Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Morally Clueless? Megan McArdle on Israel-Palestine

Megan McArdle's the economics blogger at the Atlantic. She's usually very sharp. Today, though, she's faltering. We see this in her essay, "The Problem With Israel-Palestine Blogging," where the fatal flaw of her libertarian (and apparently amoral) epistemology is revealed:

Everyone engaged in it is interested in proving that one side is righter than the other. Since no action in the region has occurred without plausible provocation for 4,000 years or so, this requires constantly shifting the metrics by which you measure whichever side you happen to favor. Point out that Israel is killing a lot of civilians and you are told that they had to do something in response to the Hamas rockets. Point out that practically, the response they chose has absolutely no strategic or tactical benefit, and a huge potential downside, and you are castigated for your lack of moral outrage about Hamas's attacks on civilians. Either Israel is doing this because it hopes to gain something, in which case the whole thing is hopelessly ass-backwards - they are strengthening Hamas and worsening their international political position - or it thinks that it's okay to kill boatloads of civilians purely for revenge against Hamas; revenge for attacks that have so far killed and injured almost no one. This rather undercuts the argument of moral superiority, because guess what? That's what Hamas thinks it's doing.

On the other side, there's a tendency to forget, or forget to mention, that whatever the provocation, a plurality-to-majority of Palestinians constantly and actively wish to kill large numbers of Israelis purely for revenge. Gaza wants to be at war with Israel, and then hide behind the protections of not-quite-war, because they haven't the foggiest hope of winning anything like a real war.

I'm of Northern Irish descent, and I grew up in New York City in a mostly Jewish high school, and so as you can imagine, I've heard all the arguments about who's really to blame about a zillion times. And all I get out of it in the end is that the whole thing makes me sick and sad. I don't see any untainted victims. I see a bunch of people who have been stomped on by history beating up each other in revenge for past wrongs that can't be righted, lashing out whenever they think they can get away with it without losing the foreign funding that allows them to continue the fun. And I don't ever blog about it because one is not allowed to have an opinion on the matter - no matter what I say, I'll be excusing terrorism or, irrelevantly, the holocaust, or shilling for western imperialism.

The saddest, truest thing that I've ever heard about the conflict is a friend who said that it seems to him like a stable equilibrium. In that spirit, I'm turning comments off on this post. Happy New Year.
After all of this, McArdle suggests that it's "sad" there's a "stable equlibrium." Why would one who adopts a position of moral equivalence be "sad" if the Middle East balance of power is at a "stable equilibrium"? Considering that materially Israel is thousands of times more powerful than Hamas and the rump-Palestian Authority, such parity - if demonstrated as objectively true - should be seen as a disaster for Israel's survival as a sovereign state and a boon to those who see Palestinian terrorists as morally equal.

Not only that, McArdle's not very good at posing hypotheticals. If she or anyone she knows has actually said that Israel's response "has absolutely no strategic or tactical benefit, and a huge potential downside," then frankly she has no business talking about Middle East international politics (or she needs to
spend some time with Zbigniew Brzezinski). Israel planned, for two years, last weekend's airstrikes down to the finest detail. The overwhelming number of those killed were Hamas terrorists, and the civilian lives would have been spared had not Palestinian rocket depots been set up within civilian residential lodgings. The airstrikes and likely ground incursion have restored strategic confidence to the Israelis, and breaking the Hamas resistance may well be key to success on West Bank diplomacy.

But the "4,000 years" thing is particularly a killer. Conflict in the Middle East - while driven fundamentally by religion - is existentially about national sovereignty, and that systemic element is the basis for this crisis of states and national peoples, which dates back roughly 100 years to, say, the Balfour Declaration. There really was no "Palestianian" people at that times. Bedouin and nomadic peoples of Arab extraction would be the most accurate ethnic designation. The push for a true Palestinian "nation" is a 20th century phenomenon. Prior to this, the Ottoman empire maintained authority across the region, and the grand muftis and Arab grandees enjoyed power, prestige, and privilege under a what was essentially an imperial Islamic caliphate. As for "plausible provocations," since 1948 - when Israel was established with the blessings and legitimacy of international law, embodied by the will of the United Nations, and out of the existential bleakness of the European Shoah - Israel has been in a constant state of siege, fighting at least a half-a-dozen wars and with roughly a third of the nations of the world calling essentially for the elimination of the Jewish state in Eretz Israel.

Much has been written this last few days on Israel's "disproportionate" response. Readers can check my blogging tags below for some of my earlier posts. Here I'm simply going to let Melanie Phillips have the (next to the) last word, drawing on her powerful essay from earlier this year, "
This Blog And (Some of) Its Readers":

I have noticed a persistent complaint by some readers posting comments on my blog entries which I think requires some comment and clarification ... They seem to believe that it is wrong for me to write about Israel as often as I do ... Some of these readers, as is painfully obvious from their comments, simply have a big problem with Jews – at least, Jews who identify with and defend the Jewish people. But others, whose instincts may be rather more decent, seem to be labouring under one or two misapprehensions. So let me make a number of things clear ....

... the reason why Israel figures so heavily in any discussion about the predicaments of our era is that Israel is the defining moral issue of our time. It is Israel, and the century-old existential onslaught against the Jewish people in its ancient homeland, which stands at the very centre of the titanic fight by truth against lies, fact against propaganda, freedom against totalitarianism, liberty against slavery, justice against injustice and reason against irrationality in which the entire free world is currently engaged. Israel is the quintessential canary in the mine. It is the front-line in the defence of the free world. If it goes down, the rest of us will go down. Those who are on the wrong side of the Israel issue are on the wrong side in the great struggle for civilisation against barbarism. That is why I return to it again and again.
I would only add that it seems chauvinistic and ethnically-insulting for McArdle to suggest that growing up "in New York City in a mostly Jewish high school" gives her some kind of superior insight to Israel's predicament. Having said that, McArdle's nevertheless smart to close comments on her post. Israel-Palestine's the hottest of the international hot-button issues, and Lord knows it brings out the nastiest of the fever-swamp nasties.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.

"Lawfare" and Bush Administration War Crimes Trials

In my essay, "Enhanced Interrogation's in the Charts Again," I suggested that the radical left will "ratchet-up its push for war crimes prosecutions in the weeks ahead."

The funny thing about it, though, is that even the most die-hard foes of the administration's war on terror admit that
criminal prosecutions of Bush administation officials are a pipe dream. The most recent essay conceding the point is David Cole's new piece at the New York Review, "What to Do About the Torturers?" Cole reviews Philippe Sands', Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values, praisng the book as "the most unusual and deeply revealing take on the subject."

What makes Sands special? It turns out that Sands, a British attorney, professor of law, and long-time anti-American antagonist, is apparently one of the best able to make the case for the primacy of international human rights over state power and sovereignty. For all that, and despite the "deeply revealing take" on the Bush administration's alleged criminalilty, Cole at most is left with recommendations for "an independent, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission to investigate" to "assess responsibility for the United States' adoption of coercive interrogation policies."

