Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Travel Ban Is about Vetting — Which Means It’s about Islam

Because the United States is in a defensive war against sharia supremacism.

By Andrew C. McCarthy — March 18, 2017
Image result for trump executive orderU.S. President Donald Trump signs executive orders in the Hall of Heroes at the Department of Defense on January 27, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Trump signed two orders calling for the "great rebuilding" of the nation's military and the "extreme vetting" of visa seekers from seven Muslim-majority countries. (Credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

It is not about the executive orders. When it comes to protecting the United States from the threats posed by radical Islam, it has never been about President Donald Trump’s executive orders: the first one that was torpedoed by the radical judiciary in January, and the new and improved version that was suspended this week — the Lawyer Left having conveniently managed to shop its challenge to Barack Obama’s fellow Hawaiian and Harvard Law School classmate Judge Derrick Watson.

The issue is vetting. Each executive order was conceived as a temporary step, a “hold in place” measure while the permanent solution, vetting, was carefully crafted and ultimately implemented.

Now, just as the Left hoped, the temporary step has not only overwhelmed the permanent solution. It has made the permanent solution much more difficult — perhaps impossible — to achieve.

The president’s first order was not invalidated because it was invalid. It was invalidated by an outrageous political maneuver disguised as a judicial decision by the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court. Yet government lawyers — especially the law-and-order, have-faith-in-the-system types — can’t help themselves. They see litigation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy: Look at what the court said the infirmities were, address them, and then take another crack at persuading the tribunal.

But that’s not the game being played by the Ninth Circuit and the many progressive activists among the 300-odd lawyers President Obama placed on the federal bench (that’s life tenure, boys and girls). They are about winning the war, not the skirmish.

The Ninth Circuit struck down the first executive not order because it transgressed the theoretical constitutional rights of lawful permanent-resident aliens, immigrant visa holders, or state universities. The judges struck it down because they are the political Left. This had nothing to do with law. The Left has a policy objection to the notion of subjecting Muslims to heightened immigration scrutiny, because it has a policy objection to government recognition of the nexus between Islamic scripture and terrorism committed by Muslims.

For the Left, the law is not a corpus of constitutional and statutory principles to be applied. It is a pliable weapon for achieving policy goals, enabling will-to-power to masquerade as a “legal process.”

No tweaking of an executive order will overcome that.

Tweaking the executive order is not going to bring the Ninth Circuit around. Or judge Watson. Or federal-district judge Theodore Chuang of Maryland, another Obama-appointee who joined Watson in blocking Trump’s directive. Understand this: There is no way to craft an order restricting immigration from Muslim countries that will satisfy them — no matter how rife with jihadism the countries are, no matter how manifest it is that their dysfunctional or anti-American regimes make visa background checks impossible.

The Trump administration seems oddly stunned by this. It is as if they believed they were in a real, bona fide legal dispute; as if a few modifications in response to the judges’ express legal objections were going to make the Left’s implacable policy objection go away.

It was never going to work that way.

The courts were never going to grapple with the four corners of the executive orders — the undeniable, unambiguous, sweeping legislative authority vested in the president to restrict alien entry into the U.S.; the fact that non-immigrant aliens outside the U.S. do not have constitutional rights; the fact that our system makes border security against foreign threats the responsibility of the accountable political branches, not the unaccountable judiciary.

This is politics of a most demagogic kind, not legal analysis. So what the courts offer instead is a dark theory of purportedly rabid anti-Muslim bias, cobbled together by parol evidence of campaign-trail rhetoric.

And the administration fell for it. The administration has been goaded into replying, “No, no, no — this has nothing to do with Islam.” It points to the 85 percent of Muslim aliens globally who are unaffected by the orders. It stresses that the countries with the world’s largest Muslim populations — Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan . . . — are not touched by the orders. It notes that countries covered by the order were first cited in legislation signed by Obama, not because they were Muslim but because they had unstable or hostile regimes that defy reliable immigrant screening. It emphasizes that of the original seven Islamic countries, one has now been exempted from the temporary ban — i.e., that the trajectory is to affect fewer Muslims, not more.

That’s great . . . if what you’re trying to achieve is a temporary step followed by . . . nothing.
The goal here, though, is to achieve a screening system that vets for Islamic radicalism. How do you ever get there if, to try to justify a temporary step that provides no material security improvements, you disavow a purpose to subject alien Muslims to heightened scrutiny?
If that is not what President Trump’s “extreme vetting” is about, then what’s the point? Why bother with any of this?

Here is the blunt, inescapable fact: The United States is in a defensive war against what is imprecisely called “radical Islam.” The war proceeds on two tracks: the kinetic militancy of jihadists, and the cultural challenge of anti-Western, anti-constitutional Islamic law and mores. The ideology that catalyzes both tracks is sharia supremacism — the implementation and spreading of sharia, classical Islam’s societal structure and legal code, is the rationale for all jihadist terror and of all the Islamist cultural aggression that slipstreams behind it.

The dividing line is sharia supremacism. On one side of it we find patriotic, pro-American Muslims who are spiritually devout but reject the imposition of sharia on civil and political life; on the other, the Islamists — the sharia supremacists. The challenge posed by the latter is not merely that some percentage of them are jihadists; it is that as a population — or as enclaves that take hold in the West — they are assimilation-resistant, and their ideological havens will breed the jihadists of the future while stifling the Constitution in the here and now.

