Monday, February 3, 2014

The Dark Side of the War on “the One Percent.” By Ruth R. Wisse.

The Dark Side of the War on “the One Percent.” By Ruth R. Wisse. The Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2014.

Our Founding Fathers Must Have Been Paranoid Too, Like Tom Perkins. By Paul Roderick Gregory. NJBR, January 30, 2014.


Two phenomena: anti-Semitism and American class conflict. Is there any connection between them? In a letter to this newspaper, the noted venture capitalist Tom Perkins called attention to certain parallels, as he saw them, between Nazi Germany's war against the Jews and American progressives’ war on the “one percent.” For comparing two such historically disparate societies, Mr. Perkins was promptly and heatedly denounced.
But is there something to be said for his comparison—not of Germany and the United States, of course, but of the politics at work in the two situations? The place to begin is at the starting point: with the rise of anti-Semitism, modernity's most successful and least understood political movement.
The German political activist Wilhelm Marr, originally a man of the left, organized a movement in the 1870s that charged Jews with using their skills “to conquer Germany from within.” Distinguishing the movement that he called anti-Semitism from earlier forms of anti-Judaism, Marr argued on professedly rational grounds that Jews were taking unfair advantage of the emerging democratic order in Europe, with its promise of individual rights and open competition, in order to dominate the fields of finance, culture and social ideas. Though some of Marr’s rhetoric and imagery was based on earlier stereotypes, he was right to insist that anti-Semitism was a new response to new conditions, channeling grievance and blame against highly visible beneficiaries of freedom and opportunity.
These were some of its typical ploys: Are you unemployed? The Jews have your jobs. Is your family mired in poverty? The Rothschilds have your money. Do you feel more insecure in the city than you did on the land? The Jews are trapping you in factories and charging you exorbitant rents.
Anti-Semitism accused Jews of undermining Christian authority and corrupting the German legal system, the arts and the press. Jews were said to be rabid internationalists spreading Bolshevism—and ruthless capitalists exploiting for their own gain the nation’s natural and human resources. To ambitious politicians seeking office, to rulers of still largely illiterate populations, “the Jews” became a convenient catchall explanation for deep-rooted and sometimes intractable problems.
But though the origins of modern anti-Semitism may be traced to Germany, anti-Semitism itself remains sui generis and cannot be simply conflated with either Germany or Hitler. True, the latter gained power on a platform of anti-Semitism and then proceeded to put his Final Solution into effect, but the modern organization of politics against the Jews is independent of Nazism—and of fascism, since the Italian variant did not specifically target the Jews. Features of anti-Semitism are present in other political movements, on the left fully as much the right.
The parallel that Tom Perkins drew in his letter was especially irksome to his respondents on the left, many of whom are supporters of President Obama’s sallies against Wall Street and the “one percent.” These critics might profitably consult Robert Wistrich, today’s leading historian of anti-Semitism. His From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (2012) documents the often profound anti-Semitism that has affected socialists and leftists from Karl Marx to today’s anti-Israel movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions. It was Marx who said, “The bill of exchange is the Jew’s actual god,” putting a Jewish face on capitalism and accusing both Judaism and capitalism of converting man and nature into “alienable and saleable objects.”
Herein lies one structural connection between a politics of blame directed specifically at Jews and a politics of grievance directed against “the rich.” The ranks of those harping on “unfairly” high earners include figures in American political life at all levels who have been entrusted with the care of our open society; in channeling blame for today’s deep-rooted and seemingly intractable problems toward the beneficiaries of that society's competitive freedoms, they are playing with fire.
I say this not only, and not even primarily, because some of those beneficiaries happen also to be Jews. So far, mainstream American politicians and supporters of movements like Occupy Wall Street have confined their attacks to the nameless “one percent,” and in any case it is doubtful that today any U.S. politician would be electable on an explicitly anti-Jewish platform.
My point is broader: Stoking class envy is a step in a familiar, dangerous and highly incendiary process. Any ideology or movement, right or left, that is organized negatively—against rather than for—enjoys an inherent advantage in politics, mobilizing unappeasable energies that never have to default on their announced goal of cleansing the body politic of its alleged poisons.
In this respect, one might think of anti-Semitism as the purest and most murderous example of an enduring political archetype: the negative campaign. That campaign has its international as well as its domestic front. Modern anti-Zionism, itself a patented invention of Soviet Communism and now the lingua franca of the international left, uses Israel just as anti-Semitism uses Jews, directing grievance and blame and eliminationist zeal against an entire collectivity that has flourished on the world scene thanks to the blessings of freedom and opportunity.
Herein lies a deeper structural connection. On the global front today, the much larger and more obvious beneficiary of those same blessings is the democratic capitalist system of the United States, and the ultimate target of the ultimate negative campaign is the American people. Anyone seeking to understand the inner workings of such a campaign will find much food for thought in Mr. Perkins’s parallel.

