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…

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis

Advertisements

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.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Touch of the Sound of the Shofar

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis

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

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

 

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

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

NY Times, NY Times, What Do You See? It Sees Rich White Males

I loved the Eric Carle / Bill Martin Jr book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” I loved it both as a child and as a parent reading it to children. The text was clear and the pictures were beautiful. It taught us how to see and identify basic things like colors and animals in a straightforward and enjoyable manner.

But the world is seemingly not so simple in a world pounding out millennial “my truths.” Simple pictures of animals are now Rorschach tests subject to varied interpretation. Colors are now blinded through a reverse prism of everything exiting as a blinding white – as in white male privilege.

Consider an important study performed at Stanford University of 260 million standardized test scores taken by third to eighth graders in the United States. The graphic pointed to remarkable and scary outcomes regarding the performance differences between boys and girls in school.

Hundreds of red circles marked the top of the chart showing girl test scores ranging anywhere from half to more than a full test grade level over boys in every part of the country, whether in the poorest or richest segments. The graphic clearly illustrated how girls scored dramatically higher on English tests all around the United States.

Further down on the page, clustered near the parity line between boys and girls, were the blue dots representing the math scores. Here the graph was more balanced, with girls out-performing boys by just a little in some markets, with boys outperforming girls by just a bit in more markets. The blue cloud appeared to have a slope indicating that boys in richer neighborhoods performed slightly better than those in poorer neighborhoods. In no sample did the maximum out-performance of boys in math even reach the smallest out-performance by girls in English. In English, girls outperformed boys by about 3/4 of a full grade, and in math the boys outperformed girls by roughly 1/3rd of a grade.

The graph was alarming in how poorly boys performed relative to girls in English. It begged the question of how to redo the entire English curriculum to address the failure of schools to educate boys. Are more male teachers needed? Are the choice of texts not appropriate for boys? Should there be a change in the classroom setting? In the creative writing syllabus?

But these questions that immediately sprang to anyone’s mind from the picture were missing in the New York Times coverage of study on June 17, 2018.

In an article titled “Math’s Variable: Boys Outperform Girls in Rich, White Suburbs,” the Times inverted the story into a different narrative. The Times wrote “In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math, according to a new study from Stanford researchers, one of the most comprehensive looks at the gender gap in test scores at the school district level.” For 24 paragraphs, the Times would explore the advantages of rich White and Asian households that “invest in more stereotypical activities,” like “daughters in ballet and their sons in engineering.” Because rich people are sooo stereotypical and non-progressive.

Only in the 21st paragraph of the article did the Times devote attention to the obvious and important conclusion of girls DRAMATICALLY outperforming boys in English. It wrote: “Girls continue to outperform boys in reading in school districts across the United States, regardless of income, and in most other rich countries. Parents have been found to talk more to girls from the time they are infants. Teachers say girls concentrate more on reading. Perhaps boys’ reading skills mature later. There could also be a role model effect: Women say they read more than men, while boys are steered more towards sports and video games.

This article is a travesty of #AlternativeFacts and it undermines helping children that are truly falling behind. Our progressive society that looks to spend as much public money as possible to produce equal outcomes for poor-and-rich; White-and-Blacks and Latinos; boys-and-girls, focuses only on the narrow out-performance of rich white boys. The article noted how a wealthy white township where “the students are about 60% white and 30% Asian-American,” had “Boys and girls both perform well, but boys score almost half a grade level ahead of girls in math…. Boys are much more likely to sign up for math clubs and competitions, he said, to the point that the district started a girls-only math competition this year.” But there was NO mention of what is being done to help millions of boys perform better in English. Just “perhaps boys’ reading skills mature later.” Sorry. Nothing we can do to help boys in English. Move on.

Consider that the Times published this article at the same time as discussing the ultra-liberal New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s plans to upend the city’s strongest math and science high schools to reduce the number of Whites and Asians and increase the number of Blacks and Latinos. Are there any efforts to get more boys or Whites into the best arts high schools, like Fiorella LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts which is 74% female and 56% minority? Nope.

Our schools are grossly failing our boys in English and there is zero effort on their behalf, either by progressive politicians or left-wing newspapers. Boys are just younger versions of the ‘patriarchy’ that are future enemies for the racial and gender justice warriors. Stay on message: it’s all about rich white male privilege.

Perhaps that observation is part of the grade gap between boys and girls in English and language arts: boys and girls see the world differently, just as conservatives and liberals do. While math and science have strict rules about what is correct, the language arts are more fluid and subject to interpretation. And if women and liberals continue to dominate the teaching profession and direct the narrative of interpretation, the nation’s boys will likely continue to suffer.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

Fake Definitions: Pluralism and Progressive / Liberalism

The Right Stuff, Then and Now

Magnifying the Margins, and the Rise of the Independents

NY Times Discolors Hate Crimes

Leading Gay Activists Hate Religious Children

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis

The Recognition Catch Up

The United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on December 6, 2017 in a move that President Donald Trump said was a “long-overdue step.” Many countries disagreed, and viewed the announcement as premature, claiming that such recognition should be done in conjunction with a broader peace process and mirror whatever the Israelis and Palestinian Authority themselves agree to.

If anything, Trump’s move was very late considering the recognition that had been afforded to the Palestinian Arabs over the previous decade.

Recognition of Palestine

In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization declared its independence. Israel and the western world ignored the declaration of the noted terrorist organization, while fellow Arab and Muslim countries quickly recognized the State of Palestine.

Within a few years of the PLO declaration, the Israelis and Palestinian Arabs signed the Oslo Accords (in 1993 and 1995) which put in motion a peace process, including the creation of a Palestinian Authority (PA). As part of those agreements, both parties agreed that the PA would have limited powers regarding international relations (Article IX), including having no ability to obtain official recognition from other governmental bodies.

In accordance with the DOP, the Council will not have powers and
responsibilities in the sphere of foreign relations, which sphere includes the
establishment abroad of embassies, consulates or other types of foreign missions and posts or permitting their establishment in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the
appointment of or admission of diplomatic and consular staff, and the exercise of
diplomatic functions.”

When the leader of the PA, Yasser Arafat (fungus be upon him) failed to deliver on peace and launched a second intifada in September 2000, the peace process ground to a halt. Any movement by world organizations and governments to provide additional recognition on key issues for the Israelis and PA was put on hold.

Yet the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas pushed forward with seeking global recognition, even as he lost control of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Abbas began with Costa Rica (2008) and Venezuela (2009) before making significant headway with the major countries in South America.

In 2010, Abbas got Brazil and Argentina to recognize Palestine, despite commitments in the Oslo Accords that the PA would not take such steps. The Israeli foreign ministry released a statement that  “Recognition of a Palestinian state is a violation of the interim agreement signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 1995, which established that the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be discussed and solved through negotiations….  All attempts to bypass negotiations and to unilaterally determine issues in dispute will only harm the trust of the sides and their commitment to agreed upon frameworks for negotiations.

No matter.

In 2011, other South American countries recognized Palestine including Chile and Uruguay. UNESCO followed suit and admitted the “State of Palestine.” Shortly thereafter, Iceland became the first country in western Europe to recognize Palestine, with borders based on the 1949 Armistice Lines. By the following year, the United Nations began calling the entity the “State of Palestine” in all official documents.

Remarkably, at the end of the third Hamas war on Israel in 2014, Sweden became the second western European country to recognize Palestine.

Recognition of Jerusalem

While Abbas’s PA actively sought recognition of a state since 2008, Israel was fighting three wars from Gaza and a “stabbing intifada.” Israel was not busy lobbying the world to recognize Jerusalem as its capital, but focused on getting the world to stop the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons while it declared its intention of destroying Israel.

While the Palestinian Authority was playing offense, Israel was playing defense.

At this point in time, with over 20 countries and United Nations entities recognizing Palestine over the past decade despite the explicit statements in the Oslo Accords, isn’t it well past time for countries of the world to recognize the capital of Israel?

Alternatively, if countries are truly concerned with the peace process, they can strip their recognition of Palestine, and leave the Israelis and PA to negotiate their peace, including matters related to borders, settlements and Jerusalem, and ultimately embrace the conclusion of the parties. Impartiality demands one or the other.


Jerusalem from the air, facing north


Related First.One.Through articles:

Both Israel and Jerusalem are Beyond Recognition to Muslim Nations

Recognition of Acquiring Disputed Land in a Defensive War

The US Recognizes Israel’s Reality

The UN’s #Alternative Facts about the 1967 Six Day War

Welcoming the Unpopular Non-President (Abbas) of a Non-Country (Palestine)

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Uncomfortable vs. Dangerous Free Speech

The month of September brings the most perfect weather to much of the world. Not too hot during the day and not too cold in the evening, people can be comfortable without the need for artificial air conditioning or heat.

Those are the Goldilocks days, which are, unfortunately, just a few weeks long.

However, as the autumn moves on to October and the nights get colder, people turn on their heating systems that had been dormant for months. Several states have laws that demand that beginning October 1, landlords must begin to provide heat. Yet there is no equivalent requirement for landlords to provide air conditioning in the hot summer months.

The rationale for forcing landlords to provide heat is about safety. People could become extremely sick or freeze to death if the temperature drops too low. Such a situation would likely force the individuals to turn on their stoves and ovens or light candles for heat, all of which could produce a massive fire killing many people and destroying property. The dangerous situation would stem from primary (the freezing cold itself) and secondary (the actions that people would take in reaction to the cold temperature) events.

The dynamic in the summer months is not so dire. People could dress lightly and use fans to cool off. The probability of someone dying from heat would only happen in extreme circumstances. As such, governments do not force landlords to supply air conditioning to their tenants.

The government intervention in matters of heat and air-conditioning revolves around safety, not comfort. Just as it does for free speech.

Free Speech

The First Amendment to the US Constitution gives people the right to free speech. Some people have argued that such right is absolute and that the government cannot provide any exceptions which ban people’s expressions. However, the government has placed laws which curtail some forms of speech.

Consider Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s 1919 opinon in Schenck v. United States, which limited free speech in certain situations. Holmes wrote that “The most stringent protection of free speech, would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic…. The question in every case, is whether the words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent.”

The courts clarified this opinion in 1969’s Brandenburg v. Ohio when it wrote”the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

The courts ruling on free speech are similar to the rules on providing heat: the line between what is allowed and disallowed surrounds safety. It has nothing to do with the comments themselves nor around discomfort.

While this may appear basic, it has been upended and questioned in recent times.

Politicians and media sources recently argued that only right-wing racist calls to violence should be illegal. However the courts make clear that ALL calls for violence are illegal, including from far left extremists.

Free speech has NOTHING to do with political views and everything to do with safety.

There is a lot of speech that is hateful and offensive. Consider Pamela Geller’s Draw Mohammed Contest in 2015 which offended Muslims, or students at University of California Berkeley that wore shirts “White Man Bow Down” in 2017 which deliberately targeted and offended white men. The Draw Mohammed contest did ultimately result in violence while the racist behavior of the black Cal Berkeley students did not. But both initial expressions were considered lawful as there was no incitement to violence in the present.

The vast majority of speech is benign and enjoyable, like the Goldilocks days of September. Yet as more people take to the streets and social media to express themselves in more confrontational ways, we should be mindful of whether the temperature of the language is simply hot and uncomfortable, or dangerously cold that must be stopped. University students can escape to “safe spaces,” much like running to an air-conditioned mall on a hot summer day. But we must be mindful that the lines of safety not be crossed from either side of the political spectrum.

The right to free speech extends to the right and the left. It does not cover calls for violence from either the right or the left.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Active and Reactive Provocations: Charlie Hebdo and the Temple Mount

The UN is Watering the Seeds of Anti-Jewish Hate Speech for Future Massacres

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Selective Speech

We Should Not Pay for Your First Amendment Rights

The Monumental Gap between Nikki Haley and Donald Trump

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Totalities

The United States got a chance to view a solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Most of the country only saw a partial eclipse, with a narrow band of the country from South Carolina to Oregon witnessed the solar eclipse in its totality.

