Seth Mandel

Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of four New Jersey-based newspapers, where he won awards for his coverage of the Middle East and Russia. He has appeared on Shalom TV's current affairs roundtable. He is currently based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel

The Guardian Promotes Classic Pogrom-Inspiring Theory About Jews

2011 January 26

While the Guardian’s recent exercise in journalistic malfeasance and delirious narcissism drew attention for its clear determination to destroy both the peace process and the credibility of the Palestinians’ non-Hamas leadership, almost lost was another important revelation.

The Guardian’s editors subscribe to one of the most dangerous anti-Jewish theories about Israel.

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Why ‘Right To Exist’?

2011 January 25

In January 2001, the U.K. Guardian published a column called “Israel simply has no right to exist,” by Faisal Bodi. This was about four months after the Second Intifada began, and it called attention to the single most pressing challenge of the so-called peace process: that it is not 1967–the year in which Israel took control in a defensive war of land the Palestinians now claim for a future state–but rather 1948 that bothers Israel’s enemies.

Israel, to a great many commentators, journalists, politicos, diplomats, and of course the Palestinian leadership and much of its populace, simply has no right to exist. It is the only sovereign state about which there is even a discussion. read more…

Why Outreach to the Muslim World Is Always Doomed to Failure

2011 January 21

Efraim Karsh has a typically incisive analysis of President Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world in the current issue of the Journal of International Security Affairs. It is not foremost our Western culture or democracy or our friendship with Israel or even our military presence in the Arab world that drives the Islamic–and especially Islamist–world to seek our downfall. It is, Karsh argues, our status: read more…

With the Exits of Joe Lieberman and Ehud Barak, Is It the End of the Left as We Knew It?

2011 January 20

Ehud Barak and Joe Lieberman

This past weekend in synagogue, a friend and newcomer to the shul got her first “good Shabbos” from Sen. Joe Lieberman–and found herself just a bit flustered. But she is a conservative Republican and has spent most of her career around politicos, so what explains her reaction?

It’s true that Lieberman has become something of a celebrity in the practicing Jewish community for his status as a respected senator and Orthodox Jew–one who came quite close to serving as vice president (and who knows after that?). But there is more to Lieberman’s gravitas.

Most Jews I speak with who are politically conservative did not start out that way. If you were Jewish and conservative, chances are your family and friends were not. Back in Jersey, not a single one of my friends was a Republican–yet almost all of them voted for George W. Bush in 2004 and for John McCain in 2008. Why weren’t any of the registered Democrats I knew voting for Democrats?

I think part of the answer has to do with Lieberman’s standing among his fellow Democrats. Between 2000 (when Lieberman ran as Gore’s vice presidential candidate) and 2004, the party had clearly changed. Gore and Lieberman were both hawkish on defense and national security. But Gore soon became a cartoonish dove–just as most Democrats did–simply because the war in Iraq was unpopular.

In 2004, in the midst of two wars, the Democratic Party nominated for president John Kerry. This was a man who famously threw away his Vietnam service ribbons. And the difference in vice presidential nominees could not be starker. The party had traded down from Lieberman to John Edwards.

The party was expelling its last vestiges of foreign policy hawkishness. To Jews, this rang alarm bells. Isolationists and doves had endangered the fight against the Nazis in World War II before Roosevelt, a Democrat, finally got the U.S. involved. Jews suffered under communism, and could rely on Democrats from Harry Truman to Scoop Jackson to fight the good fight. Jews were threatened everywhere by anti-Semitism, and when the United Nations began institutionalizing the practice, the Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan came thundering to the defense of the Jewish community.

Lieberman’s ousting left many Democrats–Jews among them–with a party they did not recognize. But there is another reason for the anxiety among members of the Jewish community: Lieberman’s expulsion from the left mirrored a similar process taking place in Israel.

The Labor party, led by Ehud Barak, had become fragmented over the issue of security as well. Barak remained something of a hawk, as did many others in the party. But the Israeli populace became increasingly disenchanted with the peace process, which had yielded more and more bloodshed as it wore on. Israelis wanted to believe that the Palestinians wanted peace–or at least that enough of them did to swing the leadership in that direction. But when the truth became clear–that the Palestinians were not serious about peace, but were frighteningly serious about eliminating Israel and the Jewish people–the realists among the Israeli left acknowledged it.

