Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Preemptive strike on Iran? Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

Israeli minister says pre-emptive strike could be necessary to avert Iranian nuclear threat
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By Associated Press, Published: May 30
MOSCOW — An Israeli Cabinet minister said the civilized world must take joint action to avert the Iranian nuclear threat, including a pre-emptive strike if necessary.

Moshe Yaalon — the minister for strategic affairs — made the statement in an interview with Russia’s Interfax news agency released Monday ahead of a visit to Moscow.

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“We strongly hope that the entire civilized world will come to realize what threat this regime is posing and take joint action to avert the nuclear threat posed by Iran, even if it would be necessary to conduct a pre-emptive strike,” Yaalon was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Yaalon wouldn’t discuss who might deal the strike, saying the entire world, not just Israel, must be concerned about the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran.

“An Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be a threat to the entire civilized world,” he was reported as saying.

Yaalon’s spokesman Ofer Harel told The Associated Press later Monday that the minister was repeating Israel’s position that all options are on the table and not calling for anybody to attack Iran.

Iran has insisted its nuclear program is peaceful, but the U.S., Israel and many others believe it is cover for developing atomic weapons.

Palestinians deny Israel has rights Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg

PA continues to deny Israel's right to exist
Both modern Israel and ancient Judea/Israel are "crude colonialism"

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

The Palestinian Authority's ideology is to refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist. The media it owns and controls regularly publish articles that demonize the modern State of Israel and its establishment as a "colonialist plan".

Recently, the official PA daily went even further, not just maligning the modern State of Israel but also labeling the Jewish/Israelite presence in the land of Judea/Israel 2000 years ago as a "crude form of colonialism".

Whereas Hamas openly denies Israel's right to exist in both English and Arabic, the PA professes in English before the international community to have recognized Israel's right to exist. As documented by Palestinian Media Watch, when addressing its own people in Arabic, the PA - like Hamas - completely denies Israel's right to exist.

The following is the PA daily's defining ancient Judea/Israel as "colonialism":
"The Zionists must acknowledge publicly, in front of the world, that the Jews have no connection to the Palestinian Arab land, upon whose ruins arose the colonialist settler Zionist plan that settles and expels, represented by the Israeli apartheid state. That which occurred two thousand years ago (i.e., the Jewish/Israeli presence in the land), assuming that it is true, represents in the book of history nothing more than invention and falsification and a coarse and crude form of colonialism."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 27, 2011]

At times, the PA's denial of Israel's right to exist serves as the justification for its claim that Israelis should all leave their homes in Israel.

PA TV narrator addresses the Jews of Israel, asking them to leave, because Israel has no right to exist:
"Where are you [Israelis] from? Where are you from? Where are you from? Of course, you're from Ukraine; of course, you're from Germany, from Poland, from Russia, from Ethiopia, the Falasha (pejorative for Ethiopian Jews). Why have you stolen my homeland and taken my place? Please, I ask of you, return to your original homeland, so that I can return to my original homeland. This is my homeland; go back to your homeland!"
[PA TV (Fatah), May 4 and 7, 2010]

The following are other examples of denial of Israel's right to exist from the official education and PA media:

In a 12th-Grade schoolbook published by the PA Ministry of Education, and in use today:
"Palestine's war ended with a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their houses, and established the State of Israel."
[Arabic Language, Analysis, Literature and Criticism, Grade 12, p. 104]

Mahmoud Abbas, (in speech delivered by his representative, Abdallah Al-Ifranji):
"We say to him [Netanyahu], when he claims - that they [Jews] have a historical right dating back to 3000 years BCE - we say that the nation of Palestine upon the land of Canaan had a 7000 year history BCE. This is the truth, which must be understood and we have to note it, in order to say: 'Netanyahu, you are incidental in history. We are the people of history. We are the owners of history.'"
[PA TV (Fatah), May 14, 2011]

Abd Al-Rahman, columnist for the official PA daily, on the anniversary of the Balfour Declaration:
"Today is a painful anniversary for the Palestinian people, the 93rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, in which those who had no ownership of the Palestinian soil and homeland - the British colonialists - gave to those who had no connection to the land, neither near nor distant - the Zionists, in order to realize a colonialist aim, in the service of the objectives of the colonialist West in the Arab region."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 2, 2010]

Adel Abd Al-Rahman, columnist in the official PA daily:
"The history and heritage of Jericho confirm the Arab-Palestinian-Canaanite narrative concerning the entire Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, negating anything else, especially the false Zionist narrative."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 21, 2010]

PA TV documentary program on the UN Partition Plan features Jordanian academic Muhammad Dohal:
"The Jews are hated in every society in which they have lived, because of their behavior relating to their great love of money. ... This was the source of their harm to the societies around them, including Palestinian society, Arab-Palestinian society. We all know that the Jews lived in Palestine and the Palestinian people adopted them, so to say, and they lived in dignity. But they contrived schemes by means of their secret organizations, which gave rise to the idea of the need to purchase tracts of land and to seize control of them, and then to claim that they were the owners of a great area of the land, and that they were the original inhabitants of this land, and that the people which had adopted them was simply accidental in this land... Their behavior led to [Shakespeare's] famous story, the story of Shylock about money lending, which clings to the Jews. This is how they harmed the societies that embraced them."
[PA TV (Fatah), Oct. 10 and 17, 2010]

Adel Abd Al-Rahman, columnist in the official PA daily:
"The false story of the Zionists, according to which Palestine is 'the promised land,' is simply a lie without any basis. No person of the Jewish faith who was born in any country of the world has the right to return to Palestine, other than Jews who were born in Palestine."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 16, 2010]

Adli Sadeq, columnist for the official PA daily:
"The very least [we can do] is to declare explicitly that recognition of Israel's right to be a state in this region represents an environmental and security hazard; it creates the basis for acute internal and regional tensions, and distorts history, just as it poisons the future."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 18, 2010]

PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Al-Habbash:
"History proves the Arab, Islamic and Palestinian right to this land and disproves all the Israeli claims that they have religious and historical rights in this land."

Material for broadcast Rodfei Kodesh class Tuesday nights :30 CDT

www.ustream.tv esynagogue channel

Chapter One

Halacha 1
Each and every man possesses many character traits. Each trait is very different and distant from the others.

One type of man is wrathful; he is constantly angry. [In contrast,] there is the calm individual who is never moved to anger, or, if at all, he will be slightly angry, [perhaps once] during a period of several years.

There is the prideful man and the one who is exceptionally humble. There is the man ruled by his appetites - he will never be satisfied from pursuing his desires, and [conversely,] the very pure of heart, who does not desire even the little that the body needs.

There is the greedy man, who cannot be satisfied with all the money in the world, as [Ecclesiastes 5:9] states: "A lover of money never has his fill of money." [In contrast,] there is the man who puts a check on himself; he is satisfied with even a little, which is not enough for his needs, and he does not bother to pursue and attain what he lacks.

There is [the miser,] who torments himself with hunger, gathering [his possessions] close to himself. Whenever he spends a penny of his own, he does so with great pain. [Conversely,] there is [the spendthrift,] who consciously wastes his entire fortune.

All other traits follow the same pattern [of contrast]. For example: the overly elated and the depressed; the stingy and the freehanded; the cruel and the softhearted; the coward and the rash. and the like.

Halacha 2
Between each trait and the [contrasting] trait at the other extreme, there are intermediate points, each distant from the other.

With regard to all the traits: a man has some from the beginning of his conception, in accordance with his bodily nature. Some are appropriate to a person's nature and will [therefore] be acquired more easily than other traits. Some traits he does not have from birth. He may have learned them from others, or turned to them on his own. This may have come as a result of his own thoughts, or because he heard that this was a proper trait for him, which he ought to attain. [Therefore,] he accustomed himself to it until it became a part of himself.

Halacha 3
The two extremes of each trait, which are at a distance from one another, do not reflect a proper path. It is not fitting that a man should behave in accordance with these extremes or teach them to himself.

If he finds that his nature leans towards one of the extremes or adapts itself easily to it, or, if he has learned one of the extremes and acts accordingly, he should bring himself back to what is proper and walk in the path of the good [men]. This is the straight path.

Halacha 4
The straight path: This [involves discovering] the midpoint temperament of each and every trait that man possesses [within his personality.] This refers to the trait which is equidistant from either of the extremes, without being close to either of them.

Therefore, the early Sages instructed a man to evaluate his traits, to calculate them and to direct them along the middle path, so that he will be sound {of body}.

For example: he should not be wrathful, easily angered; nor be like the dead, without feeling, rather he should [adopt] an intermediate course; i.e., he should display anger only when the matter is serious enough to warrant it, in order to prevent the matter from recurring. Similarly, he should not desire anything other than that which the body needs and cannot exist without, as [Proverbs 13:25] states: "The righteous man eats to satisfy his soul."

Also, he shall not labor in his business except to gain what he needs for immediate use, as [Psalms 37:16] states: "A little is good for the righteous man."

He should not be overly stingy nor spread his money about, but he should give charity according to his capacity and lend to the needy as is fitting. He should not be overly elated and laugh [excessively], nor be sad and depressed in spirit. Rather, he should be quietly happy at all times, with a friendly countenance. The same applies with regard to his other traits.

This path is the path of the wise. Every man whose traits are intermediate and equally balanced can be called a "wise man."

Halacha 5
A person who carefully [examines] his [behavior], and therefore deviates slightly from the mean to either side is called pious.

What is implied? One who shuns pride and turns to the other extreme and carries himself lowly is called pious. This is the quality of piety. However, if he separates himself [from pride] only to the extent that he reaches the mean and displays humility, he is called wise. This is the quality of wisdom. The same applies with regard to other character traits.

The pious of the early generations would bend their temperaments from the intermediate path towards [either of] the two extremes. For some traits they would veer towards the final extreme, for others, towards the first extreme. This is referred to as [behavior] beyond the measure of the law.

We are commanded to walk in these intermediate paths - and they are good and straight paths - as [Deuteronomy 28:9] states: "And you shall walk in His ways."

Halacha 6
[Our Sages] taught [the following] explanation of this mitzvah:
Just as He is called "Gracious," you shall be gracious;
Just as He is called "Merciful," you shall be merciful;
Just as He is called "Holy," you shall be holy;

In a similar manner, the prophets called God by other titles: "Slow to anger," "Abundant in kindness," "Righteous," "Just," "Perfect," "Almighty," "Powerful," and the like. [They did so] to inform us that these are good and just paths. A person is obligated to accustom himself to these paths and [to try to] resemble Him to the extent of his ability.

