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The Political Animal

United We Fall

.

The question is who we are to each other. It’s at the beginning and end of every political argument, regardless of whether anyone raises it. Are we lone figures passing on a cold tundra, or do we pause to stand, and even stay, in fellowship? And what will break it? Every other consideration is secondary.

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic, who often delivers brief economic insights with surprising graphs, the other day offered this one by way of Michael Cembalest of JP Morgan. Cembalest is not an optimist regarding the European Union, and this graphs presents just another reason for it.

What Thompson says is this:

The euro zone has Greece. The United States has Mississippi. Or Missouri.

The difference between the U.S. and Europe is that when the Greek economy “pulls a Mississippi” (or perhaps I should say, when Mississippi “pulls a Greece”), the EU and the U.S. have 180-degree opposite reactions. Over here, we calmly write checks to Mississippi in the form of Medicaid and unemployment insurance, no questions asked. Europe has no comparable “Peripheraid” for its weak peripheral states. Instead, it has chaos.

….

When you hear commentators say, “the euro zone must begin to transition toward a fiscal union,” what they are saying, in human-speak, is that the Europe needs to be more like the United States, with balanced budget laws for its individual members and seamless fiscal transfers from the rich countries to the poor, to protect the indigent, old, and sick, no matter where they reside.

The Germans call this sort of thing “a permanent bailout.” We just call it “Missouri.”

There is much to be considered another time about the whole historically accidental nature of states, as in “The United –,”, but for now I will make a different observation. What Thompson neologizes above as Peripheraid – fiscal transfers from more prosperous states to the less, as more is paid to the federal government in taxes than is received in federal aid – would fit comfortably under the rubric of from each according to its ability, to each according to its need.

Just in case Ma and Pa Tea Party didn’t have enough to keep them up at night. Jethro is reaching for the shotgun.

How curious is it, too, that the U.S. “donor” states in the graphic example above – California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York – are states in which political support for the nature of this kind of economic, and other, relationship is likely to be highest, whereas the recipient states – Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas – are among those more likely to reject the philosophy upon which they happen to be benefiting, without, so far, a march on the local federal building and the burning of Obama in effigy.

The European Union, in contrast, envisioned itself, fundamentally, as a union in prosperity. How far its multi-state economic alliance imagined itself, beyond a business joint venture of nations, to be a fellowship of peoples is being tested. If the understanding is the former – and there is little reason to think most Europeans feel a greater commitment to each other than that – then it is easy, regardless of economic theory and sense, to understand the Germans, or any other nation, taking the position with Greece that it has.

“You overspent. Your were profligate. We’ll bail you out. But you’ll do it on our terms, and on terms that don’t put us at risk too.”

On what basis do the Finns and Germans feel any differently than that towards the Greeks and the Irish?

On what basis do Americans toward each other?

AJA

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Israel

All Israel, All the Time

Sometimes it can seem that way. All from The Guardian.

First,

Iran‘s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today launched an angry attack on “doomed” US-brokered Middle East peace talks and urged the Palestinians to continue armed resistance to Israel.

Ahmadinejad used the annual al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Tehran to scorn the Obama administration’s efforts in launching the first Arab-Israeli negotiations in nearly two years.

“What do they want to negotiate about? Who are they representing? What are they going to talk about?” the hardline Iranian leader said of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington.

“Who gave them the right to sell a piece of Palestinian land? The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy. The negotiations are stillborn and doomed.”…

“The fate of Palestine is determined in Palestine and through the resistance of the Palestinian people, rather than in Washington, Paris and London,” Ahmadinejad said in his live TV broadcast.

Give that man an atomic bomb.

Second,

Militant groups in the Gaza Strip said last night they had joined forces to step up attacks against Israel, possibly including suicide bombings.

The statement was made as Israeli and Palestinian leaders met in Washington for the first day of direct talks yesterday, and agreed that a peace deal could be achieved within a year….

A spokesman for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, said 13 militant groups would work together to launch “more effective attacks” against Israel. Asked if this included suicide bombings, he said: “All options are open.”

Hamas has claimed responsibility for two separate shooting attacks in the West Bank this week that killed four Israeli settlers and wounded two.

Several armed gunmen held an open-air news conference in Gaza where Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s military wing, vowed that militants would “respond to the negotiations that aim at selling out (Palestinian) land”.

