How English is Your Burqa?

March 23, 2010

Five years ago no one thought it could happen.   But today the traditional Islamic dress for women –  a burqa or veil that covers the entirety of a woman’s body save for a narrow opening for the eyes –  is under assault throughout Europe.

France has been debating legislation for nearly two years to ban the burqa and recent polls indicate that nearly 70% of respondents favor the ban.  As the Financial Times revealed in a report on March 2, in Spain 63%  favor the ban while in Italy the number is 65%.  In Germany the number is slightly less at 52%, but nevertheless shows a majority in favor.

Across Europe, there is a deep sense that change is in the air.   Switzerland voted in January to ban the further construction of minarets in Swiss towns and polls at the time revealed continent wide support for the measure.   In Denmark, Kurt Westegaard, the cartoonist who penned the now famous ‘Mohammed with a bomb in his turban’ cartoon and which is said to have sparked Muslim riots around the world, is being treated  as a local hero and the trial of Geert Wilders,whose film Fitna ( a 14 minute collection of film clips without narration depicting the development of Islam in modern times) is fast transforming him into one of the most popular politicians in Europe.

The burqa, for many Europeans, has become a symbol of clerical oppression and female subjugation and a portent of what awaits them if current trends continue.  Religious liberty, one of the great accomplishments of the French Enlightenment and a hallmark of liberal democracy, is now slowly giving way to a sense that tolerating the intolerant is not resulting in the expected assimilation of restive minorities, but with an anti-democratic cancer metastisizing in the very heart of their continental enterprise.

Why is this happening now?   Simply this:  Continental Europeans are beginning to awaken from their long multicultural slumber.   Quite aware that loose immigration policies, extensive welfare benefits and collapsed social programs have failed to absorb Muslim minorities, Europeans are demanding that brakes be placed on multicultural policies that have only served to erode national identity and create virtual autonomous zones within certain European countries where police fear to tread.

That is all true enough for the continent.  But in the U.K. things are decidedly different.   As I have written repeatedly over the past few years, ( see England’s Muliticultural Revolution and Combating Terrorism for example) and have debated at our international conference  The Collapse of Europe? ,  the United Kingdom is on a fast track to civilizational collapse with very few politicians, academics or social leaders displaying enough courage to challenge the country’s most important institutions in the apparent accommodation of a Muslim ascendancy.

Why, we might ask, has England – the lone holdout against Nazism in the early 1940s and a country renowned for pride in its traditions, allowed itself to be so weakened by multicultural pieties and appeasing attitudes?  The answer is that leftist politcians, from the former mayor of London Ken Livingstone and parliamentarian, George Galloway to former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, have cravenly bought into the notion that England’s future is dependent on respecting foreign cultures, even when those which express no respect for England’s heritage, system of government or democratic values.    This attitude, cultivated at British universities by leftist ideologues and imbued in schoolchildren from an early age,  has resulted in a society fatally unsure of itself and insecure about its place in the world.  It is a country given over to a panic that the rise of militant Islam within its midst has been, against all better judgment, the result of  its own racist policies and the denial to Muslims of the proper expression of their identity.  The result is more accommodation, not less  – and the staggering growth in Muslim power.

These elites, of course, bear deep guilt.   They are embarrassed that the British Empire might have once been so indulgent as to have sought to expand its territories;  they are ashamed by the rapacity of  its colonial ambitions;  they feel humiliated that British mercantile trade  might have grown fat on the backs of native labor.  The sins of the fathers, so the current thinking goes, can only be salved through a national campaign of repentance.

Therefore, while Continental Europe begins to pull out of its tailspin, the United Kingdom, with Scotland and Wales perhaps peeling off at some point in the future and the former Commonwealth countries turning their backs, may be in for a civil strife that it could never have been anticipated when it first opened its doors to Muslim immigrants in the mid-1960s.

Suffice to say, English legislation to ban the burqa on the lines of the French, will almost certainly never be proposed.  But the absence of such legislation, while the rest of Europe begins its slow awakening, is a bitter commentary on the future of a once proud nation.