The Peace Process Is Frozen, But Israel Is Winning. By Larry Derfner.

The Peace Process Is Frozen, But Israel Is Winning. By Larry Derfner. The National Interest, February 3, 2014.

The View From Halhul. By David Ignatius.

The View From Halhul. By David Ignatius. Real Clear Politics, February 2, 2014.


Hoping to understand the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in human terms, I made a visit last week to a Palestinian farmer named Hammadeh Kashkeesh, whom I first met 32 years ago.
The encounter reminded me of the pain that’s at the heart of this dispute, and how hard it will be for any diplomatic settlement to resolve the bitterness on both sides.
First, try to imagine the landscape, and how it has changed in the years of Israeli occupation. Halhul is an agricultural town in the rock-ribbed hills just south of Bethlehem. When I first traveled this route in 1982 to spend two weeks with Kashkeesh, to write a profile of his town, the hillsides were mostly barren. Now, the landscape is dense with Israeli settlements, many of them built since the Oslo Accord in 1993 that created the Palestinian Authority.
Kashkeesh and his neighbors pride themselves on raising what they claim are the tastiest grapes in the world. His access to his vines was obstructed more than a decade ago when a special road was built for Israeli settlers who live nearby. He had given up his precious grapes when I visited in 2003, but he’s now found a way to tend them again. Some of his neighbors aren’t so lucky; their vines have grown wild or died.
Kashkeesh, 67, worked for years as a stonecutter and then a farmer. He somehow managed to send all of his seven children to high school or college.
The indignity and bitterness that come with military occupation are deeply embedded in Kashkeesh’s voice. In Halhul, the Palestinian Authority is in theory largely responsible for security. But the Israeli military controls access and intervenes when it sees a security threat. The night before my visit, Kashkeesh said, the Israeli army arrested 10 people for throwing stones at soldiers.
There’s no condoning rock-throwing, let alone terrorist violence. Such tactics have had ruinous consequences for Palestinians, not least in undermining Israeli hope that they ever could live in peace. Hearing the anger in Kashkeesh’s voice, and seeing the sullen faces of young men gathered near his house, was a reminder that Palestinians experience life as a series of daily humiliations. Life in Halhul feels closed, embittered, confrontational.
When I first visited the town, openly advocating a Palestinian state could get you arrested. Villagers would hide a Palestinian flag disguised as embroidery, or a map of Palestine on the back of a wall photo. Now, the U.S. is working with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on a “framework agreement” outlining terms for peace accord.
But Kashkeesh said he has nearly given up. He dislikes the Palestinian Authority almost as much as the Israelis. “They are liars,” he says, whose corrupt leaders build themselves fancy villas and operate “like a trading company.” He also rejects Hamas, and says the Palestinian leadership overall has “destroyed itself, by itself.”
As for the peace negotiations, he asks how Palestinians will control their destiny in the demilitarized state that Israel is demanding. “How can we have a sovereign state if we don’t have control over the border with Jordan?” he wonders. If Israel gains the recognition it wants as a Jewish state, he argues that Christian and Muslim citizens of Israel will feel unwelcome. “Nobody will believe in the agreement, which means there will be no peace.”
Thinking sadly that Kashkeesh might be right in his skepticism – and that a real end of this conflict may be impossible – I asked him to tell me again the story about the boy and the swimming pool. Listen with me:
It was 1975. Kashkeesh was 29 and had recently been released from prison after serving a six-year sentence for membership in the Fatah guerrilla group. He was working at a resort in Arad when he saw an Israeli infant fall into the swimming pool. The parents were elsewhere, and though Kashkeesh couldn’t swim, there was nobody else to save the boy. So he jumped in the water and took the child in his arms. When an Israeli investigator asked him why he had risked his life to help a Jew, he answered that the boy was a human being.
He tells that story now without much animation. As with millions of Israelis and Palestinians, I suspect that his heart has been hardened by so many years of pain and failure. Will the peace negotiations work amid so much mistrust and anger? I don’t know, but this quest for peace is surely still worth the effort.

