Friday, December 30, 2016

Rights and Wrongs in Israel/Palestine

In the wake of the recent Obama abstention in the UN security council, I revisited the Block et. al. article making a libertarian case for the legitimacy for Israel, (here),  and nearby I came across a debate between Jeremy Hammond and Rafi Faber (here). I found this debate profoundly unsatisfying and I would judge Hammond the clear winner because of arguments that Faber adopted and failed to adopt. 

Faber employs the “historical justification argument" which I do not find persuasive - namely, the appeal, on libertarian principles, to inheritance of a homeland from past centuries, establishing a Jewish right of return. I find this, in fact, downright counterproductive as an argument. At best it is a huge stretch and fails to effectively meet the burden of proof against current residents.

What is decisive in my view, and not stressed by Faber, is the recent history prior to 1948. Those attacking the legitimacy of Israel, if they are knowledgeable, appeal not to the fact that land was actually stolen from the people living there, but to the fact that the JNF bought land, as much of it as possible to establish a Jewish homeland, and discriminated against Arabs in employment, made Arabs very afraid that they would be disenfranchised by Jewish immigration and therefore “deprived” them of their land in an illegitimate way. This is Hammond’s approach. And he is  regarded as an effective spokesman for the illegitimacy of Israel. He  quotes selectively from official Mandate reports and Jewish pronouncements as to the intentions of Jews to do violence to Arabs. And he ignores the role of the emerging Arab nationalist/Islamist (pro-Nazi)-Arab-League-sponsored movement who perpetrated extreme violence against both Jews and Arabs and who clearly pursued the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the land. He attributes the rise in tensions to increased Jewish ambitions to get rid of Arabs and not to the rise of radical Arab Jew-hatred, which he discounts (incredibly). He also ignores (as does Faber) the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who migrated into the area in pursuit of increased economic opportunity as a result of the Jewish settlements. The Jews of pre-1948 had no state power, no army, no taxing authority, with which to appropriate land that they did not buy or settle (in the absence of any residents). Mass immigrations create tensions, no moreso in Israel than elsewhere. Why this rises to the level of an injustice there and not elsewhere is an interesting question.

Surely it is a bogus argument to object to voluntary transactions on the grounds that they  created fear in third parties and discriminated against them in employment - this is not a cogent libertarian argument. And surely the argument from voluntary transactions, discriminatory or not, is a valid one. The argument from historical roots serves simply to obscure the issue and this delegitimizes the valid argument. I wish people would drop it. 

Once the state was formed, matters changed. But the state was formed in response to the violence that attempted to ethnically cleanse Jews from the area. Subsequent defensive actions and abuses have to be seen in that perspective. Abuses have occurred on both sides, but Israel’s transgressions are hardly the more egregious. Israel is the freest country in the Middle East. Any lasting and credible peace must work around the situation that now exists and not on the fanciful and prejudicial notion of the dismantling of an illegitimate Israel. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Wende Weinberg - a special person

Wende Weinberg died on Sunday morning. 
Most deaths are sad and painful for those left behind, but, every now and then, comes along a special person who touches the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands, especially the lives of children, and whose death evokes a great sadness in an entire community. Such a person was Wende Weinberg. Wende worked in our school for two generations - and taught the children of children over the years. She combined competence as an administrator with the heart of a revered religious leader. She was the heart and soul and head of our Jewish studies program. As the wife and right-hand of a rabbi of a vibrant and growing shule she was loved also by all of the congregants. And with all she achieved she was still a young woman with so much more to offer, struck down cruelly while still in her prime. She clung tenaciously to life, determined to do her job as best as she could for as long as she could.
To say she will be missed is woefully inadequate. We shall never see her like again, but her many achievements leave us with a legacy whose value we must nurture and cherish.