Reconsider American Support for the Lebanese Army

Jan. 26 2018

Last week, a Lebanese military tribunal sentenced a journalist named Hanin Ghaddar—currently a fellow at a U.S. think tank—to six months in prison for the crime of “defaming the army.” The trial was held in absentia and closed to the public. Although a Lebanese national, Ghaddar (along with her son) is now effectively unable to return to Lebanon to see her family. Elliott Abrams explains why this case should be a cause of concern for the U.S.:

Americans should realize something about [the Lebanese army’s] kangaroo court: we are paying for it! [The U.S.] has given the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) over a billion dollars in military aid, including $123 million in 2017, and Lebanon is the fifth largest recipient of foreign military financing. Our ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, said publicly on October 31 that support for the LAF from State Department and Defense Department accounts totaled $160 million over the previous year.

Whatever we think we are supporting with that aid, surely we do not wish to help pay for a system of military courts that suppress freedom of speech and seek to punish someone for speaking in Washington. It’s worth adding that what Ghaddar said that elicited these attacks on her was the simple truth . . . “that the Lebanese military targets Sunni [terrorist] groups while showing preference to Shiite groups, such as Hizballah.”

When Congress next takes up military aid for Lebanon, this effort to suppress free speech—and to make telling the truth about Hizballah’s role in Lebanon illegal—should be item number one.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times