The Solar Eclipse 

The “totality” was a remarkable site to behold. The sun was completely eclipsed by the moon passing before it, rendering the sun as a dark orb, and bringing darkness to that section of the country during daylight hours. The phenomena was short – just three minutes – but its impact on those in its path was amazing.

Total Solar Eclipse
(photo by Ari Mendelow, August 21, 2017)

One would imagine that witnessing such a dramatic event would be easy to see and capture, but it wasn’t. Due to the overall brightness of the sun, one needed to look at the sun through special glasses to capture the sight.


The eclipse through special glasses
(photo: Ari Mendelow)

For those not in the path of totality and without the special glasses, the hours from the very beginning of the eclipse through the end passed without incident. There was no perceptible difference in sunlight during the hot summer day.

Visible Anti-Semitism

August 2017 also brought to light the scourge of anti-Semitism in the United States.

A protest march in Charlottesville, VA about the removal of Confederate war heroes revealed ugly shouts against Jews by White supremacists. Their hatred was laid bare and much of the nation was in shock at the vile display of hate.

However, many advocacy and educational groups – including First.One.Through – have been writing about the rampant anti-Semitism for years. They have repeatedly shown the bias of the media to downplay anti-Semitism, whether in the United States or in Europe; the sad slanders in governmental bodies such as the United Nations and the Obama Administration.

But despite the many articles and videos about prevalent Jew-hatred, people have been dismissive. Much like the millions of people in the United States that did not wear special eclipse glasses, they could not see the hatred that was happening all around them.

Anti-Semitism – like solar eclipses – have always been present. Sometimes the blatant anti-Semitism – a “totality” – is so overwhelming that the ground becomes darkened as it was in Charlottesville, VA. The hatred was actually visible, and people were astonished.

But such moments come and go. The solar eclipse moves on, to appear in another part of the world, in part and in totality. We will read about the events far from our shores. We will be unmoved.

People trying to highlight the incessant anti-Semitism in the world may benefit from a moment of pause, even in the shadow of the great solar eclipse of 2017. One cannot convince people to view the world through the special glasses which highlight the anti-Semitism. It may be there, but only those people that go through the effort of donning the glasses or happen to be in the path of totality will recognize it.

It may be that the best form of education is general in nature. Educating people to not look at the sun or it will damage their eyes benefits from being both simple and selfish. Perhaps the best message for combating anti-Semitism is similar – to avoiding hating anyone. The blanket messages covers sunny and cloudy days, those with eclipses and those without, hating Jews, Muslims, gays or anyone else.

Totalities are moments in time to acknowledge prevailing realities – not just the unusual moment itself. The moon always circles the earth and anti-Semitism is all around us. Let’s acknowledge the moment and absorb important lessons for a healthy life and society.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Your Father’s Anti-Semitism

The Long History of Dictating Where Jews Can Live Continues

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Liberal’s Protest Bubble Harms Democracy

I still remember the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in January 1981. It was not Reagan himself that made the day memorable, but the thrill of seeing the incompetent Jimmy Carter leave the White House.

I had spent my mornings during my 1979-80, 1980-81 high school years driving to school past a gas station which posted the number of days that the American hostages were held in captivity in Iran. Each day the sign would update the count, and my anger would rise along with the revised total. But on January 20, the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages were finally released, just as the embarrassment of a president vacated Washington, DC.

On that day, my liberal high school classmates chose to wear black armbands, in protest of the election of a Republican. They had convinced themselves that there was nothing so terrible as capitalism and free markets, and they opted to show the world their disgust at Reagan’s ascent. While the country celebrated the release of hostages and dawn of a brighter future, these liberal teenagers saw a dark day.

I would see the silent liberal protests again. In January 2001, liberals would claim that George W Bush wasn’t really their president. I saw bumper stickers all over town that had a “W’ with a slash through it. I read about how Bill Clinton’s staffers removed all of the “W”s from the computer keyboards in the White House. Real mature.

