Friday, March 31, 2006
But yesterday, Thursday, we had some good news. The count of the last one percent of the vote — non-resident votes from the military, diplomatic service, prisons and hospitals — affected the results: Kadima rose one to 29 and Meretz rose one to five. This gives the more dovish Zionist parties a majority of 61 (not counting three for the bi-nationalist Hadash and seven for the all-Arab parties). Olmert will want to pad this majority — probably with one or both of the ultra-Orthodox parties, neither of which are inherently hawkish. Shas, down from 13 to 12 with the final tally, has criticized Olmert for being unilateralist in his approach; they would support negotiations. The United Torah Judaism party doesn't care that much either way.
Prime Minister Olmert has outlined what he wants — with or without negotiations — an evacuation of 70-80,000 settlers from in front of the security barrier to behind it, some give back in East Jerusalem, but also the development of E-1 to entirely cut off East Jerusalem from the West Bank and practically cut the West Bank into two.
If Abbas were more forceful in clamping down on the terrorist factions (in theory, he commands upwards of 50-60,000 security personnel), he might be able to negotiate better terms, but since he's a weak leader — undermined both by a splintered and undisciplined Fatah movement (with terrorist elements) and facing an unknown quantity in the new Hamas government — it's hard to see Abbas as being able to offer Olmert anything that would make him depart from his vision. It's equally hard to see Olmert offering Abbas anything that might encourage Abbas to come to an agreement or at least cooperate more in security matters.
Stay tuned to this space for more on the elections, particularly some quirky and amusing facts.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
The notion that US support for Israel is "unconditional" is wrong, but this perception is a liability for the US among Arab and Muslim countries. Although the paper is flawed on scholarly grounds, the bottomline is reasonable: The US gained some strategic advantage from Israel during the Cold War, but now suffer Israel as an undue burden in its foreign policy, and the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby sometimes inhibits the ability of the US to foster peace with the Palestinians.
Still, the US has often voiced disagreements with Israel on settlement expansion and the route of the security barrier (modified somewhat due to US pressure). The good professors apparently forget that peace-making requires efforts on the Palestinian side as well, but it is reasonable that a more engaged and neutral honest-broker role for the US may be in the interests of both the US and Israel, in trying harder to achieve peace. And the enthusiasm of so many Jewish organizations and Israelis for invading Iraq, although not a crime, is an embarrassment.
If these scholars' attitudes become typical of most Americans, Israel's special relationship, including its status as the number one recipient of US foreign aid, would come to an end. The United States would not be overtly hostile, but we might return to the coolness of, say, the Eisenhower years.
Since Israel's enemies no longer have a superpower patron like the old Soviet Union, this need not be a disaster. Yet the threat of such a change might give Prime Minister Olmert pause to rethink his current illusion about unilaterally dictating Israel's final borders. Not that peace with the Palestinians can ever be a foregone conclusion — especially in this time of Hamas ascendency — but it would be in Israel's interest to bolster the status of Pres. Mahmoud Abbas and to allow back-channel dealings, or efforts at mediation, to attempt to transform Hamas.
This links to an insightfully critical look at Mearsheimer and Walt by Christopher Hitchens, someone who has never been known as an apologist for Israel.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The two professors stack their argument with negative writings on Israel going back to before its creation. One wades through comments by Jabotinsky, Shamir, Ben-Gurion, Meir and other Zionist leaders, invariably reported without context, and references to such worthies as Norman Finkelstein. They don't even give credence to the fact that the Yishuv faced a genuine threat to its survival in the 1947-48 war.
And complex works by such New Historians as Tom Segev and Benny Morris appear to be cherry picked for critical content. A small example is an endnote citing Segev’s One Palestine, Complete as showing that “the British favored the Zionists over the Palestinians during the British Mandate,” whereas Segev's book actually depicted how the British were divided and fluctuated in their sympathies during this period.
