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Ron Radosh

Recently, a few conservative intellectuals have raised serious questions about the College Board’s effort to develop a new curriculum for the Advanced Placement history courses. Stanley Kurtz, at National Review Online, writes that “this Framework will effectively force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a leftist perspective.” Naturally, the College Board argues that its intent is only to provide “balance,” to streamline the curriculum, and to enhance teacher flexibility. In other words, all benign matters that educators should welcome.

Are Kurtz and the other critics, like National Association of Scholars executive Peter Wood, right in their criticism? Wood argues in a preliminary report, like Kurtz, that “this newest revision, however, is radical.” The board, he notes, citing other critics, is substituting a specific curriculum in place of their previous broad frameworks, promoting a negative view of the United States, and erasing major figures (the Founding Fathers, of course) from American history.

Wood is concerned that “perhaps more than other parts of the college curriculum,” the board is turning history “into a platform for political advocacy and for animus against traditional American values.”  Moreover, he thinks that the “College Board has turned AP U.S. History into a briefing document on progressive and leftist views of the American past.  It is something that weaves together a vaguely Marxist or at least materialist reading of the key events with the whole litany of identity group grievances.”

We have seen this particularly in the books of Howard Zinn and his followers, and in the book and video series on World War II and the Cold War by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick. And, as we know, their works are widely adopted in the assigned readings of many high school teachers and college professors. Within the academy, there has also been a widespread adoption of monographs that are based on race, class and gender to the exclusion of the old type of political history that once exemplified the best the profession had to offer.

These charges have led to an attack on the board’s critics, as revealed in this harsh column in the Los Angeles Times by  columnist Michael Hiltzik. Its blaring headline reads: “The right wing steps up its attack on the teaching of U.S. history.” Rather than address the substance of the claims made by critics like Wood and Kurtz, Hiltzik offers his readers a standard left-wing McCarthyite smear, arguing that it is nothing less than “an anti-intellectual assault.” He accuses Kurtz of declaring that a “grand conspiracy” exists made up of left-leaning history professors to emasculate their profession by belying the concept of “American exceptionalism.” (Kurtz’s answer to Hiltzik can be found here.)

To weigh the accuracy of the claims made by Kurtz and Wood, I read the College Board report. As a historian of recent America, 1900 to the present, and U.S. foreign policy in the 20th century, I evaluated what the curriculum offers in the area of my own expertise. I’ll start with Period 7, 1890-1945. Take as an example how it frames questions about Progressivism and the New Deal. The report puts it this way:

Progressive reformers responded to economic instability, social inequality, and political corruption by calling for government intervention in the economy, expanded democracy, greater social justice, and conservation of natural resources.

There is no indication that Progressive reform actually may have been instituted by corporate regulators for their own benefit, at the expense of small manufacturers and producers. This argument, by historians like Gabriel Kolko, James Weinstein and Martin J.Sklar, whose pioneering work changed the standard view of progressivism, is not even raised as an alternative way to comprehend the Progressive era. The paragraph, as structured, reflects the old traditional left/liberal view of the Progressive Era, and takes it as a given.

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In July of 1945, an organization called the Friends of the Haganah was created by American Jews, to support the defense forces of the Jewish community in Palestine. They knew that the Yishuv — the name of the Palestinian Jews who had built up the basis for a future state — were living under the dire threat of constant attacks by the surrounding Arab states.

How things have changed. Nowhere has this been illustrated better than in the recent petition signed by over 200 American historians (who now claim over 1000 signatures), condemning Israel for its “disproportionate” use of force and demanding the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a permanent end of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and most telling of all, the suspension of US military aid to Israel, until such time that aid is no longer used for “the commission of war crimes.” Nowhere in the petition is Hamas mentioned. (The list of those who were the initial signers and writers of the petition can be found here.) In essence, those who signed the document can be called “the Friends of Hamas.”

As a historian who has studied the American far Left for many years, and decades ago was part of, I immediately noticed that many on the initial list of signers are veterans of the already old New Left and either supporters of or fellow-travelers of the defunct  Soviet Union and the Communist movement. Indeed, I know many of them personally, and are aware of their old affiliations and political allegiances.

The petition is a document created by a group called “Historians Against the War.” It refers not to the current war in Gaza, but to the war in Iraq, as exemplified by a panel sponsored by the group held about it in 2003, which I wrote about here.  It is commonly believed that the group actually had its origins in the effort by leftist historians to create a caucus within the historical profession made up of historians opposed to the war in Vietnam. Then, and now, the group was composed of historians of the far Left. At their start, and it is hard to imagine, they were actually a minority of the historical profession.

