Tag Archives: ISIS

Open letter to Washington Post Editor Martin Baron regarding headline of death of ISIS leader

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Dear Mr. Baron,

I believe it is important that you understand that this letter is being written to you from someone who is openly left of center on political issues.  Although I pride myself in being a centrist, I primarily have voted Democrat in the past, defend attacks on liberals when I feel them unmerited, and criticize Donald Trump when I feel it appropriate.  All that being said, I find it impossible to be quiet when I see a headline bordering on showing respect to a known hater of western civilization and mass murderer.

I am referring to your recent article that refers to the recent death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in which your newspaper refers to him as an “austere religious scholar”.  To be clear, my problem is not in the accuracy of the statement.  Yes he was austere and although I do not have enough facts to speak to how scholarly he was I will accept that as being a true statement.  The problem with your headline is that you used those 2 facts to define the man, and that is neither sensitive nor true.

As a media outlet claiming to represent truth and justice, your paper needs to answer for this portrayal of a man who in his lifetime made it clear to the entire world that his ultimate goal was to conquer and kill.  If you were to be true to what you claim to be, rather than calling him an “austere religious scholar” you would have referred to him as an “ambitious fanatical killing machine”.  To focus on his austerity and religious knowledge is not only insensitive, it’s hypocritical.  The headline on your paper states the words “Democracy dies in darkness”.  I consider those words to be profound and true.  However, to use them as a means of attacking Donald Trump while choosing not to headline the death of someone as pro darkness and anti-democracy as the former leader of ISIS, is indeed hypocritical.

This is not about the American political situation or the current resident of the White House, both of which I am not always particularly thrilled with.  It’s about sincerity and agenda.  If you truly believe that “Democracy dies in darkness” you should require a headline indicating that with the death of al-Baghdadi a little more light shined through the darkness.  But if as a newspaper you are either so scared of going after the worst people or so focused on your own political agenda, you are doing a disservice to the American people.

Many funny posts have come out in response to your headline.  Some of them made me chuckle. but truth be told, nothing about this is funny.  We live in a democracy with freedom of the press, speech and religion.  You want things changed here?  I am all for you using your platform in the manner in which you choose.  However, if you claim to be a purveyor of Democracy and light, you lose credibility when ignoring the worst dictatorial hatred and darkness the world has to offer.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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Yell at the enemy, not each other

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When I heard about the Manchester terror attack, one of the things that went through my mind was that it was the first time since my mother passed away on April 19th that I actually felt ironically and sadly happy she wasn’t alive to see it. It would have broken her heart.  As it did for everyone decent with a heart. There are many people with many different political ideologies and strategies on how to handle terrorism, but the one thing I can say for sure is that the majority of them were devastated by what happened and despite the likelihood that it will be repeated in some manner,  hope and pray something like this never happens again.

But apparently that is not good enough for some people. There are many who feel if your solution isn’t their solution you are now part of the problem.  As is so often the case, it is easier to go after the people who would never hurt you than it is to go after the ones that would be happy to hurt you. Calling a liberal a name for not being what you see as tough enough or calling a Conservative a fascist for what you may consider an extreme position against terrorism certainly is a lot easier than  screaming and shouting at the real bad guys.  I am an open critic of President Donald Trump, but one thing I won’t criticize him for is calling ISIS a bunch of losers.  Is the language “presidential”? Maybe not. But first of all it is true, and second of all it is a lot better than coming out and ranting and raving about how this is the fault of liberals.  So in this instance I not only support him and commend him, I urge people to follow his example.

You may think someone is misguided for their approach, but should you be yelling and screaming at the person who bemoans that they want to see peace between all people and all faiths? Should you put down the more militant type that is so mad at the brutality and evil taking place that they want blood?  The answer to both questions is no, you should not.  It is possible that one side is very right and the other very wrong or that the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but one thing is certain.  Neither of these people from either side are the real enemy and to lose sight of this does more to help the terrorists than it does to hurt them.  Debate the other from whatever side you sit on, but do not lose sight of the fact that most people, even those on an opposing side from yours want exactly the same thing.  A peaceful and secure life.

