Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Benefits of 20:20 Hindsight in Explaining Election Surprises

People rarely if ever predict disasters which is why they surprise us so when they befall us.   Whether we would classify the Labour Party rout in Scotland and England as a disaster is a moot point – that depends on whether you take a long view or a short view of history.

In 1992 John Major confounded all the political pundits by winning the Conservative Party its fourth consecutive national election.  By 1997 the party that was embroiled in what seemed like one sleaze scandal after another, fell to an invigorated Labour party under the charismatic leadership of Tony Blair.

In 2015 David Cameron had no-one who could compete with him.  Even if his demeanor is reserved, his ministers added just enough spice to the political soup to give his Conservative Party the appearance of possessing a soul.  But none of that matters if the economy is flourishing (most people are not in pain) and if people feel relatively safe and comfortable (as they do).

Labour did not suffer another defeat because of the role given to its ‘Jewish born’ leader Ed Miliband but because it has no vision of what it wants to be.  It chose Ed Milibands’ Michael Foot (hang the capitalists high) Old Labour outlook over his brother David’s Tony Blair New Labour looks and ideas.  And even that is not why they failed. Labour failed because it had nothing new to offer the people and nothing old but credible to offer the electorate. Its message was shaped by Old Labour socialism: the NHS, inequality and living costs. But it had nothing to offer that the Conservatives hadn’t already made noises about.

The working classes are no longer the monolithic, benighted class that brings tears to the eyes of romantic visionaries in search of social justice.  And yet Labour still talks about its workers as if they were impoverished and without representation.   Labour needs its ideals but it desperately needs to update them for the 21st Century.  Under New Labour the party secured support from skilled workers.  It has lost that support.

In the 21st Century we have aspirations and I would make a distinction between them and ambitions.  The difference is defined by the former being more weighted towards education and the pleasure principle than the latter.  Ambition was all about Class and escaping poverty. Most of us are past that now. Labour needs to redefine its vision for our future.  Too many people are still affected by poverty but the balance of those scales are weighed overwhelmingly in favor of those for whom comfort is more important than the alleviation of someone else's suffering.  It isn’t cruelty but the success of the social net that has lost Labour its electoral appeal.

All political parties must constantly reinvent themselves because people need a reason to vote and if they have none then they don’t, or not at least, for the party seeking power.  We only seek change if there is something ‘in it’ for us personally. That may just mean a feel good feeling but it is still a personal choice.

In 1992 most opinion polls predicted a Labour victory.  Similarly, in 2015 most polls predicted either a Labour victory or a hung parliament.  So what happened?

In 1992 the Conservative Party had 26% of the Scottish vote and 11 Scottish seats in Westminster.  In 1997 when Labour defeated the Tories by a landslide that proportion of the Scottish vote fell to 18% and no seats. In the four successive elections that have been held since then, its voter turnout has remained fairly static and it has held onto one seat in each election. It has done nothing to convince conservatives in Scotland that it has a vision for Scotland that is relevant to Scots. It is therefore almost unelectable “north of the English border.”

In the 2010 national elections Labour scored 42% of the overall Scottish vote and received 69% of the seats on offer. This year that share of the Scottish vote dropped to just 24% and that translated into one seat only (the same as the Conservatives).

A party cannot complain that the system works for them and then, that it doesn’t.

First past the post voting has its advantages for the established, well funded, larger parties. But then it is not enough to have a presence in the local community; it must inspire enough voters to win over a majority of voters in the seat it is contesting. The system works if only because there is nothing better out there. Proportional Representation empowers every radical (reactionary as well as ‘so called’ progressive) able to muster the thresh-hold votes to gain a seat and that is even more destabilizing to the political process; look at Israel.

The following are the final results for the 2015 British National Elections: (with thanks to the BBC and other sites)

Votes per Seat
SNP (Scotland)
Liberal Democrats
Plaid Cymru (Wales)
DUP (Northern Ireland)

Some complain that the electorate is insufficiently sophisticated to be able to use their vote wisely but it is usually the losers that make that accusation, not the winners.  People voted for Conservative over Labour and Labour over Liberal Democrat (and so forth) for mainly two reasons:

Fear: that if they voted for any but the two major parties their vote would be wasted. Fear: that a vote for the Labour Party would translate into a Scottish victory via a hung parliament that would see Labour beholden to Scotland for passing any legislation.

