The Gazan ‘Freedom Fighters’

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip sent a message to Europeans that belies the latter’s belief in the desire for freedom in the former. Gunmen forced the EU office in Gaza City to close and warned that it will remain shut until the EU apologizes for several publications running caricatures of Mohammed and Muslims this week:

Palestinian gunmen Thursday shut down the European Union’s office in Gaza City, demanding an apology for German, French and Norwegian newspapers reprinting cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammad, Palestinian security sources said.
The gunmen left a notice on the EU office’s door that the building would remain closed until Europeans apologize to Muslims, many of whom consider the cartoons offensive. …
Masked members of the militant groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian’s former ruling party, Fatah, fired bullets into the air, and a man read the group’s demands.
Palestinian officials said the gunmen were threatening to kidnap European workers if the European Union did not apologize.

The Europeans might want to rethink the entire oppressed-Palestinian meme right about now. Israel no longer occupies Gaza, and yet the terrorism there continues to grow unabated. Now the people who they insist want nothing but peace have warned that they will kidnap Europeans until they foreswear freedom of speech.
Perhaps the Europeans could ask the Palestinians about their own issues with cartoons. For instance, if they find this offensive —

— then maybe they can explain this, which appeared in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on March 22, 2000:

Pope: “Peace on Earth!” Satan/Jew: “Colonies on Earth!”
And if they consider this insulting to their honor —

— then they can explain why the same paper published this in December 1999:

Old man: “20th Century” Young man: “21st Century” Above dwarf Jew: “Disease of the Century”
Those who protest the entire idea of satire and derision should not themselves indulge in it. Their actions reveal themselves as the terrorist thugs that they have always been.
And I note, as does Michelle Malkin and Judith Klinghoffer, that none of the major American media outlets have bothered to display these controversial cartoons. So much for the protectors of free speech and the people’s right to know.

Why Helmets Should Be Worn While Motorcycling

Michelle Malkin, Jim Geraghty, and Debbie Schlussel note the release of a new Turkish film that depicts American soldiers as mass murderers and Jews as organ thieves. This wouldn’t come as much of a surprise, except that two American actors went halfway around the world to participate in this disgraceful epoch:

In the most expensive Turkish movie ever made, American soldiers in Iraq crash a wedding and pump a little boy full of lead in front of his mother.
They kill dozens of innocent people with random machine gun fire, shoot the groom in the head, and drag those left alive to Abu Ghraib prison – where a Jewish doctor cuts out their organs, which he sells to rich people in New York, London and Tel Aviv. …
The movie’s American stars are Billy Zane, who plays a self-professed “peacekeeper sent by God,” and Gary Busey as the Jewish-American doctor.

Both actors have seen better days. Busey started off his career with a splendid portrayal of Buddy Holly in the biopic The Buddy Holly Story, performing the songs himself and practically burning up the screen with his performance. Unfortunately, it’s all been downhill for Busey ever since. He almost died from driving his motorcycle without a helmet over ten years ago, recovering fully if almost miraculously, but his career has been in a coma ever since. I thought the nadir of his descent occurred with the unbelievably bad reality show, I’m With Busey, but this proves that failure can plumb ever-darker depths.
Billy Zane also showed promise in his career, if not as much initial success. He started off playing a strangely attractive psychotic in the Australian film Dead Calm, with Sam Neill and a young Nicole Kidman, and is best known as the snobbish heavy from Titanic. Apparently, the ship wasn’t the only thing that sunk in the film, if Zane’s appearance proves anything.
People will claim that Zane and Busey are nothing worse than working actors looking for a payday as an argument in their defense. Well, everyone needs to pay the bills, and given what we’ve seen of Zane and Busey lately, their needs may be more acute than some. Most people will agree, however, that any sense of citizenship should have caused them to think twice about their participation in a film designed to exploit anti-American sentiment in the Middle East by adding to the propaganda that perpetuates it. People who sell themselves out to exploitation merchants such as the producers of this film can properly be termed “whores”.
Debbie calls for a boycott of both Busey and Zane. Fortunately, neither one has enough of a career left in American entertainment to make that a difficult proposition.