A Pyrrhic Victory

March 22, 2010

Bells rang out across the land.   The people, freed from centuries of oppression by a feudal system of health care, rushed into village streets, banging drums and shaking timbrels.  Thirty- two million people, in one voice, wept with gratitude as their redemptive leader read them the new order.  No longer would they be at the mercy of avaricious insurance companies.  No longer would anyone reject them for a prior medical condition or their age;  no longer would a citizen’s income dictate whether or not he or she could see a doctor.

That certainly is the reaction for which Barack Obama is longing as he sets his pen to the most important change to national health care since Lyndon Johnson’s landmark Medicare legislation 45 years ago.

There are plenty of people around the world who are declaring that its about time.  After all, Germany had introduced government sanctioned  sickness and accident insurance  as long ago as 1883 when Otto von Bismarck was Chancellor and most European countries have enjoyed some variety of nationalized health for at least 60 years.

Yet, there were always good reasons the United States did not have a universal health care system.  For all their claims of success, the Europeans, Canadians and other Western nations’ systems have operated as notorious drains on their treasuries, reducing the overall quality of care and consigning many aged, terminally ill individuals to wait lists that sometimes extend years.

But more important than this is the notion that a Government managed health care system vitiated against the country’s bedrock belief in free enterprise and the efficacy of market mechanisms in regulating the application of a service vital service to the public.  Health care, for generations of Americans, was never regarded so much as a  right, as much as it was a privilege to which one worked hard to obtain – and then maintain.

Yesterday, that changed.  Health care has now become an entitlement in the United States of America which will almost certainly bring with it most of the other ills that have attached to similar systems. Who will pay for it in an era when government is already heaving under a merciless burden of debt, is still anyone’s guess.

For all the euphoria, it is not certain that anyone has a comprehensive understanding  of what is in this health bill.  From its earlier incarnations, pages  been ripped out, amendments slapped on to politically sensitive sections, whole chapters eviscerated – it has begun to resemble one of those study guides high school students carry into their open book exams with sections pasted in from assigned texts, yellow post-its dangling from its edges and hundreds of dog-eared pages marking important areas of concentration.     It may take many months for the final version to be published and even then there is no certainty that anyone willl be able to get a handle on its Byzantine complexity. Obamacare enters history as a modern day version of the Rosetta Stone, to be interpreted and reinterpreted by our judges and legislators for many generations into the future.

What then of the political maneuvering to took to get this bird in the air?   The Obama flight plan, which only two months ago, damaged by incessant flak with its engines on fire and billowing smoke, was in a tailspin, its future grim.  It now appears now to have pulled out of it of its death dive, albeit with its  fuselage singed and rattling away at low altitude.

But that might not be for long.  The extra cargo this administration has taken on in passing the legislation, with pet projects of representatives now demanding be fed, will be a heavy burden that it will only unload at great expense to its future.

And at least one thing is for certain.  Gone is any pretense of Barack Obama as this century’s first post-partisan president, having repudiated his election night promise that he would be the president of   “all Americans”.   We should not forget the other historical first achieved last night – the health care bill  legislation passed the House with not even one Republican vote.   Never in this country’s history has so important a piece of legislation failed to win any bi-partisan support.

The effect of this reality may be seismic.  Popular opinion in the country may be stirred in outrage, leading to a devastating rout for Democrats at the polls in only eight months time.  In that event, Obama’s great victory will have wilted into a tragic mistake that might have been avoided with the application of restraint and moderation.

The Obama  administration should therefore not forget  Plutarch’s retelling to Dionysis of the Pyrrhic Wars:

“The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders and there were no others there to make recruits.  On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war.“.

The Obamaites would do well to heed Pyrrhus’ historical lesson.

On the Border

March 21, 2010

Somewhere south of Campo, CA  there is a phalanx of illegal immigrants planning a journey tonight that could cost them their lives.

The story of the treacherous crossing of the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande into our border states is well known.  It has been depicted movingly in films such as El Norte and Sin Nombre and sung about with deep sentiment by artists such as U2 and Bruce Springsteen.

Less well known are the hardships that those seeking to protect our borders from illegal immigration must endure as they conduct a vigilant reconnaisance of the border.

The tragic battle between the Mexican illegals and their enablers( known as coyotes)  with the volunteer guardsmen, known as Minutemen, is one of the least understood sagas of our time.

