Thursday, October 31, 2013

We’re Not Fringe Kooks – We’re the Center! By Rush Limbaugh.

We’re Not Fringe Kooks – We’re the Center! By Rush Limbaugh., October 31, 2013.

Letters to Rush Revere and Liberty. By Rush Limbaugh., October 31, 2013.

To Understand Obama and the Democrats, You Must Understand Liberal Ideology. By Rush Limbaugh., October 30, 2013.

Katy Perry On the 180 That Saved Her Career.

Katy Perry On the 180 That Saved Her Career. Interviewed by Scott Simon. NPR, October 26, 2013.

Articles on the Katy Perry interview at: The Huffington Post; The Blaze; NY Daily News; Jezebel; The Frisky; The Inquisitr; The Atlantic.

SIMON: You’re so big among kids. You are, you know, to the 10-, 17-year-olds, I guess, what Bob Dylan was doing to, you know, a previous generation.
PERRY: I’ll take that comparison.
SIMON: Do you want to be something for them? Does it make you . . .
PERRY: Well, I think I like to be an inspiration. I think when you set out to be an artist, first and foremost – a musician, a rock ‘n’ roller – you don’t come with this kind of, like, hey, I also want to be a role model that, obviously, will let you down because I’m a human being. And a lot of people see me as a role model but I’d like to kind of turn that around and say I appreciate that but I’d like to be seen as an inspiration. Because a role model, I think, will fail you. I mean, I couldn’t tell kids when it’s time for them to try things or do things. I mean, that’s not my role. But, you know, it’s funny. I do see myself becoming this, whatever, inspiration out of default right now, ’cause it’s such a strange world. Like females in pop – everybody’s getting naked. I mean, I’ve been naked before but I don’t feel like I have to always get naked to be noticed. But it’s interesting to see . . .
SIMON: Are you talking about anyone in particular or we can fill in the blank?
PERRY: I’m not talking about anyone in particular. I’m talking about all of them. I mean, it’s like everybody’s so naked. It’s like put it away. We know you’ve got it. I got it too. I’ve taken it off for – I’ve taken it out here and there. And I’m not necessarily judging. I’m just saying sometimes it’s nice to play that card but also it’s nice to play other cards. And I know I have that sexy card in my deck but I don’t always have to use that card. And especially like with this new song called “Unconditionally” that’s on the record.

A Cultural Gulf Between Israel and Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

A Cultural Gulf Between Israel and Palestine. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, October 30, 2013.


Last night there was a big party in Ramallah. As the Times of Israel described it, the gathering at the Muqata, the Palestinian Authority’s government compound in the city, was festive as people gathered to welcome home 21 of the 26 convicted terrorist murderers who were set free by Israel this week as part of the deal that got the Palestinians to agree to peace talks. Loudspeakers blasted songs, friends and relatives of those released danced, and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas proudly held their hands aloft in a victory gesture.
By contrast, the mood in Israel was somber as the relatives of the people who had been killed by those treated as heroes in Ramallah mourned anew. The New York Times described the difference between the two reactions as “an emotional gulf” and that is, to some extent, certainly true. One group of people was happy as murderers went free while others wept. But the gulf here is more than emotional or merely, as the Times seemed to describe it, a difficult process that is part of the price Israel must pay for the chance of peace. In fact, the “emotional gulf” is indicative of a vast cultural divide between these two peoples that explains more about the absence of peace than any lecture about history, borders, or refugees. Simply put, so long as the Palestinians honor murderers, there is no reason to believe they are willing to end the conflict.
The accounts of the aftermath of the release sought to balance the embarrassing ceremony in Ramallah by highlighting the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the building of 1,500 apartments in Jerusalem. There’s no question that the move was motivated by a desire on Netanyahu’s part to pacify the anger felt by many of his supporters about the release of terrorists. Even members of his coalition called it cynical and they are probably right about that, even though they, like most Israelis, see nothing wrong with Israel building in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in their capital that would remain in the Jewish state even if there were a peace treaty that created a Palestinian state. Some would have preferred a building freeze to the disgrace of allowing the killers out of jail and that, too, is understandable.
But the lesson here isn’t so much about whether Netanyahu is playing political games or the false charge that building in Jerusalem is any way an obstacle to peace. It is that the two peoples in this conflict seem to be driven by values that are not merely at odds but which represent a gulf between civilizations.
The focus of Palestinian nationalism is not on building up their putative state, making it a better place to live, or even in creating a political process that would allow them to express their views freely. None of that was on display in Ramallah as a “president” serving the ninth year of the four-year term to which he was elected did his utmost to identify his political fortunes with people who had stabbed, shot, and blown up Jews in cold blood. Abbas did so because the political culture of the Palestinians still venerates the shedding of blood as the essential bona fides of any patriot. That is why terrorists are Palestinian heroes rather than shameful remnants of a violent past that is supposedly finished. He successfully demanded the release of the killers because that is something that makes him more popular.

