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Monday, May 2, 2016

The GOP Gets What It Deserves




By  BRET STEPHENS




A joke in Milan Kundera’s novel “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” goes like this: “In Wenceslaus Square, in Prague, a guy is throwing up. Another guy comes up to him, pulls a long face, shakes his head and says: ‘I know just what you mean.’ ”

The joke is supposed to be about life in Czechoslovakia under communism, circa 1977. It conveys exactly what I feel about the moral and mental state of the Republican Party, circa 2016.

Last week, Donald Trump delivered his big foreign-policy speech, built around the theme of “America First.” The term seems to have been planted in his brain by New York Timesreporter David Sanger, who asked the Republican front-runner in late March whether it was fair to sum up his foreign policy as “something of an ‘America First’ kind of approach.”

Trump: “Correct, okay? That’s fine.”

Sanger: “Okay? Am I describing this correctly here?”

Trump: “I’ll tell you—you’re getting close. . . . I’m not an isolationist, but I am ‘America First.’ So I like the expression. I’m ‘America First.’ ”

Did Mr. Trump know anything about the history of the America First Committee before he seized on the phrase? Did anyone in his inner circle advise him that it might be unwise to associate himself with a movement whose principal aim was to prevent the United States from helping Winston Churchill fight the Nazis during the Battle of the Atlantic? Once he learned of it—assuming he did—was he at least privately embarrassed? Or was he that much more pleased with himself?

With Mr. Trump it’s hard to say: He has a way of blurring the line between ignorance and provocation, using one as an alibi when he’s accused of the other. Is he Rodney Dangerfield, the lovable American everyman pleading for a bit of respect? Or is he Lenny Bruce, poking his middle finger in the eye of respectable opinion?

Whichever way, the conclusion isn’t flattering. Either Mr. Trump stumbled upon his worldview through a dense fog of historical ignorance. Or he is seriously attempting to resurrect the most disastrous and discredited strain of American foreign policy for a new generation of American ignoramuses.

And now he’s about to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, assuming a win in Tuesday’s Indiana primary.

It’s true that Mr. Trump benefits from having as his main opponent Ted Cruz, the man recently described by former House Speaker John Boehner as “Lucifer in the flesh.” That’s about right, assuming Lucifer is the fellow who sows discord where harmony once reigned.

In 2014, the “Republican establishment,” as it is now derisively known, succeeded in securing its largest ever majority in the House since 1928. It won nine seats in the Senate and regained the majority for the first time in eight years. The GOP also took control of 31 governorships, with historic gains in state legislatures.

These were significant political achievements, which only awaited a reasonably serious presidential candidate to lead to a sweeping Republican restoration.

Instead, Mr. Cruz used the moment to attempt a party coup by treating every tactical or parliamentary difference of opinion as a test of ideological purity. The party turned on its own leaders, like the much-vilified Mr. Boehner. Then it turned on its (classically) liberal ideas, like free trade and sensible immigration policy.

And now it’s America First time again—the inevitable outcome of the GOP’s descent into populism.

Mr. Cruz, who used to be fond of calling Mr. Trump “my friend Donald” when it seemed opportune, now presents himself as the only man standing between his nemesis and the nomination. But Mr. Cruz’s trashing of his fellow Republicans hastened the arrival of the ultimate party-crasher. Arsonists who set fire to their neighborhood run the risk of burning their own house down.

And then there is the GOP rank-and-file. It is supposed to be sinful for conservative columnists to blame Republican voters for making disastrous choices, at least without the obligatory nods to their patriotism and pain.

But if Democrats don’t get a moral pass for bringing Bernie Sanders this far in the race, Republicans shouldn’t get one for bringing Mr. Trump to the cusp of the nomination. The point of democracy isn’t freedom. It’s political accountability. That goes for elected officials—and for the ones who elect them.

The “white working classes” that are said to form the core of Mr. Trump’s support deserve better than to be patronized with references to their “anger.” They deserve to hear an argument about the disaster they are about to impose on their party, their country and their own economic interests.

A Trump nomination will not destroy the GOP, any more than George McGovern’s nomination destroyed the Democrats. But it all but guarantees another Clinton presidency. How should that make you feel? Note the Kundera punchline atop this column.

