Erring and forgiving, &c.


You may have heard about a little incident the other week. Speaking at Fort Drum, N.Y., President Obama confused one Medal of Honor recipient with another. One was still living, the other dead. Oops.

Everybody makes mistakes, of course, and a president can’t be expected to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” NewsBusters pointed out that none of the “big three” networks reported Obama’s Medal of Honor mistake. We might ask, And if Ronald Reagan or one of the Bushes had done the same?

In the 1980s, there was a book beloved by the chattering class: Reagan’s Reign of Error. Obama is working on a book of his own. He had “57 states,” of course. He spoke about the “Austrian” language. He said “Cinco de Cuatro,” attempting to say “Fourth of May.” And remember this one? “On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience here today . . .” Etc.

Where Barack Obama is concerned, the press is mightily forgiving and understanding. Let them remember that when a Dan Quayle messes up with “potato” or a Sarah Palin gives a peculiar interpretation of Paul Revere’s ride. You know?

In the July 4 National Review — there’s a patriotic phrase! — I had a piece called “Friends in Need: A cadre of worthies takes up the cause of Israel.” Who are these worthies? They are members of the Friends of Israel Initiative, a group spearheaded by José María Aznar, the former prime minister of Spain. That piece is here.

Aznar’s partners — the Friends — include Václav Havel, the Czech hero; Alejandro Toledo, the former president of Peru; David Trimble, the Northern Irishman who shared the Nobel peace prize in 1998; and our man John Bolton.

The Friends are not a Jewish group, by and large. (Who’s counting?) They are a group of righteous Gentiles, to borrow a phrase. And their concern for Israel is explained a bit in my piece. Why any explanation should be necessary, I’m not too sure.

Over the years, many have asked me, “Why do you care so much about Israel?” They have said things like, “Why in the world would Sarah Palin, as governor of Alaska, have an Israeli flag in her office?” I have answered this general question many times. Let me throw some links at you, if you’re interested: here, here, here, and here.

And I will now say a bit more. Israel is a greatly admirable nation — established just a few years after the ovens stopped belching — and, perversely, it is the world’s pariah state.

According to Eye on the UN, the United Nations took 145 “human-rights actions” against Israel last year. That was, of course, more than against any other country. In second place was Sudan, with a paltry 50 actions. Sudan’s government is genocidal, as you know. In third place was Congo. Then came Somalia.

And in fifth place — drum roll, please — the United States. North Korea did a full 20 places better.

In Scotland, the West Dunbartonshire Council has forbidden local libraries to carry Israeli books. Actually, the council has protested indignantly that this isn’t true. They have forbidden libraries to carry books printed in Israel. If an Israeli should happen to use a foreign publisher — why, that’s kosher.

Time was, a performer made news if he boycotted Israel. Now, a performer makes news if he travels to Israel and plays, or sings. Elton John went there and shouted out, “Shalom! We are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothin’ gonna stop us from comin’, baby.”

Israel, which is under siege by its neighbors, and by the awful weight of world opinion, is in sore need of friends. And Aznar & Co. are supplying this need. They are doing vital, golden work, and strictly from principle, deriving no benefit except duty fulfilled and conscience satisfied.

Let me tell you a quick story. After I published my article in National Review, I got a message from a reader. She told me she was 83, I believe, and on a fixed income. But she wanted to make a donation to the Friends of Israel Initiative. How could she do this? I found a street address for her. She is not the Internet-using type.

The rest of you sophisticates will want to check out the Friends’ website, here. It has many interesting documents and facets. In my view, the Friends are one of the clearest and most helpful groups out there. They are, to use an old Bush 41 phrase, a “point of light.”


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