Tuesday, August 15, 2006
By way of Hot Air comes a perfectly loathesome screed from Andrew Gumbel writing for Independent. (Quick summary: What's with Americans liking Israel more than Hizbollah, anyway? It's got to be the Jewish Lobby. Brilliant, insightful, and subtle -- exactly what you would expect from Robert Fisk's home publication.) I won't bother commenting further on the article, as Allah has already done a fine job. But I did recognize a particular name mentioned at the end -- one Rabbi Lerner, still happy to be the Arab apologists' favorite tool:
"There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings," Lerner said. "The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state."
Well, it's nice to know that there is some Jewish theology that the Independent is willing to publish uncensored. I won't bother commenting on the religious angle -- hard for me to imagine anything more pointless than debating strawmen with cheap "dissenters." Better to just point out the last time Lerner appeared in these pages, encouraging people to attend the rally from which he was thrown out -- for being too "pro-Zionist" and quite frankly, just too damned Jewish. Opposing the removal of Saddam Hussein was more important, see.

Priorities, man. The Rabbi has his priorities.
Monday, August 14, 2006
I'm sick of the recurring outages and annoying arbitrary character limits at BackBlog, so comments have been switched over to HaloScan. Unfortunately, that means comments for old posts have disappeared from the blog. This was not an easy tradeoff to make, but I think it'll make things better in the long run. It's always possible to retrieve BackBlog comments by hand if necessary.

Convenient as I find Google News for my news-gathering needs, their utter lack of judgement -- no doubt passed off as "objectivity" within Google -- can be jarring even to me. I mean, what kind of "news" bot would consider the North Korea Times a source? Well, see for yourself.

It's unclear whether this site is really an organ of the Pyongyang government. It's hosted in Australia, where North Korea doesn't even have an embassy. It's also substantially more slick than Pyongyang's official website. The official web site looks like a page out of 1994; the "Times" is a bit closer to 1999. Of course, if it's not really a Pyongyang mouthpiece, Google has been had by a prank -- or perhaps an Aussie "admirer."

Amusing aside: apparently there are Seymour Hersh fans in Pyongyang. I'm really quite tempted to believe the whole site's a prank. And Google is not in on it. Though perhaps The New Yorker can help -- have they been paid by the North Koreans for running this story?

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Very Immodest Open Letter

Dear Israel,

It was just about two years ago that I wrote my modest open letter to you. While inspired by the tragic events and disgusting moral preening that were in evidence at the time, that little missive was still meant to be in good fun. Not this one.

A short while ago, one of your bombs hit a Lebanese shelter. Dozens were killed, including many children. To call this a "tragedy" would be a massive understatement.

But as usual with global geopolitics, tragedy is quickly followed by farce. Right on cue, we are now witnessing widespread global outrage over the fact that you hit a civilian shelter while firing at a rocket launcher, while barely anyone is even remotely bothered by the fact that rocket launchers were dispersed amongst civilians to begin with. That no outrage is evident as Hezbollah's deliberate targeting of your civilians is so normal now, it hardly merits comment. Such is the cravenness and duplicity of those who would hold themselves your moral superiors.

And yet, somehow, you're still letting them do that. No matter how much abuse you take from this worthless "community" of cheaply bought, largely disposable nations, like a battered wife, you keep coming back begging. See, look, we're giving a state to a terrorist who's been murdering our people for over two decades! Check it out, we're leaving Lebanon, abandoning our Lebanese allies, and handing over strategic points to Hezbollah! Come on, sweetie, we'll even forcibly remove Jews from Gaza and the West Bank is coming soon! Can't you show us some love, just this once? And so it is now. My jaw dropped when I heard FM Haim Ramon claim that the world was giving Israel a "green light" to continue its war on the Hezbollah. Not necessarily because it was untrue but... since when does Israel ask permission to do what needs to be done? If invading Lebanon and bombing Hezbollah targets is what you feel is required to defend your citizens, what "green light" do you require? Naturally, once you start looking over your shoulder and asking for permission, others see fit to deny it to you. And why not? Certainly Hezbollah isn't going to ask their permission, and when you're, say, France, it's nice to pretend you matter and give orders to independent nations. Especially if said nations are dumb enough to ask.

