It's worth clicking through this link to see the headline in the ordinarily staid Foreign Policy Magazine.
Perhaps the key sentence is this: “His lack of conventional
real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility
for the fate of nations — like military or diplomatic service, or even a
master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative
writing — is still startling.”
Rhodes comes off like a real asshole. This is not a matter of
politics — I have voted for Obama twice. Nor do I mind Rhodes’s contempt
for many political reporters: “Most of the outlets are reporting on
world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27
years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around
political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
But, as that quote indicates, he comes off like an overweening little
shmuck. This quotation seems to capture his world view: “He referred to
the American foreign policy establishment as the Blob. According to
Rhodes, the Blob includes Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and other
Iraq-war promoters from both parties who now whine incessantly about the
collapse of the American security order in Europe and the Middle East.”
Blowing off Robert Gates takes nerve.
I expect cynicism in Washington. But it usually is combined with a
lot of knowledge — as with, say, Henry Kissinger. To be cynical and
ignorant and to spin those two things into a virtue? That’s industrial
strength hubris. Kind of like what got us into Iraq, in fact.
Rhodes and others around Obama keep on talking about doing all this
novel thinking, playing from a new playbook, bucking the establishment
thinking. But if that is the case, why have they given so much foreign
policy power to two career hacks who never have had an original thought?
I mean, of course, Joe Biden and John Kerry. I guess the answer can
only be that those two are puppets, and (as in Biden’s case) are given
losing propositions like Iraq to handle.
Fact check: Obama’s hasn’t been an original foreign policy as much as it has been a politicized foreign
policy. And this Rhodes guy reminds me of the Kennedy smart guys who
helped get us into the Vietnam War. Does he know how awful he sounds?
Kind of like McGeorge Bundy meets Lee Atwater.
In an article appearing in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, White House speechwriter Ben Rhodes (@rhodes44) admits what Israel supporters claimed all along: He lied to Congress in order to sell the nuclear sellout to Iran.
Rhodes’s innovative campaign
to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future
administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The
way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal
presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with
Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political
reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought
moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the
purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story
are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to
take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s
closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with
Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his
presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two
days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action, was implemented. He then checked off the ways in which the
administration’s foreign-policy aims and priorities converged on Iran.
“We don’t have to kind of be in cycles of conflict if we can find other
ways to resolve these issues,” he said. “We can do things that challenge
the conventional thinking that, you know, ‘AIPAC doesn’t like this,’ or
‘the Israeli government doesn’t like this,’ or ‘the gulf countries
don’t like it.’ It’s the possibility of improved relations with
adversaries. It’s nonproliferation. So all these threads that the
president’s been spinning — and I mean that not in the press sense — for
almost a decade, they kind of all converged around Iran.”
the narrative that Rhodes shaped, the “story” of the Iran deal began in
2013, when a “moderate” faction inside the Iranian regime led by Hassan
Rouhani beat regime “hard-liners” in an election and then began to
pursue a policy of “openness,” which included a newfound willingness to
negotiate the dismantling of its illicit nuclear-weapons program. The
president set out the timeline himself in his speech announcing the
nuclear deal on July 14, 2015: “Today, after two years of negotiations,
the United States, together with our international partners, has
achieved something that decades of animosity has not.” While the
president’s statement was technically accurate — there had in fact been
two years of formal negotiations leading up to the signing of the
J.C.P.O.A. — it was also actively misleading, because the most
meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012,
many months before Rouhani and the “moderate” camp were chosen in an
election among candidates handpicked by Iran’s supreme leader, the
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The idea that there was a new reality in Iran
was politically useful to the Obama administration. By obtaining broad
public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in
the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to
moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their
neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have
otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy
choices that his administration was making. By eliminating the fuss
about Iran’s nuclear program, the administration hoped to eliminate a
source of structural tension between the two countries, which would
create the space for America to disentangle itself from its established
system of alliances with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and
Turkey. With one bold move, the administration would effectively begin
the process of a large-scale disengagement from the Middle East.