This year’s election of Donald Trump has brought yet a new wave of liberal protests. Some schools cancelled exams after the election. Family celebrations which had once included a wide range of divergent political views began with declarations “No political discussions!” before anyone had a chance to say hello.  Now we are hearing that many elected Democratic officials are going to boycott the inauguration. Some liberal rabbis have even said that they will mark the day by fasting – I kid you not.

notmypresident

I don’t know what kind of president Donald Trump will be at this moment in time, any more than predicting Reagan 36 years ago. I do know that I am glad to say goodbye to eight terrible years of foreign policy, and am not surprised at the immature liberal cries of anguish I have seen for decades.

The silent protests don’t upset me. Free speech is an American right, and everyone is allowed to express themselves.

Granted I do not know any non-liberals that carried on in such a fashion over the past eight years. I never met someone that placed a “Nobama” sign on their front lawn or fasted at Obama’s election. I couldn’t catch any black armbands when Bill Clinton asumed office or any Republican officials boycotting the ceremony. No matter.

The problem with the liberal actions are not the protests themselves. It is the withdrawal from reality and debate.

For the last eight years people debated issues ranging from transgender bathrooms to the use of drones to kill Americans to Obamacare. People accepted the presidential election results and engaged in a discussion about policies.

Yet now, liberals claim “he’s not my president” and shout at friends “no talking politics!” when they dislike the results of their democracy. After eight years of a constant comfortable exchange while the president echoed and enshrined their worldview, will people discuss important matters with people with whom they disagree, or just rely on the liberal mainstream media to attack Trump?

President Obama saw the problem in his own party. In his farewell address, he asked people to get out of their bubbles and engage in a healthy debate with people with different opinions:

“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste – all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.

This trend represents a third threat to our democracy. Politics is a battle of ideas; in the course of a healthy debate, we’ll prioritize different goals, and the different means of reaching them. But without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.”

I strongly disagreed with Obama on many of his policies, and I made my case to people of all political persuasions. But in this instance, I agree with him. Healthy debate is critical for a healthy democracy. I wish Obama would have followed his own advice during his presidency, and not walked out on people, such as boycotting speeches (as Democrats did to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu), or supporting Democrats when they fled the Wisconsin state house, or the Indiana state house. Or as Democratic officials now plan to do in boycotting the inauguration of President Trump.

I don’t care about your armbands, your fasts or your walkouts. If you have a coherent argument, make it. Engage in the debate and understand your fellow Americans without name-calling. Our democracy will be better off if you left your liberal bubble.


Related First.One.Through articles:

“Coastal Liberal Latte-sipping Politically-correct Out-of-touch Folks.”

Magnifying the Margins, and the Rise of the Independents

A Deplorable Definition

American Hate: The Right Targets Foreigners, The Left Targets Americans

Older White Men are the Most Politically Balanced Demographic By Far

Libertarian Validation and Absolution

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

The Selfishness, Morality and Effectiveness of Defending Others

There is a well known quote from a Protestant minister named Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) who argued for the defense of others:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The argument is by all accounts a practical one, not a moral one. The quote suggests that people should stand up against prejudice because hatred is a slippery slope. The selfish reasoning has different aspects: fight for others before the evil comes for you; and fight for others, and hopefully they will fight for you as well due to the same logic.

Do world leaders actually use such self-motivating arguments in practice?  Are the arguments effective in curbing hate and attacks driven by hatred?

Rallying for the Victims

Consider the situation of Jews in France over the past few years.

The Anti Defamation League did a study of anti-Semitism in 2014 which it updated in 2015.  The study found that while most countries in the world witnessed very small changes in the level of hatred against Jews, France saw a dramatic drop.