What is different about this anti-Israel petition, is that the signers are writing not simply as American citizens opposed to Israel, but as “historians,” whose credentials are being used as evidence that their position in the profession gives them more expertise to comment on Israel’s would be perfidy. As historian K.C. Johnson writes at Minding the Campus, “This approach is odd given that many of the organizing signatories appear to have no academic specialty in U.S. foreign relations, Israeli history, or Palestinian history, the subjects of the petition.” To put it bluntly, the claim to be speaking as historians is nothing less than an attempt to fool the gullible into listening to them. Undoubtedly they are intelligent, Johnson says — a claim that I actually dispute — but, he adds, “they seem to possess no more academic qualifications to comment on U.S. foreign policy or Israeli-Palestinian security relations than random people wandering Central Park.”

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Hillary Clinton’s recent Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg has produced a storm, both by comments from the usual pundits as well as among the ranks of the left-wing of the already very liberal/left Democratic Party. Many conservatives have responded by calling attention to Hillary’s obvious failures, to write off what she has had to say as of no consequence except for revealing her hypocrisy. No one put it better than Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. He dubs her arguments as nothing but her “self re-invention as a hawk,” made because she “belatedly needs to disavow the consequences of the policies she once advocated,” and possibly because “she believes in whatever she says, at least at the time she’s saying it.”

I fully understand Stephens’ reaction to what Hillary Clinton said in the interview, but I think he neglects to take into consideration evidence that indicates she, while serving as his secretary of State, privately fought him tooth and nail, and presented advice that Obama rejected.

Read this article by Daily Beast writer Josh Rogin for a presentation of evidence for this argument. Rogin writes:

Clinton and her senior staff warned the White House multiple times before she left office that the Syrian civil war was getting worse, that working with the civilian opposition was not enough, and that the extremists were gaining ground. The United States needed to engage directly with the Free Syrian Army, they argued; the loose conglomeration of armed rebel groups was more moderate than the Islamic forces — and begging for help from the United States. According to several administration officials who were there, her State Department also warned the White House that Iraq could fall victim to the growing instability in Syria. It was all part of a State Department plea to the president to pursue a different policy.

Stephens correctly cites Hillary’s well-known errors: favoring diplomatic engagement with Iran; the early praising of Bashar Assad as a “reformer”; favoring a “reset” of relations with Vladimir Putin’s Russia; her attacks on Bibi Netanyahu when demanded by the president; and her support for Mubarak in Egypt. Others add what they see as her attempts to cover up her failures over the murders by Islamists of four Americans in Benghazi.

But see what Hillary had to say in her interview. She includes the neglected advice on dealing with Syria and Assad by arming moderate rebels, and her equation of the fight against both communism and fascism with the fight against Islamism — her understanding that jihadist groups’ “raison d’être is to be against the West,” and hence they must be contained, deterred, and defeated. She also called for a tough policy to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, and showed that she opposes the Obama policy one can rightfully call appeasement. She continues to argue that Obama’s Syria policy was a complete failure, one that led to ISIS, a group far more extreme than even the Taliban.  She writes that during the Cold War, “we did have a kind of overreaching framework about what we were trying to do that did lead to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism,” an objective which the U.S. “achieved.” As she said in the most quoted part of the interview, “Don’t do stupid stuff” is “not an organizational strategy.”

Most importantly, Hillary Clinton defended Israel in the strongest possible terms, at a moment when most Democrats are turning away from any support of the Jewish state, and when the entire Western Left is opposed to its very existence. She cites anti-Semitism as one great motive behind the attacks on Israel, calling the gang-up on Israel “uncalled for and unfair.” She blasts Hamas as the sole culprit responsible for the recent Gaza war, for stage-managing what journalists could be allowed to report from Gaza, noting: “There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position.” Finally, she says that “the ultimate responsibility [for the Gaza war] has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.”

She went so far as to praise Netanyahu by saying: “If I were the prime minister of Israel, you’re damn right I would expect to have control over security [on the West Bank], because even if I’m dealing with Abbas, who is 79 years old, and other members of Fatah, who are enjoying a better lifestyle and making money on all kinds of things, that does not protect Israel from the influx of Hamas or cross-border attacks from anywhere else. With Syria and Iraq, it is all one big threat. So Netanyahu could not do this in good conscience.”

Republicans and conservatives cannot complain that Democrats are abandoning Israel, and then when a leading Democrats boldly comes to Israel’s defense, attack them for doing so. After all, Hillary is hardly endearing herself to the left-wing base of the Democrat Party by taking this stance.

