‘Inflection point’ the supreme test of Israel’s democracy


Joe Biden has warned about the current geopolitical moment as a brewing conflict between the democracies of the world and rising autocracies, such as Russia and China, calling this an “inflection point” in apocalyptic language that suggests a new global conflict like the two World Wars of the twentieth century, notes Susan Glasser.

In the past, it might have been possible to dismiss some of that as hyperbole from a politician who grew up in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. But events of the past year and a half—and especially during this trying past couple of weeks—have reinforced the urgency of Biden’s most consistent foreign-policy message. Rarely has his grandiose rhetoric seemed so matched to a real threat, she writes for The New Yorker.

National Security adviser Jake Sullivan was already arguing in favor of a broader framing of Ukraine aid, by combining it with enhanced American assistance to Taiwan as part of a more global U.S. response to the new authoritarian axis of Russia and China, and their partners such as Iran and North Korea, Glasser adds.

The atrocities inflicted by Hamas during its heinous attack on Israel should remind democracies that totalitarian ideology remains a potent threat, observers suggest.

“This is not just a war declared by Hamas against Israel,” former French prime minister Manuel Valls told The Jerusalem Post. “It is a battle between the democratic world and totalitarian radical Islam – jihadism. Look at what happened in the French city of Arras the other day [a teacher was stabbed to death by a radicalized youngster]. Think of the killing of Samuel Paty exactly three years ago, the attack last Tuesday in Brussels, where two Swedish nationals were murdered. This battle between democracy and jihadism is already here in Europe.”

Palestinians lack a credible, responsible and corruption-free representative that puts their interests first, says The Post’s Jennifer Rubin. “According to reputable polling, around 80 percent of Palestinians consider the PA corrupt, and 60 percent see it as a liability rather than an asset,” writes the Washington Institute’s Ghaith al-Omari, who is a former adviser to the PA. “None of its main institutions enjoys popular legitimacy, in part because presidential and legislative elections have not been held since 2005 and 2006, respectively.”

“The allegations of corruption, leveled against the Palestinian Authority almost from day one, severely undermined the credibility of former [Palestine Liberation Organization] Chairman Yasser Arafat and his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, in the eyes of their people,” Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning Arab and Palestinian affairs journalist, wrote in July. “The charges, which have exponentially increased over the past three decades, are among several factors that have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Arafat and Abbas to make substantial concessions that would lead to a peace agreement with Israel.”

Mosab Hasan Yousef, son of Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, cited such corruption and human rights violations in castigating the Palestinian Authority (above) before the UN Human Rights Council this week.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens argues that journalists should not take what the Palestinian authorities say at face value, since it’s an authoritarian society. “Everything that comes out of it has to be double-checked and triple-checked,” he told HBO’s Bill Maher. “It’s Hamas. It goes to the basic difference. In an open democratic society (like Israel), journalists do not live in fear that they’ll be hurt. It has to be treated with skepticism, and Israel has to be believed.”

Indeed, both Hamas and the PA rule their statelets as one-party authoritarian regimes, The Economist observes.

Times of war are also the supreme test of democracy, adds Haaretz. When civilians and soldiers are killed and others are in captivity, when millions of people are living in terror and dread, when emotions run high and the blood boils – it is precisely at these times that democracy is tested.

Echoing former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in calling America “the indispensable nation,” Biden is the last liberal Cold War president, Jacob Heilbrunn writes for The National Interest. He tied the battles in Ukraine and Israel into a larger struggle of democracy against autocracy, arguing that they are “vital for America’s security” and that Russia and Hamas are trying to “annihilate a neighboring democracy.

In Israel, the instinct to protest for democracy on the one hand, and the desire to volunteer in order to make up for the state’s failures on the other, are both coming from the same source: anger at a political class that shunned expertise, thrived on polarization, and threw suspicion on all kinds of state institutions and then neglected them, historian Anne Applebaum writes for The Atlantic.

Even though al Qaeda was unable to achieve a “decisive blow” through its September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden continued to describe them as “victories,” adds analyst Nelly Lahoud, an Associate Professor in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College and the author of The Bin Laden Papers. For now, Hamas will likely continue to double down on its rhetoric and sing the praises of its achievements. But in the years after his attack, bin Laden found that most regional jihadi groups proved to be a liability to global jihad, and that their indiscriminate attacks “repulsed” Muslims. Hamas, too, might be unnerved and potentially eclipsed if the conflict assumes a regional dimension, she writes for Foreign Affairs.

Hamas is a direct ideological descendant of the global jihadist organizations, the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies adds. It fully embraces both their ideology and their grotesque methods of terrorism and mass destruction. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s call upon Muslims on October 12 to hunt down and kill Jews wherever they are found on earth is reminiscent of the United Islamic Front’s declaration of jihad against Jews and Christians, demonstrating the clear connection between Hamas, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

When Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, the enclave was supposed to be a test run for a future independent Palestinian state living at peace with its Jewish neighbor, notes analyst Hopes ran high that it would become something of a Dubai on the Mediterranean: tourists would flock to its beaches, and commerce would flow through a new deep-sea port. But a year later, Gazans elected Hamas, which imposed a ruthless totalitarian regime on it, she writes for the Kennan Institute.

Retired labor union organizer Louis Nayman attributes what he sees as the anemic response of the AFL-CIO to “a small but vocal activist base, many of whom come straight from academia or so-called social justice organizations and have never held union cards as actual workers but were selected to fill important slots in the labor federation’s headquarters bureaucracy based more on ideology than on authentic roots in labor.”

“Today it appears that some in union leadership, like their counterparts in academia, are more concerned about appeasing a vocal ideological left wing in their midst than in standing up for the only democracy—flawed as it is—in the entire Middle East,” he writes for Tablet:

It’s important to note here that the leadership of two unions—my own, the American Federation of Teachers as well as the Retail Wholesale Department Storeworkers Union [notably National Endowment for Democracy (NED) board member Stuart Appelbaum] immediately issued strong statements of support for Israel and its right to self-defense as soon as the news broke concerning Hamas’ invasion and war crimes. The Jewish Labor Committee, a coalition of trade unionists supporting a democratic Israel and a two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, has been in touch with Histadrut concerning support for our Israeli brothers and sisters in the labor movement.

Former NED Penn Kemble fellow James Kirchick discusses Israel’s 9/11 on Real Time with Bill Maher (below).

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