Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bill Maher Interviews Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

Bill Maher Interviews Tulsi Gabbard on Real Time. Video. Bill Maher, October 31, 2015. YouTube. Also here.

Bill Maher Goes Off, Asks Dem Rep. Why Obama Won’t Say “Islamic Extremism.” By Josh Feldman. Mediaite, October 30, 2015.

Bill Maher’s nasty new Islamophobia recruit: “Real Time” turns ugly on “barbaric” Muslim beliefs. By Sarah Burris. Salon, October 31, 2015.


Gabbard says it is “crazy” and simplifies aid as giving someone a house and a skateboard which won't fix violence.

Bill Maher hates religion, but he really hates Islam. On Friday evening’s “Real Time,” the host spoke to Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii about their shared quest against Muslims.

Gabbard told Maher she believes it is “crazy” that Secretary of State John Kerry says that extremism comes from poverty — and that President Obama won’t say “Islamic extremism” instead using the words “violent extremism.” She thinks it’s important to “identify our enemy so that we can defeat them.” Secretary Kerry’s comments are particularly absurd to her because she thinks that giving someone a house to live in and a skateboard isn’t going to solve the problems of violence abroad.

Maher went on to attack liberals for what he says is a refusal to discuss the “barbaric” beliefs by some Islamic people in the west and Gabbard agreed. She thinks liberal philosophy “gets in the way” of being able to address it. Apparently, when Gabbard went to Iraq she was tasked to train the Kuwaiti army on counterterrorism, women weren’t even allowed on the base.

Gabbard went on to say “words mean things” which is presumably why the liberals she is attacking refuse to paint an entire group of people as the same.

Military Strike in Syria a Mistake. By Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. The Huffington Post, September 10, 2013.

Ralph Peters: Sending Special Ops Forces to Syria Is an Act of Desperation.

Sending special ops to Syria and act of desperation? Ralph Peters interviewed by Tucker Carlson. Video. Hannity. Fox News, October 30, 2015. YouTube.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Losing Palestine. By Haviv Rettig Gur.

Palestinian girls sit in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound on October 23, 2015. AFP/Ahmad Gharabli.

Losing Palestine. By Haviv Rettig Gur. The Times of Israel, October 27, 2015.


The terrorism of the past month is not a new surge in Palestinian opposition to Israel, but a howl against the pervasive Palestinian sense that resistance has failed.

Even four weeks into this latest surge in violence, in the fast succession of stabbings and protests and funerals and pronouncements, it can be hard to figure out exactly what this round of terror attacks is actually about.

There is no shortage of explanations, of course, but they usually say more about the explainer than the phenomenon they are explaining.

Many pundits sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight have said the killings are driven by economic or political “frustration” — a statement the attackers themselves, along with their most passionate supporters in Palestinian politics, often seem to contradict when they insist they are motivated by devotion to God, Islam or the vision of a redeemed Palestine.

Those who sympathize with the Israelis blame Palestinian “fanaticism” and point to the attackers’ own rhetoric as proof. Yet that rhetoric, for all its rejectionism, does not explain this specific outburst, since it does not mark a change from the past. The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel has been warning for decades that the Jews are trying to “steal” Al-Aqsa. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been extolling the “martyrs” — among them the killers of Israeli schoolchildren — for years, to the consternation of Israelis and the complete disinterest of everyone else.

Neither “fanaticism” — the term itself is a judgment, not a description — nor “frustration” really encapsulate what the attacks mean in the cultural and political context that spawned them, and to which they are speaking: the Palestinian collective consciousness.

The Missing Intifada

The First Intifada, beginning in 1987, was a genuinely popular effort supported by broad swaths of Palestinian society. Its intent was thus more amorphous and more authentic than any specific strategy adopted later on, authentic enough to lead to fundamental shifts in how many Israelis perceived the moral claim the Palestinians had on the Jewish state. The Second Intifada of 2000, with its clear and oft-stated strategy — to cause enough pain and fear in the Israelis that they will choose of their own accord to leave the land – was not born in the grassroots, but at the very least enjoyed the apparent mobilization of Palestinian elites.

The latest wave of terrorism has broad support neither among the people nor among the elites.

Indeed, one of the most remarkable facts about the stabbings and protests that so dominate the headlines of the past few weeks is how few Palestinians are actually participating in them: a few hundred, and at moments of dramatic mobilization — such as the occasional “days of rage” called by Arab leaders — perhaps a few thousand.

This absence is a fact that television news or viral Internet videos fail to convey, since they are ill-equipped to tell a story they cannot show on video. Yet the simple arithmetic is undeniable: the Palestinian people are not lashing out at the Israelis. They are staying home. The elites, meanwhile, are paying lip service to the “martyrs” — the PA’s lip service can be rabid, to be sure, openly celebrating the stabbing of children or offering anti-Semitic blood libels in official media — but are simultaneously acting with determination on the ground to disrupt and stop the attacks against Israelis, and even, more rarely, to offer arguments against them.

In this absence of the people and the elites from the fighting, in the quiet, desperate effort to end the violence alongside the public need to affirm its legitimacy, a deeper message emerges. These youths — the average age of the attackers hovers at around 20 — who are killing Israelis, and often dying almost instantly in the attempt, are lauded as martyrs among Palestinians not so much because Palestinians believe their deaths have meaning, but because it is too agonizing to admit publicly that they do not. In their refusal to recognize Palestinian authorities outside their own online networks, in their appeals to religion and each other rather than the old heroes of the Palestinian “resistance” that lend their names to the more established armed groups, they are making a passionate plea to their own society to reclaim a vision that their society has largely abandoned.

They are resisting more than the Israeli occupation (we are describing the terrorists’ narrative for the moment; most Israelis believe the occupation persists because of the violence, not the other way around). They are battling, too, the growing Palestinian realization that their national movement has no answers, no narrative or political vision that offers a way forward to better days. These young killers are striving, in their kamikaze fervor, to rekindle the idea among Palestinians that straightforward victory remains possible, if only because the alternative – the possibility that Israel cannot be dislodged, that the nostalgic vision of an undivided, unfettered Palestine cannot be reclaimed — is simply too monstrous to accept.

