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Post 9/11: The Fight Must Go On

Eight years after the Islamic terrorist attacks of 9/11, it appears that America has largely drifted back into complacency. Certainly, many Americans still understand that the threat of repeated attacks remains real, but the sense of urgency has faded with time.

Meanwhile, the country’s current leadership and its supporters are inhabiting the willful blindness of a pre-9/11 mindset, if not acting as apologists for and, in some cases, active supporters of America’s enemies.

Misconceptions that began with the Bush administration continue unabated. There is an inability to grasp that, to quote Robert Spencer, the “stealth jihad,” being visited by Islamists upon our educational, cultural, and governmental institutions is the greatest threat to Western civilization. The self-censorship of political correctness, the moral vacuity of multiculturalism, the surrender of creeping dhimmitude, and the corruption of Arab dollars and influence continue to ensure that we are not actively engaged in the ideological battlefield.

As someone who was galvanized into a political awakening and eventual transformation by 9/11, it has been disheartening to see the country slide back into somnolence. Indeed, I have wondered at times whether we have entered a post-post-9/11 age. I believe the memory still lingers in our collective consciousness, but it has retreated to the farther reaches.

When one looks at history, this depressing pattern emerges time and time again. One has to wonder if human beings generally don’t learn from history, but rather, are doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. Jolted out of slumber every so often by horrific events, we then sink back into oblivion once the threat no longer seems urgent. A few will always stand on the sidelines trying to bring attention to the looming threat of the day, but by and large, we only listen when forced.

Nonetheless, the fight must go on, for the alternative is far too frightening. That’s something for all of us to remember on 9/11/09.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Fuel or folly? Ethanol and the law of unintended consequences

In the pantheon of well-intentioned governmental policies gone awry, massive ethanol biofuel production may go down as one of the biggest blunders in history. An unholy alliance of environmentalists, agribusiness, biofuel corporations and politicians has been touting ethanol as the cure to all our environmental ills, when in fact it may be doing more harm than good. An array of unintended consequences is wreaking havoc on the economy, food production and, perhaps most ironically, the environment.

Biofuels are fuels distilled from plant matter. Ethanol is corn-based, but other common biofuel sources include soybeans, sugar cane and palm oil, an edible vegetable oil. In the search for alternatives to fossil fuels, many countries have turned to biofuels, which has led to a booming business for those involved. In the United States, ethanol is the primary focus and, as a result, corn growers and ethanol producers are subsidized heavily by the government.

But it turns out that the use of food for fuel is wrought with difficulties. Corn, or some derivative thereof, is a common ingredient in a variety of packaged food products. So it’s only natural that, as it becomes a rarer commodity due to the conflicting demands of biofuel production, the prices of those products will go up. The prices of food products containing barley and wheat are also on the rise as farmers switch to growing subsidized corn crops. During a time of economic instability, the last thing Americans need is higher prices at the grocery store, but that’s exactly what they’re getting.

At the same time, corn is the main ingredient in livestock feed and its dearth is causing prices of those products to rise as well. Farmers have had to scramble to find alternative sources of feed for their livestock and, in some cases, have had to sell off animals they can no longer afford to feed. This, in turn, has led to an increase in the price of meat and dairy products for consumers.

The hit on the livestock industry has also affected jobs, with countless employees being laid off due to the downturn. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the nation’s largest chicken producer, announced in March that it was closing a North Carolina chicken processing plant, and six of 13 U.S. distribution centers, due to the jump in feed costs. Even Iowa, the state that produces the most corn and therefore the supposed beneficiary of new jobs due to ethanol production, has seen its unemployment rate rise over the past year. The plant layoffs and closings already underway due to global competition and the fluctuating market have continued unabated.

Another adverse impact of ethanol production is potential water shortage. One gallon of ethanol requires four gallons of water to produce. According to a recent report from the National Research Council, an institution that focuses on science, engineering, technology and health, “increased production could greatly increase pressure on water supplies for drinking, industry, hydropower, fish habitat and recreation.”

Not only is ethanol less productive than gasoline as a fuel source, its production is hurting the environment it was intended to preserve, particularly in the Third World. The amount of land needed to grow corn and other biofuel sources means that their production is leading to deforestation, the destruction of wetlands and grasslands, species extinction, displacement of indigenous peoples and small farmers, and loss of habitats that store carbon.

Scientists predict that the Gulf of Mexico, already polluted by agricultural runoff from the United States, will only get worse as demand for ethanol, and therefore corn, increases. Meanwhile, rain forests throughout Central and South America are being razed to make way for land to grow biofuel components. Tortilla shortages in Mexico, rising flour prices in Pakistan, Indonesian and Malaysian forests being cut down and burned to make palm oil, and encroachments upon the Amazon rainforest due to Brazilian sugar cane production—all these developments indicate that biofuels are turning out to be more destructive than helpful.

The latest issue of Time magazine addresses the subject in frightening detail. Michael Grunwald, author of the cover story, “The Clean Energy Scam,” posits a worldwide epidemic that could end up being a greater disaster than all the alleged evils of fossil fuels combined. As he puts it:

“Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of all current carbon emissions. So unless the world can eliminate emissions from all other sources—cars, power plants, factories, even flatulent cows—it needs to reduce deforestation or risk an environmental catastrophe. That means limiting the expansion of agriculture, a daunting task as the world’s population keeps expanding. And saving forests is probably an impossibility so long as vast expanses of cropland are used to grow modest amounts of fuel. The biofuels boom, in short, is one that could haunt the planet for generations—and it’s only getting started.”

Accordingly, the United Nations has expressed skepticism about ethanol and other biofuels. But the European Union seems to have bought into the biofuel craze with proposed legislation to mandate its use. This proposal has set off alarm bells in the United Kingdom, particularly with the British government’s chief science advisor, Professor John Beddington, who has warned that a food and deforestation crisis is likely to overtake any climate concerns. “The idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid,” he stated. Similarly, the British government’s top environmental scientist, Professor Robert Watson, called the policy “totally insane.”

Some British environmentalists apparently agree, as do members of the American environmental movement. As noted in the aforementioned Time article, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Nathanael Greene, the author of a 2004 report that rallied fellow environmentalists to support biofuels, is “looking at the numbers in an entirely new way,” now that biofuel production exists on such a large scale.

None of this has deterred American politicians from jumping on the ethanol bandwagon. No doubt, they see it as a means of garnering political support from the farm lobby and in particular ethanol producers, to whom they have provided generous federal subsidies. Indeed, President Bush, who according to his 2006 State of the Union address is a switchgrass enthusiast, has signed a bipartisan energy bill that will greatly increase support to the ethanol industry, as well as mandating the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuel by 2022.

In an election year, there has been no shortage of environmental platitudes aimed at voters and, inevitably, ethanol has been a mainstay. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been singing the praises of ethanol in Iowa, while her rival, Barack Obama, merely criticized her for not doing so earlier. Republican candidate John McCain, once an ardent opponent of ethanol, has suddenly become a convert.

The motto among both Democrats and Republicans on this issue seems to be “If it sounds good, push it,” and a gullible public—seduced by climate change hysteria and a “Going Green!” advertising onslaught—is buying into it.

While the search for alternatives to fossil fuels, and in particular the dependence upon foreign sources thereof, is laudable, future avenues must be considered more carefully. As the looming ethanol disaster has demonstrated, yet again, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Homeless by the bay

When San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom initiated a program in conjunction with Google last month to provide phone and messaging facilities to the homeless, it was the latest chapter in the city’s seemingly never ending quest to tackle homelessness. While the program may prove useful for those inclined to better their situation, it is unlikely to have an impact on the chronically homeless.

San Francisco has the highest per capita number of homeless in the nation, and city officials have quite a challenge on their hands. And to hear Mayor Gavin Newsom or Angela Alioto, his appointee to chair the Homeless Ten-Year Plan Council, tell it, they are making great strides. City officials seem determined to put on a happy face when it comes to combating homelessness. But it’s hard to believe any of them actually live here.

For the residents of San Francisco, the blight of homelessness has only gotten worse over the years, and today it has reached critical mass. One is hard pressed to walk around just about any neighborhood without having to run a gantlet of panhandlers, step over passed-out drunks or drug addicts, maneuver around the mentally ill or try to avoid the stench of urine and the human feces littering the sidewalk. These days, the streets of San Francisco resemble the streets of Calcutta.

Having lived in San Francisco since the early 1990s (with the exception of a year spent in the East Bay), I’ve witnessed my fair share of street scenes involving the homeless. I’ve seen the same apparently homeless people standing on the same street corners doing the same panhandling routines for over 10 years. Many of them have drug and alcohol problems, and a fair number, I suspect, are not in fact without shelter.

The latter includes those who inhabit the city’s residential hotels and rent-controlled apartments and can be seen regularly on certain street corners asking passers-by for spare change. I’ve spoken to several of them and discovered that they are actually able to make a living this way: professional panhandlers, as it were.

Some of them even incorporate acting into the equation. I once saw a Union Square denizen walk to his corner in perfectly normal fashion, and then suddenly adopt a limping gait and speech impediment. Another time, I actually saw a man get up out of his wheelchair and step aside so that someone else could take over his panhandling shift. I also witnessed the sad spectacle of a woman directing her two children to stand in front of her throughout the day while she solicited money on the street. The children, who would have been better off were their mother seeking a more long-term solution, were in effect props.

Then there were my own experiences trying to help the homeless. In my earlier, more naive days, I still believed giving a buck or two away to the various inhabitants of the city’s street corners was beneficial. But having witnessed the majority of them taking their earnings straight to the liquor store or the drug dealer on the next corner, I realized I was merely funding their respective habits.

I even tried to give away food on several occasions, only to be refused because it wasn’t to a homeless person’s particular liking. A restaurant I worked at years ago in Union Square threw its bread away at the end of each night and a coworker and I would try, often futilely, to give it away on the streets. “Is that more bread?” I was asked on several occasions, before being turned down. Another time, I coaxed a man into accepting an offering of banquet extras, assuring him it was barbecue this time. “OK,” he grudgingly conceded.

That was last time I gave food away on the streets.

Those who refuse assistance and insist on living on the streets in order to pursue their addictions used to be known by the politically incorrect term “bums” or, as my British aunt called them when she last visited, “tramps.” But these days using such terms may garner one censure from city officials, as a friend of mine discovered when she wrote to Supervisor Chris Daly about homelessness in her district. In the course of their e-mail exchange, she referred to “bums,” at which point Daly accused her of using “hate speech” and ordered her to “cease and desist.” Apparently, the only thing worse than bums on the streets of San Francisco is saying that there are bums on the streets in San Francisco.

A fair number of San Francisco’s homeless population inhabit Golden Gate Park, using it as a long term camp ground. The enforcement, or lack thereof, of laws against sleeping in city parks has been a source of ongoing contention. The fact that the weather in San Francisco is relatively mild doesn’t help. It’s gotten to the point where many city parks are devoid of benches or suitable areas for visitors to sit because they would all be filled with sleeping or passed-out homeless.

One of the worst spots, ironically, is the Civic Center Plaza Park located behind the gilded dome of City Hall itself. The lack of benches and the strategically placed spikes atop the roomy, street-level window sills of the nearby court house are a testament to the uninviting nature of the area.

San Francisco city officials are famous for ignoring the elephant in the room while taking measures to avoid its droppings. When the fountain in the nearby United Nations Plaza had to be fenced off temporarily in 2003 because the plaza’s permanent homeless encampment inhabitants were using it as both a shower and toilet, it was another example of the city’s unwillingness to address the true problem. All too often, cosmetic fixes are the order of the day.

Perhaps most worrisome among San Francisco’s chronically homeless population are the mentally ill — those who clearly cannot function normally and are a danger both to themselves and to those around them. On more occasions than I care to remember, I’ve seen them walking straight out into the middle of traffic, just barely avoiding death, as well as lurching onto buses or trains, mumbling to themselves incoherently, while passengers and drivers alike avert their eyes.

City residents mostly ignore the mentally ill homeless, as interactions can turn violent. A friend of mine was once punched in the stomach by a homeless woman she was unlucky enough to pass by while crossing the street.

