Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/01/2010 (8:12 am)

What Reporters Should Ask the Gaza Blockade Runners

Pretty simple question, really: if you’re so eager to get supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza, and the Israelis are the true villains in blocking those supplies, why didn’t you try to bring the supplies through the border guarded by Egypt?

This is the part of the story everybody wants to forget: Israel does not control all of Gaza’s borders. Egypt guards the southwest border. No blockade of Gaza would be possible if Egypt did not cooperate. Israel does not even occupy Gaza anymore (the statement in the graphic image is a little misleading); it simply claims maritime control of the Mediterranean shoreline. Goods could be delivered to coastal towns south of Gaza and driven overland through the Egypt-Gaza border. The truth of this is illustrated by today’s story reporting that Egypt has temporarily lifted its blockade of GazaEgypt’s blockade — to allow aid to Gaza in the wake of last week’s incident.

The attempted delivery of supplies, financed by an organization recognized as a terrorist financier, was never intended to arrive in Gaza. It was sent to create a public relations attack against Israel. The various nations of the world commenced with their periodic Dance of Outrage. It’s Kabuki Theater.

The truth is that Israel allows supplies into Gaza regularly, from suppliers that it trusts. It refuses to allow certain suppliers because if they were approved, the next set of ships would be delivering munitions. Egypt apparently complies with the blockade because they don’t want war on their border, either.

From the Washington Times editorial:

Adequate supplies of food, medicine and other necessary goods are delivered regularly to Palestinians in Gaza — and by the Israelis. The government in Jerusalem quickly invited reporters to the Kerem Shalom crossing to see, and photograph, the convoys of trucks delivering these goods to Gaza. The Israelis even offered to transfer the goods from the “activist” boats as soon as they could be unloaded and inspected. The sponsor of the “activist” armada, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, is regarded by Israel as a radical Islamist organization, part of a global fundraising operation for Hamas. If the Israelis allow such flotillas to deliver supplies to Gaza, other ships will follow, not with rice and beans but with explosives, rifles and long-range Iranian Fajr-5 missiles.

If we could get the reporters to ask a simple question like the one at the top of this article, they might wake up to the complicity of the Muslim nations surrounding Israel in a campaign to destroy that nation. The same reporters, discovering this complicity for the first time (assuming they’ve just been stupid, and not complicit themselves), might then be encouraged to ask a deeper follow-up question: why have none of the nations surrounding Israel permitted Palestinians to emigrate and become citizens of their nations?

09/16/2009 (11:47 am)

Messianic Jews in Israel

This video, a 9-minute newscast from Israeli TV, is particularly meaningful to me, as these Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus) are taking a leap that I took, myself, almost 40 years ago. I did have the option of continuing to call myself Jewish, and in fact I do at times, but I decided back then in 1973 that no truly valuable purpose was served by drawing attention to myself, making a huge issue among the Christians of the fact that I was raised in a Jewish home.

The situation of Israeli Yeshua-believers — Messianic Jews, they’re called, Jews who believe the Messiah has already come — is different from mine, though. Israel is predominantly Jewish with an attitude. Jews who welcome Jesus in any form are open to the charge of cultural treason. I faced a little of this, myself, but these folks don’t have a large, non-Jewish population into which they may escape.

Watch:

As Christians go, I’m steadfastly and deliberately aloof when I encounter talk of the end-times, the branch of theology called Eschatology. Attempting to predict the future based on arcane prophetic utterances strikes me as an enormous waste of time, given that the batting average of man’s attempts to interpret prophecies before they have come to pass is .000. When people ask me what I think about the topic, I paraphrase Luke 12 at them: “Blessed is that servant whom the Master finds so doing when he comes.” I figure so long as I do what God commands me to do right now, and keep doing that, I’m as prepared as I can be for His return, and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

That being said, the appearance of a Messianic Judaism in Israel is a remarkable event, and does comport with Biblical predictions about the end of times. Take that for what you will.

All four of my children attend a Messianic congregation in Philadelphia called Beth Yeshua (“House of Jesus.”)