I have a sneaking suspicion that that's not going to be enough for the left's America-bashers
who want President Bush executed at the Hague.

Well, there's more on all of this in the news today, with the Wall Street Journal's report, "Gonzales Defends Role in Antiterror Policies." Of course, all the lefty bloggers at
Memeorandum are up in arms about it, for example, Think Progress, TPMMuckraker, Spencer Ackerman, Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, Law Blog, Paul Krugman, Steve Benen, and Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Alberto Gonzales is the left's prime candidate for "torture trials," right up there with the president, Vice-President Dick Cheny, and former Justice Department attorney John Yoo, to name just a few. But trials aren't going to happen. Leftists are simply foaming at the mouth, and they'll be in another uproar when the Barack Obama administration turns the page on the whole affair sometime next year.
Robert Stacy McCain summed things up on this recently:

Frankly, I don't even give a damn. If I turned on the TV sometime next year to see Paul Wolfowitz in the dock at the Hague, I'd shrug in mute acceptance, and if I blogged about it, would do so in an insouciant way.
Still, even if the political pressure in the U.S. for war crimes prosecutions trails off, the global human rights (and anti-American) constituency won't let such things go. Since the 1990s, when the increased globalization of legal rules resulted in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, Augusto Pinochet's arrest, trial, and attempted extradition in 1998, calls for war crimes prosecutions against Henry Kissinger, and other efforts to bring "tyrants to justice," global left activism has pushed relentlessly for universal jurisdiction, and the push for torture trials against the "evil BushCo regime" will linger interminably at the fringes of global left activism.

So let me leave readers with a nice response to all of this from Michael Chertoff, the administration's Secretary of Homeland Security, in his essay at Foreign Affairs, "
The Responsibility to Contain: Protecting Sovereignty Under International Law."

Chertoff makes a powerful case for the expansion of international law and justice grounded in a legal doctrine of "a consent-based model of national sovereignty." That is, justice in international law will become increasing irrelevant in a world of great-power sovereign states unless international legal regimes become embedded in robust norms of national consent. Chertoff suggests that the global left's "lawfare" against the United States is in fact the biggest impediment to the longstanding global legal order arising out of the ashes of the World War II. In the face of constant attacks on American policy and sovereignty, the U.S. has been increasingly encouraged to reject wholesale the entire appartus of international law. Such an outcome, of course, would deprive the world of the first-mover hegemon that's been at the center of mulitlateral institution-building and the cooperative regimes underwriting world order.

Chertoff's discussion of the left's push for universal jurisdiction is particularly good, and worth quoting at length:

The typical strategy of international legal activists today is to challenge the idea of national sovereignty. This is a revolutionary tactic, particularly because sovereignty has played an important role in the development of the international system for over three centuries. Under the Westphalian model of sovereignty - which dates back to 1648 - an independent state is not subject to external control over its internal affairs without its consent ....

Imposing international legal mandates on a nation without its consent undermines this traditional concept of sovereignty and conflicts with the democratic will. For this reason, international law has often been based on the consent of nations by way of treaties, in which nations voluntarily agree to abide by certain rules, or through customary international law, which infers tacit consent through widespread state practice. To be sure, not all sources of international law are explicitly based on sovereign consent. So-called peremptory norms, or jus cogens norms, are rules -- such as those forbidding slavery or genocide - considered to be so deeply embedded in international law that they bind all nations, even absent national consent.

An international legal framework founded on a consent-based model of sovereignty is advantageous for several reasons. By requiring the explicit or implicit consent of nations before a particular international standard binds them, this approach gains the legitimacy that democratic legal traditions and processes provide. Consent-based international law also allows states to protect their own critical interests by bargaining for or withholding consent from certain provisions of a treaty. Finally, grounding international law in consent acknowledges national differences in culture and legal philosophy by ensuring that international rules fit within an international consensus - one shared by real governments, not merely endorsed by intellectual elites.

Academics, lawyers, and judges who challenge the continued relevance of consent in international law often treat "sovereignty" as a pejorative term or an antiquated concept. Many of these critics depart from the traditional view of international law as consisting primarily of reciprocal obligations among nations. For example, some have argued in particular cases that international agreements automatically confer legal rights on individuals that may be enforced directly without state support or even against the laws of the individuals' own countries. And some further argue that international law is not limited to what is agreed on by nations in treaties or accepted through widespread practice; they claim it also encompasses a set of standards based on highly general and "evolving" universal principles.

For example, the international legal scholar Philippe Sands argues that "to claim that states are as sovereign today as they were fifty years ago is to ignore reality." Sands describes international law as a set of obligations that "take on a logic and a life of their own" and that "do not stay within the neat boundaries that states thought they were creating when they were negotiated." The late Harvard Law School professor Louis Sohn went even further in unmooring international law from consent, positing, "States really never make international law on the subject of human rights. It is made by the people that care; the professors, the writers of textbooks and casebooks, and the authors of articles in leading international law journals." Even the conservative commentator Robert Kagan has called on U.S. policymakers to "welcome a world of pooled and diminished national sovereignty," arguing that the United States "has little to fear and much to gain in a world of expanding laws and norms based on liberal ideals and designed to protect them."

Of course, not all who seek to diminish the role of sovereignty in the development of international law are so explicit. International legal jurists and scholars often purport to recognize sovereign consent as the foundation of international obligations but then proceed to "identify" and apply norms or principles of customary international law that are not evidenced by actual state practice. For example, a court may proclaim that there is a rule that prohibits particular government actions without considering whether most nations indeed adhere to that rule. Alarmingly, some jurists rely for support on academics and commentators who do not merely catalog international law but rather seek to influence its development according to their own policy preferences. It makes no practical difference that these jurists may pay lip service to the importance of sovereignty; the effect of their efforts is to undermine nations' prerogative to choose their own laws.

Whether invoked explicitly or implicitly, the most common justifications for rejecting sovereign consent as the foundation of international law are flawed. One argument is that the growing global activity among nations creates the need for more comprehensive systems of international law to govern global conduct. This need, however, does not justify eliminating sovereign consent as the basis for imposing international obligations. Indeed, requiring the consent of nations has not prevented the international community from addressing a host of substantive issues, ranging from trade to arms control to endangered species protection. Moreover, individuals still principally identify themselves as part of a particular national community and resist decisions imposed on them by foreign actors and institutions without their consent. A visible case in point was the rejection of the European Constitution by voters in France and the Netherlands in 2005 and the more recent rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by voters in Ireland in 2008.

Another objection to sovereign consent holds that all humans possess certain fundamental rights that cannot be denied, even by the consent of the majority. But the recognition of fundamental human rights raises the harder and more particular question of how those rights should be defined and applied, and by whom. Bodies such as the United Nations include member states that often do not share a common position and whose values often clash with those of the United States and other democratic states. For example, the UN Human Rights Council has passed resolutions urging states to adopt laws combating the "defamation of religions," which would prohibit the type of open discussion about religious and political matters that is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The UN has also held a conference to examine gun-control provisions, ones that would be at odds with the Second Amendment. And the UN recently passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on capital punishment with "a view to abolishing the death penalty," even though the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it. Ironically, many of the states supporting such initiatives have a poor record when it comes to respecting the rights of their own citizens.