Halacha 7
How can one train himself to follow these temperaments to the extent that they become a permanent fixture of his [personality]?

He should perform - repeat - and perform a third time - the acts which conform to the standards of the middle road temperaments. He should do this constantly, until these acts are easy for him and do not present any difficulty. Then, these temperaments will become a fixed part of his personality.

Since the Creator is called by these terms and they make up the middle path which we are obligated to follow, this path is called "the path of God." This is [the heritage] which our Patriarch Abraham taught his descendants, as [Genesis 18:19] states: "for I have known Him so that he will command his descendants...to keep the path of God."

One who follows this path brings benefit and blessing to himself, as [the above verse continues]: "so that God will bring about for Abraham all that He promised."

Commentary Halacha 1
Each and every man possesses many character traits. Each trait is very different and distant from the others. - Many commentaries assume that the Rambam is stating simply that there are many personality types, which he proceeds to describe: e.g., the angry man, the calm man, etc. They quote various sources in support of this viewpoint, among them Berachot 58a: "Whoever sees a multitude of Jews recites the blessing: 'Blessed is...the wise who knows the hidden secrets,' because just as their natures are not similar, neither are their faces."

However, by stating that the many character traits are possessed by "each and every man," it is possible that Rambam is implying more than that there are people with different traits. Though in Moreh Nevuchim (The Guide to the Perplexed) 2:40 the Rambam himself elaborates upon that idea, it can be said that here his intent is different. He is emphasizing the degree to which each individual's personality is a combination of different traits, which may be unrelated and even distant from each other. Anger, generosity, and modesty, for example, can be found together in the same person, much in the same way that tenants of all sorts - unrelated to each other - can be housed in a common building.

To illustrate these traits, the Rambam employs concrete examples of extreme personalities, so that the contrasts can be appreciated more easily.

One type of man is wrathful; he is constantly angry. [In contrast,] there is the calm individual who is never moved to anger - Obviously, anger or passivity are not these individuals' only traits. Surely, they share the full spectrum of human emotions. However, in these individuals, these traits are most prominent.

See Halachah 2:3 for a further discussion of anger.

or, if at all, he will be slightly angry, [perhaps once] during a period of several years.

There is the prideful man and the one who is exceptionally humble. - Chapter 2, Halachah 3, also deals at length with the contrasts between pride and humility.

There is the man ruled by his appetites, who will never be satisfied from pursuing his desires - Kohelet Rabbah 1:34 states: "No person will die having accomplished [even] half of what he desires." This statement is difficult to comprehend since there appear to be many successful individuals who achieve their desires. Nevertheless, their accomplishments do not necessitate that their desires will be satisfied. As the Midrash continues: "A person who possesses 100 silver pieces desires 200. One who possesses 200 desires 400."

Desire itself is never satisfied. Instead, it puts the person on a constantly moving treadmill, with ever-increasing aims. As soon as one reaches one goal, he instinctively begins the pursuit of another.

and [conversely,] the very pure of heart, who does not desire even the little that the body needs. - This pair of contrasting personality types deal with a person's appetites which can be satisfied by sensual experience. For example, gluttony is stimulated and satisfied by taste. In contrast, the traits mentioned below - the desire for money or the lack of desire for it - do not involve the senses.

There is the greedy man, who cannot be satisfied - Literally, "whose soul is not satisfied." Perhaps the Rambam uses "soul," both here and with regard to the man ruled by his sensual appetites, because it is the desire that characterizes the man, not the performance of an action as such. A man may never indulge his passion for food, or actually amass money and yet, be gluttonous or greedy. Though, in practice, his ability to gratify his ambitions may be limited by external factors, the desires of his soul are, nonetheless, unlimited.

with all the money in the world, as [Ecclesiastes 5:9] states: "A lover of money never has his fill of money." - Here, the Rambam describes an example where the desire for money becomes a goal in itself. In contrast, a man who gathers money so that he can buy things or achieve power is not interested in money per se. Although he may be faulted for different reasons, he is not greedy for money. On the other hand, for the "lover of money," money itself becomes his raison d'etre.

[In contrast,] there is the man who puts a check on himself; - literally, he "cuts himself short." II Kings 19:26 employs a similar usage of the root ketzar: "And the inhabitants are broken, with shortened (i.e., weakened or useless) arms."

he is satisfied with even a little, which is not enough for his needs, and he does not bother to pursue and attain what he lacks. - This refers to a lazy person, who will not bestir himself even for that which is necessary. In Chapter 2, Halachah 7, this type is described clearly as: "lazy and an idler." This is the description, too, in the Rambam's Introduction to Avot - Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4.

There is [the miser,] - In contrast to the "lover of money" mentioned above, the miser is not as bent on acquiring new wealth as much as hoarding the money and possessions he has.

who torments himself with hunger, gathering [his possessions] close to himself. - The terminology the Rambam uses emphasizes the miser's need to be close to his money and possessions. Similar, but not exactly correspondent, expressions are found in the Bible (Proverbs 13:11) and the Talmud (Bava Kama 80a).

Whenever he spends a penny of his own, he does so with great pain. [Conversely,] there is [the spendthrift,] who consciously wastes his entire fortune. - Chullin 84b gives examples of such behavior: wearing linen clothing, using glass utensils, and hiring workers without supervising them.

All other traits follow the same pattern [of contrast]. For example: the overly elated and the depressed; - The Rambam is not referring to an average optimist and a pessimist. Rather, he describes personalities who do not have a grip on reality. onain is the term used for the bereaved who has not yet buried his dead. mehulal, the other extreme, is used by Jeremiah 51:7 to refer to a state of intoxication and delirious drunkenness.

the stingy and the freehanded - Our translation of shua is clearly evident from Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 7:11. It follows that chili represents the opposite extreme. (See also Ibn Ezra, Isaiah 32:5.)

The difference between this pair of traits and the miser-spendthrift pair mentioned above is that the latter refers to a person's conduct toward himself, while the former refers to his conduct with regard to others. The stingy man, unlike the miser, may spend money for his own needs, but is tightfisted when others are concerned. By the same token, a freehanded man need not necessarily indulge himself, though he is generous when giving charity. Though this may sound praiseworthy, when taken to extremes it can also prove dangerous, because a person may hurt himself in the process of giving excessively to another. (See Lechem Mishneh.)

the cruel and the softhearted; the coward and the rash and the like. - We find a longer treatment of personal characteristics in the Rambam's Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4.

Commentary Halacha 2
Between each trait and the [contrasting] trait at the other extreme, there are intermediate points, each distant from the other. - The Lechem Mishneh understands this as follows: Let us imagine a line drawn from one extreme to another - between the stingy and the freehanded, for example. All who are neither stingy nor freehanded stand between them. They are all intermediate, whether they tend towards stinginess or freehandedness. Each point along this imaginary line stands apart - "is distant" - from the others on that line. In a diagram, this idea might be depicted as follows:
Stingy intermediate points freehanded.

However, it is highly unlikely that all the Rambam wishes to teach us is that there are many intermediate points of temperament between the extremes. After all, that is self-evident. Furthermore, in each set of associated temperaments - for example, stinginess and freehandedness - only three points on the line are of importance to the Rambam in clarifying his view of personality development: the two extremes and the midpoint. Why should he mention all the other intermediate possibilities?

Thus, it appears that the Rambam is telling us that there is a midpoint temperament between each pair of contrasting extremes. Given the entire range of human temperaments, there are a number of midpoints which are not necessarily related to each other. For example, the midpoint for generosity may be very different from the midpoint for humility. Thus, in Halachah 1, the Rambam stated that our personality traits are "different and distant;" in this halachah, he makes a parallel statement about the midpoints.

With regard to all the traits: a man has some from the beginning of his conception - i.e., the Rambam distinguishes between genetic traits and those that are acquired.

in accordance with his bodily nature. - Here, we see an interrelation between body and soul. Certain temperaments are produced by or relate to particular physical characteristics.

[In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam states: "From the outset of a person's [life], he has neither virtues nor vices...." However, there is not necessarily a contradiction between Shemoneh Perakim and this halachah. The possession of certain character traits does not determine whether one will use them for a vice or a virtue.]

Some are appropriate to a person's nature and [therefore,] will be acquired more easily than other traits. - i.e., these traits are not transferred genetically. However, a person is born with a tendency towards them.

In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam elaborates on this issue at length. He explains that some people are born with a brain whose internal chemistry is prone to intellectual achievement. However, if this person does not develop this tendency, he will not automatically become a thinker.

Similarly, others have leanings towards courage or cowardice. Nevertheless, these are merely tendencies, and they will not manifest themselves unless consciously developed. Also, these tendencies are, at all times, subject to man's control. We are granted free will, and choose our course of behavior.

Some traits he does not have from birth. He may have learned them from others - In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam writes: "From his youth, one becomes accustomed to acting in accordance with the accepted behavior of one's family and locale." In these few words, the Rambam includes all the people who might influence a person's character development: his parents, siblings, teachers, peers, and others. Also, note Chapter 6, Halachah 1.

or turned to them on his own. - There are two ways of acquiring such traits

a) This may have come as a result of his own thoughts - i.e., an intuitive realization of the correctness of a certain course of behavior stemming from one's own creative thought.

b) or because he heard that this was a proper trait for him, which he ought to attain. - i.e., through study a person understands the value of a certain character trait and sets out to acquire it.

[Therefore,] he accustomed himself to it until it became a part of himself. - Unlike the inborn or easily acquired traits, these qualities must first be accepted intellectually. Then, through habitual actions, they become part of the personality. (See Halachah 7 for a detailed explanation of such a process of behavioral modification.)

Commentary Halacha 3

The two extremes of each trait, which are at a distance from one another, do not reflect a proper path - i.e., the path described in this and the following halachot.

It is not fitting - except in certain cases, as explained in Chapter 2, Halachah 3.

that a man should behave in accordance with these extremes - if that his nature

or teach them to himself - and modify his behavior in this direction.

In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam elaborates on this concept, contrasting hedonism with asceticism, and pointing out how neither represents a healthy and mature approach to life.

If he finds that his nature leans towards one of the extremes - i.e., a genetic trait, as mentioned in the previous halachah

or adapts itself easily to it - a trait which is easily acquired because of the individual's natural tendencies, as mentioned in the previous halachah.

or, if he has learned one of the extremes - the third type of trait mentioned in the previous halachah.

and acts accordingly, he should bring himself back to what is proper - See Chapter 2, Halachah 2, for an extensive description of the process of correcting one's excesses of temperament.

and walk in the path of the good [men]. - i.e., the path that good men follow. This translation is based on the fact that the word "path" is in the singular, while the modifier "good" is in the plural.