***

                                   Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia  in 1968 






Friday, April 29, 2016

Krauthammer: The world according to Trump












Foreign policy does not determine American elections. Indeed, of all Western countries, we are the least interested in the subject. The reason is simple: We haven’t had to be. Our instinctive isolationism derives from our geographic exceptionalism. As Bismarck once explained (it is said), the United States is the most fortunate of all Great Powers, bordered on two sides by weak neighbors and on the other two by fish.

Two world wars, nuclear missiles and international terrorism have disabused us of the illusion of safety-by-isolation. You wouldn’t know it, though, from the Democratic presidential race where foreign policy has been treated as a nuisance, a distraction from such fundamental questions as whether $12 or $15 is the proper minimum wage.

On the Republican side, however, foreign policy has been the subject of furious debate. To which Donald Trump has contributed significantly, much of it off-the-cuff, contradictory and confused. Hence his foreign policy speech on Wednesday. It was meant to make him appear consistent, serious and presidential.

He did check off the required box — delivering a “major address” to a serious foreign policy outfit, the Center for the National Interest (once known as the Nixon Center). As such, it fulfilled a political need.

As did its major theme, announced right at the top: America First. Classically populist and invariably popular, it is nonetheless quite fraught. On the one hand, it can be meaningless — isn’t every president trying to advance American interests? Surely Truman didn’t enter the Korean War for the sake of Koreans, but from the conviction that intervention was essential for American security.

On the other hand, America First does have a history. In 1940, when Britain was fighting for its life and Churchill was begging for U.S. help, it was the name of the group most virulently opposed to U.S. intervention. It disbanded — totally discredited — four days after Pearl Harbor.

The irony is that while President Obama would never use the term, it is the underlying theme of his foreign policy — which Trump constantly denounces as a series of disasters. Obama, like Trump, is animated by the view that we are overextended and overinvested abroad. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” declared Obamain his December 2009 West Point address on Afghanistan.

This is also the theme of Bernie Sanders. No great surprise. Left and right isolationism have found common cause since the 1930s. Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas often shared the platform with Charles Lindbergh at America First rallies.

Both the left and right have a long history of advocating American retreat and retrenchment. The difference is that liberals want to come home because they think we are not good enough for the world. Conservatives want to wash their hands of the world because they think the world is not good enough for us.

For Obama, we are morally unworthy to act as world hegemon. Our hands are not clean. He’s gone abroad confessing our various sins — everything from the Iranian coup of 1953 to our unkind treatment of Castro’s Cuba to the ultimate blot, Hiroshima, a penitential visit to which Obama is currently considering.

Trump would be rightly appalled by such a self-indicting trip. His foreign policy stems from a proud nationalism that believes that these recalcitrant tribes and nations are unworthy of American expenditures of blood and treasure.

This has been the underlying view of conservative isolationism from Lindbergh through Pat Buchanan through Rand Paul. It is not without its attractions. Trump’s version, however, is inconsistent and often contradictory. After all, he pledged to bring stability to the Middle East. How do you do that without presence, risk and expenditures (financial and military)? He attacked Obama for letting Iran become a “great power.” But doesn’t resisting that automatically imply engagement?

More incoherent still is Trump’s insistence on being unpredictable. An asset perhaps in real estate deals, but in a Hobbesian world American allies rely on American consistency, often as a matter of life or death. Yet Trump excoriated the Obama-Clinton foreign policy for losing the trust of our allies precisely because of its capriciousness. The tilt toward Iran. The red line in Syria. Canceling the Eastern European missile defense. Abandoning Hosni Mubarak.

Trump’s scripted, telepromptered speech was intended to finally clarify his foreign policy. It produced instead a jumble. The basic principle seems to be this: Continue the inexorable Obama-Clinton retreat, though for reasons of national self-interest, rather than of national self-doubt. And except when, with studied inconsistency, he decides otherwise.






Trump Full Speech: This Could Be Most Peaceful and Prosperous Century The World Has Ever Known

TRUMP: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you, and thank you to the Center for the National Interest for honoring me with this invitation.

I would like to talk today about how to develop a new foreign policy direction for our country – one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.

It is time to shake the rust off of America’s foreign policy. It's time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold.

The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make.

America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.

But to chart our path forward, we must first briefly look back.

