Thursday, February 4, 2016

 

Rest in Peace, Maurice White

Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away today. I have loved Earth, Wind & Fire's distinctive, jazz-infused music since I was a kid growing up in the 1970s. I remember when my schoolmate/neighbor Brandy Singleton's older brother used to play Earth, Wind & Fire records in his parents' garage. The power of music paired with poetic words to inspire and uplift is mystical; there is some connection between sound and word and synapse and emotion for which there may be some scientific explanation--but that explanation does not capture the essence of how that connection can be transformative.

Music has always been my comfort, my adrenalin, my fuel. It can fire me up, it can soothe my soul, it can help me shed tears that need to be shed--and when it seems like there will be no joy or hope again, music reminds me how beautiful life can be.

"September" is such a perfect song! I loved it as a kid, when I was naive and hopeful; I love it now as a man when I am no longer naive but--in my better moments--still hopeful. When I hear "September," images flow through my head the way that the old newsreel clips scrolled across Spock's tricorder in the classic Star Trek episode "City on the Edge of Forever." I think of Brandy's brother and elementary school and times that I drove around with an Earth, Wind & Fire tape delivering sounds of joy and I think of meeting my friend Erika for the first time at (fittingly) the Friendship Cafe. The soundtrack of our lives evolves as we evolve. The music remains the same and yet it is different each time we hear it, because we are different. As the saying goes, you can never enter the same river twice (watching the X-Files and seeing Mulder and Scully wonder about the fate of their son William is a lot different as the parent of a 17 month old than it is as a childless man who had no thoughts of becoming a parent).

I just heard "September" less than an hour ago on Sirius XM during an airing of "Artist Confidential," followed by the band members explaining the song's origins. The song's auditory river is different every time and yet it is comfortingly the same because of the pure joy it radiates.

Hearing "September" for the first time since Maurice White passed reminds me how much I have changed over the years and yet how much who I am at the core will never change: when I was a kid, I was curious, talkative, filled with naive enthusiasm and sensitive but strong. Now I am curious but I know that some questions have no answers; I am talkative but I have learned the value of silence; I am filled with enthusiasm but no longer naive; I still feel things deeply (which may seem like weakness to some) but I know that true strength flows from passion and compassion, not just the ability to generate force (mental or physical).

The passage of time is so mysterious. Sometimes a day seems to last forever and sometimes three decades pass in a blink of an eye. Earlier tonight I caught part of the ESPN 30 for 30 show about the 1985 Chicago Bears. Can it really be 30 years since they wiped out the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl? It seems like only yesterday.

It is breathtaking to see the footage of Walter Payton running nimbly and then using his forearm as a club to gain an extra yard. Never die easy, indeed! And yet it is sobering to realize that Payton did die, many years ago. Jim McMahon noticeably shows the ravages of all those hits he took and all those painkillers he consumed to get back on the field as quickly as he could. The specter of CTE looms over every one of those crushing blows delivered by the Bears' legendary 46 defense.

These words might not seem to have much to do directly with Maurice White but I think that he would understand and appreciate my larger message--and I hope that he would be warmed by my heartfelt thank you to him for the joy he has brought and continues to bring to so many people. Is there a greater or more meaningful power than to use one's talents to bring joy to other people?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

 

Lawyers Who Advocate for Victims of Iranian-Sponsored Terrorism are "Doing Well by Doing Good"

Iran and the terrorist organizations it enthusiastically sponsors have injured and killed thousands of victims around the world in the past several decades. Other nations have also sponsored deadly terrorist attacks. A dedicated and resourceful group of lawyers including Thomas Fortune Fay, Stuart Newberger and Steve Perles have exacted some measure of justice via the U.S. court system and also via the creation of legislation designed to ensure that these rogue states and their terrorist proxies are forced to pay for their evil actions.

A Newsweek story detailing the efforts of these lawyers concludes that the lawyers are "doing well by doing good." Contingency fees in such cases typically range from 33 to 40 percent but these lawyers have agreed to receive no more than 25%. A total of $12 billion in compensatory damages has been awarded to victims of terrorism thanks to the brilliance and persistence of these lawyers. There are approximately 2500 clients in these cases, consisting of the survivors of terrorist attacks and people whose family members were killed in these attacks, including "the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The lawyers also have been looking out for the victims of the Tehran, Iran, hostage crisis that began in 1979."