Other cases have been much more dangerous. In 2002, a homeless man snatched a woman’s baby away from her and attempted to throw it over the railing above the Powell Street MUNI/BART station, but was stopped by several onlookers. In 2003, a nine-month pregnant woman was attacked inside her home in the normally placid Bernal Heights neighborhood by a deranged homeless man. She and her unborn baby survived, but it was a chilling reminder that uncertainty lurks around every corner. It was also indicative of the attitude of indifference that city residents have adopted to cope with the problem. As one of the woman’s neighbors put it at the time, “I just thought he was some loony, walking around with a pole. You hear crazy people talking all the time.” Indeed.

For a city that relies on tourism, the current state of affairs is quite perplexing. I often feel sorry for the confused tourists who take a wrong turn off Union Square only to find themselves in the sudden squalor of the Tenderloin or the Hell-on-earth intersection of Sixth and Market streets. Then there are those waiting in line in the theater district as homeless urinate on a wall nearby, or those or coming out of a concert at the Warfield Theatre only to find themselves face-to-face with the lunatic fringe wandering down from the Civic Center train station. Even with San Francisco’s advantaged locale and scenic beauty, tourists will eventually return home with tales of Third World squalor and their friends and relatives may reconsider visiting the city by the bay.

Despite this unavoidable reality, Newsom continues to tout the alleged success of his Care Not Cash program, a strategy designed to replace the city’s once-hefty monthly cash giveaways to the homeless with various social services. According to Alioto, the Homeless Ten-Year Plan Council is making progress in its goal of creating “3,000 units of new permanent supportive housing designed to accommodate the chronically homeless.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s homeless advocacy community is more focused on protecting the civil rights of the homeless (not to mention their own livelihoods) than those of everyday, working residents, while charitable organizations, although well-meaning, offer only a temporary fix.

From where I’m standing, none of them are providing real solutions.

San Francisco would do better to take a page from New York City, which under Mayor Rudy Giuliani successfully eliminated widespread homelessness. Giuliani took a tough-love approach, strictly enforcing laws against criminal behavior, pursuing arrest warrants and no longer allowing homeless to sleep on the streets. At the same time, he made use of the city’s already plentiful shelter system for those displaced in the process. No longer were violence and drug use tolerated in shelters. Also, state regulations making work and other welfare rules conditions of residence for the able-bodied were enforced. Giuliani addressed the disparate conditions among the homeless population, including the mentally ill and, above all, he promoted self-reliance.

Giuliani’s reforms were met with howls of protest from New York City’s homeless advocacy community and its defenders, including then senatorial candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. But in the end, it was Giuliani’s approach, and not their enabling, that actually got people off the streets. It also led to improved conditions for all city residents and today the proof is in the pudding.

Where Giuliani succeeded, San Francisco continues to fail, and the city’s bleeding-heart politics may have something to do with that. Given that San Francisco has been governed by liberal Democrats for years, the problems of homelessness can hardly be laid at the feet of the typical local bogeyman, Republicans. But this hasn’t stopped some from trying to pin the blame elsewhere, and the late California Governor-turned-President Ronald Reagan is the usual target.

The common refrain about the plethora of mentally ill on the streets of San Francisco is that it was all Reagan’s fault for callously letting them all out of mental institutions in the 1970s. During Reagan’s tenure, the treatment of mental illness in California was, in fact, deinstitutionalized; based on the idea that asylums infringed upon patients’ civil rights and that community mental health clinics would offer a more humanitarian approach. But the patients’ rights movement, as it came to be known, actually originated in the 1960s under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson and by the 1970s such policies were popular across the political board.

However, due to funding priorities, new restrictions on involuntary treatment, and the relegation of psychiatrists, as one later put it, “to the role of medication management,” the community-based clinics were not able to address serious mental illness. The end result was that a substantial number of those unable to fend for themselves were let loose in California to do just that.

Still, this hardly accounts for San Francisco’s entire mentally ill homeless population, particularly since statistics have shown that the city attracts its fair share of newcomers. It does, however, indicate that solutions to these sorts of societal problems must be based on facts, not fantasies.

Unfortunately, in San Francisco fantasy reigns supreme.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Honor killings: When the ancient and the modern collide

Throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, young Muslim women are being targeted for violence. Lest it be thought hate crimes are to blame, it is, in fact, their own relatives who are the perpetrators. So-called honor killings, whereby a Muslim male family member, typically the father, murders his daughter in order to defend the family’s honor, is a growing problem.

While statistics are notoriously hard to come by due to the private nature of such crimes and the fact that very few are reported, the United Nations Population Fund approximates that as many as 5,000 women are murdered in this manner each year worldwide. Undoubtedly that’s a low estimate, as reports from Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, among other locales, are filtering in at an alarming rate. Add to the list Germany, Sweden, other parts of Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, and it’s clear that young Muslim women in the West are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

While fathers are commonly responsible for honor killings, they often act in concert with their daughters’ brothers, uncles, and even female relatives. For infringements upon a Muslim daughter’s “honor” constitute the greatest humiliation possible to the religious and tribal tradition from which many such immigrant families emerged. Acts that demand “punishment” include refusing to wear a hijab (or headscarf), having non-Muslim boyfriends or male friends of any origin, being sexually active, rejecting arranged marriages, aggressively seeking employment and education, and, more than anything else, attempting to assimilate into Western culture.

Trying to balance a tightrope between the demands of competing and in some cases incompatible cultures, young Muslim women in the West are caught between two worlds. And all too often they pay the ultimate price. Indeed, two such cases have rocked the United States and Canada in recent months, bringing the specter of honor killings much closer to home.

On New Year’s Day, residents of Lewisville, Texas were shocked to hear about the brutal murder of teenage sisters Sarah and Amina Said. The two were found shot to death in a taxi after having made a last phone call to a police dispatcher asking for help. The police immediately issued an arrest warrant for the girls’ father, Egyptian-born cab driver Yaser Abdel Said, who remains at large to this day.

A Muslim married to a Christian woman, the elder Said had a history of physical and sexual abuse toward his daughters. This past Christmas, his wife, Patricia, finally fled the state with the girls and set up residence in Tulsa, Okla., under an assumed name. Said’s violent and domineering behavior was apparently motivated by his concern that, as the Dallas Morning News describes it, “Western culture was corrupting the chastity of his daughters.” Honor students and athletes at Lewisville High School, Sarah and Amina were the quintessential American teenagers. Amina had been awarded a $20,000 college scholarship and Sarah planned to study medicine. Photos of the two young women demonstrate a vibrancy and attractiveness that undoubtedly induced fear in their controlling father. The emergence of non-Muslim boyfriends was the final straw.

Although the girls’ mother denied that Said was motivated by religion or culture and their brother, Islam, claimed it was not an honor killing, all evidence points to the contrary. While, reportedly, the family was not terribly observant, Said, as described by the Dallas Morning News, “often espoused his version of traditional Middle Eastern values,” including marrying his then 15-year-old wife when he was 30, threatening to take one of his daughters “back to Egypt and have her killed,” where, as he put it, “it’s OK to do that … if you dishonor your family,” trying to break up one of his daughters and her non-Muslim boyfriend, and threatening to kill both his daughters on multiple occasions over disputes surrounding their social lives. Summing it all up, the sisters’ great-aunt Gail Gartrell stated unequivocally, “This was an honor killing.”

The slayings of Sarah and Amina Said came on the heels of another apparent honor killing, that of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez in Mississauga, Ontario, last December. Aqsa was a

vivacious and popular young woman whose attempts at a normal, Western teenage social life angered her Pakistani father, Muhammad Parvez. Aqsa, who was opposed to wearing a hijab and sometimes changed her outfit once she got to school, often clashed with her father and had left the family home a week before the attack out of fear. But she eventually returned, only to be met with strangulation at the hands of her own father. She died later in the hospital and the elder Parvez, who initially called the police, was charged with her murder. Aqsa’s 26-year-old brother, Waqas, was charged with obstructing police.

Like the Said sisters, Aqsa had long suffered abuse at the hands of her father, reports of which were never adequately pursued by Canadian authorities. But Aqsa’s friends saw trouble brewing and, according to the National Post, noted that “she had been threatened by her strictly religious family before.” According to one of them, Ebonie Mitchell, Aqsa held conflicting opinions with her family on wearing a hijab. As she put it, Aqsa “just wanted to dress like we do. Last year, she wore like the Islamic stuff and everything, the hijab, and this year she’s all western. She just wanted to look like everyone else.” As another friend, Krista Garbhet, noted, “She just wanted to be herself; honestly, she just wanted to show her beauty.” However, as Aqsa was to discover, the latter desire can have dangerous consequences for young Muslim women in the West.

In the wake of Parvez’s murder, one would hope for moral clarity from the Canadian Muslim community. But with a few exceptions, the usual suspects issued the usual apologetics.

Following Parvez’s funeral, an anti-violence vigil was held at the Mississauga Civic Centre and organized by the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations. Unfortunately, CAIR-CAN, like its American counterpart, is part of the problem, not the solution. Working to further acceptance of Sharia (or Islamic) law in the United States and Canada and trying to silence — either through accusations of “Islamophobia,” libel lawsuits or boycotts — voices of criticism and reform, CAIR’s agenda would seem to be working against the advancement of Muslim women’s rights.

Accordingly, representatives of other allegedly mainstream Muslim groups, instead of taking the opportunity to address the scourge of honor killings, downplayed the religious and cultural angle. Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, claimed that “The strangulation death of Ms. Parvez was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to color or creed,” while Sheikh Alaa El-Sayyed, imam of the Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga, came to the following conclusion: “The bottom line is, it’s a domestic violence issue.”

In contrast, Canadian Muslim reformer Irshad Manji, in addressing Aqsa Parvez’s murder, put it like so:

Moderate Muslims have warned that we shouldn’t leap to conclusions. Who knows what other dynamics infected her family, spout hijab-hooded mouthpieces on Canadian TV. Not once have I heard these upstanding Muslims say that whatever the ‘family dynamics,’ killing is not a solution. Ever. How’s that for basic morality?

Similarly, Tarek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress, labeled Parvez’s murder “a blight on Islam.” “In my mind,” he added, “this was an honor killing.”

Until this kind of self-reflection and self-criticism become the norm in the Muslim community, much-needed reform will remain elusive. This includes addressing the root causes of honor killings and sanctioned violence against Muslim women. Although the Koran does not authorize honor killings, Quran 4:34 instructs men to beat disobedient wives and send them to sleep in separate beds. Then there are tribal leaders such as Jordanian Tarrad Fayiz, who tells followers that “A woman is like an olive tree. When its branch catches woodworm, it has to be chopped off so that society stays clean and pure.” Op-eds such as the one in the Yemen Times earlier this month recommending violence against women and clerics delivering sermons and speeches doing the same further muddy the waters.

Also at question are the vagaries of the Arab honor/shame culture, in which men’s “shame” (or that of the family or tribe) at the prospect of women’s sullied “honor” (or chastity) must be avoided at all costs. Honor killings are not, as the apologists would have us believe, simple acts of domestic violence akin to those that take place in all communities. They are specific to Muslim religion and culture and must be addressed as such if ever honest debate about the matter is to ensue.

Regrettably, silence is the more typical reaction to these crimes. Fearful of giving offense or being branded with the ubiquitous “Islamophobia” label, law enforcement, journalists, social workers, government officials and, most of all, Western feminists are allowing a grave threat to women’s rights go unaddressed. The

misguided purveyors of multiculturalism — an ideology that holds that all cultures or religions are equivalent and none (save for the dominant, or Western, culture) worthy of condemnation — have rendered the West incapable of addressing evils where Third World cultures are to blame. But the truth is Western culture offers the greatest boon to women’s rights and must therefore be vigorously defended, even if that means stepping into the realm of the politically incorrect.

Feminist groups such as the National Organization for Women, which put out an occasional press release decrying honor killings, need to make combating this practice as high a priority as defending choice and railing against “glass ceilings.” Instead, it is a precious few who are telling it like it is when it comes to the oppression of women in Muslim culture. Ironically, many of them are on the right side of the political spectrum or, like author, blogger and activist Phyllis Chesler, have been cast out of the leftist-dominated feminist movement for speaking the uncomfortable truth.

As I have noted previously, the challenges posed by the Muslim world are the next frontier for women’s rights and all those interested in advancing such goals will have to rise to the occasion. It is up to every one of us to speak out where, not only women’s, but human rights are in question. Young women’s lives are at stake.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Savage vs. CAIR: The battle over free speech

Originally posted to the San Francisco Chronicle Dec. 19, 2007

Editor’s note: This column makes reference to “CAIR”, the Islamic organization in the U.S., but Canada also has a branch of the very same organization.

