Monday, March 31, 2014

Russia is Remaking Itself as the Leader of the Anti-Western World. By Masha Gessen.

Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world. By Masha Gessen. Washington Post, March 30, 2014. Also here.


“This is not another Cold War that we’re entering into,” President Obama said Wednesday in Brussels, presenting the post-Crimea world order as he sees it after consultations with other NATO leaders. “After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no bloc of nations, no global ideology.”
President Vladimir Putin would surely beg to differ. Over the past two years, a new ideology has taken shape at the Kremlin. Insistently pushed out over the airwaves of state-controlled television, it has taken hold as Russia’s national idea — and is the driving force behind its newly aggressive international posture. Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world.
During his annual state-of-the-federation address to parliament in December, Putin articulated this ideology. This in itself was novel: For his preceding 13 years at the helm, Putin had stuck to the pragmatic in his speeches. Now he was putting forth a vision for which many Russians had longed in the nearly quarter-century since the Soviet Union collapsed, leaving a giant hole where its citizens’ identities used to be.
In his December speech, Putin said that Russia had no superpower ambitions in the sense of “a claim to global or regional hegemony.” Yet, he said, “We will strive to be leaders.” In explaining Russia’s new identity with relationship to the West and its claim on leadership, he said:
“This is absolutely objective and understandable for a state like Russia, with its great history and culture, with many centuries of experience not of so-called tolerance, neutered and barren, but of the real organic life of different peoples existing together within the framework of a single state.” Putin was placing Russia’s very approach to life in opposition to the Western one. The “so-called tolerance” he mentioned as the key feature of Western civilization is, from this perspective, nothing but a slide into immorality. More likely than not, that includes homosexuality, which is why tolerance is described as “barren and neutered.”
“Today many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures,” he continued. “Society is now required not only to recognize everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning.”
Finally, said Putin, it was time to resist this scourge of tolerance and diversity creeping in from the West. “We know that there are more and more people in the world who support our position on defending traditional values,” he asserted. Russia’s role is to “prevent movement backward and downward, into chaotic darkness and a return to a primitive state.”
In short, Putin intends to save the world from the West. He has started with Crimea. When he says he is protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine, he means he is protecting them from the many terrible things that come from the West. A few days after the December address, Alexei Pushkov, head of the Duma committee on foreign relations, defined that threat on the floor of the chamber: “European Union advisers in practically every ministry of any significance, control over the flow of finances and over national programs, and a broadening of the sphere of gay culture, which has become the European Union’s official policy.”
Three months later, this is exactly how Russians see the events in Ukraine: The West is literally taking over, and only Russian troops can stand between the Slavic country’s unsuspecting citizens and the homosexuals marching in from Brussels.
Now, Russia is not leading a bloc of nations in this new anti-Western crusade — at least, not yet. But it is certainly not alone in its longing for “traditional values.” Russia has been assembling an informal “traditional values” bloc in the United Nations, where the Human Rights Council has passed a series of Russian-sponsored resolutions opposing gay rights over the past three years. Russia’s allies in passing these resolutions include not only its post-Soviet neighbors but also China, Ecuador, Malaysia and more than a dozen other states.
The anti-gay agenda may seem like a thin basis for forming a militant international alliance of state-actors, but it has great unifying potential when framed in terms of a broader anti-Western effort and, indeed, a civilizational mission.
That mission, rather than the mere desire to bite off a piece of a neighboring country, is the driving force behind Putin’s new war — and the reason the Russian public supports it so strongly. This war, they hope, will make Russia not only bigger but also make it great again.

Masha Gessen

The Employer’s Creed. By David Brooks.

The Employer’s Creed. By David Brooks. New York Times, March 31, 2014.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spare Us the Gamal Abdel Nasser Imagery. By Rami G. Khouri.

Spare Us the Gamal Abdel Nasser Imagery. By Rami G. Khouri. The Daily Star [Lebanon], March 29, 2014.

The President’s Foreign Policy Paradox. By Walter Russell Mead.

The President’s Foreign Policy Paradox. By Walter Russell Mead. Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2014.

Mr. Putin’s Revealing Speech. By Peggy Noonan.

Mr. Putin’s Revealing Speech. By Peggy Noonan. Wall Street Journal, March 27, 2014.