So it is significant that their actions are loudly celebrated and quietly regretted. Unlike in the Second Intifada, when many Palestinians believed the suicide bombings, for all their brutality, could at least be justified by the hope that they might produce real results, few Palestinians now expect or even seriously fantasize that any sort of victory might flow from these new suicides. The deaths of these young killers, who proclaim their brutal acts are a reclamation of Palestinian self-respect, only deepen the despair and sense of indignity among the countrymen they leave behind.

Losing the Thread

The Palestinian national movement once had a coherent narrative. The Israeli polity, it claimed, was a political construct resting on force of arms and doomed to collapse under the weight of its own injustice, taking with it back to the colonialist, imperialist West the millions of Jews it dragged into this land. This narrative formed the underlying logic of Palestinian terrorism. Brutality was lionized precisely because in this analysis of the Israeli enemy, exacting a high cost for Israel’s continued existence hastened the day of its collapse, of its succumbing to its inherent weaknesses.

This narrative drove Palestinian politics for generations. It was believed by moderates and extremists alike. Its essential premise, that the Jews of Israel are not a rights-bearing nation with nowhere else to go, but rather a colonialist ideological construct imposed on this land by foreigners, has become a pillar of more than Palestinian politics; it lies at the root of Palestinian identity, of what Palestinian nationhood has come to mean. Palestine, an identity that had no political expression until Zionism came into being, is for Palestinians, at least in part, that cultural and social reality delineated by the experience of being pushed back by the invading imperialism of the Jews.

None of that takes away from the Palestinians either their nationhood or their history. Such identities and narratives can only be given to a nation by itself. Indeed, Palestinian intellectuals usually agree that the challenge of Zionism coalesced Palestinian national feeling to resist the newcomer.

Yet this vision of the Jewish state has a glaring problem: it has failed monstrously to predict events. Israel, that supposedly hollow shell, that artificial ideological construct, has failed to collapse under its own weight. Indeed, it is the Arab world that has collapsed around it while the Jewish state continues, maddeningly, unjustly, to flourish. The promise of Israel’s inner weakness, offered to the Palestinians as often by Jewish activists as by Palestinian ideologues, has betrayed them. The Jews have failed to leave, and despite the rallying of a handful of radical Jewish intellectuals to the cause, won’t even acknowledge that their national identity is something less than authentic.

Imperiled Al-Aqsa

A comprehensive and startlingly deep September poll of Palestinian public opinion lays out in painful detail the Palestinians’ current despondency.

“For the first time since we started asking, a majority [of Palestinians, 53%,] now demands the dissolution” of the Palestinian Authority, explains the report, produced by the well-regarded Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki.

The main reason: Palestinians feel defenseless against a looming, threatening Israel. Fully 81% of Palestinians polled said they worried “that they would be hurt by Israel or that their land would be confiscated or homes demolished,” the study found.

This figure would surprise most Israelis, who continue to view both the violence of extremist Jews and the legal battles over housing construction and land ownership in the West Bank as essentially peripheral phenomena. Whatever their statistical scope – as with most things, Israeli and Palestinian officials offer different figures – the effect of these experiences on Palestinians’ willingness to trust Israel is decisive.

Thus we find that over two-thirds (68%) of Palestinians said in the Shikaki poll that protecting them from extremist Jewish attacks is not the responsibility of the Israel Defense Forces, but of the Palestinian Authority that ostensibly represents them. A nearly identical number, 67%, said the PA was not doing all it could to fulfill that responsibility – not that it was failing to protect them, but that it wasn’t meaningfully trying.

Nearly half of West Bank residents (48%) even said they would volunteer for unarmed civil guard units in their towns and villages to defend against Israeli violence, if the chance were offered to them.

This sense of the failure of their national institutions doesn’t end with their security. Palestinians feel actively oppressed by their leaders and ideologues.

In Hamas-ruled Gaza, where the regime scarcely pretends to offer individual or civil rights, just 19% say their media is free and only 29% say they can criticize their government without fear (a number actually lower than the 34% who say they support Hamas). It is commonly thought that the Palestinian experience in Gaza is somehow fundamentally different from that in the West Bank. When asked to describe their leaders, however, the dismal figures are nearly the same in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas. Only 23% in the West Bank say their press is free, and 29% – identical to those under Hamas rule – say they can criticize their government.

It is impossible to understand Palestinian claims that Israel seeks to rob them of al-Aqsa, claims that underlie the latest violence, without first grasping this pervasive sense of vulnerability and abandonment.

According to the poll, the vast majority of Palestinians believe that Israel seeks to change the situation at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in its favor. Fully half — 50% — of Palestinians say they believe Israel intends to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine and replace them with a Jewish Third Temple. Another 21% say Israel intends to split the Temple Mount plateau and build a synagogue alongside the Muslim sites. A further 10% — the total is now 81% — said Israel wants to change the five-decade-old status quo that allows only Muslims to pray there. Just 12% said Israel seeks to maintain the status quo.

Of course, this widespread acceptance of claims to Israeli perfidy should not surprise those familiar with past polls, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict generally. But Shikaki followed up this question with another, and respondents’ answers to this next question are astonishing.

Will Israel succeed with its nefarious plans, he asked.

Fully half, 50%, of Palestinians said yes.

The root of what the Israelis sometimes call the Palestinians’ “Big Lie” – essentially, that the Jews are plotting to take Al-Aqsa away from them – is not really very difficult for Israelis to understand after all. Vulnerability, Israelis know well, can dramatically change your view of the enemy.

It hardly matters whether any particular Israeli leader actually wants to change the status quo on the Temple Mount at any particular moment. The simple fact that they could do so if they wished – as vast numbers of Palestinians openly believe – brings into agonizingly sharp relief the helplessness and failure of Palestinian aspirations. The beating heart of Palestinian identity and geography, the shrine that constitutes their claim to a seat of honor in Islam, is in the iron grip of the enemy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly insists that Israel has only good intentions for the Temple Mount, saying his government will ensure Palestinian rights and access to Al-Aqsa just as previous governments have for five decades.

Palestinians do not believe these assurances for several reasons: just as Israelis do not see nuance among Palestinians, missing the general Palestinian despondency amid the loud, violent terrorism of the stabbings, so Palestinians do not bother distinguishing between the activism of Yehudah Glick or Uri Ariel and the longstanding commitments of Israeli governments and the public to a peaceful status quo at the site.

Palestinian unfamiliarity with Israelis, despite the intimate closeness in which we all live, also means they project onto Israel some measure of their own politics. There is little doubt among most Palestinians that if the disparity of power were reversed at the Temple Mount, as it was before 1967, Muslims would deny to Jews what they believe Israel plans to deny to them; it is hard to really trust that the Jews genuinely do not intend to do the same.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Netanyahu does not seem to grasp that his reassurances are themselves galling, since they highlight the intolerable fact that Al-Aqsa’s fate really is ultimately dependent on him and his cabinet.

Last Stands

At least two distinct Palestinian visions have emerged for helping the Palestinian national movement to regain its footing.

One was perhaps best articulated by the well-known Palestinian journalist Mohammed Daraghmeh, who also serves as a Ramallah-based writer for AP. In a remarkable column last week largely but not entirely ignored by Israelis, Daraghmeh spoke directly to the young Palestinian attackers – and to their missing-in-action leaders.

“After the Second Intifada ended, we stood as one and said: We were wrong here, mistaken there,” he wrote on the Palestinian news site al-Hadath. Yet this belated self-criticism was ultimately cowardly, he implied, since Palestinian intellectuals and leaders did not have the courage to speak out while the intifada raged.

Today, too, “the politicians are fearful for their popularity. But the intellectuals charged with safeguarding the spirit of the nation – they must not be afraid. They must shout in the loudest voice: Where are we going?”

According to Daraghmeh, the only power the Palestinians can wield against the overwhelming force of the Israeli occupier lies in the fact that “Palestine is an international issue. [The issue] won’t be decided in a flurry of knives or acts of martyrdom [suicide attacks], or in protests or demonstrations. It will end only when the world understands it has a duty to intervene and to draw borders and lines, as it did in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Kosovo… One might ask: How long? And I say: The day will come. … One might ask: Did the peaceful struggle bring about the end of the occupation? And I say: Did the military and armed struggle do so? …. Only the world can bring the solution. But it won’t do so if we are silent, or if we commit suicide. It will [come to our rescue] if we stay on the humane path of our national struggle…. Our children grab kitchen knives in a wave of emotion…. We must stand before them and say to them: You are destroying your lives and ours — Palestine needs you alive.”

Such sentiments are easy to admire in the context of Palestinian discourse (Israelis might be less moved; they won’t find here any moral qualms over the actual act of stabbing innocent Israelis). Daraghmeh published his warning in a relatively popular news outlet, one whose Facebook page boasts over 230,000 “likes.” Indeed, his views reflect the essential strategy of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in recent years: internationalize the conflict, rope a basically sympathetic world into the equation in order to force the Israelis to retreat.

Yet this most moderate of Palestinian strategies suffers from the same weakness as the more violent ones: it does not address hard strategic realities.

Daraghmeh fails to note that the Bosnian and Kosovar conflicts were ended by the blunt expedient of aerial bombardment. Is it really reasonable to expect what he calls the “world” — US-led NATO, to be exact – to bomb Israel out of the West Bank? Or less cartoonishly, can an Israeli public that consistently tells pollsters it believes a West Bank withdrawal will result in vastly larger and bloodier versions of the Gaza wars of recent years, with rockets targeting Israel’s population centers and subsequent Israeli incursions dealing far worse agony to Palestinians than the current occupation – can a voting public that sees such risks in withdrawal be swayed by economic boycott, UN Human Rights Council resolutions or the snubs of indignant NGOs to carry it out?

Then there is the second Palestinian vision, which amounts to a denial that the past strategies have failed. In Gaza, Hamas has spent the past four weeks loudly cheering on the violence in the West Bank.

Yet ironically, this triumphalism, not the self-criticism of Daraghmeh, brings the Palestinian strategic collapse into sharpest relief. Hamas has praised and sung the glory of the stabbing attacks – while clamping down tightly on sympathetic rocket attacks from Gaza out of fear that Israeli reprisals against the coastal strip could further increase the cost Gazans believe they are paying for Hamas’s strategy of perpetual struggle. (It is not an accident that Hamas’s support in Gaza – 34% in September – marks a five-point drop from Shikaki’s last poll in June.)

Worse, Palestinian leaders do not seem to understand that Hamas’s support for violence fatally undermines Abbas’s nonviolent internationalism, shoring up Israelis’ determination to resist withdrawal because they do not believe Abbas can really hold out against Hamas if Israel pulls out.

The irony is perhaps best encapsulated in last Monday’s comments by Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’s political bureau based in Qatar, who proclaimed that “the heroes of Palestine” have managed to place a “blockade” on the occupier with only knives and handguns. To Israel’s actual blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza the group has found an answer by rhetorically padding the achievements of these (mostly non-Hamas) killers into a comparable — and thus, the pretense goes, deterrence-producing — response.

Similarly, one of Hamas’s leaders in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said last week that the images of IDF soldiers fleeing a Palestinian shooter who opened fire on them at Beersheba’s central bus station prove that Israeli soldiers are unfit even to direct traffic. He did not seem to notice that such claims about the IDF’s frailty might raise questions about Hamas’s inability to effectively puncture the Israeli defensive line in the four wars it has fought with Israel since Israel left the Gaza Strip.

When Hamas decides to effectively sit out a major Palestinian assault on Israel while proclaiming that the very same assault constitutes a force multiplier that somehow balances the power of the sides, when it proclaims Israeli soldiers are feeble while policing Gaza’s border to prevent Palestinians from clashing with those soldiers and eliciting their response, one may safely conclude that even Hamas isn’t quite sure how to move the Palestinian cause forward from this nadir.

