THE WEEK THAT WAS: IN MEMORIAM: FOUAD AJAMI, A GREAT M.E. SCHOLAR; U.S. TRAVESTIES: POLLARD AFFAIR & KLINGHOFFER OPERA; NEW BIOGRAPHY: A GREAT ZIONIST LEADER

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Fouad Ajami, Great American: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2013— Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times.

Pollard’s Release is a Matter of Justice: Alan Dershowitz & Irwin Cotler, Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2014— US President Barack Obama’s response to President Shimon Peres’s request for executive clemency for Jonathan Pollard was to refer the matter to US Attorney-General Eric Holder.

The Perpetual Assassination of the Jew Leon Klinghoffer: Paul Merkley, Baywater Review, June 24, 2014— On October 7, 1985, four pirates, engaged in the cause of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), took control of the Italian luxury liner Achille Lauro as it was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said, Egypt.

Book Review: 'Jabotinsky' by Hillel Halkin: Douglas J. Feith, Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2013— Vladimir Jabotinsky, the intellectual forebear of the secular Israeli right, is the most vilified and mischaracterized figure in Zionist history.

Letters From Our Readers

 

On Topic Links

 

Evgeny Kissin Becomes Israeli Citizen (Video): Youtube, June 15, 2014

As Europe Slides Into a Dark Age, Jews Must Review Their Future: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, June 25, 2014

Do Jews Have a Future in Europe?: Simone Rodan-Benzaquen & Daniel Schwammenthal, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013

Presbyterians Aim Misguided Boycott at Israel: Martin Schram, Boston Herald, June 27, 2014

 

FOUAD AJAMI, GREAT AMERICAN                                                            

Bret Stephens                                                                                                        

Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2014

 

Fouad Ajami would have been amused, but not surprised, to read his own obituary in the New York Times.  "Edward Said, the Palestinian cultural critic who died in 2003, accused [Ajami] of having 'unmistakably racist prescriptions,'" quoted obituarist Douglas Martin. Thus was Said, the most mendacious, self-infatuated and profitably self-pitying of Arab-American intellectuals—a man whose account of his own childhood cannot be trusted—raised from the grave to defame, for one last time, the most honest and honorable and generous of American intellectuals, no hyphenation necessary.

 

Ajami, who died of prostate cancer Sunday in his summer home in Maine, was often described as among the foremost scholars of the modern Arab and Islamic worlds, and so he was. He was born in 1945 to a family of farmers in a Shiite village in southern Lebanon and was raised in Beirut in the politics of the age. "I was formed by an amorphous Arab nationalist sensibility," he wrote in his 1998 masterpiece, "The Dream Palace of the Arabs." He came to the U.S. for college and graduate school, became a U.S. citizen, and first made his political mark as an advocate for Palestinian nationalism. For those who knew Ajami mainly as a consistent advocate of Saddam Hussein's ouster, it's worth watching a YouTube snippet of his 1978 debate with Benjamin Netanyahu, in which Ajami makes the now-standard case against Israeli iniquity. Today Mr. Netanyahu sounds very much like his 28-year-old self. But Ajami changed. He was, to borrow a phrase, mugged by reality. By the 1980s, he wrote, "Arab society had run through most of its myths, and what remained in the wake of the word, of the many proud statements people had made about themselves and their history, was a new world of cruelty, waste, and confusion."

 

What Ajami did was to see that world plain, without the usual evasions and obfuscations and shifting of blame to Israel and the U.S. Like Sidney Hook, a great ex-communist of a previous generation, his honesty, courage and intelligence got the better of his ideology; he understood his former beliefs with the hard-won wisdom of the disillusioned. He also understood with empathy and without rancor. Converts tend to be fanatics. But Ajami was too interested in people—in their motives and aspirations, their deceits and self-deceits, their pride, shame and unexpected nobility—to hate anyone except the truly despicable, namely tyrants and their apologists. To read Ajami is to see that his genius lay not only in the breadth of the scholarship or the sharpness of political insight but also in the quality of human understanding. If Joseph Conrad had been reborn as a modern-day academic, he would have been Fouad Ajami.