When we fight each other we give the true enemy a significant victory, something mostly everyone who will read this, be they to the far left or far right does not want to happen. Remember that and who knows?  Maybe we’ll get a lot closer to finding a real solution rather than just shout at each other trying to prove how smart we are.

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Open Letter to John Kerry regarding UN Vote on Israel

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Dear Secretary Kerry,

It took me less than 5 minutes of listening to your speech earlier today to get a very good idea of where the disconnect is between you and the administration’s approach and those of us who proudly and unapologetically support the State of Israel and its government. Since the problem is more in the method and approach than it is in the desired outcome, I am willing to assume, albeit reluctantly and mostly for the purposes of making the more important point,  that your intentions are at the very least meant to be fair to both parties.

Mr. Kerry, Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I do not believe you have the right to sit in judgment over what she does as a sovereign state to protect her borders and the lives of her citizens.  The philosophical discussion of whether or not a two state solution is the only way to guarantee the continuing existence of the State of Israel is a discussion that can be had by any party coming to the table with legitimate and peaceful intentions.  The building of settlements, on land conquered by Israel when her very existence was threatened by hostile neighbors working towards her destruction, is an issue that can be legitimately addressed. However, like so many other things in life, things must be done at the right time, in the proper manner, and most of all prioritized correctly. The point being, until Israel’s rights are recognized and they can have an open and equitable discussion with a sincere partner in peace, discussions of Israeli policy and actions taken on any land falling under Israeli rule is not only inappropriate, it is hypocritical and immoral.

This is not a chicken and egg situation.  Before there was any violence or settlements, the very same United Nations that condemned Israel last week for the building of said settlements, approved the creation of the Jewish state that this same governing body now chastises.  The very same organization that once had Syria on its human rights commission, has done very little to protect the persecution and murder of Christians by ISIS and has repeatedly taken the side of terrorist organizations against Israel, now claims some high and mighty moral imperative.  The reality may just be that what it is actually doing is the bidding of the very wealthy Arab states that see Israel as a Jewish thorn in their proverbial sides.  This is the United Nations that you Secretary Kerry and the rest of the Obama administration have chosen to side with.

I have heard the argument that a large percentage of Israelis are against the settlements. Regardless of whether or not this is true, it is irrelevant, and frankly not the business of anyone outside of Israel.  In fact, and understand that this is coming from someone who has voted Democrat far more often than Republican, I find it particularly distasteful because of the recent evidence of Russia tampering in America’s elections.  How can we genuinely scream and shout in disgust over Putin’s actions when our leadership chooses to insert its influence over matters that speak to the very root of Israel’s existence?  The settlements may or may not be a moral or wise course of action, but they began with actions of self defense by an Israeli government, and unless an outside nation intends to put its citizens in danger, have their young men and women fight, or risk their very survival, what right do they have to dictate Israeli policy?  I do not question that the United States has done a lot to help Israel, but that means they are entitled to expect a fair and equitable friendship and alliance, not the right to control her destiny. It would be like my best friend saying that as a result of all he does for me he can determine how I furnish my home.  It’s unethical and the reality is that it just doesn’t work that way.

Mr. Secretary, I started the second paragraph by saying that Israel is not your child and you are not its father.  I use this analogy to make the following point.  There are only a few people I feel have had the right to speak out over how I live my life.  One of them was my father of blessed memory.  If anyone else felt they had the right to speak to my actions as my father did or mother does, I would have every right to react in a very harsh and critical manner.  Israel is America’s best and strongest ally, certainly in the Middle East and very possibly in the entire world.  That fact does not give you or anyone else the right to decide how they move forward in protecting their people and territory and representatives of Israel’s government are correct for their negative and critical reactions.

