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How America Shed the Taboo Against Preventive War

April 21, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

A hidden assumption underlies the debate over North Korea. The assumption is that preventive war—war against a country that poses no imminent threat but could pose a threat in the future—is morally legitimate. To be sure, many politicians oppose an attack on practical grounds: They say the costs would be too high. But barely anyone in the foreign policy mainstream calls the idea itself abhorrent. Read more…

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Is Marwan Barghouti The Palestinian Nelson Mandela?

April 19, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

In the April 16 New York Times, Marwan Barghouti announced that he and 1,000 other Palestinian prisoners were launching a hunger strike. It’s easy to understand why.

West Bank Palestinians are colonial subjects. Even though the Palestinian Authority has some power, it is not a state, and the Israeli military can freely enter the West Bank and arrest anyone anytime it wants. The prisoners now refusing food were mostly tried in military courts where proving your innocence is nearly impossible. As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem noted in 2015, “A Palestinian charged in a military court is as good as convicted.” Read more…

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Why Trumpism Will Outlast Steve Bannon

April 17, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Last week brought a new conventional wisdom to Washington: Internationalism is back. Donald Trump’s military strike in Syria, his embrace of the Export-Import bank, his acknowledgment that China isn’t actually manipulating its currency, and his public humiliation of Steve Bannon sparked a rash of articles suggesting that Trump’s presidency may not signal the rise of nativist nationalism after all. Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, H.R. McMaster, and Gary Cohn won’t permit it.

But the balance of power inside a White House doesn’t necessarily reflect the balance of power inside a party. At times during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, moderates like James Baker outmaneuvered conservatives like Edwin Meese and Pat Buchanan. In his second term, George W. Bush preferred Condoleezza Rice’s foreign-policy counsel to Dick Cheney’s. Read more…

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When Conservatives Oppose ‘Religious Freedom’

April 11, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

On March 28, Pamela Geller, co-founder of the group Stop Islamization of America, wrote a column on Breitbart that offered Donald Trump some advice: “Clean house.” Paul “Ryan has got to go. James Comey, too,” she urged. Then she added a more obscure name: “What’s Eric Treene still doing there?”

Treene, the Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is at first glance an odd Breitbart target. For starters, he’s a conservative evangelical Christian. His denomination, The Presbyterian Church in America, opposes abortion and gay marriage, and ordains only men. Before joining the Justice Department, Treene worked at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which later represented Hobby Lobby in its demand to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraception. When John Ashcroft hired Treene at the Justice Department in 2002, the anti-abortion group Faith and Action called it “a new day for Christians in Washington.” The liberal American Prospect, by contrast, warned that his appointment might be part of George W. Bush’s agenda for “moving us toward a form of Christian nationhood.” Read more…

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IfNotNow And The Challenge Of The Millennial Left

April 10, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

In a column last week, I compared IfNotNow, the Millennial-powered movement challenging American Jewish complicity in Palestinian repression, to Black Lives Matter. That upset some people,including IfNotNow itself, which issued a statement rejecting the comparison.

That’s fine. I’m a fan of IfNotNow’s, but the movement has no obligation to agree with everything I write, just as I have no obligation to agree with everything it says and does. I admire J Street too, yet we disagree about boycotting settlement goods. Read more…

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Trump’s Establishment Approach to Syria

April 7, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

Why did Donald Trump, who won the GOP nomination, in part, by bucking his party’s interventionist foreign policy establishment, thrill it on Friday by launching missile strikes against the government of Bashar Assad? Why did the most unconventional of presidents respond to his first foreign policy crisis in such a conventional way? Read more…

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IfNotNow Is The Jewish Black Lives Matter

April 4, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

I spent last Shabbat with students from Harvard Hillel and was reminded, again, how important a generational movement IfNotNow is becoming. I don’t think most older American Jews grasp it yet. This is our Black Lives Matter. Read more…

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AIPAC Reflects Heroism Of Jewish Power — And Its Perils

March 28, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

It’s fitting that the AIPAC Policy Conference, which convened this week in Washington, D.C., falls every year at around the same time as the holiday of Purim. Because the two have a lot in common.

On Purim, Jews read the Book of Esther, which tells the story of a Jew who unexpectedly gains influence with a mighty king. She learns that a wicked man named Haman threatens her people with destruction. Since her status may afford her some protection, she has the option to remain silent. But she does not. She uses her power to foil the wicked man’s plot and save her people. Read more…

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The Dangers of Blaming Trump for Anti-Semitism

March 24, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

At a press conference in mid-February, Donald Trump said something that was, even for him, astonishing. He predicted that when authorities discovered the perpetrators of the anti-Semitic attacks that had broken out since his election, “It won’t be my people,” who had committed them. “It will be the people on the other side.” He repeated the thought later that month, reportedly telling state attorneys general that the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country may be “the reverse” of what they appear and may have been committed “to make others look bad.” Read more…

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Who You Callin’ Anti-Semite? Reserve The Term For The Worst Offenders

March 22, 2017 | post a comment | Philip Johnson

We’ve been playing this game for months now. First with Michael Flynn. Then with Stephen Bannon. Now with Sebastian Gorka.

Liberals accuse a Donald Trump adviser of having ties to right-wing anti-Semites. Trump’s Jewish supporters defend him. And, not content to stop there, they throw the charge back in the accusers’ faces — claiming that they have ties to left-wing anti-Semites. Read more…