The Middle Choice

The House GOP held their leadership election today, and in a decision between staying with business as usual or embracing reform, the Republicans chose a path somewhere in between the two. John Boehner of Ohio becomes the new Majority Leader of the House, beating current Majority Whip and former front-runner Roy Blunt on the second ballot:

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio won election Thursday as House majority leader, promising a steady hand and a helping of reform for Republicans staggered by election-year scandal.
Boehner, who replaces indicted Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, said the GOP “must act swiftly to restore the trust between Congress and the American people.”
He defeated Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri on a vote of 122-109 by House Republicans after trailing his rival on an inconclusive first round.

My preference would have been John Shadegg of Arizona, the true outsider in this race. He had no connection with the Abramoff scandal and has a sterling reputation among conservatives. He’s a budget-cutter and a small-government activist. However, he has little experience with party leadership and some in the GOP had concerns about Shadegg’s ability to help them get re-elected. Roy Blunt has plenty of experience in both areas and clearly expected those key abilities to carry the day; he bragged for two weeks that he already had the votes for election. However, after the first ballot proved inconclusive, it showed that Blunt was already out of touch with his caucus, who apparently decided that Blunt had too many connections to Tom DeLay and to Abramoff for their taste.
So in the end, they voted for John Boehner. Boehner came to Congress just before the Gingrich Revolution and has his roots in rolling back government. Boehner also has plenty of experience in helping fellow Republicans raise money and get elected. He did well among the bloggers, most of whom praised his openness while still supporting Shadegg — including me. However, Boehner still faces some criticism over his own connections to the Abramoff scandal, including his refusal to return $30K of campaign funds from Abramoff-represented Indian tribes, all of which came to his PAC and not to his campaigns.
I like Boehner better than Blunt, although except for some tin-eared interaction with QandO, I didn’t dislike any of the three candidates. However, the GOP missed an opportunity to make a bold statement on reform with this election. Shadegg had no connection to Abramoff cash despite representing a state with a large Native American population, and he represented a clean break from the past. His election as Majority Leader could have put the Democrats on the defensive and created a bullet-proof, media-friendly face to the GOP caucus. Instead, the Republicans decided on a moderate gesture towards reform, at least in terms of public relations.
My congratulations still go out to Rep. Boehner. Hopefully he will pursue reform and lead the Republican caucus towards arresting the reach of government, which causes the corruption in the first place.

All He’s Missing Is The Umbrella

Jimmy Carter made another of his frequent appearances on behalf of thugs and terrorists yesterday, this time arguing for acceptance of Hamas on the Larry King show. The former President told King that Hamas has a “good chance” of becoming a non-violent organization:

Hamas deserves to be recognized by the international community, and despite the group’s militant history, there is a chance the soon-to-be Palestinian leaders could turn away from violence, former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday.
Carter, who monitored last week’s Palestinian elections in which Hamas handily toppled the ruling Fatah, added that the United States should not cut off aid to the Palestinian people, but rather funnel it through third parties like the U.N.
“If you sponsor an election or promote democracy and freedom around the world, then when people make their own decision about their leaders, I think that all the governments should recognize that administration and let them form their government,” Carter said.

Wrong! If people use democracy to elect hate-filled bigots and murderous terrorists into power, then they should suffer the consequences of that choice, not get a free pass from the world. Hamas explicitly calls for the destruction on Israel in its charter and has refused to change its position, even after its electoral victory. It has conducted attacks on Israeli citizens, both suicide bombings and quasi-military rocket attacks. It gets its funding from Iran due to its Islamofascist goals and activities, and some evidence exists that it partners with al-Qaeda.
None of this matters to Carter, the fool who first allowed Islamofascism into power with his refusal to support the Shah and his subsequent inaction after Iranians sacked our embassy in Teheran. He continues his decades-long effort to follow in the footsteps of Neville Chamberlain, only he refuses to share in Chamberlain’s epiphany about appeasement after Munich. Carter also insisted that Yasser Arafat was ready to make peace, and instead we got stiffed at Oslo and at Wye and wound up with two intifadas as a result.
Carter remains America’s most embarrassing and dangerous ex-President. With his apologetics for terrorists, one hopes that his credibility will finally dissipate and his advice will be recognized for the foolishness it is.