Among Israelis, there is a debate about the wisdom of West Bank settlements even though few dispute the right of their country to build in any part of their capital. But Israelis don’t treat that tiny minority of Jews who have committed acts of lawless violence against Arabs as heroes. They are punished, not cheered. Until the same is true of the Palestinians, peace is nowhere in sight.

Do Churches Alienate Intellectuals? By Stephen Mattson.

Do Churches Alienate Intellectuals? By Stephen Mattson. Sojourners, October 29, 2013.

The Gods of the Market. By Micah Bales.

The Gods of the Market. By Micah Bales. Sojourners, October 30, 2013.

How British Colonialism Determined Whether Your Country Celebrates Halloween. By Max Fisher.

How British colonialism determined whether your country celebrates Halloween. By Max Fisher. Washington Post, October 31, 2013.

Business as Usual for Palestinian Incitement. By Nadav Shragai.

Business as Usual for Palestinian Incitement. By Nadav Shragai. Israel Hayom, October 29, 2013.

The PA’s Diplomatic Terror. By Guy Bechor.

The PA’s Diplomatic Terror. By Guy Bechor. Ynet News, October 26, 2013.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Immigration: A Bigger Problem Than You Think. By Walter Russell Mead.

Immigration: A Bigger Problem Than You Think. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, October 30, 2013.

When Class Trumps Identity. By Thomas B. Edsall.

When Class Trumps Identity. By Thomas B. Edsall. New York Times, October 29, 2013.

Bill de Blasio and the New Urban Populism. By Thomas B. Edsall. New York Times, October 22, 2013.

Israel Gets a Mixed Message on American Jews. By Shmuel Rosner.

Israel Gets a Mixed Message on American Jews. By Shmuel Rosner. New York Times, October 30, 2013.

A New Age in U.S.-Mideast Relations. By Rami G. Khouri.

A new age in U.S.-Mideast relations. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star (Lebanon), October 30, 2013.

The Hidden Secret of Gezer: A Pre-Solomonic City Beneath the Ruins. By Ran Shapira.

Solomonic Gate at Gezer. Avishai Teicher/Wikimedia.

Hidden secret of Gezer: A pre-Solomonic city beneath the ruins. By Ran Shapira. Haaretz, October 24, 2013. Also here.


Several pottery vessels, a cache of cylinder seals, and a large scarab with the cartouche of King Amenhotep III attest to the existence of a previously unknown Canaanite city in the land of Israel, archaeologists say. Where was it hiding? Underneath another Canaanite city – the famous ruins of Gezer.
The scarab and other artifacts were found this summer at a level dating from the Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE) in ancient Gezer, a major Canaanite city located along the strategic coastal highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The first signs that there was an unknown city lurking there were found by Dr. Steven Ortiz of the Tandy Institute for Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dr. Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who have directed the excavations at Gezer for six seasons. They believe the hidden city was destroyed during the Egyptian 18th Dynasty’s rule over the southern Levant, and the new Gezer was built on top of it.
Amenhotep III, by the way, was the father of the heretic King Akhenaten and also grandfather to Tutankhamun, whose fabulous tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon.

Enter Reshef, the Canaanite war god
In the late Bronze Age, circa 1400 BCE, Gezer, then the capital city in the region, was burned to the ground. Possibly it was another victim of the incessant internecine warfare between the Canaanite cities at the time, as described so evocatively in the well-known Tell el-Amarna correspondence.
It was while digging into the remains of this known devastation that the momentous discoveries were made.
The inhabitants of the proto-Gezer of 1400 BCE were clearly Canaanites, said Ortiz. But artifacts found at the site indicate strong ties with Egypt.
For instance, there is the small cylinder seal found at the site, just 2.5cm in height, bearing a rare image of the Canaanite god Reshef subduing his enemies.
Reshef, a central god in the Canaanite pantheon, was – inter alia – in charge of diseases, plagues and conflagrations. In the seal he is portrayed shooting an arrow from a big bow towards about ten rivals depicted in states of submission and fall.
Worship of Reshef was common in the New Kingdom of Egypt period, says Ornan – and the cylinder seal from Gezer shows clear Egyptian influence. The miniature depiction of the god is done in the style of the awe-inspiring Egyptian embossments that show triumphs of the pharaohs.
“The question is whether the Late Bronze Age Gezerites were supporters, or subjects, of the Egyptian 18th Dynasty,” says says Prof. Tallay Ornan of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University. “We know that during the 14th century BCE, the king of Gezer was responsible for various conflicts within the region. The Late Bronze Age destruction either represents an Egyptian campaign to subdue Gezer, or local Canaanites attacking an Egyptian stronghold at Gezer.”

