Juneteenth and the Deceptive Hustle

June 19, 1865 was the day that slavery came to an end in Texas and generally marks the end of the abominable practice in the Confederate States. While President Lincoln may have emancipated the slaves on January 1, 1863, a bloody civil war would have to be fought for another two and a half years for black people to gain their freedom.

The black slaves had their lives, property, work product and dignity stolen from them, and their descendants came to the U.S. Congress on June 19, 2019 to ask for reparations from the United States. It is a claim that is appropriate and just. History is clear about the crime and consideration must be given.

Actor Danny Glover, right, and author Ta-Nehisi Coates, left, testify about reparation for the descendants of slaves during a hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Various speakers on different platforms argued that the period of injustice continued well past 1865, as laws remained which kept black people from obtaining citizenship, the right to vote, to receive a proper education and ability to work freely, and as such, the reparations must cover this time frame as well. There is some truth to these arguments although not as clear cut as the situation regarding slavery. Should every child who ever received a bad education (or their descendants) be allowed to sue the government? Are all descendants of women who also didn’t have the right to vote entitled to compensation?

The recitations of wrongdoings kept coming, and the arguments became even more tenuous.

Talking heads with lofty titles argued that slavery exists today in the form of the mass incarceration and home foreclosures among black people, as well as the income gap and wealth gap between black people and white people. They argue that these modern day forms of slavery and injustice which must also be addressed through similar mechanisms of reparations.

This is a dangerous and slippery slope of blending real and perceived rights.

Prison reform is an important issue worth reviewing. Whether the government should forgive and wipe clean the arrest records for minor crimes must be discussed, and there is seemingly no question that such matter has impacted the black community disproportionately. But the laws were made for all Americans to benefit all Americans. There was no malice targeting the entire black community.

Home foreclosures was a matter of individuals, of all backgrounds, not paying their mortgages to financial institutions. These were transactions between homeowners and banks, not governmental laws prejudicing a segment of society. U.S. taxpayers should not provide any compensation to any single segment of the population because of personal financial matters. To fold this unfortunate situation into the discussion of slavery is absurd.

Lastly, the inequality of outcomes regarding income and wealth are byproducts of thousands of variables, including education, location, vocation and marital status. An equality of outcome is not a right, regardless of how many times the alt-left demands. If there are issues regarding the causes of income or wealth inequality based on race, then those are the only items which should be reviewed, and such consideration in no way means that there must be cash compensation offered to the black community. For example, imagine the black community sues the U.S. government in the future because of the disproportionate number of abortions which black women have, thereby reducing the black population and proportionate power. That’s an outcome which results from the choices made by black people, not one mandated by the government.

Reparations for the U.S. government’s crime of slavery is a worthwhile point to consider but it has become entangled in the current commentary about income and wealth inequality. It is a deceptive hustle to broaden the discussion and fatten the greenback pie, but ultimately undermines the legitimacy of the Juneteenth discussions.


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Considering Mohammed Morsi and Hamas: The Muslim Brotherhood in Power

Mohammed Morsi, the once democratically-elected ruler of Egypt, died on June 17, 2019 while in court. His death is a useful time to consider the difference between most Arab Muslim countries dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood and that of the Palestinians.

Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood was developed in Egypt in the early 20th century, not long after the British and French Mandates took control of most of the Middle East. It espoused the adopting of Islamic sharia law in all aspects of society and the unification of Muslim lands to thwart western “imperialism.”

The Brotherhood grew to a major force and was involved in a number of violent acts including assassinations before it was banned by Gamel Abdel Nasser. His successors Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were similarly cautious about them, but it was the “Arab Spring” in 2011 that truly afforded the group to chance to come out from the shadows and run aggressively in the country’s election in 2012. It won 52% of the vote and was declared the winner on June 18, 2012, with the party’s leader Mohamed Morsi sworn in as president on June 30.

Morsi’s tenure would last just a year as concern about how his reforms would play out worried non-Muslims and liberals. The military took over and arrested Morsi and hundreds of other members of the Brotherhood. Many were sentenced to death, with several – like Morsi – spending the rest of their lives in courts pleading for their lives.

Palestinian Arabs and Hamas

The Muslim Brotherhood’s branch in Israel and Gaza was launched in 1987 together with the first Intifada, and called Hamas. Hamas published its charter in 1988, calling for the death of Jews around the world and the complete destruction of the Jewish State of Israel. It was the most antisemitic ruling document of any party ever written – including from Nazi Germany.

Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) viewed Hamas as a political rival to his own Fatah party. He did not ban it as much as tried to use and abuse it, much the way political enemies do.

When the Palestinians created the Palestinian Authority and held elections for president and parliament in 2005 and 2006, respectively, Hamas participated with the support of the U.S.’s Bush administration. Hamas won 58% of the parliamentary seats. In its rivalry with Fatah, it fought a mini-war in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip, which it continues to hold to this day.

Saudi Arabia and other Muslim States

The Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Saudi monarchy for both allowing U.S. soldiers on “Muslim land” during Operation Desert Storm, and the ongoing close relationship that the monarchy maintains with the west. The government designated the group as a terrorist organization in 2014, as a long developing post-9/11 U.S. initiative on the “War on Terror.”

Syria banned the Brotherhood and considered membership in the group a capital offense as far back as 1980. The UAE labeled the group a terrorist organization in 2014, around the same time as Saudi Arabia.