We have a lot to be proud of. In the 1940s we saved the world. The Greatest Generation beat back the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists.

Then we saved the world again, this time from totalitarian Communism. The Cold War lasted for decades, but we won.

Democrats and Republicans working together got Mr. Gorbachev to heed the words of President Reagan when he said: “tear down this wall.”

History will not forget what we did.

Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense.

Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign policy disaster after another.

We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos, and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper.

It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy.

We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill the void, much to their unjust enrichment.

Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.

No vision, no purpose, no direction, no strategy.

Today, I want to identify five main weaknesses in our foreign policy.  

First, Our Resources Are Overextended

President Obama has weakened our military by weakening our economy. He’s crippled us with wasteful spending, massive debt, low growth, a huge trade deficit and open borders.

Our manufacturing trade deficit with the world is now approaching $1 trillion a year. We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own.

Ending the theft of American jobs will give us the resources we need to rebuild our military and regain our financial independence and strength.

I am the only person running for the Presidency who understands this problem and knows how to fix it. 

Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share.

Our allies must contribute toward the financial, political and human costs of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us.

In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries, besides America, are spending the minimum required 2% of GDP on defense.

We have spent trillions of dollars over time – on planes, missiles, ships, equipment – building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense – and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.

The whole world will be safer if our allies do their part to support our common defense and security.

A Trump Administration will lead a free world that is properly armed and funded. 

Thirdly, our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.

We’ve had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies.

He negotiated a disastrous deal with Iran, and then we watched them ignore its terms, even before the ink was dry.

Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and, under a Trump Administration, will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.

All of this without even mentioning the humiliation of the United States with Iran’s treatment of our ten captured sailors.

In negotiation, you must be willing to walk. The Iran deal, like so many of our worst agreements, is the result of not being willing to leave the table. When the other side knows you’re not going to walk, it becomes absolutely impossible to win.

At the same time, your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.

President Obama gutted our missile defense program, then abandoned our missile defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.

He supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel – and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.

Israel, our great friend and the one true Democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticized by an Administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel – a force for justice and peace – for acting as an impediment to peace in the region.

President Obama has not been a friend to Israel. He has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power in the Middle East – all at the expense of Israel, our other allies in the region and, critically, the United States.

We’ve picked fights with our oldest friends, and now they’re starting to look elsewhere for help.

Fourth, our rivals no longer respect us.

In fact, they are just as confused as our allies, but an even bigger problem is that they don’t take us seriously any more.

When President Obama landed in Cuba on Air Force One, no leader was there to meet or greet him – perhaps an incident without precedent in the long and prestigious history of Air Force One.

Then, amazingly, the same thing happened in Saudi Arabia -- it's called no respect.

Do you remember when the President made a long and expensive trip to Copenhagen, Denmark to get the Olympics for our country, and, after this unprecedented effort, it was announced that the United States came in fourth place?

He should have known the result before making such an embarrassing commitment.

The list of humiliations goes on and on.

President Obama watches helplessly as North Korea increases its aggression and expands even further with its nuclear reach.

Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade rules – or apply the leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea.

He has even allowed China to steal government secrets with cyber attacks and engage in industrial espionage against the United States and its companies.

We’ve let our rivals and challengers think they can get away with anything.

If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.

Finally, America no longer has a clear understanding of our foreign policy goals.

Since the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, we’ve lacked a coherent foreign policy.

One day we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians, the next day we are watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls apart.

We're a humanitarian nation. But the legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be weakness, confusion, and disarray.

We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before.

We left Christians subject to intense persecution and even genocide.

Our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS.

And we’re in a war against radical Islam, but President Obama won’t even name the enemy!

Hillary Clinton also refuses to say the words “radical Islam,” even as she pushes for a massive increase in refugees.

After Secretary Clinton’s failed intervention in Libya, Islamic terrorists in Benghazi took down our consulate and killed our ambassador and three brave Americans. Then, instead of taking charge that night, Hillary Clinton decided to go home and sleep! Incredible.

Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie. Our Ambassador was murdered and our Secretary of State misled the nation – and by the way, she was not awake to take that call at 3 o'clock in the morning.

And now ISIS is making millions of dollars a week selling Libyan oil.

This will change when I am president.

