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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘debate’

Nothing Legitimate about Antisemitic Slur

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Former British foreign secretary Jack Straw is pleading innocent. Called out for comments made during a Round Table Global Diplomatic Forum held at the House of Commons last week, Straw insists that there’s nothing anti-Semitic about raising points that he says are merely matters of genuine concern.

As the Times of Israel reported, former Labor Party Knesset member Einat Wilf, who took part in the debate, described Straw’s presentation in the following manner:

Wilf participated in the debate and posted some of what she said were Straw’s comments on her Facebook page, saying she nearly fell off her chair when she heard them: “Listing the greatest obstacles to peace, he said ‘unlimited’ funds available to Jewish organizations and AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the region and that Germany’s ‘obsession’ with defending Israel were the problem. I guess he neglected to mention Jewish control of the media….”

The British politician is right when he says criticizing Israel’s policies is not anti-Semitic. But, like many others who want to bash Israel without being branded as Jew-haters, he crossed a very important line when he injected traditional anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish money and insidious attempts to control the policy discussion into the question of how best to advance the cause of peace.

That’s why someone like Wilf, who opposes the Netanyahu government, was so outraged. In doing so, he not only demonstrated ignorance of how American politics works as well as insensitivity to Israel’s position, but also showed the way disagreements with the Jewish state quickly morph into conspiracy theories that are thinly veiled new versions of traditional myths about Jews.

While Straw is neither the first nor the last member of Parliament or prominent Briton to play this game, the fact that someone who was a former foreign minister would not only feel free to vent this nasty stuff, but also think there’s nothing wrong with it, tells you all you need to know about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe.

As for Straw’s charges, they are easily dismissed. Contrary to the Walt-Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theory thesis, the vast, wall-to-wall bipartisan coalition that supports the Jewish state is a function of American public opinion, not Jewish money.

As frustrating as it may be for Israel’s critics, support for Zionism is baked into the DNA of American politics and is primarily the function of religious attitudes as well as the shared values of democracy that unite the U.S. and Israel.

Other lobbies (oil interests, pharmaceuticals, et al) have far more money. Hard as it is for some people to accept, the reason why American politicians back Israel’s democratically elected government is because opposing them is bad politics as well as bad policy.

Making such accusations is offensive rather than just wrong because, as Straw knows very well, talking about Jewish money buying government policy is straight out of the anti-Semitic playbook of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The purpose of such claims is not to argue that Israel’s supporters are misguided so much as that they are illegitimate.

That Straw is similarly frustrated with German refusals to try and hammer the Israelis is equally appalling. Germany’s government has, contrary to Straw’s comment, often been highly critical of Israel, but if officials in Berlin have some sensitivity to Israel’s position as a small, besieged nation it is because they understand that the underlying factor that drives hostility to Zionism is the same anti-Semitism that drove the Holocaust.

But the main point to be gleaned from this story is the way Straw has illustrated just how mainstream anti-Semitic attitudes have become in contemporary Britain. It is entirely possible that Straw thinks himself free from prejudice. But that is only possible because in the intellectual and political circles in which he and other members of the European elite move, these ideas have gone mainstream rather than being kept on the margins as they are in the United States.

The ease with which Western European politicians invoke these tired clichés about Jewish power and money is a reflection of the way attitudes have changed in the last generation as the memory of the Holocaust fades and people feel empowered to revive old hate. Chalk it up to the prejudices of intellectuals, especially on the left, as well as to the growing influence of Muslim immigrants who have brought the Jew-hatred of their home countries with them.

Straw may not be alone in not liking the Netanyahu government, but he can’t get out off the hook for the anti-Semitic rationale for his views that he put forward. The pity is, he’s speaking for all too many Europeans when he speaks in this manner.

The Rise of Israel’s Words Warriors

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Yarmulkes off to Secretary of State John Kerry who pushed back against the repellent nauseating comments of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who had said, at a U.N.-organized conference in Vienna (where else?) on February 27, that Zionism was a crime against humanity. Kerry said that United States found his comments “objectionable.”

Erdogan has said far worse. In 2010 he offered this nugget: “Even bullies, pirates and criminals have a code of honor. But for those who have none, it would be a compliment to call them names.” And last November he accused Israel of state terrorism and of an “attempt at ethnic cleansing.” But Kerry’s condemnation is essentially the first time Erdogan has been called on his disgusting remarks.

There is a reason.