There is, of course, one more voice: that of the attackers themselves. Here, too, the strategic impasse soon becomes evident. Their self-proclaimed “Jerusalem awakening,” at once an appeal to the sanctity of Al-Aqsa and an admonition at the galling vacuum of powerlessness that Jerusalem has come to represent, is no awakening at all. In their rejection of existing Palestinian authorities, these “digital natives,” at home in the anarchic internet and partly shaped by its narcissistic tendencies, are in search of a new cultural and political wellspring of resistance that is not tainted by the failures of Fatah and Hamas.

Israeli security officials have told the cabinet in recent weeks that the stabbings are largely the work of “lone wolves” who lack the sort of organizational infrastructure that would make them vulnerable to easy disruption by Israeli intelligence. The diffuse nature of this sort of online grassroots activity may make them harder to intercept (at least until Israel’s security services sufficiently penetrate Palestinian social media) but it also leaves them unable to escalate the assault to the level that might drive real panic among Israelis – the sort of panic that terrorism as a strategy fundamentally requires. Online activism only really matters if it inspires a critical mass of real-world activism. In the long list of painful ironies for the Palestinians, then, this is yet another: the very thing that gives these young, decidedly modern attackers their tactical advantage ensures their strategic defeat. Israelis who ultimately brushed off the suicide bombings of the Second Intifada through the simple expedient of continuing with their daily lives will not be cowed by stabbings in the street.

This simple truth is not lost on the attackers. It is one reason that they do not discuss goals or strategy in any serious way. The video games, cartoons and music videos they share are essentially devoid of a narrative. These artifacts of the present state of Palestinian “popular resistance” are mostly focused not on a discernible path to national redemption, but on the promise of personal satisfaction. The message is simple: stab the Jews, watch them scream, prove to yourself in that instant that they are mortal, vulnerable. For that brief moment – so the online campaign implicitly claims – Palestinian dignity is restored.

Yet the real-world attacks that flow from this promise, the moments of frantic scuffling with Israelis, the quick deaths the attackers meet time and again, even when facing unarmed Israeli civilians, only bring the collapse of Palestinian solutions and self-respect – and Israeli unflappability – into sharper relief.

Necessary Failure?

None of this is a moral argument. Whether the Palestinians’ essential claims are right or wrong, or the Israelis’ skepticism of withdrawal moral or immoral – indeed, whether any of this is good or bad for ostensibly victorious Israel – are separate issues to the simple fact of the Palestinians’ growing realization that they can no longer articulate meaningful options, violent or otherwise, for reclaiming control of their fate.

Yet in the very admission of failure, as always, lies a hint at a possible path that leads in a different direction.

The Palestinian national movement has paid a monstrous price for its misreading of the Jews — for failing to understand that Israeli Jews are largely the descendants of refugees who had nowhere else to go in the brutalities of the 20th century, and thus could not be driven away with terrorism as scattered European colonialists, far from their distant homelands but never estranged from them, emphatically could. The Jews’ resilience to Arab violence lies not in historical realities, but in psychological ones; the Jews believe that they are a people defending themselves, and that is enough to inoculate them to terrorism. Terrorism, after all, is an attempt to exact a cost from a certain behavior; it depends heavily on the victims perceiving a viable alternative to their present behavior.

Yet by this analysis, the Israeli victory is exceedingly limited. It is not rooted in any wise Israeli policy, but in unconscious processes of Israeli identity. Similarly, this victory cannot “solve” the essential challenge. No one has yet suggested a plausible means by which either people might be forced out of this land. So the Israelis and Palestinians remain stuck, whether in failure or success, in coexistence or wild brutality, with the hard reality of each other’s existence as self-proclaimed nations.

It’s not hard to understand why the Palestinians have struggled to come to terms with the Jewish presence in this sense. The barriers to recognition are immense. If the Jews can’t be made to leave, if the foundational strategy of scaring them off wasn’t rooted in an understanding of what that might entail – that is, of how the alternatives to this homeland might appear in the Jews’ collective psyche – then what is the value of Palestinian sacrifices made on the altar of this misbegotten strategy?

Indeed, if the Jews of “colonialist” Israel cannot be dislodged, does that mean they are not like other colonial projects that could be made to collapse? If they are not colonists who can be pushed back to Germany or Russia or Iraq or Morocco from whence they came, what are they? What is to be done with the fact of the enemy’s implacable claims to nationhood, which clash so directly with Palestinian claims?

Nations have rights, and do not lose these rights when they err. That is why Palestinian leaders are so fearful of acquiescing to Israel’s demand that they recognize Jewish nationhood; among their arguments against the demand, one is paramount: it amounts to recognition of Jewish national rights, a vastly more profound concession than Palestinian moderates’ acknowledgment of Jewish power.

Failure has not yet led to any serious consideration that the premise at the heart of the Palestinian strategy may be wrong. No Palestinian who matters, who shapes opinion or controls militias, is willing to be the first to acknowledge defeat.

And so even as Palestinian public opinion grows weary of the pointlessness of the current struggle, Palestinian politics remain trapped in the lingering uncertainty, an uncertainty that is Hamas’s lifeblood and validation: What if we are giving up too soon? What if a little more pain, a little more sacrifice, will yet redeem and restore all that has been lost?

Few really believe that anymore in Palestine, but none are yet willing to seek another path.

Dennis Ross: The Critics Were Right About Obama, Iran, and Israel. By Jennifer Rubin.

Dennis Ross: Critics were right about Obama, Israel, and Iran. By Jennifer Rubin. Washington Post, October 28, 2015.


Dennis Ross, former senior adviser to President Obama, arguably should have come out strongly against the Iran deal — and advised Hillary Clinton (he served in her husband’s administration) that the administration was not leveling with the American people. His interview with the Times of Israel is revealing.

Remember that the president says the deal blocks Iran’s pathway to the bomb. No, says Ross: “One of my main concerns is what happens after year 15, when they basically can have as large a program as they want, and the gap between threshold status and weapon status becomes very small.” Well, at least the deal staved off trouble for the time being. Er, not exactly: “The more you make it clear that for any misbehavior they pay a price, and it’s the kind of price that matters to them, the more likely they are to realize the firewall is real, and the less likely they are to ever test it.” But the deal does not do that; to the contrary, it prevents graduated sanctions since imposition of any sanctions frees Iran from the deal. Sure, but Iran’s behavior in the meantime shows that it won’t exploit the deal and pursue its own religious zealotry. Not at all: “We’re already seeing them ratchet it up in Syria. Everyone is focusing on what the Russians are doing, but Iran is adding significant numbers of Revolutionary Guard forces to the ground, it’s not just Hezbollah forces. I think this is a harbinger of things to come.”

