Sunday, May 31, 2009

Abbas: Life In The West Bank Is Swell!

Gee, If Abbas says it, it must be true: the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.
Sure they are--as long as the US and Europe are footing the bill.
I guess it depends on your definition of 'normal'.

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Abbas--The Incredible Shrinking Peace Partner

Noah Pollak draws a comparison in The Peace Process and the Princess Bride, when he responds to Jackson Diehl's Friday piece in The Washington Post. Diehl writes:
Until Israel meets his demands, the Palestinian president says, he will refuse to begin negotiations. He won’t even agree to help Obama’s envoy, George J. Mitchell, persuade Arab states to take small confidence-building measures. …

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze — if he did, his center-right coalition would almost certainly collapse. So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. Abbas rejects the notion that he should make any comparable concession — such as recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, which would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.

Instead, he says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said.
Pollak notes that in describing Abbas, Diehl is confusing strength and patience with something far simpler:
There should be no mystery about what Abbas is up to. His flippant declaration of passivity is transparently employed because he is powerless. It is his only way of avoiding the embarrassing spectacle of falling flat on his face the moment it comes time for him to take action. So he speaks in grandiose terms about how everyone else must move before he does, when in reality — like Westley — he is paralyzed. Call it the Princess Bride strategy. And it appears that, for the time being at least, he has a willing sponsor in the Obama Administration.
Actually, Obama is much more than merely a sponsor, standing behind Abbas--in point of fact, Obama has decided to run interference for him.

Charles Krauthammer writes:
We have to start understanding that Abbas is an illusion. He is a fiction. He is a ghost. He is a potential president. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I mean, even the presidency he holds is a dubious legality. And it is said of him that he doesn't even control downtown Ramallah where his offices are.

So you’ve got a man who doesn't have anything in his control. And the reason that years of negotiations he held with the previous Israeli leader, Ehud Olmert, went nowhere is because when Olmert offered everything, Abbas had nothing he can offer to back it up.

So, what is it the United States is trying to do? It has to have a peace process in place, otherwise people will wake up and say we don't have a peace process, and that is intolerable. So you create one.

If you see where Obama is going next week, he's going to be in Egypt, in Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. The idea is to create an odd, three-way negotiation in which Israel makes concessions, small concessions, incremental, on the ground, like the lifting of roadblocks, the dismantling of outlying settlements.

And the corresponding concession is not from Abbas, who can't deliver, but from the Arab states — for example, the relaxation of Israel's isolation, trade bans. You could imagine the ping-pong team in Saudi Arabia, although that's rather unlikely, but a gesture on the part of Arabs. So that's what the administration is setting up.

There are some, however, in the administration who believe you can actually have a real settlement in this administration. I think it's an illusion. There's an old adage in the Middle East, "He whom the gods would destroy puts it in his head to solve the Arab-Israeli dispute." [emphasis added]
This amounts little more than political sleight-of-hand, at a time when Obama himself has created great expectations among the Arab world and the Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Arabs in particular are being reinforced in their impression that they will have to do very little to get their state.

The question is whether the Arab world is willing to do all the work.

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Obama Finds Events In The Middle East Stubbornly Uncooperative

Pity Barack Obama--nothing in the Middle East seems to be going his way.
  • Just when Obama could use a easily manipulated Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu takes control.
  • In Iran, Ahmadinejad is expected to only grow stronger as is the anti-American rhetoric.
  • Abbas, leader of the Palestinian Authority (and peace partner with Israel)--technically no longer is since January.
  • Hamas shows no indication towards moderation.
And now there are rumors that Hosni Mubarak, whom Obama will meet when he gives his big speech in Cairo, is ill--and that is a problem:
If Mubarak is healthy — and his current absence is merely the consequence of understandable grieving — Obama will probably partner with the regime (human rights be damned) in pushing some variant of the Saudi peace plan as his major Middle Eastern foreign policy project (stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities be damned).

But if Obama finds an unhealthy Mubarak, all bets are off. The administration will have to confront the real possibility of imminent instability within the most populous Arab state — particularly the likelihood of a power struggle among factions within the regime and security forces. It will have to find the right balance between pleasing these regime-based factions and promoting liberal reforms; between promoting liberal reforms and constraining Islamists; and between short-term stability and a long-term push for democratization. Make no mistake: pushing for a smooth, post-Mubarak transition in Egypt could easily become the Obama administration’s top challenge in the Middle East.

For the moment, of course, this is all speculation. This is why Obama’s meeting with Mubarak — and the insight that this encounter will give the administration regarding Mubarak’s physical health — is so crucial. [emphasis added]
Well, Obama did say he wanted to take an active role in the Middle East.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Iran And The Cuban Missile Crisis

I thought that Victor Davis Hanson's analogy is to the point in discussing Iran's goal in obtaining nuclear arms:
More likely, Iran wishes to break Israel's will - not necessarily by a nuclear strike. Instead, periodic threats from a nuclear theocracy, it may recognize, would do well enough.

Once armed with the bomb, Iran will likely increase the frequency of its now-familiar denial of the Holocaust. In between such well-publicized lunacy, some Iranians such as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will periodically threaten to wipe Israel off the map - or promise Armageddon if Israel retaliates against Hamas or Hezbollah.

The net effect would be for half the world's Jews to hear constantly two messages - there was no Holocaust, but there might well be one soon. It would be analogous to the American public reliving the threats of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 - every day.
Read the whole thing.

Considering how disinterested the world is in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear arms--and the polls indicating the reaction of Israelis to this apparent inevitability--it appears that Iran will succeed in sending both messages: loud and clear.

Yet Obama thinks creating a second Palestinian state whose creation--never mind its sustainability--is questionable should take precedence.

Empathy is apparently reserved for Supreme Court Justices.

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India: They Love Israel--And They Love Hitler Too!

On the one hand, India has a sympathy for Israel that extends beyond the positive feelings that the US has for Israel:
From India with love
Study on behalf of Foreign Ministry ranks India, US as most pro-Israel countries

The greatest level of sympathy towards Israel can be found in India, according to international study on behalf of the Foreign Ministry, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.

According to the study, which was unprecedented in scope and was undertaken by an international market research company, 58% of Indian respondents showed sympathy to the Jewish State. The United States came in second, with 56% of American respondents sympathizing with Israel.
Read the whole thing.

But if that is true, how do you square that...with this:
An article in London's Daily Telegraph last month reported that sales of Mein Kampf 'are soaring in India where business students regard the genocidal dictator (Hitler) as a management guru' and consider the book to be a 'management guide.'

"Anyone seeking to teach tomorrow's business leaders of India should reject globalisation of hate and racism, not facilitating it," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a leading Jewish NGO at the United Nations.

"Using Mein Kampf as a self-improvement and strategy guide for India's young is an outrage that dishonours six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Adolf Hitler's murderous Third Reich. Honouring and promoting Hitler's white racist ideology mocks the values of the world's largest democracy, and flies in the face of India's noble history of protecting minority peoples, Jews among them" he added.
Read the whole thing.

I have never read Mein Kampf, so I do not know if--or how--it could be possible, but somehow it seems that in India they have succeeded in isolating the hate and evil of Hitler's from the rest of the content.