The current thinking of the State of Israel and its allies worldwide is that the Jewish state must embrace whatever friends it can find in whatever form they take. And if those ‘friends’ offer outrageous oral attacks, just sweep it under the rug. Verbal assault? Water off a duck’s back. What matters is what people do, not what they say. Erdogan has to cater to his constituents at home. He’s got to serve up fresh meat in order to remain popular. Turn the other cheek to his insults. Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, who called Jews “apes and pigs” in an Egyptian television interview in 2010, has to cater to the Arab street. He hasn’t gone to war to reverse the Camp David accords, right? So never mind what he says. Don’t respond or things will escalate.

I remember how Israel and world Jewry adopted this posture with Yasser Arafat after he signed the Oslo accords. Here was a man who had ostensibly made peace with Israel. But that did not stop him from regularly speaking of “the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation and the Israeli crimes” (CNN Interview, 2002). At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2001, Israel’s partner in peace said that the Jewish state was engaged in a “savage and barbaric war” against the Palestinians. He later spoke of Israel using “blatant and fascist military aggression against our Palestinian people” (The New York Times). Most significantly, he declared in July 2008 that Palestinian men, women, children would fight until Judgment Day, when the Palestinians will take over Jerusalem as their capital.

Err… it may sound like war. But he wasn’t openly calling for hurling bombs at buses, correct? So he remained kosher.

But it is my strong opinion that overlooking incendiary rhetoric is exactly what led to the global delegitimization of Israel from which we suffer so severely today. The Jewish State is trapped not only in a war of bombs and missiles but primarily in a war of verbs and words. Its major defenses can no longer include just tanks and helicopter gunships but eloquence, articulateness and factual fluency.

How did Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy, which respects the rights of women, gays, and everyone in-between, become one of the most maligned and hated nations on earth? How is it possible that Israel retains, in a global poll of citizens of 22 countries conducted by Globescan, the same negative rating as North Korea (50) and is seen more negatively then even Iran, which stones women to death?

The answer is that Israel has paid lip service to the verbal assault against its reputation for decades. Israeli hasbarah has been a monumental failure not because Israel cannot enunciate but because it failed to understand the importance of words. While Israel was developing advanced radar and the Iron Dome defensive shield, the Arabs were unleashing a global army of articulate spokespeople on campuses, the BBC, and CNN. Arab leaders who were Israel’s ostensive allies were criticizing Israel daily at the U.N. It did not take long before Israel – defenseless and silent – became one of the great pariah nations of the world.

And the only way to combat now and reverse the growing delegitimization it is to create an army of words warriors who employ the power of spoken truth to champion Israel’s cause.

First, we must create an institute, an advanced scholarship, where young Jewish leaders will be trained to become charismatic spokespeople of the Jewish community and defenders of Israel worldwide. The institute would provide real-world media training, debate preparation, broadcasting, op-ed writing, and rhetoric in an effort to create the most charismatic spokespeople for Israel and a new generation of global champions of the Jewish cause. It is the objective of This World: The Jewish Values Network, to create this institute in the near future.

Dani Dayan, Caroline Glick Debate the Yesha Communities Issue

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

I mentioned the debate here.

Here’s Dayan speaking:

Caroline Glick’s words can be found here at the 49th minute or so.

Here’s what she wrote about the experience:

…in one particularly ugly segment, Levy made the scurrilous accusation that Israel systematically steals land from the Palestinians. Both Dayan and I demanded that he provide just one example of his charge. And the audience raged against us for our temerity at insisting that he provide substantiation for his baseless allegation. In the event, he failed to substantiate his allegation.

At another point, I was asked how I defend the Nazi state of Israel. When I responded by among other things giving the Nazi pedigree of the Palestinian nationalist movement founded by Nazi agent Haj Amin el Husseini and currently led by Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas, the crowd angrily shouted me down.

I want to note that the audience was made up of upper crust, wealthy British people, not unwashed rabble rousers. And yet they behaved in many respects like a mob when presented with pro-Israel positions…

I was prepared to conduct a civilized debate based on facts and reasoned argumentation. I expected it to be a difficult experience. I was not expecting to be greeted by a well-dressed mob. My pessimism about Europeans’ capacity to avail themselves to reasoned, fact-based argumentation about Israel has only deepened from the experience.

Visit My Right Word.

After Obama’s Victory, Jews Focus On U.S.-Israel Relations

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Capping a race that on a national level was largely defined by the economy but in the Jewish community turned into an extended debate over which candidate would steer the best course for U.S.-Israel relations, President Barack Obama defeated Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Tuesday to earn a second term.

Obama, who as of Wednesday morning had garnered 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206 and was ahead in the popular vote 50-48 percent, took 69 percent of the Jewish vote, according to a CNN exit poll, representing a nine-point drop from the 78 percent he won in 2008.

National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David A. Harris, speaking exclusively with JNS after major television networks called the race for Obama on Tuesday night, said he “and the clear majority of American Jews” are “reassured by having President Obama in office for another four years.”

“The president has a stellar pro-Israel record,” Harris said. “The facts speak for themselves. Whether it’s missile defense or some of the closest [U.S.-Israel] security cooperation ever, or heralding an era of isolating Iran like never before, I see…the close cooperation between the United States and Israel continuing into and through the next four years during what’s a crucial period for Israel’s security.”

The recent course of the U.S.-Israel relationship, however, has also included disagreements between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on how to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat, with Obama refusing to set the “red lines” for U.S. military action that Netanyahu has requested; in one television interview he called those demands “noise.”

Just a day before the election, the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot reported that senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett has been leading secret talks with Iran for several months. That story followed a New York Times story last month that said the U.S. had agreed to direct negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program for the time – a report denied first by the White House, then by Obama himself in the third presidential debate.

Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, told JNS that Obama’s win will mean “probably four years of ongoing tension with the government of Israel, which is likely to be led by the same person [Netanyahu] with whom Obama is engaged in a long-term feud” – including tension on Iran, especially if Obama approves an Iranian deal brokered by Jarrett.

However, Tobin acknowledged that the “infrastructure of the [U.S.-Israel] alliance isn’t going anywhere.”

Netanyahu congratulated Obama on his victory by saying in a statement, “The strategic alliance between Israel and the U.S. is stronger than ever. I will continue to work with President Obama in order to assure the interests that are vital to the security of the citizens of Israel.”

While Israel was a widely debated election issue in the Jewish community, “American Jews are first and foremost Americans, and like other Americans they are concerned very much about the economy and jobs,” Harris said, calling that “the president’s number one priority today and immediately.”

The battle for the Jewish vote was hotly contested in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) running a $5 million “Buyer’s Remorse” television advertising campaign in those states that featured Jews who supported Obama in 2008 but regretted that decision. RJC’s advertising in swing states – which also included “Obama…Oy Vey!!” billboards in South Florida – totaled $6.5 million.

Rabbi David Steinhardt of B’nai Torah Congregation in Boca Raton, Fla., said election season was “a very, very challenging period of time and a very difficult campaign.” In his congregation, however, Steinhardt said “people were really respectful of each other in the conversation, surprisingly so, looking at how things began.” Steinhardt said much of the pro-Obama sentiment in his community was “quiet support,” as opposed to the more aggressive approach of Romney supporters during the race.

As far as the U.S.-Israel relationship is concerned, Steinhardt believes “the policies will remain pretty consistent as to what they have been.” He said Israel “can depend on the United States as an ally in what takes place moving forward.”

Rabbi Misha Zinkow of Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, recalled the intense campaign in his state.

UK Columnist Admits: ‘Anti-Semitism Plays a Some Role in Hostility Towards Israel’

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

There are two things Glenn Greenwald and I have in common – which is two more than I realized only an hour ago.

He has the flu, according to his latest ‘Comment is Free’ post, and I have flu-like symptoms due to a recent ill-advised flu shot.

The other more substantive commonality pertains to one acknowledgement in his post – one of seven miscellaneous observations by the Guardian’s new U.S. blogger.

In the context of complaining about the alleged recent smearing of Matt Stoller (former Democratic staffer and MSNBC producer) as a racist, Greenwald pivoted to make a broader point:

“There are few things more reckless and disgusting than publicly smearing someone as a racist – easily one of the worst things you can say about someone in America, for very good reason – purely for partisan gain. That’s especially true when you are well aware that you have no basis for the accusation.

For years, neocons did the same thing with “anti-Semitism” charges. They seized on a real and serious problem – anti-Semitism – and converted it into an exploitative, opportunistic weapon to punish those who deviated from their political views, particularly on Israel. The worst part of that behavior – aside from ruining people’s reputations by casting them as bigots without any cause – is that it dilutes the power of that term and makes it no longer effective to use when it actually appears.

