Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Anderson Cooper and the Gaza War

December 30, 2008

Given all the criticism that takes place of the media whenever conflict flares in the Middle East, I have to single Anderson Cooper out for praise. In the midst of his tough questioning of all of his guests, Cooper demonstrated a sense of the context of it.

Here’s Cooper: “To give you a better idea of what Israel is dealing with, here’s the ‘Raw Data’ on Hamas. The group took over Gaza back in June of last year, after winning parliamentary elections the year before. Dating back to 1987, during the first Palestinian uprising, Hamas has never wavered in its commitment to Israel’s destruction, and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, and, obviously, Israel.

The organization is believed to have between 15,000 and 20,000 troops, thousands of short-range rockets, and ample funding, some of it coming from Iran.”

Cooper even referenced a CNN report from prior in the year which showed the tunnels Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt.

Cooper’s smooth handling of a complicated issue contrasted with a Democratic strategist and Huffington Post contributor, Hillary Rosen, who was very much out of her league.

think the issue, though, is, you know, that there needs to be a — an agreement for a Palestinian state. Barack Obama campaigned on the idea of having a peaceful Palestinian state, living side by side within the — with the state of Israel. And, to do that, you have to go beyond Hamas. You have to deal with this more as a — as Palestinian issue, and not just as a — an issue of the immediate violence.

At this point, President Bush, President-Elect Obama and many Israelis all support a Palestinian state. Right now, the Israelis face two different — and opposing — Palestinian governments, one in the West Bank, the other in Gaza. With whom are they supposed to make peace?

I was also impressed with the perspective of Reza Aslan, who acknowledged that it was a complex problem. Here’s the exchange — which again reflects Cooper’s understanding of what is happening.

COOPER: Reza, where is there room between Hamas and Israel for some sort of agreement? I mean, unless Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist and — and stops firing rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas, it’s hard to see how any kind of a deal can be struck. 

ASLAN: Well, the truth is that the more elemental problem is to get an agreement not between Hamas and Israel, but between Hamas and Fatah, between the Gaza and the West Bank, because the idea of the two-state solution and of a — of a stable, economically viable Palestinian state is simply a pipe dream, unless we can figure out a way to create some kind of accommodation between these two parts of the Palestinian government. 

I’m also going to refer interested readers to my prior posts on Gaza after a visit to the embattled Israeli city of Sderot, here and here.

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Finding a Republican Canada

October 11, 2008

Chris Wilson posits an interesting question in a Slate piece: Where can Republicans threaten to move to if Barack Obama wins? Liberals threaten to move to Canada — and in some cases, France — when Republicans win. Wilson’s top candidate for a conservative exodus is Israel.

Kory Bardash, the chairman of Republicans Abroad in Israel, argues that Americans in Israel, who are largely Jewish, are not nearly as stridently supportive of Obama as their domestic counterparts. Bardash describes American voters in Israel as “Joe Lieberman Democrats” who might have backed Bill Clinton but who don’t connect with Obama’s domestic message and are more persuaded by charges that he lacks experience in foreign affairs. (Hillary Clinton won a majority of the Israel vote in the Democrats Abroad primary.) Israel’s political leanings are difficult to fact-check, but it’s safe to say that U.S. Republicans seeking refuge in Israel won’t have too much difficulty finding kindred spirits.

Wilson’s argument doesn’t make much sense. Anybody who has ever walked around Tel Aviv can’t help to be struck to the multitude of progressive attitudes, causes, and ideas expressed. Israelis, to be sure, know first hand the realities of facing terrorism daily. But the overall Israeli political spectrum, if anything, is to the left of the American. This is a country, I would remind Wilson, founded on explicitly socialist roots with large and important state bureaucracies still in control of many aspects of life.

Barack and Barak: Obama in the Middle East

July 24, 2008

It was interesting to see Barack Obama and Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, in the same photo op yesterday. Barak, Israel’s former prime minister, is one reason, despite all the talk about American Jews being uncomfortable with Obama’s full name, that they are more familiar with his name than other voters.

Barak is again a rising force in Israeli politics given the trouble that Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert is in right now. A compelling argument can be made that had Barak been in his current post in 2006, Israel would have fared better in the Lebanon War.

Ehud Barak is also a familiar figure for American Democrats. He was the favored candidate of the Clintons in 1999 when he defeated Benjamin Netanyahu. The Clintons felt they had such a vested interest in his election that they dispatched James Carvllle, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum to Israel to aid Barak in his election quest.

Some are trying to make much out of the American advisers who accompanied Obama to Israel. Most notably Dennis Ross. Ross was the main Middle East negotiator for Bill Clinton and had a similar post in the first Bush Administration.

There’s no question that Ross is a classic “peace processor.” But he’s also intellectually honest. It’s Ross who has most effectively rebutted the allegation that Israel (Ehud Barak!) failed to offer Arafat a comprehensive peace deal in 2000 at Camp David, which has become a staple of Jimmy Cartersque anti-Israel vitriol.

The reality is that in the wave of the current President Bush either party’s candidate will do more to try to push negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. And, it’s also true, that given the Hamas control of Gaza, it’s likely these negotiations will go nowhere. But it doesn’t mean you can’t try.

Israel at 30: When Streisand Sang for Golda

May 28, 2008

Barbra and Golda

I mentioned earlier that I had something up my sleeve for Israel’s 60th birthday celebration. It took more time than I wanted to put together. But here’s a piece for Nextbook that describes how America did it 30 years ago.

It’s hard even to believe now, but ABC put together a prime time variety show capped by an amazing Streisand performance. (This was, after all, the network that gave us “The Battle of the Network Stars.”)

I spoke to two great show business men to get the inside scoop — Buz Kohan and Charlie Fishman. Kohan is a veteran of scores of memorable t.v. shows, such as “Motown 25,” where Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk, to “Muhammed Ali’s 50th Birthday Celebration.” He is also the patriarch of a Hollywood family: his son, David, created “Will and Grace;” his daughter, Jenji, “Weeds.” For his part, Fishman is the head of Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and a former manager of Dizzy Gillespie. Here is an excerpt of the piece:

“Fishman had brought Stan Getz to Israel in 1977, a trip filmed for the 1978 documentary Stan Getz: A Musical Odyssey. ‘How do you break away from the late night television?’ Fishman remembers asking himself. ‘I sat back and said, ‘What would be the hippest thing to do? What would be the biggest star-power thing to do?’ ‘

No other Jewish American performer of the time was as big as Streisand. This was little more than a year after the release of A Star Is Born, which had garnered her an Oscar for the song ‘Evergreen.’ Fishman enlisted producer James Lipton, now famous for Inside the Actors Studio, and director Marty Pasetta, another award-show veteran, and set to work getting Streisand. She was interested, but had her own conditions: She wanted to sing accompanied by Zubin Mehta and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. So that’s exactly what she got. And with the strength of Streisand’s name, Fishman and company sold the show to ABC.

In the days before the show aired, Kohan and Mehta went to Streisand’s home to help her prepare. ‘She wanted to sing ‘Hatikvah,’ only she didn’t know’ the song, Kohan recalls. Kohan picked up the phone, called his wife, Rhea, and asked her to sing the song to Streisand. ‘I hope she’s not intimidated,’ Rhea quipped before launching into it.

Streisand’s preparation worked. For the organizers, the result was transcendent. ‘She was remarkable,’ says Kohan. ‘Everybody was impressed with the last twenty minutes of the show.’ ”

You can watch Streisand here.

The Bush-Israel Contretemps

May 16, 2008

The blogosphere and prominent Democrats are going crazy in the aftermath of President Bush’s remarks to the Israeli Knesset.

The meme here is that Bush was trying to make political points in Israel by likening Democrats to the appeasers of the Hitler Era. I have a few comments.

1. At this point in his lame duck presidency Bush poisons everything he touches. Notwithstanding the merits or lack thereof of his comments, his brand is so low, the president only hurts the cause he was purportedly helping — support for Israel. At this point, Bush should be winding things down and preparing to ride off into the sunset, not making comments easily construed as political attacks.

2. Having said that, an argument can be made that Bush was saying exactly what he believes. After all, a common refrain from Bush’s critics he is that he is too resistant to negotiations to solve problems and too quick to select the military option. But within the context of that critique, it would be wrong to somehow suggest at the same time that Bush doesn’t truly believe what he is saying. I thought that’s a big reason people don’t like him.

3. Observing the vitriol of Keith Olbermann last night, a heavy-handed performance which prompted me to change the channel, I couldn’t help but wonder where Olbermann’s anger was at the actual acts of terrorism that emanate from Hamas-controlled Gaza and into Israel, which, it should be remembered, withdrew from the coastal plain unilaterally in 2005.

4. Finally, why is it completely verboten to discuss the possibly existential threats Israel faces today from Iran? We can quarrel over the extent of danger posed by Iran and the true intentions of the Iranian regime. But there are certain facts on the record. Ahmadinejad has, after all, vowed “to wipe Israel off the map.” It is probably true that the position of Iran’s presidency does not hold exclusive authority in that country, and debates do exist about Iran’s progress at constructing a nuclear weapon. On the merits, too, it’s never a good idea for a sitting U.S. president to launch a political attack, particularly in a foreign land. At the same time, it suggests something pernicious about our culture when a ham-handed political attack from a president on his way out engenders more anger than a maniac’s promise to destroy another sovereign, democratic state.

Boston Celebrates Israel at 60

May 8, 2008

Turnout was big for Israel’s 60th Anniversary celebration at the John F. Kennedy Library last night. Governor Patrick, along with Myra Kraft and Israel’s Consul General, Nadav Tamir, addressed the crowd. 

Patrick, whose fortunes figure to rise with the tough times of Speaker DiMasi and the resurgence of Barack Obama, gave a brief, good speech. He pointed out that Massachusetts governors have a record of supporting Israel since William Russell attached his name to the Jewish cause in 1891.

He also announced that he plans to lead a trade mission on behalf of the Commonwealth to Israel. While I’d expect the papers to get on him for this as time away from the state, I think there are some natural synergies between our state and Israel where biotech is emerging as a major industry.

I’ll have more on this historic milestone for Israel later in the week.