Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Political Parties or What's In a Name?

Political Parties or What’s in a Name?
There is no escaping the specter of Senator Bernard Sanders . The independent senator from very small, and very racially homogenous Vermont has recently been trotted out with DNC chair Tom Perez in something ironically referred to as a “unity tour.” Mr. Sanders seems to not have been informed of the title or even purpose of the these events. He was quite clear when asked if he was a Democrat that he was not. The official GOP twitter handle shared a video of Tom Perez being booed and Bernard did nothing to stop the derision from the crowd. Unity indeed.
In my recent social media forays (almost all of which are a total waste of time), I find myself engaged primarily with those who identify on the left, are highly critical of the Democratic party, and see no problem with Mr. Sanders attempting to lead a party of which he is not a member. To be clear, I take no issue with reasonable critiques of the Democratic party. It is always subject to scrutiny and there is always room for insight into party affairs. Being a sports fan, I am quick to offer that attempting to lead a party (and Mr. Sanders has accepted the title of outreach chair) one is not in would be akin to attempting to be a team captain for the New England Patriots while being a back-up punter for the Cleveland Browns.
This dissension begs revisiting the purpose of having political parties in the first place. It’s quite simple, parties are the tool by which democratic power is organized within a democracy. Given Duverger’s Law (google it) the US will always have two dominant political parties. The names of the parties have changed throughout our history, as have their affiliations, aims and goals. Looking at the Democratic party, one can see a shift from the segregation supporting party in the early 20th century to the more liberal party today. Building a party is monumentally difficult. It involves cultivating relationships, reaching common ground with diverse swaths of people, crafting a message that resonates with constituents and ultimately convincing those constituents to vote for you. These actions all take place for the greater goal of using the party apparatus to put forth the party agenda in elected offices. The party is a tool, an engine of politics. Albeit an extremely unwieldy and unpredictable engine.
I have been accused of many things, but one thing I will gladly agree with is that I am hyper partisan and have been ever since the malfeasance of the 2000 election theft. I am a Democrat because I recognize that the Democratic party is the most effective way to enact a liberal agenda in electoral politics. That is not to say every Democratic candidate is a good one. Obviously, races have primaries for good reason. Sometimes even after a primary the nominee isn’t ideal, it’s a democracy, that will happen. It then becomes imperative to judge the nominee against the general election opponent. People will say, “I shouldn’t have to vote against  someone.” This is a fallacy in our electoral system. It is incumbent on the voting citizen to choose the candidate that will do the most good and avoid the most harm to the country. Choosing not to vote in every election possible is to be derelict in one’s duty as an American.
So, what’s all this to do with Bernard? To his credit, he has been able to amass political capital in tiny white Vermont without being affiliated with a party. Though he caucuses with Democrats, he has unquestionably been antagonistic to the Democrats throughout his entire career in public life. Most egregiously praising the Sandinista government in the 80s and musing that President Obama needed to be primaried in the 2012 election; and there are several other instances and quotes that mirror these sentiments. Mr. Sanders’ negative opinion of the Democratic both historically and in the present are perfectly allowable, but highly questionable for someone who months ago was running under the Democratic banner as a candidate for president. Furthermore, Bernard was blown out in dramatic fashion in the primary. A 13% loss that despite the coverage it received, was never close. Fans of Mr. Sanders can all tell you how close the MI primary was, but none know about the double digit wins Ms. Clinton racked up in South Carolina or Mississippi or Alabama. (This hints at the coalition building among black Democrats that Mr. Sanders was thoroughly disinterested in).
Following the drubbing he received in the primary and Ms. Clinton’s subsequent Electoral College loss, Mr. Sanders resurfaced somehow as the great white septuagenarian savior of the Democratic Party. Let us pause for a moment and consider the monumental hubris of Bernard Sanders. Here we have a politician who misappropriated a party title, infrastructure, funding and legitimacy only to cast off any sense of responsibility they conferred once it became politically expedient to do so; to then be so arrogantly presumptuous to assert that the party that he will not join, and rejected him, must be remade in his own image to save itself. Re-read that massive run on sentence again. And again. It takes a few passes to absorb the enormity of Bernard’s conceited egotism.
The bottom line is that political parties matter. Despite our flaws on the Democratic side, ours is still the best way to enact liberal, democratic values and ideals. It isn’t going to be perfect or fast enough but our country isn’t designed to be either of those things. Don’t let those flaws distract you from the bigger picture.  Don’t let a non-existent perfect be the enemy of the reality of the good. The party that we build needs leaders, but one thing they should all have in common, is that they are members. Don’t trot Bernard out in front of me or the millions of Democrats who voted against him. Give me Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff, Chuck Schumer, Kristen Gillibrand, John Lewis, Ted Lieu, Nancy Pelosi, and yes, even Keith Ellison. Don’t try to sell me on a politician whose entire career was made on sanctimonious sniping from the sidelines (and OMG dumped radioactive waste on a poor Latino community).
#UniteBlue      #DemForce  #butemailstho  #bothpartiestho
PS: Caucuses should be eliminated and all primaries should be closed. Pick a side and get involved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brief thoughts during Pesach 2017