To all our friends and allies, I say America is going to be strong again. America is going to be a reliable friend and ally again.

We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests, and the shared interests of our allies.

We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.

Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge.

We need a new, rational American foreign policy, informed by the best minds and supported by both parties, as well as by our close allies.

This is how we won the Cold War, and it’s how we will win our new and future struggles.

First, we need a long-term plan to halt the spread and reach of radical Islam.

Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States.

Events may require the use of military force. But it’s also a philosophical struggle, like our long struggle in the Cold War.

In this we’re going to be working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence.

We should work together with any nation in the region that is threatened by the rise of radical Islam. But this has to be a two-way street – they must also be good to us and remember us and all we are doing for them.

The struggle against radical Islam also takes place in our homeland. There are scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism. For every case known to the public, there are dozens more.

We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies.

A pause for reassessment will help us to prevent the next San Bernardino or worse -- all you have to do is look at the World Trade Center and September 11th.

And then there’s ISIS. I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable. But they’re going to be gone. And soon.

Secondly, we have to rebuild our military and our economy.

The Russians and Chinese have rapidly expanded their military capability, but look what’s happened to us!

Our nuclear weapons arsenal – our ultimate deterrent – has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal.

Our active duty armed forces have shrunk from 2 million in 1991 to about 1.3 million today.

The Navy has shrunk from over 500 ships to 272 ships during that time.

The Air Force is about 1/3 smaller than 1991. Pilots are flying B-52s in combat missions today which are older than most people in this room.

And what are we doing about this? President Obama has proposed a 2017 defense budget that, in real dollars, cuts nearly 25% from what we were spending in 2011.

Our military is depleted, and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming.

We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned.

But we will look for savings and spend our money wisely. In this time of mounting debt, not one dollar can be wasted.

We are also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again – and to put Americans first again. This will ensure that our own workers, right here in America, get the jobs and higher pay that will grow our tax revenue and increase our economic might as a nation.

We need to think smarter about areas where our technological superiority gives us an edge. This includes 3-D printing, artificial intelligence and cyberwarfare.

A great country also takes care of its warriors. Our commitment to them is absolute. A Trump Administration will give our service men and women the best equipment and support in the world when they serve, and the best care in the world when they return as veterans to civilian life.

Finally, we must develop a foreign policy based on American interests.


Businesses do not succeed when they lose sight of their core interests and neither do countries.

Look at what happened in the 1990s. Our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked and seventeen brave sailors were killed on the USS Cole. And what did we do? It seemed we put more effort into adding China to the World Trade Organization – which has been a disaster for the United States – than into stopping Al Qaeda.

We even had an opportunity to take out Osama Bin Laden, and didn’t do it. And then, we got hit at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the worst attack on our country in its history.

Our foreign policy goals must be based on America’s core national security interests, and the following will be my priorities.

In the Middle East, our goals must be to defeat terrorists and promote regional stability, not radical change. We need to be clear-sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies.

And we must only be generous to those that prove they are our friends.

We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes. But we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism.

I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible. Common sense says this cycle of hostility must end. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a good deal for America, then we will quickly walk from the table.

Fixing our relations with China is another important step towards a prosperous century. China respects strength, and by letting them take advantage of us economically, we have lost all of their respect. We have a massive trade deficit with China, a deficit we must find a way, quickly, to balance.

A strong and smart America is an America that will find a better friend in China. We can both benefit or we can both go our separate ways.

After I am elected President, I will also call for a summit with our NATO allies, and a separate summit with our Asian allies. In these summits, we will not only discuss a rebalancing of financial commitments, but take a fresh look at how we can adopt new strategies for tackling our common challenges.

For instance, we will discuss how we can upgrade NATO’s outdated mission and structure – grown out of the Cold War – to confront our shared challenges, including migration and Islamic terrorism.

I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must fight to win. I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary – and will only do so if we have a plan for victory.

Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction.

The best way to achieve those goals is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy.

With President Obama and Secretary Clinton we’ve had the exact opposite: a reckless, rudderless and aimless foreign policy – one that has blazed a path of destruction in its wake.

After losing thousands of lives and spending trillions of dollars, we are in far worse shape now in the Middle East than ever before.