That is what we have to vet for. That is what the majority of the American people want: Muslims who embrace our way of life invited in, Muslims who threaten our way of life kept out. You can’t get there without subjecting Muslim aliens to more-extensive inspection.

Of course it is unfortunate that innocent, pro-American Muslims have to be put through more paces than other aliens. But it is not quite as unfortunate as the incontestable fact that inadequately vetted Muslims commit mass-murder attacks. While some of the innocent, pro-American Muslims will resent the heightened scrutiny (though many will see the need for it), those who are eventually admitted to our country will be safer because of it — a matter of no small consequence since peaceful Muslims, more than any other group, are killed and persecuted by jihadists and other sharia supremacists. In any event, though, the security burden has to be imposed on someone, and as between Americans and aspiring Muslim immigrants, it is less the responsibility of Americans than of alien Muslims that Islam endorses war and conquest. We didn’t create this problem.

This is the vetting that the Left and the courts are determined to prevent. They would have you believe that the Constitution is a suicide pact: that alien Muslims somehow have a First Amendment establishment-clause right against enhanced inspection; that an immigration system that has always vetted against totalitarian political ideologies cannot vet against this one, sharia supremacism, because it shrouds itself in religion.

So forget the executive orders. This is the ground on which the Left has to be defeated. We will never get there by denying that Islam is the heart of the matter.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Culture War and the Benedict Option: An Interview with Rod Dreher