The Liberal Democrats shared power with the Conservatives for five years between 2010 and 2015.  They could offer no vision save that of an emasculated and elitist party with no influence and even less independence of action.  That leaves the Scottish National Party.  Scotland has 32% of the UK landmass and 8% of its population. It is marginally wealthier than the UK average and has a national identity that puts it in conflict with England, which it sees as controlling its ‘destiny’ as well as all of its ‘national’ resources.

In the 20th Century, as an imperial power the United Kingdom saw its colonial empire decimated. Nevertheless it remains one of the world’s most wealthy nations as well as one of the most attractive destinations for immigration.  It has done well to hold onto remaining colonial appendages such as Ireland, Wales and Scotland for as long as it has without devolving any real authority to their citizens.

It is this contradictory nationalism that has given hope to Scottish voters. ‘Contradictory,’ because in a theoretically post-nationalism Europe, Scottish identity is particularistic and therefore radically out of step with the rest of the European Union it is so desperate to join as a separate country, independent of Great Britain.

Political scientists may well earn their salaries for years to come by endlessly re-examining the 2015 UK election results.  But it seems to me that the results were, the only ones that made any sense.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Pesach Trauma

Orthodoxy and Ancient Prejudice

I traveled to America for my silver wedding anniversary.  My previous visit to the USA ended in 1983 and was equally successful.  I make no apologies for being unadvisedly pro-American, pro-Jewish and pro-Zionist.  Still, I was scared that this time, once I reached the customs hall at Dulles International Airport “they” would not allow me in.  Since 9/11 it is not easy getting into the USA for a holiday – I have heard far too many anecdotes of traumatic experiences from innocent people!  My knowledge of customs officials are that they tend to be humorless, capricious and apparently, randomly hostile towards foreign visitors.

I suspect that Islamic terrorists intent on committing carnage are more likely to appear mild mannered, fawning; in-fact intolerably kiss-ass in order to pass through the customs checks. There has to be a better way!

But this is not why I am writing today.   I confirmed my flight just prior to flying out during Passover and so I ordered kosher meals.  In mid-flight the flight attendant asked me if I wanted to open my meal myself or was it OK for them to open it for me?  So the first thing I must do is to put the question into historical context.

Excepting for a major hiccup during the second century BCE when the Maccabees forcibly converted a large number of people, the Jewish people have been very conflicted about conversion since biblical times, often warning against it. One major universal aspect of Judaism posits that following the Noahide commandments are sufficient for non-Jews to have an equal place in the afterlife with Jews. (The Noahide laws prohibit murder, theft, adultery, incest and the eating of live flesh and require communities to establish a legal system and courts of law).   At the time of Christ, Judaism was a radical, revolutionary faith – which stood many Jews in opposition to the Roman Empire. At least in principle, Judaism freed the slaves and gave a measure of dignity to all human beings and that could never be accepted or comfortably tolerated, at the very least, for economic reasons, by either Greeks or Romans.  Judaism gifted the Western World universal education almost 3,000 years before any other nation embraced it, the Decalogue, and a Sabbath day that was universally applicable.

Judea was geographically, strategically important to Rome and intermittently restive. By displaying an alternative to the Roman economic model it potentially compromised Roman control over its colonial empire.  Eventually Rome responded with a bloodbath that to paraphrase the 2009 film, Avatar, would sear a memory into the Jewish psyche that would scar the Jews for millennia.

The early Christians were Jews but their leaders soon realized that if they were to become something bigger they would need to discard their toxic Jewish heritage.  The Romans feared revolution and they feared dissent.  The apostles distanced themselves and their followers from the narrative of Jewish revolt in order to establish their new faith and in doing so they planted the seeds of persecution that have plagued Christian-Jewish interfaith relations ever since.

When Jews were threatened with annihilation they responded by not simply discouraging proselytizing but more pro-actively, they periodically banned it.  Justinian Christianity increased the restrictions on Jewish civil rights and centuries later with the foundation of Islam the practice of belittling that which was different and creating a separation between the holiness of the believer and the unclean nature of the non-believer was taken to the logically next and final step. The Koran provides a guide for persecuting and killing any doubters including Muslim ones.  By declaring Islam to be the perfection of human faith it closes the door on criticism or improvement and it supersedes everything that came before it.

Today there are many people including the President of the United States of America excusing the inhumanity and ethnic cleansing practiced by Muslim fundamentalists throughout the Near-East.  President Obama has said that Christians “did it first” (with the Crusades).  What bothers me most about this is that it is a childish argument, philosophically and temperamentally immature. And it has no basis in ethics or fact.  For the most powerful man in the world to be saying this is beyond logical comprehension.