The principal backers of the Muslim Brotherhood are Qatar and Turkey. Its messages can be found throughout the Qatar-owned media outlet, Al Jazeera. Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved his country much further towards sharia over his tenure. Both Turkey and Qatar are significant backers of Hamas.


The Muslim Brotherhood has some deep support in the Muslim Middle East, with calls for institutionalization of sharia law and a caliphate, quite similar to the goals of the Islamic State/ ISIS. The MB has been banned and prosecuted by the leaders of most of the Muslim countries as a threat to their ruling status, and the leaders use their military and court system to suppress the group.

The Palestinian Authority does not have a strong leader. Mahmoud Abbas has no military and barely a court system. Abbas cannot bring himself to strike a compromise joint government, and he risks losing foreign funding if the Palestinian government includes a terrorist organization. His attempts to woo the Palestinian Arabs to Fatah have been weak, as he has not brought the economy and self-determination which many had hoped for.

Morsi’s life and death is a window into the Muslim Middle East: people who desire a caliphate and to be ruled by sharia law, in competition with leaders who want to maintain their own power as well as access to money and respect from the western world. As long as that non-Muslim world continues to demand Middle East oil and shipping through the Suez Canal, the tension will continue. When it stops caring, the caliphate of the indigent will be here.


Related First.One.Through articles:

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An Easy Boycott: Al Jazeera (Qatar)

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The Press Are Not Guardians of the Galaxy

There are many freedoms which are cherished in the United States, as outlined in the Bill of Rights. These freedoms were specifically enumerated to curtail the power of the government. Key provisions reserved for individuals can be found in the very first of the ten amendments made to the U.S. Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Individuals were given the right to speak their minds, to associate with people of their own choosing and to publicly write and disseminate materials without government interference. The government was specifically limited in forcing upon people a particular narrative.

That was in 1791.

Several items have changed the way Americans and (much of the world) view these key principles of freedom:

  • The Internet and social media have enabled people to have platforms which can reach every corner of the world, making each person potentially more influential than the mainstream media
  • The mainstream media’s business model has been collapsing as money from classifieds and advertising abandoned the press for those new media platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter with greater reach, driving the remaining corporate media titans to become more partisan and inflammatory in their content to retain and attract viewership
  • Social media is not simply a soap box nor bulletin board, but includes a range of sophisticated algorithms which direct viewers towards a prioritized list of media to consume, making the platforms themselves powerful disseminaters of information

These first three points are critical to understanding the tension between the democratization of the press: how large media companies backed by large corporate advertising dollars are dissolving in the face of smaller and more niche sources of media. Those smaller media sources can survive as hobbies of individuals and can attract micro-audiences and some actually become larger than the historic media agencies.

Against this democratization of the press which has unfolded over the past two decades is the growth of global terrorism:

  • History has shown (the Holocaust) how propaganda can quickly descend into a genocide of innocent people prompting the introductions of hate speech laws which inherently limit free speech
  • World leaders and the press have presented their case that leading global terrorist organizations like the Islamic State and al Qaeda effectively recruited individuals online, and have pushed the social media platforms to remove the content of those organizations
  • Governments have similarly asked the social media platforms to alter their algorithms to intersperse a range of ideas to people who may be searching for niche extremist ideas

Lastly, in addition to the democratization of the press and growth of terrorism prompting governments to intervene in the business of social media, is the more general backdrop of society and how social media is currently used:

Taken together, governments and global organizations are infringing on many freedoms in the stated desired hope of promoting a more peaceful and inclusive society.

It sounds noble as a goal and problematic in practice. Limiting speech that incites violence is logical and lawful, but calling non-violent speech a form of illegal “microaggression” is an assault on the First Amendment. Perhaps a person could get over a very limited number of restrictions if the world would indeed become more peaceful. Perhaps, but that is beside the point here.

The issue is that the limitations on individual speech and associations online are being advanced while the mainstream media is becoming ever more inflammatory and biased. The dynamic that governments were held in check by a free press in a balance of power with the press acting as a guardian of the people is a principle which may have had a shelf life from 1791 to 2000, but no longer applies in a world where the people’s voices are just as loud.

Consider two statements made by the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres over the last few days:

On social media contributing to hatred and violence: “Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of intolerance and hate-based violence targeting worshipers of many faiths. In recent days alone, a synagogue in the United States and a church in Burkina Faso have come under attack….

Parts of the Internet are becoming hothouses of hate, as like-minded bigots find each other online, and platforms serve to inflame and enable hate to go viral. As crime feeds on crime, and as vile views move from the fringes to the mainstream, I am profoundly concerned that we are nearing a pivotal moment in battling hatred and extremism.

That is why I have set in motion two urgent initiatives: devising a plan of action to fully mobilize the United Nations system’s response to tackling hate speech, led by my Special Representative on Genocide Prevention; and exploring how the United Nations can contribute in ensuring the safety of religious sanctuaries, an effort being led by my High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.”

On Freedom of the Press:A free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights. No democracy is complete without access to transparent and reliable information. It is the cornerstone for building fair and impartial institutions, holding leaders accountable and speaking truth to power….

When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price. On World Press Freedom Day, I call on all to defend the rights of journalists, whose efforts help us to build a better world for all.

The concepts that the head of the U.N. put forward taken together are ancient: the press is no longer the vehicle for “transparent and reliable information.” It is as jaundiced and bigoted as social media. Protecting the press while quashing social media would be the opposite of speaking truth to power; it would be empowering the press at the expense of the people, not in favor of the people.

Consider the leading mainstream media organization The New York Times. It’s portrayal of the Israeli-Arab Conflict is beyond biased. It posts articles and cartoons vilifying Jews and the Jewish State over and again while it whitewashes the antisemitism of Palestinians. Should the bigots of The NY Times control the narrative while individuals on social media explaining Muslim antisemitism be silenced? Who gets to decide if liberal or conservative ideas have a right to be shared or censored?

Journalists are no longer limited to the large press organizations but can be found throughout social media. Their rights must be defended as vigorously as any.

A free press without free speech for all would be a tyranny of the worst sort.

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The Debate About Two States is Between Arabs Themselves and Jews Themselves

The common refrain surrounding the Arab-Israeli Conflict is that the Israelis and Arabs need to find a compromise solution that will work for both parties. People on the left believe that Israel, as the entity which is much stronger than the Palestinian Authority, must make the majority of that compromise. For those on the right, Israel is the smaller party that has always been under attack by the surrounding Arab and Muslim world, and therefore will demand that Arabs must make significant concessions.

This viewpoint is valid in concept, but lacks any nuance to capture the situation as it exists today. In reality, it is the Palestinian Arabs themselves and the Israelis themselves who are torn on the path towards an enduring peace. Until each party can arrive at a consensus internally, the only bridge with consensus regarding a two state solution is found between the Palestinian Authority leadership and far left progressive Jews; a failed partnership, as the PA is despised by the Arab masses and fellow Jews in Israel and the diaspora consider the progressives a dangerous fringe group, as discussed below.

The Arabs

The Palestinian Arabs have three distinct viewpoints regarding the conflict, and a fourth approach among Israelis Arabs who share some commonality with Jews.

  1. Hamas. Hamas has no interest in a two-state solution as they believe that Israel has no right to exist. While it may make some short-term accommodations related to a cease-fire or an interim acceptance for a two-state solution, the concept of an enduring peace between two countries is abhorrent to Hamas and all of its supporters.
  2. The Palestinian Authority. The PA is a corrupt and inept kleptocracy which seeks a two-state solution to empower and enrich themselves. It has stated it will make the great “compromise” of not demanding the entirety of Israel as part of its state and “very reasonably” demand that its country be stripped of any Jews while refusing to accept Israel as a Jewish State. From such perch, the PA flies around the world with honor, pomp and circumstance while fattening their bellies as foreign nations pour money into the wallets of its leadership.
  3. The Palestinians. The Palestinian Arabs have no interest in a two-state solution according to their own polls, even if they get everything which the PA demands. They are fed up with everybody – the PA, Hamas, the Israelis and the Arab world which has forgotten about them. They view any and every deal with deep distrust.

This is not very promising. The only Palestinians who want the two-state solution today is a leadership which has no legitimacy as it is ten years past its stated term limit, and the majority of Palestinians want the acting leadership to resign.

A softer position in the Arab world which is closer to the Jewish positions on two states is held by Israeli Arabs.

Israeli Arabs. The Israeli Arabs are eager for a two state solution which looks very different than what the PA has proposed. They want NO RETURN of any Palestinian refugees into Israel. They want Israel to be recognized as the nation state of the Jewish people. They demand institutions that are transparent and devoid of any fraud – all desires which the PA will not accept.


Arabs in the Old City of Jerusalem
(photo: First.One.Through)

The wide range of opinions regarding a two state-solution is not limited to Arabs, as Jews also have their own spectrum of ideas.

The Jews

  1. The Far Right. Israel has a number of political parties including Yisrael Beiteinu, United Right (each with 5 seats in the new Knesset), Zehut and the New Right (which got zero seats in the 2019 election) who support annexing Judea and Samaria/ the area east of the Green Line (EGL) commonly called the “West Bank.” The extent of Palestinian “sovereignty” would be limited to Gaza which will be denied any standing army, and essential be an entity with autonomy but will likely need to be a territory of either Egypt, Jordan or Qatar. Israel would likely never permit it to be aligned with Turkey.
  2. The Right. Is represented by the majority Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is in favor of annexing blocs of the West Bank such as the Gush Etzion area and Maale Adumim, but would give the Palestinian Authority large sections of the West Bank where the majority of Palestinian Arabs live including Areas A and B and parts of Area C. There would be no admittance of any Stateless Arabs from Palestine (SAPs). Good news is that the Israelis just held elections so there is clarity that this is the majority consensus view.
  3. The Left.The left is represented by the Blue and White party which came in second in the Israel elections. They would allow as many as 100,000 SAPs into Israel as part of a peace deal and give virtually the entirety of the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem to the PA. A bit further to the left in Israel are the Labor and Meretz parties in Israel (6 and 4 seats, respectively) and in the diaspora in groups like J Street and the Israel Policy Forum who oppose the notion of Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish people.
  4. The Far Left. Believes that Israel should cease to exist as a Jewish State. They advocate for folding all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza into a bi-national state with no special rights or privileges for Jews. Essentially the Hamas platform, without the murder of Jews, but with all of the demonization. There is virtually no one in Israel with such views, but is in vocal extremist diaspora organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace, the New Israel Fund and Code Pink.

Lining up the groups against each other reveals interesting bedfellows between Arabs and Jews:

  • Hamas <> JVP/ Code Pink
  • the PA <> Labor/ J Street
  • Israeli Arabs <> Likud/ Republican Jewish Coalition
  • some Israeli Arabs <> Yisrael Beiteinu/ the New Right
  • The Palestinians <> everyone who has given up hope for any solution

Hamas, JVP, Code Pink, Students for Justice in Palestine and similar groups have tried to gain legitimacy in the public sphere. Former US President Jimmy Carter blessed Hamas despite its vile antisemitic charter and the United Nations has sought to fold it into the Palestinian Authority. Groups like SJP are getting awards on college campuses like New York University. These are hate groups and should be condemned and boycotted by everyone who wants to see an enduring peace in the Middle East. They will never be accepted by any Israeli administration forging a peace settlement, and will only make Israelis move further rightward.

J Street and progressives around the world have been reaching out to the PA as the best chance for peace. However, the PA is despised and disrespected by Palestinians. Until there are legitimate Palestinian elections, reaching out to the PA is a fool’s errand. Most Jews and conservatives see through the chimera and think J Street’s moves to weaken Israel and go against the Israeli government by advancing condemnations at the United Nations and promoting a deeply flawed Iranian nuclear deal are dangerous and divisive. The liberal media mostly follows this narrative and will promote the PA as “moderate” which is counter-factual and J Street as “mainstream” which is liberal wishful thinking. However, if they can tack towards the center instead of continuing to lurch leftward, perhaps they can be part of forging an enduring solution instead of today’s alt-left miasma.

For their part, Israeli Arabs and Likud consider the past decade a tremendous success. While the neighboring region had wars killing nearly a million people in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries; with millions of war refugees scattered around the world; military coups taking over Egypt and almost Turkey; and heads of state chopped off in Libya, Israel was relatively calm. When the financial markets took the western world into an abyss, Israel emerged unscathed and its economy boomed. Riding the status quo has worked, and selectively extending that secret sauce with more global partnerships and annexing blocs of the West Bank are logical next steps.

However, the masses are unhappy. The lack of self-determination for the SAPs is not in anyone’s interest and everyone should want to see a resolution to their status. But with no consensus between the Arabs themselves and Israelis themselves, there is little hope for an enduring peace anytime soon.

It may therefore be time for some Israeli Arabs to assume a leadership role in the negotiations to help both the Arabs and Jews each reach a centrist consensus among themselves, and then ultimately with each other.


Israeli Arab women entering the Western Wall Plaza
(Photo: FirstOneThrough)


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The Only Precondition for MidEast Peace Talks

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Prostitution and the Hijab

When new United States member of the House of Representatives Ilhan Omar came into Congress, she was afforded the opportunity to wear her religious head covering, a hijab, onto the House floor as a result of a recent change in House rules. Since 1837, a rule had been in place that prohibited the wearing of any hats in the chamber, but the House opted to make accommodations for people who wore head coverings for religious reasons.

There was a time when wearing hats indoors was considered uncouth and disrespectful of the institutions. Many places still ask people to remove their hats during the recitation of the national anthem or upon entering a church. These are customs that come from Christian Europe that do not necessarily square with everyone’s thoughts on what does and does not show proper respect.

The Hijab

Many Muslim women wear a variety of head coverings depending on religious practice and custom. Some, like Omar, wear the hijab which covers their hair. Others put on a full veil covering the entire face and body, called a burqa. In their culture, these are signs of religious modesty.

Rep. Ilhan Omar in a hijab
There are other people in the world who find the hijab and burqa problematic and a sign of the repression of women.

In France, a devoutly secular society, there is a ban on wearing anything outwardly religious in universities. The country even went so far as to ban the wearing of modest swimsuits, “burkinis,” on the beach, all in the name of “secularism.”

Denmark recently joined other European countries in banning the full face covering of the burqa for the professed reason of public safety. The rationale seemed to pass the smell test of rationality for many, even though the law specifically carved out the wearing of facial covering for the purpose of combating cold weather. I guess public safety takes a hiatus in the winter.

The smug Europeans covered themselves in a porous fig leaf which any Adam could clearly see through: the governments were passing laws to bar Muslims from openly practicing their religion in a manner they saw fit. The Europeans passed laws which did not impact their own Christian sensibilities and way of life, while curbing religious freedoms of non-Christians, as way of keeping the alt-right and alt-left from protesting the new laws.

While the Christian alt-right was happy to stem the flow of Muslims into their countries, the secular alt-left and liberals favored the bans arguing that hijabs and burqas were based on discriminatory practices against women, the same way that female genital mutilation is a religious practice fomented by men against women. As such, they rationalized their bigotry that banning the head covering is actually freeing women from oppression.

The western mind is seemingly incapable of imagining that a woman would want to choose to cover her hair and live a religious life under her own terms.

The same is true for prostitution.

Prostitution

The oldest profession has progressed very little.

It is perhaps not surprising that very religious and conservative countries like Sudan do not only prohibit prostitution and homosexuality, but they also sentence the offenders to a gruesome public death. However, it is remarkable that so few western countries have taken the liberating approach to legalize prostitution. Among the handful which have legalized the profession are New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Brazil and Colombia.

