Saturday, July 16, 2016

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XXVIII: The Coup Attempt in Turkey

As news broke of an attempted coup in Turkey last night, my mind went to many places. I worried about regional stability, about the implications for democracy in the Middle East, about the risk of repression and crackdowns regardless of who ended up prevailing, and about the persons living through what must have been a scary and tumultuous evening throughout the nation. I also thought of this series, and wondered who will be the first to go all "Zionist plot" as an explainer.

Odd as it may be to hear, I was actually modestly hopeful that we might get a pass on this one. Certainly, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not always had the friendliest relationship with Israel. But we're only a few weeks removed from a historic deal to restore ties between the two nations. Israel has never had more reason to like President Erdoğan than they do at this moment. Of all the times it might make sense for them to support a coup (not that I think they would), now is the least sensible.

Alas, sensibility is not the theme of this series:

The link chain ends up taking us to this article in Ha'aretz, which informs us that one of the six senior officers arrested in the aftermath of the coup attempt had served as Turkey's military attache to Israel .... almost 20 years ago.

Now sure, that may seem like a tenuous connection. But you don't control the world for thousands and thousands of years without knowing how to play the long game. Good sleuthing, everyone -- you've solved the puzzle (except, you know, for the "why would Israel back a coup attempt against a leader with whom they just signed a major deal" bit).

BLM and ISIS To Partner, Says Black Sheriff

An ongoing area of fascination for me is situations where a member of a minority or marginalized group dissents from the mainstream position of his or her fellow members of said group, where that position is taken to be central to the group's survival or equal standing in the community. In that vein, I present the comments of Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., himself an African-American man:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke, Jr., says he believes the Black Lives Matter movement will team up with the so-called Islamic State to destroy the United States. Clark, who is black, is a frequent guest on Fox News and often attacks the minority activism group. “Before long, Black Lies Matter will join forces with ISIS to being down our legal constituted [sic] republic,” he tweeted late Tuesday evening. “You heard it first here.” Several hours later, he followed up with another word of confidence: “I have been right on every call I have made about these subversives. I will be right again.” 
I think that, if these comments were made by a white police official, we would feel quite comfortable chalking them up to racist sentiment. How is that assessment altered when the speaker is black? And how, as a white person, should one interact with such a statement in a fair and equitable manner?

I ask those questions because I think they're genuinely interesting questions. On the one hand, respect for minorities means respecting their right to form independent judgments that may diverge quite significantly from those of their fellows. On the other hand, requiring a rule of unanimity regarding "what is racism" (or other forms of oppression) is another way of saying "nothing can ever be racist." There will never be uniformity. Likewise, I don't view it as my place as a white person to police the boundaries of what is and isn't a legitimate black opinion. On the other hand, I think there would be something clearly askance if a white person structured their interracial relations by simply finding a dissident minority wing of black persons who agree with their prefigured positions, and use their presence as a means of avoiding a broader reckoning with the other community.

Again, no answers in this post -- just questions worth pondering.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Irrelevant Public Figure A Endorses Irrelevant Public Figure B

Cornel West has officially announced he is endorsing Jill Stein for President, denouncing the woman Bernie Sanders endorsed as a "neo-liberal disaster." (I guess Donald Trump's "authenticity" wasn't enough to win him over). I'm just glad someone who is committed to the practicalities of making progressive change happen was on the Democratic platform committee. One wouldn't have wanted such a valuable slot taken up by someone still infuriated that President Obama doesn't recognize his personal aura of eminence.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Water Under the Bridge

Bernie Sanders has officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. That having happened, there are only a few things to say.

Any closely contested primary -- as this one was -- is going to have moments of bitterness and animosity. There were certainly times, towards the end, where I thought Sen. Sanders was veering too far into grudge territory. But both his conduct and my assessment of his conduct were made in the heat of the moment. Now that we're out the other side, I'll say again that -- my support for Clinton notiwithstanding -- I think Sen. Sanders made the Democratic Party stronger by running. I think he effectively leveraged his considerable successes to bring about genuine and positive changes in the Democratic Party platform -- the most progressive in the Party's history. By mobilizing the left flank of the Party, he'll help ensure that Hillary Clinton is a more effective and more progressive president than she otherwise would be -- not because she yearns to be a neoconservative hack, but because politicians respond to organized pressure and too frequently the left shuns political organization.

I also suspect that the vast majority of Sanders voters will come home to Clinton -- as they should: The gap between him and Hillary Clinton is minuscule compared to the chasm between either of them and Donald Trump. Of course there are some dead-enders who are making a lot of noise right now -- that, too, is typical in a closely-contested and bitter primary (remember PUMAs?). But they're a distinct minority that misconstrues the key lesson of the Sanders campaign. Sen. Sanders shows that if you push inside the system -- he ran as a Democratic, not a quixotic independent vanity run -- you can bring about genuine progressive reforms. If your purity is too precious to even fathom compromising with 85% of your side of the political spectrum (let alone the country), you usually end up with nothing.

So as far as I'm concerned, any bad feelings or ill will is water under the bridge. Senator Sanders ran a good, strong campaign that accomplished many things he can be proud of. Focus on that, and focus on bringing about the electoral outcome come November that will best turn those political accomplishments into genuine policy reforms.

Monday, July 11, 2016

GOP Not So Interested in Adhering to Pro-Israel Redlines

Ignoring objections by, among others, AIPAC, the GOP has dropped from its party platform any support for a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We've remarked on how this is nominally a redline for who is considered "pro-Israel" -- remarks that near-invariably come tied to an observation that this constraint is imposed only on the left, not the right. And one suspects we'll see it here again -- despite engendering opposition by virtually the entirety of the pro-Israel spectrum, I suspect we'll wait in vain for any editorials proclaiming that the Republican Party is now the anti-Israel party.

Of course, political realities are what they are, and one can understand why major Jewish and pro-Israel groups need to keep pacified one of America's two major parties, even when it seems wholly uninterested in actually listening to what Jews and pro-Israel activists have to say. But if nothing else, perhaps this can cause us to dispense with the fiction that Republicans are listening to Jewish voices whilst Democrats failed to do so. GOP Israel policy is, at this point, almost entirely divorced from what American Jews desire it to be. They're open about that fact, they're proud about that fact, and its time for pundits to forthrightly acknowledge that fact.