Thursday, January 27, 2005

Column: Inaugural, Bush Doctrine, and Sharansky

Before President Bush's inaugural address, Norman Podhoretz wrote a piece in Commentary called "A Second-Term Retreat?" -- which drew considerable attention for its analysis of what lies ahead.

Podhoretz asks this question with these opening words:

"Will George W. Bush spend the next few years backing down from the ambitious strategy he outlined in the Bush Doctrine for fighting and winning World War IV?"
Following the inaugural address, Lawrence Kudlow, writing in his new blog, referred back to Podhoretz's piece in his discussion of Bush's message:

"After hearing President Bush's second inaugural speech (my wife Judy and I had good seats at the event), there can be no question that Norman Podhoretz is exactly right in his recent Commentary article: the President will be unyielding in his commitment to defeat totalitarian radical Islamism, and he will unwaveringly prosecute what Mr. Podhoretz calls World War IV."

When I first saw Podhoretz's piece I had just finished reading David Frum's "The Right Man" -- his inside look at President Bush and the administration from his perspective as speech writer. Podhoretz's article confirmed what I had just read from Frum, George Bush means what he says. Any expectation that has been nurtured by liberal media that Bush would turn back is simply misplaced. The inaugural speech was just another opportunity to make that perfectly clear -- which Bush did.

In his piece, Podhoretz wrote the following on what to expect with regard to Israel in the second term, focusing greatly on Tony Blair's visit to Washington following the elections, a trip that the media was quick to claim would mean a payback to Blair in the form of a renewed "peace process" -- pre-Bush style -- namely, nothing for land.


"In an effort to get Bush to reverse course again, Blair came in November bearing two proposals designed to resume the old pressures on Israel while relaxing the demands the President was making on the Palestinians. One of these proposals was that Bush dispatch a special envoy to the area, and the other was that he convene an international conference. Contrary to Blair's evident expectations, however, Bush rejected both proposals. He did so politely and gently, but reject them he did. The upshot was that, far from being "paid back" in the currency of pressure on Israel, Blair returned home empty-handed except for Bush's fervent praise of him for participating in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Much as I hate to agree with anything the President of France says, Jacques Chirac was right for once when he sneered that Bush had given Blair nothing for his pains."

While Blair returned empty handed, Natan Sharansky, who has become an inspiration to Bush, and now Condoleeza Rice as well, was treated much differently on his visit to Washington. His book, "The Case for Democracy," has become a cornerstone of the Bush Doctrine and has raised Sharansky to the status of hero and visionary.

The closeness of Sharansky and Bush, with regard to Israel, can be seen in Bush's conditions for a Palestinian State -- reflecting the themes of Sharanky's book. As Podhoretz writes:

"Bush now made American support of a Palestinian state contingent upon the emergence of new leaders who would devote themselves to building "entirely new political and economic institutions based on democracy, market economics, and action against terrorism." In the meantime, Israel was justified in defending itself by military and other means, including through the security fence beginning to be built by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon."

Although I oppose a "Palestinian" state anywhere west of the Jordan River, any conditions, especially those that seem unlikely to be met, are warmly welcomed. The prior "method of negotiations", one that still drives the "disengagement" plan, is humiliatingly removed from reality, security and faith. If only Natan Sharansky was more vocal and visible in his opposition to this holdover strategy of the pre-Bush era that is still being applied to Gaza and the Northern Shomron. His active opposition to "disengagement" could make all the difference -- stopping the unfair application of a dead and failed strategy for "peace" upon Jews who deserve much, much, better.

Sharansky, while in the news and having come out in the past squarely against the "disengagement" plan, has not of late made the case for scrapping it. Sharansky, according to the Jerusalem Post, will speak today:

"At a press conference timed to coincide with events marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Diaspora Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky will on Tuesday assert that the Palestinian Authority, even under new chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is engaged in the "promotion of genocide" against the Jewish people."

These are strong words of truth and are welcome of course. My immediate concern however is that there are Jews in Gaza and the Northern Shomron whom Sharon is planning to deport from their homes to the benefit these neo-Nazis and to the encouragement of their Jihad against the Jewish State.

There is a disconnect between these strong words of Sharansky and the current relative softness of his opposition to Sharon's evacuation plan. Should that disconnect be repaired, Sharansky will be more of a hero in Israel than America and America will have the opportunity to say that it has treated the Jews of Gaza and Northern Shomron justly and fairly. However, should Sharansky remain relatively quiet, that restraint will not go unnoticed as the folly and madness of Sharon's plan becomes painfully obvious to all. Let's hope Natan Sharansky steps up.

