Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | December 8, 2010

A Very Special People

Some things seem too silly to respond to – and then you think about them a bit, and realize that it is worth making the obvious points, if only to illuminate what appears to lie behind the silliness.

Such a thing is Jeff Goldberg’s exhortation this week at his Atlantic blog. (H/t Joshuapundit and Israel Matzav.) Without prelude or caveat, Goldberg announces that no one should give to the Jewish National Fund’s relief drive for the Carmel forest fire, which has killed 41 people and destroyed trees and homes. His reasoning is that Israel has plenty of money, and it’s absurd for foreigners to donate so new trees can be planted, lost homes and facilities rebuilt, and firefighting equipment purchased.  Israel should just pay for that herself.  Might give the Israelis something better to spend public money on than all that military hardware.

One is, as I say, tempted to simply dismiss this and forget it.  But it’s arresting, when you think about it, what bizarre things people triangulate themselves into saying when they are talking about Israel. What’s at issue here, after all, is a legitimate humanitarian relief effort. Goldberg’s crude politicization of it goes beyond criticizing the concept: he is actively urging others not to donate to it.  Motives of compassion, humanity, and Zionism should, in his view, be suspended in favor of standing back and letting Israel – what?  Stew in her own juices?  Learn her lesson?  Face public funding constraints that force her to choose between fighting fires and fighting terrorists?

Urging people not to give to a legitimate humanitarian fund, in the wake of a devastating disaster, is not exactly a moral commonplace.  Most commentators aren’t anxious to seem that hardhearted and meanly political. I’m willing to bet Goldberg has never urged people not to donate to funds for “Palestinian relief” or “Gazan relief.”  A perfectly legitimate case can be made that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have plenty of money, and that they regularly spend the great majority of it in undesirable ways (e.g., lining the pockets of those in their senior ranks and funding terrorism).  By Goldberg’s criteria, foreigners should be urged not to make private relief donations until Abbas, Fayyad, Haniyeh, and company have gotten their priorities in order. I suspect we’ll wait in vain, however, to hear Goldberg make that point.

It’s an odd and very particular thing, this business of seeing Israeli Jews in human distress and thinking, “Now’s the time to make a point with them about their national policies!”  It doesn’t seem to apply to anyone but the Jews and Israel.  To other disaster victims, the ordinary moral code applies.  Got feelings of compassion, concern, a desire to help?  Go with it.  But for the Jews, a checklist: have they reordered their nation’s political priorities to your liking yet?

There’s nothing wrong with vetting relief organizations to ensure our donations don’t wind up being used for purposes we don’t approve. But that’s not Goldberg’s thrust here. He really is talking about withholding aid out of political considerations.

I note also that his case falls apart on examination.  It’s not like the citizens of other well-off nations with critiquable policies never need disaster relief.  Middle-class Americans and Europeans have received enormous amounts of help from the Red Cross and the Salvation Army over the last decade, after fires, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes, epic freezes, and hurricanes.  Jeff Goldberg may not live in them, but there are also large sections of the Western US that are underserved in terms of firefighting readiness.  We, like the Israelis, learn from the worst fire disasters that we didn’t have enough equipment or a good enough plan.

We are far from perfect in our own provisions for catastrophe.  We are ambivalent about how much liability homeowners and private businesses should be stuck with. Our governments are alternately zealous and improvident about preparing for the next disaster.  We are grateful for private donations and public monies that make it possible to rebuild and reforest, but we often don’t like it when they come with strings.  In short, we are human.

The one thing we are not ambivalent about is whether those who are suffering – who have lost everything, who have no place to sleep, who need a helping hand for a new start – should be given assistance.  We are not ambivalent about helping to restore the lives and the land that make us whole.  To the question whether compassion, charity, and a vision for renewal are the right responses to devastating events – whether they are appropriate, honest, to be recommended and aspired to; whether they are good – our answer would be:  Of course.

How very strange, then, to look at the Jews of Israel and see it differently.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.” She writes a weekly column for Patheos.


  1. You’ve put words in Goldberg’s mouth here. He may well, in other places, have argued for a priority of firefighting over defense, and his intentions may be bad; but he didn’t say that in the blog piece you linked to.

    And, it has to be said that there is some logic to his position; even though it’s unusual to put it as callously as he has.

  2. Must disagree with you on this one, Sully. In what way have I put words in Goldberg’s mouth?

    • i.e. you wrote “Might give the Israelis something better to spend public money on than all that military hardware”

      At least in the blog post you cited, he made no comment on military hardware.

      What you’ve done is the same as someone asserting that anyone opposing new taxes for welfare spending in the U.S. is implicitly arguing that the money for welfare should be taken from defense or public safety or a host of other specific things.

      • OK, I get what you’re saying. There is an ellipsis between the thoughts Goldberg explicitly expressed and the implication I drew about where the money would come from.

        I would actually defend the implication based on Goldberg’s past writings, but I didn’t make it clear that it was I drawing the implication.

  3. Another disgusting example of the so-called “Jewish Paradox,” wherein some of the worse, most egregious examples of anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Semitism are perpetrated and spewed out of the pie holes of self-hating (or otherwise totally psychologically confused) Jews! I have no use for – nor, more importantly, is there any use in the entire world for! – these idiots who give the rest of us Jews a very bad name!!

    Obviously, it’s telling that some of Israel’s rapid-response emergency teams have been among the first to arrive in countries whose political policies are decidedly anti-Israel; that, however, does not stop Jews from being Jews and trying to “save the world,” as is their mandate from G-d and, indeed, their pledge to G-d!

    And it’s just as telling – and entirely encouraging – that countries who are not necessarily “friendly” toward Israel (to say the least) have sent emergency teams, equipment and whatever else they have and/or can afford to assist in this present humanitarian undertaking.

    Jeff Goldberg just doesn’t “get it,” does he?

  4. I think those sneaky Jews lit the fire intentionally to divert international attention away from their organ harvesting program and an upcoming Wikileaks document dump that proves that they were behind 9/11. They sure are cunning!!

    • So, Ritchie, rubbing your hands in glee at the prospect of such cynical and diabolical behavior? How convenient that would be – to fit within the context of your twisted narrative. I’m surprised you omitted the part about drinking Christian children’s blood!

      I’ve been out of the loop on conclusive info and evidence that may have been discovered in the past 24 – 48 hours, but first I heard it was an Israeli teenager (didn’t identify Arab or Jew) who was carelessly shooting off some sort of firecracker or a deliberate “fire bomb” fired from a distance into the forest. But they did talk about previous arrests of Arabs who’ve tried this very direct method of terrorism in the past. I’m sorry I don’t have this info yet – if it’s even been fully discovered & discussed.

      As for the illegal organ harvesting that occurred in the past, the culprits – NOT any Israeli official or ANY part of a gov’t agency or organization! – were apprehended/arrested shortly after some of their activities were discovered. They were NOT “given a pass” by the Israeli courts, and this extremely UNorthodox/NON-“kosher” crime was punished accordingly. Also – DUH! – no links to fires or 9/11!! Very stupid remarks about “diversionary tactics…”

      • “NOT any Israeli official or ANY part of a gov’t agency or organization!”

        Joy, the harvesting, IIRC, took place at the Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine, a department of the Israeli Health Ministry.

      • Whoa Joy, stand down! You must be new here and not familiar with any of my previous posts (here and elsewhere) in regards to Israel and the Jewish people. You missed my context. I was merely mocking the conspiracy theorists and their “Elders/Zion” inspired mindset. Despite (if that’s an appropriate word here) the fact that I’m an atheist, I personally know no one who is more supportive of the State of Israel than I am. I find it a little baffling that most American Jews are less supportive of Israel than I to be honest.

        So, no need to get angry or do anything rash like abandoning this site because of anti-Semetic or anti-Zionist cranks who visit here. You won’t find any such commenters. Certainly not me anyway!

    • Sorry, Ritchie, guess I read your post WAY too late at night and my mind was a bit foggy – in “literalville,” as Rush puts it. Now, on rereading, I can detect the irony (I guess it’s pretty obvious – it’s SO over-the-top!), so I stand straightened out on THAT score!

      But whoever said anything about “leaving this site?” Au contraire! I had the pleasure of meeting JE Dyer not long ago and I appreciate her choice of subject matter, the insights she exhibits and her excellent writing too much to decamp over anything as silly as that!

      Fuster, on the other hand, actually has the capacity to annoy…

      • Glad to see that you’ll stick around Joy. I wasn’t sure if you were an infrequent enough of a visitor to be turned off by an unpleasant commenter. More over, you and J.E. have met! So you’re a stalker then? Haha!!

      • well, if it annoys you that I corrected your incorrect assertion about where the organ theft was occurring, maybe you should purchase some thicker skin…..

        (zomboid humor, joy, not a formal offer to sell, which can only be made via certified agents.)

  5. Goldberg’s very short piece isn’t well thought out.
    He has a point to make, and it surely isn’t a bigoted one, but he chooses the wrong time and the wrong issue to advance that argument.

    “Israel’s per capita GDP is nearly $30,000. Israel is a rich country. The fact that it doesn’t possess adequate firefighting equipment is its own fault. The fact that the leadership of its fire service is incompetent is its own fault (you can read more about that here). At some point, the good-hearted Diaspora Jews who still think of Israel as a charity case are going to have to tell their cousins to learn to fully-fund basic services like firefighting if they want to be thought of as citizens of an advanced country.

    There are a great many good causes in Israel that deserve help, and a great many causes here in America that deserve our help.”

    Israelis are not suffering due to any lack of compassion from the USA or any shortage of aid sent from the US.

    • @ Fusty – No one ever said that that the Israelis were suffering from anything except the ravages of a very devastating forest fire. Whatever largesse or investments that American citizens – or even the US Gov’t – wish to make to that country and its citizens is not the issue here – or, as everyone (except Goldberg) has pointed out, shouldn’t be.

      • Joy, please re-read the third paragraph of the opticon’s post. She clearly says that the Israelis are suffering from more than the fire when she posits, incorrectly (as Sully pointed out), that Goldberg is trying to cause the Israelis to choose between perishing by fire or at the hands of terrorists as if the meagre sum of shekels in the Israeli coffers fail to stretch far enough to pay for more firefighting equipment and re-planting shrubbery.

  6. It seems to me that by choosing this particular situation in which to make his point, Goldberg is, in fact, exhibiting some bigotry. And the whole point of compassion and charity is that it is entirely based on the heart of the one giving, and not at all on any merit or worthiness of the one in need. That does not preclude the use of wisdom and discretion, but the fact that Goldberg is so willing to step in and politicize this one shows how UNremarkably compassionate his heart is.

    • I agree, Phubbie. As I wrote below, I don’t think Goldberg’s problem is out-and-out bigotry so much as the malfunctioning conscience so common in the West today. (That’s not to say it isn’t common elsewhere, but we and Goldberg are all Westerners.)

      The passage that kept coming to my mind yesterday was the one in Ezekiel (which actually appears twice) in which God says He will remove from His people their heart of stone and give them a new heart of flesh. It’s in 11:19 and 36:26. Too much of the West has a heart of stone today. There is too much societal comfort with looking at other people and seeing them as avatars of political concepts, instead of as our fellow humans with souls, hearts, etc. It’s a dangerous situation and one we really need to step back from.

    • perhaps Mr Goldberg is addressing an unstated premise that the opticon and phubbie and others aren’t considering,

      part of the appeal for funds for Israel has always been made to the Jewish folks in the affluent, Western world and is made not to the feelings of compassion for all of the humans in need, but to a small group of co-religionists and is an appeal to “family”. IIRC, private donations from here to there are still running close to 1.5 billion dollars annually.

      It’s kind of hard to see bigotry when Goldberg very clearly says that:

      “There are a great many good causes in Israel that deserve help, and a great many causes here in America that deserve our help. It seems to me, however, that Israel’s national fire service should be funded by Israel’s government, not by the people of Boca Raton, Potomac and the Upper West Side.”

      • Ah, Fusty, you made your natural connection to Goldberg and his mindset more apparent: You’re both on the same wave length, but on parallel tracks – and there’s a distinct negative tone vis-a-vis Israel that’s difficult to fathom: i.e., Why the resentment, anger, morally superior judgment?

