"Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has
been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers
be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher
to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only
of her own."
Quincy Adams, 1821
Street Journal has made a cause
celebre out of the case of Amjad Radwan,
a 19-year-old American citizen who cannot leave Saudi Arabia without the permission
of her Saudi father. Her predicament is being held up as an example of Saudi perfidy,
and of State Department "appeasement" of the House of Saud. Indeed, the story
has the dramatic structure of a made-for-TV movie, a genre ideally suited to brainless
The offspring of a Saudi-American marriage, Ms. Radwan
was brought up to believe that her father's Saudi wife was her mother. Ah, but
her brother, Rasheed, kept the memory of their real mother alive, and the
two finally met. Now, Ms. Radwan wants out, the father forbids it, and what was
a nasty custody battle is now thanks to the War Street Journal and Rich
"Nuke Mecca!" Lowry an international brouhaha, the neocon version of the
Gulf of Tonkin
incident. A third-rate soap opera is dressed up by the Journal in the
gaudy robes of a crude morality tale, with the moral being, as James Taranto
"The Sauis [sic] oppress women and Shiite Muslims
and throw Christians in prison for praying. Their media are filled with anti-Semitic
the writings of American white supremacists. Fifteen of
the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. The list goes on."
If the oppression of women is now a casus
belli, then we'd better send an invasion force to Cullane, Scotland, where
held the British Open golf tournament at a men-only club. As for countries
that persecute Christians: the campaign to ban all expressions of Christian faith
from the public square is nearly as advanced in the US as it was in the Soviet
activities in public schools, mangers
at Christmastime, and even the
reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance are all under attack. Never mind
what happens in Saudi Arabia in the US, militant atheists have done everything
but throw Christians to the lions. And I seem to recall at least one
prominent instance in which that is pretty much what happened.
Some dipsh*t web editor posts David Duke's rancid ravings
on Arab News and Taranto is ready to smear whole populations as Nazis:
not that he requires much in the way of evidence. Spewing his hatred for all things
Saudi, Taranto plays what he clearly thinks of as his trump card: but is the "15
out of 19" argument supposed to make us forget al-Qaeda's desire to overthrow
the Saudi monarchy? It is, after all, almost as implacable as Taranto's.
The utter irrationality of the "15 out of 19" argument
which is used all the time by the growing contingent of Saudi-bashers spoiling
for a fight with Riyadh is apparent if we apply it to the circumstances surrounding
terrorist attack on Lod Airport in Tel Aviv, launched by members of the Japanese
Red Army. Although carried out in solidarity with the Marxist Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine, 3 out of 3 members of the JRA hit squad
were Japanese citizens. They slaughtered 26 people and injured 78. Should Israel
have declared the government of Japan responsible for the JRA's loathsome act?
To do so would have been bizarre, to say the least, because the JRA was just as
dedicated to overthrowing the government of Japan as al-Qaeda is pledged to destroying
the Saudi regime.
Taranto touts a rally at the Saudi embassy next Thursday,
organized by interns in the office of Rep. Frank Wolf, a (R-Virginia), Republican,
in support of Ms. Radwan. This heretofore hidden streak of radical feminism in
the GOP, which seeks to use US government power against the "patriarchal" Saudi
state, is a foreign policy plank the Radical Left can get behind, and indeed the
grand coalition that rallied around Ms. Radwan includes everyone from Trent Lott
to Barney Frank.
But the real reason we're seeing Republicans take to
the streets is not, I think, to smash
Patriarchy as much as it is to seize the Iraqi oil fields and those of the
they're at it. Larry Kudlow you remember him, he's
the one who thinks war is the health of the economy said as much on The
McLaughlin Group this past Friday. When asked about the state of the economy,
he launched in a tirade about how we should "seize the oil fields" and that
will be "good for the economy" and "good for freedom." His answer to the pall
of economic uncertainty nay, gloom that has settled over the markets and darkened
everyone's future prospects is that "we must help the Iranian freedom-fighters."
