Posts Tagged Politics

Post Mortem

Dated April 18, 2011, the following is from the Prager Zeitung, a publication in the Czech Republic:

“The danger to America is not Barack Obama but a citizenry capable of entrusting an inexperienced man like him with the Presidency. It will be far easier to limit and undo the follies of an Obama presidency than to restore the necessary common sense and good judgment to a depraved electorate willing to have such a man for their president. The problem is much deeper and far more serious than Mr. Obama, who is a mere symptom of what ails America. Blaming the prince of the fools should not blind anyone to the vast confederacy of fools that made him their prince. The Republic can survive a Barack Obama. It is less likely to survive a multitude … such as those who made him their president.”

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Netanyahu Advisor Strikes a Blow for Responsible Journalism

To the New York Times:

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times.  Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan’s admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative.  Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state.  It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known.   They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace.   They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole.  Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel.    Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune.   After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only “positive” piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.

Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone’s previous submission.  In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position.   According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply.   It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S.  House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions.   In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer.  We wouldn’t want to be seen as “Bibiwashing” the op-ed page of the New York Times.

Sincerely,

Ron Dermer
Senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

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It’s not either/ or

Apparently, I’m not the only critic of Dennis Prager’s last column.  In a follow-up piece, Mr. Prager presses the point that competence is a more important requirement for leadership than character.

I agree.  But that is beside the point.  I would much prefer a Bill Clinton in the White House than a Jimmy Carter.  But far more than either I would prefer a Washington or a Lincoln, a Teddy Roosevelt or a Harry Truman.

To ask whether we are better off with an adulterous statesman or a virtuous bungler merely muddies the waters.  Needless to say, we often have to choose between the lesser of two evils, but my objection to Mr. Prager is that he is rationalizing immorality into irrelevancy.  We need moral leaders as desperately as we need capable governors.  That we may have to make compromises when there is no Harry Truman to be found is an unpleasant fact of life, not a reason to diminish the value of virtue.

Mr. Prager goes on to prove, anecdotally, that not every case of adultery is as bad as every other.  This is obviously true, just as not all acts of robbery are equal and not all acts of spilling blood are equal.  But that is the point precisely.  It is only when we have leaders of moral stature that we retain the ability to make meaningful value judgments and not slip into the moral anarchy that characterizes so much of our society by elevating “nonjudgmentalism” to the highest strata of virtue.

Regarding Biblical interpretation, Judaism operated for over 3000 years within a system of rabbinic authority built upon the authority handed down to Moses at Sinai.  Separatist groups like the Hellenists, the Sadducees, and the Kaarites attempted to overturn those conventions with only fleeting success.  They all disappeared, and authentic Torah tradition endured.

But their spiritual descendants keep coming back.  The lessons of Jewish history rest upon a solid understanding of how the prophets and sages chose to transmit their teachings.  We cannot reinvent them to fit the sensitivities of our times, although sometimes we have to try to find a new way of explaining them to which modern ears will be receptive.

Of those who have commented, some clearly have not read or do not care about what I wrote in the linked essay about David and Bathsheba.  Others have offered explanations, even in David’s defense, that have no basis in Torah tradition that I know of.  Oddly enough, the same people who would never argue against going to a doctor for medical advice, going to an accountant for tax advice, and going to a mechanic for auto advice, believe that they are fully justified in offering their own unschooled interpretations of manuscripts that have been analyzed and annotated by the most brilliant minds over the last hundred generations.

This is what we call chutzpah.

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Email of the Week

An Israeli is on vacation and is visiting a zoo in the Englandwhen he sees a little girl leaning into the lion’s cage.Suddenly, the lion grabs her by the cuff of her jacket and tries to pull her inside to slaughter her, under the eyes of her screaming parents.

The Israeli runs to the cage and hits the lion square on the nose with a powerful punch.

Whimpering from the pain the lion jumps back letting go of the girl, and the Israeli brings her to her terrified parents, who thank him endlessly.