Of course I’m eating matzo right now and one cannot eat matzo and not be reminded of the Jews’ time as slaves in Egypt. As every Jew knows, the seder is intended to remind us of all the aspects of the hundreds of years our people spent there. We are continually told that we were strangers in Egypt, so we must never forget what it was like to be a stranger. Tonight I’m thinking of a particular stranger that has been suffering horribly for years: Syrians.
I don’t usually link to other articles, but the following piece by David Inserra from the very conservative Heritage Foundation is required reading before discussing this:
It’s important to understand that from an American perspective, there isn’t a side that is good for our interests. Assad is a brutal dictator who is clearly content to watch his country fall apart while he clings to power. The opposition is bolstered by Islamic fundamentalists (except for maybe the Kurdish fighters). I support the right kind of foreign interventions, such as the Israeli airstrike that took out the North Korea designed nuclear reactor in 2007, and the Libyan intervention in 2010. I see no strategic advantage to US involvement in this civil war. What does have a clear US interest is aiding the innocent civilians who are brutalized by both sides of the conflict, and the US can do something about it.
What is undeniable is that pain, suffering, and misery have befallen the Syrian people. Donald Trump made it clear during his campaign that not only is he opposed to the refugee vetting process we’ve had in place for years, he wants to halt all immigration from certain countries. This is the failed “Muslim ban.” While I’m relieved it has failed (weren’t we supposed to be tired of all his winning by now?), it’s disheartening that such a thing was even in the platform of a candidate for president.
Reading the vetting process of refugees described by Inserra, it is comprehensive, exhaustive, and effective. I’d wager that most Americans are not familiar with what the US has actually been doing, and most don’t know that we’ve only admitted approximately 1200 Syrian refugees. I would prefer if we were taking in more. The terrorists are the ones that are staying to fight the damn war. The terrorists have the vested interest in toppling the Assad government. The Assad government is killing civilians whether they’re suspected of being terrorists or not; at times with chemical weapons Those who are fleeing the war are those that have decided that their lives are more important than taking a side; which is exactly what I would be doing because Assad is a secular dictator and the opposition would institute a repressive theocracy. People fleeing these outcomes are exactly the people that we should want to come here. These are people who would be able to see the promise of America in a positive light, and that would reverberate throughout the Middle East.
Could there be people who seek asylum here that intend to do us harm? Of course. We have law enforcement for that and I trust them to protect us. However I want to live in a country that isn’t so dominated by fear that we cower from the stranger. We were all strangers somewhere once, and it is incumbent upon us (not just Jews, but Americans) to treat the stranger among us well. Our hearts must be stronger than our fear.
Ours is supposed to be a nation of hope, not just to our citizens already here, but to the whole world. I’m not advocating for open borders a la Ellis Island. I’m calling for the vetting process that’s in place to remain, and perhaps be expedited in certain cases. Trump fired cruise missiles at an air base that was active again the next day and did nothing to prevent chemical attacks from being carried out against Syrian citizens again. This cannot be the extent of our Syria policy. In fact the actions taken by Trump made the chemical weapons situation worse. Intelligence used to know where the chemical weapons were stored, they have since been moved. We have ordnance designed to neutralize chemical weapons, but these were not engaged in the 59 cruise missiles that were launched. Trump even stated in an interview that the missiles were fired at Iraq and had to be corrected by the host that they were launched at Syria. In that same interview he spoke as much about his damn chocolate cake as he did the missiles.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Unenviable Position of the Democratic Zionist

