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Ron Radosh

Ronald Radosh is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at The Hudson Institute, and a Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York. He is the author or co-author of 14 books.

New Tactic in Left’s Never-Ending War Against Israel: Calling It ‘JSIL’

We now have the latest obscenity in the war against Israel. It comes from three sources — Al Jazeera television, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held in London, and the German newspaper Deutsche Welle. These are all enemies of Israel who wish nothing less than its destruction.

Their new propaganda tactic is to equate Israel — which they now refer to as JSIL (the Jewish State of Israel in the Levant) — with ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

According to them, like ISIL in Iraq and Syria, Israel is a terrorist military entity which seeks to recruit foreign fighters into their armed forces, to convert or murder infidels, and to destroy the Palestinians.

Here’s the first paragraph of the the article in Deutshe Welle:

Young Americans are opting out of the U.S. military and joining foreign forces. The Israeli army recruited over 100 Americans during the war against Hamas, while others are being lured to join extremist groups.

The article profiles two American Jews who went to Israel: 22-year-old Jason Kraizler from New Jersey, who willingly offers his support to Israel’s efforts to defend itself against Hamas; and Eli Ezer First from New York, who believes that “extreme Islam” is a danger and has to be stopped.

Accusing these Jewish Americans of war crimes comes at a time when Americans are in the spotlight for joining extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. U.S. officials say there are nearly three times more Americans fighting in extremist groups than originally estimated.

The article concludes by comparing American jihadists and Americans who try to help Israel defend itself as one and the same, since “Americans are turning to foreign soil to fight, finding meaning, belonging and acceptance.” Not once does the article differentiate between those who seek to fight on behalf of fanatical Islamists who are trying to create a new caliphate, and those who are trying to help a beleaguered democracy, whose citizens share the values of Western societies, defend itself.

The Al Jazeera story also links to this new left-wing activist campaign, and notes how popular it is on Twitter:

The Jewish State of Israel in the Levant: that’s what a group of pro-Palestine activists are now calling Israel, in a play on words on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The hashtag #JSIL has been tweeted more than 5,200 times as Twitter users protest Israel’s actions.

Activist Max Blumenthal first made the comparison between ISIL and Israel during the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. For those who do not know what the Russell Tribunal is, Wikipedia explains its origins in the anti-war movement of the 1960s, when Bertrand Russell organized a tribunal to investigate the United States for alleged war crimes against the Vietnamese. Now, its descendants have brought it up to date, using the old format to investigate and find Israel guilty as they judged the United States to be during the Vietnam War. As expected, the tribunal convened a special session on September 24, and found Israel guilty, as the anti-Israel site Mondoweiss reports, of “war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.”

Here you will find Max Blumenthal, dubbed by Nation columnist Eric Alterman as one who might as well have had his recent book published by “the Friends of Hamas,” make the case for the comparison between ISIS and Israel. He calls it “the ethnically cleansing Jewish state and its project of dispossession of the Palestinian people.” (Video here.) In his testimony, Blumenthal says:

The atrocities formed an undeniable pattern, suggesting that the crimes committed by Israeli forces in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge were the product of stated military policies, or at least rules of engagement that enabled massacres, summary executions, wholesale residential destruction, the use of civilians as human shields, and abductions. I will describe these atrocities in as much detail as possible and allow the members of the jury to judge for themselves.

As any sane person knows, Hamas used human shields in Gaza to cynically create civilian casualties which have served them very well in the propaganda war against Israel. You will not find one word about any of the horrors committed by Hamas aired at the Russell Tribunal. The “trial” copies the Stalin purge trials of the 1930s in that the verdict was known at the start, and the trial was a sham meant to serve the purposes of propaganda.

In his closing words, Blumenthal echoes the Arab and old Soviet propaganda against Israel, first made by the Soviets in the period after the 1967 war. Blumenthal concludes:

I want to close with two points: First, we cannot address the crimes that occurred in Gaza this summer without examining the historical and political context of Operation Protective Edge. The unprecedented levels of violence wielded against residents of Gaza reflect the trajectory of Zionism and are required by its logical imperatives. Zionism is a settler-colonial movement that demanded the mass expulsion of Palestinians from what is now Israel and their permanent ghettoization in the Gaza Strip, where 80 percent of the population are refugees, in order to consolidate Israel’s ethnic purity. The longer the ghettoized population resists this system of demographic engineering, the more malevolent its occupier becomes. So the horrors we just witnessed in Gaza did not occur in a vacuum. They are reflections of the historical trajectory of Zionism.

Posted at 8:33 am on October 1st, 2014 by Ron Radosh

Is Obama Striking an Alliance with Iran?

