Israel, Palestine, and Domestic Politics

I think the drumming out of Chas Freeman from an intelligence post in the Obama administration is a bad thing. If the reporting is to be believed (here and here), he chose to leave because of the enormous pushback by “pro-Israel” groups. They claimed he was basically unhinged. I think he had the simple temerity to say something – anything – critical of Israel.

Saying anything bad about Israel or its policies is another third rail (along with Social Security – can you have two third rails?) of American politics. It will get you slammed hard by right-wing “pro-Israel” groups that believe that only the harshest, most militant, most lopsidely pro-Israel (contra-anyone else in the Middle East) policies are valid.

But, of course, why is this so?

Well, one line of reasoning goes down the “Israel lobby” road. I think there’s a lot to that. (If lobbying doesn’t work, why do so many groups do it?)

However, I also think it connects back to American electoral politics. Jews have lived in America for quite some time and are a generally successful and rich people. Successful and rich generally translates into political influence in the U.S., mainly thanks to our campaign finance system. On the other side, there generally is not a strong Arab presence in American politics. Many Arabs are far more recent immigrants to the U.S. and are just getting established. As that community gets its roots here, it will be interesting to watch the political balance change. I did a story for NPR on part of this issue a few years back.

I also think that it has to do with the definition of “pro-Israel.” I use scare quotes for that descriptor, while the articles I cited above from the NYT and the Washington Post do not. The reason is that it’s not at all clear that the policies pushed by the most vocal Israel-supporting groups in the U.S are necessarily “pro-Israel” – not when they continually advocate, as I already said above, for policies that are harsh and militaristic and only in Israel’s interests and no one else’s. Thankfully, I believe this might be changing. I follow M.J. Rosenberg and enjoy his work very much. I’ve also been encouraged by the creation of J Street as an alternative to the current crop of high-profile “pro-Israel” groups in the U.S.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and by extension, the tensions in the rest of the Middle East – will not be resolved by right-wing policies that are bent on destroying the other side. It will be resolved through justice and by stopping the violence. And that applies to both sides – even Israel. It’s high time the U.S. took a more balanced approach to its Middle East policies.

An embarassment of riches

Well, maybe it’s fair to say that I’m clearing out a backlog. I’ve found a number of things in the last few days, but I haven’t had a chance to post them. I’ll get through some today, and more in the next few days.

Liberal morals and story

Following up on my comments about the importance of story, I’ve just cracked open the book “Framing the Future: How Progressive Values Can Win Elections and Influence People”. It’s starting out well, and I’ll talk more about it in the future, but in the meantime, here’s a review.

Along the same line, here’s a post that lays out how thinking about values and communication is helping Barack Obama.

Conservative fear-mongering

Glenn Greenwald over at Salon nails it, as usual, on conservatives’ use of fear-mongering to drive debate and implement policies that serve their interests. What I find so strange about this effort by conservatives to greatly expand unchecked executive spying power is how antithetical it should be to conservatives. Old-line conservatives used to advocate for individual rights, including the right not to have the government looking over your shoulder – unless it has a damn good reason to, as expressed through a court-granted warrant. Every once and awhile, I see some supposedly conservative commentator decry the folks pushing for this kind of authority as “big-government” conservatives. Why did I say “supposedly” conservative commentator? Well, I have a word to describe people who oppose these “big government” conservatives: liberals. We’re fighting the good fight.

Foreign policy – the good with the bad

Mixed news from Iraq – both together from NPR here. So, Turkey invades Iraq – bad – but Sadr decides to play it cool for a few more months – good. The conservatives should be thanking their lucky stars that Sadr has decided to keep helping the “surge” be a big success.

On economics

More from NPR. Big chunks of the edifice of traditional economics are based on the assumption that people act in their rational self-interest. Well, you know what they say about assuming something. Behavioral economics is a fascinating area that should have big implications for how we debate and design economic policies.

On campaign finance

Oh, heck, I can’t stop myself, more NPR! Here’s a great overview of the current state of money in politics. That’s it for NPR for today. I swear.

On guns

Having grown up in the Great Lakes region, I know that gun rights is a big deal. Progressive candidates around here simply can’t – and likely won’t share – the repulsion to guns that progressives in other parts of the country might have. That said, that doesn’t mean that the National Rifle Association is the only game in town. Check out this post from Daily Kos about a gunowners group called the American Hunters and Shooters Association. I don’t know much about them, but I hadn’t heard of them before.

As for me and guns, I don’t “like” them, but there is that tiny, little problem of the Second Amendment. If progressives nationally want to change the current interpretation of the Second Amendment, in my opinion, they should get busy using the legislative process outlined in the Constitution to change it – a longshot, for sure. Also, I would need to see more evidence about how and why gun violence actually occurs.

More to come

I have plenty more, but that’s all I can get to today. Have a great weekend!