Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blogging New Years Resolution, 2014

I barely wrote anything on this blog this year. I used to post at least five times a month, and 2013 is ending with just five posts for the entire year. My resolution for 2014, which I can't promise to keep, is that I will blog much more often, maybe not as much as I used to, but still more than the last two years.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bold 2014 Predictions

It's that time of the year when people make predictions about the coming year. I'll join in the fun, foreseeing the future on matters serious and silly alike.

  • As the roll-out of Obamacare progresses, most people will see that its positive aspects far outweigh its shortcomings. Despite this, Republicans will make gains in the election in November, strengthening their hold on the House of Representatives and gaining 2-3 Senate seats, which is not enough for a majority.
  • In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violence will increase, but will not amount to a third Intifadah. 
  • In Israeli politics, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and her HaTnuah party will leave the coalition due to a lack of progress in negotiations with Palestinians and Netanyahu's evident disinterest in reaching any deal. Finance Minister Yair Lapid will threaten to do the same with his Yesh Atid party, but a lack of backbone coupled with the fear of losing half of their seats if an early election were to be called will lead to Lapid staying in the government. "Without us, the government would be even more extreme," would be their excuse.
  • The Syrian Civil War, which has already started spilling over to Lebanon, will lead to a new civil war in the small country. Both conflicts will have no end in sight by the end of the year.
  • At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, sports will be overshadowed by protests against the autocratic regime of Vladimir Putin, including, but not limited to, his persecution of gays. Russia will win the medal race, but who cares. Most people only consider Summer Games as "real Olympics".
  • The Soccer World Cup in Brazil will be won by the host country. It will be a South American final after Brazil defeats Germany in one semi-final and Argentina defeats the Netherlands in the other.
  • At the Oscars, Tom Hanks and Matthew McConaughey will compete against each other in two different categories: Supporting Actor ("Saving Mr. Banks" vs. "The Wolf of Wall Street") and Lead Actor ("Captain Phillips" vs. "Dallas Buyers Club"). However, they will lose to actors from "12 Years a Slave" - Best Supporting Actor Michael Fassbender and Best Lead Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Why Boycotting Israeli Universities Is Wrong

Three small academic associations, the American Studies Association being the most prominent of them, have endorsed a call for academic boycott of Israeli institutions. They claim they will not target individuals, but rather Israeli universities, colleges and research centers, and people representing those institutions as deans, presidents, etc. That's bullshit, for several reasons:

  • Had the boycott been enforceable, American scholars wishing to go to conferences in Israel or publish in journals published by Israeli universities would not be able to do so, because it would constitute cooperation with the institutions themselves.
  • University administrators would not be able to present their academic work, unrelated to their positions as administrators.
  • There is a chilling effect on all Israeli scholars. As someone who is not a university official, I am not technically the target of this boycott, but I would never go to a conference organized by the ASA or any other organization that supports the boycott of Israel. It would be a hostile environment for me as an Israeli. I would not feel welcomed there, perhaps unless I was a far left-wing anti-Zionist.
Other than that, the academic boycott, just like all other forms of BDS against Israel, is extremely simple-minded. In effect, it puts all the blame for the conflict on Israel. It does not recognize the fact that it takes both sides to solve this problem. 

And how do you solve the problem? The original Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS takes the most anti-Israel stance possible:

"These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."
I agree with Point 2, but 1 and 3 are problematic, to say the least. In Point 1, what constitutes "all Arab lands" - the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights or Israel proper as well? Point 3 is something Israelis in their right minds can never agree to.

Monday, September 30, 2013

J Street and the Right of Return

According to Tablet Magazine, delegates to the J Street Conference showed support for recognition of the Nakba and the Right of Return. J Street is a lobbying group that calls itself "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace", and it officially says that the issue of return should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, with the preferred solution being that the vast majority of refugees would not be resettled in Israel. This is also the line Jeremy Ben-Ami and other leaders of the group have been promoting.

It seems that many of J Street's members have different views. The delegates applauded when Fatah member Husam Zomlot called for the full recognition of the Nakba and giving all Palestinian refugees the option to settle in Israel. I'm fine with the first part of that, but I'm troubled by J Street members' support for return.

We should recognize the Nakba. It's a historical fact that the creation of Israel was a tragedy for Palestinians. It doesn't mean that Israelis should be ashamed or sorry that we exist, or that we are the only ones responsible for the Nakba.

Israelis should recognize the Nakba happened. Palestinians should recognize it cannot be undone. The so-called Right of Return is exactly that - an attempt to undo the Nakba. Despite the Zochrot conference in Tel-Aviv over the last two days, a vast majority of Israelis would never, in their right minds, welcome hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hostile Palestinians.

I'm used to hearing Palestinians, Arabs and far-left groups calling for a Right of Return. The fact that this happened at the supposedly moderate left J Street conference is troubling. Is the Right of Return seeping into mainstream liberal groups in the United States or does J Street attract more extreme left-wingers than its founders would have liked? I'm guessing that the latter is true, but not ruling out the former.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Stupidity of Attacking Syria

It seems like there are two main camps who oppose President Obama's proposed retaliatory strikes against the Assad regime. One is the liberal anti-war camp, which opposes any military action anywhere. The other is the isolationist camp, which wants the United States to butt out of other countries' affairs, diplomatically as well as militarily. But what about people like me who think the particular circumstances in Syria are what makes a strike inadvisable, rather than any general pacifist or anti-interventionist principles?

I don't see how a strike against Assad would make matters any better. The best scenario would be an end to the use of chemical weapons, but the regime would definitely continue massacring its own people with conventional weapons. At worst, what begins as a limited strike will spread the violence to neighboring Israel, Jordan and Turkey, in addition to Lebanon, where this has already started to happen. Assad may be replaced by Sunni Jihadists who would take over his chemical weapon stockpiles.

As an Israeli, what is most important to me is how any action in Syria would effect Israel. The Israeli government and the Israeli public, according to polls, back a strike on Syria. Again, I find myself in the minority. There is too great a danger that a strike would pull Israel into a war with Syria, without any clear objectives or any likely positive outcomes. 

When evil fights evil, stay the hell out of the way. Sure, innocent Syrians are caught in the middle, but we're not going to help them. If anything, we'll just be adding innocent Israelis, Jordanians, Turks and Lebanese to the list of people suffering from Assad's regime.