Friday, October 19, 2018

Pain in the Roundup

I have recurrent knee pain, that flares up apparently randomly and can be so debilitating that at its crest I can't even walk. It usually comes and goes over the course of a day or two (the "unable to walk" part might last a few hours, though less if I take some painkillers and/or wear my knee brace).

I also was recently diagnosed as borderline asthmatic. I actually have an inhaler, though I've used it probably less than a half dozen times in my life.

Anyway, last night, at around 3 in the morning, both the asthma and the excruciating knee pain hit at the exact same time: I couldn't breathe, and I could barely hobble my way into the bathroom to get some Aleve.

Long story short, I slept three hours last night and am a bit cranky. So you get a roundup.

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The women's wave isn't just an American thing: The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article on Arab women running for office in Israel.

Antisemitism and the birth of Jewish Studies.

The RNCC has cut an ad for Jim Hagedorn (running for Congress in southern Minnesota -- the district my in-laws live in, as it happens) claiming his opponent is "owned" by George Soros. Subtle. Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Gaetz also posted a wild conspiracy theory (later boosted by the President) accusing Soros of giving money to members of a migrant "caravan" so they would "storm the border [at] election time."

Also on Soros, Spencer Ackerman provides a good history about how a Soros-like figure has virtually always played a central role in antisemitic social movements.

This was published prior to the Israeli Supreme Court ruling allowing Lara Alqasem into Israel to study, but it overlays with the point I made in my column: Israeli academics have (correctly) interpreted the government's attempt to keep Alqasem out as a "declaration of war" against them.

Newt Gingrich calls for the expulsion of all Muslims who "believe in Sharia" from America. But, if I can channel Trump v. Hawaii, we can hardly call this sort of thing "rank religious bigotry" based on nothing more than the fact that it obviously is.

Nylah Burton has a good column up on the weaponization of Louis Farrakhan against Blacks (and particularly Black Jews). I might have more to say on this, but I think the core points -- which in no way are apologias for Farrakhan's despicable bigotry -- are good.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Israeli Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Lara Alqasem

Very good news. And, at least in terms of how the opinions were excerpted in Haaretz, they didn't pull punches either.
"Since the appellant's actions do not raise satisfactory cause to bar her to entry to Israel, the inevitable impression is that invalidating the visa given to her was due to the political opinions she holds," read the verdict. "If this is truly the case, then we are talking about an extreme and dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the pillars upon which democracy in Israel stands," the verdict continued.
"The Law of Entry to Israel is intended to protect the state's sovereignty, and the public's safety and security. It does not have a component of penalty, or revenge for previous bad behavior," Justice Neal Hendel said.
"Despite the obstacles in her way the appellant insists on her right to study at the Hebrew University. This conduct is not in keeping, in an understatement, with the thesis that the she's an undercover boycott activist," he continued. 
"The Interior Ministry has openly admitted that it does not have any evidence of the appellant's engaging in boycott activity since April 2017, except for mysterious 'indications' whose essence hasn't been clarified and regarding which no evidence has been submitted," Neal noted. 
"The material submitted regarding the appellant's activity in the SJP organization shows that even at that stage the boycott activity was minor and limited in character," Neal added. "There's no doubt the SJP cell indeed supported boycotting Israel – and this position must be roundly condemned. It is also presumable that the appellant, who played a role in the cell and for three years was one of its few members, was partner to this unworthy activity. However, it is impossible to ignore the cell's sporadic and relatively minor character. In itself, it certainly was not one of the prominent boycott organizations and it is doubtful whether the appellant could be seen as filling the criteria [required in the law?] even when she had a position in it." 
Neal continued, saying that "alongside the random indications of the appellant's involvement in BDS activity during her studies, it is impossible to ignore the testimonies of her lecturers about her complex approach, the curiosity she displayed toward Israel and Judaism and her readiness to conduct an open, respectful dialogue – which is in stark contrast to the boycott idea." 
"The struggle against the BDS movement and others like it is a worthy cause. The state is permitted, not to say obliged, to protect itself from discrimination and the violent silencing of the political discourse. It may take steps against the boycott organizations and their activists. In this case, preventing the appellant's entry does not advance the law's purpose and clearly deviates from the bounds of reasonability," Neal concluded.
Justice Anat Baron said that "there was no place to deny the appellant the entry visa she had been granted, because clearly she doesn't now and hasn't for a long time engaged in boycotting Israel, not to mention engaging in 'active, continuing and substantial' work in this matter. The decision to deny the appellant's entry visa is unreasonable to the extent that it requires intervention." 
"Since the appellant's deeds do not constitute sufficient cause to ban her entry to Israel, the inevitable impression is that her visa was denied due to her political views. If this is indeed the case, then this is an extreme, dangerous step, which could lead to the crumbling of the supporting pillars on which Israeli democracy is built," Baron said.
"The appellant's very desire to be part of the academic studies in Israel is contrary to the idea of imposing a boycott on Israel, not to mention an academic boycott. This decision itself could even cause damage to Israel's image, thus attaining the opposite goal of the one intended by the legislator," Baron continued. 
"We don't know what's in anyone's heart in general and what's in the appellant's heart in particular and how she'd act in the future, and after she returns to her country. But these considerations are irrelevant to our case, because according to the law we must focus on the appellant's acts in the present – and not on her opinions, thoughts or speculations about her future," Baron concluded. 
Justice Uzi Vogelman said that "a call to boycott Israel was published by the SJP organization, of which the appellant was a member, and not by the appellant herself."
"The law was intended to ban the entry of people expected to spread the boycott doctrine during their stay in Israel…the appellant's case does not qualify for this clause, since there's no argument that she has ceased her activity in the SJP," he continued. 
"It appears that in the concrete circumstances of this case the appellant's studies in the Hebrew University will help to bolster Israeli academia's struggle against the boycott," Vogelman concluded.
Can't ask for much more than that. Threat to academic freedom? Check. Utter lack of compelling evidence against Alqasem? Check. Counterproductive against the boycott? Check. Massively disproportionate response to someone like Alqasem? Check.