Yes, I know, you want to be viewed as a respectable, "normal" country, part of a community of nations. The feeling is understandable, especially in people who have been shunned and spit upon by other nations for centuries. But here's the thing -- "normal," respectable countries don't go around begging others to respect them. You don't get respect by begging for it -- you get respect by showing that you respect yourself, and will take no crap from those who don't share that view. That's why China can mow down demonstrators on CNN, and get respect. It's why Iran can execute teenage girls for being raped, and get respect. It's why Saudi Arabia can be a privately owned backwards hellhole whose sole contribution to the world is Wahhabist terorrism, whose religious police shove girls into burning schools, and whose laws enshrine religious bigotry -- and they still get more respect than you. They don't ask for respect, they assume it, even though they hardly deserve it. You, on the other hand, permit yourself to be judged by a group 99% of which isn't fit to be in the same room with decent nations. Well, if you don't respect yourself, don't expect it from others. That's just life.

Which brings us to the goings-on in Lebanon today. Quite frankly, Israel, you'd better decide once and for all: do you want to live, or not? (This is not to be confused with that idiotic refrain about your "right to exist" that some well-meaning intellectuals bandy about. Yes, that's real smart, let's put that up for discussion, too! You exist, and you don't need anyone's edicts about your right to do so. The question is, what are you doing to protect that right?) If you're going to live, you'd better be willing to live without conditions -- the instant you set those, you're done, for they are nothing more than declared parameters for your destruction. For the past 50 years, you've imposed conditions on yourselves: sure, we want an Israel, but only as a "light unto nations;" yes, we want an Israel, but only if the world approves; definitely, Israel should prosper, but only if the Palestinians are happy; sure, Israel should defend its cities, but maybe not if getting our enemies requires going through their children... Your enemies aren't stupid and they aren't restrained by any such moral codes, so when you say this, all they hear is, "Palestinian demands are an effective tactic" and "Lebanese children will make excellent human shields." Such high-minded fantasies aren't nobility and heroism -- they are the opposite of nobility. When you succumb to them, you abdicate your responsibility to your fellow citizens in order to protect your enemies. And any society that does this seals its own destruction. You'll note that Arabs aren't reciprocating, and they only send you more rockets and bombs as a "thank you." So what is it that you hope to accomplish? If it is sainthood you want, fine -- but the problem with sainthood is that it's always granted posthumously.

No, it's not pleasant being labeled "aggressors," "world's greatest terrorists," "war criminals," and the like -- especially as these labels come from the very people for whom war crimes are a normal tactic, or their apologists. But let's look at this in perspective: a few decades ago, Jews were held in contempt, often despised, and viewed as helpless victims and convenient targets. Better to be hated and feared, than abused and pitied. Better to hear impotent global shrieks of "war criminal!" as you calmly eliminate your enemies, than wincing at whispers of "dirty yahood!" as you walk down the street in fear. Don't sacrifice your advantage in strength for empty promises of "peace" and "love." No one ever achieved peace by giving up tactical advantage. You've learned that lesson too many times in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon; don't do it again.

What does all of this mean, in practical terms? Are you really to start disregarding world opinion? Absolutely. Do what you and your citizens need. Right now, that means eradicating Hezbollah. So do that. Destroy them, without worrying about what happens to those they hide amongst -- it's sad that Lebanese innocents will die, but you are Israel, and your concern is with Israeli innocents. Lebanon should have worried about its civilians when Hezbollah was parking missile bunkers under their schools -- but they chose not to, and the consequences of that choice aren't your problem. That doesn't mean you target civilians just because, Hezbollah-style; but you know that. On the other hand, if the Lebanese park a missile launcher in a nursery, you take out the missile launcher. The nursery is not your problem. If you can't deal with having blood on your hands, you won't have a nation for long. No nation can survive that kind of squeamishness. You'll note that Arabs have no issues with infanticide, and they have some two dozen nations. After all they've done to you for the last 50 years, you don't need to apologize to them. (No, that doesn't mean you stoop to their level. But don't be such high-minded elitists that they shoot you off your high horse, either. War is hell, and if they don't want to wear cement in the morning, perhaps they should accept their losses and your existence. Otherwise, they can die, making their feelings about your existence a purely academic question.)

