Behind Closed Doors


That New York City’s left-wing mayor had to voice his support for Israel in secret says much about the norms at work in today’s liberal Democratic circles. 

Read more at New York Post

More about: Bill de Blasio, Democrats, New York City


Why Is the White House Acting as Iran’s Lawyer?


So asks Lee Smith, who notes that time and again the Obama administration has defended and excused the Islamic Republic’s lies, its devious behavior, and its escalating demands:

In both making Tehran’s case to U.S. allies (from the White House’s P5+1 negotiating partners, to Middle East friends like Israel and Saudi Arabia), and shaping public perception of Iranian actions, the White House has made itself an indispensable friend to the clerical regime. Iran doesn’t have to worry about justifying its behavior—like its failure to meet obligations under the interim nuclear agreement and its outright lies—because it knows the [Obama] administration will do all the heavy lifting. . . .

The Iranians . . . violated the Joint Plan of Action [JPOA, the preliminary deal made in November 2013] by busting through the one-million-barrels-per-day monthly limit that the agreement puts on their energy exports. . . . The State Department used to rationalize this violation by predicting that in the subsequent month Iran’s exports would drop, thereby balancing out the average of their monthly exports. But as it became clear that the monthly exports were not ever going to balance out, the administration argued that Iran wasn’t really cheating because the JPOA has a loophole for condensates. . . .

The administration has also politicized intelligence so that Iran’s misbehavior never comes to light. . . . In short, it’s hard not to see the administration as Iran’s lawyer. Maybe it’s for the best of all possible reasons. Maybe the Obama administration really will get a good agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. But if it does, it will probably be years—maybe even decades—before the world knows for sure. Right now, the Iranians refuse to come clean about their nuclear activities, while the White House, instead of compelling Tehran to uphold its part of the deal, is helping them cover it up.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Plan to Change the Islamic World


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born Muslim apostate turned Dutch politician turned American intellectual, is the author of a recent book entitled Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now. Michael Totten writes in his review:

[U]p until a few years ago, Hirsi Ali thought Islam was unreformable. And something of an intellectual industry has sprouted up in the West for making that case. Somewhat surprisingly, however, she claims that the Arab Spring—botched as it was—proved her wrong. While it facilitated the rise of some Islamist and jihadist movements, it also gave millions of Muslims an opportunity to renounce them. Islamists came to power in Tunisia and Egypt, for example, but were quickly removed in spasms of buyer’s remorse. Hirsi Ali cites a 2014 Pew Research Center poll surveying 14,000 Muslims worldwide showing that huge majorities, almost everywhere, fear the [Islamists]—92 percent of Lebanese, 80 percent of Tunisians, and even 75 percent of Egyptians. It remains to be seen whether or not those majorities become the catalysts of a reformation.

In the meantime . . . Islamic State controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, and is expanding into Libya and Yemen. Bombs rip through markets in Baghdad. Foreign oil workers are beheaded in Libya. Cartoonists and Jewish citizens are assassinated in Paris; café patrons are taken hostage in Sydney. The majority of the world’s Muslims may stand aghast, but the perpetrators are adherents of Islam—no matter who admits it.

Most Muslims are still in denial because the ramifications of recognizing these monsters as their co-religionists are staggering. But, as Hirsi Ali notes, they’ll eventually have to face the truth. What’s more, the rest of us have a part to play in pressing the issue. “If Muslims simply refuse to renounce jihad completely,” she writes, “then the next best thing would be to call their bluff about Islam being a religion of peace.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Arab Spring, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam, Islamism, Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Religion


How Israel Avoided Greece’s Fate


Nowadays, Israel is touted as an example of how a small nation can achieve great economic success, while Greece makes headlines as an example of economic disaster. But 30 years ago, writes David Shamah, Israel stood poised to go down Greece’s path:

Over the past decade . . . Israel has been a model of fiscal stability, as it has cut its public sector, reduced debt, and—most importantly—encouraged foreign investments. . . . [But in] 1985 inflation was running at over 500 percent a year and Israel was mired in debt. By cutting the public sector, devaluating the shekel, and opening up the economy to foreign investors, policymakers laid the foundation for Israel’s current prosperity. . . .