That’s not a support system, that’s a city
Gezer lies between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The archaeological team, some 80 staff and students from the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Russia, Korea, and Hong Kong were removing a wall dating from later – the 10th century BCE, known as the Iron IIA period – and discerned a yet earlier city wall.
They had vaguely known the wall was there, but had thought it was a subterranean support system for the later Iron Age wall, Ortiz explains. “It became evident that our original interpretation was wrong,” he says. The lower wall had been built as much as 200 years earlier; the 10th century BCE wall had been built on top of it after the city's destruction by fire.
This earlier wall was one meter thick, and had several rooms attached to it. These rooms were filled with rubble nearly a meter in height, from catastrophic destruction. These earlier remains included shards from Canaanite storage jars, Philistine pottery and other items. A fragment of a Philistine figurine was also found.
Since Gezer was Canaanite, says Ortiz, the Philistine pottery either represents trade relations or a group of Philistines living among the Canaanites.

A city as dowry
As for the Egyptian influence, according to the biblical account, Gezer was conquered by an Egyptian pharaoh and was later given to Solomon as a wedding gift when the Israelite king married the pharaoh’s daughter.
Solomon is also recorded in the biblical account as having built walls around Gezer, as he did at Jerusalem, Hazor, and Megiddo, all sites currently under excavation. Excavations at Gezer have been regarded as a key to understanding and resolving the debate among biblical scholars and archaeologists regarding the appropriate chronology of events and ruling Israelite and Judahite kings.
Gezer is also famous for its massive ancient water-tunnel system, which is also currently under excavation. Last summer Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, chief archaeologist at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, said the water system at Gezer was the largest Canaanite water system found in the country. It includes a large entrance carved in bedrock. From there, a 50-meter tunnel runs at a 39-degree slope. The tunnel is 7 meters tall and 4 meters wide.
Tsuk and his colleagues, Jim Parker, Daniel Warner, and Dennis Cole of the Old Testament and Archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, believe the water system was built in the Middle Bronze Age IIB (1750-1550 BCE). But it fell out of use around 1300 BCE, based on pottery found at the end of last season’s work.

Gezer Excavations Uncover Previously Unknown Canaanite City. By Robin Ngo. Bible History Daily, October 28, 2013.

Biblical City Ruins Discovered Under Ruins of Another Ancient City in Israel. By Meredith Bennett-Smith. The Huffington Post, November 21, 2013.

The history beneath Solomon’s City. By Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, July 23, 2013.

Ancient City Discovered Beneath Biblical-Era Ruins in Israel. By Tia Ghose. LiveScience, November 16, 2013.

The backwards development of kingship in ancient Canaan. By Julia Fridman. Haaretz, October 21, 2013. Also here.

Discover Gezer, Israel’s lost city. By Aviva and Shmuel Bar-Am. The Times of Israel, October 5, 2013.

A New Gezer. By Todd Bolen. Bible Places Blog, June 28, 2006. 

Gezer Excavation Project website.

Replica of the Gezer Calendar

Gezer Revisited and Revised. By Israel Finkelstein. Tel Aviv, Vol. 29, No. 2 (September 2002).

Visiting the Real Gezer: A Reply to Israel Finkelstein. By William G. Dever. Tel Aviv, Vol. 30, No. 2 (September 2003).

The Emergence of Israel in the Twelfth and Eleventh Centuries B.C.E. By Volkmar Fritz. Translated by James W. Barker. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.

Tel Gezer. Video. Tim Bulkeley, October 19, 2008. YouTube.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Israel and Evangelical Christians. By Peter Wehner.

Israel and Evangelical Christians. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, October 28, 2013.

Evangelicals and Israel: What American Jews Don’t Want to Know (but Need to). By Robert W. Nicholson. Mosaic, October 2013.