        Who are either one of you to judge so harshly the reasons/motives of the historical donations & largesse to Modern Israel? So what does it matter if certain wealthier American Jews are in a position to support the State of Israel? Isn’t that natural? This has been a tradition in Jewish homes in the West (and North America in particular) since Jews settled in North America and there were only Jewish settlements in Palestine, but a dream for a renewed Jewish Nation – a promised State of Israel – that burned brightly in the sons and daughters of the first Zionists of Czarist Russia. In fact, I only recently learned from an elderly aunt that they always kept a small coin box in the kitchen that would be emptied from time to time and the contents given to the appropriate rep in their area to “plant a tree” in Palestine/Israel.

        But to snidely remark about appealing to “a small group of co-religionists” when soliciting funds and, in a sense, keeping it “in the family,” is petty and reflects more on the ignorance of the one who utters those words than the hearts and minds of those who actually make the donations. Hebrew University and the Weitzman Institute are just a handful of outstanding educational & research institutions that have benefitted from the largesse of successful and wealthy Jews in North America. Wealthy Catholics give huge amounts to their religious organizations (churches, schools and hospitals), and other groups do the same thing. Why shouldn’t Jews be allowed – WITHOUT criticism or baseless judgment – to do likewise?

        BTW, what does IIRC mean? I haven’t seen it before in other emails or website postings.

        • IIRC – is shorthand for If I Remember Correctly.

          No Joy, it’s not just wealthy Jews that send and have sent money to Israel. The money has always come from everybody and every congregation collects.

          Almost everybody’s family, however poor, sent money to Israel for a tree to be planted as a post-mortem memorial.

          I wish that I wrote with more clarity or you would read my scribbling more closely so that you might realize that neither Goldberg, nor I in explaining Goldberg, are calling into question donations or aid or US government grants to the Israelis.

          What IS being said is that the monies sent have been enormous and sufficient to the point that each and every occasion does not require yet another round of donations and that we shouldn’t be entreated to what might seem like an “automatic” appeal.

          Here’s quick look at something about the Israeli budgeting practices.

          There’s a lot of material behind that, but I’ll merely say that Israel expends a huge amount on VERY non-selective subsidies and a big bunch of welfare payments for families where the head of the household will spend his entire life without ever looking to hold a job or any productive employment.

          I’m sure that the opticon could explain to you the consequences of the massive amount of redistribution of income in which the Israelis indulge.

  7. RE — you beat me to the clarification for Joy. I knew you were mocking the vile (indeed, lunatic) slanders concocted against Israel. The latest accusation — that Israel is directing shark attacks against tourists — is just another of those demented allegations that make you wonder if we’ll ever all be living on the same planet.

    I went back and forth on whether to even write about the Goldberg post, because there’s a case to be made that it doesn’t merit much attention. But ultimately — and I was thinking about this a great deal yesterday — I think it is essential to call out instances of what I consider a lowest-common-denominator spiritual complacency about our fellow men.

    We have reached a very dangerous point, as a civilization: one at which we think there is no price to be paid for seeing each other through invidious political prisms. We think we can go along and see Israel and the Jews as “grievance icons” for Arabs — or stand by while others do so — and it won’t matter. We vaguely suppose that it “goes without saying” that the Jews are our fellow humans, full participants in all that means about tolerance, compassion, respect, courtesy, and the benefit of the doubt. But if history teaches us anything, it should be that that DOES NOT go without saying. It needs to be said. Like the natural rights our Founders adduced in building America, it has to be proclaimed, given attention, made — in every generation — the explicit basis of our social compact.

    Situations in which spiritual complacency is at work — like Goldberg’s post — require calling out. I don’t think, myself, that Goldberg meant to make invidious, evil implications about the Jews and Israel. But it IS clear to me that he shares the seared Western conscience by which too many of us accept the meme of a “guilty Israel,” one to which the indivisible norms in our moral structure don’t apply. Try to substitute any other ethnic group or nation in his post, and you can’t get there. No one would publish a post asking others not to give to a relief fund for New Orleans because Americans are rich anyway and the money might be used to buy stuff that the government should have bought beforehand, or could — in the opinion of a blogger — well afford to buy now.

    Try “Pakistanis,” “Icelanders,” “Indonesians,” “Russians,” “Chinese,” “Italians” — try anyone you want, and you can’t make Goldberg’s sentiment acceptable to the heart. There is no interstitial space in which it’s OK to nudge the Jews out of that common set of human assumptions. People so often wonder how the Germans came to tolerate and turn a blind eye to the horrific things done to Jews by the Nazis, and the answer is: by passively agreeing to the concept of that interstitial space, and passively agreeing to the little nudges, one by one. And we present-day Westerners are already on that road.

    There are other demographics for which we have tacitly come to accept a sort of reflexive suspension of moral assumptions. “The rich” are probably the most common example. But there has historically been a laser focus on the Jews in this regard, and we are fooling ourselves big time if we think we, as a civilization, have somehow transcended the need to order our minds and hearts properly about each other.

    No one will ever reach that condition. It will never be safe to base human relations on perpetual grievance, perpetual demonization, perpetual probation, or even just a distasteful dismissal, as if some people are too hard to think about because they are the subjects of political controversy. Our forms of politics drive us right toward those dynamics, but the dynamics themselves can’t be domesticated. We should not see each other through political prisms as our principal basis for relating to each other. Period. There are no caveats whatsoever.

    I didn’t see that principle creating a stop sign in Goldberg’s mind. It should have. The world is not safe for spiritual complacency about politicizing all aspects of human relations. The only “stops” on the evil that invites are the ones we acknowledge explicitly and make a point of.

  8. Meanwhile, in other news:

    Alan Sorkin wailed away,
    On his blog the other day,
    ‘Cause Sarah Palin shot a moose,
    Or was it Rudolph on the loose,
    In the ordinary Alaskan way.

    Mr. Priss procures his meat,
    When Bambi he is wont to eat,
    From someone who a cleaver wields,
    In a hidden room at a Fresh Fields.
    His hands are clean; but he’s so effete,
    And his cluelessness is hard to beat.