That is precisely what spouting knowingly baseless accusations of racism achieves. Obviously, racism plays a substantial role in motivating some of the hostility toward the first African-American president, just as anti-Semitism plays a role in some hostility toward Israel. That’s precisely why it’s so vital to avoid casually exploiting those terms for gross partisan opportunism: because people will stop taking the terms seriously when they genuinely arise.

Few things are lowlier than tossing around those accusations purely to discredit someone for partisan gain. It happens often, but this case is particularly egregious given the accuser’s admissions in the comment section combined with the total lack of retraction or correction by that blog.

While I was shocked to read Greenwald acknowledge that “anti-Semitism plays a role in some hostility toward Israel”, I gather from his additional complaint about those who “exploit” the term “anti-Semitism” to “discredit” people that he may have been stung by criticism about his own record of advancing Judeophobic narratives concerning ‘dual loyalty’ and the danger of ‘Jewish power’.

I’ll leave you with a brief selection of quotes by Greenwald and you can judge for yourself if he has been unfairly smeared as a commentator who subscribes to anti-Semitic calumnies. (These quotes were documented in a report I wrote about antisemitism on progressive blogs for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in 2010.)

* “So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the US Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”
* “Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”
* “The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”
* “The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country; and that results in serious cost and harm to the United States. In doing so, they insure not only that our policies towards Israel remain firmly in place no matter the outcome of our elections, but also that those policies remain beyond the realm of what can be questioned or debated by those who want to have a political future.”
* “Anyone who has argued that a desire to protect Israeli interests plays too large of a role in our foreign policy has been subjected to some of the most vicious and relentless smears. Ask Juan Cole about that, or John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Those tactics have, as intended, prevented a substantive debate on this question, as most people have feared even approaching the topic.”
* “If you don’t…pledge your loyalty to our policies toward Israel and to Israel, what will happen to you is what just happened to Charles Freeman. You’ll be demonized and have your career ended.”
* “It is simply true that large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a US war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”
* “The dominant narrative among neocons and the media is that, deep down in his heart, [Obama] may be insufficiently devoted to Israel to be president of the United States. Has there ever been another country to which American politicians were required to pledge their uncritical, absolute loyalty the way they are, now, with Israel?”
* “[Charles] Freeman is being dragged through the mud by the standard cast of accusatory Israel-centric neocons (Marty Peretz, Jon Chait, Jeffrey Goldberg, Commentary, The Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb, etc. etc., etc.).”

Glenn, the floor is yours.

Visit Cifwatch.com.

Romney Stumbles on Foreign Policy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The final presidential debate focused disproportionately on the Middle East. Four of the six segments were on the Middle East, just two on other topics (one about the U.S. role in the world, the other about China). Egypt was mentioned 11 times, Libya 12 times, Iraq 22 times, Pakistan 25 times, Syria 28 times, Afghanistan 30 times, Israel 34 times, and Iran 47 times. In contrast, the European crisis got no mention, nor did India, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, or Australia.

Barack Obama has a weak record in the Middle East, but one would not learn this from the debate, where Mitt Romney praised Obama’s achievements (“It’s wonderful that Libya seems to be making some progress”), agreed with Obama more than he disagreed, and rarely pointed out his failings. Presumably, Romney took this mild approach to establish his likability, competence, and suitability to serve as commander-in-chief.

When asked about Egypt, Romney digressed to the need for a strong U.S. economy. When asked about American’s role in the world, he touted the achievements of 4th graders in Massachusetts during his governorship. Perhaps his recurring emphasis on the economy will win over the elusive undecideds, but it left this viewer frustrated.

The Libya topic was Romney’s great surprise and his missed opportunity. Asked a softball question about the mistakes made in the aftermath of the attack on Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, he talked about better education, gender equality and other worthy goals – but ignored the opportunity to establish that the Obama administration is not only inept but engaged in fabrications. Most agonizingly, Romney congratulated Obama for taking out Osama bin Laden without noting that this did limited good, for Al-Qaeda still had the ability to attack and kill Americans in Benghazi.

In terms of policy, Obama made statements about Iran worthy of note: “As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. … A nuclear Iran is a threat to our national security, and it is a threat to Israel’s national security. … We are going to take all options necessary to make sure [the Iranians] don’t have a nuclear weapon.” Oddly, Romney replied with a detailed program of actions (such as indicting Ahmedinejad under the Genocide Convention) but did not make parallel statements of intent.