I challenge anyone to explain the strategic foreign policy vision of Obama-Clinton – it has been a complete and total disaster.

I will also be prepared to deploy America’s economic resources. Financial leverage and sanctions can be very persuasive – but we need to use them selectively and with determination. Our power will be used if others do not play by the rules.

Our friends and enemies must know that if I draw a line in the sand, I will enforce it.

However, unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are signs of strength.

Although not in government service, I was totally against the War in Iraq, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East. Sadly, I was correct, and the biggest beneficiary was Iran, who is systematically taking over Iraq and gaining access to their rich oil reserves – something it has wanted to do for decades. And now, to top it all off, we have ISIS.

My goal is to establish a foreign policy that will endure for several generations.

That is why I will also look for talented experts with new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.

Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions. Instead of trying to spread “universal values” that not everyone shares, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions.

These are my goals, as president.

I will seek a foreign policy that all Americans, whatever their party, can support, and which our friends and allies will respect and welcome.

The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies.

To achieve these goals, Americans must have confidence in their country and its leadership again.

Many Americans must wonder why our politicians seem more interested in defending the borders of foreign countries than their own.

Americans must know that we are putting the American people first again. On trade, on immigration, on foreign policy – the jobs, incomes and security of the American worker will always be my first priority.

No country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first. Both our friends and enemies put their countries above ours and we, while being fair to them, must do the same.

We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism.

The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down, and will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs.

NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the U.S. and has emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs. Never again. Only the reverse will happen. We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. Their will be consequences for companies that leave the U.S. only to exploit it later.

Under a Trump Administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of foreign countries.

I will view the world through the clear lens of American interests.

I will be America’s greatest defender and most loyal champion. We will not apologize for becoming successful again, but will instead embrace the unique heritage that makes us who we are.

The world is most peaceful, and most prosperous, when America is strongest.

America will continually play the role of peacemaker.

We will always help to save lives and, indeed, humanity itself. But to play that role, we must make America strong again.

We must make America respected again. And we must make America great again.

If we do that, perhaps this century can be the most peaceful and prosperous the world has ever known. Thank you.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Yossi Klein Halevi:The Jewish story is under assault



By Yossi Klein Halevi

 Who are the Jews? A religion? A people? The question has taken on a special urgency in our time. At the heart of the anti-Zionist assault is the notion that the Jews aren't a people but only a faith. That premise is normative throughout the Arab world, and especially in the Palestinian statehood movement, all of whose factions deny the existence of a distinct Jewish people with a right to national sovereignty.

The Jewish calendar tells a different story. On Passover, we celebrate the birth of the Jewish people through our escape from Egypt; it's the beginning of a coherent historical narrative. On Shavuot, two months later, we celebrate the giving of the Torah at Sinai, imprinting the Jewish people with a distinct path to God. The Jews, then, are a people with a specific faith. In that order.

The Passover Seder implicitly reinforces that hierarchy of identities. The essential Seder ritual is the retelling of the exodus — “as though you yourself left Egypt” — and the message is: There is no Judaism without the Jewish people and its story.

My late teacher, Rabbi David Hartman, noted that the definition of Jewish heresy provided by the Haggadah, the text read at the Seder, simultaneously offers a definition of Jewish identity. The “evil child” of the Haggadah refers to the Jewish people as “you” rather than “us.” Unlike Christianity and Islam, where heresy is the rejection of belief, for Judaism heresy is self-exclusion from the community.

As a religious Jew, I believe that our relationship to God is the purpose of Jewish existence. I believe that contemporary Jewish life has been impoverished by the diminishment of the Divine, the abandonment of the quest for the living God in our collective and personal lives.

Yet I also believe that peoplehood is more crucial to Judaism than faith. How else can we make sense of the Jewish atheist? Christians or Muslims who reject religious doctrine are no longer a part of their faith community, while Jews who reject Judaic beliefs but still identify with the Jewish people, its values and its fate are universally regarded among Jews as one of us.

Peoplehood is given primacy over faith for the sake of the faith itself: The Jewish people is the carrier of Judaism.

All three monotheistic faiths share the same goal: the revelation of God's presence in this world. But Judaism, once again, works a little differently. While one can of course convert and become a Jew, Judaism was never intended to be a universal faith, only the faith of a specific people — whose purpose is to be a spiritual avant guard within humanity for its eventual redemption. Judaism is a particularist strategy for a universalist goal.