Two new issues have emerged regarding the Obama administration’s policy towards ISIS, which was announced last week in President Obama’s speech to the nation. Both are connected to Iran: (a) the positions the administration will take regarding cooperation with it in fighting ISIS and (b) in negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

Should the United States accept Iran as a partner in its fight to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Already, many self-proclaimed “realists” have argued for its necessity.

In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria states:

If President Obama truly wants to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, he must find a way to collaborate with Iran — the one great power in the Middle East with which the United States is still at odds. Engagement with Iran – while hard and complicated — would be a strategic game-changer, with benefits spreading from Iraq to Syria to Afghanistan.

To defeat ISIS, he argues, one must influence the Sunnis, something the Shia-dominated Iraq government has not been able to accomplish. Since that regime has been funded by Iran for many years, Iran alone has the power to force them to be more inclusive, and to commit to seriously forging a fighting force against ISIS. Iran’s help, he says, is “invaluable, perhaps vital.” Zakaria also thinks a power-sharing government be built in Syria, in which Assad will stay in power. Iran too, he notes, can help with this.

What he argues for is nothing less than the imperative of aligning with tyrants that have waged terrorism abroad as well as against their own people, all for the goal of defeating ISIS — which both Iran and the United States favor for different reasons. He ignores that Iran poses a very real threat to world stability, especially in the Middle East. As they have shown in the ongoing nuclear talks, Iran has shrewdly used such claims to stand firm in its goal of building a nuclear weapon, confident that its ability to play the United States will continue.

Others have claimed aligning with Iran is no different than aligning with the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler during World War II. As Gary Schmitt and David Adesnik point out at Fox News: “Our partnership with Stalin during World War II was one that arose from desperation.” Moreover, Stalin’s troops suffered the most and did most of the worst fighting, and Soviet armed forces died in the thousands, saving the lives of American GIs who otherwise would have had the job done by the Russians. As Churchill well put it, he would sign a pact with the Devil if it guaranteed the defeat of the Nazis.

In today’s world, to ennoble one terrorist regime to help gain its goals in order to defeat a non-state terrorist group simply makes no sense whatsoever. The West might eventually have to use combat forces in some areas to make air strikes work. But to depend on Iran to do that, which it may very well be willing to do, will further destabilize the region and enhance its power throughout the Middle East.

The desire of many, including some in the Obama administration, to align with Iran leads one to suspect that a deal might be accepted that allows Iran to keep its centrifuges at a level close to completion. Would the U.S. sign such a deal and claim that it is a path to real disarmament? Many factors indicate that is the case.

The Times of Israel reports that the United States is considering “softening present demands that Iran gut its uranium enrichment program in favor of a new proposal that would allow Tehran to keep nearly half of the project intact while placing other constraints on its possible use as a path to nuclear weapons.” If true, it indicates that giving in to Iran is something the United States might do in exchange for Iran remaining cooperative in fighting ISIS.

Diplomats tell the paper that it envisages letting Iran keep 4500 centrifuges while reducing its stock of uranium gas so that it would take Iran only one year, not weeks or months, to create material to build a nuclear bomb. Negotiators believe Iran can claim they have not given in nor ended their enrichment capabilities, while the U.S. could argue it succeeded in forcing them to downgrade their original aims for a year.

Israel, according to its intelligence minister, “strongly opposes leaving thousands of centrifuges active in Iran,” an act which he said is “reminiscent of the failed deal reached in 2007 with North Korea, which now possesses ten nuclear warheads.”

Posted at 3:48 pm on September 26th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel to Me and Others: Don’t Live Past 75!

Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel has just announced that he plans on dying at age 75  and implies that the rest of us should work toward achieving this too. His article  is perhaps the single most outrageous and despicable screed written this entire year. One must also consider that this proposal is not being made by just any medical doctor. Dr. Emanuel, brother of Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, is a major advocate of universal health care and was a key advisor to the president on formulating the Affordable Care Act, or as we know it, Obamacare.

Indeed, a few years ago, Emanuel was accused by Betsy McCaughey and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, among others, of favoring euthanasia and death panels for individuals. Dr. Emanuel argued that in fact he is a well-known opponent of euthanasia, and that, as the details in his Wikipedia entry  note, his talk about “rationing” medical treatment concerned only the “allocation of very scarce medical interventions such as organs and vaccines,” not preventing the elderly who want medical treatment for illnesses from getting what they need. Emanuel said he was angry that what he wrote was taken out of context: “I find it a little dispiriting, after a whole career’s worth of work dedicated to improving care for people at the end of life, that now I’m ‘advocating euthanasia panels.’”

There is a serious discussion about how much treatment should be given at the very end of life, especially if a terminally ill patient would be worse off as a result. But in his Atlantic article, Dr. Emanuel makes us revisit the charges made against him some years ago and reevaluate whether his critics were not so far off in their claims.