Like senators who vote leftwards for six years but then campaign as moderates during election season, Obama presented himself in this and the other debates as profoundly different from the president he has been. Someone not versed in his ideology and his record would not realize his distaste for a powerful United States. He sounded like a nationalist, making punchy patriotic statements (“I said if I got bin Laden in our sights I would take that shot”), speaking with a smooth eloquence, and showing himself at ease and in control. The question is, how many people will be fooled by this performance? (October 22, 2012)

Oct. 23, 2012 update: Having been criticized by some for my response to the 2nd debate, it might be useful to explain what I am and am not doing in these analyses.

* Although sympathetic to Romney, I am not flacking for his campaign. I write to express my sincere opinion and assume that readers want that from me.

* My opinions focus on the Middle East dimension of the debate, rather than its possible impact on the presidential race. Perhaps this debate stopped Romney’s momentum, perhaps it did not; that is not my topic.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org and the National Review Online, The Corner October 22, 2012 and updated on October 23. 

Romney’s Plan to Lose the Little Contest and Win the Big One

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

As I was watching the battle proceed before my astonished eyes, with Mitt Romney touting so many of the President’s policies and actually confirming what so many of us know are half truths mixed with wishful thinking, if not outright lies, it occurred to me that someone back on the Romney bus decided not to win last night, but to shoot for a different target. The more the conversation unfolded, the more I understood how such a strategy could have been conceived.

It comes down to keeping your eyes on the prize. You’re the come-from-behind candidate, you’ve won a decisive opener and either won the second debate by points or lost by points, depending on who’s writing the review. You’re tied in the national polls, but still behind in most swing states. Now comes the third debate, and it’s about foreign policy, which means the president has all the best cards, because he understands foreign policy, because his record is mixed—not a complete disaster—and because he killed Bin Laden after you said it wasn’t worth the effort (it really wasn’t, but who’s listening).

The only way to win this debate would have been by attacking the president brutally, confronting him on every fact, cutting into every statement he makes, causing him to lose his footing and to look like a fool. It could be done, and I’m sure many of you watching at home were heckling the living daylights out of Romney for not grabbing all those golden opportunities – but I think he was smart not to. I think the guys on the bus were right. Because Romney could easily have come across as a mean spirited Nixon-like figure, beating on the poor president.

By staying away from the rough and tumble of the first debate, Candidate Romney reached a status equal to that of the man next to him on the split-screens: they both looked ready for office. And that was huge.

Remember, both candidates were really playing for the relatively narrow sliver of independents in swing states. Romney is pushing hard there, gaining on Obama in Pennsylvania, which used to be considered a sure Democratic state only in August and even September. He is ahead in Florida, but he’s still behind in Ohio. Romney has to take Ohio – and he won’t take it by winning on points in a foreign policy debate. He can win Ohio by looking so presidential, you could imagine him on a U.S. postage stamp.

That’s what the guys on the bus told their boss to go for tonight, and, with some hesitation, he followed their orders. It makes no difference now whether or not the pundits will say (as they have done already) that this was a win for Obama. Because there’s one thing Obama couldn’t deny his opponent tonight – respectability. No matter how Obama tried, he couldn’t push Romney so far out to the right he would lose his appeal to the independents.

Bob Schieffer of CBS News started with Libya, and Romney described the troubles associated with the Arab spring. We’ll have to develop a new, comprehensive strategy to combat the negative changes in the Middle East, he suggested.

You would have expected him to start right off the bat with a tirade about how both the president and Ms. Crowley have lied in the last debate about the spirit of what Obama had said regarding Benghazi. But, in retrospect, Romney’s taking the high road was a good strategic step.

Obama recounted his record as president, keeping Americans safe, decimating Al Qaeda, ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He compared the liberation of Libya without boots on the ground to the costly other two wars, saying Libyans now support America. He accused Romney’s strategy of being “all over the map.”

Romney attacked some of Obama’s delusions, but never even got close to a body blow.

Schieffer asked Obama about Syria. Can we influence events there?

Obama mentioned that the U.S. has organized the international community in saying Assad has to go. The U.S. has mobilized sanctions, isolated the government, mobilized humanitarian aid and supported the moderate forces within Syria.

Seriously? We are supporting the Syrian moderates? Those moderates who are taking out whole city blocks with their car bombs? Is the president actually suggesting there are good guys and bad guys in Syria?

Then Obama said that, ultimately, Syria will have to determine its own future. The U.S. is cooperating with Israel and Turkey, its two friends who are next door to Syria. And he opposed giving heavy weapons to the opposition, as he claimed Romney had suggested.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/romneys-plan-to-lose-the-little-contest-and-win-the-big-one/2012/10/23/

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