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Ron Radosh

Monthly Archives: September 2011

There was a time when The New Republic could be counted on for one thing: the defense of Israel, holding up the necessity of maintaining the U.S.-Israel alliance, and a comprehension that the only democracy in the Middle East deserves our support not only because it is morally right, but because it is in the interest of America’s national security. A few days ago, however,many of the magazine’s readers were shocked to find an article on its website by Senior Editor John B. Judis titled “Why the U.S. Should Support Palestinian Statehood at the U.N.”

It is the type of screed that one has come to expect in the pages of The Nation, The New York Review of Books and The American Conservative, as well as in the writings of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. These venues in particular have had wide influence and distribution, and certainly, a similar form of argument has no need to also take up the pages of TNR. In many ways, publishing of the piece by its current editors is nothing but a spit in the face to the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of TNR, Martin Peretz. His unabashed defense of the Jewish state and his moral clarity about the issues underlying the world’s growing attacks on Israel have regularly enraged the the chorus of Israel bashers. To have a piece of this nature now appear in the journal of opinion he has led for years and which he has funded is a rebuke to him from the team that now runs the magazine.

The Judis article is especially repugnant because it contains many falsehoods, bad history, and a failure to understand the issues contributing to the hatred for Israel that is growing around the world. Let me begin with the very first paragraph. Judis writes:

Obama’s position would have made sense if the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu had made generous offers at the negotiating table that the Palestinians have been spurning, but the Netanyahu government has not.

Had Judis done some background research, he would know that the last major offer that the Palestinians spurned was that by outgoing PM Ehud Olmert, who offered them the store, and which Abbas turned down flat.  In a previous blog, I dealt with this issue, pointing out, among other things, that Abbas gave away the ruse when he acknowledged that by saying that Israel had occupied Palestine for 63 years, he was acknowledging that “it is not current policy of the Netanyahu government that has caused the failure of peace, but the very creation in May of 1948 of the state of Israel!” And previously, PJM readers had their attention called to Sol Stern’s important article which presented the evidence of how Abbas turned down a magnanimous offer from Olmert that could have led to a very real peace.

Second, Judis goes into the UN’s 1947 General Assembly vote to divide Palestine into two areas, one Jewish and the other Arab. He writes that

In September of 1947, Truman decided to back the Zionist demand for a state in part of Palestine, and American representatives were able to win support within the committee and the General Assembly for a plan that within three years would have created two states and an internationalized Jerusalem. That didn’t establish at once a Jewish majority state, but was a very important step toward doing so.

What any honest and knowledgeable observer would note is that from that moment on, the Arabs, and later the representatives of the Palestinians, turned down the offer point blank, vowing to fight and shed blood to the end to prevent the creation of any Jewish state. Indeed, that is what the phony issue of “the right of return” is all about, the refusal to accept the reality of Israel’s existence.

Next, look at this sentence by Judis:

Perhaps in 1919, there was not as strong a moral case for a Jewish-controlled state in a land inhabited primarily—about 90 percent—by Arab Muslims and Christians. (A case could be made for a homeland for the persecuted from Russia’s Pale of Settlement, but not necessarily for a state, and certainly not, as Zionists of the time advocated, a state that encompassed what would be Palestine and Jordan.)

Note first Judis’ qualifying “perhaps,” with the implication that no reason existed for such a state until after the Holocaust. Second, he does not seem aware that the mainstream Zionists accepted the idea of a homeland or state within the Mandate territory established by the League of Nations after World War I, which included TransJordan. When Winston Churchill cut that area off from the rest of the Mandate, that decision was also accepted by the Yishuv, the Jewish community in Palestine.

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With the speech by Governor Chris Christie at the Reagan Library on Tuesday night, the speculation about a presidential run and clamor to have the governor enter the race will now only increase. Despite his persistent denials, and his answer to the second question in which the governor cited the headline at Politico titled “Running: Chris Christie’s Many ‘No’s,’” his entire tone tonight tonight as well as the venue for his address spell presidential contender.

In the speech, delivered clearly and with passion, Governor Christie sounded — well — it was as you would expect at the Reagan Library: simply Reaganesque. Starting with his reaction to President Reagan’s famous firing of the PATCO air traffic control strikers, Christie noted: “President Reagan ordered them back to work, making clear that those who refused would be fired. In the end, thousands refused, and thousands were fired.” He made that statement not as a parable for how to handle labor relations, Christie said, but as “a parable of principle,” which showed that “Ronald Reagan was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said.”

To those prominent conservatives and Republicans hoping that he will enter, a group that extends from columnist Ann Coulter to former First Lady Barbara Bush, the speech was a possible sign that, despite the denials, he is contemplating a run. Indeed, Politico now runs a story by Maggie Haberman, whose sources say just that.  These sources include former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, and those urging him to run seem to include both Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch.

Christie said that the country is now ruled by a “bystander in the Oval Office” who has been unable to “shake off the paralysis that has made it impossible for him to take on the really big things that are obvious to all Americans and to a watching and anxious world.” Christie appears to many to be just the man for the job — since he did it in New Jersey by taking on the public sector unions, and thereby helping the state achieve fiscal responsibility.

For those who think the governor has no foreign policy experience, he sought in the speech to address their concerns as well, noting that Reagan acted abroad just as he acted at home, addressing issues like Social Security and the Cold War. As Christie put it, domestic and foreign policy work together:

But, there is also a foreign policy price to pay. To begin with, we diminish our ability to influence the thinking and ultimately the behavior of others. There is no better way to persuade other societies around the world to become more democratic and more market-oriented than to show that our democracy and markets work better than any other system.

Turning to the contentious Middle East, Christie noted that “a Middle East that is largely democratic and at peace will be a Middle East that accepts Israel, rejects terrorism, and is a dependable source of energy.”

Strongly defending “American exceptionalism,” in essence he contrasted what a Christie approach would be to that taken currently by Barack Obama.  Unlike an isolationist like Ron Paul, Christie argued on behalf of having the necessary resources for defense, intelligence, homeland security, and diplomacy. He said, however, that makeover of other societies cannot be done; hence, “We need to limit ourselves overseas to what is in our national interest so that we can rebuild the foundations of American power here at home – foundations that need to be rebuilt in part so that we can sustain a leadership role in the world for decades to come.”

The words sound good, but like other potential candidates, Christie gave no details as to how he or any other leader would decide when to act abroad and when to limit our foreign involvement.

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Joe Klein Takes a Road Trip, and Partially Gets It!

September 24th, 2011 - 11:09 am

Joe Klein is taking a road trip. Getting out of his usual digs in tony Pelham, New York, downtown Manhattan and the media establishment, and finally the Beltway, has been good for him. Time gave him the assignment to depart from his usual type articles to drive through America, meet and talk with regular folk, and see what is on their minds.

This week, Klein found himself in Texarkana, Arkansas—a small town in which the Texas-Arkansas border runs through the middle of the small area—giving it two of everything; two city halls, two mayors, two police and fire departments. (You may not have heard of it before, unless in the ’60s folk boom era, you sang the song “Cotton Fields,” whose verse begins “Just a mile from Terxarkana….)

Anyway, what Klein finds is what concerns most people he met are not the contested social issues like abortion, evolution or immigration. Instead, he writes, the talk was “all about too much government: too much governing regulation, too many people dependent on government.” One of the mayors complains to Klein about Social Security disability payment, which he says is giving drug addicts and drunks “three times the amount my father-in-law does on Social Security retirement.” And another person tells him that children with ADD can get Social Security disability payments also. Says the woman: “I don’t believe we have any legal or moral obligation to pay any money to people too drunk to work or lazy to work.”

Another gripe was the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which one builder explained prevented him from receiving bank loans he always used to be able to get, known as “character loans,” since he had a good repayment record. Now, a deal fell through because he needed a quick loan, and Dodd-Frank prohibited him from moving on the process for a six week period. By then it was too late. Similarly, another businessman told Klein how for similar reasons, he could not expand his nursing home business. He even heard the same complaint from a banker who is the mayor of Hope, Bill Clinton’s home town. Not a Tea Party supporter like the people in Texarkana, this banker explained how impossible it was to give anyone home loans anymore.

Surprisingly, Klein writes- and one must say you do not expect to find this from Klein:

It seemed to me that the closer the Tea Party folks got to home, the more legitimate their beefs were. On the most basic, local level, their concern about waste and corruption seemed a good thing, a valuable revival of citizen concern after a long period of apathy. And the federal government does tend to impose layer upon layer of new regulations without keeping track of how they’re working.