By legalizing prostitution (and outlawing “pimping” where a third party controls how and where one works) prostitutes are able to avail themselves of the protection of law enforcement. The benefits are multiple: human trafficking drops; protection for women (who dominate the industry) increases; and tax revenue for the state is created.

Yet there remains a bias in many western minds – including very liberal ones – that there is no way that a woman would consider having sex for money freely. The industry was born at a time when women were viewed as chattel and as second class members of society. Somehow pornography and massages pass muster, but sex-for-money passes a bright line.

For many westerners, prostitution is like a hijab: an insulting practice that denigrates women. They adamantly refuse to consider or acknowledge that many women freely CHOOSE to live in a manner which doesn’t fit into their own conception of a proper society.

Governments should be very cautious in dictating societal norms and accepted behavior, and instead focus on ensuring a world in which people have the liberty of living a life of their own choosing in safety. If a woman wants to wear a hijab – I say, go on sister. If a woman wants to be a prostitute – laws should enable it to be done safely.

Let’s not assume we know what’s best for women by outlawing liberal sex-for-money or conservative religious head-covering. Women should be afforded the freedom to pursue happiness in a manner of their choosing.


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Rep. Ilhan Omar and The 2001 Durban Racism Conference

The new far-left member of the House of Representatives Ilhan Omar was unfairly tied to the terrorist attacks against America on September 11, 2001 by Republicans in West Virginia. She was just turning 20 years old at the time of the attacks and had nothing to do with those mass murders, nor has she said anything since that time to suggest that she supported the killings of thousands of Americans.

However, many of Omar’s comments over the past few weeks do strongly correlate to the Durban Conference Against Racism which took place one week before the 9/11 attacks, specifically her invective against the Jewish State and those who support it.


CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewing Rep. Ilhan Omar

 

United Nations World Conference against Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

The World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) met from August 31 to September 7, 2001 with a noble goal: to eradicate racism and intolerance and to promote human rights. However, the conference agenda was hijacked into an anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist seminar promoted by several Arab and Muslim countries as early as February 2001 at the Asian preparatory meeting in Iran.  The Arab countries and Muslim countries contended that the “occupation of Palestine” was racially motivated, and that “Zionism is racism,” so insisted on keeping the issue at WCAR.

Several countries, including the United States, Canada and members of the EU attempted to remove any language which dealt with regional issues like Israel-Palestine at a conference meant to deal with racism generally. The US considered not attending WCAR due to the presence of the Zionism-racism language, but ultimately opted to send a mid-level representative rather than US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

At the conference itself, the singling out of Israel continued. The situation became so intolerable for many, that the American and Israeli attendees withdrew, as did the Jewish Caucus at the NGO seminar nearby.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell made the following comment upon withdrawing from the conference:

“Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. I have taken this decision with regret, because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that the Conference could have made to it. But, following discussions today by our team in Durban and others who are working for a successful conference, I am convinced that will not be possible. I know that you do not combat racism by conferences that produce declarations containing hateful language, some of which is a throwback to the days of “Zionism equals racism;” or supports the idea that we have made too much of the Holocaust; or suggests that apartheid exists in Israel; or that singles out only one country in the world–Israel–for censure and abuse.

At the NGO conference, Jewish attendees were asked to leave the session about Palestinian rights because Jews were “biased and couldn’t be counted on to act in the interest of general human rights.” The NGO group also stripped language which Jews had requested which stated:

“We are concerned with the prevalence of Anti-Zionism and attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel through wildly inaccurate charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, as a virulent contemporary form of anti-Semitism leading to firebombing of synagogues, armed assaults against Jews, incitements to killing, and the murder of innocent Jews, for their support for the existence of the State of Israel, the assertion of the right to self determination of the Jewish people and the attempts, through the State of Israel, to preserve their cultural and religious identity.”

The United Nations adopted a resolution to endorse the Durban Declaration and Program of Action in March 2002 by a vote of 134 to 2 against (the United States and Israel) with two abstentions (Australia and Canada). The NGO Forum also adopted a declaration, which included language calling for the end of “Israeli systematic perpetration of racist crimes, including war crimes, acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing” and called Israel a “racist, apartheid state.” Many NGOs disassociated themselves from the declaration, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson described the NGO Forum as “hateful, even racist,” and refused to receive or endorse the NGO Declaration.

Sadly, the conference designed to promote tolerance excluded the Jewish State from the umbrella of human rights and dignity.

Several years later, in the waning days of the George W Bush administration, it continued to voice its concern about the April 2009 WCAR Follow-up, and the danger of working with parties who give an outward nod towards peace while seeking to inflame anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

Ilhan Omar and the Alt-Left Congressional Freshmen

The 2018 US elections fielded the most diverse class of people ever in the country’s history. There were more women, more immigrants and more people of diverse backgrounds. It appeared to be a moment of break-through for America as a broad welcoming society of the people for the people.

But, like the Durban Conference, the picture of harmony in diversity masked darker forces. Many of those people running were alt-left extremists who described themselves as “Democratic-Socialists.” The group included:

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Julia Salazar in New York
  • Sarah Smith in Washington
  • Rashida Tlaib in Michigan
  • James Thompson in Kansas
  • Summer Lee and Sara Innamorato who both unseated longtime Democratic incumbents, and Elizabeth Fiedler and Kristin Seale.

Ilhan Omar, an immigrant from Somalia, joined Rashida Tlaib to become the first two Muslim women in Congress. And their pro-Palestinian and anti-Capitalist views rapidly conflated into anti-Semitic comments and tweets.

  • On November 16, 2012, Omar tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel
  • In the summer of 2018, when asked to address whether her 2012 comments were antisemitic, Omar responded “These accusations are without merit. They are rooted in bigotry toward a belief about what Muslims are stereotyped to believe.”
  • She later tweeted that Israel is an apartheid state. “Drawing attention to the apartheid Israeli regime is far from hating Jews.

By the time Omar was elected to Congress, she was fully morphing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

  • In February 2019, Omar claimed that people only supported Israel because of Zionist money “It’s all about the Benjamins baby!
  • She followed up that comment that people who supported Israel have misplaced loyalties to foreign entities “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.

For Omar – and many countries that supported the Durban Declaration – Israel is an evil, racist apartheid state and people who support such an entity are backing evil and the theft of Palestinian land and heritage. They believe that Israel supporters convince politicians to bless the sinister state through bribes, using “immoral” capitalistic riches to absolve and shield the colonialism of the Jewish State.

In truth, Omar and the Durban Declaration have created a modern day blood libel in which Jews take Palestinian Arab lives instead of Christian babies, to create the modern State of Israel, rather than matzah for Passover. For the alt-left Israel-demonizers, the supporters of such a blatantly racist Israeli regime are either racists (like US President Donald Trump) or are being played by the Jewish puppet masters (the non-Jewish Democratic leadership).

The fact that Jews are indigenous to the holy land going back thousands of years is ignored; that Israel is the sole thriving liberal democracy for thousands of miles, sharing western values is falsified; that the Jewish State is a small country with serious security threats in a hostile region which seeks its destruction, and is worthy of US military assistance is rejected. While liberals are often pro-Palestinian, these alt-left “progressives” are actively anti-Israel, rejecting Jewish history and rights.

The Democratic leadership must now take a stand and make a choice: it can clearly condemn the statements and sentiments of Omar and strip her of committee membership, or it can coddle the alt-left wing of the party, to avoid offending the first black woman Muslim in Congress and her backers.

President Bush made a clear decision in walking from the Durban Conference: American values will not let it act as a cloak to vile antisemitism on the world stage. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi make a similar move and remove Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and declare that Democratic values extend beyond the #MeToo movement stripping men of offices who were accused of sexual assault, to #JeSuisJuif and evict Jew-haters from positions of power? If the Democratic leadership and presidential hopefuls were looking for an actual “I am Spartacus” moment, the time is now.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Democratic Party is Tacking to the Far Left-Wing Anti-Semitic Fringe

Eyal Gilad Naftali Klinghoffer. The new Blood Libel.

“Protocols of the Elders of Zion – The Musical”

The Democrats’ Slide on Israel

An Open Letter to Non-Anti-Semitic Sanders Supporters

The Invisible Anti-Semitism in Obama’s 2016 State of the Union

The Parameters of Palestinian Dignity

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Between Terrorism and Sexual Harassment is a lot of Money

Former CEO of CBS Les Moonves was due to receive $120 million as part of his severance package upon leaving the firm, however, the CBS board of directors has decided not to pay him after lawyers for the firm concluded that he was in breach of his employment contract for sexually harassing a number of women.

While that was going on, the government of Qatar transferred $15 million, as the second installment of a total $90 million, to roughly 27,000 employees of Hamas who run the Gaza Strip. It did this with the approval of Israel.


Qatari official Mohammed al-Emadi (left) with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in 2015.
(photo: Ashraf Amra/APA/Landov)

For its part, the Palestinian Authority, run by Hamas’s rival Fatah, also pays terrorists that kill and injure Jews. In 2018, the “Martyr’s Fund” paid roughly $330 million to about 35,000 families.

It’s an interesting lesson about the standards related to payouts in the West compared to those paid out in the Arab Middle East.

In the United States, $120 million was denied because the person was accused of harassing women. However, in the Palestinian territories, terrorists were awarded $420 million for terrorizing Jews.

Even anti-Semites and feminists would likely acknowledge that murder is worse than harassing women. But the issue here is not the action in the absolute, but one of legality and situation: Les Moonves did something abhorrent in the eyes of Americans and illegal in the view of attorneys, while the Palestinian terrorists did something natural in the eyes of the United Nations and welcome in the view of Muslim and Arab countries.

Not only was Moonves not supposed to attack women as part of his job, it arguably undermined the compensation scheme in his contract. That is in sharp contrast to Hamas which is expected to kill Israeli Jews as made abundantly clear in its charter and in the speeches and songs of its leadership “Killing Jews is worship that brings us closer to Allah.”

The message is clear: the key to pocketing tens of millions of dollars is to focus on doing what people want and expect of you. For much of the Muslim Arab world, that’s killing Jews.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The United Nations Once Again “Encourages” Hamas

CNN’s Embrace of Hamas

The New York Times wants the military to defeat terrorists (but not Hamas)

While Palestinians Fire 400 Rockets, the United Nations Meets to Give Them Money

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

Extreme and Mainstream. Germany 1933; West Bank & Gaza Today

Palestinians are “Desperate” for…

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Anniversaries of Thanksgiving

Today I am a Man.
More accurately, today I am a middle-aged man.

At my bar mitzvah 40 years ago, I recited prepared words: the Torah reading, the Haftorah, and Musaf. My dvar Torah was written in its entirety by the assistant principal of WDS. Even the thank you’s.

Don’t get me wrong – I was very appreciative of my parents’ work that went into the party and the family trip to Israel. But my 13-year old brain liked it the way I liked halavah – something great, but not necessarily remarkable.

At that time, I don’t think I was particularly unique. The perspective of most 13 year-olds in our community was very narrow. We lived in a small protected bubble.

As we aged, our worldview expanded. We were exposed through life experience that many things we took for granted were not insignificant, but important. Not ordinary, but exceptional.

We started by slowly grasping that the stakes were becoming higher.

  • At 13 I was worried whether a particular girl in class liked my humor. If she didn’t, well, I shrugged it off that she probably wasn’t that smart.
  • But at 53 I’m worried about how my wife will react to my lack of comprehension that 45 is a really big birthday for a woman.

The ramifications are starkly different.

Along with the higher stakes, I learned that the demonstration of gratitude needs to match the occasion and the expectations.

You see, gratitude is also tied to responsibility.

At my bar mitzvah, I became responsible for my own actions. As I got older, I assumed additional responsibilities, for family members, friends and the community. That responsibility sensitized me to various challenges and small victories we each encounter.

Rabbi Meir Soloveitchik has said that true gratitude must include obligation. Really? If I’m thankful for having a full head of hair, do I have to subsidize a friend’s hair transplant?

Personally, I don’t think so. And it goes to a core component of what I’ve learned over the past 40 years: understanding what’s really important.

You see, today marks another anniversary for me. The 18th year of my beard.

In October 2000, my father was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. A man who had never taken a sick day was suddenly in a hospital having extensive surgery to remove infected lymph nodes that had spread throughout his body. The following month, he was given a choice of undergoing chemotherapy or try a series of transfusions with an unproven medicine undergoing clinical trials. He opted for the latter.

So on this day, the Shabbat of Thanksgiving, I made a commitment that I would grow a beard. For the next five years, when I davened, I would rub my beard during the Refa’eynu section of the Shmona Esrei, asking God to heal my father.

Miraculously, five years later, my father was cancer-free and given a clean bill of health.

What kind of news can possibly be better than that? It was a moment to consider how to be – and how to demonstrate – being truly grateful.

So I decided to keep my beard and follow the same format on behalf of others. I have continued to touch my beard during Refa’eynu and recite the names of people who were sick in this community, and friends and people I grew up with facing terrible illness.

These prayers are no longer said standing in an empty space. I pray with the full gratitude to Hashem, that just as He helped heal my Dad, I ask that He heal others who are ill.


Forty years ago I thanked my parents for raising me and for my bar mitzvah celebrations. I continue to thank them for many other things – such as hand-picking my wife. And I am additionally grateful to Hashem that they were able to walk a mile to be here today to celebrate this milestone.

I am grateful that I have been blessed with amazing siblings, a fantastic wife and remarkable children. To live in a great community with such a warm rabbi. These are all important things.

I also understand that there are extraordinary things like this amazing country and the thriving State of Israel.

The important things and the extraordinary things fall under the category of what Charles Krauthammer called “Things That Matter.” Over these decades I learned that essential life lesson of separating the critical from the trivial. And I have chosen to actively focus my energies and responsibilities, and express my true gratitude to those Things That Matter.

Today, I thank my wife for being a great partner and parent, and for coordinating a wonderful celebration. I also thank our rabbi and this community for being such a remarkable place.

May we all be blessed to be thankful,
and may we be thankful to be blessed.


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The Touch of the Sound of the Shofar

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Is Hungary Evil or Saintly?

There are a few countries that seemingly have dual personalities. To read about the country in one forum gives a particular viewpoint, while in other sources, the picture is starkly different.

Consider how the New York Times writes about Hungary. Here is a selection of its headlines over the recent past:

The Times paints the country in a very unflattering light. It states that the country is run by a tyrant, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and is the worst illiberal democracy in the European Union.


Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban

But a very different picture of Hungary was touted by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. On September 28, 2018, Haley spoke about the plight of religious persecution around the world in places like Burma and South Sudan. While she highlighted the problems in the Middle East, she contrasted the incredible work that Hungary was doing to protect Christians.

“Today, we shine a spotlight on persecuted religious minorities in the Middle East. Hungary has provided an example for all of us in the work it has done to support persecuted minorities, including Christians and Yazidis.

Hungary is on the ground, doing the hard work of caring for a too often overlooked population. Hungary is helping rebuild homes, hospitals, schools, and churches in Iraq, Lebanon, and other parts of the Middle East. And they’re taking the long view in helping protect and preserve religious pluralism in the Middle East. Its scholarship program for Christians from conflict-affected countries is giving persecuted minorities a high-quality education that they can take back home and use it to rebuild their communities. We all should be grateful for Hungary’s leadership on this issue. This is good and honorable work – not just because so many people are denied their right to worship, but because defending that right makes for a safer and more peaceful world for all of us.”

Can a country be both saintly and illiberal? Can it fight against illegal immigrants at home while attempting to rebuild the shattered lives of the immigrants’ homeland?

Is this simply two sides of the same coin, when viewed through the lens of Christian Identity?

Orban saidLet us confidently declare that Christian democracy is not liberal. Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal: it is, if you like, illiberal.” Orban advanced the notion that there are different types of democracy in the world, and religious democracies have a different framework than those based on the separation of church and state. He doesn’t dispute the charge that his democracy is illiberal; he states that it is a completely different type of democracy.

Perhaps like Turkey’s Recep Erdogan who fights for Muslims, Orban views his form of religious democracy in a particular framework, which is why Orban gave Erdogan such a warm welcome to his country on October 8. Both Orban and Erdogan appreciate the unique nature of their respective countries (Christian for Hungary and Islamic for Turkey) and want to keep it that way. It’s very much about democracy within a framework of particularism and not about liberal universalism.

Hungary can attempt to achieve this as it is predominantly a Christian country. It is roughly 71% Christian, 27% undeclared, with a few percentage of other. Turkey has an easier time, with 99% of the population being Muslim. Either way, there are few minorities to feel actively betrayed.

However, the younger generation in each country is less religious and more secular than the older generation. The younger people seek less religion in their lives and certainly do not want any religion imposed by their government. But both Orban and Erdogan are betting that even the younger generation will still be proud of their religious identity.

Being proud may mean asserting an illiberal nationalistic identity at home, or it may mean fighting for people with whom they share an identity abroad. Asserting a Christian identity alarms the E.U. and liberals in the U.S.A. when it comes to Hungary, but is given a wide pass when asserted by Turkey regarding Islam. In regards to fighting for Christians or Muslims being persecuted abroad, all people – including the US Ambassador to the United Nations – can easily show support.

What do you think – Is Hungary evil or saintly, and how does it compare to Turkey?


Related First.One.Through articles:

UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants September 2016

The United Nations Absolves Turkey’s Erdogan

Pope Francis in Turkey

New York Times Talking Turkey

The Happy and Smug Bigots of Denmark

Deciphering the 2018 Basic Law in Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

The Churlish Turkish Leadership

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The Free Speech Nickel

Discussions surrounding free speech have many components, including the 5W’s (+how): what, when, where, how, who and why.

  • What? Should hate speech or fake news be allowed to spread on open, non-vetted platforms? Calls for violence are prohibited, but what about everything else?
  • Where? Facebook had declared itself as a platform, not a media company that vets articles or checks facts. The US Congress and many citizens have challenged the FB claim due to the company’s vast reach and influence.
  • Who? Should anonymous people be allowed to post opinions? What about non-US citizens? The accusation that Russians interfered with the US elections has prompted people to pressure for changes.
  • When? Should people be allowed to express their opinions when people have paid for an experience that does not include outside interference? Why should football fans watch players protest the national anthem after the fans spent a small fortune to come to the game? Should anti-Israel protesters take a free trip to Israel on a Birthright trip to hijack the discussion and experience from others?
  • How? Are marches through a residential neighborhood, anti-war protests at cemeteries, the burning of a flag, the drawing of a prophet, the burning of an effigy of a person, all captured under the same notion of free speech and expression?
  • Why? Does the reason behind the speech matter? If the goal is to upend an election, to get a woman to change her mind about an abortion, or to topple the government, should there be limits on free speech?

If a country that cherishes free speech begins to place restrictions around it, what are the tools that will be used to enforce those limits? If a person refuses to call a transgender person by their preferred pronoun, can an organization take actions such as expelling or fining him?

When

Several wealthy individuals have been paying for young people to attend a multi-day tour of Israel, in a program known as Birthright Israel. Recently, a group of anti-Zionists joined the trip in an attempt to tell their own version of history and facts that were not advanced by the organized tour. The agitators disrupted the special week for all of the other participants as discussed in a letter they wrote to the Jerusalem Post.

One of the co-founders of Birthright, Charles Bronfman, was particularly disturbed by the protesters’ actions and said

If people want to call Israel names and say bad things about the country, they certainly have the right to free speech. But they don’t have the right to do it on our nickel.

The essence of the complaint by both the organizers who sponsor the Birthright trip and the participants enjoying the trip was that the issue was not one of free speech, but one of a broken agreement. The founders paid for the trip which had a well-established and known itinerary. All of the participants on the trip accepted those terms but then a handful undermined it for everyone else on the tour.


Members of a Birthright trip to Israel enjoying a stop at the Kotel

The issue was not where the protesters opted to exercise free speech. Israel permits free speech and the Birthright protesters could have gone off to Palestinian Arab villages at the end of the tour. But they opted to ruin the experience for others with loud chants in the middle of their free trip.

The furor around players of the National Football League kneeling during the national anthem has a similar dynamic. If the players want to stand on Hollywood Boulevard and yell about their anger at perceived abuse by police, they are free to do so. However, they are doing it inside a forum where fans have paid to watch a football game. That is not the experience which people paid for.

Bronfman had it right when he objected to people undermining an experience “on his nickel.” The US president featured on the nickel, Thomas Jefferson once said

 “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is both sinful and tyrannical.”

The Birthright Israel trip has a clear and specific agenda and those people who oppose it are free to not go on the tour. But it is disgraceful (“sinful and tyrannical”) to invert the purpose of the sponsors’ funds in a manner in which they completely disbelieve and abhor.


Related First.One.Through articles:

We Should Not Pay for Your First Amendment Rights

Denying Entry and Citizenship

Uncomfortable vs. Dangerous Free Speech

New York Times Confusion on Free Speech

Selective Speech

When Power Talks the Truth

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

Blasphemy OR Terrorism

Stopping the Purveyors of Hateful Propaganda

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