Republicans Finally Take On Entitlement Reform

The GOP took a step forward on tackling entitlement spending, narrowly squeaking out a victory in the House yesterday on a $40-billion cut to Medicare and other federal programs. It represents the first effort in almost a decade to reform programs that threaten to grow unchecked until they gobble up almost the entire federal budget:

House Republicans eked out a victory on a $39.5 billion budget-cutting package on Wednesday, with a handful of skittish Republicans switching their votes at the last minute in opposition to reductions in spending on health and education programs. …
The measure represents the first major effort by lawmakers since 1997 to cut the growth of so-called entitlement programs, including student loans, crop subsidies and Medicaid, in which spending is determined by eligibility criteria. It passed 216 to 214, with 13 Republicans voting against. The Senate, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the decisive vote, approved the spending cuts in December. The bill now goes to the White House for Mr. Bush’s signature.
Coming on the heels of the State of the Union address, the vote was a critical test of Mr. Bush’s ability to hold his fractured party together.

Roy Blunt helped reel in the vote, counting carefully enough to release thirteen GOP moderates to cast opposing votes in order to protect their chances in the next election. His leadership on this issue may have made the difference in getting the bill passed and into Bush’s hands. Bush is expected to sign off immediately on the bill.
That doesn’t mean the debate will end on this. Democrats have already begun to pull out individual provisions of the budget cuts to castigate the GOP as unfeeling towards the sick and elderly. The AARP has already begun a campaign against the rollback, and it will likely continue that campaign through the election cycle. The retirement lobby has a vested interest in the status quo, and it will fight to keep every dime of entitlements it can and to expand them where possible, no matter what the fiscal projections demonstrate.
This will be the challenge for entitlement reform. When the Bush administration took on Social Security reform in the mildest way possible — transferring payments into private accounts in order to protect contributions from being raided and to minimize the long term contrbutions needed by the federal government — it caused such a firestorm that Congress ignored the entire problem for another critical year. Now with Medicare and other aid programs, the cuts affect the amount of services that get delivered by the federal government. The nanny-care supporters will drag out every personal anecdote they can find in order to block these cuts and the ones that must be made later in order to keep entitlement spending from careening out of control.
Porkbusting could save us $14 billion for one budget cycle. Entitlement reform requires us to cut back programs over a long period of time, and could save trillions if done properly — but the American people have to demonstrate the will to make some hard choices about the size and reach of the federal government and the amount of handouts we can afford to give. Unfortunately, politicians do not often get elected for saying “no” to their constituents. We need to educate the voters about the danger of out-of-control entitlements so that we can avoid that problem entirely.

Alito: More Independent Than Ted Kennedy

It didn’t take long for Justice Samuel Alito to make news from the bench, although the news is different than either Democrats or Republicans would have predicted. Alito voted yesterday to uphold a stay of execution for a Missouri death-row inmate, aligning himself for his first vote with Ginsburg and Stevens rather than Thomas and Scalia:

New Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito split with the court’s conservatives Wednesday night, refusing to let Missouri execute a death-row inmate contesting lethal injection.
Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri’s last-minute request to allow a midnight execution.

Not being a supporter of the death penalty myself, this ruling doesn’t bother me much, but I imagine that some people on the Alito’s side during the hearings might already be wondering if they supported another Souter all along. I doubt that this one case will give anyone a reason to worry. This doesn’t amount to a final ruling on Missouri’s death penalty nor on the Taylor case itself. It allows the lower court to review the use of lethal injection as a potentially cruel and unusual punishment, a decision which the Supreme Court will undoubtedly see on appeal from either side afterwards.
It’s worth noting the Justice’s independence of thought and consideration of the law. This should embarrass every Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as everyone who took part in anti-Alito smears. It didn’t take long for Alito not only to prove them wrong but to expose them for the hysterics and McCarthyite wretches they are. Will they apologize? No way; in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they take credit for expanding Alito’s vision of the law with their disgraceful conduct in the hearings.
This may not be the last surprise from Justice Alito and his independent streak. One Republican Senator wondered aloud whether Alito would overturn Roe if given the chance during an off-the-record chat in Alito’s confirmation week. The only prediction I can make is that Alito will rule within the law and give a lot of deference to legislatures and the executive — and that is enough of an improvement for me.