The person whom Kreikemeier credits with running the digital side of the
campaign was Tanya Somanader, 31, the director of digital response for
the White House Office of Digital Strategy, who became known in the war
room and on Twitter as @TheIranDeal. Early on, Rhodes asked her to
create a rapid-response account that fact-checked everything related to
the Iran deal. “So, we developed a plan that was like: The Iran deal is
literally going to be the tip of everything that we stand up online,”
Somanader says. “And we’re going to map it onto what we know about the
different audiences we’re dealing with: the public, pundits, experts,
the right wing, Congress.” By applying 21st-century data and networking
tools to the white-glove world of foreign affairs, the White House was
able to track what United States senators and the people who worked for
them, and influenced them, were seeing online — and make sure that no
potential negative comment passed without a tweet.
I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed
from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes
nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse
the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who
was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use
outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So
we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the
Iran deal. “We drove them crazy,” he said of the deal’s opponents.
Rhodes bridled at the suggestion that there has been anything deceptive
about the way that the agreement itself was sold. “Look, with Iran, in a
weird way, these are state-to-state issues. They’re agreements between
governments. Yes, I would prefer that it turns out that Rouhani and
Zarif” — Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister — “are real
reformers who are going to be steering this country into the direction
that I believe it can go in, because their public is educated and, in
some respects, pro-American. But we are not betting on that.”
fact, Rhodes’s passion seems to derive not from any investment in the
technical specifics of sanctions or centrifuge arrays, or any particular
optimism about the future course of Iranian politics and society. Those
are matters for the negotiators and area specialists. Rather, it
derived from his own sense of the urgency of radically reorienting
American policy in the Middle East in order to make the prospect of
American involvement in the region’s future wars a lot less likely. When
I asked whether the prospect of this same kind of far-reaching spin
campaign being run by a different administration is something that
scares him, he admitted that it does. “I mean, I’d prefer a sober,
reasoned public debate, after which members of Congress reflect and take
a vote,” he said, shrugging. “But that’s impossible.”
But it wasn't just Congress that was told lies. So was Obama's Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta.
of the few charter members of the Blob willing to speak on the record
is Leon Panetta, who was Obama’s head of the C.I.A. and secretary of
defense and also enough of a product of a different culture to give
honest answers to what he understands to be questions of consequence. At
his institute at the old Fort Ord in Seaside, Calif., where, in the
days before he wore Mr. Rogers sweaters, he served as a young Army
intelligence officer, I ask him about a crucial component of the
administration’s public narrative on Iran: whether it was ever a salient
feature of the C.I.A.’s analysis when he ran the agency that the
Iranian regime was meaningfully divided between “hard-line” and
Panetta answers. “There was not much question that the Quds Force and
the supreme leader ran that country with a strong arm, and there was not
much question that this kind of opposing view could somehow gain any
ask Panetta whether, as head of the C.I.A., or later on, as secretary
of defense, he ever saw the letters that Obama covertly sent to
Khamenei, in 2009 and in 2012, which were only reported on by the press
he answers, before saying he would “like to believe” that Tom Donilon,
national security adviser since 2010, and Hillary Clinton, then
secretary of state, had a chance to work on the offer they presented.
secretary of defense, he tells me, one of his most important jobs was
keeping Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and his defense
minister, Ehud Barak, from launching a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s
nuclear facilities. “They were both interested in the answer to the
question, ‘Is the president serious?’ ” Panetta recalls. “And you know
my view, talking with the president, was: If brought to the point where
we had evidence that they’re developing an atomic weapon, I think the
president is serious that he is not going to allow that to happen.”
“But would you make that same assessment now?” I ask him.
“Would I make that same assessment now?” he asks. “Probably not.”
So another victim of the lies was Israel - specifically Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Except that in Panetta's telling the story, he didn't know he was lying to them. And Panetta now admits what everyone in Israel felt at the time: There was no way in the world Hussein Obama was going to use military force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
PS I left this out, but it turns out that Laura Rozen - likely the biggest cheerleader for the Iran deal on Twitter, is described as the White House's RSS feed for the deal. Think about that the next time you read something in al-Monitor, which she edits.
It's been seven decades since the 1948 Arab-Israeli, and yet there are
still an estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees...and zero Jewish
refugees. With so many nearby Arab allies of the Palestinians, how did
this happen? What does it say about Israel? What does it say about its
Arab neighbors? Dumisani Washington, Diversity Outreach Coordinator for
Christians United for Israel, explains.
Lebanese political analyst Nadim Koteich has spoken the truth about Aleppo: Its residents would be better off living under Israeli annexation like residents of the Golan Heights rather than living under the ruins of Assad's bombardment of Aleppo.