The illegals, fleeing poverty, violence, the incessant killings in the drug wars and looking for a better life  north of the border are as much victims as they are villains.  They sometimes hand over their life savings to unscrupulous smugglers who bring them across the border into the arid southern states of  California, Arizona, New Mexico or Texas only to often be abandoned by them, left to die of thirst, raped or robbed of what few belongings they still possess.

The Minutemen, frustrated by powerlessness of the U.S. Border patrol to adequately monitor the border are a voluntary citizen patrol who monitor the southern crossings for illegals who trample their crops, kill their animals and threaten violence if they are confronted.   Although  there have been cases of Minutemen having engaged the Coyotes in armed combat, most merely report crossing to the  U.S. Customs and Border Patrol who take over from there.

You would think the Minutmen would be accorded hero status for their selfless efforts to protect the border from the relentless wave of illegal immigrants.  But they have been vilified as vigilantes and marksmen, who shoot first and ask questions later.  They are seen as racists who fail to understand that these hardworking immigrants are willing  to perform the dirty jobs that Americans no longer want to do.  The illegals are cast by liberals as the same breed of individuals who flooded into America in the 1880s through 1920s , immeasurably enriching our nation with their talents and skills.

The equation of  the illegal immigrants of today with the great immigrations of the late 19th Century is, however, spurious.  Ilegal immigrants as a whole do not add to national productivity as previous generations did  but in fact  make a far greater contribution, by comparison, to welfare  rolls, gang violence and inner city poverty as a percentage of the population than any of the previous of immigration waves to this country.  It is also fatuous to state that immigrants have  some kind of “right” to cross over the United States border in order to find work and a livlihood.  Such an attitude bespeaks a rejection of  U.S. sovereignty and the sanctioning of one world government.

The advocates of illegal immigrants also fail to appreciate the way the drug trade uses the open southern border as access to the rich urban markets of this country.  Many of the Coyotes double as drug runners. Smuggled in hollowed concrete posts, frozen broccoli packs, sacks of coffee and crates brimming with exotic woods and aromatic spices, enough drugs reach the streets of America to keep an estimated 12 million addicted.

If there is any true haplessness  in all of this, it is the Federal Government’s efforts to establish proper border controls and its failure to adequately safegauard and monitor the border.  A border fence has been under construction since 2005 with high tech components and titled The Secure Border Network Initiative.  This system has two main components: SBI,  the threat level associated with an illegal entry into the United States between the ports of entry, and SBI tactical infrastructure (TI), fencing, roads, and lighting intended to enhance U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents’ ability to respond to the area of the illegal entry and bring the situation to a law enforcement resolution (i.e., arrest). The current focus of the SBI program is on the southwest border areas between ports of entry that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol  has designated as having the highest need for enhanced border security because of serious vulnerabilities.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the $600 billion system isn’t operational yet and has been bedeviled by system failures.  These include blurry images, radar that couldn’t differentiate between people and animals and field agents who couldn’t log onto their laptops. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the prototype has been fixed, but Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, nevertheless  froze most funding to the project on Tuesday last week, pending a review.

In the meantime, citizens like  Jim Wood, identified in the photos below, have taken it upon themselves to address the border’s lapses and vulnerabilities.  Through his Declaration Alliance, he has raised the funds to build his own surveillance system near Campo in an attempt to give ordinary citizens  the ability to monitor the border and report suspicious movements to the Border Patrol.

Although his system is also prone to crashing, his lone efforts – and those of the Minutemen –  are one more proof that citizens cannot always rely on lumbering government bureaucracies to address urgent local, state or national problems.

The idea that citizens must sometimes take matters into their own hands where a reliance on government has failed them – whether it be in regard to drug trafficking, the terrorist menace or the diminution of national sovereignty – has taken hold of the imaginations of many citizens around the world.

It is a fine line, of course, between law and order and pure vigilantism. But for many, it is the only viable means of protecting homes and their local environment when government action is completely ineffective.