Indeed, recent polls show that the position she has staked out is causing her support to quickly erode, making many Democrats favorable to a challenge to Hillary from her left. According to these polls, she is also losing ground among the vital independent vote. Joe Scarborough has a few times called Hillary “a neo-con’s neo-con,” and as if to prove that point, the Weekly Standard wickedly ran her comments online as a guest editorial, signed “Hillary Rodham Clinton, for the editors.”

It is also clear that today, many Republicans and conservatives are leaning towards the non-interventionist position advocated by Senator Rand Paul and libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, as well as the editors and writers of Reason magazine and The American Conservative. Hillary’s position may lead Paul’s supporters to double their effort to make him the Republican presidential candidate in 2016.

Is she being politically shrewd? I doubt it. Perhaps these are really her views, and she believed that for the good of the country, she had to present them. She may have indeed not acted upon them when she was in the administration, and did things she privately did not believe in, such as her soft policy on Putin. Hypocritical or not, I thank Hillary for saying what had to be said, and for espousing a policy that harks back to that of the Cold War liberals in Harry Truman’s days — that of a muscular liberal interventionism that was committed to fight tyranny and destroy totalitarian regimes.

The American Left used to be patriotic. In its heyday, Eugene V. Debs never attacked America, and the socialist vision he advocated was in his eyes a way to realize the promise of America. As for the American Communist Party, in reality the tool of Stalin’s USSR, it pretended in the 1940s to be pro-American, and its chairman, Earl Browder, coined the slogan “Communism is 20th century Americanism.” This pretense came to an end during the Cold War, when the Left supported the Soviet bloc and all of its policies, and argued that America was in the process of becoming a nascent fascist state.

The remnants of the ’60s New Left identified with America’s new enemies, especially North Vietnam, Communist Cuba, the PLO, and, in the ’80s, Sandinista Nicaragua. After 9/11, many of its adherents took the position that the United States had the terror attack coming to it, since the perpetrators had taken 3000 lives in protest against America’s imperial ambitions and control.

This led Michael Walzer, the social-democratic intellectual, to pen an article called “Can There Be a Decent Left?” Walzer courageously took on many of those on his side of the spectrum, hitting them for accepting the “blame America first” doctrine to explain foreign policy defeats; for not criticizing any peoples or nations in the Third World; for believing in what he called “rag-tag Marxism”; for failing to oppose dangerous jihadists and Islamist states; and for refusing to blame anyone else for the world’s wrong except the United States.

I wonder what Walzer would write today if he examined his article anew. If one looks around at the Left’s response to Hamas’ actions in Gaza and its attacks on Israel, and its view of Islamist fascism in countries like Iran, Syria and among the ISIS forces seeking to take over Iraq, it is clearer than ever that the Left has one function — to support the enemies of democracy. Operating in the United States, Britain and France, the Western Left takes the opportunity to speak freely in the democracies in which they live, to openly support and express their solidarity with democracy’s most fervent enemies.

Some would question why this Left, perhaps numerically small in terms of the entire population of the Western nations, is so important. Aren’t they really marginal? The answer is that in the United States, as well as in Great Britain, the positions of the far left have now become mainstream, and influence those in political power. So it is with the Democratic Party.

On these questions, the answer of the left-liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and the even further far left-wing base, makes the Democrats as an entire group unable to take any steps that endanger their electoral chances, unless the party’s leaders continually kowtow to the leftist base. They fear that if they took tough interventionist positions that would offend them, it might lead the Left to opt out of voting in the coming November elections, as well as not rallying behind whomever the Democrats pick as their candidate for the 2016 presidential race. There are, of course, some exceptions. Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey is one Democrat who has continually called for tough measures against Iran, much to the consternation of others in his own party.

Obama, as the New York Times’ Peter Baker explains, has spent his entire time as president doing everything to end any military action by the U.S. in Iraq, not even leaving a residual force that could be used should it become necessary. And yet, the force of events has led him to intervene with air strikes against the ISIS (or ISIL) in the very country he thought he’d never have to use the American military in any capacity. Now he has to contend with the possibility that should ISIS manage to move to take over Irbil and move closer to Baghdad, he very well might have to consider extending the range of his current action.

The left-wing of the Democratic Party is not happy. Baker interviewed Phyllis Bennis, who works at the far-left Institute for Policy Studies (not, as Baker describes it,“a research organization for peace activists”). The NYT does not let its readers know that Bennis herself is a person who believes that Israel’s very creation was illegitimate, and who supports “the right of return” and has previously criticized moves taken by Israel against Hamas. As for the IPS, as one can find at Discover the Networks, during the Cold War it was a major group disseminating Soviet disinformation and working to push the United States to the far left.