Very hard to understand why Israel won’t open the Gaza border. Can’t make any sense of it.

Third,

Karel De Gucht, the European commissioner for trade, and a former Belgian foreign minister, sparked outrage after voicing his scepticism about the prospects for the negotiations which opened in the US this week. He told a Belgian radio station that most Jews always believed they were right, and questioned the point of talking to them about the Middle East.

De Gucht, who negotiates for Europe on trade with the rest of the world, and is one of the most powerful officials in Brussels, was forced today to issue a statement declaring that the views he expressed were personal.

“Don’t underestimate the opinion … of the average Jew outside Israel,” he told the radio station. “There is indeed a belief – it’s difficult to describe it otherwise – among most Jews that they are right. And a belief is something that’s difficult to counter with rational arguments. And it’s not so much whether these are religious Jews or not. Lay Jews also share the same belief that they are right. So it is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East.”

De Gucht presumably prefers the kind of rational discussion to be had with the members of the thirteen groups of the previous story. They have this belief – “it’s difficult to describe it otherwise” – that they are right.

Former Belgian foreign minister. European Union minister for trade. Not just any lout on the street.  Think this is the first time he’s ever spoken like this?  To friends? Family? Colleagues? What do you think he might have been doing in, say, 1940?

(h/t Yaacov Lazowick)

Fourth,

An Israeli soldier has been charged with looting the lead ship in a Gaza aid flotilla attacked by Israeli naval commandos at the end of May.

Now, you see, I’m guessing that the honorable Karel De Gucht would find in this report a story of what is wrong with Israel. Ah, but that would be, wouldn’t you agree, a matter of perspective?

Perspective – now, that’s what fifth is all about , but I’ve saved the best for later.

AJA

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The Political Animal

Ten Questions for Monday

The weekend is over. Back to work.

  1. Would you rather ask questions or answer them? Yes, this is an all-in-one psychological profile. No need here for a Myers-Briggs. (I’m an INFJ, by the way.)
  2. Do you believe that the European Union’s “rejection of Turkey, a hugely bad move, has been a key factor prompting Turkey to move closer to Iran and the Arab world” as Thomas Friedman said, or do you think events demonstrate that the E.U is fortunate to have done so?
  3. Can you articulate a coherent political philosophy that does not fear the powers given the presidency by the Patriot Act, or state-administered torture, but claims that the $20 billion fund that President Obama persuaded BP to set aside for Gulf spill claims is a threat to our political system?
  4. Do you agree with “Sir Brian Burridge, former British Air Chief Marshal in Iraq” that Predator drones produce “‘a virtueless war,’ requiring neither courage nor heroism”? Do you think we should stop using them and commit the lives of hundreds of thousands of American soldiers in order to retain such virtue? (Yes, two questions grouped in the same number count as one. My rules.)
  5. Is it so that

Things are always terrible

for some people. The question

is the ratio of the palpable hurt

to the general session

of life in an era (?)

Do you know the ratio?

6. Did you know that yesterday Israeli President Shimon Peres said,

We did not understand then, nor do we understand now, why after evacuating Gaza, the rulers of Gaza started to fire thousands of missiles against civilian life in Israel. For what reason? For what purpose? The question remains unanswered today. Would Gaza agree to peace, to negotiations instead? Would Gaza leaders denounce terror, stop the building of tunnels and shooting missiles, stop attempting to kidnap Israeli soldiers and release Gilad Shalit who was abducted on Israeli territory, there would be no need for any sort of closure or blockade (?)

7. Did you know that yesterday Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar said,

the PA’s security apparatus should free our hands. In order to liberate Jerusalem and the West Bank, rockets must be fired from the West Bank. Why should this fire come only from the Strip?

8. Do you think the answer of Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam seeking to build a commemorative Islamic center near Ground Zero, when asked if he agreed with the State Department’s assessment of Hamas as a terrorist organization,

Look, I’m not a politician. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question

is an acceptable answer?