Too bad then that Ross did not unequivocally oppose the deal and urge Democrats to do the same. Now he is willing to admit it virtually guarantees that Iran will get a bomb; it has not specified means for imposing penalties without overthrowing the deal; and Iran’s behavior is worse than ever. That seems to be exactly what critics of the deal have said all along.

Ross also confirms Obama critics’ accusation that Obama is reflexively partial to the Palestinians. “It tends to look at Israel through a lens that is more competitive, more combative, that sees Israel more in problematic terms,” he explains. He adds that since Obama “looks at the Palestinians as being weak, there is this reluctance to criticize them. ‘They’re too weak to criticize’ is what I say in the Obama chapter. And if they are too weak to criticize, they are too weak to be held accountable, too weak to be responsible. They’re too weak to have a state. Well, if you want the Palestinians to have the responsibility of a state, you have to hold them responsible.” In perhaps the most damning portion of his interview, Ross lets on that Obama’s contrarianism toward the George W. Bush administration represented a deliberate attempt to alienate Israel:
When the president comes in, he thinks we have a major problem with Arabs and Muslims. And he sees that as a function of the Bush administration — an image, fairly or not, that Bush was at war with Islam. So one of the ways that he wants to show that he’s going to have an outreach to the Muslim world is that he’s going to give this speech in Cairo. So he wants to reach out and show that the US is not so close to the Israelis, which he thinks also feeds this perception. That’s why there’s an impulse to do some distancing from Israel, and that’s why the settlement issue is seized in a way.
In sum, Ross (not to mention the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren) confirms a good deal of what Obama apologists deny. It turns out the Iran deal really does not stop Iran from getting the bomb. It turns out Obama was guilty of the bigotry of low expectations, never really wanting to hold the Palestinians to account. And from the get-go, he sought to shove Israel away from the United States. It was not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “fault” that the relationship deteriorated. It was by design.

I wonder why Hillary Clinton went along with all this. And I wonder why Ross (and other responsible Democrats) waited this long, allowing this much damage to U.S. national security and the U.S.-Israel relationship to occur before speaking up. I suppose partisan loyalty and naked political ambition trump all other considerations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Progressive Elites vs. Western Civilization. By Victor Davis Hanson.

Is the West Slip, Slip, Slipping Away? By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, October 26, 2015.


What has become of free speech, free markets, and the rule of law?

Sometimes a culture disappears with a whimper, not a bang. Institutions age and are ignored, and the complacent public insidiously lowers its expectations of state performance.

Infrastructure, the rule of law, and civility erode — and yet people are not sure why and how their own changing (and pathological) individual behavior is leading to the collective deterioration that they deplore.

There is still a “West” in the sense of the physical entities of North America, Europe, many of the former British dominions, and parts of Westernized Asia. The infrastructure of our cities and states looks about as it did in the recent past. But is it the West as we once knew it — a unique civilization predicated on free expression, human rights, self-criticism, vibrant free markets, and the rule of law?

Or, instead, is the West reduced to a wealthy but unfree leisure zone, driven on autopilot by computerized affluence, technological determinism, and a growing equality-of-result, omnipotent state?

Tens of thousands of migrants — reminiscent of the great southward and westward treks of Germanic tribes in the late fifth century, at the end of the Roman Empire — are overwhelming the borders of Europe. Such an influx should be a reminder that the West attracts people, while the non-West drives them out, and thus should spark inquiries about why that is so. But that discussion would be not only impolite, but beyond the comprehension of most present-day Westerners, who take for granted — though they cannot define, much less defend — their own institutions.

No one claims that such mass immigration into Europe is legal. No one wonders what happened to the fossilized idea of legal immigration, much less the legal immigrant who went through what has now been rendered the pretense of bureaucratic application for legal entry into Europe. Germany, which lectures others on law, is lawless.

In theory, Westerners have the power to stop the mostly young males from the Middle East from swarming their borders, but in fact they apparently lack the will. Or is it worse than that? Without confidence in their own values, much less pride in their accomplishments, are they assuaging the guilt over their privilege by symbolic acts of undermining the foundations of their own culture? Certainly, Germany, which insists on European Union laws of finance applying to its fellow European nation Greece, has no compunction about destroying, for its own particular purposes, the Union’s immigration statutes as they apply to Middle Easterners.

The same is true in the United States. Millions of foreign nationals from Latin America, and Mexico in particular, simply have crossed the border without even the pretense of legality. They assume Americans not only won’t enforce their own laws, but also will find ways to demonize any who suggest that they should. If there is now no such thing as an “illegal alien,” what in theory prevents anyone from arriving from anywhere at any time and making claims on the American state?

Again, the irony is not just that millions of Mexican nationals want into the U.S., but that, ostensibly, no one in Mexico or even the United States knows why that is so (certainly not the National Council of La Raza [“the Race”]) — much less wonders whether Mexico might learn from the U.S. about ways to make a nation’s own people become content enough to stay in their homeland. Only in the West does a migrant fault his host for insufficient hospitality while exempting his homeland, which drove him out.

Sanctuary cities illustrate how progressive doctrine can by itself nullify the rule of law. In the new West, breaking statutes is backed or ignored by the state if it is branded with race, class, or gender advocacy. By that I mean that if a solitary U.S. citizen seeks to leave and then reenter America without a passport, he will likely be either arrested or turned back, whereas if an illegal alien manages to cross our border, he is unlikely to be sent back as long as he has claims on victimhood of the type that are sanctioned by the Western liberal state.

Do we really enjoy free speech in the West any more? If you think we do, try to use vocabulary that is precise and not pejorative, but does not serve the current engine of social advocacy — terms such as “Islamic terrorist,” “illegal alien,” or “transvestite.” I doubt that a writer for a major newspaper or a politician could use those terms, which were common currency just four or five years ago, without incurring, privately or publicly, the sort of censure that we might associate with the thought police of the former Soviet Union.