That is the straight path. - Perhaps the Rambam is borrowing a biblical phrase here: "That you walk in the path of the good, and guard the way of the righteous" (Proverbs 2:20).

The nature of "the straight path" is explained in detail in the following halachah.

Commentary Halacha 4
The straight path - This expression is also used in Avot 2:1. In his commentary on that Mishnah, the Rambam cites his explanation of the middle path in the fourth chapter of Shemonah Perakim.

This [involves discovering] the midpoint temperament of each and every trait that man possesses [within his personality.] - i.e., a path develops out of a series of midpoints.

This refers to the trait which is equidistant from either of the extremes, without being close to either of them. - These statements echo the opening remarks of the fourth chapter of Shemonah Perakim:

The good acts are those balanced ones midway between two extremes. Both of the extremes are bad - one reflects excess and the other, want. The virtues [good traits] are temperaments and habits which are midway between these two bad tendencies.
These actions [good actions] are produced as a result of these [the good] traits.

Despite the similarity between the Rambam's statements here and those quoted, there is a slight difference. Here, the Rambam focuses on good traits, while in Shemonah Perakim, he emphasizes good actions.

Therefore, the early Sages instructed a man to evaluate his traits - The Rambam appears to be referring to Sotah 5b: "Whoever evaluates his paths in this world will merit and witness God's salvation."

to calculate them and to direct them along the middle path - At the conclusion of Chapter 4 of Shemonah Perakim, the Rambam writes:

When a man weighs his actions constantly and directs them towards their midpoints, he will be on the most elevated human plane possible. He will thereby approach God and grasp His will. This is the most perfect path in the service of God.

Constant introspection is a necessary element in any program of personal and spiritual growth. Even when a person has the highest goals, unless he frequently looks himself squarely in the mirror and examines his behavior, he may make gross errors.

so that he will be sound {of body}. - We have enclosed the words "of body" with brackets because they are not found in authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah and are problematic. Though a properly balanced temperament may also lead to physical health, this does not appear to be the Rambam's intent.

If the Hebrew bigufo is omitted as suggested, the meaning of shaleim would be altered from "sound" to "complete" or "perfect."

For example: he should not be wrathful, easily angered; nor be like the dead, without feeling, rather he should [adopt] an intermediate course; i.e., he should display anger - Our translation is based on Chapter 2, Halachah 3. (Note also the commentary of the Knesset HaGedolah.)

only when the matter is serious enough to warrant it - The Rambam appears to be referring to matters which evoke personal feelings. Nevertheless, the Misrat Moshe interprets this passage as referring to an instance in which Torah law would require a display of anger - e.g., a colleague's transgression of Torah law.

in order to prevent the matter from recurring.

Similarly, he should not desire - This refers to physical desire.

anything other than that which the body needs and cannot exist without, as [Proverbs 13:25] states - The Rambam quotes supporting verses for only two of the "intermediate traits;" perhaps, because his description of the middle-of-the-road position for these traits might appear to veer toward one extreme. We might expect the intermediate point between gluttony and its opposite extreme to be eating to one's satisfaction. However, here we are told that we should desire only what is sufficient in order to exist.

However, the Rambam is not telling us to deny ourselves satisfaction. Deuteronomy 8:10 teaches: "You shall eat and be satisfied, and bless God, your Lord." Based on that verse, Berachot 48b explains that we are obligated to recite grace only when we feel physically satisfied. (The Rambam quotes this concept in Hilchot Berachot 1:1.) In Chapter 3, Halachah 1, and in Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, he elaborates on the negative aspects of asceticism.

Thus, his intent cannot be that we deny our desires, but rather that we school ourselves to desire and feel satisfied with what we need, without excess. This is a dominant theme in the sections on diet in Chapter 4, and those describing the conduct of a Torah sage in Chapter 5.

"The righteous man eats to satisfy his soul." - The verse continues: "But the belly of the wicked will want." The commentaries note that the contrast between the two does not center on the quantity of food they eat, but on the attitude with which they eat it. Because the righteous are not given over to pursuit of gratification, they can be satisfied. Conversely, it is the gluttony of the wicked which actually causes their want.

Note also the Midrashic interpretations of this verse:

"The righteous..." This refers to Eliezer, who said to Rebecca: "Let me sip a little water" (Genesis 24:17) - a single sip.
"And the belly of the wicked will want." This refers to Esau, who said to Jacob: "Stuff me..." (Genesis 25:30). Rabbi Yitzchak ben Zeira said: he opened his mouth agape like a camel and said: "I will open my mouth and you put it in" (Tanchumah; Pinchas 13; BaMidbar Rabbah 21:18).

Also, he shall not labor in his business except to gain what he needs for immediate use, as [Psalms 37:16] states: - Here again, the Rambam quotes a Biblical verse, because his definition of an intermediate path may seem extreme. The verse also clarifies that the Rambam is not denigrating the idea of work, but excessive preoccupation with one's profession as a means of acquiring possessions.

It is highly unlikely that the Rambam would criticize work per se. Note Proverbs 6:6: "Sluggard, go to the ant, see its ways and become wise;" and Berachot 8a:

He who enjoys the toil of his hands is greater than one who fears God..., as it is stated: "If you eat of the work of you hands, you are fortunate and will possess the good" (Psalms 128:2).
"You are fortunate" - in this life, and "will possess the good" - in the world to come.

The Rambam, himself, quotes the latter passage in Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:11. Thus, the Rambam is not criticizing a person for working hard, but rather teaching us that work and its profits should not be our greatest priorities.

"A little is good for the righteous man." - The verse in its entirety expresses a contrast: "A little is better for the righteous man than the great wealth that many [of the] wicked possess." Note the commentary of ibn Ezra: "The righteous man will be happier with his small lot than the wicked with their great wealth."

He should not be overly stingy - The printed editions of the Mishneh Torah have yikfotz (close his hand). However, most manuscripts use the term: yikabetz (gather).

Yikfotz recalls Deuteronomy 15:7: "Do not close your hand from your needy brother." Thus, the contrasting extreme would be freehandedness. Yikabetz, like vikubatz in Halachah 1, reflects miserly behavior, the opposite of which is being a spendthrift. The variant texts might reflect a difference of opinion as to which opposing extremes the Rambam had in mind.

nor spread his money about, but he should give charity according to his capacity - See Hilchot Arachin 8:12-13, which places restrictions on the extent of one's generosity.

and lend to the needy as is fitting - Lending is also a form of charity. In Hilchot Matnot Ani'im 10:7, the Rambam lists eight degrees of charity. The highest is the support of a fellow Jew who has become poor by giving him loans or the like.

He should not be overly elated and laugh [excessively] - Such expressive "happiness" is often a sign of inner discontent and suffering.

nor be sad and depressed in spirit. Rather, he should be quietly happy at all times - his joy should be a composed sense of satisfaction.

[In this context, see the Ramah's conclusion of his notes to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim (697:1) in which he quotes Proverbs 15:15: "A good-hearted person is always celebrating."]

with a friendly countenance. - In his commentary on Avot 1:14, the Rambam defines "a friendly countenance" as "a spirit of will and gentility."

The same applies with regard to his other traits. - In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam mentions many other "intermediate traits." Among them:

Courage is the midpoint between arrogance and fear. Humility is the intermediate between pride and meekness. Earnestness is the intermediate between boasting and lowliness....Patience is the intermediate between rashness and insensitivity...

This path is the path of the wise. - i.e., those whose behavior is controlled by their intellect

Every man whose traits are intermediate and equally balanced can be called a "wise man." - Note the contrast to the "pious" of the following halachah. Though the published editions of the Mishneh Torah include this line as the final concept in our halachah, many of the authoritative manuscripts place it as the beginning of Halachah 5.

Commentary Halacha 5
A person who carefully [examines] his [behavior] - in an effort to achieve the desired intermediate path

and therefore, deviates slightly from the mean - to compensate for a possible error in calculating that mean.

to either side is called pious. - In Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4, the Rambam explains that one can refine and correct his behavior by balancing a tendency for excess in one direction by intentionally forcing oneself to adopt the opposite extreme. (See Chapter 2, Halachah 2.) He continues:

Therefore, the pious did not allow themselves to fix their traits at the midpoint, but would bend slightly to the side of excess or want as a hedge and a guard.

He goes on to explain that, even for the pious, these extremes are not ends in themselves, but means to help them overcome natural tendencies. Thus, both the pious and a person of underdeveloped character may act in an extreme manner. However, the difference between them is that the behavior of the pious is carefully calculated with the intent of refining his personality, while the underdeveloped person does so without thought, as a natural response to his whims and fancies.

What is implied? - i.e., how is this concept exemplified?

One who shuns pride - At first glance, the choice of pride as an example is rather problematic, because in Chapter 2, Halachah 3, the Rambam states:

There are traits for which it is forbidden for a person to follow an intermediate path.... Such a trait is pride...
The proper path is not that a person should merely be humble, but rather hold himself very lowly...
Therefore, our Sages commanded: "Be very, very humble of spirit."

It is possible to explain that because of the negative aspects of the quality of pride, the middle path that one should follow in regard to it does not resemble the middle paths of the other traits and may appear as an extreme. Pride represents one extreme, its converse being absolute lack of concern for self to the extent that one walks around in rags. Between these extremes are a number of intermediate points: modesty - which might normally be considered as the intermediate level; humility - which the Rambam considers as the true middle path; and extreme humility - which is pious behavior (Lechem Mishneh). See also the commentary on the halachah cited above.

Possibly, it is the exaggerated contrasts in this set of traits that make it the most fitting example to demonstrate the principle of the middle path that the Rambam espouses. These gross differences allow for the possibility of clear distinctions.

and turns to the other extreme - The Lechem Mishneh emphasizes that one need not actually adopt the other extreme, but rather, he should tend his behavior in that direction.

and carries himself lowly is called pious. This is the quality of piety - which represents a deviation from the mean.

However, if he separates himself [from pride] only to the extent that he reaches the mean and displays humility, he is called wise. This is the quality of wisdom. - In his commentary on Avot 5:6, the Rambam contrasts the wise and the pious:

A boor is one who lacks both intellectual and ethical development...
A wise man possesses both these qualities in a complete way, as is fitting.
A pious man is a wise man who increases his piety - i.e., his emotional development - until he tends toward one extreme, as explained in Chapter 4 [of Shemonah Perakim], and his deeds exceed his wisdom.