Obama vs. Putin: The Mismatch. By Charles Krauthammer.

Obama vs. Putin: The Mismatch. By Charles Krauthammer. National Review Online, March 27, 2014. Also at the Washington Post.


“The United States does not view Europe as a battleground between East and West, nor do we see the situation in Ukraine as a zero-sum game. That’s the kind of thinking that should have ended with the Cold War.”
— Barack Obama, March 24
Should. Lovely sentiment. As lovely as what Obama said five years ago to the United Nations: “No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation.”
That’s the kind of sentiment you expect from a Miss America contestant asked to name her fondest wish, not from the leader of the free world explaining his foreign policy.
The East Europeans know they inhabit the battleground between the West and a Russia that wants to return them to its sphere of influence. Ukrainians see tens of thousands of Russian troops across their border and know they are looking down the barrel of quite a zero-sum game.
Obama thinks otherwise. He says that Vladimir Putin’s kind of neo-imperialist thinking is a relic of the past — and advises Putin to transcend the Cold War.
Good God. Putin hasn’t transcended the Russian revolution. Did no one give Obama a copy of Putin’s speech last week upon the annexation of Crimea? Putin railed not only at Russia’s loss of empire in the 1990s. He went back to the 1920s: “After the revolution, the Bolsheviks . . . may God judge them, added large sections of the historical South of Russia to the Republic of Ukraine.” Putin was referring not to Crimea (which came two sentences later) but to his next potential target: Kharkiv and Donetsk and the rest of southeastern Ukraine.
Putin’s irredentist grievances go very deep. Obama seems unable to fathom them. Asked whether he’d misjudged Russia, whether it really is our greatest geopolitical foe, he disdainfully replied that Russia is nothing but “a regional power” acting “out of weakness.”
Where does one begin? Hitler’s Germany and Tojo’s Japan were also regional powers, yet managed to leave behind at least 50 million dead. And yes, Russia should be no match for the American superpower. Yet under this president, Russia has run rings around America, from the attempted ingratiation of the “reset” to America’s empty threats of “consequences” were Russia to annex Crimea.
Annex Crimea it did. For which the “consequences” have been risible. Numberless 19th- and 20th-century European soldiers died for Crimea. Putin conquered it in a swift and stealthy campaign that took three weeks and cost his forces not a sprained ankle. That’s “weakness”?
Indeed, Obama’s dismissal of Russia as a regional power makes his own leadership of the one superpower all the more embarrassing. For seven decades since the Japanese surrender, our role under eleven presidents had been as offshore balancer protecting smaller allies from potential regional hegemons.
What are the allies thinking now? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other Pacific Rim friends are wondering where this America will be as China expands its reach and claims. The Gulf states are near panic as they see America playacting nuclear negotiations with Iran that, at best, will leave their mortal Shiite enemy just weeks away from the bomb.
America never sought the role that history gave it after World War II to bear unbidden burdens “to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” as movingly described by John Kennedy. We have an appropriate aversion to the stark fact that the alternative to U.S. leadership is either global chaos or dominance by the likes of China, Russia, and Iran.
But Obama doesn’t even seem to recognize this truth. In his major Brussels address Wednesday, the very day Russia seized the last Ukrainian naval vessel in Crimea, Obama made vague references to further measures should Russia march deeper into Ukraine, while still emphasizing the centrality of international law, international norms, and international institutions like the United Nations.
Such fanciful thinking will leave our allies with two choices: bend a knee — or arm to the teeth. Either acquiesce to the regional bully or gird your loins, i.e., go nuclear. As surely will the Gulf states. As will, in time, Japan and South Korea.
Even Ukrainians are expressing regret at having given up their nukes in return for paper guarantees of territorial integrity. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum was ahead of its time — the perfect example of the kind of advanced 21st-century thinking so cherished by our president. Perhaps the captain of that last Ukrainian vessel should have waved the document at the Russian fleet that took his ship.

Obama’s 21st-Century Power Politics. By Fareed Zakaria.