Another instance was reported by J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Forward, on March 23: "...they attempt to prove how deeply Paul Wolfowitz is 'committed to Israel' by quoting the Forward, [describing him as] ‘the most hawkishly pro-Israel voice in the Administration.’ A check of the endnotes shows that the words did appear in the Forward, but they were describing the conventional wisdom, not the Forward’s view. The article was about a pro-Israel rally where Wolfowitz was booed for defending Palestinian rights. The point was that the conventional wisdom was wrong."
Questioning Israel's status as the only true democracy in the Middle East, the professors argue that "some aspects of Israeli democracy are at odds with core American values. Unlike the US, where people are supposed to enjoy equal rights irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity, Israel was explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship. Given this, it is not surprising that its 1.3 million Arabs are treated as second-class citizens." But as true as this "blood kinship" criterion is for most Israelis (and in many, if not most, other countries in the world), this observation ignores some relevant facts: the mass immigration of Ethiopian Jews, the citizenship rights of non-Jewish first-degree relatives of Jewish immigrants (about one third of olim from the former Soviet Union), the rights of Orthodox converts to Judaism, the fact that there is a naturalization process for non-Jews, and that most Arab citizens would not want to trade their second-class status with "first-class" citizenship in Arab countries.
Their basic argument would be stronger if not relying upon an overblown drumbeat of Israel’s alleged misdeeds.
To be continued...
Friday, March 24, 2006
His article in the NY Times Magazine, Feb. 19, 2006, explores the various streams that went into neo-conservative thinking, including its Trotsyist (actually Shactmanite) origins with Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Bell at CCNY in the 1930s and '40s. Gal Beckerman, a former staffer at Meretz USA (before he went on to the Columbia School of Journalism) wrote a review in The Forward of The Neocon Reader and two other books on this subject. I'm something of an expert on the evolution of neo-conservativm in the late 1960s and '70s from social democracy into Reaganism.
This links to what I wrote for the UK " Engage" online journal recently on the "Neo-conservative" phenomenon as fact and fiction . (Engage is the left/liberal British group that defeated the academic boycott of Israeli universities). My Engage article is based on, and updated from, the workshop I did at the "Facing A Challenge Within" conference in Oakland, CA, August 2004, an explicitly left-wing effort to confront anti-Semitism within the left. (Link here online for information on the follow-up conference, taking place this weekend, March 25-27, at a hotel at the Newark airport; Mairav Zonszein and I will be co-presenting a workshop on the history, theory and contemporary issues of Zionism, on Saturday, 2:30 to 4:30 – join us if you can.)
As indicated in my article’s abstract, it’s “mostly a discussion of the early Shachtmanite (Trotskyist) origin of neo-conservatism. It also notes how use of this label lends itself to conspiratorial thinking with anti-Semitic overtones. Among the facts generally disregarded in contemporary polemics: neocons advised on but didn't have the authority to make the decisions that the Bush administration chose to follow, some have differences with the current administration and among themselves, not all are Jews, they do not represent majority Jewish opinion in the US, they are not all pro-Likud or pro-settler. But they are too often being attacked as ‘Jews’ [or as ‘Zionists’, ‘pro-Likud’ or simply as pro-Israel — as if these were crimes].”
I am not now nor ever been a neo-conservative. And I do not support most political policies advocated by neocons, but just as McCarthyite attacks on Communism were often explicitly or implicitly anti-Semitic, the overblown hysterics about this small bunch of intellectuals, journalists and policy wonks poses dangers for us as Jews. Professors Mersheimer and Walt’s article, discussed by Ron Skolnik below, looks too much like another instance of such an hysterical assault. Stay tuned for more on Mersheimer and Walt....
