ince he assumed office nearly six years ago, US President Barack Obama has been dogged by allegations of managerial incompetence. Obama, his critics allege, had no managerial experience before he was elected. His lack of such experience, they claim, is reflected in what they see as his incompetent handling of the challenges of the presidency.

In everything from dealing with the Congress, to reining in radical ideologues at the IRS, to handling the chaos at the Mexican border, to putting together coordinated strategies for dealing with everything from Ebola to Islamic State (IS), Obama’s critics claim that he is out of his league. That he is incompetent.

But if Israel’s experience with him is any guide, then his critics are the ones who are out to sea. Because at least in his handling of US relations with the Jewish state, Obama has exhibited a mastery of the tools of the executive branch unmatched by most of his predecessors.

Consider two stories reported in last Friday’s papers.

First, in an article published in The Jerusalem Post, terrorism analyst and investigative reporter Steven Emerson revealed how the highest echelons of the administration blocked the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office from assisting Israel in finding the remains of IDF soldier Oron Shaul.

Shaul was one of seven soldiers from the Golani Infantry Brigade killed July 20 when Hamas terrorists fired a rocket at their armored personnel carrier in Gaza’s Shejeia neighborhood.

As Emerson related, after stealing his remains, Hamas terrorists hacked into Shaul’s Facebook page and posted announcements that he was being held by Hamas.

UK: Iran Lobbies against Sanctions by Samuel Westrop

Over 800 Iranians were executed during President Rouhani’s first year in office.

Leading politicians, British government officials and businessmen nevertheless seemed happy to attend and speak at the Europe-Iran Forum.

On October 15, the Europe-Iran Forum was held at the Grosvenor Square Hotel in London. Citing an “expected rollback of the current international sanctions against Iran,” the event was organized to “properly prepare and evaluate the post-sanctions trade framework and investment opportunities.”

Speakers and sponsors of the event included:

Rouzbeh Pirouz, the Deputy President of Iralco, an Iranian company subjected to sanctions by the European Union, which has accused it of “directly supporting Iran’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities.” Pirouz sits on the board of the Iranian Heritage Foundation, a British charity established by Vahid Alaghband, an Iranian businessman linked with the regime.

Sifiso Dabengwa, who runs the MTN Group, which anti-regime lobby groups have accused of working to “help the Iranian regime terrorize and oppress its citizens,” and acting as “a complicit partner of the Iranian regime.

Majid Zamani, Chief Executive of Kardan Investment Bank, a leading Iranian financial firm, the three leading shareholders of which are listed on the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list of Specially Designated Nationals. In 2012, the European Union reported that one of the shareholders, Bank Tejarat, helped finance the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran’s attempts to acquire yellowcake uranium.

Austria: Civil Law vs. Sharia Law by Soeren Kern

Austria has emerged as a major base for radical Islam and as a central hub for European jihadists to fight in Syria.

The proposed revisions would, among other changes, regulate the training and hiring of Muslim clerics, prohibit the foreign funding of mosques, and establish an official German-language version of the Koran to prevent its “misinterpretation” by Islamic extremists.

Muslims would be prohibited from citing Islamic sharia law as legal justification for ignoring or disobeying Austrian civil laws.

Leaders of Austria’s Muslim community counter that the contemplated new law amounts to “institutionalized Islamophobia.”

Official statistics show that nearly 60% of the inhabitants of Vienna are immigrants or foreigners. The massive demographic and religious shift underway in Austria, traditionally a Roman Catholic country, appears irreversible.

The Austrian government has unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the country’s century-old “Islam Law” that governs the legal status of Austria’s Muslim community.

The proposed revisions—which are aimed at cracking down on Islamic extremism in Austria—would regulate the training and hiring of Muslim clerics, prohibit the foreign funding of mosques, and establish an official German-language version of the Koran, among other changes.

The government says the modifications would give Muslims legal parity with other religious groups in Austria. But the leaders of Austria’s Muslim community counter that the contemplated new law amounts to “institutionalized Islamophobia.