The Unenviable Position of the Democratic Zionist
Last week a self-identified socialist called me a white supremacist. Today the synagogue I was a member of for years in Chicago received a bomb threat. This bomb threat caused the young children in the day school to be evacuated. Chicago was not the only city targeted with bomb threats today and this is the latest in a growing wave of bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers (JCC), ADL offices and other types of Jewish buildings. There have been over one hundred such incidents since January. Also in recent weeks this trend has escalated to include at least two separate incidences of desecration of Jewish cemeteries.
To be sure, correlation is not causation, but there can be no denying that these bomb threats have increased in frequency and scope since after Donald Trump’s installation and inauguration. Though his press secretary, the unintentionally amusing Sean Spicer, has communicated that Mr. Trump condemns these acts of terrorism, there is scant information regarding what he is actually having done about it. Considering the ongoing scandal regarding Russian involvement in his campaign and potentially in his administration, one can hardly have confidence in Mr. Sessions having a strong handle on any such investigation on behalf of the national Jewish community. General Flynn, the original National Security Adviser appointed by Mr. Trump was forced to resign. To date, he has not been replaced. James Comey remains in charge of the FBI, but he is also embroiled in investigations into Mr. Trump. What manner of resources can we be assured of being delegated to investigate these continued attacks on the national Jewish community? We have received no assurances, and no details. Given the obvious and public disarray of our intelligence apparatuses, I am not hopeful for a speedy resolution to any type of investigation.
There has been one suspect found allegedly calling in at least 8 of the known bomb threats; a former Intercept reporter. One may recall the Intercept as the intellectually anemic “journalism” effort launched by former white supremacist defender, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald, a fierce critic of Israel and the United States is not actually a member of the left, though he pretends to be. Several of those on the American left continue to fall under his spell despite his affinity for abhorrent regimes like Hamas. The Intercept also recently ran an article concerning anti-Semitism in the United States and the maladroit writer concluded that it is not much of a force. I humbly suggest the children hauled out of their classes in Chicago this morning likely felt differently.  
It is hardly surprising that these elements exist in the fringe left and right. Both ends of this political spectrum horseshoe enter the nexus of anti-Semitism, and always have. The Communist movements always reject any religious expression as a matter of course. Nationalist right wing movements have typically found Jews to be a perfect scapegoat as the “other” outside of the core of their movement. We are experiencing this presently from the alt right and the anti-Zionist, and occasionally anti-religious, left.
Donald Trump presents a unique challenge to Jewish and liberal Zionists, of which I am both. I am disgusted to see Donald Trump and Steve Bannon in the White House (where Truman first recognized Israel and Obama was the first president to hold seders). Trump and Bannon are both men that the alt-right (ie neo-nazi) have championed as their own figureheads. The right wing extremists of today see Trump as their own victory over liberalism; and by extension over “globalization” and “liberalism.” These are not new dog whistles or code words for Jews. Indeed, Mr. Bannon is alleged to have even removed his daughters from a school because there were too many Jews there. The Trump administration pays lip service to supporting Israel, but I am not convinced they know what that means. Mr. Trump has demonstrated no fluency in his descriptions of Israel. He has also not treated Jews he comes into contact with particularly well. Trump contemptuously told a Jewish reporter to sit down after asking a question about anti-Semitism before launching into a baffling and weak declaration that he is “the least anti-Semitic person.” There are also reports that Mr. Trump intimated that the recent waves of anti-Semitic activity were actually due to the machinations of Jews themselves. Sorry Donald, your words, actions, and the company you keep demonstrate otherwise.
I have typically felt at home on the left as a Zionist and liberal despite being aware of the tendencies of the far left to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. To be clear, not all criticism of Israel and her policies are anti-Semitic; but some are and should be identified as such. I have been long mystified of the disdain the fringe left has for Israel. Israel, with its socialized healthcare, liberal social policies (even recently decriminalizing marijuana!) and long history as a steadfast ally in a region generally unfriendly to the US, is vilified by the fringe left despite practicing many of the aims the left has for the US domestically.  It was with much consternation that I observed the rise of Linda Sarsour during Bernie Sanders’ ill-fated primary campaign. Ms. Sarsour’s apologetics for Sharia law and vilification of Israel have been widely covered and it would be redundant to readdress them here. Equally disconcerting are her vile, sexist comments regarding female genital mulitation survivor, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Sadly Ms. Sarsour has come to greater prominence on the left due to her involvement in the Women’s March and general organizing in the Trump resistance movement. Ms. Sarsour has also absorbed convicted terrorist murderer, and immigration form perjurer, Rasmea Odeh into the upcoming women’s general strike. These are not simply symbolic positions in a loosely affiliated resistance movement, these are prominent faces at the forefront of organizing it and I could scarcely be more disgusted.
The very name of our people, Israel, has the notion of struggling embedded in it. We have found ourselves in unwarrantable positions at countless points in our long history. Today we find ourselves in a new one. On one side, an administration staffed with reprehensible characters, and on the other a crystallizing resistance movement that definitively rejects our people’s natural right to national self-determination. I am reminded of Tevye and the central simile of Fiddler on the Roof. Now it is true that we are not facing the pogroms of Czarist Russia, but I find our present position to be in an unenviable and tenuous balance. I reject the platforms of Mr. Trump but I will not cast my lot with Ms. Odeh (real justice for Rasmea is a jail cell). Let us instead find common cause with each other and those who are willing to listen to our reasonable criticisms of the administration and the resistance to it. I do not suppose this is an impossible undertaking. Bear in mind, Ms. Clinton dominated the 2016 primary by 13% and the general election by 2%. The fringe left in particular is overplaying its hand as it tends to do, and we are not beholden to be led by the castoffs from Mr. Sanders’ failed campaign; who foolishly conflate Zionism with racism. The path to an effective resistance movement does not lie with deplorables on either end of the spectrum. Our voices will not be marginalized by extremists of any manner.