In its early stages in 19th century Germany, Reform Judaism tried to turn Jewish identity into a faith without a people and a land, insisting that its Zion was Berlin, not Jerusalem. Ultimately, though, the Reform movement returned to a more classical understanding of Jewish identity. Even ultra-Orthodox Jews, who routinely place the most strict interpretation of Jewish law over the well-being of the Jewish people, accept peoplehood as a core religious principle.

The Seder culminates with the affirmation, “Next year in Jerusalem,” a reminder that the Jewish story that begins in Egypt ends in the land of Israel. We're a specific people bound to a specific place.

Last week, as Jews around the world prepared for Passover, the war against the Jewish people and its story — against the meaning of Passover itself — took a particularly ugly turn. A UNESCO resolution, sponsored by seven Arab countries, denounced Israel for supposed violations of Muslim rights to prayer on the site that Muslims call the Haram el Sharif and Jews call the Temple Mount. The resolution ignores the fact that the Israeli government enforces a ban on Jewish prayer at the holy site, granting Muslims exclusive right to pray there. Worse, the resolution implicitly denies the Jewish connection to the area by never actually using the term Temple Mount (only Haram el Sharif). It does refer to the Western Wall, but places that label in quotation marks while leaving the Muslim equivalent, Al Buraq, intact, as though that were the only authentic name.

Reading the resolution, one could conclude that there was no ancient Jewish temple on the Temple Mount, that the Mount isn't the holiest site in Judaism, that the Western Wall isn't the heart of Jewish prayer. One could conclude, therefore, that the Jews living in Israel today have no historic claim to the land, passed down through generations. Of all the attempts to destroy us throughout our history, the campaign against history itself is the most devious.

Passover suggests this definition of the Jews: We are a story we tell ourselves about who we think we are. The current assault on the Jewish story is so dangerous precisely because it strikes at that core idea.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is author of “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation.”

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Vice President Biden: ‘Overwhelmingly frustrated’ about the Mideast? How do you think Israelis feel?



by Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

Vice President Biden, speaking at J Street a few days ago, voiced the Obama Administration’s “overwhelming frustration” — at Israel for the lack of Mideast peace.

Well, “frustration” seems to be the Middle East’s middle name these days. Has the Administration or the Media bothered to inquire about the “overwhelming frustration” of millions of displaced Syrians, ethnically cleansed Iraqi Christians, disappearing Yazidis, and dare we say it: the citizens of Israel.

Many Israelis are “overwhelmingly frustrated” by the world’s stony silence, as their fellow citizens were  literally being stabbed in the back by (primarily) young Palestinian terrorists.

They are "overwhelmingly" angered by a suicide bomber who failed to kill himself but who succeeded blowing up a Jerusalem bus and injuring 21 innocents at the height of rush hour.

How to gauge the level of their frustration at the contemptuous CNN.com headline that labeled the terrorist attack as “a bus fire.” And this is not the first dubious headline from the world’s supposed leading source of objective news. (See-courtesy of activist John Sutz:  Why is CNN Wrong About Israel So Often? | Paula R. Stern | The Blogs | The Times of IsraelSan Bernardino: CNN Asks Widow If Her Christian Husband Provoked Terror Attack - BreitbartCNN anchor: Jews carried out terror attacks, should they be barred from entering US? - Diaspora - Jerusalem PostCNN's Sciutto Frets Israelis Using 'Excessive Force,' Shooting 'Unarmed Protesters' ).

Imagine the “overwhelming frustration” of Jews in Israel and the world over at UNESCO- the international agency whose mandate is to preserve historic sites—when its executive board voted to erase The Western Wall (Kotel), as Judaism’s Holiest site, and instead reclassified it as Islamic!

How do we measure Israelis’ “overwhelming frustration” at a European Union, many of whose member states fail to even track anti-Semitic hate crimes against Shoah-remnant Jewish communities, who do nothing to disabuse old and new Muslim immigrants of deeply embedded anti-Jewish animus?  This is the very same European Union that labeled Israeli products from the West Bank,  while member states pour biilions in aid to the coffers of the utterly corrupt Palestinian Authority. 

