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Here are some of my latest takes.
Israel’s deportation debate
In the news:
Israel’s plan to deport African illegal immigrants to a third country ignited a fierce debate among Israelis, including protests, petitions, and the use of harsh language.
There is an explanation as to how this battle turned into a right and left issue. It is a simple explanation: missing information. Without information, an important argument becomes a routine battle for and against the government.
On the one hand, there are those who claim that the deportation is a death sentence. If this is the case, it is clearly forbidden to deport. On the other hand, there are those who claim that the expulsion is regulated and there is no danger to the lives of the deportees. If this is the case, it is clear that it is possible, and even necessary, to expel.
What would a decent person do? What if this Israeli is willing to pay a price so as not to send people to face a harsh fate do? What can he do if on the other hand he knows that an orderly immigration policy can be cruel, and that Israel cannot absorb anyone who wants to live in it, and that Israel ought not signal that those who enter the country will not be deported. What should he do amid the astonishing habit of fellow citizens, whose hands do not tremble as they compare their own country, as a matter of routine, to Nazi Germany. Every illegal migrant worker – Anne Frank, every administrative step – a holocaust, every bureaucrat – oppressor.
Another Anne Frank comparison
In the news:
An Israeli writer, artist and icon Yonatan Geffen compared a Palestinian attacker to Anne Frank and Hannah Senesh. Defense Minister Lieberman demanded that the army radio stop playing Geffen’s songs. The Attorney General clarified that Lieberman has no authority to make such demand (on the weekend, Geffen apologized for his remarks).
Artist Yonatan Geffen is at his best when he steers clear of politics. When he insists on sharing his juvenile political outbursts, it is best to ignore him – not every artist is also a great political thinker. Minister Avigdor Lieberman is at his best when he steers clear of politics. But as a politician, he cannot always avoid his craft, and hence, occasionally does what politicians do: cynically getting into an ugly fight he cannot win, just for pretense.
Juvenile provocateurs should indeed be condemned by the public. Whether they are artists or ministers.=
The meaning of pro-Israel
In the news:
VP Pence in Israel, and polls reveal the growing political divide in supporting Israel among Americans.
In the Bush and Obama years it became a habit of smartass pundits to debate the meaning of “pro-Israel”. But this was truly a trick – a way for people to support pushing Israel around while still wearing the pro-Israel mantle (you know the drill: we are only pushing you around to save Israel from itself).
I think it is time to declare this debate dead. The days of I-am-against-Israel-and-therefore-I-am-for-it are over. You want a straight-forward, no complication, no sophistry definition of a pro-Israel position? Read VP Pence’s speech to the Knesset.
Raging Shabbat battles
In the news:
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s attendance of a weekly protest in Ashdod against the Shabbat Bill riled ultra-Orthodox MKs, but his visit was also criticized by Ashdod’s mayor, who defended the protests but decried attempts by politicians to make use of them as part of a political game.
The sudden eruption of cultural battle, in the city of Ashdod and beyond, is no mystery. A simple examination of the political calendar reveals the source, the motivation, and the expected time of expiration: October 2018, municipal elections.
Parties and candidates are positioning themselves for this battle. The mayor who must get the solid Haredi vote, the opponent hoping for a Russian secular vote, all of them pit Jew against Jew, sector against sector. You must vote for me – or all hell breaks loose, and Shabbat is canceled. You must vote for me – or all rights will be taken away from you, and religious coercion will turn your life into a nightmare.
No and no. Vote for him, or for her, and the battle in all likelihood will be over. Until the next municipal election.