Conservative talk radio show host Michael Savage is no stranger to courting controversy. Savage is known for his blunt commentary which at times goes beyond the realm of the politically incorrect into the confrontational. It is a style Savage describes as “psychological nudity” and the opening to his show warns overly-sensitive listeners as much. But, in the process, Savage touches on some fundamental truths that hit home with his fans, while simultaneously motivating his opponents. Whether they love him or hate him, 8 million listeners tune into “The Savage Nation” each week. The fact that the show originates in left-leaning San Francisco only adds to its entertainment appeal.

Savage’s controversial commentary tends to elicit a censorious response. It wasn’t long ago that Savage’s remarks on illegal immigrants drew the ire of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, which, it seems, is always on the lookout for avenues of politically-correct behavior control. Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval introduced a resolution twice this year condemning Savage for “hate speech,” a meaningless yet ominous gesture which disregards the concept of free speech. The resolution failed the first time around thanks to the lone dissent of the now-ousted Supervisor Ed Jew, who, in contrast to Sandoval’s identity-politics-steeped perspective, stuck with upholding the First Amendment. But in October, the resolution passed, providing a menacing example of government interference, albeit symbolically, in the free speech rights of its citizenry.

Economic punishment is another weapon in the hands of those opposed to Savage’s provocative methodology and the Council on American-Islamic Relations is the latest to jump on the boycott bandwagon. CAIR is a Washington, D.C., nonprofit organization that touts itself as “America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group.” As such, CAIR expressed concern over a number of statements made by Savage on his Oct. 29 program that the group felt were anti-Muslim in nature. In response, CAIR, along with the newly formed Hate Hurts America Community and Interfaith Coalition, has attempted to mount a boycott aimed at advertisers on Savage’s show. According to a Dec. 3 CAIR press release, a growing list of companies, including AutoZone, Citrix, TrustedID, JC Penney, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart, and AT&T, have joined the boycott.

But rather than taking CAIR’s boycott lying down, Savage is fighting back, in court. Represented by his lawyer, Daniel A. Horowitz, Savage is suing CAIR primarily for copyright infringement. According to the text of the lawsuit, which is posted at Savage’s Web site, CAIR “misappropriated” his work by posting the four-minute segment in question at its Web site and including it in outreach and fundraising efforts. Taking it a step further, the lawsuit accuses CAIR of misrepresenting itself as a “civil rights organization” and of “advocating a specific political agenda that is directly opposed to the existence of a free society.” While the copyright infringement charges against CAIR may or may not pan out, the broader implications could end up holding the most weight.

Savage is certainly not the first to call CAIR’s political motivations into question. CAIR is the leading Islamic lobby group in the nation and the organization is accorded a great deal of legitimacy by the mainstream media, the Bush administration and other politicians, academia, civil rights activists, and even military and federal agencies that have employed the group’s assistance for “sensitivity” and “cultural training.” Nonetheless, questions surrounding CAIR’s philosophical underpinnings, foreign funding, and political goals continue to haunt the group’s footsteps.

Federal prosecutors named CAIR, along with the Islamic Society of North America and the North America Islamic Trust, an unindicted co-conspirator in the recent case involving the now-defunct Muslim charity the Holy Land Foundation and its alleged financial ties to the Palestinian terrorist group turned terrorist government Hamas. Also coming to light via the Dallas trial was a 1991 memo put out by the Egyptian Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood citing a strategy to subvert the West using mainstream Islamic front groups such as CAIR. As Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher put it:

The HLF trial is exposing for the first time how the international Muslim Brotherhood — whose Palestinian division is Hamas — operates as a self-conscious revolutionary vanguard in the United States. The court documents indicate that many leading Muslim-American organizations — including the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim American Society — are an integral part of the Brotherhood’s efforts to wage jihad against America by nonviolent means.

Indeed, in a 1993 interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, CAIR’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, let slip that: “I wouldn’t want to create the impression that I wouldn’t like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future … But I’m not going to do anything violent to promote that. I’m going to do it through education.”

In light of the mistrial declared in the Holy Land Foundation case, which some concluded was due to a prosecution insufficiently prepared for the rigors of explaining terrorist financing and charges of intimidation among members of the jury, CAIR is trying to have the “unindicted co-conspirator” label retracted. It has solicited the assistance of House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., to that end. But even without the revelations brought to light by the Holy Land Foundation trial, a body of evidence exists to suggest that CAIR is not the benign organization it presents itself as.

Three CAIR officials have been convicted on federal terrorism charges since Sept. 11, 2001, and, according to World Net Daily, “at least 11 other CAIR officials have been caught up in terror investigations.” Others have documented CAIR’s objectionable associations, including its founding by former officials of the Islamic Association of Palestine, which has been described by the FBI counter-terrorism unit as a “a front organization for Hamas.” It’s to the point where, as WND puts it, “Congressional leaders say they are warning lawmakers and other Washington officials to disassociate from the group due to its growing terror ties.”

This may explain why California Sen. Barbara Boxer rescinded an award last year that was bestowed upon Basim Elkarra, the executive director of CAIR-Sacramento. As she put it at the time, “To praise (CAIR) because they haven’t been indicted is like somebody saying, ‘I’m not a crook.’” Similarly, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, in a statement from the Sept. 2003 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security noted that “we know (CAIR) has ties to terrorism … intimate links with Hamas” and Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin called CAIR “unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect.” Rep. Bill Shuster R-Penn., concluded that “Time and again (CAIR) has shown itself to be nothing more than an apologist for groups bent on the destruction of Israel and Islamic domination over the West.” With the exception of the latter, all of these politicians are Democrats, demonstrating that criticism of CAIR is no right-wing conspiracy. Nor is it, as has been claimed by CAIR officials on many occasions, a campaign by the so-called Israel Lobby.

The list of abhorrent statements made by CAIR officials, not to mention unethical tactics, ties to terrorism and Saudi funding, is so long that criticism can no longer be avoided by deflecting blame. Savage’s lawsuit details a number of instances in which CAIR officials publicly supported terrorism, acted as apologists for or distorted facts around terrorist acts, and admitted to an Islamist agenda to dominate America.

If experience is any indication, Savage’s lawsuit may very well end up being settled out of court, as its unlikely CAIR will wish to call attention to these unsavory details.

Such was the case when CAIR tried to sue Andrew Whitehead, the founder of the organization Anti-CAIR, in 2005 for libel. The lawsuit was based on objections to statements posted at the Anti-CAIR Web site, including Whitehead’s labeling CAIR a “terrorist supporting front organization.” But after Whitehead’s lawyer responded with a series of discovery requests and documents that, had they become part of a trial, almost certainly would have exposed CAIR’s shady background, the organization agreed to settle out of court. To this day, Whitehead has made no changes to the Anti-CAIR Web site, which may indicate that none of the libel charges made by CAIR could be substantiated.

At the time the case was settled, some predicted that CAIR’s litigiousness would taper off, but the group seems simply to have shifted tactics. Now, mounting boycotts or pressuring employers to drop political commentators whom they label “anti-Muslim” are CAIR’s preferred routes.

And Savage is not the first target. In 2005, talk show host Michael Graham found himself the object of one of CAIR’s pressure campaigns and ended up losing his job as a result, an outcome that was praised by CAIR officials. Conservative columnist and author Cal Thomas too was targeted by CAIR earlier this year for comments he made on Washington, D.C., radio station WTOP, but his employers, hit with a barrage of supportive e-mails from the public, stood by him.

Even prime-time fiction is not immune to CAIR’s meddling. The television show “24” earned CAIR’s disapproval after the introduction of an Islamic terrorist sleeper cell to the story line of the fourth season. CAIR immediately scheduled a meeting with Fox executives in Los Angeles, which resulted in “24” star Kiefer Sutherland delivering a midseason disclaimer reassuring viewers that not all Muslims were terrorists. As I noted in a column on the subject, the show itself makes this point obvious and the fact that it counts Muslims among its fans would seem to indicate as much. But where CAIR rears its head, others tend to cave lest they be labeled with the broad brush of “Islamophobia.”

A favored CAIR tactic is to push the specter of anti-Muslim hate crimes, as if to imply that the United States is a hostile environment for Muslims. The overriding narrative holds that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were the catalyst for a wave of unfounded hostility towards Islam. Never mind the fact that it is not anti-Muslim hate crimes that have been on the rise since Sept. 11 but rather anti-Jewish hate crimes, the United States is still the most religiously and ethnically tolerant nation in the world. This may perhaps explain why, as compared to other parts of the West, Muslims are thriving in America. But one would never know this to listen to CAIR’s dire reports.

Among the supposed anti-Muslim hate crimes sweeping the nation are death threats, a claim that has a habit of popping up whenever criticism is directed toward high-profile Muslim groups or individuals. It seems awfully coincidental that, following the announcement of Savage’s lawsuit, the FBI began investigating a death threat claim brought by Basim Elkarra, director of CAIR’s Sacramento chapter, which he insists resulted from the public feud. Strangely enough, Elkarra also reported a death threat after Sen. Boxer, as mentioned above, rescinded his award. While the basis for Elkarra’s current claim remains to be seen, such threats are in fact a hazard of public life and aren’t necessarily the doing of one’s political opponents. The truth of the matter is that those who dare to critique Islam — Muslims and ex-Muslims among them — are themselves most at risk of death threats in the current political and religious climate.

Time will tell whether or not the rest of Savage’s advertisers fall prey to CAIR’s intimidation tactics, but something tells me his aggressive lawsuit will have an impact. Whatever happens, it’s high time that CAIR’s mantle of respectability be put to the test. The war on terrorism has many fronts, the bulk of them ideological in nature. Giving up our rights to free speech in order to avoid causing offense would be a clear victory for America’s enemies. The question is, is CAIR among them?

Editor’s note: This column makes reference to “CAIR”, the Islamic organization in the U.S., but Canada also has a branch of the very same organization.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Anti-War Miseducation in San Francisco

San Francisco has long been known as a bastion of anti-war sentiment. And as the oft-repeated mantra goes, local peace activists support the troops, just not the mission.

But in recent years, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up to the point where the U.S. military itself, and by extension, the preservation of American security, has come under attack. Without the U.S. military and its citizen soldiers, American security would indeed be a thing of the past. Yet this hasn’t stopped San Francisco’s left-leaning leadership from trying to effect that very outcome.

The latest such attempt comes in the form of an anti-war textbook approved last month for use in San Francisco public schools. It was authorized by History/Social Studies Content Specialist Pete Hammer, who reviews new materials for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Office of Teaching and Learning. Titled “Addicted to War: Why the U.S. Can’t Kick Militarism” and originally written during the Gulf War, an updated version of the textbook is to be used as a supplement in high school social studies and history classes.

Comic Propaganda

To call it a textbook is a misnomer for what it really is—a crudely drawn comic book filled with anti-American and anti-capitalist propaganda. The book’s author, John Hopkins University sociology professor Joel Andreas, doesn’t even pretend to provide a balanced view of American history. America is made out to the undisputed bad guy of the world, with no redeeming qualities and a military bent only on conquest and destruction. Conspiratorial “no blood for oil”-type themes run through the book, despite the fact that there has been no discernible oil advantage to America from its military involvement in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The introduction of the book into the San Francisco public school curriculum comes via a donation of 4,000 copies from Bay Area peace activist Pat Gerber. With shining reviews from such leftist luminaries as Susan Sarandon, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Medea Benjamin and Cindy Sheehan, an endorsement from the San Francisco Bay Guardian and a vigorous defense from Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval on the Fox News show “Hannity & Colmes” in January, “Addicted to War” comes highly recommended, in the eyes of the ideologically driven.

Since the books are considered a gift, their approval requires no action on the part of the San Francisco Board of Education—not that this would have impeded the book’s introduction into city classrooms. The school board has become known in recent years for its political partisanship.

The publisher of the book, Frank Dorrel, an Air Force veteran turned peacenik, makes no pretenses about where he thinks the sympathies of the San Francisco Unified School District lie. As he put it, “We’re really glad that the San Francisco School District, which is apparently against the war in Iraq, well not apparently, obviously is, has chosen to do this.”

Responding to criticism regarding his decision, Hammer maintains that teachers will not be required to use the textbook and that the school district is currently searching for books or other material that provide “different perspectives.” Here’s a thought: How about simply using a textbook that provides an objective view of American history and leaves the agitprop out of the equation? 