And speaking of Europe— France--whose Islamist terrorist-targeted Jewish citizens flee in the thousands to safe haven in Israel, is taking the lead in launching an obscene anti-Israel Resolution at the UN Security Council. It would pressure the Jewish State to retreat to its pre-1967 “Auschwitz Borders” ( a term coined by the later Abba Eban, founder of the Israel Peace Movement). Such a move would set the stage for the West Bank’s transformation into yet another launching pad for missiles and terror tunnels targeting at Israel’s population centers at point blank range.

Forgive Israelis if they feel an “overwhelming frustration” and a foreboding sense of deja vu as they witness yet again the ugly stain of “double standard” when it comes to the so-called global war against terrorism.

While world leaders bemoaned the innocent victims of San Bernardino, Paris, Brussels, and Lahore terrorist outrages, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv rarely passed their lips. Israelis sense eerie echoes dating back to the 1970s, when governments cut secret deals with terrorists to secure the safety of their streets and threw Israel under the international bus while European media  pounded Israel as the Middle East’s (sometime Nazi-like) Goliath.

And in 2016, Palestinians see that no one, not Washington, Brussels, or Paris, let alone Moscow or Beijing is going to hold them in any way accountable for their terrorist atrocities. As for the other major European players, with President Obama ensuring the nuclear-linked sanctions are ended, the stampede to renew business ties with the Mullahocracy is led by Berlin and Vienna, human rights be damned. Imagine Mr. Vice President, the “overwhelming frustration” felt by the long-suffering Iranian people…

Bottom line: Israelis don’t need more lectures about the importance of a Two-State Solution. The vast majority hope and pray that one day that will be possible. But now? Tragically it is impossible. Not with 100,000 missile-laden Hezbollah on its Northern border. Not with with Iran and its lackeys trying to open a direct front opposite the Golan Heights. Not with Hamas’ terror tunnel construction continuing unabated. And not with a Palestinian Authority that praises terrorist attacks against its Israeli neighbors and whose bottomless corruption has destroyed its legitimacy with its own  people .

So please Vice President Biden, spare the people of Israel another lecture. It will only add to their “overwhelming frustration” with their closest friend and ally.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Dr. Harold Brackman, ahistorian is a consultant to the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Off topic: Europe, October 1941



Military Museum, Belgrade, Serbia


This is the map that was etched in my memory when I visited the museum years ago.  In October 1941, the only liberated part of Nazi occupied continental Europe was on the territory of former Yugoslavia, on the map in red. 

The German attack on Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941 delayed the German attack on the Soviet Union by 6 weeks. 

ISIS or Islam: Which Breeds Terrorism?






by Raymond Ibrahim

A lie conceals the truth. And ugly but hidden truths never have a chance of being acknowledged, addressed, and ultimately ameliorated.

Because of this simple truism, one of the greatest lies of our age—that violence committed in the name of Islam has nothing to do with Islam—has made an intrinsically weak Islam the scourge of the modern world, with no signs of relief on the horizon.

One of the latest manifestations of this lie took place in Pakistan. On Easter Sunday, March 27, a suicide bombing took place near the children rides of a public park, where Christians were congregated and celebrating the resurrection of their Lord. At least 74 people—mostly Christian women and children—were killed and nearly 400 injured. "There was human flesh on the walls of our house," recalled a witness.

Who—or what—was responsible for this assault? "We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter," said Jamaatul Ahraar, a splinter group of the Taliban. In a media statement, the group said it had "deliberately targeted the Christian community," adding that "we had been waiting for this occasion."

The Taliban and its affiliates are not alone. Click herehereherehere, and here for numerous examples of similarly lethal attacks on Christians celebrating Christmas or Easter by other Islamic groups and individuals around the world who also "had been waiting for this occasion." Even "the terror cell that struck in Brussels [last month, killing 34] was planning to massacre worshipers at Easter church services across Europe, including Britain, intelligence chiefs believe."

Still, connecting the dots and understanding what binds all Islamic terrorist groups is a big no-no for the so-called mainstream media. The problem, we will be told, is the "Taliban," which "has nothing to do with Islam." Rather, it's a finite, temporal, localized problem: defeat it, and the problem vanishes.