    • Terrific little ditty, Sully – I often want to say the same thing to one of my closest friends, a true “bleeding heart liberal” who hates even the concept of hunting (not sure how she feels about fishing) and killing those “magnificent animals,” etc. ad nauseum. But she’s still not a vegetarian – let alone a vegan! I need to gather my intestinal fortitude and tell her that she either gives up meat altogether (“don’t eat ANYTHING with eyes!”) or stop her selective hunting/slaughtering targets… Somehow it’s OK if the dastardly deed is done in an abbatoir rather than by a single bullet or arrow in the forest/glen?

      • Glad you enjoyed it Joy.

        My wife gets mildy irritated when I (after provocation) matter of factly mention to one of our hunter decrying neighbors that the reason they see bow hunters so often on our property is that I actively solicit them to come on down and thin out the Bambi population whenever they want.

        As to keeping peace with such neighbors, I think it’s enough that I’ve thus far resisted the urge to drag one of the occasional ill placed natural death deer carcasses over to a point on the property line close to one of their lawns, even though the temptation has at times been very strong.

        • Oh, that’s funny, Sully!! I love how you have (nobly) resisted the urge to drag a natural death carcass just to the property line – but maybe you should give in to your darker urges! It would certainly make your point to the Bambi-loving neighbors!

          I recall when my late husband and I lived in Upstate NY in a rather rural setting – and Bambi and Tribe seemed to be EVERYWHERE there were relatively open fields. At first I saw it as an “ain’t Nature wonderful?” moment; but, in time – and thanks to the education in the matter by my husband – I realized that Bambi was quite a voracious eater – and a resourceful one, at that! EVERYTHING seemed fair game and “in season!” Well, soon they had to be culled or there would be nothing left of the fields, forests or glens!

          • Driving though the Poconos in upstate PA you can see clear through the forests up to the level of the browse line that deer can reach. Left to themselves deer will browse out all of the new growth at ground level. It’s not that bad yet in most of Southeast PA where we live; but the deer population will grow to where it can do damage to that extent if left alone.

            Assuming our society doesn’t want human hunters (whose numbers are diminishing anyway as we get more decadent) we will eventually find ourselves with enough coyotes, wolves, cougars and bears to kill enough of the fawns to keep the deer population down. Of course that will mean more frequent tearful reports of little Fifi and/or Furball going missing, not to mention the occasional jogger.

  9. Ah, you assume that I can’t read between your lines ’cause you don’t “write with more clarity” – au contraire! I can smell snark a mile off – and I won’t back down ’til I sense (which I probably never will) at least a hint of contrition of the part of those who still sit in judgment. “What IS being said is that the monies sent have been enormous and sufficient to the point that each and every occasion does not require yet another round of donations and that we shouldn’t be entreated to what might seem like an ‘automatic’ appeal.” SEZ WHO?!?!? “They” (the so-called “Powers-That-Be”) can send out as many damn appeals as they please!! Have you never heard of the circular filing cabinet? “Just say NO!!”

    Ah, but we get to the nub of the matter: YOUR (unsolicited) critique of Israel’s policies of “special treatment” for the Orthodox Jews in general – and the “Rabbinical” students in particular – who, as you characterize (but without naming or identifying them – what’s THAT all about?!?), receive “a big bunch of welfare payments for families where the head of the household will spend his entire life without every looking to hold a job or any productive employment.” Unless I have totally misidentified your bogeymen, who are YOU to suggest that being a rabbi or a talmudic scholar is not “holding a job” or being engaged in “any productive employment?” Whose values are you trying to impose anyway? And if you DON’T actually LIVE in Israel, isn’t that an argument better made and defended by actual CITIZENS of the Jewish State?

    People who donate to Israel in large amounts are fully aware of the society to which they have dedicated their wealth – and they understand the status of those particular observant families, even if they may not fully agree with Israeli gov’t support of same. These are “free-will” offerings and are given with eyes wide open. Just be glad YOU don’t live in East Jerusalem or other “disputed” areas of expanded settlements. It’s not for the faint of heart – but it IS for those whose faith is unshakeable.

    • “I won’t back down ’til I sense (which I probably never will) at least a hint of contrition of the part of those who still sit in judgment.”

      Unless you’re totally unaware of the teachings and practices of those very same scholars and rabbinical students, you probably realize that they sit in judgement and contrition isn’t forthcoming from them until long after the last trump.

      I refer to them for sure, but not as bogeymen but as real, live human beings who wish to live and impose upon others, as well as themselves, a set of values.
      I believe in a different set, more attuned to this world and involving more of a sense of equal worth for all humans.

      I’m not at all sure that American donors really do have a full understanding of the extent of the subsidies being bestowed on the ultra-orthodox or the present number of them and the rate at which their numbers are growing.

      I’m not really sure where it is that you live, Joy. I live among those folk and have for a long time. They are people whose faith is unshakeable.
      So also are the members of Hamas people whose faith is unshakeable.
      Unshakeable faith is not sufficient to produce reasonable, and peaceful, results.
      Sometimes unshakeable faith leads to entirely unreasonable, rigid indifference to the suffering of other people and indifference to the costs borne by others.

  10. Persons of unshakeable faith were the ones that settled this nation, who fought our wars from the battle of Concord, on, a certain anecdote by Levi Preston in 1843, illuminates the point. It has become de rigure to mock those of a certain faith, call
    them ‘bitter clingers’ in fact, while venerate others. Goldberg seems to hav forget
    his fundamental insight from “Prisoners” Israel is a fight for it’s 1948 vision, not that of

    • miggs, I don’t think that paying to ultras grab other people’s land in the West Bank and having the IDF guard their settlements while the ultras exempt themselves from the regular IDF requirements has anything much to do with Irsael’s vision of ’48.

      A very great number of the ultras have a very small regard for the State of israel, or for israel’s laws, or for the state’s well-being.

  11. Ah, this is like a puzzle – and with each email comes another little tidbit that’s a piece of the puzzle aka “Fuster!” IIRC, you live in Brooklyn – and probably not far from the Parkway that is the center of the Chassidic Community (which also serves the entire USA as its HQ). Well, that’s a sect of Judaism for which I have great respect and am somewhat familiar; and although their strict religious observance would never be for me and their “apart-ness” is something only one who has grown up in that community since birth can fully understand and truly appreciate. The “ultra orthodox” in North America have NO sway on the rest of organized Judaism; but, as I understand it, of course, they have enormous influence in the world’s only official Jewish State – which is a blessing to some and, as you pointed out, a curse to others.

    But here, again, if you are NOT an Israeli citizen, YOUR objections are really moot – you can tsk-tsk all you want and wail about the inequities, etc., but you have NO VOTE in the matter! And finally, you may have taken one baby step forward in this theoretical argument, but, IMO, you just took 3 giant steps backwards when you mentioned Hamas in the same breath as the ultra orthodox – when you DARED compare their religious “faith & fervor!” Which one has not only the most blood on its hands, but blood, period?!? Which one preaches hate, terror and destruction from the age of opsherenish onward? I detest the flawed arguments of those who state that the world’s greatest atrocities have been committed in the name of religion (maybe so – if you count communism and fascism as “religions…”).

    • Joy, if you insist on reading “blood” and “atrocities” where I write about unwillingness to see the other as equal and resistance to seeing compromise as good and necessary rather than infringement of an absolute right, that’s not good.

      I haven’t posited religion as the cause of anything, have I?

      Read again.

  12. For giggles, Joy.


    Officially, Hassidic theology hasn’t changed. Although members of Neturei Karta admit they’re a minority in Monsey, most other residents are anti-Zionist to lesser degrees. Last July, when Netanyahu was invited to Monsey to speak, rabbis from 12 local synagogues and rabbinical schools signed a letter saying, “We were astonished to learn that one of the leaders of the Zionist State of Israel was invited to attend a party in our community, and gave a speech there. This entity, which our rabbis have taught us is in opposition to our Torah, and which uproots our religion under the banner of nationalism, is the source of mischief, and is the root cause of all types of suffering experienced by our brethren in the Holy Land, exactly as predicted by our ancient prophets and by our rabbis.”


    maybe tomorrow I’ll send you something about the dozen rabbis who went to Tehran to shake hands with Ahmadinejad and endorse his “World Without Zionism” conference.

    • Spare your crap about those idiot rabbis – the first in the ovens at Teheran, if ever there were any. Let’s just say we totally disagree on EVERYTHING and stop responding to each other’s comments. It’s now BEYOND annoying – and nothing clever or witty or “intellectual” on your part (intellectual: a second-hand dealer in ideas…) that you might add will sway me. You’re happy in your world and I in mine. End of story. End of correspondence. This does NOT mean, however, that I will not respond to others’ comments; but I have your number (as you presume to have mine) – and nothing further can be accomplished except cause more annoyance on BOTH sides… Anyway, I’m only interested in OptCon’s (Dyers’) well-thought-out monographs – NOT you or yours…

      • be as annoyed as you please, but when you start talking about how you have

        “have great respect and am somewhat familiar; and although their strict religious observance would never be for me and their “apart-ness” is something only one who has grown up in that community since birth can fully understand and truly appreciate. The “ultra orthodox” in North America have NO sway on the rest of organized Judaism;”

        great respect and familiarity for the ultras, I wonder how it is that you can possibly say that they have “NO sway” on the rest of the Jews.
        they have a LARGE amount of sway in Israel.

        I suggest that you look into the last dozen or so years in Jerusalem.

        • Breaking my own rule of silence insofar as you are concerned, Fusty, I should have concluded my sentence, “They (the ultras) have no sway on the rest of organized Judaism,” with the words, “in North America!” I am fully aware that they have enormous influence in Israel, which has caused no amount of tensions with the so-called “seculars” – not the least of which is the marriage issue (and a big one that is, too!).

          However, I live in North America and, since I’m not a citizen of Israel or vote in their elections, I focus on the so-called “ultras” in this hemisphere. And where Chabad is concerned, I am fully supportive of their work and their “ultra” observance. To the extent that I know a few in the Orthodox (apart from Chabad and the Chassidic) Jewish community, I’m OK with them, too. And I’m only speaking of North America. Sorry I didn’t make that clearer.

          But I see that your real deep-down anger is directed at Israel – and the Orthodox in that country – feeling, as you do, that they are occupying the land and that even the Capital of Israel (Jerusalem) doesn’t belong to Israel. You can spare me and your own energy giving me the history of Palestine since the beginning of British occupation – I know enough to believe what I do. And “land-grab” is something that the Arabs and Muslims know a lot more about than the Jews of Israel (the Israelis) – and it’s a very sorry history, indeed. I have NO tears for the Arabs of that region (whom Arafat cleverly dubbed the Palestinians) nor, in fact, any part of Islam.

          I guess you could say that my mind and my heart are closed on this matter. If you persist in parading arguments to dissaude me, I freely admit to being the wall against which you have just crashed. Now, no sane person would wish to spin his wheels unnecessarily, would he?

          • Joy, I’m not feeling that deep-down anger. I’m feeling a lot of not-optimism about what’s going on over there.

            I don’t ‘feel’ that they occupy the West Bank, I understand it to be fact. It’s the official position of the state of Israel that they hold the West Bank territory in “belligerent occupation”.

            Not so, Jerusalem. Israel has annexed the city and I’m not really put out over that. I disagree with the Israeli effort to push out Arab non-citizens from the city. and don’t think that there’s any ethical argument to be made in defense of the measures employed in furtherance of the effort.

            If your mind and heart are close to Arabs or other people committing murder against Israel’s grandmothers and kids, I’m good with that. But when you freeze out any person who’s an Arab or a Muslim, innocent with the guilty, I’ll try to raise your temperature.

            This post started out as decrying indifference to the plight of others based on the their religion of ethnicity, IIRC.

  13. That old familiar battle of words between a newbie and Fuster inw hcih Fuster claims the right to judge (always negatively) every aspect of Israeli life. Until all of Israel’s policies in all areas perfectly square with Fuster’s sense of the right and just, Israel should be hung out to dry in some way or other–no aid from foreign Jews (because that’s just family feeling, obviously an unworthy motive), from the US government, from the International Red Cross (oh, I forgot, they stopped aid a long time ago). A perfect exemplification of the stance JE was criticizing in her last post way up there–that Israel is what SAul Bellow called “the West’s moral playground,” held to a standard of impossible height by people who halfway know that it can never satisfy their demands.