Always remember: as Israelis, your job is to protect Israelis. Protecting Arabs from their own suicidal stupidity is not your job -- that's why they have their own governments and mental health facilities. Sacrificing your own people -- soldiers or civilians -- in order to protect Arabs from the consequences of their behavior is downright criminal negligence. Your people come first -- period.

In the short term, this won't win you any love. Some of the more hypocritical and sanctimonious countries (who long ago secured their positions through exactly this attitude) may even cut their ties with you. So maybe you won't be able to travel to quite so many places, or have as many customers for your products. Travel is nice, trade is nice, but you know what's nicer than both of those things? Not having rockets fall on your heads. Not having suicide bombers in your midst. Sorry if I'm pointing out the obvious here.

And don't be so sure about those consequences. It took Arabs a long time to turn world opinion against you, mostly by drawing out the conflict. Get the conflict off the world's TV screens, and memories turn short. I'm an American. Recently, I took a trip to Tokyo. It was a lovely experience -- service on Japan Air Lines was superb, and people in Japan were polite and helpful. Never mind that 60 years ago, we fought a brutal war with them, which we ended by nuking their country -- twice. Today, I don't even need a visa. Nor is this an isolated example: those same Japanese do business all over Asia, which they brutalized in that same war. That was then; now they come for cheap booze, cheap labor, and (occasionally) cheap hookers, and no one seems to mind. Germans are still overrunning Europe, but now mainly in the form of slightly obnoxious tourists. The trains between India and Pakistan are packed. Russian nouveaux riches buy up Japanese televisions and American SUVs. Taiwanese businessmen run factories in central China. Even you have good relations with Jordan (Transjordan before you took away the West Bank) and Egypt. Life goes on, and peace is possible, but only if you bring it by killing your enemies until they are no longer willing to fight, either because they are exhausted, or because there's none left. The quicker you kill them, the quicker the conflict ends, the sooner everyone moves on and you resume normal life: t's not inconceivable that in a few years, you could be skiing on Mount Lebanon, doing business deals in Dubai, and visiting historic synagogues in Algeria. Hesitate, and you are doomed to neverending conflict, until your enemies grow stronger and destroy you. There is no "third way" -- five thousand years of history prove that conclusively.

To end conflicts, win them. World opinion isn't worth a warm cup of spit. Every "normal" country out there knows it. Figure it out, and you too will join the community of nations. And you won't have to sacrifice your people anymore.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Former Terrorists Speak Out

I've said many times here that if there are truly anti-terrorist Muslims and Arabs out there, they'd better speak out. Well, it turns out, some of them are, at great risk to themselves. Amazingly, some, like the founder of the linked organization, are themselves former Arab terrorists. I need not tell anyone that they do this at enormous personal risk.

If you click on nothing else on this page, at least have a look at this astounding interview (streamable Windows Media Video, 17.8 MB), given by three former terrorists who are now speaking out (and not mincing any words) about exactly what the world is dealing with. It's nothing most pro-Israel readers didn't already know, but here, at least, the messengers are as important as the message.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Principles, schminciples

The EU is beginning to sound positively Orwellian:

Feb 8, 2006 — LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union may try to draw up a media code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the furor caused by the publication across Europe of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, an EU commissioner said on Thursday.

In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said the charter would encourage the media to show "prudence" when covering religion.

"The press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression," he told the newspaper. "We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

Exercise those rights, European publishers. Just keep in mind the "consequences." After all, we wouldn't want any accidental fires or leg-breakings, know what I mean?

Incidentally, if the media code is published by the EU government, how exactly is that self-regulation? In contrast to direct submission to sharia, maybe? Oh, here we are:

The code would be drawn up by the European Commission, the EU executive body, and European media outlets, he said. It would not have legal status.