It is not surprising to find that Bennis told Baker that Obama’s action “is a slippery slope if I ever saw one,” and that “whatever else we may have learned from the President’s ‘dumb war,’ it should be entirely clear that we cannot bomb Islamist extremists into submission or disappearance.” Bennis does not suggest what course she thinks the U.S. should take to deal with its dangerous enemies, perhaps because what worries her is not their goals, but America responding to the danger at all.

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Once Israel destroys all the tunnels it can find dug by Hamas and withdraws its troops, demands will again be made on Prime Minister Netanyahu to agree to sit down with Hamas and work out a lasting cease-fire as well as a peace agreement. We know that as of today, Hamas’ leadership has said any such agreement must include the complete opening up of the borders on all sides of Gaza, and a lifting of the blockade imposed by Israel. Hamas’ leadership has made it most clear that they will not agree to any arrangement that does not satisfy all of their demands.

Why does Hamas make it crystal clear that it will not accept any real peace that does not give it what it desires? What else does Hamas want and why is it so determined to destroy Israel? What ideology do its leaders and members subscribe to? These are the questions most of the media fail to ask.

Today, in a pathbreaking and revealing interview, Nic Robertson of CNN sat down in Qatar — Hamas’ protector — with Hamas’ political leader, Khaled Mashaal. Robertson did not mince words, and asked Mashaal the tough questions he obviously did not expect.

Both the Israeli and American narrative, Mashaal said, was a “lie.” Hamas’ leader actually said with a straight face that Hamas did not fire rockets from schools, mosques and other populated areas, and never put the people of Gaza in harm’s way. Israeli rockets, he said, were purposefully aimed at civilian inhabitants. Moreover, he continued to claim that the thousands killed in Gaza by Israel’s forces, when compared to the relatively few Israeli deaths, is proof enough that it is Israel alone that was guilty of intentionally killing civilian non-combatants.

Robertson stood out from all his media counterparts in not letting Mashaal get away with such drivel. He pointed out that if there were not as many Israeli casualties, it was not for the lack of Hamas trying. The “Iron Dome” has saved Israeli lives, and Hamas seeks to fire so many rockets in the hope that some will get by Iron Dome’s capabilities and explode in civilian areas.

Mashaal told Robertson the following:

We are stronger than they are in the justness of our cause. We are the rightful owners of the land, and they are the thieves of the land. We are the victims and they are the murderers. But despite this we might not win a battle or two completely, but at the end we will win the war. Our steadfastness is a victory. To kill their soldiers while they kill our civilians is also a victory for the Palestinian cause and Hamas.

To understand what Hamas is all about, one has to turn to historian Jeffrey Herf’s important article about the organization. Based on a close reading of the Hamas charter, Herf shows that its aims and its ideology and philosophy are “rooted in the totalitarianism and radical anti-Semitism that has undergirded Islamism since its rise in the 1930s and 1940s.”  This truth, he correctly writes, is one “unnoticed by reporters, editors, and pundits who race to comment on Hamas’ war with Israel.”

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On Sunday, Lincoln Center Out of Doors hosted the third of five days of “New York City Honors Pete Seeger,” or Seegerfest, as the events are called. This was the festival’s main event. A concert featured artists singing songs Seeger was associated with, like “The Hammer Song,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and, of course, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The artists included old-time folkies like Judy Collins, who opened the program, Fred Hellerman of The Weavers, the popular children’s singer Dan Zanes, banjo master Tony Trischka, Tom Chapin and the Chapin sisters, and Jay Ungar and Molly Mason. The artists were a who’s-who of the ’60s folk revival and their current descendants.

Pete Seeger certainly deserves to be remembered. He was the father of the folk revival, the man who almost singlehandedly brought the 5-string banjo to popularity, and who furthered the careers of many people, including a young Bob Dylan. He mastered old-time ballads from Appalachia and the Smoky Mountains, African-American songs from the South and from the days of slavery, sea shanties, and just about everything else folk musicians perform.

But Seeger’s blind spots were his persistent Stalinism, his decades-long love affair with the American Communist Party, and his tendency to endorse and support almost every far-left campaign that asked him to sign on.

Significantly, his very last political act was to join those opponents of Israel who created the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, which is dedicated to Israel’s demise and which blames the Jewish state for the entire Mideast’s woes.

The radical far-left politics of the day was symbolized by Seeger’s daughter, Tinya, who gave a pep talk about freeing Leonard Peltier — an American Indian activist found guilty of murdering FBI agents. She noted her father came to Peltier’s defense also. As usual, all the guilty who are politically Left are declared “political prisoners,” a term quickly extended to all American blacks who are serving prison sentences.