Thursday, March 23, 2006
While this blog is not the place for a detailed critique of the myriad of arguments contained in the 83-page Mearsheimer/Walt essay, I would like to offer some basic impressions about two elements that disturbed me:
1. The authors monolithize Israel’s political establishment. Consequently, they also lob into a single, indistinguishable pile all the organizations in the US that are associated with Israel. Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer are admittedly not my heroes, but they're not in the same league as Arik Sharon, Bibi Netanyahu and Yitzhak Shamir. Despite the length of this piece, there is barely a sentence on the important distinctions within Israeli political thought, and all Israelis come off as backers of Greater Israel expansionism. As a result, the Brookings Institution and JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) are referred to in the same breath as equally uncritically “pro-Israel”; and Haim Saban, who was a major supporter of Ehud Barak, is termed an "ardent Zionist" in accusatory tones – as if admitting to “Zionism” was an admission of thought-crime. A reminder to Messrs. Mearsheimer and Walt: Being a Zionist does not imply blind support of every Israeli action.
2. Some of the Mearsheimer/Walt argumentation about the influence of "the Lobby" seems flawed. The “Lobby” is powerful, so they say, because of Jewish money, Jewish voting in key states, and the ability to enlist the Jewish community politically (letter writing, etc.).
BUT: The authors also note that 36% of American Jews don't even feel a connection to Israel; that most American Jews are more moderate on the Israel-Palestine issue than the “Lobby” is; and that the Jewish community was LESS supportive of the Iraq invasion than the American public as a whole.
So, who (in blazes) is the “Lobby” mobilizing? For if the “Lobby” is, at its core, a small coterie of Likud-aligned Jewish and evangelical Christian neo-cons that is duping the masses of American Jewry into supporting a much more right-wing American and Israeli policy than they really believe in, then that's a key element that needs to be stressed, and explored. Because – alas – the style, the choice of words and the general tone of this essay will make the unsophisticated reader (and even the sophisticated one) come away with the impression that ‘the Jews control American foreign policy’ – even if that is not what Mearsheimer and Walt really meant to say.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
His talk at Manhattan’s Village Temple, March 17 (co-sponsored by Brit Tzedek v'Shalom), was entitled “Netanyahu’s Folly: Why the Israeli Economy Really Does Need Peace.” It was inspired in part by his 1998 interview with Benjamin Netanyahu, then the prime minister.
Netanyahu is an advocate of a widely held view in Israel that peace would not be good for Israel’s economy because of the potential loss of jobs — as occurred when some factories relocated from Israel to Jordan after the 1994 peace treaty, to take advantage of Jordan’s cheaper labor market. But Prof. Avishai argued persuasively that the Oslo years of 1993 to 2000 brought tremendous economic growth to Israel (up about 73% in GDP), while the early Intifada years, from 2001 until the economic turnaround in 2004, were economically disastrous.
This may seem obvious to most of us, but Mr. Netanyahu — whom you’ll recall was finance minister during much of Ariel Sharon’s tenure as prime minister — argues to this day that the global dot-com bust in high tech alone caused Israel’s post-2000 recession. As Avishai explained, the evidence is to the contrary, that the Intifada — causing a dramatic exodus of international companies from Israel and a collapse of the tourist industry — is what happened. By way of an illustrative comparison, he looks at Ireland, a similarly small country (with a mere four million population) that likewise shined with a dramatic boom in high tech during the 1990s; but Ireland’s GDP soared after 2000 while Israel’s crashed.
Avishai contends that what makes Israel an attractive resource to the computer, pharmaceutical, aeronautics, telecommunications and other high-tech industries is its highly innovative, problem-solving skilled labor force — what he calls its “social capital.” He indicates that these are traits cultivated by military service in Israel.
What happened in the 1990s was that Israeli entrepreneurs learned how to gain access to international business, particularly as a source of solutions for the problems of major corporate enterprises. This knowledge eventually revived Israel’s economy, beginning in 2004, with Israel providing a valued function for international business, mostly in the form of Israeli start-up ventures.