DEBKAfile - Sharon Gambles on Abbas by Capitulating to Hamas' Terms

You voted for Sharon and you got Peres, Ramon, Beilen, Mitzneh and Sarid. United Torah Judiasm has enabled this by propping up the goverment. Bush and Rice are about to meet the strange creature born of Israeli political madness. They will likely be reminded of the likes of Ramsey Clarke and Lynn Stewart. Heaven help us all! Read the analysis here...

DEBKAfile - Sharon Gambles on Abbas by Capitulating to Hamas' Terms: "By surrendering to Abbas' (Hamas) terms, Ariel Sharon, deputy prime minister Shimon Peres and Shaul Mofaz are leapfrogging over their disengagement plan and even bypassing the first clauses of the Middle East Quartet's road map, which demand the actual dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, not a mere truce. They seem in fact to be hurtling forward to the roadmap's end-stage, final status discussions on a Palestinian state accompanied by an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Column: Moshe Feiglin Can Run

Last week, Justice Yaakov Tirkel, chair of the Central Election Committee in Israel ruled that Moshe Feiglin, head of Likud's Manigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) will be permitted to run in the next Knesset elections.

Judge Tirkel reversed the committee's earlier decision that found Feiglin's criminal conviction for anti-Oslo political activity a crime of "moral turpitude." As a result, the ban that was placed on Feiglin from running for the Knesset for 7 years has been lifted.

There has been, with the exception of Arutz 7 almost nothing on this story. I was unable to find a transcript of the decision or any commentary on it online. Consequently, it is a little difficult to write much about the decision. The natural reaction is to be relieved that they came to their senses and be grateful that they did and leave well enough alone. However, there is a problem with this. It leaves the committee empowered to do the same or worse again. Admittedly, I was complacent about the whole thing and while suspicious of the motives of the committee -- were they throwing a bone to the right to take some heat off of Sharon? -- I read the report on Arutz 7 and thought to myself; "waddaya know"?

However, it happened, that I was then shaken from my complacency by a reading of Justice Scalia's recent opinion in Jama v. INS.

From the transcript of J. Scalia's opinion:

"When an alien is found ineligible to remain in the United States, the process for selecting the country to which he will be removed is prescribed by 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(2). The question in this case is whether this provision prohibits removing an alien to a country without the explicit, advance consent of that country's government."

"Petitioner Keyse Jama was born in Somalia and remains a citizen of that nation. He was admitted to the United States as a refugee, but his refugee status was terminated in 2000 by reason of a criminal conviction. See Jama v. INS, 329 F.3d 630, 631 (CA8 2003). The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) brought an action to remove petitioner from the United States for having committed a crime involving moral turpitude. Ibid.; see 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), 1229a(e)(2)(A)."

Seeing the familiar phrase "moral turpitude" there I thought back to our subject and clicked on the hyper link to the Code US Code section 1182 and found there in (a)(2)(A)(i)(I) the law that relates to Inadmissible Aliens and crimes of moral turpitude.
The Code here delineates reasons for barring aliens and in this section it discusses criminal convictions:

(2) Criminal and related grounds
(A) Conviction of certain crimes
(i) In general Except as provided in clause (ii), any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of—
(I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime, or...

The question I asked myself is whether purely political offenses are excluded from the definition of crimes of moral turpitude across the board or is this section of the law somehow extraordinary. In other words, are purely political offenses ever considered an act of moral turpitude?

To begin my search I looked for the definition of moral turpitude. defines moral turpitude as follows:

"n. gross violation of standards of moral conduct, vileness. An act involving moral turpitude is considered intentionally evil, making the act a crime. The existence of moral turpitude can bring a more severe criminal charge or penalty for a criminal defendant."

I also perused lists of crimes of some of the states and found nothing that resembles a purely political offense defined as a crime of moral turpitude. It seems clear that purely political offenses are not considered acts of moral turpitude anywhere in the US and that the above quoted US Code section 1182 is meant to protect political activity by excluding it from the definition of moral turpitude in order to protect that activity in the event that a state criminal statute might include it.

So, the question remains, how could the Central Election Committee ban Moshe Feiglin from running for office in Israel for his conviction on anti-Oslo activities by defining those activities as involving moral turpitude when those activities were purely political? Were answers given back then that explained the decision better than their recent reversal on that decision has been explained or discussed? I don't recall that there were. Looking at it more closely now in the light of Jama, the whole thing looks worse than it did before, even though, at least for now, the result is better.

Clearly, Israel's Central Election Committee and Israel's High Court are not bound by American Law, but the question remains, what indeed are they bound by?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 - Israel Accuses Palestinians of Harboring Five Missiles - 01/04/05 15:01 - Israel Accuses Palestinians of Harboring Five Missiles - 01/04/05 15:01:

"Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have five anti-aircraft missiles, which pose a serious threat to Israeli helicopters, the head of the domestic spy agency said Jan. 4, parliamentary sources said.
Avi Dichter told the foreign affairs and defense committee that movable Stinger missiles had been smuggled into Gaza from Egypt which could pose a serious threat for Israeli assault helicopters, the sources added.
The domestic intelligence chief warned against any Israeli withdrawal from the Philadelphi corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border, as part of Israel�s plan to evacuate soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip by the end of the year."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Column: Looks Bad

When United Torah Judaism (UTJ) decided to join Sharon's government I asked myself one question. With all due respect, how can this not be a desecration of G-ds name (a chilul Hashem)?