In short, absent an express treaty or convention, giving international bodies the power to decide what are new and expanded fundamental rights would allow countries to advance nationalist or bloc political agendas under the guise of human rights. It would also empower an often self-perpetuating international legal establishment - courts, advocates, academics, and activists - to "discover" international human rights by relying selectively on transnational agreements that may express only regional consensus or by drawing on philosophical or academic texts that reflect particular intellectual fashions. Such amorphous sources provide questionable grounds for mandatory international obligations.
The remainder of the article sets forth a model of consent-based international law. Chertoff focuses on three core principles of a regime of "reciprocal responsiblity" in international law and protection against emergent threats: nonsubordination of actor's sovereign rights, collaborative security in generally non-controversial international regimes (e.g., global trade and finance), and reciprocal sovereignty.

It's a great piece of policy writing, grounded in realism and respect for the sovereign rights of peoples in democratically-legitimated contitutional regimes, much unlike that wild unhinged rants of the "lawfare" advocates of the global left.

Jules Crittenden, Non-Participating Weblog Finalist

A number of bloggers have noted that they've been nominated as finalists in the 2008 Weblog Awards. I didn't make the cut, and actually, I wondered why. I had a great year blogging, and I'm currently ranked 94 in Wikio's December "top blog" rankings. I don't keep track of these things, in any case, and I probably would have had to nominate myself and then put up a bunch of posts asking readers to vote for me. I'm not really into all of that. Besides, I figured these contests are insiders' popularity gigs, probably not worth the time to an academic blog geek like me.

Well, it turns out
Jules Crittenden proved me right. He notes that the Weblog Awards are corrupt in his post, "Best Individual Blog 2008 Finalist":

Very flattering, and thanks are in order to those of you who kindly nominated this site. However ...

... since losing to a site several years ago (that got a major assist from the DU and various GLBT sites, which is fine, but) that did not in fact meet the contest criteria of “new blog,” having existed six months ahead of the cutoff; and being informed by the awards organizer that the rules violation didn’t seem worth upsetting the applecart over, though another contestant had been ousted earlier over some unknown party’s electronic interference; I decided popularity contests that ignore their own rules are not worth participating in. Particularly when there is no money involved. I encourage you not to vote for me, or anyone else. If anyone knows of any popularity contests that do follow their own rules, please don’t nominate me there either, unless there is a big money prize, in which case I’m in.
By no means do I begrudge folks who have fun with these contests. In this case though, the deck is stacked against objectivity and fairness. Of course, some of the genuinely top blogs are nominated and win, but there's also a lot of no-name blogs listed as best blogs at the list, so these competitions do seem kind of silly.

I guess the sidebar widget is pretty impressive to readers, so what can you do?

Gap Year is New High School Elective

I wanted to share with readers this article on the "gap year" for high school graduates, from the Wall Street Journal. It turns out that colleges are encouraging more and more students to take a year off from school, to travel and get work experience. The time away from intensive study serves as a refresher and a primer on life in the "real world."

What struck me about the article is how the gap year seems, frankly, like a privilege of the affluent, and that was just after reading the introduction:

Like many motivated, focused high-school students, Lillian Kivel had worked hard academically and in community service in hopes that her efforts would win her acceptance into a good college. It did. Trouble was, Ms. Kivel's focus was much less clear when she had to decide which college to attend -- the Boston-area senior had applied to 38 schools because her interests were so varied.

At the suggestion of friends, Ms. Kivel decided to take a gap year -- a year outside of academia between high-school graduation and college matriculation. It wasn't rest and relaxation that Ms. Kivel sought, but rather an opportunity to gain life experience and focus her goals. Gappers, as they're called, typically feel that taking a year off will give them a head start in college -- and life. "I [have] the opportunity to explore my interests, like medicine and China, outside the classroom," she says.

Ms. Kivel eventually decided to attend Harvard College, but deferred entrance until fall 2009. Ms. Kivel lived at home this fall and interned at the Boston branch of Partners of Health, a global health outreach nonprofit. She's also serving as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts Statehouse. And she's auditing at anthropology class at Harvard.

To fill her spring months, Ms. Kivel turned to gap-year consultant Holly Bull, president of Interim Programs, to help her sift through more than 100 different programs in China. Ms. Kivel will live with a host family in Shanghai, study Chinese language, history and culture in a classroom setting, and teach English to children. "I have gained so much by ... becoming more responsible and independent [and] exploring my interests," Ms. Kivel says.
Ms. Kivel's example is probably pretty typical for ambitious and enterprising middle class kids. I would expect my oldest son, who is now in 7th grade, to be seeking counseling on his college choices when he gets to that point, not the least of which from myself.

But actually I thought of my students at my college. Community college is so diverse, economically as well as ethnically. The idea of being accepted to an elite East Coast university, and have the chance to postpone matriculation for a year for the opportunity to travel to China, is an extreme luxury at minumum for the majority of students who attend my classes.

Ms. Kivel is expected to spend $12,000 to fund the Shanghai semester, which she'll finance from her earnings and from her parents' contributions. The article notes that financial aid and scholarships are available for gap year opportunities, but the process of research and applying for these resources is "daunting." That alone would be an impediment to the typical student body constituency of community colleges. Just reading a class schedule and navigating the college bureaucracy has been identified as a barrier to advancement at the two-year level, and research has shown, in fact, that proprietary colleges like the University of Phoenix have a better record of providing resources and tracking to keep kids on pace toward educational goals.

In any case, the gap year sounds likes a great opportunity for kids to spread their wings a bit before hitting the halls of the university. As always, I'm just thinking about how we can shift the culture among the disadvantaged (kids and parents) so they'll be able to pursue opportunities like this as well (and more "social spending" is not necessarily the answer).

World's False Moral Equivalence Emboldens Terrorists

As readers know, I've been sick at heart amid the global support for the Gaza terrorists and the demonization of Israel, whose leaders are now not only exercising the state's right to self-defense, but upholding its sovereign responsibility to protect its citizens.

Anti-Israel Protests

Demonstrations are continuing, sponsored the neo-Stalinist ANSWER coalition, so I wanted to share Alan Dershowitz's vital essay, "Israel, Hamas, and Moral Idiocy":


Israel's decision to take military action against Hamas rocket attacks targeting its civilian population has been long in coming. I vividly recall a visit my wife and I took to the Israeli city of Sderot on March 20 of this year. Over the past four years, Palestinian terrorists – in particular, Hamas and Islamic Jihad – have fired more than 2,000 rockets at this civilian area, which is home to mostly poor and working-class people.