How Anti-Semitism Became a European Social Movement- Anyone can Join—even Jews By Ben Cohen

“Anti-Semitism was born in modern societies because the Jew did not assimilate himself,” wrote the French-Jewish thinker Bernard Lazare in 1894, a few months after the arrest of Captain Alfred Dreyfus on charges of treason. “But,” Lazare continued, “when anti-Semitism ascertained that the Jew was not assimilated,” it reacted in two conflicting directions, simultaneously “reproach[ing] him for it and . . . [taking] all necessary measures to prevent his assimilation in the future.”

This pattern, which Lazare presciently identified as the “fundamental and everlasting contradiction” of anti-Semitism, and which we would call a “Catch-22,” seems to me to lie at the root of the existential dilemma of contemporary French Jews. And not of them alone. At stake here, as Robert Wistrich observes in his masterly essay in Mosaic, is much more than the fate of a single minority community. In the “beginning of the end of French Jewry,” Wistrich writes, we may also be witnessing the “slow death” of the French republican ideal—the collapse, as he put it in his 2010 magnum opus A Lethal Obsession, “of any consensual national project or unifying social bond, let alone commonly shared ideals.”

And France is hardly the only nation affected. This past summer, raw hatred of Jews rose to dramatic heights in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany (where mobs urged “gassing the Jews”), and elsewhere. When it comes to anti-Semitism, a post-war, post-Holocaust consensus is breaking down all over Western Europe—right alongside the concurrent breakdown of the EU’s promised ideal of a transcontinental, inter-communal political identity. Such an identity might indeed have permitted European Jews to escape Lazare’s “everlasting contradiction”: rejected for being Jewish, lambasted for remaining Jewish. But it may be too late.

Still, however consistent with the past may be the motifs of modern anti-Semitism, it has not been easy to pinpoint the motive force behind its present resurgence. It is not enough to say, as many do, that the main culprit, in France or elsewhere, is “the left,” or “nationalist extremism,” or “the Muslims,” or “the Internet,” or some combination of these. That is to confuse the multiple, overlapping expressions of a problem with the problem itself. I would suggest a different point of departure, one that appreciates the radically new situation of Western Jews themselves at this moment in their history.To see this, it would help to take a preliminary step backward.

In the 19th century and well into the 20th, the Jewish experience of modern anti-Semitism in Europe was defined by three factors: first, discriminatory legislation; second, a marked tendency toward mass violence, either sanctioned or colluded in by the state and local authorities; and third, the fact that Jewish communities were dependent for their security on the states in which they lived.

The last time a set of grand Europeans ideals—the ideals encapsulated in Enlightenment rationalism and the emancipation of Europe’s Jews—broke down, all three of these factors came into play: anti-Semitic legislation, violence, the withdrawal of civic rights and protection. Worse, by the 20th century, anti-Semitism became intimately bound up with the ideological imperatives of totalitarian and revolutionary regimes. Both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the two states that did more to advance anti-Semitism than any of their European peers, converted mob vilification of the Jews into government policy, shaped on a grand scale and implemented from on high.

Things are very different today. To begin with, the vast majority of European Jews enjoy full civil and political rights and are not subject to anti-Semitic legislation. True, this status is not universal. There are smaller Jewish communities—in Hungary, Turkey, and elsewhere—where anti-Semitic sentiments are stoked or encouraged by governments and political leaders. And there are regimes that manipulate the charge of anti-Semitism for their own political ends, the most pertinent example being Russia under Vladmir Putin. But these are exceptions.

As for mass violence, except for sporadic outbursts (like this past summer in France), it, too, is no longer a fixture of contemporary Jewish existence—which is precisely why it is so traumatizing when it occurs. It is certainly not condoned or encouraged by the authorities.

Most significantly of all, there is a Jewish state that not only is reassuringly capable of protecting the Jews who live there but also provides sanctuary to Jews elsewhere who face threats to their security.