So the EU will pass a "voluntary" speech code? Perhaps they can call it Tyranny Lite. I'd advise Mr. Frattini to give Fahrenheit 451 a read, but something tells me he'd go out and rent a Michael Moore movie.

It's hard to imagine, by the way, how a code of conduct written by the European Commission would have no legal standing. Regardless, at its core, this is the case of a government regulating the speech of its citizens subjects, for fear of giving offense. Remember all the European cries of "self-censorship" about American news media's coverage of Afghanistan and Iraq? Apparently, they were meant as a compliment.

My favorite part:

His proposed voluntary code would urge the media to respect all religious sensibilities but would not offer privileged status to any one faith.

It's hard not to yield to temptation, and use this to our advantage. For example, as someone who supports Israel, I'd advise Israelis to claim that references to "Zionist occupiers" etc. are offensive to the Jewish religion (which, after all, says pretty explicitly that Israel is the Jews' home). At that point, they can drag into court any reporter in Europe who so much as dares to claim that the West Bank is "occupied." A few burned consulates to drive the point home, and European support for Arabs -- in the press and otherwise -- should be considerably reduced.

Likewise, the next time anti-American sentiment spills over the top somewhere in Paris or Brussels, Americans should riot, boycott some products, and torch a few Washington embassies. Let's see if the EU then passes more "voluntary media codes" prohibiting offense based on nationality. Sure, it's immoral and uncivilized and all, but if the EU won't respect its own rights, why should it only be Muslims who benefit?

By the way -- isn't it amazing how Europe, aggressively secular for decades, has suddenly developed this deep respect for religions?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Hugh Hewitt, for whose opinions I have the utmost respect, has written a couple of dismaying posts on his blog. His basic premises seem to be that the cartoons were nothing more than a juvenile, pointless vulgar stunt, and that the needless offense given by the cartoons has made them a perfect tool for jihadists to use as propaganda and undermine support for U.S. goals in the War on Terror.

With regard to the first point, Mr. Hewitt writes:

The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see the parallels, beyond the facile. Toles' and Stein's commentary was, in its own Lefty way, rather banal. It had some mild shock value, but beyond that, it accomplished nothing. The reaction from readers, while unfavorable, was entirely predictable, and all we had was yet another instance of Left-wing disrespect for the opinions and sacrifices of Americans in uniform, and mainstream revulsion in return. A publicity stunt, a chance to act within pattern, nothing more.

None of this applies to the actions of the Jyllands-Posten. True, the cartoons were offensive to Muslims. True, they did not demonstrate respect for the beliefs of others that common courtesy demands. But this was no mere publicity stunt. The motivation for running the cartoons was to expose the censorship and suppression of speech that Jyllands-Posten editors noted when they tried to publish a book, whose purpose was neither to annoy nor to offend anyone. Faced with the fact that people were afraid to draw some pictures, Jyllands-Posten editors did the right (and truly heroic) thing, and challenged the censorship head-on.

What was the result? Was it "the usual" -- some nasty letters to the editor and a few empty threats? Not even close: what we got was nothing less than a global conflict, where the West received a very clear demonstration of the contempt that Muslims hold for concepts such as freedom of expression and freedom of worship (which includes the freedom not to worship). Not only that, but we also learned that Muslims consider the entire world subject to their beliefs; that they will threaten people for merely being compatriots of the few that offend them; and that for all their use of the UN and other international institutions, they will conveniently forget even the basics of international protocol and burn foreign embassies. Finally, we learned that building up goodwill -- as European appeasement has attempted to do for nearly half a century -- is pointless, as decades of submissive diplomacy and billions of dollars of "subsidies" failed to buy even a sane perspective from the Muslim world.

In short, the Jyllands-Posten cartoonists have accomplished in a few months what everyone from the Israeli government to hundredes of counter-jihadist writers and opinionmakers to even the invaluable Charles Johnson of LGF could not do: demonstrate beyond any doubt that "radical" Islam was a danger to Western civilization, that its adherents have no respect for ostensibly "global" rules of behavior, and that it is not possible to buy them off. For that alone, the Western world owes them a debt of gratitude the magnitude of which I can hardly fathom. And this is an action Mr. Hewitt considers "unnecessary"?

