other. In that sense, the Yale initiative was little different from other academic exercises in social inquiry, particularly those concerned with matters of racial prejudice and colonial history.
Good social scientists understand that neutrality is an unattainable state. It is perfectly acceptable for social enquiry to carry value-based assumptions, so long as its propositions are sufficiently credible to be tested. That includes those propositions that disturb the unspoken biases that become entrenched in academic research. By tossing this consideration aside in its evaluation of the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Anti-Semitism, Yale undercut the very academic standards it was supposedly protecting.
Almost 70 years after the Holocaust, the prospect that a definition of anti-Semitism, as understood by its victims, might one day emerge uncontested seems as remote as ever. In his notorious peroration on “the big lie” in 1925, Adolf Hitler wrote: “From time immemorial…the Jews have known better than any others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very existence founded on one great lie?” In discussing the use of deceit as an element of statecraft, Hitler was actually describing the methods he would use to achieve power and maintain his stranglehold on it. Today’s anti-Semites deploy similar logic in asserting their authority to choke off discussions of their own infamy.
The truth is that the rising fixation with Jewish power in our time has unwittingly revealed Jewish emasculation instead. Jews do not control the discourse; rather, the discourse controls them.
Nonetheless, if we accept that anti-Semitism has, by exchanging violence for discourse, also been emasculated, does its persistence matter, particularly during a period of history that stands out through the presence of a Jewish state and the absence of anti-Semitic legislation in nearly all the countries where Jews live?
That question can be posed in another way: Do we need to sink to the depths of the 1930s in order for anti-Semitism to be taken seriously? Furthermore, we must ask, do Jews need to be subjected to acts of violence and discrimination in order to remind the wider world who the true victims of anti-Semitism are? And even then, can we be confident that the blame for physical manifestations of anti-Semitism will be placed upon the anti-Semites and not the Jews?
The answer, judged on today’s trends, is sadly negative. The anti-Semite who avoids violence has no reservations about enabling, excusing, and rationalizing it. Israel, the supreme embodiment of Jewishness, would ultimately be held culpable for a pogrom in Istanbul, or, for that matter, in Tehran or Caracas, in which the protagonists carried signs and chanted slogans about the suffering of the Palestinians. By the same token, should the Holocaust-deniers and conspiracy theorists massed along Israel’s borders launch a war of extermination against it, we can be assured that this same theory of culpability would be articulated even more brazenly.
Since the Holocaust, Jewish communities have mistakenly concluded that the relative absence of anti-Semitism reflects a greater awareness that anti-Semitism, as understood and experienced by Jews themselves, is a grave social ill. There is no basis to think that anymore. As long as the adversaries and enemies of the Jews control the meaning of the term anti-Semitism, Jews will remain vulnerable to that most sacred of anti-Semitic calumnies: that they alone are the authors of their own misfortune.Ben Cohen
Most observers have spent the past few months trying desperately to interpret the mixed signals emanating from the Obama administration on Iran. It has escalated its rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear ambitions while at the same time continued to shy away from actions that might actually stop Tehran, such as the tough sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank that would set in motion a partial oil embargo. Yet, while American diplomats travel the globe trying to corral other nations to support sanctions on Iran, American leaders have been open about their unwillingness to contemplate the use of force and horror at the thought Israel will act on its own.
The latest such contradictory signal comes from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius his biggest worry is the Israelis will take care of the problem for him:
Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June — before Iran enters what Israelis described as a “zone of immunity” to commence building a nuclear bomb. Very soon, the Israelis fear, the Iranians will have stored enough enriched uranium in deep underground facilities to make a weapon — and only the United States could then stop them militarily.
Ignatius goes on to say Obama and Panetta have told the Israelis not to strike, because they think it will “derail an increasingly successful international economic sanctions program and other non-military efforts to stop Iran from crossing the threshold.”
Anyone wondering why the Israelis seem to be moving closer to deciding to attack on their own need only read that statement. The Israelis — and the Iranians — know the current sanctions program is nowhere close to stopping Iran. That is because Obama has not only hesitated to put the stringent sanctions recently passed by Congress (over his objections) into effect but also has never forced the Treasury Department to enforce the existing far weaker measures aimed at Iran.