Banning JROTC

The anti-war textbook fiasco comes on the heels of another blow to the military emanating from San Francisco’s public schools. Late last year, the school board voted 4-2 to phase out the 90-year-old JROTC program from the city’s schools over the next two years and replace it with “alternative leadership programs.”

The 1,600-plus students—many of them Asian American—who were enrolled in the JROTC were none too happy with the school board’s decision. Nor were their families. Many students took part in rallies to protest the ban and also expressed their opposition at the school board meeting at which it was decided.

The prime reason for the ban, according to the school board, is the U.S. military’s enforcement of the federal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy concerning gay service members. But, to quote an Associated Press article on the subject, the board’s “position was [best] summed up by a former teacher, Nancy Mancias, who said, ‘We need to teach a curriculum of peace.’” I’m sure Al Qaeda would agree.

If the deciding board members had been less driven by political bias and more by facts, they might have come to a different conclusion. For one thing, the JROTC does not enforce the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and, in fact, has openly gay students enrolled. As retired military personnel, instructors are not bound by the policy, either. The JROTC is not a military preparedness program, nor does it engage in recruiting. Its membership is entirely voluntary, and it provides students with valuable skills in leadership, discipline and community involvement. But such inconvenient truths apparently didn’t matter to the San Francisco school board.

SF Against the Military

Indeed, it seems that San Francisco’s reputation as a bastion of “tolerance” and “diversity” doesn’t extend to the U.S. military. The city has a history of anti-military conduct, including:

  • The Board of Supervisors’ refusal in 2005 to allow the WWII-era USS Iowa to dock at the Port of San Francisco as a floating museum because it was dubbed a “celebration of war.”
  • Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval appearing on “Hannity & Colmes” to defend the USS Iowa decision and claiming, with a straight face, that “the United States should not have a military.”
  • Voters passing an initiative in 2004 demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
  • Voters passing the “College Not Combat” initiative in 2005, which sought to ban military recruiters from schools and colleges, although, in reality, it had little or no effect.
  • A contingent of anti-war groups, led by Code Pink, trying unsuccessfully in 2005 to get San Francisco radio station KMEL-FM to refuse Navy sponsorship for its annual Summer Jam in Mountain View.

No Draft, No Dice

Such actions have ramifications far beyond San Francisco. What’s really behind these local assaults on the U.S. military is an attempt by the anti-war movement to undermine the institution on a national level.

The anti-war movement has not yet succeeded in drumming up large-scale opposition to the war on terrorism, in part because it is a war of defense following the most brutal attack on this country’s soil in its history—but even more so because there is no draft. Opposing and, in many cases, evading, the draft was one of the prime motivations for anti-war activists during the Vietnam War. But despite the cynical efforts of such politicians as Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., to reintroduce the draft to make a political statement, the military has not yet felt the need to make that case. In fact, it is a widely held belief among both the military leadership and the rank and file that a volunteer force is the most effective.

The U.S. military continues to be a powerful engine for recruitment, as steady enlistment and re-enlistment rates and the generally high level of morale expressed by military personnel make clear. Camaraderie and commitment to the mission continue to be cited among military personnel as leading incentives.

Still, the anti-war movement has tried to paint this all-volunteer force as victims of the system, a view that many in the military find not only disingenuous but condescending. After all, anyone who signed up for the military after Sept. 11, 2001, knew full well what he or she was getting into.

Strategy of Indoctrination 

Faced with the inevitable conclusion that the U.S. military cannot be incapacitated in its current state, anti-war activists have turned their sights on those most likely to fill its ranks: the next generation. Using anti-military and often anti-American indoctrination, the movement seeks to instill in children’s minds contempt for the U.S. military and, ultimately, for their own country. And what better place to begin that process than in the nation’s public schools?

The gradual takeover of the San Francisco school board by ideologues bent on such goals is a natural extension of this process. The counterrecruitment movement, which seeks to ban military recruiters and military programs such as the JROTC and the ROTC from campuses across the nation, is a way to erase the idea of duty to one’s country from the consciousness of American youth. In this way, the anti-war movement hopes to make a dent, if not put an end to, the present state of support for the military in American society.

But anti-war activists may want to be careful what they wish for. If they succeed in their goal of cutting down American military strength and, by extension, American power, they may just find themselves in a world they could only have imagined in their worst nightmares. A world without a strong America would be no utopia. Other, truly sinister powers would simply fill the void.

As the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War approaches and anti-war groups gear up to hold rallies across the country, it might behoove the movement to think about the consequences of its actions. Demanding an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, pushing to remove funding from military efforts and exaggerating the problems in Afghanistan only strengthen the enemies of freedom, while creating insecurity in burgeoning democratic governments. In this way, the actions of the anti-war movement may actually end up prolonging the conflicts.

The “troop surge” strategy implemented by President Bush appears to be having a positive effect in Iraq. So, too, changing military strategies in Afghanistan. Before declaring defeat, it is incumbent upon the United States, its allies and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to give victory a chance. Most important, we owe it to our men and women in uniform.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Experts Discover Men And Women Are Different!

When it was revealed that scientific studies published in the new book “The Female Brain” demonstrate that women talk more than men, many of us responded with a collective shrug. Anyone who has ever been in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex—whether romantic, familial or friendly—knows that women talk more than men. A lot more.

“The Female Brain” indicates that not only do women talk three times as much as men, but they also get a chemical rush in their brains from hearing their own voices. This may explain why women describe “feeling better” after talking about problems or issues in their lives, beyond the mere relief of getting it off their chest.

But what is most fascinating about the book is the background of its author. A neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the head of a female mood and hormone clinic in San Francisco, Dr. Louann Brizendine is also a self-described feminist. In putting forward the results of clinical work and scientific analysis, Brizendine was forced to concede that everything she had been taught about gender was wrong. That is, men and women really are different. As she put it, “I know it is not politically correct to say this but I’ve been torn for years between my politics and what science is telling us. I believe women actually perceive the world differently from men.”

None of this will come as a surprise to those already attuned to the politically incorrect reality of gender differentiation, but for those indoctrinated in the feminist school of gender uniformity, Brizendine’s words are heresy. While correctly focusing on egalitarianism between the sexes, the post-1960s feminist movement has all too often confused gender equality with gender sameness. Consequently, at a time when college students can graduate with degrees in Gender Studies, there seems to be a marked lack of acknowledgment about the differences between men and women.

Trans Confusion

The attempts by the burgeoning transgender movement to prove that gender itself is meaningless add to the confusion. Rather than a fixed notion, they see gender as something fluid. This works well to the advantage of those who do feel, whether for medical or psychological reasons, that they inhabit some gender nether zone. The problem is, with the exception of cases of physically hermaphroditic children, one’s sex is biologically determined at birth.

Granted, we all have feminine and masculine traits and there are always exceptions to the rule. But any parent who has given dolls to little boys only to see their heads torn off or fire trucks to little girls only to see the vehicles tucked into bed at night knows that gender uniformity can’t be enforced. These differences come naturally.

Gender variance exists even among same-sex couples. It’s not uncommon to see one partner taking on a more feminine role and the other a more masculine one. Whether it be “butch-femme” lesbian couples or a “bear” with a “nelly” on the male side of the equation, male and female roles often come into play. It seems that even when gender differences are not a factor, human beings find a way to adopt them.

Killer Females

The entertainment industry is big on pushing the gender envelope. Whether consciously or not, the progenitors of pop culture help to perpetuate a kind of gender role reversal. Women have become tough and controlling, while men are seen as weak and indecisive.

Since the influence of martial arts films on U.S. markets began, audiences have been treated to countless film and television scenes of petite lasses duking it out with big bruisers. The TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a case in point. But at least Buffy’s bad-guy butt-kicking was explained through her having supernatural powers. It has now become far more commonplace to see mere mortal female characters punching people in the face on a moment’s notice, beating up or overpowering men and taking the romantic or sexual lead. Far from empowering women in reality, these fantasy scenarios put forward unrealistic expectations and a false sense of security.

The gravity-defying female fighters of the “Charlie’s Angels” films, the demure Southern belle Daisy Duke whose high heel ends up lodged in a man’s throat in “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the cold, cruel Taser-wielding blonde on the TV show “Smith” and the perennially bed-hopping Samantha character in “Sex and the City” are all examples of this trend. Even Hermione, the smart young heroine of the “Harry Potter” film series, slugs the annoying Malfoy in the face in the third installment.

In other words, the leading lady has become the leading man, and a not terribly charming one at that.

Male Girlfriends

In contrast, too many of today’s leading men—if they can be called that—are content to let women take the reins. TV shows are populated with male characters—usually police officers or detectives—who stand meekly by as their much more confident and assured female counterparts (who often happen to be their bosses) lead them by the hand. An episode from the first season of “Heroes” featured one such male character, with superpowers no less. Still, he was content to tag along in the rear as his aggressive female partner charged into a violent suspect’s home instead of calling for backup. The fact that she and other such female characters typically weigh only 90 pounds and have more intimidating hairdos than they do physical prowess seems to make little difference.

When male characters do exhibit masculine traits on TV, they are often made to look like fools in the process. Sitcoms such as “According to Jim” and “King of Queens”—featuring overweight, average-looking husbands married to gorgeous, skinny wives—are a prime culprit. The man is usually portrayed as a complete schlub who couldn’t find his ear from his elbow without the guidance of his far intellectually superior wife.

The emergence of metrosexuality, or straight men exhibiting the traits of gay men, can be blamed in part for the decline of masculinity. All around San Francisco, one can see evidence of the trend. From men getting manicures, pedicures and waxings to wearing outfits that are just a touch too matching to fawning over small fluffy dogs, the metros appear to be taking over. And TV shows such as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” are not helping. While no one can deny that many straight men need assistance in the fashion department, it has traditionally been a woman’s role to provide it. But now we have gay men doing the honors and, if you ask me, overdoing it. Even a makeover must acknowledge the reality of male clothing and toiletry habits. The stylish fellows on “Queer Eye” may school allegedly clueless straight men in the joys of astringent and pink ties, but any woman knows those items will be dispensed with at the first opportunity.

While gay men are welcome to be as in touch with their feminine side as they like, straight men would do well to ignore it. For what woman would want a man who cannot go a week without buying beauty products, let alone guard hearth and home? Those who acknowledge the reality of gender differences know this instinctively, while those who pretend they are meaningless are affronted when one dares speak the truth. But most women, on a biological and often conscious level, are looking for a provider and protector in a man, among other things. Yet the metrosexual revolution would have us believe that women are yearning for nothing more in a man than another girlfriend.

Weepie Guys

Another disturbing offshoot of this trend is the public preponderance of men hugging, telling other men they “love” them and crying on a moment’s notice. Anyone who has witnessed the unseemly weeping of certain male politicians in recent years (former President George Bush and Ohio Sen. George Voinovich come to mind) knows that men crying in public is not a good thing. Whatever happened to the strong silent type? The male movie stars of yesteryear provided some good examples. Men with the quiet strength of Gary Cooper, the warmth and humility of Jimmy Stewart or the laconic toughness of Robert Mitchum were the real deal. Hold the tears.

But there are some it seems who would like to do away with the notion of masculinity altogether. Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, wrote as much in an October column, “Men Being Men Is a Bad Deal: Guys Should Evolve Beyond Masculinity.” Jensen’s column provoked an avalanche of laughter and scorn on talk radio and the blogosphere. Not only did Jensen come across as, well, a wimp, but his demonizing of manhood missed the mark. In equating masculinity with all things violent, Jensen underestimates his own sex. For masculinity is not only about being a warrior. The manly virtues include character, confidence, honor, inner strength, pride, responsibility, loyalty, generosity, industry and dignity. To eliminate masculinity would be to eliminate the positive along with the negative.

Similarly, the natural and instinctive traits that constitute womanhood need not be exclusive of adaptations to modern life. Women should not have to apologize for their femininity, just as men should not have to apologize for their masculinity.

As a society, we would do better to accept our differences instead of turning men and women into bland imitations of each other. For it is the very dissimilarities between the genders that make them complementary—the veritable yin and yang. Not only do we balance each other out, in the best of circumstances, but learning to adapt to our more challenging variations strengthens us as human beings. And it certainly makes life a lot more interesting.

Vive la différence!

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Jimmy Carter’s Legacy of Failure

It seems that everywhere one looks lately, former President Jimmy Carter is hawking his new book, “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.”  The inflammatory title has not won Carter any new fans from the pro-Israel side of the equation. But for those who buy into the history of the Middle East conflict that’s been promulgated through years of anti-Israel propaganda, Carter’s use of the term “apartheid” is a confirmation of all they hold dear.

