Israeli-Palestinan Relations

PHILOSOPHICAL DIFFERENCES

Some time back, I wrote a piece called “Returning to The Days of Silent Cal.” It talked about the 6 years that Republican Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States, from 1922-1928, when the federal government did essentially….nothing. Outside of the State and War Departments and the Attorney-General’s office, there was little, if any, governmental expenditures. Coolidge, often known as Silent Cal for his taciturn image, who had inherited the presidency when Warren G. Harding died in office in 1922, often boasted that the federal budget was lower when he left in 1928, than when he first assumed the presidency in 1922. Coolidge was wildly popular because he served during the decade known as the “roaring twenties” when there was peace, prosperity and a booming stock market. Get-rich-quick schemes abounded everywhere, especially if they involved stock investments. Coolidge would easily have won re-election in 1928 but he decided not to run, stating that 10 years in the White House would have constituted the type of cruel and unusual punishment that’s forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.

Instead it fell to his hapless Republican vice-president, Herbert Hoover, to be the one sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, when the roof finally caved in- big time. All the wild speculation on Wall Street, as we all know, led to the infamous stock market crash in October, 1929, and, from there, to the ensuing Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, there was no Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) to put the reins on all the stock market manipulations and dishonest schemes that had abounded like weeds in an unkempt garden. Suddenly, as the Depression oozed across the landscape, tens of millions of Americans, who thought they would live out their lives in comfortable middle class existences, were plunged into dire poverty instead, begging for nickels and dimes on the streets, or standing in hours long unemployment lines. The Depression also resurrected a rather dormant Democratic Party, which swept Franklin Roosevelt into the presidency in a landslide in 1932. FDR then began the “New Deal” which, for the first time had the government spending large amounts of resources for “social welfare programs,” i.e., stuff that wasn’t related to fighting wars or other foreign affairs.

Under FDR’s New Deal, and in subsequent Democratic administrations, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs were enacted. The right for workers to organize into labor unions and the right for those unions to call a strike became law over 80 years ago, but has been fought every step of the way by conservative Republicans. And the Republicans seem to be winning their never ending battle against unions since membership is down to single digits in most unions still in existence. Also enacted by Democratic administrations were housing assistance programs, unemployment insurance benefits, disability benefits, healthcare insurance programs, and many other types of social welfare legislation. Of course, all these socials initiatives have helped balloon the cumulative public budget deficit to just under $20 trillion today, not exactly pocket change. Although it should be pointed out that it was conservative Republican Ronald Reagan that was the first president to spend like a drunken sailor, when he mushroomed the public deficit from $1 to $4 trillion during the 1980s. But his deficits occurred because of massive increases in military spending, which is fine and dandy in Republican mindsets.

So now we’re in 2017 with a fully Republican congress, and a Republican president promising to “drain the swamp” as well as “make America great again” among its many trite cliches. A large part of that effort will supposedly be to drastically cut back if not completely ax much of the social welfare initiatives enacted by liberal Democrats over more than 80 years. Perhaps taking us back to the days of Silent Cal, when the government essentially did nothing outside of defense and foreign affairs. And its not just about cutting expenditures. Its also about eliminating the many rules and regulations that govern much of the financial, business, banking, and Wall Street transactions that occur in our daily lives. Perhaps drastically reducing or eliminating the SEC so that would-be stock market shysters can once again flex their scheming muscles. In the end, it all comes down to philosophical differences concerning the size, scope, and involvement of government in the public square. It’s not only the amount of public expenditures, of course, but the level of taxes paid by the public as well. Republicans continually advocate for tax cuts for the rich, while Democrats are constantly trying to raise taxes on those wealthy that can well afford to pay the increases. Imagine that.

Not everything in government, however, is about spending money or creating oversight over financial transactions. There’s also the social side of the equation involving gay rights, abortion rights, and immigration. And there, strangely enough, conservatives and liberals appear to swap their philosophies concerning the extent of government involvement. Conservative Republicans demand strong government oversight to prevent gay marriage, deny a woman’s right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and not only prevent illegal immigration, but sharply curtail the legal kind also. So what if there are no migrants to pick the fruit off the trees in Southern California. And no matter how much those actions may cost. Liberal Democrats, naturally, campaign for just the opposite. A woman’s right to choose, a couple’s right to choose, and for peaceful undocumented immigrants to be left alone. Philosophical differences with an unbridgeable divide, seemingly wider than the Grand Canyon.

Right now it’s the ultra-conservative Republicans that are holding vitally all the cards. The Democrats are still shell-shocked over the loss of the election. So it should be interesting to see if a Republican president and congress can roll back the size and scope of government so it more resembles the administration of Silent Cal. Except, of course, when it comes denying gay rights, abortions, and the right for illegal immigrants to live and work in peace. Then the sky’s the limit when it comes to government involvement.

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FROM CIVIL RIGHTS TO THE ALT-RIGHT: A NATION’S MORAL DECLINE

It took less than 60 years, 56 to be precise, for the United States to go from electing a president that would champion the cause of civil rights for blacks and other minorities, to electing a president that intends to further the cause of white supremacy and privilege. In 1960, a young John F. Kennedy would squeak out a narrow win for the presidency over Richard Nixon. With brother Bobby as attorney-general, JFK set out to tear down the walls of Jim Crow segregation that had permeated throughout the entire South. A system whereby blacks had to attend separate schools from whites, drink from separate water fountains, sit at separate lunch counters, sit in segregated sections when attending sports events or movies, and on and on. Of course, blacks were strictly forbidden from living or buying property in white neighborhoods. And black people usually found it all but impossible to vote in public elections in virtually every district throughout the South. But the early 1960s were also a time when a young black minister named Martin Luther King Jr., with the backing of the president and the attorney-general, began organizing huge protest marches and civil-disobedience throughout the South to attack this system of second-class citizenry. A system of semi-slavery that had lasted 100 years after Lincoln had ended the existing system of formal slavery.

The peaceful protests and civil-rights marches of those days eventually achieved their desired results as the walls of Jim Crow semi-slavery began to crumble into dust. But not before a slew of both black and white civil-rights workers were murdered along the way by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists. And tragically, by 1968, both Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King were all dead at the hands of different assassins. And to be clear, racial hatred and discrimination didn’t exist only in the South. There was plenty of that in the North as well, minus a formalized legal system of Jim Crow segregation. But when Lyndon Johnson took over the presidency after JFK’s murder, and signed the civil rights act of 1964, black people were at least free to participate in U.S. elections without fear of reprisal. The tumultuous 1960s were also a time of massive protests and civil disobedience against America’s ill-fated entry into the Viet-Nam war. When that debacle ended in the early 1970s, and with the successes of the civil-rights movement, it seemed as if America’s worst days were behind it. Sadly, this was not to be.

Now fast-forward to 2016 where the winning presidential candidate, also by the narrowest of margins, is definitely not a civil-rights proponent. Instead he is praised by the KKK and other white-supremist groups as being their kind of guy. One of these hate groups is oddly referred to as the Alt-Right, presumably meaning alternative right wing. A rather benign sounding term to cover up its underlying racist intentions. A former leader of the Alt-Right, a man named Stephen Bannon, eventually became Donald Trump’s campaign manager, and will now sit in the White House on a daily basis as Trump’s co-chief of staff. A rather comforting vision to start off the new year of 2017, wouldn’t you say? So who, or what is the Alt-Right. Well, according to one of its current leaders named Jeff Schoep, their decision to dispense with using the swastika as its symbol was “an attempt to become more integrated and more mainstream.” An attempt to make racial hatred seem more like the norm. Their central belief is that white identity has become endangered by what they deride as this era of dangerous diversity and political correctness. But though they may no longer use the Nazi swastika as their symbol, the name of their game is still white supremacy over blacks and virulent anti-semitism.

When Trump, early in the campaign, promised to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, whom he described as murderers and rapists, the Alt-Right raised its collective head to listen. One movement leader, a retired school teacher from Dallas, who grew up in a family opposed to desegregation, stated: “I’ve been waiting to hear those words from a mainstream political leader all my life. We don’t have any power, – but now we’re suddenly close enough to smell it.” After Trump’s victory, the Alt-Right held a conference in Washington under the leadership of its president, a 38 year-old man named Richard Spencer, who fashions himself as the coming American Il Duce. He wears his hair in an undercut style called a “fashy” as in fascist. “Race is real” he said “Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.” Of course, this Alt-Right movement is supposedly distinct from old-line white supremacist fascists, bigots, race-haters and Jew-haters such as the KKK. But early in the election campaign, when David Duke, former grand dragon of the KKK enthusiastically endorsed the Trump candidacy, it took The Donald two days to eventually choke out an-“okay, I disavow the endorsement,” after repeated grilling by the media.

So, welcome to the world, circa 2017. The year 1961 stared off with a new president in the White House committed to achieving racial equality for minorities that were afflicted by Jim Crow prejudice, bigotry and segregation. The new president in 2017, about to enter the Oval Office, is a man seemingly adored by those very same bigots and haters. But that’s not even the most disturbing part about all of this.  Even more upsetting is the fact that candidate Trump figured out that there there was all this bigotry still in existence among the white population. Enough so that he could win by achieving such an overwhelming portion of the white vote, that it was more than sufficient enough to offset the minority voters opposition to him. And he was right. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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DRINKING FROM THE POISONED WELL

One of the acknowledged foreign policy failures of the out-going Obama Administration was its inability bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and with it, an independent, self-governing Palestinian homeland. It wasn’t for lack of trying, however. Early-on, Obama designated former senator and foreign-policy mediator George Mitchell to negotiate with both parties toward achieving that goal. But after nearly 8 years of fruitless negotiations, both sides are as far apart as they ever were. Which is primarily due to the continued unquenched thirst and resultant gulping of liquid from the poisoned well of bitterness, hatred, and acrimony by both Arab and Jew. And with virtually no prospects of any improvement in the foreseeable future. Thus, one of the hottest zones of instability and chaos on the surface of what we call Planet Earth, continues unabated.