In a comment he wrote on his Twitter page, Koteich expressed dismay over the absence of an Israeli move to annex Aleppo.
Israel would have annexed Aleppo, it would have been safe today, like
the Golan. Aleppo's citizens would have been better off living under
occupation than living under ruins," Koteich wrote.
Israel took the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six Day War, and
in 1981 extended Israeli law to the region, thereby de facto annexing
Koteich's comment came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu declared that Israel would never renounce the Golan,
infuriating Syrian politicians. Thus, many Syrian social media activists
began wrangling with Koteich for voicing pro-Israel opinion.
Twitter user affiliated with the Syrian opposition said: "the carnage in
Aleppo increases our hatred for Zionists, because without Israel, Assad
would have gone."
Koteich anchors DNA, a daily show broadcast on the Lebanese Future
Television Network. On his show, he tends to criticize Iran and its
involvement in Lebanon, calling Lebanon "a mafia state" controlled by
The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has been witnessing
endless bombardments by the Syrian air force in the last week, in a bid
to oust rebel factions from the city's outskirts. Since the city was
excluded from the truce forged by the American administration and Russia
on Friday, airstrikes continue hitting the city, causing hundreds of
All of Syria would have been better off annexed to Israel. But it's too late for that now.
Eurovision is a song festival in Europe that is televised and voted upon internationally. Israel is a participant. The imaginary country of 'Palestine' is not. (They don't need to be - a couple of years ago, the Israeli entrants showed up carrying Syrian flags).
Palestinian leaders are blasting the Eurovision Song Contest for
preventing their flag from being flown during the event this month.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat voiced his dismay in a letter to
Jean-Paul Philippot, the head of the European Broadcasting Union which
oversees the yearly contest. In the letter, obtained by The Associated
Press Sunday, Erekat says the decision is "totally biased and
unacceptable." The Palestinians do not compete in the contest.
The EBU published a list of banned flags last week. Among them were
the flags of Northern Cyprus, Kosovo, Spain's Basque region and the
Islamic State group's flag.
In a Facebook post , the EBU apologized and said it removed the list of flags. An updated policy says flags of an "offensive, discriminatory, unsuitable, political or religious nature," are banned.
But the 'Palestinian' flag is certainly of an "offensive, discriminatory, unsuitable, political or religious nature." So they're still banned. Here's Eurovision's apology from Friday morning:
"On Thursday afternoon, a draft version of the flag policy for the
2016 Eurovision Song Contest was published on the website of the Globe
Arena and ticket agency AXS. The document included a non-exhaustive list
of examples of flags that under the flag policy are prohibited in the
venue. This document was not intended to be published.
organisers understand and acknowledge the sensitivities of presenting a
selection of flags of organisations and territories, each of them of
very different nature. The organisers apologise to everyone who feels
offended by the list.
The EBU has asked the Globe Arena and AXS
to immediately remove the document that includes the flag examples, and
to publish the official document, without the examples, instead.
The official and final flag policy document will be published on the
official website, Eurovision.tv, later today, along with a full
So these are now the permitted flags:
Official national flags of the 42
participating countries, or from one of the
countries that have recently taken part
(e.g. Turkey, Portugal, Romania).
Official national flags of any of the other
United Nations Member States (see
an updated list).
The European Union flag.
The rainbow flag, as a symbol of tolerance
And if you follow that list of United Nations Members States.... Israel is in. 'Palestine' is not.
You'd have to be living in a cave not to have heard how the British Labor Party has been overrun by anti-Semitism, and how that's come to a head in the last week or two.
But Britain is not the only place that's happened. Anti-Semitism, politely described as anti-Zionism, has become synonymous with the Left in every Western country.
Two important weekend pieces look at this phenomenon. The first is Stephen Pollard in the London Telegraph. Pollard concentrates on what's going on in his home country, Britain, and says that he's scared of what he sees. He also sees that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
But on another, more visceral
level, it chills me to the bone. And it’s not the terrorists. They
threaten me, of course, as they threaten us all. Yet to me, the real
chill comes from their fellow travelers – the useful idiots of the
terrorists and Jew-murderers who say they do not have a racist bone in
their body, but when it comes to Jews, a blind spot emerges.
to be blunt, of the now suspended Ken Livingstone, who claims never to
have come across a single example of Anti-semitism in the Labour Party.
He clearly has never looked in the mirror. Much has been written – especially by the brilliant Nick Cohen
– on the "Red/Green Alliance"; the phenomenon by which a swathe of the
Left has linked up with radical Islam, leading to the bizarre spectacle
of Leftist feminists supporting Islamists who would cut off the hands of
women who read books.
With "anti-Western-imperialism" as part of the glue binding the
alliance, everything else falls into place. So Hamas and Hezbollah might
have as their defining goal the elimination of an entire people from
the face of the earth, but that unfortunate consequence for Jews is by
the by, because Hamas and Hezbollah are freedom fighters.
And because Israel is part of the
Western imperium, as well as a key target for Islamists, it is also
enemy number one for progressives. So an obsessive preoccupation with
the Jewish state becomes the default position of the Left. China,
Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia – pah! The focus must be on Israel and Israel
alone. From that springs an entire worldview that encompasses "Zionist"
control of the media, of business, of everything. And we can’t be
accused of targeting Jews because we don’t use the word. We say Zionist,
So deep does this warping of what it means to be Left and progressive
now run that it is almost prosaic to assert Zionist control. But now,
to cap it, we have a Labour leader whose entire political career has
been in this milieu – feeding it, growing it and pushing it.
Should I admit that I am afraid? Because I am. I don’t go about my
life in fear. I wouldn’t be writing this or doing my job if I did. But
how, quite rationally, can I not be afraid when Jews are being murdered
on the streets of Europe simply for being Jews; when anti-Semitic tropes
and discourse is becoming part of the mainstream of political debate;
and when one of our main political parties is led by a man who does not
merely let this fester, but actually describes representatives of terrorist groups as "friends"?
If this is the level we have reached today, I fear not just for
myself but far more for my children. History shows that when
anti-Semitism takes hold it does not wither; it grows. Yes, Britain is a
wonderful home to Jews, as it is to all minorities. Yes, we have the
full backing of the law and the authorities. But yes, I do look over my
shoulder. Wouldn’t you?
In the United States, the Harvard Law Record went to some lengths
to conceal the identity of a law student who attacked a visiting Israeli
dignitary as — in the classic anti-Semitic formulation — “smelly.” That
student was Husam El-Qoulaq, a Palestinian leftist. The campus Left
has, to no one’s surprise, rallied to his defense. Among those defending
him were a number of Jewish law students, who insisted that El-Qoulaq
couldn’t possibly have known the anti-Semitic history of “smelly Jew”
rhetoric, in spite of his having been reared at the world center of such
Others insisted that the Harvard case and the Labour cases are — this,
too, will be familiar — not at all about anti-Semitism but about
That argument does not stand up to two seconds’ scrutiny, and never
has. One of the fundamental stories of history is that people move
around and bump into each other. It is true that most of the current
Jewish population of Israel descends from people who were not precisely
sons of the soil they now inhabit. But then, neither are the so-called
Palestinians, who are Arabs. Arabs famously come from Arabia, but they
are located all over the world. No one talks about the need to get the
Arabs out of Egypt or Libya — or Palestine, for that matter — any more
than anybody seriously thinks about returning the Americas to the
descendants of the aboriginal population, which, of course, wasn’t
aboriginal, either, but merely the first to emigrate. The Irish are
descended of people not native to Ireland, as indeed ultimately is every
population in the world, including those in the African cradle of
And it isn’t because the establishment of Israel is, relatively
speaking, fresh in the historical memory, and therefore an open wound.
Before the end of World War II, there was no Pakistan, and to the extent
that there was an “India,” it was a geographical rather than a
political term, much like “Palestine.” There was no independent Ireland
until the 1920s and no Republic of Ireland until 1948. There was no
People’s Republic of China until 1949. There was no Zimbabwe until 1980,
no Czech Republic until 1993, and no modern Democratic Republic of the
Congo until 1997. Israel is an ancient state compared with geopolitical
newcomers such as the 30-odd countries created since 1990.
For those who learned at the feet of that old fraud Edward Said,
the Jews are the colonialists, the European modernists inflicting
capitalism and technology upon the noble savages of their imaginations.
