By Oren Rawls

Published April 25, 2003, issue of April 25, 2003.
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Pipes Seam: The recent nomination of Daniel Pipes to the board of the quasi-governmental United States Institute of Peace sparked a battle of pens between Beltway and Big Apple editorialists, with trench lines being drawn around the conservative Middle East scholar’s belief in the militancy of Muslim Americans.

“The Bush administration has spent the past year and a half trying to dispel paranoia that the fight against terrorism is a clash of cultures between the Western world and Islam,” the Washington Post editorialized in its April 19 issue. “It has gone to particular pains to calm the nerves of U.S. Muslims, who are ever anxious that they are being singularly scrutinized.… But the Pipes nomination is salt in the wound.”

“The Washington Post argument against the nomination is more sophisticated than the smear tactics used by some of the radical terrorist apologists, but only slightly so,” The New York Sun responded in an April 21 editorial. “It’s stunning that the Washington Post would make such a sweeping generalization about the views of American Muslims on the Pipes nomination. It’s just not true.”

The editorialists stake divergent positions on the “clash of civilizations” debate, with Pipes’s persona serving as metaphor.

“The institute is a quasi-governmental think tank dedicated to international ‘peace and conflict resolution,’” the Post editorializes. “One of its latest projects is the Special Initiative on the Muslim World, begun after Sept. 11, 2001, as a bridge between cultures. Mr. Pipes has long been regarded by Muslims as a destroyer of such bridges.”

“He’s one of the more thoughtful commentators on militant Islamist terrorism, the threat it poses to America, and how our country should deal with it,” the Sun responds, “which is no doubt why his nomination is kicking up such a stir.”

“At best there seem to be two Mr. Pipeses,” the Post concludes, citing a book review in the newspaper of one of the Middle East scholar’s books. “A ‘brilliant’ analyst of Muslim intellectual history and a man who seems to harbor a ‘disturbing hostility to contemporary Muslims.’”

* * *

Liberal Decamp: The reported rightward shift of Jewish voters is causing some in liberal circles to sit up and take notice.

“Even Democrats acknowledge that a portion of Jewish support is unusually up for grabs,” Garance Franke-Ruta writes in the May issue of The American Prospect.

Capitalizing on President Bush’s strong record on Israel, as well as on concerns stemming from the September 11 terrorist attacks and rising antisemitism around the world, Republicans are looking to shore up support in states with large Jewish populations — and a large number of electoral votes.

“The Bush administration has never shied away from ambitious, improbable goals — massive tax cuts in wartime, remaking the entire Middle East — and it hasn’t been shy about the idea of shooting for a win in New York, either,” Franke-Ruta writes.

“In the short term, the Republican effort to woo Jewish donors may not have much impact,” she writes. “But Republicans are not looking just for short-term changes. They are looking to slowly peel younger Jews away from the Democratic Party and, over time, to turn the political rebalancing into a genuine realignment.”

In their effort to engender a historic rightward shift among Jewish voters, Franke-Ruta suggests, Republicans have their work cut out for them.

“For many if not most American Jews,” she writes, “U.S. domestic issues remain paramount, and here Jews are resolutely in the liberal camp. These voters are not likely to be swayed by the Bush administration’s support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policies, which many regard as an impediment to a Middle East settlement. Instead, they are more likely to vote on questions of reproductive rights, church-state separation, civil rights, education, the economy and domestic security.”

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