Whatever their reason for doing it I could see no way that they could get around this most severe prohibition while propping up a government that is hell bent on tearing 8,000 Jews from their homes and endangering the whole country by creating a terrorist haven and launching pad in Gaza. For Torah scholars to even give the impression, for whatever reason, that they are supporting this has got to be a chilul Hashem.

MK Gafni of UTJ spoke with Arutz-7's Emanuel Shilo after the decision to join the government. Shilo asked him this question:

Q. "Do you feel comfortable that the public perception is that UTJ has decided to facilitate the uprooting of Gush Katif?"

A. "This is not the case. Our decision is not relevant to the disengagement.

Gafni goes into a long winded analysis of the makeup of the coalition and the motivation of UTJ and a passing of the buck. The bottom line is that he never answers the question. The question was about the perception of the public. Perception is important. It is central to the issue of chilul Hashem. If I go outside now and strike a rock with a stick then surely nobody in the whole world will know or care, but when Moses struck the rock in the eyes of all of Israel and in violation of G-d's precise command to him, it was a desecration of G-ds name and Moses, in return, would never enter the promised land.

Has anyone yet addressed this issue? Not to my knowledge, and not for the lack of opportunity.
Following the decision by UTJ, rabbis from both the hareidi and national-religious sectors gathered in Tel Aviv and condemned UTJ for joining the coalition government. "This act was against the majority of the Torah leaders in Israel," the rabbis resolved, "and leads directly to an endangerment of the entire populace of Israel."

Arutz7 reported on the meeting:
"Among the dozens of rabbis in attendance were the Admor of Sadigura, a member of the Council of Torah Sages headed by Rabbi Elyashiv; Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior; Kiryat Motzkin Rabbi David Druckman; and Rabbi Meir Mazuz of Yeshivat Kissed Rachamim in Bnei Brak. Another Council of Torah Sages member, the Bostoner Rebbe, sent a sharp letter of support for their position to be read aloud.

Rabbi Simcha HaCohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot said that he visited Rabbi Elyashiv on Friday, after his decision to allow the UTJ party to join the coalition. Rabbi Kook said that "wheeler-dealers" misled Rabbi Elyashiv by telling him that Sharon has a majority even without UTJ, which wasn't true. Rabbi Kook added that most of the leading Torah authorities were against the decision.

Among the rabbis' resolutions were:

* We sadly determine that the Prime Minister is causing a terrible civil war, the end of which cannot be foretold.

* We call upon all the leaders of world Jewry, led by the Rabbis of Israel, to express their clear protest, echoing from one end of the world to the other, in light of the evil behavior of the Israeli government and its head.

* We will not refrain from expressing our protest and great astonishment at the strengthening of this wicked government by G-d-fearing Jews against the opinion of the clear majority of the leading rabbis of Israel.

* We call upon our brothers and all of the Torah giants to help bodily, monetarily and spiritually the residents of Yesha who face the decree of evacuation."

Unfortunately, the government is still standing and so are its plans for Gaza and the Northern Shomron -- for a start -- and so these resolutions have little practical effect. Also left standing is the perception that UTJ is facilitating the uprooting of Jews from their homes and endangering the whole nation.

The fact that the scholars did not address the question of chilul Hashem is of interest. Can they be unaware of the perception created by the decision of UTJ? Do they think that they can avoid the issue by making proclamations of unity and ideology that have no political leverage at a time when one of their own, having voluntarily entered the political arena, has violated the very principles of their proclamations? Perhaps they think the excuse that Rabbi Kook made for UTJ should satisfy the consternation of a nation that is being humiliated and endangered. Do they think that they can so easily whitewash what has happened? What is the practical effect of their proclamations on UTJ, the government coalition, the Jews of Gush Katif and Northern Shomron and the security of the nation?

Call it a chilul Hashem, if that's indeed what it was, and take practical steps to undue it and bring down the government, and all these questions vanish. Avoid the perception and the issue and then, with all due respect, the perception stands and the questions multiply as the consequences unfold.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Column: Update and Insights

It’s been rainy and cold and for those of you that have been in Israel in the wintertime you know that sometimes it’s colder inside than out. There is no central heating or wall to wall carpeting and insulation is usually lacking. Even if you are warm, still, the sun is not out and you get used to the sun shining here all the time. Be careful however, it’s practically considered a crime here to even mention something that sounds like a hint of a complaint about much needed rain. After a few rainy days I find myself defending my longing for the sun by quoting the Rabbis who said that if we merited it here we would get all the rain we need on Friday nights, when everyone is sitting inside at the Shabbos table.