Here is his argument neatly summed up at the start of his lengthy essay:

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

And later:

I am talking about how long I want to live and the kind and amount of health care I will consent to after 75. Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.

If young Zeke wants to stop living at 75, that’s fine with me. But the arguments he lays out are not really meant to be just about himself. He argues that essentially, one should stop living after he or she has led a complete life. According to him, by 75, people have passed their creative peaks. It is all downhill from there. They are being kept alive by the likes of flu and pneumonia shots, vaccines, antibiotics, and better medical care, which keeps them going instead of allowing nature to take its course. That is why, he says at one point, he does not believe people should get flu shots in their 60s: because each one taken by an elderly person is depriving a younger person who needs it to live a full life from having access to it. (He does not explain why both cannot get them.)

Posted at 6:29 pm on September 19th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

Our New War Against ISIS: Should Congress Ask for a Declaration of War?

In his Wednesday evening speech to the nation, President Barack Obama told Americans that he would consult with Congress about his new strategic plans to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He did not say, however, that he would go to Congress and ask them for a declaration of war. The Constitution, which he is pledged to uphold and defend, gives the right to declare war to the people’s representatives in Congress, not to the commander-in-chief.

Yet the question must be raised, and undoubtedly will be by more than a few members of Congress: Does Obama have the untrammeled right to declare war without their consent? Last week, former Senator Joseph Lieberman argued in the Wall Street Journal that he in fact can do so. The tension between the two branches of government, Lieberman argued, has always been “resolved in favor of presidential authority.” Congress can declare war, the senator says, but the president has “the inherent power to make war.”

The problem, however, is a serious one for Barack Obama, particularly because when he was in the Senate, he and other Democrats argued that the Bush intervention in Iraq was illegal and immoral and should quickly be brought to an end. We all remember the chant, “No Blood for Oil.” When Bush changed course and announced the surge, Obama unsuccessfully introduced the “Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007” in the Senate, seeking to deny the additional troops that Bush had requested and demanding that American troops be redeployed from Iraq by 2008.  Under Obama’s bill, Congress would have held oversight over the president, who would have to report to them every 90 days. In a statement at the time, Obama argued that “no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else’s civil war.”

Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama also told the Boston Globe the following in a 2007 interview:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. . . . In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

Obama won the White House promising to extract Americans from other nations’ civil wars. Last May, he said in a speech at the National Defense University, “I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal” the 2001 law’s mandate that Congress passed to give the Bush administration the power to go into Iraq. He added, “I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further,” before insisting that “history” and “democracy” demand that “this war, like all wars, must end.”

How times have changed. Now Obama finds himself in the position of asking the American people to do just the opposite, by way of an extended “counter-terrorism operation” — as John Kerry called Obama’s war plans — without formal congressional approval or action. As Howie Carr asks so mockingly: “Whatever happened to Cindy Sheehan? Where is Code Pink? I haven’t seen an ‘Endless War’ bumper sticker in years, since 2009 to be exact.”

Obama’s spokesmen claim that the authority Congress gave George W. Bush in 2001 to move militarily against any country or force responsible for the 9/11 attacks is applicable to the present situation. As press secretary Josh Earnest argued, the president believes that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) “continues to apply to this terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria.”

There is more than one problem with this analogy. Al-Qaeda attacked the United States directly, and America’s military reaction was a response to that specific act of war. ISIS has taken possession of an area surrounding Iraq and Syria larger than the state of Maryland, and has now some 30,000 troops on the march and ready for further battles. They also have American weaponry, a disciplined armed force, and a (short) record of functioning as an actual state in the territory they now possess. But they have not, as yet, attacked the United States itself. So by Obama’s own previous statement, fighting ISIS is not at present a response to an imminent danger or a matter of self-defense.

Posted at 2:23 pm on September 12th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

Obama’s New ‘Strategy’: Will It Work? And How will Republicans Respond?

Dressed marvelously in a tan suit, Obama confessed at a recent press conference that “we don’t have a strategy” for dealing with ISIS/ISIL.  Now he appears to have come up with one. As a New York Times report by Helene Cooper explains:

President Obama escalated the American response to the marauding Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Friday, recruiting at least nine allies to help crush the organization and offering the outlines of a coordinated military strategy that echoes the war on terror developed by his predecessor, George W. Bush, more than a decade ago….Mr. Obama said the effort would rely on American airstrikes against its leaders and positions, strengthen the moderate Syrian rebel groups to reclaim ground lost to ISIS, and enlist friendly governments in the region to join the fight.