If we're going to be holding demonstrations in front
of the embassies of nations whose cultural idiosyncracies offend American sensibilities
and to a much greater extent than the lack of a NOW chapter in Riyadh then
I can think of plenty of others that cry out for the principled protests
of these hyperactive young policy wonks. Although it is hard to imagine them holding
a rally in front of Israel's embassy, denouncing the extradition laws that make
Israel a safe
haven for scum like Samuel
Sheinbein who brutally murdered a 19-year-old acquaintance, Enrique Tello,
sawed off his head, and then set it on fire. He escaped to Israel, which refused
to extradite him: Up until recently, Israeli law generally prohibited the extradition
of Israeli citizens for trial in other countries and the issue is still problematic.
The first bilateral extradition treaty signed by Israel
and the US, in 1962, declared that neither country could refuse extradition based
on a claim to the exclusive right to judge their own citizens. However, as Abraham
Abramovsky and Jonathan I. Edelstein point out in an
interesting and informative essay [Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational
Law, January 2002], Israel's claim to this very right asserted itself in the
same year the treaty was signed:
"This protest arose from the case of Robert
Soblen, a U.S. Jew who fled to Israel after being convicted of espionage
on behalf of the Soviet Union. After an extradition request was made by the United
States pursuant to the newly ratified treaty, Soblen was arrested and placed on
a flight for the United States. During the flight, Soblen slashed his wrists.
Although this suicide attempt was unsuccessful, he subsequently succeeded in killing
himself by ingesting poison while under guard at a London hospital.
"The death of Soblen struck a chord with many Israelis,
including then-opposition leader Menachem
Begin. In an impassioned article written in the newspaper of the Likud Party,
Begin expressed the opinion that no Jew should ever be extradited from Israel.
Begin quoted from Deuteronomy
23:15: 'You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped
from his master to you.' In contrast to Herzl's promise that a Zionist state would
readily extradite Jewish criminals, Begin 'considered it the role of the Jewish
state to give asylum to wanted Jews.'"
Another case, that of Reuben Pesachowitz, indicted for
fraud in Switzerland, rallied support among Israelis for Begin's view that Jews
held the status of slaves outside of Israel, as did the case of Shmuel
Flatto-Sharon, a financial high-flyer wanted in France on suspicion of having
fleeced approximately $60 million off some French sheep. Flatto-Sharon
fled to Israel, where he declared his Israeli citizenship and decided to run
for the Knesset on a platform advocating Israeli immunity from foreign prosecutors.
He wrote a pamphlet touting his status as a Holocaust survivor, as well as a friend
of the French Minister of Finance, and making much of his large investments in
Israel. Flatto-Sharon called on the Jews of the Diaspora to fight for the interests
of the Israeli state, especially emphasizing the principle that Israel must represent
"every individual Jew in the world." All Jews, he averred, must be provided with
Israeli passports in order to escape the ever-present prospect of "persecution."
Flatto-Sharon was elected to the Knesset in 1977, with
35,000 votes, and granted parliamentary immunity, all the while continuing
his criminal career. At the same time, Begin's Likud party took power, and
began to implement the new policy of Israeli immunity from foreign prosecution.
A law forbidding the extradition of Israeli citizens was passed, and only grudgingly
amended post-Sheinbein, a case that roiled US-Israeli relations so seriously that
the law was written as follows:
"[A] person who committed an extraditable offense
. . . and who is an Israeli citizen and an Israeli national at the time of the
extradition request" shall not be extradited unless "[t]he country requesting
his extradition commits itself in advance to transfer him back to Israel to serve
his sentence there, if he is convicted and a prison sentence is imposed."
This has proved to be a boon for criminals of all sorts:
take the case of Dov Engel, who defrauded
a number of New York banks to the tune of $115 million. Engel fled to Israel,
and, claiming his "right of return," became a citizen. While formally agreeing
that, under the new amended law, Engel was extraditable, the Israeli authorities
declared they were keeping him until the US agreed that he should serve his time
in Israel and cut
his sentence to less than half. As Abramovaky and Edelstein put it,
"The advantage obtained by Engel from his flight to
Israel was brought home dramatically at his sentencing on December 3, 2001. Under
U.S. sentencing guidelines, he was eligible for a sentence of more than eleven
years in prison. In Israel, however, the maximum sentence for bank fraud is five
years, and Engel would serve no more than the amount of time under Israeli law.
