Free Markets, Free People

Israel

Observations: The Qando Podcast for 16 Aug 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the troubling nature of Turkey’s re-alignment away from the West, and President Obama’s statements about the “Ground Zero” mosque.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Helen Thomas Part II

I shut off the comments to the earlier Helen Thomas post, because the comments pretty much ran off the rails. I mean, talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees..

Look, whatever you may think about the legitimacy of Israel, the arguments of the reconquistas, that’s all irrelevant. It doesn’t have anything at all to do with the issue I was addressing. All of that stuff is a non-sequitur.

Helen Thomas didn’t say the Jews should be stuffed into ovens. Now, maybe she’s a raging anti-semite who believes that’s what should happen. I dunno. I don’t have access to her inner life. All I know is that isn’t what she said.

What she said was that the state of Israel was occupying Arab land, and that the Israelis should return to their countries of origin, i.e. “Germany, Poland…America, and everywhere else.” That’s certainly a minority opinion in the US, but it’s less of one in Europe, and it’s the absolute majority opinion in the Arab world.

So the only relevant question is whether stating that opinion is so outrageous that she should lose her livelihood for stating it. If so, then the implied conclusion is that questioning the legitimacy of the Israeli state is a disqualification from participating in public discourse (and is no doubt prima facie evidence of anti-Semitism to some).

So, lets confine ourselves to what she actually said, and discuss whether denying the legitimacy of Israel is such a horrific opinion that those who express it have to be driven out of public life like some kind of poison troll.

Helen, We Hardly Knew Ye

OK, that’s not really true.  We knew that Helen Thomas was a pretty opinionated, nasty piece of work, as her questioning of President Bush–when he occasionally deigned to recognize her–showed over his two terms.  So, learning this week that Ms. Thomas was of the opinion that Israel had no right to exist, should be disbanded, and the Jews should return to Wurstland and Kielbasastan wasn’t much of a surprise.  Her agent acted surprised, though, as did Hearst newspapers–both unconvincingly.  Surely they knew what a c– uh, controversial set of opinions she had.  They had to.  But they went through the tired old kabuki of being shocked at her opinions about Israel…and of letting her go, after suitable mouth noises indicating shock and surprise.

Now, all the right-wingers are happy she’s been fired, and her career is over.  Although, at 89, wasn’t her career in the inevitable winding down phase anyway?  I find I can’t really join in the celebration at her firing, though.

NineSpeakers, her agent, and Hearst, her employer, are, of course, perfectly within their rights to choose not to work with her.  But I don’t particularly rejoice to see them exercise that right.  I guess I approach this differently.  I didn’t think Don Imus should’ve been fired for the “nappy hos” comment.  I didn’t think Opie & Anthony should have been suspended because they let a homeless person come in and make horrible statements about Condoleeza Rice and Queen Elizabeth II.  And I don’t think that Helen Thomas should have been fired because she thinks that Israel, as a state, was illegitimately created on Arab soil.

When the La Raza/Reconquista types talk about how the southwestern United States used to be part of Mexico in the 19th century, that people of Mexican extraction have continuously lived there since, and that it needs to go back to Mexico, conservatives immediately reject that argument as having any validity at all in today’s political context.  They then turn around and argue that, since Israel was the Jewish state prior to the Romans forcing Jews to disperse in 70AD, and that Jews have lived there continuously since, that gives Israel the right to exist as a modern Jewish state.  So, it’s a completely illegitimate argument in Mexico’s case, but perfectly rational in the case of Israel.  That means that when Helen Thomas makes the same argument about Israel that conservatives make about Mexico, it’s an intolerably outlandish opinion.

And I find it fascinating that the same people who get themselves in a tizzy about “hate speech”, political correctness, and speech codes are the same people who are cheering on Helen Thomas’ firing.  Turns out that they don’t really object to speech codes or political correctness.  They just want them enforced on a different set of opinions.

Helen Thomas’ opinion about Israel tells us all something.  It provides us with information that we can use in judging her subsequent writings or statements.  Now, of course, what we’ve done is send a message to everyone else who might have controversial or nasty opinions to keep them to themselves.  So, in the future, people in Ms. Thomas’ position will now be less likely to share those opinions with us, and we will be deprived of insights into their minds that help us judge their veracity and intentions.

Once again, a clear message has been sent out about the importance of narrowing acceptable political opinion. So, apparently there are a lot of people on both the Left and Right who sanctimoniously declare that “the solution to bad speech speech is more speech,” but they don’t really mean it.  It just makes them feel good about themselves to say it.

For my part, I think Helen Thomas is a kook when it comes to Israel, just like I think the reconquista folks are kooks when it comes to Mexico. I am hugely uninterested in revisiting geopolitical events that occurred before I was born, whether in 1948, or 1845. And I am completely opposed to using distant historical events as a justification of who gets to live where today.  Quite apart from anything else, if pushed to its logical conclusion, it would mean that I would have to turn over my house to the Pala Indians, and spend the rest of my life wandering around the cold, windswept coast of north-central Scotland in a plaid skirt, with maybe an occasional jaunt to Aberdeen for a night of drunken fist-fighting. Mexico lost the southwest.  The Arabs lost Israel.  Tough.

I just find that I don’t disagree enough with Helen Thomas’ opinion–or anyone else’s–to want to deprive her of her livelihood, or to deprive me of the pleasure of pointing at her and laughing.

Observations: The Qando Podcast for 06 Jun 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the employment numbers, and Turkey’s seeming intent to provoke a conflict with Israel.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Does the Jones joke suggest an attitude?

I’m sure you’ve head about the joke National Security Adviser James Jones told at a recent speech to the Washington Institute For Near East Policy. If not, here it is:

I’d like to begin with a story that I think is true, a Taliban militant gets lost and is wandering around the desert looking for water. He finally arrives at a store run by a Jew and asks for water. The Jewish vendor tells him he doesn’t have any water but can gladly sell him a tie. The Taliban, the jokes goes on, begins to curse and yell at the Jewish storeowner. The Jew, unmoved, offers the rude militant an idea: Beyond the hill, there is a restaurant; they can sell you water. The Taliban keeps cursing and finally leaves toward the hill. An hour later he’s back at the tie store. He walks in and tells the merchant: “Your brother tells me I need a tie to get into the restaurant.”

Jones went on to deliver his speech. But the damage was done. He’s been called everything but a child of God since. Many believe the joke to be anti-semetic.

It certainly plays to a stereotype, doesn’t it? And at a minimum, it was inappropriate.

But Jones obviously thought nothing of telling the joke. And I was rather surprised by his suggestion that he believes the “story” to be “true”. Wiggle out of that one if you can.

So why did Jones feel comfortable in delivering a joke that was obviously of questionable taste and certainly inappropriate for the occasion? Did he actually believe it to be appropriate? Did he not think anyone would take offense? And if so, why?

Those questions get to the heart of my point. There are few rational people who have followed this administration’s dealings with Israel over the last year who would quibble with the word “disrespectful” as a description of how it has dealt with that country. Never, to my knowledge, have the Israelis been treated so badly by the US during their entire existence as a state (and Israel and I share a birth year). The recent diplomatic dust up in which a fairly routine announcement about housing in Jewish east Jerusalem was turned into a crisis by the US, not Israel. Subsequent treatment of the country and its leaders has been just a shabby. So shabby, in fact, that the only bipartisan thing to come out of Congress in a while is a condemnation of the administration’s treatment of Israel.

To me, that suggests an attitude. Jones joke suggest a pervasive attitude. The fact that the White House didn’t demand an apology from Jones only adds to the strength of that suggestion. Frankly it’s an attitude we can ill afford and certainly one that isn’t going to advance any peace process in the region.

On April 20th, apparently recognizing that the administrations treatment of Israel was causing problems within the US Jewish community, President Obama sent a letter to Alan P. Solow, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in an effort to calm the storm that was brewing. In the letter he spoke of the “special relationship” the US has with Israel and promised it would not change. But he also said:

Since we have known each other for a long time, I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my Administration toward the Middle East.

Typical Obama doublespeak. The actions of his administration are what brought on the concern. It wasn’t “noise and distortion”, it was the words of administration spokespersons and Obama himself that caused consternation among supporters of Israel.

And now, after the letter, we have the Jones issue with no White House disclaimer (remember, this is a WH that felt it necessary to speak about the arrest of a person in DC and condemnation of the police – leading to the infamous “beer summit”).

To me, that points to an attitude – an unproductive attitude – that permeates the administration and clouds its ability to pursue meaningful peace in the Middle East.

~McQ

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Syria ups the ante, Israel responds

A few days ago I mentioned a story, which first broke in the Arab press and was then verified by Israeli intelligence, that Syria was providing the terrorist group Hezbollah with SCUD missiles.  Obviously there’s only one use for a SCUD and it isn’t defensive.

Syria, as you probably remember, has a huge stockpile of chemical weapons – weapons easily delivered by SCUD.  Hezbollah, financed by Iran, is buying the missiles from Syria and is moving them into south Lebanon.  The 15,000 man UN force there to keep such rearming from happening are apparently useless.  Of course SCUD missiles fired from southern Lebanon can range all of Israel and present a very real threat to the nation.  Syria is also providing advanced anti-aircraft systems to protect the SCUDs and their launchers.

Israel has made it clear that it holds Syria directly responsible for this situation and that any attack by Hezbollah with Syrian weapons will be considered to be an attack by Syria itself.  And, of course, it will be met by Israeli attacks on Syria proper:

“We’ll return Syria to the Stone Age by crippling its power stations, ports, fuel storage and every bit of strategic infrastructure if Hezbollah dare to launch ballistic missiles against us,” said an Israeli minister, who who was speaking off-the-record, last week.