The minutemen’s effort is the brainchild of Web developer Jim “Woody” Wood. He got the idea when he and other minutemen flocked to the Campo border in 2005 to rally against immigration reform. But he got bored as few immigrants were spotted. He decided a surveillance system would be best. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

Mr. Wood, who lives two hours north of the border in Mission Viejo, Calif., raised money to start the project through his Web site, People have to take a multiple-choice test on the site in order to gain access to the camera images. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

He says if he had permission, he would detain illegal aliens. For now, though, he’s focused on expanding his surveillance system at the pace his two herniated discs and Parkinson’s disease will allow. “A lot of this heavy labor is not something that I’m really capable of,” he said. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano diverted some of the project’s funding towards more practical tools, such as mobile radios and laptops. With the exception of a small section in Arizona currently being tested, spending on the ambitious border-long system is on hold until a review she ordered in January is completed. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

In Campo, Calif., a fence stretches along a desolate area of the U.S.-Mexico border. The federal government wants to install radar, sensors and cameras, but the plan is beset by delays. Campo agents were supposed to be hooked up to the virtual fence in early 2009. (Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal)

History Dead or Alive!

March 21, 2010

Anyone with the desire to obtain a sense of what our children are learning about Islam in school, would be well served by paying attention to some of our children’s history text books.  

The California standard 7th Grade text for history is titled , “History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond.” Not only is it rife with mistruths about medieval history, but it blatantly glorifies and promotes Islam at the expense of  Christianity.

History Alive! is a standard text and used in most of our country’s public schools. You would think that an American text book devoted to the medieval world would provide a balanced picture of pre-Enlightenment Europe and its accomplishments. 

But you would be wrong.  

This text barely scrapes together an outline of the Western civilization’s growth and development, but spends an inordinate amount of space displaying the growth (and worth) of Islam.   In fact an entire unit, 55 pages, featuring such chapter titles as The Geography of the Arabian Peninsula, The Prophet Muhammad and Islam’s Contribution to World Civilization, glorifies Islam’s contributions to our civilization while failing entirely to  recount  the bloodshed that accompanied its conquest of most of the Mediterranean world. 

The obvious impression left is that Islam’s spread was peaceful and benign, being implemented through trade and cultural exchange. Unanswered is how Islam converted populaces so implicitly unhappy with their heritage, that they forsook Christianity to take up a new religion. 

Strangely enough Christianity, in the same time period, has only 15 pages devoted to it – mainly centering on the Crusades, which are described as violent campaigns and massacres launched as attempts to regain captured lands.    Judaism is barely mentioned except in terms of the Spanish Inquisition.  There is no reference at all to the philosophical contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas, Maimonides, Solomon Ibn Ezra and William of Ockam.    Nor is there much discussion of English Common Law, crucial to the growth of the continental legal system and the future American system of justice.

Additionally, Christian beliefs are presented as legends while the claims of Islam are presented as facts. For instance, “Moses claimed to receive the Ten Commandments from God” but Mohammad simply “received the Koran from God”. 

On the subject of Jihad: “Muslims should fulfill jihad with the heart, tongue, and hand. Muslims use the heart in their struggle to resist evil. The tongue may convince others to take up worthy causes, such as funding medical research. Hands may perform good works and correct wrongs.” 

No mention of the carnage and havoc wrought by Jihad’s call to arms throughout the medieval period. 

There was also substantial puffery and misinformation. The text tells us that Muhammad “taught equality and told his followers to share their wealth and to care for the less fortunate in society,”  –  a fact even most Islamic scholars might dispute. 

Where does all this come from? 

Well in 1998, the California State Board of Education adopted “History, Social Science Content Standards for CA Public Schools” which explicitly defines the content that students need to learn at each grade level.  For 7th Grade history,  students are required, among a number of other things, to analyze the geographic, political, economic, religious, and social structures of the civilizations of Islam in the Middle Ages. Within the prescribed activities, they must explain the significance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as the primary sources of Islamic beliefs, practice, and law, and their influence in Muslims’ daily life, discussing the expansion of Muslim rule through military conquests and treaties while emphasizing the spread and acceptance of Islam and the Arabic language. 

In other words, Californian 7th grade students must receive instruction and engage in activities to learn about Islamic history, culture and religious practices, whether they want to or not.  The guidelines indicate that the school’s approach to religion should be academic, not devotional and that the school may sponsor study about religion, but may not sponsor the practice of religion. 

It is important to note that the textbook’s publisher, Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI), enjoys a close relationship with the Islamic Networks Group (ING), a Muslim propaganda agency based in San Jose, California. The ING website was formerly connected to several Islamist websites, including a propaganda outlet in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.   It sported a website devoted to corrupting American history–and endorsing TCI textbooks. ING promotes no other schoolbook publisher.