John Kerry as Secretary of State: Overselling and (So Far) Under-delivering. By Adam Garfinkle.

Overselling and (So Far) Under-delivering. By Adam Garfinkle. The American Interest, February 2, 2014.

Coca-Cola Super Bowl 2014 Commercial.

Coca-Cola Super Bowl 2014 Commercial. Video. SuperBowl Commercials, February 2, 2014. Also here.

Coca-Cola “America the Beautiful” Super Bowl Ad Celebrates Diversity, Twitter Explode. The Huffington Post, February 2, 2014.

Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” Super Bowl Ad Brings Out Some Ugly Americans. By James Poniewozik. Time, February 2, 2014.

Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad ignites online debate. By Ashley Killough. CNN, February 3, 2014.

The Best and Worst Super Bowl Ads. By Ian Crouch. The New Yorker, February 2, 2014.

Myth-Making About Economic Inequality. By Robert J. Samuelson.

Myth-Making About Economic Inequality. By Robert J. Samuelson. Real Clear Politics, February 3, 2014. Also at the Washington Post.


Unless you are exceptionally coldblooded, it’s hard not to be disturbed by today’s huge economic inequality. The gap between the rich and the poor is enormous, wider than most Americans would (almost certainly) wish. But this incontestable reality has made economic inequality a misleading intellectual fad, blamed for many of our problems. Actually, the reverse is true: Economic inequality is usually a consequence of our problems and not a cause.
For starters, the poor are not poor because the rich are rich. The two conditions are generally unrelated. Mostly, the rich got rich by running profitable small businesses (car dealerships, builders), creating big enterprises (Google, Microsoft), being at the top of lucrative occupations (bankers, lawyers, doctors, actors, athletes), managing major companies or inheriting fortunes. By contrast, the very poor often face circumstances that make their lives desperate. In an interview with the New Yorker, President Obama recently put it this way:
“[The] ‘pathologies’ that used to be attributed to the African-American community in particular — single-parent households, and drug abuse, and men dropping out of the labor force, and an underground economy — [are now seen] in larger numbers in white working-class communities.”
Solutions elude us. Though some low-income workers would benefit from a higher minimum wage, most of the very poor would not. They’re not in the labor force; they either can’t work — too young, old, disabled or unskilled — or won’t. Of the 46 million people below the government’s poverty line in 2012, only 6 percent had year-round full-time jobs. Among men 25 to 55 with a high school diploma or less, the share with jobs fell from more than 90 percent in 1970 to less than 75 percent in 2010, reports Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution . For African American men ages 20 to 24, less than half were working.
It’s also not true that, as widely asserted, the wealthiest Americans (the notorious top 1 percent) have captured all the gains in productivity and living standards of recent decades. The Congressional Budget Office examined income trends for the past three decades. It found sizable gains for all income groups.
True, the top 1 percent outdid everyone. From 1980 to 2010, their inflation-adjusted pretax incomes grew a spectacular 190 percent, almost a tripling. But for the poorest fifth of Americans, pretax incomes for these years rose 44 percent. Gains were 31 percent for the second poorest, 29 percent for the middle fifth, 38 percent for the next fifth and 83 percent for the richest fifth, including the top 1 percent. Because our system redistributes income from top to bottom, after-tax gains were larger: 53percent for the poorest fifth; 41 percent for the second; 41 percent for the middle-fifth; 49 percent for the fourth; and 90 percent for richest.
Finally, widening economic inequality is sometimes mistakenly blamed for causing the Great Recession and the weak recovery. The argument, as outlined by two economists at Washington University in St. Louis, goes like this: In the 1980s, income growth for the bottom 95 percent of Americans slowed. People compensated by borrowing more. All the extra debt led to a consumption boom that was unsustainable. The housing bubble and crash followed. Now, weak income growth of the bottom 95 percent “helps explain the slow recovery.”
This theory is half right. An unsustainable debt boom did fuel an unsustainable consumption boom. From 1980 to 2007, household debt rose from 72percent to 137 percent of disposable income. Consumption spending jumped from 61 percent of gross domestic product (the economy) to 67 percent for the same years, a huge shift. These increases could not continue indefinitely. But growing inequality didn’t cause these twin booms. Just because households wanted to borrow didn’t mean lenders had to lend. They lent, signifying relaxed credit standards, because they thought that the risks had dropped.
Optimism seemed justified. Beginning in the 1980s, inflation fell, reducing interest rates. Lower interest rates raised stock prices and home values. People felt wealthier and, on paper, they were. Buoyant consumer spending kept the economy advancing and unemployment low. Recessions were mild and infrequent. Economists called this the Great Moderation. Its complacency led directly to the Great Recession. The boom and bust had little to do with economic inequality.
Americans in the top 1 percent are convenient scapegoats. They don’t naturally command much sympathy, and their rewards sometimes seem outsized or outlandish. When most people are getting ahead, they don’t worry much about this economic inequality. When progress stalls, they do. There’s a backlash and a tendency to see less economic inequality as a solution to all manner of problems. We create simplistic narratives and imagine that punishing the rich will miraculously uplift the poor. This vents popular resentments, even as it encourages self-deception.