Meanwhile, about 5,000 miles west of Taliban territory, in Nigeria, Christians are also under attack. Indeed, according to a new report, since 2000, some 12,000 Christians have been slaughtered for their faith and 13,000 churches destroyed. Just last month, over 500 Christians were butchered.

According to the official narrative, something called "Boko Haram" is responsible. This is another group that defines itself exclusively according to Islam; another group that habitually bombs churches during Christmas and Easter; and another group that, we are told, "has nothing to do with Islam," but rather is a finite, temporal, localized problem: defeat it, and the problem vanishes.

About 5,000 miles west of Nigeria, in the U.S., Americans were told that something called "al-Qaeda" attacked and killed 3,000 of their countrymen on 9/11; defeating that finite group would cease the terror. Its leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed, and victory loudly proclaimed—except that an even more savage manifestation, this time called the "Islamic State" (it too "has nothing to do with Islam") came on the scene and has gone further than al-Qaeda could've ever dreamed, in great part thanks to the Obama administration.

It gets worse. The problem is not only that the media and decision-makers refuse to connect the dots and insist on treating each of the aforementioned groups as disparate, finite groups with different motivations—none of which has to do with Islam. The problem is that regular Muslims who are not called "Taliban," "Boko Haram," "al-Qaeda," "ISIS," ad infinitum commit similar acts, and much more frequently, though this is rarely ever mentioned by the MSM.

Thus, although the "Taliban" was behind the recent Easter Day massacre, it is everyday Muslims who discriminate against, persecute, enslave, rape and sometimes murder Christians every day in Pakistan (click here for a typical month); it was everyday Muslims who burned a young Christian couple alivedue to unsubstantiated rumors that they had insulted Muhammad.
Those who slaughtered 500 Christians last month in Nigeria were not "Boko Haram" but rather unaffiliated (but Muslim) herdsmen. Likewise, "Northern Muslim political and religious elite are also major actors of targeted violence towards the Christian minority."

Although ISIS claimed the Brussels attack, it is everyday Muslims who ban, burn, bomb, and urinate on Christian churches, and who, as in Pakistan and other Muslim majority nations, target non-Muslim European women for rape on the basis that they are subhuman "infidels."

This is the real issue. While the media may name the terrorist groups responsible for especially spectacular attacks—followed by the customary admonitions that they "have nothing to do with Islam"—few dare acknowledge that Muslims in general engage in similar acts of violence and intolerance against non-Muslims. According to a recent study, Muslims —of all races, nationalities, languages, and socio-political and economic circumstances, hardly just "terror groups"—are responsible for persecuting Christians in 41 of the 50 worst nations to be Christian in.

These statistics are consistent with a recent Pew poll finding that, in 11 countries alone, at least 63 million and as many as 287 million Muslims support ISIS. Similarly, 81% of respondents to a recent Al Jazeera poll supported the Islamic State.

In sum, what "extremist" "terrorist" and "militant" groups (that "have nothing to do with Islam") are doing is but the tip of the iceberg of what Muslims are doing all around the world. (See "Muslim Persecution of Christians," reports which I've been compiling every month since July 2011 and witness the nonstop discrimination, persecution, and carnage committed by "everyday" Muslims against Christians. Each monthly report contains dozens of atrocities, any of which if committed by Christians against Muslims would receive 24/7 blanket coverage.)
Media aren't just covering up for Islam by pretending that the spectacular attacks committed by Islamic groups on non-Muslims "have nothing to do with Islam." They are covering up for Islam by failing to report the everyday persecution non-Muslims experience at the hands of everyday Muslims—Muslim individuals, Muslim mobs, Muslim police, and Muslim governments (including America's closest "friends and allies")—not just Muslim "terrorists."

Because of these entrenched lies, the world must continue to suffer from Islamic terror. Not only have these lies allowed countless innocents to be persecuted into oblivion in the Muslim world, but they have allowed the same persecution to enter America and Europe, most recently via mass immigration.

The fact remains: an ugly truth must first be acknowledged before it can be remedied. It may be hard to acknowledge an ugly truth—that Islam, not "radical Islam," promotes hate for and violence against non-Muslims—but anything less will just continue to feed the lie, that is, continue to feed the jihad and terror.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Judith Friedman Rosen fellow at the Middle East Forum and a Shillman fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.