Anything President Obama has done to address these problems, Klein adds, “hasn’t reached Texarkana. I found myself in sympathy with much that the Miller County Patriots were saying,” referring to the name of the local Tea Party group.  Until, that is, “one man called the President a socialist who wanted government to run everything,” and that since he went around the world apologizing for the United States, he didn’t think Obama was a patriot.

So Klein concludes: “When they’re talking about character loans, I’m all ears. Whey they’re fantasizing about socialism, I’m not.”

So, here, I highly recommend that Joe Klein take a look at Charles Krauthammer’s latest column. Klein has taken half a leap; unusual for a MSM liberal, he has listened to regular Tea Party folks, and has not condemned them as racist, fascist and as a bunch of extremist nuts. But he stops short at taking their view of Obama as anything but crazed.

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This story, had it come out a bit earlier, would have been the perfect Labor Day special. It is not what the AFL-CIO union bosses want their membership to hear.

We all recall President Obama standing on the podium with Richard Trumka and the other labor chieftains, talking about the need to “take out” the Republicans and give the working man the dignity, salaries, and other perks they need to end income inequality and to become empowered. “Tax the rich,” they all scream — apply the “Buffett law” and see to it that the regular employee pays a lower tax than the greedy billionaire, who, like Warren Buffett, sets up businesses, employs people who earn a living, and yet supposedly engages in no activity of a worthwhile nature except to see to it that he personally gets rich. As old Karl Marx might have once said, confiscate the property of the bourgeoisie, redistribute the wealth to the working class, and allow them to become the masters of society.

Well, it seems that Marx’s dream is coming true in Chicago, but not exactly in the manner in which he thought it would occur. No social revolution, no mass movement, no movement of the working class to power with the “Long March” through existing institutions that the Gramscian New Left once proposed. Instead, it is taking place through the long evolved mechanism of Chicago-style corruption, developed over the years by the senior Richard Daley machine in the city that started Barack Obama on his way to political power.

So kudos to the Chicago Tribune for breaking this news to its readers, who can now ask Mayor Rahm Emanuel to do something to change the political culture. Emanuel is now the local leader, having gained the post after leaving his city for White House service and returning to it after having used national duty to obtain what previously had eluded him — the top political spot in his home town.

So here is the news.  For a  former labor boss named Dennis Gannon, it has now been revealed, “the keys to securing a public pension were one day on the city payroll and some help from the Daley administration.”

The story goes on to note that “his city pension is more than modest. It’s the highest of any retired union leader: $158,000. That’s roughly five times greater than what the typical retired city worker receives.” You have not misread this figure.  It is so high that it is usually forbidden by federal limits to what one can get in a pension, so the Daley machine had to file a special request with the IRS to allow him to get it. If you owe them some back taxes, simply do the same next time. Give them this story, and file a “special request.” But don’t count on it, unless you live in Chicago and know Rahm very well!

The Tribune goes further, spelling out the significance of the deal, way beyond what it meant for Mr. Gannon. They explain:

Gannon’s inflated pension is a prime example of how government officials and labor leaders have manipulated city pension funds at the expense of union workers and taxpayers. Like other labor leaders, he was able to take a long leave from a city job to work for a union and then receive a city pension based on a high union salary.

But in a new twist, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found that Gannon is eligible for the lucrative pension deal only because City Hall rehired the former Streets and Sanitation Department worker for a single day in 1994, then granted him an indefinite leave of absence.

We used to call this a “sweetheart deal,” an arrangement going way beyond the old “double dipping” which takes place when a city worker retires and then is hired by another city agency to earn a full-time salary on top of his already high union pension.  Why work at a new job, Gannon figured, when all he has to do is work one day and get the equivalent salary for the rest of his life? Yeah, evidently it is legal, and he took what he could get. But unlike the Warren Buffetts of the world, who hire people and set up businesses, he is giving nothing to anyone but himself. As he probably says, “nothing is too good for the working class,” especially when they can use the system and not have to work at all.

He is described as “one of the most powerful” labor leaders in Chicago, a man who became president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, sitting in AFL-CIO executive board meetings for years. There, he could help plan national labor strategy and work out deals with Democratic White Houses to advance union power, or work to oust a Republican executive branch by buffing up the national union’s lobbying force.