March 7, 2017
Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia, Italy prior to 2016 earthquake. (Umbria Tourist Authority)
"The culture war as we knew it is over,” writes the conservative Christian blogger and author Rod Dreher in his new book, The Benedict Option. “The so-called values voters—social and religious conservatives—have been defeated and are being swept to the political margins.” The election of Donald Trump, Dreher argues, is no solution. “The idea that someone as robustly vulgar, fiercely combative, and morally compromised as Trump will be an avatar for the restoration of Christian morality and social unity is beyond delusional,” he writes.
Dreher sees threats everywhere—secularization, individualism, changing sexual mores, a decline in religious liberty protections—and his diagnosis is grim. He writes that “we in the modern West are living under barbarism.” Dreher’s solution is a kind of civic retreat.
Enter the Benedict Option, as Dreher has branded it. He takes the Benedictine order of Catholic monks as inspiration for a kind of DIY monasticism (the subheader for one of the book’s sections is “Turn Your Home into a Domestic Monastery”). Conservative Christians, Dreher argues, should pull their kids from public schools and “mediocre Christian schools,” expend less energy on national politics, “secede culturally from the mainstream,” and work to build strong, tight-knit Christian communities that can ride out the coming secular storm. The image on the book’s cover is of Mont Saint-Michel, a fortified island monastery in France.
Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he has been writing regularly about the Benedict Option. After years of living on the East Coast, he now resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, near where he grew up. His influences span Christian traditions: Raised a Methodist, he converted to Catholicism in his twenties and later joined the Orthodox Church, where he is still a member. His blend of localism, anti-consumerism, and conservative sexual politics can make him seem like a hybrid of Wendell Berry and Pope Benedict XVI, at once skeptical of modern capitalism and opposed to modern sexual mores.
Reached by phone on the morning of his 50th birthday, Dreher spoke with R&P about pluralism, the alt-right, and why he’s not a Marxist revolutionary. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
R&P: The Benedict Option is a dramatic option. What went so wrong?
RD: Christianity and the West lost the view that the world is sacred. We lost a sense of the givenness of the world—the fact that the world is charged with divinity.
Most of us who are alive today could probably look back to the ’60s and ’70s as a time when sexual mores and the traditional family began to change rapidly and fall apart. Also, we can look back to the ’80s and ’90s as a time when the economy and society became even more mobile and unsettled with the advent of globalization. That has made communities fragment.
What’s wrong, I think, is that the ongoing individualism—or the atomization of society as the power of the individual has grown, both in law and in culture—has severed us from our roots in the faith and also severed us from each other.
I think you’d be very hard pressed to find a group of, say, 10 people who could agree on what the common good is anymore. And this is the problem. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s a real problem.
R&P: Do you think that there have been effective cultural responses to this rise in individualism, either from within the church or from outside the church?
RD: I think generally the responses of the churches to this deep crisis have been abysmal. We don’t seem to know what hit us.
R&P: So are other Christians not seeing the problem?
RD: Generally speaking we’ve been very comfortable in the United States, because Christians have felt like this is our home, that this is a place that is comfortable for us, where things operate more or less according to Christian values, even though the United States is a secular nation.
A lot of people who have been going to church and counting on the church being there are going to be really shocked when suddenly those churches aren’t there.
People like Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention—he gets it. He sees that we are living in a post-Christian culture, and we in the church have to prepare for that, and have to prepare for being faithful in a time of exile in our own country. But this is a very hard thing for most Christians to accept.
R&P: Another way to tell this story is that, for a long time, a white Christian group effectively kept certain people out of the public conversation—especially black Christians, religious minorities, and people whose sexual lives didn’t conform to certain standards. What has changed is the capacity to keep the public conversation on those white Christian terms.
RD: Well, this country hasn’t been driven by a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite for a long time. I did not grow up in a country like that, and I was born in 1967.
Christians—white Christians, Asian Christians, Latino Christians, black Christians—have got to realize that the mainstream in America is not driven by Christian values anymore. That’s not the end of the world, but it’s the end of a world.
R&P: Are there ways in which it would enrich Christianity not to have that kind of cultural dominance? Some Christians seem to have a real ambivalence about this power.
RD: I completely agree. Russell Moore has talked about that—about where’s the blessing losing power and being pushed to the margins of society. We American Christians have gotten fat and happy and lazy in a culture that came from us, broadly speaking. It’s no longer our culture anymore. Now we’re going to have to reacquaint ourselves with what it means to be truly Christian.
We need to be willing to suffer social rejection, loss of jobs, loss of opportunities. I really do believe this is coming. And this is not unprecedented in the history of the church. It’s happening to Christians in other countries right now. And yet they’re remaining faithful. This is a skill set—if that doesn’t sound too trivializing—that we American Christians have got to learn. And if we don’t, we’re going to be assimilated. There’s no two ways about it.
R&P: Members of minority religious communities might hear this and think, “But the culture still feels so Christian!” To you, it feels like the opposite is true. I think there’s a real disconnect there.
RD: Yeah, I can see that. I think that this is rapidly changing. Just because you see churches everywhere doesn’t mean those churches are full, or that they’ll be there in ten years.
Same-sex marriage, the divorce rate, and sexual individualism—that is part and parcel of American culture now. It is even practiced among younger people in the church. That is a post-Christian development. So when members of minority religions say, “This seems very Christian now,” I say, just hang around a bit, because it’s fading fast.
Ross Douthat once said, “If you don’t like the Religious Right, wait until you see the post-Religious Right.” That’s the alt-right. And they’re pretty scary. The people who are on the alt-right can’t stand Christians.
R&P: During the election it was often difficult to see where the Trump campaign ended and Breitbart News, an alt-right platform, began. Trump won 81 percent of the white evangelical vote anyway. Is there really that big of a gulf between the so-called alt-right and the Religious Right?
RD: I think there is. The alt-right, as far as I understand it—and I don’t spend a lot of time reading them, because I am really bothered by their racial rhetoric—you don’t see that among Christians. Or at least you should not see that among Christians. If you do see that among Christians, then they are not Christians.
But I think it is true that there is some crossover with the alt-right, insofar as there’s maybe a questioning among a lot conservatives, even conservative Christians, about the feasibility of liberal democracy.
Trump is in fact no answer to the crisis. He’s a symptom of the crisis we’re in. I think that the extent to which Christians are still involved in partisan politics—I’m speaking of the old-guard Religious Right—to the extent that they allow the church to be entwined with Trumpism, they’re really going to hurt the church. Because I don’t think this is going to work out well for the United States.
R&P: Outside some common cause on abortion and sexual politics, do you feel like you have much in common with the mainstream Religious Right?
RD: People say, “Are you on the Religious Right?” I say, “Well, I’m a religious conservative and a political conservative, but I don’t say I’m on the Religious Right, because that term has for me become tainted with Republican Party politicking.”
Christians should refocus their efforts not only the local church, but the local community—working with other Christians, and others who are not Christian, to build up the local community. If tough times are coming, economically and otherwise, we’re going need each other. I look at what’s happening in Washington, and I feel so powerless. But I don’t feel powerless in my local community.
St Benedict statue in Norcia - Photo by diabolique04
St Benedict statue in Norcia - Photo by diabolique04
R&P: How much is this an abandonment or disillusionment with the American project?
RD: I really don’t know if America is going to make it. God knows I don’t wish for America’s demise. It’s all I know, and it has been and continues to be a force for good and a safe haven. And it’s home.
We as a society have lost a sense of inner order. We’re seeing this more and more in the economic order, in the cultural order, with the dissolution of the family and the atomization of the individual.
The greatest thing [the Benedict Option] can do politically is teach us how to rightly order our hearts toward service of God and service to others, and to turn away from this radical individualism which has torn and will tear our country apart. Whether America can make it through, I don’t know. But that’s not as important to me as whether or not the church can make it through.
R&P: America is a pluralistic, multicultural democracy. How do kids growing up in a Benedict Option community learn to deal with people who are different from them?
RD: I don’t think most of us who do the Benedict Option are going to be retreating anywhere. I don’t think it’s feasible for most people, and probably not even desirable.
What’s important is that parents approach the Benedict Option not by simply saying noto bad things or harmful things, but by saying yes to good things. That means, in part, finding the good in other people and people outside our own tradition. For example, we have a lot to learn from our Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters. They have been living as minorities in a hostile culture for a long, long time (sadly, hostility coming from Christian anti-Semitism).
I did talk to a young woman, about 18 [years old], whose parents ran to the hills to keep their kids from being polluted by the evil world outside. And their fanaticism, their paranoia, ended up strongly alienating their children from the faith. Every one of their adult children no longer practices the faith. That is a strong warning to the rest of us.
R&P: The Benedict Option still seems like a shrinking away from the basic, messy work of pluralism. Are you shying away from this uncomfortable reckoning with how to deal with people who think very differently from you about what it means to build a family or a culture?
RD: The fact is, it’s more important to be faithful Christians than it is to be good Americans. That’s the bottom line. And I would think that anybody, from whatever religion—Islam, Judaism, whatever—would place fidelity to what God expects of them above conforming to a culture.
There has never been a Christian utopia, and we can’t delude ourselves into thinking that it was. Look, I come from the Deep South, at a time when Christian faith was much more robust, and a lot of white Christians were severely oppressing black Christians. We can’t idealize the past.
That said, I wonder if your question is not so much that orthodox Christians don’t know how to deal with people who are different from us as that we are not changing our minds. People who are liberal on sex or whatever, in a time when the culture was more conservative, they had to figure out how to deal with the conservative majority too. And a lot of them did. I would hope to be in a time when we can find a lot more tolerance for each other’s difference, across both left and right.
I think of myself, and my generation—most of us, even we who are conservative Christians, would never want to go back to a time when gays and lesbians have to be back in the closet. I don’t want that at all. At the same time, I don’t want the state compelling religious institutions—churches, hospitals, schools—to violate our conscience on what sex is for and who the human person is and what marriage is.
I could be wrong about a lot of things, and I probably am. But that’s just life in a pluralistic culture, and if we start out with the presumption that people who don’t think like us are bad, there’s just going to be more and more warfare on both sides, and I think we’re seeing that.
R&P: That seems to be the question these days: What are the public spaces? Where does everyone feel like they can meet?
RD: It’s hard for me to think of a place where we can come together and affirm the things that bind us are stronger than the things that separate us. I think we have to look for those places and support them and uphold them whenever we can, but when the culture is just fragmenting more and more and more, it seems like a process that cannot be easily stopped.
This is what you get with consumerism, too. When expressive individualism is at the center of the culture, and the cultural liturgy of being an American, and being part of a market, forms your soul into thinking of yourself as a free and unencumbered individual who is defined by his own choices, that is going to catechize and form your hearts in ways that are not simply in the shopping mall, but also in your approach to religion, your approach to politics, your approach to friends, and your approach to the possibility of civic obligation.
R&P: You criticize consumerism a lot. While reading the book, I started to wonder: Why aren’t you a Marxist revolutionary?
R&P: Seriously, why don’t you make a full-throated left-wing critique of capitalism? You seem to nod in that direction.
Hey, Marx had some good points. His diagnosis was more right than a lot of conservatives wish to acknowledge. But his prescription was the problem.
We and the church—the Christian conservatives—have greatly deluded ourselves by thinking that the market itself is its own justification. Pope John Paul said that the market was made for man, not man for the market, and I think that on a macroeconomic scale right now in our country, we’re seeing the very, very bitter fruits of the market uber alles philosophy.
R&P: Some Christians on the left are saying that because they are theologically serious, they’re making racism and the consequences of capitalism their overwhelming focus.
 You express skepticism in the book toward people who focus on social justice and not on sexual politics. Why do you feel like sexual politics should be the focus, rather than these other parts of the tradition?
RD: I want to underscore that it’s not an either/or for me. It should be a both/and. But I find often that those Christians who do want to focus on social justice want to leave Christian sexual orthodoxy behind, and act like it’s no big deal. You can’t do that. Scripture is way too strong on that. The Christian teaching is way too strong on that.
I find sexual behavior to be the more important thing right now—and notice I said moreimportant, not only important—because I believe the family is the building block of social order, and sexual individualism works like an acid on that.
We can have a society that is cohesive even if there is economic injustice that we have to fight. And we can have a society that is cohesive even if there is racial injustice, which Christians should be fighting. But if the family disintegrates, and men can’t be counted on to take care of the children they sire, and the women who are the mothers of their children, then we’ve got real chaos.
R&P: So you’re saying that there’s a stability in economic and racial injustice that is different? Am I understanding the distinction here?
RD: No, I’m just saying that there has been racism and economic injustice in almost every society since the beginning of time, and yet those societies have managed to reproduce families and hold on to faith and moral order. If you lose the family, though, that’s the most important thing.
Family is the most important thing to conserve. Not economic justice or racial justice. Those things must be fought for, but they’re not as important as the family and the faith. Or rather they come from faith and family.
If you have an economic order, or a racially unjust order, that hurts the faith and hurts the family, and tears the family apart, then to fight against racism and to fight against economic injustice is to protect the family and therefore to protect the faith.
R&P: There are these deep ways in which these things are connected—the extreme example would be slavery ripping families apart. I’m not sure how easily you can separate them out.
RD: Well, slavery is the perfect example of that, and yet the black churches helped the slaves overcome even that injustice. It was in the name of Jesus that the black pastors and the civil rights leaders fought against that injustice. So you can’t separate these from Christianity. Christianity doesn’t exist outside of society.
I would just say that the right order of things is, if we lose the family, we lose everything else. I believe that we can’t have economic justice, and it’s a lot harder to have racial justice, if we don’t have the family.
R&P: Where is this all heading? Do you think secular mainstream culture will collapse, and then the Benedict Option is waiting?
RD: I expect things to continue to unwind. If we have an economic crash, a serious economic crash, I think then we will come to understand how much of our society was held up by money, and how the loss of social bonds and social solidarity has cost us. It’s made us much less resilient and much less likely to care for our neighbors.
Even if economic times continue to be good, I think that we’ll see the public square becoming ever more toxic, certainly more hostile to Christian conservatives. I don’t know that we’ll ever reach the level in this country of secularism that they have in Europe. We may, and we have to prepare for that.
We just have to hope that we do the best we can at the time God has given us, and hope that the church can be an ark for people who are refugees from however the culture war turns out.