The attempt to associate Israel with apartheid era South Africa has indeed been a popular and effective tactic in the arsenal of anti-Israel talking points. It matters little that the charge is untrue. One simply has to insert the word “apartheid” into the discussion and the damage is done.

Carter himself admits toward the end of his book that his use of the term “apartheid” was not meant literally and that the situation in Israel “is unlike that in South Africa—not racism, but the acquisition of land.” In response to criticism of his choice of words, Carter told the Los Angeles Times that he was trying to call attention to what he sees as the “economic form” of apartheid afflicting the Palestinian territories. During an interview with Judy Woodruff of “The News Hour” on PBS, Carter reiterated that he only used “apartheid” in his title to “provoke discussion.” When an author concedes that his chosen title is inaccurate, it calls into question the entire premise of his book.

There are those who have called Carter’s entire book into question, including friend and colleague Dr. Kenneth W. Stein. A well-known Middle East scholar, and until recently a fellow of Emory University’s Carter Center, Stein resigned his position because of strenuous objections to the content of Carter’s book. In an e-mail message regarding his resignation, Stein described the book as “replete with factual errors, copied materials not cited, superficialities, glaring omissions, and simply invented segments.”

The copied materials involve two maps from former U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross’ book “The Missing Peace.” In an appearance on Fox News, Ross confirmed that the maps originated with his book, and he objected not only to the lack of attribution but also to Carter’s inaccurate presentation of the historical facts involved.

Similarly, attorney Alan Dershowitz, in a scathing review, writes that “Mr. Carter’s book is so filled with simple mistakes of fact and deliberate omissions that were it a brief filed in a court of law, it would be struck and its author sanctioned for misleading the court.”

Top-ranking Democrats have also disavowed Carter’s work. Both Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi issued statements on Carter’s book, distancing themselves and the Democratic Party from his divisive rhetoric.  Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., an African American, condemned Carter’s inappropriate use of the term “apartheid” in his title, labeling it “offensive.”

Intimations of Anti-Semitism

Carter’s contention in the book, and one that he recently discussed with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, is that a “minority of Israelis have refused to swap land for peace.” This is laughable, considering the repeated examples of Israeli governments doing just that. Successive administrations, whether under Ehud Barak, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon or now Ehud Olmert (who’s practically falling all over himself to give away Israeli land), have offered or given up territory, only to be met with increased aggression. Recent examples include the ongoing violence in Gaza following Israel’s disengagement plan and the war in Lebanon six long years after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon.

One has to wonder if Carter’s single-minded obsession with Israel as the root of the problems in the world—not to mention the stubbornly one-sided view of the Middle East conflict to which he has a history of subscribing—has any anti-Semitic underpinnings. Such is the suspicion among many of Carter’s harshest critics. In fact, during a recent appearance by Carter on C-SPAN’s “Book TV,” a caller accused him of being an “anti-Semite” and a “bigot,” to which Carter reacted with denial.

But this was hardly the first time that intimations of anti-Semitism have tainted Carter’s career. In an article titled “Jimmy Carter’s Jewish Problem,” Jason Maoz, senior editor at Jewish Press, reveals that “during a March 1980 meeting with his senior political advisers, Carter, discussing his fading reelection prospects and his sinking approval rating in the Jewish community, snapped, ‘If I get back in, I’m going to [expletive] the Jews.’” Maoz also references the 1976 presidential campaign during which Carter, fearing that his opponent Senator Henry (“Scoop”) Jackson had the Jewish vote in the Democratic primaries locked up, “instructed his staff not to issue any more statements on the Middle East. ‘Jackson has all the Jews anyway … we get the Christians.’”

Strengthening Israel’s Enemies

Carter’s history of involvement with the Middle East conflict is no less troublesome.  It was Carter who brokered the first in a series of largely ineffective and in the long run incredibly damaging Arab-Israeli peace treaties. Far from pushing peace, such agreements have only strengthened the disdain toward Israel from its Arab neighbors and led to further violence.

Carter’s claim to fame in the peace process arena was the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty signed at Camp David by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. While the alleged peace between Egypt and Israel has held up to this day, increased hostility in Egypt toward Israel and Jews has been the true legacy. At some point, one has to come to the logical conclusion that a peace treaty that inspires hatred is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Instead, Carter received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts in the Middle East, among other locales. Such efforts continue with Carter’s apparent fondness for Hamas, the terrorist group turned government, which, he insists, will become a “non-violent organization” despite all indications to the contrary. Before that, it was his cozy relationship with Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat.

Friend to Dictators

Indeed, it seems there are very few dictators in the world to whose defense Carter has not rallied—Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, former Yugoslav strongman Marshal Josef Tito, former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, former Pakistani General Zia ul-Haq, former North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung and now his son Kim Jong Il, to name a few.

Carter’s eagerness to appease the former Soviet Union and his opposition to his successor President Ronald Reagan’s uncompromising approach (which has been widely credited with helping bring down the “evil empire”) also speak to his lack of understanding when it comes to the nature of totalitarian regimes. Then there’s Carter’s propensity for certifying obviously compromised elections in places such as Venezuela and Haiti.

Carter’s failed approach to foreign policy has indeed put America in a perilous position in the world. If we look at some of the major challenges facing the United States today, we can thank Jimmy Carter for getting us off on the wrong foot. Whether it’s the Middle East, Iran or North Korea, Carter’s track record as president is nothing to brag about and his career as ex-president has been even worse.

‘Worst Ex-President’

Author Steven F. Hayward, who has labeled Carter the “worst ex-president” certainly thinks so.  In his book, “The Real Jimmy Carter: How Our Worst Ex-President Undermines American Foreign Policy, Coddles Dictators and Created the Party of Clinton and Kerry,” Hayward runs down the ways in which America continues to reap the legacy of Carter’s missteps, both during his presidential term and after.

When it comes to the belligerence of North Korea, Carter’s past involvement has done considerable damage. In the early 1990s, Carter traveled to North Korea on another of his “peacekeeping missions” and brokered a deal with dictator Kim Il Sung. He did so without the blessing of the Clinton administration, although, at the behest of then-Vice President Al Gore, President Clinton later agreed to adopt Carter’s deal. The United States ended up providing aid, oil and, incredibly, material for building light-water nuclear reactors to the North Koreans in exchange for their abandoning their nuclear weapons program. The problem is they didn’t abandon their nuclear weapons program; they just said they did. And in 2002, they admitted as much. Still, to this day, Carter claims that his approach was a success and that it was President Bush’s inclusion of North Korea in the famous “axis of evil” speech that led to current leader Kim Jong Il’s hostility toward America.

The fruits of Carter’s history with Iran are even more rotten. Carter’s abandonment of the shah in 1977-78 helped lead to the Islamic revolution (and the murder or imprisonment of many of the Iranian leftists who had supported overthrowing the shah), the emboldening of the Soviet Union to invade Afghanistan and the rise of radical Islam worldwide. His botched approach to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979 inspired Islamic terrorists all over the world, culminating in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The threat of nuclear war emanating from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can be seen as another offshoot of Carter’s ineffective policies. Predictably, Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski, his former national security adviser, are now pushing for “direct talks” with Iran. But considering the abject failure of U.N.-brokered negotiations (supported by the Bush administration) thus far, it is difficult to imagine how U.S.-led negotiations would fare any better.

Wherever U.S. interests have been imperiled and a temporary “peace” could be bought at the expense of long-term security, Carter has always been on board.  The late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan summed it up when he said of Carter in 1980, “Unable to distinguish between our friends and our enemies, he has essentially adopted our enemies’ view of the world.”

Meddler and Failure

Another of Jimmy Carter’s dubious legacies has been the now common habit of former presidents meddling in current politics. Carter has made many an enemy among both Republican and Democratic administrations by undermining their foreign policies via the Carter Center. As Chris Suellentrop put it in an article for Slate magazine, Carter has “difficulties coming to grips with the fact that he … [is] not president.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of failure, Carter has become something of a sacred cow to many liberals, who often express outrage when their hero is criticized. But no one who inserts himself into the public sphere is above criticism. And how quickly Carter’s fans forget the malaise that gripped the nation under his presidency.

My own childhood memories of the time consist mostly of long lines snaking around gas stations due to the embargo on Iranian oil, not to mention a general feeling in the country of want and hopelessness. Carter may have inherited a recession, but his presidency did little to improve the weak economy. This was among the reasons that he lost re-election to Ronald Reagan in 1980. Yet somehow Carter’s presidency is still held up by some as a shining example for the current leadership to follow.

Woe unto Israel now that Carter’s book has entered the pantheon of propaganda.

And woe unto America if Jimmy Carter is our guiding light.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Mob Rule on College Campuses

Originally written November 29 2006 at

America’s college campuses, once thought to be bastions of free speech, have become increasingly intolerant toward the practice. Visiting speakers whose views do not conform to the prevailing left-leaning political mind-set on most campuses are at particular risk of having their free speech rights infringed upon.

While academia has its own crimes to atone for, it’s the students who have become the bullies as of late. A disturbing number seem to feel that theirs is an inviolate world to which no one of differing opinion need apply. As a result, everything from pie throwing to disrupting speeches to attacks on speakers has become commonplace.

Conservative speakers have long been the targets of such illiberal treatment. The violent reception given to Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman Project, an anti-illegal immigration group, at Columbia University in October is a recent example. Gilchrist had been invited to speak by the Columbia University College Republicans, but was prevented from doing so by an unruly mob of students. What could have been mere heckling descended into yelling, screaming, kicking and punching, culminating in the rushing of the stage and Gilchrist being shuttled off by security.

The fact that the rioting students could be heard yelling, “He has no right to speak!” was telling. Apparently, in their minds, neither Gilchrist nor anyone else with whom they disagree has a right to express their viewpoints. In any other setting this would be called exactly what it is—totalitarianism. But in the untouchable Ivy League world of Columbia, it was chalked up to student activism gone awry. While condemning the incident, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has yet to apologize to Gilchrist or to conclude the supposed investigation into the affair. In other words, mob rule won the day.

Bay Area PC Intolerance

Such behavior is certainly not limited to East Coast universities. Last February at San Francisco State University, former liberal activist-author turned conservative activist-author David Horowitz had his entire speech shouted down by a group of protesters. Composed primarily of students and other members of the Spartacus Youth Club, a Trotskyist organization, the group stood in the back of the room shouting slogans and comments at every turn.

Even this was not enough to warrant their removal, so Horowitz and his audience, which included me, simply had to suffer through the experience. Horowitz, whose speech centered on his Academic Bill of Rights, took on his critics and attempted to engage them in dialogue, with varying degrees of success. But those who actually came to hear him speak, whether out of sympathy for his views or out of a desire to tackle them intellectually, were unable to do so fully because of the actions of a few bullies.

It is not only conservative speakers who are at risk of having their free speech rights trampled upon on American college campuses. Those who dare criticize radical Islam in any way, shape or form tend to suffer the same fate.

In 2004, UC Berkeley became the locus for bullying behavior during a speech by Islam scholar Daniel Pipes. I was witness to the spectacle, one I’ll never forget. Members of the Muslim Student Association and other protesters formed a disruptive group in the audience, shouting, jeering and chanting continually. They booed loudly throughout and called Pipes everything from “racist” and “Zionist” (which in their minds is an insult) to “racist Jew”—all because Pipes had the audacity to propose that moderate Muslims distance themselves from extremist elements in their midst; that in tackling terrorism authorities take into account the preponderance of Muslim perpetrators and that Israel has a right to exist peacefully among its neighbors.

This was hardly the first time that UC Berkeley students had espoused hostility toward speakers with “unpopular” views or those hailing from “unpopular” countries such as Israel. Nonetheless, it was a wake-up call for many in the audience who had not yet experienced first-hand the intimidation of the mob.

Arab Reformers Silenced

Recently, reformers from within the Arab world itself have been on the receiving end of such treatment. Whether it be the work of student groups or faculty, insurmountable security restrictions and last-minute cancellations have a strange way of arising whenever such figures are invited to speak on college campuses.

Arab American activist and author Nonie Darwish was to speak at Brown University earlier this month, when the event was canceled because her views were deemed “too controversial” by members of the Muslim Students’ Association. Given that Darwish is the author of the recently released book, “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel and the War on Terror,” such claims are hardly unpredictable. Like most Arab reformers, Darwish must overcome the resistance within her own community, aided and abetted by misguided liberal sympathizers, in order to get her message across.