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Today, the New York Times published an editorial  on the special election in New York’s 9th congressional district, which was won by Republican Bob Turner. The district historically went Democratic.

In the editorial, the editors write that they fear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take the victory as a message that he can ignore President Obama’s plea that Israel makes compromises with the Palestinians. As they put it,

[W]e fear that Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, will read the election as yet another reason to ignore the president’s advice and refuse to make any compromises with the Palestinians, no matter how essential for Israel’s own security.

As expected, the paper’s editorial writers assume that all of the paper’s left-liberal constituency already believe that it is the Israeli prime minister, and not the Palestinians, who has refused to make compromises on behalf of peace. Therefore they can repeat this calumny without fear of rebuttal from their audience.

Next, they write the following paragraph, which was specifically addressed to former New York City Mayor Edward I. Koch, who had publicly endorsed and campaigned for Turner, rather than the Democratic candidate David Weprin:

Mr. Koch played a cynical game in urging special-election voters to choose the Republican as a rebuke to Mr. Obama for saying that Israel’s pre-1967 borders — with mutually agreed land swaps — should be the basis of any peace agreement. That has been the basis of every deal sought by American presidents for more than a decade.

This argument has been answered time and time again since President Obama first made it — when Netanyahu and Obama had a fairly cold White House meeting, and at his AIPAC speech last year. Again, the so-called paper of record counts on its readers not ever having read any of these rebuttals on the issue of where the 1949 borders were set at the time of Israel’s victory over the invading Arab armies.

The editors’ only criticism of the Palestinian leadership is that they “certainly waited too long to begin negotiations.” This is false, since they have never really agreed to participate in actual negotiations. Their demands are ones that Israel can never accept: the “right of return” and advance agreement on indefensible borders. Of course, to the Times’ editors, all blame belongs to Netanyahu alone, who, they say, “has been the most intractable, building settlements and blaming his inability to be more forthcoming on his conservative coalition.”

Netanyahu actually made his real position available to all yesterday. The Israeli PM said,

The only way for a Palestinian state to come to be is through negotiations. The PA’s decision (to appeal to the UNSC) could change tomorrow. I’ll be at the UN. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be at the UN. We could save the trip – Ramallah is only 10 minutes away. Direct negotiations are the simplest way to achieve peace. I hope that the Palestinians will eventually understand that there is no other alternative.

Referring to the PLO’s ambassador to the United States’ recent statement that any Palestinian state would have to be free of all Jews, Netanyahu added that  he “regretted to hear a Palestinian official speak of Judenrein. It is a disgrace and I expect the Palestinian Authority to denounce the statement.” I think he will be waiting a long time to hear any denunciation of the ambassador’s view from Mahmoud Abbas, who privately says such much the same thing to his own constituency.

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Israel is under siege, facing what many people believe is the most serious crisis facing it since the day it first existed, over sixty years ago. Today, two op-eds were published that address this issue.

The first is by Bret Stephens, and appears in The Wall Street Journal. It just might be the single most important column he has written. He starts stating the obvious, and then listing precisely what Israel’s predicament is:

It is surrounded on nearly all sides by enemies who are aggressively committed to its destruction. And too many people who call themselves its friends are only ambivalently committed to its security.

No one, in a short article, has accomplished the job of showing how the would-be friends of Israel help its enemies by continually putting the blame for Israel’s troubles on the one democracy in the Middle East that has succeeded, and way beyond its founders’ dreams, and hence is put on perpetual trial. It is Israel’s very existence, and its success, that leads to the hateful attempts of its enemies to try to destroy the Jewish state.

Some, on the Left especially, always blame Israel. They say “if only Netanyahu was not prime minister; if only there were no Russian-born Jews exerting influence on the political scene; if only they lived up to the promise of their Labor Zionist socialist founders; if only they had given the Arabs real reasons to stop hating them,” etc., etc., etc. It’s all Israel’s and Bibi’s fault. As noted here the other day, a former head of the New Israel Fund revealed privately what she never could say publicly to her own community: “The disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.” Yes, and the remaining Jews would all be dead. This is the true face of the supposedly pro-Israeli Left.

One should heed Stephens’ final paragraph if one really cares about Israel’s survival:

No democracy in the world today lies under a darker shadow of existential dread than Israel. And the events of the past month ought to demonstrate that Israel’s dread is not of shadows only. Israel’s efforts to allay the enmity of its enemies or mollify the scorn of its critics have failed. But is it too much to ask its friends for support — this time, for once, without cavil or reservation?