Know Thine Enemy

By Caroline B. Glick
March 16, 2-17

Image result for abbas greenblatt
Mahmoud Abbas, right, the president of the Palestinian Authority, met with Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s envoy to the Middle East, in the West Bank on Tuesday. CreditMohamad Torokman/Reuters

There are iron rules of warfare. One of the most basic rules is that you have to know your enemy. If you do not know your enemy, or worse, if you refuse to act on your knowledge of him, you will lose your war against him.

This basic truth appears to have eluded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This week we have been beset by the bizarre and sudden appearance of Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s negotiations chief.

Greenblatt’s mission is apparently to reinstate the mordant peace process between Israel and the PLO.

The peace process that Greenblatt is here to reincarnate died 17 years ago.

In 2000, PLO chief and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat killed the peace process when he initiated a massive terrorist war against Israel, right after he rejected peace and Palestinian statehood at the Camp David peace conference.

In rejecting peace, the architect of modern terrorism made clear that his claim seven years earlier that he was willing to reach a compromise with Israel, based on partition of the Land of Israel between a Jewish and an Arab state, was a lie. As the nationalist camp had warned at the time and since, the PLO was not remotely interested either in statehood or in peace. Arafat’s willingness to engage Israel in negotiations that led to its transfer of security and civil control over Gaza and the Palestinian population centers in Judea and Samaria to the PLO was simply another means to the only end the PLO ever contemplated. It was a means of weakening Israel as a step toward achieving the PLO’s ultimate goal of destroying the Jewish state.

In 1993, when then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to recognize the PLO, his implicit assumption was that if Arafat was lying, Israel would walk away from the peace process. It would retake control over the areas it had ceded to PLO control and things would go back to the way they were before he made the gamble, indeed they would be better. Whereas for years Israel had been under pressure from the Europeans and the Americans to recognize the PLO, if Israel recognized the terrorist group and the PLO responded by showing that it remained dedicated to Israel’s destruction, the world that had been pressuring Israel would end its pressure.

The Europeans and the Americans would rally to Israel’s side against the PLO.

In 2000, after Arafat blew up the negotiations table with his suicide bombers, then-prime minister Ehud Barak announced triumphantly that he had ripped the mask off of Arafat’s face.

Now everyone would recognize the truth about the PLO. Now the Europeans and the Americans would rally to Israel’s side.

Of course, things didn’t work out that way.

In the seven years between Rabin’s decision to gamble on Arafat, and Barak’s declaration that the truth had finally come out, the Europeans and the Americans and the Israeli Left had become addicted to the notion that the PLO was a peace movement and that Israel and its so-called settlers were the reason that peace hadn’t been reached.

That is, by the time the true nature of Israel’s enemy had become clear, it was too late. It didn’t matter. In recognizing the PLO, Israel had legitimized it. Refusing to recognize the nature of its enemy, Israel had empowered it, at its own expense.

By the time Arafat removed his mask, the legitimacy he had received from Israel seven years earlier had rendered him untouchable.

The West had become so invested in the myth of PLO moderation that rather than punish him for his terrorist war, the Europeans and the Americans punished Israel for complaining about it. Indeed, the more Israelis Arafat’s henchmen murdered, the more committed the Europeans and the American foreign policy establishment and political Left became to the PLO.

Israel, in the meantime, became a diplomatic outcast.

In the 17 years since Arafat showed his true colors, neither he nor his heir Mahmoud Abbas ever did anything to indicate that the PLO has changed its spots. To the contrary. The PLO’s leaders have made clear over and over and over again that Arafat’s decision to reject peace in favor of never-ending war against Israel was no fluke. It was the rule.

The PLO doesn’t want a state. If it did it would have accepted sovereignty in Gaza 12 years ago, when Israel withdrew and took its citizens with it. If it wanted a state, then Arafat and Abbas would have accepted Israel’s repeated offers of statehood over the years.

The PLO that is greeting Greenblatt in March 2017 is the same terrorist organization it was when Arafat announced its formation in December 1964.

Given this unchanging reality, it is deeply destructive for Israel to continue paying lip service to the fake peace process. And yet, that is precisely what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is doing.

Trump’s election gave Israel an opportunity to finally get the Americans to recognize the reality they have spent the past 17 years refusing to accept. Unlike Barack Obama, Trump was not wedded to the notion that Israel, and its religious Zionist community, is to blame for the absence of peace. He was not obsessed with appeasing the PLO as his predecessors have been for the past generation.

Trump was not interested in getting involved with the Palestinians at all. But rather than seize the opportunity he was handed, Netanyahu seems to have decided to throw it in the trash.

He only agreed to discuss his strategic goal for dealing with the Palestinians after his cabinet forced him to do so on the eve of his trip to Washington last month.

At that meeting, Netanyahu said that he supports establishing a “Palestinian state, minus” that would have formal sovereignty but would be demilitarized. Netanyahu also offered that he envisions Israeli sovereignty being extended to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.

There are many problems with Netanyahu’s plan. But its most glaring deficiency is that it continues to treat the PLO as a legitimate organization rather than a terrorist organization.

By doing so, Netanyahu not only throws a lifeline to an organization that uses all the legitimacy Israel confers on it to weaken Israel strategically and diplomatically. He empowers Israel’s detractors in the US and Europe that have spent the past quarter-century blaming Israel for the absence of peace and acclaiming the PLO and its terrorist chiefs as moderates.

It is not surprising that Trump reinstated Obama’s demand that Israel curtail Jewish property rights in Judea and Samaria after Netanyahu pronounced his support for Palestinian statehood. If Netanyahu won’t disavow the anti-Israel diplomatic unicorn, then why should Trump? And if Trump is maintaining allegiance to the myth of PLO legitimacy, then it only makes sense for him to also adopt the patently absurd, and virulently anti-Israel, assumption that Jewish home building is the reason there is no peace.