It is becoming almost impossible in the West to navigate the contours of totalitarian mind control. Satirists can create cartoons mocking Christ, but not Mohammed. If a teen brings a suspicious-looking device of wires and gadgetry to school, he will be suspended — unless he can advance by his religious or ethnic background some claim on victimization.

In major news accounts, the identification of race and ethnic background of a criminal suspect is often predicated on liberal notions of social engineering. Recent graduates of journalism schools must have learned during their time there that identification by race of a white criminal suspect, but not commensurately of a suspect of color, is a social obligation, a way of avoiding a “micro-aggression,” the latest Orwellian exercise in creating a new word in hopes of inventing a new reality. Marchers with Black Lives Matter banners chant, “Dead Cops!” and also call for them to be roasted, even as to quote what they are saying is deemed racist. As the president of the United States lends his support to Black Lives Matter, a violent crime wave hits his upscale Capitol Hill neighbors, as young inner-city predators go on a rampage against the yuppie liberals living there. Liberal residents call it a “reign of terror,” yet they win as much attention from the president as does the slaughter each weekend in Chicago.

In a San Francisco middle school, recent democratic elections for student officers were massaged into nothingness, since the outcome did not result in the preferred architecture of diversity. Note that the female white principal who nullified the election should not, by her own logic and the theory of proportional representation, be principal of a school where her own race is in the minority. Bureaucratic apparatchiks, apparently aware that careers are enhanced or destroyed by the degree of adherence to diversity and political correctness, have become genteel fascists, somewhere in between those of the Soviet Union and those whom Orwell described in 1984.

When Hollywood puts out a movie called Truth, we know, also in good 1984 fashion, that it should be called Lies — a story of how the supposed noble end of electing a liberal president justifies all the sordid means necessary to achieve it, including amateurish forgery. The probable Democratic nominee for president of the United States just hours after the Benghazi attack announced in private to concerned parties that it was an al-Qaeda terrorist operation, while she was telling the world that it was a spontaneous riot in reaction to an illiberal video, confirming the Obama campaign’s old talking point that al-Qaeda was “on the run” and thus incapable of doing what it had just done. Truth? Lies? There are no such things — just operative and inoperative narratives. Ask the video maker who went to jail for his short movie, or the families of the dead Americans who were assured that it was not al-Qaeda that had killed their loved ones.

In the same mode, today’s campus is a cross between premodern Victorianism and something postmodern out of Clockwork Orange. Never have so many undergraduates hooked up for impersonal, crass, and callous sex, often fueled by alcohol and drugs, and never have the rules of such ad hoc intercourse been so formalized.

If universities really believe that they have and should have the power of stopping males from engaging in improper sexual congress that results in post-coitus unhappy parties, it would be much simpler to go back to the 1950s paradigm of segregating dorms by gender, banning alcohol from campus, viewing possession of illegal drugs as grounds for expulsion, and formulating new rules of treating women during sexual unions according to past formality and manners. A sober and drug-free male who picks up the tab, opens doors for women, watches his language around the opposite sex, and allows a woman some privilege in entering a building might be more receptive to asking formal (written?) consent at each ascending step of love-making, the apparent objective of the new campus sexual codes.

The one constant in the more recent manifestations of the slipping away of the West is the emergence of a new privileged, mostly white progressive class of plutocrat. A Google exec, an Al Gore, a university president, a diversity czar, a Goldman Sachs progressive, a Clinton Initiative apparatchik, a pajama-boy techie — none of them ever expects the ramifications of his ideology to hit home. They assume that they have the power and influence not only to change the mentalities of the caricatured middle class, but in the process to enjoy their own privilege without either guilt or risk. Opposing charter schools usually means your children are in private schools, just as championing open borders reflects one’s own gated community, just as promoting affirmative action in the abstract suggests recourse to a countervailing old-boy network to gain admissions, internships, and jobs for one’s own offspring. Our progressive elites resemble the opportunists of the French Revolution, who rode the crest of popular revolt — hoping that their calls for enforced egalitarianism and fraternity by any means necessary allowed their ample privilege to be exempt from the disorder they had incited.

The Obama administration did not create an anti-Western Western world (indeed, if Obama didn’t exist we would have to invent him), it simply summarized the recent pathologies of late Western life, codified them, and made them institutional, as in “workplace violence,” “white Hispanic,” “micro-aggression,” “sanctuary city,” and the rest of the lexicon of misrepresentation.

In the new West, freedom is inequality, liberty selfishness, and tribalism unity.

That is all ye need to know.

The Iraq War Was a Terrible Mistake. By Fareed Zakaria.

The Iraq War was a terrible mistake. By Fareed Zakaria. CNN, October 26, 2015.

The Long Road to Hell (2nd half hour). By Fareed Zakaria. Video. Up To Speed, October 26, 2015. YouTube.


In a “GPS” special Monday night, I look back on the choices made before, during and after the war in Iraq, and the consequences of those choices. But what do I make of it all?

Well, let me first be honest and tell you what I made of it all at the time: I was in favor of the Iraq War. I believed that a modern democracy in Iraq could be a new model of politics for the region, a middle ground between repressive dictatorships and Islamic fanaticism. And I never believed that Iraqis or Arabs were somehow genetically incapable of self-rule.

Now, it’s true that I did urge that the United States needed to send in many more troops than it did so that it could maintain order. I also called for a U.N. mandate to provide greater legitimacy and avoid the image of an American occupation of a Muslim, Middle Eastern country. And I worried that Iraq's sectarian divisions would pull the country apart.

But none of that changes the fact that I did support the decision to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

And some good certainly came of that decision. After all, Hussein was a gruesome dictator who killed hundreds of thousands and plunged his country into wars. Today, Iraq is more free and open than almost any other Arab country, despite its struggles. Kurdistan, meanwhile, is a real success story – an oasis of stability, modernity and tolerance.

But in the end, the Iraq War was a failure and a terrible mistake, causing geopolitical chaos and humanitarian tragedy.