We live in the 21st Century, not the 7th and not the 10th. In order to possess any relevance, every case is unique.

The brutal killers of the so-called Islamic State would like to harmonize the modern world with 7th Century Islam, so they crucify children to create fear and demonstrate their superior purpose.  The Crusades started out as a desire to restore Christian access to the holy places around Jerusalem something that current Palestinian and anti-Semitic followers of the Arab cause would cynically deny to Jews!

By the 17th Century of the Common Era, Jews had been a persecuted people for so long that few of us alive today can appreciate the despair and sporadic dread they must have lived with.  Out of all that squalor Baruch de Spinoza appeared on the scene; the man many people regard as the patriarch of the Enlightenment.  In the Western World the intellectual darkness was starting to abate. In that 18th Century intellectual soup Gotthold Lessing, Immanuel Kant and Moses Mendelssohn argued for a rational intellectual landscape that afforded the individual freedom, equality and tolerance. The Haskalah, the 18th Century Jewish Enlightenment was also experiencing its birth pangs.

The Hasidim had a different approach. They did not preach the final coming of the messiah as millenarian cults did nor did they ascribe holiness to charismatic charlatans and theocratic psychopaths.  Instead, out of the abyss of gloom and despair they called out to the heavens, they screamed out to God in Heaven for deliverance from their earthly suffering. They did so by encouraging the faithful to pray even harder, but with a twist.  Their prayers would be filled with energy and joyful supplication to the almighty.  They claimed that if, through their song, they could burst open the gates of heaven then God would hear their cries for help.  And they claimed that a holy leader could intercede with God on behalf of the community. This adoption of charismatic leadership was a radical step away from the scholarly approach to prayer and community as practiced by previous generations.

The Hasidim rejected the legalistic, dry Yeshiva approach of mainstream Western Orthodoxy. We could claim they were the original happy-clappie gospel singers; eighteenth century evangelicals whose promotion of spiritualism sought to normalize mysticism as intrinsic to Jewish faith. In this way perhaps they thought that the misery of their lives could be set aside?  They raised the hopes of the oppressed, perhaps they were delusional, but fear had taxed their spirits for so long that surely any way must have been better than the present.  Fear led them to view prayer as their only salvation. Until that is, the new faith of Secularism began to supersede the old religious faith in the late 19th Century.

And this is where I reconnect with my contemporary story. How does this all relate to that flight attendants question? Ideas around ritual purity can be spiritually uplifting.  However, the idea that the touch of a non-Jew might pollute the physical nutrients that sustain our bodies is an ancient fear and it is time to set it aside.

We do have legitimate terrors.  We need to focus our fears in the direction of truly deadly contemporary existential enemies whether they are old-new anti-Jewish boycotters, antisemitic regimes posing as carriers of anti-Zionist radical chic or the deniers who are attempting to rewrite our history in universities and journals across the globe.

When I was questioned by the Virgin Atlantic flight attendant I was flustered by the question, and then the rage I felt I could never direct at an airline that was only respecting the archaic practices of a far too long and dark an age in our history.  Some of those orthodox traditions remain as fears, to which too many of us blindly cling. Those fears preclude taking the first steps towards religious healing.

I understand that intimidation and the reluctance to move on are fears’ unholy descendants. I understand that a return to a Judaic theology based on moderation and reasonable doubt is not in the interests of current ultra-orthodox communities. Compromise might actually dissolve some of the barriers that exist between many of the sects and sub-sects of Hasidism.

But no one should have to ask me whether I am offended by the touch of another human being – no one should have to offer me the choice of opening up my own food parcel.

It is a question that debases and degrades both of us.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Why I began labeling Guardian Readers and their ilk “The Fascist Left”

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to become the United States Secretary of State when she was sworn in on January 23, 1997.

According to Wikipedia “Albright was raised Catholic, but converted to Episcopalianism at the time of her marriage in 1959. She did not learn until adulthood that her parents were originally Jewish and that many of her Jewish relatives in Czechoslovakia had perished in the Holocaust, including three of her grandparents.”  It was during her tenure as Secretary of State that she learned of her Jewish religious background (or so she claimed at the time). 

It was when her family history was mischievously ‘revealed’ by Britain’s Guardian Newspaper that I became forever alienated from that racist publication.  They editorialized that the knowledge of her antecedents made for an unbridgeable conflict of interest between her Jewish ‘past’ and her senior American administration position as Secretary of State and therefore she had no choice but to resign from that position. It was a moment of shocking clarity for me, my Damascene conversion.