So when Ariel Sharon led a move from the right to the center by creating the Kadima party, which would be willing to evacuate settlements in unprecedented numbers but would be tough on Israeli security, many Laborites couldn’t resist joining. And now it has happened again. Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, has left Labor, bringing with him four other members of the Knesset and governing coalition.

This is bad news for the Labor party, but excellent news for those who want to see realistic negotiations with the Palestinians as well as those who take the threat of Iran seriously. On the first, here is Evelyn Gordon:

“Like most such splits, this one stemmed partly from personal animosities. But it also had a substantive reason: as one member of the breakaway faction explained, the government will now be able to conduct peace talks ‘without a stopwatch,’ instead of under constant threat that a key coalition faction would quit if Israel didn’t capitulate to Palestinian demands.”

And on the issue of Iran, Aluf Benn clarified in Haaretz:

“Without Barak by his side, Netanyahu would find it hard to advance aggressive moves on the Iranian front. Netanyahu has no military record that grants him supreme defense authority, as Ariel Sharon had. Only Barak, with his ranks and medals, his seniority as a former prime minister, can give Netanyahu this kind of backing.”

The name of Barak’s new party? Atzmaut, meaning Independence. It was under that very same banner that Lieberman ran for his Senate seat in 2006, having been defeated in the Democratic primary by a self-financed sensation of the leftist blogs. It is quite a coincidence that Barak’s formation of Atzmaut came the same week Lieberman announced his retirement.

“What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this,” Lieberman asked the crowd back in 2008, two days before John McCain accepted the Republican nomination for president. “Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.”

When Barak announced the split from Labor and the founding of Atzmaut, here’s what he said: “The top priority will be first and foremost the state, then the party, and only at the end, us.”

If this, as some commentators have suggested, spells the effective end of the Labor party, it should be mourned with sincerity. It has produced true leaders–commanders worthy of their ranks–and guided Israel through its tumultuous and virtuous youth.

It is by no means the end of the Democratic Party, but it does represent the end of the party as many of us knew it. That, too, is unfortunate.

Robert Kagan wrote a Washington Post column in 2006 about Lieberman called “The Last Honest Man.” He wrote that unlike pretty much everyone else on the left–and a number of those on the right–Lieberman didn’t pretend he was fooled into supporting the war in Iraq; he didn’t lie about what he really meant or make excuses for his principles. And for that he was about to lose the Democratic primary. Kagan wrote:

“At least he will be able to sleep at night. And he can take some solace in knowing that history, at least an honest history, will be kinder to him than was his own party.”

Lieberman’s varied political positions rankled Democrats and Republicans simultaneously. Though he caucused with the Democrats, he was unlike them in far too many important ways for there not be a void when he exits. With the wipeout of many of the more moderate Blue Dog Democrats in this year’s midterm elections, and now with Lieberman leaving, the Democratic Party becomes a singled-minded creature.

That is the difference that Lieberman made–that is the difference principled statesmen always make. And it is the reason even Republicans enjoy getting a “good Shabbos” from Joe Lieberman.

Are J Street’s Days Numbered?

2011 January 16

Editor’s Note: This important post was first published here on January 14.

Media bias doesn’t always help the actor it intends to shield. Often, it counterproductively insulates people and organizations from the scrutiny they are destined to face eventually, leaving them wholly unprepared when that moment arrives.

If a brief note in The Nonprofit Quarterly is any indication, I think something similar may be happening to the leftist lobby J Street. read more…

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Are J Street’s Days Numbered?

2011 January 14

Media bias doesn’t always help the actor it intends to shield. Often, it counterproductively insulates people and organizations from the scrutiny they are destined to face eventually, leaving them wholly unprepared when that moment arrives.