As a result, European Jews today are more protected than perhaps at any time since the French Revolution. Though some of the symbols and slogans of the past have come back to haunt the contemporary scene—witness the revival of both the Nazi image of the Jew as alien predator and the Soviet image of the Jew as conniving tribalist—in no European society today does government initiate or engineer the persecution of its Jewish communities. Many governments, in fact, have designed and strengthened legislation with precisely the opposite goal, pursuing it with a zeal that Americans, accustomed to strong constitutional protections for free speech, might well find disquieting.



When Defamatory Politics Masquerade as Art

The Death of Klinghoffer, an opera that aims to create sympathy for the terrorist hijackers of the Achille Lauro, returns to the New York Metropolitan Opera tonight. Edward Rothstein, reviewing the piece when it first opened in 1991, had some nice words for the conductor and the singers. But he also found the music “either atmospheric or emotionally elementary” and the message, delivered through a contrastingly “empathetic evocation of the [Palestinian] intifada” and mockery of the terrorists’ Jewish victims, politically rigged and morally repugnant. In Rothstein’s summary:

The work itself turned out to be more about its intended reception than about its subject, more a matter of pitch than substance. Without historical insight, without profound revelation of character, without the advertised symmetry [between Jews and Palestinians], without even a coherent libretto and convincing score, The Death of Klinghoffer becomes simply another monument to an avant-garde that is repeating old political and aesthetic gestures while acting as if it is daringly breaking new ground.

September 7, 1991
Review/Opera; Seeking Symmetry Between Palestinians and Jews

All through Thursday night’s New York premiere of the much-awaited “Death of Klinghoffer,” one knew exactly what the creators wanted a listener to think:

Setting the story of the 1985 Palestinian hijacking of a luxury cruise ship and the killing of a wheelchair-bound American Jew not on an ocean liner but in an Erector Set of scaffolding and ramps would treat yesterday’s newspaper reports as mythic, ritualistic repetitions of timeless struggles.

Telling the story in highly stylized language (by Alice Goodman) and music (by John Adams), using formalized gestures developed by Peter Sellars, having Mark Morris choreograph his dancers with hyperbolic poses and frenetic movements would raise audiences’ reactions above knee-jerk notions.

Political Correctness, Morality and California Bill SB 967 By Sydney Williams

In the mid 1960s – around the time I was married and beginning to have children – the counterculture movement moved into high gear. Almost from the first battle at la Drang Valley in the Central Highlands in late 1965, the Vietnam War divided the country. A few anti-war protestors became as violent as those they were protesting against. Civil Rights and Women’s Rights were in full swing. The “pill” was in common usage. Through the haze of marijuana, amid the sniffing of cocaine and dropping of acid, free love made its entrance. Woodstock symbolized that time. Women threw away their bras, as a right of passage, failing to anticipate that a later passage into middle age would require those undergarments for comfort’s sake.

What, I wonder, would former hippies, those who were then young, free-thinking and living in communes and places like Haight Ashbury, feel about Berkley’s requirement that students today give up their sexual freedom? On whose side would Mario Savio appear? Before engaging in any sexual activity, like kissing, necking or something more intimate, California’s new law says that consent must be agreed to in advance.

Consent can “come in the form of a smile, a nod or a verbal ‘yes,’ as long as it is unambiguous, enthusiastic and ongoing” – a statement that itself is ambiguous. The Bill goes on: “A lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.” So much for what we remember of “no’s” morphing into “yes’s,” as petting got heavier! Would a text message be more definitive? Exactly how far will the party of the first part allow the party of the second part to go, before the party of the first part cries out: “This is sexual harassment!”

California Bill SB 967 was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 29th. Berkley defines sexual consent (generally aimed at women) as agreeing to three ‘pillars’: “Knowing exactly what I am agreeing to; expressing my intent to participate; deciding freely and voluntarily to participate.” Formal consent must be received at each step, or it must have been decided in advance, which puts a damper on the instinctual nature of love making. Just imagine Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in “Indiscreet:” As Ms. Bergman falls passionately into Mr. Grant’s arms, he suddenly remembers, so asks, “Have you signed your consent forms?” If she, panting, answers “Yes,” Mr. Grant would then be required to ask, “Are doing this of your own free will?” I suspect the movie would lose some of its spontaneity, even if Ms. Bergman retorted, “Look, Stupid, just get on with it!”



n a spectacular display of ignorance, moral illiteracy and malice, the Swedish parliament voted in favor of unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state in early October. Then, on October 13th, a group of backbench British MPs succeeded in obtaining a symbolic, non-binding vote in the British House of Commons to the effect “that the Government should recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution towards supporting a negotiated two-state solution”. Similar parliamentary votes on Palestinian statehood are expected shortly in Ireland, Spain, Denmark, France and Finland.