But Israel’s growth and competitiveness in maintaining this niche depends upon stability and the country’s continued ability to invest in its human capital. Netanyahu’s budget-slashing policies undermined this resource by gutting public education. And a continued failure to create a stable peace would further damage Israel’s economic prospects by fostering an ongoing and increasingly serious brain-drain. Avishai also mentioned the poverty statistics that I have referred to in my previous posting.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Please respond to the statement in the comments section, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
Friday, March 17, 2006
My synagogue this past Shabbat was privileged to host the writer and educator Leonard Fein. He provides the following teaching of profound power from a Hasidic rabbi of several centuries ago. This rebbe turns the reading of the maftir cursing Amalek around 180 degrees into a moral indictment of the Children of Israel.
Playing on the literal meanings of words in the text, as is traditional in a Torah commentary, he says the stragglers attacked by the Amalekites were akharekha (“behind you”) but they were also treated as akher (as “other” than you). If the Children of Israel had embraced the stragglers (i.e., the weak and disabled) and kept them within the sheltering arms of the camp, the Amalekites could not have harmed them.
What this says to me today is that Israel has a moral burden to shelter its vulnerable and impoverished elements, but it’s not doing so. The statistics developing over the last few years are terrible: 25 percent of Israel’s population lives in poverty, including one-third of its children! And the gap between rich and poor, an income gap that until the 1970s ranked as low as social- democratic Sweden, is now among the highest in the developed world, comparable to that in the United States.
The lesson of Zionism that the Jewish people (and sovereign Israel in particular) has not learned is to take responsibility for using power. That’s what sovereignty is about. I’m talking here about taking care of our own.
There is another relatively recent association with Purim that is very sad: Baruch Goldstein slaughtered 29 Muslim worshipers at prayer in Hebron on Purim in 1994. It is this act of wanton terrorism that ignited the Hamas campaign of suicide bombing; it is said that Yihya Ayyash, the “engineer” who invented the suicide belt, turned to this bloody vocation to avenge these murders.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was urged by Meretz ministers and other doves in his government to evacuate the community of settlers in Hebron as a discernible act of contrition and a preventive measure against this hotbed of Jewish extremism. We can’t say if Ayyash would have been deterred from his recourse to murder if Rabin had managed the courage to do so, but this would have been a clear message to the Palestinian people and to the people of Israel that the privileged reign of the settlers was coming to an end, and a better day was dawning. This could have been a tremendous boon for peace. In not doing so, Rabin and the State of Israel failed the first critical test of the peace process of the 1990s, and set into motion Oslo’s defeat.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Take a look, for example, at the results of the Smith Institute poll commissioned and reported on last week by the Jerusalem Post: Kadima 34-35 [seats]; Labor: 18; Likud: 17-18; Israel Beitenu: 9-10; National Union / NRP: 9-10; Shas: 9-10; Arab parties: 9-10; United Torah Judaism: 5-6; Meretz: 4-5.
Notice anything funny? Try the third to the last party listing – “Arab parties”. Now, the last time I checked, there is no party running for elections known as “Arab parties”. There are, however, three major election slates currently running for Knesset that draw the vast majority of their support from the Israeli Palestinian Arab citizenry. They are Hadash, Balad, and the two-party alliance of United Arab List-Arab Renewal Movement (UAL-ARM). The competition between them (personal and political) is fierce, and the ideological gaps distinguishing them are significant – so much so that these parties were unable to unite in a joint slate for the upcoming elections, even though the recently raised vote threshold for entering the Knesset (2%) threatens to leave one or more of them without representation.
But you’d never know any of this looking at some of the polls. The average, casual reader looking at this Smith Poll would naturally conclude: “Oh, there must be a bunch of Arab parties, and they’re basically all the same”. A natural extension of this line of thought is: “Oh, I guess the Israeli Arabs are all the same”, which is a close cousin of “all Arabs are all the same”, and its sidekick, “all the Arabs want to throw the Jews into the sea”.
Imagine if a poll failed to distinguish between Shas and United Torah Judaism, and just lumped them together as “those ultra-orthodox parties”. But why stop there, why not throw Kadima, Labor, Likud, Meretz and all the others into the mix, and just report the poll results for the “Jewish parties” vs. the “Arab parties”?
I’m personally not sure who’s to blame here. Are the pollsters not recording the specific preferences of (predominantly Arab) voters when they reply “Balad” or “Hadash” or “UAL-ARM”? Somehow, I find that hard to believe. But if the pollsters are doing their job, then it must be the media outlets that either do not care, or do not think their readers care, to differentiate. And it’s not just the Jerusalem Post. While the HaAretz/Channel 10/Dialog poll recognizes Hadash, Balad and UAL-ARM as individual parties, the polls as reported by the newspaper giants, Yediot Aharonot (Dahaf poll) and Maariv (Teleseker poll), do not. Neither does the IDF Radio website (Geocartographia poll).
Is this a trivial matter? I think not. Prejudice comes in all forms, and sometimes the prejudice found in subtext is more dangerous than the kind found in outright bigotry. An open call by an Israeli fringe-rightist to deny Arab citizens their civil rights would arouse immediate opposition of the Israeli mainstream; unfortunately, the use of language that homogenizes and “monolithizes” some 20% of all Israeli citizens seems to fly under the radar, unnoticed, while it shapes, poll by poll, the political consciousness (or perhaps sub-consciousness) of Israel’s Jewish majority.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
by Mairav Zonszein, Union of Progressive Zionists Director
With Israeli elections just days away, the Palestinian government not yet fully shaped, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon still in a coma, the future of
The Union of Progressive Zionists launched a campaign this year to challenge students who care about
This campaign has been a challenging endeavor, as both sides often have a hard time taking the initial step toward one another, but we have found overall positive response. In some cases, it is only a few individuals, and in other cases, established groups on campus with distinct principles are publicly dialoguing about their beliefs and concerns regarding a final-status solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Regardless of the actual agreements that will be reached, what we are seeing is a concerted effort by Israeli and Palestinian sympathizers on campus to come together and talk to each other, thereby dispelling the animosity, fear and ignorance that too often mars the debate on campus.
Below is a letter written by such a coalition at the
The Muslim Student Association and Hillel at the
Although the end goal is to together write a peace agreement, the discussion along the way is not about reaching a conclusion after each meeting. It's a learning experience, an opportunity to explore. Regardless of whether or not you believe engaging in this kind of dialogue might lead to something, the opportunity to experience this can only be positive. We're all here at the UA for an educational experience: this experience should be a process of widening our horizons, of exposure to new ideas and people, of encountering challenges to our perceptions of things.
Part of this process is to engage with 'the other', whether 'the other' seems alien to us by virtue of contrasting convictions or because of history and identity. Palestinians and Israelis are perhaps each other's ultimate other.
The first meeting will take place on Monday, March 6th at at Hillel, the Jewish Student Center, on northwest corner of
If you are Israeli/Jewish, what are your perceptions of Palestinians?
If you are Arab/Muslim, what are your perceptions of Israelis?
Why do you have these perceptions?
How does the Palestinian-Israeli conflict affect your life and convictions?
What value, if any, do you see in this dialogue?
We hope that your contributions will help us understand where we come from as Israelis, Palestinians and students who genuinely care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and perhaps by engaging with each other we will see more clearly where we are headed.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! We can't wait to meet you all.
Hillel and MSA members at the
Monday, March 13, 2006
And the special Haftorah (Prophets) reading for Shabbat Zakhor, from the First Book of Samuel, is about how Saul is commanded to utterly wipe out the Amalekites, including their livestock, and to destroy anything of value. Saul leads his army to commit genocide but he holds back some choice livestock. The Lord tells the Prophet Samuel of his unhappiness with Saul’s measure of disobedience and Samuel shocks a chastened Saul with news that he will lose his kingship as a result.
Here are a few observations emanating from this reading: It is we Jews who are cursed — not in the sense that the Amalekites were, but in being forever burdened with the literal word of our holy texts. This is not the only instance in which the Children of Israel are commanded to engage in what we now call genocide. I recall a history professor who made the point (tendentiously, I think) that the Jews “invented” genocide; actually, we didn’t, but we’re the only ones honest and foolish enough to include our ancient foibles and crimes in our mythic writings (the Bible).