The ideas of pursuing justice through the courts and creating a victims' fund derive from the experiences of Hugo Princz, "the son of a naturalized American businessman living in what is today Slovakia, making him a U.S. citizen at birth. In 1942, townspeople turned over the Princz family to the Nazis, who ignored their U.S. passports and sent them to concentration camps in Poland. Princz's parents and sisters died in Treblinka, while Hugo, then a teenager, worked as a slave laborer for three years, first at Auschwitz, then at a factory in Dachau, outside Munich. U.S. forces freed Princz in May 1945 and treated him at an American military hospital."

Princz moved to the U.S. after the Holocaust and he applied for Holocaust reparations from the German government but the heirs to the Nazi empire refused his requests, citing a loophole in the reparations program (Princz was neither a German citizen nor a refugee, so he was technically ineligible even though the Nazis had murdered his family and imprisoned him for years as a slave laborer). Princz hired Perles to sue Germany in federal court, with the legal argument that the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act--a U.S. law that prevented Princz from suing Germany--was not meant to help the Nazis' heirs avoid paying for their crimes against humanity. Princz won at the trial court level but lost on appeal and in the U.S. Supreme Court. However, his pursuit of this matter attracted the attention of President Bill Clinton, who persuaded German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to pay $25 million in reparations to Princz and more than 40 other U.S. Holocaust survivors.

Then came a 1995 Iranian-sponsored bus bombing in Gaza that killed, among others, 19 year old U.S. exchange student Alisa Flatow. Perles lobbied Congress to pass a law enabling U.S. victims of state-sponsored terrorism to file civil suits in U.S courts against state sponsors of terrorism. Perles explains, "At some point, a foreign sovereign's conduct becomes so noxious toward a U.S. citizen that the foreign sovereign no longer can expect to receive sovereign immunity. And if you want to tell bad guys that they ought not to be doing this, you've got to take their money away from them."

After Congress passed legislation in 1996 addressing this issue, Perles sued Iran on behalf of Flatow's father and other victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism.  After a six year legal battle, Perles won a judgment for $77 million and he located confiscated Iranian funds that could be used to pay that judgment.

Perles then teamed up with Fortune Fay to sue Iran for that nation's role in the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Perles and Fay won a series of judgments totaling $4.2 billion, an outcome that Iran is challenging in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, most of the monetary judgments have not been fulfilled because the U.S. Justice Department has been unwilling to compensate the victims with funds paid by businesses and banks that violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. After earning victory in the court system only to be stymied by the executive branch of the government, the lawyers turned to the legislative branch of the government for relief, negotiating deals with key members of Congress to create a victims' fund consisting of $1 billion "drawn from penalties paid by the Paris-based bank BNP Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba." It took three years for the lawyers to draft a proposal for the victims' fund and persuade Congress to create the fund but now that work has been completed and President Obama signed the law on December 18.

No amount of money can compensate for human suffering/loss of life--but it is very important that those who do wrong are punished for their evil actions and made to understand that they cannot act with impunity. It is difficult to imagine a higher, more noble calling for a lawyer than to exact justice against rogue states that use their power, money and influence to spread terror and death around the world

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

 

Albert Einstein the Man

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."--Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein the physicist is world-renowned for developing ideas that forever changed how we view space, time and the nature of reality. Albert Einstein the man is much less well known but he was a father, a job-seeker and a person whose understanding/awareness of his cultural identity evolved. It is interesting to explore these lesser known aspects of Einstein that informed and shaped a mind that had such a transformative effect on society.

Einstein the Father

Einstein's first child, a daughter named Lieserl, was born out of wedlock in January 1902 to Mileva Maric, a volatile and emotionally unstable woman who began a relationship with Einstein in 1897. Maric put Lieserl up for adoption shortly after Lieserl's birth--perhaps to avoid the shame of having an out of wedlock child--and Einstein never met his daughter. Lieserl's ultimate fate is unknown, though some reports suggest that she died in infancy of scarlet fever. Einstein and Maric married in January 1903, shortly after the death of Einstein's father (who disapproved of Maric and preferred that Einstein rekindle his previous relationship with Maria Winteler, who was much more emotionally stable than Maric). In 1904, Maric gave birth to a son named Hans Albert. "My husband often spends his free time at home just playing with the boy," Maric wrote in a letter to a friend.