I guess that would explain how in India they can see what a good book on people management Hitler wrote and ignore not only that he lost the war--but that some of his 'employees' tried to kill him.

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Arlene Kushner On Legal vs. Illegal Settlements

The following excerpt is reposted with permission from Arlene Kushner's mail list ("First Things First", May 27, 2009). 
Email to subscribe.
Also check out her website: Arlene From Israel.
The whole business of legal vs. illegal settlements is both complicated and political. Most settlements have had some interaction with some government departments or agencies. They've hooked up water lines, or electric lines, or paved a road, or whatever. There is sanction somewhere along the way. And sometimes that sanction is considerable. But if final papers are not in place, then the settlement can be called "illegal" or "unauthorized."

The region comprised of Judea and Samaria is not governed by Israeli civil law -- civil law was never extended to this area as it was to the Golan and to eastern Jerusalem. (Note: this is not a case of annexing it, but extending the law of Israel to apply.) The region is administered separately under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, and it is the office of the Defense Minister that must sign off on a settlement. Thus Barak's involvement here.

There are instances in which "illegal" settlements have been later declared legal, and there is hope that this might happen now in a handful of instances at least. That can particularly be the case when so-called outposts are really outlying neighborhoods of recognized settlements.

But it can happen in other instances as well. And actually it was explained to me by a lawyer some time ago that many settlements considered authorized today moved through a process this way.


There are some charges being made -- by far left groups such as Peace Now and Yesh G'vul -- that some of the settlements are on private Palestinian land. While these charges are not necessarily accurate, where this might be a problem, shifting of the settlement to other land, rather than demolishing it, is a possible resolution.


Several political issues complicate this whole matter. The Obama administration is saying that we have certain obligations with regard to settlements stemming from the Road Map for Peace. Introduced by the US, with Quartet sponsorship, in the spring of 2003, it presented a phased plan, with a timeline, for achieving a two-state solution.

You can see the full text here;

In the proposed first phase, it says the Government of Israel must "immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001" and "freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)."

We may not like it. We may hate it. But it says it.


But -- wait! -- it's not nearly as simple as Obama would have it.

First there is the question of whether it still applies, as it was envisioned as resulting in a Palestinian state by 2005. Has a post-2005 situation superseded this document?

Unfortunately, our new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has made it more difficult to make this case, as he declared early on that we should scrap Annapolis and go back to the Road Map. It was clear why he did this: Annapolis was trying to jump past the phased program and get to the end result of a Palestinian state at the beginning. Lieberman was undoubtedly reasoning that under the Road Map the PA had obligations it would not honor and thus we'd not get to that end result.


Then there is the very important issue of reciprocity (which Netanyahu has made much of) and the need for the Palestinian Authority to simultaneously fulfill its obligations. We cannot be the only party that "walks the walk."

According to this same Road Map, the Palestinians must "declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere."

Never mind that Fatah is not exactly clean itself, what about Hamas terrorism, with rockets and mortars still launched (170 since the end of our war in Gaza)? What action will the PA take with regard to this? This is a joke. The PA, which has this obligation, cannot do it.

And there's more: "All official Palestinian institutions [must] end incitement against Israel." This is an even bigger joke than the terrorism issue. Anyone who has seen an analysis of the textbooks produced and utilized by the PA understands what a huge joke it really is.

See my article, "Texts of Hate," for some mind-blowing examples of what PA school kids are taught.

To comply with this requirement, the PA would have to publish a whole set of adjusted texts. And there's no thought of doing so. Not a glimmer of a suggestion that they must do so.

But WE have to stop building in the settlements? The Road Map calls for "reciprocal steps by the two parties."

It seems to me a very public campaign has to be launched focusing on the inequities of what is demanded of us and of the PA. Most of the world knows about the settlements as an "impediment to peace." Time they knew that there can't be peace when the Palestinian kids are taught to hate us, but that the PA, which is bound to do so under the Road Map, is taking no action in this regard. The PA is always yapping about how we don't want peace because we keep building. Where is the voice of our government saying that clearly the PA doesn't want peace if its youngsters are taught Jihad and Palestine from the river to the sea?


And this is not the end to the problems surrounding the demands made of us.

The Sharon government of 2003 did not simply accept the Road Map as is. A set of "14 reservations" was attached and given to the Bush government. It was only after the US government committed to "fully and seriously address[ing]" the issues raised by Israel that the Israeli Cabinet voted to accept the Road Map. Unfortunately, this was naive, for a commitment to address the issues is not a promise that they will ultimately be incorporated into arrangements.

But the government of Israel is on record as having reservations. Some of those reservations:

"...during the process, and as a condition to its continuance. calm will be maintained. The Palestinians will dismantle the existing security organizations and implement security reforms during the course of which new organizations will be formed and act to combat terror, violence and incitement (incitement must cease immediately and the Palestinian Authority must educate for peace). (emphasis added)

"In the first phase of the plan and as a condition for progress to the second phase, the Palestinians will complete the dismantling of terrorist organizations (Hamas. Islamic Jihad. the Popular Front, the Democratic Front Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses) and their infrastructure... (emphasis added)

"...declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel."

Additionally, PM Sharon is on record as having objected to the call for a freeze on settlements. It was "impossible," he said to Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"Our finest youth live there. They are already the third generation, contributing to the state and serving in elite army units. They return home and get married, so then they can't build a house and have children?

"What do you want, for a pregnant woman to have an abortion just because she is a settler?"

(You can find this quote here:

Unfortunately, bewilderingly, this objection, this perception that a freeze is impossible, was not written into the reservations.


And one last factor in helping you understand the complexities of this situation:

In April of 2004, PM Sharon met with President Bush and they exchanged letters in the context of the Road Map and the forthcoming "Disengagement." President Bush's letter contained the phrase:

"In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949..."

This was broadly understood as an acknowledgement by the US that in any final agreement with the Palestinians we would retain major settlement blocs. Dore Gold, head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, called it a "significant shift in US policy."

Netanyahu is currently using this to make the case that it had become informal US policy to acknowledge that we will be retaining settlement blocs in any event, and that there is thus no reason for the US to demand that we be restricted in building within those settlements. (Gold, by the way, is a Netanyahu advisor.)

From what I've read, this letter of Bush's is a stumbling block to Obama's demands, a frustration to him as he seeks to move on pressuring us.

Email to subscribe to the mail list.
Also check out her website: Arlene From Israel.

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"The Israel Lobby -- Missing in Action"

The Israel Lobby -- Missing in Action
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Jeruslalem Post
May 21, 2009

In their 2007 book The Israel Lobby, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt argued that there exists a loose coalition of groups that attempts to steer American policy in a pro-Israel direction at a high cost to American national interests. Mearsheimer and Walt's definition of pro-Israel was so broad and their sense of how injurious Israel's existence is to America so deep that, in their telling, the "Israel Lobby" is both all-powerful and all-inclusive. Nevertheless, at the center of Mearsheimer and Walt"s "Israel Lobby" are American Jews –– the villainous neo-cons and the pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC chief among them.