The book credits Ayad Al-Qazzaz as its chief author-advisor on Islam. Al Qazzaz is professor of sociology at California State University, Sacramento who is a Muslim apologist and  a frequent speaker in Northern California school districts promoting Islam and Arab causes. He also co-authored The Arab World Notebook, issued by the Arab World and Islamic Resources (AWAIR) which is a proselytizing non-profit organization that conducts teacher workshops and sells supplementary materials to schools.

 Maybe it all began innocently enough with a State Board attempting to create a balanced multicultural approach to education.  

But this text is only multicultural in the sense that it presents the historical narratives of a range of cultures, without critique or comment and without offering any support for the value of the culture and civilization to which the students belong. 

The American Textbook Council (ATC), a national non-profit watchdog group, singled out History Alive! for its bias and prejudice, excoriating it for “an incomplete and confected view of Islam that misrepresents its foundations and challenges to international security.” 

In a 2008 report, ATC spells out a damning indictment of the way such spurious material like this makes it into school texts throughout the country.   Its conclusions are worth quoting in full: 

“Textbook editors try to avoid any subject that could turn into a political grenade. Willingly, they adjust the definition of jihad and sharia or remove these words from lessons to avoid inconvenient truths that the editors fear activists will contest. Explicit facts that non-Muslims might find disturbing are varnished or deleted. Textbooks pare to a minimum such touchy subjects as Israel and oil as agents of change in the Middle East since 1945. Terrorism and Islam are uncoupled and the ultimate dangers of Islamic militancy hidden from view.

 None of this is accidental.  Islamic organizations, willing to sow misinformation, are active in curriculum politics. These activists are eager to expunge any critical thought about Islam from textbooks and all public discourse. They are succeeding, assisted by partisan scholars and associations. It is not remarkable that Islamic organizations would try to use ready-made American political movements such as multiculturalism to adjust the history curriculum to their advantage. It is alarming that so many individuals with the power to shape the curriculum are willfully blind to or openly sympathetic with these efforts. 

These distortions and biases about Islam in history textbooks could not prevail were it not for the all-important bridge between Islamist activists and multicultural organizations on and off campus. Both are eager to restrict what textbooks say about Islam. Multiculturalists are determined that social studies curricula do not transmit “Eurocentric”or “triumphalist” presuppositions about Western history and society. Middle East centers on campuses promote an uncritical view of Islam, often with a caustic anti-Western spin. Historians actively interested in taking world history curricula in this direction are prominent in textbook authorship. Encouraged to do so by reputable authorities, textbook publishers court the Council on Islamic Education and other Muslim organizations—or at least try to appease them. This legitimacy is bestowed in spite of longstanding questions about sources of funding and degree of control over publishers.”

 All parents should be concerned about these developments and should demand to be given a say in how Islam is portrayed in our children’s textbooks.  For the current curriculum and the texts themselves amount to a whitewash of Islamic teachings and history, failing entirely to account for a 1400-year- long legacy of Jihad and attempts to subvert the West.

The fact that the global  terrorist campaigns we witness today derive their legitimacy and inspiration from the same teachings that drove the Islamic conquests of medieval times, should be something our students know and learn.   This must be so no matter how and whether it breaches the boundaries of accepted multicultural dogma or aspirations.

Petraeus of Arabia

March 19, 2010

 Could there be anything more discomfiting for Israelis and their supporters around the world than the recent breach in relations between the State of Israel and the United States?

 Well, yes.

 A report on March 17 revealed  that in mid- January, a team of senior military officers from the U.S. Central Command (responsible for overseeing American security interests in the Middle East), arrived at the Pentagon to brief Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gen. David Petraeus  had sent them to amplify his growing concerns at the lack of progress in bringing the Arab- Israeli conflict to an end.   It reflected  a growing perception among Arab leaders that the U.S. was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CENTCOM’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises and that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region.  

A shiver has since then crept up the U.S. governmental spine that a failed peace process between Israel and the Palestinians would couple Israeli intransigence with American weakness – resulting in an ebb in Arab support for American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the increasing vulnerability of American servicemen to  attack.

