Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review April 23, 1999 /7 Iyar 5759

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Tony Snow
Dr. Laura
Paul Greenberg
David Corn
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Chesnoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg


Notes From the Home Front

(JWR) ---- (
AMERICA IS AT WAR. Of course, it doesn't feel much like it. That is, of course, unless you are tuned in to the all-news cable networks that are happy to bring you a breathless version of "All Kosovo - All the Time."

Future historians will be poring over the main military and political events in Europe. But after they're done with that, they're going to want to know what else was going on on the "Home Front" while our boys were bombing Belgrade.

So before the television footage of the the Kosovo Albanian refugees and Bill Clinton's commander-in-chief impersonation are relegated to "The History Channel," I thought it might be useful to examine a few of the sidelights of life during wartime while our memories are still fresh. WHO'S THE DUMBEST?

The keenest competition of the war isn't between the warring armies and air forces or even the network news departments. It's the battle over who would earn the title of the worst foreign-affairs leader in the free world.

Who's winning? I'd say it's our bumbling and blustering Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, who has bluffed her boss into a war by underestimating Slobodan Milosevic.

But close behind is Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Arik Sharon, who decided that romancing a country opposing America's war effort - Russia - would be a smart idea. Sharon's goal may have been winning Russian immigrant votes in the Israeli election, but it was still a monumentally foolish idea. Does anyone in Israel really believe they can trust Moscow?

If there is anybody connected to this war that scares me, I have to confess that it isn't Milosevic or even Madeleine Albright. It's CNN Superstar Christianne Ammanpour.

Ammanpour, who is married to State Department spokesman James Rubin (am I the only one who finds that connection slightly fishy?), is always present whenever there's violence anywhere in the world. From Africa to Asia to the Balkans, if people are getting killed, that woman always seems to be nearby with a hand-held camera and a disapproving look.

In spite of the fact that she editorializes more than most editorial writers (her sad expression and tone when Bibi beat Peres in the 1996 Israeli election sticks in my memory), she's a good reporter and ahead of most of her competition.

But if you ever see her on the street, my advice would be to drop what you're doing and head for an air-raid shelter. That woman is the television version of the Angel of Death! If she's around, something bad is about to happen.

Until now, most students of history have always classified Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's speech to the people of Britain telling them they were at war as the most uninspiring war-declaration speech in history.

Chamberlain, who had done everything in his power to appease the Nazis, was feeling very embarrassed on Sept. 1, 1939, as the Germans invaded Poland and thus forcing a British declaration of war. The sorry Chamberlain, who would become a metaphor for weakness and appeasement, asked his people if they could imagine how badly he felt! Thanks to him, others would soon feel worse.

But as pathetic as that speech was, I believe historians will soon move President Clinton's speech to the American people explaining why we were going to war in Kosovo as even more pathetic than Chamberlain's.

Clinton pulled out every senseless rationale he could think of - NATO credibility? European stability? American business? - and managed to mangle the one he mentioned that made sense - human rights.

And didn't he learn any history at Georgetown or Oxford? World War II did not start in the Balkans. But an awful lot of Germans got tangled up in the mountains there before it was all over.

The Kosovo war has been an uncomfortable time for both liberals and conservatives. Since this conflict has nothing to do with the usual reasons America has fought wars, like combating communism and security interests, many idealogues have been perplexed as to what to think about Mr. Clinton's war.

My favorite comments come from the opposite sides of the spectrum.

>From the far left comes Philadelphia's favorite cop-killer and former National Public Radio commentator Mumia Abu-Jamal. Abu-Jamal, who remains on death row for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia policeman, sent out an e-mail message of protest against the war that was forwarded to me.

In case you were interested, Mumia believes the war to be an imperialist plot to establish American hegemony and oppress minorities. Unlike some left-wingers, who seem to especially like this war, specifically because it does not serve American interests, Mumia can't resist the urge to bash America. Some folks just can't help themselves.

The strange thing is, he is echoing the same arguments about a war for NATO credibility that Henry Kissinger has been making, albeit from the opposite side. Who'd have believed they had so much in common?

But one prominent conservative think-tank head told me in confidence that he viewed the war as a great opportunity because he opposes American involvement as a senseless and misguided adventure.

"I missed out on the '60s' experience because I was not anti-war then," he confided. "But I always envied the left-wingers their candlelight vigils and being able to sing 'Give Peace a Chance.' Now I can sing for peace," he said with a laugh.