Final note: There is something of a silver lining to diversifying our resistance. The Trump administration will be forced to acknowledge a vast swath of peoples and interests are opposing him. I can think of nothing this insecure, small-minded man would be more insulted by than accepting that such an array of groups are opposing him in a multitude of ways.    

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Conservativism is not trumpism

There is a storied, if not mythological history that is often repeated concerning Ronald Regan and former speaker of the House Tip O’Neil; that they could spend their day fighting bitterly in the public sphere but then enjoy each other’s company in social life. In this current political climate of animus, I can scarcely imagine such exchanges today. To be sure, I have had to police my words with others in my new hometown in the Deep South. As you may imagine, that is very difficult for me to do. The coded language our politicians use has been secreted into daily speech to the point where one can ascertain the political leanings of a person within a few sentences. I can personally account for someone saying to me, “We’re so lucky that bitch didn’t get into office” being the most egregious. Add that to the general timbre of catch phrases like “lock her up” and “trump that bitch” those halcyon days of a more gallant relationship between the two poles of American politics seem to be slipping farther and farther way. I admit that I am no saint in this regard, the angels of my better nature have yet to show themselves.
I watched Trump’s speech to the joint session of Congress. What I saw and heard was not conservativism. It can only be described as trumpism. Trumpism will be difficult to define as it is as slippery as the man himself. It is easier to conclude what trumpism is not, and trumpism is not conservativism. When we hear him prattle on about promising walls, excessive military spending, while simultaneously pledging to not tinker with Medicare or Social Security, we are not witnessing a conservative from the Goldwater/Buckley/Reagan tradition. Nor could this sort of pseudo populist grandstanding be described as even neo conservative. However, Trump maintains that (R) next to his name. He is a Republican. He is the de facto leader of the Republican party. And I would submit that the Republicans who have lined up behind him while barely even offering a whimper of protest to his questionable election and horrifyingly incompetent Cabinet picks are no longer conservatives. No. They have sold their political and ideological integrity to trumpism in what can only be described as craven opportunism.
There is no shortage of ink (data?) being spilled on the disarray and discord within the Democratic party. While there was certainly a bitterly fought (but decisively won) primary, the Democratic party has not lost its integrity as the party of those on the left. It is true, there are those who regard the election of Mr. Perez to DNC chair as evidence of some sort of vestige of the Democratic “establishment” continuing to assert party dominance. Though one would be hard pressed to describe Mr. Ellison who has served several terms in the House as somehow not part of the Democratic “establishment.” In a fitting and proper gesture, Mr. Ellison was made Deputy Chair of the DNC. I would urge the so-called Sanders party to coalesce around this union. After all, Sanders has still not joined the party and continues to not share information with the party that could assist the Democrats in organizing against Trump. This is in addition to his 13% primary loss. I mention these things not to further enrage these members, but to include them at the proportion they have thus far included themselves. As an aside to those who voted for Sanders in the primary but not Ms. Clinton in the general; you left the party in November. It’s a remarkably arrogant position to take; betraying the party in a general election, but then thinking that betrayal has afforded you a louder voice.
Despite being an avowed liberal and Democrat, I think it will be conservatives, not Republicans, that will be the variable in effectively resisting Trump. The Democrats will continue to organize and unify. Yes, even despite the lingering (but healing) wounds of the primary. I don’t envision the same happening for the Republicans. The leaders of the party prior to 2016 clearly preferred Jeb Bush, and if their party had a mechanism like superdelegates, Trump would never have been the nominee. We can see glimpses of failing Republican unity behind Trump in the occasional actions and words of Senators Graham and McCain (though they voted for Mr. Trump’s appalling cabinet nominations). As a resident of SC, I was able to watch a town hall with Senator Graham and can attest to his strong language against Russian interference. I watched the same with our junior Senator Mr. Scott but he did not address the issue as forcefully. I hope with the continued opposition presence at town halls, Republicans will be forced to acknowledge the voices of their constituents.
Aside from calling your elected leaders, I would recommend something else in order to effectively resist Trump. If all politics are local, then let us challenge the conservatives we personally know on an intellectual level. If they are conservatives, then they must agree that building a wall is a massively irresponsible government spending project. If they believe in ethical personal conduct, one cannot support the man who bragged about sexual assault. If they are a strict Constitutionalist, they cannot support any sort of religious based legislation regarding immigration. I know these are not new arguments or points. When our conservative friends trot out their tired apologetics for trumpism, I will respond that obviously Trump is no conservative, but he is a Republican. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Maybe you've seen them in videos of palestinian protests and gatherings. It's quite jarring to see men (always men) at these gatherings dressed in traditional black suits, black hats, beards and payos (side curls). You'll see them holding palestinian flags, holding signs that claim Judaism opposes Zionism. They are also frequently photographed and filmed burning the Israeli flag. So who are these Jews who so openly despise Israel? (Well, besides the dolts at Jewish Voice for Peace).

