It’s Time for Joe Biden to Call Benjamin Netanyahu

Feb. 17 2021

Since the Biden administration came to office, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have both spoken with their Israeli counterparts, but the president has not yet placed a call to Prime Minister Netanyahu—a fact that by now has caused much speculation among Israeli pundits. Yesterday the White House press secretary was even asked about it. (She responded that the call would take place “soon.”) Jonathan Schanzer argues that the silence is starting to become a problem, and he’s not convinced by the argument that the White House is preoccupied with domestic concerns, or that it’s foreign-policy priorities don’t include the Middle East:

The Biden administration continues to issue statements about its intent to return to the highly controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Biden and Blinken tapped the controversial Rob Malley, [who played a key role in the original negotiations], as the envoy to try to resurrect that agreement. The appointment is one of several unmistakable signs that the Middle East remains a significant area of interest for this White House.

The longer Biden waits to engage, the more his silence can run the risk of signaling a deeper problem with Israel, [and] the more fears mount of a return to the bad old days of acrimony between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration.

There is an easy way for Biden to disabuse his critics of this notion. He needs to rip off the band-aid. He should speak to Netanyahu. It can be quick and breezy if they table the JCPOA discussion for another time. Or it can be substantive and potentially uncomfortable if they want to get down to business. Either way, it’s time to cut the act.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden, US-Israel relations

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter