Sunday, August 28, 2005

An Experiment

The Kollel Iyun Hadaf offers a number of study aids for Daf Yomi learners. You can request to have these e-mailed to you so that they will be available as you go through each daf. They are also all archived and so you can use them as aids for any Talmud study you happen to be doing. They include "Daf-Insights," "Daf-Background," "Daf-Review," and a bunch of other stuff. Today I learned Sukka, Daf 5, and so I sampled a number of these items. What did I find most useful? "Daf-Insights." If I had been learning with just a Hebrew/Aramiac Gemara, I might have preferred "Daf-Background."

Christopher Hitchens: "A War to Be Proud Of"

Try this:
Anyone with the smallest knowledge of Iraq knows that its society and infrastructure and institutions have been appallingly maimed and beggared by three decades of war and fascism (and the "divide-and-rule" tactics by which Saddam maintained his own tribal minority of the Sunni minority in power). In logic and morality, one must therefore compare the current state of the country with the likely or probable state of it had Saddam and his sons been allowed to go on ruling.

At once, one sees that all the alternatives would have been infinitely worse, and would most likely have led to an implosion--as well as opportunistic invasions from Iran and Turkey and Saudi Arabia, on behalf of their respective interests or confessional clienteles. This would in turn have necessitated a more costly and bloody intervention by some kind of coalition, much too late and on even worse terms and conditions. This is the lesson of Bosnia and Rwanda yesterday, and of Darfur today. When I have made this point in public, I have never had anyone offer an answer to it. A broken Iraq was in our future no matter what, and was a responsibility (somewhat conditioned by our past blunders) that no decent person could shirk. The only unthinkable policy was one of abstention.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Charles Krauthammer: "What's Next for Israel?"

Krauthammer wrongly supported the Gaza pull-out. Now that Gaza is a moot point, his articles on Israel can be useful again:
The Arabs are a great people. They have 21 states stretching from the Atlantic to the frontier of Persia. They will soon have a 22nd state called Palestine. The only question is whether its establishment will be on the grave of the world's only Jewish state.

What is at stake is whether the world, led by the United States, will demand Arab acceptance of that single Jewish state, or whether the United States will continue to push Israel from one concession to another until one day another arch is erected, this time in Jerusalem itself, commemorating the destruction of history's third and last Jewish commonwealth.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cindy Sheehan refers to Outside Terrorists Coming into Iraq as "Freedom Fighters"

Islamic Leaders: CIA Carried out Bombings in Bangladesh

It seems that totalitarian regimes and movements are inevitably conspiracist:
Addressing the discussion the editor of monthly Madina and convener of NCRC Maulana Mohiuddin Khan protested the statement of Indian High Commissioner Veena Sikri who in her statement identified the fundamentalists as perpetrators of the bomb attacks.

"We believe that RAW and CIA have links to all the incidents of bomb attacks", said Maulana Mohiuddin Khan.
RAW is India's intelligence agency.(Hat tip: Judeoscope)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Twentieth of Av

Thursday is "Chaf Av"--20 Av--the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Thursday night many Chabad-Lubavitch Centers (Chabad Houses, etc.) will have a free event for Jews called a "Farbrengen." The idea, roughly, is to eat, say "lechaim," sing niggunim, and listen to an inspiring speaker. Here is a story about R. Levi Yitzchak from the "L'Chaim" weekly newsletter:
One night in 1935, in the midst of the fiercest Stalinist oppression, a woman knocked on his door. "I've come from a distant city whose name I cannot mention. In approximately one hour, my daughter and her fiance? will also arrive. They both hold high government positions and so their coming here is fraught with danger. They have agreed to be married according to Jewish law, provided you would perform the wedding in your home."

Rav Levi Yitzchak consented and set about gathering together a minyan for the wedding. Within half an hour, he had brought eight other men into his home. But the tenth man was lacking. On the bottom floor of the apartment house where Rav Levi Yitzchak lived a young Jewish man who had been hired by the Communist authorities to spy on the goings on in Rav Levi Yitzchak's home. Rav Levi Yitzchak was well aware of who this person was and how he was employed. Yet when the tenth man was lacking, he sent for him.

"We need a tenth man for a minyan so that a Jewish couple can marry," he told his neighbor.

"And so you sent for me?!" the neighbor responded in utter amazement. And yet he consented to participate in the minyan and did not inform about the ceremony.

Years later, the Rebbe said: "From my father I learned never to be afraid."

More in the same vein here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 on Parshat Eikev

The Parshah section of the website has a variety or resources to assist you in your weekly parshah study. There is a very short summary, a lengthier summary, the Judaica press translation of the text of the parshah, with or without Rashi's commentary in a parallel column, and also various articles and other features focused on the parshah. The following is from the parshah-in-depth section:
The Lubavitcher Rebbe says: Our commitment to Torah should be such that it permeates us entirely, so that also our heel -- the lowest and the least sensitive part of the person -- "hearkens to these laws, observes them and does them." In other words, our relationship with G-d should not be confined to the holy days of the year, or to certain "holy" hours we devote to prayer and study, but should also embrace our everyday activities. Indeed, this "lowly" and "spiritually insensitive" part of our life is the foundation of our relationship with G-d, in the same way that the heel is the base upon which the entire body stands and moves.

Note for Gentiles: The "parshah" is the weekly Torah reading. The Pentatuech is divided up so that it can be completed in one year. We are currently in the third week of Devarim (Deuteronomy).

Friday, August 19, 2005

James Lileks: "What the Presbyterian Church (USA) Has in Common With al-Qaida"

In some ways, having a blog is like collecting stamps. Here Lileks weighs in on Presbyterian divestment:

The companies the church wishes to pressure include Caterpillar, which makes bulldozers purchased by the Israelis for the sole purpose of knocking down innocent homes of gentle lamb herders, and Motorola, which among other things sells night-vision goggles that give the Israeli Defense Forces an unfair advantage over people who want to smuggle in bombs to encourage the social-justice dialogue.

The church will probably get around to boycotting Cuisinart, if the imams suggest that Jews use Cuisinart products to grind up Gentile bones for Passover pastries. Of course it's not true, literally, but in the culture of the occupation and resistance, we must understand these things as potent metaphors. False, yes, but potent!

Next they can sue the company that sells buses to Israeli cities. All those tempting targets, packed with innocent people. How could an oppressed person resist killing them all? What sort of civilized nation would tempt them so? Especially because they don't have helicopters and night-vision goggles and tanks and missiles. Not that they'd use those devices against Israelis. That would risk a Presbyterian boycott.

There are some lines even the most romantic revolutionary dare not cross.
More along the same lines here.
(Hat tip: Art Werschulz and Joseph Hertzlinger)

Victor Davis Hanson on "The Biteback Effect"

Hanson proposes a new term:
But in the interest of simplicity, I'll call it the "biteback" effect. Every time one hears a strident censor bring up a purported American sin, expect that he'll be bitten right back by proving the opposite of what he intended — and looking foolish in the bargain.
And whether or not the term catches on, his analysis is cogent:
In the age of utopianism we demand impossible standards of perfection. Then when they cannot be met, we conclude that we are not good at all, but the equivalent of a Pol Pot, Hitler, or Saddam himself — an elected American president who is a worse terrorist than Osama bin Laden.

And in a war with enemies like few other in our recent history, the contrast between rhetoric and reality is only accentuated: panties over the head of an Iraqi inmate, no head at all on an American prisoner; Korans given to the enemy terrorists in jail, Bibles outlawed for visitors to our friends the Saudis; our elected president becomes a member of the "Bush crime family" as we worry about proper barristers for Saddam Hussein's genuinely criminal family. As we fear that we have fallen short of the postmodern therapeutic age, Islamic fascists brag they are avatars of the Dark Ages.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Frank Gaffney: "Poster Child for Surrender"

Gaffney draws an interesting connection between Cindy Sheehan and the Gaza withdrawal:
The media circus that has surrounded and amplified all of Ms. Sheehan's increasingly strident rhetorical outbursts (she says she won't pay taxes until she gets her son back and wants the president impeached for war crimes) may, by so doing, have filled a void in their August doldrums programming. Their 24 hour per day, seven days a week coverage of Casey Sheehan's mom has done something else, however: Together with polls showing flagging support for the president, it has further encouraged the conviction of our Islamofascist enemies that, as they expected, an indolent and self-indulgent United States cannot stand up to determined, ruthless foes.

That perception can have but one effect: It puts an even bigger premium on the lives of every one of Casey's comrades in Iraq and elsewhere, and to foreclose the outcomes for which he and the other fallen gave their lives. Even before his mom became a spectacle, the Islamists hoped -- as in Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1994 -- killing enough American troops would make the rest withdraw ignominiously. Handing the U.S. such defeats enhances the claims to leadership and power of those responsible for driving them out, effectively eliminating alternatives that may have been more sympathetic to Western values and interests.

A test case is under way at this writing. Israel is forcibly removing settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank that will be turned over to Palestinian control. Already, the Islamofascists of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and factions of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement are claiming their terrorism forced the Israelis to "disengage."

Monday, August 15, 2005

John Hinderaker on the Recent Lutheran Anti-Israel Resolution

Powerline's John Hinderaker on the recent Lutheran resolution condemning the Israeli security fence. How many liberal Protestant denominations have gotten into the Israel-bashing act now? The Lutherans are certainly living up to the great tradition established by their founder, the author of the odious "Von den Juden und ihre Lugen." As Hinderaker notes,
Dissociation from Middle Eastern reality exists, not among the laity of the ELCA and other traditional Protestant churches, but among the leaders and professional staffers of these denominations. It is hard to escape the conclusion that those leaders are just one more layer of the liberal elite; for them, support for the Palestinian cause is of a piece with other liberal political positions promoted by their church hierarchies--environmentalism, high taxes, and so on.

Make sure you follow the link to CAMERA's list of factual errors in the Lutheran resolution.

Daniel Pipes: "A Democracy Killing Itself"

The subject is the Gaza withdrawal, of course:
The harm will be three-fold: within Israel, in relations with the Palestinians, and internationally.

Sharon won the prime ministry in early 2003 by electorally crushing an opponent who espoused unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon declared back then: "A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war." For unknown reasons, in late 2003 he adopted his opponent's policy of leaving Gaza, thereby reneging on his promises, betraying his supporters, and inflicting lasting damage on Israeli public life.

Diana West on "Making sense of crazy reality"

I am linking to this because West recognizes the relative triviality of Plame-gate and the Roberts nomination compared to currently unfolding events in the Middle East:
It sounds crazy, but this is reality. Monday, Aug. 15, promises to be a great day for sharia, or Islamic law. It marks the end of the constitutional wrangling in Iraq and the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Both events -- fought for, facilitated, even micromanaged by the U.S. of A. -- should expand the domain of Islamic law, which codifies female inferiority and religious inequality. I don't know a better way to quantify the two events. By day's end, Iraq, if it settles as expected on a draft constitution based in sharia, and Gaza, as a new sector of the already sharia-vested Palestinian Authority, will have joined the community of nations at odds with the Free World.
I will add that, incredibly, the current Israeli government practically began the process of ejecting the Jewish residents of Gaza on Tisha B'Av, the date that, more than any other, commemorates the exile of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Subterranean Temple

A D'var Torah for the Three Weeks (leading up to Tisha B'Av) based on a talk of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Is the Ark from the Holy Temple hidden in a subterranean Holy of Holies?
In the thirty centuries since it was first built, the Holy Temple has never ceased to fulfill its fundamental function as the seat of the Divine presence in the world. There were times in which the entire structure stood in all its glory atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, times in which it existed in a diminished form (as in the Second Temple Era), and times in which it was almost entirely destroyed. But a certain part of the Holy Temple has never been disturbed, and there its heart has never ceased to beat. When the “Third” Temple will be built, speedily in our days, and the Ark restored to its above-ground chamber, it will not be a new edifice, or even a “rebuilding,” but a revelation and reasserting of what has been present all along.

An Exhaustive Expose of CAIR by Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha

A short excerpt concerning the former Cat Stevens, winner of something called a "Man of Peace Award":
Its neo-Nazi side came out most clearly in CAIR’s early years. In 1996, according to testimony by Steven Emerson, Yusuf Islam—the Muslim convert formerly known as the singer Cat Stevens—gave a keynote speech at a CAIR event. The contents of the speech itself are not known but Islam wrote a pamphlet published by the IAP (which is connected to CAIR) which included these sentences:

The Jews seem neither to respect God nor his Creation. Their own holy books contain the curse of God brought upon them by their prophets on account of their disobedience to Him and mischief in the earth. We have seen the disrespect for religion displayed by those who consider themselves to be “God’s Chosen People.”
I guess we're not invited to ride the Peace Train.

Instapunk on Cindy Sheehan

I was not especially planning to link to anything on the whole Cindy Sheehan business, but this essay is very well written. (Hat tip: Michelle Malkin)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Caroline Glick on "Netanyahu's great gamble"

Glick keeps writing important articles about the Gaza pull-out. Here is a longer excerpt than usual:
Netanyahu's resignation points to two acute problems that Israel faces, both as we move into the implementation of the expulsion orders and as we look beyond these terrible events. From the moment Sharon announced the plan in December 2003, Netanyahu was faced with two equally stark choices. He could remain a cabinet minister with no power to change or meaningfully influence the government's disastrous flagship policy, or he could leave the government and continue to have no influence over the policy. The fact that this state of affairs, where a senior government minister has absolutely no influence over national policy, has been allowed to develop is atrocious.

At the same time, the fact that Sharon has managed to engineer a situation where he can trample the wishes of his voters and his party and, through payoffs and odd coalitions supported by the Left, the far Left, the anti-religious secularists and the anti-Zionist Arab parties, maintain and strengthen his grip on power, should long ago have sounded the alarm bells for all who care about the state of Israeli democracy.

More than anything, Netanyahu's resignation shows that while Sharon's government has lost all remaining vestiges of integrity, Netanyahu himself, in risking his career to keep faith with his conscience and his voters, has proved his worthiness to lead. Those who care about the future of this country must bury the hatchets that divide them and find the practical, workable and democratic ways to cooperate in calling for elections, with Netanyahu at the helm of the Likud, as quickly as possible

Read the rest.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Daniel Pipes: "Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem"

Another blast of sanity from Daniel Pipes:
Palestinian Arab intentions worry even Israeli leftists. An Arab affairs specialist for Ha'aretz, Danny Rubinstein notes that Prime Minister Sharon decided to leave Gaza only after anti-Israel carnage there had escalated. "Even if these attacks were not the reason why Sharon came up with the idea of disengagement, the Palestinians are certain that that is the case, and this has reinforced their belief that Israel only understands the language of terror attacks and violence."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Victor Davis Hanson on the Iraq War Debate

Hanson demonstrates an impressive ability to step back from the various opinions and provide an overview:
So why this growing angry divide at home about Iraq? First, the war crystallized preexisting but fundamental philosophical differences among segments of the American people.

Consider all the conflicting refrains:

We are a republic, not an empire and should husband our resources for ourselves;

No, we are a pathological presence abroad and should husband and redistribute our resources for our own poor;

No, we are a constabulatory force that should not take sides per se, but rather enforce order and stability in a global commercial system of free markets and trade;

No, morally we cannot enjoy democracy at home while allowing it to die abroad;

No, realistically our ultimate security rests with as many democracies overseas as possible.

These same fault lines were emerging in 1999 with the bombing of Serbia, but were arrested by the capitulation of Milosevic and the quick conclusion to the war.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Don't Buy From Presbyterians

Another disgusting development in the divestment saga. Here are the first two paragraphs of the AP story:
A Presbyterian committee accused five companies Friday of contributing to "ongoing violence that plagues Israel and Palestine" and pledged to use the church's multimillion-dollar stock holdings in the businesses to pressure them to stop.

The move follows a vote last year by leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to put economic pressure on companies that profit from Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza.
(Hat tip: LGF)

"Pullout will endanger West"

Caroline Glick has written a number of recent articles explaining why the proposed Gaza pullout is madness. Her latest is based on an interview with Binyamin Netanyahu, who explains:
"It's the West's problem as well because forces that are controlled, deployed and cooperate with Iran - and today Hizbullah and Hamas are controlled in a significant way by Iran - will receive an additional base of operations not only in close proximity to Israel's cities but also on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea not far from

Friday, August 05, 2005

Rabbi Simon Jacobson: "My Enemies Make Me Wise"

So far I have been largely neglecting the "Judeo" part of my intended "Judeopundit" focus. This article provides a good example of true Judeopunditry for a change. Rabbi Jacobson begins by asking the following:
Who is the author of the following quote?

“… [the Jews are] more afraid to fight for the Promised Land than they are of G-d. For this reason, the Jewish people does not find it hard to break the covenant between G-d and Abraham, which awarded the Land of Israel to the Jewish people for all generations. That is why G-d has despaired of the Jews. After bequeathing them every possible means for securing victory and independence, G-d found His effort had been in vain.”

Read the rest to learn the answer. Gut Shabbos.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

David Brooks on "Trading Cricket for Jihad"

In which the New York Times manages to publish a good editorial about the War on Terror:
In his book "Globalized Islam," the French scholar Olivier Roy points out that today's jihadists have a lot in common with the left-wing extremists of the 1930's and 1960's. Ideologically, Islamic neofundamentalism occupies the same militant space that was once occupied by Marxism. It draws the same sorts of recruits (educated second-generation immigrants, for example), uses some of the same symbols and vilifies some of the same enemies (imperialism and capitalism).

Roy emphasizes that the jihadists are the products of globalization, and its enemies. They are detached from any specific country or culture, he says, and take up jihad because it attaches them to something. They are generally not politically active before they take up jihad. They are looking to strike a vague blow against the system and so give their lives (and deaths) shape and meaning.

In short, the Arab world is maintaining its nearly perfect record of absorbing every bad idea coming from the West. Western ideas infuse the radicals who flood into Iraq to blow up Muslims and Americans alike.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Captain Ed on "Terrorists with Bad Aim"

Islamic Jihad and the other terrorist groups which constitute the Palestinians' only political parties have recently been staging a convincing demonstration of why it is madness for Israel to pull out of Gaza. Captain Ed's analysis is particularly apt:
Neither Islamic Jihad nor Hamas would take responsibility for the botched attack, but IJ had spent the past few months defying the cease-fire as part of the triangle strategy I've described often here at CQ. That allows two of the three main terrorist factions -- IJ, Hamas, and Fatah -- to endorse cease-fire agreements while the third ignores them. When Israel responds in kind, then the other two blame Israel for violating the cease fire and begin attacking again. This strategy has played itself out more regularly than Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, and yet people routinely take the Palestinians seriously when they pronounce their willingness to stop terrorist attacks on Israeli buses, pizzerias, and so on.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. on "old Saudi games"

It is no small irony the new Saudi ambassador to the United States exemplifies his country's double game on terrorism: Prince Turki al-Faisal. For roughly 25 years, Turki was in charge of Saudi Arabia's intelligence operations. He was intimately familiar both with his country's efforts to promote Wahhabism (including supporting bin Laden's operations in Afghanistan) and its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.
King Fahd's death, the mounting evidence of the danger from ongoing Saudi support for terror and the appointment to Washington of one of the kingdom's most experienced double-gamers should require Saudi Arabia finally to do what President Bush demanded nearly four years ago: The Saudis can no longer be with us and against us. They must be made to choose.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Michael Ledeen on "Iranian Fission"

Ledeen has been consistently good on the subject of Iran. Here is a sample of his latest:
One grows tired of learned disquisitions about the inner workings of various Muslim subgroups, as one tires of the false generalizations — "Islam is a religion of peace" or "Islam is a religion of war." (Both are true) — rather than seeing the region plain. The (Shiite) Iranians, in league with the (Sunni) Saudis and Syrians employ thousands of terrorists, suicide and other, from all over the Middle East, of various religious "conviction." It all has a religious/ideological overlay — as did fascism and Communism — but this is an old-fashioned war (spare me from "struggles against extremism"). The terror masters and their foot soldiers are trying to kill us and our allies, in order to remove us from the region, thereby extending the lifespan of their tyrannical regimes. The Koran, whatever the particular exegesis employed, is no obstacle to tactical alliances, any more than Mein Kampf prevented the Fuhrer from surrounding himself with a variety of distinctly non-Aryan thugs (not many blue-eyed blondes in the bunker), or Hitler, Mussolini, or Stalin from changing strategy, or even making alliances with their presumed mortal enemies (remember the Nazi-Soviet pact?), when circumstances warranted.