 

Consider a typical example, from an op-ed he wrote…in February 2013 on the second anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime: "Throughout [Mubarak's] reign, a toxic brew poisoned the life of Egypt—a mix of anti-modernism, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism. That trinity ran rampant in the universities and the professional syndicates and the official media. As pillage had become the obsession of the ruling family and its retainers, the underclass was left to the rule of darkness and to a culture of conspiracy."

 

Or here he is on Barack Obama's fading political appeal, from a piece from last November: "The current troubles of the Obama presidency can be read back into its beginnings. Rule by personal charisma has met its proper fate. The spell has been broken, and the magician stands exposed. We need no pollsters to tell us of the loss of faith in Mr. Obama's policies—and, more significantly, in the man himself. Charisma is like that. Crowds come together and they project their needs onto an imagined redeemer. The redeemer leaves the crowd to its imagination: For as long as the charismatic moment lasts—a year, an era—the redeemer is above and beyond judgment." A publisher ought to collect these pieces. Who else could write so profoundly and so well? Ajami understood the Arab world as only an insider could—intimately, sympathetically, without self-pity. And he loved America as only an immigrant could—with a depth of appreciation and absence of cynicism rarely given to the native-born. If there was ever an error in his judgment, it's that he believed in people—Arabs and Americans alike—perhaps more than they believed in themselves. It was the kind of mistake only a generous spirit could make.

 

Over the years Ajami mentored many people—the mentorship often turning to friendship—who went on to great things. One of them, Samuel Tadros, a native of Egypt and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote me Monday with an apt valediction: "Fouad is remarkable because he became a full American, loved this country as anyone could love it, but that did not lessen his passion for what he left behind. He cared deeply about the region, he was always an optimist. He knew well the region's ills, the pains it gave those who cherished it. God knows it gave him nothing but pain, but he always believed that the peoples of the region deserved better."

 

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POLLARD’S RELEASE IS A MATTER OF JUSTICE                                  

Alan Dershowitz & Irwin Cotler                                                                               

Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2014

 

US President Barack Obama’s response to President Shimon Peres’s request for executive clemency for Jonathan Pollard was to refer the matter to US Attorney-General Eric Holder. Indeed, as it happens, a group of American constitutional and criminal law scholars and practitioners, including six Harvard law school professors, Obama’s alma mater, have written to the president (full disclosure – we are two of the signatories and organizers of the letter) requesting the commutation of Pollard’s sentence to time served. In our letter we argue that “such commutation is more than warranted if the ends of justice are to be served, the rules of law respected and simple humanity secured.”

 

Our letter sets forth 10 compelling legal considerations for the exercise of executive clemency by Obama – and which should commend themselves to Attorney-General Holder – including: First, Pollard was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, one count of conveying classified information to a foreign government, in this instance, Israel, an ally of the US. The usual sentence for this offense is no more than six or eight years, with actual jail time before release averaging two to four years. Pollard is now serving his 29th year of an unprecedented life sentence – an excessive, grossly disproportionate, unfair and unjust sentence.

 

Second, the sentence of life imprisonment was itself a breach of the plea bargain wherein the prosecution agreed not to seek life imprisonment in return for Pollard’s guilty plea, his cooperation with the authorities and his agreement to waive his right to trial by jury. This plea bargain also saved the government much time, money and prospective embarrassment of conducting a trial involving highly sensitive information, and where Pollard might well have been acquitted of the more serious charges. Indeed, Judge Stephen F. Williams of the US Court of Appeals for the First District later referred to the government’s breach of the plea bargain as a “complete and gross miscarriage of justice.”

 

Third, the life sentence was itself secured as a result of the submission – after the plea bargain and in violation of it – of a prejudicial ex parte affidavit to the sentencing judge by then-secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger, to the effect that Pollard had compromised American national security and was guilty of “treason,” and should never be released. However, in a 2004 interview, Weinberger himself admitted that, in retrospect, the Pollard matter was “comparatively minor,” and it is not even referenced in his memoirs. Fourth, Pollard has not only been excessively and disproportionately punished for the crime he did commit, but has been effectively punished and maligned for the crime he never committed – nor was ever charged with– namely, “treason.” Yet, regrettably, prosecutorial “sources” in the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense, State and Justice departments, continued to maintain, long after the plea bargain, that Pollard was guilty of treason.

 

Fifth, Pollard was also falsely accused over the years of having compromised US security and American lives in Eastern Europe, when it was Aldridge Ames, the head of the CIA’s Soviet/Eastern Europe Division, who had himself been both the architect of those treasonable acts, and the original source of the false allegations against Pollard. Sixth, a largely ignored December 2012 declassification of a 1987 CIA damage assessment concerning Pollard shows Pollard had co-operated fully and in good faith with governmental authorities, while acknowledging Pollard did not divulge the most sensitive US national security programs. Yet CIA officials continued to knowingly and falsely accuse Pollard of actions prejudicial to US national security…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE PERPETUAL ASSASSINATION OF THE JEW LEON KLINGHOFFER    

Paul Merkley        

The Baywater Review, June 24, 2014

 

…On October 7, 1985, four pirates, engaged in the cause of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), took control of the Italian luxury liner Achille Lauro as it was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said, Egypt. They demanded ransom, including the release of 50 Palestinians then in Israeli prisons, for the crew and passengers. The next day, befuddled by the delay in response to their ransom demand, they were delighted to discover that among the passengers was a real live Jew! Not only that — an American Jew! And best of all – a disabled American Jew! God is great! They quickly ordered two members of the ship’s crew to wheel the wheelchair of their helpless and terrified captive – Leon Klinghoffer, then 69, retired and in the midst of celebrating his thirty-sixth wedding anniversary with his wife Marilyn — to the edge of the ship and drop him overboard…

 

As the worldwide press speculated over the meaning of all this, PLO Foreign Secretary Farouq Qaddumi, who knew that his boss Yasir Arafat had indeed commissioned the deed, helped them out by speculating that Klinghoffer’s terminally ill wife Marilyn Klinghoffer had killed her husband for insurance money. Initially, the hijackers were granted safe passage to Tunisia by Egypt, but U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered a U.S. fighter plane to force the get-away plane to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy. After fussing over the appropriateness of extradition in such a matter, Italian authorities eventually arrested and later tried the Palestinian terrorists. Reagan’s motto was: “What we want is justice done… a message to terrorists everywhere…. ‘You can hide but you can’t; run…” None of this counted for anything, however, when in 1993 the Clinton government recognized Yasir Arafat and his PLO as the appropriate instrument for peace throughout the Palestine Authority. The Nobel Peace Prize followed shortly after that.

 

There are those who find Ronald Reagan’s judgment simple-minded. Indeed, souls more sensitive than Reagan’s are now proclaiming that the entire “Klinger affair” was misjudged, and blame this misjudgment on the moralistic mentality that even now, is slowly and painfully being overcome by practitioners of the highest culture. John Adams explains that his purpose in writing this opera was “to understand the hijackers and their motivations, and to look for humanity in the terrorists, as well as in their victims.”  Tom Morris, the Director of the new Metropolitan Opera company production believes that “the opera’s most important contribution is in providing an opportunity for the audience to wrestle with the almost unanswerable questions that arise from this seemingly endless conflict.”

 

To these deep-thinkers, production of this opera presents an opportunity to put before enlightened spirits the cause of the suffering Palestinians. The little incident with Klinghoffer was not an act of savagery, as might first appear to decent folk, but a “statement.” In his review of a concert performance at the Juilliard School in January, 2009, Anthony Tommasini, Chief Music Critic for the New York Times, explained: “[This performance] allowed this searing, mystical and ambitious work to come through without the doctrinaire baggage that has attached to it [the Klinghoffer incident] over the years …. Somehow the performers here, too young to have been aware of the polemics the opera initially incited, brought unjaded involvement and affecting commitment to … this multilayered, complex and elusive score under Mr. Adams’s direction.”

 

The appropriate moral-levelling effect appears, Tommasini finds, at the beginning, “with a pair of somber, brooding, agitated choruses, giving voice first to exiled Palestinians, then to exiled Jews.” This exchange between choirs, to right and left of the scene, reminds Tommasini of the similarly powerful “St Matthew Passion,” of Johan Sebastian Bach…This thought goes right off the scale of offense that begins with giggles and ends with blasphemy. But then, the New York Times long ago gave up believing in the ontic possibility of blasphemy – about the same time as it gave up on the notion that that there is such a thing as pornography. These are broken people – these aesthetes who imagine that judgments about right and wrong must go under the yoke of supra-moral hermeneutics. Simple-minded people see a helpless, elderly man pushed overboard by an armed, athletic youth, cheered on by co-sadists. But not all the nuance in the world – not all the unjaded and affecting commitment to all that is multilayered and complex – will ever scrub clean this filth; and all effort along that line is simply demonic…

[To Read the Full Article, With Footnotes, Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                         

Contents
 

BOOK REVIEW: 'JABOTINSKY' BY HILLEL HALKIN                                        

Douglas J. Feith                                                                                                          

Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2014

 

Vladimir Jabotinsky, the intellectual forebear of the secular Israeli right, is the most vilified and mischaracterized figure in Zionist history. Until his death in 1940, eight years before the state of Israel's birth, Jabotinsky was the principal political rival of David Ben-Gurion, the Labor Zionist leader who became the Jewish State's first prime minister. Ben-Gurion labeled him "Vladimir Hitler" and denounced him and his followers as extremists and militarists who "educate their youth to kill." Invented 80 years ago for intramural Zionist political purposes, these slanders have now become standard insults that anti-Zionists use to denigrate the Jewish state. The right has dominated Israel's democratic politics since 1977, when Likud's Menachem Begin, a disciple of Jabotinsky, became the country's first nonsocialist prime minister. But Jabotinsky's reputation still awaits general rehabilitation. The cloud that his contemporary rivals cast over him and his political party, which evolved into today's Likud, has never fully dissipated. To understand contemporary Israel requires an appreciation of its conservative political thought that is deeper than name-calling. This means taking Jabotinsky seriously, which is a pleasure to do, not least because his many writings were prescient, humane, artful and often humorous.

 

In his engaging and intelligent biography, Hillel Halkin, himself a brilliant Zionist man of letters—translator, novelist and essayist—illuminates Jabotinsky's multifaceted nature as a littérateur and polemicist, political thinker and activist, family man and frustrated politician. Mr. Halkin's particular interest is the tension between Jabotinsky's lifelong, passionate defense of individual liberty and his staunch Jewish nationalism, exaltation of military discipline and tough line toward the Arabs. Born in 1880 in cosmopolitan Odessa, the only large Russian city in which Jews lived freely, Jabotinsky was secular and sophisticated. Though his father died when he was six and his mother made a meager living running a stationery store, Jabotinsky had a happy childhood in which he played truant and mischief maker, though one with a talent for words. As a teenager, he was already a rising-star journalist, having won a newspaper job by impressing an editor with his translation of Poe's "The Raven" into Russian.

 

Zionism was offering a new answer to the so-called Jewish question: what to do about the Jews' status as unwelcome guests in other peoples' countries. Jabotinsky grasped that Jews in Eastern Europe lived wretched lives—"always in a state of war," as he put it in his memoirs—surrounded by neighbors who generally hated them and sporadically battered, raped and killed them in pogroms that government officials often tolerated and sometimes encouraged. He concluded that Jewish assimilationism would fail and that the Zionists were right: The Jews needed a state where they could be the majority and govern and secure themselves. And only the Jews' ancient homeland—that is, Zion—could attract enough Jews and inspire the exertions necessary to create this new state. The vulnerability, false hopes and complacency of diaspora Jews enraged Jabotinsky. In a play he wrote in 1907, a Zionist warns: "You're in a lion's den. Have no illusions. Your dreams are nothing but a fool's effusions. At the volcano's edge, you're fireflies." The "cringing" of his fellow Jews in the face of danger, the Zionist says, has distressed him so he "couldn't breathe."