The couple later had a second son, Eduard, but the marriage was ultimately doomed because of Maric's deep-seated psychological issues (one visitor to the Einstein home later remarked that he thought Maric was schizophrenic). In July 1914, Maric moved to Switzerland with their two children; Einstein reportedly cried "all afternoon and evening" after Maric's departure. Einstein wrote, "I have carried these children around innumerable times day and night, taken them out in their pram, played with them, romped around and joked with them. They used to shout with joy when I came..." He later accused Maric of "poisoning" the boys against him.

Albert Einstein put the money from his Nobel Prize into a trust fund that supported Maric and their two children. Hans Albert became a prominent hydraulic engineer who had a good relationship with his father but Eduard was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 20 and spent much of his adult life in various asylums. Albert stayed in regular contact with Eduard and later noted, "The more refined of my sons, the one I considered really of my own nature, was seized by an incurable mental illness."

Einstein the Job-Seeker

The man who transformed physics had trouble obtaining the most basic employment when he was in his 20s. Long after Einstein wrote four seminal papers during his "miracle year" of 1905, he was still supporting himself as a patent clerk. A physicist who had read Einstein's work was aghast when he visited Einstein at the patent office, declaring, "History is full of bad jokes." Einstein applied for an entry level teaching position at the University of Bern but was not hired because he failed to submit a new thesis with his application--despite the fact that he included 17 papers with his application, including the theory of relativity for which he ultimately became world famous! Einstein also applied for a job as a high-school math teacher and out of the 21 applicants he did not even make the list of three finalists. Even when Einstein finally landed a job in academia his troubles were not over; the position paid so poorly that Einstein could not afford to quit his job at the patent office.

Imagine how Einstein must have felt about his life at that time: his emotionally unbalanced wife complained constantly, he could barely support his family and he was being shunned by the academic world even though he knew that he had unparalleled insights about the structure of the universe.

Einstein the Jew

Einstein abhorred conformity and, despite a brief flirtation with observant Judaism during his childhood, he was skeptical of organized religion. Einstein tended to consider himself a citizen of the world more than a member of a particular religious or national group but his perspective changed with the rise of Nazism. Einstein wryly noted that if his theories were proven correct then he would be considered a German but otherwise he would be considered a Jew. As the situation of European Jewry grew more and more perilous, Einstein's sense of identity with the Jewish people strengthened (though he never abandoned his skepticism regarding any form of organized religious practice): "The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence--these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank the stars I belong to it."

Einstein's solidarity with the Jewish people became even more intense after the Holocaust: "My relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became aware of our precarious position among the nations of the world." Adolf Hitler showed the futility of a person with any Jewish blood trying to deny that connection; his Nazi party developed an elaborate and detailed set of laws about people of "mischling" (mixed) background, decreeing that in some scenarios the presence of two Jewish grandparents in a person's background is enough to label that person as a Jew worthy of extermination (a person with "only" one Jewish grandparent could marry a so-called pure Aryan and thus avoid Nazi persecution).

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What can we learn from these vignettes about Einstein the man? "This too shall pass." Dinesh Chandrasekar notes that whether you are going through a good time in your life or a bad one the situation is temporary but he declares, "This isn't a pessimistic view of life. In fact, it is the other way around. Because we know there is death, let us make the most of life. Because we know the day will end, let us make the day count. Because we know the year will end, even before the New Year arrives, let us do something significant to make 2015 memorable. Because we know our tough times too will end, let us endure it with strength and courage. Because we know the best of times too will end, let us be humble even in our success. Because we know every relationship will eventually end, let us give ourselves completely and unconditionally to our loved ones."

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

 

Bernard Henri-Levy's Stirring Speech at the UN Against Antisemitism

On January 22, 2015, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy spoke at the UN about antisemitism: what causes it, why it flourishes and why it is important to combat it. His speech deserves to be heard/read in its entirety but these key excerpts provide a glimpse at his message:

Today's anti-Semitism says three things, at bottom.

It can operate on a large scale, convince, put fire in the brains, only by offering three shameful but new propositions.
 
The Jews are detestable because they are supposed to support an evil, illegitimate, murderous state. This is the anti-Zionist delirium of the merciless adversaries of the re-establishment of the Jews in their historical fatherland.

The Jews are all the more detestable because they are supposed to base their beloved Israel on imaginary suffering, or suffering that at the very least has been outrageously exaggerated. This is the shabby and infamous denial of the Holocaust.

In so doing, the Jews would commit a third and final crime that could make them still more guilty, which is to confuse us with the memory of their dead, to completely stifle other peoples' memories and to overshadow other martyrs whose deaths have plunged parts of today's world, most emblematically that of the Palestinians, into mourning. And here we come face to face with the modern-day scourge, stupidity, that is competitive victimhood.

Anti-Semitism needs these three formulations, which are like the three vital components of a moral atomic bomb.

Each taken separately would be enough to discredit a people, to make it abominable once more. But when the three are combined, brought into contact and allowed to form a knot, a node, a crux, a helix--well, at that point we can be pretty sure of facing an explosion of which all Jews, everywhere, will be the designated targets...

Anti-Semitism will not return on a large scale unless it succeeds in popularizing this insane and vile portrait of the modern Jew.

It has to be anti-Zionist, it must deny the Holocaust, it must feed the competition of pain--or it will not thrive: the logic is implacable, despicable but compelling. To recognize that, ladies and gentlemen, is to begin to see, symmetrically, what you can do to combat this calamity.

Henri-Levy concludes his speech by urging the UN to live up to the ideals that inspired its creation and to not provide a home in any of its forums for antisemitism. The UN has been equal parts corrupt and inept for so long that it seems likely his plea will go unanswered but maybe Henri-Levy's call to action will rouse the UN from its stupor.

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

 

There is Nothing New About the "New Intifada"

The recent wave of Arab/Muslim terrorist attacks against Jews in the heart of Israel is not a "New Intifada"; it is just another example of how virulent Arab antisemitism is and how deeply ingrained that antisemitism is in Arab/Muslim society. Check out this video of a Jordanian preschool girl gleefully speaking about stabbing a Jew with a knife (footage courtesy of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute).

The war between Israel and her neighbors is not about "occupation" or "colonialism" or any of the other buzzwords carelessly thrown around in lieu of a meaningful analysis of the situation. This war is about a group of people being systematically indoctrinated from the cradle to feel and act upon homicidal hatred for Jews, who are depicted as something less than human that must be wiped off the face of the earth.

Make no mistake about it: the child in that video is being trained to kill any and every Jew that she can find. It does not matter if you are a religious Jew or a secular Jew, a right-wing Jew or a left-wing Jew: all that matters is that you are a Jew. This is no different than the Nazi ideology of Adolf Hitler. The only difference is that Hitler had the means at his disposal to massacre millions of Jews. If the Arab/Muslim nations had that capability they would do so. Oil-rich Iran is not developing a nuclear program in order to have enough sources of energy.

If Israel took down her protective barriers and dismantled her military forces, millions of Jews would be killed in short order. If the Arabs and Muslims could restrain themselves from killing Jewish babies for about one year, Israelis would be so overjoyed they would would gladly carve out territory to create a Palestinian Arab state. Israel has been giving up "land for peace" since the 1970s and all Israel has to show for this naive magnanimity is cemeteries filled with dead Jews; since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords (when Israel ceded control of almost all of Gaza and portions of Judea/Samaria in exchange for nothing more than paper promises of peace that were promptly disavowed and ignored), Arab/Muslim terrorists have killed more than 1500 Israelis in a variety of ways, including suicide bombings, rocket attacks launched from territory given up by Israel and snipers who deliberately targeted babies. In the decade preceding the Oslo Accords, Arab/Muslim terrorists killed 226 Israelis, so it is evident that Israeli concessions do not satiate Arab/Muslim bloodlust; each concession weakens Israel strategically and emboldens her enemies.

Arab/Muslim terrorists are regularly lauded by mainstream Arab/Muslim society as heroes; recently, the Palestinian Bar Association (which, like most Palestinian institutions, exists thanks to the direct or indirect financial support of Israel, the United States and the European Union) awarded an honorary law degree to a terrorist who stabbed two Israelis to death and also wounded a mother and her baby. Could you imagine the outcry if the American Bar Association honored someone who committed cold-blooded murder? I know that I would shred my ABA membership card if that unfortunate day ever arises.