In a similar fashion, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, writes that the “strategic challenges” facing Israel continue to exist and are “hardly likely to end tomorrow.” He discounts from the start those he calls the ABJ Jews — “‘Anyone But Jews’ Jews” — who will help anyone except their fellow Jews. He also does not care about those he calls the “IOI crowd,” those who believe “‘If Only Israel’ did this or that, all would be solved,” as if Israel alone is the guilty party that has failed to stop the attacks on the Jewish state.

Harris is more concerned with those who understand there are no easy answers, but who recognize the burden put on Israel — whom they know seeks peace and is not being treated fairly. Like  Stephens, he outlines what faces Israel in the present, pointing to the new threats from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Hezbollah, and, of course, Hamas — whose charter he says should rightfully be required reading. He calls it: “Bone-chilling, classic anti-Semitism.”

He may discard talking to the IOI crowd, but he answers them nevertheless. He notes that the Palestinian Authority has “spurned every offer for peace,” not just coming from Netanyahu today, but from left-of-center, right-of-center, and centrist Israeli governments, continually walking away “from the negotiating table” in favor of appeasement of Hamas. Harris, talking to the IOI types, writes the following:

There are those who say they’d get involved if only there were a different government in Jerusalem. They forget one basic fact: the battle is bigger than the government du jour; it’s really about Israel, no matter who is in power.

In 2000, an unprecedented wave of terror against Israel broke out with a left-of-center coalition in power and a sweeping two-state proposal on the table.

In 1996, when the dovish Shimon Peres was prime minister, he was defeated in an election because of a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.

What to do?

Look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether this battle really is about someone else, or whether it’s also about you.

To understand the roots of the problem, remember that knowledge is power. And no one has gotten to the roots of the crisis better than Sol Stern, in his new Encounter Books Broadside: A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred. If you care about Israel and you are among those who want to give ammunition in the form of logic, facts and truth to your doubting friends, you should immediately order this booklet for them either online or in print, and spend the small amount necessary to give it to them as a gift.

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As we approach Sunday’s tenth anniversary of 9/11, we are being inundated with every newspaper and magazine’s take on what we are supposed to think about its meaning.  Some serious journals of opinion, of course, have essays by authors who have something to say. Hence, in evaluating the mainstream media’s take, I do not include a magazine like The New Republic, whose issue dated September 15th includes essays by contributors like Fouad Ajami, Martin Peretz, Peter Bergen, Pete Hamill, Lawrence F. Kaplan, Sam Tanenhaus, and especially Paul Berman, whose writings have perhaps more than anyone else alerted many to the threat from radical Islam.

But let us instead consider the 9/11 issue of both Time and Newsweek. Time begins with the photos taken on that day by James Nachtwey, and a chilling personal essay by the photographer himself about how he came to be there and what he experienced. Here is one paragraph that gives you the flavor of his reporting:

It was so completely black I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. It’s what I would imagine it’s like to be blind. I thought I was buried alive under the rubble. I was gagging and could hardly breathe but knew I had to move. I called out to determine if anyone else was there who might be injured and need help, but there was no answer. I continued to inch my way forward. Eventually I saw tiny pinpoints of light in the blackness and realized they were the lights of vehicles on the street. At that point I knew I was outside, that I wasn’t buried, and I oriented myself northward and kept moving. When I saw light emanating through the blackness I understood I was coming out of the deadly cloud.

One of the reasons we have photos of the tragic day is because of dedicated press people like Nachtwey, who, on his own, grabbed a camera and ran to the site, as everyone else was going in the other direction.

The heart of the magazine is its section titled “Beyond 9/11,” which presents a montage of photos and the words of those who played  a role, beginning with President George W. Bush, and including firefighter Bob Beckwith; widows of those who perished like Lyzbeth Glick Best, whose husband perished on Flight 93; “America’s Mayor” Rudy Giuliani; Dick Cheney; antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan; war vets; and many others. One can quibble with the selection, but by and large, the issue is worthwhile.  They have some short essays by contributors, but of course, nothing equivalent to those like that by Berman in TNR. It is what you would expect from a mass magazine.

Newsweek, however, is another story. It is obvious, if one compares what once was a case of similar magazines that left most people to choose one or the other to look at for their summary of the previous week, the magazine has seen better days.

