And yes, I mean every word in the title of this blog post. Here is why. [Read more…]
And yes, I mean every word in the title of this blog post. Here is why. [Read more…]
When my father was a very little boy–I don’t remember how little, but I believe that his age was in the single digits–his parents decided to host some friends at their home in Tehran. My paternal grandfather, took the opportunity, during the gathering, to tell all of his friends about his very clever eldest son, and invited his friends to ask my father questions to test his intelligence and knowledge. They did so, and my father showed himself to be unusually bright for his age in answering the questions posed to him. [Read more…]
The putative next president of the United States has been trying recently to seem more approachable, more warm, more friendly, more of a kind-of-person-you-and-I-would-want-to-have-a-beer-with kind of politician. Presumably, achieving all of this would cause the rest of us to want to give her the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But when one looks beyond the charm offensive, one continues to find little charm, and much that is offensive. [Read more…]
There is no limit to what one can write about Donald Trump’s deficiencies. His time in the spotlight has made it clear that he is an awful human-resembling-thing, whose presidential run is more about himself and not at all about serving the country. Every day, it seems, Trump does something to confirm the impression that as a president, he would be out of his depth, and as a candidate, his strategy is to bring out the worst in the country he claims to want to lead–apparently, even Trump knows that his best chance of winning is to appeal to our baser instincts as a nation.
I am something of a history buff (or at least, I try my best to be), so when someone gets history wrong, I tend to get . . . oh, how to phrase this? . . . annoyed. To be sure, honest mistakes are sometimes made when discussing history, and your humble servant makes those mistakes as well (too often, for your humble servant’s own tastes). But while the occasional error is understandable, when history is deliberately misread for political purposes, then the civilized response to such a misreading is–and ought to be–outrage. [Read more…]
Let’s be abundantly clear about something. Jonathan Pollard is a traitor to the United States of America, and should spend the rest of his life paying for his crimes. He inflicted catastrophic damage on American national security, he betrayed the trust of those who thought well of him and gave him access to sensitive intelligence, and if he is at all remorseful about his actions, I have yet to hear of it. And even if I do hear about it, I’ll have no reason whatsoever to believe it. [Read more…]
My desperate attempt to convince myself that the nuclear deal with Iran is a good one is–I am sorry to report–in the process of failing miserably. I wish that I could report otherwise, but alas, those accursed facts keep getting in the way, and keep me from liking this deal.
Oh, don’t think that I will give up on my effort to feel optimistic that the nuclear agreement with Iran is a triumph of American diplomacy. I am not a quitter, after all. But stubborn as I am, and as much as I would like to persevere in my effort to become a fan of the deal, I can see the handwriting on the wall, and that handwriting has produced the following words: “This is a bad deal.” [Read more…]
“How can anyone be allowed to paint a swastika on the statue of Marianne, the goddess of French liberty, in the very center of the Place de la République?”
That was what the chairman of one of France’s most celebrated luxury brands was thinking last July, when a tall man in a black shirt and a kaffiyeh leapt to the ledge of Marianne’s pedestal and scrawled a black swastika. All around him, thousands of angry demonstrators were swarming the square with fake rockets, Palestinian and Hamas flags, even the black-and-white banners of ISIS. Here, barely a mile and a half from the Galeries Lafayette, the heart of bourgeois Paris, the chants: “MORT AUX JUIFS! MORT AUX JUIFS!” Death to the Jews. It was Saturday, July 26, 2014, and a pro-Palestinian demonstration turned into a day of terror in one of the most fashionable neighborhoods of the city.
“Do something! Do you see what is happening here?” the chairman said to a line of police officers watching the demonstration build to a frenzy. “What do you expect us to do?” one officer said, then looked away. For years, the chairman, a longtime anti-racism activist, has turned up at rallies like this one to see which politicians and which radical groups were present. (For reasons of personal safety, the chairman asked not to be identified for this story.) France’s endless demonstrations are a mainstay of the republic, a sacred right rooted in the legacy of Voltaire. But hate speech is a criminal offense—people may express their opinions, but not to the extent of insulting others based on their race, religion, or sex. The protest—against Israel’s Gaza policies—had been banned by the government, fearful of violence, following flare-ups in the preceding weeks. But if the police were to move in too quickly, the riots might continue all summer long—suburbs in flames, mobs in central Paris.