Robert W. Nicholson has written a fascinating essay for Mosaic magazine titled “Evangelicals and Israel: What American Jews Don’t Want to Know (but Need to).” That essay, in turn, has generated commentaries by Wilfred McClay, Elliott Abrams, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and James Nuechterlein. Each of them has a somewhat different take on what Nicholson wrote; all are worth reading.
The Nicholson essay explores the explanation for Christian Zionism, locating it in eschatology for some Christians while in God’s eternal covenant with Israel for others. Mr. Nicholson argues that many evangelicals feel not only a strong sense of protectiveness toward the State of Israel but a deep cultural affinity with the Jewish people. But he also highlights the growing strength among evangelicals of what he calls a “new anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian movement.”
The latter is something I can testify to first-hand. Several years ago my wife and I left a Washington D.C. church we were members of over what I came to discover was a deep, though previously hidden-from-view, hostility to Israel. The more I probed the matter, the more disturbing it was, to the point that I didn’t feel we could continue to worship there in good conscience. So we left, despite two of our children having been baptized there and despite having developed strong attachments to the church and many of its congregants over the years.
Mr. Nicholson does an excellent job explaining the rise of pro-Palestinian sentiment among some segments of American evangelicalism. The basis for this movement rests in part on the belief that Israel is a nation whose very founding in 1947 was illegitimate and immoral; since then, it is said, Israel has become an enemy of justice and peace. Authentic Christianity therefore requires one to embrace the pro-Palestinian narrative, or so this line of argument goes. “The bottom line is simply this,” writes Nicholson. “More and more evangelicals are being educated to accept the pro-Palestinian narrative – on the basis of their Christian faith.”
As for my own attitudes toward the Jewish state, I find myself closely aligned to the view of Nuechterlein. “In the present instance,” he writes, “one need not depend on biblical prophecy or covenantal theology to find reasons to support the state of Israel.”
Israel has the only truly democratic political culture in the Middle East. It is a friend of the West in politics and political economy, and, more important, a consistent and unswerving ally of the United States. It is a regional bulwark against the radical Islamists who are its and America’s sworn enemies. The more I see of the populist Arab spring, the stronger is my commitment to Israel. I support Israel not because I am a Christian—though nothing in my Christian beliefs would preclude that support—but because that support coincides with the requirements of justice and the defense of the American national interest.
That strikes me as quite right. In a region filled with despots and massive violations of human rights, Israel is the great, shining exception. Indeed, based on the evidence all around us, it is clear that Israel, more than any nation on earth, is held not simply to a double standard but to an impossible standard. Its own sacrifices for peace, which exceed those of any other country, are constantly overlooked even as the brutal acts of its enemies are excused. (I offer a very brief historical account of things here.)
Israel is far from perfect—but it is, in the totality of its acts, among the most estimable and impressive nations in human history. Its achievements and moral accomplishments are staggering—which is why, in my judgment, evangelical Christians should keep faith with the Jewish state. Set aside for now one’s view about the end times and God’s covenantal relationship with Israel. Israel warrants support based on the here and now; on what it stands for and what it stands against and what its enemies stand for and against; and for reasons of simple justice. What is required to counteract the anti-Israel narrative and propaganda campaign is a large-scale effort at education, not simply with dry facts but in a manner that tells a remarkable and moving story. That captures the moral imagination of evangelicals, most especially young evangelicals.
I’m sure some evangelical Christians would appreciate it if more American Jews showed more gratitude toward them for their support of Israel over the years. But frankly that matters very little to me, and here’s why: What ought to decide where one falls in this debate on Israel are not the shadows but the sunlight. On seeing history for what it is rather than committing a gross disfigurement of it. And on aligning one’s views, as best as one can, with truth and facts, starting with this one: The problem isn’t with Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate or even any dispute over territory (Israel has repeatedly proved it is willing to part with land for real peace); it is with the Palestinians’ unwillingness to make their own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state.
The suffering the Palestinian people (including Palestinian Christians) are enduring is real and ought to move one’s heart. Many Palestinians suffer from circumstances they didn’t create. And so sympathy for their plight is natural. But these circumstances they suffer under are fundamentally a creation not of Israel but of failed Palestinian leadership, which has so often been characterized by corruption and malevolence. Checkpoints and walls exist for a reason, as a response to Palestinian aggressions. Nor has anyone yet emerged among the Palestinian leadership who is either willing or able to alter a civic culture that foments an abhorrence of Jews and longs for the eradication of Israel. That is the sine qua non for progress.
To my coreligionists I would simply point out an unpleasant truth: hatred for Israel is a burning fire throughout the world. Those of the Christian faith ought to be working to douse the flames rather than to intensify them.

Palestinian Terms Leave Little to Talk About. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

Palestinian Terms Leave Little to Talk About. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, October 27, 2013.

Are Settlements Really Hurting Israel? By Moshe Dann.

Are Settlements Really Hurting Israel? By Moshe Dann. Real Clear World, October 28, 2013. Also at the Jerusalem Post.

The Frontier in Israeli History. By Moshe Dann. NJBR, June 28, 2013. With related articles.

Nine common myths about Israel. By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, January 16, 2013.

Who wants a Palestinian state? By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, November 26, 2012.

The imperative of Jewish sovereignty. By Moshe Dann. Jerusalem Post, April 7, 2011.

The Palestinian Ideology Ignores Reality. By Michael Curtis.

The Palestinian Ideology Ignores Reality. By Michael Curtis. American Thinker, October 27, 2013.


