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What They Are Saying, Nov. 20, 2008
Learn to Enjoy the Quiet Whenever Israel's Bumped Off the Front Page
Historian Michael Oren writes in Ha'aretz (www.haaretz.com) on Nov. 9 that no news is good news for friends of Israel:
"The good news is that Israel is no longer in the news. And the bad news is that Israel is no longer in the news. For the past month, at least, Israel -- indeed, the entire Middle East -- has been out of the newspapers and from TVs in the United States, victim of a one-two media punch.
"First came the financial crisis, described as the worst since the Great Depression, and then the presidential election, the conclusion to one of the most colorful campaigns in American political memory.
"Israeli events that would have made the headlines in America -- Kadima's unsuccessful attempts to form a government, or the last round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations -- are now relegated to the back pages, if not left unreported altogether.
"This is good news for those Israelis who have always felt that they receive too much attention in the American press, that the Jewish state is unfairly placed under a media microscope intent on magnifying its faults. From this perspective, the current situation presents an unprecedented opportunity for censure-free action by Israel to clamp down on Palestinian terror and accelerate construction in the territories. Americans, preoccupied elsewhere, will hear neither the shots nor the hammering.
"But the absence of media interest in Israel is bad news for those eager to see America more engaged in securing a settlement freeze and advancing the peace process. Though not as powerful as the Israeli press, which can dictate national priorities and decision-making in its country, the media in the United States does influence the political agenda. In spite of Barack Obama's pledge to pursue an Arab-Israel accord, the president-elect may lack both the time and finances to take on a peace initiative. Nor will he, with domestic newspapers crammed with stories of layoffs and foreclosures, be under immediate pressure to embark for the distant Middle East.
"Whether one regards it as good news or bad, the falloff of coverage of Israel is almost certain to be temporary. Fighting on the border with Gaza or Lebanon, the achievement of an Israeli-Syrian accord, an Israeli airstrike on Iran -- some momentous event will restore the Jewish state to the headlines. Perhaps we should relish this period of American press indifference. Someday we'll miss it."
Time for a Change? 'Bush III' Flopped Completely at the United Nations
Scholar Anne Bayefsky writes in National Review (www.nationalreview.com) on Nov. 10 about American's future United Nations agenda:
"The U.N. is an uncomplicated place. Every sick, unsatiated tyrant, European has-been, or miserable wretch brainwashed about the Great Satan wants to take America down -- unless they are able to immigrate, of course. Their modus operandi? The United Nations.
"The beauty of it, from the perspective of the majority, is that Americans are paying for their own demise. Americans are even convinced that the flagellation is deserved.
"President Barack Obama will take over from where what might be called 'Bush III' left off. The foreign policy of Bush II [those pursued during his first years in office] was so different than that of the man currently in office, it's hard to ascribe them to the same human being.
"Even die-hard U.N. enthusiasts admit they were pleased with many aspects of the American-U.N. relationship over the last few years, particularly after Bush III fed Bush II's U.N. ambassador John Bolton to the wolves.
"Ongoing genocide in Darfur was shuffled off to the ponderous International Criminal Court. The Israel-Lebanon war was 'solved' with a Security Council resolution. The U.N. reform package, and any serious effort at economic oversight after Kofi Annan's Oil-for-Food scandal, was tossed out the window. The green light was given to a multi-billion dollar renovation of U.N. headquarters in midtown Manhattan, notwithstanding advice that it could have done for a fraction of the cost. Efforts to tie reform or accountability to American U.N. contributions were abandoned, and five billion a year flows smoothly from American taxpayers to U.N. bank accounts."
Europe Needs to Cultivate Moral Courage, Not Indulge in 'Tolerance'
Columnist Bret Stephens writes in The Wall Street Journal (www.opinionjournal.com) on Nov. 11 that commemorations of Kristallnacht are not a substitute for a defense of freedom:
"Sunday [Nov. 9] was the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. With some notable exceptions, Europe has opted to mark the occasion by missing its point.
" 'We must not be silent,' said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a memorial ceremony in Berlin. 'There can be no tolerance, for example, if the safety of the state of Israel is threatened by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.'
"Well said. Maybe the chancellor will turn next to the issue of the 2,000 German companies that still do business with Tehran, whose exports are up more than 14 percent.
"Less well said is a 'white paper on tolerance,' which, along with a draft of a 'European Framework Convention on Promoting Tolerance and Combating Intolerance,' was presented [last week] at a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. The meeting is generating interest, in part, because of the participation of representatives from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Muslim states -- none of which are especially known for their solicitude toward Jews.
"The convention proposes various legal penalties for the 'dissemination of any ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred,' as well as policies to promote 'special positive measures to further equal social development and ensure the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of all victims' of discrimination.
"But, if that sounds relatively anodyne, consider how radical Islamists in Europe have been using hate-speech codes to their advantage. In 2005, the Times of London reported that the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir -- proscribed in Germany for distributing anti-Semitic literature -- had launched a recruiting drive on college campuses under the aegis of a 'Stop Islamophobia' campaign.
"Much the same goes for other 'mainstream' Islamic groups in Europe, who would find in the proposed 'framework convention' a useful tool through which to shut down serious and legitimate concerns about the rise of Islamism -- along with its usual cargo of Israel- and Jew-hatred -- in Europe. One perverse result is that these groups will now be in a position to dictate the terms of what constitutes acceptable speech.
"So here we are, 70 years after Kristallnacht, as good an example as any of what happens when the evil of the few (or, perhaps, not-so-few) takes advantage of the cowardice of the many. If there's a lesson here, it's in the need not for 'tolerance,' but for moral courage. Now as before, Europe finds it in short supply."