Not everyone is obsessed by their family past.  It is highly likely that Madeleine Albright was telling the truth when she disavowed any knowledge of her antecedents, likely but irrelevant.

We do not ever repudiate a persons’ right to express themselves because of their race, their religion, their color, their ethnicity, their sex or their sexuality.  That is one of the fundamental rights that inhere in a democratic system.  To state that a politician should not have an opinion is absurdly illogical. In fact, I cannot stress enough how infantile the Guardian editorial was. If we assume the sanity of the Guardian Newspapers’ editorial staff then the only possible explanations for making such a statement was either temporary insanity or a concealed agenda.

British society is divided between people whose humility obviates a reasoned understanding of every situation before judging others and those people who in their egotistical arrogance are offended when we do not immediately bow before their superior knowledge and understanding of everything. This ‘protean fascism’ is an intrinsic element of a society separated by Class; while superficially divided between Left and Right this attitude is, in reality, educationally if not psychologically inbred. It helps to explain the antisemitism that is rarely if ever absent from British society; whose flow is constant, just beneath the surface of British society.  Its adoption by the Left and their Liberal allies is unsurprising in a country where successfully adapting to change has kept the ruling oligarchy whether aristocratic or upper class, firmly in control throughout history (excepting for a minor hiccough when the monarchy was deposed between 1649 and 1660).

This ‘protean fascism’ has no natural political home but in the United Kingdom it is now a disease of the Left more than the Right. Perhaps this is because conservatives have had to learn from history about the limitations of human insight while the Left (and that includes far too many people who mislabel themselves as liberals) have not.

In any case, as long as Jews turned the other cheek, the Guardian reader (and this also applies to the BBC and the New York Times) could tolerate us and our presence in society. Israel’s defeat of its existential Arab enemy in the Six Day War of 1967 ended that post Shoah honeymoon period between abuser and victim.

I understand why the Guardian staked out its position of prejudice against the “psychically tainted” Madeleine Albright.  Nuance is lost on the fascist. The reasoning would have been that only someone who was “detached” from a conflict could bring an unbiased approach to solving that conflict. In a fascist environment detachment is determined by self-appointed power brokers, in this case, Britain’s Guardian Newspaper. But the premise is logically unsupportable in any but a politically racist context.

Enemies fail to relate to each as being equal in humanity because they are unable or unwilling to recognize their mutual antipathy and with no clear understanding of their reciprocal fears.

The Guardian position was dissimulation at its most racist.  No Guardian editor would have argued for the exclusion of a Protestant from negotiating the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, or, that the pivotal role played by George J Mitchell in formulating that agreement was unacceptable because of his ethnic (Irish Catholic) descent.  During WW2 the Nazis questioned the role of a president with a German sounding name (Roosevelt) in waging a war against them. They said that if he opposed Nazism then he must be Jewish!

Nations have a vested interest in resolving conflict. The Guardian implication that a person whose entire life had been lived as a practicing Christian was somehow corrupted  by Jewish ‘feelings’ was the kind of thinking publicly expressed during the Second World War in Germany. 
It really is that simple.

I have never read a disavowal of that Guardian ‘principle’ nor are any of us likely to do so because the Guardian Newspaper romanticizes only dead Jews and its house Jews (the pejorative term “useful Jews” carries less of a contemporary appreciation of the concept); its European post-Nation State political theology associates all Jews with a European identity which therefore negates any Jewish self-determination as archaic and therefore, worthy only of disdain.

On the day that up to three million people came together throughout France to protest the murder of 17 human beings by followers of a “strictly literalist and uncompromising version of Islam applied with aggressive intolerance” (Charles Allen) a BBC journalist (Tom Willcox) interrogated the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, urging her to see a connection between two warring nations and Muslims driven by hatred of almost everything the West stands for.  Hillary Clinton, who hopes to be the next President of the United States of America called for us to empathize with cold blooded killers who rejoice in the act of slaughtering their victims and who, would have happily murdered hundreds of children if given the opportunity.  (Because of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, three Jewish schools in the near vicinity of the store that was subsequently targeted were closed).

The contagion that is Britain’s Guardian Newspaper has spread far and wide.