The sad truth, however, is that if an Israeli Lobby exists, American Jews have failed to enlist. American Jews are demonstrably innocent of putting Israel's interests first, or even high, on their list of concerns –– at least if Israel's interests have anything to do with how they are defined by the overwhelming consensus of Jews living in Israel.
A vast majority of Israeli Jews would be prepared to cede a good deal of the West Bank in return for peace. But the experience of the last fifteen years has convinced them that peace cannot be obtained without a dramatic reformation of Palestinian society. From the standpoint of the Israeli consensus, the Obama administration's obsessive mantra about the necessity of Israel declaring its support for the "two-state solution" is misguided, for it sends the wrong messages to both Israelis and Palestinians.

By focusing on what Israel must do, that mantra ignores what it has already done, and the lessons learned from its past actions. Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank, southern Lebannon, and Gaza, resulted in their becoming launching pads for suicide bombers and rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. Those withdrawals did not even improve Israel's international standing.

The focus on Israel's next step ignores those never taken by the Palestinians –– i.e., moving one iota from any of their positions as of the outset of Oslo. And it conveys the message that nothing is expected of the Palestinians in the future, unlike the Road Map, which made the Palestinians oft-promised end to incitement and terrorism preconditions for further negotiations.

Palestinian statehood, not peace, has become the watchword of American policy. And to that end, the Obama administration has indicated a willingness to impose a solution. National Security Advisor James Jones recently conveyed to a senior European official that "an endgame solution" would be formulated by the U.S., EU, and moderate Arab states, with Israel and the Palestinians relegated to the role of bystanders. On a happy note, he allowed that Israel would "not be thrown under the bus." That same week the chief U.S. arms negotiator called for Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – a clear break with a forty year understanding between the U.S. and Israel on the issue, and an equally clear indication of how nasty the pressure on Israel might get.

The theory of an imposed solution is that the final contours of a settlement are already well known so it might as well be now. Even if the former proposition were true, the intention of the parties and their ability to perform would still be relevant. The Palestinians cannot run a state – certainly not one that Hamas would not quickly take over – nor do they seek to. Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid declared after the Hamas-Fatah civil war in Gaza, "We do not deserve a state." Fatah prefers the present kleptocracy to a state. Statelessness allows Palestinians to attack Israel without being held responsible, as would a state, and to remain the world's favorite mendicants.

Meanwhile the contrast between the Obama administration's urgency with respect to the Palestinian-Israel tract and its lackadaisical approach to Iran's nuclear ambitions could not be starker. The linkage of Iran to progress on the former is backwards. No more than a year likely remains to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. Peace will not in that period to a region in which there is still no Palestinian leader who can even recognize Israel's right to be a Jewish state.

The Sunni states fear a nuclear Iran much more than Israel, and they are saying so. They will support an alliance against Iran because it is their interests to do so, as long as they believe America will act decisively and not leave them to Iran's tender mercies.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE OF AMERICAN JEWRY and the vaunted Israel Lobby to the mounting threats to Israel abetted by Washington? Silence. President Obama"s popularity among American Jews remains sky high and rising. Delegates at the recent AIPAC convention dutifully lobbied Congress for the two-state solution. Whom, one wonders, was this feared group lobbying against?

The overwhelming American Jewish support for President Obama demonstrates how far the perspectives of Israeli and American Jews have diverged. For Israeli Jews survival remains the primary desideratum. For American Jews the simulacrum of peace, in the form of a treaty, any treaty, is primary.

For many American Jews, an Israel without peace is misbegotten, not worth the scorn it engenders in The New York Times and on Ivy League campuses. Daniel Gordis records, in his important new book How Israel Can Win a War That May Never End, being asked by an American Jewish friend: "Why has Israel given up hope?" And with no genuine chance for peace, why forge on?"

It is left to Gordis's teenage daughter Talia to set their visitor straight: The purpose of Israel is not to achieve peace with the Arabs, however devoutly such peace might be wished for. Israelis have not given up hope, just hope for peace in the near future.

American Jews remained largely quiescent during the Holocaust, in part because of their adulation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who could do no wrong in their eyes. Stephen Wise, the most influential voice in American Jewry, could not overcome his worship of FDR to challenge the latter's position that nothing could be done to save Jews other than win the War. (David Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews seeringly details how much could have been done.)

To avoid embarrassing or pressuring the President, Wise sat on a telegram from Gerhard Riegner of the World Jewish Congress in August 1942, detailing plans to exterminate three to four million Jews in German-controlled Europe, until pressured by the Orthodox and Revisionist Zionists to do something.

American Jews are besotted again. This time the object of their affections is President Barack Obama, who has consciously fashioned himself the new FDR. And a little matter like Israel will not cool their ardor. President Obama, like President Clinton before him, has proven that a Democratic president can sell American Jewry any policy to Israel, as long as it is packaged in sufficient expressions of concern for Israel's well-being.

The Israel Lobby of Walt and Mearsheimers febrile imaginations never existed. And never has that been so obvious as today.
For more articles by Jonathan Rosenblum check out Jewish Media Resources

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Parents Of Kidnapped IDF Soldier Gilad Shalit To Accompany StandWithUs At The Salute To Israel Parade

From an email:
To march with us, please call 212 398 2524 or email

May 27, 2009
CONTACT: Avi Posnick,
SWU East Coast Outreach Coordinator
212-398-2524 (o); 516-698-3449 (c)


(May 27--New York) – StandWithUs is honored that the parents of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will accompany us at the annual NYC Salute to Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue this Sunday, May 31,  from 12:45 PM to 2 PM. Gilad was captured almost three years ago in a Hamas cross-border raid and has been held captive since.  No word about his possible release has been given to the public or to his parents, Noam and Aiva Shalit, and Hamas has not permitted the International Committee for the Red Cross to visit him.
""Since Gilad’s kidnapping, StandWithUs has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that he is not forgotten, and that his release remains an urgent public concern," said Avi Posnick, Outreach Coordinator for StandWithUs on the East Coast. StandWithUs has sponsored petitions, distributed postcards, partnered with the United Jewish Communities and the campaign, and organized rallies calling for Gilad to be set free. The Israel office of StandWithUs has also delivered postcards, in coordination with the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, to Gilad's parents from people all over the world. "We are truly honored to have Noam and Aviva Shalit stand with us at the parade. We will continue to support until Gilad is brought home safely," said Posnick.

Avi Posnick and Noam and Aviva Shalit are available for interviews.  Contact Avi at: 212-398-2524 (o); 516-698-3449 (c)
StandWithUs, an international, non-profit Israel education organization, hosts speakers and conferences, offers website resources and creates brochures and materials about Israel that are distributed globally. Based in Los Angeles, the organization has offices across the U.S. and in Israel and the UK.  SWU was founded in 2001 in response to the public’s need and desire for mainstream information about the Arab-Israeli conflict. StandWithUsCampus helps college students challenge anti-Israel bias. 

StandWithUs runs several websites with relevant information:

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"Quality Counts More Than Size"

Quality Counts More Than Size
by Jonathan Rosenblum
The Jerusalem Post
May 14, 2009

Few ideas exercise such superficial appeal as the belief that the major threat to the Jewish people today is our small and ever declining numbers. And few ideas are ultimately more counterproductive and potentially dangerous.