When looking at the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is important to remember that the Arab/Muslim motto is "We love death more than you love life." This is not a land dispute. This is not something that can be resolved through rational negotiations; a democracy cannot negotiate with a death cult unless that democracy has a death wish. The Mideast is awash with blood as a result of the backward thinking, death-glorifying religious and political leaders who hold sway over most of the countries in the region. The idea that Israel's policies are the primary obstacle to peace is absurd and unfounded; the idea that the Middle East would become a peaceful utopia if only Israel would give up more land is dangerously naive. Do the advocates of these ideas really believe such nonsense? Do they really think that if they pressure Israel to give in to the bloodthirsty demands of genocidal terrorist nations and groups that this will promote peace?

Israel is often portrayed as a "colonialist" oppressor or even a supposedly genocidal state. Think about that for a minute. Israel is so small that she fits under your pinkie nail on a globe. In 1948, there were about three quarters of a million Arab refugees--and a similar number of Jewish refugees--in the wake of Israel's War of Independence. Israel's borders have been steadily shrinking for the past two decades and the number of Arab refugees has been exploding. If Israel is truly a "colonialist" oppressor with genocidal intent then she is the least effective such empire in the history of the world. Great Britain used to have an empire on which the sun never set; it would take you less than an hour to do a Sunday drive from one end of Israel's "empire" to the other.

No one doubts Israel's military capabilities; why has she not just wiped out/conquered all of her neighbors and kicked out all of the  Palestinian Arabs? Arab countries are at war with each other all the time and they constantly expel and/or massacre the Palestinian Arabs in their midst, with nary a peep from the rest of the world. If Israel is so evil and so bent on genocide then why doesn't Israel do the same thing? If Israel is building an empire then why does Israel give up lands that are holy to the Jewish people? When Jordan controlled Judea and Samaria from 1948-67, no Jew could set foot there and the headstones from the ancient Jewish cemetery were used as latrines. Since Israel liberated those areas, Jewish prayer at Jewish holy sites has been restricted by Israel in deference to Muslim sensibilities. Maybe you don't think that the accommodations Israel makes are good enough--but would any other country, let alone a "colonialist" oppressor, make such accommodations at all? Would any other country continue to make such accommodations while terrorists target defenseless men, women and children? Every time I hear some British politician spouting off his half-baked thoughts about what Israel should do and what Israel's strategic interests are I recall how Great Britain considered it vitally important to go to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. So, Great Britain has a vital strategic interest in South America but the Jewish State should not unite Jerusalem or build a wall to keep out suicide bombers? This brings to mind how the early 20th century Zionist leaders often reminded their British colonialist oppressors that Jerusalem was the Jewish national capital back when London was a small, insignificant settlement.

Take a good, long look at that video again. The evil being committed by that child's parents--the evil that the child's parents want her to commit in the near future--will not be quenched or satiated with the destruction of Israel. The nightmare that is being unleashed in Israel by genocidal terrorists will spread worldwide if it is not stopped now. I am consistently saddened and outraged when self-proclaimed "progressives" align themselves with Hamas and Iran against the so-called "colonialist oppressors" United States and Israel, as if Hamas and Iran give a damn about black people, women or gay people and as if Hamas and Iran stand for free speech, free thought, religious freedom and economic freedom.

Imagine a world without Israel. Do you really think that Syria will magically become tranquil? That democracy will spring forth in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the countries in the region? There are many elected Arab political leaders in Israel, several of whom are openly working to destroy Israel. How many elected Jewish political leaders are there in any Arab or Muslim country? How many elected political leaders in any Arab or Muslim country are black, female or gay? How many political leaders in any Arab or Muslim country are elected, period?

Life in America and Israel is really too good for "progressives" who sit in academic ivory towers or plush homes and act as if the enactment of their twisted ideologies would help anyone who is actually being oppressed. The madness that is spreading throughout the Middle East will only be inflamed and encouraged by the destruction of Israel.

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Here are some educational links from MEMRI:

1) The knife attacks on Israeli civilians are not random or amateurish. Instead of trying to build a functioning civilized society, Israel's so-called peace partners are making instructional videos about how to kill Jews. Here is one such video, titled "West Bank Intifada--Preparing a Knife for Stabbing." The instructor is wearing the garb of the Palestinian Authority, the terrorist organization to which Israel has been surrendering land since the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords.

2) Hamas cleric and TV host Sheikh Iyad Abu Funun recently said that he would swear on the Quran "that not a single Jew will remain on this land." He also declared, "We will not leave a single one of you, alive or dead, on this land. By Allah, we will dig up your bones from your graves and get them out of this country." He was speaking on Al-Aqsa TV on October 13, 2015. He added, "Let me say something clearly to the Zionists, something that should reach all those enemies--whether left-wing, right-wing, secular, religious, or extremist. Regardless of their appearance or the color of their skin, they are on the land of Islam, and the Muslims, on the land of the Prophet's nocturnal journey. Any of our enemies living on this land must understand that they have no place on this land."

Here is the video.

3) The way that mainstream Arab and Muslim organizations systematically train their children not just to hate Jews but to kill Jews is depraved and sickening. This is a quote from a children's show on a Palestinian TV channel: "We revere the young heroes who have sacrificed their lives for Jerusalem and who carried out all those great heroic acts."

Here is the video.

Pay attention to the thematic quote near the end: "They are more afraid than us. They love life."

4) The Jewish State has made the desert bloom and contributed immensely to the world scientifically, culturally and economically. The Jewish State's enemies are much better at tearing things down and blowing things up than building anything and they are proud of a culture that glorifies killing and death and encourages their children to kill and be killed.

Do you think that such bloodthirstiness will be contained to the Middle East? Do you think that if these people succeed in destroying Israel and killing every Jew there they will suddenly become civilized and peaceful? Do not fool yourself into believing that this is only about Israel or that the root cause of the problem is alleged Israeli oppression. There is a deep moral sickness infecting much of the Arab/Islamic world and the Arab/Islamic world needs to do a lot of soul-searching about this.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

 

Benjamin Netanyahu's Most Important Task

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's place in history will be determined mainly by one thing: whether or not he prevents Iran from using a nuclear weapon to cripple or destroy the Jewish State. A national government has many responsibilities but the foremost responsibility is to preserve the safety of its citizens, for otherwise the national government has no reason to exist (and, upon failing to keep that responsibility, the national government would cease to exist). For her entire existence, Israel has been besieged by enemies who have sworn to destroy her. Many Israeli Prime Ministers have had to make fateful decisions in moments of crisis. In 1981, Menachem Begin took the bold step of disabling Iraq's nuclear program; Begin had survived the Holocaust and he correctly recognized that his most important duty was to make sure that nothing like the Holocaust ever happened again. Israel's preemptive strike against the Osirak facility was roundly condemned at the time but greatly appreciated a decade later during the first Gulf War.

Netanyahu is no Begin and it is not at all clear that he is up to the task of doing whatever is necessary to ensure Israel's survival. Netanyahu already has plenty of Jewish blood on his hands from his first term as Prime Minister, including 10 month old Shalhevet Pass, who was shot and killed on March 26, 2001 by a PLO sniper operating from the very Hebron hills that Netanyahu foolishly surrendered to PLO enemies who have sworn to kill Jews and destroy the Jewish State.

Forget that the land that Netanyahu gave away is part of the ancient Jewish State. Forget even that the land is part of the Palestine Mandate that was supposed to be part of the modern Jewish State but was instead partitioned by the British and then illegally annexed by Jordan during Israel's War of Independence. Simply remember that the land was used by Jordan in a war of aggression against Israel in the Six Day War in 1967. Israel is under no legal or moral obligation to cede control of that territory to anyone, let alone a terrorist group founded three years before the Six Day War with a charter focused not on "liberating" Palestine but rather on destroying Israel (yes, the territories the PLO purportedly seeks to "liberate" were not controlled by Israel when the PLO was formed).

Thus, the cowardly precedent that Netanyahu set during his first term as Prime Minister hardly inspires confidence that he will stand up to Iran's military and negative public opinion from various quarters in order to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons, which is all but inevitable in the wake of the proposed agreement between the United States and Iran.

Caroline Glick optimistically believes that President Obama's disastrous deal with Iran could yet turn into a glorious defeat for Israel:

Last week's publication of audio recordings of former defense minister Ehud Barak discussing of Iran's nuclear program revealed that for the past several years, Israel's military and intelligence brass have blocked operations against Iran's nuclear installations three times. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 the IDF chief of General Staff and senior generals supported by hesitant cabinet members refused to carry out instructions they received from Netanyahu and Barak to prepare to carry out such a strike.

There is no doubt that one of the main reasons they opposed lawful instructions was their faith in Obama's security pledges...

Had Netanyahu kept his criticism of Obama's decision to give Iran a free hand to develop nuclear weapons quiet, the generals might have shrugged their shoulders and expressed gratitude for the shiny new weapons Obama will throw at them to "compensate" for giving nukes to a regime sworn to annihilate the country.

By making his opposition public, Netanyahu alerted the nation to the dangers. The top commanders can no longer pretend that US security guarantees are credible. Now they will be forced to kick their psychological addiction to worthless American security guarantees, accept reality and act accordingly.

Better eight years late than never.

The Americans weren't the only ones paying attention to Israel's fight. Israel's Arab neighbors also saw how Netanyahu and Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer left no stone unturned in their efforts to convince Democratic lawmakers to oppose it. And the regional implications are already becoming clear.

As the Saudis' willingness to stand with Israel in public to oppose this deal has shown, our neighbors have been deeply impressed by the diplomatic courage Israel has shown. If and when Israel strikes Iran's nuclear installations, our willingness to openly oppose the administration will weigh in our favor. It will impact our neighbors' willingness to cooperate in action aimed at removing Iran's nuclear sword from their necks and ours...

Obama's success will backfire first and foremost because thanks to Netanyahu's move to spearhead the public debate in the US, today two-thirds of Americans oppose the deal. Since Iran will waste no time proving just how devastating a mistake Obama and his fellow Democrats have just made, Obama's success makes him far less free to enact further steps against Israel than he was before the deal was concluded. The public no longer will give him the benefit of the doubt.

Moreover, since the deal is as bad as its opponents say it is, and given that most Americans oppose it, Obama's successor will face no impediments in canceling the deal and adopting a new policy towards Israel and Iran.


Hopefully Glick's analysis will be proven correct but it is disconcerting and alarming that on three occasions Netanyahu gave orders to destroy Iran's nuclear program only to see those orders disregarded. Since when do the inmates run the asylum? If that report is true, those generals should have been fired and put on trial for treason. Generals enact policy but they do not create it. What those generals did is the equivalent of a coup d'etat and, contrary to Glick's take on the situation, this suggests that Netanyahu talks a good game but lacks the power to put his ideology into action in a meaningful way. What kind of leader is disobeyed three times by his generals and takes no action?

Netanyahu is deluded if he is counting on meaningful help from the Saudis or any other Arab country. The Saudis may privately cheer if Israel destroys Iran's nuclear program but the Saudis will not help Israel to do so and the Saudis will publicly condemn Israel's "aggression" if Israel uses military force against any Arab or Muslim country, even if that country is an enemy of the Saudis.

Let no one misunderstand what is at stake here. Just like Adolf Hitler announced his program of genocide against the Jewish people very clearly in Mein Kampf, it is documented well past the point that any reasonable person could doubt that the destruction of Israel is a central policy goal of Iran:

The 1948 Genocide Convention lists incitement to commit genocide as a war crime. Much of the Iranian language regarding Israel can certainly be legally defined this way.

A common motif of incitement to genocide is the dehumanization of the target population. The Nazi weekly Der Stürmer portrayed Jews as parasites and locusts. In the early 1990s in Rwanda, Hutu propaganda described the Tutsis as "cockroaches." Before Saddam Hussein's operations against the Iraqi Shia population in 1991, his Baath Party newspaper characterized them as "monkey-faced people." Similarly, former President Ahmadinejad has called Israeli Jews "cattle," "blood-thirsty barbarians," and "criminals," while Iranian state-owned websites have explained why the destruction of Israel and the slaughter of its population would be justified. Dehumanization has also appeared in other forms, such as demonization, in which the target population is labeled "Satanic"--a theme repeatedly used by Iranian leaders to describe Israel.

In fact, according to Prof. Gregory Gordon, who served as a legal officer for the first post-Nuremberg prosecutions for incitement to genocide at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Iranian calls for Israel to be wiped off the map are "even more direct than much of the language from the Rwandan cases."

The following summary of Iranian leaders' anti-Israel statements from 2013 demonstrates the consistency of the regime's rhetoric, the clarity of its intentions, and the certainty of its beliefs. On top of all this, the statements serve as a reminder of the nature of a regime that is pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.

It is worth reading that article in its entirety to see all of the quotes--in English translation and in the original Persian--but here is a typical one from the Iranian Ministry of Defense: "If once the destruction and demise of occupying Israel was an impossible and unobtainable dream, today thanks to the historic and intelligent actions of Imam Khomeini, it has become possible and is actually in the process of occurring."

Iran intends to build nuclear weapons and it intends to use those weapons to destroy Israel, even at the cost of Muslim lives. Netanyahu's failure to protect Jewish babies from being intentionally targeted by Arab snipers is tragic but pales in comparison to what will happen if he is disobeyed by his generals for a fourth time. Nearly 40 years ago, Netanyahu's brother Yoni lost his life while leading a mission to rescue Jews from a hijacked airplane thousands of miles from Israel.
Back then, Israel understood her duty and her responsibility and acted with energy and courage. Now, with the stakes infinitely higher, Netanyahu must not fail.

Those who think that these words are hyperbolic or should only be of concern to Jews ought to recall the path that Hitler took. Hitler signed treaties with England and with Russia when it suited him and then he broke those treaties when it suited him. He initiated genocide against the Jewish people while the world reacted with indifference, at best--but Hitler's ultimate goal was not just to destroy the Jewish people but to conquer the world. Similarly, Iran's plan involves not just the destruction of Israel but a world-wide jihad. Iran's words and deeds should be taken seriously not just by Israel but by the entire world.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

 

Yeats' Warning About the "Passionate Intensity" of True Believers

In his poem "The Second Coming," William Butler Yeats warned, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." The sad profundity of this couplet is regularly on display in our troubled world, perhaps best encapsulated in Hamas' warning to Israel, "We love death more than you love life." The Hamas true believers are so passionate about their cause--the annihilation of the Jewish State as a prelude to making the non-Muslim world submit to Islam--that they are not only willing but eager to kill and be killed for it; meanwhile, after every outrage committed by Hamas--and by other terrorist groups--there is a vocal segment of the Western world that responds by asking, "How have we wronged these people?" Blaming the victim is neither a sound psychological approach nor the basis for a strong foreign policy. The sane response to extremist, uncompromising genocidal murderers is to do anything possible to stop them, as the West belatedly figured out regarding Nazi Germany.

In A Poet's Apocalyptic Vision, David Lehman describes how Yeats' poem is a "chilling statement of our condition" that "extrapolates a fearful vision from the moral anarchy of the present." Lehman adds that Yeats' powerful couplet "retains its authority as an observation and a warning. We may think of the absence of backbone with which certain right-minded individuals met the threats of National Socialism in the 1930s and of Islamist terrorism in the new century. Both dogmas demand of their followers a 'passionate intensity' capable of overwhelming all other considerations."

Perhaps the fastest way to offend someone in our world dominated by "political correctness" is to speak truth to power. Many people do not want to hear the truth, especially if the truth contradicts their deeply held beliefs. For instance, while it is sometimes true that there are two sides to a story it is also sometimes true that one side is simply right and the other side is simply wrong. It is not politically correct to speak of good and evil anymore but that does not mean that there is no such thing as good and evil.

The 9/11 attacks did not happen because of America's foreign policy decisions (which is not to say that all of those decision are beyond reproach) and those attacks were not the desperate but understandable actions of downtrodden people. The truth is that the 9/11 attacks were acts of unspeakable evil committed in the name of a backwards-thinking ideology that is determined to force the rest of the world to submit or die; some people spoke that truth in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and those people were deemed bigots, because the supposedly politically correct thing to do is to try to figure out what rational motivation caused the attackers to kill so many innocent people. The problem is that there was no rational motivation; there is no reasoning with people like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. If you try to reason with such people then you are only delaying the inevitable battle until the conditions of that battle are less favorable for you. Confronting Hitler in 1933 would have been easier than confronting him in 1936. By 1939, there was no longer a choice: Hitler had to be confronted and he had exploited six years of naive appeasement to build Germany into a world class military power.

If Western leaders are unwilling or able to learn from the political and historical lesson of how Hitler duped Chamberlain at Munich, then they should heed the poetic words that Yeats wrote after World War I before it becomes necessary for the 21st century Yeats to make similar declarations after World War III.

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