Not all narratives are equal.  Encouraging a series of fallacious narratives in order to create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear for a targeted group is fascism.  Selectively censoring our rights because we are Zionists or Israeli is Fascism.  The Guardian has provided a safe-haven for the spread of fascism.  Fascism is a step on the way to something far worse, a fascist ideology that specifically targets Jews.  Neither Left wing fascism nor right wing fascism, in the end, makes any difference to “my kind” or those  people that support me because the end solution is inevitably the final solution.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Jewish Nation State and Identity

The Declaration of Independence states that Israel is Jewish and democratic in equal measures.  Any law which therefore defines Israel as Jewish above all else (as opposed to Jewish and democratic) makes democracy subservient to faith.

The conflict between religious and secular jurisdiction over issues of personal status is complicated by Israel’s early modern history.   When the new state was born it was less than three years after the defeat of Nazism.  In Israel, the Jewish faith, as a religious institution, was viewed as endangered.  Israel’s secular rulers absolved themselves of any responsibility for issues of personal status by encouraging traditional religious bodies to exercise authority without statutory boundaries.  This sowed the seeds for both the reinvigoration of orthodoxy and its political empowerment.

The state was conflicted - indifferent to religious faith at the same time as it accepted the orthodox stream of Judaism as the only one exercising legitimacy.  The state ignored the abuses religious hegemony created because it was reluctant to become involved in a religious debate.

Any political culture is open to abuse but an inexperienced, immature political culture without a tradition of legal oversight and practical control will be subjected to continuous testing as to the limits of what constitutes legitimate authority.

Once the period of ideologically led consolidation was over (the first 20 to 30 years of independence) what had been understandable “accommodation” in order to help to develop and give strength to state institutions and bureaucracies became state sanctioned corruption.  Transparency is not a welcome participant amongst the political herd. As political movements, all parties naturally saw abuse of political – economic power as a means of asserting and maintaining their ideological legitimacy, however, patronage and personal aggrandizement are all part of a corrupted political establishment.

I recall a group of enthusiastic and idealistic young adults explaining their plans to a ranking member of the government who “knowing what was ‘best’ for them” had no intention of acquiescing to a single point they made.  The arrogance of a patriarchal political culture begets contempt for constituencies because certainty of purpose is central to their political philosophy.  There is no such thing as a transparent back room deal! In a dysfunctional democracy politics is not the art of compromise (the golden mean) but an act of will by an individual or a group exercising control over the rest of us.

A misunderstanding of the nature of democracy is at fault. Democracy is more than “one person one vote.”  If the government fails to support the people they lose faith in government.  An abusive culture is created that exploits tribal identification and within a tribal culture, elites become more important than law (because influence is hierarchical and authoritarian).

To quote Murray Kahl:

“Emerging governments must demonstrate they can resolve problems faced by the citizenry, such as crime, insurrection, general economic growth, secure freedom and the rule of law.”  (And additionally, in Israel’s case:  terrorism and hostile missile activity).

Democracies fail because they do not uphold the nations’ laws, no matter how imperfect those laws may be.

The Declaration of Independence is clear:

  •  Israel is to be a state of Jewish immigration aliyah and of "the ingathering of the exiles." This principle was set forth in legal and practical terms in the Law of Return, passed two years later (1950);
  • Israel is to be a state of development for the benefit of all its inhabitants;
  • Perhaps most importantly, Israel is to be a state based on the fundamentals of freedom, justice and peace, a state in which all the inhabitants will enjoy equality of social and political rights, along with freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.

The document continues: The state will be guided by the principles of justice enunciated by “the prophets of Israel” and it calls for the Arabs to participate in building the state.

The state was founded by secular people but their big idea was imbued with Jewish ethical considerations as well as Jewish historical visions.  Israel’s founders could not have foreseen a future where the states Arabs and the extreme Left would abuse their rights of statehood or that Israel’s external enemies would actively coordinate a campaign with Israel’s internal enemies in order to delegitimize Jewish history and even, to deny Jewish attachment to Jerusalem as diplomatic continuation of the war against Jewish independence.

So Israel can reaffirm the principles of the Declaration of Independence.  It could also act on them in order to demonstrate their relevance.

Israel should attack the racist campaign of delegitimization, in every forum, in every interview and in every debate.   None of the fine words in Israel’s Declaration of Independence are of any consequence if Israel’s diplomats and politicians do not respond to every libel against the state and not just by comparing its actions to its enemies, but also by attacking those in the Muslim world and in liberal-left circles who undermine the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

One of Israel’s former justice ministers (Professor Daniel Friedman) said that “declarative laws don’t have the power to solve theoretical or social disputes” but what he seems to have missed is the whole point of having them in the first place.  They create a framework and a vision for Israel’s legislators to work towards achieving.