Disclaimer: While I am going to be severely critical of this group of Jews, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am in no way asserting that these are not Jews. None of what follows is intended to delegitimize their Jewish identity. 

Allow me to introduce the Neturei Karta (NK). The most frequently tokenized Jews of the anti Zionist movement. I first became aware of them when the loathsome former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmenidijad held a conference on Holocaust Denial in Tehran in 2006. Anti-Zionism (and anti-Semitism) makes for very strange bedfellows. In this case the NK were there not so much to deny the Holocaust, but to remind everyone that the Holocaust should not be used as a tool to oppress other people ie. the creation of Israel. I highly doubt that Mr. Ahmenidijad minded the fact that the NK were not completely on board with the conference's odious purpose of denying the factual record of what occurred during the Holocaust. After all, he was provided with token Jews who provided some photo ops for him to continue claiming to everyone that he doesn't really hate Jews.

It is worth mentioning that Holocaust Denial is anti-Semitism. Pseudo intellectuals like Ahmenidijad and the vile Steven Salaita like to pretend that Jews cry anti-Semitism whenever we are upset, and use claims of anti-Semitism to deflect academic freedom and critical study and thought. People who use this argument are akin to Young Earth Creationists who claim that geology and natural selection are not well understood sciences. Study of the Holocaust is at least as conclusive as carbon dating. 6 million Jews were murdered with assembly line style efficiency. Millions of other innocents were murdered as well. No reasonable person can dispute this. Only anti-Semites with an agenda do.

The NK are quite small in number. Some estimates say they have only 5000 members worldwide. The Anti Defamation League estimates that only about 100 members of the community are active in anti-Israel activism. The NK are also regressive religious fundamentalists. Their entire reason for being so adamantly against the state of Israel comes from the Talmud. Specifically a portion called the Three Oaths. This passage contends that the Jews would not rebel against the gentile world that gave them sanctuary in exile. Furthermore that Jews would agree not to immigrate en masse to Israel, and supposedly in return the gentile nations promised not to persecute the Jews. The NK see Israel as rebelling against this pact made with G-d.