Finally I leave you with this thought.  When referencing all America has done for Israel, a fact I not only do not dispute but appreciate as well, understand the following important fact.  America’s friendship towards Israel has always been a way of strengthening her security and insuring her existence, not a bargaining chip to be held over her head.  Once the United States government takes the stance that because of its support they have the right to make demands, that friendship turns into something completely different.  It turns into a tool of power and control, something no Israeli leader, no matter how inclined to the left he or she may be is likely to respond to positively.  Something  I am even more thankful for. The actions of the current administration in showing support for these actions have been anything but friendly, and sadly and ironically have done more damage to the peace process than any action taken by anyone or any government in quite some time.  That Mr. Secretary will be most likely be your Middle East legacy.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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When Muslims save Jews

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An interesting thing happened today.  A predominantly Muslim country potentially saved the lives of many Jews.  Israelis no less.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Kosovo police thwarted an attack on Israel’s international soccer team reportedly planned by members of ISIS from Syria. This turn of events, one that causes a collective sigh of relief and for those who believe in a higher power a show of thanks to God up above, also has very relevant and majorly important significance in a country not directly involved.  That country being our very own United States of America.

Over the years I’ve been anything but moderate in my approach towards Islamic extremism.  I have no problem recognizing the danger of the aggressive and violent approach taken by too many elements in the Muslim world.  I have zero tolerance for those who are murderers in the name of a so-called cause and I recognize the vicious hatred and venom towards Israel from much of the leadership in the Muslim world. That being said, I also not only recognize, but believe wholeheartedly that the greatest majority of Muslims, regardless of how they actually feel toward Israel and the west, do not want any part in violence towards anyone and just want to live a peaceful and productive life.  In fact, I would go as far as saying that what took place in Kosovo is evidence to that fact.

Since the election of Donald Trump as President-elect of the United States, the status of Muslims in America has been very much in the forefront.  I get it. I honestly do.  I have often said that although most Muslims are not terrorists, the majority of terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims.  The safety of innocent people is a major responsibility of any government and actions need to be taken to see to it that all that needs to get done does get done.  However, an attack on an entire people or religion is not only immoral and reminiscent of tyranny from the past, it’s a bad strategy.  The events in Kosovo bare this out.  In the name of fairness and objectivity, when you listen carefully to Donald Trump’s words and proposals, he never goes after all Muslims.  What he does however is target the problem as being a Muslim problem, which if done correctly and with a degree of tact would possibly have tremendously positive effects, but when done with mere soundbites causes a large percentage of people to see the entire Muslim world as a threat.

I don’t make a habit of defending Muslims.  As a Jew and a Zionist I’ve had plenty of justified anger towards many Muslims over my lifetime.  However, I also don’t believe in going after one group of people merely because of what they are, and if only from a pragmatic sense, it’s stupid.  Setting aside the fact that I personally base who I like and who I call a friend on how they are personally, if the entire Muslim world gets alienated, even if it’s a result of interpretation of Trump’s words as opposed to their actual meaning, the rest of us are indeed not better off or safer as a result.  My fellow Jews who think otherwise need look no further than Kosovo, where a police force of a population mostly consistent of Muslims did the right thing and stopped a potential massacre of Israeli soccer players.

There is a middle of the road, and throughout history that middle has always achieved the best results, not an extreme ideology in any one direction.  There is indeed safety in numbers, and if there are large numbers of Muslims who want to live in peace, a fact that any reasonable individual knows to be the case, then working with them will get us a lot further than alienating them.  The argument that “Trump didn’t say that”, isn’t enough anymore. As President-Elect he has a responsibility to how his followers interpret his words, and if he does not recognize that, even if his intentions are good, the damage caused will result in him failing tragically, for everyone, including those that support him.

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Trump puts Democracy on Notice

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Whenever I make the case against Donald Trump, I am subject to a barrage of, “what about Hillary” comments. As a Jewish American and strong supporter of Israel I’ve often been asked by those who oppose Hillary Clinton how I can choose her over Donald Trump.  Even if I am to  accept that she is not a friend of Israel, something I do not necessarily accept and another discussion irrelevant to my point, my answer has always been as follows.  A weakened American democracy is something that puts the whole world in danger and is something far more perilous for Israel than a president that does not support her.