The Israeli Jews commit the double crime of insisting upon being Jews
and refusing to be sacrificial victims. They were okay, in the Left’s
estimate, for about five minutes, back when Israel’s future was assumed
to be one of low-impact kibbutz socialism. History went in a different
direction, and today Israel has one of the world’s most sophisticated
For the Jew-hater, this is maddening: Throw the Jews out of Spain,
and they thrive abroad. Send them to the poorest slums in New York, and
those slums stop being slums. Keep them out of the Ivy League and watch
NYU become a world-class institution inspired by men such as Jonas Salk,
son of largely uneducated Polish immigrants. Put the Jewish state in a
desert wasteland and watch it bloom, first with produce and then with
technology. Israel today has more companies listed on NASDAQ than any
other country except the United States and China. The economy under
Palestinian management? Olives and handicrafts, and a GDP per capita
that barely exceeds that of Sudan.
The Arab–Israeli conflict is a bitter and ugly one. My own view of it is
that the Palestinian Arabs have some legitimate grievances, and that I
stopped caring about them when they started blowing up children in pizza
shops. You can thank the courageous heroes of the Battle of Sbarro for
that. Israel isn’t my country, but it is my country’s ally, and it is
impossible for a liberty-loving American to fail to admire what the
Jewish state has done.
And that, of course, is why the Left wants to see the Jewish state
60 years after a terrorist murder and Israel's Gettysburg address
It's just a few minutes until the holiday starts again, and then I will be offline until Saturday night.
60 years ago today (on the secular calendar), a young security guard at Kibbutz Nachal Oz on the Gaza border was murdered by Arab terrorists (Wikipedia and the Times of Israel notwithstanding, there were no Arabs who were known as 'Palestinians' in 1956). Roi Rotberg HY"D (May God Avenge his blood) had moved to Nachal Oz from Tel Aviv. He was eulogized by the IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Dayan, in what Wikipedia calls Israel's Gettysburg Address.
In 1956, IsraeliChief of StaffMoshe Dayan gave a eulogy for a Roi Rotberg, a kibbutz security officer killed near the Gaza Strip,
calling upon Israel to search its soul and probe the national mindset.
Dayan's eulogy is considered one of the most influential speeches in
Israeli history, and has the importance in Israeli collective memory that the Gettysburg Address has in American memory.
became a kibbutz in 1953 and was frequently in conflict with Arabs who
crossed the nearby armistice line from Gaza to reap crops and conduct
The previous few months had been relatively quiet on the Israel's
borders with Egypt and Gaza, but escalated with several cross-border
shootings in early April. On April 4, three Israeli soldiers were killed by Egyptian forces on the Gaza border. Israel responded the next day by shelling the center of Gaza City, killing 58 Egyptian and Palestinian civilians as well as 4 Egyptian soldiers. Egypt responded by resuming fedayeen attacks across the border, killing 14 Israelis during the period 11–17 April.
Rotberg, the Nahal Oz security officer, was regularly involved in chasing off infiltrators, sometimes using lethal force.
On 29 April 1956 he was caught in a prepared ambush; Arab harvest
workers began to reap wheat in the kibbutz's fields in a spot where
Rotberg would see them, he did, but as he rode toward them to chase them
off others emerged from hiding to attack. He was shot off his horse, beaten and shot again, then his body was dragged into Gaza. According to Jean-Pierre Filiu, Rotberg's attackers included, "an Egyptian policeman" and "a Palestinian farmer." The body was returned on the same afternoon, badly mutilated, after United Nations intervention.
Yes, even in 1956, before there was an 'occupation,' Arab terrorists mutilated his body.
Today's Times of Israel includes a translation of Dayan's speech by Mitch Ginsburg. There is a lot here with which one could disagree (Dayan demonstrates far too much sympathy for the Arabs, and we know historically that he did not follow through to reach the conclusions he should have reached). But I have no time to discuss that right now. I'm just throwing it out there for you to think about.
daybreak, Roi was murdered. The quiet of a spring morning blinded him,
and he did not see the stalkers of his soul on the furrow. Let us not
hurl blame at the murderers. Why should we complain of their hatred for
us? Eight years have they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and seen,
with their own eyes, how we have made a homeland of the soil and the
villages where they and their forebears once dwelt.
Not from the Arabs
of Gaza must we demand the blood of Roi, but from ourselves. How our
eyes are closed to the reality of our fate, unwilling to see the destiny
of our generation in its full cruelty. Have we forgotten that this
small band of youths, settled in Nahal Oz, carries on its shoulders the
heavy gates of Gaza, beyond which hundreds of thousands of eyes and arms
huddle together and pray for the onset of our weakness so that they may
tear us to pieces — has this been forgotten? For we know that if the
hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening,
armed and ready.