    By the way, the land on which the settlements are made does not belong to “other people.” It is legally held by Israel now under any accepted laws of war, though it might be given up in a peace negotiation. If anyone particularly wants it, they should negotiate for peace.

    • No, Margo, Israel doesn’t “get hung out to dry” unless it acts perfectly, it gets criticized along the same standards as everyone else.

      No extra harshness in the judging and no special passes.
      I don’t know where the heck you get the idea that I or anyone else is advocating no aid to Israel. You pulled that out of some old musty pocket of your own.
      As I noted previously, Israel gets an overwhelming amount of money and goods from the US, despite Israel’s relatively high income and socialist redistribution policies.

      BTW yourself Margo, the land, according to the laws of war and the laws of Israel, is held in occupation, and certainly does belong to other people, according to both sets of those laws.

    • Thank you, Margo, for weighing in and commenting on the ubiquitous Musty Rusty Fusty – taking “pain in the neck” to new heights. Of course, he totally gets off on this bit of wordfare – I would say it almost (but not quite, dammit) consumes him. He’s very much like the hundred-headed Hydra monster of mythological lore: Whack off one head and two more appear! He totally enjoys needling everyone – wonder what other sites he haunts & tortures? He stepped in it again when he dragged out that old (and refuted) nonsense of “occupied” lands. Whatever happened to Trans-Jordan, aka Jordan? They’ve got off “scot-free” in his very selective targeting of Israel. I think, at core, Israel’s very existence annoys him. Of course, he’s not alone. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he could find another target for his intolerance and hate? Gosh, this site might actually be a nice refuge! But he’ll see to that – no comfort zone for the Zionists…

      • ” I would say it almost (but not quite, dammit) consumes him.”

        Now, now Joy. Would I be ungenerous if I failed to offer you a bite of frogleg or whatnot?

        Wishing you a Happy Consumption !!!!

        Maybe on a full belly, you’ll settle down and be able to ken that a desire for reform is based on a preservative impulse rather than an (annoying) appetite for destruction.

  14. Ultimately the only law of war is to win. Rich countries like Israel and the U.S. can afford to observe niceties which are ultimately academic gas. The day they can’t afford to observe legal niceties will be the day they will abandon them or perish.

  15. I must say that I enjoy fuster because he is civil and he is willing to debate and discuss. Something tells me he actually listens to us all, which is far more than we can say about most

    How bout dat, my frems?

    What interests me more at this moment is Christopher Hitchen’s dying intellectual’s swan song in “Vanity Fair’s” January 2011 issue, available at

    I think Hitch is wrong on all counts in this hatchet job on the Tea Party and Glenn Beck.

    He wonders what kind of toxic seeds are being sown. What about the very one sided and poisonous seeds Rachel Maddow sows every night on her show?

  16. Nine in a row

  17. Zoltan, that’s not my perception. “No extra harshness and no special passes” –but when we are talking about the wildfires in Israel, suddenly settlements, organs, orthodox scholars get thrown into the mix. What doesn’t appear–the disaster aid Israel has given countries around the world, the treatment that other developed countries are given when they have disasters.
    No, one head gets chopped off and another reappears, and in the next post the same dreary process us repeated.

  18. Yes it’s a shame, then again ,Vanity Fair has become the illustrated Kos with better advertising, I marvel at how they are able to hold on to their high end sponsors even
    in this recession. He has had a singularly ill informed view on the Tea Party, which carried over from his Newsweek feature piece, back last November, (yes for that cover)

  19. If this Telegraph article is accurate, the whole question of aid, even humanitarian aid, to Israel has become complicated.

    • There are several articles in the JPost about the Israeli Inspector general’s report about the fire, and about which part of the government didn’t do what and also about who in the cabinet is trying to pin it on which other guy in the cabinet.

      • failure is indeed an orphan and, on this scale, not even a distant relation.

    • I read that article, Sully – thanks for the heads-up! But I am beginning to experience a very big stench from merry old England these days – and it’s all flavors of anti-semitism, including the obvious anti-zionist leanings. Whatever. This little country draws more attention – and more ire – than any other country in the world from those who harbor those feelings. Go figure. Anyway, consider the source: A former diplomat or journalist who lived the good life in that exotic city of Jerusalem – BEFORE (or just after?) the first Intifada – and definitely BEFORE the 2nd one, both deadly – and policy-shifting – events, to be sure.

      He speaks sentimentally of a country, still in its growing phase, but one which, honoring its pledge of the Right of Return to ALL the Jews of the World, now finds itself the new home of those noisey, pushy and usually very successful Russian Jews (hey, I can relate! Lol…) – to say nothing of the Ethiopian migration, which has been successful in the eyes of God, but not quite yet in the eyes of man – let alone among the prejudiced Russian Jews and the somewhat similarily-biased Jews descended from the Sabras and the rest of the Middle East (living in lands where blacks were looked down upon and, historially, even slaves).

      Trying to keep a country, culture or society static is futile and foolish – and the writer of that piece in the Telegraph is, unintentionally, guilty of that attempt. He – and all the typical Brit commenters – bemoan the fact that the “ultras” have just ruined “their” (the outsiders’ unfounded sense of proprietary) country and have “upset” the peace process in daring to live their lives and follow their “ultra” beliefs. Well, I would suggest that a fully armed Gaza, brimming with Hamas terrorists, is not exactly the best palliative here either. Shooting hundreds & thousands of rockets (albeit most blindly, or so it seems) on Sderot and other cities in the region – and now reaching into the Negev and, firther, bragging & threatening reach to Tel Aviv – also is inimicable to peace in any vernacular!

      Finally, besides criticizing the elements in the Israeli cabinet who, apparently, put the kibosh on the Organization of Christians & Jews (admittedly, biased and counterproductive), he also faults the US Gov’t for failing to “stop” or even criticize more effectively Netanyahu’s gov’t support of not extending the settlement freeze. Well, good for the USA – who are we to tell another country how to behave in its own country?