T-Shirt Politics, Or The Right To Bare Arms

Apparently last night’s State of the Union speech kept the Capitol police rather busy last night. They arrested Cindy Sheehan and ejected Rep. Bill Young’s wife, both for wearing t-shirts that had political messages on them. The actions had Capitol police backpedaling this evening, issuing apologies and suggesting that officers might need more training:

Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman’s wife from President Bush’s State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.
“The officers made a good faith, but mistaken effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol,” Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement late Wednesday.
“The policy and procedures were too vague,” he added. “The failure to adequately prepare the officers is mine.”
The extraordinary statement came a day after police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush’s arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young left the gallery and therefore was not arrested, Gainer said.
“Neither guest should have been confronted about the expressive T-shirts,” Gainer’s statement said.

I suspect that CQ readers will disagree with me on this one, but I concur with Gainer. Neither woman should have been arrested or made to leave the gallery on the basis of their t-shirts, especially at a public event like the SOTU speech. I don’t think that the two women had equivalent standing, nor do I think that Mrs. Young’s t-shirt would have been as potentially distracting as Mrs. Sheehan’s. However, the point is that as long as both women behaved themselves, their t-shirts would have had no disruptive effect on the speech. Yes, I know that there is a tradition of restraint in the gallery, but politicians of both parties make extensive use of those guest passes for political purposes during SOTU speeches. Every president in the television age put people up there that they used to emphasize major points of their speech, and no one barks about that exploitation of the gallery.
When I first heard that Sheehan had been arrested, the reports said that she had attempted to unfurl a banner in the gallery. That kind of action certainly would have justified the removal of Sheehan from the gallery but hardly qualified as a criminal act, especially under the amorphous terms of “unlawful conduct.” Having to face charges for wearing a t-shift with a slogan on it is flat-out ridiculous. What laws does that “conduct” break? And since when have we become so fragile that the wearing of a protest t-shirt become so unsettling?
Both women should have reconsidered their wardrobe for the speech. However, a fashion crime should not equate to police action, and arresting someone for wearing a dumb t-shirt should not happen in America.
UPDATE: Capitol police, not DC police; according to CQ reader Scott Crawford, they are two different entities.

French Publisher Sacks Editor For Publishing Muslim Cartoons

After getting kudos from free-speech activists for its courage, the French magazine Soir reversed itself and sacked its managing editor for publishing Danish caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. The owner fired his editor in order to placate the rage of French Muslims:

France Soir and Germany’s Die Welt were among the leading papers to reprint the cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark last September.
The caricatures include drawings of Muhammad wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, while another shows him saying that paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers.
France Soir originally said it had published the images in full to show “religious dogma” had no place in a secular society.
But late on Wednesday its owner, Raymond Lakah, said he had removed managing editor Jacques Lefranc “as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual”.
Mr Lakah said: “We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication.”
The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Dalil Boubakeur, had described France Soir’s publication as an act of “real provocation towards the millions of Muslims living in France”.

The BBC reports that other publications have stood firm on their decision to reprint the Danish cartoons that have started a firestorm of protest from Europe’s Muslim community. The newspapers and magazines remain steadfast in their right to publish satire on any topic of interest — and certainly the rise of militant Islam makes it an open target for just such treatment. These publishers, sans M. Lakah, have shown more backbone and resolve in facing down the radical Islamists than their governments have shown thus far. Perhaps their courage might finally fire their politicians into showing more backbone.
Some commentators wonder whether the satirical value of these cartoons really outweigh the insult to Muslims that it represents. The religion forbids depictions of humans in art or sculpture (as does Judaism), and even the most sympathetic rendition of the Prophet is considered sinful. A few people have already reminded backers of the cartoonists of Christian outrage over Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ”, a picture of a crucifix dunked into a beaker of urine. Other artistic depictions of Christian iconography have also gathered vitriol from religious and conservative circles, such as Chris Ofili’s “Holy Virgin Mary”.
However, the two issues differ in one important aspect. The exhibitions of the two artists mentioned received federal funds for staging these pieces of “art”, and the reaction to their poor taste came from the support of the National Endowment for the Arts. No one disputed the right of the artists to create their offensive displays, but what really rankled most was that their money went into funding their exhibitions. Although both artists offended me with their creations and I firmly believe that government should have no part of funding them, I would absolutely fight against any attempt to censor them or to stop them from painting or photographing what they consider art.
These cartoons have been privately drawn and published by privately-owned enterprises. That is the essential nature of free speech. The Danes understand that, and I find the European impulse in supporting them the most hopeful sign from the Continent in a long time, Soir‘s surrender notwithstanding.
For more on this subject, please read Judith Klinghoffer, who has followed this story much more closely than me, and Michelle Malkin for more links. In the meantime …