The report, if true, should be of far deeper concern to Israel’s supporters than a temporary spat over housing units in Jerusalem.  For if the U.S. military, which has traditionally seen the State of Israel as an important hedge against the rise of Islamic militancy in the Middle East,  now sees the nation as a liability, we may be in for a fundamental realignment of American foreign policy.

But questions remain.  Who, for instance, has David Petraeus been talking to?  Not by chance  to Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak –  the leader of a country that, despite a 30-year-old peace treaty with the Jewish state, is one of the world’s most vicious Israel bashers at world forums and a lodestar of antisemitism in a part of the world that has no dearth of Jew hatred?   

No?  Then what about  King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, that avid seeker of peace, who, as monarch of his desert sheikdom, has presided over a cottage industry of Israel demonization while doing nothing, despite his country’s bubbling oil wealth, to enhance Palestinian welfare. 

Or maybe he has been taking tea with our friends in Dubai, who have expended millions on tracking the hit squad that targeted Hamas king pin Mahmoud al-Mabhouh but who seem oddly disinterested in the cloaca of muddied terrorist money that funnels unfiltered through its financial institutions.  

Perhaps it is that Petraeus has been given to reading a great deal lately from the communiqués of the British Foreign Office of the late 1930s and the U.S. State Department in the 1940s.  Back then the argument made by both was that neither Britain nor the United States could afford to support the establishment of a nascent Jewish state since it would inevitably turn the Arab world against the West.  

History proved them wrong.  British coddling of the Arabs proved distastrous as the sheikdoms tilted towards the Axis Powers during the Second World War and imperilled British access to oil as well as the approaches to India.   After the war, the oil rich sheikdoms discovered in the West hungry, open markets for their subterranean product.  The Arab-Israeli dispute was only a shadowy after-thought and did not get in the way of the growth of their oil business nor their relations with the West.   It was, oddly enough, not Western support for Israel that would ultimately turn the sheikdoms against the West, but the pressures of the Cold War and then the well financed rise of Islamic fundamentalism. 

You do have to wonder then whether Gen. Petraeus, like so many other Western diplomats,  is responding to facts on the ground, divorced from their historical context.   Does he appreciate that “the  process” he complains about did not begin a few months ago but has been on-going for 17 years?  Does he realize that Israeli concessions were not greeted with tears of joy by the Palestinian leaders but with the murder of Israeli citizens?   Or that the Palestinians have repeatedly violated their agreements and have, time and again over the past 70 years, refused generous territorial offers put to them by the Brits, the United Nations, the United States and Israel itself?

Does he appreciate that the Israelis have buried their dead as the world continued to rhaphsodize about Palestinian territorial rights?   

Perhaps he is unaware of any this because history has, at least until now, been an insignificant element in modern diplomacy in the Middle East, with each round of negotiations mandating a virtual reset of relations, as if the past was a blank slate and not inked with shattered Palestinian promises or dripping with Jewish blood.

But if Gen. Petraeus does not appreciate history, how does he feel about the present?  

Does he comprehend Israel’s military capability, the reach of its intelligence network, the strength of its civilian morale and the determination of its leaders to deter another Holocaust?    Does he understand the strategic importance of marshalling these resources in the inevitable confrontation between the Iranian mullahs and the West? Can he or our political leadership in Washington shrug off their prejudices and expectations long enough to recognize that the Palestinian pantomime is a mere sideshow to the true menace rising out of the sands of the Middle East?

In the end, military leaders such as Gen. David Petraeus, schooled as they are in the practical realities of the world, should not allow themselves to be distracted by the importunings of a gang of self- interested autocrats who have shed as many tears  for the welfare of their Palestinian brethren as Adolf Hitler once wept for the Sudeten Germans.   He should be aware that no matter what Arab leaders explain to him about their tribal alleigences, their assurances have regularly proven hollow, their willingness to make genuine sacrifices for American security negligible and their commitment to peace a fraud, offered as a sly purchase for American aid and protection.

Is it any wonder then that when Israelis hear American generals talk excitedly about the slow pace of  negotiations and its threats to the lives of American soldiers, they can only hang their heads in exasperation?

The President’s Middle East Playbook

March 17, 2010

Barack Obama has achieved the impossible. He has managed to bring together secular Israelis and ultra-Orthodox Jews in a heated campaign against him.  His administration’s determination to use an Israeli housing construction project in Northern Jerusalem as the pretext for a diplomatic crisis, has set him on a collision course not just with Israelis of all stripes but even with American Jews who are growing increasingly apprehensive of just where this President intends to lead them.  