Darwish was born and raised a Muslim in Egypt and later lived in Gaza. It was during this time that she had several experiences that led her to reject the anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism with which she was indoctrinated as a child. She eventually converted to Christianity and emigrated to the United States. She has since dedicated her life to exposing the ways that hatred and intolerance are crippling the Muslim world and leading to violence against non-Muslims.

Her pro-Israel views led to an invitation from the campus Jewish group Hillel to speak at Brown University. Unfortunately, the very same organization later backed out, fearing that their relationship with the Muslim Students’ Association would be harmed by the experience. But if such a relationship is based on mutually assured censorship, then it’s hardly worth preserving. In the end, all of Brown’s students missed out on what would undoubtedly have been a thought-provoking experience.

Word has it that Brown University has re-invited Darwish to speak, no doubt in response to the furor, so perhaps students will have that opportunity after all.

Terrorists Recant

Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist turned Christian convert and outspoken anti-jihadist, fared slightly better at Columbia University in October. Shoebat is the author of “Why I Left Jihad: The Root of Terrorism and the Return of Radical Islam.” He was invited to speak by the Columbia College Republicans, along with former Lebanese terrorist Zachariah Anani and former Nazi Hitler Youth member and German soldier, Hilmar von Campe. All three have renounced their former anti-Semitic views and dedicated themselves to exposing radical Islam in a no-holds-barred fashion.

They managed to give their presentation, but the turnout was greatly impacted by last-minute changes to security policies implemented in the wake of the Jim Gilchrist debacle. As a result, 75 to 120 people who had RSVP’d for the event were turned away at the door because only Columbia students and 20 guests were allowed to attend. An e-mail sent out 3 hours before the event was the only forewarning, and as one would expect, most of those planning to attend didn’t receive it in time. The event had been widely advertised in the blogosphere, and those denied entry were not only greatly inconvenienced but also greatly disappointed.

Members of student groups who had boycotted the event were much cheerier at the prospect of a low turnout. A post at the blog for the Blue and White, Columbia’s undergraduate magazine, expressed eagerness for “pretty pictures of empty chairs.” Unfortunately, they got their wish, to the detriment of open discourse at Columbia.

Illiberal Mob Rule

It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when the figures of moderation and reform that many who call themselves liberal or progressive should in theory support are instead shunned in the name of political correctness. For how can one expect to promote progress while helping to stifle the voices at its heart?

People such as Shoebat and Darwish, who literally risk their lives to call attention to a grave threat to all our rights, are the true freedom fighters of our day. But far too many accord that label to those who choose to effect political change by blowing themselves up in a crowd of civilians or by randomly lobbing rockets into homes and schools or by promoting hatred of other religions. By excusing such behavior and simultaneously helping to suppress reformers, liberal student groups are in fact aiding the very totalitarian forces they claim to oppose. They have in effect become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

It would be nice if we could look to our colleges and universities as the bearers of progress, but at this rate it seems an unlikely prospect. If we are to truly promote an atmosphere of intellectual openness, respectful political debate and the free flow of ideas on campus, then we must stem the tide of thuggery, bullying and intolerance that threatens to subsume future generations.

Otherwise, we cede the day to mob rule.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Hatred of Israel and Jews Imperils Us All

All around the world, a perfect storm is brewing.  Under the guise of anti-Zionism or opposition to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, forces from all walks of life are converging.  An unholy alliance has formed of Islamists, leftists, conspiracists, Jewish anti-Semites, Neo-Nazis and certain Paleoconservatives, the one commonality among them all being hatred for Israel and Jews.  Whether it’s medieval blood libels, Holocaust denial, belief in Jewish domination of the media and undue influence over American foreign policy or demonizing Israel and exonerating its enemies, the old canards are alive and well.

Such beliefs have long infected the ranks of the American left, whose newspapers during the first Gulf War in 1990-91 featured screaming headlines about how it was all the fault of the “Zionists.”  As a leftist myself at that time, I saw this de-evolution taking place and as a post-9/11 pro-American, pro-Israel counter-protester, I witnessed firsthand the virulence of such hatred.  Seeing Jewish leftists parrot the same propaganda made it even more nauseating.  The stain of anti-Semitic conspiratorial thinking, along with anti-Christian sentiment, had conveniently traveled from the Muslim world to American shores.

This trend was propelled forward by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.  Almost immediately after 9/11, a ridiculous rumor began circulating that 4,000 Jews had been warned beforehand about the attacks by the Israeli government.  It was based on a Jerusalem Post article describing the Israeli government’s attempt to account for the number of its citizens in the area of the WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11.  This conspiracy theory was dismissed by many at the time as irrational and short-lived.  But today, there are thousands of 9/11 conspiracists who believe it, among other inanities, to be true and their numbers are growing. 

The remarks of Prince Alaweed Bin Talal, the Saudi sheik whose check for $10 million was refused by then-Mayor of New York City Rudy Guiliani, was another early indication of where things were heading.  Bin Talal’s comments at Ground Zero about America’s support for Israel being the cause of the attacks would soon become mainstream fare.

There are certainly those on the right who share in such thinking.  Paleocons such as Pat Buchanan, an otherwise intelligent and articulate speaker for the cause of conservatism, have a blind spot when it comes to America’s alliance with Israel.

Arguing from an isolationist standpoint, Buchanan feels that America is endangered by its alliance with Israel. He seems to suffer from the mistaken belief, shared by many on both the left and the right, that were the U.S. to stop supporting Israel, Islamic terrorism would cease to exist.  But in doing so, they buy into the logic, such as it is, of America’s enemies. 

It is not Israel that is causing Islamists to embark on a genocidal mission to kill the world’s “infidels,” along with any Muslims who stand in their way.  Indeed, the Islamists’ hostility towards Israel demonstrates not a nationalist struggle, but rather a supremacist ideology that refuses to tolerate non-Muslims living as equals in their midst. 

As two western democratic nations facing the same ideological foe, America and Israel are natural allies. Israel’s contributions to this relationship are rarely if ever mentioned by its opponents, as no other ally provides the U.S. with such incredible military, agricultural, technological, medical and scientific advances.  Unmanned aerial vehicles, rotorless helicopters for military rescue missions, a device that detects explosives in small electronic equipment, a hydrogen car that runs on water, drip irrigation, a new drug treatment that halts the spread of cancer cells, the first ingestible video camera, Pentium MMX Chip technology, the firewall, Avid video editing software and the world’s largest solar plant are just a few examples.  And this is the ally some would have us toss to the wolves?

If former congressmen Paul Findley and Pete McCloskey had their way, this would indeed be the outcome.  They use their previous membership in America’s political establishment to spread the worst sort of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic canards.  In fact, they formed an organization for this very purpose called the Council for the National Interest (CNI).

The CNI’s most recent outreach effort came in the form of a full-page advertisement in the New York Times in November featuring an offensive cartoon and a headline asking, “Who is Holding Peace Hostage?”  Predictably, the CNI ad blamed the Mideast conflict, the war in Lebanon and the war in Iraq on the “Israel Lobby.”  Never mind that Israel has rarely if ever been the initiator of violence with its neighbors.  Or that the Israeli government stood to gain no more from the deposing of Saddam Hussein in Iraq than any other hostile regime in the region.  Or that American Jews overwhelmingly opposed the war in Iraq.  Once again, Jews must be held responsible for all that’s wrong with the world.

If any dare stand up and speak out against such fallacies, they are immediately vilified as being part of the “Israel/Jewish Lobby.”  But what’s wrong with Jews getting involved in politics and defending their interests like any other group in America?  It’s interesting that the various Arab, Hispanic, Asian and Black “lobbies” don’t seem to cause quite so much consternation.  Yet for some reason when it comes to Jews, it’s seen as the result of a nefarious plot.

Former President Jimmy Carter seems to think so.  At a time when anti-Jewish sentiment is at its apex, Carter comes out with the inflammatory and inaccurately titled book, “Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid.”  Putting forth the usual litany of anti-Israel talking points, Carter’s book also touches on the “Israel Lobby.”  While careful not to use that exact term in his book or during interviews, Carter has indeed spoken of what he believes to be the undue influence of AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and other pro-Israel activist groups in the United States.  But claiming that such forces impede true dialogue about the Mideast conflict while traveling the country on a book tour and appearing on CSPAN’s BookTV and countless other media outlets seems just a tad disingenuous. 

When confronted with charges of bigotry, Carter has reacted with wounded indignation.  But the incredible damage his book is doing to the climate of anti-Semitism, both within this county and without, is undeniable.

That it was publicized against the backdrop of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s international conference on Holocaust denial last week didn’t help.  The conference was a chance for Islamists, Neo-Nazis, the self-hating Jews of the anti-Zionist Naturei Karta sect and so-called historians to gather in Tehran and expose what they called the “lie of the Holocaust.” 

At the root of Ahmadinejad’s holocaust denial is a desire to perpetrate the next holocaust against the Jewish people.  But this time, it will be nuclear.  By trying to illegitimize the founding of the nation of Israel, he hopes to make its destruction more palatable. Ahmadinejad daily expresses his desire to “wipe Israel off the map” and to live in a “world without Zionism” even as he strengthens Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the face of a waffling international community. 

Just as in the 1930s when Adolph Hitler was on the rise and the world looked the other way, many today dismiss Ahmadinejad’s threats as the ravings of a madman.  But if the history of WWII has proven anything, it’s that such individuals can do incredible damage.  What began as an obsession with killing Jews led Hitler to slaughter millions of Germans, Russians, Polish, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Catholics, Christians and the disabled, not to mention trying to conquer the world, beginning with Europe.  As has often been said, what befalls the Jewish people has a nasty habit of spreading outward.

America too is in the crosshairs of today’s perpetrators of hatred.  If we allow them to create a world without Israel, just imagine what a world without America would look like.

The original article can be found at

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Self-Censorship Threatens the West

Originally written October 11 2006

All across the Western world, a worrisome phenomenon is spreading.  Fear of incurring Muslim wrath is leading politicians, journalists, artists, professors, teachers and business owners to censor themselves.

A series of historical precursors paved the way for things to come. The fatwa issued in 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini against the life of “The Satanic Verses” author Salman Rushdie, the 2004 murder of Dutch “Submission” filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and last year’s Danish cartoon controversy are just a few. Each time, blasphemy was the claim and violence the solution.

The recent comments of Pope Benedict XVI opened the floodgates once again. During a speech at the University of Regensberg in Germany, the pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor on warlike tendencies within Islam and then expounded on the need to for all faiths to emphasize reason over violence. Ironically, the pope’s words led to Muslims reacting violently.

As in times past, we saw effigy burnings, rioting and death threats, with the added dimension of a virulent strain of anti-Christian violence. Churches were vandalized and firebombed in the West Bank and Gaza, Christians in Muslim countries were attacked and a 65-year-old Catholic nun was murdered in Somalia. As usual, apologies were demanded and when given, as in the case of the pope, they were spurned for not being abject enough.

The very idea that sparking an interfaith dialogue through theological discussion should be deemed worthy of an apology, not to mention a death sentence, has apparently become acceptable in the Western media.  A New York Times editorial scolded the pope for his insensitivity, while other voices in the media decried the “bad timing” of the pope’s words in light of an upcoming trip to Turkey.

Operatic Outrage

But there is never a good time to broach the topic of Islam and reform, for the tyranny of the mob rises up at every turn. And with each success at silencing critics, it only becomes more emboldened. Indeed, in the wake of the reaction to the pope’s comments, the situation seems to have spiraled out of control. But this time it’s self-censorship that has taken hold.

Last month for example, word came that the Deutsche Oper in Berlin would be canceling an upcoming production of a 1774 Mozart opera out of fear of provoking violence. The production of “Idomeneo” was to feature an added scene from director Hans Neuenfels showing the King of Crete holding aloft the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Poseidon and Muhammad. While this scene reeks of the sort of juvenile, sensationalistic, anti-religious sentiment popular in the arts these days, it was not the Buddhists or the Christians—let alone followers of the ancient Greek gods—who caused Kirsten Harms, the chief director, to cancel the opera. Instead, she was contacted by Berlin police about an anonymous threat that had been made against the opera house, a threat they had reason to believe was Islamist in nature.