The rockets are designed exclusively to maximize civilian deaths, and some have barely missed schoolyards, kindergartens, hospitals, and school buses. But others hit their targets, killing more than a dozen civilians since 2001, including in February 2008 a father of four who had been studying at the local university. These anticivilian rockets have also injured and traumatized countless children.

The residents of Sderot were demanding that their nation take action to protect them. But Israel's postoccupation military options were limited, since Hamas deliberately fires its deadly rockets from densely populated urban areas, and the Israeli army has a strict policy of trying to avoid civilian casualties.

The firing of rockets at civilians from densely populated civilian areas is the newest tactic in the war between terrorists who love death and democracies that love life. The terrorists have learned how to exploit the morality of democracies against those who do not want to kill civilians, even enemy civilians.

The attacks on Israeli citizens have little to do with what Israel does or does not do. They have everything to do with an ideology that despises – and openly seeks to destroy – the Jewish state. Consider that rocket attacks increased substantially after Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, and they accelerated further after Hamas seized control last year.

In the past months, a shaky cease-fire, organized by Egypt, was in effect. Hamas agreed to stop the rockets and Israel agreed to stop taking military action against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire itself was morally dubious and legally asymmetrical.

Israel, in effect, was saying to Hamas: If you stop engaging in the war crime of targeting our innocent civilians, we will stop engaging in the entirely lawful military acts of targeting your terrorists. Under the cease-fire, Israel reserved the right to engage in self-defense actions such as attacking terrorists who were in the course of firing rockets at its civilians.

Just before the hostilities began, Israel reopened a checkpoint to allow humanitarian aid to reenter Gaza. It had closed the point of entry after it had been targeted by Gazan rockets. Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, also issued a stern, final warning to Hamas that unless it stopped the rockets, there would be a full-scale military response. The Hamas rockets continued and Israel kept its word, implementing a carefully prepared targeted air attack against Hamas targets.

On Sunday, I spoke to the air force general, now retired, who worked on the planning of the attack. He told me of the intelligence and planning that had gone into preparing for the contingency that the military option might become necessary. The Israeli air force had pinpointed with precision the exact locations of Hamas structures in an effort to minimize civilian casualties.

Even Hamas sources have acknowledged that the vast majority of those killed have been Hamas terrorists, though some civilian casualties are inevitable when, as BBC's Rushdi Abou Alouf – who is certainly not pro-Israel – reported, "The Hamas security compounds are in the middle of the city." Indeed, his home balcony was just 20 meters away from a compound he saw bombed.

There have been three types of international response to the Israeli military actions against the Hamas rockets. Not surprisingly, Iran, Hamas, and other knee-jerk Israeli-bashers have argued that the Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians are entirely legitimate and that the Israeli counterattacks are war crimes.

Equally unsurprising is the response of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia, and others who, at least when it comes to Israel, see a moral and legal equivalence between terrorists who target civilians and a democracy that responds by targeting the terrorists.

And finally, there is the United States and a few other nations that place the blame squarely on Hamas for its unlawful and immoral policy of using its own civilians as human shields, behind whom they fire rockets at Israeli civilians.

The most dangerous of the three responses is not the Iranian-Hamas absurdity, which is largely ignored by thinking and moral people, but the United Nations and European Union response, which equates the willful murder of civilians with legitimate self-defense pursuant to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

This false moral equivalence only encourages terrorists to persist in their unlawful actions against civilians. The US has it exactly right by placing the blame on Hamas, while urging Israel to do everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.

Hat Tip: Memeorandum.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

May God Protect the Soldiers of Israel

Paula in Israel writes about her son, an Israeli soldier, and what she wants to do, and what she'll do, as he heads off to war:

What I want ... is to go collect my little boy and bring him home. I want to lock him in a room and tell Israel that no, you can't have him. I've changed my mind. No, I'm sorry. He's not allowed to play with guns and big things that go boom. No, I'm his mother. I gave birth to him and no, you simply can't take him ....

That's what I want ... And what I'll do, is sit here at my desk and keep editing this document for my client. I'll update the copyright statements and change the installation information to reflect the new platforms the product now supports. I'll answer the phone and I'll talk to my accountant ....

And what I'll do, is tell my heart to settle. I'll tell my eyes to take a moment and look at the next beautiful wave of clouds rolling in over Jerusalem. I'll sign the papers I need to sign; type the words I need to type. I'll tell my younger daughter to clean her room and my younger son that he has to study for his test NOW. I'll tell my middle son he can borrow the car like we agreed, but he has to drive carefully. I won't talk to my daughter because she's old enough to see the cracks in my smile and know that outside, it's all a front ....

And most of all, what I will do is dig deep inside where I store my faith in God and in my country and my people. I will do what every Israeli is doing today, hoping this will end soon, but not too soon that we only succeed in putting off to tomorrow what should have been dealt with today. I will do all of this because we are what we have always been, a nation with no choice but to deal with what our enemies choose.

They chose to shell our cities with rockets and so we must stop them. They chose the path of war, so we will set the scenery around this path. Our scenery will include our air force that will knock out their launching pads; our scenery will include our navy and tanks. We'll eliminate the tunnels they use to sneak into our land and those they use to smuggle weapons and terrorists to harm our people. We will change the scenery of Gaza, so that their training camps will no longer exist.

The world may forget that it was Hamas and Islamic Jihad who chose rockets and mortars and missiles with which to attack us; they may fail to recognize that we use our air force, our tanks, our ground forces and our artillery to protect. For once, Israelis are united in one simple reality. We cannot afford to bend to the world's will, if that means our children live under rocket fire, if that means people are forced to run for shelter with mere seconds to alert them.

We are, above all things, a nation that chooses life. Today, we choose to protect the lives of our citizens. Maybe deep down, what I want is to hide inside myself, but what I will do is what every Israeli is doing today - having faith that we are bringing a better reality to our country by taking its safety into our hands. Our soldiers have our faith, they have our prayer, and they have our love.

May God protect the soldiers of Israel and watch over them as they do what they must. They cannot be defeated because where they go, they will not be alone. They have with them the Defender of Israel.
Read the whole thing, here.

Hat Tip: Israel Matsav.

Israel Strikes Restore Strategic Confidence

The Los Angeles Times reports on the what Israel has learned militarily and strategically from the Lebanon war of 2006:

Special Forces at Gaza Strip border

As they prepared for lightning airstrikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Israel's leaders drew sobering lessons from their stalemate against another Islamic paramilitary force, Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas.

In that setback in the summer of 2006, Israel rushed to battle without a detailed plan or realistic goals, and was handed its first failure to vanquish an Arab foe in war. Hezbollah not only withstood the 34-day offensive, but it also emerged stronger politically.

Faced with frequent Hamas rocket fire across its southern border, Israel planned its Gaza operation more meticulously, over nearly two years. As a result, Israeli officials said Sunday, their intelligence services developed a longer list of targets to bomb, enabling the air force to inflict more damage on the militant Palestinian group before Israel contemplates a risky ground assault.