This is no longer about which candidate you prefer to win on November 8th.  This is now about the future of democracy in the United States of America.  It is dishonest and irresponsible to put Donald Trump’s answers in convenient vacuums.  When the Republican nominee for president indicated at the 3rd and final debate that he would decide after the election on November 8th whether or not he would accept the outcome, this was not an isolated answer.  This was an answer from a man who is pushing a populist movement based on discontent, scapegoating and anger.  This is an answer from a man who has mocked people from almost every ethnic group.  It’s a man who has fired up the extreme right wing of the country. In his answer about the importance of the Supreme Court he honed in on the 2nd Amendment while once “joking” about how supporters of the 2nd Amendment could take matters into their own hands in stopping Hillary Clinton. I take umbrage with the comparison of Trump to Hitler, simply because you can’t compare a man who makes volatile and irresponsible statements to a murderous dictator guilty of the murder of millions of people including the slaughter of 6 million Jewish men, women and children.  However,that being said, that doesn’t mean any of this is good for democracy. That doesn’t take away from from his glib suggestion that his supporters take out his major opposition.

Trump is a high stakes gambler.  He personally has very little to lose by his effort to be president.  The problem is he’s been playing with house money, which in this case means the future of the country.   The only way what Trump has done turns out to be good for the country is if he wins and does a phenomenal job.  Two things that are seen as highly unlikely to a large segment of the American population.  For argument sake however, let’s play this out.  Trump wins, appoints the best advisers, defeats ISIS, stabilizes the Middle East, strengthens relationships with our allies, and orchestrates an historic economic boom.  If this were to happen, not only would American democracy be strengthened, the Republican Party would survive their organizational catastrophe.  As an American, should the unexpected happen and Mr. Trump does win, I hope and pray it plays out this way. Problem is, I am quite certain it won’t.

Of course as most polls show, it is unlikely Donald Trump will win.  But even if we allow that to be considered as a possibility, the demeanor and temperament he has displayed throughout this campaign has to be concerning to anyone looking at this with a level head. I know his surrogates and ardent supporters will make excuses for everything he’s said and allegedly done, but that doesn’t change any of the facts.  Corey Lewandowski and Kayleigh Mcenany can spend all day saying “what Mr. Trump was saying is….”, but that will never actually change the candidate’s words.  And words hold power. Not everything can be blamed on political correctness and not being a typical politician.  Most significantly, telling a debate moderator that “I’ll keep you in suspense” as to whether or not he will accept the will of the people and respect the peaceful transfer of power has nothing to do with being a New Yorker or an anti-establishment candidate.  It has more to do with an inability to accept defeat as an option.  That happens to be quality I love in an athlete and to some extent see as a positive in a political figure, but that does not mean Mr. Trump’s inability to accept defeat supersedes the will of the American voter or a political system that has worked for 240 years.  And let’s be honest and say what is on everyone’s mind and is everyone’s ultimate concern.  Trump’s refusal to agree to accept the outcome until he sees what happens is just short of incitement to riot and undermines the very core of American democracy.  His supporters have already shown that he can say anything he wants and they will still listen to him.  What happens if he loses, claims the election is rigged, and tells his supporters to take to the streets in protest?  The United States of America may face a problem greater than any it has faced in its history.

How is that possible you may ask?  Simply put, even in the face of the greatest threats, the most incompetent leadership, or the greatest discontent of the populous, America has always been able to rest its head on one basic fact. It has, at least functioned on the perceived principal of democracy.  It’s impossible to give full credit to a nation that once considered slavery legal, but even then it was a country that respected its system.  That respect held it together and allowed it to grow from a place where black slaves helped build the White House to a place where a black man resides in it as President of the United States.  Politics aside, I believe any reasonable and decent person has to see the beauty in a system that allows for that kind of growth.

