Friday, April 05, 2019

New Poll on Jewish and Arab Israeli Attitudes

A new poll has recently been published providing a fascinating comparative account of Jewish and Arab attitudes in Israel.

One of the findings of the poll was that far more people self-identified as "Arab-Israeli" (46%) than "Palestinian-Israeli" (19%). Consequently most of the people circulating the poll are doing so to dunk on this IfNotNow tweet, published almost at the same time, apologizing for using the term "Israeli Arab" instead of "Palestinian Israeli".

(Another 22% of respondents simply identify as "Arab", and 14% as "Palestinian").

Certainly, I understand why folks want to take a victory lap on IfNotNow. But in doing so, they're ignoring the broader thrust of what the poll tells us -- one that is maybe less amenable to crowing about IfNotNow's naivete.

For as a whole, the poll tells a pretty sobering tale about the comparative state of Israeli Jewish and Arab attitudes. It reveals that Israel's Arab population is -- by sometimes shocking margins -- far more supportive of the basic public commitments Israel must commit to in order to retain any claim on being a liberal, democratic, and egalitarian states. Jewish respondents were, let's say, far more "conflicted" on these questions.

Let's give some highlights:

  • 76% of Arabs say Jewish/Arab interactions in Israel are usually positive, compared to 53% of Jews (right-wing Jews were more likely to characterize relationships as "bad").
  • Arab respondents were consistently more likely to believe cross-group cooperation could help create progress on various social issues (like the environment or workers' rights) -- generally around 70-75% of Arabs agreed such cross-group cooperation would be helpful, while for Jewish respondents the answers were in the low-to-mid 50s.
  • 94% of Arabs recognize Jews as a "people", while only 52% of Jews recognize Palestinians as a "people".
  • 47% (a plurality) of Arabs would vote for a Jewish party if it "represented your views", compared to just 4% of Jews who would do so for an Arab party that "represented your views".
  • Just 35% of Jews conceded it would be "acceptable" for an Arab party to serve in the Israeli government (the majority coalition), compared 87% of Arabs (lest that seem like an obvious conclusion, it has often been asserted by Israeli Jews that the reason there hasn't been an Arab party in the government is because the Arabs aren't interested or wouldn't agree to it).
The fact of the matter is, it's Israel's Arab community that still believes in Israel's liberal promise. They're the constituency that still is willing to commit to the sort of cross-group cooperation and compromise that might make an egalitarian Israel function.

The Israeli Jewish community? It's in a far more precarious place now. Polls like this are just more evidence for what's become increasingly clear: there is no route to a liberal majority in Israel that runs through predominantly Jewish parties alone. The path to preserving Israeli liberalism, if such a path still exists, runs through the Arab community. If, as Benny Gantz and Blue & White have publicly asserted, this election will decide the future of Israel as a democratic state, then their public refusal to even consider a coalitions with the Arab parties will end up being the decisive factor determining what that future will be.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Racist and Antisemitic Graffiti Case in Oklahoma

Police have a suspect in a spate of racist graffiti incidents in Oklahoma. A woman was caught on surveillance footage spraypainting racist, antisemitic, and White supremacist messages on the Oklahoma Democratic Party headquarters.

Government offices of the Chickasaw Nation were also targeted with similar slurs, and most recently more graffiti was found at culture centers and local Democratic Party offices in Norman.
The epithets include “Gas the Jews,” the word “Jewess” painted in red on a statue that had swastikas painted over its eyes, and “hang n***er kids,” all decorated with swastikas.  The graffiti also made violent threats against prominent Jewish Americans such as academic Barbara Spectre and political commentator Bill Kristol.
Last week graffiti was scrawled in Oklahoma City on a building that is also home to state agencies, non-profit groups and businesses. The phrases included “Welcome to Germany,” “Trump hates Israel,” ”Gas the Jews,” and “The Goyim know,” as well as the number sequence 1488, which is a reference to Adolf Hitler.
Hopefully she is caught soon and brought to justice. In the meantime, keep the targeted communities in Oklahoma -- Jews, African-Americans, and American Indians -- in your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

What Last Night's Election Results Tell Us About 2020

There is a real chance Donald Trump will be re-elected.