  • Christians: In 2014, 40% of French Christians held anti-Semitic views. That number dropped to 17% in 2015.
  • Business: In 2014, 51% of France believed that Jews had too much control of the financial markets. One year later, only 33% held such views – mostly Muslims (63%)
  • Global Affairs: In 2014, 46% of France believed that Jews had too much control over world affairs, a number that dropped to 22% in 2015 (again, predominantly French Muslims, 54% compared to Christians at 21%)
  • Pompous: In 2014, 33% of France thought that Jews thought themselves superior to others, dropping almost in half to 17% in 2015 (Muslims were more than twice as likely as Christians to hold this view)
  • Media: In 2014, 44% of France thought that Jews had too much control of the media, which dropped to only 21% in 2015 (Muslims were almost 3 times more likely to hold that view).
  • World Wars: In 2014, 18% of the French considered the Jews behind major world wars. In 2015, that number was one-third, 6% (with Muslims FOUR times as likely as Christians to hold such view).

What happened between the two polls in France to cause such a dramatic shift in the perception of Jews? ADL commented that various terrorist attacks and violence against Jews over 2014 brought a sense of solidarity for the Jews in France, as well as in Germany and Belgium where other attacks occurred:

“The poll found a marked increase in concern about violence against Jews in all three countries.  The results indicate that heightened awareness of violence against Jews fosters a sense of solidarity with the Jewish community and that strong condemnation by political and civic leaders makes expressing anti-Semitism less acceptable.”

Such statement from the ADL would seem to confirm that speaking up in defense of a persecuted group improves their situation, and indeed that may have been a contributor to the dramatic improvement of the French perception of Jews.

Rallying for the Perpetrator

In June 2015, the Pew Research Center did a survey of the French in their attitudes towards Muslims in the aftermath of deadly attacks committed by Islamic terrorists.  In a surprising finding, the French viewed the group that perpetrated the violence MORE favorably than before, going from a 72% favorability rating to 76%.  The improvement in opinions went across all political ideologies, including the far right which saw a movement of 60% to 63%, including a strong favorability rating doubling from 8% to 16%.

This dynamic happened in the United States after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks as well. Overall, Americans’ positive impressions of Muslims jumped from 45% to 59%, with the far right jumping the most, from 35% favorable feelings to 64%.

Pew reached a similar conclusion as the ADL, and attributed the increased positive feelings towards Muslims stemming from the call for unity among leaders such as President George W Bush who said: “These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.  And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that.

The famous Niemoller quote considered people’s selfish motivations to defend others, while world leaders appealed to people to turn away from hatred in pursuit of unity. Whether in France or the USA, those calls seemed effective in changing attitudes, but did they lower the number of attacks?

Effectiveness

In the United States, the number of attacks inspired by radical Islam has accelerated since the middle of 2015, with roughly 30 incidents over the past year (compared to 62 in the prior 14 years). Have the number of attacks increased because of the calls by President-elect Donald Trump to perform “extreme vetting” of Muslims interested in coming to the United States from countries at war with the US? Possibly. It is certainly an extreme jump in jihadist attacks.

However France has also seen a dramatic increase in the number of Islamic attacks, which began to spike in December 2014.  There have been roughly 20 attacks over the past two years, which roughly equals the prior 25-years’ of attacks. Various pundits speculate a number of causes including the French colonialist past and the marginalization of Muslim immigrants in French society. But those excuses must be dismissed, as those dynamics have been at play for dozens of years.

Others point out to the rise in the number of Muslim immigrants from the war-torn Middle East.  These immigrants arrived into France, Belgium and other countries, bringing their anger with them. The stories they tell of the destruction of their homes fuels the anger of the resident Muslims that were already in the country.  Rather than be grateful for their safety, they attack the liberal society which replaced their Muslim world. While the attacks by Muslims has led to the growth of far-right nationalist parties that argue to stem the flow of Muslim refugees, the far-right has overall been more positive towards the Islamic community.

obama-red-line


It would appear that calls for calm and unity by government leaders is effective in reducing hatred, but does little to curtail terrorism.  To reduce terrorism, the most effective course may be to end the wars in the Middle East, including Iraq, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Peace at home is achieved with peace abroad.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Dangerous Red Herring Linking Poverty and Terrorism

The UN Fails on its Own Measures to address the Conditions Conducive to the Spread of Terrorism

The Presidential Candidates on Islamic Terrorism: The Bumblebee, the Crocodile and the Pitbull

The Big, Bad Lone Wolves of Terrorism

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis