Friday, February 25, 2005

Column: What Are They Thinking?

One has to wonder, looking at Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Left bulldoze forward with their "disengagement plan", what they are really thinking -- what is their goal?

Even while it grows more tempting to blame the Bush administration as it endorses a contiguous "Palestinian State" for its supporting Sharon in his antidemocratic plans, let us remember that it was Sharon that went to Bush and not the other way around and that removing all the settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza has long been the stated policy of the Left -- a policy that Sharon seems to have adopted somewhere along the line -- exactly when remains a mystery, as does the degree of his adoption.

It seems to me that in order to answer the question asked above it is helpful to look at the Israeli Left and understand their perceptions of and relationships to Europe and America respectively. It will also be helpful to look at the American Left and its view of Europe.

The American Left leans more towards the UN and the EU than do American conservatives -- as evidenced most glaringly by candidate Kerry's endorsement of a global test to precede American military action. Likewise does the Israeli Left lean towards the UN and the EU -- this being so even in spite of their anti-Israeli stance -- for reasons hard for us to understand. The difficulty in understanding is exacerbated by Europe's hatred of America -- a hatred that Bush's recent trip to Europe and his speech there was meant to assuage.

That the speech was meant to soften Europe's hatred and bridge the divide that has developed over more than a decade between the continents is clear, but is it clear to us from where that great animosity grew?

One of the main causes was that with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, America became increasingly the target of a Europe that feared the might of a single superpower no longer held in check by a powerful foe. This fear of America's military might eventually expressed itself in hatred of America amongst Europeans, but there were other factors.

One of those is a sense of cultural superiority that Europe feels towards America. They see America as a country of cowboys, consumers, and the hopelessly anti-intellectual. They see themselves superior, educated at an early age in France for example in philosophy -- it being standard fare along with reading, writing and arithmetic. Their long history when compared to America's also makes them feel superior and this overlays their sense of cultural superiority with their traditions of art and music going back long into history.

There are other issues that relate more to government and governance. Amongst those leaders in Europe that enjoy the privileges of ruling in democracies that still have remnants of aristocracy and privilege -- democracies that are quite less democratic than the democracy that grew on American soil, free of an aristocracy and in loath of it -- American style democracy represents a threat to their privilege were it to spread freely in the wake of American expansionism.

Related to this is the matter that for Europeans the idea of handing sovereignty over to bureaucrats in Brussels in matters so vital as security, finance and the courts, has been embraced -- an embracing that American conservatives, cherishing the constitution and seeking to preserve it against any and all that would undermine it naturally detest. It is this stubbornness of American conservatives in guarding the constitution and rejecting the move to empower a European bureaucracy over vital American interests that has also infuriated Europe.

It was to this hatred and the causes enumerated that John Kerry turned his gaze towards Europe and brought his platform of a global test before the American people --and it was this hatred that George W. Bush recently sought to assuage.

Of all the reasons mentioned above for Europe's animosity towards America I think that in regard to Israel, one stands out as the primary reason for the Israeli Left's identification with Europe -- in spite of all. That reason lies with the nature of the government and governance

Israel is closer to Europe than America in its form of democracy. The socialism from which Israeli democracy grew was more like the monarchies of Europe from where their democracies originated than American democracy which abhorred aristocracy and privilege and had its main purpose the ideals of Locke and Hobbes to limit government and undermine entrenched power and tyranny in the name of a social contract between free men.

It is here that the Israeli Left is so threatened. Threatened by too much democracy, threatened by a referendum on "disengagement", threatened by a truly free press, threatened by civil disobedience and a population that rejects them and their policies time and time again at the polls -- and so it closes its eyes and blindfolds everyone and marches forward in some strange hope that Israel can survive while they maintain their power -- a power, which it seems the maintenance of, is their highest ideal and goal.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Column: A Peek at Israel's Radical Left

When you look closely at what has been going on in Israel one question seems fairly obvious. Is the "leadership" of the Jewish State hell-bent on committing suicide?