In what is perhaps a hopeful sign, the decision to cancel the production has been widely criticized in Germany, with self-censorship being a continuing theme. Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that “self-censorship motivated by fear is not acceptable,” while the Financial Times Deutschland agreed that “the self-censorship of the Deutsche Oper is hysterical and stupid.” Indeed, the criticism has been such that Harms is considering reinstating the production and mainstream German Muslim organizations have apparently voiced their support. Of course, the reaction of the larger Muslim world should the production go forward remains to be seen.

Real and Imaginary Threats

Another case of self-censorship that’s reared its ugly head in the wake of the pope’s speech involves the publishing company Looseleaf Law Publications. Looseleaf was set to publish a book this November written by psychoanalyst Dr. Nancy Kobrin and titled  “The Sheikh’s New Cloth: The Naked Truth About Islamic Suicide Terrorism” when they abruptly canceled because of concerns over the safety of their staff.

The subject of the book may have had a little something to do with their fears. According to feminist, psychotherapist and author Phyllis Chesler, who wrote the introduction, the book sheds light on “the normalization of cruelty and child abuse, including pederasty and daughter-abuse that is pandemic in the Arab Muslim world” and “focuses on the degradation of women in the Islamic world and how that is a crucial factor in suicide terrorism.”

Fearing that the book could lead to violence, and being a small publisher without the funds to provide security to members of its staff, Looseleaf pulled the plug. Fortunately, the blogosphere-inspired publicity surrounding the case has led to offers from two other publishers, so Kobrin’s book may yet come out. But the fact that publishers such as Looseleaf are giving up the prize without a fight says a lot about the effectiveness of intimidation.

French Author In Hiding Robert Redeker, a high school philosophy teacher, journalist and author in France, has also run up against the ramifications of critiquing Islam. Redeker and his family are in hiding after death threats were posted on Islamist Web sites following his Sept. 19 op-ed piece in the French newspaper Le Figaro. Titled “Facing Fundamentalist Intimidation, What Should the Free World Do?” Redeker’s op-ed warns against the totalitarian creep of Islamism in the West.

Predictably, much of the focus has been on the more inflammatory sections of Redeker’s article, such as his calling the Koran “a book of incredible violence” and Muhammad “a merciless warlord, a looter, a butcher of Jews and a polygamist.” But while these are strong words, they should hardly be anathema to a society that claims to support free speech. As Redeker put it, “The Islamists have succeeded in punishing me on French territory as if I were guilty of a crime of opinion.”

Until recently, the French have been slow to rise to Redeker’s defense.  Although provided with police protection, Redecker has had to arrange for his own safe houses. After initially being ignored by the French Education Ministry, Redeker finally received half-hearted support from Education Minister Gilles de Robien, who urged him to be “careful, moderate and sensible.” Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin responded similarly, saying, “Everyone has the right to express his views freely, while respecting others, of course.” One would think that those issuing death threats would be in need of lessons on respecting others, not someone that simply expressed an opinion.

To their credit, a group of French intellectuals, including philosophers Bernard-Henri Lévy, Alain Finkielkraut and André Glucksmann, have rallied around Redeker. In addition, the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF has called on French authorities to protect Redeker and to help him secure another teaching job. Meanwhile, leaders of mainstream French Muslim organizations have condemned the death threats. But comments such as those from Oxford Islamic Studies professor Tariq Ramadan, who called Redeker’s article a ” stupidly provocative text” provide a glimpse into the sort of mind-set Redeker initially warned against.

Until legitimate criticism of Islam is no longer considered “provocative,” this pattern of self-censorship is likely to continue. For fear is an incredibly effective weapon.

There is more than one way to win a war, and societies that are weakened from within can be overtaken without firing a shot. The steady erosion of principles such as free speech can have a devastating effect.

Both for the sake of the West and the possibility of reform within the Muslim world, the critics must not be silenced.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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African American Figures Break From Pack

When Juan Williams set out to write his new book, “Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America,” he had no idea what he was getting into. Williams’ scathing critique of African American leadership in the post-civil rights movement era, as well as his emphasis on what he calls the “culture of failure” within the black community, catapulted him into the realm of controversy.

No sooner had the book hit the shelves than Williams was met with a hailstorm of criticism. In calling into question the overreliance on “victimhood” by today’s African American leaders and instead promoting personal responsibility, education, achievement and the traditional family structure, Williams was treading dangerous waters. For it has become almost an article of faith among mainstream black Americans that racism is solely to blame for the problems afflicting the black community. To say otherwise is simply taboo.

It didn’t take long for Williams to find himself on the receiving end of the usual barrage of epithets applied to black figures who stray from the party line. During interviews to discuss his book, Williams described receiving a torrent of angry e-mails calling him an “Uncle Tom,” “Oreo” (as in black on the outside, white on the inside) and worse. In other words, Williams was accused of not being a “real” black man. Were such accusations to come from outside the black community they would certainly be considered racist. But for some reason, the assumption that all blacks must think alike has become accepted by the African American establishment.

Conservatives, on the other hand, both black and otherwise, embraced Williams as one of their own. Having long espoused many of the same ideas, conservatives found in Williams’ book both a pleasant surprise and a confirmation of their own political philosophies. All of a sudden, Williams was making the rounds on conservative talk-radio shows and book sales were growing.

But Williams is certainly no conservative. He’s a registered Democrat and a columnist for the Washington Post and a senior correspondent for National Public Radio, neither of which are known for being particularly right-wing. In addition, Williams is one of the liberal-to-moderate contributors in the Fox News stable of political analysts. But on this particular issue, he seems to have bridged the political divide.  While black conservatives had been saying largely the same thing for many years, it took someone of Williams’ mainstream stature to bring it to the fore.

Even before his new book came out, many of Williams’ columns on black America struck a noticeably moderate tone. And he is not alone in that regard. Democratic Senator Barack Obama entered into such territory with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Obama emphasized personal responsibility in “inner city neighborhood[s]” (a euphemism for urban black communities) when he said that the “government alone can’t teach our kids” and that it was up to parents to “turn off the television sets.” He also alluded to Williams’ “culture of failure” concept by urging the community to “eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.” Obama was subtle enough in his wording to avoid censure from the black establishment, but the message got through loud and clear. 

Bill Cosby Pulls No Punches

Williams’ inspiration for the book, actor Bill Cosby, is hardly known as a conservative, either. Beginning with his 2004 no-holds-barred speech at the NAACP celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, Cosby has been making headlines with his blunt calls for change within the black community. As he often points out, schools, social workers and well-meaning government programs can only do so much. It is at heart the family that makes or breaks a child’s future. Cosby has also been highly critical of so-called “gangsta culture” and its pernicious influence on young black men and women.  When the lowest common denominator is glorified, it’s hard to imagine that any good can come of it.

While Cosby’s efforts have been met with the usual opposition from African American critics, his cantankerous presence has become a regular fixture in black communities across the country. His speaking tours continue to bring in packed houses, whether or not audiences agree with his views.

According to Williams, poll results show that there is indeed support among African Americans for new approaches to the problems in their communities. But it is the entrenched leadership and the political firmament that continue to hold back the debate. 

The Media and ‘Victimhood’

The mainstream media’s constant emphasis on the sort of victimhood model Williams speaks of in his book doesn’t help. Indeed, the one-year anniversary of the New Orleans/Katrina tragedy allowed the chattering classes to once again dredge up the race card instead of examining the part that overdependence on government and poor leadership played. Williams tackled the subject himself with a recent column, “Getting Past Katrina.” One can only hope.

Making matters worse, the mainstream media seems to do its best to highlight the activities of a select group of black figures, while largely ignoring the contributions of a growing number of black voices emanating from the right side of the political spectrum.

To read a newspaper or watch TV these days, one would think that all of black America was represented by Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan. Meanwhile, the true intellectual giants of the black community are rarely heard from. Such great minds as Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Star Parker, Niger Innis, La Shawn Barber and John McWhorter largely languish on the sidelines of public attention, while conservative black activists such as the Rev. Jessie Lee Patterson and Ted Hayes suffer the same fate. It is only on the Internet that conservative black journalists, bloggers and organizations seem to be flourishing.

But with mainstream black figures such as Juan Williams and Bill Cosby basically echoing the same solutions to the challenges facing the black community, perhaps that will begin to change. Indeed, Cosby and Williams may very well represent the coming moderate consensus.  Neither is an ideologue: They would simply like to see the African American community return to its roots in excellence, achievement, family and faith.

As someone with a long history of involvement with the black community, including interracial relationships, I have put forward similar ideas myself. As the lone white person in an all-black setting on many an occasion, I witnessed great joy, vibrancy, love, faith and accomplishment. But unfortunately these attributes were tempered at times by a cycle of self-destructive behavior affecting entire generations of families.

Some may try to downplay the importance of fatherhood and marriage in our society, but their lack is literally destroying the future prospects of too many African American children. In some sectors of the black community, marriage has become all but superfluous and fathers no longer play a part in their children’s lives. Boys in particular suffer from having no positive male role models, while the girls eventually carry on the cycle by having children out of wedlock at a young age. What results is the complete and utter breakdown of the family.

As Williams has pointed out, the illegitimacy rate in the black community, at over 65 percent, is the highest of any racial group in the country. This is the elephant in the room and, in my view, the single greatest obstacle to be overcome.

But ultimately change must come from within. That’s why it is my hope that the words of Juan Williams, Bill Cosby and all those who have bravely broken with the pack in order to lift up not only black Americans, but all Americans, will spark such a movement.

As Sam Cooke once sang, “It’s been a long time coming. But I know a change is gonna come.”

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Political Correctness: It’s To Die For

In my column  on the foiled UK terror plot, I ended by asking whether political correctness is really worth dying for?

Indeed, the entire discussion of profiling Muslim airline passengers in an age of Islamic terrorism rests on this question.  And if the reaction of mostly British passengers aboard a recent flight  from Malaga, Spain to Manchester, England is any indication, the answer would be “no.”

In what’s been dubbed a case of “mutiny” by the British media, fearful passengers demanded that two young Muslim men they felt were acting suspiciously be taken off the flight.  Wearing heavy coats and sweaters in hot weather, frequently checking their watches and speaking loudly in Urdu, Sohail Ashraf and Khurram Zeb were eventually escorted off the plane by authorities.

Worried passengers, including families with children who became increasingly upset, simply refused to fly  with the men on board.  With the recent suicide-bombing plot still fresh in their minds, passengers were justifiably concerned at the prospect of turning a blind eye to the presence of these two men.

The pair was eventually cleared by airport security and booked on a different flight the next day.  But it was later discovered  that one of the men had a criminal background.  He had been convicted for credit card fraud, a seemingly petty crime the likes of which nonetheless figures into many terrorist cases.  Adding to the strange situation was the pair’s travel itinerary; they were flying to Spain and back in a single day, presumably to “check out” a resort they planned to visit later.   

While the two men persist in claiming innocence and the perpetually mystified British media portrays the case as one of insufferable bigotry on the part of the other passengers, the very real fears at the heart of the matter go largely untouched.  Political correctness dictates that the pair’s Muslim identity has no bearing whatsoever on their propensity for being involved in terrorism, but the public knows better.

Just about every act of terrorism  in the last five years has been perpetrated by young Muslim men and, in a few cases, women.  This is clearly a pattern and it begs for profiling, not simply of ethnicity, but also of religious background since terrorists come in all shades.  The majority are Middle Eastern, but those of African, Asian, Caribbean, Eastern European or mixed origin, not to mention converts to Islam from all backgrounds, also play a part in the panorama of Islamic terrorism.

To hear British Muslim leaders tell it, such observations are nothing less than racism. They reacted to this latest incident with predictable indignation, coining a catchy new term in the process, “Flying while Muslim.”  Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei of the London Metropolitan Police, one of the country’s most senior Muslim officers,  called it, “travelling whilst Asian.”

Dizaei is opposed to profiling based on ethnicity or religious background because as he puts it, “I don’t think there’s a stereotypical image of a terrorist.” Apparently, being Muslim has nothing to do with it, despite all evidence to the contrary.  But in the long run, playing the victim card only allows the Muslim community to deflect valid questions about the radicalism emanating largely unfettered from within its midst.

Western leadership may continue to deny the true nature of the threat we are facing, but the public has no such qualms.  The actions of the passengers aboard this flight suggest that people do not trust politically correct authorities to protect them and are more than willing to take on the task themselves when necessary.

