Thursday, August 28, 2014

World Gone Mad--or Just Biz as usual?

Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of the coverage of the 9-year-old shooting a range instructor and killing him with a fully automatic Uzi is that none of the stories questioned the absolute idiocy of a 9-year-old being given any real weapon to fire.  Until now--when the gun people have gone crazy with "stand your ground" laws that undermine centuries of careful delineation of the criminal law of retreat and other perversions of common sense, I have not been able to muster outrage about the NRA or gun laws. 

This incident, however, discloses how nuts so many people have become in this country. Actually, when I was a kid at camp, I loved firing a 22-calibre rifle. The range was carefully monitored, one shell at a time. Even in the Army, when we qualified on the range with the M-14, the control of weapons--loaded or unloaded--was one thing (one of the few) that the service appeared to take seriously. To me, the fanatacism of the gun people has now passed way beyond reason. 

And, as I said, I've never been against responsible use of guns. I found D.C.'s total resistance to allowing anyone to have a gun almost as extreme and ill-advised as the NRA's opposition to any regulation on gun ownership. Granted, D.C. lost in the Supreme Court by one vote and I dare you to read Stevens's dissenting (5-4) opinion and not agree that it makes Scalia's majority one appear ridiculous. But to some extent, D.C. got what it deserved for taking an extreme position. Perhaps we shall see the current idiocy exposed when we start hearing the nuts defend automatics for 9-year-olds.

I've been participating in a colloquy with some friends, one in particular, about two significant articles about Israel and Gaza that have appeared this week.  One by the former AP reporter Matti Friedman emphasizes how the world--Europe especially--holds Israel to a different standard than any other country and also tolerates anti-Semitism masked as anti-Israeli policy.  The other by veteran reporter Connie Bruck  in The New Yorker takes on AIPAC as a bunch of right-wing nuts who slavishly propound Netanyahu's hard-line positions and are essentially a Republican mouthpiece.

Both articles are right.  My good friend points out that even agreeing that Israel has adopted bad policies--encouraging the right-wing settlers and its right-wing policies in general--it palls compared with Hamas launching rockets from schools and civilian bases on Israeli civilians. True enough. And I'm willing to agree, too, that ill-advised or even perverse Israeli government policies have not themselves inspired anti-Semitism.

But AIPAC's long campaign to equate anti-Israeli policy positions with anti-Semitism and to silence Jewish critics of Israeli policy as "self-hating Jews" have besmirched the Israeli cause. Israel was moving along the right path when Rabin and Olmert engaged with the Palestinians. Yes, the Palestinians rejected even the reasonably decent Oslo-era proposals. Had Isreal continued along those lines, much opinion now massed against it would likely have been focused on the Palestinians' intransigence.

Netanyahu is akin to the right-wing Republicans pushed even further to the right by the settlers and their ilk--who may make the Tea Party look centrist.  These people exemplify the old adage of the extremes meeting--the Arabs who want to push the Jews into the sea and the settlers who want to push the Palestinians out of any territory the rightists claim.

1 comment:

  1. In June of 1967 I was taking three courses in a summer session to complete requirements for a B.A. at the University of South Florida. One of these was a history class on U.S. foreign relations. The professor was Bob Goldstein, a strapping Montana native who had spent a couple of years playing second base in the Cards' farm system. The class met at 8:30 a.m.; Goldstein's m.o. was to wait until all students were there and seated, then burst through the door and address some apparently randomly chosen student with an off-the-wall question like, "How do you smell today?" This would initiate a Socratic dialogue that would eventually get around to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, or whatever was that day's topic.

    One morning we were all there, but Goldstein didn't make his usual 8:32 or so appearance. Someone behind me said, "Did you hear? There's war in the Middle East." At about 8:35 Goldstein came in, his face ashen, and said, "Class, I'm sorry. I can't teach today. I hope you'll understand." I went to him and said, "Professor Goldstein, I've heard there's war in the Middle East. Can you tell me more?" He said, "Come to my office." When we got there a radio news announcer was saying that Israel had conducted air strikes against military targets in Egypt and Jordan, and that its troops were advancing rapidly into Gaza and the West Bank. I smiled and said that it looked like things were going well; Goldstein shook his head and said, "I hope they have the good sense not to hold on to land, because if they do it's going to come back and bite them in the ass."

    I can understand the argument for "defensible borders," although I question, given the state of military technology, whether any borders are truly "defensible." It's been argued that Israel's occupation of the territories taken in 1967 was critical to its successful defense in the later Yom Kippur War. That may be, but I wonder if a grand bargain made in the wake of the '67 victory could have prevented the subsequent war. I believe Israel was prepared to return Sinai and Golan to Egypt and Syria outright in return for recognition and assurances of no further aggression, but that the West Bank, Gaza, and in particular East Jerusalem were seen as much thornier issues.