Clearly, without the kind of budget Time still has, editor Tina Brown tries to do as best as she can. Their substitute for the likes of Paul Berman, however, is Andrew Sullivan, whom she stole away from The Atlantic, and who is now their star “intellectual.” But as we know, unlike Berman, Sullivan is most well known for having started as a supporter of the Iraq war and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, only to switch into a fierce proponent of the antiwar left, and a man who is constantly apologizing for the mistake he made a decade ago.

Now, in this issue, Sullivan writes that after first seeing 9/11 as “the end of American innocence,” America “took the bait” and fell into al-Qaeda’s trap. He writes:

The bait was meant to entice the United States into ruinous, polarizing religious warfare against the Muslim world, so that the Islamist fringe could seize power in failing Muslim and Arab dictatorships. The 9/11 attacks were conceived as a way to radicalize a young Muslim population through a ginned-up war of civilization against the Great Satan on the Islamist home turf of Afghanistan and, then, Iraq. It looks obvious now. It wasn’t then. We were seized with righteous rage, every ounce of which was justified. But the victim of a rape is not the best person to initiate the strategy to bring the rapist to justice. And we, alas, were all we had. Our president, meaning well, did his best, and it was more than good, at the beginning. But in retrospect, he never mastered the fear or the moment either. Instead of calming the populace over the coming months, he further terrified us with drastic measures that only seemed to confirm the unprecedented gravity of the threat.

And thus he cuts to the chase, writing that he now is sorry that he too was fooled: “I am ashamed my own panic overwhelmed my own judgment.” How could he trust the government, he asks? The war, he argues, was not worth it.  Instead of a deterrent effect, the war, as Sullivan sees it, destroyed our military strength in Iraq, “as the U.S. struggled to control a country it could never fully commit to.” The CIA was shown to be both incompetent and evil. He writes:

As mysterious envelopes containing anthrax began to appear in mailboxes, as our airports shut down and reopened as police states, as terror-advisory color codes were produced, as the vast new bureaucratic behemoth of the Department of Homeland Security was set up, as a system of torture prisons (beginning with Guantánamo Bay) was constructed … many concluded the threat must be grave enough to justify shredding some of the Constitution’s noblest principles and precedents. This handful of fanatics was supposedly a greater threat than the Nazis and the Soviets. And so much of our inherited moral wisdom—such as the absolute stricture against torture and the ideal of habeas corpus—were tossed aside. Dick Cheney, the man elected vice president as a calming father figure, became the most terrified of them all. And so we joined him in fearing that Al Qaeda was on the cusp of arming itself with WMDs that could be used to end our civilization.

Now that is Sullivan’s argument, and he is welcome to make it, and of course, Newsweek has a right to present it. But unlike other publications, there is no attempt at balance — no essay from someone like Paul Wolfowitz, or Dick Cheney himself, or anyone in the Bush administration.

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Today’s New York Times features a story by reporter Scott Shane on the long known but usually unspoken fact that our FBI secretly wiretaps the phone at the embassy of our major ally in the Middle East, Israel. It reveals that Shamai K. Leibowitz, a former FBI translator, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for leaking classified information to a blogger. Even Judge Alexander Williams, Jr.,  of the U.S. District Court in Maryland, did not know what Leibowitz had given the blogger.

What he passed on, Shane reveals, were transcripts of conversations caught on Bureau wiretaps of the Israeli embassy, including conversations with U.S. supporters of Israel and at least one member of Congress.

Shane’s story is based on the first interview with the blogger, whom he reveals to be one Richard Silverstein. Shane writes that Silverstein publishes a blog called Tikun Olam, which, he writes, “gives a liberal perspective on Israel and Israeli-American relations.” (my emphasis) Silverstein’s motive in talking to the press, he reports, was to show that Leibowitz, who was guilty of violating the Espionage Age, “was acting out of noble motives.”

Looking at the above sentence, what strikes informed readers immediately is the characterization of blogger Silverstein as one with a “liberal perspective.” In fact, Silverstein is, one might charitably say, far to the left of Noam Chomsky — a certified member of the fringe nutcase left-wing. What is it about Silverstein’s views that allows a Times reporter to so blatantly mischaracterize the man’s political views? Is it, perhaps, to be totally opposed to Israel and its very existence? Is this what the reporter sees as a “liberal viewpoint”?

For those interested, the website CIF Watch provides a thorough vetting of this Silverstein’s views. Silverstein says that his own blog is devoted to making the world a “better place.” CIF Watch comments that “his image of a ‘better place’ is more in line with Norman Finkelstein’s vision rather than Anne Frank’s.” They add this:

Though Silverstein repeatedly claims to be a Zionist, his writings feature unrelenting attacks on the Jewish state with a wanton disregard for any facts that repudiate his so-called “progressive” views on the conflict. Silverstein openly supports the likes of Norman Finkelstein and Walt and Mearsheimer, minimalizes and, at some times, justifies violence perpetrated by Hamas, vilifies the Israeli right wing and IDF to the point of demonization and supports a version of the one-state solution including the renunciation of the right of return of diaspora Jewry.

The proprietors of CIF Watch have conveniently assembled virtually scores of Silverstein’s writings, which they reproduce verbatim. My personal favorite is Silverstein’s defense of the terrorist attack at Chabad House in India during the Mumbai massacre a few years ago, in which the rabbi and his wife were slaughtered in cold blood. Here, Silverstein takes the words of a surviving terrorist. Silverstein wrote the following:

Pakistani militants have been known to select prominent foreign targets within Pakistan, as the Mumbai terrorists did last week. But few, if any, Pakistani militants have been known until now specifically to target Israelis. I say, Israelis rather than Jews because the single surviving terrorist noted that they chose Chabad House to avenge the suffering of the Palestinians. Therefore, the attack was anti-Israeli, though not necessarily antisemitic.

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On this labor day, a story in the British Telegraph sheds new light on the respect for working people held by the thankfully no longer existing German Democratic Republic, or DDR, the Stalinist state in East Germany that fell with the collapse of Communism. In  theory, of course, the socialist states, or “really existing socialism,” as the “People’s Democracies” were referred to, expressed the interests of the world’s working class, that was busy building socialism. As we all know, had the late Communist leader Erich Honaker not ordered construction of the Berlin wall, three-quarters of the population would have voted with their feet and fled to West Berlin.

One of the ways the East German regime maintained its power was with lucrative contracts with Western capitalist firms that obviously welcomed a regime whose work force was forbidden to strike, and that could be guaranteed to produce at the lowest wages possible and with no leverage to use in bargaining with their employer—the East German state.  But the news story released today makes the usual arrangement seem benign.

It appears that the Swedish retail firm Ikea, that thousands of Americans go to in malls throughout our country to purchase cheap and poorly made but sometimes workable furniture, had a very special arrangement with the Stasi, East German’s notorious secret police. Ikea actually used political prisoners as slave labor to make its furniture, in particular, sofas manufactured in one plant that was conveniently situated next to a prison!

The plant was but one of various facilities Ikea had built in East Germany. Since the political prisoners composed 20 per cent of the prison population, the firm had a large labor force in waiting ready to be assigned by the jailers to do the firm’s work. The arrangement was justified by Ikea’s founder, Invar Kamprad, who actually said- according to a Stasi file- that if the arrangement did exist, and he claimed no knowledge of it, “in the opinion of Ikea it would be in society’s interests.” This is sort of what we call a non-denial denial, indicating that indeed, Ikea’s boss knew all about the deal.

One inmate, Hans Otto Klare, had been sent to Waldheim prison for the crime of trying to escape to the West. He described conditions in the factory in these words to the German television company called WDR:

Our labor team lived on the upper floor of the factory with the windows covered. The machines were on the lower floor, and you had little rest. On the factory floor you had no proper seating, no ear protection: no gloves. Conditions were even more primitive there then in the rest of the GDR. It was slave labor.

His description reminds me of the refrigerator factor I toured in Communist Cuba in the 1970’s, in which asbestos rained down on the floor, and workers built the products without masks or gloves, making themselves susceptible in the future to cancer. When I and others commented to our guides, we were told it was safe for the workers or Fidel would not have permitted it. “These people,” I told him, “would all be dead in a decade.”

As for Ikea’s founder, Mr. Kamprad, it was not surprising to learn that he thought little of using slave labor. In 1994, Swedes learned that in 1942, he joined a group called the New Swedish Movement, a fascist party supportive of the Nazis. In essence, as another news report showed, this group was the Swedish equivalent of the Nazi Party. He both gave money to the group and recruited members to it, and was not simply an innocent who joined something he did not understand.