Anyone listening to talk radio callers or reading comments at blogs in the wake of the foiled UK terror plot could see this shift.  Talk show host Larry Elder  even suggested last week that an airline strictly for non-Muslims called “Infidel Airlines” would undoubtedly be a huge success.  While Elder may have been joking, he was right.  Were such an airline to exist, however unlikely in today’s political climate, it would outsell the competitors in an instant.  This is the harsh truth that few want to admit publicly, but that everyone knows in the back of their minds.

Rather than pillorying passengers for simply acting on common sense and gut instinct, authorities might learn a thing or two.  For until they begin to address the very real and justified concerns of non-Muslims in a world of Islamic terrorism, vigilantism is sure to increase.

Political correctness be damned.

Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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The Myth Of The Lone Gunman

Originally written August 9, 2006

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the claim has often been made that no further acts of terrorism have occurred on U.S. soil. But anyone following the news closely knows better. 

While there has not yet been another large-scale attack, a number of terrorist plots have been broken up and a variety of suspicious crimes and incidents have occurred across the nation. But each time, authorities seem to have made every effort to downplay the terrorism angle.  

News of the shooting rampage at Seattle’s Jewish Federation building last month involved the usual avoidance of the term “terrorism.” Instead, the attack was labeled a hate crime and the perpetrator, Naveed Afzal Haq, just another in a long line of lone gunmen with a history of mental instability. As Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels put it, “This was a purposeful, hateful act, as far as we know by an individual acting on his own.”

While this may be true, trying to separate Haq’s actions from the larger context of the war on terrorism is tunnel vision at its worst. It is not just hate that motivates such acts, but ideology. One needn’t be a bona fide member of an Islamic terrorist group to share their outlook.   

Haq made his motivations quite clear when he told a 911 operator during the attack that he was a “Muslim American” who was “angry with Israel” and the United States for the war in Iraq. “I want these Jews to get out … I’m tired of getting pushed around, and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East,” he added.

Indeed, it was Haq’s “anger” that led him to stake out the building of a prominent Jewish organization, hide behind a vestibule, kidnap a 14-year-old girl at gunpoint as she entered the building and then proceed to shoot six women, including one who was 17 weeks pregnant, almost all in the stomach. One of the victims died on the scene and several remain in the hospital.

There are also questions about Haq’s background that should at least raise a flag or two. His father, Mian Haq, founded the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities, which is affiliated with Saudi-financed Wahhabist organizations. An engineer, Mian Haq and other members of the local Pakistani American community work for the nearby Hanford Site (a nuclear reservation). The junior Haq was not known to be an observant Muslim, and a Christian evangelical organization in the Tri-Cities area claims that he was baptized last year. But Haq was clearly identifying himself as a Muslim at the time of the shooting.

The prosecutor in the case, Norm Maleng, did concede that the attack involved “the seeds from which the war on terror springs.” In fact, just 48 hours before Haq’s killing spree, Al-Jazeera ran a video of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri exhorting “Muslims everywhere … to fight and become martyrs in the war against the Zionists and the crusaders.” And it appears that that’s exactly what Haq did.

Officialdom in Denial

This was the hardly the first time that a Muslim seemingly unconnected to organized terrorist groups nevertheless acted out their agenda. Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes even came up with a term to describe this phenomenon: Sudden Jihad Syndrome.

Pipes and other scholars, such as Robert Spencer, have been tracking these cases for years. It is not certain that Islamist ideology was the motivation in each instance. But strangely enough, authorities almost always dismissed the possibility from the onset. Either that or they jumped on the “no possible known motive” bandwagon. The following examples bear this pattern out:

  • March 2006: Mohammad Taheri-azar plowed into a group of students at the University of North Carolina with his SUV. Afterward, he surrendered to authorities with a 911 call, telling them that he was trying to “punish the government of the United States for [its] actions around the world.” Meanwhile, in a letter to the police, Taheri-azar spoke of exercising “the right of violent retaliation that Allah” had given him.  Nonetheless, local officials and university officials immediately ruled out terrorism, leading several student groups to hold an “anti-terrorism” rally in protest.
  • September 2005: University of Oklahoma engineering student Joel Henry Hinrichs III blew himself up outside a packed stadium in what was dubbed a suicide. But it was more likely a botched suicide bombing. Beyond incriminating evidence found in his apartment, Hinrichs had connections to a local mosque and appears to have been a convert to Islam. Nonetheless, university officials and authorities studiously avoided the term “terrorism” and instead focused on Hinrichs’ alleged history of personal problems.
  • January 2005: The Coptic Christian Armanious family, originally from Egypt, was found dead in their home in Jersey City, all with their throats slit. Hossam, the father, had been debating religion with Muslims on a Middle Eastern chat room and had received at least one death threat. The entire family had been involved in converting Muslims to Christianity, and the daughter, Sylvia, was particularly outspoken. When her body was found, it was discovered that she had been stabbed in the chest and the wrist, precisely where she wore a tattoo of a Coptic cross. Authorities chalked up the case not to religious hatred or terrorism but to a robbery gone bad. But questions remain about the true impetus for the murders.
  • August 2003: Saudi Mohammed Ali Alayed slit the throat of former friend and fellow Houston Community College student Ariel Sellouk, almost decapitating him in the process. The fact that Sellouk was Jewish and that Alayed had broken with him right after becoming a more devout Muslim played no part in the trial. Not only was the term “terrorism” avoided, even “hate” and “anti-Semitism” were left out of the equation. To this day, Alayed’s motive remains a mystery as far as the official version is concerned.
  • October 2002: The “Beltway Snipers” John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo went on a killing spree across Maryland and Virginia, terrorizing the nation. Despite the fact that Muhammed was a convert to Islam and member of the Nation of Islam, authorities and media coverage focused solely on his troubled background and his ties to the military. Malvo was portrayed simply as a young victim of Muhammed’s sinister tutelage. Rarely was jihad or terrorism mentioned. Later, Malvo’s defense attorneys, attempting to illustrate their client’s mental instability, presented the judge in his trial with Malvo’s jailhouse drawings. Along with anti-American sentiments and drawings of Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the burning towers of the World Trade Center, Malvo repeatedly emphasized jihad against America.
  • July 2002: Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet walked into Los Angeles International Airport on the Fourth of July (also his birthday) and opened fire at an El Al (the Israeli government-owned airline) counter, killing an employee and a customer. Hadayet also stabbed an El Al security guard before he himself was shot. Hadayet had been known to express hatred for Jews, Israel and the United States, and according to his political asylum application, which was denied, he had been involved with an Egyptian Islamist group. The initial conclusion was that there was “nothing to indicate terrorism” and that it was simply an “isolated incident,” although officials finally dubbed the case an act of terrorism almost a year later.

It’s possible that in these cases authorities were simply hesitant to release sensitive information that might have threatened the investigation at hand. But in a time when average citizens can access all sorts of information for themselves on the Internet, this policy of official denial is becoming untenable. 

Besides, Americans deserve to know the truth about the threats to their lives and their country. It may be uncomfortable for some to swallow, but it helps no one, least of all those within the Muslim community working for reform, to shield the public from reality. For one cannot properly fight a battle if its true nature remains obscured.

Similarly, at a certain point, authorities will need to take the blinders off and start acknowledging that lone gunmen and Islamic terrorism are not mutually exclusive. As President Bush has repeatedly emphasized, “this is a different kind of war” and therefore a different kind of thinking is needed in order to win it. Unfortunately, it is our own officials who most seem to need an update.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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Israel’s Battle Is Our Own

Originally published July 25 2006

The kidnapping of Israeli soldiers earlier this month, first by Hamas in Gaza and then by Hezbollah in Lebanon, were the straw that broke the camel’ back. Long mired in a failed policy of diplomacy and withdrawal, Israel has once again embraced its warrior legacy. Just as the al-Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 reawakened the United States after a long period of appeasement in the face of Islamic terrorism, Israel too has reached its breaking point.

The subsequent incursions into Gaza and Southern Lebanon were a long time in the making. Israel had withdrawn from both regions only to find its enemies strengthened in their quest to annihilate the Jewish State. Aside from the usual suicidal leftists, many of them professors in Israel’ universities, the Israeli people appear to be united in this battle. It seems that some long in denial about the true nature posed by Israel’ enemies have at last figured it out. 

However, the reaction among the elites of the so-called international community has been less than supportive. Much like the antiwar take on the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the chattering classes began clamoring for “cease-fire” and “negotiation” less than one day into Israel’ military campaign. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his cohorts scolded Israel for its “disproportionate response” and pressed for the usual toothless “diplomatic packages.” Injecting a rare moment of commonsense into the media maelstrom, U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton was the only one to question “how you negotiate with terrorists?”

But the appeasers of the world have become highly invested in cowardice as a political platform. Not knowing how to see any battle through to its conclusion, they clamor for defeat at the slightest opportunity. Anything to go back to the days of meaningless agreements, ineffectual sanctions and countless opportunities for diplomats and their hangers-on to discuss matters at UN cocktail parties. The idea of such an “international force” taking over in Southern Lebanon, an idea much touted by the UN, is laughable. One need only revisit UN Security Council resolution 1559, which called on Syria to leave Lebanon and Lebanese militias such as Hezbollah to disband in 2004. It has yet to be enforced.

The mainstream television media, with the occasional exception of Fox News, reacted just as predictably, offering Israel a day or two of sympathetic coverage before launching into the usual moral equivalence and thinly veiled terrorist propaganda. CNN committed perhaps the worst offense in the latter category when one of its reporters dutifully followed around a Hezbollah guide as he showed him the ruins of various buildings that had been bombed by Israel, insisting all the while that the victims had all been “civilians.”

The story that most engulfed media coverage of the Middle East conflict was the plight of evacuees trying to flee Lebanon. It became a sort of Hurricane Katrina Part II, where civilians stranded in war-torn areas were suddenly victims that only the government could rescue. Never mind the numerous State Department warnings about traveling to Lebanon in recent years.

The complaints about delays were belied by the relatively quick mobilization of the U.S. military in helping Americans, largely of Arab descent, get out of Lebanon. This hasn’t stopped groups such as The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) from instigating a lawsuit on behalf of evacuees they claim the U.S. government failed to protect, not to mention suing to stop monetary or military support to Israel. Such is the logical end result of biased media coverage.   

Few in the media mentioned that Israel was not indiscriminately bombing the country and even dropped flyers on several occasions warning civilians to stay out of Hezbollah-dominated areas. This is more than can be said for the random, if not very well aimed, lobbing of over 2,200 rockets into Israel thus far. 

Still, reporters felt the need to make constant reference to the suffering “on both sides” lest they offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities. That is, when they weren’t covering every move of the Israeli military, much to the delight of Hezbollah and its mobile rocket launchers. And unsurprisingly, support for Israel’s actions by many in the Lebanese Christian community received little or no airtime.

Despite the media barrage, backing for Israel from its closest ally, the United States, has been unusually bipartisan. A Senate resolution condemning Hezbollah and Hamas and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself was signed by all but the fringe leftists of the Democratic Party. Democratic politicians, among others, addressed crowds at a series of “Israel Solidarity Rallies” held across the nation. It seems that the Democrats do understand the principle of a just war, even if some of them still don’t apply it to their own country.

President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have stood firm in Israel’s defense up until this point, facing a hostile world in the process. At the time of this writing, Rice is on a diplomatic trip to the region, leading some to worry that her State Department influence will be an impediment to Israel finishing the job.

But the Bush administration knows that Islamic terrorist groups such as Hezbollah pose a threat that extends far beyond Israel’s borders. Indeed, it was a Hezbollah suicide bombing that killed 240 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983. The group has been involved in numerous other attacks on Americans and American interests in recent decades. Furthermore, the liberation of Lebanon from the grips of Iran and Syria, via the proxy state in the south controlled by Hezbollah, would be of great benefit not only to Israel, but also to the entire region. It’s unlikely that the Bush administration would want to forfeit such an opportunity. 

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich got it right when he described the current conflict as part of WWIII. The U.S. is engaged in the same battle in Afghanistan and Iraq. The attacks and aggression by Islamic terrorists all over the world from the Philippines to India, Spain to Somalia and London to Toronto, are also elements of this larger war.

It was clear immediately after 9/11, if not before, that all terrorist groups, not simply al-Qaeda, must be fought if the civilized (as in democratic) world is to weather the storm. In the wake of Israel’s courageous stand against this rising tide of Islamic fascism, more people seem to understand the shared nature of the conflict than ever before.

There’s no longer any denying that Israel’s battle is our own.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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It's a question.