Jewish tradition associates Amalek with the enemies of the Jews in every generation, and it is surely a curse that the Jews have had such enemies in almost every generation. On Purim, the arch-enemy Haman is said to be a descendant of the Amalekites; there is even some midrashic commentary that projects that the Jewish hero Mordechai and his niece Esther are descendants of Saul. And the Megillah reading ends with the Jews having imperial license to slaughter their enemies in Persia. (President Ahmadinejad of Iran, the modern land of Persia — along with Hamas — qualify as today’s Hamans.)
We’ve had too many enemies over the millenia, and more often than not, we’ve suffered terribly from them, but we also desperately need to find a time when we cease remembering Amalek, when we can stop seeing ourselves as victims. The 20th century was among our worst times as victims — mostly because of Hitler, but also Stalin and the Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Al-Husseini and Arafat (to a much more limited degree), and others I’m sure. But at this time, after Israel has become a major military power and the American Jewish community has found its voice after the relative silence of the Holocaust years, we need to begin to see ourselves as historical players with a measure of power.
To be continued....
Thursday, March 09, 2006
This comment could well sum up the entire day’s events. Issues were examined from a variety of viewpoints and presented with their complexities. Plenary panels and small group discussions addressed two major issues: religion & state (the role of Judaism and what kind of Judaism), and the rights of minorities (especially Arab citizens of Israel).
One of the most memorable lines of the day was the demand by an Israeli-Palestinian panelist, discussing the problems of Bedouins in the Negev, that “development should be with the Palestinians, not jump [be imposed] on the Palestinians.” Because they see themselves as victims of discrimination, the Israeli-Arab participants sharply question the nature and validity of a Jewish state.
Those who persevered to the end were rewarded with the articulate remarks of Naomi Chazan, a political scientist and former Meretz Member of the Knesset, and The Forward’s editor in chief, J.J. Goldberg. Asked to reflect on visions for Israel’s future, Prof. Chazan pronounced her fondest hope that Israel become “a society with normal problems,” primarily concerned with “issues of quality of life.”
She recognized not only the individual rights of Israeli Arabs, but also collective rights. “As soon as it [Israel] varies one inch from a state of all its citizens, it loses its Jewish soul.”
Goldberg differed with Chazan on collective rights: “Justice is not indivisible,” he said. “Individual rights and group rights are not always compatible.” They exist on a “sliding scale. Both are legitimate....” He favored keeping in mind the “dilemma” of such a conflict and “recognizing the incompleteness of justice.”
I lean toward J.J. in this discussion. The Meretz party platform endorses autonomy for Israeli Arabs in education, but a legitimate concern is how this is implemented. It would be wrong for Arab students to read texts and absorb lessons that hail Zionism as an untarnished good (even wrong for Jewish students), but Arab Israelis should also learn about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and come to understand Zionism as an effort of an oppressed minority to escape oppression.
Goldberg also spoke to Jewish historical circumstances today as being in an uncharacteristic position of power, when Jews are more accustomed to, and more comfortable with, “constructing our identity around being powerless.” In this vein, he indicated that “the less embattled Israelis feel, the better it is for Arab rights.” He wisely noted that the prospects for progress in Arab rights are currently complicated by the perceived threats emanating from Hamas and Iran.
We now interrupt our regularly scheduled election campaign to bring news of a minor milestone for Israel's Arab minority:
Rania Jubran, a 26 year-old lawyer from Haifa, is about to make history and become the first Israeli-Arab ever to be accepted to the prestigious Foreign Ministry cadet training course.Read the rest here.
Jubran successfully passed a rigorous series of tests and evaluations and is due to start the course this coming April. If she completes her training, she will be the first Arab diplomat to be admitted to the Foreign Service through the course.
Jubran also happens to be the daughter of Supreme Court Justice Salim Jubran and a member of one of Israel's most prominent Maronite families. She will not be Israel's first Arab diplomat - Ali Yahya, who I had the privilege of meeting in Helsinki in 1997, was appointed ambassador to Finland a decade ago - ...