Among ideology, a fundamental belief system, and recognition of reality, there has always been a huge intellectual gap.  History is full of instances when all too many people have refused to recognize the disastrous consequences of adhering to an ideology, usually based on myth, regardless of a reality that contradicts their firm beliefs.  The key problem is that individuals espousing some ideological point of view may have invested so much emotional attachment to it that they not only abandon objectivity, but also are incapable of renouncing a viewpoint, a myth, or a false political religion that has been discredited or may be irrelevant.  They do not want to disavow the part of themselves that has accepted falsity.
This is now true of the ideological believers in the Palestinian narrative of victimhood.  Almost everyone recognizes the mistakes of “true believers” in refusing to admit the horrors of the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union and the Mao Zedong years in China.  Supporters of and apologists for those regimes persisted in ignoring the reality that they were totalitarian, savagely cruel, responsible for systematic terror, and engaged in the slaughter of tens of millions of their innocent citizens held to be enemies.
Adherence to the ideology of Communism meant both condoning the horrors and cruelty as inevitable and refusing to accept any possible compromise or qualification of that ideology.  Nor could adherents accept that this ideological view, though partly rational, was largely a myth, albeit one capable of mobilizing people.
Today, that mixture of reason and myth is present in a Palestinian ideology of victimhood, an ideology that seeks to mobilize political support by insistence that Palestinians are being persecuted by Israel, a state that must be rejected.  Supporters of the Palestinian cause can argue as part of that ideology for Israeli withdrawal from disputed or occupied territory captured in 1967, for the establishment of a Palestinian state, and for a solution to the Palestinian refugee question by a Palestinian right of return.
But the ideology departs from objectivity in referring to Israel as a colonial power from which Palestinians must be liberated.  That power is said to oppress Palestinians and to engage in terror against them.  The reality is that it is Palestinian terrorism that has accounted for the murder of more than 1,500 Israelis over the last twenty years.
The ideologists may raise legitimate points about the settlements built since 1967 in the West Bank.  Yet it serves no purpose to argue that these settlements are the main obstacle to peace negotiations.  Nor is it reasonable to argue that Israeli policy has been unchanging and inflexible, that it is unremittingly oppressive, and that it is based on the argument that “Between the sea and the Jordan River there will be only Israeli sovereignty.”  It is true that this argument was made by a relatively small group among the Likud party in 1977.  But it is not the policy of Israeli governments, as has been shown by the various offers of a compromise solution on territory shown by Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000, and by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.
The Palestinian ideology has formulated the concept of Nakba, catastrophe, resulting from the Arab defeat in their war against Israel in 1948-49.  Left unsaid is the crucial reality that it was Arab armies that had invaded Israel on its creation and caused the catastrophe.  The Palestinian state, because of Arab refusal, never came into existence 66 years ago, as proposed by the UNGA resolution of November 1947, but the refugee problem did.  Moreover, it was the threat reiterated by President Nasser among others to eliminate the Jewish State of Israel and his actions producing a casus belli that led to the 1967 war and the capture of Arab territory – the now disputed West Bank and East Jerusalem.  It was this threat and consequent actions that have prevented a Palestinian state from being established.
The Palestinian ideology and activists on behalf of that ideology or apologists for Palestinian terrorism refuse to recognize benefits that arise from employment of Palestinians by Israeli enterprises.  Rather, they insist on the self-defeating policy of boycott, divestment, and sanctions in so many areas of life against Israel.  Or they maintain the image of Israeli/Jewish conspiracy eager to rule over an oppressed people.
Even more, the ideologists refuse to recognize both the security problem of Israel and the reality of the continuing attacks by Hamas from Gaza and Hezb’allah from Lebanon on Israeli civilians.  Rather, they concentrate on a number of issues: an uncompromising view of territory in the area; a solution of the refugee problem that would eliminate the Jewish State of Israel; the insistence on Jerusalem as a capital of any Palestinian state; and anti-imperialism, which means hostility towards the United States as well as Israel.  Hatred and venom are more noticeable in these arguments than are overtures of conciliation.
No conciliation is likely if the starting premise of Palestinian ideology is insistence on a state that must consist of the whole area of Palestine as defined in the British Mandate, thus eliminating the existing State of Israel.  Equally, the Palestinian refugee problem remains unresolved if Palestinians, and previously other Arabs who also used it as a propaganda device, persist in holding that all refugees, and now their descendants including grandchildren, have the right to return to places where they lived before the war in 1948, and most of which no longer exist.  The demographic impact of this would clearly mean the end of the Jewish State of Israel.
The issue of the future of Jerusalem is also related to the fallacious Palestinian ideological narrative of victimhood.  This asserts that Jews have no historic right to any area of Mandated Palestine, since they lived there for only a short time, if at all.  This assertion means there is no connection between Jews and their ancient homeland and their historic holy places.  Rather, the ideology identifies “Palestinians” with the Canaanites of several thousand years ago and asserts that because there have been Islamist conquests of the area since the 7th century, they are another Islamic group having a right to the land.  In this absurd distortion of history, Israel has no legal right to Jerusalem or anywhere else in Palestine.
The Palestinian ideology has incorporated what is now the politically correct mantra of opposition to colonialism and imperialism.  Not only is Palestinian self-determination an end in itself, but it also implies the end of Israeli colonization.  An ideology of this kind can hardly be the basis of peace negotiations when it, above all in the version of Hamas and other radical Islamists, calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.  Nor can it be useful if Palestinians insist on preconditions or concessions by Israel before any negotiations start.
If Berlin and Vienna are trying, with considerable success, to come to terms with their infamous past of Nazism, why can’t Palestinians do the same in recognition of the Jewish past in Palestine?  That recognition is not near at hand.  Instead, Hamas’s answer is building a very large, well-constructed, and sophisticated tunnel from Khan Younis in the south part of the Gaza Strip into Israel in order to attack civilians in Israeli border towns and villages.  Hamas, the Islamist expression of Palestinian ideology, prefers to waste resources of its subjects and to invest in terror, not peace.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Myth of American Isolationism. By Andrew Bacevich.