Emerging states have a lot to prove.   They must demonstrate they can resolve the issues that confront their nation, equitably.  Issues of identity, unity and protection are all equal in importance and underlying all of them is perception, which governs everything.

Failing states do so because they fail to act on discrimination.  But there is a greater responsibility for minorities to integrate when a national framework already exists. Integration does not necessarily mean assimilation. And because discrimination in society can be from both sides what it also does not mean is separate development and most definitely what it does not mean is separate laws that run counter to the national ethos.

There is a difference between civil rights, which remain equal and national rights that can be synonymous with a divisive tribal identity.   There will be people who argue that to survive in the Near East you must adopt the attitude and behaviors of the environment in which you live. So a toxic culture of bigotry is acceptable?  This may well be the Arab way but it goes against everything Zionism believes in.  Herzl’s Zionism envisioned Jew and Arab living in one nation, equal and prosperous.  Israel’s identity as a Jewish state does not negate that vision.

Israel’s identity as a Jewish state is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence.  Israel’s symbols, its flag, its education system, its day of rest on Saturday, all these things are central to the identity of its citizens even if they are not personally central to an individual’s minority identity.

It is here that government in Israel has failed spectacularly.   By not involving itself in religious law it has created sectarian religious conflict; by not imposing sanction on those who agitate against Israeli Arab identification with the country of their birth (Israel) the government has helped to poison the issue of national identity.

As a consequence of the proposed Nation State Law Arabic would have lost its status as one of the two official languages of Israel.  This ignores the reality of Arab culture.  Most Arabs are fluent in Hebrew so to remove its status is provocative and discriminates without providing any sensible justification.  70% of Israel’s Arabs describe themselves as Palestinian - only 30% describe themselves as Israeli.  Bullying will not reverse those statistics.  What will reverse them is working together to create a unified nation.  The Arab parties are racist parties which exist to play the Palestinian identity card and therefore to maintain separation (apartheid).  The Arab political parties are impediments to Israeli unity.

No Israeli politician has had the courage to tackle this violent and bigoted opposition to integration.   The irony is that those parties vying for the title of “Zionist” completely miss the point because ethnic integration is at the heart of the Zionist enterprise.

Turkey suppresses the Kurdish language as does Syria.  There is little to no room for minority recognition anywhere in the Near-East.   But not just in the Muslim world.  If Putin needed a pretext for his invasion of Crimea it was the removal of Russian as one of Ukraine’s official languages.  It was a decision that Ukraine recognized in hindsight as disastrous and it has been reversed.

The final impediment to Israeli national unity is foreign interference in its internal affairs.  Since the establishment of the State of Israel nations have worked without respite to undermine the legitimacy and the identity of the Jewish State. NGO’s (non-government organizations) continue to receive significant foreign funding through mainly western governments and western churches. It is they that have actively sought to delegitimize the Zionist and Jewish agendas.  Aaron David Miller describes the Arab states as “nothing more than tribes with flags.” In Israel, foreign funding has been used to encourage that tribalism and fragmentation.

Jewish history is being denied, denigrated and damned. Instead of demanding the cessation of subversive foreign funding Israel should regulate it.  As happens in the USA, any foreign funding must go along with formal registration of any recipient organization, as the local agency of a foreign entity.  Any activity promoting disunity must be actively discouraged.

But more important than even this issue, in the long term a nation needs a vision to survive. The USA has its exceptionalism through which its capitalist version of democracy has spread globally – Iran has its theocratic vision of a world ruled by and for the Islamic faithful. It informs and instructs the direction of its foreign policy.

What is depressing about the Israeli elections for the 20th Knesset?  There is no self-evident vision; there are no fundamental principles being extolled by the Zionist camp.  The talent is wholly missing from the political arena.

The Jewish people are too often harangued for being either too legalistic or too philosophic and in both cases it is meant to say that Jews are not anchored in the real world.  It seems that Israel’s politicians are so cynically anchored in the real world that they are incapable of working for the common good.  The multiplicity of parties zealously guarding their own parochial privileges are incapable of sublimating their own crude desires for the greater cause that is served by promulgating a vision of unity and amity.

That is the depressing issue that Israel’s more attuned voters had to confront when voting for the Twentieth Knesset on Tuesday 17th March 2015.

