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Five years ago this week, the Monitor learned firsthand just how the mere mention of Richard Nixon is enough to turn even the most mild-mannered of liberals into screaming viragos. In that particular case, the words about Nixon that so provoked them - their tortured heads no doubt filled with the sounds of werewolves howling and fingernails scratching blackboards - appeared not in this column but in a front-page essay for this paper penned by your humble scribbler.
A reader responding to last week's column concerning Commentary magazine's symposium on President Obama, Israel, and American Jews, cautioned that such endeavors be taken with more than the proverbial grain of salt, since even the brightest of minds can fail to see what lies ahead, particularly when the subject is as volatile and unpredictable as U.S. Mideast policy or the Arab-Israeli conflict in general.
The Monitor never much cared for Martin Indyk during the latter’s service in a variety of diplomatic roles (including ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state) for President Bill Clinton. He seemed to be the very embodiment of the Clinton foreign-policy mindset that had as its centerpiece the pursuit of a nebulous Middle East “peace process” and the elevation of Yasir Arafat to statesmanlike status.
Several years ago the Monitor recommended a bunch of books on U.S. presidents and the Middle East. The following is an updated and expanded listing for anyone interested in filling some hours during the upcoming Pesach holiday that otherwise would be spent sitting in a hotel lobby or zoning out on the couch at home.
When Gen. David Petraeus was portrayed last month as having made statements suggesting that America’s support of Israel was imperiling the lives of U.S. soldiers, the usual anti-Israel suspects had a field day on blogs and websites. Turns out, though, that the general didn’t quite say what was being attributed to him.
Thomas Friedman, who in the past has written of American officials being held “under house arrest” in the White House by an Israeli prime minister, used a crass Yad Vashem metaphor to describe Israel, and viewed Menachem Begin’s pride in things Jewish as “his pornography” (more on those statements later), is at it again, this time likening Israeli leaders to dangerously inebriated motorists.
Joseph Farah the founder and editor of WorldNetDaily, is so solidly and unashamedly pro-Israel that he’s developed something approaching a cult following among pro-Israel Jews. (Yes, “pro-Israel Jews” – it has, unfortunately, become necessary to make that distinction.)
Last week the Monitor, noting the publication of a new collection of essays from the tendentious post-Zionist historian Avi Shlaim, reflected on the damage inflicted by post-Zionism on Israel’s international reputation and, more important, Israel’s collective consciousness.
Howard Zinn, a Marxist polemicist who masqueraded as a historian, died on January 27 at age 87. The Brooklyn-born Zinn was professor emeritus of political science at Boston University and the author of a number of books, but it was his A People’s History of the United States (1980) that more than anything else made him the darling of the media and Hollywood Left.
C-SPAN often teeters on the brink of self-parody, particularly when the hosts of its interview programs stare impassively at the camera while yet another crazed caller recites chapter and verse of the latest conspiracy theories involving the Trilateral Commission 9/11 being an “inside job” or the Bush family's Nazi/Saudi/Zionist/ KGB/CIA ties (choose one or more and don't think twice about any seeming contradictions).
Turns out there are real questions about the accuracy of a Quinnipiac poll showing President Obama’s approval rating has fallen to just 52 percent among Jewish voters. As the JTA’s Eric Fingerhut pointed out in a front-page story in last week’s Jewish Press, the Jewish sampling “was derived from a sample of just 71 respondents, for a margin of error of plus or minus 11.6 percent – a sample size that pollsters generally say makes such surveys unreliable.”
Last week the Monitor noted that, contrary to popular perception, mainstream media bias against Israel is not something that developed as a result of Israel’s allegedly intransigent negotiating posture, or of Israel’s supposedly disproportional response to terrorist provocation, or of the ascension to power of so-called hard line prime ministers.
With the proliferation over the past several years of websites and blogs spotlighting anti-Israel media bias, it’s not surprising that some of the Monitor’s younger readers harbor the misimpression that the bias is only as old as the Internet age itself – that prior to, say, 1995 or 1996 Israel received favorable, or at least fair, press coverage.
Not since John Podhoretz’s 1993 Hell of a Ride, a hilarious yet depressing account of working in the George H.W. Bush administration, has an insider political book satisfied as much as does Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor (Crown Publishers), Matt Latimer’s new, screamingly funny memoir of working as a congressional staffer and then as a speechwriter, first for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and later for President George W. Bush.
As the Monitor is only too aware, having received a fair number of admonishing e-mails on the subject, this column has disappointed at least some readers with what one called its “shameful silence” on the subject of William Safire in the weeks since the former New York Times columnist passed away in late September.
October 23 is a date the Monitor will always remember, and so should you. It was on that day in 1995 that Mayor Rudy Giuliani threw Yasir Arafat out of a UN event – and in so doing brought down upon himself the opprobrium of the Clinton administration, New York’s political elite, and not a few feckless Jewish “leaders.”
When the Monitor marked the recent anniversary of Peter Jennings’s passing with a column about an embarrassing incident in the ABC newsman’s career, a couple of readers chastised your gentle correspondent for speaking ill of the dead. So when Edward Kennedy died not long after, the Monitor decided to err on the side of decency and keep mum for an appropriate interval.
Beginning in 2005 the Monitor has awarded annual recognition to a Jewish individual who, by his or her statements, displays contempt for the Jewish people, disregard for historical truth, a desire to sup at the table of Israel’s enemies, or who otherwise plays into the hands of the enemies of Jews and Israel.
There is a widespread impression that prior to June 1967 Israel was beloved by American liberals, who turned lukewarm only when the Jewish state lost its underdog status. While most mainstream liberal politicians at the time were indeed pro-Israel, the same cannot be said for liberals in academia and in an often overlooked but influential source of elite opinion – the major Protestant denominations, which by the mid-1960's were almost uniformly leftist in their political orientation.