Friday, March 23, 2012

Iran Forcing Jews To "March on Jerusalem"?

The source is of middling credibility (I mean that honestly -- Debka has an agenda, and it does tend to traffic in rumors, but it does get some legit scoops), but it's very worrisome if true. And it certainly seems well within the realm of possibility: Anti-Zionist entities, including Iran, have long preferred to hold up Jewish shields to legitimize repellant views (see also, Iran's embrace of the Neturei Karta as part of their Holocaust denial campaign); here it's just more literal than most. It's not like Iran is particularly concerned with the rights of its religious minorities, and Iranian Jews are under special suspicion for supposed "Zionist" sympathies, making it easy to pressure or coerce them into serving as the vanguard for the country's anti-Zionist endeavors.

Anyway, we'll see what develops.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Israeli Supreme Court Skeptical of Migron Deal

The Israeli Supreme Court expressed skepticism over a deal that would see the illegal Migron outpost demolished ... eventually ... in three years. The deal involves creating a new, "legal" settlement nearby, and moving the Migron residents there. The state estimates this will take three and a half years, and is asking that the Court delay its demolition order until then,
“What will the rule of law look like when ruling is not followed?” asked [Justice Salim] Joubran in relation to the original High Court ruling on Migron that called for the demolition of the outpost by the end of March. “You, the State Attorney, say that the outpost in three years, but I know this type of behavior. Three years will inevitably turn into eight.”

Justice Joubran's concerns are hardly unfounded -- Israel originally promised to dismantle the Migron outpost in 2003. Almost a decade later, we're still waiting. And of course, the difficulty Israel has dismantling even outposts it admits are illegal in a timely fashion is very worrisome for any future peace deal which will require far more outposts with far more residents to be taken down.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Hampshire Votes Down Gay Marriage Repeal

After retaking control of the New Hampshire legislature, conservative activists set their sights on repealing the state's gay marriage law. Today, that effort went down in smoking defeat, losing a lopsided 211-116 vote.

Said Rep. Michael Hall (R-Manchester): "These folks are just people just like you are, they want the same things you do. This bill needs to be put down. Put this dog down like it deserves to be."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Latest Anti-Israel Organization

I argued in my last post that an alternative to boycotting settlements is to more aggressively take on their supporters in the American "pro-Israel" establishment. Groups like the Zionist Organization of America, I argue, are anti-Israel under generally accepted definitions promulgated by mainstream American Jewish institutions -- most notably, for its apparent endorsement of a one-state solution.

In Ha'aretz, Bradley Burston fires his own salvo at ZOA, indicting them for their vitriolic attacks on Israeli security measures aimed at preserving peace in Jerusalem. Conservative "pro-Israel" groups often claim that we should be deferential to Israeli security appraisals and be reticent to criticize them, but it is a standard they have never purported to live up to.

And in all honesty, they shouldn't. Caring about something means having opinions about it, and ZOA is entitled to think that Israeli policies are wrong. That, in itself, isn't the sin -- though ZOA's substantive support for one-stateism, which would end Israel as a Jewish, democratic state, is a whole different kettle of fish. But the hypocrisy is telling, and it would be bad enough even if it wasn't a smokescreen to disguise the fact that ZOA has moved itself beyond the borders of what the pro-Israel community should deem tolerable.

Beinart's Settlement Boycott

Peter Beinart made waves in the NYT the other day in calling for a boycott of Israeli settlements -- paired with, Beinart says, a sharp opposition to boycotting Israel-proper. The goal, Beinart argues, is to effectuate a sharp separation between Green Line Israel -- an imperfect democracy that nonetheless is among the freest places on earth, and a beacon for what the liberal Zionist dream should be -- and the occupied territories, which is ... not. I'm a sharp critic of boycotts, and a sharp critic of the settlements, which puts in me a bit of bind. While I might agree that conceptually there is a distinction between boycotts of Israel writ large and the settlements I instinctively recoil at boycotts targeting Israel, because the BDS movement pervasively shot through with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that appears intractable. I think Beinart underestimates just how much a visceral reaction Jews have against this particular tactic -- it has such a dark history, and it's current manifestation has been surrounded by such a vicious resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric, that it really can't be viewed abstracted from the context. It's like Glenn Greenwald writing in Pat Buchanan's outfit. Sometimes past and present prejudice circumscribes what would otherwise be acceptable, and this could be one of those cases.

In any event, the reaction to Beinart's call has mostly been negative on the Jewish left -- J Street, for instance, said it thought a boycott would cause the settlers to hunker down and become more radical. Beinart's own site posted a powerful rebuttal to his argument (which is testament, one should say, to Beinart's desire for honest dialogue on this question), saying that the boycott absolves both the left and right of having to deal with the tough questions that -- despite ever-present efforts to simplify the conflict to dueling caricatures -- have to be answered for any lasting peace to be created. This is the crux of Jeffrey Goldberg's objection as well -- Beinart simplifies the conflict so greatly that he doesn't seem to recognize that even if Israel starts acting like a perfect mensch, it won't solve things.

The retort Beinart and his supporters (like Andrew Sullivan) have been throwing out is "well, how do you propose to arrest the settlements?" This debate, after all, is being held amongst people who all agree the settlements are a bad thing and should be opposed -- but Beinart's allegation is that for many, this is purely a rhetorical trope, and they reflexively oppose any calls for actual action aimed at restricting settlement expansion. Which is not an unreasonable retort, and I'd like to see a more comprehensive response. But that cuts both ways -- it's a fair critique that Beinart is wildly oversimplifying too, and he needs to tack onto his proposal concrete agenda items to demonstrate, for example, how to ensure that a final status agreement is actually "final", how to delegitimize anti-Israel and anti-Semitic zealots who seem to view the existence of Jews in any state but one of abject supplication as an affront, or how to take non-starters like a Palestinian right of return off the table.

Still, seeing as I do think that arresting settlement growth is critical both to the peace process as well as Israel's long-term longevity, it is important to think of tactics for making that happen. So I tentatively forward a few proposals -- not meant as a firm commitment to any of them as either necessary or sufficient, but an effort to get ideas flowing.

(1) Increased support for efforts aimed at revitalizing the Israeli left (e.g., OneVoice and TULIP). Israelis are always going to be in the best position to stop the settlements from destroying their state -- but the pro-peace left in Israel has been largely moribund since the second intifada, and has largely been ignored by its international peers.

(2) Better policing of the pro-Israel tent in the US. I am absolutely in agreement that not any and every group which claims to be "pro-Israel" should be allowed to get away with it -- if they advocate "solutions" to the conflict that are manifestly anti-Israel and outside the consensus of the broader Jewish community, they should be expelled. But in recent years this has been a one-sided standard -- left-wing groups have been closely scrutinized (sometimes rightly so), while their conservative counterparts have gotten a free hand, even when the advocate policies (like one-statism) that are clearly considered beyond the pale. No more: the onus is on mainstream Jewish groups like the AJC and ADL to come down hard on politicians and organizations -- putatively "Zionist" or not -- which endorse one-statism and encourage settlement growth. What Americans consider to be "pro-Israel" has influence in Israel-proper -- to the extent that the consensus Jewish-American position is clearly and unabashedly anti-settlement and anti-one state, that will strengthen forces inside Israel pushing for those same results.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Automatic Self-Defense, Redux

In the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, and in particular this piece by Michael Skolnik on how he has the privilege of "never looking suspicious", I thought I might repost this piece of mine from 2010, wherein I relate the following story:
I've never been stopped "on the street" by a cop. But I do remember one time when I was a teenager playing "hide and go seek in the dark" by my house. I was crouching behind a leaf pile in my front yard, wearing a dark hoodie, when a cop pulls up behind me. It could not have possibly looked more like a stakeout, and I knew it. So I stood up and heartily waved at the cop, who looked at me for a moment, then kept driving. There is no way in hell he would have just kept driving if I was Black.

See also this one from 2006 ("They'll pull me aside sometimes because they say I fit the description. Yeah. Young black male. I always 'fit the description.'").

It's Not What You Do, It's Who You Are

Remember the hoopla when rapper Common visited the White House? Conservatives were aghast, complaining that Common (and the rap community in general) glorified guns and violence, bragging about the weight of his Uzi and how "I hold up a peace sign but I carry a gun." These violent rap lyrics were responsible for violence and bloodshed in the inner cities, as a generation of Black youths grew up thinking that the way to be cool and authentic was to pack heat. Ever keen on blame-throwing, conservatives asked why prominent Black leaders weren't speaking out against this poison.

And while certainly this isn't a consistent tradition, and we can be rightly suspicious of whether it's being offered up in good faith, in the abstract there's nothing wrong with forwarding the position that Black leaders should more aggressively try to work against cultural glorification of guns and violence. Right or wrong, it's certainly within the realm of argument, and there's no intrinsic problem with favoring those leaders who adopt that standpoint and chastising those who do not.

So what happens when a Black leader does take it upon himself to aggressively oppose the cultural glorification of packing heat among our youth? The answer, of course, is that he's extremist, un-American, hostile to the Constitution and seeking an agenda of radical left-wing "reform".

Fresh off hug-gate, where Barack Obama stood accused of embracing a civil rights hero (horrors), Breitbart is now training its sights on Attorney General Eric Holder for this precise sin. Specifically, they've got him on tape arguing that we need to break the belief amongst young people that it's "hip" to carry guns -- in other words, precisely the standpoint conservatives claimed they wanted folks like Holder to take in response to the purportedly pro-gun, pro-violence lyrics of folks like Common. Only it turns out that this position is equally objectionable as standing in opposition to our fundamental right to cradle snuggle bear arms.

I'm hardly the first one to notice the overlap between conservative gun politics and contemporary hip-hop -- The Boondocks had Riley announce that "I'm down with the NRA!" after realizing that the right-wing group was far better at living out his gun fantasies than any of his rap idols ("You know how NWA brags about looking for trouble, packing everywhere they go, and killing for fun? Well, the NRA actually does that."). But it does hit home, once more, the catch-22 racial minorities face whenever they try to appease conservatives -- no matter what they do to demonstrate themselves as good public citizens, it will not only be insufficient, it will be proof of the opposite.

Defending cultural expressions glorifying guns makes you a harbinger of cultural decay, responsible for violence and crime and God knows what else. Opposing these expressions makes you a latte-sipping liberal elitist who wants to take away our God-given right to bear arms (probably using jack-booted governmental thugs). If Blacks pursue integration and aggressive inclusion in America's social fabric, they're pushy and demanding special rights; but if they decide to forgo those demands and instead focus on developing their own, separatist institution, they're radical racists. If you're poor and don't do well in school, you're a mooch with a welfare mentality; if you succeed and make something of yourself, you're a fraud who only got as far as you did through cheating and special preferences (a message Latinos also received loud and clear during the ugly Sotomayor nomination fight).

It is an article of faith amongst the right that any bad thing that happens to racial minorities is their own fault, and that if they just did this or that thing, they'd have every opportunity and be treated just as well as anybody else. The problem is "this thing" and "that thing" are often mutually exclusive, because the objectionable quality isn't the substance of the behavior, it's the fact that a racial minority is doing it. The attack on Holder for opposing gun glorification -- so often exactly what conservatives have demanded of people like Holder -- is just another data point for the sobering conclusion: The problem isn't what you do, the problem is who you are.