I recognized only a handful of the songs in the video. The last one is not Messianic; it’s a traditional hymn from the Sabbath service, added, I’m sure, to emphasize that these Jews maintain traditional practice. I always liked that song; it welcomes the ministering angels on the Sabbath:

Peace unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

May your coming be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

May your departure be in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High (etc.)

01/03/2009 (5:14 am)

Where American and Israeli Interests Meet

A commenter on an Israel-Palestinian thread at Right Wing Nuthouse asked a very relevant question, and I want to answer it here.

The question was, why do American politicians on both sides of the aisle never see American interests as different from Israeli interests?

I see three answers:

1) As long-term guarantors of Israel’s existence, to suddenly, now, throw up our hands and simply let the chips fall where they may would wreck our ability to make treaties for two generations, as abandoning Vietnam did, only worse. Nobody would take word of our alliance seriously, nor should they. This would also encourage enemies to attack us and persist longer; note that terrorists around the world still refer to Vietnam when they encourage each other to persist in attacking America.

2) Muslim intent is to dominate the world; that’s a goal supported by theology. They hate Israel because Israel proves they can’t dominate even their own region. They hate the US because the US proves they can’t dominate economics or world politics. Whether we want it or not, we and Israel are co-belligerents in the same war, and if they fall, we’re next.

3) Americans have an innate sense of fairness. We recognize Israel’s right to exist. Until the press and American public schools started lying about the Palestinians, we generally recognized that their real intent is the annihilation of Israel, and most of us still do at some level. Politicians may not agree, but they like their jobs, and won’t buck the people’s sense of fair play. Pro-Israeli politics are most likely stable until the political class thinks it can get away with a change without losing their jobs.

Regarding this last, note how hard Barack Obama worked to maintain a pro-Israeli image during the elections. There’s very little question about his personal convictions on the matter; he’s pro-Palestinian to the core, but he’ll never say so to a mixed audience in America, he’ll only say it when he thinks he’s among friends. The American voting public remains strongly pro-Israel.

12/31/2008 (6:34 pm)

A Review of the Israel Basics

Just in case anybody’s not up on the history of the area.

  1. Until Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority two years ago, there had never been an independent, non-Jewish state in the area we call Palestine. Ergo, Israel is not occupying anything.
  2. There have been three instances of independent states in the area we call Palestine, and all three have been Jewish states. They are: The Davidic kingdom, from about 1250 BC to about 650 BC, the Hasmonean Kingdom, from about 140 BC to about 60 BC, and the modern state of Israel formed by UN agreement in 1948 (those years are off the top of my head, and may be off 50 years or so here and there.) There are no known descendants of the Canaanite peoples that the Davidic kings conquered. At all other times, Palestine has been ruled by an occupying army from elsewhere.
  3. There have been Jewish residents in the area pretty much non-stop from the time of the Exodus in the Bible. There were periods when the land was very, very sparsely populated, but what residents there were have been at least partly Jewish since then.
  4. The Zionists began emigrating during the mid-19th century, and produced an economy in a previously barren area. Most of the land they farmed was purchased from its owners in the area.
  5. Shortly after the British took over the region from the Ottoman Turks in 1917, they attempted to solve the already-existing tensions between Jewish settlers and Arabic farmers using a two-state solution, similar to what’s being tried today. They created a Jewish state called Palestine, and a Palestinian Arabic state called Trans-Jordan. Trans-Jordan is the modern nation of Jordan. Yes, that’s right, Jordan was intended to be the Arabic Palestinian state.
  6. After WW II, when the British ceded the land to its residents, the UN attempted to solve the mounting tensions between Jewish and Arabic residents using another two-state solution — again, like what’s being tried today. The Arabic nations and the Palestinians rejected the UN’s partition agreement in 1947 and mounted an attack aimed at pushing the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. They lost — and in my mind, they forfeited any possible claim to a separate, non-Jewish state in Palestine at that moment.
  7. The West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights were the regions in Palestine that the Arabic armies managed to hold onto after they assaulted the fledgling state of Israel in 1947 and were repulsed. They lost all of those regions when they attempted to annihilate Israel again in 1967. The Palestinians have no legitimate claim to those lands, since they only obtained them by conquest in 1947, and lost them by attempted conquest thereafter.
  8. When non-Jewish residents of the area fled in 1948 after the war, the surrounding nations (except for Jordan) refused to grant them citizenship. They have been kept in camps by those nations ever since. Palestinian Arabs are welcome to become citizens in Israel, and are represented in the Knesset.