Michael Freund's "Size Counts" (April 21) is the latest example of what is by now a familiar genre in these pages. The bulk of the article consists of depressing statistics about the Jewish people's declining numbers – both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the world's population. On the eve of World War II, for instance, Jews constituted eight of every thousand people in the world; today the figure is two per every thousand.

In part that decline is a consequence of the Holocaust, without which, Hebrew University demographer Sergio Della Pergola estimates, the number of Jews today would be approximately two-and-a-half times its current number. But only partly. In absolute terms, the Jewish population has continued to decline since the Holocaust.

What Freund fails to do, however, is to explain why numbers per se matter.
He asserts that "to live up to our national mission as Jews, we need a much larger and more diverse 'team' at our disposal." Yet he never defines that mission, or explains what he means by a more diverse team, or in what way greater numbers would help us fulfill that mission. At most, he invites us to contemplate the "cultural and spiritual riches" that would have been produced but for the Holocaust. But those cultural and spiritual riches will not be replaced by tracking down every obscure tribe in the world that has an oral tradition that they are one of the Ten Lost Tribes, which is Freund's own pet hobby-horse; doubling our numbers in that fashion will not double our number of Nobel Prize winners.

The only source for our mission, the Torah, informs us explicitly that our mission has nothing to do with our numbers: "Not because you are more numerous than all the peoples did Hashem desire you and choose you, for you are the least numerous of all the peoples" (Deuteronomy 7:7). The promises to the forefathers that their progeny would be numerous are Divine blessings that will follow from our fulfillment of our mission. But it is not our task to bring about those numbers.

Since the mission of the Jewish people is a spiritual one – to bring knowledge of G-d to the world – our criteria for evaluating success or failure are spiritual, not material. In the yeshivos of Europe, they taught that purity, not numbers, is the Jewish standard of measure. From purity numbers can come, but from numbers, quality will never come.

From the time of the mixed multitude that accompanied the Jewish people out of Egypt greater numbers have often been at the expense of our spiritual mission. For that reason, the rabbis of the Talmud forbid conversion altogether in certain periods, and discouraged proselytizing.

THE OBSESSION WITH NUMBERS is based on a confusion between cause and effect. Many of the steps taken as a consequence of that obsession amount to no more than putting ineffectual band-aids on the symptoms, while allowing the disease to rage untreated. Never have American Jews faced fewer obstacles to the practice of their religion or so few threats to life and limb. Yet the number of American Jews has remained unchanged for fifty years, despite the arrival of more than 500,000 Jewish refugees in that period. And of those counted as Jews by the demographers, twenty percent are not halachically Jewish.

Lower rates of marriage and fertility of Jewish women contribute to the demographic stagnation. But by far the biggest contributing factor is intermarriage and drop-outs from the community. Our declining numbers are indeed a source of pain, but the reason is not the numbers themselves but what they tell us: Being Jewish is simply not that important to most Jews today.

The measures taken to address the declining numbers, while ignoring the cause, are, at best, a waste of time and money, and, at worst, only exacerbate the downward spiral. American Jewish Federations are forever announcing new initiatives in Jewish continuity. Such efforts are presumably based on the assumption that it is important that the Jewish people continue to exist.

Yet that is the very question never addressed by any of those continuity efforts: Why is it important that the Jewish people continue to exist? Worse, the nature of those efforts – singles nights, "edgy" magazines aimed at youth who hated Hebrew school – only emphasize the opposite. There is nothing really important about being Jewish. The more desperately we run after young Jews -- no matter how far they stray and whom they marry -- to assure them that they and their children are still members in good standing of the tribe, the more we convince them how worthless that membership is and how unworthy of any sacrifice on their part.

In the words of Jack Wertheimer, provost of the Jewish Theological Seminary and the most trenchant observer of the American Jewish scene, the one message that we are unwilling to give to our children is the one that might make a difference: "Jews have over the millennia willingly and gratefully set themselves apart" – often at great cost in their blood – for a set of "distinctive commandments, beliefs and values."

The most commonly offered solution by those who view numbers as the ultimate desideratum is conversion on easy terms. But that effort has been a costly failure, for again, it only further debases the currency of Judaism. The easier the terms of conversion have become the lower the percentage of non-Jewish spouses opting for it. That is hardly surprising. Why should we expect any large number of gentiles to rush to join a religion that plays no significant role in the eyes of the vast majority born into it?

The only result from lowering the bars to conversion is the loss of any power of the name "Jew" to bind us together. Variable standards of entry mean that those calling themselves Jews no longer share either a common commitment or a shared history.

An op-ed in these pages a few years back argued, "Any religion in the modern world that does not make an effort to welcome, or seek out, new converts, is fated to diminish." That statement is false on its face. Little of the rapid growth of Islam has to do with conversions, though alarming numbers of Europeans are choosing to bet on the "strong horse." (Whatever else one might say of Islam, it definitely plays a significant role in the lives of many of its adherents.) On a happier note, the decline of American Jewry is projected to reverse itself at mid-century due to the growth of Orthodoxy, little of which has to do with conversion.

A better rule than that enunciated by the above-mentioned op-ed might be: A religion whose foundational texts and basic tenets are unknown to most of its members, whose rites and practices are observed by few, and which is of so little significance in its members' lives that well over 50% marry members of other faiths is fated to diminish.

Instead of worrying about the numbers, and wasting time and money on far-fetched quick fixes for declining numbers, it is to those deficits that Michael Freund should direct his well-meaning efforts.

Read more articles by Jonathan Rosenblum at Jewish Media Resources

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What Makes An Israeli Settlement Illegal?

It's time to explain it clearly.
Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Minister of Science and head of the Jewish Home party said, “Yes, we must keep the law. But if you look at the outposts, you’ll see that their classification as illegal was made by Talia Sasson [admittedly left-wing author of a report on the outposts for Ariel Sharon’s government in 2005 – ed.], who is not exactly an objective source. Often, the only reason for an outpost’s classification as illegal is not because of the residents themselves, but because of a technical government problem, and there is truly no legal problem at all.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai: “There must be equal enforcement of the law, but I don’t believe it is right at this time to dismantle outposts. Not every one can do what he wants.”
The two state solution is not a solution by definition--and a settlement is not illegal by definition either.

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Israel Has A History Of Being Able To Say 'No' To The US

Since when does the US have carte blanche over Israel?
When Israel Says "NO" to the USA (a Win-Win Proposition),
Yoram Ettinger,
Ynet, May 24, 2009

Critical milestones, in the history of the Israel, occurred while constructive disagreements dominated the relations between the Jewish State and its only significant ally, the USA.

When a junior partner loses the capability to say "No" to a senior partner, then both lose!

US-Israel concurrence is not a prerequisite for the advancement of peace and bilateral strategic cooperation. Israel should strive for a wider agreement with the US, but not at any price. Common ground with the US should not be at the expense of Israel's independent national security policy-making. It should not undermine Israel's control of land, which is critical to its survival.