The straight kids always envied the rebels. Peace and love, man.

Believe it or not, while the rockets red glare were bursting in air over Kosovo, Mr. Clinton also took time out from his wartime duties to proclaim the week of April 18 to 25 as "Jewish Heritage Week."

Never heard of it, you say? I hadn't either, until the fax with this information direct from the Office of the Press Secretary of the White House arrived in our newsroom.

Econophone The proclamation, issued by William J. Clinton, calls upon all Americans to "give thanks for all that the Jewish community in America has done to keep our Nation [sic] free, strong and prosperous."

To that thought, I add my own "amen." I will leave it to commentators more cynical than I to wonder whether Mr. Clinton is thinking more of those prominent Jewish donors to his campaigns who have bunked in the Lincoln Bedroom than of the illustrious history of American Jewry.

That the document is dated the "fourteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety nine," takes a little of the shine off for Jewish readers, but I guess sometimes you just shouldn't read the fine print.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.


04/16/99:The Sporting Jews: Making America's Game Our Own
04/09/99:From Silence to Cacophony: Holocaust metaphors are the coin of the realm
04/05/99:A Righteous but Confused Cause: Kosovo war shines a light on our principles and our hypocrisy
03/19/99:Jewish Art, Jewish Artists: Making beautiful music is no guarantee of goodness
03/17/99: When Jewish Foes Come Together
03/11/99: The Lingering Romance of the Jewish Left: When naming names was a righteous cause
03/05/99: Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers
02/25/99: Changing Our Minds on School Choice
02/18/99: Morality Play: Mixing Politics and Values Is a Tricky Business
02/11/99:Of Human Rights and Wrongs
02/05/99:The Bibiphobia Conspiracy
01/27/99: Israel and Us: Putting Up or Shutting Up
01/20/99: The High Cost of Jewish Education
01/14/99The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Have American Jews finally arrived?
01/06/99 Israel: The Millennial Theme Park
12/30/98 Memo to Bubba: Israel ain't Monica, keep yer hands off!
12/22/98 Calling Things by Their Right Names
12/12/98 Good news...and bad news
11/05/98 What price free-speech?
10/30/98: Haunted by the past
10/23/98: American Jewry: Ethnicity or faith?
10/15/98: Converts, saints and Jews: Confronting the story of Edith Stein
10/02/98: Bibi: No Messiah, just a politician
9/11/98: Politics ‘98: By their enemies shall ye know them
9/04/98: Pro-terror groups' cry of discrimination rings hollow
8/28/98: Defending the undefendable;Or, the AJCongress should stop wasting Jewish resources
8/21/98: Is 'Jewish journalism' an oxymoron?
8/14/98: Holding on to our heroes
8/07/98: Three strikes, but they continue to play
7/23/98: Zionist vs Zionist
7/17/98: Summer news stories: Large and small
7/13/98: A step closer to school choice
6/26/98: The Holocaust Museum and Mort Klein
6/12/98: What price Jewish education?
6/5/98: Ten books for a long, hot summer: A serious vacation reading list for Jewish history lovers
5/29/98: Double standards here and there: Hypocrisy raises its ugly head in Israel and the U.S.
5/26/98: Hartford Seminary tangle points to bigger issues
5/22/98:The importance of being Bibi
5/14/98: The ‘dream palace' of the anti-Zionists: Hartford Seminary controversy has historic roots
4/26/98: All-rightniks versus the alarmists: Focussing on the Jewish bottom line
4/13/98:Of ends and means and victims
4/5/98: Hang up on Albright
3/29/98: Bigshots or activists?: Clinton's three clerics return from China
3/27/98: Will American Jews help Clinton push Israel into a corner?
3/22/98: Anti-Semitism then and now
3/15/98: Still searching for Jews at the opera
3/11/98: Remembering Eric Breindel
3/8/98: Getting lost in history
3/5/98: Follow the money to Hamas
2/22/98: Re-writing "Anne Frank" - A distorted legacy
2/15/98: Religious persecution is still a Jewish issue
2/6/98: A lost cause remembered (the failure of the Bund)
2/1/98: Economic aid is not in Israel's interest
1/25/98: Jews are news, and a fair shake for Israel is hard to find

©1999, Jonathan Tobin