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Happy Hanukkah, and Hold the Politics

Although we are not at all Jewish, about three-fourths of our Bible is Old Testament and we have an abiding respect for both Judaism and Jews. If we were to host a Hanukkah party, therefore, we would take care not to turn it into an anti-Israel rally. Apparently the Obama administration has different notions of how to celebrate the holiday.
Last Wednesday’s began well enough with President Barack Obama cheerily offering some weak jokes and mostly anodyne comments, although we’re not sure if the part about the “unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States” was meant as a joke and the part about freedom of religion probably was meant to imply something about the ongoing controversy regarding Muslim immigration. He then turned the microphone over to Israel President Reuven Rivlin, who is not to be confused with the more outspoken and consequential Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he also told a couple of jokes and spoke about freedom of religion and did some serious sucking up to Obama. It was all quite convivial and mostly uncontroversial, but then Rabbi Susan Talve of St. Louis seized the floor and took things in a very different direction.
Talve is a prominent member of the group T’ruah, which urges boycotts and divestment and sanctions against Israel, has been involved in the “Black Lives Matter” protests that have largely destroyed a St. Louis suburb because of false claims about a police shooting there, and there’s no doubt that’s why she chosen for the honor of lighting the White House menorah. Instead of speaking about the religious meaning of the ritual, or the miracle it represents, or even the current relevance of the Maccabees’ brave struggle against Syrian invaders, chose to spew a litany of leftist tropes about everything from gun control to toxic waste to transgender rights, and of course spent most of time on “justice for Palestine,” complete with shouts of “Ins’Allah,” which is Arabic for “Allah willing,” and of course a plea to take in as many refugees from the Syria that attacked the Maccabees. There was no mention of God or scripture, nothing about the faith that was being celebrated, and certainly no acknowledgment that the Jewish homeland is still constantly threatened with annihilation.
Talve’s tirade was widely criticized by many Jews, even some who agree with her views when they are expressed at a more secular forum, but we would hope that all people of faith will share their indignation. The insult to Jewish people was deliberate and gratuitous, just as Obama’s choice of the National Prayer Breakfast to tell Christians “not to get on their high horse” about the latest Islamic outrages because of what happened in the long ago Crusades to repel Islamic imperialism was a also a deliberate and gratuitous insult. One cannot imagine Obama doing any such thing at the annual Ramadan and Eid al-Hada dinners he hosts, but otherwise he seems to believe there should be no sacred space where politics cannot intrude. Politics is all that modern liberalism holds sacred, and that threatens all people of faith.

Most of our Jewish friends are quite political, usually in ways that provoke friendly arguments, but we’ll leave those for later and wish you a most happy Hanukkah, and pray for the continued existence of Jewish homeland.

— Bud Norman

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Foul Language and Fouler Policies

The vulgar language an unnamed senior White House official used to describe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is getting all the attention, but The Atlantic Monthly story headlined “The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations is Officially Here” is full of far more disturbing revelations. Even a crisis in America’s relationship with its most important Middle East ally might not be the worst of it.
Not that the vulgarity isn’t worth noting. The unnamed senior White House official used a barnyard epithet commonly understood to mean coward, which is a most peculiar slander against a former special forces soldier who fought with distinction in two wars and a series of daring missions and as Prime Minister has led his country through existential wars, and odder yet coming from an official speaking on behalf of a former community organizer who will never be mistaken for Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and has long made clear that he considers Netanyahu all too inclined to fight. Senior White House officials astute enough to remain unnamed are not likely to have let such a phrase slip out accidentally, so one can only assume that the insult was carefully chosen.
What renders the insult completely absurd, however, is that the official was accusing Netanyahu of cowardice for failing to launch a war against Iran that the United States government has exerted great effort to prevent. The unnamed senior White House official even boasts that Israel’s failure to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons program “was a combination of our pressure and (Netanyahu’s) own unwillingness to do anything dramatic.” So the administration will deliberately insult a key ally as a coward for not doing something they had pressured him not to do, a mindset far more worrisome than the juvenile language used to express it. Netanyahu is also faulted for failing to “reach an accommodation with the Palestinians and Sunni Arab states,” as if a Palestinian government that lobs rockets at Israeli civilians and proudly proclaims its desire to destroy the Jewish state has any interest in making peace, and as if the Sunni Arab states aren’t currently more worried about the nuclear program in Shiite and Persian Iran that the United States has restrained Israel from destroying, so there’s no mistaking that America is pursuing a Middle Eastern policy based on false assumptions.
The historically crucial relationship between Israel and the United States can be repaired by a new administration in this country, and Netanyahu has proved himself brave enough to continue the defense of his country no matter what unnamed senior White House officials might think of it, but the article hints at possibilities that will be harder for future presidents to deal with. Written by a noted sycophant for the White House and clearly intended to convey its sneering contempt for a key ally, the article credits the administration’s cunning use of an Israeli for “what turned out to be an effective sanctions regime,” but it fails to mention that the sanctions have been weakened and the nuclear program continues and doesn’t seem to notice that unnamed senior White House official seems mostly relieved that it’s “Now too late” for a military strike that would end it. That pressure that the official boasts about was achieved largely with promises that America will never allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon, but at this point even a sycophantic article in The Atlantic Monthly leaves an unmistakeable impression that was just another promise never intended to be kept. No one named or unnamed in the administration speaks as harshly of Iran’s brutal theocratic rulers as they do about the leader of the one humane and democratic nation in the region, the White House has kept its “open hand” policy intact despite the worries it causes those Sunni Arab nations that Israel is expected to accommodate, further overtures to the Iranians have been made in the futile hope they will help in our desultory efforts to fight the Islamic State terror gang that continues to gain territory in Iraq, and an Iranian bomb now seems a fait accompli.
Senior White House officials can be expected to deliver on-the-record speeches about containment and moral equivalence and deterrence and other reasons not to be worried about a nuclear bomb in the hands of a government that routinely shouts “Death to America,” but we will not be reassured. Cold War analogies are always suspect coming from a party that advised surrender in that conflict starting with the McGovern campaign and continues to decrease America’s nuclear defenses, and the mutually assured destruction that worked with an officially atheist communist government might not work out as well with an apocalyptic suicide cult hoping to bring about the arrival of the twelfth mahdi and the prophesied end times. Those Sunni Arab states that the administration wants the Israelis to appease will probably seek their accommodations with Pakistan-provided nuclear weapons of their own when their mortal enemy acquires one, especially when it has been made so clear that America’s protection cannot be counted on, and a nuclear arms race in a region so riven with ancient hatreds and fanaticism is unlikely to end well. At that point, even the most vulgar language will be required to describe the outcome.

— Bud Norman

Crossroads, Paths to Peace, and Blah Blah Blah

That speech President Barack Obama gave to the United Nations’ General Assembly on Wednesday wasn’t all bad, but the good parts were a begrudging repudiation of his past statements and the rest of it was just awful.
There was at last an acknowledgement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the reason for the Middle East’s dysfunctions, an “illusion” that has previously formed the basis of administration policy, but of course it was accompanied by a claim that “the violence engulfing the region has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace.” There was some needed tough talk about Russia’s recent aggressions in Ukraine and America’s commitment to its NATO obligations, which had been described in a previous UN address as “relics of the Cold War,” but except for the very non-lethal aid and ineffectual sanctions that he boasted of nothing that will do any good for the Ukrainians. There was a heartening claim that “America is and will continue to be a Pacific power,” but nothing about funding the Navy at the levels it needs to make that claim more than mere bluster. There was also some talk about how Iran must not let his generously provided opportunities to abandon its nuclear weapons program pass, but nothing specific about what might happen if they continue building the bomb.
The rest of it probably had the assembled delegates, good guys and bad guys alike, rolling their eyes. After opening with some happy talk about what a great time it is to be alive and some flattery about the UN’s role in bringing about this golden era, without bother to apologize for not asking the body’s permission to conduct his various bombing campaigns around the unprecedentedly peaceful globe, he humbly admitted that there is nonetheless a “pervasive unease in our world.” He attributes this to the “failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world,” his previous flattery of the UN notwithstanding, and to “violent extremism.” That failure of the international system presumably refers to Russia’s and China’s failure to secure UN approval for their ambitions, but he made clear that he didn’t blame any that violent extremism on Islam. Even as he was raining missiles down on a group calling itself the Islamic State because it has lately been following Islam’s clearly stated Koranic commandments to behead infidels and conquer new territory he stressed that it had nothing to do with their religious affiliations.
Even in a speech full of such of euphemistically described threats, he found time to throw in some blather about eradicating world poverty while simultaneously advocating crippling the world’s economies with useless regulations to combat the non-existent threat of climate change. There was also the obligatory confession of America’s sins, specifically the shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, that the president can’t possibly know was justified or not, with no mention of the far more numerous shootings of black teenagers by other black teenagers, along with a reference to the wars fought between Christians some centuries ago.
Worse yet, such nonsense was wrapped in the most hackneyed cliches about crossroads and different paths and young people yearning for a better world, along with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt of all people. The president was first elected on a widespread hope that his soaring oratory and personal awesomeness would suffice to bring about world peace, but it doesn’t seem likely to pan out.