      Yes, the demographics in Israel have changed a great deal in the past generation, but the Orthodox baby rate is matched only by the Arabs’ baby rate, so I think it’s a good thing! As they used to say in Quebec, when the cry for secession from Canada was all the rage, “Conquer from the cradle!” Actually, O/T, that’s the ONLY argument, IMO, for welcoming people from south of the border into our society – their Catholic teachings help keep our own American demographics healthy – and a useful hedge against the Islamization of America. But I digress…

  20. We need to plant 5,000,000 trees. I think my kids are going to help.

    In addition to the dying English intellectual’s swan song, I hope our hostess will someday soon look in at a far more successful left wing idealogue, Rachel Maddow, who goes after (only) Republicans like a very well trained lawyer on her show day after day.

    Re. Fuster, I have seen nasty trools, and he is not a wicked troll. He’s just Fuster. I had much larger issues with his frem who created the well designed and very creative site, Zombie Contentions, and proceeded to have an entirely weird breakdown- change of heart. Fuster at least is consistent, although I do not appreciate the fact that Peter Shalen left that site long ago, frustrated by what he perceived as Fuster’s tin ear and anti Israel meme.

    There, Fus, you got lots of attention now.

    • You miss Shalen no more than I do Zolt, but Shalen and I disagreed not over Israel.

      He refused to allow me to say that anti-Semitism was widespread throughout eastern Europe for the century before 1930 and when I insisted that the Russians had a long tradition of murderous violence and repressive behavior toward the Jews, he bugged.

  21. No, fuster. What really disgusted me was your comment on a column by Barry Rubin, in which he was writing about a terrorist whose name I don’t remember, so I’ll call him X. For some incomprehensible reason the column made you mad, and you said “People like Rubin deserve to spend an eternity chained to people like X.” I tried to get you to apologize and you wouldn’t, and after that I found myself being disgusted with everything you said.

    The incident you’re talking about was just part of the fallout from that. Of course I wouldn’t be stupid enough to deny that anti-Semitism was widespread throughout eastern Europe for the century before 1930. It seemed to me that you were refusing to distinguish between such anti-Semitism and the Nazi kind, and this made me angry. It’s possible that if I hadn’t been so disgusted by what you had said about Rubin, and your refusal to apologize for it, I might have interpreted what you were saying differently.

    • Hi, Peter.

      I repeatedly tried to tell you that the distinction between Nazi actions and all the previous ones was, without question, immense.

  22. and, yes, what I said about Rubin was wrong.

  23. OK, fuster, that’s all I wanted you to say. I appreciate it.

    In retrospect, the main problem with ZC was that one was addressing such a small group of people that it felt claustrophobic. Recently I’ve been posting on Facebook, where I now have almost 400 friends, and I can always count on interesting responses and varied points of view. I’ve learned a lot in this way. Have you considered joining Facebook?

    • I am considering it; still wondering about privacy.

    • Hello Peter.
      I didn’t realize facebook was used like that. Mostly I just use it to keep track of our nieces and nephews (and, truth to tell, to tickle them with some doggerel or a comment once in a while just to given them something to shake their heads about).

      I looked up your page but it gave no option to send you a friend request, so perhaps you have closed that option. If you want to link please send me a request – I am Sullivan Augustine, so I’m probably unique on facebook

    • Mistake – as it turns out I am Sully Augustine on facebook.

      • I tried friending you but “Sully Augustine” yielded only friendship with “Avatar”!

        • Very odd Zoltan. I just found you and sent you a friend request.

    • Interesting – Note that the French speaking black guy on Facebook named Sullivan Augustine is not me. For one thing he’s much thinner.

      Reminds me of when I met the Filipino Sullivan Augustine back when I was in the Navy.

  24. Are you feeling the lerve, fuster?

    You could still be fuster on facebook, and I could be your frem. Nobody would know that you really are Angelia Jolie’s doorman on Fifth Avenue, Francis Woochestershirksy. You could set it up with as much privacy as you want. Anyone can see my facebook pages but only “friends’ are allowed to comment on them, because i only want my friends picking fights with or insulting me.

    Our wonderful Admiral here, JED, has a facebook page. So does your fav, Jennifer Rubin.

    • yeah, Zolt, I’m felling it a bit and thank you for mentioning Peter.

      always felt badly.

      I’ll see if I can frog up facebook.

  25. While late to this thread, I was also stunned by Goldberg’s post, and wish he had provided context if he felt so compelled to write that post. I had just gotten my first email request for emergency funds from the JNF, and was happy to make a small donation. However, it was rather intriguing to learn that the JNF actually directly funds firefighting equipment for Israel. The email gave everyone a list of amounts, and for $150,000 you could buy a compact fire engine for Israel. $500 for a firefighter’s helmet.

    I think Goldberg was reacting to the same email request. He never seems to realize his oversized influence in any debate about anything Israel. If he thinks (as I sort of do) that Israel should be able to buy their own fire engines for regular municipal use, he could have emailed that suggestion back to the JNF, who really should have made the appeal distinctly for the Carmel fire emergency instead of what appeared to be an extra request to fund an existing program.

    Does not matter because it turns out JNF also funds salaries for firefighters in JNF forests.

    BTW, it was two Druse youths who apparently started the fires. Ages 12 and 14.
    Last I read, they were charged with negligence and released. Seems there is an illegal landfill adjacent to their village that has been a topic of controversy. The Israeli Druse are full citizens, and serve in theIDF. No one wants to make a fuss over two kids who were not acting maliciously.

    CC: the really interest side story with the Carmel fire was in Russia’s response – first to arrive, and with enough resources to make a difference. Probably forced the Turks to jump in. Keep your eye on Israel-Russia relations…

  26. Are The Bears terrible or what? Is Putin a secret Bar Mitzvah Boy? Maybe he’s just getting sensitive with all these people calling him a murderer, just because of 300 missing or murdered journalists with 0 prosecutions since Vlad took power. Next thing you know he’ll ask the Israelis to show him how to grow veggies in the Sea of Azov.

    • could the Bears have looked any worse today then they did when the Giants came to town?