Though Israel knows it cannot do the job of setting back Iran’s nuclear program as well as the United States can, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak may have arrived at the same conclusion their Iranian enemies have come to in the last three years: Barack Obama is too weak and indecisive to be taken seriously when he threatens Iran. That means the only alternative to sitting back and waiting patiently as the Iranians run out the diplomatic clock on a feckless Washington-led effort to restrain them, is for Israel to strike.
Clearly, the administration’s preference is for the Israelis to be sufficiently cowed by U.S. pressure into standing down. Obama and Panetta would like Netanyahu to believe the U.S. would cut off the Israelis the way the Eisenhower administration did in 1956 when it abandoned Israel during the Sinai Campaign. But, as Ignatius points out, an open breach with Israel during an election year would be political suicide for Obama.
So rather than take responsibility for dealing with a problem that threatens the peace of the world, once again the Obama administration is trying to lead from behind. Except this time it isn’t hiding behind France as it did in Libya but behind tiny Israel, who will face the risks of Iranian counter-attacks alone and under the threat of being cut off by its own ally. It is unlikely Israel can be convinced to back off by vague American promises of more negotiations or stepped up covert attacks. Neither plan offers much hope of success. That is why the Israelis may be on the verge of deciding to strike on their own.
Under these circumstances, Ignatius is right that Israel’s leaders probably feel they are better off on their own in this enterprise rather than being shackled by Obama. But with Iran once again vowing to destroy Israel, Netanyahu and Barak realize allowing Ayatollah Khamenei to have his finger on a nuclear trigger simply cannot be tolerated.Jonathan S. Tobin
For many liberals these days, defining religious liberty is more a matter of circumstance and fashion than principle. Thus, when a plan was put forward to build a Muslim community center and mosque in the shadow of New York’s Ground Zero, the mere expression of concern such a decision was insensitive to the victims and families of the 9/11 attacks was taken as a sign that opponents of the project sought to repeal the First Amendment. The right of prisoners to practice their faiths is often allowed to trump other concerns. The Supreme Court has made it imperative the government must have a compelling reason to impinge in any way on the right of believers to observe religious rights and customs. But this belief in the value of diversity only goes so far. Thus, when President Obama chooses to force Catholic institutions to pay for services for their employees that the principles of the Church forbid, the government’s abrogation of their religious freedom was seen by many of the same liberal commentators who applauded the ground zero mosque as being of no consequence.
That’s the conundrum the president’s anti-Catholic fiat exposed, and the reaction to it from much of our chattering classes is hardly encouraging for those who worry about the government’s willingness to trample on the rights of believers. One needn’t agree with the Vatican’s stand on contraception to understand that if the law regards the government health care agenda as being more sacred than the rights of Catholics not to be forced to subsidize practices they abhor, then the principle of religious liberty in our country truly is in danger.
That’s a conclusion many in our chattering classes refuse to accept. In noting the comments of Republican presidential candidates on the issue in an editorial today, the New York Times put the words “religious liberty” in quotes as if the mere notion that the church’s rights were imperiled was something of a joke.
The reason for this is no secret. For liberal secularists, church teachings about contraception are antiquated and contrary to the progressive spirit of the age. If the church thinks condoms and morning-after pills are wrong, then so much the worse for it. Their beliefs are to be suppressed largely because they are seen as wrong and therefore not worthy of protection let alone tolerance. The triumphal tone of many Church critics betrays a sense that a faith hierarchy that is seen as conservative and/or patriarchal is being put in its place.
Supporters of the president have tried to portray his decision as being made in defense of workers who are being deprived of essential health coverage. But this is a subterfuge. Health care plans vary. Anyone who views birth control benefits as necessary to their terms of employment need not work for a church institution. But the point of this measure is about a political agenda in which free contraception becomes a universal right, not the particular needs of individuals.
While liberals scoff at the idea Obama is waging a war on Catholics, there is little doubt the government’s refusal to accommodate the Church represents a clear choice about the legitimacy of its beliefs. As Politico notes in its analysis today, this may come back to haunt Obama in November as white working-class Catholics who voted for him in 2008 abandon his cause in 2012. But the more important point to be made here is if Catholic rights can be trampled in this fashion, so can those of other faiths even if their liberal adherents think they are untouched by this controversy. Religious liberty either exists for all or for none.Jonathan S. Tobin
Rather than settlements, one of the major obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians is the so-called “right of return.” By this euphemism, the Palestinians want to flood Israel with about 7 million immigrants who are the descendants, or alleged descendants, of the 600,000 Arabs who left their homes during Israel’s War of Independence. This would turn Israel into a bi-national state with an Arab majority. Except for a minority of post and anti-Zionist Israelis, even the most dovish members of the Israeli Left consider the “right of return” a non-starter.
While the Zionist Left generally pooh-poohs the “right of return” as a mere rhetorical tool in which the Palestinians themselves don’t actually believe, the fact is that the Palestinian refusal to give in on that issue is what caused the rejection of Barak and Olmert’s peace proposals. Moreover, neither Arafat nor Abbas ever tried to educate their people into admitting that the “right of return” is unrealistic; on the contrary: both leaders have made the “right of return” a central tenet of Palestinian nationalism and an issue whose abandonment is an act of high treason.
The fantasy of the “right of return” is kept alive and indeed nurtured by UNWRA, the United Nations Agency created in 1949 to handle the issue of Palestinian refugees. There are two main reasons why UNWRA is perpetuates and even aggravates the “Palestinian refugee problem.”
First, the mandate of UNWRA (as opposed to the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR) is not to integrate refugees into their host countries but to support them and to subsidize their lives as second-class citizens in camps.
Second, UNWRA applies the definition of “refugees” to the descendants of the refugees, while UNHCR limits this definition to the refugees themselves. Hence has the world’s number of refugees decreased from 60 million in 1947 to 17 million today, while the number of “Palestinian refugees” has increased from 600,000 in 1948 to 7 million today.
UNWRA is thus a major obstacle to peace. Had UNHCR been in charge of Palestinian refugees (UNHCR handles all the world refugees except Palestinian refugees), the issue would have been solved a while ago.
First, were Palestinian refugees defined as such according to UNHCR criteria, about 100,000 Palestinian refugees would still be around today, most of them elderly. Second, UNWRA collaborates with the discriminatory policies of countries such as Lebanon and Jordan, who deny them citizenship and jobs, by subsidizing the confinement of Palestinian refugees in camps instead of integrating them into countries with which they have no language, ethnic, and religious differences.
Dismantling UNWRA and transferring the fate of the remaining actual Palestinian refugees to UNHCR would thus remove a major obstacle to peace.
The EU has just decided to do the very opposite by granting UNWRA a €72 million donation. This decision is not only an affront to the Palestinian refugees themselves, since it contributes to the perpetuation of their status of segregated and pauperized minorities among their Arab brothers. It is also an affront to the cause of peace. The EU, in effect, has just signed a big check that will fund a major obstacle to peace.
While the EU did somewhat realize the Kantian vision of democratic peace within its borders (although with a little help from the United States, whose army protected Europe from the Soviet Union during the Cold War), Europe’s contribution to peace outside of the Old Continent’s borders has been dismal. From Rwanda to the former Yugoslavia, the EU has been powerless at best and part of the problem at worst. T
he EU (formerly EEC) promoted the PLO in the 1970s and did not welcome the Camp David Agreements of 1979. Although the Oslo Agreements were technically not made in the EU (Norway is not a EU member), the European recipe for peace in the Middle East has failed miserably and tragically.
The EU’s recent decision to fund UNWRA belongs to a long history of counter-productive efforts. But, mostly, it confirms the fact that the EU is an obstacle to peace in the Middle-East.Dr. Emmanuel Navon teaches at Tel-Aviv University's Abba Eban Graduate Program for Diplomacy Studies
With 74 dead and more than 1000 injured in a preventable soccer riot in Port Said on Sunday, Egypt's activists took to the streets of Cairo and other cities, using the tragedy as an excuse to protest against military rule.
Addressing angry lawmakers in parliament, the military-appointed prime minister said senior security chiefs in Port Said and the city's governor had been suspended and the soccer federation's board had been sacked. But he disappointed those seeking tougher steps, such as sacking the interior minister.
Young men blocked roads in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square in protest, and a crowd gathered at the city's main rail station hoping to see relatives returning from the game in Port Said, a city at the mouth of the Suez Canal on the Mediterranean coast.
As bodies from Egypt's worst soccer disaster were unloaded from trains, covered by blankets, thousands chanted "Down with military rule."
"Where is my son?" screamed Fatma Kamal, whose frantic phone calls seeking news of her 18-year-old had gone unanswered. "To hell with the football match ... Give me back my boy."
At least 1,000 people were injured in the violence on Wednesday evening when soccer fans invaded the pitch after local team al-Masry beat visitors from Cairo's Al Ahli, the most successful football club in Africa.
Hundreds of al-Masry supporters surged across the pitch to the visitors' end and panicked Ahli fans dashed for the exit. But the steel doors were bolted shut and dozens were crushed to death in the stampede, witnesses said.
"I suddenly heard a commotion and ran to the door to find people getting crushed ... with their legs stuck in between the iron bars," said Ahmed Moustafa Ali, an electrician employed at the stadium who witnessed the incident.
"The doors were locked because the rules stipulate that we don't let fans leave at the same time," he said.
The gate lay broken outside the ground. Under it lay a pool of blood and shoes were scattered around. The front page of one Egyptian newspaper declared "A Massacre in Port Said."
I suppose one could stretch the point and blame the military government for the stupidity and criminal negligence of stadium officials, but that matters less than the activists who are using the tragedy to promote their political agenda. In the midst of all the finger pointing and blame making, one would think that measures would be announced that might prevent such a tragedy in the future. No such announcement has been forthcoming as the government would rather sack anyone remotely connected to soccer or the town the incident occurred than attempt to improve safety at soccer matches.
The Muslim world is threatened by religious fanaticism. The Western world is threatened by secular fanaticism.
Both seek to dominate society and to use state power to do so. Both seek to eliminate the Other — for Islamic fanatics, that means non-Muslim religions and secularism; for secular fanatics, it means Christianity and virtually any public invoking of God. The Islamists impose Sharia law; the American Civil Liberties Union and the left generally impose secular law. The Taliban wiped out public vestiges of Buddhism in Afghanistan; the ACLU and its allies seek to wipe out public vestiges of Christianity in America — as it did, for example, in Los Angeles County, when it successfully pressured the County Board of Supervisors to remove the tiny cross from the county seal. A city and county founded by Catholics — hence the name “The Angels” — was forced to stop commemorating its founders because they were religious.
This fanaticism has been on display most recently in the state of Rhode Island. This past Christmas, the governor, Lincoln Chafee, renamed the state Christmas tree a “holiday tree.” Though Christmas is a national holiday, for the secular fanatic, anything Christian — or, as we shall see, anything that relates to religion or God — must be banned from public life.
The latest expression of the secular equivalent of Islamism is the lawsuit brought against a Rhode Island high school, Cranston High School West, for allowing a banner, written by a seventh grader in 1963, to remain hanging on one of the school walls. An atheist student, along with the ACLU, brought the lawsuit and a judge ruled that it is unconstitutional for it to hang in a public school.
To appreciate how fanatical the student, the ACLU and the ruling are, you have to know the words on the banner. So here they are:
Our Heavenly Father
Grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers, to be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
The idea that this prayer violates the Constitution of the United States is as much a mockery of the Constitution as it is of common sense. Only a fanatic can welcome the removal of such a non-denominational, sweet, moral exhortation from a high school wall. America is indeed as endangered by the ACLU as the Muslim world is by Islamists.Defenders of the judge’s decision point to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1962 banning state-mandated prayer in public schools. The parallel is invalid. No student is asked, let alone compelled, to state what is on the Rhode Island high school banner. But arguments citing the Supreme Court ruling serve only to confirm my argument: that secular fanaticism has been taking over America. The New York State prayer that the Warren Court outlawed 50 years ago was as non-sectarian, as morally uplifting and as inoffensive as the Rhode Island prayer.
Here is it is in its entirety:
“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”
After reading that one sentence, it is intellectually dishonest to maintain that the Warren court’s decision was not an expression of fanaticism. One would have to deny that there could even be any such thing as secular fanaticism. Indeed, if it could have, the Warren Court would have declared the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional for its citing the Creator.
It is no wonder, then, that Alaska Airlines announced last week that it would no longer dispense along with meals its famous little cards with a verse from Psalms.
There are Americans who think that we are a better society without a state Christmas tree, and without high school students seeing a prayer to be kind human beings, and without the Alaska Airlines attempt to elevate American life in a small — and, again, non-denominational — way.
But the Islamist thinks he is improving Muslim life, too, of course.Dennis Prager