Saeb Erekat: Palestinians Were Here Before the Jews.

Chief Palestinian negotiator: We were here before the Jews. By Daniel Siryoti, Shlomo Cesana. Israel Hayom, February 2, 2014.

Erekat Is Wrong: The Jewish Presence in the Land Dates Back for Millennia. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

PA Negotiator Saeb Erekat Claims Family was Canaanite, in Israel for 9,000 Years. By Joshua Levitt. The Algemeiner, February 2, 2014.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat rejects Israel as a Jewish state, claims his ancestors were in Jericho 5,500 years before Joshua. By Yifa Yaakov. The Times of Israel, February 2, 2014.

Saeb Erekat is Not Descended from Canaanites. By Rachel Avraham. Jerusalem Online, February 3, 2014.

Breakout Session: The Middle East Peace Process. Video. Munich Security Conference, January 31, 2014. Livini-Erekat exchange starts at 50:55. Erekat’s remarks/tirade on his historical narrative as a proud son of Jericho with roots 5,500 years before Joshua ben Nun start at 58:35.


You mentioned something about narratives. It is a narrative. I am the son of Jericho. I am ten thousand years old. I celebrated last year the birth date of my city. I am the proud son of the Natufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there 5,500 years before Joshua ben Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho. I’m not going to change my narrative. When you say accept Israel as a Jewish state it means you’re asking me to change my narrative.

Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni Clash Over Historical Narratives at the Munich Security Conference. NJBR, February 5, 2014.

The fabricated Palestinian history. By Nadav Shragai. Israel Hayom, February 7, 2014.

Erekat’s latest lie: “My family was in Palestine for 9000 years.” They are really from Arabia. The Elder of Ziyon, February 2, 2014.

The Elder:

From the Times of Israel:
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator over the weekend again ruled out the notion of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Speaking at a Munich conference, on a panel with his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, Erekat said the demand was unacceptable: “When you say ‘accept Israel as a Jewish state’ you are asking me to change my narrative,” he claimed, asserting that his ancestors lived in the region “5,500 years before Joshua Bin-Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho.”
Joshua lived about 3,300 years ago, so Erekat is claiming that his family was in the region for nearly 9000 years.

Is this true?

Not even close.

