Bashar al-Assad Is Using Chemical Weapons Again. Will the U.S. Avert Its Gaze?

For some time after the U.S. struck a Syrian airbase last April—in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons—Bashar al-Assad’s forces refrained from using poison gas. But in the past few weeks Damascus has fired chlorine gas-filled rockets at civilian neighborhoods at least six times. Noah Rothman asks if the Trump administration will once again enforce its red line:

The Trump administration now faces a moment of truth. It could preserve the moral authority it purchased after declining merely to scold the Syrian regime for deploying weapons of mass destruction against civilians, or it could retreat into a defensive crouch and act like the Syrian regime’s de-facto defense counsel. That, to its everlasting shame, was the Obama administration’s approach to the use of chlorine munitions in Syria. . . .

Chlorine is a dual-use chemical that has industrial applications and, as such, is not subject to the same global prohibition that nerve agents like sarin and VX are. But the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons lists chlorine as a choking agent with potentially lethal battlefield applications. . . .

The last administration’s efforts to downplay the severity of chlorine attacks in Syria were grotesque. President Obama’s appeal to Russia as a source of relief for the people of Syria—a nation that now actively blocks the international community’s efforts to extend the mandate of chemical-weapons inspectors in Syria—was craven.

The last administration wanted to avoid the demands that history made on it, and it was a disgrace. Will the Trump administration abandon the course correction it embarked upon last April? Will it retreat to the same obtuse legalisms to which Obama appealed, even as the worst humanitarian and military crisis of this century intensifies? Will this president shirk his duty to humanity and to history, too?

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More about: Barack Obama, Bashar al-Assad, Chemical weapons, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

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