In an intermission interview with Lincoln Center’s TV host, singer Tom Chapin was perhaps the only artist who said that he didn’t come for the politics. He urged the TV audience to concentrate on the music. Alas, Seeger’s politics were intrinsic to his music. And more and more, his concerts became rallying grounds for the ultra-sectarian left-wing on campuses and elsewhere, whose main cause these days is hatred of Israel.

There were a few speeches from old timers who were Seeger’s friends over the years. The most prominent was 88-year-old Harry Belafonte, dapper and looking terrific for his age. He long ago lost his voice, but he spoke of how Seeger stood for human rights and peace when everyone else looked away. He praised Seeger’s act of defiance in 1952: Seeger refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, invoking the First Amendment and arguing that to ask one’s political affiliations violated his right to free speech that was guaranteed by the Constitution.

One did not need to have Seeger own up to his political beliefs before the HUAC, since everyone who knew where he stood knew he continually followed the Communist Party line, whatever it was at any moment. In an interview, Seeger actually said he had no interest in being any kind of Marxist scholar, but explained: “We trusted the Communists to know generally the right thing that we should be pushing for, whether it was peace or war.” To put it bluntly, he depended on the party’s commissars to do his thinking.

Belafonte compared Seeger to only one other artist who joined with Seeger in the movement, the noted African-American actor, baritone, football player, and lawyer Paul Robeson. Belafonte, who considers Robeson his mentor, was one of the most prominent defenders of Stalin’s reign, and for his efforts defending the Soviet tyrant, he was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize.

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Writing on these pages a few years ago, I called Nicholas Kristof “the worst columnist in the Sunday New York Times.” That may have been somewhat of an exaggeration, although I tried to make out a careful case for my claim. At any rate, Kristof read it, and actually tweeted my column with a sarcastic comment.

Today Mr. Kristof vies for the title once again. This time, he reveals himself to be nothing less than the Apostle of Moral Equivalence. His topic is the fighting now going on in Gaza, as the IDF is doing its best to dismantle the scores of secret tunnels by which Hamas has been hoping to get both its troops and weaponry into Israel. As for Hamas,  David Horovitz, editor of The Times of Israel, lays out its objective in clear and precise terms:

Its overall stated objective remains the destruction of the State of Israel. Its interim objective is ensuring that its rule in Gaza is maintained and flourishes, at maximal pain to Israel, and no matter what the cost to Gazans. As the deputy head of its political bureau Moussa Abu Marzouk told Mahmoud Abbas last week in Cairo, “What are 200 martyrs compared with lifting the siege?” — a reference to the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade that had so weakened the Gaza economy and thus so harmed Hamas’s standing in Gaza before this round of conflict erupted.

The fighting, then, is the result of Hamas’ decision to attack Israel on a daily basis with thousands of rockets—some of which are able to reach far into Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Bill Clinton understands this. Here reprinted in full is his candid explanation, given to an interviewer without any hesitation:

Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets into Israel. They fired one thousand and they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.

They (Israel) know when Hamas attacks them that Hamas has set up a situation which politically it can’t lose, because they (Israelis) can say ‘well if I attack them back they always hide behind civilians and I’ll kill civilians, and if I don’t we’ll look like fools letting somebody shoot a thousand  rockets at us and not responding.’

In the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas. But it’s a crass strategy that takes all of our eyes off the real objective which is a peace that gets Israel security and recognition and a peace that gets the Palestinians their state.

Somehow, Nicholas Kristof shows his readers that he does not get it. Instead, he writes, “this is a war in which both peoples have a considerable amount of right on their sides. The failure to acknowledge the humanity and legitimate interests of people on the other side has led to cross-demonization. That results in a series of military escalations that leave both peoples worse off.”

Let us pause to parse this paragraph. Does Hamas (not the Palestinian citizens of Gaza forced to endure their rule) have any humanity and consideration of its citizens’ needs? This is a terrorist group that has no compunction about setting up its own people to act as human shields in the hope that when Israel hits a terrorist target, these civilians will be killed and then Hamas can show grisly videos of the innocent women and children Israel has murdered. Hamas puts its rocket launchers in hospitals and elementary schools, knowing that Israel will hesitate before aiming a rocket at them. It loads weapons into ambulances, in the hope that Israel will let them by, since medical-aid vehicles are exempted from targeting. Hamas’ tactics are inhumane and repellent on principle. Israel’s tactics are a response to Hamas’ aggression.

Israel accepted the proposed peace treaty suggested by Egypt, which is supported as well by the United States. Hamas rejected it, because it wants the fighting to continue, hoping that as time passes, its objectives will be reached or at least leave them in a better place to continue fighting for their ultimate goal — the destruction of Israel — at a later time of their own choosing.