Did he anticipate this?  No one can know for sure.   But his determination to face down Benjamin Netanyahu and force him to cancel the permit for 1600 units in the Ramat Shlomo neighborhood of Jerusalem has already backfired.   Coming right at the opening of the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. this weekend, he is about to become the first post- war Democratic President whose name may be greeted with derision by a convocation of Jews. 

Almost anyone who lives in Jerusalem knows that the area in dispute, Ramat Shlomo, is a Jewish neighborhood and has been so for thirty years.  It is surrounded by other Jewish neighborhoods and no Israeli in their right mind would consider surrendering it in any final peace deal with the Palestinians. Giving up Ramat Shlomo would be the equivalent of giving up the world famous Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, the tony Jerusalem suburb of French Hill and even the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.  All three are just  as integrated into the Jewish identity of Jerusalem as Ramat Shlomo.  Only by accepting the Palestinian narrative – that all of Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians, could anyone possibly envision  the suburb as future Palestinian territory. 

The punditocracy is awestruck by the apparent petulance of it all.  What, they are all asking, did he hope to gain? Was the intention to dress down Netanyahu and bring him into line?  Well, the Israeli prime minister is defiant and there is no sign whatsoever he will accede to the administration’s demands that he cancel the permit. This stance has rallied much of the country behind him.  Rather than weakening the Israeli leader, as Obama might have hoped, he has only added to his political capital.   

The Palestinians watch in delight as they wait for the Americans to deliver Israeli concessions without having to do anything but chew on their falafel.  They win either way.  If the peace process continues to stall they can continue to wait, which is their modus operandi anyway.  If Obama finally gets Netanyahu to say uncle, they will be dealing with a castrated Israeli leader viewed as unable to control his own foreign policy. 

The Arab League, those irredentist potentates, are no doubt rolling around on their palace beds in glee.  They had made clear to Obama that there could be no further progress in Middle East peace without resolving the grievous wound to Arab pride caused by the Arab-Israeli dispute.  Ramat Shlomo has become their poster child for Israeli transgression and so now they are winning too, convincing an American president to do their bidding.   

And what is one to say about the claims by Obama lieutenants such as Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton and David Axelrod, that events in northern Jerusalem put American lives elsewhere at risk?   Are we really to believe that  al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan have for years awaited developments in Ramat Shlomo with tense anticipation – so much so that if the crisis is not resolved soon in the Arab favor, there is certain to be an explosion?   

Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is absolutely no connection between the construction of apartment units in Ramat Shlomo (still two years distant) and the intent of Islamic martyrs to kill American soldiers thousands of miles away.  The same number of American servicemen will be targeted and killed in the Middle East no matter what happens in northern Jerusalem.

So what  playbook is Barack Obama and his administration reading from in breathing life into a crisis that should never have been?  It is, I believe, simply this: Obama sees the world in terms of a rather protean struggle between the weak and the strong, the poor and the rich.  The weak in his eyes are almost always innocent purveyors of righteousness and while the powerful personify greed and oppression.  The same world view permeates his domestic policies and can be read between the lines of his push for health care reform, his castigation of rich bankers, his penchant for apologizing for American actions abroad and his willingness to risk U.S security for the benefit of the human rights of enemy combatants.   

The Palestinians have won his sympathy in spite of their proclivity for deception and their gift of the suicide bomber to the world.  In his first year in office, the President has rarely leveled any criticism at Palestinian temporization and yet demonstrated increasing impatience for the fat cat Israelis in Jerusalem and even more for their supporters in Washington.  After all, they represent the kind of world for which he has contempt.   

Even reserving to himself these feelings, Obama could have spared both countries this latest crisis. There are plenty of ways of applying pressure to an ally without having them feel undermined.   But that would have required certain skills of statecraft that this president has yet to develop.   Instead, this administration has fanned into a life a blaze it will spend many months trying to extinguish and in the process revealed a political immaturity and flailing inexperience that should worry Barack Obama’s even most ardent supporters.