And instead of boasting that they would "destroy" the enemy, as they did in the case of Lebanon, Israeli leaders set the more modest aim of "improving the security" of terrorized Israeli communities.

That less ambitious approach could make it easier for Israel to withdraw from the conflict on its terms, avoiding the kind of demoralizing stalemate that developed in Lebanon.

So far, Israel considers its Gaza offensive a success. Since it began Saturday, waves of airstrikes have destroyed dozens of Hamas paramilitary facilities, weapons-smuggling tunnels from Egypt and underground rocket-launching sites. Rocket fire from Gaza has diminished well below what was once considered Hamas' capacity.

Although many risks and uncertainties lie ahead, in particular the specter of getting bogged down in a ground war, the offensive has brought Israel to a psychological turning point, restoring a measure of the country's confidence in its capacity to confront armed adversaries.

"Hamas is dazed and confused and has no explanation to offer its people," Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli Defense Ministry official, told Israel Radio on Sunday. "But we must refrain from bragging and marking dramatic objectives."

Rather than remove Hamas from power, he and other Israeli officials say, the goal is to weaken the movement and demonstrate the price it would pay for continuing to launch rockets. Sooner or later, Israel hopes to restore and strengthen an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that worked for nearly five months before it started to break down in November.
The 2006 war was not just a loss of confidence for Israel, it was a victory for the arc of terrorism that sweeps across the Persian plains to the Arabian sands, from Tehran to Damascus and beyond. For Israel to lose was a slap at Western resolve as well. Darkness creeps ahead when disarrary, timidity, and restraint overwhelm the Jewish state.

Be sure to read
Yossi Klein Halevi's comprehensive essay on the entire military, political, and strategic implications of Israel's airstikes. This part is a nice follow-up to the Los Angeles Times' reporting:

The future of the West Bank may well be resolved in Gaza. If the international community forces the IDF to end the operation before the missile threat against southern Israel is resolved, Israelis will inevitably conclude that, even when we withdraw to the 1967 borders, as we did on the Gaza front in 2005, the international community will not allow us to protect ourselves. And the likelihood then of convincing a majority of Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank - within easy rocket distance from our major population centers - will be close to non-existent. Ultimately, then, the creation of an independent Palestine depends on neutralizing Hamas.
Photo Credit: "METICULOUS PLANNING: Israeli army special forces are deployed at the Gaza Strip border. Israel mapped out the operation for nearly two years," Los Angeles Times.

Israel's Information War

The Israeli Defense Forces opened a YouTube channel to post videos of developments in the Gaza campaign. Yet it turns out that YouTube has been disabling a number of the IDF video posts, including the one below (via Israel Matzav), which shows Hamas militants loading Katyusha missiles onto a truck (and thus indicating the legitimacy of Israel's self-defense).

Here's Noah Pollack's remarks on Israel's information war:
The rank double-standard that YouTube has applied to Israel is disturbing. YouTube hosts all manner of similar footage — much of it far more gory than the grainy infrared images posted by the IDF — of U.S. air strikes. Why is YouTube capitulating to those who do not wish for Israel to be able to tell its side of the story?

UPDATE: the IDF just uploaded a new video to its channel, this one of Hamas’ headquarters going out of business. Let’s see how long it lasts.
Click here to watch.
Also, in a development that is truly freaky, Hamas has hacked into the Israpundit website, and the page redirects to a grim message warning: "HAMAZ OWNED YOU." Pamela Geller has the screen capture.

To this I remind folks to never quit the fight. This week
the Netherlands' left wing parties conceded that their policy of moral equivalence - which many see as contributing to a political environment conducive to the assassination of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and to the threats and exile of Ayaan Hirsi Ali - has been a total failure. The parties have now formally renounced support for unconditional multicultural tolerance. As Bird Dog aptly points out, "Given enough time, Reality always wins in the end."

Shattering Myths on Domestic Radicals: "The Baader Meinhof Complex"

Jeffrey Herf's essay on "The Baader Meinhof Complex," the German documentary film on the Red Army Faction, the most prominent and deadly left-wing terrorist organization in postwar West Germany, may be the most stimulating essay you'll read today.

Here's Herf's key section on the ideological and terrorist core of the Baader-Meinhof program:

Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex begins with the anti-Vietnam and anti-Shah demonstrations in West Berlin of the late 1960s. Its depictions of left-wing leader Rudi Dutschke leading a chant of "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh" at what is probably the Free University in Berlin, police violence against anti-Shah demonstrators, the shootings of Dutschke and student Benno Ohnesorg, and attacks on the right-wing Springer Press bring the viewer back to the maelstrom of violence out of which the Red Army Faction emerged. We see the evolution of Ulrike Meinhof from left-wing journalist to terrorist, as well as the emergence of Andreas Baader (a foul-mouthed thug with an appetite for violence) and his girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin, a minister's daughter-turned-radical.

Director Uli Edel and writer
Bernd Eichinger present the RAF as it was - a brutal, violent organization - while flatly and effectively contradicting some of the myths surrounding the group. They show the RAF shooting an unarmed office worker in a successful effort to free Baader from custody, placing bombs in police departments and at the Springer Press building, and exchanging fire with police after being offered the option of peacefully surrendering. They present the RAF seizure of the German Embassy in Stockholm and the murder of its military attache, Andreas von Mirbach. Scenes of the murder of German banker Jurgen Ponto in his home (though disputed in its details by his widow) and of the assassination of German Attorney General Siegfried Buback and his bodyguards with machine guns by two assassins on a motorcycle leave nothing to the imagination; they are barbaric.

In 1972, Baader, Meinhof, and Ensslin were captured and placed in separate jails. But, in response to pressure from the prisoners and their supporters on the outside, they were moved to a special floor reserved for them in Stammheim prison. Many European intellectuals, including Jean-Paul Sartre, subsequently accepted the RAF's claim that the prisoners were being mistreated in Stammheim. One of the important accomplishments of Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex is to show that the prisoners resided in what was, as jails go, a relatively palatial environment. They had televisions, stereos, radios, and books. For the first time in post-war West German history, men and women were allowed on the same floor. They could meet and talk with one another in preparation for their
trial. The film also depicts the role their lawyers played in conveying messages back and forth between RAF prisoners and RAF members on the outside--and in smuggling guns hidden inside legal briefing books to the prisoners.

The high point of public attention for the group came in the fall of 1977 with the
kidnapping of Hanns-Martin Schleyer, one of Germany's leading businessmen, in an effort to bargain for the release of the RAF prisoners. (Meinhof had committed suicide in 1976, but others were still alive.) The kidnapping began with a well-planned massacre. Schleyer's car was rammed by another. One of the RAF women pulled a machine gun out of a baby carriage. In seconds, other RAF members mowed down all of Schleyer's bodyguards and his driver with machine guns before seizing him. In a careful reconstruction of the crime scene based on the extensive investigation done at the time, Aust, Edel, and Eichinger have produced a cinematic moment that demolishes any of the romantic aura that may still surround these killers in some circles. In fact, police investigators found over 20 bullets in the corpses of two of the bodyguards. The film ends with Schleyer's murder in woods near the German-Belgium border.