It feels a little silly to say this, but I think any objective observer can conclude that this pact hasn't worked out particularly well for we Jews. The above referenced Holocaust, the pogroms of the 18th, 19th, 20th Centuries, hundreds of years of blood libels and scapegoating for every crime imaginable from throughout the world are all pretty good evidence of this. In fact, every single atrocity perpetrated against Jews throughout the world is further evidence of Israel's need to exist. Jews are still persecuted throughout the world today. the IDF covertly rescued the last of Syria's Jews last summer. a three thousand year old Jewish community in Yemen was told to convert or die mere months ago. Fundamentalists of all stripes are not known for their critical thought. In fact that is probably the common ground the NK could find with someone as despicable as Ahmenidijad. In addition to draconian views on homosexuals and women.

The anti-Zionists are a good place for the NK to fester. Like the rest of their compatriots they rest on misunderstood concepts and ideology as opposed to reality. It consistently amazes me that the Left is often anti-Israel when Israel embraces many policies that are domestically more progressive than those in the US. Tel Aviv is one of the most gay friendly cities in the world. (how's the pride parade in Gaza City?). Israel has women in government, (and a former Prime Minister!), Arabs in government, Muslims in government, Christians in government; and the Druze, those guys are awesome. These are not tokens to try to produce good optics. These are realities of life in Israel, and no other nation in the Middle East. And yet the anti-Israel gaggle despises a nation that practices the ideals they would otherwise be proud to see. "Oh but it's not anti-Semitism" they will say, "just look, we have some totally Jew-y looking guys over there."

The NK are not the only Jews who obnoxiously fight against other Jews about Israel.  In fact there's a group of more modern Jews who do so with less visual tokenizing. They are called Jewish Voice for Peace. In the immortal styling of Linda Richman they are barely Jewish, not a voice and not for peace. More to come on them next time....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I don't have a large readership, but this marks the first time I might write about something that could cause some readers to question my judgment.
From my all too frequent musings on Twitter (@clompthestrong) I have found that most like minded Zionists that I converse with are very conservative in their political leanings. This is a common feature I see in American politics: US conservatives are frequently more supportive of Israel than most liberals. I've never completely understood this as Israel is a relatively liberal nation, gay marriage was recognized a long time ago, universal healthcare etc. Conversely it is for those reasons that I've never really understood the reticence of US liberals to support Israel.
So what's the risk I'm taking? I'm going to make a recommendation for the 2016 presidential race, and that recommendation is former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Yes, I'm a Democrat. I hope that doesn't automatically disqualify me from ever being read again by my more conservative readers. Stick with me, I believe I can offer a compelling case.
How does this tie into Zionism? Hillary has a long record of being a friend to Israel, even going back to her days as First lady of Arkansas where she introduced Israeli education methods to Arkansas schools. More recently as Secretary of State she helped put together an international coalition that maintained the toughest sanctions on Iran (that Kerry helped unravel, but that's another story) and has said several times that all options are on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons; which clearly includes unilateral Israeli attacks on reactors should that be necessary (like Israel did to the Iraqi reactor in 1984). Hillary has also stated that any attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the US.
While in the Senate Hillary introduced legislation to call for release of Israeli soldiers held captive by Hamas and Hezbollah. She cosponsored the Palestinian AntiTerrorism Act in 2006 which blocked foreign assistance to Hamas, and cosponsored the Syrian Accountability Act to pressure Syria to stop supporting terrorism in the Middle East.