According to World Bank data, GDP per capita in 2004 was higher in Greece—$25,837—than it was in Israel, at $21,796. However, the Greek GDP per capita has not grown in the past decade, while Israel’s GDP per capita has risen by approximately 50 percent to $32,691 (in 2015 dollars). . . . Most importantly, in terms of international credit—the lifeline that sustains economies in the modern world—Israel is also doing far better than Greece. . . .

Why has Greece fallen on such hard times? All one need do . . . is to examine the economic policies of Athens. Strong unions forced the government to provide all manner of social benefits, such as a full retirement pension at age fifty-seven. . . . Unable, or unwilling, to cut the budget, the government has consistently borrowed to fund its obligations—and that avenue has now been closed off. Foreign investment has, as a result, fallen to near-zero levels, and Greece has been shut out of bond markets since 2010.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Economics, European Union, Greece, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy

Why Middle East Studies Is a Mess, and Why It Matters


The legacy of Edward Said and his acolytes, writes Michael Rubin, has rendered the discipline of Middle East studies incapable of addressing the actual problems facing the Middle East, with severe consequences for U.S. policymaking:

The reason why Said remains so popular on campuses . . . is that he justified prioritizing politics above scholarly rigor. No longer would radical professors need to prove truth; they could just assert it and make it so. Up was down, wrong was right, and power was original sin. Middle East studies scholars have become so insulated within their Saidian universe that they never challenge each other’s basic assumptions. . . .

Within the United States, the best example of this is Rashid Khalidi. A former PLO press attaché turned academic, Khalidi is now the Edward Said Chair at Columbia University in New York. . . . He preached the idea that the region’s root problems lie not in radical ideologies but rather in grievances born from Western intervention and the Arab-Israeli conflict. . . .

Khalidi, Said, [and likeminded professors] all saw occupation and military intervention as the region’s core problems. President Obama followed their policy prescriptions to a “T.” He withdrew precipitously from Iraq and Afghanistan, “led from behind” in Libya, and allowed the Syrian conflict to metastasize. It might not fit in academe’s worldview, but Western power projection is the proverbial finger in the dike that prevents a deluge of chaos.

Read more at Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

More about: Academia, Barack Obama, Edward Said, Idiocy, Middle East, Rashid Khalidi

Where Did the Jewish Calendar Come From?


Returning from exile in the 5th century BCE, Jews brought with them the Babylonian names for the months and the Babylonian calendar itself. As Sacha Stern writes, it suited them:

The Babylonian calendar originated in Babylonia (southern Iraq) in the early second millennium BCE, spread to the rest of Mesopotamia in the late second millennium BCE, and then became, in the first millennium BCE, the official calendar of the great empires of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia, in use across the whole Near East. The Jews under Persian rule adopted it as their own calendar, as did many other peoples in the Persian empire.

The Jews adopted not only Babylonian month names but also the entire Babylonian calendar. This calendar was lunar, with each month beginning at the sight of a new moon. Since twelve lunar months are approximately eleven days shorter than the solar year, the Babylonian calendar was intercalated (or evened out) every two or three years by the addition of a thirteenth month (usually by duplicating the twelfth month, Adar, and less frequently by duplicating the sixth month, Elul). This allowed the lunar system to catch up with the sun and the seasons. This calendar may have been quite similar to the original Israelite one, which was most likely also lunar; indeed, this may have helped the Jews to adopt it without qualms. . . .

[A]fter the Jewish Hasmonean state broke off from its Hellenistic Seleucid overlords in the mid-2nd century BCE, the Jews no longer had any reason to comply with the calendar of distant Babylon, and their calendar soon acquired distinct features.

Read more at Bible Odyssey

More about: Ancient Persia, Babylonian Jewry, Halakhah, Maccabees, Religion & Holidays, Second Temple