Thursday, May 1, 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry has taken only one element from all of America’s history in his peripatetic quest to forge a Mideast peace settlement: It is Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Big Stick.” It was the Nobel Peace Prize winner, President Roosevelt, who famously quoted the West African proverb: “Walk softly but carry a big stick.”

Kerry has walked anything but softly. In fact, he has often jammed his boot in the door and hectored the sides in the century-old Arab-Israeli conflict. He seems determined to force a Mideast settlement on the contenders by using his Big Stick diplomacy—on one side.

Since he entered the fray, Kerry has been lecturing Israel. And President Obama has warned the Israelis—oh, how he has warned them— that time is running out. The Jews have lived in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria for six thousand years, but Messers. Obama and Kerry are wiser and they now determine that Israel’s time is running out.

Now, John Kerry has stuck his boot, not in the door, but firmly in his mouth. Recently, Kerry told a closed door session here that Israel was in danger of becoming “an apartheid state.” Thus, he equated Israel with the former regime in South Africa, the minority white-dominated Nationalist Party rulers in that pariah state.

This was a cruel and unjust comparison, to say the least. The United States labored for years to expunge the infamous UN General Assembly resolution that equated Zionism with racism. It was a project of both U.S. political parties. One of us was a member of the John Bolton led team that finally got this done.

Liberal Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan denounced that UN resolution with ferocity. He said in 1975 that a “great evil has been loosed upon the world.” He called it “shameless.” You may see this accomplished diplomat’s fiery address to the UN General Assembly here.

Yet, here was our inept Secretary of State exhuming the corpse of “Zionism is Racism” infamy and dragging it back onto the international stage. Kerry and his predecessor, Hillary Clinton notoriously started counting Jews in Jerusalem. They have both loudly complained when Jews fleeing rising anti-Semitism in Europe have tried to resettle in the one country in the world founded as a refuge for oppressed Jews.

Both Clinton and Kerry have forgotten, if they ever knew, Winston Churchill’s wise advice. Sixty years ago, the world statesman said: “Let the Jews have Jerusalem. It is they who made it famous.”

America, called a “haven for the oppressed of many lands” by none other than George Washington,
should be the first to understand what all this means. Washington told the Hebrew Congregation at Newport that here “each will sit under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Who today can sit under his vine and fig tree in any PLO-ruled territory and not be afraid? Questions should be put to Secretary Kerry: How many Jews are there in Syria? In Libya? In Egypt? In Saudi Arabia?

These are pertinent questions to put to our apologetic Secretary of State. We do not know how many Jews live in those lands. Most of their co-religionists were driven out of these Muslim-majority countries over a period of decades. If any Jews remain in these lands, they must keep their heads down. No safe vines or fig trees for them.

The worst part of Kerry’s statement is this: PLO boss Mahmoud Abbas has openly avowed there will be no Jews in his projected Palestinian State. None. There’s your apartheid, Mr. Secretary!
And, the Christians who have lived for centuries in these territories are being persecuted. Fatah is the largest group within the terrorist PLO. Fatah means “Islamic conquest” in Arabic. Fatah is trying to drive out the Christian Arabs, too! Should we be surprised at any of this?

The Obama State Department has been pressuring the Israelis to cede vital territory to their sworn enemies Fatah is the group they are empowering. And the Israelis are the ones against whom they are wielding the Big Stick.

President Obama should take away Mr. Kerry’s Big Stick. No redo. Mr. Kerry should not resign, he should be fired.
Sometimes doctrines just vanish, once they appear as naked as the proverbial emperor in his new clothes.

Something like that seems now to be happening with affirmative action. Despite all the justifications for its continuance, polling shows the public still strongly disagrees with the idea of using racial criteria for admissions and hiring.

Its dwindling supporters typically include those who directly benefit from it, or who are not adversely affected by it. Arguments for the continuance of affirmative action are half-hearted and may explain why some supporters descend into name-calling directed at those who dare question its premises.

The Supreme Court, by a 6-2 majority, recently upheld the decision by Michigan voters that their state would neither favor nor discriminate against applicants to the state's public universities on the basis of race.

Recently, a group of liberal Asian-American state lawmakers in California -- a state that is over 60 percent non-white -- successfully blocked a proposed return to racial considerations in college admissions.

Asian-American students are now disproportionately represented in the flagship University of California system at nearly three times their percentages in the state's general population. If race were reintroduced as a consideration for admission, Asian-Americans would have had their numbers radically reduced in the California system at the expense of other ethnic-minority students, regardless of their impressive ethnically blind grades and test scores.

Expect more such pushback.

In the 1950s, when the country was largely biracial -- about 88 percent so-called white and 10 percent African-American -- and when the civil rights movement sought to erase historical institutionalized bias in the South against blacks, affirmative action seemed to be well intentioned and helpful.

But more than a half-century later, and in a vastly different multiracial America, affirmative action has been re-engineered as something perpetual and haphazardly applicable to a variety of ethnicities.

Class divisions are mostly ignored in admissions and hiring criteria, but in today's diverse society they often pose greater obstacles than race. The children of one-percenters such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z will have doors opened to them that are not open to those in Pennsylvania who, according to President Obama, "cling to guns or religion."

Race itself also is increasingly a problematic concept in 21st-century America. The more we talk about Latinos, blacks, Asians and others as if they were easily distinguishable groups, the less Americans fit into such neat rubrics. In an age of intermarriage, assimilation and global immigration, almost every American family has been redefined by members who are one half this or one quarter that.