Mr. Hewitt also approaches the question from a more tactical point of view:

There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops' jobs more difficult, and the jihadists' mission easier.

And in a later post:

So, did the cartoons and their aftermath make it easier or more diffcult for Musharraf of Pakistan to continue to guide his country away from the lure of the jihadists? Easier or more difficult for Turkey to remain a friend of the West's? Easier or more difficult for the pro-Western people of Iran to summon the courage to change their government? Easier or more difficult for Jordan's King Abdullah to continue his course, which has included support for the reconstruction of Iraq even in the face of Zarqawi's murderers? [...] That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway.

Again, it's time to step back and get a little perspective. We aren't fighting the War on Terror merely for the right to eat pork on our home turf or install less tyrannical governments in Mesopotamia. Our struggle is for the very survival of the Western civilization, which cannot stand without the liberal concepts of freedom of thought and expression. If we are willing to give those up just to gain some temporary allies in a tactical theater, we've already lost. To claim that the fight over what Danes may publish in Denmark "divert[s] attention" from more important battles is absurd: it is the battle. Why spend blood and treasure keeping Islamism out of Baghdad, if we let it run free in Copenhagen?

Nor am I particularly impressed with Mr. Hewitt's claim that this "stunt" has hurt our support from our Muslim allies. First, it is patronizing to those same allies, if we assume that just like their lunatic-radical mosquemates, they are unable to get over some cheesy drawings in order to fight the tyranny that threatens them far more than it does us. And second, if Hugh is right, then quite frankly, these are allies we don't need and do not want. Any such "allies" are just enemies we haven't discovered yet, and we'd be far better off putting them all on the business ends of our rifles. We can give up on them, and end this clash of Western Civilization and Islamic barbarism once and for all. Because if there's anything we've learned from Europe's recent troubles, it's that Islamists make for very fickle and dangerous "friends."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some brief observations on the whole brouhaha over the Mohammed cartoons:

I have absolutely no problem with Muslims demonstrating en masse and expressing outrage over this. However thin-skinned they are, their beliefs have been offended, and they do have the right to voice their displeasure. If certain countries want to make this displeasure official, that is also their prerogative.

The preceding obviously does not extend to death threats -- or worse -- against the authors of the cartoons, their publishers, or the citizens of the countries where the cartoons have been published.

* * *

Let's take note: using the name of Allah for a terrorist organization, or having a mass murderer like Atta take Mohammed's name as his own does not bother the Muslims a whole lot. Commuter bombings in London, bus bombings in Israel, carnage against Russian schoolchildren in Beslan and Iraqi kids in Baghdad -- in the name of Islam -- all elicit barely a shrug. But print up some images of Mohammed, and the Muslim world explodes. This is a very crucial insight into the ethics of the Muslim community as a whole. We ignore this particular lesson at our peril.

* * *

I know it's an annoying cliché, but Words mean things. I've heard too many times now that our (Western) value systems require us to "respect the beliefs of others." They most certainly do not. We usually respect others' beliefs as a courtesy, but we are under no obligation to respect the beliefs of anyone at all. We do not have to respect your beliefs; we only respect your right to hold those beliefs. That means we won't hurt, imprison, or kill you for merely holding or expressing some belief at odds with our own. (A courtesy the Muslims frequently fail to extend to others.) In no way does our value system prohibit mocking anyone's religious beliefs, tenets, or icons. It's disturbing that so many people are unclear on this, to the point of claiming that freedom of speech does not extend to blasphemy. Those European officials who feel this way may want to have their watch repaired: it's a few centuries behind.

* * *

You have to feel for poor ol' Europe. Decades of anti-Israel sentiment, nearly a half-century of lips planted firmly on Arab posteriors, billions sent to the murderers in the West Bank and Gaza -- and all it took was a few lousy drawings to make them the objects of death threats, fatwas, war declarations, and expulsions from the same West Bank and Gaza. Don't get me wrong -- I am thrilled that Europeans are finally standing up for freedom and genuine tolerance -- but I also hope that it's dawning on them just what dangerous, fickle, and worthless "friends" they have been cultivating.