Everybody remain calm – weep no tears for Soleimani. (Ok, this isn’t really a barrel. More like one of those shallow soup bowls.)
This week marks the 71st anniversary of Israeli independence and so, predictably, Hamas has to try to ruin the party. What was also predictable, sadly, was the reaction of so many in the West. Melanie Phillips has written a long blog post about it. Choice quote:
The Jews are often referred to as “the canaries in the mine.” With Western civilization in existential free-fall, the symbiotically linked contagions of Israel-bashing and antisemitism are both the cause and effect of this crisis.
Subscribing to the Arabs’ murderous falsehoods about Israel has destroyed the West’s moral compass – leaving it open to the murderous falsehoods about the people who gave it that moral compass in the first place and further blinding it to the forces threatening its own continued survival.
Read the whole thing here.
…in the New York Times, of all places!
If you see only an “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict, then nothing that Israelis do makes sense. (That’s why Israel’s enemies prefer this framing.) …
The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunni and Shiite; between majority populations and minorities. If our small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.
The wonderful Julie Lenarz (via her Facebook page) sums up what I think about Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.
I can’t think of a convincing reason why it’s smart to withdraw troops from Syria. But I also can’t think of a reason why Obama officials think they have a right to complain. They had 8 years to do good in Syria and they royally screwed up.
And this is all so terrible for the Kurds.
If ever something were going to make me believe Putin has something on Trump, abandoning Syria to Russia, Assad and Turkey is it.
I’m late to post about the great scholar of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, who passed away in May. This is a fine tribute (though there are certainly others) and in particular, Nordlinger points out that Lewis was a great friend of the Arabs. I love this:
A book by Lewis was translated into Hebrew and published by the Israeli defense ministry. The same book was translated into Arabic and published by the Muslim Brotherhood (unauthorized). In his preface to the Arabic version, the translator said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”
I believe Lewis was one of the only academics who truly understood modern Turkey and the woes of Islam’s (and Islamism’s) relationship (such as it is) with modernity. Full disclosure: he was a friend of my Significant Other, who had him up to Toronto as a speaker on many occasions. I’ve been trying to convince him to write about Lewis, but so far, to no avail. Should that change, will let you know here.
I mentioned Iran in my previous post – I wish I were surprised at the mealy-mouthed reactions of Western Europe and Canada and leftists in general to what is happening, but I’m not. After all the romanticizing and fetishizing of the niqab and the burqa and every other unfortunate aspect of Islamism, after trying to justify or downplay the blatant anti-Semitism of the regime in Tehran, after the weakness and lack of pride or support in what should be our own fundamental values, the only surprising thing would be if the protesters in Iran were given clearly-stated support from the left and from certain heads of state. As much as one finds President Trump unpleasant, his reaction to the protests has been commendable. (I am old enough to remember when that awful regime took over; it would be delightful to see it destroyed.)
I think Margaret Thatcher said it best:
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this about Barack Obama’s kick in the heart to Israel just as he left office. I was dubious about Trump then and while I am not thrilled with him now, he certainly made the right decision when it came to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The reaction to the decision was entirely predictable though I could not have foreseen how many people I “know” (on social media) know so little about the history of the Middle East. It’s exhausting, actually, reading some of the nonsense posted, including the innumerable “humour” (term used very loosely here) along the lines of “Palestinians recognize Texas as Part of Mexico” (an, er, “anti-Zionist” relative of mine posted that) or “World to Recognize Moscow as Capital of the United States” (a lefty friend of mine posted that) and so on. Get it? Get it? Hilarious! As though those scenarios were remotely comparable.
As an antidote to such foolishness, I give you links to three terrific columns to read and enjoy (the first two from total NeverTrumpers): John Podhoretz’s take is right here; Bret Stephens’ take is here; and Conrad Black writes about it all here.
For the record, I do think some otherwise sensible people are allowing their contempt for Trump (which he most definitely cultivates) to prevent them from seeing how righteous and overdue this decision was.
This talk by Robin Yassin-Kassab sums up almost entirely how I feel about the Euro-American/Canadian left and how, at times, it resembles the extreme right (they certainly meet where their anti-Semitism is concerned). I don’t agree with everything he says here, but I certainly agree with his analysis of the current tragedy in Syria, and his contempt for the left in general, even though he is a leftist. Interestingly, I think in some ways I probably am too (or rather, I think I am a fiscal conservative/libertarian-social leftist/liberal-animal rights advocate/hawk) in some ways, but due to their useful idiocy (at one point in this clip, he uses that term), I never want to be associated with them. At any rate, Yassin-Kassab captures the sophomoric anti-Western sentiments of much of the left since the 1960s, as well as their racism. Honestly, I have come to the conclusion that if one is searching for racism, classism and sexism, one need only glance left. (Yassin-Kassab has a go at Chomsky, Fisk and Cockburn here, too, which is good.)
The remarkable British historian of the Middle East turned 100 last week. Mosaic magazine published this feature about him and his prescience – 40 years ago he predicted the rise of radical Islam. Virtually no one else did.
Thus did the West receive its very first warning that a new era was beginning in the Middle East—one that would produce a tide of revolution, assassination, and terrorism, conceived and executed explicitly in the name of Islam.
Another slogan, “The End of History,” would make its appearance with the demise of the cold war in the early 1990s; it has since come and gone. “The Return of Islam” is still very much with us.
I say to anyone who wants to understand what has happened, what went wrong, to read his aptly-titled book, What Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity and the Middle East. I also recommend his book about Turkey and frankly, anything else he has written.
My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.
First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.
I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.
By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).
There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.
In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.
I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).