You may form your own conclusions regarding who’s entitled to what land. However, the modern notion that’s so common among young folks who don’t know the history of the region, namely that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and the Palestinians are patriots attempting to free their homeland, is fantasy, completely unsupported by history. There has never been an independent, non-Jewish state on the land we call Palestine.

Pay attention to the number of times well-meaning outsiders attempted to settle the conflict with a two-state solution. Note how well it’s worked. If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got…

12/31/2008 (5:05 pm)

Anatomy of a Lie

A Blog For All has a fascinating reminder of just how much we can trust the press whenever the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts kick up.

This is really slick detective work: lawhawk found a series of photographs that were all taken at the same time, but posted in sequence with captions gradually obscuring the real story. The real story was that a Palestinian youth was shot in the leg while hurling a Molotov Cocktail at Israeli lines. By the time the last photo was posted, it was “Israeli soldiers are using live ammunition on protesters at a demonstration.” No mention of the fact that the youth was an armed attacker. Go take a look.

The same fellow has a pretty complete summary of arguments being offered for and against Israel’s acts. He’s pro-Israel (as am I) so he gives short shrift to the Hamas-pitying blather, particularly the stuff about proportionality.

Since when is proportionality a concern in war? You fight to win. Hamas has been hurling hundreds of missiles at Israel, even during the recent cease-fire. Israel wants to put Hamas out of power, and out of business. If it takes air strikes, they do air strikes. If it takes invasion, they do invasion. How much would we concern ourselves with proportionality if Mexico was flipping missiles across the Rio Grande?

12/29/2008 (3:55 pm)

Gaza Provides a Reminder

Amid the noise and predictable posturing following Israel’s weekend of air strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, training centers, and weapons caches in Gaza, today’s New York Times slips in a quiet reminder of one of the primary causes of the conflict that hardly anybody mentions: the unwillingness of countries surrounding Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to become citizens of their countries.

From 13 paragraphs into the Times story:

Much of the anger was also directed at Egypt, seen by Hamas and some nearby governments as having acceded to Israel’s military action by sealing its border with Gaza and forcing back many Palestinians at gunpoint who were trying to escape the destruction.

And from page 2:

In Beirut, protesters were bused to a rally outside the United Nations building, holding up Palestinian flags and Hamas banners. Muhammad Mazen Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Palestinian who lives in one of the refugee camps here, choked up when asked about the assault on Gaza.

“There’s an agreement between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel against Hamas,” he said. “They want to end them; all the countries are in league against Hamas, but God willing, we will win.”

That sentiment is widespread here. Many see Ms. Livni’s (Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs) visit to Cairo last week as evidence that Egypt, eager to be rid of Hamas, had consented to the airstrikes.

Following the 1948 war in which Israel won its statehood, streams of refugees crossed the borders in two directions: Arabic residents of Palestine fled the area, and Jewish residents of the surrounding nations fled their homes and poured into Israel. The Jews left their homes because of sometimes-official persecution, and in many cases were ordered to leave. The reasons for the Palestinian exodus are less well understood, being mired in controversy; conventional wisdom at the time said they were encouraged to leave by their leaders, but some modern historians have added that there were some deliberate acts of violence on the part of Israelis that motivated them as well.

Regardless of the reasons, the two streams of refugees were treated very differently. Israel, eager for manpower and already possessing an attitude of welcome for refugees, readily absorbed the Sefardim (Jews of Arabic descent); today, Sefardic Jews in Israel number about 3 million and account for more than half of the Israeli population.

The nations surrounding Israel, however, refused citizenship for the roughly 800,000 refugees, and instead built fence-enclosed camps in which they must live. The camps remain to this day, and house about 4 million Palestinians, some of whom are 4 or 5 generations removed from ever having lived in Palestine.

The refusal of the Egyptians to allow Palestinians to cross into Egypt reminds us that this policy refusing emigration continues. Of all the nations surrounding Israel, only Jordan has permitted Palestinians to become citizens, and Jordan stopped permitting West Bank residents to become citizens in 1991. Lebanon actually refuses to allow Palestinians to own land or hold certain professional jobs.

It has been argued, with some support, that the purpose of the camps was to foster hatred against Israel and create a permanent source of militants to attack Israel. The goal of Muslims in the Middle East remains to remove Israel completely; Israel represents a reminder that Islam, which they believe to be destined to rule the entire world politically, cannot even rule entirely in their own corner of the world. Allow me to recommend a review of this monologue by Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Director of the Jerusalem Post, that I posted on my blog about a year ago.

Arguably, though, governments wanting a stable environment within their own nations might prefer to keep organizations like Hamas at arm’s length. Whatever the goal may have been 60 years ago, Egypt probably is not so keen on inviting militants within their borders.

This is one of the reasons I personally oppose a two-state solution in Israel. It’s not just that Israeli concessions of land always become launching points for military assaults against the state of Israel, though that would be reason enough. It’s that the real solution is to allow the refugees to start lives elsewhere. The violence against the state of Israel would probably dwindle to tiny proportions if the camps were emptied and the residents permitted to take root in their homes.

11/16/2008 (9:19 pm)

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

The election passed less than two weeks ago, but already we’re seeing the pro-Palestinian slant of the Obama Administration producing immanent war in the Middle East.

The Obama campaign went to great lengths to lie to the American public about its intentions for Israel and Jerusalem, and to distance itself from the impression that the sightings of pro-Palestinian advisors Robert Malley and Zbigniew Brzezinski meant Obama would favor the Palestinians. I wrote, and others wrote, that Obama was lying about his position, and that he was strongly pro-Palestinian. The press covered for him.

This afternoon, Gateway Pundit posted a succinct summary of news reports claiming that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared publicly that Israel must withdraw to its pre-1949 borders, as proposed by the Saudi peace plan, or face war.

Why are they doing this now? Do we really have to ask?

It’s not just that Barack Obama, who insists there is only one President, reportedly told Abbas the Israelis “would be crazy” to reject the Saudi plan. Caroline Glick, Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post and coordinator of negotiations with the PLO for the Israeli government, reported at length on the signals from within the Obama transition team indicating a strong pro-Palestinian position, in stark opposition to his pre-election moderation.

…[Obama's] aides and advisers are signaling that he intends to move US foreign policy in a sharply different direction from its current trajectory once he assumes office.

And they are signaling that this new direction will be applied most immediately and directly to US policy toward the Middle East.

Early in the Democratic Party’s primary season, the Obama campaign released a list of the now-president-elect’s foreign policy advisers to The Washington Post. The list raised a great deal of concern in policy circles, particularly among supporters of the US-Israel alliance. It included outspoken critics of Israel such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as national security adviser under president Jimmy Carter, and Robert Malley, who served as a junior Middle East aide to president Bill Clinton. Both men are deeply hostile to Israel and both have called repeatedly for the US to end its strategic alliance with Israel.

In the months that followed the list’s publication, the Obama campaign sought to distance itself from both men as the president-elect’s advisers worked to position Obama as a centrist candidate…

Due in large part to media credulousness, Obama’s new image as a centrist was widely accepted by the public. And it is likely that he owes a significant portion of his support in the American Jewish community to the campaign’s success in distancing Obama from men like Brzezinski and Malley.

BUT NOW that the campaign is over, it appears that as his critics warned, Obama’s moves toward the center on issues relating to the Middle East were little more than campaign tactics to obscure his true policy preferences.

Two days after his election, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius gave a sense of the direction in which Obama will likely take US foreign policy. And, apparently directed by Obama’s campaign staff, Ignatius based much of his column on his belief that Obama’s foreign policy views have been shaped by his “informal” adviser, Brzezinski.

Based on what Brzezinski and Obama’s “official” campaign told him, Ignatius wrote that the two major issues where Obama’s foreign policy is likely to diverge from Bush’s right off the bat are Israel and Iran. Obama, he claimed, will want to push hard to force Israel to come to an agreement with the Palestinians as soon as he comes into office. As for Iran, Obama plans to move immediately to improve US relations with the nuclear-weapons-building ayatollahs.

As for Malley, an aide of his told Frontpage magazine this week that acting on Obama’s instructions, Malley traveled to Cairo and Damascus after Obama’s electoral victory to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Assad that “the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests.”

In a related story, Hamas terror operative Ahmad Youssef told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that in the months leading up to his election, Obama’s advisers held steady contacts with the leaders of the terror group in Gaza, and had asked that Hamas keep the meetings secret in order not to harm Obama’s chances of being elected.

Check that last comment again: the Obama campaign was sending unofficial envoys to Hamas, Egypt, and Syria even while he was lying to the American press. This is just what we said he was doing; none of us who watched Obama with objective eyes are the least bit surprised by the duplicity, which seems to be a signature mark of his character. Obama is, as far as we can tell, an habitual liar.

Be that as it may, Obama is also a pro-Palestinian radical, and the terrorists surrounding Israel know it, having heard it from his own campaign. And now that they know the United States will be pressuring Israel to accede to their demands in the interests of “peace,” their demands are escalating already.

America, we warned you, and you elected him. Welcome to the Age of Obama.

05/13/2008 (10:32 am)

Obama and the Jews

Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of Barack Obama at Atlantic.com yesterday addressed Obama’s stance on the nation of Israel and on Jews in particular. Obama knows that he can’t win the presidency while taking a strong anti-Israel stand, so he’s attempting to quell the public’s impression that he might be strongly anti-Israel. He doesn’t really give us anything that hasn’t been around the Democratic party all along, although he distances himself from Carter’s invocation of apartheid.

Obama fired advisor Robert Malley over the weekend for having held discussions with Hamas, a curious act, given Obama’s stated willingness to sit down and negotiate with anybody. He also fired advisor Samantha Power a few months ago for her outlandish (but amusingly accurate) comments about Hillary Clinton. Both Mally and Power were foreign policy advisors with anti-Israel leanings. In fact, Obama’s team, not to mention Obama’s political party and ideological comrades, teem with anti-Israel sentiments. We probably should take Obama’s interview, like his firing of Malley, as Realpolitik, the recognition by one of Israel’s natural enemies that he has to play nice toward Israel or he can’t govern America.

What I thought was particularly interesting was Obama’s claim to have been heavily influenced by Jewish thinkers:

I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris. So when I became more politically conscious, my starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel…

Philip Roth? Leon Uris? Those are the Jews he claims shaped his sensibilities? And, theologians? Which ones? Can he possibly be serious?

I find it hard to believe he considered Portnoy’s Complaint formative. I would have given him a little more credit for naming, maybe, Buber, Spinoza, Maimonides, or maybe Jesus of Nazareth. However, I suspect strongly that he’s tiptoeing around the names of the Jews who actually influenced him: Marx, Engels, and Alinsky.

Interestingly, Obama legitimizes those who might infer Islamic ties because of his middle name, Hussein:

It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s something they’re hopeful about.

We’ll keep this in mind against the day when he objects to the connection again, although, to be frank, I don’t think his natural support for the Palestinian cause has anything to do with his name. It’s a Leftist thing, not a Muslim thing.

Ed Morrissey riffs on Obama’s “some of my best friends are Jewish!” while Michael Goldfarb explains why the Hamas endorsement is still a problem.