Similarly, with Netanyahu willing to accept the PLO, and the concomitant assumption of Jewish culpability for the absence of peace, why would Trump consider replacing Obama’s anti-Israel advisers with advisers supportive of the US-Israel alliance? After Netanyahu left Washington last month, Trump decided to retain Yael Lempert as the National Security Council’s point person for the Israeli-Palestinian portfolio. According to a report in The Weekly Standard, Democrats in Washington long viewed Lempert as one of the most radical opponents of Israel in the Obama administration.

Trump also decided to keep on Michael Ratney, the former US consul in Jerusalem, as the man in charge of the Israeli-Palestinian desk at the State Department. Ratney’s appointment brought shouts of joy from anti-Israel activists led by John Kerry’s former negotiations chief Martin Indyk.

Perhaps these personnel decisions would have been made even if Netanyahu hadn’t maintained his allegiance to the lie of PLO legitimacy. But Netanyahu’s support for the PLO made it much easier for these opponents of Israel to keep their jobs.

By all accounts, Jason Greenblatt is a friend of Israel and a supporter of the US alliance with the Jewish state. Greenblatt studied at a yeshiva in Gush Etzion many years ago. On Thursday, he took the step that no US envoy has ever taken of meeting with the heads of the local councils in Judea and Samaria.

And yet, whatever his personal views may be, this week he came to Israel to discuss limiting the legal rights of Israelis in Judea and Samaria.

He was accompanied on his trip by Lempert.

Greenblatt visited with Abbas in Ramallah and delivered no ultimatum when he asked the Palestinian Authority “president” (whose term of office ended in 2009) to scale back the murderous anti-Jewish propaganda that permeates all facets of Palestinian society under the PLO.

Greenblatt politely listened as Abbas demanded that Israel agree to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines in a future peace, agree to release terrorist murderers from its prisons and end all construction for Jews in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.

Greenblatt then discussed continued US economic subsidization of Abbas’s terrorism- steeped kleptocracy, in the name of economic development.

In other words, whatever Greenblatt’s personal views on the issues, as Trump’s envoy, he put us all back on the phony peace train.

Netanyahu argues that Israel has to give legitimacy to the PLO and support Palestinian statehood, because if it doesn’t, then the Sunni Arab states won’t work with Israel in its efforts to stymie Iran’s regional power grab and stall its nuclear weapons program. This claim, however, is untrue.

The Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians are working with Israel on countering Iran because they need Israel to help them to weaken Iran.

They need Israel to help them to convince the Americans to abandon Obama’s pro-Iranian Middle East policy.

In other words, Netanyahu is paying for Sunni support that he can get for free.

Rabin believed that Israel would emerge stronger from his decision to recognize the PLO, one way or another. Either Israel would achieve peace. Or Israel would get the Americans and the Europeans off its back once the PLO made clear that it was lying about wanting peace. Rabin was wrong.
Israel paid gravely for Rabin’s error in judgment.

It will pay a similarly high price, if not a higher one, if Netanyahu continues to repeat Rabin’s mistake of failing to know his enemy.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How About Freedom for Dinner?

The regulatory state determines too much of what and how we eat.
March 15, 2017
Image result for Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable
Mariza Ruelas currently faces up to two years in jail in California for the crime of selling ceviche through a Facebook food group. Welcome to the mad world of American food regulation. In Biting the Hands That Feed Us, Baylen Linnekin  looks closely at a system that can take pride in a historically safe food supply but that also imposes too many rules that defy common sense.
Linnekin traces the system’s origins to The Jungle, Upton Sinclair’s exposé of the appalling conditions in Chicago’s slaughterhouses, and to the New Deal’s hyper-regulation of agriculture. Such intrusiveness culminated in the case of Wickard v. Filburn, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Americans don’t even have the right to consume food they grow themselves, on their own land. Food regulation has marched steadily onward ever since.
While working conditions and food safety improved dramatically thanks to these efforts, the move to regulate all food products according to uniform standards also produced a system with a host of strange rules—such as requiring organic skim milk that is free of additives to be labeled “Non-Grade ‘A’ Milk Product–Natural Milk Vitamins Removed.” Bans on urban agriculture have outlawed backyard chicken coops and front-yard gardens. Seemingly random changes in safety requirements force the shutdowns of businesses with no incidents of contamination or sickened customers. In some jurisdictions, it’s illegal to slice off a sample of cheese or cut the stalk off of lettuce at farmer’s markets. Microbreweries were threatened with having to register as pet-food manufacturers if they wanted to donate their spent grains for animal feed (a long-standard practice even for big breweries). In public parks, foraging of any sort—such as picking wild berries—is often banned.
Mariza Ruelas made her ceviche at home, which is why she’s in trouble with the law: food-safety mandates have made home production of food for sale, even in small quantities, illegal. You might be in trouble, too, if, say, you contribute a pan of brownies to the bake sale at your child’s school. That’s probably illegal.
States and localities are starting to push back at this regulatory insanity. Some states have instituted “cottage-food laws” allowing home preparation of small amounts of food for sale in limited venues, such as at farmer’s markets. Wyoming passed a comprehensive Food Freedom Act reducing regulation of food sales, so long as no middleman is involved. Some cities have legalized the raising of chickens or urban beekeeping. But there’s a long way to go.
For Linnekin, a food-law professor, the goal is to make traditional and “sustainable” agricultural practices legal. Much of what he argues for makes good sense, but there’s another side to the issue. Because so many urban hipsters want to produce (or at least consume) artisanal food products, food law, along with zoning, often serves as their point of entry into the vast regulatory web that smothers so many American businesses. This awareness doesn’t necessarily turn urban epicures into liberty-minded activists, though. Many small-scale organic-food producers and their customers simply want to make their preferred practices legal and easier to practice—while saddling major corporate producers of food with added regulations. In general, food activists aren’t much interested in establishing better rules and then letting the market determine outcomes. Instead, they seek specific outcomes—more composting, for example—and deem any rule that fails to support such goals to be a bad one.
Linnekin seems somewhat sympathetic to this small-is-better tendency. He wants to eliminate “ag-gag” laws that protect farmers from harassment by activists. He thinks that many food products carry antiquated grading standards and wants to see them changed. But many of these standards have solid rationales. Linnekin objects, for example, to the USDA’s “prime” grade for beef being determined by the level of fat marbling. But fat is the driver of taste, and many small producers of leaner, grass-fed beef sell products that often don’t taste very good. They don’t deserve a “prime” grading.
While regulations hostile to industrial, mass-scale agriculture—which feeds a global population of 7 billion people—should be avoided, rationalizing archaic and protectionist regulations makes sense. So does exempting small-scale producers from many regulations and embracing a more general “food-freedom” philosophy. As Biting the Hands That Feed Us makes clear, our current food-regulatory approach is too often a theater of the absurd.
Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal.


