Thursday, December 17, 2015

Obama's "Race Card" Ploys Somehow Everywhere and Nowhere

Peter Wehner has a column today titled "Obama has Worsened Race Relations". Here are some things in that column:

  • A 2009 prediction that, if the President's poll numbers drop, "be prepared for the 'race card' to be played" coupled with an in-advance judgment that any claims of racism over the next eight years "will be ... transparently false".
  • The claim that Obama, along with Eric Holder, has "acted in ways that have divided us, stoked resentments, and heightened tensions and mistrust."
  • The claim that Obama and Holder "have repeatedly put a racial frame around incidents that have nothing to do with race."
  • The claim that Obama and Holder "have sought to exploit grievances rather than overcome them."
  • The claim that "Obama, throughout his presidency, has been a master at dividing Americans of every race and class order to advance his own political interests."
Here is something you won't find in Mr. Wehner's column:
  • Any actual examples (quotes, statements, policies, announcement -- anything) from President Obama that even supposedly demonstrates the President doing any of these things.
Fancy that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kuwait Airways Drops NYC-London Route To Avoid Non-Discrimination Obligations

In October, I flagged an administrative decision by the Department of Transportation which concluded that Kuwait Airways refusal to board an Israeli citizen on a flight from New York to London violated the carrier's non-discrimination obligations. The airline contended that its policy was in accordance with Kuwaiti law prohibiting (on pain of hard labor) it from contracting with any Israeli, but the Department (rightly, in my view) decided that otherwise unlawful national origin discrimination does not become permissible just because it is mandated by a foreign nation.

This week, the airline announced it was ceasing its New York to London service. A challenge to the DOT decision remains pending before the D.C. Circuit, so it seems likely that Kuwait Airways will return to the route if it is allowed to resume discriminating against Israeli passengers. But for the time being, its stance is clear: If we have to board Israelis, we won't board anyone.

The Allure of the Alphas

There's a trope among a certain wing of Nice Guys cum MRA types, that describes who women are attracted to. "Sure, women say they're interested in nice, smart guys, but it's all a lie. Ever notice how all the girls hang off the meathead high school quarterback and not the class nerd? That's because women are attracted to the alphas. It's evolution, man. They just can't resist the allure of power, even when it's in the hands of a some rich idiot jock who doesn't respect them and is clearly just using them for his own ends. It's like moths to a flame. Their little lady-brains are so primitive."

And then they laugh and laugh, and attend a Donald Trump rally.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is Shmuel Rosner Serious?

Prominent Israeli columnist Shmuel Rosner has an essay up with the interesting title "Did President Rivlin just choose Obama and Roger Waters over fellow Israelis?" It's an interesting title because neither Obama nor Waters really figure into the article, nor is there any reason one should be associated with the other. Rosner's article concerns Rivlin's alleged diminishing credibility on the right due to various figures he's met here in America. The list of alleged apostasies are as follows:
In the last couple of days Rivlin is at the center of controversy because of three things he dared to do: meet President Obama and say nice things about him; refuse to dance to the Orthodox tune talking to progressive US Jews; participate in a conference (organized by Haaretz Daily) in which several controversial figures and organizations also participated.
For this, Rosner contends, Rivlin has earned the ire of "leaders and voters of Israel's right are angry, or disappointed with Rivlin for doing all these things."

The title of my post is meant in earnest: Is Rosner serious? This detailing of sins strikes me as a mockery: Look at the whiny right-wingers -- they're outraged that the President of Israel dared to be nice to the leader his country's closest ally. And he attended a conference with liberal Israeli groups! Why, he might as well join Jewish Voice for Peace! And the descriptions don't really get any better: it's a parody of highly attenuated "was in a room with someone who met with someone who's part of an organization that...." One of Rosner's sources, for example, complains that Rivlin's White House meeting was tainted by  supposed appeal to a "Reform rabbi who is a member of organizations supportive of BDS" (which Rabbi? Which organizations? How are they "supportive"? The mystery remains).

Likewise Rivlin's speech at the Haaretz conference: the speakers ranged from Samantha Power to Breaking the Silence; the latter being so horrible that Rivlin should have boycotted the event altogether.  Israeli MK Aymeh Odeh spoke as well; maybe they could have compared no platforming notes.  And if you're still wondering how Roger Waters plays into all this, well, apparently he showed up at said conference. Not as a speaker or an invitee, just a guy who attended. That sure is headline-worthy.

So in that sense, it looked like Rosner was having a bit of fun at the expense of oversensitive Israeli conservatives. But through the rest of the column, Rosner seems to be playing it straight. He says Rivlin "was too flexible in accepting the invitation to the conference", though he considers the mistake an understandable one. As a warrant, Rosner links to another of his columns where he describes Breaking the Silence as an "annoyance" and "problematic". Perhaps so, but one has to think that "other speakers are annoying" represents an alarmingly low threshold for refusing to speak at an event.

I'm really having trouble wrapping my head around the staggeringly minor set of supposed misdeeds and the seemingly genuine report that Rivlin has sacrificed his credibility. Rosner's pentultimate paragraph concludes:
The last couple of days could be the days in which he annoyed too many Israelis too much. These could be the days in which he lost his ability to explain because his explanations no longer carry much weight with certain Israelis. These could be the days in which some Israeli circles will arrive at the conclusion that the President flipped because he cares more for the cheers from abroad than for the barraging at home.
I mean, really? Really? It's hard to take that with any degree of seriousness. But maybe he's right, at least in his assessment of the tolerance levels of Israeli conservatives. But if that's so, then the Israeli right-wing needs to learn to grow a spine. Because if this is a real complaint, they have a real problem with perspective, and Israeli's position is too precarious to indulge such an abject display of pathos.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Bitter Polls with the Sweet

I've blogged before when public opinion polls out of Palestine have yielded heartening results. Due avoidance of selection bias means that I have to do the same when the polls are less positive. The latest poll data from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research is just a cascade of bad news. Most Palestinians (67%) support stabbing attacks. A plurality (46%) think that armed resistance is the best way to achieve Palestinian national aspirations; that number shoots up to 60% in the absence of peace negotiations.

Perhaps most disheartening are the numbers regarding end-game solutions. Only 45% of Palestinians support a two-state solution, 54% are opposed. Lest one thinks that what is favored in the alternative is a liberal egalitarian paradise, that polls even worse: a whopping 70% oppose "a one-state solution in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equal rights," with only 29% in favor (this, at least, is consistent with the more optimistic polling I linked to several years ago, which also had "equal rights in one state" a distant third place choice behind two states for two peoples, and a one-state solution for Palestinians only).

One can dig into the data and try to extract some pearls of hope, but they're few and far between. This is really just all around bad.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Understanding Mistakes: The Odeh "Snub" of the CPMJO

Last week, a meeting between the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and Israeli Palestinian MK Ayman Odeh fell apart when the latter refused to enter offices that the CPMJO shares with the Jewish Agency. Odeh contends that the Jewish Agency is an important element of anti-Arab discrimination in Israel, and asserted that he would have been happy to meet in a different location. The CPMJO, for its part, refused to endorse what was an effective "no platforming" of one of its partner organizations. The incident marred an otherwise important and productive trip to America where Odeh connected with many prominent Jewish organizations.

I consider both parties to have made a mistake. Odeh shouldn't have refused to meet in the offices, and when he did the CPMJO should have accommodated by moving the meeting. But the mistakes are understandable ones stemming from understandable motives.

Odeh already faces pressure from some of his Arab constituents for meeting with Jewish groups at all; its possible that this would have been a bridge too far (or, less optimistically, that he needed to take a stand like this to whip up said base and show he hasn't gone soft). These are realistic concerns faced by any politician. As for the CPMJO, right now one the most serious threats to Jewish global equality are efforts to box out Jewish institutions from normal processes of public dialogue. So anything that even hints at no platforming or boycotting pushes on a very sensitive pressure point.

Ultimately, I don't think these concerns should have trumped. It's too important to take the chances to build connections and bridges when given the opportunity. And Odeh is perhaps a once-in-a-generation political leader of the Israeli Palestinian community with whom American Jews desperately need a bond. Though this was a mistake, hopefully the fact that it was an understandable mistake will not cause it to permanently sabotage future opportunities.

UPDATE: I consider this to be a positive step.