Erekat was born in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. I found an interview with another Erekat who was born in Abu Dis, named Hussein Mohamed Erekat. He says that his family actually comes from the Huwaitat region of the northwestern Arabian Peninsula.

Indeed, this article about the dialects and clans of Saudi Arabia confirms the existence of the Erekat (sometimes spelled Areikat or Ariqat) families in Huwaitat, and they are one of seven clans that ended up in Palestine.

Is Saeb a member of this clan? Yes, he is.

This Facebook page of the Erekat family traces the Erekat family history, and this article confirms that the family came from the Huwaitat region, and it also mentions prominent Erekats – including Saeb.
That article also says that before Huwaitat, their ancestors emigrated from Medina.

All of the Erekats are related. Most of their most prominent members have held positions in Jordans government or armed forces, but three PLO diplomats are from the family, including Saeb, the US representative of the PLO Maen Rashid Areikat, and the PLOs delegate to the Ukraine Khaled Erekat.
(Saeb is also implying that he was born in Jericho, but he wasn’t.)

Saeb Erekat is, once again, lying. Just as we caught him lying many, many times before.

And after all these years of documented lies, no one in the media has had the guts to confront him. Because, you see, he may be a liar, but he is a moderate liar, and therefore deserves everyone's uncritical support.

And why should Israel have a problem signing a peace agreement with liars?

UPDATE: Erekat actually said “I am the son proud of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho.”

Arab Democracy? Not in My Lifetime, Says Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. By Adiv Sterman.

Arab democracy? Not in my lifetime, says Ya’alon. By Adiv Sterman. The Times of Israel, January 30, 2014.

Ya’alon: Israel will manage without a peace agreement. By Herb Keinon. Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2014.

Now Peace Talks, John Kerry, are “Anti-Semitic” in Eyes of Israeli Far Right. By Juan Cole.

Now Peace Talks, John Kerry, are “Anti-Semitic” in Eyes of Israeli Far Right. By Juan Cole. Informed Comment, February 2, 2014. Also at History News Network.

Kerry slammed by right for “encouraging” Israel boycott. By Herb Keinon and Lahav Harkov. Jerusalem Post, February 1, 2014.


It is one of the less appealing characteristics of Zionist bullies that they engage blithely in stealing Palestinian land and resources in complete disregard for international law and then use the fig leaf of charges of “anti-Semitism” to deflect any criticism of their actions. (The Jewish Home Party, though religious, characterizes itself as “Zionist.”) This distasteful ploy has increasingly jumped the shark as simple human rights law has become “anti-Semitic” insofar as the current rightwing Zionist enterprise violates international norms, and yet its proponents maintain that criticizing Israel or Zionism is not allowed. All this is not to mention that the United States gives (underline gives) Israel billions of dollars a year in its taxpayers’ money, as well as trade privileges worth further billions. It doesn’t do that for any other country at that level. If Kerry is anti-Semitic now, what would he have to do, make it trillions?

The Netanyahu “Shiksa” Scandal that Wasn’t. By Ruthie Blum.

The “shiksa” scandal that wasn’t. By Ruthie Blum. Jerusalem Post, February 2, 2014.

Why would anyone care if Yair Netanyahu is dating a Gentile? By Jonathan Rosenblum. CNN, February 2, 2014.

Like Yair Netanyahu’s “girlfriend,” am I Israel’s non-Jewish enemy within? By Deborah Black. Haaretz, January 29, 2014.

Can a Myth Rule Egypt? By Joshua Stacher.

Can a Myth Rule a Nation? By Joshua Stacher. Foreign Affairs, January 31, 2014. Also here.

The End of American Exceptionalism. By Peter Beinart.

The End of American Exceptionalism. By Peter Beinart. National Journal, February 3, 2014.

The very attributes conservatives say make America special—religiosity, patriotism, and mobility—are ones they’ve inadvertently undermined. Is it any wonder millennials are less impressed with their country?

Exceptionalism Doesn’t Work That Way. By Peter Berkowitz. National Journal, February 3, 2014.

Yes, some hallowed American habits are changing. That doesn’t mean conservatives are to blame.