The Myth of American Isolationism. By Andrew Bacevich. Real Clear World, October 26, 2013. Also at TomDispatch.

We Didn’t Listen. By Daniel Gordis.

We Didn’t Listen. By Daniel Gordis., October 17, 2013.

How Israeli Society Remained Intact. By Yossi Klein Halevi. NJBR, October 23, 2013.

The Rise and Fall of Israel’s Settlement Movement. By Jeffrey Goldberg. NJBR, October 14, 2013.

Yossi Klein Halevi on “Like Dreamers, ”New Book on Legacy of Israeli Paratroopers. By Michael M. Rosen. NJBR, September 29, 2013. With related articles and audio podcast.


This is the sort of region that periodically forces us to ask ourselves probing questions about our condition and how things got to be the way that they did. Did we intend to get where we are? In what direction would we now head if we were wise? Is change necessary? Is it still possible?
It is those sorts of questions that lie at the heart of Yossi Klein Halevi’s new book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who United Jerusalem and Divided a Nation. Klein Halevi, long among Israel’s most thoughtful, penetrating, honest and compassionate writers, has now written his magnum opus. Many books in one, Like Dreamers is, on the surface, the story of seven paratroopers who liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in June 1967. But as told through the lives and eyes of these seven men – before the war, during the battles and long after the guns have been silenced – Like Dreamers is also a social history and, no less, the story of the internal Israeli conflict about the settlement project, from its very inception and for decades following.
Like Dreamers is, of course, not the first book to cover the issue of the settlements. Gershom Gorenberg’s Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements 1967-1977 is a very thorough and largely accurate history of the origins of the settler movement. The differences between the books, though, are legion. Gorenberg’s is a story of a blundering national policy, “crafted” almost by accident, while Klein Halevi’s book is the story of people. The men who fought to liberate Jerusalem had come to that battle from very different social and political backgrounds; they went on, in some cases, to found Gush Emunim and in other cases, to become the mainstays of the peace camp. Seeing the two sides through the loves and losses, the triumphs and failures of those who were at the core of these movements affords us a three dimensional understanding of what has unfolded here in a way that no other book, of which I’m aware, ever has before.
An infinitely more important difference, however, is that books like Gorenberg’s (and like Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism, among others) drip with venom and anger. To people like Gorenberg, Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami, the settlement project is so foolishly immoral, so callously disregarding of the Palestinians and so corrosive of Israel’s international standing that their books are at the end of the day just broadside attacks on both the policy of settlement building and on the men and women who were at its core.
Klein Halevi is by no means oblivious to the problems of the settlements. When Arik Achmon (a central character in Like Dreamers) is exposed to the worldview of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, Klein Halevi writes for Achmon, “A foreign spirit, antithetical to Zionism, was stirring.”
Throughout its 500+ pages, Like Dreamers shows time and again some of the dangerous impulses at the heart of the settlement movement.
But – and here is where Klein Halevi’s genius truly shines – the book shows equally compellingly the powerful moral and Zionist commitments of both the settlers and the peace camp. On the most divisive issue faced by a highly divided state, Yossi Klein Halevi gets us to admire, perhaps even to love, the leaders of both. In prose so compelling that it reads like a novel, Like Dreamers makes clear that the real settlement story is not good guys versus bad, Zionists versus non-Zionists, or colonialists versus territorial minimalists. It’s something much more complex and infinitely more nuanced.
Like Dreamers is almost talmudic in its holding up of conflicting positions for each side to critique and defend. On the one hand, profound Israeli leaders, committed Zionists – from Ben-Gurion to Yeshayahu Leibowitz – said almost the minute the war was over that Israel ought to give most of the territory back; Israel would callous its soul by ruling over so many Palestinians (though interestingly, none of Klein Halevi’s characters ever really speak for the Palestinians, so their positions remain only assumed, their voices the ones we end up wishing we’d heard more of).
But other Jews – motivated not by hatred or disregard of Arabs, but by love of Israel – disagreed. The Jewish state had always been a story of acquiring land and then building on it. That was the story of Tel Aviv and Petah Tikva. It was the story of Karmiel, built on land captured in the War of Independence. Why then should the land taken in 1967 be any different, especially in places that Jews had lived in as late as the 1930s and 1940s until rabid Arab violence forced them to flee?
Could Israel have stymied the impulse to return to those places in 1968 without smothering the most passionate Zionist impulses still remaining? Can it do so now?
What Israel should do now is a question that Like Dreamers wisely never addresses directly. But there are hints. Of the seven paratroopers Klein Halevi follows, he seems most spiritually connected to Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun. And in an article in Nekudah, the settler’s publication, Bin-Nun had advocated a policy of “no annexation and no withdrawal,” and instead, dividing the West Bank into Jewish and Arab cantons. The Jewish areas would vote in Israeli elections, and the Arab cantons in Jordanian. Even Bin-Nun acknowledged that this was a far from perfect solution, but as Klein Halevi then writes for Bin-Nun, “there [is] no perfect justice in this world.”
Does Klein Halevi mean to endorse something along the canton approach? He never says. His purpose in this book is entirely other: He aims to teach us a complex and fascinating history, and to introduce us to seven fascinating, frustrating, passionate men who reflect the wide diversity of Israel’s complex society.
But there is one lesson he definitely does want to teach. In May 1996, with the peace process seemingly marching forward and the future of the settlements very much in doubt, a young man asks Bin-Nun “What went wrong?” The rabbi’s response was chilling: “We didn’t listen to the moral arguments of the Left,” he replied.
If there is any line in the book in which a character speaks for Klein Halevi, that is the one. More important to him than the position we take is his hope that we might come to realize that there are powerful moral, Zionist and strategic insights on both sides of this painful divide. If Bin-Nun believes that the settlers’ greatest failure was not hearing the moral insights of the left, Klein Halevi insists that what ails our entire country is our inability to listen to the other and to learn.
In Like Dreamers, we have a history. We have great yarn, brilliantly told. And we are exposed to Klein Halevi as a teacher of great moral weight, begging us to realize that if we truly wish to preserve this little state of ours, there is nothing we can do more important than beginning to hear and to grow from those whose views are most challenging to our own.