The film shatters one more RAF myth as well. When the West German government refused to release the prisoners, the RAF upped the ante and, with cooperation from Palestinian terrorists, seized a Lufthansa flight and threatened to blow it up unless its demands were met. After German special forces stormed the plane and released the hostages, the RAF prisoners in Stammheim committed suicide. The RAF and its gullible or cynical apologists insisted that they were murdered. Investigations by numerous judicial and parliamentary bodies have repeatedly confirmed that two of the prisoners shot themselves with guns smuggled into the prison, while another hung herself. A fourth attempted suicide by stabbing herself but was
saved by prison doctors. Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex places on the big screen the truth about these self-inflicted deaths, which RAF supporters transformed into a politically useful story of martyrdom at the hands of the allegedly fascist state.
Now, I want to make a break here, because the following part of Herf's essay is so important it needs to be highlighted:

The admirable candor of Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex provides a much-needed challenge to Hollywood. No major American movie has yet told the story of the Weathermen, or for that matter the Black Panthers, with equal honesty. To be sure, the Weathermen did not engage in a campaign of murder comparable to that of the Red Army Faction in West Germany - or the Red Brigades in Italy or the Japanese Red Army. But neither, as some seem to think, was it simply the angriest part of the anti-war movement. In fact, its stated purpose was to carry out "armed struggle" in the United States in solidarity with third world communist movements and with the Black Panther Party in this country. The bombs being prepared by Weathermen in a Manhattan townhouse that exploded in March 1970 were intended to be set off at an upcoming dance for soldiers and their dates at Fort Dix. Had they exploded at the dance, dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people would have been killed. Members of the Weathermen were fond of arrogantly denouncing the great majority of participants in the anti-war and civil rights movements who declined to "pick up the gun." They mocked this decency as evidence of a "non-struggle attitude" or as the result of "white skin privilege." Today, former Weathermen leader Bill Ayers continues to rationalize the actions taken by his group - most prominently in a recent New York Times op-ed piece. An American equivalent of Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex - a movie that aimed to set the historical record straight by portraying the most violent 1960s radicals as they truly were - would do an enormous service.
I think it's hard for people nowadays - especially young people, hypnotized by today's "progressive" teachers and activists - to make connections between the intense ideological radicalism of the 1960s and 1970s and what's essentially the mainstream commercialization of far-left extremism today.

Notice how the RAF was in deep alliance with European intellectuals and Palestinian terrorists. Today we have much of same thing: For the last five years we've had American leftists march hand-in-hand with pro-Palestian activists denouncing the "fascist" Bush regime, and right now across Europe protesters have taken to the street waving anti-Israel banners emblazoned with swastikas to denounce Israel's "genocide" against "innocent" Gazans. Indeed, since 2003, we've seen
the mainstreaming of a worldwide alliance between socialism and Islam that finds backing in state capitals from Caracas to Tehran. At home, Bill Ayers is feted on "Good Morning America" while Che Guevara's murderous ideological program has been turned into "one of the most amazing displays of historical ignorance of the last half century."

It couldn't happen here? Baader-Meinhof's violent terrorist program was a "'70s thing," right?

Actually, no. Perhaps today's radicals are less willing to die for a cause than in earlier decades, but when we see
International ANSWER as the key sponsor of the protests against California's Proposition 8, we're seeing the mainstreaming of neo-Stalinist agitation. The group's allied cells are busy conducting Soviet-style show trials against those who made campaign contributions to the Yes on 8 forces. As I've noted many times on this blog, the same groups of radical agitators from the 1960s counterculture have shifted gears, taking the revolution online, in the comfort of cushy living rooms and partitioned office cubicles. People like this have not abandoned the struggle, only the armed component. William Ayers just published a new book of "educational pedagogy" focusing on America's system of white racial hegemony, called Race Course Against White Supremacy. Tom Hayden, who collaborated with the North Vietnamese communists during the Vietnam War, is now a prominent Barack Obama supporter who maintains an active website that publishes the "Port Huron Statement." Extreme left-wing bloggers such as Chris Bowers, Jane Hamsher, Markos Moulitsas are routinely welcomed on the network news programs as "authoritative" voices of the "progressive left." Meanwhile, supporting the Iraqi resistance has been de rigeur at comment threads at mainstream blog outlets such as the Huffington Post, and smaller radical blogs such the Newshoggers cheer the deaths of mentally-impaired female suicide bombers in Iraq as brilliant tactical adaptations to American military hegemony.

Times have changed, of course. Most of today's "progressives" would recoil in faux horror at the mention of taking up AK-47s against agents of the American state. Yet, these same people are all too ready and able to denounce any and all manifestations of traditional culture as "fascist" as they work to destroy American exceptionalism through
hare-brained but relentless subversion from within.

Keep this in mind when you get a chance to see "The Baader Meinhof Complex."

Hamas' Human Rights Violations

This is day 4 in the 2008 Mideast war and hostilities show no sign of ebbing.

This morning's Los Angeles Times features a useful article on the background to the conflict, "
A Primer on Gaza, Israel and Some of the Key Factors Behind the Current Violence."

Meanwhile, Jeff Robbins at the Boston Globe offers an analysis of
the systematic human rights violations of Hamas:

LAST MONTH'S commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided the occasion to ask difficult questions about societies whose political leadership serially violates them. What, for instance, is to be done about places like Darfur or Zimbabwe, or any one of a multitude of places governed by leaders whose consciences appear untouched by the suffering they are causing? To the list of grotesque human rights violators must be added Hamas, whose disdain for the suffering its policies cause the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip is exceeded only by its open, and even proud, infliction of atrocities on Israeli civilians.

This year alone, Hamas, which expressly calls for the obliteration of Israel, has launched approximately 3,000 rockets and mortar bombs into Israeli civilian centers, always for the purpose of killing and maiming Israelis if possible, and terrifying those who are not actually hit. In the last week or so, Hamas has fired some 200 rockets and bombs into Israeli communities.

Under these circumstances - circumstances which would have continued without end had the Israelis failed to act - it seems clear that the Israeli military response was not merely a necessary one. It was, regrettably, the only one left.

Israeli author Amos Oz, whose call for peace with the Palestinians is shared by a majority of Israelis, succinctly described the brutalization of Israeli civilians in terms that cannot fairly be disputed. In a recent piece entitled "Israel Must Defend Its Citizens," the longtime advocate for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis wrote: "The systematic bombing of the citizens in Israel's towns and cities is a war crime and a crime against humanity."

Oz is correct. But it isn't only Israelis whose fundamental human rights Hamas is violating. It is those of the Palestinian population about whose welfare Hamas professes to care.