The superiority of Israel's security considerations over agreement with the US – even at a painful cost to Israel – paved the road to the 1948 establishment of the Jewish State. "Much as Israel desired friendship with the US and full co-operation with it…Israel could not yield at any point which, in its judgment, would threaten its independence or its security…" stated Prime Minister Ben Gurion, when rejecting a brutal US ultimatum to refrain from declaration of independence and to accept a UN Trusteeship. Ben Gurion added that "[The US] would be gravely mistaken if [it] assumed that the threat, or even the use of UN sanctions, would force Israel to yield on issues considered vital to its independence and security…" (My Mission In Israel 1948-1951, James MacDonald, Simon and Shuster, p. 49).

The US ultimatum included a military embargo and a threat of economic sanctions. But, Ben Gurion determined that sovereignty and national security – rather than concurrence with the US – constituted supreme strategic values. He realized that an agreement with the US would be transient, non-binding (according to the US Constitution) and subject to US interpretation, while national security would be a fixture largely controlled by Israel. Ben Gurion's order of national priorities transformed Israel from a sympathy-deserving remnant of the Holocaust to a potential strategic partner.

The 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty was initiated by Prime Minister Begin, in defiance of a policy introduced by President Carter and National Security Advisor Brzezinski. While Begin insisted on a direct Jerusalem-Cairo dialogue, which minimized the Palestinian role, Carter and Brzezinski lobbied for an international conference, which would highlight the Palestinian issue. Begin's and Sadat's determination not to allow the peace process to become a hostage in the hands of the Palestinian issue and radical regimes, forced Carter and Brzezinski to abandon their own policy and jump on the bandwagon.

The first Intifadah (1987-1992) escalated US-Israel disagreements, fueled by the US-PLO dialogue. President Bush #41st and Secretary Baker did not waste an opportunity to condemn Prime Minister Shamir as a supposed obstacle to peace and persona non-grata in Washington, DC. However, regional and global challenges, and Shamir's steadfastness in face of internal and external pressure, yielded the dramatic enhancement of US-Israel strategic cooperation: upgrading Israel to "Major Non-NATO Ally," inclusion of Israel in "Star Wars" and US funding of most of the anti-ballistic missile "Arrow" project, expansion of joint military exercises, increasing pre-positioning of US military ammunition and supplies in Israel, upgrading of the port of Haifa for the Sixth Fleet, participation of Israeli defense contractors in Pentagon contracts in Europe, emergency assistance following the 1991 Gulf War, etc.

The US Administration was not at ease with Shamir's demand to stop issuing refugee certificates to Soviet Jews, and to force the USSR to fly Jewish Olim (immigrants) only to Israel. Shamir's readiness to risk disagreement with the US stopped the 95% dropout rate among Jewish Olim and produced a wave of one million Olim to the Jewish State, which has catapulted the country demographically, technologically, medically, culturally and militarily.

In 1967 and in 1981, President Johnson and President Reagan pressured Israel against a unilateral military action against the Egypt-Syria-Jordan axis and Iraq's nuclear reactor. Prime Minister Eshkol and Prime Minister Begin defied US (and global pressure), wrecked the Nasser-led anti-US Arab axis and destroyed Iraq's nuclear project, thus advancing drastically US' and Israel's national security. Eshkol and Begin realized that sovereignty and national security – rather than concurrence with the US – constituted the top strategic values. Will Prime Minister Netanyahu follow in their footsteps, avoiding temptation to transform common ground with the US into the top strategic value?
Check out The Ettinger Report

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Is Obama Going To Turn Netanyahu's Broad Coalition Against Him? (With Updates)

The whole idea of Netanyahu's coalition was that it would give him a broad base that would allow him to stand up to Obama in presenting Israel's case.

But a broad base brings with it a broader range of interests and agendas too, not only in regards to the two state solution, but in regards to the "settlements" as well--and that brings with it some pitfalls as well.

Aluf Benn already noted last week:
Many people in Washington seemed to be more interested in the life expectancy of the current Israeli government than in Netanyahu's positions. To a large extent, the answer to that will be dependent on Obama: The more he pressures Netanyahu to "stop the settlements," the greater the prime minister's coalition problems. Netanyahu is in a trap: The more he tries to persuade Obama he can provide the diplomatic goods, the quicker his coalition will expire.
The main issue was supposed to be the creation of a second Palestinian state--something that was as dependent on the actions and competencies of the Palestinian Arabs as on the Israelis. Instead, the focus of the Obama administration now seems to be on getting Netanyahu to acquiesce on the settlements--a unilateral issue:
In the administration’s strongest words to date, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday that Mr. Obama viewed a freeze of settlement construction as a critical step toward a peace agreement. “He wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters after a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit. “That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly.”
And if the focus is solely on Netanyahu, so is the pressure--and the danger:
But the tenor of Mrs. Clinton’s comments on Wednesday indicated to some analysts that the Obama administration was unlikely to budge from its position, even at the risk of putting Mr. Netanyahu’s government into jeopardy.

“She is stripping away whatever nuance, or whatever fig leaf, that would have allowed a deeply ideological government to make a settlement deal that is politically acceptable at home,” said Aaron David Miller, a public policy analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “They’ve concluded, ‘We’re going to force a change in behavior.’ ”
Sure, now Obama is all about change.

Is there any other country that is as subjected--and as susceptible-- to US pressure as Israel?

While she is not the first U.S. Secretary of State to make demands of Israel about settlements — Condoleezza Rice did the same thing in the last years of the Bush administration — the comments by the formerly down-the-line pro-Israel Clinton escalated the dispute brewing between the two countries. The question remains, at what point will the same words publicly pass the lips of the president himself, something that never happened during the Bush administration. If it happens during Obama’s speech to the Arab world from Cairo next week, it will undoubtedly be interpreted as a signal of a major rift in the U.S.-Israel alliance.

If so, then Obama must be convinced he will pay no significant political price for slamming Israel, something leftist Jews have been saying all year. It might also mean that he is trying to break the Netanyahu government and hopes for it to be replaced by one more to his liking. [emphasis added]
At the same time, Tobin notes that if this is indeed Obama's intent, Netanyahu and his coalition are not necessarily in trouble:
A lot of the commentary about this possibility, both here and in Israel, seems to take it for granted that Netanyahu will have no choice but to buckle and if he doesn’t, he’s doomed. One should never try to predict what is going to happen in Israeli coalition politics but if that is Obama’s goal, I think he’s being a trifle optimistic. In the Knesset that was just elected the math doesn’t really add up for a left-wing coalition. And as much as Netanyahu knows that maintaining close ties with the United States is a paramount concern for any Israeli government, it simply isn’t true that he must swallow everything Washington sends his way. There will be a price to pay for saying no, but he can do it, especially when it is about something so unreasonable as a demand that no houses be built in places Israel has no intention of giving up.
See also Israel Has A History Of Being Able To Say 'No' To The US

UPDATE II: Elliott Abrams, deputy national security adviser overseeing Near East and North African affairs in the Bush administration, already wrote last month in The Washington Post:
Settlement activity is not diminishing the territory of a future Palestinian entity. In fact, the emphasis on a "settlement freeze" draws attention from the progress that's needed to lay the foundation for full Palestinian self-rule -- building a thriving economy, fighting terrorism through reliable security forces and establishing the rule of law. A "settlement freeze" would not help Palestinians face today's problems or prepare for tomorrow's challenges. The demand for a freeze would have only one quick effect: to create immediate tension between the United States and Israel's new government. That may be precisely why some propose it, but it is also why the Obama administration should reject it. [emphasis added]
So the question remains: Is the Obama administration trying to pick a fight with Netanyahu?

UPDATE III: Powerline also thinks that Obama is trying to pick a fight:
Gone at last is the administration's reluctance to boss other nations through "pre-conditions." When it comes to Israel, Obama is willing to dictate whether parents can build a nearby house for their grown children.

Why is Obama more willing to talk this way to our friends than to our enemies? There are two logical explanations. First, our enemies will throw these kinds of statements back in Obama's face, whereas our friends will listen politely, at a minimum. Second, for Obama Israel is an adversary, whereas Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc. are mere annoyances.

I favor both explanations.

A third factor is also at work here, I think (whether or to what extent it is independent of the second can be debated). The U.S. wants to topple the Israeli government. Thus, it sees value in picking a fight with it.
When some criticized that Israel's lack of follow through against Hizbollah and Hamas made it appear weak, who would have thought that would apply also to the US?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Looking Beyond A Two State Solution

As I posted earlier (See Likud: The Next Generation), yesterday there was a conference at the Knesset entitled Alternatives to the Two-State Outlook:
The conference, organized by Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, was purposely timed to coincide with the aftermath of Netanyahu's meeting in Washington with US President Barack Obama, amid speculation ahead of Obama's key speeches to the Muslim world and the quartet next month. The event was intended to send a message that opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state was common among mainstream Israelis and politicians not considered extremist.
Some of the alternatives that were offered to a 2 state solution:

Ya'alon instead suggested educational, economic, political, police and military reforms for the PA, while cooperating with Arab countries on issues like the humanitarian plight of Palestinians who consider themselves refugees. But he said even this could not take place without a responsible and able Palestinian leadership that would recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

One of the most radical suggestions was to do what has been disregarded out of hand for years:

Netanyahu's former bureau chief, Uri Elitzur, surprised people at the event when he said that the best possible option was the annexation of the entire West Bank, despite the danger of Israel eventually becoming a bi-national state. He said that solution was preferable to withdrawing from Judea and Samaria or continuing the current situation.

"While everyone has been saying for years that annexation was the worst option, we have tried everything else, so I think annexation is actually the most right plan," Elitzur said. "I would give citizenship to every Palestinian. There is no difference between Palestinians in Jenin and Sakhnin."

Elitzur, who is currently an editor at the Makor Rishon newspaper, said he did not fear demographic problems, but that Israel first needed to draft a constitution formally enacting that Israel would always remain a Jewish state. He said Israel should start governing and investing throughout the West Bank.

Asked what Netanyahu thought about his plan, Elitzur said that although he was still friends with the prime minister, "Bibi doesn't agree with me, and really no one else does either."

In addition:
Other plans presented at the conference called for a confederation between the West Bank and Jordan, and the extension of the Gaza Strip into the Egyptian-controlled Sinai Desert. Proponents of the ideas included former national security council head Giora Eiland, former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria director-general Adi Mintz and an aide to former National Union chairman Benny Elon.
Of course, all of this is merely an intellectual exercise if there is no possibility of putting an alternative solution into effect--and considering the pressure being applied by the US to agree to the establishment of a second Palestinian state, it is difficult to imagine the the Obama administration agreeing to anything else.

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Why Providing US Money To Abbas Is Illegal...Maybe

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook of Palestinian Media Watch write in The Jerusalem Post about what Abbas has been using US money for--namely the kinds of things that are prohibited by US law:
The PA chose to name its latest computer center "after the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," who led the most deadly terror attack in the country's history. Her 1978 bus hijacking killed 37 civilians, 12 of them children, including American photographer Gail Rubin. The new center is funded by Abbas's office, which is bolstered by Western aid money. (Al-Ayyam, May 5).

US law prohibits the funding of Palestinian structures that use any portion of their budget to promote terror or honor terrorists. But $200 million of the US's proposed $900m. aid package is earmarked to go directly to the Abbas government, which regularly uses its budget to honor terrorists. In fact, this latest veneration of Mughrabi is not an isolated case, but part of a continuing pattern of honoring terrorists that targets children in particular.

Last summer the PA sponsored "the Dalal Mughrabi football championship" for kids, and a "summer camp named for martyr Dalal Mughrabi... out of honor and admiration for the martyr." It also held a party to honor exemplary students, also named "for the martyr Dalal Mughrabi," under the auspices of Abbas and at which Abbas's representative "reviewed the heroic life of the martyr [Mughrabi] (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, July 23, 24 and August 8, 2008). All these PA-funded activities were to teach kids that a killer of women and children is a role model.

TWO MONTHS AGO, 31 years to the day after the Mughrabi murders, PA TV broadcast a special program celebrating the terror attack, calling the killing of 37 civilians "one of the most important and most prominent special operations... carried out by a team of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi" (PA TV March 11). And its not just Mughrabi who is a Palestinian hero. Despite professions in English by Abbas and other PA leaders that they reject terror, the PA has a long and odious history in Arabic of celebrating terrorists as role models and heroes, often involving US money.

USAID spent $400,000 in 2004 to build the Salakh Khalaf soccer field. After Palestinian Media Watch reported that Khalaf was the head of the Palestinian terror group that murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics and two American diplomats in Sudan, USAID publicly apologized and said it would demand that the PA change the name. The name was never changed.
In 2002, US money funded renovations of the "Dalal Mughrabi school for girls." After PMW alerted the US State Department to Mughrabi's terrorist past, the funding was cancelled. Within 24 hours, the PA said the name would be changed, and the American money was reinstated. Once the work was completed, however, the school was renamed for the terrorist. It bears Mughrabi's name to this day.
AT A RECENT hearing of the House Appropriations Committee, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged: "We will work only with a Palestinian Authority government that unambiguously and explicitly accepts the Quartet's principles, [including] a commitment to nonviolence." And it's not just Clinton's pledge. US law interprets nonviolence to include not honoring terrorists: "None of the [US]... assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism" (2008 Foreign Operations Bill Sec. 657.B - C.1). This latest glorification of the terrorist Mughrabi, coming as Congress considers the administration's latest request to fund Abbas, imposes a profound responsibility on Congress. But it also creates a unique opportunity.
Well, theres good news and bad news.
The good news is that what Marcus and Crook have written about the Foreign Operations Bill is correct:

SEC. 657. (a) OVERSIGHT- For fiscal year 2008, 30 days prior to the initial obligation of funds for the bilateral West Bank and Gaza Program, the Secretary of State shall certify to the Committees on Appropriations that procedures have been established to assure the Comptroller General of the United States will have access to appropriate United States financial information in order to review the uses of United States assistance for the Program funded under the heading `Economic Support Fund' for the West Bank and Gaza.
(b) Vetting- Prior to the obligation of funds appropriated by this Act under the heading `Economic Support Fund' for assistance for the West Bank and Gaza, the Secretary of State shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such assistance is not provided to or through any individual, private or government entity, or educational institution that the Secretary knows or has reason to believe advocates, plans, sponsors, engages in, or has engaged in, terrorist activity nor, with respect to private entities or educational institutions, those that have as a principal officer of the entity's governing board or governing board of trustees any individual that has been determined to be involved in, or advocating terrorist activity or determined to be a member of a designated foreign terrorist organization. The Secretary of State shall, as appropriate, establish procedures specifying the steps to be taken in carrying out this subsection and shall terminate assistance to any individual, entity, or educational institution which she has determined to be involved in or advocating terrorist activity.
(1) None of the funds appropriated under titles II through V of this Act for assistance under the West Bank and Gaza program may be made available for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit, or have committed acts of terrorism.
The problem is--that is for fiscal year 2008.
What about this year?