Thus, the wise man is one whose ethical behavior has been developed to the point at which it reflects his intellectual sophistication. He is able to appreciate the mean of each trait and express it within the context of his daily life. The pious man also possesses this quality, but due to his desire for ultimate self-refinement, he is willing to sacrifice himself and tend slightly to the extreme in certain instances.

Although in this halachah, the Rambam differentiates between the middle path - the path of the wise - and "beyond the measure of the law" - the path of the pious, in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:11 he describes how, "according to the greatness of the Sage, should be the care he takes to go beyond the measure of the law." Thus, it appears that a truly wise man will ultimately seek pious ways.

The same applies with regard to other character traits. - i.e., there is a mean which is the path of wisdom, and a deviation from that course with a positive intent, which is the path of piety.

The pious of the early generations - This expression is borrowed - out of context - from the Mishnah, Berachot 5:1.

would bend their temperaments from the intermediate path towards [either of] the two extremes. For some traits, they would veer towards the final extreme - excess (Shemonah Perakim, Chapter 4)

for others, towards the first extreme - lack (ibid.). Depending on the circumstances involved, deviation to either extreme can produce positive results.

This is referred to - by our Sages...

as [behavior] beyond the measure of the law. - We find this expression used in a number of Talmudic passages. For example, Bava Metzia 30b relates that Rabbi Yishmael, Rabbi Yossi's son, was on a journey. A porter traveling the same road asked him to help lift a load of wood. Rabbi Yishmael was a distinguished scholar, and, therefore, this base task would have been demeaning for him. Nevertheless, rather than refuse the porter entirely, Rabbi Yishmael purchased his entire load from him. This was considered as behavior beyond the measure of the law.

See also Berachot 7a and 45b, Bava Kama 100a, Bava Metzia 24b. However, in these and other Talmudic passages where the term is used, the emphasis appears to be on the ethical or legal imperative involved, without stressing the aspect of character development. [Note Hilchot Aveidah 11:7, the Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 259:3 and 263:3, and Sefer Mitzvot Katan (Positive Commandment 49), which mention our obligation to go beyond the measure of the law.]

Thus, the Rambam appears merely to be borrowing the term used by the Sages without referring to any specific instance. The path of behavior prescribed by one's intellect corresponds to law, and an intentional deviation from that course for the sake of piety is "beyond the measure of the law."

We are commanded - The Sifre (on Deuteronomy 13:5) states: 'You shall walk after God, your Lord' - this is a positive commandment." The Zohar (Ki Tetze, p. 270) also makes a similar statement. However, neither source elaborates.

Among the Geonim, the Ba'al Halachot Gedolot does list it as a commandment. Rav Sa'adiah Gaon does not include it as a specific commandment.

Sefer HaMitzvot (positive mitzvah 8) and Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 610) include this as one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot. However, the Rambam's inclusion of this commandment as one of the 613 mitzvot is somewhat problematic. In Shoresh 4 of his introduction to Sefer HaMitzvot, he states that he does not include any "general mitzvah" which does not involve a specific activity in his reckoning of the 613 mitzvot. For this reason, "Observe My statutes" (Leviticus 19:19) or "Be holy" (Leviticus 19:2) are not included in the 613 mitzvot. On the surface, the command the Rambam mentions here also seems to be an all encompassing charge to develop ourselves spiritually without any specific activity.

Rav Avraham, the Rambam's son, was asked this question, and he explained that here the specific activity implied by this commandment is the development of our emotions and character traits. A somewhat deeper perspective can be gained from the Rambam's own description of the mitzvah. When listing the mitzvot at the beginning of these halachot, he states that the mitzvah is "to imitate God's ways" and in Sefer HaMitzvot, he defines the mitzvah as "to imitate Him, blessed be He, according to our potential."

The implication of these statements is that man has a constant obligation to carry out all of his deeds and guide the progress of his emotional development with the intent of imitating God. (See Likkutei Sichot, Tavo 5748, and note the commentary on the following halachah.)

to walk in these intermediate paths - Despite the Rambam's praise of piety, his very description of it as "beyond the measure of the law" implies that, though it is desirable, it cannot be considered as obligatory.

and they are good and straight paths - as [Deuteronomy 28:9] states: "And you shall walk in His ways." - The Rambam describes this mitzvah in the following halachah. Indeed, the authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah include the paragraph we have just explained as the beginning of Halachah 6.

Commentary Halacha 6
As emphasized in the introduction to this text, the Rambam has structured the Mishneh Torah with the intent of "revealing all the laws to the great and to the small with regard to each and every mitzvah." He does not mention philosophical and ethical concepts unless they are halachot - i.e., practical directives for our behavior.

In this context, we can understand the structure of this chapter. The Rambam set out to describe the mitzvah of following God's ways. As stated in this halachah, he perceives this to mean developing our personalities by emulating the qualities which the Creator reveals. As he states in the following halachah, those qualities are identical with the middle path of human behavior. Therefore, in the initial halachot of this chapter, the Rambam sets out to describe the nature of human personality and the ideal temperaments - the middle path - that man should seek to achieve. Having laid down this foundation, he is able to define that mitzvah in this halachah and begin offering directives for its fulfillment in Halachah 7.

[Our Sages] taught [the following] explanation of this mitzvah - The Rambam appears to be referring to the Sifre, Ekev 11:22, which he quotes in Sefer HaMitzvot (ibid.). That explanation is also paralleled in the Mechiltah (Exodus 14:2) and Shabbat 133b.

It must be noted that other Talmudic and Midrashic sources interpret the commandment to imitate God in a different light. Note Sotah 14a:

[Deuteronomy 13:5 states]: "You shall walk after God, your Lord." Is it possible for man to walk after the Divine Presence? Has it not been stated: "Behold, God, your Lord, is a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24)?
Rather, [it means] one should follow the qualities of God.
Just as He dresses the naked..., you, too, should dress the naked;
God visited the sick...; you, too, should visit the sick;
God comforted the bereaved...;you, too, should comfort the bereaved;
God buried the dead...; you, too, should bury the dead.

In Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam mentions emulating both God's deeds and His qualities. Similarly, Sefer HaChinuch, in its description of this mitzvah, and the Kiryat Sefer in his commentary - both here in Hilchot De'ot and also in Hilchot Eivel - mention both deeds and qualities.

There is not necessarily a contradiction between these two emphases. As mentioned above, our actions reflect our personalities. Therefore, it follows that developing our characters in the manner outlined by the Rambam in this halachah will ultimately produce the good deeds mentioned by our Sages in the passage from Sotah.

Nevertheless, deed is often not a reflection of character. A person with many severe character faults may still do good deeds. Hence, for the "resemblance of God" to be complete, it is not sufficient merely to perform positive deeds. Rather, a person must undergo internal change by developing his character. Therefore, the Rambam focuses more on this aspect of the commandment.

Just as He is called "Gracious," you shall be gracious; Just as He is called "Merciful," you shall be merciful; Just as He is called "Holy," you shall be holy; - Neither the Sifre nor the other sources quoted above mention the trait of holiness. Rather, the third trait mentioned is "piety." Perhaps, since the Rambam gave a specific definition for piety in the previous halachah within his conception of personality development, he does not mention it in the present context to prevent any possible confusion.

In a similar manner, the prophets - The Rambam's choice of words is somewhat surprising since many of these expressions are also found in the Torah as well as in the prophetic works. However, in the Torah these titles are mentioned by Moses or the other prophets. Perhaps this is the Rambam's intent.

called God by other titles: "Slow to anger," "Abundant in kindness," "Righteous," "Just," "Perfect," "Almighty," "Powerful," and the like. - In Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:11-12 and in detail in Moreh Nevuchim (Guide to the Perplexed), Vol. I, Chapters 53 and 54, the Rambam explains that these names are not descriptions of God, who cannot be defined by any specific quality. To do so would limit Him and detract from His infinite and transcendent state of being.

Rather, the use of these titles must be understood as follows: God brings about activities, which, had they been carried out by man, would have been motivated by these emotional states. For example, instead of utterly destroying the Jews after the sin of the Golden Calf, God allowed our people to continue. Were such a deed to have been performed by a human ruler, we would describe him as "slow to anger." Though that term cannot serve as a description for God - for He cannot be described - the Torah and the prophets referred to Him by such terms with the following intent.

[They did so] to inform us that these are good and just paths. - i.e., God acted in ways which we identify with these qualities - and the Torah and the prophets mention these actions - because these are attributes which man should strive to achieve.

A person is obligated to accustom himself to these paths and [to try to] resemble Him - Likkutei Sichot (ibid.) states that with the latter phrase, the Rambam is adding a new thought. As explained above, God cannot be described by any particular quality. If He manifests a quality, it is for a specific intent.

In Moreh Nevuchim (ibid., Chapter 54), the Rambam mentions that the leader of a country should act in a similar manner.

Sometimes he will be merciful and generous to some people - not because of his feelings and natural compassion, but because they are deserving of such treatment.
Sometimes he will bear a grudge, seek revenge, and rage against certain people - not out of feelings of anger... - but in order to produce positive results....
The ultimate ideal man can achieve is to imitate God according to his potential... i.e., to have our deeds resemble His deeds.

For this reason, human behavior should not be motivated by the spontaneous expression of emotion. Rather, man's emotions should arise as the result of a deliberate process of thought.

This reflects themes brought out in the previous halachot of this chapter: that a person must constantly evaluate and review his emotions (Halachah 4); that it is a wise man who is able to appreciate the middle path (Halachah 5).

This is what is meant by the imitation of God: that a person not be controlled by the unchecked expression of his emotions. Rather, he should control his feelings and, motivated by his desire to resemble God, search to find the correct and proper quality, the middle path, appropriate to the situation at hand.

to the extent of his ability. - for man is ultimately finite in nature, and no true resemblance to God is possible.

Commentary Halacha 7
How can one train himself to follow these temperaments to the extent that they become a permanent fixture of his [personality]? - Having established personality development as a mitzvah in the previous halachah, the Rambam begins his explanation of how this mitzvah is fulfilled.

He should perform - repeat - and perform a third time - Thus, a person's deeds will shape his character traits.

In this process of personal change, the stress is on the repetition of an act, and not on its quantity or intensity. In his Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot 3:15, the Rambam writes that giving a thousand coins to one person at one time is not as effective in stimulating feelings of generosity as giving a single coin one thousand times.

As mentioned in Halachah 4, though the Rambam's explanations in this chapter parallel those of the fourth chapter of Shemonah Perakim, the texts differ in stressing actions (as the opening lines of that chapter imply), or on character development, which is the theme of our text.

For this reason, the two texts also perceive the process of causation differently. In Shemoneh Perakim, the Rambam states: "These actions [good actions] are produced as a result of these [the good] traits," while here he sees the traits being produced by the actions.

Nevertheless, the two texts do not actually contradict each other. Both statements are true. Our deeds reflect our personalities, and they also help shape those personalities. Generally, this means that a person's behavior will reinforce and strengthen the character traits that motivated those very deeds. However, this chapter - and more particularly, this halachah - deals with a person who has made a commitment to change and refine his character. Therefore - based on his intellect and the directives of the Torah, rather than his spontaneous feelings - he chooses to perform deeds that will bring about this process of inner change.

which conform to - reflect and are motivated by...

the standards of the middle road temperaments - described in Halachot 4 and 5.

He should do this constantly, until these acts are easy for him and do not present any difficulty. - A trait possessed by a person produces activities naturally and spontaneously. However, if one has not acquired a trait as yet, certain actions will be foreign to his nature, and one must trouble himself to perform them.

For example, a liberal man gives charity naturally; the miser must force himself to give. The action for each is the same, but not the inner feelings.

Then, these temperaments will become a fixed part of his personality. - If the miser continues to give frequently, he will find that he no longer feels like a miser, but has become liberal in heart as well as in hand.

Since the Creator - The Rambam uses the term yotzer - literally "the One who forms" - (which appears only one other time in the Mishneh Torah: Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 1:7).

The Rambam describes God as the Creator with reference to the Divine qualities he describes in these halachot. Before the existence of the world and man, there would be no purpose for God to reveal these qualities, for until man's creation, no one could learn from or emulate them.

[The word yotzer may also be used because of its connection to the word yeitzer, meaning drive or inclination. (See Rashi, Genesis 2:7.)]

is called by these terms and they make up the middle path which we are obligated to follow, this path is called "the path of God." - As stated in the commentary on the previous halachah, "the path of God" involves controlling our emotions by using our intellect, so that our behavior is, to the extent that is possible for man, an objective response to a situation. In this manner, our behavior bears a resemblance to God's transcendence of worldly matters.

This is [the heritage] which our Patriarch Abraham taught his descendants - See the Midrash Tanchumah, Shofetim 15:

And what are the ways of God? Righteousness and justice, as it is stated: "And they will keep the path of God to do righteousness and justice" (Genesis 18:19).

as [Genesis 18:19] states: "for I have known Him so that he will command his descendants...to keep the path of God." - Since the path of God is mentioned in the context of Abraham's service, it appears that walking in those ways is not synonymous with the performance of the 613 commandments - for they had not been given in Abraham's time. Rather, it must refer to ethics, qualities like righteousness and justice, which are mentioned in that verse.

One who follows this path brings benefit and blessing to himself, as [the above verse continues]: "so that God will bring about for Abraham all that He promised." - The Rambam concludes his description of the obligation to develop our characters with the assurance that, ultimately, this course of behavior will bring us benefit and blessing.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

obama ties to radical islam

Stanley Kurtz provides a detailed history on Barack Obama's connections with radical Palestinians- Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Alu Abunimah, and other Israel haters- Reverend Wright, and Bill Ayers, in the years before he ran for the U.S. Senate, and started needing Jewish money and votes, and the credibility that would come within broader liberal circles from acceptance by the Jewish community. So he began to tell the gullible liberal Jews that he really loved Israel. Some of us knew his pro-Israel rhetoric was a sham, and that he would never be a friend- that his sympathies were with the Palestinians, the Muslim victims of imperialism, colonialism and the West. Yes, this is how Obama thought until he cleaned up his act in 2004. In 2007, Ali Abunimah wrote an article that Obama's pro-Israel messaging was cynical. But hey, liberal Jews want nothing more than to bond with an articulate young black politician, maybe on his way to the White House. If he tells us he loves Israel, that must mean he does. So leaders in our community carried water for Obama- raising lots of money, making videos and speeches, sending out emails on his solid support for Israel. I will skip the Aggie jokes. If Obama is re-elected in 2013, do you think he will be pro-Israel in the next 4 years? On the contrary, I think Obama will then be free to be Obama.
Kurtz: http://tinyurl.com/3dsvnc8
Abunimah: http://tinyurl.com/3fuupon

checking media inaccuracies

Greetings Friends of CAMERA:

Below is a sample of recent articles and postings on CAMERA's Web site and Snapshots blog. Don't forget to check both often for the latest.

CAMERA/Luntz Poll: American Jewish Support for Israel is Strong

Some news media accounts have tended to amplify a vocal fringe in the American Jewish community that espouses extreme views and policies far out of the mainstream. This poll clarifies what American Jews actually feel and believe.

AP "Fact Check" Conveys Anti-Israel Spin

The Associated Press quickly responded to Benjamin Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress by relaying partisan spin to "counter" the Israeli prime minister's assertions. AP's Josef Federman, apparently in no mood to allow an Israeli politician to present Jerusalem's view of the Middle East, penned an unprecedented "Fact Check" article seeking to impugn Netanyahu's speech.


Bibi's Speech to Congress and Media Reaction

Benjamin Netanyahu received a very warm reception in Congress during his forceful, forthright speech, which laid out just what Israel is prepared to do -- make painful concessions -- and not prepared to do -- put itself at risk of annihilation -- to achieve a lasting peace with the Palestinians. The reaction in the press was, not unexpectedly, negative.

NYT's Wishful Thinking Vs. Ha'aretz Poll

As we blogged on Wednesday, The New York Times headline "Israelis see Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure" was contradicted by a Dialog poll covered in Ha'aretz showing "47 percent of the Israeli public believes the U.S. trip was a success, while only 10 percent viewed it as a failure." New York Times editors are likely wincing as they look at Ha'aretz's front-page today.

Abbas Declares Netanyahu's Congress Speech "Full of Lies and Distortions"

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has taken a page from AP correspondent Josef Federman's book and is declaring Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's well-received speech to Congress to be "full of lies and distortions."


President Obama's Speech and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Fact-Based Analysis

President Obama's speech at the State Department on May 19 outlined his administration's policy in the Middle East and North Africa, making some clean breaks with what had been key elements of US policy in the region for decades.

CAMERA's Safian on Fox and Friends re: Obama's Speech

CAMERA Associate Director Alex Safian was interviewed on Fox and Friends on May 21 to discuss President Obama's speech about the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be the likely impact on the region of apparently major changes in American foreign policy.


Dore Gold Explains '67 Lines

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former UN ambassador explains the 1967 lines and Resolution 242.


CNN Article Maps Out '67 Lines Issues

A CNN article by Tim Lister does a commendable job explaining the status of the 1967 armistice line, an issue which is repeatedly misreported in the mainstream media.

Ha'aretz Lost in Translation, VI

Ha'aretz's chronic lost-in-translation affliction rears its head again, albeit in a slightly more complex strain. A news analysis by Aluf Benn in the May 20 English edition states, "Netanyahu will have to reply to Obama by accepting the principle of '1967 borders with agreed land swaps.'" Except that's not what President Obama actually said.

New York Times Conceals Partisanship of "Nonpartisan" Source

A May 23 New York Times article, "Obama Presses Israel to Make 'Hard Choices,'" demonstrates how bias can seeps into what is ostensibly objective news reporting.


Finally, NY Times Clearly Tells Readers Who Refuses Negotiations

In a rare moment of precision and clarity, The New York Times finally reminded readers of the immediate reason for a lack of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
USA Today Hits Rare Media Bull's-Eye
USA Today's detailed feature article, “Israelis ambivalent about Arab world's uprising; Some see opportunity for peace, prosperity; others fear onset of aggression” does what much coverage of Arab-Israeli developments does not: It treats Israelis as human beings with newsworthy concerns. In doing so, it also sheds light on what too many reports have misleadingly termed “Arab democracy movements.”

LA Times Letter: Jewish Newspaper for Christian Sharia

A letter published in the Los Angeles Times argued that “It is strange that the conservative forces behind the drive to make us fear Sharia are the same ones that are trying to impose their Christian version here.”

LA Times Corrects Letter

The Los Angeles Times corrected the May 20 letter-to-the-editor which falsely stated a conservative Israeli newspaper removed Hillary Clinton from an official White House photograph. The paper was American.

Friday, May 27, 2011

isrel in gaza most ethical war ever

UN Report Proves IDF's Record in Preventing Civilian Deaths in Gaza - Jonathan Hoffman
Col. Richard Kemp's speech to the "We Believe in Israel" Conference in London, 15 May: No other army in history has ever done more to avoid civilian deaths in a combat zone than the Israel Defense Forces. A UN study shows that the ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in Gaza in 2009 was by far the lowest in any assymetric conflict in the history of warfare. The UN estimates that there has been an average three-to-one ratio of civilian to combatant deaths in such conflicts worldwide. Three civilians for every combatant killed. That is the estimated ratio in Afghanistan: three-to-one. In Iraq, and in Kosovo, it was worse: the ratio is believed to be four-to-one. Anecdotal evidence suggests the ratios were very much higher in Chechnya and Serbia. In Gaza, it was less than one-to-one. Col. Richard Kemp commanded British forces in Afghanistan. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

unilateral Palestinian statehood illegal

Lawyers to UN: Halt Unilateral Palestinian Statehood - Tovah Lazaroff
An international group of some 60 lawyers, including former Foreign Ministry legal adviser Alan Baker, has appealed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to prevent a General Assembly resolution on unilateral Palestinian statehood, based on the pre-1967 lines. The attorneys noted that such a resolution would be a violation of all past agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and would also contravene UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
They noted that "the legal basis for the establishment of the State of Israel was the resolution unanimously adopted by the League of Nations in 1922, affirming the establishment of a national home for the Jewish People in the historical area of the Land of Israel. This included the areas of Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem, and close Jewish settlement throughout." As a result, the "650,000 Jews [who] presently reside in the areas of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, reside there legitimately."
Additionally, attempts to unilaterally change the status of the territory would be a breach of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The Olso Accords did not limit settlement activity, they added. (Jerusalem Post

obama most anti Israel prez

Anne Bayefsky: Obama Is the Most Hostile Sitting President In the History of Israel
For Immediate Release:
May 24, 2011

Contact: Anne Bayefsky
(917) 488-1558

Obama Is the Most Hostile Sitting President
In the History of Israel

This article by Anne Bayefsky appears today on Fox News.

There is some logic in the fact that President Obama has fled the country while Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu addresses Congress. With Obama’s comments this past week on Israel, the president now appears to many as the most hostile sitting president in the history of the Jewish state.

A key casualty of the assault Obama launched this past week on Israel and its Prime Minister, is the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. When Palestinians move to declare statehood unilaterally in the fall with U.N. support, it will be President Obama himself who will have laid the groundwork.

Two years ago President Obama prompted Palestinians to withdraw from negotiations after he attempted to dictate to Israel the terms of a deal on the settlements issue. Now that the president has similarly projected what the territorial outcome “should be,” Palestinians will abjure negotiations into the foreseeable future.

The mere lip service that the president paid to negotiations was heard around the world, especially in Palestinian circles. “While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated…” Obama began, followed by a series of “should be” pronouncements.

The president’s Sunday speech to the pro-Israel group AIPAC did not fundamentally change his earlier effort on Thursday as territorial fiat.

According to the president, the baseline of a final settlement “should be” the 1967 lines and any different outcome would be subject to “mutually agreed swaps.” But “mutually agreed” entails a Palestinian veto, and the potential for their insisting on the indefensible 1967 lines within the Obama formula.

President Obama's 1967 baseline comment was no accident; it was a deliberate provocation. As he unabashedly told the AIPAC audience: “I know that stating these principles -- on the issues of territory and security -- generated some controversy…I wasn’t surprised.”

Mr. Obama has also sabotaged negotiations by refusing to assign responsibility for the current absence of negotiations where it belongs. As far as Obama is concerned, the fact that Hamas“is unwilling to recognize Israel’s right to exist” simply “raises questions.”

The President even professed ignorance about the path of Hamas, despite the group’s Charter which calls for “Jihad” until Israel is “obliterated.” In the president’s words: “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection.” If!

Those pushing a U.N.-backed unilateral declaration of statehood or independence (UDI), in lieu of negotiations, will also have taken sustenance from the President’s remarks. He suggested such sentiments are eminently understandable:

"There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one…And that impatience is growing.”

President Obama neglected to mention that statehood would come a lot faster if Palestinians didn’t support leaders who are bent on genocide or refuse to talk.

Moreover, if Mr. Obama was in fact serious about stopping a U.N.-backed Palestinian UDI, he could do a lot more than simply chide them for making what he called a “symbolic” move. He could, for instance, lay out some unambiguous consequences for the day after, such as: terminating U.S. taxpayer dollars for UNRWA, the Palestinian “refugee” agency, since refugee status will be voided and all Palestinians rendered citizens of their declared state; moving the U.S. embassy to Israel’s capital city Jerusalem, since delays awaiting a negotiated settlement will be groundless; stopping payment to the U.N.’s regular budget, since the UN will have gravely abrogated its legal obligations under the UN Charter, and pulling the U.S. out of the Middle East Quartet – the European Union’s coveted entre into Arab-Israeli politics – since the Quartet’s central “Roadmap” will have been negated.

He said none of the above. Having made the U.N. a centerpiece of his foreign policy, including championing the obsessively anti-Israel Human Rights Council, his speechifying about sidelining the organization wasn’t very convincing.

The AIPAC speech was pure sophistry. The president promised “unshakeable opposition” to “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy” and attempted to take credit for not attending one of the UN’s racist “anti-racism” conferences back in 2009.

But he only pulled out of so-called “Durban II” after intense public pressure, just 48 hours before the meeting, ruining the prospect of coalition-building. And he refused to tell AIPAC whether he plans to go to “Durban III” – the first-ever world summit to be held in New York this coming September and intended as a vehicle for charging Israel with racism. Canada and Israel pulled out long ago. Where is America’s unshakeable opposition?

President Obama’s fawning remarks about Arab self-determination contrasted sharply with his treatment of Jewish self-determination. He taunted Israelis about not being able to protect themselves: “Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself.” “Delay will undermine Israel’s security…” He threatened Israelis with the specter of isolation and demanded they answer to every busybody in sight: “The international community is tired of an endless process…” “Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained…[T]he march to isolate Israel internationally…will continue to gain momentum…and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.”

Negotiations require mutual recognition of legitimacy and therefore offer the only path to ensuring a Palestinian commitment to coexistence with a Jewish state. By bullying Israel, a negotiated peace agreement between Arabs and Israelis is now all but impossible during Obama’s tenure. 2012 cannot come soon enough.

J Street dangers

In the Tent, or Out: That is Still the J-Street Question
Posted by Daniel Gordis in Featured Articles, Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 | 38 responses
[Note: On May 3rd, Daniel Gordis addressed the “J-Street Leadership Mission to Israel and Palestine.” The following column is based on his remarks that day.]

Good morning and welcome to Jerusalem. It’s a pleasure to meet with this Leadership Mission; I understand that there are some first time visitors to Israel among you, so a particular welcome to those of you who’ve never been here before.

Before we got seated, one member of your group conveyed a message from the Israeli Consul General in his home community. The message was that I shouldn’t speak to you. As you can imagine, I received similar advice from a wide array of people after I received your invitation; but I’ve chosen to ignore it. As most of you know, I disagree strongly with much of what you do. But I think that we have an obligation to meet with people with whom we disagree. Given the extent of the forces aligned against Israel, seeking to delegitimize the very idea of a Jewish State, the pro-Israel camp needs a big tent. Neither Israel nor the Jewish People will survive if we work only with those with whom we agree. A big tent, by definition, means including people whom we disagree passionately, but who still share our basic goals.

Even a big tent, though, has its limits. There are things that one can say, or do, that place a person or an organization outside that tent. You know very well that there are many people who believe that J-Street is outside the tent, not in it. I’m not yet certain. That’s why I’m here.

Let me begin with a basic assumption: I assume that we want the same thing. We seek two states in this region, one a thriving, Jewish, democratic Israel, and the other a thriving, non-Jewish, democratic Palestine. Of course, there are Israelis on both ends of the political spectrum who do not wish this. Some Israelis no longer believe in the importance of a Jewish State and would prefer a State “of all its citizens” between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. But as that would make Jews a minority in this country and thus end the Zionist project, I’m utterly opposed to that. There are also Israelis who still resist the idea of a Palestinian State and who would prefer to either exile millions of Palestinians or forever keep them under our thumb as non-citizens, either of which is morally obtuse. But the vast majority of Israelis, if presented with a genuine opportunity to live side by side a democratic, transparent, peaceful, de-militarized Palestine, would accept it.

So, assuming that that’s what you also seek, I assume that our disagreement is about how to get there. You believe that people who are not willing to make major territorial concessions to the Palestinians right now are not serious about a two-state solution. You think that those of us who claim that we favor a two-state solution but who are not willing to give up the store at this moment are bluffing. Or we’re liars. Or, at best, we’re well-intentioned but misguided. But bottom line, if we’re not willing now to make the concessions that you think are called for, then we’re not really pursuing peace.

But that is arrogance of the worst sort. Does your distance from the conflict give you some moral clarity that we don’t have? Are you smarter than we are? Are you less racist? Why do you assume with such certainty that you have a monopoly on the wisdom needed to get to the goal we both seek?

In preparing for this morning’s session, I did a bit of reading of statements that you’ve issued on a whole array issues. One, just released, is a perfect example of the certainty and arrogance of which I’m speaking. Reacting to the most recent Fatah-Hamas agreement, this is what J-Street had to say:

“In fact, many who oppose a two-state deal have, in recent years, done so by arguing that divisions among the Palestinians make peace impossible. Obviously, reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas] reduces that obstacle – but now skeptics of a two-state agreement have immediately stepped forward to say that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.”

“Obviously,” you say, “reconciliation reduces the obstacle [to a peace treaty].” But I would caution you against ever using the word “obviously” when it comes to the Middle East. Nothing here is obvious. If you think that something is obvious, then you simply haven’t thought enough. Why is it obvious that Fatah’s signing a deal with Hamas, which rejects Israel’s very right to exist, reduces obstacles to peace? Isn’t it just as plausible that it makes peace impossible, or that signing a deal and returning large swathes of land to a group still sworn on our destruction would be suicidal? I suppose that reasonable minds could debate this matter, but how is it “obvious” that this is good news for peace?

And then you go on to say that “skeptics of a two-state agreement have immediately stepped forward to say that a deal is impossible with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas.” There you go again, telling us that if we don’t agree with you, then we’re not serious or honest. If we think that the Fatah-Hamas deal is terrible news for peace, then we’re just “skeptics of a two-state agreement.” In your worldview, there’s no possibility that we’re just a bit more nervous than you are, that we do not want to make a mistake that will turn our own homes into Sederot, that we are frightened of restoring the horror of 2000-2004 to our streets, buses and restaurants. No, that possibility doesn’t exist, because anyone who doesn’t agree with you is by definition a “skeptic of the two-state agreement.” I’d suggest that if you want to convince those of us still deciding whether you’re part of the big tent that you are “in,” that you drop this sort of condescension. It’s arrogant and intellectually shallow; it doesn’t serve you well.

And if you want those of us who are still unsure to become convinced that you are part of the Big Tent, then I have another piece of advice for you – recognize that not everyone can be part of the tent. There are groups who are clearly opposed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state; they are our enemies. It doesn’t matter if they are in Israel or outside, or if they are Jewish or not. If they are working to end Israel, or to end it as a Jewish and democratic state, then they are our enemies, plain and simple. There are enemies who cannot be loved or compromised into submission, and you need to recognize that. The BDS [Boycott, Divest and Sanction] movement is a case in point. No one in their right mind doubts that BDS is opposed to Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish State. So why were they invited to your annual conference? There need to be limits to those whom you’d welcome into your tent. You need to show us that you care about Israel more than you care about dialogue with Israel’s enemies.

I still remember the first time I was struck by this tendency of yours to assail Israel when you’d been silent about what Israel’s enemies were doing. It was the first day of the Gaza War at the end of 2008. Sederot had been shelled intermittently for eight years, and relentlessly in the days prior to the beginning of the war. It was obvious that this couldn’t go on, for the first obligation of states to their citizens is to protect them. For years, Israel had been failing the citizens of Sederot. But when Israel finally decided to do what any legitimate state would do, J-Street immediately called for a cessation of hostilities. The war was only hours old, nothing had been accomplished and the citizens of Sederot were still no safer than they had been. But J-Street had had enough. Why? Why had you said almost nothing for all the years that Sederot was being shelled, but within hours of the war’s beginning were calling for it to end? What matters more to you – the safety of Israel’s citizens, or advancing your own moral agenda in our region of the world?

If you want us to be convinced that you’re in the Big Tent, show us. Show us that there are times that you will stand up for Israel, not her enemies. Explain why you lobbied Congress against a resolution condemning incitement in Palestinian schools. Explain why, when Israel is marginalized as never before (a recent poll showed that Europeans rank Israel and North Korea as the greatest threats to world peace!), you pressured the US not to veto a UN resolution on settlements, which the mainstream of American Jewry all thought need to be vetoed.

And ask yourselves this: if you were to take all the money you’re spending in the United States and do your work here in Israel, trying to strengthen the political parties who are more inclined to do what you seek, how much traction would you get? We all know that you would get a pretty chilly reception. Ask yourself why that is. Is it that we Israelis really don’t want to end this conflict? We enjoy sending our children off to war? We look forward to the next funeral at Mount Herzl? We’re not aware that time is not on our side?

Or is it that we live here, and that even rank and file Israelis know a bit more about the complexity of this conflict than you give us credit for? Why would you assume that we’re stupid, or immoral, or addicted to the conflict? Why do you insist that the Fatah-Hamas agreement is a good thing, or that it’s best for Israel if the United States twists its arm even harder? At a time when Israel is so alone, can you see why it’s hard for many of us to buy the argument that you’re genuinely pro-Israel, or that you should be part of the Big Tent?

It’s time for you to show us. Show us that you seek peace, that you care about the Palestinians, but that even more (yes, more, because that’s what the particularism of peoplehood requires), that you care about us. It’s one thing to put “pro-Israel” in your tag line, and another to be “pro-Israel.” You certainly don’t need to be a rubber stamp for Israeli policy – that’s not what’s at issue. Israel desperately needs critique, and Israelis issue it all the time. So, too, should Diaspora Jews.

No, what’s at issue is for us to see you pressure someone, anytime, to be in Israel’s camp on something. That’s what we want to see. When we see that, more of us will believe that you’re part of our tent, and then, even with all our disagreements, we’ll be convinced that we could work together for a better future for all the peoples of this region.

Postscript: in the Q&A session that followed, J-Street Founder Jeremy Ben Ami asked the first question. He said that he found it “astounding” that I had given an entire presentation “without mentioning the occupation of another people.” But interestingly, in the May 12th issue of Globes, Vered Kellner, who traveled with the group and went with them from my session to their meeting with Salaam Fayyad, noted that Fayyad didn’t mention the occupation either. “Is it possible that the occupation conversation simply doesn’t interest anyone anymore?” she asked.

“True,” Ben Ami answered, “neither Gordis nor Fayyad raised the occupation, but we’re here to remind Israelis that you can’t pretend that the occupation isn’t part of reality.”

So here’s my final suggestion – if the way that you’re framing the issues is no longer the way that Israelis and Palestinians are discussing them, is it possible that you are not even addressing the core issues that matter to the people actually in the conflict? Perhaps the time has come to ask yourselves what matters to you more: actually moving the policy needle, or assuaging your own discomfort with the undeniably painful complexities of this conflict. If what you want to do is to affect policy, how effective would you say you’ve been thus far?

why Israel can't go back to 67 lines

The dangers of relinquishing military control of the West Bank are as follows:

An Arab army will attempt to sever Israel at its narrow waist along the coastal plain.

Palestinian forces - regular or irregular - will infiltrate along the line, and given the tiny distances they'll be able to reach Israel's main cities within minutes and wreak havoc.

Palestinians will be able to shoot directly at numerous targets in Israel's populous heartland.

Palestinians will be able to shoot mortars and short-range rockets at numerous targets in Israel's populous heartland.

Israel will lose its ability to collect human intelligence about terror cells in the West Bank.

Rather than controlling the West Bank, Israel will have to defend itself along a long and twisted border much of it in hilly terrain.

Israel will lose most of its control over the aquifer that supplies much of the water to the coastal wells.
The Palestinians will have the legal right to demand some of the water of the Jordan Basin.

These threats are of varying quality. The first, regarding an Arab army, can be fended off through two measures. First, the Palestinians will not be allowed to have a full-fledged army. If they ask the Europeans, this will be a blessing for them, since armies are extremely expensive things to have, but if they insist having an army is essential to sovereignty they should be reminded that Germany (both of it) was allowed only a limited military between 1945 and 1991, and got along quite well, and Japan's military was also limited post 1945. So no, having an army is not an essential prerequisite for sovereignty.

Second, Israel demands a military presence along the Jordan River, to the east of the West Bank. This presence is directed at anyone to the east of Palestine who might be tempted to use it as a launching pad for an invasion of Israel. There is total unanimity among all Israel's security types that this presence is essential, though Netanyahu has recently been hinting it need not require Israeli sovereignty. Perhaps the Jordan Valley will be sovereign Palestinian territory in which Israel has contractual rights to a military presence. I admit I'm personally skeptical. Modern armies being the cumbersome things they are, I don't see how one could arrive on the West Bank suddenly, unannounced, and launch an attack on Israel. Not to mention that no Arab army has tried the full-fronted assault method since 1973, probably for the good reason that it's a harmful exercise. In any scenario Israel will need a powerful and threatening military for the first three or five generations after making peace with all its neighbors, but I don't see why a few thousand troops along the Jordan make much difference. There's a major road down there from Jerusalem, and another can be built from the north, and if there's to be a war IDF forces will be there long before Iraqi or Iranian or Emirati divisions arrive.

Water: this is a serious matter, but ever less so. At the moment we're preparing to lay the fifth major pipeline from the coast up to Jerusalem (if I'm not mistaken), which will be unusual in that for the first time it will draw its water not from coastal springs but from desalination stations. There isn't enough natural water in Israel/Palestine for the 12 million people who already live here, and there's not going to be any more, either. Israel already operates major desalination plants, while holding the world record for recycling water; this trend will have to continue no matter what. I don't have the exact numbers at hand, but Israel already supplies some of the water the Palestinians use, and will probably supply more as their numbers grow, no matter who controls them politically. This means water will be a Palestinian weakness, not a threat against Israel. Anyway, the entire subject is one that can be resolved with money, and need not cost human lives.

Which leaves us with the various threats of low-level Palestinian violence. These are serious. In 2002-2004 Israel needed to reoccupy the entire West Bank, re-build its intelligence sources and networks, and also construct the security barrier; only then was the bloody 2nd Intifada defeated. Its ongoing control is the reason no kassam rockets or mortars are shot from the West Bank, while many thousands have been shot from Gaza. Moreover, only a fool, or perhaps a Swedish foreign minister, would believe that by signing a peace agreement with some Palestinians, there will remain no Palestinian individuals or groups willing to shoot at Israeli civilians from the shelter of civilians towns and villages; those Swedes and other EU fellows will conspicuously not fly into Ben Gurion airport if they ever remotely fear that their plane could be shot down as it comes in to land at the airport which is within range of Palestinian gunmen with easily portable shoulder missiles. Until someone comes up with a way to assure Israel this danger is not acute, I don't see how it will relinquish military control of some sort over the West Bank. Which is not to say that Israel might not move all its civilians back to a line, say that of the barrier. Which brings us to the matter of the settlers.

The real reason Israel insists it cannot go back to the Green line is a combination of security to the east of the airport, and the existence of large settlements, most of them quite close to the Green Line. No official maps have ever been made public, obviously, since the negotiations have never reached completion,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Why is Obama pro Palestinian?


Obama’s hard-Left tilt is real.

It’s time to revisit the issue of President Obama’s Palestinian ties. During his time in the Illinois state senate, Obama forged close alliances with the most prominent Palestinian political leaders in America. Substantial evidence also indicates that during his pre-Washington years, Obama was both supportive of the Palestinian cause and critical of America’s stance toward Israel. Although Obama began to voice undifferentiated support for Israel around 2004 (as he ran for U.S. Senate and his national visibility rose), critics and even some backers have long suspected that his pro-Palestinian inclinations survive.

The continuing influence of Obama’s pro-Palestinian sentiments is the best way to make sense of the president’s recent tilt away from Israel. This is why supporters of Israel should fear Obama’s reelection. In 2013, with his political vulnerability a thing of the past, Obama’s pro-Palestinian sympathies would be released from hibernation, leaving Israel without support from its indispensable American defender.

To see this, we need to reconstruct Obama’s pro-Palestinian past and assess its influence on the present. Taken in context, and followed through the years, the evidence strongly suggests that Obama’s long-held pro-Palestinian sentiments were sincere, while his post-2004 pro-Israel stance has been dictated by political necessity.

Let’s begin at the beginning — with the controversial question of whether Obama’s cultural heritage through his nominally Muslim Kenyan father and his Muslim Indonesian stepfather, along with his having been raised for a time in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, might have had some effect on the president’s mature foreign-policy views. Obama supporters often mock this idea, but we have it on high authority that Obama’s unusual heritage and upbringing have had an effect on his adult views.

Top presidential aide and longtime Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett was born and raised in Iran for the first five years of her life. In explaining how she first grew close to Obama, Jarrett says they traded stories of their youthful travels. As Jarrett told Obama biographer David Remnick: “He and I shared a view of where the United States fit in the world, which is often different from the view people have who have not traveled outside the United States as young children.” Remnick continues: “Through her travels, Jarrett felt that she had come to see the United States with a greater objectivity as one country among many, rather than as the center of all wisdom and experience.” Speaking with the authority of a close personal friend and top political adviser, then, Jarrett affirms that she and Obama reject traditional American exceptionalism. One hallmark of America’s exceptionalist perspective, of course, is our unique alliance with a democratic Israel, even in the face of intense criticism of that alliance from much of the rest of the world.

Obama’s close friend and longtime ally, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said’s successor as the most prominent American advocate for the Palestinians, goes further. Khalidi told the Los Angeles Times that as president, Obama, “because of his unusual background, with family ties in Kenya and Indonesia, would be more understanding of the Palestinian experience than typical American politicians.” Khalidi’s testimony is important, since he speaks on the basis of years of friendship with Obama.

Those who know Obama best, then, affirm that his foreign-policy views are atypical for an American politician, and are grounded in his unique international heritage and upbringing. That is important, because our core task is to decide whether Obama’s pro-Palestinian past was a stance rooted in sincere sympathy, or nothing but a convenient sop to his leftist Hyde Park supporters. Jarrett and Khalidi give us reason to believe that Obama’s decidedly pro-Palestinian inclinations are rooted in his core conception of who he is.

Obama came to political consciousness at college, and prior to his discovery of community organizing late in his senior year, his focus was on international issues. Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father, highlights his anti-apartheid activism during his sophomore year at California’s Occidental College. Obama’s anti-apartheid stance, however, was part of a far broader and more radical rejection of the West’s alleged imperialism. Obama himself tells us, in a famous passage in Dreams, that he was taken with criticism of “neocolonialism” and “Eurocentrism” during these early college years.

What Obama doesn’t tell us, but what I reveal in Radical-in-Chief , my political biography of the president, is that he was a convinced Marxist during his college years. More important, once Obama graduated and entered the world of community organizing, he absorbed the sophisticated and intentionally stealthy socialism of his mentors. Obama’s socialist mentors strongly supported what they saw as the “liberation struggles” carried on by rebels against American “oppression” throughout the world. So Obama’s continuous radical political history strongly suggests that his early support for Palestine’s “liberation struggle” grew out of authentic political conviction, not pandering.
Although Obama has long withheld his college transcripts from the public, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2008 that Obama took a course from Edward Said sometime during his final two undergraduate years at Columbia University. This was just around the time Obama’s ties to organized socialism were deepening, and certainly suggests a sincere interest in Said’s radical views. As Martin Kramer points out, in his superb 2008 review of Obama’s Palestinian ties, Said had just then published his book The Question of Palestine, definitively setting the terms of the academic Left’s stance on the issue for decades to come.

After Obama finished his initial community-organizing stint in Chicago and graduated from Harvard Law School, he settled down to a teaching job at the University of Chicago around 1992, and went about laying the foundations of a political career. Sometime not long after his arrival at the University of Chicago, Obama connected with Rashid Khalidi.

To say the least, Rashid Khalidi is a controversial fellow. To begin with, although Khalidi denies it, Martin Kramer has unearthed powerful evidence suggesting that Khalidi was at one time an official spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Also, in the years immediately prior to his friendship with Obama, Khalidi was a leading opponent of the first Gulf War, which successfully reversed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. According to Kramer, Khalidi condemned that action as an American “colonial war,” insisting that before we could end Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait, we would first have to end Israel’s supposedly equivalent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. As Kramer puts it, Khalidi’s influence helped turn the University of Chicago of the Nineties into “the hot place to be for . . . trendy postcolonialist, blame-America, trash-Israel” scholarship.

While we don’t know exactly when their friendship began, Khalidi was reportedly present at the famous 1995 kickoff reception for Obama’s first political campaign, held at the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. That is no minor point. We’ll see that as Khalidi’s close friend and political ally, Ayers played an integral role in the story of Obama’s relationship with Khalidi.
In May 1998, Edward Said traveled from Columbia to Chicago to present the keynote address at a dinner organized by the Arab American Action Network, a group founded by Rashid and Mona Khalidi. We’ve known for some time that Barack and Michelle Obama sat next to Edward and Mariam Said at that event. (Pictures are available.) It has not been noticed, however, that a detailed report on Said’s address exists, along with an article by Said published just days before the event (Arab American News, May 22, June 12, 1998). Between those two reports, we can reconstruct at least an approximate picture of what Obama might have heard from his former professor that day.
For the most part, Said focused his article (and likely his talk as well) on harsh criticisms of Israel, which he equated with both South Africa’s apartheid state and Nazi Germany. Said’s criticisms of the Palestinian Authority also were harsh. Why, he wondered, weren’t the 50,000 security people employed by the Palestinian Authority heading up resistance to Israel’s settlement building? In his talk, Said called for large-scale marches and civilian blockades of Israeli settlement building. To prevent Palestinian workers from participating in any Israeli construction, Said also proposed the establishment of a fund that would pay these laborers not to work for Israel. Presciently, Said’s talk also called on Palestinians to orchestrate an international campaign to stigmatize Israel as an illegitimate apartheid state.

So broadly speaking, this is what Obama would have heard from his former teacher at that May 1998 encounter. Yet Obama was clearly comfortable enough with Said’s take on Israel to deepen his relationship with Khalidi and his Arab American Action Network (AAAN). We know this, because Ali Abunimah, longtime vice president of the AAAN, has told us so.
In many ways, Abunimah is the neglected key to reconstructing the story of Obama’s alliance with Khalidi and AAAN. While Abunimah’s accounts of Obama’s alliance with AAAN have long been public, they are not widely known. Nor have Abunimah’s writings been pieced together with Obama’s history of support for AAAN. Doing so creates a disturbing picture of Obama’s political convictions on the Palestinian question.

In late summer 1998, for example, a few months after Obama’s encounter with Edward Said, Abunimah and AAAN were caught up in a national controversy over the alleged blacklisting of respected terrorism expert Steve Emerson by National Public Radio. In August of that year, NPR had interviewed Emerson on air about Osama bin Laden’s terror network. According to columnist Jeff Jacoby , however, Abunimah managed to obtain a promise from NPR to ban Emerson from its airwaves, on the grounds that Emerson was an anti-Arab bigot. It took Jacoby’s research and public objections to lift the ban.

Attempting to bar an expert on Osama bin Laden’s terror network from the airwaves is not exactly a feather in AAAN’s cap. Yet Obama continued his relationship with AAAN. Abunimah himself introduced Obama at a major fundraiser for a West Bank Palestinian community center a short time later in 1999. And that, says Abunimah, was “just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation.”
The year 2000 saw yet another public clash between Ali Abunimah and Jeff Jacoby over terrorism, along with a deepening alliance between Obama, Khalidi, Abunimah, and AAAN. In May 2000, Abunimah published a New York Times op-ed taking issue with a State Department report on the rising threat of terrorism from the Middle East and South Asia. The report focused on al-Qaeda, in particular. This was one of the most timely and accurate warnings we received in the run-up to 9/11. Yet Abunimah trashed the report. In a longer study released around the time of his op-ed, Abunimah went further, questioning Hezbollah’s designation as a terrorist organization, and suggesting that we ought to be, at the very least, “deeply skeptical” of the State Department’s warnings about Osama bin Laden.

As Abunimah continued to downplay the threat from bin Laden, his ties to Obama deepened. In 2000, AAAN founder Rashid Khalidi held a fundraiser for Obama’s ultimately unsuccessful congressional campaign. Abunimah remembers that Obama “came with his wife. That’s where I had a chance to really talk to him. It was an intimate setting. He convinced me he was very aware of the issues [and] critical of U.S. bias toward Israel and lack of sensitivity to Arabs. . . . He was very supportive of U.S. pressure on Israel.” Obama’s numerous statements over the years criticizing American policy for leaning too much toward Israel were vivid in Abunimah’s memory, he says, because “these were the kind of statements I’d never heard from a U.S. politician who seemed like he was going somewhere rather than at the end of his career.” Obama’s criticism of America’s Middle East policy was sufficient to inspire Abunimah to pull out his checkbook and, for the first time, contribute to an American political campaign.

Within a year, Obama did Khalidi and Abunimah a good turn as well. From his position on the board of Chicago’s Woods Fund, Obama, along with Ayers and the other five members of the board, began to channel funds to AAAN, totaling $75,000 in grants during 2001 and 2002. Now Obama and Ayers were effectively supporting the pro-Palestinian activism of AAAN’s vice-president, Abunimah, and funding an organization founded by their mutual friends, the Khalidis, in the process.
In the first year of the Woods Fund grant, Abunimah was the focus of a critical Chicago Tribune op-ed by Gidon Remba, a former translator in the Israeli prime minister’s office. Pointing to Abunimah, among others, Remba decried attempts by “Yasser Arafat’s Arab-American cheerleaders” to “vindicate the resurgence of attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian gunmen and Islamic suicide bombers.” Yet Obama and Ayers re-upped AAAN’s money in 2002.

An August 2002 profile of Abunimah in the Chicago Tribune quotes a supporter of Israel noting that, while he has heard Abunimah deplore terrorism, he has never heard Abunimah affirm that he “supports the continued right of Israel to exist alongside a future Palestine.” That is because Abunimah does not appear to recognize such a right. Instead, Abunimah favors a “one-state solution,” in which Israel’s identity as a Jewish state would be drowned out by an influx of Palestinian immigrants seeking the “right of return.” Abunimah’s book, One Country , which spells out his one-state solution, features an extended comparison between Israel and South African apartheid.

For Bill Ayers, Abunimah’s claims that Israel is an apartheid state, along with his arguments that international law at times licences violent resistance against Israel, surely resonate. As I show in Radical-in-Chief, Ayers has never abandoned his Weatherman ideology. The reason Ayers refuses to repudiate the Weathermen’s terrorist past is that he sees the group’s violent actions as justified resistance to the “internal colonialism” and apartheid of a racist American society. That likely explains why Ayers happily channeled grant money to AAAN, which makes a Weatherman-style argument against Israel.

In the acknowledgments of Resurrecting Empire , a monograph he worked on toward the end of his time in Chicago, Khalidi credits Ayers with persuading him to write it. A core theme of Resurrecting Empire is that the problems of the Middle East largely turn on America’s failure to force Israel to resolve the Palestinian question. This claim that Israel is the true root of the Middle East’s problems is what Martin Kramer identifies, correctly, I think, as the key lesson imparted to Obama by Khalidi.

Khalidi left Chicago in 2003, after the now-famous farewell dinner at which Obama thanked Khalidi for years of beneficial intellectual exchange. The article in which the Los Angeles Times reports on that dinner adds that many of Obama’s Palestinian allies and associates are convinced that, despite his public statements in support of Israel, Obama remains far more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause then he has publicly let on.

Specifically, Abunimah has said that, in the winter of 2004, Obama commended an op-ed Abunimah had just published in the Chicago Tribune, saying, “Keep up the good work!” (This is likely the op-ed in question.) According to Abunimah, Obama then apologized for not having said more publicly about Palestine, but also said he hoped that after his race for the U.S. Senate was over he could be “more up front” about his actual views.

It didn’t turn out that way. Once Obama’s new-found stardom gave him national political prospects, he swiftly shifted into the pro-Israeli camp, to Abunimah’s great frustration. Would a reelected Obama finally be able to be “more up front” about his pro-Palestinian views, belatedly fulfilling his promise to Abunimah? In short, was Obama’s pro-Palestinian past nothing but a way of placating a hard-Left constituency whose views he never truly shared? Or is Obama’s post-2004 tilt toward Israel the real charade?

The record is clear. Obama’s heritage, his largely hidden history of leftist radicalism, and his close friendship with Rashid Khalidi, all bespeak sincerity, as Obama’s other Palestinian associates agree. This is not to mention Reverend Wright — whose rabidly anti-Israel sentiments, I show in Radical-in-Chief, Obama had to know about — or Obama’s longtime foreign-policy adviser Samantha Power, who once apparently recommended imposing a two-state solution on Israel through American military action. Decades of intimate alliances in a hard-Left world are a great deal harder to fake than a few years of speeches at AIPAC conferences.

The real Obama is the first Obama, and depending on how the next presidential election turns out, we’re going to meet him again in 2013.