God Save Israel from her politicians.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Israel, Class Warfare, and our Islamic Inheritance

Following the fall of communism the European Left was largely discredited.  Yet there was little recognition that most people are only comfortable with a middle ground in their every-day existence.  The politics of envy that communism exploited could no longer attract a mass following unless it could surround itself with disgruntled followers who could be convinced that an “us and them” scenario still existed. The issue was not that poverty had ceased to exist or that injustice was no longer rife in the world but that in only a few kinds of society was the possibility for improvement so stifled as to create mass dissatisfaction.

80 per cent of people living in the Western world are now classified as belonging to the middle class and the rest of the world is rapidly joining them, thus making the pool of malcontents to exploit working class dissatisfaction too small to pose a significant threat to societies.  There is an issue here. We should care for the poor more than we do but the Left no longer enjoys a constituency of limitless potential to inflict damage on the establishment. It is part of the establishment and very comfortable at that.  It has not created a political debate that would animate a significant minority of the population to force a momentum for change in order to help alleviate the suffering of the marginalized poor.  And most of the poor are protected by some sort of safety net.  It is not that people are not vulnerable but a critical mass of people who need our help, even where they do exist do not automatically turn to the Left as their savior.

We do not possess clear cut definitions to tidily fit a Marxist revolutionary model.  Class definitions based on social identity and economic capacity are no longer necessarily connected.  Social class is relatively stable and defined by cultural affinity while socioeconomic class is far more fluid.  The lower classes barely exist compared with the past other than as small marginalized groups whose problems are complex and not easily fixed.  The working classes often earn far more than their professional class ‘rivals’.  The working classes are likely a sub-set of the middle classes as both an economic and a socioeconomic group.

The lower classes have been replaced by an underclass of resource poor families and individuals and this group now includes members of the middle classes – their common denominator is their poverty but not their education or even their social background.  The rapid growth in food banks attests to the issue of resources as being the most immediate problem. There is little debate about how to solve the unemployment issue in society.  Civil society has failed to confront the ethical question behind what is a manageable, acceptable level of unemployment or under-employment.  Instead, society treats the unemployed as a statistic, as an economic lever that is useful for manipulating wage policy or as an inevitable aspect of any economic cycle.   The reality for humanity is that it remains as it has always been, a damaging cyst eating away at the vitality of every society.

The left clings to the tired cliches of nineteenth and twentieth century envy populism to sell an anachronistic product whose starting point is predicated on encouraging conflict and division.   But today, those issues are further complicated by religious extremism.

The countries with most pronounced inequality are unequal for all of the traditional reasons such as structural deficiency which fails to protect the weak from the strong, tribal domination and social stratification which permanently traps the poor in hierarchical disadvantage.

If in previous centuries the poor were trapped by their powerlessness, modern weaponry has changed the usual outcomes of enslavement or persecution but it has also created the conditions for unending warfare and ever increasing numbers of casualties.  Relative advantage is never assured but the balance of power has shifted from the state to anyone able to buy modern weapons and attract followers.

The next change from the past is that many of the disenfranchised poor are in the Muslim world which paradoxically contains the world’s greatest concentration of material wealth. However in this case, class tensions are a product of ethnic and tribal rule resulting in rising income inequality and increasing unemployment with vast numbers of people simply shut out from any possibility for a future not mired in extreme poverty because they are not part of an empowered group.   Egypt and Turkey, two of the largest Muslim nations, are, in particular, guilty of this divide. It has created the political conditions required for revolutionary change to occur. Except that while prior to the late nineteenth century, movements were reactionary and fundamentalist, from the late nineteenth century and onwards they were ‘revolutionary’ - a mixture of secular populism and in the Muslim world, Islamic populism.  After many decades this mix has been proven to be successful in rallying a wider group of disaffected and marginalized fighters but as ineffective as previous movements in solving the issue of class-tribal inequality.  Islamic populism overcame its secular rivals by creating a social movement that at least in theory supported community, social justice, religious authority and a return to glory days of Islamic and Arab domination. And the religious movements learnt the lessons of past demagogues.