Obama’s 21st-century power politics. By Fareed Zakaria. Washington Post, March 27, 2014. Also here.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought to the fore an important debate about what kind of world we live in. Many critics charge that the Obama administration has been blind to its harsh realities because it believes, as the Wall Street Journal opined, in “a fantasy world of international rules.” John McCain declared that “this is the most naive president in history.” The Post’s editorial board worried that President Obama misunderstands “the nature of the century we’re living in.”
Almost all of these critics have ridiculed Secretary of State John Kerry’s assertion that changing borders by force, as Russia did, is 19th-century behavior in the 21st century. Well, here are the facts. Scholar Mark Zacher has tallied up changes of borders by force, something that was once quite common. Since World War I, he notes, that practice has sharply declined, and in recent decades, that decline has accelerated. Before 1950, wars between nations resulted in border changes (annexations) about 80 percent of the time. After 1950, that number dropped to 27 percent. In fact, since 1946, there have been only 12 examples of major changes in borders using force — and all of them before 1976. So Putin’s behavior, in fact, does belong to the 19th century.
The transformation of international relations goes well beyond border changes. Harvard’s Steven Pinker has collected war data in his superb book The Better Angels of Our Nature. In a more recent essay, he points out that “after a 600-year stretch in which Western European countries started two new wars a year, they have not started one since 1945. Nor have the 40 or so richest nations anywhere in the world engaged each other in armed conflict.” Colonial wars, a routine feature of international life for thousands of years, are extinct. Wars between countries — not just major powers, not just in Europe — have also dropped dramatically, by more than 50 percent over the past three decades. Scholars at the University of Maryland have found that the past decade has seen the lowest number of new conflicts since World War II.
Many aspects of international life remain nasty and brutish, and it is easy to sound tough and suggest that you understand the hard realities of power politics. But the most astonishing, remarkable reality about the world is how much things have changed, especially since 1945.
It is ironic that the Wall Street Journal does not recognize this new world because it was created in substantial part through capitalism and free trade. Twenty years ago, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, as hardheaded a statesman as I have ever met, told me that Asian countries had seen the costs of war and the fruits of economic interdependence and development — and that they would not choose the former over the latter.
This is not an academic debate. The best way to deal with Russia’s aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine and national interest-based foreign policy that will be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently this week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world.
Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression to the Bush administration’s response to Putin’s actions in Georgia in 2008. That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery; hundreds were killed, nearly 200,000 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia’s actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.
You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.
There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule, it. Yes, some places stand in opposition to this trend — North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they are charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Historian Simon Schama Says “the Occupation” Will End Israel. By J.P. O’Malley.

Historian Simon Schama says “the occupation” will end Israel. By J.P. O’Malley. The Times of Israel, March 29, 2014.

Simon Schama Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story About Israel. By Aaron Goldstein. The American Spectator, April 2, 2014.


LONDON — Simon Schama loves a daunting challenge. In 2000 he completed the first part of what became a three volume book series about the history of Britain. It was accompanied by a TV show with the same name.
This month sees the British historian publishing a book in the US that takes on another epic historical subject. Released in the UK last year, “The Story of the Jews: Finding The Words 1000 BC-1492 AD” was also accompanied by an impressive BBC documentary series. This month it was aired again on PBS in the US in a two-part series ending April 1.
In the series Schama is shown at his family’s Passover seder; in Jerusalem, he notes that he celebrated his bar mitzvah nearby; and at a London synagogue, he explains how he feels when the Torah is brought out.
“This is the moment when Jews feel most Jewish,” Schama narrates. “The ark opens, the Torah scrolls . . . are held up and you smile. At least I always smile at the pure beauty of it all.”
This is not the first time Schama has documented Jewish history.
In 1978 the British Jew who grew up attending London’s Golders Green Synagogue wrote “Two Rothchilds and the Land of Israel.” But the author doesn’t consider it a success. “I was too close to the subject,” he says. “Maybe there were too many uncles and aunties in the way.”
But to try and understand the complexities of the Jewish story, for this book he decided to go back to the beginning. Not the mythical beginning of patriarchs and prophets who deliver messages from God. But one that involves archeological evidence.
So when did this arise? If we are to believe the men who scribed the Hebrew Bible, it was supposedly sometime around 1300 BCE, when Moses led the enslaved Israelites from Egypt into the desert mountains and towards the Holy Land.
But Schama’s book is intent on pointing out that much of the Bible is highly inaccurate, and some passages were written nearly 500 years after supposed historical events took place. In other words, the Scriptures, historically speaking, are most likely an echo of the truth, rather than a reflection of actual events.
“I certainly would stand by the claim that there is no documentary or archeological evidence of an Exodus [to Israel from Egyptian bondage] whatsoever,” says the 69-year-old Columbia University history professor from his home in New York.
“As a historian you have to leave the possibility open that there might be some basis of remembered truth in it. But the myth of the Exodus is exactly the same as the Iliad, or the Aeneid, in that there is a poetic truth behind it. It has also a fierce poetic grip on the Jewish imagination. But we have absolutely no evidence of it at all.”
Schama claims the first time the word Israel appears on any historical artifact is in the late-13th century BCE. It was mentioned on the triumphal inscription penned for Pharaoh Merneptah, which read: “Israel is laid waste . . . its seed is no more.” This hieroglyph, which today resides in a museum in Cairo, leaves no doubt that the word “Israel” was originally meant as a people, rather than a place, says Schama.
The historian spends an entire chapter of his book discussing the strange relationship between Israel and Egypt. It is impossible to see Jewish history as being inseparable from Egyptian history, he adds.
“Jewish presence in Egypt goes back to before the 5th century BCE. Prophets like Jeremiah forbid Jews from returning to the lowlands, but they kept going back there. Think about Judaism as somehow shaping itself between two different kinds of physical, as well as spiritual landscapes: the up mountain and the lowlands of the plain,” he explains.
“Those lowlands are often the river culture of the Nile. Judaism exists here rather than in the uplands hills of Judea. It’s just a long fact of Jewish history that it’s often in an Egyptian setting.”
For the first half of Schama’s narrative, he zones in on the relationship between religion and politics, a theme that has consistently dominated Jewish intellectual and spiritual history for millennia.
Schama also asks a key question: Has political power sustained piety or damaged it?
“That has a real ancient dialectic in Jewish life that goes way back to the upbraiding of King David,” Schama explains. “Both David and Solomon are depicted in the Bible as pure monarchs. Even though they play such an important part in the Bible. And that distinction, between political and military power on the one hand, and religious continuity on the other, for a long time was represented by making it impossible for religious kings to be high priests, unlike other surrounding religions.”
“In Mesopotamia, or, Egypt, for example, the monarch had a God-like religious status. But this is not the case in Judaism. So that notion that religion can go on, when all the markers of power, and trappings of monarchy disappear, ultimately, serves the endurance of Judaism very well.”
“The Jews invented a portable religion in the shape of the Bible, the Torah, and eventually the Talmud, and with other portable forms of writing. So it’s now possible to carry the religion that is embedded in that writing, away from the ruins of political and military power. It can lead you utterly defenseless, but also make for survival and endurance.”
Schama spends a great deal of time in the middle section of this current book discussing three crucial events that would ensure a permanent separation between Judaism and Christianity: when Jews referred to Jesus as Satan in the New Testament; when St. Paul moved the heart of Christian teaching from Christ’s life to his death, thereby implicating Jews in his murder; and when Christianity finally became the state religion of imperial Rome in 380 CE.
From these three crucial events arose the nasty myth, says Schama, of a beastly-Christ-killing-Jew, which began to dominate Christine doctrine.
In our conversation, I mention St. Paul’s vital role in stirring up anti-Semitism within Christian ideology. This is something Schama writes about in the book with great enthusiasm. But he is slightly skeptical of the subject today.
“I have been criticized about this point by many people and I accept some of the criticisms,” he admits. “In the book I’m a little harsh on St. Paul’s view. And I’m aware that there is a huge debate going on about whether Paul is ferociously determined to eradicate [Jews].
“We do now know that Paul really wanted to make a much cleaner separation between Jewish ritual practice, which all historians agree was sustained by all early Jewish Christians.”
Schama says it depends really on whether you think Paul is the formative shaper of Christian theology.
“That seems to me to be pretty undeniable. Perhaps I have overridden or misinterpreted that point. But St. Paul was making it impossible to be Jewish and Christian at the same time. What is very striking about those early Churches and communities is that you could be both. Under Paul though, you absolutely couldn’t.”
As we are having this conversation I get the feeling I’m keeping Schama from something. Then he tells me that he is currently in the process of writing the second volume of this massive compendium of Jewish history. He has already discussed parts of this in the TV series.
It covers the Medieval period of Jewish history, when Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain and began laying down roots in places like Turkey, Venice, and North Africa.
From there it will look into the flourishing of Jewish culture in Europe during the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century, to the near annihilation of it— via Nazi ideology— leading up to, and during World War II. The book will also spend considerable time analyzing the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
Before we part company we begin discussing the trajectory of Jewish history to its present moment. As a British Jew who now lives in the US, is Schama always completely comfortable with Israel’s domestic and foreign policies?
He makes it clear that he is a committed Zionist, who believes 100 percent in a Jewish state, but not one that excludes Palestinians from having their homeland too. Nor is he keen on any Jewish state that makes Arabs live as refugees in their own country.
“I am passionately invested in the survival of Israel and everything Israel represents. But I am extremely critical of much of its policy,” says Schama unapologetically. “I believe that the occupation must end. And if it doesn’t, it will end Israel. I’m not in favor of settlements.
“I’m an old style Zionist. All my life I’ve always believed that a Jewish State and a Palestinian state should exist alongside each other. But that just puts me in common with large numbers of Israelis, who have an equally critical view. I believe in peace for land.
“But if you ask me: is the Iranian threat real? I would say yes. Does Hamas have to acknowledge the State of Israel for there to be peace? Yes it does.”