  27. Make that ARAL Sea please.

  28. We have a decent and interesting team. New England with Brady and Belichik = Masters Of The Universe.

  29. Happy New Year, Dear Lady!

  30. Where oh where sails Opticon,
    Forgotten not, but too long gone?

    ‘Tis New Year’s Eve, and here we pine,
    For toothsome posts writ very fine,
    As in the days of Auld Lang Syne.

    We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
    And wish her years of needs well met,
    Of diverse subjects well to mine,
    As in the days of Auld Lang Syne.

  31. Great post, Sully – and yes, where is our Fearless Leader? I pray that she’s in good health and just on vacation. She must know that there are quite a few devotees out here who miss her articles – and her leadership in directing the conversation! Cheers – and best of everything in 2011, OptiCon!

    • She is out and about. Over the past couple of days she has put up a couple of posts at Commentary Magazine’s Contentions blog (as J.E. Dyer). I think she goes to Oklahoma or West Texas or some such at holidays, so she may well have internet access only when the winds are under 50 mph and the shortwave antenna isn’t whipping around so much.

  32. and bless the old gal and family and all who sail within her crazy old heart.

  33. @ Fuster – I’m assuming you meant “old gal” and “old heart” as terms of endearment, ’cause JE ain’t OLD – she’s in her prime!

    • Joy, the opticon is also known to me as the Oklahoma Kid ’cause she’s still a lass and I hope her prime is still to come.

      Happy and healthy to you also and all the rest of the swabbies here including the ancient and absent Geoffrey.

      • Touche! I didn’t mean to age her prematurely…

        Pace in the New Year – and a happy & healthy one to you as well!

  34. I have a terrible feeling that Geoffrey Britain is no longer with us and has passed on. He would never go this long without posting comments. He was always very prolific here and at Contentions. At his own blog he hasn’t posted anything since July. I fear the worst. I even looked up “Geoffrey Britain” in the obits online and there are a couple (although I know no details). If he is gone, it’s a true loss.

    Anyway, despite this unpleasant possibility, I wish everyone a happy New Year and hope all had a great Christmas.

  35. That is sadly likely, on another blog, we had a very prolific commenter, we knew as Peter UK, around the end of last October, we lost contact with him, he had passed on
    ,his name was Peter Bocking, a former musician from the North of the country.

  36. Geoffrey Britain’s comments were always on point and interesting and he has indeed been gone for quite some time.

    But an appropriate thought on New Years’ Day,
    Is that perhaps in future of bloggers they’ll say,
    Like certain old soldiers, they just fade away,

  37. You folks are awful quick to write off Geoffrey. Absent from here is a far cry from deceased. Get more optimistic instead of ringing out the old guy.

  38. Nice ditty, Sully – very sweet! But why does Monty Python feel so stupid & unfunny?

    • “why does Monty Python feel so stupid & unfunny?”

      That clip is funny because it was posted by fuster, who doesn’t believe the administration is taking the first steps in implementing death panels.

  39. That clip is simply to exhort everyone not to assume Geoffrey’s absence from this page means more than it means. It’s a big, wide and sometimes wondrous world and the Briton may not have fallen from it.

    @Sully, Geoffrey may not even have a DNR tag on his chart.

    • A primary method of cost control in a single payer system must be to convince, cajole or if necessary, coerce, people who are ready for the cart in the judgement of a “panel” into accepting a DNR tag on their charts.

      • Currently, it’s simpler. The insurance company doesn’t have to cajole, it can simply deny re-imbursement for prospective treatment.

        • We’ve been around this block before. When an insurance company screws you it is possible to appeal to the government as a higher authority and there is at least a chance of satisfaction. When a government bureaucrat screws you there is no higher authority in this life.

          • And as we sauntered around the corner, I rebutted that by reminding you that the government is not monolithic and that executive agency decisions are also subject to suit in federal court.

            • And, I’m pretty sure I pointed out to you that insurance companies thus have two levels of superior review, while executive bureaucrats have only one, and they share union membership with the petty tyrants in that review level.

  40. nope. executive agencies have administrative review processes, then federal courts, then the agencies are subject to review and redirection from the legislative branch…..

    on top of which, the courts are less likely to be debarred from assuming jurisdiction because of contractual language to which the insurance company has required you to sign prior to assuming any obligation to you.

  41. Show me where the appeals procedure, is from the IMAC, Lagushka

  42. Thanks, Sully – nicely stated! You have a great wit – and thanks for responding so “on point!” As you might guess, after all the fuss that a certain poster has caused in the past, I was reluctant to even allude to him – and certainly NOT by name!

    • Hey Joy, I wasn’t meaning to be stupid or cause any fuss(terousness) here.

      I simply don’t wish too think of Geoffrey as not still with us, even if he’s not with us here.

      And I agree wholeheartedly with your point about the futility of appeals. The insurance companies use delay as a tactical advantage.
      It’s been a common device for large corporations to use delay and increasing expense against people who can spare neither the time nor the money.

      Both thbe tactic and the countermeasures against it have led to little that’s good.

      • I’ve never believed you were meaning to be stupid, my web footed friend.

  43. All this appeals crap is pretty much moot if the patient has long since kicked the bucket! Fat lot of good appeals and more appeals will do when life has ebbed…

  44. Happy New Year to all the noble readers and correspondents of The Optimistic Conservative!

    This has been a long absence, while I was in Oklahoma having a Christmas visit with family. The activity level was such that it wasn’t possible to keep up all my blogging gigs over the holidays, so I concentrated on the obligatory ones (contentions and Patheos). 2011 will see fresh life at TOC and Hot Air, however.

    I have emailed Geoffrey Britain with our plaint about his absence, and will let you know what I hear, if anything. I definitely miss his bracing and intelligent comments. I hope we won’t have to have 2011 without him. It promises to be an “interesting” year, in the Chinese-curse sense. May the merry band at TOC remain an island of sanity and good cheer.

  45. Welcome home, OptiCon! We certainly missed your leadership, guidance and mother-knows-best bromides from time to time….

  46. And the cookies!

  47. Err? Is Joy on the cookie list?

    • Cookies?!? Did someone say, “Cookies?!?” I’m talking about the tasty kind – not those things that are in a computer but I don’t know what they are…

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