By Ann Coulter
March 15, 2017

President Obama spoke with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia in Seoul on Monday.
President Obama with President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia in 2012. (Pool photo by Ekaterina Shtukina)

The more hysterical liberals become about Russia, the more your antennae should go up. 

Their selective misgivings with Russia are just like their selective alarm with (our ally) Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the nationalist Chinese government, and (our ally) Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam. 

As explained in lavish detail in Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, liberals instinctively lunge toward treason. 

They say Putin is a "thug" and a "bully" who kills journalists. Liberals never used to mind Russian leaders killing journalists. Nor millions of scientists, writers, Christians, Jews, kulaks, Ukrainians and the entire 1980 Soviet Olympic hockey team. 

Have you guys heard of the Evil Empire? Now Democrats are hypersensitive to a Russian leader's flaws? 

Liberals were cool with the show trials, the alliance with Hitler, the gulags, the forced starvations, the shooting down of American planes and goose-stepping through Eastern Europe. 

But that was when the Russian leader was Joseph Stalin or Nikita Khrushchev -- not the beast Putin! 

Back then, liberals were spying for Stalin (Julius Rosenberg's code name: "Liberal"), the U.S. president was calling the bloodthirsty dictator "Uncle Joe," and The New York Times was covering up Stalin's infamous crimes. In the storied history of fake news, the Times' Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for his false reports denying the Ukrainian famine, in which more than 7 million people were deliberately starved to death.

As far as the Times is concerned, those were Russia's halcyon days! 

Back when Russia was actually threatening America with nuclear annihilation, Jimmy Carter warned Americans about their "inordinate fear of communism." Sting sang that "the Russians love their children, too.” 

But now liberals are hopping mad with Putin. They could never forgive Russia for giving up communism. 

To add insult to injury, Putin embraced the Russian Orthodox Church! This was deeply offensive to fiercely Christophobic liberals. 

Russia's descent into insanity and madness was clear when Putin refused to allow LGBTQ marches through Red Square. For having the same position on gays as Obama did, circa 2008, Russkies were walking on the fighting side of liberals! 

Trump's election victory was the capstone of the left's rage with Putin. To explain the inexplicable, Putin was made the center of liberals' axis of evil, the mastermind of a malevolent plot to steal the election from Hillary Clinton. 

That's how liberals became born-again John Birchers, seeing Russians under every bed. Now, no fear of Russia is inordinate. The Russians do NOT love their children, too. 

We really could have used some of this fighting spirit about 50 years ago when the Soviet Union sought total world domination and Stalin's spies were crawling through the U.S. government. But back then, liberals were blackening the names of Whittaker Chambers, Richard Nixon and Sen. Joe McCarthy. (Later proved 100 percent correct by the top-secret Venona Project.) 

Russia's loss of the left's esteem happened very quickly. As recently as 2008, The New York Times editorial page was demanding that Obama "signal to the Russians that he wants better relations," and complaining of the "alarming" deterioration of "Russian-American relations" under Bush. 

It was considered the height of statesmanship when Obama was caught on a hot-mic in 2012, telling Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, "This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility. I understand you.” 

To hoots of laughter at the Democratic National Convention, Obama said: "You don't call Russia our number one enemy -- not Al-Qaida,Russia -- unless you're still stuck in a Cold War mind warp.” 

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow couldn't contain her hilarity over the GOP offering "an extra bonus of threatening Russia.” 

But today, Democrats (and two especially showboating Republicans) are horrified that Trump wants to get along with Russia. Tonight (Wednesday), the threatening evil of Vladamir Putin will be the top issue on Rachel Maddow’s show, assuming she still has a show. (Maybe she can get a copy of Putin’s tax returns!) 

When the same people who hailed Stalin as a beloved American ally are happy to threaten Putin with thermonuclear war, we may deduce that the left's newfound Russia-phobia has some seditious objective. 

Historically, liberals show their manliness by demanding war with our friends and allies, while methodically undermining America's ability to fight the wars it's already in. 

The No. 1 enemy of Western civilization today isn't non-communist Russia. It's Islam. 

And who is a key ally in that fight? Russia has been dealing with these troublesome Muslims for centuries. It was Russian officials who tried in vain to warn our blind, incompetent government about the Boston Marathon bombers. 

The left's hysteria about Russia isn't just an attempt to delegitimize Trump. It's the usual Christophobic fifth column rooting for the Islamization of the West. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Troubled Continent

James Kirchick assesses Europe’s fraught future.
March 14, 2017
Image result for james kirchick the end of europe
The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age, by James Kirchick (Yale University Press, 288 pp., $27.50)
James Kirchick’s The End of EuropeDictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age is an engaging meld of journalism and history. The product of six years of living in and reporting from Europe, Kirchick’s book is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the upcoming elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, which will take place amid economic stagnation, jihadist attacks, and Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine NATO by subventing philo-Russian populist/nationalist parties.
Across the continent, but particularly in those three countries and in Sweden, it’s almost impossible to discuss immigration and Islamism without being accused of racism. Free discussion is confined to what Europeans call the “opinion corridor,” and dissidents step outside it at their own risk. “Rising support across Europe for xenophobic, populist parties,” writes Kirchick, “is partly the result of a constricted political discourse in which decent, ordinary people are told not only that plainly visible phenomena don’t exist but also that voicing concerns about these allegedly nonexistent phenomena is racist.” It is as if Islam were a racial category.
Just five years after winning the Nobel Prize and being championed as a model for the world, the European Union, says Kirchick, is “crumbling.” It’s unable to police its borders, stimulate economic growth, afford its generous welfare state, and halt its demographic decline—and unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge the failures of multiculturalism. The attempt to create a European super-state by way of a common currency, the euro, has produced an increasingly bitter divide between prosperous northern Europe and southern neighbors such as Greece, Italy, and Spain. Nonetheless, for the ideologues of the European Commission, led by its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, former prime minister of Luxembourg, the only good answer to every problem has been to expand further the already overextended powers of the European Union—a body heartily detested by a good portion of Europeans. The one thing that the unelected bureaucrats of German-dominated EU are good at is policing free speech and denouncing the nationalism that grows out of their arrogant and unaccountable failures.
Some of the best sections in The End of Europe deal with all-too-vivid memories of World War II. In Estonia, a Baltic nation that borders Russia, citizens think of the Soviets as the occupiers who displaced the Nazi occupiers. Putin, who says that the collapse of the Soviet empire was the great tragedy of the twentieth century, insists that Estonia should be eternally grateful for the Soviet defeat of the Nazis. Anti-Russianism in Estonia, on this view, was only a cover for the philo-fascism that accompanied the Soviet occupation. Estonians are understandably more ambivalent. In 2007, Estonia decided to move the Bronze Soldier monument—dedicated to fallen Soviet soldiers—and its surrounding graves from the capital, Tallinn, to a more peripheral site. The move set off two days of riots by Estonia’s substantial Russian-speaking minority and a cyber-attack on Tallin’s thriving technology industry (Estonians created Skype) by Moscow.
Putin’s barely concealed aim is to dismantle NATO, a goal he could achieve in various ways. He might invade Estonia or Latvia, claiming, as per Ukraine, that he was coming to the defense of an oppressed Russian minority. Toomas Ilves, president of Estonia from 2006 to 2016, points to perhaps an even more vulnerable location: the Suwalki Gap, “located in a narrow sliver of land,” notes Kirchick, “between Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, and Kalingrad (the heavily militarized Russian enclave wedged between Poland Lithuania).” Should Russia seize that sliver, it could seal off the Baltic States from Europe.
Military options aside, the great danger to NATO lies in Germany’s historic attraction to Russia. Both have seen themselves as alternative cultures to the Anglo-French civilization of Western Europe. The Germans were drawn to Dostoevsky, the Russians to Nietzsche. More recently, during the Cold War, Germany’s Social Democrats, led by Willie Brandt, pursued a deal to reunite East and West Germany in return for German neutrality. This is more than an academic point. Christian Democrat Angela Merkel’s predecessor as chancellor, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, declared Putin “a flawless Democrat.” Shortly after leaving office in 2005, Schroeder became chairman of Nordstream, a Kremlin-run subsidiary of Gazprom. “When the Estonian government relocated the Bronze Soldier in 2007,” Kirchick writes, “Schroeder saw fit to emerge from retirement and condemn Tallin for violating ‘every form of civilized behavior.’” At his lavish 70th birthday party, Schroeder embraced Putin, and he stayed silent about the Russian conquest of Crimea.
The dangers of Putinism and Islamism have intersected in Germany. Seeking reelection after 11 years in office, Merkel faces a stiff challenge from Social Democrat Martin Schulz, the president of the powerless European parliament from 2012 to 2017. Merkel, who has described multiculturalism as a failure, had once been seen as a shoo-in, but her ill-conceived proposal to admit 1 million Muslim refugees into Germany has dramatically weakened her political standing, especially in light of the sexual assaults committed by Muslim arrivals. If Schulz wins what is now a tight race, the Social Democrats will no doubt adopt a position opposing sanctions against Russia for its imperial adventures—and a softening of sanctions will shake NATO further.
The End of Europe offers a readable but historically grounded view of a deeply troubled continent.
Fred Siegel is a City Journal contributing editor, Scholar in Residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and the author of The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class.