It’s OK to be Depressed. By Daniel Gordis.

It’s OK to be Depressed. By Daniel Gordis. Jerusalem Post, March 20, 2014. Also at

Daniel Gordis, Jeremy Ben-Ami Debate, Atlanta February 26, 2014. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Video. Daniel Gordis, March 12, 2014. YouTube. Full debate at Vimeo.


A few weeks ago, Jeremy Ben- Ami of J Street and I debated each other in Atlanta. It was labeled a “conversation,” but it was really a debate.
Very civil, more than a bit of humor, rather conversational and all that, but still a debate. (You can find the video on YouTube or Google.) Ben-Ami made his points, I made mine. Mine were very simple: He and I both want the same thing. He wants (I was willing to assume for the sake of the argument) a secure and Jewish State of Israel. So do I. He wants (no question about this one) a Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I would be happy to see such a state (and would vote for significant territorial compromise) if it would mean an end to the conflict.
Though we disagreed about many things, there was one major point of contention that was more significant than all the rest. He’s convinced that a deal for a two-state solution is within reach, and I was, and remain, almost entirely certain that it’s utterly impossible.
So, for a good portion of the time, I laid out my case for why Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will not make a deal. He’ll never give up on the right of return. His refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is a symptom of the sad fact that the Palestinians hate Israel (and let’s be honest, the Jews, too) far more than they care about themselves.
There’s the problem of Hamas and Gaza, and Abbas’s worry about Hamas potentially taking over. There’s the unpleasant fact that even if Abbas did agree, what happens when he or his successor is overthrown? What happens when Ramallah turns into Tahrir Square? Where will we be then? Nothing new in all these arguments – just a summary of what most people who think already know.
And then I sat down.
Then it was Ben-Ami’s turn to respond, and he made the most important comment of the entire evening. “I just find that so depressing,” he said. In not so many words, he was just saying that he cannot accept a world in which the options are so bleak – so he chooses to believe that there is a way out.
Because my view is depressing, it must be wrong.
It was the most significant comment of the evening, I thought, because it was also the most honest. What defines Israel’s position in the world today is a division not so much between those who care about Palestinians and those who don’t (though there are sadly many of the latter), not between those who tolerate the Jews and those who can’t stand them (though there are tragically a growing number of the latter), and not between those committed to a secure Israel and those who would be happy to see Israel crumble (though there are many of those, too).
The real divide is between those who can accept reality for what it is (with all the sadness thereunto appertaining), and those who cannot tolerate that bleakness – and therefore opt for delusion.
Take all the ostensibly fair-minded people who argue that Abbas’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is legitimate, indeed noble, because he is seeking to protect that status of non- Jews in Israel. It’s a clever argument, but also malevolently dishonest. Israel has defined itself as a Jewish state since the Declaration of Independence was adopted in May 1948, and a Basic Law of 1985 added the notion of “Jewish and democratic” (interestingly, the Declaration of Independence says nothing about Israel being a democracy, but that’s an issue for another time). But has that stopped Israel from appointing Arabs to the Supreme Court? From having three Arab parties represented in the Knesset? Does it stop Beduin women from becoming doctors in Israel? There is obviously much about the status of Arabs and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel that can and must be improved, but does anyone seriously believe that Abbas is holding out to accomplish that? Anyone fair-minded understands that Abbas will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state because once he does, he undermines the argument that the refugees must be returned. And he needs the return of the refugees to destroy Israel.
But that means that there’s no deal to be had, because Abbas won’t give up the fight, and Israel will not commit suicide.
Which is depressing for those who want a deal more than they like reality.
So now US Secretary of State John Kerry is telling Israel that it should give up on that demand. Why? Because it’s easier, and less depressing, for Kerry to tell Israel to be flexible – even at the risk of its very raison d’être – than to admit that he is going to fail.
Masks and pretense were for Purim, but Purim is behind us.
The world in which we live is an increasingly bleak place. But that does not mean that the solution is to pretend that matters are other than what they were. The US pretends that it is going to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but it is clear that it will not.
The international community pretends that it has the willpower to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist drive (the end of which one cannot even begin to imagine), when it is clear that America under US President Barack Obama is under a full-speed retreat from leadership. And the international community insists that if Israel budges just a bit on one issue or another, the Palestinians will make a deal, when it is clear that this is utterly myopic.
There is much that Israel has done wrong in recent years, and Israel’s administration has undoubtedly contributed to the Jewish state’s lonely place in the world today. But let us be honest about at least one thing, even in the face of the sobering – yes, depressing – reality we face.
The prime reason that Israel is so maligned is that it, alone, simply refuses to be part of the charade.

The Official Goal of BDS is Ending Israel, Not Just the ’67 Occupation. By M.J. Rosenberg.

The Official Goal of BDS is Ending Israel, Not Just the ’67 Occupation. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 26, 2014. Also at Tikkun.

Ultra-Orthodox Settlers Moving Into Heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Huffington Post, March 20, 2014.

Mondoweiss and Is Anti-Semitism Dead? By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, March 16, 2014.

Why I Don’t Support the BDS Movement. By M.J. Rosenberg. Tikkun, February 21, 2014. Also at The Huffington Post.

M.J. Rosenberg’s Critique of BDS Movement. Partners for Progressive Israel, March 19, 2014.

I Need to Stop Reading Ali Abunimah’s Twitter Feed. By M.J. Rosenberg. The Garbanzo Annex, October 2013.


I stopped reading racist, homophobic, and anti-Muslim twitter feeds a long time ago and my life is so much better for it.
But, for some reason, I still read @aliabunimah although, to me, it is clear that he cannot stand Jews.
He gets worse and worse. Right now, his feed is one hateful tweet after another. Yeah, yeah, I know he is careful to scream about Israelis or Zionists and not Jews, but he doesn’t fool me. Or any Jew who doesn’t want to be fooled.
But there is one good thing about Ali Abunimah. There is a tendency among Jews on the left, including myself, to argue so vehemently that being anti-Israel does not make one an anti-Semite that we don’t notice when being anti-Israel coexists with anti-Semitism, that one just feeds the other. We should.
Bottom line: I believe that Ali Abunimah would be ecstatic if Israel was destroyed, blown off the face of the earth, along with every one of its people because, after all, the Jews in Palestine are, by definition, Zionists, even the kids. Settlers, colonialists, baby killers, torturers, invaders and all the other labels he uses that exempt no Jew in any part of Israel or Palestine.
So, thanks, Ali. As long as there are people around like you, I will never lull myself into believing that anti-Semitism is a thing of the past.  It isn’t.

MJ Rosenberg Rips Ali Abunimah for Antisemitism. By Brian Thomas (Brian of London). Israelly Cool, October 13, 2013.

BDS movement distilled – when Israeli soldiers not raping Arab women is racist. By William A. Jacobson. Legal Insurrection, October 19, 2014. Includes MJ Rosenberg post attacking Ali Abunimah.

MJ Rosenberg owes Ali Abunimah an apology for false accusations of anti-Semitism. By David Samel. Mondoweiss, October 22, 2013.

Rosenberg [Mondoweiss]:

Lately I have been struck by the raw anti-semitism evinced on anti-Israel websites (most egregious example, Mondoweiss).
There is nothing novel about it. It’s not “the new anti-semitism” that the Anti-Defamation League likes to talk about. But the old kind, masquerading as anti-Zionism but manifesting itself as support or, at least, sympathy for every group or individual hostile to Jews: from Pat Buchanan to Hizbullah.
The only difference between this anti-semitism and the old-fashioned kind is that it has no impact. If you don’t visit Mondoweiss or other websites like it, you won’t know it exists. It threatens no one. It is just ugly. But ugly and irrelevant.
Still we would all be better off without it.
And that is why Jewish organizations should stop feeding it. The efforts by Jewish organizations to shut down free debate on Israel by banning anti-Israel speakers, closing down organization that support the BDS movement, or getting state legislatures to penalize universities that support it, does nothing except fuel anti-semitism.
Yes, I understand that anti-semitism usually exists apart from anything Jews do. (I don’t think the people posting at Mondoweiss would dislike Jews any less if Israel returned to the pre-’67 borders tomorrow or disestablished itself as a state.) But I believe that some hostility to Jews is caused by banning free discussion of issues relating to Israel. The act of stifling, of smothering, free inquiry can and often does ignite resentment and often hate. The BDS movement, and its supporters, has as much right to propagate its views on campus as Hillel or the Young Republicans. What does it signify when the only issue on campus where the censors are out on force is Israel? When did AIPAC, AJC and the ADL get an “Israel exemption” added to the First Amendment?
The Jewish community needs to end its politics of suppression. We should be the last people burning books and ideas.
As for the anti-semites, they will always exist no matter what Israel or Jews do. Right now there don’t appear to be very many of them (in this country, at least). We should do all we can to keep their numbers small and their impact nil.
If I avoid reading Mondoweiss, I’d hardly know they exist at all. But still, why give these people fuel?

An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals. By Evelyn Gordon.

An Alternative Model for Pro-Israel Liberals. By Evelyn Gordon. Commentary, March 28, 2014.

“J-Streetophobia” and Shutting Down the Debate. By Tom Wilson.

“J-Streetophobia” and Shutting Down the Debate. By Tom Wilson. Commentary, March 28, 2014.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like J Street? By Tom Wilson. Commentary, February 19, 2014.

Review: “The J Street Challenge.” By Jeff Dunetz. Truth Revolt, March 3, 2014.

J-Streetophobia, and the U.S. Jewish right’s hatred for American Jews. By Bradley Burston. Haaretz, March 25, 2014.

Philadelphia Feud Erupts Over Federation Embrace of Anti-J Street Film. By Nathan Guttman. The Jewish Daily Forward, March 26, 2014.

Anti-J Street documentary screened in Philadelphia. Israel Matzav, March 28, 2014.

J Street’s hypocrisy must be exposed. By Alan Dershowitz. Haaretz, March 27, 2014. Also at Elder of Ziyon.

Jews boo Dershowitz. By Stu Bykofsky. Philadelphia Daily News, March 30, 2014.

Lies, Damn Lies, and J Street. By Janet Tassel, NJBR, March 16, 2014.

The J Street Challenge: The Seductive Allure of Peace in Our Time. Florida premiere trailer. Video. The J Street Challenge. YouTube. Vimeo.

Mona Eltahawy’s opening remarks at J Street 2011. Video. ScarceMedia, February 27, 2011. YouTube.

America’s Useful Idiots. By Steve McCann.

America’s Useful Idiots. By Steve McCann. American Thinker, May 1, 2012.

Useful idiots, then and now. By Jeff Jacoby. Boston Globe, March 13, 2013.

“Useful Idiots.” By Thomas Sowell., August 31, 2000.

Useful idiot. Urban Dictionary.

Useful idiot. Wikipedia.

The Poor Palestinians. By Ted Belman.