The warning, which was conveyed to Damascus by a third party, was sent to reinforce an earlier signal by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister. “If a war breaks out the Assad dynasty will lose its power and will cease to reign in Syria,” he said earlier this year.

In reality the “Assad dynasty” is much less powerful now than Assad’s father ruled.  Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t the leader his father was and it is feared more radical elements within Syria are pushing for a confrontation with Israel.  It appears they hoped to do that by proxy, but Israel has put them on notice that option is closed.  In the meantime the article notes that Beirut , whose control was tenuous at best, seems to have totally lost control of Hezbollah now.

It is hard to imagine this sort of a capability not being used by extremists such as those in Hezbollah if they actually posses it.  And this situation points out very well why places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria are dangerous to the stability of the world – state sponsors of terrorism can and do provide these extremist groups with the means to arm and train themselves, and – in the case of Syria – access to powerful weapons which have a WMD capability.

“This is the first time that an internationally known terror organisation has been equipped with ballistic missiles,” said the minister.

Israel’s promise to attack Syria should Hezbollah fire SCUDs into Israel is the appropriate way to handle this sort of a situation and is a threat the US should firmly support.

“We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman.

And, as Israelis have in the past, I wouldn’t put it past them if they did a little preemptive SCUD hunting in southern Lebanon if their intel turns some up. It would serve to protect their cities as well as verifying the existence of the missiles in southern Lebanon.   Obviously the UN isn’t up to the job of ensuring they’re kept out.

~McQ

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Observations: The Qando Podcast for 11 Apr 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael and Dale discuss the state of the economy, and the Obama  Administration’s childlike foreign policy. The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Two can play this game

Benjamin Netanyahu has decided that he’s been treated like trailer trash long enough:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a planned trip to Washington next week to take part in President Barack Obama’s 47-country nuclear security summit conference.

The ostensible reason for the very public cancellation?

He made the decision after learning that Egypt and Turkey intended to raise the issue of Israel’s presumed nuclear arsenal at the conference, a senior government official said on Friday.

Israel is believed to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East but has never confirmed or denied that it possesses atomic weapons. It has not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

That’s the official reason – and there may be a grain of truth to it.  It’s Obama’s summit. But given the treatment Obama has given Israel lately, I’m sure Netanyahu has no illusions about his previously staunch US ally stepping in and stopping any such attempted hijacking of the summit by Egypt and Turkey.  Of course, Israel wouldn’t be the only nation there which hasn’t signed the NPT (India and Pakistan).

Probably more importantly though, the summit and nuclear non-proliferation are a pet project of Obama’s.  Israel is choosing to display its displeasure with Obama and the way it has been treated recently (see visa story below as well) by visibly and publicly downgrading their level of participation to Deputy Prime Minister level.  Or at least that’s the way I see it.

In hardball, both sides get a chance on the mound.

~McQ

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Still trying to find that “reset” button for Israel

Well, it’s good to see the Obama administration is taking steps to warm up the relationship with Israel after the recent molehill they managed to turn into a mountain.  Joshua Pundit reports:

NRG/Maariv (Hebrew link only, sorry) reported today that the Israeli government was stunned when every nuclear technician at Israel’s Dimona reactor who had submitted visa requests to visit the United States for ongoing university education in Physics, Chemistry and Nuclear Engineering had their visa applications summarily rejected, specifically because of their association with the Dimona reactor.

This is a new policy decision of the Obama administration. Up until now, it was routine for Israeli nuclear scientists and technicians to receive such visas and to study at US universities.

Israeli security officials have confirmed that these technicians are being denied visas solely because of their employment at the Dimona reactor.

Not only are employees at Dimonas taboo, but reportedly the US has an unofficial embargo on selling anything to be used at the site.

Professor Zeev Alfasi, the head of Nuclear Engineering at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev stated that “the United States doesn’t sell anything nuclear-related to the Dimona reactor, and that means absolutely nothing. Radiation detectors, for example have to be purchased now in France because the USA refuses to sell these to Israel.”

This is how you treat allies when relations are a bit rocky.  And apparently, this is how you “edge” the world closer to abandoning nuclear weapons.

I’m sure this will be studied in foreign policy schools for years to come as the way diplomacy among allies is conducted.  And I’m very sure that Israel will respond to this fine treatment with a renewed desire to settle the Palestinian problem once and for all.

[/sarc]

~McQ

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Different country, different reaction

You have to wonder why this announcement as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her visit, wasn’t treated the same was as a recent announcement in Israel was treated:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Iran’s Russian-built nuclear power plant will be launched this summer, even as the United States called for Russia to delay the start-up. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in Moscow on an official trip, urged Russia not to launch the plant until Tehran proves that it’s not developing atomic weapons.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at a joint press conference with Clinton, immediately responded that Russia would put the reactor online.

 All smiles in Russia.

No courage in the face of an enemy, but willing to kick an ally at the first perceived “insult”.

Amateur hour in the US and the Kremlin knows it.  I mean, look at the “respect” the American position was given.

~McQ

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