9. Which Republican lawmaker or Tea Partier do you think said the following:

We believe that for any people eternal vigilance is the price of liberty far more as against the insidious encroachment of internal tyranny than against the danger of subjugation from the outside or from the prospect of any sharp and decisive revolution. In a republic we must constantly seek to elect and to keep in power a government we can trust, manned by people we can trust, maintaining a currency we can trust, and working for purposes we can trust (none of which we have today). We think it is even more important for the government to obey the laws than for the people to do so. But for 30 years we have had a steady stream of governments which increasingly have regarded our laws and even our Constitution as mere pieces of paper, which should not be allowed to stand in the way of what they, in their omniscient benevolence, considered to be “for the greatest good of the greatest number.” (Or in their power-seeking plans pretended so to believe.) We want a restoration of a “government of laws, and not of men” in this country; and if a few impeachments are necessary to bring that about, then we are all for the impeachments (?)

10. Do you believe “it’s all good,” or that everything we know about love is true except for when it’s not? (Two questions joined by a disjunctive conjunction count as one. Reason: my rules.)

AJA

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Israel

Shame and Folly

It may be that one of the benefits of having, finally, to die is that in addition to deliverance from the prospect of eternal ennui, one no longer has to be embarrassed by the human species. The folly that so many today commit, and the shame in which they cover themselves, surely provides embarrassment enough to warrant a long sleep. But in the meantime, they have to be borne and beaten back.

The still unfolding story of the Israeli interdiction at sea of vessels intent on breaching Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is tying anti-Israel bloviators in verbal knots. In the period before the Iraq war, and the long period since its inception, the phrase “rush to” became nearly a Homeric epithet whenever the word “war” was next used – as in “rush to war.” Many of the same people who bandied that reflexive phrase around, then and now, have, within the period of a mere 12-48 hours, with no objective information whatsoever

  • Accused Israel of piracy
  • Accused Israel of premeditated murder of “humanitarian aid workers”
  • Brought Israel’s name before the U.N. Security Council, where a typically fudged but critical statement was otherwise clearly directed at Israel

According to the AP as soon as May 31, the same day that the incident occurred (first reports of it came in at 4 a.m. of May 31):

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the violence. The European Union’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said the bloc was deeply concerned and she called on Israel to carry out an inquiry. British Foreign Secretary William Hague deplored the killings and called for an end to the Gaza blockade.

Greece, Egypt, Sweden, Spain and Denmark summoned Israel’s ambassadors demanding explanations for the violence, with Spain and France condemning what they called the disproportionate use of force. Greece suspended a military exercise with Israel and postponed a visit by Israel’s air force chief. Germany called for an immediate investigation but was careful not to directly place blame, and said it was seeking information on six German citizens believed to have been aboard the ships.

What could any of these parties possibly have known of the truth of what transpired in fewer than 24 hours? What, in contrast, might their reflexive inclinations be, independent of any information, any inquiry – in fact, of any particular incident?

Soon enough it became apparent that as atypically hapless as the Israeli commandoes may have been rendered in appearance by their commanders, they had been victims themselves of an ambush. All of the video footage, both from the IDF and the ship’s occupants reveals the same story. Quickly, then, the anti-Israelites had to change their own line of attack. Now it becomes the claim that the ship’s passengers, their ship “illegally” boarded in an “assault” in international waters had the right to fight back against the commandoes who had not physically assaulted them. (The ship’s own video shows its occupants attacking commandoes in boats alongside, as they approached, with stun grenades, chains, and slingshots.)

Typical of the generically foolish response by those not anti-Semites and committed enemies of Israel was that of – when she does not write of business – the increasingly benighted Megan McArdle. First she wrote,

But then I realized that the ships were in international waters, and had every right to attack armed men attempting to board their ship.  It was not precisely bright, mind you–unless you’re looking to die for a cause.  But Israel had no right to be there….

Boarding someone’s ship in international waters is an attack.

McArdle was inundated by responses, including from me – which clearly determined her need to follow up – that informed her she was talking out of the wrong orifice. Let us remind ourselves that international law is not a complete and coherent system of law founded on universally accepted jurisdiction. Accordingly, honest assessment from international law experts who have no dog in the fight has the Israeli blockade as arguable, depending on one’s premises. So McArdle did, then, follow up:

There is some misunderstanding about my point about international waters, which is undoubtedly due to my own lack of clarity.  I was not arguing about whether Israel may, or may not, stop blockade runners before they hit territorial waters, though I got dragged into that morass in the comments.  Rather, the point is that dropping commandos onto a ship in international waters is explicitly a military operation.  And people who are being attacked by the military are justified in violent response.  That’s what war is: attack, and violent response.

As to what McArdle argued, see “But Israel had no right to be there.” As to that last sentence, this would be, basically, the Israeli position, and note, too, for the mid-twentieth century legalistic sticklers, that neither Israel nor the belligerents on the ship had declared war on each other. Still, McArdle calls it “war.” But let’s test her reasoning.

McArdle’s position is that the non-violent boarding of a ship by a national military for the purpose of commandeering it and preventing its breaching a military blockade is an offensive military act justifying violent response. Offensive is crucial here, because peacekeeping and disaster relief (in Haiti, for instance) are also “military” operations. Recall, too, that there is no evidence at all of Israel’s initiating the violence, and that the other five ships were diverted without incident. Now, where must the occupants of the ship logically stand if they take McArdle’s position? If they are not themselves belligerents, but are actually peaceful humanitarian activists seeking to relieve suffering out of the commitment of conscience, and with the will to face the risks of unpredictable circumstance, then when the military interdiction they had every knowledge would come comes, they submit to it, having made their effort and their point – as the occupants of the other five vessels did. As, undoubtedly, you or I would do. If, instead, they respond to the nonviolent boarding with violence, then they have demonstrated their belligerent status. In fact, might not Israel– given its declared position on the blockade –reasonably consider a declared intent to breach the blockade, as part of an armed conflict, itself a belligerent act justifying offensive military action. Yet Israel did not launch an offensive action, but only the defensive reaction of diverting the vessels away from the blockade.

If there was no violence on five vessels, and violence on one, where is the wonder at why? The taking into account of what circumstances differed? Why, indeed.

Yesterday on Twitter I received a tweet from Didi Remez, an Israeli and self-declared “human rights” activist critical of Israeli policy. What followed was an unexceptional exchange in the new variety of 140-character tweet-bite debate, but what prompted and began the debate is crucial. Remez wondered at my common concern with Native American issues and Israel. (Actually, the query was not so friendly an act of simple curiosity, but we move on.) Remez thought there a contrast in my position on U.S.-American Indian relations and Israel-Palestinian issues. This is a perception that bespeaks a misperception of liberalism and of its historical excesses. So let’s be clear.

  • American Indians were the victims of genocide, not its advocates.
  • American Indians were the victims of ethnic intolerance and of a cultural and religious imperium. They were not its advocates.
  • Europeans had no historical relation to the lands of the Western Hemisphere. And even so, many American Indian tribes sought to coexist with them in separate, defined territorial spheres.

The only significant comparison to be made between American Indians and Palestinians, and now we speak particularly of Hamas and its regime in Gaza, is relative powerlessness, the divergent causes of which in the two cases are subject for some other occasion. Indeed, American Indians are far more powerless than Hamas, but it is this perceived powerlessness that the likes of Remez think the defining characteristic of essential sameness. And powerlessness for the likes of Remez is the source of political and moral virtue.

But this is Hamas.

And this is Hamas, even now while the world is diverted in a frenzy of Israel hatred.

Hamas raids, closes charities in Gaza

The PCHR condemned Hamas for closing four separate charity organizations, and two political organizations, in Gaza over the past two days.

Although it is not yet on their website, PalPress published their statement.

On May 31, Hamas raided four organizations: The Association of Builders for the Future; the South Society for Women’s Health; the Society for Women and Children; and the Sharek Youth Forum.

They seized computers and cameras and confiscated the keys to the charities.

Yesterday they closed down the “Small Palestinian Parliament” and the Committee of National Reform.

No word from the Free Gaza movement yet condemning Hamas. (There never is.)

Those on the Left who deem powerlessness ipso facto ontological evidence of political virtue tend to what Ernest Sternberg has labeled (pdf) a movement of “world purificationism.” Purificationism is total and absolute in its demands on reality, in the way of any pure theology, deist or political. The Right and the Left have each had their own history of succumbing to such a total vision. On the Left, what have been profoundly good cumulative and ameliorating drives in the world – to correct the excesses and diminish the detritus of capitalism, to harness collective will and energy to aid our fellows – was totalized in extremity, in political madness in Marxism. Through the nineteen teens, twenties, and thirties, when many had little way to know the truth of that to which they had committed themselves, the Soviet cause, there were also more obvious threats on the Right – Mussolini, Franco, Hitler – to impel them in the direction they chose. And in the midst of all this contention, the situation of Jews was of little concern, unless the impetus were actually to blame them.

After the Second World War, even as evidence of the Soviet truth began to emerge, there was for many, in the U.S., the threat on the Right, in McCarthyism, to justify continued allegiance to communism. Of course, the commitment, in years, in intellectual and a kind of spiritual energy, was difficult, even impossible, for some to abandon. Some managed it and had that error always to rue. Some to this day – after tens of millions dead to Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and lesser megalomaniacs – will still not acknowledge the truth.

And now? Once again, a decent truth – the human corruption of colonialism, leading to important studies and insights in postcolonial awareness – is über-theorized and totalized. Once again, there is conceived a greater threat on the Right to justify, to rectify, unholy alliance, in the form, first, of the leading colonial inheritor, the U.S. Who, though, but Al-Qaeda actually conceives of victory over the U.S.?

But Israel, the Jew, now powerful, against the righteous in their powerlessness, the Palestinians – Israel can be defeated, it can be destroyed, it can be eliminated. And right now, this very day – the Rightist threat theme is played about Israel and its government, Netanyahu, Lieberman. And the pretense is if only we could get a reasonable, more moderate Israeli government in place, we could move toward peace. But it was a Labor government under Ehud Barack that twice offered the Palestinian Authority to abandon the settlements and create a Palestinian state. It was under a Labor government that the reply was the barbaric Second Intifada.

But that is the theme, the foul justification for demonizing a vibrant democracy, the only democracy in the cesspool of human rights and political repression that is the Middle East. One might have thought – why, I cannot say – that the world would have waited more than twenty-seven years to declare the national movement that gave birth to a Jewish state in the aftermath of the Holocaust a form of racism. And only sixty years odd years after the Holocaust, for the intelligentsia and political leaderships of Europe and American liberals – have they no memory of denying Jews entry who fled Hitler? – to make common rhetorical cause with the worst anti-Semites in the world.

With Hamas.

The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.” (Hamas Covenant)

With Hezbollah.

Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.

We vigorously condemn all plans for negotiation with Israel, and regard all negotiators as enemies, for the reason that such negotiation is nothing but the recognition of the legitimacy of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. (Hezbollah Manifesto)

With Syria and Iran, who will arm Hamas, as they arm Hezbollah, if the blockade is lifted.

Today, it is clear that Israel is the most hated regime in the world… It is not useful for its masters [the West] anymore. They are in doubt now. They wonder whether to continue spending money on this regime or not…

But whether they want it or not, with god’s grace, this regime will be annihilated and Palestinians and other regional nations will be rid of its bad omen. (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, March 11, 2010.)

With the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief, the “humanitarian” front organization for varied Islamist activities that even Turkey previously banned from relief activity.

With those Islamists identified at The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) site as participants on the armed Turkish ship.

Only six decades later, a once noble organization, Amnesty International, to which I was once proud to belong, and would still be proud to belong were it still that organization, consorts with apologists for terror and issues this Call for international inquiry into Gaza Flotilla incident and lift the blockade of Gaza. Note how the reference is only to the Israeli blockade, and how AI, like the most ideological anti-Israel organization omits reference to the Egyptian blockade, instituted from the same security concerns as the Israeli. Or read this interview excerpt (full interview here), conducted by an adept and knowledgeable interviewer, of Itai Epstein, Director of Amnesty International, Israel. Note how an AI official, challenged on the Orwellian Newspeak claim that Israel, having dismantled its settlements and withdrawn from its occupation of Gaza in 2005, still occupies Gaza, evades direct questions and makes his own talking points like the most common hack-politician in a talk show interview.

You will search in vain for any AI statement on North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, in which 46 people died, who were attacking no one. And every person, organization, and foreign ministry this week that rushed to bash Israel and that did not make such calls and outcry over North Korea has only watered the reservoir of the world’s hypocrisy.

That it is all happening again, the anti-Jewish sentiment cloaked in political rectitude, consorting with unadulterated anti-Semitism under the purifying label of an international legal system already half-hijacked by tyrants – and so soon – beggars the imagination, and the integrity of all those who history will record.

This time, though, there will be no Khrushchev to shed the light on the crimes of his predecessor, no KGB files to open, no survivors of Cultural Revolution to speak up and reveal the truth about those to whom support and allegiance were given and what they really did.

It will all have been there, from the very start, spoken in clear language, openly, the beliefs and the intentions declared, and how so much of the world stared into the pitch of darkness and called it light.

AJA

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