First Salvo in the Battle For Our Children’s Education

March 16, 2010

News that the Texas Board of Education had decided on Friday to revamp Texas school text books to reflect traditional American values, has whipped to life a hornet’s nest of liberal opposition.  Not only did the conservative dominated Board have the gall to reject official texts which have been circulating inthe system for close to a decade,  but they ordered important changes made to the curriculum that would bring the text books more into line with true American history and ideals.  Conservatives on the board have passed more than 100 amendments to the 120-page curriculum standards affecting history, sociology and economics courses from elementary to high school.

The curriculum standards will now be published in a state register, opening them up for 30 days of public comment. A final vote will be taken in May.

And what are the items the new curriculum seeks to correct?

Well, facts such as these:

  • The U.S. Constitution’s failure  to make any mention of the phrase ” separation of Chruch and State” ( a certain religious tenet of the left)
  • The conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 90s
  •  That the rise of the violent Black Panthers should be taught along side the passive ressitance movement promoted by Martin Luther King Jr. 
  • That the Great Society programs, passed during the Johnson administration, had many unintended negative consequences
  • That not only Japanese-American citizens were interned during the Second World War, but also Italian-Americans and German-Americans as well.
  • In the field of sociology, a significant amendment requiring the teaching of “the importance of personal responsibility for life choices” in a section on teenage suicide, dating violence, sexuality, drug use and eating disorders. 
  •  In economics ‘capitalism’ be changed to ‘free enterprise system’  and that both Milton Friedman and Frederich Hayek, champions of free-market economic theory, be given pride of place alongside Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes.

The changes the Texas Board ordered wouldn’t have troubled anyone, say, fifteen years ago.   But high school education has, over this period, become the bridgehead of reformers who have used text books to promote leftist causes such as radical environmentalism, multiculturalism and warmed over socialism.  

With carte blanche the progresives have been able shift the emphasis of American high school education from deep rooted appreciation of traditional values to a picayune culture of  criticism and complaint.

Liberals, of course, are apoplectic with indignation.  The Huffington Post screamed out the headline The Texas Book Massacre;  the New York Times opined that the curriculum has more to do with politics and ideology than education and the McClatchy Blog  suggested that the new curriculum  did  ” a disservice to taxpayers and the very children whose education needs to be improved, not politicized.”

This last sling at the conservatives deserves a retort.   Hearing liberals proclaim that until the conservatives came along educational curricula in the country was non-political is like hearing Americans claim that they have no accent.  There is a sense among liberal educators that education should be driven by a progressive and modern agenda which is more in keeping with truth and objectivity than a passe retailing of conservative tropes which focus on patriotism, Judeo-Christian values and American exceptionalism. 

But the kind of education our children receive these days,  as derived from social studies text books ( and I am witness to some of these from my own children’s high school texts)  is alarming, to say the least.   For a reading of some of these texts could make anyone come away with the notion that Americans ( and namely white Americans) are racist  colonizers who arrived on this continent four centuries ago to exterminate the natives, exploit the blacks and pollute the environment.   Very little about the extraordinary achievements in securing a level of human freedom hitherto unknown to mankind or facilitating a measure of  prosperity that has been a boon not just to Americans, but to the world. 

Admittedly, there are some foolish and largely gratutious amendments, such as the decision to drop Thomas Jefferson as one of the intellectual leading lights of the independence movement.  But for the main, the curriculum’s drive  to restore  a point of view which dominated our educational system for more than 150 years, draws from the same well as the desire to have our children recite  the pledge of alleigence  without any sense of irony or distate.    It is the kind of educational systen  in which patriotism is not a dirty word to be derided as old fashioned,  but  a symbol of pride in the achievements of a great nation.

The so-called Texas Book Massacre is therefore the first salvo in the war to reclaim that part of the nation’s heritage that liberals no longer deem worthy of discussion.  The presentation of the curriculum change, with its many amendments, will be heard far and wide since publishers of text books pay particular atttention to Texas as one of the country’s  most important markets.  Only California is quite as significant  to them.   And even here, rumblings of dissatisaction are being heard about high school curricula and how it has plunged education into a nihilistic abyss. 

Deeply politcized as our childrens’ education has become,  it is time now to strike back  against revisionism and return to an emphasis on the greatness of the American experiment,  which should, fittingly, be discussed together with any of its failures or shortcomings.

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