A personal memory I have is watching Jon Stewart on the Daily Show try to challenge Mrs. Clinton about 2014's Gaza War. She told the following story that I still tell people who don't understand what dealing with Hamas governed Gaza. In 2005 Israel removed all settlers from Gaza. It was a heart wrenching experience for Israeli citizens being ripped from their homes. The Israelis left behind a flourish floral business that had been built up from nothing. The Israelis left their greenhouses and businesses for the Gazans to take over. Instead of picking up where the Israelis left off, the Gazans burned the greenhouses to the ground. This anecdote is a perfect microcosm of how Hamas views Israelis and Jews; they only seek to destroy us. I believe Mrs. Clinton understands this in a way no other candidate does. She was right about the Arab Spring. She recognized that it wasn't going to lead to the kind of reforms Obama was hoping. Mrs. Clinton's strength is something her Democratic opponent severely lacks, she sees the world as it is whereas Bernie Sanders sees the world as he would prefer it to be.
I'm aware of Mr. Sanders' time spent on a kibbutz in Israel. I'm of course aware that he is a fellow Jew (but that doesn't seem to be something he takes any note of). One of Sanders' best moments on Israel came during a townhall in VT during 2014's Gaza War. He told an obnoxious audience member (who was calling Hamas a humanitarian organization) to shut up and reminded the audience what a nightmare Hamas is on a daily basis for Israelis. This seems to be about the end of positive things I can say about Mr. Sanders in regard to his support for Israel. He frequently calls for less defense spending and aid for Israel. He supports the two state solution (see my previous entry for more on why that is a total fantasy) like many well intended but ignorant liberals. What is most disturbing to me from this perspective is his rank amateur understanding of the Middle East, its complexities and nuances (he demonstrates this level of ignorance for other international areas as well, but I'm focusing only on the Middle East). When recently questioned about how to fight ISIS Mr. Sanders suggested a Muslim coalition. Sounds good right? Well he intimated that Iran and Saudi Arabia should work together. Sure, maybe after they're done setting each others embassies on fire. He also stated in a recent interview that he will take Middle East analysis from the spineless hacks at JStreet. It is my conclusion that Mr. Sanders' plan for Middle East terrorism would clearly include even worse relations with Israel than John Kerry has now and's hard to come up with anything else as he doesn't give much more. I don't feel Mr. Sanders has any deep understanding of the complexities and statesmanship of dealing with the interests of several nations on an international stage. Considering he's been representing Vermont, a mostly white state with a paltry population of 626,000 people this isn't entirely surprising.
For any Democratic observer of Middle East politics, Hillary Clinton is not just the smart choice, she is the only choice. One cannot overstate the shameful lack of thought Mr. Sanders has put into this crucial area of consideration.
As I'm not a Republican I'm not going to make a recommendation on their side, but I don't find their general threats of nuking Syria until their sand glows appealing. If you're a Republican, I hope you'll read this and give Mrs. Clinton some serious consideration in this primary and if she gets the Democratic nomination in November.
I'm going to go out on a final limb here. I sense in Mrs. Clinton the capacity to be a leader like Golda Meir. Strong, determined, extremely smart and also a big heart. I'm reminded of Golda's quote about when there were many sexual assaults in Israel and some politicians suggested a curfew for women and she responded that the men were the criminals, let them stay home. The State Department under Mrs. Clinton had the "Hillary Doctrine" which was essentially the directive to always include initiatives for women and girls in all dealings possible. I also think of her broken heart following the Munich Olympic massacre and her response to assassinate the terrorists. These are the kinds of heart and mind soul wrenching decisions a president has to make, that I feel Mr. Sanders is incapable of effectively making; those are the kinds of foot steps I can see Mrs. Clinton following in as president of the US.