Once the regime fell apart, the society fell apart. Millions of Iraqis were displaced and at least 150,000 civilians died. That’s in addition to the almost 4,500 brave American troops. Some argue that one can overlearn the lessons of Iraq. Sure, but my caution about a larger American intervention in Syria or elsewhere derives not just from Iraq.

Consider this: The United States replaced the regime in Iraq and gave the new one massive assistance for a decade. The result? Chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya but chose not to attempt nation-building in that country. The result has been chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington supported a negotiated removal of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime in Yemen and the election that followed, but generally took a back seat. The result again was chaos and humanitarian tragedy.

The reality in that part of the world is that many of its regimes are fragile, presiding over weak institutions, little civil society, and often no sense of nationhood itself. In that situation, outside interventions, however well-meaning, might not make things better. Sometimes they can even make things worse.

Could Iraq have turned out differently and set a different pattern? If a stable, functioning democracy had been established in the heart of the Middle East, could it have been a model for the region, a third way between dictatorship and Islamic radicalism?

Well, If America had made all the right decisions, who knows. But it didn’t, and as a result, we will never truly know what Iraq’s future could have been.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ten Reasons Why a Palestinian State (Now) Is Bad for the World. By Richard Landes.

Peace When: Ten Reasons why a Palestinian State (now) is Bad for the World. By Richard Landes. The Augean Stables, October 15, 2014.


In (dis)honor of the Swedish and British initiatives to recognize a Palestinian state right away, and Meir Javedanfar’s announcement of a blogpost on the topic: “Writing a blog entitled: ‘Top ten reasons why I think a Palestinian state would be good for #Israel.’ Standby.”

I write the following counter-list: 10 reasons why a Palestinian State (right now) is a bad idea for everyone.

Please note: I do think a Palestinian state is by far the most desirable outcome for everyone (except the jihadis), if we’re talking about a state that behaves the way European Union nations behave: they disagree, but understand they’re on the same side. If however, as is every person with power in Palestinian culture right now, they are bent on our destruction, then trying to make a state with them will weaken us and strengthen them (good for no one but the jihadis). I am a member of Peace When, not Peace Now.

1. There is no serious evidence that the Palestinian leadership both “secular” (Fatah) and religious (Hamas) want a state of their own that will live in peace with an Israeli state. There is, on the contrary, ample evidence that they will treat anything they get as a staging ground for further attacks.

2. The Palestinians have, for all their opportunities, never been able to set up the infrastructure of a responsible state. The miserable career of Fayyad illustrates how far from a transparent governance, a fair juridical system, a competent administration they are. Why create a sure failure?

3. This likelihood is all the greater if they get their concessions by means that involve going around the backs of the Israelis and having things forced on the Israelis. In honor-shame cultures, any time a foe is forced to make concessions it’s a sign of weakness, and an occasion to make further (violent) claims.

4. As the withdrawal from Gaza showed, Hamas will eat Fatah within months of any power vacuum. Thus it is a near certainty that a Palestinian state will become a militant Jihadi state. Indeed, Daesh (ISIS) would probably eat Hamas as quickly as Hamas eats Fatah.

5. With 51 Muslim majority states in the world, 22 Arab states, all of them either failures or worse, none of them solid democracies, most of them consistently belligerent to neighbors whether Arab or Muslim or not, why on earth would the world community want yet another guaranteed failed, bellicose, fascist, Jihadi state? Giving the current Palestinian leadership a state is like giving a crack-addicted teenager the keys to a fully-armed tank.

6. There are people with a much greater claim on the world community’s values to have a state, peoples with their own language, in some cases their own religion, their own (real) history: Kurds, Berbers, Tibetans, Tamils, Chechens, etc. To give a state to a group with the same language, religion, and (until a generation ago) the same identity, as 22 other Arab ones sets a terrible precedent.

7. The West faces an implacable enemy in global Jihad. It would be nothing short of reckless to create another major opening for Jihadi forces to take root and use state privileges to expand operations (e.g. diplomatic immunity).

8. Israel represents the only civilizational ally the West has in the Middle East (pace Obama’s delusions about Turkey and his BFF Erdogan). To undermine her in a battle for her existence by empowering a genocidal movement with state power would be little short of insanely self-destructive. Without Israel, no Jordan, no Lebanon (however dysfunctional). No intelligence, no counter-weight to Jihadi impetus.

9. To give in to the tyranny of a democracy of tyrannies in the UN is to undermine the very principles of international democracy.

10. At this time, with an incompetent if not malevolent Palestinian leadership, with global Jihad the “strong horse,” and a Western world falling ill to the disease of anti-semitism and the outbreak of an aggressive Muslim “street,” it would be suicidal to press so foolish a policy.

Moral Equivalence in the Middle East. By Victor Davis Hanson.

Moral Equivalence in the Middle East. By Victor Davis Hanson. National Review Online, October 20, 2015.


The West has developed a dangerous concern for “proportionality.”

In the current epidemic of Palestinian violence, scores of Arab youths are attacking, supposedly spontaneously, Israeli citizens with knives. Apparently, edged weapons have more Koranic authority, and, in the sense of media spectacle, they provide greater splashes of blood. Thus the attacker is regularly described as “unarmed” and a victim when he is “disproportionately” stopped by bullets.

The Obama State Department has condemned the use of “excessive” Israeli force in response to Palestinian terrorism. John Kirby, the hapless State Department spokesman, blamed “both” sides for terrorism, and the president himself called on attackers and their victims to “tamp down the violence.”

In short, the present U.S. government — which is subsidizing the Palestinians to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year — is incapable of distinguishing those who employ terrorist violence from the victims against whom the terrorism is directed. But why is the Obama administration — which can apparently distinguish those who send out drones from those who are blown up by them on the suspicion of employing terrorist violence — morally incapable of calling out Palestinian violence? After all, in the American case, we blow away suspects whom we think are likely terrorists; in the Israeli instance, they shoot or arrest those who have clearly just committed a terrorist act.

Two reasons stand out.