I think a lot of Democrats haven't really processed this, in the same way we didn't process the possibility that he could be elected in 2016.

Between viewing the initial election as a fluke, and being buoyed by 2018's "blue wave", it's easy to think that Trump is destined to be a single-term president.

But I'm not sure. And I think some of last night's election results -- specifically, the Wisconsin Supreme Court race (in recount territory, but with the Republican candidate up by about 6,000 votes) and a Pittsburgh-area Pennsylvania state senate special election (a Democratic red-to-blue flip) -- can give us some hints about the 2020 electoral landscape.

Let's start with the basics: it is very likely that Democrats will do worse in 2020 than they did in 2018. Midterm elections often represent high water marks for the opposition party, and a monster performance in 2018 doesn't make 2020 a gimme for Democrats anymore than huge GOP victories in 2010 signaled a defeat for Obama in 2012. One could argue that Democratic constituencies tend to drop off in the midterms, but I think that effect is more than canceled out by the advantages midterms give to the opposition party.

And while Trump remains relatively unpopular, there hasn't been the widespread, broad-based repudiation of him that one might have hoped for were we an actually functioning liberal state -- indeed, his net approval rating has been remarkably stable for the past year at roughly -10 (currently it's 42/53). That's obviously pretty bad, but it's not disastrously so -- it hasn't reached that tipping point where "unpopular" turns into a rout.

So my baseline assumption is that Republicans are likely to overperform compared to 2018, and the question is how much Democrats can arrest that trend.

Begin by looking at Wisconsin. If 2018 gave us a narrow Democratic victory in the marquee statewide match up (the Governor's race), that doesn't give us a lot of breathing room in 2020. And lo and behold, the statewide race in 2019 -- a pivotal one, since it effectively determines the partisan composition of the court ahead of 2020 redistricting -- ends up yielding what looks like a squeaker GOP victory. And this was an election where the Democratic nominee had a lot of institutional support (including a massive spending edge), whilst the Republican had been hammered for anti-LGBT views.

This, to me, bodes poorly for 2020. In my "trendlines" post assessing the political movement of each (well, most) states, I put a big ol' question mark next to Wisconsin, and this is part of the reason why. Yes, beating Scott Walker felt great. But barely doing it in a year like 2018 actually wasn't that great a sign. Given Minnesota's increasingly-reddish tilt (albeit from a bluer base), it was hard to imagine that its more conservative neighbor would be more favorable, on net, to the Democratic Party in the immediate future.

A similar problem afflicts Florida. It was perhaps the only "swing" state where Republicans didn't see any drop off in support from 2016 to 2018. So it's hard to imagine that it will be friendlier turf for Democrats in 2020, where they're almost certainly going to have less momentum than they did in the midterms.

That's the bad news. Onto the better news: the Pennsylvania result. This was the first red-to-blue special election flip in 2019, and it was a good one to get -- and not just because it puts the Pennsylvania State Senate in play in 2020.  Of all the "blue wall" states that weren't in 2016, Pennsylvania to me seems the most likely to return to the Democratic column in 2020 -- and obviously that's a must-win state for the Democratic Party. And results like this show that Democrats are solidifying their appeal in districts like this one (suburban, recently light-red, well-educated, etc.). That bodes well for Democratic performance even outside of Pennsylvania where there is a considerable cache of voters in districts that share this profile.

So that's the good news. But where does that leave us? Suppose Wisconsin and Florida go red, and Pennsylvania and (we'll say) Michigan return to team blue. If everything else holds (including Trump sniping an electoral vote off Maine), that's still a 270-268 GOP victory. If Maine goes blue down the line, then it's a tie.

Where could Democrats pick up another state? The place where they've seen the best recent trendline is Arizona, followed by maybe North Carolina. But as heartening as Arizona's recent blue-ish shift has been, do you really want to hinge our presidential prospects on a Democratic winning Arizona for just the second time since 1952?

I actually think the popular vote -- for what that's worth, which is basically nothing -- is in good shape for Democrats, if only because of the huge Democratic margins we're likely to see in California. But the electoral college is a different story. The fact is, the tea leaves aren't looking good for Democrats winning either Florida or Wisconsin in 2020, and without those two states the map suddenly looks really, really difficult.

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Performance Art Piece Formerly Known as "Jexodus" Continues

The Exodus née Jexodus Movement (they dropped the "J" after it was gently pointed out to them that "Exodus" already is a pretty Jewish term) -- a self-described movement for young American Jews disenchanted by liberalism and looking to leave the Democratic Party -- is struggling mightily to overcome the ridiculous assumption that it's an obvious right-wing astroturf project. The fact that it is the brainchild of two men in their mid-50s, for example, seems to be a bit strange for a grassroots millennial initiative.

And their kick-off projects ... aren't exactly helping matters:
The Exodus Movement’s [Facebook and Twitter] cover image appears to be a stock photo - specifically, the first result when you search “Jewish woman” on the website iStock.
What’s more, according to iStock, the photo - titled “Dramatic portrait of a young black-haired woman wearing a beret by the water” - was taken in Toronto, Canada, which would bely the organization’s claim of representing American Jewish Millennials upset with the Democratic Party’s alleged anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tilt.
In the coming month, The Exodus Movement’s founder and president, model and former Trump campaign staffer Elizabeth Pipko, will be speaking at Yeshiva University and in Boca Raton for the Republican Federated Women of South Florida.
So just to recap: this movement for young American Jewish Democrats contemplating leaving the Democratic Party is run by a Trump campaign staffer speaking before Republican Jews in a city famous for its Jewish retiree population to promote a movement symbolized by a stock photo of a Canadian.

Best of luck to them.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Consequences of Threatening Lifetime Sex Offender Registration To Juveniles

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against a school which allegedly terrified a teenage student into suicide after threatening him with a lifetime of sex offender registration while investigating whether he had a video recording of a sexual encounter with a female classmate.

While finding that the district hadn't broken the law, Judge Andrea Wood did criticize the district's interrogation of the student:
The judge, however, made it clear she was not condoning the way the interview was conducted. While it may have been legal for authorities to make Walgren think he could end up on a sex offender registry, it was not necessarily right to do so.
“The court’s determination that the individual defendant’s actions, as pleaded, are not objectively unreasonable for purposes of a Fourth Amendment analysis should not be understood as an endorsement of those actions by this Court,” Wood wrote. “Registration as a sex offender entails severe restrictions on a sex offender’s liberty. … And in Illinois, a juvenile convicted on charges related to child pornography could potentially be forced to remain a registered sex offender for the rest of his or her life.”
I have no quarrel with Judge Wood taking the time to make this aside. I've actually suggested judges should do this more often.

But here, I think we should reflect on how this incident and our reaction to it should shake our confidence not just in how the district behaved but also in the underlying legal rules the district was communicating. My understanding is that the district was not incorrect in telling the student that the conduct he was being investigated for (having a video recording of a sexual encounter with another student, taken while they were both minors) could result in him being placed on the sex offender registry for life. That, as best I can tell, was indeed a potential consequence under Illinois law.

If we think that consequence is too draconian, then the solution can't just be to tell school districts not to (accurately) communicate the legal consequences. The solution is to amend the law.

Obviously, the issue of minors making, possessing, and sharing recordings of their own sexual exploits with other minors is a serious one (the article doesn't indicate whether the female partner here consented to the recording, but if she didn't then it's more serious still). It needs a real response.

But there's little question that our criminal policies on sexual offenses -- especially relating to "ancillary" consequences like the sex offender registry -- have blown way past anything that could justified as either valid retribution or proportional deterrence. There are consequences that can be imposed on juvenile offenders that are adequately severe given the alleged wrong that do not entail lifetime registration on the sex offender registry (with all the attendant restrictions on personal liberty that carries). Here, as in many other cases in the criminal justice system (especially when dealing with minors), we need to think creatively and break our reliance on extreme punitive measures, and we should reject the false dichotomy that says hyper-criminalization is the only way to get "serious" about these wrongs.

In short: tragedies like this happen because of the reality of the law, not because that reality was relayed. If this feels like a tragic case, then it's the law, not the communication of the law, that needs changing.