If a brief note in The Nonprofit Quarterly is any indication, I think something similar may be happening to the leftist lobby J Street. read more…

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JFK, Gabrielle Giffords, and the Return of the End of Camelot

2011 January 11

The pretrial killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby did sustained and perhaps irrevocable damage to the liberal movement in American politics. That’s because, as perceptively noted by James Piereson in 2007:

“If Ruby had not intervened, Oswald probably would have tried to stage some kind of ‘show’ trial in which Kennedy’s policies in Cuba would have been raised as a central issue. Oswald proudly acknowledged that he was a Communist. If the case had been brought to trial, Oswald would have certainly been convicted. In that case, it would have been far more difficult for liberals and the Kennedy family to maintain that JFK was killed because of his support for civil rights. There would have been less talk of conspiracies; less anti-Americanism from the left; perhaps it would have further reinforced the anti-communism of post-war liberalism. There is no question that Ruby changed the equation a great deal.”

In the wake of the attempted assassination of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, commentators on both the left and the right have noted the parallels to the Kennedy assassination. On the left, claims about “right-wing” speech creating an atmosphere of danger cropped up immediately. On the right, it was noted that this was exactly what the left did after Kennedy’s death, and that in both cases there was no evidentiary standing for the claim. read more…

The Leftist Fantasy of an Israeli Theocracy Gets Hysterical

2011 January 7

Future Mideast reporter for The Atlantic?

In 2008, the Westminster City Council passed legislation banning sandwich boards. The end was truly nigh for the classic sandwich board-bearing man proclaiming the imminence of the apocalypse.

You had to feel for a guy who lost the opportunity to do what he considered an important job. But just as the boy who cried wolf, the “end is nigh” sandwich board man warned of disaster too consistently to have any credibility.

The slew of leftist commentators on Israel remind me of the man wearing the sandwich board. Instead of “the end is nigh,” however, we are treated to a constant refrain of “the end of Israel’s democracy is nigh.” read more…

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IHH Flotilla Leaders Call For–And Aid–Terrorism Against Israel, Admitting True Mission

2011 January 4

“Israel will not apologize to Iran for a May raid on a Hezbollah-led convoy that killed nine Hezbollah activists and talks to mend ties have so far fallen short, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.”

Can you imagine the preceding sentence being reported with a straight face? It’s from last week’s Reuters dispatch–though I substituted the words “Turkey” and “Turkish” with “Iran” and “Hezbollah.” But go ahead, play this Mideast Mad Libs game with other terrorist groups, such as Hamas, and see if it looks any less ridiculous. read more…

The Sin of Dissent: How Marty Peretz Could Have Saved the Center-Left That Purged Him

2010 December 30

Though Marty Peretz is, as always, still a leftist politically, he is unwavering in his support for the state of Israel’s existence and its geographic placement in the historical home of the Jewish people. That is in contrast with many of the young intellectuals Peretz groomed, who have bought into the notion that the only appropriate location for the state of Israel is under the bus.

Now reviled as a “bigot” and a “racist,” Peretz’s fall from leftist grace has picked up considerable momentum because of Peretz’s public recognition of two things: that Obama’s election was bad for Israel, and that the Palestinians are not ready for statehood, nor desiring of peace. read more…

Richard Silverstein and defending the right to incite violence against Jews

2010 December 28

One of the reasons the Right often doesn’t take its leftist critics seriously is because, as any debater knows, once your opponent resorts to name-calling—the leftist M.O.—he has effectively ceded the intellectual playing field and the argument.

But there are times an argument is so noxious it cannot be ignored, and must be debunked. Richard Silverstein’s recent post is just such an example. Silverstein, the purveyor of the popular liberal “Tikun Olam” blog, is based in Seattle, so the recent battle over anti-Israel bus advertisements took place in his backyard. read more…

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How Islamism—With Iran at its Center and Flanked by the Global Left–Can Be Defeated

2010 December 22

One night in August 2006, Jonathan Spyer’s unit in the Israel Defense Forces prepared to head into South Lebanon to reinforce their fellow soldiers in the war against Hezbollah, the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. “Not all of us will be coming back,” his friend said as they shook hands. read more…

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