What does Nicholas Kristof say? First, he confuses two issues. He writes that “Israelis are absolutely correct that they have a right not be hit with rockets by Hamas, not to be kidnapped, not to be subjected to terrorist bombings.” True.  But in his very next sentence, he writes:

Palestinians are absolutely right they have a right to a state…a right to live in freedom rather than be relegated to second-class citizenship in their own land.

Does not Mr. Kristof comprehend that Hamas does not want a state, unless it is the entire area that is Israel totally under its complete control? Indeed, its first act upon being handed Gaza when Israel gave up its control of the area was to destroy the greenhouses that Israel left them, as well as water-purifying plants, that would have allowed them to build up their infrastructure and to function in a productive way. They want nothing that was developed by Israel, even though Israel gave Hamas the mechanism to start building a viable and peaceful area in Gaza.  Nothing will satisfy them, except gaining ground in their war to destroy the Jewish state.

So why should anyone accept Mr. Kristof’s argument that we should “put away the good vs. evil narrative…”? Anyone looking at the situation knows that this is a case of good vs. evil, if ever there was one. Let me put it boldly: Hamas is the very personification of evil. It is not the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, even with its flaws and the PA’s  half-hearted policies that contradict its expressed intent to establish two states in the region.

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Recently, Republicans have had the spotlight put on their differing visions of how to approach foreign policy in an increasingly dangerous world. It is not a new division; it has existed throughout the 20th century. This issue is critical not just for Republicans, but for the country at large.

I’m referring primarily to the recent debate over foreign policy initiated by Governor Rick Perry of Texas. Perry has been in the news due to his actions on the border crisis and his meeting with Barack Obama, a meeting which the president felt he had to attend due to flak he was receiving over his refusal to actually visit the border. Possibly as a prelude to a presidential run in 2016, Perry has now decided to challenge Rand Paul and those who agree with him over what Perry maintains are dangerous isolationist tendencies.

Writing in last Saturday’s Washington Post, the governor accused Rand Paul of wanting America to pull up the drawbridge, which would amount to “ignoring the profound threat that the group now calling itself the Islamic State poses to the United States and the world.” In both Syria and Iraq, Perry points out that “the world is confronting an even more radicalized version of Islamic extremism than al-Qaeda.”

Paul, on the other hand, maintains that Americans need a new foreign policy approach, one in which the U.S. stays out of Syria and Iraq completely, and should not even contemplate air strikes to hem in Assad’s forces, even though that intervention would not include boots on the ground. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Paul claims that he is the rightful heir to the foreign policy espoused by Ronald Reagan, and that Reagan would have adopted the same policies that he is now advocating. 

Perry finds these claims completely wrongheaded, and argues that Ronald Reagan was anything but an isolationist. Reagan saw the Soviet Union “as an existential threat to our national security and Western values,” and Perry believes it was Reagan’s engagement and tough policies that led to the final collapse of the Soviet Union. While it is true that Reagan ended the Cold War without going to war with Russia, he increased the U.S. defense budget and backed development of what the opposition called “Star Wars,” thus bleeding the Soviet system dry in their race to keep up. Reagan’s move prevented their state command economy from functioning at even a minimal level. Reagan did not just rely, as Paul writes, on “strong diplomacy and moral leadership.”

At the time, many on the left and the right argued that Reagan was wrong to treat the Soviets as adversaries, and that taking a tough stance towards them would only push them into war.  Perry’s analogy seems to apply; many who oppose serious engagement with our enemies today use the trope that a tough policy means that “the neocons want a war,” when in fact, an engaged U.S. policy would prevent a war that otherwise might indeed take place. As Perry puts it, “Paul’s brand of isolationism … would compound the threat of terrorism even further.”

Paul did not wait long to answer the governor, writing his own op-ed in the pages of Politico. Calling Perry’s arguments “a fictionalized account of my foreign policy” that mischaracterized his real views, he wondered “if he’s even really read any of my policy papers.” Paul tries to make the case that he is no isolationist, preferring the term non-interventionist to describe his views. However, the difference between the two is slippery. The pre-World War II group that was called isolationists by those wanting the U.S. to take action against Hitler also complained of the same thing. They were non-interventionists, they argued, and not isolationists, because they wanted a “Fortress America” that would make U.S. defenses impregnable.

Today, Paul says, he now supports assistance to the Iraqi government including arms and intelligence, as well as technology to hinder ISIS. He does not want U.S. aid and arms to go to Islamic rebels in Syria, who he argues are allied with ISIS. This raises the question of whether or not there are actually moderate anti-jihadist rebels in Syria who are not allied with the jihadists, whom the Obama administration argues they are trying to support. At this point, I doubt that any of these anti-Assad jihadists can become our allies, because even if there are moderates, as a whole the military units are controlled by Islamists. Rand Paul, however, does not address the question at all.

Of course, Perry also opposes sending U.S. troops back to Iraq. No one advocates that, although some do argue for a small group to protect the government and to continue the training of anti-ISIS forces. Setting up a strawman and sounding like John Kerry during the Vietnam War in his testimony before Congress, Paul asks: “How many Americans should send their sons or daughters to die for a foreign country — a nation the Iraqis won’t defend for themselves?” And to call someone an isolationist is simply a smear — “perhaps it’s time we finally retire that pejorative.”

Is it? In the current issue of the Weekly Standard, AEI visiting fellow David Adesnik dissects Ron Paul’s foreign policy reading list that is on Paul’s website. He finds that it “consists entirely of works that blame the United States for the rise of Islamic extremism while offering solutions that verge on isolationism.” He proves as well that many of Paul’s own speeches are unreservedly isolationist, and that his arguments mirror precisely the foreign policy stance of those on the far Left.

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With hundreds of rockets raining down on Israel on a daily basis, the establishment in the United States tells Israel to show “restraint,” and to work on resuming the failed peace process.

Not only did this position come from the anti-Israel editorial board of the New York Times, as could be expected, but it also came from the spokesman for the Obama administration, White House Middle East chief Philip Gordon, and finally from President Barack Obama himself. The president did his bit to urge restraint in an op-ed he wrote for Israel’s left-wing daily newspaper (where else?), Haaretz.

Let us start with the widely discussed Times editorial. The first thing to notice is the false moral equivalence the editors claim exists between the killing of the three Israeli teens, including one American teenager who had dual Israeli citizenship, and the murder of the Palestinian boy by Israeli fanatics, most likely soccer toughs, supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team known for their hostility to Arabs. Editorializing, the Times reported that “days of near silence” went by before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the killing of the Palestinian boy, Muhammad Abu Khdeir.

That story has since been taken down because it was false. Apparently the editors did not read their own reporter’s article, which had clearly stated the falsehood of the claim. CAMERA’s chief in their Jerusalem bureau, Tamar Sternthal, explains:

Netanyahu did not remain silent for days concerning the murder of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. The Israeli prime minister spoke out against the killing of Abu Khdeir from July 2, the very same day of the murder. As The Times’ own Isabel Kershner reported: “On Wednesday, after the body of the Palestinian teenager was found in the woods, the prime minister called on Israelis to obey the law, and asked investigators to quickly look into what he called ‘the abominable murder.’”

Aside from that major error, now corrected due to the diligence of CAMERA, the remainder of the editorial also revealed the Times’ perpetual bias against Israel. First, it emphasized not the widespread Israeli revulsion against the horrific crime against the Palestinian child, and the outpouring of support to the beleaguered family from Israelis, but noted that “some Israelis gave in to their worst prejudices.”

Then, it offered the usual “both sides are to blame” bromide, and stated that “each side dehumanizes the other.” It failed to cite the outpouring of joy both in Gaza and the West Bank over the murder of the three Israeli teenagers, referencing only a phrase about Hamas’ “violence” and an undocumented note of Hamas’ “hateful speech.”

The Times’ editors, of course, ignored a great deal more. Sternthal adds:

While readers are treated to four specific examples of Israelis succumbing to their worst prejudices, The Times does not identify even one single case of recent Palestinian incitement, of which there is no shortage. Palestinians celebrated the kidnapping of Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaar and Naphtali Frankel with a social media campaign called “The Three Shalits” which went viral; hateful cartoons in a Palestinian Authority-controlled newspaper and on the Fatah Facebook page; and the distribution of sweets in Gaza. In recent days, Fatah, headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, warned Israelis to prepare body bags and declared: “We wish for the blood to become rivers.”

Finally, the editorial in the Times was lambasted with irony by Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer:

The New York Times gives numerous examples of hate rhetoric on the margins of Israeli society — rhetoric that has been strongly condemned and rejected by Israel’s political leaders. The New York Times writes Palestinians have also been guilty of hate speech, but neglects to mention that Palestinian incitement is government backed, that Palestinian Authority leaders hail terrorists as heroes, name public squares after them and teach schoolchildren to emulate them. For daily dose of government-backed Palestinian incitement, check out – Palestinian Media Watch. No summer interns in the New York Times research department this year?