Mr.Kamprad claimed this was all in the past, and after the expose in 1994, he apologized for his actions. The new revelation indicates that his apology should be taken with a grain of salt. Having found Nazism appealing in his youth, in his mature years, the existence of a new totalitarian state in Germany seemed to be a perfect business partner for him to strike an agreement with. Nazism-Stalinism; it was a distinction without much of a difference. For Ikea, the DDR’s existence was a boon to profits. For the DDR, it was money in the bank to better help fund the Stasi’s power.

Happy Labor Day to the East Germans whose freedom was won after the wall came down, and finally, when Germany was unified. Their testimony gives us all living proof of how socialism, meant by Karl Marx to free labor from oppression, only made the lives of working people far worse than it was under the system of free labor existing in democratic capitalist countries.

Recently, some of our most able pundits have been arguing that neoconservatism is dead. As usual, The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart leads the pack. He could not have stated his case more clearly than here: “the ideology that 9/11 made famous — neoconservatism — has died.” Beinart is certain of this. His evidence? Al-Qaeda is finished; not only Osama bin Laden is dead, but now his second in command, Abd al-Rahman, has been killed by the U.S. No longer is jihadism a major threat, “a threat on par with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union,” he argues. It is “sliding into irrelevance,” leaving the U.S. with quite a different challenge — that of China’s authoritarian capitalism. What killed al-Qaeda, he says, is “exactly the narrow targeted policies that neoconservatives derided.”

Obama has gained his ends through intelligence and drone strikes, Beinart argues, and any resulting democracy in the Middle East comes not from the United States, but from the local rebellion of young Muslims. He also argues that Republican candidates are not attacking the president along neoconservative lines; instead, they largely avoid the issue, since they “have little appetite for the neconservative agenda of continued war in the Middle East.”

He implies that we should get out of Afghanistan, because it is not worth the cost of American lives, and because we can’t afford it. Right or wrong, the money is not there, something he says neoconservatives never paid attention to. America, he says — sounding like a conservative — must pay attention to limits, and we must hold in our grandiose ambitions.

Is Beinart right? First, let us point to a factor he pays little attention to: that despite a confused and ambivalent doctrine in foreign policy, President Obama is pursuing much of the same “neo-con” policies advocated by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in their administration. No one has made a stronger case for this than Walter Russell Mead. Obama’s defenders, he writes,

must also squirm; in general, President Obama succeeds where he adopts or modifies the policies of the Bush administration. Where (as on Israel) he has tried to deviate, his troubles begin.

He writes the following:

The most irritating argument anyone could make in American politics is that President Obama, precisely because he seems so liberal, so vacillating, so nice, is a more effective neoconservative than President Bush. As is often the case, the argument is so irritating partly because it is so true.

President Obama is pushing a democracy agenda in the Middle East that is as aggressive as President Bush’s; he adopts regime change by violence if necessary as a core component of his regional approach and, to put it mildly, he is not afraid to bomb.

And finally, the heart of Mead’s case:

In many ways we are living through George W. Bush’s third term in the Middle East, and neither President Obama’s friends nor his enemies want to admit it. President Obama, in his own way and with his own twists, continues to follow the core Bush policy of nudging and sometimes pushing nasty regimes out of power, aligning the US with the wave of popular discontent in the region even as that popular sentiment continues to dislike, suspect and reject many aspects of American power and society. And that policy continues to achieve ambivalent successes: replacing old and crustily anti-American regimes, rooted deeply in the culture of terror and violence within and beyond their borders, with weaker, more open and — on some issues at least — more accommodating ones.

In Libya, as we have seen, a humanitarian effort became, in reality, a use of force to promote regime change. True, he moved too slowly, and casualties may have been avoided had he promoted his real aim from the start. And in Syria, he began by proclaiming Assad a “reformer,” only to finally, in the past few weeks, call for the Syrian dictator to step down. Yet, as Mead concludes, “half way through President Obama’s tenure in office, we can see that regime change and democracy promotion remain the basis of American strategy in the Middle East — and that force is not excluded when it comes to achieving American aims.”  So Mead writes — somewhat I think with tongue in cheek — “the Bush-Obama agenda marches on.”

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