— Bud Norman

Another Tape-Recorded Rant of Stupidity

By now just about everybody in America is feeling a satisfying sense of outrage about that creepy octogenarian basketball team owner’s stupid comments to his gold-digging girlfriend, but we hope the country can spare some indignation for the stupid comments Secretary of State John Kerry has lately been making.
Kerry has been making stupid comments ever since he launched his public service career by slandering his fellow veterans back during the Vietnam War, and made enough of them during his ill-fated presidential campaign to lose to George W. Bush, but his efforts to negotiate a peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories has inspired him to new heights of stupidity. The latest was his complaint to a roomful of influential world leaders that if Israel doesn’t agree to his preposterous proposal it will become an “apartheid state.” As with the case of that creepy octogenarian basketball team owner the remarks were surreptitiously taped and leaked to the press, causing considerable embarrassment.
Members of Congress from both parties quickly denounced the statement, with Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz going so far as to call for Kerry’s resignation, and even the administration’s most loyal media have expressed disapproval. Even President Barack Obama has explicitly rejected the “apartheid” characterization of Israel, despite his own apparent disdain for the country, and outside the most Jew-hating corners of the Muslim world few have come to Kerry’s defense. The outcry wasn’t so loud as the one over the creepy octogenarian basketball team owner, probably because there was no comely 26-year-old mistress involved, but it was sufficient to cause Kerry to offer a half-hearted apology. “I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional,” Kerry wrote in a State Department press release, “and if I could rewind the tape I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution.”
Which is yet another stupid comment. Kerry is reiterating his previous stupid comment that the peace negotiations went “poof” because the Israelis were too slow in releasing several terrorists who would immediately resume their war against the Jewish state, and reluctant to agree to other of Kerry’s outrageous demands, ignoring that the Palestinian Authority negotiators had announced their intention of forming a coalition government with the Hamas terrorist organization that remains openly committed to the destruction of Israel. Kerry might wish he had found a more artful term to express his obvious hostility toward Israel, but he is clearly unwilling to apology for the animus itself. This is as stupid as Kerry’s arrogant belief that he could bring peace to the Middle East by forcing the Israelis to accept a suicidal capitulation to a Palestinian people who won’t accept anything less than another Holocaust, and merits public scorn.
Kerry’s comments aren’t quite so salacious as those by the creepy octogenarian basketball team owner, now can their stupidity be as easily understood by the sports talk radio audience, but they’re far more consequentially stupid.

— Bud Norman

Meanwhile, in the Rest of the World

All of the attention is currently focused on the continuing train wreck that is Obamacare, naturally enough, but it is worth noting that America’s foreign policy is also going off the rails.
The last time Americans took notice of the rest of the world was when President Barack Obama tried unsuccessfully to whip up some enthusiasm for a bigger-than-a-pinprick-but-still-“unbelievably-small” war in Syria, and when that crisis was outsourced to Russian President Vladimir Putin and receded from the headlines the country happily resumed its inward gaze. Without an imminent threat of war, even an unbelievably small one, most people assumed that except for the unpleasantness in that Kenyan shopping mall and the usual massacres of Christians in Pakistan and Nigeria all was once again well with the world. Our international relations have actually been going so badly, though, that the results are starting up in the midst of all those horror stories about Obamacare.
Even The Washington Post, which is usually loathe to report anything embarrassing to the administration, seems alarmed by America’s recent estrangement from Saudi Arabia. The paper’s veteran foreign affairs writer David Ignatius likens the situation to a car wreck, the train wreck metaphor apparently having been reserved for the Obamacare stories, and although he allots some of the blame to the Saudis he does not spare the Obama administration his criticism. He notes that in the past week Saudi Arabia has declined to take a seat on the United Nations’ Security Council as a deliberate affront to America, and notes that the former Saudi intelligence chief publicly expressed “a high level of disappoint” in America’s stands on Syria and Palestine. There’s also a great deal of Saudi disappointment in America’s weak response to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which threaten all of the Arab and Sunni Islam world, and in Obama’s support for the radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere, and a “knowledgeable Arab official” is quoted as saying that the Saudi monarch “is convinced the U.S. is unreliable.”
The Saudi monarch is a terror-loving tyrant running a backwards and troublesome land with typical Middle Eastern brutality, but his country has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the region since Franklin Roosevelt started sucking up to it back in the ‘30s. Losing Saudi Arabia to the Russian sphere of influence, along with its considerable economic clout and central position in the Muslim world, is a worrisome development. Worse yet, this time the Saudi’s concerns are all quite reasonable, except for the lack of appreciation for America’s Israel-bashing attempts to coddle the Palestinians, and are shared by such essential allies as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and of course Israel, which has its own reasons to worry about Iranian nuclear bombs and American fecklessness. Throw in the reports that Secretary of State John Kerry is facing the same sort of dissent within his own State Department over the still-lingering-despite-the-news-blackout Syrian civil war, and America’s Middle Eastern policy seems in complete disrepair.
Crucial allies in other parts of the world have also been dissatisfied with America’s conduct in recent years. In Germany, where Obama was treated as a sort of messiah when he spoke to an adoring throng while campaigning there for some reason or another during the ’08 campaign, the big story if Chancellor Angela Merkel’s anger at the revelation America had been listening in on her cell phone conversations. White House spokesman Jay Carney has huffily denied that America is doing any such thing, but he conspicuously declined to deny that America has done in the past, and the omission did not go unnoticed in Germany. Revelations about the National Security Agency’s extensive data-gathering outraged many of the Americans whose phone records and internet use were being monitored, even if the press politely let the topic drop from the news, but Germans who are still smarting from the snoopiness of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany and the Gestapo of an earlier era are understandably even touchier about such things. The rest of Europe seems miffed, too, and its Parliament has now threatened to stop cooperating with American intelligence efforts.
Obama won the presidency and wowed those naïve German crowds by promising to make America the most popular kid in the international school cafeteria, but that seems to be going about as well as the promises that Obamacare would lower your insurance premiums, allow you to keep your coverage, and be a model of bureaucratic efficiency.

— Bud Norman