Having ineptly handled  his earlier press conference, the president clearly wants to be viewed as being at the top of his game by leading a new international effort to confront these radical Islamists. His goal now is “to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” in the same manner as the U.S. had gone after al-Qaeda. This, he says, can be accomplished without the use of U.S. combat troops.

The strategy is based on expanded air power and bombings, while trying to help the anti-ISIS forces on the ground composed of elements of the supposed “moderate” Free Syrian Army, Iraqi government and Shia military forces opposed to the Sunni extremists, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, while avoiding having U.S. armed troops fighting on the ground. Among his coalition partners would not only be the Western powers, but Jordan, the Gulf States and the Saudis who would finance it. The administration’s offer of $500 million to train and support supposedly vetted moderates from the Free Syrian Army seems rather paltry and hardly sufficient for the necessary tasks ahead. Also problematic is the administration’s belief that there are any truly moderate anti-Islamist groups large and strong enough to  make a difference.

Writing in the Washington Post, Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and commander of the U.S. Army War College, argues that the newly advanced strategy is not sufficient to do the job of destroying ISIS. Scales argues for the need to adopt the strategy introduced in Iraq by the former chief of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, General Stanley McChrystal. It is based on “substituting skill, information and precision for mass, maneuver and weight of shell.” It was first used after Sept. 11, 2001, when Special Forces units worked with the Afghan Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban with precision air strikes overhead teamed with trained and proven ground fighters who would kill “much larger aggregations of enemy” while minimizing the death of friendly forces and civilians.

The opposite of “shock and awe” used at the start of the war against Saddam Hussein by Donald Rumsfeld, it is based on hard intelligence from informants, NSA surveillance, and careful planning and rehearsals for military action. By using intelligence to assist the troops doing the fighting, and armed and unarmed drones, they can, as Scales writes, “obliterate the enemy in the dead of night.”

But, he writes,  Obama is not yet willing to undertake a “scaling-up of the method, never attempted before.” As of now, ISIS is well-armed, controls a huge amount of territory, and we do not have ready the men and military equipment that can do the job, including an enlarged group of fighters, advanced and superior equipment available only to the Special Operations Command, and many more drones.

His main point is correct:

The Islamic State cannot be defeated by diplomacy, sanctions, coalitions or political maneuverings. Its fighters must eventually be killed in large numbers, and Americans will never allow large conventional military forces to take them on. The butcher’s bill would simply be too large. The only sure means for defeating the group is with a renewed, expanded and overwhelming legion of capable special fighters who have learned through painful trial and error how to do the job.

Will Obama do what is necessary? And if he finally decides that he must undertake a vast expansion of the war against ISIS, will he do it without a congressional resolution supporting U.S. escalation, which many in Congress are demanding? The argument for congressional authorization stems from the early days of the Vietnam War’s expansion, when without such a declaration, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution authorizing a response to an attack on U.S. ships from North Vietnamese boats was used by LBJ as an excuse for massive U.S. escalation.

Former Senator Joseph Lieberman, writing in the Wall Street Journal, argues that such a resolution is not necessary. The Constitution, as he reads it, gives the commander-in-chief the “inherent power to make war,” especially since the enemy is not waiting to advance and fight.

Harry S. Truman, when using the cloak of a UN “police action,” brought the U.S. into action against the North Korean forces seeking to overthrow the U.S. ally South Korea. The old-Right Republicans, led by Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft (“Mr. Republican”), opposed Truman for not going to Congress and asking for a declaration of war, and condemned his ordering American troops to fight in Korea. Taft said that Truman’s intervention “violated all the precedents which have been established as to the limitations of the President’s power to make war,” and was “an absolute usurpation of authority by the President.”

The similarity between Taft’s position and that taken today by Rand Paul, as well as many libertarians and the paleoconservatives at The American Conservative magazine, is worth noting. No wonder the self-proclaimed non-interventionists at antiwar.com, like Justin Raimondo, who calls the recent events a “manufactured conflict,” are furious at an important article by Sebastian Payne and Robert Costa.

Posted at 4:54 pm on September 6th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

The Left’s Attempt to Institutionalize the Rewriting of US History: A New Step Forward Through their “Long March Through the Existing Institutions”

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.

Posted at 9:32 am on August 30th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

Our Bien Pensant American Historians: The New Friends of Hamas

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.”

Posted at 8:58 am on August 22nd, 2014 by Ron Radosh

The Hillary Conundrum: What Does She Really Believe, and When Did She Believe It?

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.

Posted at 8:23 am on August 15th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

The American Left: Friends of Our Country’s Enemies

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.

Posted at 8:23 am on August 9th, 2014 by Ron Radosh

What Hamas Believes, and Why It Must Be Delegitimized and Fought

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.”

Posted at 4:57 pm on August 3rd, 2014 by Ron Radosh