July 31, 2009

Israel Control of Mount of Olives is Vital
By Nadav Shragai

The Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, that the Palestinians demand be transferred to their control, is the most important Jewish cemetery in the world. The area has constituted a religious and national pantheon for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, containing the tombs of the illustrious dead of the nation over the course of 3,000 years and serving as a site for Jewish gathering and prayer at the time of the ancient Temple and even prior to it.

Under Jordanian rule, Jewish access and the continued burial of Jews on the mount was prohibited, despite Jordan’s explicit commitment in the Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement of 1949. During the period of Jordanian rule, the cemetery was destroyed and desecrated, and 38,000 of its tombstones and graves were smashed to smithereens.

Since Jerusalem’s reunification, burial ceremonies were renewed at the site and large sections of the cemetery were rehabilitated. Nevertheless, attempts by Palestinians to damage the cemetery have never totally abated, and there have been periodic attacks on Jewish mourners escorting their dead for burial.

Previous Israeli governments that consented to discuss arrangements in Jerusalem with the Palestinians rejected their demand to transfer the Mount of Olives to Palestinian Authority sovereignty and control. Nevertheless, those governments were prepared to give their assent to the transfer of neighborhoods that control the access routes to the mount. Should any such agreement be implemented in the future, it could endanger freedom of access to the site and continued Jewish burial there.

In any future arrangements, in order to allow continued Jewish burial on the mount, Israel must guarantee freedom of access to the site by controlling the arteries leading to it, as well as the areas adjacent to it. On the previous occasions that Israel transferred areas that included Jewish holy sites to Palestinian control, the Palestinians severely encumbered or refused to allow Jewish access to these places. Sometimes these sites were even severely damaged.

Nadav Shragai has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz since 1983. He is the author of Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008); At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); and The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995).

Obama’s Moral Clarity Deficit
By J. Matt Barber

Relativism is as relativism does and Barack Obama does it well. His less than tepid response to evidence of a rigged election in Iran a few weeks ago and the subsequent brutalization of the Iranian people by an Islamofascist regime says more about our President’s worldview than it does his foreign policy.

Amid Tehran’s bloody election protests the Internet was awash with images of Iranian citizens – many beaten, even murdered – desperately reaching out to Uncle Sam for cover. “Obama, please help us, they are killing our young children,” implored one protester’s sign. 

 Obama’s response? He launched the most vapidly uninspired course of inaction since the days of one-term Jimmy: “It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling,” he lectured.

 Critics pounced, calling the President’s hyper-measured reaction “timid” and “passive.” So he stepped it up a notch. This time he expressed “deep concerns about the elections,” promising to “monitor the situation.” Nonetheless he urged calm saying that he was “waiting to see how it plays out.” (Just what Granny needs while she’s being mugged: A would-be champion to “monitor the situation” and “see how it plays out.”)

 Of course an abundance of “concern,” “monitoring” and about eighty-nine cents will buy you a bitter cup of coffee. So, as Obama’s critics got tougher, so did his rhetoric. The next day he again modified his official position, this time mustering enough righteous indignation to upgrade from “deeply concerned” to “appalled” and “outraged.”

 Still, his instinctive impulse to equivocate was more than Obama could bear. In the same breath he reassured Iran’s despotic Mullahs and their puerile presidential puppet, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that “the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran’s affairs.”

Not really a “tear down this wall” kind of moment, but with this president, I guess it’ll have to do.

All the same, what’s most puzzling to me is why anyone’s remotely surprised. Obama is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, a postmodern “progressive,” and a committed social and moral relativist.

The moral relativist, by definition, is bereft of moral clarity. The only thing immoral is to reckon there are things immoral. The only absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. No fixed right or wrong; no black or white; only shades of gray.

Indeed our debonair young Commander-in-Chief sees the world through the murkiest of gray-colored glasses. Though evidence of this abounds, I can think of no starker example than his opposition to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

Born Alive very simply requires that when a baby survives an attempted abortion – when she is “born alive” – further attempts to kill her must immediately cease and steps must be taken to save her life.

In 2002, Born Alive passed the U.S. Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support. Yet Obama, while serving in the Illinois Senate, vehemently opposed its Illinois twin. He complained that “adding an additional doctor” (read: an actual doctor) to save the child’s life is “really designed simply to burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”

Did you get that? To require that a doctor save the child survivor of a botched abortion would “burden the original decision” of the mother to kill her. The not-so-subtle implication, of course, is that they should, instead, put her aside until she dies. Or – as I attempt to hone that moral clarity, passé though it may be – deliberately kill her through wanton neglect.

This is infanticide by any objective measure; but not to the moral relativist, and not to Barack Obama. There is no such thing as an “objective measure,” you see, only a subjective “choice.”

So here it is in black and white. Black: It’s always wrong to kill babies. White: Doctors should make every effort to save the life of babies born alive. Gray: To require such would “burden the original decision” of a mother to kill her baby.

Black: It’s always wrong to kill peaceful protesters. White: The U.S. demands the killing stop or we will stop it. Gray: We’re monitoring the situation to see how it plays out.

Then again, I ask: Why should we expect moral clarity from this president? How can we expect him to value the lives of innocent Iranians halfway around the world when he doesn’t even value the lives of the most innocent of his fellow citizens?

We can’t. But we can hold him accountable for it.

J. Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law, and serves as Director of Cultural Affairs with both Liberty Counsel and Liberty Alliance Action.

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of contributors are their own, and are not necessarily those of Sage Commentary.