Photographs and videos of the swastika and its perpetrator, of protesters chanting “Kill the Jews,” and of the Palestinian, Hamas, and ISIS flags were sent in a rush to various groups in the Jewish community who assess threats. By early afternoon, some of these reached Sammy Ghozlan, a 72-year-old retired police commissioner who has spent his career working the banlieues, the belt of working-class, racially mixed suburbs that surround Paris. Ghozlan is a folk hero of the banlieues and has a nickname that is impossible to forget: le poulet cacher—“the kosher chicken.” (Poulet is slang for cop.) For 15 years, he has overseen France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism—known by its French abbreviation, B.N.V.C.A.—a community hotline he founded that is funded by his police pension and whatever small donations he can come by. Its purpose is nothing less than to protect the Jews of France.
[. . .]
Just two weeks before the July 26 riot, Ghozlan’s texts and messages did not stop. It was Bastille Day weekend, and, on Sunday, July 13, he tracked the hundreds of protesters who rushed into the Marais, Paris’s historic Jewish quarter, stopping briefly at an empty synagogue on the Rue des Tournelles, near the Place des Vosges, and then racing, reportedly with iron bars, axes, and flags, toward the Rue de la Roquette, a boutique-and-café-lined street a few blocks from the apartment of Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Their destination was the Don Isaac Abravanel synagogue. Inside, the 200 worshippers—including the chief rabbi of Paris—heard the howls from the crowd, estimated to number about 300: “Hitler was right!” “Jews, get out of France!” Audrey Zenouda, a policewoman who happened to be inside the synagogue, called her father, a retired policeman who works with Ghozlan at the B.N.V.C.A. “Do something. We are terrified here.”
“I knew that if anyone could get the police to take action it would be Sammy and the B.N.V.C.A.,” Zenouda later told me. Only six police officers were assigned to be on demonstration duty that day. “We are waiting for the assault police to arrive,” one told a reporter at the scene. After an hour, a counterterrorism force rescued the chief rabbi, but everyone else was left inside, behind doors barricaded from the inside with chairs and tables. Outside, members of a special security patrol and a dozen members of the self-trained Ligue de Défense Juive began chasing off the demonstrators with chairs and tables from nearby cafés, working with a small unit from the security force. Together, it took them three hours to disperse the crowd and safely evacuate the synagogue.
Almost immediately afterward, the reports of the July 13 demonstration would be challenged and debated. The numbers would be skeptically parsed—were there really so many?—and questions would be asked about actions that might have provoked the violence, as if carrying iron bars and axes around central Paris might be normal. In some circles, there were even accusations that the Jews “brought on the behavior,” as they always do.
Count me as a supporter of Japan’s decision to cast aside pacifism and to become the military counterweight to China that the United States needs and wants it to be, as well as becoming a country that can provide for its own defense needs without excessive reliance on the United States. To be sure, I don’t want Japan to use this moment to sweep war crimes under the rugs (as it is wont to do much too often, alas), but I do happen to believe that Japan can both become a serious and responsible military power, and at the same time, be cognizant of the lessons of history. At times, Japanese politicians seem determined to make me seem naïve and overly optimistic regarding that last expectation, but for every Japanese public figure who is willing to sweep the lessons of history under the rug, there are a host of other Japanese politicians who are determined to remember, and a Japanese public determined to help in the remembering. More power to that latter group. [Read more…]
I would like to think that the nuclear deal with Iran is a good one. I would like to think that it will succeed and prevent Iran from ever becoming a nuclear power. I would like to think that it will increase regional stability and security, and that in doing so, it will increase global stability and security. I would like to think that those who staff the Obama administration–from the president on down–will be able to point to the agreement decades from now and say “we did good. We made the world safer. We have every reason to be proud.” And I would like to think that Americans and people across the world will have every reason and every justification to agree with such a statement.
But as of this writing, I have my doubts that this is a good deal. [Read more…]
What Pejman looks like when he's blogging.