While the Obama administration and its State Department continually posits Abbas as a partner for peace — indeed the best one Israel has had in decades who can be worked with as a partner — Fatah, the West Bank organization to which Abbas belongs, continually reiterates its unity with Hamas in Gaza in the fight to destroy Israel. As for Hamas, the group which naïve peaceniks believe can also be negotiated with, the IDF posted on its website Hamas’ reiterated goals. In clearly stated speeches, its leadership emphasizes its desire to fight until Israel is destroyed.

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Those of you who have already seen Dinesh D’Souza’s America, or are planning to see it on this July 4th weekend, might know that a theme running throughout the film is the distorted and far left “history” of the late Howard Zinn, whose A People’s History of the United States has become a vehicle by which the Left has reached hundreds of thousands of American students with its message that the story of America is that of oppression. While many critics of D’Souza’s film have disparaged him for taking on Zinn’s narrative, which they believe is true, his film is the perfect antidote to the Zinn anti-American narrative. I’m proud to have contributed my input in an interview that appears in the movie.

I have been a critic of Zinn for decades, and perhaps of all that I have written about him, this old column I wrote for PJ Media sums up my critique of his method of writing history. I agree with the honest left-wing historian Michael Kazin, who writes that Zinn was a propagandist,  not a historian, who measured “individuals according to his own rigid standard of how they should have thought and acted.”  Zinn never mentions those who came here and succeeded—immigrants who built businesses and trade unions, women who were both suffragists and in favor of temperance and opposed to abortion, African-Americans who supported the doctrine of improvement favored by Booker T. Washington, and not only the militant path espoused by W.E.B. DuBois. To Zinn, there is only one kind of rebel, and all complexity goes out the window.

Zinn never mentions conservatism, which is obviously a disagreeable thing he would rather forget, or Christianity, a force that motivated much of the reforms Zinn favors. On foreign policy, Zinn’s entire history is one of a catalog of American imperialism’s  onward march of oppression at home and power abroad. It is not surprising that Zinn treats WW II in the same way, since in Zinn’s eyes, as Michael Kazin writes, the war is brought down to its “meanest components:profits for military industries, racism toward the Japanese, and the senseless destruction of enemy cities.” Even during World  War II,  America to Zinn was as immoral as the nations it was fighting.

D’Souza’s arguments in his film, discredited by leftist reviewers in the most scathing terms possible, reveals their own ignorance of history. As in the past, they have responded by branding all those who disagree with them (including D’Souza) reactionary, far-Right zealots, know-nothings, and virtually any such similar charge they can come up with. This too is not new. Indeed, before Zinn’s TV special The People Speak was aired,  his admirers criticized in advance anyone who dared challenge Zinn with the same labels. At that time, Nation magazine writer Dave Zirin wrote in the Huffington Post that to criticize Zinn puts you in the ranks of “the lunatic Right,” and is similar to “Nazi book-burning.”

Now, on this July 4th, The Zinn Education Project and the Huffington Post have greeted their readers with their own Zinnian tribute to the meaning of this day, written by a former high school teacher, Bill Bigelow.

Starting with a brief screed against fireworks on the holiday, he quickly progresses to his main point: “There is something profoundly inappropriate about blowing off fireworks at a time when the United States is waging war with real fireworks around the world.” Bigelow goes on to give us the statistics about drone attacks. Whatever one thinks of these, he seems unconcerned or perhaps even unaware of the very real threat facing our nation from Islamic terrorists, viewing July 4th celebrations as nothing more than “part of a propaganda campaign that inures us…to current and future wars half a world away.”

As to the American Revolution, he argues that it was the regular common folk who protested the British actions, which to the Zinn school is all that counts. The importance of the intellectual work done by the Founding Fathers in writing the Declaration of Independence is played down, and said to be derivative. He quotes from an article on the Zinn group’s website titled “Re-examining the Revolution” by Ray Raphael, who writes : “’The body of the people’ made decisions and the people decided that the old regime must fall.” The struggling people, in other words, on their own, created America, not the would-be “Great Men,” as he calls them. And for good measure, he reminds us that these same people “burned Iroquois villages…to deny food to Indians.” He is referring here to the campaign waged by Major General John Sullivan in 1779.

In America, D’Souza makes the point when talking to Ward Churchill that it is incorrect to say that America from the start committed genocide against the Native Americans; genocide, he points out, is the purposeful policy of destroying an entire people because of who they are, as Hitler did to the Jews of Europe. To prove that it is indeed guilty of genocide, Bigelow quotes a letter from George Washington to Sullivan of May 31, 1779, in which Washington writes that his expedition “is to be directed against hostile tribes of the Six Nations of Indians with their associates and adherents. The immediate object is their total destruction and devastation and the capture of as many persons of every age and sex as possible.”

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