Joseph Farah, writing for in an article titled "Israel's Auschwitz Borders" asked the question in a slightly different way:

"Do you know what the new borders of Israel would be under the plans being drawn up now for a "viable, contiguous Palestine"? I call them Auschwitz borders. I don't know why the Jews don't see it."

Farah's article covers some important ground. He says:

"Now, I'm not a Jew. I'm a Christian Arab-American journalist who believes in freedom first, peace second. And I've got to tell you that the demands on Israel right now are demands for the nation to commit political, military and cultural suicide.

They are willingly helping to build a national concentration camp of half the world's Jewry surrounded by hostile maniacs who want to eradicate them. Israel's new borders under a Rice plan will be indefensible. Creating a new Palestinian state with contiguous borders and relying on Israel to come up with all the necessary real estate requires cutting Israel in half from north to south.
It might create a "viable" Palestinian state, but it will destroy the viability of Israel."

Now, it is clear that Farah knows better when he says, "I don't know why the Jews don't see it" but he is missing an important point. It is not that the Jews don't see it. They see it very well, and that is why they voted for Ariel Sharon and not Avraham Mitzna in the last elections -- before Sharon's transformation into another Mitzna, or into Sharon-Beilin, as Ari Shavit put it in an article for Haaretz last week.

Sharon-Sharon is the Sharon that was elected. Sharon-Beilin is the one that has devolved into what we see today -- a Sharon that is lauded by the Left for what they are hoping will be a mad rush back to the Auschwitz borders.

So, what gives?

Does Sharon-Beilin not see the dangers ahead? Are Mitzna and Beilin blind? Is this blindness contagious? What motivates the Israeli Left?

Let's look to the Israeli left to see what they are revealing about themselves -- for this I usually look at Haaretz and lately I have found a useful tool in sifting through their articles to find the most revealing and extreme. I do this by searching for articles from Haaretz that are picked up by, the Chomskyite site where only the most extreme of anti-American and ant-Israeli writings are posted.
This past December, in one of the most interesting of these pieces, Ari Shavit interviewed Amos Elon in his home in Italy. Elon is, in Shavit's words, "The man once the preeminent journalist in Israel..." "The man who was the chief chronicler of the Israeli story..."

In one of the most telling parts of the long interview -- all of which can be found at but no longer at Haaretz, according to my Google search -- Shavit asked Elon what he thought about Sharon's disengagement plan:

Shavit: What you're saying is that it's an illusion to think that the disengagement will solve the problem.

Elon: Of course it's an illusion. Gaza will explode. I think there will be a terrible explosion there. That's why I still say today that the victory in the Six-Day War was worse than a defeat.

Shavit's next question might have pursued the madness of Elon's preferrence that Israel would have been destroyed in 1967, and many thousands of Jews killed, to the victory that "led" to the "occupation." Could Elon have really meant that? You would think that Shavit might ask but he didn't. This is how he followed up:

Shavit: You were the preeminent Israeli journalist. Respected, admired, well-connected. In 1986, you left it all behind. When you look back, do you feel any regret? Does it pain you that young Israelis don't even know your name?

Not much of a follow up, don't you agree? Shavit essentially went back to square one and mixed flattery with a question about Elon's feelings and regrets. You would think that any Israeli would be offended and shocked by his comment about the Six-Day War and that questions about going forward with disengagement would be forthcoming but instead Shavit changed the subject.

Maybe I haven't answered the questions as to what motivates the Left and Sharon-Beilin in their rush back to the Auschwitz borders but I think I have shed some light on how strange and shocking those answers might be. If you are interested, you might want to read the whole interview on Counterpunch, keep an eye out for future postings and take a look back at those already there.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

FrontPage :: Capitulating to Terror by P. David Hornik

FrontPage :: Capitulating to Terror by P. David Hornik: "You wake up one morning and read that the United States has decided to deal with the insurgency in Iraq through negotiations and compromise. To show its goodwill and create what it calls a positive atmosphere, America has agreed to insurgent demands to: release a thousand imprisoned terrorists carte blanche, stop all military actions against the terrorists still in the field, and hand over several cities to complete insurgent control.
In return, the insurgents give precisely nothing: they keep all their weapons, positions, and ties to foreign powers, while making clear that the freeing of the thousand, the cessation of U.S. operations, and the handover of the cities do not even begin to satisfy their demands.
You'd be appalled. But shift a little westward on the Middle East map, and this is exactly what is happening in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere."

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Column: Sharm al Sheikh

It is difficult to make sense of the expectations for the upcoming Sharm al Sheikh talks and the visit of Condoleeza Rice that preceded it. The primary principle and benefit accruable to Israel from the Bush Doctrine -- that further negotiations be preconditioned on dismantling terrorist organizations -- seems to have vanished before our very eyes. The press is praising what is being called a "renewal of the peace process" -- which means a return to negotiations without conditions.

As disturbing as Condoleeza Rice's remarks about a contiguous and viable state for the "Palestinians" are, the eagerness of the press to read the upcoming talks as a return to the old days of "land for terror" is almost certainly misleading. The media simply has a leftist predisposition to speak in this way and of a change in George W. Bush's approach to Israel. It is important to understand and identify that predisposition and discount it.

Furthermore, Ariel Sharon's policies should not be seen as emanating from Washington or Jerusalem, even if Bush cautiously praises the effort and invites Sharon and Abbas to visit Washington, and Sharon draws support from the many times rejected at the polls, Israeli Left . More importantly, Sharon will hopefully be out of power soon as support for a referendum on disengagement grows amongst the Hareidim who are propping up Sharon's government.

Why do I discount the press? The answer comes from a lesson I learned in November and grew out of a situation I found myself in while visiting in Yerushalayim post election day. I was visiting my mother, Helen, who was in Israel on her biannual Chizuk tour with Americans For a Safe Israel and the ZOA -- the group was in Yerushalayim after touring through the communities of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza and speakers and meetings were scheduled for the stay in the capitol.

I must preface by saying that prior to the election I spent many an evening listening to talk radio over the Internet. Besides listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, I was reading Victor Davis Hanson and almost everything else on National Review Online. My sense of media bias in America was keen to say the least, heightened by Rathergate to mention only one thing.

And so it happened that one evening Moshe Feiglin came to speak to the group. Moshe is the head of the "Jewish Leadership" faction of the Likud that seeks to restore the Likud to the ideology of Zev Jabotinsky and give it further depth and direction through the teachings of the Torah.

While Moshe was speaking about Jewish Leadership and the crisis that faces Israel, one of the members of the group received a phone call on their cell and asked to share the message with everyone there. It was during the question and answer session and so the message became a question that Moshe was asked to answer. The message was that the press was reporting that newly reelected President Bush was preparing to pay back his political debt to Tony Blair for his support in the War on Terror and more specifically the offensive in Iraq by forcing Israel back into negotiations with the "Palestinians" with no preconditions.

Everyone in the room was visibly upset by the news and Moshe Feiglin was asked for his reaction. Feiglin, taking the news at face value accepted it as fact and took the fact as a confirmation that Israel is truly friendless and returned to his theme of the vision of Jewish Leadership, now stressing the importance of taking the long view and the seeing the great sweep of Jewish history and destiny. His response was well received by everyone except me. I was squirming in my seat at the sight of a roomful of disheartened people trying to take heart.

I didn't get an opportunity to say to the group what I was thinking so I went up to Moshe after his talk and I told him how he should have answered the question. I told him that he should have told the group to discount the news because of the bias of the press and wait for a clarification and verification of the story. He looked at me a little curiously. Later I was proved right when Blair was to endorse Bush and the Bush Doctrine with regard to Israel. The story that had upset everyone so turned out as I suspected to be completely bogus.

Does the current flurry of coverage, slanted to the left and supported by Sharon's latest jig to Sharm el Sheik and Rice's recent comments call for an immediate abandonment of my skepticism and swallowing of the talk of a change in Bush's approach towards Israel? Why should it?

President Bush has made only the most cautious of comments of support for the talks and while Condi Rice made some scary remarks, the Bush Doctrine as far as I can tell still stands -- no matter how much the press and the once thought to be right wing Sharon and his negotiating partners would have us believe otherwise.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Column: Jerusalem of Orange

On Sunday afternoon I boarded one of five buses from Tzfat that was bound for the demonstration in Yerushalayim. I had just read the first reports of the voter turnout in Iraq and the attacks of the terrorists there. It was already clear to me that the predictions of the conservative media about a large turnout were on target and that the Iraqi people were willing to defy the terrorists and risk their lives to come out and vote. With the negativity of the leftist media and Ted Kennedy's version of Osama bin Laden's pre-election address fresh in my mind, I wondered what was in store for democracy in this country where Israelis of all ages, donning orange scarves or shirts or hats, were boarding over 1,000 buses to come to a demonstration to protest the antidemocratic deeds and plans of Ariel Sharon.

I thought it ironic that Israelis would take on the color orange as the symbol of protest, thinking -- wrongly I now discover -- that Ukraine had become the example for Israeli seekers of a referendum over disengagement. I have since learned that the color orange had been chosen here some time before Yushenko's campaign. Still, the thoughts that the assumption and color aroused were sadly ironic thoughts as I reflected on how the advance of democracy in the world -- accelerating as it is with President Bush's help -- is passing Israel by while Bush's own hero of democracy, Natan Sharansky, minister in Sharon's government, remains quiet, as if everything is in order and dissent has accomplished its purpose. I wondered if Sharansky would be at the demonstration of orange, raising it from the level of an internal venting to an international condemnation of tyranny.

Internal venting is perhaps of short term psychological value but little more. When done by a vast majority of religious settlers and their supporters it is easily demonized and dismissed. Leaders, both political and religious who take to the platform to denounce the tyranny are themselves painted as extremists -- or in the language of Haaretz -- "foes of disengagement." The international press and the Israeli press were actually gentler in their immediate demonization of the protesters, probably because of the elections in Iraq and the theme of the demonstration -- protesting tyranny -- but that was surely just a fortunate circumstance, as the unfolding of events will surely show that it was a mere respite in the process of painting all those who oppose Sharon as extremists of the national religious camp, not quite fascists but wholly worthy nonetheless of that twisted association that the left so readily makes on all who don't embrace their utopian, postmodernism, and here, post-Zionist, fantasies.

The bus took the Jordan Valley Road and the air was warm when we reached the rest stop in that low region. A friend approached as we stood around stretching our legs and enjoying the warmth. He asked me what I thought about Sharon, whether he could be as bad as he looks now. After all, he is a war hero and a builder of the settlements. Might it not be that his plan is not part of a greater strategy of this great strategist? Perhaps, he asked, he is being judged too harshly, and that this judgment comes from a place of limited vision?

This of course is the same question that has been asked about Sharon for years now. It is a question that infuriates and in my answer I found myself explaining to both of us exactly why.

Ariel Sharon is a public servant and nothing more, I said. It is a humiliating insult to the whole nation to be put in a situation where we need to guess what he is doing. He ran on a platform and was elected to fulfill it -- that is his job -- it is not the job of the people to delve to the depths of his largeness as he steers the ship into the rocks.

Ariel Sharon has no mandate but unfortunately and pathetically he still has a government, held together by and odd alliance of parties that now lead a retreat that was soundly rejected in the election -- a retreat that follows other retreats and promises yet more and more unless the ship is somehow turned around.

Natan Sharanksy wasn't there to tell the world that Sharon has no mandate and that he is abusing democracy in the worst way -- rewarding terror and endangering Jewish lives and the Jewish nation. Sharansky wasn't there to raise the protest so that the whole world would here loud and clear that Ariel Sharon is a tyrant. Until Sharansky steps up and does for his own people what he is preaching to the world, Sharon will ride a wave of support that the Left has aimed at the security, dignity, and future of Israel.