In direct contravention of international law, Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, utilizing homes, schools and community centers as launching pads, content in the knowledge that if innocent Palestinian civilians are caught in the cross-fire, it will be Israel that is criticized. This amounts to a sort of Daily Double of human rights violations: the use of innocent Palestinians as human shields for the infliction of violence upon innocent Israelis.
There's more at the link.

Monday, December 29, 2008

World Rallies to Palestinian Cause

The headline at CNN reads "World Rallies Around Palestinians Amid Gaza Offensive," but for all practical purposes it should read, "World Endorses Destruction of the Jewish State."

Protests Against Israel

As I noted this morning, it would not matter how many Israelis were killed before Tel Aviv launched its retaliation. None of it matters to a world community in which the Jewish state will always be branded the aggressor, and where terrorists and murderers are aquitted as "victims." Israel will always be found at fault, simply because it is Israel. It is the only successful democracy in the region. It's free, democratic, and humane. It's women enjoy rights that no neighboring regime grants to their women, including Iraqi Kurdistan. It's moral values are unparalleled, which helps explain why the Jewish state is in danger today. It's introspection is so prounounced as to be debilitating. But Israel is the outpost of Western values in the Middle East. It's existence challenges the reign of barbarism, from Gaza to Southern Lebanon to Tehran. Those who back the Palestinians don't care about proportion. They want destruction of Israel and the decimation of moral right. This is what it's about, readers should have no illusions.

Look at that picture above, via
Fox News. Ehud Olmert is no terrorist (and don't even get me started on the demonization of George W. Bush). To a degree unseen in past Israeli prime ministers, Olmert empathizes with - no, grieves for - the Palestinians. Early this month Olmert defended his administration's vision for Middle East peace, indicating that he was like none those that came before:
Israel is the strongest country in the Middle East. We could contend with any of our enemies or against all of our enemies combined and win. The question that I ask myself is, what happens when we win? First of all, we'd have to pay a painful price.

And after we paid the price, what would we say to them? "Let's talk." And what would the Syrians say to us? "Let's talk about the Golan Heights."

So, I ask: Why enter a war with the Syrians, full of losses and destruction, in order to achieve what might be achieved without paying such a heavy price?

...In the absence of peace, the probability of war is always much greater. A prime minister must ask himself where to best direct his efforts. Are his efforts directed toward making peace or are they directed constantly toward making the country stronger and stronger and stronger in order to win a war?

...What I'm saying here has never been said by a leader of Israel. But the time has come to say these things. The time has come to put them on the table.
And for this he's vilified as a terrorist?

Readers should spend a few minutes with David Keyes' essay at Commentary, "
Sderot Under Siege." I'll leave this passage as a reminder of Israel's tradition of restraint, which has sadly left a bitter wasteland of fear among those within range of Gaza's rockets:

It must be said if General MacArthur or General Patton were in charge, there would be no Qassam problem. The residents of Sderot would sleep like babies—in their own beds. Both Generals would begin with the recognition of Gaza as enemy territory and Hamas as pure evil—unrepentant terrorists who seek the destruction of Western Civilization. Both Generals would occupy Gaza immediately with ground troops and without hesitation. They would pursue total victory and vanquish any semblance of resistance. Both would succeed beyond our wildest expectations. Gaza is an infinitesimally small piece of territory and a rather large joke compared to the mighty Nazi state and once ruthless Japanese army, both of which were defeated and pacified at the hands of MacArthur and Patton. Not a single cent would be spent by either General on absurd plans to shoot down rockets from Gaza . That’s defeatist and passive, they would say, and that’s not how winners act.


The reason why Israelis have not found a solution to the Qassams is simple: they’re Israelis. Jews care about what others think and they’re moral to a fault—a very big fault. But there is nothing moral about the depraved state in which the launching of almost 6,000 rockets can pass without an overwhelming retaliation. There is nothing sane about restraint in the face of a vicious war waged upon you. A bumper sticker on a beat-up maroon-colored car in Sderot reads “A Time to Love.” But this is not a time to love. It is a time to hate; it is a time to war; it is a time to win. In other words, it is a time to be American. If 6,000 rockets were launched at San Diego from Tijuana , rest assured that the residents of Tijuana would have little trouble finding parking because their city would be flattened. There would be no talk of ceasefires. America would wage war, it would win, and the rocket fire would cease.

But defeatism is one of the most prevalent characteristics in Israel today. Ask an average Israeli if it is possible to defeat Hamas and the answer is invariably “No.” No where is this resignation more apparent than the government. In 2005, Ehud Olmert said: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies. We want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies." Contrast that with Winston Churchill in 1940: "We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender…”

Why have Israelis become so timid? It is in no small part because they have been bombarded for so long by so many enemies. Nearly 10,000 rockets have struck the homeland in the past few years. Put simply, a rocket attack on Israel is no longer the big deal—the supreme violation of decency and act of unspeakable terror—that it once was. Israeli President Shimon Peres exemplified the problem when he blurted out “Qassamim Shmamamim,” the Hebrew equivalent of “Qassams Shmamams.” This is no different than the phenomenon of brushing aside the daily murderous statements of Hamas leaders like Ahmad Bahr, former Speaker of the Parliament, who openly called for the slaughter of Jews “down to the very last one.”
Read the whole thing at the link.

Pamela Geller has more on the global left's reaction to Israel's exercise in self-defense (and self-restraint).

International Reaction to Israeli Self-Defense

This photograph, so deeply offensive and saddening, has gotten me thinking once again:

Israel Protests

The image is available at Ralph Peters' essay, and the caption reads: "Propaganda: Activists around the world, like this woman in Spain, protested Israel's airstrikes."

As Peters indicates at the article:

DEAD Jews aren't news, but killing terrorists outrages global activists. On Saturday, Israel struck back powerfully against its tormentors. Now Israel's the villain. Again ....
Yes, Israel's always identified as the villian, but folks shouldn't comfort themselves by suggesting that it's only the global left-fringe that's demonizing Israel's airstrikes. It's not just global activists denouncing Tel Aviv's "disproportionate" response. This morning's Wall Street Journal indicates that the United Nations has decried Israel's "excessive" force, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has done so as well. It's clear by now that without the United States Israel would be standing alone against the forces of global postmodernism and appeasement to terror. The response at the U.N.'s General Assembly is the diplomatic equivalent to the swastikas on Spanish antiwar protest banners. People need to take a look around. Israel stands at the center of a global culture war. From international institutions, to the halls of heads of government, to the streets of the nihilist left's demonstrations, the plague of moral equivalence keeps creeping up - gaining strength just a month after Mumbai's demonstration of nihilist destruction - like a modern-day Black Death.

Here's
Melanie Phillips, thankfully, on the left's smear of "disproportion":

All too predictable – and going to plan, with assistance from the Club of Terror U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who condemned ‘excessive use of force leading to the killing and injuring of civilians’, and Navi Pillay, the ludicrous U.N. High Commissioner for ‘Human Rights’, who ‘strongly condemned Israel’s disproportionate use of force.’ Of course, the Club of Terror U.N. has been silent about the actual violations of international law by the Palestinians, as pointed out here by Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell ....