PS- back to non partisan writing next time, I promise. Thanks for sticking around until the end.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Why the 2 State Solution doesn't make sense (right now)

Every time I find myself discussing Israel and the disputed territories a well intentioned person will usually chime in and say something about how the 2 state solution is the best chance at peace in the region. 
This stance is a popular one, and on its surface really does seem to be the most reasonable way to settle the decades (well several millenia) long conflict. It begs the question, well why not?
I begin, as I often do with a very important bit of context that is crucial always keep in mind when discussing Israel and her enemies. That is that the other side is simply not reasonable.
A former foreign minister from Israel once said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Let's look at a few examples of this.
I'm going to start with 1948 and the UN partition. The original partition plan actually included an Arab state following the transition of power from the British Mandate. The Jews accepted this. The Arabs rejected this and the 1948-49 war for Israeli independence began. (As an aside, many opponents of Israel believe that America has always supplied Israel with weapons. This is not true. In fact the US had an arms embargo on the new Jewish state at the time of the Israeli war of independence. Check out a great documentary on Netflix by Nancy Spielberg called, "Above and Beyond." It's very good.)
Israel won the war against the neighboring Arab armies. Thus is the first time the Arab side of the conflict was offered a state, rejected it, chose war, and lost.
I next draw our attention to the 6 Day War in 1967. Israel learned of imminent attacks from surrounding Arab nations, preemptively attacked, and won a decisive victory. Though this armed conflict did not include an outright offer of a state to the Palestinians, it is worthy of mention because one will often hear people reference "pre 1967 borders." The insistence on returning to these borders can be dismissed out of hand. The expansion of Israel's borders during the 6 Day War were a result of war planning and strategy in response to being attacked. To be sure, had Israel not been attacked, the borders would not have changed.
Between 1967 and the Oslo Accords, there was of course the Yom Kippur War, the 1978 Camp David meetings and the first Intifada. I'll mention the 1978 Camp David Accords because they demonstrated that Israel has always been willing to exchange land for real peace.
In 1988 the first Intifada began. One would be correct to conclude that the first Oslo Accords, announced in 1993 following secret meetings, were a response to the first Intifada. I will add here, that this set a dangerous precedent. Namely that the international stage began to truly see Palestinian incitement and terrorism as legitimate. Furthermore, the Oslo Accords (though I support them to a degree) rewarded Palestinian terrorism with a chance to set the stage for a future state. The Palestinian side did not hold up their end of the agreements. Israel withdrew from Jericho completely and 80% of Hebron (which has had a Jewish population for at least 2500 years). The PLO became the Palestinian Authority and continued to be corrupt and absent in their agreement to stem the tide of Palestinian terrorism.
By 1999 it was clear that the Oslo Accords had failed. President Clinton, nearing the end of his second term decided to address the conflict. Then Israeli PM Ehud Barak and PA chairman Arafat met with Clinton at Camp David. Israel offered the PA 91% of the West Bank, to withdraw from 63 settlements, and 100% of the Gaza Strip. I will quote President Clinton writing about the Camp David Summit: Clinton wrote that Arafat once complimented Clinton by telling him, "You are a great man." Clinton responded, "I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you made me one." Here's another quote from Saudi Prince Bandar while negotiations were taking place: "If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won't be a tragedy; it will be a crime." Arafat of course, walked away from the negotiations and the Second Intifada began.
In 2005, under the order of former PM Ariel Sharon, Israel withdrew all troops and all settlers from Gaza. Pure disengagement, nothing Israeli remained in Gaza. Well there was a floral industry that the Israelis left for the Gazans to take over. Instead of picking up where the settlers left off, the Gazans burned the greenhouses to the ground. The hope was that disengaging with Gaza would lead to less terror attacks from Hamas. It didn't. In fact, Gaza is where Hamas fires rockets into Israel and has complex networks of tunnels used for smuggling weapons. During the height of the 2014 war with Gaza, hundreds of rockets were being fired daily into Israel from Gaza.
In 2008 Israeli PM Ehud Olmert made an offer to the PA. The following quote is from the Jerusalem Post, 5/24/13:
"Olmert essentially agreed to forgo sovereignty of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site, and proposed that in the framework of a peace agreement, the area containing the religious sites in Jerusalem would be managed by a special committee consisting of representatives from five nations: Saudia Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States and Israel. The advisors and Fatah officials heard from Abbas that Olmert laid out for him not only the details of the agreement but also a large map upon which he outlined the borders of the future Palestinian state."
Abbas, whom I had hope for following the death of Arafat, walked away from this offer as well just as his predecessor would have. (Also of note, Abbas is now in the 11th year of a 4 year term.)
What I have outlined above are summaries which have a common theme: the Palestinian side is only interested in one thing: the destruction of Israel. As can be gleaned from the above pattern of behavior, they are not interested in existing peacefully alongside Israel. There have been times a 2 state solution would have made sense, now is not one of them. There is no indication that the PA or Hamas has any intention to accept any agreement offered by Israel. They have chosen war and terrorism at every possible chance at peace. This is not to say Israel has behaved perfectly, but it is to say there is no question that Israel has made reasonable, and exemplary efforts at resolving the conflict, only to be met with violence. I bring your attention to the current wave of stabbings and car ramming attacks against Israelis that has been happening for the last few months. Now especially is not a time for the 2 state solution. The world cannot allow for murder and terrorism to become a tool for nation building. The Palestinians need a revolution of leadership, new voices that reject terrorism and truly want peace with Israel. Abbas, the PA and certainly Hamas are none of those things. The onus is on the Palestinians to bring about this revolution, it is not Israel's responsibility and Israel is incapable of making it happen. So do not speak about a 2 state solution, let us instead re-frame the conversation to, what can Palestinians do to build a nation committed to peace with Israel?
I would submit that a revolution in Palestinian leadership is the first step, because everything else they have tried has failed.