I fear that Donald Trump’s America has a danger of damaging that freedom to grow.  I don’t know what is in the man’s heart and what his true intentions are. There are people I like and respect who think he is doing this for selfless reasons.  Others believe he is doing this to attain the greatest power, either for personal benefit or at worse, anarchy and destruction.  I don’t know the answer, but I do know that his words have put a dent in our democracy greater than any put by any of our external foes, because the more Mr. Trump falls behind the more he pivots from challenging the establishment to challenging the system.  He does this in what appears to be an effort to mold the system to his liking and his benefit, something that terrifies many for one very important reason.  Even a system with a corrupt establishment within its ranks is better than a country running on one individual’s idea of what the system should be.  A system running the way only one person wants it to run is nothing short of a dictatorship.

This election has transcended Republican against Democrat, Conservative against Liberal, or Trump against Clinton.  This election is now a referendum on the democratic system that has held this country together for almost 2 and a half centuries, and regardless of the outcome, that is something that should concern and disturb many American citizens because it should never have gotten to this point in the first place. When this election is over, if the democracy remains in tact, the challenge of leadership, media and all concerned citizens is to find out why.  Otherwise it will only get worse.

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To destroy the Monster you must destroy the Head

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A 13 year old Jewish girl gets murdered in her bed.  A 13 year old Jewish girl gets murdered in her bed and all of us desperately try to make some sense out of it.  This was not someone who was going to impact world politics in the immediate future. She was a threat to no one.  She was neither going to hurt nor help the Palestinian cause. Hallel Yaffa Ariel was a 13 year old girl who likely would continue doing whatever a 13 year old girl does.  Yet somehow something possessed a 17 year old Palestinian boy to become a terrorist and murder her. Besides the obvious tragedy and heartbreak any normal person would feel for this horror, it is also accompanied by a desperate futility.  How do we begin to solve this?  How do we stop something so unimaginable, so horrific, so much in defiance of normalcy that we, as normal people would not even begin to be able to comprehend it?

When I was 17 the worst thing I did was cut school and make out with a girl in the back of a movie theater.  I was a child. I did not know it then but I know it now.  I also know that had I been raised to hate, to be violent, to be brutal, there is a very good chance I would have done something much worse.  I also know that if I would have been a harm to society at that age, or any age for that matter, it would have been justifiable to separate me from the innocent, certainly from the defenseless, and in turn any additional retribution would have been appropriate.  I say this because although I believe emphatically that the killing of this 17 year old terrorist was appropriate, I also cringe in fear at the thought that Palestinian youths are being formed into such tools of brutality, and wonder where and when it stops.

There are many things I don’t know.  What I do know is that whatever someone’s politics is, murdering a 13 year old girl in her bed is a heinous despicable act.  I also know that there is no moral equivalency between Israel retaliating to attacks and what happened to this girl.  Even when innocent people die in Israel’s responses, they do so more because the same people who taught this 17 year old to hate and kill are the same people who use their people as shields or pawns.  If you wonder who is responsible for the tragic deaths of innocent Palestinians you need look no further than to the very same people that taught this 17 year old that it was OK to kill a 13 year old girl in her bed while she was sleeping. These people, these representatives of everything evil, not only didn’t value the life of this little girl, they did not value the life of this 17 year old they pretend to fight for.  They are cowards, manipulators and for those who do not know, they are just as bad as anything ISIS has to offer.

These young terrorists, these Palestinian teens that are ready to murder for a cause I imagine they barely understand, are in many ways already gone.  If it is us or them the decision must be an easy one.  But make no mistake.  Their lives were taken from them by those we need to hunt down and destroy.  The so-called leaders of the Palestinian people who are getting rich and powerful while they use their people to murder Jews.  And no matter how many innocent Palestinians get killed in the process, ultimately innocent people on both sides will be saved if these devious manipulators are found and destroyed. Whoever they are, wherever they are, until the head of the monster is destroyed the monster will continue to grow and the danger of more innocent Jewish children getting murdered in their sleep will only continue to grow.  That is something that should be unacceptable to any decent human being and must be stopped no matter what it takes.