Historically successful movements in the Islamic world were horrendously ruthless in subjugating their enemies and conquering their neighbors.  The Islamic State (IS or Daesh) as well as those movements that preceded them (such as Al Qaeda) can quote the Koran to justify total rejection of modern civilization in favor of extreme acts of violence and brutality.  Other faiths are condemned for having moved on from their early history. The peculiar nature of Islamic society is that its civil society has never been separated from its religious infrastructure (except in Turkey during the Kemalist period spanning 1923 and 2010) and so the faithful justify everything by claiming fidelity to the violence and barbarism of Islam’s Seventh Century of the Common Era (A.D.) foundation.  Classic concepts of cultural and physical conquest are based on ferocity, fear and theft; it represents a rational assessment of historical Islamic precedents of conquest.   Slaughter everyone who resists you and the next area you invade will either fight you to the death or will collapse in fear, more likely the latter than the former.  Islamic history has glorified this strategy and it has nearly always worked. 

The Arab Spring truly became a winter of discontent (and bloodshed).  The only way the extreme left could justify its existence is by allying itself with a Pan-Arab kindred spirit.  And that is frightening because, given what we now know of their brutal suppression of opposition, this partnership places the extreme Left squarely alongside the Nazi political continuum. The kindred spirit to which they aspire to cooperate in “revolutionary resistance to Western society” is Muslim.

If pan-Arabism and Islamism are both viewed as progressive kindred spirits then their religion is untouchable, beyond criticism.  In their Manichean world Israel is a malformation that must be excised from the region for the greater (Muslim-Arab) good.  This is the well-spring from which all Jews are damned, unless that is, they are Jewish Uncle Toms, the professional anti-Semites who wield religious identification as a sword to strike down their coreligionists.  The ideological basis for this antisemitism is as ruthless as it is consistent with the historical record of brutality they try to conceal.

Fascism is a movement that aggressively denies its foes any voice in protest against their persecution.  It is dependent on regimentation and suppression of contrary ideological positions.  Albert Camus, writing in “The Rebel” says that “Fascism is an act of contempt. Inversely, every form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares the way for, or establishes, fascism.” And Leon Trotsky (on National Socialism in 1933) “Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth (century)….”

In its desperate need to prove that it is still relevant the Left has moved towards the hinterlands of political activism by its unquestioning embrace of Arab - Islamic causes. Though Islamofascism threatens to further compartmentalize the Middle East into mutually intolerant ethno-fascist cantons, the Left continues to drift further into a democratically fatal accommodation with them.

Israel will one day have to make peace with bad people.  But it must not compromise on either the issue of lack of trust or the ongoing incitement, which negates any efforts to construct a solution that serves the cause of peace - for both sides.   Prior hostility is the root cause of present day racism-antisemitism and it predates Zionism.  Western ‘liberal’ fascism has collaborated with antisemitism for too long and it makes the task of achieving peace all the more difficult. This is because that hostility to Jews in Europe as well as in parts of America makes trust almost impossible to prove.

The credibility of political fascism is based on the assumption that demanding a blood sacrifice will placate the butchers for whom 1,400 years of blood and conquest has only created greater enthusiasm for killing, not less.  The theory of appeasement has never worked but its enthusiastic supporters do not stop trying because they never have to make the sacrifice.  Where time and again it was the Jewish peoples “turn” for sacrifice it is now Israel’s turn.  So appeasement is justified by first preparing the public.   The assumption that the Jewish people will be coerced into placing their collective heads into the gluttonous Islamic lions jaw, and that their probable sacrifice will assuage the blood lust of a faith for whom cultural conquest and physical domination are intrinsically theologically fused into a single vision of a world ruled by them and for them only - is fundamentally flawed.  Appeasement never works.  But society is only accustomed to a flawed status-quo where we scapegoat others to compensate for our failures.

The Islamic inheritance is not entirely the responsibility of its Muslim followers.  But prejudice and intolerance, theological and political violence are a historical part of the Islamic heritage that helps to explain the flood of Western Muslims to Daesh (IS).  The ethics of decapitating ones enemy with a rusty knife is not part of current Western discourse nor is it part of OUR civilized behavior.  To outgrow twentieth century fascism the Muslim world needs to have experienced shame, not humiliation.  Humiliation is what it feels because of a perceived “War on Islam.”  The secular order understands and condones attempts at appeasement because it does not attach any importance to an Islamic threat to that order, at least not in the Western World.

Shame is something altogether different.   In this century alone, millions of people have died so that those on the Left can feel comfortable not facing up to their own ideological prejudices, myopia and historic failures. Maintaining silence and ignorance about Islamic theological outpourings sanitizes the crimes of the Left as well as those of Islam and the absence of shame encourages and facilitates further atrocities. There can be no respite from terrorism and no movement towards peaceful co-existence anywhere in the world while Israel and Jews are demonized for the sake of the appeasers, not even for “Peace in our Time.”