King Abdullah in combat mode: The buzz was that Clint Eastwood’s royal torchbearer would himself participate in airstrikes [Royal Hashemite Court]
Jordan’s King Abdullah may be barely hanging in there – thanks mostly to Israel’s tacit support – but there are times when we Israelis must envy him. His PR is peerless. We see him posing in camouflage combat gear and the entire civilized world can’t applaud the macho-man loudly enough.
In a photo circulated by his palace, Abdullah strikes a daunting figure – the great hope of the world’s democracies. Their hype/hope is that Abdullah will fight their fight against Islamic State (ISIS a.k.a. ISIL). To boot, Abdullah is a Muslim which is awfully handy for the spin that IS barbarities shouldn’t color our attitudes toward Islam.
But Muslims have always been fighting Muslims in numerous internecine wars between rival factions of Islam. Abdullah, moreover, isn’t the only Muslim headliner who today wages war – such as it is – on IS. Damascus despot Bashar Assad does the same.
Assad’s anti-IS tactics have included gassing thousands of his own compatriots. Does that make him a good-guy? Do Assad’s Hezbollah foot-soldiers also deserve rehabilitation because they form the actual backbone of the anti-IS campaign? Does Iran, Assad’s and Hezbollah’s senior patron, get into our good-Muslim list because it too is so incontrovertibly against IS? Continue reading
Shalom Aleichem: although realizing he’s about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner
In his autobiography, legendary Yiddish author Shalom Aleichem recounts a harrowing story his grandfather had told him about “the bird-Jew.”
That was how the grandfather called Noah, a pious Jewish innkeeper who lived in constant dread of his Russian landlord, the village squire. Trembling, Noah headed for the manor to renew his lease. His timing was off, because the courtyard was full of festive guests ready to go hunting.
The squire, in a jovial mood, agreed to extend the agreement if Noah would climb the stable roof and pretend to be a bird – so he can shoot him. Fearful of angering the nobleman, Noah obsequiously did his bidding. He clambered up as ordered, bent forward, flung his arms sideways and assumed a birdlike pose. At that instant the squire fired and Noah fell, as any slain bird would.
Although realizing he’s about to be put to death anyway, the bird-Jew played along with his executioner, still absurdly terrified of what might happen if he didn’t. This is the cringing mentality, the fear of giving offense to one’s mortal enemies, which Zionism was established to eradicate.
But not with full success, it seems. Continue reading
At this point in time we don’t know what sort of nuclear reactor Vladimir Putin had promised his Egyptian host Abdel-Fattah a-Sisi during the Russian president’s visit to Cairo last week. No actual construction is about to start in the immediate future and thus the nature of the project is moot.
Moreover, it’s not the only new reactor planned. Turkey is getting one as is our next door neighbor Jordan. The Saudis too are shopping for nuclear power.
In all instances, including that of oil-glutted Saudi Arabia, the pretext is the need for an energy source. This too is the pro forma excuse of Iran, another major oil-producer. Also cited is scientific research – hardly the forte or focus of any of the aforementioned countries.
Unlike Iran, however, none of the above had vowed to wipe Israel off the map which can theoretically somewhat ease our angst. Continue reading
Godfrey of Bouillon (center) as depicted in a 13th Century illustration at the British Museum
Last week, at Washington’s annual National Prayer Breakfast, US President Barak Obama admonished us all lest “we get on our high horse and think that this [religious fanaticism] is unique to some other place – remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ … So, it is not unique to one group or one religion.”
This presidential platitude looks innocuous enough except that it’s deceptively simplistic. For one thing it casually glosses over the fact that the crimes it alludes to aren’t contemporaneous.
I am the last who’d seek to whitewash the Christian record. I hazard a guess that my family line was affected way more by Christian brutality than were any of Barack Obama’s ancestors. (Even if we accept his thesis that slavery in the American South and its Jim Crow laws were imposed in the name of Christ, none of Obama’s forebears suffered therefrom).
But one quick glance at my uniquely long genealogical chart will show many names accompanied by the notation “killed for Kiddush Hashem” – the sanctification of the Holy Name – Jewish euphemism for martyrdom. Continue reading
Mary Todd Lincoln (1861): Would America have benefitted had Abraham Lincoln heartlessly driven her away?
Woe to the national leader tested sorely in a merciless existential conflict while at the same time also being worn away by unremitting troubles on the home front. He has no peace of mind, no refuge from corroding acrimony. He never knows when and in what circumstances the other shoe would drop but he expects it come down on his head with a thud.
How, say the cynics baying for their antagonist’s political blood, can he be trusted with the weighty affairs of state when he has an unpredictable liability as his helpmate? So in the guise of exposing a threat to the nation – i.e. the headliner’s distracting wife – the sideswipers distract him all the more.
Poor Abraham Lincoln had to oversee the bloodiest war in American annals without enjoying supportive stability and peace in what should have been his safe haven. Not only were many of his wife Mary’s closest kin Confederates who loathed her husband and took up arms against him, but she was exasperatingly erratic.
The media, such as it was back in the 1860s, loved to bash her. Her spotty public image provided titillating relief from the raging Civil War. Continue reading