Yet if verifiable hyphenation is to be our touchstone to career or academic identity, how do we certify minority status in an increasingly intermarried and multiracial society where there soon will be, as in California, no majority ethnic group? Are we to wear DNA badges to certify the exact percentages of our racial pedigrees -- to prevent another Elizabeth Warren or Ward Churchill from gaming the system?

Affirmative action once was defended as redress for the odious sins of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. But almost 150 years after the end of slavery, and a half-century after the establishment of civil rights legislation, it is hard to calibrate the interplay between race, relative past oppression and the need for compensatory action.

In a zero-sum, multiracial society, how do we best appreciate past suffering? How do we compare the Jewish-American whose grandparents were wiped out in the Holocaust with the grandchildren of those Japanese who were interned during World War II?

If compensation is not historically based, what then are the criteria that calibrate ongoing victimization? Would a European-Argentinean immigrant with a Hispanic name better qualified for affirmative action than the Bosnian Muslim refugee?

Affirmative action was also predicated on America's history of discrimination. It was never intended to apply to those who had recently arrived in America without proof of past discrimination in this country.

Who among the newly arrived immigrants from South Korea, Oaxaca, the Punjab or Nigeria becomes eligible for affirmative action, and who does not -- and on what reasoning are their claims of hardship more valid than those of poor fourth-generation Americans of any ethnic background?

There is also not always consistency in the application of affirmation action. Late-night talk-show hosts are not proportionally racially diverse. Neither are Silicon Valley CEOs, the directorship of the Sierra Club, or employees of the U.S. Postal Service or the NBA.

The public is confused about why we might consider ethnic criteria in hiring in the college anthropology department, but not so much when selecting transatlantic airline pilots, neurosurgeons or nuclear plant designers.

Should gender considerations be used to encourage more males on campuses? Female bachelor degree recipients now far outnumber their male counterparts and are skewing notions of gender equality.

Given these complexities and contradictions, the public, the Supreme Court and state legislators increasingly believe that a multiracial United States is unique precisely because race and tribe -- unlike most other places in the world -- are incidental rather than essential to our American identities.

The advice of Martin Luther King -- judge Americans only by the content of their characters -- is not only the simplest but in the end the only moral standard.

Ground Zero Mosque developer now plans museum of Islam at Ground Zero

/ Jihad Watch
Sharon Otterman of the New York Times asked me for comment on this story, as she did for one recently on the 9/11 Museum — and this time she actually quoted me in the story. She severely disfigures her piece here, however, in characteristic New York Times fashion, by dismissing opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque as “right-wing, anti-Muslim organizations,” and by describing me as someone who “runs an anti-Muslim blog, Jihad Watch.” Describing me and my work as “anti-Muslim,” as common as it may be, is a vicious slur: I am no more anti-Muslim than foes of the Nazis were anti-German. The idea that working to defend the freedom of speech and equality of rights for all people (including Muslims) is “anti-Muslim” says more about what Sharon Otterman thinks being Muslim consists of than it does about me.

Anyway, just for the record, here is my actual exchange with Sharon Otterman:

1. Otterman to Spencer:
Hi Robert,
Hope you’re well. I saw you reprinted our exchange on your website– I’m glad I spelled everything correctly.
I had another question for you– hopefully this answer will be included in the final piece!
Sharif El-Gamal, the developer of Park51, has just proposed a new plan for the former Burlington Coat Factory site near ground zero: a three story museum dedicated to exploring the faith of Islam and its arts and culture, that will include a sanctuary for prayer services and community programs.
Apparently he will keep the building to 3 stories instead of 15, and has commissioned a famous architect to do the design, and include a public green space. He proposes hosting academic and cultural events there.
I’m wondering what you think about the plan, in its broad outlines. If you want to pass this email along to Pam Geller, feel free, or I can reach out to her directly. Do you think it will cause a similar uproar to the last plan?
2. Spencer to Otterman:
You can reach Pamela Geller at
Sharif’s new plan sounds as if it will be dedicated to improving the image of Islam that was so tarnished by the 9/11 attacks. The structure as you describe it would be as grotesque as a three story museum dedicated to exploring the faith of Shintoism and emperor-worship, and its arts and culture, with a sanctuary for prayer services and community programs, at Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor would not be an appropriate place for such a museum, and it would indeed be legitimately seen as a tasteless attempt to exonerate the Japanese civil religion of responsibility for the attack and the war.
Likewise this museum, if it is to be built at all, should be anywhere but at Ground Zero. Just as it is inappropriate, offensive and unnecessary for the 9/11 Museum to go out of its way to improve the image of Islam, so also it is inappropriate and offensive to build a museum/mosque dedicated to the glories of Islam at the site of a catastrophic attack that its perpetrators described as inspired by and motivated by Islamic texts and teachings.
This structure may (or may not) be so different from the previous 15-story plan that it will be less likely to be taken in the Islamic world as a triumphal mosque a la the Dome of the Rock, the Hagia Sophia and the Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, etc., but it is still a spectacularly inappropriate idea for that location. If Sharif wants to improve the image of Islam, a mosque celebrating its purported glories at Ground Zero will not do the trick; only a concerted effort to reform Islam and counter the jihadist narrative within Muslim communities will accomplish that.
I ran into Sharif not long ago in New York and he invited me to meet privately with him and an imam. I was willing to do so and gave him my email address, but he never followed up. You can pass along to him that I am still willing to do so, but that if he wants to convince people that Islam is a religion of peace, building Islamic museums and having talks with unbelievers won’t do it; only solid work to refute the jihadist understanding of Islam and convince young Muslims that it is wrong will accomplish that. What is Sharif doing toward that end?
Robert Spencer