These votes disregard the realities of the conflict. If the Palestinians would recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people (which would mean acknowledgment of the character and permanence of Israel); accept demilitarization of Gaza and the West Bank; change their culture of hatred by amending their founding documents that proclaim their intention to annihilate Israel; forego their unconditional and non-negotiable position on their absolute “right of return” to Israel; cease incitement against Jews and Israelis in their schools, newspapers, mosques, media, summer camps, TV programming and educational system; cease portraying Palestine on their maps as including the State of Israel; cease their acts of murderous violence across Israel; cease justifying violence against Israelis as a legitimate form of political action; cease naming tournaments, marketplaces and streets after Palestinian “martyrs” whose claim to fame is that they murdered Jewish “occupiers” of Palestine (meaning Israelis); cease firing thousands of rockets into Israeli population centers; cease building terrorist tunnels into Israel for the sole purpose of kidnapping and murdering Israeli civilians; cease encouraging Islamists to continue efforts aimed at preventing Jews (“settlers”) from visiting the Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism and the location of the ruins of the two Temples of Jerusalem; cease referring to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs”; cease providing payments to the families of suicide bombers; cease embracing as ‘heroes’ released Palestinian terrorists who murdered Israelis; cease attempting to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officers and officials at the International Criminal Court; cease insisting that the UN Security Council impose a deadline for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank; cease playing the victim on the international stage and begin taking responsibility for their own failures, and cease promoting the apartheid, racist idea that any future Palestinian state will be “Jew-free” (as Mahmoud Abbas said in 2010), ……… then recognition of a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution would become feasible.

At this moment in time and for the foreseeable future, however, there is no serious evidence that the Palestinian leadership (be it Fatah or Hamas or both) want a state of their own that will live in peace with Israel as a Jewish state which rests on land they consider to be a sacred part of the Islamic ummah. In fact, there is ample evidence that they will treat anything they get as a staging ground for further attacks on Israel until it has been annihilated or subjugated to Islamic rule.

Sending the U.S. Military Against the Ebola Contagion: A Cautionary Note ****



American combat veterans, from fighting an enemy or a disease, should always be concerned about a grateful nation not protecting them.

A generation of Vietnam Veterans were ignored and allowed to die alone waiting in the dark during their end of life years.

So active duty military and their families have every right to be concerned when the Government finds a new mission for them involving new risks.

With respect to putting the US Government front and center in helping the troops who were exposed to Agent Orange and environmental factors causing Gulf War illness one visionary DVA Secretary said not on his watch.

On May 11, 1989 DVA Secretary Derwinski held a news conference and sided with America’s Veterans; he stopped the US Government legal case that was denying disability compensation to Vietnam in-theater veterans based on exposure to Agent Orange (AO). The Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) were very appropriately aggressive in support of USG taking full responsibility to address the adverse health effects of Agent Orange.

Consequently, prior to his action there was little to no motivation for Vietnam Veterans to apply for disability compensation based on exposure to Agent Orange because the VA rejected AO service-connected disability requests. Also, many in those days had justified distaste for the government.

Hong Kong’s Birthright Citizenship Problem By Ian Smith ****

This past month’s media coverage of the protests in Hong Kong omits an important source of tension between the miniscule territory and its huge northern neighbor: Birthright Citizenship. Like the US, Hong Kong is one of the few areas of the world that has some form of this rather nonsensical practice. I worked in Hong Kong for 7 years and I know from friends and colleagues there that the explosion of anger over the past several weeks includes not only the recent political meddling from Beijing but also serious social and cultural tensions related in part to Hong Kong’s immigration policy vis a vis the mainland Chinese.