One could go back thousands of years to the early biblical times of Abraham, who supposedly sired the beginners of both the Jewish and Arab nations, to search for the root causes of all this vitriol. Or, perhaps, a better starting point would be at the time when a Hebrew rabbi named Jesus walked the Earth, and Israel existed as a Jewish homeland, about 2000 years ago. That was also a time when Rome had conquered and occupied most of the western world, including Israel and the Mid-East. Which, in short order, caused the Israelites to become highly rebellious of living under the tyranny of a Roman dictatorship. Which, further caused the Roman Army to drive most of these rebellious Israelis out of their homeland, with the preponderance of Jews resettling in Europe. This, in turn, led to thousands of years of anti-semitic hatred and discrimination against European Jews, culminating with the Holocaust of the 20th century. It also resulted in the collapse of the State of Israel as a homeland for Jews. The void was filled by Arab Moslems who moved onto land formerly occupied by displaced Israelites.

After the horrors of WWII, including the slaughter of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, the United Nations, with the United States and Russia, who were still allies, leading the way, agreed that Jews world-wide, deserved to be given back their homeland, as a refuge from further atrocities. The U.N. voted to recreate the State of Israel on its historic lands where world-wide Jews could migrate to if they so desired. Most European Jews, who, somehow, miraculously survived the Holocaust, did immigrate to the new State of Israel. The problem was, however, that over centuries of the Jewish Diaspora, Arab Moslems had moved onto lands previously occupied by displaced Jews. Creating a homeland for the Jews meant displacing most Arabs that had lived on Israeli land for centuries. Most went to neighboring Arab states such as Lebanon where they were forced to live in poverty-stricken camps, mostly in tents, with the barest essentials of food and water provided to them. It seemed that most Arab countries, for all their outrage over Palestinian displacement, were not eager to allow these same Palestinians to assimilate into their general populations.

Anger and outrage ran rampant among surrounding Arab nations to the point that they decided to immediately go to war with the new infant state of Israel. Crush the baby in its cradle before it could grow. But again, another miracle. The infant survived and defeated its Arab neighbors. The hostility among Arab countries only continued to become more virulent, however. A second war broke out in the 1960s, and again Israel defeated its opponents which consisted of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. This time, however, Israel had captured the Arab occupied West Bank, which in the 1960s belonged to Jordan, and which had been discussed by world powers as becoming a separate Palestinian state, existing side-by-side with Israel. Yet a third Israeli-Arab war war was initiated in the 1970s, and for a third time the Arabs failed to crush the Jewish state. Finally, the Egyptian president at the time, Anwar Sadat, realized that enough was enough. Courageously, he made an historic trip to Israel, signed a peace treaty, and established diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. For his courageous peace initiative, however, he was soon assassinated by Islamic terrorists. Jordan, some time later, also made peace with Israel.

But peace within Israel was not to be. Palestinians sadly turned to terrorism in an attempt to drive the Jews out of Israel. The large number of serious attacks by Islamic terrorists against Israel and the resultant Israeli retaliations that have killed thousands and thousands of Jews and Arabs alike, are too numerous to mention here. They could fill an encyclopedia. Some of the more shocking ones were the murder of 11 Israeli athletes attending the Olympics being held in Germany in the 1970s, the murder of more than 30 school children in Northern Israel, the shelling of Israeli civilian population centers by the Hamas terror organization that controls the Palestinian Gaza strip, and quite recently, the murder of a 13 year-old Israeli girl by a young Palestinian that sneaked into her bedroom at night, and slit her throat while she was sleeping. The list goes on and on.

The Obama Administration’s diplomatic thrust for these 2 warring parties, has come to be known as the two-state solution. Establish an independent Palestinian state on the Israeli-occupied West Bank that would supposedly live in peace with Israel. But the reasons that just wouldn’t work could also fill an encyclopedia. First, Israel has established numerous settlements on the West Bank that house hundreds of thousands of Jews. They are protected by the Israeli Army. The Palestinians are never going to tolerate the existence of these Jewish encampments in their midst, and the Israeli government is disinclined to remove these settlers. Next, the Palestinians are insisting on the so-called right of return-the right of those Palestinians or their heirs, that were displaced in 1948 to return to their lands in Israel. That, of course, is also never going to happen. And so the beat goes on, as the stalemate based on out-right hate continues to dominate.

There is only one sane answer: a one-state solution combining Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza into one united country comprised of Moslems, Jews, and Christians. But, of course, that would require all parties to stop quenching their thirsts by drinking from the poisoned well of vitriol. To stop hating one another and start respecting the dignity of each others religious choices. A willingness to live in peace and harmony, instead of hate,  fear, and violence. Not likely to happen in the next succeeding generations. But perhaps through a process of evolution, it could occur over the next several hundred years. Or not.

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