 

Jabotinsky, Mr. Halkin argues, could have prospered as a playwright, journalist, poet, novelist and public speaker. His language skills were astonishing. Though his mother tongue was Russian, he was eloquent in Yiddish, Hebrew, English and Italian. Mr. Halkin judges his book "The Five" to be "one of the finest twentieth-century Russian novels." When he lectured, Jabotinsky could "mesmerize an audience for three hours," according to the novelist Arthur Koestler. The Russian diplomat K.D. Nabokov (the novelist's uncle) called Jabotinsky Russia's finest orator. But Jabotinsky gave up his burgeoning literary career to devote his life to promoting a Jewish-majority state in the land of Israel, an area under Turkish rule since 1517. Jabotinsky attended Zionist congresses, edited Zionist periodicals and, in 1908, visited the Holy Land for the first time. There he heard Jews predicting that the Arabs would someday accept Zionism. Why? Because Jewish immigration boosted the economy for all. Or, as many left-leaning Zionists believed, because Arab workers would, out of solidarity, support the Jews in building a socialist community. Jabotinsky dismissed this all as unrealistic. "Arab nationalism was still at an early stage, but future conflict with it, he was convinced, was inevitable," Mr. Halkin notes.

 

The Turks sided with the Germans in the Great War in 1914, and Jabotinsky felt confident that Britain would defeat Turkey and take control of Palestine. He resolved to form a Jewish military unit to aid Britain. His goal, as he wrote to a fellow Zionist in 1915 with impressive prescience, was to ensure the Jewish people a voice "when one day a peace conference is convened, [and] an item on the agenda will be the dismemberment of Turkey." Simply conceiving of the Jewish Legion was an imaginative coup. The world hadn't seen a Jewish military force for nearly 2,000 years. To bring it into being, Jabotinsky had to overcome British reluctance and rude opposition from Zionist movement leaders, who were not military-minded and in any event had resolved on neutrality in the war…

[To Read the Full Article, With Footnotes, Click the Following Link—Ed.]

LETTERS FROM OUR READERS

 

“Dear Professor Krantz, Thank you for your kind words: I am certainly a Zionist at heart! And despite not being a "good Jew" I have that typical genetic Jewish trait of hankering for justice and truth and abhorring dishonesty, deception, lies and especially vile propaganda about Israel, Zionism, Jews and the forever hapless Palestinians…I greatly admire your writing and articles. The CIJR does a great service to all those sane enough to see its honesty and fairness in combating bigotry in all it overt and covert forms… 

—Jerome (May 30, 2014)  

 

“Dear Fred, Olga and I would like to thank you for…the CIJR [Toronto] Gala Luncheon yesterday; it was not only enjoyable but informative. I learned something new about Israel's history, in particular the important role that the Machalniks played in Israel's defense. In bringing such things to public light, it emphasizes the importance of your organization to bettering our understanding of history and to ensuring memories do not fade.”

—Perry (June 12, 2014)

 

“Dear Fred, I would like to congratulate you, Baruch, and the other wonderful volunteers and staff who organized this year's annual [Montreal] Gala. The event [honouring 1948 Machal volunteers & the Israel Air Force] was very moving, and everything was perfect: the themes, the tributes, the speakers, the arrangements. It was a privilege and a pleasure for Steve and I to join you. Mazel tov and Kol Hakavod!”

—Dorothy (June 18, 2014)

 

“Last night was well planned, very interesting, enjoyable and an informative evening…my table was overwhelmed, and I am sure the seed for future involvement is well planted…Congratulations again on a job well done.

—Herb (June 11, 2014)

 

 

Contents

On Topic

 

Evgeny Kissin Becomes Israeli Citizen (Video): Youtube, June 15, 2014 —I was unaware that Evgeny Kissin became an Israeli citizen on December 7, 2013; here is the simple but touching citizenship ceremony, with an introduction by Natan Sharansky, chairman for the Jewish Agency for Israel, before Kissin himself explains the reason for his decision.

As Europe Slides Into a Dark Age, Jews Must Review Their Future: Isi Leibler, Candidly Speaking, June 25, 2014 —Recent developments signal that the prospect of Europe sliding into a new Dark Age is now a horrifying reality.

Do Jews Have a Future in Europe?: Simone Rodan-Benzaquen & Daniel Schwammenthal, Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013—Just ahead of last month's European Parliament elections, which saw the rise of far-right and anti-Semitic parties, four people were murdered in the Jewish Museum of Brussels.

Presbyterians Aim Misguided Boycott at Israel: Martin Schram, Boston Herald, June 27, 2014 —All hell was breaking out, yet again, in the Arab world that surrounds Israel — well before the late news that broke in a most unlikely locale last Friday and was mainly missed by most of the world.

 

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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