But for exercising its legal duty in accordance with international law, Israel is condemned and told to stop by politicians such as French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband. The moral inversion is staggering. Miliband has called for an immediate ceasefire by Israel. The implication is that Israel should suffer the Palestinian rockets attacks indefinitely.

If anything has been ‘disproportionate’, it’s been Israel’s refusal to take such action during the years when its southern citizens have been terrorised by rockets and other missiles raining down on them from Gaza. No other country in the world would have sat on its hands for so long in such circumstances. But whenever Israel defends itself militarily, its response is said to be ‘disproportionate’. The malice, ignorance and sheer idiocy of this claim is refuted here comprehensively by Dore Gold, who points out that Israel’s actions in Gaza are wholly in accordance with international law. This permits Israel to launch such an operation to prevent itself from being further attacked ....

Those who scream ‘disproportionate’ think – grotesquely - that not enough Israelis have been killed. But that’s in part because Israel cares enough about human life to construct air raid shelters where its beleaguered civilians take cover; Hamas deliberately stores its rockets and other apparatus of mass murder below apartment blocks and in centres of population in order to get as many of its own people killed as possible as a propaganda weapon. Hamas is thus guilty of war crimes not just against Israelis but against the Palestinian people. Yet on this there is – fantastically, surreally – almost total silence in the west, which blames Israel instead. Historical resonances, anyone?

As I've noted in my previous essays, what's most disturbing about the outbreak of war is the reaction on the left to Israel's actions. Again, readers should have no doubt, the left's denunciations against Israel are rhetorical displays of those Spanish protest banners. For the postmodernists, for all intents and purposes, the Israel state is the new Nazi regime. Melanie Phillips gets it. Caroline Glick gets it. And my friend Stogie at Saberpoint gets it, and I'll give him the last word:

We can expect the mainstream media to once again portray the Muslims as victims and the Israelis as aggressors. The overwhelming number of news photos coming out of the conflict depict Palestinians wailing over fallen comrades, or wounded ones with blood on their faces, being helped to the hospital. There are the usual photos of fat Muslim ladies with their mouths wide open in faux horror as they pose for the news cameras, and dusty wreckage of some Palestinian shithole recently renovated by Israeli ordnance. There are never any pictures of dead Israelis, or Palestinian rockets, or mutilated bodies of kidnapped and murdered Israelis. Even Fox News contributes to this gross imbalance in news coverage.

As for you, Palestinians, who rejoiced when your fellow barbarians murdered 3,000 Americans in 2001, I rejoice in the righteous destruction and long overdue payback for your evil, your barbarian savagery, your murderous and false religion. You have earned every bomb and every bullet, and since we don't practice Islamic finance, there will be a great deal of interest due with every payment. Enjoy.

The New Culture War, Belatedly

In California, in the days following the November 4th election, we saw the beginning of the latest stage of the left's cultural war on American traditionalism. The passage of California's Proposition 8 sent left-wing activists to the streets in force, and the initial demonstrations were organized by the ANSWER coalition, the left's leading neo-Stalinist antiwar outfit. Black passersby were atttacked with racial epithets, and show trials sent into hiding those who had made small contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. As I noted at the time, we saw "the frontlines of the new culture war take to the streets this past week." The continuing controversy in subsequent weeks, seemingly peaking of late with the left's outrage at Barack Obama's selection of Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation, only confirms the point.

There's of course been tremendous commentary on this across the blogosphere, so I'm not quite sure why Rick Lowry - who's the editor at National Review - is just now announcing "
The New Culture War" with reference to the Warren backlash:

Barack Obama's election was supposed to signal the end, or at least the diminishment, of the cultural issues that the GOP had feasted on electorally for 30 years. The "wedge issues" of old had been a Republican contrivance anyway, and once freed of them, American politics would be more praiseworthy (and, not coincidentally, more liberal).

This storyline lasted all of a few weeks, as Obama's inaugural ceremony has become embroiled in a nasty cultural spat. In a nice (and shrewd) gesture, Obama invited the evangelical Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation Jan. 20. The ensuing firestorm sheds light on two questions: Is there a real culture war in this country, deeper and more abiding than any one political party's electoral strategy? And who is the aggressor in it? The answers, respectively, are "yes" and "the cultural left."
I guess it's good that Lowry's announcing a new culture war? Maybe those who really engage the leftist blogosphere have a better handle of the scale of the left's ideological program. But there's no mistaking the stakes involved in the latest partisan battles. The reaction to the passage of Proposition 8, and now the Warren flap, reveals most of all the undemocratic nature of the left's hardline base constituency. These folks are even turning off folks of more classic civil rights sensibilities. Check out this for example, from the comments at Frank Rich's Saturday New York Times column:

I've been an advocate of gay marriage for 20 years but the behavior and uproar of the gay community has turned me against them and their causes the way no right-winger or religious nutjob could ever do.

How dare they make this inauguration all about them! Warren has said equally horrible things about the pro-choice community but you don't see us demanding he be scalped. That's because we're focused on the policy.

Gays have only themselves to blame for the passage of Prop 8. They did ZERO outreach to the black and latino communities. They were so arrogant that they did not mount a proper opposition to Prop 8. When it passed they started looking for people to blame - stalking donors to Prop 8 and castigating blacks.

The more the gay community rants and attacks their allies, the more they will harm their cause. Calling Obama a bigot, homophobe and traitor (as many have) doesn't make me want to storm the barricades against Prop 8. It might also make Obama drag his feet in getting around to those issues.
Someone like this is perhaps a 1960s-era Democrat, someone who sees a genuine goodness in progress on civil rights and would like to extend those protections to gays, however ill-considered on the question of gay marriage (which in not, in fact, a civil right). The writer naturally recoils at the totalitarianism coming from the activists willing to demonize anyone who stands in the way of this agenda. I'm sure the brutality of the left's ideological program is shocking to those who don't battle it on a daily basis.

Whatever the case, Rich Lowry and his brethen at the traditional conservative media outlets should be jumping on these issues a lot faster. The radical oppositionalism of the left was seen literally within hours of Obama's victory last month. The left basically claimed vindication for their hardline agenda, and the backlash against Obama we've seen in the Warren case is a preview of the intraparty battles we can expect for the next four years. Obama has resisted endorsing the hard-liners' position, but folks on the right shouldn't become complacent or assured of moderation as the Obama administration ramps up. On abortion we'll be seeing the most substantial rollback on the pro-life agenda since Roe v. Wade. On gay rights it's only a matter of time before Obama introduces legislation to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, and then the Obama Justice Department will promote litigation at the state level to overturn bans on same-sex marriage across the federal system.


People should not forget Obama is a poststructural law professor by training, and he earned his political bona fides by doing community organizating in Chicago, a leftist city like no other in the United States. The new stage of cultural war is upon us, no doubt. Barack Obama's tactics toward the left's ultimate goals will be surreptitious, but no less implacable.