Why the World Can’t Agree Over Climate Change. By Fareed Zakaria.

Why world can’t agree over climate change. By Fareed Zakaria. Fareed Zakaria GPS. CNN, October 26, 2013.

The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability. By Camilo Mora et al. Nature, Vol. 502, Issue 7470 (October 10, 2013).

Intra- and intergenerational discounting in the climate game. By Jennifer Jacquet et al. Nature Climate Change, October 20, 2013.

60 Minutes: Benghazi Was a Planned, Sophisticated Attack. By Lara Logan.

60 Minutes: Benghazi Was a Planned, Sophisticated Attack. By Lara Logan. Real Clear Politics, October 27, 2013. Also at 60 Minutes, YouTube.

The Republican Embrace of the Welfare State. By Andrew C. McCarthy.

The Republican Embrace of the Welfare State. By Andrew C. McCarthy. National Review Online, October 26, 2013.

Coming Soon: The Epic Battle Between Obama and the Tea Party Movement in 2014. By Carl Boyd, Jr. Tea Party News Network, October 27, 2013.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Israel’s Brain Drain. By Gershom Gorenberg.

Israel’s Brain Drain. By Gershom Gorenberg. The American Prospect, October 24, 2013.

Why are so many Israelis teaching at American universities? Because Israel is starving higher education.


