Friday, June 11, 2010

Abbas' Barak Moment

Shlomo Yosef has a very savvy read on Mahmoud Abbas' recent comments regarding Israel -- comments which are, without question, huge steps in a positive direction for the leader of the PA. For those of you who don't know, Abbas met with Jewish leaders in the US where he affirmed the historic connection of Jews to the land of Israel (citing the Koran for support), including the right of Israel to define itself as a Jewish state, disavowed a one-state solution (while noting its increasing popularity in the Palestinian street), and registered support for a joint Israeli-Palestinian-American committee to look into issues of incitement (by both Israelis and Palestinians). This is a rather big deal, for a few reasons. For starters, Yasser Arafat notoriously denied any historic connection between Jews and Israel, so this is in fact a substantial about face by Abbas. Moreover, for those worried about Arab leaders saying one thing to Western audiences and another to the Arab world, Abbas reiterated his comments when questioned about them by al-Jazeera.

Anyway, Mr. Yosef writes:
In doing so Abbas is having a Barak moment from 2000. Regardless of the claims and counter claims of what happened in Camp David in 2000, any Israeli in the street will tell you that Barak offered the Palestinians everything and Arafat walked away. It seems now Abbas is offering Bibi everything and is seeing if he will walk away. If he does this will give the PA everything they need to move off a negotiated track and on to a path of a unilateral declaration of statehood.

The question is whether Netanyahu is stupid enough to walk away, and the answer to that is obviously "yes" (I've spent a lot of time observing Netanyahu). But it's not inevitable. And as Mr. Yosef notes, this is a critical decision, for even if Abbas' statement is cynically motivated (and I don't care one way or the other whether it is or isn't), if Israel doesn't respond, they lose control of the discourse of a two-state solution, possibly indefinitely.

Don't take the opportunity to miss an opportunity. Now is the chance -- to seize a historic moment to negotiate peace, or to show that, yes, Israel is capable of being ruled by leaders as foolish as Yasser Arafat.

Greene With Envy

The burgeoning story about Alvin Greene, the "surprise" Democratic candidate for Senate in South Carolina, sure is strange. But absent any showing of fraud or other illegal shenanigans, I have to admit I'm a little unsympathetic to my partymates in the Palmetto State. If you are so disorganized that you can't mobilize your own base to vote for your establishment pick against the guy who literally could only be known as "the other guy", that's your own damn fault.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Quote of the Day

A blogger at Mondoweiss (no link) defended Helen Thomas by asserting that, contrary to popular outrage, would be the ideal outcome to see Zionism collapse and a reinvigoration of Jewish culture in Poland as the refugees flee, er, back where they came from.

In response Judeosphere writes: "I'm deeply touched by this gesture of philanthropic ethnic cleansing."

For. The. Win.

Of Matters 101

For obvious reasons, I wasn't going to touch the comments section of this post with a ten foot pole.

But against my better judgment, I did read through it. And while it brought back some nasty flashbacks, I do think it also caused a few things to clear up in my mind.

I feel like there is a distinct aversion amongst blogs that are roughly in the political "range" of Feministe towards discussing anti-Semitism. That's true at least of the blogs that aren't avowedly anti-Israel (those mention anti-Semitism quite often, albeit usually to mock it) -- and despite my rather horrific experience there (which was easily the worst of my blogging career), I would not say that the Feministe crew (at least the two I know well) are anti-Israel. I know this because I know the folks who invited me to contribute, and I know that they did so neither to humiliate, nor to demonstrate how broad-minded and fair they were (to invite a radical such as myself). But amongst these blogs, one sees anti-Semitism mentioned extraordinarily rarely. I think the Feministing post on Helen Thomas was the first time I've ever seen them mention the issue of anti-Semitism (a search for the term on their site reveals no hits, with only a bare handful for "anti-semitic"), and it was, to say the least, sorely lacking (to be fair, the author was quite appropriately raked over the coals for it in the comments).

But back to the main. What distinguishes the rare discussions of anti-Semitism in these forums is not that folks universally mock and deride the concept. On the Feministe thread, you will find many that don't. What is different is that folks that would in other contexts be seen as trolls, here are just "the other side". The lack of 101 penetration is astounding. Respect how the Jewish community describes its own experience. Don't accuse us of being psychopaths, overly sensitive, manipulative, or flat out liars. Don't group our history and experience into the narrative of others. Being a Jew who disagrees with the bulk of the community does not earn you super-standing. The "anti-Semitism card" can and is easily trumped by the "anti-Semitism card card". Calling a particular statement respecting Israel anti-Semitic does not mean one condemns all criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic. For that matter, critiquing one's statement regarding Israel does not necessarily mean we've called you anti-Semitic at all.

This is basic stuff. But, unlike most "isms", for anti-Semitism there's no consensus around it. And that's a problem. The whole reason why blogs like Feministe are adamant about not letting the basics be up for debate in every thread is that these conversations are incredibly passionate and painful -- too much so to be rehashed over and over again. To have to explain, ad nauseum and in the face of incredibly hostile fire, why certain frames wound, why the majority narrative is inadequate, why the status quo is inadequate, is utterly exhausting.

And so, whereas I think your average anti-racism blog could -- through community self-policing and judicious moderation -- prevent every conversation from devolving this way, the lack of consensus regarding anti-Semitism means we're perpetually stuck in the most emotional and fraught terrain of the endeavor. No wonder people don't want to do it.

But it must be done. I try to do it here. I tried (and failed) to do it at Feministe. I tried (with more success) to do it at Alas, a Blog.

It must be done. There is no other way.

Harman Smokes Winograd

I understand folks are disappointed that Bill Halter lost his bid to unseat Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AK). But the news wasn't all bad yesterday. Marcy Winograd -- best known for advocating the dissolution of Israel and implying that Henry Waxman had dual loyalties -- was soundly defeated in a primary challenge to Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA). Harman won by nearly 18 percentage points -- roughly in line with her 2008 results against Winograd. Contrary to what GOP talking points might have you believe, rabid anti-Israelism will not, in fact, get you elected in a Democratic primary (in fact, all the evidence shows that it turns Democratic voters off).

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Lincoln Survives (For Now)

It looks like Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) will turn back a spirited primary challenge from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and advance to the general election. I have to admit, I was surprised -- I had thought Lincoln was pretty much toast. In fact, I still think she's toast -- her general election polling is pretty weak too -- but, you know, fool me once.

Assuming that it doesn't become a moot point in November anyway, what's the upshot of this primary? I still think it was positive (and say this as someone who has no trouble supporting Lincoln in November). It definitely scared her off from being too much of a corporate shill, and at the same time don't really think it made her any less electable. If she's dead in the water anyway, you might as well try to wring out the most good you can in the event of a miracle.

In any event, some savvy campaigning and true political grit from Senator Lincoln. Congrats on a hard-fought victory, and here's looking forward to another surprise come November.

Monday, June 07, 2010

This Can't Be Happening

A new study out finds that the children of lesbian couples actually turn out better than those raised by heterosexual couples (fun fact: the baby whose picture graces the CNN story is adorable). I'd be interesting in seeing what variables the researchers controlled for (particularly income). Nonetheless, I find hilarious the response of outraged conservatives who can't stand the fact that science doesn't back up their prejudices:
"You have to be a little suspicious of any study that says children being raised by same-sex couples do better or have superior outcomes to children raised with a mother and father," [Concerned Women for America's Wendy Wright] said. "It just defies common sense and reality."

"Common sense" is silly enough here, but "reality"? The whole point of a study like this is that it tells us what "reality" is. All Wright is showing is that her beliefs are unfalsifiable. The point isn't to protect children, the point is to protect Wright's ability to maintain her prejudices with as little cognitive dissonance as possible.

Peril on the High Seas

Iran has announced it is sending its branch of the Red Crescent to try and break the naval blockade of Gaza. Am I the only one who thinks this is the match that could set off a regional war? Maybe not, with US troops still in the region providing a deterrent. But I have a hard time seeing how this doesn't end violently. There is no way that Israel lets an Iranian ship of all things through to Gaza. It's entirely possible that this ship, at least, won't include weaponry in its cargo (one of the reasons I'm reticent to support a wholesale lifting of an inspections regime targeting cargo entering Gaza is that I remember the Karine A). But the Israelis, quite understandably, aren't going to go on instinct on this one. Meanwhile, one has to think that an Iranian ship is significantly less likely to be boarded peacefully than any member of the "Free Gaza" flotilla, including the Mavi Marmara. And one gets the sense that the Iranians know this too, and are out looking for a provocation.

It's just not a good situation. And the intervention of Iran, it'll get worse before it gets better.