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
The New Israel Fund (NIF) dispenses grants to projects that advance a pluralistic vision of Israel as a society that is both meaningfully Jewish and inclusive of “all its citizens” — about 20 percent of whom are not Jews. Meretz USA shares these values, although we educate more on the political issues.
The NIF's revenue stream has mostly been “flat” in the last few years in the range of “22 to 23 million dollars,” according to Marc Breslaw, its chief operating officer. Difficulties experienced by the NIF are not uncommon to Zionist and American Jewish organizations in general.
Not only are the challenges economic and political, but also generational. For younger generations of American Jews, the problem is not so much “disillusion” or being “embarrassed by Israeli behavior,” but “indifference,” according to Naomi Paiss, the NIF’s director of communications. As the generations age and pass on, fewer American Jews “know the importance of Israel from their gut.”
The philosophical bottomline for Ms. Paiss is that the New Israel Fund “doesn’t require the attitude of ‘Israel right or wrong.’ We are the way to be a good liberal, how to still listen to ‘Air America’ and still be a good Zionist.” (We, Meretz USA, are also "the way"; but I much prefer NPR to Air America.)
To be continued....
Friday, March 03, 2006
Arab voices cry foul, complaining bitterly of double standards and racism. Well, yes, it’s understandable that their feelings are hurt, but that’s the least of it. In this post-9/11 era, it should not surprise them that the issue of Arab influence on the management of our ports raises alarm bells. But we should all be concerned about how it’s being handled.
The current US administration— the same leadership that has proudly brought us the ongoing drama of Iraq, and that played so stellar a role in the domestic calamity of Katrina— commands such scant confidence, even among Congressional Republicans, that most Americans doubt that a careful review was conducted of the security implications. There probably are no real security risks in this change to a government-owned company of the city-state of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and headed by an American CEO. The Coast Guard and Customs Service remain firmly in charge of port security, and Dubai and the UAE are moderate, commercially-oriented entities, firmly allied to the United States.
And now we have supportive comments from Israel's Zim shipping line, that although Israel is officially boycotted by Dubai or the UAE, Zim has a cordial working relationship there. Dubai has announced that it has indirect links with Israel and may change its boycott policy.
Still, sadly, as I’ve said, who can trust our current leadership to not drop the ball but again? The real scandal of this affair is that while we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in what may be a fool’s errand in Iraq, we know that less than five percent of shipping containers processed through US ports from abroad are being inspected. And our nuclear plants, fuel depots, and mass transportation systems continue to provide a target-rich environment for terrorists intent on doing us harm. The issue should not be the nationality of corporate shareholders, but the competence and strategic priorities of our national leadership.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
March 1, 2006
However low Bibi Netanyahu's fortunes may have sunk during the past few months, he's now proven that he still has at least one thing over Shimon Peres: unlike the former Avoda chairman, he can win a rigged vote. A week or two ago, Bibi looked at the internal polls and decided that the Likud might benefit if the Central Committee gave up its power to choose the party's Knesset list. The trouble was that any change to an open-primary system would have to be approved by the Central Committee itself, and the merkaz is known for guarding its privileges jealously. So after pondering the matter, he decided to call a committee meeting on 48 hours' notice - thus ensuring that the only organized bloc of voters would be his own - and got the party rules committee to declare that the vote would be by show of hands rather than secret ballot. Both measures arguably violated the Likud constitution, but the party's supreme tribunal upheld them, and sure enough, the merkaz met today and approved the change.
The vote is unquestionably a victory for Netanyahu, but I doubt that it will bring the Likud all the benefits he envisions. A Ma'ariv poll suggested that a switch to an open primary system would result in a six-seat gain for the Likud, but the number of people who say that they might vote a certain way if a hypothetical event occurs is rarely matched by those who actually do change their minds when it happens. Party governance isn't exactly at the top of the agenda for Israeli voters this year, especially given ... read the rest here.