If you didn’t read the account of what happened at Yitzhar this week on Arutz7 then take a look. It is pretty frightening when soldiers point guns at citizens and fire in the air. The big demonstration opposite the Knesset got off to a slow start because of the weather and needs to grow in the order of hundreds to be noticed by anyone. The government may fall if Rabbi Elyashiv of United Torah Judaism does not support Sharon, yet Sharon has promised to go ahead with the "disengagement" even if his government falls and elections are pending. Natan Sharansky is remaining silent about the "disengagement", preferring to talk about less controversial issues of democracy on a global scale -- big disappointment so far. What else? Elisheva Federman of Hevron became the second woman in Israel to be convicted of child neglect for bringing her child to a demonstration. She and her child were dragged away from a demonstration two years ago by security forces while trying to obstruct an unauthorized destruction of the house of the widow of Nati Ozeri. Ozeri who was killed by terrorists in the home. The precedent has been established and is there to quash demonstrations against the "disengagement." Oh, one more thing before I move on. Young people visiting Israel on the Birthright program met with Ariel Sharon who gave them a quick lesson on his brand of "democracy." If you or your child was there, some deprogramming might be in order.

Now to something that I read this week that was a real eye opener. Well actually there were two things.

First, Francis Fukuyama, in "The End of History and the Last Man" talks about how the Soviet Union lost its ideological underpinning when its economy began to sputter -- having failed to have handled the switch to the technology age that the more flexible, capitalist, free economies of the West had made. Falling behind, and threatened with Reagan’s Star Wars -- which Russia could not afford to keep up with -- things started to unravel for the Evil Empire. Fukuyama says that it was the failure to live up to the economic promise of Socialism that cut the legs out from under. The ideology was flawed.

Reading that, I asked myself what the possible consequences are for Israel if it abandons its purpose of settling Jews in the Land of Israel and defending them against their enemies? If Fukuyama is correct and I have not misapplied his logic, we are clearly headed for a crises if Sharon has his way in Gaza, expelling 8,000 Jews from their homes and providing a launching pad for missiles and mortars to start falling deep inside the "green line" in the process.

Other reading brought me to the site of the Claremont Institute, where I read a review of Lee Feigon’s "A review of Mao: A Reinterpretation." The reviewer is Arthur Waldron and he makes a very interesting point towards the end of the article:

"Furthermore, the post-Maoist China specialists have been among the best in the academic world at dealing with the utter collapse of Marxism and Communism, in whose warm hegemonic status they had long comfortably basked. For it is hard not to suspect that the whole phenomenon of deconstruction and post-modernism, with its attack on the idea of objective truth, is really an elaborate rear guard action to somehow reclaim something of Marxism by denying the possibility of any philosophy being actually correct. The irony of course is that Marxism was long second to none in its self-confidence, in its belief both in its empirical foundation and its philosophical arguments."

This insight brought me to wondering if post-Zionism is not similarly a rear guard action that protects the ruling elite whose Labor Zionism has failed -- leaving it empowered to attempt to crush a challenger, Religious Zionism -- starting in Gaza and the Northern Shomron, and using antidemocratic tactics that point to a common soil with the post-modernists and deconstrucionists that rule the Left.

New Site Monitors the Lunatic Left Within Israeli Akademia

"The scandal of anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist, and sometimes anti-Semitic radicalism among Israeli academics is now highlighted on a new website. Modeled after Campus Watch, Daniel Pipes�s site for monitoring Middle East studies on North American campuses, Israel Academic Monitor was created by a group of academics, journalists, donors, students, and others with the aim of monitoring abuses of academic freedom in Israel�s universities. These abuses include not only writings and statements that deny Israel�s legitimacy, advocate its destruction, or compare it with the Nazi and other worst regimes in history, but also calls for widespread insurrection and mutiny by Israeli soldiers and support for international efforts at boycotting Israel and ostracizing the teachers and students of these universities themselves."

Sunday, January 02, 2005

An Eye Opening Take on Deconstructionism and Post-Modernism

The Claremont Institute: Fallen Idol:

"Furthermore, the post-Maoist China specialists have been among the best in the academic world at dealing with the utter collapse of Marxism and Communism, in whose warm hegemonic status they had long comfortably basked. For it is hard not to suspect that the whole phenomenon of deconstruction and post-modernism, with its attack on the idea of objective truth, is really an elaborate rear guard action to somehow reclaim something of Marxism by denying the possibility of any philosophy being actually correct. The irony of course is that Marxism was long second to none in its self-confidence, in its belief both in its empirical foundation and its philosophical arguments. "