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Now is the time to be unified, not point fingers

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Before all the information started coming out about the attacker in the nightclub in Orlando, who as of today is responsible for the murder of 50 people, the big question being asked was whether or not this was a terrorist attack or a hate crime?  As authorities also arrested a suspect with an arsenal on the way to the Gay Pride parade in Los Angeles, the idea of calling it a hate crime became even more prevalent.  In reality the actual distinction between terrorism and what we call hate crimes is a misnomer, since terrorism is in essence the ultimate hate crime.

Civilization’s worst enemy today are Islamic Extremists.  They have made it very clear that they want to destroy everything the western world stands for and believes in. They want to at best, neutralize, at worst destroy all other religions.  Tolerance and acceptance are contrary to everything they believe in.  In short, they hate everything we are and all we value.

With all the criticism Democrats and Republicans have for the other side, we see today that America still is a great country.  The majority of Liberals and Conservatives, even if they vehemently argue about gay marriage or gay rights, mourn the attack without any hint of prejudice because it took part in a gay club. This is of no big surprise, because this is a country in which the majority of its citizens do no want to see harm come to others and see this is an attack for what it is, an attack on America, which subsequently is an attack on all of us.

That being said, I can’t help thinking about an episode of the show Friends in which the character Chandler starts smoking and the group are all over him about it.  What does Chandler do?  He brings up issues that cause them to fight among themselves and they totally forget he is even in the room, allowing him to smoke unencumbered.  Yesterday, when I saw the beginning of dissent among the American public and the first finger pointing, I could not help but think how much that played into the hands of the terrorists. Friends was funny.  This was not.  The more we fight among ourselves, the more we point fingers at what we think is the other side-the truth is we are really all on the same side- the more vulnerable we become to terrorism.  Naive? Maybe. But we must work together to preserve our freedoms and liberties.  Divisiveness is in itself a continuation of the terror attacks for it attacks the very core of who we are.

Not one person on either channel yesterday, at least no one I heard give their expert analysis was willing to say something to the effect of, “our leaders need to do more to recognize the enemy and there need to be stricter gun laws”.  As I have said many times, most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists today are Muslim.  That is not a statement of bigotry, it is a statement of fact.  I believe the administration makes a mistake in not clarifying that.  But to say that and ignore the fact that gun laws need to be addressed is not looking at the entire problem. Truth is that terrorists are criminals themselves, so no gun law will make a major impact on what they try to do, but if it was not as easy as it is to get a gun in this country it’s hard not to make a case that lives would be saved.  I believe in the right of every law abiding and mentally stable citizen to own a gun, but I also feel that someone who was investigated by the FBI and had a history of abusive and antagonistic behavior should somehow be prevented from owning one.  If that means a yearly psychological analysis is needed to continue to have a right to own a gun, then so be it. No mentally stable law-abiding citizen should have a problem with that. Inconvenient? So is going through the security checks at the airport, but it’s a necessity in the world in which we live today and something we actually need to appreciate.

The terrorist that killed the people in  Orlando was, sad to say, homegrown.  He was born and raised in the United States and somehow was filled with such hate for the way of life in America that he was willing to murder in what he felt was in the name of his religion. What this shows us is that regardless of what stances we take on immigration we still have a problem.  Borders are made somewhat irrelevant by the internet, allowing organizations like ISIS to infiltrate our society and influence the angry and disenfranchised.  Sure we can make things better by enforcing laws in all areas, including immigration, but the problem is more a reflection of the poor health of our society than the porous nature of our borders.

There are many issues that need to be addressed to see to it that our society is safe and prosperous, and although terrorism is an enormous threat, our division among ourselves may be an even worse threat, and to ignore that or let it be ignored for the self-serving needs of any politician or pundit is something we can no longer allow to happen.  If we do we then risk losing everything we hold dear as a nation and a society.

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