Cohen: We Won’t Get Fooled Again

Hamas apologists insist in the media, and in comments to this blog, that the US has it all wrong. The Palestinians didn’t elect Hamas because of their stance on terror; they elected them to clean up government and start delivering services promised by Fatah. Count Richard Cohen among the unconvinced:

While it is probably true, as everyone says, that Hamas won the recent Palestinian elections not because it promised to wipe out Israel but because it promised to pick up the garbage in Gaza City (all politics is local, etc.), it is also true that the prospect of increased violence did not deter the average Palestinian from voting for Hamas. We have seen this sort of thing before, and it is not very comforting. The rule — the only rule — is to take zealots at their word.
History speaks on this matter. If you asked a random German in, say, 1932 whether by voting for the Nazis he was voting for the murder of Jews and a destructive European war of unimaginable scope and horror, he would have said, ” Nein !” What he really wanted was an end to the brawling in the streets, a robust foreign policy and a big thumbs-up to traditional German culture — no more of this smutty modern art and filthy plays: ” Willkommen , Bienvenue , Welcome.” Not any more. The cabaret is closed! …
Unfortunately, the men who were supposed to implement one sort of Nazi program were determined to implement it all. They had made no bones about it; it was all in their bible, “Mein Kampf,” and in their rallies and speeches. It took some effort to overlook it, but a considerable number of people managed to do so and later professed shock at what happened. They looked into the abyss, saw nothing that concerned them personally — and emitted a yawn of contentment.

Zealots do not listen to reason; they do not moderate when given total power. How often do we have to learn that before these truths get accepted? Communism did not moderate; Maoists did not moderate; the Khmer Rouge did not moderate; radical Islamists won’t moderate either, in or out of power. In fact, they have an outer-directed influence that none of the other zealots had that makes moderation even less likely — they believe they are commanded by Allah to rid the land of Jews.
In the end, the Palestinians know this as well as anyone, and they elected these murderous lunatics into power. The responsibility is theirs, and so are the consequences. Issuing apologetics for Hamas in advance only enables yheir worst instincts and entrenches the danger ever deeper in Southwest Asia. Read all of Cohen’s column.

Egypt To Hamas: Recognize Israel

Egypt has stepped into the Palestinian morass with both feet today, warning Hamas that they expect the election winners to recognize Israel and adhere to previous accords — and they have instructed Mahmoud Abbas to delay asking Hamas to form a new government until Hamas agrees:

Two top Egyptian officials called on Hamas to recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals Wednesday, the latest sign Arab governments are pushing the militant group to moderate after its surprise election victory.
Separately, an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has told Egyptian officials he would hold off on asking Hamas to form the next Palestinian government until Hamas renounces violence.
The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, cited Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as saying that Abbas had made the decision after a meeting with Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.
Suleiman could not immediately be reached to verify the statement. But earlier, he told journalists in Cairo that Egypt intends to tell Hamas leaders that they must recognize Israel, disarm and honor past peace deals. Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections in a landslide last week.

This will serve as a blow to Hamas’ hopes of replacing Western aid with money from Arab nations. It won’t have any impact on Iran, but Egypt’s demand for Palestinians to stick to their agreements will set the tone for the rest of the Arab League. No one pretends that the Palestinians have much popularity with Arab nations any more, although they still like to exploit the “Palestinian question” as a rationale for their own oppressive regimes.
Without significant assistance from Arab nations, Hamas has to be completely reliant on Iran for its funding — and that might well disappear once economic sanctions are in place. The Quartet can put a stranglehold on that funding by freezing Iranian assets and international transfers, making the Iranians a highly unstable partner. They will go bankrupt very quickly if that happens, and it looks like it could happen at any time.
Where does that leave Hamas? They will control the government, which Fatah shrewdly refuses to join, at the very moment it stops functioning. They will fail to meet payrolls, meaning the services for which they supposedly got elected will disappear. The army they want to raise won’t march on promises for long. They will find themselves in charge while their world collapses around them, and their electorate will learn a lesson about electing unrepentant terrorists as a government. Hopefully, this lesson will not be undercut by Western nations stumbling over themselves yet again to save the Palestinians from their own stupid choices.