The sentencing judge expressed her exasperation, stating that Engel "knew that
[the United States] couldn't touch him" in Israel and that she was "sentencing
[him] as if he would serve his time in the U.S.," but these were futile gestures.
The inescapable fact was that, by fleeing to Israel and taking advantage of the
1999 act, Engel unilaterally reduced his sentence by more than half."
instances of aborted justice followed. The cultural idiosyncracies of Israeli
society in this case, the belief that Jews cannot get a fair hearing anywhere
but Israel due to all-pervasive global anti-Semitism continue to make this issue
a sensitive one as far as US-Israeli relations are concerned. Does that mean we
should all march down to the Israeli embassy with placards demanding "No Special
Treatment for Jews!" and "Rootless Cosmopolitans Evade Justice!"?
Of course not.
What it does mean is that anyone who deals with an Israeli
or someone who holds dual US-Israeli citizenship on a business or personal
level, must take this peculiar twist of Israeli law and cultural bias into consideration.
Just as anyone who enters into a similar relationship with a Saudi citizen say,
a marriage -- must likewise consider the possible consequences of their actions.
Be forewarned: they can always screw you and claim their "right of return," grabbing
the kids, your money, or both, and getting off scot-free.
What can be done about this?
What should be done about this?
In a word: Nothing.
For America to enforce its doctrines of justice and the
law over the whole earth would mire us in endless disputes: such a policy would
be impossible to implement without declaring a state of permanent war with the
rest of the world. For this reason, once you leave the jurisdiction of the United
States, you're on your own. This principle applies not only to individual
citizens, such as the estranged American wives of Saudi husbands, but also to
American businessmen, who cannot expect the American military to serve as their
private police force worldwide. Invest in an oil field, or a marriage abroad:
the decision is yours. But be prepared to cover your own losses: don't come whining
to Uncle Sam when your marriage goes sour or your oil wells are nationalized,
expecting to be bailed out.
One can empathize with Ms. Radwan while recognizing that
what boils down to a simple custody dispute is no reason to declare the Saudis
an outlaw nation. On the other hand, providing sanctuary for murderers, pedophiles,
and con men ought to grate far more on Americans' nerves, particularly in tandem
with the implicit Israeli assumption that common criminals are somehow the victims
of pandemic "anti-Semitism."
Yet any attempt by the US government to curtail normal
relations with either the Saudis or the Israelis on account of their cultural
peculiarities would be a monumental error. While the American response to the
Sheinbein case was to threaten to withhold US aid, this should have been done
in any event, and not linked to that particular incident. One could make the argument
that the kind of outside pressure exerted on the Israelis to reverse their position
only has the opposite effect of ultimately reinforcing the cultural-political
tics we find objectionable. True, Israel's extradition law was amended,
but then it was revised again, and, in the new version, the principle governing
instances in which extradition is permissible is defined in much narrower terms.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are in the grip of fundamentalist
fevers that make them unpleasant places, inhospitable climes for free men and
women, and for that reason I would never consider living in either. But before
we go off crusading in pursuit of "justice" overseas, demanding that all societies
everywhere live up to some standard of political correctness to be determined
by Taranto and the Wall Street Journal editorial board, let us pause and
consider at least the economic if not the moral consequences of such a
As the stock
market plunges, along with the
dollar, there is a
whiff of catastrophe in the air: could the markets stand another oil shock,
and yet more uncertainty? Many think
not, myself among them.
It could be that the much-touted war on Iraq will be
defeated, not by a popular outcry, not by a sudden dawning of common sense or
the triumphant return of the foreign policy principles of the Founders, but by
an economic meltdown or, at least, a
deepening sense of crisis.
Nothing concentrates the American mind like an economic
slump. Poverty is bound to have a clarifying effect on our priorities. The excesses
of the "bubble" are disdained. Suddenly the stern republican virtues are back
in style: parsimony, prudence, and, most of all, modesty in short, the exact
opposite of the overweening arrogance of our empire-builders, who, in their inflated
sense of self-importance, are the children of the bubble. The tide will turn in
the blink of an eye, and we'll be "saved" from the third world war by a global
economic conflagration. Now that's what I call out of the frying pan, and
into the fire
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