A reporter has watched the whole event. The reporter says to the Israeli: ‘Sir, this was the most gallant and brave thing I’ve seen a man do in my whole life.’

The Israeli replies, ‘Why, it was nothing, really. The lion was behind bars. I just saw this little kid in danger and acted as I felt right.’

The reporter says, ‘Well, I’ll make sure this won’t go unnoticed. I’m a journalist, and tomorrow’s paper will have this story on the front page. So, what do you do for a living and what political affiliation do you have?’

The Israeli replies, “I serve in the Israeli army and I vote for the Likud.”

The journalist leaves.

The following morning the Israeli buys the paper to see news of his actions, and reads, on the front page:

RIGHT-WING ISRAELI ASSAULTS AFRICAN IMMIGRANT AND STEALS HIS LUNCH

Hat tip:  Steve Glassman

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Live From New York

I am pleased to announce that I will be a featured speaker at the Yeshiva University book sale on the topic:

Why Jews are Liberals
Jewish history and the origins of political ideology

7:30 PM
Wednesday 23 February
2495 Amsterdam Ave
Manhattan (Washington Heights), NY

A book signing will follow for my overview of Jewish history and philosophy, Dawn to Destiny.

For directions and location information, click here.

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The Unfairness Doctrine

The World Cup exposes a dangerous trend in world politics.

Hat tip:  Marc Jacob.

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The speech that might have been

Good Afternoon, Members of the Nobel Committee:

I stand before you today profoundly honored and deeply humbled by the distinction you wish to bestow upon me. I recognize this gesture as your endorsement of my goals to create a more cooperative and respectful society of nations, to address the scourges of poverty and ecological irresponsibility, and to work toward the establishment of a global community devoted to freedom, equality, and peace. I truly appreciate your intention of using the long-standing reputation of the Nobel Peace Prize to bolster my own prestige in achieving the realization of these goals.

However, in good conscience I must confess that my stated aims and objectives cannot compare to the concrete and inspiring accomplishments of those other nominees whom you have overlooked by selecting me. While my intentions may be lofty, and may indeed have already contributed to an increased atmosphere of collaboration among the nations of the world, they fail to qualify as true achievements.

It is unfortunate and embarrassing that I am not the first to be awarded this honor without having met the criteria that objective reason demands. Tragically, in recent years the selection of Peace Prize laureates has often failed to reflect the ideals of Alfred Nobel, who created this body so that he might be remembered for his contribution to world harmony rather than as the creator of dynamite – mankind’s first weapon of mass destruction.

Look back at some of the most incongruous winners of the past two decades. Yassar Arafat, arguably the 20th century’s foremost disseminator of terror. Jimmy Carter, whose purported efforts to broker peace with North Korea were revealed as an utter failure only weeks after receiving his award, and who has conflated the unconscionable travesty of apartheid with an Israeli system in which Arabs enjoy full rights as citizens and even hold elected positions in the national parliament. And Al Gore, whose propaganda campaign has turned questionable science and scare tactics into a cottage industry that misleads the public while increasing his own personal profit. Are these truly the heroes of our age?

Perhaps it is not coincidental that this ceremony has fallen out on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, the commemoration of the battle for substance over appearance and for spiritual illumination against the advance of cultural darkness, a festival originating from a people who, having taught the rest of the world the most fundamental values of human morality, remain the most maligned of all nations. If Alfred Nobel’s once-revered institution continues to allow itself to be usurped by proponents for the superficial and disingenuous principles of political correctness, moral equivalence, and social engineering, a great beacon of inspiration will be forever lost to our children.

I hope that by the end of my administration I will truly have earned the award you seek to bestow upon me. However, given that I was nominated within ten days of taking office, and that I have yet to prove myself as a successful leader, I have no choice but to decline this honor in favor of whichever candidate you choose from among the many people who genuinely deserve it.

Thank you.

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