And it does have a similar provision:
(1) Of the funds appropriated under the heading `Economic Support Fund' in this Act, $75,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for the West Bank and Gaza.

(2) The terms and conditions of sections 635, 644, 647, 650, 655, 656, 657 (except subsection (f)), and the eighth through twelfth provisos under the heading `Economic Support Fund' of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2008 (division J of Public Law 110-161) shall apply to assistance for the West Bank and Gaza in this Act.
Paragraph 2 makes clear that the provision from the 2008 bill that I quoted is still in effect.

That's the good news.
The bad news--according to, this bill was never put to a vote and never became law:

Occurred: IntroducedJul 18, 2008
Occurred: Reported by CommitteeJul 17, 2008
Not Yet Occurred: Voted on in Senate(did not occur)
Not Yet Occurred: Voted on in House(did not occur)
Not Yet Occurred: Signed by President(did not occur)
This bill never became law. This bill was proposed in a previous session of Congress. Sessions of Congress last two years, and at the end of each session all proposed bills and resolutions that haven't passed are cleared from the books. Members often reintroduce bills that did not come up for debate under a new number in the next session.
Bottom line, without that bill being passed, what is to keep the Obama administration to not only provide millions to Gaza, but also to the PA in the West Bank--regardless of the pro-terrorism uses it is still being put to?

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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Sonia Sotomayor vs. Benjamin Cardozo: First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice?

True, she has not been confirmed yet--but still.

From USA Today:
Sonia Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage would make her the first Hispanic to serve on the nation's highest court — unless you count Benjamin Cardozo, who was on the court from 1932 to 1938.
Wikipedia gives the details:
Cardozo was born in New York City, the son of Rebecca Washington (née Nathan) and Albert Jacob Cardozo. Both Cardozo's maternal grandparents, Sara Seixas and Isaac Mendes Seixas Nathan, and his paternal grandparents, Ellen Hart and Michael H. Cardozo, were Sephardi Jews; their families immigrated from England before the American Revolution, and were descended from Jews who left the Iberian Peninsula for Holland during the Inquisition. Cardozo family tradition held that their ancestors were Marranos from Portugal, although Cardozo's ancestry has not been firmly traced to Portugal. [emphasis added]
But even assuming that Cardozo's roots go back to Portugal, that apparently may not be enough to give him the title of first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. The USA today article quotes Cardozo biographer and Harvard Law professor Andrew Kaufman:
The Cardozo family legend is that they came from Portugal, Kaufman says, and the family tree cites their heritage as Sephardic Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. "Many Spanish would deny Portuguese are Hispanic," he says. [emphasis added]
Apparently, this is no small issue.
The Portuguese-American Historical & Research Foundation has issued the following advisory:

To all Portuguese-Americans and/or Portuguese-Canadians:

  • Read several definitions of Hispanic first before considering yourselves as Hispanics;

  • Hispanic is basically an American term, not used in Europe;

  • Even people from Spain are not Hispanics; they are Spanish;

  • In Portuguese we use the term "Lusófonos" to describe people of Portuguese descent or culture.

The Wikipedia entry for "Hispanic" indicates that the US simply has not made up its mind:
The U.S. Office of Management and Budget currently defines "Hispanic or Latino" as "a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race". This definition excludes people of Portuguese origins, such as Portuguese Americans or Brazilian Americans. However, they are included in some government agencies' definitions. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation defines Hispanic to include, "persons of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, Central or South American, or others Spanish or Portuguese culture or origin, regardless of race." This definition has been adopted by the Small Business Administration as well as many federal, state, and municipal agencies for the purposes of awarding government contracts to minority owned businesses. Still, other government agencies adopt definitions that exclude people from Spain. Some others include people from Brazil, but not Spain or Portugal.
Bottom line, this question is much ado about nothing--which is exactly the point. It is no more relevant that Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic as that she would be the 3rd woman on the Supreme Court. 

The key is Sotomayor's record of accomplishment and competence to serve on the Court.
And there is lots to talk about there.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If Hamas Says Abbas's Term Has Expired, Why Can't Israel?

Hamas seems to have the law on their side:
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, stated Monday that it does not believe a positive outcome would be achieved during the talks between the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the US president Barack Obama.

Hamas spokesperson, Fawzi Barhoum, stated that Abbas’ term in office had already expired; therefore he cannot sign an agreement with any country, including understandings with the United States and Israel.

“Abbas’ term in office had ended”, the Hamas spokesperson said, “he no longer represents the Palestinian people”. [emphasis added]
On the other hand, Abbas claims that his term cannot end yet, based on a technicality:
Abbas argues that he has the right to remain in office for another year because the law says presidential and parliamentary elections should be held at the same time, the Jerusalem Post reported. Parliamentary elections are set for January 2010.
It would be nice to have that point clarified, rather than have one more element of the Palestinian government reflect incompetence and corruption.

The Palestinian Centre For Human Rights has issued a paper siding with Hamas.
The Fatwa & Legislation Office has issued a paper siding with Abbas.

According to this Q&A about the election [PDF] from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the law is with  the PCHR and Hamas:
If the next Palestinian elections were to be regularly scheduled, when should they be held according to the legal framework?

The Palestinian Basic Law and the Elections Law do not provide a clear answer to this, and they are somewhat contradictory. For example, the Presidential term is limited to four years, but the date of the next elections is tied to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) election. The four year limit was introduced into both the Basic and the Elections Law in 2005.

What does the Basic Law actually say?

The amendments to the Basic Law (from August 2005) stipulate that “the term of the presidency of the National Authority shall be four years” (Article 36). Taking into account that President Abbas was elected in January 2005, this means that his presidency will need to be terminated in January 2009 in order to be compliant with the law.

What does the Election Law say?

The Elections Laws (both 2005 and 2007 versions) confirm the four year limit, but they also state that the next Presidential elections will be held at the same time as the PLC elections. As the term for the PLC elections is also four years and the PLC was elected in January 2006, this would mean that the next Presidential and PLC elections will be held in January 2010.

...Which is the correct reading of the legal framework? Which law has supremacy?

Arguably, the Basic Law, as the Basic Law is a “temporary constitution”.
Read the whole thing.