Under current law, any mainland Chinese can secure permanent residence for their children in Hong Kong if they simply cross the border and give birth within the territory. As a result, those from the mainland, but born in Hong Kong, become entitled to receive generous future welfare benefits, attend superior local schools and travel internationally with much greater ease. This along with the swarm of mainland Chinese that now frequently move and travel to Hong Kong, bringing alien habits with them like spitting and eating in public, has earned them the title of “locusts” by many of Hong Kong’s citizens.

“Birth tourism” from the mainland took off following a decision from Hong Kong’s highest court in 2002 that interpreted the “right to abode”-clause in the territory’s constitution to award permanent residency status to Hong Kong-born children of non-resident mainland Chinese. Soon after the decision, Hong Kong’s hospitals (some of the best in the world) became flooded with “birth tourists” from the mainland. By 2012, one in every three births in the territory was going to mainland Chinese parents – While I lived there (2005-2012), one short-term rental apartment block in my neighborhood was usually almost completely taken up by pregnant mainland wives waiting to give birth – Usually resilient Hong Kongese snapped and protested that the abuse from the northern Chinese not only strained medical resources but also endangered the lives of the other Hong Kong patients.

The practice was finally curbed (but not completely halted) when Hong Kong hospitals became so stretched that doctors, medical staff and taxpayers organized in the streets and forced the government to make mainland mothers prove they were married to Hong Kong men. That Hong Kong’s top-notch schools and nearly free medical care could end up being handed over to foreign “locusts” who contributed nothing to the system was too much to bear for the hardworking local citizens.

Islamist Turkey’s Betrayal By Joseph Puder

The struggle for Kobani, the Syrian Kurdish town on the border with Turkey where the Kurdish forces alone are battling the barbaric hordes of the Islamic State, aka ISIS, is reminiscent of the Polish uprising in Warsaw against the Nazis in August, 1944. While the Polish Home Army fought courageously against the might of the superior armed Nazis, the Soviet Union’s Red Army stood by across the River Vistula, which divides Warsaw, watching the merciless slaughter of Polish civilians and the destruction of the city.

The Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan, like the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin before him, showed no consideration for the lives of innocent Kurdish civilians already butchered by the sadists of the Islamic State mercenaries. For those still alive in Kobani, unless rescued by outside intervention or supplied with heavy arms and ammunition, will also die a gruesome death. Turkish tanks, in the meantime, are ensconced on the crest overlooking Kobani. They can help save the remaining Kurds should Erdogan give them the order to fire on the ISIS fighters. But, just as Stalin wanted the Nazis to decimate the Polish nationalist Home Army, Erdogan is wishing for ISIS to destroy the Syrian Kurds.

What is puzzling in all this is the role the U.S. is playing. In his September 10, 2014 speech, President Obama said that, “military advisors are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence, and equipment.” Hitherto, there has been no supply of equipment or training of the Kurds. In fact, the Obama administrations blind support for a unitary Iraqi state led by Shiite ruled Baghdad government is in contradiction with the realities on the ground. The Shiite-led Iraqi army folded in the face of the jihadi ISIS guerrilla offensive, and in the process, abandoning U.S. supplied heavy weapons including tanks, armored cars, Humvees, etc. The Kurdish Peshmergas alone hold the line against ISIS, and they are not getting the promised arms because the U.S. has long insisted that all sales of U.S. weapons must go through Iraq’s central government, despite Kurdish complaints that Baghdad had deprived them of promised military equipment and financial support.

Washington has not overruled Baghdad on issuing direct shipments of arms to the Kurds. The Iraqi government has demanded that all shipments to the Kurds arrive first in Baghdad. Iraqi officials have regularly blocked or delayed these shipments to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil. Moreover, U.S. State Department regulations bar the KRG from purchasing U.S. made weapons without “end-user certificates” issued by Baghdad. According to the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy, “Baghdad is bent on wielding this authority to prevent the KRG from developing antitank and antiaircraft arsenals.”