A band was warming up for a free concert on the green quad of Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus before noon yesterday. The vocalist belted out a few lines of Amy Winehouse in English—“They tried to make me go to rehab”—then switched into Hebrew to talk to the soundman. Across the crowded lawn in front of the neural computation and life sciences buildings, a student was learning to walk a low tightrope stretched between two trees, and mostly falling off. The Israeli academic year starts only in October, and classes are finally back in session.
Givat Ram is the physical sciences campus of Hebrew University. Among the scientists who do not have labs there, and who will not be teaching there or at any other Israeli university this year, are Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt. Warshel and Levitt were named earlier this month as two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Warshel, who was born in Israel and studied through his doctorate at Israeli universities, teaches at USC in Los Angeles. South African-born Levitt, who taught at Israel’s Weizmann Institute in the 1980s and holds Israeli citizenship, is at Stanford. The prize makes them stand out; the geography of their career paths does not. Israel suffers worse brain drain than any other developed country. Its scholars might as well receive suitcases rather than diplomas. “What’s the best Israeli ‘university’? The one composed of all the Israeli academics abroad” a professor told me this week in a bittersweet tone.
In a committee room in the depths of the Knesset Wednesday, just a few hundred meters from the quad where the band was warming up, the president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Ruth Arnon, was a delivering a thick report on the state of the country’s academic research. A brief abstract could read: “We were once stars on the world stage; we are going downhill; talent is leaving. We need money.” A separate study on Israeli academia, due to be published next month, paints an even starker picture. For every ten tenured or tenure-track faculty at Israel’s colleges and universities, there are nearly three Israelis in parallel positions in the United States, according to the Taub Center, a Jerusalem-based social-policy institute. This is a rate of intellectual exodus on a greater scale than that of any other country in the world.
The reasons for Israel’s brain drain are not solely economic. But government funding—or lack of funding—for higher education is a core problem. The financial starving of academia is a function of the wider shift in government policy away from the welfare state and toward privatization—and toward spending an unknown part of national resources on settlement and on the ultra-Orthodox segment of Israeli society. And a crisis in relations with the European Union over settlement policy threatens a major remaining source of funding for research.
With rare exceptions, Israeli scholars aren’t leaving for ideological reasons. They aren’t boycotting their country. Israelis leaving for foreign universities normally say that they intend to come home after their doctorate or the post-doc, or that the offer of a tenure-track position or better research conditions abroad is too good to refuse.
Ironically, the emigration rate is partly due to the success of Israeli academia. “We educate a lot of people to a very high level,” and professors are well known at universities abroad, says Jonathan Fine, a Bar-Ilan University linguist. So they are able to help place their protégés in doctoral programs or post-doctoral slots at top institutions overseas.
To maintain their own level, Israeli institutions want to hire scholars trained at the best American and British universities—which also happen to have more fellowship funds than their Israeli counterparts. Yet those scholars are the most likely to get offers to stay overseas. Back home, the number of tenure-track openings has shrunk with budget cuts; research funding is leaner; salaries are smaller than they are across the sea, especially in fields such as business and engineering. Even professional literature in the humanities is harder to get. A professor explained to me that Israeli university libraries subscribe to fewer online journals. It’s a form of privatization, he said, only a quarter in jest. To get many articles, a scholar has to pay out of his own research funds or personal cash.
So we’re back to budgets. Here the Taub report, written by Ben-David, presents a stunning picture. During Israel's first 25 years of independence, from 1948 to 1973, it invested generously, dedicatedly, in higher education. It was still a developing country. In the earliest of those years, Israel was so poor that food was rationed, the report notes. The country was flooded with Jewish refugees from Europe and Islamic countries who were living in tents. The country acted like poor parents working long hours at their corner market to send their kids to college. The ratio of university faculty to the population rose steeply, until it approached the U.S. level in 1973. From that peak, the ratio of professors to population took a sharp turn down and has continued to slide. Other indicators show the same slide. In real terms, public funding per student in higher education today is a third the level it was in 1979.
The initial catalyst for cutbacks, it appears, was the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which exacted a huge economic as well as human cost on Israel. But funding kept falling after the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, which led to a steady drop in defense outlays. The country joined the developed world; high-tech became the engine of the economy. Yet higher education suffered. When I spoke with Ben-David this week, he noted that a delayed effect of the war was that the Labor Party lost power for the first time in 1977.  But, he said, the trend of cutbacks continued even during periods when Labor returned to power. To that comment, let me add a gloss: By the time Labor was back in government, the party’s name was a historical relic of its social democratic past. The major parties barely differed in their pro-market, pro-privatization policies. But the private sector wasn’t making up for government investments in basic scientific research, much less in humanities faculties.
Ben-David focuses his criticism on government’s spending priorities and the lack of transparency in its budget. “No one has a clue,” he points out, about how much the Israeli government spends on West Bank settlements, or on supporting an ever-growing number of ultra-Orthodox families in which the men devote their lives to religious study rather than work.
One potential cost of settlement, however, is quite public. Israeli researchers depend heavily on European Union grants and partnerships. Israel is now negotiating with the European Union on participation in Horizon 2020, Europe's next seven-year research and development partnership. But the EU guidelines issued in July finally put teeth in Europe’s policy that sovereign Israeli territory is defined by the pre-1967 border, or Green Line. EU research grants are not to be spent beyond that border, and the guidelines specify that any new agreements with Israel must explicitly state this condition. “Not signing the scientific cooperation agreement with the European Union is an irreversible and disastrous step for Israeli science and the country as a whole,” warned Arnon, president of the Academy of Sciences, In an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week. Since she has a nonpolitical position, she did not state the subtext: Refusing to acknowledge that the occupied territories are, well, occupied would be the final blow to research in Israel.
When the Nobel Prize in chemistry was announced, Netanyahu phoned Arieh Warshel on the far side of the globe to tell him, “We are proud of you.” If it weren’t for the policies of Netanyahu and his predecessors, perhaps that would have been a local call. As it is, Israeli universities very much need a rehabilitation program.

Moving from Left to Right. By Charles Krauthammer.

Moving from Left to Right. By Charles Krauthammer. National Review Online, October 24, 2013.