Honestly, I needed some good news this week. So this was a relief.

I don't know enough about the Israeli judiciary to give any reads on the political leanings of the three judges who heard Alqasem's case. For what it's worth, Justice Hendel was born in the US, while Justices Vogelman and Baron are both sabras. Moreover, Justice Baron lost a son to a suicide bombing attack in 2003 -- she certainly needs no persuasion regarding Israel's actual security needs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Issues? This is an Election!

I got a phone call today from a canvasser regarding the California Assembly race in my district between Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles (I'm not going to say which side they were calling on behalf of, as that would distract from the point of the post).

I was actually kind of glad to get the call, since I'm undecided in the race (both are Democrats, the candidate I voted for in the primary didn't advance). Moreover, while each candidate has a pretty clear tribal identity, so to speak (Wicks is the Clinton-Obama candidate, Beckles is the Sanders-DSA candidate), it had seemed to me that on the vast majority of issues that were pretty much identical -- or, at the very least, I hadn't heard a lot that differentiated them on an issue basis.

So I asked the canvasser: I said that it seemed like both candidates were quite similar, and I was curious what were some issues where they were differentiated from one another.

And boy, did that question seem to throw him for a loop.

Now, that's mildly unfair of me, since again it seems that on the majority of major issues they're very close together (after the call, I did some more research and this Berkeleyside article gives some key points of differentiation).

But still, "how the two would vote differently in Sacramento" was clearly not on this guy's list of prepared talking points. He kept on trying to go to resume, or fundraising, or "tribe", or personal dislike (e.g., calling the other candidate "slick" -- that affirmatively turned me off, since I'm sick of Dem-on-Dem violence in cases where it is obvious that both candidates are fine).

Each time, I had to repeat that what prior jobs the candidates had held, or who endorsed them, or who was a "fighter", were not "issues"; how were they different on the issues?

The one he was able to give me was their divergent stances on Proposition 10 (concerning local authority to enact rent control ordinances): Beckles supports it (giving greater authority to local government), Wicks opposes it. And I thanked him for that, and said I would look into that issue -- since again, it reflects an actual issue-based difference between the candidates.

But yeah, it was for me at least a little bit of a depressing experience. One might hope that "how the candidates differ on the issues they'll face once in office" would be a sizable factor in backing one candidate over another (and, to be fair, maybe in a race where there were more sizable differences between the candidates, it would take on greater salience). Alas, apparently not.