The Poor Palestinians. By Ted Belman. American Thinker, February 12, 2012.

Condoleezza Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness and Lack of Leadership. By Stephen F. Hayes.

Condi Rice Blasts Obama on Weakness, Leadership. By Stephen F. Hayes. The Weekly Standard, March 27, 2014.

Condoleezza Rice blames Obama for “vacuum” that’s led to Putin. By Stephen Dinan. Washington Times, March 27, 2014.

Condi Rice lectures on war “weariness.” By Steve Benen. MSNBC, March 28, 2014.

The Fundamental Transformation of the Nation Rolls On. By Monica Crowley., February 25, 2014.

Why did Condi Rice blast Obama’s leadership “vacuum” now? Video. On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Fox News, March 28, 2014. YouTube. Also at GretaWire.


“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”
Rice – measured in tone, but very tough on substance – excoriated Obama administration policies without ever mentioning the president by name. She mocked the naïve hope that “international norms” would fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat and blasted the president for hiding behind the weariness of the public.
“I fully understand the sense of weariness. I fully understand that we must think: ‘Us, again?’ I know that we’ve been through two wars. I know that we’ve been vigilant against terrorism. I know that it’s hard. But leaders can’t afford to get tired. Leaders can’t afford to be weary.”
Rice’s speech was the highlight of an evening that brought in $15.1 million for House Republicans. The former secretary of state has mostly limited her political appearances since leaving office to major events. She delivered a well-received speech at a donor event that Mitt Romney held in Park City, Utah, in 2012 and addressed the Republican National Convention in Tampa that summer. But those familiar with her thinking say she’s determined to help Republicans pick up the Senate and maintain the House heading into the 2016 presidential elections.
House majority whip Kevin McCarthy introduced Rice and raised the prospect that she might become even more involved in politics in two years. After listing various prestigious positions she’s held, he noted, “There’s one thing that’s not on her resume and I want her to put her mind to it to resolve that in 2016.”
Rice has downplayed those suggestions and there’s little reason to believe she’s angling for a run. Still, she has been increasingly active on behalf of her fellow Republicans. Earlier this month, Rice spoke at a Kentucky fundraiser for Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and the spring convention for the California Republican party. Rice appeared in an ad touting Alaska Senate hopeful and Marine reservist Dan Sullivan, a spot paid for by Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads. In the coming months, she will make appearances for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Rice began her speech Wednesday with something of a civics lesson, praising the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution for the limits they placed on government and noting that Americans, despite being the “most individualistic people on this earth, are also the most philanthropic and communitarian.” Rice trundled through well-worn Republican lines on lower taxes and less regulation before once again touting the American system for its recognition of a “vast private space into which the government should not intrude” and a “personal space, where we respect each others’ choices.”
Before turning to foreign policy, Rice urged the crowd, including many Republican House members, to keep America a “nation of immigrants” and strafed liberals who send their kids to private schools but write New York Times op-eds claiming that school choice will ruin public schools.
But the most powerful part of her speech came when Rice expressed her frustration with Obama on national security. “As Ronald Reagan said: Peace only comes through strength,” she recalled.
“So, what are we doing? What are we doing when our defense budget is so small that our military starts to tell us that we may not be able to carry out all of the requirements put upon it? What are we doing, when a couple of weeks before Russia invades Crimea we announce that we are going to have an Army smaller than at any time since the Revolutionary – I’m sorry, not the Revolutionary War, but World War II. What are we doing? What are we doing? What are we signaling when we say that America is no longer ready to stand in the defense of freedom?”


We have seen this movie before and it doesn't end well . . . for us or for the rest of the freedom-loving world. When the U.S. is weak or perceived as weak, the wheels come off the world. The bad guys advance, the good guys retreat, and major violent conflagrations are never far behind.
The “fundamental transformation of the nation” of which Obama spoke in 2008 has three major components: moving America from individual liberty to government dependency and collectivism, from capitalism to socialism, and from superpower status to also-ran status.
Gutting the military, which was well underway before Hagel’s announcement yesterday, is another critical part of that transformation. The extremist Left has always wanted to take America down a notch or two . . . or ten. Hollowing out America’s armed services while ceding global power to our enemies is the fastest and most efficient way to do that.