One, Obama’s Middle East policies are in shambles. Phony red lines, faux deadlines, reset with Putin, surrendering all the original bargaining chips in the Iranian deal, snubbing Israel, cozying up to the Muslim Brotherhood, dismissing the threat of ISIS, allowing Iraq to collapse by abruptly pulling out all American troops, giving way to serial indecision in Afghanistan, ostracizing the moderate Sunni regimes, wrecking Libya, and setting the stage for Benghazi — all of these were the result of administration choices, not fated events. One of the results of this collapse of American power and presence in the Middle East is an emboldened Palestinian movement that has recently renounced the Oslo Accords and encouraged the offensive of edged weapons.

Mahmoud Abbas, the subsidized president of the self-proclaimed Palestinian State, and his subordinates have sanctioned the violence. Any time Palestinians sense distance between the U.S. and Israel, they seek to widen the breach. When the Obama team deliberately and often gratuitously signals its displeasure with Israel, then the Palestinians seek to harden that abstract pique into concrete estrangement.

Amid such a collapse of American power, Abbas has scanned the Middle East, surveyed the Obama pronouncements — from his initial Al Arabiya interview and Cairo speech to his current contextualizations and not-so private slapdowns of Netanyahu — and has wagered that Obama likes Israel even less than his public statements might suggest. Accordingly, Abbas assumes that there might be few consequences from America if he incites another “cycle of violence.”

The more chaos there is, the more CNN videos of Palestinian terrorists being killed by Israeli civilians or security forces, the more NBC clips of knife-wielding terrorists who are described as unarmed, and the more MSNBC faux maps of Israeli absorption of Palestine, so all the more the Abbas regime and Hamas expect the “international community” to force further Israeli concessions. The Palestinians hope that they are entering yet another stage in their endless war against Israel. But this time, given the American recessional, they have new hopes that the emerging Iran–Russia–Syria–Iraq–Hezbollah axis could offer ample power in support of the violence and could help to turn the current asymmetrical war more advantageously conventional. The Palestinians believe, whether accurately or not, that their renewed violence might be a more brutal method of aiding the administration’s own efforts to pressure the Israelis to become more socially just, without which there supposedly cannot be peace in the Middle East.

But there is a second, more general explanation for the moral equivalence and anemic response from the White House. The Obama “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” administration is the first postmodern government in American history, and it has adopted almost all the general culture’s flawed relativist assumptions about human nature.

Affluent and leisured Western culture in the 21st century assumes that it has reached a stage of psychological nirvana, in which the Westernized world is no longer threatened in any existential fashion as it often was in the past. That allows Westerners to believe that they no longer have limbic brains, and so are no longer bound by Neanderthal ideas like deterrence, balance of power, military alliances, and the use of force to settle disagreements. Their wealth and technology assure them that they are free, then, to enter a brave new world of zero culpability, zero competition, and zero hostility that will ensure perpetual tranquility and thus perpetual enjoyment of our present material bounty.

Our children today play tee-ball, where there are no winners and losers — and thus they are schooled that competition is not just detrimental but also can, by such training, be eliminated entirely. Our adolescents are treated according to the philosophy of “zero tolerance,” in which the hero who stops the punk from bullying a weaker victim is likewise suspended from school. Under the pretense of such smug moral superiority, our schools have abdicated the hard and ancient task of distinguishing bad behavior from good and then proceeding with the necessary rewards and punishments. Our universities have junked military history, which schooled generations on how wars start, proceed, and end. Instead, “conflict resolution and peace studies” programs proliferate, in which empathy and dialogue are supposed to contextualize the aggressor and thus persuade him to desist and seek help — as if aggression, greed, and the desire for intimidation were treatable syndromes rather than ancient evils that have remained dangerous throughout history.

Human nature is not so easily transcended, just because a new therapeutic generation has confused its iPhone apps and Priuses with commensurate moral and ethical advancement. Under the canons of the last 2,500 years of Western warfare, disproportionality was the method by which aggressors were either deterred or stopped. Deterrence — which alone prevented wars — was predicated on the shared assumption that starting a conflict would bring more violence down upon the aggressor than he could ever inflict on his victim. Once lost, deterrence was restored usually by disproportionate responses that led to victory over and humiliation of the aggressive party.

The wreckage of Berlin trumped anything inflicted by the Luftwaffe on London. The Japanese killed fewer than 3,000 Americans at Pearl Harbor; the Americans killed 30 times that number of Japanese in a single March 10, 1945, incendiary raid on Tokyo. “They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” was the standard philosophy by which aggressive powers were taught never again to start hostilities. Defeat and humiliation led to peace and reconciliation.

The tragic but necessary resort to disproportionate force by the attacked not only taught an aggressor that he could not win the fight he had started, but also reminded him that his targeted enemy might not be completely sane, and thus could be capable of any and all retaliation.

Unpredictability and the fear sown by the unknown also help to restore deterrence, and with it calm and peace. In contrast, predictable, proportionate responses can reassure the aggressor that he is in control of the tempo of the war that he in fact started. And worse still, the doctrine of proportionality suggests that the victim does not seek victory and resolution, but will do almost anything to return to the status quo antebellum — which, of course, was disadvantageous and shaped by the constant threat of unexpected attack by its enemies.

Applying this to the Middle East, the Palestinians believe that the new American indifference to the region and Washington’s slapdowns of Netanyahu have reshuffled relative power. They now hope that there is no deterrent to violence and that, if it should break out, there will be only a proportionate and modest response from predictable Westerners.

Under the related doctrine of moral equivalence, Westerners are either unwilling or unable to distinguish the more culpable from the more innocent. Instead, because the world more often divides by 55 to 45 percent rather than 99 to 1 percent certainty, Westerners lack the confidence to make moral judgments — afraid that too many critics might question their liberal sensitivities, a charge that in the absence of dearth, hunger, and disease is considered the worst catastrophe facing an affluent Western elite.

The question is not only whether the Obama administration, in private, favors the cause of the radical Palestinians over a Western ally like Israel, but also whether it is even intellectually and morally capable of distinguishing a democratic state that protects human rights from a non-democratic, authoritarian, and terrorist regime that historically has hated the West, and the United States in particular — and is currently engaged in clear-cut aggression.