In the short term, there is no reason why Netanyahu cannot tell Obama that at the very least--if Hamas and Fatah cannot get together, Israel wants to be able to negotiate with a recognized leader of the PA.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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For Albright, It Was Xena; For Sotomayor, It's Perry Mason

I've never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.
Madeleine Albright
I think it is generally agreed that Albright in action did not resemble Xena very much. After all, it was a later Secretary of State--Condoleezza Rice--who was nicknamed "The Warrior Princess".

I identify much more with Sonia Sotomayor's role model:
While growing up poor and suffering childhood-onset diabetes, raised by a widowed mother and speaking no English until after her father died when she was 9 years old, she drew her inspiration from reading Nancy Drew detective stories and watching "Perry Mason" on TV. In one "Perry Mason" episode, the prosecutor was overruled by the judge, leading Sotomayor to conclude that the judge was the most important person in the courtroom.

"I thought, what a wonderful occupation to have," Sotomayor told the New York Times in a 1992 interview. "And I made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor's job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be."
I guess it was only a matter of time before Sotomayor made a few more quantum leaps and figured that the most important judge in the judicial system is a Supreme Court Judge.

Perry Mason was always able to get his client off the hook--even if he had to bend the law a little bit in order to do it. What kind of Supreme Court Judge would Perry Mason have made?

We may find out. 

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Do They Go Out Of Their Way To Find Anti-Israel Officials? (Updated)

UNESCO and the EU have been very busy.

Last week, Bernard-Henri Levy, French philosopher and writer, posted the following open letter on the Huffington Post:
UNESCO: The Shame of a Disaster Foretold

Here is an open letter I have co-signed along with Elie Wiesel and Claude Lanzmann:

Who declared in April 2001: "Israel has never contributed to Civilization in any era, for it has only ever appropriated the contributions of others" -- and added almost two months later: "the Israeli culture is an inhumane culture; it is an aggressive, racist, pretentious culture based on one simple principle: steal what does not belong to in order to then claim its appropriation"?

Who explained in 1997, and has repeated it since in every way possible, that he was the "archenemy" of all attempts to normalize his country's relations with Israel?

Or who, as recently as 2008, responded to a deputy of the Egyptian parliament who was alarmed that Israeli books could be introduced into the Alexandria Library: "Burn these books; if there are any there, I will myself burn them in front of you"?

Who said in 2001 in the newspaper Ruz-al-Yusuf that Israel was "aided" in its dark intrigues by "the infiltration of Jews into the international media" and by their diabolical ability to "spread lies"?

To whom do we owe these insane declarations, this anthology of hate and error, and this frenzy of conspiracy theories?

To Farouk Hosny, the Egyptian Minister of Culture for the past fifteen years and undoubtedly the next Director General of UNESCO if nothing is done before the May 30 deadline for nominating candidates to stop his apparently unstoppable march to one of the most important posts of cultural responsibility on the planet.

Even worse: the words that we just cited are only a few -- and not even the most nauseating -- of the innumerable declarations of the same tenor that punctuate the career of Mr. Farouk Hosny over the past fifteen years and that, consequently, precede him as he aspires, even today, to a role on a worldwide scale.
Read the whole thing.

Not to be outdone, the EU has their own special envoy to the Middle East:
Marc Otte. He is the EU’s special envoy to the Middle East, and you may agree he is perfect for the job. Here are his words to the Jordan Times:

“Things are changing. Look at Iraq, Lebanon, and other places in the region, [and] you will see that foreign occupation is not legitimate, whether it’s Israel, the U.S. in Iraq, or even NATO forces in Afghanistan.” I ask this question: Is it the official position of the EU that the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan constitutes illegitimate foreign occupation? (This is to say nothing of the U.S. and its allies in Iraq.) Also, what would Mr. Otte have thought about international forces in France, c. 1944?

His statement, above, is morally, historically, and geopolitically perverse. But there’s more. Otte says,

“Israel wants Syria and Iran not to interfere in Lebanon. Fine, but we also want them to stop the occupation of Palestinian lands . . .”

First, I’m not sure I believe that Otte is sincere about “Fine.” Second, who decided that the disputed territories were “Palestinian lands”? How about Jaffa, Haifa, and Tel Aviv? A lot of people consider those “Palestinian lands,” too. Furthermore, Otte equates Syrian and Iranian designs on Lebanon to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (and Israel is now out of Gaza, to the immense sorrow of Gaza). Think about that historically, morally, etc., and you will again conclude, I suspect: perverse.

Shame and perversity.
Far too much of the latter, and not nearly enough sense of the former.

There is nothing Israel can do about Otte, but it had been protesting Hosny's appointment--till now:
As part of a secret agreement, reached during their May 11 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Netanyahu promised Mubarak that Israel would cease the international campaign it has waged against Hosni's appointment during the past year. It is still unclear whether Netanyahu, who is known for his insistence on the principle of quid pro quo in Israel's relations with the Arab world, received something from the Egyptian leader in return.
If Netanyahu has, he isn't telling. 
This is the sort of thing we would have expected from Olmert--except that Olmert would be talking it up and explaining why it was a necessary and wonderful thing.

UPDATE: In Putting Our Faith in the UN Cesspool, Jonathan Tobin adds:
But already in office and far higher up in the Byzantine labyrinth of UN bureaucracies is another ideologue and hater: Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, president of the United Nations General Assembly. A hardcore Sandinista veteran of Nicaragua’s nightmarish past, d’Escoto has already provoked concern in the United States for his open hostility to the state of Israel. Now, the New York Times has reported on his plans for using the UN as a platform for institutionalizing his socialist dogmas.
Yup, the list just keeps on growing.

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Some Advice To Obama In Advance Of His Cairo Speech

From Victor Davis Hanson:
Obama should remember that the U.S. has given well over $70 billion in aggregate aid to the Palestinians, Jordanians, and Egyptians. We have tried to save the Afghans from Russian communism and again are pouring money into the country. Kuwait now exists thanks to the U.S. We alone chided the Russians on its flattening of Grozny, and bombed a Christian European country to save Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia when others could not or would not. We tried to save starving Muslims in Somalia, and the record goes on — including the sacrifice made on behalf of Iraqi democracy — and is sterling in comparison to the very unapologetic way China, India, or Russia has dealt with Muslims at home and abroad. No need, then, for yet another apology or “I was only three months old” distancing — or so we hope.

Read the whole thing.

Yeah, hope springs eternal.

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From YU: Shavuot To-Go 5769

Individual Articles download

Download Shavuot To-Go 5768
Halachic Perspectives on Live Kidney Donations Rabbi Josh Flug 
Can I Have a Ride? Carpooling & Middas Sodom Rabbi Daniel Stein
The Significance of Matan Torah Dr. Naomi Grunhaus
Shavuot: Middot and Torah Linked Together Rabbi Zev Reichman
Twice Kissed Rabbi Moshe Taragin
Family Program: Pirkei Avot Scavenger Hunt, Environmentalism in Jewish Law and Thought, The Jew's Role in the World - by Aaron Steinberg
Download Shavuot To-Go 5767 
This year's edition focuses on copyrights, wireless networks, and intellectual property from a halachic perspective. There is also a program specifically for teens about friendship in the Facebook era.
Download Shavuot To-Go 5766
Bible Hunt
Learning to use a Tanach
Time to Pick Teams
An Exercise in Mitzvah Categorization

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