A generation of
settlement are we, and without the steel helmet and the maw of the
cannon we shall not plant a tree, nor build a house. Our children shall
not have lives to live if we do not dig shelters; and without the barbed
wire fence and the machine gun, we shall not pave a path nor drill for
water. The millions of Jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us
from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a
land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a
surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the
tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the
ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our
It is to us that
the blood of Roi calls from his shredded body. Although we have vowed a
thousand vows that our blood will never again be shed in vain —
yesterday we were once again seduced, brought to listen, to believe. Our
reckoning with ourselves, we shall make today. We mustn’t flinch from
the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands
of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their
hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be
weakened. That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of
our lives — to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the
sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.
Roi Rotberg, the
thin blond lad who left Tel Aviv in order to build his home alongside
the gates of Gaza, to serve as our wall. Roi — the light in his heart
blinded his eyes and he saw not the flash of the blade. The longing for
peace deafened his ears and he heard not the sound of the coiled
murderers. The gates of Gaza were too heavy for his shoulders, and they
There's more here. Chag Sameyach and Shabbat Shalom. See you on Saturday night!
It's embargoed until midnight tonight US time, but since I didn't get it directly from them, I'm not subject to the embargo. Freedom House has issued its annual report on freedom of the press, and has downgraded Israel because - wait for it - Israel HaYom hands out newspapers for free!
Israel declined due to the growing impact of Yisrael Hayom, whose owner-subsidized business model endangered the stability of other media outlets, and
the unchecked expansion of paid content—some of it government funded—whose nature was not clearly identified to the public.
For the uninitiated, Israel HaYom is owned by that villain Sheldon Adelson, and is handed out for free on street corners and at traffic lights throughout the country. It lives on advertising, and has become the number one circulating hard-copy newspaper in the country, much to the chagrin of Haaretz (which has almost no hard-copy presence and exists as a web site for foreigners) and Yediot Aharonot (previously the top-ranking tabloid). In fact, the Freedom House report reads like Haaretz talking points.
Every newspaper in this country has 'paid government content' - legal notices and the like. There are many more here than in many other Western countries because every government tender and every public offering of securities (among other things) has to be published in two newspapers. But the people issuing the tender (local authorities) and the issuer of the securities (to stay with those two examples) have the right to choose in which newspapers they will publicize. Moreover, Freedom House gives no indication of how the 'paid content' in 2016 compares to past years, nor does it give any indication how much more (if any) 'content' goes to Yisrael HaYom than to any other newspaper.
The result is that while Israel is still the freest country in the Middle East and North Africa, Freedom House has downgraded our press from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' and our worldwide rank has declined to 65 (62 countries are rated 'Free') - behind countries like Chile and Uruguay and most of Europe (Norway is ranked #1, Belgium, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands are tied for #2, the US is ranked #28 and the UK is ranked #41). Ghana was the only other country that declined from 'Free' to 'Partly Free' this year.
Israel's downgrading reeks of politics. Politics should play no role in this type of ranking. Shame on Freedom House!
I have written many times on this blog that I do not ascend the Temple Mount because my rabbis here in Israel have ruled that it is forbidden to do so until there is a sacrificed red heifer's ashes that can make us pure from the impurity of coming into contact with the dead (yes, that's the reason).
However, others do ascend to certain parts of the Mount, and this morning, two Jews had the audacity to prostrate themselves before God on the Mount in order to fulfill the command to bow before God on the Temple grounds on the three holidays (Pesach, Shavuot and Succot). Watch what happens.
Let's go to the videotape.
Can you imagine any other country in the world where everyone but the majority would have freedom of worship?
I am an Orthodox Jew - some would even call me 'ultra-Orthodox.' Born in Boston, I was a corporate and securities attorney in New York City for seven years before making aliya to Israel in 1991 (I don't look it but I really am that old :-). I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty-four years, and we have eight children (bli ayin hara) ranging in age from 11 to 32 years and seven grandchildren. Three of our children are married! Before I started blogging I was a heavy contributor on a number of email lists and ran an email list called the Matzav from 2000-2004. You can contact me at: IsraelMatzav at gmail dot com